Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Exegesis Of God–Part Two

Let’s recall from last time Solomon’s proclamation at the inauguration of the temple that God had instructed him to build for Him.

 The LORD hath said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.  But I have built an house of habitation for Thee, and a place for Thy dwelling forever (2 Chr. 6:1,2).

This is what Solomon’s temple was all about.  It was to be the place among men where the God who had formerly dwelt in thick darkness now shone forth.  Solomon’s temple was, however, only a shadow of the true temple not made with hands—the Son of God Himself.  And so last time we also quoted a verse from John.

 No man hath seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (Jn. 1:18).

The word declared is the Greek exegesato, and is related to our word exegesis, which is the biblical science of discovering and explaining what the Scriptures really say and mean.  Patient exegesis of the Bible will yield to the yielded much fruit.  But in John 1:18 we discover that the Son of God when He walked the earth was the exegesis of God Himself.  He was the One who explained, made known, revealed, shone forth, the hard-to-understand, unseen, obscure, unknown God.

That’s very wonderful, but I wonder if I don’t hear someone thinking, “Well and good that Jesus the Son of God was the exegesis of God the Father back then, but He is not here now.”

I know the regret you’re expressing: if only we could have lived back in Jesus’ day… or if only He were still here today.  Too bad the Devil succeeded in tearing down that living Temple in whom God dwelt and was revealed.

Just a minute.  Remember what Jesus said about that.

 Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up…
But He spake of the Temple of His body (Jn. 2:19,21).

And so the Devil has his own regrets that he and his cohorts conspired to have the Lord of glory crucified, thinking to be done with Him.  For He rose from the dead.  And He ascended into Heaven, where, seated at the right hand of God, He began His more excellent ministry of the New Covenant, and an enlargement of that Temple which would continue to be the same exegesis of God.

How so?  When Christ ascended to the right hand of God, He “received the promise of the Father” (Acts 2:33), on the day of Pentecost sending the Spirit to His waiting disciples, just as He, in turn, had earlier promised them.

 I will not leave you comfortless.  I will come to you (Jn. 14.18).

I will come to you?  This is a mystery.  The coming of the Spirit was such that the same One who was the exegesis of God at the right hand of the Father, while continuing to abide at the right hand of the Father in the Heavens, came to His disciples again, and took up residence in them.  For, those in whom the Spirit dwells, it is Christ Himself who dwells in them, as we read in many places in our New Testament.  (For example, Romans 8: 9,10, and many other places that speak of the indwelling Christ.)  And thus they become part of the same Temple Solomon prophesied of, the same habitation the Son of God fulfilled—the same living Exegesis that reveals God and makes Him known among men.

That is the astonishing implication of the sending of the Spirit.  Those in whom Christ dwells now become part of that same exegesis of God that the Son of God was.

This is what the New Covenant assembly is all about, or ought to be.  The church—which was formed by the coming of the Spirit to individual disciples—is to be the fullness of that same Exegesis of God who walked the earth two thousand years ago, and is now seated at the right hand of God.

 The church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:23).

The fullness of Him?  The church is His very body—the fullness of Him?  I am sure this is what Jesus had in mind when He “spake of the temple of His body” which He said He would raise up.  “The church, which is His body…”  The Devil thought to be rid of Him by the cross.  What he did, to his great chagrin, enabled God to lay in Zion the foundation Stone for an enlargement of that temple.  It began with the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost.  He comes for nothing less than to continue the same exegesis of God that the Son of God was when He was here.

That is the nature of Christ’s more excellent ministry of the New Covenant.  It is a ministration of the very knowledge of God, and thus, “all shall know Me from the least to the greatest” (Heb. 8:11) .  This is something more than knowledge as we generally think of the word.  It is New Covenant knowledge: the kind of knowledge—the knowledge of God—whom to know means our being like Him.

How imperative, then, that we in the church, as ministers of the New Covenant (which all Christians are to be) give the Prime Minister of the New Covenant—the Holy Spirit—His lordship and pre-eminence in our individual lives, and in our gatherings.  He comes for nothing less than to reveal, to make known, the same God of love and righteousness that dwelt in the Son… so that the same exegesis of God now dwells in and shines forth from the churches—you and me and our brothers and sisters in the churches.

This is what the New Covenant, and the New Covenant assembly, is all about—or is supposed to be—the exegesis of God to a world in darkness.  Anything short of this… we are sorely missing His mark.

And it has to be said that much of what is called church in our day has in fact done that.  Has fallen short.  Has missed the mark.  Let the broken and repentant heart be encouraged.  Christ is still on the Throne at the right hand of the Father, and the Holy Spirit sent from the Throne is still in the earth.  The temple He inaugurated at Pentecost is still here, though in the midst of much that man has built cannot always readily be seen.  In fact her enemies are gloating these days that they have succeeded in destroying her and treading her down in the dust.  The Lord on the throne has a surprise in store for His enemies.  The power and principle of His resurrection life is still at work.  He continues to raise up this Temple—the One that was torn down on Calvary’s cross—just as He prophesied He would do.  He will beautify her, set living stones in her just like Himself.  He will yet be fully revealed, will yet shine forth in this temple in all His glory in the Heavens and in the earth…

…And all the confusion and debate and doubt and misunderstanding as to who He is—all the thick darkness—will vanish like the morning mist in the light of the sun.

The Exegesis Of God

Let me tell you a little story.  Once there was a young man who as a new Christian greatly admired an old saint whose teaching in the word of God had opened a vista the young man had no idea even existed. He aspired to be like the old saint.  The young man greatly admired the old saint’s worn, time-weathered Bible as well.  Its pages were wrinkled and crinkled, its verses underscored, its margins inked with notes.  Because of the aura that went with it—that of a seasoned saint steeped in the word—the young man wanted a Bible like that very badly.  But oh, that would take time, and patience, and what young man has patience and time, especially one who wants to distance himself as fast as he can from a life he has thus far wasted on himself?

And so how does a young man of 25 become an instant seasoned saint?  He buys a new Bible, and, being careful not to tear its pages, crinkles them one by one in his hand, attempting to imitate the effect.

It was a sorry disappointment.  He eventually gave the Bible to an acquaintance, who told him some time later that he had accidentally left it in a phone booth.

The young man is older now, and thinking back the other day, had a good laugh at himself and his immaturity.  He eventually learned that there are no short cuts in the pathway of coming to know God—or to owning a well-worn Bible, either.  Now he has two or three Bibles that look like that old saint’s Bible… but for some reason, his love of Bible exegesis has brought him to the place where he knows less now than the young man he used to be.

Exegesis?  It was only when the Internet and its resources came along that the young man, grown quite a bit older, came across the word.  Bible school students take classes in exegesis; they are taught careful procedures to rightly get at the actual meaning of Scripture.  An exegesis of any given word or passage explains that passage in its context going into, among other things, the meanings of the Hebrew or the Greek, thus hopefully bringing to light the obscurities of the word of God.

For, the Bible can indeed be a very obscure book… just as God Himself can be a very obscure God.

On the day that God gave Israel His commandments, He had come down on Mount Sinai clothed in cloud and smoke and thick darkness.

 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was (Ex. 20:21).

Communing with God in the cloud, Moses received further commandments for the people, and eventually instructions for the tabernacle that God wanted built.  What was the significance of the tabernacle?

 Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them (Ex. 25:8).

Five centuries later when Solomon’s temple had been finished to the last detail, and the sacrifices had been made, and the ark brought into its place, the temple was filled with a cloud “so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God” (2 Chr. 5.14). Upon this, Solomon spoke the following words:

 The LORD hath said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.  But I have built an house of habitation for Thee, and a place for Thy dwelling forever (2 Chr. 6:1,2).

As I was reading this passage one day, the light came on.  What was the significance of the temple?  This.  The God who had been cloaked in thick darkness, in cloud and mystery and obscurity… He was here in His temple now, not afar off in Heaven, but nigh, not hidden away, but unveiled. That was the whole purpose of the tabernacle and the temple—that the unknown inscrutable God might dwell there and reveal Himself openly, make Himself known.

And so a thousand years after Solomon, we come to John’s words about the Temple not made with hands.

 No man hath seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (Jn. 1:18).

The word declared in the Greek is exegesato, a verb form of the noun exegesis, meaning that the Son of God declared the Father, revealed Him, made Him known. Vincent’s Word Studies confirms this.

 Hath declared (ἐξηγήσατο)  Or, rendering the aorist strictly, ‘He declared.’ From ἐκ, forth, and ἡγέομαι, to lead the way. Originally, to lead or govern. Hence, like the Latin praeire verbis, to go before with words, to prescribe or dictate a form of words. To draw out in narrative, to recount or rehearse (see Acts 15:14, and on Luke 24:35). To relate in full; to interpret, or translate. Therefore ἐξήγησις, exegesis, is interpretation or explanation (Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, Volume Two).

In other words, according to John 1:18, the Son of God is Himself the exegesis of God.  The tabernacle and Solomon’s temple were but types and shadows of the true temple not made with hands; it was the Son of God Himself who declared, explained, interpreted, made known, revealed, shone forth, the God who had dwelt so long time in thick darkness, and no one had ever really seen.  In the Temple of His Son, this God now dwelt, and shone forth.  The obscure, mysterious, hard to understand, distant, way-up-there-somewhere-far-away God… the Son of God brought Him nigh and revealed Him and made Him known to men.

Only the Son of God Himself could do that.  In fact only the Son of God could be that explanation, the kind of exegesis that is God Himself making Himself known to men.

The young man I referred to is older these days, and is himself a little wrinkled and time-worn now.  He has loved Bible exegesis over the years.  What has it done for him?  This.  He finds in his heart a perpetual cry.  Oh to know more fully this One in the bosom of the Father—this One who is the exegesis of God Himself.

Apart from that exegesis, Bible exegesis has missed the mark.

…More next time.

Understanding Paul

The apostle Peter wrote that the apostle Paul had written some things “hard to be understood” (2 Pt. 3:16). A friend of mine once observed that he found in Peter’s epistles some things hard to be understood as well.  I agree with my friend.  And I agree with Peter, too.  Paul has certainly written some things that are hard to understand.  For example, have you ever wondered why Paul, after saying we are dead with Christ (Col. 2:20, 3:3), exhorts us to mortify (put to death) our members that are upon the earth?  Why, if I am already dead with Christ… why do I need to put my members to death?

Let’s see if we can find out. Come with me for a ride in my new vehicle—a Heavenrod, Model BTS Traveller.  (The BTS, I am told, stands for Beyond Time and Space, and I’m sorry I can’t tell you how it works; I never was much for understanding what goes on under a hood.)  But anyway, please step inside.  Wait a minute, first I need to see your ID.  Okay, you’re a baptized believer.  Now that we’re in with seat belts buckled and the doors shut, I just press this button, and… lo and behold, immediately we are in Heaven!  Yes, I knew you’d find it amazing.

And what do we see now that we are here? Or rather, who do we  see?  Here is our Lord Jesus Christ seated on a great throne!   And we see that, although He was once dead (He shows us His hands and His feet), raised from the dead He dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him.  For, He died to the cause of death—sin—and now is alive forevermore unto God.  How amazing is that.  What is more (and this is even more amazing) we see that we too, having been baptized into Him, are as dead to sin and alive to God as He is.  We see, in fact, that we are entirely new creatures over whom the law of sin and death no longer reigns, new creatures in whom eternal life now reigns—His own eternal life.

There is more. This throne we see Jesus seated in…  we too are seated with Him, reigning with Him, even over all orders of angels whether dark or light.

You are awestruck, I know.   So am I.  Truly, He is a wonderful person, and this is truly a wonderful place!

But this is just a sneak preview; now we must go back to earth. No need to sigh, we don’t need to go back reluctantly.  For—the most amazing thing of all—God has made provision for us to live on this sin-broken earth in the very reality of Christ and Heaven that we have just visited.

That provision is a facet of the Spirit of God called faith.

What does it mean to live by faith?  It means walking in this earthly realm according to an invisible heavenly reality.  It means knowing by faith that what Christ accomplished in Himself is our salvation.  He died to sin?  In Him we are dead to sin.  He rose from the dead?  In Him we too are risen.  He is seated at the right hand of God in the heavenlies?  We too are seated in the heavenlies.  Although we do not see this yet (for, “we walk by faith, not by sight”) our walk of faith with the help of the Spirit here on earth is a walk of alignment with the heavenly reality that is in Christ.  By faith we seek, and are enabled, to conform to what is true in Him, are enabled to live the very life of Christ here on earth.  For, “The just shall live by faith.”

You mean living by faith is just a sort of “pretending” we do here on earth till some day in Heaven we enter into the reality?   No, that misses the mark.  Faith is an appropriation of the heavenly reality so that it is just as real here as there.

And since that is so, this reveals to us the nature of faith: to live by faith is to cease from our own strivings.  By faith, the rest of faith, we abide in a heavenly reality that has already been accomplished in Christ rather than by working toward this reality.  It is not by our own endeavours that we accomplish the death or the Life; it is by faith that we walk, God’s objective being to conform us fully to the image of His Son while here on earth so that as He is—dead to sin and alive to God, and therefore walking in love—so are we in this world.

And so, it is because we who have been baptized into Christ are dead to sin (Christ having died to sin) that we, by the Spirit, mortify our members which are upon the earth; it is because we are risen (Christ being risen) that we “seek those things which are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”  It is by the operation of faith—the faith of the operation of God—that we who are yet on earth in mortal flesh align ourselves with the heavenly reality.

Again in Romans Six Paul states the eternal fact that since Christ died to sin, we too are to reckon (account) ourselves “dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:11).  But then he goes on to say, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body…”  Here again, why, if I am dead to sin, must I refuse to allow sin to reign in my mortal body?  It is because, once again, God has made provision for the reality of what is in Christ at the right hand of God to be our experience while yet on earth in mortal flesh.   The Christian, the one who has been baptized into Christ, is free from sin the moment he is baptized into Christ.  For in Christ he is dead to sin.  “Being then made free from sin…” (Rom. 6:18).  And once having received the Spirit of the risen Christ, he is now enabled to obey a different Master—righteousness.  It is by faith that this is accomplished.  For, faith is an operation of the Spirit of God.  “Buried with Him in (the) baptism wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation (working) of God who hath raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12).

See what Paul is saying? Faith is the divine enablement, the operation of God, to walk according to the invisible (or unseen) reality of Christ—His death and resurrection and ascension—while yet in mortal flesh.  “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).

This is why Paul in another place said he pressed toward the mark, while yet in mortal flesh, if by any means he might attain to the resurrection from among the dead (Phil. 3:11).  He knew the resurrection was coming.  By faith he meant to appropriate it now.

“Not having my own righteousness, which is of the law,” says Paul in that same passage, “but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness of God by faith…” It is a ceasing from one’s own works, and, by faith, aligning with the truth of Christ, the truth as it is in Jesus.  The walk and warfare of faith in mortal flesh corresponds with the heavenly reality.

So this puts us in the place of needing to “work out our own salvation.” Not that we are not saved, on the contrary.   We are saved; therefore let us walk in that salvation, work it out, here and now.  It is the work of faith. Although our old man was crucified with Christ, it is necessary to walk in the Spirit by faith, and not in the flesh, in order to experience the fullness of that salvation.  If we walk in the flesh we alienate ourselves from what is ours in Christ.   We must walk in the Spirit, and not in the flesh, in order for the heavenly reality of His resurrection life to be our experience here in the earth.

…And the heavenly reality of His death as well.  Job in his misery longed for death.  “There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.  There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor.  The small and the great are there, and the servant is free from his master” (Job 3.17-19).  Beautiful release.  But those in Christ need not wait for that day of release; baptized into the death of Christ they are already there; in the cross of Christ, who was crucified to the world, they too are dead to the world, and are at rest, and cannot be troubled by the wicked.  As A.W. Tozer once said, “The Christian’s grave is behind him.”

In other words, the reality of the powerful death of Christ and the beautiful life of Christ… it’s so elusive, who shall descend into the deep to bring that death up?  Or who shall ascend  into Heaven to bring that life down?  But that kind of travel is not necessary.

 The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith that we proclaim…” (Rom. 10:8).

Paul is talking about the living word of the Gospel, which when it goes forth, enables the responsive ear to lay hold of what it hears and bring it nigh– right into the mouth and into the heart… where, since it is alive, it begins to grow, and grow, and grow.  And the fruit of this living word of faith is that when Christ our life Himself appears,  and we see Him as He is, we discover that our obedience to the word, the obedience of faith, has resulted in our being conformed to His image; we are just like Him.  For we have received the end of our faith—the salvation of our souls.