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

About Edgar Phillips
Husband, Dad, Ordained Minister and Missionary who loves God, Pastoral & Functional Therapist, Imago Professional Facilitator, EFT practitioner.

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