“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,”
If there is an earthly calling of Israel, then there is a heavenly calling of the believer and the Body of Christ. Through Christ we have been made partakers of this specific calling, presently by title and spiritual position in Him. At a certain point in the future it will be physically made so by the sovereign work and power of God. As the believer goes through the scriptural references in this chapter, we learn to turn our eyes and attention elsewhere, to the heavens. We are simply strangers on this earth. What we will see is who we are, what we are, and what we have in Jesus Christ. God does not have us as strangers to the earth now, just to make us dwellers on the earth later on. No, our eyes should be lifted up from the earth, because in every Biblical sense, our life is not to be found here.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
The Believer’s Life is Christ, and He is Hidden Now, at the Right Hand of God
The believer is supposed to be seeking those things above and setting his mind on such things. If we were to give a quiz to Christians as to exactly what these things above are, most would be hard pressed to list anything. How can we set our minds on them then? One of the things we can see from this passage is that the believer’s entire life is there because the Son of Man is sitting at the right hand of God. Christ is hidden in God there. Our life is Christ. Paul said, it is not I who live, but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20, Col. 3:4). Our life presently is hidden in God, because Christ is presently hidden. Why hidden? It is the opposite of the next verse.
“When the Christ is manifested who is our life, then will you also be manifested with him in glory.”
It states when Christ appears (and this manifestation is to the world, because the hiding in God is in relation to the world and this earth) we are manifested with Him in the glory (Rom. 8:18-19 parallels these thoughts). Our life is hidden now as out of the world as Christ is apart from this world. We can understand then that we should act and live and walk on this earth accordingly, as apart from it. Our life is not connected to this world. Therefore, in every possible way, we should not involve ourselves in the things of the world or the cares of this life down here.
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling.”
Our calling is not connected with this world. Believers should always endeavor to have a walk worthy of our heavenly calling. If we had an earthly calling our attention would be to this world and earth, to the cares of this world, and the cares of life here. But our life is above and our calling heavenly.
The Believer’s Position before God is the same as the Glorified Son of Man
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ.”
Biblical truths concerning the individual believer is the attention of the Spirit in the first half of the first chapter of Ephesians. The believer is shown to be in the counsels of God in Christ from before the world began. Verse 3 is another ‘in Christ’ reality and truth concerning us. Our loving heavenly Father has blessed the Christian with everything He knows we may ever need in the heavens. We are blessed as Christ is blessed in the heavens.
“…to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”
This verse shows us again the basis of all this incredible favor and blessing. It is the display of the glory of the Father’s grace by which He has enabled us as completely acceptable to Him, as in Christ who is His Beloved. We are beloved of the Father as Christ is beloved. We are loved by the Father with the same love the Father has for Him (John 17:23). We are seen by the Father as He sees Christ. It doesn’t get any better than this.
The Body of Christ in the Heavens
“…and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
These verses are truly marvelous. We have Christ raised out of death as the Son of Man. We have Christ then exalted far above all things as the glorified Man, even to the right hand in the heavens. Yet this portion of Scripture starts as God’s grace towards us, believers, in resurrection power. The passage ends with Christ’s body, the church, exalted in Him far above all principalities and powers. At the end the church is the fullness of Him, while He fills all in all. Again, this is at the Father’s right hand in heavenly places.
“…and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Seated in Christ in the heavens is at the Father’s right hand. It is the establishing in Christ, by the redemptive work of the second Adam and the Father’s consequent glorifying of Him, the believer/Body of Christ in the heavenly calling. The believer is seated in the heavens, as far as the mind of God and His counsels toward us, in all spiritual truth and position. But it is verse 7 where we begin to catch sight of the depth of truth and glory that we share in Christ. The Father has in store for us exceeding riches of His grace. When? It is throughout the ages to come. How? It is by His loving kindness for us in Christ. Christ has been glorified by the Father, this is true. He in turn, shares His glory with us (John 17:22). The truth of the heavenly calling is further established in Philippians;
“I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.”
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The teaching here by the Spirit should be unmistakable. The heavenly call of the believer is described as the upward call of God, again in Christ Jesus. And a definite understanding is given, that we have a citizenship in heaven, making the believer on the earth a stranger, a pilgrim, and an ambassador. The citizenship does not change for all eternity. It would be a mistake if the believer had the idea that their dwelling and abode is somewhere on the earth. We are not among the Gentile nations who will present themselves once a year to worship the Son of Man who sits on His throne of glory in Jerusalem. We are not placed under His dominion and rule on the earth. (Certainly this is in prophecy concerning the Son of Man’s millennial kingdom over the earth, but the believer has been placed in Christ, in a position where he is no longer Jew or Gentile, and so, no longer of this world.)
The Believer’s Relationship with the Father is as a Son
Allow me to explain some distinctions I see concerning the believer’s heavenly calling and the character of our relationship with the Father and with Jesus Christ. As we have previously discussed, this relationship with the Father is as many sons in glory (Rom. 8:16-17, Gal. 4:5), and that as having been sealed with the Spirit of adoption of sonship (Rom. 8:15). It is by the presence of the Spirit in the believer and this established eternal relationship with the Father (Gal. 4:6), whereby we cry, “Abba, Father.” It is the Father who gave this seal of the Spirit as asked by Jesus (John 14:16), and so, the sealing becomes our guarantee of glory, inheritance, and all heavenly blessing.
1 Pet. 1:3-4
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,”
We are heirs of God as sons of the Father (Rom. 8:17). It is the Father who gives the inheritance to His sons. Our inheritance is reserved in heaven. We are not heirs of Christ, but rather co-heirs with Him. The Son of Man Himself is an heir of the Father. And all this makes Christ our brother, the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29).
The Work of the Son of Man prepares a Place in the Heavens for the Believer
Also we know Christ went away to prepare a place for us in the Father’s house (John 14:1-3). Where He went, we know. He went back to the Father, back into the heavens, to the right hand of the throne of God. The place He prepared for us is in the heavens. The preparations were all complete when the blood was brought into the holy place, and Jesus sat down as the glorified Man at the right hand of God. All the necessary work for bringing many others into the presence of God, to live there in the house of the Father as sons, is completely finished.
For a certainty, Jesus was speaking of going away into the heavens. He did not go away to somewhere in Jerusalem or anywhere else on this earth. The Father’s house is in the heavens. We are sons in the Father’s house (here we are speaking of individual believers, not corporately of the church), as Christ is a Son of the Father as well. This, I believe, is very clear from what the Lord says after His resurrection;
“Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’”
He places the believer in the same position and relationship that He is in with His Father and God. He says this consequent to His being raised from the dead by the Father. For believers it is the same. We were crucified with Christ and we died with Him (Gal. 2:20, Col. 3:3, Rom. 6:3, 5). Then the Father, with the same exceeding greatness of power towards us who believe (Eph. 1:19), raises us up with Him from the dead (Eph. 2:1, 5-6, Rom. 6:4-5). In Christ, the Father exalts us as Christ’s body far above all principality and power (Eph. 1:20-23). He seats us in Christ, at His right hand (Eph. 2:6). What we may notice from the above verse is that only after His resurrection, for the first time, He calls the disciples His brethren. In the Son of Man title and by the redemptive work of the second Adam, we are associated with Christ as brothers.
Adam and Eve – Christ, the Son of Man, and His Bride
Let us look at another relationship we have in Scripture through the work of the Son of Man that we will find has a distinct character as well — the Bride of Christ. As we have previously discussed, the first Adam and his wife, Eve, are types of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32). This type prefiguring the greater reality of Christ and the church is valid only as seen before sin entered into the world. As a type (Rom. 5:14), Adam was to rule over God’s creation. Eve was made from Adam and not part of the original creation. She was to rule with him as his help-meet. She was to be his companion in the government and inheritance of all things, all the works of God’s hand. When we consider Christ as the second Adam, then His bride, the church, is the antitype of Eve (Eph. 5:25-32). The church will be the Son of Man’s help-meet in His rule, dominion, and kingdom over the entire earth. We must also see we are co-heirs with Him in the inheritance of all things. This will be the character and role of the church as the Bride of Christ, and it also speaks to believers as being made kings and priests in Christ.[When we study the book of Revelation and begin to understand the prophetic symbols used there, we see twenty-four elders on endowed thrones of authority in chapter four. This is the Body of Christ as made kings. In chapter five these same twenty-four elders are depicted as priests. This is the Body of Christ as made priests. It is the positioning of the church and the giving of the title of these things (Rev. 1:6). It is not the church functioning in the ministry of these roles yet, which is reserved for the millennial kingdom of the Son of Man. Yet these two chapters show certain realities concerning the heavenly calling. When chapter four begins, the church is seen in the heavens, and associated with the throne of God’s government. The church is no longer on the earth.]
The First and Second Adams
In the chapter on types and shadows we discussed how these things are based on similarities. A shadow is shaped similar to the object that is casting it. A shadow has a measure of reality, but nothing at all like the substance of the object itself. This makes a distinction that is important to see and understand. Christ, as the second Adam, is distinct from the first.
1 Corinthians 15:45-47
“And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is from heaven.”
When Paul says, “…the spiritual is not first, but the natural,” one point being made is that all types and shadows precede and prefigure the greater reality and substance. In verse 45 we have the first distinction made. The first man is a living being, while the second man is a life-giving spirit. The first Adam, as a living being, soon fell into sin and ruin. By contrast, in the last Adam is eternal life. But the specific point I make, and that related to the heavenly calling, is the second distinction made in verse 47. The first Adam was of the earth. The second Man is from heaven. The reach and scope of the title and influence of the second Man far outweighs that of the first.
The Son of Man and the Inheritance of All Things
All things will be gathered into Christ, the second Adam. He will have the Headship of all things (Col. 1:17-18), both in heaven and on earth (Eph. 1:10). This includes everything – all of creation, things visible and invisible (Col. 1:16). This is His inheritance. The basis and means of Christ receiving and possessing the inheritance is revealed to us in Scripture as well:
1.) He has a right to inherit as the Creator (John 1:1-3, Col. 1:15-17)
2.) As the true Son of God, He is appointed heir of all things (Heb. 1:2)
3.) As the raised and glorified Son of Man (Ps. 8:4-6, Heb. 2:6-9, Eph. 1:22, I Cor. 15:25-27)
In the first point above, Christ as Creator speaks of His divinity. He created everything, visible or invisible. His divinity is unchanging, and in this we have no part or sharing. Peter does tell us that in Christ we have been made partakers of the divine nature (II Pet. 1:2-4). This however is the Spirit within and pertains to the new life we have. It is the life of God and godliness, and the new creation we are – it does not refer to His divine attributes. It is by a divine nature we can have a relationship with God, enjoy God, and be in His presence.
In the second point above Jesus is the Son of God. We share in this, but only in a certain understanding. We do not share in His divinity ever. But believers are made sons of God through faith in Christ (Gal. 3:26). We are enabled to share in the same relationship He has with the Father – as adopted sons of God, having the Spirit of adoption. Therefore He says, “…go to My brethren and say to them…” We can clearly see that this new position we have been given in Christ was by the Son of God as the Son of Man. We received the adoption of sonship through His death.
In this book we concentrate on the title, role, and character of Christ as the Son of Man, the second Adam. Christ, in this role, accomplishes the work of redemption, and then is Man raised and glorified in His present position. He is the Son of Man, at the very least, through the end of the millennium. He is Jesus Christ, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God…coming in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:6). How God accomplished this is never explained in any detail in Scripture. But what we clearly see in the revelation of Scripture is the title, role, and character of Christ as the Son of Man, and the truths the Spirit of God associates with it.
It is as the glorified Man that He will take the inheritance (the third point above). As the Creator, it is His right to possess. As the Son, it is appointed to Him by the Father. It is only as having reconciled it all through His death as the Son of Man, that He will take the inheritance of all things (Col.1:20). It is only through the death of the Son of Man that many brethren will share as co-heirs with Him of the inheritance given (Col. 1:21-22). This is an important understanding – He redeems the inheritance of all things as a Man in order that the church, His body redeemed by His blood, will share as co-heir of all things with Him.
The understanding of the title of Son of Man in the counsels of God is of great importance. But to be clear so that there are no misunderstandings, in Christ the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, and He is the image of the invisible God (Col.1:15, 19). The divinity of Christ remains intact.
The two Headships of Christ, the Son of Man
When Scripture speaks of Christ receiving an inheritance, it is not the same as His Headships. Christ is Head over all creation as well as the church (Col. 1:15, 18). But just as Eve in type was not part of the original creation to be ruled over by Adam, so also the church is not part of Christ’s inheritance to be ruled over. No, we will be co-heirs with Him (Rom. 8:17) of the inheritance given by the Father. His Bride is His companion in His kingdom and government over all creation during the millennial age to come.
Now do not be tempted to think that we will be residents of this earth when ruling with the Son of Man over it. Allow me to remind you of the lesson God taught to man when He first set up the Gentiles to rule the earth.
The Heavens rule the Earth
“And whereas it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree; thy kingdom shall remain unto thee, after that thou shalt know that the heavens do rule.”
The heavens rule the affairs of this earth. This is readily seen in the book of Daniel with God’s use of angelic administrations in the heavens and their influence over the kingdoms of men. But God’s judgment of Nebuchadnezzar – seven years he lives as a beast – teaches the lesson that the heavens rule the earth. This is obviously quite symbolic when you consider the beast symbols used in the prophetic language depicting the four Gentile world empires in Daniel (Dan. 7).
When the glory and presence of God was in the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple, God ruled the earth from the midst of Israel. The heavens ruling the earth would not have been true at this time. It was only when God’s presence left Israel, and the Jews were no longer acknowledged by God, that angelic administrations were established – principalities and powers in heavenly places.
The heavenly Man came down to give His life (I Cor. 15:47-49). Being raised up by God, the Son of Man returns to heaven. This serves to establish the beginnings of the kingdom of heaven, which is only spoken of in Matthew’s gospel. The King of this kingdom is away in heaven. The reality of the kingdom of heaven would involve the rule and authority of this kingdom from the heavens. All power and authority in heaven and on earth was given to the Son of Man when He was resurrected (Luke 24:7, Matt. 28:18). Jesus sits at the right hand of the Power on High as ‘hidden’ in God (Col. 3:1-3, Rev. 12:5). It should be obvious that in this present age of the gospel He does not take up His power and reign – otherwise events on the earth would not be as they are with the ripening of evil. The Scriptures speak of Him waiting until the time God makes His enemies His footstool (Heb. 10:12-13, Ps. 110:1). It is not the kingdom and power at this time (Rev. 11:15-17, 12:10), but rather the kingdom and patience (Rev. 1:9). Without a detailed explanation, believers must know their association with the glorified Son of Man who sits at this time at the right hand of the Power on High.
Presently, on the earth, the true church wrestles and struggles against principalities and powers in the heavens (Eph. 6:12). There may be multiple reasons for this. The body of Christ has already been exalted in Christ far above all principality and power and might and dominion (Eph. 1:19-23) – however, we do not exercise this authority as yet. Why? Well, if Jesus is sitting and waiting then we are waiting with Him. If Jesus is not exercising His power as yet as King then we are not as well. Everything we have from God is connected to Jesus Christ – what we have as associated with Him and in Him. We are still on this earth and in these bodies of flesh, and do not have the fullness or end of our redemption. We are not yet conformed into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). When this event occurs, we will have glorified bodies, and the church will be taken from the earth into the heavens as the body of the glorified Son of Man. Shortly thereafter, as a consequence of the church positioned in the heavens, Satan and his forces will be cast out and down to the earth (Rev. 12).
Back in the time of Daniel, as it is now, there are principalities and powers. In the age to come (the millennium) the angels, good or bad, will have been replaced by the true church (Heb. 2:5-11). If you carefully look at this chapter in Hebrews 2 you will see that the world to come is in subjection to man. However it is not just any man, but the glorified Son of Man and the many sons together as His body and bride. The Son of Man will rule from His throne in Jerusalem and His body, the church, from its position in the heavens. It will still remain that the affairs of the earth will be ruled by the heavens.
This relationship of the church and the angels now in heavenly places is subtly hinted at in Ephesians. There are three separate times principalities and powers are mentioned in this epistle, and each time it is in relation to the church. The church is raised and exalted in Christ by the Father, far above all principality and power and might and dominion (Eph. 1:21-23). We know that at this present time and in this present age, while the church is still on the earth, we wrestle not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12). And finally, in the eternal counsels of God, He shows forth His abundant wisdom in and by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavens (Eph.3:10). How is this done? God’s eternal purpose is His own glory, of which Christ is the centerpiece (Eph. 1:9-10, 3:11). The church is His Body and we are in Christ. We are seen by the Father as Christ (Heb. 2:11) and loved by the Father with the very same love (John 17:23). When the Spirit speaks of the Father exalting Christ – the Body, the church, is found there at the right hand of God (Eph. 1:19-23). This is the positioning of the church by the Father, and His manifold wisdom now made known; these are things into which angels desire to look (I Pet. 1:12).
The Character of Bible Prophecy
Prophecy involves God’s dealings with Israel and God’s governmental dealings with the earth. This is the major theme of all of prophecy. As long as God does not acknowledge Israel as His people, and until He takes them up again in the end, Israel remains set aside and desolate. With Israel set aside, then prophecy is set aside. If prophecy is set aside, then the earth is not being dealt with. The final thought that completes this sequence is that time stands still, as we can easily see in Daniel’s 70 week prophecy (Dan. 9:24-27). Time is not counted in heaven, or with heavenly things like the church, but is associated with Israel and the earth in prophecy.
The Mystery of Christ – Hidden from Prophecy
What God is currently doing is not found in prophecy. It is hidden from the prophets of old and all their writings. It is not related to His government of the earth, and has nothing to do with Israel as a people and nation. What God is doing now through grace and the redemptive work of the Son of Man is His mystery. It is that which He purposely kept hidden. Further He does not reveal His mystery until after the Son of Man was glorified, and the Holy Spirit was sent.
“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.
To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ, to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,”
There are numerous truths and important understandings found in these eleven verses; important in seeing clearly and comprehending by the Spirit. These I attempt to bring out in the list below and then add more scriptural support.
1.) The mystery was God’s and He kept it hidden and unrevealed from (before) the foundations of the world – which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men…which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God… Note: The mystery was hidden in God, and the prophets of old would have no possibility of discovering it, or be able to speak concerning it.
2.) Although hidden in God, the mystery existed in God’s counsels and plans before He created the world – according to the eternal purpose…
3.) The mystery was kept hidden by God until the work of redemption was finished. After the Son of Man was glorified and sat down, the Holy Spirit was sent to bring forth this revelation of the mystery – as it has now been revealed by the Spirit…to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known…
4.) The mystery was specifically given to Paul to reveal by the Spirit, as a personal stewardship of the grace of God, a dispensation of the mystery of Christ – For this reason, I, Paul,…if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery…my knowledge in the mystery of Christ…of which I became a minister…to me…this grace was given…and to make all people see what is the fellowship (dispensation) of the mystery…
5.) This mystery of God’s is now revealed by the Spirit with the purpose of being understood and comprehended by the believer, and not to remain hidden any longer – by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery…to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery…
The Mystery of Christ Given Specifically to Paul to Reveal
It is not just in Ephesians that Paul speaks of the mystery; it is found in passages elsewhere and confirms the above points made.
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began…”
“…which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,”
“…of which I became a minister according to the stewardship (dispensation) from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
“…that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
The Mystery of Christ – God forms the Body of the Glorified Man
What is this mystery God kept hidden but now reveals by the Spirit? It is the Body of Christ (Eph. 2:11-22). The passage from Ephesians 3 concerning the mystery follows the explanation of the Body of Christ in Ephesians 2, and starts with Paul saying, “For this reason…” (Eph. 3:1) Think about it. We now know through this revelation to Paul the reality of the idea that God would form, through redemption, a mystical body that would be gathered and joined to the Son of Man raised and exalted into glory. Many members are made one through faith by one Spirit into one body, with Christ as its Head. This is simply unthinkable for man and foreign to Jewish thought. Yet this is the bulk of the mystery that God held hidden for ages.
Christ dwelling in the individual believer is part of the mystery as well, ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’ He is in us, and we are in Him (John 14:20). Christ in us is our life. For the believer to live is Christ. We have no life on our own any longer. The life the believer had in Adam was put to death on the cross. The old man, that life in Adam, was crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6). The only life the believer has is the resurrected Christ (Rom. 6:5, 8). All these redemptive truths are part of the mystery of Christ.
Also the steadfast certainty of the believer’s hopes in Christ’s glory, and our sharing in that glory, would be part of the mystery. Finally, what also seems hidden from prophecy is the Priesthood of Christ (not referring to the order of His Priesthood, but the ministry and function of it presently).
When the believer looks for the doctrine and teaching concerning the Body of Christ in Scripture, it can only be found in Paul’s writings. This reinforces the idea that the revelation of the mystery of Christ was specifically given to Paul to reveal by the Spirit. The other New Testament writers never broach the subject. Peter only makes an allusion to the assembly as a spiritual house (I Pet. 2:4-5). At best there are vague references to assemblies in various cities and localities. But it is never one Body, one Spirit, one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism. It is never gifts given by Christ to the Body for its growth and edification, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:4-16).
What does the mystery have to do with the heavenly calling? The Body of Christ and the individual believer are those of the heavenly calling. But beyond this, during God’s dealings with the mystery and the Spirit sent down from heaven, prophecy is suspended. Israel and the earth are set aside, and time is not counted. The mystery is all about heavenly things. So much so, that as far as prophecy goes and the times of the Gentiles, even the fourth beast has disappeared from the landscape of the prophetic earth.
The Biblical Differences between Judaism and Christianity
The differences between Christianity and Judaism are profound, especially seen in the discourse with the woman at the well (John 4). Christianity is worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24), and a walk of faith (II Cor. 5:7). Judaism is worship in the flesh (Heb. 9:9-10) and a walk by sight. It was given to a people in the flesh and of the world, and ministered to their flesh and their senses. As true believers, we worship what we do not see in the flesh (Rom. 8:24). We worship in the Spirit. Christianity is of the heavens while Judaism is all on this earth with a temple in Jerusalem or a mountain top in Samaria (John 4:20-21). Those of Judaism are still looking for a Christ to come in the flesh. Christians know Christ no longer after the flesh. We know Him as the Son of Man gone up into the glory, into the heavens (II Cor. 5:16).
God does not come to live on the earth until at least an external redemption is accomplished with Israel. Christians, through the blood of Christ and faith in His blood, are the fulfillment of the Red Sea event of Israel in type. Christianity, by the redemptive work of the Son of Man, then comes in as God’s religion of the heavens. These are believers who have the circumcision of the Spirit, who received the seal of the Spirit, who worship God in the Spirit, and this not in the flesh at all. Believers are being built-up as the house of God, with Christ as the cornerstone of this very house (Eph.2:19-21). We are members one of another, lively stones being built around Him, the body of Christ. So now God, by His Spirit, lives individually in the believer (I Cor. 6:19, II Cor. 6:16), as well as corporately in the body (I Cor. 3:16, Eph. 2:22) on the earth (while the body remains on the earth). Redemption through Christ Jesus is accomplished on our behalf, not externally in the flesh or in types and shadows.
The Believer’s Citizenship is in Heaven
I say Christianity is the religion of the heavens for our citizenship is there. We are seated in heavenly places in Christ, and He said He would come again and take us there, having prepared a place for us (John 14:1-3). The Head of the Body is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will not take His inheritance until His Body is united to Him physically in the heavens. He will come for His Body because we are His fellow co-heirs and brethren.
1 Corinthians 15:48
“As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.”
“…because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel,”
Individual believers and the church are those who are heavenly and who will follow the heavenly Man there (John 17:24, 14:2-3). They are those whose hopes and inheritance are laid up in heaven (I Pet. 1:3-4). We are holy brethren of Christ and partakers of the heavenly calling. And in Abraham, his spiritual seed are children by faith (not by the flesh or physical decent), centered and contained in his one Seed, who is Christ. As our calling is above, we will be as innumerable as the stars of the heavens (Gen. 15:5).
Israel The Believer/body of Christ
|The earthly calling according to prophecy. Connected to the earth and a promised land. Only saved as an earthly remnant.||The heavenly calling according to the mystery of Christ, hidden from the prophets. Citizenship in heaven (Phil. 3:20).|
|Judaism – the religion of the flesh and of the earth. A yoke of bondage that only produces slaves (Gal. 4:21-25, 5:1). A walk by sight.||Christianity – the religion of the heavens. Worship of God in spirit and truth. A walk of faith. Seated with Christ in heavenly places.|
|Circumcision in the flesh, made with hands (Eph. 2:11).||Circumcision in the Spirit, made without hands (Phil. 3:3, Col. 2:11)|
|Only ever bondservants and slaves in the House of God. No security of abiding forever (John 8:34-35).||Sons of God who abide in the House of God forever (John 8:35-36, Gal. 3:26). Heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.|
|The sands of the seashore||The stars of the heavens|
Once we understand the truths concerning the earthly and heavenly callings it becomes important to maintain the distinctions between them. We should never mix the two of them as one. If we do this our teachings and beliefs become confounded. Inevitably all our hopes will sink to the lesser value of the earthly. The character of those believers that understand their calling as heavenly in Christ is depicted in Colossians;
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
The Believer’s Life is not Down Here on the Earth
Be on your guard for teachings that encourage you to pursue things here below, and to set your mind on things of the earth. This is not the character of the true Christian. We should know we are not of this world. We do not dwell on this earth, but instead are strangers here. When you were justified by faith in Christ, becoming a member of His body, you gave up citizenship on this earth. Once you are established as a believer, there is no teaching or prophecy of Scripture that makes you a dweller of the earth. This is true throughout eternity. Our habitation is in heavenly places. We are the heavenly Jerusalem. Our Father’s house has many mansions, and Christ has prepared all by going there ahead of us. We are truly strangers and pilgrims here on the earth.
Be on guard for teachings about living your life down here. The cares of living and the cares of life are the cares of this world. They are thorns that rise up, choking the word in those who merely profess Christianity (Matt. 13:22). For true believers, they only serve to turn your attention to this world, connecting you to this earth. Their end result is unfruitfulness. But the believer’s life is located somewhere else:
“…For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
As a believer, when you look for your life down here, the motivation and character of that is all wrong and displeasing to the Lord. When ministers and ministries teach you as if your life is down here, their motivation and emphasis is wrong as well. I understand how most people only choose to see what is in front of them, and that is their physical life lived out day by day on the earth. Ministries take advantage of this emphasis and profit by it. When you tangle yourself up with the cares of living in this world, it is simply not befitting of the saint. Our life is Christ, and Christ is where? Christ is hidden in God at this time, in the heavens. Our life therefore is hidden in God, in the heavens as well. It is not to be found down here, on this earth or of this world.
Is the Believer to Reign in Life Down Here?
Then how are you to reign in life down here if your life can’t be found here? You can’t. Are you going to reign without Christ? Will you reign before Christ reigns? Those verses in Romans five have nothing to do with our walk on this earth and are not speaking of our life down here. Yet whole ministries are built on such applications of scripture. If you want to know about the believer in his walk, it is found later in Romans;
“…and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
The inheritance the Spirit speaks of is ours with Christ when it is given by the Father, and not until then. The believer will not reign until we have been joined with Christ in glory. Then we will reign in life, as in eternal life in the glory, reigning with Christ as kings, when He is revealed and manifested as King of kings and Lord of lords. What is our portion at this present time? Sufferings, if indeed we suffer with Christ.
Christ did not reign as a king in His walk on this earth. They rejected Him as their king and crucified Him. He does not reign as a King at this present time. Now He is hidden in God (Col. 3:1-3). He is patiently waiting there, until His enemies be made His footstool (Heb. 10:13). In the meantime, the Holy Spirit has been sent down to gather the co-heirs that will be with Him in His glory. That is the glory that will be revealed in us. That is when we reign.
What is the Believer’s Portion Presently on the Earth?
But now what is our portion to be? We are to suffer with Him. We are to love one another as He loved us, giving Himself for us (Eph. 5:2). We are to keep the word of His patience and wait as He waits (Rev. 1:9, 3:10). We are to have the constant expectation of His coming for us. This truth purifies us now as He is pure (I John 3:2-3). If a person can be known by the ends he is pursuing, than his life will bear the impress of what future outcomes he is expecting. This should be valid for the Christian. The believer’s expectation is to be conformed into His image when He comes for us. This hope has a sanctifying influence on our walk here on earth.
Those whose ambition is position and power, those who are seeking earthly riches and investments, and those who are pursuing only the pleasures of this world, will live and act according to the desires in their heart. Their behavior will reflect their longings. This will be true for believers who understand and are faithful to their heavenly calling. We are destined to share with Christ in the heavenly glory – this future hope and expectation must have its effect on us now.
Embracing our heavenly calling, we walk as pilgrims and strangers in this world. We will not be confused by the earthly promises made to the Jews in the prophetic scriptures, but rather will distinguish these promises from the heavenly promises for the church. As not of the world, we will keep ourselves from many cares and distractions that are hurtful to the Christian life. Having heavenly hopes founded in our heavenly calling, we become faithful in fulfilling any duties that flow out of it. We are to walk on this earth as He walked on this earth. He was despised and rejected of men. We should be also.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
We do not reign in this present life on earth. We are pilgrims here, not kings. And besides, are we ever to take what Christ did not? Everything about the believer is as Christ and in Christ and with Christ. It is never apart from Christ. We will not reign until Christ reigns, for we are His body. Presently we suffer with Him, so that later we will reign with Him in glory. Is this not the mind and truth of God?
The Biblical Hope of the Believer is not presently seen
The Father will have the heavenly calling conformed to the image of His Son. He predestined it to be so (Rom. 8:29). If you carefully read Rom. 8:19-25 it is all pointing to this counsel. It says this specific hope (conformed to the image of His Son) is the earnest expectation of both the believer and creation. But hope that is seen is not hope at all. So then, presently, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance; as does creation. At this time, in these bodies of the flesh, we groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting. We do not reign in life on earth.
The Believer is on a walk out of this World
As disciples, our life is not here on this earth, and we cannot seek our life in the world, or attach ourselves to this world. It is always considered a walk (Eph. 5:1-2, and 8), because we are not of this world, nor dwellers of the earth, but are walking on a road out of it, following Jesus (John 1:43). If you think a little about it, the roads are only in this present world and on this earth for us to walk. There were no roads in paradise with Adam, and there will be no roads in glory with the Father and Son. Both of these define the rest of God, the sabbath (Heb. 4:9-11). The original rest of God was ruined by man and sin. The future rest of God is entered into by all believers, through the sovereign power of God, when He takes us there, into the glory of God (Heb. 4:1-3, John 14:2-3). Presently, on this earth, there is no rest of God to be found. That is why there are roads here, and believers are on a walk out of this world.
“He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
If you love life down here, you will lose everything, and end up with nothing. ‘Life in this world,’ and what you can make of it, cannot be your objective or your interest as a believer. You cannot even become a disciple this way. You must hate your life in this world, in order to receive or possess eternal life. It is so you can lay this life, in this world, down and die, following the Son of Man through death, so that you can be where He is;
“If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.”
The Believer’s Life is Christ
The “Me” we are to follow is Jesus, the Son of Man, who first goes down into death, and then is glorified; this is clear from the previous verses (John 12:23-24). How are you to be where He is? I can tell you this from v. 26, that when you are where He is, then there will be honor from the Father. That is because you will be in glory with the glorified Son of Man, as in Christ, and with Christ. You will be where He is. But again, how can you get there? The only way to be where He is, is to follow the same path. If we hate our life in this world, we will die with Christ and end that life. Truly eternal life can only be found beyond our death. How is this? The Son of Man glorified is beyond death, for His death had to come first. Eternal life is in the resurrected Christ, beyond death. We have to follow Him down into death and beyond, to a new life, a resurrected life. And so, I am crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). My old life in this world is no longer alive – it is no longer I who live. My life is now a resurrected Christ living in me. This is eternal life, and it has no connection with life in this world.
This is what it really means to follow Him. It is not stressing, straining, and sweating in human performance to be pleasing to God. It is a redemptive truth found in the work of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man. We die with Him so we may possess eternal life by having Him as our life (John 5:39-40). He lives in us as this resurrected life. Now we are disciples. And precious truth – He will come for us personally, so that we may be with Him where He is, in His glory (John 14:1-3, and 17:24). Take up your cross and follow Him? When you take up a cross, it can only mean certain death (Luke 14:27). But for us, it is what is beyond the death that is all important. It is eternal life received now in our soul and spirit. It then becomes discipleship that has a certain walk in this world. Finally it is with Him in glory as possessing this life, our bodies glorified, and where there are no roads leading out.
The Son of Man lifted up from the Earth
I want to be crystal clear in portraying what Jesus is saying in all this. Your walk on this earth as a disciple can only be after you become a disciple. You only become a disciple after you die with the Son of Man, and then you are raised with Him (Rom. 6:3-5, Col. 2:11-13). Then you possess eternal life in possessing Christ as your life (John 1:4, 6:47-51, 10:28, and 11:25). You are a disciple, and you can walk in this world as a disciple.
This walk has a certain character, to be sure. It is walking as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6), loving the brethren as Jesus loved us (John 15:12, 1 John 3:16, and Eph. 5:2), and walking as children of light, as our Father is light (Eph. 5:1, 8, and Phil. 2:15). It is a walk that is apart from the world, as a stranger and pilgrim on the earth, on a road following Jesus out of this world. This is a big part of the meaning of the Son of Man being lifted up in John 12:32. The lifting up is from the earth, apart from the world, because He was hated and rejected by the world. His lifting up is the severing of all His relationship with the world. It is the world judged and condemned by God when the Son of Man was lifted up apart from it (John 12:31-32). The Son of God is not of the world, as the Son of Man lifted up. [The same thing cannot be said of the title of Messiah; it is of this world and of this earth.] Our walk then, as disciples, is one rejected by the world and hated by the world, as they rejected and hated Him (John 15:18-19, Gal. 6:14). I cannot be genuine and teach you that in your walk as a disciple of Christ in this world you should reign as a king.
The true Christian’s life is not down here, though while on the earth we are passing through the wilderness. We are on the journey, not in the rest. It is not yet the life in the rest and glory of Christ. Let us look at Israel in the types and shadows that present these greater truths and realities for the believer.
Israel Passes through the Wilderness in Type
Our walk as believers in the world and on the earth is symbolized by Israel passing through the wilderness. The Passover lamb they ate and the blood they placed on the doors, the day before their exit from Egypt, kept the hand of God’s righteous judgment from them. Passing on dry land through the Red Sea is the salvation of the Lord in type, their justification by faith. Entrance into the Promised Land, from the book of Hebrews, is obviously entrance of the believer into the rest of God – entrance physically into the very presence and glory of God eternally.
These are broad strokes concerning the shadows God uses to teach truth – types God uses to show forth greater realities. For Israel, it is all shadows of a true redemption. For them it is an external redemption in the flesh, an external separation, and an external deliverance. The Law of Moses, their religion of Judaism, is geared by God for man externally, in the flesh (Heb. 9:9-10, 10:1-4). It is a religion of the world (Col. 2:8, Gal. 4:9). But the types and shadows continue.
“For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”
The Promised Land is a Type of the Glory and Rest of God
What I want you to see is that all Israel in mass came out of Egypt. They came out as a nation, as a large corporate group. But those in unbelief were judged by God in the wilderness and did not enter into God’s rest – the land as a type. We have the same reality today in the Christian world – the corporate group of all those who profess Christ. This is depicted by the spoiled crop of tares and wheat in the field of the world, in the parable in Matt. 13:24-30. Its interpretation is in Matt. 13:37-43. The wheat and tares are mixed together as a corporate entity until removal of the wheat from the world. To be sure, the tares are bundled together and left in the world to be judged (more on this parable in a later chapter). But reading further in Hebrews:
“Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said:
“So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest,’”
although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.”
Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”
We can see in this portion some of the things taught earlier in the chapter. Truly man placed in paradise was the rest of God. But Adam, in sin, ruined the rest of God on earth. God, in a great sense, had to go back to work (John 5:17). The work He does is the revealing of, and the accomplishing of, all the counsels of God. His counsels are His work, or what He is working out, and center on the two titles we’ve been discussing in the book. Joshua did not give them rest, even though he led some into the land; it was all shadows still (Heb. 4:8). Joshua, in his name, and in bringing those of faith into the land, is a type of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man who is Lord of the sabbath (Matt. 12:8, the true rest of God).
Israel Crossing the Jordan in Type
What should be exciting for the believer is what comes next. It is the type which corresponds to the believer’s blessed hope and earnest expectation. We are in the wilderness and passing through while on this earth. It is a walk of faith on a road out of this world, heading to God’s rest. And how do we enter? Through the Jordan, and once again it is on dry land (Josh. 4:23-24). This passage on dry land is symbolic of the work of the Sovereign God, and that by His power and purpose, according to His counsels. Israel passing through the Jordan by God’s sovereign power is type of the removal of the body of Christ from the earth, and entrance into the rest and glory of God.
As soon as Israel crosses Jordan and enters the land, Joshua is told by God to circumcise the men (Josh. 5:2-9). This also is symbolic. At the time the body of Christ is removed from the earth, the glorification of our bodies is by the removal of sin from the flesh. Mortal will put on immortality, corruptible will put on incorruption – all by the sovereign power of God (I Cor. 15:51-56). The circumcision of Israel is a type prefiguring sin being removed from the flesh of the believer – the glorification of our bodies in order to enter into the presence and glory of God.
The Old Man is crucified with Christ
Jesus tells us in John 12:25 that you should hate your life in this world – that is the life you have before your death with Him. It is life in the first Adam, life in the flesh (Rom. 8:7-8), and life connected to this world. When you take up a cross and follow Him, it is to be for the death of your life in Adam, that life that is of the world and of the earth. It is the old man in Adam that is being crucified on that cross. It is the old man in Adam that died with Christ (Rom. 6:6). This is how your relationship with Adam ends – by death (Rom. 6:2-3). You know, till death do you part (Rom. 7:1-3). You had to change positions. You had to get out of Adam and into Christ, as a new creation, as a new life, and as an entirely new position (Rom. 6:4-5, Gal. 6:15, 2 Cor. 17).
Now you have better understanding about Jesus as the Son of Man. When Jesus says the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath (Matt. 12:8), it is mainly because through His death and faith in His shed blood, believers have entrance into the rest of God (Heb. 4:3). When Jesus says, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head,” it is because the Son of Man does not live on this earth, but is walking on a road out of this world (Luke 9:58). When He says to take up your cross and follow Him, it is because He is carrying a cross as well, and you go to die with Him. Therefore He says, “Follow Me,” and walk after Me.
Leaven is Spreading in the Christian World
Be careful concerning many of the teachings and messages you hear in the Christian world. Leaven is being spread in the kingdom of heaven, and by the end it saturates the three lumps (Matt. 13:33). Can believers prevent this from happening? No, this is what will be, and there is no stopping it. The parable is a warning of what will happen in the kingdom of heaven while the King is away. The parable shows the failure of the church world in responsibility, from beginning to end while on the earth. It is a warning for this present age, for those He gives the privilege of understanding (i.e. the believer sealed with the Spirit of truth, being led by the Spirit into all truth – Matt. 13:11).
What is the believer to do? You turn away from evil and have no part in it. You turn away from false teachings, from systems of doctrine that deny the heavenly calling, and distort the counsels of God. There are and will be many ministers who will not acknowledge that a heavenly calling even exists in Christ for the believer. They will have us connected with Israel and the earth. One evil that the scriptures speak of as existing in the church world in the end is ministers who run greedily for profit in the error of Balaam (Jude 11). If I turn the attention of your eyes to the heavens where Christ is at the right hand of God, it serves to establish in faith your sure and steadfast hope as a believer. The only profit in this is your sanctification and godliness for your walk down here. It does not appeal to the things of life here, your cares and wishes, how you may live more in comfort and ease. It is not the contemporary self-help and self-improvement gospel, or the many other devised teachings for the flesh. However, for some ministries there is profit in the teachings of the flesh, and plenty of itching ears wanting to be scratched (2 Tim. 4:3-4). The Spirit says these are spots in your feasts (Jude 12).
The Truth of God is not well received
I know I’ve mentioned this previously but it bears repeating. Truth from God, as a general principle, was fully displayed in the coming of Christ.
“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Often I find believers do not look at this verse closely enough. The Spirit is contrasting the first part of the sentence with the second part. The word ‘but’ establishes that a difference and contrast is being made. Law is contrasted with grace and truth. They are not the same in the counsels of God. No doubt God gave both — the law through Moses and then, much later, sending Jesus Christ. But that does not make them the same, nor express God’s purpose and intentions. The law is what man ought to be before God, simple human righteousness, and a testing of Israel in responsibility. Jesus’ coming is the revelation of what God would be for man, the righteousness of God in grace and truth. In the sending of Jesus Christ, God’s purpose was to bring out grace and truth, something the law could never do. Jesus also reveals God’s love which is something the law could never do. This wasn’t God’s purpose for giving the law.
But the truth of God in Christ is not received by man. Israel as the test case, representing all mankind as a chosen and highly privileged people, rejected the truth of God when He came. They simply rejected God. Understanding Israel’s position when they were tested by God (still a people in Adam and in the flesh) is important for our spiritual understanding of scripture. Let us look at this passage;
“But Jesus himself did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men, and that he had not need that any should testify of man, for himself knew what was in man.”
This is to say that God knows exactly what man is. In man’s state and position, there are none that seek after God, no, not one (Rom. 3:10-12). This is why Israel, as a nation, rejected their Messiah, rejecting the truth of God. In the privileged position God had placed them they still had no ability to receive the truth. Were the Gentiles in a better position? No, they were in a far worse position than this, having no privileges from God. So Israel, as the test case for mankind failed. It was proven by God that man in the flesh could not have a relationship with God. The embodiment of the truth was soundly rejected and nailed to the cross. The point is; when does the truth of God ever attract crowds or make men popular? The opposite is proven by the ministry of Jesus Christ. And I do not believe that the simple passage of time has altered this insight at all.
God knows exactly what man is. Man does not realize it and refuses to admit it. This is the religious leaven that is always corrupting the ways of man with God. It is perfectly shown in Israel and their law. What God gave them for death and condemnation, they made into a working of righteousness and a means of obtaining life. How was this done? “…they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.” (Rom. 9:31-32). Man thinks he has the ability to prove himself and exalt himself in his own strength and by his own works. And this, to one extent or the other, is what he is trying to do.
The leaven moves on from here, progressively becoming more subtle and harder to detect. God knows what man is, but man refuses to admit it. In the early church you have a Judaizing influence attempting to destroy the Christian faith. What is its character? It is the adding of the works of man in Judaism to the absolute sufficiency of Christ. And if this is permitted then Christ will profit you nothing (Gal. 5:1-2).
When we move on in the history of the church we see Romanism dominating the landscape. What is its character? It is the same leaven – the exalting of man by his works, the things that he does, in superstition and earthly religiousness, with idolatry thrown in. After the blessed Reformation, we have Protestantism. What end does this come to? It will be professing Christianity saying, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” It is man exalting himself, in what he has, what he does, and who he thinks he is (Rev. 3:15-17). The same leaven, although in this more subtle form, will saturate the entire lump (Gal. 5:9). God fully knows what is in man.
The Worldly Measures of Success are used in the Church
There are many ministers and ministries in the Christian world. Many are talented speakers able to turn a phrase and get you excited. There are those who build large followings and large buildings, declaring the blessing of God on themselves. They are very successful, at least in the eyes of those attracted to them. Popularity and numbers and size become the measure of godly and scriptural success for many believers. Unfortunately, the world uses the exact same criteria for judging success. The world’s standards become our standards for determining God’s truth. Our spiritual judgment becomes blindness to the truth of God.
The only way the believer can turn from evil is to have the spiritual understanding to recognize it. This is a responsibility that you cannot put off on others, or make naïve assumptions about. When the believer sinks down to the earth and focuses on the cares of this life, the world comes in and we become very comfortable. Believers may be in this present world, but we are not of the world. However, the line of separation between these two phrases becomes increasingly blurred for many Christians. We begin to allow our ears to be tickled and consequently, our spiritual perception suffers. We start judging what we hear and are taught, as to right or wrong, good or bad, by how comfortable we are with it. If we are comfortable and like what we hear, we reason this must be the truth from God. Our understanding and spiritual perception becomes dull.
Comfort, ease, popularity, and numbers are never the standard of spiritual judgment. If I teach the believer that you presently should reign as a king in your life, it is for comfort and ease. It is very popular to the flesh of man (or I should more properly say, very popular to man in the flesh – Rom. 8:8-9). The numbers attracted will soon bear this out. But if I teach that the believer is to suffer with Christ, there is no comfort and ease in this, nor popularity. And the numbers will soon bear this out as well.
Sin is in the Flesh of Man
In the cross of Christ, no doubt, sin in the flesh was condemned by God (Rom. 8:3). He judged it, and Jesus died as a consequence (Rom. 6:23). Now the believer has died with Christ and has been freed from sin (Rom. 6:1-7), certainly in the sense of no longer a slave of sin (John 8:34). We have this in title, but not the fullness of it yet, for sin still dwells in the flesh.
At the time Jesus comes to take us to the Father’s house (John 14:1-3), we will be conformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). Sin in the flesh will be removed from the believer (I Cor. 15:54-57), and this by resurrection or change (I Cor. 15:51-53). Jesus tells us this event should be scriptural comfort for the believer, as we wait for it. However, until then, we walk on this earth, and do so by faith. One of the exercises of our faith is to ‘reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin’ (Rom. 6:11). Sin in the flesh that God condemned in Christ on the cross (Rom. 8:3) is the old man crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6). By faith, we reckon the old man as dead, putting aside sin in the flesh, even though it is still there. A similar exercise of faith for the believer is to reckon ourselves to be dead to the world (Col. 2:20). As much as we possibly can, we walk in the example of Christ.
The Believer’s Heavenly Calling – a Citizenship, Inheritance, and Habitation
In Christ, we are holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling. Instead of a kingdom with an earthly Messiah and an earthly calling, believers have the eternal glory of the Son of Man in heaven. In God’s counsels we are to be conformed to His Son’s very image, to be like Him and with Him. This is the heavenly calling. We should always hold to this scriptural understanding and have faith and hopes accordingly. And our walk on this earth should reflect our calling in Christ. While we walk down here our eyes should be fixed on Christ in the heavens. Our life is there, our citizenship, inheritance, and habitation.
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”