The Kingdom of God
My Dear _______ ,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my message to ______. I am thanking God that we are both on the journey of faith, which our Lord has set before us. You made two statements:
“My understanding is that the belief that we are not saved by works is based on the concept that we cannot do anything that is good because God alone is good. Certainly we cannot do good OF OURSELVES – but we can choose to be an instrument of God so that God can do good by means of us. How else are good and useful things done if they are not done by means of people?” and, “You quoted the words of Paul from Romans, Ephesians and Timothy. These are in contrast to the many statements of Jesus that I have presented above. It puzzles me why a belief would put greater weight on the words of Paul than on the words of Jesus.”
It seems that your two statements are questioning our freedom from the law and ‘works’ and the revelation of the Holy Spirit. The only way I can answer you is to tell you a little about my own journey and about the questions, which I asked on the way.
I have no difficulty in accepting every verse you quoted as being the truth for I believe that God inspires all Scripture. (2Tim 2:16) During the first six years after I accepted Christ, almost fifty years ago, I lived trying to conform to every one of the laws which you cited and I failed miserably.
I was in despair and I had many questions, particularly when I read the verse,
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matt 5:48.)”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus demanded even more of me than the old written Law of Moses, taking it to the nth degree. How could I ever achieve such a high level of perfection, which, it seemed to me, only God Himself could keep? I had great difficulty, especially with the Great Commandment, which, Jesus said, was to fulfill all the Law and the Prophets. I found that I could not love this God of wrath or my neighbour and I certainly did not love myself. Even if I could keep all the others, it was always the law of love which slew me. I, therefore, found that it was impossible to keep the Law!
What was Jesus trying to teach us by making those stringent demands on us?
What I believe now is that He was demonstrating that no one could ever attain the perfection of God. The promise of the serpent was that Adam would be as god and God was telling us that, if we wanted to be the god of our own life, then this was the standard that a god must attain. Jesus was emphasising that no man can ever keep the law and that every one of us misses the mark.
At the time, while still seeking to lead a victorious Christian life, I read Matt 13:9-17 and I realised that I did not have the eyes or the ears to understand for, if I did, I would not have so many questions.
I found the answer to that in the Epistles, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:12-14.) It was only by revelation by the Holy Spirit that I would ever understand.
Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt 11:29-30
What did He mean? I found the burden of the law far too heavy and, even placing it upon His shoulders and trying to live it with His help, did not lighten it at all! I still broke the law and felt the weight of condemnation, with my impatience and my lack of love. In Romans 8:1 Paul said that there was no more condemnation if I walked, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. I asked the Lord to teach me to walk in the Spirit.
Jesus ended chapters five and six with this amazing statement, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt 6:33)
I sought the Kingdom. What was this mystery? What truth was hidden in those directives? I searched for the answer in His Word.
In Luke 16:16 Jesus made the following statement, “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached and every man presseth into it.”
So, what was the difference between the old “Law and the Prophets,” which the Pharisees and I tried to keep, and the “Kingdom of God”, which Jesus taught? How had the ‘work’ of keeping the Law changed?
“Then said they unto him, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said unto them, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:28-29)
What is the work of believing on the Son of God? I had learned that I could not keep the law; my quest now was to find what Jesus said beyond this, in order to know what I had to believe.
“Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the Kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. (Mark 16:43)
How interesting, obviously there is more to the Kingdom than just keeping the law!
What is the hidden mystery of the Kingdom?
“Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)
So, whatever the Kingdom is, it is within me and all the law and the prophets are swallowed up in the law of love. There it was again - that demand for me to love!
A few months later, I read a book in which a missionary wrote that he had had the same problem as I did - he found that he could not love as he believed he was being commanded. He went on to explain that, after searching the Bible, he discovered that love was not a ‘thing’ - Love was a person - Christ. Then he made the statement that was to change my life - he said that Christ lived in me. He was not some distant God up in the sky - He actually dwelt within me.
However, I still had many questions. How could we love if Christ was the lover and we were not Him? Somehow or other, there was a missing step. How could I love with the love that was not a thing I could possess but was a Person? How could I be Christ? I still constantly asked for His help in providing His love but I could see no change in my impatience and in my consequent judgement and in my hatred of myself and others.
Jesus informed the disciples, with that wonderful, comforting message in John 15, that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit of God, would come - also within them - and that He would teach them.
After Jesus died, and after they were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, it was by the promised revelation by the Spirit, to them and to Paul, exactly what His death had accomplished and the mystery of the Gospel was revealed – “Christ in us the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:26)
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, (I thoroughly agreed with that statement) God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom 8:2-5)
There was a further revelation for me - not only was Christ in me but it was my life IN CHRIST which had set me free from sin and death.
I was trying to walk in faith but what I realized later was that I was still walking in my own power, expecting myself to be able to fulfill the demands of the law. What I discovered was that it is BY FAITH that the Son of God, who dwells in me and I in Him, will fulfill the law within me. Keeping the Law had nothing to do with me; it had everything to do with my belief in God’s gift of grace through the blood of Jesus.
“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” Phil 3:9 Not through my faith but by the faith of Christ!
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Cor 6:1
The shedding of Jesus’ blood had not only conquered the person of sin, Satan, but in some mysterious way we, who had been the slaves of sin, have also been crucified in Christ, have died in Him and have been resurrected as new creatures - alive in Him - no longer the children of disobedience, slaves of Satan, but now “raised up with Christ in the heavenlies.” Eph 2:6.
This new man has been quickened by His Spirit and as Paul states, “I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)
Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
This amazing, mysterious statement held the key. In the Kingdom within, we do not even live by our own faith. We live in the Kingdom by the faith of Christ, “who is the author and finisher of our faith.” (Heb 12:2)
We no longer live by outer appearances (Heb 11:1-3) “but by faith that He has granted us the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length and depth and height and to know the love of Christ which passeth all knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” (Eph 3:16-17)
“Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” (2 Cor 3:6)
Yes, the letter of the law had killed me - now I was to learn that keeping the law has nothing to do with me - it has everything to do with Christ in me and I in Him. Christ has fulfilled the prophecy that says, “He will dwell in us and write the law on our hearts.” Jer 31:33-34, Heb 10:16 and the Spirit within gives life to the written Word, which I found was only a shadow of the Inner Word, Who dwelt within me.
“Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:” 1 (John 4:2)
The life I now live is the life of the I AM, for “in Him I live, move and have my being.” (Acts 17:28)
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)
At last the Kingdom of God was explained. It was a Kingdom where I no longer lived in God’s wrath, which I had believed was aimed at me, but which was aimed only at the spirit of sin, which dwelt in me. (Rom 7:17)
I have been rescued from the domain of Satan’s rule and translated to the Kingdom of Christ. (Col 1:13) I now live, not according to appearances, but in the unseen spiritual truth of the gifts that my Lord has given us, not by works but by his grace. We have been forgiven, redeemed, justified, saved, set apart, anointed and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Whether we know it or not, we are dead, crucified and buried and now alive in Christ. We are at last His temple, no longer, at Satan’s prompting, trying to be the little god that Satan had promised Adam we would be. I am content to be what I have always been, only a vessel, no longer the home of the spirit of error, Satan but now inhabited by the God whom I was created to contain.
Our God is Love and He loves us and His love is the only love that we can express. Praise God, we no longer have to offer our love, which was so phoney. No longer the trumped up love that we tried to express, but now, in Christ, He expresses His love by us and as us. Jesus said of Himself, “I can do nothing of myself,” (John 8:28) and of us, that “Without Me you can do nothing.” Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” (John 15:4 John 14:19-20)
I now live in that belief.
“Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:13-15) Amen
So yes, _________,
I am one hundred per cent in agreement with your first statement that we are an instrument of God. It is my God, in whom I live, move and have my being, Who, through His Son in me, keeps the Law in me and through me and as me, by His power not by mine.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith and that nor of yourselves: it Is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:9-10) “As He is in the world so am I” and “without Him I can do nothing.”
I do, however, differ in my acceptance of the Epistles, as you can see, I also place great weight on the words of Jesus but, according to Him, he could speak of what was to come only in parables. He promised in John 15, that His disciples and those who followed, would be taught by the Holy Spirit. It was by the revelation of the Spirit, that those coming, after Jesus’ death, would see with eyes to see and hear with ears to hear, just what He meant by His parables and the glorious message of our freedom from the “Law and the Prophets” and our new life in the “Kingdom of God”. This is what Joseph of Arimatheae was waiting for. It is the freedom of death to ourselves and life in Him. It is losing our life in order that we may gain life in Christ and His Life in and through us.
The Apostle John, reveals so much of this truth in chapters 14 and 15 of his gospel. Jesus starts, “Let not your heart be troubled, believe in me!”
What were they to believe? “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live and ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He will love us and manifest Himself to us. He will make His abode in us.“ (19-23)
He is the vine we are the branch - now we are clean – “abide in me and I in you for without me you can do nothing.” (John15:1-5)
We are all to be One with Christ and the Father even as they are One and in that oneness is perfection. In that Oneness with Christ “as He is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:16-17)
Dare I to believe that He is not only in me and I in Him but I am also walking this earth ‘as He’?
“I will not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness come by the law then my Lord Christ died in vain.” (Gal 2:21)
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.” (Rom. 10:4)
“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (Col 1:27-29)
So, of course, I work according to His working in me and I rest in faith, leaving it all up to him for I know “that God is at work in me both to will and to work His pleasure,” (Phil 2:13) and of truth, “I can do nothing without Him.” (II Tim 3:16)
All of the foregoing fulfills the old prophecy: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezek 36:26-28)
Christ Himself is one with my spirit and He is my very life “for He is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.” (Col 3:4 Col 1:27)
He has replaced the stony heart, that could not love, with a heart of flesh full of His love. It has nothing to do with ME or MY work, MY prayer life, MY daily Bible reading, MY good works, MY piety, MY tithing, MY work in the church, MY loving and the big one for me and the Pharisees, of claiming MY OWN righteousness. The self-righteousness that I owned when I projected the false face of one who was able to keep the Law with God’s help - none of that counts if it is done to please God or to earn heavenly brownie points. For I am dead to the law and if I continue to live, believing that somehow I have to do something to earn or to keep my salvation, then “I frustrate the grace of God.” Unless I walk in faith that this is true, then it is all dung, “and my Lord died in vain.” (Gal 2:20. Isa. 64:6)
The work of the Christian walking in faith depends on the fact that Christ, in them and through them, will be the love where they could only judge.
We no longer condemn those who sin because we know that it is impossible, in our own power, to keep the Law. (How dare we, when Christ Himself came not to condemn but to give everlasting life? (John 3:16) We know that Love Himself, in us, through us and as us, will draw sinners to us/Him, as they did in His lifetime. We also know that Love Himself, in us and as us, will offend the law-keeper just as much today as He did the Pharisees of His day.
_____, I have written this several times trying to shorten it but I honestly could not answer your questions of “Works’ and ‘Revelation” in a shorter version. I hope that this clearly explains the statements I made in my message to _____.
I do not agree with you that the words of the epistles are of lesser value than Jesus’ statements. I believe that they, by the revelation of the promised Holy Spirit, provide the reason for Jesus’ death. They give meaning to every statement He made, which could not be understood until after His death, when all that it achieved, could be revealed by the Holy Spirit and explained in the Epistles. Above all, that, by His gift of grace, He became the curse of the Law for us and set us free from the unbearable burden placed upon all men, which keeping the law demanded,. All we are asked to give in exchange is to believe on His Son by faith and, as I have said before, He even provided that faith for us.
You may still disagree with me but that is alright for, if God has ordained our walk, then we are both where we are meant to be on this journey of faith, “for it is He who causes us to walk in His way according to His will and pleasure.” (Phil 2:13, Eph 1:5,) and I trust God to lead us both in truth.
Thank you again for taking the time to present your strong stand of faith in God.