Pray in harmony with the Word
Suppose that you want to pray for salvation in harmony with God’s Word. How should you proceed? First you must know what the Bible says about the subject and what requirements it demands for someone to be saved. In Romans, God gave us the recipe for salvation:
That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9, 10)
After this, pay attention to the conditions that the Word establishes for salvation and fulfill them. Do what the Word of God says about the subject. In the case mentioned, believe that Jesus rose from the dead by the power of God and confess him as Lord of your life. This demonstrates faith from the heart and confession of the lips.
Third, pray according to the Word. You can pray in the following manner: “Lord, I believe with all my heart that Jesus Christ is your Son, that you resurrected Him from the dead, and He is alive, and is the Lord. I confessed with my mouth that He is the Lord“.
After this, the fourth attitude is to believe that God has answered your prayer. “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:24). Note: you did what the Word says: you believed and confessed. By meeting these conditions according to God’s Word you are saved.
Therefore, praise God because He heard based on His faithfulness to His promise. Praise is an expression of faith and is the fifth requirement. You prayed according to the will of the revealed will of God and His Word (Romans 10:9, 10); therefore, He heard (1 John 5:14). It is not necessary for an angel to appear to you and to tell you that you are saved. You only need to know that God is faithful.
Finally, the sixth attitude is to see yourself as a new creature. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Appropriate the fact that the person you used to be died on the cross with Christ and rose from the dead to new life by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:4). This really happened! You prayed in accordance with God’s Word; therefore, you were saved.
Whatever the area of necessity is, this is the way to pray. Apply these principles in your prayer life. When we begin prayer with the Word of God, we begin with the answer. Notice for example, the prayer of David in Psalm 23. He did not pray: “God, meet my needs. I need you so much! I am tired, I’m hungry; take me to a place where I will be satisfied. Free me from death, stay with me. Deal with my enemies”. No! David prayed the Word of God he prayed the answer:
God is my shepherd! I lack nothing. You have made me to rest in lush meadows. I am filled and supplied. True to your Word, you given me rest and sent me in the right direction. Even when I pass through dark valleys, I am not afraid when you watch at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I will live in the house of God for the rest of my life” (Psalm 23 – The Message).
You are invited to do what David did. Pray the Word and see God act in your life. Do not cry, sob or murmur. Open your mouth and confidently confess before God that which He has already said. Confess that you believe that everything that He has promised is yours. This is the way that we return the Word of God back to Him and His Word will not return void.
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10, 11)
All of the great feats in the life of God’s servants resulted from their faith in the written Word. True prayer is to take the Word of God to the throne, and by repeating with their lips what God has said before His throne, calling His attention to the promises that He himself has given. A study of the prayers of the saints of the Bible will shed much light on this point. They always placed God’s promises before him in prayer in order to receive his promises.
God’s Word as the ground of faith
Since certain distinct spiritual principles govern the quality of our life with God, we must recognize and value the importance of obeying the principles revealed in the Bible concerning prayer, so that our prayer life flourishes in effectiveness and fruitfulness. As a rule, we must always base our prayers on God’s Word. The psalmist claims that the Lord has exalted his Word above all things (Psalm 138:2). God manifests himself through his Word. The Word is God himself, the manifestation of his person. God manifests his integrity through his Word. Behind every word of God written with paper and ink, stand his character and his throne. Without the Word, there would be no foundation for prayer.
Our whole relationship with God must be built solidly on his Word. Whenever we approach him on the foundation of his Word, bearing witness to what he has said in our hearts through our lips, there he will be present, because God is present wherever his Word is present.
But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word. (Isaiah 66:2)
It is imperative that we reformulate our prayer habits and change our language. Many prayers stem from frustration, wrong concepts of God, unbelief and doubt, all reasons why many people fail to pray more. If you want to see God work in your life, you must read his Word, feed upon it and make it your source of meditation and conversation. In short, we must live out the principles of God’s Word by basing our prayers upon it, since the only thing that God confirms is his Word.
We must base our faith on God and his Word because to believe on his Word is to receive it as the truth. Our faith will grow in the proportion that we grow in our knowledge of God’s Word. How else can we exercise our faith in something that we do not know? We cannot believe in a promise that we do not know exists. It is the knowledge of the promise that leads us to the boldness of faith. If God says that something is ours, then it is. We must believe and take possession of that which the Word says already belongs to us. If God promises a blessing, it is because He wishes to give it to us. The Bible says that He will hear us in everything that we ask in prayer believing that it is based on his will (1 John 5:14).
How can we know what is in the mind of God? How can we know what his will is? The answer is by hearing what He has said. The Word of God is what God has already said. The majority of the things that God wants to do in our lives he has already revealed in his Word. Even things that seem unclear to us are based on revealed principles. Therefore, when we know the Word, we will know how to discern God’s will and as we pray in accordance with his Word, we will be praying in line with his revealed will, and in this way, we can be confident that He has already answered our request, even before we see its manifestation.
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (1 John 5:14, 15)
DISCERNING SPIRITUAL FRUIT THROUGH OBSERVING NATURAL FRUIT
Natural fruit is a product of maturity
A tree needs to be well cared for in order to produce good and mature fruit. It requires soil, sun and water. It needs pruning and weed removal around its roots. Maturity is a process that requires time and work. The fruit does not appear immediately. It is a product of growth and development.
The same applies to spiritual fruit. The fruit of the Spirit does not grow overnight. Time and testing are necessary in order to grow in the Lord. Our life in Christ develops as we learn to trust in the Word of God and submit ourselves to the Spirit of God in all of our daily activities. Christ forms His character in us through this process.
Natural fruit produces joy and pleasure
Fresh and ripe fruit smells and tastes delicious, it is beautiful to behold and sweet to the palate. It is a source of pleasure and a delight to see hanging on the tree as well as in a basket on the kitchen table.
Our heavenly Father took great joy and pleasure in the loving and sacrificial life of His Son here on the Earth: This is my son in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:17; 17:5)
To the extent that we become similar to Jesus, we also become a delight to our God and Father. It was for this purpose that He created us.
Natural fruit supplies our daily nourishment
Fresh fruit is a necessary part of our diet in order for us to develop strong and healthy bodies. Fruit contains the vitamins and minerals necessary for our development and well-being. When these nourishing factors are missing, we become sick and may even die. In the beginning of the history of nautical navigation, sailors would sometimes find ghost ships out at sea. The entire crew had died because of the absence of certain vitamins in their diets.
The fruit of the Spirit is equally important to our spiritual health and well-being. A lack of love, joy and peace can spiritually sicken a human soul. In addition, the sickness can spread to other people and terribly affect their lives as well. However, to the extent that we share the fruit of the Spirit with each other, we can overcome these sicknesses and grow together in the glorious life of our Lord.
Natural fruit carries the seed for reproduction
Mature fruit contains seeds that allow it to reproduce according to its kind. The purpose of fruit is to increase and propagate the life from which it came. A few apples can produce sufficient seeds in order for us to plant a large apple orchard.
When we minister the love, joy and peace of Jesus to others, these also become more seeds for Him. This is the law of natural and spiritual life: life produces life according to its kind. Apple seeds always produce apple trees. In the same way, the love of God always produces the life of God!
Natural fruit fulfills the farmer’s purpose
The divine purpose for our lives individually and corporately, is to transform us into the likeness of Jesus. This is our destiny: for God to mold us into His image. God himself faithfully works and cultivates our lives so that we can reproduce the life of His son:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:28, 29)
Paul taught the Corinthians that the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:46). In the case of spiritual fruit we can easily see how this is demonstrated. So let’s stop spiritualizing what should be the obvious and learn from what intuitively we know are the fail-safe signs of spiritual maturity.
Food for your faith
Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). With this, we can affirm that the Word of God sees our spirit and consequently, the more we are filled with the Holy Spirit, the greater our faith will be, the more revelation of God we have in our spirits, the greater our faith will be.
We must recognize that the Word of God is food for our faith. However, it is not enough to know the Word, we must believe, act, correctly confess and train our spirit to receive revelation, as well as put into practice what we know.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)
Possessing knowledge of the Word
The Word is worthy of trust
For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
If the Word of God is worthy of trust, it has a firm foundation. Everything else may pass away, but the Word will remain forever, because it is not a mere book. More than a book, behind its words written with paper and ink, is a person: God himself. Don’t think of the Bible therefore in terms of paper and ink. Think of God and of what He said. The Word is an expression of God and reflects His character; if He has said something, we can stake our own lives upon it.
Many times, we tend to analyze circumstances and our own experiences and from these we begin to establish a faith-based on what we see and experience, rather than what the Word of God says. Here is an example:
The Word says, “By His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
The believer says, “I’m sick”.
The Word says, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37).
The believer says, “I am a failure”.
The Word says, “I have been crucified with Christ; therefore, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:19, 20)
The believer says, “I am so weak, a miserable sinner. I always fall”.
Do you see the difference? Whoever acts like the believer above looks at the Word of God in a superficial manner, as if it was speaking of another person, and does not take it as the truth. This such a believer does not see himself through the eyes of the Word, but through his own failings; then he opens his mouth to say what is not harmonious with what God has said. Worse than that: this believer confesses what Satan would like to see in the life of each believer. You must know that God is true. Our feelings can contradict what God has said and Satan can try to close your eyes, but God is faithful. Boldly open your mouth and say “Amen” to everything that God says.
When the Bible declares a truth, do not say: “and if…” or “But …” Expressions like these can give a foothold for Satan to bring doubt and rob that which already belongs to you in Christ Jesus. Since the Garden of Eden, he casts doubt in the mind of man about the integrity of God and His Word. Unfortunately, many Christians are full of doubt concerning many promises of God. And when you doubt the promise, you’ll never have an attitude of faith to claim it. As a result, that which is yours by right of inheritance as God’s child is lost to the enemy.
The Word of God is the Lord Himself speaking. He is alive. Since He is not an abstract idea, do not look to the words of the Bible as something abstract. Jesus declared: the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). The Word is living and births life, life that brings life to the spirit, the soul and the body. The Word is the power of life, the seed of life, life itself. This is the reason why when someone believes in Jesus, opens his mouth and confesses Him as Lord, they are born-again. It is the Word producing life.
The Word of God is living and active perfect, efficient, powerful, able. The Word of God transforms nature, any situation or circumstance.
For with God nothing will be impossible. (Luke 1:37)
The Word of God is sharp. It brings to light the hidden motives of the subconscious, that which is hidden inside of man. The Word penetrates the most obscure places of the personality. It goes where nothing else can go. It reveals the roots of all physical, emotional and spiritual evil.
The Word of God is a two-edged sword. It operates in the hearer, as well as the speaker. It penetrates all things discerns all things and sees all things. Whatever circumstance the Word encompasses, there will be life, light and victory. This Word is blessed, living and powerful. No one can ever understand its depths or discover its full glory. The Word is the infinite God himself. We can trust in it and follow it whatever the cost!
This blessed Word is the basis for our faith. Our thoughts, feelings, whatever anyone else says, crises and circumstances of life can never serve as a basis for faith. Again, the infallible Word of God is the basis for our faith. If we want to know God or His will, we will have to know His Word, because it expresses Him and reveals His purposes for our lives. He speaks to us in various ways, but the principal way is through His written word.
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds. (Hebrews 1:1, 2)
Who is the Son, who is Jesus, but the living Word? John declared speaking of him:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:1, 14)
Jesus is the Word and through Him God speaks to us. In the Old Testament, the Word was written on stone tablets, but in the New Testament, we have the living Word, in the flesh, Jesus. And He abides in us by His Spirit. The Word is in us and speaks with in us in perfect harmony with the word on paper and ink. In the Old Testament, it says, “I hid your Word in my heart so that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). What word you may ask? The answer is the written Word of God. However, today the living Word lives within our spirit, not in letter, but in spirit and life. In the Old Testament, they used to memorize the words but did not understand their meaning. Today, the Spirit is inside us, the Word moves inside of us and guides us; God has made it real to us. To deal with the Word of God is to deal with God Himself.
In this matter, many Christians commit mistakes by searching for spiritual guidance in sources other than the Word of God. Many Christians do not completely trust in the promises, nor do they follow the principles of the Word, they run after any and every type of voice in order to ask what the Word of the Lord is for their lives. It is in this way that they may hear a strange word.
The written Word is in their hands and the living Word is in their heart, and God reveals Himself to you in a personal way through His Word, and He will give you sure direction that will never leave you confused. Whenever He wishes, He will manifest Himself in other manners, like through visions, dreams or prophecy. However, you must know that all of these manifestations must pass the approval of the written word, because God never reveals himself in disharmony with the Word. Whatever does not pass through the filter of the written word, is not genuine and must be rejected; because instead of bringing life it brings death.
Take note of this: if you pray the Word of God, it is worthy of confidence, you will be stepping on firm ground. As long as you walk on this ground, you will be successful. However, if you abandon the Word, you will be walking on slippery ground, and will be condemned to fail. Therefore, trust in the integrity of the Word of God and allow it to be your platform of prayer. Remain steadfast upon it and refuse to abandon it. Discipline your mind and allow words in line with what God says to flow from your lips.
WHY MUST WE GROW IN FAITH?
Once we understand that faith pleases God, it is logical to think that the greater our faith, the more we will please the Lord. We know that all of us at the new birth have already received a portion of faith however; it is incorrect to affirm as some people do, that some people have no faith at all. What these people really need is an increase of faith, not for us to pray with them so that they may have faith, since all Christians already have a portion of faith.
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4:4)
When a person eats bread, it enters the body and gives it energy and strength, building its muscles and enabling it to perform the physical activities of daily living. The Lord’s statement shows us that His Word can feed our spirit. The faith that we receive at the new birth, enables us to overcome in the daily battle of our faith.
In Romans, the Scriptures assure us: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17). Therefore, we can perceive that we can increase the faith that God initially gave us since the Scriptures affirm that faith comes by the Word of God. We see then that the Word of God is a source of nourishment to increase our faith. We must understand the need to feed ourselves on His Word.
CONFESSION OF FAITH AND ANSWERED PRAYER
For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. (Mark 11:23)
That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
In these two verses, we can observe that belief in the heart intimately relates to the words of our mouth. This means that moving in faith and believing in the heart relate to speaking, which is the same thing as confessing. Confession means to say the same thing.
We must confess our faith in God and in his Word. The confession of faith is the spoken testimony of our faith, it is simply agreeing with God, repeating his Word by saying the same thing. Revelation 12:11 says that those who overcame the devil overcame him because of the blood of the lamb and because of the word of their testimony. To confess the Word is to testify or give testimony to what we believe: that God is powerful to do what he promised (Romans 4:21).
Confessing activates faith, but we must not confess just anything or any thought. We must have correct thoughts since whoever thinks correctly believes and acts correctly.
Five biblical truths concerning confession of faith
Our confession of faith must line up with five biblical truths:
- What God has done for us in Christ in the plan of salvation
- What God has done in our inner man by the Word and by the Spirit in the new birth and in the filling with the Holy Spirit
- Who we are in God the Father through Jesus Christ
- What Jesus is doing for us at the right hand of the Father
- What God and his Word can do through us when we confess it
The Old Testament offers various testimonies concerning confession of faith and answers to prayer. We can see a correct confession of faith in David’s victory over Goliath when the giant challenged the armies of Israel.
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. (1 Samuel 17:45, 46)
What is your confession of faith when you face a conflict? Do you position yourself just as David did, completely believing in God?
Another example is the woman who suffered a hemorrhage for 12 years (Mark 5:24-34). The Lord Jesus healed her when she touched the hem of his garment. She had heard of his fame and said, “If I but touch the hem of His garment, I will be healed”. We truly must believe that if we merely touch the Lord in prayer, believing in our heart, that is, with our spirit, He will hear us and respond immediately from His throne
The truth about faith
Why must we have understanding? The reason is that it is through our mind, our intellect that we understand that faith pleases the Lord. Why must we have revelation? The answer is that without the revelation of God in our spirit, we may have intellectual understanding and mental knowledge, but it will not produce life within us. Only under the light of God can we really have a living faith that is effective and agreeable to Him.
The desire to understand the nature of faith makes no sense unless we believe that God exists (Hebrews 11:6). Although God has also provided this ability for us, He gave each man an initial faith (Romans 12:3b) so that he could believe in his existence and that He resurrected Jesus, His son and savior (Romans 10:9), but is also the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
The Bible defines “faith” as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). To be sure of is to be confident of, to bring into existence, to materialize. Faith is the certainty of the realities that we cannot see nor feel and the giving of substance to anything for which we hope. Where should our hope come from? The answer is from where apparently nothing exists, from the invisible realm. Some things exist but we do not see them with our natural eyes, or we fail to take possession of what rightfully belongs to us although it is already ours, as in the case of physical healing, since God’s Word already confirms that Jesus has already healed us (1 Peter 2:22-24).
Faith is a conviction, a demonstrable certainty that testifies of the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people, even in this age, when we see the acts of God whether through deliverance, provision or healing. Through these proofs we can be certain that God is powerful to fulfill His promises (Romans 4:21).
Faith is the surrendering of ourselves without reserve to the realities of God, to His ordinances, His commandments, to obey His will faithfully above all, and to act in coherence with our inner conviction. Finally, faith is acting in accordance with the Word of God. We cannot disassociate faith with His Word, since faith is putting the Word of God in action.
The difference between faith and hope
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
We can conclude that faith is different from hope; otherwise, there would be no reason for the author to separate them. The majority of Christians err concerning the fact of this difference.
Let us examine a clear example of this difference. If you are sick, do you believe for healing right now or do you hope that one day you will be healed? If it is a chronic sickness, you may even hope to be healed. However, in some cases such as when the sickness is terminal, either you get healed or you die. In such a case, would you be so calm as to say that you hope to be healed, when you are desperately praying for God to heal you immediately, before it is too late?
We must separate faith from hope. While the first is for right now, for the immediate moment, the present time, the second speaks of the future. For this reason in Hebrews 11:1 we read, “faith is the substance (the taking possession of) of things hoped for”. To hope is to wait, and faith is grabbing on to the unrealities of hope and bringing them to the dimension of reality.
Faith is active, while hope is passive. Faith needs an active attitude, a decision on your part. For example, suppose that you believe that God can help you find a job; however, if all you do is wait (hope), you will continue to be unemployed. However, if contrary to this, you search for a job diligently, then God will act and you will find that for what you seek. This is faith. It is to act in accordance with the Word of God.
There are various examples in the Bible of people who have had faith, and in these passages, we can perceive a common element in all of them. In all of them, after hearing a Word, the hearers took action in accordance to what they heard. There is a good example of this in Luke 5:18-25, when the Lord Jesus healed the paralytic. Jesus said, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house” (Verse 24). What did he do? Verse 25 answers: “Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.” He acted in accordance with the word that he had received.
You can see for yourself in various other Bible passages where someone was able to do something or to receive something, whether divine healing or a victory in God, just as David overcame Goliath and Joshua in the victory over Jericho etc.
Hope as we have already said is passive. Hope does not require us to take action. Yet of course, hope is necessary in the Christian life. How can we live without the hope of one day seeing God face-to-face, that Jesus will come back and unite us with him in praise and worship? However, we must exercise faith to experience our salvation and healing and not only hope for salvation or healing. We are baptized by the Holy Spirit by faith and not by hope.
Therefore, I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (Mark 11:24)
See how the verb “to receive” is in the past tense, therefore, this means that God grants our requests when we believe in our hearts. For this reason, we should not hope to receive what we ask for, because if we truly believe in our hearts, we will receive the answers in the present and not in the future. Most Christians are defeated at this point: because they don’t believe in their heart, they don’t take possession of this word. Most of the time, they make requests in prayer with a mere mental acceptance devoid of any faith for receiving an answer. To accept the Word of God merely with the mind is not to believe in the heart.
In Romans 2:29 we read: “But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter”. We perceive then that to believe in the heart is to believe with the spirit, and also with the inner man through an inner conviction. This is true biblical faith: the faith of God that says, “Let there be light! And there was light.”
In Mark 11:25, we have a condition for the answer. It deals with withholding forgiveness to someone who has offended us. In this case, the lack of forgiveness can block the answer. However, if this is not true in your case and if you are in fellowship with your brother and with God, the Word guarantees us an answer. Let us take possession of the truths and promises of God’s Word!
Faith is remembering that in the kingdom of God everything is based on promises and not on emotions. When you take possession of healing by faith, for example, you may not feel any emotion. You may still feel symptoms of sickness in your body, but you have an attitude of healing, of certainty that you have received the answer and above all you trust in God and in His Word.
May God speak precious truths such as these to our heart. May we take possession of these rich spiritual truths and follow God in a life of victory, abundantly full of faith and hope.
The fruit of self-control
Jesus was truly a man of self-control! He was totally submissive to God’s Word and strengthened by it and by the Holy Spirit of God. Consequently, he possessed an inner power and purpose that enabled Him to fulfill his father’s will perfectly. It is important to observe that the source of His strength and direction came from God.
The false fruit of self-control
Self-control is not a renouncement of our personality, in the way that God has given it to us. All of us are special creatures, made for a special place in God’s plan.
Self-control is not a legalistic prison in which our lives are limited by the religious laws of man. The fact that we are divinely self-controlled brings us spiritual liberty and not enslavement.
Self-control is also not the control of our lives through our own strength or will power. We do not possess the interior resources of power or of wisdom sufficient to fulfill the perfect purpose of God for our lives.
Separated from the Word of God and the Spirit of God, we are like a boat with no compass, no sails and no rudder. The winds of this world – the spirit of the age – always lead us away from the path of the plan of God for our lives.
It is true that we can establish and reach earthly goals through our own efforts, but these will not serve any heavenly or eternal purpose.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36)
In addition, we are unable to break some influences and habits in our lives, no matter how hard we try. We simply cannot control ourselves with our own resources. What then is the answer?
The true fruit of self-control
The Greek word translated “self-control” is enkrateia. En means “in”, and kratos means “strength”. The two terms refer to a “dominating power” that proceeds from the inside, an interior control. The nature of this control will be determined by whatever or by whoever is on the throne of our lives. Will it be the world, the flesh (our ego) or the devil? Or, will it be our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ? The answer to this question is very important. It determines the direction and course of our lives, not only now but from now on. We cannot afford the luxury of making a mistake.
What is the biblical significance of the word enkrateia? How does it relate to the fruit of the Spirit and our life in Christ? The noun form appears only two times in the New Testament, other than Galatians 5:22:
Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” (Acts 24:25)
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
The verb form occurs two times:
But if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:9)
And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. (1 Corinthians 9:25)
The adjective form occurs one time:
For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, (Titus 1:7, 8)
The fruit of self-control clearly refers to the control, denial and discipline of the life of our ego. As I stated earlier, it is not a denial of our ego or of our personality, which God gave to us. Each one of us is a special creation of God, possessing great value in His eyes. The denial refers to the controlling discipline of our ego or the life of our soul through the Word of God and through His Spirit. Our soul is the throne of our reason, will and emotions. The Spirit of God must govern these functions if we wish to become everything that God intends us to be and reach the objective that He originally intended when He created us.
If God is not divinely controlling the life of our soul, we will be living an obstinate life that in reality is under the control of the world, the flesh and devil. Separated from God, we have neither the wisdom nor the power to fulfill our divine calling.
As strange as it may seem, true freedom comes into play, when we permit the Holy Spirit of God to become one with our spirit. He frees us to live an abundant, complete and creative life. This is what Jesus meant when he said:
If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24, 25)
Our cross speaks of the denial, control and discipline of our soul or the life of our ego. The result is a life of obedience and freedom when we follow Jesus. The Lord did not come to destroy our lives but to free and redeem them:
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
To have the ego completely controlled by the Holy Spirit is the only way to true freedom for those who are completely involved in their own little world. We are not able to free ourselves with our own resources. The wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit of God are necessary for this.
The rotten fruit of the flesh
It is not difficult to define the contrary fruit of the flesh. When we speak of the flesh, we are really speaking of our abilities when we are separated from the control of God that are so easily seen in the life of those who are undisciplined, immoral and rebellious against all authority.
These people become a law unto themselves, very similar to the Israelites during the period of the judges:
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6)
In other words, there was no designated divine authority. Everyone did whatever he or she felt like doing. There were no limits, rules or controls. Each person was a law unto himself.
The people soon were scattered and fell into doubting each other, disobedience, immorality and idolatry. God was far from their thoughts words and actions. The results were tragic. Their enemies attacked, defeated, and lead them captive and in many cases killed them.
What was God’s remedy? He would raise up a judge that would take their focus off themselves and restore it to God. They would then repent and return to the law, the order and discipline of God for their lives. When they found themselves under divine rule and control, God once again restored them to a place of freedom and grace.
The results of the obstinate life are the same today: defeat and despair. The remedy is also the same. We can repent and return to the benevolent reign of God over our lives.
The life led by the Spirit is the true life “lived out through us”. Only the Holy Spirit can free us from the slavery of the flesh and place us in the liberty and fullness of the character of Christ.
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:17, 18)
Some final words from the apostle Paul
The apostle Paul summed up – and outlined the fruit of the Holy Spirit – with the following very significant words:
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 5:24, 25; 6:8)
The fruit of meekness
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28, 29)
There is a divine mystery in meekness and it deserves our study. Humbleness and strength are associated with each other in a very special way in the character of Christ. As we shall soon see, many people do not possess an adequate understanding of what in fact is the fruit of meekness.
The false fruit of meekness
Meekness is not a weakness of character or of conduct. A meek person is not a weak-willed person, overly influenced and unstable who gives in under the smallest pressures. A meek man is neither timid nor easily ashamed.
A meek person does not suffer from feelings of inferiority, nor does he underestimate his capabilities. A meek person does not demonstrate false modesty before others. On some occasions, he may even have the appearance of a lamb, while possessing the heart of a lion. God greatly uses those that he calls to the ministry of meekness, as we shall soon see.
The real fruit of meekness
The Greek word translated as the spiritual fruit of meekness is prautes. The New Testament uses this noun 11 times and the adjective four times. There is no word in our language that translates its complete meaning; it combines the qualities of strength, gentleness and much more.
Greek literature used the word prautes in some interesting ways. It was a term used to describe trained and domesticated animals. However, this domestication is more than a simple obedience and control, because these creatures also demonstrate a docile and loyal nature. A family guard dog is a good example. It is ferocious to strangers, yet docile and friendly to members of the family.
With respect to people, the word prautes was used to describe people who were kind and gentle in conduct but who also held positions of power and authority. In the Bible, Moses was one of these men:
Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)
A perfect example of meekness in the New Testament is obviously Jesus. Paul associated himself with Jesus in the following aspect:
Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ — who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you. (2 Corinthians 10:1)
They say that a man is known by the company that he keeps. The same is true with respect to words. We can find other qualities that harmonize with the term “meekness” in the words that are associated with it. As we have already seen, meekness is associated with docility and humility.
We also find the word humility in the company of words that reveal the qualities of a tranquil, stable and controlled spirit, even in the face of wrath and violence.
The fruit of the Spirit makes it possible for someone to teach, and even oppose others in a firm yet gentle way. Perhaps even more important is to be able to teach, correct and discipline others without resentment and rebellion.
To the extent that we submit to the love, the authority and the wisdom of God, we can be at peace, because we know that He is in control. No matter what we face or with whom we come up against, God will cause all things to work together for our good for His glory in Christ Jesus. Therefore, we do not have to fight for our rights with fear or wrath.
We find a good example of this in the episode where Jesus expelled the money changers in the temple. Besides defending those who had been mistreated, He also defended the honor of His Father’s house. This episode was not an isolated act of wrath committed by Jesus because he was personally offended.
We can also compare His reaction to the cruel and unjust actions committed against Him during the crucifixion as those of a lamb lead to the slaughter. Both these events demonstrate God’s power under the control of His purpose.
Meekness is principally an interior attitude of submission and trust in God. Through this source of strength, we can face the world with peace, power and purpose. We can speak and act when we must and in the way that we must or we can also remain silent and wait when this is in accordance to the will and the purpose of God.
The rotten fruit of the flesh
Such a powerful and important fruit as meekness of course will always have strong opposition of the flesh. Moreover, this is in fact the case and self-promoting, self-serving and proud people who are not open to teaching but rather prefer to argue their points of view without being open to that of others are strong examples of the manifestation of the rottenness of this fruit. People with these characteristics have a hard and difficult time submitting to authority.
When we effectively resist these people or for some reason they are not able to get what they want, they tend to become bitter and blame others. They react, fight, withdrawal and feed their wounds in self-pity. Just as the children of Israel, they murmur and complain when anything goes wrong.
It is no wonder that God chose Moses to guide His people out of Egypt. Only a very meek man would have the inner strength to overcome this type of opposition. The fruit of meekness had matured to such an extent in the life of Moses that God was able to use him when others would have failed.
Jesus said that the meek would inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). What a tremendous example Moses is for all of us. To the extent that we seek to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ in our days to all people, over all the earth, meekness will make the difference between failure and success!
The fruit of faithfulness
Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. (Hebrews 3:1, 2)
He was also faithful to His followers:
Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2: 17)
It is useful to observe that He received a glorious title in heaven that relates to this quality of His character:
Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. (Revelation 19:11)
In order to be like Jesus we must be faithful to God and to others in all aspects of our lives. We must know what this really means. As we have done with the other character traits of Christ, we will begin an explanation of what faithfulness means.
The false fruit of faithfulness
Faithfulness does not mean that we are so set in our ways that there is no possibility of change or variation. It does not mean that we are so established in our minds that we are unable to learn anything new. This is nothing more than pride and stubbornness, elements that hinder the work of God.
God is always operating in new ways. Therefore, we should not be prisoners to patterns that impede us from relating to the new flow of His spirit.
The Pharisees thought that they were being “faithful” to their tradition, but in truth, they were bound to a religious legalism that put them in strong opposition to the Lord himself. This is not what the Bible means by the fruit of faithfulness. What do the Scriptures really say about this fruit of the Spirit?
The true fruit of faithfulness
The Greek word translated as the fruit of “faithfulness” is pistis. It is the same word used for the word “faith” and the two words are related. Therefore, it is necessary to be full of faith to be faithful. However if we consider the context or the setting in which each term is used we will see that there is a difference between these two words.
“Faith” is the most common use of this word in the Bible. It refers to the confidence and the belief in God, in His word and His works. Obviously, this is true in a special way concerning our salvation and its benefits.
The Scriptures use the word “faithfulness” when they refer to the fact that we must be trustworthy, responsible and above all loyal. It means that we are worthy of trust. Truly, this is a sign of a good servant that we can trust with the goods of others.
Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:2)
Paul, Peter and John referred to their helpers as being “faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Peter 5:12; 3 John 1:5). The greatest assets that a leader can have are faithful, honest and trustworthy helpers. John spoke of the servants of the Lord that they would be “faithful unto death” (Revelation 2:10).
We can perceive strength in this fruit of the Spirit, which is highly necessary for the work of God to be successful. We should not be surprised, therefore to find the enemy trying to oppose this quality of Christ’s character in any way possible.
The rotten fruit of the flesh
The characteristics of the flesh that oppose faithfulness include some negative qualities, such as untrustworthiness and disloyalty. We could add other defects of character however such as tardiness, sluggishness, procrastination, negligence in the small things and never completing tasks that we begin. These negative habits are difficult to be broken.
However, there is good news: there is victorious power in the fruit of faithfulness. The chains of old habits can be broken, but generally, it is by one link at a time. We can begin with the next task of responsibility that we receive. In the power of the Spirit of God, we can begin and finish at the appropriate time. We can deal with each small detail responsibly and carefully. When we do this, we will form new attitudes and habits, and they will become part of all areas of our lives – including our work for God.
Then in that day when we are before him, we will receive a reward from the mouth of the Lord himself:
His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ (Matthew 25:23)
The fruit of goodness
Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. (Mark 10:17, 18)
The goodness of Jesus revealed the goodness of God to people. Jesus came to earth to do the goodwill of the Father. Therefore, His life, death and resurrection present a perfect picture of divine goodness, an example for every Christian.
If we want to follow His steps, we will want to study this fruit very carefully and with much interest.
The false fruit of goodness
We must not equate goodness to the self-righteous acts of the so-called workers of good deeds. This refers to people who do good to others so that they can receive praise and thanks of man.
Goodness does not mean that we give something so that we can get a greater reward in return. Such an attitude is selfishness, and works merely toward our own purposes.
Goodness certainly is not a way of deserving our salvation. Our good works will never reach the height of the holy pattern of the goodness of God. They will never be able to take the place of the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. God has saved us only by His goodness and mercy in our favor.
The true fruit of goodness
The Greek word translated “goodness” is agathosune. It appears only four times in the New Testament. The word “good”, agathos, appears about 102 times. It is a generic term used to express excellence or high quality.
Personal goodness according to the way that the Scriptures use the word has two important parts. One part is “character”; the other is “conduct” and describes what we are and what we do, or in other words; our attitudes and our actions.
As we have already stated, Jesus is the true pattern for a life of goodness. He is the “good and faithful” model of a servant (Matthew 25:24; Philippians 2:7). Jesus is the goodness of God in thought, word, attitude and action. The study of His life implies a search for the meaning of goodness.
It is useful to understand the way that the Bible uses the words agathosune and agathos. “Good and faithful” is one example of this.
Paul said to the Ephesians “the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth” (Ephesians 5:9). In these and many other passages, we can better understand the concept of God concerning goodness. As we have already seen, goodness involves character as well as conduct. Concerning character, a “good” man is a strong man, solid, highly just and moral. He is honest, sincere and entirely correct. At the same time, he is merciful and full of compassion. He seeks the best of others, has a more generous heart and gives from his own heart. Truly, he is a man like Jesus that not only seeks to preach the “good news”, but also lives according to it:
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38)
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2:14)
The rotten fruit of the flesh
The opposite of good is bad, and the opposite of goodness is evil. The Bible has much to say about evil and evil men. The most evil character described in the Scriptures is Satan, who is the very embodiment of evil.
Because of the fact that the devil is evil, he is always seeking to rob, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Jesus came however to destroy the works of the devil and to give us an abundant life (1 John 3:8).
The Bible generally associates evil with men who are greedy and jealous by nature. They have small and stingy hearts and are more interested in getting things than in giving something.
The evil man is also partial, unjust and immoral. By the nature of his character, he is not interested in the well-being of others. He is not willing to abstain from robbing and destroying others in favor of his own selfish purposes.
Truly, the picture that the Bible paints concerning evil is not something beautiful to see. Unfortunately, even as a characteristic of Christians, sometimes we see similarities of these characteristics beginning to grow in our lives, and these weeds grow rapidly if not impeded. Bad attitudes can develop into bad words and actions before we know what is happening. Thank God that the Holy Spirit is quick to advise us when these evil characteristics begin to appear in our thoughts and reflect in our actions.
There is great power in the goodness of God. This fruit of the Spirit is God’s answer to the problem of evil in our lives and the lives of others. Goodness is a quality of the life of Christ inside of our hearts. It provides the resources that we can use at any time, whether we are feeling good or not.
Goodness is not a feeling it is a person. This person is Jesus! By faith, we know that His spirit is within us. Contained in his spirit is his goodness and power to do good. This confession of faith is the key to our victory.
To conclude these brief considerations about the fruit of goodness consider the following good words of the apostle Paul:
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9; 17; 21)
The fruit of kindness
Jesus was a very good and kind man! His goodness is another aspect of God’s character that He beautifully expressed in His earthly life. This brings us a warm feeling of the moral tenderness and kindness of God. We must demonstrate this divine characteristic more in our own lives.
The false fruit of kindness
The fruit of kindness is not a weak and permissive attitude of someone who is willing to have peace at any price. Kindness does not permit others to easily transgress or brush aside principles. We must not equate kindness or docility to a sentimental sluggishness that causes our heart to control our head. This fruit possesses an underlying force that God himself supports by His power and purpose.
The true fruit of kindness
The Greek word meaning kindness is chrestotes. In eight of the 18 times that this term (noun or adjective) is used in the New Testament, it refers to an aspect of the character of God. Kindness is the quality of the heart that attracts people with cords of love. It communicates a personal care and an interest for others. It is an affable attitude that puts others at ease and protects them from suffering. It seeks to help and to heal those who are weak and bruised.
The Scriptures generally relate kindness to forgiveness. It is due to the goodness and mercy of God that He leads us to repentance to receive forgiveness:
Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
We see this in the life of Jesus when he dealt with the Samaritan woman by the well (John 4) and again when Jesus defended the woman at the home of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7).
To be like to Jesus means to be good to others, supportive and forgiving:
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31, 32)
The rotten fruit of the flesh
We have already seen through some of the Scriptures above some of the characteristics of the flesh that seek to oppose the fruit of kindness. These characteristics include the attitudes and actions that are cruel, rude, rash, rough, aggressive and unforgiving.
We cannot be kind and selfish at the same time. Kindness and the support of others, as we have already seen in the life of Jesus, walk hand-in-hand. Good leaders do not impose their ideas and desires over others in an oppressive way.
Jesus said that His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). The Greek word translated light is chrestos. In this verse, it means easy to place upon and well-fitting. It illustrates kindness of purpose as well as practice, in planning and in positioning.
Young leaders in their zeal may sometimes be inattentive toward others. In their anxiety to do things for God, there is the danger that harsh words and actions may arise. One of the signs of Christian maturity is kindness.
Aged wine is smooth and light. It loses its harsh bitterness.
And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’ (Luke 5:39)
The Greek word translated “better” is chrestos. May we strive to become kind and docile just as Jesus was, in the proportion that we mature in him.
Jesus was a very patient person. He remained at the center of God’s will during his whole life on the Earth. Faith, hope and love enabled him to remain in line with his divine mission not caring what or who He had to face along the way. Paul prayed that this fruit would enable the believer’s in Thessalonica to remain firm while others were falling and straying away:
But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you. Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ. (2 Thessalonians 3:3-5)
James tells us that patience perfects character:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)
The false fruit of patience
Patience is not a fatalistic attitude. Fatalism tells us that whatever will be, will be, and there is nothing that we can do about it. There is no hope or sense of responsibility in this type of attitude. Patience is not a desperate resignation through which we give up and yield to everything and to everyone.
Patience is not a passive or inactive mental attitude that directs us to “smile, swallow hard and put up with it”. This type of attitude has no plan, does not seek to correct the past or alter the present. These are false ideas about patience.
The true fruit of patience
The Greek word that refers to patience is macrothumia, which literally means long tempered – where temperament refers to a calm and controlled mental state. Sometimes we say that people are temperamental or that they lose or keep their calm.
In both the Septuagint and the New Testament, much divine meaning has been attached to this word through its use. It refers to the patience of God, which is slow to wrath and full of mercy toward humanity. However, in his patience, God does not just simply wait. He is also seeking to bring revival to repentant sinners and perfection in Christ to Christians. This is patience with a purpose. God works while he waits!
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. (1 Timothy 1:15, 16)
Jesus was very patient with all of his disciples. He waited patiently for them to respond to his message of life and truth, however, while He waited, He also carefully but firmly worked with them in their weaknesses.
Patience means that we wait in faith, hope and love so that God can do his will in a given situation. These situations involve people, places and events. We can be patient however assured by the fact that God makes all things work together for the fulfillment of his good will in Christ Jesus.
God grants us the strength of patience so that we can stand firm when He uses severe problems and difficulties to test his call over our lives. God never gives up on his purposes for our lives. Therefore, we also should never give up!
We must develop this fruit in our lives if we want our ministry to have the maximum value possible for the Lord in these important coming days. We must exercise patience through the Lord’s dealings in our lives. We must exercise patience with others, and even with ourselves. In the end, God’s patience produces a godly perfection.
Paul sums this up with the following words:
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (Colossians 3:12, 13)
The rotten fruit of the flesh
It is good for us to know that God has a remedy for impatience. All of us have reacted to people and situations much faster and more violent than we should have.
This generally happens when we become irritated and frustrated. When we become very irritated, we prove how much we are sensitive to everything around us. Any little insignificant thing bothers us too much. We tend to overly exaggerate our reaction to trials and testing and we act in ways that are not characteristic of Christ.
Frustration is the feeling of abandonment that we have when we are in a difficult situation that we cannot change. The only change that we can make is in our attitude. It is at this point that God wants to give us the great grace of patience.
There is power in the fruit of patience. It is the power of waiting on God while we are waiting for men. This power can elevate us above irritations and frustrations of life.
Patience flows from our faith in the power, the purpose and the promise of God. He planned and promised to produce the life of his son in all situations of our daily lives.
For this reason, it is not necessary to be afraid to pray for patience. Patience is a quality of the life of Christ that the Father is ready to supply us with through the power of his Holy Spirit. Its seed is already in our hearts ready to grow when we need it most.
The fruit of real peace in the life of Christ
Jesus was a tremendous example of a person who lived in the perfect peace of God and his desire has always been to share his peace with others, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
Many gravestones have the following inscription: “rest in peace”. This is a beautiful idea, but peace has nothing to do with weakness or death. Peace is in fact a very powerful quality of life. Just remove peace from people and places and observe what happens. Peace is a necessity for appropriate order and for correct relationships. Only through God’s peace can one have a feeling of tranquility and well-being.
The peace of God is certainly an important fruit of the Spirit and as so deserves our consideration. However, we will begin by declaring what peace is not. The world has a false concept of peace, as we will soon see.
The false fruit of peace
Peace does not imply the attempt to escape the duties and responsibilities of life. If we think we can live that way we will always be running and we will never reach our objective. Peace is not “apathy” – a lack of care or interest for others. The fact that we are always “turning our back” on others when we should be involved with them will lead us to a very selfish lifestyle. However, life has a way of knocking us off-balance. When this happens, a selfish person loses his peace. No one can obtain peace through the acquisition of material goods. Rich people generally do not have much peace. True peace does not depend on what we have on the outside, but on what we have inside of us.
Peace is not being free from the pressure of making decisions. We can alleviate the pressure that we are under by avoiding decision-making or even by making wrong decisions but this does not last long. We must first have peace within us before we can face the world and make correct decisions that affect the outside world.
We never attain true peace by tolerating the values of the world. To go with the flow of life’s currents can appear peaceful in the beginning, but eventually, we will always reach the waterfall. These are some of the false ideas that the people of the world have about peace. However, what is true peace? We will examine the Bible to find our answer.
The true fruit of peace
The Greek word translated “peace” in Galatians 5:22 is eirene. This term exists in all of the New Testament books and occurs 88 times. This word describes the harmony that comes from correct relationships. We are at peace when we are in correct relationship with God, with others and with our own life. The internal relationships among family members, churches and nations, even with all nature are also included in the idea of this word.
When God created the heavens and the earth and made man, everything was in divine order. There was a holy harmony in all of creation. It was a profound picture of peace. God said that it was very good.
When sin entered the world through the disobedience of man, this peace was lost. Tensions, pressures and conflicts began to arise; things that up to then, were unimaginable. This affected all aspects of creation beginning with man.
Someday God will restore the peace and harmony of this first paradise. There will once again be a beautiful equilibrium when the Prince of peace finds His place in the hearts of men. The natural order of creation will also be part of this new divine order. God will heal everyone and will restore everything and peace will prevail! The apostle Paul spoke of this new day of perfect peace in His letter to the Romans:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. (Romans 8:18-22; 25)
The reality of the peace of God is not only for the future age. It can begin now as long as we permit the Lord Jesus to rule and reign in our hearts. He came to reconcile us to God so that we could have peace with Him. To the extent that we receive the forgiveness of God, we can forgive others and ourselves.
A new and divine order comes to our lives in Christ Jesus. To the extent that we submit ourselves to His Spirit and obey His Word, we can be at peace, knowing that He is restoring us. The apostle Paul cited this truth that is able to transform our lives in one of his prayers for the church in Thessalonica:
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
The peace of God operates in our lives and brings equilibrium and order to all areas of our lives. Without divine peace in our hearts, we are open to all of the opposite fruits of the flesh.
The rotten fruit of the flesh
Peace is a quality of the life of Christ. The opposite fruit of the flesh would include toxic characteristics like anxiety, worry, fear, guilt, tensions, pressure, riots, fights, conflicts, discords and disorder. The sickness and death of the soul clearly drive all of these things.
It is no wonder that Paul exhorted the Colossians with the following urgent words:
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)
Many things in our daily lives rob us of the feeling that we have peace with God. It is good for us to remember that peace is more than just a simple warm feeling of internal well-being. Peace is an expression of the life of Christ. When we remain in Jesus, we remain in His life and His peace. However, we have peace whether we feel it or not. The peace that Jesus gives us is not like the peace of the world that comes and goes with the pressures and tensions of life.
There is great power in the peace of God. It is sufficiently strong to bind all of the negative forces of the world, the flesh and the devil. Jesus stated this truth clearly in the following words to His disciples shortly before His death:
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
It is as if through His Word Jesus has given us a sign. We must lift up this sign every time we face problems in our lives. On the side that faces the world, the flesh and the devil, the sign says, “stop!” On the side that faces us, the sign says “peace!”
This truth should always comfort our attitudes and the tendency of our minds. We are not abandoned victims to our daily tasks, because we have the promise of peace that the Prince of peace has given to us.
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3)
The real fruit of real joy
Jesus was a joyful person! Today, his desire is to share his joy with others. He said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11) From the beginning until the end of His life here on the earth, Jesus brought joy to people around him.
Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is one born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10, 11).
And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifted up his hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while he blessed them, that he was parted from them up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and we’re continuing the temple praising and blessing God. (Luke 24:50-53).
The joy of the Lord is much different from the joy of the world; therefore, it is very valuable to our earthly experience.
The false fruit of joy
The world tries to substitute the joy of the Lord with its own earthly joy. One of the meanings of joy refers to the feeling that we have when a casual event brings us pleasure. A treasure hunter is very happy if he has enough luck to find a hidden treasure. His happiness however, depends on the treasure. If he finds a treasure but then loses it later, he would be sad. He bases his joy upon what happens to him: if it is something good, then he is happy; if it is something bad, then he is sad. He bases his internal sense of well-being to the events of his daily life, because of this, he is in the clouds one day but in the pits the next. Even when he is happy, there is an uncomfortable feeling that his happiness will not last for very long. His joy is not true, but merely a temporary feeling that disappears as quickly as it appears.
Some people try to avoid the serious aspects of life and death through foolish conversations and behavior. They attempt to cover-up their fears and insecurities with constant joking and scoffing. There is an important place for jokes and humor in the Christian life, but there are occasions when we must be serious or somber. Unfortunately, some people are like circus clowns. They may be laughing on the outside but they are crying on the inside. This is not true joy but a fake simulation much like what an actor does on a stage. What then is true joy?
The true fruit of joy
The Greek word translated “joy” in the way that was described in Galatians 5:22, is chara. It occurs 60 times in the New Testament. The verbal form chairen, means to rejoice, and is found 72 times. It is interesting to observe that the word chairen was also used as a one-word greeting that literally means “rejoice!” or “may joy be with you!” (Luke 1:28; James 1:1). Joy obviously refers to the feeling of internal delight or contentment of the heart. Christian joy has a much deeper meaning, as I hope to demonstrate.
True joy is more than just a feeling; it is a person, Jesus Christ, the Son of God! He is our joy. The joy of the Lord is the Lord himself. The “feeling” of joy is our emotional response to the “reality” of joy. Jesus is this reality. Joy is an aspect of His life, a quality of His being. Therefore, when we have Jesus in our hearts, we have the true joy of the Lord inside of us.
Jesus said that He would never leave us or abandon us. In other words, the joy of the Lord is always with us, independently of what we “feel”. The source of our joy is within us. Our joy is not affected or altered by what “happens” to or around us. This is the reason why Paul could so emphatically affirm, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)
We do not rejoice on sad occasions or in everything that happens. However, we can rejoice in the Lord because of His presence and His promises to make “all things work together for the good”. As one brother in the faith said, “the joy of the Lord is a type of solid joy”. Christ is the solid center of our lives. We can always remain in His joy, and His joy can always remain in us. The certainty of His joy in the center of our lives is a source of great strength during times of anguish and personal weakness. The following kind and conciliatory words of Nehemiah quickly come to mind, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Christians without joy are Christians without power. Christians without power are Christians without joy. The positive side of the issue also applies. Joyful Christians are powerful Christians. The message is clear! Yes, Jesus is the source and the center of our joy.
Just as Mary rejoiced upon recognizing her privilege of bearing the Messiah we also rejoice in Jesus as our Savior. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46, 47)
We rejoice in Jesus as our “baptizer” in the Holy Spirit. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13; Acts 13:52)
We rejoice in Jesus as the one who heals us. “The whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen.” (Luke 19:37)
We rejoice in Jesus as our coming King. “Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (John 16:22; Matthew 5:12)
Because of the fact that Jesus is the joy of our lives, we have a powerful remedy for the pain and anguish of the venom of self-pity.
The rotten fruit of the flesh
Joy is a quality of the life of Christ. The opposite fruit of the flesh would include characteristics like prolonged anguish, sadness, heaviness, depression, self-pity and the spirit of mumbling or complaining. These attitudes can lead us to depression, desperation, withdraw and even suicide.
We have all gone through occasions of anguish and sadness. In His humanity, Jesus entered into the deepest of our sufferings and internal pain. However, He had an internal force that led Him to great victory. What was the source of this inner strength that He carried during the darkest hours of His life? The writer of Hebrews gives us an important revelation with respect to this answer. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Jesus looked beyond the cross to the marvelous life that would be His (and ours) in the shining glory of heaven. He was prepared to pay this terrible price so that we could enjoy eternal fellowship with Him and the Father. Truly, the prospect of what this joy represented is what encouraged Him to persevere in bearing the suffering on the cross.
What an example and comfort for all of us! Yes, we may pass through occasions of anguish, pain and great sadness. However, we are not sad as those who have no hope. We have a strong basis of solid joy in the midst of our anguish: the joy to know that Jesus went before us and obtained the victory over death and the devil. His victory over death includes the many characteristics of death that may afflict us even before we die. As was already stated earlier, these are the venomous fruits of the flesh. However, we now have a remedy against the wounds and internal infirmities of our souls.
Jesus is at the right hand of the Father in a position of victory and power. Through His Spirit, however He is present with us in our hearts to minister His love, joy and peace. These are the qualities of His life for our health and divine healing. In addition, we can enjoy these “first fruits” right now, even while we wait for the final fulfillment of our great salvation.
This is the hope that inspired the following marvelous words of the prophet Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to comfort all who mourn, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
We may have tears in our eyes, but even then we can see the “Sun of righteousness”, which arises each day with healing in His wings (Malachi 4:2). The remaining fog of the dark night soon dissipates in the light of the love of God. There is always promise of a new day in the Lord. This is our hope! This is our joy!
Love from above is the first of the nine manifestations of God’s Spirit, according to the list that he has given us in Galatians 5:22, 23. The Bible claims that God is love, so if anyone is qualified to define love, deference should be given to God. I think it is safe to say that smart love will allow the God of love to define it for us. What say you?
The fruit of love from above
Jesus was a greatly loved person many people loved him because he himself was such a loving person! In Christ, we see God’s love in action: walking, working, forgiving, healing, delivering and restoring. We need to learn how to manifest this type of love more.
The world knows very little of the love of Jesus. It’s concept of love is limited and flawed. Therefore, we will study a little bit about the fake and artificial fruit that the world calls true love.
We must learn the difference between the true and the false. To have this understanding is a matter of life or death. If we possess and flow in God’s love, his life will naturally follow. Without God’s type of love, we cannot have God’s kind of life.
The false fruit of love from above
Love is not merely a physical and sensual attraction. The world over-estimates physical or sexual attraction, which appeals only to the sensual aspect of our nature. Physical love should be an expression of true love; however, it should not substitute it. On its own, this feeling is nothing more than egoistic and sensual desire.
The love of God does not limit itself to affection among family members. This would be merely favoritism. The love that confines itself to the members of its own family is selfish. True love goes beyond these described limits.
True love is not a sentimental pleasure which is nothing but emotionalism. Love is more than a warm feeling of pleasure. Otherwise, when this feeling fades our love will also fade. True love runs deeper than all of our emotions. True love is not a romantic fantasy or a mere false idealism. The world many times thinks that love is a romantic lifestyle, forever free of problems. The world’s ideal of love is nonexistent. Real life demands the real love that is resistant, something that will last beyond difficult times.
True love is not blind acceptance. This would be a form of deceit. Some people say that love is blind: that it cannot see nor wants to see the defects of others. Neglecting to see the true defects of others is not true love but deceit. True love sees the faults, and continues loving while seeking to redeem the faults. We cannot resolve the problems that we do not want to see. The eyes of love are always open.
True love is not permissive, which is nothing more than an act of indulgence. True love does not yield to the desires of the other person. True love does not permit or give consent to someone to go beyond set limits, which would also be an act of indulgence. True love draws a line between right and wrong and does not hesitate to give correction when someone passes the line.
True love is not passive piety. This is a sign of internal weakness. To feel pity upon someone in a weak and inactive way is not love. This type of solidarity can only cause a profound state of self-pity. True love seeks to produce an honest cure of emotional wounds through wise words and actions.
Everything described above are false concepts that the world has concerning love. True love is something much more, as we will see by the following.
The true fruit of love from above
The Septuagint is the translation of the Old Testament to the Greek, written in the third century before Christ. We can better understand the meaning of the key words used for love, by studying how the Biblical writers used them in the original text. As was already stated, we can define the words by observing their use.
Four basic words refer to love in the Greek language:
Eros (sensual) – physical
Physical affection – sexual love
This term is not found in the Scriptures
Storge (social) – of the family
Family affection – social love, as for members of the same family, community or country
Only the adjective “fraternal love” is found in the Scriptures (Romans 12:10).
Philia (emotional) – friendship
Affection between friends – emotional love based on the pleasure produced by a relationship.
Common in classic Greek, but found only 22 times in the Scriptures in its verbal form.
Agape (rational, volitional) – divine
Noble affection – the rational and volitional love based on the character of the subject that loves the value of its object.
This term is not commonly used in classical Greek, but it is very common in the Scriptures. The noun is found 113 times and the verb 135 times.
This term implies a significantly more profound and divine meaning by its use in the Bible. It originates with God and ends with man.
Agape love involves reason, an altruistic choice and sacrifice. It is unconditional, universal and eternal. God freely offers agape love to everyone. It is something that gives, forgives and redeems. Jesus gave the best and most complete definition of agape love on Calvary, when He died on the cross for our sins.
For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him shall not die but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
There is nothing weak, fragile, superficial or sentimental about the love from above since it was forged on Calvary. It is something beautiful, holy, benevolent and merciful. At the same time, it is something frightening and terrible that breaks our hearts when we see the extent that it took to redeem us from our sins.
The love from above is stronger and more resistant than an enormous iron nail. It is as courageous and visible as a wooden cross with a dark sky in the background. Even so, it is also as pure and submissive as a sacrificial lamb.
It is no wonder that the Scriptures declare that our love for God begins with His great love for us: “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). A love like this evokes a response within our hearts.
To be conformed to the image of Jesus means that we will begin to reach out to others with this type of love more and more. We choose to minister to the world because people are precious in God’s eyes.
The price of their redemption cost God the life of His Son. He values our lives to this extent because He created us in His image. God still desires a family that expresses the adorable life of Jesus.
The rotten fruit of the flesh
As we have already stated, the fruit of the flesh reveals death and deterioration. The characteristics of death are in opposition to the characteristics of life.
The deadly characteristics that oppose the fruit of love are selfishness, hate, wrath, fear, hostility, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, lack of forgiveness, condemnation, disapproval, criticism, rejection and many other things.
These characteristics are deadly venom that can produce all kinds of infirmities in our spirit, soul and body. We have all suffered with these negative, sad and evil attitudes and characteristics. Sometimes this has happened because these infirmities were in our own lives. In other occasions, we have had to suffer at the hands of others who have insisted on retaining these poisonous attitudes in their hearts.
The fruit of the Spirit is a description or illustration of the divine life. It is also a prescription or medicine for the sicknesses of the soul. Just as the light disperses darkness and good overcomes evil, love expels fear, hate and everything that opposes it.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
Repay no one evil for evil […] but overcome evil with good […] for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (Romans 12:17; 21; 1 Peter 4:8)
In other words, the love from above brings inner healing, not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of others. This is what it means to minister one to another.
It is interesting to observe that the Scriptures describe a person led and revitalized by the Word and by the Spirit of God as a tree planted by the waters:
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord […] Who delights himself in his word […] For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. […] their leaves will not whither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Jeremiah 17:7, 8; Psalm 1:1-3; Ezekiel 47:12; Revelation 22:2)
Love from above – a medicine for hearts that suffer
Many people have never experienced what it means to be loved and accepted by God or by another person. It matters not how much they have tried to please others, they were never able to receive the love, acceptance, or respect that they wanted and needed.
Consequently, these people feel that they are unloved, unwanted, unnecessary, and have never received any value at any moment of their lonely existence. They allowed their hearts to be wounded and never developed their souls as they could have and should have. Their situation is truly very sad.
However, there is good news. The unconditional love of Christ Jesus can forgive our sins; heal our broken hearts, and restore our souls. Calvary has proved how much God wants us in His loving family. We have great value in His eyes and we are dear and necessary in the body of Christ. The family of God offers fellowship that can meet the deepest needs in our lives with respect to love, joy and peace.
To the extent that God restores our own lives; we can become fruitful trees of blessing to other people who are in need. Just as Jesus expressed the love of God in His words, actions and relationships, we also can do the same. This in fact is our calling from the Lord himself.
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20:21)
In truth, the fruit of the love from above is a basic characteristic of our lives in Christ. It is the reason for a relationship with God, with His family and with the world for which Christ died.
The love of God is the source of our lives in Christ. From this life, all of the fruit of His spirit comes forth. Love, joy and peace are beautiful expressions of the life of Christ. They are also personal answers to the love from above.
5 More aspects of salvation
Aside from the five objective aspects of salvation discussed in the previous post, God’s salvation also has 5 sub-jective aspects: regeneration, sanctification, trans-formation, conformity and glorification. God’s will is that each believer experience all of these aspects thus the necessity of identifying and understanding the process of each one.
Regeneration means that besides the new life that we received after being born again, we received another life, God’s life. This is what the Bible means when it speaks of being born again. Regeneration is the center of our experience of salvation. It is the starting point of our living relationship with God (1 Peter 1:23).
God’s intent is to have a group of people who receive him as their life, so that they may express him in his image and represent him with his authority (Genesis 1:26). The disobedience of Adam caused him to fall into sin and lose this birthright. The death of Christ resolved all of man’s problems before God. God has brought us back to himself completely. As long as man does not receive God as life, neither God nor man can be satisfied.
The next step of God in salvation is to enter into man in order to put his life within him. This is the most crucial step. Even if God completely forgave and reconciled him, man still would not be able to express God without receiving his life.
Being a Christian is not principally a matter of becoming perfect. Being a Christian means to be born of God, which means that, besides receiving human life we receive God’s life. Because we all have been born into sin, we are all sinners. How can a sinner stop sinning? This is not possible. How can you tell a dog to stop barking and start meowing? Our nature determines what we do. Even though God has forgiven your sins, your sinful nature will cause you to sin again. You need another life, a life without sin. The only life without sin is the life of God. Regeneration places this life of God inside of you. Adam neglected God’s life when he chose the tree of knowledge over the tree of life. Today by believing in Christ we can be born of God and receive him as life! Praise the name of the Lord!
After receiving God’s life, He gradually expels the evil nature inside of man. Inferior and sinful men like us, can now grow in God’s life to become his children. In the book of Ezekiel, the Bible tells us that we receive three marvelous things in regeneration (Ezekiel 36:26, 27).
- A new heart – a heart of flesh to substitute our old heart of stone
- A new spirit – the Spirit of life renews and brings our old dead spirit to life.
- The Spirit of God himself – the third thing that we receive is the Spirit of God himself to live within us. What a marvelous salvation we have received by believing in the Lord! Regeneration is at the center of the beginning of our salvation.
Through regeneration, we received a new life, a new heart and a new spirit. That is, our spirit that had died because of the fall of man, was made alive by the Spirit of life. This was the beginning of our experience of the full salvation of God. We must recognize what a marvelous new beginning God has given us!
However, there are other things to experience in the full salvation of God. We need to understand the meaning of sanctification. Sanctification is the dissolving of our sinful nature by the work of God’s holy nature within us. In the Bible the word sanctification means principally separation, to be separated from that which is common. Sanctification has two aspects:
Positional – this means that we must separate ourselves from a common position in the world to a position in God, as illustrated in Matthew 23:17-19. Gold exists in almost any place in the world, but once we place it into the sanctuary, it becomes sanctified; in the same way that a lamb in the field is common, but when we change its position, when we place it on the altar, we can say that it has been sanctified. In the same way, God has sanctified us by faith in Christ and we are in Christ. Positional sanctification comes by way of the single offering of Christ, by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 13:12) and by God’s call (1 Corinthians 1:2; Romans 1:7).
Dispositional – positional sanctification is objective while dispositional sanctification is subjective. The sanctifying Spirit is making each part of our being holy, and this happens by the work of day-by-day transformation. This is a long process, beginning with regeneration and lasts throughout the Christian life and will be completed at the second coming of Christ, when we reach maturity of life (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
In the entire universe, only God is holy. His life and nature are holy. We cannot obtain any holiness apart from him. We are not “holy” because we practice anything that is holy, but it is because we are full of God who is holy. God is the very essence of holiness (Leviticus 20:26).
The apostle Paul reveals to us that after being reconciled, we will be saved by God’s life, that transforms our fallen nature through the filling of his holy and divine nature. Therefore, in the first place we are sanctified by the holy life of God. In the second place we are sanctified by the Word and by the Holy Spirit. When we approach the Word of God in prayer we touch the Holy Spirit, we touch God himself. This sanctifies us. If we do this every day, we will allow the most holy God to sanctify us with his holy life. In this way, we will fully express his Holiness.
Transformation is a result of sanctification and relates to man’s soul. Transformation is the change from one substance in nature to another. It is an internal change in nature that causes an external change in form. This type of change is metabolic. In such a process, an organic element full of vitamins enters into our body and produces a chemical change in our organism. This chemical reaction changes the constitution of our being. This is transformation.
Suppose that you become very pale and wanted to change your appearance by using makeup. This would be an exterior change but not an organic change of life. How could you naturally restore your rose-colored cheeks? The answer is by eating healthy food daily containing organic elements necessary for health. Since your body is a living organism when an organic substance enters your body, the chemical process of metabolism begins to transform the healthy food you eat so that your body organically restores its own health and vitality. Gradually this interior process will change the color of your face. This change is not exterior but something that comes from within. It is the result of a metabolic process.
In the process of metabolism, a new element added to the organism substitutes the old element and then eliminates it. Something new is created to substitute the old element that was taken away. Metabolism then includes three things: the supply of a new element, the substitution of the old element by a new element, the elimination and removal of the old element.
Through the process of sanctification, the new element of God’s life enters our life. This new element substitutes our old sinful, dead man. This is a continuation of the salvation of God in us. God has placed us in this process since the day that we first believed.
What is the new element that produces this interior change? The answer is Christ, in the person of the Holy Spirit. From the moment that God regenerated our spirit, his desire is that his life continue expanding from our spirit to our soul. In this way, God can transform our mind, emotion and will. God regenerates and changes our spirit, but our mind, emotion and will are not automatically transformed and may remain unchanged. We have Christ as our life in our spirit, but we do not have him in our soul. If we don’t permit him to saturate our soul, our spirit will become a prison for Him. We need the Holy Spirit to continue flowing from our spirit to our soul until each part of us is transformed into his image. Then we will think as he thinks, love as he loves and choose as he chooses. We will be like the Lord in our practical life because we have saturated our soul with his life.
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
God predestined us to be conformed to the image of Christ. To be conformed means to place in the form or pattern of. Christ is our pattern and we must be conformed to Him. Paul speaks of us being conformed to him in his death. The death of Christ is a pattern to which we have become conformed, just as a cake is conformed to the shape of a cake pan. This means that we live by the life of Christ, and this life is a life of crucifixion, just as Christ lived here on the Earth. By way of his life within us, our life is conformed to the pattern of the human life of Jesus.
Each kind of life possesses its own form. The life of a dog possesses the form of a dog and the life of a duck the form of a duck. The growth of a certain life produces its full form. We are children of God and we share his life. Therefore, by the growth of life in transformation, we become conformed to the image of Christ. The power of God’s life is in his interior molding us to the image of his Son. It is not by exterior imitation that we assume the form of Christ, but by the inner life, by the growth of life and transformation.
The firstborn son of God is the prototype, our mold and our pattern. In order for us to reproduce in accordance with such a pattern, exterior pressure is necessary. Sometimes the Lord allows us to go through suffering and tests as if through fire, so that we take on more and more of the form of Christ. Therefore, we need the inner work of the Spirit and external pressure and temperature.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
The more we are transformed, the more we are conformed, and this happens from one level of glory to another level of glory because God’s objective is to glorify us (Romans 8:30). When this whole process is ended, our body of humiliation will be conformed to the glorious body of Christ (Philippians 3:21).
Glorification is the last stage of our complete salvation. To be glorified is to enter into the glory of God in order to experience and enjoy unlimited and infinite eternal life of God in Christ.
However, may the God of all grace, who called us to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Peter 5:10)
Here we see that the purpose of the calling of God in Christ and the purpose of giving us all grace is that we can enjoy his eternal glory. In eternity past, he predestined us according to his foreknowledge and in time called us and justified us so that we could be glorified. This will happen at the second coming of Christ when we will be manifested with him in glory and we will enjoy the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21). Our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory to be revealed in us, which is our own glory of God. Everything that happens to us is correctly arranged by God (Romans 8:28-30), to the end of bringing his many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10).
Paul says that Christ is in us the hope of glory. When we hear the gospel and believe it, Christ came inside us as a seed of life. This seed is our hope of future glory. The metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly is an illustration of this. The caterpillar does not instantaneously transform itself into a butterfly, but the beauty of the butterfly is contained in the life of the caterpillar. Obeying the law of this life, the caterpillar will gradually be transformed until reaching its final state, which is its glorification. By the same principle, Christ is with us as our hope of glory. He takes advantage of each opportunity to operate within us. One day we will be full of the divine glory and He will take us into eternal glory.
When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
When Christ manifests Himself, He will manifest us with him in his glory. On one hand, at the Lord’s return, God will lead us to his glory and on the other hand, Christ will manifest Himself through us, He Himself being the glory in which we will enter. Christ will be glorified and admired in his saints. In the future, our bodies will be completely filled with the glory of Christ and we, together with all creation, will be free of the captivity that now subjects us, so that we may enter into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God. How wonderful is the fact that we, through the salvation of God, become his children, full of his glory and life in order to express him for eternity!
In eternity past, God established a purpose in accordance with the good pleasure of his will. This purpose is to have a group of people who possess his life, that express him and that exercise his authority over Satan.
God created man to receive him as life. Satan deceived the man, leading him to disobey God, transforming him into a sinner under God’s condemnation. When this happened, apparently the purpose of God was frustrated. However, He became a perfect man, Jesus Christ, went to the cross as the Lamb of God, as the serpent of bronze and as the grain of wheat that needed to die to bring forth many grains with his life. With his death, all of the objective problems between man and God were resolved. In his resurrection, the Lord Jesus sent us his Holy Spirit that gives life to regenerate us in our spirit which is the first stage of our salvation. During our Christian life, He saves our soul through his life, sanctifies us and transforms us which is the second stage of the complete salvation of God. Finally, at his return, our bodies will be glorified and will be conformed to his glorious body (Romans 8:29). This is glorification, the last stage of God’s salvation.
In eternity future, all of the chosen and redeemed children of God throughout all of the ages will become the New Jerusalem. There, God will dwell with man and man with God forever. This is God’s final objective, the fulfillment of his purpose, and He will finish all of his work, He will be satisfied and will rest for all eternity (Genesis 2:2, 3)!
OBJECTIVE ASPECTS OF SALVATION
In this post, I will address the five objective aspects of the full salvation of God that solve the problems between man and God: redemption, forgiveness and the purification of sins, justification and reconciliation. The first is the redemption that Christ accomplished through His death on the cross.
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
What is redemption? Redemption is the noun form of the verb “to redeem”. To redeem something means to buy back something that was originally yours, but for whatever reason, is no longer in your possession. We originally belonged to God. We were his property. However, we were lost. Nevertheless, God has not given up on us. He paid a high price to get us back, retaking us as His possession at great cost (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; 1 Timothy 2:6). This is redemption. Since man involved himself with sin and with many other things that were against God’s justice, holiness and glory, our return to God was conditioned on a three-part demand: of His justice, His holiness and His glory. It was impossible for man to satisfy all of His demands. The price was too great.
However, God paid this price for us, taking possession of us at great cost. Christ died on the cross to fulfill eternal redemption for us (Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21: Hebrews 10:12; 9:28). With this precious blood, He fulfilled the marvelous redemption necessary to get us back (Hebrews 9:12; 14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19). He returned us back to God and to His purpose. His precious blood was the price that was paid. We could have never paid such a high price, but he paid it for us. Our destiny was to die in sin, but now we can go back to God, receive His forgiveness and be filled with his life. What a precious thing our redemption in Christ is!
After sinning, man needed the forgiveness of God and the purification of sins. Since we have offended God, we need His forgiveness. However, God will not forgive us unless His justice is satisfied. Moreover, to satisfy it, we must die. However if we die, God will not have anyone to pour His life into in order to fulfill His eternal purpose. The perfect solution for this problem was for Christ to die in our place. Based on His death, the demand of the justice of God has been satisfied and we can receive His forgiveness.
According to Jeremiah, when God forgives our sins He also forgets them (Jeremiah 31:34). When we forgive someone who has offended us, it is hard for us to forget what that person did. However God is different, when He forgives our sins, He also forgets them. Praise God! Because of the death of Christ and our faith in Him, God can forgive us. For Him it is as if we had never committed sin! Just by us receiving His sacrifice and by believing that He has forgiven us!
The redemption accomplished through the blood of Christ is the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22). Christ accomplished redemption on the cross and applied His forgiveness to us now that we believe in Him. Redemption and forgiveness are in reality, two aspects of the same thing: one is its fulfillment on the cross and the other, the application now that we believe. The apostle Paul clearly expressed this in Ephesians 1:7. Therefore, once God forgives, he forgets:
Then I said, behold I have come – in the volume of the book it is written of me – to do your will, O God. (Hebrews 10:17)
What is the difference between forgiveness and purification? To find the answer, we first need to know the difference between sins and unrighteousness. Sins speak with respect to offenses, while unrighteousness is a stain, a mark on our conduct, caused by the offense. For example, suppose that you made two purchases, but only paid for one. With respect to the person from whom you made the purchase, you committed an offense. However, with respect to yourself, in your conduct there is a stain of unrighteousness. For this reason, you will not be sinning, but you will be unrighteous.
In the same way, when we commit sin before God, with respect to Him, those sins are offenses. Nevertheless, for us, they are stains of unrighteousness. We need to confess our sins. Then in one sense, God forgives our sins and our offenses; but in another, God washes every stain of our unrighteousness.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
[See also Zechariah 13:1; Hebrews 1:3; 9:14]
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26)
Justification is the act of God in approving people according to His pattern of justice. His justice is the pattern not ours. Notwithstanding, it does not matter how righteous we think we are, our righteousness is infinitely inferior to the pattern of the righteousness of God. His righteousness is unlimited! You may have lived all of your years being right and just with everyone – parents, children and friends; however, your own righteousness will never make you righteous before God. The only way that God can justify us is through our faith. The righteousness by faith represents the approval according to the pattern of the righteousness of God.
Why is that? The answer is because this righteousness is based on the redemption in Christ. Without it, God could never justify us. The basis of justification is redemption. That is why the Bible says that we have been justified by faith in Christ Jesus and not by works (Romans 3:28; 5:1).
The death of Christ fulfilled redemption for us. Based on this death God justified us.
Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. ((Romans 8:33, 34)
Therefore, righteousness depends on redemption, and redemption has as its principal aspect propitiation. Propitiation is a difficult word that means to sacrifice by paying a price to forgive sin. Propitiation is the principal structure of redemption, because as sinners, we have a great debt to God and we have no way of paying it. However, Christ as our propitiation resolved this problem. Once propitiation solves our problem, then God redeems us. Based on the redemption of Christ, God can justify us easily and legally. The only thing that we must do on our end is simply believe in Him, praise the Lord!
We now arrive at our last objective point concerning the full salvation of God: reconciliation. Reconciliation is the act of restoring two parties to friendship or harmony.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (Romans 5:1; 10, 11).
We were not only sinners; we were also enemies of God. Through the redemptive death of Christ, God justified us and reconciled us to Himself, while we were still His enemies. This happened when we first believed in the Lord Jesus. We receive the justification and reconciliation of God by faith. In this way, He opened a way for us to receive His grace for His own pleasure.
At the fall, man did not only sin against God, but also became the enemy of God. For the problem of sins committed, forgiveness was sufficient; however to remedy the enmity, we need to be reconciled to God. Reconciliation is based on the redemption of Christ (Romans 5:10, 11) and it was fulfilled through the justification of God (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19; Romans 5:1; 11; Colossians 1:20; 22). Therefore, reconciliation is the result of redemption with justification.
Because of reconciliation, today we have peace with God (Romans 5:1), we can glory in God (Romans 5:11) and we can still be saved by the life of the Son of God (Romans 5:10).
God reconciled us together with Himself through Christ. He gave us the ministry of reconciliation, trusting us with the words of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19). Now that we have been reconciled, we must be faithful to the ministry entrusted to us by God and we must announce this new gospel to others: that God reconciled the world with Himself by not imputing man’s transgressions, and beyond that, we have peace with God!
THE WONDER OF CHRIST AS SAVIOR
In the Garden of Eden, after the man had sinned, God judged him according to his righteousness. However, because he loved the man, he promised to save him (Genesis 3:15). God created man to contain him as his life. However, deceived by Satan, man disobeyed God and sin entered into him and thus he lost the privilege to receive God as his life.
Therefore, after the fall, God gave man two great promises: that he would rescue him from the control of Satan, and would give him his life to fulfill his purpose.
God promised that the seed of the woman would come to strike the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). This was the first great gospel to man! The woman’s seed is Christ, who was born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4).
Based on these promises, God prophesied in the Old Testament about the coming of Christ who is God come in the flesh to save mankind. It was prophesied that he would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), that he would have no desirable appearance (Isaiah 52:14, 53:2), and would be anointed by God for his ministry (Isaiah 61:1, 42:1). The year, month, day and place of his death and how he would die was predicted accurately (Daniel 9:24-26, Exodus 12:1-6, Genesis 22:2, Deuteronomy 21:23, Zechariah. 12:10; Psalm 34:20). The prophecies also showed that he would die and rise from the dead on the third day (Matt. 12:40). When Christ came, he fulfilled all the promises and prophecies. The details with which the coming of Christ was prophesied and the way they were divinely fulfilled are amazing! The central theme of the Old Testament is the Christ promised and prophesied by God.
The Gospel of John affirms that the Word was God (John 1:1) and that the Word became flesh. (John 1:14) This Word is Christ, who is truly God and truly man. His coming fulfilled all the promises and prophecies of God. As the God-Man, he was born of a virgin in Bethlehem and lived a genuinely human life for thirty-three and a half years, yet without sin. Finally, he died on the exact date and place prophesied hundreds of years before.
The death of Christ accomplished wonderful things for us. Through his death, he redeemed, forgave, washed, justified and reconciled us to God. He redeemed us by paying a high price to buy us back to God. He justified us by accounting us righteous before God. He reconciled us while we were yet enemies of God, by bringing us back to him, to enjoy peace and harmony with him. Overall, however, the death of Christ bruised the serpent’s head as promised in Genesis 3:15 (see Hebrews 2:14).
On the third day he rose again to send us the Spirit of life (I Corinthians 15:45) to give life to man, the promise of Genesis 22:18 (see Galatians 3:14). He became the promised Spirit to give man eternal life as a blessing. The man’s negative problems were solved and his initial right to receive God was recovered by the death of Jesus Christ. Now man can believe in Jesus and be saved from sin and death, and receive the life of God to fulfill his eternal purpose. We should praise God and love our Savior for all that he has done.
The source of salvation: God’s love
The condition of fallen man is extremely bad. He sinned by disobeying God’s command and came under divine condemnation. Now he also has within himself a sinful nature that causes him to sin. Under these circumstances, man is unable to save himself or others from the coming judgment of God. His final destination is the lake of fire prepared for Satan and his followers. In Adam all mankind has fallen to this regrettable and hopeless situation.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have you been saved) (Ephesians 2:4-5).
God loved man before the world began (Ephesians 1:4). He created the heavens and the earth for man, and because He loved him, put the tree of life before him. Even after the fall however, God continued to love him. He did not give up his purpose of entering and filling man with his presence and becoming his life so that he could express him and have his authority to rule on the earth.
The object of love is usually worthy of being loved, but often the object of mercy is in a completely deplorable situation. Therefore, God’s mercy reaches even further than his love. He loves us, but we have fallen into a miserable situation, to the point of being dead in trespasses and sins, therefore we need God’s mercy. Because of his great love, God is rich in mercy to save us from our corrupt state to a proper condition for his love.
The love of God is the source of our salvation. He expressed this love by sending his only begotten Son to die for our redemption. God could have abandoned us. Nevertheless, as the Good Shepherd he left everything and went after the lost sheep. The Holy Spirit diligently sought the lost coin and the Father went out to receive the lost son. In the parable of Luke 15, we see that God freely spends his divine love to redeem a single soul. Are we able to ignore such intensity of the love of God for man?
His interest in man brought him from heaven to earth to minister to man to the point of giving his own life. to rescue him. His motivating power was His great love.
Because of this love, we have become children of God. The Apostle John tells us:
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. (1 John 3:1)
Now you can see that, thanks to God’s love, we are no longer hopeless. God wants to save us and give us his life. Not only are God’s purposes for us eternal but his love for us is also eternal. He loves us eternally! Even when we fall into sin and death, his mercy reaches us. Because of His great love for us, he guarantees us that he will fill us with his life and will fulfill his eternal purposes through us.
The basis of salvation – God’s righteousness
The basis of our salvation is God’s righteousness. Without the righteousness of God, we would not have a solid foundation upon which we could boldly come to Him in order to receive and enjoy the salvation he offers.
God is just and right. The righteousness of God is a Person, not simply a divine attribute. Christ Himself, as a person, was made the righteousness of God for us (Romans 1:17; 3:21-22, 10:3, I Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9).
God said that if man ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil he would surely die (Genesis 2:17). Nevertheless, man did go ahead and transgress God’s Word. Then, because of his Justice, he could not fail to condemn man, because his throne is a throne of justice. God would not be just if He did not condemn man. He would have lost his authority to govern, and the whole universe would collapse.
God was in a dilemma. He loved man, but could not fail to condemn him. How could he forgive the man He loved, without violating his justice? The answer lies in the double righteousness of God. This is the wisdom of God displayed in his salvation.
In order for God to be able to forgive us, Christ, the Son of God became flesh. As recorded in Romans 8:3, God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. Through the incarnation of the Lord he “took on” the likeness of sinful flesh and in the flesh, he identified himself with sinners except for the fact that there was no sin in him, only the likeness of sinful flesh.
Because of the righteousness of God, the Lord Jesus died on the cross. There on the cross, he was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). He died on our behalf to accomplish the redemption and meet all the requirements of the righteousness of God that condemned sin in the flesh (Romans 8:3). Now God is in the position to forgive us. In fact, he not only can forgive us, but because of his justice, he must forgive us. First, God forgives us not because he loves us, but because he is just and true to his word.
The justice of God condemns us, but because of the righteousness of Christ accomplished through his death, we are justified. How awesome is that? At the same time, God maintains his justice and shuts Satan’s mouth. Now neither God (nor Satan) can condemn those who simply trust in the death of Christ. We praise God for the basis of salvation. Through his dual righteousness, we see his love, his justice and his wisdom.
Man’s problems after the fall
Because of the fall, man began to have serious problems with both God and man.
Problems before God
The condemnation of God – Through the disobedience or transgression of Adam, we have all come under God’s condemnation (Romans 5:18). God created Adam as the spiritual head or representative of the human race, so spiritually all of us were included in him. In God’s eyes, when Adam sinned, we were all included in his sin, even though we never sinned individually in the same manner. Therefore, when God judged Adam and condemned him, He also judged and convicted all of us through him.
The wrath of God – Because we have been condemned by God in Adam, we all fell under God’s wrath (John 3:36). Because of Adam’s sin, all men are now under the wrath of God awaiting His final judgment.
The judgment of God – Finally, for the sin of Adam, man will be judged by God (Hebrews 9:27) and cast into the lake of fire for eternity (Revelation 20:15). The Bible says that eternal fire was prepared for Satan and the angels who followed him in his rebellion against God, and not for man (Matthew 25:41). However, Satan deceived the man who then followed him in rebelling against God by disobeying his command, so now all mankind must also suffer the judgment of God with Satan in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).
Outwardly, and before God, this is the terrible condition in which, for the transgression of Adam, man fell. Instead of enjoying the life of God and expressing it, God sentenced man to death to suffer the same judgment as Satan.
Problems within man himself
Let us use an illustration of a boy who disobeyed his mother and ended up eating poison: first, he has a problem to solve with his mother. This problem is objective, something outside of himself. Second, he also has a problem within, something subjective, which is the poison that he ingested. When he ate from the tree of knowledge, man not only transgressed the Word of God, which the forgiveness of God can solve, but he also received a corrupt and satanic sinful nature. Therefore, he perished in every aspect of his being and his sin ruined and corrupted him.
His sin caused his spirit to die to God – Paul taught in Ephesians 2:1 that man is dead in trespasses and sins. The spirit of man died, and lost its function of interacting with God and receiving Him as his life. Therefore, man today has lost the ability to interact with God and as a result, many do not believe in Him.
His sin ruined his soul – When the evil nature of sin entered into man, it damaged his soul with respect to God’s purposes. Sin darkened his mind, which God created to know Him. This leads man to walk in the vanity of his thoughts (Ephesians 4:17-18). God created man’s emotions to love, but because of sin, this love was diverted to other things and went so far as to hate God (2 Timothy 3:2-4). Finally, God created man’s will to choose and obey Him; however, man used it to rebel against Him (Ephesians 2:2).
His sin corrupted his body – The nature of sin entered the man’s body transforming him into sinful flesh. Sin now dwells in the flesh of man (Romans 7:17-18). So man’s body is full of corrupt lusts, and has become the body of sin – serving sin as a slave (Romans 6:6), and becoming the body of death (Romans 7:24).
In such a miserable condition, man is utterly helpless to save himself, and utterly without hope. In this regrettable situation, as a result of Adam’s sin, all men fell, including you and me. Yet this same horrible condition of man motivated God, in His love, to come and save us.
The tree of life and the fall of man
After creating man, God planted a beautiful garden and gave it to him together with the responsibility to care for it. In the garden there were all sorts of trees good for food. The tree of life stood in the center of the garden alongside a river. God put this tree before the man that he created so that he could feed from it and daily receive the life of God.
What was man’s greatest need at that time? Was it a job to get money for his livelihood? No, God provided all that he needed. Did God give him instructions on how to do good and be a good man? No, the only instruction that God gave man when he put him in the garden was for him to cultivate and care for it, and bade him eat of every tree that grew there, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We see then, that God created man to serve Him, to cultivate and guard the garden, and for that to happen God needed to be his life.
In all of the Bible’s descriptions of the Garden of Eden, the crucial point is that the tree of life was at its center. This tree symbolizes God as the life of man. The Garden of Eden was not only pleasant and beautiful, but it was where man could be filled with God’s life in order to please Him by fulfilling His eternal purpose.
Man was created in the image and likeness of God. However, he still had not received God as life, as his contents. Without the life of God, man is totally incapable and unqualified to express Him and represent Him. For example, a light bulb has everything needed to shine, but without electricity, it will never fulfill its function. The man is a “lamp” to express God’s divine light. For this, the “electricity” of the divine life of God, must flow into him.
In Genesis chapter 2:8-10 after having created man, God did not tell him to do anything in order to express Him. Instead, God put man before the tree of life so that he could take Him as life by eating its fruit. The New Testament shows us that the tree of life is God incarnate in Christ. John 1:4 says, “The life was in him.” In John 14:6, the Lord Jesus said that He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” In John 10:10 He said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” The Lord Jesus told us in John 6:57 to eat him, and in John 15, He is the true vine and we the branches. All these verses show that Jesus Christ is the life of man, as portrayed by the tree of life. This is so wonderful when we understand it!
The scriptures speak of a river flowing next to the tree of life. Revelation 22:1 speaks of a “river of the water of life.” This river appears several times throughout the Bible. It represents the Spirit of God that fills us with life and quenches our thirst. In John 7:37 the Lord Jesus said: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.“ Sometimes you get the feeling that nothing else can satisfy you. Nevertheless, “the last day, that great day of the feast,” Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Today the Lord continues to offer himself as a drink that satisfies us when we drink His life into ourselves. We need to go to Him and drink!
The fall of man
There were two spiritual trees in the Garden; the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9). When the man ate of the latter, he fell and completely ruined his chances to fulfill the purpose of God for his life. We must now understand the meaning of these two trees.
The two trees represent two principles in man’s relationship to God. The principle of the tree of life is that of dependence on God. To have God as his life makes man dependent on him. The principle of the tree of knowledge is that of independence. When we do not take God as our life, but choose to live according to our own knowledge instead, we do not live in dependence on him.
The tree of life symbolizes the life of God or God as the life of man, while the tree of knowledge symbolizes Satan as the source of death. God told the man that the day they ate of the tree of knowledge they would surely die. This shows that, in fact, it is the tree of death. When man eats it, he receives the nature of sin within himself.
The Bible shows that Satan was originally Lucifer, the archangel of God. Lucifer means “morning star”. At the time, he was the most beautiful and wise among all the creatures of God. For this reason, he aspired to be like God and like the Most High (Isaiah 14:13-14). Therefore, he rebelled, and became the enemy of God, always seeking to exalt himself and frustrate God’s purposes.
Before the man could receive God as life, Satan deceived Eve who ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge and then gave some to her husband, Adam, who also ate it. Thus, Satan was able to inject into man his evil nature of sin, which now dwells in every man (Romans 7:17-20). This became the greatest tragedy of the universe. The man who God created to contain Him and express Him, now, after the fall, expresses the sin nature of Satan.
The fall produced a series of problems. The first problem is that man transgressed the righteousness of God by disobeying his commandment not to eat of the tree of knowledge. As a result, man came under the judgment of God, lost his right to the tree of life, and ended up dying.
The second problem is that man now has a sinful nature within himself. This constitutes him as a sinner. As a result, he cannot do the good that he prefers, but ends up doing the evil which he does not want to do. Paul said. “O wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death” (Romans 7:19, 24). This is the great tragedy of history! We still see its effect on man today. Even for such a lost cause God prepared a wonderful salvation for man.
God Created Man to be a vessel
We can see how marvelous the plan of God is. According to this plan, God created the heavens and the earth for man, the center of his creation, whom he created in a very special way after he created everything else.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)
Here we see that God created man unlike any other creature. He created all other things according to their own kind. God created man as the only creature in his own likeness and kind. Man is very similar to God. A good illustration of this is the hand and glove. Man is to God as the glove is to a hand. The glove is made according to the shape of the hand, so that the hand can properly fit into it. God created man in his image and likeness so that he could fill him just as a hand fills and animates a glove. We are very special to God. We were created as vessels (Romans 9:21-23), in his image, in order to contain him and express him. None of this happened by accident or by evolution. God planned everything to fulfill his eternal purpose.
God created man as a vessel that he could fill. For this reason, he created us with three parts: spirit, soul and body (I Thessalonians 5:23).
I have already posted articles about the body, which is the physical and first part of man. God created man’s body from the dust of the earth and it is his most superficial part (Genesis 2:7). Through our body, we can touch, see, smell, taste and hear, that is, we make contact with the things of the material realm.
The second part of man is the soul, the psychological part. Through our soul, we express who we are, our personhood or our personality. The soul possesses three parts or functions: the mind, will and emotion. In order to understand this study, you are using your mind. When you discover that God created you in a special way, you may feel like you are bursting with joy. That would be an example of the emotional part of the soul manifesting itself. Finally, when you decide to further study the Bible to discover more about God and man, you employ your will in order to reach such a decision. Thus, the soul is the part of man created by God so that we can know him, love him and approach him, and so that he can fill us with himself and we can express him.
The Spirit is the deepest part of man. The Bible calls it the “inner man” (Ephesians 3:16) the “man of the heart” (I Peter 3:4) because it is deeper and harder to understand than the other two parts. Of all of his creatures, God only created man with a spirit able to make contact with him and receive him. If you never approach God, you do not even need a spirit. You need your body and your soul for your human existence, but since God made you a vessel to contain his presence if you are not filled with his presence as the contents of your spirit, you will feel a great emptiness inside. Nothing will make sense to you and nothing will be able to satisfy you.
God wants to enter the spirit of man to be his contents and his satisfaction. Just as we exercise our minds in school to learn things, we must also learn to exercise our spirit, make it work properly, to get in touch with God, to know him and have fellowship with him.
In the next few posts I will discuss the plan of redemption and the full Gospel of God as touching all parts of our being. I will examine the significance of redemption, why we must be saved, from what and for what we must be saved, why God wants to save us, how he saves us and what we must do to receive salvation. I have a long “short list” of issues to consider and will try to give a brief but sufficient answer to these matters. I hope to offer those who hunger and thirst for righteousness an opportunity to learn more about God’s salvation.
It all begins with the eternal purpose of God: to form a group of people in his image and likeness. God wants to fill us with himself in order for us to express his life and character and exercise his authority to represent him on the earth. This is an eternal purpose because God had planned it before time began and will never change its central character.
Before God fully accomplished his purpose, Satan, the enemy of everything that God represents, came on the scene, cheated the man out of his inheritance and injected him with his own sinful life and nature. As a result, man fell into an unfortunate state of sin practicing sinful acts for having received the sinful nature that disqualified him from fulfilling God’s great and central purpose.
However, God cannot be defeated! Despite the fall of man and the fact that his fall caused his plan to be temporarily frustrated, he still loves man and did not allow anything to deter him from fulfilling his purpose. Hence, God acted to save man to accomplish his eternal purpose. This action represents the full Gospel and the complete salvation offered by God.
God’s final goal is the “adoption” of his people. In the Bible, this word means two main things: maturity in God and the position to inherit all that God is and has. Its meaning is not limited to simply being a child. A child has the life of his father, but is not yet fully grown, and is not yet prepared to take possession of everything that his father has given him. Each child of God will be able to receive his inheritance when he has grown up and matured. In a similar way, God chose us to be his children, full of life, grown up and mature. You can have the life of the Father, which makes you his child, but the will of God is not only for you to be his child, but to be a fully matured son of God. Only under these conditions will we be eligible to inherit all that he is and has done for us.
After the fall of man, the entire human race became sinful children of the devil (John 8:44). However, God chose us to be his children. How wonderful! Although we do not yet appear to be much like God, his choice gives us the confidence that one day we will be part of the many fully grown sons of God, filled with his life, demonstrating his character and expressing his full authority to represent him properly. The church today is the Body of Christ and will be the New Jerusalem in the future.
The church – God’s objective
All of God’s children have God’s life. In fact, the life of God is not a thing but a person, God Himself. To have this life means to have a person living in us, the living God himself. When the only living God fills these many individual people, they become one person, one body. They make up the many members of the body of Christ.
Observe your own body: it has one single life. When you go to school, your whole being goes. When you go to work, your whole person goes to work. Whatever you do, you do so in unity, because within you there is just one person, not two or three, just one.
God is one, a unity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and he expresses his purpose in this unity. When several individuals receive him as life, they become one with God, and become part of the church, the Body of Christ. In eternity future, such people will make up the New Jerusalem.
Upon reading Ephesians 3:9-11, you will notice that the church is not something that happened only after many people came to the Lord. No, God has planned the church since before the beginning in eternity past. It was because of the church that God saved the world. Through our salvation in Christ, the church came into being in order to express God, and it will continue to be the goal and the eternal dwelling place of God for eternity, as taught in Revelation 21 and 22.
The church, therefore, is composed of people who have God as their life and builder in Christ. They are the expression of God and represent God and his authority.
Ways to overcome death
The experience of overcoming death is not rare among the saints of the Bible. The Lord delivered David from the claws of the lion and the bear and from the hand of Goliath. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego suffered no harm from the furnace of fire. Paul shook off a deadly serpent into the fire and suffered no harm. These are only a few of many other examples. God’s goal is to lead His children through the experience of overcoming death. It is necessary to triumph over sin, the ego, the world and Satan but the victory is not complete without triumphing in the same way over death. If we want to experience a complete victory, we must destroy this last enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). We will leave an unconquered enemy if we fail to experience the triumph over death.
If we desire to live victoriously on the earth, we must overcome the death that is in the world. Death is in our body. Death has operated in our body ever since the day that we were born. Physical death is only the consummation of a prolonged operation of death that acts within us day by day. It can attack our spirit, denying its life and power and can attack our soul, mutilating its feeling, thoughts and will, and our body, making it weak and sick.
According to Romans 5:17 death does not just exist, but reigns. As long as the kingdom of death exists, the kingdom of life also exists. The apostle Paul says that those who receive abundance of grace will reign in life. However, Christians today concern themselves so much with the problem of sin that they have failed to overcome the result of sin, which is death. Christ died to save us not only from our sins but also from death. The salvation of Christ substituted justice for sin and life for death, because the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed us from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).
How can we overcome death in a practical way? We must decide to resist death in the same way that we have resisted sin: by appropriating the victory that Christ has already won for us on the cross. The author of Hebrews 2:14, 15, tells us that the cross is the basis for our victory over the power of death. There are three different paths open to us as Christians to overcome death:
- Trust that we will not die until our work is finished
- Have no fear of death even if it comes, because Christ has removed its sting
- Believe that we will be completely freed from death, raptured at the Lord’s return
Overcome death by the conviction that we must complete our work first
Unless a Christian has full knowledge that the end of his work has arrived and that the Lord no longer requires him to remain, he must, resist death. Jesus resisted death three times, escaping from the midst of those who wanted to kill him, because His time had not yet come. Paul and Peter also resisted death before the time. The patriarchs only died after they attained the fullness of their years.
Overcome death by conquering fear of death
When we speak of overcoming death, we do not mean that our body will never die (1 Corinthians 15:51). Overcoming death does not necessarily mean not going through the grave, because God may require some of us to overcome through the resurrection, just as Jesus did. In passing through death, believers, like Jesus, need not fear it, because we are simply passing from one vessel to another. In the beginning we were just like those who fear death and were subject to slavery (Hebrews 2:15). The Lord Jesus however freed us and therefore we no longer fear.
Overcome death through the rapture
We know that upon the return of the Lord Jesus many will be raptured while still living. This is the last way of overcoming death (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17). The time of the rapture is approaching. If someone wishes to be raptured alive, they should learn here and now how to overcome death. On the cross, the Lord Jesus totally overcame His enemy. Today God wants His church to experience this victory of Christ that will strengthen us against death, preventing it from making any incursion into our bodies. Resist everything that has a disposition toward death. Face sickness, weakness and suffering in this attitude.
Overcome death by avoiding mortal sin
We will now observe specifically what the essence of mortal sin is as mentioned in 1 John 5:16. Doing so, we will know how to stay far away from it, so that our flesh is not corrupted and we do not lose the blessing of being raptured before death. We must strive to complete the work that the Lord designated to us before the end of our lives and then we may pass through the grave, if He tarries. Because of the negligence of many of God’s children in this matter, they have had their lives unnecessarily shortened and have lost their crowns.
The Bible is not clear about what this mortal sin is. From the Bible text, we understand that this sin may vary according to each person. One particular sin may qualify as a mortal sin for some people however, for others it may not be a mortal sin and vice versa.
One of the characteristics of the Kingdom age is that there is will be no more weakness, sickness or death, because we will possess resurrected and redeemed bodies and Satan will have been crushed beneath our feet. The Scriptures teach us that we can experience the powers of the coming age right now in this present age (Hebrews 6:5).
How the power of God manifests in the life of the body
We have already seen that in the future God will resurrect our bodies, but today he gives life to our mortal bodies. Even though our bodies are still alive as part of the natural life of our soul, we no longer live through it because we trust in the life of the Son of God that infuses His spiritual energy into our physical members much more abundantly than the life of the soul could ever do. God desires to lead us to the possession of this life in Christ as our strength.
The Word of God is the life of our body: man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). Some people live merely by bread, others by bread and God’s Word. Bread sometimes fails us, but God’s Word never fails. God hides His life in His Word; therefore, we must not receive the Word merely as a commandment or as a rule, we must receive it as life. When we feed on the Word, we receive it as life, not only as life to our spirit, but also as life to our body.
God as the life of the body in the Old Testament
It was a common experience for the saints of old to know God as the strength of their body, or to experience the life of God permeating their bodies. Abraham experienced God’s power in his old, dying body. The crucial point of the matter here is not so much the condition of our body, but rather the power of God in our body.
Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished. (Deuteronomy 34:7)
The power of God’s life acted and manifested itself in Moses’s body. Caleb also experienced the vigor of God (Judges 14:9-11). The Holy Spirit powerfully used Samson in physical feats. There are many other examples of men of God in the past that were invigorated with God’s life.
We want to emphasize that God’s life is sufficient not only for healing infirmities, but also to preserve our strength and health, enabling us to overcome sicknesses and weaknesses.
God as the life of Paul’s body
Because we are members of the body of Christ, life naturally flows from Him to us. We must appropriate this life from God by faith. Paul prayed three times for God to remove the thorn in his flesh, yet, with no success. Should we think that he continued physically very weak, remaining in that situation for a long time? No, he informs us that the power of Christ rested over him and he became strong. Neither the thorn in the flesh, nor the weakness produced by it, ever left Paul. However, the power of Christ overcame his fragile body and gave him strength to face each necessity. The power of Christ in Paul reveals a distinct contrast to Paul’s natural weakness. How could a man as weak as Paul accomplish a work that demanded such great physical energy? The answer is that the Holy Spirit gave life to his mortal body.
How does God heal us and strengthen us? The answer is by the life of Jesus. God’s healing and strengthening of our mortal flesh does not mean that he changes the nature of our body into immortality, the nature of our bodies remains the same. The difference is that now the power of Christ works through them. Only in this way does God’s life affect our mortal bodies, supplying vitality and strength for each spiritual task. In the past, we lived by the power of our natural life, but now we live by the power of Christ who has supernatural life. The power of His resurrection sustains our body; therefore, God enables us to fulfill the tasks that He has designated to us.
God as the life of Jesus’ body
Someone may wonder if having the Lord Jesus as the life of the body means that God grants us a great measure of physical power so that we never have to suffer or becomes sick. The Apostle Paul’s body was frequently weak, but the strength of the Lord Jesus continually flowed through it. He lived each instant by the life of the Lord. Only through obedience, will we experience the reality of His life. It is reasonable to expect God to enable us to overcome physical limitations to do His work. Do you think He would give us His strength so that we could rebel against him?
God as the life of your body
If we receive the life of the Lord Jesus as the life of our body, we would experience the strengthening of our body and the prosperity of our spirit through Him. We already know that our body is for the Lord. However, because of our ego-centricity, He cannot fill it completely. Now we deliver our all to Him, so that He can treat us the way that He desires. Now we belong to the Lord completely and nothing can therefore happen to us without His knowledge and permission. Understanding that the Lord is for the body, we are able to appropriate all of God’s riches for our needs. For each urgent necessity there is always His provision, therefore our heart should be at rest. We do not ask for anything more than God has provided, but neither are we satisfied with less than He has promised. We refuse to use our own strength in any matter to help God, trying to resolve things before His time.