357. God Motivates and Empowers His People. The Blessing of Pentecost. [Part 2 of 2.] Philippians 2:12-13

We CAN do what is pleasing to God. In the previous blog we saw how God had promised in the Old Testament, that in the new age of the Spirit (under the New Covenant He would initiate with His people) He would motivate and empower His people to live for Him. That new age came into being on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out on the early disciples. From that moment on they were changed. Later on, there were disciples in other places who also experienced the Holy Spirit coming upon them. They too were to experience God’s motivating and empowering power in their lives.

OUTPOURINGS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AFTER THE DAY OF PENTECOST

An Outpouring Of The Holy Spirit In Samaria. We read in Acts 8 that after the martyrdom of Stephen by stoning, the church in Jerusalem was persecuted and all the disciples except the apostles were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. One of those disciples was Philip who was one of the seven men chosen to ensure that there was fair treatment of Hellenistic widows in the daily food distribution. The seven had to be “men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.”  Philip went to the city of Samaria and proclaimed Christ to them. There was a great response to his preaching and many people were set free of evil spirits and others were healed. Many heard Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, and were baptized in His name.

Word of this believing response to the gospel message through Philip came to the apostles in Jerusalem.  They sent Peter and John, who prayed for these Samaritan disciples to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Luke records the reason why. Acts 8:16  for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). The outcome of their visit?  As the apostles laid their hands on them, they received the Holy Spirit. It was another pouring out of the Spirit on believers though in a different locality. However it maintained continuity with the church in Jerusalem as it took place through the laying on of the hands of the apostles.

An Outpouring Of The Holy Spirit In Ephesus. The apostle Paul came to Ephesus where he found a number of disciples of Jesus.  We are not told why he asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” However it appeared that they knew nothing about the Holy Spirit. That prompted Paul to ask them, “Into what then were you baptized?” They replied that they had been baptised into John’s baptism. Paul explained that the baptism John offered was an anticipation for the coming Messiah, the Christ, in whom they were to trust. Paul would have been able to tell them that the Messiah had come. They could now be baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus who had come as the Messiah.  We read what happened, Acts 19:6-7 “And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.” Yet another outpouring of the Holy Spirit in another location at a later time.

Our Own “Pentecost” Experience. We have seen that the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit was on the Day of Pentecost. This fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. However we have also seen that there were later outpourings of the Spirit such as in Samaria and Ephesus.  Various outpourings of the Spirit have occurred in various places and in various times throughout history.  We can think of many revivals when there appeared to be a greater outpouring or manifestation of the Holy Spirit than at other times.

But let us never denigrate or fail to appreciate our own experience of the same Holy Spirit. It is not as though Peter and James and John and Paul and the disciples in Samaria and Ephesus received a greater Holy Spirit than we received when we repented of sins and received Christ as Saviour. He is eternally the same. The Holy Spirit who came upon them to motivate and to empower them is the same Holy Spirit who has entered our puny little lives as well. It means that we too can (and should) be motivated and empowered by the same Holy Spirit to live for the Lord.  Well in what way does that happen?

WORKING OUT IN PRACTICE WHAT GOD IS WORKING IN OUR LIVES 

There was a brilliant little book with the title, “Caution! Saints At Work”.  I suppose we, as modern day believers, could carry signs with the words, “Caution. God At Work On This Site” referring to the fact that He is at work within each one of His people.  It would be true but perhaps not advisable! We shouldn’t have to tell others that God is at work in us. They should be able to see it without us pointing it out to them! What does the Bible have to say about God being at work in us in terms of motivating and empowering us to live for Him? The answer is found in Philippians 2:12-“13, … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” We will now take a closer look at those verses.

In verse 12 we note that it does not say, “Work for your salvation!”   Salvation can only be a gift to us from God’s grace. We can never earn or deserve the mercy and grace of God. We can’t earn our salvation. That’s what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8,9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

 In Philippians 2:12-13 we are reminded that the responsibility of believers is to work out in practice what God is inwardly working within them. They are His saved or redeemed people.  They respond to His amazing grace in their lives out of a sense of “fear and trembling”.  This is not a cringing fear of God but rather the deep reverential awe of the majesty and holiness of God who has given them the awesome task and responsibility of doing His will for “His good pleasure”.  What a task! What a responsibility! But He works in them to give them the willingness and the ability to do so. Or in the terms we have seen earlier, He motivates and empowers His people to live and work for Him.

THE PRIVILEGE OF PLEASING GOD AS HIS CHILDREN [and His faithful workers]

In Philippians 2:12 Paul uses the word “katergazomai” in saying that believers are to “work out” their salvation. It means to accomplish or to complete a task. God’s grace and power are seen in the salvation of every individual.  His grace and power are also there to help them to live out the implications of the salvation they have received by faith.  [Physics lovers will recognise something common in these words for “work” in these verses. It is “erg” which they will remember is the unit for energy or work in physics. ] NOTE 1

The final comment on these verses highlights another truth. Philippians 2:13 in many versions says that God works in believers “to will and to work for His good pleasure”. This appears to mean that God is pleased when His people allow Him to work in and through them.  However not all translators or commentators seem to go with that meaning of [eudokia] for “pleasure” in this verse.  But there is another verse in the New Testament where the word is best read in terms of giving God pleasure. It is Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”  

What an incredible motivation it would be for us (who have received Christ as Saviour and submitted to Him as Lord) to live in obedience to God’s will, if we knew He was pleased by our genuinely sincere (but imperfect) attempts to do so. Even then we would humbly have to admit that unless God was at work in us, we would not have the desire to please Him and certainly not the ability to do so in our own strength. The whole of our Christian life from its beginning until we live with Him in glory depends on His amazing grace to us. [God’s Grace always covers Status and Function; His acceptance of us in Christ AND His enabling us to live for Him to His glory!]

Praise God for Pentecost! Because of Pentecost, we have the tremendous privilege and pleasure of knowing God intimately.

Praise God for Pentecost! Because of Pentecost, we have the tremendous privilege and pleasure of GIVING HIM PLEASURE as we cooperate with Him in enabling Him to do His work in us and through us to His glory!

Blog No.357. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Wednesday 27th May 2020

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NOTE 1.

  • In verse 12, it is believers who are to “work out” [“katergazomai”] the salvation they had received as a gift in Christ.
  • In verse 13 when he tells his readers that God is at work in them he uses the word [“energeō”] which means to produce an effect or to be operative within. Literally it is “the one working in you” where it is the present participle form of the verb.
  • Paul then adds another “erg”in describing what is produced by this work of God in the believer as resulting in a willingness and an ability of the believer to do God’s will.  In the text it is “both to will and to work for His good pleasure” where “to work” is the infinitive form of the same verb [energeo.] This willingness and ability of believers to work for God’s pleasure comes because of God’s work in them.
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356. Pentecost. Motivation and Empowerment for Living. Acts 1:6-8. [Part 1 of 2.]

 We are normally motivated to do good things in life rather than that which is obviously bad. But we have to qualify that by admitting that humans are not always motivated to do some of the good things in life. Obeying the two Great Commandments of Jesus would indeed be a very good thing to do but very few people are willing to love God with all their heart and mind and soul and strength. Neither are they willing to love their neighbours as themselves.  We are increasingly becoming an “I” and “My” and “Mine” generation, rather than living in willing subjection to God and in a sacrificial loving service to our fellow humans. If we don’t have the motivation to do what God wants us to do, then we will not receive His empowerment to do so either.

People With Motivation But No Power

As we read Acts 1 we see that even the early disciples of Jesus who had been motivated to follow Him, realised they lacked power in their lives.  It’s probably one of the reasons why they asked the Risen Jesus, Acts 1:6  “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Nothing much had changed for the disciples in spite of their commitment to Jesus.  The Roman occupation forces were still in control of the country in spite of the current expectation that the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One would raise up an army and drive the Romans from the land. Then Israel would be a mighty nation again. It wasn’t happening as they thought it might. Nor were they radically changed personally. Personal belief had not been accompanied by personal power.

How wonderful it would have been for them to hear the Risen Jesus promise them,  Acts 1:8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Jesus’ Disciples Should Have Known Better

Jesus’ early followers didn’t just suddenly appear from nowhere. Many had been brought up in the Jewish faith and had probably been exposed to the Jewish sacred writings from their youth.  They would have known of many Bible passages that spoke of the New Covenant God would make with His people. In this New Covenant there would be a greater motivation and empowerment to live for God than ever existed before.

Old Testament Passages About Motivation And Empowerment For God’s People

i).    Jeremiah 31:31-33. Jeremiah predicted a New Covenant. Jeremiah 31:31  “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 33  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

The law of God would be internalised, rather than being “out there”. As Paul later wrote, the law was good but gave no power to humans to obey it. But in this New Covenant God would write His law on their hearts. There would be a deeper, more personal intimate relationship between a forgiving God and His people.

ii).   Ezekiel  11:19-20.  Jeremiah predicted that God would soften people’s hearts   enabling them to obey Him.  Ezekiel 11: 19), And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20  that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (See also Ezekekiel 36:26). God would give His people a heart transplant.  The new heart of flesh He would give them, would make them more sensitive to Him and to His will for them. He could motivate and empower His people to obey Him.

How would He do it? In Ezekiel 36:27 He tells us.  God would place His own Holy Spirit within them,  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. The word for “cause” is (asah) which can mean to accomplish, achieve, bring about, fulfil, produce, work and many other meanings. It describes God enabling His people to walk in His statutes.  His Spirit would indwell them. The Spirit would motivate and empower them to do what God wanted them to do.

Instead of there being just a few people who would receive God’s Spirit to perform certain tasks for certain times, all of God’s people would receive His Spirit. That truth was emphasised in a later prophecy in Joel 2:28-29, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. It meant that in the new age when the Spirit was to be poured out on all believers, they would be inwardly motivated and empowered by God’s Spirit to walk in the way God wanted them to live.

  At the end of the Old Testament era there was an expectancy that things would be different when the Promised Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One came. It just needed the Messiah to come and establish the New Covenant so that God’s Spirit might be poured out on all who responded to Him.

The Disciples In Jesus’ Day. Motivation but no Power. Acts 1:6

Jesus came and established His Kingdom. He preached, taught and He healed.  Many people rejected Jesus and His ministry. They had no motivation to live as God wanted them to live. Others like the disciples did have the motivation having been with Jesus. But they didn’t have the power to live as God wanted them to live.  Even after His resurrection there was little change in them.  They were probably thinking, “Hey, things are supposed to be changing. When is it going to happen Lord?” Jesus answered their question.

 The Promise Of Power For The People Of God. Acts 1:8               

Power was about to be released. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”9 And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. Peter said later on the Day of Pentecost that when Jesus ascended into heaven he “received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” to pour out on the church on the Day of Pentecost.

Power Was Released On The Day Of Pentecost.  Acts 2:1-4,   1  When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. The gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out. The New Age of the Spirit had begun. Now the disciples of every age and throughout the ages could be Motivated and Empowered to do the will of God.

In the next blog, we will look at how believers today can know God’s motivating and equipping power to live for Him in today’s world. We will look at some “mind-blowing” truths that will challenge and encourage us deeply.

[An earlier form of this article was published as Blog No 023 in 2011. The truths are still relevant for today and are published here in this form for new readers.]

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355. The Holy Spirit Who Came At Pentecost Is Just Like Jesus. Who He is! What He does!

WE sometimes look at words and fail to notice their real significance for us. It can happen even as we read the Bible. Every now and then a word “pops out” and we become fascinated by its meaning. One such word was the word “advocate” in John 14:16 which I knew from other translations was called “Comforter.” The 2 translations seem to be different in concept, so I decided to have a look to see what the difference was, if any. Here is the NIV translation.

Joh 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

The first clue came as I looked up the word for “another.” John had a choice of two words to use. One was [allos] the other was [heteros]. John chose [allos] which means another of the same kind. [Heteros] means another of a different kind. So John had shown that the coming advocate or comforter was another of the same kind, a comforter just like Jesus.

How about the terms “advocate” or “comforter?” They come from the same Greek New Testament word [paraklētos; παράκλητος] from para = beside and kaleo to call. So it means someone called to the side of another person. Thus Comforter, Strengthener, Advocate, Helper, Encourager, Exhorter and Counsellor are all suitable translations for the word.

We see how it is used in John’s gospel. Jesus had told them He was about to leave them but the Father would be sending another Person just like Himself.

* Joh 14:26 “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit would be sent from God to represent Jesus, to be their teacher and to remind them of all His teaching.

* Joh 15:26  “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.” In this verse Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit to them from the Father, proceeding from the Father and the Holy Spirit would bear witness to Jesus.

* Joh 16:7-15. “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8  When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9  about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10  about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11  and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

In this longer passage Jesus gave more detailed teaching about the person and work of the coming Holy Spirit.

  • His coming was dependent on Jesus’ going.
  • Jesus would send him to the disciples.
  • His ministry would be to prove the world to be wrong in three areas. The verb here is [elegchō; ἐλέγχω meaning to convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove.]
    1. Verse 9 “about sin, because people do not believe in me.” The world was at fault for not believing in Jesus.  [As they are today!]
    2. Verse 10 “about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer.” The fact that He was going to the Father showed that God had seen Jesus as righteous and had accepted all He had taught and done in His ministry on earth. Humans might have rejected Him but God Himself was going to accept Him. Righteousness is according to God’s values not [unbelieving] human values.
    3. Verse 11 “about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” The sin of the human race was about to be judged in Jesus’ imminent death on a cross, as He bore the sin of the whole world. Satan as the prince of the world had been defeated in Jesus’ death and now stood condemned. As Paul later explained, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Col 2:15.
  • His Ministry with also be to the disciples.
    • To guide them into all the truth.
    • To speak only what he hears, and to tell them what is yet to come.
    • 14 To glorify Christ from whom he would receive what he would make known to them. 15 To make known all that Christ would make known to Him [as the Father’s eternal heir.].

SUMMING UP:

The Holy Spirit was and is eternally a co-equal Person in the Holy Trinity.

His ministry is to take the place of Jesus so the disciples were not to be seen as orphans after HE left them, but are blessed by His abiding presence with them.

He came to prove the world wrong in its estimation and subsequent rejection of Him

He came to guide the disciples into all the truth Jesus had taught and to tell them of future things.

He came to glorify Christ. He came to be the same sort of comforter that Christ had been, as it were to continue His ministry of comforting, strengthening and guiding the disciples of Christ.

He is indeed, as Jesus said, A comforter of the same kind, just like Him!

The Creed of St Athanasias says of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son: neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons: one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.

And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other: none is greater, or less than another;

But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together: and co-equal.

So that in all things, as is aforesaid: the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

He therefore that will be saved: must thus think of the Trinity.

[Note: There is one other reference in the New Testament to this word translated “advocate” in 1 John 1:21. However, this is a reference to Jesus Himself and not to the Holy Spirit. That will be for a future study to consider.]

Blog No.355 posted on Sunday 17th May 2020

 

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354. “Praying In” The Truths of Romans 12:1-2. Total Commitment To God! Which Every Human Needs To Make!

Many moons ago I posted this prayer as article No 051 on this blogsite. However, I thought that for the convenience of readers throughout the world, I should add it here next to the 2 articles I have written on Romans 12:1-2. 

THE TEXT

Romans 12:1  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)

THE PRAYER

 Heavenly Father, I thank You for all the mercies You have bestowed on me.

I thank You for the forgiveness of my sins and for the gift of eternal life You have given me in Your Son Jesus Christ.

I thank You that He gave Himself for me, so that I might give myself to You.

I now present to You, all I am and all I have, as a living sacrifice to You. It’s my logical response to Your love for me. It’s my spiritual act of worship to You.

Transform me as a person by renewing my mind by Your Spirit, so that I think the way You want me to think about everything, especially about You and about Your will.

Give me discernment by Your Spirit, as I seek to put Your will into practice in my everyday life. Enable me to recognise Your will, and discover as I seek to do it, that it truly is good, acceptable and perfect.

I ask these things so that You may be honoured and glorified, in and through my life, in Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN.

Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 17th May 2020

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353.The Decision That Every Human In Every Age In Every Place Has To Make. Conformation or Transformation? Romans 12:1-2. [Part 2 of 2.]

In the previous article [click] I gave a brief summary of the challenge of this passage. It expresses God’s desire for all humans to break free from the binding nature of the world to which they are conformed and be transformed by presenting all they are and have to God. If humans do that, there follows a transformation within them as their minds are renewed. It means that with their newly renewed minds they can begin to put into practice what they now understand the will of God to be, and in the process find that His will is good and acceptable and perfect. 

This is the text, Romans 12:1] “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

A Closer Look At The Significant Words In This Passage.

A].       THE APPEAL TO PRESENT OURSELVES FULLY TO GOD.

i].         The Appeal. Rom 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers. “ [“Appeal” is parakaleō; παρακαλέω, means literally to call alongside. It can be translated as to comfort, encourage, exhort, beseech, strengthen and similar words.] The same phrase is used also in Rom. 15:30  where Paul appeals to his readers “to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf” and in Rom. 16:17 where he appeals to them to “watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”

The only other reference in Romans 12:6- 8 where Paul encourages those who have the gift of exhorting or encouraging, to exercise that gift, “6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: …8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation.” 

Paul is appealing to all his readers in this passage to present all they are and have, to God, so that His will might be done in and through them. 

ii].        The Reason Why They Should Respond To The Appeal. “The Mercies Of God.” 

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God.” We noted in Part 1 that Paul does not exhort them on the basis of the terrors of hell. Quite the opposite. It is based on the mercies of God. The word is [oiktirmos; οἰκτιρμός which is the noun form of the verb [oikteirō; οἰκτείρω ] meaning to show compassion or mercy. So the mercies of God are the evidences and acts of God’s grace he has been writing about in Romans chapters 1 to 11. They stem from the outward expression of His grace towards sinners because He is merciful, James 5:11, “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

In fact, God is called “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort“ in 2 Cor 1:3. [NOTE 1].

iii].       To What Action Is The Appeal Directed? “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice”  “Present” is the verb [paristēmi; παρίστημι] which means to stand, establish, put in place, set up, as well as present. As you look at how Paul had previously used this word in Romans, we see the following. In 6:13, he commanded them to cease presenting their members to sin, but rather to present them to God as instruments of righteousness. They were to present themselves to God. He added to that in 6:19 that they were to present themselves to God in obedience as instruments of righteousness. Also in 6:19 they were encouraged to present their members as slaves to righteousness leading to salvation.

What is envisaged here is the complete surrender of the believer to God in body, mind and spirit. They were offering themselves to him as a living sacrifice. 

“living sacrifice.” This looks like an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. The picture in the minds of many of us as we think of sacrifice, is that of animals and birds being killed to be offered as sacrifices in the temple. However, the sacrifice we are to offer, is that of ourselves as living human beings making ourselves available to God, to live for Him, to fulfil His purposes. 

“holy” [hagios; ἅγιος ]. The meaning of holy is to be separate. There are a lot of other words based on the root ‘hag’. These are some of the words we find in the New Testament. Hagnos =pure. Hagiazo = to sanctify or separate. Hagiasmos = sanctification.  Hagiosune = holiness. Hoi hagioi = the saints. There are numerous others. “Holy” means being separated from the world to belong exclusively to God. That is what God wants for all peoples, and He has made it possible for humans to become the “saints,” the separated ones, by turning from the world, to trust in Him alone. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit to believers as they put their trust in Him who allows that transformation to take place and who brings them into the people of God known as [οἱ άγιοι] “the saints.”

acceptable to God,” “Acceptable” is [euarestos; εὐάρεστος. ] It is made up of [eu meaning good or well] and [arestos meaning agreeable or pleasant. The word is used of pleasing God in 2 Corinthians 5:9, Ephesians 5:10 and Col 3:10. The writer of Hebrews 13:21 reminds us that when we offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices, He equips us to do His will by actually working within us to do the things that are pleasing or acceptable to God.  Heb 13:21  … working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

“which is your spiritual [logikos; λογικός ] worship.  []latreia; λατρεία ]. 

Other translations have, “is your reasonable service.”  

The word for spiritual “and “reasonable “is [logikos]. This is where our English word “logical” comes from. It is a “spiritual” act to present ourselves completely to God as a living sacrifice offered in worship to Him. It is a “reasonable” thing to do in response to what Christ is done for us. It makes sense [it is entirely reasonable ] that if He did everything described in Romans 1 to 11 for us in Christ, [sacrificed His life on our behalf]  that we should sacrifice our lives to Him as willing participants in what He wants to do in and through us for His good pleasure.

The word [latreia] is used of serving someone but is also used of worship.

Jesus in Jn 16:2 warned of those who would mistakenly kill believers thinking they were serving God by doing so. It is sad to recall that so many people in Jesus’ time on earth thought they were serving God in rejecting Jesus and seeking to destroy Him!

Paul in Rom 9:4 wrote about the inheritance the Jews had received, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.”

The writer to the Hebrews in Heb 9 used the word to describe worship “Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness” 9:1. But the writer also wrote of ritual duties using the same word, “These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties.” Heb 9:6.

Summing up verse 1. In verse 1, Paul has been exhorting his readers to make a decisive presentation of their bodies to the Lord in response to what God has done for them in Christ [the mercies of God]. It was to be an ongoing commitment to Him, [a living sacrifice] and not a once for all sacrifice to Him. This presentation of themselves to God would be pleasing to Him and would be seen as a reasonable thing to do in serving Him. Offering themselves to Him in this way would be see also as being spiritual worship directed to Him.  

But how were they to do that? And what benefits would derive from such a commitment to Him? Paul continues in the next verse to show them that a choice was needed. They could go on as they were [which God didn’t want them to do], or they could choose to give themselves to God and allow Him to transform them from within as He renewed their minds. Then and only then could they come to know the will of God and be able to do it. 

B].       THE CHOICE THEY HAD  TO MAKE. 12:2. Ongoing Conformation To The World Or A New Transformation By God For God?

An Ongoing Conformation?

Paul wrote, 2] “Do not be conformed to this world.”  [Conformed = syschēmatizō; συσχηματίζω and students of the Greek New Testament will recognise this as being a present tense, passive, imperative form of the verb.] It could be translated as “Do not keep on being conformed to the world.” One translator JB Phillips put it like this, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould.” I really enjoyed that translation but felt that it could have been improved by altering it a little to these words, “Don’t let the world around you keep on squeezing you into its mould.” All humans, even born-again believers have the world around them continually seeking to squeeze them into the world’s mould. 

The “world” of course means more than the physical universe. As David Guzik wrote, the “world system” – the popular culture and manner of thinking that is in rebellion against God – will try to conform us to its ungodly pattern, and that process must be resisted.” [NOTE 2]

The only other occurrence in the NT is in 1 Peter 1:14 where Peter commands, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.”

That’s why at Baptism and Confirmation services we heard the question being asked of the candidates, “Do you renounce the world, the flesh and the devil?” The “world” is always a present reality to be renounced at all times. 

OR An Ongoing Transformation By God? [Not “Conformation” but “Transformation!”]

“but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

What an incredible change is being envisaged here! Described in powerful words! 

“but be transformed “ [The word is metamorphoō; μεταμορφόω meaning a change in form or appearance]. What is so amazing about this word, is that is used to describe the transfiguration of Jesus in Matt. 17:2 and in Mark 9:2, “And He was transfigured before them.”

The only other use in the New Testament is in 2 Corinthians 3:18 where the meaning is similar to here, in Romans 12. It reads, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” It is an ongoing transformation into the likeness of Christ wrought in them by the Holy Spirit!

But how does this inner transformation take place? Paul describes the process in Rom 12:2. 

“by the renewal of your mind.” [“Renewal” is anakainōsis; ἀνακαίνωσις where [ana ] can mean “again” or “up” or “from above.” And “kainos” means new, brand-new! ]

The only other reference in the NT is in Titus 3:5, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

What does this transformation lead to? [Being able to understand and do the will of God!]

“that by testing you may discern” [both words are from dokimazō; δοκιμάζω] meaning to test and to approve after testing.] The verb is seen in both its uses in 1Thess 2:4, “but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” King David knew that God was the searching God who knew everything about everybody. He expressed it like this, “Search me O God and know my heart” in Psalm 139:1. However he wanted to be open to God’s scrutiny so he prayed at the end of the same Psalm, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” Psalm 139:23. In both verses the word for “search” is our word “dokimazō” in the LXX, the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament. As God reveals His will to us by His Spirit, we attempt to try it out in practice, and we discover in the process that it is indeed “good and acceptable and perfect.” What does that mean in practice? 

“good “ is  [agathos; ἀγαθός]. This word implies not being just good in itself but it benefits others. It is essentially good but also helpful. His will is beneficial. 

“acceptable “ is [euarestos; . εὐάρεστος]. This is the same word as in verse 1. The offering of our bodies to God, according to the will of God, is an acceptable sacrifice in the sight of God. However it also brings about the discovery for the person who makes that sacrifice, that the will of God is indeed acceptable in the experience of those who do so and who “test” it out.

“perfect” is [teleios; τέλειος]. It has the meaning to be complete, wanting in nothing.  There is nothing that anyone can add to the will of God that could ever improve it. That was King David’s experience as he wrote Psalm 40:8, “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

SUMMARY.  We see from the above that these two verses contain some deeper meanings which help us to realise the significance of the choice  that lies before every human on this planet.  Are they going to go on in the way of the world with its inbuilt resistance to God or are they going to make the sacrifice of presenting all they are and have to God in order to come to understand the will of God and be able to do it. They have a choice because they have freewill. But only God can enable them to carry through the choice once they make it. 

Some years ago I composed a prayer based on these 2 verses. If you would like to pray it, then it can be found as article 051 among my early articles. I would love you to do so,  so that you too might find that God’s will for you is indeed “good and acceptable and perfect.”

Blog No.353. posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog onThursday 14 May 2020

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[NOTE 1]   There is another interesting link in these verses 3 and 4 between the verb to appeal, parakaleō], exhort, strengthen, comfort, etc and the mercies of God.  It is the God as the Father of mercies and God of all comfort [the noun paraklēsis] 12:3, who comforts [the verb parakaleō] us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort [the verb parakaleō] those who are in any affliction, with the comfort the noun [paraklēsis] with which we ourselves are comforted [the verb parakaleō] by God. 

[NOTE 2]  David Guzik’s Enduring Word Commentary. 

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352. The Decision That Every Human HAS To Make. The Challenge Of Rom 12:1-2. From Conformation to Transformation! [Part 1 of 2].

There are lots of things we can safely ignore in life, but this command is not one of them. Every human is challenged to become the person God meant them to be. He has a purpose for the world and He wants to use us in fulfilling His purpose. God used St Paul to outline the challenge that faces every human and how that challenge can be met with His help.

What follows is a brief outline of what is involved, followed in the next article in Part 2 by a deeper look into the meaning of the words and phrases for those who [like myself] like to dig deeper into God’s revelation of His will for us in His word, the Bible.

THE TEXT

Romans 12:1-2. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

COMMENTS ON THE TEXT OF Romans 12:1-2

  • The passage is an appeal by God for humans to recognise His great love for humankind and to respond accordingly. 
  • The appeal is based on what He has done for them in Christ [His mercies]. So it is based on the mercies of God and not on the terrors of hell [though they do exist for those who thumb their noses at Him and ignore His purposes for them.]
  • The appeal is that they turn from the binding power of the world with all its attractions which holds them in its grip [they are conformed to it] and present all they are and have to Him so that they can be transformed by Him to be able to know and to do the will of God. In brief, conformation to the world has to cease, and transformation by God to do His will, must begin and continue throughout life. 
  • In the process of making that total presentation of themselves to God, something incredible happens. They become transformed people by having renewed minds which are able to learn to recognise the will of God for them. They then find that as they attempt to put that will into practice, that His will is “good and acceptable and perfect” not only in the sight of God [as it has always been] but now in their sight as well.
  • God as the Creator God could have made humans like robots already programmed to do His will at all times. But He didn’t. He chose to give them freewill so that they could freely choose to love Him and to obey Him in doing His will, which would always be best for them and glorifying to the Creator God. 

Why would anyone ever choose not to respond to God’s merciful initiatives in sending His Son into the world to make the riches of His grace available to us [which include forgiveness, the gift of His life in us by the Holy Spirit, eternal life and the joy of being used in the purposes of God for His world?] Oh, that’s right. They are still conformed and not yet willing to be transformed!

In the next article in Part 2, I will attempt to look more closely at the words used in this passage, to help us see the deep meanings behind the words of Rom 12:1-2 and their significance for us today.

Blog No.352 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Monday 11th May 2020

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351. The Challenge of Coronavirus. Ready? The Challenge of Jesus’ Second Coming. Ready?

It is amazing how so frequently we fail to notice the things around us. Even simple words which we have used for decades, whose meanings we overlook until one day we suddenly see something significant behind the words. Just a couple of examples. 

“Alphabet”

Some months ago I was thinking about the word “alphabet.” We think of it as a term expressing the letters from A to Z. Of course when we eventually get around to thinking about it, we notice that the word ‘alphabet’ is made up of two parts, Alpha, [ἀ] [ἄλφα] and Beta, [β]. They are the first two letters of the Greek alphabet. There is a similarity to the Hebrew alphabet where the first two letters are Aleph and Beth. It’s amazing how often we use words without noticing their significance.

Another thing I hadn’t really noticed as one who has studied some New Testament Greek over the  years, was the connection between the Greek letters Omicron and Omega. In English we can see them as both having the letter “O” with “micron” and “mega” following it. “Micron” of course means small and “mega” means great. It helps to understand that ‘omicon’ has a short [small] sound like the ‘o’ in ‘cot’. ‘Omega’ has a long sound like the final ‘o’ sound in ‘lego.’ I had used the words for decades without noticing how their word structure emphasises their meaning. Thinking about two of these words [alpha and omega] got me thinking about their relevance for today.

 “Alpha” and “Omega”

Someone once joined these two letters together in short sentences in Revelation 1:8, 21:6 and 22:13. His name was Jesus. This is what He said in Rev 1:8, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” He is the eternal, all powerful one who has existed from all eternity. 

But the significant verse before that described a future event concerning Him, Rev 1:7 “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” It is obviously a reference to Jesus, the One who was crucified on the cross and whose side was pierced as He hung on the cross. His second coming will be a public, world-wide event that no one will fail to notice. 

The event described is more certain to occur than the possibility that any of His numerous critics [or any of us] will be alive tomorrow. “History” is “His Story” to be fulfilled according to His timetable, not ours.  “Coming ready or not” was the cry in our childhood game of “Hide and Seek.” But Jesus is playing no game. He came and died so that we might be forgiven and have eternal life as we trust in Him. That was no game 2000 years ago! It was deadly serious! It cost Him His life, willingly given up for us, on our behalf, for our eternal benefit.

It has great implications for all of us. We are implicated in that death whether we like it or not, and whether we like it or not, our response to that death is obligatory for all of us. As St Paul wrote, “He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.“  2 Cor 5:15. In simple terms, He died for us so that we might live for Him! We need to be ready, for He is “Coming, ready or not!” Not a game, but a coming reality. In His love, He graciously gives us warning. 

The final reference to Alpha and Omega is found at the end of the Bible in its closing verses. Jesus again is speaking, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Rev 22:13. But this is not just a declaration about His identity. He follows those words with an explanation of what His identity [who He is] means for every human ever born. He is the origin of all things and He also is the One who brings human history, as we know it, to an end. It is no use anyone proclaiming, “I am an atheist!” or “I am an agnostic, none of this applies to me.” Clearly it does. No one is exempt! Proclaiming “There is no God!” frequently and loudly in lectures and in books by an avowed atheist, doesn’t make Him cease to exist! He is the eternal “I am!” 

Jesus went on in this passage to give both promises and warnings. Here are the promises, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” Rev 22:14. In other words, they have come to trust in Jesus’ redeeming death for them [His blood shed for them on the cross as the lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Rev 13:8.] Through that faith they had gained access to God [to the tree of life] and were able to enter the gates of heaven. 

There follows a severe warning. It describes those who have not washed their robes in the blood of the lamb and who thus fail to gain access to God or to enter into heaven, “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Rev 22:15. 

Humans, in the first chapter of the Bible, lose their access to the tree of life through their rebellion against God and become spiritually dead!

Humans in the last chapter of the Bible still having no access to God or to the tree of life through their ongoing rebellion against Him. In spite of all God,   has done for humans through Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, session at the right hand of God, and His life-giving bestowal of the Holy Spirit into the lives of all who turn to Him in faith and love, some humans still resist His love and remain spiritually dead! Such people would fail to hear and act on the cry if He were to give it, “Coming ready or not!” The truth is that He is coming at a time when no one expects it and there will be no such warning cry from His lips.  He promises that He is coming, and we have to be prepared at all times for that certainty. 

The cry of some humans, “Come!” 

Jesus’ second coming is certain, but no one knows exactly when. It is the cry of every believer of every age that He “come” [and hopefully in their lifetime.] John the writer alludes to that as he writes, “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Rev 22:17.

The bride of Christ consists of all those who have come to Christ and are bound to Him in a covenant relationship. They and the Spirit through them, cry out for His promised coming. In the meantime all who are thirsty can find satisfaction in Him. 

There is a final warning that Jesus words be taken seriously. These prophecies of Jesus through John were not to be despised or rejected or altered in any way [verses 18-19]. They were meant to be acted on.

The prophecy and indeed the final chapter of the Bible ends with a promise of Jesus that He is coming soon, “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Rev 22:20. 

John ends his book with these words, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”  Most believers at some time in their lives have said the same words, “Come Lord Jesus” especially when they were going through difficult times. We read in 1 Corinthians these words from the lips of believers in those challenging days, “Maranatha!” meaning, “Come Lord Jesus.” 16:22.

The challenge of the coronavirus and the challenge of Jesus’ Second Coming

It is amazing when you think about it, how we make such great preparations for avoiding the coronavirus which is challenging many nations at this time. We change our lives completely by being willing to live in isolation and to live under strict restrictions, lest we or our loved ones be affected. However this virus, like other viruses, will eventually cease to be a challenge. By contrast the promise of Jesus’ Second Coming will never go away. It needs to be prepared for. What a wonderful promise then is one of the last verses in the Bible where this incredible invitation is offered to those who realise they are spiritually empty or thirsty, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes, take the free gift of the water of life.” Rev 22:17. 

It only needs a step of faith to “come” to Jesus and to take hold of the free gift of the water of life in Him. Every day is one day closer to His sudden coming. Are you ready?

Blog No.351 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 23rd April 2020

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