A Circumcised Heart

The Lord gave Moses and Aaron further instructions in regard to strangers and servants desiring to keep the Passover, that all the males must be circumcised. This is why circumcision was such a hot topic in the early church discussion in regards to expectations placed upon gentile believers. Paul resolved the issue in Romans chapter 2:28 & 29: for he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God. Note the clear symmetry between the two verses right up to in the spirit and not in the letter. But then Paul adds this final clarification; whose praise is not of men, but of God. When our heart is circumcised, we can say like Paul:

For do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. Gal 1:10.

But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men but God, which tries our hearts. 1 Th 2:4.

Some translations change this to “God, who tries our hearts”. Granted, He certainly does do this, but the point Paul is making is that the test of a circumcised heart is to put ourselves to this question, am I pleasing men or God. This is the issue which tries our hearts.

Twice Paul makes an interesting statement in 1 Co 1:31 and 2 Co 10:17, “let them that glory, glory in the Lord.” The statement suggests that he is quoting a verse from the Old Testament. In actuality, let them that glory, glory in the Lord is a paraphrase of a passage from the prophet Jeremiah. Paul is not so much attempting to teach a lesson here, but to stir up their minds by way of remembrance. By mentioning this he is calling to mind something he no doubt taught on extensively while in Corinth. Why do I say this?  Paul’s stay in Corinth is chronicled in Acts chapter 18, and verse 4 says that he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. Then he receives from the Lord in a vision by night “be not afraid but speak and hold not thy peace, for I am with you and no man shall set on you to hurt you, for I have much people in this city.” Vs. 9 & 10. And then verse 11 tells us that he continued there for 18 months, teaching the Word of God among them. So let’s look at the text from Jeremiah that Paul would have been teaching from to apply this paraphrase he uses “to glory in the Lord.”

Thus saith the Lord, let not the wise glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty glory in his might, let not the rich glory in his riches: but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord. Jeremiah 9:23 & 24.

Now let’s jump back over to 1 Corinthians chapter 1:26-29; for you see your calling brethren how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of the world and things which are despised God has chosen, yes and the things which are not to bring to naught things that are; that no flesh shall glory in His presence.

Try to set aside the obvious inference that the church is made up of foolish, weak, base and despised members and hear the echo of Jeremiah 9 in this passage. So what was Paul teaching on by using Jeremiah 9 as his text? Let’s continue through the final two verses:

Behold, the days come says the Lord, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised, Egypt and Judah and Edom and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart. Jeremiah 9:25.

In the time of Jeremiah, all the people of Israel had become blind to God’s Word. For Paul wrote in 2 Co 3:15-17; even unto this day when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it (the heart) shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

The blindness of the uncircumcised heart is a paramount issue. For the Lord has set a day when the veil will be lifted from the hearts of Israel.

This will be an opportunity to look at the first of the mysteries of God Paul speaks about in 1 Co 4:1 & 2; let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.

In order to be a faithful steward, a man must know what these mysteries are to which Paul speaks.

For I would not brethren that you should be ignorant of this mystery, less you should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. Romans 11:25.

 

Not Signs of the End

People often speak of “war and rumors of war”,  as well as global disasters as being signs of the end time. I would ask you today to look with fresh eyes and consider the Lord’s heart in this regard.

And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to Him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. Matthew 24:1.

At the end of a busy day, Jesus and his disciples find a quiet place, and they simply comment on the view of the temple mount. The Lord surprises them with a very precise and shocking prophecy.

And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. Verse 2.

Jesus has mentioned a few times that He would face rejection and death in Jerusalem, but now He speaks of God’s soon judgment on the city and they immediately make a jump in their own minds that this pertains to the end of the age.

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?  Verse 3.

Of course we know that most of the Lord’s followers would have lived to see the destruction of the temple, this event was not a herald of the end times. While the questions reveal what was on their hearts, only the Lord’s answers can show us His priorities.

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.  Verse 4.

Now if we pause here in the discourse and ask the question, “what do you think was the Lord’s primary concern regarding the subject of signs and the end of the world? Your answer should be that He was concerned with deceptive teachings that would come forth in this regard. Did He not once say this concerning signs:

A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign. Matthew 16:4.

He continues the discourse by elaborating on the subject of deceptions, not signs.

For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. Verse 5.

To be clear here, the Lord is not talking about anyone claiming to be the Messiah. Anyone who comes “in His name”, are claiming to be legitimate ambassadors speaking on His behalf. The claim “I am Christ”, should be translated: “I am anointed”, because christos means anointed, and this is a claim that every false teacher, preacher and prophet is making these days. This is not a sign of the end times, this is a caution for the wise follower to avoid being deceived.

And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. Verse 6.

These words “the end is not yet” should be enough to convince you that quoting “wars and rumors of wars” as if to imply that the end of the age is upon us is to greatly discredit your understanding.

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. Verse 7.

Yada, yada, yada….

All these are the beginning of sorrows. Verse 8.

Now this is something to consider. This expression of early birth pangs says a lot about being misinformed. Most people know that you don’t rush to the hospital with the first contractions of birth. Couples are coached to time contractions to be sure that labor has begun. However, there is still occasions were an expectant mother is rushed to a hospital, only to return later that evening saying; “false alarm”. A good possibility  is that greater awareness avoids reacting inappropriately to the beginning of sorrows.

And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. Verse 11.

Again with the warnings and concerns over being deceived.

And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. Verse 12.

This verse uses the word agape for love and therefore cannot be interpreted as a state of the world we live. Only believers can know the agape love of God, and only believers can lose their “first love” and fall away due to lawlessness(iniquity) within the church. This is why Jesus now says:

But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Verse 13.

This may not mesh with the once saved always saved doctrine, but Jesus said it, not me.

There is two verses I will now post for consideration on this topic.

And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until “the times of the Gentiles” are fulfilled. Luke 21:24.

Notice that this is the “the end of the age” for the Gentiles, and the sovereignty of Jerusalem is a legitimate point of inquiry.

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Romans 11:25,

Again with the Gentiles in the age we now occupy. With a growing number of Jews in Israel who see the historical Jesus (Yeshua) as the Son of God and Messiah, we draw closer to a true remnant in the promised land. Another reality worthy of attention.

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.         Matthew 24:24.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every Word of God

Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him.  Psalm 105:19.

There is an unction upon every word of God for man to live by and receive empowerment from for victorious living.

And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.  Luke 4:4, Deut. 8:3.

To access this divine power, we first enter into a relationship with the “author of life” by faith.

What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.  Romans 9:30-32.

Once we receive the word in the spirit of truth, we have access by acts of obedience.

Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  James 2:18.

We see this as a clear example in the life of John the Baptist. His anointing flowed directly from Isaiah 40:3;  “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.” The Lord described him as the greatest of prophets. And yet, when he came out of the wilderness and went to Jerusalem and condemned a king’s behavior, he found himself in prison. From there he sent word to the Lord, “are you the one who was to come, or should we expect another.” This crisis of faith came upon one who had declared “behold the Lamb of God” and bore witness to Him receiving the Spirit from heaven. Jesus replied to him: “blessed is whoever is not offended in me.” Please read the John the Baptist trilogy in this blog for more on this narrative.

Whenever I engage in a study of the word of God, I keep my faith centered on the words of Christ found in Matthew 13:

Then said He unto them, Therefore every scribe  instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like a man that is a householder, which brings forth out of his treasure things new and old.  Matthew 13:52.

When I am struggling, I find inspiration from this proverb:

It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter. Proverbs 25:2.

Whenever we minister to one another, we must always rely on the gifts of the spirit, even more so interacting with the world. I could never have survived managing the intake at a rescue mission without the gift of discerning of spirits. 1 Co 12:10.

To engage in any type of outreach or street ministry without an anointing is a formula for failure, if not disaster. God has not called us to do anything that He has not empowered and equipped us for in Christ. Until your word has come, expect to be tried by the word of the Lord.

Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him. James 1:12.

The Sure Mercies of David

The third everlasting covenant is also the most important to the church for the unity of the faith and the gospel to the gentiles. Isaiah made this proclamation:  incline your ear and come unto me, hear and your soul shall live and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the steadfast love I promised unto the house of David. Isaiah 55:3.

This promise is found in 2 Samuel: when your days are fulfilled and you sleep with the fathers, I will set up your seed after you and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for my name and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever, and I will be his Father and he will be my son. If he commits iniquity I will chasten him with the rod of men and stripes of the children of men. But my mercy will not depart from him as I took from Saul who I removed before you. 2 Samuel 7:12-15.

These glad tidings are preached to the church in Acts 13.

And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God has fulfilled the same unto us their children in that He has raised up Jesus again, as it is written in the second psalm, You are my Son, this day have I begotten you, (Psalms 2:7.) And as concerning that He raised him up from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He said: “I will give you the sure mercies of David.” Acts 13:32-34.

The covenant of the sure mercies of David is a covenant of parental correction unto the perfection of obedience. What you have done is not what is important but how you respond to God’s correction. We must look for his approval in all things. This doctrine is discussed in Hebrews 12 and is based on 2 Samuel 7.  For whom the Lord loves he chastens and scourges every son whom he receives. Hebrews 12:6.

Consider this house of David known as Ephrathites. Ephrathah was a Hebrew woman who became the wife of Caleb, the faithful servant to Moses. Caleb was not a Hebrew, but is identified as a Kenizzite.  Caleb was granted the region of Hebron by Moses for his faithful witness with Joshua after the scouting expedition. David’s grandmother was Ruth the Moabite. The city of Bethlehem Ephrathah was the city of Joseph and the birthplace of the Messiah. David ruled from Hebron for seven years until the elders of Israel came and acknowledged him as their king. The line of Caleb is listed in the Chronicle genealogies with the tribe of Judah by a process known as grafting in, the same terminology Paul uses in Romans 11 to describe the gentile relationship to natural Israel. Through the house of David the wall of partition between Jew and gentile is broken down and finds fulfillment in Christ Jesus. For all the promises of God are yes and amen in Christ. (2 Co 1:20.)

Behold, you shall conceive and bring forth a son and shall call him Jesus. He shall be exalted and called the Son of the Highest and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Luke 1:31-33.

For unto us a child is born unto a son is given and the government shall be upon his shoulder…. Of the increase of his government and peace no end upon the throne of David…the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. Isaiah 9:6&7.

The one true church is the house of David and the Lord Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of the throne of majesty to fulfill all righteousness. Peter informs us that heaven has received Him until the restoration of all things spoken of by all the holy prophets since the world began. (Peter’s sermon from Acts 3:12-26.) The restoration of all things refers to the throne of David in Israel. This process will not be complete until the end of the final day (1000 years).

And I will set up one shepherd over them and he shall feed them, my servant David, he shall feed them and he shall be their shepherd. And I the Lord shall be their God and David a prince among them. I the Lord have spoken it and I will make with them a covenant of peace. Ezekiel 34:23-31.

And David my servant shall be king over them and they shall all have one shepherd over them…and they shall dwell in the land I have given to Jacob my servant… and David shall be their prince forever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant…and I will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. Ezekiel 37:24-28.

The covenant of peace (berit shalom, also translated covenant of friendship), was originally bestowed on the house of Phineas, the son of Eleazar, in Numbers 25:10-13; and will be granted to all Israel, in Israel, at the end of the age.

Now consider the most referenced Old Testament passage in the New Testament to bring all this to a fine point. In the gospels Jesus proposes the question concerning the Christ: Whose son is he? The teachers responded that he is the son of David. Jesus then silences them with this statement. How is it that David in spirit calls him Lord saying The Lord said unto my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool (Psalm 110), if David calls him Lord, how is he his son? Matthew 22:41-46. This Psalm is also referenced by Peter in Acts 2:33-35. In the letter to the Hebrews we find another reference. But this man after he had offered one sacrifice for sin forever sat down at the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting until his enemies are made his footstool. Hebrews 10:12-14. Most importantly, follow Paul’s explanation of the final restitution of all things.

Then comes the end when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For He has put all things under his feet. But when he says all things are under him it is clear that the exception is He that put all things under him. And when all things are subdued under him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto Him that put everything under him, that God may be all, in all. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28.

Note that the Son is subject to God the Father. The perceived equality between the Son and Father is based on the equality of granted authority. This is foreshadowed in Genesis 41 pertaining to the relationship between Joseph and Pharaoh. “You shall be over my house and according unto your word shall all my people be ruled, only in the throne will I be greater than you.” Genesis 41:40-44. To serve Joseph was to serve Pharaoh, to dishonor Joseph was to dishonor Pharaoh. Compare this to the self-testimony of Jesus in John 5.

For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son; that all should honor the Son as they honor the Father. He that does not honor the Son honors not the Father who sent him. (Doctrine of Christ). John 5:22&23.

This is the final restitution of all things spoken of by the prophets by the Spirit of Christ that was in them. The time of the gentiles will soon be fulfilled as the fullness of the gentiles is a finite point in time. The end of the age and the new heaven and new earth and the everlasting righteousness of the kingdom of God and Christ comes after all his enemies are under his feet, and the final enemy is death. In the millennial kingdom of the house of David, people live long prosperous lives, but not eternal lives. One who dies at 100 will be as if a child, but a sinner of 100 years will know they are cursed. Isaiah 65:20.

During the 1000 year reign the law of God will be enforced from Jerusalem and the word of God will come forth from mount Zion. Isaiah 2:3. And after these 1000 years there will be one final rebellion. Sin will continue during the millennium and will be dealt with by the law. Satan will be bound and man will know that there is a sin nature in him that cannot be blamed on “the devil made me do it”. Sinners will chafe under the law of God for 1000 years. This is foreshadowed in the Old Testament, for after the glorious 40 year reign of Solomon, a kingdom like no other on earth, the people rebelled, complaining of the severity of his reign.

The sinners in Zion are afraid, fearfulness has surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burning?  Isaiah 33:13-17. 

These everlasting covenants are without respect of persons. The terms are final. For men in truth swear by one greater, and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Hebrews 6:16. This refers to the role of Jesus Christ as the mediator between God and man. When the terms of the mediation are accepted, there is no more negotiations. Any other gospel is cursed.

Now the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the everlasting covenant make you perfect in every good work to do His Will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20&21.

Memorial of the Firstborn

The Lord spoke unto Moses; sanctify unto me all the firstborn…remember this day you came out of Egypt, for the Lord brought you out with a strong hand, therefore you shall not eat with leaven….for seven days…and you shall tell your son in that day “This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when he brought me out of Egypt.       Exodus 13:1-8, abbrev.

And it shall be for a sign unto you upon your hand and for a memorial before your eyes that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt. Exodus 13:9. 

After destroying all the firstborn males of Egypt and sparing Israel, both of man and beast, the Lord claims all the firstborn males who open the womb as His own possession. To eat bread without leaven for seven days is to acknowledge what God sanctifies unto Himself as an ordinance forever.  These commandments are for a memorial to the strong hand of the Lord in our life, to direct our actions in accordance with His ways, not our own ability.

And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, what is this?  You shall say unto him, with a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, the house of slavery…..therefore I sacrifice to the Lord every male that opens the womb but all the firstborn of my children I redeem. Exodus 13:14, 15. The Lord displays His strong hand in judgment against the strength of man as a display of sovereignty. “For the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Co 1:25. This perception of man invested in the first born male is clearly understood in the words of Jacob in his final blessing upon his sons in Genesis 49.

Reuben you my firstborn, my might and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power. Gen 49:3. The might of man is restricted by the curse of Cain. So much emphasis is placed on diet to maximize the might (koakh) of man, but the earth itself sets a bound. “When you till the ground it shall not henceforth yield unto you her strength (koakh), a fugitive and a vagabond shall you be in earth.”   Genesis 4:12.

“The beginning of my strength” is the expression of a man’s virility. He smote all the firstborn in their land, the chief of all their strength. Psalm 105:36.

On the other hand, God displays His might and the beginning of His strength in creation. Lift up your eyes on high and behold who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by names by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power, not one fails. Isaiah 40:26.

Moreover, this perception of the firstborn male is an expression of the pride of man. In this context, the Lord invests Israel before the witness of Pharaoh (the false man-god) with a severe warning: And you shall say unto Pharaoh, thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, my firstborn, and I say unto you; let my son go that he may serve me, and if you refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay your son, your firstborn. Exodus 4:22&23.

The priesthood had become exclusive to the tribe of Levi after the golden calf incident, and as a result, they took the place of the firstborn redeemed of the Lord in Numbers chapter 3. Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that opens the womb from among the children of Israel, therefore the Levites shall be mine because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast, mine shall they be: I am the Lord. Numbers 3:12 & 13. The census established the number of Levite males qualified to serve with Aaron in the priesthood, the sons of Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.  The census of the firstborn males totaled 273 souls above that of the qualified Levite males, and these were redeemed by a five shekel per man redemption price.

Take heed to understand that the church is not exclusive to firstborn males of natural childbirth, but the number establishes a limit to the fullness. God has taken for Himself the firstborn as a reflection of the fact that the Son of God is the firstborn of all creation. Thus Hebrews 12:23 refers to the general assembly and church of the firstborn.

In modern day Israel, the government mints a five shekel commemorative coin that can be purchased for a family who has a son as the firstborn, by natural childbirth. Family restrictions in some countries, birth control, abortion and cesarean birth all restrict the number of firstborn males who open the womb, and the church of the firstborn (Hebrews 12:23). For Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the gentiles until the time of the gentiles be fulfilled. Luke 21:24. As well the blindness of Israel shall only continue until the fullness of the gentiles be come in. Romans 11:25. Anyone who has been a faithful steward of the mysteries of God is well aware of this from the scriptures.

To what end is all of this concern for the firstborn, what is the Logos of God revealed to us? The Father has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who has delivered us from the power of darkness and has translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the FIRSTBORN OF EVERY CREATURE, for by Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created by Him and for Him and He is before all things and by Him all things consist. And He is the Head of the body, the church who is the beginning the FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD, that in all things He may have the preeminence. Even the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints, to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:12-27.

One of the clearest statements of what it means that Jesus Christ, the Son of God is The Logos from the foundation of the cosmos. 

We have now listed two of the mysteries of God which Paul speaks, and we are to be faithful stewards. As to the Christ being the Logos, compare Colossians 1 to the witness of the elders in heaven speaking in Revelation 4:11; You are worthy O Lord to receive glory and honor and power, for you have created all things and for your pleasure they are and were created.

The Memorial of Passover for the strangers and servants

The Lord gave Moses and Aaron further instructions in regard to strangers and servants desiring to keep the Passover, that all the males must be circumcised. This is why circumcision was such a hot topic in the early church discussion in regards to expectations placed upon gentile believers. Paul resolved the issue in Romans chapter 2:28 & 29: for he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God. Note the clear symmetry between the two verses right up to in the spirit and not in the letter. But then Paul adds this final clarification; whose praise is not of men, but of God. When our heart is circumcised, we can say like Paul:

For do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. Gal 1:10.

But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men but God, which tries our hearts. 1 Th 2:4.

Some translations change this to “God, who tries our hearts”. Granted, He certainly does do this, but the point Paul is making is that the test of a circumcised heart is to put ourselves to this question, am I pleasing men or God. This is the issue which tries our hearts.

Twice Paul makes an interesting statement in 1 Co 1:31 and 2 Co 10:17, “let them that glory, glory in the Lord.” The statement suggests that he is quoting a verse from the Old Testament. In actuality, let them that glory, glory in the Lord is a paraphrase of a passage from the prophet Jeremiah. Paul is not so much attempting to teach a lesson here, but to stir up their minds by way of remembrance. By mentioning this he is calling to mind something he no doubt taught on extensively while in Corinth. Why do I say this?  Paul’s stay in Corinth is chronicled in Acts chapter 18, and verse 4 says that he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. Then he receives from the Lord in a vision by night “be not afraid but speak and hold not thy peace, for I am with you and no man shall set on you to hurt you, for I have much people in this city.” Vs. 9 & 10. And then verse 11 tells us that he continued there for 18 months, teaching the Word of God among them.

Now imagine next Sunday you go to church and your Pastor informs you that a visiting teacher anointed by God will be on hand to minister the word. Oh, and that minister happens to be Paul, or perhaps someone else with the same anointing. Eighteen months later he says, “It’s been a blessed time but the Lord is sending me on my way”. Do you think you might have learned a bit. So let’s look at the text from Jeremiah that Paul would have been teaching from to apply this paraphrase he uses “to glory in the Lord.”

Thus saith the Lord, let not the wise glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty glory in his might, let not the rich glory in his riches: but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord. Jeremiah 9:23 & 24.

Now let’s jump back over to 1 Corinthians chapter 1:26-29; for you see your calling brethren how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of the world and things which are despised God has chosen, yes and the things which are not to bring to naught things that are; that no flesh shall glory in His presence.

Try to set aside the obvious inference that the church is made up of foolish, weak, base and despised members and hear the echo of Jeremiah 9 in this passage. So what was Paul teaching on by using Jeremiah 9 as his text? Let’s continue through the final two verses:

Behold, the days come says the Lord, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised, Egypt and Judah and Edom and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.

In the time of Jeremiah, all the people of Israel had become blind to God’s Word. For Paul wrote in 2 Co 3:15-17; even unto this day when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it (the heart) shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

The blindness of the uncircumcised heart is a paramount issue. For the Lord has set a day when the veil will be lifted from the hearts of Israel.

This will be an opportunity to look at the first of the mysteries of God Paul speaks about in 1 Co 4:1 & 2; let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.

In order to be a faithful steward, a man must know what these mysteries are to which Paul speaks.

For I would not brethren that you should be ignorant of this mystery, less you should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. Romans 11:25.

As we will soon see, the sanctification of the firstborn males directly impacts this timeline of the fullness of the Gentiles. This coincides with a statement made by Jesus in his end times discourse of Luke 21:24, and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

We will speak clearly to the general assembly and church of the firstborn.

Friend of the Bridegroom

After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judea and there He tarried with them with them and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim because there was much water there and they came and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison.    John 3:22-24.

There comes a point in everyone’s ministry when they must make the right decision and abide under the anointing they received for the work they were chosen to do. Two ministries are in the Judean wilderness, both baptizing. This is an awkward situation but nothing bad has come of it, yet. Ultimately questions will be asked and there will be an accountability required of us.

Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John and said unto him Rabbi, he that was with you beyond Jordan to whom you bore witness, behold, the same baptizes and all come to him. John answered and said a person can receive only what is given them from heaven.  John 3:25-27.

This discussion raises more questions than answers and demands a serious pause for consideration. John’s ministry is quickly becoming a lesson for future disciples to draw wisdom. Why does John even still have disciples? And he is now addressed as Rabbi? Notice the way they describe the Lord as “he that was with you”. Why did he not become a disciple of Jesus with the revelation he had received concerning Him?

Jesus did not call John to follow Him as he did His first disciples. John was clearly left to his own devices and now his very purpose is coming into question. He gave his own testimony previously that defined his anointing and purpose, “I am the voice crying out in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord”. What remained for him to accomplish? The Holy Spirit gives us one of the most important lessons we could ever hope for: “you can only receive what is given you from heaven.” Will this become an issue in our walk with the Lord?

You yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that has the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom, which stands and hears him rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice, this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase but I must decrease. John 3-28-30.

We now come to one of the more frequently quoted verses: He must increase but I must decrease. If only that were true, John would have quietly faded into the background. We would say “whatever happened to John the Baptist, he was so prominent at first and then he just seems to disappear from the narrative.”  Oh, that makes sense, once Jesus was baptized he had fulfilled his mission. The only lingering question would be, why did he not follow Jesus? Instead he ceases to be a voice in the wilderness and goes to Jerusalem. Notice the Bible doesn’t say “and the word of the Lord then came again unto John and said, go tell that rascal Herod he can’t have his brother’s wife.”  Maybe he was just bored, but now we find him in prison, his head soon to be placed on a platter.

Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ he sent two of his disciples, and said unto Him are you He that should come or do we look for another?             Matthew 11:2, 3.

This is astonishing! John was informed of God how to identify the Messiah. He witnessed the Holy Spirit descend from heaven in a bodily form and light on Jesus like a dove. He testified, this is the Son of God! And now he asks, “Do we look for another?” He is actually saying, if you are the Messiah, why am I in prison!? Aren’t you supposed to be restoring the kingdom of Israel, aren’t you supposed to restore the throne of David!?

Jesus answered and said unto them Go and show John again those things which you do hear and see.  Mt. 11:4.

Jesus tells John’s followers that the works of Christ speak for themselves. Then he adds another critical word for us to always consider:

And blessed is whosoever that shall not be offended in Me. Matthew 11:6.

This was the Lord’s pointed word to John, are you offended in me? We can never allow our own expectations to distort our understanding of what God has chosen us uniquely to have as a stewardship. John the Baptist teaches us that we can come out from under our anointing, we can walk and speak in the flesh what we believe to be the word of God, even quoting scripture verbatim, and there will be consequences. Condemning Herod was not kingdom business, not the Gospel message that Jesus came for: “to save the world, not condemn”.

Truly I say unto you among them that are born of women there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist, notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Mt. 11:11.

My beloved brethren, abide in Christ, and remain among the least of these.                    Keep a good head on your shoulders!