By Glen Galloway
Peace and unity among God’s people are without doubt among the most emphasized themes in all of God’s Word. God calls himself “the God of peace.” Jesus (the Prince of Peace) climaxed his high-priestly prayer for all believers with “that they may all be one, as you Father are in me and I in you.” Peace is the third fruit of the Holy Spirit, and as such can only come by the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost testifies that (just as with all His fruit) there is no law against peace – no possible downside and no limitation to its applications and benefits.
The consistent New Testament greeting/closing of “grace and peace to you” speaks volumes about the simplicity of powerful life of the Spirit. Grace is the dunamis-power of God in which we stand, and out of which flows lives full of the miraculous fruit only God’s Spirit can produce. Peace is the sacred place that allows nothing to interfere with or short-circuit this power in us; individually or as a church. God’s ability to do in us goes beyond anything we can ask or imagine, yet operates in proportion to his power at work in us. No condition is more crucial for the grace-fueled, glorious church than this: the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.
We understand peace to be active rather than passive – something to be chased after, aggressively pursued. Peace is far more than the absence of conflict or turmoil. Peace is a divine attribute of Almighty God, who tells us to be holy as he is holy. Just as entire books of the Torah full of laws and strict conditions were given to the Levitical priests to prevent defiling the sacred things in the old covenant – so peace is given to tend perfectly to the holy character and indisputable power of the new covenant in Jesus’ blood. Jesus has specifically given his peace to us, and it is in his peace he breathes on us and says “receive the Holy Ghost.” It is his express intent that we operate in this peace and give the more earnest attention to what we’ve been given, unless we at any time would let it slip. Jesus’ peace is non-negotiable when it comes to our faith truly being The Faith, which was once delivered to the saints.
Strife is a work of the flesh ranking right up alongside murder and sexual sin. It dynamically opposes peace at every turn, and is completely demonic. There is no strife that brings peace. Like any demonic fruit, all that strife produces is more of its wretched self and more room for demonic influence. Strife operates primarily through the spoken (or written) word. When a person allows strife to operate in him, his mouth/tongue is set on fire by hell. Strife is insidious, violent, far-reaching and swift – and it is absolutely unavoidable without the power of the Holy Spirit. Strife is manifest to some degree in every arena of human endeavor; yet strife has no place in the life of any child of God, and it has absolutely no place in the church of the living God. Where strife has over flown, only grace can much more overflow.
Strife operates in tandem with envy, and it is the point by which all wickedness gains entry into the church. Those who would be raised up as blessed and sorely-needed peacemakers in these last days stand in much the same position as Phineas, as he watched Moabite women using sexual sin to break wide open an entrance for demonic power to run roughshod over the same Israel that Balaam and Balak had found uncursable. This is an holy powerful peace that will not stand by and watch God’s sacred people and house be defiled.
The Lord of the harvest has long patience – but there is a precious fruit he must see. He tore the vineyard out of the hands of those tenants who refused to produce the kingdom’s fruit, and his desire and demand has not waned one iota since entrusting it to us, whom he has redeemed with the blood of his only begotten Son. We are to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. This fruit of righteousness is only sown in peace, and by peacemakers.
These peacemakers are the restorers of the paths to walk and dwell in. These are those who testify along with the Spirit of God: “Build up and prepare the way – remove every obstacle out of the way of my people…Peace, peace to those far and near!” These are those who obey the command to make straight paths, to lift up the limp arms and strengthen the feeble knees unless what is already lame be fully dislocated. These are those passionately looking for the clear highway that the redeemed of the Lord are to walk in – the Way of Holiness.
This peace of God that passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus must be held up as pure mighty doctrine challenging the entire church – no human model of political organization and scholarship and administration is any kind of acceptable alternative. All of these de facto models are severely limited in that they represent the arm of flesh, what man attempts do for God without his supernatural provision or direction. Their lifeblood is the intellectual/adrenal rush of factions, divisions, debates and disputes – things that have no place in the inheritance of the kingdom of God. They are merely the ways and means of coping, moderating and subsisting in an environment where there is no true communion. The only true communion is that of the Father and the Son.
The Father and the Son have not agreed to disagree. They are not coping. They don’t need mediation or moderation. Their communion is actual, not mystical or figurative. They don’t just subsist or get along. They reign decisively united and actively expecting until every enemy is brought into subjection. And truly our fellowship is their fellowship, or we have no claims to any fellowship at all. This communion must be realized in the earth, or the witness of the communion of the Father and the Son is suppressed in the wickedness of unbelief. Their communion can not be any more perfect and complete than it is, so the onus rests squarely and dynamically on us who would be drawn into their communion.
We must not allow anything to interfere with us being one with each other. We must recognize any influence resisting this perfect work (towards which end the saints are equipped, the ministry’s work is worked, and the body is edified) as absolutely satanic. Those who recognize that this work as unachievable with the resources presently within our grasp do well to the extent that they recognize how desperately we need the miraculous work of God’s grace by the Holy Spirit in his church.
Beyond that none of us should dare to hint at advocating lowering the bar or compromising the high calling with which we’ve been called. To do such is to shatter the hearts of the people; to see the promise of the peace of God before us and judge merely after the seeing of the eye and hearing of the ear. Where we cannot visualize or conceptualize the literal and ultimate unity of the Spirit, the eyes of our understanding must be opened and we must humbly receive the spirit of wisdom and revelation.
The promise is held out to us today, and we must not fall short of entering the rest. We must hear the word of the peace of God as literal and miraculously achievable. There is a burning need in these times that the word be mixed with faith, that we be sons of our Father and call those things that are not as though they are. The peace of God is to rule in our hearts. This is why we were called in one body in divine love, the bond of perfection. Truly our communion is with Father and with the Son.
Whatever developments within the historical church that have led holy and beloved brothers to believe division and schism in the body are inevitable and acceptable, that have led them to believe that they can lift up holy hands in prayer along with anger and disputing, that have permitted ongoing contentions involving the pitting of one minister or co-laborer against another – these developments are diametrically opposed to the express plan of God for his church. We dare not approach them as normative, as any sort of consensus, as the building blocks to which we must individually reconcile ourselves to and from which we are to proceed seeking peace. The communion of the Father and the Son is normative.
Peace in the body is not primarily a matter of reconciling conflicting doctrines or mediating historical disputes. Dynamic peace which manifests the unity of the Holy Spirit demands a radical starting point in which we approach each other – both in speech and writing – as those who have an anointing from the Holy One and know all things. We don’t come to approach each other as not knowing the truth, but as knowing the truth to which there is no lie. We don’t approach each other through the lenses and filters of what we think we know. The truth did not originate in any of us, yet it lives and dwells in all of us who have fellowship with the Father and the Son.
There is no authority to pit truth and peace against each other. There is no authority to pit the Word and the Spirit against each other. In Christ, in the anointing of the Anointed One, alone, are hid all the treasures of both wisdom and knowledge. The apostle who wrote the majority of New Testament books clearly proclaimed “of myself I know nothing!” This must be all of our testimony. We’ve witnessed centuries upon centuries characterized by our supposed knowledge puffing up those who claim it. This cannot be the same knowledge that is hid in Christ, in his anointing in which we are to know all things. This puffing knowledge must necessarily be the result of the cunning craftiness of men who lie in wait to deceive.
A historical church consensus that has reconciled itself to schism has been beguiled with enticing words, has been spoiled. That consensus has been corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. And how is this? Through philosophy, through vain deceit, through the traditions of men, and through the rudiments of the world – definitely not after, through, or in accord with Christ. The church can not be fractured, or there is no basis from which to mark those who cause division. There is no place to discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of error, to discern the anointing from the spirit of antichrist. All in accord with Christ are granted by God to be of the same mind, to speak with one mind and one mouth.
The Spirit testifies clearly of one body. We who give ourselves over to seek the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace will see and know only one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of us all. We will see and know this one body as Father’s means of displaying the glory of his Son today both in the earth and in heaven.
Peace begins here in Romans with what we have in common, something which is worth far more than pure gold: mutual faith. We are among those called of Jesus Christ. We come together, we are sent to each other, we share of the grace and apostleship we’ve received all based on our mutual faith. The basis of our connection is faith, something that didn’t originate in any of us! This is the faith of God. This faith is truly worthy of obedience among all nations.
This kingdom is not in talk, but in power. This gospel is the power of God, proclaiming and declaring (according to the spirit of holiness) Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, ultimately proven beyond question by the resurrection from the dead. The same Jesus that descended into hell has ascended above all, giving gifts to the church. To every one of us grace is given in proportion to the measure of this gift Christ gave.
Jesus said that we are not to lord it over each other (the pattern of authority/dominance in the world). The greatest among us is to be the servant of all. We have received grace and apostleship. Every man has been given a measure of grace. We are clearly not all apostles, but we have received those God has sent out of his presence. The riches of grace and apostleship are the heritage of all who are the called of Jesus Christ. None of us is so in need of having the preeminence that we fail to recognize those sent out of the presence of Almighty God; or forbid them, or presume to be able to throw them out of the church. We belong to each other, but the church belongs to none of us – Jesus purchased it with his own blood and he alone has a claim to it.
Those apostles Jesus has given by the Holy Spirit have a divine responsibility and authority to build up in love, never to destroy. They come first as servants, the Holy Ghost giving witness with power. They are separated to the gospel. They speak expressly by the grace given to them. They follow Christ’s example and out of that set example for the entire church to follow. They may come either with a whip or with a gentle spirit, as called for. They deserve the highest respect for the sake of their work – and it becomes the saints to receive them. There is no higher calling than that of the kingdom of God, and there is no more valuable word or work in the earth than that which the Holy Ghost witnesses.
We are called to be saints, Father’s excellent ones, in whom he takes all his delight. We have an inheritance with the saints in light. The faith of God in us is effective, it allows us continual access into this grace. It rings out from us and is sounded over and spoken of throughout the whole world. We take delight (along with Father) in the saints all over the world, praying continually for them. We long for each other’s fellowship, expecting gifts to be imparted and received through this fellowship.
We invest in each other. We plant finances and labor as God gifts us, and we expect to reap a spiritual harvest. We have opportunity to seek first the kingdom of God in this, to have fruit credited to our account and to see fruit credited to others’ accounts. Our desire is to see each other built up and established in the grace of God. We expect this grace at work among us to result in fruit that will last. We contend earnestly for this, determined not to frustrate the grace of God.
This grace places an intense demand on me as a member within the body of Christ – it is the power of God working in me mightily. It makes me strong in the strength of the Lord and the power of his might, and my entire effort is in yielding – giving myself over to the grace of God. When by faith I am given access into the measure of grace God have given me, I begin to feel the urgent call to actively give myself over to stand in that grace. The words “woe is me if I don’t preach the gospel” begin to register intensely. I begin to love the church and give myself for it just like Christ has done. I understand that the grace of God given to me makes me a debtor to those that distribution of grace is intended for. I recognize the power and exclusive claim of the gospel of Christ. I own this debt and allow it to drive me across all party lines, all geographical barriers, all societal and class divides, and beyond all personal preferences.
Together we hold out this ultimately powerful gospel as “ALL the words of this life.” We are not those who draw back, those who are ashamed. We love and identify with the offense of the cross, and boldly proclaim the only name by which all men must be saved. We have set before us the glory of being the tangible smell and taste of life to all who hear God’s appeal through us. We have no worries about being the smell and taste of death to those who refuse the truth and choose to die. We aren’t seduced away from the simplicity of Christ; nor do we attempt to mix Christ with philosophies, human traditions, or anything vain or deceptive.
This is the one true gospel, the gospel preached to us with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. This is the so great a salvation that was first spoken by the Lord, the gospel confirmed with signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost. This is Christ not only crucified, dead and buried – but made alive by the eternal Spirit and the blood of the eternal covenant. This is Christ ascended above all the heavens and seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High, having fully led captivity captive expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. This is Christ giving gifts to men, pouring out what we now see and hear. This is Christ given to be the head of the body, the church – the fullness of God who fills all things. This is the everlasting gospel: the faith that was truly once delivered to the saints. We stand firm in one spirit with one mind contending together for the faith of the gospel of Christ.
In this gospel is the transforming revelation of the righteousness of God: that we who have been justified in Christ now live completely by faith. Faith – the divine attribute of Almighty God, given as a gift to those who hear his Word and believe. Faith – which then operates in us as a fruit of the Holy Spirit and as a charism/gift of the Holy Spirit. From God’s faith poured out on his children to God’s faith at work in his children – so the righteousness of God is worked out, fulfilled and revealed in us.
At the same time God reveals exactly where his righteous anger is directed: on those who deny knowing God. They hold the truth of God in unrighteousness. They see and hear the same revelation of the Godhead and the Word that causes faith to jump up in those who believe, yet they respond just like Pharaoh to Moses: “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice…? I don’t know the Lord.” They willingly suppress the knowledge of God, become vain and worthless in their own imaginations and pretensions; with the result that they are given over to perversion. They are choked out by the cares of this life, the deception of riches, and the pleasures of this world. They defiantly fall prey to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. They are given over to a reprobate mind, to the works of the flesh, to a defiled conscience seared with a hot iron – branded with the distinguishing marks of perversion and strife.
Strife is not only the opposite of peace. It is the mortal enemy of peace, and is specifically identified (along with envy) as the entrance for confusion and every evil work into the church! The church is to be Christ’s fullness. The church is not only to preach to the world, but is to be the chosen instrument by which God definitively manifests his unconquerable wisdom before the entire supernatural realm. If there is any compromise found in the church, we are directed to the exact point where it originated: strife and envy. Lust actually finds its way into God’s people through the opening of strife. Without strife we stand together in the strength of the Lord and the power of his might; and if any brother gets tangled up in sin, we who live by the Spirit restore him.
This hour the Spirit speaks clearly and appeals deeply with all of God’s people – we must avoid strife and envy like the plague it is. We absolutely must seek peace – pursue it, chase after it! Those deadly things that characterize the reprobate mind have no place among us. We have no business taking part in them or give approval to those who do. Sinners can always come into the church and find forgiveness in Jesus’ all-powerful blood. But those who approach the church with envy, strife and division in their hearts should find nothing in us: no sympathetic ear, no entrance, no place.
The testimony of the anointed pattern son Jesus was “I judge no man.” As he was led of the Spirit, so we must be led of the Spirit into a fundamental living choice to not judge our brother. In the same place anyone judges another he condemns himself. We have no business trying to do God’s job for him – there is one lawgiver who is able to judge, and only his judgment is true. We stand in the goodness of God which leads men (us!) to repentance, and we continue to stand there by taking the side of mercy rather than judgment. There is a specific call not to frustrate the grace of God in this regard.
Paul speaks by the Holy Ghost and immediately delineates between what he will end up calling the “objects of wrath” and the “objects of mercy.” Those who are to be the objects of mercy live continuously basking in and extending the mercy that has been extended to them. The way of holiness is in repentance, which God’s goodness and tolerance and patience all lead to. To follow after peace is to treasure the gift of repentance extended to all men; to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
For anyone to set himself up as judge makes him the enemy of God’s mercy. How tragic and ironic that so many fall into this position while attempting to stand up for the truth of God! There is no escape from judgment once a man takes and maintains the side of judgment over against another, since God himself has taken the side of mercy over judgment. Despising God’s patience is portrayed perfectly in the Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant. God wants a consciousness of the desperation of our original position before him to continually shape our dealings and attitude toward our neighbor. Forgiving debts and trespasses from the heart will keep a man’s heart from being impenitent and unturnable. The Holy Spirit allows us to savor the taste of God’s patience with us and through us. It is through patience and persistence in good works that we seek for glory, honor and immortality; that by any means we might attain to the resurrection from the dead.
A man who is contentious will end up as an object of wrath. He obeys his own indignation and anger and so lives in unrighteousness. Jeremiah speaks of being made a man of strife and contention to the whole earth, but Jeremiah did not act or speak out of strife or contentiousness. Jeremiah was set as God’s defenced city, iron pillar, and brass wall. The strife and contention of unbelieving Judah was acted out and taken out on Jeremiah: they fought against Jeremiah but could not overcome him. Jeremiah’s humility is demonstrated almost painfully in the way he responds in his prophetic contest with Hananiah. He allows Hananiah to violently break the prophetic yoke off his shoulders; merely stating that the prophet prophesying peace is proved by fulfilled peace – then he simply goes his way and waits for the word of the Lord.
In the same way we can expect the strife and contention that was vented on Jesus to be vented on us; yet the strife and contentiousness can never originate in us. Jesus took a whip and cleansed the temple without one ounce of strife or contentiousness. God builds his church on a rock, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.
The Word of the Lord is a hammer that breaks rock into pieces, a fire that burns off chaff: the exact violence that the Kingdom of God allows. Human effort and ability can not accomplish this, neither will man’s anger bring about righteousness. The pure Word is the sword of the Spirit, and it will cut to the heart all those who truly hear it. It is living and powerful, piercing and penetrating to places where absolutely nothing else can reach.
Our eyes are focused on the day when God will judge the secrets of men according to the everlasting gospel entrusted to us. This was the testimony of Christ Jesus, out which he was able to live a life committed to condemning sin in the flesh (proving that it didn’t belong there!) while judging no man. He had been given a commandment what he should speak, and he knew every one of those commanded words would rise up and judge men in the last day. A church that knows and believes that the very words we are given and commanded to speak are eternal life, that church will be done with threatening, protesting, debating, posturing, manipulating, dividing and condemning.
Children don’t have fistfights right in front of a teacher. Drivers don’t get in road-rage battles right in front of a highway patrol. There are no wrestling matches (or shouting matches) in a legitimate court of law. We who are members of Christ’s body must be convinced that every mouth will be stopped before Almighty God. He will see to it that absolutely no flesh will glory or exalt itself in his sight. If we have strife and debate among us, either we are exposed to be pitiful spiritual infants, or we have no clue that the Judge stands at the door!
Now is the time of God’s favor. Now is the day of his salvation. So now where is the “perfect hatred” David speaks of with which he hates God’s enemies? Christ has dissolved the middle wall of dividing hatred. This perfect hatred is totally focused not on man, but on the demonic enemies of God that oppose man! It is bathed in the consuming gaze of Father’s searching, sifting, trying and knowing me as an individual, and us as a church. His eyes look down, his eyelids try – and by the blood of Jesus and through the indwelling Spirit – we do the truth, we come to the light; and it is revealed that what we do is performed by God. Perfect hatred is swallowed up in perfect love.
Jesus refuses to call down fire on those who don’t receive him, and he won’t allow his disciples to. The Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. We must know what spirit we are of. We must be as Christ was, of the Spirit of life.
The dreadful white throne judgment of the unbelieving awaits, and indeed this judgment has already been pronounced. It starts with the prince of this world: he stands condemned. It proceeds to the rulers of this world, who have not known the hidden wisdom of God. This authority of the air/atmosphere then holds sway over all the children of disobedience (ultimately children of and objects of wrath), who live to fulfill fleshly lusts.
Yet there is a judgment unto life that begins with the house of God. The primary opportunity in this judgment is that we judge ourselves, so that we should not be judged. We who are of the Spirit and spiritual may judge all things, and can be judged by no man. Having the mind of Christ and permission to judge all things, we examine ourselves. We who are truly in the faith have a hope to hold out to the faithless. We who are truly in Christ are a new creation, and we may boldly proclaim that old things are passed away! How much more powerful this is than proclaiming judgment on people for the old things they are entangled in.
The second opportunity is that when we are judged, we recognize that God is disciplining us so that we will not be condemned with the world. Father is intent that we are aware of differences among us not as permanent institutional divisions, but as a dynamic means by which he demonstrates who has his approval. This demonstrated approval is the place from which we can say with Father that the kingdom of heaven is not a matter of talk, but of power. He disciplines us as sons because he loves and receives us and wants us to share in his holiness. This is the pruning (cleansing) Jesus spoke of the night before his crucifixion; this is how the branches remain in the vine and bring forth much fruit. And this fruit is truly the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
The gospel is to be obeyed. The church must first live in the fire of this reality so that we can command all men everywhere to believe. Jesus asked if he would find faith when he returned. He also asked those weeping for him as he was carrying his cross to Golgotha, “if they do this in a green tree, what will be done in a dry?”
We take this judgment beginning at the house of God seriously, knowing how seriously Father takes the judgment on those who don’t obey the gospel: the ungodly and the sinner will appear at the white throne of eternal judgment. Even so, it is very plain and literal that Father takes away every branch that doesn’t bear the fruit of righteousness. There is no respect of persons with God, no favoritism or double-standards. We have a command in love that we remain in the vine.
To live short of this heavenly calling is to live lukewarm, and lukewarm will not remain in the vine. Lukewarmness thrives in environments where people can hear the word of God impersonally. A heart set on the kingdom and the intensity of Jesus’ commission to the point of “woe is me if I don’t preach the gospel” is driven by the love of Christ. Suddenly we as a church will come to terms with the reality that Christ is not one option among many, one opinion or preference to be debated and bickered over. Christ is the manifest eternal proof of the Father’s love.
Many who count themselves as part of the church have made judgments according to the flesh. These are judgments made by appearances, along party lines, and supported only by the testimony of man. Ears that are open and thirsty for the testimony of man are incapable of hearing the witness of the honor only Father can give. These earthly judgments judge Christ the same way he was judged in his hometown. They judge Christ as the Sanhedrin and as the princes of this world did. They despise the Anointed One and his anointing.
Now perfect love speaks along with Jesus being crucified or Stephen being stoned: “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they do” and “Don’t lay this sin to their charge.” Rather than calling down fire from heaven on the enemies of God, we as a church are baptized with the fire of the God in the Holy Spirit so that we may actively join with Father in opening the door for his reconciliation that comes on men while they are still his enemies!
Jesus had a baptism to undergo, and he desired with all that was in him that it be accomplished. He came to bring fire upon the earth! Today our God, who is a consuming fire, has baptized us with his Holy Spirit and fire as he promised. Now instead of being left with to question “who will live with the consuming fire?”, we are welcomed to enter with reverence and godly fear into the church of the firstborn; before God the judge of all and before Jesus, the mediator of the better and final covenant in his blood. We are counseled to buy gold that is literally on fire in the fire of God.
We who live by the Spirit will live demonstrating that the ministry and word of reconciliation has been committed to us. We will continue with all patience and persistence in walking in the light as God is in the light, and our actions will be shown to be performed by God himself. This is the well-doing that seeks for glory, honor, immortality and eternal life. This is the well-doing that will put to silence the foolishness of evil men. This is the good and faithful well-doing that will enter into the joy of the Lord. Out of this well-doing we will see glory, honor, and peace.
One died for all, and all are dead! There is no need to condemn the dead – there is a need for the dead to hear the voice of the Son of God and live. Christ Jesus himself didn’t come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He came as the light; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness absolutely cannot overcome it.
Now the Son is speaking out of heaven. He speaks out of the bellies, the innermost beings of those manifested to be the sons of God. Now he has commissioned his church as the light of the world. We speak on Christ’s behalf as ministers of this life-from-the-dead, this reconciliation. In his light we see light, and as he is so we are also in this world. The light we have been given to live and walk in is the light of Christ, the light of the glorious gospel, the light of the Word.
It is by this living powerful penetrating Word of God that the thoughts and intents of our own hearts are laid bare. Then with consciences washed with pure water and void of offense, we may speak this living powerful penetrating Word of God as able ministers of the new covenant. This Word will make all things manifest, will expose all as naked and open before the eyes of God the judge of all.
The day will come soon when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to our gospel. Those things whispered in the dark will be shouted from the rooftops. The gifts of God, primarily prophecy, are given to his church so that the secrets of men’s hearts can be laid bare so they can repent now and receive life. Jesus has given this grace to his church in order to demonstrate beyond doubt that he is in us and among us. A church in which all prophesy can expect this, and to this end all are commanded to desire earnestly to prophesy. Father has chosen this and clearly named this as the means by which to extend his goodness that leads men to repentance.
But light is not light unless it can truly make manifest, truly expose, truly reprove. No man can expect to hear if there is no preacher, and no man should dare preach unless he is sent out of the presence of Almighty God. The light that is in us must have no mixture, nothing that can dim it. If the light that is in us as individual believers and together as a church is to any degree darkness – how great is that darkness! We are reduced to the place of the impotent hypocritical religiosity.
Jesus will personally come to that place and fight against it with the sword of his mouth. Father will not stand by and watch blind guides lead people into a ditch. Father will only set his seal to those that believe from the heart. He will confirm the word they preach, and only that word. The responsibility lies first with those who presume to take God’s covenant in their mouth. They may by no means discard his words or render them impotent.
The warning that climaxes at the end of Romans 2 is directed to those who take their stand on a position of righteousness (being Jews and having the law). It rings clear in our ears as what the Spirit says now to the churches because it is God’s consistent verdict on empty religion, all the way from Cain to Korah to Eli to Isaiah’s templecourt-tramplers to Malachai’s priests to the Pharisees to the foolish Galatians to Jude’s “clouds without water” on down the line throughout both the Old and New Testaments.
The witness of the prophet Jeremiah is by far the longest sustained assault on powerless compromised empty religion. Both David and Jesus testify clearly that the traditions and empty teachings of men have power to make void God’s law and word (to those hearing it). Father is passionate that his Word not be sown needlessly amongst thorns or in hard ground. When Jeremiah was still a very young man, the Spirit cried in the ears of God’s people through him saying “circumcise your hearts!”
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers. What is the opening for this blindness and why is there authority to impose it? Why is the name of God constantly blasphemed among unbelievers? Because of those who claim instruction and light and knowledge of God without any reality or heavenly testimony backing up their claim. Because of those who cling to the form of godliness while denying its power. Because of those who accept the praise and honor of men over Father’s approval. Because of those who would rather look good on the outside than be clean and righteous in the inward parts.
Hypocrisy speaks on behalf of God without the power of God. It clings to form, and mouths worthless words which supply no grace to those who hear them. It merely itches ears, entertains minds and hearts, and stirs up questions and controversies. Jesus ministered exactly and only the words given him from the Father, and his words and doctrine were not only according to godliness; they contained the power of godliness. His doctrine was with power, and those who heard him were astonished at his words and their authority.
Anything short of this is worthless to the church and to the saints. We have laid out for us exactly what any other kind of teaching will produce: pride, ignorance, word-strife, envy, suspicion, perverse disputes, corrupt minds, loss of truth, religion-for-profit, subversion, and vanity. See how the tree identifies itself by what it brings forth! Jesus worked the good works the Father gave him, and those who truly believe must be earnest about maintaining these works. Works that result in the testimony that “God has given such power unto men” and that “God is really among you” are undeniably good and profitable for all men. These are the good works prepared in advance for us to walk in, that it would be manifest that what we do is performed by God.
The hypocrite demands to be a made man. He demands the status he feels he has earned (or been awarded) and the arbitrary benefits of that status. He won’t receive correction. He demands the right to teach one thing and do the other. He demands to exist in an environment that exalts one man over against another, one opinion against another, one position over against another. Because these all change (men, opinions, and positions), he is forever playing king of the mountain. He doesn’t address his brother as knowing all things or having power together with all the saints. Knowledge and power are commodities to be debated and grappled over rather than supernatural gifts to be shared and lived out.
John’s simple response to this is that those who go out from us manifest that they are not of us. Paul solves it by saying he will come personally to see not what these people are saying, but what kind of power they have. Jesus says he will come personally and remove their candlestick if there is no response to his warning. There is a clear witness whether a man’s praise is of men or of God.
As Stephen stood before the council testifying not out of his own mind but with a mind and mouth given him by the Spirit, Father made a clear distinction between the sacred and the profane. Those who thought they knew things were exposed to know nothing as they ought to know. Their distinguishing rite of circumcision? Clearly tied to the promise of their deliverance, which they had repeatedly despised. The law, the living words given to them? They had let it slip, rejecting it for idols. The temple of the Lord!? The Most High doesn’t even dwell there. Their supposed knowledge had only puffed them up. As their fathers had done, so they were doing – always resisting the Holy Ghost.
So the murderous spirit of antichrist took hold of them and with one accord they mobbed him and stoned Stephen. Yet Father has a testimony, and what his divine love builds up no one can tear down. Through the whole time Stephen spoke the council stared at his face, seeing it as if it were the face of an angel. As they gnashed and laid hold of him to drag him off to be stoned, Father opened heaven up for Stephen so that he could see the Son at God’s right hand. We all have knowledge. But if any man truly loves God, he will be known and acknowledged by God.
Our hearts have been circumcised with the circumcision of Christ, with the removing of the body of the sins of the flesh. Christ has taken out the heart of stone and given us a heart of flesh to know God. We have a new heart and a new spirit, and God has put his Spirit within us, if we be in Christ. There is no inward work that God hasn’t already done for us that holds us back. He loves us and has washed us and freed us from all our sins by his own blood, and has made us a kingdom and priests. All that remains is a simple question of motives. Our approval must be of God; so we must allow him (and only him) to approve us.