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.
When we accept His pursuit and His Mohar, when He places His Name on us and seals us with His Holy Spirit we then find ourselves in the waters of the Mikvah. In coming to the mikvah we are accepting His pursuit of us and telling Him that we are willing to follow, to take up our cross and follow Him daily as Luke 9 tells us to do.
Romans 6:3-4 says, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”(NIV) For Jesus it was Him telling His Father, “I’m ready to pursue this course of marriage. I’m ready to pursue my Bride and I’m ready to pay the Mohar. I know where it goes, it goes to me paying the Mohar and I’m willing to follow”. That’s why the Father could say, “This is my Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased.” John let’s us know that the reason the Father loves Him is because He laid down His life. He was willing to pay the Mohar.
For us though, remember, it’s all about our response to Him because we cannot come to Him unless He draws us. So everything we do is in response to Him. I Peter 3:20b-22 “In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand–with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”(NIV) Our Mikvah is not about clean verses unclean, not the removal of dirt from the body. Do you remember as we accept His Mohar, remember from Hebrews 9, His Mohar redeems us and cleanses our conscience. Only with that good conscience can we respond in any way to Him.
I want to talk to you about that phrase, “pledge of a good conscience” because it is essential, it is the whole crux of the matter. The word “pledge”, if you have a different translation you might see the word “response” or “answer”. That word in the Greek literally means “question”. What question might that be? Take a wild guess. Will you marry Me? Will you marry Me? What we do is a response to His question. It is our pledge, our vow, our answer and our response. It is our “yes” to Him.
It’s important that you let your yes be yes. Numbers 30 let’s us know that vows and promises and pledges are irrevocable. They’re forever binding. So we give Him our “yes” in the waters of the Mikvah. We give it to Him out of the good conscience He has given us, the conscience that He purchased for us. Did you catch that? We give Him our “yes” through the waters of the Mikvah, that physical act, out of that good conscience that He purchased for us.
There is a second part, though, to our Mikvah. Do you know that when we come to Christ were entering a nation? We are acknowledging our rebirth into the nation of Israel by the Name of Jesus. I want to share with you what happens when anyone converts to Judaism to this day. A convert to Judaism, whether male or female, is required to immerse themselves in the mikvah waters two or three times marking their rebirth as members of the people of Israel. Isn’t that interesting? Are you aware that in very early Christian history it was very popular that when one was baptized they would be immersed three times, in the Name of the Father, in the Name of the Son, and in the Name of the Holy Spirit and some denominations still practice that? Upon doing so, they exit the waters as a Jew, a citizen of the nation.
Unfortunately, the Christian church has distanced itself from it’s heritage and roots in Judaism. Even though the Old Testament is still read and preached, the church has in a lot of ways removed itself from that same Old Testament. Yes, we are under the New Covenant, but that New Covenant writes the Old Covenant on our hearts. To say it another way, it writes the Israelite Constitution on our hearts. Therefore, we are exiting the waters of our mikvah as citizens of God’s Kingdom, members of God’s household.
This leads us to Acts 2:38-39 where Peter responds to the people on the day of Pentecost when the people ask the disciples, “What shall we do?” “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”(NIV)
In other words, go through the waters of the Mikvah, everyone of you. You see, on this particular day and in very early church history there was no separation in the accepting of the pursuit, the accepting of the Mohar, the coming of the Holy Spirit and going through the waters of the Mikvah. Today, we tend to think of those as separate steps or stages. But for them, it was all one fluid motion.
Whereas, we tend to dissect it into different pieces, making salvation more about us getting the steps right than on the work of the Messiah and God’s ability to call us and justify us through His Holy Spirit. Upon exiting the mikvah waters they had re-identified themselves with Yeshua and the New Covenant. They became true citizens of the Kingdom of God, God’s Israel, God’s Royal family (His princes and princesses) under King Yeshua, God’s Ambassadors, God’s Holy Priesthood under His High Priest Jesus Christ.
We also find in Isaiah 44:3-5 the following words: “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. One will say, `I belong to the LORD’; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, `The LORD’s,’ and will take the name Israel.”(NIV)
All who go through this process of Kiddushin, go through the waters of the Mikvah and receive the Holy Spirit, it’s all one fluid motion, remember that. Don’t try to divide it in your head like we often do today. It is all one fluid motion. Those who do that, who receive the Spirit, look what it says, one will say I belong to the Lord, another will call himself by the name of Jacob, still another will write on his hand ‘the Lord’s’ and will do what, will take the name Israel. Those of us who are not Jewish by birth, we have to take on that name because it is completely foreign to us. We take on the name of Israel. Therefore our Mikvah gives Jesus our pledge or our answer to His marriage proposal and confers our citizenship as part of Israel.
I know that the book of Romans can be a very deep, deep theological book, but I am going to attempt to sum it up in just a few sentences to show how it fits our theme here. First of all we are dead in our sins in need of a redeemer. We call on the name of the Lord and we are baptized, we go through the water of the Mikvah in the name of Christ and receive and live according to His Spirit, the Seal. We are brought into the nation of Israel and made God’s children and heirs of His promise. And Israel lives how? According to the Spirit by giving sacrifices acceptable to God, living sacrifices. That’s the book of Romans. If you ever wondered why that talk of Israel is right in the middle of the book, that’s why. Because when we call on the Name of Jesus and go through the waters of the Mikvah we are entering the nation. The blessed nation of Israel.
I want to make it very clear that I am in no way advocating Replacement Theology in any way, shape, or fashion. I do not believe the “church” replaces Israel and God still has some very specific promises for the land of Israel and the Jewish people. However, we are now included in those promises in the way God sees fit because we have been grafted into that nation and those Jews who place their faith in Yeshua will also be grafted back into that nation. We are all one nation. There is not one way of salvation for the Jew and one for the Gentile, but one way for all, Jesus Christ. My Jewish brothers and sisters in the faith have their part to play and I have mine as a non-Jewish believer and God decides what those will be. The “church” does not become the new Israel, but upon belief Jews enter into God’s true Israel – the Assembly of the Saints. To say the the “church” becomes the new Israel separates the Old Covenant from the New and thereby separates God’s story into two stories. God’s story is one story. It is one truth and Jesus/Yeshua is the center of all of it. You see, all of the Bride awaits the same beloved Bridegroom!
Today I want to talk about the armor of God in Ephesians 6. Everything up to this point in Ephesians has been about unity and what that is, what that looks like and to some extent how do we do this, but beginning in the passage we are going to discuss today Paul gets down to the brass tax so to speak on how to administrate the unity of the body. Here is the passage:
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. 20 For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.(HCSB)
We are to be empowered by the Lord and by His awesome power, the two words here for “vast strength” are two different words that could both be translated “power”. Paul is trying to remind us of the power he described to us earlier in the letter when he referred to the resurrection power. In fact, the two Greek words used here are the exact same words. This is power power, awesome power, resurrection power, from God Himself. This is the only power in the universe that is capable of changing and transforming lives. Only the resurrection power can resurrect in us what is dead in sin, yet created, created in His image, to be alive in Him.
Not only does God equip us with His power for the task, but He also gives us the tools we need to wield that power. To be sure this task will take the full armor of God, not just a part of it. We are in a battle against the realm of darkness itself, not mere flesh and blood men and women, but the original liar himself and his demons. They are crafty and we must be alert and on guard every moment so that in the end we will be left standing.
So, what is this armor? Obviously, Paul is using the Roman armor as a template, but is that all? If we look closely at this armor we will find its pieces referred to in the Old Testament as well. Remember, this gospel is about the mystery that makes us one with God and each other. The Old and New Testament are not two disconnected pieces, but two parts of a whole. One will always refer and define the other. The Old Testament, will define the New Testament for us and the New Testament explains much about the Old Testament that was hidden, yet right there. God is the God and author of both. Both of them together tell His story. So let’s look at what the Old Testament has to say about this awesome armor.
The first part of the armor is the belt of truth. We see that the Messiah is clothed in the belt of righteousness in Isaiah 11 where He is judging for the poor and needy and slaying the wicked. He will do that in righteousness, but notice the section before that when the Spirit rests on Him — the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge and the fear of the Lord — in fact the fear of the Lord would be His delight. In following the Messiah we can only do what is right and properly discern when we are listen to the Spirit of the Lord and the fear of the Lord is our delight. This belt holds the inner garments in place. For us only the truth can hold our inner being in place. He, the Messiah, is the truth. As we follow Him and strive to live righteous lives He and His truth holds us in place to continue the fight. We cannot fight the good fight in ignorance or falsehood.
Next, we put on the breastplate of righteousness. You see after knowing and believing the truth and in the Truth we must put on the breastplate of righteousness to protect our hearts from deception that leads us in the paths of death, not life. We are to strive in the fruit of the Spirit, part of which is self-control, to do the right that God calls us to do. In addition, the Messiah not only wore a belt of righteousness that held His inner part in place (remember He is the truth – John 14:6). He was always alert and clear minded, never distracted by His own thoughts or thoughts from the enemy. Can you imagine your prayer life like this and how awesome that would be?
The Messiah also wore a breastplate of righteousness. He covered His heart with doing what pleases God. Never did He waver. In Isaiah 59 15a-18a it says, “The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes.”(NIV) In this passage we see that His own righteousness sustained Him and was His breastplate as He did the work of salvation and He will be wearing that same breastplate when He repays wrath to His enemies.
In Psalm 132:9 we read the statement about Israel, “May your priests be clothed in righteousness..”(NIV) You see He is the High Priest with His breastplate in place, remember the High Priest of Israel wore a breastplate with all the jewels of the tribes of Israel on it, and we are called a royal priesthood in I Peter 2:9. Our breastplate reflects His – our righteousness reflects His righteousness. We will never win the battles in life without it. We cannot do our own thing and expect Him to bless it. We cannot follow the deceptions of our heart and expect to win the battle against the enemy, at that point we are following darkness and not the light and we will fall.
Thirdly, we put on the sandals of “readiness that comes from the gospel of peace”(NIV). Remember the gospel of peace is the good news of oneness with God, the mystery. We get to proclaim that to others, which is what Jesus called us to in the Great Commission. We are to take His message to the ends of the earth. In Isaiah 52:7(NIV) it says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”” That is the awesome blessing He allows us to be a part of and at the same time being a part of that is also a protection for us in the fight. The more we proclaim it and live it the more we come to understand what He did for us and grow closer and closer to Him and farther and farther from the arrows of the enemy.
Then we see the shield of faith with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the enemy that do come our way. We must hold it up, hold it up high. It does us no good by our side. We can be holding the shield and still get hit if we keep it down. We must use His strength, the strength that we spoke of earlier. It is only with His strength that we can hold up the shield and keep it up.
It reminds me of when Aaron and Hur held up Moses arms while Joshua and the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites. As long as Moses’ arms were up the Israelites were winning and when they were down they were being defeated. That is why Hur, from the tribe of Judah, and Aaron, the High Priest, held them up for him. He did not have the strength on his own and neither do we.
Yeshua, the lion of Judah and our High Priest, is the one who holds our arms up, He is our faith, our strength and our shield. It is when we humble ourselves that in due time He lifts us up. Let Him lift you up with His strength and power. We cannot be defeated if we use His strength to hold up that shield of faith. Hold it up, hold it up high.
After all of this is in place we can put on the helmet of salvation. This helmet not only protects the head, but keeps the head attached to the body. He is the head, we are the body. Just as in our discussion of the Bridegroom and the Bride we must stay with Him and do what is best for Him and He does what is best for us. As we have a helmet so does He. Back to Isaiah 59 we not only see the Messiah in a breastplate of righteousness as He works salvation, but also the helmet of salvation itself. He wants to stay connected to us and so we should want to stay connected to Him. So make sure that helmet is on. How can we fight the battle if we are cut off from the head. Protect your connection to Him. That is why the helmet and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, are spoken of together.
The word of God is one of the main things that protects that connection. Just as the body receives its instructions from the head so the body of Christ receives our instructions from His word. It is our offensive weapon as it was His when He met Satan in the wilderness. We must take this weapon and defend what He has given us, what He has entrusted to us.
The enemy wants to make us believe we are not secure, but if we know our weapon and we are attached to the head, if we hold up the shield of faith and wear the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of readiness, and the belt of truth, then this lie cannot enter into our hearts and deceive us. We are His and He is ours. Just as the master promised the slave to never leave him or forsake him, to abandon him, to pay his own debt on his own, our Master has promised to never leave or forsake us either.
With all of this equipment on we are to pray in the Spirit on all occasions. Remember the passage we mentioned in speaking about Yeshua wearing the belt of righteousness. He had the Spirit of God on Him and so must we. We must pray in the Spirit for the saints to be able to fight the good fight along side of us. We are in this together. We are not alone. He took those who were far and those who were near and made us one nation in Jesus the Messiah. We must stay alert to this fact and the fact that the enemy will also stay alert for any weakness in our armor. We must not let Him find one.
Finally, Paul asked for prayer for himself. Not to be released from his chains, but for boldness to proclaim the mystery for which he is in chains. Would you, would I, be willing to be in chains to proclaim the mystery, nonetheless, desiring to proclaim that mystery while in those chains. No matter our circumstances we must put on His armor in His resurrection power and pray in the Spirit. If we do we will be more than conquerors.
I want to first apologize for it being so long since I have written. We have been getting used to the new school year and then on top of it all we began to have computer issues. However, it did give me time to really think about this post. I am going to be discussing things in ways I have never really thought of them before and so for the extra time I am thankful.
Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, 3 so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land. 4 Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
5Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ. 6 Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart. 7 Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord. 9 And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him.(HCSB)
Let’s begin with the children. This command to the children is really a repeat of the fifth commandment that tells children to honor their father and their mother. That is what it is referring back to when it talks about being the first commandment with promise. In honoring them they are to obey, paying careful attention to them as they would the Lord and in doing so they are honoring the Lord who gave the command.
Then the fathers are to be careful in how they treat their children. Notice they are not given permission to do as they please to their children. They too are given instructions on how to bring up their children. They are to bring them up to love and obey the Lord, training them and instructing them in the ways of the Lord. This is a heavy task and one that bears total responsibility and purposefulness. Fathers cannot do this half-heartedly, it must be with the whole heart and with precise direction – toward the Lord.
Remember we are talking about unity in the home. If the Father or the children do not get their parts correct their is a break down in that unity. A father needs his children to obey him and to honor him and their mother. The children need to be loved and understood. They are not yet adults and do not do things the way an adult would. They also do not have the understanding of an adult yet long to be understood by their fathers. This is to be done with compassion and joy as they watch their children grow in the love and instruction of the Lord.
Here is where the mystery hits this passage. Scripture talks about us being the adopted children of God. As His children we are to obey Him without question, He is our Father. The Father looks on us with compassion as Jesus did the crowds. He understands us and knows how hard it is to avoid sin. As Hebrews 2 tells us, Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. You see He also knows the way to avoid the sin and if we are close to the Father, listening and obeying the Father, He will guide us through the temptation so that we can escape its grasp. This relationship is all important if we even hope to say no to sin. It works in unity, perfect unity. We are the children listening, obeying and thinking the world of our Father, standing in awe of Him and He is the loving Father beaming down in love and delight in His children.
As for the slaves and the masters I have often heard this passage preached from the perspective of employee and employer. I do not think this is accurate and here is why. This is not an example of an interpersonal relationship outside the home, but one within it. The home is the entire focus of these three examples in Ephesians. In Paul’s day slaves in the home were a reality and one that contributed to the unity of the home. Therefore it had to be dealt with as part of his conversation. He was not attempting to address the rightness or wrongness of slavery, but the behavior of both masters and slaves who have become voluntary slaves of Christ, knowing that how they act reflected on their Savior. Paul was effective in reaching both slaves and masters with the Good News of Freedom in Christ.
Slaves were to obey their masters as if they were serving the Lord. They were to do this in love for their master, not resentment. The Lord sees the heart and holds even the servant responsible for his own motives and attitude in his work. Slaves were an important part of many homes. If they did not do their work in a timely manner and well the home was not a good place to be. It reminds me of Joseph when he was the slave of Potipher in Egypt. God blessed the household of Potipher because of the efforts of Joseph who loved Him.
Likewise, masters are to deal with their slaves with respect as another human being. They are to treat them fair, knowing that they too have a Master in Heaven who is watching them. Yes, watching even the way they treat their slaves. Masters are not to leave or desert their slaves, they are part of their family, and thus, the masters are responsible for their care (keeping in mind the status of a slave was often the result of debts). This is the true meaning when it says, “without threatening them”, the threat is the threat to leave them alone. God holds each of us responsible for how we treat each other no matter our station in life. In Christ we are all brothers and sisters called to love and serve one another.
Now for the mystery within this example. We are the servants of God called to follow His commands. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands.” You see He is the Master. He is our Lord. He has every right to give the commands and we have no right to disobey them. As for His part, in love He has promised never to leave us or forsake us as a good master, our good shepherd, would.
Yes, Jesus does calls us His friends as well, but that does not negate our role as servants. Paul calls himself a bond-servant of the Lord, a servant by choice, following the commands of His Master. Let us never forget that Lord means Master. So when we call God our Lord and Savior we are really calling Him our Master and Savior and declaring ourselves His bond-servant bound to obey His commands.
God desires unity in every part of the relationship He has with us. Unity between the Bridegroom and Bride, between the Father and His Children, between the Master and His Bond-Servants. Is not our God awesome in what He desires with us? Truly His ways are above our ways and His thoughts above our thoughts.
Let us obey our Bridegroom, Father and Master as we love one another.