Twice monthly a number of bible belieivers who seek to 'rightly divide the word of truth' ( 2 Tim. 2:15) meet in a small country church on the outskirts of Hamilton, New Zealand, to rejoice in the good news of God's grace with their families and with others. The addresses by John Aldworth given on these occasions aim to provide a seeker friendly approach to the topics of God's present grace, his present purpose, the Day of Christ and other subjects.
They are archived in the left hand MENU column under the heading FELLOWSHIP ADDRESSES.
The latest address, "Knowing the Grace of God in Truth', is posted below for your consideration.
Sunday, April 19
The God of the living
Mark 24:26-27: And as touching the dead that they rise; have ye not read in the book of Moses (Ex. 3:6, 15) how in the bush God spake unto him saying, I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead but of the living; ye therefore do greatly err.
Are you alive when you sleep? Yes, even though to others you may appear ‘dead to the world’, even though are unaware of your surroundings and do not speak or move.
The truth of this sheds light on why Jesus and scripture in several places refer to dead believers as being ‘asleep’. It also helps to explain what Jesus meant when He said, ‘God is not the God of the dead but of the living’ (Matt. 22:32),
Put simply, God does not view those who ‘die in Jesus’ as dead but ‘asleep in Jesus’ (1 Thess. 4:14). The distinction is important, for unbelievers who die are treated by God as dead not temporarily but – forever. That is, not just ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (Eph. 2:1) - a state that could be remedied by their receiving salvation by grace during their lifetime - but irrevocably dead in both body and soul. These are they who ‘believe not’ and who are ‘lost’, who have perished (2 Cor. 4:3).
We should understand that, contrary to popular belief, the soul does not live on after physical death. Ezekiel 18: 20 insists that ‘the soul that sinneth it shall die’. Jesus said, ‘What shall it profit a man if he gain the world and lose his own soul?’ (Mark 8:36).
The soul then does not live on after death in either heaven or hell. To think so, as I once did, is to believe the devil’s first lie to mankind, spoken to Eve in the Garden of Eden, saying that if she and Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, ‘Ye shall not surely die’. But they did die, both body and soul, and so shall we.
How then can we live again? Once dust returned to the dust, what is our exit strategy? There is only one: that is to be counted by God as ‘asleep in Jesus’. Or, as the Apostle Paul explained it to grace-saved believers who have come to know the mystery in Col. 3:3-4:
For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.
Sadly my daughter recently had her life cut short by cancer. I felt it was far too soon. But as she lay dying we prayed and shared together the ‘get out of the grave free’ card Jesus has promised to all who will trust Him. It is found in John 11:25-26 where in reply to Martha who said she believed her dead brother Lazarus would ‘rise again in the resurrection at the last day’, Jesus responded:
I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And he that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?
Resurrection by Jesus is the only way out of the grave. In John 6: 39, 40, 44 and again in 54 our Lord promised believers He would raise them up ‘at the last day’, which is why Martha was so confident He would raise up Lazarus in that momentous day, the Day of Christ.
But our Lord wanted to show Martha, his disciples and the Jews that as the great ‘I am’, ‘the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob’ He was and is the ‘God of the living’. Of course, at the time He spoke, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lay dead in their tombs, as they do to this day. But to God Almighty, the Lord Jesus Christ, they were then and still are today among ‘the living’ in the sense that to God they sleep in the dust and need only to be awakened.
This is why in John 11: 11 after staying where he was until Lazarus actually died, Jesus said:
Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awaken him out of sleep.
Verses 13 and 14 are instructive:
Howbeit Jesus spake of his death but they (his disciples) thought that He had spoken of taking rest in sleep. The said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
You see to Almighty God, the Lord Jesus Christ, a dead believer who personally knows Him and trusts in Him is only ‘asleep’. He sees a dead believer through the lens of what that person will be in the day of resurrection – whether that be to glory in heaven in the first resurrection (Phil. 2:11) or to everlasting life in his kingdom on earth, the prospect Job foresaw (Job 19:25). He does not see them as the corpse they are now. Viewing them then as alive in time to come the Lord deems them though truly dead at present as merely asleep, those who ‘sleep in Jesus’.
Thus in Matt. 9:24 when called to the synagogue ruler’s dead daughter the Lord insisted ‘…the maid is not dead but sleepeth. And they laughed Him to scorn’. But when he had ejected the mocking crowd of mourners he took the girl by hand and she arose. It was no laughing matter now; Jesus had shown them who He really was, the God who can raise people from the dead. Note too in Acts 7:59-60 that the faithful martyr Stephen, when stoned, did not die according to scripture but ‘fell asleep’.
Daniel 12:2 says that ‘many of them that sleep in the dust shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and contempt (i.e. being thrust away)’. This accords with the resurrection day judgement outlined in Matt. 24:31, 32 and 46 and the judgement seat of Christ referred to in 2 Cor. 5:10 in which non-believers who do not know Jesus Christ personally will be banished and destroyed.
But there is no mention at all of judgement in connection with our being resurrected as grace-saved believers to appear with Christ in glory (Col. 3:3-4). This is because we are already counted by God as ‘risen with Christ’ (Col. 2:12).
Sadly some believers today seem to believe they can reach heaven to live for evermore with Jesus without undergoing resurrection. Based on a misunderstanding of Heb. 9:27 they think that at death God decides whether a person will go to heaven or hell. Actually the judgement here is of whether a person will be counted ‘lost’ and thus dead and gone forever, or as a believer ‘asleep in Jesus’ until the resurrection call comes.
So where does this leave you and I today? Answer: Needing to prepare our own exit strategy from the grave by:
- Believing Jesus’s clear promise that after their death He will make alive again those that believe what He said and put their trust in Him (John 11: 25-26).
- Rejecting the false belief that the soul will survive death and go to be with Jesus in heaven without undergoing resurrection. It won’t. (Ezekiel 18: 20).
- Ensuring you know the scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15) and personally know, believe in and experience the power of God (through the daily benefits of grace) in your own life (2 Cor. 9:8 and Phil. 4:19). Failing to personally know the scriptures and the power of God caused the Sadducees to ‘err’ and believe there was no resurrection.
- Above all come to know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour and be led by Him. That is a lifelong commitment, an ongoing exercise. It is so essential that the Apostle Paul after more than 20 years of beatings, stoning, shipwreck and persecution in preaching the gospel still needed know more of Christ.
As he says in Phil. 3:8-11:
Yea, doubtless and I count all things but loss for excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but dung that I may win Christ.
And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
That I may know Him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death:
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
I pray that we all may by God’s grace and faith in his promises attain unto it too.
Sunday March 29, 2015
WHAT WE ARE SAVED FOR
Our last message, ‘What we are saved from’, failed to mention one important matter: The fact that through Christ we are saved from ourselves. Such salvation is vital because we can’t go to be with Holy God in eternity if we are still unholy. None of us, taking sober thought, wants to still be weak, prone to mistakes, have wrong attitudes and sin, or be fearful or selfish in eternity. And we don’t have to be.
We can be – have been – saved from ourselves. In Col. 3:9-10 the Apostle Paul urges the Colossians to:
… lie not to one another seeing ye have put off the old man and with his deeds and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him.
The new man doesn’t lie; he doesn’t smoke or drink or sin either. He doesn’t hate, refuse to forgive but he is full of love for God and his truth and has great for fellow human beings. He is indeed the image of Christ and it is in that perfect image that our new man (or woman) is cast, thus saving us from ourselves.
NOW TO WHAT WE ARE SAVED FOR:
- Firstly for the Lord’s pleasure. We are creatures of a new creation and Rev. 4:11 says the Lord is ‘worthy to receive glory, honour and power: for Thou hast created all things and for thy pleasure they are and were created’. So it’s not what pleases us but what pleases Him that matters, principally faith, because ‘without faith it is impossible to please Him’ (Heb. 11:6).
- Secondly, for his purpose and for his grace. 2 Tim. 1:9 makes this very clear:
(God) who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
- To be a Christian. But what is a Christian? Well, Acts 26:28-29 defines a Christian as one who lives, serves and witnesses of Christ to others like the Apostle Paul. You see in Acts 26:9-23 Paul explains both how he was saved and what for. Please read it for your homework. There in verses 28-29 scripture defines what it is to be a Christian:
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.
Here we see the Apostle Paul infallibly defining a Christian as one who is such as Paul. Let us note then the key points of becoming and being a Christian as seen in key verses from this chapter:
- A definite encounter with Jesus, a real calling by the Lord. In vss. 13-18 Paul (then Saul) falls to the ground on seeing a bright light and hearing a voice, the voice of Jesus. Notice that the Lord speaks to Paul and Paul to Him. So it is with every genuine conversion. Saved people know the Lord has talked to them and changed them.
- In vs. 16 the Lord ‘appears’ to Saul. When we are saved the Lord ‘appears real’ to us for the first time.
- The Lord appears to Saul to make him ‘both a minister and a witness, both of the things which thou hast seen and in those in the which I will appear unto thee’. So it is with truly saved believers. They cannot keep quiet about Christ is and what He means to them. They must tell others about the truth of his word and his grace.
- Saul is tasked with witnessing to Jesus as the Lord’s purpose for him. So is every Christian.
- Saul (Paul) did what Jesus told him. Vss. 19-22 detail his witness to both Jews in Jerusalem and to Gentiles elsewhere even though ‘the Jews caught me and went about to kill me” (vs.21). What’s more Paul could say that with help of God he ‘continued unto this day witnessing to both great and small’.
- Note what Paul witnessed: ‘That Christ should suffer and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people and to the Gentiles’. And every Christian is called to do the same.
- To be made ‘accepted in the Beloved’ (Eph. 1:6)
- To be reconciled unto God and presented ‘holy, unblameable and unreproveable in his sight’ (Col. 1:21-22).
- To be found in Christ (Phil. 3:9)
- To know the love of Christ and to be filled with Christ (Eph. 3:19)
- To have Christ dwell in our hearts by faith (Eph. 3:12).
- To know that all your sins have been forgiven (Col. 2:13).
- To know the grace of God in truth (Col. 1:6)
- To have all your need met ‘according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 4:19).
- To made ‘meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light’ (Col. 1:12).
- To be ‘delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son’.
- To have the ‘blessed hope’ of being changed to live in heaven forever with Christ (Titus. 2: 13, Col. 3:4).
It would be remiss of me not to point out that another thing we are saved for is to ‘suffer for his sake’. Phil. 1: 29 thus sums up what we are saved for:
For unto you it is given on behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for his sake.
Sunday, Mar. 1, 2015
KNOWING THE GRACE OF
GOD IN TRUTH (Col. 1:6)
Is grace just the wonderful truth that Christ died for our sins? Is just that Christ now saves both Jews and Gentiles on equal terms? Listen to some big-time preachers and you would think this is the case. But actually there is more, much more to grace than this.
Recently this week a televised Seventh Day Adventist preacher r spoke about how believers can overcome sin. He maintained they could do so by the ‘Holy Spirit’. To back this up he asserted that Jesus was born in sinful flesh but overcame it by the ‘Holy Spirit’ that dwelt within Him. Believers, he said, also have the ‘Holy Spirit’ and should therefore do likewise.
Was Jesus born ‘in sinful flesh’, in the ‘image of fallen Adam’, as this preacher alleged? No. The Bible is clear. Man is ‘conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity’ (Ps. 51:5) but Christ was not. His was a holy conception. Luke 1:35 clearly teaches that the Holy Ghost ‘overshadowed’ Mary and the angel told her that ‘that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God’.
Phil. 2:7 says Christ Jesus was made in the likeness of men. Rom. 8:3 states that in ‘sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, (God) condemned sin in the flesh. Yes, Christ was ‘tempted in all points like as we are’ (Heb. 4:15), ‘yet without sin.’
Jesus as the God made man who walked on earth was inherently and utterly holy. And the only way that we as sinners can be holy too is by being made one in nature with Him – by grace. For it is only by knowing and believing the fullness of God’s grace as proclaimed by the Apostle Paul in his latter epistles that we can come into this blessed union.
You see, believing that Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3) is important but it does not make us holy. Knowing that we are ‘justified by faith’ (Rom. 5:1) does not in itself stop us from sinning (read Rom. 6:1). Something more is needed to make us fully right with God. And that ‘something’ is the ‘the riches of his grace’ (Eph. 1:7), the ‘unsearchable riches of Christ’, (Eph. 3:8).
Revealed only in the prison epistles of the Apostle Paul, it is this ‘fullness’ of grace (Eph. 1:23) and only this fullness of grace that makes believers who are sinners by nature ‘complete’ in Christ (Col. 2:10) and thus totally acceptable to God.
Eph. 2:4-6 explains the great grace given to us Gentiles by the Father, not ‘the Holy Spirit’, in this way:
But God, who is rich in mercy, for the great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved). And hath raised us up together and made us sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Please understand. This is the first time in scripture anyone is ‘quickened together with Christ”. It is the first time ever that God announces he has raised up sinners ‘together with Christ’. The words ‘together with’ and ‘in’ Christ open the gateway to heaven for the first time. There is not a word in earlier scripture of any believer being quickened with Christ, raised with Christ, still less being ‘seated together in heavenly places in Christ’. It comes only in the Pauline revelation of the fullness of grace, found in full orb in his epistles, Ephesians to Philemon.
Here in Ephesians then, for the first time ever it is announced that by a stupendous miracle of his all-powerful, all-loving grace God the Father has made sinners by nature one with Christ. And it is this act of grace that not only saves us who believe but also sets us free from sin.
We need to see that the important matter of setting us free from sin and making us holy is accomplished by the Father’s grace alone. Thus in Col. 1:12 we find the Apostle Paul:
Giving thanks unto the Father which has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son
It is not the ‘Holy Spirit’, nor even the Holy Ghost, that accomplishes this great feat of love. It is the Father Himself in love making available to all the full redemption won by his Son Jesus Christ in his death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Importantly, He does so in grace and love by including us in Christ at every stage of this process.
Why not ‘the Holy Spirit’, you ask? Fact is the words ‘holy’ and ‘spirit’ are used only twice in Paul’s prison epistles (Eph. 1:13 and Eph. 4:30). The ‘h’ is not capitalised in either case, clearly indicating this not the third person of the Godhead but a spirit sent by God for a specific purpose, namely to seal grace-saved believers until the day of redemption.
Today preachers on every hand talk of Christians experiencing ‘the Holy Spirit’ in sanctification but the truth is that no such person can be found in your King James Bible. Cruden’s Concordance confirms that while ‘the Holy Ghost’ is mentioned nearly 100 times, the words ‘holy Spirit’ appear just seven times, each time with a small ‘’h’ for ‘holy’, indicating that a spirit from God is meant, not ‘the Holy Ghost’.
In the Bible ‘spirit’ with a small ‘h’ denotes the essence of something or someone. For example in Eph. 1:17, Paul prays that God the Father would give Ephesian believers who had yet to come into the fullness of grace ‘the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him (that is, the Father)’. That spirit is the essence of the revelation of the Father’s love and grace. And it is the Father, not ‘the Holy Spirit’, who quickens us out of being ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (Eph. 2:1).
Fact is everybody and every living thing gets a spirit from God (Num.16:22, Acts 17:25). It is breathed into us at birth, and since it comes from God it is ‘holy’. But ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Rom. 6:23) and through sin we have all killed the spirit God gave us. The one exception is the Lord Jesus Christ who kept his spirit holy throughout his life on earth until He was ‘made sin for us, He who knew no sin’.
Thankfully, when we are quickened by the Father our spirit is made alive again by ‘the renewing of the Holy Ghost’ (Titus 3:5). This means that our spirit is made holy again as it was when God first breathed it into us. The Apostle Paul calls this spirit ‘the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us’ (2 Tim. 1:14).
Let me stress again that it is grace that saves and grace alone (Eph. 2:8-9). It is also grace that makes us right with God, not the Holy Spirit, nor trying to be ‘holy like Jesus’. In fact grace both saves and sanctifies us in the following ways:
- In his grace the Son made us one with Him in his death on the cross, thus making in Himself of twain one new man (Eph. 2:15). This so that He could reconcile both (that is, us as sinners and He as the one made sin, who knew no sin) unto God in one body – i.e. that of the ‘one new man’.
- The Father applies this process to quicken us out of death in sin ‘together with Christ (by grace ye are saved)’ – Eph. 2:5.
- By the Father putting off from us ‘the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ’ (Col. 2:11).
- By the Father raising us up together with Christ (Col. 2:12, Eph. 2:6).
By grace ye are saved.