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The Principle of Eternal Judgment

“… of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”(Heb. 6:2)

God’s Response to Man’s Sin

Throughout the Bible we find many occasions where God has responded to man’s wickedness with a judgment and punishment. The most serious of these occasions was the Flood in Noah’s day, where God was so angry with the whole human race that He wiped them out with a flood, saving only Noah and his family, to preserve His original purpose for mankind (Gen. 6). Shortly after the flood God intervened again at the Tower of Babel, there confusing their languages, so that they could not complete their rebellious task of building a tower to reach the heavens (Gen 11).

In Moses’ Day God gave a standard of righteousness, in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:3–17), that he expected mankind to aspire to, failing which the punishment was very severe. While reading through the Old Testament it is easy to gain the impression that God is a very strict and almost cruel Task Master, putting people to death who picked up sticks on the Sabbath day (Num. 15:32–35) and opening the ground to swallow those who rebelled against Moses (Num. 16:31–32). The truth however is that God is love and He is very merciful and filled with tender compassion.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;” (Ps. 103:11)

The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.” (Ps 145:9)

The Old Testament message is therefore not that God is a cruel Task Master but about the seriousness of sin and the consequences of sin. No sin will go unpunished. (Gen. 2:17 and Rom. 6:26)

The Severest Judgment of All

Our loving, merciful God created man to have fellowship with Him, but this was made impossible by man’s sin because God cannot have fellowship with sin or with sinners.

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Co 6:14)

All sin, whether committed in the Old or New Testament dispensation has to be punished, for ‘the wages of sin is death.’ Here is where God’s great love stepped in, he sent Jesus in the form of a man to bear the punishment of all the sin of mankind. For Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice for mankind, He had to be without sin. This was emphasised throughout the Old Testament, where all the lambs sacrificed for sin had to be ‘without blemish’ (Ex. 12:5).

The crucifixion of Jesus upon the cross was God’s ultimate or severest judgment upon sin. It was so serious that God the Father even separated Himself from Jesus. We know this because Jesus cried out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) This one sacrifice of a sinless man, who became sin for us, was sufficient to appease the Righteousness of God for all eternity.

But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Heb. 10:12–14)

This was God’s eternal judgment on sin and it offers us eternal forgiveness and eternal righteousness.

Believers should Judge Themselves

Once we have responded in faith to God’s offer of forgiveness and salvation through the judgment of His Son on the cross, we need to constantly be reminded of this. In a similar way when God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, they were told to keep the Passover as a remembrance of God’s great act of deliverance. (Ex. 12:11-14). This is a type and shadow of what we are told to do in the New Testament. We are instructed by Jesus and confirmed by Paul that we should break bread and drink of the cup often in remembrance of the Lord Jesus and what He did for us upon the cross.

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” (Lk 22:19–20)

Paul gives us further insight into this by telling us that: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (1 Co 11:26–29)

From this passage we understand that the ‘bread’ symbolises the body of Jesus and the ‘wine’ symbolises His blood that was shed. We therefore need to be fully appropriating and trusting in the work of the Cross for our salvation and carefully discern and understand what we are declaring as we partake of these emblems. This is where Paul tells us to ‘judge or examine ourselves’ (verse 28).

To understand this ‘judgment’ a little better, we need to read through John chapter six, where Jesus explains that if we eat of Him and drink of Him, He will raise us up in the last day. (John 6:54). If we are not living by Jesus Christ, fully trusting in Him to save and keep us, then we may be eating and drinking in an unworthy fashion. By eating the bread and drinking the wine we are declaring that we are living by Him and this may be a false declaration. This therefore is what I should constantly examine.

If I don’t judge myself, the Lord may judge or chastise me, to get my attention and to draw me back into relying fully upon Him. This is an act of mercy from the Lord, as Paul explains, to prevent us from being judged with the world.

For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” (1 Co 11:30–32)

This is also very reassuring because it tells us that we (Believers) are not going to be judged with the world. The world or unsaved people will have to face a judgment.

The Bema Seat of Christ’s Judgment

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Co 5:10)

In 2 Corinthians chapter five, Paul is addressing Christian believers and he makes the above statement that we will all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ. The word ‘judgment’ in this case in the Greek is ‘Bema’ and is often then referred to as the Bema Seat of Christ because it is not the same as the final judgment that the (unsaved) world will have to face.

We know that our sins have already been judged in Jesus upon the cross; the full penalty for our sin has been paid. We can therefore no longer be judged for our sin, which is a wonderful blessing.

We do however have to give an account to the Lord for our works, or what we have done in our service for Him. Paul also gives us further insight on this where he tells us: “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Co 3:12–15)

It is clear from this passage that believers will have their works judged, but even if they suffer loss because their works were not acceptable, they themselves will still be saved.

Jesus said:  “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”” (Mt 10:42)

We can conclude then that believers will not be judged to see if they are worthy of salvation, but rather to see if their works are worthy of rewards. We are also told by John: “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (Re 20:5–6)

From this passage we can conclude that the believers who are part of the ‘first resurrection’ will not face judgment at the Great White Throne.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Co 15:58)

Judgement of the Nations

During the Millennium (the thousand year) reign of Christ on earth, He will judge the Nations. He will be particularly hard on those nations that have ill-treated Israel. Jesus tells us:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” (Mt 25:31–34)

We are given further insight into this aspect of judging the nations in Zechariah chapter fourteen where we are told that Jesus will be King over all the earth and the nations will have to come to Jerusalem to pay Him homage.

A careful study of the life of Joseph as the Governor of Egypt is a wonderful picture of Jesus on His Throne, with all the nations coming to Him. (Gen. 41)

The Great White Throne Judgment

God the Father has committed the responsibility of the Judgment of the world to a man, the man Christ Jesus.

For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth— those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” (Jn 5:21–30)

This authority to judge every individual, Jesus will exercise at the Great White Throne judgment, spoken about in Revelation chapter twenty.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Re 20:11–15)

A Summary of the Various Judgments

  1. God judged sin by sacrificing His Son upon the cross.
  2. Believers are to judge themselves, as they partake of the emblems of bread and wine.
  3. Believers will give an account to the Lord at the Bema Seat of Christ, where they will receive rewards, if their works are found to be ‘gold, silver and precious stones’ (spiritually speaking).
  4. Jesus will reign on the Throne of David in Jerusalem for a thousand years where He will judge the nations as King.
  5. Every unsaved person will be judged at the Great White Throne judgment.

The Principle of Eternal Judgment

We have briefly looked at the various judgments that the Bible speaks about, but it is important for us to understand the principle behind these judgments. The details and timing of these judgments could vary, depending on one’s interpretation of prophecy and understanding of end-time events. The principle however, remains the same and it is this principle that we need to hide in our hearts as part of the Foundation of Jesus Christ, which Paul spoke about when he said: “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Co 3:10–11)

The basic thread that runs through all of these judgments is the fact that man is accountable to God for His actions and that there will be a final judgment with eternal consequences.

When it comes to those who are in Christ as believers, the principle of eternal judgment lies in the fact that Jesus took the accountability for our sin and paid the price on our behalf. We therefore are accountable to God to abide in Jesus by eating and drinking of Him spiritually and we are accountable to Jesus for the works that we do in our body because they have eternal rewards.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Co 4:16–18)

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The Principle of Resurrection of the Dead

“… of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”[1]

The need for Resurrection

Ever since Adam’s sin introduced death into the human family, we have experienced spiritual death and eventually, physical death as well. For this reason, the prospect of rising from the dead is of great importance to us.

Death is First Spiritual then Physical

God’s instruction to Adam was; “… of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.[2]” We know from the Genesis account that when Adam ate of this fruit in disobedience to God’s command, he did not drop dead on the spot, but continued to live for nine hundred and thirty years. The fact that God drove them out of the Garden of Eden and barred the way to the Tree of Life is a clear indication, that they had become spiritually dead to God. This fact is confirmed by Paul who wrote: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.[3]” The wages of sin is death, which was instant in Adam’s case. He died spiritually, this ‘death’ continued to corrupt his physical body until it returned to the dust, from where it originally came.

The human spirit of an unsaved person is not dead in itself, in that humans can be aware of and possessed by demonic spirits. Being ‘dead in our trespasses and sins’, means that we have no spiritual awareness of God, nor can we have any spiritual relationship with God. We are dead to God.

Paul confirms this by telling us that; “… the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.[4]” He also tells us that; “…. the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.[5]

This spiritual death, resulting from sin, leads to physical death, because we are cut off from our source of life, Jesus Christ; and our bodies have been sentenced to death because of sin.

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—[6]

Redemption is First Spiritual then Physical

At conversion to Christ, our spirit which is dead to God because of sin, is resurrected or made alive to God.  “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,[7]” We could say that right from the outset of our walk with the Lord, the resurrection has begun in us. The next phase of this process is the renewing of our minds, so that we can begin to grasp the things of God that were previously hidden from us because of sin, which blinded our minds.

We are also told in Romans chapter eight, verse ten; “And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.[8]” In other words, the spirit is alive to God, but the physical body remains under the sentence of death because of sin.

We do however live in hope of the resurrection of our physical bodies, as we are told in Ephesians; “…. who (the Holy Spirit) is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.[9]” “The purchased possession” is a reference to our physical bodies, which Jesus has purchased with His shed blood and which He has promised to redeem at a future point.

We can say therefore that redemption involves the resurrection of our spirit, the renewal of our mind to grasp spiritual things and finally the resurrection of our physical body.

The Credibility of Christianity Rests on the Resurrection

Paul deals with the resurrection in great detail in First Corinthians chapter fifteen.  He makes reference to the fact that Jesus died, was buried and rose again according to the Scriptures.[10] This is the Gospel that has saved us. He also makes reference to the many witnesses that can confirm that Jesus rose from the dead.[11] This declaration is of tremendous importance to us and has been summed up by various writers, such as the following:

“Harvard law professor Simon Greenleaf, a man who lectured for years on how to break down testimony and determine whether or not a witness is lying, concludes: “It was therefore impossible that they (the apostles) could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact.”[12]

“Dr. George Eldon Ladd, writing of the historical significance of the change in the Apostles, says: “The historian must also admit that historical criticism has not yet found an adequate historical explanation for these facts; that for the historian the transformation in the disciples is an unsolved problem. He must also admit that the view that Jesus actually arose from the dead would explain all the facts.”[13]

Paul then arrives at this very important conclusion regarding the resurrection of Jesus: “For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” [14]

We can therefore say that the credibility of Christianity rests on this one fact; that Jesus rose from the dead and He has promised that He will also raise us from the dead at a future time.

All of Paul’s Ministry Took Its Authenticity from the Resurrection

While Paul was in custody following his arrest in Jerusalem, he was called upon to defend his ministry a number of times before various Roman Rulers. He was seen by the Jews as a heretic because he believed that Jesus is the Christ and that He rose from the dead.

Paul, in his defense, based his whole ministry on the fact of the resurrection. Before the Roman Ruler, Felix this was Paul’s defense: “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” [15]

The report given to King Agrippa concerning Paul’s accusation was; “When the accusers stood up, they brought no accusation against him of such things as I supposed, but had some questions against him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.” [16]

Paul’s defense before King Agrippa is particularly important, if we are to understand the great motivation within Paul to preach contrary to all that he had ever been taught and to stand for things contrary to the understanding of the Jewish Rulers of his day. This also demonstrates the extreme importance of the resurrection to us today.

“To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities. While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’ Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.[17]

The Principle of Resurrection vs The Doctrine of Resurrection

So far we have established the need for a resurrection and the absolute importance of the resurrection, but in this article we are seeking to understand the ‘Principle’ of the doctrine of the Resurrection. It is important therefore to distinguish between the doctrine of the Resurrection and the underlying principle that governs our understanding of this all important doctrine.

The doctrine or teaching of the Resurrection would of necessity include every reference to the resurrection from the Old and New Testaments, covering every aspect of our understanding of the resurrection. For example the doctrine would cover the resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous, every aspect of the resurrection of Jesus, the order of the Resurrection, what type of bodies we will have, when the Resurrection will take place, where the resurrected people will go. It will also cover the resurrection of sinners, when they will be resurrected, what their fate will be in the resurrection of the unjust and many other details concerning the Resurrection.

To understand the underlying principle of the resurrection we need to consider the following factors:

  • The Resurrection gives credibility and authenticity to our Christian Faith.
  • It was the motivation for Paul to say, “If by any means I might attain to the resurrection …. I press toward the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus”[18]
  • It was the driving force of all the Old Testament Saints, as recorded in Hebrews chapter eleven.
  • Like these Saints, we will live for ever; this drastically changes our whole perspective on life.
  • The Resurrection is the culmination and climax of all the promises of God to us.

To incorporate all of these important aspects into a sentence, we will be able to arrive at a definition of the Principle of the Resurrection.

The Principle of the doctrine of the Resurrection is the one single event that authenticates and motivates our certain hope in Jesus Christ, who has secured our future existence in the presence of God for ever.

 Application of the Principle of Resurrection in Our Lives Today

The principle of the resurrection focuses us on the future, in real certain hope that we will live for ever. As Paul put it, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” [19]

Peter also beautifully and graphically presented this great truth, when he wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” [20]

A careful study of Hebrews chapter eleven will reveal the effects that this living hope of the resurrection changed the lives of many of the Old Testament saints. We find that because they ‘sought a City, which has foundations, who’s Builder and Maker is God’, in other words they were fully convinced by God’s promise of the Resurrection that it affected their lives in the following ways:

  • They fully believed that God had promised them a heavenly City in the Resurrection.[21]
  • They saw these promises afar off by faith.
  • They embraced the promises of God.
  • They were fully persuaded by what God had promised.
  • They declared plainly by their conduct that they were strangers and pilgrims in this world, just passing through.[22]

The writer of Hebrews tells us that ‘the world is not worthy of such people and that God is not ashamed to be called their God.’[23]

Jesus said: “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” [24] The principle of this glorious truth, written upon our hearts will cause us to live in a certain hope like the men and women of Hebrews chapter eleven.

 

 

 

 

 


[1]  Heb. 6:2

[2]  Gen. 2:17

[3]  Eph. 2:1

[4]  1 Cor. 2:14

[5]  Rom. 8:7

[6]  Rom. 5:12

[7]  Eph. 2:1

[8]  Rom. 8:10

[9]  Eph. 1:14

[10] 1 Cor. 15:1 – 4

[11] 1 Cor. 15:5 – 8

[12] McDowell, J. (1981). The resurrection factor (111). San Bernardino, CA.: Here’s Life Publishers.

[13] George Eldon Ladd, The New Testament and Criticism, Grand Rapids, Mich., Wm. B. Eerdmans,      1967, p. 188.

[14]  1 Cor. 15:16–19

[15]  Acts 24:14–15

[16]  Acts 25:18–20

[17] Acts 26:7–23

[18] Philippians 3:11 – 14

[19]  Philippians 3:13–14

[20] 1 Peter 1:3–9

[21] Hebrews 11:10

[22] Hebrews 11:13 – 14

[23] Hebrews 11:16 & 38

[24] John 6:54

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The Principle of the Doctrine of Laying on of Hands

“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. [1]

The Practice of Laying on of Hands in the Old Testament

The common practice in the Old Testament of passing on a blessing, particularly the all-important blessing of inheritance from father to son, was solemnized by the act of laying hands upon the recipient’s head and pronouncing the blessing. This is demonstrated very clearly when Joseph brought his two sons to Jacob his father to receive a blessing.[2] Joseph purposely steered his older son, Manasseh towards Jacob’s right hand because he believed that the greater blessing would be given to his first-born from Jacob’s right hand. This great blessing that Jacob passed on by the laying on of hands, he had received from his father Isaac.[3] Isaac in turn had received the blessing from his father Abraham[4] and Abraham had received the blessing from Melchizedek[5], in accordance with God’s promise.

It was also common practice in the Old Testament to bestow authority or the recognition of an office, by the symbolic act of laying on of hands. An example of this is found in Numbers chapter eight and verse ten, where the Levites were ordained as priests; “So you shall bring the Levites before the Lord, and the children of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites.[6]

Moses also ordained Joshua in a similar way. “And the Lord said to Moses: “Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and inaugurate him in their sight. [7]

The Practice of Laying on of Hands in the New Testament

The practice of the symbolic ‘laying on of hands’ continued in the New Testament time with Jesus laying hands on many people to heal them.[8]  Jesus also laid his hands on little children to bless them and pray for them.[9] In Mark’s version of the Great Commission he gives instructions to us, the followers of Jesus, to “lay hands upon the sick and they will recover[10] “. Examples of this practice can be seen in Ananias being sent to Paul to both heal him and to impart to him the baptism of the Holy Spirit. “And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” [11]

The baptism of the Holy Spirit was also imparted to other recipients as recorded in the Book of Acts, through prayer and the laying on of hands. “Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. [12]

The Old Testament practice of ordination or formalized recognition of office by the ‘laying on of hands’ was continued in the New Testament as can be seen by the ordination of Deacons in Acts chapter six. “And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. [13]

This same practice is seen in the recognition of Paul and Barnabas as apostles who were sent out from the church at Antioch. “Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. [14]” It is also demonstrated in the case of Timothy, where it appears that his ministry gift was confirmed by a word of prophesy and then formalised by the Elders laying hands on Timothy and sending him out to fulfil his ministry. “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. [15]

The Principle of the Laying on of Hands

Having taken a brief look at the practice of laying on of hands to bless, heal or ordain, it should be fairly clear that although this is an important aspect of Scripture it does not really form part of our Foundation in Christ. However, when we understand the ‘principle’ behind the laying on of hands we are then able to very clearly see how that this principle is part of the cornerstone of our relationship with Jesus Christ. The principle is the motivation behind laying on of hands and the governing rule behind this symbolic practice; the Principle of the laying on of hands is therefore:

Passing on to someone else, the blessing that we have received.

We could also put this in Biblical language; “… And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, who said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ [16]

In understanding this foundational principle we should not be distracted by the practice of laying on of hands and rather focus on understanding the principle of laying on of hands. The ‘Principle’ as expressed above, is that having received something from the Lord, we willingly and enthusiastically impart that blessing to our fellow brothers and sisters. Imparting this blessing may have nothing to do with actually laying hands on someone, but rather the impartation of the blessing.

The Practical Application of the Principle of Laying on of Hands

At first glance, this principle may seem to be of minor importance, but once we grasp the fuller understanding of the operation of the New Testament church, we will begin to appreciate how pivotal and important this principle is, for the healthy spiritual functioning of the Body of Christ.

Paul’s teaching from 1 Corinthians chapters 11 through 14 gives us a detailed insight into how all of the members of the church have a function of one kind or another, which involves imparting what they have received from the Lord to other members of the Body of Christ, so that all may be encouraged and built up. He teaches very clearly that “…Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. [17]” This is not just an isolated verse, but it follows the lengthy and detailed explanation in 1 Corinthians 12, of how the church is like a human body, with many different parts, but all have a vital function and all form part of the whole.

This same truth is again expressed by Paul in Ephesians 4:15 & 16 “..but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. [18]

The participation of every member of the Body of Christ in one way or another is also taught by Paul in Romans chapter 12.

You will note that in none of the passages quoted above is the ‘laying on of hands ‘ mentioned, but in all of the above examples of the operation of each member of the Body of Christ, the principle of giving what you have received is applicable. Or we could say that the principle of the laying of hands is applied even though we are not physically laying hands on anyone, but imparting a blessing through a Psalm, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation, or an interpretation, which is what the principle of the laying on of hands represents.

Ministry is given to Equip the Saints

There is a great danger in the ministry gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, becoming an end in themselves, rather than using these gifts as a means to equip the saints, with the knowledge, maturity and ability to minister to one another. This Principle of Laying on of Hands, focusses on this very issue. We all should have received something from the Lord that we can impart to my fellow saints. This is the Principle.

Our Participation with Jesus the Head of the church

If we can grasp and by God’s grace apply the principle of laying on of hands, we will be participating directly with Jesus the Head of the church, in His ministry to each part of the Body of Christ. It is in this activity that we learn how to receive from others but also how to give. Relationships with brothers and sisters develop, sometimes with much difficulty, but it is all part of our growing and maturing process, as we grow to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

This principle is so important that John tells us, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? [19]

The principle of laying on of hands (imparting the blessing) is therefore a demonstration of the love of Christ in us, pouring from us, to the benefit of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Heb 6:1–2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] Gen. 48:13

[3] Gen. 27:24-29

[4] Gen. 25:5

[5] Gen. 14:19

[6]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Nu 8:10). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Nu 27:18–19). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[8] The New King James Version. 1982 (Mark 6:5;Mark 8:23-25;Luke 4:40). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

 

[9] The New King James Version. 1982 (Matt 19:13-15). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

 

[10] The New King James Version. 1982 (Mark 16:18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson

[11]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 9:17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[12]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 8:14–17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[13]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 6:5–6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[14]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 13:3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[15]  The New King James Version. 1982 (1 Ti 4:14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[16]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 20:35). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[17]  The New King James Version. 1982 (1 Co 14:26). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[18]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Eph 4:15–16). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[19]  The New King James Version. 1982 (1 Jn 4:20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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The Principle of the Doctrine of Baptisms

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto maturity; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. “(Heb 6:1-2)

The aspect of this topic that needs clarification is the fact that some versions of the Bible have translated the ‘doctrine of baptisms’ as ‘the doctrine of washings’. The Greek word used in the original version of this passage is ‘βαπτισμος  or baptismos’ which is where we get our word ‘baptism’ from. It is also in the plural, ‘baptisms’ which seems to contradict Paul’s teaching in Ephesians chapter four verse five,  where he says that there is, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism”. This is one of the reasons why the translators of certain versions chose the word ‘washings’ to avoid this contradiction. We shall see in this principle however, that there is no contradiction to using the word ‘baptisms’ and in line with such important foundational principles, such as repentance, faith, resurrection and eternal judgment, ‘the principle of the doctrine of baptisms’ forms a vital part of this Foundation.

Another aspect of this topic that may need clarification is that certain theologians have suggested that because this book is addressed to the Hebrews, the writer is encouraging the Jews to leave their Old Testament styled ceremonial washings and embrace the New Testament message of grace through Christ and therefore contend that the word ‘washings’ is in keeping with this thought. A closer look at the content of these two verses however, will make it very clear that faith, resurrection and eternal judgment are not issues of the past, but are important aspects of the present and the future. Therefore the writer does not have Old Testament practices under the Law in mind, but is encouraging us to understand these important foundational principles as the Milk of the Word, to enable us to grow to maturity in Christ.

One Baptism

The word ‘baptism’ is derived from the Greek word ‘baptizein’ which means to ‘immerse’[1]

The Bible speaks of a number of baptisms, which differ in various ways, but are each a part of the one baptism; our baptism or immersion into Christ. There is one Lord, one faith and one immersion into Christ.

Before we consider the principle behind these baptisms, we need to draw clarity and the distinctions between the various baptisms that are taught in Scripture.

The Various Baptisms in the New Testament

1 Baptism into the Body of Christ

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”[2]The question we have to ask about this verse is, “When did this take place in our lives as Christians?” If we take this to be a reference to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, at some point subsequent to salvation, then we would have to conclude that those who have not experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit are not yet part of the Body of Christ, which is not correct nor is it Scriptural. It is however clear, that in this case the Baptizer into the Body of Christ is the Spirit. This is in keeping with Jesus’ explanation of the ministry of the Holy Spirit to us as unsaved people. He said that the Holy Spirit would convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment to come.[3]

The Holy Spirit is the ‘Agent’ who brings about our spiritual conversion and places us spiritually into the company of blood-washed saints called the Body of Christ or the church.[4]

“not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5).

We can conclude then that the baptism being referred to in 1 Corinthians chapter twelve and verse thirteen is our baptism or immersion into Christ, which happens at salvation and is also the one baptism that Paul refers to in Ephesians chapter four and verse five because without this experience we do not belong to Jesus and are therefore not saved. This is the one all-important baptism.

2 Water Baptism

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”[5]This command of the Lord Jesus is part of the great commission, instructing us to baptize believers or disciples. This is a reference to water baptism, which can be seen as the apostles’ practice throughout the Book of Acts. They baptized in water everyone who responded to the Gospel and repented of their sin.

Jesus Himself, although He was the sinless Son of God was baptized in water and He said that water baptism is the fulfillment of all righteousness.[6] To understand this more fully we need to look at Paul’s teaching in Romans chapter six. “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”[7]In this passage Paul gives us an in-depth explanation of our baptism into Christ, which we referred to above in 1 Corinthians chapter twelve, verse thirteen. However, the way he describes this process in Romans chapter six, it becomes clear that water baptism is symbolic of this spiritual experience. The symbolic process of water baptism is that the believer is immersed into the water, ‘buried’ under the water and then comes up out of the water. This equates symbolically to death, burial and resurrection, which is the deeper truth and intention of the Lord for us, when we are saved, or baptized into the Body of Christ. We die to self, the old man is buried and we become new creatures in Christ and part of His Body of people. This is the ‘fulfillment of all righteousness’ that Jesus spoke about.

3 Baptism in the Holy Spirit

“And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”[8] This is the prophecy that Peter quoted on the Day of Pentecost, when God sent the Holy Spirit, as Jesus had promised the disciples.[9]It is worth noting that in none of the references to the coming of the Holy Spirit, does the Scripture say anything about getting saved or becoming a new creature, but the promise concerning the Holy Spirit is consistently related to receiving power to serve the Lord. Joel’s prophecy, which was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost indicates the kind of power that God had in mind; “your sons and daughters shall prophesy”. ‘Prophecy’ in this case is not necessarily foretelling future events, but rather forth telling the wonderful truth of God as people who have experienced Him and have a revelation of Jesus in their hearts, which they received from the Holy Spirit. They are therefore credible witnesses, who can speak by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

4 Baptism of Suffering

“But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.” So He said to them, t“You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”.[10]Jesus was talking here about the baptism of suffering which He was about to go through and He said that we would also go through a baptism of suffering.

Paul confirms this to be true when he wrote, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”[11] Once we have been baptized into the Body of Christ (saved), declared our allegiance to Jesus through water baptism, been empowered for service by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of suffering is inescapable. The world will hate us because it hated Jesus.[12] There is a great benefit to suffering though, we will be strengthened to endure[13], develop character[14]and learn obedience.[15] Even Jesus, although He was (and is) the perfect Son of God, He also had to learn obedience through the things that He suffered, in order to become our High Priest or Representative.[16]

Following our Master

In Jesus’ earthly life He led the way through all four of these baptisms. He was immersed into a human body by the Holy Spirit at His conception. We are immersed (baptized) into His spiritual Body by the Holy Spirit at our spiritual conception (salvation); Jesus was baptized in water and received recognition from His Father for doing so. He has commanded us to do the same. He received the Holy Spirit after His water baptism, demonstrating the need for the power of the Holy Spirit to start His ministry even though He was the perfect Son of God. Jesus promised that He would also baptize us in the Holy Spirit to empower us to serve him. Jesus then suffered through temptation and the hatred of the world and He said we would also be tempted and be hated by the world.

The Four Baptisms in Summary

You will note that in this article we have not given exhaustive or conclusive details on each of the doctrines of the various baptisms. The reason for this is that we are seeking to understand the ‘Principle’ behind these baptisms, rather than exploring the in-depth doctrine of the baptisms. To establish the principles of these baptisms, we need to understand the distinctive features of each baptism. For example, we need to ask who the baptizer is. Who the candidate is. What the element is into which we are being baptized and what result is produced in each case.

The Table below sets these distinctions out:

 

BAPTIZER

CANDIDATE

ELEMENT

RESULT

1

 

 

 

Holy

Spirit

Repentant

Sinner

Spiritual

Body of

Christ

Salvation

Eternal

Life

2

 

 

 

 

Fellow

Believer

Obedient

Believer

Water

Declaration

of

fulfilment

of all

Righteousness

 

3

 

Jesus

Christ

Thirsty

Believer

Holy

Spirit

Power for

service

 

4

 

 

The world

and the

devil

Persevering

Believer

Suffering

Obedience

Endurance

The Principles of the Doctrine of Baptisms

Having considered some of the detail of the various baptisms and distinguished between them, we need to step back from the detail and get to grips with the overriding and governing principle of the doctrine of baptisms.

The principle is based upon these considerations:

  • We have been immersed (baptized) into Jesus Christ, which in practice means that we are part of the large company of blood-washed saints, both in Heaven and on earth, who form the church.[17]
  • As a member of the Body of Christ, I am obliged to declare this by being baptized in water and identifying with His death, burial and resurrection. [18]
  • As a member of the Body of Christ I owe it Jesus to be an active, participating member and therefore need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit to empower me for service.[19]
  • Having been baptized into the body of Christ, and having declared this through water baptism, and having been empowered by the Holy Spirit, I can expect to suffer hardships and temptations, as this is all part of being in Christ.[20]

The Principle of the Doctrine of Baptisms is therefore quite simply:

Our total immersion into and involvement with Jesus Christ and His Body or church.

While this principle is simply expressed, the implications for us are so enormous, that we could spend a lifetime discovering all that this entails.

The implications of this Principle

  • I am no longer my own, I’ve been bought with a price. I need to love every other true member of the Body of Christ and seek to be in fellowship with some of them in a local context. This makes me responsible for and accountable to other believers.
  • My declaration through water baptism sets me apart as God’s child and also marks me as an enemy to the world and the devil.
  • My baptism in the Holy Spirit places an obligation upon me to be a witness to the world and an active participating member of the Body of Christ, to inspire others to grow to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
  • My identification with Jesus Christ marks me for difficulties and opposition in this world and I will be faced with many temptations, but my High Priest will succor me through these difficulties and I will learn obedience by the things which I suffer.

[1] Oxford English Dictionary

[2] 1 Cor. 12:13

[3] John 16:8

[4] Titus 3:5

[5] Matt. 28:19

[6] Matt. 3:15

[7] Rom 6:3-4

[8] Joel 2:28-29

[9] Luke 24:49

[10] Matt 20:22-23

[11] 2 Tim. 3:12

[12] John 15:18-20

[13] James 1:3

[14] Rom 5:3-5

[15] Heb. 5:8

[16] Heb. 5:8

[17] 1 Cor. 12:13; Col. 1:12-13; Eph. 5:30; Gal 3:27; 1 Cor. 12:26

[18] Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2;41; Acts 8:12; Acts 8:36-38;Acts 10;47; Acts 16:15; Acts 16:33; Acts 22:16

[19] Acts 1:8; Acts 2:38; Eph. 5:18-19; Acts 8:15-17; Acts 9:17; Acts 10:44-46; Acts 19:6; Eph. 4:16;

[20] James 1:2-4; Rom 8:17; Gal 6:13; 1 Thes. 3:4; 2 Thes 1:5; 2 Tim 2:12; 2 Tim 3:12; 1 Pet 4:16; 1 Pet 4:1; Heb 2:18; Heb. 4:14-15; Heb. 5:8-9; 1 Cor. 10:13

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The Principle of Faith towards God

“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.” [1]  It is important to remember that while this verse, speaks of ‘leaving’ these principles and ‘not laying again the foundation’; the Author of Hebrews is not hereby suggesting that the principles are unimportant, or that they should not be taught and learned. The motivation for ‘leaving’ or not having to constantly re-lay this foundation is that we should progress to maturity in Christ, rather than remaining spiritually immature, needing to be constantly taught these basic or elementary principles over and over.

Why do we need Faith?

God’s dealings with mankind and more specifically Israel throughout the Old Testament were very visible, tangible and material in nature. For example His blessings upon Israel were shown by the abundance of their crops and the fruitfulness of their wombs in producing physical children. He opened the Red Sea before their eyes and fed them with physical edible manna in the wilderness. Their enemies were physical armies and God gave them visible, quantifiable victories in battle. They were also given a Geographical land mass for their inheritance.  Their faith was based upon what they saw and later generations of Israelites were reminded numerous times in the Psalms of God’s many wonderful works, by which they were to believe in and trust the God of their fathers.

In the New Testament Jesus introduced the ‘new and living way’ by which we are to interact with God. He did this in His discourse with Nicodemus [2] where He told him that unless a man is ‘born again’ he would not see the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus, although well versed in Old Testament teaching, could not understand what Jesus was talking about because he could not grasp the transition from the tangible to the spiritual. Jesus also told the woman at Jacob’s well that “the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”[3] In other words, no longer a Cloud by day and a Pillar of Fire by night to indicate the visible presence of God and no longer the visible glory of God in the Holy of Holies in the Temple, but God is Spirit, invisible to us and incomprehensible to human minds. It is for this reason that we need to exercise faith in the invisible God. There is no other way to interact with an invisible and incomprehensible God.

“But 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 diligently seek Him.”[4]

Faith vs Positive Thinking

Most of our blessings, interventions and interactions with God in the New Testament are spiritual and are therefore invisible, intangible and not physically quantifiable; it is for this reason that ‘Faith’ is essential to lay hold of and experience these blessings. It may be argued that this faith appears to be just wishful thinking or the ‘power of positive thinking’; however there is a very big difference between the faith of the New Testament and positive thinking.

So called ‘Faith’ that is in fact positive thinking and not Biblical faith at all is based on an imagination, dream or positive future outcome that we desire. This ‘power of positive thinking’ is exploited by false teachers and false prophets to stir people into a positive frame of mind. One of the distorted uses of this psychology of creating in an audience a positive frame of mind, is that it makes people more generous to give their money when urged to do so. This ungodly exploitation and manipulation is in fact wicked extortion. The so-called ‘Faith Movement’ also referred to by some as the ‘name it and claim it’ Movement , employ the principle of ‘positive thinking’, which is based on an individual visualising an item or an outcome and then applying their will and full concentration upon the desired outcome, until it (hopefully) occurs. It is also falsely taught that this ‘faith’ forces God to answer our prayer, but this is not Biblical faith at all.

Biblical faith is based upon the actual promises that God has made to us in Christ, through His written Word, understood in their correct context. And all truth in the Bible is only true in its relationship to Jesus Christ, because He is The Truth.[5]

Proponents of the ‘Faith Movement’ would argue that they base their teaching on what Jesus said; “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”[6]However, Jesus both demonstrated throughout the years of His earthly ministry and by His own declaration on many occasions, that He could do nothing Himself but that the works he did were only the works that His Father instructed and enabled Him to do.[7] Jesus further made it clear to His disciples that in the same way that the Father had sent Him, He was sending them.[8] The context in which John chapter fourteen and verse fourteen and similar verses is therefore to be understood, is that as we apply ourselves to do the Father’s will as Jesus did, we can ask anything in His name and the Father will respond to our request according to His will. John also confirms this understanding in his epistle; “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”[9]

God will never do anything contrary to His will no matter how much positive thinking or positive confession we can muster. James confirms this very clearly by saying, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”[10]

Do we need Blind Faith to believe in an invisible God?

It may also be argued that in order to believe in an invisible God for invisible blessings with no tangible evidence; that we need ‘blind faith’ like someone stepping off a cliff and believing they will fly. However, true Biblical faith is not about jumping blindly into the unknown; it is basing our confidence and absolute trust in what God has promised to do for us through His Son Jesus Christ.

God has provided an abundance of tangible evidence of His existence and His character and person in the whole of creation. We are told that God created the universe by speaking words. We know that words are used to communicate, therefore it is to be understood that the whole of creation is in fact a message. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”[11] By close inspection of the immense creation and the amazing design in everything that has been made, we are given some understanding of God’s eternal power and Godhead or Trinity. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”[12]

God has also provided us with irrefutable evidence of His message to us in the Bible. The Bible in its original languages was inspired by God[13] and is completely reliant for its credibility on the accuracy of its predictions or prophecies. Many of these prophecies have already been fulfilled down to the tiniest detail. Jesus also endorses the credibility of the Bible by telling us, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”[14]

Our faith is therefore not mindless or blind faith, but is based upon the absolute assurance that God does exist and that He will honour His word and His promises to us. “But 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 diligently seek Him.”[15]

How is Faith generated in our hearts?

This is a very important aspect to understand. Paul made it clear that it is possible for our faith, confidence or belief system to be based on the wrong information, such as the wisdom of men. “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”[16]

It is a fatal error to measure our faith against the success or lack of success in obtaining answers to our prayers from God, for the simple reason that there are many other factors, other than our faith, why our prayers have apparently not been answered. We may be asking for the wrong reason, or we may be asking contrary to God’s will, to mention just two factors.

The basis of our faith must be very securely founded upon the Word of God and the power of God to fulfil His Word and not on what men say or what we think. The question is how do we do this? Paul answers this question with these inspired words, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”[17]This ‘hearing’ means comprehending deep in our hearts what God is saying through His Word.  Comprehending, understanding, internalizing or hearing God’s Word is the unique and exclusive work of the Holy Spirit, whom God has sent to us for this specific reason. As Jesus taught, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”[18]

To understand this process we need to consider how faith was first sparked in our hearts. When the Gospel is presented to a sinner, the Holy Spirit convinces the individual of sin. In other words for the first time they are confronted with the offense that their sin is to God.[19] The Holy Spirit then lights up the reality and existence of Jesus Christ in their heart and for the first time they realise why Jesus died and that He is alive. All of this revelation can only come by the work of the Holy Spirit.[20] No amount of sales pressure or clever argument will bring about this supernatural understanding. It is at this point that faith comes by ‘hearing’ these facts, the sinner then needs to act upon this faith and respond to God’s call.[21]

The great emphasis on ‘hearing’ what the Spirit is saying throughout the first five chapters of Hebrews and in the message to all of the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three underline the importance of hearing and comprehending what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through God’s Word, throughout our Christian walk with the Lord. This hearing is our only source of true faith in Him.

The Two unbreakable Pillars of our Faith

Faith is the imperative requirement for a relationship with the invisible God and to enable us to embrace the wonderful benefits of eternal life in Jesus Christ. For this reason God has reassured the heirs of salvation (those who have responded to the Gospel) by two immutable things that can never be changed or broken. The first is that God has made a promise that Jesus will represent us as our High Priest until we are safely home in Heaven and the second is that God confirmed this promise with an Oath, using His own Name as security. In these two things it is impossible for God to lie, therefore we have the strongest possible reason to have confidence that what God has promised, He will definitely do.

For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. [22]

The Principle of Faith towards God

Based on all of the above considerations we are now able to define the ‘Principle’ of faith rather than the doctrine or teaching on faith. The principle of faith towards God is “absolute confidence in the Person and work of Jesus Christ” This principle is expressed in the verse previously quoted, “But 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 diligently seek Him.”[23] In other words we believe that God is everything that He says He is in the Scriptures and that He will reward us by fulfilling all His promises to us, if we diligently seek Him by faith. Further to this we understand that all that God is, is fully revealed in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ.[24] Also, all that God has promised, He will fulfil by His Son, Jesus Christ.[25]

Faith should never be based on our feelings, circumstances, hopes and dreams, but firmly upon the revelation of the truth to our hearts by the Holy Spirit, which truth is to be understood in Jesus Christ who is The Truth.

The Principle of faith towards God = Absolute trust (confidence) in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.


[1] Heb 6:1

[2] John 3:1-12

[3] John 4:23-24

[4] Heb 11:6

[5] John 14:6

[6] John 14:14

[7] John 5:19

[8] John 20:21

[9] 1 John 5:14-15

[10] James 4:3

[11] Heb 11:3

[12] Rom 1:20

[13] 2 Tim 3:16

[14] Matt 5:18

[15] Heb 11:6

[16] 1 Cor. 2:4-5

[17] Rom 10:17

[18] John 16:13-14

[19] John 16:8-11

[20] 2 Cor. 4:6

[21] Acts 2:21

[22] Heb 6:13-20

[23] Heb 11:6

[24] Heb 1:3 and Col 2:9

[25] 2 Cor. 1:20

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The Principle of Repentance from Dead Works

Good works can be dead works

In this section we are not dealing with repentance from sin, nor are we speaking about evil works, but rather good works that are dead works. If good works are done for the wrong reason or wrong motivation, they are considered by God to be dead works. This is what the Principle of repentance from dead works is addressing.

It is a fairly simple matter to identify what dead works are, when we look at all the many works of the Law in the Old Covenant, required to attain to God’s righteous standard; in comparison with salvation in the New Testament, which is given to us by grace and not by works that we have to do.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”[1] This dramatic change from having to keep 613 laws in the Old Testament in order to attain to a standard of righteousness acceptable to God; compared to the free gift of perfect righteousness by faith in Jesus; was a particularly hard concept for the Jews to understand.

One of the biggest controversies in the early church arose over the question of circumcision. It appears from Paul’s letter to the Galatians that after Paul and Barnabas had established various churches in that region, believing Jews had visited these new assemblies, comprising mainly Gentile believers (non-Jewish) and insisted that apart from believing in Jesus, they also needed to be circumcised and keep Moses’ Law.[2]

Paul’s whole letter to the Galatians deals with this subject very clearly and thoroughly. The controversy continued however, until it was necessary for the apostles and elders to meet in Jerusalem to get a consensus and clarity from the Lord as to how they should treat all the new Gentile believers.

In this meeting Peter declared, “Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”[3]

The point being made in Galatians and in the Jerusalem conference in Acts chapter fifteen, is that if we base our salvation on any works, other than the work of Jesus on the cross, these works are in fact ‘dead works’ because they cannot produce life. Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the Law and then bore our punishment for breaking God’s Laws, by dying on the cross in our place. It is therefore an insult to Jesus, to assume that something that we have done has also contributed to our salvation.

Application of this Principle today

As non-Jewish Christians living 2000 years after the Jerusalem Conference, we might feel that circumcision as a religious practice, is no longer an issue and therefore this question of repenting, or turning from dead works, is not particularly relevant to us anymore. However this is where we need to understand the ‘Principle of Repentance from Dead Works’ rather than the details and technicalities of this doctrine, as this principle is still vitally important to us in our relationship with Jesus Christ today.

The passage that we are examining in these articles is Hebrews chapter six and verse one. “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works…”[4] The Greek word used in this verse for ‘principle’ is ‘arche’ which means, “beginning, corner, (at the, the) first (estate), magistrate, power, principality, principle, rule.”[5] Therefore we are examining the first rule (principle) which governs our understanding and application of the doctrine. Many situations and many different works can be governed by this one principle.

For example, if I believe that I must acknowledge Jesus and His work on the cross, but I also must be circumcised to please God, circumcision is a dead work in this case, because I am adding a ‘work’ to the Gospel of grace. By the same principle, however, I could subconsciously believe that if I fast every Monday, God will be more pleased with me and find me more acceptable to Him. In this case my fasting on every Monday is a dead work. The reason for this is that God finds us pleasing and acceptable to Him only because of the work of Jesus on the cross. We cannot enhance our standing with God by any works that we do. That does not mean that fasting on every Monday is a bad thing, but our reason for fasting is the all important aspect because God sees our hearts. We may fast to seek God’s face and thereby focus upon the Lord and draw near to Him, which is a very good work. But, if our fasting subtly forms part of the basis for God’s acceptance of us, then when we forget to fast, we will feel that we are less pleasing or less acceptable to God, which is not true. If this is the case, then we have shown that our fasting is in fact a dead work and we need to repent of that attitude.

Let us consider another example of how a good work can become a ‘dead work’. If I have some desperate need and I go to the Lord in prayer, I may well be tempted to make promises to God that I will do a number of good works, if He would answer my prayer, in the hope that my good works will make God more inclined to hear me. The opposite situation could also be true; I may feel that I have failed the Lord in so many ways; therefore He is less likely to hear and answer my prayer. In both of these examples we are demonstrating a lack of understanding and appreciation for this first and vital principle of repentance from dead works. The truth is, God receives me and inclines His ear to my prayer, not because of the good things I have done, or haven’t done. He receives me because I am acceptable to Him on the basis of what Jesus did on the cross and for no other reason. [6]

The Power and Liberating effect of this Principle

This Principle is very powerfully presented in Hebrews chapter nine and ten. It is good to read both of these chapters, to gain an insight into what the writer is saying about this subject. He starts in chapter nine to sketch a picture of the Tabernacle in the wilderness that Moses was instructed to build. He presents us with the various items of furniture in the Tabernacle and talks about the different sacrifices that had to be made for sin. God gave Moses many detailed instructions in Mount Sinai regarding the service of the Tabernacle. The building of the Tabernacle and all the ceremonies involved a lot of religious works, but concerning all of this the Lord makes this astounding statement: “It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience.”[7]

This verse brings us to the crux of the whole matter; we are introduced to the important part that our conscience plays in our motivation. The Lord teaches us in this chapter nine, from verse one through nine that even though these works, sacrifices and buildings were ordained of God, they had no power to cleanse our conscience.

Applying this to ourselves, even though we have come to understand that our sins have been forgiven by the death of Jesus on the cross, it is possible that this truth may not have clearly registered in our conscience. Guilt in our conscience is therefore the strongest motivator, for us to want to try to justify ourselves by good works. But the very fact that we do good deeds to justify ourselves before God is an indication that we have not grasped nor applied the ‘Principle of repentance from dead works’.

“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”[8]

In these verses, eleven through fourteen, we are given the most liberating and wonderful truth. That Jesus has cleansed or purged our consciences from dead works to serve the living God. This truth provides the basis or foundation for a wonderfully secure relationship with Jesus Christ that is not dependent upon our performance as Christians, but is solely dependent upon what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross.

The Motivation of Guilt nullified by this Principle

Some soul-searching is required to check our motive for doing good works and if we are doing anything that is motivated by the need to make ourselves more acceptable to God, then we need to repent of these dead works. We are required to do good works, but these works should be motivated purely by our love for the Lord and our devotion to Him, rather than the need to gain His acceptance of us.

In Paul’s day some saw this principle as an excuse to continue in sin as seen in Romans: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” [9]“ And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say.”[10]

This principle may also be seen by us today as an excuse to sin or to become negligent in our walk before the Lord because “He accepts me anyway on the basis of what Jesus has done and not on the basis of my works”. However our motivation to not sin should be as a result of the change in our heart that has caused us to hate sin and love righteousness, rather than the need to find favour with God by not sinning, as this is a dead work.

The Principle of repentance from dead works, when fully understood and applied by faith, frees our conscience from the need to justify ourselves. We have been justified freely by His grace.[11]

This is the first building block of the Foundation forming our eternal relationship with Jesus Christ, which offers us the glorious security that we are eternally acceptable to God, not by our performance, but by His ‘once and for all’ sacrifice.[12]

The Principle of Repentance from Dead Works = Total reliance on Jesus’ finished work on the cross for my acceptability before God.


[1] Eph 2:8-9

[2] Gal 1:6-7

[3] Acts 15 10-11

[4] Heb 6:1 KJV

[5] Strong’s Greek dictionary, 746

[6] Eph 1:6

[7] Heb 9:9

[8] Heb 9:11-14

[9] Rom 6:1-2

[10] Rom 3:8

[11] Rom 3:24

[12] Heb 10:10

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The Milk of the Word

The subject of the milk of the Word is given such importance in Scripture that we dare not guess or speculate as to what Paul and Peter were referring to. The Writer of Hebrews gives us very clear and important details about this subject, which we need to explore with all diligence.

The importance of the Son

Hebrews starts in chapter one and verse one to focus our attention upon the Son of God and the place of great prominence and power that is given to Him by the Father, because by inheritance He had obtained this great honour, not in His capacity as the second Person of the Godhead, but as a representative of mankind. We could say, all men have failed, but this one man has succeeded and has risen to a place of power and honour above even the angels. God spoke to the Old Testament fathers by the Prophets, but has now chosen in these days to speak to us by His Son.

What does this mean? If we are able to comprehend Jesus in His new exalted position at God’s right hand and if we do have a spiritual relationship with Him, we are able to hear from God because He is speaking to us by His Son. God has sent the Holy Spirit to us, so that we can understand the depths of Jesus Christ in His exalted position as the Head of the church. This understanding is not available to the natural mind, but is spiritually understood or discerned.

The importance of Hearing

One of the Scribes asked, “Which is the first (or greatest) commandment of all?” Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.”[1] Notice that Jesus starts with, “Hear, O Israel” which emphasises the importance of hearing what the Lord is saying. Hearing does not only mean hearing the sound of the words, but comprehending, assimilating and acting upon what God is saying.

The Lord also emphasises the importance of hearing in Hebrews chapter three, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says:  “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness… “[2] Israel refused to hear what God said to them and as a consequence, God swore in His wrath that they would not enter into the Promised Land. The writer of Hebrews uses this as a very stern warning to us in the New Testament to ‘hear what the Son is saying to us by the Holy Spirit’ because God is speaking to us in these days by His Son. We are also warned in chapter two of Hebrews, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.”[3]

We are told in Hebrews chapter three and verse eight that we should be careful not to harden our hearts and we are also told that it is the deceitfulness of sin that hardens our hearts and then in verse twelve we are warned to, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God”[4] both the deceitfulness of sin and a heart of unbelief, will dull our hearing and render us incapable of hearing from the Lord, even though we still have the head-knowledge of Biblical facts.

This issue of hearing is so important that in the messages to the churches in the Revelation, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”[5]is repeated seven times and it is directed each time to the churches (plural).

It is this inability to hear or comprehend God’s message to us in and through His Son that the Writer of Hebrews addresses in great detail in chapter five.

Here we are introduced to the ministry of Jesus as our Great High Priest and we are told how He qualified to represent us as our High Priest. The Lord then tells us in Hebrews five verse eleven that the things concerning this Heavenly ministry of Jesus are hard for us to understand because we are dull of hearing. This dullness of hearing is obvious to the writer of Hebrews because he says that we all (all believers in the Body of Christ) should have the ability to teach others or communicate our experience in the Lord to enable others to find a deeper relationship with Jesus our High Priest. But these believers needed someone to teach them “again the first principles of the oracles of God” and as the Scripture continues,” and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”[6] It is vitally important for us to note that the believers being addressed in this chapter had been Christians for some time, but they had not matured spiritually. This is one of the greatest challenges in the church today; many believers have sat in hundreds of meetings and Bible Studies, but remain spiritually immature.

This being the case; all the problems of carnality spoken about by both Peter and Paul would be present in the church and no amount of counselling, revival meetings and preaching will cause them to grow, unless they are taught to understand and fully comprehend in their hearts, the ‘Milk of the Word.

A further limitation that the Writer of Hebrews highlights, for those who have not grown spiritually, is that they remain “unskilful in the Word of righteousness”[7] This means that they cannot spiritually digest what they are reading in the Scriptures. Or to put it another way, they are not hearing what God is saying to them through His Word.

We know that the Holy Spirit is our Teacher and that we have no need for any man to teach us.[8] Many Pentecostal believers and even Preachers use this verse as an excuse not to be taught by any man or even to study the Scriptures themselves but rather rely on instant inspiration from the Holy Spirit. To put this verse into context and correct balance, we must note that Paul encourages Timothy to “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”[9] Paul himself as a Pharisee was very well versed in the Scriptures. So what does John mean by “we have no need for any man to teach us”? John was specifically addressing the aspect of error and was speaking about the anointing that abides within us, will witness whether what we are hearing is the truth or not. This same principle applies when we listen to, or read an article where someone is teaching us. The Holy Spirit will give us insight and understanding of how, what we are hearing or reading, relates to Jesus Christ and how we can be brought into a deeper relationship with Him. No one can know the Lordship of Jesus, except the Holy Spirit reveals it to him.[10]

No matter how intelligent or knowledgeable we are, we are unable to appreciate the greatness and fullness of Jesus Christ, throughout the whole Bible, except the Holy Spirit reveals him to us. In this sense then, the Writer of Hebrews is saying that the believers have become dull of hearing and need to be taught again the fundamental principles of the Oracles of God.

Oracles of God

“Oracle” is a reference to the infallible words of God as recorded in Scripture. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”[11] These “First Principles” of God’s Oracles are identified as the ‘Milk of the Word’. We can therefore say with absolute confidence that a revelation and application of these “First Principles of the Oracles of God” constitute the Milk of the Word and it is these principles that we need to grasp in order to grow to maturity and to enhance our skilfulness in understanding the Scriptures.[12]

Principles of the Doctrines of Christ

This subject continues in chapter six, but note that the Writer subtly changes from “The Principles of the Oracles of God” to “The Principles of Christ” or as the King James version puts it; “The Principles of the Doctrines of Christ”. This change, although subtle, presents us with a vital fundamental corner-stone of understanding and interpreting Scripture, God’s focus and message to us is Jesus His Son. Or in the words of the Lord Jesus Himself, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.”[13] God’s oracles are therefore all about Jesus Christ in one way or another.

What is the Principle of a Doctrine?

To open our minds and hearts to hear what the Lord is saying regarding the Principles of Christ, it is important to understand the distinction between a ‘principle’ and a ‘doctrine’. A principle is the over-riding and governing idea into which several doctrines could fit. For example the principle of salvation is the general over-riding idea of rescuing someone from something. The teaching of Noah’s Ark fits into this principle and so does the account of God delivering Israel from Egypt, as well as Jesus saving us from sin, by His grace. Therefore a number of doctrines fit into a single principle. On the other hand, a doctrine is a specific Biblical teaching on a specific subject, for example, the ‘Doctrine of Salvation” (the theological term used for this doctrine is ‘soteriology’). This is the specific teaching that describes the detail of how and by what means a sinner can become a Christian and is based on the many passages of Scripture that teach this particular doctrine. Noah’s Ark and the Exodus from Egypt are not part of the Doctrine of Salvation, although they are part of the same principle and can be used as illustrations of soteriology.

Another example to illustrate the difference between a Principle and a Doctrine, is the ‘principle of gravity’; very simply, this is the principle that “whatever goes up must come down.” The detail of where and how a tennis ball, a parachutist or a jumbo jet and in fact all objects, go up and then come down, is different in each case, but all are governed by the principle of gravity. The detail of how each item goes up, how long it stays up and how it comes down constitutes the different ‘doctrines ‘relating to each item used in our example.

The Principles of the Doctrines of Christ

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment and this will we do, if God permit.”[14]

The above passage spells out the elements of the Milk of the Word that both Peter and Paul spoke about, which is also the foundation forming the basis for our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is by comprehending and living by these principles that we are able to mature in our relationship with Jesus and have our spiritual senses exercised, so that we can discern between good and evil and become skilful in understanding God’s Word. [15]

We therefore need to explore each of these and above all, seek to grasp the over-riding principle in each case:

  1. The principle of repentance from dead works.
  2. The principle of faith towards God.
  3. The principle governing the doctrine of various baptisms. (Please note: some translations use the word ‘washings’ rather than ‘baptisms’ but the Greek word in this passage is “baptismoswhich is correctly translated as baptisms)
  4. The principle behind the practice of laying on of hands.
  5. The principle governing the resurrection of the dead.
  6. The principle of eternal judgement.
  7. The principle of going on to maturity (this is the whole driving force behind this passage and the motivation to “desire the sincere milk of the Word, so that we may grow thereby.”)

There is a wonderful passage of Scripture in the Old Testament that speaks of the seven pillars that form the foundation of the building.

“Wisdom has built her house, She has hewn out her seven pillars; She has slaughtered her meat,
She has mixed her wine, She has also furnished her table. She has sent out her maidens, She cries out from the highest places of the city, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding.”[16]

Each believer who constitutes the spiritual building of the church of Jesus Christ, needs to be firmly based on the seven pillars that form the only Foundation that we have, the Rock that the builders rejected [17]; the Lord  Jesus Christ.

This Foundation of Jesus Christ in our hearts, comprehended in the principles of the doctrine of Christ, by the revelation of the Holy Spirit forms the basis of our relationship with the Almighty God throughout all eternity!


[1] Mark 12:29 & 30

[2] Heb 3:7&8

[3] Heb 2:1

[4] Heb 3:12

[5] Rev 2 & 3

[6] Heb 5:12

[7] Heb 5:13

[8] 1 John 2:27

[9] 2 Tim 2:15

[10] 1 Cor. 12:3

[11] Heb 5:12

[12] Heb 5:13 & 14

[13] John 5:39

[14] Heb 6:1-3 KJV

[15] Heb 5:13&14

[16]  Prov. 9:1-6

[17] 1 Pet 2:7

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