Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Purpose of the Law

(NOTE:  Whatever you do, don't just read the first half of this.  Either stop reading now, or make sure you read all the way to the end.)

In the bible, the phrase "the law" is used to describe a very long list of rules (613 of them) that include the 10 commandments, the religious ceremonial laws, and all of the civil laws of the Israelites.  It is basically God's standard for righteous behavior.

It is a flawless and glorious standard, and it demands lifelong perfection with no mistakes.  It divides humanity into two groups.

Group 1 - Those who keep the law perfectly without mistakes for their entire life.
Group 2 - Those who have broken one or more of the laws at some point in their life.

Unfortunately, it is impossible for humans beings to reach this standard, and so Group 1 is empty (except for Jesus).

If you have ever told a lie, or even thought about telling a lie, then you are completely guilty of breaking the whole law.  Just make one small mistake in your entire life, a single wrong thought, and you have fallen short, putting yourself in the same category with murderers and thieves.

If you study the what the law says, you will never find that people are encouraged to try to keep it.  There is no "trying."  You either keep the whole law, or you break the whole law.  To keep it, you have to keep it 100% forever without a single mistake.  Trying is not an option.

The apostle Paul summarizes the purpose and the effects of the law in the following passages.

Romans 3:19-20 - Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

The purpose of the law is to show you that you are guilty.  It shows you where you have missed the mark.  It shows you the hopeless impossibility of attaining righteousness through behavior modification.  It makes you aware that you are guilty before God.

To quote Watchman Nee..."God knows...that I am weakness incarnate; that I can do nothing. The trouble is that I do not know it."  The law solves that problem for us.

Galatians 3:19 (NLT)  Well then, why was the law given? It was given to show people how guilty they are. But this system of law was to last only until the coming of the child to whom God's promise was made....

The law is perfect.  People, however, are not perfect.  The law shows imperfect people their shortcomings.  It shows them in big bold letters that they are in desperate need of help.  They are drowning and they need to be rescued.  They are in a hopeless situation with no way out, unless someone steps in to save them.

That brings us to the good news.  Someone did step in to save.

Jesus kept the law perfectly, and deserved to receive all of the blessings that come from it.  However, instead of receiving these rewards, He took on Himself the punishment that was coming to the rest of us:

Isaiah 53:4-5
4 - Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 - But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Jesus got what we deserved for our sin.  And in exchange, He gave us what He deserved for His righteousness.  He took our curse, and gave us His blessing.  He took our sin, and gave us His righteousness.  He took our sickness and gave us His healing.

Now, look at this:

Galatians 3:22-26

22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.
24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

If you have believed the gospel and received salvation, then the law has done its job, and you are no longer subject to it....it no longer applies to you.

Think about this, and let it sink in.  Christians are not subject to the law.  We no longer have to do the animal sacrifices.  We are not judged by whether or not we keep the 10 Commandments.  We are not cursed if we don't bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.  We are not asked to keep all of the feasts of Israel.

All that the law demands has already been accomplished fully and perfectly by Jesus.  To all of those that believe the Gospel of Jesus, He gives righteousness as a free gift (Romans 5:17).  He did what we were unable to do, and gave us what we were unable to attain.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Jesus Healings part 2 - Willing

NOTE:  An updated version of this post is available on my new website:  http://bornofspirit.net/jesus-healings-willing/

Matthew 8:2-4
2 And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.
3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Mark 1:40-45
40 Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” 
41 Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” 
42 As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed
43 And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once,
44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 
45 However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.

Luke 5:12-15
12 And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” 
13 Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him.
14 And He charged him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded.” 
15 However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities.

The leper came in faith the Jesus could heal him, but he did not seem to be in faith that Jesus would heal him.

This reminds me of many prayers I have prayed before (and I am sure that I am not alone in this).  I could get to the point to believe that God could heal people, but I didn't want to presume that He wanted to.

The prayer would go something like this:  "Please heal John Doe, if it is your will. Amen."

That is the way that this leper came to Jesus.  He said "if you are willing, You can make me clean."  He believed in the ability of Jesus to heal, but he questioned His willingness to use it.

Jesus wasn't mad about this.  Instead, look at the simple reply.  Jesus said "I am willing."

The Greek word that is translated "willing" gives some additional light to this:

Greek = thelo = Strong's 2309

1) to will, have in mind, intend
1a) to be resolved or determined, to purpose
1b) to desire, to wish
1c) to love
1c1) to like to do a thing, be fond of doing
1d) to take delight in, have pleasure

Jesus made it clear that healing this man is something he would very much like to do. It's not like Jesus said "well...ok, but just this once."  It was more like "I would love to!"  This attitude toward healing that Jesus displays here is consistent in all other examples we have listed in the four gospels. He is willing to minister healing.  That is something to keep in mind when you have the opportunity to minister healing to others.

Let your faith toward Jesus and your opinion of His nature be in harmony with what the bible says about Him.  You are not being presumptuous if you believe God wants to heal.  Read about Jesus in the four Gospels to see if God wants to heal.  Jesus always healed the people that came to Him, and He was always doing the will of the Father (John 5:19).

(PS.  Jesus "strictly warned" this man not to tell anyone what happened, but to go do what the Law required. If we assume that Jesus meant what He said, then we cannot say that the primary purpose of healing this man was to spread the gospel.  God can heal you just because He is compassionate.  Our God is good.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jesus Healings part 1 - Ministering Twice

NOTE:  An updated version of this post is available on my new website:  http://bornofspirit.net/jesus-healings-ministering-twice/

I'm going to be going through the various passages in scripture where we are given some details of how Jesus ministered healing to people with various ailments.

I chose this one first because it is so  fascinating.

Mark 8:22-25
22 Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him.
23 So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything.
24 And he looked up and said, "I see men like trees, walking."
25 Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.

In Bethsaida, a blind man came to Jesus, seeking to be healed.  Before ministering to Him, Jesus took him out of the town.  From reading Matthew 11:21, it appears that the people of Bethsaida never really received Jesus.    It doesn't say why He took him out of town before praying for him, but there were other times where Jesus made people leave before He ministered because of their mocking or unbelief (Matthew 9:24-25).  This could be another case of that, but we don't know for sure.


After going out of town, Jesus begins to minister to him in a very unusual way.  He spit on his eyes (more on that later), and then laid hands on him (and no mention of any praying).  Then he asked him how his sight was.

From the man's answer, there was only a partial healing.  
So, Jesus laid hands on him again, and then the healing was complete.

Here we have biblical evidence that Jesus had to minister to someone twice before their healing was completely accomplished.  Even Jesus, had to minister twice!  That is so amazing to me, and so encouraging.  Jesus is always operating in the perfect will of the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and yet this one took two times to work completely.

This tells me a number of things.

1 - Ministering healing doesn't have to include any praying, or even any talking...Jesus just "put His hands on him" and then asked if he saw anything.

2 - You can be absolutely in God's will, ministering to someone in the power and leading of the Spirit, but not see the person get completely healed the first time.  But, you can keep going until everything is 100% healed.

You can minister to someone and get results progressively.  What I mean is, someone can feel a little bit better immediately, but you may need to keep going.  If Jesus had stopped after the first time, the man would have been a little bit better off, but he would not have been totally healed.  This may sound strange to some of you reading this, but this story is in the bible.  I didn't make it up.

I don't advise building a complete doctrine or formula off of one example, and I'm not aware of another one like this (ministering twice) in the life of Jesus.  However, there are some principles here to remember.  This story does prove without a doubt that healing can be progressive, and that there may be times where healing only comes fully after ministering to someone more than once.  It also proves that although praying is good, it is not a requirement for ministering healing to others.

(Now a note on the spitting.  Apparently, at this time there was a belief that the saliva of the firstborn in a family had some kind of healing properties.  It could be that the Holy Spirit was instructing Jesus to do this in order to demonstrate that He was indeed the "firstborn" Son of God.  That is just my opinion, though.)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Righteousness of God

Romans 3:19-24
3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 
3:20 For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 
3:21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed – 
3:22 namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 
3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 
3:24 But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 

There are two kinds of righteousness contrasted in this passage.

1 - Our own human attempts at righteousness:  This is based on our behavior as judged by the 10 commandments and all the other instructions in God's law in the Old Testament.  The law judges not only outward actions, but also your thoughts and the things on the inside (Matthew 5:21-26).  Our righteousness is non-existent, because we have all sinned repeatedly and continually.

2 - God's righteousness:  God's righteousness is flawless and beautiful.  It has no lack, and no imperfection in it.

So, what is the point?

Part of the good news about Jesus Christ is that when we believe in Him, God gives us His own righteousness as a gift.  See verses 22 again:  the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe.  

This means that we no longer have to depend on our own ability to keep a code of conduct in order to have right-standing with God.  This righteousness from God is given to us freely as a gift that is unrelated to our behavior.  Your behavior and your moral conduct are not part of the equation for receiving this righteousness.  It is only received through faith.  (Note:  I am not negating the value of making good moral choices, I am saying that our morality comes up short every time.)

Romans 4:4-5
4:4 Now to the one who works, his pay is not credited due to grace but due to obligation. 
4:5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in the one who declares the ungodly righteous, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Your faith in Jesus, not your work, is credited as righteousness.  It is all about who you believe in, not about how well you are able to do everything right.

Romans 5:1-2
5:1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 
5:2 through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory.

If your faith is in Jesus and what He did for you, then you are righteous in God's sight, and you have peace with Him.  He is not against you, He is at peace with you.  This was His idea, and He is the one who initiated the action.  He came to rescue us because we could not rescue ourselves.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Gifts of the Spirit part 2 - Charismata (grace gifts)

(Note:  It may be good to read part 1 before reading this)

"CHARIS" is a word in the original Greek language of the New Testament.  It is often translated as grace, kindness, favour, blessing, etc.

It means "unmerited favour."  It means "goodwill that is not deserved."

If it is deserved in any way, it is not CHARIS.

If there is anything that you can do earn it, it is not CHARIS.

CHARIS is a very general term.  When it is used in a specific instance, the Greek word is "CHARISMA."  This is often translated "gift."

This is unmerited favor, or grace, made specific.  It is an undeserved gift.  If there is any part of it that is deserved, then it is not a CHARISMA.

Now if you want to make this word plural, you add "TA" to the end and you end up with "CHARISMATA."

CHARISMATA means "free, undeserved gifts."

That brings us to our passage in 1 Corinthians where the gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed

1 Corinthians 12:4-11
4 There are diversities of gifts (CHARISMATA), but the same Spirit.
5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,
9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,
10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

These nine manifestations of the Holy Spirit are gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to people that don't deserve them.  There is no requirement on anyone to receive them.  If there are requirements, then they aren't CHARISMATA.  If you have to attain a certain level of maturity or holiness in order to receive them, then they would be called rewards instead of gifts.

But the word that is used here is CHARISMATA...free gifts that are not deserved in any way.

To bring this point out more clearly, consider the context of the passage that was quoted above.  It comes from a letter (1 Corinthians) that was written to a group of Christians in the city of Corinth.  In this letter they are being corrected for things that would make many of today's believers blush.  Here are a few examples:

  • They were getting drunk during communion (ch 11 v 21)
  • They were suing each other (ch 6 v 7)
  • One of them was sleeping with his father's wife (stepmother), and the rest of the group thought this was something to be proud of (ch 5 v 1-2)
  • Some of them evidently didn't know any better than to call Jesus "cursed" (ch 12 v 3)
To sum it all up, read the following passage from chapter 3:

1 Corinthians 3:1-3
1 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly--mere infants in Christ.
2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.
3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?

These people are not mature.  Rather, they are immature.  Paul calls them spiritual babies.  They are not ready for meat, they still need milk.  The are carnal and worldly, they are not demonstrating holy living.

However, when you read chapters 12-14, you can see that this doesn't stop the Holy Spirit from operating His supernatural gifts through them in miracles, healings, prophesies, and so on.

Don't get me wrong, sin is bad, and immaturity is nothing to be proud of.  However, sin and immaturity do not stop the Holy Spirit from using us in His supernatural gifts.  CHARISMATA gifts are only given to people that don't deserve them.  What human could work hard enough to deserve any of this?

Never let anyone tell you that you need to reach a certain level of behavior or maturity in your walk before you can move in the wonderful, powerful, and supernatural gifts (CHARISMATA) of the Holy Spirit.  Don't get tricked into disqualifying yourself.  The gifts are free to all that will receive them and use them.  They are given as the Holy Spirit wills, and they are given freely.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Gifts of the Spirit part 1 - Manifestations of the Spirit

NOTE:  Please visit my new website for an updated version of this article.  Here is the URL:  http://bornofspirit.net/gifts-of-the-spirit-manifestations/

The nine supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed in the following passage from 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 12:4-11
4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,
9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,
10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

Here are all nine gifts in list form:

  1. Word of Wisdom
  2. Word of Knowledge
  3. Faith
  4. Gifts of Healings
  5. Working of Miracles
  6. Prophecy
  7. Discerning of Spirits
  8. Different kinds of Tongues
  9. Interpretation of Tongues.
In future posts, I plan to give some definitions of these gifts, and also give some examples of them in operation. In my first few posts on this subject, though, I want to point out a few principles that I believe are crucial for proper understanding of them.

The first key point, and the focus of my entire article, is in verse seven:  "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:"

To "manifest" means to become perceivable, or to become detectable to our senses.  These nine gifts are actually instances of the Holy Spirit operating in you or through you in a way that you and/or others can perceive.  The Holy Spirit wants to say something, reveal something, or do something, so He makes Himself known to the believer in one of these nine ways to accomplish His purpose.

He can give you information by speaking to you audibly, or by giving you an impression in your mind or in your spirit.  He can show you a vision containing instructions for action.  He can energize you to speak His own words.  He can even give you the proper emotions to exercise the gift with.

There are many different methods He uses, but one important thing to remember is that each manifestation is a one-time event that is for a specific purpose.  It is not an ability that you keep and use as you wish.  It is a temporary burst of divine power, ability, or information to meet a need or to accomplish a purpose.  Understanding this point is very helpful in preventing confusion, and in keeping the focus on the Giver of the gift, not on the the human that is exercising the gift.  When you see one of the gifts in operation, you know that the Spirit of God is taking an tangible role in the situation.

There are many things that our God gives to us freely, and all of those are all gifts.  However, not all gifts come the same way, function the same way, or produce the same result.  This is the way God designed it.

There are some gifts that He gives you that stay with you.  

An example of that is righteousness.  God gives you His own righteousness at the moment you put your faith in Jesus Christ to save you (Romans 3:21-24).  This righteousness is yours forever, and it never goes away.

Another example is the ability to speak in tongues when you receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.  When you receive this ability, it stays with you for the rest of your time on this earth, and we are urged in several places in scripture to use this ability often.

There are other gifts that you receive that are for a one-time use.  The effects produced by these kinds of gifts may last a very long time, even if the gift itself is only used once.

The nine gifts of the Holy Spirit are included in this group.  He gives these gifts when they are needed.  We use them as we receive them, and the result is that an effect is produced.

To illustrate this point, let's look at the second gift in the list...the word of knowledge.   This can also be translated "message of knowledge" or "message containing knowledge."  This gift describes the action of the Holy Spirit giving you a small nugget of information that you would not know otherwise.

Here is an example of it happening:

Acts 10:17-19
17 Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate.
18 And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there.
19 While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are seeking you.

The Holy Spirit gave Peter some information.  Peter was told that there were men looking for him.  This was the Holy Spirit giving Peter a "word of knowledge,"  The Spirit made Himself known to Peter in a way that allowed Peter to receive the information.   

This doesn't mean that Peter can walk around day after day with the gift of the word of knowledge as part of his personality.  He doesn't always know everything.   He can't take a test to see if "word of knowledge" is one of his spiritual gifts that he needs to be using, because he has no control over when the Holy Spirit will do this with Him again.

Simply put, the Holy Spirit wanted to give Peter some information for a specific time and purpose.  The gift was given, and Peter received it and used it.  It accomplished its purpose, and then it was over.

That is a manifestation of the Spirit, and that's how all nine of these gifts function.