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: September 2019

Monday, September 30, 2019

The Church of the Broken-Down Wall

Chapter Twenty-two
The Church of the Broken-Down Wall
(Ephesians 2:14)

In Ephesians 2:14, God’s Word informs us that Jesus Has “hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us {Jews and Gentiles}.  This text reveals some great and undeserved blessings from God.  Most people expect God’s blessings without ever trying to be a blessing to Him.  This delusion should never be part of a true believer’s view of the Christian life.  The fact is that ONLY those truly trying to be a blessing to God and live for Him should ever expect to be blessed by God.  Secondly, most true blessings from God are spiritual, not material. 

Matthew chapters five through seven are the blessings and curse instructions for believer-priests (the Church) of the New Covenant.  These governing principles cannot be ignored or minimized if a believer-priest, or local church of believer-priests, want to be blessed of God.  Because these truths are minimalized and marginalized, most believers expect blessings from God of which they really have no investment and for which they have no hope.  Expectations of God’s blessings while living in contradiction to the conditions for those blessings is radically delusional.  The difference between Old Covenant expectations of believers and New Covenant expectations is that those expectations are HIGHER UNDER THE NEW COVENANT.

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:3-12).

In I Peter 2:5, God speaks of all Church Age believers as living stones making up a living temple for the indwelling of the living God.  In the “living stone” metaphor, God wants us to see a remarkable truth that reflects possibilities in numerous dimensions of impossibilities.  It is beyond us to imagine a stone that grows and moves on its own accord.  Stones normally do not grow and they certainly do not move unless operated upon by some outside force.  Secondly, although God is omnipresent, we would not think that it important to Him to dwell in stones, living or otherwise.  We must see the supernatural nature of the New Creation within this metaphor of the Church. 

1 Wherefore laying aside {casting off or away} all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2 As newborn babes {singular and individual}, desire {intensely crave} the sincere {undeceitful or unadulterated} milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby {‘ye’ is plural, therefore corporate church growth}: 3 If so be ye have tasted {Psalm 34:8; O taste and see that the Lord is good,’ just as a baby once having tasted his mother’s milk cries for it again and again} that the Lord is gracious {a blessing God; to have tasted of the truths of grace that lead a person to a salvation decision and removal from the curse, must thereby create a longing to continue to drink of the goodness of God through the study of God’s Word}. 4 To whom {Jesus} coming, as unto a living stone {refers to the incarnation of God into humanity}, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5 Ye also, as lively stones {living clay; regenerated}, are built up a spiritual house {‘the Church of the firstborn,’ Hebrews 12:23}, an holy priesthood, to {the intended purpose of this new priesthood} offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ {the believer’s High Priest; Romans 12:1-2}. 6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient {the unbelieving, Jesus rejecting Jews and all unbelievers inclusively}, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner {of the New Creation and ‘church of the firstborn’}, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word {corrupted priesthood of Israel and all corrupted by works salvation today}, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye {the ‘church of the firstborn’} are a chosen {vocationally as the new Melchizedekian priesthood} generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him {the primary occupation of believer-priests} who hath called {vocationally} you out of darkness {the cursed creation and ignorance} into his marvellous light {the New Creation and enlightenment through Scriptural knowledge}: 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy {verb tense and voice means at the moment conversion in the individual’s event in being ‘born again’ ‘by grace through faith’ in Christ}” (I Peter 2:1-10).

Stones metaphorically represent men “dead in trespasses and sin” (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13) and powerless to any hope of living righteous lives apart from a complete transformation of their existence.  The fact that they are living stones represents the fact that they are still human, sinners, and that their transformation will not be complete until they are fully glorified.  

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is what makes these stones living stones.  The filling of the Holy Spirit is what makes it possible for sinful beings to live righteously in this world.  The indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit is what makes it possible for any local church to be holy before the Lord and to become a holy Temple in which the Lord may dwell and be worshiped “in Spirit and in truth.”  There are depths of truth in this metaphor that make the incomprehensible operations of God comprehensible in some small way.  The metaphor helps explain how it is possible for believers to become “workers together” with God (II Corinthians 6:1).

Early in the three-year ministry of Jesus, we find Him talking with a woman at a well near the city of Sychar in Samaria.  The well was known as “Jacob’s well.”  This well was a Jewish historical landmark.  At this point in history, the well was being used primarily by the citizens of the city of Sychar – all Samaritans.  At Jacob’s well, Jesus foretells of a remarkable coming transition.  Worship would no longer be through the Mosaic Covenant and through the sacrifices and holy days in Jerusalem.  Believers everywhere could worship God directly “in spirit and in truth.” 

21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24). 

It is to this dispensational transition that Paul speaks in Ephesians 2:11-22. 

11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments {Mosaic Covenant} contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple {of living stones} in the Lord: 22 In whom ye {plural, collectively as the Church constructed of saved Jews and saved Gentiles} also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:11-22).

As “born again” believers, there is a Divine expectation that the descriptors of what we were (Ephesians 2:11-12) should not be the descriptors of what we are as new creatures (Ephesians 2:13-22).  Ephesians 2:13-22 speak of a new potential that is available to all “born again” believers in Jesus Christ.  Ignorance and selfish carnality keep believers living in the natural and from living in the supernatural aspects of their new existence “in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).  In their ignorance and selfish carnality, people confuse happiness with joy and moments of worldly pleasures for fulfillment of their soul’s needs.  Those fleeting moments of happiness and pleasure leave their lives empty of anything that has any lasting merit.  They cannot understand why their Christianity does not work.  Their Christianity does not work because their Christianity is not real Christianity. 

All true Jews saw themselves at war with all Gentiles.  Therefore, most of the Jews at the time of Jesus hated king Herod.  Herod was an Idumean (from the country of Edom) governor of Judea who was appointed governor by the Roman Empire.  All true Jews hated this but tolerated it as long as they were allowed freedom to worship as they saw fit.  Gentiles were not allowed inside the Temple.  There was a Court of the Gentiles outside of the Temple, but they were not allowed beyond the Soreg Inscription written in Greek.

“No foreigner is to enter the barriers surrounding the sanctuary.  He who is caught will have himself to blame for his death which will follow.”

Only faithful Jewish men and women were allowed beyond the Soreg Inscription.  Only faithful Jewish men were allowed inside the Court of the Israelites.  There were walls separating these various courts, which in turn separated believers from unbelievers in allowing entrance beyond the Soreg Inscription from the Court of the Gentiles.  Even faithful believers require ritual washings before being allowed entrance to the inner courts.  Jesus even condemned what was being allowed in the Court of the Gentiles before the Soreg Inscription saying they had made His “house a house of merchandise” (John 2:16).  The wall upon which the Soreg Inscription was place was known as “the middle wall” to which Paul refers in Ephesians 2:14.

The lie of the “false teacher” is that God really does not care how you live your life.  The argument for liberty to the point of license is the argument of the “false teacher.”  This type of “false teacher” is the most dangerous of all corruptors for he redefines purity in aberrant ways that appeal to the person who does not want to make the personal sacrifices necessary to moral and practical purity before God.  Therefore, God gives the strongest of warnings against this type of “false teacher” (II Peter 2:1). Perhaps the greatest aberration of Christianity is to take the Name of Christ without seeking to live the life of Christ.  Trying to do God’s work in the power of the “old man” is a primary reason why the Church is failing the Great Commission!

“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (II Peter 2:1).

18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (II Peter 2:18-22). 

As already said, the emphasis between the words “circumcision” and “uncircumcision” in Ephesians 2:11 is the sanctity offered to the believer within a covenant with God.  Remaining within the conditions of the covenant was the requirement for sanctity before God.  Do not confuse sanctification with salvation.  Sanctification is defined in Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” 

The Mosaic Covenant also defined how someone, once defiled, could be once again purified.  Circumcision was the Jewish sign of those governed by the “commonwealth of Israel” in the Mosaic Covenant (Ephesians 2:12).  The word “commonwealth” is from the Greek word politeia (pol-ee-ti'-ah).  The most basic meaning of the word “commonwealth” is polity, defining how a community of people is governed.  In other words, those of the “circumcision” agreed to be governed by the polity defined by the Mosaic Covenant given to the nation of Israel.  The Gentiles, “who are called uncircumcision” by the Jews, were outside of the Mosaic Covenant and outside of the polity and governance of national Israel (Ephesians 2:11).  The Gentiles were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).  The word “aliens” means the Gentles were non-participants in the governing polity of Israel.  They were “strangers” regarding the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants and therefore ignorant of both salvation “by grace through faith” and sanctity through the purification of blood typified in the sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant.  Without these messages regarding salvation and sanctification, the Gentiles had “no hope” and were “without God in the world” (Ephesians 4:12).

“But now in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:13) – these glorious words of hope burst forth like the Sunrise out of the pitch-black darkness of night.  Sadly, the extreme spiritual darkness in the world was due to the failure of Israel to maintain her separation from worldliness and sanctification unto God.  God would begin with a new remnant of faithful believers in the Apostles of Jesus Christ.  They would be the first generation of hundreds of generations of “born again” Christians with a missional vision to reach the word with the message of redemption through the ministry of reconciliation as personal ambassadors of Jesus Christ.  The point of this statement of “but now in Christ Jesus” is that those that are “born again” ought to cease living as fallen beings.  There is now another option that is radically new and radically wonderful.  We can now live to the glory of God.  The supernatural workmanship of God “in Christ Jesus” is working in our lives to the potential end of producing God-kind righteousness through our lives. 

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made {cause to become} the righteousness of God in him” (II Corinthians 5:21).

          The words “might be made” are all translated from the Greek word ginomai (ghin’-om-ahee).  The word means to become.  It is present tense and subjunctive mood (the mood of potential or possibility); therefore, the word “might” is provided to represent the subjunctive mood.  The point is that there is no reason or excuse for a “born again” believer to live as a fallen creature any longer.  Living as a fallen creature is a complete contradiction of our new potential “in Christ Jesus.” 

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, September 23, 2019

Power Loss

The Two Natures of the Believer
Chapter Eight
Power Loss

          The filling of the Spirit of God is prefaced by hungering and thirsting “after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6).  This is practical righteousness in the believer’s life.  The believer wanting the purest form of intimacy with God wants what God wants in his life – PRACTICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS.  The paradox that is soon discovered is that the more a believer pursues the righteousness of God, the more he discovers how short he comes from ever truly reaching that goal (Romans 3:23).  Although the believer hungers and thirsts for Godkind righteousness, he comes to understand the pursuit is futile as long as he is still in human and fallen flesh.  Understanding all of this brings the believer to understand the dilemma of practical sanctification apart from the filling of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. 

          In this dilemma of God’s expectation of perfect righteousness, we are confronted with the same problem in practical sanctification as we are in God’s requirement of people possessing perfect Godkind righteousness before anyone can enter His presence.  We know from Scripture, in the doctrine of salvation, that Godkind righteousness can NEVER BE ACHIEVED, but only RECEIVED.  This Godkind righteousness IS the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the “born again” believer’s body. 

          Practical righteousness never be ACHIEVED by keeping the moral Law.  Practical sanctification can only be ACHIEVED through a partnership (“fellowship”) with the indwelling Spirit of God.  Practical Godkind righteous can only be RELEASED through the believer’s life through the “filling” of the Spirit.  This “filling” of the Spirit cannot happen until the believer totally surrenders his will to the indwelling Spirit.  There the pursuit of Godkind righteousness demands the pursuit of the most intimate personal relationship possible between two beings – the FILLING OF GOD’S SPIRIT. 

1 If ye then be risen with Christ, {then} seek those things which are above {‘on the top,’ above or beyond; the things of the Spirit in your new existence ‘in Christ’}, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God {as the believer’s representative, perfect, sinless High Priest} . 2 Set your affection on things above {‘on the top,’ above or beyond; the things of the Spirit in your new existence ‘in Christ’}, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead {positionally; Romans 6:6}, and your life {lifetime of sinfulness} is hid {perfect, passive, indicative} with {implies an intimate personal connection} Christ in God {positionally}. 4 When Christ, who is our life {positionally}, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory {practically}” (Colossians 3:1-4).

The pursuit of this most intimate of relationships with God through the kind of faith that is willing to totally trust God and totally yield one’s life to the indwelling Spirit is what defines hungering and thirsting after righteousness in Matthew 5:6; “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”  The ONLY people that will ever be filled with the Spirit in the truest sense of the theological meaning are those willing to totally trust God and totally yield their lives to the indwelling Spirit.  This is the primary arena of the “trying of your faith” described in James 1:2-8).  James 1:7 tells us there is a loss of power with God (God’s blessing) for those wavering in their willingness totally trust God and totally yield their lives to the indwelling Spirit. 

2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations {various kinds of life trials}; 3 Knowing this, that the trying {proving or testing} of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. 5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:2-8).

When God says, “count it all joy,” He wants us to understand that He is working to bring us to a functional maturity and faith in Jesus Christ that can trust Him through every situation in life.  He is doing this in a faith partnership through various kinds of testing, trials, and difficulties.  A few of the things with which we are tested are:

1. Doubt
2. Temptations
3. Anger
4. Wrath
5. Obedience
6. Self-control
7. Love
8. Works
9. Accountability
10. Worldliness
11. Materialism
12. False Prejudices

          God wants moral responsibility and spiritual responsibility in His children.  Yet, God knows that believers cannot be morally responsible and spiritually responsible without Him help (grace-enabling).  God wants all fleshly patterns to be cast away.  “Counting” trials and difficulties a necessity to accomplish those ends is part of God’s growth process.  You are to become a partner with God in His making you a TELEIOS Christian: spiritually mature, complete, entire, and lacking nothing (James 1:4). 

How is a mature Christian spiritually defined?  James defines it in five areas.

1. A mature Christian is a person who is aware of the innate nature of sinfulness due to his fallen nature and is constantly in the process of resisting and overthrowing it.  This person’s faith in God grows stronger every day and is becoming unwavering.
2. A mature Christian is a person who is becoming soul conscious with genuine concern for people.
3. A mature Christian is a person learning to live by prayer and use prayer as an effective tool to realize spiritual goals.
4. A mature Christian is a person who knows how to use a trial, using it to learn and teach everything that can be gained from it.
5. A mature Christian person has learned not to view conflict as a problem, but as an opportunity to teach and learn.  As a result, a mature Christian becomes spiritually alert to God’s working in difficulties and trials.

          If God’s perfecting work never ends, can we ever say we are “perfected”?  Yes, but not the way man defines perfection.  In the book of James, God will give us several spiritual fronts on which He wants us to grow (to advance).  Therefore, the “perfect” (mature) Christian is the person who is constantly working to grow on all fronts, without exception, in his Christian growth.

          Growth becomes the measurement of maturity, and that maturity can exist at many levels.  We expect a six-year-old to act like a six-year-old.  We expect a thirteen-year-old to act like a thirteen-year-old.  But sometimes we expect a six-year-old to act like a thirteen-year-old and a thirteen-year-old to act like a thirty-year-old.  That is unfair.  It is also unfair when a thirty-year-old acts like a thirteen-year-old or a thirteen-year-old acts like a six-year-old. 

          In the church, the latter is usually the problem more than the former.  It is not that we expect too much, but that we expect too little.  A thirteen-year-old Christian ought to know and live better and more consistently than a six-year-old or a two-year-old Christian.

          God allows trials to come into our lives to test our growth levels.  He wants to know our spiritual strengths and weaknesses.  God is constantly testing us for spiritual integrity.  God is looking for gaps in our growth.  That is what James 1:2-4 is saying.  In every circumstance of life, God is working to perfect us and our ability to look to Him for the spiritual resources to be victorious over our flesh.  This is power WITH God!  God wants us to live in dependence upon Him in spiritual partnership to be victorious over our flesh.  To understand all of this is to understand the blessing and curse of the New Covenant.  “The just shall live by faith” dependence upon their partnership with God to be victorious over the “flesh.”  This is very PRACTICAL THEOLOGY!  

          The incredible shallowness of understanding the spiritual dynamic of power with God through practical sanctification has created an incredible superficiality in the lives of professing Christians.  There is NO POWER with God apart from the filling of the Spirit of God through abiding “in the Vine.”

1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:1-8).

To argue that the conditions defined in John 15:1-8 and the Sermon on the Mount cannot be for Church Age believers because they are presently impossible conditions, is ridiculous.  If they are intended only for glorified believers, as some argue, they will not be needed in that glorified believers will be delivered from the corruption of the flesh in their glorified bodies.  If they are intended only for Kingdom Age believers living in fleshly (non-glorified) bodies, what would be the difference between those Kingdom Age believers and Church Age believers?  It would be just as impossible for them to live up to these conditions as it is for Church age believers.  In fact, this impossibility is the main emphasis of the understanding of the doctrine of Grace (God’s supernatural enabling through the indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit).  

We must grasp the impossibility of producing spiritual fruit apart from the blessing of unity with Jesus Christ through the filling of the Spirit of God.  Then perhaps Church Age believers could finally grasp the essential essence of the total yieldedness (Romans 6:11-13).  Total yieldedness is necessary before the Priesthood of any believer can be used of God so that we can be consecrated by our High Priest, Jesus Christ, to be used in the “work of the ministry” to which we are perfected (Ephesians 4:12).  It is a matter of fact, without the supernatural enabling of the indwelling Christ, the believer “can do nothing.” 
The conditions of the blessing and curse of the New Covenant (Matthew chapters five through seven) are not based upon perfection in sinlessness.  These conditions of the blessing and curse of the New Covenant are intended to reflect an important reality.  Being right with God is conditioned upon a proper understanding of what we are and who we are apart from the supernatural operations of the indwelling Spirit of God from within us through our lives.  Once a believer understands the depth of his own degradation in corruption, only then can he understand that what God merely wants is for fallen sinners, now saved by grace, to have a complete change of heart regarding what he wants God to do through their lives.  Even if we could somehow never commit an act of sin again for the rest of our lives, every believer still thinks about sin, is tempted by certain sinful desires, and is emotionally corrupted.  These are the issues upon which Matthew chapter five, six, seven and Luke 6:20-49 expound. 

God simply wants us to WANT what He wants and depend upon Him to accomplish what He wants through us.  Yes, there must be a turning from our corrupted emotions, our perverse desires, and outward acts of sin, but there also needs to be turning to God in a declaration of dependence.  This defines the altar work that needs to be done before the Throne of Grace by the broken sinner. 

1. There must be a declaration of the sinner’s understanding of his spiritual brokenness.
2. There must be a declaration of the sinner’s understanding of his spiritual helplessness in meeting God’s expectations.
3. There must be a declaration of the sinner’s dependency upon the indwelling Spirit to supernaturally work through the yielded believer’s life.
4. There must be a determination to live in unbroken fellowship with Christ through the continual communication of the above three things during each moment of the day.
5. There must be a determination to be a vocal witness for Christ and a willingness to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the first moment an opportunity arises.

According to John 15:7, we must “abide in Christ” to have our PRAYER answered.  The place where answers to prayer are received is always the “abiding” place in Christ.  God cannot, and will not, answer any prayer that is contrary to His will.  The only way we can know God’s will is when His “Words abide” in us.  Then we can pray in God’s will.

The importance of what Jesus teaches in John 15:1-8 will probably never be fully realized until after we are dead, glorified, and finally standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Then we will see the outcome of all those moments of selfish inconsideration when we lived for carnal pleasures and worldly pursuits.  

In John 15:4. Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you.”  The word “abide” is an aorist, active, imperative.  In other words, the believer is COMMANDED to abide in Christ and to ensure that Christ abides in the believer.  The word “abide” means to stay or remain.  To not abide in Christ is a serious act of sinful disobedience.  

The context of John 15:1-8 demands we understand the meaning is to do whatever is required to ensure that we live in continuous Spirit-filled fellowship with Jesus Christ.  The believer’s will must be so fully surrendered to Christ that their two wills seems as one.  This reality should be the condition of the heart before any person makes any request to God.  Such a person wants intimacy with God before He wants things from God.  This factor defines living faith.  Anything less is simply a foolish attempt to manipulate God into doing what we want Him to do.  What depth of ignorance and unbelief do such attempts manifest in the lives of those trying to do such foolishness as trying to manipulate God? 

John 15:7 connects this responsibility to the blessing of answered prayer.  “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”  Notice that in John 15:7, Jesus defines that living in unbroken fellowship with Him necessitates that His “words abide in” us.  In other words, this is not some metaphysical spiritual experience without definitive parameters.  This is not the acceptance of some anything goes syncretistic religious expression.  The necessity that Jesus’ “words abide in” us defines pure Christianity; the Word of God living through the believer’s life.  

What is the first question you ask yourself when you do not receive answers to your prayers?  Are you FULLY surrendered?  Do you have any area of known disobedience to God’s Word in your life?  Have you sought the counsel of someone you respect spiritually?  Will you give this person permission to speak to you frankly about these questions?  What really defines the prayer of faith?  Is faith somehow disconnected from our walk with the Lord?  The redundant pattern of Scripture is that faith has more to do with the way we live our lives than it is about anything else. 

7 But the end of all things is at hand {the Church Age is the “last days”}: be ye therefore sober {of a sound mind meaning doctrinally sound; understanding the timetable of the second coming keeps believers from fretting the events and affairs of the world}, and watch {stay free from intoxicants; keep your mind clear and sober} unto prayer. 8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 4:7-11).

In I Peter 4:7-11, we see several words that describe the overflow of the Spirit of God that manifest His indwelling power flowing through our lives.  There are seven ministry areas of the Christian life that are intimately and intricately connected to having a right working relationship with the Lord.  Understanding these words is critical to understanding how God releases His power through our lives in ministry to one another.

1. Sobriety: from the word sophroneo (so-fron-eh'-o), meaning sound of mind or thinking. Sound mindedness comes from thinking things through and taking into consideration all the Truths of God’s Word as they weigh upon any given subject or situation.  Sophroneo was a word that described a person who did not allow his mind to come under the influence of alcohol.  This is very much what Jesus means when He says, “my words abide in you” (John 15:7).
2. Watch unto prayer: the word “watch” is from the word nepho (nay'-fo), meaning to abstain from wine drinking and connecting sobriety (right mindedness) with prayer (God-dependency) in power with God in all matters of life.  Contradistinctively, failure in nepho (abstaining from wine drinking or any similar worldly practice) would disconnect the believer from power with God. Worldly desires manifest a weak mind (the opposite of a strong or sound mind).
3. Fervent charity: literally, unceasing sacrificial love for other true believers. The idea is the willingness to make extreme sacrifices for one another, to help one another grow in grace, and to escape the shackles of our own selfishness.  The words “charity shall cover the multitude of sins” in I Peter 4:8 is a quote from Proverbs 10:12. “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”  The idea is that our love is not constantly stirring up the dunghill of a fellow Christian’s past failures of which he has confessed and that have been forgiven.
4. Use hospitality: from the word philoxenos (fil-ox’-en-os), it simply means being fond of guests.  Christians ought to enjoy the company of other Christians and “use hospitality” to encourage one another.  Notice this comes with the qualifier, “one to another without grudging” (grumbling or complaining about having to do it).  Remember, “God loveth a cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7). Hospitality costs both time and money.  If love does not cost us something, we have not loved.
5. Minister “the gift:” “gift” is from charisma and “minister” is from diakoneo (dee-ak-on-eh'-o). In other words, God did not give us the supernatural gift of spiritual enablement to consume upon ourselves.  He has gifted us with the intent we will use that “gift” and spread it as a resource to the widest possible scale of our influence “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  Notice, there is a stewardship involved.  Stewardship means we will be held accountable for this “manifold grace of God.”  This accountability defines the Dispensation (stewardship) of Grace.  Salvation is a gift of grace, but with it comes overwhelming spiritual responsibilities for which we are accountable to God.  He expects “fruit.”
6. Speech: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11).  The word “the” is not in the Greek text in front of the word “oracles.”  It should read, “Speak as oracles of God.”  The idea is like the “thus sayeth the LORD” proclamation of the Old Testament prophets.  The idea is that you are not communicating some philosophical idea or some great thought from your own mind.  There is no option for debate or dissension.  Truth is to come forth from the mouth of the prophet of God, as if God is speaking Himself.  Therefore, when you are speaking forth the Word of God, you are to do so with the authority of its Author.
7. Ministry to the glory of God: “If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 4:11b).  We often hear the word charismatic used to describe people who can attract large crowds.  Often, these types of people are self-glorifying empire builders.  They are like fly paper.  The fly was just looking for a place to land to get something to eat and then he found himself stuck.

When God uses the word charisma, He uses it in the context of His supernatural enabling of a believer for the “work of the ministry.”  This gift of grace is never to be used for some guy to build himself an empire of loyal followers.  God’s gift of grace should be used to make followers (disciples) of Jesus Christ where all that we do is intent upon bringing God glory - revealing Him in all His wondrous attributes to a blind, cursed, and dying world of sinners.  Sometimes there is a narrow line between a man building himself a kingdom and a man working to win souls and make disciples for the Kingdom of God.  That line is sometimes difficult to discern.

7 But the end of all things is at hand {the Church Age is the “last days”}: be ye therefore sober {of a sound mind meaning doctrinally sound; understanding the timetable of the second coming keeps believers from fretting the events and affairs of the world}, and watch {stay free from intoxicants; keep your mind clear and sober} unto prayer. 8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 4:7-11).

In I Peter 4:7-9, God gives an admonition to believers within a local church union about living during the last days.  The Church Age Dispensation will end with the death of every lost soul on the face of planet earth.  Only the lost that enter the Tribulation and then repent of sin and trust in the finished work of Christ for their redemption during the seven-year Tribulation, will enter the Kingdom Age Dispensation alive.  Every other person who has received the mark of the Beast will be destroyed by the glory of the coming of Christ.  With this view in mind, the believer should carefully follow the admonitions of I Peter 4:7-9. 

Along with what we are told in Revelation chapters four through nineteen and numerous other prophecies, this is the world view of every Christian who believes in the imminent (any moment) second coming of Jesus Christ. This is the looming dark cloud of God’s promise of His unleashed wrath in His judgment of the nations.  This is the theological foundation of the any moment pending reality to which the words: “7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. 8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging” (I Peter 4:7-9) are addressed.  Perhaps if we truly understood this any moment pending reality, we might begin to take these words seriously.

The word “end” in I Peter 4:7 is from the Greek word telos (tel’-os).  This word refers to the point aimed at as a limit or the point of termination.  The Church Age Dispensation is the next to the last age of God’s longsuffering grace upon this fallen creation.  Then comes the “day of wrath” that Paul speaks of in Romans 2:5: “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. . .”  This is the future horizon that all Church Age believers must constantly keep in their sights.  We must keep this prophecy as part of today’s possible realities.

This scenario is equally true of local churches where the “meat” of Bible doctrine has been removed.  Take the definitive Truths of God’s Word away from the admonitions to a local church and you take away the spiritual nutrients that lead us to power with God.  A believer cannot “abide” in the Words of Christ if he is ignorant of those Words.  Although that local church may look like and act like it is growing, it is dying of malnutrition at the same time.  The only hope for the lost souls of this world is for Christians to live the Christ-life!

          Every Christian is commanded to be both “salt” and “light” in this world.  Yet, the Christian that is not empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit will be savorless salt and hidden or covered “light.”  The point is that we are going to be “lukewarm” if we are not willing to make some extreme, radical changes in our priorities and how we live this new life we have “in Christ.”  Before we fool ourselves into thinking that we have achieved some type of success because we have convinced a large group of people to join our multitude, we better examine what kind of multitude we really are and what we are trying to become.  Jesus tells the crowds following Him to take careful consideration of the personal costs of being a TRUE DISCIPLE in Luke 14:25-35.  If you are willing to pay the price, DO NOT take the title!

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 {this refers to the kind of total surrender to Christ that is willing to die for the mission of Christ}. 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? {Carefully consider the personal costs of being a true disciple of Jesus.} 29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish {count the cost before calling yourself a disciple, or Christian}. 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace {count the cost before calling yourself a disciple, or Christian}. 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. 34 Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? 35 It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out {worthless for the purpose it was created}.  He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:25-35).

The eyes of faith see every task or difficulty in life through the possibility of grace enablement.  Confession of sins and cleansing of “all unrighteousness” is the first essential to being grace enabled by the indwelling Christ (I John 1:7-9).  Prayer is the medium through which confession is communicated and the grace of cleansing is received.  This defines the cleansing of the vessel through which Christ and the Christ-life flows through us.  There is a moral obligation as children of God to live clean lives according to the teachings of Jesus Christ; i.e. the Word of God.  This is what I Peter 4:10 refers to as being “stewards of . . . grace.”  As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  The word “stewards” translates into the practical reality of accountability for this supernatural spiritual endowment of power that is given to all true believers “born again” of the Spirit of God. 

Although the believer can experience sickness that is not the direct result of chastisement for some sin in his life, he cannot experience sickness that is not the direct result of God’s curse upon sin.  Sickness and death are parts of the curse. 

12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation {hupokrisis; hypocrisy or dissimulation}. 13 Is any among you afflicted {undergoing some hardship or difficulty}? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. 14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. 16 Confess your faults one to another {humbling ourselves to avoid having people think of us to highly}, and pray one for another {present imperative; when people know that we all struggle with the same temptations, this prompts us to continually pray one for another}, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent {grace supernaturally enabled and energized} prayer of a righteous man {this is practical sanctification not justification} availeth {enables} much. 17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are {he had a corrupted and sinful nature}, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. 19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth {wander away from living the Word}, and one convert him {turn him around or bring him back to the path of Truth trough persuasion and repentance}; 20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way {from his wandering away from living the Truth} shall save a soul from death {the death here is the death of the Christ-life, not eternal damnation}, and shall hide a multitude of sins {the intent here is that love refuses to see the failures of the past that have been repented and forgiven as present realities}” (James 5:12-20).

          It is the responsibility of every local church member to lovingly help other believers within their local church context and the whole community of Christ to live godly, Christ-like lives – to abide in His Word.  The central objective of the local church, consisting of individual believers united together by salvation and the New Covenant responsibilities, is to ensure that the Words of Jesus are being lived through our lives (John 15:7) by grace through faith.  Any person that has a vested interest in the Kingdom of Christ will seek to abide in the Word of God and want the Word of God to be lived through his live by the enabling grace of the indwelling Christ.  

By the time of the writing of the epistle of James, about thirty years had passed since the resurrection.  Many people had begun to take many of the practical truths of the Word of God for granted.  For those who have been Christians for many years or for young adults and teenagers who have grown-up in the faith, there is a natural tendency to begin just going through the motions.

          People come to their local church’s services with many different things on their minds.  They think about the friends they will see, the songs they will sing, if their kids will set still, or the potluck dinner after services.  How many of us stop to remind ourselves that today we will meet with our God?  How many planned and prepared to worship Him? 

          I think we get into such routines so often that we give little, if any, thought to the presence of our God in what we do.  Even when we pray, we often say the words without any real consciousness of the presence of the Lord.  Our minds think about all those around us and what we are saying, but we are not consciously aware of the presence of the Lord.  We read and study our Bibles without consideration that God is intending to speak to us through the Words on the pages.  We witness to others without any awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

          In James 5:13, God states that our conscious awareness of the presence of God in our lives is measured by our attitude towards Him when we are either “afflicted” or “merry,” under difficulties or blessings, by what we do.  It is in the arenas of PRAYER and PRAISE that God measures the depth of our spiritual integrity.  When “afflicted,” do we pray with a real conscious dependence on the Lord?  When we are blessed, do we praise God from the depths of a grateful heart.

“Afflicted” is a general term for suffering, misfortune, or troubles (James 5:13).

          It is the same word used in James 5:10 to describe the difficulties of the Old Testament prophets.  Trials produce emotional reactions such as stress, worry, anger, and fear that sometimes bring a person into depression when not dealt with properly.  These can all be by-products of AFFLICTION.  The question is, do these things promote prayerful dependency upon the Lord in faith?  They can either PREVENT or PROMOTE spiritual growth, depending on our response to difficulties.  This will determine if we will abide in the Word or flee from the pathway of righteousness. 

James 5:13-18 completes the full circle in the quest for the integrity/wholeness of our faith begun in God to James 1:2-11.

2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. 5 If any of you lack wisdom {the real treasure in life}, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways {the context implies the pursuit of worldly wealth that is temporal as opposed to godly, biblical wisdom that is eternal}. 9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: 10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. 11 For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways” (James 1:2-11).

Our response to affliction, suffering, misfortune, or trouble should be to look for the growth opportunity through which to gain godly wisdom.  We must learn to pray through these difficulties in that such afflictions reveal the temporality of our existence in the flesh.  In God’s plan, affliction always has a purpose.

          Affliction takes the person who has grown complacent towards the Lord, or who has become apathetic towards the things of God and focuses his attention on the PERSON of his faith, Jesus Christ.  A little spiritual meat from a simple spiritual truth: when we forget that we are living in the presence of a holy God every moment of our lives, when we forget Him when we worship, sing, or pray, we have fallen into a trap of Satan.  We have become preoccupied with the things of this world. 

          Let me ask you, did you stop to consider the condition of your heart and life before reading God’s Word?  Did you have a time of self-examination, confession, repentance, and cleansing?  When you sing the hymns, is your mind wandering to other things, or is it focused on bringing glory and praise to our heavenly Father?  Are you thinking about what you are going to do later, a problem at work, your kids, or is your heart and soul fastened upon the wonderful grace of Jesus, His mercy and goodness?  When the tithes and offerings are collected, what are you thinking?  How much?  How little? The burden of it all?  Or are you worshiping the Lord, praying that each dollar given might be used to magnify and glorify His Name a thousand-fold with souls won and lives changed.

          Something here describes every one of us.  You see friends, how easy it is to slip into the snare of the devil and forget our God.  When we forget God, we not only have slipped into the snare of the devil, but the whole concept of worship is lost as a practice of our lives.  Ensuring that the Word of God abides in us is the first step to answered prayer! 

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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.