In John 17 Yeshua prayed that His followers would be one as He and the Father are one. I used to think I knew what that meant, that there would no longer be any denominations among the church. However, God has shown me that His ways are higher than our ways. He has a much bigger plan in mind.
His plan is to make the Jew and Gentile one. This is what Paul refers to as the mystery of God/Elohim in the book of Ephesians. Then in Revelation 10:7 John tells us that before the seventh trumpet blows that the mystery of God will be completed. So before the last trump blows we will truly be one.
We see this, as John mentions in this verse (Revelation 10:7), foretold by the prophets. So where do we see the idea of God’s people being made one in the prophets? We see it in Ezekiel 37 when Elohim tells the prophet to take two sticks. One is named for the tribe of Joseph or Ephraim and all the tribes associated with him and the other is named for Judah and all the tribes associated with him.
We know who Judah is, they are the Jews. But who is the tribe of Ephraim and how did that get associated with the Gentiles? When Elohim dispersed the northern tribes of Israel He dispersed them into the nations and they have not yet returned. They went out into the nations and began to live as the nations, as the Gentiles. So much so that they don’t even know they are descended from the northern tribes of Israel. These are the lost tribes of Israel that Yeshua speaks of coming for.
But again how does that correlate to the Gentiles? We find this in the book of Genesis chapter 48 when Jacob adopts Joseph’s sons Manassah and Ephraim. I know you remember that Jacob crossed his arms and put his right hand on the head of the younger, Ephraim. In doing so he put Ephraim ahead of Manassah.
Jacob then blessed Ephraim and said that he would be the fullness of the nations (gentiles). That should sound familiar from the writing of Paul. In Romans 11:25 Paul mentions the fullness of the Gentiles coming about and that until that happens there would be a hardening of Israel (the Jews). He even calls this a mystery.
When the fullness of the Gentiles (Ephraim) occurs the unhardening of the Jews will happen at the same time and so all of Israel, both Ephraim (Gentiles) and Judah (Jews) will be saved.
Interestingly enough, we are seeing more Jews coming to faith in Messiah Yeshua now than since the first century and at the same time the Gentiles are coming into their fullness, they are becoming complete and beginning to understand the importance of obedience to the Word of God (Torah). Again, these things are happening at the same time.
It is time for the bringing together of the two sticks! We are to be one as Yeshua prayed for and as Ezekiel puts it in 37:21-28, “then say to them this is what ADONAI Elohim says, ‘Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, where they have gone. I will gather them from every side and bring them to their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will be king to them all. They will no longer be two nations and never again be divided into two kingdoms. They will never again be defiled with their idols, their detestable things or with any of their transgressions. I will save them out of all their dwellings in which they sinned. I will purify them. Then they will be My people and I will be their Elohim. My servant David will be king over them. They will all have One Shepherd. They will walk in My ordinances and observe My rulings and do them. They will live in the land that I gave to My servant Jacob, where your ancestors lived. They will live there – they, their children and their children’s children, forever, and My servant David will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace (shalom) with them – it will be an everlasting covenant with them. I will give to them and multiply them. I will set up My Sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be over them. I will be their God and they will be My people. Then the nations will know that I am ADONAI who sanctifies Israel, when My Sanctuary is in their midst forever.”
Remember Yeshua when He was praying in John 17 said that the oneness of His people would be what let the world know that Elohim sent His Son. Let’s be more mindful of what His goal is for us and head in His direction, not our own anymore.
So how does this happen? Zechariah 8:23 says, “Thus says the LORD of Hosts, In that day 10 men from all nations will take hold of the wing/tzitzit of one Jew saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard the LORD is with you.'”
This verse is saying that in the last days the Gentiles from all nations (Ephraim and those who come with him) will take hold of the wing on one Jew wanting to go with him because it is obvious that Elohim is with them. We are seeing this beginning to happen in our day.
Many are going to the believing Jews and asking them to teach them of the ways of Adonai. They are in essence taking a hold of the tzitzit or tassels of a Jew and asking to go with them. I say tzitzit because the word for wing here is the word that describes the corner of the garment (wing) that the tzitzit is to be attached to.
To see Gentile believers interested in what the Messianic Jew has to teach is Biblical. It was prophesied about in this passage. They are asking to be discipled by those who keep Torah as a means of showing their love to our Creator.
Again, this is about Discipleship, not Salvation. It is a desire to learn the ways of our King so that we may please Him, just as Moses prayed in Exodus 33:13. Moses asked this for the purpose of knowing Elohim better, not knowing Him in the first place.
Remember, the goal ahead of us is YHWH making us one and the mystery being fulfilled. So let us learn!
Yeshua said in John 14:6, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” We need to keep in mind that loving God has always been tied to obeying Him. This was not a new concept that Yeshua gave.
If we love the God who redeemed us. Than the natural thing to do is obey the One who redeemed us. We are saved by grace, but His grace and obedience to His commands are not opposites. Remember, we are saved unto good works. We are saved with the understanding that obedience comes next.
We have an obligation to the One we love. Our obligation is to live as He says live and to love Him the way He says to love Him. He gets to decide what that love looks like, not us.
It does not matter what is natural to us, what is convenient for us, what is traditional for us. What matters is what He says pleases Him. After all, we do want to please our Father. We do want what we do to be pleasing in His eyes.
Take a chance and try loving Him His way and see what He will do. Be a man or woman after the heart of the One you love. Love Him the way He says He wants to be loved. Don’t get tangled up in the way man says to love Him, the way we have always done it, but search the Scriptures and see what He says.
He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His word is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Yeshua (the Living Word) is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So will His ways ever change? No! Let us love Him by His standards, not our own.
So “make the most of every opportunity”. Let’s look at that phrase and what surrounds it. It comes from Ephesians 5:16.
The word for ‘opportunity’ is ‘kairos’ in the Greek, which is the same word used for ‘moed’/feast days in the Septuagint. Let that sink in for a minute. Let’s replace ‘opportunity’ with ‘moed’/feast days in the phrase, “making the most of every moed/feast day.
These set times are opportunities for Elohim’s people to awake from our sleep to do the will of Him who called us. What is that will? If we look earlier in Ephesians 4 we see in verses 23 and 24 that Paul says, that we are “to be made new in our attitude of (our) minds and we are to put on our new selves, which is created to be like Elohim in true righteousness and holiness.” Then at the beginning of chapter 5 he tells us to be “imitators of Elohim”.
We are created in the image of God so we are to imitate Him in all holiness and righteousness by loving as Messiah loved us and became an offering and sacrifice to God (5:2). So the will of God is for us to love in true purity of heart.
We find more of this idea in Romans 13:11-14 that begins by bidding us to understand the present time in which we live because it is time for us to wake up from our slumber because our salvation is near. Then in chapter 15 verses 4-7 we find this, “For everything that was written in the past was written to instruct us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures (the Old Testament whose foundation is the Torah) we might have hope. May the Elohim who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Yeshua the Messiah, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the Elohim and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Accept one another just as Messiah accepted you, in order to bring praise to Elohim.”
So we see that Elohim’s appointed times, His moed, His feast days, are opportunities for us to love one another and come together in unity of heart and word. To have occasion to speak psalms, hymns and spiritual songs together with one heart.
We are called to love Him with all we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves (to love one another in the body). We are to know the times in which we live and truly the times are evil so let us make the most of the opportunities Elohim gives us in His appointed times to come together and love Him and one another for our salvation, His return and Kingdom, is near.
If you remember from last time we discussed the Wedding up to the Seven Blessings. Blessings are very important in Jewish life and they are very significant in Scripture. If stands to reason that the Wedding ceremony would include a complete number of Blessings. The themes of the Blessings include: Creation, Eden, Zion, Redemption, Bridegroom, and Jerusalem.
The first Blessing: Blessed are you, Adonai or God, King of the Universe who created the fruit of the vine. (The fruit of the vine represents the blood of Christ, the blood of the Lamb, the blood of redemption. The redemption cup was planned before Creation.)
The second Blessing: Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, who created everything for Your glory. (Creation! The idea of the blood came first, then the creation.)
The third Blessing: Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, shaper of humanity. (Basically we have here the creation of humanity with the first wedding because you can’t have humanity with just the man, you have to have the wife too.)
The forth Blessing: Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, who has shaped humanity in Your image, patterned after Your image and likeness, and enabled them to perpetuate this image out of their own being. Blessed are You, Adonai, shaper of humanity. (Again we see the creation of humanity, but this time specifically spoken of in terms of being created in His image. That image is still within us today. Only it’s been twisted and marred. Therefore, we need a Kiddushin, we need sanctification, we need to be made holy and set apart because our sin has corrupted the image. You see that sanctification puts us back into the likeness of the Son, unmarres that image. Isn’t that a beautiful picture, unmarres that image, until we become more and more, with ever increasing glory, more and more like our Husband.)
The fifth Blessing: May the barren one exult and be glad as her children are joyfully gathered to her. Blessed are You, Adonai, who gladden Zion with her children. (This comes right out of Isaiah 54 through 56. It’s the future glory of Zion with many children. Does Zion have many children? Does Israel have many children? We a members of the nation of Israel. We are her children. Then one day the borders of Zion will expand to cover the whole earth.)
The sixth Blessing: Grant great joy to these loving companions as You once gladdened your creations in the Garden of Eden. Blessed are You, Adonai, who gladden the bridegroom and the bride. (The final wedding leads to the wedding feast. It leads to the ultimate wedding celebration.)
The seventh Blessing: Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, merriment, song, dance and delight, love and harmony, peace and companionship. Adonai our God, may there soon be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the rapturous voices of the wedded from their bridal chambers, and of young people feasting and singing. Blessed are You, Adonai, who gladden the bridegroom together with the bride.
The blessings begin and end with the wine. You see it is at this point in a Jewish wedding once the blessings are spoken that the wine is taken in. Remember this is the cup of the wedding, not the Kiddushin. Remember at the Passover meal He said to His disciples that He would not drink of the fruit of the vine again until when? Until it finds fulfillment in His Father’s Kingdom. The next cup is the cup of Praise. The Blessings begin and end with the wine, which represents the blood of Christ.
It says in Isaiah 62:1-5 & 11-12, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you…The LORD has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.’ They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.”(NIV)
Along with the bride, the body, and the temple there is also the picture of the bride as the New Jerusalem or Zion. When you got married did you get a new name? I did. When you get married you get a new name. Now my NIV translates that word “Builder” as “sons”, “builder” comes from the text note. But it makes much more sense because the “young man” is the “builder” and the “young man” whose the “builder” is the “bridegroom” and the “young man” whose the “builder” whose the “bridegroom” is “God” the Son. You see this is Jewish poetry and they do not rhyme there poetry by sound, but with thought. Because of that I think it is appropriate to use the word ‘builder”. Is the redeemed of the earth not us? Jerusalem’s builder will marry her, Israel’s builder will marry her. He will give His Son in marriage to the one He has prepared for Him, the pure spotless Bride.
Then comes the time of the Yichud, it is the time of isolation. That time when traditionally bride and bridegroom spend some time alone together for the first time as husband and wife. This is just my opinion, but I truly believe this is when the Day of Atonement begins. Because it is going to begin with us at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Remember the wedding is the Feast of Trumpets. Next comes the Day of Atonement when the judgements are meeted out and I do believe it will begin with us at the Judgment Seat of Christ when all is laid bare between us, everything. And nothing ever again will divide us. We have to go to that Judgment Seat of Christ, don’t we? It must be. We must see what acts were righteous and what acts burn away. When all is laid bare, when we have that time, just us, as husband and wife. That time of consummation. Consummation means bringing to completion. We will be made complete. We will then return with Him dressed in white linen robes. Only righteousness is left.
Yichud is when the symbolic act of Huppah is brought to completion. We cannot side step the Judgment Seat of Christ and then, of course, there is the rest of the Day of Atonement and the rest is called Armaggeden when God judges this world, when Christ comes and judges this world. When judgment is made and judgment is passed and the books are closed, that is the Day of Atonement. That old Jewish question of why do the wicked prosper will be answered on that day. Scripture also calls it the Day of the Lord, when all is made right. Then we get to start our Wedding Feast.
We have been to the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Day of Atonement has come, judgment has been passed and the Feast begins. The Feast of Tabernacles is the Wedding Feast. It is also known as the Feast of Ingathering, Feast of Booths, or simply The Feast. Now if you and I were asked which is the most significant feast on the Jewish calendar we who come from a Christian background would probably say the Feast of Passover. Not so. The largest feast on the Jewish calendar is the Feast of Tabernacles. It’s the final harvest. It’s their time of Thanksgiving that’s why it’s known as “The Feast”. That’s what they call it, “The Feast”. In Deuteronomy 16:13-15 13 “Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress. Be joyful at your Feast–you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. For seven days celebrate the Feast to the LORD your God at the place the LORD will choose. For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.”(NIV)
Did you catch it that the final harvest is that of the threshing floor and the winepress. That is the wedding feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, the time when our joy is made complete after the final ingathering of the threshing floor and the winepress and, of course, you know what that represents, the wine and the bread or the blood and body of Christ. We are that harvest. And at the celebration of that harvest our joy will be made complete. Now you may say to yourself, “Now Vicky, how do you know this is the final feast?” Look at Zechariah 14:16-19, “Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The LORD will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.”(NIV)
This is when Christ is on His thrown on this planet. It is the millennial reign of Christ. Do you get the feeling that the Feast of Tabernacles is important. Do you get the feeling that we should know a little bit about this Feast because it’s coming, right at us. We are running smack into it. Nice to know it’s coming. Yes, this is the wedding feast. This is the time when our joy will be made complete.
After the wedding feast comes the New Heaven, the New Earth, and the New Jerusalem, adorned as a bride for her Husband. That’s our new home. We mentioned the intention of a husband and wife to have a new home and life together. The new Heaven and New Earth, the New Jerusalem, that is our new home. And we will dwell together with our Husband as Husband and wife with our God. He will be the Temple. God Almighty and the Lamb will be the Temple. And we will be at His right Hand (Psalm 45), His wife. He will be our God and we will be His people.
God set out to make Himself a people, but not just a people, He wanted a wife for His Son. Us in Christ, Christ in God, the covenant of peace, the covenant of oneness, the everlasting covenant. And so we shall ever be with the Lord. There will be oneness in that garden, in that city for eternity. That oneness ended in the first garden because of sin. It will never end in the final garden. From wedding to wedding that is our story. I don’t know of a greater story God could tell to the heart of a believer. One day we will all stand together at the right side of our Husband and we will be made one and our joy will be made complete. We will be His people and He will be our God!
So how do we live that life that Christ calls us to live in Biblical Unity? We do that with the very attitude of Christ.
Philippians 2:1-5 says, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:”(NIV)
We’ve been united with Him haven’t we? We have been through the Kiddushin. The legal document has been signed. The mohar has been paid. We are His. Legally we are His wife. We have been united with Christ. Be like minded here and now. Not in the by and by but right now. That’s what Paul wants to see in God’s people in this Philippians passage.
We should all be about building that one Temple. I don’t want to work with that church down the street because I want my church to grow first. If we worked together a little bit more maybe all of our churches would grow. Make sense? There wouldn’t be any empty spaces in our pews or chairs, as a matter of fact we wouldn’t have enough room. And he goes right on to talk about the attitude of the servant who was willing to humble Himself even unto death.
Romans 12 tells us a little bit more about how we should live this life, the life that gives living sacrifices. We must put our pride aside in order to be that sacrifice. Romans 12:1-5 & 9-13 states, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others…Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”(NIV)
The world likes us to be divided. Because it can talk about us that way. True? The media has a field day with this divided church. So how do we talk about those hard subjects together, I’m going to tell you how. We get on our knees together and if we get up after two or three times and we still disagree we don’t say, “Well we’ll just have to agree to disagree.” No. We keep praying together because there is one faith, one Spirit and that same Spirit is in each one of us, therefore, if our ideas are different than one of us, some of us, or even all of us are not listening to His Spirit. So we keep praying together, we keep talking to each other and we keep searching our Ketubah, searching His Word, and we keep praying on our knees together, together.
I know it just doesn’t sound practical does it? How can that really be? It’s called being full of the Spirit, living according to His will and not our own and about what pleases our husband and not what pleases us. This Christian life is not practical. Who ever said it was? Let’s face it, the things He asks us to do sometimes are not what we want to do. Do we love Him enough to do it anyway? Do we trust Him enough to do it anyway? When my son was younger we would often have this talk that went something like, “Trust me, you have to trust me! Son, you have to trust me. If you don’t trust me, how are you going to trust God when He tells you to do something that you don’t necessarily want to do? Mama’s practice.” You see you and I are practice for each other. When we do the things He asks us to do, He is letting us practice. He’s letting us practice being obedient. He’s letting us practice being the servant. In His mercy, He is letting us practice.
John 17:20-26 says, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”(NIV)
That we may be one. That He may be together with my wife. That is His heart. There was a wedding in the garden. You see our human history began with a wedding and our human history on this planet is going to end with a wedding and wedding feast. From wedding to wedding, that is who we are. That was the whole purpose for which we were created. He gives us the whole picture of husband and wife on this planet while we are here so that we will understand what His hearts desire is for us to be with Him.
In Ephesians 5:31-32 Paul says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.”(NIV)
About the Bridegroom and the Bride. That is the whole reason He gave us the wonderful privilege of marriage on this planet. So that we can have a picture of what He wants with us. I have a wonderful husband, but he is not perfect. But we do have a perfect husband and one day He is going to put a crown on our head and we are going to be one. Is that your hearts desire? More than anything else? I hope so.
I suspect the more we search out His heart and the more we seek His face the more we will look like Him and we will live much more like He lived. How did He live? He lived like a Torah observing Jew without the Tradition of the elders. We know that we will be living by His Biblical calendar and Feasts in His kingdom according to Zechariah 14 and other passages. Food for thought isn’t it!
We will be studying the Wedding and the Wedding Feast next.
There is another symbol in Scripture for the bride, we have already talked about it some, and that’s the Temple. Ephesians 2:19-22 says, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”(NIV)
Jesus is our chief cornerstone, that first stone, the main stone, without that stone there would be no foundation. The temple raising up off the chief cornerstone and the foundation of the apostles and prophets.
How many temples is He making? One. Only One. Not the Baptist Temple, not the Methodist Temple, Not the Presbyterian or Luthern Temple or the Church of Christ Temple or the Catholic Temple or the Messianic Temple, I don’t care what you call it, there’s just one. One Temple and that is all.
I Peter 2:4-10 states, “As you come to him, the living Stone–rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him– you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message–which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”(NIV)
We have received mercy, but when we argue with our brothers and sisters in Christ, even over doctrine we are not giving them mercy. We are a precious, precious Temple to Him. In Solomon’s Temple there were walls, doors, courtyard, and pillars, yet only one Temple. If we were to pull out a pillar and let it stand by itself it could not be the Temple, instead we would call that a ruin. We need each other. We have to have each other because we are one Temple and we must all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God.
Here is my next question. Do you believe the time is coming near for our husband, our bridegroom to return for His bride? Do you believe that? We are built on the cornerstone and foundation and if He is about to come that means He is about to put in the final piece. He is the final piece. He is not only the cornerstone, but also the capstone. The capstone was the final piece that held the arch in place. He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. So if we are close to being done shouldn’t it be obvious as to what we are? Shouldn’t it be more and more obvious as to what we are? Or are we still a wall over here and a pillar over there and you can’t really tell what it is yet? But if we are getting close to being done shouldn’t it be obvious as to what we are?
Let’s go back to I Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-23 where is says, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ… Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.”(NIV)
From God the Father, to God the Son, to His precious Bride. All are yours.
I think we are seeing some improvement in the body of Christ in the sense that we don’t mind getting together with other believers from other denominations as much as we did 30, 40, or 50 years ago. We are also seeing more and more Jews believing in Messiah and therefore more believers are coming to understand the Jewish Roots of the faith. But there is still need for improvement, isn’t there? We have come far, but we must keep pressing on.
In II Corinthians 6:16b Paul says, “For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”(NIV) He so desires to be our God and for us to be His people, for us to be able to walk hand and hand with His beloved Son. However, we can’t do that if we don’t even take the hand of one another, across whatever lines you want to draw within orthodoxy. We must realize that all are ours.
You see my Methodist sisters, you’re my sisters. My Presbyterian sisters, you’re my sisters. My Lutheran sisters, you’re my sisters. My Catholic sisters, you’re my sisters. My Messianic sisters, you’re my sisters. We are supposed to be one together. Even in thought. Isn’t that what Paul says in verse one of I Corinthians? “Perfectly united in mind and thought.”(NIV) Hard words to hear since we have become so divided and comfortable in that division. Again, we have come a long way, but still have a long way to go.
But let’s face it we have to have walls, we have to have pillars. Each part has to do it’s work. I did not come to Christ in the Southern Baptist Convention. God brought me into this convention to use me where He wants me in the time He wants me here. Period. Nothing else matters except living the life He has called me to live. Living the life He has called each and every one of us to live. This is our period of sanctification when we must completely set ourselves apart.
I have another question for you. What is the single most said complaint by people outside the church about the church? Too many hypocrites in the church, I don’t want to go there. They’re no different from me. What do they have that I don’t? That’s what they see, isn’t it? Because unfortunately, we talk the oneness talk, but we don’t live the oneness life. Yet our unity would speak volumes to the world that is lost apart from our beloved Bridegroom.
Our next post will be about how we become one. It really isn’t as hard as our minds try to make it. Remember we are not to think and act as mere men, but as His Bride! In the mean time, let’s be more mindful of building up each others walls as part of the one temple rather than tearing them down.
These next three posts may be some of my more controversial posts yet. I hope you will bear with me through all three. I am going to try to really drive home a point and the importance of true Biblical unity. There may be times when it gets uncomfortable, but then again our Savior did not die so we could be comfortable. He died so that we could be transformed into His likeness. With that being said lets begin.
Our history started with the church understanding that whether Jew or Gentile, there was no difference. However, even within that early history there was division. And we cannot talk about this subject without hitting a very important topic. Let’s look at I Corintians 1:10-13, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?”(NIV) Does that sound like we could just replace a few names and be very contemporary? The congregation in these verses were even meeting in the same house. Notice they were not fighting over the style of music, but on who was there leader.
Now let’s go to chapter 3 and read verses 1 though 8. “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.”(NIV)
What is Apollos and what is Paul? Let’s plug in some other names here: John Wesley, Martin Luther, John Calvin….. We have a tendency to follow mere men and go with the opinions of mere men instead Scripture, instead of standing together as one in Christ. Is that not what a denomination is? And I write this as a Southern Baptist Pastor’s wife who loves her denomination. But my denomination is NOT the church! We’re just a part of it, doing our part. Laboring for what God has given us. That’s all! That’s all any denomination is, doing it’s part. If denominations ever get so arrogant as to say, “We are the church”, we are in disobedience.
Like I said this is going to get uncomfortable. We don’t like to talk about this very often. And you can read this and say, “Yes, Vicky your absolutely right”. Yet at the same time we don’t like to have those very important conversations. You know the ones I’m talking about, those theological discussions on Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, etc.
We have an unspoken rule in our society that basically says when you go to Uncle Tom’s house you don’t talk politics and you don’t talk religion. Right? We’ll we have an unspoken rule in the church that say’s, “When ya’ll get together, don’t take about doctrine.” Just don’t go there. Why? Because we act like mere men when we go there? But is avoiding those topics the desire of God? And are we willing to leave behind the milk for the solid food even when we come together.
We have to ask ourselves if our husband wants a dysfunctional bride. The answer, of course, is no He doesn’t. Yet a bride that does not talk to each other is dysfunctional. A family that doesn’t talk to each other is dysfunctional? Isn’t that how we would classify that? Is there a branch of your family that refuses to talk to each other or refuses to talk about certain topics?
I want us to read a few verses in Ephesians chapter 4, verses 1-6, 11-13, and then 16. It says, ”As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called– one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”…“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”…“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”(NIV)
What does that peace mean again? Oneness. It represents that covenant, that everlasting covenant. So when we get together and we talk doctrinal stuff and we start arguing and saying, We’ll I think this and I think that and that’s just the way it’s going to be and we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. Are we not acting like mere men? Yes, we are.
This is food for thought until our next post. I hope I have not run you off. We will discuss this again next time and then in part three we will discuss how we are to act toward one another. How do we function as the Bride of Christ in true unity.
This is where we live. This chapter is all about today. Not about what He did 2000 years ago. Not what we accepted when we came to Christ, but how we live in Christ today. Because, obviously, He did not take us home when we said, “I do”. So He expects some things out of us during this period of sanctification, during our period of Kiddushin, He expects some things out of us.
This is where we are and so it is a matter of upmost importance. This is the very heart of God for His wife, for His people, for His temple today. I want to start by looking at a passage out of Ezekiel 37:15-28:
“The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, `Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, `Ephraim’s stick, belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand. When your countrymen ask you, `Won’t you tell us what you mean by this?’ say to them, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph–which is in Ephraim’s hand–and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick, making them a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.’ Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on and say to them, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God. `My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”(NIV)
The nations will know. I will make the two one, I will make a covenant of peace, an everlasting covenant with them. This is what I believe is the very heart of God, oneness with His people. He wants to be our God and for us to be His people and He accomplishes that through the marriage of His Son to His people.
As we start to look in the New Testament and our early church history, we see that the church was first thought of as a Jewish sect. That’s what we were. Most believers in that early first century were Jewish, they were Jews who recognized their Melech Yeshuah H’Messhia, their King Jesus the Messiah. So in that first century as Gentile believers started coming into the nation there had to be discussion about Jew and Gentile and so that is where we are going to start.
Ephesians 2:11-19 says, “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)– remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.”(NIV)
Members of God’s people, of God’s household. Church hear me, the word ‘church’, the Greek word for ‘church’ in the Greek Septuegant, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, is used in talking about the congregation of Israel. It is not exclusively a New Testament term. The church is the congregation or assembly of Israel. God seeks to make all His children, whether Jew or Gentile, one. That is His purpose, to create in Himself one man out of the two.
I want to say very clearly at this point, I know there is a lot of talk out there in theological circles about replacement theology, which says that the church replaces Israel. That is NOT what I am talking about. I want to make that very, very clear. The church did not replace Israel. We have the awesome privilege of being brought into citizenship in Israel and to share in their covenant promises.
Romans 9:6b states, “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.”(NIV) What Paul means by that is that just because one has the physical lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob does not make them a member of the Spiritual nation of Israel. Because only in Christ, only in Messiah, does that happen. Even Jews must recognize their Melech Yeshuah H’Messhia, they must recognize their Messiah.
Romans 10:11-13 reiterates this, “As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.””(NIV) He takes the two and makes them one. Remember we are talking about the heart of God and what God desires for His own people. This is God’s desire for us as we live out this life of following Him and awaiting Him.
We then find in Romans 11:12 & 15-21 & 23-26a, “But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!… For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted, but they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either…. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved”.
All Israel, the holy assembly of God’s people whether Jew or Gentile will be saved. The heart of God, oneness among His people. We have to be careful, the church has become awefully Gentile in the last 2000 years. True? True! But we must not forget our roots, remember it was already mentioned that in the first century we were Jewish. The church was Jewish. The Apostles kept going to the Temple, they continued to celebrate the Feasts. However as we became more and more Gentile we lost connection to the root. We must remember and not stand on arrogance that we are the Church. But remember that we stand on a root and they are our root and one day those branches that were broken off will be grafted back in. You see there are not two trees of the church and Israel. There is but one tree. And we will all stand together in that oneness and in His covenant of peace before God Almighty and marry His Son, those who have called on the Name of the LORD.
Later in that Romans 11 in verses 30-32 we find, “Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”(NIV) Jew, Gentile it doesn’t matter. We all broke the first covenant. We are all in need of a new covenant, every one of us.