The Kingdom, the Seed and the Church (8)

October 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

…continuing from (7)

  

Matthew 14 is comprised of 4 events;

  • The death of John the Baptist,
  • Jesus feeding the 5000,
  • Jesus walking on the water and
  • The sick touching the hem of His garment to be healed.

 

The death of John the Baptist and in particular the way he died is significant.  “So John was beheaded in the prison”.[1]  In the book of Revelation we find saints dying in the same way as John the Baptist, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands…”.[2] 

 

The book of Revelation is the book of symbols, types, and figures.

If we read it literally, we shall find ourselves in a complex maize of reality versus symbolism.  Before one attempts to read this book, a thorough knowledge of the OT and NT is needed coupled with the relevant insight.

To be beheaded speaks of the old way of thinking that has been removed – as our heads symbolize our thinking.  To be beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God, tells us these saints were not thinking according to the sinful nature (the beast), but that their minds have been renewed.[3]  As John the Baptist was the last Prophet of the OT and the harbinger of the new dispensation, his death speaks of the beheading of the mindsets – the Law of Moses.[4]

 

Having a renewed mind is a prerequisite for any person who wants to follow Christ Jesus up the mountain[5] and be fed with the Bread of Life[6].

 

As Paul so aptly wrote, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things”,[7] and in another place, “fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise”[8].

 

When we decide to follow the Way, learn the Truth, and live the Life of the Kingdom, we cannot afford to look back at the old.  It is not possible to walk forward while looking back.  As the Apostle Paul put it, Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended (taken hold); but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead”.[9]

 

The “one thing” consists of two actions:

  1. Forgetting those things of the past and
  2. Reaching to the things that are ahead.  It speaks of our thoughts and actions.

 

During their years in the desert, the Israelites struggled with the very same thing.  They always murmured and longed for the Egyptian food.[10]  That behaviour kept the first generation from entering the Promised Land.  In the same manner, God requires of us to think on the things above, as fleshly (beastly) thoughts and corresponding actions will keep us from our full inheritance in Christ.[11]

 

When the devil tempted Jesus to change the stones into bread, Jesus rebuked him with the following words, “It has been written, Man shall not live and be upheld and sustained by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God”.[12] 

The natural part of man (the body) is in need of natural food but to sustain the spirit, spiritual food is essential.

 

A balanced spiritual diet for every child of God consists of milk, bread, meat and fruit.

 

  • Milk is primarily given to babies.  Babies cannot feed themselves but need others in the family to feed them the word of God.

 

  • And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.  I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able”.[13]
  • “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.”[14]
  • “…as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby…”[15]

 

  • Bread is a more solid food.  When a baby grows, it will soon come to need food with more substance.  Bread is a symbol of the spoken word of God as well as the body of Christ.  He is the living bread and His words are spirit and life.

 

  • “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst”.[16]
  • “The bread which we break, does it not mean [that in eating it] we participate in and share a fellowship (a communion) in the body of Christ”?[17]

 

  • Meat is solid food, meant for the mature in Christ.  It represents not only the wisdom of God but also doing the will of God.

 

  • Jesus saith unto them, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work”.[18]
  • “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able”.[19]
  • “For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.  But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age (mature), even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil”.[20]

 

  • All balanced diets include a variety of fruit.  It is rich in minerals and vitamins.  We are nourished with the fruit of the spirit from fellow brothers and sisters. Without the fruit our spiritual immune system will be weak and depression, heaviness, and bitterness will be the result.

 

  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law”.[21]

 

When Jesus walked on the water in Matthew 14:25, he defied the natural law of gravity.  There is a spiritual law, which is as strong as the law of gravity.  It is called the law of sin and death[22].  It pulls us downward, to do the things we do not want to do and handicaps us when we desire to do the things pleasing to God.

 

Romans 7:15-25 (NIV)

I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

 

For an airplane to lift itself from the ground and fly it needs to work with a “higher” law.  This law is called the law of aerodynamics.  It enables any aircraft to supersede the law of gravity and move through the air from one place to another.  Likewise, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus frees us from the law of sin and death.[23]

 

The Bible teaches us in Romans 8 how to make use of this law.

It begins, once again, with our thinking followed by our corresponding actions which will either help us to walk on the water of faith and in the Spirit or let us drown in the works of the flesh.  In Matthew 14 we find the same pattern;  First, decapitate the old thoughts and deeds (John the Baptist), think and meditate (eat) on the new spiritual food and then do the actions (walking on the water).  Slowly, you will take off in the spirit and before you know, walking in the Spirit will be as effortless as Jesus walking on the water.  “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh”.[24] 

 

The Old Testament High Priest wore a garment made to specific detail.  On the hem of his garment, “you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet, all around its hem, and bells of gold between them all around”.[25]

 

  • Blue always portrays the heavenly (spiritual) realm,
  • purple signifies royalty and authority and,
  • red speaks of redemption, deliverance, and forgiveness.
  • The pomegranates symbolize fruitfulness and joyfulness.
  • There were “tinkling” golden bells to “announce” the one with heavenly authority, who brings forgiveness, healing, deliverance, and cause fruitfulness and joy to the people.

 

No wonder the people of Israel came from all over to touch this High Priest’s[26] hem.

In the last three verses of Matthew 14 we are told that “when the people had knowledge of Him” they came to touch the hem of His garment and were healed.  In fact, the Gospels speaks of three different scenarios where people touched the hem of His garment and were healed.[27]

 

As we follow the path of Matthew 14 or Romans 8, life, healing and deliverance will be ours!

Some Christians always need prayer for healing and deliverance, while others follow the Lord up the mountain – drink the milk of the Word, eat the from the Bread of Life and begin to walk in the Spirit.  Joy, fruitfulness, healing and deliverance is a spontaneous result of this higher (heavenly) kind of life.

 

 To be continued…

 


 

 

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[1] Matthew 14:10 (NLT)

[2] Revelation 20:4 (KJV)

[3] Romans 12:2

[4] Matthew 11:10-13; Luke 16:16

[5] Going up a mountain always speak of a higher spiritual realm, closer to God’s presence. Exodus 19:3; Deuteronomy 34:1; 2Kings 2:16; Psalm 48:1, 87:1; Luke 6:12; Revelation 21:10

[6] John 6:33, 51

[7] Colossians 3:2

[8] Philippians 4:8

[9] Philippians 3:13 (NKJV)

[10] Numbers 11:4-6

[11] Romans 8:5-8; Galatians 5:19-21

[12] Matthew 4:4

[13] 1Corinthians 3:1-2 (NKJV)

[14] Hebrews 5:13 (KJV)

[15] 1Peter 2:2 (KJV)

[16] John 6:33, 35 (KJV)

[17] 1Corinthians 10:16 (KJV)

[18] John 4:34 (KJV)

[19] 1Corinthians 3:2

[20] Hebrews 5:13-14 (KJV)

[21] Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

[22] Romans 8:2

[23] Romans 8:2 (KJV)

[24] Galatians 5:16 (KJV)

[25] Exodus 28:33-34

[26] Hebrews 5:1-10

[27] Matthew 9:20, 14:36; Mark 6:56

The Kingdom, the Seed and the Church (7)

September 29, 2009 by · 4 Comments 

Continuing from (6)

 

Jesus recommends that the removal of the weed  be postponed until harvest time – thereafter the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father[1].

Two parables further, Jesus repeats Himself by telling the same type of parable.  Whenever there is a double teaching or miracle, we should take particular notice.  It is like repeating yourself for the sake of emphasis.

 

Matthew 13:47-50 (NIV)

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.  When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore.  Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.  This is how it will be at the end of the age.  The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

 

Here I would like to focus on the word age.

 

The same word used in verse 39, “…the harvest is the end of the age”.  In some Bibles the word age is incorrectly translated and world is used instead.

 

The word age is derived from the Greek word aiōn, which means, an age or age-time, the duration of which is indefinite and may be limited or extended as the context of each occurrence may demand.  The root word of aiōn is expressed by the Hebrew olām, which denotes indefinite, unknown, or concealed duration: just as we speak of the “patriarchal age” or “the golden age”.  Hence, it has come to denote any given period of time, characterised by a special form of Divine administration or dispensation.  In the plural, it has the meaning of ages or succession of age-times.  These ages or age-times were all prepared and arranged by God[2]and there is a constant distinction in the NT between “this age” and “the coming age”[3]

 

Looking at the Bible through “dispensational lenses”, we clearly see God working in 1000 and 2000-year cycles or ages[4].

 

The first age is called the antediluvian age – the time before Noah’s flood.  From Genesis 6 we read.

 

Genesis 6:5-8 (NIV)

The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

 

God decided to make an end to the wickedness of man and save only one righteous man – Noah and his family, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.”[5] It sounds familiar – destroying the wicked and saving the righteous.  (It reminds you of Matthew 13:41-43 and 49-50)

 

The next age was the time of the Law.

Beginning with the calling of Abraham and then ± 450 years later the summons of Moses.  God gave the Law to Moses the deliverer of Israel and for the following 1500 years, Israel was under the law.

 

This brings us to the time of Jesus, 2000 years since the flood and the beginning of a new dispensation as well as the end of the old.  “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”[6]  In Matthew 13:39, 40, 49 where Jesus spoke about the end of the age, He referred to the end of the previous 2000 year age or dispensation of the Law of Moses.

The Apostle Paul and the author of Hebrews spoke of the selfsame thing[7].  Those who did not adhere to His teachings and believed in Him as the Messiah also had a “flood” coming.  Only this time the “flood” was the Roman Empire who destroyed Israel and not one stone of the Temple was left upon another[8] in 70 A.D.  At that time, the righteous did shine forth as the sun as the Church grew exponentially in the first 250 years after Christ’s ascension. 

 

The past 2000 years was called the dispensation of grace,

If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward.” [9]  Paul also writes, “that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.”[10]  The Amplified Bible speaks of the climax of the ages.

 

Is history going to repeat itself?

 

Looking back at the past ages, we clearly see the pattern of God’s dealings with man.  We find 9 similarities in each age[11], which leaves a definite message and warning to those who has ears to hear and eyes to see.[12]

 

  • Each age consist of approximately 2000 years,
  • God has a standard of righteousness for each age,
  • There is a forerunner to every age,
  • A deliverer for God’s chosen people comes onto the scene,
  • A period of grace, where the people are given a chance to repent and heed to the message of the forerunner and follow the deliverer, is included in each age,
  • There has to be a destruction of the old ways,
  • A constellation, mirrors from the sky, the message for the coming age,
  • There is a church in every age and,
  • There are always signs, wonders, and natural phenomena in the change over from one age to the next.

 

Paul speaks of the ages to come, knowing God’s plan for the human race is worked out over hundreds and even thousands of years,

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”[13]

 

What most Christians perceive as the end of the world, quoting from Scripture, is due to the mistranslations of the Bibles and lack of revelation knowledge and understanding.  The “end of the world” as they say is actually the end of an age.  Those who are righteous will be saved, and a new dispensation will be ushered in.  Those who hear the message but for some or other reason do not heed to it, will be “destroyed” and suffer the consequences of it.  As Jesus said, “there will be weeping and wailing and grinding of teeth.”[14]Those Jews who survived the destruction of 70 A.D. were “on the run” for the next 2000 years, always enduring  hardship under some dictator or tyrant.

However, that age is past and we have already entered the “period of grace” of the next dispensation.

May we heed to the voice of His Spirit and follow the Lamb wherever he goes.[15]

 

Between the two “end of the age” parables, we find another twin parable, the hidden treasure found in a field[16] and the pearl of great price found by the merchant[17].  Both are of great value and the discoverers sold everything in order to buy the treasure.  How much are you willing to “sell” for what you have found in Christ?  For some Christians “selling” an extra hour per week is too costly.  Others will not “sell” their worldly friends, or TV programs, which contaminate and infect them with lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.  The Apostle Paul states that he had found such a treasure in knowing Christ and having His resurrection power. That nothing else is as costly or valuable to him.

Philippians 3:7-10 (NIV)

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him… I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection…

 

Some people find a Church and think they found Christ.  Others find a religion and confuse it with the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God/Christ is not in a building or a structure or in customs, but is within the hearts of His children.  If I understand the words of Jesus correctly, then what I find of Christ is directly proportional to what I am willing to sell in order to have all of it.

 

Matthew 13:33 (KJV)

Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

 

When one studies the Bible, you soon realise how God works in 3’s most of the time.

Here are some of the 3’s we find in the Bible:

 

  • The Father, Son and Holy Ghost[18],
  • We are spirit, soul and body[19],
  • The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob[20],
  • The religious services were only assigned to the Levites, Priests and High Priest[21],
  • The 3 anointed offices in the OT were, the Prophet, the Priest, and the King[22],
  • The 3 OT feasts were, the Unleavened bread, Weeks and Tabernacles[23],
  • The 3 areas of the Tabernacle and later the Temple were the Outer Court, the Holy Place and Holy of Holies[24],
  • The first three kings of Israel each ruled for 40 years each.
  • Three spiritual creatures in the OT are, the Ophanim, Cherubim and Seraphim[25],
  • Jesus’ closest disciples were, Peter, James and John[26],
  • They represent, faith, hope and love[27],
  • Jesus is the way, truth and life[28],
  • Jesus commands us to ask, seek and knock[29],
  • The 3 enemies are the Beast, the False Prophet and the Dragon[30],
  • Christ is past, present and future[31],
  • Each dispensation had its own Calendar.

 

There are more of these three’s to be found in Scripture but here I would like to quote E.W. Bullinger, “three denotes divine perfection, seven denotes spiritual perfection, ten denotes ordinal perfection and twelve denotes governmental perfection.  Hence, the number three points us to what is real, essential, perfect, substantial, and Divine.  Three is the number associated with the Godhead”.[32]  And the fullness of the Godhead we find in Christ Jesus[33].

 

Therefore, the parable of the woman working with three measures of meal until all is leavened, speaks of us and our need to have the fullness of the Christ (the kingdom of God) worked into us.  All of His way, truth and life must be thoroughly worked into every area of our lives until we are filled with the fullness of God!  …and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”.[34]

 

Matthew 13:52 (AMP)

He said to them, Therefore every teacher and interpreter of the Sacred Writings who has been instructed about and trained for the kingdom of heaven and has become a disciple is like a householder who brings forth out of his storehouse treasure that is new and [treasure that is] old [the fresh as well as the familiar].

 

In the Bible we read about history spanning thousands of years.  It details on the experiences that individuals as well as nations had with God and His instructions to the people He had used as well as those He loves.  For many the Bible is a good book and for others it gives direction in times of trouble.  Yet, others make it their mission to prove it wrong despite being the best-seller for years on end.  Reading it as a book versus being able to understand the significance of everything written in terms of Christ Jesus, are two different scenarios.  For the one it is the letter and for the other life. 

 

When Jesus made the remark, Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil[35], He not only fulfilled the prophecies spoken, but also came to carry out and explain the true meaning  of the Law. It is the spirit behind the law He came to explain, teach, and live.  Hence, the following remarks, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.[36]  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”[37].

 

Therefore, according to Jesus, the person who is a disciple, has been trained in the way, the truth, and the life of Christ and is able to take from the OT and the NT the treasures needed for those in the house (Body of Christ).  Once again, we see the importance of comprehending and being trained in the Kingdom ways before the purpose of the Church can be fully realised.

 

Summary of Matthew 13

  • It is the chapter with the most parables about the kingdom of God.
  • A Parable tells the truth in story format.
  • We need the Spirit’s illumination to grasp the significance of these parables  and how they relate to Christ.
  • Each citizen in the kingdom of God can be placed in one of four groups, according to how such a person receives the Word and the depth of their roots in Christ.
  •  By our fruit (of the spirit – or not) we are known.
  • Trials and tribulations are the exams in the “School of the Spirit”, testing the depth of our faith.
  • The type of seed planted within our lives can only be recognised once the tree bears fruit.
  • Every plant that’s not of the Father must be uprooted[38] and thrown into the fire.
  • God’s calendar consists of 1000-year days.  It is called ages or dispensations.
  • His plan for humankind stretches over ages.
  • We can learn from the past three dispensations as we are on the brink of a new age (Day of the Lord).
  • In all previous ages there are similarities and knowing these parallelisms enables us to look to the future with excitement and fear.
  • In proportion to what we have found and discovered of Christ, we are willing to sell of the things dear to us, to find even more of Him.
  • God works in 3’s, and He wants to work the fullness of Christ into every part of our being.
  • A disciple of Christ, instructed in the Kingdom can be appointed over God’s house.  Such a person has the ability to make disciples.
  • Jesus Christ came to teach and demonstrate the spirit behind the Law and the Prophets.
  • Christ was the fulfillment of the prophecies and was/is the greatest Prophet.
  • He lived every law and was/is the Royal Law[39].
  • He taught about the shepherd and was/is the Great Shepherd.
  • He quoted David from Psalms but was Himself also the “anointed David” – God’s firstborn.[40]

To be continued…

 


 

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[1] Matthew 13:43

[2] Hebrews 1:2, 11:3

[3] Companion Bible, Appendix 129, 2: 1999, Kregel Publications, Michigan.

[4] Psalm 90:4; 2Peter 3:8

[5] Genesis 6:9 (NIV)

[6] John 1:17 (KJV)

[7] 1Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 9:26

[8] Mark 13:1-2

[9] Ephesians 3:2 (KJV)

[10] Ephesians 1:10 (KJV)

[11] See the series and book; “The coming age” by Edgar Phillips

[12] Matthew 13:15-16

[13] Ephesians 2:6-7 (NIV)

[14] Matthew 13:42b (AMP)

[15] Revelation 14:4

[16] Matthew 13:44

[17] Matthew 13:45-46

[18] Matthew 28:19

[19] 1Thesalonians 5:23

[20] Genesis 50:24; Exodus 2:24, 3:6; Deuteronomy 1:8; Matthew 8:11, 22:32; Acts 3:13, 7:32

[21] Exodus 38:21; Deuteronomy 18:1; 2Kings 23:4

[22] Exodus 28:41, 30:30; 1kings 19:16;

[23] Deuteronomy 16:16

[24] Exodus 26:33; Ezekiel 10:5

[25] Ezekiel 1:15-21; Genesis 3:24; Isaiah 6:2

[26] Matthew 17:1

[27] 1Corinthians 13:13

[28] John 14:6

[29] Matthew 7:7-8

[30] Revelation 16:13, 19:20, 20:2, 10

[31] Revelation 1:4, 8, 4:8

[32] Bullinger , E.W., 1967: Numbers in Scripture: Its Supernatural design and Spiritual Significance, Kregel Publications, Michigan

[33] Colossians 1:19, 2:9

[34] Ephesians 3:19

[35] Matthew 5:17 (KJV)

[36] Exodus 20:14

[37] Matthew 5:27-28

[38] Matthew 15:13

[39] James 2:8 (KJV)

[40] Psalm 89:20-29

The Kingdom, the Seed and the Church (6)

September 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Continuing from (5)

 

Matthew 13 gives us the parables of the kingdom of heaven.

A parable according to the Webster’s Dictionary is a short narrative making a moral or religious point by comparison with natural or homely things.[1]

 

Jesus used no other form of speech than parables to describe and teach spiritual truths and principles of the kingdom of God.  He knew they could only understand earthly matters[2] and heavenly things were closed to their understanding.

Matthew 13:34-35 (NIV)

Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”

 

The Apostle Paul understood the need for God’s Spirit to open our understanding and therefore prays for the church in Corinth that God would give them,a spirit of wisdom and revelation [of insight into mysteries and secrets] in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him, by having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones), and [so that you can know and understand] what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe…[3]

Not even the disciples of Jesus could understand the parables and privately[4] asked Him the meaning of His stories.  Jesus gave them the ability to understand His parables.  Later, before He ascended to His Father, He further opened their understanding so that they could comprehend the Law, Prophets and Psalms.

Luke 24: 44-45 (AMP)

Then He said to them, This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything which is written concerning Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.

Then He [thoroughly] opened up their minds to understand the Scriptures.

 

Just like the disciples, we also know most of the Bible stories; from the creation, the Exodus of Moses and the Israelites, the first three Kings of Israel, Psalms and the some of the Prophets. In the NT we are acquainted with the Gospels, the book of Acts and Paul’s Epistles.  But that knowledge is no guarantee that we truly understand the spiritual figures, types and shadows[5] of Christ in the OT and the spiritual application of those truths for our own spiritual growth in the NT.

 

In chapter 13 of the gospel of Matthew, Jesus gave a lot of information – in the form of stories – about the kingdom of heaven.  Paul and Peter in their epistles placed a lot of emphasis on having knowledge about Jesus Christ[6].  Most Christians’ knowledge about Christ is the nativity story, Jesus’ miracles, the crucifixion and ascension.  That He came to save sinners, will protect and keep us safe until He returns on the clouds.  However, the knowledge of Jesus entails a blueprint for our Christian life.

 

Our knowledge concerning Christ Jesus is direct proportional to the amount of grace, peace, life and godliness we have and experience as a present reality. Therefore, the more we know of Him, the more grace, life and peace we’ll experience.

2 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

 

In fact, the Apostle Paul said he considers everything worthless in comparison to the knowledge of Christ Jesus[7].  He knew Christ came for much more than most Christians realise and the life He lived and demonstrated on this earth was a living example of the way back (for a fallen mankind) to the Most High God.  Every Gospel depicts a different viewpoint of this narrow path that leads to Life.  Unfortunately only a few will find it[8].  I shall elaborate on this a little later.

 

Jesus begins this chapter (Matthew 13) with the well-known parable of the sower. The seed fell in four different places and four diverse types of citizens[9] of God’s kingdom are made known in this parable.

1.     Matthew 13:4, 19 (KJV) …and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up. 

When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart.  This is he, which received seed by the way side. 

 

Here we see two important aspects: First, the need to understand the Word whether preached, taught, or read.  Jesus opens the hearts and minds of people to understand.[10]  Second, we see that these citizens are not on the way any more but by the way!  Jesus is the way, the truth and the life[11].  In the book of Acts, the disciples were described as a people who were following the Way[12].  The implication here is that those who are not actively following the Way become hardened in heart.  They do not grasp the spirit and life [13]of the words of Jesus.  Because they are by the way and not on the way or actively pursuing the Way, the enemy snatches[14] the words from their hearts.

 

2.     Matthew 13:5-6, 20-21 (KJV) Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away…

But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

 

Paul puts it so beautifully when he wrote to the church in Colosse, As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”[15] We have all experienced the initial joy of our salvation[16].  However, after we have been born again, we need to be established in the faith and in the basic truths of the kingdom of God. Whoever is born into this world, learns with time the laws pertaining to his culture and country – Likewise, as babes born into a new spiritual kingdom we need to be thoroughly acquainted with the basic foundational truths of this new kingdom. 

 The author of the book of Hebrews stipulates the basic doctrines of Christ.[17]

  • Repentance from dead works
  • Faith towards God
  • Baptisms
  • Laying on of hands
  • Resurrection of the dead
  • Eternal judgement

 

A few questions regarding these maxims need to be answered by every Christian in order to establish the depth of their root in the faith.

 

  • What are dead works and which require repentance?
  • There are five baptisms mentioned in the NT.  Are they all applicable to us for today and can you explain the purpose of each one?
  • Why do we need the laying on of hands and what exactly happens when hands are placed on a person? Who may and who may not?
  •  There are two different phrases used in the NT concerning resurrection, resurrection of the dead and resurrection from the dead.  What is the difference?
  • What is the meaning of the word eternal?  The Bible speaks of three judgements – past, present and future regarding the unbeliever and believer.  Do you know these three?
  • Lastly, why do we not find the words heaven and hell in these preschool finger painting exercises on Christ[18] as the Message Bible calls these abovementioned doctrines of Christ?

 

The depth of our roots in Him[19] is determined through tribulations and persecutions.  In every school, there is a system in place where the children need to be tested in order to pass the grades and be promoted to a higher level of education.  In the “School of the Spirit”, there are also doctrines and principles, which must be learnt. Thereafter the application of the knowledge of Christ Jesus into our lives will in turn transform us into the image of Christ.  Tribulations and persecutions are the tests for our spiritual growth.  That is the reason why the Apostle James writes, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”[20]

 

The author of Hebrews makes an appeal to the readers of the book, urging them to move and grow beyond these primary teachings unto more maturity in the faith.  In other words, there are a lot more to learn and apply about Christ, if we can just pass the foundational “primary school” precepts.

 

3.     Matthew 13:7, 22 (KJV) And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them…

He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.[21]

 

The seeds sown are the words of life[22], sown by the Son of man.[23]  As previously stated, everything on this earth begins with a seed and so does God’s kingdom within us[24].  We have heard the words of life, received it with all readiness of mind[25]and were born again, into the kingdom of God.  This seed needs to grow and will in due time produce the fruit of the spirit[26], that is, if we make sure to remove all the choking weeds.  Our worldly system that revolves around the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not of the Father[27] and therefore cannot add anything to our spiritual growth.  There are even those who are corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, who imagine that godliness or righteousness is a source of profit [a moneymaking business, a means of livelihood].[28]

 

Jesus puts it another way in the Gospel of Luke, But take heed to yourselves and be on your guard, lest your hearts be overburdened and depressed (weighed down) with the… …worldly worries and cares pertaining to [the business of] this life…”[29] It surely can not be put  more clearer; the cares of this life and the desire after worldly riches have a direct effect on your heart, emotions and spiritual life.

 

I have personally seen how Christians’ ambitions after riches got them sucked into the worldly system, until their spiritual life becomes as dry and barren as the desert.  Honest, God-loving and -worshipping children of God, who could clearly hear from the Lord, flowed in the gifts of the Spirit and actively ministered in the Body of Christ, became dull of hearing and useless as dried-up springs or as mist blown away by the wind”.[30] As the Apostle Peter says, “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them”.[31] When Paul wrote to the churches in Corinth and Ephesus, he explicitly told them that no greedy person would inherit the kingdom of God.[32]  He actually called greed part of the sinful nature, which one must – through the power of the Spirit[33] – put to death.[34]  Peter commands the shepherds of God’s flock to be eager to serve and not be greedy for money.[35]

 

One time or another in our walk with the Lord and in our spiritual growth, we will be faced with some verse of scripture which we would like to avoid or wish it had never been written.  One such a place is found in the first letter to the churches in Corinth.

 

1 Corinthians 5:9-11 (NIV)

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters.  In that case, you would have to leave this world.  Now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler.  With such a man do not even eat.

 

Paul draws a distinction between people of this world and children of God who are immoral and greedy.  From the first mentioned, we can expect nothing better than that they are ruled by their sinful nature[36].  However, from the latter it is evident that they have not crucified the sinful nature[37] and choose to yield to unrighteousness instead of righteousness.[38] With them you’re not supposed to associate.  Paul does not state the reason for not eating with such a person, who calls himself a brother but the fruit of repentance is not noticeable in his life.[39]  Nevertheless, knowing the Law of Moses and the OT’s priestly customs, he understood the spiritual application to their practices.

 

Haggai 2:11-13 (AMP)

Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask now the priests to decide this question of law: If one carries in the skirt of his garment flesh that is holy [because it has been offered in sacrifice to God], and with his skirt or the flaps of his garment he touches bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any kind of food, does what he touches become holy [dedicated to God’s service exclusively]? And the priests answered, No!  [Holiness is not infectious.]  Then said Haggai, If one who is [ceremonially] unclean because he has come in contact with a dead body should touch any of these articles of food, shall it be [ceremonially] unclean?  And the priests answered, It shall be unclean.  [Unholiness is infectious.]

 

Although these laws were observed by the Priests under the OT, Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome the following, “For we know that the law is spiritual…”[40]  The Apostle is not saying we should keep the law, for the dispensation of the Law of Moses has past and we are under grace[41], but he understood that the law has a spiritual application to spiritual growth[42].  This statement is beyond the purpose of this writing and will be addressed in another.  Suffice to say that for each of the 613 OT laws, there is a spiritual application that points to spiritual growth.

 

Therefore, the person calling himself a brother but is still yielding to the deeds of the sinful nature, will have a detrimental effect on your relationship with the Lord and the fellowship with others in the household of God.  What comes from his or her mouth reflects the condition of the heart,[43] and the dead works[44] they busy themselves with, will cause spiritual leprosy in your life.  In the words of Paul, “…you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.[45]

 

4.     Matthew 13:8, 23(NIV) Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it.  He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

 

We are the garden of God[46].  The seed of Christ that we receive in our hearts is also the seed of the Tree of Life planted within our hearts.  This “tree” will grow within us, until we begin to bear its fruit.  God is the gardener who prunes us and waits patiently for the fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”.

 

John 15:1-2 (NIV)

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

           

Within the Christian faith much emphasis is placed on preaching, teaching, faith, giving, the gifts of the Spirit, discipleship etc.  All these are good and commendable and needed.  Nevertheless, Jesus said we will recognise people by their fruit[47] and true disciples of Christ are those who are bearing the fruit of the spirit.

 

John 15:5,8 (NIV)

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

 

The making of disciples requires first of all a person who has been a disciple for many years.  Moreover, a disciple is not a novice or a small tree without fruit.  True disciples are mature in the Lord, recognisable by their fruit.  Within these fruit, seed is found.  To reproduce, the seed of the fruit is needed.

 

Genesis 1:29 (HCSB)[48]

God also said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth, and every tree whose fruit contains seed. This food will be for you.

 

When people around us begin to enjoy the fruit from our lives, they are attracted to the Source – the Tree of Life.

 

The next two parables in Matthew 13 also deal with seed!  The first speaks of an enemy also sowing seed and the second of the small mustard seed, which will in time become the biggest tree.  Both are easy to understand.  Jesus explained the first enemy as the devil, and every plant or should I say weed which grow from the seed he sowed will eventually be thrown in the fire.

 

Immediately, most Christians will think of the fires of Hell consuming the ungodly.  This may be so, but before we start pointing fingers, there may also be weeds in our own lives that need to be burned by the unquenchable fire of the Holy Ghost.

 

 

Matthew 3:10-12 (NIV)

The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

 

Apart from the Tree of Life, there is also the tree of knowledge of good and evil[49] that does not produce good fruit.  This tree exalts itself against the knowledge of God[50] and needs to be removed from within us.  Jesus recommends the removal of the weed should be postponed until the fruit of both trees are discernable.

 

To be continued

 


 

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[1] The New  International Webster Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language: 2004 Edition , Trident Press International

[2] John 3:12

[3] Ephesians 1:17-19 AMP

[4] Mark 4:10-12

[5] Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5

[6] 2Corinthians 2:14, 4:6; Ephesians 1:17, 4:13; Philippians 3:8; Colossians 3:10; 2Peter 1:2,3,8, 2:20, 3:18

[7] Philippians 3:8

[8] Matthew 7:14

[9] Philippians 3:20

[10] Luke 24:44-45, Acts 16:14

[11] John 14:6

[12] Acts 9:1-2, 19:9, 23, 22:4, 24:14. The NIV uses capital letters in these verses, referring to Christ Jesus as the Way.

[13] John 6:63

[14] The word catcheth here has the meaning of to strip, spoil and snatch.  Literally, to seize upon with force and to rob.  It is an open act of violence.  Zodhiates, Spiros (Th.D) 1993:  The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary New Testament., AMG Publishers, USA

[15] Colossians 2:6-7 (KJV)

[16] Psalm 51:12; Isaiah 12:3; Habakkuk 3:18; Acts 2:28, 8:8

[17] Hebrews 6:1-2

[18] So come on, let’s leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God; baptismal instructions; laying on of hands; resurrection of the dead; eternal judgment. God helping us, we’ll stay true to all that. But there’s so much more. Let’s get on with it! (Hebrews 6:1-3)

[19] Colossians 2:6-7

[20] James 1:2-3 (NLT)

[21] Luke adds to these, “…and pleasures of this life…”

Mark puts it this way, “…and the lust of other things…”

[22] John 6:68; Acts 5:20; Philippians 2:16; 1John 1:1

[23] Mark 4:14; Luke 8:11; Matthew 13:37

[24] Luke 17:21

[25] Acts 17:11

[26] Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9

[27] 1John 2:16

[28] 1Timothy 6:3-6

[29] Luke 21:34 (AMP)

[30] 2Peter 2:17

[31] 2Peter 2:21

[32] 1Corinthians 6:10 (NIV); Ephesians 5:5 (NIV)

[33] Romans 8:13

[34] Colossians 3:5 (NIV)

[35] 1Peter 5:2

[36] Ephesians 2:1-3 (NIV)

[37] Galatians 5:24 (NIV)

[38] Romans 6:13-19 (KJV)

[39] Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8

[40] Romans 7:14 (KJV)

[41] Romans 6:14; John 1:17; Galatians 2:21, 5:4

[42] Whenever I use the phrase “spiritual growth”, I refer to the spiritual process of changing our nature and character to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ as is mentioned in Ephesians 4:13.  This process is under the guidance of His Spirit but depends on our obedience, faithfulness and willingness.  It is based upon grace and not works.

[43] Matthew 12:34

[44] Hebrews 6:1, 9:14 (KJV)

[45] 1Corinthians 5:9-11 (NLT)

[46] Song of Solomon 4:12-5:1, 8:13. Song of Solomon is the book of love between the Lord Jesus Christ  and his Bride.

[47] Matthew 7:16-20, 12:33

[48] Holman Christian Standard Bible

[49] Genesis 2:9

[50] 2Corinthians 10:5 (NKJV)

The Kingdom, the Seed and the Church (5)

September 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Continuing from (4)

 

This brings us to Matthew 10

 

The sending out of the twelve apostles is of importance to every labourer in the field of harvest. Let’s look at it step by step.

 

  • They had to preach the gospel of the kingdom quoting Jesus’ introductory message: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
  • Then the sick had to be healed, the lepers cleansed, the dead raised and the devils cast out.
  • Declaring everything in the kingdom to be free.
  • No money was needed for this work.
  • God would make sure they’ll get their rightful wages.
  • When entering a new place, they had to first look for others of the same heart.
  • They were to bless that person/house with their grace/peace.
  • Whoever did not receive them, would get their due punishment.
  • In a world of wolves in sheep’s clothing, wisdom and innocence was needed.
  • Whenever under scrutiny, the Spirit would speak through them.
  • They would be hated and persecuted but had to keep on preaching.
  • Although they were bringers of peace, it would cause war within families.
  • Whoever received them, would automatically receive the grace that they brought with them.

 

When I read through the job description of a worthy labourer as Jesus was explaining to his twelve disciples, I was wondering if all who claim to be his workers had ever studied these requirements.  Looking at and listening to some preachers and the way money is asked for anything from a prayer to a relic, I’m convinced they haven’t read their assignment papers.  The grace received should be freely given and God will reward.  Inner peace and outer war walks hand-in-hand and should not stop any worker of the kingdom doing his-her job, as it is the Spirit who is doing the work through us.  It is His grace that opens doors[1], brings favour and melts the hearts of people.  Human power can not do the inner spiritual processes, needed to bring us to Christ, and nurture us to grow unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.[2]

 

Before I proceed any further with Matthew 12 until 16, let me refer back to the introduction of this chapter.  In Matthew 16:18[3] the word Church has its first occurrence in the NT.  And before Jesus mentioned anything about Church, He preached, taught and demonstrated the kingdom of heaven; the gospel of the kingdom, the ways of the kingdom and the power of the kingdom.  Therefore, to understand the purpose and mission of the Church, knowledge of God’s kingdom is of paramount importance.  And we know by now that the kingdom of God is the full rule and reign of Christ Jesus – which is the reason the Apostle Paul and Peter put so much emphasis on knowledge and understanding of Christ Jesus.[4]  If we lack the knowledge of the kingdom, church becomes either a weekly spiritual event or a lifeless ritual – instead of a daily experience.  If this statement doesn’t make sense, read on, because church both in the OT and the NT were daily experiences with God and others. Knowledge and understanding will lead to faith[5], which in turn will usher us into an experience of Christ’s guidance, power, grace and love.  This will cause spiritual growth and the salvation of our souls.[6]

 

Matthew chapters 11 and 12 deal with our perception and reception of into God’s kingdom. Or in other words, our preprogrammed mindset in terms of the way Jesus Christ functions, what His purpose is and how we should discern the two spiritual kingdoms.

 

Matthew 11:2-6 (NIV)

When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

 

The words fall away is actually one word in the Greek with the meaning of, “to throw someone unawares into ruin, to give occasion for ungodly conduct resulting in the mischief incurred thereby or to be offended.”[7]

 

John the Baptist came from a priesthood family.[8]  He knew the law, the Psalms and Prophets as well as the order and rituals of the Mosaic Law and Temple.  He was the first to recognise Jesus at the banks of the river Jordan.  He was the one crying out “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”[9]  John knew his own calling – the one who prepares the way for the Messiah.[10]  Still he began to doubt if Jesus was really the Messiah or not.  It is not very clear whether John was offended at what Jesus did (the KJV uses the word offend) or simply cautious of deception.

The truth according the words of Jesus is that we may either become offended at the way God’s Spirit is operating or even fall away because Christ is not performing according to our preconceived mindsets.  That is a very clear statement of warning.

I have seen how Christians get offended when God’s Spirit begins to work in a new way, a different manner than what they were used to or expected.

This is one of the reasons many, many Christians become stagnant in their growth.  You can hear it in the way they pray, the songs they sing and the spiritual truths they are talking about. Year in and year out, the same prayers, the same songs, the same messages and getting excited about the same Christian events.  The age old recipe for religion – same rituals without any life.

 

Jesus used an Aramaic idiom to describe the people he encountered everyday:

“To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’ For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.”[11]

 

Sometimes I wonder if we don’t do likewise – always having a reason why we do not believe, not doing the works of faith, not fulfilling the commission of Christ.  This minister we don’t like, that church is too big or too small.  Over here they preach too long and over there the singing is too loud. We always have a reason for not doing, participating and growing in the Lord.  Many Christians want God’s way to fit into their perception of worship.  Anything outside their knowledge is rejected.  Exactly the way the Scribes and Pharisees treated Jesus – the end thereof was a curse on the nation, because they ascribed the works He did by the Spirit of God, to the work of the devil. [12]

 

Jesus makes a profound statement regarding the “life span” of kingdoms.

Matthew 12:25-26 (NIV)

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?

Satan’s kingdom is highly organised and single-minded.  He knows how a kingdom operates – most Christians don’t.  If he can cause discord, strife, contention and envy in any house, church, city or nation, division will follow and the end result will be destruction.

 

James 3:13-16 (AMP)

Who is there among you who are wise and intelligent? Then let him by his noble living show forth his [good] works with the [unobtrusive] humility [which is the proper attribute] of true wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry, selfish ambition) in your hearts, do not pride yourselves on it and thus be in defiance of and false to the Truth. This [superficial] wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual (animal), even devilish (demoniacal). For wherever there is jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry and selfish ambition), there will also be confusion (unrest, disharmony, rebellion) and all sorts of evil and vile practices.

 

We do not live in the era of kingdoms anymore.  All modern man knows is democracy, human rights and how to go on a strike or protest when he doesn’t like what he gets.  Under kingdom rule, everything belongs to the king.  You as a citizen are granted a piece of land to cultivate or a shop to trade from.  Out of gratefulness you bring your taxes to the king, knowing that at any time the king may take away your possessions and give it to another.

 

The early Christians were well acquainted with kingdom procedures and policies.  They understood basic principles behind kingdom teachings.  We can see in the book of Acts how they were of one heart and of one soul.[13]  Jesus and the early church always sent people out to further the kingdom – the churches did not split, neither were there any break-away groups.  They were united and understood kingdom hierarchy.

If you listened carefully to what Christians are saying and the topics they regularly discuss, you will know the meditation of their hearts. For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”[14] When the pressures of life becomes unbearable, the tests and trials too many or the pleasures of life too appealing to people, you will sooner or later hear it streaming from their mouths.

Lastly, every person born on this earth is automatically born into an earthly family.  Likewise, when we are born again, we are born into a new family – a heavenly family in the kingdom of heaven.

 

Matthew 12:46-50 (NIV)

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

 

We find new brothers and sisters in God’s family.[15] There are times when our own earthly family will reject us, even ridicule us because of our faith.  We should not become discouraged, as Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in him.[16]  On the other hand, some Christians are obsessed with their genealogy and family name.  This Paul advised Timothy and Titus to avoid because such discussions are totally unprofitable.[17]  When we are born into a new spiritual family, we might experience some difficulties in adapting. We may not always agree with our new spiritual family or have the same interests, but we do have the same Lord and Saviour and we are supposed to have the same faith, hope and love.

 

Faith:but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.[18]

Hope: Christ in you, the hope of glory.[19]

Love: God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.[20]

 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.[21]

 

To summarize Matthew 11 and 12

 

  • Many Christians have a preprogrammed mindset about how the Lord should do His work.
  • Even John the Baptist doubted in Jesus as the Messiah.
  • We should be careful not to be offended if the Lord doesn’t work according to our preconceived ideas.
  • The demonstration of the kingdom of heaven is seen in people receiving sight, hearing and healing[22].
  • Our thinking needs renewing.  We do not understand kingdom principles.
  • In a kingdom, everything belongs to the king.
  • A divided kingdom, house or church will fall.
  • Satan’s kingdom is well organised, otherwise it will come to a fall.
  • He tries to bring division, contention and strife.
  • What is in the heart will eventually come out of the mouth.
  • When born again, we belong to a new family – the heavenly family.
  • Jesus Christ is our Lord and Saviour, and also our eldest brother[23].
  • We may have different interests but all should have the same faith, hope and love.

 

To be continued…

 


 

 

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[1] Luke 2:52; Acts 2:47, 7:10

[2] Ephesians 4:13

[3] NIV “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

[4] 2Corinthians 2:14, 4:6; Ephesians 1:17, 4:13; Philippians 3:8; 2Peter 1:8, 2:20, 3:18

[5] 2Timothy 3:15

[6] Philippians 2:12; James 1:21; 1Timothy 4:13-16

[7] Zodhiates, Spiros (Th.D) 1993:  The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary New Testament., AMG Publishers, USA

[8] Luke 1:5-6, 8, 23

[9] John 1:29 (KJV)

[10] Matthew 3:3;Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23

[11] Matthew 11:16-19 (NLT)

[12] Matthew 12:31-32

[13] Acts 2:46, 4:32

[14] Matthew 12:34-35

[15] Ephesians 3:15

[16] John 7:5

[17] 1Timothy 1:4; Titus 3:9

[18] Galatians 2:20

[19] Colossians 1:27

[20] Romans 5:5

[21] 1 Corinthians 13:13

[22] Matthew 11:5

[23] Matthew 28:10; John 20:17

The Kingdom, the Seed and the Church (4)

September 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

…Continuing from (3)

 

Matthew and the Kingdom

The Gospel of Matthew is the good news about the King. The heavenly King coming to introduce the heavenly kingdom and demonstrate the life in this Godly kingdom.  A life with all its relevant battles, its provision, its miracles, its choices and its principles.

 

Each Gospel tells a different story, or rather, more or less the same events but from a different angle.  In the book of Matthew the face of a lion[1] is portrayed, indicating the king of the animal world.  Mark represents the face of an ox – the willing servant.  Dr. Luke focuses on Jesus as a man – the Son of man. And the Apostle John sees the face of an eagle – which soars on the wind of the Spirit – ever higher unto the throne of God[2], the rightful place for the Son of God.

 

We find most of what is said about the kingdom of God in the Gospel of Matthew, the first book in the NT.  Matthew 1 details the genealogy of Jesus the King and in Matthew 2 an exact description of the birth of the heavenly King.  John the Baptist – the voice crying in the wilderness[3] – is the intermediary for the kingdom of heaven and coming onto the scene in Matthew 3.  He baptises Jesus at the river Jordan and Jesus then equipped with the Spirit, enters the desert to be tested in Matthew 4.  Here Satan tries to sidetrack Jesus by offering him the kingdoms of this world and its riches[4] on one condition; Jesus must fall down and worship him.  But Jesus, knowing that His Father’s kingdom is not of this world[5], declines the offer and stays faithful in worshipping the only true and living God, His heavenly Father.  Satan still uses the same manner of temptation today and many Christians oblivious to his deception, are daily bowing before Mammon, not knowing it is impossible to serve two masters[6].  After He had overcome the temptations of Satan, Jesus began to preach, and say, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”[7].  Thereafter, He began to heal all manner of sicknesses and all manner of diseases among the people[8]

 

Deliverance from evil spirits only occurs in the NT.  It is a demonstration of the battle between the two spiritual kingdoms – the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness.  The OT has its accounts of many wars fought over territory, people and food.  But the NT expressly states we have a different war on hand.  This is a spiritual war, against spiritual forces in the unseen (with the physical eyes) realms of the spirit.

 

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NIV)

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

(AMP) For though we walk (live) in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons. For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds.

 

Ephesians 6:12 (CEV)[9]

We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world.

 

Jesus demonstrated this fact very well in the Gospels of the NT.  Those who are His disciples can do the very same work today.  In fact every child of God has been given the right and authority to cast out devils and command them to stop their work and leave the premises.

 

Mark 16:16-18 (NIV)

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

Luke 10:19-20 (NKJV)

Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

 

After displaying the authority and power of the kingdom of God, the crowds started following Him.  From then on He was able to start teaching them the principles and commandments of this new kingdom.  This brings us to Matthew 5, 6 and 7, beginning with what is generally known as the beatitudes[10].  Here I would like to pause and look into the beatitudes as well as the rest of chapter five to seven.

Although we generally read the beatitudes and choose just one or two, they actually follow progressively one on the other.  Jesus uses the word blessed in every one of the beatitudes.  Again I would like to quote from the Complete Wordstudy Dictionary[11] on its explanation for the word blessed[12].

“It indicates the state of the believer in Christ.  One who becomes a partaker of God’s nature through faith in Christ.  Makarios differs from the word happy in that the person is happy who has the good luck (from the root hap meaning luck or favourable circumstance).  To be makarios, blessed, is equivalent to having God’s kingdom within one’s heart.  Makarios is the one who is in this world yet independent of the world. His satisfaction comes from God and not from favourable circumstances.”

 

Blessedness, as everything else in God’s kingdom, is not static but progressive.  There are certain conditions set out in the beatitudes, and if one fulfils them, the state of blessedness becomes yours.  The first step to this state of inner blessedness is the realisation of one’s own impotent spiritual condition.  The poor[13] in spirit are those who cannot help themselves.  These spiritual poor people become those who mourn their own inner condition.  Then follow meek ones, those who are of a lowly heart and a contrite spirit[14].

In the OT we find a man of whom we can learn a lot.  Moses spent his first forty years in the Pharaoh’s courts.  Being brought up by Pharaoh’s daughter made him royalty.  History books talk of him as one of Egypt’s greatest generals[15].  But because of his own zeal, he killed a man and fled Egypt[16].  For the next forty years he tends to the sheep of his Father-in-law in the deserts of Midian.  There, far away from the distractions of the world, Moses had his own desert experience with God, learning from his Father-in-law – the priest of Midian[17].  As the years went by, Moses became the most humble person on the face of the earth[18].  Is it any wonder that such a man can be chosen to interact with God face-to-face[19]?

This brings us to verse six in Matthew 5 and the man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness getting his satisfaction, nourishment and fulfilment from God and being in right standing with Him.  As we are filled with the experiential knowledge of being in fellowship[20] with Him, we cannot but to extend mercy to those around us, and therefore obtain even more mercy from Him.  We give and live what we have received from Him and then reap again what we have sown[21].  The pure in heart are the children of God who live in obedience to God’s Spirit and Word[22].  The outcome of obedience is a pure heart, soul and conscience.

 

Titus 1:15 (AMP)

To the pure [in heart and conscience] all things are pure, but to the defiled and corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are defiled and polluted.

The first time the words son(s) of God occur in the NT and do not relate to Jesus as God’s Son, is found in Matthew 5:9

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

 

A peacemaker is not a peacekeeper.  Peacekeepers avoid tense situations. Usually these situations are filled with highly-strung or intense emotions.  A peacekeeper tries either to keep everybody happy or simply dodges these emotional places.  A peacemaker on the other hand has personally experienced God’s peace and knows how to stay in His peace regardless of circumstances[23].  When such a person enters a place, he or she brings that Godly peace along and it changes the very atmosphere of a place and every person in their vicinity is touched.  These have grown spiritually to a measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ[24].  Although many may think this must be the highest state of blessedness, Jesus adds another dimension – the place of being persecuted.  When others begin to insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Christ[25].

So, after Jesus got their attention through demonstrating the power of the Spirit, He stipulated the progressive growing curve every person can experience when he or she accepts the conditions of entering the kingdom of heaven.   The one follows on the other.

 

When one continues to read chapter 5, 6 and 7, quite a few commandments[26] of Jesus are obvious.

  • Matthew 5:16        Let your light so shine before men…
  • Matthew 5:23-24 If you bring your gift before God and remember your brother has something against you, leave it there and first be reconciled to your brother…
  • Matthew 5:25-26 Settle matters quickly with your adversary…
  • Matthew 5:27-30 Do not even look at a woman lustfully…
  • Matthew 5:33-37 Do not swear at all… let your yes be yes and your no be no.
  • Matthew 5:39        Resist not evil… turn the other cheek.
  • Matthew 5:40-41 Walk the extra mile.
  • Matthew 5:42        Give to those that ask and don’t turn away from those that want to borrow.
  • Matthew 5:44        Love your enemies, bless them that curse you and pray for those who persecute you and do good to those who hate you.

 

Many a time we confuse the commandments of Christ concerning the kingdom and the Law of Moses from the OT.  The commandments of Jesus might look no different than the Law of Moses or the Ten Commandments – just more rules to live by – but the real difference is in the outcome.  Before I expound on this, let’s look at John 1:17:

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

 

The OT was based on works and specifically, being obedient to the Law of Moses – all 613 laws.  But we know that the NT is not based on any works but faith and grace.  During the 1500 years which the Law of Moses had been in effect, if any individual or Israel as a nation had not been obedient to the Law, the penalty prescribed would come upon them.  It is here that we find the contrast between the OT law and the commandments of Jesus.  The curses of not being obedient to the Law were stipulated in precise detail[27].  Jesus did not mention any penalty neither a curse that would come upon the person who does not abide by them. After giving all the abovementioned commandments, He interjects with the following words:

 

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

(AMP) You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect.

                                   

The Amplified Bible rightly describes the word perfect as the person who has grown to a mature state-of-being in character and godliness.  Therefore, the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ are a barometer of spiritual growth.  When I read through them I ask myself the question how many of these commandments come naturally to me – I’m not even trying to keep them, I already live it.  How many of these I really struggle with and which of them I experience as impossible.  This is then an indication of my spiritual growth.  The more mature I am the more I am living them with ease.  Spiritual immaturity in character and godliness is evident in the amount of effort I’m putting into trying to keep the commandments.  As my state of blessedness increases I am able to spontaneously live more of the commandments.  I do not live in any fear of a curse or punishment should I fail one of the commandments. Jesus became the curse on the cross of Calvary and redeemed us from the curse of the Law[28].

 

Looking at Matthew 6 we find Jesus emphasizing four basic ingredients which will help our spiritual growth namely:

 

When we read through the book of Acts, the book of the “actions” of the early Christians, we clearly see the four abovementioned ingredients form a vital part of their life.

 

 

On Giving

Acts 4:34-37 (NIV)

There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.  Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement); sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

 

Many Bible Scholars believe this Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus was the rich young man who encountered Jesus and asked the important question, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus’ answer was in line with his teachings of Matthew 5, 6 and 7; “If you want to be perfect[29], go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”[30]  The rich young man surely did not expect such an answer, something that he could not do.  However, the ways of the kingdom is not lived by any human effort but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

On Prayer

Acts 2:42 (NIV)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Acts 4:24, 31 (NIV)

When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.  After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

One of the pillars of foundation of the early Church is prayer.  Prayer was as common as eating.

 

 

On Fasting

Acts 13:1-3 (NIV)

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 14:23 (NIV)

Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 

 

There are numerous books written on fasting and I suggest that if you have never fasted, buy one or two books on fasting before going on a fast[31].  There are basically three different ways to fast: 

  • Without food or water.  This is done not longer than 3 days[32].
  • A Daniel’s fast.  Usually such a fast is only fresh fruit, vegetables and water[33].
  • A full fast with no food and only water[34].

 

 

On Faith

Acts 3:16 (NIV)

By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.

Acts 6:7-8 (NKJV)

Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.  And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.

 

Our Christian walk begins by faith.  Everything we do is by faith.  In fact, four times in the Bible it states that the just shall live by faith[35].  When we come to God, we have to believe that He exists and listens to us[36].  When we are baptised, prayed for, participate in communion, fast and pray, give of our money or need divine guidance, all is by faith.

 

In Matthew 7, the Lord Jesus Christ continues with his commandments:

 

 

Jesus was the living example of how to live all these commandments.  He came to show us it is possible, but only through the inner strength and ability of His Spirit.  Living the kingdom/Christ-life can never be done by and through our own abilities, power and wisdom.  It will tire us and we’ll come to a place where the Christian life becomes a burden.  That should never be.  The Law was carved out in stone[37] and heavy to carry.  Trying to keep the Law will be like a millstone around our necks.  Jesus said, “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.”[38]

Yes, there will be persecutions, insults and false accusations, but the joy of the Holy Spirit will be your strength.[39]  The Christian-life is not about do’s and don’ts.  It is not a life lived with fear of punishment.  No, it is a joyful life, lived not from own strength but with full dependence on the inner strength and guidance of His Spirit.  It is about spiritual growth with Christ as our model.  He is the pattern-Son.

 

I would strongly suggest you read Matthew 5, 6 and 7 every six months.  Checking yourself against the barometer for spiritual maturity.

 

In Matthew 8 and 9 Jesus reiterates what He said, but this time through practical examples.  We could say the words of Luke 4:18-19 is now clearly and visibly performed.

Luke 4:18-19 (NLT)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”[40]

 

Jesus, through His actions, made the will of the Father very clear. When He was asked by a leper “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean”, Jesus answered “I am willing, be clean!”[41] When the Centurion told Him to only speak a word and his servant would be healed, Jesus marveled that a Roman soldier understood the way of the kingdom better than the Israelites (God’s chosen nation at that time[42]).  Through the laying on of hands, Peter’s mother-in-law was healed[43].  He displayed His authority over the forces of nature[44] and delivered two men possessed with devils[45].  This was not previously seen in Israel and the people started to follow Him.  Then He startled the scribes by pardoning the lame man his sins and when the scribes questioned it within themselves, He told them “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”[46]  Furthermore  He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead and healed two blind men by touching their eyes and saying “According to your faith will it be done to you.”[47] He ends the chapter by casting a devil out of a dumb man, restoring his ability to speak.  Now, after displaying the Father’s will and the kingdom’s ways, the Lord Jesus Christ makes this statement: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”[48]

 

 

To summarize Matthew 8 and 9:

 

  • Jesus cleansed people.
  • Jesus healed when people believed his words.
  • Jesus removed the cause of sickness.
  • Jesus displayed power over the forces of nature.
  • Jesus had authority over evil spirits.
  • Jesus forgave people’s sins so they could walk.
  • Jesus gave sight to the blind.
  • Jesus brought the dead back to life.
  • Jesus made the mute to speak.

 

Although I have personally either experienced or seen most of the above miracles, I also know too well that there is more in the spiritual application of His works than the physical.

The difference between the OT and the NT is that the first is the natural, the outward and earthly.  The second is all about the spiritual, the inner, and the heavenly.

 

1 Corinthians 15:45-48 (NIV)

So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.

 

Therefore, the kingdom of God is not an earthly empire as the Jews at the time of Jesus had been waiting for, but is a spiritual land, of a spiritual nature in the spiritual realms.  What Jesus was demonstrating in the natural, every person needs to experience in the spiritual.  It is the inner man[49] that needs the cleansing of the blood and the word[50].  This cleansing and inner healing is by faith.  The forgiveness received gives us the ability to begin a new walk in faith with Christ[51].  We do not have power over our own sinful, fleshly nature[52], but thank God, Christ has!  When we walk our new walk in obedience to the Word and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus[53], our sinful nature is being subdued, even mortified[54]. He brings us back to life[55] – a life with Him, living by the Spirit and makes us to see and understand spiritual realities.

 

It is only once we have passed from death to life, being cleansed and forgiven, are walking in the spirit, understanding the life in the spirit, and given the ability to speak that we are ready to be a labourers for the harvest!

 

To be continued…

 


 

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[1] These were the faces of the Cherubim seen by Prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:10, 10:14) and of the Seraphim seen by the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos. (Revelation 4:7)

[2] Revelation 4:6-7

[3] Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23

[4] Matthew 4:8

[5] John 18:36

[6] Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13

[7] Matthew 4:17

[8] Matthew 4:23

[9] Contemporary English Version

[10] Matthew 5:3-12

[11] Zodhiates, Spiros (Th.D) 1993:  The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary NT, AMG Publishers, USA

[12] Blessed is the Greek word makarios.

[13] Ptochos: to crouch, cower like a beggar.  Poor and helpless.  Someone in abject poverty, utter helplessness, complete destitution.

[14] Psalm 34:18, 51:17; Isaiah 57:15, 66:2

[15] Whiston, William 1999: The new complete works of Josephus, Kregel, USA.

[16] Exodus 2:11-15

[17] Exodus 2:16

[18] Numbers 12:3

[19] Exodus 33:11

[20] 2Corinthians 13:14; Philippians 2:1; 1John 1:3

[21] Galatians 6:7-8

[22] 1Peter 1:22; John 17:17; Psalm 24:4-5

[23] Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:6-9

[24] Ephesians 4:13

[25] Matthew 5:11 NIV

[26] Matthew 5:19 KJV

[27] Deuteronomy 28:15-68

[28] Galatians 3:10-13

[29] Perfect; spiritually mature as our heavenly Father. Matthew 5:48

[30] Matthew 19:21

[31] Swope, Mary, Ruth (Dr) 1998: The roots and fruits of fasting, Swope Enterprises, USA .

Chavda, Mahesh 1998: The hidden power of prayer and fasting, Destiny Image.

[32] Esther 4:16

[33] Daniel 1:12

[34] Matthew 4:!-2

[35] Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38.

[36] Hebrews 11:6

[37] Exodus 24:12

[38] Matthew 11:29-30

[39] Nehemiah 8:10; Acts 2:28, 13:52; Romans 14:17, 15:13

[40] Quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2a

[41] Matthew 8:1-3

[42] Matthew 8:5-10

[43] Matthew 8:14-17

[44] Matthew 8:23-27

[45] Matthew 8:28-34

[46] Matthew 9:1-6

[47] Matthew 9:27-30

[48] Matthew 9:37-38

[49] Ephesians 3:16

[50] 1John 1:7; Ephesians 5:26

[51] Romans 6:4; 2Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 5:16,25,

[52] Romans 7:18-21

[53] Romans 8:1-13

[54] Galatians 5:16-25

[55] John 5:24; 1John 3:14

 

 

The Kingdom, the Seed and the Church (3)

September 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

…continuing from (2)

 

Lastly, as we look at the life of Jesus again, we see Him as our example.  Coming to John the Baptist by the river Jordan, Jesus asked him to be baptised.  Shocked by this request, John objected and said it should be the other way around.  But Jesus insisted with the following words.

Matthew 3:13-17 (NKJV)
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

 

How remarkable to note that even Jesus said he needed to be in right standing with God; “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

 

Clearly from Scripture it is seen that water baptism is an extremely important sacrament[1] to be executed by faith as soon as one has committed his or her live to the Lord Jesus Christ.  In the book of Acts we read of numerous accounts where people were immediately baptised following their conversion[2].

Confession of sins 

Does a person need to confess all his or her sins to be born again.  Practically, I do not think one can remember all the wrong doings of the past. Where in history do you begin?  At birth, primary school, as a teenager or as an adult?

Neither Jesus nor Paul mentions the confessions of all past sins for an unbeliever as a prerequisite for the Kingdom of God or salvation.  When Jesus was speaking to His disciples concerning His departure and the coming of the Comforter, He explained the work of the Holy Spirit as follows.

John 16:8-12 (KJV)

 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter[3] will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.  And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:  Of sin, because they believe not on me;  Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;  Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.  I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

(NLT) But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.  And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.  The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.  Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more.  Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.  “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now.

 

The only sin the world needs to confess and the only sin the Holy Spirit will convict an unbeliever of, according to Jesus, is that they do not believe in Him as the Son of God[4].

We see an example of this in the book of Acts.  When Peter (filled with the Holy Spirit[5]) addressed the Jews after Pentecost[6], he convinced them of the truth that Jesus of Nazareth, whom they had crucified, was the Son of God, the Lord and Christ[7].  Thus, they were convicted in their hearts because they had not believed on Jesus as the Son of God.  They repented of that sin and were baptized[8].

The confession of sins applies when you are a Christian and a certain way of life is expected of you according to the Bible.

 

Offspring of God

When Paul arrived in Athens he was stirred in his heart as he saw the idol worship in the city[9].  Everyday he preached in the synagogues as well as the market places.  He found an altar with the inscription “to the unknown god” and used that as starting point to preach judgment and the resurrection of Christ.  However, he made a statement that all are the offspring of God[10]To be the offspring of God is not the same as being a child of God.  The word offspring means lineage, race, stock and posterity.  Paul could also have said we are of the human race, which was made by God.  Being a human does not make you a child of God. You need to be born again!

 

The Disciples of Jesus

One of the many questions that used to bother me was; when were the disciples born again?  Surely, it must apply to everyone, even the disciples.  In the Gospels of Matthew and John we find places where both Peter[11] and Nathanael[12] acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God.  But according to Paul there are two requirements: confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus – which they did – and believe that God raised Him from the dead – which they could not as it had not yet taken place at the time of their confession.  But in John 20 we find the following.

John 20:19-22 (NIV)

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.  Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

 

Now they could believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, as with their own eyes they saw the marks on his hands and side.  Thereafter, Jesus breathed on them to receive the Holy Spirit.

When God breathed on Adam he became a living soul[13] but when the resurrected Jesus breathed on His disciples they were already living souls.  Now they received His Spirit and His life.  They were born again.

1 Corinthians 15:45 (KJV)

And so it is written, the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

AMP Thus it is written, the first man Adam became a living being (an individual personality); the last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving Spirit [restoring the dead to life].

 

How do I now

That question so many people wrestle with.  How do I know whether I am a child of God or not?  Many think by living a good life or giving to the poor, attending a church will grant them the privilege of being God’s child.  We know that a child needs the seed of the parents.  Thus having God’s seed makes me His child.  If this work (of being born again) was done through and by His Spirit, then surely by his Spirit we must know whether we are his children or not.

Romans 8:16 (KJV)

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

NLT For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.

AMP The Spirit Himself [thus] testifies together with our own spirit, [assuring us] that we are children of God.

How do I know?  I just know!  If I doubt then I don’t know and need to make sure.  Some know the date they prayed that prayer for salvation, while others aren’t sure about a date but still within their hearts they know – and God knows!

2 Timothy 2:19 (NIV)

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”[14]

 

This Corrupt World 

Many Christians long for the day when they will escape the corruption of this world and go to the kingdom of heaven.  Not realising that the day they were born again, received the seed of Christ and were baptised, was the day they have escaped the corruption of this world and started their new life in God’s kingdom.

2 Peter 1:3-4 (KJV)

According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption[15] that is in the world through lust.

NLT By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.  And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

 

Therefore, those who have entered the kingdom of God (heaven) are living in this world but are not from this world[16].  Their citizenship is in the kingdom of heaven[17] – they have a heavenly passport and are living according to the ways and principles of their new country.  All those who are born again should follow the words of Jesus; Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well[18]. 

 

1.     As a child

With a slight variation, the first three Gospels speak of entering the kingdom of God with childlike faith.

Matthew 18:13 (NKJV)

…and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Mark 10:15 (NKJV)[19]

Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

Little children do not have the ability to reason.  It is something that needs to be developed as they grow older.  They believe whatever their parents (or adults) tell them.  It is only as adults starts to question them, their behaviour, abilities and actions that they learn to do the same.  It is precious to observe how children will jump from a chair, table or even a wall into their parent’s arms without doubting a bit.

It is what God expects of us.  We can not understand the concept of His kingdom, neither the goodness of God nor the outcome of salvation.  But as little children all that are required of us, is faith in a God and Saviour, with bigger plans for us than what we can ever dream or imagine[20].

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

 

Through Adam’s disobedience, we have been robbed of a life with God.  But through the Lord Jesus Christ, we have been bought back and reconciled to the Father.

 

Romans 5:10-19 (CEV)

Even when we were God’s enemies, he made peace with us, because his Son died for us. Yet something even greater than friendship is ours. Now that we are at peace with God, we will be saved by his Son’s life. And in addition to everything else, we are happy because God sent our Lord Jesus Christ to make peace with us.    

Adam and Christ

Adam sinned, and that sin brought death into the world. Now everyone has sinned, and so everyone must die. Sin was in the world before the Law came. But no record of sin was kept, because there was no Law. Yet death still had power over all who lived from the time of Adam to the time of Moses. This happened, though not everyone disobeyed a direct command from God, as Adam did.

In some ways Adam is like Christ who came later. But the gift that God was kind enough to give was very different from Adam’s sin. That one sin brought death to many others. Yet in an even greater way, Jesus Christ alone brought God’s gift of kindness to many people.

There is a lot of difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gift. That one sin led to punishment. But God’s gift made it possible for us to be acceptable to him, even though we have sinned many times. Death ruled like a king because Adam had sinned. But that cannot compare with what Jesus Christ has done. God has been so kind to us and he has accepted us because of Jesus. And so we will live and rule like kings.

Everyone was going to be punished because Adam sinned. But because of the good thing that Christ has done, God accepts us and gives us the gift of life. Adam disobeyed God and caused many others to be sinners. But Jesus obeyed him and will make many people acceptable to God.

 

I don’t need to understand everything.  What is expected of me is to believe that Jesus was and is God’s Son, on the cross He paid the price for the sins of the world[21] and was resurrected from the dead.

For many people this sounds too easy.  They want to work for their relationship with God[22].  For others the idea of one man dying to redeem[23] the world of its sin seems absurd.  The same people do not object when the soldiers of their own country pay with their lives in order for the country’s citizens to live in peace and comfort.  As a child we have to believe before we can enter God’s kingdom.

 

2.     A person’s righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees

Matthew 5:20 (NIV)

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

(AMP) For I tell you, unless your righteousness (your uprightness and your right standing with God) is more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

The meaning of the word righteousness is to be in right standing with God.  God’s standard for righteousness from the time of Moses until the coming of Jesus Christ was the law, also called the Law of Moses[24].  God required Israel to keep the law and by doing so they would be in right standing with God and reap the benefits/blessings that accompanied obedience to the Law of Moses.

But Scripture clearly states that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ[25] and with that a new standard for righteousness, not based upon the Law of Moses anymore but upon faith in Jesus Christ and the grace of God.

 

Ephesians 2:8 (NIV)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

(AMP) For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God.

 

Again, none could attain this righteousness until Jesus was crucified and resurrected from the dead.  With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost[26], every person could get this free gift of salvation and be in right standing with God.  Therefore, adhering to Law of Moses will not enable you to enter the kingdom of heaven.  That dispensation is over and done with – the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is something of the past.  Childlike faith, based upon God’s grace and being born again, allows you into the kingdom of God/heaven.  For the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, this way was just too easy, to effortless and painless.  But the common people of the day, those who knew they can never live up to the law – they received this new way of God wholeheartedly.

 

Matthew 21:28-32 (NIV)

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.”Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

 

John the Baptist was the son of a priest[27].  He knew the Law of Moses and lived by it.  If he did not, the people (and the Pharisees) would not recognise him or his ministry.  Six months before Jesus began his ministry, John started preaching the kingdom of God.  And everyone who wanted to be part of this new kingdom came to John, repenting of their sins and was baptised[28].  The tax collectors and prostitutes came, desiring to enter heaven’s kingdom.

If you want to be part of the heavenly kingdom, God’s kingdom, although it is a free gift of grace, the attitude of one’s heart should be one of force and intensity.  Faith is not a “lets see what will happen” or a “I’ll try this for now” attitude.  It is taking hold of something that you believe is the truth, with force.  Jesus said;

 

Matthew 11:12 (AMP)

And from the days of John the Baptist until the present time, the kingdom of heaven has endured violent assault, and violent men seize it by force [as a precious prize—a share in the heavenly kingdom is sought with most ardent zeal and intense exertion].

 

3.     Through many hardships

 

Acts 14:21-22 (NIV)

They (Paul and Barnabas) preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.

If entering the kingdom of God is through faith in the blood of Jesus and by grace as a gift of God, what are these hardships mentioned in the book of Acts?  Surely it can not be any human works for this rebirth is by the Holy Spirit.  The word hardship is also translated as tribulation, trouble and affliction. Here I would like to quote from the Wordstudy Dictionary[29].

“Tribulations, then, to the early Christians meant not so much ill health, poverty or loss of friends, but the sacrifices they had to make and the perils they had to meet from their proclamation or profession of Christ. In Hebrews, the writer says that after his readers were converted, they endured afflictions.”

 

Hebrews 10:32-33 (NIV)

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.

The Christian is presented in the Scriptures as being joyful in tribulation since there is a deeper experience of the presence of Christ and of the kingdom of God when tribulations come.  In the face of much tribulation the churches in Macedonia had an abundance of joy[30].  The Thessalonians received the word with much tribulation, with joy of the Holy Ghost[31].  In the case of the Christian, tribulation results in increased energy and blessedness of the spiritual life.

 

2 Corinthians 4:17 (NKJV)

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,

(AMP) For our light, momentary affliction (this slight distress of the passing hour) is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory [beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!]

 

Coming back to the illustration I used in the introductory paragraph.  Should I wish to emigrate, I begin by enquiring about the correct procedures to follow. Then the paperwork, the interviews, the things I need to sell and the stuff I will take along must be packed and shipped, to name but a few arrangements.  Even when I have arrived at my new residence, although very excited and happy, there is the new job, the neighbours, the laws of the country to be familiar with, new driver’s license etc., etc.  Entering the new land is a process with both afflictions and joy.

In God’s kingdom this is no different.  Leaving behind old ways and the beginning of a new course is both a decision and a progressive experience which entails both the glory of Christ and the accompanying afflictions.

Summary

  • Jesus stipulated the need to be born again if a person wants to see and enter God’s Kingdom
  • Mary received the seed of the Most High God when God’s Spirit came upon her.
  • Jesus was the firstborn of God the Father.  Therefore, there must be a second born, third born and many more.
  • Jesus was both human and divine.  He had Mary’s seed and God’s seed.
  • Because of Jesus, we can now also have God’s seed.  Within the seed lie the potential, the nature and the DNA.  We also can be partakers of the divine nature of God.
  • Every person whom is born again is greater that John the Baptist – who was the greatest of all the Old Testaments people.
  • No person in the Old Testament had the privilege of having God’s seed – to be born again.
  • To be born again is not through works, obeying rules and laws or striving to enter the Kingdom of God.  It is a work of grace by God’s Spirit.
  • The Holy Spirit convicts a person of sin, righteousness and judgment.  Not believing Jesus is the Son of God is the sin that keeps a person from God’s Kingdom.
  • To be human makes us the offspring of God, the creator of heaven and earth.
  • To be born again makes us a child of God the Father.
  • The disciples also needed to be born again.  This happened after the resurrection of Jesus when he appeared to them and breathed his Spirit on them.
  • It is the Spirit of God that testifies and assures me I am His child.  Something I just know within my heart.
  • Although I am living in this world, I am not of this world.  My citizenship is in heaven.
  • Only with childlike faith I can take hold of God’s kingdom.
  • Water baptism is an external action done by faith.  Believing the Spirit of God will cleanse my heart and conscience from the stains of dead works.  It is crossing the spiritual water of the Red Sea, leaving behind the old life with its curses and bondages.
  • Jesus needed to be baptised.
  • Being in right standing with God is not dependant upon the Law of Moses – which dispensation has ceased.  Through His seed and Spirit, by faith, I am now in right standing with God.
  • Entering the kingdom of heaven is a decision and also a process.

 

Christ’s glory and worldly afflictions go hand-in-hand.

 

To be continued…

 


 

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[1] Sacrament: A rite ordained by Christ or by the Church as an outward and visible sign of an inward spiritual grace. The New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language. 2004 Edition

[2] Acts 2:38-41, 8:12-13, 36-38, 9:18, 10:47-48, 16:14-15, 31-33, 18:8.

[3] In John 14:26 the Holy Spirit is called the Comforter.  This comes from the Greek word Parakletos which also means a helper, legal advisor, pleader, proxy or advocate.

[4] See Paul’s prerequisite in Romans 10:9-10.

[5] Acts 2:1-4

[6] See Acts 2:1, 20:16 and 1Corinthians 16:8. The word Pentecost means fifty.  In the OT it was also called the Feast of Weeks for it was seven weeks after the Passover. See Exodus 34:22, Leviticus 23:15, Numbers 28:26, Deuteronomy 16:9-10.  In the Acts 2 the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost – fifty days after the crucifixion of Jesus, the Passover Lamb.

[7] Acts 2:36

[8] The doctrine of baptisms will later be discussed.

[9] Acts 17:16

[10] Acts 17:28-29

[11] Matthew 16:18 (KJV).

[12] John 1:49 (KJV).

[13] Genesis 2:7

[14] See Numbers 16:5

[15] It is the Greek word phthora and has the meaning of spoiling, corruption, destruction, ruin, decay and generally a fraying or wasting away.  Zodhiates, Spiros (Th.D) 1993: The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary NT, AMG Publishers, U.S.A.

Also to be found in Romans 8:21; 1Corinthians 15:42, 50; Galatians 6:8; Colossians 2:22 and 2Peter 2:12, 19.

[16] John 17:11,16

[17] Philippians 3:20

[18] Matthew 6:33 (Jerusalem Bible)

[19] Luke 18:17 reads the same as Mark 10:15

[20] 1Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

[21] John 1:29; 1Timothy 1:5; Hebrews 9:26; 1John 2:2

[22] Galatians 2:16,

[23] Titus 2:14; 1Peter 1:18-19

[24] Joshua 8:31,32, 23:6; 1Kings 2:3; Ezra 3:2, 7:6; Nehemiah 8:1; Daniel 9:11,13; Luke 2:22, 24:44; John 7:23; Acts 13:39, 15:5, 28:23; 1Corinthians 9:9

[25] John 1:17

[26] Acts 2

[27] Luke 1:5-6, 57-64

[28] Mark 1:4; Luke 7:29; Acts 19:4

[29] Zodhiates, Spiros Th.D.(1993, revised edition):  The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary NT, AMG Publishers, USA

 

[30] 2Corinthians 8:1-2

[31] 1Thessalonians 1:6

The Kingdom, the Seed and the Church (2)

August 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

…continuing from (1) 

 

Entering the Kingdom

In Scripture we find a number of places where Jesus spoke on entering the kingdom.  Surely, like any other physical kingdom, there is a proper way to enter the kingdom of heaven.  When I would like to emigrate from the country I was born in, there are certain procedures to follow.  Jesus spoke of a specific course of action a person needs to take in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Let us examine these conditions one by one.

1.     A person must be born again – of water and the Spirit

The phrase to be born again is synonymous with Christianity, just as the crucifixion of Jesus, the resurrection of Christ and atonement through the blood of Jesus Christ are identified with the Christian faith.

The difference, I have observed, being in Church most of my life, is that very few Christians are able to explain the expression to be born again.

Some of the explanations I have heard sound like this; “it is when you are a child of God” or “it is when you have given your life to Jesus”.  Others told me “it is when you are going to heaven” or slight variations of that tune.

 

We shall therefore look into the passage where Jesus lectured a Scribe on the need to be born again and analyse His remarks.

 

John 3:1-12 (KJV[1])

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again[2], he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again. The wind[3] bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, how can these things be?  Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, we speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

  

  • Jesus is linking the kingdom of God to being born again. This is important as many Christians confuse the Kingdom of God with a literal place called heaven.
  • Jesus is not bringing the concept of hell within this context of being born again.
  • When mentioning the Kingdom, Jesus used two different phrases; see the Kingdom of God in verse 3 and then enter into the Kingdom of God in verse 5.
  • Furthermore, Jesus is comparing a spiritual concept with a natural one, namely birth.
  • He concludes with another comparison between the manner of the wind and the work of the Spirit of God.
  • Lastly, Jesus points out the fact that Nicodemus can not understand heavenly things.

The New Living Translation makes it a bit clearer to the reader.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”   “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”  Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” “How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked. Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

Jesus’ answer confused the mind of Nicodemus.  The whole concept of going again through the birth process as an adult was absurd to his thinking.  While Nicodemus and all the others of Jesus’ time could only think in the natural – according to the things they could see, hear, touch and smell – Jesus was always talking about spiritual matters – things that are not observed with the five senses but discerned by those who have the Spirit of God and are mature.

1 Corinthians 2:14-15 (NLT)[4]

But people who aren’t spiritual[5] can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.

 

Hebrews 5:14 (NKJV) 

But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

 

Jesus used parables, metaphors and stories to convey the spiritual truths about the Kingdom of God/heaven.

 

Matthew 13:34-35 (NLT) 

Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet: “I will speak to you in parables.  I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.[6]

So, in order to understand the teachings, stories and parables of Jesus, one needs to have the Spirit of God.  If what Jesus said, was inspired by God’s Spirit, surely the need to interpret must be by the same means.

In order to gain some knowledge into the concept of being born again we’ll have to analyse Mary’s conception of Jesus.  The example Jesus showed us, did not begin at his baptism by the river Jordan or when he returned from the forty days of fasting in the desert[7].  No, it started when Gabriel brought God’s word to Mary.

 

Luke 1:26-38 (NLT) 

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel[8] forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

The order of the conception was hence as follows:

  • The angel brought the message that God had chosen Mary.
  • She would conceive and give birth to a son.
  • Conception would occur after the Holy Spirit had come upon her and…
  • God’s power had overshadowed her.
  • Mary accepted the angel’s word as true and yielded herself to God’s plan.

 

Therefore, Mary’s conception[9] was the blending of the human seed of Mary and the divine seed of the Most High God[10] necessary to bring forth in one person the Son of Man[11] as well as the Son of God[12].  Consequently, Jesus displayed the characteristics of human beings; he was exhausted, fatigued and thirsty[13], He wept over a friend[14] and at times He was troubled in His heart and soul[15].  But He also unmistakably, had the qualities of one calling himself the Son of God; He had God’s nature of unconditional love and grace[16], calling God his Father which was considered blasphemy by the Scribes[17]. He performed miracles and cast out evil spirits by the Spirit of God[18], calling the Temple his Father’s house and was very upset when the people used it for their own gain[19]. But the ultimate test for Sonship he passed during his forty days of fasting in the desert[20] when Satan the prince of this world[21] tried him with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life[22]. He was not born with a sinful nature[23] but was made in the likeness of man which is born with a sinful nature.

Romans 8:3 (NIV)[24] 

For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,

NLT The Law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.

 

One of the reasons why Jesus came to earth was to bring an end to the sinful nature’s reign over man ever since Adam’s fall.  Adam sinned and therefore brought death and consequently all of mankind is now born with a sinful nature.

Genesis 2:17 (KJV) 

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof[25] thou shalt surely die.

Romans 5:12 (KJV)

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

 

Mankind needed to be reconciled with God again and Jesus, God’s Son, the firstborn from the dead[26], brought that reconciliation[27].  But He brought more than just reconciliation.  If Jesus was God’s firstborn[28] then it follows logically to have a second born, third born, fourth born and so forth.   Jesus was therefore the first man ever to have been born a human being through human birth but also having the seed, the nature, the attributes and character of the Most High God within Him.  We can say that He possessed God’s DNA[29]. Because He conquered death and is seated at God’s right hand, we now can have that same privilege – to have the divine nature and attributes of Christ within us.  But to have that nature we need His seed.  This nature of love and grace cannot be attained through works, but only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and being born again.  Therefore, we have to believe and confess with our mouths that Jesus was and is the Son of God that He died on the cross for the sins of the world and was raised by God the Father from the dead.

Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Galatians 2:16 (AMP)

Yet we know that a man is justified or reckoned righteous and in right standing with God not by works of the Law, but [only] through faith and [absolute] reliance on and adherence to and trust in Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). [Therefore] even we [ourselves] have believed on Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Law [for we cannot be justified by any observance of the ritual of the Law given by Moses], because by keeping legal rituals and by works no human being can ever be justified (declared righteous and put in right standing with God).

 

Just like Mary needed to believe the angel’s words, so we need to believe the word of God.  This word of salvation may come to us through a preacher, a book, the Bible or from some other source.  Whenever we believe that Word and confess it as true, the Holy Spirit will come upon us and plant the seed of Christ within our hearts.  We then become partakers of Christ’s divine nature.  We have his “spiritual DNA” placed within us.

2 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

NLT By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

 

Within Christ’s seed are all of His attributes, character, power and nature[30].

1 John 3:9 (AMP[31])

No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God.

I have already stated that Jesus was the first person to receive God’s seed within him.  He was born with it.  We are physically born with a sinful nature and need to be born again or born from above by the Spirit of God in order to understand the Kingdom of God – according to the Gospel of John 3:3.  When this happens – being born from above – it puts us in a different relational position with God the Father than any other person in the Old Testament.

Matthew 11:11 (NIV)

I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Let us consider another one of Jesus’ amazing and perplexing statements.  It is recorded in the Bible of anointed people doing marvelous things; acts of faith, healings, miracles and some even being taken up to heaven alive[32].  Yet no one of them had been greater than John the Baptist.  But more amazingly, all who later were born again are greater than John the Baptist.  The reason; we have His seed!  Not one person in all of the Old Testament had that privilege.  In the OT[33] the Spirit of God would come on certain people for a specific task[34].  When the Prophet, Priest or King was anointed with oil, they received His Spirit upon them to help, guide and empower them in their administrations, service and governance.  But not one of them received His seed.  Whenever the Spirit of God would depart from such a person, he was left with his own abilities of human power and wisdom.  It is clearly seen in the life of King Saul[35]

In this way God’s Spirit would enable the OT Prophet, Priest and King and this was God’s way until the coming of John the Baptist. 

Luke 16:16 (AMP)

Until John came, there were the Law and the Prophets; since then the good news (the Gospel) of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone strives violently to go in [would force his own way rather than God’s way into it].

It is not through the Law of Moses, human striving or works that anyone can enter into God’s Kingdom, but only by being born again.  This is a work of God’s Spirit and therefore impossible to man and only possible to God[36].

Many today claim to be God’s children.  Most religions believe in a god, gods or a supernatural force.  This belief is in a creature or entity that has greater abilities and is of a higher nature and sphere than mankind.  The OT and NT do mention many gods [37], which were served by the pagan nations and at certain times by Israel as well (when they were disobedient and rebelled against God or were taken captive by their enemies).   However, the Most High God[38] is a very appropriate description of the God who Abram, Balaam, Israel, David, Daniel and his three friends as well as Paul served[39].  He is also the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ[40].  To become a child of the Most High God – not merely serving Him – requires His implanted seed.  Humanly this is impossible and can only be done by and through God’s Spirit.

However, the portion of Scripture in John 3 from verses 3 to 8 makes a distinction between to “see the kingdom of God” (verse 3) and to “enter the kingdom of God” (v5).  To see means to understand, to comprehend, behold, perceive or be aware of.  Therefore, having the divine seed is the beginning of the knowledge of the Son of God[41] or the kingdom of God.  But entering the kingdom requires an additional process as set out in verse five.  Looking into the Greek of John 3:5, we find no article(a, an or the)[42] with the word water or the word spirit.  It should actually read of water and spirit.  This is the figure Hendiadys by which two words are used but only one thing or idea is meant[43].  It could thus read: “Except a man is born of water, yes, spiritual water, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

The spiritual water that is spoken of we find in John 7:39.

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

This experience of washing with spiritual water is also explained in one of Paul’s letters.

Titus 3:3-7 (NIV)

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

It is an inner washing performed by the Holy Spirit.  The same Spirit, who caused the seed to be implanted in Mary, performs the identical process in our hearts and proceeds to wash us – if we ask and allow the Spirit – so that we can enter into the kingdom of Christ[44].

An OT story which typifies this NT experience is found in Exodus 12 to 14 where we read of the Israelites that were enslaved by the Egyptian Pharaoh.  God commanded Moses to be the deliverer and to lead the Israelites out of this oppression.  Every family had to kill a lamb, paint the blood of the lamb onto the doorposts of their houses and eat the roasted meat.  After the angel of death had passed by they took their belongings and started to move towards freedom.  However they had not travelled very far before Pharaoh realised the plan of escape and pursued with his mighty army.  This brought the Israelites to a state of fear and consternation[45].  God, however, had a plan and brought them miraculously through the Red Sea as Moses parted the Sea with his staff.  Once all of Israel had safely reached the other side, the Sea closed and the hosts of Egypt’s army drowned.  The Red Sea was the cut-off point of the past and the entrance to the new way and land God intended for Israel.  Even though Israel believed Moses’ plan of redemption and applied the blood of the lamb, the real deliverance from Pharaoh’s rulership happened at the Red Sea.

Pharaoh and Egypt represented Satan and the kingdom of darkness.  Moses was a figure of Christ and the Red Sea symbolizes water baptism.  The cloud by day and pillar of fire by night points to the guidance, protection and refining work of the Holy Spirit.  What happened nearly 3500 years ago in the lives of people God had chosen, is an example and shadow of spiritual realities to be found in Christ and our spiritual progress[46].  The significance of this specific event is mentioned by Paul in his letter to the Church in Corinth.

1 Corinthians 10:1-2 (NIV)

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.

(AMP) FOR I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, that our forefathers were all under and protected by the cloud [in which God’s Presence went before them], and every one of them passed safely through the [Red] Sea,  And each one of them [allowed himself also] to be baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea [they were thus brought under obligation to the Law, to Moses, and to the covenant, consecrated and set apart to the service of God]

By following Moses through the Red Sea, the Israelites identified with him and willingly submitted themselves to his leadership.  Any Israelite that did not go after Moses would surely either be killed or taken again into captivity.  Although they had escaped the Angel of death through the blood on the doorposts, re-enslavement awaited them again should they not follow after Moses.  In the same way, we were delivered from the power of darkness, and have been translated into the kingdom of God’s Son[47].  We “escaped” (spiritual) death through the blood of Jesus and received the divine incorruptible seed[48] through the work of God’s Spirit.  We have passed from death to life as the Scriptures states[49].

This however is not enough to enter into Christ’s way of living and right standing with God.  Water baptism is an outward act to show an inner conviction of following whithersoever the Lamb goes[50]. Water baptism signifies the inner spiritual cleansing which is called the washing of rebirth or to be born of spiritual water.  It is done by faith[51] and publicly shows my dying to the old kingdom and being raised into a new kingdom.

Romans 6:3-5 (MSG)[52]

That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.

Colossians 2:11-15 (MSG)

Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It’s not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you’re already in—insiders—not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin. If it’s an initiation ritual you’re after, you’ve already been through it by submitting to baptism. Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.

  

The Apostle Peter uses another allegory when writing about water baptism.  He also calls it an inner washing – from the guilt and shame that stained our consciences when we walked according to the course of this world[53].

1 Peter 3:20b-21 (AMP)

…when God’s patience waited during the building of the ark in which a few [people], actually eight in number, were saved through water.  And baptism, which is a figure [of their deliverance], does now also save you [from inward questionings and fears], not by the removing of outward body filth [bathing], but by [providing you with] the answer of a good and clear conscience (inward cleanness and peace) before God [because you are demonstrating what you believe to be yours] through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

(MSG) You know, even though God waited patiently all the days that Noah built his ship, only a few were saved then, eight to be exact—saved from the water by the water. The waters of baptism do that for you, not by washing away dirt from your skin but by presenting you through Jesus’ resurrection before God with a clear conscience.

 

To be continued…

 


 

 

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[1] King James Version

[2] Or from above. The Greek is ambiguous and can mean both again and from above. The same applies to verse 7.

[3] The same Greek word means both wind and spirit.

[4] New Living Translation

[5] The phrase aren’t spiritual refers to those who do not have the Spirit of God. Some translations use the word natural man instead of aren’t spiritual. The term natural man relates to the man who is governed by his environment, his natural senses and logic.

[6] Psalm 78:2

[7] Matthew 3:13-4:11; Mark 1:9-13; Luke 3:21-4:13

[8] In the Greek it reads over the house of Jacob.

[9] See also Matthew 1:19-21.

[10] In the Hebrew it is the title El Elyon. The Most High God is the possessor of heaven and earth (Genesis 14:22) and the One who divides the nations their inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:8), He is over all the earth (Psalm 83:18). Jesus is referred to as the Son of the Most High God (Mark 5:7). This title occurs 36 times in the Bible.

[11] The term son of man is used for Ezekiel, Daniel and Jesus. The difference between Jesus and the former two is when it is used of Christ it always has the Article (the). The first occurrence is found in Psalm 8: 4 and 6 referring to Jesus and his dominion over the earth.  In the NT it occurs 88 times. The Son of man has to do with the earth, authority and judgment (John 5:27).

[12] This title expresses the relation of the Son to the Father (Luke 1:35). Also, of all those who are begotten of God (3John 3:1).  It differs therefore from the relationship expressed by the Son of man.  As the Son of God, Christ is the heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2), and is invested with all power and is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25).

[13] John 4:6-7

[14] John 11:35

[15] John 11:33, 12:27

[16] John 1:18, 8:1-11

[17] John 5:18

[18] Matthew 12:28

[19] John 2:16

[20] Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

[21] John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11

[22] 1John 2:15-17

[23] Luke 1:35

[24] New International Version

[25] Hebrew; dying thou shalt die. Death was first spiritual and then physical. Adam was cut off from God’s presence and daily communion due to his disobedience – this was spiritual death.  After many years physical death was the result of spiritual death.

[26] Colossians 1:18

[27] Romans 5:10; 2Corinthians 5:18; Colossians 1:20-21

[28] Jesus was Mary’s firstborn (Matthew 1:25; Luke 2:7). Jesus was also his heavenly Father’s firstborn (Romans 8:29;   Colossians 1:15).

[29] Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms and some viruses. The main role of DNA molecules is the long-term storage of information. DNA is often compared to a set of blueprints or a recipe, or a code, since it contains the instructions needed to construct other components of cells, such as proteins and RNA molecules. The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in regulating the use of this genetic information. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA

[30] See Philippians 2:6 (AMP) and Colossians 1:19 (AMP).

[31] Amplified Bible

[32] Genesis 5:24; 2Kings 2:1-12

[33] Old Testament

[34] Exodus 31:1-7; Numbers 11:16-17, 24-25; Judges 6:34, 14:6; 1Samuel 10:6, 16:13 etc.

[35] It is interesting to look at the life of Saul. After he was anointed as king, God’s Spirit came upon him. But his behaviour and manner changed when the Spirit of God departed from him (1Samuel 10:17-24, 11:6-8, 16:1-2). When Saul was in the presence of other prophets he  prophesied again. (1Samuel 19:22-24) 

[36] Matthew 19:26

[37] In alphabetical order:  Adramelech and Annamelech in 2Kings 17:31; Ashima in 2Kings 17:30; Ashtoreth in 1Kings 11:5, 33, 2Kings 23:13; Astarte is the Greek name for Ashtoreth; Baal in Numbers 22:41, Judges 2:13, 6:25, 1Kings 16:31-32,  Romans 11:4 etc.; Baalpeor in Numbers 25:3,5 etc.; Berith in Judges 9:46; Baalzebub in 2Kings 1:2-3,6,16, Matthew 12:24Luke 11:19; Bel and Nebo in Isaiah 46:1, Jeremiah 50:2, 51:44; Castor and Pollux in Acts 28:11; Chemosh in Judges 11:24,  1Kings 11:7,33, 2Kings 23:13 etc.; Chiun in Amos 5:26; Dagon in Judges 16:23, 1Samuel 5:2-7, 1Chronicles 10:10; Diana in Acts 19:24,27,28,34,35; Gad and Meni in Isaiah 65:11; Jupiter in Acts 14:12,13, Acts 19:35; Malcham in 1Chronicles 8:9, Zephaniah 1:5; Mercury in Acts 14:12; Merodach in Jeremiah 50:2; Milcom in 1Kings 11:5,33, 2Kings 23:13; Molech in Leviticus 18:21, 20:2-5, 1Kings 11:7, 2Kings 23:10, Jeremiah 32:35, Amos 5:26, 7:43; Nehushtan in 2Kings 18:4; Nergal in 2Kings 17:30; Nibhaz and Tartak in 2Kings 17:31; Nisroch in 2Kings 19:37, Isaiah 37:38; Remphan in Acts 7:43; Rimmon in 2Kings 5:18; Satyr in Isaiah 13:21, 34:11; Siccuth in Amos 5:26; Succoth-benoth in 2Kings 17:30; Tammuz in Ezekiel 8:14.

[38] See footnote 3 on page 14.

[39] See Genesis 14:19; Numbers 24:16; Psalm 78:56; Psalm 57:2; Daniel 3:26; Acts 16:17.

[40] Mark 5:7

[41] 2Peter 2:20-21

[42] One of a class of auxiliary words inserted before a noun or a word used as a noun, or, in some languages, prefixed or suffix to it, to limit or modify it in some way. In English;  a and an (indefinite article) and the (definite article).

[43] Bullinger, Ethelbert, W. (D.D) 1968: Figures of speech used in the Bible,  Baker Books, Michigan.

[44] Colossians 1:13-14

[45] Exodus 14

[46] Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 10:1

[47] Colossians 1:13-14

[48] 1Peter 1:18-23

[49] John 5:24; 1John 3:14

[50] Revelation 14:4

[51] Everything a Christian do is to be done by faith and not as works, traditions or under compulsion. See Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38.

[52] Message Translation

[53] Ephesians 2:1-3

The Kingdom, the Seed and the Church (1)

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Kingdom of God

 

The phrase the kingdom of God is only found in the New Testament.  It appears 68 times in the KJV[1] of the Bible in the Gospels, the book of Acts and the Epistles of Paul to the various Churches.  The other expression which is synonymous with the kingdom of God is the kingdom of heaven . It occurs 31 times in the Gospels alone.

 

Both John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministries with the following words:

 

Matthew 3:1-2 (NKJV[2])

 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

Matthew 4:17 (NKJV)

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

 

As I mentioned earlier the expressions kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God are interchanged, this we notice from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark.

 

Mark1:14-15(NKJV)
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

 

According to the Strong’s Concordance[3] the meaning of the word repent is to think differently or a change of mind[4]. If I could paraphrase what John the Baptist and Jesus said it would sound something like this:

 

Here’s some good news.  There is a new kingdom coming.  Not like the earthly ones you are used to – like the kingdom of Israel or the Roman and Greek kingdoms.  This one will come from the heavens and is from God.  But to be able to comprehend and understand this new type of kingdom, you have to have a new paradigm of thinking.  The old way of thinking and doing won’t help you in this new kingdom from God.  Furthermore, to enter this kingdom, there are prerequisites.

 

This message of God’s kingdom preached by John the Baptist and Jesus was called the gospel of the kingdom.  Surely for something to be good news there had to be some kind of benefit to the hearers of this message.  And if both John the Baptist and Jesus preached the same message, a message of a heavenly kingdom, we certainly need to know what it is all about!  We need to understand the principles, the ways and dynamics of this Kingdom.

 

Matthew 4:23 (NKJV)
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.

 

Matthew 9:35 (NKJV)
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.

 

Matthew 24:14 (NKJV) 

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the entire world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Not only did Jesus preach the gospel of the kingdom but when He gave His twelve disciples authority and sent them to preach, heal the sick and drive out demons in Matthew 10 verse 1, he gave this command in verse 7:

“And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

In like manner when He sent out the seventy others in Luke 10, He gave them the same instructions.

Luke 10:1, 8-9 (KJV) 

After these things the LORD appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.  And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

Apart from doing miracles, healing the sick and raising the dead, Jesus taught the people in the form of parables and stories to elaborate on this concept of God’s kingdom.  Before anyone can try to understand anything concerning the kingdom of God, that person needs to be born again[5] as stated in John 3:3.

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

 

According to the Strong’s Concordance[6] the meaning of the word see[7] is: to understand, to comprehend, behold, perceive or be aware.  Therefore, not one single person during Jesus’ three and a half years of ministry could understand one word of this new kingdom – the kingdom of God.  Because, until His appearance to the disciples in John 20:19-22[8], there could not a single person be born again.  The crowds followed Jesus because He spoke with authority and with power He cast out demons, He multiplied the bread and performed many other miracles[9].  And in doing all these things, Jesus was demonstrating what the kingdom of God is all about, although no one saw the significance between what He did and this new kingdom.  The powers, glory, love and authority – to name a few things – of Heaven’s kingdom was demonstrated by Him as well as His disciples.

 

Jesus and Paul

In order to understand the stories, parables and sayings of Jesus concerning the kingdom of God, one needs to look at the rest of the NT.  Paul was given the gospel to the Gentiles[10], preaching and explaining the doctrine of Christ to them.  This gospel Paul preached does not stand apart from what Jesus taught, as Jesus himself appeared to Paul, explaining and clarifying the gospel to him[11].  Therefore, we will compare their teachings to gain some insight into the kingdom of God.

                                                                                                                                                                       I.      The Gospel

As we’ve seen, Jesus called His message the gospel of the kingdom. Four times this expression is found in the NT[12].  The Apostle Paul does not make any mention of the gospel of the kingdom.  However, he calls the gospel he preached, the gospel of Christ.

Romans 1:16 (KJV) 

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Romans 15:18-19 (KJV)

For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ[13].

Therefore, the good news of the Kingdom, according to Jesus, is the good news of Christ preached by Paul

                                                                                                                                                                II.      The Mystery

Jesus said to His disciples that he will explain to them the mysteries of the kingdom of God.  Just like all the other people they did not understand Jesus’ stories and parables concerning the kingdom of God, until He had given them the ability to comprehend what the rest could not.

Luke 8:9-10 (KJV)[14] 

And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand[15].

In the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, he does not expound on the mystery of the kingdom but rather speaks of the mystery of Christ.

Ephesians 3:1-4 (NKJV)

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).

Colossians 4:2-3 (NKJV)

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains,

As Jesus gave the twelve disciples the ability to understand the mystery of the Kingdom, God also endowed Paul with the spiritual knowledge and understanding regarding the mystery of Christ.  This expression the mystery(ies) of the kingdom is not to be found anywhere else in the NT, except in the Gospels. Again, where Jesus used the word kingdom, Paul replaced it with the word Christ.

                                                                                                                                                                    III.      The Place

All kingdoms exist within certain boundaries.  They demarcate a geographical location for the citizens of a specific kingdom.  There came a day when the Pharisees came to Jesus in order to enquire the exact position and timing of the kingdom He was preaching and teaching about.  His answer was not what they expected.

 

Luke 17:20-21 (NKJV)
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; or will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

 

AMP Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He replied to them by saying, The kingdom of God does not come with signs to be observed or with visible display, Nor will people say, Look! Here [it is]! or, See, [it is] there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you [surrounding you].

 

Jesus clearly defined the whereabouts of the kingdom of Heaven.  It is not in a far of place outside of one’s reach, neither is it to be found within external geographical borders.  The kingdom of God is established in the hearts of people.  And wherever such a person goes (one who has the kingdom of God) there he carries the kingdom with him.  This is the reason why a new manner of thinking is required in order to understand Heaven’s Kingdom.

The Apostle Paul never spoke of the kingdom of God which will be found in our hearts.  In the letter to the Churches in Corinth, Ephesus and Colossians, Paul wrote of Christ who will be in our hearts.

2 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?

AMP Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it. Test and prove yourselves [not Christ]. Do you not yourselves realize and know [thoroughly by an ever-increasing experience] that Jesus Christ is in you–unless you are [counterfeits] disapproved on trial and rejected?

Ephesians 3:17 (NIV)

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,

AMP May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love,

 

Colossians 1:27 (NIV)

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

AMP To whom God was pleased to make known how great for the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ within and among you, the Hope of [realizing the] glory.

The Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul both spoke about the same subject.  If this was not so, there would be a contradiction in Scripture.  The coming and establishing of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven only started when Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and appeared to His disciples in John 20 verses 19 to 23.  This is the reason why John the Baptist as well as Jesus used the words; “the kingdom of heaven is at hand/is near.”

                                                                                                                                                                       IV.      Seeking

The Lord Jesus requires of His followers to do all they can to know what the kingdom and right standing with God is about.

Matthew 6:33 (NLT)

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

(NKJV) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

 

In Matthew 5 to 7 Jesus was addressing the multitudes, teaching them some principles of the new kingdom.  Chapter six focuses on the topics of giving, prayer, fasting and faith.  Coming to the end of the chapter He concludes His instructions to the crowd to not seek after material things.  The world, He said focuses on the physical and tangible stuff. The focal point should be the kingdom of God and righteousness.  As a fringe benefit, the material things will also be taken care of.

Coming to the writings of the Apostle Paul, we do not find him teaching or instructing Christians to seek after God’s kingdom, but rather to seek after Christ.

Colossians 3:1-2 (NIV)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

(AMP) IF THEN you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth.

We can therefore conclude that the kingdom of God/heaven which was preached by Jesus, and Christ which was preached by Paul, is one and the same thing.  If we have Christ dwelling within our hearts we also have the kingdom of heaven within us. To become part of God’s kingdom is also to be part of Christ.  Jesus Christ not only heralded the Kingdom of God but also demonstrated ways of the kingdom, teaching the truths of the kingdom and living as an example the life of the kingdom.  When we study the life and teachings of Jesus, it brings us to a revelation of the kingdom life.  When we carefully read, examine and scrutinize the writings of Paul and Peter, it leads us to the knowledge of Christ[16].

This certainly is a different way of thinking and can not be understood unless one is born again.  The full meaning of all the parables relating to the kingdom of God can not be comprehended unless the concept of the kingdom is fully understood, which again can not happen unless one enters the kingdom by being born of the water and the Spirit[17].

In three of the four Gospels we find Jesus talking about specific aspects of the kingdom which is then followed by the exact event. The words He spoke are these:

Luke 9:27 (NIV)[18] 

“I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

 The event that followed those words was the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain, when He took Peter, James and John with Him.  There, before their eyes as he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning[19]. Later in the second letter of the Apostle Peter, he explained what had happened on the mountain as they were seeing the glory and majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ[20].  As they looked upon Him, they suddenly realised the extent of the power and glory of Christ and the kingdom of God – He personified heaven’s kingdom.  Through revelation, Paul understood this as well and could therefore say; but when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles[21].  Jesus said to the Pharisees that the kingdom of God is found within a person and Paul explained that it is Christ within him, which must be shown to the world.

The kingdom of heaven which Jesus came to introduce and demonstrate was not an external and physical – see with your eyes and touch with your hands – kingdom, but rather an internal and spiritual – what is experienced with the heart and spiritual senses – kingdom.  I close with the words of Paul in Romans fourteen verse seventeen from the New Jerusalem Bible; “…for it is not eating or drinking (the external things) that make the kingdom of God, but the saving justice, the peace and the joy  (internal qualities) brought by the Holy Spirit.”

Conclusion

When I was a child our minister – and my parents – told me Jesus lives in my heart.  And as a child I did not question this idea although it was strange that another person could actually fit into my heart. The reason he lives in my heart is because I invited him in.  This I did at the age of 5 or 6 when my mother took me to my room, we knelt besides my bed and I followed her in prayer.  I did not question her or the prayer we prayed.  As a child, whose reasoning faculty has not been developed, I had no problem in believing Jesus lives in my heart. Then I was also told that when I die, I – and all those who have Jesus in their hearts – will go to heaven.  The only relation between the Lord Jesus Christ and the kingdom of heaven was the fact that I could go there (and He would also be there) because He lives in my heart and I am His child.  Thus, Jesus was in my heart but to me heaven was a very far away place only reachable through death.

However, as I began to study Scripture during later years, I stumbled across all the abovementioned verses.  Slowly the idea of heaven as a far away place began to diminish. I also came to the understanding that Jesus was the physical person and Christ was not his surname but actually the Greek word for “the Anointed one”.  Progressively the connection between Christ and the kingdom of heaven dawned on me and I started to comprehend that I am already part of the kingdom of heaven because the kingdom of heaven is within me.  There is no reason to anxiously wait for heaven’s benefits in the sweet bye-and-bye if I have access to all it has through Christ who is in my heart.

But to have access to heaven’s provisions and benefits there are a few prerequisites

Summary

  • John the Baptist as well as Jesus started their ministries with the words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
  • The phrases kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God are used interchangeable.
  • Jesus’ message concerning the kingdom is called the gospel of the kingdom.
  • Jesus preached, taught and demonstrated the kingdom.
  • Although Jesus and Paul do not use the same words, that does not mean the Bible contradicts itself.
  • Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom and Paul spread the gospel of Christ.
  • Jesus spoke to His disciples about the mysteries of the kingdom, and God disclosed the mystery of Christ to Paul.
  • Jesus said the kingdom of God will be placed within us and the apostle Paul more than once elaborated how Christ is to dwell and abide in us.
  • Seeking after material things is futile according to Jesus’ teachings.  It will, however, be given to me if all my heart is after God’s kingdom and right standing with Him.
  • Two thousand years ago there already were people that saw and entered the kingdom of God before they passed away.
  • For the past two millennia millions of people have experienced God’s kingdom within in them while living their day-to-day lives.

 

To be continued…

 


 

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[1] King James Version

[2] New King James Version

[3] Strong, James (L.L.D.)(S.T.D) 1990: Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, USA.

[4] “There are two Greek words in the NT which convey the idea of repentance, metanoeo and epistrepho.  These words derive their moral content not from Greek, but from Jewish and Christian thought, since nothing analogous to the biblical concept of repentance and conversion was known to the Greeks. Metanoeo presents repentance in its negative aspect as a change of mind or turning from sin while epistrepho presents its positive aspect as turning to God.  Both, however, have much the same content of meaning.” Zodhiates, Spiros (Th.D) 1993: The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary NT, AMG Publishers, USA.

[5] See following chapter for an exegesis on what it means to be born again.

[6] Strong, James (L.L.D.)(S.T.D) 1990: Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

[7] It is the Greek word eidon. It implies not the mere act of looking – the use of the eyes – but the actual perception of the object.

[8] See Entering the Kingdom: Born Again, pg 11

[9] See Matthew 12:15, 19:2; Mark 1:22,27; John 6:2

[10] Acts 22:17-21,  26:15-19; Galatians 1:16, 2:8; Ephesians 3:8; 1Timothy 2:7; 2Timothy 1:11

[11] 2Corinthians 12:1-6. It is believed by most Bible scholars that Paul is speaking of himself in this passage of Scripture.

[12] Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 24:14; Mark 1:14

[13] Also in Romans 15:29; 1Corinthians 9:12, 18; 2Corinthians 4:4, 9:13, 10:14; Galatians 1:7; Philippians 1:27; 1Thessalonians 3:2

[14] Also found in Matthew 13:10-11 and Mark 4:10-11.

[15] Jesus quoted from Isaiah 6:9.

[16] Ephesians 3:4, 4:13; Philippians 3:8; 2Peter 1:8, 3:18

[17] John 3:8

[18] Also in Matthew 16:28 and Mark 9:1.

[19] Luke 9:29 (NKJV)

[20] 2 Peter 1:16-18

[21] Galatians 1:15-16