The Ultimate Tabernacle

‘Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah (Matthew 17:4).’

What an amazing experience it must have been for Peter, James and John. Standing before them was the transfigured, glorified Jesus; His face shining like the sun, and His clothes as white as light.

Jesus had separated them from the other disciples, and He took them ‘up on a high mountain by themselves (v 1) to be present and to witness this miraculous revelation. Peter, the spokesperson for all three disciples, there and then, had a desire for Jesus, Moses and Elijah to sojourn on the mountain, each with their own tabernacle; so he asked Jesus if he and the other disciples could set about making them. Jesus did not respond to his question.

Peter had acted impulsively, but with good intentions. He told the Lord that it was good for them to be there. Indeed, for them everything was good, and at that point they didn’t appear to be afraid. It wasn’t until ‘a bright cloud overshadowed them,’ and they heard a voice from the cloud saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” that fear came upon them, and they were ‘greatly afraid’. They fell on their faces. Then Jesus touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” On looking up they saw only Him; for Moses and Elijah were no longer present.

On their way down the mountain Jesus explained that they had seen a vision (v 9), and He commanded them to tell no one about what they had witnessed in the vision until after He risen from the dead.

We might assume they were curious to know how all this fitted in with the prophesy of Malachi who had prophesied, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD (Malachi 4:5),” when the ‘proud’ who acted wickedly would be burnt as stubble (v 1).

Jesus explained that John the Baptist was the promised Elijah who had already come and suffered (cf. Mark 6:15-28). People had not understood that John was the ‘messenger’ who would ‘prepare the way of the Lord (Mark 1:2, 3),’ and that Jesus was the Lord. He too, would suffer (Matthew 16:21) in accordance with prophecy (Isaiah 53). Then they realised they had witnessed the Lord in His glory, just as He had promised they would (Matthew 16:28).

The Greater and More Perfect Tabernacle

And, of course, they would be witnesses to His death, resurrection and ascension to the heavenly tabernacle (Acts 1:9-11), just as the writer of Hebrews explained: ‘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 (Hebrews 9:11, 12).’

He went on to say, ‘For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (9:24), and, ‘so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly await for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation (v 28).’

The apostle John wrote in the book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ, ‘And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God (Revelation 21:3; cf. Exodus 25:8; 29:45).’

God’s resurrected nations (Revelation 21:24) shall walk in the light of the Lamb(v 23), who along with God Almighty will be their living temple (v 22; cf. John 2:19-22) and their God.

Thus God is the ultimate tabernacle in whom the redeemed shall forever live while serving Him, their God (22:3).

‘For we know that if our earthly house [physical body], this tent [tabernacle], is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1).’

Some References to Tabernacles in God’s Word

Exodus 29:42, 43 “This shall be a continual burnt offering for your generations at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you to speak with you. And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory.

Exodus 25:8, 9 “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.

Exodus 33:7 Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp.

Exodus 33:9 And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses. 

Exodus 40:33, 34 And he raised up the court all around the tabernacle and the altar, and hung up the screen of the court gate. So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

Exodus 40:38 For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. 

Numbers 1:50 “but you shall appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the Testimony, over all its furnishings, and over all things that belong to it; they shall carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they shall attend to it and camp around the tabernacle.”

Numbers 9:15 Now on the day that the tabernacle was raised up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the Testimony; from evening until morning it was above the tabernacle like the appearance of fire.

2 Samuel 6:17 So they brought the ark of the LORD, and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it. Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.

1 Chronicles 21:29 For the tabernacle of the LORD and the altar of burnt offering, which Moses had made in the wilderness, were at that time at the high place in Gibeon. But David could not go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the LORD.

Psalm 15:1, 2 LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart.

Hebrews 9:1, 12 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.

Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.

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Biblical Definitions of the Word ‘Power’

‘Then Pilate said to Him, “Are you not speaking to me? Do you not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin (John 19:10, 11).”

‘”‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”  – He said to the man who was paralysed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house (Luke 5:24).”

Six New Testament Words for Power

In English there is one word for ‘power’, but in the Greek of the New Testament there are six. Therefore when studying the text it’s good to know which word is being used, because then we shall have a better understanding of what is being said. The word must also be understood within the context of what is being stated, because the context can change its meaning.

In the above quotes from the Gospels of John and Luke, the Greek word for power is pronounced ex-oo-see’ah. It means ‘freedom to act as one with authority’. Clearly it is seen that any authority or power that Pilate had was given to him by God.

In the Luke account, Jesus, as God Himself, had the authority and power to forgive sins, and He proved it by healing the paralytic.

One of the most inspiring verses in the Bible for me is to be found in Ephesians 1. It goes as follows:

‘And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:19).’

In this verse the words for power are different. The first is pronounced doo’-nam-is, and the second krat’-os. The meaning of doo’-nam-is, within its context, is ‘miraculous force’, and it can also mean ‘ability or might’. The second word, krat’-os, in its context, means ‘strength’, but krat’-os can also mean ‘dominion’.

Therefore, one might have a better understanding of Ephesians 1:19 when nuanced.

It would look something like this: ‘And what is the exceeding greatness of His miraculous force toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty strength which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places’.

This can give one an insight and a depth of understanding that may not have been appreciated if one’s only knowledge of the word power was from the English dictionary. An online dictionary [] defines it as: ‘the ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something; strength, might and force.’

Another word for power in the NT Greek is is-khoos’, which means ‘ability, force or strength’. It can be found in 2 Thessalonians 1:9: ‘These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.’  But because of its context, it probably means ‘strength’.

In the NT doo-nat-os’, possibly the least frequently used word for power, can mean ‘might or strength’.

We can find an example of its use in Romans 9:22: ‘What if God, wanting to show His wrath and make His power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.’  Here it probably means ‘strength’.

There is one more little used word for power in NT. It is the expression ar-khay, and it can be found in Luke 20:20: ‘So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor.’ 

ar-khay is defined as ‘the first rank of power’, and appropriately so, because the governor held the highest office of authority and of power.

It’s interesting to note that in Romans 13:1, 2 the word authority in the New King James Version, means ‘freedom to act as one with authority’. It is the the same word ex-oo-see’ah, which means power or powers.

‘Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.’

Paul, through the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5), exhorts us in our times of the Coronavirus to be subject to the authorities who supervise us.

Any power they have is given to them by God (Romans 13:1-7). God works His power through them and us, ‘according to His good pleasure (Ephesians 1:9).’

Other Articles on the Subject of Power

God’s Power

Power of the Spirit

Some NT Texts Featuring the Word ‘Power’

Luke 5:24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” He said to the man who was paralysed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” [ex-oo-see’ah]

Luke 6:19 And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all. [doo’-nam-is]

Luke 9:1, 2 Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. [doo’-nam-is]

Luke 10:19 Behold, I give you authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over the power of the enemy, and nothing by any means shall hurt you. [ex-oo-see’ah]

Luke 12:5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him. [ex-oo-see’ah] 

Luke 21:27 Then they shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. [doo’-nam-is] 

Luke 22:69 “Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”  [doo’-nam-is] 

Luke 24:49 “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” [doo’-nam-is] 

John 19:10, 11 Then Pilate said to Him, “Are you not speaking to me? Do you not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” [ex-oo-see’ah]

Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” [doo’-nam-is] 

Acts 3:12 So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” [doo’-nam-is] 

Acts 4:7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” [doo’-nam-is] 

Acts 4:33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. [doo’-nam-is] 

Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. [doo’-nam-is] 

Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. [doo’-nam-is] 

Acts 26:17, 18 “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.” [ex-oo-see’ah]

Romans 1:4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. [doo’-nam-is] 

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also the Greek. [doo’-nam-is] 

Romans 1:20 For since the creation of he 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. [doo’-nam-is] 

Romans 9:21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honour and another for dishonour? [ex-oo-see’ah]

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. [doo’-nam-is] 

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [doo’-nam-is] 

1 Corinthians 2:4, 5 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. [doo’-nam-is] 

1 Corinthians 6:14 And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. [doo’-nam-is] 

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. [doo’-nam-is] 

2 Corinthians 13:3, 4 since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you. For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we are also weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you. [doo’-nam-is] 

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.[krat’-os]

Colossians 1:16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. [ex-oo-see’ah]

Philippians 3:10, 11 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. [doo’-nam-is] 

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind. [doo’-nam-is] 

Revelation 11:6 These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophesy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire. [ex-oo-see’ah]

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Leaders of Churches

‘And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for equipping the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12).’

As I peruse web pages, websites, social media, etc., I come across articles by church leaders, and leaders of associations and denominations of churches, and I’m amazed that many of them are overwhelmed with their burdens. They are tired, worn out, and despairing. Often these people see themselves as the linchpins of the ‘organisations’ they are paid to be in charge of. They find it difficult to delegate, or even to trust those ‘under’ them. More amazingly, some see themselves as being a cut above those whom they ‘supervise’. 

They say they have a good CV. They went to a university, they completed a training course at a seminary, and they believe their administrative skills, their leadership qualities, organisational ability, general knowledge will get them through. They are well qualified, so they are perplexed why they are suffering from burnout, depression, and on the brink of a mental breakdown.

“Why am I having such a difficult time?” they ask God.

From observations of the things they do and say, the observer might conclude they are being worldly. They are no different to those who don’t believe in God. They show it by telling other people that they are quite ‘normal’, because they love football and support such and such a club. They socialise at their pub [pre Coronavirus lockdown] where they can keep in touch with what’s happening in the world, and where they can make friends. After all, it’s a good place where they can show people what a Christian is like. It’s a place where he can make friends and he can introduce them to the gospel. He might even invite them to the festival of flowers at His church, where they can rub shoulders with other people who come along on Sunday mornings. Maybe the Holy Spirit will do a miracle, and bring them in?

Somehow, he misses the point, that he, as a Christian, is markedly different, because he is spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:14-16), and he has been born of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8). Because the Spirit lives in him he lives in a different world: the kingdom of God, where Jesus is his King (cf. John 1:49). Therefore, although he is in the world, he is not of the world (Romans 12:2). This should be his true state.

I ask myself do these ‘Christian’ leaders really hear and understand (Matthew 13:23) the gospel of the good news of the kingdom of God? Nothing could be more simple, and yet so profound.

No Longer Distressed and Overwhelmed

Jesus, the eternal God, came to earth to die in the place of sinners to bring them eternal life (1 John 3:16). This completely transforms believers (2 Corinthians 5:17), although it may take some time for them to mature, for them to grow more and more in the knowledge of Christ, as they devote themselves to living completely for Him. They read His word, pray, and serve the fellowship. As they grow in God’s wisdom they work out their salvation (Philippians 2:12) and prove God’s love for them. They depend upon Him for absolutely everything (cf. Philippians 4:19). They relax in Him and know His peace (John 14:27).

This should be the state of the mature Christian and of those who lead in God’s church. Let them remember that Jesus is the Head (Ephesians 5:23), and the Spirit is the Helper (John 14:16).

No longer are they distressed (Philippians 4:6, 7), but they accept and revel in their difficulties and count them as pure joy (cf. James 1:2). They don’t take the whole world on their shoulders, because Jesus has done it for them (cf. Matthew 11:28-30). Whatever happens, they are comforted in the knowledge that Jesus knows what is happening to them, and He works things out for their good (Romans 8:28). He is with them, even when He seems distant, but in their faith and in the strength of the Holy Spirit they have joy (Romans 14:17). Their goal is the glory of the kingdom – the hope of their inheritance in Christ (Ephesians 1:18). They can ‘press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God, in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).’

God will not let them down. Unlike men (Psalm 146:3-5), God is ever faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9). He is true, He is just, and He is loving. He will never desert them (Hebrews 13:5).

My Prayer

So my prayer for these ‘leaders’ is that they will turn to God and ask for His enabling. Yes, I know they have already done it. I know it is tough and not easy, but if there are battles, let God fight them (2 Chronicles 32:8); for He surely will conquer the enemy.

Let them serve as Jesus did (Matthew 20:28). He humbled Himself as a Servant (Philippians 2:8). Just think about it. The Maker of heaven and earth, the King over all, humbled Himself. How astonishing is that! It could be that instead of ‘hogging’ the preaching ministry, leaders may allow and encourage others to preach. In this way they humble themselves.

Leaders sometimes fail to appreciate that God ‘gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11).’  These are distinct roles. Pastors are not one-man bands that do everything. Why don’t they submit to the Holy Spirit for Him to guide them in the fostering of these callings? 

‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).’

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The Jesus Community

‘Then those who gladly received his word were baptised; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:41, 42).’

The title might suggest this article could be about a spurious sect whose aim is to live together under the guise of a community who are motivated by the teachings of Jesus, and yet their living together is nothing more than a charade that hides their lustful desires, which include the sharing of one another (Romans 1:24-28). The leader of the group is a charismatic individual who outwardly portrays himself as a loving and caring person, and who desires all under his leadership (2 Corinthians 11:13, 14) to experience peace and security. He kids them that living in ‘their’ community is the next best thing to heaven – their paradise on earth!

No, my subject is centred on Jesus, who along with His Father and the Holy Spirit purposed to create a community of living beings (cf. Genesis 1:26) with whom they could share their glory (2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 9:23, 24) and eternal life. This was their plan from before the creation of the universe (Ephesians 1:4, 5). The Triune God lacked nothing; for the Persons of the Godhead were intrinsically perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 18:30), and together in the realm of eternity, they existed as One (Galatians 3:20).

And yet, as One God in Three Persons, intrinsically within Him, there was the perfect community (Genesis 3:22), but He wanted to share His glory and eternal life with a people He would create. He wanted them to love Him and to love one another as He would love them (John 13:34). He would create them in His own image; male and female He would create them (Genesis 1:27), to procreate and multiply upon the earth, with the ultimate purpose of creating the holy community of love He desired.

God’s Special Community

We know from God’s word, that He is a God of order (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:33). After creating the earth in an orderly fashion, over a period of six days, He created Adam (Genesis 2:7) and Eve (vv. 21, 22) who would bring forth children to become the first earthly community; a family, from whom other children would come to establish more families. In the course of time they would combine to become larger communities, tribes and nations (Genesis 11).

From these tribes and nations God had it in mind to choose one nation as ‘special’ to Him: the tribe of Israel (Deuteronomy 7:6, 7). He would uniquely be their God with whom He would have a holy (Ephesians 1:4) and separate relationship. He would dwell among them, and they would be partakers of His love, and they would love one another as He loved them. They would experience the greatness of His glory, and be ever grateful for His mercy and forgiveness (Exodus 34:6, 7).

To bring this holy and loving community into being, the Father would send His Son to establish it (Matthew 16:18). He would dwell in their midst and He would be their God (Matthew 1:23). From them He would choose a remnant (Romans 9:27; 11:5) who would live in His ultimate, perfect community with Him forever. The means of entry into this forever community, would be their God-given faith in His Son (Ephesian 2:8), and they would be justified by their faith (Romans 5:1).

To show the extent of His love (John 3:16), God determined to let His Son suffer and die in the place of those He would save from hell, i.e., the abode of everlasting torment (Mark 9:44-48) that He made (John 1:3) for all those who would refuse to accept His offer of forgiveness for their rebellion and sin against Him (Deuteronomy 7:9-11).

The Son, who was in the Father (John 14:10, 11), would demonstrate His power to forgive sins by the authority that was evident in His works of healing the sick, casting out demons and raising the dead. The final proof and endorsement of the Son’s authority would be the Father’s resurrection of Jesus from the dead (Galatians 1:1).

From the Son’s teaching, while He was on earth, those who would believe in Him would know that they too, would be raised to life and live as God’s sons (Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5) in His new community, in the new earth forever (Revelation 21:1).

The Present Time

‘Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need (Acts 2:44, 45).’

Meanwhile, here on earth at this present time, God’s people who live in the community of His body, His church (Colossians 1:18), the spiritual [new] Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), are tasked with sharing their knowledge of Christ’s salvation. They are to be a light to the Gentiles (Acts 13:47). By their example of living in communion with Christ, with Him at the centre of all they think and do, they are to be His ambassadors for the making of disciples of Christ (Matthew 28:19, 20).

Christian families, single men and women, boys and girls, all believers of Christ, through the power and leading of the Holy Spirit, join together in local communities. They are the ekklesias of God (2 Corinthians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:5), members of the Way (Acts 9:2; 19:23), the people of Jesus, the Jesus community (1 Thessalonians 2:14). Christ lives in them (John 17:22, 23) by His Spirit. The Spirit enables them to share with one another (Acts 4:32-35), while being dependent upon the Father’s grace (v 33), and His provision of all their needs (v 34).

They live together with the sure *hope of inheriting eternal life at the resurrection, when Jesus will come with His angels for them (Matthew 25:31). Only then will they live in perfect harmony and love, together as God’s very special and glorious community (2 Corinthians 3:11, 12).

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God (Revelation 21:2, 3).’

*Our Hope

Recommended Reading

‘Elusive Community: Why Do We Avoid What We Were Created For?’ by Jon Zens

Jon is an advocate of small church communities similar to the early NT church – face to face, local communities committed to Christ, with Him central to all they do. [Face to face is not possible in this exceptional time of lockdown, on account of the Coronavirus.]

Please Note

There are various organisations and individuals who may have an Internet presence, and who refer to themselves as being ‘Jesus People’ or a ‘Jesus Community’; therefore I would like to make it clear that the opening paragraph of this article, “The Jesus Community”, only refers to people as described in that paragraph. Such people may call themselves followers of Jesus, but clearly they are not, on account of their lack of obedience to God’s word. I have not pointed my finger to any specific person or group, but if people are convicted of their sin, in the name of the Lord, I call upon them to repent and believe (Mark 1:15).

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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

**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

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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)

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‘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.


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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