Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Christ’s Perfect Identity and Oneness with the Believer

   Because most Christians’ understanding of the doctrine of salvation is so shallow, they have little understanding of what God has done, is doing, and will do in His gift of salvation to us.  To grasp the unsearchable riches of God’s gift of grace in our salvation, we must return to God’s original intent in His creation of humanity and a place for our existence.  All of God’s creatures including angels and humans were created with free volition.   Volition is the power to choose or determine.  Volition is commonly referred to as free will.  God’s intent in giving His creatures volition was that as they learn of Him and know of His attributes and character.  God’s intent in giving His creatures volition is that they will choose to love Him, worship Him, and serve Him with gladness.  God’s intent in giving His creatures volition is that they will desire to live in fellowship with Him in all that they do. God’s intent was that all of His creatures would live with Him in His eternal existence we might called the realm of His continual blessedness. 
Adam’s fall into sin removed him from this eternal state of blessedness and put all of Creation, including all of his descendants, into the eternal state of cursedness, or damnation in separation from God.  This is the opposite of God’s intent in His creation.  God’s doctrine of salvation is intent upon returning humanity to God’s eternal existence of blessedness through the exercise of our volition in repenting of sin, which is worldliness.  Then the sinner must understand and believe the Gospel. 
Humanity invented what God calls “dead works” by inventing and corrupting religious practices to gain favor with God, foolishly thinking that such practices could return sinners to God’s blessedness.  When God gave His redeemed nation of Israel the Mosaic Covenant to define what is sin and the sacrifices that looked forward to their promised Savior in the Messiah, they corrupted the purpose of the Law and the sacrifices making the Law and the sacrifices the means of salvation.  The Law and the sacrifices were intended for already saved people.  The Law and the sacrifices were given to help them understand sin and the cost of their redemption, which would be provided through the substitionary death of their Redeemer in the coming of the Messiah. 
The Mosaic Covenant was given as a blessing and curse covenant intended for people already saved “by grace . . . through faith.”  If these saved people would live according to God’s precepts and judgments of God, they could live within a bubble of God’s blessedness within the cursed creation until God’s New Creation came into existence.  This is true of Church Age believers today as well.  Local churches are intended to be bubbles of blessedness within the cursed creation until we are ultimately translated into the New Heaven/Earth (“the regeneration”).  The New Heaven/Earth will be the full restoration of God’s realm of existence in eternal blessedness.   It is to this realm of God’s eternal blessedness that Hebrews 2:14-18 refers. 

14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:14-18).

          We still live under the curse of God upon this fallen creation throughout this earthly life even if we are saved.  We are all slowly dying physically.  We are susceptible to sickness and we must toil to provide for our shelter and sustenance.  However, we enter the bubble of blessedness within the curse through salvation.  To actually receive the blessings of our new life “in Christ,” we must “reckon” ourselves “11 . . . to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Romans 6:11b-12). Our new union with Christ must extend itself into unity with Christ if we are ever to experience the benefits available to us within the bubble of blessedness.  Jesus gives us the necessary conditions to be blessed within the bubble of blessedness in Matthew chapters five, six, and seven.  These three chapters define how unity with Christ can exist within the union we have with Christ in our “so great salvation.”  The “how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” warning expands to one more level on the plain of the “so great salvation.”  In Hebrews 2:14-18, God details the perfect union with Christ that is provided to all believers through the work of His incarnation.
          Before we look at Hebrews 2:14, we must jump ahead to verse 16 to lay some groundwork of this union.  It would appear that verses 14-15 establish a basis for the false doctrine of Universalism.  Universalism is represented by the false doctrines of the universal Fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man teaching that all people will enter Heaven and escape Hell because of the universal propitiation of God (I John 2:2). Universalism teaches that there is no need to make a volitional decision of faith, but that all people will be saved regardless of what they believe or how they live. This is the issue with which John deals in I John 2:1-2. 

 1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:1-2).

          I John 2:1-2 contextually continues the thoughts regarding the issues necessary to New Covenant “fellowship” with God explained in I John chapter one.  I John 1:5-10 gives us the details that replace all the Mosaic Covenant holy days and sacrifices intended to represent to believers that sin separates them from God and that the death of a substitute was necessary to restore a believer to fellowship with God (the bubble of blessedness).  All of those Old Testament types are fulfilled and abolished in the New Covenant reality of the once for all finished redemption in the death, burial, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus the Christ. 

5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk {present, active, subjunctive} in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth {present, active, indicative} us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have {present, active, indicative} no sin {if we deny the principle that we are sinners by nature}, we deceive {present, active, indicative} ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess {present, active, subjunctive} our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned {if we deny the principle that we are sinners by actions, thoughts, and/or emotions}, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (I John 1:5-10).

I John 1:5-10 is about what is necessary for fellowship with God. These verses do not define what is necessary for salvation.  However, these few verses do articulate that we all need to be saved from the condemnation of death put upon us under the curse of God AND we need a Savior to deliver us from our own corrupt desires and emotions. 
The falsehood of Universalism exists because people do not understand Hebrews 2:16.  Verse 16 literally reads, “for a sure thing Jesus didn’t come to help the angels, but He gives help to the seed of Abraham.”  Specifically, He helps the seed of Abraham (the redeemed), not the seed of Adam (the condemned).  He died for the whole Human Race, but is High Priest only of the “household of faith” - those who have received the gift of redemption and have entered the bubble of blessedness through salvation.  The “help” Jesus gives is not to help people earn or keep salvation, for salvation is a gift.  The “help” Jesus gives is all that is necessary to live the Christ-life and be blessed within the bubble of blessedness in their “so great salvation.” 
          Why is this important?  First, Christ is not the High Priest of the human race, which He would be if this referred to Adam.  The reference to Abraham identifies Jesus Christ as High Priest of specific people.  “They which are of faith {born of faith} are the children {seed} of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7). 

7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham . . . 16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:7-9 and 16).

          The Mosaic Covenant was given ONLY to believers within the nation of Israel.  The Mosaic Covenant was never intended for the lost or for Gentile nations.  Granted, there were unbelievers who thought of themselves as believers within the nation of Israel just as there are unbelievers who think of themselves as believers within all local churches.  There were also Gentiles who became believers and submitted themselves to the Mosaic Covenant.  Within the Abrahamic Covenant was the promise of the “Seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16).  Therefore, the promise of the availability of salvation was to “all nations” (Galatians 3:8). 

9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision {Jews} only, or upon the uncircumcision {Gentiles} also? for we say that faith was reckoned{logizomai is translated counted in vs. 3 and 5, reckoned vs. 4, 9, and 10, and  imputed in vs. 6, 8, 11, and 22-24} to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: 12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised” (Romans 4:9-12).

          The bubble of blessedness, now offered to the redeemed, extends to “whosoever” within the New Covenant.  In other words, no one needs become a Jew any longer to either be saved or live faithfully for the Lord. 

11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:11-13).

          The contextual continuity of the epistle to the Romans demands that we see Romans chapter ten in the light of three dominant truths already established from the earlier chapters:

1. God is universally propitiated for the sins of the whole world extending from the Adam’s fall to the end of time. 
2. This translates into universal provision of the free gift of salvation to “whoever shall call upon the Name of the LORD.”  Salvation is available to “whosoever.”
3. Although both of these two statements are true and should be universally applied, and although Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is sufficient for the salvation of all, it is beneficial only to those who respond in faith according to God’s inspired directives of five verbs.

Ø Repentance from sin and “dead works”
Ø Believing the objective facts of the finished work of redemption as detailed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Ø Confessing Jesus as Jehovah
Ø Calling on the Name of Jesus as Jehovah to save
Ø Receiving Jesus Christ in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God. 

          Most people would not have any problem following the contextual continuity of the epistle to the Romans and the categorical theological establishment of the three statements above if it were not for the presuppositions of Calvinism and Reformed Theology that are imposed upon the epistle.  For the Calvinist, the word “whosoever” means whosoever of the elect.  For the Calvinist, when God says it is His will that all come to repentance and that all are saved, it means all who are elect.  For the Calvinist, God’s love for the world refers to two different kinds of grace. 

1. Common Grace (or Prevenient Grace) comes to all people.  This is basically defined as God temporally withholding his judgment upon sinners and the reprobate (those not chosen by God to be saved) allowing them the common blessings of life (“the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike”). According to the Calvinists, there is no hope of salvation for those not elected by God to be saved. According to the Calvinists, these people are pretemporally reprobate.

2. Irresistible Grace (or Efficacious Grace) comes only to the elect (those chosen by God to be saved).  In this position, God regenerates the elect at some unknown time before their salvation giving them the gift of repentance and faith in the Person of the Holy Spirit whereby the elect sinner will not be able to resist God’s grace and will at some unknown time in his/her life place faith in Jesus Christ and, because of this special working of God in the lives of the elect person, will ultimately persevere in the Christian life proving he/she is one of God’s elect (this is not the same as the doctrine of eternal security). 

          These two distortions of God’s grace flow from three other theological presuppositional aberrations of Calvinism and Reformed Theology imposed upon the interpretation of the whole Word of God.

1. Monothetism: the monothetic (one thesis or idea) definition of God’s sovereignty (whatever God wills to be done must ALWAYS be done or realized).
2. Determinism: God is the ultimate cause of all things thereby controlling all events in human history and in the future.  God can foretell the future, not just because of foreknowledge, but that God knows the future because God controls and causes all events in history.
3. Monergism: being saved is not based upon the will of an individual making a faith decision to trust Christ, but upon the sovereign will of God operating within (not upon) the elect prior to their salvation by regenerating them before salvation in order that they can believe. 

          Obviously, Galatians 3:7-16, Romans 4:9-12, and 10:11-13 establish an exclusive privilege of the redeemed and a complete contradiction against Unitarian Universalism.  The Bible teaches neither the universal Fatherhood of God nor the universal brotherhood of man.  The “children” of Hebrews 2:14, with which Christ is a “partaker” of flesh and blood, are those children “born again” of God “by grace . . . through faith.” 
In the context of the epistle to the Hebrews there is the absolute essential of moving out of the Mosaic Covenant bubble of blessedness into the New Covenant bubble of blessedness. The Levitical priesthood of Israel had corrupted the Law into a liturgical and sacrificial mess.  They replaced the Abrahamic Covenant of salvation by faith in the Substitute with a corruption of the Mosaic Covenant of religious “works” for salvation.  The first century Jewish Christians were being enticed to return to this corruption of the Mosaic Covenant in order to retain and maintain their salvation.  Even to be enticed by such nonsense manifests a complete misunderstanding of both the finished work of redemption in Christ Jesus and the misunderstanding of the advanced state of the believer’s spiritual existence within the new bubble of blessedness found within the New Covenant and Age of Grace. 
          An extension of this, helping us understand the miraculous mechanics of salvation, is found in Genesis 3:15.  According to I Timothy 2:14, it was the woman “who was deceived by Satan, not Adam.

“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (I Timothy 2:14).

          Therefore, as we understand I Timothy 2:14, we understand why it was necessary that the “seed” of the woman “bruise the serpents head.”  Satan deceived Eve into sin.  Eve led Adam into sin and all the human race fell with Adam.  However, Adam was not deceived.  Adam disobeyed when he exercised his volitional to disobey God’s command.  The important point of Genesis 3:15 is that Christ was not born of Adam’s seed, but Eve’s. 
Why is this truth important?  This truth is important because the sin nature is passed seminally through the man.  Therefore, because that is true, it makes Christ Jesus both perfectly human and perfectly divine at the same time because He was born of a woman, but not man.  He is perfect God and perfect man.  To understand this we must understand and believe that Jesus was Perfect God before the incarnation.  Jesus became a perfect man in the incarnation. Because Jesus is a perfect man, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice for sin.  Because He is a perfect man, He became a perfect High Priest and a perfect Offerer of the perfect Offering for sin.  Therefore, the sinner is provided a perfect salvation as a GIFT from God.  This perfect GIFT cannot be earned or purchased.  It is offered ONLY as a GIFT of God’s grace.

6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

          In the Garden of Eden, Satan stole something to which he had no right.  He stole mankind’s authority (dominion) over the Creation God had given Adam.  He did so by introducing sin into the human race through Adam.  When that happened, Satan seized the power of darkness in the world.  Once Satan had fallen, he had no authority in the Kingdom of light (then or today).  Within that power of darkness is the power of death.  The bubble of blessedness is a bubble of spiritual life and light within the realm of spiritual death and darkness.
          From that day forward, God has been restraining the forces of evil intent upon the absolute destruction and annihilation of humanity from the face of the earth.  If the forces of evil were left unrestrained, the forces of evil would use sickness, disease, the weather, and cataclysmic events to destroy humanity.  In fact, God’s judgments on the world during various periods of Earth’s history are merely Him releasing His restraints upon evil.  We will see God remove His restraint on evil again during the seven year Tribulation in God’s judgment of the nations. 

3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thessalonians 2:3-12).

          God, in the work of Calvary, used the power of death against Satan, because the power to hold a person in death was only over those who were in the realm of spiritual darkness.  Because Jesus never had a sin nature, Christ Jesus was never part of the realm of darkness (although He existed within it).  Therefore, He was able to be resurrected out from the realm of death.  Because He was resurrected and because He substitutionally paid the price of sin (which was death, Romans 6:23), He is also able to deliver anyone who desires to be delivered out of the bondage of the realm of darkness and the “fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15).
          Our “so great salvation” does not deliver us from the “realm of darkness” and “death” only to put us into a spiritual vacuum.  Salvation delivers the believer out of darkness and “from its power” into the Kingdom of light.  Today that Kingdom of light and life is found within the bubble of blessedness of the New Covenant known as the local church.  It is not that we are saved by joining the church, but that the first effect that is synchronous with salvation is that we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Church (I Corinthians 12:13 – which is the first phase of the unfolding New Creation).  The physical manifestation intended to represent our understanding of our entrance into this new bubble of blessedness is water baptism accompanied by formally uniting with a local assembly of believers of like precious faith.  The local church exists because the physical reality should always portray the spiritual reality. I believe God does this because we need physical and empirical representations in order for us to understand spiritual realities and the responsibilities that accompany those realities.

12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:12-13).

          In the realm of darkness, death rules.  In the Kingdom of light, life rules.  According to Hebrews 2:14, Satan was literally put out of business.  He is in the death and destruction business.  The only realm Satan is still prince over is the realm of darkness and sin existing only over those who chose to continue living in the realm of sin, death, spiritual ignorance, disobedience, and the obfuscation of spiritual darkness.  This is why discipleship is a critical essential to every new believer in Jesus Christ and why God had ordained local churches (Ephesians 4:11-16). 
          This realm of darkness and sin is the only authority Satan presently has over fallen men and women who have not been saved or who have willfully rejected Christ.  As far as Christ our High Priest is concerned, Satan has been put out of business.  How has he been put out of the death business?  Satan was put out of the death business when Jesus Christ substitutionally satisfied God’s judgment on all sin on the Cross of Calvary.

31 Now is the judgment of this world {in His death at Calvary}, now shall the Prince of this world {Satan} be cast out {from is stolen position of authority}. 32 And I {Jesus}, if I be lifted up from the earth {resurrection from Calvary’s substitutionary death and judgment} will draw all men unto myself {into His Kingdom of light and out of the power of darkness}” (John 12:31-32).

          There on the Cross of Calvary, God the Father “laid on Him (Jesus the Son) the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).  Then, for the space of three hours, from noon to about three in the afternoon, God put the world into darkness and poured out His wrath on all iniquity upon His Son.  In doing so, Jesus’ substitutionary death propitiated (satisfied) and adjudicated God’s wrath providing God the righteous ability to justify believers by imparting to them the righteousness of Jesus in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:4).  This gift of salvation, and the impartation of the Spirit of God, moves all saved sinners into the realm of new possibilities in practical righteousness hitherto never known by fallen beings. It is this reality to which is referred by the phrase New Covenant bubbled of blessedness.  Why would anyone return to the old when the new exceeds it in unfathomable ways?

“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (I Peter 2:24).

          According to Hebrews 2:17, “It behoved Him.”  In other words the incarnation was a necessity.  This physical identity with mankind in a human body and a human nature was the only way to accomplish this great victory over death.  The only way He could be our Savior was to become one of us.  The only way He could be able to be our Great High Priest was to grow up as one of us, live among us, and be tempted as we are tempted (Hebrews 4:14-16).  Christ our High Priest “offered up Himself.” Therefore, these truths are essential to our redemption.

22 By so much was Jesus made a surety {guarantee} of a better testament {covenant}. 23 And they {the Levitical High Priests} truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: 24 But this man {actually is referring to Jesus as a New High Priest after a different order of priesthood}, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. 26 For such an high priest became {one of} us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. 28 For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore” (Hebrews 7:22-28).

          In the “offering of Himself,” Jesus made “reconciliation {Hebrews 2:17, literally propitiation} for the sins of the people.”  “Reconciliation” is from the Greek word hilaskomai (hil-as'-kom-ahee).  Propitiation refers to the thing necessary “pertaining to God” (v. 17) to satisfy God’s righteous demands in the execution of His wrath in condemnation of sinners to death.  In the epistle to the Hebrews alone there are twenty or more statements referring to our Lord’s propitiatory death.  The great reality of the doctrine of propitiation is that the believer is eternally mercy seated with our High Priest Christ Jesus. Because God’s justice is satisfied righteously, we can be justified righteously.
          Lastly, Christ is able to “succour” (to help; to come to the aid of those being tempted - Hebrews 2:18).  He knows what temptation is.  He knows temptation like no other man who ever lived.  There is only one difference.  Jesus was victorious over temptations to sin and He knows how to help us do the same.

13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry” (I Corinthians 10:13-14).

14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

          Our salvation includes so much more then fire insurance.  Do you have a temptation that you can’t get victory over?  Christ is there to help.  He wants to help.  He was identified with our death, with our sin, and with our temptation so that He can experientially understand our struggles in life.  There is no pain or no suffering that His pain and suffering has not exceeded.  What a great salvation! Are you neglecting it?

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, August 5, 2013

What Is Spiritual Maturity?

What Is Spiritual Maturity?

          In Galatians 6:1, Paul said, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”  The “spiritual” Christian is the Spirit-filled and spiritually matured Christian.  The importance of this signification is that a believer ought to know if he is Spirit-filled and spiritually mature.  There are certainly simple manifestation in a believer’s life of being Spirit-filled and spiritually mature.

1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. 3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:” (Ephesians 5:1-8).

13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit(Galatians 5:13-25).

          Christ said He would build His Church and the gates of Hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).  What does Christ mean by the statement, build His Church?  Was it His intent that the emphasis of Christianity was just to win as many souls as possible before His return?  Hardly!  He gave specific instructions for the partnership (“fellowship”) with Him in the building of His Church. 

18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20).

          The evangelization of an individual is not completed until that individual becomes a spiritually mature believer.  Spiritual maturity will be evident when that individual had grown to the place where he is consistently and loving observing the teachings of Jesus.  

          The word “observe” in Matthew 28:20 is from the Greek word tereo (tay-reh'-o).  It means to watch over, guard or preserve.  This is to be accomplished through the incorporation of Jesus’ teachings into the lives of professing believers.  This process is called discipleship.  This is also what God refers to in Ephesians 4:12 by the words “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry.”  A cycle must be created.  Truth must be translated into walk.  Yet that walk must have a spiritual motivation.

The central purpose of a local church (a local body of believers) is to be a hands on training center intent on teaching professing believers to “walk in the Spirit.”

          As individual Christians go into the world (sent by the local church), they are commanded to tell the lost about Christ Jesus and to seek to bring them to faith in His finished work of the Cross for their salvation.  Once a person confesses Christ and is saved, the job of the soul winner is to bring that individual to the Church assembly and teach him to commit to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ (a learner).  This commitment begins by following the Lord in believer’s baptism.  Through this ordinance, the committed disciple testifies to his commitment to bring his life under the Lordship of Christ and covenants together with the local assembly to live for Christ. 

          Once the professing believer is baptized and testifies to his commitment to live for Jesus, he begins his discipleship training as a covenant member of that local church as he learns to “walk in the Spirit.”  His training is evaluated and directed by the pastor of the local assembly.  The pastor may be directly involved in the individual’s training or he may delegate that training to another mature believer such as a deacon.  Although the pastor does much of the teaching, other individual Christians in the local church must be involved by doing much of the hands-on field training.  This is the focus of the local church as every member lives in “fellowship” (working partnership) with God in His operations in the spiritual growth of every believer in that local church.  In other words, discipleship is a cooperative venture in synergism with God and with every other believer in a local church.  

          Maintaining this working partnership with God in discipleship is often where a local church fails in its ministry objective.  The preaching and teaching of a local church can be sound, but if the spiritually mature individuals within a local church are not forming partnerships in ministry with those who are not yet spiritually mature, that local church is failing in creating the cycle it is supposed to create.  This involvement in working partnership with God in the discipleship of all those in a local church is what practically defines formal membership in a local church.  

          Who are the spiritually mature in a local church?  The spiritually mature believers in a local church are those who are living translations of the Word of God.  Because of that reality, they are forming partnerships in ministry with those who are not yet spiritually mature.  That is a major part of what spiritually mature believers have learned to do.  If the spiritually mature believer is a person who has learned to “observe” the teachings of Jesus, he will begin to do what Jesus did.  The word “observe” means the preservation of the teachings of Jesus through the practical application of those teachings in everyday life situations. 

          Jesus the Christ began His ministry (after He was baptized) by inviting twelve individuals to come to His side to be trained to be “fishers of men.”  Jesus was a carpenter Who trained people through involvement and participation.  That is the pattern all Christians should be following.  This fact means that you are either a disciple being trained or you are training someone to be a disciple.  If a middle ground exists between these two areas, it is there because of indifference (and that is just another word for sin). 

“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

          If you are not being trained as a disciple of Jesus Christ, you need revival in your heart.  In other words, if you are not being trained as a disciple of Jesus Christ, you do not have a heart for God or a missional vision for ministry.  

          If you consider yourself to be among the spiritually mature (leaders in your local church) and you are not actively involved in training one or more disciples, you need revival in your heart.  In other words, you do not have a heart for God or a missional vision for ministry.  The teaching and preaching ministry of the local church or personal devotions will not be important to you when you are not working at growth and the gathering of truth for your own spiritual growth and the spiritual growth of others.

          “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24).  This refers to all Christians, not just an elite few.  This is an evident reality in the lives of spiritually mature Christians.  If this reality is so definitive, what does it mean?  Spiritually mature believers are those who have learned to put their carnal natures to death along with their worldly passions and carnal desires.  This fact is characteristic of truly spiritually mature believers.

          You will never hear a truly spiritually mature believer arguing for the liberty (right) to participate in worldly practices.  The truly spiritually mature believer will be more concerned about being right with God than anything else because he understands that the empowering of his life by the Holy Spirit is dependant upon his being right with God (in “fellowship”).  Spiritually mature believers understand and apply the Law of Liberty to the everyday practices of their lives.  (This does not refer to the black and white things that we know are forbidden.)  I Corinthians 6:12 defines the Law of Liberty.

“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (“I Corinthians 6:12).

          These verses establish the all encompassing criteria (outside of the Law) that should govern the believer’s life in making decisions regarding the things to which he gives his time.  The word “expedient” in I Corinthians 6:12 is from the Greek word sumphero (soom-fer'-o).  It means to contribute to the help of others.  The idea is that the believer should not become involved in anything that cannot be used to help another person come to Christ or to contribute to their spiritual growth.  Secondly, the words “I will not be brought under the power of any” in I Corinthians 6:12 refer to the idea of not allowing anything into our life that might dominate our attention or time.  My experience is that most Christians give their priority time to that which they enjoy.  If they enjoy something, they will find the time for it.  I Corinthians 10:23 gives us other details regarding the Law of Liberty.

“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (I Corinthians 10:23).

          The word “edify in I Corinthians 10:23 is from the Greek word oikodomeo (oy-kod-om-eh'-o), which means to build or erect a building.  It is used metaphorically to describe that which promotes growth in spiritual wisdom, affection, grace, and virtues.  In other words, spiritually mature Christians will restrict their involvement in the things of this world to those activities that will best promote the spiritual growth of others.  These practices define a spiritual walk.  Professing Christians who do not live by these all-encompassing Laws of Liberty are in serious need of revival.

          There is a good reason why God used the word “crucified” regarding the continuing carnal emotions and desires of the Old Nature (Galatians 5:24).  “Crucified” is a word that defines our dedication to serving Christ through ministry.  The central qualification to becoming a spiritually mature disciple of Jesus Christ is the willingness to die to all personal ambitions that do not advance the cause of Christ.  If that is not the testimony of the practice of your life, you desperately need revival.  We can learn a great deal by the message of Christ to the seekers of His day. 

25 And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it” (Luke 14:25-28)?

          Luke 14:25-28 is not talking about salvation.  Salvation is a free gift of God’s grace.  This text is about the primary qualification defining your being a disciple of Jesus Christ.  The cost of being a disciple of Jesus is a price many people are just not willing to pay.  The price of being a disciple is paid daily on the installment plan.  The price of discipleship is all that you are or can be which is given to God in the “work of the ministry” every single day of your life. 

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.