"The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.” - Revelation 1:20
If we’re truthful about the circumstances of life these days, things are hard. Times are tough. Especially when we examine things through the lens of scripture, things look bleak. The health of God’s church doesn’t look encouraging either. Often times, it is the people of God that we hope will be our encouragement but are often the source of our greatest frustrations and troubles. All of us have moments in life where things just seem to be out of control. However, as students of the Bible and as children of God we need to remember one fundamental truth – God is ALWAYS in control. To examine the condition of the world with fear and dismay is to doubt the sovereignty of God. To examine the condition of the church with discouragement and doubt is to forget that God is faithful. Remember, Jesus is still seated at the right hand of the Father where He is supposed to be. Jesus is still interceding on behalf of His people like scripture says He’s supposed to. The church is still in Jesus’ hand, and all things are still held together by Him, reminding us that things are never out of control – at least not His control…
It is first important to recognize the grace of God to reveal things that were at one time mysterious and unknowable to His people. When the Apostle John saw the Lord in glory through a vision on the Island of Patmos, he was terrified and confused. Jesus corrected that. Jesus calmed John and told him not to be afraid. Jesus assured John by explaining the things that were too glorious for the human mind to understand. It is true that God’s ways and thoughts are not like ours. It is true that God’s ways and thoughts are as far from ours as the heavens are from the earth, but God doesn’t want to keep things this way. Recall the words of Jesus concerning the relationship He desires to have with His people.
“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:14-15
It is true that Jesus called His disciples His “friends.” However, let’s not get confused about what Jesus is saying. Jesus isn’t saying that He wants a relationship with His people based on informal jokes and recreational conversation. Jesus explained the basis of the “friendship” that He desires to have with His people. The “friendship” He offers is based on what He reveals to His people. Jesus, as the God of all truth, makes truth known. Those who receive Jesus as “the Truth” by faith are by extension called His “friends.” The friendship we have with God is based on what we know of Jesus and His purpose. This is not information that He is obligated to reveal to us. This is not even information that people ask for. Nevertheless, God revealed Himself in such a manner that enables us to be connected to Him on the premise of grace.
When Jesus spoke to the Apostle John in Revelation 1:20, He explained certain unknown things to John that troubled him. Jesus didn’t have to explain these things. Jesus didn’t even have to bring John up into the spirit realm through a vision to show John these things. Still, this is what Jesus did because He wants His people to know who He is by what He’s doing. It is a great privilege to the people of God to know God AND the work that He’s doing. While we don’t understand all of the details of His work, He has revealed the beginning, the end, and His purpose. The explanation of the “mysterious” things of God should comfort the hearts of God’s people because it shows that God’s revelation is the manifestation of His grace to comfort our hearts about the work He’s doing to remind us of His good intentions despite how we might perceive things with our eyes.
“The seven stars…”
Jesus explained that the “seven stars” that John saw in Jesus’ hand were the seven angels of the seven churches in Asia that Jesus would address in the next two chapters of Revelation. This is important to understand. Though the original language defines the word “angels” also as “messengers,” the Bible shows that Jesus uses spiritual angelic beings to influence, guide, and protect His church. The scriptures teach that Jesus looks at His true church as a loving husband looks at his bride. Jesus takes good care of His bride. Since He is God of both heaven and earth, the scriptures show that Jesus is willing to use any and all resources at His disposal to ensure the spiritual integrity of His church. Jesus doesn’t use angels to help the people of His church because He needs to. Jesus uses these angelic beings to assure His people that we’ll have all the help we’ll need to do the things that Jesus has commanded us to do!
It is true that the Word of God is taught incorrectly all over the world today. Jesus promised that false teachers would rise up in a major way during “the last days” in which we now live. Nevertheless, the truth of God’s Word isn’t going anywhere. Jesus exercises His sovereign control over spiritual beings to ensure that the true Gospel is distributed through heavenly messengers as well as physical ones. For those who worry about how God’s people can manage and know the truth in a world filled with so much perversion, corruption, and lies, Jesus just provided compelling evidence as to why we should not lose hope!
The number seven doesn’t specifically refer to seven particular angels. The number seven often symbolizes the number of “complete” in the Bible, which means that Jesus has total control over all of heavens hosts in order to ensure that the true church is preserved according to the will of the Father. The Bible also teaches that, though the devil drew one third of heaven’s angels with him, two thirds still remain. For every evil angel out there to lead God’s people astray, Jesus has a two-to-one favor. Again, this isn’t to say that He needs this sort of favor. This sort of favor simply speaks to the thoroughness of Jesus’ provision, protection, and providence!
The old song goes, “He’s got the whole world in His hands…”
Many of us heard this song when we were kids and have allowed the complexity of adult circumstances cause us to forget this elementary truth. The essence of Jesus’ revelation to the Apostle John was intended to remind John of this truth. If all things consist in Jesus (Colossians 1:17), then the church must also be included. Sure, the condition of the church doesn’t look good. Still, if we remember that Jesus predicted the condition of the church in the last days, then things are exactly as they are supposed to be. The challenge is that we as God’s people can’t see things the ways God does. We don’t see the hearts of God’s people to know who is truly His, and who isn’t. We easily forget the outcome of all of this persecution, rejection, and trials. Yes, lots of churches have denied the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and present a different savior to many blind people. This was predicted long ago. The reality of these difficulties simply shows that Jesus knew what He was talking about. Thus, it is a good thing that we as the church are in the hands of the One who is truly wise!
Jesus told John that “the lampstands” were the seven churches. Though this specifically referred to the seven churches in Asia that were addressed in Revelation Chapters 2-3, this also refers to the whole church of Jesus Christ – the complete church. According to Revelation 1:13, when John first saw the lampstands, he saw Jesus in the midst of it. This means that Jesus is in the middle of His true church. He is the glue that keeps it all together regardless of how things look. Jesus is the means by which the church is able to exist. He is the central focal point of the true church. When John saw the church, He saw Jesus as more pronounced in glory and greatness! The completeness of the church is on account of the centrality of Jesus Christ and the glory by which He reveals through it. So long as Jesus is the glorious Messiah (forever), the church will be exactly in the condition that the Father desires. Since this is true, what do we have to worry about?
Why did Jesus reveal these things? Why was the vision that John saw so dramatic? Jesus wanted to comfort His people. He wanted John to have confidence in the future hope of the fulfillment of the Father’s promises. Jesus wanted John to be assured in the faithful power of God to accomplish His Word regardless of what circumstances looked like. The truth of the matter was that the church was struggling. Soon after Jesus ascended into heaven, the church experienced MAJOR hardships. Of the seven churches that Jesus addressed directly in the Book of Revelation, five of them were told to repent because of severe sin. The other two churches were commanded to endure the horrific difficulties that they would experience. Jesus didn’t tell those churches that He would rescue them from hardships. Jesus assured them that He would sustain them unto eternal life despite difficulties in this life.
The truth of the matter is, life is hard for the Christian too. Our hope as believers is not for improvements in this life. Jesus never promised that. Rather, Jesus promised preservation from wrath through forgiveness of sins, restoration unto His glory, and eternal life to properly praise and worship Him. The essence of God’s promises are eternal. This means that all of the tough things God assured us of in this life can be expected. Nevertheless, Jesus is where He is supposed to be, doing what He’s supposed to be doing, so that the true people of God that make up His true church are NEVER separated from God’s control, purposes, or promises! Praise the Lord!
"[Is] this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?” - Isaiah 58:6
As people around the United States celebrate “Independence Day,” we thought it would be a good idea to allow the Bible the opportunity to remind us of what freedom is all about. When our nation’s founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, they did so with the resolve to break loose of the oppression of a foreign nation. The American founding fathers sought to separate from certain political vices and injustices. Their declaration was intended to identify the standards by which they were motivated to venture into this new manner of living. Their purpose was to live independent of unfair hardships in order to live with the liberty to govern themselves by a fairer standard. The goal was not to break free of all standards, but instead, to implement a more righteous and just version of government. While these ideals seem noble as the bedrock of American living, it is a weak form of freedom when compared to the standards of freedom defined in scripture. While the founding forefathers sought to rid of injustices like “taxation without representation,” the Lord God Almighty offers a quality of freedom that rids of all injustices by separating His people from sin, death, and hell.
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen…”
The Bible teaches that the Lord God Almighty reveals Himself and His impeccable attributes for the benefit of His people. It is also true that God is just and administrates harsh judgments and punishments, but that is NEVER God’s first response towards those who offend Him. God reveals Himself in the manner that He does so that His people can receive the benefits of His merciful nature. Without the mercy of God, we’d all be dead. All sin and fall short of the glory of God, meaning that every living soul is an offense to God. We all deserve death, but God’s mercies are renewed every morning so that God restrains Himself from giving us all what we deserve according to His supreme standards of righteousness. This is why the Lord said, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” In other words, God desires His people to live according to His likeness. When God spoke to the children of Israel through the prophet Isaiah, He was imploring His people to repent and live according to His demeanor. The children of Israel were living according to the standards of their own righteousness. They examined the Law that God gave and figured they could match the righteousness of God by making amendments to it, doing things in ways that seemed right to them. This only offended God more and led Israel into deeper depths of darkness and sin. Where they thought they were doing well because their lives appeared to be righteous by manmade standards, God was not pleased.
God pointed out the flaws in the hearts of the children of Israel. Though the people were doing things that seemed good and religious, God mentioned that He never asked them to do the things they were doing. The people were clearly making things up as they went. Since none are righteous, how can an unrighteous being produce righteousness apart from the One True Righteous God if everything reproduces of its own kind? The people paraded around their outward religious works as if they were sufficient to please God. One of those “works” was fasting. Yet God clearly stated that He never told the people to fast. Fasting was something the people did of themselves. Of the 613 commandments of the Law of Moses, not one of them resembles the command to fast. The people felt they were righteous, holy, and just before God simply because they were abstaining from certain fleshly appetites, specifically with food. They felt that because they were depriving their flesh of food for extended periods of time that God would be impressed. Clearly God was not impressed. God’s point was simple: Instead of abstaining from food, the people would have been wiser to abstain from sin.
“To loose the bonds of wickedness…”
God never commanded the children of Israel to abstain from eating food. God was clear about His commands and His commands were intended to deal with issues of the heart, not outward appearance. God told the people that “the fast” He desired was for the people to abstain from the “bonds of wickedness.” In other words, God wanted the people to stop sinning. God wanted the people to stop coming up with their own rules. God wanted the people to stop declaring and pursuing their own form of righteousness since any other form of righteousness falls short of God’s righteousness unto shame. The problem is, according to the scriptures, the children of Israel were in bondage to wickedness. The children of Israel were slaves to sin.
God’s desire is for His people to live separated from the bonds of wickedness. God wanted the people to live in a manner that was “loose” in relationship to wickedness. This word is used in the Psalms to identify the quality of freedom that God desires for His people.
“For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth; to hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death…” – Psalm 102:19-20
According to the psalm, the Lord looks down from heaven in order to set His people free from death. The Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The second half of this verse states in direct contrast, that the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. The language of Romans 6:23 explains that “the wages” of sin refers to the amount of effort we all exert to offend God. That effort is equal to the effort produced by a soldier training for battle! According to the Bible, we ALL work exceptionally hard to offend God in various ways, and the consequence for our sinful nature is death – eternal separation from God. The Bible teaches that we are enslaved to this mentality. Though we may desire to do right according to God’s standards, all people will always find a way to sin. The reason for this is because the Bible also teaches that sin is not based on the things we do or don’t do. Sin is the influence of our “self” that craves rebellion against God and His righteous standards. It is the natural desire we all have to do things our way instead of God’s. That’s why Jesus said sin begins in the heart.
Psalm 102:19-20 states that God desires to reveal Himself in order to free us from this bondage. The Lord sees our weakness. The Lord acknowledges our dysfunction and handicap. The Lord understands that without His intervention, we would all perish in our natural condition. Hence, God reveals Himself to separate His people from that which cause death. God wants to rescue those who are on their way to eternal condemnation. God wants to set people free from the influence of sin that naturally causes us to rebel against God so that we don’t have to listen to what our “self” tells us that opposes God. The Lord wants to loose us from the “bonds of wickedness” so that we can live by a different standard that results in a different conclusion.
“To undo the heavy burdens…”
The Lord desires to reveal His mercy to His people in order to set us free from “heavy burdens.” The original language helps identify the truth of what it is to live in the bondage of sin. Living in bondage to the sinful influence of “self” that seeks to do things our own way in opposition to God causes a lot of problems. Since the beginning of time, mankind has tried to do things our own way rather than God’s ways according to the simple declarations of His Word by faith. Is the world today in a better condition for it?
The original language explains that “heavy” burdens don’t refer to weight. The original Hebrew word actually refers to a yoke. This word is used twelve times in the Old Testament and is translated “yoke” eight of those times. The “weight” of sin refers to the lack of control that our true nature produces. We think we’re making good decisions on our own, but the truth of scripture reveals that we are actually being controlled by wicked influences to oppose God. The worst part is that the Bible explains that the heart is deceitful above all things so that we think the evil we’re committing against God is actually good. This is a MAJOR problem! No wonder the wages of sin is death!
The original Hebrew word for “burdens” actually refers to a “bunch” that is tied together. Once again, the word describes something that is fastened together by binds and cords. This word describes the same type of bondage in another way. So, “heavy burdens” actually refers to the helpless position all people are in concerning the influence of sin. No matter how hard anyone tries to break free, no person is able to escape the “yoke” or “heaviness” of sin. No person is able to break free of the “cords” or “burdens” that keep us tied to the influence of evil that opposes God. This means that, no matter how hard we try, we will continue to offend God. In fact, it is the very attempt to please God by our own corrupted means that further offends God! It is a good thing that God desires to break His people from this bondage. Without Him, we’d all be condemned to hell.
“To let the oppressed go free…”
The quality of God’s freedom is supremely stated in this portion of scripture. The previous portions of the verse show the extent of condemnation that all people are born into. God extends mercy in order to let the “oppressed” go free. How valuable is this freedom that only God can provide? Consider the original language again. The Hebrew word for “oppressed” is a word that actually deals with bruised or crushed into pieces! In other words, without the miraculous mercy of the Almighty God, we’d all be crushed into pieces for the fair consequence of our offense towards God. Our hearts desire to deny God’s wisdom, righteousness, and goodness. We continually try to make things in this life seem better than God’s promises. We live by what we see and how we feel, not by faith in what God says are true. This is true of both believers AND non-believers. If God were to stop being merciful and be “fair” instead, we’d all be crushed into pieces and eternally separated from Him; and God would be right to do so. However, this is not God’s desire. He doesn’t take joy in the death of His people. Clearly, God desires to remove people from the condemnation of this “crushing.”
The freedom that God desires to give is liberty from this conclusion to natural human life. God seeks to reveal Himself to impart His supernatural essence into us so that we can be separated from the debt that we can’t pay. If our offenses towards God were dollarized using Biblical currency, the equation would be ugly! For example, a “royal talent” of gold, which is the monetary figure the Lord refers to throughout the scriptures, is equal to $5,760,000 in modern currency. According to Proverbs 24:16, even a “righteous” person will fall seven times a day. If one “fall” or offense were equal to the debt of only a single talent, then consider this math to grasp the magnitude of sin in all of our lives:
1 talent x 7 falls = $40,320,000
7 falls x 7 days per week = $282,240,000
7 falls x 52 weeks per year = $2,096,640,000
Falls per year x 17 years = $35,642,880,000
This math shows that the average person, in a best-case scenario, would be in debt to God for $35 billion dollars before they even became an adult at 18 years old! Who can pay this? Who can work this debt off? The freedom that God desires to offer is forgiveness of this sort of debt.
“That you break every yoke…”
According to the way that God ends this verse, God desires for His people to live according to His own motives. Our motives should be His motives. As God desires to rip us away from the sin that easily ensnares us unto death, God wants those who have been set free to be used as instruments that help set others free. God has set us free from a RIDICULOUS set of circumstances that affect this life AND the next! The Bible clearly shows that He did this of Himself. No one asked Him to do this. Based on our sinful nature, we can’t contribute to the work He did to set us free so as to help Him. Our freedom from sin, death, and hell is 100% based on favor that we received that was not deserved. That’s grace! Not that we could ever repay God back for such amazing favor, but God has separated us from bondage for a purpose. God did not set us free only to live as if we are still enslaved. God set us free so that we can live separated from the influence of our “self” that desires to live our own way as if its good and equal to God’s. Instead, God set us free so that we can engage in His business as His servants. We are to extend mercy and grace as He did to us. We are to break “every yoke” of bondage on God’s behalf; not exercising our own ability (since we don’t have any), but depending on Him through the spiritual means He provides according to the Word.
This word “yoke” is the same Hebrew word previously translated “heavy.” This means that, just because we have been set free from sin doesn’t mean we have the liberty to live any way we want. Independence from sin doesn’t mean that we are fully independent. Independence from sin means that we are now dependent on the One True Living God who saved us to live according to His purposes. Our salvation is evidence of God’s purposes being spiritually focused and eternal in nature. This means that our independence from sin should reflect spiritual and eternal thinking like God. We don’t have to be enslaved to the corruption and morbid circumstances of this life. Our hope is greater in Him! So, our purpose as we’ve been set free is to live as an example of the One who freed us – Jesus Christ. He died to Himself for the spiritual benefits of others, that His people would be pulled out of the yoke of sin, death, and hell, and instead yoked to Him. Thankfully, His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. This doesn’t mean that Christian living is simple, but if we were to remain in the sin we were originally enslaved to, consider the alternative…
Clearly God’s freedom is FAR greater than any other freedom that could be experienced in this life. Thankfully, our freedom in Christ doesn’t have to be limited to one day of the year in which we rejoice over this truth.
"For it pleased [the Father that] in Him all the fullness should dwell…"
- Colossians 1:19
Let’s face it. There are a lot of ideas out there about what “pleases God.” Some people think that if we’re successful, we will please God. Some people think that if we deprive ourselves of certain affections, we will please God that way. Some people think that simply going to church is pleasing to God. Some people think that abstaining from cursing is pleasing to God. How can we be sure any of these things are true unless God provides His own perspective about these ideas? Thankfully, the Bible is candid and clear to express the truth of how to please God. In Colossians 1:19 the scriptures make it very clear about what “pleases the Father.” In simple terms – Jesus, and only Jesus – pleases the Father. So how can we please the Father if we’re not Jesus? The Bible provides the answer to that question so that we don’t have to go through life speculating and hoping without certainty…
“For it pleased [the Father that]…”
The scriptures are quite obvious here. The contents of this verse will deal with the things that take place that actually please “the Father.” This means that no one has an excuse when facing the Lord in judgment. God has revealed the truth about that which pleases Him, and notice that it has NOTHING to do with us as His people. As previously stated, Jesus, and Jesus alone pleases the Father. Here is how this truth applies to God’s people.
To understand the full truth of this verse, we really have to examine the original text so that we can understand what the main subject of the verse is. Depending on the Bible translation you’re using, you may notice as it is printed above, that the phrase “the Father that” is in brackets. What does that mean? Why is this portion of scripture in brackets? Other Bible translations may not bracket the phrase, but instead put that phrase in italics. Why is there a difference in the formatting of the text?
When you see a word or group of words in the Bible that are in brackets like this (or in italics depending on how your Bible translation visually deals with this issue), it usually means that those words were not in the original manuscripts of the Bible. This doesn’t mean that the printers and translators of the Bible are messing with the integrity of the original manuscripts. This does not mean that “man is manipulating the Bible” to come up with personal conclusions so that the Bible can’t be trusted. The reason we find those words added to our Bibles is so that it will help us have understanding of what’s being said with corrected grammar that fits our language.
This is a technique still used today for varieties of print media. For example, when you read interviews or see quotes in newspapers, magazines, or blogs, you can find the same grammatical technique. This is especially true in interviews. Often times, the quote in the print media will only contain a portion of the quote so that sometimes the context is not clearly stated in the part of the quote that’s actually printed. Therefore, editors will often insert words in brackets that the speaker didn’t state specifically but help with the overall understanding of the point being made. The editor is not manipulating the quote, but instead trying to help the reader understand how the quote should be interpreted into their overall point. Sometimes brackets will be added to text just to complete a sentence if a person speaking is speaking in incomplete sentences or broken English.
When it comes to the Bible, there are various reasons some words are missing in the Bible, requiring editor’s brackets and other forms of formatting. There could have been damage to the original manuscripts where the inserted words are obvious but can’t be visually seen on the original document. Sometimes there are copy errors in the text, but other copies show a more completed thought in which that thought is communicated through brackets.
In the case of Colossians 1:19 the insertion of bracket text can actually confuse the main subject of the verse. When the words “the Father that” are added, the subject of the verse becomes “the Father,” which is not the ultimate point of Paul. Paul’s central point deals with “the fullness,” not the Father. Reading Colossians 1:19, our focus should be on the understanding of “the fullness,” not necessarily “the Father.”
This is NOT to say that our focus should not be on the Father. Our focus should ALWAYS be on the Lord. The point is Paul wanted the Colossians and all other readers to focus on “the fullness” of the Father. Remember, Paul wrote that a particular subject pleases God. Having already described the identity of His presence in Jesus as the Son of God earlier in the chapter, Paul is now expressing how the Father is pleased by the means in which He made Himself fully known. This essentially means “the fullness” IS “the Father!” However, if we don’t examine Paul’s point concerning “the fullness,” we’ll never understand how the Father is pleased through the conduit of Jesus Christ as God in flesh.
“In Him all the fullness should dwell…”
Since the focus is on “the fullness,” it is important to understand what “the fullness” is. The word “fullness” in the Greek language refers to a ship that is fully manned. This means that the ship is fully equipped with all of the necessary personnel to make the ship do what it needs to do to fulfill its purpose. In context with what Paul was teaching – Jesus is this fullness! What pleases the Father? It’s the truth that everything that anyone could ever need is found in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
Jesus is equal to all of the personnel we’ll ever need to get our ship going to fulfill our purpose and arrive at our destination. We could be in the middle of the ocean, stranded and starving, and Jesus would be all that we ever need. We could be in the middle of the desert dying of thirst, and Jesus would be all that we ever need. We could be unemployed wondering how the bills will get paid, and Jesus would be all that we ever need. We could be facing sickness wondering how we’re going to get to the next day, and Jesus would be all that we ever need. We could be in the middle of a family crisis with our entire world crumbling around us, and Jesus is STILL all that we will ever need! This truth is what pleases the Father.
So, what does this mean for us as God’s people? Jesus is the Son of God and we’re not-we can’t be Jesus. We can’t possess “all of the fullness” of God while in these bodies of death. How then do we please the Father? The answer to that question comes in the verses that follow:
“And by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight-- if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. – Colossians 1:20-23
The Apostle Paul tried to make this point as simple as possible. The fundamental truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ teach that God took the form of flesh to die for the sins of the world in order that those who believe upon Jesus as God in flesh, the fulfillment of the Father’s eternally unconditional promises, would be set free from the bondage of sin’s influence that leads to death, in order to be conformed to the likeness of His death AND resurrection in glory, unto eternal life.
This is the doctrine that Paul taught to the Colossian church. Over time, outside influences began to pervert this basic teaching. The people in the Colossian church were getting confused. They were buying into new-age ideas that challenged the deity of Jesus, the sufficiency of His death and resurrection, and the truth of scripture. Paul said what he said in order to remind the people of this church that God is pleased only one way – through Jesus. Therefore, in order to please God, we must “continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast” without deviating in any way from the true hope of the Gospel according to the Word of God.
The point is simple: What do we think of Jesus? Do we live as if He is our sufficiency or are we still trying to match the righteousness of God by doing things according to our own understanding? Are we living by the faith of the Bible or are we living by self-righteous standards? Are we trusting in the truth of God’s Word or allowing outside influences to pervert our thinking concerning the Gospel? According to the Bible, Jesus is the Lord Our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6). Our righteousness is but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). If Jesus is righteous, and we’re nothing but dirty rags to God, how could we possibly do anything that matches Jesus unless it is by faith in Jesus at which point the Holy Spirit works through us on behalf of Jesus?
This is why Paul exhorted the church to get back to basics. To please God, we need to stand firm on the basic truth of the Gospel and develop in understanding of who Jesus actually is according to the declarations of His testimony in scripture - from Genesis to Revelation. If we really believe, the Bible teaches that the death of Jesus will have an effect on us to separate us from the influence of sin that previously dominated our lives, thereby enabling us to live in the likeness of Jesus’ righteousness by the power of His resurrection. How is this possible? It’s the Gospel! The Gospel is the power of God! We either believe this, or we don’t. If we don’t, it will show. If we do, then we are pleasing to the Father!
So then, is Jesus our “fullness” so that we are willing to live as nothing in this life, according to His likeness, trusting in the glory of the resurrection with an eternal perspective? It pleases the Father that He put EVERYTHING on Jesus and Jesus performed to perfection (and continues to do so). If we trust this as true, when we build our lives on the fundamental truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Father is pleased through the evidence we provide in our lives that His Word is true. Remember, without faith, it is impossible to please God. This is the subject God wants us to put our trust in – the fullness of Jesus Christ.
The Bible is FILLED with God’s promises that reveal God’s identity as Redeemer, Deliverer, Savior, Prince of Peace, and so forth. The scriptures are FILLED with testimonies of the work that God has done throughout the history of Israel to prove that He is faithful and able to do that which He promises. At the same time though, it is important to understand that the promises God has made and the work that He has done is focused on a perspective much bigger than this life. God is eternal in nature so His promises are going to be eternally natured as well. God’s promises transcend this life, which means that when we examine His promises we need to remember that, while His promises sound good now, they speak of spiritually-centered issues that stem into eternity. That might not allow for the benefits of those promises to be enjoyed in this life, but that is not to say that the benefits of God’s promises are false.
“For behold, the darkness…”
The world today is clamoring for peace – and rightly so. While this seems like a noble desire, it is important to recognize that the Bible is VERY specific about the means by which God will administrate His peace. Since the Lord God Almighty is also the Prince of Peace as the Messiah, true peace will only come from Him according to His declarations. According to God’s declaration, peace will not come until after “the darkness” covers the earth. This means that things will get significantly worse before they get better. Progress will not gradually build into bliss. Blessing will come out of corruption in the same way that a “root will come out of dry ground (Isaiah 53:2).”
In order to understand what this means, it is important to recognize the quality of darkness that will consume the world. God promises that He will overpower and overcome this darkness, but we can’t appreciate the magnitude of God’s mercy and saving grace unless we also understand the magnitude of God’s glory that makes global darkness disappear as if with a light switch. The English language references “the darkness” with the definite article “the” in front of it. This means that the quality of darkness being referred to is the darkest of its kind. This is the worst form of evil and corruption. The Lord stated that this quality of unrighteousness will consume the earth before He manifests His essence as light. Thankfully, there are historical references in the Bible to show that God is qualified to make this kind of promise. God has done this work before!
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw the light, that [it was] good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.” – Genesis 1:1-5
Here, the creation account shows that God has quickly and powerfully overcome excessive darkness before. He did so simply by the power of His Word. Notice that the Bible does not say that God “created” light in order to manifest light. The scriptures state that God said, “Let there be light.” This phrase is the Hebrew word “hayah,” which is later translated “I AM” when God explained His essence to Moses in Exodus 3:14. God didn’t create light. He revealed His essence as light and did so by the power of His Word. His Word was equal in power and authority to His own essence, and that declaration was sufficient to eliminate all darkness in a moment. Darkness was divided from the light so that there was no darkness in the Light that God manifested (1 John 1:5). Before God spoke, darkness consumed the universe. The characteristics of the physical world were dominated by attributes contrary to God’s nature: dark, void, without form or purpose. When God spoke, He immediately eliminated darkness and the characteristics of it. Suddenly there was light. Suddenly there was form and purpose. God declared a day after a 24-hour period and created time. Though God allowed darkness to exist and have dominion for a portion of the day, the day ended in light.
The Hebrew word used to describe “the darkness” in Isaiah 60:2 is the same word used to describe the condition of the universe in Genesis 1:2. Destroying darkness and the effects of it is not a new work for the Lord God Almighty. The proverbs use this same Hebrew word to describe characteristics contrary to God as light and to contrast His wisdom. Based on the extent of work God did on the first day, the extent of opposition does not phase or challenge God to any degree. Though the world will be consumed with evil that challenges the wisdom, righteousness, and holiness of God, He has proven His ability to eliminate that which opposes Him through a simple declaration. The world being consumed by darkness might be a scary thought but consider the extent of darkness that filled the universe and how God quickly removed that darkness!
Since the prophet Isaiah wrote of “the darkness,” it is important to recognize the source of the darkness and the method by which it will be manifested. The prophet Joel used this same Hebrew word and phrase to refer to the “day of the Lord.” The mention of “the darkness” is actually a reference to evil and corruption that God allows and enables. This is NOT to say that God causes evil. God is light and there is no darkness in Him. The point is that God is supremely sovereign so that darkness is under the control of God’s authority as well. The point is, the world will be dark because God will allow the effects of human self-righteousness and pride to fill the earth. The Lord will let the world’s rejection of Him and acceptance of Satanic thinking and influence fill the world. God will prove how good He is by allowing the consequences of sin and rebellion against Him to run their natural course.
The “Day of the Lord” is the time in which God will administer judgment against the world for rebelling against Him and rejecting His mercy and grace. The Day of the Lord is also referred to “the great and terrible day (Joel 2:11),” “the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7)” and also “the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21).” This is the 7-year period that comes directly before the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ. It is a time where God will turn the world’s systems and philosophies and idolatry against itself. God will show how ugly, futile, and wicked the depravity of humanity actually is. God will expose the sins and shame of the natural human being and the darkness of the heart that lives apart from Him. According to the scriptures people will continue to curse God during His judgments rather than repent. People will accept Satanic leadership rather than God’s righteousness. The consequences of this will be disastrous – as Jesus said, “such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, nor shall there ever be.”
According to the Bible, the world will be consumed with darkness as a result of the manifestation of God’s righteousness. God will reveal His essence as holy and righteous judge, but the world will reject Him, thereby causing a chain reaction of murderous hate and rebellion and chaos to fill the world. This is rebellion and darkness that matches that of the devil himself, who swore that he would be able to sit in the throne of the Most High. In the same manner that the devil rebelled against the Lord, the world will rebel against God, His righteousness, His sovereign authority, and His judgments unto their demise. It will be violent. It will be turbulent. It will be painful. It will be miserable. It will be “the darkest” time in human history, and this distress will fill the entire planet.
“Shall cover the earth…”
The scriptures explain that the effects of depravity will infect the entire world. People in every corner of the earth will express hatred for God. This is not to say that all of the world will be condemned. The scriptures explain that there will be a great revival during the time of Jacob’s trouble involving those who have never heard the true Gospel of Jesus Christ before. Nevertheless, the predominant attitude in the world will be rebellious towards God and His righteousness. The vast majority of the world’s population will hate God and express that hate by opposing God’s people who are saved during that time. There will be persecution against God’s people such as the world has never seen! Darkness will indeed consume the earth and have a corrupting effect all over.
The extent of reach that “the darkness” will have will be global indeed. The word “covered” is the same word used to describe the extent of the flood in Genesis Chapter 7. The testimony of the flood during the days of Noah explains that the entire planet was “covered” in water so that all mountain tops were submerged under water approximately twenty feet! To the extent that water covered the earth then (sufficient to kill all people with the exception of the eight that were on the ark God provided for salvation), is the same extent that darkness and evil will cover the world during the Day of the Lord. This same word is used in Numbers 4:5 to instruct the children of Israel to use the veil that separated the Holy of holies from the rest of the tabernacle, as a “cover” to drape over the Ark of the Covenant when it was being transported from place to place. Since no one was supposed to see the Ark, God called for the veil to “cover” it completely. This is the extent of “covering” that the prophet Isaiah described. This is a quality of darkness that no one on this earth will be able to escape. According to the Bible, God is enabling darkness in this manner with a transcendent purpose.
“And deep darkness the people…”
The prophet Isaiah described “the darkness” in two ways but used two very different terms to do so. The “darkness” that is first mentioned is not the same as the “deep darkness” that he mentioned second. This is important to understand because this second darkness explains why God allows and enables the first darkness to consume the world. The King James Version of the Bible refers to this “deep darkness” as “gross darkness.” The New Living Translation refers to this darkness as “darkness as black as night.” The New International Version refers to this darkness as “thick darkness.” The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates this darkness as “total darkness.” None of these words really explain the concept. To know the true nature of this darkness, it is important to consider the other places in scripture this phrase is used.
The word translated “deep darkness” in the New King James Version is the original Hebrew word “araphel.” This word is used fifteen times in the Old Testament. It is used a combined total of five times in Exodus, Deuteronomy, 1 Kings, and 2 Chronicles to describe the presence of God as a “dark cloud” that consumed Mount Sinai and later, the temple that Solomon built. This Hebrew word is used in Job 38:9 to describe the work of God to form the planet Earth in space. There, God spoke to Job and explained that He formed “clouds” in the midst of “swaddling darkness,” referring to the emptiness of the universe that surrounds our planet. This is a reference to the work God did on Day 2 of creation to gather the waters and add form to the planet in the midst of the darkness of the universe. This Hebrew word is used in Psalm 18:9 to explain that darkness is under the feet of God, showing that He has authority and charge over it as the Most High God.
The remaining usages of this word are found in Psalm 97:2, Jeremiah 13:6, Ezekiel 34:12, Joel 2:2, and Zephaniah 1:15. In these passages, the Hebrew phrase is used in the same contexts. Psalm 97 refers to darkness as the terrible nature of God’s holiness when He judges the wickedness of those who rebel against Him. Jeremiah also uses the phrase “gross darkness” to refer to the spiritual blindness and spiritual ignorance that God causes in His judgments. Ezekiel uses this word to describe those who rebel against God as “sheep scattered in the cloudy and dark day.” Both Joel and Zephaniah use this Hebrew word to directly describe the Day of the Lord.
These contexts show that the “deep darkness” speaks of the results of God’s presence when He reveals His righteousness in the context of sin. God Himself is righteous, but when His righteousness is revealed in judgment, darkness is put to shame. Those who are identified as enemies of God will experience terrible consequences. Thus, it is not God that is dark, but the experience of God’s enemies is described as “gross” because of the effects of God’s holiness against “the darkness.” Those who live like the devil will die like the devil and it will appear as “dark” when so many individuals are forced to pay the wages of their sin. God will be glorified as light, but it will be horrific from a human standpoint.
“But the Lord will arise…”
This is why the world will grow in darkness first. It is clear to see that, while the circumstances appear to be terrible from a human perspective, that is only true for those who rebel against God. For those who love the Lord and deny self in repentance to follow after Jesus by faith, will receive the mercy and grace of God to be preserved from such terror that the Lord’s glory causes. God will incite violence, but only against those who oppose Him. The Lord will cause it to get darker in the world because it is necessary to purge the world of the impurities that keep His true people from receiving the benefits of His glory. Like the day is always darkest before the dawn of the sun, so too will the earth be darkest before the rise of the Son!
The language presents a beautiful parallel to provide a picture of God’s glory and beauty of it to those who are saved. The original Hebrew word used to describe how the Lord will “arise” is the same word used throughout scripture to explain how the sun rises in the morning. This is the exact image that many have in their heads about the work that God did on Day 1 of creation to overcome darkness. However, the sun was not created until the fourth day of creation. Hence, while the sun is now the physical object the Lord uses to illustrate His power over darkness to “arise” after darkness has had its time, God did this work in the beginning without the sun. In the end, it is the SON that will arise to restore righteousness, justice, and glory according to His own nature. The rising of the Lord refers to the fulfillment of the Messianic promises of Israel – the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ.
"For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up," Says the LORD of hosts, "That will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.” – Malachi 4:1-2
Here, the prophets Malachi and Isaiah used the same Hebrew words to describe the same prophetic event. Malachi used the same Hebrew word as Isaiah to describe how the “Son of Righteousness” will “arise” to fulfill the Father’s eternally unconditional promises to Israel. The “Son of Righteousness” is also Jehovah Tsidkenu – the Lord Our Righteousness – the Messiah King of Israel, Jesus the Christ! According to the Bible, God promises peace, but like Jesus said, it is not peace that the world gives. God’s peace is transcendent. God’s peace requires Jesus to destroy the root of opposition – the devil and the depravity of sin’s influence over the world. The Father will fulfill ALL of His promises to Israel and His people and will do so through the exclusive conduit of Jesus as the Messiah. Still, that work will not take place until after judgment, which shows that God’s blessings are eternal in nature and come out of His judgment. Without His judgment, there can be no blessing. The promise of God shows that His blessing is such that His glory will be able to shine above AND through all of His people who have been spared from His wrath. His glory will manifest through His people. His beauty will be seen in His people. His peace will dominate His people unto rejoicing such as the world has never seen! It is true that “the darkness” will be great, but the joy that comes in the morning when the “Son of Righteousness” arises to rule and reign on this earth will be much greater. Every day we see our sun rise to take darkness away, God has provided a reminder of this promise as true!
The life of a genuine Christian is hard. Jesus promised that it would be. When Jesus explained the means by which to receive forgiveness of sins unto eternal life, He commanded people to deny self, pick up the cross of self-sacrifice, and follow in His manner of living according to the eternal purposes and promises of the Father. This must be done by faith, trusting that such manner of living is supremely good despite the difficulty. This manner of living requires trust that personal affections, ambitions, and attractions do not compare to the spiritually eternal gifts of the Lord God Almighty. This manner of living requires faith that, when we live for self, bad things take place. This realization should cause us to live for the genuinely-good purposes of God. If we can’t trust that God’s ways are better than ours, then we’ll never be willing to give up our lives in the manner that Jesus required. Thankfully, the Lord has not just given us a good command, but also the ability to follow it!
“Or do you not know…”
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, he spoke to them in a manner that reflected these people had already been taught certain truths of their salvation. One of those fundamental truths dealt with the issue of sanctification. The scriptures teach that sanctification is the work that God does to separate His people from sin, death, and the condemnation of hell. This work takes place immediately at the point of justification – the moment in which a person comes to Jesus as Savior through faith. When a person is “saved” they are “born again.” Jesus explained that being “born again” refers to spiritual regeneration. Jesus thoroughly explained this point in John Chapter 3 when He spoke to Nicodemus. Yet there, Jesus also addressed Nicodemus with the same sort of frustration Paul addressed the Corinthians with because Nicodemus also seemed to be ignorant of basic fundamental truths that had been taught for a long time. Jesus explained that in order to enter into the kingdom of God, a person must be born of the Spirit, referring to the Holy Spirit. This refers to the fulfillment of the Father’s New Covenant promises made through the prophets, especially in Jeremiah 31:31. Essentially, God’s “new covenant” promises consisted of His work to dwell in the hearts of His people by the Holy Spirit in order to revive the dead human soul and manufacture true works of righteousness by His own doing. The Holy Spirit is able to dwell in the hearts of sinners on account of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. Thus, when Jesus died for the sins of the world, the souls of God’s people were cleansed to the extent that the Holy Spirit could dwell within His children in order to enable them as instruments of His righteousness. God separates His people from the ways of the world, the flesh, and the controlling influence of sin in order that they would live for purposes that He administrates by His Spirit according to His eternal purposes and promises.
This is a Biblical truth that is communicated and explained throughout the Old AND New Testament. It is basic according to God’s purposes and works. It is the core of His objective and the essence of His purposes. These were the basic things that Paul previously explained to the Corinthian church when they first got saved, but the manner of living that the Corinthians had adopted shows that they had long departed from living according to the truths Paul originally taught. The Corinthian church struggled intensely with carnality. They were living in sexual immorality, and those who weren’t, were accepting of the sins of others. The church was wrong and Paul was quick to point that out. However, Paul didn’t just explain their error. Paul also reminded the Corinthians of the truth – a fundamental truth – that explained the true nature of God’s people. Paul hoped that, upon remembering their true nature in Christ, they would resolve to repent and live according to the nature that God ordained for them.
“Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit…”
This is a profound point that Paul brings up. The human body is nothing but a vessel for one of two things, used for one of two purposes. The human body is a vessel for the human soul, whether it be dead or alive. When spiritually dead, the human body is an instrument of unrighteousness. When spiritually alive by the Spirit, the human body is an instrument of God’s righteousness.
When a person is conceived, the soul is born, at which point, God recognizes a sinner (Psalm 51:5). Thus, the soul comes well before the body so that the body is simply an instrument that the soul uses to manifest internal desires and affections. When the human soul is “dead,” it is separated from God and cannot live according to God’s standards of righteousness, completely disabled from doing any good thing. The naturally dead soul has the controlling desire to deny God, His righteousness, and His eternal purposes.
When a person comes to faith in Christ, the Father and the Son dwell in the hearts of God’s people by His Spirit. Since God is the Author of life, His presence revives the dead soul of the believer. At this moment, the human body is no longer a tool to commit evil because God doesn’t commit evil. The human body becomes God’s instrument to do His good works, which is why He desires to dwell in the souls of His people in the manner that He does. In this way, the body is the “temple” of the Living God! Paul reminded the Corinthian church that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit enables God’s people to be used as instruments of God’s own righteousness according to His eternal purposes in order to exhort them to repentance from their sinful and carnal living.
Paul reminded the people of this point because remembrance of this point should compel God’s people to be holy because He is holy. If the human body of the believer is indeed a dwelling place for the presence of the One True Living God that created the heavens and the earth, the minds and hearts of God’s people should be stirred up with fear and trembling. For example, when King Solomon dedicated the first temple of Israel to the Lord, the scriptures testify that the presence of God filled the temple by a thick cloud. The cloud was so thick and so glorious that the priests fled the temple in fear! The presence of God cleared the temple out because the people could not do their work. They couldn’t see. They couldn’t think. They were terrified by the supernatural events that took place according to God’s glory. They knew they were unworthy to be in God’s presence, and out of fear of His majesty, the temple workers fled. According to the scriptures, this SAME presence dwells in the hearts of God’s people! Do we consider the power, glory, holiness, righteousness, and justice that dwells within us? Do we consider what the Bible says about who God is and ponder the reality that His presence has taken up residence within us for a particular purpose? Do we understand how unworthy we are to host God’s presence in any capacity, yet God has made it possible?
“Whom you have from God…”
According to the Bible, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a gift from God. In fact, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the gift OF God! The Holy Spirit is the third part of the triune God – Yahweh Elohim. The Holy Spirit is the Author of all scripture. The Holy Spirit is the breath of God. The Holy Spirit is the One who convicts the world. The Holy Spirit is the Helper of God. The Holy Spirit is the Comfort of God. The Holy Spirit is the means by which God gives eternal life. The Holy Spirit is the means by which God connects with His people. The Holy Spirit is the chief Herald of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the means by which God’s people understand the Father, His purposes, and His promises.
The Holy Spirit is a gift from God, and when you consider the identity and purpose of the Holy Spirit, this is one of the greatest gifts known to mankind. This gift is so valuable, that God had to take the form of flesh, shed His blood, die for the sins of the world, resurrect from the dead, and then ascend back into heaven in order for His people to receive this gift. That’s a lot of work! This gift should be most precious and most prized in the lives of God’s people. This gift should be well taken care of. Since the Holy Spirit dwells within our hearts in order to clean up the mess that sin’s influence makes, we should let Him do His work in order that His dwelling place would be suitable according to His holy nature. After all, He is God!
Why did Paul remind the people of this truth? When Christians sin, it is usually because we are focused on the wrong things in life. We begin to look at self rather than the identity of our Savior. We begin to think that our affections are equal to God’s purposes. We forget that our flesh is contrary to God’s identity. We forget that God saved us for a reason, and it wasn’t to indulge in worldly comforts. We forget that our natural habits and ways of thinking are contrary to God’s holiness and righteousness. We forget that we can’t do “good” unless God is doing it Himself through us. Simply put, we forget that the Holy Spirit is the presence of God, dwelling within us for ETERNAL purposes documented in the Word, and we ignore the convictions of the Holy Spirit that try to correct us. Thus, we live for self rather than God and the holiness of God’s presence is underrated in our thinking.
The Corinthians were living in sin because they forgot that the Spirit was dwelling within because they forgot the identity of Jesus and His eternal purposes and promises. Paul reminded the church of these things to refocus their attention on the truth. God is in our midst at all times and with great purpose. We should respond accordingly based on the extent of grace He provided to offer Himself in this manner as a gift.
“You are not your own…”
All people will live in one of two ways: as a slave to sin or a slave to God. According to the wisdom of God in the scriptures, there is no other option. Since Christians have been freed from the bondage of sin as evidenced by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then we cannot be the property of sin. We are no longer forced to obey the influence of sin that is contrary to God. Since the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we are no longer of the flesh. We are God’s possession.
Most Christians recognize Jesus as “Redeemer,” but sometimes forget that the subject of redemption describes a financial transaction. Jesus purchased His people from sin so that we don’t have to pay the wages of sin (death). Since Jesus bought dead souls in order to revive them according to His eternal purposes, we are His property. We are slaves to His purposes. We are slaves to His Word. We are slaves to His righteousness. We are slaves to His glory.
Since we are not our own, we are servants of the Lord God Almighty. As servants, we are no longer called to live according to selfish pursuits. We are called to live according to God’s purposes. Since God is eternal, our purposes are eternal. Since God’s purposes are good and right, our purposes should be good and right by His standards. Since God is love, our conduct should reflect His love. Since God is merciful, our conduct should reflect His mercy. Since God gives on the basis of grace to the degree that saved us from His wrath, then we should be committed to living for the same purposes to share this gift with others.
If we are not our own, then we are God’s. Since God illustrated His purposes and His faithfulness to His promises through Jesus, then God’s servants are to look at the testimony of Jesus and submit to the convictions of the Holy Spirit to live in His likeness. According to the Bible, we don’t have a choice. A servant doesn’t give alternative solutions or propositions. A slave doesn’t argue with the Master. A steward simply follows instructions for the glory of the Owner. A soldier simply executes commands trusting in the wisdom of the General. Jesus didn’t die so we can continue to live for self, which is the very manner of living that was sending us to hell. Jesus didn’t give the Holy Spirit so that we could ignore His convictions to continue in sin as if His sacrifice was weak and ineffective. Jesus fulfilled the promises of the Father as the Messiah to give us the Holy Spirit so that the power and glory of His presence could be seen through our willingness to live as new creations for God’s eternal purposes unto His glory.
The title of this message might be startling to some degree. The world as we know it – the church included – emphatically promotes the idea that we should believe in ourselves. We should believe that we can accomplish anything. We should believe that our effort is sufficient to produce good. We should believe that our desires can become reality if we put enough work into it. The Bible is clear that we are to deny self, and trust in Jesus as God in the flesh, the fulfillment of the Father’s eternally unconditional promises. Any faith different from that quality of faith is considered pride in the Bible. According to Proverbs 28:25, that attitude will only produce strife while those who deny self and trust in the Lord will prosper.
“He who is of a proud heart…”
Before we can look at the effect of pride, it is important to understand the Biblical context of pride. The original Hebrew word used to describe pride in Proverbs 28:25 is the word “rachab.” It is translated into several English words in the Old Testament. It is most often translated into the English word “large” to describe the size of something (8 times). It is also translated into the English word “broad” in the same way (5 times). The Hebrew word is only translated into the English word “proud” three times, and the first time it’s used to describe pride isn’t until the Psalms.
“Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, Him I will destroy; the one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, Him I will not endure.”
- Psalm 101:5
According to Psalm 101:5, the Bible teaches that God will not “endure” the proud, which is parallel to the idea that God resists the proud (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5). Both the apostle James and Peter quoted Proverbs 3:34 to teach that God resists the proud; but the word used to describe “the proud” in Proverbs 3:34 is the English word “scornful”. Still, because God will not endure the “proud” or the “scornful” we know that there are common characteristics of each that God hates and rejects. Knowing the meaning of “the scornful” will help understand what it is to be “proud” in the sense of being “large.” If Proverbs 28:25 explains that “the proud” are enlarged in some way so that they experience strife, what is enlarged and what does that look like in real life? Understanding the traits of the scornful will help answer that question.
Proverbs 3:34 defines the scornful as those who talk arrogantly and mock. The English dictionary defines scornful as “contemptuous,” or as the manifestation of deep hatred or disapproval. This means that God resists those who have deep hatred and disapproval in their hearts and express that hatred in arrogance and mockery. The commentaries that the apostles James and Peter provide on Proverbs 3:34 show that the inner “hatred” or “disapproval” refers to rebellion against the will of God. Thus, “the proud” are those who hate the righteous purposes of God and disapprove of His holy standards, often times mocking God. To put this definition in context with Proverbs 28:25, “the proud” are those who have enlarged egos and broad senses of self-righteousness to feel as if their self-defined standards of righteousness are equal-to or greater-than God’s. This is why God resists these people and will not endure them. The proud are those who rebel against God, inwardly and/or outwardly despising His eternal will and purposes.
“Stirs up strife…”
Those who oppose God and His righteousness are those who feel that their standards of righteousness and goodness are superior to God’s. The proud are those who follow the thinking of the devil – that it is possible to match and/or exceed God’s goodness and prosperity without Him. This attitude is actually the root of all sin. It is the essence of depravity. It is the natural tendency of all people, which is why the Bible says that none are righteous, all fall short of the glory of God, and all righteousness from the natural person is but a filthy rag to the Lord. This means that, those who live according to natural affections, desires, and natural human thinking are those who in pride, and by extension, will stir up strife.
The bad news is that this is true of everyone. The good news is that if we understand what strife is, when we see it, we know that pride is the cause and can quickly repent! The Bible defines strife as contention and quarreling, even to the point of brawling. The English dictionary defines strife as bitterness. This shows that “strife” is not necessarily a physical consequence, but an attitude. The Bible shows that pride is not always outwardly observable, and since it is impossible to know the true motives of our heart without the Lord, we have to look for characteristics that pride produces to know when to repent. According to the Bible, pride produces bitterness; so where there is bitterness, there is pride. Since pride is an attitude that opposes God, then the bitterness will reflect contention with God’s purposes, promises, and people.
Pride stirs up bitterness in a way that a person is fired up to wage war, which suggests that the bitterness that comes from pride will be projected against others. Our contention with God will be inflicted against those around us to cause opposition of various kinds regarding a number of issues. Nevertheless, the Bible identifies and diagnoses the issue to be rebellion against God, His eternal identity, His holy purposes, His righteous works, His glorious promises, and His superior commands. In other words, people don’t like the idea that God is in charge and His ways are superior to our natural affections. When God starts to get in our way and things don’t go the way we want, our deep inward hate towards God will manifest itself in our attitudes towards others, causing friction, divisions, and conflicts of various degrees. This is not the will of God, which is why God resists these people.
“But he who trusts in the Lord…”
It is important to recognize the stark contrast presented here. The use of the word “but”, shows that the person who trusts in the Lord is in direct opposition of those who are proud. The proud are those who trust in self. They feel their own ambitions, desires, and opinions to be superior to God’s Word, having enlarged egos. They may be vocal about this or may remain silent. Bitterness manifests itself in a variety of ways. Those who trust in the Lord would be in direct opposition to this description. Those who trust in the Lord deny “self” according to the command of Jesus. All people have the natural tendency to think more highly of self than we ought to. However, those who trust in the Lord have the Spirit of God to hear the conviction of His warning about pride and respond in humility and repentance. Here is how this works:
Proverbs 28:25 describes trusting the Lord as having “confidence” in the Lord. This refers to one that acknowledges God’s declaration concerning the corrupted nature of self-righteousness. Those who place confidence in the Lord are those who humble themselves before the Lord, confessing His righteousness to be supreme. Those who place confidence in the Lord are those with a contrite heart. According to Isaiah 57:15, the Spirit of God enters the hearts of the humble and contrite to restore the spirit and soul unto God’s purposes. When Jesus taught about the ministry of the Holy Spirit, He said that the Holy Spirit would fulfill the role of a Helper and Comforter by convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment through the testimony of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah. Hence, when those who are humble hear the convictions of the Holy Spirit dwelling within to know the testimony of Jesus’ true and pure righteousness, the humble are able to recognize the difference in their own conduct and repent according to the convictions of the Spirit.
Those who trust in the Lord consider His Word, His holiness, His righteousness, His judgments, and His commands to be supremely valuable; even above any selfish pursuits we may crave deep in our hearts. Those who trust in the Lord trust God’s declaration that we are unrighteous and condemned to hell apart from the provision of His grace. Those who trust the Lord repent from the natural desire to oppose God and His eternal purposes, submitting to His Word and trusting in God’s own provision of His own pure righteousness through Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. Those who trust the Lord and place confidence in Him are those who are saved by faith according to the grace of God that was given in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. These are the ones that will prosper.
“Will be prospered…”
Prosperity in the Bible is a difficult concept to deal with on account of the abundance of perverse, corrupted, and false teachings concerning the subject. Many people have perverted the issue of prosperity in the Bible, leading people to believe that God wants to make everyone rich in this life. This is not true. This is not to say that God restrains Himself from providing material increase to people at all times. God has given plenty of material increase to His people over the ages. However, that is NOT His fundamental focus, and that is NOT what Proverbs 28:25 is teaching. This is why the KJV of this proverb is helpful to consider.
“He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat.”
The original King James Version of the Bible says that those who trust in the Lord “shall be made fat.” If we are to consider that phrase to refer purely to material circumstances, we would have to assume that God wants every one of His people to be overweight from self-indulgence. Obviously, that is not God’s aim! The phrase “shall be made fat” is actually one Hebrew word used only a few times in the Old Testament - dashen. Examining some of these usages will help explain the proper context of “prosperity.”
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.”
- Psalm 23:5
This psalm uses the original Hebrew word “dashen” and translates it into the English word “anoint.” The context of the Psalm makes it seem as if the Lord will provide material wealth and prosperity since the “cup runs over;” but when this verse is compared with another place that “dashen” is used, the meaning of the word is explained more fully.
“The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made overflowing with fatness, with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams. For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Edom.”
– Isaiah 34:6
The prophecy of Isaiah uses the word “dashen” in the same manner as Proverbs 28:25, and even uses the English word “fat” to describe the circumstances. However, the context of Isaiah 34:6 speaks of judgment, not material prosperity. Yet, when we put these ideas together, the prosperity that God referred to in Proverbs 28:25 speaks of the fulfillment of purpose. Those who trust the Lord will fulfill their purpose in Him. Those who sit at the table that God has prepared will fulfill their purpose in Him, which causes the cup to run over, speaking of satisfaction. The judgment of God will overflow with “fatness” according to the fulfillment of God’s purpose, thereby causing God to be satisfied.
The point is, those who trust the Lord will be satisfied because we will be accomplishing the eternal purposes of the Lord by His Spirit. Since God alone is able to provide satisfaction, those who place their confidence in Him will get the benefits of connecting to Him in humble repentance and faith. Those who oppose Him and live according to that opposition in pride will NEVER be satisfied, contending with everyone and everything because of the bitterness that resides within. Clearly the wisdom of the proverb shows that it is beneficial and fruitful to die to self and live for the Lord since it is the ONLY means by which true satisfaction comes.
We know that God promises to do some amazing things in our lives when we seek Him. Sometimes though, it can be hard to recognize the fulfillment of God’s promises in our lives. That is not to say that God is failing on His end. God never fails! The problem is us. We’re failing on our end, which can prohibit us from recognizing and receiving some of the good things that God wants to do in our lives. Consider this basic truth: the more weight you carry as an individual, the harder it can be to move. How can you go to the place God wants you if there are things you’re trying to carry that are weighing you down? Did He put some of our burdens in our hands, or did we pick them up on our own?
“Do not quench…”
The message that Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica is very simple and very clear. He simply wrote: Do not quench the Spirit. The word “quench” refers to an extinguishing of sorts. This means that the Holy Spirit will work in our lives like fire. Paul said not to do things that will put that fire out. The Lord wants this fire to burn inside of His people as we journey through the purification process of our salvation.
“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderer’s soap.”
- Malachi 3:2
The prophet Malachi spoke of the coming Messiah and His purpose. Clearly we can see that His objective is to cleanse. He will clean like soap, and refine like fire. This refining process refers to how metal is purified. Precious metals are put in fire so that the impurities will burn off leaving behind only the valuable substance. When the Bible describes the Messiah as a refining fire, it is referring to the process of sanctification. This is the process that God performs in order to separate His people from the condemnation of sin, death, and hell. Sanctification is the work God does to separate us from the world and the flesh in order that we can live holy, as He is holy. Sanctification is the effects of Jesus’ work to forgive sins. The prophet Malachi compared this work to the work of a refining fire for precious metals. It is the blazing work of Jesus Christ that melts away the sin, corruption, decay, and darkness of our flesh so that He can preserve the precious substance of our souls unto eternal life. Why would we want to put this fire out? Consider the consequences if this fire is quenched and the impurities remain…
The prophet Malachi wrote of the work that Jesus would do as the Messiah. Yet Paul explained that the fire comes from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the tool that Jesus uses to impart the effects of His own crucifixion unto the spiritual essence of His people. Though Jesus is the Messiah, He told us in John Chapters 14-16 that He would leave behind the Holy Spirit to complete His work in us. Jesus is the Purifier. The Holy Spirit is the tool Jesus uses to burn off impurities.
So how do we quench the Spirit? What are things we can do to extinguish the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit? We first have to understand what the Holy Spirit was sent to do in order to understand how we might oppose His work. Think about how the Purifier Himself explained the Holy Spirit’s work:
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
- John 14:26
Jesus described the Holy Spirit as “the Helper.” The King James Version uses the term “Comforter” to describe the Holy Spirit. The original language uses the word “Parakletos,” which refers to someone called alongside of another as an aid. The word was contextually used in the original Greek language to describe a person that pleaded the case of another as an advocate. According to Jesus, He would send the Holy Spirit to come alongside of us in order to plead our case on our behalf. Since the devil is the chief accuser (Revelation 12:10), and our flesh is contrary to the Spirit (Galatians 5:17), the Holy Spirit will be our Advocate to the Father concerning our offense against Him according to the accusations of the devil and our rebellion in the flesh. If we “quench” this work, we are continuing in the ways of the devil according to the flesh so that the supporting cause of the Spirit is null and void. The Spirit and the flesh are contrary to one another, so that if we continue in it assuming grace will continue to abound, we are fighting against the helpful purifying work the Spirit is supposed to do to prepare us for eternal life.
Notice that Jesus said the Holy Spirit will teach all things and bring to remembrance the things that Jesus said. Jesus went on to say that the teaching of the Holy Spirit will be centered on one particular point:
“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”
- John 15:26
Jesus explained that the “help” of the Holy Spirit is practically made manifest through the teaching about who Jesus is, what He did, the results of that work, and His eternally unconditional promises. Jesus went on to say that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t even speak of Himself – only Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah. It is the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah/Purifier that provides help and comfort to God’s people. It is the testimony of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah that explains “the Light of the world,” thereby exposing the darkness of our flesh that needs to be purged. To quench the Spirit is to ignore the testimony of Jesus, His identity, His purpose, and His eternally-centered promises. To quench the Spirit is to deny the testimony of Jesus, His death, resurrection, ascension, and the power of those things. To quench the Spirit is to consider the contents of scripture that reveal Jesus to us as some light matter by indifference, having more affection for other things.
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: "of sin, because they do not believe in Me; "of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more…”
- John 16:7-10
Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit will teach primarily by conviction, which actually provides an advantage to the people of God. Conviction is not a bad thing if that conviction enables the people of God to learn about the Savior, receive His power, and be freed from the bondage of sin that separates from the blessings of the Father. Conviction refers to being found guilty. The Bible explains that the Holy Spirit will tell us that we are guilty of sin. This is important because if we don’t acknowledge our ailment, why would we seek the remedy of the Great Physician? To quench the Spirit is to deny our guilt of offense against God in ANY capacity. The Bible teaches that we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and that our “righteousness” is as useful and valuable to God as a filthy stained rag (Isaiah 64:6). We can’t please God through our own impure efforts. If we could, we wouldn’t need Jesus to die for our sins, and would not need the Holy Spirit’s help/comfort. Jesus said that the chief sin of the world is that we don’t believe in Jesus. We don’t trust in His superior righteousness as God in flesh and don’t feel He is the exclusive means by which we can approach the Father. To quench the Spirit in this way is to deny these truths with the attitude that we can help Jesus do His job, or don’t need Him to please the Father by going about life our own way.
The Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus’ righteousness. Jesus said that He is righteous because He goes to the Father. The ascension of Jesus Christ proved the unique and supreme righteousness of the Father. Witnesses beheld the resurrected Jesus ascend into heaven and sit and the one seat located at the right hand of the Father. Who but Jesus has done this before witnesses? Clearly, He is uniquely and supremely righteous as God in flesh. If we can go to the Father in that manner, then we can ignore the convictions of the Holy Spirit. The point is that, we cannot approach the Father except through the Son, and the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to remind us of this truth. If we don’t listen to this and have the attitude that we can try to come up with other ways to speak to God, fellowship with God or dwell with Him, we are quenching the Spirit.
Lastly, Jesus explained that the Holy Spirit will teach of Jesus’ authority as Judge. The Holy Spirit will remind the world that Jesus and Jesus alone has judged the “prince of this world,” referring to the devil. People can’t even deny the temptations of our own flesh, let alone face the devil alone. The devil is spiritual in nature and has the authority of God to cause ruckus until God takes away that authority. It is Jesus and Jesus alone that possesses the sovereignty to remove the devil’s authority and destroy Him. No human being can oppose the devil or overcome him. The Bible explains that Jesus will exercise His authority as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah to destroy the works of sin, death, hell, and the devil. He is the Messiah and there is no other. He is the Savior and Redeemer based on His unique ability and authority to do this work. To approach life without TOTALLY depending on the Lord for His protection from the devil, the world, and our own flesh, is to have an attitude of pride as if we can manage on our own. This is quenching the Spirit and denying His conviction concerning the authority, power, and purpose of Jesus Christ.
We started this study by talking about adding “weight” to the journey of our walk with the Lord. According to the scriptures, this weight has little to do with the things we do or don’t do. This weight begins with our attitudes. The things that we do or don’t do as sin, simply provide outward evidence of the inward “quenching” of the Holy Spirit.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things, which are done by them in secret.”
- Ephesians 5:8-12
This portion of scripture provides a very simple contrast. The Holy Spirit wants to work in us so that we are walking in the Lord as children of the Light. Now when you enter a room that is dark and then turn on the light, there is a noticeable difference. Light and darkness cannot co-inhabit with one another. There is either darkness – the absence of light; or there is light, the absence of darkness. The Holy Spirit wants to enable us to walk as light – in the absence of darkness. That’s why He purges sin and convicts against the attitudes that oppose God and His truth. We should have “no fellowship” with the unfruitful works of darkness as children of Light, because if we’re receiving the teaching and conviction of the Holy Spirit about Jesus, we know how offensive and contrary darkness is to Jesus – the One who died to save us from hell.
If you’re carrying enough weight, sometimes doing something simple like getting out of a chair can be tremendously difficult. The Bible repeatedly assures the people of God that He has good things in store for us if we are willing to deny self, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus to where the goodness is. The teaching and convictions of the Holy Spirit can sting. Sometimes the fire gets hot and the purging of flesh hurts. Nevertheless, the Lord is refining us into His own eternally glorious image. If we believe that as true, why quench the Spirit’s work that produces that result?
Life comes with many obstacles for both believers and non-believers. There are struggles for everyone. We all sin and create headache (and more) for everyone around us, including ourselves. No one is perfect and so we’re all left to deal with the consequences of imperfections. Yet there is supposed to be a great difference between how believers handle these issues and how non-believers handle them. Non-believers try to handle life on their own according to their own ability. They rely on self-will, self-empowerment, and pride to get things done. Though these approaches might produce the appearance of success at times, there is one obstacle that no one is able to overcome, no matter how much they believe in themselves – death. This is where the believer differs from the non-believer. We who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Messiah are promised to be “more than conquerors” unto eternal life (Romans 8:37)! If that is true, the true people of God that trust in Him aren’t only able to overcome circumstantial difficulties according to our Father’s will, but also the ultimate opponent - death. To prove this true, God has done various things throughout history to validate His ability to provide exceptional forms of victory, enabling His people to win even in the midst of defeat in order to prove He is able to conquer the grave on our behalf. The parting of the Red Sea is one such example, but our scripture today explains how God expects His people to respond to His promise in anticipation of His work to fulfill His promise.
“Do Not Be Afraid…”
God’s command to abstain from fear is given frequently in the Bible. Here is why:
We either believe in who God is or we don’t.
Fear might be present as a natural response, but it should not be a factor that keeps God’s people from doing what God says in the ways that God said it. If we really believe in who God says He is, what is there to be afraid of?
Since Moses had to command the people to abstain from fear it shows that there were fearful circumstances. We know God was going to part the Red Sea in AMAZING miraculous form, but we need to remember what the circumstances were like before He did that. The children of Israel were being chased by the fully equipped Egyptian army. From the perspective of the children of Israel, death was hot on their tail! They knew that the Egyptians were not interested in taking prisoners because of the things the children of Israel caused to take place in Egypt before they left. From a human perspective, their circumstances looked dismal. They looked behind and saw a giant cloud of Egyptians chasing them down with evil intentions. Looking ahead, a giant obstacle called the Red Sea stood in their way. Life at this moment seemed hopeless. Death chased from behind and unavoidable obstacles impeded their progress in the front. Sometimes life can feel the same way; as if we’re trapped between tragedy and obstacle with no place to go. Nevertheless, God swore that we would be more than conquerors. What do the people of God have to be afraid of?
If God is who He says He is, would the Egyptians really pose a threat? Think about what God had done to the Egyptians to get the children of Israel out of Egypt up to that point! God used insects, weather, and natural elements of the earth as His army. God sent death by “the Destroyer” to kill the firstborn of the Egyptians. What could the Egyptians do against God? Also, if God had already demonstrated such control and power over natural elements through the plagues, was the Red Sea really an obstacle?
We either trust God is who He says He is; that He did what He said He did; that He will continue to do what He says He will do; or we don’t. If we truly believe these things, what is an “obstacle” to the Lord? What is an “enemy” to the Lord? What is a “threat” to the One True Living God? If we trust we are His, what do we have to fear as His children?
“Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today…”
These types of Biblical statements are the statements that freak God’s people out. There is a fundamental human characteristic referred to as “fight or flight.” Under intense pressures and stresses, all human beings will either turn and run from them to avoid them or turn and face them with aggression and force. The command that Moses gave to the children of Israel required them to abstain from responding according to human habit, instinct, or nature. Moses told the people to “stand still.” They were not to turn and run. They were not to turn and fight. In fact, God organized the circumstances to prohibit the children of Israel from being able to do either.
When threats arise, who is willing to just “stand still?” Keep in mind, God already told the people not to be afraid, so the command to stand still was not permitting the children of Israel to freeze under pressure. The absence of movement from the children of Israel was not to be reflective of panic that paralyzed action. The stillness of the children of Israel was intended to be a confident stance of faith. God didn’t need the children of Israel to turn and fight because His aim was to fight on their behalf. He is the Lord God Almighty. He doesn’t need help. God didn’t want the children of Israel to turn and run as if the forces of human strength are anything substantial against His intentions for His people. God wanted His people to stop and watch. God wanted His people to settle down and witness the faithful power of the Yahweh Elohim!
This is where Christians can be confused. As people, we have the tendency to respond either according to fear by running, or by pride in fighting. God doesn’t want runners. God doesn’t need fighters. If we run, where would we go? How long would the running last until we run out of gas? How do we know we’re running in the right direction? What happens when we run into “the Red Sea” and can’t run anymore?
On the other hand, why would God want us to fight? Does He need our help? Can we do what He does? The Bible teaches that we wrestle NOT against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, and against SPIRITUAL wickedness in high places. Are we qualified to fight these things? Sure, we may overcome a set of circumstances for the moment, but is the fight really over if the battle is taking place in “heavenly places” concerning spiritual things of the soul? Do we really think we can take on eternally spiritual issues as finite mortals that make mistakes and are limited in knowledge?
The good news is that we don’t have to run or fight. We aren’t to stand and do nothing either. God commanded His people to stand and watch. We are to boldly face the enemy and let him continue his pursuit, trusting in the salvation of our God according to His faithfulness, power, and grace. We are to watch God do what God does, intently and humbly acknowledging the righteousness, mercy, grace, power, wisdom, and love of God in spite of who we are.
Here, it is interesting to note that the Bible refers to God’s people as “servants” using words that refer to our role as “witnesses” in the original language. When the apostles sought to fill the position of Judas Iscariot in Acts Chapter 1, their only qualification for a replacement was that the person had to have been with Jesus since the beginning as a witness. God wants people who will trust in His Word and promises and are willing to undergo the difficulties of being still in order to witness the work He does to fulfill His Word Himself so that we can testify of it unto His glory. God desires for His people to humble themselves, acknowledging that He is supremely able to do that which needs to be done unto eternally profitable outcomes, so that as we see Him do what He does, we can learn about who He is, praise His name, and testify of His goodness! It’s hard to watch the Lord when our backs are turned from His work by fear, or when we’re too busy fighting in efforts to do His job. How can we be witnesses as God desires if we are not “still” by faith?
“For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever…”
Let’s consider Egypt for a moment. Understand what Egypt meant to the children of Israel at this point in their history. Egypt signified bondage, oppression, suffering, and threats of death. Egypt was the enemy. Egypt was the factor that was keeping Israel from receiving the fulfillment of God’s eternally unconditional promises. This was the force that was bearing down on the children of Israel.
We all have oppressive forces in life that keep us in bondage, oppression, and suffering. Many times in life we can feel like these things are breathing down our necks in hot pursuit with nothing but roadblocks in our way. Yet still, we can see the command of God is to be calm, sit, watch, and trust in God’s promise to completely annihilate the opposition. God promised that there will come a time when He TOTALLY removes that which separates us from His promises – sin, depravity, and death! If God is able to destroy these elements of life on our behalf, which He has already done through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is there another factor of life that overpowers God? No matter how great or small the oppressive force is in life, we have victory in Christ Jesus!
“The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace…”
How can victory come out of circumstances that should conclude in defeat? It all depends on who is fighting. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is our victory (1 Corinthians 15:57). The Bible teaches that our Father in heaven is the means by which we are able to uphold a banner of victory despite circumstances (Exodus 17:15). Here is where we have to consider the quality of victory that God provides if He is indeed fighting on our behalf. Moses assured the children of Israel that God would fight on behalf of His people, but the outcome of God’s fight would be “peace.” God’s victory resolves in peace, not success. Success is a term that is used to describe a favorable outcome, but favorable for who, and from what perspective?
Jesus asked the question, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?” Is success really “victory” if a certain set of circumstances resolves in temporary favor but ultimately results in eternal condemnation? God didn’t promise that He would fight so that His people could have “success” in a temporary sense, limited to the factors of this life. Though the children of Israel experienced a favorable outcome in Exodus Chapter 14, it was only so that God could produce a more favorable outcome through “peace” as time went on.
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
– John 14:27
God clearly promised to fight for His people. The outcome of God’s involvement in our struggles and trials is to provide peace, and according to Jesus, that peace is NOTHING like what the world offers, and doesn’t even require a change in circumstances for that peace to come. The peace that Jesus referred to in John 14:27 dealt with the assurance of eternal life on account of His atoning death and resurrection. That is victory! That is a favorable outcome! That is being more than a conqueror!
The Bible teaches that it is appointed for a person to die once, and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). The Bible teaches that death comes to all people (Romans 5:12). History proves these declarations as true since all people have died at one point or another (with the exception of Enoch and Elijah). So, from that perspective, we all lose in death. That is, unless we are able to live in spite of death, which is exactly what Jesus promised. This opportunity is offered through the conduit of faith and is proved valid by the distribution of the Holy Spirit for those who do believe. This is peace! This is a quality of victory that only God can bring, and according to the promise and work of Exodus 14:13-14, this is the fight God has sworn to undergo on our behalf. If God is for us, who can be against us?
In the end, the benefits of this promise all come down to one thing – faith. We either trust that God really parted the Red Sea for the children of Israel to cross safely and then destroyed the Egyptians, or we don’t. Likewise, we either trust that Jesus is God in flesh and the means by which ALL of the Father’s eternally unconditional promises are fulfilled enabling us to receive forgiveness for sins unto eternal life, or we don’t. Those who truly believe will hear the command to abstain from fear, turn from self, and witness the miraculous work of the Almighty God. If we are recipients of peace to this degree and have the privilege of watching God work in these ways, shouldn’t we then be compelled to proclaim the greatness of God that we’ve witnessed?
As Christians, we are told that the Bible is powerful. We are told that God’s Word is holy and mighty. The Bible itself teaches that its contents is the summation of God’s holy revelation of Himself to His people. The words on the pages of scripture were divinely breathed into the minds and hearts of select men throughout human history and miraculously preserved over the ages so that the world could have access to God’s revelation. The Bible teaches that the essence of God’s revelation is the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, which is the essence of God’s own power! In this way, the Bible is the power of God. But how does that work? How did God put power into a book we call the Bible? What kind of power are we talking about here? If you’ve ever wondered these things, today we’ll be covering a portion of scripture that explains the power of the Bible clearly. The Bible describes the Word of God as having 5 different characteristics. Since the scriptures define “the Word” as Jesus Christ (John 1:14), then the characteristics of the Word are equal to the characteristics of Jesus Himself as Messiah. Consider the characteristics of the Word in order to understand the power of God through Jesus packaged in the Bible…
“For the Word of God is living and powerful…”
When the scriptures identify the Word as “living,” it is describing the physical functionality of the Bible as comparable to the physical functionality of human beings as well as God Himself. In the same way that human beings are alive, the Word of God is alive and functional. In the same way that God the Father is alive and functional, so too is the Word. The original language emphasizes the actual functionality of the Word of God. It is not just that the Word of God is alive but stagnant, but that the Word is active and productive. The parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-9) compared the Word of God to a seed that is able to grow and bear fruit when properly nurtured. Consider how the Bible describes the functionality of God’s Word.
"The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple."
- Psalm 119:130
"So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."
- Isaiah 55:11
"For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe."
- 1 Thessalonians 2:13
"Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever…"
- 1 Peter 1:23
These scriptures ascribe human characteristics to the Word of God to show that as a living human being is functional, so too is the Word of God. The scriptures describe the Word as giving light and understanding in the way that a teacher would do so. The scriptures describe the Word, as accomplishing God’s will just as His workers are able to accomplish His will. The Bible states that the Word works effectively in the hearts of people to change those who believe. The scriptures declare that the Word of God brings believers to God and connects them with God. The Bible teaches that the Word of God regenerates those who have been “born again” to mature them according to God’s will in the way that a parent would nurture a child to maturity.
The Word of God is described as being “alive” by the ministry of the Holy Spirit to transform believers into the image of Jesus Christ. This is the “power” of the Word. The Bible teaches that the scriptures are “powerful” using the word where the English word “energy” comes from. The English dictionary defines “energy” as: the ability to be active; the physical or mental strength that allows one to do things; natural enthusiasm and effort; usable power. The English definition describes not just capability, but also purpose and a specific temperament in conduct to accomplish that purpose.
The Word of God is “powerful” in that God sends it out with intent and “energy” to accomplish His specific purpose and promises. Since God is almighty and supremely sovereign over all things, His Word is as good as done in every case because no one is able to oppose God from accomplishing that which He sets out and declares He will do. God is faithful and does not change, which means that when God says something it is going to happen! In this way, God’s Word is powerful because it is the declaration of truths that WILL be revealed and events that WILL transpire.
“Sharper than any two-edged sword…”
The scriptures describe the Word of God as a “sword” in various places.
"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…"
- Ephesians 6:17
"He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength."
- Revelation 1:16
Historians often refer to the Roman double-edged sword as “the sword that conquered the world,” which was mainly a reference to the Roman Gladius sword. This sword was the most commonly used 2-edged sword of the time. This sword was seen to be most effective because of its versatility, mobility and danger in close combat because of its precision. Though the Romans perfected the use of this weapon in a destructive manner, the Word of God uses this analogy and comparison in a different way. The scriptures use the phrase “two-edged sword” to describe, “dividing” rather than “destruction,” yet with the same sort of “close-quarters precision.” The sharpness of the Word is used to divide the essence of a person from that which God will ultimately destroy. The only thing destructive about the Word for the people of God is the sharpness that God exacts against sin and darkness in the human heart in order to purge that which threatens the spiritual integrity of His people.
Since the Word of God is the revelation of His own holiness and righteousness, the Bible identifies that which is truly just, right, and good, thus revealing a true standard of perfection. The knowledge of God’s perfection makes known the imperfections of the world and creates a dividing line between the two. The “sharpness” of God’s Word is effective to cut through the fallacies of human logic and reason to reveal actual truth about what is right and good. Without the Bible, these truths cannot be known.
“Piercing even to division…”
If the Word of God is sharp in order to pierce, it is important to understand why God wants to pierce and how that work is a manifestation of His own power. What is God piercing and for what purpose?
Soul and Spirit
The living functionality of the Word of God is for the purpose of penetrating human beings to the depths of “soul and spirit.”
Greek word meaning: “soul” = psyche = referring to the mental, emotional and intellectual capacity of a human being
The English dictionary defines the “psyche” as: the soul, mind, and/or personality of a person or group.
Greek word meaning: “spirit” = pneuma = referring to the Holy Spirit, or the spiritual essence of a person
People often say, “The Lord made me this way” to justify or validate some flaw in their character or habits. God provided His Word in order to identify those character flaws so that He can change them. God’s word pierces to the depths of our souls in order to point out what is wrong with us and what is right about God. The Word of God is able to differentiate between God’s essence and the true motives of our hearts because we don’t have this ability.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"
- Jeremiah 17:9
The scriptures describe that it is impossible for us to know the intents of our own hearts. We really don’t know why we’re doing what we’re doing, and how those motives are contrary to God unless God points it out to us. This is what the Bible does. If not for this knowledge, we would continue to live contrary to God, condemned as sinners destined for hell. Thankfully the Word of God can clearly penetrate into the depths of our souls with precision in order to differentiate that which is of our flesh and that which is of God’s Spirit in order to discern the difference between the two.
Joints and Marrow
The scriptures declare that the Word of God is also able to penetrate in order to divide “joint and marrow.” The idea presented here is similar to the idea presented in that the Word separates “soul and spirit.” But we need to be careful not to interpret the scriptures to refer to a destructive cutting and dismemberment.
The phrase “joint and marrow” refers to the Word’s ability to divide the exterior from the deepest part of the interior – the physical matters from spiritual matters. The “joint” or “bone” is that which is on the surface that can be seen outwardly. The marrow is the substance that houses the essence of life and blood but is buried beneath the surface of the bone. The Word of God is able to separate and divide matters that are physically exterior from the real issues of the interior.
“Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
- 1 Samuel 16:7
God’s purpose for the Word is to expose the reality of human nature. The Word will penetrate through whatever exterior cover or façade that we might put up in order to hide the reality of our true condition. The Word of God is intended to expose the deepest intents and conditions of the human heart (soul) and isolate them from the perishing exterior of the flesh. When we are willing to come to terms with the truths of our heart as the Word exposes the truth, we are able to receive the benefits of the restoration the Word provides so long as we trust that the declarations of the Word are true concerning our depravity and God’s salvation.
“And is a discerner…”
Keeping the previously described characteristics of the Word in mind, the fifth and final characteristic that is described in Hebrews 4:12 becomes much easier to understand. Examine the original language to understand the depth of the Word of God as a “discerner.”
Greek word meaning: “discerner” = kritikos = relating to judging, fit for judging, skilled in judging
This Greek word comes from the root Greek word referring to judgment. The root word means, “to render a verdict.” This Greek word is where the English word “critic” comes from. The English dictionary defines “critic” as: one who expresses a reasoned opinion on any matter especially involving a judgment of its value, truth, righteousness, beauty or technique. The Greek definition for this word as “discerner” refers to rendering final judgment in a verdict, which speaks of eternal judgment. In this way, the Word of God is living and functional as a judge, relating to eternal matters. The English definition of “critic” refers to the issues that are judged, specifically matters of, “value, truth, and righteousness.” In this way, the Word of God is living and functional as a critic and conviction agent to establish the standards of God’s value, truth, righteousness and beauty.
Examine the subjects that the Word of God discerns.
Greek word meaning: “thoughts” = enthymesis = a thinking or consideration
This word is made up of two Greek words. One of those words (thymos) refers to intense passion and other strong feelings. When this word is used in the Bible, it only refers to passions that are dealing with wrath, fierceness and indignation. Therefore, the Word of God is able to critique matters dealing with strong passions that are wicked and contrary to God.
Greek word meaning: “intents” = ennoia = the act of thinking, consideration, meditation
This word refers to a deep contemplation and consideration such as an intense inward reasoning. These scriptures describe that the living and functional Word of God is able to critique and lay final judgment towards a person’s inner most thoughts. These truths show that the Word of God is alive in that it is God’s method of speaking conviction into the hearts of His people. It is His job to convict, not ours, and His method to do so is by His Word, which reveals His own nature and purposes. The Word is powerful in that the convictions that God speaks are able to provide the opportunity for repentance and salvation. The Word of God is the revelation of His knowledge so that the Bible explains truths concerning the problems of the human soul that otherwise, would be unknowable, thereby ensuring condemnation in hell for all humanity. The Bible is also powerful to enable the people of God with the necessary wisdom to overcome those problems unto eternal life by explaining God’s provision for salvation. No other book is able to do this. No other book makes these sorts of claims. No other book produces these verifiable results!
What does it mean to “glorify God?” Many Christians have the desire to glorify God – and rightly so. Many ministries are centered on efforts that are intended to bring glory to God – and rightly so. The Bible teaches that our purpose as Christians is to bring glory to God. The scriptures also teach that we will glorify God in eternity. Have you ever thought about how we actually go about giving glory to God? If God is supremely holy, how do we bring glory to Him? The Bible teaches that we need to seek God as the source of glory in order to experience His glory, and this glory is experienced exclusively through the conduit of Jesus Christ by faith. Glory comes from God and is channeled through God. How then do we give glory back to God in order to achieve our purpose and show thanks to the Lord for our position of favor with Him? If you’ve ever wondered about this, today is your lucky day!
“He Who Glories…”
Before we get into the specifics of this verse, it is helpful to take a quick look at the original language. The original Greek manuscripts use the word “kauchaomai” (kau-kha-o-mi) to describe glory. This Greek word is used in a variety of forms throughout the New Testament but is used in this particular form (as written in 2 Corinthians 10:17) thirty-eight times. This Greek word is translated into the English word “glory” twenty-three times, “boast” eight times, and “rejoice” four times. When the Bible instructs the people of God to “glory” in the Lord, we could also translate the phrase as follows:
“He who boasts, let him boast in the LORD”
“He who rejoices, let him rejoice in the LORD.”
When it comes to glorying in the Lord, the Bible is making reference to our internal focus concerning ability and righteousness. The English dictionary defines “boasting” as: a statement expressing excessive pride; a cause for pride.
The Bible states that people will “glory.” In other words, people will boast in something. People will take pride in something. People will find some way to esteem something in some way. People put value into things and people and it is within the human spirit to express that value through boasting of some kind.
The same is true of rejoicing. The English dictionary defines “rejoicing” as: giving joy, gladdening, or having a feeling of great delight. According to the Bible, people will rejoice in something. People will find value in things and/or people and have joy in those things. People will be gladdened by other people, things, or activities. People will find great delight in something. In fact, for many people, the chief motivation of life is to find joy, pleasure, and great delight in various pursuits.
When the Apostle Paul wrote about “glorying” to the Corinthian church, he wasn’t speaking from his own wisdom. The excerpt from 2 Corinthians 10:17 is actually an Old Testament quote from the Book of Jeremiah.
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise [man] glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty [man] glory in his might, nor let the rich [man] glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I [am] the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the LORD.”
– Jeremiah 9:24
Notice the contrast that Paul’s quotation presents. The Lord communicated through the prophet Jeremiah that God’s people should not “glory” in his wisdom, might, or riches. According to the original language that Paul used in the New Testament, God’s people should not boast in worldly wisdom, worldly strength, or worldly riches. God’s people should not find great joy and delight in worldly wisdom, strength or riches.
If someone is smart, so what.
If someone is strong, so what.
If someone is rich, so what.
God’s point is that a true child of God should “boast” or “find great delight” in the fact that we understand and know the One True Living God. Our pride should not be in self or some person or process. Our pride should be in the relationship that we have with the Creator of all things! Paul’s point is that people will express pride; we will boast; we will pursue great delight in something. Paul’s instruction to God’s people is to make sure we are focused on the genuine source of glory.
“Let him glory in the LORD…”
The prophet Jeremiah presented a stark contrast between where worldly people glory and were God’s people should glory. Those who do not live by faith are those who glory in self. Their righteousness is based on the things they know. Their validation as “good people” is based on the ability and resources they have. God does not look at things this way. Consider these scriptures in the context of God’s remarks about “wisdom, might, and riches” through Jeremiah:
“For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’ Where [is] the wise? Where [is] the scribe? Where [is] the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”
- 1 Corinthians 1:19-21
“‘Therefore flight shall perish from the swift, the strong shall not strengthen his power, nor shall the mighty deliver himself; he shall not stand who handles the bow, the swift of foot shall not escape, nor shall he who rides a horse deliver himself. The most courageous men of might shall flee naked in that day,’ Says the LORD.”
- Amos 2:14-16
“Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”
- Proverbs 11:4
According to the Bible, God makes the wisdom of this world foolish. Those who trust in themselves and the things they know concerning worldly and human wisdom are fools in God’s eyes and will stand before God in shame in the end. Those who trust in the wisdom of God will be saved from His wrath.
According to the Bible, those who trust in physical and human strength and might will die in weakness. They will not be able to save themselves in the day of God’s judgment. The LORD is God and there is no other. He is the Creator of all things and NO ONE can contend with Him. No matter how much strength a person may have now, all will fall in terror and fear before the Lord God Almighty! Jesus promised that the meek will inherit the earth and will stand without shame before the glory of the Lord!
According to the Bible, those who trust in worldly resources will not have anything to show for when it comes time for judgment. God cannot be paid off. In fact, the Bible explains that everything that everyone has is a benefit of God’s own provision. Those who have riches in this world are merely borrowing God’s own goods. Will the rich boast in their possession of God’s own riches as if it were theirs and receive His approval? The scriptures command the people of God to store treasures in heaven.
When Paul quoted the prophet Jeremiah to instruct the church to “glory in the Lord,” he instructed us to consider where we put our hope, our trust, and our affection. Do we boast in what we think we know? Do we boast in what we think we can do? Do we boast in what we think is ours? The Bible teaches that the people of God should boast in the fact that we get to know the LORD – the One True Living God who created all things!
Consider this reality:
“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only [that], but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
- Romans 5:10-11
According to the Bible, we were enemies of God. This means that we were contrary to God and on His radar for destruction. We are targets of God’s wrath because we were conceived in sin and born as evildoers. However, the life and death of Jesus Christ caused “reconciliation.” This means that God made an exchange. The Father made it so that those who believe in the testimony of Jesus’ identity, purpose, and promise are able to exchange condemnation for eternal life because of the work Jesus did to make this exchange valid. Though we are enemies of the holy and righteous God because of our sin, the reconciliation of Jesus Christ enables us to have peace with God. His atonement enables the people of God to exchange filthy rags for white robes of Jesus’ righteousness. When this idea is put in context with Jeremiah’s statement, we learn that we don’t produce anything good of ourselves, but instead trust in the superiority of God’s goodness offered to us on the basis of grace. That in it of itself is sufficient to separate us from God’s judgment and wrath.
Since this exchange takes place on account of the work of Jesus, we are to “rejoice” in God through Jesus. The Greek word for “rejoice” is the same word Paul used in 2 Corinthians 10:17. So then, this answers our question! How do we “glorify” God? We glorify God by rejoicing “in God through Jesus.” This means that we don’t consider ourselves to be anything significant or special in the eyes of God. We don’t boast in ourselves. We admit the Biblical claims that we are not righteous in the eyes of God and that we fall very short of God’s glory and are deserving of His judgment. However, we also admit that the testimony of Jesus is true and effective. We boast in the identity of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah. We take great delight in the work that He did – and He alone – for our benefit even while we were His enemies. We take joy by supremely valuing the identity, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus as our Savior.
We attribute all goodness and righteousness to God. We speak well of God by acknowledging Jesus as God in human form sent to fulfill all of His own eternally unconditional promises on our behalf. Since He is eternally self-existing and self-sustaining in nature, His goodness is unending and unchanging. This means we’ll never run out of good things to say about the Lord and the good news that Jesus has been fulfilling since the beginning. When we compare our efforts to the eternal merits and attributes of the Lord, there is no comparison. When we come to this realization and then boldly and passionately proclaim these truths in our speech, actions, and attitudes, then we are glorifying God!