When That Which Is Perfect Has Come
- 1 Corinthians 13
This Life: (Now) We know in part (verse 9)
Now, we see in a mirror dimly (verse 12)
Now, we know in part (verse 12)
When I was a child (verse 11)
At The (Then) that which is in part will be done away (verse 10)
of Christ: Then (we shall see) face to face (verse 12)
Then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (verse12)
When I became a man (verse 11)
Love is a sign of maturity or “perfection” as the Bible clearly states. Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to “follow the way of love” (1 Corinthians 14:1). He goes on to instruct them “...not to be children in understanding” but rather to be mature or “perfect” (adult) in their understanding and to be children “...in regard to evil.” (1 Corinthians 14:20)
Throughout his letter to the Corinthians, Paul refers to their lack of “maturity” and “understanding” concerning how they treat one another. He calls them “carnal” and “mere infants in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:3), and tells them they are acting “like mere men”. This immaturity presents itself in all sorts of circumstances, which Paul addresses throughout his letter: (1) sectarian divisions (2) boastful arrogance 3) glorying in things other than the truth, (4) being unwilling to put aside differences in nonconsequenttial matters in order to show love to others, etc.
The following is a summary of what I believe Scripture teaches concerning sanctification. I wrote this about 25 years ago, but it has proved useful ever since. Indeed, I have found that this teaching truly applies to the refutation of Full Preterism because of the eschatological nature of sanctification:
Tranformed into His Image:
God wants the Church, the Body of Christ, corporately and individually, to grow up into the image of His Son. We have “put on the new self” (Colossians 3:10), which is created in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17), who is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), and we are NOW “being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the One who created” this new man (Colossians 3:10). “As we behold, as in a mirror the glory of the Lord”, we are “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). Once we were in darkness, but now “God has commanded light to shine out of darkness” and this light has “shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Though our “outward man is wasting away, our inner man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)
Ultimately, one day we will be renewed or transformed “spirit, soul, and body” into His heavenly and perfect image (1 Corinthians 15:47-49). This will happen in “the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:52), when Christ returns and the resurrection of the dead occurs (1 Corinthians 15:22-23). This is called “the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30), or “the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6,10; 2:16) when God “who began a good work (the work of faith) in you will perfect it” (Philippians 1:6, NASB). Paul saw himself as pressing on “to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). He also realized that he had not “obtained all this,” or had “already been made perfect” (Philippians 3:12). He knew, like John,“when Jesus appears, we will we be like him, for we will see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2-3)
In this hope, of which faith “is certain of” and “what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1), the Christian “purifies himself, just as Jesus is pure” (1 John 3:3). It is because of “these promises”, that we “purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). It is through these “very great and precious promises” that we “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:4). It is because of our hope, and the faith which “takes hold of the hope offered to us” in Christ (Hebrews 6:18) that we are “greatly encouraged”. Our hope is “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrew 6:19)
The Day of Judgment:
Our hope is the assurance that one day we will stand in His presence, “without fault and with great joy” (Jude 1:24). We will “be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1 Thessalonians 3:13). We will “glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when He comes” along with those who come into the kingdom through our ministry, who Paul calls his “joy and crown” (Philippians 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 2:19). The hope we have is the resurrection of the dead. Paul says,“we know that the One who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us and present us with you in his presence (2 Corinthians 4:14). Paul, while standing before Felix, shouted “It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.” Regarding the resurrection, he says, “I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection (one resurrection) of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:15-16). Paul knew “a crown of righteousness” is “in store” for all who “have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8), and he calls this “glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” ... “the blessed hope.” (Titus 2:13)
Our hope is the return of Christ when He will raise the dead and we will be like him. Our earthly body will be transformed “in the twinkling of an eye” and we will be presented holy in His presence. It is the completion of a process that began when we first were given the gift of faith. We will be made blameless in “spirit, soul, and body”...”at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). We will “look up” and receive our final “redemption drawing near” (Luke 21:28), “the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). “Mortality will put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:54), “death will be swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54), and we will “bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:49). All this is what we hope for, what we “eagerly wait for” (1 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 3:20). “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 3:21)
How Are We Perfected?
But what about this present age? Now that we have come to Christ, what is God’s purpose for His Body on Earth now? What is the reason that we do not immediately go to heaven the moment we come to faith in Christ? Why does He leave us here? If faith is the beginning (Philippians 1:3) and hope is the goal of faith, then what is the journey that faith must make? What does the race of faith entail? What is the fight that faith must fight, and how do we “complete” this process? How do we grow up into His image? How do we become holy, even as He is holy? How do we become mature? How do we become perfect, even as he is perfect?
The Standard of Perfection?
The Bible tells us that there is only one standard by which we are made acceptable to God, and that standard is perfection. Jesus clearly states this in His Sermon on the Mount: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The author of Hebrews tells us “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14) and earlier he says, “we have been made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all ” (Hebrews 10:10) and “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14). We are told “the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family” (Hebrews 2:11). In Paul’s letter to the Colossians we read, God “has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:22). In Ephesians we read how God makes his Church holy: “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 other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:26)
Called To Be Holy:
The Scriptures are clear that God is both holy and “the one who makes men holy” (Hebrews 2:10). We have read above how God Himself has done this work of making men holy by the sacrifice of His Son. This holiness is given us in baptism through “the washing with water through the word”. This is a one time event. Once we have been made holy “by his own blood” (Hebrews 13:12), we are called to “be holy in all (we) do” (1 Peter 1:15). Paul says, “God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:7). God “has saved us and called us to live a holy life, not because of anything we have done, but because of His own glory and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9). In other words, we are “called to be holy (1 Corinthians 1:2), because he first made us holy.
We are “jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7) that are made for “honorable purposes” (Romans 9:21). We are “made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:21). We are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). First, God cleanses us and makes us holy, then He fills us with His love (Romans 5:5). Once we are filled, God’s grace overflows from our lives into the lives of others. Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture says, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:38)
Because God has made us His holy people, he asks us to conduct ourselves as His holy people: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Paul says, “...among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Ephesians 5:3). He presents his life as an example of how we should live: “You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed (1 Thessalonians 2:10). He asks us to live the same way: “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 spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1)
What is Perfection?
Perfection (Maturity) is a process that never ends until “the perfect comes” (1 Corinthians 13:10) in the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). Although faith alone saves (Ephesians 2:8-9), it is never alone because, as we see in the example of Abraham, “...his faith was made perfect (complete) by what he did” (James 2:22). The author of Hebrews stresses the importance of perfection (maturity), imploring us to “press on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1), and saying that only the land that produces fruit “receives the blessing of God” (Hebrews 6:7-8), but he is careful to state that good works are “things that accompany salvation” (Hebrews 6:9). Paul exhorts us to “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of us” (Philippians 3:12), and again, he is careful to state “not that I have already obtained all this, or have already made perfect.” Nevertheless, he says he is “straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:12-13). The goal, that Paul strains toward, is the prize of “the resurrection” (Philippians 3:11) and “becoming like” Christ. Paul ends by saying, “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it” (Philippians 3:13). Although he knew that he would not attain perfection in this life, he nevertheless exhorts all of us to “live up to what we have already attained.” (Philippians 3:16)
Our Perfection is a Work of God:
What does this process of being perfected involve? First, we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:16). It is not something we do, but is something that God does in and through us - “for it is God who works in you, both to will and act according to His purpose” (Philippians 2:13). He gives us both the desire and the ability to carry out His will in this life. It the grace of God which “abounds to us” ... “so that in all things at all times, having all that (we) need, (we) will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). If we want to do good works in Christ’s name, we must ask God to make His grace abound to us.
We Must Ask For God’s Grace to Perfect Us:
Jesus says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” He also says, “Everyone who asks receives” (Matthew 7:7). He later tells his disciples, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24). When Jesus tells them “the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 15:16), he is saying that the disciple of Christ must ask for the grace needed to do “his master’s business” (John 15:15). When we ask, we are not doing so out of selfish motives (James 4:3), but only that we might “bear fruit” (John 15:16), “being fruitful in every good work” (Colossians 1:10), for the sake of the kingdom. Jesus says, “...anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 5:20). Jesus knew He was going to His Father and that, when He did. He also knew that He would pour out His Spirit on the Church, which is His Body, and enable her to do marvelous things in His name. Paul tells us that the Father,“who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). The “the grace of God” for Paul “was not without effect.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
God Alone Gets the Glory For Our Sanctification:
Paul, however, does not take credit for his own work, but gives all glory to the grace of God that was with him, saying, “...by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). He says, “I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:29). He knew it was not him, but rather God working in and through him, that gave him the strength to carry out the ministry he had been given. He says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives me” (Galatians 2:20). Paul knew he was nothing, nor could he accomplish anything, but for the grace of God! About his own ministry, he says, “I worked harder than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Concerning this same power, he tells the church in Thessalonica, It is “the word of God that is at work within you.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
Declared Perfect, Yet We Are Being Perfected:
How is it that God declares us perfect, but yet still desires to perfect us? We have already thoroughly traced how God has declared us perfect in His Son, and through his perfect life and death. Now we will look closer at how God’s grace at work within us, continues to “work out” (Philippians 2:12-13) this perfection in our life. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Let us fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Paul tells us, “He who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion (perfection) in the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:13). Both these verses demonstrate that God is not only the giver of faith, and He is also the one who “keeps us in the faith” through the work of His Spirit and the Word of God in our hearts. So let us look now look at how God’s Spirit uses His Word in our lives to strengthen and preserve our faith, while at the same time producing the fruit that only He can produce.
As God Strengthens By His Grace, We Are Perfected:
I think all will agree, that as we are in the Word we are strengthened in our faith (Psalm 119:28). Paul says that we are “strengthened by grace” (Hebrews 13:9), It is this grace, he tells the church of Thessalonica, which is able “to encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:17) and it comes “through our gospel” (2 Thessalonians 2:14). Paul exhorts Timothy to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1). “The word of His grace” is able to build (us) up” and “give (us) an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). John tells the believers “you are strong” because “the word of God lives in you” (1 John 2:14). Scripture reminds us that the “truths of God’s word” that can strengthen us and bring us to maturity (perfection) (see: Hebrews 6), enabling us to “grow up” in our salvation (1 Peter 2:2).
God’s Word is the Means of Grace:
God’s grace comes in many forms, but grace always comes through the Word of God. When writing to the Romans, he expresses his desire to impart “some spiritual gift” (which in Greek s literally, “gift of grace”) to make you strong” with the result that they would “be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:11). Peter reminds them that, although they may suffer “a little while,” ... “the God of all grace” will “restore you and make you strong” (1 Peter 5:10). Peter also reminds these believers that “God gives grace to the humble,” and exhorts them to “humble (themselves)...under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:5-6). Paul says, this grace influences how we “conduct ourselves in the world” and especially in our relations with others (2 Corinthians 1:12). Paul says, it was the grace of God that enabled him to lay “the foundation” of the church and others are “building on it” by that same grace. (1 Corinthians 3:10) He says it was “the grace of God that was with me” that enabled him to “...work harder than all of them, (the other apostles)”. Yet, he considered himself “the least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10) and “the least of all God’s people” (Ephesians 3:8).
God’s Grace Is His Power and Strength:
There are “acts of grace” such as the “grace of giving” (2 Corinthians 8:6-7). There are also acts of speaking that can be “full of grace” and “seasoned with salt” or “wisdom” (Colossians 4:6). If one has the gift (grace) of speaking, “he should do it with the strength God provides” (1 Peter 4:11). Speaking, however, is only one of the gifts (graces) God provides. There are many “various forms” of grace. Peter says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” Paul says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us (Romans 12:6). All these gifts are given by the Holy Spirit. Paul says, “...to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). In his letter to the Ephesians, he says, “...to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” (Ephesians 4:17)
The Gifts of the Spirit Are to Be Used to Perfect Us:
When were these gifts given us? The Scripture tells us, first, these gifts were given to the Church, the Body of Christ, when Jesus ascended to heaven and poured out His Holy Spirit on the church. Ephesians 4:17 says this: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” Second, we receive “this manifestation of the Spirit” by becoming a member of His Body. Paul, says, “...in Christ we who are many form one body” (Romans 12:5), and each member should use “whatever gift he has received to serve others” (1 Peter 4:10). All of these gifts “are the work of one and the same Spirit” who “gives them to each one” as He determines (1 Corinthians 12:11). Therefore, when we are given the Spirit, we are given a spiritual gift (grace) as well. Paul says this: “we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). When we were baptized, we were “baptized into Christ” (Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:3) and were “included in Christ” by faith (Ephesians 1:13). As members of His Body, we are called to “use it in proportion to (our) faith” (Romans 12:6).
God’s Gifts Are For The Building Up And Strengthening of His Body:
What was the purpose of Christ pouring out these gifts on his church? As those who have been given a gift, we have a responsibility to use it. Paul tells Timothy, “Do not neglect your gift which was given you” (1 Timothy 4:14), but rather “fan into flame the gift of God, that is within you” (2 Timothy 1:6). Some gifts are gifts of authority or offices (apostles, prophets, evenangelists, pastors and teachers) which are given for the purpose of preparing God’s people “...for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12). Concerning his role as an apostle, Paul says, “the authority the Lord gave me” was “for building you up, not for tearing you down” or “pulling you down” (2 Corinthians 10:7; 13:10). Again, he says, “...everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening (to build you up)” (2 Corinthians 12:19). It is not; however the sole responibility of the leaders to “build up the church.” Every member has this responsibility. The Thessalonians are instructed to “...encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). The Romans are exhorted to “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” and not to destroy the work of God for the sake of food (Romans 14:19-20). When speaking to the church in Corinth, Paul contrasts the gift of speaking in tongues with the gift of prophecy, saying “everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening (edification), encouragement and comfort” (1 Corinthians 14:3), while the one who speaks in tongues only “edifies (builds up) himself” (1 Corinthians 14:4). Paul says, “I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:19).
Love is What Builds Up The Church:
The church of Corinth is exhorted to “try to excel in gifts that build up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12). Paul instructs them to “follow the way of love” (1 Corinthians 14:1), because “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1), and the church “grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16). Each person must “do something useful with his hands” (Ephesians 4:28), while speaking “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Ephesians 4:29).
As we have seen, the church is “built up” when each part “does its work” (Ephesians 4:16), serving “one another in love” (Galatians 5:13). Love is what builds up the body and keeps it “supported and held together” (Colossians 2:19). The goal of this “building up” process is that we might become one: Jesus’ prayer for the church is “that they might be brought to complete (perfect) unity to “let the world know” of God’s love (John 17:23). He says, “...by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35), and “this is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8).
We are Perfected In Truth and Love:
As we love one another, our faith is perfected. Paul says, to the church of Corinth, “...our prayer is for your perfection” (2 Corinthians 13:9). Because of the promises of God in Christ we strive to “purify ourselves, from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God”(2 Corinthians 7:1). Paul not only wanted the church to be “united in love” (Colossians 2:2), but to be “perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Corinthians 1:10), “to be of one mind” and “live in peace” (2 Corinthians 13:11). There are two ways in which God carries out this work of perfection as a process in His church: by truth and by love.
We Have God’s Truth In Us By His Spirit and His Word:
Paul tells the Corinthians to “Aim for perfection!” (2 Corinthians 13:11). In order for us to aim for something we must have a target or a goal. Jesus is our goal. In the book of Hebrews we are told, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus is the beginning and the end of our faith (Revelation 21:6) - He began a good work in us and He will complete it on the last day when He returns (Philippians 1:6). This process of being perfected, being made holy, is the work of “the word of his grace, which can build you up...” (Acts 20:32). It is “the word of God,” Paul tells us, “which is at work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). It is this same Word, we are told, that“...is planted in you,” and can “...bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:20-21).
The Goal of Being Perfected is To Be Filled To Overflowing:
What is the end goal of being “built up,” and “becoming mature [perfect]?” It is so that we can attain “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). To this end we are “nourished in the words of faith” (1 Timothy 4:6). As we learn “the deep truths of the faith” (1 Timothy 3:10), we are strengthened “with power through his Spirit in (our) inner being (spirit)” (Ephesians 3:16), and are “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). Paul tells us it is God’s will for us to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), to “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9). While “increasing in the knowledge of God” we are “strengthened with all power according to His glorious might” (Colossians 1:10-11). Scripture tells us, He is “able to do” (this) “far more abundantly beyond all that we (can) ask or think,” because “his power” “is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).
Paul calls “the church, which is His body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 2:23). God not only wants His Church to be filled, He wants all of His creation to be filled as well. The book of Habakuk says, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakuk 2:14). When Christ ascended he did so in order to fill the whole earth as prophecied by Habakuk. Paul echoes this truth: “He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe” (Ephesians 4:9). As we, the Church, are filled, we overflow - our hope overflows “by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13), our joy overflows (Philippians 1:26), our love “increases and overflows” (1 Thessalonians 3:12). As “the grace of God” overflows from our lives, “and reaches more and more people” (2 Corinthians 4:15), thanksgiving overflows “to the glory of God”. As Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38). In Acts we read, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31). Jesus teaches us this truth in these words: “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). To the Romans, Paul writes, “It is with the mouth we confess” (Romans 10:10), and “offer to God a sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15).
The Word of God Transforms Us From Our Spirit Outward:
It is vital to our faith that we daily find time to be in God’s Word. We must not only read it; we must believe it with all our heart. First, we need to “meditate upon it day and night” (Joshua 1:8), allowing it to penetrate deep into our spirits (Psalm 77:6,11). Next, we need to allow God to use the Word to change our will, by saying, “Yes, Lord, I believe your Word. Teach me your way (Psalm 86:11). Forgive me for my past sins, change my heart (Psalm 51:10), give me a heart to know you (Jeremiah 24:7), heal me and I will be healed” (Jeremiah 17:14). God’s Word not only changes our will, but our minds are also “transformed,” as we continue in the Word (Romans 12:2). Once we are “made new in the attitude of (our) minds” (Ephesians 4:23) and have our “minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5), God will change our emotions as well. We will be filled and overflow with joy and peace and thanksgiving and will “not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:4-9). Finally, the Word of God compels us to action! Because “it is God who is at work in (us),” not only “to will,” but also “to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). Our bodies have become “living sacrifices” to serve Him (Romans 12:1). We want to “find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10) and “put it into practice” (Philippians 4:9; Luke 8:21).
The Word of God Must Take Root In Our Heart:
Paul tells the Colossians, as those who have “received Christ Jesus as Lord,” continue to live in him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught” (Colossians 2:6-7). The Parable the Seed Sower shows us how vital it is that the Word take root in our heart and continue to grow to maturity, and through perseverance, produce a life of godliness. It is not enough, as the Gospel of Luke teaches, to “believe for a while” and then “fall away” (Luke 8:13). We must “hear the word, retain it and by persevering produce a crop” (Luke 8:15). How do we “retain” the Word of God in our hearts? How do we “continue in Him”? How do we guard our hearts? We do it by continuing in “the teaching of Christ,” because whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). We do it by guarding it (this truth), “...the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) “with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (2 Timothy 1:14). We do it by continuing “to walk in the truth” (3 John 3). Jesus says, “If you continue in my word, then you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31).
The word of God is not something that remains external, but rather as John tells us, “...the word of God lives in you” (1 John 2:14). Jesus says, “If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7). Simply to know the word is not enough, we must believe the word before it can enter into our spirit. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You diligently study the Scriptures....yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39). His word does not “dwell in you, because you do not believe the one He sent” (John 5:38). Jesus tells us, “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” (John 15:6). We must, Paul says to the Colossians, “Let the word of God dwell in (us) richly” (Colossians 3:16). The word of God is “implanted” in our spirit, (James 1:21) and “is able to save (our) souls” (James 1:21).
The Word of God Lives In Us By His Spirit Who Lives In Our Spirit:
How does the Word of God live in us? It lives in us by the Holy Spirit who lives in our spirit and “testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16) John tells us that the Holy Spirit was not given during Jesus’ ministry on this earth, because Jesus “had not yet been glorified” (John 7:39). Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus tells His disciples “He lives with you, and will be in you” (John 14:17). The Holy Spirit lived with them, because Jesus lived with them (John 14:18). Then, on the day of Pentecost, after Jesus had ascended to heaven, Peter says this: “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” (Acts 2:33).
Peter recognized the importance of what was happening on that day. Stepping forward in boldness of the Spirit to teach the people, he says, “...let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say” (Acts 2:14). Peter contrasts what the leaders of Israel did with what God did (in Christ’s death and resurrection) and what God was doing (in the ascension and pouring out of His Spirit). He says, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:23). Peter says, it was all known by God beforehand, and part of God’s plan. Next, he quotes King David to show how this (the resurrection, ascension, and pouring out of His Spirit) was promised to David long ago: “God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne” (Acts 2:30). Then Peter makes his most important point. It is this truth that is essential to a correct view of the church and her mission. It is not enough to understand only the substitutionary death of Christ, and the life-giving message of the resurrection; we must also understand the empowering message of the ascension and its meaning for the mission of the Church on earth. Peter says, Christ fulfilled his prophecy to David in the ascension:
For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.” ’
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:34-35). When people saw the signs and wonders which God did on that day they knew Peter was right and “were cut to the heart” (Acts 2).
Our Perfection is a Matter of Truth and Love:
Perfect unity is only reached when we have both good doctrine and genuine love for one another. Peter says, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22). It is only by “speaking the truth in love,” that “we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). When we are grounded in the truth of God’s Word and His love we are and will “no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching” that comes through deceitful men. (Ephesians 4:14). “Having been filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ (our) love abounds still more and more, in real knowledge and all discernment, so that (we are able) to approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-11). Our goal is to be blameless in Christ’s presence on the day He comes again. But remember, this is a work of God, not ourselves. Faith is a journey. It begins with the righteousness that comes by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; it continues as “the love of God” which “He has poured out within our hearts by His Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5) abounds evermore and more as we are “growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10) and filled us with “the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9). Both the love of God and the truth of God are gifts to us. We cannot take credit for anything we do. Finally, our journey ends when we stand blameless before Him in His presence, perfect in faith and “the knowledge of the truth” (Titus 1:1) and perfect in love.
Faith is LIFE! Life Begins in the Spirit:
Jesus says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). He also says, “The Spirit gives life....the words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). Paul tells the Philippians to “shine like stars in the universe” as they “hold out the word of life” (Philippians 2:16). We have this “gracious gift of life” within us, in our spirit, by faith in “the promise of life” (2 Timothy 1:1). It is through faith in this promise that we “take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19). It is through faith in “Christ who is our life” (Colossians 3:4) that we have life, and, as Paul says, this “life is at work within you” (2 Corinthians 4:12). Jesus is “the author of life” (Acts 3:15). “God made (us) alive with Christ” in our baptism (Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:12-13). Paul says, “The Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6; John 6:63). This life begins in our spirit. Even though “(our) body is (now) dead because of sin”, our “spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Romans 8:11). One day the Spirit of God will “give life to our mortal bodies” just as he has now given us life in our spirit. This life flows out of our spirit, transforming us from the inside out. It begins in the spirit, flows out through the soul (our mind, emotions, and will), and then through the body we share this life by serving others in love.
The Spirit of Man:
The spirit can be full of pride and lifted up or it can be humble and contrite. King Hezekiah in the Old Testament, was humbled by illness. As he was close to death, He cried out to the Lord concerning his circumstances. He speaks about his physical health being restored, but he also says, “...my spirit finds life in these things” (Isaiah 38:16). The Lord can use the circumstances in our life to humble us and show us our dependence on Him. It is only when we are humble that we find life. “Moses”, we are told, “was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the earth” (Numbers 12:3). The Lord tells us,“This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). He also says, “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15). The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about the pride of man, and contrasts this with “a man of lowly spirit (who) gains honor” (Proverbs 29:23). It says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud” (Proverbs 16:18-19), and Jesus says this: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
The Now: Our Spirits Are Saved:
Scripture declares that when we come to faith we enter into “heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God” where “thousands and thousands of angels” and “the church of the firstborn” gather in joyful praise to God the Father and Jesus Chist, His Son. The author of Hebrews says, “...you have come...to the spirits of righteous men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:22-24). Through faith in Jesus “(our) spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Romas 8:10). Through Him our spirit is already perfect in Christ, right now, through faith. Our minds, will, and emotions; however, are not perfect yet. They need to “be transformed” (Romans 12:2); to be “made new” (Ephesians 4:23). Although we are “made perfect” ... “by one sacrifice” ... we are also “being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14). Paul says, “...you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9). Notice this is a process. We “are receiving” this, but have not received it yet. We “are receiving” a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:25), but we have not fully entered into the kingdom with perfect spirits, souls, and bodies. We have only entered it spiritually; that is, with our spirit. Although we are “seated with Him in the heavenly realms”; we have not yet received “the crown of glory” that our Lord will give us when He appears (1 Peter 5:4). Even though we now “reign in life” through faith, we have not yet begun “to reign with Him” on the earth (Revelation 5:10; 2 Timothy 2:12). Although we are already “saved” through faith (Titus 3:5; 2 Timtohty 1:9), we are also “being saved” (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 2:15). One day, when Christ returns, we “will be saved” (Matthew 24:13; Philippians 1:28; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
The Now and The Not Yet: Our Souls Are Being Saved:
The question is this: How are we “being perfected” and “being saved.” Peter tells us, as mentioned above,“(we) are receiving the salvation of our souls” (1 Peter 1:9).
The “salvation of our souls” is a process that is only complete when Christ returns. Paul tells us, “...He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion (perfection) until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). This is a process that originates with God and is completed by God. It is a process that God, by His Spirit and His Word,“works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). There are two ways in which we are being “made perfect”: the first is knowledge of the truth and the second is love. Let us take a closer look at how God perfects us in “knowlege of the truth” and “the love of God.”
Growing By Knowing The Truth:
Jesus says, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). It is through “knowledge of the truth” that we are saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:10,13). Once we are saved, that is not the end. It is only the beginning. Paul says, as we are continually filled “with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom andunderstanding,” and are “growing in the knowledge of God,” we are “strengthened with all power” so that we will “have great endurance and patience” as well as joy (Colossians 1:9-14). It is “the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness” (Titus 1:1). It is “the knowledge of the truth” that enables us to “walk in the truth” (3 John 3). Paul encourages us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). The Psalmist tells us, “You desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place” (Psalm 51:6). When the truth “lives in us” (2 John 2) we are able to “live by the truth” (1 John 1:6). “The Spirit of truth” lives in us, as Jesus promised (John 14:17), and now we are being “continually filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). As we are filled, we “overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). This is how God perfects us, by living in us, filling us, and overflowing.
God Fills Us With His Love So We Can Obey Him:
The Lord not only fills us “with the knowledge of His will” and with “the knowledge of the truth,” He also fills us with His love. Paul says, God has “poured out His love into our hearts by His Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). This is not only love for God, it is love for others. Jesus was once asked, “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment...?’ and he replied, ‘Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’” (Matthew 22:34-36). Paul tells us, “...the entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14). He also says, “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). John tells that love for one’s neighbor is really love for God. He says, “If anyone says,’I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). “God is love,” he says, “whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). These verses show that it is only because God lives in us that we are able to love God or our neighbor.
Love Is A Sign of Life:
The ability to love is not inborn; it is not a part of our nature. We must be born again, and even after we are born again, the old nature remains. It is only because we have been given life by God that we are able to love. John says, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death” (1 John 3:14). Love is a sign of life. The life of God, God in us, enables us to do what is impossible. Jesus told his disciples, “...with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). He can produce life in a barren womb (Luke 1:36-37) and he can produce love in a heart that was once dead. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). In love, He laid down His life for us. His life now lives in us, so that we can love others. His life is the power of God that enables us to do the impossible.
He is perfecting His love in us now. Paul tells us that we are to “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2). This verse not only highlights Christ’s love for us, but also His love for the Father. Love for God and love for others are connected. They cannot be separated. Faith in God and love for others are also connected. As our faith grows, our love increases. Paul praises God for the Thessalonians, because he says, “...your faith is growing more and more,” and “the love every one of you has for each other is increasing” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). If, as Scripture declares,“faith expresses itself in love” (Galatians 5:6), then it makes sense that as our faith increases, our love for others will also increase. Conversely, “...the increase of wickedness” will cause “the love of most” to “grow cold”(Matthew 24:12). We are told by Paul, “Love does not delight in wickedness, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). As we rejoice in the truth, faith and love increase. Paul tells the Colossians that both “faith and love...spring from the hope...which you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel” (Colossians 1:5). Our faith is rooted in “...the word of truth, the gospel of (our) salvation” (Ephesians 1:13) and it is “expressed by love” (Galatians 5:6). As our faith grows, our roots grow deeper and our fruit increases. This shows faith is not simply a belief, it is a life given to us by God. Faith is a living thing, “...the gift of life” (1 Peter 3:7) and that life, which we have received, produces love. As “we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made compete [perfect] in us” (1 John 4:12).
Fear Is The Opposite of Love:
We are told by John, “There is no fear in love...perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (John 4:18). As those who trust in Christ we no longer need to fear the wrath of God. Isaiah tells us: He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). When “He bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24), He became our sin offering (Romans 8:3). Paul tells us, “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). We longer need to fear His punishment, because Jesus “rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
We Do Not Fear Man. Rather, The Fear of God Causes us to Love Others:
Although God’s love in us “drives out fear,” this does not mean we do not have a “reverent fear” of God that influences how we “live (our) lives,” (1 Peter 1:17). Because we love God, we fear Him, and keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 10:12). Paul tells us, “...we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” In light of this he says,“Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:10,11). We recognize, that but for the grace of God we, like the world, would stand condemned and suffer God’s wrath. Our motivation does not come from a fear of punishment, but from love and gratitude to Jesus who “saved (us) from God’s wrath” ... “by His blood” (Romans 5:9).
Holy Fear Causes Us to Live Holy Lives In the Face of Judgment:
The author of Hebrews, explains how faith motivates the one who trusts in God. He says, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family” (Hebrews 11:7). Noah knew what was coming on the world. He knew that, although he was a sinner who deserved the same punishment, he was chosen by God to be saved. Peter expresses the same reverent fear this way:
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the Parousia of the day of God. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:11).
As Christians, we are aware of what is coming at the end of this present age. We are also aware that by the mercy of God, we, who fully deserve to suffer God’s wrath, have instead been forgiven. It is by God’s grace, that we will able to stand in God’s presence. He has perfected us in our spirit, He is perfecting us in our soul, and He will perfect our body. This may sound like we are afraid of not measuring up, but it is far from it. The only thing that we need to be concerned about is that we remain in God’s Word and His words remain in us. If we do, God will do ALL the work. Like a young child wanting to please its parents, we too want to please Him. So, we remain close to His side and do what pleases Him. When we fail, which we will often do, we ask for forgiveness. But rahther than focusing on ourselves, we keep our eyes upon Him. It’s not about performance, because we know that we are never good enough for Him. Instead, it is about our love for Him, because we want to be like Him. We are angry that we have these sinful desires (our old man), which continually seems to trip us up and keep us from our goal, but we are confident that “He is able to do far more than we could possibly ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work in us” (Ephesians 3;20). God is able to do what we cannot! He is able to perfect us through and through, and He will, so that we can stand before Him, pure and blameless, in His presence. The key is to kneel before Him now, and plead for His mercy now, BEFORE we are forced to kneel before Him later. In Christ, we have a river of living water coming from the throne of God (Revelation 22:1), but for those who do not know God, this same river will be a river of fire, flowing and coming out before Him (Daniel 7:10), which consumes the enemies of God and purifies His children who trust in Him and have bowed the knee before Him.
The Fear of God Is The Beginning Of Wisdom:
Fear of God is a complex mixture of love, peace, joy, and grattitude, as well as an attitude of humility and self-abasement before our Great God and King (Psalm 47). It is a recognition of who God is, and who we are in light of His awesome holiness. It is an understanding that if God were to remove His protection from us, we would be destroyed. Isaiah, when he realized he was standing in God’s holy presence, proclaimed “Woe to me!...“I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5). Daniel too, when he had a similar vision, became paralyzed with fear, speechless, and could hardly breathe (Daniel 10:1-20). These prophets of God understood that they did not deserve His love; it was only because of His mercy that they were able to stand in his presece. By faith we also know it is “not because of righteous things that we have done” (Titus 3:5), but rather, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...” and we now “...await the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3,5). This occured “even when we were dead in our sins” (Ephesians 2:5). Like the tax collector in Jesus’ parable we must say, “‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’”... “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13-14)
The one who fears God also loves “his neighbor” as himself (James 2:8; Galatians 5:14; Romans 13:9). Christians ought not “take advantage of each other” (Leviticus 25:17; Deuteronomy 24:14; Exodus 22:22; 1 Thessalonians 4:6), but rather, in fear of God, they are to consider “the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4, 20) and minister to others “according to their needs” (Ephesians 4:29), pleasing “his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (Romans 15:2). John tells us, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him” (1 John 3:17)? He goes on to say, “...anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). Since “God has poured out His love into our hearts by His Holy Spirit, (Romans 5:5) we are filled and overflow with love for others (1 Thessalonians 3:12). True faith is both “accompanied by” (James 1:17; Hebrews 6:9) and “made perfect by” actions of love (James 2:22), which are motivated by God and come from God.
Fear of God Is The Opposite of Fear of Man:
The fear and love of God are also contrasted with the fear of man. Jesus tells us this: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28). Faith is the realization that apart from Christ, we would certainly perish in the flames of hell (John 3:16). The Lord tells us to fear Him, not man. Isaiah asks, “Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass” (Isaiah 51:12). The Lord speaking through him says, “Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults. For the moth will eat them up like a garment; the worm will devour them like wool (Isaiah 51:7-8). Christians know what awaits those who reject God. The writer of Psalm 37 says, “A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace” (Psalm 37:10-11). In Proverbs we read, “For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it” (Proverbs 2:21). Jesus gives us a parable to illustrate what will happen at the end of this world. “At that time,” he says, “I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn” (Matthew 13:30). The harvesters are the angels. Jesus says, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. The angels who harvest the wheat, take the weeds and “throw them into the fiery furnace. Then the righteous (who are left) will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matthew 13:42-43).
Since our Lord has told us what will happen at the end of this age we are not afraid. We know we will “shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father.” Therefore, we fear God, not man. Like the apostles in the early church, we know “we must obey God, rather than men” (Acts 5:29). These early believers were even willing to suffer at the hands of men, rather than disobey God. Peter tells us “...if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” Then he adds, “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened” (1 Peter 3:13).
Fear of God Gives Us Bolness to Speak the Truth in Love:
Fear of God and love for man also give us boldness. In Acts 4, the church of God “was filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31) despite the threats of those opposed to the Lord they said, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Paul says, “...since we have such a hope, we are very bold” (2 Corinthians 3:12) “We do not loose heart”....On the contrary, we set forth the truth plainly” (2 Corinthians 4:1-2). The church needs this boldness to proclaim the gospel. But she must ASK FOR IT if she is to receive it.
Love is not only expressed by what we say, but also by what we do.
The body of Christ “grows” when it “speaks the truth in love” and “builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16). When faith increases, love increases.
The most important thing we can do as God’s representatives is to “...speak the truth to each other” (Zechariah 8:14). We are told, “Love does not delight in wickedness, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).
The Law of God Defines God’s Will For Us:
Fear of God is learned by listening to the law of God and learning what His will is for our lives (Deuteronomy 31:12). Then, asking Him to do what we cannot. It begins with a humble admission that we cannot do the righteous things which He desires. It asks for mercy because we do not deserve His help. It asks for grace, because we want to do the will of God, but we cannot.
Paul also tells us,“...love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the Law” (Romans 13:9). Our sinful nature wants to lash out at those who hurt us, but our new nature wants to please God. Therefore, we ask for Him to pour out His love into our hearts (Romans 5:5), so that He can love others through us. By ourselves we can do nothing, but with Christ in us, nothing is impossible.
The Eschatological Implications of Sanctification:
It summary, it is important to recognize the escahtalogical implications of sanctification. We are called to be holy, because we are not fully sanctified yet – spirit, soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). We are not perfect yet, so we fix our eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith. Is there anyone who believes their faith is already perfect? Is there anyone (besides John Wesley and some Methodists) who believe their love is perfect? I hope not. Mature, yes. But not perfect. Perfection means to be like God. To some extent, we are like Him in this world. But this is a far cry from saying that we are like Him in His holiness. This is something for which every christian should strive with all the grace and strength that God provides. And yet, it has NOTHING to do with salvation. It is only out of love for God that we do this. Our reward is based upon it, but our salvation is not.
So, if our salvation is not dependent upon our sanctification, why is this thing we call sanctification important? Because it is “the will of God” and anyone who disregards this instruction is resisting God’s Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8). But knowing something and doing it are two different things. We must first realize that we cannot do what God demands. Until then, we will only be striving in the flesh (Galatians 3:3). The beauty of sanctification is that we don’t have to DO anything. We just CHOOSE to do the will of God, but even that is not our doing. God gives us THE DESIRE to do His will and THE ABILITY to do it (Philippians 2:13). As we REMAIN in Him, and He REMAINS in us, we are tranformed. We are given new desires and new motivations. We are being made into His image as our soul (our mind, will and emotions) are being sanctified and changed.
The World is Passing Away, But the Word Remains:
We know that “the world is passing away along with its desires” (1 John 2:15-17). As we can also see, this world has not passed away. It still exists. The desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life still remain. Therefore, John tells us, “see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life” (1 John 2:24). Those who deny the existence of this world and its desires, do not understand either this world or the kingdom of God. The author of Hebrews says, “you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36). Are we finished doing the will of God? Are we already perfect? Have we received what was promised? No! If we had received that promise, the wicked would have already been destroyed and they would have been taken from the earth (Psalm 37:10-11). Also, our souls, would have already been saved (perfected), but they are not. We still struggle with sin because the sinful desires of the flesh remain.
Our Hope Lies In The Future:
Hebrews 11:1-3 says: “Now faith is the confidence (ὑπόστασις hupostasis GK G5712) in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” The author of Hebrews knows that the reality that lies behind the creation is more real than the creation itself. The reality is in heaven. Again, in Hebrews we read: “We have this (our hope) as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20). But why do we need an anchor if our hope is realized? Why do we need an anchor for our souls if our souls are already saved? Jesus is our High Priest. He is still carrying on the work of His heavenly ministry. He is still interceedig for us and sanctifying us by His blood (1 Thessalonians 4:1-5; 5:23). His blood still purifies us (present tense) from all sin (1 John 1:7) Yes, our cocnscience (that is, our spirit) is clean (Hebrews 9:14; 10:22; 1 Peter 3:21), but we must still confess our sins so and strive for holiness, keeping our conscience clear (1 Peter 3:16). The law must still do its work, then we can confess our sins and the blood of Jesus will clean us from all unrighteousness (in our soul).
The Living Word of God – The Foundation Our Hope:
Hebrews calls our faith a “confidence in what we hope for.” In fact, our hope is a sure foundation (ὑπόστασις hupostasis GK G5712) for our faith! This is the meaning of what Peter’s words, when he says, “by God’s Word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water” (2 Peter 3:5). Jesus is that reality whch lies beyond the creation! He is the Word of God. Paul tells us, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn (πρωτοτόκος prōtotokos firstborn G4416) of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17). In other words, as Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:34). Isaiah also says, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8). Peter quotes this very passage of Isaiah when he says, “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). So, in one sense our salvation is complete. But He also says, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2). Like a seed or a baby, our salvation must grow into maturity (perfection). The spiritual temple is still being built (1 Peter 2:4-6) and we are still receiving the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:9). As long as we remain in Christ and His words remain in us (John 15:7) we will be saved, because the Word of God lasts forever. But if anyone does not remain, “he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:6).