"Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." Romans10,17
"humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." James1,21
"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of israel after those days saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people." Hebrews8,10
"But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does." James1,25
"Thus, condemnation will never come to those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because the law of the Spirit which gives life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death." Romans8,1-2.
"in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit."
'So, then, my brothers, we have no obligation to human nature to be dominated by it. 13 If you do live in that way, you are doomed to die, but if you by the Spirit you put to death the habits originating in the body, you will have life. 14 All who are guided by the Spirit of God are sons of God." Romans8,12-14 NJB
"Accepting" The Word
I'm going to preach a hopeful gospel sermon today "Accept The Word Unto Living The Interior Law." This is based on James1,21: "humbly accept the word planted in you." We could describe this "word" in several ways: the whole written word, the preached word, the revealed word, the gospel word, the apostolic word. It all comes down to what Paul said to the elders from Epehesus: "for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God." (Acts20,27).
The "word" of James,1,21 refers to is the whole counsel of God- the New Testament gospel and the still valid revelations of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Many of us Christians believe that salvation comes in a moment of time, once we believe- we are saved. But James2,19 says "You believe in one God, you do well, the devils also believe, and tremble too." But the bible teaches more than belief and that there are progressive milestones in the Christian faith, at least five, which I'm going explore in more depth later. I'll just list them here so we know where we're going: one, hearing the gospel: two, believing (or better said "faithing" on the gospel, which is more than a mental belief) the gospel; three, publicly professing "Jesus" and water baptism in His Name; four, baptism in the Spirit; five, living the new or "perfect law" unto the success of salvation.
The fullness of salvation comes in finishing the "race," persevering, unto the end of our lives, or until Jesus comes back, or we're raptured, Praise his holy Name.
We Christians have different doctrines regarding salvation, and this is, admittedly, less than ideal. But that doesn't mean we stop preaching salvation. Having said that I'm not a Christian who refuses to associate with other Christians just because they don't agree with what I teach. This 'holier than thou' attitude can easily become legalism, and the plague of cold denominational love and divisiveness.
I agree with Francis Frangipane that in the present age, given the assault of the enemy on all of us Christians, that is anyone who utters the name Jesus in public, that a unity of desperation is more crucial than a unity of doctrine:
"Today, the force prodding many Christians toward greater unity and prayer has not been the sweetness of fellowship; more often it has been the assault of the enemy. We are in desperate times. When it comes to touching God's heart, other than for a few essential truths, unity of desperation is more crucial than unity of doctrine." ("The Divine Antidote", back cover, Arrow Publications, 1996).
But again, that doesn't mean we just breeze over salvation doctrine in a 'one and done' dimly lit "membership class." The Apostles on the day of Pentecost, and in Jerusalem thereafter, preached the whole of sound biblical doctrine. They didn't tell people to go to a class to join a a particular denominational church. To be clear, the whole New Testament doctrine is good news, the whole counsel of God is evangelistic, and edifying, and so is the Hebrew Scriptures.
So, as I read it, the New Testament teaches that salvation is more like a long successful marriage, something that has stages, than a one-time event. It begins with the loving words of courtship (hearing the dulcet gospel), the infatuation (Yes Jesus loves me), the public dating and a marriage contract (publicly professing His name and covenantal water baptism as an adult), marital bliss (baptism in the Spirit), and finally the joys and trials and discipline and responsibility of married life (putting to death the domination of our human nature, Romans8,13, and living the new or perfect law) unto the success of salvation.
As I was preparing this sermon I thought "this is too big a topic." So the Lord helped me by teaching me something very simple about James1,21: accepting the word is not just a one time thing, at the hour we first believe. It's something we do at each of the five stages of the salvation journey.
Yes, the preached word, the written word, the gospel and Apostolic word is planted upon belief, but the fact is we don't know much of it at that point. Most of us didn't even own a bible, or know we owned one, when we first believed. How can we accept the vast expanse of the revealed word all at once when we haven't even picked up a bible, and have just heard a snippet of the gospel?
Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines "accept" here at James1,21 as "to receive favorably, give ear to, embrace, makes one's own..." We all have accepted a gift while not really receiving it or the giver. We accept gifts, and people, and things, yet we often don't take the initiative to make them our own.
James is telling the Jerusalem congregation to receive the word with gratitude, to make it their own, anticipate it, move with it, take the inititiative with it, and live out the new and perfect interior law that is built on that word.
He's saying this to a community that has already heard the gospel, already believed and professed and been baptized (James2,7), and who have already been baptized in the Spirit into that perfect Spiritual law (James1,25). He's telling them to accept the whole gospel word andmake it their new and interior law, not just talk about it or hear it.
Think about it, the whole New Testament was written for faithers, whose communities were experiencing challenges, but who had and were already pretty far along in their faith walk, who had all been baptized in the Spirit. Now they have to move on the new law of the Word and Spirit, living the word to the fullest as inspired by the Spirit. The audience for James' teaching already knows they have a new nature, but has temporarily forgotten that they have the power and grace not be dominated by their fallen human nature that still favors the rich.
James also knows that the congergation is fully capable of looking in the mirror and not forgetting that they are born again faithers, bought at a great price, not rich in money, but rich in faith, rich in a redeemed nature that has made them equals with each other. Some are bowing to the rich and powerful and to do this is to blaspheme the Holy and Spirit giving Name of Jesus that was invoked over them in baptism (Acts2,7).
In his use of the word "accept" James is also saying that they as individuals and as church have to take initiative in acting on the word that has been planted in them. They, as we do, have to wrestle with it, put it in practice, in that 'faith without works is dead.' They are to appropriate it, seize it, make it a priority in their own lives, and let it become bigger and expansive in their lives.
By doing this, slowly but surely this whole gospelized counsel of God, as read and inspired and put in practice by our cooperation with the Spirit, will become their new law. Yes the word was supernaturally planted upon faith. Yes it grew unto a publicly professed and solemnized as a life long covenant at water baptism. Yes it is or has become Holy Ghost baptism and the receipt of a new risen nature, unto the final stage of salvation, living out the new and perfect gospel law of the Spirit.
Many Christians today are right at this same point as the church Jerusalem, or at a prior point, when faith becomes not a past event but a present challenge, when we must continue to accept a bigger word, whereby our new nature after baptism in the Spirit puts to death our old nature (Romans8,13), so that we live the new Spiritual law of the whole revealed word.
But as the Lord showed me, we can only accept that amount of the word that we are ready to eat and digest at any given stage of faith. If we have only eaten and digested the initial easy food of the word, that's great, that's where we're at. We'll get to the solid food soon enough, and keep moving forward. And the fact is, we'll very surely need solid food to finish the race, everything in God's time. It's a blessing to work with people as they approach death. Oftentimes they have difficult questions, and need solid food, the answers to which are going to require that they accept another goodly portion of God's word.
Whereever we are at in our salvation walk, at every milestone of faith, we are challenged to accept more of His word, and less of our own words, more of His holy and Spiritual nature, and less of our own nature. This is how we beat down that not fully dead human nature in us, that kicks up every chance it gets at every stage of our faith.
This confident and repeated acceptance of the word, not to mention the power, guidance, inspirations and miracles of the Holy Ghost, is the best way to line up our minds, bodies, spirits, and our whole personality, to live the new interior Spiritual norm or law in us. This law was written not for the condemnation of man by God, but for our perfect freedom. We can live this new law, it's not imposssible. This the main difference with the old exterior law of Moses. The old law was impossible to live, except for Jesus, the new one is possible, praise his holy Name. (Romans8,4)
Truth be told, it takes covering some real Spiritual distance to successfully live by the promptings of our new nature and the new interior law that is our faith norm, a law matches up with His word. Our scriptures about the new law today are not metaphorical, not just another exhortation, but a reality, and a lifestyle, but we have to make the word of God our own for this to happen. To see this faith challenge come true means that we must continue throughout our lives to live by faith, "confidently acting on the promises of the word again and again" as Gene Scott ably taught.
The more we live by faith, acting on our ever expanding acceptance of the word, the more His new law will rule our life.
Short Defense Of The Ongoing Goodness of God's Law
There's a paradox in biblical Christianity whereby Jesus' blood releases us from the comdemnation of the law of Moses, and the law of sin and death, praise Jesus. But the very same savior that frees us from an exterior law, expects us to live a new and better Spiritual law.
Why didn't he just make it easy and do away with the whole idea of law?
Who likes laws? Laws are demanding, and the new Spiritual law, even using our new power of Jesus living in us, is demanding: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." That's a demanding new law. "Turn the other cheek;" "Forgive neighbor seven times seventy times," ie always. "Love your neighbor, as yourself." These are demanding clauses of our new interior law. But we take heart because by faith and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost they afford us the greatest freedom. But the fact is any law, absent the flush of inspiration here and now, can feel like unfreedom. But we don't go by our feelings, and we face up to the fact that God's "interior law" and our feelings at any given time don't necessarily go together. Our feelings are best when they have already caught up to the rightness and grace of the new law. That would be best. But we don't wait until we feel like doing what God's word and Spirit says, here and now. Instead, we do this new interior word and Spirit, here and now, and it frees us from our own selfishness, frees us from hate, frees us from the judgmentalism of our old nature, and sets us free to live the way Jesus says.
And then praise God, sometime later, our feelings often will catch up to our faith actions and our commitment to living the new law.
Before I lay out the major steps or milestones of salvation, there are five, from intitially receiving the word up to lastly living this new law in our hearts, I think it's necessary now to take a little preamble walk into the biblical woods, as to the nature of God's Law, and law in general. We know as Christians that it is God's grace that offers us faith, and that saves us, but yet and still, we need more than a one time faith, or a Sunday face faith. Instead, by God's grace, we live a life of faith according to the freedom and discipline of new interior law.
At Jeremiah31,31 the Lord promised his people and us: "I will put my law within them." He promised to put this new law in us for our salvation not for our condemnation.
James and Jesus and the author of Hebrews 8,10 all could have just said "I will put my eternal Spirit" in my people, or "I will put my eternal word in them" and then let us run wild, with our salvation assured. But they didn't say that. They all said I will put a law or laws in our heart. This new interior "law," this supernatural norm now lives in us. This means we now have the human responsibility to willingly seek out and receive the whole word and the new law in our hearts. We now have the human responsibility to use them both to kill off the law of sin and death, the law of our fallen humanity, that lingers long in our lives and kicks up. Moreover, just like our society has the responsibility to wisely use and maintain our secular legal system, each of us faithful has the responsibility to wisely maintain and use this new law, to live it out, to esteem it amongst ourselves.
This concept and reality of a new interior law for our Christian salvation is a very Jewish and biblical way of thinking. The New Testament bible was written by Jews, except for Acts and the gospel of Luke. Our bible is based on Jewish faith premises of which "the law" is the biggest. We Christians don't just have God's new law, like having a gift that we might or might not accept, we have a new internal law to keep, a new way of living and being according to the new rules and norms of God's word, as lived according to His Spirit.
But if we don't esteem this new law, and live it and cherish it, and continually accept the increasing breath of it (and the word), and instead live by mere one time belief, as if sin and selfishness didn't matter, as if deeds of faith are optional, our new nature and the new law of the Spirit, meant to be in us permanantly, will die, and our fallen human nature will kick right back in and lead to our eventual spiritual death. This is what Romans8,13 clearly teaches.
It's just past holiday time, so this walk might be good, even to work off a few extra pounds of holiday dross, and hopefully we''ll gain some biblical insight and savvy. And so we'll also begin a new year knowing something more about our biblically based salvation doctrine, not that we become philosophical or intellectual, or holier than thou, those are fatal to trusting the word, but that we would actually know some more about the salvation Jesus has given us.
Recent Respect For Hebrew Scriptures And Our New Found Respect And Understanding For God's Law
In recent decades the Hebrew scriptures have been getting more justice and attention from us Christians. Today we are better informed biblically. Of late many of us realize that the law of Moses was, and still is for the Jews, the revelation of God. His "old" law deserves our respect even if we are not required to practice it. We respect it particularly because two provisions of the law of Moses, namely circumcision and Passover, have kept together an ancient people and nation that many evil nations, for thousands of years, have tried to destroy
Thanks be to God and His Hebrew scriptures that many of us Christians today are better informed biblically. We've heard some about the unfinished literal propmises of salvation Israel after the battle of Armageddon when Jesus defeats "Babylon," that is, all of Israel's enemies. We've heard some about the nature of Jesus' millenial or 1000 year reign, which is the restoration and redemption of the nation wherein the lion will lay down with the lamb, wherein Jerusalem will be the future and permanent capital of the world from where and whence justice will be imposed by Jesus, as king of the Jews, from Jerusalem, praise His holy Name.
Here on The Preaching Hour we've been all over these subjects of late, and hopefully we're becoming a little more comfortable with the fact that both the Hebrew scriptures, and the the Brit Hadassah, the "New Covenant," are living and active documents and sharper than a two-edged sword, both of which contain present and future promises and revelations for Israel and us Christians, just waiting to come true.
The Law Of The Lord Is Perfect
In this re-awakening and our new found respect for the Hebrew scriptures, and Israel's ongoing importance to world redemption, there also is an opportunity for a renewed understanding and respect for the biblical concept of "law." This renewed understanding and respect is summed up by Psalm19,7: "The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." NJB
In the New Testament the Apostle Paul, the consummate Jewish bible scholar, loved the law of Moses. So at Romans7,12 he writes "The Law itself is Holy, and the comandment is holy, and just, and good." The ten commandments are still the law for Israel, and the very basis of any law-based civilization.
Law from God's viewpoint is a great gift, part of humanity's working with and according to God's order. God's law illuminates our mind, guides our feet, and provides us discipline. It is all encompassing, and therefore regulates all areas of life, down to the jot and tittle. And it would have been our salvation if only we had the power to keep it.
Yes, if something outside us like the Mosaic law could perpetually illuminate us on the inside, the Apostle Paul would have been saved by it before he went to Damsacus to assassinate more Christians. But then he heard the gospel from the risen Jesus himself ("I am Jesus," first stage of salvation), and saw the light and faithed (second stage), then he professed and was water baptized (third stage) in Jesus name, and then baptized in the Spirit (fourth stage), and then worked out his salvation, according the new law of Jesus, with traumas and phobias (fifth stage).
We as human beings do not have the power to contiually nudge ourselves toward God's word and law, let alone the power to perpetually illuminate ourselves. We need Jesus living inside us by faith to do that. We don't have the power to remember important things from God, let alone keep 600 plus proscriptions of the Mosaic law. I'm a lawyer and I don't remember many civil laws. They are outside me. They are not illuminated in me from within. They might have trained my mind as to patterns of thought, but without them made alive in me by God's grace, I'm always going to have to look them up. And then I'll forget them again. The law of the Spirit is different in us. It's alive. It's prompts is to do the good and right and graceful salvational things the angels long to look upon, and to remember God's law.
There are so many laws in our culture, hundreds and thousands, miilions of them. We can't even begin to keep track of them. And many people are becoming down right hostile to the idea of law. And I don't blame them, because we see laws being selectively enforced. We see special breaks given to "politically correct" causes. We see how executive orders are changing the very nature of our democratic government. It seems every difficult issue is "resolved" nowadays by a decree. The Caesars and Neros of old couldn't have done it better. But if we human beings, as Christians, are asked to consent and accept the new interior law of salvation, how much more should our secular governments seek our consent before they decree their laws and decree our acceptance of them.
We don't have a very good concept of law in our culture any more. And we Christians are part of this culture. And the fact is many of us risk losing our respect for God's law too, because we are losing our respect for man's laws and the very concept of law itself. We now think laws and law are there to be manipulated by us, or by lawyers on our behalf, or evaded by our accountants. Law seems like a game, but we can't let Church and faith become just another wordly game, where God's law is manipulated, whereby God's people are invited to find a church that says my sin is not a sin, as if God's law is chageable, as if God, like man's law, could Himself be manipulated.
There's so many laws in our culture, it's like we'll soon have call the government to empty a birth bath in the back yard. And you need a lawyers to even half way understand the laws that we have to follow. But watch out, getting caught up in the law, and the game of legal musical chairs, can have very severe consequences. Anyone can lose all they have, and their freedom too. Our societal laws are no joke, but they seem to be arbitrarily and unfairly enforced, selective based, and written by and for the rich and powerful. But my point remains, and I realize I'm likely preaching to Christians or would be faithers, we can't let these facts about man made laws degrade our sense of the beauty, necessity and salvation of living the new faith based, supernatural interior law of Jesus in our hearts.
And the fact is, nations and peoples and folks who want their ears tickled are becoming lawless, one step away from taking the mark of, 'the lawless one," aka 'the antichrist,' who will come along and promise us something better than both secular law and God's law. But we know this will be a huge lie.
In this atmosphere, we Christians might forget that respect of and maintenance of the democratic legal system we have, as flawed and limited as it is, is the only thing that protects our freedoms of speech, and association and privacy, and our freedom to be left alone to worship as we please, left alone to publicly espouse values that are essential to our salvation. Make no mistake, if social cohesion, free speech and secular law breaks down, we true Christians, who depend on free speech and movement, will be the first to suffer.
Now stay with me. Much of historic Christianity tried to divorce itself from it's Hebrew biblical roots. We've preached this a hundred times on The Preaching Hour. This is unacceptable and non biblical. It began right away with everything from changing the date and nature of "Easter" away from the true liberation of our Jesus Passover to a three day feast in Rome in the first century, to Marcion rejecting the Hebrew Scriptures in the second century, to becoming a people of the empire that recited creeds, rather than an ongoing people of the book that knew scripture from the second through fifth centuries.
And there have been many negative results of this divorce from our Jewish biblical roots. One of these is that some 'Christians" now approach scripture as if there is something wrong with God's moral and Spiritual laws, as if we should be able to move beyond the whole discussion of right and wrong, and law itself, as if it's time to improve upon His laws and His choice to save us by a new law that itself demands discipline. The world and some of the church seems to want an easier and lawless way, as if the biblical concept of law, old and new, is somehow itself in contradiction to salvation, or is lacking, or wasn't fully inspired, and needs to be updated. Like the God of the Hebrew and Christian bible needs a makeover, and a more popular law, as if the God of the bible is no longer our one and only lawgiver.
Another negative result is that some Christians, mistakenly, are sympathetic to the the idea that God changed personalities from the New and Old Testament. He was all about the law in the old (and law is "bad") and all about freedom from the law in the new. But the word says God changes not, and is not a man that he should lie, that is change his word. That is to say, we have no right to manipulate his law, as if it were our own man made law. This leaves us open to the shockingly unbiblical notion that we can manipulate God, change him, and then of course change his laws to suit our tastes and values.
The New Law Is Worth Surrendering To
No, the law of Moses is and was good. We Christians are not required to keep it. But as the Pulpit Commentary at Psalm19,7 puts it: "That our salvation is not of the law is not the fault of the law, but of man, who cannot keep it."
Biblical law and the concept of law are both good things, worth defending, and worth surrendering to. Yes we worship a God of second chances, with mercies new every day. Yes his blood covers all and any sin. Yes He doesn't play favorites, and is no respector of persons. Yes he loves the person still caught up in sin, praise Jesus. But we do not worship a lawless God, willing to throw Holy water on lawless Christianity. Faith and love and Jesus' blood and repentance cover our sins, praise His Holy Name. But changing God's laws, and dismissing the whole idea of law itself, is the emerging masterstroke of the antichrist's playbook.
Lawless Christianity, wherein nothing is right or wrong, and where mere belief (mental assent, but not repentant faith) is the only requirement, rather than living the new law of the Spirit, is unbiblical and risky. It ignores or minimizes our new nature and the new law that Christ died to give us, the law that gives us the freedom and power to live the way He really wants.
There's a look-the-other-way attitude in some of our present Christianity that neglects some of God's laws that are still binding on us, like "fear [reverance] of the lord is the beginining of all wisdom." That's a law in spirit and faith realm. It is still operating. There's his laws in the relationship realm like "the two become one flesh." That's God's law, even before we get to a church wedding or a judge. There's the law that says "we can't serve two masters, we'll hate the one and love the other." There are believers who love money more than God, and though they say "Lord Lord" they serve their god, which is money. Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses and while he freed us from that external law, but he also provided and demanded an internal law: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.' John13,34
Simply put, Jesus put Himself in our hearts and also put a new law of salvation in our hearts, and He expects us to submit to both Him and that new law.
Five Salvation or Gospel Milestones Of Living The New Interior Law
1. Hearing The Preached Gospel Word.
Not everyone who hears the gospel word has the word planted in them.
We maintain our freedom to turn to Jesus in faith and we have the freedom to turn away from Jesus in non faith, at any time during our lives. Faith, confidently acting on the promises of God, again and again, does not happen until somebody preaches the word: "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." Romans10,17
Faith doesn't happen and the word is not planted in us (James1,21) until we make some act of faith, some mental or verbal act that says "Yes" and "Amen" to Jesus' dying in our place for our sin, so that we might gain salvation, now and in the end.
The Lord brought me to Psalm65,8 to describe how beautiful and necessary the preaching of the gospel is to folks who have never heard it. Some people in church have attended all their life and never heard the gospel. They have heard denominationalism. They have heard pet stories and pet peeves, but it is that brave and noble soul in a church or out that somewhere and anywhere preaches the gospel of Jesus' victory over our sin and over hell on Calvary, that preaches that faith in Him and His atoning and washing blood frees us of all condemnation, and gives us a new hope and a new purpose, a good destination, that preaches that Jesus is Lord of all, and my savior and your savior, and a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
These are the precious initial words of the gospel, oh that we would all preach them to folks in and out of church who think they have heard it all before, and haven't.
The Lord described to me the power and reach of such gospel words with a meditation on Psalm65,8, words that describe the power of God's reach: "They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid of thy [God's] tokens: thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice."
The gospel being preached is a token, a sign, for humankind to reverance and serve God. It's a stark reminder that today is still a day when God's Spirit still deigns to contend with mere human flesh, praise God for his forbearance. In other words, today in the morning and today in the evening we rejoice, as he does, in another day to spread the gospel, another day to witness to the miracle of salvation in our fellow human beings.
There is likely no less well monetarily recompensed task than that of spreading the gospel. It is often one on one. It is often mocked, rebuffed or ignored. But it can be done in every family and neighborhood and coffee clatch in all the world. It can be done by every churchgoer in the world who invites a friend to talk about Jesus or come to church.
Pentecost, the day our tongues were loosed to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, proved to all of us Christians that every one of us is meant to be an evangelist, everyone of us has a reason for our hope on our lips. Would that we were all eeangelists and prophets.
I think of some of the things I do to evangelize, you'd think they were worth about a thimble worth of water in a desert. You'd think my spread of the gospel would not even cross one street, but praise Jesus, this gospel word, in the spirit realm never fails to reach the ends of the earth.
Did the heavens and sky above ever have their lips loosed to proclaim the work of of the Lord's hands? No! But we did. Nevertheless, Psalm19,2ff says about the mute heavens and sky "day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3 [Just like Christianity after Pentecost] There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world."
If the mute heavens and sky can proclaim the gospel of God's creation, having experienced that creation themselves, how much more us can proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, to the ends of the earth, upon our rebirth by faith. Romans10,18: "But I say, have they not heard? Yes verily, Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
In church for the last two weeks one gal in front of me, in a not so big inner city church has brought two of her friends. They came because she proclaimed the gospel to them, one gospel voice that went to her hometown and to the ends of the earth and made God rejoice, praise Jesus.
"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring goodnews!" John10,15
At 3John6-7 John tells the church to support the passing-through missionaries who were still strangers to them: "You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out receiving no help from the pagans."
We bare bones Christians don't depend on anyone outside the camp, or often inside the camp, we are going to preach the gospel no matter what, with a budget or without, because "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." Romans10,17
Hearing the gospel is the first stage of living the new interior law. Nobody can accept something that they haven't heard.
2. The Hour of Our First Faith
This is the stage when the gospel word, having been preached and heard, is planted in us by our humble decision to accept the gospel and Jesus. James1,21. But it's only a seed word. It's not the whole expanse of God's word. We need to have this word grow roots and fructify. To do that it must be watered and nurtured into the context of our own life, where it comes to further life, and grows, or dies.
James1,21 says this word "can save us," that is, if we continue to accept it, if we make it our own, if we live it out, if we don't ever lose it. We all know folks who at one time received the gospel word with gladness, and now they don't. They might still believe in their head, but the seed-word died in them. This is the parable of the sower, Jesus, and the seed-word sown on rocky ground:
"The one who received the seed [the word] that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root [the supernatural gospel has root, the rocky ground man, has no root] he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away." Matthew13,20-21
I say it's a "seed" word also according to 1Peter1,23: "You have been born again not of an imperishable seed, but imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God."
Stay with me.
The seed-word fallen on the rocky ground man fails to fructify. It dies. The man might still believe in his head, but the fact is there is nothing of a born- again, nothing of the gospel living in him, nothing that can grow into living a new life, unto an interior law, and the fullness of the word. So when the word-seed dies, we're not on road to salvation and living the interior law. We have to repent and faith and start over, accept the saving word again, at whatever level we are at.
1Peter1,23 at first glance might look like it contradicts Matthew13,20-21 or over-rules it, but it doesn't. It simply says that the gospel word is itself an imperishable seed. Nobody can kill it. Not an antichrist, not a false cult, not the false prophet money-politics church, not a devil worshipper, not Jezabel, not a pagan, not someone devoted to witchcraft, not a false teacher. It's the blood bought eternal imperishable seed of the gospel. And with this imperishable seed-word Jesus wrote a new covenant, a new Spiritaul law, but that seed is not guaranteed in any of us at any stage of our salvation.
This verse does not say that the newly reborn bearer of this seed-word cannot lose or destroy the seed.
What the sower and seed parable of Matthew13 teaches is that the seed, the gospel word, placed in a fickle, rocky or ultimately unreceptive heart and spirit is fragile and capable of death. Seeds in nature die all the time, and the seed-word of faith can also can die in a human soul by the loss of faith.
Of course our lord knows this and his word insists at James1,21 that the remedy for fickleness and hardheartedness is to make the word-seed our own, to wrestle with it, water it with good preaching, and worship, and Holy Ghost inspiration, and not let anything come between it and us, and become disciplined in keeping it, and keep pressing forward into our salvation, or it will die in us.
Many people remember the hour we first believed, a precious moment, when salvation was planted in us. When our old fallen human nature took a mortal blow, when we were born again, praise Jesus. But new born babies (1Peter2,2) need pure spiritual milk to nurture and keep alive their new found reborn soul, so they can keep growing towards living the new law of Jesus.
3. Public Profession-Baptism In Jesus Name
Here at this third salvation step is where we Christians have our biggest disagreements.
But here is also where many fully rejoice in the basic doctrines of Christianity mentioned at Hebrews6,1 where many gladly bear down and into scripture and appropriate the fullness of God's word according to the dictate of James1,21.
Hebrews 6,1ff exhorts its hearers, ex-temple priests, nostalgic for their past prestige, pomp and power. These priests are all beyond this third profession-water baptism and and the fourth Holy Ghost baptism salvation stages. Their wills have grown weak and perhaps they are weary of penurious well doing among the goyim and they don't want to keep expanding the breath of the word, keep receiving it. They miss the ease and power of their old temple sacrifice days when the law was exterior and they reigned as profitable religious scions. Their human nature has kicked up again, and now by the word and the Spirit that fallen craven nature is going to have to be subdued once again.
Now they must appropriate again the word that Jesus is the giver of a new law, a better law, authored by a better High priest, Jesus, who will put his law(s) in their minds, and write them on their hearts (Hebrews8,10). That's the big picture of the book of Hebrews.
For our purposes here, the author of Hebrews, in exhorting these ex Temple priests to move forward unto the new and better law, unmistakeably refers to the salvational importance of both water and Holy Ghost baptism at Hebrews 6,1ff "Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death [step one hearing the gospel], and of faith in God [step 2], instruction about baptisms [steps3-4 water and Holy Ghost Baptism], the laying on of hands, the resurection of the dead and eternal judgment."
The author of Hebrews compares these lazy ex Temple priests who won't move on to the new law (and priesthood) of Christ to a land filled with thorns and thistles ready to be burned:
"But land that that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. 9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case-things that accompany salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will never forget your work and and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people [under the old law] and continue to help him [under the new law]. 11 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith [accetping the word at every stage of salvation] and patience inherit what has been promised." Hebrews6,8-11
Hebrews6 and Acts2,36-38 clearly prove to us that baptisms, water and Spirit are the norm for salvation. They also prove that these baptisms and the very call of God are closely connected to each other.
Just as step one, hearing the preached word, is vitally connected to our first faith, so is adult water baptism vitally connected to Holy Ghost baptism. The water baptism, usually, precedes and lays the foundation for Holy Ghost baptism, as in Acts 19, where the folks in Ephesus had only John's baptism, but no Holy Ghost baptism, so they were baptized in Jesus Name, and then they received the Holy Ghost baptism.
We know that the two baptisms are vitally connected because Acts2,38 tells us what we must all do: "repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 "This promise is for you and your children [Jews, those at the first Pentecost] and for all who are far off [gentiles who weren't at the first Pentecost]- for all whom the Lord our God will call."
So here we also see the Lord's call of all, v.39, is vitally, in these "what-must-we-do" verses, and unmistakeably connected to both water and Holy Ghost baptism.
This is the biblical pattern. The Lord calls us to salvation by His grace. We hear the word, step, one. We believe the word, step two. The call to salvation includes the call to both baptisms (Acts2,39), steps three and four.
He calls us to salvation and to the baptisms and we then call on his name in water baptism. James2,7. His name there is invoked over us, the Name is called or pronounced over us. So he calls us to salvation and baptism, and we then we freely respond by calling on his name, have it invoked or pronounced over us, in baptism.
This is huge teaching, but it is also very simple. Christians who don't believe adult water baptism is part of the process of salvation will invariably cite Romans10,9, one verse, but I'm going to cite the verses 9 to 13, the latter of which again refers to our calling on the name of the Lord. Romans10,9-13 is itself a baptismal referance that ties public confession-profession of Jesus as Lord and savior to water baptism:
"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," [baptism is a public act, the profession of faith] and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is in your heart that you believe and are justified [our "heart" ie soul, mind, spirit, organizing principle and "place" of faith and new interior law], and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As scripture says, "anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame. 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile [Galatians3,27-28 relates this "no difference..." to the supernatural effects of water baptism]- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesss all who call on him, for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
There is no contradiction between calling on the name of the Lord in faith at confession-profession and calling on the name of the Lord in water baptism. Public profession-baptism is a salvation step in the New Testament. Yes, we can believe without publicly confessing, but both public confession and water baptism are part of the covenantal act of exchanging names at water baptism, where Jesus calls us by name (John10,3) and we call upon his name, and then are baptized.
David Norris, a Pentecostal scholar writtes convincingly about the covenantal aspects of water baptism as it relates to invoking the name of Jesus in water baptism. We have also explored in this space this subject and noted the similar covenantal aspects of Christian baptism, and baptism among the Qumran which also thrived in the days Jesus walked the earth, www.zionpentecostmission.com/one-baptism-one-eternal-covenant-with-Jesus.html
We have said that adult water baptism is the point at which we change cosmic teams, from the world the devil and the flesh to our Lord of Lords and King of Kings according to Colossians2,11-14 which relates the old covenant law of salvation, by the covenantal act of physical circumcision, with the circumcision done by Christ, a circumcision of our "hearts," an actual event that these verses equate with our being buried together with Him at our water baptism:
"In him you were also circumcized, in putting off the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men, but with the [water baptismal] circumcision done by Christ, having been buried together with him in baptism [a real supernatural miraculous event if done with personal saving faith], and raised with him through your faith in the power of God [more good solid water baptismal imagery], who raised him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature [pre-new covenant, pre-baptism], God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us [that attached from the covenant ceremony of circumcision]."
Norris describes the real salvational event of water baptism in this way: "But again, it [invoking the name] is not merely the presence of Christ. It is the Yahweh [the Lord God] acting salvifically in the work of Jesus Christ. Such an understanding is evident in the covenant initiation. Whereas, in the Old Testament it was Yahweh's name that was invoked in covenant initiation, in the New Testament it is the name of Jesus." (p. 141, A Oneness Pentecostal Theology, WAP Academic, 2009)
So, far from runnning from or minimizing the salvific step of publicly professing-adult water baptism in Jesus Name, we bear down upon it as scriptural, as essential to the new covenant we each personally are called to make with God, a covenant to follow and serve Him as our only Lord, as an expression of doing everything we do, from there on out, in His name and in His service.
And my personal testimony, take it for what it's worth, is that even having been baptized in the Holy Ghost for 15 years prior (the most precious gift from God I have ever received), it was water baptism in His name that experientially and profoundly rooted me in Christ, which once and for all loosed the still somewhat rocky ground upon which the word took root in my life.
I can say without blinking, that adult water baptism, by full immersion, doubled and tripled my faith conviction and also what I know about scripture.
Even though I was baptized in the Spirit for 15 years prior, and used gifts in various ministries, same gifts as today, my own sense of salvation and ministerial rootedness went from walking down a perfectly glassy iced frozen river with street shoes, which can be done, to skating down it with perfectly sharpened and fitted skates.
4. Baptism In The Spirit Is The Always Updated Software of Our New Nature
Yes as I just testified, I was baptized in the Spirit before I was water baptized in Jesus Name. So was the Roman Cornelius, Acts10,47-48. And yet when this happens like it did to Cornelius we still seek out water baptism for it's covenantal rootedness even though the Holy Ghost baptism seems to be the greater salvation gift.
Baptism in the spirit is the Christian honeymoon, luna de miel. It is the closest thing in faith to the bliss of mutual love. When it hits we holler "yes indeed," and "halleluia" too.
Oh that Pentecostal churches and others would preach this salvation doctrine. Yes when a church fills with folks baptized in the Spirit, it can, in the short term, make church administration seem more difficult. But who else is to do the ministry of proclaiming the gospel to the ends of the earth save for those who have been prepared to do so?
This radical and life changing blessing is not often preached in evangelical churches because many believe it happens the moment we first believe, regardless of rocky ground, or the shallow roots of the word. In contrast, we believe that the experience of Holy Ghost baptism is something we seek and tarry for, and press into and receive, when our soul and spirits are fit, and when we are ready to go to another level of service for Jesus and the gospel.
It also can be sort of goofy, with folks hearing from God, who is Spirit. And we make no pretence that Holy Ghost baptism and the insistance of tongues by some Pentecostals will lead to faking, and too much coaching as to receiving the baptism in the Spirit. But the word says "do all speak in tongues?" 1Corinthians12,30. The answer is no! But all in the Corinthian church did have gifts, 1Corinthians12,7. We don't receive identifiable gifts unless we are baptized in the Spirit. So the folks in Corinth were all baptized in the Spirit.
Baptism in the Spirit can also be charismaniacal, a prayer-fringe group thing when it is not integrated in the mainstream of the church and preached from the pulpit. But dearly beloved of God, when we keep appropriating the promises of the word, by confidently acting on them, this baptism is going to happen. I have defined it biblically under eight aspects: http://www.zionpentecostmission.com/settle-for-nothing-less.html
But for our purposes today in relation to our ability to live the new interior law of Jesus in us, suffice is to say here, as a description, that Holy Ghost baptism connects the hardware of our living God in our temple with human software through which our faith takes shape, gets lived out, and is expressed.
We don't need to rack our brains as to what to preach, or what to say, or what ministry to do when we are baptized in the Spirit. Because God starts guiding us as to all things we do, starts to teach us Himself. Praise Jesus for the letter of the word, and knowing the letter, but without the power and revelation of the word, after Holy Ghost baptism, the letter often doesn't come alive, or much get put into practice.
Non-believers thought the apostles were drunk on the day of Pentecost. We can argue about words and theologies and philosophies and denominational differences but we can't argue about experiences. Baptism in the Spirit is quite an experience, like no other. God, who is Jesus, enters our souls and bodies in a way that doesn't just plant a seed, but integrates us as His sons and daughters.
A Healing Of Our Cracked Humanity
I experienced this baptism of the Holy Ghost as the healing reunion between my heart and my mind. The Hebrew bible approach to us human beings is as one personality, not as mind versus emotions, not as body versus soul, or spirit. These are dualistic and Greek concepts of the human person, but the bible idea of the human person is one irrepeatable personality, made in the image and likeness of God, who is in a supernatural relationship with the one personality of God, whereby every aspect in us and of us can be integrated by the word and Spirit, unto the ability to live the interior law of God.
This is what baptism in the Spirit began in me, a healing integration, upon which the new nature of God, the new mind he gave me, could function and operate.
I see baptism in the Spirit (seconf part of the One baptism) as a key step in our salvation, the step whereby we go from being a cracked pot, and I'm not being flippant here, to a temple and spring that is capable of holding the healing waters of salvation and then having an overflow that bless others. John7,37and38: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 whoever believes in me, as the scriptures has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."
Praise His holy name! How many dear Christians have the Holy Ghost flow right out of their church and right out of their homes, and rigth out of their lives. They and we have to be made whole, healed, before we can hold the Spirit.
How can we speak of a new nature, and living the interior law of the Spirit if we haven't received the one water-Spirit baptism that provides us with the new Spiritual nature, the new salvation nature, and the new mind that makes no provisions for the flesh?
I love my friends and colleagues from non Pentecostal churches, but I also admire the man or woman of God, baptized in the Spirit, who will turn on a dime and put aside the message or do the ministry he or she has prepared for, long and hard, and give the message and do the ministry that God wants right then and there.
I admire the man or woman of God, baptized in the Holy Ghost, who doesn't just talk about forgiving enemies or about turning the other cheek, or a willingess to lose the favor of Babylon and fence sitting brethren. Only a man or woman baptized in the Holy Ghost is willing to live a fitting testimony to Jesus and His new law of Jesus on a consistant basis.
5. Living The New Interior Law Of Jesus
Looking back at about thirty years of faith I realize that it's tempting to jump at our first understanding of biblical doctrine or what an institution might say. But the more I study the word, and faith onwards, the more conscious I am of when I'm speaking my own uninspired words (or somebody elses') into His written words. This is not good, not nearly as good as when His written words come alive as a new law and are confirmed ,100% of the time, by the Spirit of God which lives in me.
One group says infant baptism is salvific.
Another says first faith is enough for salvation, and to put a new nature in me.
Another says a "sacramant" from a man's hands gives the holy Ghost.
Another says Holy Ghost baptism happens at first faith.
Thirty years ago I'd have jumped at the idea that I had a new nature and that I was a "new creation" the hour I first believed. But now I see Paul at Romans8,13, exhorting folks to mortify that old nature with the Spirit, with the Spirit they received when they were baptized in that Spirit.
A baptism in the Spirit decreed by men at the moment of faith, a seed of the Spirit, is not going to put to death our old nature, which all mature Christians know can kick up at any stage or opportunity. We need more to change our Adamic natures.
I'm glad to tell folks when they ask how long I have been "saved" even when saved for them and me means different things. For me it means when I meet Jesus one day, in the rapture, or death. But how long we have been baptized in the Spirit and how long we have been living the new law with the that baptism in the Holy Ghost Spirit are also good questions.
But whereever we're at in our faith walk, and whatever our salvation doctrine, we can't stop moving forward in our faith. We can't ever stop and let that old nature kick up and dig in again. Because that old nature, absent real new saving faith, might mean we lose that new nature, and go backward and serve the wrong team again, and annull our profession, and rest on mere belief, and perhaps lose any saving faith at all, and deny we ever heard the gospel!
Thirty years ago I would have been estatic to consider myself a "new creation" at first belief. I would have jumped right at that, and made it a doctrine. But Paul at 2Corinthians5,16-17 is exhorting his hearers in this way: "from now one we recognize no one according to the flesh." He's doing this because he knows, or assumes, that they are folks already living according to the Spirit, that is baptized in the Spirit, who already have a new nature. This was his priority at Acts 19,2 with the newbie Christians at Ephesus, who fully believed, but who didn't even know that the holy Ghost existed let alone made them new creations. In contrast Paul here at 2Corinthians5,16-17 is exhorting the church to buy into what Holy Ghost baptism had afforded them, new creation and the Spirit based ministry of reconciliation, and their noble and more advanced status as "ambassadors" of Christ, because they have the Spirit of God fully living in them. That is, they have been baptized in the Spirit.
Nowadays, and being baptized in the Spirit, I don't jump so quickly to believe what others tell me about the word, or read into it what I want. I'm more content to let the Spirit back up His written word. People ask me why I am a Pentecostal, part of a historic movemant back to the Apostolic biblical roots of the church in the first century, not a denomination. I guess they think I sound like a Baptist? I'm "Pentecostal" because only when the written word is backed up by the ever fresh spoken word of Jesus living in me, do I have the faith courage of Jesus, to hang myself on one of His written promises (as Gene Scott used to define faith).
Jesus knew we needed a new nature if we were ever going to get to the point of acting the way He wanted and He demanded. And what our human temptation is to try and replace this demanding law with quick-fix doctrines that cut out the hard parts.
And with these quick fix doctrines, every denomination has them, we sometime bail out of His highminded purposes, out of the hunger and thirst for righteousness, that only the fullness of the Holy Spirit could put in us, and bail out of living the new law that Jesus' word and his salvation put in us, and bail out of doing and saying the salvation truths that angels long to look upon and hear. Because it sounds too hard. It might sound hard, or like works, but his word and His Spirit says that this perfect law of freedom is well worth seeking out and living.
We Christians don't always cotten so much to the idea that we are all called to the holy and "priestly" service (1Peter2,5and9) of the gospel. This would mean and demand a full service and acceptance of the whole gospel word at every turn and milestone of our faith, up to and including living the new and perfect law of the Spirit.
You see now why it is so much easier to say "I got my salvation or my sacrament at church today?"
How much easier it is to say "I got salvation back at step 1 or 2 or 3 or 4," than it is to hunger and thirst for righteousness unto living the new law, and be taught by God, and persevering unto judgment?
I've read Smith Wigglesworth's disarmingly profound book "Ever Increasing Faith" a couple of times. An ever increasing faith is totally possible when we bring Jesus blood on Calvary up to heights of God's promises, up to new law not from an earthly Sinai, but from on high, from where comes the power and ability to live that law.
Wigglesworth is talking about living our faith under the anointing of the interior Spirit in freedom rather than under the condemnation of the old external law:
"As far as you are concerned, all that the old order of things is forever done away, and the Spirit of God has brougth in a new life of purity and love. The Holy Spirit takes it for granted that you are finished with all the things of the old life when you became a new creation in Christ. In the life in the Spirit, the old allurements have lost their power. The devil will meet you at every turn, but the Spirit of God will always lift up a standard against him.
Oh, if God had his way, we should be like torches, purifying the atmosphere wherever we go, moving back the forces of wickedness." (p.141, Gospel Publishing House, Springfield, Mo. Rev. Ed.,1992)
Likewise 2Corinthians3,17-18: "Now the Lord is that Spirit [and that interior law!], and where the Spirit of the Lord is [in our hearts, in our church], there is liberty. 18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord [looking in the mirror at our redeemed selves], are changed into the same image [interior image of Jesus] from glory to glory [the salvation steps], even as by the Spirit of the Lord." [which backs up every written promise of the Lord]
Yes Five Steps To Salvation But Not Legalism But Full Surrender To Jesus
That's my message, "Accepting The Word Unto Living The New Interior Law Within Us."
Praise Jesus- we are called by grace to move ever forward in our salvation, from glory to glory, fueled by Jesus' Spirit in us. This call begins by hearing the gospel, and is followed by our first act of faith, then by public profession and public act of adult baptism, then baptism in the Spirit, and finally to living by daily faith the new law of the Spirit which means perseverance unto judgment, or the rapture.
This biblical salvation course esteems the hunger and thirst for righteousness that we bear in us and the ability to live the new law of the risen Jesus residing is us.
Now an astute listener might ask "do you really think all five steps are the biblical norm for salvation? And if so, isn't that legalism?" As to steps, they are His norm, and who are we not to get water baptized when He himself, though sinless, did so for our example? As to the second part, how can God's revelation of a mere five steps be legalism when He and his word defines his salvation as a "new law," an interior law living within us?
But if you are really asking me if I think Jesus will be more merciful than the salvation doctrine of His word, in light of the fact that man has so reduced, changed and or obfuscated it from the get go, and in light of the fact that so few Christians teach these steps, all I can say is only He has that right.
But it would be foolish for me or anyone to depend on Jesus being more merciful than his supreme and demonstarted mercy than his written word and more merciful than dying in my place and your place on Calvary.
Our task is not to speculate about God's mercy, or presume it in the future, but to take advantage of it now while we still can. Our task as preachers is to teach the whole counsel of God in season and out, as revealed in his written word, as backed up by His Spirit, which at once comprises the new law alive within us.
This take-no-shortcuts approach to salvation lines up with that most difficult but peaceful of human faith acts, an act that no legalism could inspire, surrending to a living Lord whose face we long to see.
If we really want to see him and live together forever, it seems no big imposition to accept his whole word.
Perhaps what we need most to live by faith in these trying days is a fresh respect and understanding that the new law of the Lord is both perfect and living in us, and though it is a law cut according to His measure it's doable, when we accept the word at every stage of our faith walk according to James1,21.
This making our own the whole counsel of God is not so much a question of doctrine, and even less of quibbling with each other, but our willingness, like Jesus did, to surrender our wills to the extent that His new gospel word and new gospel law demands of us.
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...