The Son of Almighty God came riding a donkey humbly into the city of Jerusalem on this day almost two thousand years ago to celebratory shouts of praise and laying of palm branches before His procession. Christians call this day Palm Sunday because of this event which occurred in precise fulfillment of prophecy (Zechariah 9:9) and is recorded in all four New Testament Gospel accounts (see for example John 12:12-15). The Lord Jesus rode into the holy city openly presenting Himself as God’s Anointed One and King! By Friday He would be soundly rejected as the religious leaders and many of the people following their leadership called for His crucifixion (Luke 23:13-25).
The foretold spiritual realities and truths surrounding all of the foregoing are intended by God to remain unchanged forever! For in them and all that follows bound up in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the glorious outcomes are issues of eternal life and death for mortal man. And yet, nearly two millennia later, professing Christianity is completely twisted and conflicted on even the most basic elements of God’s salvation through the Gospel and written instruction that comprises “the faith” as proud men and women in the thousands clash over their personal theologies. In the edited 2012 blog repost for this Palm Sunday, I exalt the one Lord and one faith He has established for us through His blood as it is written in Holy Scripture (Ephesians 4:1-6).
Originally Posted March 25, 2012
As the annual commemoration of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ approaches, I am reminded from the New Testament accounts of His ministry that He never allowed for anyone to believe He represented any way to God but one: through Him (John 14:6)! Similarly, Jesus always stood on the righteousness and wisdom of God as already written in the Old Testament Scriptures (Matthew 4:3-10). He is never quoted as citing the writings of the great minds of history to give authoritative weight to His teachings. He also never offered opinions but taught the people in the absolutes of authority. No mystery here as to why since He is the eternal Word of God made flesh (John 1:1, 14-18). He was faithful to all of His own previously written Word and the divine will.
While even the Lord’s eyewitness apostles initially struggled to fully grasp and faithfully disseminate the essential Gospel and instructions of the faith to believers in the early years of Christianity (Acts 10:1-11:18, 15:1-29), the apostle Paul was absolute by the late fifties of the first century that there was only one Gospel and called for the divine destruction of any one preaching another (Galatians 1:6-9). Certainty does not elude Jude, the half-brother of the Lord either when he writes his short epistle calling for believers “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints,” (Jude 3, NKJV). Most Bible students would agree Jude writes well after Paul wrote his Galatians epistle. The point being that contrary to the madness that exists in the world today, the Bible unapologetically asserts there is only one way to relationship with God and that is through faith in the one Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).
Too, in spite of the insane confusion that exists doctrinally in and among the churches today, there is only one faith plainly presented in the pages of Scripture and gladly illuminated by the Holy Spirit to all who will take the time to seek Him. Otherwise, those that are presenting their many different theologies supposedly taken from the Bible would have us believe contrary to it that God is confused and tolerant to the point He is the author of confusion among those He loves (1 Corinthians 14:33). This is outrageously evil beyond words and blasphemy! There is a such thing as error which is clearly seen when any doctrine of sinful men arises that does not only line up with a particular passage of Scripture, but the whole thrust of instruction in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation inspired by God (Galatians 2:1-4:31; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Yes, believers are free in Christ to live and conduct our lives how we please before God as it concerns personal freedom. But this freedom is by no means a license to sin, invent doctrines that flow from our own prideful flesh or speak authoritatively on spiritual matters apart from drawing directly out of Scripture (Romans 14:1-15:6; Galatians 5:1-15). In my book, The Strong Man Of God: Back To Basics, I present faith in Christ crucified, buried and risen as the only way to salvation. I also declare Him to be the One bidding men to follow Him in the one and only faith He and His apostles present from the whole counsel of God existing in the Bible. Aspiring strong men of God in the image of Christ embrace the one, true biblical faith and are ready to die in contending for its veracity, their Lord and hope in Him (Luke 9:23-26). In His footsteps, truly, a number have died and will die doing so in days ahead in accord with God’s eternally enduring Word (Luke 21:12-19, 33; Revelation 6:9-11, 12:7-12).
A Christian without the indwelling Holy Spirit is an absurd impossibility as Scripture affirms (John 3:3-5, 14:15-18, 15:5; Acts 1:4-5, 8; Romans 8:8-9). Yet, in the ignorance but mostly arrogant pride of sinful men since the first century, many have tried to do Christianity without the Holy Spirit. Christianity the religion of men in all of its many forms to this hour and doomed to destruction is the wicked and tragic result. In this edited 2013 blog repost, the Spirit of the Lord leads me to examine the sobering encounter of the apostle Paul with would be Christians devoid of Him, His life, fruit or empowering gifts as instruction, rebuke and a call to repentance in the churches that need it.
Originally Posted January 27, 2013
What made the apostle Paul begin to question the band of men described as “disciples” he met at Ephesus about whether they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed (Acts 19:1-2a)? We do not know for sure which is why, no doubt, there are many opinions. However, one certain thing we know about the apostle Paul is that He took his calling seriously and was not given to spiritual sensationalism or adding anything to the divine requirements for salvation in Christ (Galatians 1:1-10). Surely it was something deficient in the conversation or walk of these men that triggered the apostle’s query.
Contrary to the arrogance of many impostors and willfully sinning weak believers, it does not take maturing, Spirit-filled Christians very long at all to discern their spiritual condition (Matthew 7:15-20). If there were no other fruit lacking in a professing Christian but divine love that would be enough information to send off spiritual alarm bells. However, there is more; much more of the fruit of the Spirit that maturing, discerning Christians are able to see is present or not in one claiming to be a fellow born again believer. After all, truly born again Christians partake together of the same Holy Spirit and divine nature.
On the apostle Paul’s “fruit of the Spirit” list after love in Galatians 5:22 is joy followed by peace. Let us be clear that any of the great apostle’s lists of divine fruit are not intended to present any sort of hierarchy. God is who God is in nature and fullness all at the same time! Nevertheless, in complete contrast to the inabilities of our fallen, sinful flesh to deliver anything like what man most inwardly yearns for by God’s design (Galatians 5:19-21), the apostle immediately lays out the three attributes of God’s nature that satisfy the yearning of our hearts and are experienced exclusively by born again believers as fruit of the Holy Spirit. This is the life of God He offers freely and brings to every soul that will seek Him through faith in Jesus Christ (Isaiah 55:1-3; John 7:37-39, 10:10)!
The joy of the Lord through the agency of the Holy Spirit has consistently attended the lives of God’s faithful from ancient times as recorded in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Unlike human happiness that depends on the right circumstances to cause it, the joy of the Lord is His eternal nature. God is joy! As a result, everlasting joy naturally radiates out of the Holy Spirit as well as into and back out of the lives of the faithful like light and heat from the physical sun that will someday expend all of its energy (Psalm 16:11; John 15:9-11). This is also true concerning peace. God is peace! The peace of God is not like the world’s peace which depends on external factors (John 14:27). God’s peace is of His eternal nature and beyond human understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).
As should also be true for the faithful today, the lives of faithful 1st century Christians were characterized by the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of the promises of Christ and as taught by the apostles (Acts 2:46-47, 8:36-39, 9:31, 13:52, Romans 5:1-2). So, was it the lack of the Spirit’s fruit that the apostle Paul noticed in those disciples he met at Ephesus? Was it the lack of the Spirit’s mighty power pictured at work in the faithful as “fire” leading to the out breaking of spiritual gifts (Jeremiah 20:7-9; Acts 2:1-4, 10:44-48, 11:16-18)? Whatever the exact case may be, when those men said that they had not even heard of the Holy Spirit, Paul pressed them to discover what they had been immersed in.
Finding out it was the baptism of John the Baptist, he immediately instructed about and water baptized them in the name of Christ. Then, after Paul laid hands on the men, the Holy Spirit came upon them and “they spoke with tongues and prophesied,” (Acts 19:2b-7, NKJV). If the apostle Paul could ask supposed disciples had they received the Holy Spirit when they believed as a means to ascertain whether they were truly Christians, we can do no less today. Rather than spiritual gifts which the Holy Spirit in sovereignty may or may not immediately display in a new believer, as a first priority let us look for evidence of His work beginning with repentance from sin to a heart of faith and obedience toward God.
After this, our Lord taught we can know the true from the false by their fruit. Since the fruit of God; the very life of God in nature and character is brought to every soul that has believed on Christ and been baptized into and born again of the Holy Spirit, this is the next positive affirmation of their genuineness. Finally, after evidence of the Spirit’s fruit starting with divine love, look for His fire displayed in spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 13:8-13). The foregoing will mean having mature believers spend some time as Paul did talking to those that present themselves as disciples seeking not only for their right understanding of the Gospel but evidence of new birth before extending church membership to them.
Many pastors and churches fear to do this, of course, because Satan has deceived them into believing everyone’s experience with the Lord is so personal, no matter how unbiblical or outlandish it is not to be questioned. However, if assemblies of genuine believers are to minimize their infiltration by impostors as wolves in sheep’s clothing, they must be spiritually proactive in looking for the mark of a genuine Christian in those seeking formal membership. Also, a weak believer willfully sinning against the Lord must not be invited to serve in any capacity much less leadership in the churches and should be subject to discipline (another New Testament teaching being rejected today) until their repentance is forthcoming.
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