19. Understanding faith. (Part 1 of the Faith series.)

Some Christians think of faith as an almost magical force: If you muster enough of it, then you’ll stay healthy and become wealthy. Though it sounds true, that is not necessarily the big picture we see when we study Scriptures. The author of Hebrews delved deep into the subject of faith,  and came up with an amazing revelation!  In Chapter 11, which is dubbed as the ‘Faith Hall of Fame’ there are not only those who got what they hoped for, but also those who didn’t get what they hoped for. Some ‘through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice and gained what was promised; who shut the mouth of lions, quenched the fury of flames and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned into strength and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies … Others were tortured and refused to the released, so that they may gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed into two; they were put to death by the sword … They went about destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them … These were all commended for their faith.’ – (Hebrews 11:33-39) The Bible doesn’t say that those who didn’t get what they hoped for were lacking in faith but says that there is something better in store for them; that they might gain a ‘better resurrection’! All their believing was never in vain though they never got what they asked for.  The Bible portrays faith as something that needs to be guarded, at all cost! The faith described in Hebrews is not sugarcoated: God does not guarantee a life of luxury and ease. It is tough faith: a constant commitment to hang on and believe God against all odds, no matter what! So Paul wrote to Timothy in his  farewell letter : ‘I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.’ – ( 2 Timothy 4:7)

What then is faith? The opening statement by the author of Hebrews has become the classical definition of faith. ‘Faith is the substance or  surety of things hoped for, the evidence or certainty of things not seen.’ – (Hebrews 11:1 KJV/ NIV)  From this definition of faith, we get two aspects (a particular part or feature of something) that constitute faith. The first aspect being the  ‘certainty’ and the second aspect being the  ‘surety’. (Different translations uses different words but throughout this article, will stick to these two words. )  Almost all of us have faith, meaning, we are ‘certain  of things not seen’,  but often we are not ‘sure of what we hope for’. – (Hebrews 11:1) We ‘believe that God exists’ but we are not sure whether ‘he rewards those who earnestly seek him’. – ( Vs 6) We probably might have the certainty about God’s ability but have no surety of his willingness!  But it takes both these aspects to make our faith complete and workable. If either one of them is missing, then our faith is crippled. If we have the certainty that God exists and that he is able, it is not to our credit because ‘this is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God’ – (Ephesians 2:8) whereas if we have the surety that God is willing and rewards those who earnestly seek him, then it pleases God and he credits it to us. ‘This is what the ancients were commended for’ – (Hebrews 11:2), because they were not only certain of things not seen but also were sure of things hoped for. Simply put, they trusted God against all odds!

How do we get this surety? It does not necessarily come from previous experiences because inspite of all the miracles the Israelites saw in Egypt and in the desert, they always failed to trust God whenever they faced the next crisis because only knew his deeds but not his ways. – ( Psalm 103:7) But Gentiles like the Centurion and the Canaanite woman, who had no previous experience of God’s deliverance, showed great faith that even amazed Jesus and he promptly commended them for their faith! – (Matthew 8:10, 15:28) The surety they had came from the understanding of who Jesus is. The Centurion recognised him to be a man of spiritual authority and the Canaanite woman realised that the Gentiles too needed a Saviour and recognised him to be the One. Though we read that Abraham, ‘believed the Lord and he credited it to him as righteousness’ – (Genesis 15:6), he still didn’t have the surety he needed and therefore said, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” ( vs 8) So ‘on that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram’ ( vs 18) to give him the surety of the promise. The covenant gave him the surety and made his faith whole. (We too have a covenant in the blood of Jesus to give us this surety of his will.) Abraham’s faith was unlike those of his contemporaries who also probably believed in the existence of God but he believed in a ‘God who gives life to the dead and call things that are not as though they were.’ – (Romans 4;7) And unlike us, he didn’t get this understanding about the nature of God from Scriptures for they were not written yet! He understood that God call things that are not as though they were, when God changed his name to Abraham – (Genesis 17:5), which means ‘father of many’, even when he didn’t have any! (But still there was a truth in that phrase because Issac was after all in the loins of Abraham, just as Scripture says Levi was in the loins of Abraham, when he gave a tenth to Melchizedek. – Hebrews 7:9-10) God taught him to speak the language of faith by calling things done in the spiritual realm when it still had not manifested in the physical realm. (We too are being taught to speak the language of faith when we call things that are not as though they were! For instance, we confess we are healed by the stripes of Jesus, when in reality the healing is yet to be manifested in the physical.) Moreover, Abraham believed that God had the power to raise the dead and therefore was unhesitant to sacrifice his only son. He probably was the first person to believe in the power of the resurrection because ‘He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Issac that your offspring will be reckoned. Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Issac back from death.’ – (Hebrews 11:19) Abraham’s faith was well founded in his knowledge of God that he was not only certain of God’s existence but also was sure of God’s goodness. All his previous experiences further backed up his faith. We too can get this surety of God’s goodness today through our knowledge of him who has made a covenant with us in the blood of Christ. When our faith becomes complete and workable, locked doors begin to open because faith is the key to miracles! Amen.

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18. Baptism in Spirit and Power – The promise to the reborn. (Part 7 of the born again series.)

‘On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” (Acts 1:4-5)  It was just a few days before this that Jesus breathed on them and said, “Re (once again) ceive (get) the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22) Having said that, men can ‘once again get’ the Holy Spirit to dwell in them, just as it had dwelt in Adam, prior to his fall.  This is the whole essence of rebirth and evidently, the disciples were born again the very moment they received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The disciples might have thought that’s all there was to it, but to their pleasant surprise, Jesus instructed them to tarry in Jerusalem for yet another supernatural experience! Obviously it was not to receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which they had already received but to receive something which they hadn’t received; which is the infilling in the Holy Spirit. Speaking of the infilling, Jesus said: “For John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” The reason Jesus drew this parallel between the two was to show that they will be baptized into another substance, just as John baptized his disciples into water. Here the reference was not about the person of Holy Spirit who was to come on the day of Pentecost or about the presence of the Holy Spirit, which they had already received, but it was about the substance into which they were to be baptized; the Spirit that flows from within God. It is also referred to as the ‘living waters’, which can quench our spiritual thirst.  “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.’ (John 7:37-39) ‘For we were all given one Spirit to drink.’ (1 Corinthians 12:13)

What is interesting is the fact that  Jesus gave this instruction to tarry in Jerusalem, to those who were already born again, because the promise of the Spirit was originally meant for them. However, it was first made to Abraham, when he became the heir of the world by faith. ‘It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be the heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.’ (Romans 4:13) But how were the descendants of Abraham supposed to take possession of the whole earth, when they were limited by their geographical boundaries? The answer was in imparting the Holy Spirit even to the Gentiles who would believe in God. ‘The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith … He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. The promise were spoken to Abraham and to his seed, … meaning one person, who is Christ.’ (Galatians 3:8-16) Then when the seed to whom the promise referred had come, he said, “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”

When did the disciples hear him speak about the Promise? Jesus first mentioned about the Holy Spirit while introducing another Counselor. “And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – 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. (John 14:16-17) Here he mentions the two dimensions in which the Holy Spirit operates but later on, before his ascension, he spoke about the third dimensions in which the Holy Spirit would operate. “But you will receive Power when the Holy Spirit comes ON YOU and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The Holy Spirit was ‘WITH US’  to SAVE US, is now ‘IN US’ to CHANGE US and will be ‘UPON US’ to USE US. There is no power without the Holy Spirit but when he comes upon us, we will receive Power. Power for what? To be witnesses! Witnesses of what? The resurrection of Jesus! Not only were they supposed to be witnesses of Christ with their words and with their  lives  but they were also supposed  to be witnesses of Christ with the power of resurrection, demonstrated through signs, wonders and miracles. “You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:48-49)

How could they wait in prayer and worship continually for ten days, without having the presence of the Holy Spirit within them? Infact receiving the baptism in the Spirit is the tangible proof of our rebirth, because no one can receive it without being born again. Therefore Peter said of those gathered at  Cornelius’ house: “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” (Acts 10:47) Here are a group of people who were not baptized in water, yet received the baptism of the Holy Spirit! Undoubtedly, they were born again! ‘So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.’ (Vs 48) How did they receive the baptism in the Spirit without being baptized in water? The only prerequisite before receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit and Power, is the rebirth experience. Hence, the only question that we need to ask ourselves is: “Am I born again?” If you answer is “yes”, then tarry for the promise, but if you are not sure of this spiritual experience, then ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into it. Amen. (I suppose it would be helpful for you, if you would go back and read from Part 1 of this series, to know more about this spiritual experience. God bless you.)

17. One baptism: The washing of rebirth.(Part 6 of the born again series.)

‘There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, ONE BAPTISM; one God and Father of all …’ (Ephesians 4:4) Yet the author of Hebrews, refers to ‘BAPTISMS’ in plural, while listing the ‘elementary teachings about Christ.’ For he wrote: ‘Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of :-
1. Repentance
2. Faith in God
3. Instructions about BAPTISMS
4. Laying on of hands
5. Resurrection of the dead
6. Eternal judgement
And God permitting, we will do so.’ (Hebrews 6:1–3) What is seemingly a contradiction, is in fact not, because though there are many baptisms, there is only ONE BAPTISM that can save and it is the ‘washing of rebirth’. ‘He has saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit …’ (Titus 3:5) It is easy to understand baptisms, if we consider ‘who’ baptizes ‘whom’ in ‘what’. The one who baptizes is being called the ‘Agent’ and the person who is baptized is being called the ‘Recipient’ and what they are baptized into is being called the ‘Element’ in the chart below:-

Agent > Recipient > Element

Holy Spirit > Believer > in Blood

Disciple > Believer > in Water

Jesus > Believer > in Spirit

Jesus > Believer > in Fire

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful … He will baptise you in HOLY SPIRIT and with FIRE.” (Matthew 3:11) Jesus himself was baptized in water and thereafter in the Holy Spirit and Power. ‘When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too!’ (Luke 3:21) ‘Jesus full of the HOLY SPIRIT returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert … Jesus returned to Galilee in the POWER of the Spirit.’ (Luke 4:1,14) ‘God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the HOLY SPIRIT and POWER and he went about doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.’ (Acts 10:38) Hence the author of Hebrews (presumably Paul) was right in addressing baptisms in plural because there are in fact three baptisms ie., in WATER, HOLY SPIRIT and POWER / FIRE (They are essentially the same because on the day of Pentecost, the disciples received power after ‘tongues of fire’ came upon them.) But which of the three was Paul referring to as the ‘One baptism‘ in Ephesians or was he referring to the most important and essential for salvation, the ‘washing of rebirth’ in the blood of the lamb? It’s relevance can be understood if we realise that Christ wouldn’t baptise a person in the Holy Spirit and Power unless the person first experience the ‘washing of rebirth’, though men might not hesitate to baptise them in water! That is the reason why many who have been baptized only in water, haven’t received the baptism in the Spirit because they haven’t been sprinkled by the blood of the lamb. ‘We have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.’ (1 Peter 1:2)

Can we then call the ‘washing of rebirth’ as the ‘baptism in the blood of the lamb’? Jesus, who was baptized in Water, Holy Spirit and Power said: “But I have another baptism to undergo and how distressed I am until it is completed!” (Luke 12:50) He was obviously referring to his death as a baptism that he had to undergo. As a matter of fact, those who stood at the foot of the cross were sprinkled with the blood and water from Jesus’ side as he was pierced. ‘One of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.’ (John 19:34) It was following this sprinkling by the blood at the cross that they received the Holy Spirit, post resurrection. ‘And with that he breathed on them and said,” Receive the Holy Spirit.”‘ (John 20:22) The water is symbolic of the Spirit since Jesus himself said : “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him”. By this he meant the Spirit whom those who believed in him were later to receive.’ (John 7:38-39) Wherever the blood of Christ is sprinkled, only there the Holy Spirit is poured out!

Why is the ‘washing of rebirth’ being referred to as the ‘one baptism’? Because, none of the other baptisms are essential for salvation! If it were, the thief on the cross wouldn’t be in Paradise! I suppose he could have said this better than Paul : ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.’ (Galatians 2:20) Here is a man who physically experienced the symbolism of baptism, which is the death, burial and resurrection in Christ. ‘We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may life a new life.’ (Romans 6:4) Therefore, baptism in water cannot be more relevant than the washing of rebirth. Moreover, those who have experienced the ‘washing of rebirth’ and received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit might not experience the baptism in Holy Spirit and Power because that is meant for service and not an essential for salvation. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the world.” (Acts 1:8) Amen.

16. Relevance of rebirth.(Part 5 of the born again series.)

‘Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:17) The relevance of rebirth cannot be understated because it ushers in the most profound change within a person, to the extent that the Bible calls them a ‘new creation’. So what is new in us who are born again? Definitely our bodies are still the same even after the rebirth experience. However, the Bible assures us that a day is coming, when these bodies of ours will be transformed – ‘in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye …’ because  ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God …’ ( 1 Corinthians 15:50-52) ‘Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.’ (Philippians 3:20-21) The deposit of the Holy Spirit in those who are born again is the guarantee that this would happen to them. ‘Having believed you have been marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.’ (Ephesians 1:13-14)

If not our bodies, then what is new in us who are born again? Definitely, our spirits are still the same but the Holy Spirit has begun within us a process of renewal which has eternal significance, because it not only transforms our minds now and will transform our bodies later, at his coming. ‘He has saved us through the washing of rebirth ( by the blood) and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he has poured on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour…’ ( Titus 3:5-6) Since the process of renewal is ongoing, the Bible exhorts us to continually ‘put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator.’ (Colossians 3:10) Paul testified to this daily process of renewal in his life when he wrote :‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.’  ( 2 Corinthians 4:16) 

So, to the question, what is new in us who are born again, the relevant answer would be that we received the ‘mind of Christ’. Definitely, our souls (the seat of our mind, will and emotions) are the same but it has experienced a dramatic change (Greek: metanoia means ‘change of mind’, repentance, the state of changing any or all the elements composing one’s life: attitudes, thoughts and behaviour concerning the demands of God for right living.) ‘Man without the Spirit cannot accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned … But we have the mind of Christ.’ ( 1 Corinthians 2:14,16) The reason for this assertion is the fact that our minds are now controlled by the Holy Spirit and therefore we have an attitude of mind that was also found in Christ. ‘The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so … you however are not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.’ (Romans 8:6-9  The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to ‘be transformed by the renewing of our minds’ (Romans 12:2) Therefore we are admonished ‘to be made new in the attitude of our minds and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.’ ( Ephesians 4:23) Another reason for the assertion that those who are born again have received the ‘mind of Christ’ is because they are able to discern everything and make right judgements. ‘We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us … The spiritual man makes judgement about all things but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgement.’ ( 1 Corinthians 2:12,15)

As a disciple of Christ, Paul had this attitude towards his fellow men : ‘For Christ’s love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all and therefore all died. And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a wordly point of view. Though we once  regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’. ( 2 Corinthians 5:14-17) Do we lack the mind to forgive others inspite of us believing in Christ or do we rake up other’s past,  inspite of them believing in Christ? If so, we haven’t received the ‘mind of Christ’ and our ‘Rebirth’ is questionable! The evidence of rebirth is in our reconciliation with God and men. Many would reconcile with God but will not reconcile with men, though it is expected of them. ‘Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ ( Colossians 3:13) This has become the ‘gold standard’ by which a believer will be measured and if found lacking, this would be what God has to say, on that day : “You wicked servant … Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured … ) “This is how the heavenly Father will treat each one of you unless you forgive from your heart!” (Matthew 18:33-35) We risk being left behind at Rapture, if we are alive at his return or risk being left behind in Hades at the first resurrection, if we die before his return. So it is not optional to forgive but mandatory that we forgive others just as he has forgiven us. 

Not only were we renewed  in attitude towards others but also in our attitude towards God and even concerning our bodies. It is impossible to have an ‘attitude of gratitude’ towards God if we persist in unbelief. So the Bible requires that ‘we live by faith and not by sight.’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:7) ‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’ (Hebrews 10:38 / Habakkuk 2:4) Moreover, our attitude towards our bodies is revealed in our refusal to defile ourselves. ‘Daniel resolved not to defile himself with royal food and wine’ ( Daniel 1:8) because it was offered to the Babylonian gods as sacrifices. Our rights over our bodies should not end up denying God’s rights over our bodies. The slogan : ‘My body, my choice’ goes against the tenets of Christianity because the word of God says: ‘The body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord and the Lord for the body … Therefore honor God with your body.’ ( 1 Corinthians 6:13-20)

Attitudes of our renewed minds match up quite well with what was said early in the article titled ‘Three evidences of rebirth’ – (Part 2 of this series). A ‘fervent heart’ is matched by an ‘attitude of gratitude’, an ‘opened mind’ is matched by an ‘attitude of forgiveness’ and a ‘sanctified body’ is matched by an ‘attitude of consecration’. We live in an age when spiritual words and concepts have come to mean different things, a far cry from what it was meant to be! A ‘watered down’ version of rebirth, which unduly emphasizes water baptism over the inner experience, has shifted the focus away from the true meaning of rebirth. All who are born again have essentially had a Pentecostal experience but not all Pentecostals are born again. As for those who are born again, let ‘your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus …‘ (Philippians 2:5) for you have the ‘mind of Christ’. Amen.

15. The travail of Rebirth.(Part 4 of the born again series.)

The word ‘travail’ means painful or laborious effort and that is why the term is also used to describe the labor pain that a woman experiences while giving birth. Understanding this parallel between newbirth and rebirth, Paul wrote: ‘My little children, for whom I am again in  the pain of childbirth ( KJV travail ) until Christ is  formed in you … I am perplexed about you.’ ( Galatians 4:19-20) Just as human gestation (the process or period of growth of the fetus inside the womb from the time of conception till birth) takes nine months, so also the process or period of Rebirth takes time, until Christ is formed in us. The period of travail starts from the moment we hear the gospel and ends with our rebirth.

Nature itself gives us insights into the process of rebirth. Just as a single cell zygote (means  ‘yoked’) is formed as a result of the union of the male and female gametes, so also the ‘seed of the Word of God’ sown into the ‘womb of our spirit’, be yoked  with ‘faith’ to become one entity. ‘The message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.’ (Hebrews 4:2) Just as the embryo implants itself firmly on the uterine wall with the help of the placenta, so also the embryonic ‘word and faith’ in us be implanted firmly in the ‘womb of our spirit’. ‘He chose to give us birth through the word of truth … humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.’ (James 1:18-21) Just as the embryo (It is called a  fetus, only from the end of the second month of pregnancy) is nourished  through the umbilical cord, so also the embryonic faith formed in us be nourished through the lifeline of word and prayer. (For this reason Parents need to share the word with their children and pray for their salvation.) ‘I have been reminded of your sincere faith which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and I am persuaded, now lives in you also … continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ ( 2 Timothy 1:5, 3:14-15) Just as a prominent blood vessel in the embryo begins to take form of a rudimentary heart, so also a  ‘heart for God’, begins to take form within us. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32) And just as the rudimentary heart within  the  embryo begins to pulsate miraculously by the third week, so also the impartation of the ‘Spirit of  Christ’ causes our hearts to come alive. ‘If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)

Have you ever wondered what causes the rudimentary heart within the embryo to pulsate all of a sudden? Modern Science has not been able to explain how the rudimentary heart begins to pulsate by the third week. It will remain a mystery for the world but the Bible gives us some insight into the mystery. Since the heart stops when the spirit leaves the body, the opposite holds true as well  i.e, it begins to beat when a spirit (in the context of humans) and a soul (the seat of mind, will and emotions) is given to the  embryo – (That is why abortion  even at an earlier stage of pregnancy is foeticide and they will be held accountable to God.)

Being born again is a profound mystery and the greatest miracle. Don’t assume it happened because you were born  a Christian. “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You have to be born again!'” ( John 3:6-7) The travail of rebirth that I experienced, started in 1986 and lasted seven years until I was born again in 1993. ( To access my testimony, please visit my website http://teachingofchrist.in and read the article titled: ‘My testimony: A case study’, under the main Menu.)  It might not be the same timeframe for everyone but invariably there is a process of rebirth that everyone will go through and a period of time associated with it, from their first encounter with God till the time they are born again. Though the disciples had met Jesus, three and a half years back, it was only after his resurrection, that their lives were transformed, when they received the Holy Spirit. ‘And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”‘ (John 20:22)  The parable of the sower doesn’t say that irrespective of where the seed fell, it was fruitful. “But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word, understands it and produce a crop …” ( Matthew 13 : 23 ) Since the Holy Spirit comes to take permanent residence in us, he cannot come into hearts where the Gospel has fallen by the wayside or on rocky ground or among thorns. He waits for the heart to be ready to receive him once for all.

This message might not seem relevant to you now but in the light of what is to come, it is imperative because your Rebirth will decide whether you will be Raptured or left behind! “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3) Over the years I have often asked people, “Did you accept Jesus as your personal Savior, having heard the gospel?” Almost all hands go up! I should have rather asked, “How many times have you accepted Jesus as your personal Savior?” But my next question makes them uneasy! “Did you experience rebirth, having accepted Christ?” Many hands that were lifted up, go down because they are not sure of their Rebirth. And if I asked those who claim to be born again : “Did you receive the baptism of the Spirit, having been born again?” Even the rest of the hands that were lifted up, go down. It is a fallacy to think that everyone invariably receives the Holy Spirit by default, immediately after they are baptized in water. There are many in the Church, like Simon the Sorcerer, who believed and was baptized. But when he came before the Apostle Peter, to receive the gift of the Spirit, he was told : “You have no part or share in this ministry because your heart is not right before God. Repent … for I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” (Acts 8:21- 23)
So here is a believer who did everything but repent ! And there are plenty of them like him in the Church, who have been baptized in water, without having gone through the process of rebirth, because they were hurried through the process by those who were eager baptize them in water so that they could boast of the numbers. They were told that water baptism would solve all their problems and therefore they were glad to receive it, as if it were their ticket to heaven! If you have read my write ups in the born again series, you might have noted that I have put water baptism in its right context, stating that salvation is only by faith and not by works. Works include even water baptism, taken either as a child or as an adult because without having believed, it is a meaningless ritual that cannot save. It is essentially an outward expression of an inward experience and therefore should be rightly called Believer’s baptism! No matter whatever it is called or however it is done, the bottom line will remain the same: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your household.” ( Acts 16:31) Amen.

14. Three agents of rebirth. (Part 3 of the born again series.)

Why is rebirth a miracle? Firstly, because the miracle of rebirth is beyond our human will! ‘Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.’ (John 1:12-13) We might have been born in a christian household but that doesn’t make us a Christian. “Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying,’You must be born again.’ (John 3:6-7) Yet it is not in our efforts but in His Sovereign choice! ‘I will have mercy on whom I want to have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It therefore does not depend on man’s desire or effort but on God’s mercy.’ ( Romans 9:15-16) Secondly, rebirth is a miracle because it is a mystery! “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) Though it seems to be mysterious, yet the Bible sheds light on the three agents of rebirth and it is the coming together of these three that results in the greatest miracle! ‘ ‘For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.’ (1 John 5:7-8) What is said of Christ, the first born of God, is true of us who have been born of God as well.

The three agents of rebirth are as follows:-

1. The Spirit – The Holy Spirit is the central agent of transformation responsible for the rebirth because it is he who reveals the  Saviour to us and convicts us of the need for salvation. “When the counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, he will testify about me.” (John 15:26) “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin, righteousness and judgement.” (John 16:8) The Holy Spirit ministers the word of God and the blood of Christ, which are the other two agents of rebirth he works with. Though it is men who minister the word of God, it is the Holy Spirit who opens the heart of the listeners to believe in the person of  Christ. ‘One of those listening was a woman named Lydia … The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.’ ( Acts 16:14) Therefore, Paul said: ‘ Our Gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.’ ( 1 Thessalonians 1:5) On the day of Pentecost, the three thousand who heard Peter speak were cut to heart because the Holy Spirit convicted them. ‘Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation …’ ( 2 Corinthians 7:10)

2.  The water“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” ( John 3:5) Many assume that the water means baptism but it doesn’t cleanse a man inwardly! Instead, Paul called it the ‘washing of rebirth through the word’.  ‘ … Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the WASHING WITH WATER THROUGH THE WORD and to present her to himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any blemish but holy and blameless’. ( Ephesians 5:25-27) ‘He saved us through the WASHING OF REBIRTH and RENEWAL BY THE  HOLY SPIRIT  whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour…’ ( Titus 3:5) The Word of God is rightly called the ‘sword of the Spirit’ because it is the word of God which the Holy Spirit uses to cut our hearts. ‘For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’ (Hebrews 4:12) Hence, Peter affirmatively wrote: ‘ For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.’ (1 Peter 1:23) ‘He chose to give us birth through the word of truth …’ (James 1:18) Without experiencing this ‘washing of rebirth by the word of God’ and ‘renewal by the Holy Spirit’, baptism in water is meaningless because ‘it is not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience towards God.’ ( 1Peter 3:21) It is the outward expression of an inward experience without which it becomes a ritual that will never save you, whether you were baptized as a child or as an adult, because salvation is by faith and not by works.

3. The Blood – Following the washing with water through the word of God, the Holy Spirit washes us in the blood of Christ, all who have believed in Him and have confessed their sins. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ (1 John 1:9) Once the foundation of sin is done away with, then curses begin to break and bodies begin to heal in the name of Jesus because that is the order in which it happened during the fall of man and therefore, it will be the order in which it is undone by the Holy Spirit. ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.’ ( Romans 8:1-2) The Holy Spirit then takes permanent residence within our hearts, at which point we are most assuredly born again and are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. When the Spirit left Adam, he felt naked but now when the Spirit returns, we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, just as the prodigal son was clothed with the best robe. ‘Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet … Let’s have a feast and celebrate for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate. ( Luke 15:22-24) “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the Angels of God over one sinner who repents .” (Luke 15:10) We too are given a ring for our finger, meaning the authority ( Matthew 28:18) and sandals for our feet meaning our assignment on earth.

The three agents of rebirth ie the Spirit of God, the word of God (water) and the blood of Christ, have to come together for the miracle of rebirth to happen and it is not in our own making. However, it is God’s will for everyone of us but the Holy Spirit waits for the perfect time to indwell within our hearts because once he resides, he is never supposed to leave. The day this happens will be the greatest day of your life because that is the best thing that could ever happen to you. What prepares you for that day is the Word of God and prayer. ‘As for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of … how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.’ ( 2Timothy 3:14-15) We see the three agents come together even in the life of Jesus, to testify to his Sonship, Christship and Lordship. ‘He did not come by WATER only, but by WATER and BLOOD. And it is the SPIRIT who testifies because the SPIRIT is the truth.’ ( 1 John 5:6) Amen. (To know more about this topic, read the article titled: ‘The gospel about Jesus and the three fold testimony of God’, under the header ‘Bible study’. Thank you.)

13. Three evidences of rebirth.(Part 2 of the born again series.)

After Jesus rose from dead, on the morning of the first day of the week, he appeared to the women and to Peter. Then towards evening, he appeared to the two on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:1,13,29) They returned at once to Jerusalem to report it to the Apostles. ‘While they were taking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you” …  ‘Then he opened their minds’ so they could understand the Scriptures.(Luke 24:36-45) Speaking of the same incident, John wrote, ‘On the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together … Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” … And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. (John 20:19-22) How did Jesus open their minds to understand Scriptures? We can infer from the above Scriptures that their minds were opened when they received the Holy Spirit.

The three evidences of rebirth are as follows:– 

1. Opened mind – The first evidence of rebirth is therefore an ‘opened mind’.  But why should our minds be opened?  ‘The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.’ ( 1 Corinthians 2:14) Therefore the Holy Spirit will have to bypass our minds and come into our hearts to take control of our minds.  ‘The mind of the sinful man is death but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so … You, however are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.’ (Romans 8:6-9)  All the doubts that cloud our minds suddenly disappears and a new understanding dawns. It is said that we don’t surprise God with our questions but He surprises us with his answers and it is true! ‘As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in him.’ ( 1 John 2:27)

2. Prayerful heart – The second evidence of rebirth is a fervent heart.  Soon after the Apostles experienced an opened mind, ‘they all joined together constantly in prayer …’ (Acts 1:14) ‘And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.’ ( Luke 24:53) Although the Apostles had been with Jesus for three and a half years, they were never seen praying but were found sleeping, when he instructed them to pray. “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” … When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them.”Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”  The reason they couldn’t pray as Jesus did was because they had not received the Holy Spirit yet. But the moment they received the Holy Spirit, they began to pray earnestly as Jesus did. Suffice to say that  anyone who doesn’t have a secret prayer life is not born again. Jesus was often found praying in a solitary place and this was his instruction to his disciples as well: “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then you Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” ( Matthew 6:6) ‘And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.’ ( Ephesians 6:18)

3. Sanctified Body – The third evidence of rebirth is Holiness. ‘No one who is born of God will continue to sin because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God ‘ ( 1 John 3:9) This might seem  unrealistic and unattainable to us in this generation but the Apostle Paul taught otherwise and exhorted Titus to teach the same. ‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and wordly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ … These, then are the things you should teach.’ (Titus 2:11-13) The apostle John taught that those who love God will inevitably overcome the world. ‘This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. ( 1 John 5:3-4) The reason why his commands are not burdensome is because we have the means to overcome, which is the Holy Spirit. ‘And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.’ (Romans 8:9) but ‘those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.’ (Galatians 5:24) ‘Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your reasonable act of worship’ (Romans 12:1) and ‘without holiness no one will see the Lord.’ (Hebrews 12:14)

These three evidences are for us to know whether we are born again but others around us might never get to see these evidences. Instead, they get to see the fruit of the Spirit in us as a result of our rebirth. “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good or make a tree bad and it’s fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognised by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33) “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) “This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8) If you haven’t experienced an ‘opened mind’, a fervent heart and a sanctified body, then you are probably not born again because immediately after our justification by faith, the process of sanctification begins, when our hearts are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God, our minds were cleansed by the word of God and our bodies were cleansed by the Spirit of God. This is an ongoing process until glorification happens at the coming of the Lord. ‘May God himself, the God of peace, sanctity you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.’ ( 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) If you are not sure of your rebirth, then “Repent and believe the good news” today! ( Mark 1:15) The primary requirement is to believe or else, how can you repent? Ofcourse, there might be those who need not repent but they still have to believe. Nathanael probably had nothing to repent about but he had to believe. ( John 1:47,50) That is why the sacrament is rightly called ‘Believer’s Baptism’ and it doesn’t matter whether a person is an adult or a child, as long as they personally believe for themselves. Therefore, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ (Acts 2:38-39) Amen.

12. Am I ‘born again’? (Part 1 of the born again series.)

Wait! Don’t shy away from asking yourself this important question in this last hour, to know whether you will be Raptured to heaven, before the Tribulation. “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” ( John 3:3) It is a term that has often been misunderstood and misinterpreted by many. The Episcopals have misunderstood it to be doctrine of the Pentecostals, not realising that these are the words of Jesus himself, while the Pentecostals have misinterpreted it as baptism in water. Not even Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council and Israel’s teacher, understood what Jesus meant. Hence Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3: 5-7) The most common reply to the above question is that they were baptized in water as a child or as an adult but that is not the response that was asked for, rather their experience before taking the water baptism! The question, in Paul’s own words would be : “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” ( Acts 19:2) Receiving once again the presence of the Holy Spirit which left Adam and Eve, when they sinned and spiritually died, is the sum and substance of being born again. And with that he breathed on them and said, “Re (means once again) -ceive ( means get) the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22) That became the standard by which the Apostles assessed a believer and not by the claims of healing and prosperity one might have received after turning to Christ.

The three moments in time when the disciples of Jesus were baptized, as documented in Scriptures are:-

1. Some, after they literally met with the Messiah. ‘The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.” And he brought him to Jesus. ( John 1:41-42) ‘Jesus and his disciples went into the countryside where he spent some time with them and baptized ( John 3:22) ‘Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although infact it was not Jesus who baptized but his disciples.’ (John 4:1-2)

2. Some, after they heard the gospel on the day of Pentecost and were cut to heart by the Holy Spirit and asked, “What shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Those that accepted the message was baptized and about three thousand were added to their number that day.( Acts 2:37-41)

3. Some, after they heard the gospel and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. ‘While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message … Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized in the water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.’ (Acts 10:44-48)

Which of these three was the premise for your baptism? A physical encounter with Christ ? Or were cut to heart by the Holy Spirit after hearing the gospel? Or received the baptism in the Holy Spirit after hearing the gospel? Of course, no one has had a physical encounter with Christ, since his days on earth but there might be those who have had a vision of Christ, like Paul on the road to Damascus, but even then, he was baptized only after having received the Holy Spirit, when Ananias placed his hands on him. ‘Placing his hands on Saul, he said,” Brother Saul, the Lord … has sent me so that you may … be filled with the Holy Spirit … He got up and was baptized..’ (Acts 9:17-18) If you haven’t experienced any of these, then you probably are not born again and had no premise for taking the water baptism, as a child or as an adult and it won’t save you because we are saved by faith alone and not by works.

What must I do to be born again? First of all we need to realise that rebirth is a mystery and nothing short of a miracle, which happens in His time. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” ( John 3:8) On the day of Pentecost, the wind blew and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and the wind has been blowing ever since throughout the Church age. ‘Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting ... All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit …’ ( Acts 2:2-4) ‘Then Peter stood up with the eleven and raised his voice and addressed the crowd … “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to heart and said to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, “Brothers what shall we do?” Peter replied, “REPENT and be BAPTIZED …” (Acts 2:14-38) There is yet another term that comes before these two which Peter didn’t say because it was understood without being said. “Repent and BELIEVE the good news.” (Mark 1:15) Therefore the three key words, in their right order should be :-

1. Believe

2. Repent

3. Be Baptized.

How can you repent unless you believe and why should you be baptized unless you repent? Nevertheless, it happens all the time when people miss out on the first two and hurry up to get baptized because they were told that it would solve all their problems. Simon the Sorcerer believed and was baptized (Acts 8:12) but did not repent. Therefore Peter had to tell him, “Repent … For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” ( Acts 8:22-23) Baptism alone will not save anyone whereas those who believe and repent will be saved, though not baptized! The salvation of the thief on the cross, is an eloquent testimony of this timeless truth that salvation is by faith alone and not by works. ( He would have received the baptism, had he been alive. However, his death on the cross with Christ was more meaningful than the ritual that baptism symbolises.) Moreover, it is in agreement with what Paul and Silas told the jailer in Philippi, in reply to his question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved – you and your household.” … then immediately he and all his family were baptized.’ (Acts 16:31-33)

What hinders us from being born again? The Holy Spirit comes to impart the righteousness of Jesus but our self- righteousness is what hinders him. Speaking of the Israelites, Paul said: ‘Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.’ ( Romans 10:3) But speaking of himself, Paul said : “Whatever was to my profit, I count it a loss for the sake of Christ … I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law but that which is through faith in Christ- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.’ ( Philippians 3:7-9) Speaking of this righteousness, Jesus said: ‘For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 5:20) Just as the filthy rags of prodigal son was stripped and he was clothed with the best robe ( Luke 15:22), so let’s be stripped of our self-righteousness and be clothed with the robe of Jesus ‘for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.’ ( Galatians 3:27) Amen.

11. The sevenfold purpose of the shed blood of Christ. – Summary

  1. It was shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
  2. It was paid as a ransom for our redemption from death and hades.
  3. It was sprinkled in the Highest heavens (Most Holy Place) for our entry.
  4. It is for the cleansing of our hearts from sins .
  5. It is for the peace of our minds.
  6. It is for the protection of our bodies.
  7. It will be by the blood that we escape the coming wrath of God .
    Amen.

10. The sevenfold purpose of the shed blood of Jesus.

‘The wages of sin is death …’ (Romans 6:23) and death by the shedding of life blood. And when ‘the Lord laid on him the iniquity of of us all’ ( Isaiah 53:6), his blood was shed instead of ours.
‘God presented him as a sacrifice of Atonement, through faith in his blood.’ (Romans 3: 25). Therefore, let us consider the sevenfold purpose of the shed blood of Jesus :-

1. It was shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
‘In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins …’ (Ephesians 1:7/Colossians 1:14)
‘ … and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.’ (Hebrews 9:22)

2. It was paid as a ransom for our redemption from hell.
‘No man can redeem the life of another or give God a ransom for him ( not to Satan as many suppose) – the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough – that he should live on forever and not see decay. (Psalm 49:7-9)
‘For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all men. (1 Timothy 2:5-6)
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
‘For you know that it is not with … silver or gold that you were redeemed … but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.’ (1Peter 1:18-19)

3. It was sprinkled in the Highest Heavens for our entry.
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me for I have not yet returned to the Father.” ( John 20:17)
‘He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.’ (Hebrews 9:12)
‘The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as High Priest is to make Atonement … for the Most Holy Place …’ (Leviticus 16:32-33)
‘Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, … let us draw near to God … , having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience …’ (Hebrews 10:19-22)

4. It is for the cleansing of our hearts from sins.
‘If the blood of goats and bulls … sprinkled on those who are unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean, how much more will the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.’ ( Hebrews 9:13-14)
‘But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins because it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.’ (Hebrews 10:3-4)
‘But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light … the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.’ ( 1 John 1:7)
“These are they who have … washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” ( Revelation 7:14)
‘To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and has made us to be a Kingdom of Priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory for ever and ever!’ (Revelation 1:5-6)

5. It is for the peace of our minds.
‘Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body …’
‘God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him and through him to reconcile to himself all things whether things on earth or things in heaven , by making peace through his blood shed on the cross.’ (Colossians 1:19-21)
‘He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him …’ (Isaiah 53:5)
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives.” (John 14:27)

6. It is for the protection of our bodies.
“The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you …’ (Exodus 12:13)
‘By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.’ (Hebrews 11:28)
‘This was Job’s regular custom : Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering … “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?” (Job 1: 5, 10)
‘ .. through faith we are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.’ ( 1Peter 1:5)

7. It will be by the blood that we escape the coming wrath of God.
‘Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him ! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life !’ (Romans 5:9-10)
‘For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:9)
‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.’ (Revelation 12:11)
Amen.

9. The Gospel about Jesus and the three fold testimony of God.

We had earlier considered the three fold ‘Gospel’ (Greek : euangelion which means ‘good news’ ) about a King called Jesus, his glorious Kingdom and his Kingdom’s all surpassing power. But to further understand the meaning of the ‘Gospel’, we need a revelation of the true identity of Jesus because the ‘Gospel’ is primarily about ‘Christ’ (Hebrew : Māšîah which means ‘Anointed’)
Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say I am ?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man but by my Father in heaven.” ( Mt 16 : 15 – 16 )

What then is the revelation that God gave about Jesus ?
This is the one who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ … And it is the Spirit who testifies because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify : the SPIRIT, the WATER and the BLOOD ; and the three are in agreement.’ (1 Jh 5 : 6 – 8 )

Thrice, a voice from heaven thundered, testifying about Jesus. It happened the first time, at his baptism. ‘As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” ( Mt 3: 16 – 17 ) And later while speaking about this incident, John said: ‘I myself did not know him but the reason I came baptising with water was that he might be revealed to Israel … I would not have know him except the one who sent me to baptize said: “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God.’ ( Jn 1 : 31 – 34 ) The ‘WATER’ testifies to his ‘SONSHIP’.

It happened the second time when he spoke of his imminent death to those around him.‘Then a voice came from heaven … The crowd that was there and heard it, said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit and not mine.” ( Jh 12 : 27 – 30 ) And later while recalling the moment of his death, Matthew wrote: When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified and exclaimed ” Surely he was the Son of God.” ( Matthew 27 : 54 ) The ‘BLOOD’ which symbolizes his death, testifies to his ‘CHRISTSHIP’.

And it happened a third time when he transfigured before them and a cloud enveloped them. ‘While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.” … Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the son of Man has been raised from the dead. ( Mt 17 : 1 – 5 , 2 Pt 1 : 16 – 18 ) And later while addressing the three thousand on the day of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed: ‘God has raised Jesus to life … Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear … God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ ( Acts 2: 32- 36 ) The ‘SPIRIT’ testifies to his ‘LORDSHIP’.

We accept man’s testimony but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God which he has given about his Son. Anybody who believes has this testimony in his heart.(1 Jh 5 : 6, 9, 10 )

The three fold testimony of God in our hearts about Jesus is that he is Son of God, the Christ and Lord. It is the spoken word of this testimony in our hearts causes us to overcome the devil. ‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the WORD OF THEIR TESTIMONY.’ (Revelation 12:11) Man’s testimony won’t revolutionize you but God’s testimony will ! Amen.

8. The three fold gospel according to Scriptures.

We considered the three new testament promises and how they were ‘better’ than the three old testament promises and how they were the fulfillment of the three fundamental promises made to Abraham. In doing so, we considered the three promises on which each of these three covenants (Abrahamic, Mosaic and Messianic ) were based upon. Now let us consider the threefold gospel according to Scriptures :-
The beginning of the GOSPEL ABOUT JESUS CHRIST …’ ( Mk 1 : 1 )
And this ‘GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM’ will be preached in the whole world …” ( Mt 24 : 14 )
I am not ashamed of the GOSPEL, because it is (about ) THE POWER OF GOD for the salvation of everyone who believes …’ (Ro 1 : 16 )

So the gospel is about :
1. A KING
2. His KINGDOM
3. And KINGDOM POWER.
For many the gospel ends with Jesus but the good news is also about the Kingdom he established and its power. Speaking of that power, Jesus said : “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing” (Mt 11 : 12 ) and the “gates of Hades will not overcome it.” ( Mt 16 : 18 )
Rejoice ‘for he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son …’ ( Col 1 : 13 ) Amen.

7. The New Covenant founded on ‘Better’ promises.

The ministry Jesus has received is as superior as the covenant of which he is a mediator is superior and it is founded on better promises.’ ( Hb 8 : 6 )

What were the promises under the old covenant ?

  1. Freedom from slavery in Egypt. ( Ex 3 : 8, 17 )
  2. Land flowing with milk and honey. ( Ex 3 : 8 ) – Though they were free from slavery, they died in the desert because of their sin and rebellion. Only Joshua and Caleb could enter the promised land.
  3. Conditional healing ( Ex 15 : 26 ) – However, the nation of Israel that had the covenant of healing, was filled with sickness, when the Jesus began his ministry. Why ? Because the promise of healing was conditional and many could not appropriate it.

How are the new testament promises better ?

  1. Freedom from the slavery of sin ( Gal 5 : 1 )
  2. Heavenly country ( Hb 11 : 16 )
  3. Unconditional healing. (1Pt 2 : 24 ) – All who touched Jesus and the ones he touched were healed, including his enemies. Why ? Because the Prophet Isaiah predicted that ‘by his wounds all are healed’. ( Isaiah 53 : 5)

Healing is for all of the human race and if this truth is realized, it will be the God given ‘vehicle’ for us to reach the Gentiles with the Gospel. Amen.

6. The Gospel promise of Spiritual Blessings : God’s oath to Abraham.

We considered two gospel promises on which the new covenant was founded.
Firstly, the promise of the Spirit for all who believe and are washed in his blood of Jesus.
Secondly, the promise of unconditional healing for all, in the name of Jesus.
Now let’s consider the third gospel promise of Spiritual blessings in Christ, which in fact should have been stated second because the order in which it beset man was : sin, curse, sickness and death.

When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you … Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his promise very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.’ (Hb 6 : 13 – 17 )

The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham : “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are BLESSED ALONG WITH ABRAHAM, the man of faith.’ ( Gal 3 : 8 – 9 )
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us … He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus …’ ( Gal 3 : 13 – 14 ) ‘Praise be to God….who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. ( Eph 1:3 )

The greeting of the angel to the shepherds couldn’t be more appropriate : “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” ( Lk 2 : 10 )
Had we really understood the gospel, there would have been untold joy in our hearts. If the gospel doesn’t change us, nothing will ! May the glorious gospel be revealed to us. Amen.

5. The Gospel promise of Healing : God’s covenant blessing to Abraham.

The first reference to healing in the Bible is in Gen 20 : 17 where we read : ‘Then Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelech, his wife and slave girls …’
Healing is a covenant blessing and it was through Abraham, that this Gentile received his healing. But prior to God’s covenant with Abram in Gen 12 : 17 – 20, we read that ‘the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai’ but they were not healed though Pharaoh returned Sarai to Abram because the covenant was not cut yet.

However, under the Mosaic covenant that was cut with the Israelites, healing was conditional. “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, (then) I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought upon the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.” ( Ex 15 : 26 ) But while the old covenant was still in effect, Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah and the unconditional ( by which I mean unmerited favour or grace ) healing for all, through his sufferings : ‘He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed.’ ( Isa 53 : 5 )

Therefore, it is through us, the Church, with whom he has cut a covenant, that God intends to impart this healing to the world. Jesus sent the twelve with these instructions: “As you go, preach this message: ‘The Kingdom of God is near’. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give !” ( Mt 10 : 8 )
No wonder Scripture says about all believers, “they will place their hands on the sick and they will recover.” ( Mk 16 : 18 ) KJV
If healing through Christ has been received by Gentiles, how much more should those who are of the household of God ? The Centurion and the Canaanite woman received the healing they sought, though they were not under the old covenant, because by faith they accessed the new covenant blessing in the Messiah, even before the covenant was cut in his blood! Unconditional ( by which I mean unmerited favour or grace ) healing is a covenant blessing and let us receive it by faith. Amen.

4. The Gospel promise of the Holy Spirit : God’s promise to Abraham.

Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you heard me speak about”. ( Acts 1 : 4)

  • What was that promise and to whom was it promised ?

‘He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to ABRAHAM might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the PROMISE OF THE SPIRIT.’ ( Gal 3 : 14 )

The promise of the Holy Spirit was made to Abraham and it was and is being fulfilled in the new testament. It is the most fundamental of all gospel promises and it is for all whom the Lord our God will call.

This PROMISE is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” ( Acts 2 : 39 ) Amen.

  • When was it promised and why was it promised? ( Read the write up in the Questions and Answers section for a better understanding of the topic. )

3. Teaching about Righteousness.

Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of :-
1. Repentance …
2. Faith in God
3. Baptisms
4. Laying on of hands
5. Resurrection of the dead
6. Eternal judgement
And God permitting, we will do so.’
( Hb 6 : 1 – 3 )
Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about :-
7. Righteousness.
But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish between good and evil.’
(Hb 5:13-14)

👉🏻 So what is this teaching about righteousness ?
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last …’ ( Ro 1 : 17 )
This righteousness from God, comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.’ ( Ro 3 : 22 )
Having believed in Jesus, we have been credited with his righteousness, just as ‘Abram believed the LORD and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ ( Gen 15 : 6 )
Since we have been declared righteous by faith, God requires that we work out this righteousness in all aspects of our life.

👉🏻 What then were the works that God required from Abraham, after he was declared righteous?
For I have chosen him so that he will direct his children and his household to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is ‘right and just’, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” ( Gen 18 : 19 )
Likewise, it is required of us, who have been justified by faith, to do what is ‘right and just’; to do for others what God did for us.
Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? In anger, his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured … This is then how my heavenly father will treat each one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” ( Mt 18 : 33-35 )
In this parable of the unmerciful servant, Jesus exposed the double standards among believers who have not been acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.’ Forgiving others who have wronged us is not a matter of our choice but a command !
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ ( Col 3 : 13, Eph 4 : 32 ) The impetus is therefore on the believer to forgive .

👉🏻 However the matter doesn’t end there because there are two ways to it ! Just as we forgave others who wronged us, we ought to be forgiven by those whom we might have wronged. Again the impetus is on the believer to reconcile; to return what might have been stolen or to make restitution if someone might have been cheated.
Zacchaeus stood up and said … Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today Salvation has come to this house …” because Zacchaeus proved his faith by works. (Lk 19 : 8 – 9 )
Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. ( James 2 : 17 )
So did Jacob prove his faith when he reconciled with his brother Esau and made restitution. In fact the restitution paved way for the reconciliation ! Many believers would forgive the wrongs of others but would not seek forgiveness for their own wrongs because their ego forbids it. They would rather give to charity than make a restitution, thinking that would suffice. But Zacchaeus did both!
“I have NOT found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore what you have received and heard; obey it and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief and you will not know what time I come to you.” ( Rev 3 : 2 – 3 ) Amen.

2. Understanding the Abrahamic covenant.

God’s covenant with Abraham was founded on the seven promises stated in Gen 12 : 1 – 3. Of the many promises, the first promise was about a land that God later showed him ( Gen 13 : 14 -17 ) and even marked out the boundaries for him.
On that day the Lord made a Covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land from the river of Egypt (Wadi) to the great river, the Euphrates.” (Gen 15 : 18)
I will confirm my covenant between you and me … the whole land of Cannan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you … My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.” (Gen 17 : 2, 8, 13 )
And then when God confirmed his covenant with Abraham, he swore by himself saying :
1) “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.
2) Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,
3) and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed , because you obeyed me.”
(Gen 22 : 17 – 18 )
When the time came to possess the land, under the leadership of Joshua, the Lord marked out the borders of the promised land : “Your territory will extend from the desert ( Negev ) to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates to the Great Sea (Mediterranean ) in the west.” ( Joshua 1: 4 )

God’s covenant with Abraham is an everlasting covenant while the Mosaic covenant with the children of Israel was until the Seed to whom the promise referred to had come’ ( Gal 3 : 16 – 19). So the ‘written code with its regulations stands cancelled’ ( Col 2 : 14 ) but the Abrahamic covenant still stands. Just as ‘the law introduced 430 years later, did not set aside the covenant previously established by God’ ( Gal 3 : 17 ), the new covenant in the blood of Jesus did not ‘do away with the promise’ made to Abraham.

In fact the gospel is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham. When ‘those who believe are children of Abraham’ (Gal 3 : 7 ) and are ‘blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith’ ( Gal 3 : 9 ), God’s promise to Abraham to give him ‘descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as sand on the seashore’ is being fulfilled among the Jews as well as the Gentiles.

And when ‘this gospel of the Kingdom is preached in the whole world’ ( Mt 24 :14 ), God’s promise to Abraham that ‘all peoples on earth will be blessed through you‘ ( Gen 12 : 3 ) is being fulfilled. Yet one promise remains unfulfilled and it concerns the land!
It was once fulfilled during the reign of Solomon, the son of David : ‘Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River ( Euphrates ) to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt.’ ( 1 Ki 4 : 21 )
It will once again be fulfilled during the Millennial reign of Christ, when he sits on the ‘throne of his father David’ ( Lk 1 : 32 ). Until then, there will be claims by the Jews and counterclaims by the Arabs but it will be settled in favour of Abraham, with whom God had cut a covenant and confirmed it with an oath ( Hb 6 :13 – 17 ), and also had confirmed it with Issac ( Gen 26 : 3 ) and with Jacob ( Gen 35 : 12 ), thus fulfilling the promise : “Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies.” ( Gen 22 : 17)

In those days and at that time ( Millennium ), when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgement against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land … Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy ; never again will foreigners invade her.” ( Joel 3 : 1 – 2, 17 ) Amen.

1. Be taught by God.

Why is it that exhortation unites us while teaching divides us ? But teaching cannot be done away with because it lays the foundation of our faith. Exhortation has to do with the ‘goodness of God’ and we are not double minded about it. Whereas teaching has to do with the ‘standard of God’ but we have double standards ! If there is only one Teacher and a single teaching, how did we end up so divided ? The strategy of the enemy has been to introduce as many teachers and teachings to divide us and rule over us. So we have the ‘teachings of men’ ( Mt 15 : 9 ) and the ‘teachings of demons’ ( 1Tim 4 : 1 ) apart from the true ‘teaching of Christ’. ( Jn 8 : 31)

Jesus said to his disciples :Be on your guard against the … teachings of the Pharisees and Saducees.” (Mt 16 : 12 )
They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” ( Mt 15 : 9 )
Paul the Apostle warned the Church at Ephesus : ‘Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard.’ ( Acts 21 : 30 )

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings will come through hypocritical liars …’ ( 1Ti 4 : 1- 2 )
For a time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine … they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.’ ( 2 Tim 4 : 3 )
So we read in the book of Revelation : ‘You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam’ (Rev 2:14) … ‘you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans’ (Rev 2:15) … ‘you tolerate that woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants …’ (Rev 2 : 20)
If such teachings plagued the early Church, how much more would it have infested the Church of this age ?

Jesus said to the crowds and his disciples: “You have one Teacher, the Christ.” ( Mt 23 : 10 )
My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.” ( Jn 7 : 16 )
If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” ( Jn 8 : 31 )
If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” ( Jn 14 : 23 )
It is written in the Prophets : They will be taught by God.” ( Jn 6 : 45, Isaiah 54 : 13 )

As for you, the Anointing you have received… teaches you about all things … just as it has taught you, remain in Him.’ ( 1 Jn 2 : 27 ) Amen.