Our Hope

‘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 (Hebrews 6:19, 20).’

Alistair Begg has written a book with the title *’Pray Big’. Some of the members of the church with whom I worship, have been participating in an online appreciation of the book. Week by week, on Friday evenings, via WhatsApp, we have been considering a chapter at a time. Alistair invites his readers to analyse the contents of two prayers of Paul found in his Epistle to the Ephesians: 1:15-23 and 3:14-21.

Alistair’s desire is for us to ‘pray big’, and he suggests ways in which we might pray more boldly by being more spiritual – that is praying in line with the spiritual realities of our eternal life.

Our attitude when we come before God in prayer should be one of humility and dependability. We depend upon Him for absolutely everything. He has taught us to pray to Him as, “Our Father in heaven (Matthew 6:9; Luke11:2).”

While He is our Father, we see Him as the majestic Sovereign Creator of the universe, and yet we can converse with Him as our “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). We can have a very close, personal relationship with our God, who cares for us and knows our every need. We are His children (vv. 6, 7).

An analysis of our prayers reveals our true nature, i.e., what is on our hearts – the things we care about. So Alistair Begg invites us to examine Paul’s prayers to discover what underpins them, and we find they are about his desire for the Ephesians to have a better appreciation of the fulness and greatness of God – the spiritual realities of God, who is Spirit (John 4:24).

How did he come to have this desire? He wanted them to know God as he knew Him. He had had a personal encounter with Christ (Acts 9:3-8) which transformed him completely from being a hater of God to being a lover of God. The mystery of the truths of the Old Testament Scriptures were revealed to Him. Christ personally spoke to him. Christ was the Son of God, the promised Saviour who would free His people from slavery to sin (Romans 6:8) and give them an inheritance in the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21:1).

These truths understood through the revelation of the Holy Spirit shaped Paul, and his conviction of the ‘sure **hope of an inheritance in Christ’ gave him an unstoppable desire to tell others they could have this hope if they were to repent and believe (Mark 1:15).

So what is this Hope?

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words defines the word ‘hope’. as a “favourable and confident expectation”, but for Paul, his hope was a ‘certainty’; for the full manifestation and realisation of eternal life was already his possession. This is evident in the letter He wrote to Titus 1:2: ‘in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,’ and in 3:4-7, ‘But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 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, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that having been justified by HIs grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.’

Strangely, Jesus, according to His words preserved in the New Testament, never used the word ‘hope’. He never said He was ‘Hope’, and yet, through Him, we who believe, have that ‘sure’ hope of an inheritance in the new earth (John 14:2). You might say that Christ is our ‘inheritance’; for Paul called Him ‘our hope (1 Timothy 1:1).’

In Ephesians 1:18 he prayed: ‘the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.’

Writing to the Romans Paul assured them: ‘Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1, 2).’

And in his letter to the Colossians he told of the ‘mystery’  that had ‘been hidden from ages and from generations’ , but in Paul’s time it had been revealed to God’s saints (Colossians 1:26). ‘ Paul explained, ‘To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (v. 27).’

We are comforted by our hope in Christ, because for to us who believe, it is our **reality. It is not a vague aspiration or pie in the sky.

Paul concludes his second letter to the Thessalonians with these words: ‘Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work (2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17).’

This ‘hope’ is very real, and the core of our faith.

*“Pray Big” by Alistair Begg

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pray-Big-Learn-Like-Apostle/dp/1784983365/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Pray+Big&qid=1590243403&sr=8-1

**The Reality of “Now”

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2018/11/28/the-reality-of-now/

The Topic of Hope

For further study you may like to delve into some of the following passages found in the New Testament:

Romans 5:1, 2 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 8:23-25 Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do no see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

Romans 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiful.

Galatians 5:5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

Ephesians 1:18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.

Ephesians 2:12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Ephesians 4:4, 5 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Colossians 1:27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?

2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.

1 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Saviour and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope.

Titus 1:2 in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.

Titus 2:13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Titus 3:7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Hebrews 3:6 but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast to the confidence and the rejoicing  of the hope firm to the end.

Hebrews 6:10, 11 For God is not unjust of forget your work and labour of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end.

Hebrews 6:19, 20 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.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

1 Peter 1:3, 4 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.

1 Peter 1:13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully on the grace that is brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:20, 21 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifested in the last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

1 Peter 3:15, 16 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

1 John 3:2, 3 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

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Messianic Scriptures

‘“And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27).’

What a privilege it was for the two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus when the risen Jesus drew alongside them and started  a conversation (Luke 24:15). This was no accident; for He wanted to reveal Himself to them (v. 31). He wanted them to know how the OT Scriptures prophesied of all the things that had taken place ‘concerning Him (v 27).’

He said to them, ‘“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and enter into His glory (vv. 25, 26)?”’

People have speculated as to the exact Scriptures Jesus drew their attention to. Since many biblical scholars believe Moses was the author or the first five books of the Old Testament (cf. Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 31:24), and Jesus Himself said Moses had written about Him (John 5:45-47), He may well have started with Genesis 3:15: ‘“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”’

These were the words of the LORD, when He spoke to the serpent [*satan] after deceiving Eve into eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:9,17). The ‘Seed’ of 3:15 is the Lord Jesus, whose physical ancestry as a Man can be traced back to Adam and Eve (Luke 3:23-38).

He was ‘bruised’ at the crucifixion, when He voluntarily gave up His life (John 19:30). This ‘bruising’ of the heel by satan was not fatal, because God the Father raised His Son to life (Galatians 1:1), and thus the tables were turned on the evil one for evermore.

Just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so all those who believe in Him will be raised to life (1 Corinthians 15:42). Hence, satan, the perpetrator of sin and death, was overcome at the resurrection. At that time he was fatally ‘bruised’ to the head (Genesis 3:15); thus Jesus overcame him who had ‘the power of death (Hebrews 2:14, 15),’ and at the last day he will be consigned to ‘the lake of fire and brimstone),where he ‘will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).’

Other Scriptures

In addition to the prophesy cited above there are at least 23 other OT scriptural passages that foretell of things that would happen concerning Jesus. One of the most revelatory is Isaiah 53:1-12, which describes the suffering and rejection our Lord would have to endure, and it tells of how He heals His people spiritually today by bearing our sins.

Jeremiah prophesied that Jesus would be a descendant of David:

‘“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Jeremiah 23:5-6).”’

One of the most informative and telling prophesies is Isaiah 9:6-7: ‘For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder: and his name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and over His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.’

This prophesies of the time to come when all the saved will be gathered in the new kingdom of God in His new earth (Revelation 21:1), where they will live in perfect peace forever.

I could continue for a very long time commenting on the other prophesies, but it’s not appropriate here; therefore I’ll leave you with a list of them in biblical order, starting with Genesis and ending with Malachi:

Genesis 3:15; 49:10

Numbers 21:6-9

Deuteronomy 18:15

2 Samuel 7:12-16

Psalms 16:9-10

Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7; 40:10-11; 50:6; 52:13-14; 53:1-12

Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:14-15

Ezekiel 34:23; 37:25

Daniel 7:13; 9:24-26

Micah 5:2-4; 7:20

Zechariah 9:9; 13:7

Malachi 3:1-3; 4:2

All of the above prophesies harmoniously dovetail into God’s holy word, the Bible. They speak of times past, present and future. They are there for our ‘instruction in righteousness’ that we may be ‘thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16).’

Peter wrote: ‘We also have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophesy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophesy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21).’

*Beware of Satan

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2020/01/03/beware-of-satan/

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The Full Gospel of Christ

‘For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

If you could do a word count of the most ‘popular’ words spoken by preachers, what would they be? Possibly love, joy, peace and comfort. And which would be the least popular? Possibly sinner, torment, hell and death.

How often does the preacher turn to the subjects of condemnation, judgement and God’s wrath? Does he speak about the wickedness and idolatry of sinners and of their evil ways?

Prophets of the Old Testament, and, indeed, prophets of the New Testament, were not reluctant to speak of these things. They did not dilute God’s truth by restricting their vocabulary. On the contrary, they spoke God’s word as it was delivered to them (Jeremiah 1:7, 8; Ezekiel 2:4; Zechariah 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:12).

Are preachers today reluctant to present God’s whole truth and tell it as it is? Are they afraid that if they speak plainly, many of their ‘regulars’ would disappear? Are they scared their numbers would shrink, and they would not be able to finance their programmes for evangelism? Do they reason that if this were to happen they would be in dire straits, because they would not not be able to pay the bills?

Shame upon them! For this is the way of the world. It is not the way of the man of faith, who puts his trust in God (Proverbs 3:5).

So if a preacher is in this pitiful state, what ‘sort’ of words does he use to persuade and convict sinners of their sinful ways and of their need of repentance?

Does he preach about their wicked rebellion and enmity against God, and of the consequence of their rejection of Him (Luke 10:16)? Does he speak of God’s hatred of evil and of the punishment that is laid up in store for them if they don’t repent? Does he tell of the everlasting torment of hell (Mark 9:43, 44)? Does he mention that evildoers are under God’s wrath (Romans 2:5), and that they will be judged and found guilty, because of their wrong doings? Justifiably the Son of God will pronounce them guilty, and worthy of death (1:32).

Does he inform them of God’s curses upon idolators (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9) and upon those who worship false gods (Exodus 20:3)? Does he speak of the unpardonable sin which is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31, 32), i.e., the spirit of denial that Jesus is the Son of God?

Those who reject God’s calling in the knowledge of who He is are culpable of this sin (Hebrews 6:4-6). They reject Him and His command to repent (Acts 17:30), and for as long as they remain in that state there is no reprieve! But God is merciful and loving, and where there is judgement, there is also mercy (Deuteronomy 7:12; Psalm 119:156; James 2:13).

Jesus came to save sinners! And He gave His life for this purpose (1 Timothy 1:15 ).

Does the preacher explain that while they persist in sinning they can have no understanding (cf. Proverbs 14:8) of the depth, width and height of God’s love He has for them (John 3:16)? Does he tell them they can be forgiven, if they put their trust (Jeremiah 17:7) in Jesus? Does he tell them that it is God’s will of desire for them to dwell with Him (Psalm 23:6) in His everlasting kingdom?

Accountability of the Watchman to Warn the People

Instead of preaching the full and true gospel, some preachers avoid using words they think will offend. They pander to the unconverted and speak about God as being a God who loves everybody. They don’t tell them He loved Jacob and hated Esau (Romans 9:13). They preach that individuals have self-worth (cf. Romans 7:8), and if they come to God He is able to assure them of their worth. He is a God who can mend their lives. For He is a God who can do all things (Matthew 19:26).

He can sooth their pains, put balm on their hurts, sort out their troubles, make them happy, give them fulfilled lives, take away their loneliness, and sort out their injustices. Although they are victims of difficult circumstances, He can make them prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:8). The preacher tells them that if they are positive and look to God, they will overcome their failures. He will give them strength to sort out their messed-up lives. He will motivate them to go forward.

Now of course if they obeyed Him in faith, many of these things would be sorted. They would live godly and purposeful lives serving Him. They would not try doing things in their own strength, but in their weakness, they would depend upon God who is able and faithful.

The preacher says they need only to ‘choose’ Him and take hold of Him, and not let Him go. Then He will accept them as they are. But does he explain that although their salvation is free, in serving Him there will be toil and tribulation? They will have to carry their cross and deny themselves. They will lose everything of their old life, but count their new one as gain (Philippians 3:8). They must let go of the old, and ‘be transformed by the renewing of their mind (Romans 12:2).’ They will face persecution and rejection. Old friends will desert them, but they will rejoice, because they are loved by God, who is their new and dependable Friend (cf. Hebrews 13:5).

Does the preacher preach Christ (Romans 1:16) and Him only? Does he preach that Christ is all and in all (Colossians 3:11) to those who love Him?

Instead of preaching a diluted gospel that is devoid of ‘unpopular’ words, the preacher would do well to preach the full gospel of Christ; for there is salvation ‘in no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).’

By preaching the FULL gospel the preacher would not be held accountable for failing to warn (Colossians 1:28) the people of God’s judgement to come.

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes away any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand (Ezekiel 33:6).’

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Saint or Sinner? (2)

‘To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:7).’

I remember an elder of the church at a meeting asking, “Are you a saint or a sinner?” He wanted a show of hands for each option. There was no ducking out. We could not abstain. I was pleasantly surprised to find that only a few thought they were sinners, rather than saints.

On a further investigation, through question and answer, it was established that most people thought they were saints who inadvertently sinned. They claimed they didn’t want to sin, but they did. They felt they were trapped, and they were like the person portrayed in Romans 7:14 and 15 – ‘For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice, but what I hate, that I do.’ …….. ‘For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice (v 19).’

They were mistaken in thinking they were ‘carnal’ (v 14), like the person described, and that there was ‘nothing good’ in them (v 18). They were mistaken, because if they were saints, the Holy Spirit dwelt within them, and He is good and holy. By contrast, the person described by Paul in chapter 7 was devoid of the Holy Spirit.

Paul was not describing himself, as so many people interpret this passage; instead he presented the character an unbelieving Jew, who endeavours to obey the Mosaic law, but inevitably fails. This Jew believes he can obtain righteousness by obeying the Mosaic law.

So going back to the church meeting, when we were asked if we were saints or sinners, most thought they were saints, but they acknowledged, at times they sinned. They also knew that if they confessed their sins and repented, God would forgive them (1 John 1:9).

They were not at all like the Jew described by Paul. They were saints, like those described in Romans 6. They had died to sin and were raised to life in Him. They were alive to God in Christ, endued with the power not to sin, because they were Spirit filled (Acts 13:52) and under grace (Romans 6:14).

Paul said of them, ‘Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall have no dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:11-14).’

By contrast, those who are not born of the Holy Spirit are dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). They can’t help themselves, since they are spiritually dead, and they habitually sin.

Are we Saints? 

So we are in a very serious and dangerous state if we think we are saints, but we ‘habitually’ sin. If we are such, why is it we continue to frequently sin?

We have to question whether we are genuine (2 Corinthians 13:5), bona fide, born again Christians; for John informs us, ‘We know that whoever is born of God does not sin, but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him (1 John 5:18).’

The born again saint has the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11) who enables Him not to sin (1 Corinthians 15:34). Because He has the power of the Holy Spirit he is able to obey Christ – and yet, there are times when he inadvertently sins. Such a one is not lost; for God forgives him, if he confesses His sin (1 John 1:9), but this does not give him a licence to sin (Romans 6:1, 2).

True Saints

So what is the difference between the Jew described in Romans 7 and the Christian described in Romans 6?

The former is dead in his ‘trespasses and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1), while the latter has been spiritually raised to life in the righteousness of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 10:47).’

The believing Christian does not willingly sin, but the unbeliever cannot, but sin! He is under the dominion of the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) ‘who walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8) until the time of the end (Daniel 12:9). Then Christ will come to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42).

The contrast between the believer and the unbeliever is great, because God chooses His elect (Ephesians 1:4) [saints] who worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). He makes them holy (cf. Ephesians 3:5), and He sets them apart (Psalm 4:3) from the world. But He gives up the unbeliever to uncleanness (Romans 1:24) and to a debased mind (v. 28). His wrath remains on the unrighteous ‘who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (v 18).’

Peter says of God’s saints, ‘But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; who were not a people, but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy (1 Peter 2:9, 10).’

Take note that saints are ‘royal’ priests who serve their High Priest (Hebrews 4:14) who is the royal King (John 18:36, 37) of creation (John 1:3). They willingly serve Him by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8), and they are called (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2) for this purpose. They are the ‘special’ people of God who have obtained mercy (Romans 11:30).

Are we saints or sinners? The answer is crucial; for our eternal destiny depends upon it.

Saint or Sinner (1)

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2020/01/29/saint-or-sinner/

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Transformation

‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1, 2).’

In the first eleven chapters of Romans, Paul makes an apologia explaining and championing the gospel of God’s salvation – in particular how God calls a people to, and for Himself, that is composed of both Jew and Gentile believers. In common, at the time of their calling, they are all sinners (Romans 3:23), but God is merciful towards them. He transforms them from being disobedient sons in Adam to being His obedient sons by adoption (Ephesians 1:5), and He does this by His grace, through His gift of faith (2:8).

Paul, after setting out his apologia and exegesis, concluded, ‘For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:36).’

In Paul’s understanding, everything springs from God. He created all things, and He owns all things, and He created them for His own glory.

Actual Transformation

From chapter twelve onwards, he set out how the Roman Christians were to live in response to their spiritual transformation, i.e., their new character in Christ, brought about by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8).

Similarly, he instructed Titus on how new elders of the churches in Crete (Titus 1:5) should manage their flocks. He said they should authoritatively rebuke the Cretans for their inappropriate and ungodly behaviour (2:10-14). They were to deny ‘ungodliness and worldly lusts’, that they might be redeemed and purified as God’s ‘special people’, for the doing of ‘good works (2:14).’

They were a ‘special’ (NKJV) people, a ‘peculiar’ (AV) people. Peter also described them as ‘… a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you [they] may proclaim the praises of Him who called you [them] out of darkness into His marvellous light; who were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy (1 Peter 2:9, 10).’

What I want to draw attention to is the fact that Christ’s church is a ‘holy nation’, and when joined together in obedience to God, they are a ‘living sacrifice’ (Romans 12:12).’

This is true of them, and by the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit, they forsake their old licentious ways, and deny themselves of sinful pleasures, always putting God first. They are a ‘holy’ people separate from the world, and they are no longer of the world. [Holy means ‘separate’; just as God is holy and separate and different from His creatures.]

In chapter twelve Paul implores the Romans to behave appropriately. He says to them, ‘I beseech you therefore ….. to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:12, 13).’

The actual proof of the pudding that tests their transformation is the putting into practice of their spiritual relationship with God. Are they genuinely transformed? Has the Holy Spirit transformed them? Are they truly born again (John 3:3-8). Are they ‘new creations’ (2 Corinthians 5:17)?

They will know for sure what sort of relationship they have with God if they objectively examine themselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). Do they have a desire to carry out His will? Are they joyfully satisfied when they obey Him? Are they grieved if they sin?

One final thought, do they truly believe and know they are ‘holy’ and separate from the world? Are they royal priests (cf. 1 Peter 2:9) in the service of the Great ‘High Priest’ (Hebrews 8:1), Jesus Christ?

Christians are not ‘miserable sinners’ as the Book of Common Prayer suggests; they are royal priests of God; humble like their Saviour who washed the feet of those He loved (John 13:3-15).

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Prayers for Healing

‘Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16, 17).’

When we worship and pray together, often our supplications are for healing – mostly for the healing of our bodies, parts of which are not functioning properly on account of disease, injury or infirmity. We also pray for the healing of people we know who may have mental health issues, such as severe anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.

On searching the Scriptures for examples of prayers for healing, I have discovered there are only a few of them.

Old Testament Examples

In the Old Testament we read, ‘So Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants. Then they bore children; for the LORD had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife (Genesis 20:17).’

Elsewhere we find that Moses prayed for his sister Miriam, after God struck her with leprosy on account of her opposition to him. He pleaded, ‘“Please do not let her be as one dead, whose flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb!”

‘So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “Please heal her, O God, I pray (Numbers 12:12, 13)!”’

She was shut out of the camp for seven days, then allowed back in (vv. 15, 16), which would seem to indicate that she had been healed.

King David in Psalm 41:4, wrote: ‘I said, “LORD, be merciful to me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.” He asked the LORD to heal his soul, i.e., his body, at a time of severe illness (v 3, 8) which was life-threatening (vv. 2, 5). He prayed with faith and with confidence that he would be healed (vv. 10-12).

New Testament Examples

In the New Testament we find three examples of people praying face to face with Jesus for healing. There’s the case of a Canaanite women whose daughter was demon-possessed. She said to Him, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed (Matthew 15:22).” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour (v. 28).’

Then there there is the case of the ruler of the synagogue whose daughter was dying. Mark describes what happened, ‘And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at his feet and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” So Jesus went with him, and a great multitude followed Him and thronged Him (Mark 5:22-24), and, ‘While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further (v. 35)?” ‘Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement (vv. 41, 42).’

Finally, there’s the case described in Luke 9:38-42, when a man sought healing for his only son who was demon possessed: ‘Suddenly a man from the multitudes cried out, saying, “Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child. And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him. So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not (vv. 38-40).” Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father (v. 42b).’

The only example I can find of prayer in the New Testament for healing that was not said in the presence of Jesus, is that of Paul the Apostle, when he prayed for the healing of the father of Publius, who was one of the leading citizens on the island of Malta. At that time, Paul and those with him were survivors from shipwreck (Acts 27:39-28:1).

Here’s the account: ‘And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid hands on him and healed him (Acts 28:8).’

The Principle and Practice of Praying for Healing

James gets to the point, and writes: ‘Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven (James 5:13-15).’

The principle and practice of praying to God for healing is established without a shadow of doubt by James.

When we engage in prayer for healing, as with all prayer, it must be done in the belief that God will answer our prayers positively. The efficacy of our prayer does not depend on the strength of our faith; it depends on God, who heals according to His will.

All healing is of Him, but He gives us this great privilege of praying for the sick and the dying.

Note

The anointing of oil mentioned in the James passage is not a directive, that if followed, will bring success. It is a symbol of God’s healing power. Similarly the laying on of hands spoken of when Paul prayed for Publius (Acts 8:28), is symbolic of God’s power to heal.

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Sanctification and Perfection

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth (John 17:17).”

‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).’

“Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).”’

The ultimate destiny of the saints, i.e., those called by God (1 Corinthians 1:9; Jude 1:1), is to dwell with Him in His new and perfect earth (Revelation 21:1).

Their transformation (2 Corinthians 5:17) from being sons of Adam into sons of God (John 1:12), takes place at the moment of their new birth, through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8). Having been made perfect (1 John 2:5) in Him, they will live with Him for ever in His perfection.

Although made perfect at that point in time of new birth, the lives they live are far from perfect, for they continue to sin (cf. 1 John 1:8, 9). They will never live perfectly until they have been raised from the dead, when they will be like Christ (3:2). Only then will their total transformation have taken place. They will exist in the new *reality of a new life with their new spiritual bodies (1 Corinthians 15:44).

Sanctification

From the moment of being born again of the Spirit, Christians embark on a journey of progressive sanctification. They are spiritual babes who are limited by the encumbrance of their flesh. Having entered the realm of the spiritual kingdom of God, they endeavour to live under the kingship of Christ, while physically living in a cursed world (Genesis 3:17).

When in this state, Paul the Apostle said of himself, ‘Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 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 (Philippians 3:12-14).’

Paul’s desire was to be perfect (Matthew 5:48) like Christ. He set us an example of how to live under His kingship. He said, ‘Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1),’ and ‘Therefore I urge you, imitate me (4:16).’

Paul did not shy away from the fact that he sinned, and he was an imperfect example. For him Christ was the example, but he [Paul] was the attainable example. Unlike Christ, Paul was born a sinner (Romans 3:23) – Christ was born without sin (Hebrews 4:15), and He never sinned (cf. John 8:46).

Perfection

God’s word clearly acknowledges that believers sin, and if they confess their sin and repent, God forgives them (1 John 1:9). Thus, although they are seen by God as being perfect in His Son from the time of their new birth, it’s patently obvious they are not perfect, for as long as they are in their earthly bodies. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41; cf. Galatians 5:17).

Jesus commanded people to be perfect (Matthew 5:48), while knowing He was the only perfect Man who would ever walk the face of the earth. [Note: God made Adam ‘good’ (Genesis 1:31), and He made him in ‘His own image (v.27), but he sinned (3:6), and therefore he was not perfect.]

Unlike us, Jesus was both God and Man, and hence His perfection. By giving us this command to ‘be perfect,’ it would seem He was commanding the impossible, but He made it possible through the sacrifice of Himself. He died and paid the penalty for our sins, wiping them clean; and thus He confers to us His perfection. We are sanctified in Christ.

But only through faith, and by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8), can we enter into that state of perfect sanctification.

*The Reality of Now

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