Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Mortified

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Romans 8:13)

To mortify something means to put it to death. Paul taught in our text and in other passages that the “deeds of the body,” or its fleshly actions and appetites, all that pertains “to the old man,” should be mortified, or put to death.

This mortification is first of all judicial—Christ having been put to death in our stead. “Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:6).

But the mortification must not stop there, with only a positional death. It must also be an actual mortification in practice, for “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25). “For as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness” (Romans 6:19).

Elsewhere, Paul identifies specific deeds and attitudes that must be mortified. “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence [or evil desires], and covetousness” (Colossians 3:5). The first four listed will be recognized as various forms of sensual sins, indicating how detrimental this category of sin is to spiritual life. The fifth is covetousness, or inordinate love of money and material things. These five comprise deadly sins to men and women of any historical age—particularly our own. If they are not put to death, they bring death, “for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh” (Colossians 3:6).

The choice is clear! It will be either death to the flesh, or death to the spirit.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Christ at Creation

“When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep.” (Proverbs 8:27-28) 

This chapter contains a beautiful description of some of God’s works during the creation week when God, in Christ, was creating and making all things. Christ Himself, personified as the divine wisdom, the word of God, is speaking.

Verse 27 speaks of His pre-existence before the creation of the space/time universe itself. At first the “earth” matter was “without form,” with only a great “deep” of water. Then God “set a compass” on the face of the deep, activating the gravitational forces that brought it into spherical form. The Hebrew word for “compass” means “sphere,” the same word used in Isaiah 40:22, where it is said God “sitteth upon the circle [i.e., ‘sphere’] of the earth.”

Then God “established the clouds above.” The word for “clouds” means “thin mists,” undoubtedly referring to the great water canopy “above the firmament” (Genesis 1:7). Finally, He strengthened the fountains of the deep, locking them under the “foundations of the earth” (Proverbs 8:29). The same strong fountains of the deep would later be broken up at the time of the great Flood. When the earth was finished, He “rejoiced in the habitable part of his earth” (i.e., Proverbs 8:31).

In all these and the other mighty works of creating and making all things, the Lord Jesus Christ assures us “I was there!” That further assures us, of course, that through all the ages to come, He will be there.

This remarkable eighth chapter of Proverbs concludes with the following exhortation, more relevant today than ever: “For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all that hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:35-36).

Sunday, 11 November 2018

He Shall Speak Peace

“And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9:10)

This wonderful prophecy follows immediately after the verse predicting the coming of the Messiah into Jerusalem riding upon a lowly donkey’s colt (Zechariah 9:9). That prediction was fulfilled by Jesus as He came into Jerusalem on that last Sunday before His death and resurrection (Matthew 21:4-5), but the prophecy in our text was certainly not fulfilled at that time. There have been wars somewhere in the world practically every year since Jesus came. Nevertheless, the day will come when He shall indeed speak peace to all the nations.

Early in the last century the nations had fought a great war that was supposed to end all wars. They celebrated the armistice that ended that war on November 11, 1918, and established an annual holiday called Armistice Day. But many other wars followed that war, so the name was changed to honor the veterans who had fought in any of those later wars as well. However, there is still no real peace in the world.

The fact is that there can be no lasting peace between men and other men until there is peace between men and God. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can make such a peace, for He alone is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Indeed, He has already paid the price to make such true and eternal peace, for He “made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself” (Colossians 1:20).

In that great coming day when He returns to Earth to establish His kingdom, “he maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth” (Psalm 46:9), “and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day” (Isaiah 2:17).

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Filled and Fulfilled


“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” (Colossians 1:9)

In this prayer, Paul sought for the Colossian Christians the full knowledge of the will of God. For the Christians at Rome, he prayed they might be filled “with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13). For the Ephesians, he prayed they “might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:19), and then urged them to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). He wrote to the Philippians, “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; . . . Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11). For the Colossians, he also prayed for their “full [same as ‘filled with’] assurance of understanding” (Colossians 2:2).

Together, all these prayer requests constitute an ideal description of a complete Christian—an ideal for which we should all strive and pray—both for ourselves and for others. Summarizing again, the list is as follows:

• “[Filled] with all joy and peace in believing.”
• “Filled with the fruits of righteousness.”
• “Filled with the knowledge of his will.”
• “Filled with the Spirit.”
• “Filled with all the fulness of God.”
• “[Filled with] assurance of understanding.”

It is also worth noting that the Greek word for “filled” is the same as for “fulfilled.” When a Christian is “filled” with all these wonderful realities, he becomes a “fulfillment,” as it were, of God’s purpose in creating and redeeming him. His ultimate goal, of course, is to measure up to “the fulness of Christ” Himself (Ephesians 4:13).

Friday, 9 November 2018

Exalting the Anointed One

“The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.” (1 Samuel 2:10) 

This is a remarkable prayer, uttered under divine inspiration by Hannah, thanking God for the miraculous birth of Samuel. It contains the first explicit reference in the Bible to the Messiah (“anointed,” in the Hebrew, is Messiah, equivalent to the Greek “Christ”). Hannah’s prophetic prayer predicts the ultimate exaltation of Messiah over all the adversaries of the Lord to the very ends of the earth.

Hannah also prophesied the coming of the Lord’s great King. Yet this was during the time of the judges, long before the people of Israel even began to request a king.

In fact, the entire prophecy is the first of many similar prophecies throughout the Bible that look forward to the return of the Lord “out of heaven” to judge all nations, to destroy His enemies, and to establish His anointed one as King of the earth.

There is nothing comparable to this prophecy in the earlier books of the Bible, but it is a theme often emphasized in the psalms and in the books of prophecy, as well as in the New Testament. For example, note David’s great prophecy: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed. . . . Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath. . . . Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. . . . and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psalm 2:2,5-6,8).

There are many similar later prophecies, but it is significant that the first one also contains the first mention of Messiah, and that was from the lips of a humble, but devout, mother.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Author of Peace

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33) 

Although these words were written with respect to church order, they express a general principle. “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated. . . . And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:15-18).

Our world and our natural lives seem perpetually in confusion, turmoil, and strife, and the source is the evil one—“the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The only one who can bring true peace is the Author of peace.

This is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, for only “he is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). He is the Author of peace, just as the devil is the author of all confusion and strife. Note the other titles of our great Author of peace.

He is called “the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus” (Hebrews 13:20). He is also “The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Melchizedek, who was at least a type of Christ, if not an actual pre-incarnate theophany of Christ Himself, is called “King of Salem, which is, King of peace” (Hebrews 7:2). In 2 Thessalonians 3:16, He is “the Lord of peace.”

He is the Author of peace, the Lord of peace, the Prince of peace, the King of peace, the very God of peace! He is our peace! Someday, “he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:10). In that day, “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:20), and “of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end” (Isaiah 9:7).

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Common Salvation

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation . . .” (Jude 1:3) 

The description of our salvation as “common” does not mean that salvation is “ordinary” or “normal” but rather that salvation is available to anyone who wants it. The term is translated “unclean” several times in passages that speak of items that are accessible to everyone rather than specialized foods or ceremonies available to just a few (Acts 11:8Romans 14:14; etc.).

Right after Pentecost, the Jerusalem church experienced a quick growth in converts, many of whom were poor and needed practical help. The bond of the new church was so strong that “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common” (Acts 4:32). That is the sense in which Jude speaks of a “common” salvation.

The salvation is available to all. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16). None are excluded from the possibility of salvation—except those who refuse to believe what God has provided through the substitutionary death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 2:2).

But this salvation is also necessary for all. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). It has become popular today to couch the gospel message in moderate terms, making the message appear optional or a “personal” belief system. No, it is the only salvation, even if it is “common.” “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).