Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How Much We Need Need (part 5)

'Need' is a Significant Component to the Gospel Message
[Previous Post: How Much We Need Need (part 4)

Salvation of any kind is not for any one who does not personally interact inwardly with scripture. Every other gospel is bent to either a universalist or theologically front-loaded gospel. The woman at the well knew who Jesus was and eagerly desired the power to live His kind of life. But the disciples were sluggish to understand which is why He commanded upon their return, "Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look" (John 4:35).  His coming signals a complex mixture of both salvation and judgment.

The Vessels: Pouring out Wrath

Is the wrath of God only for unbelievers?  Or is it for believers as well?  Most free grace people agree that even believers experience the wrath of God.  But they claim there will not be an experience of wrath in judgment at the Bema seat.  Instead wrath is only temporal, for a short period in life.  I don't understand, then, six passages I read that suggest a severe experience for some believers at judgment.  One - 1 Cor 3:15

If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved — even though only as one escaping through the flames.

Two - Hebrews 10:26-29

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

Three - Matt 12:31-32

Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

Four - John 15:6

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

Five: Psalm 95/Hebrews 3&4

So I swore in my wrath, they shall not enter my rest.

Six: Hebrews 10:37-38

Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.

I have a lot to learn on temporal and treasured wrath, so on to Romans.

Pouring out Spirit: The Gift of God in Romans

In the last post we read that "the gift of God" is eternal life, and it is also the gift of the Spirit, and it is also the regenerating work of our baptism with Christ, which is also the circumcision, described in Ezek. 36 and performed by Christ in Col. 2. Both Jews and Gentiles recognize as they work out their beliefs that their consciences are violated and that they do not have the power to live up to them. This is the "God-shaped hole" that only circumcision can allay.

Jesus said, "If you knew the gift of God..." (john 4:10).  The Book of Romans mentions "the gift" (eternal life; the Holy Spirit) more often than any other.  Paul is separated to the gospel of God, and says, "Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations." How is this grace received? There is no other way to receive this grace and achieve this obedience than through the name of Jesus. As we saw in a previous post, God-fearing Jews already believed in Him before they identified Him. God-fearing Gentiles already received whatever light they had been given before the gospel. Jesus' ministry ratified and paid the deposit of their longing. Ready to preach, Paul says in 1:16-17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'

The power of God? The "power" is essential in Paul's description of the gospel because everything else, even Judiasm by and large, is religion apart from knowing God. Righteousness is being revealed by this power.  Revealed means: "to lay open what has been covered up; make bare; to make known, to make manifest."

Righteousness is not the only thing being "revealed". The next verse says

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness....

Two things are revealed (manifest, known by intimate relation): Wrath, and Spirit (God with Us). In fact the word "wrath" has a connotation beyond emotion. It also means a vessel. Thayer's lexicon says,

To teem, denoting an internal motion, esp. that of plants and fruits swelling with juice.

Babylon is the spirit of independence and rebellion against God. In the great day of His wrath, she will have no choice but to drink the cup of the wine of the fierceness of God's wrath. She drinks, Satan will also drink this wine, and so will "all nations" who follow her because she deceives them to take part in her punishment.

This is very important to the study of Romans. The wrath of God is being poured out. But the Spirit is also being poured out. The Spirit is our only refuge and hope from the wrath of God.

All men receive God's wrath - all who exchange the truth of God for a lie, those who choose to worship and serve a false image. When they make this choice for themselves, Paul claims that God makes their foolish hearts darkened. He makes them given up to uncleanness of conduct. They commit what is shameful. They receive a debased mind. Romans 1:28-29

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality [etc.]...

So the order is established: Those who do not worship and serve God are darkened in their understanding. God gives them the sort of mind that does those things which are not right. This is God, revealing His wrath - and the objects of it.

Christian or not - when you see someone who practices unfitting things, this is a revealing of their inner suppression of God.  Christian or not - when someone chooses to suppress God, and they practice unfitting things, they also lose the knowledge of having known God.  Isn't this good of God?  Imagine a person filled with unrighteous behavior who also holds every enlightenment from the scriptures...  May the world never know witnesses of God like that!

Wrath On Every Soul Of Man That Does Evil

Paul exposes the utter failure of man's every fantasy of justification opposed to God's grace. Chapter two was written to begin to disspell every variety of self-righteousness. Romans 2:1

Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.

Wow! If man was already guilty because "although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful" (Romans 1:21), how much more will he be guilty for the subsequent acts of a debased mind! This is not just a judgment but a filling up, of His judgment. God says hogwash to any righteousness of man, and He's about to manifest it to the world. There are those who glorify Him, and those who do any-thing else. That is why those who judge pass judgment on themselves, for they also have not glorified God nor given thanks to Him in the most basic form.

In accordance with their impenitent (no change of mind, unrepentant) hearts, those refusing are "treasuring up for themselves wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each one according to his deeds" (Rom 2:5).  Eternal life (the gift) is for those who obey the portion of truth they already have been given, whatever that is.  This is why Jesus could have a complex teaching about condemnation as He does after revealing humanity's need to be born again in John 3:18-21

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.

God is not partial. Did we Christians expect He'd be partial to us just because we have the indwelling of His Spirit? Every soul of man will experience "tribulation and anguish" (2:9) for willful rejection. They will be rendered according to their deeds, Jew and Greek alike. Whether people have the law or do not have the law, reciting what is right does not amount to an experience of being approved. "You who say, 'Do not commit adultery,' do you commit adultery" (2:22)? There is no such thing as good unbelieving people, no such thing as a Jew who really observes the law, without being transformed first by the power and Spirit of God.

"I don't deserve His wrath!" says the Jew; "I am a child of Abraham." "I don't deserve His wrath!" says the Christian; "I am a child of God." When God's covenant makes no impact on our conduct, God proves Himself justified in judging. The Jews received promises in Isaiah that God would glorify Himself through Israel even as they refused Him. Christians say the same today - "...whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also has glorified" (Rom. 8:30). They think that their destiny is without angst regardless how they live with the gift. It's so easy to be a Jew. Just be born as a physical descendant, and you're in. And, it's so easy to be a Christian. Just believe in Jesus, and you're in. God has laid a gracious and merciful foundation for our entrance into His Kingdom. Satan's deception is to think we can live as if we do not on-goingly need the Spirit.

People who already have a covenant-deal with God oftentimes grow ungrateful, which is the same sort of man in Romans chapter 1 who had known God as revealed in creation and had to choose to give thanks and glorify God, or else suppress the truth. Those who recognize that they are ungodly know they need the gift of the Spirit and its power, and their faith is accounted for righteousness. The kind of faith that saves is the kind that hopes in God to perform that which cannot otherwise be done. The entire book has the hope of Christ's circumcision as its focal point.

Hope Does Not Disappoint

We rejoice as Christians in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 2:6-7 says that God will "render to each according to their deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor and immortality...". Now that we have been justified by faith, we have the access to the Spirit to powerfully and accurately obey the heart of God. When we do so, we receive glory. Lest we forget and lose our way into a state of bondage again to sin, Paul begins the doctrine of eternal life by saying in 5:6,

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

Get familiar with it, baby; the way we started is the way we conform all aspects of life. Romans 5:9,

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 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.

"Through" Him means to be "in" Him. If someone is not abiding in Him, they cannot be saved from wrath, cannot be saved by His kind of life. The free gift is not like the offense. Even with death done away by our Lord, man's attempts can only reproduce the life of Adam, apart from the Spirit. We hope that grace might reign for Christians, but sin still reigns in us if we allow it to; Romans 5:20-21,

Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

You know how the sinful nature works - it does not submit to grace nor does it understand grace. People want to be accepted by God without obeying Him. The sinful nature is looking for a loophole to do as it pleases, constantly. This nature asks in Romans 6:1-2,

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

Grace does not abound for willful disobedience. The solution? Our sufficient baptism! Baptism is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant point of circumcision. We ought to walk in newness of life, because of baptism! 6:6 "...our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." Hebrews chapter three commands believers that they do not harden their hearts in turning away from the living God. This proves that even circumcised Christians have free will, and a responsibility to steward their freshly-cut hearts on life-support.

Grace Reigns Through Circumcision

The recipients of Romans do not completely understand. "Live how you want" - is this why Jesus died on the cross, is that the kind of salvation He provided for us? "Shall we sin, that grace might abound?" (6:1) Just ask God to forgive it all, in Christ, and poof! All one's rebellion simply doesn't matter? After all, He died for every sin didn't He?

Grace doesn't reign by cleansing us on the surface; antinomians are still thinking out-in instead of in-out. The gift is an inner act of creation (Ezek. 36:24-27) which can save us (and bring us honor) if we obey it.

Still the sinful nature asks, "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?" Paul knows the thoughts of men when they hear that they are no longer under law. Man makes false doctrine as a tool to deny need for God. This is a great verse showing there is no honor for Christians who follow the sinful nature; Romans 6:16,

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?

Consider Romans 6:23 in the context of a call on the church to live in the Spirit. Romans 6:21-23,

What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Eternal life is not just a regenerative-substance but here it is the byproduct of Spiritual choices. The wages of sin for those who are already believers, is death. Why not? Hebrews 10:28-30 says,

Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.”

Christians have officially died to the law. Is that enough to escape from God's wrath? No! Believers who do not need to drink from the fountain of living water everyday - even these - are doomed to struggle and destruction ("perdition" Heb. 10:39). There is only one Way. And we have not known it. We will never know it intuitively. Only God can reveal the path of righteousness. Listen to Paul's teaching on how he discovers the Way.  Romans 7:15-25,

For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Alternately when we follow His Way, we find the Body of life! Only the Spirit illuminates the path of righteousness for our feet. Did you notice that Paul finishes with a reversal of the original sin problem in chapter 1? "...nor were they thankful..." (vs. 21) -- but he sees Jesus as deliverance for an unsanctified believer, and is thankful! The doctrine of the Spirit continues.... Romans 8:1-2,

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

The rest of chapter 8 of Romans is glorious.... And in the margin I found myself writing, "don't we need this kind of living?" He has given us so much power and capacity and victory in utilizing the gift of circumcision.

True Israelites

There were physical descendants of Abraham who never believed at all.  These unbelievers are counted among the vessels of His wrath.  They chose first - they did not submit to the righteousness of God - they stumbled at that stumbling stone.  God can harden and blind who He pleases, but He hardens and gives a spirit of stupor to those who reject Him repeatedly. Is that unfair?  No; they heard the truth (Rom. 10:18), but the message was not mixed with faith.

Then there are those decendants who were desensitized by sin and forsook God's power and presence. For this saved remnant of Israel, God is depending on us to reveal His grace through obedient Christian living. We are vessels of His mercy where He pours out the Spirit, in order to make them jealous and graft them back in to the Root.  God is not partial!  What He did to Israel He will do to Christians who repeatedly refuse to abide in Christ.  He will not spare unfruitful Christian branches.  Romans 11:20-24,

Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

This is not Arminianism, because children of Abraham are those who have had faith even if they've fallen away (easy to do when they are awaiting the fulfillment of true circumcision). I believe all scriptures on "branches" show that on an individual level or a national level, God can also choose to "cast away" (Romans 11:1,2,15) or push or reject (essentially: ignore) those who ad nauseam "judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life" as Paul preaches in Acts 13:46 in his original turn from the Jews to a ministry toward begging Gentiles!

Few Accept the Invitation

Jews had little heart for glorifying God, just as the nations.  "The gift" is the hope that all that can change.  It is the cure for the bleak reality that so few people are responding to the invitation of God.  Christ provided salvation from every name that is named so we would be appropriately attired at our salvation-judgment in His coming Kingdom.  Will we be so dressed?

It is okay to associate the gospel of eternal life with a call to godly living. This does not associate works-righteousness with the message -- it means Spirit-powered righteousness is associated with the message! God expects a Jew to be able to tell the difference between a works-associated gospel and a Spiritually-associated gospel, so why can't we expect the difference? Making godliness associated with the heart of the gospel does not mean we can look at works and determine the saved from the unsaved as Calvinism claims - we still can't! But we ought for sure to be able to differentiate those who are inheriting the Kingdom from those who are not, and aren't those the second-most important lines to draw? Calvinism has frustrated the believer's privilege to make godliness our secure and sure pursuit.

How Much We Need Need (part 3)
How Much We Need Need (part 2)
How Much We Need Need (part 1)
How Much We Need Need (introduction)

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

How Much We Need Need (part 4)

"Need" is a Significant Component to the Gospel Message
[Previous post:How Much We Need Need (part 3)]

This post continues to look at the gospel the woman at the well heard in John 4.

Consider how Jesus wants to make spiritual babies with His Bride.  John 4:27-28,
And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city...
The woman at the well and Jesus had an unspeakable connectedness and joy in making believers in God with one another. John 4:36-39
And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.”
A Bride for the Descendant of Abraham

Jesus needed a bride from the inception of the covenant. Imagine you are Abraham, and you're at the end of your life. You've been considered the friend of God, and you and your offspring have received the promises and you're dwelling in the land. Sounds pretty good. Is there anything else that needs to be done before you die? Well - yes there is. Isaac needs a bride. If God intended Abraham to have descendants, first of all, Sarah must miraculously have a baby, and second, that child must in turn make babies. How can Isaac do this without an outsider's willing participant in the covenant family?
'Rebekah at the Well'
by Michael Deas

Abraham's "servant" (the name of Christ in the prophecies of Isaiah) swears to bring back from Haran a remnant of his own kin - Rebekah. Isaiah's Servant likewise also takes up the cause of Israel by bringing the remnant back from exile, or in another prophetical category, believers in Jesus into the Kingdom. "Do not take Isaac back there," Abraham warns his servant. The promises are connected with the land.  It's not just a who, but a where. This is the place where heaven meets earth. There is no redemption if Jesus in antitype seeks a legacy on earth separated from the promise. The servant asks Abraham, "Perhaps the woman will not be willing to follow me to this land." What should he do in this case? Abraham gives this answer in Genesis 24:8,
"And if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be released from this oath; only do not take my son back there."
By comparison we can afford to send again for the Bride of Isaac. It's quite another thing to lose Isaac, the son of promise.

Now how in the world will Abraham's servant find this one special Bride? Like a needle in a haystack! The Way to the Bride is so impossible that only the Father can arrange these circumstances. Jesus was obedient in all His Way to obtain the Bride.  When Rebekah's family meets the servant, one can hear the Father God; "Come in, O Blessed of the LORD, ... For I have prepared the house, and a place..." (for you!). The servant recounts the story.  It is a story of his personal prayer for impossibly amazing details in the woman who would quench the thirst of him and his camels.  He also admits Who was directing the whole Way, Genesis 24:48,
the LORD God of my master Abraham, who had led me in the way of truth to take the daughter of my master’s brother for his son.
What?? The "Way" of "Truth"! Jesus is the Way and the Truth! The Godhead was talking about His own Spirit, who led the way for the Servant that all His will might be accomplished. Incredible. The Way led to the side of the well. Abraham had prophesied this success by God's hand saying in 24:40,
‘The LORD, before whom I walk, will send His angel with you and prosper your way; and you shall take a wife for my son from my family and from my father’s house.
"Way" has to do with recognizing God from everything else. Jews and Greeks are all under sin. We have not known His ways. We have not sought Him. We have not had blessing pour forth from our mouths and lives like Abraham was promised to become, Rom. 3:10-18
There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.
Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit;
The poison of asps is under their lips;
Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
We have not personally known the Way. Why not use human need as the stuff of exchange for receiving the Way every day? And when someone is first saved, it is the first time they hear the Word say, "At this place is the Way. This is a sign of God's Presence as revealed to you; you are in Him and He is in you.  Now you know He will do this with you." It is like a guidepost, a sign; it is sticking up from the soil of which you are familiar wherever it is you happen to be. "Los Angeles," it says you're in. "Chicago - this way," it points. In all the earth there are outcroppings of guideposts. They show us we are headed in the direction we are seeking to go. We never are sure between signs that we're still on track, but just when we need it most, we seek and look and God assures us we won't miss anything we're supposed to see.

Rebekah is told that there is a Way on this special day. He says, "This is the Way. Access is yours." God shows her Himself and He wants her to show herself. By the servant asking, "Please let down your pitcher that I may drink," he is asking to sample the content of her vessel to see if he would find faith. How did Rebekah respond to the testimony of the servant? This guy's God was crazy, or else everything she needed. He bowed down to the earth and worshiped his God that he had found her. He had obvious ability to bless because of the gold bracelets and nose ring with which she was immediately dressed. He was sent from the same family to the same family, just as he prayed. Guideposts! It's like God was saying to Rebekah, "Do you see these signs and wonders coupled with obvious blessing? Do you believe He has miraculously demonstrated His Word is True, to you?" If God wasn't showing Himself totally crazy for her, she wouldn't have believed in Him.  The signs causing Rebekah to believe were only a few facets.  There are many to behold.

Jacob's Well
'Jacob and Rachel at the Well'
by Schubert Franz August

Jesus has the pizazz to offer the water that satisfies thirst forever here at the side of Jacob's well. The resemblance between His account and Jacob's is hard to miss. Both Jacob and Jesus are seeking a Bride (a body of believers) while they "meet the woman at the well." It is beyond coincidence that the Samaritan woman was waiting (by faith) for one greater than Jacob. She knew there was more to be had of God, and only one greater than Jacob would roll away the heavy stone and water all the flocks. Rachel was a shepherdess, and the woman at the well also led many to drink. But how did Jacob find his way to the Bride? How come Jesus "must needs go through Samaria"? In Jacob's case, he had a dream; a guidepost, and met God. "Surely the LORD is in this place!" he exclaimed. He called the place "the house of the LORD."  And then he made a vow to keep the Way, Genesis 28:20-21
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.
It was the Way which led Jacob back to his own kinsmen. Only the LORD can show us the way to the lost. He dedicates his successful Way of coming and going as the beginning of the temple - the dwelling of Emmanuel; God with us. "The LORD is there" is the name of New Jerusalem with all its citizens (Ezek. 48:35). How appropriate it is that the woman at the well in the Gospel of John asked about the place of worship, seeing her LORD was here, and He was greater than Jacob.

The Way and Abraham's Faith-Righteousness

Abraham saw the Way when he heard the Word of the LORD, Genesis 12:1-6,
Now the LORD said to Abram:
"Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father's house,
To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth
shall be blessed."
In his meditations, what sort of information could Abram pull from this promise? If I pretend to be in his shoes, here's what I get:

  • God will be giving a blessing, which is some sort of power or influence for good things
  • It will be noticeably more powerful than what a human can do on their own. Is God going to come down?
  • The power is definitely going to be housed inside flesh and blood; so, typical flesh and blood children but they will be more powerful than other people
  • It will be possessed by Abraham's family, so something like an administration with Abraham probably as the head
  • It is for blessing people outside the family; it apparently is intuitively comprehendible and it is intended to be passed out
  • The power will not be given to all people, because there will be a control on it, based on God's parameters
  • The promises are linked and limited to a geographical space

The imagery of a fountain of living waters welling up from within works nicely with these understandings of the promise. But there is a more widespread biblical theology with which we can relate the promise. It is called circumcision. Rom 4:10-11,
How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe...
The Sign of The Promise

I usually read Romans 4 in a particular manner. According to this take, Paul is making the point that he had only the sign of circumcision in chapter 15 and that he had the (physical) circumcision "later" chronologically in Genesis chapter 17. But I recall other times in my life when I have read this passage much more interestingly. According to a deeper take, Paul is not referring to the physical circumcision in chapter 17, at all. Abraham received the sign of circumcision in chapter 15, and only when Christ came did he receive the circumcision. How? Colossians 2:11-13 says,
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him...
Abraham was Circumcised not Before but "After"

Abraham was physically circumcised some time after he received the seal of righteousness that he had by faith. But he died in hope for real circumcision. Christ's circumcision is the only one that matters, amen? Galatians 5:2 says,
Indeed, I Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ profits you nothing.
Is circumcision of the flesh significant compared to the circumcision of the heart? Gal 6:15,
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.
What then is the point of Abraham's physical circumcision? This "mark" (Romans 4:11) on the Jewish male body was a private reminder that his passions should distinguish him from the world around him. It is the same Greek word used more frequently in the Gospel of John than anywhere else in the NT; and we think of the eight "signs" or "marks" in John. Circumcision "sign"-ifies faith in the promise God made to empower Abraham to bless the world. Sound familiar to John 20:31? Does it have any other significance in the theology of our salvation, except to foreshadow?  Romans 2:25-29,
For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law, but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
What a rich passage. The "marked" are those who seek His Ways! The outward jobbie is a nice sign to the world that someone believes God, but only if it's really going on in one's life. Otherwise there is this beautiful equivalency and negation going on here proving that men need surgery and to be born from above. When the apostles revealed the mystery, as we read in Colossians, this surgery (circumcision) is nothing short of the death, burial and resurrection (baptism) of Christ, and our identification with Him in it. Ezekiel 36:24-27
For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
With circumcision, we comprehend the Spirit of the law and we have the hope and the strength to follow it.  This is the gift.  Is God's "Way" a gospel of Lordship Salvation?   No!  Free will is biblical, and children of God can abandon even their own circumcision, losing reward, yet still be saved.  What is this then?  This is fulfillment of the difference God wanted all along.  It is a gospel of hope.  It is a gospel of capacity.  Here we see the good news of "believe Jesus for eternal life" and the doctrine of eternal rewards coming into one house, without any of the corruption of works-salvation.  It is a gospel with two significant acts of God in our receiving salvation.  One, the cleansing and cutting work of regeneration.  And two, the fitting and housing of the Holy Spirit for eternity, seemingly separated by a permeable membrane from our freshly-cut conscience.

That means that no Jew had experienced a new creation until Christ came to earth. No wonder Israel profaned God among the nations. They needed the Savior, to rip away the crusty outer layer of hard heartedness and receive a sensitive layer toward God (Deut. 30:1-6). They had the promises. They had access to the Holy Spirit! They didn't want to choose to turn to Him (Romans 3:10-18)! They really did not yet have the heart or understanding to properly interpret God in all His Ways, as the Spirit now reveals to us.

Jews and Gentiles Need Circumcision

What about Gentiles?  The Jews may have had the promises, but has anyone noticed God's choice to adopt Gentiles?  Galatians says "that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal 3:14).  Are Gentiles required to meditate on the law of Moses to understand they need a Savior?   No!  They also have law.  Romans 2:13-15,
(for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)
Remember that all men were made in the image of God. Even if the image is distorted in a variety of ways from land to land, most societal law reflects knowledge of good versus evil. Every man knows that he breaks his own conscience, whatever his local land has taught him to think is best to live. They not only have law, but they have revelation of God. Romans 1:20-21
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
A Gentile "knows" God (the Greek word used 49 times in the Gospel of John) even if he's never had a drop of scripture wash up on the seashore. If he is seeking to receive the Truth, he will admit what is revealed in creation and what he's already noted through this violated conscience: that his own life doesn't seem to have the power necessary to live the commanded kind of life. Wise Gentiles are searching for circumcision.

This makes Jews and Gentiles identically alike in nature, when Christ shows up. Galatians 4 says that all were slave-servant-children; we were in bondage to the elemental forces of this world. But when the fulness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (vs. 3-5). Why was Moses given the Ten Commandments? It was given as a mediator, like between two spouses who can't decide on the rules of engagement. Just so you can't say you didn't get the memo.

God knew that mankind would want to believe till the bitter end that they could find the power within themselves to be the blessing God commanded. Works-salvation, in a nutshell. So just to get it out of their system (to make sin utterly sinful), He spent some time on the clock doing it unregenerate man's way. He told Abraham and all the descendants of his house from then on, "Go -- try." You; go circumcise your own hearts and your own flesh. Try and see if you have the ability to change yourself. When you're exhausted hearing me command you to circumcise your hearts and live, then I will show you my plan that I would circumcise you all along. And the Gentiles are largely the ones who are fresh in gratitude for God's attention, to be thankful and receive it.

Gentiles eagerly seek the essence of the gospel of Jesus -- the Spirit Himself -- and receive it.  John the Baptist's preaching was taken from Isaiah 40-41.  In it God asks the question, "Have you not known from the foundations of the earth?"  He proves that all the nations of the earth know enough that the coming of Emmanuel reveals and ratifies the children of God from the children of the devil.  He is the stumbling stone to gather His wheat in the barn and gather up those already set for destruction. This is why the harvest is white in John 4!

What is the Gift?

Do we know what the gift of God, is?
Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
What is the living water? John 7:37-39
Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
So is the gift of God, the Spirit? Acts 8:20 calls it "the gift of God." Romans 5:16 says "the free gift ... resulting in justification." Romans 5:17 calls it "the gift of righteousness." Romans 5:18 calls it "justification of life." It is called "salvation" in Ephesians 2:8. There is only one verse in the New Testament that calls the gift "eternal life" - - Romans 6:23. Most frequently, the gift is referring to the Holy Spirit.

Does the gift come by its differentiations? Or, when someone seeks eternal life must they then also be seeking the Spirit of God in a sense? Could it be that the essence humanity seeks is the essence of God Himself? God justifies. God gives righteousness. God gives grace. God gives eternal life. God gives... God.

How many countless people are out there in the world, seeking the circumcision - the difference - the presence and power of God? Sometimes a person hears the Word and believes, without experiencing much of God's presence and power and nearness - and their faith is considered blessed. For the rest, if they see God's presence and power, they will believe God is true. They will understand that the blessing is real. As the Living Waters booklet says, believe to life! There are unregenerate-Gentile children of God who live as slaves, longing for the adoption of sons. How can a gracious gospel use scripture as a bat to dismiss a testimony of someone believing in Jesus? They reason that because God-seeking Gentile converts today would not understand some passage of scripture, that such a soul was therefore never saved by believing in Jesus.

If the tribes in lands far away from the gospel of Christ can believe in God's ready revelation in creation, why can't they die in a hope for true circumcision, like Abraham did?

How Much We Need Need (part 2)
How Much We Need Need (part 1)
How Much We Need Need (introduction)

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