Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Nature of the Conflict

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This is War

And We Need to Know What It’s All About

Having established some of the foundational principles for Spiritual Warfare in our last two exercises—that…

  1. Through Christ, we are once-again the divinely Authorized Rulers over Planet Earth; and,
  2. By learning to exercise our Authority over His and our enemies, we are being trained to rule along with Christ when He returns to the Earth to set up His Kingdom…

…it is time for us to move on to the training exercises that will help ensure our victory in the spiritual battles that lie ahead.  To help us get into the best fighting shape possible, this training will include exercises in…

Understanding the Nature of the Conflict;
Knowing the Enemy;
Getting the Lay of the Land;
Familiarizing Ourselves with our Weapons; and,
Honoring the Rules of Engagement.

That being said, let’s get exercise number one underway by first assessing what is involved in this conflict; for…

…what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand (Luke 14:31)?

What We Need to Know

At the outbreak of any war, before the potential combatants suit up and march off to battle, it is essential that they know whom they will be fighting and what they will be fighting for.  In order for them to be fully committed to winning the war at any cost, they must first understand the reason behind the conflict and just what is at stake in it for them.  If they don’t believe they have a personal interest in it, then they won’t even bother to show up.  I think this concept is best illustrated by a brief look at the United States and its delayed entry into World War II.

Throughout much of its history, when it came to its involvement in overseas wars, the United States maintained a policy of isolationism, because it didn’t see that it had a personal stake in those faraway conflicts.  Maintaining this position was possible because, unlike a lot of the nations in other parts of the world—nations which shared common borders—the United States was protected east and west by oceans, and shared its northern and southern borders with only two neighboring—and friendly—countries.  So, why become involved in wars on the other side of the world which seemingly had no bearing on life in America?

Uncle Sam Wants You

And Uncle Sam Got Them , Too!

All of this changed, however, when Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany, and he began his rampage across Europe in pursuit of world domination.  At first, even though war had been declared by England and France in 1939 and Hitler had been wreaking havoc across the continent before then (with his oriental ally, Japan, doing the same in the Far East even longer than that), the US refused to become involved.  Since it wasn’t being affected by the war, why fight in it?  That was its position until Japan attacked America’s naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941—and, then, it became personal!  The US immediately declared war and thousands of young men—eventually millions—made their way to the nearest military recruiter and signed up, because they suddenly had a stake in the outcome of the war!

Although the Second World War was…

…the most widespread and deadliest war in history, involving more than 30 countries and resulting in more than 50 million military and civilian deaths (with some estimates as high as 85 million dead)…[1]

…the war which has been raging in the spiritual world since the beginning of time is one that has affected far more people (every person who has ever lived, in fact), and is far deadlier than WWII—or, all of the wars in human history put together, for that matter.  That’s because it is the one war which has not only impacted the quality of life on this planet and endangered the life of every human being on it on a daily basis, but it is the one war which has determined the eternal destiny of every person who has made the earth his home.  Given this, it is a war in which we all have a very personal stake—and one that we each need to understand more fully and take more seriously!

To help us do this, let’s take a moment and look at this war within the overall context of the Bible Story, in an effort to discover…

The Source of the Conflict;
The Nature of the Conflict; and,
The Outcome of the Conflict.

As we do, we need to keep in mind God’s original goal for Mankind and the Earth—which was, to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth, with His Sons and Daughters ruling over it in Righteousness.  We know this to be true because…

  • God gave the first Man and Woman Dominion over the Earth—that is, the Authority to Rule it–which they subsequently lost to Satan; and,
  • Jesus later came to the Earth and reclaimed that lost Authority through His death and resurrection, and restored it to the Children of God.

In fact, as these verses illustrate, Jesus’ entire ministry was focused on restoring the lost Kingdom of God and re-establishing it on the Earth within the Hearts of Men…

From that time [the beginning of His ministry] Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3, 5)

…but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God…for I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43)

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. (Luke 8:1)

When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. (Luke 9:11)

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried…your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the   (Luke 12:29-32)

The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. (Luke 16:16)

…and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:29)

And this gospel [the good news] of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

Since the Kingdom of God—both its restoration and proclamation—was at the heart of Jesus’ mission to Earth, then it stands to reason that it must have been the reason for the conflict in the first place.

The Source of the Conflict

To discover the reason behind this war, we must go back before time even began; when, at some point in Eternity Past, the All-Wise, All-Knowing, All-Powerful God purposed to have a Family and to create the Earth as the place for that Family to live.  In anticipation of this, He first created a huge Host of Angelic Beings, whose purpose would be to serve Him by serving His soon-to-be Heirs of Salvation—or, the coming Sons and Daughters of God…

Of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.’  Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?  (Hebrews 1:7, 14)

Angels of the Lord

Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Psalm 148:2

To facilitate this future Service, God created different types of Angels, each one designed for a specific purpose and each one given a particular rank of Authority—with those highest in rank called Archangels.  One of these Archangels was named Lucifer; and, as possibly the highest-ranking Angel, it was his job to protect the Throne of God and lead the Worship which took place around itHe must have been something to behold, because in Ezekiel 28 he was described as being…

…the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty… every precious stone was your covering… On the day that you were created they were prepared.

You were an anointed guardian cherub.  I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created.

That is…

…till unrighteousness was found in you… you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground… (Ezekiel 28:14-18)

Just what could have caused this?  In Isaiah 14, we learn that…

You [Lucifer] said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’  (Isaiah 14:13-14)

In other words, Lucifer—now the Devil and Satan—so coveted God’s Throne and Power that he rebelled against God in an effort to obtain that Throne and usurp His Power.  Having been denied the Throne in the Kingdom of Heaven, Satan then purposed to set up his own kingdom here on Earth.

God had other plans for the Earth, though; for, as we have already learned, He intended for it to be ruled by Man.  So, try to imagine the outrage that Satan must have felt when he heard God announce…

Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth (Genesis 1:26)…

…as well as his delight when the Woman he tempted…

…saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate (Genesis 3:6).

What a coup!  Not only did he succeed in enslaving Man and alienating him from God, but he also managed to wrest the Right to Rule from Man so that he could set up his own kingdom here on the Earth.  Where before, there had only been One Kingdom and One Will in existence—that being God’s—there were now Two Kingdoms and Wills, both contending for the hearts and allegiances of Men and Women.  As Watchman Nee explains…

We may say that there are two massive contradictory wills throughout the universe.  On one side stands the holy and perfect will of God; on the other is arrayed the defiled, defiling, and opposing will of Satan.  In between subsists the sovereign, independent, free will of man.[2]

This is so important for us to grasp, because in this cosmic battle of wills, the decision as to which one will prevail on the earth has been delegated by God to the will of each human being living on this planet; and, it is determined every time he or she  chooses to do what will satisfy his or her own selfish desires, or what will be pleasing to God.  To put it simply, then, this contention for the free will of man is what this war is all about.

The Nature of the Conflict

When we describe this war as a clash between kingdoms, mind you, we are not talking about physical or material kingdoms, but spiritual ones.  They are actually the systems of governance which rule the hearts and minds of people and, by extension, the operating systems existing in the spheres where these people live.  We need to clarify this because I think there is a tendency on our parts to regard Satan as the owner of the Earth when, in reality, he isn’t.  In Ephesians 2:2, the Apostle Paul calls him the Prince of the Power of the Air because that is where his domain is.  The Earth itself, on the other hand, still belongs to God…

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein… (Psalm 24:1)

Since Adam and Eve were only given the Right to Rule as God’s governors on the Earth—and not the title deed to it—the Dominion that Satan took from them also gave him the Authority to rule over the world and its systems, but not the legal ownership of the Earth.  Even so, this Authority alone was enough to enable him, over time, to establish the political, cultural, and religious systems that are so reflective of his ambition and nature–systems which he has used so effectively to manipulate and dominate his poor, unsuspecting subjects ever since the Garden of Eden.

Because Satan’s kingdom was founded upon pride and rebellion, and operates on the basis of deception and lies, slander and corruption, every institution that he has established as part of this world’s system bears those same characteristics and functions according to the same principles.  Through these institutions, as well as through his constant appeal to the pride and baser human instincts of man, he has—as the god of this world—been able to control the hearts, minds, and especially the wills of those in his kingdom, and has…

…blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

The Devil's Tactics

No Tactic is too Low

In the war to maintain control of his subjects and his territory, no underhanded scheme or dirty trick has been beneath him—with guerrilla warfare being his specialty.   To use the words of Jesus…

He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44); and, is…

The thief [who] comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10).

C.S Lewis, in his classic apologetic novel, The Screwtape Letters, imagines this war of wills through the eyes of a seasoned demon named Screwtape, when he writes…

To us [demons] a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy [God] demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth.

He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because he has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His.  We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy (God) wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct. [3]

In this excerpt, Lewis clarifies the Nature of the Conflict for us:  Satan and those in his kingdom want to destroy the individual and absorb his will into their own, in order to satisfy their insatiable greed and increase their power base; while God and those in His Kingdom want to bring the individual into the Family of God, shower him with love, and empower him to become the unique and whole/holy person God created him to be.   In the former, the motivation is selfishness and greed, while in the latter, it is giving and grace.  Given the marked contrast in the nature of these two kingdoms, we might wonder why anyone in their right mind would will to remain in a kingdom such a Satan’s, when they could will to enjoy the freedom in a Kingdom like God’s.  As I see it, the most likely explanation is that they have no idea that the Kingdom of God even exists, and that they can actually choose to be a part of it—a situation directly attributable to the Church’s lack of obedience in carrying out Christ’s final and Great Commission to…

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-19).

Soldier of the Cross

Armed and Ready to Serve

As the Sons and Daughters of God–and Soldiers of the Cross, it is our responsibility to take the Light of the Gospel into the sin-darkened territories held by Satan, so that those still imprisoned there can see their way clear to the Kingdom of God.  Instead of going AWOL, we need to suit up and show up, ready for battle—because the sooner we do what we are supposed to do, the sooner the war will end.

The Outcome of the Conflict

Because…

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9)…

…He will not bring this war to an end until every single one of His Children has been brought home to Him.  When all those who will be saved are saved, and His Family is complete, He will crush His enemies, merely by the Word of His mouth, and set up His Kingdom of Righteousness and Peace on the Earth. Satan and all those in his kingdom will be thrown into the Lake of Fire where they will suffer forever, while those in God’s Kingdom will take their places before him and hear, at last, their Father say…

Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master (Matthew 25:21).

 

Keith and Kristyn Getty challenge the Church to Arise…

 

 

 

[1] History Channel Website, http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii.

[2] Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man (Richmond, VA: Christian Fellowship Publishers, Incorporated, 1968), Book 3, 77.

[3] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), chapter 8.

 

Spiritual Warfare: Preparation for Our Destiny

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Authorized by Christ

…to Take Down the Kingdom of Darkness

In our last exercise, Spiritual Warfare: A Question of Authority, we were introduced to the concept of Dominion; and, as part of that introduction, we learned that our Destiny, as God’s Children, is to one-day rule alongside of Christ in His Coming Kingdom.  In anticipation of and preparation for that Destiny, God gifted the first Man and Woman with the Authority that they (and we) would need to rule over His Earthly Creation.

Unfortunately, this Authority was lost—handed over to Satan, in fact—when Adam and Eve succumbed to his temptation to disobey God in order to become “gods” on their own terms—that is, apart from God and through their own wisdom and works.  Of course, it didn’t take long for them to realize what a foolish decision that was; for, not only did they immediately lose their (and our) Authority to rule, but both they and we became slaves to Satan, sin, and death in the process.

Thankfully, God already had a plan in place—a plan in which His Son, Jesus, would come to the Earth as a Man, live and die as a Man; and then, through His sacrificial and atoning death on the Cross, He would recover Man’s lost estate—which included the forfeited Right to Rule over the Earth.  It was this Authority that Jesus, upon the successful completion of His mission, restored to His Disciples, and to all who would later come to Faith in God through Him.

He May Have Lost His Authority but He Still Has His Teeth

If We’ve Already Won, Why Fight?

When we say that Jesus, through His Victorious Death and Resurrection, won back our lost Authority, we do not mean to imply that He divested Satan of any of his power.  That’s because, in spite of the often-interchangeable use of these words, Authority and Power are two different things.  As Dutch Sheets explains…

…authority and power are not the same.  Power is the ‘strength or force’ needed to rule; authority is the ‘right’ to do so.  They are governmental twins and must operate in tandem; authority without the power to enforce it is meaningless; power exercised without authority—the right to use that power—is usurpation and is morally wrong.

Satan didn’t gain any power at the fall and didn’t lose any at the cross.  His power or ability didn’t change at either event; his authority, or the right to use that power, did.  In fact, though Christians often state otherwise, Scripture nowhere says that Christ delivered us from or dealt with Satan’s power at Calvary.  He dealt with Satan’s authority.[1]

This difference is important for us to grasp because it will help us understand the Apostle Peter’s warning to…

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

It is also an important distinction to be made because…

If Jesus stripped Satan of his power, as some teach, then we longer need to concern ourselves with him—he becomes a nonissue.  Or if we Christians have been delivered from Satan’s power, as some teach, then he can no longer affect or control us.  We would be able to ignore him completely, which is precisely what many Christians do.

If on the other hand, Jesus dealt with Satan’s authority—the right to use his power or abilities—then we would need to deal with him as a usurper, a rebel, a thief that has no right to steal, kill, and destroy but will if not stopped (see John 10:10).  If we have been delivered from Satan’s authority and given a higher authority in Christ’s name, then we must exercise that authority over the devil’s works and power.  When we do, God’s awesome power will back up our authority.[2]

Since we know that Jesus has dealt with Satan’s authority, and we have been delivered from his authority and given a higher one in Christ’s name, we must use what we have been given to stop the works of the Satanic Usurper so that the Kingdom of Heaven can come to the Earth—just as God has always intended it to do.

For although Satan knows what Christ did to him at Calvary and through the Resurrection, and realizes that as a part of Christ the believer is his master, he still carries on a guerilla warfare against the Church through the use of subterfuge, deception, and bluff.  While guerilla warfare is illegal, it is still warfare and must be faced and overcome.  God could put Satan completely away, but He has chosen to use him to give the Church ‘on-the-job’ training in overcoming.  Otherwise, there would be no more warfare of any kind.

We are in apprenticeship for our place with Christ on the throne following the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  The crown belongs to the conqueror—and without an adversary there could be no practice in overcoming.[3]

Crown of Righteousness

Is There a Crown in Your Future?

An Apprenticeship in Overcoming

By definition, to overcome means to…

  • to get the better of in a struggle or conflict; conquer; defeat: as in, to overcome the enemy; or,
  • to prevail over (opposition, a debility, temptations, etc.); surmount: as in, to overcome one’s weaknesses.[4]

I don’t know about you but the thought of all this effort holds little to no appeal for me; as someone with a serious aversion to confrontation and conflict, it sounds like a lot more hostility and hardship than I want to sign up for.  Given my “druthers,” my flesh—that is, my body and soul—would prefer to coast along through life with as few physical challenges and emotional hassles as possible.  However, this just isn’t going to happen, is it?  As most of us can already attest to, life seems to be one series of obstacles after another; between which, if we are fortunate, we find brief periods of rest and relief.  So, in light of this, what should our attitude toward these obstacles be?

The Apostle Paul answers that question for us in Philippians 2:5, when he challenges us to…

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…

…a challenge which then begs the question, what kind of mind did Jesus have?  Having previously reviewed some of the humiliation, rejection, opposition, and affliction that Jesus encountered on His way to the Cross in our last exercise, and considering how He triumphed over every obstacle that stood between Him and the completion of His mission—a mission which ultimately ended with His victory over death itself—I think we can safely say that the mind of Christ was one of an Overcomer.

I bet you didn’t realize it at the time but, when you trusted Christ as your Savior, you also became an overcomer, just like Him.  That’s because, before you could even come to faith in Him, you had to overcome three really big obstacles; or, the things that the Bible refers to as “the world, the flesh, and the devil.”   This means that on your way to the Cross, you had to overcome the downward pull of the world and its culture, the inward pull of your sinful human nature, plus all of the obstacles that were placed in your path by the devil solely for the purpose of keeping you away from Jesus.  And, since all of this was being accomplished over the course of time, you probably had no idea at all that this was what you were actually doing.

Overcomer

We Can Do All Things Through Christ

The truth is, that as distasteful as the thought of overcoming may be to our flesh, once we are Born Again through Christ, it becomes part of our spiritual makeup—that is, as these verses attest to, part of our Spiritual DNA…

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4).

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them [opposing spirits], for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (Revelation 3:21).

Overcoming, then, is the process by which we, as the Church, learn to take authority over the obstacles and the enemies that are trying to keep God’s Will and Kingdom from coming to the Earth.  It is imperative that we become adept at this because, as the Bride of God’s Son, we will one-day be ruling with Him over this very same Kingdom.  As the Apostle Paul explains it…

…do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?  Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! (1 Corinthians 6:2-3)

Therefore, in preparation for its glorious Destiny, the Church—the Bride of Christ…

…must learn the art of spiritual warfare, of overcoming evil forces in preparation for her assumption of the throne following the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  To enable her to learn the technique of overcoming, God devised the scheme of prayer.  To give her ‘on-the-job’ training, God delegated to her the authority to enforce His will right here on earth.  In order to enable her to acquire the character and the ‘know how’ she will need as co-sovereign, He has place upon her the responsibility and authority to enforce God’s will and administer His decisions in the affairs of earth.[5]

We’re in the Army Now!

God's Army

Our Faithful Service for Christ will bring us Eternal Rewards

Although they may be unaware of it at the time, when New Believers come to Christ for Salvation, in addition to being Born Again spiritually and adopted into the Family of God, they are also automatically inducted into the Armed Forces of God.  Make no mistake about it, this is by no means a Volunteer Army; for, everyone who is raised to New Life in Christ is immediately conscripted into it as one of His Soldiers.

Unfortunately, some of these Believers, due to a lack of adequate Discipleship Training, remain woefully ignorant of the Spiritual War that is raging around them and of their responsibility to do battle in it—so they never even report for Service.  Some others, when they are made aware of the conflict, acknowledge the reality of the situation but then refuse to become involved; leaving others to do the fighting for them, while they assume positions as Conscientious Objectors.  And, still others, when informed of the War and their status as Soldiers in it, flatly refuse to believe that it is real and go AWOL, choosing to live out their lives in a perpetual state of Spiritual Denial.

But, let’s not be counted among these!  Not only does their absence on the Spiritual Battlefield hurt the cause of Christ and hinder the coming of His Kingdom, but it also robs them of the rewards they may have otherwise received in that Kingdom.

Instead, let’s keep in mind that…

…we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10); and,

…whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward (Colossians 3:23-24).

Then, we can…

…press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14); being…

…fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised (Romans 4:21).

 

 

Mandisa reminds us that each of us is an “Overcomer” through Christ …

 

[1] Dutch Sheets, Authority in Prayer: Praying with Power and Purpose (Bethany House: Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2006), 20.

[2] Sheets, Authority in Prayer, 21.

[3] Paul E. Billheimer, Destined for the Throne (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1975), 91.

[4] overcome. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/overcome (accessed: August 27, 2017).

[5] Billheimer, Destined for the Throne, 49.

Spiritual Warfare: A Question of Authority

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The Workout Room

Take the Challenge

So far, in our efforts to become more spiritually fit, we have successfully worked our way through three of the four levels of exercise in our Workout Program; where, at…

     Level 1, we covered the basics of our Faith; learning how, through Salvation, we are Redeemed from Sin and Death, and adopted as children into the Family of God.

     Level 2, we dealt with Sanctification; or, the life-long training process by which the Holy Spirit transforms us from the Sinners we once were into Holy Sons and Daughters of God.

     Level 3, we learned about Service; or, the Work of God that we, as His Children—the Church—have been commissioned to carry out. It was here that we were introduced to the concept that we…

…as the Corporate Body of Christ, are to reach out to those in the world around us, bringing them the good news of God’s Love and Salvation;
…as the Corporate Soul of Christ, are to relate as Family to those who are already a part of God’s Family; and,
…as the Corporate Spirit of Christ, are to serve as the Army of Spiritual Warriors charged with the task of liberating those still held in captivity by Satan, and taking his territory captive for the Kingdom of God.

Since this last matter deals with Spiritual Warfare, something which we have only recently touched upon, we will make its study the objective of this fourth and final Level of Exercise in our Program—a Program which, when completed, will have helped us…

Define our Position, as a Child of God;
Refine our Person, as a Child of God;
Outline our Purpose, as a Child of God; and,
Underline our Power, as a Child of God. 

It is through this progressive pattern of growth—from Position to Person to Purpose to Power—that we have advanced from our original state of spiritual infancy to God’s more highly desired state of spiritual maturity, becoming better equipped along the way for our eternal destiny with Jesus Christ.

Not How to Spend Eternity

It’s Certainly Not Biblical

What is this destiny for which we, as the Children of God, are presently being equipped?   Contrary to one of the more popular conceptions of what life will be like in the hereafter, we will not be floating around on a cloud, with a crown on our heads and nothing better to do than strum on our harps for all eternity.  Not only is this a perfectly wasteful—not to mention boring—way to spend one’s everlasting life, but it in no way compensates us for all of the hardships we have had to suffer through during our earthly sojourns.  And, it certainly doesn’t call for any specialized equipping on our parts to prepare for it.

On the other hand, the destiny that God has planned for us is a gloriously challenging one.  In keeping with His divinely ordained principles of Sowing and Reaping, it is one that will provide us with levels of rewards commensurate with the levels of faithfulness we have demonstrated during our time of training on the earth, and elevate us to positions of authority in the coming Kingdom of God.  From these positions, we will exercise the Dominion originally gifted to us by God, lost to us as a result of the Fall, and restored to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Destined for Dominion, Subjected to Slavery 

We first learned about this matter of Dominion during one of our visits to the story of Adam and Eve.  For, it was there that, upon his creation, Man—as both Male and Female—was commanded by God to fill the earth with people, and to rule over everything in it.  This Right to Rule, however, was lost when Adam, as a result of his disobedience to God, forfeited his Position of Power—a position which Satan immediately claimed as his own.

In his classic book, Destined for the Throne, the late Paul Billheimer explains some of the legal issues involved in this transfer of power…

The entire universe is governed by law…God’s grant of authority and dominion over the earth to man was a bona-fide gift.  This authority and dominion became legally his.  What he did with it was his own responsibility.  If, so to speak, he ‘fumbled the ball’ and lost it, God could not lawfully step in and repossess it for him.[1]

We know from Romans 6:16 that…

…if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness.

Therefore, when Adam chose to obey Satan instead of God, he became Satan’s slave.  And…

As a slave of Satan, Adam lost all of his legal rights, not only to his person but also to his domain.  This gave Satan legal authority to rule over man and the earth.  If Satan’s dominion was to be revoked, a way had to be found to redeem fallen man and recover his lost authority without violating universal principles of justice.

No angel could enter the contest because these legal rights were never his.  Thus a member of Adam’s race had to be found who could qualify to enter suit in universal court and wrest Adam’s lost heritage and dominion from Satan.  The government of the earth had been given to man.  It was lost by man.  It could be legally recovered only by a man.[2]

But where was such a man to be found?  To qualify for the task at hand, he would have to be a full-fledged human being; and yet, because Adam and all those who would eventually descend from him had become the slaves of Satan, he would have to be sinless in order to be free from Satan’s control…

To the human mind the situation was hopeless, but God found a way.  ‘When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons’ (Gal. 4:4).  God solved the problem by the Incarnation.

Since Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, the divine nature was present in Him.  Because he was sinless, Satan had no claim upon Him.  But because He was ‘made of a woman,’ He was an authentic human being and could therefore qualify as a bona-fide member of the human race to enter the legal fight to reclaim Adam’s lost estate.[3]

Victory in Jesus

He Has Made Us More than Conquerors

The Spiritual Battle to the Cross 

Although I can’t think of anyone who would willingly sign up for a task like this, the spiritual battle to win back our freedom that Jesus freely committed Himself to was one that was repeatedly characterized by humiliation, rejection, opposition, and affliction; which, when you put them all together, add up to a whole lot of suffering.

Just think of the humiliation involved when…

…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2: 5-8).

Or, the rejection He must have experienced when…

  • His family…went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind (Mark 3:21).
  • The people in His hometown said, ‘Where did this man get these things?  What is the wisdom given to him?  How are such mighty works done by his hands?  Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?  And are not his sisters here with us?’  And they took offense at him (Mark 6: 2-3).
  • John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus, asking, ‘Are you [sure] you are the one [the Messiah] who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ (Matt. 11:3)
  • Upon hearing some of Jesus’ hard sayings, ‘…many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.’  (John 6:66)

As for opposition, Jesus had that in abundance; for, even as a child, when He was perceived to be a contender for his throne, King Herod tried to have Him killed.  And later, during His earthly ministry, He found Himself constantly at odds with all factions of Jewish society…

  • With the Sadducees, because He threatened their economic and political power;
  • With the Pharisees, because they considered Jesus a law-breaker, and His teachings overturned their religious traditions;
  • With the Essenes, the ascetics of the day, who considered Jesus too worldly because He socialized with “sinners;”
  • With the Zealots, or the anarchists of the day, because Jesus preached a message of love instead of rebellion; and,
  • With the people who, in their apathy, did not want to be confronted with change.

And, when it came to affliction, no one has ever endured more.  Of Him, it was said that…

…he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.  By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?  (Is. 53: 2-8)

And, if all this wasn’t enough, from the time of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry until the moment when He drew His final breath, Satan, in an effort to take Him captive through sin just like the first Adam, was constantly working to trip Him up…

The fallen Lucifer, once the Light Bearer, the guardian of the throne of God, the highest of all pre-Adamic created beings, marshaled all of the available resources of the underworld in an effort to break down the allegiance of the God-man to His heavenly Father.  One weakness revealed, one thought of rebellion or self will entertained, and all of Jesus’ efforts to repossess the world and its enslaved race from the usurping god of the world would be lost.[4]

But, Praise God, in spite of all this pressure, Jesus didn’t give in; for…

When Jesus died without failing in the smallest detail, His death resulted not only in defeating Satan’s purpose to obtain a claim upon Him—it also canceled all of Satan’s legal claim upon the earth and the whole human race…

Therefore, since Calvary, Satan has absolutely no rights or claims upon anyone or anything.  Whatever authority he carried with him on his banishment from heaven passed into the hands of the new Man along with the lost heritage of Adam[5]

Dominion Restored

So We Can Rule and Reign with Him Throughout Eternity

Our Authority Restored

It is this authority that Jesus restored to His disciples; the same authority…

…to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you (Luke 10:19)…

…that Jesus delegated to the seventy-two He sent out to proclaim the Kingdom of God—and, it is the same authority that we possess today.  For…

As individuals we have authority over all the combined powers of the enemy.  This is an incredible, wonderful truth.  Everything at Satan’s disposal—every demon, every coven, every cult and religion, every work, and every influence—is subject to the authority given to us by Jesus.

When Jesus rose from the dead after ripping the usurped authority from Satan’s hands, He did not immediately go to heaven.  He stopped off to see the eleven remaining disciples…Jesus handed to them the authority He had taken from Satan.  The authority legally changed hands once more and belonged to man again.[6]

This truth is what we need to keep at the forefront of our thinking as we approach our upcoming exercises in Spiritual Warfare—because our success in any battle will be totally dependent upon our acknowledgement of the One who has already won the victory.  Satan and his demons certainly know who it is; for, it was Jesus who, after overcoming every form of Spiritual Warfare in His life–on the Cross and through His resurrection…

…disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them (Colossians 2:15).

Even so, Satan and his legions continue to fight on, using our ignorance of the authority in Christ as one of their chief means of success.  Let’s determine not to give them that critical edge over us; always bearing in mind that, in whatever situation we may find ourselves, the One who won the war for us has already been there on our behalf…

…For, we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Therefore…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  (Hebrews 12:1-4)

The Victory of the Cross

The War Has Already Been Won for Us by Jesus

 

 

The Gaither Vocal Band reminds us of who we are in “On the Authority”…

 

 

[1] Paul E. Billheimer, Destined for the Throne (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1975), 73.

[2] Billheimer, Destined, 73-74.

[3] Billheimer, Destined, 74.

[4] Billheimer, Destined, 76.

[5] Billheimer, Destined, 79-80.

[6] Dean Sherman, Spiritual Warfare for Every Christian (Seattle, Washington: YWAM Publishing, 1990), 130-131.

Service:  Women and the Work of God, Part 2

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It’s Way Past Time

As promised at the end of our last workout session, we are back to finish what we started in our exercise on Service: Women and the Work of God.  There, in Part One, in pursuit of a better understanding of the role God intends for Women to play in the Service of His Kingdom, we began, once again, with the story of Adam and Eve; looking at it to determine…

  1. God’s Purposes for the Sexes;
  2. God’s Punishment of the Sexes; and,
  3. God’s Promise to the Sexes.

As a result, before our break, we discovered that in His quest for a Family to love, God created Man as a Spirit Being; a Spirit which He then placed in the two houses He called Male and Female.  As a Spirit, Man could relate to God and, in the physical houses of Male and Female, he could (re)produce the Family that God has always desired.  We also learned that, because he was created first, the Man was placed in the Position of Head over God’s Creation; with the Woman being created later, to be his Companion and Helper in carrying out the Work of God.  This arrangement, however, did not mean that the Male was superior to the Female; for, from the beginning of their history together, they were both…

Equal in their standing before God;
Equal in their call to the work of God; and,
Equal in their blessing by God. 

Something else that we learned was that, in his Position as Head, the Man was meant to reflect the Headship of God the Father; while the Woman was intended to be a picture of the nature and work of the Holy Spirit.  As such, the Man possessed what the late Dr. Myles Munroe referred to as Position Power, while the Woman possessed what he aptly described as Influence Power.  In the words of Dr. Munroe…

Power and influence are equal, but different…

First, position-power generally comes with a title, such as king, governor, doctor, or pastor.  Second, position-power is usually executed through commands, whether verbal or written.  It is the authority that goes with the position, and the commands, that is the nature of the man’s power.

Influence-power manifests itself in a very different way.

First, a woman may have a title, but she doesn’t need a title to lead.  She leads by influence…Second, a woman doesn’t need to talk in order to run things.  She leads just by her influence…the woman doesn’t need to say a word; she just looks, and people respond.  This is a very powerful influence.[1]

Position-power announces itself.  Influence-power just comes in and controls things.  By the time you realize its presence, it has already taken over.[2] 

We will learn more about these differing leadership functions as we progress in this exercise—especially when dealing with Man’s Testing in the Garden, and the consequences of his failure there.  Since that was where we left off in Part 1, that is where we will begin this time—as we continue our look into…

  1. God’s Punishment of the Sexes

No matter how well you package it, testing is one gift that I think few, if any, would look forward to receiving.  At its mere mention, most of us shrink back; no doubt, put off by the mental images it evokes—images of the hard work and preparation it requires, the struggle involved in making the right choices, and the thoughts of failure and the consequences which that would bring.  Given the amount of angst involved in testing’s anticipation, it was probably a good thing Adam and Eve did not see it coming.

God, on the other hand, not only knew that it was coming but He purposely allowed it into their lives.  That’s because, to Him, testing is essential to the proving of one’s righteousness and obedience to the Word and Will of God; so essential, in fact, that He required the same kind of testing of His Son, Jesus Christ.  For, immediately following His baptism and just prior to the beginning of His public ministry…

…Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1).

The Apostle James explains some of the principles of testing in this way…

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:12-15).

While this sort of downward progression is something we see taking place in the testing of Adam and Eve, of more immediate interest to us is the cunning plan lurking behind Satan’s temptation, and the bearing it will have on God’s punishment of Man’s transgression.

The Cunning Behind the Con 

In Service:  Interrupted…By Devilish Design, we learned of Satan’s goal to subvert the Kingdom of God and supplant it with his own.  Since God’s Kingdom is a Spirit-Down one, ordered in the following way…

God first;
The Man, next;
Then, the Woman; and,
Lastly, the Animals…

 …for Satan to achieve his goal, he would have to overturn God’s Spirit-Down order and replace it with a Flesh-Up one.  By Flesh-Up, I mean that Man would be living life, no longer under the direction of the Spirit of God, but according to the fleshly dictates imposed on him by his body and soul.  In a Flesh-Up order, Man would be dead to the things of God, and the line of communication between him and his Maker would be severed.  In this condition, he could not become a Child of God, and any Service he might have rendered as such to the Kingdom of God would be eliminated.  This, of course, is exactly the type of situation that Satan was hoping to create when he approached Adam and Eve in the Garden. 

The Effects of the Fall

The Effects of the Fall

As for his method of achieving this end, instead of confronting Adam directly, the possessor of the Position Power and the direct Word of God, Satan made his sly and subtle appeal to Eve.

The devil is clever…he was after the man, because the man is the foundation, but he couldn’t get to the man because position-power can usually stand firm as long as its position is genuine.  You can’t destroy position-power directly; you have to destroy it through influence.[3]

So, appearing in the form of a Serpent, he beguiled Eve into eating of the Forbidden Fruit; and then, through the manipulation of her Influence Power, he succeeded in enticing her husband to join her in her Sin.  As a result of this coup, Satan’s reversal of God’s order was complete, for…

  • A member of the Animal Kingdom had usurped the authority of the Woman;
  • The Woman had used her Powers of Persuasion to usurp the authority of the Man; and,
  • The Man had rejected the authority of God and His Word, abdicating his position of Headship in the process.

The Consequences of the Con

In Genesis 3: 14-19, we find the record of God’s judgment on this upheaval of His divine order, a judgment in which the punishment was meted out in the same order in which the crime was committed.  Addressing the Serpent first, God said…

Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

Next, He came to the Woman, and said…

I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.  Your desire shall be contrary to  your husband[for your husband, in some translations] , but he shall rule over you.

Then, finally, to the Man, He had this to say…

Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.

By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Looking closely at these judgments, we can also see that in each case, the punishment was appropriate for the crime—something to be expected, given that everything in God’s Creation was designed to reproduce “…after its own kind.”  We know this to be true because God said so ten times in the Creation Story found in Genesis 1—a principle which was later affirmed by the Apostle Paul in this very familiar passage…

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Galatians 6: 7-8).

And…there is NO Way of Getting Around This

Here, then, is the way this Sowing and Reaping Principle played out in God’s Judgment on the perpetrators of this crime…

The Serpent—as an Animal 

  • Because it had presumed to raise itself above its divinely-ordained station in life, it would be brought down, cursed as the lowliest of creatures, to spend its days slithering on the ground.
  • Because it had tempted Eve to eat what she shouldn’t have, it would have to eat what it didn’t want to—which was dust.
  • Instead of being looked upon as the beautiful creature that it once was, it would forever after be regarded as a loathsome beast.
  • Instead of the friendly relationship it had shared with the Woman in the Garden, from then on, their relationship would be one of mutual hostility.

The Serpent—as the Devil

  • As the one who had exalted himself in rebellion against God, leading others to do the same, he was given notice that eventually he would be “…brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit (Isaiah 14:15).”
  • Here, he was presented with a “Declaration of War” by God—the notice of perpetual warfare between his kingdom and the Kingdom of God; between his offspring, the Wicked, and the offspring of the Woman, the Righteous.
  • And, because it was the Woman whom he had beguiled, here he was notified that it would be through her childbearing of the Righteous Seed of God that he would ultimately suffer defeat and meet his doom.

The Woman

  • The blessing of childbearing, which prior to the Fall, would have been a joy, would now be accompanied by pain and sorrow.
  • Submission to her husband, which before the Fall, would never have been an issue or a hardship, would now be a daily struggle.
  • Her Influence Power, which before the Fall, would have remained unchecked, would—until the coming of the promised Deliverer and Restorer—have to be regulated by means of external restraints. For, apart from the internal control provided by the Holy Spirit, the Woman would continue to use her Influence Power to manipulate and control the Man, and he would use his Position Power to try and dominate her in an effort to keep her “in her place.”  For some examples of a Woman’s Influence Power gone horribly wrong, we need look no farther than the Old Testament…

— To Sarah who, through her Influence Power, convinced Abraham to have a child by her maid, Hagar, rather than wait for God to fulfill His promise;
— To Delilah who, through her Influence Power, succeeded in bringing down Israel’s most powerful judge, Samson; and,
— To Jezebel who, through her Influence Power, manipulated her weak-willed husband, Ahab, and corrupted Israel with her idolatry.

The Man

  • His habitation from then on would be among thorns and thistles, instead of the lush beauty he had experienced in the Garden.
  • His occupation would become a toil, instead of the pleasure that it had once been in the Garden.
  • His food would become difficult to obtain, instead of being readily available, as it had been in the Garden.
  • His life would be shortened and he would be returned to the soil, instead of living forever in the Garden of God’s Fellowship.

At this point, it is important for us to note that God’s Punishment on the Sexes here was in no way a Curse.  That’s because, back in Genesis 1: 28, God had already blessed the Man and Woman.  And, from what we learn later in Numbers 23: 8,20, when the prophet, Balaam, was hired by the king of Moab to curse Israel, each time he tried, a blessing would come out instead of a curse.  Balaam’s explanation at the time was this…

How can I curse whom God has not cursed?  How can I denounce whom God has not denounced?   …he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.

Since that which God has blessed cannot be cursed, the only things to be cursed here were the Serpent and the Soil.  For the Serpent, there is no hope that his curse will ever be removed; but, for the Soil, there is such a hope, and it will be realized when God’s Promise to the Sexes has been fulfilled…

For the creation waits with eager longing 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 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now (Romans 8: 19-22).

  1. God’s Promise to the Sexes.

The Promise that God made to the Sexes may be hard for us to spot at first, and that’s because it’s contained in the unlikeliest of places—it was not given to the Sexes directly, but was first spoken of in the curse which God pronounced on the Serpent.  His Promise was that one day, a Holy Offspring would be born to the Woman—the One by whom Satan would finally be crushed, and all that the Sexes had lost in the Fall would be restored.  Of course, this Redeemer and Restorer was none other than Jesus Christ, who, through His obedience to the Father, not only secured our Salvation, but restored us to the Purposes of God.  Matthew Henry describes the work of Christ on our behalf in the following way…

How admirably the satisfaction our Lord Jesus made by his death and sufferings answered to the sentence here passed upon our first parents.

— Did travailing pains come in with sin? We read of the travail of Christ’s soul (Isaiah 53:11).
— Did subjection come in with sin? Christ was made under the law (Galatians 4:4).

— Did the curse come in with sin? Christ was made a curse for us, died a cursed death (Galatians 3:13).
— Did thorns come in with sin? He was crowned with thorns for us.
— Did sweat come in with sin? He for us did sweat as it were great drops of blood.
— Did sorrow come in with sin? He was a man of sorrows, his soul was, in his agony, exceedingly sorrowful.
— Did death come in with sin? He became obedient to death.[4]

Through His substitutionary death on the Cross—dying the death that should have been ours—Christ redeemed us from the power and the penalty of the Law, delivered us from bondage to sin and death, reconciled us to the Father, gifted us with eternal life, and empowered us with His Holy Spirit.  With the Spirit now living within us, writing God’s Laws on our hearts, the restraints previously imposed on us by the Old Testament Law are no longer needed.

Now, empowered from within by the Spirit of Christ, the Man can love his wife as Christ loves the Church, regard her as his equal in the work of the Lord, and not have to resort to his Position Power to dominate her into submission.  The Woman, empowered by the same Spirit, can respect her husband and submit to his leadership—for the sake of order—just as Christ has submitted to the leadership of the Father.  She can keep her Influence Power in check herself, making sure that it is used to glorify God and not to manipulate others—because…

Under the redemptive work of Christ, the woman is not only restored to fellowship with God but is restored to the position of partner with her male counterpart.  Therefore, she is no longer to be dominated or ruled by the male, because, if she were, it would mean that the redemptive work of Christ had not been successful.[5]

A Woman in Christ

If the Spirit of God can raise Christ from the dead, He can certainly control a Woman’s Influence Power

Scriptural Stumbling Blocks to a Woman’s Service

Now that we have established the fact that, in Christ, Male and Female are once again…

Equal in their standing before God;
Equal in their call to the work of God; and,
Equal in their blessing by God…

…why is it that Women are still being denied the freedom to exercise their God-given gifts of Leadership in His Service?  I think that, in most cases, it can be traced back to a misunderstanding of the two most troublesome Scripture passages that relate to Women.  Both of these were penned by Paul, with the first one being found in 1 Corinthians 14: 33-35…

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.  If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church…

…and, the second one being found in 1 Timothy 2: 11-15…

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.  Yet she will be saved through [the] childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Doesn’t the Church have more important issues to deal with than this?

The reason these passages have created so many problems is that they have, more often than not, been taken out of their immediate context; and, instead of them being interpreted in light of the cultural conditions of the day, they have been isolated from the rest of the passage and elevated to the stature of a doctrine which, in its meaning, flies in the face of not only Paul’s but Jesus’ attitudes toward women.

For example, in Paul’ first letter to the Corinthians, he was dealing with a number of problems that were creating disorder in their church—problems such as spiritual pride, the misunderstanding and misuse of spiritual gifts, marital issues, confusion concerning the resurrection, and even incest.  Please note Paul’s emphasis that God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.  This is a good indication that there was confusion in the church and it was being caused by some unruly women.

So what did Paul mean when he told the women to keep silent?  If he was indeed saying that women should not minister publicly, he was contradicting what he said earlier when he gave instructions for women’s dress code while prophesying!  There must be an explanation.  As we examine these verses, we will see that Paul was definitely not teaching against women ministering publicly.  Rather, he was correcting the way in which women were ministering in the Corinthian church.[6]

In his letter to Timothy, however, Paul was addressing a different set of problems; ones created as a result of false teaching infiltrating the church at Ephesus—the church where Timothy was ministering.  In all likelihood, this false teaching involved some “old wives’ tales” that were being passed down from the older women to the younger ones; tales promoting Eve, in her sin, as a benefactor to humanity, instead of as the transgressor that Paul later states she was.  To counter this heresy, Paul first addressed the women of the church in general, instructing them on how Godly women should dress and behave.  Then, he directed his attention to one woman in particular—the one most responsible for promoting the false doctrine—and commanded that she not be allowed to teach.  Instead…

Paul…commanded this woman to learn but not to teach.  Why?  Because she had been teaching false doctrine.  Therefore, Paul set aside the normal link between learning and teaching in her case.  For a season, she was being disciplined, corrected.  She couldn’t be allowed to continue spreading false doctrine.  It was time for her to abstain from teaching altogether and dedicate herself to study alone.

Paul silenced this woman not because she was a woman but because she was teaching false doctrine to others.[7]*

Now, concerning the question of women being saved through motherhood…

The phrase “the childbearing” is unique.  It isn’t found anywhere else in the New Testament…it’s a noun, dramatically preceded by the definite article (‘the childbearing’) to point to one particular childbearing…

‘The childbearing’ refers to the one mediator between God and persons, the person Christ Jesus, the promised seed of Eve, the Child born of a woman.  The issue at stake here was salvation, not motherhood.  Women aren’t saved by getting pregnant and having babies.  They’re saved by the child who was born–Jesus!  Throughout this passage, Paul was talking about how men and women are redeemed, not about how they procreate.  The central truth of this entire passage is Jesus and God’s desire for all to be saved through the promised childbearing.[8]

As for Jesus’ attitude toward women, I think we can agree that He always treated them with respect.  We have no record of Him ever rebuking a woman and telling her to be quiet, or forbidding her to minister in some fashion. Following His encounter with the woman at the well, she left Him and immediately went back to her town and started preaching about Jesus—something which He did not criticize or attempt to discourage.  It was to a group of women that He entrusted the good news of His resurrection, and it was to His Bride, the Church, that He entrusted the good news of His saving grace; charging her to use her Influence Power to convince the world of His Truth, and to…

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matthew 28: 19-20).

Now, for those who may still have issues with Women in Leadership, I would like to offer this suggestion from Dr. Munroe…

…if you as a male have problems with a female preacher, I encourage you to close your eyes and listen to the spirit-man speaking.  This approach has helped many men.  Listen to what’s being said.  If the female house is the problem, then ignore the house and listen to the resident, the spirit-man within, because God speaks through the spirit-man.  It is the Spirit that gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6)[8]

…and, to bring this session to a close with this thought from J. Lee Grady…

Jesus’ blood was shed for all women, and it is the only covering they will ever need.  Blood-bought women don’t need a man to bring them closer to God.  Blood-bought women don’t need a man to legitimize their ministries.  Blood-bought women don’t need a man to ‘cover’ their spiritual endeavors or to replace the leadership of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

The blood of Christ is a woman’s true covering.  For the church to require anything more is to renounce our faith.[9]

In the Spirit-Man there is No Male and Female

*Since space and time will not permit a further examination of the passages here, I would like to suggest these books as resources for those interested in a more in-depth study of the subject…

Understanding the Purpose and Power of Woman, by Dr. Myles Munroe;
Why Not Women? by Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton;
I Suffer Not a Woman, by Richard Clark Kroeger and Catherine Clark Kroeger;
10 Lies the Church Tells Women, by J. Lee Grady; and,
What Paul Really Said About Women, by John T. Bristow.

 

 

In keeping with the theme of this exercise, here is Shackles, by Mary Mary…

 

 

[1] Dr. Myles Munroe, Understanding the Purpose and Power of Woman (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2001), 185-186.

[2] Munroe, 189.

[3] Munroe, 187.

[4] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing House, 1960), 11.

[5] Munroe, 191.

[6] Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton, Why Not Women? (Seattle, Washington: YWAM Publishing, 2000), 185.

[7] Cunningham and Hamilton, 219.

[8] Cunningham and Hamilton, 224.

[9] Munroe, 197.

[10] J. Lee Grady, 10 Lies the Church Tells Women (Lake May, Florida: Charisma House, 2000), 100.

Service: Women and the Work of God, Part 1

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Can't Isn't in My Vocabulary

This is what my mother always told me!

In our last exercise, Service: Interrupted…By Devilish Design, we learned how Satan, in his drive to establish his kingdom’s rule over the earth, has been at work trying to prevent the establishment of God’s Kingdom on the earth.  We discovered that, from the beginning of human history to the present time, he has…

  • Grown his kingdom by alienating people from God, taking and keeping them captive through sin;
  • Limited the growth of God’s Kingdom by keeping those under his dominion ignorant of God’s goodness, as well as the freedom they could be enjoying as members of His Kingdom; and,
  • Hindered the advancement of the Kingdom of God by means of an on-going war, aimed at disrupting the Service of its citizens—namely, those liberated from Satan’s kingdom of darkness and death through the freedom of faith found only in Jesus Christ.

We also learned that Satan has enjoyed a considerable amount of success in this war, simply by keeping those in God’s Kingdom…

  • In the dark as to their true mission in life, and ignorant of the resources available to them for successful living, merely by limiting their knowledge and understanding of the Bible;
  • At odds with one another by stirring up misunderstandings, envies, and petty offenses among them; and,
  • Battle-fatigued, or frustrated, discouraged, and completely worn out from all the conflict.

These aren’t the only tactics he has used to good effect, though.  Through his exploitation of the conflict between the sexes, a by-product of man’s fall from grace, he has been able to sideline roughly one-half of the workforce in God’s Kingdom, thereby greatly reducing the amount of Kingdom Work being done in the world.  These workers, whose God-ordained right to serve has so often been denied, are none other than the female members of God’s Family—the very ones (as we learned in Service: The Church as the Family of God) who were meant to serve as pictures in the flesh of the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

For us to better understand how this situation came to be, we’ll need to revisit the story of Adam and Eve.  This time, instead of focusing our attention on the pattern of seduction used by the devil to ensnare our ancient forbearers, we will be approaching the story with an eye to understanding God’s purposes for the Man and Woman, as well as the ways in which sin has affected those purposes.

  1. God’s Purpose for the Sexes

As we have mentioned more than once during the course of these exercises, God’s purpose in creating Man was to provide Himself with a Family to love, both now and throughout eternity.  As a Family of Beings bearing the image and likeness of the One who was giving them life; and, since…

…God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:24) …

…it was essential that the members of God’s Family also be Spirit Beings.  As the late Dr. Myles Munroe explains in his excellent book, Understanding the Purpose and Power of Woman

…when God made man, He essentially drew man out of Himself, so that the essence of man would be just like Him.  In this way, the receiver could be just like the Giver, and could reciprocate His love.  Since ‘God is spirit,’ He created man as spirit.

So man—the spirit-man—was created as a result of God’s love.  Note carefully that, at this point, we are still talking about man, the spirit.  We are not yet talking about male and female.  Whom did God create in His image?  Man.  Man is spirit, and spirits have no gender.  The Bible never talks about a male or female spirit.  God created the spirit-man without a gender.[1]

Thus, when the time was right for His Family to come into existence, the first thing God did was create a Spirit Being whom He called Man…

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

And, once this Spirit had been created…

God took this spirit-man, and He placed him in two physical forms:  male and female.  The spirit-man is neither male nor female.  However, to fulfill His eternal purposes, God used two physical forms, called male and female, to express the one entity of man.  Therefore, the essence of both male and female is the resident spirit within them, called ‘man.’

Whom did God call man?  Both male and female.[2]

Male and Female Houses

Different Houses for Different Purposes

With God’s “eternal purposes” being the creation of Family—and a family being the product of the sexual union between Male and Female—God took the Spirit-Man and placed him in separate physical “houses” or bodies; bodies differing from one another because of the unique roles or functions they were designed to perform.  In the role of the Male, Man was designed to demonstrate the love, leadership, strength, guidance, provision, and protection of God the Father, and to be the Giver of the Seed of Life; while, in the role of the Female, Man was designed to demonstrate the love, respect, wisdom, care-giving, gentleness, grace, empathy, and sensitivity of God the Holy Spirit, and to be the Receiver and Nurturer of the Seed provided by the Male.  Through the coming together of the Giver and Receiver, then, the life shared by them would be reproduced over and over, and the Family of God would continue to grow.

In keeping with His divine order of creation, God built the house for the Male first, as He…

…formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).

Once the Male had become a living being, God placed him in the garden home He had created for him.  And, after instructing him as to his responsibilities and the rules by which he was to live,  God set about completing His final work of creation, with this pronouncement…

It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him (Genesis 2:18).

Turning His attention to the construction of the house for the Female, He…

…caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed its place with flesh.

And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man (Genesis 2:21-23).’

Here, in this special construction of the Female’s house, we see how God, in the same way that He had taken Man out of Himself to be someone He could love, took the Woman out of the Man and gave her to him to love.[3]  Here, too, we have Man’s acknowledgment that the Woman, having been made of the same stuff as he was, was his equal and partner in the work of God.  With His creation then complete…

…God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’… And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:28, 31).

So, here at the beginning of things, and in keeping with the purposes of God, in Man—that is, the Spirit-Man created by God for relationship with Himself—there was no Male or Female.  It was only in the human body that sexual distinctions were made—distinctions determined solely by the part each sex was to play in the creation of God’s Family.  Here…

  • Both Male and Female were equal in the eyes of God;
  • Both Male and Female were given the task of stewardship over God’s creation;
  • Both Male and Female were blessed by God…

…and, as far as God was concerned, it was all very good!

God's Creation is Good

It Was All Good

 

  1. God’s Punishment on the Sexes 

With so much good going on in the Garden, it seems such a shame that Evil had to rear its ugly head and spoil it all.  And yet, for Man to truly be a son of God, it wasn’t enough for him to be…

An eternal spirit, like God;
A rational being, like God;
An emotional being, like God;
A willful being, like God; or,
A moral being, like God.

He would also have to be Holy, like God.  Before this could happen, though, he would have to do what was right in every situation, just like God.  But, at this point in Man’s brief history, he was living in his original state of innocence, for his righteousness had yet to be proven through testing. 

People have often wondered why a Holy God would allow Evil into the world, without taking into consideration that for Man to truly be like God, he must want the same things God wants and love God enough to do what He says.  For Man to be free to choose God’s way, then, there would have to be an alternative from which he could choose—with Evil being the only other option to obedience to God.

Of course, Evil in this case did not look like Evil

…for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Instead, it came packaged as a rational self-interest and an appealing religion of works, and was presented in such a way that it would overturn God’s established order of creation, inverting His authority structure in the process.  Like it or not, God’s order and authority structure for Creation was this…

God First,
Then Man,
Then Woman,
Then the Animal Kingdom.

We’ve already established that, up until this time, Man and Woman were…

Equal in their position before God;
Equal in their call to the work of God; and,
Equal in their blessing by God. 

But, for the sake of order, God created Man first, placing him as Head over his wife (and eventual family); a position in which he would be held accountable for everything happening in his family.  This position of Headship, however, was never meant to be a mark or measure of his superiority over the Woman.  If it was, then we would have a serious problem with the following verse…

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God (1 Corinthians 11:3).

If, being the Head indicated one’s superiority over another, this would mean that God the Father was and is superior to God the Son—and we know from the Scriptures that this just isn’t the case.  For…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3).

I [Christ] and the Father are one (John 10:30). 

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18).

He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God…for in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell… (Colossians 1:15, 19). 

From these verses, it is easy to see that, although God is the Head of Christ, Jesus is still equal to God. That being said, what are we to make of this statement by Jesus to His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion?

You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than II do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father (John 14:28, 31).

In this case, is God being “greater” than Jesus an indication that He is somehow superior to Jesus?  Or, in doing what the Father has commanded Him to do, has Jesus’ equality with the Father been diminished in any way?  No, not at all; for, in His Person and in His Power, Jesus remains equal to God; it is only in His Position, as Leader, that God is greater than He—with this assumption of Leadership being solely for the sake of order.  In other words, for the sake of fulfilling the Father’s Kingdom Purposes, Christ Jesus…

…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped…emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:6-11).

So, although He was equal to God, Christ willingly chose to submit Himself to God’s Leadership so that the Plan of Redemption needed for God’s Kingdom purposes and the creation of His Family, could be realized.

Headship, then, was and is a good thing, and remains an essential and powerful component in the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth.  However, it was not the only component that would be needed; if it had been, then God would never have created Woman.  For, in His creation of a Helper for the Man, God provided the Man with a power to help get the job done which was lacking in himself—that being, the subtle but dynamic power of the Woman’s suggestion, encouragement, and Influence.  Had the Man been left in charge on his own, his way of carrying out God’s Work would have primarily been through fiat; an effective but not necessarily a pleasant way to lead.  The Woman, on the other hand, as a picture or type of the Holy Spirit, through her powerful leadership gifts of persuasion, could help him accomplish things that he couldn’t do by himself.

Being fully aware, then, of the limitations of Man’s “Position Power,” God fashioned a partner for him with the “Influence Power”[1] he needed to complement or complete him, and to assist him in accomplishing God’s Kingdom Work.

According to Jewish Tradition

…and, that the union of the Male and Female was considered to be the reunification of their one soul?

In order for us to more fully comprehend the Fall and its effects on the Male-Female relationship, it is vital that we first understand God’s Purposes for Man, along with the system of order and authority He instituted within His Creation.  To be sure, Satan was well aware of them for, when he bypassed the Man in his Position Power in the Garden, and approached the Woman instead, he did so with the intention of using her Influence Power to achieve his Evil end of overturning God’s Kingdom, so that he could advance his own.

Because we have already covered a lot of important information in this exercise—information which will, no doubt, take a little time to digest—and, because there is still much more to come, I think it would be wise for us to divide this exercise into two parts, and take a break for reflection at this point.  Having laid the groundwork for our discussion of the role of Women in the Work of God in the first part of this exercise, when we return for part two…

  • We will learn how Satan’s manipulation of the Woman’s Influence Power led to the forfeiture of Man’s Position Power, and of the consequences of that debacle;
  • We will learn how the Woman’s Influence Power was checked during Old Testament times, and compare that to what is intended for women in New Testament times; and,
  • We will briefly discuss two of the most troublesome Scripture passages dealing with the role of Women in the Work of God…

…so be sure to check back soon for the rest of this rather vigorous workout session.

 

Shane and Shane remind us in “Liberty” that it is for freedom that we have been set free…

 

[1] Dr. Myles Munroe, Understanding the Purpose and Power of Woman (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2001), 54-55.

[2] Munroe, 55-56.

[3] Munroe, 61.

[1] Munroe, 185.

The Biblical Overture

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The End of Act 1, Scene1
I know it may be hard to believe but, now that our critique of Vignette #9 has been completed, Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story has finally come to an end.  Of course, this means that it’s now time for us to climb back on board the Truth Train, leave the first of the fourteen stages in our production, and move on to Stage #2.

We have spent a considerable amount of time at Stage #1, and that’s because the part of the Bible being presented here, covering the first eleven chapters in Genesis, is one of the most important parts of the entire Bible Story.  Some of the reasons for this are…

  • It introduces us to the sovereign God of the Universe;
  • It explains how He brought the Earth and Mankind into being, and how it and we got into the mess that we’re in;
  • It presents, either in literal or figurative form, a number of the Main Characters of the Story; and,
  • It serves as the Overture for the rest of the Story, set to begin at Stage #2, where Act 1, Scene 2 will soon be getting underway.
Conductor calling1

All Aboard!

That being said, let’s all return to our seats on the Train and get comfy; for, as we journey from Stage #1 to Stage #2, we will again be Making the Most of Our Travel Time by reviewing the first three of these reasons, which will lead us into a preview of the Overture that follows.

  1. The Introduction of God

Back in …Where It Is Showtime for God’s One Big Story!, we found that our introduction to God began in Genesis 1:1, the very first verse of the Bible…

…In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth… 

…and, from this very brief but powerful verse, we learned some key pieces of information about the Being who is both the Author and the Main Character of the Book…

  • From Elohim, the name used for Him here, we learned that God is a Trinity of Three Unique Persons who are united in One Divine Purpose;
  • From His appearance in our Story before the existence of anyone or anything else, we learned that God is Pre-existent and Eternal—that He was Before all Things, Over all Things, and the Originator of all Things; and,
  • From the things that He does, we learned that God is All-Powerful, All-Knowing, and Present Everywhere at All Times. 

Then, during the rest of this chapter, we learned that…

  • God created everything from nothing;
  • He executes His will through His spoken Word;
  • He evaluates or makes judgments about everything He makes;
  • He orders, organizes, and controls everything—even the darkness and chaos; and,
  • He has the power and will to bless the things that He makes.
  1. The Creation of Earth and Man 

As for God’s Creation of the Earth, we learned that this was accomplished in a very orderly and systematic way over the course of six days; with Him, during the first three days, calling into being the Kingdoms of Light and Darkness, Sky and the Sea, and the Land; and, during the last three days, making and creating the Rulers over those Kingdoms in the forms of the Sun, Moon, Stars, Fish, Fowl, and Animals.  In Between the Vignettes, we learned that this massive undertaking—done with such precision and attention to detail—was for the sole purpose of providing Man, The Capstone of God’s Creation, with an ideal place to live.

In Another Learning Interlude, we learned that once He had their earthly home ready, God set about the task of Creating the Man and Woman who would be living there; fashioning them into male and female beings so much like Himself that they could readily be adopted as His children.  However, when we got to the Fundamentals of the Fall, we discovered that just looking like God was not going to be enough to guarantee their adoption into His Family.  Before that could take place, the Man and Woman would have to be Holy, like God—something that would be proven if only they could maintain their innocence in the face of testing.  Unfortunately for them, for the earth, and for us—they failed, with disastrous results.

God's Orderly Creation

God’s Orderly Creation

 

3. The Characters Presented 

Up to this point in our Story, our Cast of Characters has consisted of…

God, the Father;
God, the Word who, according to John 1:1 and 1:14, is the Son, Jesus Christ;
God, the Holy Spirit; and,
Man and Woman. 

But, with the testing of Adam and Eve, another very shadowy Character made his way onto our Stage.  Initially appearing in the guise of the serpent who tempted the first Man and Woman into sinning, he was none other than Satan—aka Lucifer, the Devil, and the dragon mentioned in Revelation 20:2.

Although he has remained largely invisible, Satan’s activity in and influence upon our Story has been evident throughout it.  For, as we learned in…

The Fruit of the Fall,
Sowing, Reaping, and the Nature of the Trees,
Fruit Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree, and
Closing the Case on Cain and Abel…

…he was no doubt instrumental in inciting Cain to murder his righteous brother, Abel, and in Cain’s refusal to repent.

As a result, Patterns of Generational Sin and Patterns of Conflict Between the Righteous and the Wicked, which would go on to wreak havoc in all future generations, became established—something which was made evident to us in…

Our Lineup to the Flood,
Searching for Truth in the First Book of Begats,
But Noah…
Obedience Doesn’t Come Cheap, and
The Washing of the World…

…where life on the earth had become so corrupt that God decided it must be destroyed with a universal Flood.  And, later in…

A New World, An Old Nature, 
Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion, and
More Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion…

 …we witnessed Satan’s reappearance on our Stage, initially in the person of Nimrod—the first incarnation of the Antichrist in our Story—and then, as the power behind the creation of Mystery Babylon—the spiritual Harlot of false religion who would eventually lure the nations of the world away from the worship of the one true God, and into the worship of the Devil.

     4.  The Overture of the Story

Before our production of God’s One Big Story began, we learned from All the World’s a Stage—and Life Its Cosmic Drama that the device used in its presentation was going to be the same type of “story-within-a story” device so often used in the works of William Shakespeare.  For our purposes, this meant that the stories of real people recorded in the Bible were going to be used by God to tell more than one story—that is, in addition to the Earthly Level Story being recounted, elements from each individual story were going to be used to help tell the Prophetic Story taking place on a Heavenly Level.  In Act 1, Scene 1, this meant that every event from the Creation of the World to the Rebellion at Babel, and the subsequent division of the people into Nations, would have its spiritual level parallel; a parallel forming a theme or motif that would reappear later in the Story.

This concept will become easier for us to grasp if we think of the first eleven chapters of Genesis as the Overture to the entire Bible.  For, in much the same way that an overture introduces to the audience the musical themes which will be running throughout an opera or play, Genesis 1-11 introduces us to the spiritual themes which will be played out in the rest of the Bible Story.

For example…

  • The story of Creation becomes a picture to us of the spiritual process of Re-creation or Rebirth, where we go from darkness to light, chaos to order, and from death to life in response to the Word of God and the “hovering” work of the Spirit.
  • The story of the First Adam and his wife, Eve, becomes a spiritual picture of the Second Adam, Jesus, and His Bride, the Church—who, like Eve, was fashioned from a “rib” (the disciples) taken from the Second Adam as He slept in death.
  • The story of the Two Trees in the Garden serves as a picture of the two “salvation” alternatives available to mankind—either the counterfeit system of works or the genuine system of salvation through faith in Christ.
  • In the story of Cain and Abel–where God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering by faith and His rejection of Cain’s self-righteous offering provoke Cain to envy, anger, and the murder of his brother–we are provided with a spiritual illustration of the wicked’s rebellion against and persecution of the righteous; as well as, a picture of Cain as a type of Israel—the brother who, after his slaying of the righteous Son, is marked for protection as he begins his wanderings in the wilderness of the world.
  • In the long “Reign of Death” taking place between the stories of Cain and the Flood, we are shown how living life in the power of the flesh has affected all men, and ultimately led to their Deaths.
  • In the translation of Enoch before the judgment of the flood, we are given a picture of the Rapture which will take place prior to the Great Tribulation, when those who are “walking with God” will be translated to heaven without dying.
  • In the lawlessness and demonic activity preceding the Flood, we are given a picture of the conditions existing before the Tribulation, as self-absorbed humanity abandons faith in God, violence continues to increase, and doors are opened to ever-increasing satanic activity.
  • In the story of the Flood, where the wrath of God is being poured out from heaven against the unrighteousness of men, and a small righteous remnant in the Ark are being spared, we have a picture of the Tribulation, when the wrath of God will be poured out from heaven against the unrighteousness of men, while a righteous remnant is preserved.
  • In the story of Noah after the Flood, when those in the Ark come out to a new earth and enter into a new covenant with God, we are given a picture of the “new world” which will exist when Christ sets up His Millennial Kingdom following the Tribulation–where the righteous remnant will live on a cleansed earth, under a new covenant with God, for a thousand years.
  • In the rebellion at Babel, we are given a prophetic picture of Satan’s final act of rebellion—when, at the end of the Millennium, he is released from his thousand year imprisonment to test those who are born on the earth during that time.
  • And, in the Judgment of the Nations at the Tower of Babel, we are given a picture of the final Judgment of the Nations—when the Lord gathers the nations and judges them according to the way they have treated His “brethren;” separating the “sheep” nations from the “goat” nations, and giving each one its due reward.

In the event that this concept still proves to be a little difficult to understand, perhaps this graphic will help show how the events in Scene #1 prefigure some of the most important future episodes in the Story…

The Biblical Overture
Now that we have an idea of the real meaning and significance of the opening scene of our Story, we can move forward to Stage #2, better prepared to appreciate  what Act 1, Scene 2 is all about.

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Whenever I think of an “overture,”  the Bugs Bunny Theme always comes to mind–so I just had to include it at this point in our Story.  I hope you enjoy this brief bit of levity…

 

Fruit Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree

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Now that we have learned a little something about the principles of Sowing, Reaping, and the Nature of the Two Trees that were planted in the center of the Garden of Eden, it is time for us to take a look at the part these elements played in the Cain and Abel story which was recently acted out for us in Vignette #4.  Keeping in mind the principles that we have learned since then—which were, that for any seed sown…

  • More would be reaped than was initially planted;
  • The harvest for that seed, though delayed, would always come once the fruit had fully matured; and,
  • The fruit produced as a result of it would always bear the image of the original seed…

…it should be easy for us to see how the seed sown by Adam and Eve, when they ate the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, reproduced itself in the lives of their children and grandchildren; bringing forth a harvest more bitter and deadly than anything they could ever have imagined.

Their Births

Although we aren’t told a lot about Cain and Abel, either in Genesis 4 or in the few related passages that speak of them, we are told enough to know that these two brothers were as different as different could be—with the first difference being seen in the way in which they came into the world.  Although they weren’t born into the same paradisaical situation that their parents had first experienced, still, the world which greeted them both must have a very beautiful one.  Cain was born into it first and, because of this, his birth elicited a far more ecstatic reaction on the part of their mother.

Adam and Eve with Sons

Adam and Eve with Sons

As you may recall, back in Genesis 3:15, when God provided animal skins as a covering for Adam and Eve’s sin, He promised that one day the “seed of the woman” would come and crush the head of the Serpent—an act of redemption and deliverance which would free Man forever from his bondage to sin and death.  We can well imagine that from Eve’s joy when a male child was born to her, and from the naming of him as Cain (meaning “gotten,” as in “I have gotten a man from the Lord”), both she and Adam looked upon this child as the “Promised One”—or, as the One who would someday deliver them from the curse brought about by their sin.

Abel’s birth, on the other hand, didn’t create quite the same stir.  There was no obvious excitement when he was born and, in giving him a name meaning “vapor, vanity, or breath,” it would seem that not too much was expected of him by his parents—that, maybe, in their eyes, he would never be able to measure up to stature of his older brother.

But, with both boys being raised in a generally pleasant environment by the same parents and, with them living in a world…

  • without any grandparents, aunts, or uncles to butt in (or to muddy up the family gene pool);
  • without any known sicknesses or diseases to afflict them;
  • without any governmental or police authorities to have to answer to;
  • without any schools, peer pressure, media or other cultural influences to lead them astray; and,
  • without any church or temple, bosses, or co-workers to be concerned about…

…it would be reasonable to expect that both of these young men would turn out to be equally fine specimens of humanity, wouldn’t it?

Their Vocations

The second noticeable difference between Cain and Abel was readily seen in their choice of vocations, with Cain, either willingly or out of necessity, choosing to become a farmer, and with Abel choosing the life of a shepherd. These were two completely different but equally demanding occupations, with the former requiring hard work to produce food from ground previously cursed by God; and, the latter demanding a twenty-four hour a day commitment to the raising of the animals which could be used for both sacrifices and clothing.  Although different, it would seem that these two livelihoods would prove to be mutually beneficial:  Cain could exchange some of his produce for the sheep he needed for sacrifice and for clothing, while Abel could use the produce he received to provide food for himself and his family.

Their Relationships

Of course, the major difference between these two brothers was in their opposing attitudes toward and relationships with God.  For, although both boys had been born into the same family, and were of the same spiritual stock—that is, in their original spiritual states, they were both products of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; Cain, at the time of our story, was still proving himself to be fruit from that Tree of rebellion, while Abel, through his actions, was demonstrating that he had found his way to the spiritual Tree of Life, and had become part of its fruit.  For evidence of this, we need to look no further than at the offerings these young men brought to God.

The Offerings

We first learn of these offerings in Genesis 4:3-4a, where we are told that…

Cain and Abel at the Altar

Cain and Abel at the Altar

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.

At first glance, nothing seems to be amiss in this situation; Cain, from all outward appearances, is bringing God some of the fruits of his labor, while Abel is doing the same.  But, then, things take a decidedly different turn as we read in verses 4b and 5 that…

…the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.

Hmmm…here we have two brothers with two offerings, both being made at the altar and both at the appointed or designated time for sacrifice—what could possibly have been wrong with this picture?  What was it that set these offerings apart, making one but not the other acceptable to God?  Was it because of the differences in the offerings themselves, or was it something that went deeper than that?

Different Offerings?

I have heard a considerable bit of discussion about this over the years, with some people advancing the theory that, because there was no specific written instruction as to what the offering should be, the one which Cain brought should have been okay; with those holding to this opinion frequently citing the provision of grain offerings in the Mosaic Law to support their position.  However, the grain offerings included in the Law were Peace and Thanksgiving offerings that were to be made once a sin or a burnt offering (offerings specifically calling for animal sacrifices) had been made and accepted by God.  While we have no indication that any type of grain offering had been sanctioned by God or instituted as part of the worship ritual in Cain and Abel’s day, we can find scriptural justification to support the belief that the animal sacrifice brought by Abel was the type that had been mandated by God.

In Leviticus 17:14, it says that “…the life of every creature is its blood:  its blood is its life;” and, in Romans 6:23 that “…the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Since, in these passages, God declared that the life of a person is in his or her blood, and that the wages of his or her sin is death, then it would follow that the person who sinned would be required to die and offer up his or her life’s blood to atone for that sin.  Although this was, and still is, the demand of God’s holy law, God has added something of a proviso to it; and that is, as an act of His grace, God stipulated that another’s life—and blood—could be substituted for that of the sinner, on condition that the life and blood of the substitute be sinless, so that it could satisfy the righteous demands of the law.  This law of substitution is what made the sacrifice of innocent animals necessary, and is why this type of offering became the precedent for all those that would be made in the future.

With this precedent having been established in the Garden, and with parents who no doubt told their sons all about it, why would Cain have dared to bring any other kind of offering to God?  Although we are not told so here, fallen human nature being what it is, there are some things that we can surmise which might help to explain his actions:

  • If Cain had grown up believing that he was the Promised Deliverer, he may have adopted the attitude that he could do no wrong, and that no matter what he did, it would be okay with God.
  • If this was the case, he would have had an ego the size of all Eden, accompanied by an attitude of superiority, which would have made going to his younger brother for anything, especially a sacrificial lamb, simply intolerable.
  • Certainly, the fact that Abel was a prophet (something not mentioned here but revealed later on by Jesus in Matthew 23:34-35 and in Luke 11:50-51) wouldn’t have helped to improve the situation in any way. If, in times past, when acting as a prophet, Abel had confronted Cain about his arrogant attitude and preached repentance to him, it surely wouldn’t have endeared him to someone with Cain’s exaggerated sense of self-importance.
  • Cain may have also been harboring resentment toward God; possibly for having kicked his parents out of Paradise for such an “insignificant” offense as eating from the forbidden Tree, and thus denying him the privilege of growing up there. He could have resented having to work so hard to get the earth, cursed as it was by God, to yield its increase—especially when a life of relative ease was waiting to be had, if only he lived in the Garden.

…Or, Different Hearts?

Whatever else may have been going on behind the scenes, one thing we can know for sure is that the real issue between these two men was neither physical nor emotional but spiritual in nature, and reflective of the two very different heart attitudes of the brothers.  For proof of this, we need only to go to  Hebrews 11:4, where we learn that the truly distinguishing feature between their two offerings was faith, for…

“By faith, Abel offered up a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.”

And why was faith the deciding factor here?  As it is explained so simply in Hebrews 11:6 and in 1 Samuel 16:7, respectively…

“…without faith it is impossible to please him [God], for however would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

“For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, the Lord looks on the heart.”

If a heart of faith was what was required to please God, then how did Abel’s offering reveal that?  Since “…faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17),” Abel must have taken to heart the Word that he had received, most likely from his parents, which said something to the effect that “…without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins (Heb. 9:22)”—and then acting upon that Word, he offered up to God his best lamb as the substitutionary payment for his sins.

Abel Slain by Cain

Abel Slain by Cain

Cain, on the other hand, in his rejection of the same Word, and in his willful determination to do things in his own way, foolishly attempted to come to God on his own terms, rather than approaching God in the manner which had previously been ordained.  Such arrogant actions on Cain’s part resulted in God’s rejection of his offering, which provoked Cain to anger and to the subsequent murder of his brother, which led to a further curse being placed on his farming, and which, when he refused to repent, led to Cain’s separation from the presence of God, leading ultimately to a life of fearful wandering.  As for the true nature of Cain’s heart and actions, they were best described centuries later by the Apostle John, when he warned his readers in 1 John 3:12:  ““We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him?  Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.”

Now, as we recall what we previously learned about the nature of the two trees—which was…

  • That the Tree of the Knowledge of Good an Evil was rooted in the in the same desires that motivated Satan to rebel against God, that it produced the SAP of Selfishness and Pride, and that its Fruit was all about Me and My Glory…
  • …while the Tree of Life was rooted in the same desires to do God’s will that characterized Jesus, its SAP being Submission and Praise, while its Fruit for God and His Glory

…then it should be plain enough for us to see that Cain, in his prideful reliance upon his own works at achieving righteousness, was the first and most perfect piece of fruit to fall from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—becoming, if you will, a regular “poster child” for all those who would come after him, seeking to come to God on their own merits.  Abel, on the other hand, with the placement of his faith in the gracious provision of God—that is, in the one allowing for the substitutionary death of an innocent lamb to provide a covering for his sins—was the first and a most fitting example of the fruit to be produced by the Tree of Life.  The offerings that they brought to God, then, were merely outward demonstrations of these inner beliefs.

Of course, both of these trees will continue to bear fruit in each of the generations to come but our inspection of that fruit will have to wait until next time; the time when we will also complete our assessment of the story of Cain and Abel by looking for…

  • the Life Lessons that we can take away from their experiences;
  • the Contributions that their story makes to the One Big Story taking place on the Heavenly Stage above us; and,
  • any new Revelations about God contained within their story.

Until then, though, let’s join with Kutless and reflect on just…“What Faith Can Do.”

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Sowing, Reaping, and the Nature of the Trees

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Apple and the snake1

The Initial Seed of Evil

Previously, in Vignette #3, we watched sadly and helplessly as Adam and Eve deliberately chose to disobey God by eating from the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This one errant action on their part was all that it took to introduce Evil, with its accompanying fear, shame, deceit, alienation, and death, into what was then an ideal world.  Later, in Vignette #4, we saw how, after the passage of time and with the addition of their sons, Cain and Abel, that initial seed of Evil sown by our first parents had taken root and blossomed into the kind of bitterness, resentment, misunderstanding, self-righteousness, and anger that would lead to the first murder in the world.

So, what we want to do now, as we pause once more between Vignettes to critique this most recent part of God’s One Big Story, is to learn how things could go from bad to worse in such a relatively short period of time, and the lessons that we can take away from it today.  To do this, though, we first need to spend a few minutes acquainting ourselves with a few of life’s most basic and important principles—these being, the principles of sowing and reaping, and the nature of the two trees that are at the heart of all of life.

Sowing and Reaping

Because the majority of us have not, and probably never will have, any connection to anything agrarian (other than eating the produce we pick up from the local market), it may be difficult for us to understand how important sowing and reaping is in God’s plan for our lives.  And yet, we can begin to see their significance when we stop to consider that:

  • In John 15:8, Jesus said, “In this am I [God] greatly glorified in that you bear much fruit”;
  • In the Creation Story found in Genesis 1, we are told at least ten times the all living beings were designed to reproduce “according to their own kind”;
  • God told Noah in Genesis 8:22, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease”;
  • All of Israel’s God-appointed religious feasts and festivals were connected to an event in the agricultural calendar; and,
  • All of the major events in prophetic and redemptive history are associated with some part of the sowing and reaping process; with that process being described by Jesus in the following way:

The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom.  The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.  The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels.  Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age.  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace.  In that place will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then, the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  He who has ears, let him hear (Matt. 13:37-43).

Reaping the Harvest

Reaping the Harvest

From this, it should become apparent that life itself is just one long cycle of sowing and reaping, the purpose of which is to produce more life and/or fruit for the glory of God.  A seed is sown, it is fertilized, watered and supplied with light by the sun; it takes root and after some time, it grows to maturity and reproduces the fruit which will either nourish some other living being, or provide the seeds needed to reproduce itself once again.  In theory, it is a very simple process; however, when it comes to sowing and reaping, there are a few principles that must be taken  into consideration, if we are going to be prepared for the harvest that we will inevitably receive.

Therefore, we need to remember that..

  • Although one seed will produce just one plant, that one plant is likely to produce a lot of fruit—so we will almost always reap more than we sow;
  • The seed we sow will not spring up into a plant overnight but it will take time, sometimes a lot of time, to grow to maturity—so that while our harvest will not be immediate, it will be sure and will come at the appropriate time; and,
  • Whatever seed we sow, it will bear the image of the original—so that the fruit produced by any seed we sow will be of the same kind and nature as its “parent,” with that kind and nature being passed on to all future generations of that seed.
You Reap What You Sow

You Will Reap What You Sow

But what do these principles of sowing and reaping have to do with our Story?  Well, in short, everything—which is something that we will come to see, after we learn a little more about the two trees at the heart of the Story.

The Nature of the Two Trees

Of course, the two trees to which I am referring are the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; trees which were planted by God in the center of the Garden of Eden for a very specific purpose. As we learned in Another Learning Interlude, this Garden was the designated place of meeting and fellowship between God and Man; where, if Man was going to continue his fellowship with God, he would have to live in obedience to Him, even when tempted to do otherwise.  God’s purpose for positioning the Trees at the heart of the Garden, then, was to test Man’s heart, and to demonstrate if he would choose to obey God and be blessed, or disobey Him and reap the consequences.

As for the trees themselves, and why Adam and Eve would choose the one over the other, I don’t think their choice had anything to do with one tree being more attractive than the other for, in a description of all of the trees in the Garden, Genesis 2:9 tells us that…

And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.

So, given that all of the trees were equally attractive and good for food, what was it that made the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil so appealing; and why would the first Man and Woman choose to eat from it instead of the one from which they could freely eat?  For a better understanding of this, let’s consider what these Trees represented to Adam and Eve—and what they represent to us, as well.

The Only Two Ways Available to Men

In His provision of the two Trees, God was presenting Adam and Eve with the only two Systems of Faith that would be available to mankind, and was confronting them with the choice that both they and we have to make at some point in our lives—the choice to either put our Faith in the Works of the Flesh and try to earn our salvation on our own terms, or to to do things God’s way and put our Faith in the Sacrificial Work of the Lamb of God as the only way of securing our salvation and eternal life.

If we were to analyze these two Systems of Faith in the following way, we would discover that…

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…

…Is rooted in the same desires that motivated Satan to rebel against God—which are listed in Isaiah 14:13-14:

I will ascend into Heaven.
I will be like the Most High.
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.
I will also sit on the Mount of the Congregation.

…Produces SAP of Selfishness and Pride.

Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

The Way of Works and Death

…Produces Fruit for Me and My Glory.

While…

The Tree of Life…

…Is rooted in the same desires that characterized Jesus, the promised Messiah in Psalm 40:6-10:

I delight to do Your will.
Your law is within my heart.
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth.
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation.
I have proclaimed the good news of [Your] righteousness in the great assembly.

Produces SAP of Submission and Praise.

Tree of Life

The Way of Faith and Life

Produces Fruit for God and His Glory.

From our analysis of these two systems, it should be easy for us to see that the reason the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was so attractive to Adam and Eve was because of its overpowering appeal to their flesh—that is, to their latent selfishness and pride, and to their desire for self-glorification.  Unfortunately, because of their decision to eat from this tree and to go the Way of Works, they doomed every one of their descendants (with the exception of Jesus Christ) to enter this world already committed to this same system–which, as we have learned, is nothing other than the Way to Death.  However, because of God’s gracious provision of a Sacrifice to atone for or to provide a covering for their sins, both they and all those who would after follow them would have the opportunity to opt out of this system of Death, choosing instead to go the Way of Faith—which is really the only Way to Life.

As for how sowing, reaping, and the nature of the two trees affected the children of Adam and Eve, this will be more clearly seen next time, as we take a closer look at the Story of Cain and Abel, and inspect the fruit that didn’t fall too far from the tree. 

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As we reflect on these things, let’s join Unspoken in “Call It Grace.”