The Ministry of Transformation

.... The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to conform us to the image of Christ, which He is said to accomplish through ‘fire’ (Matthew 3:11). This means that as we pass through the fire of life’s trials, He will constantly point us to Jesus in an effort to explore His Divine character in the same situations, basically showing us: "This is the heart and mind of Christ, in speaking to the sort of circumstance you are now facing."

.... "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)

.... The Holy Spirit will show you the mind of Christ by bringing to your remembrance the things Jesus taught us:

.... "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)

.... Finally, the Holy Spirit will ‘fine tune’ the application of these Scriptures by comparing them with other pertinent Scriptures (1 Corinthians 2:13). This will foster an impression very deeply within your own spirit. These impressions are more spiritual in nature than mere head knowledge (though both play a part) and may be mulled, pondered and searched from deeply within ourselves:

.... "These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual."

(1 Corinthans 2:13)

.... Through this process, a trans- formation in your own spirit will begin. The trial has provided an opportunity for seeing Jesus' character in a very applicable way, and has offered a living 'furnace' for refining you, to remake you in His image. Under these circumstances, the lesson will be wrought so deeply in your understanding that it will have the power to reshape you from within. Remaining true to His character throughout your fierly trial will ingrain a little more of His character into your own.

.... Through this whole process you'll come to a true, heartfelt understanding of Jesus’ divine subjectivity; and soon the process will be repeated in additional areas of your life, as you are transformed into His image from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

.... In this manner, as you are remade into His image, Jesus Himself, formed within you, will become your fruit to eternal life:

.... "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."

(John 6:27)

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Daily Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 15

Baptism with Fire

.... To fully understand how the Holy Spirit applies His lessons of Jesus' character, and how He uses them to transform us, we must grasp the full context in which He offers them. Remember that Jesus was said to baptize ‘with the Holy Spirit and fire’. The original Greek in this passage implies a single, unified thought. In other words, the baptism with the Holy Spirit is always accompanied by fire, and to try to separate these elements of thought does violence to the meaning of the passage.
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The ‘fire’ of our baptism refers to the trials in our lives (which none of us are immune to anyway, so we might as well achieve some progress by trying to learn from them). For just as the apostles shared in the trials of Jesus (Luke 22:28), the Holy Spirit will share in our trials with us, while pointing us to Jesus in every way. He is called the parakletos or ‘Helper’, which means ‘one who comes alongside’. In this way He will guide us into all truth, and use each opportunity to remake us a little more into Jesus’ image:

.... "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."

(Ephesians 2:10)

.... In the Scriptures, our trials are likened to a refiner’s fire, and using this as a parable allows us to understand the process better:
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Through trials, we are put through the ‘heat’ of life, so that our hardness will soften or even melt, that we may become pliable in the Master’s hand – just as silver or some other precious metal would become pliable. This way, the Master can begin His work to change our lives into a new shape that pleases Him.
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As a part of the same process, the impurities within us (called dross,) will boil to the surface where they may be spooned away. Thus, the vessel becomes purer at the same time. The Apostle Peter described the process well:

.... ". . . In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

(1 Peter 1:6-7)

.... And in very similar words, the baptism with the Holy Spirit was described by John the Baptist:

.... "John answered, saying to all, "I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire."

(Luke 3:16-17)

.... The Holy Spirit’s lessons will match the life of Jesus to our own situations, which will give us an opportunity for applying His life in our own, to live a little bit more of our life with Him.

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Daily Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 14

The Person of the Holy Spirit

.... Let’s begin this lesson by correcting a common misunderstanding. Anyone who has attended church for awhile, or has watched Christian television for any length of time, has heard reference to the term ‘the baptism of the Holy Spirit’; but we should carefully note that this term is a misnomer. The baptism ‘of’ the Holy Spirit implies that the Holy Spirit administers this baptism, which is not the case. It also casts the baptism itself in a purely functional light, which is simplistic and therefore inaccurate.

.... ‘John answered, saying to all, "I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire".’

(Luke 3:16)

.... The correct understanding is that Jesus baptizes us ‘with’ the Holy Spirit or ‘in’ the Holy Spirit, and therefore this is the baptism of Jesus Christ. Far from being semantic, this distinction is very important. It tells us that Jesus Himself administers this baptism that we may be joined with Him, by the Holy Spirit, in a much deeper sense. And to understand this deeper sense, we must understand just who the Holy Spirit is:

.... "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."

(John 16:7)

.... The Holy Spirit is a distinct Person sent from God, another helper like Jesus Himself (John 14:16). But more than this, He is One with the Father and the Son (Isaiah 48:16). The Holy Spirit is, to God, what our own spirit is to us: a living part of our personality that is distinct from our soul (which is our mind and seat of emotions – 1 Thessalonians 5:23).
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.... And just as our spirit is the living, perceptive part of our being that is in touch with God (1 Peter 1:22), it is through the Holy Spirit that God communicates with us (see 1 Corinthians 2:11-12). See further notes in the ‘comments’ section.
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.... Since the Holy Spirit is an actual, Divine Person, let’s understand what this means! To be baptized ‘in’ or ‘with’ the Holy Spirit implies a deeper walk with the Lord Himself in some very intimate, interpersonal terms! Our spirit is joined with His in some deeper way. In fact, an alternate term for this baptism is that we have been ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (see Acts 2:4).
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.... The Holy Spirit takes the things that belong to God, which He has revealed through the life of Jesus, and He ministers them to us in a very personal sense that transforms our lives to make us more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). To do this, He searches the deepest aspects of God’s own character traits and He works to develop those same traits in us (1 Corinthians 2:10-12).

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Daily Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 13

Levels of Spirit Ministry

.... The Holy Spirit’s ministry actually takes place on two different levels. First is His ministry directly to us, to teach us, guide us and transform us into Jesus' image; and second is His ministry through us, that is directed toward others -- and it is possible to have the first without yet having the second. There is a clear and intentional graduation between them, and in this posting we’ll discuss both levels.
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.... Let’s start by discussing His personal ministry, which began on the day that Jesus arose:

.... ‘And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit".’

(John 20:22)

.... After Jesus breathed on the apostles in this way, they were sealed with the Holy Spirit. Among other things, at this level of ministry, they were now able to receive commandments in the Spirit (Acts 1:2). Already He was guiding them, but more would be following soon. In fact, let’s look at that passage in its context and take a hint from the time frames involved:
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.... ". . . until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’."

(Acts 1:2-5)

.... For forty days, the Holy Spirit ministered to the apostles in a personal sense, but in the same passage another level of His ministry was foretold: that they would soon be baptized with the Holy Spirit as well, which was, in fact, another week away. So in this passage, we are clearly talking about two different levels of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. Jesus went on to explain this second level and its purpose:

.... "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

(Acts 1:8)

.... In this second level of ministry, the Holy Spirit ministers through us to others for the purpose of testifying about Jesus. This additional level of ministry includes spiritual gifts, different types of ministries, and especially evangelism, as a special empowerment from on high is granted for these purposes. In evangelistic terms, the apostles were to wait until the received this empowerment, and were limited to ministering among themselves until they did:

.... "Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high."

(Luke 24:49)

.... In our next two modules, we’ll discuss the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power in various forms, including spiritual gifts and ministries. But leaving those aside for the moment, let’s concentrate on the essence of the baptism itself in this module.

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 12

Snares From Our Past

.... In our previous posting we discussed the ‘process’ by which our minds are renewed to new, Christ-like thoughts; but at the same time, some of the old information that is still useful may be drawn upon and replicated into our new man. We are in this world but not of it, so this is legitimate in many ways. To explain this in further detail, we used the analogy of the ‘dupe’ key, and gave some legitimate examples.
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.... But this same process can be misused, and even abused, as the wrong type of old information is renewed in us, resulting in a great deal of harm to ourselves. For example, let’s say that you were somehow reminded of a past conflict, began to muse on it, and even allowed yourself to become moody about it. Over the next several days, you returned to those thoughts often (dupe). You thought about the conflicts this episode caused (dupe). You mused upon the shame, the anger, the resentment, or any other emotions that may have been brought up through it (dupe). Because you called these things back to your mind repeatedly, you'll begin to rebuild those old conflicts in your new man:

.... "And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return."

(Hebrews 11:15)

.... Or let’s say again that you had a habitual sin in your life before coming to Jesus. As a new Christian you begin to muse on that old sin, to wonder if it was really so bad after all; to think in terms of making an exception and giving yourself one last treat, or of holding something back from God. Your thought may be that maybe you’be been rushing things too much; maybe you’re not yet ready and so . . . (dupe – yes, you really would be duped!)

.... "For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."

(Romans 8:6)

.... Sin, itself, will try to deceive you in such ways, to offer you all the excuses you’ll need (Romans 7:11). If you listen and make allowances, and deceive yourself thereby, you could easily find yourself rebuilding an old struggle into your life that was truly conquered through the cross and left behind. It may actually be revived in this way, and it’s image rebuilt in you (Romans 7:9). And Jesus will not be re-crucified for you this time; now you'll find it much more difficult to deal with than it need ever have been.
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.... So when old emotions or thought patterns come to your mind, you must learn not to yield to them, but to ‘write over’ them with new information. You must seek to understand Jesus’ heart, mind and counsel on the same subjects:

.... "that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness."

(Ephesians 4:22-24)

.... As the Holy Spirit ministers to you, He will guide you into replacing your old thoughts with new, Christ-like thoughts on the same subjects, which He will show you from the Scriptures. In a living way, these thoughts will be written in your heart and mind to replace the last shadows of your former thoughts, so that your mind may be renewed in full.

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Daily Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 11

Renewal of the Mind

.... When we become a new creation in Jesus we receive a total change, for the Scriptures have said that "all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17). Yet new things are still being written in our hearts as well, as we learn more about Jesus and mature in Him (Ephesians 4:22-24). This means that in a strictly practical sense we are facing a learning curve that could leave us with some blank spots along the way. So let’s use an analogy to explain how God handles this:

.... A father and his son were brought to the hospital as victims of a minor accident. As they were being treated, the emergency room clerk filled out their admissions information on her computer:
.... She began by calling up a field of demographic questions to her screen. She skipped from field to field as she filled in the information for the father. This took several minutes, and when she was finished she pressed the ENTER key on her keyboard.
.... The screen froze briefly as the information was filed, then it blinked and reappeared as before. All of the information was still in place as she had typed it. But no, that really wasn’t the case after all. It only looked the same.
.... In reality, the screen was now showing a new demographic record that was completely empty. Each of its fields were actually blank. Yet they retained an image from the previous screen, which is called a ‘background record’. In principle, this is similar to pressing a blank sheet of paper over another sheet with writing on it, and seeing the writing on the sheet beneath. The new sheet is actually clean but a separate image lies beneath it that we may still read from, or may trace to the new sheet if desired.
.... The computer program was arranged this way for a similar reason. As another member of the same family was admitted, the process went quickly since a good deal of the information remained the same. It was simply a matter of duplicating the desirable information from the background record into the new, by using the ‘auxiliary dupe’ key.
.... Now the clerk sped along in admitting the son, pressing the ‘dupe’ key when appropriate, and changing the information when that was appropriate:

Last name: (dupe) First name: (change) street address: (dupe) city: (dupe) state: (dupe) zip code: (dupe) birth date: (change) guarantor information: (dupe)


.... . . . and so the process sped on, as old information was drawn from the previous screen when appropriate, and new information was typed over the old when that was appropriate. And in this way a different person was eventually described: related to the first, and in some ways similar; but also unique.
.... This analogy helps us to understand what happens when we become a new creation in Christ. In every way we truly are new, just as the new computer screen was actually blank. Yet a lifeless image of our past remains in the background, containing all of the knowledge we had previously accumulated in our lifetime – but without its former influence or power:

..... "how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"

(Hebrews 9:14)

.... The residual image of your past, though lifeless, remains in your background for a reason. There may be parts of it you’ll still wish to draw upon. For example, you still want to drive a car, right? Simply by pulling out your keys and resorting to that knowledge again, and applying it in your conduct, you’ll draw that information into your new life, too (dupe).
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.... You still want to be gainfully employed, right? By returning to your job and applying yourself to your duties, you’ll retrieve those skills into your new life also (dupe). Or perhaps you’re a student, preparing to graduate. By applying yourself to your studies and taking those tests, you’ll draw that education into your new life as well (dupe).
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This whole process takes place naturally, so that you’ll ‘retrieve’ the old information simply by resorting to it persistently and applying it. This will ‘duplicate’ it into your new life as well, to become a part of your new creation. God explains this principle through another analogy:

.... "And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return."

(Hebrews 11:15)

.... Through this natural process, it won’t be long before you’ve stopped drawing on the old life in the important ways, because that knowledge has been effectively ‘duplicated’ into your new life, and you will simply be relying on another facet of the new creation.
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.... Since we are still living in this world, drawing on some of that old information is needful and legitimate. As Christians, we are in the world but not of the world; we use this world without abusing it. We may still draw upon the old information where appropriate, but we must also learn to ‘write over’ the old information when that is the appropriate thing to do:

.... "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."

(Philippians 2:5)

.... We will discuss both aspect further in our next posting.

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Daily Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 10

The New Life

.... During the days when Jesus walked the earth, we know that the Holy Spirit was not yet given because Jesus had not yet been glorified (John 7:39). But after He arose, He breathed on the apostles and told them "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). This, however, was not the same as their being baptized in the Holy Spirit, which would follow 47 days later (Acts 1:3-5). So on this occasion, in what sense did they receive Him?
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Remember that Jesus had just been crucified, buried, and rasied from the dead, and He had just shown the apostles how His sufferings and glory fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy (Luke 24:44-45). Because they were now witnesses of these things, the complete, Scriptural criteria for salvation was fulfilled in their lives for the very first time (1 Corinthians 15:1-6; Romans 1:16). And it was in this special, initial sense that they received the Holy Spirit:

.... "In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise."

(Ephesians 1:13)

.... Through the death of Christ we have died to this world; and through His resurrection we may each obtain a fresh, new start in life:

.... "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

(2 Corinthians 5:17)

.... This clean, new life is something we have all longed for in our humblest moments, and which God has now granted to us through His Son. In God’s eyes, on the day we believe, we become more pure than on the day we were born:

.... "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."

(Ezekiel 36:26)

.... God grants us a clean slate because He wants to write something better on the new slate than was formerly written on the old:

.... "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD; I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people."

(Jeremiah 31:33)

.... And in our new lives, the Holy Spirit becomes our guide, to help in working this change:

.... "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them."

(Ezekiel 36:27)

.... Our new heart is that clean, new slate on which the Holy Spirit writes a living reflection of the life of Jesus Himself (2 Corinthians 3:18). Therefore, as others see His handiwork written in our hearts, they will recognize something of Jesus’ own character shining though us. Thus the Scriptures have called us ‘a living epistle of Christ’, to be read and known by all men (2 Corinthians 3:3).
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.... It was in this sense of ministry, directly to themselves and for their own benefit, that the apostles received the Holy Spirit on that occasion, and 47 days later they would be empowered in a broader way that would allow them to be witnesses to others.

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Daily Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 9

The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

.... When Jesus came into the world and His ministry began, He chose the twelve apostles "that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach." (Mark 3:14). They were about to receive some very personalized training that would reshape their lives. They would hear His lessons, continue with our Lord in His trials, and learn of His character in this way (Luke 22:28). In other words, Jesus would become their living example as they walked through each lesson together, and they grew into His likeness as a result.
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.... But during the time that Jesus was on earth, He was limited by the essence of His humanity. For example, He could only be in one place at a time, so He could only reach a limited number of people at once; and even though He knew the heart of each man, He had to communicate through a language of human understanding. All of this interacted with the same human limitations on our own end, as the other side of the same coin.
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Because Jesus would soon be leaving the earth, He concentrated His teaching on twelve key persons, who would become messengers and examples to us all. But for even this to be effective, the Holy Spirit had to minister through them in the same manner that He had ministered through Jesus Himself (Isaiah 11:2; 42:1). And so our Lord would say to them (and to us):

.... "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."

(John 16:7)

.... Unlike Jesus while He was on the earth, the Holy Spirit has always been omnipresent, which means that He can be everywhere at once (Psalm 139:7-10). He can teach and guide each one of us, even in very minute detail and at all times. Furthermore He can teach us from within, bringing the heart and soul of Jesus’ meaning to our understanding by way of our own spirit. This can provide a much deeper level of perception than would otherwise be possible, and with a much greater ability to transform us as we are receiving from Him. As such, the Holy Spirit can bring a level of attention and tutoring even deeper than Jesus was able to offer, due to the limitations of His flesh and of ours, while He was here among us.
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.... In a powerful way, the Holy Spirit can also work through us to minister the life of Christ to others, just as He worked through Jesus Himself – and in fact, now He can even excel that ministry. For Jesus Himself has now been glorified, and the Holy Spirit takes those things that belong to Him and ministers them to us:
.... "He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you."
(John 16:14-15)

.... and,
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.... "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father."
(John 14:12)
.... Now that Jesus has ascended to the Father, the Holy Spirit both draws from our Lord's fullness and reveals Him to us in the process; He conforms us to the same image through the whole experience in order to to glorify our Lord (John 1:16; 2 Corinthians 3:18). The ministry of the Holy Spirit is all about deepening our personal relationship with Christ as we walk with Him, share life's trials with Him, and allow Jesus to shine through us in every way.

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Daily Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 8

The Law and a New Creation

.... To complete this module let’s return, once again, to the heart and origin of the law. Based on the concept that "from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks," God gave the law as a re- flection of His own character (Luke 6:45). Basically, He was telling us what He would have done in each of those situations. Since His Divine nature was the source of the law, it is also higher than the law, though the law does mirror His heart and mind very naturally (1 Corinthians 13:12). As such, we know that the law is holy, just and good (Romans 7:12).
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But for man, the comparison is different. Our flesh is so weak that we can never fulfill the law in our own strength (Romans 8:3). Yet through the new life Jesus gives and the grace He supplies in response to our faith, God takes us to His own, higher perspective on the law, by changing our very nature from within us:

.... "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
(2 Corinthians 5:17)

.... ". . . by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature . . ."
(2 Peter 1:4)
.... Through Jesus Christ, as a new creation, we now have the same nature as our heavenly Father. Notice, therefore, the same natural correlation between our new nature and the righteous requirements of the law:

.... "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

(Jeremiah 31:33-34)

.... And here is another point of similarity. Just as God, by His Divine nature, is above the law (though the law still matches His nature perfectly,) we, as partakers of the same Divine nature, are no longer under the law (though our lives and the righteous requirements of the law still match each other naturally).

.... "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law."

(Romans 3:31)

.... Just as we saw in the example of Jesus Himself, in His relationship with the Father, our hearts are now knit with God’s in a way that truly knows Him, harking back to the original intention behind the law, which was to share our lives with Him. For this is both the true intention and true benefit. Rather than doing works in order to have a relationship with God, we begin with the relationship itself and the works follow it naturally, by His grace, like fruit that grows naturally on a tree:

.... "But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter."

(Romans 7:6)

.... "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation."

(Galatians 6:15)

.... You have now completed the Faith and Grace Module. To procede to the Module on the Holy Spirit, please click here.

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 7

The Righteous Requirements of the Law

.... In our previous posting we described how the law of Moses could be broken down into three distinct categories: the sacrificial (or ceremonial) law, the civil law, and the righteous requirements of the law. We discussed the first two categories in that posting, but now let’s discuss the third, for this is the one that is reflected in us now, as a new creation in Christ:

.... "that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."

(Romans 8:4)

.... Throughout the Old Testament, the ‘righteous requirements of the law’ usually appeared in the form of commandments or exhortations, but they did not mention penalties. They were more like a father instructing his children as an ornament of grace, to show them the ways of life (Proverbs 22:6). So their intended application is life-long:

.... "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."

(Proverbs 22:6)

.... In giving this sort of instruction, God often declared the reasoning behind it by saying: "I am the Lord." In other words, He was telling us how He would have behaved under these circumstances, if He was in our place. So these lessons contain a direct glimpse of His character that He wishes to pass along to us, and this is the truest sense in which the law is our schoolmaster to show us Christ (Galatians 3:24). Let’s look at some specific examples:

.... "When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the LORD your God. You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning. You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the LORD. You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD."

(Leviticus 19:9-18)

.... In each of these examples (and in so many more), we find a considerate attitude toward others that stems from a sterling, underlying character: "Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:10). God is love, and these laws give an expression to His inward nature so that we may respect Him, imitate Him, and learn to glory in Him for the way that He is (1 John 4:8; 1 Corinthians 1:31; Proverbs 17:6).

.... "Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma."

(Ephesians 5:1-2)

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Daily Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 6

Categories of the Law

.... Paul told us that the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good; but he also warned us that for this to be true we must know how to use it lawfully (Romans 7:12; 1 Timothy 1:8). This brings us to the question of its proper application, and to answer that question we must divide the law into three basic categories: the sacrificial law, the civil law, and the righteous requirements of the law.
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.... The sacrificial law was a chief feature of the Old Testament. In this sense it pertained to sacrifices for sin and uncleanness, for peace offerings, trespass offerings, etc., and therefore Paul referred to it as "The law of commandments contained in ordinances" (Ephesians 2:15). But in reality, those sacrifices were intended as symbolic:

.... "For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect."

(Hebrews 10:1)

.... In other words, the typology in those sacrifices foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Himself. They do offer many fascinating insights to help us understand the implications of sin and of the cross, but in a practical sense there is no need to stop and sort them out at this time (Hebrews 9:1-5). The average Christian need only understand that Jesus became the final sacrifice in every way, and this entire division of the law has been fulfilled in Him:

.... "In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness."

(Zechariah 13:1)

.... "... having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace . . ."

(Ephesians 2:15)

.... The second category of the law may be referred to as the civil law. This pertains to keeping an orderly society, especially in relation to crimes and punishments. Paul describes our relationship to this part of the law as follows:

.... "knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust."

(1 Timothy 1:9-11)

.... In other words, by our faith in the gospel we have become a new creation, re-made according to Jesus’ own image in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24). We have actually become partakers of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Since our new character has become like God’s own character, we are no longer at fault in the things that are contrary to Him, for we are no longer contrary. The civil law will simply not apply to us because it was meant to apply to murderers, liars, thieves, etc. and Christians no longer do such things:

.... "that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world."

(Philippians 2:15)

.... The third category of the law is called ‘the righteous requirement of the law.’ and this is the part that is fulfilled in those who walk according to the spirit (Romans 8:4). Generally speaking, this is the part of the law that describes good, godly conduct, so it most directly applies to our daily living today. We will discuss it further in our next posting.

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Daily Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 5

The Heart Behind the Law

.... In our previous posting we discussed how the character of God and the righteous require- ments of the law are utterly identical. Basically, in giving the law, God was telling us what He would have done in each of those situations (Examples: Leviticus 19:9-19). Therefore, as the source, God was actually above the law, and the law was the 'paperback' reflection of His character in application, rather than the other way around, though they still matched each other perfectly and naturally in the end.
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.... However, for mankind it was not the same. In many ways the law was contrary to our sinful nature, so it was a much higher standard than we could possibly attain. Unlike God Himself, we were under the law and subject to it, and as such we were under the curse it contained. As it is written:

.... "‘Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law.' And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!'"

(Deuteronomy 27:26)

.... But when Jesus came into the world, He would "magnify the law and make it honorable" (Isaiah 42:21). This would be done by harking back to the original intention (that is, to the reflection of God's heart that could be seen through the law), connecting with the Father on that level, and fully depending on Him there – like a loving, faith relationship:

.... "I delight to do Your will, O My God, and Your law is within My heart."

(Psalm 40:8/Hebrew 10:7)

.... Therefore Jesus did not come to destroy the law, but rather, He was the living fulfillment of the precepts that were expressed at it's very heart; and for us, the fulfillment of the law comes through abiding in Christ in a loving, faith relationship of our own, as His character begins to be formed in us (Matthew 5:17; Romans 13:10; 1 John 5:4). Therefore, and in basically the same sense, the law remains our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24).
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.... In other words, through the righteous requirements of the law we may still see God's heart in various applications, which remains a vital lesson for us all (1 Timothy 1:8). For us, those expressions of His character become the basic building blocks to properly conduct ourselves in society, especially while we are still at a young, learning stage. We can trust that God's character is revealed in all of these basic instructions, even if we don't understand the particulars at the moment. We eventually will (Galatians 4:1-2). And in the meantime we can take it by faith, as we await the fuller revelation of His character. And does that sound unfamiliar to you? Is this not how we all learn character from the instruction and example of our parents? (Proverbs 6:20-23).
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.... In itself, this brings us to a special and touchy issue. Not all parts of the law are the same, nor do we relate to them in the same way. Basically, there are three categories to consider:

the sacrificial or ceremonial law (which Paul refers to as 'the law of commandments contained in ordinances' - Ephesians 2:15);

the civil law, which pertains to criminal activity (1 Timothy 1:8-11)

and the third and most important category, which is called ‘the righteous requirements of the law'.

That third area pertains to us most directly as a new creation in Christ. (Romans 8:4). We will discuss these distinctions further in our next posting.

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Daily Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 4

Faith, Grace and the Law

.... In this module we’ve discussed faith and grace in their most practical terms, in the effective role they play in our daily walk with the Lord. But this, in turn, brings us to a special Christian perspective on the law and it’s proper place and usage:

.... "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

(Jeremiah 31:33-34)

.... This prophecy from Jeremiah, as well as three similar prophecies, foretold how we would become a new creation in Christ, what this would look like, and what it would mean (Jeremiah 24:7; 32:39-40; Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:25-27; 2 Corinthians 5:17). As we can see, a new creation still resembles the law very closely in some vital yet more heartfelt and spiritual way, that through it we may know the Lord Himself. To explain this special sense, let’s go back to the beginning and use God Himself as the best example:

.... God has always existed, and everything that was created has been derived from Him. The mark of His wisdom, creativity, and thought is inherent within each aspect of His creation because He made all these things through purposeful decisions and designs. Therefore, they include a glimpse of His innermost thoughts if we will earnestly trace them back to His character as the source.

.... Such, too, is His work in authoring the Scrip- tures. Through them we see evidence of His personality as He spoke on different subjects, and this is also the case with the law that He gave through Moses -- and that is something you may need to think about carefully. For the law itself was derived from the same principle as every other passage in Scripture:

.... "For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."

(Luke 6:45)

.... In other words, the law was not simply an abstract rule book for mankind. But each individual law, with the decisions, guidance and wisdom it contained, reflected the abundance of God’s heart or character in some essential way. Basically, He was telling us what He would have done in those situations, and this offers us an amazing insight into His heart and mind! So let’s summarize, making certain we keep things in perspective, to insure we’ve gotten it right:

.... God’s character and the righteous requirements of the law are utterly identical. But His character is the true and original standard, and the law is merely a reflection of Him. It is not the other way around! He is not under the law, but the law is under Him. And in the sense that the law reflects His sense of righteous conduct, it still contains many vital lessons for the Christian who will use it lawfully today, that is, when we look beyond the 'rule book' mentality to glimpse the underlying lessons of God’s character, at the source (1 Timothy 1:8).

.... "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith."

(Galatians 3:24)

.... We will continue this discussion in our next posting.


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Daily Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 3

The Work of Grace

.... In our previous postings we've described grace as an empowerment which God gives in response to our faith, that we should have strength enough to walk with Him as servants of righteousness. But this, too, is easily misunderstood, so we must define it further. However we may be empowered, Grace is still the working of God in our lives, as opposed to being our own works, and we must carefully keep this perspective in view (Romans 11:6; Galatians 2:21):

.... "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."

(Ephesians 2:8-10)

.... Grace itself, like faith, is entirely dependent on our relationship with God. He even prepares the events of our lives beforehand that we should walk in them. Through them, God Himself does all of the real work, especially by working on us through those occasions. So He is working both on us, and through us.
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.... This perspective makes God Himself the true worker, and we are merely worked upon. We are the workmanship, and all that He requires of us is to trust Him and follow His leading (Hebrews 11:6). So for ourselves, we’ll have nothing of which to boast:

.... "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'"

(Luke 17:10)

.... God Himself will supply all the strength we need in order to walk free of sin, but it is interesting to note that He may supply some of that strength through other Christians, for the purpose of supporting or encouraging each other in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:15; Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 8:6). But even then, we must always keep the true perspective in view. All grace ultimately proceeds from God, through Christ Himself (John 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:4).

.... "And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace."

(John 1:16)

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Daily Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 2

The Propensity of Grace

.... In our previous posting we described grace as an actual empowerment, given by God in response to our faith, that we should walk with Him as servants of righteousness. But beyond empowering us, grace includes an actual propensity toward goodness that will naturally incline our hearts toward good deeds:

.... "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works."

(Titus 2:11-14)

.... "For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you."

(2 Corinthians 1:12)

.... In this sense, grace is the living empowerment behind our being a new creation in Christ. It is a manifestation of His life within us, right down to the nitty-gritty of what it takes to make it though the trials of each day.

.... Therefore, just as we were formerly sinners by nature, and had a propensity within ourselves toward committing sin (called ‘the law of sin and death’), which overcame us and made us servants to sin; grace, in turn, overcomes the law of sin and death, and enables us to behave righteously in spite of it all (just as Jesus Himself was tempted, but always overcame). So in this sense, grace is also referred to "the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus."

.... "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death."

(Romans 8:1-2)

.... So the empowerment of grace, from the fullness of Christ, allows us both to serve God and to avoid serving sin (John 1:16). We will continue this discussion in our next posting.

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Daily Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 1