The Pioneer Tract Society's Spiritual Light
Instructions in the Faith
John David Clark, Sr.
(original introduction 1981)
Why Me And Why This Book
Early in this century, when the pentecostal experience was freeing the hearts and
souls of so many in America, there was a small, scattered group of Pentecostal ministers who
began to teach a doctrine they claimed had been revealed to them by God. They stirred many
a mind with this teaching, but it never gained wide acceptance. Only a few congregations,
sprinkled among the Pentecostal community, held to this doctrine.
A very young and relatively well educated Pentecostal minister, George Clark (now
approaching his 80th year), was recruited by his Overseer to visit these congregations and
bring them back to the standard denominational line. This he assayed to do, and, in fact, he
did persuade some of the ministers to refrain from teaching such things in regular Church
services, at least until they "got more light on it."
Not long afterwards, Pastor Clark, who is my father, became increasingly burdened
for the denominational divisions which existed among Pentecostal people, and, determined
that God could unite the Church, he began to pray for the answer. He supposed that he
would pray an hour or so, but his communion with God did not stop until weeks later.
From that time, miracles and healings became an integral part of my father's
ministry, and, in addition, God began to teach him scriptural and spiritual truths for the sake
of uniting His people. Much to his surprise, the truths which God began to open to my father
were the very doctrines he had labored to convince those small, scattered congregations to
Forthwith, he returned to each congregation to tell them their pastors had been right
and that he had been wrong. Having fulfilled that responsibility, he went directly to the
Overseer, sat down with him and the Bible, and showed him the truths he now understood.
The Overseer could not argue with what was laid before him. He simply said, "Brother
Clark, we cannot change all these people." Then he added as he and my father embraced and
wept, "Brother Clark, please don't leave the Church."
My father didn't leave. Later, however, his license was revoked and he was ousted
of that denomination for "teaching doctrines contrary to the Church." But contrary to their
church or not, the truth had to be taught to the Church, and my father and others continued
preaching and teaching wherever possible the doctrines no man taught them.
By the time I was born, the dust of those early events was settled; the participants
were growing old and dying. The non-denominational prayer meetings (actually, these were "non-Christian" meetings!) my father led at
Grandma's house had been continuing fairly regularly for nearly 20 years. My father was
50. My mother was 26 years younger.
I knew of, but never knew any other religion than those home prayer meetings. There
were no committees, building funds, or bazaars. There were no contentions for authoritative
positions. There were no patterned forms of worship. The saints would gather on Sunday
afternoon in Grandma's living room and begin to pray or sing or testify to whatever God had
done for them or through them that week. This is the faith I learned.
At age 22, just months before I entered the seminary, I could not have told you what
a seminary was. (At times I still wonder.) Nevertheless, my only difficulty in being
accepted to the seminary was the requirement of a recommendation by the "Board of
Deacons" of my local Church. There was no such thing down at Grandma's. All of those
sorts of ecclesiastic or ritualistic systems and ceremonies were foreign, strange, and a little
suspicious to me. I was an alien to the religious "Christian" world as you know it.
I still am numbed by confusion when asked to what denomination I belong. I haven't
yet found an answer to that question which does not communicate hostility. For when I say
"independent," my utter and willing dependence and reverence for Christ and my brothers
and sisters everywhere, is belied. Or when I say "none," that communicates a rebellious,
government-despising spirit. I never will forget the contemptuous eyes of one professor at
seminary when he looked at the "none" on my transcript and demanded, "And just what is
it that you have against the organized Church? Don't you believe in God?"
So, I really haven't learned the gentlest response for questions concerning to which
Church or to which faith I belong, since that there is but one faith and one Church is all I
have ever been taught and ever experienced.
After seminary I entered for a short time the Oral Roberts Graduate School of
Theology. While there, I heard a professor express regret that there was no unifying
theology in the Pentecostal/Charismatic community. Coming from every denomination and
social level, spirit-baptized people hold to all kinds of ideas and creeds concerning salvation,
spirit-baptism, and other spiritual experiences and doctrine. He said that the Spirit-baptized
people needed a uniting theology, and he was speaking the truth. My desire to write this
book received that much more impetus from his words, because I knew the truth that he was
saying God's people needed! I knew then, as I know even more surely now, that the uniting
truths which God's people are looking for and needing are the simple truths I had known
Shortly thereafter I left Oklahoma and returned to the prayer meetings and fellowship
of the saints who had taught me Christ. I wanted to record the divinely revealed truths I
knew would help the Church. Burdened by the divisive doctrines and deadened forms I had
seen among God's people, I prayed for guidance in the presentation of the Way. I prayed
that I might be granted understanding and ability to communicate faithfully to the Church
the beauty and order and freedom I had always known of Christ, and to show my brothers
and sisters of every denominational persuasion how they might be one in faith and practice
as well as in spirit. And for the sake of His own dearly beloved people, God has enabled me
to write these things.
This book is for the Church and all who would be a part of it. The contents are not
contrived. They are revealed and eternal. They will heal broken fellowships in Christ's
body. They will enlighten and encourage and embolden. They will set free. They will bring
peace, give joy, and make room for the perfect love of God.
With my heart, I give thanks to God for my determined father, who would not
compromise his heavenly light for earthly convenience. God will reward him for every hurt
and give glory for embarrassment. And to the saints who have supported him and other
ministers with this healing message, this work belongs as much as to me. For without their
prayers, patience, and exhortations I might have fallen to wolves long ago.
To every brother in every place, grace, love, and truth, and the fellowship of the
Spirit, be your soul's world. And may the things you now read work God's will in your
the Third Commandment
Yom Kippur and Christ:
LIGHT ON PENTECOST
CONVERSION AND BAPTISM
SALVATION AND WORKS
SPEAKING IN TONGUES AT SPIRIT BAPTISM
All scripture references are from the King James Version unless otherwise noted.
AT = Author's Translation from the Greek
THE THIRD COMMANDMENT
"Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, and
say, Thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and
thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an
Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite. And as for thy nativity,
in the day thou wast born thy naval was not cut, neither wast
thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at
all, nor swaddled at all. None eye pitied thee, to do any of
these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast
cast out in the open field, to the loathing of thy person, in the
day that thou wast born. And when I passed by thee, and saw
thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou
wast in thy blood, Live. I have caused thee to multiply as the
bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and
thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are
fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked
and bare. Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee,
behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt
over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee,
and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and
thou becamest mine." (Ezek. 16: 1-8)
God was speaking here, through the prophet Ezekiel, to His aged wife, Israel. He was
recalling the time, nearly eight centuries earlier, when He rescued His beloved out of
Egyptian slavery and led her to a desolate mountainous region of the Sinai peninsula, where
He entered into a covenant of marriage with the young virgin, Israel. It was an incredibly
eloquent proposal of marriage which the Lord had made:
"Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare
you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now
therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my
covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above
all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me
a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." (Ex. 19: 4-6a)
And when Israel accepted His proposal (Ex. 19:8), the date was set for the marriage
"And be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord
will come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount
Sinai." (Ex. 19:11)
What follows in the next chapters of Exodus is the account of that sacred ceremony. In this
covenant of marriage at Sinai, Israel was joined to God.
TAKING THE NAME
When a man and a woman are united in a covenant of marriage, they become "one
flesh" (Gen. 2:24), and this "one flesh" bears but one name. For example, when Barbara
Myers married me, John Clark, she became Barbara Clark. She took my name.
Similarly, when we enter God's covenant, we become one with Him in spirit (ICor.
6:17). And in entering into God's "family," we take the family name. Paul once wrote:
" bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of
whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named."
This is what happened at Mt. Sinai. Israel took God's name, covenanting with Him
to be His alone, while He promised that she would be "a peculiar treasure unto me above all
Now, there are fundamental conditions to every covenant, whether it is a business
agreement among men or a spiritual covenant, as here at Sinai. In a marriage ceremony,
these fundamental conditions are called "wedding vows." And the wedding vows of God's
covenant with Israel, which are preserved for us in Exodus 20:1-17, are popularly known as
the "Ten Commandments." The third of these ten commandments is this:
"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for
the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in
The primary purpose of the marriage union, especially in the Old Testament, was
procreation. Only by having children could the family name be carried on.
This was the purpose of that holy marriage at Sinai. God was to be the head of the
family. Israel was to bear Him children. If Israel would be faithful to her husband, His light
and love and peace would spread throughout the world as membership in His family grew
and grew. If she were unfaithful, there would be no light in the darkness, no instruction for
the ignorant, and Israel would have entered into covenant with God to no good end. Being
spiritually barren, she would have taken His name fruitlessly, for nothing in vain!
To "take God's name" means to bear His name, to become a part of the family that
is called by His name, to enter into covenant with Him. To take His name in vain is to enter
into covenant with Him and then fail to live up to the terms of the covenant, resulting in
The third commandment itself does not specifically forbid verbal misuse of the word
"God." There are scriptures which do forbid that (e.g. Lev. 19:12a; 24:10-11). The wise
man in Proverbs 30:9 said that he could take God's name in vain by becoming a thief. We
could as well say that a child of God who had become a glutton, or a liar, or an adulterer, or
who lives in any way that is contrary to God's will, has taken God's name upon himself in
The third commandment charges God's people for all time to bear His name
faithfully in holiness, for the way to God's throne is lighted by the lives of His people. And
if God's own are in the darkness of confusion and disobedience, how much greater is the
darkness which is already in the world! Therefore, God plainly warned Israel that "the Lord
will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain."
The young bride Israel was to do just that. Rather than bear God's law and light to
the nations, she partook of the idolatry, child sacrifices, and immorality of those nations. She
prostituted herself and God's gifts to her by disobeying His commandments and following,
instead, the ways of pagans. In yielding herself to foreign Gods, Israel became a spiritual
adultress, bringing a reproach upon the holy name of Jehovah, the holy name she bore. Israel
had taken the name of the Lord in vain.
Returning now to the scripture with which we started, let's continue reading Ezekiel's
powerful message from God to aged Israel concerning His care for her in her impoverished
"Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed
away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I
clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with
badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I
covered thee with silk. I decked thee also with ornaments,
and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck.
And I put a jewel on thy forehead and earrings in thine ears,
and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus wast thou
decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine
linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour,
and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and
thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went
forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect
through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the
"But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the
harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy
fornications on every one that passed by; his it was. And of
thy garments thou didst take, and deckedst thy high places
with divers colours, and playedst the harlot thereupon: the
like things shall not come, neither shall it be so. Thou hast
also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which
I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and
didst commit whoredom with them: and tookedst thy
broidered garments, and coveredst them: and thou hast set
mine oil and mine incense before them. My meat also which
I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey, wherewith I fed
thee, thou hast even set it before them for a sweet savour: and
thus it was, saith the Lord God. Moreover thou hast taken thy
sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast borne unto me, and
these hast thou sacrificed unto them to be devoured. Is this of
thy whoredoms a small matter, that thou hast slain my
children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through
the fire for them? And in all thine abominations and thy
whoredoms thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth,
when thou wast naked and bare, and wast polluted in thy
"And it came to pass after all thy wickedness, (woe, woe unto
thee! saith the Lord God;) that thou hast also built unto thee
an eminent place, and hast made thee an high place in every
street. Thou hast built thy high place at every head of the
way, and hast made thy beauty to be abhorred, and hast
opened thy feet to every one that passed by, and multiplied
thy whoredoms. Thou hast also committed fornication with
the Egyptians thy neighbors, great of flesh; and hast increased
whoredoms, to provoke me to anger. Behold, therefore I have
stretched out my hand over thee, and have diminished thine
ordinary food, and delivered thee unto the will of them that
hate thee, the daughters of the Philistines, which re ashamed
of thy lewd way. Thou hast played the harlot with them, and
yet could not be satisfied. Thou hast moreover multiplied thy
fornication in the land of Canaan unto Chaldea; and yet thou
was not satisfied herewith."
"How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord God, seeing thou
doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish
woman; in that thou buildest thine eminent place in the head
of every way, and makest thine high place in every street; and
hast not been as an harlot, in that thou scornest hire; but as a
wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead
of her husband!"
HISTORY OF INFIDELITY
Prophet after prophet was sent to Israel, pleading, warning, delivering to her the great
Husband's commandments for His household. And prophet after prophet was scorned,
beaten, and even killed for his effort. When the Lord Jesus neared the time for his death, he
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou killest the prophets, and stonest
them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered
thy children together and ye would not!" (Mt. 23:37)
So Israel was left alone, but only after mercy upon mercy had been shown upon her
sins, and chastisement upon chastisement had been delivered until both lost their
God had kept her alive in the desolate wasteland of Sinai 40 years because He had
promised her father, Abraham, that his children would live, even though keeping her alive
meant keeping her alive to dirty His name in pagan worship and disobedience. He won
battles for her and established her in the land He had promised, and watched as she
compromised the honor of His name for the savagery of godless living. And when, through
her own disobedience, the nations humbled and enslaved her, He still cared for her and
caused deliverers to rise up and break the yokes of foreign domination.
"And when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was
with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their
enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the Lord
because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed
them and vexed them. And it came to pass, when the judge
was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more
than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and
to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own
doings, nor from their stubborn way." (Jud. 2:18-19)
And Israel could not answer God's haunting question, "Why have ye done this?"
After several centuries of living among heathen who were led by kings of their own
rather than by God, Israel approached Samuel, whom God had raised up at that time to lead
Israel, and told him, "now make us a king to judge us like all the nations" (I Sam. 8:5b).
"But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a
king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the
Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people
in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee,
but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them." (I Sam. 8:6-7)
The Lord then warned Israel, through Samuel, that the kings over them would be
severe rulers, and He pleaded with them to be content with His own merciful kingship, but
"Nay; but we will have a king over us; that we also may be like
all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out
before us, and fight our battles." (I Sam. 8:19b-20)
And when God's word came to pass, and the harshness of kingly rule divided the
nation in half (IKings 12:1-20), He still cared for her and sent His messengers to the
northern half of the kingdom (called Israel) and to the southern half (called Judah), preaching
love and forgiveness, pleading with Israel to turn from following the nations and to be
reconciled to God.
He sent Jeremiah:
"Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not
cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the
Lord, and I will not keep anger forever. Only acknowledge
thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy
God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every
green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord.
Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married
unto you." (Jer. 3:12-14a)
He sent Ezekiel:
"As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death
of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live:
turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O
house of Israel?" (Eze. 33:11)
He sent Hosea:
"How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee,
Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set
thee as Zeboim?3 Mine heart is turned within me, my
repentings are kindled together." (Hos.11:8)
He sent Joel:
"Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with
all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with
mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and
turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the
evil." (Joel 2:12-13)
He sent Micah:
"O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have
I wearied thee? testify against me." (Mic. 6:3)
He sent Zechariah:
"Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will turn unto
you." (Zec. 1:3b)
He sent Amos, Elijah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, and many others less
known to us, but not to God. And when He sent His last prophetic voice in the Old
Testament crying, "I have loved you, saith the Lord" (Mal. 1:2), Israel was no longer His
bride, but was married to vain paganism (Mal. 2:11) and could only respond in utter
blindness and callousness, "Wherein hast thou loved us?" (Mal. 1:2).
And through the next four centuries,4 one of the blackest prophecies ever
spoken to Israel was a living reality. No more prophets were sent to guide her in the paths
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send
famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for
water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall
wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east,
they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and
shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young
men faint for thirst. " (Amos 8:11-13)
And it was so.
HOPE IN THE DARK
Those four silent centuries saw the land of the Jews wracked with war and treachery
and confusion and fear. The very sacredness of Israel's faith grew stale. The temple was
defiled by heathen intruders. The High Priesthood became a political prize. The Law was
surrounded by fences of uninspired tradition.
This religious harshness and emptiness resulted in a slow rise of sects within the
Jewish religion. There arose the Pharisees, the Sadducees, Zealotes, Herodians, Essenes, and
other faiths within Israel itself. Each had its own particular doctrine and standards, and each
claimed to be right. Israel could no longer offer deliverance to a confused world; she was
And as the end of this dark era neared, the religious situation in Israel grew desperate.
The covenant of God was distorted, twisted by men of great mind and empty soul. The
original intention of the covenant was now so foreign to what was taught by Israel's pastors
that those who were persuaded to become Jews were no longer being converted to God's
faith. Jesus described the situation in blunt terms:
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye
compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is
made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than
yourselves." (Mt. 23:15)
This means that Israel's pastors converted people, not to God's covenant, but to their
interpretation of God's covenant. It means that the religion then taught and observed by the
Jews was not the religion with which they had begun. It meant that throughout the
synagogues of Israel, pastors were telling the congregations that they were prepared to meet
God when they were not prepared, that God was their God when He was not, and that they
could expect rich blessings and great favor, when only disaster and ruin lay ahead. The
people were being taught to long for the day of the Lord (for surely he would greatly reward
them!), but did anyone consider the words of Amos?
"Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is
it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light."
During these long centuries, when the word of the Lord was not heard in God's
vineyard, many vain traditions budded and grew and were added, by Israel's pastors, to her
religious diet. They appeared authoritative, but they all were wild, poisonous, bitter fruit,
and everyone who ate of this fruit partook of its degenerate nature. Years before, Isaiah had
sung this sad song of his well-beloved God and His vineyard:
"My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And
he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted
it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it,
and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it
should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah,
judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard, that I have
not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring
forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I
will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away
the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down
the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay
it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall
come up briars and thorns: I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of
hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant
plant: and he looked for judgement, but behold oppression;
for righteousness, but behold a cry." (Isaian 5:1b-7)
But amid all the frightening words of doom, and the ugly pictures of destruction
found in the ancient scrolls of the prophets, was one last bright hope. In enigmatic terms,
the prophets spoke of one who would come to restore and reconcile the people to God; and
the hope which these promises sparked kept the future for God's vineyard from seeming so
utterly dark, for out of its dried and broken stumps and roots would rise God's great Apostle.
"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and
a Branch shall grow out of his roots; and the spirit of the Lord
shall rest upon him he shall grow up before him as a tender
plant, and as a root out of a dry ground." (Isa. 11:1,2a;53:2a)
"Behold the man whose name is the BRANCH; and he shall
grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the
Lord ." (Zech. 6:12b)
"...he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as
Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be
as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell
under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn,
and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of
Lebanon Who is wise, and he shall understand these things?
prudent, and he shall know them?"
FOR OUR ADMONITION
The purpose of God's choosing of Israel was for the blessing of others; it was to
make people a vehicle of His great care and healing and peace. When God's people humbled
themselves before Him in obedient holiness, godly fruit was produced. When pride,
compromise, and greed worked in His people and, so, hindered His working through them,
what good fruit could have been produced? And finally, The Kingdom of God was taken
from Israel and given to others who would be more faithful in "bringing forth the fruits
thereof" (cp. Mt. 21:33-46).
And have we done so? Has the Church been the light of the world, the salt of the
earth? Have we kept ourselves from errors of Israel? Have we escaped the snares of
divisions among ourselves and our leaders? Are our steeplehouses filled with converts to a
certain brand of God's new covenant rather than converts to God? Are our pastors telling
congregations who are strangers to the grace of God that they may look with joy to what lies
ahead? And if God so fiercely punished a guilty Israel, will he excuse a guilty Church?
Some of the last words spoken by Jesus on this earth warn us not to think so. Gathered with
his disciples on the night before he was crucified, the man call the Branch carefully labored
in words that they might understand:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every
branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every
branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth
more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have
spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch
cannot bear fruit itself, except it abide in the vine; no more
can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the
branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same
bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is
withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire,
and they are burned." (Jn. 15:1-6)
No, God has not changed His standard nor His purpose for His people. For the sake of all
men, the Church lives, that in showing to all men God's lifestyle, some of them might desire
The Church needs to examine its faith, its traditions, its methods, and its goals. If
division in Old Testament Israel was an indication of confusion and error, can denominations
within the body of Christ indicate anything else? Will we point the finger at Israel and
wonder why she chose to die, not heeding the scriptures, when our own scriptures tell us that
as long as there are divisions among us we are carnally minded (I Cor. 3:3) and to be carnally
minded is death (Rom. 8:6)!
And when we cross land and sea to make a convert, whose convert is he? God is
ours? Have we established traditions which the Church would be more fruitful without, that
are contrary to God's truth?
If an unschooled, unheard-of, wandering preacher proclaimed that the most revered
and respected pastors among us were blind guides, would we be so religiously offended that
we would no even consider it? And what would you do pastor?
Israel compromised holiness, increased her membership roll, and God cut her off.
Will He look at our congregations and see less compromise? It is imperative that the Church
be taught to know that Israel's fate is not unrepeatable, that any people who bear God's name
must bear that name in holiness or be destroyed!
The Church must hear her own prophets! And we must understand that the things
which happened to Israel
"...Happened unto them for [examples]: and they are written for
our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he
fall." (I Cor. 10:11-12)
By Israel's fate the Church is warned,
"Be not highminded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural
branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold
therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which
fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in
his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." (Rom. 11:20b-22)
We must come to know, fully know, and take to heart that, first, there is such a thing
as taking the Lord's name in vain, and second, that the only people who can take His name
in vain are those who have taken His name at all: the Church. We must (we must!) grow
to understand the fear of God and the fierceness of His wrath upon His own people who bear
His name, yet live ungodly lives. The way is simple; the requirements clear:
"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for
the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in
It is not true that we are counted good in God's sight for Jesus' sake, even when we
do evil. It wearies God to even hear such nonsense:
"Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say,
Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one [of
his children] that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord,
and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of
judgement?" (Mal. 2:17)
We need to be without doctrines and showy theologies that eventually call good, evil
and evil, good. The gospel is so simple. It is when we are lifted up in pride to formulate
complicated, sophisticated, dogmas that we become confused, divided, carnal.
Jesus gives us wisdom and power to live good lives, so that at the judgement we will
be clean. Those who do righteousness are those who are righteous (I Jn. 3:7-10). Those who
do evil are evil. The righteous will be saved; the unrighteous will be cast into the lake of
fire. That's the gospel.
If we hope to enjoy the promises of eternal life which God has set before us, we must
learn the lesson which Israel's failure can teach us (cp. I Cor. 10:1-12). To wit, that being
the people of God, bearing His holy and blessed name, carries with it the responsibility of
holiness to our God, and that, without holiness, no man will see God. Whether he has been
converted or not.
BEFORE WE CONTINUE
Refusal to consider seriously and humbly the possibility of spiritual error was a
hallmark of Israel's pastors. They could have revered their traditions, yet been willing to
consider the prophets' words, and thereby helped. But their unwillingness to hear, their
readiness to condemn and reject any suggestions that they had misunderstood, ultimately
destroyed them and their people. A willingness to hear is a mark of righteous people; only
the guilty are hardhearted.
Because the truths in this beginning chapter help quicken our minds to realize the real
possibility, and the awful consequences, of developing (even unintentionally) spiritual
hardness to truth, I consider it to be but the introduction to what this book has to say. For
much of what is being taught to and practiced in God's Church today is not true, in fact
contrary to Christ, and as a matter of course hardens the people against the clearest, simplest
truths of living a truly godly life. And it is only in remembering with what steadfast assurance of
righteousness that Israel slaughtered the prophets, that we can be warned to listen for the
chastening word. In His fear, we must all be continually examining ourselves and our faith;
for truly, much of the responsibility to be led rightly lies squarely upon the shoulders of each
follower. If I stand before God "poor, blind, and naked," yes, my shepherd will answer for
it, but neither will I be guiltless. Every one of us shall give account of himself to God (Rom.
It is certainly nothing new to your ears to hear that the Church is "off the track." We
all sense that something is amiss. The presence and vastness of denominations itself is an
indication to every conscience of some pervasive, yet hard to define, error which has crept
into the mind and spirit of God's people. Differences in doctrines, ordinances, standards, and
governments are so obviously ungodly that at times they are even defended on the basis
that God would not allow such developments in the Church if indeed they were so ungodly.
But at heart, we all know fully well that it is not as it should be.
The chapters which follow will, for many of you, initiate a difficult task of re-
examination. They will require all of your faith, your attention, your prayers. Truthfully,
you will not be judging their contents; they will be judging you.
The move of the Spirit now being felt throughout the world will, I pray, eventuate the
uniting of the faithful into the one faith, one government, and one mind of Christ. However,
much depends on us. There are many beliefs to be abandoned, many traditions to be
discarded, many confessions to be made, and much chastening and pruning to be received.
And if God's recording of Israel's failure to do these things, and His recording of the results,
do not make us willing (yea, eager!) to examine, in earnest, our own beliefs and to be willing
to hear words not easy on our souls, then will be fulfilled the words of Solomon:
"Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my
hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my
counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at
your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh." (Prov. 1:24-26)
The messages which now follow are only a small part of our God's call of peace to
a divided and confused Church. But they are a part. They will not all be easy to accept. But
they are all true. And we all need them. They will stand the tests of scriptural examination
and endorsement of the Spirit.
There is nothing to be gained by contention and strife and faultfinding. You will find
none of those spirits in this work. There is, however, everything to be gained by instruction
in righteousness. And the Spirit of truth has given me these messages for this time for the
"For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh
knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom
for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.
He keepeth the paths of judgement, and preserveth the way of
his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and
judgement, and equity; yea, every good path."
YOM KIPPUR AND CHRIST:
LIGHT ON PENTECOST
Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine
service, and a worldly sanctuary.
For Christ has not entered into the sanctuary make by
human hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself,
now to appear in the presence of God for us.
(Heb. 9:24 AT)
Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) was the most holy day on the Old Testament
calendar. It was the day when the High Priest of Israel entered into the very presence of God
to offer the blood of sacrifice for the sins of all the people.
This ceremony took place at the tabernacle, and to grasp fully the significance of the
event of Yom Kippur, we must understand the significance of the tabernacle itself.
The Old Testament tabernacle was built by men, but it was designed by God. God
showed Moses the blueprint of the tabernacle when Moses was with him on Mt. Sinai (Ex.
24:18; 25:9, 40; etc.). And when the time came for the Jerusalem temple6 to be built, we are
told that its pattern, very similar to Moses' tabernacle, was given to King David "by the
Spirit" (I Chron. 28:11-12). Seeing then that the tabernacle was not of men's design, we
needn't be surprised to learn that the tabernacle was more than just a tabernacle, that it
represented a spiritual reality. And the spiritual reality it represented was heaven itself,
God's true tabernacle (Ps. 102:19; 104:2; Isa. 40:22).
THE COPY AND THE TRUE
In the tabernacle's front room was the candlestick with its seven lamps, or candles
(Ex. 25:37). And in his vision of heaven, John saw that "there were seven lamps of fire
burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God" (Rev. 4:5).
In the Most Holy room, on either side of the mercyseat (God's earthly throne), stood
two huge cherubim, carved from olive tree wood and covered with gold (I Kgs. 6:23, 28).
Zechariah was told by the angel that these two olive trees represented "the two anointed
ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth" (Zech. 4:14).
Throughout the whole tabernacle, carved on the doors and walls, sewn onto the
curtains and veils, and chisled onto the furniture, were, among other things, little angelic
creatures (I Kgs. 6:32, 35; 7:36, etc). When the priest entered the temple, he felt surrounded
by that "innumberable company of angels," that "multitude of the heavenly host" living
beings in heaven, dead figures in its earthly replica.
Leaving the many other impressive heavenly correlations of the tabernacle for your
personal study, let's look now at the tabernacle as a whole.7
The bible speaks of three heavens. The first is the place of clouds and birds and
winds. The second heaven is the place of stars, moons, and planets. Into these two heavens,
as the invention of airplanes and rockets have proved, men may freely go. But into the third
heaven no man in a fleshly body has ever gone, or will ever go. Correspondingly, the
tabernacle was divided, by a veil, into two rooms: the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place
(Ex. 26:33). The Holy Place, where priests were constantly present, was exactly twice the
length of the Most Holy (I Kgs. 6:2, 20). And, though the priests had free access to this Holy
Place (first two heavens), they were not allowed into the Most Holy (third heaven). The
privilege of passing through the veil into the Most Holy Place of God's personal presence
was reserved for the High Priest, and he was allowed there but once each year on Yom
The veil, and what it represents, is most significant for an understanding of the work
of Christ. What did it represent? Isaiah gave us a clue when he said that God would
someday do away with "the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all
nations" (25:7). This veil, spread over all people, is flesh, as Hebrews 10:20 explains. Men
may go, and have gone, into the first two heavens in their fleshly, physical bodies; but in
order to enter into the very presence of God, we must pass through the veil; we must be
changed in order to see God. This is "passing through the veil," and is called in the New
Testament "glorification," as you'll soon see.
As I have said, Yom Kippur was the one day in the year in which the High Priest
passed through the veil into the very presence of God. There he offered the blood of sacrifice
for the sins of the whole nation. But in order to have blood to offer, the victim must have
already been slain.
Think about that.
The sacrificial victim was slain outside the tabernacle. Afterwards, the High Priest
entered with the blood into the tabernacle, then through the veil into the presence of God to
make the atoning sacrifice. The slaying of the animal outside the earthly tabernacle was the
pattern for the slaying of Jesus outside God's true tabernacle. The entrance of the High
Priest into that earthly tabernacle, to offer the sacrifice of atonement, foreshadowed Jesus'
ascension into heaven,
For Christ is not entered into the holy places made
with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven
itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet
that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth
the holy place every year with the blood of others; for then
must he often have suffered from the foundation of the world:
but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared [before
God in heaven] to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
AN IMPORTANT DETAIL
Over long periods of time, words often undergo a metamorphosis. Their
meanings change. An example of this is the word "offend". In the era when the King James
scriptures were written, its meaning was usually "to cause sin". Jesus said, "If thy right eye
offend thee, pluck it out" (Mt. 5:29). But now "offend" most often means "to insult" or "hurt
the feelings of." Among other such examples is "to sacrifice."
I asked my students to give me a synonym for "to sacrifice." I gave them this
The man is going to sacrifice the lamb.
Next, I removed "sacrifice" from the sentence and asked them to replace it with a
synonym. You do it. Fill in the blank with another word for "sacrifice."
The man is going to _____________ the lamb.
What word did you think of? To kill? To give up? To slaughter? If so, you are
correct in modern usage but incorrect biblically speaking. "To sacrifice," never means, in
the Bible, simply to kill. Killing the victim always precedes the sacrifice; the sacrifice itself
is the offering of the slain animal to God. "To sacrifice," then, is the offering of something
already prepared to be offered. In the case of an animal, the killing was only part of the
preparation for sacrifice.
Christ, therefore, was no more sacrificed on the cross of Calvary than the Old
Testament animal was sacrificed where it was killed. His crucifixion was only preparation
for the sacrifice which followed. Had the Old Testament High Priest killed the animal and
then not entered into the tabernacle to offer it to God, there would have been no sacrifice.
And had Jesus not risen and ascended into heaven (the true tabernacle) to offer himself to
God, there would have been no sacrifice. In both cases, the sacrifice was made possible by,
and followed, the death of the victim. The earthly High Priest entered into the earthly
tabernacle with the blood of goats and calves, but Jesus, the High Priest of heaven, entered
...greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with
human hands, that is to say, not of this world; neither with the
blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood he entered
in once for all into the holy place
Heb. 9:11b-12 AT
Jesus did not ascend into heaven because the sacrifice was completed. Rather, he
ascended into heaven to complete the sacrifice. Unorthodox as it sounds, the Spirit and the
scriptures are teaching us that Jesus had to die before he could offer himself to God as a
sacrifice for sin. Before his death, he had nothing to offer.
PASSING THROUGH THE VEIL
It is interesting to focus for a moment on the specific time that Jesus was glorified,
or "passing through the veil." Since the veil was inside the tabernacle, the "passing through"
must have taken place inside the tabernacle; therefore, Jesus' glorification could not have
occurred before he ascended into the tabernacle. This ascension followed three days in the
heart of the earth (Mt. 12:40), then 40 days on earth (Act. 1:3). And 7 days of consecration
are accounted for after his ascension (Lev. 8:33-36). This total of fifty days agrees with the
fifty day period between Passover and Pentecost, but there is some confusion among Bible
students as to exactly when we should start counting those fifty days. So, though we may
not be able at this time to pinpoint the precise day or hour when Jesus passed through the veil
to offer himself to God on our behalf, it was certainly not before his ascension in the first
chapter of Acts and probably at least 7 days later than that.
Whenever the precise moment Jesus' glorification occurred, that glorification was
our deliverance. For when God, as Peter preached in Acts 3:13, "glorified his Son Jesus"
with the glory which was his with God "before the world was" (Jn. 17:5), the Spirit of God
was made available to men and was received by 120 of Jesus' disciples on Pentecost
morning. It was John (Jn. 7:37-39) who told us that the Spirit would be given only after
Jesus' glorification (not his crucifixion or resurrection!).
"Glorification" simply means a passing from a fleshly body to a spiritual body, from
mortality to immortality, from a body subject to damage to an incorruptible body. It is
synonymous with "inheriting the kingdom of God." Those born of the Spirit are heirs with
Christ, but as long as we are yet in these fleshly, non-glorified bodies, the inheritance can not
yet be received. As Paul says in I Cor. 15:50-53:
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit
the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit
incorruption. Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all
sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall
sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall
be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption,
and this mortal must put on immortality.
We shall all be changed! We shall all pass through the veil, for Christ "shall change
our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious [glorified] body" (Phip. 3:21).
In these bodies of flesh we cannot see God as He is; it would consume us. And although "it
doth not yet appear what we shall be we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be
[made] like him; for we shall see him as he is" (I Jn. 3:2). This is glorification, "passing
through the veil," the inheritance of sons.
If you are a faithful child of God and die blind or lame, it does not mean you will
spend eternity in a blind or lame spiritual body. A glorified body will not have our physical
inadequacies, our tatoos, our scars. Those "mansions" Christ is preparing for us are perfectly
glorious, eternal and whole. John did not see any blemish on the glorified Jesus in Rev.
And in the midst of the seven candlesticks [was] one like the
Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt
about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs
were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were
like a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they
burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many
There are no blood stains on the robes Jesus is now wearing, no thorn pricks in his
forehead, no lash marks on his back. He has passed through the veil which was subject to
But when Jesus came out of the tomb, he was not glorified. He was not in a glorious,
spiritual body, but in the same body that had been nailed to the tree. The nail prints were still
in it; the spear wound was still there. He even had to tell his disciples, before they would
believe it, that he was not (yet) a spiritual being. He said in Lk. 24:39b:
handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and
bones, as ye see me have.
So, if he was yet in a body of flesh and bones, he was not yet glorified. And if not
yet glorified, then the Spirit was not yet available, the sacrifice not yet made.
ONE ASCENSION, NO RETURN
The book of Hebrews adds this instructive note to our study:
But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for
ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth
[waiting] till his enemies be made his footstool.
The fact that Jesus sat down at God's right hand after offering himself as our atoning
sacrifice is important, for it means that he did not (as many are beginning to teach)
afterwards return to earth and will not do so until "his enemies be made his footstool." Of
course, in Spirit, both Jesus' personal presence, let it suffice to remind the reader that we are
looking for his second coming, not his third or fourth. After his first visit, he sat down.
LIGHT ON PENTECOST
Not all that these truths implicate concerning the doctrine and experience of the
Church is immediately evident. Some elaboration is, therefore, in order.
When Jesus ascended (Acts 1:9), he ascended out of the range of human sight and
hearing. And in the heavenly temple into which he ascended, there were no microphones,
tape recorders, cameras, or newsmen to record and report what occurred. Jesus, being
glorified, sat down at God's right hand and has not returned to earth since. No angels were
dispatched to report the accomplishment of the sacrifice. How, then, did the 120 faithful
followers of Jesus find out that the sacrifice had been accepted and that Jesus had been
glorified with God? John gave us the simple answer:
it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is
I Jn. 5:6b
While with his disciples, Jesus had foretold of the Spirit's coming and the purpose
But when the comforter is come, whom I will send to you
from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth
from the Father, he shall testify of me.
The followers of Jesus could tell of his miracles, his suffering, his resurrection, and
his ascension. They saw these things for themselves. They did not need the Holy Ghost to
bear witness to them that these events occurred. But as to what happened beyond those
clouds into which Jesus disappeared, they were completely ignorant until the Spirit was
sent from heaven into their hearts, testifying that God had accepted Jesus' sacrifice and that
"God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name" (Phip.
The Spirit of life given at Pentecost was, and is, God's own immutable testimony of
His Son. We could even say that the Spirit is God's Word concerning His Son (cp. Eph.
6:17). And to receive God's Spirit demonstrates one's faith in His Word concerning His Son
(cp. Jn. 3:33). But the one who rejects God's Spirit "has made Him a liar, because he has
not believed in the witness which God has given concerning His Son" (I Jn. 5:10b).
The scriptures, then, leave us no alternatives. Either we receive God's Spirit and, so,
declare His Word true, or we reject God's Spirit, His personal testimony that Jesus is Lord,
and thus imply that God has lied.
The second major implication of this chapter is that when the Spirit came at
Pentecost, it came for the first time. The disciples received the Holy Ghost when they were
baptized with it, and not before.
Jesus' ascension in the first chapter of Acts preceded his sacrifice and glorification.
When the sacrifice was accomplished he sat down (Heb. 10:12-13); he did not return to earth.
If then, Christ's sacrifice and subsequent glorification were not accomplished until Acts, it
is clear that the Spirit was not available until Acts, for the Spirit came as a result of the
sacrifice (cp. Jn. 7:37-39), and as witness to the glorification.
The disciples, therefore, received the Spirit at Pentecost, when they were baptized
with it. And just a little study will show that baptism with the Spirit and receiving of the
Spirit happened simultaniously in every other case: the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17), Paul
(Acts 9:17-18), Cornelius (Acts 10:44-45), the 12 Ephesian disciples (Acts 19:1-6), and, in
truth, every other person who has ever received the Spirit of God. But we will deal more
with that point in another chapter.
The sobering thought to consider now, though, is that since the receiving of God's
Spirit happens at conversion, this means the disciples were not converted until Pentecost!
Despite what our traditions and teachers have held, there is nothing in the gospels which
even suggests that the disciples were born-again before Acts 2:4.
While it is true that they were chosen (Jn. 15:16-19), separate from and hated by the
world (Jn.17:14), loved by the Father (Jn. 16:27), and even ordained to spread the word of
the kingdom with power (Mt. 10:1-8), they still were not sanctified (Jn. 17:17), nor did they
have the Spirit (Jn. 14:15-17; cp. Jn. 7:37-39).
Jesus' passionate desire was to have the disciples to be one with him in the Father
(Jn. 17:20-23). He exhorted them to be converted (Mt. 18:1-3), and specifically told Peter
what to do after he experienced conversion (Lk. 22:31-32). And , as much as Jesus would
have savored having fellowship in the Spirit with his disciples while he walked on earth, he
knew that it could never be. His death was to be the precondition for their regeneration. The
utter aloneness of Christ in this sense is an often overlooked point of his suffering which
must have been among his heaviest burdens.
During his last supper discourse, Jesus compared the spiritual condition of his
disciples to a woman in labor. Conceived by the word of life, they had continued with Jesus
until, at the end of his earthly ministry, they were near the hour of birth (Pentecost). Jesus
Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament,
but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your
sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in
travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as
she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the
anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye
now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your
heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST
The current doctrinal separation of conversion and baptism is one of the most puzzling and
indefensible developments in the history of Church doctrine. Paul plainly and repeatedly
emphasized that baptism of the Spirit was the means into the body of Christ (Rom. 6:1-4; I
Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:12). Peter just as plainly taught that the resurrection of Christ
brought about the baptism which saves us (I Pet. 3:20-21).
Yet, somehow, despite these scriptures, and Jesus' own teaching, and the accounts
of conversions in Acts, the belief that conversion occurs before receiving the Holy Ghost
baptism is practically ubiquitous in the Church. And with the abundance of such clear,
contradictory evidence, it is mystifying staggering that such a doctrine should ever have
gained such widespread acceptance.
Let's take a closer look at conversion and baptism right now.
CONVERSION AND BAPTISM
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and
preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is
baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be
when once the longsuffering of God waited in the
days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few,
that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure
whereunto even baptism doth also now save us
I Pet. 3:20-21a
From the above scriptures we can see that salvation is possible only for those who
have been baptized. But the question which must be answered is, "Is the baptism which
counts for salvation a baptism with water or the baptism of the Holy Ghost?"
The earliest Church practiced two baptisms. They baptized the penitent with water,
with instructions to expect the Holy Ghost baptism to follow. Peter's message to the Jewish
multitude at Pentecost was, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus
Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38).
But the Apostle Paul taught a doctrine which was revealed to him personally by Jesus
Christ (Gal. 1:11-12) which excluded the need for water baptism. He taught that, as far as
salvation was concerned there was only one baptism (Eph. 4:5), and that the "one baptism"
was the baptism of the Spirit (cp. I Cor. 12:13). The few water baptisms Paul did administer
bothered him ("for Christ sent me not to baptize"), and he regretted ever having been
involved with them (I Cor. 1:14-17).
The apparent contradiction of Peter's message with Paul's is only that. Apparent.
Neither Peter nor Paul was wrong at the times and in the places he ministered. The key was
the people to whom Peter and Paul were sent.
Paul wrote in Galatians 2:7, " the gospel of the uncircumcision (Gentiles) was
committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision (Jews) was unto Peter." Peter's
message of the need for water baptism was for the Jews only.9 In fact, the entire faith of
Jesus was withheld from non-Jews by the earliest church. God had to repeat a shocking
vision to Peter three times before Peter would have considered travelling to a Gentile's house
to preach (Acts 10).
THE BROADER VIEW
The doctrine of conversion for Gentiles was a complicated one in the earliest Church.
In order to receive the Spirit they were expected, first, to become Jews by circumcision,
submitting to the Law, and, in a spirit of repentance, be water-baptized in Jesus' name. Only
then were they to receive the Spirit baptism. The border line, however, was circumcision.
Gentiles, being outside the genealogical line of Abraham (which was distinguished by
circumcision), were disqualified from the availability of Christ. The promise was to
Abraham's seed. But, the earliest Church believed, if the Gentiles would become Jews by
receiving circumcision, then they were candidates for the message of salvation and could
eventually receive the Spirit when they had submitted to water baptism. Gentiles were
simply considered too unclean to have Christ preached to them. Only Jews were ordained
to hear the gospel. And, at that time in Church history, that was the truth (cp. Acts 3:25-26;
13:44-46; Rom. 2:9-10).
But, without a revelation from God, the Church could not possibly have believed
anything else concerning Gentiles. After all, even Jesus himself said that he was sent only
to the house of Israel (Mt. 15:24; Rom. 15:8). When a Gentile woman came, begging for
help, the disciples heard him call her a dog (Mt. 15:25-26). Moreover, when he sent the
disciples out, he strictly commanded them not to go to the Gentiles (Mt. 10:5). The
disciples, without any doubt, understood his later command to go to "the uttermost part of
the earth" to mean that they should preach Christ to the Jews and Jewish proselytes scattered
throughout the nations.
So, in the earliest era, the Church's doctrine concerning Gentiles was firmly fixed.
It was at this time that Peter had his visions from God and was led by the Spirit to preach
Christ to a household of Gentiles. And when the Spirit descended on those Gentiles, the six
companions of Peter, all Jews, were utterly dumbfounded:
And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished,
as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also
was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard
them speak with tongues, and magnify God.
Not only had God by-passed the heretofore required water baptism, he had by-passed
as well the entirety of earthly Jewishness the patriarchal lineage, circumcision, Moses Law!
God had given his precious Holy Spirit to dogs! Up to that moment, the Church was
exclusively Jewish. Every person who had received the baptism of Christ had either been
born Jewish or been converted to Judaism; but at Cornelius' house God was showing Peter
and the Church a new thing.
Peter, James, John and the other leaders in the Church were spiritually discerning
enough to recognize the meaning of Cornelius' baptism (cp. Acts 15:1-11). Their previous
message had not been in error. Christ had to be preached first to the Jews (cp. Acts 3:25-26;
13:44-46; Rom. 2:9-10); therefore, if Gentiles were to receive Christ, it had been necessary,
in the earliest Church period, for them to have become Jews. But when more and more Jews
refused to obey the gospel, God by-passed them altogether to reach the Gentiles, baptizing
them into the body of believers without requiring them to be converted to Judaism or submit
to the Jewish law.
But the recognition, on the part of these few Church leaders, that God would baptize
Gentiles by the Holy Ghost into the Church did not resolve two crucial issues. First, it did
not change the fact that Peter, James, John and the other leaders were sent only to the Jews.
By acknowledging the work of God with the Gentiles, they were not thereby sent to the
Gentiles. Second, their recognition of God's work did not settle the question for others in
the Church. A sizable portion of the Church either could not or would not fellowship a
Spirit-baptized Gentile unless he submitted to the Law (cp. Acts 15). Clearly, God needed
another man. And the man He chose was Paul.
For three years after his Damascus Road encounter with Christ and subsequent
spiritual baptism, Paul spent his time in deep prayer and study in the Arabian Desert region
(Gal. 1:15-18). Having discovered himself warring against the truth of God because of the
understanding he had received from human instructors, he refused to seek the counsel of
men, be they Rabbis, Apostles, or whatever. He had learned, as possibly no one else had,
the vanity of dependence on tradition, however revered, or wise men, however devoted and
sincere. He knew that he had to receive his instruction from God or run the risk of
discovering himself again opposing, in devotion to God, God's own truth. And when Paul
did begin to preach, his message not only challenged sinners; it challenged the spiritual fibre
of the (Jewish) Church itself. And he uttered a curse upon any creature in heaven or earth
who would dare teach anything contrary to his doctrine. (Gal. 1:6-12).
The Church had from the beginning realized that only those Jews who believed in
Jesus were to be saved. The end result of an unbelieving Jew would be the same as the
uncircumcised Gentiles. But they stedfastly affirmed the distinction, as the scriptures and
Jesus himself did, between the Gentiles and the lawful people of God (to whom, alone, the
promise of the Messiah was given). They would draw a picture like the diagram at right:
But Paul emphatically denied the existence of any continued spiritual distinction, in
God's sight, among all peoples of the earth, except the distinction of faith in Christ Jesus.
Outside the Church, all were Gentiles; the only Jews which now existed were those
who had been baptized by the Holy Ghost into the body of Christ. Paul's diagram would
have been like thhe one on the right:
And Paul, inspired by the love and authority of God, commanded us never to be led
away from this simplicity of Christ (II Cor. 11:2-3).
For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is
that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a
Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the
heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of
men, but of God.
The Church could well receive Paul's teaching, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized
into one body," but much of the Church staggered at what followed:
Whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond
or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
I Cor. 12:13
Add to this doctrine the fact that Paul taught the end of the Law and its every
ceremony, and you can imagine the opposition Paul faced from within the ranks of the
Jewish Church, besides the usual hazards of a missionary evangelist.
In practically every one of Paul's letters, this issue is mentioned. In some of them,
it is Paul's major concern.0 The following excerpt from the letter to the Gentile Church at
Ephesus is an excellent example of Paul's declaration of the Gentiles' privilege to receive
Christ; and as it is often true, what Paul does not say (in brackets) is as instructive as what
he does say:
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past
Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that
which is called the Circumcision [the Jews] in the flesh made
by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being
aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from
the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God
in the world: but now in Christ Jesus [Paul intentionally
omits anything else] ye who sometimes were far off [from
God] are made nigh [to God] by the blood of Christ [and that
alone. Another intentional non-reference to the Law]. For he
is our peace, who hath made both [Jew and Gentile] one, and
hath broken down the middle wall of partition [the Law]
between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the
law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make
in himself of twain [Jew and Gentile] one new man, so
making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in
one body [the Church, not the nation of Israel] by the cross,
having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached
peace to you which were afar off [Gentiles], and to them that
were nigh [Jews]. For through him we both have access by
one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more
strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints,
and of the household of God [without circumcision, or any
other law-prescribed ceremony!]; and are built upon the
foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself
being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly
framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in
whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God
through the Spirit [alone].
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you
Gentiles [had he not preached this doctrine, the Jews would
never have caused his arrest in Acts 21], if ye have heard of
the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to
you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me
the mystery; (as I wrote afore in new words, whereby, when
ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of
Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto his
holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles
should be fellowheirs [of God with the Jews], and of the same
body [the Church, the only body of God's people], and
partakers of his promise [to Abraham] in Christ by the gospel:
wherefore I was made minister, according to the gift of the
grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace
given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the
unsearchable riches of Christ
Try to imagine the radical nature of Paul's doctrine to the orthodox ear of his time.
To the Church, almost entirely Jewish, the Gentiles were "dogs" (in Jesus' words),
considered to be so unclean that they were unfit even to eat with or visit. Yet Paul was
declaring, contrary to everything he or other Jews had ever been taught, that spiritually "there
is no difference between the Jew and the Greek" (Rom. 10:12a). For Paul to say that these
uncircumcised foreigners were now one with the saints of Christ, fellow citizens, and
partakers of Abraham's blessing, was the purest hersy to much of the Jewish Church. They
considered it demeaning to their heritage, and contrary both to the scriptures (as they
understood them) and to the example of Jesus which they beheld while he walked among
The promise of Christ was to Abraham and his children, and for Paul to claim to be
sent to the heathen to preach Christ seemed utter folly. But Paul had come to understand that
Abraham's children were not those that came from his loins, but those that demonstrated the
same faith that Abraham had. And if those who had faith happened to be uncircumcised,
what of it? Abraham demonstrated his faith before he was circumcised (Rom. 4:9-10), Paul
further explained to the Roman Church that Abraham:
Received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness
of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he
might be the father of all them that believe, though they be
not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto
them also: and the father of circumcision only, but who also
walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he
had being yet uncircumcised.
As far as Paul was concerned, the only children Abraham truly had were those who
had faith in Christ. Some of his physical descendants did have faith, but those who did not
were not the children of Abraham (cp. Rom. 9:6-8). Jesus hinted at this truth during a heated
exchange with certain Pharisees:
They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our
father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children,
ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill
me, a man that hath told you the truth. Which I have heard of
God: this did not Abraham.
The Jew of this period considered any uncircumcised man to be separated from the
blessings of Abraham and prided themselves as being his children and inheritors of the
promise. The Church, exclusively Jewish in the beginning, assumed this to be true on the
basis of their understanding of Jesus' ministry, certain Old Testament scriptures, their
traditions, and the fact that God, up to that time, had given the promise of the Holy Ghost to
no one except Jews.
But when God justified Cornelius' household, baptizing them with His Spirit, and
Paul began to declare that Abraham's heirs were those everywhere who showed his kind of
faith (Gal. 3:6-9), a new light began to shine in the world.
Heretofore Gentiles had been taught that, if they would receive the baptism of the
Spirit, they must need to be circumcised (i.e., become a Jew) and submit to the Law,
including John the Baptist's water baptism in Jesus' name. God's revelation to Paul, and to
Peter at Cornelius' house, was that all God required of Gentiles in order for them to receive
the promise was obedient faith in Jesus. It was a gnat at which many a Jew gagged for Paul
to say that Cornelius and other redeemed Gentiles were Abraham's children, while many
Jews were not.
SAME WRONG MESSAGE
In the light of all things, consider the traditional doctrine of the Church today
concerning the baptism of the Holy Ghost. As a whole, the Church is adamant that sinners
must be converted before the baptism may be received. Some Pentecostals insist not only
on conversion preceding the baptism, but on an experience called, "sanctification" between
conversion and baptism. Still others insist, as the earliest Church did, on water baptism
before receiving the Holy Ghost.
So, the message which sinners receive from the Church today is practically the same
message that Paul spent his life opposing. And that message is that sinners must become
God's people in order to be candidates for the Holy Ghost baptism. Accepted doctrine today
concerning the baptism is that it is only for God's people. But the revelation that burned
within Paul's soul was that the Holy Ghost baptism was not for saints, that this baptism
cannot possibly be for the people in the Church, for it is by the Holy Ghost baptism that
people ever become Church members. Baptism with the Spirit can not follow conversion
it is conversion! It can only be for people outside the Church for no one inside the Church
is without it.
At present, after so long a time, the Church is still drawing circles around the baptism
of the Spirit, which God has not drawn, leading sinners through all sorts of admissions,
confessions, and initiations before instructing them to seek the baptism. And God is still
surprising those who cling to such things, as he surprised Peter's companions at Cornelius'
house, by baptizing people into his body simply because they are hungry for righteousness
and seek his face.
The only prerequisite for receiving the Holy Ghost is repentance in the name of Jesus.
Anything else is added by anyone is godless tradition. Conversion neither precedes nor post-
dates spiritual baptism, for it is spiritual baptism which converts. There is not one example
in the New Testament of anyone being converted before being baptized by the Spirit.11 And
though there be many thousands testifying today of being born again before receiving the
Holy Ghost baptism, not one of them is with understanding. We may have a change of mind
and heart, be touched by God's love, or be delivered of many things and, yet, be
unconverted. There are many genuine, thrilling, and healing experiences with Jesus which
we may have without being born again! But there is only one genuine experience of new
birth: pentecostal baptism.
There is no such thing as a non-Spirit-baptized believer. We are made
a child of God by baptism of the Spirit. This was the major doctrinal battle of Paul's time
and in these final moments of history will be one of the great doctrinal battles of our time.
CHRIST IS SUFFICIENT
The fundamental problem with requiring circumcision, water baptisms, and other
ceremonies of the Law was that the use of these works implied that Christ alone is not
sufficient. Works of the Law had been made, simply by the exceeding greatness of Christ's
power and glory, of no effect for obtaining salvation. And if of none effect, then they had
become empty, vain ritual. To require any other religious work other than the receiving and
obeying of Christ was, and is, to imply, to the extent of the works required, an insufficiency
in Christ. The chapter following, which deals with the relationship of salvation and works,
will examine this aspect of the gospel.
SALVATION AND WORKS
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves: it is a 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.
And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation;
even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the
wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all
his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which some
things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned
and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto
their own destruction.
II Peter 3:15-16
There are indeed some things difficult to understand in Paul's letters. And the
meaning of Ephesians 2:8-10 has been twisted, by "ignorant and unstable" men to the
destruction of many a soul, as much as any verse Paul ever wrote. Let's take now a careful
and prayerful look at these and similar scriptures which will, I'm sure, open to you a new
world of spiritual understanding of yourself, the Savior, and God's will for His Church.
STATING THE QUESTION
In saying that our salvation is "not of works," is Paul saying that, at the judgement,
works will be meaningless as to whether believers are given eternal life or not? Is he
saying that whether believers do good or evil, they will receive eternal life with God?
Does he mean that how the Church lives in this world has nothing to do with the Church's
hope for salvation? Paul himself wrote in Rom. 2:5-10:
But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto
thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the
righteous judgement of God; who will render to every man
according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in
well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, [God
will give] eternal life: but unto them that are continuous, and
do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, [God will
pour out] indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon
every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of
the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace, to every man that
worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.
If eternal life will be given only to those who continually work good and eternal
damnation to "every soul of man that doeth evil," how then could Paul write that our
salvation will not depend on works? And if our works do not determine whether we will be
saved or be damned, how could Jesus speak of the dead being raised, "they that have done
good, unto the resurrection of damnation" (Jn. 5:29; cp. Mt. 25:31-46)?
Was Peter giving empty warning to the Church when he wrote:
But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all
manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for
I am holy. And if ye call on the Father, who without respect
of persons judgeth according to every mans work, pass the
time of your sojourning here in fear:
I Pet. 1:15-17
In John's great vision called Revelation, Jesus told him that only those who obeyed
his commandments would have the privilege of eating from the tree of life and entering into
the city of God (Rev. 22:12-14). Besides this, how many of the prophets and apostles
warned God's people, so many times, that judgement was due to all men and that judgement
would be based on works! David (Ps. 62:12), Solomon (Prov. 24:11-12; Eccl. 12:14), Jesus
(Mt. 16:27), John (Rev. 20:12-13), and every other writer in the Bible, including the apostle
Paul, taught us that our works will determine our eternal destiny.
How then could Paul say that salvation was "not of works"?
The answer to this question is easily seen once the word, "salvation" itself is properly
defined. There is at present a general misunderstanding in much of the Church concerning
salvation. Basically, what the Church is being taught is that when a sinner repents and is
converted, he "gets saved" at that moment. Therefore, as the current persuasion holds,
everyone who believes has received salvation, so that the Church is comprised of "saved"
people. But in the scriptures we see a radically different attitude toward salvation. For
example, Paul wrote:
for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
This scripture obviously conflicts with the present popular understanding of salvation
as being synonymous with conversion. Paul understood conversion to be the first step
toward salvation, which would be given exclusively to those converts who were faithful to
God to the end of their earthly lives.
Old Testament Israel again provides the prime example of this truth. Beginning in
Egyptian bondage, the people were led by Moses through the Red Sea into the Sinai
Wilderness. There they grieved God with idolatry, fornication, and complaint until God
refused to allow them to enter the promised land of Canaan. Every Israelite male 20 years
old and older was condemned to die in the wilderness.12 And forty years later, when they all
had died, god led the remaining Israelites, by the hand of Joshua, across the River Jordan into
This journey from bondage to the land of promise had six major steps:
- 1 Egypt
- 2 Red Sea
- 3 Mt. Sinai
- 4 Wilderness
- 5 Jordan River
- 6 Promised Land
In a spiritual sense these six steps exist, with different titles, in the New Testament:
- 1 Sin
- 2 Repentence
- 3 Conversion
- 4 Life as a Church member
- 5 Death
- 6 Salvation
Salvation is something we turn from sin to obtain, but we can not say that we have
received salvation simply by turning from sin. That would be the Old Testament equivalent
of the Israelites claiming to have entered the promised land simply by crossing the Red Sea!
The land of peace and rest is promised to those who have been delivered from bondage; still,
the desert must be crossed in order to reach it.
So few of my students enjoy or appreciate the book of Hebrew that I have called it
"the Leviticus of the New Testament." I have concluded, however, that a major part of the
difficulty in understanding it is caused by the disparity between the present misunderstanding
of salvation and the scriptual truth. If someone were to say to the author of Hebrews, "I got
saved last night," the author of Hebrews would probably wonder why that person was still
here on earth. For most clearly and unequivocally in Hebrews is it taught that the only
"saved" people are the saints who have faithfully served Christ all their days and are now
with him. The rest of us are still in the wilderness, on our way there.
Beginning now in Hebrews, chapter three, listen to this God-given exhortation to the
Church in the wilderness:
Therefore, just as the Holy Ghost says,
Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as
in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness,
when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works
forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation and
said, "They always err in their heart, and they have not known
my ways." So I swore in my wrath, "They shall not enter into
Consider it, brothers, that there be not in any of you an evil heart of
unfaithfulness, in departing from the living God. Rather, exhort one another
each day, while it is called "today," in order that none of you be hardened by
the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we firmly
maintain our confident beginning until the end. This is the reason it is said
Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as
in the rebellion.
For who, having heard, rebelled? Was it not, indeed, those who had come out
of Egypt with Moses? And with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not
those who sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And whom did He
swear that they would not enter into His rest, but to those who disobeyed?
And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.
Therefore, let us fear, lest, having a promise left to us of entering into His
rest, any of you seem to be excluded. For we, as well as they, have heard the
gospel, but the word which was heard did not profit them, not being mixed
with faith by the hearers Therefore, let us labor to enter into that rest, lest
anyone fall in the same pattern of disobedience.
Heb. 3:7-4:2, 11 AT
Not all those delivered from Egypt were allowed to enter the land of rest, and not all
who have been converted to Christ will be saved. It is only those who are faithful to their
Deliverer and do not harden their hearts to Him after He brings them out of bondage, who
will receive the promised inheritance.
This is the importance of "today" for the Church. Having yesterday obeyed God's
commandment to repent and be born anew, are we still "today" yielding to his command?
Or has the deceitfulness of sin subtly dulled our ears and hardened our hearts to what He
would yet have us to do? In this sense, "today" is the day of salvation, for it is our present
spiritual condition that counts before the Lord.
But not only in Hebrews or with Paul, it is the constant theme of every biblical
teacher that each Church member must be faithful unto death in order to be counted worthy
of salvation. This was Jesus' message to all seven of the Churches in Revelation (2:7, 11,
17, 26-28; 3:5, 12, 21). And those exhortations were consistent with the message he gave
while he was still among us:
And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one
another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets
shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall
abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall
endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
If believers are not yet saved, one might ask, what then is the difference
between saints and sinners? The answer is hope. To be without Christ is to be without any
hope of being saved (cp. Eph. 2:12). But for Christ to dwell in us is to have hope of eternal
life (Tit. 1:2; 3:7) is our source of joy (Rom. 5:2) and boldness (Heb. 6:17-20) and is a
primary motivation for keeping ourselves from worldliness (cp. I Jn. 3:2-3). And because
having such hope of receiving salvation compels us to live so that we might receive it, Paul
For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen in not hope:
for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we
hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
KEPT BY POWER
Because Paul so much wanted to see his converts saved, he continually warned them
to be separate from the world, thus to escape the wrath of God toward which the world is
rushing. And the surest way to accomplish this separation was, and is, to be filled with the
Spirit and power of God, for it is only God's power by which the saints may overcome the
unbelief, lusts, and fears which are in our world. Outside the keeping power of God's Spirit,
we all are susceptible to the deception of Satan, the errors of foolish men, and perhaps most
dangerously of all, our own opinions and desires. Peter wrote:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again unto
a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead, and unto an incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading
inheritance, being reserved in heaven for you who, through
faith, are being kept by the power of God unto the salvation
ready to be revealed in the end time.
I Pet. 1:3-5 AT
When Paul wrote to the Church at Rome that the gospel of Christ was "the power of
God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16), he was presenting to the Roman
Church the same message we just read by Peter: salvation will be given to every believer
who trusts in God's power until salvation comes. Paul insisted that the Church learn to rely
on nothing but the power and wisdom of God's Spirit. For men may sound theologically
correct and may have impressive personalities, but God, and God only, was worthy of utter
trust. He told the Corinthians:
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing
words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit
and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom
of men, but in the power of God.
I Cor. 2:4-5
Salvation will be given only to believers who, by walking in the power of the Spirit,
are living perfectly in love and peace and holiness. Obviously, in order to be able to live that
way, we must let Christ live in us; we are incapable of godliness without God. But with
God, we may have power over our own baser desires, power to humble ourselves to do His
will, and have this power in every situation we may face.
Salvation, then, has always been the goal of the true follower of Christ, the great hope of every
saint. So, how did we develop such an odd understanding of salvation as to confuse
salvation with conversion? That is hard to answer. It may be in part because conversion is
such a wondrous gift of God that it is a kind of salvation, if we define salvation in this case
as "rescue." And indeed, the New Testament writers, in rare instances, use "salvation" in
this manner (e.g. II Tim. 1:8-9; Tit. 3:5; Jude 5). And fairly common as well are references
to a present state of "being saved," with the understanding that in these cases the definition
of "saved" is "kept from committing sin by the power of the Spirit" (cp. I Cor. 1:18). No one
would ever have been considered "being saved" if he were practicing sin. A believer practicing sin is being lost, not saved.
Beyond all contradiction, however, the major use of "saved" or "salvation" was in
reference to being glorified with Christ. The primary interest and emphasis of the biblical
writers was the preparation of the Church to receive the promised inheritance: the salvation
of their souls. The apostles were not in a habit of boasting of the Church or themselves as
being already "saved," although they humbly expressed their confidence that they would be
saved (cp. Acts 15:7-11).
Understandably, this light on salvation will seem, for many, to contradict the two
most quoted passages of scripture concerning salvation. Romans 10:9-10 and Acts 16:29-31
on any given day may be heard several times on religious programming. Used to induce
sinners to "get saved" and teach God's children that salvation is already possessed, these
scriptures provide us with two classic examples of misapplication of scriptures by the
influences of tradition and neglect of context.
First, let's consider Rom. 10:9-10, in its context of Rom. 10:5-14:
5. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the
man which doeth those things shall live by them.
6. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in
thine heart, Who shall ascend into the heaven (that is, to bring Christ
down from above)
7. Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again
from the dead.)
8. But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in they mouth, and in thy
heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
9. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt
believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt
10. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth
confession is made unto salvation.
11. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be
12. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same
Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And
how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how
shall they hear without a preacher?
After Moses had spoken to Israel the commandments of God at Sinai (Ex. 20 Num.
10:11-13), he led them in their forty years of wilderness wanderings until they approached
the edge of the promised land. There, within sight of "Canaan's fair and happy land," Moses
was to die, but not before delivering a final, lengthy sermon to his people. The entire book
of Deuteronomy is comprised of little else besides his extremely long sermon. This sermon
not only reviewed and restated basic elements of the law (hence the name "Deuteronomy"
meaning "second law"), it contained summaries of Israel's wilderness experiences and many
new commandments and exhortations to righteousness and obedience when they crossed
Jordan to possess Canaan. And when Moses had reminded them of all they had learned and
experienced, he took a few moments more to make clear to Israel that he had given them, and
so they now knew, all they needed to know in order to perform the will of God. God's word
was now in their hearts, not hidden in some distant place; therefore, they could do God's will
and had no claims on ignorance. In Moses' words:
For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is
not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. Is is not in heaven,
that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and
bring it [the commandment of God] unto us, that we may hear
it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest
say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us,
that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh
thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.
The heathen nations around them would have to hear the commandments and study
them if they were ever to know God's will for their lives. But Israel had lived with those
commandments forty years now and knew them and had no need to search for God's will.
WHAT SINNERS CANNOT DO
This was, as well, the spiritual condition of the Romans to whom Paul was writing.
Just as Moses was speaking to people who had received and learned the Law, Paul was
speaking to people who had received and learned Christ (cp. Rom. 1:7-12). Thus when he
(quoting Moses) told the Romans, "Say not in thine heart, 'Who shall ascend into heaven?'"
it was because Christ was alrady in their hearts that they needed not send to heaven. These
Roman believers, like the Israelites in Deuteronomy, already knew what God had
commanded them to do, already knew what was required of them.
The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart:
that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
The "word of faith" was already living in the hearts of the people whom Paul was
speaking. They already knew the will of God for their lives. It was not something hidden
or distant. The word was simple and clear to their minds. The word which God had spoken
to the heart of each of these saints was:
That if thou [saint of God] shalt confess with thy mouth the
Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath
raised him from the dead, thou [saint of God] shalt be saved.
Paul was not explaining to sinners how to be converted; he was reminding the Church
of what they must do to be saved! Sinners, indeed, cannot confess Christ. The very act of
sin denies him (cp. Tit. 1:15-16). The only confession possible for the sinner is the
confession (which includes the forsaking) of sin! No one except those in whose heart the
Lord dwells can confess the Lord and, so, hope to be saved.
Consider another similar statement in verses 13-14a:
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be
saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have
In other words, how can an unbeliever call upon the name of the Lord? "Calling
upon the name of the Lord," as a New Testament phrase, is used exclusively of the Spirit-baptized believer's
communication with God (e.g. Acts 9:14; I Cor. 1:2; II Tim. 2:22; I Pet. 1:17; see also Zeph.
3:9). What Paul is saying is that born again saints, and no one else, will be saved, for saints
alone (by reason of God's Spirit; Rom. 8:15) are able to call upon the name of the Lord.
The confusion of "saved" with "converted" has led to an eerie misuse of Rom. 10:9-
10 unequalled by any scriptural error anywhere. For it is used by mose of the Church, not,
as was intended by Paul, as exhortation to the Church to be courageous and faithful unto
salvation; rather, it is used by the Church to prompt sinners to do something they cannot do
(confess Christ and believe in their hearts) in order to receive what sinners cannot receive
SINNERS AND SALVATION
It is not impossible for sinners to repent and be converted; it is impossible for them
to be saved unless they first repent and are converted. When Paul wrote that "Christ came
into the world to save sinners" (I Tim. 1:15), he quickly adds "of whom I am chief." He had
in his mind the mighty love and mercy of God in Christ's coming and dying for sinners that
they might find rest in his forgiveness and, at the end, be saved from the destruction of the
world and the wicked. Paul was not saying that he was still practicing sin or that sinners
could expect to be saved at the end of the world. Instead, he was recalling the kind of person
he had been and the blasphemous acts against God he had committed before Jesus stopped
him. No sinners will be saved at the final judgement. Peter points this out with a question:
For the time is come that judgement must begin at the house
of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of
them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous
scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner
I Pet. 4:17-18
I understand how that when the increasingly received tradition of defining conversion
as "salvation" is combined with Rom. 10:9-10 (taken out of context), those verses do seem
to be instructing sinners as to how they may be converted. But when we rightly understand
what salvation is and undrestand the context of Rom. 10:9-10, it is easy to see that Paul was
speaking to the saints at Rome concerning something that yet lay before them! Those verses
are not for sinners; they are for the Church. And we need them.
Having said these things concerning Rom. 10:9-10, Acts 16:30-31 should need but
scant attention. The context (vv. 16-34) clearly shows that the jailor's question, "What must
I do to be saved?" is not to be taken to mean "What must I do to be converted?" For seeing
the tremendous force of the earthquake, he thought his city and himself were being destroyed
by God's wrath for their mistreatment of Paul and Silas. Consequently, he was pleading with
Paul for instruction on how to escape utter destruction at the hands of God. Paul's response
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and
No doubt the jailor was at that moment willing to do just that, but he needed to know
who Jesus was. Verses 32-34 tell us that Paul went to the jailor's house and "spake unto him
the word of the Lord" and, subsequently, he and his family were baptized (with the Spirit).14 Thus the jailor began "believing on God with all his house" (v. 34). And, having begun to
believe, the promise that he should be saved was his.
PAUL AND TIMOTHY
But perhaps the very best way to demonstrate the differing attitudes of the early
Church and the modern Church concerning salvation is in this manner. Paul wrote to his
beloved fellow-laborer Timothy:
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in
them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them
that hear thee.
I Tim. 4:16
Had Timothy been a typical modern evangelist, he might well have written Paul this
I'll have you know I'm already saved, and you can't make me
doubt it! Don't you know salvation is not of works (Eph 2:8-
Forgive the harsh tone of Timothy's note, but the difference is well seen isn't it?
SAVED THROUGH FAITH
We are saved through faith; therefore, faith is a very valuable possession. But faith
may be weakened or lost through disobedience, neglect, or deception. And with its loss is
lost as well the hope of salvation.
Another word for "faith" is "confidence." And, as with faith, confidence is not
something we may decide we are going to have; it is something that naturally arises from a
clean heart. Guilt replaces this faith when disobedience occurs, for guilt itself naturally
arises from an unclean heart. Saving confidence, or saving faith, is, therefore, a quality that
exists only in the hearts of the children of God who live clean, obedient lives.
As a young boy, my father was commanded by his father to have the kindling
chopped by the time he returned from work. During the day, he not only chopped the
kindling, he also fed the horses. At sunset, he eagerly was waiting for his father to come
home to see what he had done. This eagerness is the biblical equivalent of faith, or
confidence. His heart was clear. Not only had he obeyed his father's commandment, he had
"gone the second mile" to do things he knew would please his father. John wrote:
Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we
confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive
of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those
things that are pleasing in his sight.
I Jn. 3:21-22
The opportunities we have to obey God and, then, go the second mile to please Him
are precious, fleeting gifts which are carelessly ignored by indolent hearts. To neglect to do
good is to throw faith away, for faith is the spiritual result of right conduct. Consider this
fatherly, compassionate exhortation found in Hebrews 10:35-39:
Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great
recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that,
after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the
promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will
come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but
if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of
them that believe unto the saving of the soul.
This "saving of the soul" is what we hope and believe and live for. It is the reward
of righteousness. It is eternal life and rest. Accordingly, it is the one blessing Satan most
envies and desires us to come short of. Hence, he connives and argues and tempts and
divides and works constantly to turn our souls from the earnest, stedfast holiness we must
live in order to be saved. (cp. Heb. 3:6, 14).
Not purposelessly did the leaders of the earliest Church strictly warn us to be diligent
in in prayer, faith, goodness, and love, and to be perfect and pure and free from every unholy
passion and thought. They knew our salvation depended on it! During and since that time,
it has been one of Satan's highest priorities to convince the Church that this is not true. If
he can convince the Church that salvation will be given to the Church, without regard to the
quality of their lives, then half the battle of drawing them into godless living is won. If he
robs our hearts of the understanding that the wages of sin is death, then he has as well
robbed our hearts of genuine fear of God. And if the fear of God is not a living part of our
lives, evil will not seem as hateful as it is, for the fear of God creates hatred for evil (Prov.
8:13). And if Satan can deceive us into believing that sin is not as filthy as it is, that holiness
is not precious as it is, his desire to confuse and moderate our zeal to be separated from the
world and obtain salvation will eventually be accomplished.
Your salvation depends upon your deeds in this life. That is the message most hated
and dreaded by Satan, for that is the only message which will genuinely stir people to begin
to seek a holiness before the Lord that they can know about. If people really believe that the
kind of life they live will determine their eternal destiny, they will fear to do evil, learn to
despise it, resist it, stand up against it, condemn it, and that is exactly what Satan does not
For this reason he persecutes every person whose life and voice speak out against sin.
Jesus told his brothers:
The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify
of it, that the works thereof are evil.
Yet, in the face of the hatred of the world and the suffering which will ensue,15 Paul
stedfastly commanded the Church (Eph. 5:11):
...have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
but rather reprove them.
What the Church may have been lulled into neglecting is that the hatred of evil and
the denunciation of it, both by word and deed, is what true holiness is. And there is no
holiness without it. And if no holiness, no hope of ever seeing God (Heb. 12:14).
ERROR IN THE NAME OF TRUTH
But not all that at first appears evil may be evil, and not all that appears or seems
right is always right.16 We must bury ourselves in the love of God and wisdom of His Spirit
in order to learn what is truly good (that we might do it) and what is truly evil (that we might
hate it). Paul said that Satan disguises himself as "an angel of light" (II Cor. 11:14). In other
words, he propagates false understandings in the name of the true Lord. And the sole reason
for his disguise is to deceive people into uncleanness, moral impurity and spiritual confusion,
so that they might be condemned in their own conscience and be damned with him. Any
teaching which leaves room for any work of darkness is of him.
There are many doctrines held as true by the multitudinous sects in the Church. Most
of them are not directly from Satan. They are simply misunderstandings and opinions of
men's own minds, which are not usually binding on the soul and are often outgrown and
eventually forsaken. But there is a spirit of bondage which comes with the present confusion
of salvation and conversion which men did not invent, and which bondage men are hardly
able to escape.
One brother confessed to me that when he first heard this message, a spirit of fear
troubled him. He was afraid the Lord would be angry with him if he admitted that he had
not yet received salvation. But it wasn't the Lord's anger he was sensing. And he is today
more prepared to receive salvation than he was when he claimed he already had it. And had
he not been taught that doctrinal error in the name of the Jesus, it would not have bound him.
For it was his love for Christ and desire to please him that was so compelling him to cling
to what he thought Christ wanted him to believe and confess.
Still, all false doctrines, whether of men or of Satan, have one common
charactereristic. They all either condone or allow, as excusable before God, at least one
spiritual blemish in the lives of their adherents. Sometimes it takes a while for those
blemishes to be made manifest, but they will show. As a result, the adherent to any false
doctrine is made vulnerable, by that blemish, to the influence of at least one unclean spirit.
In this regard, Jesus said that if we would continue with him, we would come to
know the truth, and the truth would set us free (Jn. 8:31-32).17 The truth neither condones
nor excuses any sin among the saints, because the truth is that Christ is sufficient for your
perfection in this present world (cp. Tit. 2:11-14).18 The truth leaves no room for demonic
influence because "God is the light, and in him is no darkness at all" (I Jn. 1:5b), and " as
he is, so are we in this world" (I Jn. 4:17b).
As all the scriptures in the New Testament show, the doctrine of the apostles is that
the saints are to be God's light to the world, and any saint who will not be what the Father
has commanded him to be will not be saved. Jesus warned his disciples:
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And
ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he
will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and
knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are
those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find
watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself,
and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and
serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or
come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those
servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house
had known what hour the thief would come, he would have
watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken
through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man
cometh at an hour when ye think not. Then Peter said unto
him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?
And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward,
whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give
them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that
servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all
that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord
delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants
and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord
of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for
him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in
sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
Obedience or disobedience will be the determining factor in the eternal destiny of
every child of God. Salvation or damnation rests in the balance of the quality of each saint's
life. And so, we are now come full circle and are returned to our original question: If we
must live lives of holiness in obedient faith in Christ in order to receive salvation, how then
could Paul say that salvation is "not of works"?
PAUL'S GREATEST CHALLENGE
Let us understand what kind of works no longer will help us receive salvation. There
are many different kinds of works: works of the flesh, works of the Spirit, works of the
devil, good works, and others. Let's allow Paul himself tell us what kind of works, or deeds,
are no longer of any use for justification before God:
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be
justified in his sight.
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without
the deeds of the law.
Knowing that a man is no justified by the works of the law,
but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in
Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ,
and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law
shall no flesh be justified.
In saying that salvation is "not of works," Paul was not saying, nor would have
dreamed of saying, that good works are not required in order to be counted worthy to receive
salvation. Paul's message was that the ceremonial rites prescribed in the Mosaic Law were
no longer of any value before God; they were dead works, useless in the soul's preparation
to meet God.
In order to be a work of the Law, four criteria must be
- 1. It must have been ordained by God for men to do or
- 2. It must have been ordained during the time in which
the law was in effect (from Exodus 20 to Acts 2:4,
though it may have been practiced before or after).
- 3. It must be ceremonial in nature or purpose.
- 4. It must point to a spiritual reality.
Physical circumcision, for example, is a work of the Law. Though given to Abraham
before the Law (e.g. Lev. 12:3), as a ceremonial act to show one's association with
Abraham's seed. It represented spiritual circumcision in the heart, as Paul explained to the
Church at Rome (2:28-29).
Using the above criteria for works of the Law, try now to determine which of the
following are works of the Law and which are not:
- 1. the veil in the temple
- 2. Moses's rod
- 3. the Day of Atonement
- 4. the opening of the Red Sea
- 5. holy water (Num. 5:17f)
- 6. David's sling
- 7. the passing of the wine and bread at the last supper
- 8. manna
- 9. the washing of the disciples' feet (Jn. 13:4-15)
- 10. the golden calf (Ex. 32)
- 11. robes and costumes for worship (Ex. 28:1-4f)
- 12. the cloud of glory (Ex. 40:34-38)
- 13. the Passover
- 14. the rainbow
- 15. water baptism
For reasons which will be made even clearer as we continue, the correct answer is
that all the odd numbered items are works of the Law and all the even numbered items are
The works of the Law were a kind of prophecy without words, a prophecy acted out
rather than spoken. What they symbolically prophesied was the kingdom and glory of Jesus
Christ; and as he accomplishes his work, the purpose for having symbolic works is finished.
Therefore, to become involved with the works of the Law implicity denies their fulfillment
Paul's greatest challenge, and perhaps ours today, was to communicate to the hearts
of the Church that Christ alone is sufficient and, thus, wean the Church from the use of dead
religious symbols, to living worship in spirit, power, and truth.
Those trying to lead Paul's converts back to the symbols were, as he said, only trying
"to make a fair shew in the flesh" (Gal. 6:12). But more than that, those having been
spiritually circumcised in the heart, who then submitted to symbolic circumcision of the
flesh, were saying in effect that Christ, the fulfillment of the symbol, was insufficient. This
is why Paul asked the Galatians " having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by
the flesh?" (3:3). The entire Galatian letter has to do with this one question. Paul had started
this Gentile Church in the liberty of the Spirit, but others came behind him bringing the
message Paul battled throughout his ministry: that it was necessary for Gentiles to be
circumcised (i.e. become Jews) and obey the Law in order to be saved (cp. Acts 15).
What Paul could not get so many of his sensitive Jewish brothers to
understand was that Christ had not destroyed circumcision; he had perfected it. He had not
destroyed the sacrificial system; he had rather become the perfect sacrifice. He had not
destroyed the High Priesthood; he had simply become the perfect High Priest. And so it was
with every other work of the Law. To be in Christ is to go beyond those things. Having
gone beyond the works of the Law by the Spirit, then return to them, is to go backward and
declare that the Christ you met was insufficient to "fall from grace" (Gal. 5:4).
REMNANTS OF WORKS
All those things being understood, let us look at some ways in which the present
Church is still clinging to remnants of works of the Law which Christ fulfilled.
First, and most prominent, is water baptism. It was ordained by God during the time
of the Law (e.g. Lev. 14:8; Mt. 3:1), a religious ceremony which pointed to the spiritual
baptism of Christ.
The earliest Church, composed exclusively of Jews, rightly continued baptizing in
water, as well as circumcising, offering sacrifices, and following every other precept of the
Law. But Paul's message to the Gentiles was that there was but one baptism (Eph. 4:5), and
that the "one baptism" was in the Spirit (I Cor. 12:13). Having received the spiritual baptism
of Jesus, the reality to which water baptism pointed, where then is the need for another,
fleshly, baptism? Paul's message, for which he was so persecuted both from without and
within the Church, was that the hour was coming, an dactually had already begun when the
only baptism which would count toward salvation was this baptism of the Holy Ghost (cp.
I Pet. 3:20-21). And to tarry in, or be "entangeld with," the symbol was to imply the
insufficiency of Christ's fulfillment of that work of the Law.
Another example of works of the Law which we have not outgrown as of yet is
costumes for worship. Our robes for worship now are to be the righteousness, holiness, and
beauty of Christ. Choir robes, nuns' habits, clerical collars, ministerial drapery, are all
extensions of the era of symbols, a step backward from Christ. And whoever is involved in
the use of such things simply has not realized the commanding sufficiency of Christ's
fulfillment of them.
Christ was the master of communicating heavenly doctrine using earthly motifs. But
it is both the blessing and the burden of God's teachers that in communicating to man,
earthly words and ideas must be employed. A blessing, because familiar earthly realities
may communciate the loftiest eternal truths to the simples folk. A burden, because most of
the time most of the people will seize upon the vehicle used rather than the substance
Consider the washing of the Apostles' feet in John 13:4-15. Peter asked, "Lord, dost
thou wash my feet?" Jesus responded, "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt
know hereafter." But Peter obviously knew that Jesus was washing his feet! Jesus was
simply using the earthly tool of feet washing to communicate a heavenly message which
would be understood by them at a later time. He was not ordaining feet washing ceremonies
for the Church; he was trying to communicate a spiritual truth to carnal minds!
Such is exactly the case with what is now called "communion." Jesus never intended
for the Church perpetually to continue re-enacting the physical act he performed the night
of the last supper. The actual passing and consuming of bread and wine was merely the
earthly vehicle he used to communicate a spiritual reality which they would understand only
after he was gone and the Spirit had come. The disciples did not know what Jesus was really
doing when he told them to eat his flesh and drink his blood any more than they knew what
he was doing when he washed their feet.
Using the eartly tool of his own blood and body, Jesus tried to communicate a
spiritual truth by saying:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the
Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal
life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is
meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my
flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
And promptly following these words, he added the explanation:
It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is worth nothing. The
words which I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
Jn. 6:63 AT
It is the Spirit which we drink (I Cor. 12:13)! And our fellowship with one another
is the broken body of Christ!
I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of
blessing which we bless, is is not the communion of the blood
of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the
communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are
one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one
I Cor. 10:15-17
Take, eat: this is my body.
LIVED FOR US
The time is passed when we should have understood these things and should have
been enjoying the liberty of Christ Jesus. We should have already seen what works of the
Law are, should have already been done with them, should have spent the time and money
wasted on them in prayer or study or almsgiving or some other work which will count when
we face God. The only things worse than having been entangled with those deed symbols
all this long time is to continue to be entangled with them.
It is readily and rightfully declared by the Church that Jesus died for us. But how
many understand that he also lived for us? Being born under the Law for us, he was
circumcised the eighth day for us, was baptized in water for us, kept the holy days and feasts
days for us, and fulfilled every other work of the Law for us. And when we are baptized by
the Spirit into Christ, God not only considers us to have been crucified with him (Rom. 6:6),
buried with him (Rom. 6:4), and risen with him (Col. 2:12), we also are considered to have
been circumcised with him (Col. 2:11), and to have fulfilled the Law in every other respect.
We don't have to observe the feast days, be circumcised in the flesh, baptized in
water, or observe any other work of the Law, because Jesus did that for us. His doing those
things means we need not to do them, just as his dying for us means we don't have to die for
our own sins. He is our righteousness. And he is sufficient. To refuse Christ is ti imply that
his work was not godly. To come to Christ and then partake of carnal religious symbols is
to imply that his work was not godly enough and his power, insufficient for your every
FREE TO OBEY
In this message of liberty from works of the Law which wa "twisted," in Peter's
words, by "ignorant and unstable" men, into a doctrine completely contrary to everything the
scriptures an dthe Spirit teach, a doctrine with an appeal which has not died.
On the basis of scriptures such as Eph. 2:8-9, Paul's message of the worthlessness
of works of the Law was misrepresented to mean that works of any kind were worthless, that
the reward of salvation will be given to anyone who has been converted, whether he lives a
holy life or not. Those "ignorant, unstable men" had their converts from the truth, and the
apostles labored constantly to keep this alluring error from spreading, Jude wrote:
I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once
knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of
the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
Paul warned the Corinthian Church not to listen to attractive speakers who said that
one could live an ungodly life and yet inherit God's kingdom:
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the
kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor
idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of
themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor
drunkards, nor revilers, nor exhortioners, shall inherit the
kingdom of God.
I Cor. 6:9-10
It was never imagined by Jesus, Paul, Jude, or any biblical writer, that the reward of
salvation would be given irrespective of one's works. Certainly, the Church was freed, by
the coming of the Spirit, from works of the Law, but the Church is not freed form the
obligation to work. The Church is indeed free from the handwritten ordinances of the Law,
but that does not mean that we are without standards or that we may formulate our own.
That we are delivered from the Mosaic Law does not mean that we are lawless.
By the power of the Spirit, the Church is free to obey God, which no man without a
Spirit-filled mind may do:
because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not
subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they
that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the
flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you.
The Church must renounce these two digressions from the truth. First, the Church
must divorce itself from the remaining fleshly ordinances which are washing so much of our
time and money. Water baptismal services are a waste of time. The baptism of Christ is
sufficient. Bread and drink should be consumed at home or given to the poor; when you
come together, partake of the Lord's supper: the communion of his blood (his Spirit) and the
communion of his body (his saints). Money spent on costumes and uniforms for worship is
wasted give it to the poor, and be clothed with the armour of God. Christ alone is
We need so desperately to move from shadows to the light of the Son, to stand in
liberty of Christ. The world needs to have grace ministered to it; neither ritual or symbol
may touch the soul.
Secondly, we must learn, and teach, that the wages of sin is death both for the
sinner and the saint. We will be saved or lost depending on our works. If we, through the
power of the Holy Spirit, live lives of holiness, we will someday see our God; but if we do
not do God's will, we will be damned. The Church must excape doctrines which would
have us believe we may live un-full-filled spiritual lives and yet be saved in the end. "For
if ye [Church] live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye [Church] through the Spirit do
mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Rom. 8:13).
And Peter will conclude this message with this inspired exhortation found in I Peter
And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons
judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your
sojourning here in fear: forasmuch as ye know that ye were
not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from
your vain conversation received by tradition from you fathers;
but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without
blemish and without spot.
The preceding four chapters contain the messages
which God has given me for the Church; however, I feel, for
several reasons, compelled to add this concluding chapter.
SPEAKING IN TONGUES
AT SPIRIT BAPTISM
From the general topic of speaking in tongues, I want to focus upon the experience
of speaking in tongues in relation to the baptism of the Spirit. The following pages will deal
primarily with this aspect of speaking in tongues. Of course, I appreciate the many other
functions and services which may be rendered by this phenomenon, such as
praying in the Spirit (Rom. 8:23-27; I Cor. 14:13-15; Jude 20) and the gift of diverse tongues
(I Cor. 12:10), but our attention for now will be centered upon speaking in tongues at Spirit
Pentecostal denominations unshakably have held that speaking in tongues is the
"initial evidence" of receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Most "Charasmatics," from
the observations I have made, disagree, saying that while speaking in tongues may occur
when one is baptized, it need not occur in every case in order for the baptism to be genuine.
This is no small matter, for as we have seen, the baptism of the Spirit is the new birth, and
if every person baptized with the Spirit does speak in tongues, then those people who have
not spoken in tongues are not born again.
Despite the awful ramifications of such a statement, however, I am persuaded by
many evidences, some of which follow, that the traditional Pentecostal stance on this subject
is the true one. I do not feel that Pentecostals, by teaching this, have laid out a path which
God must follow. Rather, I think they have recognized the path which God has laid out and
which we must follow. I know that God may do whatsoever He pleases to do, howsoever
He pleases to do it, but that is not the real issue in relation to this subject. We are not
discussing the omnipotence and complete freedom of God; we are simply assaying to
comprehend His mysterious ways.
Generally, Pentecostals have failed in their attempts to convince others of their point
of view because they have used, almost exclusively, baptismal experiences from the book
of Acts as their proofs. In fact, the baptismal experiences in Acts prove little, if anything,
concerning speaking in tongues. In some accounts (Acts 2, 10, 19) tongues are mentioned,
while in others (Acts 8, 9, 16) they are not. The opponents of the traditional Pentecostal
doctrine have had justifiable criticism of it, based on what Pentecostals have traditionally
used to defend their doctrine. Using the book of Acts alone, it is impossible to determine
whether every person baptized with the Holy Ghost speaks in tongues or not. It just doesn't
This is a doctrinal issue, as fundamentally important to the faith as can be. We must
approach it, therefore, from a teaching perspective, drawing from the Teacher's words and
the teachings of the apostles and prophets.
THE STATE OF MAN
There are basic truths concerning man himself which first must be reviewed in order
for us to be able to see any purpose or wisdom of God in ordaining tongues as evidence of
Spirit baptism. A most important biblical fact of human existence is that mankind is
estranged from God in spiritual "darkness"; that is, he is ignorant of divine ways of living.
Jeremiah described the condition of the human heart this way:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately
wicked: who can know it?
There is not a single unregenerated person excluded from the inspired observation
of I John 5:19b:
..the whole world lieth in wickedness.
Most people do not know that this is true. They do not understand that their lives
need changing, that there is a holy life which may be lived that is different from, and contrary
to, the way they are living. This is difficult for a man to believe because he can so easily
deceive himself. Being in the "darkness" of ignorance and pride, he can convince himself
that he is right and then refuse to see any contradictory evidence. When a man does not
know that his own heart is "deceitful" and "desperately wicked," he has the tendency to trust
what his heart tells him.
This is especially the case when it comes to religious matters. The scriptures are
replete with examples of persons who were convinced they were holy, when they were evil.
Jesus rebuked certain ministers of his time with these words:
Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God
knoweth your hearts
And he warned his followers of a time coming when
they shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time
cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth
This then is the state of man. He does not know that he is where he is. He does not
know truth, does not understand eternal life, can not discern between good and evil nor
appreciate the doctrines and deeds of the Spirit. And he does not know that he does not
know! He is bound by his own darkened intellect, his self-esteem, lust, and a wily, perverse
heart. His spirit is restless, his work is temporary, and his institutions and desires are
verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.
Selah. Surely every man walketh in a vain shew .
If man is in this sad state, how can his "confession of faith" be trusted? There are
certainly those who consider themselves to be servants of God, yet are not (cp. II Cor. 11:13-
15; II Pet. 2; I Jn. 2:18-19; 4:1-5; Jude; Rev. 2:9; 3:9). Paul wrote of men who considered
themselves to be something they were not and described them as spreading such deception
to others (II Tim. 3:13). When men therefore, make claims of faith, it basically means
nothing more than that they are making that claim. Whether faith actually abides in their
hearts is another matter.
Whatever man concludes and declares about himself, others, or Divinity, is only as
dependable as his own spiritual condition. Jesus knew this as no one else ever had. When
the multitudes saw the miracles he performed at Jerusalem, they declared that they believed
in him. But the scriptures say that Jesus refused to acknowledge their confessions of faith
because "he knew what was in man" (Jn. 2:23-25). Before their conversion, the disciples
heard, at times, Jesus belittle even their claims of faith (e.g. Jn. 6:68-70; 16:29-32).
Such scriptures as these communicate, from a divine perspective, the worthlessness
of carnal man's estimation of his own standing with God. Man needs concrete, trustworthy
evidence from God's Spirit to let him know that his confession of sin and repentance truly
have been accepted by God and that he is forgiven. It is the witness of the Spirit which
should always precede one's personal testimony or self-deception may result. Until God, by
the Spirit, declares us to be His child, I can see no scriptural grounds for us to claim such a
position. This is what speaking in tongues at Spirit-baptism appears to be: God's witness
that He has justified and cleansed the person through whom the Spirit is speaking.
Were it man's responsibility to declare that he has received the Spirit (as many are
now taught), we would be in a position (as most now are) of not knowing who to believe and
so, not knowing who is a brother and who is not. But if, in every case, the Spirit of Christ
declares its entrance into the heart of a believer, we may begin to discern with certainty who
truly believes and who does not. If we wait for the Spirit to bear witness, then we are able
to tell, without partiality, who has the Spirit and who does not. If we wait for the Lord to
declare a man born again, we escape the confusion, judgmental attitudes, and uncertainty
which results from having to rely only on man's own estimation and testimony of his
THE SPIRIT'S VOICE
When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, the power of Jesus' truth concerning
eternal life shook him. And as the elderly master of the Law sank in heavy contemplation,
Jesus described the new birth with these words:
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest
the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence is cometh,
and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of
Without any manipulation whatsoever of the Greek words in this sentence, a simple
translation could be
The Spirit breathes where it will, and you hear its voice, but
cannot tell where it is coming and where it is going; so it is
with every one who is born the Spirit.
Three fundamental points concerning the new birth are made in this one sentence
from Christ. Beginning with the last part of the verse, we learn that what Jesus has said in
the preceding parts of the verse applies to every person born of the Spirit. In other words,
Jesus has said something about conversion that is true and present in every conversion that
has ever occurred in church history. There are no exceptions at anytime, with any one.
Secondly, from the middle of the verse we learn that the Spirit moves independently
of men's minds. Men do not know where the Spirit will move or what person on this earth
was last touched by the Spirit. This reinforces our earlier discussion of man's ignorance of
divine life. Man cannot see whose heart is indeed repenting; therefore, he cannot know
where, or into whose heart, the Spirit will next breathe life (cp. Isa. 55:8-9).
Thirdly, and most importantly, Jesus described in the opening phrase of John 3:8 the
characteristic of spiritual rebirth which is, as he said, present in every case, without
The Spirit breathes where it will, and you hear its voice .
Now, it is not as important to know that, when a person is born again, a voice is heard
as it is to notice that the Spirit's voice is heard. It is not the individual being converted, nor
the individual's pastor, nor even the Bible, that is ordained to declare one to be born again;
it is the Spirit that declares it. A good question to ask yourself is, "Who told me that I was
born again?" Jesus said that the Spirit's voice was heard when one was born again, and then
and so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.
THE CRY OF BIRTH
Paul's descriptions of the "crying out" of God's Spirit when it enters a believer's
heart are reminiscent of the birth-cry of a newborn baby. First from Galatians 4:6 we have
And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his
Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
And to the Church at Rome he wrote:
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear;
but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry,
Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit,
that we are the children of God .
The Greek verb kratzo is the word translated "cry out" in these verses and is to be
understood as a fervent verbal expression. Kratzo is used approximately 60 times in the New
Testament books, and in every case it is used to denote an actual vocalization, usually the
result of a circumstance overwhelming the speaker's being.
For example, demons "cry out" when face to face with Jesus' powerful presence (e.g.
Mt. *:29; Mk. 3:11; Lk. 4:41). Jesus' own death scream is called a "crying out" (Mt. 27:50).
And desperate individuals, such as Bartimaeus and the Syro-Phoenician woman, "cried out"
for deliverance when Jesus passed by.
The readers of Paul's message to the Churches at Rome and Galatia would have
never understood his reference to the Spirit's "crying out" as a secret, internal, spiritual
occurrence. They knew that Paul was referring to the same spiritual experience of new birth
described to Nicodemus by Jesus when he said, "and you hear its voice."
WHOSOEVER SHALL CONFESS
To all this is added the heavy weight of I Jn. 4:1-3:
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether
they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out
into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every
spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is
of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ
is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of
antichrist, whereof ye have heard that is should come; and
even now already is it in the world.
It is fundamentally important to the understanding of this passage of scripture to note
that John is speaking of spirits' actions rather than the actions of men. It is manifestly clear
that John is not saying that every person who admits that Jesus came to earth in the flesh is
a believer, a true member of the body of Christ. Considering Jesus' own refusal to trust the
testimony of men (even that of his disciples) and his warnings to John not to be fooled by
what men said or appeared to be (e.g. Mt. 7:15; Lk. 21-8), it is inconceivable that John would
in turn teach that whoever professed to believe that Jesus came in the flesh was indeed of
But if John is saying here that every time Jesus Christ, by his Spirit, comes into the
heart of fleshly men that the Spirit "confesses" it is done, then his teaching begins to bear
heavy resemblance to teachings of his master. To wit, "But when the Comforter is come
he shall testify of me" (Jn. 15:26) and "so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit" (Jn.
When John states later in this chapter, "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son
of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in "God" (I Jn. 4:15), his readers knew that John was
speaking of a confession which was only possible when prompted by the power of the Spirit.
In John's own words, " it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth" (I
Jn. 5:6c). Again, John would never have believed or taught that any man who mouthed the
words, "Jesus is the Son of God," dwelled in God. "Confession," as it is used here by John,
is not an act that is humanly possible apart from the animating power of the Spirit. Paul said
it this way:
Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by
the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed; and that no man can
say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.
I Cor. 12:3
The apostles were certainly wise enough in Christ to know that the spirits of greed
(I Pet. 5:2; II Pet. 2:3; Jude 11-19) or pride (III Jn. 9) or deceit (II Cor. 11:13-15) or even the
spirits of envy and strife (Phip. 1:15-16) could prompt a man to proclaim the message of the
Lordship of Jesus. When Paul wrote that only by the power of the Spirit could on confess
"Jesus is Lord," he was teaching in effect what we have already seen in the teachings of Jesus
and John: the Spirit is the real confessor of Christ, and men may participate in that
confessing of Christ only as they participate in the life of the Spirit.
Can we fail to see that the making of any spiritual judgment apart from the Spirit of
folly? For if the Spirit was sent to guide us into all truth (Jn. 16:13), what truth may be
gained without the Spirit? Is utter dependence upon the Spirit of God too much to expect,
when it was given to us for that very reason? This is the standard which Jesus set and the
apostles followed: humble reliance upon, and steady confidence in , the Spirit which God
had given them, especially in matters wherein making a judgment was necessary.
Considering, once more, Jesus' categoric refusal to make any judgment based upon
man's testimony or man's action (cp. Isa. 11:2-4), it is simply unthinkable that his apostles
should have taught differently. The reliance upon the Spirit of truth to distinguish the hearts
of those who truly believe, rather than judging for ourselves, is a pillar of the faith as taught
and demonstrated by Jesus and his earliest followers.
And now, while we may begirding our hearts against any spirit which would lead us
to condemn others in judgment, let us also understand that the breadth of meaning in Jesus'
words, "Judge not" (Mt. 7:1), is broad enough to include judging people to be right. At
present in the Church, there are as many people being judged and declared by ministers to
be right with God (even though the Spirit has not given its witness!) as there are people being
judged contrariwise. Yet, it is as perverse to judge someone to be justified by grace as it is
to condemn an innocent man (Prov. 17:15)! Let us learn now, for everyone's sake, to wait
for God to declare a man to be forgiven before we take it upon ourselves to declare that man
so to be.
WHO NEEDS IT?
But if speaking in tongues is the evidence that a person has received the Spirit of
God, then for whom is it the evidence? The person who has received the Spirit needs no
evidence other than the Spirit itself. God needs no evidence; He knows all things. Who then
needs to have proof that the Spirit has been received? Who needs to know which persons
have God's Spirit and which do not? Obviously, the unbeliever. Speaking in tongues is God
Himself speaking, through the Church, to unbelievers, that He is genuinely involved in an
individual's, or a congregation's experience. In Paul's words:
Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but
to them that believe not
I Cor. 14:22a
God's Spirit-baptized people declare openly the holiness, purity, and power of God; but then,
so do Muslims, Jews and other religions of the world. The attributing of graces and glory
to God does not (for the sinner seeking the truth) distinguish true worship from false
religions, for they all, in some way, do the same. The God-given mark of the one true
religion is the Holy Ghost baptism, with the "sign for unbelievers" of speaking in tongues.
This experience comes only in the name of Jesus, and every religion without it is false.
As long as there are unbelievers left on the face of the earth, there will be a need for
tongues. It is only when "that which is perfect is come," and no unbelievers remain, that
tongues shall cease (cp. I Cor. 13:8-10). No one will at that time need a witness from God
to let him know who is a believer, for no one except believers will be there. But as yet, there
is still a need for God to help the thirsty to find the waters of life.
In this the love of God begins to appear, that in a world filled with voices of men
declaring to have found a way to God, God Himself would condescend to send His word into
the hearts of true believers, declaring to every confused and hungry soul, "This is the way,
walk ye in it." it is the purest love and wisdom of God that He should begin each believer's
spiritual life with a very real testimony, for the sake of those without Christ. Oh, that we all
would continue to follow such a heavenly example from the moment of conversion to the
moment of death!
Knowing the confusion and darkness of men's minds, would a loving God leave man
to his own mind to determine which way is right? In His unfathomable wisdom, God calls
from heart to heart, not with reasons but with compassion. And when the presence of His
Spirit fills a believer to overflowing, the sinner is called upon for a decision. It is a decision
of the heart, not the head.
REST FOR THE WEARY
Early in his ministry, my father dreamed of burying the Lord after his crucifixion.
Just as he was about to lower him into the grave, Jesus opened both his hands and said to my
father, "Here, this cannot be buried with me."
My father then saw in one hand twenty-eight dollars and eleven cents and in the
other, eleven dollars and twenty-eight cents. He reached and took the money, as Jesus had
instructed him, and as he looked at the money, it changed into two books of the Bible. The
twenty-eight dollars and eleven cents became Matthew. Here are those scriptures from Isa.
For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to
his people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye
may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet
they would not hear.
And Matt. 11:28:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I
will give you rest.
Friend, what you've been reading about in these last few pages is the wonderful
answer, God's answer, to a confused, hurting world. It's what every person has been looking
for, who has been looking for real peace, real joy, real hope that life has a purpose. I invite
you now to respond to the love of the gospel of Christ Jesus and turn from your own way to
God, who created you to be happy. Even now, though we have made ourselves base, He has
provided in His Son Jesus the way to lift us up again. Answer now, with your life, the
exhortation of the wise man James, who said:
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse
your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double
minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter
be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble
yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
God has made the way to escape forever the discord and loneliness every man on this
globe faces from birth. And to every man, in the tenderest tones of love, His impassioned
message has echoed through the centuries:
Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him
while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the
unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the
Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for
he will abundantly pardon.
Answer the call today.
This is the most accurate and consistent understanding I can find for speaking in
tongues as the "initial evidence" of being born of the Spirit. This understanding of the new
birth alters radically the commonly accepted pictures of the Church, repentance, faith; in fact,
every area of life in the Spirit is given a new and, I think, clearer perspective. And it is a
perspective which I predict will very shortly shake the Church as it has never been shaken
What all Pentecostals and Charismatics may soon realize is that they are neither the
spiritually elite nor the spiritually mature of the Church, nor are they an off-beat, odd-ball
part of the Church, but that they alone are the Church, that when they entered in to the Spirit-
baptized life, they entered into the body of Christ. On the other hand, non-Spirit-baptized
people must be warned that it is never so much as suggested anywhere in the New Testament
that we are to "take it by faith" that we have received the Spirit of God. That borders on
superstition. Rather, we are to "receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Being
baptized by the Holy Ghost is not something we are to believe has happened; it is an
experience we receive because we truly believe. And God is still calling.
We are now entering an era of tremendous religious storms. Already the winds of
doctrine are causing many unsettled souls to seek safe harbor. Clouds without water, riding
those winds, are gathering in ever-darkening huddles across the sky, as the lightning of
Satan's fall is about to strike the earth with full force. Is is the time of "seducting spirits" and
"itching ears," the time when "the way of truth shall be evil spoken of" (I Pet. 2:2). It is the
time when " if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Mt. 24:24b).
But he who stilled the storm with his word is still speaking peace today. Let us all
be thankful that his voice may still be heard:
"I Will Give You Rest"
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