BEING DEAD WITH CHRIST

Scripture says, “….anyone who has died has been freed from sin”. (Romans 6:7 NIV) In the general sense, a dead person is not liable for any wrongdoing they committed while alive. Likewise in the spiritual sense, when we become born again, we are justified before God with respect to our past sins; God no longer holds us guilty for those sins. This is what dying with Christ connotes. That is why Romans 6:3 states, “….don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (NIV) Being baptized into Christ in this context is not a reference to water baptism, but rather to the born-again experience.

      Believers in Christ Jesus – being dead with Christ – have been freed from the dominion of sin. (Romans 6:14) Just as human laws have no effect whatsoever on a dead person, so the law of sin and death has no power over us. (Romans 8:2) Our spirit self has been sanctified with the Blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:2), and it is no longer in our nature to sin. Committing sin has become an aberration or anomaly. (1 John 3:9) Our true nature is now the holy nature of God. This is not to say that our natural self has attained perfection (Philippians 3:12), but if we unintentionally sin, we have Christ Jesus as our Advocate. (1 John 2:1) All we need do is to repent of the sin with a strong resolve never to commit it again. (Proverbs 28:13)

      In order for a sinner to become dead with Christ, he must identify by faith with Christ’s death on the cross. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”. (Galatians 2:20 NIV)

THE GOLDEN CHAIN OF SALVATION

TAIWO OLAWOLE

On R. C. Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries website, we have this simple description of the golden chain of redemption or salvation: “Romans 8:29-30 features the sequence known as the golden chain of salvation, the inviolable order in which our Creator saves His people”. R. C. Sproul  himself noted that “ Foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification and glorification are the highlighted links to that chain”.

      Romans 8:29-30 states, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called, those he called, he also justified, those he justified, he also glorified”. (NIV)

In my book, “It’s Pointless Serving A God You Don’t Know”, I opted to refer to the golden chain of salvation as “the Five Principles of Divine Election”. It is my belief that these five principles are meant to explain the reason for and the consequences of God’s election. Much of what I will be saying from this point on is taken from the aforementioned book.

      To elect is to make a formal choice, and God chose us, Believers in Christ, out of the whole of humanity, to be His Children. All Believers in Christ Jesus constitute the Elect or the saints. (1 Peter 2:9)

      Foreknowledge is the knowledge of something before it happens. The principle of foreknowledge reveals that God had always known us, Believers, even before He created the universe. (Jeremiah 1:5) In His foreknowledge, God identified and chose us to be His own.

      According to Merriam-Webster, to predestine is “to destine, decree, determine, appoint, or settle beforehand”. As a theological concept, therefore, predestination is often defined to mean that God had preordained from the foundation of the world all the events on earth, and had chosen the people that would be saved and those that would not be saved. This position has however, generated centuries of fractious debates.

      Some Bible theologians appear to have confused the principle of foreknowledge with the principle of predestination. Foreknowledge is a state of awareness, while predestination is an act, like making a decree. God foreknew both the good and the bad events in Creation, but He only predestined what is good for His own Children. (Jeremiah 29:11) God, for example, foreknew the centuries of war in Europe, but He did not predestine any of those wars. Predestination is limited to God’s dealings with His Children. In fact, that principle, as contained in Romans 8:29, clearly specifies what God predestined for His Elect: “…..to be conformed to the likeness of his Son….”

The Lord Jesus, in Matthew 9:13, remarked that He had not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Whenever the Gospel is preached to sinners, Christ is calling them to repentance.

      After we have heeded the call and have been purged of our sinful nature through the born-again experience, God justifies us; He declares us righteous. Merriam-Webster defines the word justify as, “to show to be just, right……to judge, regard, or treat as righteous and worthy of salvation”. Being purged of our sinful nature means that we have become sanctified or made holy.

      When we become born again, we receive the glory of sonship in God’s House (John 1:12), we become members of God’s Family, having access by faith to all the privileges that are available to the Children of God. The process of glorification is a progressive one; we “are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory….” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV) That process will only climax when we get to Heaven.

BE LED BY THE SPIRIT

TAIWO OLAWOLE

To follow the Holy Spirit simply means to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Scripture commands, “live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:16 NIV), “because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God”. (Romans 8:14 NIV)

      The Holy Spirit is the Third Person in the Trinity. When Christ Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit, He said, “….the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”.

(John 14:26 NIV) The Holy Spirit may also be called ‘the Spirit of Jesus’ (Acts 16:7) He should not be referred to as a ‘Ghost’, because a ghost is the spirit of a dead person. Our Lord Jesus is alive (Revelation 1:18), so His Spirit cannot be called a ghost.

      In getting down to the nitty-gritty of being led by the Holy Spirit, we have to first understand how God speaks directly to His Children. We may identify four ways: Word revelations (Luke 24:45); dreams (Matthew 1:20); visions (Acts 9:10) and inner witnessing (Romans 8:16) There are many in the Church today who are of the opinion that besides Word revelations, God no longer speaks directly to us through the other three means. This, I’m afraid, is very far from the truth.

      Care must be taken though when we receive messages from God through dreams, visions or inner witnessing. The Spirit of Christ merely uses any of these three means to gain our attention (you know, we all live very busy lives), He will only “lead” us by His Word. That means, if whatever we receive in a dream, vision or inner witnessing does not agree with the Scripture, we are at liberty to discard it completely, however spiritually appealing it may seem.

      Receiving Word revelations does not require any special training. We just need to make sure that whenever we are approaching the Scripture in personal devotion or study, we first ask the Holy Spirit to give us understanding. The Bible says, “…..no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God”. (1 Corinthians 2:11 NIV) Christ, speaking as ‘Wisdom’ in Proverbs 8:34, counselled, “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway”. (NIV) As often as we prayerfully seek God’s face in His Word, He will reveal His will to us, and His Holy Spirit will lead us by that revelation.

TITHING IN THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH

By TAIWO  OLAWOLE

In ancient Israel, long before the establishment of a monarchy, the nation practised theocracy, a system of government in which religious leaders rule under divine guidance. The first head of Israel’s theocracy was Prophet Moses, whom God used to establish that form of administration. Taxation exists in every form of government, and theocracy is no exception. Tithing in theocratic Israel was a form of taxation, and as we all know, a tax is always obligatory, not voluntary. The Mosaic Law prescribed three types of tithing.

  1. the Levitical tithe (Numbers 18:21,24)
  2. the festival tithe (Deuteronomy 12:18; 14:22-26)
  3. the tithe for the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 26:12-13)

      Besides the obligatory offerings, passages like Exodus 35:29 and Leviticus 23:38 identify what is called a freewill offering. In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, we read, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”. (NIV) Unlike in the Old Testament, the singular principle on which giving is anchored in the New Testament is the principle of freewill.

      It is very vital to point out that, as far as God is concerned, our giving should not be limited to money. We can also give our time, words of encouragement, prayer, food, clothing, shelter, etc. It is equally important for us to note that it is not only ministers of the Gospel we are expected to give to; we should likewise give in support of the less privileged within and outside the Church. “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done”. (Proverbs 19:17 NIV)

      It’s sad and shameful the way many ministers of the Gospel use tithing as a tool to trick or force their congregants into giving. One popular minister even once went as far as threatening his congregation that they would go to Hell if they failed to pay their tithe! That is an absolute lie. By the way, if tithing were voluntary, why do we often use the phrase pay your tithe? The act of paying for something suggests an obligation, whereas giving often denotes a voluntary action.

SANCTIFICATION

TAIWO  OLAWOLE

Sanctification is very important because without it, we cannot get to Heaven. (2 Thessalonians 2:13) It’s unfortunate that our Bible teachers have generally not done enough to clearly define the concept of sanctification to the average Believer. That is why while some Christians consider it to be a process that is begun and concluded during the born-again experience, others see it as a life-long process, or, in certain cases, something to continually pray to God for after becoming born again until you eventually “pray through”. It will help us to view sanctification from two perspectives. There is the ‘purging’ sanctification and the ‘cleansing’ sanctification. The purging sanctification takes place during the born-again experience. In that instance, the Holy Spirit purges us of our sinful nature and replaces it with the nature of Christ. By that process, we are made holy with the cleansing power in the Blood of Christ and set apart for God. This may also be called consecration.

      The cleansing sanctification is the purification that the Believer receives from the Holy Spirit if he commits a sin. I said ‘if’ not ‘when’ because when we become born again, sin is no longer in our nature. Therefore, sinning is not something a Believer does habitually. “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God”. (1 John 3:9 NIV)

      So, the purging sanctification takes place only once in a Believer’s life, and that is at the point where they become born again. There should be no confusion about this at all. This was what Christ made reference to when He said, ‘ “….A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean…..”’ (John 13:10 NIV) Having received this form of sanctification, we are made holy. However, our level of holiness increases the more we devote our life to God. That is why Scripture urges us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (2 Peter 3:18 NIV)

      The cleansing sanctification, on the other hand, is a continuous process, applied by the Holy Spirit whenever necessary. This is like washing the feet, as seen in John 13:10. In Revelation 22:14, it is described as washing one’s robe. ‘ “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city”’. (NIV) Note that in that passage, the Lord Jesus did not say blessed are those who take their bath, or who obtain a new robe.

MELCHIZEDEK

TAIWO OLAWOLE

Melchizedek was not Jesus Christ incarnated, he only prefigured Christ. Here is what Genesis 14:18 tells us about this very mysterious personality. “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram….Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything”. (Genesis 14:18-20 NIV) There are four essential characteristics about Melchizedek that need to be indicated here.

  1. He was a king.
  2. He was a priest.
  3. He was not an Israelite.
  4. He was spiritually superior to Abraham.

      Melchizedek was introduced in Genesis 14:18 as ‘king of Salem’. Salem is probably an older name for Jerusalem. At one stage in its history, the city was captured by the Jebusites, and renamed Jabus, after their ancestor. When King David conquered the Jebusites, the old name of Jerusalem was restored to the city. While Melchizedek was described as ‘king of Salem’, his name itself means ‘king of righteousness’.

      He was equally a priest. Some scholars have posited the preposterous idea that Melchizedek was a priest of a Canaanite god. If that were the case, how could Abraham have allowed himself to be blessed by him, let alone pay tithe to him? Doing so would have amounted to idolatry on the part of Abraham, idolatry being one of the reasons why God told him to leave Ur of the Chaldeans in the first place. The Hebrew in Genesis 14:18 translated as ‘God Most High’ is El Elyon, the same name invoked by Abraham himself (perhaps taking a cue from Melchizedek) in verse 22 of the same chapter. It’s incontrovertible therefore that Melchizedek and Abraham worshipped the same God.

      Melchizedek was a Canaanite king, because Jerusalem (Salem) was a Canaanite city. It’s quite remarkable that such a godly person could be found in Canaan, more so that he was a king and a priest of the living God as well.

      Abraham must have thought very highly of Melchizedek. “And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater”. (Hebrews 7:7 NIV) Coming out of the idolatry in Ur, Abraham probably received a certain amount of spiritual mentorship from Melchizedek, the way Moses received administrative mentorship from Jethro, his father-in-law. (Exodus 18:19-24) “Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!” (Hebrews 7:4 NIV)

      Christ’s priesthood is identified in the order of Melchizedek. (Psalm 110:4), that is, as Melchizedek was a king-priest, so is Christ Jesus, our King and High Priest. Before Christ, no other individual besides Melchizedek had been given the divine mandate to combine both offices.

THE SIN THAT GOD WILL NOT FORGIVE

TAIWO  OLAWOLE

When we talk about the unforgivable or unpardonable sin (Matthew 12:31), we tend to equate that with ‘the sin that leads to death’ (1 John 5:16) Indeed, the two are not one and the same thing. In Matthew 12:31, Christ Jesus warned, “….every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven”. (NIV) What we have here is only a word of caution; it does not carry with it the assertion that anybody is capable of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. To blaspheme God is to speak about God in an offensive manner. The Holy Spirit is a part of Divinity that the world does not know. (John 14:17) Only Believers in Christ can know the Holy Spirit. If therefore the world does not know the Spirit, how do you consciously mock a subject that you do not know exists? As for Believers, it is not possible for any Child of God to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, because it is the Spirit Himself who helps us to do what pleases God. (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:11) The simple truth therefore is that nobody is capable of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

      The sin that results in death (1 John 5:16) is not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, as we have already clarified. It could be any of the following.

  1. An act of wickedness committed by an unbeliever of which they have not truly repented
  2. A sin that causes a fatal harm to the body.
  3. A crime that attracts the death penalty.

      All the sins mentioned above are sins that God is willing to forgive if the offender repents. Note that the issue in that scriptural passage is not whether or not God will forgive the offender, but rather if God will spare the life of the offender. Describing Himself in Exodus 34:7, God said, “maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin”. (NIV) The only sin that God will not forgive is the sin that is not genuinely repented of. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows”. (Galatians 6:7 NIV) According to Proverbs 28:13, true repentance is confessing and renouncing sin. When we tell God that we are sorry for committing a sin, at the same time we must repudiate that sin in our heart. The Holy Spirit will always lead Believers to true repentance if we sin (Philippians 2:13) An unbeliever, on the other hand, may tell God that he is sorry for committing a sin, but since his is a sinful nature, he will pretty soon sin again, even if he doesn’t repeat the particular sin he repented of.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. (Romans 6:23 NIV) All unbelievers constantly live under a death sentence, that is, spiritual death or eternal separation from God. Category A above is a reference to an act of wickedness committed by an unbeliever which, if not truly repented of, could lead to their physical death, and, subsequently, spiritual death – eternal damnation in Hell. We should not be confused by Apostle John’s use of the word ‘brother’ in 1 John 5:16. That could be an allusion to either a fellow human being or a fellow Believer, depending on the three contexts we have identified above.

An example of a sin that causes fatal bodily harm is a sexual sin that results in a deadly disease. Believers are under no obligation to pray for life for such an offender. Whether or not God will spare their life is for God Himself to decide; He does not require our intercession in such circumstance.

      A crime that is legally punishable by death is another kind of sin that leads to death. Even if the offender genuinely repents and thus receives God’s forgiveness, Believers are not mandated or expected to pray for life for the offender. So, again, the sparing of his life or otherwise is not dependent on the prayers of concerned Christians, but simply on God’s sovereign will.