Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 2002
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 4 – The Historical Maturing of the Church
Lesson 202 – Growth – The Believer’s Walk with the Lord
30 May 2002
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Let me kind of review, we started out with phases of sanctification, and the important thing about seeing the phases of sanctification primarily is a way of interpreting the Scripture, so when you come across texts of Scripture you really need to categorize these as to whether it’s past, present or future. The past phase of sanctification is the time that we trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ; all the preliminary work up to that point. That’s referred to in many New Testament texts, so you want to kind of fix that in your mind as a category. Then there’s present, and that refers to that class of text references having to do with the Christian life from the time we accept Christ until the time die or the rapture, whichever occurs first. There are texts, Scriptures and commands that apply to that. Finally there’s the future, and that is from the time we die or the time the rapture occurs, to go into the presence of the Lord and into an eternal state. So that’s a convenient three-fold breakdown as a tool to categorize texts when you read them.
Then we dealt with the aim of sanctification, and we pointed out that the aim of sanctification is not just removal of sin, not just grappling with sin. Those are aspects of sanctification that came in with the fall, but the Lord Jesus Christ was unfallen, He did not have a sin nature, and yet Hebrews says He had to be sanctified. Adam and Eve had to be sanctified prior to the fall, so sanctification cannot just deal with a negative thing of putting away sin. It includes that now but the aim of sanctification is loyalty to God or love of God. I use the word “loyalty” or “integrity” simply because l-o-v-e had gotten so vacuous today in our society, it’s hard to use the word and have any meaning.
Then we dealt briefly with the means of sanctification, and there we dealt with two aspects, page 108 of the notes, the means of sanctification include law or revelation; God has to give us the will - the knowledge of His will. Otherwise, if we don’t know His will then there’s not an issue of obedience or disobedience. There’s always an aspect of law, but law with a little “l”, not capital “L”, not the Mosaic Law but all law, whether it was law given to Abraham, to Moses, to David, to the New Testament, whatever, we’re using “law” in the sense of a synonym with revelation. And sanctification always deals with another means and that is that apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit and the empowering Holy Spirit, then we don’t want to do God’s will so there has to be the issue of motivation or motivational power and that motivational power is given by the Holy Spirit.
Those are the two means and wherever you go in the Bible there will always be those two means. God’s will is working, He’s working to reveal His will to us, but then also He’s working to aid us in carrying out that will. To see why motivational power is needed, think of Romans 7, Romans 8; Romans 7, why do I do the things that I don’t want to do, the struggle Paul had, and Romans 8 is one of the central passages there is the carnal mind is “enmity with God.” What does “enmity” mean? The carnal mind is “enmity with God” means it is at war with God. That’s our natural nature, were it not also for God in His grace overcoming that. But left to ourselves as fallen beings, we are at enmity with God; that’s our nature, inherited from Adam.
Last time we got into the dimensions of sanctification, and this again is a useful categorization and will help you sort things out that you find in the Scripture, and help you conceptualize your own walk with the Lord. If you think of it in two dimensions, and the easy way to think of this, at least for me, think of a graph and if you’re not that mathematically inclined think of a plant growing or an animal growing, or a child growing up and you can kind of graph the process of growth, it’s not a straight line, it’s got some dips in it, etc. If you visualize that, there’s a picture of long-term growth. That’s one dimension, the long-term and that’s a growth concept that’s built into, for example, the Scripture text that gives qualifications for an elder or qualifications for a deacon. If you look at that qualification list, one of the qualification is a person can’t be a novice. So there’s a qualification, or disqualification, from leadership, there has to be some long-term growth. And that long-term growth is a prerequisite for being a leader in the church.
The other is the either/or nature of our walk with the Lord. At any given time we are either growing or we’re kind of losing ground. There’s no neutrality here. I want to come to that and finish what we started last time. Let’s look at this either/or stage. Growth is pretty easy to visualize, conceptualize. The either/or-ness, people have problems with this. But let’s go through some reasons why this is important.
The first thing is that it’s the implication of the imperative mood of every verb addressed to us. In other words, imperative verbs imply a binary response, that means it’s either/or; it’s not three ways, it’s only two ways. If I say “go to the store today” you either go to the store or you don’t go to the store. If you say “walk” we either walk or we don’t walk. So implicit in imperative verbs is the binary response, it’s unavoidable, it’s built into the language.
That’s the linguistic background; conceptually you’re forced into this. Another reason for this, let’s turn to Galatians 5, there’s a theological reason why it’s either/or and it has to do with what we’ve already dealt with, i.e. that we are in our natures, apart from regeneration, at enmity with God. So when you turn to Galatians 5:16–17, here’s a good text that shows you this either/or-ness. “But I say walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” There are not three things there, there’s just one thing. Either you walk by the Spirit or you carry out the desires of the flesh. And verse 17 gives the theological reason for the either/or-ness. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” In other words, you don’t have a choice here; it’s either one or the other. That’s the theological reason, it’s because we have the sin nature and we have regeneration plus the indwelling Holy Spirit. We operate in one sphere or the other.
That means that it boils down to two things. Do we have regeneration and the indwelling Holy Spirit? How does that happen? That happens because we become a Christian. That happens because we believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. So one way of entering into this is at the point of salvation; if we’re not saved the rest of this is just nonsense. Salvation is the starting point. You can think of it this way. The instant you were saved you were in fellowship, it might not have lasted too long but the point was that at that point we were regenerated. The Holy Spirit did RIBS—Regeneration, Indwelling, Baptizing, Sealing. All that happens in an instant of time, all those 18 things we worked into, there are a lot more; Lewis Sperry Chafer had 36 things in his Systematic Theology. But salvation is where it starts, and the solution to our not having it and becoming saved is the issue of belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. You don’t get saved by anything that we do meritoriously. We’re not saved because we’re good people. We’re not saved because we go to church; we’re not saved because we do some ritual. We are saved because we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ at a point in time, so this whole belief thing, this is a package deal and it’s minus human merit. Human merit plays zero in becoming a Christian.
That’s debated in the world because most world religions, in fact all world religions apart from the Bible hold the fact that that is not true; that can’t be true according to every other religion in the world. Every other religion in the world demands that man approach God on the basis of his own merits and if man approaches God with his own merits it becomes a balancing system. And God, if He judges, like in Islam, then you’ll have the tipped scales because our good works outweigh our bad works, somehow He takes the bad works, the sin works out here and He ignores them. Which, by the way, creates another theological problem, how can a just God forgive sin arbitrarily with no blood sacrifice? In any case, the important point for tonight is that we don’t become Christians because of some inherent human merit.
Most Christians who have had some exposure to the Scriptures understand that. That’s not a problem. Where we have a problem is carrying it over to this issue of our walk with the Lord, and when we are out of fellowship, when we disobey, how do we get back in, how is the relationship restored? For some reason people would otherwise understand this fine, no problem, but when it comes to getting back in fellowship they all of a sudden becomes religious in a bad sense, that now we’ve got to invoke the merit of penance. That was done in many ways throughout church history. We could have formal penance, religious rituals that recognize penance, doing good works for penance. In evangelical circles oftentimes it is associated with the fact that there has to be a certain profile of personality and emotion that accompanies this or the person really isn’t sorry they sinned, etc. So unless they manifest a certain kind of emotions then they’re not being serious with the Lord.
The problem with doing that, in one sense it’s a good motivation in the sense that what people are trying to say, trying to say is that there’s been a genuine confession of sin. But in trying to say it they mess it up by introducing a certain predefined emotional manifestation that you have to do this, this, this, this and all the rest of it. The problem with all that is that some people find that very easy to do and some people don’t, and it has to do with their own natural personality. In fact, you can go to Scripture and see the emotional manifestation of Judas Iscariot. The Scriptures point this out that there was a guy who was very sorry that he did what he did. Yet Judas Iscariot isn’t even saved. The point is that emotions are not the sufficient manifestation of confession.
We are going to look at this step. Just as over here to become a Christian there’s belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for us; we receive God’s grace by faith. So it is over here, it’s the same principle; we receive God’s grace by faith. Over here when we become a Christian we have to believe in the truthfulness of the gospel and we can say well, people sometimes show a response because my girlfriend took me to church or something and I had to impress her therefore I went forward in a service, this and that or something else. So and so prayed, but so and so prayed because his girlfriend was watching; that’s the peer pressure situation and it might not have been genuine at all because it might not have been because the person actually understood that Jesus Christ died for their sin, that they were sinners and in need of a Savior and that’s truth, regardless of whether the girlfriend is there or not. Or it could be peer pressure induced conversions, and peer pressure conversions are false conversions. Now there can be a little peer pressure and still be a genuine conversion, I’m not denying that, but there’s a danger here that you can go through all the manifestations, be baptized, join a church and do all the rest of it and it’s nothing but family pressure, peer pressure, group of Christian’s pressuring or something else. That doesn’t come from personal conviction in the heart.
This was a big issue back in the early part of the 20th century. When Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder of Dallas Seminary, used to go and speak evangelistically, there were a lot of people that opposed him because he never had an altar call. In those days if you didn’t have an altar call and get everybody up at the front of the church you weren’t a real evangelist. Dr. Chafer used to go around and his evangelism was a little different. His evangelism was he would teach who God is, he would teach what sin is and then he’d say afterwards that if you want to talk with me about personal questions and that sort of thing, see me after the service. Many times he’d have dozens, hundreds of people after the service. What he found was that it was a lot better because then people became Christians because they were genuinely led to the Lord by the Holy Spirit independently of some peer pressure thing.
The point is that in order to believe there has to be a conviction that something is truth. This is hard to do today. The problem today is we’ve got a big problem right here with this today; if we thought we had it bad in the 20s and 30s we’ve got it really bad today because we live in a culture of relativism. Oh, well that’s good for you but Buddhism is good for me, you know, we all have our tastes; it’s whatever turns you on. Well, if somebody really believes that I do not believe that without a repentance or a rethinking that they … I’d be amazed if they could become a Christian, because if they come to Christ with the attitude, well, this is good for me but it might not be good for them, or, I just feel this you know, this is just my personal conviction but that’s all it is, it’s just personal conviction—that’s not trust in Jesus Christ. Trusting in Jesus Christ means you trust in Him as the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but by Him.
Before I became a Christian, that was the leading stumbling block in my life. I didn’t know John 14:6 but I knew the truth of John 14:6, namely that if I were to become a Christian I would have to be convinced that Christianity was not an answer, but Christianity was the answer. That went on for months in my life before I became a Christian. Now I became a Christian with really a poor gospel presentation and I look back and wonder how I ever got saved. But the point was that I had one thing going for me, I realized that it was a matter of whether it was true or whether it was false, whether it was an opinion or whether it was absolutely correct.
That’s the issue here, we believe that it is true, there’s a conviction. Unfortunately the very word “conviction” has been robbed of its power because it’s been used as a synonym for emotions. So and so is convicted of their sin, and that’s okay to say that. It’s just that the problem is that what comes up in the mind when the word is used is some sort of feeling thing, and somebody’s crying all over the place, or something like that happens. That may happen, it may be genuine, but it wasn’t genuine with Judas Iscariot. Paul warns us in Corinthians about suffering, that it is just fake, it’s just phony stuff.
The point here that we want to make is that minus human merit, and there has to be positively a convincing, and I’m going to use the word “convincing” rather than “convicting.” I mean exactly the same thing, it’s just that I think that word has not got so much religious stuff with it. If you are convinced, the Holy Spirit illuminated your heart, you are convinced that this is true, and that has to be there. What can’t be there is thinking that it’s my good works and my points with God that makes me acceptable to Him. What I have to understand … I’m belaboring this point because we’re going to get into confession and we want to make clear we understand the gospel first before we get over into this pseudo-penance thing. Let’s diagram what’s going on in salvation. Here’s God, God is sovereign, God is righteous, He is just, He is love, He is omniscient, He is omnipotent, He’s omnipresent, He’s immutable, He’s eternal, God has these attributes. This is who God is. The sinner is down here; the sinner by virtue of his being identified with Adam has a problem with the righteousness and justice of God. And it doesn’t make any difference what that personality is, it doesn’t make any difference how old they are, it doesn’t make any difference what race they are, it doesn’t make any difference what language group they belong to. The point still is God is righteous and in Adam we are fallen. So how does God resolve this issue?
God resolves the issue through the cross of Christ, and now the sins of Adam, the personal sins that we’ve committed, is put on the cross and the righteousness and justice look at the cross and then look at us so that we eventually will be seen in Christ because the righteousness of Christ comes through the cross and it is credited to us. But that righteousness is imputed righteousness. It is not our inherent righteousness. That’s why all that doctrine that we talked about the gospel and this and that, here’s where the rubber meets the road. All that was nice theological theory, it sounds like, but now watch what happens when you don’t have the theory or how to apply it the way it should be applied. The reason that God can now be free to send His love toward us beyond the cross and share the blessing is only because the cross handles His righteousness and justice, so we have a pipeline from God, a grace pipeline built between God and us but it is grounded at our end in the righteousness of Christ. Visualize a pipe, the receptacle for the pipe on our end of the pipe is the righteousness of Christ that is credited to our account. It’s not our merit; it’s not our human good works. It’s the imputed righteousness of Christ.
We can be very thankful that that’s the design of the gospel because as Luther found out, if you don’t make that the end of the pipe, what do you have? Your own half-sin, half-mixed caldron of good, bad and so on, and what happened with Luther was he realized that he could not be sure that he had the pipeline when it was resting on his merits, not Christ’s merits. As a monk he started teaching the book of Romans and he discovered Romans 4, Romans 5, Romans 6, and all of a sudden wow, look at this, I am righteous because of Christ and I can’t begin to walk in righteousness in practice unless that righteousness is empowered by the Holy Spirit. What did we say the two means were? Will and motivational power. How is the Holy Spirit from inside able to give us motivational power if He first isn’t in us? And how can He be in us if we’re a sinner in Adam? He can’t be; that’s why regeneration has to precede all this. That’s why justification has to precede all this. It’s only after these things happen at the time we trust in Christ that this pipeline can be established.
So if we draw the diagram in another sense we have the connection made because here we have the imputed righteousness of Christ and we’ve got God’s absolute righteousness on the other end. So as far as holiness goes it’s an entity, there’s not a discrepancy between one end of the pipe and the other end. That’s why it’s so necessary to share or be credited with Christ’s absolute righteousness, otherwise you have no assurance that this connection is being made. That’s salvation.
Now what happens when we break fellowship? The pipeline isn’t broken but God has on His end of the line, God can turn away, as we can turn away from our children when they’re disobedient and God does the same thing. Disobedience, He turns His face away. Why? Because He doesn’t want that behavior in His children. So how do we reconcile this? We reconcile that by cleansing. We need to be cleansed down here, there’s a secondary cleansing here. In other words, the primary pipe is established but secondarily, moment by moment there has to be a cleansing for fellowship. Last time we went through John 13 and I showed you the two cleansings there that a Jew would have understood from the temple protocol. Remember the high priest was bathed upon initiation to the office but then also before he came into the temple he had to be washed. Some of the things, if we had time to read Leviticus, Exodus, some of the things that a high priest had to be cleansed from don’t look to us like sin. Do you know what one of those things he had to be cleansed from? If he was walking along and got exposed to a dead body, he was ritually unclean. You look at the ritually unclean aspects of the Mosaic Law and you see thing like that, and you say well gosh, the guy couldn’t help it; he just walked by some dead bodies or something.
The point God is making in the Mosaic Law is that all of those ritual uncleannesses, if you think about it, are coming into contact with the results of the fall. The dead bodies, what are those? Those are the result of the fall. So what God forced the Old Testament people to do so they would understand how you get the pipeline cleaned out is that there has to be cleansing from the aspect of sin whether we’re aware of it or not. So let’s go to 1 John 1:9, the classic New Testament passage on confession of sin. That verse is structured very carefully so that we can see how this works.
We saw this when we went through David in Psalm 51, David’s confession, but we want to look at this confession and restoration. In 1 John 1:9 it says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful,” and by the way, “we,” if “we” confess our sins, that’s believers, 1 John is not written to a mixed group, it is written to believers, you can see this if you look where he talks in several places, in chapter 2 that follows he talks and he says everybody I’m talking to is a Christian. So verse 9 is addressed to Christians, but Christians still need to confess sin as necessary. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous” notice he doesn’t say faithful and loving, he says “faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
The point here is that this confession acts just the same way like salvation does; it makes use of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, it goes back to the very heart of the gospel. That’s why confession is so important, Biblical confession. It forces us, in our hearts, to go back to the time when we were saved, exactly how we were saved; we came to the cross. How do we get cleansed? We come back to the cross. Notice in 1 John 2:1, a few verses later, what he says, “My little children,” showing these are believers—not a mixed group—“My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;  and He himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
The point he’s making there is it’s not whether we feel this or feel that, the issue here is that Jesus Christ is an advocate with the Father on the basis of His completed work on the cross. In other words, we have an attorney in the Father’s throne room, and it’s the Lord Jesus Christ. We said in Rom. 8, remember one of the things the Son does, He makes intercession for us. What did we say that intercession was? It was between the Second Person and the First Person of the Trinity, the Son to the Father, He makes intercession for us. It’s not the same intercession that the Holy Spirit makes in Rom. 8 but the intercession the Son makes. The Son makes intercession for us. “We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” So confession is centering on the cross, not the merit of the act of confessing.
It’s interesting that people have no trouble under-standing this when it comes to becoming a Christian. They say well, the act of believing the gospel is not meritorious, it’s a non-meritorious thing, I reach out with the empty hands of faith and receive what God has done for me on the cross. No problem! Yet when it comes to confession we want to import and add on all these little extra things. We want to add on a certain profile of proper penance and if we don’t see that, somehow it’s not genuine confession. Wait a minute; go back to the gospel again. What breeds false conversions? Peer pressures, false things. What is the characteristic of true belief in Jesus Christ? It’s the genuine acknowledgment of the truthfulness of the gospel. Well then what is the heart, the validity of true confession? Acknowledgement of sin, it means that we are convinced that there is sin to start with, you can’t confess something that you’re not convinced of. We confess homologeo, the same idea in a court room, when somebody confesses to a crime they have to be convinced that they have committed a crime. They’re not confessing the consequences, I feel bad because I did something bad. Confession is not confessing I feel bad. Confessing is not confessing gee, I’m sorry I’m reaping all these bad consequences of the stupid thing I did. Often people do that but that’s not confessing.
Confession centers on the fact that I have judicially transgressed the holiness of God. Remember Psalm 51, what did David say? “Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned.” Now was David saying that there aren’t bad consequences? David knew there were bad consequences; Psalm 38 and Psalm 32 tell you all about his bad consequences. David was perfectly clear about the bad consequences but he wasn’t confessing the bad consequences. He was confessing transgression. So we don’t confess the consequences, we all know about consequences, the pain, the sorrow, the heartache, that follows. That’s not what we’re confessing. We’re confessing transgression of God’s law, that’s what we’re confessing, just as if we were in a courtroom and we confessed that we violated that ordinance. Or when a policeman stops you for speeding, what do they do? They’re trained to bring conviction of sin aren’t they? They’re trained to have us admit that we were speeding, no excuse. There are all the excuses in the world but were we speeding or weren’t we, period! It’s easy, one or the other.
It’s the same thing here, either we transgressed God’s will or we didn’t transgress God’s will. It doesn’t matter …, you know, the Twinkies defense, some characters in a California law case years ago, I had to shoot somebody because my blood sugar was low in the morning, I didn’t have my Twinkies. The sarcasm referring to that stupid trial and the stupid decision that came out of it, they call it the Twinkies defense. God doesn’t accept Twinkies defenses. It’s always transgression of a law, and it’s either/or. The point here is there’s nothing meritorious in confession. The only thing about confession is that we are convinced of the truthfulness of a transgression.
The problem we all have is we kind of know we transgressed but we really don’t want to admit that we transgressed. So we play a little game for a while until we feel so miserable and God spanks us enough and we get enough pain and sorrow, all right, okay. Then you have to be careful again because we’re not confessing the pain, we’re not confessing the consequences, we’re confessing the transgression. That’s why in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” What does it mean He is faithful? It means every time it operates the same way. God is always faithful to forgive when we meet His condition and the condition is confession. We may be flat on our back, we may be walking abound, we may be driving a car, we may be doing this, we may be doing that. The point is that when we meet the condition He is faithful, because He changes not, He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is faithful to forgive us. But it also adds another adjective.
Not only is God faithful to forgive, He is righteous to forgive, and that is nothing more than the Romans 3 truth. The cross is the way that God can be just or righteous and the justifier of him that believes, because you see in 1 John 2:1 we need an advocate. Why do we need an advocate? Because it’s like a trial going on and Satan comes, we covered this when we dealt with the picture of Satan coming before God and accusing the high priest, Joshua’s sin, in Zechariah. And he says you had no right to bless him. The point is, going back to this grace pipeline, here’s God and we have a pipeline with us, and the grace pipeline has been established, rooted on this end, the imputed righteousness of Christ; rooted on this end the righteousness of God. That pipeline is in tact, but Satan’s argument is that God can’t bless that person because the person is dirty, the person has sinned, the person is out of fellowship, the person is disobedient, so the issue then is well then how can God bless that person. God in His grace draws conviction out of the heart and once that conviction is drawn out of the heart that sin has happened, the confession comes to the cross, same place salvation comes to, and says that I have transgressed and I am leaning on the cross for forgiveness.
If you think about it, confession is just enforced review of the gospel. It’s the heart here that makes us go back to the gospel, go back to the gospel, go back to the gospel, go back to the gospel, over and over and over and over until we die and we’re resurrected. Because He wants to keep us going back to the gospel, it’s always the finished work of Christ, the finished work of Christ, the finished work of Christ, the merits of Christ, the merits of Christ, the merits of Christ. There’s nothing meritorious in the act of confession itself. The merit is over here on the cross, and that’s what cleans this thing out and keeps us connected. That’s the idea in John 15 of abiding in Christ, the sap flows through the vine. Well how do you get the circulation, the sap flowing through the vine? You keep it clean. How do you clean out the pipe? God has to clean out the pipe, we can’t do that. We didn’t even put the pipe in place. God put the pipe in place. There’s nothing we can do to clean it, there’s not a bath we can take, He has to do the cleansing.
Notice what it says, He is “righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Notice the word “all” there, it’s not just cleansing for the particular sin that we may remember because for every sin we confess there’s probably 84½ that we’ve committed that we aren’t aware of. What does it say? A-L-L. If we confess our sins—you can’t confess what you don’t know, so you confess what you do know. You confess I transgressed this, this, this, this and this. Sometimes it helps to pray the prayer of David in Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me,” etc., bring things to my awareness. That’s a daring prayer, because that usually is answered pretty quickly, about bring things to remembrance where we’ve transgressed. So we confess that, we confess that, we confess that, but let’s be real. What we confess is a small amount of the total package of what we are and do. That’s why the promise is so gracious in verse 9, that He goes ahead and cleanses from all unrighteousness, not just the sins we confessed.
John also points out there are serious accompanying things here that we have to watch. One of them is verse 10, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” Some people take that to say ooh that means they’re not a Christian. That’s not what he’s talking about. When John uses “his word is not in us” he means it’s not in us in the sense of actively controlling us, which gets us over into the language of Paul, the filling of the Holy Spirit which is parallel to Ephesians 5:18, which is parallel with another passage, Colossians 3, so let’s go to Colossians 3, we all know Ephesians 5:18, heard that many times, but we can sometimes misinterpret Ephesians 5:18 because it sounds a little like it’s mystical and spooky, the filling of the Holy Spirit, what is that?
Turn to Colossians 3; remember the principle of Bible interpretation, if you don’t understand something and Paul’s written it you look in Paul’s immediate letter, if you can’t find it there go to another Pauline epistle. It turns out if you diagram and outline Colossians and you diagram and outline Ephesians, they’re very, very parallel. And in this section they’re almost identical, except for the filling of the Holy Spirit. We’ll compare Colossians 3:16 with Ephesians 5:18. I want you to notice the context of these two verses. That’s important because of the argument we’re going to make. Colossians 3:16 is one verse; Ephesians 5:18 is the other verse.
In Ephesians 5:18, look what the next verse says, it says “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord,  always giving thanks for all things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;  and be subject to one another in the fear of God.” Hold the place and flip over to Colossians 3:16, look at how it ends, “teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” It goes on about wives and husbands in verse 18–19. Flip back to Ephesians 5, verse 22 is the wives, verse 25 is the husbands. So you can see that Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18 are analogues one of the other. Now if they’re analogous, then what does that tell us about how we can interpret the filling of the Holy Spirit? We may be a little more vague about what the filling of the Holy Spirit is, but in Colossians 3:16 it’s pretty clear, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you with all wisdom,” there’s a case where the Word of God is being received and operated on and assimilated. “Let it dwell in you richly.”
[blank spot] and if you think about the Trinity, Ephesians 5:18 concentrates on the Third Person, Colossians 3:16 concentrates on the Second Person. In Ephesians 5:18 what is the filling of the Holy Spirit? The filling of the Holy Spirit can be looked upon as an instrumental, and it’s recently been argued, and I think this is a nice way of taking it, in the grammar you can say that Ephesians 5:18, being by filled by means of the Spirit, but it’s not stated anywhere in that passage what you’re filled with. It’s not being filled so much with the Spirit; it’s being filled by means of the Holy Spirit.
In other words, putting the two passages together the filling of the Spirit is the Holy Spirit filling us, controlling us with the Word of God. It’s not some mystical thing; of course, obviously there’s a mystery about it, we’re not denying the mysteriousness of it, but the whole point is it’s not some spooky feeling thing, it’s being filled, let the Word of God dwell in you richly. How does that happen? By means of the Holy Spirit.
We can grieve the Holy Spirit and that’s in Ephesians, and there’s another Pauline way of saying we’re out of fellowship. We grieve the Holy Spirit, we anger the Holy Spirit, He’s indwelling us, we’re walking contrary to what He wants and we grieve Him. So when He’s grieved, or when we quench, that’s just synonyms for being out of it, being disobedient. And how do we handle that? 1 John 1:9 says we confess. Now he’s not the only one that says it, there are other passages of confession; another one is Paul’s way of putting it is 1 Corinthians 11, this one is used every communion service. Pastors from all kinds of churches always cover this passage in communion so let’s turn there because communion is one of these places where confession is expected, that dialogue that goes on in every communion. Verse 27 says, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.” The point of this passage is that we be in fellowship when we’re having communion. So verse 28 tells you in Pauline language, instead of Johannine language, here’s Paul’s language, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup,” “so” means in the manner of verse 27, what’s the manner of verse 27? Don’t do it in an unworthy manner or do it in a worthy manner. How do you do it in a worthy manner? Verse 28 says “examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.  For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.” That’s a very sobering verse; that shows you the extent… remember we said what the Father can do, He can discipline, a father disciplines children. Here are three examples of three different kinds of discipline in verse 30. Just for eating and drinking, partaking of communion, what are we saying when we take communion? We’re saying we abide in Christ and Paul says don’t be a phony; if you’re not abiding in Christ don’t take communion when you’re saying communion means abiding in Christ.
What he’s saying is that if we don’t judge or evaluate, this is the process of examining and evaluating, that’s how you arrive at conviction and hence confession. Evaluate, “For this reason many among you are weak,” that could be mental weakness, it could be just total passivity, sickness, physical illness; not all physical illness directly comes from unconfessed sin but some of it does. Have ever been to a doctor that asked you “have you confessed your sin;” one of the first things that should be examined when we’re sick. Is this from the Lord? Is this a discipline? All sickness is not just a trial; it can also be yoo-whoo, hello, trying to get your attention. That can be true. So weak, sick, “and a number sleep.” That means God has killed believers. So this passage is one of those passages that … remember I was talking about in the Protestant Reformation the Catholics jumped all over the Protestants because they said this gospel of grace that you’re preaching, this idea that salvation comes in one total package and you receive it all when you trust in Christ, that’s too dangerous. Boy, if people really believed in the gospel of grace that would be a license to sin; you have to keep people fearful of the righteousness of God.
So the way the religious people tried to do that was taking away assurance of salvation, that’s how you keep people afraid. If I’m not assured of my salvation how can I trust God to deal with my problems? Suppose I’ve got this hangover sin. Come one, if you’re telling me that I can’t be assured of my salvation how do I walk by faith. How do I have victory over it? I can’t have victory over it because you’re telling me that I can’t be assured of salvation, you’re telling me that I can’t be assured of a personal perfect relationship with God. And I’m telling you that if I don’t have that assurance I can’t deal with the sin issue. That’s what the Protestants said and the Catholics said oh, but you’ve got to keep people afraid. Well you can keep people afraid without undercutting assurance of salvation, and verse 30 is how you do it. Verse 30 creates the respect for the holiness and justice of God, and you mess around and you’re going to get spanked as a Christian because God loves you, Hebrews 12.
“For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.” But verse 31, “But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged.” Now what’s this judging process? It’s just another synonym for self-examination. Self-examination for what? It’s not an emotional self-examination; it’s an examination over something objective. What does a judge do? A judge judges whether you conform to law or you don’t conform to law. So what is self-judgment here? Am I doing what God tells me I’m supposed to do or am I being disobedient to what God tells me I’m supposed to do. It’s that simple. And that judgment is the Pauline way of expressing the same truth; it’s not two different truths here. This confession is implicit in Paul.
Then we have restoration. We want to understand this for our own rescue and recovery effort, a few things about restoration, i.e., if we have a time line, going along in time, we get out of fellowship, and say we commit some horrendous sin and we create chaos, we create all kinds of bad consequences. One that’s easy to think about, if you commit some crime, you go to jail, you find yourself now confessing your sin in the middle of a jail cell somewhere, bad consequences. So we come along and somewhere along the line the light bulb turns on because God the Holy Spirit has said hello, do you see what’s happening here? Do you understand what the big picture is? So we confess our sins, let’s say this is maybe a month or two and we’re out of it and God disciplines us, and finally, at this point we confess our sins. At that point whether we are in jail, whether we’re going to go into some bad situation, whether we’re dying, whatever it is, the grace pipeline has been flushed clean. Independently of what society thinks, independently of w
You can’t allow some religious bullies to argue, well, you never recovered, this and that and all the rest of it. If that were true you never could deal with the consequences. So on one side of the coin at the point we confess we’re brought back into fellowship, not because of our penance but because “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin.” Not the warden, not society, not our pastor, not our priest, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin.” At that point we are exercising our individual personal private priesthood as a believer in Jesus Christ to confess; just like the Old Testament priests did it we do it. Every believer is a priest; every believer has a priesthood that they can exercise.
That brings us back into fellowship. That does not mean that the bad consequences are going to be removed. That’s David’s situation; he confessed his sin but the consequences are still going to be there. But the difference is how the consequences are handled. Now from a standpoint of strength, from a standpoint of being in fellowship we can have promises to claim; “all things work together for good,” yes, even this mess, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” “Be careful for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God” and “the peace of God that passes all understanding shall guard and protect your hearts.” These are the tools that now become available to manage this mess that’s been created.
Now God in the way He designs our lives, if you think about this, Christian perspective, let’s apply the Framework here and zoom back, not zoom in but let’s zoom back and look at something, something very interesting. Let’s go back to Eden. We know the events, God, creation, fall, flood, covenant. Let’s go back to the fall, let’s go back to that moment when the human race fell in Eden. Before Adam and Eve fell what was God’s will for them? At creation what did God tell Adam and Eve to do? He told them to subdue the earth, in particular He told Adam to till the ground of the Garden, till it, take care of it, etc. After the fall what was one of the consequences that impacted what they were supposed to do? What would the ground bring forth? Thorns and thistles. Did the thorns and thistles go away after Adam and Eve became believers? No, the consequences remained, but out of all the bad consequences of Adam’s fall, the thorns and thistles and everything going wrong in creation, what did that demand of Adam and Eve that wasn’t demanded of them before the fall? Now they had to rely on God all the more. In particular what did they have to rely upon God for after the fall that they didn’t have to rely upon God for before the fall? A solution to their sin problem, and the bad consequences of the fall led to their reliance upon God to provide Jesus Christ for their salvation.
So if you back off and see how bad consequences were handled at the fall you can see that the bad consequences were not removed but the bad consequences became a means for advancing spiritually. Adam and Eve after the fall in a certain way were more advanced than they were before the fall. How? Because now they had revelation about a need for a Savior. Did they have that revelation before the fall? No. So as a result of the fall God took cursing and He turned it into a blessing, a blessing that meant that they would know God in a deeper way, be more acquainted with His grace, etc., etc., etc. So yes, God does not take away all the bad consequences, but what He does, He enables us to handle those bad consequences in a far different way than we would if we were continuing out of fellowship. And if we continue out of fellowship He’s going to add more bad consequences till finally He tells us it’s time to check out.
So this is the story of confession. That’s the story of the either/or-ness. We want to finish tonight, page 109, the enemies of sanctification. When we were dealing with the ascension of Christ we went over all these. In fact, if you have notes from that period, there’s table 3 on page 22 of the notes, and table 2 on page 21. I’ll just remind you of those two charts because these two charts show Jesus Christ’s victory over one of the three enemies of sanctification. The three enemies of sanctification are the world, the flesh and the devil. The world is the world system; it consists of the sinful structure of society. All societies have a sinful structure to them. Not everything in society is sinful. Marriage isn’t sinful but there are perversions of these structures. We’re seeing today, all these perverted ideas of what is a family, what is marriage, what’s the male and what’s the female? Duh! So we have all this structure that’s perverted. That’s the world system. The flesh, we know that, we live with it every day.
And Satan is the energizer of this whole thing. He’s the one that flicks all the voltage on the circuits. The ultimate conflict is with him behind this thing. The chart on page 21 shows how Jesus Christ, when He ascended to be at the Father’s right hand, made a fait accompli that Satan can no longer challenge. And that is that a member of the human race has ascended to the throne of God, and therefore, whereas man was created lower than the angels, man now is over the angels; Jesus Christ is above every principality and power including Satan. Satan has lost as far as his position in creation goes. He can never, ever, hope, no matter what he does, he can never hope to get that throne because it’s occupied now, sorry, Jesus Christ occupies the throne, will not leave the throne, Satan cannot get at the throne and he is cornered. This is why there’s a total conflict out there.
The battle of Iwo Jima was a very, very costly bloody battle that America had to fight, and we lost casualties like we didn’t lose in any other battle in the war, 7,000 men died, 19,000 were wounded in 36 days of fighting in Iwo Jima. And all of it because the Emperor of Japan said I will not surrender, I will fight to the last man, and that’s what happened. After the Marines gained control of Iwo Jima they heard grenades going off underground. It was the Japanese soldiers disemboweling themselves with their own hand grenades because they will not surrender to the Americans. That’s the kind of enemy we face with Satan. He is cornered, he can’t get to the throne because Jesus Christ is on the throne, but he is not going to surrender, he is going to fight to the last and he’s going to cause as many casualties and try to hurt Jesus as much as he possibly can. He wants to draw blood. This is why in 1 Peter 5 it says he’s a roaring lion, “seeking whom he may devour.” He wants to increase the casualty count; he wants to inflict the maximum amount of pain. Basically he’s saying to God, you’re taking me to the Lake of Fire and I am going to take as many people with me as I can; I am going to disrupt Your kingdom, I am going to make it so full of sorrow and heartache that You’ll think twice before you put me away.
That’s the resolve of Satan, but table number two shows you why, gives you the theology of why his claim on the throne is negated. The chart on page 22 tells you why, in the spiritual war, the enemies of sanctification, why Satan’s claim on believers can be refuted, and that is that Christ’s righteousness is credited to our account. Our connection with God is not a function of our human merit. Satan can accuse us all he wants to about this sin, that sin and some other sin. Sorry, that’s not the basis of our relationship with the Lord. The basis of our relationship with the Lord is the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, period, over and out. And that’s why Satan can be defeated, but only when that righteousness is claimed. That’s why confession of sin is so important because the act of confession is the act of authenticating Christ’s finished work for us, it’s the only thing. Satan understands that, that’s why Satan wants to deceive people; he wants us to do everything imaginable except confess our sins on the basis of the finished work of Christ, because the moment we do that, like Martin Luther said in his hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, and he said “one little word shall fell him.” What’s Luther talking about? Read Luther’s biography and you’ll find out what he’s talking about. “One little word shall fell him” said Luther and he’s talking about confessing sin through the finished work of Christ.
That finishes up our study this year, in the fall we’ll finish the one remaining section which is on the Rapture of the church.