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Archive for June, 2011

Preamble

There is a growing need throughout Africa and most probably in other parts of the world, for instruction and material that is Biblically sound, Christ-centred and spiritual, to enable Christians to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ…. to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. There is such a huge amount of material in the form of Bible courses and teachings that are not bad, and some even excellent, but many such courses tend to provide academic or head knowledge, rather than spiritual insight and genuine spiritual growth. It is with this in mind that I have attempted to introduce instruction that I am praying and trusting that the Lord will use, to open the door of revelation to seeking believers, that they may gain spiritual insights into the glory and majesty of Jesus Christ our Lord.

I welcome any comments or constructive criticism, which will enable me to communicate these great truths more accurately and clearly. Once these notes have been completed, they will be used in the various places, where doors have opened to us for this kind of input. It is imperative therefore, that this message is simply but clearly communicated.

Our Foundation

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. [1]

Our relationship with God in the New Testament is a partnership, or involvement or fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ. It is this fact that distinguishes true Christianity from all other religions on earth. Salvation is a work of God, through the Holy Spirit, causing us to become ‘new creatures’ in Christ. As new creatures we have been called by God into an intimate spiritual fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

This spiritual fellowship is the beginning of an eternal relationship with the Almighty God, through His Son, Jesus. All relationships require a basis of understanding and trust and our eternal relationship with God is no different. It is this fundamental basis or foundation that we will explore and seek to understand in this series of articles.

Let us consider the above text in its context. In this first chapter of the letter to the Corinthians, Paul was writing to the Gentiles in Corinth who had responded to the Gospel, but in his introduction to this letter he extends the addressees to include “all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord”.[2] The message of Corinthians therefore, has direct implications for us, who have also called upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. It should be noted with great interest to us that although, from the subject matter of this letter it can be seen that these Christians were unwise, fleshly and even sinful in their behaviour; Paul still greets them in glowing terms. He says, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[3] This should in no way be seen as an excuse to live a fleshly or sinful life as a Christian, but it is rather an expression of enormous confidence by Paul, in the work of God in our hearts to present us blameless in the end.

This is an important point to keep in mind, when considering our own development in the Lord and also the growth and development of new saints that we may be ministering to. Like Paul, we need to remain focused on the end result; being presented blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is with this in mind that Paul then turns his attention to the problems in the church at Corinth and this is where we are given invaluable insight into our foundation and progressive development throughout the letter to the Corinthians to the resurrection, which Paul deals with in chapter fifteen.

Let us take a closer look at the problems:

The Problems

  • There were divisions among them. [4]
  • They felt qualified to pass judgement on Paul’s ministry.[5]
  • They were proud and arrogant. [6]
  • Their arrogance made them overlook very serious sin amongst them. [7]
  • They were taking fellow believers to court to resolve disputes. [8]
  • They did not take the Breaking of Bread seriously. [9]
  • They despised the poor.[10]
  • They allowed their liberty in Christ to be a stumbling block to the spiritually weak. [11]
  • They exercised Spiritual gifts to show off rather than seeking to edify the church. [12]
  • They were ignorant of the use and place of Spiritual gifts.[13]
  • Their women were disrupting meetings with questions. [14]
  • Some of them were saying that there is no resurrection from the dead. [15]

Many or all of these problems are encountered in the church today. Modern Christian leaders, when confronted with these same problems, often look to psychology or the wisdom of men to solve them and by so doing, treat the symptoms but don’t deal with the root cause of these carnal or fleshly problems. Paul tells us in chapter two that he does not rely upon the wisdom of men, but upon the power of the Spirit[16]. He explains that this is because our faith should not be based on men’s wisdom, but upon the power of God[17].  From this it is clear that Paul was more concerned about establishing believers on the correct foundation, than simply patching up their problems superficially.

 The Solution to these problems

Wisdom

To help us understand the solution that Paul presents to us, we need to first grasp what he tells us about the subject of wisdom, as this is very important. He asks, “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?”[18] Then in chapter two and verse eight, Paul demonstrates this truth by telling us that if the Rulers of this world had known who Jesus is, they would not have crucified Him. In other words, no matter how wise they were in man’s wisdom, they did not know the wisdom of God and therefore made the fatal error of crucifying Jesus, instead of worshiping Him. Paul explains that we do not have access to God’s wisdom, except through the understanding of the cross (crucifixion) of Jesus. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”[19]

Our relationship with Jesus and with our Heavenly Father is a spiritual relationship; for this reason Paul explains, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”[20] We see from this statement that our only access to God’s wisdom is to fully grasp and embrace the message of the cross. The understanding of the cross is the first spiritual revelation that we receive from the Holy Spirit. The cross cannot be understood by human reasoning or man’s wisdom. As we respond in faith to this message, acknowledging and repenting of our sin and embracing the risen Saviour by faith, we have made our first step into spiritual territory and have access to God’s great wisdom. This is what Paul acknowledged concerning the Corinthian believers and that is why he could refer to them as ‘saints’. Their problem though, was that they did not continue to walk in the spirit, but thought and acted as carnal men.

The big barrier to spiritual development and growth is the carnal mind, which cannot receive the things of the Spirit.[21]

The Root of the Problem

Paul diagnoses the root of the problem and tells the Corinthian believers; “I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?”[22] In other words, based on Paul’s statements in chapter two, he was saying that they were not walking in the wisdom of God, but in the wisdom of men. The implications being that they were not discerning things spiritually and were not in a position to receive the deeper things of God. Their perceptions were still immature spiritually. This meant that they did not know Jesus in a way that would unlock the depths of God’s wisdom, which are only to be found in Jesus.

Paul in the wisdom that God gave him, as a wise master builder[23], was laying a spiritual foundation in the lives of these Corinthian believers, which he refers to as the ‘milk’. Contained in this ‘milk’ was an understanding that Jesus is the only foundation that we can have in our lives. [24] We must conclude from this that it is necessary for each believer to have a spiritual insight into how Jesus forms our spiritual foundation. This understanding does not come through the wisdom of men, but by the power of the Holy Spirit who will lay this foundation in our hearts through the ‘milk’ that Paul refers to.

Peter refers to the subject of our Foundation

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”[25] Peter lists a number of the characteristics of immature Christians and offers the same solution as Paul did. He says that the new-born spiritual babies (immature Christians) should desire the pure ‘milk of the Word’. He tells us that we will grow to spiritual maturity in Jesus, by receiving this milk.

In the context of this second chapter of 1 Peter we find that Peter goes on to explain that if we have tasted the grace of the Lord, or found Him to be gracious, then we have come to the Living Stone (Jesus Christ) who was rejected by men, but chosen of God and precious.[26] He later explains that this Stone is in fact the Foundation upon which we are built.[27] It is very interesting to consider where Peter got this particular perspective of the Lord Jesus from. He was quoting Isaiah 28:16, but Peter had also had a first-hand experience of this, as recorded in Matthew 16:13-19, where Jesus asked the question, “Who do men say that I am?” Everyone had a different but wrong opinion of Jesus, and then Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus responded to Peter by explaining that Peter’s name means a stone, but upon Himself as the Rock and Foundation, Jesus would build His church. Peter obviously understood this great truth and presents it to us very clearly in 1 Peter chapter two, concerning the fact that Jesus is the Rock and that we are the little living stones built upon Jesus our Foundation.

Comparison between Peter and Paul’s teaching on our Foundation

Both Peter and Paul address the carnality and immaturity of the believers, by pointing to their fleshly behaviour. Paul speaks of divisions or sectarianism in the Corinthian church and Peter speaks of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and all evil speaking. The solution in both cases is the need for the believers to receive the ‘milk of the Word’. Both Peter and Paul point to Jesus as being the only Foundation upon which we should be built. Both also speak of the rejection of this Foundation by men with human reasoning. Paul says that, the world through (their) wisdom did not know God and Peter speaks of the Stone which the builders rejected.

Jesus talks about having the correct Foundation

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.”[28] We need to note that Jesus also refers to wisdom as an important issue and then the need to be built upon the rock. We know from Peter’s teaching and experience that this Rock is in fact Jesus Himself. Hearing and obeying the sayings of Jesus is what both Peter and Paul present to the believers in the ‘milk of the Word’, so that they can be established upon Jesus Christ their Rock and Foundation.

Conclusion

Let us remember that we are talking about developing a deeper spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father and growing in our spiritual insights and perceptions of God. The wisdom of men would give us an academic insight into this subject, which will only give us head knowledge and no spiritual growth. It is vital therefore to have a revelation of the ‘milk of the Word’ and embrace this truth by faith as a prayerful and spiritual exercise. Simply put, just as we responded to the Gospel by faith, we need to comprehend the truth of the ‘milk of the Word’ and then receive it by faith, with a view to growing in our relationship with Jesus.

What is the Milk of the Word? ….. to be continued


[1] 1 Cor. 1:9 NKJV

[2] 1 Cor. 1:2 NKJV

[3] 1 Cor. 1:4-8 NKJV

[4] 1 Cor. 1:11-13

[5] 1 Cor. 4:3

[6] 1 Cor. 4:18

[7] 1 Cor. 5:2

[8] 1 Cor. 6:6

[9] 1 Cor.11:17

[10] 1 Cor. 11:22

[11] 1 Cor. 8:9-13

[12] 1 Cor. 14:12

[13] 1 Cor. 12:1

[14] 1 Cor. 14:34-35

[15] 1 Cor. 15:12

[16] 1 Cor. 2:4

[17] 1 Cor. 2:5

[18] 1 Cor. 1:20

[19] 1 Cor. 1:18

[20] 1 cor. 2:1-2

[21] 1 Cor. 2:14

[22] 1 Cor. 3:1-3

[23] 1 Cor. 3:10

[24] 1 Cor. 3:11

[25] 1 Pet. 2:1-3

[26] 1 Pet. 2:4

[27] 1 Pet. 2:7

[28] Matt. 7:24

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As a teenager I was involved in an evangelistic campaign, where we received instruction in the mornings, handed out tracts and invitations to people in the streets in the afternoons, inviting them to an evening Gospel meeting.  In the evening meetings we were given turns to give our testimony, prior to the gospel message. I listened to many of my new-found friends, testifying of their gruesome experiences with drugs, drunkenness and teenage debauchery and then how the Lord Jesus had transformed their lives through the Gospel. My own testimony seemed fairly lame in comparison; I had grown up in a Christian home and had not indulged in any of the excesses that these young people spoke of, having been born again at an early age. I knew that I was as much a sinner as any one of them, but was at a loss for words to dramatize my testimony in keeping with the impact of theirs.

Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.“(Rev 19:10)

While pondering the above verse the Lord ministered the most dramatic truth to my heart, which left me quite stunned and silent. The ‘giving of my testimony’ incident, which happened ‘in the olden days’, as my grandchildren would say, was brought to memory as if it was yesterday and then the implications of Revelation 19:10 began to dawn upon me.

What is my testimony? What is your testimony? This question usually prompts us to recount a bit of our former life before we were saved, how we came to know the Lord and where we are at the moment.

But here is the real issue: I was without God in this world, with no claim to any of the promises of God, dead in my trespasses and sins, heading for a very certain eternal death in Hell, with no possible means of changing the course of my destiny!  Then someone unknown to me stepped in, he bore my punishment; he took my beating; his back was ripped open by the lashes; they marred his face with their fists; they plucked his beard out; they drove a crown of thorns into his brow and then nailed him to a cross and left him to bleed to death for me. Through this my destiny has completely changed, my sins have been forgiven totally, all the promises of God will be fulfilled to me and I have a place in God’s eternal Kingdom and plan.

So what is my testimony? Let me offer an example of a generic, typical testimony: “I realised I was a sinner, I understood that Jesus died for my sin, I asked Him to forgive me, I believe that He rose from the dead and is alive, I asked Him to come into my life and save my soul. I no longer do the things I used to do, He is changing me, I read my Bible and pray and I am serving the Lord in my local church; all glory to Him.”  This rather self-cantered explanation falls very far short of what has really happened!

The truth is, through the amazing work of Jesus on the cross and by His resurrection we now ‘hold the testimony of Jesus’ as the Angel told John. This means in reality, that Jesus has replaced my story with His and my testimony with His. His Father has become my Father; His righteousness has become my righteousness; His Kingdom is within me; His virtues have become my virtues, his family has become my family; his mission has become my mission, His inheritance has become my inheritance. I have been totally eclipsed by Jesus!

This of course applies to all those who are truly born again, but not too many of us realise the full implications of what it means to ‘hold the Testimony of Jesus’.

This Testimony of Jesus is the very essence or spirit of prophecy. That means that when Abel by faith, offered a better sacrifice than Cain, he was demonstrating that Jesus is the better sacrifice. When Noah built the Ark to the saving of his household, he was demonstrating that Jesus is our Ark and He will save us from the judgement to come. When all the Prophets through the Old Testament spoke, they were characterising Christ in all that they said. When the Prophets spoke about Israel’s sin and failure, they were characterizing what Jesus hates and when they spoke of God’s righteous judgements, they were characterizing what Jesus loves.

This is the Testimony that has been passed on to us to bear and to hold on to. We, as new creatures in Christ, carry His essence with us and demonstrate His character through words, actions and behaviour. It is not at all surprising to hear Jesus say, “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12) but for Him to say, “You are the light of the world” (Matt 5:14) Puts the testimony that we bear in a very different light!

To have been given the testimony of Jesus to have and to hold, to experience and to express, is the greatest honour and privilege that can be bestowed upon a human being. May we hold on to His Testimony until we see Him in all His glory.

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by Jon Zens


Bob Mumford once said, “The Christian army is the only one that shoots its wounded.”

Regrettably, I have observed his statement to be all too true.

As long as I’ve been a Christian I have watched friends and their families undergo untold pain and hurt because of the incredible power of gossip and slander. Years ago we were traveling and after speaking in a church a brother came up to me and said, “I heard that you had quit teaching in churches and took up potato farming.” How and why such a rumor got started is anybody’s guess! This rumor was fairly innocuous, but imagine the untold harm done by vicious judgments on the life and character of others.

In this article, I would like to address this issue head-on. My hope is to raise the awareness of my brothers and sisters in Christ on this matter, so that we all will better follow the Lord’s teachings regarding our speech about and actions toward others.

What exactly is gossip?

Gossip is second or third hand information that someone dumps on you without your prior consent and without the consent of the person being gossiped about. Gossip can be true, partially true, or completely false. It can be motivated by good intentions, but it’s always negative personal information about another that puts them in a bad light.

What is slander?

The Bible defines slander as accusatory speech that is injurious to a person’s name and reputation. It’s essentially character assassination . . . the act of smearing someone. Gossip and slander color people’s perceptions of an individual unfairly and unjustly without their knowledge or consent. One major component in both of these sins is that the person being torn down is out of the loop. Talebearers usually avoid speaking directly to the one they are demeaning.

I will admit that I have listened to gossip in the past. At the time, the thought never occurred to me how deeply a person and their family could be hurt when someone attacks their character without their knowledge or consent.

It seems that most people who spread gossip never think about this. Nor do they realize that what they’re doing is engaging in gossip and slander. (Some people, of course, who intend to smear another human being know exactly what they’re doing. Many Christians, however, naively spread gossip without realizing what sort of destruction it brings in the lives of others.)

For this reason, I have raised a standard in my life. To the best of my ability, I always evaluate people based on my first-hand experience with them, not on what someone else tells me about them – for the obvious reason that second-hand information can be very misleading and inaccurate (sad to say, I haven’t always lived up to this standard in the past).

Gossip and slander violate the Lord’s own maxim: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” If anyone has suffered the agony of being gossiped about, they understand the force of those words. No one wishes to be the subject of gossip and slander. There are few things so hurtful.

One of the problems is that gossip and slander seem innocent and they often come to us subtly. One doesn’t have to be operating in malice to be guilty of gossip and slander. Again, the motive is irrelevant. Spreading negative or shameful information about another person is contrary to walking in love. Love “thinks no evil” and “believes the best of others” (1 Cor. 13).

What does gossip and slander usually sound like? It usually begins with something like, “Did you hear about such and such . . .” The rest of it goes on to put an individual in a shameful or negative light. A.W. Tozer had these powerful words of advice about the sin of gossip:

Never pass anything on about anybody else that will hurt him. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). The talebearer has no place in God’s favor. If you know something that would hinder or hurt the reputation of one of God’s children, bury it forever. Find a little garden out back — a little spot somewhere — and when somebody comes around with an evil story, take it out and bury it and say, “Here lies in peace the story about my brother.” God will take care of it. “With what judgment you judge, you shall be judged.”

If you want God to be good to you, you are going to have to be good to His children. You say, “But that’s not grace.” Well, grace gets you into the kingdom of God. That is unmerited favor. But after you are seated at the Father’s table, He expects to teach you table manners. And He won’t let you eat unless you obey the etiquette of the table. And what is that? The etiquette of the table is that you don’t tell stories about the brother who is sitting at the table with you — no matter what his denomination, or nationality, or background (from Five Vows for Spiritual Power).

So what should we do if we hear a rumor about someone else?

If we are in conversation with a person and they begin to express words that put another brother or sister in a bad light, we have a responsibility to interrupt such speech and exhort them to speak directly with the person they are criticizing. If an email containing gossip is sent to us, we should disregard the content and ask the sender to go to the one being spoken against. In all circumstances, as much as lies with us, we should not be a party to gossip and we should confront those spreading evil speech. We must not forget that matters of concern about others must be confirmed with witnesses (Matt.18:16), and others should only be notified if the person refuses to repent – which means they refuse to stop their sinning. We sin by entertaining accusations against others that have not been confirmed by witnesses, or that have already been repented of. It is sinful to spread information about the past sins of others when they are already under the blood of Christ.

In addition to the above, we should go to the person being targeted and make them aware of it. We should then ask for them to confirm or correct it. This is the loving thing to do. Think about it: If someone was spreading something negative about you, would you not want to be made aware of it? Again, love treats others the way we wish to be treated.

It’s not good enough to ask the gossiper if they’ve spoken to the person gossiped about. In my experience, oftentimes a person spreading the gossip will say “yes,” but when I’ve tracked down the person being gossiped about, they will deny having had such a conversation. Or the conversation really wasn’t a conversation at all. Nothing can replace going directly to the person being spoken about.

Whenever we hear gossip, we should consider these questions: “Would I want someone talking about me like this? How would my family feel about this? My spouse, my mother, my father, my children, my best friends?” (These thoughts are typically never considered when a person listens to or spreads gossip about another individual.)

Have you ever noticed that speech that tears others down travels like a brush fire, but news of repentance and restoration seems to move along at a snail’s pace? Why is it that we often immediately believe and embrace negative assessments of people, but reports of repentance, change, or the dispelling of a false rumor are met with skepticism? As believers, the exact opposite should be our practice: we should be hesitant to entertain and skeptical of adverse words about others, and quick to rejoice in and embrace news of the dispelling of a rumor or another’s repentance!

Satan’s nature is to accuse. He is called the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12). In fact, the word “Satan” means adversary, and the word “devil” literally means “slanderer.” That should say volumes to us. One sister noted these warning signs of a spirit of accusation:

**Being suspicious of others
**Having bitterness toward others
**Being easily offended without cause
**Having envy and jealousy toward others
**Believing the worst about others
**Exaggerating the offenses of others
**Refusing fellowship with a person after they have changed
**Holding people to their past failures
**Imposing our perfectionism standards on others
**Basing harsh judgments on misunderstandings without seeking clarification
**Judging others for misbehaviors that we are prone to
**Becoming the Holy Spirit for others
**Using others as a scapegoat
**Tearing down others so we look better
**Bringing skeletons out of the closet
**Being unsatisfied with any amount of confession and sorrow from another
(Marsha Fisher, “Accusation,” Be In Health Conference, April 29, 2008, Thomaston GA)

Further, the union of Christ with his people should certainly give us reason for great caution with our words about fellow believers. Paul said in Romans 14:15, “Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.” I think we are also warranted in saying, “Do not by your words destroy your brother or sister for whom Christ died.” It is a very serious matter to hurt anyone in Christ’s little flock (Luke 17:1-4).

A careful reading of the Bible shows the destructive nature of gossip and slander. It says, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts” (Prov. 18:8, 26:22). Gossip is likened unto poison that once someone drinks, they cannot get out of their system. And it always separates people. Even close friends and loved ones.

Put another way, gossip not only damages the person being gossiped about, but it also damages the person hearing the gossip, for it causes them to judge the other unfairly.

Consider these texts prayerfully:

“A perverse person stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends” (Prov. 16:28).

“Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down” (Prov. 26:22). “He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool” (Prov. 10:18).

“Brethren, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it” (James 4:11).

“The tongue has the power of life and death . . . ” (Prov. 18:21).

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6).

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all people” (Tit 3:1-2).

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Eph. 4:31).

“Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman” (Psalm. 15:1-3).

In conclusion, the next time you hear a rumor, go to the person being rumored about. And never spread something about another person without talking to them first and having an open mind to hear their heart. Unconfirmed notions about others should not be spread abroad.

In the pursuit of mutual edification and peace, our mouths play a very important role. Our words should be carefully chosen, and designed to build up, not to destroy (Eph. 4:29.31; 5:4; Col. 3:8,16; James 3:10; 1 Pet. 4:11). We must “slander no one” (Tit. 3:2), and be ready always to speak a good word about our brothers and sisters in Christ. In the human realm, words are most often the spark that leads to wars and atrocities, and there is a parallel in the realm of the church, for “if you keep on biting and devouring each other” with hurtful and damaging words, “you will be destroyed by each other” (Gal. 5:15).

May our speech to others and about others be “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph.4:29). —

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So many lessons can be learned from the Garden of Eden, the account of this Garden is presented in such simple terms that a child can understand what took place. But as one grows spiritually, the implications in this simple account become so profound that you wonder if you will ever grasp the full significance. Consider these simple words for example, “The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.” (Gen 2:8) From this sentence we can glean the fact that although God had created the earth and everything in it, which also passed His quality check, pronouncing it all good, He then very specifically prepared an even nicer corner of Paradise and that is where He placed the man, whom He had formed.

When we compare a similar statement in the New Testament, the spiritual depths and message of the Garden start to come into clearer focus. Consider these similar words, “But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.” (1 Cor 12:18) The ‘body’ being referred to in 1 Cor 12 is of course the ‘Body of Christ’ or the company of born again saints, who are the visible representation of Jesus on earth. God planned and prepared this spiritual Paradise from before the foundation of the earth (Eph 1:4) The connection between the church and the Garden of Eden is clearly intended because Paul likens the church to Eve in 2 Cor 11 and also refers to Jesus as the last Adam in 1 Cor 15:45. Understanding this connection also unlocks some of the genius of God’s wisdom, as King Solomon put it, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.”(Prov. 25:2)

Every aspect of the Body of Christ is spiritual and can only be understood and discerned spiritually, which is challenging to our under developed spiritual minds, but our comprehension is wonderfully assisted by comparing the intangible spiritual things with the visible aspects of the Garden of Eden.

I will just summarise these in point form as an easy reference:

  • God creates man and places him in the Garden – God creates a new creature in us through salvation and places us in the Body of Christ.
  • The Garden was a place of fellowship between God and man – The church is a place of corporate fellowship between God and the new creatures or ‘new man’.
  • It was not good for the man to be alone, so God made a compatible companion for him – The church is a fellowship between compatible (spiritual) brothers and sisters.
  • Every tree of the Garden was pleasant to the eyes and good for food – every fruit of the Spirit in every believer is pleasant to experience and nourishes us spiritually.
  • There was a river that flowed through the Garden and branched into four rivers, making a total of five rivers that brought life-giving water to the trees – There are five ministry gifts given to the church to equip the saints, we are the trees bearing fruit as the Psalmist says, “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” (Ps 1:3)
  • The river flowed through the land where there is gold and precious stones and the ‘gold of that land is good’ – Paul tells us that in the church we should make sure we are ministering gold, silver and precious stones, in other words, things of eternal spiritual significance and value, rather than wood, hay and stubble, which is useless and doesn’t last. (silver is a symbol of redemption, because it was the price that had to be paid to redeem a soul in the OT, it is significant that silver is not mentioned in the Garden, because redemption was not required at that stage; man had not sinned).
  • Man was given certain responsibilities in the Garden; he had to dress and keep it and he was commanded to be fruitful and multiply. It is also inferred by Paul in Romans 1 that they (Adam and Eve) should glorify God as their God and be thankful for all that He had provided – in the church we are given responsibilities, to “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col 3:16) Also, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb 11:6). Jesus also tells us that the only way we will produce fruit is to abide in Him. The Great Commission is our command to multiply.

The Holy Spirit in the Genesis account focuses our attention on the centre of the Garden where two very important trees were planted. These two trees were both central in the Garden because they are the central issue in the church as well. The Tree of Life or the Tree of Knowledge, this was the choice that man faced in the Garden and it is still our choice today in the Spiritual Garden, or church.

Central to every flavour and denomination of the church today, is the Bible, which is a lamp to our feet and lights up our spiritual pathway. It is however, the way in which we view the Bible that determines our choice between the two trees. If we give all diligence in our study of the Bible to articulate “What we Believe” or list our interpretations of the doctrines in a Creed or Statement of Faith, without the Holy Spirit’s specific mandate to introduce us to the Living Christ through the Scriptures, we will have fallen prey, as Eve did, to the temptation to become wise, through our knowledge of right and wrong doctrine.

Let us consider some of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s fatally wrong choice:

  • Their relationship with God was corrupted and they hid themselves from the presence of the Lord, instead of enjoying fellowship with Him.
  • Adam’s labour was made harder because the earth was cursed for his sake.
  • Eve’s experience of multiplying and bearing children became painful and sorrowful.
  • Eve’s desire would be to criticise her husband, but he would rule over her against her will. Their relationship was corrupted.
  • They were cast out of the Garden and Paradise was no longer their home.
  • Family relationships were strained, with jealousy, anger and hatred which led to one brother murdering another.

To our shame, much of the above is an accurate description of what goes on in the church today!

Could it be that we have hungrily devoured the fruit of the Tree of good sound doctrine, and prided ourselves in our wisdom and great knowledge of Scripture, but have not given the same diligence and effort to embrace and abide in the Lord Jesus Himself?

In making a comparison between the consequences of sin in the Garden and the consequences of the same sin in the church we find the following:

  • We have provided ourselves a covering of buildings, organisations, programs, institutional structure, hierarchy and creeds, from which we claim to worship God, but generally hide from a real relationship with the living God and miss the simplicity of eating the fruit of the Tree of Life in Christ. Jesus referred to this, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Rev 3:17)
  • Our labours for the Lord, sermon preparation, dressing, cultivating and caring for the church requires a huge amount of effort, not because we’re wrestling against Principalities and powers, but because of the corruption of true fellowship which breeds internal politics, carnal understanding, our eyes having been opened to our own inadequacies (spiritual nakedness), which we are feverishly labouring to vindicate by the sweat of our brow.
  • Bearing spiritual children has become a painful exercise, with programs, Seminars, Workshops and church growth methods, producing very little genuine fruit.
  • Submission to one another is on the basis of rank and perceived position, rather than unfeigned love of the brethren.
  • The gathering of believers to worship God and exhort one another has degenerated into “going to church” where entertainment is provided and the academics of God are spoken about. Church or the corporate gathering of the saints is no longer a paradise of all Spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. In fact Jesus is outside knocking to come in. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” (Rev 3:20).
  • Rivalry, jealousies, bitterness and hatred between saints cause many to rise up and slay their brother with words and actions. Their attitude and conduct revealing their arrogance toward God, challenging Him with the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Has Paradise been lost? Has the serpent once again craftily deceived us into eating from the wrong Tree? This was Paul’s great concern in 1 Cor 11. Thankfully Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, far above all Principalities and powers and He has been given to us by God as the last Adam, to Head up and build His church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. Our only hope and security as the spiritual Eve, is to focus on Jesus and cling to Him.

In practical terms what does this mean?

Let the Lord Jesus answer this question Himself, “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” (Rev 3:18)

Notice that our Lord has addressed all the problems that occurred in the Garden as a result of sin and He is talking to the church. He wants us to join the dots and learn the lesson! Their eyes were opened, their nakedness was revealed, professing themselves to be wise they became fools, the ‘gold’ of their  new-found knowledge had left them poor, wretched, blind and naked. But, here is the Lord’s counsel: “buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed.”

Volumes could be written on that statement alone, but in very simple terms, whatever ministry we hear or read, we should check the concept for ourselves in the Scriptures, asking these questions:

  • Does this exalt and glorify Jesus?
  • Is Jesus the central key to this teaching?
  • Does it enhance my relationship with Jesus?
  • Does this help me to love Jesus and deepen my love for Him?
  • Can I confirm this teaching for myself from Scripture?
  • Has the Holy Spirit revealed this to me personally?

Sensing this revelation of Christ to our hearts, we should mix it with faith and embrace it and apply it by faith, believing that God is the rewarder of all those who diligently seek Him. For Jesus has promised a wonderful personal response to us, ““If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (Jn 14:23)

Eating this fruit of the Tree of Life gives us the eternal life offered to us in Christ, but also gives us all the wisdom and knowledge that we could possibly desire, because all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him and we are complete in Him. “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (Col 2:9&10)

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