The Christian Evangel COVER
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THE

CHRISTIAN

EVANGEL


Pillars of the Christian Faith


By
E. G. Dicey




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COPYRIGHT

© Ebinen Gogo Dicey (2021)
All rights reserved.

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DEDICATION



To all the Trainees of the Discipleship School at Jubilee Centre, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria




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FOREWORD

This is a concise but extremely rich book on Christian foundational doctrines. It addresses vital and fundamental Christian teachings with depth and clarity. It stands out for me as the best of all the books I have read on the basic Christian principles of our most precious faith in Christ Jesus.

“The Christian Evangel discusses in brief but lucid details such rudimentary subjects of the faith like; repentance, forgiveness, justification, sanctification, and the gift of the Holy Spirit – subjects about which too many confusing details have been written by a litany of authors too numerous to name in meaningful sense.

But here is a largely unknown author in the Christian faith whose short but expressive book written on these subjects has helped to deliver me from the befuddlement many other writers on the subject have subjected my brain to over a period of time. There is no exaggeration whatsoever about this.

For me, Dicey has knowingly or unknowingly, brought further home to my mind the outstanding and salient truths captured in these five basic principles of the Christian Faith as he chose to write on all from the stand point of the scriptures - the only credible premise on which every spiritual and godly doctrine must be based.

I recommend this book as a good read to every true follower of Christ.

Uzoma Emeahu,
Imo State, Nigeria





CONTENTS

Copyright

Dedication

Foreword

Contents

Author’s Preface

CHAPTER 1: Repentance

CHAPTER 2: Forgiveness

CHAPTER 3: Justification

CHAPTER 4: Sanctification

CHAPTER 5: The Holy Spirit

CHAPTER 6: The Christian Life And Vocation




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AUTHOR’S PREFACE

Five aspects of biblical faith considered to be pillars of the Christian Faith are treated in this book. They include; Repentance, Forgiveness, Justification, Sanctification and the gift of the Holy Spirit. These five subjects bring about what I may term ‘The Alchemy’ (the power that transforms from the effect of the lower life impaired by sin into the higher life in God’s holiness. The last chapter deals with the outward manifestation of this transformation.

Repentance is a gift, rather than the outcome of human efforts. The only repentant person is the one who has come in contact with God’s righteousness. Until a person meets with Jesus, he does not see a need to repent talk more of having the will to. It is the goodness of God, the gift of God i.e. Jesus Christ that brings repentance. Repentance means, I am not only sorry for my sins but that I turn from it. Only Jesus makes that possible.

There is a widespread misconception about forgiveness; it has been looked upon as something God offers to us as we sin recurrently. This is because it has not been understood that forgiveness is accompanied by repentance. Forgiveness is accompanied by a turning away from the sins for which we are forgiven. Once forgiveness has been received, God does not keep record of personal or imputed sins.

Justification on the premise of Christ’s righteousness has been opposed by some adherents to good works. Their argument against it has been that, if people are justified by the righteousness of another then they are given license to sin without condemnation i.e. some kind of immunity while they indulge in sin. Antinomianism as this is called is a twist, a perversion of the truth about justification. It is not biblical but an invention of corrupt human minds. The biblical position on justification through Christ’s righteousness is that it is judicial i.e. it grants a legal vindication based on Christ’s righteousness. This does not grant a license to sinful indulgence but a pass from death to life; a liberation from sin’s bondage to God’s righteousness. The result is that the beneficiary’s affections are inclined to God. Thus he or she is intent on one thing – doing the will of God.

The view of some misguided fellows about the transit from law to grace is that God’s moral requirement is reduced under grace. Far from it been reduced, God has lifted the standard under the dispensation of grace. Under the law God required rectitude in external conduct. Under grace he requires not only rectitude in conduct but also purity in thoughts and intent. Sanctification involves purifying the thoughts and intents of the heart. The Bible teaches that Jesus did this for us through His self-sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10, 13:12, Titus 2:14).

Unless Jesus Christ is increasingly becoming more precious to us than all else, it is doubtful if there is any real work of the Holy Spirit going on in our lives. Are our whole lives incorporated into that which Jesus said the power of the Holy Spirit will make us i.e. His witnesses? It is not just a question of accurate prophecies or of tongues of men and angels but of becoming witnesses to Christ at home, in the office, at school and every noble area of human endeavour. Being witnesses to Jesus means standing in His stead. No one can do this without the power of the Holy Spirit.

Does grace include morals? The obvious answer is yes. The fact that we are not under law does not mean that we throw ethics to the wind and count on a doctrine of grace that saves but leaves us morally deficient. True grace enriches us morally and spiritually thus making us capable of fulfilling moral ends.

Ebinen Gogo Dicey
Jos
December, 2021




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CHAPTER 1

REPENTANCE

“Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” - Luke 24:45-47.

The message of repentance and forgiveness of sins are strongly related to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In reality both are contingent on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. From a biblical outlook, repentance means turning away from sin to righteousness. It is a condition upon which forgiveness is granted. The scriptures are clear on this point:

“But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.” – Ezekiel 18: 21 – 23.

This principle cannot be altered; it is as unalterable as the immutability of God. Until an individual comes to repentance, forgiveness is still a long way off. Repentance has been described as turning away from sin to righteousness. The person who achieves it can earn forgiveness but who can? Is there a person who can turn away from sin? Before this question can be rightly answered it is important to understand the nature of sin.

In the scriptures sin is portrayed as:

Based on these characteristics, sin could be seen as a living active thing which has the power to master or control everyone who commits it and bring them to death. Since everyone have sinned as the scriptures declare (of Romans 3:23), the human race in general is enslaved to sin. This explains why everyone dies; male and female, coloured people and white people, learned and unlearned, civilized and uncivilized. No one who is enslaved to sin can turn away from it. Hence no one can obtain repentance.

However, a person who is not under the yoke of sin’s slavery can obtain freedom for all those enslaved to it. Such a person must be one who is sinless. Is there such a person; a person who has never sinned and as a result is not under slavery to sin; one who has the power to conquer sin and free its captives? The scriptures declare there is and reveals that man to be Jesus Christ. He was tempted in every way we are tempted, yet He was without sin.

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15.

For years the black race was under slavery, how helpless they were! They had no legislative or military power to liberate themselves. Someone had to stand up for them, speak for them and fight for their liberation. William Wilberforce; a member of the House of Commons in the British Parliament felt their pain under the yoke; he sympathized with them and began to speak out for the abolition of slave trade. Well, he could do this because he was a free citizen and not a slave like the people he fought for. It was a long drawn struggle but in the end, his motion for abolition was passed into law and that marked the beginning of freedom for the black race; the black race thus had the legal right to live as free citizens.

Likewise, the Lord Jesus Christ was free from slavery to sin; He is a unique man because He is sinless. However, He sympathized with humanity in her slavery and undertook the task to liberate humanity from slavery to sin. In the purity of His human form, He bore the sin of the human race and battled against it. The climax of His battle against sin was at the cross, where in His body, He destroyed sin as He died on the cross and declared “It is finished!”

“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” – Romans 8:3

The slave master has been conquered and the proof of this is His triumphant resurrection from death. Death had no power over Him because sin had no power over Him. Through Him everyone can now turn away from their personal sins;

“Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” – Acts 3:26

It is a curse to sin but a blessing to come to repentance. Jesus Christ took the curse of sin by becoming a curse on the cross (of Gal 3:13) and brings to all the blessings of repentance. Repentance is therefore a gift that Jesus Christ gives.

“Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” – Acts 5:31

God handles the problem of sin through the Lord Jesus Christ with the aim of bringing sinners to repentance; a complete turning away from their sins. Humans try to handle the problem of sin by resolutely observing rules. But they come to realize their resolution is not strong enough to make them turn from their sins. Over and again the resolve is broken and sin gains the mastery. Oswald Chambers wrote this about repentance:

“Strictly speaking repentance is a gift of God. No man can repent when he chooses, but remorse is a lesser thing than repentance. Repentance means that I show my sorrow for the wrong thing by becoming the opposite… If in order to dissolve a piece of ice, you take a hammer and smash it up, you simply break it into so many pieces of ice; but put the ice out in the sunshine and it quickly disappears. This is just the difference between man’s handling of wrong and God’s. Man’s handling may cause it to crumble, but it becomes much crumbled up wrong; when God handles it, it becomes repentance, and the man turns to God and his life becomes a sacrament of experimental repentance”

Repentance can only be received as a sinner comes to Jesus Christ with the yoke and burden of his sins. When he comes to Jesus, the yoke of his sin is broken and he finds he is free indeed to turn away from his sins. What a relief and joy it brings! “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed”- John 8:36

But a sinner cannot or may I say will not receive a gift he does not want. If he still finds his sins pleasurable or beneficial to him in some way then giving them up will not be an option to consider. Jesus’ offer of repentance has no value to him because he still cherishes his sins or perhaps its reward.

However, the goodness of God leads to repentance says Paul (of Romans 2:4). God’s goodness is fully manifested in Christ beckoning everyone to come to Him and turn away from sin. He is persuading and patiently waiting for sinners to come to Christ and forsake their sins, so they can obtain mercy and also receive forgiveness of sins.

“I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:32

All of these pleas can fall on deaf ears; God’s call and offer of repentance through Christ can be completely ignored by those who have no intention of forsaking their sins and getting right with God. This is not just a matter of rejecting the offer of repentance but also of despising the goodness of God and rejecting His love.

“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” – Romans 2:4

To persist in sin and ignore Jesus Christ’s offer and call to repentance is to be hardened against one of God’s greatest gift; it is to heap up wrath against one’s soul in the Day of Judgment. Those who reject the love of God through which repentance is granted are living under a delusion that will lead ultimately to damnation!

“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”- 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11

Will you continue in your sins with an unrepentant heart? Listen to the voice of God; come now to Jesus Christ with all your sins and forsake them so you can be forgiven. God bless you!




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CHAPTER 2

FORGIVENESS

In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” – Col 1:14

Forgiveness is the act of God in overlooking sins; it is an expression of God’s love. Sin is the transgression of the law and there will be no justice if the transgressor can go scot free without due retribution. Justice demands a due punishment for sin. If God’s love will be just in forgiving sins, the demands of justice must be duly met.

The due punishment for sin is death “For the wages of sin is death…” – Romans 6:23. The act of meeting this demand of justice in order to secure forgiveness is called atonement. Therefore atonement involves death. This means there must be death before there can be forgiveness.

“…without shedding of blood is no remission.” – Hebrews 9:22

Shedding blood implies death and the death that secures atonement has to be that of a person who is innocent of sin. In a substitution sense, the innocent dies on behalf of the guilty. The guilty is therefore forgiven on account of the death of the innocent substitute. This is God’s sovereign and immutable principle upon which forgiveness is granted.

This principle is aptly illustrated in the Old Testament. Usually, a lamb was presented before God as the innocent substitute. The High Priest would lay his hands on the innocent lamb. This laying on of hands was a symbol of transfer; the priest transfers the sins of the people to the lamb by laying his hands on it. The lamb becomes the sin-bearer i.e. the bearer of the people’s sin. He would then slay the lamb and its death would serve as an atonement through which God forgives the sins of the people.

“And if he bring a lamb for a sin offering, he shall bring it a female without blemish.

And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering.” – Lev 4:32-33

Moving on to the New Testament, we read of a man whose name is John. John came to bear witness to the Light which gives light to everyone who comes into the World. He was not the Light but a witness to the Light; his mission was to point people to this Light. John was baptizing people in preparation for the coming of One of whom he said was preferred before him and whose sandal he was not worthy to untie. People waited anxiously to see this person John was talking about and then we read this;

“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.
And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.” – John 1:29-31.

John refers to Jesus as the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” . What instantly comes to mind is the sacrificial-sin-bearing lamb of the Old Testament.

John was in essence pointing to Jesus as the sin-bearer; the bearer of the sins of the whole world. As the sin-bearer, Jesus was sinless and His blood had to be shed to provide atonement by which God can forgive the sins of the human race. So in a substitution sense, Jesus; the Just one, had to die for the sins of the unjust.

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” – 1 Peter 3:18

A few years ago, this writer was witnessing in an Islam dominated community. He was talking with two teenage girls about the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The younger one among the girls asked him, “What is a lamb?” Just then a live lamb walked right in front of them as if to show itself to be the answer to her question. It made it a lot easier as this writer simply pointed to the lamb and said, that is a lamb. The Old Testament lamb showed up as this writer talked about it but beyond that, Jesus the Lamb of God showed up also and these young girls accepted Him as the atonement for their sins.

The illustrative pattern of atonement in the Old Testament had the High Priest as a representative of the people and the innocent lamb was the sin-bearing sacrifice as earlier stated. The High Priest imputed the sins of the people on the lamb after which the lamb was slain. In the New Testament, Jesus is the High Priest; He stands before God as the representative of the human race in this whole matter of atonement. He also stands before God as the sacrificial Lamb. As High Priest, He took the sins of the whole world and imputed it not to those who committed them but to Himself as the sacrificial Lamb who did no wrong.

“My sins My sins, My Saviour,
How sad on Thee, they fall”

Jesus Christ took the sins of sinners yet did not account it to them to separate them from God their Creator. On the contrary, He took their many sins and accounted it to Himself, bearing them all in His own body unto death to make atonement. This atonement is joyfully expressed and celebrated by Fanny Crosby in one of her most song hymns;

“To God be the glory great things He has done
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin
And opened the life gate that all may go in”

With this atonement in place, Jesus Christ has the full authority to say to all who believe in Him ‘your many sins are all forgiven, go and sin no more’.

Now we behold the Lamb of God bearing the sins of the world in His body so that all can be forgiven, die to sin and live unto righteousness. When Jesus Christ says to His followers ‘forgive seventy times seven’, He says that with the full rights of a master who requires His people to forgive their offenders because He has borne the sins of both. His people must now see their own sins and those of their offenders accounted to Christ and for Christ’s sake forgive their offenders just as God has forgiven them for Christ’s sake. In forgiving just as God forgave i.e. for Christ’s sake, they will be identifying fully with God as His people and God will be fully identified with them as their God.

There is no way God can forgive sins outside the atoning death of Christ. Without the death of Christ, no amount of weeping, no amount of prayers, no amount of confession, and no amount of regret can secure forgiveness of sins. Let me say it reverently that God dare not and will not forgive sins except through the death of Christ. Without the death of Christ, God will be left with no choice but to hold everyone accountable for their sins because granting forgiveness on any other ground will put a stain on His just and holy character. It is a solemn fact that the death of Christ is the only way God can uphold His holiness in offering forgiveness of sins to sinners. It is worth reiterating that God forgives sins because and only because Jesus died for sins. This forgiveness covers both personal sins and those accounted to individuals through ancestral connections.

It is true that God visits the iniquities of fathers’ to their third and fourth generation (of Deuteronomy 5:9). But Christ offers a place of refuge from such punishment because the atonement He provides in His death secures forgiveness for all sins whether personal or imputed.

This calls for implicit confidence in the faithfulness of God to forgive sins through the death of Christ. A vigorous confidence in God will require a sound mind that is able to think in terms of the limitless range the atonement covers in relation to sin. Let experiences be what they may, a sound mind will not relate them to the idea that personal or imputed sins are been called to account. Such an idea undermines the efficacy of the atonement and can only come from the devil. Then again forgiveness is not granted according to the measure of sin. It is not that there are sins too big for God to forgive or small sins that God can easily forgive. All sins irrespective of how we measure them are forgiven because Jesus died for sins.

Furthermore, nothing of human effort can provide atonement for sin. In this matter, all human works must cease. Everyone must accept and rest fully on the death of Christ as the only satisfactory atonement that secures forgiveness of sins from God. Augustus Toplady puts it this way in his hymn; “Rock of Ages”:

“Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to Thy cross, I cling
Naked come to Thee for dress
Helpless look to Thee for grace.”

This will mean that in relation to God, our faith must rest on no one and nothing other than the Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross to atone for the sins of the world. Is that death enough? Yes, it is and everyone who accepts it can freely sing:

“I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.”

Where do you place your confidence for the forgiveness of your sins? You can hand all your sins over to Jesus by placing your faith in Him now! He will take your sins and God will no longer count them against you because Jesus Christ has taken them and has died for them.

Perhaps you can say this short prayer:

Lord Jesus, I come to You just as I am with all my sins, Thank You for bearing my many sins in your own body on the cross, Today, I receive the forgiveness You died for me to have, I offer myself to You to live for You alone, Thank You for accepting me. Amen.




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CHAPTER 3

JUSTIFICATION

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”

When an individual is tried under any legal system, he falls on one of two sides of the verdict. He is either guilty or not guilty. If he is convicted of transgressing the law, then he is judged guilty. On the other hand, if he is not so convicted, he is absolved of all the charges leveled against him and he is said to be justified. Justification therefore means to be guiltless in judgment.

God created the first man and placed him in a garden He planted called Eden.

“And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.” – Genesis 1:8

Eden was adorned with the exquisite beauty of nature; God caused tress of every kind of edible fruit to grow in Eden. But two trees were quite significant; they were placed there to prove the man’s loyalty to God. These trees were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In God’s order, these two trees were to determine the destiny of the man and his descendants. God gave specific instructions to the man refraining him from eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The consequence of disobedience to this instruction would be death. But he was free to eat from every other tree in the garden including the tree of life.

“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” – Genesis 2:15-17

It is interesting that God said nothing to the man about the tree of life; its significance was carefully hidden from him. Perhaps, God wanted him to discover it as he kept within the bounds of obedience. Sadly, the man did not stay within the bounds of obedience. He crossed the boundary in outright disobedience and ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The consequence of his disobedience was to affect him and his descendants. Through this act of disobedience, the man moved from an innocent state of being in which he was originally created to a sinful state of being. Henceforth, he was set on a course in which he would develop himself in this sinful state, reproduce after his kind and eventually die.

As it were, the entire human race is descendants of the first man. All humans are therefore born in a sinful state after the kind of the first man and pretty much follow the same course. This sad state of human existence is traceable to the disobedience of the first man.

“…by one man's disobedience many were made sinners…” – Romans 5:19

If human life is carefully examined, this fact will be confirmed; people possess innocence at birth but as they grow they develop themselves in that sinful state which they inherited at birth. The result is that sin abounds in the world and of course death follows. The point here is that all humans are sinners and all have transgressed the law of God. Consequently everyone is guilty before God.

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
Their feet are swift to shed blood:
Destruction and misery are in their ways:
And the way of peace have they not known:
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” – Romans 3: 10-19

How then can a Just and Holy God justify anyone since all have become sinners through the disobedience of their ancestor? God loves humanity and His intent is to justify the human race. The wonder is how He is able to justify a guilty human race without compromising justice. As stated earlier, people became sinners at birth through the disobedience of the first man. Everyone is born sinful primarily because their common ancestor sinned. The condemnation of the human race is traceable to one man’s sin.

“Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation…” – Romans 5:18

In God’s economy, if condemnation came to all through one man’s sin, then justification can also come to all through one man’s righteousness. Since by the disobedience of one man all were born sinners, all can in like manner be born righteous through the obedience of another man.

“For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” – Romans 5:19

God has to find a sinless man who will render to Him the obedience by which the human race can be made righteous. But there was none because all were made sinners:

“And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor…” – Isaiah 59:16

So God took the form of a man; He was conceived in the womb of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit and at birth He was called Jesus Christ the Son of God. He is perfectly God and perfectly human; this is termed the hypostatic union Jesus Christ is the only sinless human that ever lived in this world. His purpose as a man was to render the obedience that was needed for the justification of the human race.

“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” – Philippians 2:6-9

By this man’s obedience unto death, God can freely justify the human race without compromising His justice and Holiness. He can become the justifier of guilty sinners and still remain just. God Himself confirmed this by raising Jesus Christ up from the dead. As the human race was condemned through one man, there is also only one man by which the human race is justified – the Man Christ Jesus. Without this Man, all humanity is under the sentence of condemnation. But with this Man, all are justified.

People came under condemnation through their ancestral link to the first man apart from their own choice. But God has made provision for justification in Christ Jesus. He has granted people the right of choice to determine their ancestral link. This means that they can choose to disconnect themselves from their ancestral link to the first man who brought condemnation. They can now link their ancestry to the Man Christ Jesus by whom all are justified. They can do this by simply trusting in Jesus Christ. Thus those who believe in Christ Jesus are justified and those who do not believe in Him are already condemned.

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” – John 3:17-18

So everyone can now choose to be justified by personally trusting in Jesus. For through the obedience of Christ, God will justify every sinner who believes in Jesus Christ. This is because He accounts the righteousness of Jesus to those who trust in Him and remains the Just One who justifies them. Praise God!

“To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” – Romans 3:26

In conclusion, the weightiest matter pressing on you right now is not survival but whether you stand justified or condemned before God. The place of Jesus Christ in your life will determine your stand before God. If you give Him your whole heart, you stand justified before God. If you set your heart after other things, well you may have them all only to discover at the last that it was all an enjoyment in a fool’s paradise. The choice is yours to make now!

Let us say a prayer;

Lord Jesus I come to you just as I am with all my sinfulness. I receive You into my heart as my righteousness and justification. Please rule in my heart from today. Amen!




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CHAPTER 4

SANCTIFICATION

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification…” – 1Thess 4:3

It is interesting to know that the Old and New Testament priesthood were instituted for virtually the same reason. Notably, the Old Testament priesthood was instituted after the Israelites had been delivered from the bondage in Egypt. Even after this awesome deliverance, the people were not perfect i.e. sinless. The priesthood became necessary to provide the necessary mediatory service to keep the people sanctified and guarantee the promised inheritance to them. They did not have the priesthood while in bondage; they had it after they were delivered from bondage. The priesthood did not therefore serve to deliver them from bondage but to sanctify them.

In the New Testament, Christians like the Jews of the old covenant have come through the wonderful experience of deliverance from sin’s slavery. However, they have not attained to sinless perfection. They still need the intercessory role of the priesthood to sanctify them and guarantee the promised inheritance to them. The New Testament priesthood is therefore not meant to save sinners who are still in the bondage of sin but to sanctify the saints who have been delivered from the bondage of sin. The saint is a saint not because he or she is personally sinless but by virtue of identification with the sinless Christ through faith. Since he or she is not personally sinless, the possibility of sinning is not ruled out. Hence, the saint still needs a mediator and propitiation in the occasion of sin.

The essence of this is to purify the saints from the sins they may commit due to their imperfection and to ensure that their sins do not disqualify them from the promised inheritance. God does not do this from the position of compromise but out of empathy with the infirmities of the saints. This empathy does not leave the saints in a pitiable condition of weakness and infirmity but provides strength with which they are able to move right on to perfection. We can deduce then that both the New and Old Testament priesthoods were instituted for sanctification.

However the New Testament priesthood is superior to that of that of the Old in four fundamental ways namely:

First, the old covenant priesthood made mortal men High Priest. They could not continue forever because of death. Death had power over them. Hence, they could not bring their people to perfection through their intercessory service. But the new covenant priesthood makes the eternal Son High Priest and His priesthood is everlasting because He lives forever. Death has no power over Him. Thus the High Priest of the New Covenant is able to do what the Old Covenant High Priest could not do i.e. bring their people to perfection through His intercessory service.

“For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” – Hebrews 7:17

“But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” – Hebrews 7: 24 - 25

Secondly, the old covenant priesthood made imperfect men High Priest. As a result, they first had to offer sacrifices for themselves and then for the people. They were men with weaknesses and so were their people. On the other hand, the new covenant priesthood made the perfect Son of God High Priest. Unlike the High Priest of the old covenant, He is completely without weakness. Thus He is able to lift His people out of weakness and take away all their infirmities.

“Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.” - Hebrews 7:28 (RSV)

Thirdly, the old covenant sacrifices were animals whose blood could not perfectly sanctify. Thus sacrifices had to be continuously offered. In contrast, the new covenant sacrifice is the Son of God Himself whose blood is able to perfectly sanctify. Hence He offered Himself once and does not need to offer Himself continuously.

“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” – Hebrews 10:4

“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” – Hebrews 9:14

“Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” – Hebrews 9:25-26

Lastly, the tabernacle in which the High Priest of the old covenant entered with the blood of animals was built on earth by human hands. But the tabernacle in which the High Priest of the new covenant entered with His own blood was built by God Himself in heaven.

“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”–Hebrews 9:11-12.

Evidently, the Old and New Testament priesthood were instituted for the purpose of sanctification. But the Old Testament priesthood had limited priests and sacrifices which could not realize this purpose.

“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” - Hebrews 10:11 (RSV)

The will of God is the sanctification of His people. Jesus Christ came as High Priest of the new covenant and offered Himself as a sacrifice to fulfill it.

“In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” – Hebrews 10:6-10

Sanctification is therefore accomplished in Christ through His self-sacrifice apart from human effort. It is realized progressively by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ (the leaning of the entire human personality on Christ). Hence sanctification can be rightly defined as God’s act of grace in Christ Jesus by which the human heart is purified or separated from sin through the power of the Holy Spirit. So then it is realized through the work of Christ on the cross and the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart.

At this point, it will be appropriate to understand why sanctification has to be a work of grace. The effect of sanctification goes beyond reformation in outward conduct to purifying the thoughts and intents of the heart. People can reform in their conduct by shear human efforts. But who can purify the thoughts and intents of the heart in such a way as to be without censure or blame under the searching eyes of God? This question is asked rhetorically in the scriptures:

“Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” – Proverbs 20:9

The obvious answer to this question is none. Even the most blameless and self-confident moralist cannot answer on the affirmative. The scriptures say of the human heart:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” – Jeremiah 17:9

Then again, God saw wickedness when He looked at the human heart.

“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” – Genesis 6:5

The point is that the human heart is vicious and desperately set on wickedness. There is nothing of human effort that can change it. It is so accustomed and chained to evil that one may expect a leopard to change its skin as to expect a person to purify his or her heart.

“Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” – Jeremiah 13:23

It is clear then that sanctification has to be God’s work accomplished in the sacrifice of Christ. It is a gift of God’s love which was demonstrated in the sacrifice of Christ Jesus on the cross. Jesus Christ loved the saints and gave Himself for them so that they may be sanctified through His self-sacrifice.

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” – Ephesians 5:25-26

“Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” – Titus 2:14

It has been rightly stated that sanctification is the result of the progressive work of the Holy Spirit in the heart through faith. The Holy Spirit however employs means on the bases of faith to progressively realize the work of sanctification. These means include:

The Holy Scripture contain the word of God. The Holy Spirit employs the scriptures as the primary medium for teaching, instruction, reproof and correction. It is important to state that the work of the Holy Spirit does not run contrary to scriptures. His teachings and instructions are absolutely in agreement with the teachings of the scriptures. The scriptures become profitable for the progressive sanctification of the saints as they are employed by the Holy Spirit to teach, instruct and reproof where necessary. The saints make progress towards perfecting holiness as they receive the teachings of the Holy Spirit, obey His instructions and accept His corrections. Therefore, the word of God contained in the Holy Scripture is an effective medium through which the Holy Spirit progressively realizes the sanctification of the saints. Any man or woman who is filled with the Holy Spirit will take delight in reading the scriptures. He or she will also delight in listening to it being read and accurately expounded, meditating on it and practicing it.

“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.” – Psalms 119:9

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” – John 17:17

Also, the Holy Spirit enhances the work of sanctification through the fellowship of the saints. An isolated holy life is not possible because it is outside the sphere of the work of the Holy Spirit. Every saint makes personal progress in sanctification as he or she rightly relates and functions with other saints by the Holy Spirit. He sanctifies the saints individually within the context of the fellowship of the saints. No one is built up in isolation but everyone is built up together with others.

“In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” – Ephesians 2:22

Maintaining a proper relationship with others of like faith is therefore important and must not be neglected.

Jesus teaches that this should take priority over any other service to God. If this is ignored, the progressive work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification will be hindered and every other service will be unacceptable to God.

“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24.

In fact the blood of Jesus cleanses efficaciously in the fellowship of the saints. It follows then that a bridge in the “one-another” relationship can also hinder the cleansing power of the blood.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” – John 1:7

It is also part of the spiritual responsibility of the individual saints to endeavour to keep the fellowship of the saints in the bond and unity of the Holy Spirit.

Achieving this will mean that the commands in relation to one another be carefully observed. These commands include:

These instructions hold the saints together in the Lord and makes room for the Holy Spirit to build them together into a holy habitation for God.

Chastisement is another medium the Holy Spirit employs for the sanctification of the saints and chastisement involves suffering. Sanctification was accomplished through the sacrificial suffering of Christ. His work to bring the saints to glorious perfection was perfected through suffering (of Hebrews 2:10). Suffering then becomes a necessary medium through which the Holy Spirit progressively realizes the sanctification of the saints. Suffering is constituted into the lives of believers because they have to be purified. Hence the saints are called not only to believe but also to suffer so that through their faith, the purpose for which Christ suffered will be fully realized in them. This calls for perseverance in faith through suffering on the part of the saints. However, it does not mean that suffering in itself avails for sanctification. There are sufferings which leave the sufferer morally worse and there are those which make them morally better. The difference lies in the faith of the sufferer. Suffering patiently endured in faith that rests on God will enhance sanctification. Such sufferings are appointed by God and employed to purify those whose faith He approves. So suffering may not always mean a curse or a sign of God’s judgment and disapproval. On the contrary, it may be a sign of God’s approval when accompanied with perseverance in trusting God. There is nothing believers can do to take away suffering which God has appointed. Perhaps embracing the right attitude to these category of suffering will enable God’s people make the most of it for their growth in holiness. Some of which include:

Finally, the company of believers in any locality is most powerful and influential when they are individually and corporately making progress in sanctification. For then, the light of their testimony will shine ever brighter; illuminating everywhere and giving light to those who sit in darkness. An electric bulb occupies a tiny space in a room but when it is powered by electricity to give its light, the entire room is illuminated by its brightness. Similarly, a company of believers may occupy a little space in a city. But when they are sanctified and empowered by the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the Light, the entire city is illuminated with His glorious effulgence through their witness.

Prayer: Father as you gathered us together to your Son, even so sanctify us wholly that we may worship you in the beauty of your holiness; giving you honour with our spirits and our bodies as we bear witness to Christ in this locality where you have placed us. Amen!




To: Table of CONTENTS

CHAPTER 5

THE HOLY SPIRIT

“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” – Titus 3:4-6

It is a fact that the state of an individual’s spirit determines the person’s state of mind and the state of mind determines the life style which ultimately defines his or her eternal destiny. If the spirit is corrupt then the mind becomes debased and the conduct follows suit, leading ultimately to eternal damnation. Hence the state of the human spirit should be a matter of primary concern regarding the welfare of humanity.

What happened at the fall is a complete tragedy to the human race because the human spirit was corrupted through the sin of the first man. Everyone born through the blood of the first man inherits a corrupt spirit. As a result of this, the mind is in a debased state and everyone is wired from birth to live a sinful life style.

“The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” – Psalms 58:3

In this state, the Bible describes the human race as dead; dead towards God who is the consummation of all goodness and dead in sin (of Ephesians 2:5). All of the thoughts that lead to action are only evil so that there is none that does what is good.

“They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” – Romans 3:12

There is a tragedy at the heart of human life because through the fall, humanity has been wired to live a condemned life. Except there is an intervention that will alter the state of the human spirit, the destiny of the human race is nothing but a heap of sorrow, sadness and regret. This is not overstating the fact but an accurate appraisal of the state of affairs resulting from the fall.

The essential need under the circumstances is not resolutions or moral reforms of any kind but a complete regeneration of the human spirit. As corruption was received through birth even so regeneration must be received through birth. This simply means that a second birth is necessary for regeneration.

In the third chapter of John’s gospel, we read of a man, a Pharisee; a morally clean man coming to Jesus to make enquiry. A whole lot about the impeccability of Jesus’ life and works left him in complete amazement. He could not help but admit that no one could live that quality of life except the person is rightly related to God. So this man came at night to meet with the Lord to enquire how a man could be so rightly related to God and live that quality of life that he found in Jesus. In response to this ardent religious leader, Jesus did not point him to a new resolution, a new rule to observe or to any kind of reform. He told him straight away “Except a man be born anew…” (verse 3). And right there lie the solution to the human problem; it does not lie in religious reforms, social reforms, or in political reforms but a new birth. There is no contention about that since it came directly from the lips of the author and master of human life. The man was even more bewildered. He could not think of birth in any other way except the natural process of conception in a woman’s womb. He reasoned how a man once born in that sense can go through the process again and be reborn. But Jesus was introducing a different kind of birth. It does not come about through conception in a woman’s womb. It does come about when the Holy Spirit enters the human spirit.

This birth does not produce a new flesh but a new spirit. The Holy Spirit invades the human spirit and lifts it out of its corrupt state of deadness in sin into a new state of life in union with God. This is what regeneration is about in the real sense and by it the person who is born of the Spirit is wired to live a justified life; the quality of life that Jesus lived.

Through the disobedience of the first man, Adam, the human race inherited a corrupt spirit by birth. But through the obedience of the second man, Jesus Christ, the human race can also inherit a regenerated spirit by a second birth. The first birth is natural; it comes about through the libidinous strength in human nature. The second birth is spiritual; it is of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ. Whereas the first birth set people on a course of disobedience to God, the second birth set people on a course of obedience to God. The evidence then that the second birth has taken place in an individual’s life is a change from a sinful life style to a godly life style.

So, the primary work of the Holy Spirit in human life is to regenerate the human spirit. After regeneration, the mind has to be lifted from the debased state in which it functioned under the control of the corrupt human spirit. The Holy Spirit therefore proceeds to renew the mind; lifting it from its debased state and aligning it with the mind of Christ. It is obvious then that the goal of the Holy Spirit in renewing a person’s mind is to make the person conform to the image of Christ Jesus who is the express image of God. As the work of renewal progresses in the life, the Holy Spirit unveils Jesus Christ. This revelation transforms the thought pattern and enable the individual develop a godly perspective to life. Through this the value system is profoundly altered and personal preference is switched from everything else in the world to Jesus Christ alone. Everything about the life is thus upset but rightly repositioned in relation to God, people and things. It could therefore be rightly asserted that the major work of the Holy Spirit in human life is the work of regeneration and renewal.

New-birth and perfect conformity to the image of Christ does not take place instantly. There is a life-long process that lies in between. This process requires that the regenerated individual lives in this present evil world. The challenge is to live fully in the world without conforming to it. How can an individual live amidst the corruption in the world without being corrupted by it? The right answer to this question will place the Christian in a tremendously advantaged position to influence the world rather than be influenced by it.

In a bid to overcome the corruption in this world, some advocate a strict adherence to religious principles; don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t wear etc. But such adherence can only produce piousness. A pious person is absolutely devoted to his principles and makes it his god. He can fight for his set of principles and do much havoc in the process. Assuming all the while that the havoc he wrecks for the sake of his principles is good. The Pharisees for example resisted Jesus Christ because His way of life did not align with their religious traditions. In the fight for their tradition they plotted and murdered Jesus Christ under the delusion that they were fighting for God. In contemporary times, we have seen religious sects who define evil and good based on the tradition of their particular religious sect. Anyone who does not conform to their religious traditions is ostrasized, verbally abused and in some extreme cases killed. Asceticism is another way by which some imagine they could escape the corruption in the world. Asceticism is denying oneself material pleasures and comfort as a way of life. As part of self-denial some have subjected their bodies to extreme discipline in order to escape corruption. Yet the world has gotten the better of them despite all that. Some time ago in the late 1980’s, The Daily Concord, a Nigerian newspaper featured the story of a Christian young man, who almost bled to death because he cut off his genitals due to the intense struggle he had with his sexual behavior. Another case in hand is the story of a Monk who sought seclusion from the city where he lived because of the corruption in it. He found an isolated place where he took residence only to return years latter saying; “The corruption I avoided in the city lives in me” . Human efforts are but poor means of keeping pure.

God will have His church live fully in the world, relate freely with it and yet remain pure and free from its corruption. The only way this can be achieved is through the infilling of the Holy Spirit. So Paul, the apostle says “Be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) and his question to the elders of the Church at Ephesus remains a vital one.

“Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” – Acts 19:2

Permit for a moment that this discourse is brought home to you personally. You are doing some Christian work; teaching Sunday school, leading a bible study group, teaching at conferences, writing gospel songs or even leading an assembly as the case may be. Do you think you have received the Holy Spirit in such a way as to be filled with Him, and be led and empowered by Him in your personal life?

“Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he none of his.” – Romans 8:9

To have the Spirit of Christ is to be filled with His Spirit and be controlled by His Spirit. Without this, there is scarcely any identification with Christ. One can belong to a local church or a Christian denomination and not be Christ’s if he or she does not have the Holy Spirit. One can be baptized in water and yet not belong to Christ if he or she does not have the Holy Spirit. Another can be a zealous bible teacher, or occupy an ecclesiastical position and yet not belong to Christ if he or she does not have the Holy Spirit. This matter of identification with Christ is not primarily that of active participation in ‘Christian activities’. It is first a matter of receptivity to the Holy Spirit. The more deeply the need for the Holy Spirit is felt, the larger the receptivity towards Him becomes. God desires to fill His people with the Holy Spirit. The lack of this infilling in Christendom should not be attributed to the will of God but to the receptivity of Christians. The tragedy in the church is that Christians have found a way to get along without any care about the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps there is presently a greater trust in the power of finances than there is in the power of the Holy Spirit. The desire and need for money has displaced the desire and need for the Holy Spirit. With sufficient funds, denominations can now organize programmes and run them with a show of glamour that attracts the crowd and gets them excited. There is little or no care about the spiritual impact of these programmes.

But when Jesus commissioned the church to stand as His witnesses in the world, He did not leave them with a promise of financial abundance to enable them organize glamourous and fantastic programmes. He left them with the promise of power from the Holy Spirit.

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

Effective witnessing does not depend on the believer’s finances but on his or her relationship with the Holy Spirit. A.W. Tozer put it rightly when he wrote:

“In my sober judgment, the relations of the Spirit to the believer is the most vital question the church faces today.”

Today, the blood of Jesus has not lost its power to purify from all sin; neither has the cross lost its power to crucify the flesh. The resurrection power of Christ has also not lost its potency to produce spiritual life and power. The spiritual decline that is so evident today is the direct result of neglecting the Holy Spirit. For it is the Holy Spirit that makes everything Christ has done real in the Christian. Crucifixion with Christ and resurrection with Him into newness of life will remain mere abstract notions without the work of the Holy Spirit. All that Christ accomplished in His death and resurrection will be mere fancies to anyone without the Holy Spirit. Do you still wonder why things are the way they are in the church today? Do you still wonder that there is a plethora of Christian activities in almost every city ironically accompanied with an increasing moral decline and godlessness in those same cities?

If radical witnesses will rise up with the revolutionary testimony of Jesus, then the vital lesson for them will be how to receive the Holy Spirit and have Him work in and through them. Several things have been said on the subject of receiving the Holy Spirit. Some have said the reception of the Holy Spirit depends on something the recipient must do. But the truth is no one can do anything that will be sufficient to earn anything from God. The Holy Spirit is received by faith as a free gift on the bases of Christ’s accomplished work on the cross.

“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” – Galatians 3:13-14

“This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” – Galatians 3:2

“He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” – Galatians 3:5.

If this generation of believers will wield the power of the Holy Spirit by which the apostles lived and witnessed to Christ, there must be a full scale return to the faith the apostles preached. It must be a return to the faith which; fixes the heart on Jesus Christ and nothing else, the faith which esteems the word of God to be more precious than gold that perishes, and turns the eyes away from things temporal to things eternal. It is only through this faith that the Holy Spirit can be received.

Apart from the primary work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and renewal, the Holy Spirit also makes believers witnesses to Christ and intercedes on their behalf.

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” – Romans 8:26

The word translated witness from the original Greek is Martus, which also means a martyr. A martyr is someone who suffers and dies because of his or her beliefs. It would be slightly out of place to say that no one can be a martyr without the power of the Holy Spirit. There are martyrs of other faiths who do not have the slightest experience of the power of the Holy Spirit. Anyone with enough grits can become a martyr. But becoming a martyr for Christ’s sake is quite different from the general sense of it. It means to:

This is what Jesus had in mind when He said “You shall be my witnesses” . No one can live for Christ by shear human courage and determination. It takes a lot more than what any human can afford to live for Christ. One only has to read through Christ’s Sermon on the Mount to realize that living up to the instructions laid out there will take something much more than human ability. Except a person is apprehended and empowered by the Holy Spirit, living for Christ is impossible. Then again, it takes the life that is lived for Christ to hold firmly to His testimony and proclaim it publicly. No one can hold fast to the testimony of Christ and proclaim it publicly without first living for Christ and no one can live for Christ without the power of the Holy Spirit. The person who through the power of the Holy Spirit is living for Christ, holding firmly to the testimony of Christ and openly proclaiming it is most likely ready to suffer and die for the testimony of Christ whenever the summons come. This is what it means to be a witness and that is what the Holy Spirit makes of true believers. The history of Christianity is replete with the stories of men and women who were enabled by the Holy Spirit to stand as witnesses to Christ. The wonder in the lives of these men and women has been the marvelous capacity for perseverance they displayed in the face of acute suffering and inhumane treatment. Foxes Book of Martyr written by John Fox will be a good read for anyone who cares to search out the details.

Also, the Holy Spirit aids believers in the place of prayer. Jesus Christ says that men ought to always pray and not faint (Luke 18:1). In essence, Jesus says that prayer supports faith. Without consistent prayer, the things around the believer’s life; circumstances of life and the way of life in the society among other invisible factors will successfully nullify his or her faith in God.

The world as it is generally, is designed to frustrate the believer’s faith in God and without ceaseless prayer, he or she is likely to sink into discouragement. But if a prayerful attitude is maintained, supernatural strength and wisdom which sustains faith against the odds can be drawn. God has no other means of working for people except through faith. If prayer sustains faith, then prayer makes room for God to work. The Christian sails through the ocean of life in the indestructible liner of faith through ceaseless prayer.

“I have absolutely no doubt that if you are a praying Christian; your faith in God is what is carrying you through the good times and the hard times” – Dr. Ravi Zacharias

Prayer sustains faith in God in an incomprehensible way; it is therefore indispensable to a healthy virile faith. So,

“Pray without ceasing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Jesus’ disciples probably perceived the importance of prayer through the prayer life of Jesus. They came to Him desiring to learn how to pray.

“And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray” – Luke 11:1

Jesus taught them to pray but there was no way they could pray as He prayed except they had what He possessed. Just before His passion, Jesus Christ had called them to pray with Him. Despite all they had learnt about prayer, their weakness or inability to be exercised in the discipline became evident as they slumbered and slept (Matthew 26:36-45). The result of this weakness was that they fell away in the hour of distress. The Lord faced the onslaught of darkness in the strength of the Father alone.

Sometime before Jesus’ crucifixion, the Lord broke the sad news of His imminent departure to His disciples. The disciples were sad but He made it clear that He was leaving for their good. He told them that except He leaves, the comforter, helper, advocate, counselor (all synonyms translated from the Greek word Parakletos) will not come to them. But if He left, He would send the Helper.

“But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” – John 16:5-7

The comforter is the Holy Spirit; He is the One Jesus possessed. He was the secret of Jesus’ consistent prayer life. For Jesus, it is not enough to simply teach His disciples how to pray. He had to make room for them to possess the Holy Spirit so they could pray effectively like He did. Whenever Jesus prayed, He addressed God as Father, indicating a filial relationship with Him. He obviously intended that His disciples should have this same relationship with God because this is the bases of a consistent prayer life. The only way He could establish this relationship was to send the Holy Spirit to His disciples. It is only by the Holy Spirit that they could call God Father.

“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” – Romans 8:15

“And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” – Galatians 4:6

A consistent prayer life begins with a filial relationship with God. What marvelous possibilities are held out to believers in prayer – whatever the Father can do, believers can do by prayer! Jesus says;

“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” – John 16:23

In the order of God, believers are not only enabled by the Holy Spirit to pray, they are also guaranteed the Father’s response. In intercession, the Holy Spirit is needed because Christians do not even know what to pray for.

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” – Romans 8:26

The scriptures tell us that Jesus is now at the right hand of God interceding for the saints (Romans 8:34). We are also told the Holy Spirit makes intercession for the saints. There is a difference between both intercessions. At the right hand of God, Jesus is fulfilling a priestly role for the saints before God. But the Holy Spirit lives in the saints enabling them to fulfill a priestly role here on earth. For the saints have been anointed to reign on earth in the same order that Jesus reigns in heaven i.e. as priests and kings.

“And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Rev 1:6

The saints make intercessions as the Holy Spirit prays through them. In other words the Holy Spirit enables the saints intercede here for people just as Christ intercedes for them at the right hand of God. When the saints groan, in prayer, it is the Holy Spirit making intercession for them with an unutterable expression.

According to the New Testament the body of a believer is the temple of God; the house of God. The Old Testament declares that God’s house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” – 1Corinthians 16:19 “…for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” – Isaiah 56:7

The Holy Spirit inhabits believers’ bodies and makes it a house of prayer for all nations. He lives in them and makes intercession for all nations through them. Jesus in His earthly days offered up prayers with groaning through the Holy Spirit and was heard (Hebrews 5:7). It is a tremendous truth that His followers are doing same by the Holy Spirit and are equally being heard. God’s response to prayer is not dependent on human earnestness or lengthiness in prayer. It is dependent on the Holy Spirit working and praying without hindrance in hearts that trust in Christ Jesus. This kind of prayer can be expressed in articulate words, groaning, other tongues etc. The great thing about it is that it is not of human effort but of the Holy Spirit. The prayer of the Holy Spirit through believers is mighty and efficacious; His prayer through their lips, unspoken thought, tears and groans, bodily motions etc ascends to God. And God who knows what the blessed Holy Spirit is expressing through them is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all they could ever ask or think to His own glory. These and many more are the exclusive benefits of those who believe in Jesus.

Today, right now, Christ is offering to you a life filled, transfigured and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is to the end that you might be separated from the influence of this evil world to live a pure life and stand as a witness to Him. There could not be a better way to conclude this chapter than to implore you to come to Him now and receive this great life of unspeakable blessing. If anyone is athirst, let him come! Amen!




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CHAPTER 6

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
AND VOCATION

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” – Titus 2:11-14

One of the most misconstrued truths today is that which exists between law and faith. Many supposed evangelical teachings present law and faith as being contradictory to each other. The New Testament, especially the Pauline epistles affirm that the Christian life is derived from faith and not the law. However, this does not in any way suggest that faith and law are contrary. Only a twisted understanding of Paul’s epistles will lead anyone to that position.

“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” – Romans 3:31

“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 are 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.” – 2Peter 3:15-16

Law and faith have at least two things in common; both proceed from God and both are holy so they cannot be contrary to each other. But they also have differences in relation to the justification of the human race. The Christian life is liberation through faith from the burden of keeping the law but not a transgression of it. The Christian does not have to strive to keep the law and at the same time does not transgress it. The New Testament teaches that in resting his faith on another who fulfilled the law on his account, the Christian has fulfilled the law apart from his own effort. That one upon whom his faith rest is Christ.

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” – Romans 10:4

The nature of the law is that it is ethical. This simply means its governing principle is moral. It approves what God approves and disapproves what God disapproves. The scriptures are clear about this.

“Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” – Romans 7:12

So the law approves of righteousness and disapproves of sin. It is also completely uncompromising about its ethical standard; it has no room for sympathy with those whose conduct falls below its moral standard. Neither does it withhold its approval for those whose conduct measures up to its moral standard. Hence everyone under it has to earn its approval by measuring up to its standard else they come under its stern and uncompromising condemnation.

Now everyone who comes into this world by natural birth i.e. through the womb is born under the law. The unfortunate thing is that everyone born through the womb and under the law is born with an innate tendency to transgress its holy standard.

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” – Psalms 51:5

The moral situation under the law is that no one can earn its approval. Everyone under it stands condemned because everyone is born with a tendency to transgress its regulations. The problem does not lie with the law but with the people under it.

“For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.” – Romans 7:14

The relationship between the law as an authority and humans as subordinates is a conflict. This conflict arises because humans are sensual and cannot be subject to a spiritual law.

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” – Romans 8:7

In this conflict humans are the offenders and the justice of God cannot but grant the law\s demand for the condemnation of all humans. But God loves the human race; how then can He condemn the object of His love? In His justice, He has to meet the law’s demand for the condemnation of the human race. But in His love, He wants to rescue the human race from condemnation. Condemning the guilty human race is God’s obligation as a just judge. Rescuing the human race from condemnation is not an obligation but an expression of His love and generosity to people who deserve nothing but condemnation. How can God do this without denying the just demand of the law? God’s answer is grace. Grace has to meet the demand of justice for the condemnation of the human race and also save the human race from condemnation. It must unite God’s love and justice in the salvation of humanity. This grace came through Jesus Christ

“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” – John 1:17

After Jesus Christ was born, He was presented at the temple. During the presentation, a man was led by the Holy Spirit to come into the temple, his name was Simon. He took Jesus in his arms and uttered these words:

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation” – Luke 2:29-30

Simon referred to Jesus as God’s salvation and this is profoundly significant. It means Jesus will satisfy the law’s demand for justice and at the same time save humanity from condemnation. Thus Jesus Christ ushers in grace. The name Jesus from the Greek means Saviour.

He is the Saviour of humanity; the one who will save humanity from the condemnation of the law.

But who exactly is Jesus? Jesus asked His disciples this same question about Himself and Peter replied;

“…Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” - Matthew 16:16

Jesus Christ affirmed that Peter’s answer was a revelation from God (of Matthew 16:17). So Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God Amen! The fact that God begat a Son and how He begat the Son is a mystery that can only be accepted by revelation. This revelation comes by revelation of the Holy Spirit in the Holy Scriptures. According to the Scriptures, Jesus Christ was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was born of a woman, was fully human and at the same time possessed the fullness of God. He is fully human and fully God. Jesus is distinct from every other human because His nature is sinless; completely human yet by nature morally separate from all humans. Being born of a woman, He was born under the law. His purpose was to save mankind from the condemnation of the law (Gal 4:4-5).

“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see…Born that man, no more may die” - Charles Wesley

As a human under the law, Jesus Christ did not transgress the law like every other human. He lived up to its requirement. This is because, unlike every other human, He possessed a nature that was not at conflict with the law but in perfect harmony with it. In essence, He did what no human could ever do. Jesus did not fulfill the requirement of the law for His individual benefit. As a representative of the human race, He fulfilled the law on behalf of those under the law who could not measure up to its moral imperative. Does the law require complete obedience? Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled that on behalf of the human race. Does the law require the death of its transgressors? Jesus Christ died on the cross on behalf of the human race who transgressed the law. Therefore the human race has been condemned in the death of Christ and also justified in His obedience to the law. Thus the law’s demand for a just penalty for sin is satisfied and God’s liberal will for the justification of sinful humanity is also satisfied in Christ Jesus. This is the grace of God that brings salvation.

Here the difference between grace and law is easily observed i.e. that the law condemned the human race based on the sin of the human race while faith justifies the human race based on the righteousness of Christ. The free gift of grace that brings justification is given to those who transgressed the law and is accessed by faith. Hence faith is the means of justification for everyone. The law cannot justify anyone because no one can meet its moral requirement.

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight…” – Romans 3:20

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” – Romans 3:23-24

However, the fact that justification is by faith apart from a personal adherence to the law does not give anyone the license to live a lawless life. The justification that comes through faith leads to a life of obedience. Those who are justified by the grace in Christ Jesus are also enabled by that grace to lead a holy life. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ does not only justify but also regenerates the heart. It teaches people to live righteous and godly lives.

A close look at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount will make it clear that grace is not a license to lawlessness. There really is nothing in the teachings of God’s grace that encourages people to live below the moral standard of the law. On the contrary, it holds out a standard that no human can meet without the ability of God. And rightly so! Grace is the ability of God in Christ Jesus that works in the human heart leading to pure motives and holy conduct. Grace not only prohibits wrong conduct, it purifies the heart from the motives that lead to it. Hence Jesus Christ expects those who receive grace to live up to a standard that is beyond the requirement of the law. If the law says thou shall not commit adultery, grace goes beyond the act to purify the heart. Thus the recipients of grace are not only expected to refrain from the act, they are expected to abstain from the desire that leads to the act. Same thing applies to murder; beyond refraining from the act, Jesus expects that those who are freely justified by grace should not so much as entertain hatred, bitterness, anger, envy or any condition of heart that will lead to the act. Those under the law only observe rules that avail nothing in changing the innate corruption in the human heart. On the other hand, the recipients of grace look to Christ who regenerates the heart and purifies it from its corrupt intents.

The Sermon on the Mount is not meant for people with unregenerate hearts who pursue righteousness by observing external rules. It is meant for those who seek righteousness with hearts that are purified as they live by faith in Jesus Christ; trusting entirely on Him. If grace can purify the heart through faith then this purity must be reflected in conduct. Those who are born of God through the grace that regenerates the heart must also conduct themselves in a manner worthy of God. Like the French saying goes ‘Noblesse Oblige’ meaning nobility obliges i.e. people of noble birth are under obligation to behave honourably. Likewise, those who have been regenerated through grace are under obligation to order their conduct in a manner that is worthy of God. There are no extenuations from this obligation. Grace gives the ability to live up to the obligation as it is accessed by faith.

“As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” - 1 Thess 2:11

What then is the purpose of living a life that is worthy of God through faith? In a world that is plagued with a godless culture, a godly life will serve no other purpose than to represent God and bear witness to Christ who reconciled everyone to God. The strongest argument for the power of Christ to change the human heart is not in theological debates, not even in miraculous deeds. It lies in the simplicity of an enduring godly life. If the vocation of all Christians is to bear witness to Christ in this world, then the motivation in all pursuits should be to live righteously, soberly and godly in a godless society.

In the previous chapters of this book, the blessings of repentance, forgiveness, justification, sanctification and the gift of the Holy Spirit have been discussed. These blessings are not meant for mere analysis. They enable Christians to live godly lives in this world as a testimony to the saving grace of God in Christ Jesus.

Dear Lord let it be granted to us through the grace in Christ Jesus to live righteously and godly in this present world. Grant also that through the vehicle of a godly life, we may accurately declare your thoughts in the gospel.

We ask this so that we may see your power in the gospel and your glory in the salvation of sinners. Amen!




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The End