Stepping Back to Get a Larger View
...that We Might Come through Our Trials Better Persons for God's Kingdom
SOMETIMES, IN LAYING HOLD on an understanding of what God is doing, I step back and take a fresh look at the larger view of what the Bible says. Because so many are going through difficulties, I believe we should now do this together--to see more clearly what we're moving toward as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. If we know our foundation and we know our goal, we can better endure the trials of our faith.
My inclination is to dig into each verse--and word--to see the depth of each statement. But I realize we cannot always do just this. We need to see the depth of the words as they relate to the whole. In viewing the whole, we can examine the foundation of our faith, as well as see its end. It's like getting to know Jesus in a whole new dimension as the Author and the Finisher-- the "Beginner" and the "Perfecter"of all we believe in and have given ourselves to.
And, to stay related to what we're learning in this mini-MASCHIL series, we're taking this long deep look that we might grasp more clearly what Paul is directing us to pray in our discipline of intercession.
Our prayer guide is now in his letter to the Philippians. We place the verses here in a structured form to emphasize the points of the petition. After we take a brief look at them, we're going to jump above all of Paul's Church Epistles and see how Philippians relates to each of them. Then we can better understand why we're learning to pray what these two verses lay Out for us.
9 And this I pray,
• THAT your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
10 • THAT ye may approve things that are excellent;
• THAT ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ
How vital and important this prayer is! In taking us toward the day of Christ, it reaches inside us. It whips our love into shape so we won't follow emotional responses that ignore facts and lead us to make poor moral judgments. It strengthens the part in us that discerns so we won't make choices that take us off the right paths. It reaches into our inner parts to discover any offensive elements that will disqualify us in the final day.
We want to keep in mind that toward which we are moving. It is the day of Christ. We can have no sufficiency or strength to arrive whole at that day unless we come God's way. Indeed, unless we have embraced His way, all hope of deliverance will vanish as that day comes on.
Bear with me as we take this brief overview of Paul's "church" Epistles. At the end we will look again at the verses from which we get this month's praying. They appear like diamonds in the setting of a beautiful ring.
YEARS AGO IN THE COMPANION BIBLE, I found something interesting and valuable regarding Paul's Epistles. It has remained with me and helped immensely in understanding and applying the insight and revelation laid out in them. I believe it will prove beneficial to you who seriously want to open up to what the Holy Spirit is making alive in us today. Never has the word that was given to Paul held more importance than it does now in the closing of this age.
Just as it is significant that the Lord Jesus addressed seven churches in Revelation 1 and 2, so it is significant that Paul sent letters to seven different churches. The order in which these letters, or Epistles, occur never varies in any of the ancient manuscripts--Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, concluding with I and II Thessalonians. These are the only Epistles addressed to churches. The others are to people in general and to individuals. It becomes apparent the Church Epistles are inter-related. The truth flowing in one proceeds with order on to the next. The precision in this convinces us the order in which we find them is divinely inspired.
Paul's Epistles contain things even the Lord Jesus could not speak while on earth. What is presented in Romans Truth, Ephesians Truth, and Thessalonians Truth could be known only after His death, resurrection and ascension back to the Father. The power of the truth laid out in these Epistles comes out of His resurrection. Its release in us depends on His present ministry in the heavens.
The understanding flowing in Paul's Epistles takes what is revealed from the heavens and makes it practical for our everyday living. Amazingly, these Epistles take us up to the day of Christ. In them is a treasure of truth ready to burst upon us, as the Day toward which they point also prepares to burst upon us.
REGARDING PAUL'S EPISTLES to the seven churches we take careful note of their order. Each one designated by "A" presents clear and important teaching, or doctrinal instruction, necessary if we are to become grounded in relationship with Christ. Each one designated by "B" gives a reproof, or rebuke, to those who fail in applying the teaching laid out in "A". The ones under the heading of "C" give correction to those who fall into doctrinal error with regard to what is laid out in the preceding teaching Epistle. We take note that there is no "B" or "C" after the final "A."
What we have is.
A. In Romans we find DOCTRINE and instruction regarding the Gospel of God. It was never a hidden thing but was promised afore by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures--Rom 1:2. Paul lays out how both Jew and Gentile alike can be justified only through the grace offered in Christ Jesus.
In chapters 1 through 8 Paul presents the understanding that we are all sinners by nature, that the Lord Jesus has taken our sin upon Himself, and through His death and resurrection has made the way open for us to come to God. The power of this revelation is that His death and resurrection become our death and resurrection. Chapters 9 through 11 present us with the amazing insight regarding the grafting back in of Israel who, though chosen of God, has for this time rejected His grace offered in Christ.
• In Romans, to both Jew and Gentile, Paul said, He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Rom 8:32). Only in Christ Jesus is there hope--but oh, what a hope this is!
B. In the Corinthian Epistles we find a REPROOF because of the failure to exhibit in practical living the understanding laid out in Romans. Because they didn't see their standing as having died and risen with Christ, the Corinthians held on to spiritual leaven that corrupted their lives as believers (I Cor 5:6-8).
Because the Corinthian believers failed to embrace the preaching of the cross (I Cor 1:18), Paul's letters to them are full of reproof, with a call for repentance. To overcome the power of carnality that tried to rule in the Corinthian believers, he presented some of our most important instruction regarding the work of the Holy Spirit in the church--I Corinthians 14 and 15.
• To the Corinthians Paul said, Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God (I Cor 2:12) And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. . . For ye are yet carnal... (I Cor 3:1,3). Carnality, because of failure to embrace the Cross, will hinder our opening up to the fullness of God's grace given us in Christ Jesus.
C. In Galatians we find CORRECTION because of doctrinal failure regarding the teaching presented in Romans 1-8. The Galatian Epistle became necessary because some believers, after trusting Christ, failed to remember that they had obtained a new nature that could only be perfected through the work of the Holy Spirit. They sought to obtain their perfection by the works of the law--Gal 3:3. Paul called this the works of the flesh which he said could only produce what is unacceptable in the Kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21).
• To the Galatians he said, Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Gal 3:3) It was necessary that they know the only way in which they could come to their completion. It was through the power and work of the Holy Spirit.
A. In Ephesians, we again find DOCTRINE and instruction, as we resume where Romans 8 left off. Whereas in Romans the emphasis was on the revelation of the Gospel of God, in Ephesians it is on the revelation of the mystery (Eph 1:9; 3:3,4,9; 5:32; 6:19). The mystery revealed is that the Gentiles should become fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of God's promise in Christ--Eph 3:6.
Unlike the gospel, which was never hidden, the mystery was always hidden. It was never before revealed. Ephesians Truth lays out how both Jews and Gentiles alike are gathered out and made one new man in Christ--Eph 2:15.
The amazing height to which the Ephesians Truth goes is that God hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus--Eph 2:6. This is called positional truth. The "togetherness" of Ephesians reaches in two directions. We are together with Christ in the heavens. We are together with all believers in His body on earth. The Epistle shows us the possibility of this becoming the actual condition in our lives.
• In Ephesians, to both Jew and Gentile, Paul said, But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:4-6) There is so much drawing us together in Christ that we dare not promote division as His day approaches.
B. In Philippians, we find a REPROOF because of the failure to exhibit by practical living the teaching of Ephesians. This is especially so with regard to manifesting the mind of Christ as members of one Body.
Philippians is full of wonderful exhortation--to follow the examples of both Christ and Paul. Its word reaches into our inner man and brings us to a practical realization of the life of Christ within. Failure to allow His life to find expression in us will lead to failure in the day of Christ.
• To the Philippians Paul said, Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. (Phil 2:5) And, I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. (Phil 4:2) This is what is behind our praying for this month--that Christ's mind be formed in us that we might become one in Him as His day approaches.
C. In Colossians, we find CORRECTION because of failure with regard to the doctrinal teaching laid out in Ephesians. Wrong doctrine comes because of not holding the Head (2:19) and not seeing our completion and perfection in Christ (2:8-10).
Proper doctrine and understanding are important. Without them, the way is opened for wrong conduct that will bring us to a poor place in the final day, not able to withstand the guile of the wicked one.
• To the Colossians Paul said, For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you... He wanted them to come to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God (Col 2:1,2). Paul's concern sets the example for us.
A. In the Thessalonian Epistles, we resume with DOCTRINE and instruction. We are not only dead and risen with Christ, as in Romans; not only seated with Him in the heavenlies, as in Ephesians; but we are caught up, to meet the Lord in the air, so as to be ever with the Lord--I Thes 4:17.
Through Romans Truth, we are justified in Christ. With Ephesians Truth, we are sanctified in Christ. In Thessalonians Truth, we are glorified with Christ. There is no more reproof or correction. There is all praise and thanksgiving.
The Thessalonian Epistles come last, though written first. There are no "Church" Epistles beyond them, because there is no higher truth to be taught. The consummation is reached.
• To the Thessalonians Paul said, And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thes 5:23). Before that day, a perfection in every area of life can become ours in Christ.
WHAT WE FIND in the Thessalonian Epistles brings us to the highest Form in the School of Grace, where the Holy Spirit is the great Divine Teacher. Thus, the Church of God is led from the depths of degradation in Romans to the heights of glory in Thessalonians, caught up to be forever with the Lord to live in the glory of His Kingdom--in Him and with Him.
We must have Romans Truth in our foundation to rise into the heights of Ephesians Truth that we might reach the glory to which Thessalonians Truth points us. It is interesting to note that the higher we go in perceiving the truth into which the Holy Spirit would lead us, the more practical becomes the result of its working in our lives--and the more vehement becomes the enemy's determination to stop us.
Thus, we are learning to pray with new discipline.
WE'VE SAID ALL THIS to gain a clearer understanding as to where we are going as we return to our prayer from Philippians. We take note of the three petitions again, especially the last one. It brings us to the day of Christ--that time when He makes His bold appearance again on earth to claim fully the inheritance given Him by His Father. This is clearly laid out in the covenant promise of Psalm 2:7-9.
9 And this I pray,
• THAT your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
10 • THAT ye may approve things that are excellent;
• THAT ye may be (1) sincere and (2) without offence (3) till the day of Christ.
In the third part of the petition, there are three important terms needing our understanding if we will learn to pray effectively.
- sincere--This is from the Greek eilikrinés, a word with an interesting background. It appears to come from eíle, "the heat of the sun," and kríno "to judge" or "to decide." Thus it would mean "tested by the sun."
Its meaning seems to have developed in the market place. A woman needing a pot to carry water or to prepare her food would test the worth of a vessel before buying it by holding it up to the light of the sun. It was the practice of some merchants to sell marred and cracked pots that had been covered with a veneer of wax. Holding the vessel up to the sun would reveal any flaw. Our English word sincere comes from this understanding. Sincere means "without wax," from the Latin sin, "without" and cere, "wax."
Thus we are learning to pray that all hypocrisy will be removed. This is everything that makes us appear right on the surface of life while concealing flaws that will make us fall when the heat of the final days comes on. This calls for a transparency, both before the Lord and before other believers. It opens us for dimensions of grace not known before.
without offence--This is from the Greek apróskopos. It means one does not stumble under moral rule, but remains unblamable and clear. It describes one who is not liable to fall under tests--especially moral ones--and who can stand under judgment. It is a word that describes a person who can come through trials whole and who can appear before the Lord unashamed in the final day. This calls for an inner work that can only be performed by the Holy Spirit in us. This comes as a result of God's grace given us in Christ Jesus.
How important that we know our place in Christ! This is the reason we have taken the quick view of Paul's Epistles. The truth laid out in them brings us to this place of knowing ourselves in Christ, and Himself in us. This wonderful disposition alone can equip us for the conflict.
Now here is something we must see. It is the goal of Satan to make us stumble. Here we can learn from the Lord Jesus who faced him head-on. He overcame because He knew His relationship with the Father and He knew the Scriptures. Matt 4:1-10 gives the account. His test was an economic one--Command that these stones be made bread--verse 3; a moral one--Cast Thyself down--verse 6; and a governmental one--fall down and worship me--verse 9. These are the same dimensions of life in which we shall be tested--very severely--in the final days. But, they are the dimensions in which the Lord Jesus is releasing His life and sufficiency for us.
till the day of Christ--This is the point toward which we are moving. It is the wonderful and sure Day when He makes His bold appearance on the earth to claim His inheritance. Thessalonians Truth brings us to this Day.
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