Part 8: The Relation of True Spirituality to the Word of God

(The following is the latest installment in our series of articles drawn from Pastor Stam’s classic work on True Spirituality. Since this book never appeared as a series in the Searchlight, many of even our long-time readers may not be familiar with these selections.)


In the Pauline Epistles the human race is divided, by the Spirit, into four classes:

  • The natural man.
  • The babe in Christ.
  • The carnal Christian.
  • The spiritual Christian.

All four of these are referred to in one passage of Scripture (I Cor. 2:14-3:4) and it should be noted that they are classified according to their ability to appreciate and assimilate “the things of God” as revealed in His Word. We quote the passage here in full:

“But the NATURAL man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

“But he that is SPIRITUAL judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

“For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto CARNAL, even as unto BABES in Christ.

“I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

“For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?”


The “natural,” or soulish man is the man we have described in the first chapter of this book; the fallen son of fallen Adam, as he is, without God; his fallen soul dominating his entire being. God says with regard to him, that he “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,” that “they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them” (I Cor. 2:14). This is so even where the simple “preaching of the cross” is concerned, for we read that “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness” (I Cor. 1:18).

This is not intended as a rebuke. It is a simple statement of fact. Man, by nature, does not receive the things of the Spirit, “neither can he know them.” By worldly standards he may be generous and kind, gifted, cultured and refined; he may be possessed of superior intellectual powers, yes, and even be quite religious, but with all this he still remains utterly helpless to comprehend “the things of God.” Why? “Because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14).

“The things of God” must remain completely incomprehensible to the wisest, most religious man on earth until God reveals them to him by His Spirit (I Cor. 2:10) and this is effected only as God imparts the Spirit to him:

“For what man [or, who] knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (I Cor. 2:11).

An animal cannot appreciate “the things of a man,” for the simple reason that he possesses an animal nature, rather than human nature. In the same way man, as he is, cannot understand “the things of God,” unless God imparts to him His nature. Indeed, man cannot even truly understand the animal world, which is beneath him; how could he understand God, who is above him, unless the Spirit of God be imparted to Him?

This explains why otherwise intelligent men fail, no matter how they try, to take in spiritual truths which seem so simple to the child of God; it explains why great intellectual leaders can make such fools of themselves when they begin to discuss “the things of God”; indeed, it explains why even religious leaders can display such abysmal ignorance of spiritual truths so clearly revealed in the Word, for neither intellectual acumen nor religious zeal qualify or enable the natural man to understand the things of God. Man, by nature, can know only “the things of a man” because he has only “the spirit of man” within him (I Cor. 2:11).

In this connection the apostle does not divide the unsaved into classes, for all are equally, because totally, in darkness as to “the things of the Spirit of God.” They may observe and recognize certain facts which give them to feel that they are on the “right track,” but actually they are in such spiritual darkness that they fail utterly to comprehend the things which the Word reveals about God, or to understand and have fellowship with God Himself.

But the apostle does classify the saved into three groups, of which the first to be considered is:


It will be observed that when Paul first came to the Corinthians in their unsaved condition, he proclaimed to them “Christ crucified”:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you…determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (I Cor. 2:1,2).

The reason for this is not difficult to determine. It was by “the death of the cross” that our blessed Lord procured salvation for us, hence it is by “the preaching of the cross” that the Spirit works in men’s hearts to save them. On the cross our Lord paid the just penalty for sin, and the Spirit uses the proclamation of this fact to convict and convert the lost; thus, for a twofold reason the preaching of the cross is said to be the power of God unto salvation.

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (I Cor 1:18).1

“But we preach Christ crucified…unto them which are called, both Jews: and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (I Cor. 1:23,24).

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you…by which also ye are saved…how that Christ died for our sins…that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day…” (I Cor. 15:1-4).

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…for therein is the righteousness of God revealed…” (Rom. 1:16,17).

The “preaching of the cross” then, is what the Holy Spirit uses to save men. Even this message, to be sure, is “foolishness” to them until the Spirit operates within them and causes them to see, but He uses no other. No man in the present dispensation is saved apart from the preaching of the cross. It is only as that message is preached, and the Holy Spirit reveals it to the heart that the child of Adam is begotten anew and becomes a babe in the family of God; a “babe in Christ.”

The “babe in Christ” is not, of course, ready immediately for the “strong meat,” the solid food, of the Word. He could not yet digest these “deep things of God” (Heb. 5:13,14 cf. I Cor. 2:10) but must first be fed on the “milk of the Word” (I Pet. 2:2) the elementary truths of the gospel, by which he was saved and wherein he must learn to stand (I Cor. 15:1,2).

Babes in Christ can hardly be called either “carnal” or “spiritual,” since the things they do and say may be attributed so largely to the fact that they have not yet grown up. They may, however, be “carnally minded” or “spiritually minded” (Rom. 8:6). If “carnally minded,” they will wither and shrivel up, rather than grow, and will become carnal Christians, no longer possessing even the bloom and freshness of youth. If “spiritually minded,” they will blossom and grow from the freshness of spiritual childhood to the vigor of spiritual manhood,

“For to be carnally minded is death;2 but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6).

What is it to be “spiritually minded”? Simply to be vitally interested in the things of God, as revealed in the Word of God. Let man’s criterion of spirituality be what it may; God’s is simply this: How interested is this child of Mine in what I have to say and wish him to do? How much has he grown in the knowledge of it? Thus it is a sincere effort to know and obey God’s Word that produces true spirituality. The Word is the food on which we grow. This is why babes in Christ are exhorted:

“As newborn babes, desire the sincere [pure] milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby” (I Pet. 2:2).

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect [fullgrown] man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

“But speaking [holding] the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:13-15)


How often have we all been reminded of the exhortation of the Apostle Peter: “Desire the sincere [pure] milk of the Word”! But how seldom have these words been emphasized in their relation to the rest of the verse:

“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby” (I Pet. 2:2).

How often have preachers of the gospel used as their motto the words of Paul to the Corinthians: “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified”! (I Cor. 2:2). “Christ crucified,” they think, is the very acme of Christian truth, when in fact it is but the very beginning, the foundation, for the apostle goes on to write in this same passage:

“Howbeit, we speak wisdom among them that are perfect [mature]…” (I Cor. 2:6).

How many there are, even among those who have known Christ for years, who boast about believing the Bible but show little or no desire to understand it! Rather than study to attain to a better understanding of the Word of God and become such as know how to wield “the Sword of the Spirit,” they boast that they have gotten no farther than “the simple things.” To them the Bible is actually little more than a fetish; a mystical book containing many wonderful comforting passages. They give the curses and difficult passages but passing glances and choose for their meditation and discussion only those which “warm their hearts.”

The Bible itself calls such people carnal, or fleshly (Gr., sarkikos). They possess the Spirit, but walk after the flesh, with little interest in learning what the Spirit would have them know. They have been born of God but have not grown. They are not actually babes, for they have been saved long enough to have grown to spiritual maturity, but having failed to grow they must be dealt with “as babes.” It was among such that the apostle determined not to know anything save Jesus Christ and Him crucified (I Cor. 2:2 cf. 3:1-4). The natural man, of course, cannot take in even this. The carnal Christian, like the babe in Christ, can take in the fact that Christ died for him but can digest little more than this. To such the apostle wrote, by inspiration:

“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

“I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (I Cor. 3:1,2).

“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat [solid food].

“For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the Word of righteousness: for he is a babe” (Heb. 5:12,13).


What joy and fellowship there is in gatherings where the newly-saved are present! In the spiritual realm, as well as in the physical, everyone loves a baby! But the joy that fills the hearts of loving parents is turned to bitter sorrow and disappointment if their babe fails to grow. The latter condition is as unspeakably sad and embarrassing as the former is joyous. Just so it is in the realm of the spirit.

The carnal Christian has failed to grow. He continues in a state of protracted infancy. He must be kept exclusively on a milk diet because, though saved for years, he is still unable to “bear” solid food, still “unskilful in the Word” and needing to be taught the elementary things.


Retarded spiritual growth is evidenced in many ways, all of which come under the heading of carnality or fleshliness. The Corinthians, so sternly rebuked for their carnality by the Apostle Paul, are said to have been careless about morals (I Cor. 5:1), puffed up (I Cor. 4:18; 5:2), inconsiderate of each other (I Cor. 6:1-7; 8:1,9,12), stingy (II Cor. 8:6-11; 11:7-9). While possessing the Spirit, they walked after the flesh.

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness.

“Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

“Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.3

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

“Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:19-23).

One of the most marked indications of retarded spiritual growth is self-interest and party strife, as seen in the case of the Corinthian believers. They were spiritually small and petty, so that the apostle had to write them:

“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

“For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos;4 are ye not carnal?” (I Cor. 3:3,4).

It is not without significance that Peter’s exhortation to “newborn babes” to “desire the sincere milk of the Word” that they may “grow thereby,” is prefaced by the words: “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings” (I Pet. 2:1).

Similarly the Apostle Paul writes:

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

“With all lowliness, and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;

“Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

“There is one Body…” (Eph. 4:1-4).

We do well to give heed to these admonitions today, with the professing Church divided into hundreds of denominations. To think or talk in terms of “my church” or “our church,” rather than “the Church”; to consider only self and party, is a sign of spiritual immaturity. It is childish and petty, and sincere believers should grow up from such an attitude.

In connection with this the apostle writes to the Corinthians: “Are ye not carnal and walk as men?” i.e., as other men, in their natural, unsaved state. This aptly sums up the condition of the carnal Christian. He is saved, but walks, in many respects, as the unsaved about him. Put him among a group of unsaved people, and it will be difficult to tell the difference. Fortunately, we are told in II Timothy 2:19 that “the Lord knoweth them that are His,” but this passage goes on to say: “AND, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Thank God, the simplest of believers are no longer “the children of wrath, even as others,” but believers who “walk as men” will surely suffer loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ.


In the physical realm retarded growth may be due to some mishap or may be simply one of the results of the curse, having no direct bearing on the behavior of the parents, and certainly not of the child itself. In the spiritual realm this is not so. God has made abundant provision for every child of God to grow to spiritual manhood, and Paul rebukes the Corinthian believers for not having grown.

The trouble with the Corinthians was that they did not have much of an appetite for the Word; they did not have a passion to know and obey the truth, for the babe in Christ who “desires” the pure milk of the Word will surely “grow thereby.” This was the trouble with the Hebrew believers too, for when the apostle would have gone further into the great subject of Christ as “an high priest after the order of Melchisedec,” he was forced to write:

“Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull [Gr., Nothros, slothful] of hearing” (Heb. 5:11).

And this is precisely the cause of the carnality among believers today.

During World War II there were several occasions when parents came to the writer with letters from their sons in the armed forces, explaining that a code had been arranged by which “Johnny” could let them know to which theatre of the war he had been sent, but that now it was difficult to understand his letter. Together we would sit down and study the letter in detail in an effort to make out exactly what it was that “Johnny” was trying to make his parents understand.

Such interest and concern over a letter from “Johnny”! and appropriately so, but do the majority of believers show such interest in the Word of God to them? Are they as deeply concerned to understand its contents as they would be over a letter from “Johnny”? They are not. They are satisfied with “the simple things,” with knowing only a few passages which “warm their hearts.” This is what is back of their spiritual immaturity and their carnality.


Let us put it down, then, and never forget it: God holds us responsible to grow to spiritual maturity through sincere and diligent study of His Word.

To the newly saved He says:

“Desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby” (I Pet. 2:2).

“Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18).

To those who have been saved for some time He says:

“Ye ought to be teachers” (Heb. 5:12).

To all He says:

“For everyone that useth milk is unskilful in the Word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

“But strong meat [solid food] belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine [Gr., Word of the beginning] of Christ, let us go on unto perfection [maturity]…” (Heb. 5:13-6:1).

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to an fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:14,15).


“But he that is spiritual judgeth [discerneth] all things, yet he himself is judged [discerned] of no man.

“For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:15,16).

From the above passage alone it is evident that the spiritual Christian stands far above the carnal Christian or the babe in Christ—certainly above the natural man—as far as spiritual discernment is concerned. He discerns all things, yet none can discern him, for he is spiritually above them. “For who,” asks the apostle, “can understand the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him?”

Through diligent, prayerful study of the Word, and with a sincere desire to obey it, the spiritual man has come to understand God and to know His Son more and more intimately. Babes in Christ and carnal believers cannot “judge” or “discern” him, simply because they have not come to know God as he. But he, having grown to spiritual maturity, quite understands them, for he has “the mind of Christ.” He is among those of whom it is written:

“But strong meat [solid food] belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14).

Thus there is a great difference between the mere child of God and the man of God. The immature child of God can digest the milk of the Word and pass that on to others, but he must necessarily come far short of God’s will for him. But of the man of God we read:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;

“That the man of God may be perfect [complete] thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (II Tim. 3:16,17).


But what is this “meat,” this “solid food” of the Word? What are these “deep things of God,” this “wisdom,” that Paul proclaimed to the spiritually mature?

The apostle gives us the answer himself when he says:

“Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect [mature]; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery…the hidden…which God ordained before the world unto our glory” (I Cor. 2:6,7).

The “wisdom” which Paul made known to mature believers, then, concerned “the mystery,” the secret of God’s eternal purpose and of all His good news; the most precious and exalted truth in all the Word of God.

The apostle says of this great body of truth that believers are established by it (Rom. 16:25) that God would have His saints know the riches of the glory of it (Col. 1:27) that it knits hearts together in love and gives the full assurance of understanding (Col. 2:2). He calls it “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8) and prays for open doors and an open mouth to proclaim it (Eph. 6:19,20; Col. 4:3,4) and open minds and hearts to receive it (Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21). Naturally, the devil hates it and those who stand for it will, like Paul, have to suffer for it (II Tim. 2:8,9; Eph. 6:10-20) but such suffering is sweet—”the fellowship of His suffering.”

But alas, the vast majority of Christians are too willing to wait until they get to heaven to understand these glorious truths, not realizing that their indifference to the written Word of God will cost them dearly in rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ. How many there are who suppose that the apostle is referring to heaven when he says:

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (I Cor. 2:9).

But Paul does not refer to heaven here. He refers to truths now made known, for he goes on to say:

“But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (I Cor. 2:10).

It is not with respect to heaven, but with respect to the riches of God’s mercy to all under the present dispensation of the Mystery, that the apostle exclaims:

“For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all.

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:32,33).5


We have already seen that it is honest, prayerful study of the Word, not some emotional religious experience, that brings us to spiritual maturity and understanding. But does it not require superior intellectual powers to understand these “deep things of God?” No indeed. Superior intellects of unsaved men are unable to appreciate even the “simple” truths of the Word, for, as we have already seen, “they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14). And as to the mystery, the apostle wrote that it was “revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph. 3:5).

The mystery is not merely something more difficult to grasp intellectually, for the apostle specifically states that it is “not the wisdom of this world” but “the wisdom of God” (I Cor. 2:6,7) and that only by the Spirit of God can it be understood and appreciated. This explains why many of the humblest believers rejoice in the mystery and understand it so clearly, while so many great theologians and religious leaders fail to grasp it and keep confusing it with God’s prophesied program regarding the kingdom of Christ. The mystery is not “hard to be understood” because men are slow of mind to understand, but because they are “slow of heart to believe,” because the devil, who “hath blinded the minds of them that believe not” also seeks to keep God’s people from seeing and rejoicing in the truth of the mystery with its riches of grace, its “one body” and its “one baptism.” This is why the apostle prayed so fervently that the believers to whom he ministered might be given “spiritual understanding” to take in the glorious message he was commissioned to proclaim:

“[I] cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him:

“The eyes of your understanding [Lit., heart] being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling and…the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

“And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe…” (Eph. 1:16-19 cf. Col. 1:9,10,26-2:3).


As we bring this part of our study to a close, a few basic questions are in order.

If carnal Christians “walk as men” rather than as Christ, is the Church today mostly carnal or spiritual? If divisions among believers evidence carnality, is the Church today mostly carnal or spiritual? If the mystery revealed through Paul cannot be appreciated by carnal believers, but only by the spiritual, is the Church today mostly carnal or spiritual?

Here we must be careful, for the best of us must humbly acknowledge that we are as yet far from having attained to full spiritual maturity, and must say with Paul: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect” (Phil. 3:12).

In the light of this shall we not join the apostle in prayer for ourselves and for the whole household of faith, and shall we not add hard work to earnest prayer, that we may indeed stand approved of God, workmen who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth?

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).


Since, as we have seen, an interest in the Word of God and an understanding of it are the first and surest signs of true spirituality, it is evident that the Bible will always have first place in the life of the spiritual Christian.

It is of utmost importance that we understand this, for some who feel themselves quite spiritual give much time to prayer, but little, if any, to the study of the Word. Such have actually fallen for the subtle trick of the adversary to play upon their natural human pride and cause them to exalt self and push God into the background.

In saying this we do not for one moment minimize the importance of prayer, as we will prove when we discuss the subject later on; we only stress the supreme importance of the holy Word of God. In this we are surely Scriptural, for David says, by inspiration:

“For thou hast magnified thy Word above all thy name” (Psa. 138:2).

Of those who would still object and place first emphasis upon prayer rather than upon the Word, we would ask one simple question: Which is the more important, what we have to say to God or what He has to say to us? There can be but one answer to this question, for obviously what God has to say to us is infinitely more important than anything we might have to say to Him. Our prayers are as fraught with failure as we are, but the Word of God is infallible, immutable and eternal.

Yet some, having fallen for one of Satan’s “devices” and feeling quite spiritual about it, are like the talkative person to whom one listens and listens, occasionally nodding his head, but receiving little or no opportunity to “get a word in edgewise.” They do all the talking; God does all the listening.

They expect God to pay close attention to their prayers, but show little interest in His Word.


The place of the Word in the life of the believer is settled once and for all in the inspired record of one of our Lord’s visits to the home of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Commentaries on this passage generally point out that both Mary and Martha had their good points! This, of course, is true, but if we limit ourselves to this observation we rob the account of its intended lesson, for our Lord did not commend both sisters for their “good points.” He reproved Martha and commended and defended Mary with regard to one particular matter.

What, exactly, was Mary commended for? How often she has been portrayed as an example to us to spend more time with the Lord in prayer! But this is missing the point of the passage again. Mary was not praying; she “sat at Jesus’ feet, and HEARD HIS WORD.” She just sat there, drinking in all He had to say. This was “the one essential thing” which Mary had “chosen” and which our Lord said was not to be “taken away from her.” Thus, while prayer and testimony and good works all have their importance in the life of the believer, hearing God’s Word is “the one essential thing” above all others. Indeed, let this “one thing” be given its rightful place and all the rest will follow naturally.

It is granted, of course, that we must even study the Word prayerfully and with open heart, or it will have disastrous, rather than beneficial results, but this only goes to place still further emphasis upon the supreme importance of the Word of God, which we seek, by sincere and prayerful study, to understand and obey.


It must not be supposed, however, that it is enough to use the Bible as a grand book of wonderful sayings from which we may choose what we wish for our inspiration, nor will one who truly realizes that “God hath spoken” ever hold so shallow an opinion of the sacred Scriptures.

“The Word of truth” must be “rightly divided”; for while it is all given for our spiritual profit, it was not all addressed to us, nor written about us. Thus one who truly desires to understand and obey God’s Word will seek first to determine what Scriptures are particularly related to him and will study all the rest in the light of these.

Sad to say, however, there are many who fail to give the Book of God the respect and reverence it deserves. They flip it open at random, let a finger light upon the open page and then read the verse indicated to see if perchance they may find leading from the Lord in that way. And if it doesn’t “work” the first time they try it again and again until it does “work.”

They use “promise boxes” in the same way, on the basis that “every promise in the Book is mine.” A mother begins her day by taking a promise out of the box. She reads: “Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day” (Psa. 91:5). Her brow, wrinkled in apprehension, she murmurs to herself: “Oh dear, I wonder what’s going to happen today!” After further reflection, however, she comforts herself as she remembers that the verse said: “Thou shalt not be afraid”!

They take passages out of their contexts, “spiritualize” them, and give them “private interpretations.” Finding “precious passages” anywhere at all, no matter to whom addressed or when or why, they place their own constructions upon them and claim them as promises of God to them!6 To take isolated statements from the writings of men and use them in such a manner would be considered dishonest, but even Bible teachers do it with the Word of God!

They say: “If it’s in the Bible I believe it!” while even the most superficial examination of the Bible will reveal that it records many lies of men and Satan, that much of it is not addressed to us but to those of other dispensations, and that therefore things commanded in one passage may be positively forbidden in another (E.g., Cf. Gen. 17:14 with Gal. 5:2).

The Word, rightly divided, is of supreme importance to the Church at large as well as to the individual believer, and it is because this fact has not yet been sufficiently recognized that we have not experienced the true, heaven-sent spiritual revival that the Church so sorely needs.

How much is said about “praying down” a revival; how little about the relation of Bible study to revival! In many cases the “revivalist” asks his hearers to raise their hands to indicate how many have spent one hour, one half-hour or fifteen minutes a day in prayer. But when has the reader last heard one inquire how many of his hearers have spent one hour, one half-hour or fifteen minutes a day in the study of God’s Word?


  1. In preaching the cross as good news, we do not, however, know Christ “after the flesh” (Cf. II Cor. 5:16; Heb. 2:9, and see the writer’s booklet: The Preaching of the Cross).
  2. This, of course, has to do with the believer’s experience. It does not mean that the saved may be lost again, but that as far as Christian experience is concerned, carnal mindedness brings death.
  3. Obviously this does not mean that the saved who indulge in these things are therefore lost, for God counts us as perfect in Christ (Eph. 1:6; Col. 2:10). After a similar list the apostle says to the failing Corinthian believers: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed…in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:11). This is why we should desire with all our hearts to please and honor Him.
  4. As though Paul and Apollos were rivals.
  5. The phrase “past finding out” is the very same in the original as “unsearchable” in Ephesians 3:8, where the apostle has been unfolding the mystery of the Body of Christ.
  6. Some time ago the writer received a circular letter from a missionary in Africa, using the following Scripture passage as a heading: “And behold I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land” (Gen. 28:15). The body of the letter contained these words: “During this year of furlough we claim, and have claimed, the above promise….For us, `this land’ is Africa.” Clearly, the passage in Genesis records God’s promise to bring Jacob back to Canaan, not to bring a missionary back to Africa. The missionary may have felt that the promise applied to him in some way but in reality he was perverting the Word and claiming from God a promise which He had not made. See the author’s booklet entitled: Your Faith in God’s Word; Is it Superstitious or Intelligent?

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The Profit of Spiritual Gifts

(A message delivered June 20th, 2005, at the 39th annual Bible conference of the Berean Bible Fellowship in Cedar Lake, Indiana.)

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” (I Cor. 12:1).

Many Christians are uncertain about the precise definition of a spiritual gift. A spiritual gift is a special talent or ability given to men that is separate and distinct from any natural talent or ability they may possess. That is, while we sometimes say that someone has “a gift for music,” this is not what the Bible means when it speaks of “spiritual gifts.”

To define “spiritual gifts,” we need to employ “the law of first mention,” the Bible study principle which states that the first Scriptural occurrence of a word, phrase or idea often defines the word, phrase or idea, and sets the tone for its use throughout Scripture. The first spiritual gift given was the gift of “tongues,” defined for us in Acts 2 as the ability to speak instantly and fluently in a known, identifiable language other than one’s native tongue (Acts 2:4-11). Thus while “a gifted musician” must work very hard to develop his gift, a spiritual gift is a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit that does not require any such development. It is this writer’s conviction that all of the spiritual gifts ceased with the completion of God’s Word, just as Paul predicted they would (I Cor. 13:8-10).

Paul begins his discussion of spiritual gifts with a seemingly unrelated observation:

“Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led” (I Cor. 12:2).

Paul here reminds the Corinthians that they used to be idol-worshipping Gentiles who had a natural propensity to get “carried away” with their idolatry. While on the surface this might seem to have nothing to do with the subject at hand, Paul had observed that the Corinthians had made a god out of their spiritual gifts, and he is pointing out that they were now getting as “carried away” with their gifts as they used to get with their idols. Paul’s warning about this is timeless, for who can deny that even today there is still a tendency among at least some of our Pentecostal friends to get carried away with what they perceive to be their spiritual gifts.

But before we judge the Corinthians or our Pentecostal brethren too harshly, we must remember that Paul also warns us about “covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5). It is not inconceivable that believers who know better than to get carried away with any perceived spiritual gifts might instead be found rendering worship-like attention to “the almighty dollar” and all the material things it can buy. It would behoove each of us to examine our heart to see if we live in the “glass house” of covetousness before we consider throwing stones at Pentecostalists for their idolatrous adoration of imagined spiritual gifts.

“Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed; and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (I Cor. 12:3).

This too is a puzzling statement in light of the context. Why would the Corinthians need to be told that no man speaking by the Spirit would call the Lord Jesus accursed? We believe that it was because of the convincing manner in which He was being called accursed. We believe He was being called accursed in tongues.

Satan is the great imitator of God, mimicking the Almighty on every hand. When God had prophets, Satan had “false prophets” (II Pet. 2:1). When God had apostles, Satan had “false apostles” (II Cor. 11:13). When God’s Spirit indwelt men and caused them to speak in tongues, Satan apparently countered by filling men with evil spirits who also spoke in tongues. These demoniacs spoke fluently and convincingly in foreign languages, but Paul here reminds the Corinthians that the content of their utterances would identify them as men who were speaking by a spirit other than the Spirit of God.

We do not wish to imply from this that the modern gift of tongues is Satanic; in fact, we believe quite the opposite. Since in this dispensation God has “ceased” from giving the gift of tongues, Satan is no longer trying to counterfeit this gift. Since no man today has the miraculous God-given ability to speak in a foreign tongue, Satan is not empowering anyone to do likewise. We believe that the gibberish that passes for the gift of tongues today is nothing more than the emotional product of the religious flesh of men.

“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all” (I Cor. 12:4-6).

Did you notice that Paul here mentions each member of the Trinity? He says that spiritual gifts belong to the Spirit, they are administered by the Lord Jesus, but it is God the Father who works in the recipients of the gifts. Paul’s point here was to try to impress upon the Corinthians how the members of the Trinity worked together in glorious harmony in giving the gifts. This was in stark contrast to the discordant manner in which the Corinthians had received the gifts! There was anything but harmony in the selfish way they were glorying in their gifts or envying the gifts of others. Thus sin was taking the gifts that were designed by God to draw them closer together and using them to drive them further apart.

This is always the effect of sin on everything God gives to draw us closer together. Marriage, for instance, is surely designed by God to bring two people closer together, but every pastor who has done any marriage counseling knows how sin can instead cause marriage to drive two people apart. Human government is also devised by God to draw people together, but who can argue that some of the bloodiest wars that have ever been fought have been civil or revolutionary wars that have pitted brother against brother. Finally, the local church is surely designed by God to bring believers closer together, but we must sadly admit that some of the bitterest acrimony anywhere to be found is present in many a church split. The solution is for believers to give to one another the unconditional grace and acceptance that God extends to us (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13).

“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” (I Cor. 12:7).

The gifts of the Spirit were given to “profit” them spiritually. But it must not be assumed that when God caused spiritual gifts to cease that He left the Body of Christ without a resource for our continued spiritual profit. In II Timothy 3:16, Paul tells us that “all Scripture…is profitable.” The “profit” afforded to the Corinthians by their spiritual gifts is now provided to believers by the Word of God. This is why the cessation of spiritual gifts coincided with the completion of the perfect Word of God.

We see a vivid illustration of this in the miraculous “pillar” that led Israel through the wilderness to the promised land. The pillar is last mentioned when they were camped within sight of Canaan. Having led them through the wilderness, it seemed that the purpose of the pillar had expired, and so it was of course withdrawn. However, can it really be said that the people of Israel no longer needed guidance from God as individuals and as a nation? Certainly not! This is why the pillar was not just withdrawn, it was replaced in a symbolic as well as a literal way by the Word of God. The pillar was last seen “over the door of the tabernacle” (Deut. 31:15). Nine verses later Moses “finished” the Book of the Law and put it inside the tabernacle in the ark of the covenant (Deut. 31:24-26). From that time forward, the people of Israel no longer followed the supernatural pillar, but rather followed the ark which contained the Word of God to them through Moses. Wherever the ark moved, the people were to follow (Josh. 3:3,6,8,14-17). This was God’s symbolic way of teaching them that they would no longer be led by a supernatural manifestation, but instead by the written Word of God.

And so it is with the spiritual gifts. When God withdrew the spiritual gifts, He left us not without means of spiritual profit. He rather replaced the spiritual gifts with Paul’s epistles, the Word of God to us today. In the writings of Paul we find all we need to guide and “profit” us in the dispensation of Grace.

“For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit” (I Cor. 12:8).

Some in Corinth were given a supernatural gift of wisdom, similar to that given to Solomon, but little evidence need be presented to prove that no man today has a supernatural gift of wisdom! But if believers today seeking wisdom cannot turn to a man endued with the gift of wisdom, where can they turn? To the Word of God! Paul says that “we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery” (I Cor. 2:7), and prayed that God would give unto us “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph. 1:17).

This “spirit of wisdom” is given to us not to puff us up with knowledge, but so that we might do something with it. God gave select men in Israel “the spirit of wisdom” (Ex. 28:3) to assist them in designing Aaron’s garments, and building the tabernacle that was to be the dwelling place of God (Ex. 31:3ff). Similarly, God gives us the spirit of wisdom not to puff us up with pride but to build up the Body of Christ, the present dwelling place of God (I Cor. 3:17; I Tim. 3:15).

We must pause here in our examination of these individual gifts to submit that there is an order to the list of gifts as a whole. Paul begins with the spiritual gift that is of greatest esteem in God’s eyes, and ends with the gift that He esteemed least. That is, he begins with the gift of wisdom and ends with the gift of tongues (v. 10). But when Paul devotes an entire chapter to the Corinthian misuse of tongues (ch. 14), it is not difficult to conclude that the Corinthians had reversed this God-ordained order and had esteemed the gift of tongues above all others.

Incidentally, this helps us understand Paul’s peculiar statement in I Corinthians 6:4, where he tells the Corinthians that rather than taking one another to court they should “set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.” Far from instructing them to allow slow-witted or unspiritual men to settle their important disputes, Paul is rather reminding them that they had men with the gift of wisdom in their midst who could be called upon to resolve their legal disagreements. We know this because Paul goes on to say,

“I speak this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?” (I Cor. 6:5).

It was a “shame” that the men with the gift of wisdom were “least esteemed” among them, but it was a fact. It is likewise a shame that today the imitation gift of tongues is held in higher esteem than a knowledge of the “mystery, even the hidden wisdom” (I Cor. 2:7), but this too is a sad fact.

The next gift on Paul’s list is the gift of “knowledge” (I Cor. 12:7), and speaks of a knowledge of God’s Word. Thankfully, although the gift of knowledge has been withdrawn, a knowledge of God’s Word is still available to God’s people through diligent study of Scripture. However, if indeed this list is given in order of priority, it should be pointed out that knowledge here takes second place to wisdom in God’s eyes. Many Christians feel that knowledge of God’s Word is the pinnacle to which we should aspire, but in the mind of God wisdom, the application of Bible knowledge, is “the principal thing” (Prov. 4:7).

“To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit” (I Cor. 12:9).

The mountain-moving gift of faith of which Paul speaks here and in I Corinthians 13:2 reminds us of the mountain-moving kind of faith that the Lord said was needed to cast out devils (Matt. 17:18-20). Demon possession was still a problem around the time of the writing of I Corinthians (cf. Acts 19:15,16), and so the gift of faith enabled the Corinthians to cast out devils and serve the Lord in other ways that were specific to that day and time in God’s program. While there is no supernatural gift of faith available to men today, Paul says that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). In the measure that we study God’s Word and believe it, in that measure we will be able to serve God in ways that are specific to our day and time in God’s program, such as proclaiming His Word by faith (II Cor. 4:13) and using “the shield of faith” to quench “all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Eph. 6:16).

The gift of “healing” enabled a man to heal “every one” who was sick (Acts 5:16). When the so-called “healers” of today cannot demonstrate this same complete mastery over disease, they force us to conclude that they do not have a God-given gift of healing.

However, there is a healing ministry in which our Lord was involved in which believers today can happily participate. We read that the Lord was sent to “heal the brokenhearted” (Luke 4:18), and this is a ministry to which every believer should aspire. This writer recently officiated at the funeral of a Christian man who took his own life. We could sense that some of his mourners believed the old fable that suicides cannot go to heaven, and so naturally were brokenhearted at the loss of their loved one by his own hand. It was our privilege to heal the brokenhearted that day with the sound teaching of the eternal security of the believer (Rom. 8:35-39; II Tim. 2:13).

“To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues” (I Cor. 12:10).

A “miracle” in Scripture is a “wonder” or a “sign” (Acts 2:22), and miraculous signs belonged to Israel (Psa. 74:9). God taught Israel to “require” a sign (I Cor. 1:22), and then gave them plenty of signs to see over the many centuries in which He dealt with them as a nation. Now that God has set national Israel aside, the gift of miracles has been withdrawn.

For the reader who laments the loss of the gift of miracles, let’s look at some of the different ways that Paul uses the Greek word dunamis, here translated “miracles.” This word is translated “power” when Paul declares that “the gospel of Christ” is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16). Hence believers today can still work the greatest miracle of all when they introduce a lost sinner to the Savior. Dunamis is also translated “power” when Paul prayed that the Romans might “abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 15:13). When a believer today is able to abound in hope, filled “with all joy and peace” despite the oftentimes overwhelming adversities and heartaches of life, that’s a miracle! Lastly, Paul tells us of how the Macedonians contributed financially to the Lord’s work “beyond their power” (II Cor. 8:3). This begs the question, if they gave beyond their power, whose power prompted them to give so wonderfully yet so inexplicably? We submit that only the miracle-working power of God can cause believers to give out of “deep poverty” unto rich liberality. As you can see, God’s miracle-working power today is centered in the heart and mind of the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, as he implements the Word of God into the very fabric of the details of his life.

“Prophecy” is the ability to speak authoritatively for God, and often involved predicting the future, a gift that passed with the completion of the Scriptures. Today God speaks only through His Word, and we can speak for Him and prophesy future events only as we teach His Word. But while the gift of prophecy has passed, there are still a number of predictions that we can make based on the principles of the Word of God. For instance, we can still predict the activities of the adversary, based on his modus operandi, his method of operation as exhibited in Scripture. We can foretell that He will continue to cause the believer to question God’s Word, as he did with Eve (Gen. 3:1). He even tried this tactic on the Lord Himself. When at our Lord’s baptism His Father declared, “This is My beloved Son” (Matt. 3:17), Satan immediately sought to cause Him to doubt God’s Word, saying, “If Thou be the Son of God…” (Matt. 4:3,6). And so a man need not be a prophet to predict that our adversary will continue to employ the tried and true method of attack that he has utilized for six thousand years, and to be forewarned about this is to be forearmed.

When Paul describes the gift of “discerning of spirits,” he uses a Greek word that is also used in I Corinthians 14:29, where he instructs them to “judge” the prophets, that is, discern whether they were speaking by the Holy Spirit or by some other spirit. Not all false prophets ran around calling the Lord Jesus accursed, and the gift of discernment was vital to detect more subtle false prophets. But once again, though the gift of discernment has passed, with the Word of God the believer today is completely equipped to discern the spirit behind all who claim to speak for God.

Next comes the gift of tongues. Believers today do not have the miraculous power to speak in the different languages of “men of other tongues” (I Cor. 14:21), as the gift of tongues has been withdrawn. But for any who sigh for the power to speak in tongues, we would invite you to consider that it is still possible for us to speak clearly to men of all languages. We are told that there are certain universal languages that transcend all human tongues, such as music and mathematics, whose notes and figures are the same in all cultures. In a similar fashion, when a child of God displays acts of kindness, or love, or forgiveness, our meaning is readily understood by men of all tongues, and we should be forward to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” in all of these things (Titus 2:10).

Similarly, while the gift of “interpretation of tongues” is long gone, with a little practice we can learn to interpret the meaning of the words of others. Every parent knows that when a child says, “I hate math,” what he is really saying is, “I don’t understand math.” Oh, that we might learn that when someone at church says something hurtful to us, that perhaps all they are saying is, “I’m not feeling well today.” If we could only learn to interpret such snubs as perhaps expressions of, “I’m going through a rough time right now.” When once a man in our assembly expressed bewilderment over what he perceived to be the belligerence of another, I knew the cause. As his pastor, I knew that the man’s wife was divorcing him, perhaps prompting him to speak in a way that was out of character for this dear saint, which led to the quarrel. We may not have the gift of interpretation of tongues, but we can and should learn to listen to the words of others with understanding, “forbearing one another in love” (Eph. 4:2).

Paul concludes his list of spiritual gifts with the addition of a few more at the end of I Corinthians 12. Of these, we will conclude this message with the gift of “helps” (v. 28). Just prior to Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27, the sailors “used helps, undergirding the ship” (v. 17). We are told that this is a reference to how ancient mariners in threatening seas would rush to the bow of the ship and lower ropes or chains around the fragile vessel and cinch them up tightly to prevent it from breaking apart in the raging sea. It is our blessed privilege as members of the Body of Christ to act in a similar way when our brethren in Christ are struggling through the storms of life. May each and every mature saint be willing to rush to the side of his struggling brother and undergird him with the strength of God’s Word rightly divided, and share with him the compassion that we ourselves receive from the Lord (II Cor. 1:4).

Yes, the spiritual gifts are gone, but it is a blessed truth that God has replaced them with His Word, equipping us therewith with everything we need to fully function as men and women of God in the dispensation of grace. How wonderful to know that the profit of spiritual gifts is still available to the believer who studies to show himself approved unto God, rightly dividing the Word of truth.

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Berean Searchlight – December 2005

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Luke — “The Beloved Physician”

(The following is an excerpt from “Yokefellows,” Pastor John LaVier’s book about the companions of the Apostle Paul.)

The account of the heroic lives of these companions of Paul, all of whom were dedicated servants of Christ, ought truly to inspire us. Like the prophets of old it may be said of them, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition.” Among the many to be admired, there is none more deserving than Dr. Luke. He was a friend indeed, true to the very end.

The background of Luke is rather obscure. Some think he was a Philippian and others that he was from Antioch in Syria. Whether he was a Jew or Gentile is also a matter of debate. Those thinking he was a Gentile refer to Colossians 4:10-11. Here Paul mentions some “who are of the circumcision” and then a few verses later refers to Luke, and because Luke seems to be distinguished from the others they assume he must be a Gentile. This is rather thin evidence on which to base such a conclusion. It would seem strange that, all the other writers of the Holy Scriptures being Jews, God would make this one exception and use a Gentile. When Paul was at Jerusalem the Jews charged him with bringing a Gentile into the temple and polluting the holy place.

They had seen Trophimus with him and supposed he had brought him into the temple. Now we know Luke was with Paul in Jerusalem at that time and in his company more than any others, yet the Jews did not get upset about Luke, evidently knowing or believing that he was a Jew. It is true that the gospel which bears his name, as well as the book of Acts, were both addressed to Theophilus, a Roman official. But because of his profession as an educated medical man he could very well have been acquainted with many Gentiles in high position. There could have been no one better suited to accompany and serve the apostle to the Gentiles. The following is written by Scofield in his forward to Luke’s gospel and we are inclined to agree with him:

“The writer of the third gospel is called by Paul `the beloved physician’ (Col. 4:14) and, as we learn from the Acts, was Paul’s frequent companion. He was of Jewish ancestry, but his correct Greek marks him as a Jew of the dispersion. Tradition says that he was a Jew of Antioch, as Paul was of Tarsus.”

There is a tradition also that Luke was not only a physician, but also a painter. This may be nothing more than tradition yet he did indeed paint some beautiful word pictures. In his gospel he portrays the miraculous birth and matchless life of the Man among men, the Man Christ Jesus, while in the Acts he gives us a splendid portrait of Christ’s ambassador bearing Christ’s message to all the world. We would know very little about the apostle if it were not for Luke. He accompanied the apostle much of the time but about the only way we sense his presence is by his use of the pronouns “we” and “us.” Also in what he says of Paul and abstains from saying about himself, we see not only his ardent friendship but also his modesty and humility.

Luke joined the other three, Paul and Silas and Timothy, at Troas and is mentioned for the first time in Acts 16:10. This meeting was not happenstance, but most surely providential. In spite of Paul’s untiring zeal and arduous labors we are not to think of him as being strong and robust. It was far otherwise, for he was in bodily presence weak and often subject to the infirmities of the flesh. To read the account of his sufferings in II Corinthians 11:23-33 is to wonder how he survived at all. But his precious Lord, the One who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, gave him sufficient grace for his need and then in love provided him with a personal physician. That was dear Dr. Luke, a companion whose friendship gave Paul inner strength and whose medical skill contributed to his well-being.

At Troas Paul had the night vision of the man of Macedonia calling for help. We read: “And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel unto them” (Acts 16:10). Notice the word “immediately.” Paul was a man of action. When doors were opened and he discerned the Lord’s leading he wasted no time. It was forward march. Oh that we might be as prompt. We dream of doing something tomorrow or in the future and pass up the doors of opportunity open to us now. It is good to read about our commission in the fifth chapter of Second Corinthians but we shouldn’t stop there. The inspired writer goes right on to the opening verses of Chapter six and says (and we paraphrase): “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ and to us has been given the ministry of reconciliation; so then, as workers together let us not receive the grace of God in vain but let us get busy and what we are going to do let’s do it now, for now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation.” The Lord said to his disciples, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest, behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35).

The little intrepid band of four did not linger. They got busy immediately and we see them going along the waterfront seeking a vessel bound for Macedonia. Finding such a vessel we watch as with little or no luggage they board the ship. The sails are hoisted and the vessel sails out of the harbor and onto the Aegean Sea on this momentous and historic voyage. What a thrill to be sailing with Paul. This can be the lot of everyone. Dr. Ironside has written: “What is it to sail with Paul? It is to know Paul’s Saviour and to share Paul’s blessings.” All who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as their all sufficient Saviour are then, as sinners saved by God’s grace, sailing with Paul over life’s sea.

We have already taken note of the events connected with their arrival at Philippi. The work there began with a few women meeting for prayer at the river side. These were the first European converts, and this became the church that was so dear to the heart of Paul and which was of tremendous help to him over the years. He wrote of them, “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving but ye only, for even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity” (Philippians 4:15-16). Paul’s stay at Philippi was comparatively brief, and though accompanied with blessing it was also associated with strife. It was here that Paul and Silas were beaten and jailed and Paul later referred to this as shameful treatment (I Thessalonians 2:2). Luke stayed behind when Paul and the others left and it was about five years later, here at Philippi, that he rejoined Paul and became his constant companion.

In the interim, while Luke was not with him, Paul had visited several places, spending a year and a half at Corinth and three years at Ephesus. His ministry at Ephesus was signally blessed of the Lord. Many miracles were wrought through Paul and we read: “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed” (Acts 19:20). There was such a work of God that the business of the silversmiths suffered as people ceased buying their idolatrous wares. Among the items they made and sold were silver models of the temple of Diana. Seeing their income being jeopardized they organized a march and caused a great uproar. If they could have found Paul he would have suffered, but his friends had taken him into protective custody. The riot was finally quelled with no great damage being done.

After the uproar at Ephesus Paul again crossed the Aegean and visited the churches in Macedonia, exhorting and encouraging the saints. From there he went south to Corinth for a promised visit, staying with the Corinthian saints for three months. His plan was then to sail from Corinth to Syria on his way to Jerusalem to observe the Passover, but just before sailing it was discovered the Jews had a plan to kill him. Some of them would have been on the same vessel going up to the feast and perhaps they planned to throw Paul overboard when they were at sea. This caused a change in plans and it was decided to go back to Macedonia and Philippi. This time he had plenty of company for there were seven who went with him (Acts 20:4). Arriving at Philippi he was reunited with Luke and they were inseparable during the remainder of the apostle’s life.

The seven took ship from Philippi and went on before to Troas and a bit later Paul and Luke followed them. Let us take a minute and look in on one of the services at Troas as described in Acts 20:6-11. This service is being held in a room on the third floor of a building and the room is quite hot from the many lights being used. The room is filled to capacity. We see Paul standing in a central place. Near him is Doctor Luke. On one side of the room we see Gaius, who had been treated roughly during the riot at Ephesus. In Romans 16:23 Paul refers to Gaius as his host and indicated Gaius had oft entertained him and other Christians in his home at Corinth. Over yonder in the room is Tychicus, whom Paul spoke of as “a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:21). And there, with eyes fixed on the speaker, sits Timothy, Paul’s own dear son in the faith. Blessed companions all. The room is crowded with the saints of Troas. Paul has much to tell them and will be preaching practically all night, but they sit expectantly, drinking in the Word, for they are not bothered with the ear trouble that afflicts many in the present day. What a delightful spectacle is this, precious in the sight of the Lord, and a far cry from the gatherings that dominate the scene today with all the religious trappings and sensuous programs that people need to satisfy the flesh. How few are content with Paul’s gospel, the rich Word of truth.

We cannot leave this scene at Troas without noting an unusual happening during the service. A young man, Eutychus, was sitting by a window and about the midnight hour went to sleep and fell from the third loft to the ground below. He was taken up for dead but Paul went down and he was restored and they all returned to the upper chamber and resumed their meeting. Now it is unlikely this narrative would be included in Scripture if it was without spiritual significance. What may be learned from it? First of all, we learn that Paul has been preaching long. For almost two thousand years Paul has been preaching. The Lord has been speaking to the world, not through Moses or Peter or any other, but He has been speaking through Paul. Secondly we learn that the church fell asleep under Paul’s preaching and had a great fall.

The third story from which Eutychus fell reminds us of the third heaven into which Paul was caught up. With the call of Abraham God revealed his purpose having to do with Israel and the earth. When that nation was set aside God was through, for a season, with both Israel and the earth. Then it was through Paul that God revealed his purpose to bring on the scene a called-out company of believers, sinners saved by His grace constituting the Church, the Body of Christ, and this Church would be heavenly in character and have no connection with the earth. This Church is seen as seated in the heavenly places (Gr. epouranious, super-heavenlies) and blessed there with all spiritual blessings. The apostolic age had scarcely ended when the Church went to sleep, insensitive to Paul’s preaching concerning the true character of the Church. The result was a great fall and the Church became just an earthly organization, with an earthly outlook, earthly aims, and even exercising earthly power.

Our friend Eutychus was restored to life by Paul and brought back up to the third story. Thank God, like Eutychus there has been some restoration for the Church. After the long night of the dark ages Luther and the other reformers used Paul’s preaching and justification by faith alone to arouse the Church from its long sleep. Later, men like Darby used Paul’s preaching to awaken Christians to the truth of the One Body of Christ and the Blessed Hope of the Church. But much work remains in getting Christians off the ground and up again to the third story, the heavenlies. How few professing Christians know anything about their heavenly position and heavenly possessions in Christ. How few walk as citizens of heaven, confessing they are only strangers and pilgrims on earth. Read carefully the following, written over a century and a half ago by the beloved C. H. Mackintosh:

“It is of the utmost importance that the Christian reader should understand the doctrine of the Church’s heavenly character….To be soundly instructed in the heavenly origin, heavenly position, and heavenly destiny of the Church, is the most effectual safeguard against worldliness in the Christian’s present path, and also against false teaching in reference to his future hopes. Every system of doctrine or discipline which would connect the Church with the world, either in her present condition or her future prospects, must be wrong, and must exert an unhallowed influence. The church is not of the world. Her life, her position her hopes, are all heavenly in the very highest sense of the word….The doctrine of the Church’s heavenly character was developed in all its power and beauty by the Holy Ghost in the apostle Paul….We must never forget that every tendency of the human mind not only falls short of but stands actually opposed to all this divine truth about the Church. The heart naturally clings to earth, and the thought of an earthly corporation is attractive to it. Hence we may expect that the truth of the Church’s heavenly character will only be appreciated and carried out by a very small and feeble minority.”

After seven days our party of travelers left Troas. The rest of the party went by ship down along the coast, while Paul had decided to go by foot and meet them at Assos, about twenty miles south. It had taken Paul and Luke five days by vessel to cross from Philippi to Troas because of contrary winds and a rough sea, so perhaps Paul had enough sailing for the moment. More likely he just felt the need be alone, and as he walked he was probably thinking of his planned trip to Jerusalem and of the trouble he might encounter there. And as he walked he had a most blessed time talking to the best companion of all.

At Assos, Paul joined the others on the ship. This was probably a mercantile ship that stopped at the various ports along the coast to deliver or pick up cargo. They sailed right by Ephesus, as Paul did not want to be delayed as he desired to reach Jerusalem in time for the day of Pentecost. He did, though, send word for the leading brethren of the Ephesian church to meet him at Miletus, about thirty-six miles to the south. They had such a meeting somewhere along the sea shore, and Paul exhorted and bade a fond farewell to these church elders. Paul had labored in their midst for three years and he reminded them of the untiring effort put forth on their behalf, and how he kept back nothing that was profitable to them and had declared unto them the whole counsel of God. We could look with much profit at this touching farewell message to these men, but such is not the purpose of this account. It would be pleasing to God if every one of His servants would so labor that when leaving a particular field they could repeat these words of the apostle. One verse in this message stands out and this is a verse we often quote. Paul had been warned of the bonds and afflictions that awaited him if he continued to press on. He replied, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

In spite of the pleading of his friends and even though he himself knew of the danger, he would not turn back. Just as our blessed Lord “stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51) so did His faithful follower. He was “ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).

There was another who did not shrink from danger and that was loyal companion Luke. He went with Paul and faced the howling, blood-thirsty mob at Jerusalem. He stayed with Paul during the two years at Caesarea and while there wrote his gospel. He was a fellow traveler on the long and trying voyage to Rome, suffering shipwreck enroute. From the prison in Rome Paul could write that “Luke, the beloved physician” was with him (Colossians 4:14). In the letter to Philemon, which accompanied the Colossian epistle, Paul referred to him as “Luke, my fellow-labourer” (Philemon 24). Luke was not only a medical man and inspired writer but a preacher as well, standing with Paul and the others and boldly proclaiming the Word of truth.

In the last letter that came from the pen of the aged apostle, his second letter to Timothy, he writes that all in Asia had turned away from him (1:15). He also tells us that at his first trial before the emperor no man stood with him, that all forsook him (4:16). He states that Demas, once a close co-worker, had forsaken him (4:10). How alone he must have felt. But there was one standing by him and he could say, “Luke is with me” (4:11). The following is from the writings of Kenneth Wuest:

“How beautiful it is to see that the beloved physician should feel that his place was beside Paul when the end was approaching. How true to his medical instinct this was; not to depreciate the grace of God moving him in his heart to the same action. What a trophy of God’s grace Luke is. Here is a Greek doctor of medicine, leaving his medical practice to be the personal physician of an itinerant preacher, to share his hardship and privations, his dangers, and toil. The great success of the apostle whom he attended in a medical way is due in some measure, to the physician’s watchful care over his patient….Luke knew all the marks of the Lord Jesus on the body of the apostle, the scars left after the assaults on his person. He had bathed and tended these wounds. Now his patient, grown old before his time, was suffering the discomforts of a Roman cell. He had to be guarded against disease. `Only Luke is with me.’ What a comfort he was to Paul!”

Thank God for friends and companions like Luke, who can be depended upon to stand with you through hard times as well as good. Luke was such a friend. We like to think that loving, caring, faithful Luke was with the great apostle walking by his side to the place of execution, and perhaps caring for the body after Paul’s spirit had soared away to be with the One he loved above all others.

Berean Searchlight – November 2005

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Part 7: The Filling With The Spirit


The majority of believers are very much confused with regard to the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives and the exact extent to which they may expect His help in overcoming sin. This confusion has been brought about mainly by the unscriptural tradition that the present dispensation began with the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost. A further word in this connection will therefore be necessary.

Those who hold that Pentecost marks the beginning of the present dispensation should examine carefully those Scriptures which deal with the Holy Spirit and His work. A simple comparison, for example, of His operation at Pentecost with His operation today, as outlined in the Pauline epistles, can lead to but one conclusion: that the baptism with, or in, the Spirit at Pentecost has been superseded by another baptism altogether—that by which believers are baptized into one body—and that the Body of Christ did not exist (except in the mind of God) when the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost. If our Fundamentalist leaders will verify and accept this fact, they will have the answer to the “Pentecostal” fanaticism that is sweeping the country today.


Concerning the one hundred twenty believers gathered in the upper room at Pentecost, we read:

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4, R.V.).

This, of course, is another way of saying that the Holy Spirit took complete possession of them.1 Those who have come to appreciate the meaning of the Bible word baptism, will see at once the connection with the Lord’s promise that His own should be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). Indeed, they were “filled” with the Spirit (Acts 2:4) in fulfillment of the promise that they should be “baptized” with the Spirit.

And the result of this baptism, this filling, with the Spirit, was not only that they possessed miraculous powers, but also that they lived the kind of lives which God’s people prior to that time had failed to live, and this is the particular matter with which we are here concerned.

Mark well: in Acts 2:4 we do not have an exhortation to be filled with the Spirit, as we have later in the Pauline epistles. Rather, we have a simple statement of fact: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”

The one hundred twenty had, of course, been much like any other group of believers in history. They had not all been equally spiritual or devoted or faithful. Some had been more so than others, and where some had excelled in one virtue, others had excelled in another. Yet now they were all FILLED with the Spirit, from the least to the greatest of them.

The thoughtful student of Scripture will, of course, ask why all these believers were now filled with the Holy Spirit. Was it, perhaps, because they, as a group, had been more godly than those before them? The gospel records prove that this is not so. Peter boasted, Thomas doubted, James and John sought personal gain, and when our Lord was taken prisoner, “they all forsook Him and fled.” Was it then because they had prayed long enough or earnestly enough for the Spirit to come upon them and take control? No; they had been instructed to go to Jerusalem, not to pray for the Holy Spirit to come, as some suppose, but to “wait for the [fulfillment of the] promise” regarding the Spirit (Acts 1:4,5)—and right here is the answer to our question. The believers at Pentecost were filled with the Holy Spirit, not because they had prayed long or earnestly enough for the Spirit to come, but because the time had arrived for the fulfillment2 of the divine promise. The Old Testament prophets and the Lord Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit should some day come to take control of God’s people, and that day had come. They were filled with the Spirit because God, according to His promise, had baptized them with the Spirit.


The Apostle Paul never anywhere says that all the members of the Body of Christ are filled with the Holy Spirit. It is surely clear from the record that the Corinthians and the Galatians, for example, were not filled with the Spirit, for Paul’s letters to these churches contain much of rebuke and correction. And it is also evident that believers today are not—even the best of them—wholly filled with the Spirit. The filling with the Spirit is now a goal, an attainment, which the apostle, by inspiration, sets before us. We are not all filled with the Spirit as a matter of fact, as were the Pentecostal believers. While the Spirit does indeed dwell within us by God’s grace, we must daily appropriate His help and blessing by faith.

Hence the apostle now exhorts believers: “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18) just as he exhorts them and prays for them, that they may be “filled with the fruits of righteousness” (Phil. 1:11); “filled with the knowledge of His will” (Col. 1:9); “filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph. 3:19).

But why are not we automatically filled with the Spirit as the believers were at Pentecost? We will proceed to answer this question, but let the reader not fail to first recognize the fact that while the believers gathered in the upper room at Pentecost were all filled with the Spirit, the believers under Paul, since that time, have not all been filled with the Spirit. Moreover, while it is distinctly stated, again and again, that the Pentecostal believers were, or were to be, baptized with the Spirit, not once does Paul in his epistles teach that members of the Body of Christ are baptized with the Spirit.3 Instead he exhorts them to appropriate God’s grace by faith so that they may be filled with the Spirit.


The prophesied work of the Holy Spirit in connection with His people Israel should be clearly understood if we would understand His work today, in connection with the members of the Body of Christ. In Joel 2:28,29 God promised to supernaturally cause them to prophesy, etc., but in Ezekiel 36:26,27, He also promised to supernaturally cause them to do His will:

“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

“And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”

Thus God would show that the only way in which even His own people can perfectly obey Him is when He takes possession of them and causes them to do His will. Indeed He is still demonstrating this. Though we today have all the advantages and blessings of the dispensation of Grace, and though we desire most earnestly to obey and serve God as we ought, we still continually fall short. This is because, contrary to popular opinion, none of us has been baptized with the Spirit.


At Pentecost the time had come, so far as prophecy was concerned, for the fulfillment of the promise concerning the Holy Spirit. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come…they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:1,4).

We must be careful to notice the immediate change that took place in the behavior of these believers, now that the Holy Spirit had come to take possession of them. Not only did they speak with tongues and prophesy and work miracles, but they all began living for one another.

“And all that believed were together, and had all things common;

“And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need” (Acts 2:44,45).

“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul; neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.”

“Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,

“And laid them down at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need” (Acts 4:32,34,35).

Never before had the disciples of Christ even approached such a spirit of utter selflessness and love for one another. In spite of the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount and our Lord’s repeated exhortations to sell and distribute their earthly goods and live for one another, they—even the twelve—had heretofore been fully as human and selfish as those who had gone before them.

One day James and John came to ask a special favor of Christ: that they might occupy the first places in the kingdom, sitting, the one at Christ’s right hand and the other at His left! (Mark 10:37). Modest fellows! And the other ten were really no different at heart, for we read: “When the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John” (Ver. 41). We can almost hear them exclaim to each other: “Who do James and John think they are!” Nor was this the first time the apostles had “disputed among themselves who should be the greatest” (Mark 9:34).

But now, suddenly, all this was changed! Now each one put self aside and placed others first. And, as Jeremiah had predicted, this came from the heart. Mark well, it was of a multitude numbering more than five thousand (Acts 4:4) that we read that they were all of one heart and of one soul, and sold their lands and houses and brought the proceeds to the apostles for distribution among the needy. Imagine the freedom and joy and blessedness that must have prevailed among the disciples under these conditions! These were indeed “the days of heaven upon earth”!

God’s children in this present dispensation—the so-called Pentecostalists included—have never lived together as the believers at Pentecost did. Imagine even suggesting having all things common among believers today! Those who cry “Back to Pentecost” would not, we fear, be the first to step up and hand over their hard-earned investments as Barnabas and all the believing property owners did at Pentecost. Indeed, it would be wrong if we did this today, for the Spirit’s instruction for this present evil age is:

“If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (I Tim. 5:8).


Pentecost was an earnest of the kingdom reign of Christ, when peace and prosperity will prevail on earth and men will not need to lay up store for the future. But as Israel stubbornly rejected the King and His kingdom and judgment seemed imminent, God graciously intervened and ushered in the dispensation of Grace, under which we now live.

During this present dispensation God is doing a thing never once mentioned in Old Testament prophecy: forming a body of believers composed of Jews and Gentiles, reconciled to Himself by the Cross (Eph. 2:16). This body is called “the body of Christ,” since its members are eternally and inseparably united to Christ by one divine baptism. This baptism, in turn, is something altogether separate and distinct from the baptism with the Spirit at Pentecost, and has superseded it. This is evident from the following facts:

At Pentecost the Lord Jesus Christ was the Baptizer, and He baptized the believers with, or in, the Holy Spirit.

Matt. 3:11: “He [Christ] shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost…” (cf. Luke 3:16).

John 15:26: “The Comforter…whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth…shall testify of me.”

John 16:7: “If I depart, I will send Him unto you.”

Today, under the dispensation of Grace, however, the Holy Spirit is the Baptizer, baptizing believers into Christ and His Body.

I Cor. 12:13: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body….”

Gal. 3:27,28: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

To those who would trace the Body of Christ back to Pentecost, we ask: Where in early Acts do we read of the Holy Spirit baptizing Jews and Gentiles into one joint body, the Body of Christ? Until Cornelius, the disciples preached the Word “to none but unto the Jews only” (Acts 11:19) and surely the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles to God in one body could not be preached until the Jews as well as the Gentiles had been alienated from God. This is why we read of “the casting away of them [Israel]” in connection with “the reconciling of the world” (Rom. 11:15).

“For God hath concluded them ALL in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:32).

Certainly God had not yet cast Israel away or concluded her in unbelief at Pentecost, for at Pentecost, and for some time thereafter, God still dealt with Israel as a nation, pleading with her to repent, so that her Messiah might return and bring the long-promised times of refreshing (Acts 3:19-21).

To those, on the other hand, who would bring Pentecost into the present dispensation, we ask: Where is the Scriptural warrant for the continuance of a Pentecostal experience in this dispensation? It is clear from Acts and from Paul’s epistles that the Pentecostal program has been suspended because of the rejection of Christ and His kingdom. Certainly the gifts of prophecy, tongues and (supernatural) knowledge have passed away (I Cor. 13:8). And so with the gifts of healing (Rom. 8:22,23; II Cor. 4:16-5:4; I Tim. 5:23; II Tim. 4:20, etc.). Paul himself, who had been saved during the Pentecostal era and had possessed miraculous powers at least as great as those of the twelve, writes concerning his own illness:

“For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…” (II Cor. 12:8,9).

And as to Pentecostal conduct in this dispensation: where, even among the “Pentecostalists,” do we find it? The early chapters of Acts record neither sin nor blunder in the lives of the believers at Pentecost,4 but there is plenty of both, not only among the “Pentecostalists” as a group, but in each individual “Pentecostalist.” And as to selling all and living for one another, many of their leaders are rich and increased in goods while those under them suffer need, both rich and poor bearing witness that the Pentecostal program has broken down and passed away. Indeed, it passed away during Paul’s lifetime, for whereas in Acts 4:34 we read: “Neither was there any among them that lacked,” we later find Paul taking up collections for “the poor saints at Jerusalem” (Rom. 15:26). This is because the King and His kingdom were refused, but “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20) and today we enjoy even greater blessings, the blessings of “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph. 3:2). The Pentecostal believers lived pleasing to God because the Spirit took control of them. For us there are moral and spiritual victories to be gained, as we appropriate by faith what God provides by grace.


Grace and faith are the characteristic features of the present dispensation. Not only is salvation now declared to be by grace, through faith, but the Spirit also operates in the believer by grace, through faith. He does not take possession of us and cause us to do what is right, but dwells within each believer (I Cor. 6:19) to provide needed guidance and the strength to withstand temptation, and we may avail ourselves of this provision by faith.

We have already seen how the Spirit, who first imparted life to us will also impart strength to withstand temptation and overcome sin. In our inability to even pray as we ought, “the Spirit…helpeth our infirmities” and “maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:26). In our weakness we are “strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16) and God even stoops to “quicken [our] mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in us” (Rom. 8:11).

“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh” (Rom. 8:12).

The implication from the above passage is that though sorely tempted we are debtors to the Spirit who dwells within and provides overcoming power.

The question, in times of temptation, is generally whether we truly desire to overcome, for we may overcome in any given case by grace, through faith. In the present dispensation it is not true that it is not possible for the believer to sin, but it is blessedly true that in any situation it is possible for him not to sin, for the Spirit is always there to help.

If we go to the Scriptures and claim, by faith, the Spirit’s help in overcoming our sins, we enter into the enjoyment of the fulness of spiritual life and blessing. If we fail to do so, we wither and die—as far as our spiritual experience is concerned. We can never lose our salvation, of course, for “everlasting life” was obtained by faith in Christ, not by walking in the Spirit. This is confirmed by the fact that the same apostle who pleads: “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God,” hastens to add: “whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30).

But failure to appropriate God’s gracious provision for victory over sin does result in death as far as our Christian experience is concerned. This is what the apostle means, when he says, by the Spirit:

“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6).

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [put to death] the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. 8:13).

To the careless Corinthians, the Apostle Paul exclaimed:

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:19,20).

This passage perhaps describes our relationship to the Holy Spirit better than any other. God, by His Spirit, dwells within us, and our bodies are meant to be shrines, temples, where He is worshipped. In the measure that He is given His rightful place and is truly worshipped within—in the measure that our bodies are given over to His glory—in that measure sin will be overcome, God exalted, and we blessed. True, the world, the flesh and the devil all clamor for a place too, but we should thank God for the testings that arise from this. We praise God for the privilege of toiling, suffering and sacrificing for Him now, since that privilege will forever be gone when we are caught up to be with Him. Let us then also praise Him for the temptations that daily beset us, for each temptation overcome will gain for us a rich reward.

God does not—He cannot—say of us: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit,” but He does set before us the glorious objective: “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). And as we seek, by faith, to realize this objective, rich, deep blessings are already ours, to say nothing of the rewards to come. What a challenge to faith!

It was no particular victory for the Pentecostal believers to be filled with the Spirit, for the Spirit simply took possession of them according to His own sovereign will and promise. But great spiritual victories are ours as we, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the flesh in order that our bodies may be the temples of God indeed. May God grant us many such victories as we take Him at His Word!

“Grieve not the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 4:30).

“Walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16).

“Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).


1. Much as whatever takes possession of the mind is said to fill it.

2. Some look upon Pentecost merely as a foreshadowing of the promised Millennial blessing. We believe it was the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise, but that the complete fulfillment was interrupted by the dispensation of Grace. Note: “This is that…” (Acts 2:16).

3. Not even in I Corinthians 12:13.

4. Ananias and Sapphira tried to join the company by deceit, but were stricken dead.

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Berean Searchlight – October 2005

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Part 6: Sanctification

(The following is the sixth in a series of excerpts from Pastor Stam’s classic work on True Spirituality. Since this book never appeared as a series in the Searchlight, many of even our long-time readers may not be familiar with these selections.)


It is regrettable that so many Bible commentaries take so shallow a view of the subject of sanctification.

Most Bible students know that in the Authorized Version of both the Old and New Testament Scriptures the words “holiness” and “sanctification,” with scarcely any exceptions have the same meaning. In the Old Testament both words come from the single Hebrew root qodesh, while in the New both come from the single Greek root hagiazo.

According to most commentaries qodesh and its Greek equivalent hagiazo, simply mean “to set apart” or “to separate.” Now it is true that this is the organic meaning in both cases, but very often the organic meaning of a word falls far short of expressing its true significance in actual usage. Such is the case with the Hebrew and Greek words for sanctification. Organically they mean a separating or setting apart, but as used in the Scriptures they mean much more than this.


In Bible usage, both in Old and New Testaments to make holy, or to sanctify, means “to set apart as sacred,” “to consecrate,” “to dedicate.” The following passages are but a few that bear out this fact:

Gen. 2:3: “And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it.”

Ex. 3:5: “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”

Matt. 6:9: “Hallowed be Thy name.”

II Cor. 11:2: “…I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”

In the above passages the Hebrew and Greek words in question are variously rendered “sanctified,” “holy,” “hallowed” and “espoused,” but in each case the meaning is, “set apart as sacred,” “consecrated,” “dedicated.” Thus Jerusalem is called “the holy city” (Matt. 4:5) and the sanctuary of the tabernacle, “the holiest of all” (Heb. 9:3,8); the Bible is called “the holy Scriptures” (Rom. 1:2) and the Spirit of God, “the holy Spirit” (Eph. 4:30).


How it would touch the hearts of many believers if they realized that both in our salvation and in our walk it has been God’s purpose, not merely to set us apart from the world, but to set us apart as sacred to Himself! Sanctification speaks of God’s love to us more than of ours to Him. This truth, to many, would cast an entirely new light on the doctrine of sanctification.

Sanctification is not a negative matter, but a positive one. God wants us for Himself. He considers us His hallowed possession much as a bridegroom considers his bride his very own, sacred to himself. This shows how precious the believer is to the heart of God and makes our separation from the world and sin the natural result of our consecration to Him. “Ye turned to God from idols,” says the apostle, not “from idols to God” (See I Thes. 1:9). True Scriptural sanctification, or holiness, then, does not consist in “dos” and “don’ts,” nor is it to be confused with sinless perfection. It is rather a consecration to God which results in a closer walk with Him.


In a very real sense every true believer has already been sanctified, or consecrated, to God. Some view sanctification as a second work of grace, after salvation. Actually it is the very first work of grace. Sanctification begins with God as He chooses us and sets us apart for Himself through the work of the Holy Spirit, who convicts us of sin and leads us to faith in Christ. Thus we read:

“…God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (II Thes. 2:13).

“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:2).

Nor is this phase of our sanctification affected by our conduct. In Ephesians 5:2,3 the apostle declares that believers should “walk…as becometh saints [sanctified ones]” but this in itself implies that some who are saints do not walk so.

Even the carnal Corinthians are addressed as “saints”—”sanctified in Christ Jesus” (I Cor. 1:2). Naming sins which some of them were even then committing, he goes on to say:

“And such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:11).

Thus believers, whatever their state, are called:

“…them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32; 26:18).

“…the elect of God, holy and beloved…” (Col. 3:12).

All this, of course, pertains to our position and standing before God. It was He who, in infinite love and grace, set us apart as His own, declaring us righteous before all. But how can a righteous God justify a sinner? How can a holy God embrace a fallen son of Adam? The answer is, through the glorious, all-sufficient work of Christ on the sinner’s behalf.

“We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10).

“For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14).

Positionally, then, every believer has been sanctified, or set apart, by God for Himself through the operation of the Holy Spirit and on the basis of the shed blood of Christ. Little wonder the Spirit thunders forth the challenge:

“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?…” (Rom. 8:33,34).

How precious are these truths! Yet, the apostle never teaches positional truth without applying it in a practical way. If God in love set us apart as His own, should not our love respond to His? Should it not also be our heart’s desire to be His, wholly His, in experience and conduct? Should not our hearts be touched with gratitude and wonder at His condescending love and result in spontaneous and eager consecration to Him?


It is this that the apostle has in mind as, by the Spirit, he writes that God—

“…hath chosen us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him,

“In love1 having predestinated us unto the adoption of children…” (Eph. 1:4,5).

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification…” (I Thes. 4:3).

But here a word of caution is needed, lest in seeking to be wholly sanctified to God, we leave ourselves open to discouragement and disillusionment.

Nowhere in Scripture are we instructed to sanctify the “flesh” to God. The Scriptures teach that the “flesh,” the old Adamic nature, is totally bad and experience bears witness that this is so. The “flesh” cannot be improved, or reformed, or converted, and “they that are in the flesh2 cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). It is for this reason that God sent His own Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh” to “condemn sin in the flesh” at Calvary (See Rom. 8:3).

We are not, then, to seek to improve the old nature or dedicate it to God, but to recognize it as condemned by God and crucified with Christ.

“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him…” (Rom. 6:6).

“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:11).

But while the believer’s “flesh” cannot be sanctified to God, his body can and should be. The Apostle Paul has much to say about this:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).

“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?

“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:19,20).

Thus the apostle writes to the Thessalonians:

“That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor” (I Thes. 4:4).

“For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” (I Thes. 4:7).

And thus he concludes:

“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thes. 5:23).

In his very last epistle he declares that while “the Lord knoweth them that are His,” all who name the name of Christ should “depart from iniquity,” and goes on to explain that—

“…in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor.

“If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (II Tim. 2:20,21).

The Church is indeed “a great house,” and in it there are all sorts of vessels. Most of these, it is to be feared, are dishonoring to the Lord and unfit for the Master’s use. God grant that we may not belong to this number, but may rather be vessels which will bring honor to God, “sanctified, and meet [fit] for the Master’s use.”


As we consider how to be sanctified to God in walk and experience we must again place the emphasis where God has placed it: upon His blessed Word.

No one will deny that prayer is an important element in practical sanctification, yet the Word places the supreme emphasis upon itself in this matter. Our Lord prayed for His disciples:

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth” (John 17:17).

The Apostle Paul declares that our Lord “loved the Church, and gave Himself for it,

“That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word” (Eph. 5:25,26).

Many dear Christians have said to the writer: “If only I could remember these Bible truths better, but I have a mind like a sieve.” But pour water through a sieve and it will at least have a cleansing effect. And so does the blessed Word of God have a cleansing effect upon those who prayerfully read it and meditate upon it. It is the Word which its Author, the Holy Spirit, uses to cleanse and sanctify us more and more to God, and those who are not deeply and sincerely interested in the study of the Word will never enjoy true, practical sanctification no matter how much they pray.


  1. While there is no punctuation in the original, it appears from the context that the words “in love” belong with Verse 5.
  2. I.e., who have not been begotten again by the Spirit.

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A Sound Mind — Biblical Transformation

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).


Have you ever heard someone say something like this, “I can’t help it, that is just how I am and how God made me.” This way of thinking is very unfortunate since it denies the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to change lives, and even goes so far as to blame God for personal deficiencies. God certainly accepts us just as we are for salvation (we do not have to try to get rid of our sin first), but His earnest desire is not to leave us the way He finds us. His desire after salvation is to start changing us from the inside-out, that is, to transform us from the depths of our being (changing how we think and act). The emphasis should not be who we are, but who we could be by the grace of God. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).

God created us in His image and, to some degree, being created in His image includes being made with three aspects, or parts, just as He is three. Our three aspects are: body, soul and spirit. In general terms, the soul is that part of us that is self-conscious (relating to self and the world around us), while the spirit is that part of us that is God-conscious (relating to faith and our relationship with God).1 Each aspect has specific functions and needs; thankfully, God has a plan for each (according to His knowledge of the intricacies of His handiwork).

God’s plan for our spirit is regeneration, an instantaneous act of God that saves us by His grace the moment we believe. His plan for the believer’s body is to give us a glorified body in the future (with some earthly assistance for the present time). This article will explore God’s plan for our mind. In Scripture the words mind, heart and soul are often used interchangeably; this pattern will be followed in this article. His plan for our mind is to renew it, to make it completely new, thereby transforming our entire life. Living a sanctified life (holy and God-pleasing) is based upon this renewing, that is, upon the Holy Spirit producing His character, will, values, and desires in our heart. Ultimately, we see that His grace is seen not only in salvation but in every aspect and all times of our life. His power within us helps assure what mankind so desperately seeks—a sound mind. “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Ephesians 4:23).

We humans are a spiritual being in a physical body with a mind (soul) to do what the Holy Spirit teaches.2

Heavenly Instructions

The word transformed (Romans 12:2) in Greek is metamorphosis (meta=change, morph=form) and means, a change in form. In common practice the word transformation is used to describe the change of a rather unattractive chrysalis (larva) into a beautiful butterfly. Christ’s transfiguration in Mark 9:2-13 was a metamorphosis. The Lord wants each of us to be transformed and this is accomplished by having a renewed mind. Our mind has to be changed in such a way that the old nature with its values, beliefs and practices is replaced by that which conforms to the mind of Christ. We are not genetically programmed to transform ourselves, God will not do it for us automatically, nor will He force it upon us. He will only do it as we allow Him and cooperate with Him in the process (walk in the Spirit).

“Believers are commanded to change [if you prefer, exchange]3 the expressions of the old life and nature for that of the new nature which indwells every Christian. This is done by the renewing of the mind by the Holy Spirit. `Renewing’ means `a complete change for the better’ effected by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).”4 The beauty of transformation is that we will find His good, acceptable (well pleasing), and perfect (complete) will to be exactly what we need in our life. His will in our life will prove to us, family, church, society, even the angels in heaven (Ephesians 3:10) how the perfect will of God is His gracious provision for our mental and spiritual well being.

Why Needed

A good spiritual lesson is afforded by a boy who observed a chrysalis transforming into a butterfly. The boy saw the struggling chrysalis trying to get out of the cocoon and wondered why it had to struggle so hard, why did God make it struggle for so long, wasn’t there an easier way? Finally, the boy intervened in his desire to ease the struggle. He took his pocketknife and carefully cut the cocoon open so the struggling creature could get out. It did, it wiggled out and the boy was delighted with his heroic efforts. But then, the chrysalis fell to the ground, writhing and struggling because it could not fly—its wings were not sufficiently developed. Eventually the chrysalis died. The boy then realized that the cocoon that he saw as a hindrance and an obstacle was instead life sustaining and allowed the chrysalis time to develop into a butterfly. The struggle was a necessary part of life and his well intended shortcuts only had detrimental effects. For the butterfly to fly required metamorphosis, and that entailed struggle and time.

“If we do not become changed from the inside-out—if we don’t morph—we will be tempted to find external methods to satisfy our need to feel that we’re different from those outside the faith.”5 If we do not allow our self to be transformed, we will settle for being informed (ever learning, II Timothy 3:7) or conformed to something other than Christ. It is here we Christians must be careful not to fall into one of the adversary’s clever schemes, that is, the belief that by not conforming to the world we are obeying Romans 12. A person can be against everything the world offers but that only makes that person a non-conformist. Non-conformity is not transformation. Non-conformity can result in a person being a cranky, belligerent, isolationist—this is not God’s desire. Transformation is a personal matter between each of us and the Holy Spirit, and, as the Lord produces His mind in us, we are compelled from our heart not to conform to the world. Transformation produces the desired non-conformance, not vice versa!

Perhaps an illustration will help clarify the above statement. If your boss said to you, “an emergency requires that you quickly go to the warehouse, do not walk but take the company car.” Then, if you were to think, “Well, I was told not to walk so I’ll run,” would that be obeying the boss? Certainly not. The boss’ emphasis was on what to do, not on what not to do. While running is not walking, that is not what the boss wants and it will not get the job done—just take the car and that resolves all issues of walking/running. In our case, the Lord’s emphasis is on transformation, which results in conformance to Christ. The degree we are conformed to Christ is the degree to which conformity to the world is averted. Pure non-conformists can end life mean-spirited and negative because no transformation has taken place, only a preoccupation with being against the world.

Too often we think that Romans 12:2 gives us two commands: 1) not to conform to the world and 2) to be transformed. There is no “and” between the two phrases (implying two things); there is a “but,” which indicates the Lord is instructing us to do one of two things (be transformed). We have the choice of either conforming to the world or of having a renewed mind conforming to that of Christ. The choice of a renewed mind avoids the other. The legalists love to teach there are two items here for our obedience and then they come up with a list of do’s and don’ts to measure non-conformance to the world. This is missing the point entirely. Ideally, under grace, transformation creates a mind that has no interest in conformance to the world. In practical terms, our earthly struggle is often the fight between the world and Christ for our mind’s attention; we want to make sure the transformation side is always winning the battle.

Salvation is required before transformation can begin, but transformation should commence immediately thereafter. Any self-transformation attempts are useless. Just as we cannot save ourselves (He has to do it all for us), we cannot transform ourselves; however, He will do it for us, over time, as we yield to Him. Transformation is not an instantaneous act of God like salvation; it is a life-long process conducted by the Holy Spirit. It is the process of growing spiritually (with ups and downs), of growing in grace, with the goal of continually being conformed to the mind of Christ.

Please consider these reasons why we must each be morphed:

  • To overcome the defacing of His image due to sin.
  • Our mind is polluted from the fall, the world and our own choices—we need mental detoxification, mind renewal, reprogramming, and the mind of Christ.
  • We need a new mind to go along with our salvation.
  • We need a new value system, desires and goals—His (Philippians 2:13).
  • Renewal of our mind removes negative thinking, a prime source of mental and physical illness.6
  • To put off the old man (sin oriented, self-centered, defensive behavior, unable to admit being wrong, anger, moodiness, etc.) (Ephesians 4:22).
  • To put on the new man (Colossians 3:10, Ephesians 4:24).
  • To remove the overwhelming burden of thinking our performance is the measure of our standing with the Lord.
  • Mental baggage (hidden in the deep recesses of our mind) holds us down, keeps us captive to the past, and we have to get rid of it.

More on Mental Baggage

A woman saw a very large and powerful elephant at a circus that was restrained by a small chain. The woman knew that the elephant could easily break the chain if it wanted, but every time the elephant came to the end of the chain it just stopped and did not even try to break free. The trainer said that the chain was the same one that was used when the elephant was little, and at that time the elephant tried and tried to break it but could not. So the elephant learned at that time that it could not break the chain, and he still remembers that. “You see,” said the trainer, “it is not the chain that holds the elephant captive but his memories.” Sadly, this is true for many of us, our memories hold us captive and we do not experience the freedom that is ours in Christ. Precious memories are the fabric of our lives, but unpleasant memories unravel that fabric.

The author often gets letters, calls, and emails from believers who have had a miserable past. The accounts go on and on about a terrible childhood, physical abuse, sexual abuse, depression, wrong treatment, unfaithful friends/spouses, bad parents, alcohol and drug abuse….Some people seem to be dealt a very poor hand in life, some create it themselves. Sometimes the past is composed of good things that no longer exist (careers, fame, family, friends, wealth); these can also be negative when viewed from the perspective of great loss. The negative memories of the past, when ruminated about (thought about over and over in one’s mind) will only consume a person emotionally and physically. Negative thinking about the past feeds our hostility, bitterness or sense of loss. Since we cannot do anything about the past, we need a new way of viewing it. Constant negative thinking is like a cancer of the soul and is a sure formula for actual mental illness. That is why we are instructed in Philippians 3:13-14 to put it behind us (forget about the past) and look forward to the finish line.

If we wallow in the negative events of our past and do not allow transformation, then the past will continue to be our present and future.

In an effort to relieve the pain of the past and in order to foster healing many people have tried forgiving those who have offended them. Often they are disappointed, stating that forgiveness doesn’t work because they still remember the pain of the past and people still treat them the same. Forgiveness does not mean we will forget the past; only God can forget such things. Forgiveness on our part does not change the past, or others for that matter; what it does is release us from the stranglehold the past has on our present life. Thus, it creates in us a new perspective that allows us to move forward in life. Forgiveness creates a condition in which the memories of the past do not continue to control us emotionally—so a memory of the past does not create sorrow, hostility or tears. In this regard, a Christian friend or therapist using Scriptural principles may be used by the Lord to help a person see and interpret the past and themselves differently. It is better to forgive past injustice than to let it fester into bitterness7 that tarnishes the rest of our life. Our future in Christ can be very different, provided we allow Him to make the truth that “all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17) part of our daily life.

For clarification purposes, forgiveness and forgetting the past relate to our mind; however, other civil, legal and family responsibilities still remain. One can walk away from an errant mind into a new way of thinking but one should not walk away from earthly responsibilities. So, debts, child support, criminal activities, and similar responsibilities must still be addressed.

When our minds are held captive there is no joy. Renewal of the mind allows the Lord to remove that which holds our minds captive and restore our joy. Consider this Biblical example. After the first destruction of the temple in Jerusalem many Jews were forced into Babylonian exile where they lamented, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the mist thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth…” (Psalms 137:1-3). I believe this text teaches the principle that when in captivity there is no relief from sorrow. Hanging the harps on the willow is very symbolic for it makes two things clear: 1) the harps that normally brought joy could no longer do so, and 2) the willow trees (the bark contains salicylic acid, the precursor of aspirin) could not blunt their pain. (From that time the graceful tree was known as the weeping willow).8 In similar fashion, our past, problems, addictions, etc., can hold us captive and nothing in this world will relieve the pain or sorrow—only Christ can.

There is no joy while our mind is held captive to anything but Christ.


Pastor Sadler states, “When the present dispensation was committed to Paul, the very nature of `grace’ gave birth to a new revelation in regard to our Christian walk.”9 Lewis Sperry Chafer emphasizes, “God has a purpose under grace, for a whole new manner of life for the believer,”10 that is:

  • Adjustment of our life to the indwelling-presence of the Holy Spirit, and of maintaining an unbroken attitude of dependence on that Spirit.
  • The law could work no change in the heart/mind, nor can our attempts to keep rules; the Spirit only can do this.
  • Under grace, God proposes by the Spirit to first create the heavenly motives and desires, and then, by the same Spirit, to empower the life through the Word unto the full realization of those desires (Philippians 2:13).
  • Thus, it may be seen that grace is not a way of escaping obedience to God, it is the only possible way in which true obedience can be secured.

If you squeeze an orange you get orange juice, every time. If you want grape juice no amount of faith or sincere prayer will enable grape juice to come out of an orange. Even a child knows you always get orange juice, “because that’s what’s in it.” The question is, what comes out of us when we are squeezed? What is truly inside is what will come out when squeezed by the stress of life. Does cursing, addictive behavior, bitterness, revenge, or sorrow come out? As the Lord transforms our mind and renews it His fruit is produced in our mind; then what will come out will be love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22-23). “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9).

How Morphing Works

Believers should embrace and clearly understand transformation.

  • It is not an instantaneous act of God, it is a process of God (lifelong).
  • It is not a gift (it is not acquired all at one time or in a complete form like a gift); it is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit requiring cooperation and effort on our part. In this regard, it helps to understand that generally a spiritual gift and an act of God go together (example: salvation), whereas, spiritual fruit and a process of God go together (examples: love, joy, peace).
  • The passive voice (Greek) in Romans 12:2 means the Holy Spirit will do the transforming for us as we cooperate with Him (listening, yielding, relying, submitting, learning, praying, studying, obeying…).
  • We do not get a renewed mind by just praying, asking or believing. There are no shortcuts or quick and easy ways for becoming spiritually mature.
  • It results in His fruit growing in us (Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 1:11, Ephesians 5:9).
  • Fruit grows slowly, requiring: nurturing (Word, prayer, obedience…), cultivation (weed removal, i.e., those old things in our life that choke out our new life in Christ), watering (worship and praise), fertile ground (a mind receptive and hungry), pruning (some strategic removal of “self” so that we can be closer to the Vine and produce better fruit), and pest removal (Ephesians 6, spiritual warfare).

The schematics below will be used to help illustrate this important ministry. Concerning the soul and spirit, Hebrews 4:12 indicates that only the Word of God can discern the difference between them because they are so much alike in their nature and activities. Likewise, the activities of soul, mind and heart are similar, overlapping considerably.

In Figure 1, the four circles represent our entire being. On the outside is our temporary house (our body), next deeper down into our being is our soul (mind/heart), and further into the deeper parts of our being (our core) is our spirit. The most inner circle would be a black hole (void of God) for the unsaved, but for the believer the Holy Spirit comes within and fills this most important part of our being. In time past (including the Gospels), the Spirit worked from the outside to create changes within the person. But now, in this dispensation, the Holy Spirit is within the person and works outward—a much more effective means for assuring a Godly demeanor. He works from the deepest recesses of our being, working outward, transforming our mind and life in the process.

As the Holy Spirit works, He is primarily interested in the most important areas of our existence, i.e., our spirit and the deeper parts of our soul. What is contained in these areas where the Spirit primarily works? Well, the core issues of life. Starting at the deepest issues and going toward the less deep, the order is somewhat like this: God-consciousness, faith, conscience, character, value system, will, desires, and so forth. Figure 2 represents a more detailed view of various parts of our composition (from the body to the Holy Spirit) and how they relate. Things like personality and emotions are far from the core; it is not as likely He will change our body, personality or emotions as it is He will change the core issues. He changes our core issues and creates fruit in our life; thus, a person will have inner joy (character issue) but may not display a happy face (emotion). Other examples of His transforming power are seen when a person’s value system is changed from pro-choice to pro-life or when a person’s desires are changed over time such that addictive behavior is overcome. Godly convictions, conscience and behavior are created through a renewed mind.

The Spirit is needed in transforming us because we are incapable to affect any change on our own. As an example, consider our character, which comes from the depths and recesses of our being. Our character is different than our personality, our personality is our outward manifestation to the world around us. Our character looks inward, it feels our hurt and joy, it arranges our inner value system and motivations. Character is the foundation upon which our personality acts. Our character has some very basic needs, and these needs are generally established early in life and are based upon our first and most primitive experiences. The word for character originally meant, “to carve, engrave, scratch, or cut grooves.”11 It comprises the deepest imprints (grooves) in our person, and these grooves are not easily changed. For most people these early-formed imprints are permanently engraved into their being. Those grooves that are in error are the `scars of life’ that cause many people mental health problems their whole life. We need Divine help to remove them (when they are contrary to God’s will). It is like erasing scratches in a phonographic record or CD, impossible for us, easy for Him. If done through self-effort we only “pick scabs” and create permanent scars. We must depend upon Him to make us new from the inside-out to remove the grooves and erase the scars of the past; otherwise, they will control us and hold us captive our entire life.

Prepare for the Journey

The life-long journey of transformation is not necessarily easy and it has frustrations. It is the journey He has planned and will guide; it goes places we did not know existed. None of us could have even dreamed of such a journey.

A. Accept thorns: Recall the boy and chrysalis story; struggle is one means for growth if we want to mature. God uses struggles and trials to mature us; we must bear His cross. Accept the fact there will be many discouragements and even doubts, but do not let them deter you from further growth.

B. Expect Spiritual Advancement: Philippians 3:15-16—Let your level of spiritual attainment be your guide for further advancement, but do not get stuck at some level and think you can not mature more. Your imperfections will be revealed by the Holy Spirit so that you may continue to grow and be more complete (not sinless, but a well rounded Christian). Maturity versus infancy is the issue; God wants to continually transform us so we more and more conform to Christ.

C. Rejoice in the Refiner’s touch: God loves you just the way you are, but refuses to leave you that way; He wants you to be like Christ. We love babies just as they are, but do we stop when they fill their pants? No, that is their nature; we want to help them grow and refuse to leave them that way (II Corinthians 3:18). We do not want to be spiritual babies for long.

D. New light/truth demands change: Transformation enables us to mentally accept the concept that a “reasonable service” for our Lord is to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, Romans 12:1. If you have to give up former ways, habits or addictions, He will first change your desires and then give you the willpower to do it—change becomes easier than originally thought. As we commit to a new way of life it will, over time, become a natural way of life. Change/sacrifice is what God asks, and is a ministry of the Holy Spirit we should take great care not to quench.

E. Stretch Forward: In Philippians 3:1-14 Paul uses a race runner’s analogy. The runner’s speed is slackened by looking backward to those behind, so the Christian’s onward progress is hindered by dwelling on the past. The past, whether bad or good, can hold us captive and prevent future advancement. Forgetting the past means to not let it dominate our present emotions and life. If things have been made right with those involved, we should forget about the past and stretch forward to the things ahead, like a runner leans toward the finish line. You cannot run the race looking backward.

Outcome of Transformation

Transformation results in a closer walk and intimacy with Christ. Intimacy allows us to be ourselves without fear of disapproval. Thus, I can pour my heart out to Him without fear of His disappointment and He can pour Himself into me without my resistance or fear. A transformed mind thinks something like this:

As the Lord leads, I desire to live with a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord—a life infused with a God-given purpose. May my intent be to know Him so closely that everything I think or touch is filled with the fullness of Christ. Furthermore, may my passion be to have a mind with the inclination and desires to believe and pursue Christ-likeness with every aspect of my being.

Transformation creates true empowerment. Power is produced from within, actuating and providing us with the ability to perform what He desires in our lives. As His fruit begins growing in our mind, our lives displays more and more Christ-likeness, and our lives reflects the fruit of growing in grace. We are empowered to glorify God.

Practical help

There is a fairly well known process for getting from the thought of doing something to actually getting it done. First we have the thought of accomplishing something, this is the conceptual stage that involves our will; it takes place in our mind. The next step is to move the thought from our mind to verbalizing it (saying it), this expresses our desire to others and tends to establish it in our heart. Once we have verbalized our desire then we move to establishing our intent (the planning stage): answering the what, how, and when questions that help assure accomplishment of the goal. Then, the final stage is to have a passion about doing (action) what is needed to see the goal become an accomplished fact.

Note how similar this is to what God did for us so that we could be “in Christ” in this present age. First, by His will he developed the concept in His mind (thought it all out before the foundation of the world), verbalized it (let Us make man in our Own image), planned for the whole process of Christ’s death and the life hereafter (He even planned to keep some things secret for a time), and finally He put it all into action and directed the process.

Each step of maturity brought about by transformation of the mind helps assure the next steps of spiritual growth are godly in origin. The renewed mind can then correctly express the desire, plan for change and passionately pursue the goal. But, all too often we quench the Holy Spirit (I Thessalonians 5:19) by finding excuses for not allowing the Holy Spirit to work fully in our life, e.g., “All men lust,” “A bad temper runs in the family,” “I just cannot love my spouse.” How sad, how inexcusable! He commands us not to have this mind-set and has created a way that He can accomplish needed change from the very core of our being. The Lord’s heart must ache for the person who has been a Christian for years and has preferred to retain the mind of the old nature. This compromised holiness is the precursor to a compromised life, with less impact and service than desired.

In addition to quenching the Holy Spirit there is another way we hinder transformation. It has to do with how we view things in general, and how we view something can subconsciously drive our intent and passion. It has been shown that we have best results when we view a situation from the positive, rather than from the negative. If viewed from the negative, there is often a break in the process between Desire and Intent. God puts the thought in the mind, the person translates that into a desire, but Satan (or self) finds a way for partial obedience to seem very godly, and this prevents further advancement. The example below will help clarify this.

A person says, “I hate being so angry.” This is viewing an area of concern from the negative perspective. The problem with this view is that the expressed desire is to hate anger, so in order for this person to hate being angry they must be angry. The intent (plan) follows the desire, so the plan in this case will revolve around how to hate being angry. Unfortunately, in order to continue to hate one’s anger a person must stay angry. It seems absurd at first, but such views inadvertently and subconsciously set a person up for failure; in this case, the person tends to get hung-up on hating anger rather than getting over it. They can find solace in the fact they hate what God hates, but they end up being just partially obedient and do not appropriate God’s provision for victory. A person has to view and state their desire positively, “With God’s help, I will be slow to anger.” Once we have thought it out and verbalized being slow to anger, then plans to accomplish this can begin and the person can passionately practice being slow to anger.

The person above must make cooperation with the Lord a moment-by-moment issue. Cooperation requires searching for Scriptures that apply to the situation, confronting the situation constructively, making no provisions to continue to sin, repenting (immediately stopping wrong behavior and acknowledging the sin), and practicing replacing anger with the things noted in Philippians 4:8. A specific formula/approach for success in overcoming each problem area of life cannot be given because it is the work of the Holy Spirit and may be different in each person’s life. What works for one may not work for another, this is His domain. Again, there are no short cuts and each person must search the Scriptures daily for help and insights, while also searching for strongholds in their life that have to be brought into obedience to the Lord.

How should one verbalize a temper problem: “I wish I did not have a bad temper” or “I will be longsuffering”? How about relationships: “My spouse and I have irreconcilable differences” or “Christ can make something beautiful out of the ashes or our marriage and I will make that my top priority.” Consider this approach for any issue, say, being overweight.

There is instruction in the oxymoron, “Lord give me patience and give it to me now.” Prayer alone will not yield patience. Prayer coupled with a willing mind and obedience to His Word will. The very instance we feel impatience occurring we must cut it off, “make no provision for the flesh,” and replace it with proper behavior. This may require some personal suffering; but recall Romans 5:3 indicates tribulation (suffering) leads to patience, which leads to experience (character building) and that to hope. So, when we seek patience we are likely to experience suffering and gain experience in the process. Transformation is the process of embarking on a journey with the Holy Spirit, trekking into unexplored secret avenues of our lives, going down paths we never knew existed, and accomplishing the impossible. We learn it is a journey based upon obedience, trust and reliance upon Him.


The first step in God’s plan to make us whole is our salvation. Salvation provides the very deepest spiritual needs a person has; these are the spiritual blessings of Ephesians 1:4-2:6. Although we get these blessings the moment of salvation, it takes the life-long work of the Holy Spirit to help us understand and appreciate them. These blessings help erase insecurity and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness by replacing them with the comfort and assurance of Christ.

The next step in making us whole (sound-minded) is our transformation. A leopard cannot change its spots; on the contrary, a Christian must. We have access to Divine empowerment to change the spots (core issues) of our life. To say, “I cannot help who I am,” is not true. Christians have the Holy Spirit within them, so the issue is not who you are, but who He is. He determines who you can be. In all stages of our life, no matter what our age, the Lord has work to do; the issue is, are we willing to yield and cooperate. It has been said there are two sides to every person, one minute sweet and lovely to one person and a minute later explosive in rage to another; this does not have to be the case for the believer.

Transformation is accomplished through mind renewal, and as He renews our minds the fruit of the Holy Spirit is produced in our life—slowly but surely replacing the attitudes and character traits belonging to the old nature. Then, when we are squeezed by life’s trials we display the love, joy, peace, and longsuffering indicative of Christ in us. A popular hymn refers to us as worms before our salvation; we may have been worms at that time, but His ministry is changing us worms into beautiful creatures of great worth.

(Steve Shober is a Naturopath (natural health practitioner) and a member of the BBS Board of Directors. If you have questions about this article, you can contact him at: Biblical Health Ministries, 7179 Clover Hill Dr., Waunakee, WI 53597; or Biblical Health Ministries is a non-profit ministry dedicated to teaching God’s provisions for our health.)


  1. Scofield, C.I.; The Scofield Reference Bible; Oxford University Press; 1945.
  2. Vogel, H.C.A.; The Nature Doctor; Keats Publishing; 1991.
  3. The phrase in brackets was added by this author.
  4. Brock, Robert; “The Commands of Christ for Christian Living”; Expo. Press; 1997.
  5. Ortberg, John; The Life You’ve Always Wanted; Zondervan Publishing House, 1997.
  6. Morter, Ted M.; Cell Health and Wellness; Lifetime Books, Inc.; 1992.
  7. Bitterness has been shown to negatively influence a person’s gall bladder and anger negatively influences a person’s liver. Over time both of these will lead to physical as well as mental illness.
  8. Castleman, Michael; The Healing Herbs; Rodall Press; 1991.
  9. Sadler, Paul M.; Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians; Berean Bible Society; 1999.
  10. Chafer, Lewis Sperry; Grace; Zondervan Publishing House; 1979.
  11. Malone, Thomas & Patrick; The Art of Intimacy, Simon & Schuster, 1987.

Berean Searchlight – September 2005

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