For it pleased the Father. We often miss the significance of the first portion of this verse. Our salvation, which rests entirely of Jesus death on the cross, was accomplished by God because it “pleased” Him. SO what was the true pleasure God enjoyed? The renewed one on one relationship He could enjoy again with His most precious creation; us.
Colossians 1:19-20 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
At the beginning I wrote an overview on Colossians pointing out that Paul was making a strong stand against Gnosticism, and for the grace of God in the Colosse church. In Romans 3:10, Paul points to the word of God stating that there is none righteous not one person. Paul is quoting from Psalms 14:1-3, 53:1-3, & Ecclesiastes 7:20. Much like science you must first identify a problem or at least a target of study before you can solve the problem. On one hand it appears that most people do not understand that they are, and will forever be absent from God while in their own natural minds and personal abilities to live a righteous life for God. On the other hand those who do recognize that they are not in a right standing with God tend to fall back into working it out in their mind and actions after accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
“For it pleased the Father”, is the most powerful statement in the argument for God’s love for all people. This substantiates the verse John 3:16 that many Christians today can quote, but may not fully understand the breadth of the verse. Where Christians also tend to lose understanding is in the second half of verse 19; “that in Him all the fullness should dwell”. Everything we believe must stand on Jesus since He was and is the only one capable of paying the sin debt for every person, past, present, and future. As additional proof of the deity of Jesus consider this; if I chose to go to the death chamber for my friends crime of murder because of my deep love for him and wanting him to have a second chance, once dead how could I do the same for you if I loved you just as much. Jesus lives forever! Christians must understand that no human being could ever live up to the complete and perfect criteria of God except God Himself doing so through the flesh of His Son. Since God gave complete dominion over the earth to Adam, God spiritually could not go against His word and take over. The battle had to be done through “a man” that was capable of meeting God’s pure and perfect requirements.
Verse 20 states just that; through Jesus, God has reconciled all things to Himself. In the KJV verse 20 starts out with the statement “having made peace through the blood of His cross”. This is the pivotal statement in all of verse 20 and should have been left in its original position for the NKJV. Romans 5:1 tell us we have peace with God through the blood of Jesus. The only way in the natural to have peace with God is to meet all of His righteous requirements; and that is naturally impossible. Peace with God can only come through complete faith in Jesus’ perfect work on the cross.
The question always comes up; if God knows everything before it happens, why did He make man knowing that man would fail and so many would turn away from Him? In all my years of walking with God I have not met anyone who asks this question that has a true understanding of love and that God is love. Love is not selfish so if you have great love in your heart how can you show it and express it if you keep to yourself and NEVER see or talk to another person? God made man for true fellowship which is expressed through love between two or more people. True God had angels to talk to, but they were created as messengers and servants and do not have a free will. Think about this; which would you rather have a person choose to show you their love or a person that you make tell you they love you every day because they have to. Everyone will choose the first scenario because it means so much more for a person to love us out of their free will. Love is only real if it is from a free will. As I said earlier, God wants fellowship, He wants our love. Think about this; the more a person does for you out of their love for you, the more you love and appreciate that person. Man often has ulterior motives for showing love, but God’s only motive for showing us His love is because He is love. Do you want to bless God and show God that you love Him? The only way to show God that you truly love Him is accept His “FREE” gift of true salvation and stop trying to work for it or relying on your thinking and mental ascent to reach Him.
Man cannot approach God with an impure conscious. Just the mere thought of having to stand before our creator knowing some of the things we have done that were against His will is impossible. However, as we grasp the true power of what happened on that cross nearly 2000 years ago our minds can become renewed in the fact that God Himself made it possible to come directly to Him. Colossians 1:21-22 supports Hebrews 4:16’ Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Colossians 1:21-22 “21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight”
It is amazing at how many people I meet who think God is angry at people here on earth. I even hear pastors give God credit for all of the lives lost as a result of hurricanes and other weather related acts. Their comments wrap around the misunderstanding that God is making these storms roll in on top of bad people. I have heard some pastors say God caused Katrina to wipe out the evil in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Ike barreled down on Galveston and Houston Texas also, were they facing great devastation along the Texas coast because God was angry with these people as well? If that is the case how much longer do you have before a natural disaster comes after you? Hog wash! Read verse 21 carefully; it is truth. The alienation and being an enemy with God is in our minds and not from God toward us. If God was an enemy to the “evil” people here on earth, then John 3:16 is a lie. John 3:16 does not have the tag line, “even though I gave my only Son to die for all of your sins, I still want to kill everyone that does not live a holy life”. God did not give His only begotten Son to die for all mankind’s sins just to turn around and punish man for his sins. That is not what John 3:16 says. Who would read another word if that was the in the bible, but that is what people are saying when they give God credit for disasters where people are killed. Even the insurance industry in the US call things “acts of God” instead of what it truly is; a weather related disaster. Anyone can go to the Old Testament and find several verses where God was angry with His chosen people and other tribes of people. Christians who believe the nonsense that God is angry with us today are most likely to quote, Hebrews 12:6 “For whom the Lord loves he chastens and scourges”. How sad for people to work so hard at making a doctrine to live by, that is a stand-alone verse in the bible. Nowhere else in the bible does it say God will scourge or beat or harm His Children. Chastening and rebuke are simply corrections for His children, and are in no way administered through His anger at man’s sins. God will not risk destroying one of His children in some effort to remove an evil person. Read Matthew 13:24-30.
The last part of verse 21 and all of verse 22 is the beginning of correction to those who think God is the one keeping us away from Him because He is still angry with us. “Yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death”; Jesus has paid the price for all of us. The problem is we were enemies of God in our natural thinking so even though we have hard evidence that God has reconciled us through the blood of Jesus; we still are subject to wrong thinking. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that if we are in Christ old things have passed away and all things have been made new. This is the very reason Romans 12:2 tells us to be renewed in our minds and thinking and not stay in the mindset of the world. Natural thinking is that God wants to strike His creation because of His anger; that is just wrong.
Do you feel holy? Do you see yourself blameless? The only change in the life of a Christian at the time of their conversion is spiritual. The moment you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you became spiritually perfect. That means you are 100% 1/3 perfect. It is your soul which is made up of your mind, personality, morals, and mores that need to be redirected toward God. Do you realize that you are above reproach? Paul starts out in Romans 7:18 saying that in people, (that is, in our flesh) nothing good dwells. In our flesh nothing good is there, but God has condemned our sin in the flesh and has given us a new spirit. Yes our flesh is still corrupt and will die, but our new spirit will live forever in the presence of God through Christ Jesus. Becoming born again will change your spirit into one of righteousness, you are given the spirit of His Son Jesus, but you are left with the carnal mind that is enmity to God, Romans 8:7. Study the word and let the Holy Spirit reveal to you who you truly are. You are a new creature (a new species as stated earlier) if you have accepted Jesus and have become “born again” as spoken of by Jesus Himself. John 3:3-6. It is your thinking that is in constant need of correction.
Christians seem to be more worried about changing their actions than renewing their minds. They are more concerned in how their walk looks before man then they are in how God truly sees them. Man will always see our imperfections and many actually look for our stumbling, but God sees the heart and when He sees Christians He sees Jesus. Where we miss it is in the renewing of our minds. As long as we continue to think like we used to, we will always fall short in understanding who we are in Christ. Man in the natural will never measure up to the unobtainable standards of God. God changed our spirit and transported us into His kingdom, Colossians 1:13, but we are the ones that have to change our thinking. In Mark 12:30 Jesus told the Scribes what the first great commandment was that you love the Lord your God with your mind. How can you begin to love someone if you think they are always against you and looking for your mistakes so they can punish you? How can the carnal mind ever understand the spiritual truth of salvation unless the mind is renewed by what the word tells us? We are not to look into the word of God to see our faults and short comings; we are to look into the word to see who we have spiritually become and what God has fully done for us through the shed blood of His only begotten Son. Believing you have to walk perfect in the natural before God to receive His love is not love, that is “fear driven” respect which actually breeds resentment. The Greek word DIANOIA used for mind in Mark 12:30 literally means “thinking through”. The word DIANOIA suggests understanding, meditation, perception, or insight. As we renew our thinking by the washing of the word (Titus 3:5) then our whole mind-set changes from the natural negative way of thinking into His righteousness way of living. The Born Again experience instantly changes our spirit from one of sin nature to that of Jesus, but the renewing of the mind is necessary throughout our life here on earth. Our study of the word and listening to the good preached gospel of Jesus Christ is not how we become holy; it is the only way we can understand how holy we have already become because of Jesus’ perfect work on the cross. You will reach a point in your thinking where the sin that so easily ensnared you (Hebrews 12:1), is no longer right in your face; you will have become so engulfed in the love of God that He is your most prevalent thought.
The challenge Paul was issuing the Colossians and us is our ability to stay faithful in Jesus’ perfect work on the cross. An easy task on the surface and every Christian will say that they do, but do you completely. The Colossians had begun to slip back into a “works” mentality by incorporating segments of the Law into their daily actions of their walk of faith. This is no different than holding on to one of man’s doctrines or misguided scriptures from the Old Testament as an action item for proof of one’s own righteousness. We are to walk by faith, not by sight (actions). Does this mean we are not to do anything? On the contrary, there is much for Christians to do while here on earth. The difference we are to do these actions to help spread the gospel, not develop our own standard of righteousness.
Colossians 1:23, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
I want to focus on this verse by itself because it is often preached by itself as if it is an “either or” statement from God. Paul of all people is not saying if you don’t walk in faith God is going to come and take away your salvation. You are not going to backslide into Hell if you have allowed sin to overtake you. Verse 23 is not a negative implication that if you don’t walk in faith that you will lose your salvation. I have even heard it preached that if you fall back into sin after becoming “Born Again” that to come back to Jesus is to put Him up on the cross again just for you. The “one and only” scripture that supports this is Hebrews 6:6 “if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame”. KJV used the words “fall away”, but the Greek word for “fall away” is PARAPIPTO means to become apostate. An apostate is a person who forsakes his religion, cause, or party (Dictionary .com unabridged). Forsaking is not just slipping away or stumbling and loosing ones fervor, forsaking is outright rejection of what was once believed in. How can a person totally forsake what they do not fully understand? Hebrews 6:6 is clarified by requirements of a person having great personal understanding in verses 4 & 5 and then forsaking what they know. I have heard the argument that “Adam fell from grace and so can we”. This is another misunderstanding of the word of God. True Adam was a man that was created without a sin nature both pure and holy and he did fall, but he was a man that had to stand on his own before God. Adam did not have the blood of Jesus, the price paid for his sins, to stand on like Christians today have. No human can ever live a perfect, flawless, and holy life; only God can do that. That is why it is so important to understand that Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. That is the only way His sacrifice could pay for every sin past, present, and future.
I am not saying that every person that runs down the aisle and accepts Jesus as their Lord and savior is truly “born again” and guaranteed to go to heaven. You have to know and understand what your salvation is. Romans 10:9 states to believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, not be whipped up in your emotions to go run down the aisle and shake the preacher’s hand, making a fearful halfhearted declaration. People can have an emotional stirring during a powerful sermon and make a quick decision without understanding what they just received. And they could have been touched by the Lord and were sincere in their proclamation of Jesus as their Lord and savior. Only God knows for sure at that moment. If born again people continue in their search and study of the gospel of Jesus Christ they can solidify their understanding of salvation. If they never learn what they have they cannot live in it. There is an old saying, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” I believe it is possible for a person to run down the aisle and shake the preachers hand, make some confession of their sins, and never actually have fulfilled Romans 10:8-10 which says if “you believe in your heart” and “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord”. True understanding is the only way to believe in your heart. Confession without belief may leave you short. And there is no way a baby sprinkled by a priest can understand what they just did.
Example: Say you own a house and buy an insurance policy, but you never read that policy and understand what it covers or how to enforce it? Then if your house floods and all is destroyed leaving you poor and destitute without anything, and you never invoke that policy or call the insurance company to file a claim to rebuild your house and life. Is it the policy’s fault you are now poor and on the streets? NO! Yet people every Sunday will make such a decision with their salvation and never follow up on understanding it. I am not sure this type of person is truly saved in the first place. That is between them and God, but the word is clear in that you have to understand what you have and make a conscience decision to reject it to lose your salvation. This is possible for a true believer that allows sin to control them for an extended period of time to reach a point in their thinking where the sin hardens their heart paving the way for them to knowingly reject their salvation. Remember that complete rejection, PARAPIPTO, is not stumbling and according to Jesus there is only one unforgivable sin, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31). Verse 23 is not saying that backsliders who do not know what they have are guaranteed to lose their salvation.
In Romans 15:20 Paul states that he is preaching everywhere he can where Jesus had not been preached. Spreading the gospel is a never ending process until the Lord makes His final return. This is the Great Commission our Lord has untrusted to us. So don’t think the spreading of the gospel has been completed.
As far as Paul covering anything lacking in the afflictions of Christ in verse 24 – nothing is lacking, however our carrying the truth of the gospel to people, which will cause us to receive persecution, is no longer done by Christ. It’s our job now!
Colossians 1:23 b & 24-25 ….which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. 24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God,
In verse 23b Paul’s statement that the gospel has actually been preached to every creature under heaven is not a statement of fact, but rather should be taken as a hyperbole. A hyperbole is a writing technique where the author over exaggerates a statement just to help make the point. Paul has intentionally exaggerated this statement to make a point that the people in Colosse have heard the gospel. The emphasis Paul is making is that the truth of the gospel is spreading to the point that many people have heard of it. In Romans 15:20 Paul states that he is preaching everywhere he can where Jesus had not been preached. Spreading the gospel is a never ending process until the Lord makes His final return. This is the Great Commission our Lord has untrusted to us. So don’t think the spreading of the gospel has been completed.
Regarding verse 24, Jesus did all of the suffering for our salvation that was needed. Paul is not saying that he is completing the suffering that Jesus started, nor is he implying that there was anything lacking in the suffering of Christ. Our salvation in Christ Jesus is complete! However, Jesus still suffers today when His sees His children chose to suffer for His sake. Jesus does not want us to suffer for the very thing He paid the price for; Ephesians 2:8 assures us our salvation was a free gift. Jesus also takes our persecution personal, as read in Acts 9:4 when Paul is confronted by Him on the road to Damascus. Jesus asked “why are you persecuting me”, when in fact Paul was persecuting those who lived and preached the gospel of Jesus. Paul’s suffering and persecution, which he takes gladly, is an extension of the ministry of Jesus. He is willing to take the persecution as it is a sign that his ministry is fulfilling and has fulfilled its purpose which is to change people’s lives into believers and followers of Jesus Christ. The only real persecution a Christian will receive will be from fellow “religious Christians” and those who are against Christianity. The more we purpose to spread the gospel the greater the Devil will try to bring personal and public ridicule to us. The stronger we stand in the face of the Devil and his various religions the greater his persecution may come on that person. Notice I said “may” come. Remember the teeth of the wicked have been shattered and even a bully will stop bullying once he has been beaten and reminded of his loss. Jesus is the one who shattered the teeth of the wicked and He lives in the believer. Greater is He that lives in us then he that lives in the world, 1 John 4:4. The good news is that as we stand on Christ while in the persecution the stronger He makes us to the point the Devil’s schemes no longer affect us. In other countries this persecution can and does come in the form of death. We should grow to the point of rejoicing in the fact that our lives are a poke in the eye to the enemy and persecution is the proof.
Paul has also recognized one other important point and that is the “church as a whole.” We often forget that the “church” is made up of every believer and not just the location we attend for weekly worship and gathering. The body of Christ was never meant to be the fragmented entity we see today.
Verse 25 is an awesome statement in that Paul recognizes that he is a “steward” of the gospel of Christ. A steward is a person that manages the property of another person, or a person who administers anything as an agent of another person or entity. Paul is recognizing his appointment as given by God to fulfill the word of God in spreading the gospel to the entire world. We as Christians are to enter into the same commission and those called into the five-fold ministry are to head the charge. As we grow in spirit we should recognize that everything in our lives from our finances to friendships are actually gifts from God, and we are truly stewards of what God has provided. What an awesome appointment, to be a steward for God!
Hope of the gospel. Hebrews 11:1 says faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. It all starts with hope, however the Holy Spirit’s job is to take that which Jesus has spoken and help us understand it. The mystery was made clear through what Jesus, Paul and the Disciples taught us. All of our hope rests in Jesus and His perfect work on the cross and not on our efforts.
Colossians 1:23 a & 26-27, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, … 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
I wanted to revisit verse 23a and tie it into verse 26-27. Paul is a man with great passion for the call on his life and in many cases in his writings he starts out in one thought and in his exuberance takes a justifiable rabbit trail to add emphasis to what he is teaching only to come back to his original point later in his writings. This is often done in preaching, but preachers can talk faster than most people can read so the rabbit trail in writing can lose the point not add the point. Quite often people who sit down to read their bible do so like they are reading a book. When this happens we tend to overlook or completely miss great nuggets of truth. Also if we read the bible like a book and do not take the time to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal these truths deep into our spirits, what we read usually goes right through us like grease through a dog. Studying the bible should be seen as a lifelong event of continual revelation. This section of Corinthians is just that case where Paul took a rabbit trail and we typically just read right through it. I have taken the first part of verse 23 and tied it to verse 26 and 27 to show the whole point Paul is trying to teach.
The first part of 23 is a word of encouragement from Paul in our walk as Christians. Remember he has written to a church that much like today has slipped back into their natural thinking; some into works, some into mysticism, and the rest into a gnostic mental ascent instead of a spiritual walk. When you take verse 23 and tie it to 26 & 27 you can see that Paul was saying, if you are grounded and steadfast, if you have not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, then He will make known to you the great mystery which is Christ in you the hope and glory. Having Christ in us is our only hope, and His living in us brings us glory. How awesome it that news? Remember we are to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). We cannot look at the natural and see this spiritual revelation. The only way we can be truly grounded is through our own personal study of God’s word. We can read all of the self-help books and bible commentaries that are written, but nothing beats reading God’s word and even more so is to hear the preached Gospel. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, Romans 10:17. These verses are not saying that we must stay steadfast in faith in order to keep our salvation, but if we do not walk in these statutes we will begin to lose our personal relationship with God. Paul is still showing the Colossians and us that the battle is in the mind, salvation is here and real regardless of whether you believe it or not. You are saved by the blood of Jesus if you accept Him as your Lord and savior. This is true whether you feel saved or not and it is true even if you let your mind wander from the truth. Once the price was paid it was paid to the fullest.
In Greek the word for “grounded” is THEMELIOO and literally means to lay a basis for or a foundation. A Christian that has a good foundation in the word of God is not easily moved by what they think or see. Running down the aisle and shaking the preachers hand and confessing Jesus as your Lord and savior is not the completion, but rather the beginning of a brand new lifestyle. You wouldn’t move to a foreign country without learning their language and ways of commerce and expect to live a comfortable life and yet this is what Christians do every day. We understand that Jesus is the only way to God, but that is exactly what He is, the only way to a relationship with God. Go on inside the water is fine. You wouldn’t go to the most fabulous department store in the world, stand in front of the most beautiful door ever built and not go inside. Yet Christians do just that by accepting Jesus and then stopping at that cross. God wants you to come on inside and fellowship with Him.
The payoff for following the first part of verse 23 is not just maintaining salvation; it is having great revelation and a fuller understanding of God. The mystery Paul is speaking of that God has revealed to us in the New Testament is beyond just salvation, it is the ability to come to God just like the children of Israel; just like the child of a king can go sit in their fathers lap. Israel was God’s chosen people, but only for a specified time until He could come to earth and pay the price for all of us on the cross. The Old Testament people could not see the truth even though it was hidden in God’s word. Until Jesus came and tore the veil in two they could not see the truth. And what is this great mystery, Christ in you, the hope of glory. When God looks at us He actually sees Jesus in our place. He no longer is looking at our sins, He sees His son. What the Old Testament saints could not understand is that when the messiah came, He through the power of the Holy Spirit, took up residence in a believer. Romans 8:9, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”
The mystery spoken of here is the fact that God has made a way to live inside of all of us through His Holy Spirit. None of the Old Testament saints could even understand the possibility of God living in His chosen Prophets, yet through Jesus’ perfect work on the cross God’s Holy Spirit can now live in us.
Colossians 1:26-27 “26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
The mystery spoken of here is the fact that God has made a way to live inside of all of us through His Holy Spirit. None of the Old Testament saints could even understand the possibility of God living in His chosen Prophets. We read where the Holy Spirit “came upon” them as He needed to give guidance, but even Elijah and Elisha were never filled with the Holy Spirit. They had to ask and wait for God to come to them for the answer. That is why Elisha could ask for the double portion of the Holy Spirit that Elijah had, because neither one was truly filled. To come upon is partial, but to be filled is to be completely full. By the blood of Jesus, those who have been born again can go boldly into the presence of God even in their time of need, Hebrews 4:16. This mystery of the Holy Spirit living in man was first spoken of by Jesus. Many Christians today have difficulty accepting the fact that the Holy Spirit can dwell in God’s children if they ask Him to. The majority of them stumble over the aspect of speaking in tongues, which actually means “another language”. This action may be one proof that a person is Spirit filled, but is not the ultimate hard fact of proof. Changed lives and the power of God moving through a Christian’s life is the most important factor. Jesus was the first to speak of man being filled with the Holy Spirit. He called Him the Helper and in John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, & 16:7 we get the whole picture of why Jesus died on the cross and ascended up into heaven. While on earth Jesus was confined to his human body, but through our belief in Him, God can dwell through His Holy Spirit, in every believer around the world and thereby believers can truly be Jesus to everyone they meet.
The first proof of God’s Holy Spirit filling man is recorded in Acts 2:4 when all of the Disciples of Jesus were filled in the upper room. Some Christians today try to say that this filling of the Holy Spirit was only for the Apostles, but if you read Acts 4:31 you see the birth of the first church when Peter spoke to those gathered about the power of the Holy Spirit moving in him to speak to the Pharisees.
I want to briefly focus on this power followed with signs and wonders. In reading of the birth of the first church starting in Acts 4:23, we see where the believers gathered and prayed a specific prayer. Starting with Acts 4:29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus." 1) The Disciples were being threatened by the Religious leaders of that day; just like today. 2) The Disciples wanted to speak the word of God “the gospel” with boldness; just like Christians want to today. 3) The Disciples recognized that this could only happen if God stretched out His hand to heal through their hands; Christians as a whole miss this concept altogether. 4) The Disciples asked that the signs and wonders be done through the name of Jesus. Today Christians are more likely to run after signs and wonders for the joy of seeing them, and few actually allow the signs to flow through them to others. It is the power of the Holy Spirit living in a Christian that these signs and wonders can happen. That is the power of grace, because there is nothing man can do to earn such a gift.
The next argument used against being filled with the Holy Spirit today is that this was just for Jesus’ disciples and maybe those in the first church. This is not true. We read where the disciples and those in the first church received the Holy Spirit, and receiving the Holy Spirit is not for the world it is only for the believers in Jesus Christ. But baptism in the Holy Spirit was not just for disciples and the first church. Remember they even had to first receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior before that could be filled with God’s Holy Spirit. Since Jesus’ resurrection everyone who claims Jesus as their Lord and Savior both natural born Jew and Gentile are considered God’s chosen people, God’s children - Romans 2:29. The first proof of the Holy Spirit filling Gentile’s non-Jew’s, is found in Acts 10:45 when Peter preached the gospel to the house of Cornelius. Side note: for those who believe that the Holy Spirit can only enter into a person after they have been baptized into Jesus please read Acts 10:44-47, your argument is not with man but with God. The entire house of Cornelius was baptized “after” they received the Holy Spirit as the result of Peter speaking with power and signs from God. We also read in Acts 13:48-52 where Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel to the Gentiles at Antioch and they received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized into Jesus; but they did believe and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior first.
This is the mystery spoken of in verses 26 and confirmed in verse 27; God’s hope of glory in the Gentiles, is the in filing of His Holy Spirit. Is Christ in you, if so and you have not received the Helper, the promise of the Holy Spirit then you are missing out on the fullness of the mystery spoken of by Jesus in John 14. If you have received the Holy Spirit and do not recognize this power and boldness spoken of by Peter and the first church, ask God to show you. We can boldly go into His presence.
Verse 28 in Colossians chapter 1 is often misunderstood on two aspects. Paul did not reach every man with the news of the gospel, nor can Paul be the one who can present people perfect. Neither can a pastor present one of his members perfect before the Lord. What Paul is saying that we too can enter into, is that every man he came in contact with he presented the gospel of Jesus Christ in a perfect manor. This perfect manor is accomplished by teaching only Jesus and Him crucified and not a mixture of the Law and grace together.
Colossians 1:28-29 “28 “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily”
Once again Paul has used a hyperbole in his statement that they have warned and taught every man about Christ Jesus. We are still reaching people today, but God’s word has gone out more than we realize. But what was Paul warning people about? As you read all of his writings he warned people about following any other religion or going back under man’s religion once set free through faith in Jesus’ perfect work on the cross. Interesting point in that the American Indians spoke of the “Great Spirit” that walks with man long before the Pilgrims brought the gospel over to the New Land we call America. We have to remember that the gospel has been available for over 2000 years even though the written word has not been available for the average man to read until recent history. Bottom line is with all the people that have heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ over the centuries, our work here on earth as Disciples of Christ is still greatly needed and is to be carried out by word of mouth through the power of the Holy Spirit!
There are two methods of preaching and both are needed. Paul mentions these in verse 28 as his method of presenting man perfect in Christ. Paul is not the one presenting them perfect, but he is the steward of the gospel on which those who believe will be made perfect in Christ by His blood and their belief. Warnings are sometimes considered rebukes or chastening. Rebukes which are corrections are not for the sinner as the word of God says that it is the goodness of God that draws people to repentance, Romans 2:4. Jesus Himself rebuked the religious leaders for their false teachings and warned His Disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees. 1 Timothy 5:20 is a verse that is often stood on for public rebuke of sinners and there is a place for this, but great wisdom is needed in this action and it should be used sparingly. We also read in 2 Timothy 1 that a time is coming when people will not hear sound doctrine because of their itching ears. I think that time is now when so many people are leaving churches in search for something else. The rebuke spoken of here is not for all Christians but those teaching something other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is drawing the people away from Christ. Teaching legalism mixed in with the gospel, even if from the Old Testament is leading people from the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is sad in that if people were taught the true word of God instead of man’s doctrines on how to live their lives they would know the difference between having their ears tickled versus the gospel of Jesus Christ. In my lifetime there seems to be an abundance of warnings and rebuking, but very little teaching of the true gospel.
Grace and truth go hand in hand. If all a person hears is grace it can cause people to lean toward licentiousness as Paul answers that question in Romans 6:1-2. If all they hear is warnings of sin, that will cause them to walk in legalism instead of grace; neither extreme lines up with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But the gospel is NOT a mixture of Law and grace as is mostly taught in churches today. Grace is the power of the blood of Jesus to overcome the bondage of sin that has been strengthened by the law (read Romans 7:13-8:1). Paul expresses this in verse 29, “To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” It is Christ working in us led by the Holy Spirit that we find the proper balance between warnings and teaching. Bottom line, it is Jesus Christ and His grace that strengthened and motivated Paul. It is God’s grace toward us that Jesus died for and if we are to error in any direction, error on the side of grace; always!
The only way we can “hear” of a person’s faith is to hear of their efforts of love toward other people. Paul heard of the love pf the Ephesians because at one time they showed love to people that obviously made a difference in their lives. Sadly enough Ephesians is also identified as the Loveless church in the second chapter of Revelations. How could they go from love that could be heard of all the way from Ephesus to where Paul was in prison in Rome; to becoming the loveless church? According to Revelations 2:2-4 we see where they became so caught up in their works for the Lord and confronting those who were is sin that they forgot their First love which is Jesus.
Ephesians 1:15-16, 15, therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:
Many Christians reading these two verses do not realize that this is one of the two prayers that Paul prayed for the Ephesians and we can enter into these prayers. At this point is where I ask my fellow Christians if Paul would have heard about you would it be because of your faith? In the book of Zechariah 8:23, we read "Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you." Here is another question we must ask ourselves as followers of Christ. Is our life of walking by faith so prevalent to people that they are grasping our sleeve waning to go to church with us? I daresay that because of the legalism that is so prevalent in the church today most people do not want anything to do with Christians. Keep in mind we are reading in Ephesians which is a letter written by Paul to the church in Ephesus. A church he was with for two years and then they received his letter which explains in great detail how they can walk in God's love toward other people. And yet in revelations Jesus calls them the loveless church. He acknowledges all of their great work and their diligence to walk according to His laws and has this against them, that they had left their first love. We must always ask our self are we striving so hard to appear perfect and righteous before man that we have lost our first love.
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians and us, is that God would give the spirit of wisdom and knowledge is referencing two of the nine gifts of the Spirit from 1 Corinthians 12. This is not a prayer of hope in God doing something, but in our asking for and receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised as found in John chapters 15, 16, & 17. He is our Helper and the first two gifts of the Spirit as found in 1 Corinthians 12:8 are wisdom and knowledge. Without which man’s carnal thinking cannot understand the spiritual truths from God found in His Word.
Ephesians 1:17-18 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
At first Paul’s prayer for us in verse 17 appears to be a contradiction to verse 8 where he told us that God has made abound to us all wisdom and prudence. Why is Paul praying for something that has already been given? The definition of the word “spirit” is where we must draw our understanding of what Paul is praying for. There are two predominant meanings for “spirit” and a third lesser used meaning in the New Testament; “Spirit” for the Holy Spirit and “spirit” referring to our spirit, or the third part of our make up as read in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. There is a third meaning according to “Strong” which defines “spirit” as a part of our mental disposition. At my daughters school they talk of “school spirit” or “team spirit” which is actually identifying a group of students as having one similar vein of thought or purpose; “We’re here for the school” or “We’re here to win for our school”. Paul is using the mental disposition definition verse 17 as well as in Chapter 4 to bring home a specific point.
When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our born-again spirit received the whole package deal. Paul is not praying for God to give us more of what He has already given us. The Christian walk is not a walk of getting more faith, or getting more of God, or even drawing closer to God. According to Romans 12:3 God has given all of this to us in a measure of faith and we are to think soberly on this. Jesus tells us that all the faith we need fits in the size of a mustard seed. That’s probably one of the smallest seeds on earth and yet it grows into a large tree. Where Paul is encouraging us is in our meditation. He is praying that we will allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to our minds that which is already in our new born-again spirit. Our walk is one of pulling out from our new spirit the “revelation” of God so we can understand and enjoy what we already have while still here on earth. We spend way too much time and effort asking God over and over for the things He has already given us. What is He supposed to do with that? If my daughter asked me for a new bike and I give her the actual one she wants, show it to her and put it in the garage for her to use whenever she wants, what am I supposed to do if she comes to me a few days later and says “dad can I have a new bike”? I would probably look at her like a cow looking at a new gate. I’m not sure my mind would even comprehend her asking me for something I have already given her, and yet we ask God all the time for things He has already given us. Oh God please heal me, Oh God please bless my finances, Oh God please give me the wisdom to understand, Oh God!
Verse 18 is actually the answer to what Paul is praying in verse 17. We cannot see what we have with our natural eyes. Think about this; it is a whole lot easier to find and use something you already have than it is to go out and try to get something you do not have. I believe there would be a lot less frustrated Christians if they could understand this truth. Think about this; would you stand on top of a thick book so you could be taller and then look across the room in an effort to find the very book you are standing on? In the newest version of the movie “Flubber” Robin Williams asked his flying robot helper, “Where are my socks? Answer “In your shoes”, second question, “where are my shoes” second answer “on your feet”. The audience laughed and so did I, and immediately it dawned on me that Christians are no better off than the absent minded professor when we ask Him for something we already have. According to Ephesians 1:3; we have been given all spiritual blessings. That is why Paul in Romans 12:2 tells us to renew our minds.
Our prayers need to be more like “open my spiritual eyes so I can see what is already mine”, “praise you father for answering my prayer”, “thank you Jesus that by Your stripes I was healed”, “I have been given the mind of Christ”, “praise You God that You have made me the head and not the tail”.
How else can we ever know the hope of His calling? We have to learn who we are in Christ Jesus and who God truly is. This can only happen through study and meditation on the word of God. We have to let go of what we see and the natural things we understand and reach out to the call God has for us. When we answer God’s call on our lives, He does not want us to hold on to our own comfort zone of natural understanding. He wants us to step out of our natural way of seeing things and walk by faith and trust in Him. When the disciples were in the boat with the storm all around, Jesus walking up to them on the water, called Peter to step out of the boat and come to Him. When Peter first stepped out of the boat he too was on top of the water, but as soon as he looked at the natural circumstances I know his mind remembered the safety he had while still standing in the boat. Peter was use to the water, he was a fisherman and fishermen know that as long as you stay in the boat you have a better chance of getting back home than being in the water. Peter held onto his past understanding which produced doubt in what he was doing, and he sank. There are several self-help groups, like AA and NA that use the phrase “let go and let God”. They seem to have a better understanding of walking with God than a lot of Christians do. I know, I was one of them, when God was calling me into the ministry. I kept trying to make it work out where I was and continued doing the same thing I was doing, while all the time asking Him to help me get to where He wanted me to be.
Because we are human almost from day one our lives revolve around cause and effect. If we do something good we get praise, and if we do something bad we receive the consequences. This stays with us throughout our entire natural life, however we are spiritual beings inside an earth suite. When it comes to our salvation and walk with God, by nature we are prone to do things in the natural for the instant gratification. Where our true power and restoration lies is in the spiritual where God has already done it for those who believe in His Son as their Lord and Savior. Even more fascinating and important is to realize He did it through His exceeding greatness and power toward us who believe.
Ephesians 1:19-20, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
In the previous verses Paul’s prayer for the saints is that spiritual eyes be opened and for wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of God to prevail. Paul knows the power of this understanding if we can only grasp the true depth of our inheritance. The sad thing is he was dealing with the same issues over 2000 years ago that we are dealing with today; Christians walking in spiritual blindness. The very separation and multitudes of doctrines we call denominations are due in large to man’s sliding back into works and legalisms. We forget that the Law of Moses came long after the call and blessing of Abraham and his seed to all the nations. (Genesis 22:18) It was faith that was accounted to Abraham for righteousness, not his works. When spiritual man slips back into carnal thinking we lose the concept and power of our salvation through faith in what Jesus did on the cross and the promise of the Holy Spirit. Many Christians believe and proclaim salvation through the cross, but that is where their faith often stops. I know I was one of them until I was finally taught the rest of the story. Jesus paid the price for us so that we could receive the promise; He said so Himself.
I believe these verses are some of the foundational verses for living a life of being Spirit filled. Jesus Himself did not perform any miracles, healings, casting out demons, nor raised anyone from the dead until after the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. (Luke 3:22) When Jesus sent the disciples out to preach the gospel the signs and wonders followed them because He gave them the power. (Matthew 10, Mark 14) In John 20 He breathed on them and said “receive the Holy Spirit” and in Acts Chapter 2 we read where they were filled with the Holy Spirit and had great power in their words and deeds. Ephesians 1:19 & 20 is telling us that God wants us to both understand and live is the same power that raised Jesus from the grave. Jesus did not come out of the grave by Himself. Death could not hold Him because there was no sin in Him. Jesus called Lazarus from the grave back to a natural life through the power of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit is the one that brought Jesus out of the grave and sat Him at the right hand of God in a spiritual body. Lazarus eventually died a natural death again, but Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit lives forever and those who believe are in Him. This same life-giving, miracle-working, demon casting power can be ours and it is God who wants us to have Him. The Holy Spirit wants to live and be active in our lives and without Him we will fall back into natural thinking. We will still be saved if we believe and confess Jesus as our Lord and savior, but we will not have the power to overcome the sins that so easily ensnare us.
One modern day teacher of the gospel says, “you will still go to heaven even if you do not have the Holy Spirit, in fact you will probably get there faster than the rest of us because you will not have the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome the enemy”. This is true; salvation is through Jesus, but the power to live this life to the glory of God comes through the Holy Spirit.
To be made alive when one is already living is a confusing statement. Paul is teaching us that there is a spiritual death and a spiritual life. And God is the One who has made us spiritually alive. Most importantly He set things in motion for this result even when we were dead in our trespasses. This takes the self-action completely out of the picture and places our hope of calling fully in His hands. There is true rest in this understanding.
Ephesians 2:1-3, 1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
Every one of us, by nature, were children of wrath. We were born with the sin nature as a result of the fall of Adam and in Psalms 14:1-3 states that the “Lord looks down from heaven and sees that there is none who does good, no not one”. This is confirmed in Romans 3:10-18 where the Apostle Paul quotes from several verses in Psalms to validate this.
This truth is the first and most important concept to grasp. Whether we go to heaven or not does not depend on how good of a life we live while here on earth. It is not a matter of our good out weighing our bad, nor the hope of mercy on us from Saint Peter at the pearly gates. Fact is Peter in not at the gate of heaven, the word is very clear in that it is Jesus who will judge both the quick and the dead. It does not matter if we attend church regularly or never walk in a church. We are all the same in that everyone comes into this world a fallen man and without making a confession of faith in that; “Jesus is the Son of God having died for our sins and now lives at the right hand of God, making intersession for us”, we will exit this world apart from God just like we entered. We must grasp our natural fallen state and then recognize that there is nothing we, of ourselves, can do to change this. Bottom line; without Godly intervention, we are toast. Here in lies the truth and power of verse 1 of chapter 2 in Ephesians.
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins”. (Emphasis, mine) Who is this He, spoken of in this verse? This He is God, and in reading the first chapter of Ephesians it is clear to see that all of the work and preparation needed for our salvation came from God. Jesus was the sacrifice and had to be a willing sacrifice, but it is God who makes everything valid. God is truly on your side. Possibly the most quoted scripture from the bible is John 3:16, and yet most people do not realize the awesome power and truth of the words, “God so loved the world”. The typical theme of rejection that there even is a God is the recognition of all the violence and death of innocent people. One standard argument from people who do not want to believe in God is, “If there is a God that truly cared, than why does he allow all of the unnecessary death and violence”? This is usually followed up with something like this, “if I were god, I would put an end to all of the violence and make everybody love each other, and get rid of all of the mean people”. Neither statement is from a person that has any idea of who God truly is.
Even our scientists today are beginning to quietly reject the Darwin theory and come around to the single beginning existence Christians call “Creationism”. Many are not ready to call Him God, because they do not want to answer to a God for their worldly actions, but nevertheless, admit that something or someone had to create this world and all of the life in it. Once you understand that God originally created man with a free will, so that the love and desire to communicate with God would be by choice and not robotic, then you can begin to see that it is man’s lack of self-control that is the problem. God created man to have fellowship with and the exchange of free mutual love, not forced obedience. God created the angels for that task, but the word tells us that even though He made man a little lower than the angels, He gave man dominion over all that He created. (Psalms 8:3-9) From the fall of Adam, man has looked at his world through natural, sinful eyes and with all of his infinite wisdom has fought against his very own creator. In Luke 15:11-32 there is the story of the prodigal son. This story is a perfect word picture of a man living in the comfort and protection of his father’s house, leaving this protection with all that was his and falling flat on his face into a world of despair. Now look at the story of the fall of man in Genesis; man did the same thing, but in the last half of the story in Luke, the prodigal son comes to himself. He realizes that even the servants in his father’s house were better off than he was in his state of depravity. He reminds himself of how good life was back in his father’s protective home and decides to humble himself and return to ask for forgiveness and at least a position as a servant in his own fathers house.
God is pure love and cannot look upon sin; therefore, sin must be abolished in order for God to speak with us. In the story of the prodigal son, as soon as, the father sees the son returning in his fallen state he runs to him. The father does not sit and wait for the son to walk in the door begging for a position as a servant, he runs to him, cleans him up, and makes him whole again in his own home, not as a servant, but as his son. When you take this story in Luke as a word picture of God looking for our return so that He can restore us, couple it with John 3:16, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life, than reread Ephesians 2:1, you will see the power of God’s love. It is God that did all of the preparatory work necessary for our salvation, there is nothing we can do in our own strength. All we can do is repent of our fallen nature, accept, believe and confess Jesus as our Lord and savior. Romans 2:4 tell us, “the goodness of God leads you to repentance”. Accept His goodness!
You have been made spiritually alive with Christ. More importantly you are in Christ Jesus and He is seated at the right hand of the Father. So where does that spiritually place you? At the right hand of God! So why do we strive to get close to God when we are spiritually already at His right hand? Why do we strive to perfect ourselves in effort to gain anything from God since He has already done it for us?
This does not mean that we can live a careless sinful life and everything will still be OK. No! What this does mean is that because God has spiritually cleansed us, we can sit next to Him where His power will help us overcome the sin and strife in our lives. Can you see the difference? We are still continually growing more pure in our lives as we “walk” with Him instead of striving to purify ourselves just to be able to “come” to Him.
Ephesians 2:4-7, 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Previously I established that it is God’s love for us that has provided our salvation. When we read “who is rich in mercy” we need to take into consideration some of the actions taken by God from the Old Testament to see that there truly was a split in time at the death and resurrection of Christ. There truly was a change in how God looked upon man after the resurrection of Christ. The following paragraph will paint a picture of God’s view of man before and after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
In Genesis 6 we read where God was so discussed with what man was doing that He had Noah, a righteous man, build the Ark and God destroyed the earth with the Great Flood essentially starting over with Noah and his three sons and wives to repopulate the earth. In Genesis 11 we read that God saw that man was becoming too strong in unity because they all could speak the same language. They even tried to build a tower to reach heaven “The Tower of Babel”, because they thought they were so great. This is where the different languages from around the world started. In Genesis 19 God saw that Sodom and Gomorrah were so vile in their thought and actions He removed Lot, a righteous man and his family, out of Sodom and destroyed both cities. At various times in Exodus, Moses had to stand in protection from the wrath of God against the children of Israel because they were in such rebellion that God was often ready to destroy them and start over with Moses. Even with the Law of Moses for the children of Israel to follow, man was kept away from having any open communication with God directly due to the sinful nature man lived in. The only way for man to overcome this sin nature was for a single human to pay the sacrifice and that person could not have any sin in their life. That is the only way the law of sin and death could be broken. “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3)
From the beginning God created man to have fellowship with him. Before Adam fell he and God spoke daily one to one in the Garden of Eden. God wants to communicate with us, be our Father, be our God, and to love and comfort us in ways our natural fathers could only wish for. It has been God’s plan from the beginning for His children to have what we have today and still we do not fully understand who we are and what we have. The most incredible thing of all is God’s love for us. In verse 5, “even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ”, God shows us this love. We did not have to clean ourselves up first before God sent His son to die in our place. So why do so many churches and doctrines today express the idea that we must clean ourselves up after we become born again? It is because they do not understand that through our faith in Christ Jesus as our Lord and savior, we are seen as clean in God’s eyes. This does not mean that we can continue to live in sin and just rest on God’s grace, but by understanding the goodness and love of God, Jesus can help us overcome the sins that so easily ensnare us. We can’t do it by ourselves, and the Holy Spirit wants to be our Helper. When God looks at the believer, He sees Jesus instead. We are actually in the very presence of God and Jesus is making intercession for us. (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25) Once we realize that we are actually seated in Christ at the very right hand of God, as read in verse 6, our natural desire to sin begins to go away. Even if a sinful thought comes up, if we do not meditate on the sinful thought, but rather meditate on the good things God has done for us, we will not commit sin. (Philippians 4:8&9)
Most people in the United States have a bible in their homes, but most do not read it and many of those that do may not understand what they have read. The only way God can show the world His exceeding love and grace to the world is through us. We are living, walking, talking, bibles. I am not advocating that we constantly get in everyone’s face with “repent or be sent”, “turn or burn”. In fact it is simply our trying to live a daily godly life that will speak volumes to those we come in contact with. When we purpose to live in God’s grace and extend that same grace to those we come in contact with, then it is the goodness of God that will lead people to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
(Historical Note: The fact is our current calendar is split at the birth of Christ although it was miss-calculated and the year of His birth happened four years earlier. Until recently the Gregorian calendar we use today, which was and is accepted by international institutions such as the United Nations and the Universal Postal Union, used the initial BC / AD to designate the time split. BC literally means before Christ, and AD is Latin for Anno Domini which means “in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ”.) I had to bring this up as I have recently heard young teenagers and even some young adults using the initials BCE for “before common era” and CE for “common era”. When I questioned the term I also found out that they did not know BC & AD, but were in fact taught by public institutions the BCE/CE term so as to not have to mention Christ. This great country was founded on Christian biblical principles and now we are teaching Christ right out of the next generation? Go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anno_Domini if you want to read more.
For by grace you have been saved, and that not by your own actions or efforts; but completely by the gifts from God which are the faith which He gives us and by His grace that we are made to walk in. This is possibly the most powerful concept a Christian can understand in their walk with Christ. God’s grace is where we can find the faith He gives us to receive the forgiveness He provided for us because of the result of Jesus’ perfect work on the cross. Where are your efforts in any of this other than to believe in Jesus and confess Him as your Lord and Savior?
Ephesians 2:8-10, 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
In the first few verses of Ephesians, Apostle Paul establishes that our salvation is through the grace of God’s love. He now establishes the catalyst necessary to receive that grace, faith. We know that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). In Romans 12:3 we find that it is God that has dealt a measure of faith to each of us and we know by the teaching of Jesus that very little faith is needed to move mountains. (Matthew 17:20 I “say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you”. Jesus is referring to the mountains in our lives that keep us from moving in a Godly direction, but the fact that very little faith is needed is the most important point. According to Ephesians 2:8 faith is also given to us by God and God only gives perfect gifts, (James 1:17) therefore our faith is perfect. All of the faith we need is given to us according to Ephesians 1:3 where “God has given us ALL spiritual blessings in heavenly places”. (Emphasis on all, mine) See the commentary on Ephesians 1:3. I believe one of the reasons Christianity today is losing ground, at least here in the US, is due largely to the miss-understanding of faith works versus man’s works. The contrast between the two is clearly seen in verses 8 & 9. (it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them). We seem to be following the same path of the Pharisees in all of our doctrinal rules and precepts for membership. Those that call themselves non-Denominational are, more often than not, a denomination unto themselves with their own list of do’s and don’ts and “works” for the kingdom. This next statement often makes people mad, but I believe that the United States has never been more segregated in history than it is right now on Sunday mornings. God, who knows what is best for us, through the bloodshed by Jesus Christ, brought all people together as one body in Christ, but man in his “infinite wisdom” has never worked so hard to separate the body of Christ as Americans do today.
Our salvation does not depend on what we wear, how we fix our hair, when we go to church, how many people we evangelize, how often we pray, or who we pray with. We are not closer to God because of how our denomination chooses to sing praises. We do not remain saved by attending every church function listed in the bulletin. Sacrificing your time from your family, your work, or even your rest, just to go up to the church because the doors are open for the next function will not get you saved, keep you saved, nor make you a better Christian. It will make you tired, you risk becoming burned out, you may be neglecting someone in your family or your family as a whole. Many Christians develop a disbelief in God when they do all these “works” and still do not see their prayers answered nor their lives any better for it. Sad thing of all is I can show people the single verses, that when taken out of context from the text and vane of thought in the word, which could justify every one of the “works” I just listed. Here lies the problem; we do not fully understand that God wants to communicate with us on a personal basis. (“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works”) As we begin to understand this gift and open it with expectation of joy, like we do at Christmas or a birthday, we will find ourselves becoming more peaceful. As we draw closer to God in our understanding, we will find that the sins that so easily ensnared us do not cause us to stumble as often, and often stop the sin altogether. We will choose to go to some of the church functions to fellowship with like-minded believers, but will tend to our families first, knowing that in doing so we will be a living witness to a loved one that does not believe. We will sing praise to God from our heart, not because we like the music, but because we recognize what He truly has done for us. When we do share our faith with another person it is because we recognize this precious gift and do not want anyone we know personally to miss out on receiving it for themselves. Once we truly recognize the depth of this precious gift of salvation, we will begin to see it in our fellow Christian even if they choose to worship at a different church or have a different color of skin. We will recognize when a religious doctrine does not line up with the complete word of God and begin to pray for those seekers that attend that church, for their eyes to be opened and not put them down as a whole. It is God’s will that no man should parish, but that all should come to the fullness and understanding of Him. (Ephesians 4:13-16)
So what are the works prepared for us in Christ as written in Ephesians 2:9? That we should love one another and in doing so, preach the gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, and be Jesus to those around us who do not know Him. (Matthew 10:8, Luke 4:18, 9:2 & 10:9, Romans 1:5, 10:15, 15:20, 1 Corinthians 1:17, 9:14,16,18, Revelations 14:6) This is our works to do here on earth, and we can do this with our actions even better than we can our words, but especially if our words and actions are the same and are in line with the full word of God.
Even when we were completely separated from God; He is the one who set in motion the ability to bring us to Him so that He can bless us with the same blessings He promised to the children of Israel. How can anyone who understands this concept believe the lie that God is mad at us today? He is the One who gave His only begotten Son to die in our place because of His love for all mankind.
Ephesians 2:11-13, 11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh--who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands-- 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
These three verses comprise the factual history regarding the separation between Israel, God’s chosen people, and the rest of mankind. Amazing in that many people who read the bible and go to church have not truly grasped the spiritual significance of verse 13. Even more amazing is when I hear a self-professed Christian, who even has enough scripture in memory to understand salvation, make disparaging remarks about Israel. Many of these same people have no idea, and are often upset, at why the US spends so much time, money, and military power defending and supporting Israel. This study is going to be more of a history lesson and I encourage you to not overlook it as possibly boring. Understanding this segment of biblical history will change the life and walk of a Christian and help a non-believer understand why they need to make their own confession to salvation. Interesting point in that the word uncircumcision does not show up as a correctly spelled word in Word Perfect, and it is used as more than just describing the physical state of a male man; it identifies the majority of people both male and female on earth.
Scientists have proven that all mankind can be traced through our DNA back to a single female mother which is proof enough for me that we all are descendants of Adam and Eve. But this family tree quickly has multiple branches and depending on where you fit in the tree is where you are in relationship to God. A very important note: regardless of where you fall in the natural on this tree of life, we all have the ability to be grafted, or adopted, into the true family of God. Even if you are of Jewish heritage you are not automatically a child of God even though you are one of God’s chosen people.(Romans 11:17-24) Who are God’s chosen people and how did they get chosen? What did they do to deserve the title of God’s chosen people? They did not do anything to become chosen, they were simply born into it.
In Genesis 14 we read where God had earlier brought Abram and his wife Sarai out of the land of Ur. In chapter 15 we read that Abram believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. This is the first place where we find that it is faith that God is looking for in people, not in what we do. God promised Abram, at the age of 86 that he would have a child, until then he and his wife Sarai were childless. God made a covenant with Abram at that time telling him of the blessings that would come to him and all his descendants. Here is where Abram and Sarai get in the way of God’s plan trying to make something happen before God’s timing. Instead of waiting for Sarai to have the promised child, she offers her maidservant Hagar to Abram so that Abram could father the promise child through her. Ishmael was born, but they quickly found out that this was not God’s plan because strife erupted almost immediately. How often do we, in our haste, try to work out our blessings ahead of God’s timing and create our own Ishmael? Ishmael was not the child of promise and in chapter 21 we read where God had Abraham send Hagar and her child Ishmael away so as to no longer be raised by Abraham. When you hear of a person or country claiming to be heirs of their father Abraham and they are not descendants of the Jewish people, than they can only be descendants from Ishmael who was not the child of promise. Chapter 17 starts off with God telling Abram that he will still father the proclaimed promise child and it will be through Sarai. God also changed both of their names to Abraham “father of many nations” and Sarah “mother of nations”. When Abraham was 100 years old Sarah bore Isaac. In chapter 17 we find the initial command from God for all of the male children in Abraham’s household, both born and his servants to be circumcised. This was the result of the covenant between God and Abraham where God promised to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations and would inherit many lands and great wealth. Hence forth both Ishmael and Isaac were a part of the Abrahamic wealth covenant.
Chapter 22 of Genesis, God tested Abraham and found him to be faithful to the point of willingness to sacrifice his only true son, born of Sarah; Isaac. God provided a lamb for the actual sacrifice instead, and in verse 16 we read “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son-- 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." Notice the wording in verse 18. God uses the word seed not seeds, indicating only one child and this child is referenced to by God in verse16 as the child of promise. God further goes on to proclaim that “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” through this “seed”. Until now Abraham has been told by God that he would be the father of many nations, and now through his seed the entire world has adoption rights. The Law of Moses did not come to the children if Israel until several hundred years later. When we study the lineage of Mary, the mother of Jesus, we find that she is from the House of David who is from the tribe of Judah, who was one of the twelve sons born to Israel. Israel was born and named Jacob before God changed his name when he was a younger man. Jacob was one of the two children born to Isaac, the true son of promise, born to Abraham. This makes Jesus “the Seed” spoken of by God in His promise to Abraham where “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed”. Until Jesus’ death and resurrection where all people that believe and confess Jesus as their Lord and savior are made to be children of God, only those with a natural birth line to Abraham were able to receive the Abrahamic blessings. The children of Israel were the original and only chosen people of God until Jesus. Everyone else was referred to as Gentiles. The only reason Israel was chosen is because of his birth and the promise made to Abraham by God. And the only reason God chose Abraham over anyone else is the fact of Abraham’s faith in God. He believed God, and that was accounted to him as righteous. When you see the whole picture there is only one thing that God is looking for and that is for us to believe in Him and what He did for us through His Son Jesus on the cross. We who now believe are also children of the Abrahamic promise, not the children of the Mosaic Promise where every action is judged and must be done correctly in order to receive the blessing from God. Faith, not works, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Christians must remember that we were once Gentiles, not circumcised in the flesh, without Christ which means messiah or deliverer, aliens from the promise of commonwealth, strangers from the covenant of promise; we had no hope and were without God in this world. There is no other way to say it, we were completely without hope. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ”. Galatians 4:6 says, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" That is awesome, we can go from nothing and absent from the presence of God to becoming one of His children with just our faith and spoken word. Make the decision if you have not yet done so. If you have, remember where you came from and what God did for you; give Him all of the glory.
Do we really see Jesus? We see Him on the cross. We see Him in artist renditions hanging on walls. Some people even see him in their toast. Buy if we were to truly saw Him as He is today; seated at the right hand of God claiming each one of us as His children we would love Him more. And we would understand how much He loves us, and knowing that love would strengthen our walk.
Hebrews 2:9 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
Do we really see Jesus? I don’t think so, but let’s look at this verse and discover how important it is in the life and walk of a Christian. For starters Jesus came to earth just like we did through the womb of a woman. His first breath of air was probably through the gasp of a cry just like babies born today. In the natural aspect Jesus was made just like man with exception of His spirit which came from God and not from a natural fallen father. This is referenced as the virgin birth as recorded in Luke 1:34-35 when the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and she became with child. We also can see through John 1:1-3, & 14, along with 1 Timothy 3:16, that Jesus is actually God come down from heaven in the form of man to do what man could otherwise not do, live a perfect life and fulfill the requirements of God for righteousness. God is omnipresent and can be everywhere at the same time so the old question of “how could God leave heaven for 33 years and come live as a man” is simply small minded. The presence of the Holy Spirit is everywhere which is a good thing since man covers the whole earth and we all can be filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus had to come as a man since in the previous verse we read that Man was given all authority on earth and we know that man gave up his authority by submitting it to Satan in the Garden of Eden. God is Spirit and since He gave this authority to man here on earth, He could not just come and take it back. God’s word is pure and un-changeable. God cannot go back on His own word.
Jesus, in the form of man, was and is the only answer for God to deliver man from his fallen state. A man, Adam, gave away our position of free access to God which was only for a perfect and pure man to have. With sin came death and the grave for fallen man along with absence from his creator God. The requirements for righteousness are to be as perfect as God and no man born of a natural father could ever live up to that level of perfection. Jesus, having been born as a man with the perfect and pure Spirit of God was and is the only answer for redemption of mankind into a right standing and free access into the presence of God. Bottom line is Jesus suffered death on the cross for sins He never committed, so that those of us who believe and confess Him as our Lord and savior can have that original right standing with God. Every Christian can say, “Jesus died for me”.
We really do not see Jesus for who He is and for what He has done for us. Many Christians think they do, but when you look at the life of works and rules many try to live by in effort to be righteous before God, you realize that these Christians do not have a full understanding of the true “power of grace”, Ephesians 2:8. We miss it in our healing, in our finances, and in our relationships every time we try to attach a “cause and effect” to our earthly situations. Christians by nature live with a sticker chart, “if we do than we can” mentality that will always keep us from receiving all of the blessings promised to us by God. This is why Paul in Romans 12:2 tells us to renew our minds, and in 2 Corinthians 5:7 we are to walk by faith and not by sight.
Meditate on this. Jesus was not perfected through His sufferings, but His perfect sufferings have perfected us. It is paramount that we understand how perfect Jesus was and as Christians we have that same perfect spirit in us.
Hebrews 2:10-13 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying: "I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You." 13 And again: "I will put My trust in Him." And again: "Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.
Many people think this verse, which there is no other verse like it, is saying that Jesus was only perfected through His sufferings. These same “Works Masters” also use this verse to say that we are only made perfect through our personal sufferings just like Jesus was. Both of these statements are lies from the Devil and if believed will keep a person from walking by sight instead of faith, 2 Corinthians 5:7. It is crazy to think Jesus was made perfect through sufferings since He was God at birth John 1:1-3, 14 & 1 Tim 3:16. He did have to go through sufferings and even the suffering on the cross to be made perfect while on earth, but His sufferings were for our benefit so that we “do not” have to go through the same sufferings. We sometimes forget that Jesus was perfect in spirit while here on earth, and His perfect spirit is the same perfect spirit that born again believers have, Galatians 4:6. God is Spirit and therefore sees things spiritual which is why He sees Jesus now in believers instead of their original fallen sin spirit. Just for clarification; there is no way we have both the Son spirit and our fallen spirit both, and are left to fight out or overcome our old spirit. Darkness can have no place with light!
It is paramount that we understand and believe that Jesus was perfect, and that we, “Christians” have His perfect Spirit. Verse 11 is just one proof that we have the Spirit of Jesus and not two spirits because it declares us to be “one” with Him. The other fact in verse 11 is that since Christians are now “one” with Jesus we no longer are required to go through any sufferings because if we were required to go through additional sufferings here on earth than we would be taking Jesus through those same sufferings with us. Jesus has finished His work and now sits at the right hand of God, Hebrews 10:12. He is not going through additional sufferings since He made the one sacrifice for all time with His own blood and since we are under the covering of His blood we are not required to suffer either. When Christians believe they have to go through sufferings and personally fulfill the requirements of the Old Testament or even worse follow all of man’s made up rules in effort to be righteous before God, is the same as saying Jesus’ blood was not good enough for them. A Christian believing they too must suffer here on earth are trying to mix their personal blood, “sacrifices’ and sufferings”, with the perfect blood of Jesus. Their actions are actually polluting the blood of Jesus. Because we are one with Jesus He is not ashamed to call us brethren. This acclimation is our born again birth right Galatians 4:6-7. Because we are one with Jesus and because God is Spirit and only sees in the spirit He sees Jesus in us and not the sins we have committed. God claimed that He will remember our sins no more as the writer of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 10:17. In fact Hebrews 10:17 is not a new statement, but rather a restatement of prophesy of the “New Covenant” God will have with believers, and comes from Jeremiah 31:34. This is an awesome truth that Christians have difficulty grasping, but the fact is God wants to relate to us as His sons, as He does with Jesus. It is only our own unbelief that prevents this relationship, not our sins. Actually our personal works for righteousness actually get in the way of our walking by faith and living in the power of being a child of God.
Verse 12 is a direct Quote from Psalms 22:22 which is the foundation and proof of verse 11. This verse is actually an Old Testament verse telling us that Jesus is declaring God to His brethren. Verse 13 is a reference from Isaiah 8:17-18.
In all things Jesus had to be made like us, but without sin. Perfect in all His ways He paid the price of death on the cross to fulfill the requirements of God on man. He is the First Born of many brethren which you are if you have accepted Him as your Lord and Savior. He understands our temptations, He knows of our failures and weaknesses, and yet He laid His life down for us anyway. That’s love!!
Hebrews 2:14-18 14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
In John 5:27 Jesus calls Himself Son of Man, “and God has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man”, which is a powerful statement reflecting on the human nature God took on while He came to earth. Verse 14 is reminding us that from the beginning with Adam, man’s spirit rested in the natural body and because man gave away his authority while in the flesh only a man of flesh and blood could take it back. It was necessary for God to come in the likeness of flesh and blood, Romans 8:3, to defeat the Devil at his own game. Satan’s power has been destroyed, but he still exists even though verse 14 says he himself was destroyed. Satan’s only power over man was through the fear of life and death of which he had control until the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I think where Christians miss it is in not understanding the limited authority of angelic beings in the first place. In Hebrews 1:14 it clearly stated that “angels” are actually ministering spirits and in Hebrews 1:7 it states that God makes His angels spirits a flame of fire. This is actually saying that God has complete authority over His angels and they only do what He tells them and their authority comes from God for each specific task. Angelic beings do not have their own power.
In Jude 1:9 we read that when Michael the arch angel contended with Satan over the body of Moses, his statement of authority was “the Lord rebuke you”. The other misunderstood conception of Satan is that he is omnipresent. This is just not true in fact 1 Peter 5:8 states that he walks about like a roaring lion. Another scriptural proof that angelic beings are not omnipresent is found in Daniel 10:13 where the angel that came to Daniel to deliver God’s answer to his prayer clearly states that he was sent from God at the beginning of Daniel’s prayer, but the prince of Persia, another name for Satan, withstood him for 21 days. This angel even had to get help from Michael the arch angel to break through Satan’s resistance to get the message from God to Daniel. The Devil cannot be everywhere at the same time and to think he has enough demonic angels to cover the entire world’s population in his effort to torment man is absurd thinking. There is no reference in the bible that angels reproduce and we know that Satan only had 1/3 of the heavenly angels follow him. Today’s world population is approximately 6.7 billion people; to think the Devil and his angels are affecting everyone is just wrong thinking. If that were the case and there are 6.7 billion demonic angels today, than in the day of Adam and Eve there would have been a ratio of 3.35 billion demonic angels to 1 person. That’s just crazy thinking! Most of the problems man deals with is related to learned behavior and input from un-godly sources. True there is demonic activity, but for a Christian to make the effort to imply Satin is behind all evil here on earth it is actually giving glory to the Devil.
Verse 15 tells us that we have been released from fear and death. The only strong hold Satan had over man was this fear. The only way he can exercise his demonic powers is through doubt which leads to reason, which is based in lack of knowledge and understanding, which is detrimental to walking in faith. James 1:6-8 tells us doubting is faithless actions which lead nowhere. Not only did Jesus take away the sting of death, but He gives us aid in this life. Verse 16 clearly tells us that He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to us. A man cannot be intimidated if he does not fear death, but even though we are not under death and our hearts are right with God our minds can still take us down the wrong path with the lack of understanding. Verse 16 is one of the answers we need to fall back on. When we are under pressure Jesus gives us aid, and all we need to do is give the oppression over to Him. Verse 17 is the foundation of why God had to come in the likeness of flesh. Jesus is that likeness and in doing so He has a personal understanding of life’s difficulties and is both sympathetic and supportive to our overcoming. Remember that in the days of Moses only the High Priest could inter into the Holiest of Holies once a year and offer a sacrifice for the sins of the people. Jesus is our High Priest and is consistently in the presence of God forever making intercession for us. We need to remember that because of His intercession and His blood, our sins are not only forgiven, but that we can boldly approach the throne of God for His comfort and help in times of need, Hebrews 4:16. Jesus Our High Priest, even though He is God come to earth, walked as a man while on earth and is therefore sympathetic to the temptations man has to deal with. Because He overcame death on the cross, and because He has the Sons spirit, which we now have, He is able to give aid in our turmoil here on earth. That is His covenant with us, “as the seed of Abraham”.
We cannot honor Jesus with our actions of self-righteousness or self-abatement. In fact to hold on to either, is to discount Jesus and His perfect shed blood. If we try to add to anything He did by way of our actions, what we are actually saying is His blood is not good enough for us and therefore we must suffer also. These actions are actually an offence to Him. But to lay down our efforts and embrace His love by faith and walk in God’s grace, then we can show Him our love the most.
Hebrews 3:1-3 1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, 2 who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. 3 For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house.
The first verse in chapter three is actually telling us where we fall short as Christians and is why we do not walk in the power and authority here on earth that God wants us to. Look at the word “consider” it actually means to ponder or give great thought to. We truly do not understand the fullness of our salvation, forgiveness, power, and authority we have given to us through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Philippians 4:6-7 the Apostle Paul tells us not to worry and that we should give thanks for what has been done. In verse 8 he gives us the “how to” for living a life of abundance in grace and mercy while here on earth. Read verse 8 from Philippians in light of verse 3:1 in Hebrews, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things”. This is where we need to be spending most of our time, meditating on the things God has accomplished in our lives which is our testimony of the Lord’s strength in our lives, the author and finisher of our faith. The second point is in the recognition of Jesus as both Apostle and High Priest. High Priest in that He forever is in the presence of God making intercession for us; Apostle in that He was the first to bring the “Good News” of our salvation through His blood, the foundation of the New Covenant as prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34. The author of Hebrews is making a vast statement in combining both persons into Jesus. In the Old Covenant the High Priest was the ultimate authority on earth and in the New Testament, Jesus on earth is the ultimate authority both here on earth while as an apostle, (a sent one delivering the gospel with signs and wonders), and in heaven for ever while sitting at the right hand of God as Son of God. It is in our confession of Jesus that our power and authority lies here on earth and without diligent consideration, meditation, on who He is and what He has done for us, our confession has little power over circumstances here on earth. (Note: The meaning of the Greek word for meditation is actually to mutter, murmur, or speak over and over)
Verse two clearly points out the similarity between Jesus and Moses, as the author is writing to Jewish Christians who have a strong understanding of the Mosaic Law. Verse two is not completely correct in entirety according to the Old Testament. Moses was faithful to his calling of deliverance for the children of Israel out of Egypt, but he failed in the end which was the reason God did not allow him to enter into the land of “milk and honey”. Jesus, however, was faithful to everything appointed to Him by God, even to the point of freely going to the cross for our salvation. The second and most important comparison between Jesus and Moses is in verse three. The author uses the analogy of houses instead of covenants, possible because everyone understands what a house is. It is not just a place to live, but a sanctuary from the rest of the world. A place of rest from man’s works in the world. Owning a house is a responsibility in that it takes up keep, but to build a house takes time, effort, and knowledge far beyond just owning one. John 1:1-3, 14 clearly identifies Jesus as God here on earth and we all know that God created the heavens and earth. Verse three is identifying Jesus as the one with the greatest honor, a necessary statement to the Jewish Christians of the day that were having difficulty at walking fully in the New Covenant. They were hanging on the laws and rules of the Old Testament in their effort to maintain righteousness, much like Christian’s today hang on to the doctrines of men in their effort to gain or maintain personal righteousness.
Although Hebrews was written nearly 2000 years ago to the First Church, it still applies today in that Jesus is preeminent over every religion including religions within Christianity. Because of Jesus we are all one people; the children of God. Hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.
Hebrews 3:4-6 4 For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. 5 And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, 6 but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.
Another way of adding emphasis to the superiority of Jesus over Moses is found in verse four. Houses are not nature built. True there are caves and for years man liven in them, but a house is something created and built over time. To build a house takes a commanding knowledge of all of the aspects that go into its construction. Just knowing what a house is supposed to look like and how it is to function is a small thing compared to building a house. John 1:3 states that all things were created through Jesus and in understanding this concept is foundation to understand that verse 4 is telling us that even though Moses was a great man of God, even he was created through Jesus.
Moses was a faithful servant in that he kept the very house that was committed to him by God, but he was not the builder, just the ordained keeper. Today when we meet a man that has built his own home we tend to give him praise and rightly so as it was no small feat, we give him more praise than just a home owner purchasing their new home. Verse six clearly states that Jesus was such a Man in that He created us as His house, as well as, He is the keeper of us. Notice the last half of verse 6 has an “if” in it. When we let go of the fullness of Jesus and His New Covenant and grasp onto the laws of the Old Testament or the rules of man’s denominations in effort to gain righteousness, we are in essence pulling ourselves out of the very house we want to be a part of. We must hold fast with confidence and rejoice in our salvation through the blood of Jesus in effort to remain in His house.
Even though Hebrews was written for Jewish Christians back in the 1st century church, it still applies today. I believe even more so since there are so many denominations and variations even with in some denominations. All of these different Christian religions are chocked full of ritual, rules, regulations, and actions all of which are man’s requirements to be a good member of that denomination. Satan’s only power is through his deception and casting doubt and getting us to enter into agreement with him. Anytime he can get our eyes off of Jesus he has a little victory against God and it is at our expense. Satan knows he will never win over God and can’t stand the fact that we have won over him through the blood of Jesus. He is no different than the cowardly bank robber that knows he is not powerful enough to over through the bank guards, but if he can get his hands on the weakest hostage he has some control over the most powerful guard. When we look to man’s doctrines as means of righteousness, (don’t look, don’t touch, don’t listen, etc) or stay focused on the sin nature of man, or lean on the laws and regulations from the Old Testament we are actually broadcasting to Satan, “here we are the weakest one to take hostage”. Stop being his hostage! Pick up the word of God and make it your own. (MAJOR NOTE: The entire gospel is scriptural, but not all scripture is gospel. Put on the whole armor of God as described in Ephesians 6 and get into the battle. Jesus is the captain of the army of God and tells us of the battle in Matthew 11:12 “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force”.
Today if we will hear His voice and not harden our hearts as the children did in the wilderness, we will see His mighty blessings in our life. So how do we prevent hardening of our hearts? By learning to rest in His perfect work and lay down the strife in our own lives.
Hebrews 3:7-12 7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you will hear His voice, 8 Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. 10 Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, 'They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.' 11 So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.' “12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;
Verse 7 is a quote from Psalms 95:7 and verse 8 is a quote from Psalms 95:8. The emphasis here is our own heart. God will never be the One that gets in the way of our walk with Him. Some people hang on Romans 8:30 as some kind of wacko truth that God predestines who will and who will not go to heaven. That is just stupid! Ignorance can be overcome, but stupid is simply ignorance allowed to go to seed. Anyone that believes this has not opened their heart to the whole word of God which brings us back to the core of verse 7&8. The children of Israel in the wilderness, although they saw miracle after miracle, kept looking back with poor remembrance to the good part of the natural things they left in Egypt. They forgot they were slaves and lived in lack, but because of the hardness of their heart they consistently rebelled and looked back. Judas Iscariot is a New Testament character we can learn from regarding the hardness of heart. Some people believe he did what he did to Jesus, because God chose him to be the one necessary to fulfill the prophesy. He was not chosen, but God does allow us to stew in our own juices.
Judas Iscariot was a thief and according to John 1:12 he was the one that kept the money box for the disciples and often took the money out for himself. Judas never overcame the hardness of his heart of his greed for money. It was the hardness of his heart that made the glitter of money so appealing to him and caused him to turn Jesus over to the Pharisees’ for a few pieces of silver. It will be the hardness of our heart in some area that will keep us from entering in to the fullness of what God has in store for us and could cause us to denounce our salvation and reject God’s grace. Hardness of heart is not just in a person living in sin. Hardness of heart can often be found in a Christian that does not have a full understanding of who Jesus truly is. Hardness of heart will cause a Christian to believe so strongly in their works or denomination that they will not even allow the true word of God to stumble them into the truth. Unless you understand that Jesus was 100% God and 100% man while here on earth, you will by nature gravitate into a walk of works and legalism. This type of person develops a hardness of heart and becomes un-teachable.
Unfortunately there are pulpits all around this world that are filled with this kind of person. They are not bad people, and most of them are not of the Devil. Many of them are truly sincere, but they are also sincerely wrong. They have a good heart, but their mind is hardened. Judas Iscariot never renewed his mind to line up with the teachings of Jesus even though he was one of the twelve closest to Him and saw the miracles first hand. Can you see where hardness of heart will blind the truth? The Apostle Paul renewed his mind daily and was consistently seeking God, that is why he went from an arrogant man seeking to destroy the church to a man that heard from God and wrote the majority of the New Testament. All I can say is check your heart, are you teachable?
Verse 9 is a statement of fact. The children of Israel tested God and Moses so often that both Moses and God were ready to give up on them. Fortunately both God and Moses were not fed up at the same time. Study shows that Moses often stood between the children of Israel and God’s wrath. Study also shows that Moses often complained about the rebellion and hardness of heart to God and wanted God to destroy them. The greatest point to look at is in verse 10 & 11. I was angry with that generation, Christians are not that generation, and we are not of the Moses generation. Despite all of the televangelists and prophets that say God is mad at Christians for their sin as a people and that is why He has sent destruction to us through natural disasters and terrorists that does not line up with the word of God. God is not angry with the New Covenant generation. Since the cross, God has spent all of His anger at sin on Jesus who knew no sin. Read John 3:16-21 completely. Most Christians can quote John 3:16, but very few can even tell you what the next verse says. Bottom line is God is not mad at this generation, but the hardness of our heart can keep us from receiving the goodness of God and His blessings on our life. God is Not Mad at You!
Verse 12 is not just talking about a person that does not believe in Jesus as their Lord and savior. Remember that Hebrews was written to Jews who had been converted to Christianity, but had also begun to slip back into the works of the Law of Moses and the prophets. It is an evil heart of unbelief that will cause a person to hang on stronger to a rule or law in effort to keep their salvation instead of walking in faith that Jesus has already paid the price for us. For the Joshua generation, which is the generation that began with the resurrection of Jesus and continues today, the word from God is yes and amen, not anger and rejection for everything done wrong. The writer of Hebrews has quoted from Psalms 95 in the previous four verses in effort to prove that God was angry with that generation for their hardness of heart which leads to unbelief. It was not necessarily their specific sins that kept the original generation of children of Israel out of the promise land it was their unbelief, Hebrews 3:19 (So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.)
The death of Jesus tore down the veil of separation between man and God, but it also tore down the veil of separation between brothers in Christ be it Jews or Gentiles. We should love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of the denomination we choose to worship in.
Hebrews 3:13-14 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,
These two verses are pivotal points for a Christians walk, the first is straight forward, but sometimes hard to do and the second often becomes misunderstood and is used by the Devil to keep people stuck in works for salvation. Christians need to remember that we are sojourners here on earth, 1 Peter 2:9-11. As such we need to consider the difficulties of living in a foreign land with different morays, customs, and even language. If you notice how people from other countries tend to gravitate to areas in the US or areas within a city where other people like themselves are already living; you will see verse 13 in living action. There is much comfort in community especially when trying to rebuild a life in a foreign land. Christians are not much different than foreigners. Sure we speak the same language after we become born again, but we begin to use it in a different manner. Instead of taking God’s name in vane we say “praise God”, instead of “I am catching a cold”, we should be saying “I am not receiving this cold from the enemy”. Instead of saying “These colds seem to hang on forever”, we can learn from others how to begin saying “by His stripes I am healed from this cold”. See the difference; you are still using the same basic language, just using it differently. 1 Peter 5:5 tells us “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
I have heard some pastors and even elders use the first half of this verse to hold people, under them in a humbled state, but that is not what Peter is talking about. We are to be submissive to one another, all alike. To be submissive is not to be a slave to a person’s every wish, but Peter is telling us to have a servant’s heart toward each other and to show a special reverence to your brother or sister in the Lord. To exhort a person you are lifting them up and it is always easier naturally to get your center of gravity under that of the person you are trying to lift instead of towering offer the top of them and just using your arm strength to pull them up. The same principle applies in the spiritual in that when you exhort someone you are attempting to support them to the next level through Godly lifting. There was an insurance TV add the showed random acts of kindness and the effects it has on the recipients lives. Being kind is easy, but once you try to openly encourage someone you may not know well in the name of Jesus, you will find that more difficult. The reason is you are using a new language, a Godly language and it needs to be exercised. I guarantee you that if you change your communication patterns to people around you and begin practicing your new Godly way of communication, especially with likeminded believers; you will find yourself in fewer battles with your sinful flesh. Jesus told us that in Matthew 15:11 that it is what comes out of a man that defiles a man; flip that verse around and you will see that if Godly communication comes out of a man so will Godly actions.
There should be no doubt that we have become partakers with Christ when we become born again and almost everyone that has a true touch from God will say this. There is often a difference in enthusiasm between a new believer and one that has been born again for a long time. A new believer feels they can conquer the world and many “old” believers act like the world is on their shoulders. Our walk with Jesus should be just the opposite. The more faith you exercise the spiritually stronger you will be. It is not the sin that pulls us down because all of our sin has been forgiven. Verse 14 and Hebrews 3:6 are encouraging the continuance of faith for our salvation. It is not our sin after we become born again that will cost us our salvation, if that were the case the best thing that could happen to a brand new convert would be to drop dead right where they stand once they make their confession for Jesus. James 2:10 tells us that if we fail even in one point of the law we are guilty of ALL of the law, so sin is not what will defeat us, it is unbelief and doubt.
Moses lead several million Jews out of Egypt and performed numerous signs during the process, but only two men from the original men that came out of Egypt made it to the promise land. There were only three people that believed God would do what He said He would do. Moses believed God would deliver them into the promise land full of giants, but he did not believe that only speaking to the rock the second time in the wilderness would produce water. Since he struck the rock the first time and it worked as God said, he struck it the second time in disbelief and it cost him the ability to enter in. Sin can and will harden your heart and the hardening of your heart can cause you to denounce your salvation, but the sin in itself will not keep you out of heaven. In fact only a mature Christian can denounce their salvation because you have to fully understand what you have to throw it away. You can’t throw away what you do not own. Hebrews 6:4-6 is describing a mature Christian that denounces their salvation and once that is done there is no other means for salvation. A baby does not know they have even messed in their diaper and once you get older you can still have an accident, but to make a conscience decision without some kind of external force to soil your britches is a person that has lost their mind. Sin left unchecked will cause even a mature Christian to lose their mind, the mind of Christ, that Paul tells us we have in 1 Corinthians 2:16.
A person will strengthen their faith and their walk through exhortation of others in Christ. In doing so you will be stirring up in your spirit, what Jesus has done for you, Philippians 4:8. Anytime we ignore a sin in our life it can cause a hardening of our heart, but unbelief in what God has said He did on the cross through His Son Jesus is spiritual suicide. Falling into works through following man’s rules; over living in grace is the same as unbelief.
Paul told the Philippians to hold fast the word of life. We too need to hold fast the word of life. So what is the word of life? Jesus Christ; the only begotten Son of God having died on the cross for the redemption of man back into the ability to have a one on one relationship with our creator. Notice I underlined back into the ability. God predestined the ability for us to come to Him, but we still must accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. This means we cannot work our way back, nor will He bring us back just because He wants us back. The only action required of us is to believe who Jesus is, what He did on the cross, and confess Him as our Lord and Savior. That’s so simple it is almost too good to be true – that’s what gospel means.
Philippians 2:16 “16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”
This comment from Paul is not an unusual one from a pastor or evangelist. Paul’s joy was not derived from his personal accomplishments, but in the knowledge of his helping others find their way to God through Jesus Christ. Christians have a tendency to understand the born again concept, but then sit down at growing in their walk with God. Just living a good life and claiming to be born again is only part of it. It is God’s word in us and spoken by us that truly matters. Paul has poured his life into the Philippians and is encouraging them to live a true powerful Christian life. Not one of compliancy, but in continuation of the gospel. We sometimes look at Act 20:35 and only think of giving money or gifts, but the greatest gift, the gospel, is often overlooked. Worse yet is a Christian that hesitates to proclaim the gospel for fear of ridicule. This timidity actually will stifle happiness. Paul has recognized his true joy is in spreading the gospel and watching lost people come to Jesus. Living selfishly will eventually lose its fleshly joy, which often causes the person to delve deeper into selfishness. Acts 20:35 “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Words spoken by Jesus should always be taken as words directly from God since Jesus was God in the flesh.
Paul’s desire to rejoice over the Philippians in the day of Christ is not a selfish one, but actually his personal understanding of the words spoken by Jesus in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” Some people still believe that since Jesus spoke this to His disciples that it pertains to them only, but the word of God is for everyone. It is Jesus’ desire that we bear fruit and that it remain. The weight of bearing fruit is not related to our works other than speaking the true gospel to those we come in contact with. And by our supporting ministries that are taking the gospel to others we are also partaking of the blessings as though we are the ones doing the spreading. Each person is responsible for themselves, but we are also told to encourage one another.
Paul is also aware that the work of every Christian here on earth will be judged in the day of Christ. Some will receive gifts while others will suffer loss at seeing their work burn in front of their eyes. With Jesus being the foundation everything else built on the foundation will be tested by the plumb line of Jesus as written in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, “11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” Is your work going to bring you blessings or loss in the Day of the Lord? Live the word of God, speak the word of God, sow into the word of God and let your Godly actions toward others bring you the joy God wants you to have.
Philippians 2:17-18 “17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.”
We do not understand martyrdom here in the United States and therefore often read over these verses with little thought as to what Paul is saying and asking the Philippians. Paul specifically used the Greek word SPENDO which was simply translated as “offered” in KJV, but in the NKJV is actually written out with its true meaning, “to pour out as a drink offering”. The only other place SPENDO is used is in 2 Timothy 4:6 where Paul is telling Timothy that he is prepared to be put to death for his faith and walk in Jesus. The Philippians were converted Pagans and they understood blood sacrifices’ which were poured on top of their Pagan alters. This would have left no doubt in the minds of the Philippians that Paul would actually be killed because of his work in their lives of converting them over to Christianity.
“I am glad and rejoice with you all” is not a sadistic comment from Paul referring to his being glad and asking the Philippians to rejoice with him over the fact that he was going to be put to death. Paul is glad and rejoice full at the fact that the Philippians conversion was so powerful and complete that everyone could see it. Consider this; if Paul had not made much of an impact both he and those who chose to follow his teachings would have probably been left alone. Because Paul and his teachings brought such a dramatic change in the lives of Christian converts it actually brought negative attention. Paul is encouraging the Philippians and us to realize that if a walk with Christ causes this much stir than the person with such a walk must be closer than they realize to walking in the truth of God. Paul is rejoicing that the Philippians have made such an impact on their society for Jesus and wants them to rejoice as he rejoices for them.
When I finally understood these two verses I had to ask myself the painful question. What impact has my life had on those around me since I became Born Again? Have I encouraged anyone in the Lord to the point that their walk with Jesus was adversely noticed by today’s heathen society? Am I allowing my light and the light of God to shine through my life to the point that I become criticized? Ask yourself these same questions and be honest with yourself. It will change your life and you will begin to see God’s power work through you.
Possible the greatest downfall of Christianity today is that the belief of self-first has crept into our society. You may call it self-preservation, but the true concept is situational ethics which is simply a selfish way of looking at life, “What may be considered ethical at the time for you does not necessarily apply to me”. Paul had the same issue in his day when he found no one likeminded to tend to his beloved church in Philippi.
Philippians 2:19-22 “19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.
We can learn a great deal from the life of Paul. Even in his daily actions he purposes to not get ahead of the Holy Spirit. His desire would probably be to send Timothy immediately to Philippi, but is seeking Jesus for the correct timing. As an Apostle, and according to his previous verses, he loves the people of Philippi because they have come out of Pagan bondage into a walk worthy of Jesus. Remember he could not just pick up a phone and call someone and even letters could take weeks and depended on a trusted friend for the delivery. There was not a mail system like we take for granted. Even at the writing of this letter, Paul is aware that some may have fallen away, but looks forward to hearing in person from his son in the spirit Timothy, regarding the state of the church in Philippi. When an Apostle, Evangelist, Pastor, or Teacher sows seeds into the lives of people on a consistent basis the sharing of the word builds an agape love for the ones that are hearing the word. And this is the very thing we see in these verses; Paul’s’ deep love and concern for the people he sowed into.
Verse 20 & 21 are sad statements, but ones not too different from today. I wish I could say that United States Christians do not fall into this category, but as a country we do. For starters the majority of US citizens are not bible believing Christians. Many say they are Christians, but their voice, actions, and church attendance tells a different story. Those that are bible believing Christians have managed to get themselves Born Again, but many stop there. There seems to be a, me and mine attitude. So how can I make such a strong statement? For starters Matthew records Jesus as saying, wherever your treasure is so is your heart, Matthew 6:21. The synonym for this statement is a person “will” lay their treasure, “money” where their heart is. According to a Charisma Magazine article just a couple of years ago, the latest study of tithes brought into the church as a whole in United States shows less than 10% of the people attending or belonging to Christian churches tithe. Ouch! That means 90% of the population that claims to be a Christian does not give the minimum of 10% of their income into their church or any ministry. There is no reason other than doubt in the word of God for this type of action. God’s word is very clear that if we bring our tithes into the store house God will bless us abundantly, Malachi 3:10. The other area Christians are missing it in the US is caring for others. The like mindedness Paul is referring to IS NOT a cultic statement demanding everyone to think and act alike. Some Churches lean in that direction and the evidence is clear in their mannerisms. The like mindedness Paul is referring to is to be like minded with the mind of Christ. We are called to spread the gospel and just telling someone they will go to hell if they do not change and turn to Christ is not spreading the gospel. That is spreading the condemnation which creates bitterness in the hearer. Christians are more prone to spreading the “gossip” than they are the gospel. The only way to truly spread the gospel of Jesus Christ is to invest your time, life, and energy into people to help them find their own walk with Jesus. That is seeking the things of Christ, telling the world about His precious gift to all who will believe.
But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. This verse is the greatest complement a person could receive; to have your character proven and known as a man or woman of God. This is a person that has both understood and taken up the mantel to commission with Jesus to spread His good news. To take on the mind of Christ is to fulfill the second commandment. Luke 10:25-37 is the picture of the mind of Christ that Christians seem to miss. The key to having the mind of Christ is to be like Timothy was; to be selfless. Here he was a young man that could have been making his own way in the world, but chose the things of God and serving people over serving himself. For a follower of Christ to love his neighbor as himself is the fulfillment of the second commandment. For a person to love himself over his neighbor, makes for a very small person. Do you live to spread the gospel, do you live for Christ Jesus, if someone were to watch you over any period of time would they see you reaching out in kindness to everyone you cross paths with? Would they see you caring for those less fortunate than you? Would they see you spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ? Would you be considered a fellow worker with Paul?
Even when Paul was in prison for sharing his love for the gospel, instead of dwelling in self-pity he chose to seek the wellbeing of others. Instead of begging for their prayers and support, he chose to comfort their concerns for him instead. This is a true example of putting others before yourself.
Philippians 2:23-28 “23 Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. 24 But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly. 25 Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; 26 since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. 27 For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful.”
We must remember that Paul was a prisoner in Rome at this time. He had every right as a typical man to be down on life as he was a Roman by birth and Romans were never to be put in jail. He had to be considered an enemy of Rome to be where he was, and in Philippians 3:7-8 we read that Paul counted everything he had as a Roman citizen as loss for the gain of Christ. This is important to remember since he is writing this letter while in prison. Paul was facing his sentencing which could be death or life in prison and wanted moral support from Timothy at this time in his life. This is another reference to the character of Timothy in that Paul, who had been in prison before, sought the comfort of his fellow worker Timothy at this time in his life. It was not the fleshly comfort we might consider today, but the spiritual strength Timothy had and was willing to stand with Paul at this time of need. Fellowship is extremely important as you will go through trials in your life and to have not only a friend, but one who you know has a proven Godly character to stand with you at your darkest hour. We also read in verse 24 that Paul held on to the hope of the Lord making a way for his release. Paul, just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (Daniel 3), knew His God could deliver him from death but even if the Lord did not deliver him from death, Jesus was still his Lord.
Epaphroditus, which means “lovely”, was obviously more than just the messenger from the Philippians to Paul. True he brought financial support that Paul needed, but also stayed and tended to the personal needs of Paul as well as served with Paul in the spreading of the gospel. It is apparent that Epaphroditus’ demeanor matched the meaning of his name in that Paul would have had great personal sorrow had he died while in service for the Lord. Once again remember that it is Paul who is in prison facing death and yet he is concerned for the hearts of the Philippians knowing they were saddened at the possible loss of their brother in the Lord, Epaphroditus. Even though Epaphroditus could have stayed and continued with his chosen labor with Paul, it brought Paul joy to send him back home to his beloved brethren in Philippi. How often do we see Christians today who are willing to do what is right and beneficial to another, even to their own hurt? This all points back to the living the second commandment, you should love your neighbor as yourself.
Paul tells us that even though there is much to do and understand regarding our walk with Jesus; above all we are to rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice is often over looked or tied into the word joy. The thought or question that comes up often is how we can remain happy with all the pressures in life.
Philippians 3:1 “1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.
Paul is not using the word “finally” as the beginning of the end of his letter, but rather as an emphasis on something that remains or continues long after something else is over. Finally comes from the Greek work LOIPON which literally means “as for the remaining or rest”. Remember that it was not Paul that broke his letters up into chapters and verses, but the authors that translated the books of the bible. This was done for the sole purpose of reference and study. Without this in mind it is easy to lose the pattern of thought from the entire letter and the beginning of this chapter with this verse is an example of the chapters and verses getting in the way of the overall heart of the letter. Paul has just encouraged the Philippians in their heart toward giving, that the next step was to live as Christ and have the mind of Christ reaching out to and serving others. He had challenged them to let their conduct in the natural be worthy of the gospel of Christ. Paul had just pointed them to an understanding of servant hood which is the antidote for a selfish lifestyle, and the servant’s heart was the unity needed in the church. So far Paul’s letter to the Philippians was an encouragement to understand fully what Jesus did for them and us on the cross and to be “light bearers” to the world. He then instructed them and us to look for Godly proven character in people and esteem those who labor for the gospel highly. The first part of this letter to the Philippians, that we call chapter 1 & chapter 2, are chocked full truth and understanding needed for our walk with Jesus. Paul has used the word LOIPON, “finally”, to actually say there is more to come, there is more remaining, I am not through and what I have to say next is just as important.
Paul is telling us that even though there is much to do and understand regarding our walk with Jesus; above all we are to rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice is often over looked or tied into the word joy. The thought or question that comes up often is how we can remain happy with all the pressures in life. Some Christians feel overwhelmed if they look at all of the instructions in the bible for Godly living and even feel oppressed. There is a huge difference between joy and happiness and an even bigger difference between joy and rejoicing. For starters, happiness can be the beginning of joy, but happiness is largely controlled by circumstance and therefore, situational and temporal. A person can actually have moments of happiness, but never enter into a life of joy. According to dictionary.com joy “a noun” is “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation:” Joy is much deeper than happiness and leans more toward a state of being, although still temporal if only looked at with natural eyes. In Galatians we are told that one of the fruits of the Spirit is Joy. In Colossians 1:11 Paul prays that we will be “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy”. It is obvious that “joy” is deeper than happiness and is related to our understanding of the gospel, but in verse 1 we are told to “rejoice” which is a verb. Paul is telling us to take action; we are to stir up in ourselves the joy of the Lord that is already put in our hearts. We cannot just wait for something outside of us to cause us to have joy; we need to pull it from the inside out.
In one way Paul is telling us how to rejoice in the next sentence. This must have been a second letter written to the Philippians from Paul as indicated by the second sentence in verse 1. Remember we are to renew our minds daily, (Romans 12:2), and we can only learn a little at a time, (Isaiah 28:10). In Philippians 4:8 Paul gives us additional information on how to rejoice, how to renew our minds, how to draw out of us that which has already been put in. Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.” To actively rejoice is to stir up the joy of the Lord in our lives regardless of the circumstances.
I have heard some religious zealots try to twist the scripture regarding “beware of dogs” as proof that man places too much affection on his pets. This is just simply not true. When you look at Philippians 3:2-3 it is clear that Paul is warning them and us to stay away from the religious. Those people who promote the Law of Moses, or by today’s standards their choice of denomination, as supreme over faith in Jesus’ perfect work on the cross.
Philippians 3:2-3 “2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,”
No one is 100% sure what Paul is referencing to in verse 2 when he starts out “beware of dogs”, however by looking at its past uses in the bible and coupling it with the truth of the gospel we can come to a solid conclusion. It is interesting to note that the term “dogs” is a disparaging remark used by the children of Israel when they referred to the Gentiles (Matthew 15:27, Mark 2:27). This term “dog” was a reference to an unholy or non-Jewish person. My thought is that Paul is turning the tables on the Pharisees and anyone else that is hanging on to the works of the law including circumcision as the means of gaining righteousness with God. Jesus Himself even warned us about these people in Matthew 7:15, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves”. It is clear that our salvation is through faith and anyone holding on to their work or promoting any form of law over the blood of Jesus for redemption will not inter into heaven, Revelations 22:15. Because Paul ties in the term “dogs” with evil workers and mentions the mutilation he must be referring to the Jews that were trying to keep others in bondage and under the Law. Christians need to understand how important it is to stay away from any form of legalism. Three books of the gospels, Matthew 16:6, Mark 8:15, & Luke 12:1 record Jesus as warning His disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees. In Mark 8:15 “and Herod” was included indicating that it was not just the Pharisees that had bad doctrine, but also the world. Paul’s warning to the Corinthians and Galatians was that even a little leaven “legalism” leavens the whole lump. Legalism was the main issue Paul had with the Galatians. Anytime anyone perverts the gospel by adding a rule or an action that “must” be done to gain salvation, repentance, or to maintain righteousness (which is actually being in “right standing with God”), they are counting the blood of Jesus as worthless. A person trying to live in legalism and the gospel of Christ together would biblically be considered unstable in all of their ways. My suggestion when you cross paths with such a person is to gently point them into the truth of the gospel. If this person happens to be a pastor or some form of church leader, run from such a person as they cannot be trusted in their doctrine even if they say good things that may help or often line up with the word of God. According to the word of God, even a little legalism leavens, makes worthless, the whole lump. A person that mixes rules or legalisms with the gospel would be considered an evil worker as their doctrine would actually be contrary to the truth of the gospel. Even the word of God taken out of context and used contrary to what the gospel is, is a lie from the devil. Remember that Satan used this trick in the wilderness when tempting Jesus, all three temptations were truths taken from the word of God and twisted out of context. The mutilation spoken of here is a reference to the physical circumcision of a male in effort to somehow become righteous.
Verse 3 is the awesome truth of the gospel and a complete answer to any attempt to add works, rules, or legalisms in a person’s life in effort to be righteous. The actual act of circumcision was a sign of separation unto a life of holiness and started back with Abraham. Anyone that calls on the name of Jesus for their salvation is actually “separated” unto God from the rest of the world. It is our faith in the blood of Jesus shed for our sins that spiritually circumcise us from the world. Therefore Paul tells us that we, “Christians” are the true circumcision, but it is in the spirit and not in an action that we are circumcised. Romans 2:29 says, “but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God”. God is Spirit and we can only worship Him in spirit not by actions. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying; we must be responsible for our actions and abstain from sin. Romans 6:1-23 addresses our sinful nature along with a life in grace and is very clear that if we are born under grace and have died to sin that we should no longer live in it. The point made in verse 3 is that we no longer have to focus on abstaining from sin in order to draw close to God or be in His righteousness, nor do we live a life of works and actions in effort to be holy in our natural bodies; the blood of Christ has made that possible. It is BECAUSE we are believers in Jesus Christ for salvation that we should not live in sin and not the sinless life itself that is of any worth. We therefore, can truly only worship God in the spirit, we must rejoice in Christ Jesus, and can NEVER have any confidence in our actions as a means to obtain righteousness.
Even the best Pharisee of Jesus’ time came to the understanding, it does not matter how good you are, your righteousness is still filthy rags compared to what Jesus did for us on the cross. If Paul realized he could never measure up with his works, why do so many Christian religions today hold on to their acts of righteousness in effort for their members to establish themselves? We need more of an understanding of Jesus’ perfect work on the cross and the power of God’s grace in our lives.
Philippians 3:4-7 “4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.”
These verses are the epitome of a person that if works were possible to gain righteousness, he would be able to make it to heaven without the blood of Jesus. Paul was God’s perfect man at the time for the call to go to the Gentiles with the gospel of Jesus Christ. A brief overview of Paul and his life up to his Damascus conversion is needed to fully understand my statement. For starters Rome was the conquering political force in that time. The Romans were in total and complete control over the lives of everyone in that region. To be a Roman citizen was to have immutable rights over the life of any other nationality and citizenship could be bought with a price for those now born Roman. To be a Roman was next to being a god here on earth and many Jewish religious leaders played the harlot with the Roman Empire for the power it gave them. Paul was actually born a Roman citizen which was considered a greater honor over the one who purchased his citizenship. As a Roman citizen he could travel unrestricted to any region controlled by Rome and would be protected by Roman law and harsh penalty if harm came his direction. In addition to his Roman citizenship he was “the” premier student of the Law of Moses, a Pharisee among Pharisees. As such he could walk into any synagogue without hesitation and would receive the highest honors. Paul had such zeal for the Law of Moses that he personally sought to crush “The Way” which was the term used then for those who followed the teachings of Jesus’ crucifixion for redemption of sins and not the Law of Moses. In the natural Paul had it all together, but spiritually he was a walking dead man and no different than any other man that did not have Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Paul immediately began to preach the gospel when he became born again with the expectation that he would be received by the Jews as they would want to know the truth; the fact was it almost cost him his life. (Acts 9:20-23) I was compelled to bring up Paul’s life with such emphasis because today we are no different. Today most people hold their accomplishments in life up before all man to be seen, and these accomplishments either exalt or deplete our personal worth. Neither should be the case. It is not what you accomplish in your natural life that has any weight in eternity. True a rich man will have more money to spend while alive, but he too will eventually die and his offspring are the ones that will be playing with all of his hard money. For contrast a poor man will die and leave lack and despair as his legacy to his offspring. The bottom line is both men die and time after death is always longer than life on earth so where do you want to spend forever? There is much more than just eternity at stake that Paul is referencing too by counting all loss for Christ. Jesus came to give life and that more abundantly, (John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly”.) So the question here is what are some of the abundances the Jesus spoke of when He made this statement? Romans 14:17 points us to a deeper truth regarding life and actually down plays the acquisition of “stuff”; “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” This is not to say, as some modern day Pharisees proclaim, that Christians are not to have wealth! The fact is that God wants to bless us abundantly while here on earth, so long as He gets the glory and our walk is one that brings Him honor. Paul is telling us that he has denounced everything religious he has accomplished in the natural and accepted all of the glory from Jesus Christ by “faith”.