In the Book of Acts, Chapter
9, Saul, the grievously deceived Pharisee, who became the
Christian Apostle Paul, received "my gospel" from Jesus. We must
know who Jesus is in order to understand that. Where do we
discover who Jesus is in the Hebrew Bible (beginning in Genesis
12) and in the Book of Matthew (which we shall refer to as the
"New Jewish Covenant," or NJC). We in no wise present the idea
that something is "irrelevant" anywhere in the Bible. We do
present the gospel truth that not everything in scripture is
applicable to everyone, from creation until now. We carefully and
Spiritually determine who is writing, to whom, who is speaking,
to whom, and what either one is about.
I don't need to go into the "Old Testament" or the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 12 through Malachi) to point out tons of information that does not require our subjective obedience today. Yes, we look to Psalm 2 and to Isaiah 53, for example. We rejoice that the God who created all that there is, is the great Elohim in Genesis 1:1, God in Three Manifestations, blessed Trinity. We read God's challenge to Abraham, beginning in Genesis 12. We identify the audience in the NJC Book of Matthew as National Israel, the Jews, God's Chosen, and we read how Jesus, their Messiah, challenged them. Then we look to Acts 9 through the Pauline Epistles for Spiritual insights into what it means to be a Christian. This is the "Christian Covenant," or CC.
That is how we "rightly
divide" scripture in the "old" and the "new," as stated in 2
Timothy 2:15-16, KJV. We progress from the "Old Testament,"
(Genesis 1 through Genesis 11) to the Hebrew Bible, then into the
New Jewish Covenant, and finally, "the Bible for Christians",
identified as the Christian Covenant presented by Paul.
To repeat: The Apostle Paul received "my gospel" from Jesus. It is through Paul that we "rightly divide" scripture. To surmise that Paul's revelation somehow separates him (and us) from the love of God and grace through faith is a faulty assumption. Observe what Paul writes:
2 Corinthians 3:1-6 "Do we (plural) begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye (plural) are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men. Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone, but in fleshly tablets of the heart."
"And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God: Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life."
Paul's "Christian Covenant" is salvation by grace through faith resulting in the creation of the Body of Christ, its witness to all humanity, and to the Rapture of the church, a Truth unknown beforehand.
Epistle in Prison
by Bertha James Laird, Dr. Watson's First Cousin
Captured by the Romans, Paul,
the Apostle, sat in prison writing letters to the churches to
which he had ministered. He was selected by God to instruct and
direct the newly formed Christian churches. After his
imprisonment, he could not visit them, but he could write to
them. He did.
His epistles are instruction for Christians today; the lessons he gave were God-inspired. He taught about love, as seen in I Corinthians 13: 1 - "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."
His advice to Timothy was "fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life." (I Timothy 6:1). His message was of God's establishing grace: "Comfort your hearts and establish it in every good word and work" (II Thessalonians 2:17). In Colossians 1:14-17, He told us of the "true Christ", "who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature." "That at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in Earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (See Philippians 2:5-11),
Many other lessons came from his pen in the prison cell. We learn the importance of knowing Jesus and that we should not be moved away from our hope in Him. Jesus is the only earthly expression of God's love; all His teaching is helpful to us. Paul shared those teachings with us. As someone has said, "Paul was God's theologian". Truly, Paul was a dynamic witness to the Truth of God's Word as exemplified in Jesus. We do well to learn from his epistles; he is himself an 'epistle.'
Thanks, Bertie !!
The mystery that was not revealed until the Apostle Paul, insofar as the equality of Jew and Gentile was concerned, was made known by him...... NOT on his own, but because it was there in God at the beginning. Initially, Paul found himself ministering to the Jews, but again, they would not listen, and so he took the message to the Gentiles who, by the way, rejoiced that the two would become one in the presence of God's grace, without Judaism's attachments. Indeed, the Body of Christ, Jew and Gentile, became a reality, neither slave nor free, Jew or Gentile, but ALL in that magnificent Body. The Holy Spirit interprets and applies scripture. He did a really good job of that between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21 with 40 writers over a period of 1500 years, every word divinely inspired (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We trust Him to have done it all!
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. God said it and that settles it. Now I "hear" it and believe it and I'm born again. I submit my day, my night, my thoughts, my prayers, my love, to Him. Faith IS. Faith is NOT a force to be forcefully thrown about! It does not come in amounts. To say "You don't have enough faith" is heretical. It is our shield of joy, peace, love, understanding, caring concern, as we share it with others. We ask others to understand and to participate in faith, that faith encapsulated in those remarkable gifts. Think of a brilliant flashlight that never goes out. Its "battery" is the Holy Spirit! THAT is faith in action! I never cease to trust, to believe --- but God forgive me, I don't always listen and get out of the way! Sometimes I lower the shield of faith, and guess who seeks then to penetrate my armor? Yep. That wicked one is always challenging me to a duel. However, again, Faith IS. It needs no adjectives, adverbs, subordinate clauses, whatever. Faith IS. Faith itself is the "evidence of things not seen, the substance of things hoped for." Faith encompasses what? Joy. Peace. Confidence. Understanding. Love. Faith does not look for nor seek material things. Faith in and of itself is key. Faith is in Him, He is in me. Therein is my strength and my song.
"What Is The Meaning of
Contributor: S. Michael Houdman, gotquestions.org
Copyright 2002-2013 Got Questions Ministries. All Rights Reserved.
How can purpose, fulfillment,
and satisfaction in life be found? How can something of lasting
significance be achieved? So many people have never stopped to
consider these important questions. They look back years later
and wonder why their relationships have fallen apart and why they
feel so empty, even though they may have achieved what they set
out to accomplish. An athlete who had reached the pinnacle of
his sport was once asked what he wished someone would have told
him when he first started playing his sport. He replied, "I wish
that someone would have told me that when you reach the top,
there's nothing there." Many goals reveal their emptiness only
after years have been wasted in their pursuit.
In our humanistic culture, people pursue many things, thinking that in them they will find meaning. Some of these pursuits include business success, wealth, good relationships, entertainment, and doing good to others. People have testified that while they achieved their goals of wealth, relationships, and pleasure, there was still a deep void inside, a feeling of emptiness that nothing seemed to fill.
The author of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes describes this feeling when he says, "Meaningless! Meaningless! ... Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless" (Ecclesiastes 1:2). King Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, had wealth beyond measure, wisdom beyond any man of his time or ours, hundreds of women, palaces and gardens that were the envy of kingdoms, the best food and wine, and every form of entertainment available. He said at one point that anything his heart wanted, he pursued. And yet he summed up "life under the sun"-life lived as though all there is to life is what we can see with our eyes and experience with our senses-is meaningless. Why is there such a void? Because God created us for something beyond what we can experience in the here-and-now. Solomon said of God, "He has also set eternity in the hearts of men..." (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In our hearts we are aware that the "here-and-now" is not all that there is.
In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we find that God created mankind in His image (Genesis 1:26). This means that we are more like God than we are like anything else (any other life form). We also find that before mankind fell into sin and the curse of sin came upon the earth, the following things were true: 1) God made man a social creature (Genesis 2:18-25); 2) God gave man work (Genesis 2:15); 3) God had fellowship with man (Genesis 3:8); and 4) God gave man dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26). What is the significance of these things? God intended for each of these to add to our fulfillment in life, but all of these (especially man's fellowship with God) were adversely affected by man's fall into sin and the resulting curse upon the earth (Genesis 3).
In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, God reveals that He will destroy this present earth and heavens and usher in the eternal state by creating a new heaven and a new earth. At that time, He will restore full fellowship with redeemed mankind, while the unredeemed will have been judged unworthy and cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). The curse of sin will be done away with; there will be no more sin, sorrow, sickness, death, or pain (Revelation 21:4). God will dwell with them, and they shall be His sons (Revelation 21:7). Thus, we come full circle: God created us to have fellowship with Him, man sinned, breaking that fellowship, God restores that fellowship fully in the eternal state. To go through life achieving everything only to die separated from God for eternity would be worse than futile! But God has made a way to not only make eternal bliss possible (Luke 23:43) but also life on earth satisfying and meaningful. How is this eternal bliss and "heaven on earth" obtained?
Meaning of life restored through Jesus Christ
Real meaning in life, both now and in eternity, is found in the restoration of the relationship with God that was lost with Adam and Eve's fall into sin. That relationship with God is only possible through His Son, Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 1:12; 14:6). Eternal life is gained when we repent of our sin (no longer want to continue in it) and Christ changes us, making of us new creations, and we rely on Jesus Christ as Savior.
Real meaning in life is not
found only in accepting Jesus as Savior, as wonderful as that is.
Rather, real meaning in life is when one begins to follow Christ
as His disciple, learning of Him, spending time with Him in His
Word, communing with Him in prayer, and in walking with Him in
obedience to His commands. If you are not a Christian (or perhaps
a new believer), you might be saying to yourself, "That does not
sound very exciting or fulfilling to me!" But Jesus made the
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10b). "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it" (Matthew 16:24-25). "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4).
What all of these verses are saying is that we have a choice. We can continue to seek to guide our own lives, which results in emptiness, or we can choose to pursue God and His will for our lives with a whole heart, which will result in living life to the full, having the desires of our hearts met, and finding contentment and satisfaction. This is so because our Creator loves us and desires the best for us (not necessarily the easiest life, but the most fulfilling).
The Christian life can be compared to the choice of whether to purchase the expensive seats at a sporting event that are close to the action, or pay less and watch the game from a distance. Watching God work "from the front row" is what we should choose but, sadly, is not what most people choose. Watching God work firsthand is for whole-hearted disciples of Christ who have truly stopped pursuing their own desires to pursue instead God's purposes. They have paid the price (complete surrender to Christ and His will); they are experiencing life to its fullest; and they can face themselves, their fellow man, and their Maker with no regrets. Have you paid the price? Are you willing to? If so, you will not hunger after meaning or purpose again.
Thanks to Michael for the above outstanding presentation.
Bible 101 for Intellectuals
We all must graduate from intellectual, philosophical thought to Bible 101. Open your Bible to Genesis 1:1. Consider that for at least one minute. Now turn to John 1:1-5. One minute there. Now Hebrews 1:1-6. Meditate on that for a minute or so....... flip back and forth between there and the first two references. Take notes. There's another "John" in the Bible, known as 1st John, or 1 John. It is over toward the end of the New Covenant. Read there 1 John 1:1-5.
These references are foundational to our understanding as Christians ----- and they are Truth. Before the beginning of space and time, God. One who understands the majesty of that Truth does not call into question the Creator who was not created; that Most Holy One who "spoke," then said, "Good." From that first moment in time the eternal plan of God ignited, ultimately finding culmination in none other than Jesus. So..................... how do we human beings believe?
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. We learn from others who have already opened their Bibles (the Word of God), then open our own. One does not understand what is revealed there by starting on page 1. It is a LONG read! So open your Bible now to John 14:6. Consider that. NO, don't ignore it, don't reject it, consider it! Now turn to John 3:16-17. Consider that. Now John 3:3. Whoa! Pause and ponder there! Then John 5:24.
You are now ready (if you really, truly considered the references) for Romans 10:8-13. Slowly now. Read that at least 3 times. Did you do that? Did you say a prayer confessing that Jesus is your Savior? HALLELUJAH !! AMEN !! OK, on to Ephesians 2:8-9, where we Christians rejoice together! Thank You, Lord !! (I hope .... no, I pray, that you will share this information with others, even if you have to make the words a lot easier for children).
All of these references are True and applicable to everyone, including the reader, obviously. If your response to them is negative, the explanation for that is found in 1 Corinthians 2:14. Turn there now. Conclusion? One is only capable of comprehending God's Word AFTER one has considered, accepted, and followed those Spiritual references, beginning at the outset of this presentation. THAT, answering all questions, is how a human believes.
There are highly questionable TV, radio and internet preachers, some of which don't have a clue about salvation by Grace through Faith. Those on TBN and Daystar are, for the most part, in error when it comes to Spiritual interpretation and application of God's Word. In other cases, heretics abound, along with counterfeits/blasphemers. In each of these cases much of what is spoken is mental, emotional, intellectual, the product of the speaker's imagination, rather that the Spiritual Word of God divinely inspired. Avoid those "preachers" on TBN and Daystar who speak in tongues, conduct "faith" healings, "speak into existence" things that aren't there, talk to you as if you are the dumbest person on earth when it comes to understanding the simplicity of God's Promise of eternal life by grace through faith. These "preachers" go into the Old Testament (Genesis 1 through Genesis 11), then into the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 12 through Malachi), then butcher the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke, making Jewish rules, regulations, traditions which were applicable to Jews 2,000 years ago in terms of the Messianic mission of Christ, applicable to you today.
Confusing at best, heresy at
its worst! They will build a "word of knowledge" or "divine
revelation" that has no biblical foundation, or they will make a
totally Jewish passage mandatory for you, something they think
you are too limited to understand, then build a case for its
"validity," at least in their distortions of scripture. Then they
will ask you to "plant a seed." That means you send your money to
them. That means they live in luxury, worth millions of dollars,
while your local Christian assembly struggles. Instead of
supporting your local church, you sent your hard-earned dollars
flying out the window. Period. Examples are Kenneth and Gloria
Copeland, Charles Capps, Creflo Dollar, and a whole lot more of
the "name it and claim it" crowd. Kenneth Copeland presents
himself as "God," the "I AM!" If he makes it to the Judgment Seat
of Christ, he'll have lots of trembling moments. God have mercy
on those his message deceives.
An authentically born-again Believer in Jesus as personal Lord and Savior speaks as led by the Holy Spirit. That being the case, his outreach is not "mental," it is Spiritual. His results (God's results) represent a movement of God among the members. Many, many folks trust and confess Romans 10:8-13, in faith believing Jesus as Savior. What is the result of that?
The result of the pastor's and their commitment to confess Jesus and then to follow in His footsteps produced SERVICE. The confession, commitment, and service are Spiritually intertwined. They / We / I SERVE in humble gratitude to God that we are born again and will live in His Presence Forever (what a gift!) and we are eager to share that Good News with others (what a blessing!). Sharing the Good News is a local Christian assembly endeavor, with individual members supporting missionaries, not heretical TV broadcasts.
There is nothing "mystical" about it. The word "mystical" has an occultic pallor. Far from that, we look to Him, Spiritually, in the Power of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus, our 24/7/365 Intercessor, for comfort, for guidance, for fellowship. How is that possible? Jesus was born, lived, ministered, was arrested, tried, crucified, and majestically exited that tomb --- His forgiveness of sin for everyone on earth took place on the Cross as He endured the penalty for OUR transgressions!
The church, the Body of Christ, is not a structure. There is no hierarchy in the Body of Christ. Christianity is by no means a religion! The church is not a building! Those who invent structure and hierarchy have strayed from the Gospel, many into heresy. The Apostle Paul records the persons involved in Christian ministry: A Pastor, an Evangelist, a Witness. Those of us in the congregation are the witnesses. Each "position," if you will, celebrates and shares the wonder of salvation by grace through faith, the GIFT of God for those who believe. The GIFT of permanent, eternal security in His Presence, never of works, lest any of us should boast in ourselves, in structure or hierarchy. Praise God!
If you are awash in mental, mechanistic constructs to life, you must step out in God's Amazing Grace. If you are awash in spurious so-called "Christian" TV, radio, internet, you need to get dry of that! If you have wandered from your Christian faith, you need to read 1 John 1:9, pray, and act upon it. You will be blessed beyond measure, your joy will know no bounds.
My prayer is that God will
open our eyes, enter in, and that I will hear from you, praising
the precious Name above all names, Jesus!