Service: The Church as the Family of God

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Family

In our last exercise, Service: The Church as the Body of Christ, we were introduced to the concept that the Church, like the human body, is composed of three parts serving on three different levels, with each part being delegated a specific role to fulfill in its service for Christ.  As…

  • The corporate Body of Christ, the Church is to reach outward into the world; bringing the good news of Salvation to the lost in order to bring them into the Family of God;
  • The corporate Soul of Christ, the Church is to reach inward to the members of the Family of God; loving and encouraging them while helping them grow toward spiritual maturity; and,
  • The corporate Spirit of Christ, the Church is to reach upward into the unseen spiritual world; waging war against the powers of darkness who are doing everything in their power to promote the worship of their leader, Satan, and to keep the will and kingdom of God from being established on the earth.

Since we covered the basics of the Church as the Body of Christ last time, and since we will wait until we get to the next level of exercises on Spiritual Warfare to tackle the role of the Church as God’s Spiritual Army, this exercise will be given over to a discussion of the role of the Church as the Family of God.  In order get it going, the first thing we need to do is establish just what a Family is, and how it is supposed to function.

God's Family Plan
What is Family? 

It used to be that if asked to define the term Family, most people would respond in the same way—that a Family, the most basic of all societal groups, is made up of a Father, Mother, and their children; with such extended members as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins sometimes added into the mix.  But, in today’s culture, with its escalating divorce rate and proliferation of lifestyle choices, the term has too often come to mean whatever an individual wants it to mean, or whatever his or her circumstances dictate.  So today, in addition to what is known as the Nuclear Family just described, some of the other definitions in use are…

  • Single-Parent Families…where a parent lives with dependent children, alone or in a larger household, without a spouse or partner;
  • Blended Families…consisting of members from two (or more) previous families;
  • Co-custody Families…where divorced parents share legal responsibility for their children; children who either live alternatively with both parents or permanently with one while having regular visitation with the other;
  • Cross-Generational Families…where grandparents or aunts, uncles, etc, either raise the children or play major roles in their lives;
  • Adoptive Families…where one or more of the children has been adopted;
  • Foster Families…where one or more of the children is being cared for legally but temporarily by a family that is not their own;
  • Bi-racial or multi-racial Families…where the parents come from different racial groups;
  • Gay or Lesbian Families… where one or both of the parents’ is gay or lesbian;
  • Immigrant Families… where the parents have immigrated to another country as adults; and,
  • Migrant Families… who move regularly from place to place looking for employment.[1]

To be sure, many of these are deviations from the ideal established by God at the time of Man’s Creation, documented for us in Genesis 1:27-28 in the following way…

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

And 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.”

This standard was later confirmed by Jesus when, as the Pharisees questioned Him as to the legitimacy of divorce, Jesus replied…

…from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Mark 10:6-9).

Established by God and confirmed by Jesus, the divine standard, then, calls for 1 Male + 1 Female + their Children to equal a Family.  However, with the introduction of sin into the world following Adam and Eve’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden, deviations from this ordained norm not only became a possibility but also a reality.  As we now know, had there been no sin, there would never have been any abuse, neglect, adultery, divorce, or death to make the aforementioned deviations possible—and, the Family would have functioned and flourished in the way that God had intended it to do.

Family
How is the Family Supposed to Function?

When considering how God intended for the Family to operate, it is imperative that we keep the following things in mind…

  • Being created in the image of God means that God intended for Men to be reflections in the flesh of His Masculine Principles, while Women were to be the reflections of His Feminine Principles;
  • Additionally, it was God’s intention that Men and Women to come together in sexual union so that they could reproduce the life He had so graciously shared with them—something they would not be able to do on their own; and,
  • As the masculine and feminine representations of God in the flesh, God meant for Men and Women to model before their children and the world the unity and selfless love shared by the members of Godhead themselves; becoming, in effect, living illustrations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for everyone to see.

As long as the members of any given family are living in right relationship with God and in obedience to His will, not only they but everyone around them will be able to witness God being lived out in the flesh—with…

  • The Man/Husband in the Family demonstrating the love, leadership, strength, guidance, provision, and protection of God the Father;
  • The Woman/Wife in the Family demonstrating the love, respect, wisdom, nurture, gentleness, grace, empathy, and sensitivity of God the Holy Spirit [2]; and,
  • The Children in the Family demonstrating the love, respect, and obedience of God the Son.

However, God’s imaging purposes for these families were not to be limited to their being illustrations of the divine community known as the Trinity; it was also His intention for them to serve as earthly illustrations of the nature and workings of the much larger heavenly family known as the Church.

Family


The Human Family as a Pattern for the Church
 

The fact that the earthly family was meant to be a living illustration of God’s heavenly family will become clearer to us once we have compared each according to their…

  • Origins or creations;
  • Missions or mandates; and,
  • Means or methods of carrying out their missions.
Families of God

A Comparison of Families

From this illustration, we see that when God created the First Adam (1 Cor. 15: 22, 45) and his bride, He did so in such a way that it would serve as a prophetic picture of the Second Adam and His Bride, the Church.  For Adam, referred to in the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Luke 3:38 as “the son (with a small “s”) of God,” was meant to foreshadow the eternal Son (with a capital “S”) of God, Jesus Christ, in that…

  • He was without sin (at the time of his creation);
  • He was lord over God’s creation; and,
  • He was without his companion and helper.

Therefore, God set about providing him with a helper through a unique creation:  first putting Adam into a deep sleep, God then opened his side and removing a rib or bone from it, He fashioned from it a female counterpart specially designed for Adam.  This process, on a prophetic level, was to be a picture of what God was going to do through the Second Adam when, as Jesus was dying on the Cross, He fashioned His Bride, the Church, around the “bone” taken from the wounded side of Christ—that “bone” being the Disciples.

As for their Mission and Means for accomplishing them, they are virtually the same; for, both types of families were created for one purpose:  to reproduce the life of God, both the physical and the spiritual, as a means of bringing the will and purpose, and the glory of God to the ends of the earth.  Given the significance of this Mission to time and eternity, it should come as no surprise that the number one priority of God’s enemies would be the corruption and destruction of the Family, both the earthly and the heavenly ones—which is something we will learn more about in our next exercise.

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Bill Gaither reminds us what it means to be part of “The Family of God”…

 

[1] Edwards, Julie Olsen. “The Many Kinds of Family Structures in Our Communities.” Based on the author’s work with Louise Derman-Sparks in Anti-bias Education for Children and Ourselves NAEYC 2009.

[2] This is not to say that men cannot be nurturing or that women cannot be leaders or providers, etc.  These statements are merely meant to be generalizations of Godly ideals.

Service:  The Church as the Body of Christ

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Exercising through Service

Getting Stronger and Reaching the World

In our previous exercise, we began a new level of workout routines dealing with Service; and, during the course of that introductory routine, we learned how, through our service for Christ, the good works which He began are still being done in the world today.  Then, as we searched for a definition of the word, especially as it relates to us as believers, we discovered some of the Terms of Service which must be adhered to, if any enduring work for Christ is to be accomplished.  These are…

  • Service must begin at the altar of worship, where we surrender our wills to God’s will;
  • Service must be motivated by our love for Christ;
  • Service must proceed from clean hands and pure hearts; and,
  • Service, like that which Jesus performed—and, other than our post-salvation, personal MDLA, or Minimum Daily Lifestyle Adjustments—must be done in cooperation with other members of the Corporate Body of Christ, or the entity better known as The Church.
We Are the Church Together

Not a Building but a Body of Believers

Too often, when we hear the word Church, the image that comes to mind is of a building.  However, the real Church of Jesus Christ is not and was never intended to be an architectural structure or an organized institution, into which the Children of God could retreat in search of protection or insulation from the world.

Rather, it was designed by God to be the collective and universal spiritual manifestation of Christ on the earth; one in which Christ is no longer limited to serving through just one physical body, living in one time and in one place.  Instead, with His Presence and Power multiplied many times over in the lives of Believers scattered across the globe, the works that He once did during His Incarnation are now being replicated worldwide by the members of His spiritual body, the Church.

In order to grasp this concept a little better, we must realize that, even though God loves each one of us individually, Christ died for each one of us individually, and we are each saved individually, at the moment we receive our Salvation, the Holy Spirit is busily and quite imperceptibly baptizing us into the Collective Spiritual Body of Christ; positioning us within that Body wherever He deems best, and assigning specific roles or functions to us that we are to carry out within the Body

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.   For the body does not consist of one member but of many…as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose ( 1 Cor. 12: 12-14, 18).

Before getting into what those roles may be, though, we first need to learn how God intended for the Body of Christ to operate.

In one of our earlier exercises, Sanctification: Regeneration Perfected, we learned that when God created Man, He fashioned him with an individual or Personal Body, Soul, and Spirit, so that…

  • Through his Body, he could relate to and function in the physical world;
  • Through his Soul, he could relate to others on both emotional and intellectual levels; and,
  • Through his Spirit, he could relate to God and learn how he could use his will to bring God’s will to pass on the earth.

In much the same way, God’s design for the Body of Christ called for it to have a Corporate Body, Soul, and Spirit,  so that…

  • Through its Body, the Church could relate to and carry on the work of Christ in the world outside of the Church;
  • Through its Soul, the Church could relate as a Family to those within the Church, ministering to them and their needs in love; and,
  • Through its Spirit, the Church could serve heaven as an Army of Spiritual Warriors; one united in its mission to overthrow the Enemy of God, take the territory previously held by him, and bring the Kingdom and the Will of God to rule on the earth in his place.

In short, God’s intention for the Church of Jesus Christ is for it to…

  • Function externally in the world as a unified Body, under the direction of its Head, Jesus Christ;
  • Relate internally to its members as a Family, under the loving guidance of God the Father; and
  • Serve eternally by advancing the Kingdom of God through Spiritual Warfare, under the command of its General, the Holy Spirit.
In the World

…Being in the world but not of it


The Church as a Body
 

Since God’s purpose in creating mankind was to obtain a spiritual family of holy sons and daughters; and, since He was not willing…

…that any should perish but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9)…

…God purposed that His Church, in its function as a unified Body, would reach out to those in the world who had not yet to come to repentance—that is, those who have yet to be adopted as His children.  In fact, forty days after His resurrection, as He was preparing to go back to His Father in heaven, Christ charged His disciples—those who would soon become the Church—with this very task in the Great Commission…

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 (Matt. 28:19-20).

As for how Jesus intended the soon-to-be Body of Christ to fulfill this charge, it was to be accomplished by its members…

  • As they lived before the world according to the kingdom principles He had taught them in the Sermon on the Mount; and,
  • Through acts of service empowered by the giftings of the Holy Spirit, which would soon be bestowed upon them.
The Sermon on the Mount

Jesus Teaching the Principles of Kingdom Living in the Sermon on the Mount


The Body and Kingdom Living
 

After choosing His disciples, one of the first things Jesus did was to gather them together and give them an introductory lesson in Kingdom Living.  This lesson, called the Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew 5-7), must have been tremendously unsettling for them because in it, Jesus was establishing as their new standard for living, a set of principles which completely contradicted everything they had been taught was true.  That’s because, in the culture of that day—much like in our present day—they had grown up believing that being healthy, wealthy, religious, and without any apparent problems were all indicators that one had been blessed by God.  But here, in what has come to be known as The Beatitudes, Jesus was declaring that for the Children of God, the very opposite of this was true; that the ones who would be blessed by God are…

the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account (Matt. 5:3-11).

And, it would be these seemingly weak, insignificant, and oftentimes marginalized members of society, as they learned to live out the Kingdom Principles Jesus highlighted in His Sermon—principles such as…

  • Kingdom Living requires more of us than surface level righteousness; it requires true righteousness which begins in our hearts and then proceeds outward;
  • Kingdom Living requires that we love our enemies, blessing instead of cursing them;
  • Kingdom Living requires that we treat others the way we would want them to treat us;
  • Kingdom Living requires that we replace outward demonstrations of piety, designed to impress others, with giving, praying, and fasting done in secret; and,
  • Kingdom Living requires that we cease judging others and that we forgive them instead, just as God has forgiven us…

…who would become the salt of the earth and the light of God in a darkened world, and so spiritually emboldened that they would later be spoken of by the Thessalonians in Acts 17:6 in this way…

These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.


The Body and Spiritual Gifts
 

Surely, living according to God’s Kingdom Principles—that is, living lives radically different from the cultural norm—would prove to be a great way for believers to pique the interest and attract the attention of those living outside of the Body of Christ; however, just getting their attention would not be sufficient to get them saved, and moved from the outside to the inside of the Body of Believers.  To make a transfer like that happen, from the world’s kingdom to the Kingdom of God, the involvement of the Holy Spirit would be required; which is why, just before His ascension Jesus ordered His disciples

…not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’

[For] you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and [after that] you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

It would take the power of the Holy Spirit, working through individual believers, to produce Acts of Service like the ones Jesus performed, and in the way that God had ordained–which was, with the members of Christ’s Body working together, using the Spiritual Gifts assigned to them at the time of their Salvation.

 

Spiritual Gift

The Holy Spirit Gives Gifts to All


Spiritual Gifts,
unlike the natural talents we are born with or the skills which we develop on our own throughout life, are the special spiritual abilities or enablements given to believers for the purpose of growing and building up of the Church, the Body of Christ.  The Apostle Paul explains them far better  than I could, here in these passages from three of his letters… 

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed…there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone (1 Cor.12: 1, 4-6).

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills (1 Cor. 12:7-11). 

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:4-8). 

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Although we will go into more detail about these Gifts of the Spirit in a future exercise, to summarize what we have learned so far about Service and the Church, we now know that…

  • as the members of Christ’s Body model the character and behavior of Christ before the world—the character developed in them as the Fruit of the Spirit, and the behavior epitomized in the Kingdom Living Principles taught in the Sermon on the Mount; and…
  • as, the members of Christ’s Body reach out to the world through their Acts of Service—service which has been initiated, coordinated, and empowered by the Holy Spirit

…the world will be reached with the Gospel, the family and kingdom of God will be expanded, and the function of the Church as the Corporate Body of Christ will have been realized.

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Unspoken reminds us that if we are to do the works of Christ, we will need the Holy Spirit to “Start a Fire” in our souls…

 

 

Original image of the Sermon on the Mount courtesy of http://www.freebibleimages.org.

 

Sanctification: Regeneration Perfected

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Regeneration

In our first set of exercises, we began stretching our spiritual muscles as we learned some of the basic principles of Salvation…

We also learned that Salvation is the process by which God redeems lost sinners—those who have been in bondage to the world, the flesh, and the devil since their births; buying their freedom for them through the substitutionary death of Christ on the Cross and thus making it possible for them to be adopted into the family of God as His children.

A person’s Salvation isn’t limited to his just being adopted by God, though; it also involves his being transformed into a true Christ-resembling Child of the Most High.  That’s because, once a person becomes a child of God through the process known as the New Birth, he or she can no longer continue to think, speak, and act like the sinner he or she once was; instead, he or she must learn to think and behave in a manner befitting the son or daughter of a Holy King.  And, this is where Sanctification comes into play.

 

Sanctification

As we discovered in Salvation: What It Is and Why We Need It, Sanctification is the second of the three Stages in Salvation, with the first being Redemption and the last being Glorification; and, that it means…

To make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate;
To purify or free from sin;
To make productive of or conducive to spiritual blessing. 

And, according to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, it is something which…

…involves more than a mere moral reformation of character, brought about by the power of the truth:  it is the work of the Holy Spirit bringing the whole nature more and more under the influences of the new gracious principles implanted in the soul in regeneration.  In other words, sanctification is the carrying on to perfection the work begun in regeneration, and it extends to the whole man.[1]
 

The Work of Regeneration

In order to better understand the work being referred to here, we will need to go back to Salvation:  How Do We Get It, where we learned that…

…Regeneration is the act by which our dead spirits are brought back to life again by the Holy Spirit of God…

…and, where we learned that the need for this regeneration goes all the way back to Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden.  For, it was then that their spirits, as well as those of all of their future descendants, died—or, were separated or cut off from God.  As for how this spiritual death impacted them, and us, in practical terms, it completely shut down the communication system God had established between Him and Man; and, it overturned the authority structure He had designed for His entire created world.

System Failure and Structural Collapse

When God created man, He fashioned him with a Spirit, Soul, and Body, so that…

  • Through his Spirit, he could relate to and communicate with God;
  • Through his Body, he could relate to and function in the physical world; and,
  • Through his Soul, consisting of his mind, will, and emotions, he could not only relate to other human beings, but his soul could also serve as the connecting point between his spirit and his body.

When this system was functioning as it should—which was, before the entrance of sin into the world—it meant that…

  • God’s Spirit could speak to man’s spirit, telling him what God wanted him to do;
  • Man’s spirit could relay that message to man’s soul; and,
  • Man’s soul could then direct man’s body to carry out the command it had been given by God…

…and, in this way, the will of God would be carried out on the earth by man.

As for the authority structure that God had devised for His creation, it was ordered along very similar lines—with God at the top of the structure and Man next in authority under Him; then, with Woman, an equal partner with her husband, yet coming under his authority—to be followed lastly by the creatures in the animal world.  Given that this arrangement was one which was ordained by God, it should come as no surprise that in his scheme to overturn it, Satan would come disguised in the form of an animal (a creature at the bottom rung of the ladder) and present himself first to the woman (on the next level up), who would then turn around and entice the man (on the next higher rung) to disobey God.

Unfortunately, and certainly unforeseen by our forbearers, this colossal structural collapse marked the beginning of what would turn out to be mankind’s perpetual rebellion against authority in every form; manifesting itself not only in his rebellion against God’s authority, but also in the rebellion of wives against husbands, children against parents, workers against employers, and the governed against those governing them.  It was a rebellion which also gave rise to an egocentric lust for power which would eventually lead to the commission of every other kind of sin that man could imagine.

This entrance of sin into the world also resulted in the failure of the once ideal system of communication between God and Man.  Instead of the top down system previously described, it became a bottom up one in which man’s flesh, instead of his spirit, began dictating to him what his thoughts, feelings, and actions should be.  That’s because, with the death or separation of man’s spirit from God’s Spirit because of sin, there was no longer any communication between God and man; a situation which left man’s powerful fleshly appetites to determine what he would or would not do in any given situation.  And, this is the way that it has been ever since.

The Apostle James explains the consequences of this system failure in the following way…

…what causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war with you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel (James 4:1-2)…

…each person is tempted when he lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it is conceived gives birth to sin and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:13-15).

The Effects of the Fall
Extending Regeneration to the Whole Man

Since the unregenerate, or…

…the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14)…

…when a person becomes Born Again, it then becomes the work of the Holy Spirit, through the process of Sanctification, to restore what was lost to that person as a result of The Fall and to reprogram him as to the right way to live.  As we have just learned, this means that…

  • His soul will have to be restored to its proper function; and,
  • His inborn tendency to rebel against authority will have to be dealt with and brought under control.

Rebellion to Submission

Although this work is a challenging one, and one taking a lifetime to complete, its success will be insured by the presence of the Holy Spirit who, once a person is regenerated, takes up residence within him.  Working from the inside out, He not only begins teaching this new Child of God the right way to live, but He provides him with the supernatural power needed for him to succeed.  Evidences of this success will become apparent in the life of the believer as…

  • He learns to communicate with God, his Father, through Prayer;
  • His mind is transformed into the mind of Christ through the Study of God’s Word;
  • The character of Christ is formed in him through Testing;
  • The works of Christ are reproduced in his service through the Gifts of the Spirit; and,
  • He learns to successfully wage Spiritual Warfare through his respect for and submission to God’s Authority Structure.

We will learn more about this process of spiritual transformation in our upcoming workout sessions, as we begin the basic exercises in Sanctification dealing with Prayer, the Bible, the Fruit of the Spirit and Testing; with these to be followed later by the more advanced exercises in Service, the Gifts of the Spirit, and Spiritual Warfare.  Before moving on to these, however, we first need to become better acquainted with our Trainer and Coach, the Holy Spirit, whom we will meet when we get together for our next session.  Until then…

…may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Thes. 5:23)

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
The Sidewalk Prophets remind us that our salvation makes all things new…

 

[1]  Sanctification. Dictionary.com. Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/sanctification (accessed: April 07, 2016).

 

 

More Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion!

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Shem, Ham, and Japheth

Shem, Ham, and Japheth

Now that we have had some time to digest the things that were covered in part one of Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion, it’s time for us to get back to our analysis of Vignette #9 of Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story.  As a little reminder, just before our break, we were introduced to the idea that Noah was, in his cursing of Ham and blessing of Japheth and Shem, prophetically assigning them (and their descendants) to their respective roles as the corporate Body, Soul, and Spirit of humanity—roles naturally bringing with them some specific responsibilities.  In this part of our critique, we will take a look at these responsibilities in an effort to see…

  • How well Noah’s sons fulfilled their prophetic assignments;
  • How one line of Ham’s descendants rebelled against their divinely ordained destiny; and,
  • How that rebellion led to the division of languages which resulted in the development of nations.

Additionally, in the process of all of this, we will meet two of the shady and rather illusive New Characters who will be playing such vital yet largely unseen roles throughout the remainder of the Heavenly Story now unfolding before us.

The Prophetic Assignments of Noah’s Sons

1. Ham

Ham as the Body of MankindAlthough Ham was the youngest of Noah’s sons, since he was the first son that Noah dealt with, we will also begin with him.  As we learned last time, because of his fleshly response to his father’s drink-induced nakedness, and his apparent disregard for the spiritual position and reputation of his father, Ham and his descendants were “cursed” by being relegated to the role of the corporate Body of mankind.  In this capacity, their chief responsibility was to learn how to make the best use of the natural resources around them so they could provide not only for their own physical or material needs, but also for those of Shem, Japheth, and their descendants.  In so doing, they would be fulfilling Noah’s charge for them to be “…a servant of servants” to their brothers.

As for how well they served their “brothers” in this capacity, history has shown that, for the most part, Ham and his descendants have been highly successful in the accomplishment of this task.  For, if we were to research the history of their contributions to mankind, we would find that the development of…

…almost any essential element of our highly complex civilization—aircraft, paper, weaving, metallurgy, propulsion of various kinds, painting, explosives, mechanical principles, food, the use of electricity, virtually anything technological in nature…leads surely and certainly back to a Hamitic people and exceedingly rarely to Japheth or Shem.[1]

Through their development of such things as new farming techniques, writing and printing, the domestication of animals, fabrics and weaving, and building tools and materials…

…the Hamitic peoples have shown an amazing ability to exploit the immediate resources of their environment to the limit…”[2]

…and have, in the process, made life on the earth sustainable and far more comfortable and enjoyable for everyone.

2.  Shem

Shem as the Spirit of MankindAfter assigning his youngest son to the task of service to his brothers, Noah redirected his attention from the physical to the spiritual, and from cursing to blessing, as he called upon God to bless his son, Shem.  Although his reason for singling Shem out in this way remains unclear—especially considering that, in Genesis 9:23, both Shem and Japheth had responded to their father’s unfortunate situation in the same thoughtful and respectful way—in his blessing of Shem, Noah was prophetically elevating this son to the role of the corporate Spirit of mankind.

In other words, Shem was being designated as the conduit through whom God would progressively reveal Himself to humanity; first through the Law and the Prophets, and then through His Own Son, Jesus Christ.  However, in order for them to fulfill the responsibilities associated with this role, Shem and his descendants would have to maintain a unique relationship with God by being obedient to His laws (so that when the Lord blessed them for their obedience, they would become witnesses of the reality of God to the rest of the world) and, protecting and preserving that which would be entrusted to them by God.

As for how well the Semites fulfilled this assignment, they were successful in that the revelation of God was preserved until it was made flesh in the coming of Christ; however, this was due more to the faithfulness of God than to the faithfulness of the people.   Had God not preserved a righteous remnant to guard this divine treasure, it would have been lost to the world as a result of Shem’s descendants’ flagrant violations of God’s statutes and their repeated disavowals of their unique relationship with Him.

3. Japheth

Japheth as the Soul of MankindOnce the roles of the Body and Spirit had been filled, Noah turned to assigning the role of the corporate Soul to his son, Japheth; something he accomplished by pronouncing a blessing on Japheth; a blessing in which he asked God to enlarge Japheth and his descendants, and to allow them to eventually become partakers in the spiritual blessing of Shem.

As for the significance of the order of Noah’s cursing and blessing, and of Japheth’s positioning in between his two brothers, we need only refer back to But Why Couldn’t We Stay the Way We Were…, where we learned that, on an individual level…

…when God created man, He first fashioned a physical Body for him, then He breathed His Spirit into that body, and when He did, the human Soul came into being.  This, then, set up the system that God intended to use when He wanted to relate to and to communicate with the man that He had created.  Once again, this is the way it worked:  God’s Spirit would speak to man’s spirit, man’s spirit would speak to his soul, and then man’s soul would speak to his body—each part relaying to man the will that God wanted to be carried out on the earth on His behalf.

As we can see, this was the very same order in which Noah prophesied over his sons; first, he dealt with Ham as the Body, then with Shem as the Spirit, and finally with Japheth as the Soul, in the middle, acting as mediator between his two brothers.  There, he was in a position to take the spiritual revelations given to Shem and, through the use of his “soul” attributes of intellect and communication, relay them to Ham for their implementation.  Or, as Arthur Custance explains the process, as it has taken place over time…

Thus it has come about that the pioneering task of opening up the world, subduing it, and rendering it habitable, was first undertaken by the descendants of Ham…

Centuries later, Japheth settled slowly into the areas already opened up by Ham, in almost every case adopting the solutions, suited to local survival, which the predecessors had already worked out.  Yet in all cases Japheth took with him a certain philosophizing tendency which acted to modify the somewhat materialistic culture which he was inheriting…

In the providence of God the Semitic people, represented in Israel, remained at the center until their spiritual education had reached a certain point.  They were then scattered among the nations and carried with them their pure monotheistic faith.  But when they should have received their King, they failed to recognize Him, and their particular Kingdom was taken from them and the responsibility of its administration given to Japheth instead.

The enlargement of Japheth has continued to this day…frequently at the expense of the Hamites who first possessed the land…This “enlargement” has also brought its own undesirable consequences.  Perhaps this is because the spiritual responsibility taken over from Shem has never been completely undertaken by Japheth who received the commission.[3]

The First Big Rebellion at Babel 

From what we can gather, then, each of Noah’s sons managed to fulfill his prophetic assignment to some degree. While the divine revelation entrusted to Shem was “stewarded” by him, it was not always done faithfully; and, even though Japheth did take up that revelation, he has not been entirely successful at passing it on to the rest of the world. Likewise, in spite of his many successes at subduing the earth and exploiting its resources—and, given the natural conflict existing between the flesh and the spirit— Ham has all too often rejected the revelation of God, and rebelled against submitting to any higher spiritual authority other than himself, something which this revelation has always demanded.

We witnessed our first recorded instance of this sort of rebellion in Vignette #9 where, from Genesis 10:6, 8 and Genesis 11:1-9, we learned that Ham’s grandson, Nimrod, rather than submitting to his God-ordained assignment to serve his brothers, determined that he would rule over them instead.  In his efforts to seize control, we also have documented for us man’s first attempt at hijacking and corrupting the system of human government, which had so recently been established by Noah at God’s direction.

Although the Bible tells us very little about Nimrod, there are numerous references to him in ancient extra-biblical literature.  We find one such reference in Antiquities of the Jews, compiled by the Jewish historian, Josephus

Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power…

From what we read here, Nimrod sounds very much like “the man of lawlessness” the Apostle Paul warned his readers about, later in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10.  There, he described this man as…

…the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God…The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan, with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing because they refused to love the truth and be saved.

And, from Josephus’ description of them, it would seem that those who were following Nimrod were very much like those just described by Paul…

Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than anyone could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water.[4]

It should be noted here that the building of this tower…

…was not an innocent, scientifically naive, primitive effort to reach the highest heavens! It was, instead, a brilliant but blasphemous effort to dismiss forever the God who had commanded Noah and his three sons after the Flood to ‘be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth’ (Genesis 9:1). Instead of honouring His name (i.e. His character and attributes), they said, ‘Let us build for ourselves a city … and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth’ (Genesis 11:4).[5]

Tower of Babel

The Tower of Babel

In reality, this tower was created to be a religious center; one designed in the shape of a mountain which, when “scaled” through the accomplishment of varying degrees of religious ritual, would elevate men to the status of deity and to the pinnacle of human power.  The ziggurat—or stepped tower–is probably what this “mountain” would have looked like; a place where…

The top compartment represented heaven. The inner walls, in all probability, were decorated with blue glazed tile, with the sun, the moon, and the five known planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) lined up along the plane of the zodiac. In the centre of the room would be their “god” seated upon a throne! Nebuchadnezzar later rebuilt such a tower in Babylon, which the Sumerians had called E-TEMEN-AN-KI (‘the building of the foundation-platform of heaven and earth’).  The pyramids of Egypt and, much later, the great Mayan temples of Central America, reflected the design of the original Tower of Babel.[6]

So, in addition to his corruption of the established governmental system and the establishment of himself as the first tyrannical emperor in human history, Nimrod was also responsible for the development of the first false religious system in the world; one…

…based primarily upon a corruption of the primeval astronomy formulated by Noah’s righteous ancestors before the flood. In the original this system depicted by means of constellations the story of Satan’s rebellion and the war in the heavens, his subversion of mankind, the fall of Adam and Eve, the promise of One to come who would suffer and die to relieve man from the curse of sin then be installed as Lord of Creation, and the final re-subjugation of the cosmos to God through Him.

[However] These eternal truths were corrupted…into a mythic cycle wherein the great dragon is depicted as the rightful lord of the universe whose throne has been temporarily usurped by One whom we can recognize as the God of the Bible. The serpent creates man in his present miserable state, but promises that a child would one day be born of a divine mother—which child would supplant God, become a god himself, and return rulership of the Earth to the serpent. These fables were based upon the then widely-known story of the constellations, and were introduced under the guise of revealing the hidden esoteric knowledge concealed in them (regardless of the fact that the original was quite straightforward).

…this esotericism…only masked the actual goal which was the worship of the “heavenly host,” which the Bible equates with Satan’s army of fallen angels. Satan was quite willing to receive worship “by proxy”, hence the third major element of the mystery religion was emperor-worship. This religion was propagated by a hierarchy of priests and priestesses, to whom were assigned the task of initiating the populace at large into its ascending degrees of revelation, culminating at the highest level in both direct worship of Satan and demon-possession.[7]

The Division of the People into Nations

Given the true nature of this rebellious and blasphemous endeavor—and the fact that it was God’s declared will from the beginning that human beings scatter abroad over the earth so that the earth would…

…be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14)…

…it was no wonder that God so quickly “came down” to earth and put a stop to it.  In the face of these men’s arrogant aspirations, He simply confused “…their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech…” and, in this way, He “…dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth (Genesis 11:7-8).”  From this map, we can see which way each of Noah’s sons went…

Table of Nations

Noah’s Descendants Scatter

The Introduction of New Characters

From what we have just learned about Nimrod, it should now be easier for us to see that, with his appearance on the earthly stage of God’s One Big Story, we are also being introduced to a sinister new character, simultaneously making an entrance onto the heavenly stage of our Story.  This character is none other than the Antichrist—and even though he will not always be visible to us, we will certainly be able to see evidences of his work throughout the remainder of the Story.  That’s because he will not be working alone, but with a co-conspirator—one who also made her first appearance on our stage at the Tower of Babel.  Her name is Mystery Babylon and she became a reality in our Story in the following way…

As the sons and grandsons of Shem, Ham, and Japheth made their way into strange new lands, one of the familiar things they all carried with them was the false religious system which had first been established in the land of Shinar at Babel—later to be known as Babylon.  And, it was…

…from Babylon this mystery-religion spread to all the surrounding nations…Everywhere the symbols were the same, and everywhere the cult of the mother and child became the popular system…The image of the [Madonna] queen of heaven with the babe in her arms was seen everywhere, though the names might differ as languages differed. It became the mystery-religion of Phoenicia, and by the Phoenicians was carried to the ends of the earth. Ashtoreth and Tammuz, the mother and child of these hardy adventurers, became Isis and Horus in Egypt, Aphrodite and Eros in Greece, Venus and Cupid in Italy, and bore many other names in more distant places. Within 1,000 years, Babylonianism had become the religion of the world, which had rejected the Divine revelation.[8]

As a result of this, Babylon came to be known as the “mother” who had given birth to every pagan religious system in the world— the system referred to in the Bible as Mystery Babylon.  This system is described in Revelation 17:1ff as…

…a woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality;

…the great prostitute…with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk; and,

…having written on her forehead a name of mystery: Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations… 

…and it will be through her and the Antichrist that Satan will, throughout the remainder of our Story, attempt to deceive and seduce people into worshiping him, rather than the true God.

Mystery Babylon5 Ottheinrich_Folio300r_Rev17 Matthias Gerung [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mystery Babylon, the Mother of all False Religions

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
In spite of all the lies Satan has put out, Steve Green reminds us that there is only one who is deserving of our worship, and that is “God and God Alone”…

 

 

 

[1] Arthur C. Custance, Noah’s Three Sons: Human History in Three Dimensions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 37-38.

[2] Custance, Noah’s Three Sons, 27-28.

[3] Custance, Noah’s Three Sons, 42.

[4] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews: Book 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1960), 79-80.

[5] https://answersingenesis.org/tower-of-babel/babel/

[6] https://answersingenesis.org/tower-of-babel/babel/

[7] Bryce Self, Semiramis, Queen of Heaven (http://www.ldolphin.org/semir.html)

[8] Harry A. Ironside, Babylonian Religion (http://www.biblelineministries.org/articles/)

 

 

The Way We Are Isn’t The Way We Were…

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While it is true that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and while it may seem that we have been wandering off the beaten path during some of our recent visits together, I feel certain that if we take a moment to do a brief recap of our journey together so far, we will find that we have been traveling along a remarkably straight road.  In fact, we should be able to see an orderly, even progressive, pattern starting to develop—almost as if someone had planned it that way!  I wish I could take credit for it but, in spite of the fact that I am a linear thinker (my self-imposed protection against confusion and getting lost), all organizational cudos must go to God.  My part in all of this is just to show up and ask, “What now, Lord?” and then wait for His answer.

Now, in order to see where we need to go from here, let’s take a minute to review how far we have come.  Thus far…

We have learned that the meaning of life is simple–it is all
about Jesus.
 →  Since life is all about Jesus, God’s plan for our lives is to
bring us to Jesus, then to make us like Jesus.
Although life is simple, that doesn’t mean that it is going
to be easy.
That’s because coming to and becoming like Jesus puts us at
odds with everyone and everything else around us.
When we first come to Jesus, we must overcome the opposition
presented by the world, the flesh, and the devil.
 → And, even after we come to Him, we must spend the rest of
our lives learning to overcome these same three enemies of
our spiritual well-being.
Since overcoming these things is a spiritual battle, if we are
going to be victorious, we must allow God to defeat them by
the power of His Spirit working through us.
  For that to happen, we must learn to live life in a state of
worship,which really means living a life that is daily
surrendered to God.

This all sounds simple, logical, and straightforward enough, doesn’t it?  And, isn’t it reasonable to believe that those of us who have come to Christ for salvation would all desire, at least on an intellectual level, to live out our Christian lives this simply and this victoriously?  Then why is it that when we try to put this kind of lifestyle into practice, we are so often met with frustration and failure?

At first, we may be tempted to attribute our lack of success to our own weakness, immaturity, or lack of commitment; but then, when we consider the fact that someone of the spiritual caliber of the Apostle Paul also struggled with the very same issues, we need to acknowledge that there is more to this than we may have realized.  Just listen to the frustration that Paul experienced, as he writes in his letter to the church at Rome:

For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Rom. 7:15, 18-25 ESV)

Oh woe, woe, woe–there here we have it!  Although Paul, in his mind, wanted to serve the law of God—that is, to do the will of God—in his flesh, he continued to serve the law of sin, just like we do.  What a dilemma—for both him and for us!  So, how did this happen and what, if anything, can be done to alleviate this miserable situation?  Well, for us to answer that, we will need to take a little detour and go back to the beginning, back to when God first created man, so we can see how we were originally designed, and learn how that design was altered as a result of sin—an alteration which we, like Paul, have been struggling to overcome ever since.

Back in Genesis 1-2, we find a beautiful but abbreviated description of God’s creation of a world that was designed to be the perfect dwelling place for man.  Once He had that home prepared, God set about the business of creating man, the pinnacle of His creation, and the only being ever to have been made in His very own image and likeness.  He began this process by first taking some of the dust of the earth–that is, some of the natural elements of this world—and fashioning it into a human form so ideal that later, in Psalm 8, man would be described as having been “made…a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned…with glory and honor.”   Finally, God completed the process by breathing into this being His very own breath, an act which gave man his life and made him a spirit being capable of sharing in the very moral, spiritual, and eternal essence of God Himself.

Hmmm!  If you have been paying attention all this time, you will know that this presents us with a serious question; for now we have spirit + flesh together, or, a supernatural, eternal being living in a natural, mortal body.  But haven’t we already established the fact that, “…that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit”, and that never the two shall meet?  So then, how are these two supposed to coexist together?

SpiritDark1.fw

God’s Design for Communicating with Man

Well, back again in Genesis 2:7 (KJV), where we are told that
“…the Lord God formed man of the dust of the
ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath
of life,” we also learn that when the Spirit entered
his body, “…man became a living soul.”  In
other words, a whole new entity was created; man
was not just a physical body with a detached spirit
floating around in it; he had become a physical being
with a  newly formed personality that was designed
to function as the mediator or go-between of his body
and his spirit.  In effect, this set up what I like to call
God’s “top-down” system of communication, something
which in graphical terms, might look like this:

First, God’s Spirit would speak to man’s spirit,
telling him what God wanted him to do;

man’s spirit would then pass this information on to the mind part of man’s soul which, in turn,
would communicate God’s instructions to the body for its execution.

In this way, God’s will would be carried out effectively and efficiently on the earth by His one and only legal representative, Man.

What a really great solution to the problem of communication between two such mutually exclusive entities, wouldn’t you say? And for a while, it was functioning according to plan–that is, until a seductive yet diabolical h-i-s-s-s-s was suddenly heard in the neighborhood!

Snakez1

Do I Hear a Hssss Coming…

 …………………………………………………………………….to be continued next time →   

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Big Daddy Weave, wondering “What Would Life Be Like”