A-e018 The power of the preaching of the Cross (5/5)
This message is the fifth of a set of 5
To speak of the Cross is painful for the flesh. Our flesh dislikes it, for it knows perfectly well that the Cross is where our carnality was dealt with. Therefore it is vital to preach the Cross, so that our flesh stops hindering the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives ! The Holy Spirit dwells within our hearts and wants to demonstrate the character of Jesus in us. Let us beware of fighting the wrong enemy : our enemy is not the flesh ! According to God’s Word, our enemy is Satan. He too was overcome at the Cross. So our fight is not against the flesh, but against Satan. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12).
We cannot engage in spiritual warfare, or in prayer or intercession, unless our flesh has been dealt with ; and that can be done only through faith in what the Lord says to us and what Jesus Christ has done for us on the Cross. The preaching of the Cross is the power of God. In the Cross there is power, both to sever and to join.
Actually, this power does not lie in the Cross itself, but in the mighty work the Lord Jesus achieved on it. When we "preach the Cross", it means that we preach all that Jesus accomplished for us there, when He died for us and we died in Him. The mention of "the Cross" in the Bible is always a reference to the mighty deeds accomplished by Jesus on it. In itself, the Cross is a mere piece of wood ; its value, however, lies in the fact that Jesus was crucified there. That was where He cried out : "It is finished !"
The Cross is powerful both to sever and to unite. Several very forceful verses point to this. When we receive these Words of God into our spiritual understanding through the Holy Spirit, our very lives are turned upside down. When the Holy Spirit reveals to our hearts and our spirits all that Jesus achieved on the Cross, the entire Gospel lies in that revelation. The Cross is central to the whole of the Word of God, for ever and ever !
The revelation of the Cross carries power, both to separate and to join. It brings deliverance to every area in our lives and to all of our relationships with others.
I am fully persuaded that deliverance does not consist in the casting out of demons, except in some specific situations in which they manifest themselves. What secures our deliverance is our knowledge of the truth, i.e. understanding and appropriating through faith all the implications of what Jesus did on the Cross. When we understand those things, we can — and often must — come against the powers of darkness. This we do after putting on the whole armour of God, standing on the Word we have received into our hearts, so as to resist all the attacks and wiles of the enemy. But first of all, we need to be rooted in the work of the Cross.
The Word of God clearly states that the Cross is powerful to sever us from the flesh, from the world, and from Satan. When Jesus died on the Cross, He caused us to die in Him and with Him. This is a statement that can never be repeated too often ! It is vital to understand and to believe this : not only did Jesus die for us and atone for our sins on the Cross ; we too died in Him and with Him.
So first of all, the Cross is the power that severs us from our own flesh. Uncrucified flesh is the cause of all our problems ; and the Gospel, the Good News, declares that the Cross has wholly separated us from our flesh. Let us read Romans 6:6 again. It is profitable to go back to those key-Scriptures again and again, and to meditate on all of their implications, so as to understand and to appropriate what the Lord wants to say to us through His Word. Every time we do it, the Spirit of God can accomplish His work deeper down within us, till our spiritual eyes are wide open to the truth, "knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin." (Romans 6:6-7).
Chapters 6 and 7 of Romans clearly point out that sin dwells in the flesh, in the old nature we inherited at birth. However, when Christ died, that old nature, our "old man" was crucified too, so that the "body of sin" might be destroyed. When Jesus died on the Cross, that former nature of ours was "cut off". Through the resurrection of the Lord, we have received a new spiritual nature. Therefore the Cross cleanly divides our former sinful nature from the new nature received at our new birth. This new nature was created by the Lord Jesus, according to God, in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:24).
We died in Christ. Our body of sin was destroyed when Jesus died on the Cross. That body of sin, that single cause of all our problems in our past lives, has been destroyed ! We have been freed from its yoke, from its sin-generating power. "He who has died has been freed from sin" : now that we are in Christ, the Cross has wholly cut us off from what we were when that body of sin used to rule us.
Are you rejoicing in that, beloved ? Does your heart leap for joy at the good news ? Jesus destroyed your body of sin when He died on the Cross ! In verse 6, Paul says : "knowing that…" but so many Christians do not know ! Such ignorance ruins them and keeps them locked up inside the flesh.
The knowledge of these things must not be solely in our heads : it must dwell in our spirits. Somewhere, deep down within ourselves, we know, for we have received the Word as a living power. The Holy Spirit has revealed and explained it to us. The word is now enshrined in our hearts : our body of sin has been destroyed !
Once we have grasped the truth of this through a revelation from God, nothing can pluck it out of our hearts. Our salvation by grace through Jesus Christ was revealed to us in the same way. That wicked, evil, loathsome old nature of ours was destroyed through Jesus’ death on the Cross. The Cross has cut us off, once and for all, from the flesh. It has opened up an impassable gulf between the flesh and us.
When Abraham addresses the wicked rich man who is in hell, he says to him : "between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us." (Luke 16:26).
As long as we remain in the faith, we are separated from our old sinful natures by an impassable gulf, for we have been born anew in Christ. If we grasp that, nothing compels us to go on inhabiting our former selves. There is no reason why that former self should run our lives for us : it is a corpse that is dead and buried ! Let us never haul it out of its grave again ! Let it remain buried forever ! Jesus rose from the grave in newness of life : death has no power over Him any longer. We too have risen from the grave in newness of life, in Him and with Him, and our former sinful, dead natures have lost their power to rule us. It is done !
Too many Christians spend their time digging up the corpses of their former selves, rummaging through past traumas, and toiling to restore to health what God has declared dead and buried !
Had the Lord Jesus not come to die on the Cross, we would have been forever unable to cope with the problem of our flesh and the dominion of sin. We would have been doomed to drag the dead weight of those old selves around with us forever; and none of our religion, indeed none of our Christianity, would have been of any help !
The Scriptures declare in Galatians : "I am crucified with Christ : nevertheless, I live ; yet not I, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20). "I am crucified with Christ !" That is effective separation ! "I live, yet not I" ; "I" here, means that sinful old self of mine which was crucified. This is not to say that I have been changed into some sort of bland nonentity, but that the Lord has given me a brand new "self". Moreover, there is Someone who is now alive within me. I have received Him through faith, and He lives in me through the indwelling power of His Spirit : Christ Himself ! What a revelation, what a gift ! Christ has created within us a new nature like His own, a beautiful, clean, holy nature. From now on, the Lord requires us to keep it holy and pure through His Word, His blood, and His Spirit. He wants to manifest the fullness of His own nature in us ; we are all predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus: "For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:29).
But Paul takes care to add : "the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20). Yes, I live in the flesh, but by faith in the Son of God , by faith in His work on the Cross ;faith being "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1). Through faith, I have to accept as an accomplished fact my death and resurrection in Christ, simply because the Word says so. I am not to stop at what I still see in myself, when I watch my own behaviour or some carnal response in myself. A carnal response means that I have forgotten my position in Christ. In that case I need to repent immediately, go back to the mirror of the Word, and say : "Lord, forgive me ! I lost sight of what You say in Your Word. I forgot that I had been crucified in You. I am returning to Your Word and resuming my position in You again. Please lift me out of those waters I am drowning in !
I am not to rebuild what I have destroyed, by coming under the yoke of the flesh again, but to hold fast to my faith in what God says. Prayerfully, I keep meditating on those verses ; and every time I do, the Holy Spirit sends the roots of Jesus’ work deeper down into my heart, through faith. He grants me a deeper revelation of the magnitude of His work on the Cross. "And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and its desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." (Galatians 5:24-25).
We have every reason to know what the flesh is like. Indeed, it ruled us for a long time, and — to a large extent — even after our conversion. Such verses must constantly fill our hearts and our spiritual understanding with light. We must forever be aware that we have been crucified in Christ, and never lose sight of the fact that the Cross has wholly cut us off from our flesh.
The Cross is equally powerful to cut us off from the world. In the beginning, the Lord created a beautiful, perfect world. There were no such things as sin and death in it. When man sinned, death came into him, and the whole of creation, too, was cursed and enslaved to death. "The creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God." (Romans 8:19).
It is a sin-defiled world that surrounds us. It lies in the power of the evil one and of the flesh. The devil lures the flesh for it is filled with lusts. But the apostle Paul declares : "God forbid that I should boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14). Our relationship with the world has been dealt with, just as our flesh, that "body of sin", has been dealt with. Unconverted persons, or pagans, are one spirit and one flesh with the world.
Through the Cross, the whole world has been crucified to us, as we have been crucified to the world. We are no longer in bondage to its deceitful lusts. If a Christian is still bound to the lusts of the world, that means he is ruled by his flesh. He has not heard, or has not accepted the message of the Cross. He is ignorant of his position in Christ, and unable to walk in the Spirit. We must forever be aware that the world around us is crucified to us, as we are to the world. Like Paul, we can boast in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ : "There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcized, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all." (Colossians 3:11).
Membership in a Church or in a denomination is not what counts. What does count, what the Lord is interested in, is that we should become new creatures. To be a new creation is to have passed through the Cross. Many Christians do not know what their position in Christ is. When Christ died on the Cross, God the Father placed us within Him beforehand, so that we could die and rise again in Him : so the Cross has severed us from the world. Indeed, Paul says : "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God." (1 Corinthians 2:12).
We can glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus. I seldom hear Christians glorying in it, but I myself do, for through that Cross the evil world all around me is crucified to me and is now a corpse in my sight. Despite its fine looks, it is utterly putrid. It is under an irrevocable death sentence, which has already been carried out in Christ.
The power of the Cross has also cut us off from Satan. "(God) has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13). The Cross has wholly separated us from that kingdom of darkness we used to dwell in, when we were in the flesh and of the world ; now we are in the Kingdom of the Son of His love, "giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light." (Colossians 1:12). We are rich : we have a magnificent inheritance in God’s light. None of us is poor : all the wealth of our Lord belongs to us. The old things have passed away, and everything has been made new in Christ. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation ; the old things have passed away ; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Jesus has completely freed us from the power of Satan, that tyrant who used to rule us. Our Master is now the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan has no longer any right to rule the slightest particle of our spirits, souls, or bodies. A Christian can have demons, a Christian can be in bondage, a Christian can be sick ; but knowing that we have been delivered from the power of Satan, we can come against any and every power of darkness still at work in our lives and speak to it as Jesus spoke to Satan in the midst of the desert : "Away with you, Satan, for it is written…!" (Matthew 4:10).
Thatis true spiritual warfare. When, through faith, we have received the Word of the Lord, that Word is alive in our hearts. However, our conversion to Jesus Christ does not automatically cause each and every divine blessing to rain down upon us : the automatism of the law no longer applies to us ! The whole of God’s inheritance is to be received by faith, for it is given through grace alone. As soon as we are converted, all that Jesus has achieved is at our disposal in the heavenly places. However, it can be appropriated only through faith.
If we discern that Satan is still at work in our lives, in our bodies or in our thoughts, if something still binds us, the Holy Spirit who lives in us is perfectly aware of it. But He knows all about God’s plans for us. He also knows that on the Cross, Christ wholly cut us off from Satan : we now belong to the Lord and to His Kingdom.
However, Satan is the opponent, the one who resists the Lord. He will do his level best to deceive us and make us believe lies, being a liar and the father of lies. We therefore need to know the truth to be able to resist him. We are to stand fast in the faith and destroy, in Jesus’ Name, through the authority of the Lord, every single lie that lingers on in our thinking. This must be done in the Name of the Lord Jesus, as we stand firmly on the Word of God. When Jesus died on the Cross, He delivered us out of Satan’s kingdom. He paid the price for us, by giving His precious blood. He transported us into the Kingdom of God : Satan has no longer any authority whatever over us. "(Jesus) gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." (Galatians 1:4). "(God) has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love." (Colossians 1:13).
We often need to remind our enemy of those truths. Far too often, he attacks our homes, our bodies, our souls and our spirits, and we never launch any counter-attack ! Far too often, he manages to make us believe his lies ; so the Word of God must be rooted in our hearts. When we receive that Word in faith, we can use all of the spiritual armour our Lord provides, especially the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and we turn on the enemy of our souls, saying : "Satan, it is written… Away with you, now, in the almighty Name of the Lord Jesus !"
"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he has made you alive together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And he has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross ; having disarmed principalities and powers, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it."(Colossians 2:13-15). If we walk in the truth, Satan has no authority to come and accuse us. If we are in the faith, if there is no unconfessed sin in our lives, then we can turn on him and say to him : "Satan, God has forgiven me all my trespasses ! He wiped out the handwriting that was against me ! He destroyed it by nailing it to the Cross ! He disarmed you ! He disarmed the principalities and powers ! You have no longer any dominion over me !"
The Cross has completely separated us from Satan. Of course, he still wields great power and authority, but only over those he can control. If we understand and receive the Word of God, Satan has no longer any right to control us. It is finished ! We are not to let him off ! Jesus has given us all authority over the power of the evil one. "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you." (Luke 10:19).
This does not mean we shall be exempt from hardships and struggles ; but we can and must have peace in our hearts, holding fast to the faith, fighting the good fight of faith, and standing on the Word of the Lord. He has triumphed over the powers and principalities through the Cross ; and the preaching of the Cross "is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." (Romans 1:16).
It was on the Cross that the Lord Jesus achieved everything, destroying all of Satan’s power. He stripped Satan naked, made a public show of him, and put him to shame for all to see. Satan’s colossal pride cannot bear the preaching of the Cross : that was where he was utterly defeated forever. He simply cannot bear being reminded that he was publicly put to shame at the Cross. Satan is a loser.
At the Cross, a shout of victory resounded in the heavenly places, and there were howls of defeat in the enemy ranks. The one and only thing that Satan now does is to trick men into believing lies. If he can, he will even deceive Christians into believing they are still under his sway, under a hereditary curse or some other curse from their past, despite the fact that the power of the Cross has delivered them from that curse forever.
From a position of faith we can effectively resist Satan with the Sword of the Spirit, and tell him : "You have been utterly stripped. I forbid you to touch my home, my body, my health, and the health of my loved ones. My authority is the blood of Jesus, and the Name of Jesus. I know what is written, Satan, and will keep on waging war on you through faith." Satan is compelled to back off. If we persevere in the faith, he will flee. "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7).
The Lord Jesus has fully triumphed over Satan for ever and ever. Can you see that through the Cross, the Lord Jesus has granted us a perfect, divine answer to all our problems ? In the Cross there is power
to separate us from the flesh
to separate us from the world
to separate us from the one in whose power the world lies, i.e. Satan.
However, the power of the Cross does much more than effect a separation. It is also the power that makes us one with God and with all those who have faith in Jesus. It separates us from Satan and unto God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. "But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled with God through the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." (Romans 5:8-10).
What an astounding revelation ! Jesus has reconciled us with God through His death. Through His resurrection, we have risen again in Him and with Him : the Lord fills us with His very own life, bringing us into the fullness of salvation. The Greek verb for "to save" means "to grant full salvation to spirit, soul, and body". We are saved by His life flowing into us — it now has the right to flow into us. Jesus died for us, reconciling us to God.
This means that our thoughts and deeds used to put us at enmity with God ; and our sinful natures, even more so. Jesus’ death reconciled us to Him. The verb "reconcile", here, is especially significant : it implies the coming together in friendship of those who used to be foes ; former enemies are now joined together and made one through perfect forgiveness. We have become one spirit with God, and one Body with Christ. He is the Head, we are all members of His Body and members of each other. God is no longer our enemy : if He still is, that is because we have not yet confessed our sins, or we are resisting the Holy Spirit, still resisting God’s love.
Even a child of God can lose his fellowship with the Lord through sin. If we disobey God, or if our hearts are hardened, He may resist us, for He resists the proud and the wicked. However, if our hearts are honest and good, if we lay them open to the light of God, humbling ourselves before Him, if we bow down before Him, consecrating ourselves to Him to the uttermost, we are in fellowship with Him. When we remain constantly under the power of the blood of Jesus, submitting to the Word of the Lord in our hearts and to the Holy Spirit who indwells us, we are constantly being cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and we remain in fellowship with the Lord, one with Him, reconciled to Him through the death of His Son ! "And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation." (Romans 5:11).
Jesus is the Master Reconciler. The apostle Paul received this profound revelation : "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation ; old things have passed away ; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).
Now that we have been reconciled to Him, it is vital for us to understand that God wants to make reconcilers of us. How many problems and divisions, what enmity there is in the world and even in the Body of Christ ! God has given us a ministry, that is to say a service : reconciliation. He has made reconcilers of us. That can only be, of course, when love for the truth fills our hearts and flows to the hearts of those who oppose us. Jesus once said He had not come to bring peace, but a sword and divisions. Jesus is the truth. He can bring nothing but the truth ; and unless that truth is accepted by those who hear it, there can be no reconciliation.
If you walk in the flesh, you will bring carnal division between yourself and others . But if you walk in the Spirit, you will remain loving and gentle, and minister peace to all who want to receive peace. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9). If we are sons and daughters of God, we all have for Father the King of Peace. We are to be peace-makers wherever we go. We may not always be warmly welcomed, for some will not want peace according to the truth. However, it takes two to make a quarrel ! If someone is your enemy, you will suffer, but if you keep on walking in the Spirit, you will never feed a quarrel through a carnal attitude, but remain in Christ and be a peace-maker. You will receive wisdom from God and know what to do.
God is calling us to this ministry of reconciliation. Within us is the power of the Holy Spirit, who has reconciled us to God through the sacrifice of the Cross. God is alive within us, and ready to grant wisdom to us, if we ask for it in faith without any shadow of doubt. Let us pray for this godly wisdom, so as to be able to carry out an effective ministry of reconciliation, and to be instruments of peace in the Lord’s hands. We will, if we understand that we have been reconciled to Him and forgiven in Christ ; our very first movement will therefore be to forgive others, come what may !
If you understand that you have a ministry of reconciliation, you will never charge anybody with the slightest offence. If you are the offended one, you are to forgive wholeheartedly, even if nobody asks to be forgiven. Thus you will "heap the live coals of God" on your enemy. That will give God an opportunity to move through His Holy Spirit in your enemy’s heart : he will benefit from your God-given ministry of reconciliation. "That is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and he has committed to us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:19)
All those who believe in Christ have been reconciled to one another. Since God has given us the word of reconciliation, we are never to impute to others their trespasses against us. The instant the offence comes —whether it is a minor or a major one —the instant we are attacked by Christians or worldlings, the instant we are unfairly accused or slandered, we minister reconciliation.
Because of the living power of Christ flowing through us, we will instantly forgive any offence whatever. We are empowered to do so through our oneness with Christ, and we are filled with His peace. If we are walking in the flesh, the slightest offence will trigger a carnal reaction ; we will answer back in kind, and the conflict will escalate till one of the antagonists understands he must stop. The first to stop will be the Christian who remembers his ministry of reconciliation. Having been reconciled to God, he is called to be a child of peace who forgives any offence whatever.
No sooner has the offence been committed than we are to forgive. If the offender comes and asks to be forgiven, we simply confirm to him the forgiveness that is already in our hearts. If he never asks to be forgiven, he will have to bear the consequences ; but in our own hearts, as far as we are concerned, we are already reconciled. "If your enemy is hungry, feed him ; if he is thirsty, give him a drink ; for in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head." (Romans 12:20). "Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were pleading through us ; we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5:20).
However could our opponents and our offenders understand Christ’s ministry, unless they see us practising it ? If they see us carrying out that ministry, forgiving, refusing to lay any offence to their charge, they will begin to wonder. The Holy Spirit will speak to their hearts, saying : "The Lord Jesus Christ has given them new hearts".
By reconciling us to God, Christ has enabled us to understand what reconciliation means. We have received forgiveness and are now able to forgive. What a wonderful ministry to be an ambassador for Christ and His Kingdom, in which peace and reconciliation are sovereign !
You will see that in heaven there will no longer be the slightest quarrel, the slightest shadow of enmity. All those who enter heaven will have been reconciled to one another through Christ. We shall enjoy wonderful heavenly peace ! Whenever we meet, rivers of love will flow between us, and we shall be flooded with the love and peace of Christ. However, even down here on earth, rivers of love of that quality can flow from our hearts, despite the fact that they are not always welcome ; but since we share in Christ’s ministry, we also share in His sufferings. "And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him all the fullness should dwell, and by him to reconcile all things to himself, by him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of his cross". (Colossians 1:18-20).
The blood of the Cross is the demonstration that God’s will is to reconcile all things to Himself in Christ. This does not mean that God also wishes to reconcile Satan and his demons to Himself, as some false teachings would have it, for Satan is already judged and doomed to the lake of fire and sulphur. Satan will never be reconciled to God through the blood of Christ. On earth, we encounter the flesh ; in the heavenlies, the spirit. We are both heavenly and earthly creatures ; and in every part of our lives, for spirit, soul, and body, we are to find perfect reconciliation in Christ.
It is vital for us to understand that the blood of Jesus can bring perfect peace to former enemies. "And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now he has reconciled you in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in his sight — if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the Gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister." (Colossians 1:21-23).
"Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh — who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands — that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and no God in the world."(Ephesians 2:11-12).
The Jews had the Law. They were, and still are, the Lord’s people on the earth. Their citizenship was from God. They were not born again, but they had the Law and the revelation of the Lord, whereas the Gentiles had nothing at all, being without hope and without God. God has called both, Jews and Gentiles, to be reconciled to Him through the Cross.
Being an Israelite or a Jew does not reconcile us to God, since whoever resists the Gospel, according to Paul, is an "enemy of God". "And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again." (Romans 11:23). "Concerning the Gospel, they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers." (Romans 11:28).
We are not to relate to the people of Israel in a sentimental fashion. We are to love Israel wholeheartedly : they are the Lord’s people. We are to bless them, to pray and intercede for them. But no-one is saved through his Jewishness ; a Jew who resists the Gospel is God’s enemy, although he belongs to God’s people end enjoys specific blessings and promises. The Holy Spirit wants to reveal Jesus the Messiah to Israel, so that Israel will accept Him and step into the New Covenant.
Paul wanted to point out that Jews and Gentiles were separated and at enmity before Christ came. "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in his flesh the enmity." (Ephesians 2:14-16).
It is through the Cross that Jews and Gentiles have been brought near. Though they used to be enemies, they become one in Christ when they are converted to Him. The wall of separation is broken down. That former enmity between Jews and Gentiles is gone.
But there are other walls of separation than between Jews and Gentiles. Many Christians are actually walled off from each other. Of course, God requires us to be separate from those who call themselves Christians, yet live in sin. If your Christian brother sins and wants to draw you into sin with him, you are to say: "No, I am no longer in fellowship with you." He is still a Christian and a member of Christ’s Body, but you walk with him no longer. However, barring cases like that, every other wall of separation has been set up by the flesh. Therefore those walls have been broken down by the power of the Cross, since the flesh was slain on the Cross. "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, that is the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that he might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity." (Ephesians 2: 15-16).
This reconciliation is for spouses, for brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, and for all of the Lord’s people. The instant we become Christians, we need to know that the walls of separation have been destroyed between all the members of Christ’s Body. Do we accept that revelation ? A dividing wall needs to be destroyed for both former enemies, if they wish to be in fellowship. If the wall has been destroyed for one of them only, and the other sees it as still standing, no contact will be established. That is why the Lord considers it absolutely vital that all should understand the message of the Cross, for it is the only message that can break down the dividing walls set up by the flesh.
The work of the Holy Spirit is to give us a deeper revelation of God’s Word and of every aspect of Jesus’ work on the Cross. We are no longer to behave as if the wall of separation was still extant, when the Lord declares that is has been broken down by Jesus’ sacrifice. It has been destroyed so that those who were separated might be reconciled into one new man, into one Body.
How sad that so many Christians do not know what Jesus has done. They are still living in their former lives, in their old carnal natures, in their past enmities. They are not fully aware of all that Jesus has accomplished. They hope they will manage to change some day ; but the change can only take place through faith in the fact that Jesus has already done it all. The Lord has already destroyed the wall of separation, and we constitute one new being in Him. "There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all in all". (Colossians 3:11).
As for those Jews who are converts to the Gospel, we need to see them in the right perspective. A converted Jew comes into his place in the Body of Christ exactly in the same way as a converted Gentile, i.e. far higher up than in the place he previously held as a Jew ! Israel is God’s earthly people, and the Church is God’s heavenly people ! Therefore, converted Jews and Gentiles enjoy the same inheritance in Christ. They may occupy different places in the Body of Christ ; however, that never depends on their backgrounds, but on the specific call they have received according to God’s sovereign will.
Let me state this with the utmost clarity : a converted Jew is no longer Jewish ! He is still a Jew according to the flesh, as Paul could say of himself, but no Christian is called to live in the flesh ! To have been Jewish before one’s conversion should confer no privilege of any kind, and no special position in the Church. Converted Gentiles sometimes create a special category for converted Jews, believing that the latter are the rightful heirs to a double portion of the divine anointing, as if they had received a twofold inheritance, i.e. the promises of both the Old and the New Covenants. We need to bar such thoughts from our hearts, so as not to rebuild a dividing wall between converted Jews and Gentiles : in Christ, we are all equals and heirs to same promises, as Paul states : "He came and preached peace to you who were afar off, and peace to those who were near (the Jews)." (Ephesians 2:17).
The above statement applies both to converted Jews and converted Gentiles ; we are to apply it to every single member of the Body of Christ. When in the flesh, many Jews and Gentiles were at enmity ; so were numbers of brothers and sisters, and husbands and wives. We can find instances of long-lasting conflicts. In the world, people can remain enemies for generations, and not only in Corsica or Sardinia ! We were all born into sin and enslavement to the flesh.
As long as we live in the flesh, we tend to feed that enmity. But once we are in Christ and are walking in the spirit, we know that the wall of separation has been destroyed and that we are already a single new man in Christ. The Lord wants us to have a spiritual understanding of this, and to accept His Word in faith : the wall has already been destroyed by the Cross.
If you still have hostile feelings towards anyone, despite the fact that you belong to the Body of Christ, then something is out of order in your Christian life. You are still walking in the flesh and have not received the revelation of the Cross. Your call is to be reconciled. "For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God." (Ephesians 2:18-19). We are all children of the same Father, sons and daughters of the love of God, children of His peace.
First of all, we need a spiritual understanding of this ; then the Lord requires us to grasp it through faith. Every one of God’s promises is ours through faith in Christ. "Lord, You have revealed Your Word to me through the Holy Spirit. I have meditated on it. I have prayed to You to open up my spiritual understanding. Through the Holy Spirit, that Word is now within me. I lay hold on it through faith, and walk in the revelation of it !"
Once we have received that revelation, we must be careful not to do as the Galatians did, for although they had begun in the Spirit, they ended up in the flesh. Paul goes so far as to say to them : "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law ; you have fallen from grace." (Galatians 5:4) So we must never take our eyes off the Lord Jesus and His Word. To attempt to solve our problems without the Word and the Spirit is to be in danger of being "estranged from Christ" and falling from grace. If we love the Word and dwell in the Word, the Holy Spirit within us will lead us from victory to victory through faith in Christ.
The Lord Himself said : "Whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:27). He was referring to close affections or to family ties that might prevent us from fully obeying the Lord. Actually, our cross is the Cross of Christ, now taken up by us.
Whoever wants to be a disciple of Christ must come through the Cross and take it up daily. Bearing one’s cross means understanding that we have been crucified in Christ, and walking by faith in this revelation every minute of our existence.
That is how the resurrection Life will be manifested in us ; otherwise we cannot be Christ’s disciples. Perhaps we shall inherit salvation, but we shall not gain entrance into the fullness of the victory of the Cross.
Let us constantly meditate on those verses. When the enemy attacks us, unless we are in a position of faith in Christ, and if we sense that certain areas of our lives are still under Satan’s control, we need to go to the Lord and say to Him : "Please show me if there is any unconfessed sin in my life. And please show me, Lord all the ignorance and unbelief that is still in me."
The Holy Spirit will enlighten us. Nothing can saddle us with a permanent burden of guilt. Once we have received the light and confessed our sins, our ignorance, and our unbelief, then we will be in a position to call on the power of the blood of Jesus and put on all the armour of Ephesians 6. "Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done it all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace ; above all, take the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."(Ephesians 6:11-17).
So if we are aware that Satan is attacking us, in our bodies, our souls, or our thoughts, we need to resist him steadfastly through faith in what Jesus has done for us on the Cross. We are to persevere in the faith till the work of the Cross is fully manifested in our lives. If our hearts have truly received the revelation that we are in Christ, we shall be able to resist the evil one. What’s more, our faith will enable the Lord to accomplish whatever He desires in our lives.
Let us never think that the desire to reach perfection is a kind of unattainable Christian ideal. Some children of God do not realise that they have locked themselves into an inferior position, into permanent defeat through their unbelief. They go from crisis to crisis, without ever reaching spiritual stability through faith. The loftiness and magnificence of God’s plans is such that many Christians are unable to believe that His plans can ever come to pass in their lives ; what a mistake ! The Lord Jesus wants to bring our faith to perfection, so that all of God’s plans will be carried out in our lives, to the glory of the Father.
Let us pray : "Lord, I pray that in Your wisdom You will be our Guide. You know that before You, we are nothing but little children : we need to be taught and led by You. We need to receive Your wisdom, Your help, and your succour daily, every second of our lives, for without You we are nothing.
You have accomplished everything on the Cross, Lord. Through Your Spirit, please carry on Your work of revelation within our hearts. Let our faith grow without ceasing. Let our spiritual eyes see the work of Jesus shining in all of its wonderful splendour. Grant that we be able to understand it, receive it into open hearts, accept it, and step into Your perfect plans.
Please bless each one of us, and help us in the battles we have to fight. You have accomplished everything, and You know what we need to do, Lord. Please hold our hands and lead us into the inheritance You have foreordained for us. I am looking unto You. I trust You. I bow down before You and praise You with my whole heart for the perfection of Jesus’ work.
Lord, receive our praise ! I bless you with all my heart. Manifest Yourself, Lord, and glorify Jesus by bringing the whole of His work to pass in our lives. Amen !
The continuation of this teaching is to be found at the beginning of the next message