Monday, August 25, 2008

The Table of Wisdom and Revelation

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. (Ephesians 1:15-17)
The apostle Paul realized there is much believers need to understand, but as eloquent a teacher as he was, he knew such skills would not be enough. It is one thing to grasp a theological point with the mind, quite another to know a spiritual truth with the heart. It requires wisdom and revelation from God, the Holy Spirit teaching these things to the inner man of the heart. So that is what Paul prayed, that the Father of glory would grant us wisdom and revelation by the Holy Spirit, so that we would know Him more and more, deeply and intimately.
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Ephesians 1:18-21)
The “eyes of your understanding” refers, not to intellectual knowledge, but an experience of the heart. Some early Greek manuscripts even have the word for “heart,” kardias, here. It is an understanding mediated to our spirit by the Spirit of God. He gives us light so we can see, to know who we are in Jesus Christ and what we have in Him.
  • The Hope of His calling. What it is God has called us to — the positive expectation, the joyful anticipation we have in Him. God reveals a mystery to us, which is Christ in us, the “hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
  • The riches of the glory of His inheritance. We are “joint-heirs” with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17). Whatever He receives for the Father, we receive with Him. We have received “every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies” (Ephesians 1:3), which is the basis for every other blessing.
  • The greatness of His mighty power toward us. We have the benefit of God’s power at work on our behalf. This is the same power by which God raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies—and us there with Him (Ephesians 2:6) — far above every other power in heaven and earth. God is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). This divine power is now at work in us.
The Table of the Lord is a place where God gives us understanding of these things by His Spirit. It is a revelation of the Lord Jesus, and the Lord Jesus is the revelation of the wisdom of God. “You are in Christ Jesus, who became for us the wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). In this Supper, we experience the joyful anticipation of the Lord Jesus Christ and the divine mystery of the glory we have in Him. With the bread and the cup, we partake of the inheritance we have in Him who gave His body and blood for us. Seated at His table, we taste the divine power that raised Him from the dead and seated Him in the heavenlies, and us there with Him. As we come, the Father reveals His glory to us, that we may know Him more and more intimately, through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

The Table of the Lord is the Table of Wisdom and Revelation.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Table of Favor

Remember me, O LORD,
With the favor You have toward Your people.
Oh, visit me with Your salvation,
That I may see the benefit of Your chosen ones,
That I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation,
That I may glory with Your inheritance.
(Psalm 106:4-5)
When we take the bread and the cup at the Table of the Lord, it is a sign that God has answered this request. He has remembered us and shown us the favor He has for His people, for Jesus has given His body and shed His blood on our behalf. In Him we have become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). God now looks upon us just as He looks upon Jesus.

Another word for “favor” is “grace.” The Table the Lord Jesus has prepared for us is a deep revelation of His grace. In Him, God comes to us with His “salvation.” The Hebrew word there is yeshuah, which speaks of deliverance, healing, prosperity and victory. The name form of this word is Yeshua, the Hebrew name of Jesus.

At His Table, we can experience the benefit of His chosen ones, the intimacy of His presence. The HCSB has “That I may enjoy the prosperity of Your chosen ones.” This is the prosperity of soul that comes from knowing Him, the prosperity from which all other prosperity comes (3 John 2).

At His Table, we can celebrate with the delirious joy of His people, as a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation — His own special people. Once we were not a people; now we are the people of God. Once we did not receive mercy; now we have received the mercy of God (1 Peter 2:9-10).

At His Table, we can glory in the inheritance we have in Him, for we are “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). He has made us partakers of His inheritance with all His people (Colossians 1:12), an inheritance that will never perish or fade away, and cannot be corrupted or defiled (1 Peter 1:4).

The Table of the Lord is the constant sign of the favor God has toward us in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Table of Declaration

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare your lovingkindness in the morning,
And your faithfulness every night.
(Psalm 92:2)
The Hebrew word for “declare” is nagad. It means to report conspicuously, to announce boldly, to declare, proclaim, and make known with certainty. The Hebrew for “lovingkindness” is chesed. It is the steadfast love and mercy of God, which He has promised always to show to His people. The word for “faithfulness” is emunah and is based on the word for “faith.” It speaks of God in His trustworthiness, that He will always keep His Word to us.

The Table of the Lord is a table of declaration. It makes the Lord Jesus Christ known to us. It is, as Paul said, a proclamation. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). It declares His death and affirms that His body and blood were given for us. It announces that He is coming again and promises that He will drink the new wine with us in His Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29).

It boldly affirms His victory over all our enemies, in whose presence it is prepared (Psalm 23:5), and that in Him we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). It drowns out the accusations of the evil one and of all who speak against us, for the blood of Jesus has a voice and it declares loudly on our behalf, speaking better things of us (Hebrews 12:24). It is a banner that loudly announces to all His great love for us (Song of Solomon 2:4). It is a wondrous work that makes conspicuous the nearness of His presence (Psalm 75:1).

When we partake of this table, we also are making declaration. By receiving the bread and the cup, we are announcing that He is our refuge and fortress, our God in whom we trust, and by it, we proclaim His lovingkindness and His faithfulness.

The Table of the Lord is a Table of Declaration.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Sons of the Kingdom are Free

Then the sons are free. (Matthew 17:26)
When Jesus and His disciples arrived back at Capernaum, men who were in charge of collecting the double-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Does your Teacher pay the double-drachma?” (Matthew 17:24). Peter said, “Yes.” When he went into the house, Jesus anticipated what he was going to say and stopped him short, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” (v. 25).

“From strangers,” Peter answered.

Jesus agreed, concluding, “Then the sons are free.”

In this little exchange is an amazing teaching about the kingdom of God. The sons of the kings of the earth are exempt from paying taxes, though strangers may still be required to do so. Likewise, the sons of the kingdom of God are not obligated to the Temple. Before the kingdom of God arrived on the scene, the Temple had a specific function as the place of sacrifice and the manifestation of God’s presence on earth. Now that the kingdom was at hand, in the person of the King, that function was fulfilled and the sons of the kingdom were not bound by it.

Jesus was not against the Temple, but it had served its purpose. Jesus came as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. The Temple had been a type and a shadow, but now that the fulfillment was at hand, the shadow no longer served. The author of Hebrews draws the contrast between the earthly Temple and the Tabernacle not made with hands:
We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. (Hebrews 8:10-2)

Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12)
Also implied in Jesus’ statement is that those who were obligated to the Temple were not sons of the kingdom, but strangers to it. This would refer to the religious leaders and teachers who rejected Jesus — they would have no place in His kingdom. In Matthew 21, after clearing the Temple courts of the moneychangers, Jesus came back into the Temple and confronted the chief priests and elders on the nature of true repentance and their rejection of God’s Messiah. He concluded, “Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matthew 21:43). Though they were servants of the Temple, because of their unbelief they were not sons, but strangers to the kingdom of God, and to the Temple which foreshadowed it.

In Matthew 24, Jesus predicts the demise of the Temple and the destruction of Jerusalem within a generation (fulfilled in AD 70). But in the meantime, although He and Peter were not required to pay the double-drachma, they would do so anyway, so that know one would think He despised the Temple itself:
Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; that that and give it to them for Me and you. (Matthew 17:27)
The Greek for “piece of money” is stater, a coin which was equal to two double-drachmas, precisely enough to pay for Him and Peter, because Jesus the Son of God and Peter was a son of the kingdom.

In the kingdom of Heaven on Earth, the sons are not bound by types and shadows, or religious systems. We are free to follow the King alone and live fully under His provision.

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Kingdom Where Nothing is Impossible

Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)
Jesus had just come back down the mountain with Peter, James and John when a man came up to Him, pleading for his son, a demon-possessed boy who suffered with severe epileptic seizures. He had brought the young man to Jesus’ disciples, but they were unable to heal him (Matthew 17:14-16).

Jesus responded to the situation with this: “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me” (v. 17). Jesus located the problem as one of faithlessness, a generation that had turned away. But who was He speaking about?

Perhaps the man. In Mark’s account, we find the man saying to Jesus, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). More likely, though, it was His disciples. After Jesus rebuked the demon and healed the boy, His disciples asked, in private, “Why could we not cast it out?” (Matthew 17:19). Jesus put it on them: “Because of your unbelief” (v. 20). The Greek word used for “unbelief” is the same root used for “faithlessness” in verse 17.

The problem was that they were not operating in faith, as they should have been. Eugene Peterson puts it this way in The Message, “Because you’re not taking God seriously.” They still had too much of the world’s way of thinking, too much of the world’s unbelief at work in them.

Then Jesus showed them the potential of faith, of taking God seriously: “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).

Faith is like a seed. It does not have to be big to get a big result, but it does have to be used, to be planted. When you have faith, even a little bit, the exercise of it is simple: You say to the mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. However, if there is unbelief going on inside your heart, it will hinder your faith—you have to make a choice to go with one and not the other.

Jesus added, “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (v. 21). This kind of what? Many people think it refers to the kind of demon that was in the boy. But Jesus did not engage in a lot of praying and fasting when He cast that demon out; He simply rebuked it and it left (v. 18).

The purpose of praying and fasting is not so we can get rid of demons, but so we can get rid of unbelief. We know that Jesus had already done a lot of praying and fasting in His life and ministry. He had already dealt with any issues of doubt that tried to creep in (see Matthew 4-11). Ultimately, unbelief is a tool of the devil, a seed he is always trying to plant in our hearts. Praying and fasting helps us focus on God and hear His Word. That is how faith comes, and how it is strengthened in us (Romans 10:17). When we let faith in God fill our hearts, we will leave no place for the doubts of the devil to have a foothold. It gets crowded out. Then nothing will be impossible.

In the kingdom of Heaven on Earth, nothing is impossible when we take God and His promises seriously.

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Kingdom of the Cross

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Peter had just voiced the amazing revelation — directly from the Father — that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. Because of that, Jesus gave him authority to bind and loose on earth what had already been bound and loosed in heaven. But Peter still needed to understand something else, something very important, about this revelation and authority.

After this remarkable exchange, Jesus gave His disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah (Matthew 16:20). Then He began to talk with them about how He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things from the elders, scribes and chief priest, and then be killed — and raised again the third day (v. 21).

Now they were really confused. Wasn’t the identity of Jesus as the Messiah to be made known to all? Didn’t the coming of Messiah signal that God’s triumph was now at hand? Then why such suffering and death, and what did this mean for the kingdom of heaven?

It was more than Peter could take. He said, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (v. 22). Moments earlier, Peter was acknowledging Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God; now he was openly contradicting Him.

Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get behind Me, satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (v. 23). These were very strong words, but well-deserved. Earlier, Peter had spokes a word directly from heaven, from the mind of God. How quickly he slipped back into the way the world thinks, and suddenly he became the mouthpiece of satan.

God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways — they are higher (Isaiah 55:8-9). The Jewish expectation was that Messiah would come as a conquering king, a political ruler and military leader; Jesus spoke of across and losing one’s life.
If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)
A cross is not the reception the world offers a king and his entourage. But Jesus requires that we each embrace the cross, not just His, but our own. We must disown ourselves in order to follow Him. We must set aside our priorities and interests and seek His. We must give up everything — the whole world—if we would possess His kingdom. We cannot know His life when we are still holding on to our own.
For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matthew 16:26-27)
The time would shortly come for finding life and rising again, for the glory of God to be revealed and Jesus proclaimed as Messiah. Jesus is makes reference here to a prophecy in Daniel:
I was watching in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)
Jesus said, “The Son of Man will come in the glory.” A literal rendering of the Greek text is, “about to be coming” (Analytical-Literal Translation). Notice the tenses: “Coming” speaks of a continuous action. “About to be” indicates that it would soon begin. In the next verse Jesus told the disciples that some of them would even get to see it: “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:29: see The Son of Man Coming in His Kingdom).

The kingdom of Heaven on Earth requires a cross for each one of us, that we lose our life for Jesus’ sake in order that we may find it. But He also promises great reward, for His kingdom has already begun and will increase until it is here in the fullness of His glory when He returns.

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Table of the Blameless

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Jesus came the first time so that we may be kept completely blameless — spirit, soul and body — when He comes again. He is preparing His Church, His people, as His bride to be holy, set apart for Him and wholly His.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
When we come to the Table of the Lord, we do not come bearing any sin. Neither does Jesus. He has already borne it all in His body and nailed it to the cross, where He declared “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The Greek word is tetelestai and means “Paid in full!” The transaction has been completed and the promise fulfilled. Everything that stood between us has been nailed to the cross where it was taken care of completely.
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made 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. (Colossians 2:13-14)
There may have been a long list of charges against us. They are all gone, and we are now clean before Him.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
Paul tells us that God made Jesus “who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ that you may be married to another — to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Romans 7:4).

The author of Hebrews teaches us, “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:28).

With His body and blood, Jesus carried our sins to the cross — and left them there. Now we meet Him at His Table holy and blameless, cleansed of all sin. And as often as we do we proclaim that purifying work until He comes again and presents us to Himself as His glorious Church and spotless Bride.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Kingdom of the Committed, Not the Curious

While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”

But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50)
The scribes and Pharisees witnessed Jesus healing sicknesses and casting out demons. When they objected because He did these things even on the Sabbath, He firmly rebuked them as a “brood of vipers” who spoke evil words because their hearts were evil. But some of them answered, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” They were not talking about the miraculous works He had already performed. They wanted a special sign from heaven just for them, a command performance to confirm to them His authority. Jesus told them,
An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. (Matthew 12:39-42)
Jonah was like Jesus in that he spent three days and nights in the belly of the great fish just as Jesus would be in the heart of the earth for three days and nights. But it was the message of Jonah that caused the men of Nineveh to repent. Likewise, it was the wisdom of Solomon that caused her to believe God (1 Kings 10:1-9). But someone greater than Jonah and Solomon was now on the scene, and if the scribes and Pharisees were not receptive to His message, they probably would not believe His sign either.

In another place, Jesus said, “My doctrine is not Mine but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17). It is not about signs for the curious but about commitment to do God’s will. In other words, it is about faith, for without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). When asked, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:28-29).

If the scribes and Pharisees did not believe in Jesus for who He was and the message He brought, nothing else mattered, no matter how many healings and how many exorcisms He performed. Indeed, the end result would be even worse for them, as Jesus showed them next.
When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, “I will return to my house from which I came.” And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation. (Matthew 12:43-45)
This would be their lot if they refused to believe in Him and let their house be filled with the truth about the kingdom of God.

It was while He was still addressing them that His mother and brothers came, desiring to speak with Him. When informed of this, He said, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” Then He answered His own question. He pointed to His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

The condition of the idly curious will go from bad to worse, and the judgment upon them will be all the greater because of their persistent unbelief. But the disciples of Jesus, who believe on Him, commit themselves to Him and learn from Him, He will embrace as intimate family.

Whoever does the will of the Father is the brother or sister of Jesus, for His kingdom is all about the will of the Father being done on earth as it is in heaven, and the will of the Father is to believe on the Son.
He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12)

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. (John 3:18-21)
The kingdom of Heaven on Earth is not for the curious but for those who have made the commitment of faith in the King.

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Table of Divine Partaking

By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature. (2 Peter 2:4)
Peter reveals a startling truth: In Jesus Christ, we are partakers of the divine nature. One who partakes is one who takes part. The Greek word is koinonia, and refers to partnership, participation, fellowship. See how it is used in the following passage:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion [koinonia] of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion [koinonia] of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of the one bread. Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers [koinonos] of the altar? (1 Corinthians 10:16-18)
Here, communion refers, of course, to the Table of the Lord—the bread and the cup. It is the sign of our participation in the body of Christ, our union with the Lord Jesus. We are identified with Him; He is identified with us. We are part of Him; He is part of us, even as the bread and wine we consume at His Table becomes a part of our body and blood.

What does it mean to be a partaker of the divine nature? The Greek word for “divine” is theios, and literally means “god-like.” The early Church understood Peter’s phrase, “partakers of the divine nature” as theosis: deification, being made divine, or “becoming god.” Athanasius of Alexandria, a fourth century Father of the Church, said, “For He has become Man, that He might deify us in Himself … that we may become henceforth a holy race, and ‘partakers of the Divine Nature,’ as blessed Peter wrote.” (Personal Letter 60:4). “For He was made man that we might be made God” (On the Incarnation, chapter 54). “Therefore He was not man, and then became God, but He was God, and then became man, and that to deify us” (Discourse 1 Against the Arians, chapter 11). Ireneaus, an important Christian theologian of the second century, speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ, “who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself” (Against Heresies, Book 5, Preface). The Church has long embraced this understanding as part of the orthodox Christian faith.

What does it mean to participate in the divine nature? First, we need to understand that there are some aspects of the divine nature in which we could never share. For example, God is all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere present. These are attributes which cannot be communicated to us. That is, we are incapable of experiencing them; they belong to God alone. But there are other divine attributes in which we may share with Him. Peter tells us that the divine power of the Lord Jesus Christ has given to us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). He then lists some of these gifts in verses 5-7: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. Paul offers a similar list, which he calls “the fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These are all attributes by which we are participants in the divine nature.

The Incarnation is not just about redemption from sin, and reconciliation with God. It is the restoration and fulfillment of God’s purpose for us in creation, when He said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth” (Genesis 1:26). That is why, as Paul says, “the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). “Sons” speaks of like nature. Just as sons of men share in the nature of men, sons of God share in the nature of God.

As we take the bread and the cup at the Table of the Lord, we partake of the divine nature. We partake of Jesus Christ, His body and His blood. As Jesus partook of our human nature, we partake of His divine nature. For we are being conformed to the likeness of Jesus, just as Adam was created in the likeness of God, and we receive His divine spirit, the Holy Spirit, just as Adam received the breath of God.

The Table of the Lord displays the Incarnation of Jesus, His participation in our human nature and our participation in His divine nature, and shows us to be the sons of God. All creation is waiting for this revelation.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Table of Reconciliation

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. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight. (Colossians 1:19-22)
“It pleased the Father.” What wonderful words! It was the gracious will of God that all His fullness should dwell in the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the mystery of the incarnation—God in human flesh. It was His desire to reconcile everything in heaven and on earth to Himself through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross, and it was His pleasure to reconcile us to Himself by the body of Jesus given in sacrifice. This is the mystery of redemption, and it has pleased the Father to do so.

To reconcile means to bring back into alignment, to restore to proper relationship. Eugene Peterson translates it this way in The Message Bible: “All the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe — people and things, animals and atoms — get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of His death, His blood that poured down from the cross” (Colossians 1:20).

Reconciliation requires a settling of accounts, a setting to rights, an atonement. That is why Jesus came. Because of sin, we were once enemies of God, alienated from the Father. But Jesus, Son of God, came in human flesh and offered Himself as an atoning sacrifice for our sin. In Him, through faith in Him, we are restored to proper relationship with the Father. Now we walk in the newness of life, His life. “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10).

By His body, we are presented before God as holy, blameless and faultless. By His blood, we are reconciled with God and have peace with Him. The life we now have is of heaven, though we live it out on earth, for heaven and earth are themselves now reconciled in Jesus Christ. All creation now waits for this to be revealed. It is the revelation of glory Paul talked about in Romans 8:18-21.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
The Table of the Lord is a manifestation of this glory, this liberty, this reconciliation. It reveals Jesus is His flesh and His blood, the fullness of God in human form, and us in Him as the children of God restored to fellowship with the Father.

We come to the Table or the Lord as friends, not as enemies, for we have been reconciled to God by the sacrifice of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf. Our fellowship with Him at this Table of Reconciliation is the revelation of the glory for which all creation is now waiting.

The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Faith is Reality

Faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.
(Hebrews 11:1 HCSB)
Last week a bought a new little pocket Bible (it was on sale). I got it, not only because it was a handy size and with a comfortable font, but also because it was a version I did not have, the Holman Christian Standard Bible. I flipped through it a bit, checking out how it rendered some of the passages I am very familiar with, and I was impressed with how it translated Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.”

Faith is the reality. Other versions have it as
  • Faith is the substance. (KJV)
  • Faith is being sure. (NIV)
  • Faith is the assurance. (NASB, ESV)
  • Faith is a well-grounded assurance. (Weymouth)
  • Faith is … a confidence. (Young’s Literal Translation)
  • Faith is … the firm foundation. (The Message)
  • Faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed). (AMP)
  • Faith gives substance. (Revised English Bible)
The Greek word is hypostasis, a compound of hypo (“under”) and stasis (“state”). The English word “substance” captures this well: sub (under) and stance (position); what is positioned underneath. Hypostasis, substance, is the underlying stance or state of a thing, or as I have called it elsewhere, the underlying reality of a thing.

The HCSB picks up on “reality,” and I think captures the Greek word very well. “Assurance” and “confidence” and “being sure” are all pretty good, but they seem to have more of a subjective element to them. But “substance” and “reality” speak of something more objective. Faith is not just about how I think about something or the sense of confidence I might have toward it. Faith is about that which is substantively real quite apart from what I might think or feel.

In biblical terms, faith is about the Word of God. As Paul said, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Faith is believing what God has said. The Word is true, not because I believe, but because God has spoken it.

Faith is based on reality, and reality is based on the Word of God. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not seen” (Hebrews 11:3). Everything that exists exists because God has spoken it into existence.

Reality is not based on what can be seen or experienced with the senses, but on what cannot be seen or felt. With out natural senses, we can see the manifestation of reality, but the reality itself lies beneath the manifestation we experience in the natural realm, in the Word of God. It is because God says it is, and faith is believing what God says.

Faith taps into the reality of what God has said. Because it is real, we can expect it to manifest. Faith is the proof, or evidence, of what cannot be seen. That is, faith is not about what can be seen, but about what God has said. Faith is the reality, and that brings great assurance.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Table of Righteousness

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Paul said that Jesus was “made to be sin for us.” He was identified with our sin so thoroughly that it no longer belongs to us. Then He dealt with it at the cross, nailing it in His own body to the tree and cursed the curse of it. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)” as Paul says in Galatians 3:13. In his letter to the Colossians, he puts it this way:
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made 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. (Colossians 2:13-14)
The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that a great exchange has taken place: He took our sin upon Himself and gave us His righteousness. This reality changes us, for we not only have our sins taken away, we also receive the righteousness of God. We do not just receive it but, in Paul’s words, we become the righteousness of God.

When we come to the Table of the Lord, we do not come as sinners but as saints. The bread and the cup speak of His body given for us, made to be sin for us, but washed clean by the blood He shed for us. There we fellowship together in His divine righteousness, for the Table of the Lord is the Table of Righteousness.