Category Archives: Spiritual Warfare

The Canon Of Life

I wanted to call this blog entry Sola Vitae, but changed my mind because I didn’t want to appear to be “putting on airs.” I don’t know Latin. Nevertheless, the idea for that title did seem to come to me by inspiration, and if you’ll follow along with me here, you’ll see why.

During the Reformation someone came up with the Latin phrase sola scriptura—Scripture alone—to proclaim the rule that is to govern all points of doctrine and practice for the Christian. The canon of Scripture, as it is called, is to be the determining rule for establishing Christian doctrine and practice. I myself am of this persuasion, as is the Bible. “All scripture,” saith the Bible, “is given by inspiration of God [is God-breathed] and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim 3:16,16). The implication of course is that what is not God-breathed is not to be used for doctrine and practice.

When Paul wrote this to Timothy, it was the Old Testament scriptures he had in mind, scriptures Timothy had been taught from his childhood, scriptures that were “able to make [him] wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” as Paul has just said in the previous verse. Yet even as Paul wrote this to Timothy, he was adding another writing to writings that were becoming recognized as divinely-inspired scriptures (2 Pt 3:16), documents that would accompany the Old Testament scriptures and eventually complete what we now know as the canon, the rule, of Scripture. The 39 books of the Old Testament were recognized as the canon of Scripture in the days of Jesus and earlier. The 27 books of the New Testament were recognized as the complete canon of Scripture at least as early as the second century. Other writings of the day, while they may have been interesting or informative one way or another, were recognized as not having the same divinely inspired and authoritative stamp.

Our English word canon is from the Greek kanon, which Strong’s defines simply as rule. That, in turn, is derived from the Hebrew kaneh, which in the Old Testament is often translated reed. We find it in Ezekiel  40:3 where in prophetic vision he sees a man in white linen with the appearance of bronze. He is about to show Ezekiel a temple. The man has “a line of flax in his hand, and a measuring reed…” In the New Testament Paul uses kanon four times in 2 Corinthians 10:13-16 referring to the limits of the area God had measured out for him in which to proclaim the Gospel. Paul was not free to preach wherever he wanted; he had to stay within those limits. In fact, even within those limits he could not go wherever he liked, he had to abide in the steps God had set before him.

Paul uses this word in a different context in Galatians, and this will lead us into the meaning of the title I coined for this blog entry (which about doubles my Latin vocabulary):               

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature [or, creation]. And as many as walk by this rule, peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. (Gal. 6:14-16)

It’s the phrase, “walk according to this rule” that we want to look at more closely. The word walk in Scripture is usually peripateo, which means something like “to walk around.” Peri: around, as in looking around with a periscope. Patio: something you walk around on. When Paul says “walk in the Spirit,” it’s the word peripateo that he uses (Gal 5:16). Walk around in the Spirit: everything you do, everywhere you go, walk in the Spirit.

Amen. Yet, that is not the word Paul uses here; it is stoicheo he uses here, which means “to keep in step, to walk in rank.” The thought is of ordered steps. This is the word Paul uses when he speaks of those who, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, “walk (stoicheo) in the steps [footsteps, or tracks] of that faith of our father Abraham…” (Rom. 4:12). So we see the idea there—walking in someone else’s tracks, ordered steps. Luke uses it in Act 21:24, where James is exhorting Paul to purify himself prior to keeping a vow, thus demonstrating that the rumors that were going around about him—that he was teaching Jews living among the Gentiles to “forsake Moses” and didn’t need to circumcise their sons or keep the Jewish customs—James urges Paul to show the Jews here in Jerusalem that all this is false, but rather, Paul, “thou walkest orderly, and keepest the law.” Some teach that Paul really messed up here, but God had His own way of rescuing him out of it before it involved animal sacrifice; and in any case this would have accorded with Paul’s own desire to be “all things to all men.”

 Unto the Jew I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under law as under law, that I might gain them that are under the law… (1 Cor. 9:19-22)

This rule

But back to the Galatians passage. What rule does Paul have in mind by this rule?  

He has just said, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk by this rule (Gk. kanon)…” This, then, is the rule he is referring to—the canon, the rule, of the new creation, of new creation life, by which those in Christ are graced to order their steps.

Let’s back up a little further. “For, in Christ Jesus…” What is that for there for? What does he mean by for? It follows immediately upon this:

 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom [or, by which] the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For, in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

       

In other words, those in the world are either of the circumcision or the uncircumcision. But Paul in the crucified Christ is now dead to the world, and the world is dead to him, the world with its rules has no claim on him anymore. As he says in another place, “if ye died with Christ unto the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances…?” (Col. 2:20). Those in the world are either Jews or Gentiles, either circumcised or uncircumcised; now in the risen and glorified Christ, Paul is a new creation who walks according to a different rule, the rule of the new creation.

The whole epistle to the Galatian churches is Paul’s outcry against certain teachers who were trying to persuade new Gentile believers that in addition to faith in Christ they were required to keep the Old Covenant law, all of which was summed up in the one word, circumcision. Definitely not, said Paul. Not anymore. In Christ Jesus it is no more a matter of the rule of Moses that Israel was once required to keep, nor of any other rule by which Gentiles—the uncircumcised—were themselves restrained from walking after the natural inclination of the heart of fallen man. Rather, all those in Christ whether Jew or Gentile, are now a new creation, and the new creation man walks by a different rule, the rule of new creation life—the New Covenant law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. This is a law not of restraint, but of liberty. No, not the liberty of “doing your own thing.” On the contrary, it is walking in the ordered steps—the stoicheo—of a much higher and far more beautiful law. In Christ Jesus life is a rule. The life of the new creation man is a canon, a rule. How wondrous is that!

I said at the start that solo scriptura is a rule that I espouse. I am in fellowship with others who do the same and determine not to move a hair’s breadth from this rule. We are zealous for this, passionate about it. But oh, brothers and sisters, oh that we had the same zeal, the same passion, the same dedication, to solo vitae—lifealonethe same determination to walk in the liberating confines of the steps of the rule, the canon, of new creation life. Upon these Paul pronounces a benediction.

As many as walk by this rule, peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Co-operating Faith

I’ve been wanting to share with you further about those two entries from F.B. Meyer’s Our Daily Walk that I wrote about last time. They both centred on the raising of Lazarus, and Martha’s faith. To refresh your memory here are extracts:

From the January 12th entry:

THIS CROWNING miracle of our Lord’s life is generally described as the Raising of Lazarus. I am not sure that it might not with equal truth be called the Awakening of Martha, for it is certain that the Lord lifted this soul, whom we have been wont to count prosaic and matter-of-fact, to a most remarkable elevation of faith and hope, as they stood together in the shadow of a great sorrow.

In common with the majority of religious people, Martha believed in a general resurrection at some still future date, but she had not realised that God lives in the present tense, that the Eternal is here and now, and that faith must learn to reckon on God’s I AM. We are always putting the manifestation of the Divine in the far past, or the far future. The heaven is high above the earth on which we stand; only at the horizon, behind us and before us, do heaven and earth touch. We all need to learn the lesson that here, in the prosaic commonplaces of life, Jesus Christ is the present and immediate answer to every need.

Christ always needed faith in some one, as the fulcrum on which to rest the lever of His mighty power, and He found it in Martha. What can He not do, even here and now, in the hearts of those who are slow to believe, and those who are dead in trespasses and sins? Believest thou this?

From the April 19th entry:

This chapter might be more truly known as “The Raising of Martha,” for our Lord enabled her, matter-of-fact and practical as she was, to realize that He was the Resurrection and the Life. He insisted that her faith was an essential condition in the raising of her brother to life. The emphasis is on the word “thou” (Jn11:40). Our Lord always needs the co-operating faith of some true heart to be with Him when He works a miracle, and He chose the least likely of the two sisters to supply the pivot on which He could rest the lever of His Divine help. As she withdrew her objection to the removal of the stone, her faith suddenly became capable of claiming the greatest of Christ’s miracles.

You see that the entries are strikingly similar; what is more striking is the way I discovered the similarity. It was as a matter of course that I read the first one on January 12. I “happened upon” the second one when, having closed the book after reading the first one, and, still thinking on what I had just read, I absent-mindedly ran my thumb across the page ends and opened the book again. Lo and behold: the April 19th entry. I began reading, and… this is more than a coincidence! Suddenly I realized my Lord was speaking to me. And I knew what He was speaking to me about.

This is what He was, and still is, speaking to me about.

F.B. Meyer says rightly that “our Lord always needs the co-operating faith of some true heart to be with Him when He works a miracle…” Of course He is able to do whatever He wants, but it is not His desire to grant or impart anything to anyone arbitrarily; he desires our consent, our cooperation, our fellowship, in all He says and does. And so Meyer says that the story of the awakening of Lazarus from sleep could well be called the awakening of Martha. For Christ awakened Martha from her sleepy faith in the last-day resurrection to the living faith that “the resurrection and the life” was standing right before her eyes. “Believest thou this?” He asked.  “Yea Lord,” she responded, “I believe that Thou art the Christ which should come into the world.” Perhaps she did not fully comprehend what He had just said to her, but she believed in Him.

The raising of Lazarus was truly a manifestation of great power; as Meyer has said, it was perhaps the greatest work of power that Jesus ever did while on earth. Let me tell you of another resurrection which is by far the greater miracle. In his epistle to the Ephesians Paul says that God displayed the exceeding greatness of His power when He raised up Jesus from the dead. How much power was that? I think it was all of it, if that can be said. But I’ve left out some words here. Let’s fill them in. In Ephesians Paul prays that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, to the intent that we may know:

          1) the hope of His calling;

          2) the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints;

          3) the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe

          There. The words I left out. Paul declares that the same power by which God raised Christ from the dead is the power that works in us who believe. And so here we have our Lord seeking to awaken faith in you and me as He did with Martha of old. Do we believe this? The power of God toward us who believe is according to the working of the strength of His might which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies… and we will just stop midstream in the rushing current of this sentence to quote Bible scholar F.F. Bruce on the passage:

                    The third thing which the apostle desires his readers to know is the power of God. But when he thinks of the power of God, he presses all the terms for power in his vocabulary into service in order to convey something of its all-surpassing character… . He piles synonym on synonym as he describes how God’s ‘power’ (dynamis) operates according to the inworking (energeia) of the strength (kratos) of His might (ischys)… . (F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Ephesians)

That same power—yes, the same power that God wrought when He raised Christ from the dead—is working, is at work, in us who believe. This is why F.B. Meyer’s words laid hold of me. Here they are again:

               Christ always needed faith in some one, as the fulcrum on which to rest the lever of His mighty power, and He found it in Martha. What can He not do, even here and now, in the hearts of those who are slow to believe, and those who are dead in trespasses and sins? Believest thou this?

What is He able to do in the hearts of those dead in trespasses and sins? Let us not be slow to believe. He is able to quicken them together with Christ so that they are no longer dead in trespasses and sins, but alive unto God. This—the miracle of regeneration—is the very resurrection life of Jesus Christ Himself in those who believe in Him and have received His Spirit. Indeed, this is the greatest of all miracles, and comes to the one whose heart is prepared by faith.

And this is just the beginning of a life that has no end. To be born from above by the Spirit of God means the beginning of a new life on resurrection ground, a step-by-step walk in which God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or even think according to this power working in us (Eph. 3:20). We are empowered to walk with Christ “in newness of life,” His own resurrection life, completely free from sin (Rom. 6:4).

Believest thou this? (Believe is the verb; faith is the noun.) I want to emphasize that word because when the regenerating Spirit comes in Christ’s baptism—baptism in Holy Spirit—faith must continually reach out and apprehend the implications of this baptism. It is possible to be baptized in Holy Spirit and still lack knowledge as to what this baptism includes. It is possible even when the knowledge comes by revelation, to still lack faith to receive it. “Know ye not…” Paul asked the Romans. (Is it not likely that the Holy Spirit had you and me in mind when Paul was inspired to write that?)  “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”

What kind of death is that? Death to sin. “In that He died, He died unto sin once…”

“…But in that He liveth He liveth unto God” (Rom. 6:10).

Wonderful for Him, you say. But the whole purpose of the Christ, to the glory of God, is that this might be wonderful in you and me as well. And He has the provision and power to make it so. Paul continues that we who are in Christ are to account ourselves dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God. “Likewise,” he says, “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:11).

You say you are in Christ but this is not true of you, your experience is just the opposite, and you are still waiting for God to do this in you? But have you seen this, have you received the revelation? If so, are you sure your problem is not one of unbelief? For this is true of those in Christ.

“Now, if we died with Christ, we believe (there’s that word again) that we shall also live with him…” (Rom. 8:8).

We, like Martha

The point I am making is that we, like Martha before she was awakened to faith, are prone to put this life some distance into the future when a mighty move of the Spirit shall  take place, and then we shall begin to walk in this beautiful resurrection life. God has grace, the provision for those who hear and believe, to begin walking in it now. Jesus continues to say, “I am the resurrection and the life.” I realize that we may not hear this livingly merely by reading it in our Bible. Let us open our hearts then, willing to receive. When Christ by His Spirit speaks the living word to us, “the word of His grace,” let us be ready to embrace, to believe that word, in spite of present experience. When revelation comes our part is to believe on the basis of the word of God—not our experience.

Sometimes you may find yourself in a vein of revelation and it is wonderful. But I find often that revelation comes with the sudden flash of illumination, the “quickening ray” from the eye of the Lord that Wesley described:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

We know the wonder, the ecstasy, the rapture, of revelation, that it opens the mind to truth we did not know existed. And we rejoice in it. Yet revelation can be devastating. Have you had that experience? Revelation, when received, breaks up the long-set concrete of darkness in the mind, it looses the bonds and hindrances of the flesh—self pity, moroseness, defeatedness, doubt, congenital unbelief, “nature’s night,” as Wesley called it. “For ye were once darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord…”

When are we light in the Lord? Now, says the apostle.  

          Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light (Eph. 5:14)

Let us awaken, then, and be loosed from our bonds and our grave clothes!  

          Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city… Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bonds of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion (Isa. 52:1,2).

“Arise, and sit down…” For God has “raised us up together, and seated us together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2:6). Believest thou this?

Let us cooperate with God, then. When the word of His grace comes to us, however it comes, as devastating as it may be, as impossible as it may be, let the response of our heart be, Amen. I receive this, I believe you. Your word works effectually in the one who believes. And the bonds of darkness, of death, fall off; we rise to walk with Christ in newness of life.  Amen.

I Am The Resurrection

I have a hard copy of a devotional by F.B. Meyer called Our Daily Walk, which I “happened upon” in a Mennonite second-hand store some time ago. I’m sorry to say it continued to lay neglected in a cardboard box in my study for a long while. But this year, casting about for a new devotional to go through, I was reminded of this book after a recommendation of F.B. Meyer’s writings on Ron Bailey’s blog (which you may enjoy at http://biblebase.com/a-the-baptist/). So I retrieved the book from its box and have been greatly appreciating it. It looks like I have discovered F.B. Meyer.

This morning I was quite struck with the January 12th entry. After I closed the book, still thinking, I ran my thumb over it, and opened it again. It was the April 19th entry.  Are you trying to say something to me, Lord?

Here are three excerpts:

“We are always putting the manifestation of the Divine in the far past, or the far future… Jesus Christ is the present and immediate answer to every need.”

“Christ always needed faith in some one, as the fulcrum on which to rest the lever of His mighty power…”

“In many cases those who have received life from Christ are still bound about with grave-clothes…”

Here are the two entries copied from Precept Austin: https://www.preceptaustin.org/our_daily_walk_by_f_b_meyer_-_jan

January 12

CHRIST’S TEACHING ABOUT RESURRECTION

“Jesus said unto her, I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth on Me, though he die, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth on Me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord!”– Jn 11:25-27.

THIS CROWNING miracle of our Lord’s life is generally described as the Raising of Lazarus. I am not sure that it might not with equal truth be called the Awakening of Martha, for it is certain that the Lord lifted this soul, whom we have been wont to count prosaic and matter-of-fact, to a most remarkable elevation of faith and hope, as they stood together in the shadow of a great sorrow.

In common with the majority of religious people, Martha believed in a general resurrection at some still future date, but she had not realised that God lives in the present tense, that the Eternal is here and now, and that faith must learn to reckon on God’s I AM. We are always putting the manifestation of the Divine in the far past, or the far future. The heaven is high above the earth on which we stand; only at the horizon, behind us and before us, do heaven and earth touch. We all need to learn the lesson that here, in the prosaic commonplaces of life, Jesus Christ is the present and immediate answer to every need.

Christ’s teaching about Resurrection differs widely from immortality. Plato believed in the immortality of the soul, but had no conception of resurrection. Resurrection is the reunion of the soul with the body, when it shall be raised in a form identical with, though different from, the body laid in the grave, as the sheaf of corn is identical with, though different from, the seed-corn cast into the soil amid the tears of autumn.

Martha could hardly understand all these marvellous disclosures, but she answered Yea to them, on the ground of what she knew Christ to be. He at least was the Messiah, and whatsoever He said, it must be so. So it is that we may still accept much, that we cannot understand, on the bare word of Jesus.

Christ always needed faith in some one, as the fulcrum on which to rest the lever of His mighty power, and He found it in Martha. What can He not do, even here and now, in the hearts of those who are slow to believe, and those who are dead in trespasses and sins? Believest thou this?

PRAYER

O God of Life and Love, Thou hast filled our hearts with joy unspeakable. We thank Thee that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, and that those who believe in Him shall never die. He lives, and they live, and we live! We thank Thee, we praise Thee, we bless Thee. AMEN.

April 19

LOVE’S CONFIDENCE!

“His sisters sent unto Him saying, Lord, behold he whom Thou lovest is sick.”– Jn11:3.

THE LAPSE of years made it possible for the Apostle to draw aside the veil which curtained the happy friendship and fellowship of Christ in the home at Bethany. It was the one green oasis in the rugged wilderness through which He passed to the Cross!

There were diversities in that home, Martha, practical, energetic, and thoughtful for all that could affect the comfort of those she loved and served; Mary, gifted with spiritual insight and tender sympathy; Lazarus, probably a man of few words, quiet and unobtrusive, but Jesus loved each one (Jn11:5).

The sisters never doubted that Christ would speed at all hazards to save Lazarus after the breathless messenger had brought the tidings of his sickness. Anything less than infinite Love would have rushed instantly to the relief of those troubled hearts; Divine Love alone could hold back the impetuosity of the Saviour’s tender heart until the Angel of Pain had finished her work. He wanted to teach His disciples never-to-be-forgotten lessons, and also He was eager for the spiritual growth of the faith of the sisters.

This chapter might be more truly known as “The Raising of Martha,” for our Lord enabled her, matter-of-fact and practical as she was, to realize that He was the Resurrection and the Life. He insisted that her faith was an essential condition in the raising of her brother to life. The emphasis is on the word “thou” (Jn11:40). Our Lord always needs the co-operating faith of some true heart to be with Him when He works a miracle, and He chose the least likely of the two sisters to supply the pivot on which He could rest the lever of His Divine help. As she withdrew her objection to the removal of the stone, her faith suddenly became capable of claiming the greatest of Christ’s miracles.

He calls to us also to help our brethren. In many cases those who have received life from Christ are still bound about with grave-clothes, old habits and evil associations cling to them and impede their progress, and He bids us “Loose him and let him go.” He asks for our co-operation in the emancipation of those who have been held fast in the power of the Evil One.

PRAYER

O God, we rejoice that we can turn to Thee in the midst of great anxiety, and commit all our troubles to Thy sure help. As Thou art with us in the sunlight, be Thou with us in the cloud. Sustain us by Thy near presence and let the comforts which are in Jesus Christ fill our hearts with peace. AMEN. m

They Fought From Heaven

Not too long ago we shared a post about the recurring phrase in the heavenlies in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.  Paul taught that:

1) those in Christ have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ,

2) those in Christ are partakers of the same exceeding great power that God wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies far above all principality and authority,

3) those in Christ have been quickened (made alive) together with Him, and have been raised up together with Him, and are enthroned together with Him in the heavenlies far above all principality and authority,

4) it is by these (the church) that now the manifold wisdom of God is to be displayed to principalities and authorities in the heavenlies,

5) those in Christ, armed with spiritual armour, wrestle in the heavenlies against the wicked principalities and authorities that are the rulers of the darkness of this present age.

This realm of the heavenlies is the spiritual heritage of those in Christ. How did they get into this heavenly heritage?  We answered this question in the post just previous  to the one we mentioned above.  They were baptized into it.

It is by baptism into Christ (not by water baptism but by Spirit baptism), that we are enthroned together in the heavenly realm with Him who is the Captain of the hosts of the Lord.

The crossing of the river Jordan by Israel under the leadership of Joshua was prophetic of this baptism. Back then they were baptized into their earthly heritage and found themselves engaged in warfare against the inhabitants of that land.  Now, both Jews and Gentiles who are baptized into Christ by the Spirit baptism are called to a warfare against spiritual forces in a heavenly heritage.

The Bible called the inheritance of the Israelites the Rest (Dt. 12.9).  It was a land for which they did not have to labour.  There were cities built which they did not build, houses filled with good things which they did not fill, wells dug which they did not dig, olive yards and vineyards which they did not plant, and they ate the fruit of them.  (See Dt. 6.10,11, Josh. 24.13.)  It was a prepared place; they did not have to labour for this land.

But they did have to fight for it.

They had to fight for it—but not by their own strategy and strength. They were to diligently obey God, and mind His strategy.  All through the book of Joshua and on into the Judges we find that God always had a strategy by which His people triumphed over their adversaries.  It was often a very foolish strategy, and apparently very weak.  But when His people obeyed His strategy they inevitably triumphed.

Gideon and his little band of three hundred routed a host like a plague of locusts, like the sand of the sea for multitude.

Deborah and Barak with a small contingent from the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali put to flight a great army at Megiddo, where we are told that:

They fought from Heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera (Judges 5.20).

Who fought from Heaven? Barak’s forces, or the stars—the angelic host?  Or both?

Again, who fights the war in Heaven prophesied in The Revelation? Yes I know, Michael and his angels (Rev. 12.7).  But a few verses later we read—and this is certainly not speaking of angels, but of men who are in the pitch of battle in the heavenlies:

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death (Rev. 12.11).

And so these overcomers, while yet on earth, are fighting in the heavenly realm along with Michael and his angels. And… is not this verse an echo from that prophetic song of Deborah and Barak?

Zebulun and Naphtali were a people who jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field… They fought from heaven… (Judges 5.18, 20).

Both of these passages, the one in Judges and the one in The Revelation, are prophetic of our day, a day when, like those of old, we are up against overwhelming things, forces that—Lord, open our eyes to see where the problem actually is—it’s in the heavenlies! Forces of darkness hold the heights!  In the heavenly realm!  And from that heavenly vantage point they rule with the power of darkness over the  hearts and minds of men.  And they are stronger than we; we are up against formidable spiritual forces.  And it is futile—I trust we have learned this—it is futile, it is the counsel of certain defeat, it is a foregone disaster, to try to fight these heavenly forces with earthly weapons and carnal strategies.   Surely we know this by now…

…And are assured of this also. War in heaven, fighting from the heavens, will defeat these forces, the rulers of the darkness of this age; it will completely rout them from their heavenly stronghold.   And the sons of light shall rule in their place; where once darkness ruled, light shall reign.  And we will hear that loud voice proclaiming in heaven:

Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ… (Rev. 12:10)

Wondrous hope for this world in great darkness.  Let us take up our spiritual armour, then, and take up our positions in the heavenlies, and be ready to hear and obey the strategies of Christ our Captain, weak and foolish though they seem to be.

Doing this we are certain to be the ones left standing on the heavenly field, the ones left in possession of our heavenly heritage, when the battle is over.

The Footstool Of Thy Feet

The LORD said unto my Lord, sit Thou at My right hand till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool [Heb. the footstool of Thy feet].
The LORD shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion: rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies.

These are the first two verses of Psalm 110, which is quoted or referred to in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament passage. It is a prophecy of the ascension of Christ, who is now seated at the right hand of God where He reigns over all the universe, according as He told His disciples before His ascension: “All power (authority) is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth” (Mt. 28:18).

Why, then, is it taught that Christ is “our soon and coming king”? Why is it taught that He is coming back to reign over all the earth from the throne of David in old Jerusalem? Yes, He is coming back, but it is not to reign. He reigns right now, is king right now at the right hand of God. He is seated on the throne of David in the heavenly Zion right now (Acts 2: 29,30), and has all authority in Heaven and earth. Right now. There is no higher throne in Heaven or earth than the one He has right now.

You ask, then why doesn’t He do something about the evil in the world?

But let’s read Psalm 110 very carefully. Our Lord Jesus Christ has been given a promise. He is to sit enthroned at the right hand of God till all His enemies, every single one of them, are in due time (the Father’s time) made the footstool of His feet. He will one day have complete victory over them all, they will all be put under His feet. I take great comfort in this faithful promise. And, for those with eyes to see…

…There is a powerful revelation in this verse.

Sit Thou at My right hand till I make Thine enemies the footstool of Thy feet.

His feet? This is where you and I enter the picture if we have been baptized in Holy Spirit.

For in one Spirit are we all baptized into one body… (1 Cor. 12:13).

By the Spirit baptism we are baptized into Christ, and as members of the body of Christ we too reign with Him (Eph. 2:6).

But notice this.

The LORD shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion: rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies.

This is profound truth. The LORD sends out of Zion the rod of Christ’s strength—the Gospel of the kingdom in the power of the Holy Spirit—and thereby, even while He anticipates the day when all His enemies are made the footstool of His feet, He rules in the midst of His enemies, whether human or angelic. It is He who is on the throne reigning, not after they have all been vanquished, but right in the midst of enemy activity.

This means that we who are baptized into Him also reign in the midst of His enemies and ours, and in the midst of our evil circumstances, our darkness, our difficulties, our problems, our afflictions, our trials, our distresses, our persecutions—our Cross. We rule in the midst of all our enemies just as Christ rules in the midst of all His enemies. Because of the Spirit baptism, we are seated with Christ in His throne in the heavenlies… not after we die and go to Heaven, but now.

What does this look like?

It looks like victory in the midst of apparent defeat. It looks like composure when one is being reviled. It looks like maintaining one’s cool in the midst of brutal heat—in the face of aggression, whether verbal or physical—because it is Christ’s own cool.

It looks like the kingdom of God in the midst of endurance and trouble. That’s what the apostle John said—that he was our brother and companion “in the tribulation and kingdom and patience (endurance) of Jesus Christ.” Where is the kingdom? Right in the middle of tribulation and endurance. In the very place where we must endure tribulation along with Jesus Christ, His kingdom reigns.

It means that sin has no dominion over us—not our own nor anyone else’s. It means evil does not rule over us, not evil men or angels, nor evil afflictions and circumstances, though we may be in the midst of them. For Jesus Christ is Lord and king at God’s right hand, and as members of His body we are in His reign, which is over all.

God has a great surprise for the inhabitants of the earth. The day is at hand when He is going to reveal openly those who in great and overwhelming trial were reigning in the midst of it all. The day is at hand when their reign shall be openly revealed, unveiled. This is what the second coming is all about. When the inhabitants of the earth thought better of God, and resorted to their own tactics to gain and maintain the upper hand—tactics of fear, force, malice, intimidation, aggression, violence… now He reveals that those who resorted to such things actually had no power at all. For, these things of darkness are not real power, and when people or evil angels were using such tactics and weapons against the Christian, and apparently defeating him, it is the Christian who was all the while reigning. It is he or she who was victorious in the midst of it all because of the victory of their King on the Cross, their King now on Zion’s holy Hill. It is His rule that was over His own, and nothing else.

God has installed His Son in Zion, and those also who are in Him reign in Zion with Him. Those in Christ are not under anything. It may often appear that he or she is. But that’s how it looked the day they crucified Christ, too. It appeared that His enemies had triumphed over Him. It was He who triumphed over them that day—triumphed over them in His Cross. He was reigning in the midst of them all even while they were crucifying Him.

He now reigns on the throne of David at the right hand of God so that those baptized into Him may reign with Him, first in the midst of all enemies and afflictions and circumstances, and ultimately over them all.

This is why God permits evil in His world at this time. It will not always be so: one day there will be not so much as a trace of evil in His universe. But even while with great longsuffering He permits it at this time, even while the enemies of God and His Christ seem to have free rein to work their wicked works (they do not have free reign, they are on a leash) there is a great eternal purpose unfolding. Christ rules in the midst of them. He rules in the midst of His enemies. He is on the throne ruling in the midst of His enemies, anticipating the inevitable hour when they shall yet be made the footstool of His feet.

Baptized Into The Heavenlies

Many of us in the West are aware these days that we have entered intense and increasingly difficult times (just catching up to Christians in various other parts of the world), and when one is in the midst of very trying things there is little appetite for a teaching.  At the same time, we must be solidly grounded in truth; we must be standing on the sure foundation of Christ, and our prayers must go up from prayer’s foundation.  Otherwise we are incapable of fighting the battle of the Lord; we will soon go under.  That need never happen: God has given us all the provision we need to triumph in what is more and more becoming a very evil day.  So let me share with you something my Teacher is teaching me these days—right in the midst of the battle.

Paul five times in Ephesians uses a phrase which in the King James Version is translated, “in heavenly places.” (Actually one of these is translated, “in high places.”)  The Greek for this phrase is en tois epouraniois, which some versions translate “in the heavenlies.”

The first reference (using in the heavenlies) has to do with blessings:

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ (Eph. 1:3).

The second has to do with the immeasurable power God wrought in Christ in raising Him from the dead and setting Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies.  He prays that we might know:

…What is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenlies
Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:19-23).

The third passage has to do with how what God accomplished in Christ affects those who are in Christ:

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus:
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through (in) Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4-7).

The fourth has to do with how the church is to impact spiritual beings in the heavenlies:

 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenlies might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him (Eph. 3:8-12).

And the fifth has to do with how the wicked beings among those spiritual beings are completely brought to nought by those in Christ who are equipped with the whole armour of God.

 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies (Eph. 6:10-12).

The third passage is in the centre of these five, and is central to what we want to emphasize.  Let’s look at it.  It is built upon the second reference about what God, with illimitable power, accomplished in Christ’s death and resurrection and ascension into the heavenlies.  This, Paul says in the third reference, is the very heritage of those to whom he is writing this epistle.  They are quickened (made alive) together with Christ, and are raised up together with Him, and are seated together with Him in the heavenlies.  The question remains, when did this happen?  When did the Ephesians join Him in this heavenly heritage?  When did it happen that they were quickened together with Him, and raised up together with Him, and seated together with Him in the heavenlies? It happened when they were baptized into Christ.  For, Paul is writing this epistle to those “in Christ” (Eph. 1:1).  It is those in Christ whom God has quickened together with Christ, and has raised them up together with Him, and made them sit (enthroned them) together with Him “in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.”

Is not this astonishing?  To be baptized into Christ is to be made one with His accomplishment in the cross and resurrection and ascension (see also Rom. 6:3, Col. 2:12, Gal. 3:27).  By being baptized into Christ—it is not water baptism but Spirit baptism that accomplishes this—one is baptized into His death, and is consequently made alive with Him in the power of His resurrection life, and is enthroned with Him in the heavenlies “far above all principality and authority…”  I am not talking about theory.  I am talking about participation in Christ by His Spirit.

I used to view the first reference (about the spiritual blessings) as one who with neck craned upward was looking into the heavenlies trying to figure out how I could get those spiritual blessings down.  That is entirely wrong thinking.  They are “spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ.”  If I am in Christ I am with Him in the heavenlies; the blessings are my heritage in the heavenlies.

And I used to view the last reference as a soldier who was warring against these forces of darkness in the heavenlies from an earthly vantage point—a rather intimidating prospect.  But that too is entirely wrong thinking.  “We wrestle… in the heavenlies…”  That is the sphere of our warfare—the heavenlies; we are there in the heavenlies, in fact in Christ are above these forces of darkness.

Dearly beloved in Christ, this—what God wrought in Christ at Calvary and in His resurrection and ascension—is the foundation, the bedRock, upon which we walk, and testify, and pray, and fight the good fight of faith.  Baptized into Him we are dead to sin as He is dead to sin; baptized into Him we are alive unto God as He is alive unto God; baptized into Him we are enthroned as He is enthroned above all the forces of darkness in the heavenlies.  This, the heavenly realm, is the sphere of our life and walk and warfare.  We are baptized into it.  Let us fight the good fight of faith from thence.  It means inevitable triumph.

 

 

 

 

The Spoils Of Battle

Why is it so hard these days to liberate people from their bondage to sin?  Why do we see so few turning from darkness to light, and from the authority of Satan unto God?  Is it just a matter of their own stubbornness, or is there more to it?

It’s very enlightening to discover time and again in the Old Testament that whichever side won the battle also took the spoils.  If Israel’s enemies won a battle, they spoiled the Israelites.  If Israel  won, they spoiled, plundered, their enemies, taking into their own possession what had been their enemies’.

The plunder was often brought into the treasuries of the house of the LORD, an open acknowledgement that since the battle was the LORD’s, the plunder was His.  Whether they knew it or not, those who were at war with Israel were at war with the LORD.  And so when He defeated His enemies, the spoils of battle belonged to Him. The victors plundered whatever they wanted from the slain on the battlefield, or from their towns and lands.  It might be armour, or garments, or gold and silver and precious stones, or livestock, or slaves.  Some of the spoil the warriors kept for themselves or distributed among those who had not been able to fight; much of it became the resources of the house of God.

Here are a few illustrations from Scripture.

While David was at Ziklag he sent to the elders of Judah “a present for you of the  spoil of the enemies of the LORD” (1 Sam. 30:26).

David also regularly dedicated the spoils of battle to the treasuries of the house of the Lord.

 Out of the spoils won in battles did they [David’s captains] dedicate to maintain [that is, strengthen] the house of the LORD (1 Chr. 26:27).

On one occasion three of David’s mighty men defied the whole Philistine army.  One of the three, Eleazar  the son of Dodo “arose and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword: and the LORD wrought a great victory that day” (2 Sam. 23:10).    For some reason, the men of Israel were not around for this battle.   We are not told why, but when everybody came back the battle was all over.   Eleazar had defeated the whole Philistine army single handed.  “And the people returned after him only to spoil.”  That was easy, eh?

Here’s a story from the days of Asa, king of Judah.  Zerah the Ethiopian had come against Judah with “a host of a thousand thousand.”

 And Asa cried unto the LORD his God, and said, LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O LORD, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee.

Note those words: “Let not man prevail against Thee.”

 So the LORD smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled.  And Asa and the people that were with him pursued them unto Gerar: and the Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not recover themselves; for they were destroyed before the LORD, and before his host; and they carried away very much spoil. And they smote all the cities round about Gerar; for the fear of the LORD came upon them: and they spoiled all the cities; for there was exceeding much spoil in them. They smote also the tents of cattle [the livestock enclosures] and carried away sheep and camels in abundance, and returned to Jerusalem (2Ch 14:11-15).

Notice again the true perspective of this victory.  “They were destroyed before the LORD, and before His host.”  Zerah and his host had come against Judah, but it was actually God against whom they were fighting.  God answered Asa’s prayer and did not let man prevail against Him.   Therefore the spoils of battle were His.

 So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. And they offered unto the LORD the same time, of the spoil which they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep (2 Chr. 15:10,11).

Surely this speaks prophetically to us in a day when our Adversary the Devil has flocks and herds of men in countless numbers in his fold.  How long do you think God is going to put up with that?  God means them to become an offering to Him.  Are we not then jealous for what belongs to God?  Why do we put up with it?

And do we not see a pattern in these Old Testament stories?  A victory accomplished means easy spoils for the taking.

This is just what Jesus Himself said—that while the strong man keeps his palace [his courtyard] his goods are secure.  But when the stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he strips him of the armour he trusted in, and divides the spoils (Lk 11:21,22).

This happened at Calvary.  It was there and then that Christ the stronger-than-he overcame His (and our) adversary the Devil, the strongman.

 And having spoiled [stripped] principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it [that is, in His cross] (Col 2:15).

We note two things about the Luke passage.  The Stronger-than-he comes upon the strongman.  The cross was an offensive action.  The initiative was God’s.  And it was utterly deadly and totally devastating.

Secondly, once the strong man has been dealt with, spoiling what was in his possession became the easy thing; the victor, Christ, was free to take for Himself the slaves that the strong man earlier held with careless ease.  We don’t have to read too far into the Book of Acts to verify this.  Peter’s Spirit-breathed words in the power of the ascended Christ gathered in the spoil of 3,000 souls in one day.  And that was only the beginning.

But, someone asks, where is that now?  If at Calvary the Stronger-than-the-strongman came upon the strongman and overcame him,  why in our day does the Devil still hold his captives so securely in his armour of darkness?  Why are we not free to take the spoils?  Where is the victory of Calvary?

Let me answer that question with another question.  Where is the Cross in our lives, fellow Christian?  It is the victory of Christ on Calvary’s cross that defeated the strongman, the Prince of darkness.  And so the spoils are His; only the One who gained the victory can spoil the strongman’s palace.

Oh, how critical, then, that we His soldiers learn to fight His battle with His strategy, learn to take our orders from Him, learn His strategy, His secret weapon—learn to engage the battle and victory of the Cross.

Taking the spoil is then the easy part—which belongs to the One who won the battle.