(We will continue with the teaching on the fruit of the Spirit shortly, but as an intermission of sorts I decided to post this two part teaching. God bless.)
A dangerous wind is blowing through the churches of America, one that threatens to further destroy what little remains. This wind is both insidious and destructive, with far reaching and eternal consequences. It is not a new doctrine, it is not a new teaching, it is old, and notwithstanding a few minor alterations has been racking up a hefty body count since the time of Israel’s exodus from Egypt.
It’s not that the enemy isn’t inventive, but why fiddle with what works? If it’s not broken, don’t attempt to fix it. Although the enemy is well aware of this old adage, it seems the modern day churches haven’t gotten the memo yet.
I am speaking of course, of the doctrine of unrestrained liberty, of experience absent of prudence, of the mentality that once we come to Jesus we can do what we want, when we want how we want, and He still has to save us. Be different? Act different? Speak different? Feel different? Why when we can have the best of both worlds?
The enemy is more than happy to do his part and fuel the fires of unrestrained liberty, by approaching those who still cling to righteousness, who still believe in the standard of God, and pointing to those who claim to be saved and sanctified yet adrift in the sea of this world by having given in to their cravings and saying, ‘see, if they can do it why can’t you?’
When the fox stands outside the chicken coop and proceeds to tell the chickens how sorry it is because they’re stuck in that enclosed space, behind a fence, how horrible their master is for fencing them in from the outside, it’s not because the fox feels empathy for the chickens, but because it knows that it can’t get to the chickens unless it can somehow get them beyond the protection of the fenced in area.
This is how the enemy approaches the children of God many times, pointing out the fact that they can’t enjoy the things the world enjoys, that they can’t participate in the revelry, and frivolity, but it’s not because he feels that we have been shortchanged. On the contrary, the reason the tempter tempts, is that the children of God might be beguiled to come out from under God’s protection and covering by willful sin, and as such be fair game.
When sin is present in the life of the believer, he no longer possesses the armor which repels and quenches the fiery darts of the wicked one. He is in essence defenseless, and becomes easy prey.
‘Why shouldn’t you enjoy the trappings of this life? Surely you’re strong enough to keep from forming an addiction, surely you’re strong enough to keep from getting hooked, and surely you’re strong enough to keep from falling! Remember now, you have liberty!’
This is perhaps the enemy’s vilest and most effective form of attack. He convinces us that we can flirt with sin, that we can flirt with the world, but that we won’t give in, and we won’t succumb. He lulls us into a false sense of self-reliance, wherein we lean on our strength, and consider ourselves invincible. Long forgotten is the admonition ‘let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall’, long forgotten is sovereign warning to flee even the appearance of evil. We gravitate toward the fire, telling ourselves we’re not really getting burned.
‘Sure other men, some who were superstars of Christendom succumbed, sure other men who were well versed in both theology and doctrine fell into sin, but I’m stronger than them, I’m smarter than them, and my will is more steadfast than theirs.’
As previously stated, this is not a new doctrine, this is not a new snare the enemy recently happened upon, it is one he has successfully refined over the centuries, and although it goes by different names, it remains equally dangerous for believers. At a certain point in his ministry Paul the Apostle had to confront it, and attempt to open the eyes of the Corinthian church to the reality that privileges do not guarantee success, nor does a good beginning ensure a good end.
Paul begins his teaching with a history lesson. When we fail to learn from the mistakes of those who came before us, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes, and worse.
1 Corinthians 10:1-6, “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.”
There are many worthwhile lessons for the children of God within this six verse block. Paul is writing to the church of Corinth, a church plagued by sin and vice, a church that has been fractured by division, wherein some claimed to be of Paul, others of Apollos, others still of Cephas, and some of Christ. It was also a church that was chasing after the spectacular, more concerned about satisfying their curiosity, and feigning religiosity, than following after Christ.
The news had traveled of Corinth’s many flaws, and as Paul wrote his letter of rebuke and correction, he also focuses on the topic of unrestrained liberty.
The first thing that Paul did, for anyone attempting to rewrite history, was remind the church of Corinth of some key truths. Men have a tendency to forget, or at least minimize the uncomfortable episodes in their nation’s history, their family lineage, or their own personal lives. From the beginning, Paul wanted to make it crystal clear that he was not about to sugar coat the truth, no matter how much the church of Corinth would have liked for him to do just that.
Paul was a Jew; in fact a Jew who was taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, but his patriotism and lineage did not keep him from speaking the truth.
The first thing that Paul points out is that all of Israel saw the providence, power, and protection of God. They had traveled under the cloud that led them, they had walked through the sea that God parted for them, and they had all been baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
Now why would Paul begin his rebuke here? Because many within the church of Corinth had come to believe that the act of baptism in and of itself was some supernatural experience that ensured their salvation. What Paul was trying to teach them was that baptism, absent of repentance, absent of a new mind and a new heart, was nothing more than taking a dip in a river or a lake. When we are immersed in water baptism, we are immersed into Christ, and there we must remain! It is not the act of being immersed in water that is the beauty of baptism, it is being baptized in Christ, and putting on Christ every day of our journey here on earth.
Romans 6:3-4, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
Galatians 3:27, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
Paul was pointing to the history of Israel and saying to the church of Corinth, your forefathers were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, yet they all died in the desert, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
Any symbol, ceremony, or religious formality that does not have a deep spiritual reality as its foundation, is worthless. Of what value is it to a man to dip himself in a body of water, only to continue being a slave to the sins and vices of this present world? The practice of religiosity absent the nature of Christ in us is as sinful as denying God outright.
Paul continues and reminds the church of Corinth that not only had they been baptized, but their ancestors had all eaten the same spiritual food, and drank the same spiritual drink.
The purpose of a spiritual life is not merely to eat the food and drink the drink of God’s Word, but to live in the holiness and righteousness that the truth produces in us. We are to be fruitful and live in the light; we are to be ready for every good work at any given time; we are to be obedient to the leading of the Spirit; we are to walk humbly with our Lord; we are to bring our lives in their entirety as a sacrifice on the altar of love and truth!
God does not desire for us to merely eat and drink of His Word, but also to produce fruit in accordance with that which we’ve consumed. God takes no pleasure in our reading His Word with regularity, in our singing in the church choir, in our attending service regularly, if after having done these things a new, holy, and fruitful life is not evident in us.
It is in the following sentence, after informing the church of Corinth that all of Israel had eaten and drank the same spiritual food and drink, that Paul makes an astounding declaration:
1 Corinthians 10:4, “For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”
It is no small thing to drink from the Rock! It is no small thing for the Rock to follow you that you might never thirst!
As the Rock followed Israel through the desert after their exodus from Egypt, so too does the Rock follow us today after our exodus from the bondage of sin. If you are thirsty, drink! If you are hungry eat! He is our provision, He is our nourishment!
So taking into account that Israel drank of the spiritual Rock that was Christ, why is it that they died in the desert? What was it that displeased God so?
Although they had partaken of Christ, they did not remain in Christ. A relationship is reciprocal. One cannot have a relationship with a fellow human being or Christ for that matter without implementing the concept of reciprocity. A relationship is a two way street!
John 15:4, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”
A singular experience, no matter how profound, is not enough. We must abide in Christ, that we might bear fruit just as the branch must abide in the vine in order to bear fruit.
Israel of old did not return the love that God had shown them, they did not abide in Him, they did not remain obedient, and so became rebellious and unthankful for all the things that He had done for them.
If ever there was a nation of privilege it is the nation of Israel. The Bible repeatedly tells us that they are God’s chosen people. Yet having been His people, having enjoyed all the privileges of being called the sons and daughters of God, they still strayed, rebelled and disobeyed, and as consequence to their actions suffered much hardship. No, privilege does not guarantee success.
“I was born in a Christian family, I was brought up in the church, I’ve even memorized some key verses, surely this entitles me to receive my inheritance, and be welcomed into heaven.”
No it does not! Nothing entitles us to anything, it is all grace, it is all love, and the only means by which we will traverse the desert of this world, and enter God’s eternal Canaan, is to abide in Him.
I think it is necessary for us to also study one of the root causes of Israel’s rebellion, because it will shed some light on why the modern day churches are in the spiritual condition they are in today. To Be Continued....
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.