Abiding: A deed done, something sharp, inside, within or amid.
In earlier chapters I have gone to great lengths to stress the importance of foundations.
Indeed, the previous 11 chapters form the foundation for now looking, in detail, at the words spoken by Yeshua in John 15:1-2.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
We have already considered the far-reaching meaning of the words in Verse 1. Yeshua is the True Vine, as opposed to satan who is the false vine. Yeshua is a planting of God the Father who is the Divine Gardener, fully controlling everything that happens within His Garden. Indeed, it is God the Father who ordains that branches should be cut free from the false vine and grafted into the Life of His Son Yeshua, the True Vine.
Also, we have noted the centrality of fruit-bearing in the plans and purposes of God the Father as the Sovereign Gardener. However, this is the first time we have come face to face with the reality of what will happen if we fail to produce in our lives, as branches, the fruit of the Spirit. Yeshua expresses these consequences in more detail in Verses 6:
"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
There has been a popular notion at large amongst Christians known as, “once saved always saved”. Naturally, this notion leaves no place for these straightforward words of Yeshua. His words leave us in no doubt that anyone having been cut to the heart, cut free from the false vine, circumcised in heart and grafted into Christ the True Vine and yet remain unfruitful will be cut off and cast into the fire of hell!
Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
Why would the writer to the Hebrews have stated these things if it were not possible for the Divine Gardener to cut off those branches that He has grafted in?
Romans 11: 17-21 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in." Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.
Indeed, why would Paul write such words to the Romans if they were not a true reflection of Yeshua’ words in John 15?
You see it isn’t even enough to have been cut free, circumcised and grafted in. Unless all these things lead to a steady flow of the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Yeshua into, and through, our lives every moment of every day, to the end that the Holy Spirit can produce His Fruit upon our lives, then we are in very great danger of being cut off as unfruitful branches.
This is a harsh reality, but a reality nonetheless. It is a reality that Christendom needs to face, rather than trying to conjure it away with theological slight of hand.
You would think that the reverse side of this coin ie. fruit bearing, would be much more pleasant to our ears, but it is not. Yeshua says that those branches that are fruitful will be pruned!
As has already been established, being cut to the heart, being cut free from the false vine and circumcised in heart are all painful experiences. So, too, is the process of being pruned.
Sadly, we have been so indoctrinated with an expectation of a “trouble free, `bless me’ life in Christ” that we can barely stomach the ramifications of what Yeshua is saying.
Yet, the Apostle Paul, together with the other Apostles and many of the believers in the First Century Church, understood with the greatest clarity what this pruning involved.
2Corinthians 11: 23-31 Are they ministers of Christ? I speak as a fool; I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness; besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.
Hebrew 11: 35-40 Women received their dead raised to life again. And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
God the Father has one purpose in pruning and that is to render us more fruitful.
In the natural, a pruned branch must draw even more strongly on the life of the vine, or it will die. So too, when God the Father prunes us we must learn to draw on the life of Christ, which is in the Holy Spirit, the Life-giving Sap of the True Vine.
There are many ways in which the Father can choose to prune us. Yeshua mentions one way when He says:
John 15: 3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
The Word of God, both the written Word and the Living Word are pruning shears in the hands of God the Father. And pruning cannot be separated from our need for continued cleansing. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth and as He flows through us He will reveal the inner-most secrets of our hearts, He will uncover anything of our sinful flesh that would compromise our abiding. But once these things are uncovered it is up to us to yield to the pruning of the Divine Gardener.
Even though Aaron and his sons were cleansed at their consecration into the priesthood, there was also a continual cleansing required as they fulfilled their office as priests unto God. We are very foolish if we think we can serve as Priests under the order of Melchisedek, who is Christ, and yet not be subjected to the continual cleansing, which comes through our being pruned.
Another pruning tool in the hands of God the Father is satan! This is a truth that very few Christians wish to embrace. How could a loving God use satan, His enemy, to prune us, the people He loves? The answer is very straightforward. God the Father is the SOVEREIGN GARDENER!
Both Peter and Paul learnt the reality of being pruned by satan.
Luke 22: 31-32 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. "But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."
1Corinthians 12: 7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The sole reason for the fruitfulness of the life and ministry of Peter and Paul lies in their understanding of, and acceptance of, the pruning that took place in their lives under the watchful eye of the Divine Gardener.
The key purpose of God the Father in pruning His saints is that we might abide in Christ more completely and that we might be fruitful and become even more fruitful.
John 15: 4-5 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
John 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so, shall you be my disciples.
Not only is fruit-bearing the purpose of God the Father in pruning our lives, it is also how we become mature disciples.
Kenneth Wuest, in his translation of the NT, expresses Verse 8 of John 15 as follows:
“In this My Father is glorified, namely, that you are bearing much fruit. So, shall you become My disciples.”
It is also worth noting here that even though the branches bear the fruit the credit and the glory is always attributed to the Gardener. You never hear people praising a vine, or the sap or the soil, or even the branches for the wonderful fruit they have produced. No, people praise the gardener. As in the natural, so in the spiritual. All glory and praise and worship are due to God the Father, as the Divine Gardener, for the fruit that is produced on our lives, as branches that are abiding in Christ the True Vine.
Yeshua is making a vital statement here, which Christian communities in general have not heeded. Not even Yeshua is to receive the glory for the fruit produced, nor is the Holy Spirit, even though they both play a vital role in rendering us as fruitful branches. The glory must always go to the Father!
When we set this alongside another clear statement made by Yeshua it should prompt a great deal of heart-searching regarding what passes for worship in Christian communities of our day.
1John 4:23-24 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
You see, worship as far as Yeshua is concerned, must have as its foundation our abiding in Christ. But the object and recipient of our worship must always be the Father.
Philippians 2:11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Let us turn our attention for a moment to look at several key words in John 15. As you read this passage you will quickly notice that the word “abide” is the central theme of this passage.
The Hebrew word picture meaning, which you read at the start of this chapter is: “a deed done, something sharp, inside, within or amid”. To my mind this definition encourages us to always relate abiding to the realities that we have been grafted in and we will experience ongoing pruning.
Both grafting and pruning involve a deed done, (by the Divine Gardener) with something sharp, to position us inside or within Christ the True Vine (grafting) or, to remove something unfruitful inside, within or amid our lives (pruning).
In the Greek, the word abide means: to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy); to abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand.
I particularly like the rendering of this word provided by Kenneth Wuest. In his translation of the NT, he uses this phrase: “maintain a living communion”.
This phrase captures more fully what it means to abide in Christ, who is the True Vine. It is a union in which both the Vine and the branches share something in common and the basis of this common-union is that both the Vine and the branches share the same life. As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual. If God the Father has grafted us into Christ, then we have the actual life of Christ flowing through us, just as surely as a natural branch has the life of its new parent vine flowing through it. This is accomplished through the ministry of the Holy Spirit who becomes to us “the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Yeshua”.
However, our ability to maintain a living communion with Yeshua is a matter of co-dependance. We must learn the reality of Yeshua’s words in Verse 5 when He states: “for without me you can do nothing”. This means that outside of being in union with Yeshua there is no life that has any eternal value. Sure, you can live a full and meaningful life in the eyes of the world, but if you are not abiding in Christ then your life amounts to nothing! Outside of abiding in Christ I cannot consider myself to be a Christian, I cannot consider myself to be a husband, a father, a Bible teacher, an intercessor or anything else you might want to add to the list. Yeshua says: “without me you can do nothing” and I for one believe He means NOTHING!
This is a hard pill for us to swallow, especially if we have been exposed for any length of time to the passive teaching of many a denomination and movement (which we referred to in Chapter 1) that we are in fact most useful to God. All we must do, according to this passive teaching, is keep busy in some form of ministry and we’ve got it made.
There is an element of truth in the fact that we can be useful to God, but this element of truth has been grossly overemphasised and distorted in most denominational settings.
We are useful to God only because He has grafted us into Christ so that we might produce fruit. Remember the Gardener cannot bear the fruit, the Vine cannot bear the fruit, and neither can the Sap bear the fruit. Only the branches can bear fruit. But the fruit is the result of the branches depending on the Gardener, the Vine and the Sap. Therefore, abiding in Christ, maintaining a living common-union with Him is foundational to the life of a saint.
Unless the fruit produced by our lives is the direct result of our abiding in Christ we are useless rather than useful, as far as God the Father is concerned.
Another key word in John 15 is the word OBEY.
The Hebrew word picture meaning for the word obey is: to see the name.
You will recall that when we looked at the symptoms of hardness of heart the first symptom was an unwillingness to obey. That is, an unwillingness to hear clearly and to put into practice what has been heard.
One of the key ways, then, in which we maintain a living common union with Yeshua and keep our hearts free of hardness, is through obedience.
John 15: 10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.
John 15: 14 “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
John 15: 17 “These things I command you, that you love one another.
Love is the summation of the life of Christ and it is the primary fruit that should be evident on every branch abiding in the True Vine. If we are maintaining a living common union with Yeshua through obedience to the words He has spoken to us, then the result will be the love of Christ flowing through us and touching the lives of those around us.
John 15: 9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.
But, here again, our obedience must be built upon the right foundation.
John 15:14-15 “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
"No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.
There was a time when the disciples were servants. The meaning of this word is: a bondman, bondservant.
A slave is totally dependant on his master for food, clothing and shelter, as well as instructions as to what to do next. Slavery is tied-in with the realisation that outside of Christ we are nothing. It is only when we have understood our slavery to Christ that we can progress, through obedience, to being called His friends. However, we are very foolish if we ever forget that our friendship with Christ continues to depend upon our foundational understanding that apart from Him we can do nothing (we are like slaves).
But to truly abide in Christ’s love we need to learn yet more about our role in maintaining our living common union with Christ through Communion or the Lord’s Supper.
Armour: All God’s Hand
There is little doubt that the weightiest passage in Scripture regarding spiritual warfare and spiritual armour is found in Ephesians 6:10-18
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints;
Spiritual warfare has come into “fashion” over the past 15-20 years. Consequently, a great deal has been written and said about this passage in Ephesians. Like most modern-day disciples of Jesus Christ, I have had my fair share of attempts at striving in spiritual warfare, but the lack of long-term fruit has left me wondering about the whole concept of spiritual warfare; as we have understood it and practiced it in the past. I guess I still have serious doubts as to whether we have yet grasped what the Holy Spirit is seeking to communicate to the Body of Christ through these important verses of Scripture.
There is so much in these verses that it is difficult to know where to start. So, as we have been seeking to do all along, let us focus on the connection between these verses and what it is to abide in Christ.
One of the recurring themes in these verses is summed up in the word “stand”. The meaning of this word is both powerful and revealing: abide, appoint, continue, establish.
Yes! The word “stand” as used here by Paul means to abide!!!
Here, in one word, we have the whole foundation of spiritual warfare and the armour of God. The foundation is found in our maintaining a living common union with Christ and Christ maintaining a living common union with us.
Following on from this fact we might well ask the question: What is the soldier, in Paul’s illustration, suppose to stand on? The answer is found in these words: “and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace”.
Whatever you put on your feet you will end up standing on.
Whilst this is not the first piece of armour mentioned, we dare not overlook the use of the word “preparation” in reference to what the spiritual soldier will end up standing on and therefore taking his abiding from. If we trace the meaning of this word “preparation” we discover that it refers to “internal fitness”.
How are we to become “internally fit” for spiritual warfare? Through the Gospel of Peace!
Here we need to turn aside one moment and ponder afresh these words spoken by Jesus to His disciples:
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
We all know that there is a difference between the peace the world gives and the peace that Jesus gives.
Have you ever noticed that when we see “peace talks” taking place somewhere in the world, in an attempt to resolve conflict between countries or factions within a country, they are always conducted around the widest table you have ever seen! The physical distance kept between the parties is enormous and flies in the face of the meaning of the word peace. Nevertheless, this is the world’s version of peace: a lot of talk from a great distance.
The meaning of the word peace in the Scriptures is radically different to what we see played out in the world. It means to join, set at one again, quietness, rest.
The Hebrew word picture meaning for peace is: to destroy the authority that establishes chaos.
You see peace is yet another word that the Scriptures use to describe what it is to abide in Christ. Peace means unity, the sharing of a single life (the Life of Christ) and being at rest in the knowledge that the resources of Christ, the True Vine, are all sufficient.
It may seem to you like a contradiction to talk about rest in the context of spiritual warfare, but I believe the Word of God teaches this as the secret of our success!
Only God Almighty would give the following instructions to His army:
2Chronicles 20: 17 ‘You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!' Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you."
Only the life of abiding in Christ can prepare us internally for spiritual warfare.
The foundations of a building generally remain unseen, so too with our spiritual foundations or our internal preparedness. This is unseen, but it is the foundation of our success or failure in spiritual warfare.
Acts 9:13-17 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." Also, there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.
The seven sons of Sceva are a good example of people lacking internal preparation
(ie. abiding in Christ) for spiritual warfare. These men had all the external preparations in place, they had religious standing, as the sons of a Chief Priest, and they had the right words to speak. However, all this proved to be no substitute for the internal preparation of the Holy Spirit (the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ), the Sap of the True Vine, flowing through their lives.
All of this should bring us to the realisation that the Spiritual Armour is not something we put on and take off. The Spiritual Armour Paul is referring to is the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the focus of our life of abiding.
It is for this reason that I treasure Charles Wuest’s translation of Ephesians 6:13
On this account, take to yourself at once and for all, the complete armour of God in order that you may be able to resist in the day, the pernicious day,
One of the errors that has manifested itself as we have tried to understand spiritual warfare and the use of the Spiritual Armour, in isolation from the foundation of abiding, is the practice of taking off and putting on the Spiritual Armour like a set of clothes.
There is an important difference between putting on the Spiritual Armour and maintaining our relationship with the Spiritual Armour. It’s like the difference between buying a car and maintaining a car. You don’t have to buy your car every morning before you can use it. But you do have to maintain your car day by day for it to be functional and useful. Our abiding is once and for all time, but Jesus makes it clear in John 15 that we must maintain our abiding in Christ.
If we are maintaining a living communion with Christ, then we always have the Armour of God on. As I have already said the Spiritual Armour Paul talks about is the person of Jesus Christ.
Let me show you how Scripture proves this.
The first piece of Armour is the Belt of Truth.
John 1: 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 14: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Ephesians 4: 20 & 21 But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:
The second piece of Armour mentioned is the Breastplate of Righteousness.
Jeremiah 23:5-6 "Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
1 Corinthians 1: 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption;
Phillipians 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
The third item of the Armour is the sandals of Peace.
Isaiah 9: 6 For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
2 Thessalonians 3: 16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.
The fourth item of Armour is the Helmet of Salvation.
In Hebrew the name which is translated Jesus in English is Yeshua. The name Yeshua is also the word translated into our English Bibles as salvation.
Isaiah 12:2 Behold, God is my salvation (Yeshua); I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation (Yeshua).
Hebrews 5: 8 & 9 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
The fifth item of Armour is the Shield of Faith.
2 Samuel 22:3 & 4 The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My Saviour, You save me from violence. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So, shall I be saved from my enemies.
Romans 1: 16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
The sixth item of Armour is the Sword of the Spirit.
John 1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Hebrews 4: 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Revelation 1: 16-18 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.
So, in effect we can summarise Ephesians 6:10-18 by saying, if we are in Christ and actively maintaining a common union with Him, then we are clothed with the Spiritual Armour of the Person of Jesus Christ and we are ready for spiritual warfare.
Filled: bubbling up as strength in your tongue (words).
In the natural it is essential that a grafted-in branch should continue to be filled with the life-giving sap of it’s new parent vine. Unless this happens the newly grafted-in branch will wither and die.
So too, in the spiritual realm, it is not enough that the Holy Spirit has introduced us into the new environment of the life which is in Christ Jesus, we must also experience a continuous filling with the One who is the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. Unless this occurs, we will most certainly wither up and die spiritually.
This is why Scripture instructs us:
Ephesians 5: 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit
The word “filled” in the Greek means “to pervade, take possession of”.
A person who is drunk with wine has allowed the wine to “take possession of them”. Consequently, they are no longer able to control their actions; rather the wine has become the controlling force in them.
This illustrates for us what it is to be filled with the Spirit. It means that the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus controls every aspect of our lives.
Being drunk with wine is the equivalent to being controlled by the law of sin and death, which you will recall, is the sap of the false vine.
We need to bear this in mind, because the fact is that when a branch is cut from one vine, to be grafted into another vine, that branch carries within it a remnant of the sap of the vine from which it was cut.
So too, when we are cut from the false vine, by the Sovereign Gardener, to be grafted into Christ, the True Vine, we carry in our flesh a remnant of the law of sin and death.
Galatians 5: 17-18 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The word “lusts” means “to have a strong desire to suppress”. This means that the remnant of the law of sin and death, in our flesh, will have a strong desire to suppress the control of the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. In other words, the law of sin and death will resist our being filled with the Spirit, the Life-Giving Sap of the True Vine.
Verse 18 is a great encouragement to us. The word “led” depicts the controlling work of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, the Apostle Paul is saying to us “if you are controlled by the Spirit, you will not be under the control of the law of sin and death”.
When we are filled with the Spirit we can say with great confidence: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)
In Greek grammar the word “filled”, in Ephesians 5:18, is clearly stated as a command. Therefore, if we are in Christ we must be filled with the Spirit. If we do not obey this command, then we are guilty of sin and the law of sin and death is actively at work in us.
The tense of this verb “filled” is the present imperative mode. What this means is that being filled with the Spirit is not meant to be a one-off occurrence, rather it is to be continuous, every moment of every day.
Also, this command relates to every grafted in branch. If you have been grafted into Christ, then this command is directed at you.
At this point we need to be very careful. Too often our response to such a command is to get ourselves into “striving mode” and start doing things to make sure we are filled with the Spirit, only to end up exhausted and feeling very empty!
A little more Greek grammar will help us avoid this trap. In the Greek, the person being filled is inactive; they are not striving to be filled. Rather, God the Father, the source from whom the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus flows, is acting upon them.
John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
Our part is not to strive but to obey. We are to keep our hearts soft and pliable and to continually hunger and thirst for the filling of the Holy Spirit because He will fill us with the life of Christ, indeed the very righteousness of Christ.
Matthew 5: 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
A natural branch doesn’t have to strive to have the sap of the vine flow into it. All it must do is be “hungry and thirsty” and the need will be supplied out of the resources of the vine.
The purposes of our being filled with the Spirit are two-fold.
I have already made mention of one in previous chapters and that is, the purpose of producing fruit. This is the main, the principal, and the overriding goal. It is the meaning of life for the branch, to produce the fruit of the Spirit. You cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit unless you are constantly being filled with the Spirit.
Galatians 5: 22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
The second purpose of our being filled with the Spirit is secondary, but it is also essential to the life of the True Vine and the grafted-in branches. In the same way that the growth of leaves on the branches of a natural vine is secondary to the growth of grapes, so is the operation of the gifts of the Spirit secondary to the production of the fruit of the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
The following Scriptures support this concept of the gifts of the Spirit being the leaves produced on the grafted-in branches of the True Vine.
Ezekiel 47:12 “Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine."
Revelation 22: 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
The words “medicine” and “healing” carry in them the thought of curing and making completely whole. The leaves on the branches of a natural vine are essential to the health or wholeness of that plant. It is through the leaves that the plant breathes and makes use of the energy of the sunlight. Also, the leaves form a protective canopy under which the fruit can grow.
Leaves are strange things in that they breathe-in carbon dioxide, a poisonous gas, and they breathe- out oxygen.
As in the natural, so in the spiritual. If we are branches of the True Vine then the gifts, or leaves, of the Holy Spirit will enable us to breathe-in the poisonous gas of the world and breathe-out the blessing of God through the gift of miracles, the gift of music, the gift of discernment of spirits, the gift of knowledge, the gift of wisdom, the gift of exhortation, the gift of teaching, the gift of pastor-teacher, the gift of evangelism, the gift of prophecy, the gift of apostle, the gift of faith, the gift of leadership, the gift of healings, the gift of craftsmanship, the gift of showing mercy, the gift of giving, the gift of helps, the gift of tongues, the gift of interpreting tongues.
When we are filled with the Spirit, the Life-Giving Sap of the True Vine, He will ensure that His gifts are operating in and through us in such a way as to ensure that the fruit of the Spirit produced on us, as branches, is increasingly abundant in its quantity and everlasting in its quality.
1 Corinthians 12:7-11 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
CHAPTER 8: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING BAPTISED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.
And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.
Dove: a deed done joining together, life to reveal.
We have noted that it is God the Father, as the Sovereign Gardener, who cuts a person free from the false vine to graft that person into His Son Yeshua, the True Vine.
Also, we have noted that water baptism is the natural that leads us into the spiritual reality of being cut free from satan, circumcised in heart and grafted into Christ.
In this act, God the Father removes us from the flow of the sap in the false vine, that is, the law of sin and death. He does this with the sole intention of placing us into the flow of the Holy Spirit, who is the Sap of the True Vine, the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1-2 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
We see here that Paul specifically refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of Life in Christ”; therefore, as the sap communicates the very life and nature of the vine to the natural branch, so too the Spirit communicates the Life and Nature of Christ to us, as grafted-in branches.
John 3: 6-8 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
God the Father grafts us in, but it is the Holy Spirit who is responsible for our “birth” into life in Christ. The meaning of the word “born” in the Greek is: to procreate (prop. of the father, but by extens. of the mother); to regenerate: bear, beget, be born, bring forth, conceive, be delivered.
It is in this context that we can begin to understand what it means to be “baptised by the Holy Spirit”.
1Corinthians 12: 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptised into one body; whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
The “one body” speaks of the Body of Christ, the Church, the True Vine and all His grafted-in branches. When Paul says; “and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” he is referring to the Holy Spirit as the Life-Giving Sap of the True Vine.
A Greek scholar, by the name of Kenneth Wuest, has looked in detail at the words “baptised” and “baptism” to ascertain their meaning in the time when the NT was written. What follows is the definition for the words baptised and baptism, which he arrived at:
“The introduction, or placing, of a person or thing into a new environment, or into union with something else, so as to alter the condition, or its relationship to its previous environment or condition.”
You can see in this definition a direct link with the whole idea of birth. When a child is born it is introduced into a new environment. Prior to birth the child was in union with its mother. After birth the child is introduced to life in the world. Birth alters the relationship of the child with its mother and this change becomes increasingly noticeable as time goes on.
In the case of being born again, it is the Holy Spirit who introduces us into the new environment called `Life in Christ’. The Holy Spirit introduces us, or brings us, or baptises us, into life in union with Christ. By doing so the Holy Spirit changes our relationship to our previous environment, ie. the law of sin and death, which is the law of the world. Yeshua states this truth for us in John 15: 19 & 26
19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
26 "But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.
In the same way that the sap in a natural vine bears testimony to the life that is in the vine, so the Holy Spirit bears testimony to the Life of Christ the True Vine.
When does this baptism, or introduction, by the Holy Spirit, into the person and work of the Life of Christ take place?
There has been no end of answers given to this question by various theologians. All I know is what the Bible says:
Acts 2: 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Clearly, repentance and water baptism (which is the summation of being cut to the heart, being cut free, being circumcised in heart and being grafted into Christ) immediately precedes the Holy Spirit coming and introducing us to the very Life of Christ Jesus.
This is consistent with the pattern found in the OT, in Leviticus 8, where we saw Aaron and his sons washed by Moses before the holy garments of the priesthood were placed upon them and before they were introduced into the life of Holy service, through the sprinkling of the blood and the oil. The oil represents the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the blood represents the ministry of Christ. These two are one in the same because the Holy Spirit ministers the very Life of Christ.
Also, this is consistent with the pattern of Jesus being baptised into His Great High Priesthhood, under the order of Melkizedek.
Matthew 3: 16-17 And Jesus, when He was baptised, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, this is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Our lack of understanding of these things has led to widespread confusion amongst believers, and would-be believers. It is only as we recognise that Yeshua’s baptism was in fact His consecration as Priest of the Most High God, that we can even begin to plumb the depths of what water baptism, and being baptised by the Holy Spirit mean to us as disciples of Jesus.
When Aaron was consecrated as High Priest he, together with his sons, had to be washed, or baptised. Then each one was dressed in linen shirt and linen trousers. There were no other garments to be worn by Aaron’s sons. However, in addition to these garments Aaron was also clothed with a special robe that was blue in colour. This robe was to be a physical representation of the Holy Spirit resting upon the High Priest in his ministry within the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. Only if Aaron’s sons were consecrated to serve as High Priest would they ever wear this blue robe, which was referred to as one of the `holy garments’ peculiar to the office of High Priest.
Exodus 29: 29 And the holy garments of Aaron shall be his sons' after him, to be anointed therein, and to be consecrated in them.
Now we begin to see the significance of the fact that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus immediately after His baptism, by John, into the office of High Priest. This coming of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus was the spiritual equivalent of the blue robe that Aaron wore, and each High Priest after him.
The other important difference between the consecration of Aaron as High Priest and the consecration of his sons as priests is in relation to the way in which they were anointed.
Exodus 29:7 Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his (Aarons) head, and anoint him.
21 And thou shalt take of the blood that is upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons' garments with him.
There is an important difference between “pour” and “sprinkle”. Aaron had the anointing oil, which represents the Holy Spirit, poured over his head and later he had the anointing oil, mixed with the blood of sacrifice sprinkled over his whole body. On the other hand, Aaron’s sons were only sprinkled with the anointing oil and the blood of sacrifice.
Also, if we hark back for a moment to the blue robe which Aaron wore, which represented the anointing of the Holy Spirit resting upon him as High Priest, we see that this garment had to be placed over Aaron’s head because of the way in which it was designed, in the same way in which the oil was poured over Aaron’s head.
Exodus 39:22-23 He (Moses) made the robe of the ephod of woven work, all of blue. And there was an opening in the middle of the robe, like the opening in a coat of mail, with a woven binding all around the opening, so that it would not tear.
What does this mean for us?
The answer lies in the name of our High Priest. Yeshua was known as the Christ and the name Christ in the Greek means: anointed, i.e. the Messiah; to smear or rub with oil, to consecrate to an office or religious service: anoint.
There is only One High Priest, there is only One who has the fullness of the anointing and His name is Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, who ministers in the bodily Temple of each saint.
However, as we have seen in previous chapters, God has made the way for us to be grafted into Christ, the True Vine. Having been grafted in we then become partakers of the Spirit of Christ, or the Spirit of Anointing, which is the very life and nature of Yeshua Himself.
As we have already mentioned, water baptism is the natural, or physical, expression of our being spiritually cut free from the false vine and being grafted into Christ, the True Vine. Yeshua was not baptised just into the office of High Priest, He was baptised into the office of Great High Priest. Aaron was a High Priest and as such he alone could take the blood of the sacrificial lamb into the Holy of Holies once a year to atone for the sins of the people. Yeshua is our Great High Priest because He fulfils the role of both High Priest and Sacrificial Lamb, presenting His own blood before God the Father as an eternal compensation for sin.
For too long we have been chasing after a gospel that gives us a baptism by the Holy Spirit and an anointing which has no foundation. The Foundation upon which the Holy Spirit is able to introduce us into the life of Christ, lies in our being cut to the heart, cut free, circumcised and grafted into Christ, by God the Father.
Until a branch is grafted in there is no experience of the sap from the new vine flowing into the branch. Nor is there any experience of the life of the vine becoming the life of the branch. The Life of Christ is the Life of the Anointing or the Anointed One. We have no anointing of our own, we are not called and consecrated as High Priests we are called and consecrated as Priests. We do not wear the blue robe of the High Priest, which represented the anointing, but we do share the life of the Anointed One, Christ our Great High Priest.
We have a very serious problem in Christendom when it comes to a Scriptural understanding of being “anointed” especially in the context provided by the True Vine and the grafted in branches.
In the OT, we must remember, the Holy Spirit had not come in all His fullness. Therefore, we see men anointed by God to fulfil the role of priests, kings and prophets.
Exodus 29:5-75 “Then you shall take the garments, put the tunic on Aaron, and the robe of the ephod, the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the intricately woven band of the ephod. "You shall put the turban on his head, and put the holy crown on the turban. "And you shall take the anointing oil, pour it on his head, and anoint him.
Exodus 30:30 30 “And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister to Me as priests.
1 Samuel 10: & 6 Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance.… And the spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.
1 Samuel 16: 13 & 14 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So, Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. But the spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.
I Kings 19:16 16 “Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.
In these cases, the anointed individual was chosen by God and separated for His service.
However, when we turn to the NT the whole application of the word “anointed” changes drastically, as you can see from the following Scriptures:
Luke 4:18-19 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."
Acts 4: 27-28 "For truly against Your Holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together "to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.
Acts 10: 36-38 “The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ; He is Lord of all; "that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
2 Corinthians 1: 21-22 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
Hebrews 1: 8-9 But to the Son He says: "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore, God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions."
1John 2: 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.
1 John 2: 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
In four of these seven NT examples, the reference to being “anointed” refers to Yeshua. In the other three examples the “anointed” ones are: the believers in Corinth; and those whom John refers to as “my little children” who are obviously believers whom John had a part in fathering in the Gospel. Clearly, in the context of these three references the condition of being “anointed” or the “anointing” is linked directly to the person of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, in the NT the condition of being “anointed” applies only to Yeshua or to those who have been grafted into Yeshua and are maintaining a living common union with the True Vine and thus share in the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. In this way, and in this way alone, are all believers to be “anointed” and thus “kings and priests”.
Revelation 1:4-6 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Unfortunately, a practice has arisen in Christendom whereby certain individuals are looked upon as especially “the Lord’s anointed”. Thus, such people are placed on a pedestal and viewed as being unique, something akin to the OT priest, king or prophet and furthermore these people are afforded special protection, it would seem, by virtue of some of the following Scriptures:
1Samuel 24: 6-7 And he said to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD."
So, David restrained his servants with these words, and did not allow them to rise against Saul. And Saul got up from the cave and went on his way.
1Samuel 26: 9 And David said to Abishai, "Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord's anointed, and be guiltless?"
Psalm 105: 13-15 When they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people, He permitted no one to do them wrong; Yes, He rebuked kings for their sakes, Saying, "Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm."
These first two instances refer to Saul when he was King of Israel and God had chosen him and set him apart to lead Israel. Under those circumstances David was quite correct in referring to Saul as the “Lord’s anointed”. However, in the third instance the “anointed ones” are the entire nation of Israel. So, this doesn’t refer to some specially chosen individual but to a nation.
In Saul’s case, when he was anointed to be King we know the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. We also know that the Spirit of the Lord left him when he disobeyed, and God declared that He no longer considered Saul as King over Israel.
In the case of the nation of Israel, we know that God set them apart to be His people and in that regard, they were “anointed” but the Spirit of God was never generally poured out upon this nation of people.
So, to apply these verses to any individual born again believer under the New Covenant is to “draw a very long bow”.
The only thing that we can conclude from Scripture is that under the New Covenant every born-again believer is the “Lord’s Anointed”. We all share the same “anointing”, we share Christ by means of the Holy Spirit who is the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.
In light of this we need to review our vocabulary when it comes to the subject of “anointing” or being the “Lord’s anointed”. Christ has not established a “pecking order” in His Body based on how “anointed” an individual is. Every member of His Body shares in the One Life and has a vital part to play.
1Corinthians 12: 11-27 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body; whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?
But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honourable, on these we bestow greater honour; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honour to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
Wash/Bathe: a person's desire separated.
All we have spoken of thus far, being cut to the heart, being cut free from the false vine and being circumcised in heart, are all matters to do with spiritual cleansing i.e. separation from sin and being set apart for God.
As we have observed, this is a painful experience, which brings humiliation to our flesh and a separation from those things we once clung to so dearly.
We have looked at the spiritual, but what is the physical demonstration of these events taking place in the heart?
All these things are summed-up in the natural aspects of water baptism.
To fully understand water baptism, we must at this point recognise God’s purpose and calling upon all those who would be disciples of Jesus.
1Peter 2: 9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light;
Did you notice that Peter says plainly that we are called to be part of a “royal priesthood”? Therefore, our entering into that royal priesthood should be patterned on the way in which the priests of the OT entered their calling as priests.
The first step in preparation for the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests is recorded in Leviticus 8:6
Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water.
There is a close connection between the word “washed” and the word “baptism”.
In Hebrew the word washed means: to lave (the whole or a part of a thing): bathe (self), wash (self).
In the Greek the word baptism means: to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet) to wash.
If you read Leviticus 8 you will note that this washing, or baptism, took place before Aaron and his sons could be dressed in the Holy garments of the High Priest and priests and before they could be anointed and sprinkled with the blood and the oil. This washing or baptism was the first step in their consecration as priests.
Remember that principal we learned from the Apostle Paul:
1Corinthians 15: 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.
I believe that water baptism is the natural manifestation of the spiritual truths regarding a believer being cut to the heart, cut free from the false vine, being circumcised in heart and grafted into the True Vine. But, according to the Apostle Paul’s principle the natural must come before we can enter the fullness of the spiritual truth regarding these things.
What I am saying is this: you can have a great deal of information about being “cut to the heart”, being cut free from the false vine, being circumcised in heart and being grafted into the True Vine; but, the full revelation of these things can only be realised in us after we have fulfilled the natural requirement of the Word. Water baptism brings us into a place where the information we have becomes divinely formed in us as spiritual life.
The word “consecration” is vital in understanding this natural pattern, laid out for us in the OT, which precedes the spiritual reality of the NT.
Leviticus 8: 22 And he (Moses) brought the other ram, the ram of consecration: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the ram.
The word consecration, as used here means: a setting (of gems), or dedicatory sacrifice, be set.
The significance of this is clearly apparent when we relate it back to the reality of being grafted into Christ, the True Vine. Being grafted into Christ is like a jewel being set into a ring or a crown.
Zechariah 9: 16 The LORD their God will save them in that day, as the flock of His people. For they shall be like the jewels of a crown, Lifted like a banner over His land;
Malachi 3: 17 “They shall be Mine," says the LORD of hosts, "On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him."
This establishes the fact that water baptism should be the first step in our consecration, our setting, or being grafted into the royal priesthood that Peter spoke of.
It is also worthy of note that it was the blood of the consecration lamb that was applied to the right ear, the right thumb and the right big toe of Aaron and his sons. It was also the blood from this animal that was mixed with the anointing oil and sprinkled upon them and upon the holy garments.
Also, as the Consecration Lamb, Jesus during His crucifixion, had His own blood applied to His head, His hands and His feet, just as Aaron and his sons had the blood applied at their consecration. You see, the crucifixion of Jesus and the reality of baptism are inseparable.
Romans6: 3-11 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise, you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus Christ became our Consecration Lamb on Calvary and through water baptism we are introduced into His death. That is, we know the application of His blood as surely as Aaron and his sons knew the application of the blood from the consecration lamb to their bodies.
We are quick to acknowledge the truth of Scripture when Jesus tells us that He is the Way. Yet, we rarely seek to understand the practical application of that truth. If Jesus is the Way then He has already walked where He calls His disciples to follow Him.
This fact is reflected in our habit of viewing water baptism in isolation from Priesthood.
Most of us do not realise that John the Baptist was a direct descendant of Aaron, the first High Priest to serve in the Tabernacle of the OT.
Luke 1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
The “course of Abia” represented the descendants of Abijah who served as High Priest during the time of David. Abijah was a direct descendant of Aaron. So both of John’s parents were of the direct lineage of Aaron. This means that by birthright John the Baptist was qualified to serve in the office of High Priest.
The reason John did not serve as the High Priest was due to the fact that Israel was under Roman rule and the Romans had made their own political appointment (i.e. Caiaphas), to the powerful position of High Priest.
Nevertheless, as far as God was concerned, only John was qualified to baptise Jesus into the priesthood, and thus to transfer the priesthood forever from Aaron to the new priesthood of Melchizedek, who is Jesus the King of Righteousness and the King of Peace.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews explains all these things in detail and I would urge you to study that Book carefully.
Jesus’ baptism was the physical announcement of His consecration to God as a Priest under the new order of Melchizedek, King of Righteousness. Not one of the priests consecrated under the order of Aaron was able to walk in true righteousness, hence the need for Jesus to come and establish a new order of priests and it is into this order of priesthood that we are to be consecrated through water baptism.
We are called to stand before God and minister as priests of righteousness under the High Priesthood of Christ. But, we can only do this if we are grafted into Christ, our High Priest, and if we are maintaining a living communion with Him as the True Vine.
The next important issue about Priesthood, is the reality that every High Priest and every Priest requires a Temple or Tabernacle in which to minister.
In relation to this issue I have grave doubts as to whether Christendom has, yet, broken free from the provisions of the old covenant.
2Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Hebrews 9:11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.
Hebrews 9:24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
The means of access to understanding this great truth is to realise that the word tabernacle always indicates the place where God dwells. We know that God dwells in Heaven, hence there is a Heavenly Tabernacle. But God’s purpose has always been to dwell amongst His people. He did this in respect to Israel by establishing the OT Tabernacle, and later the Temple, as the designated place of His dwelling here on earth. But this was only a copy of the greater truth yet to be revealed in Christ.
Unfortunately, due to our lack of understanding, we have used this OT truth as a means of putting “God in a box”, as a means of confining Him to our set of boundaries. We have placed unbiblical emphasis upon our church buildings to the point where we have tried to re-create the OT tabernacle. This we have done to our detriment.
Acts 7:48-51 "However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: 'Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the LORD, or what is the place of My rest? Has My hand not made all these things?' "You stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.
Acts 17:24-25 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. "Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.
Under the new covenant a new tabernacle was established.
1Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
In our bodies we serve as Priests in the Temple of God. We serve under the Great High Priesthood of Jesus Christ. As surely as Jesus has entered the Holy of Holies in Heaven He has entered the Holy of Holies in the bodily Temple of every saint; every branch grafted into the True Vine, and He has done this through the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit.
Not only should this heighten our understanding of water baptism, it should also increase our desire to experience the fullness of what it means to be grafted into and to be found abiding in the life of Christ.
Grafted: to prick in, i.e. in graft; position (in place, time or state), into a relationship of rest; to give oneself wholly to, to be one.
A clear understanding of the above meaning of the word “grafted”, as it is used for instance by Paul in Romans 11, is essential to our study of this topic.
Please note very carefully these key words in the definition: “in”, “rest”, and “one”, “give self wholly to”.
Before the circumcised branch can be grafted into the vine, that vine must be cut, or wounded. And so it was prophesied of Christ the True Vine:
Isaiah 53:1-5 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
Notice that it says here: “Smitten by God”. Back in John 15:1 you will recall that Jesus said:
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
God the Father is the Vinedresser; God the Father is the Sovereign Gardener. He is not a gardener like we are; He is truly sovereign, controlling every aspect of the environment in which His Vineyard grows. He determines if there is rain or sunshine, clouds or clear sunny skies. He determines the nutrients in the soil and He determines those branches that He will cut free from the false vine to be grafted-in, by His Hand, into Christ the True Vine. Also, as the Sovereign Gardener He wounded His Son Jesus to enable that grafting-in of the branches to take place.
Look for a moment at the meaning of the word “smitten” in the Hebrew: to strike (lightly or severely,); give wounds to, kill, wound.
God used the hands of sinful men to accomplish this Divine purpose.
Given this understanding it is worth noting what John saw and recorded in Revelation 5: 6
And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.
John was seeing Jesus as He is in Heaven right now, “a Lamb as it had been slain”. In other words, there are still open wounds visible in Christ the True Vine, waiting to receive those branches, which have yet to be grafted in by the Divine Vinedresser.
John 6: 44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Having been grafted into Christ, the True Vine, by God the Father, the Divine Vinedresser, we enter a place that the Scriptures refer to as being “in Christ”. In John 15 Jesus refers to it as that place of “abiding”.
We will be looking at both these terms in greater detail in future chapters, but before doing so we must consider the Importance of Water Baptism.
Heart: what controls the inside
In the last chapter we looked at the symptoms of hardness of heart. Now we need to turn our attention to this question: what are the hallmarks of that condition which is the direct opposite of hardness of heart?
We are going to look at two verses in Scripture, which describe the reverse of hardness of heart.
Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.
The meaning of the word “delight” in Hebrew is somewhat surprising; it means to be soft or pliable.
When I first stumbled across this truth I thought immediately of the references in Scripture to the potter and the clay. If the clay isn’t soft and pliable then, regardless of the potters’ efforts, the vessel that is formed will be faulty.
Jeremiah 18: 4- 6 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?" says the LORD. "Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!
When the Sword of the Spirit, the Living Word of God, cut into the hearts of the people on the Day of Pentecost, 3,000 of those hearts were found to be soft and pliable. They were willing to be cut and shaped. Consequently, as Peter continued to “solemnly testify and exhort with many other words” the result was freedom from the false vine.
Psalm 51:17 is another verse that describes what we might term “softness of heart”:
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart; These, O God, You will not despise.
Take a moment to reflect on the Hebrew meaning of the key words in this verse.
Broken: to break down or break off, or in pieces, to bring to the birth, to crush, destroy, to hurt, or tear.
Contrite: to collapse physically or mentally to crouch; to be crushed, injured:--afflicted, oppressed.
Heart: means the feelings, the will and even the intellect; the centre of anything
So, the hallmarks of a soft heart are a willingness to have your feelings, your will and your intellect cut, broken, crushed, bruised and humbled in order that they might be reborn, or reshaped, into that which is determined by the Divine Potter, the Divine Gardener, God the Father.
I have pondered for a long time on the question of how Scripture describes the cutting-through of the second half of the “branch”, and furthermore, the cutting that takes place to create a tapered end on the branch which can slide easily into the wound of the new parent vine.
My conclusion is that “Circumcision” is the term used in Scripture to describe these events.
We need now to look at the use of this word “circumcision” in Scripture in order that we might see the necessary groundwork that is required before a branch can be grafted in.
Genesis 17:11 “and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.
Circumcision was, first and foremost, a physical outward sign of the inward spiritual covenant, or promise, between God and Abraham. Here are the meanings of the word “covenant” from the Hebrew: to create, to choose (as one would choose a tree or a branch to cut down), to feed, to nourish and sustain
Again, note the key words that describe circumcision: cut, choose, and create.
As we have seen with the vine and the branch there must be a cutting, but how far this cutting goes, in a spiritual sense, is a choice of the human heart. When the human heart is soft and pliable in response to the Word of God then a new life is created because of the covenant, the centrepiece of which is circumcision.
In the NT circumcision continues to be central to the covenant relationship between the Godhead and believers.
Romans 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
No longer is circumcision a physical act, but rather, something that occurs in the realm of the spirit of men and women, in their hearts. It is entering a covenant with God where you willingly choose to be cut, separated from sin and set apart and made holy to God. This again is a painful process. Physical circumcision involved the physical cutting away of flesh. If you study circumcision in Genesis 34 and the account of Hamor and his son you will note that it says in Verse 25:
Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males.
In the Hebrew the word pain means that they were very sore and very sorry for themselves three days after they had been circumcised. We are unwise to assume that our spiritual circumcision is meant to be painless, to be an experience of pleasure, when it is a cutting away of the things of the flesh that are so precious to us.
Circumcision of the heart is not optional. Unless we willingly submit to it we cannot be grafted into the True Vine and be considered as members of the Kingdom of God. Unless a Jew willingly submitted to physical circumcision they were never considered as being part of the nation of Israel.
Romans 4:9-13 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
Heart circumcision is the hallmark of faith; it is a seal of the righteousness of faith.
So, in summary, softness of heart is demonstrated in the exact opposite symptoms which accompany hardness of heart:
1. We hear with an intention and willingness to obey what we hear;
2. We are ready and willing to let go of anything that poses itself as controlling our destiny apart from God;
3. We avoid the vicious circle of sinning yet more in hardening our hearts by being quick to confess to God the slightest evidence of hardness of heart creeping into our lives.
Cut: Something sharp making secure the highest.
In these next chapters, we will be considering those factors that make up the experience we call “redemption”, “being born again” or “salvation”. When we use these terms, we are considering God the Father’s plan to see us moved from a place of union with the false vine, into a relationship of living communion with His Son, Yeshua, the True Vine.
You may be wondering why it is necessary to look at what it means to be “born again”. I have two reasons for addressing this crucial area. Firstly, my own experience in being born into the “church” and spending 35 years in that environment before I experienced what the Bible teaches about being “born again”.
Secondly, I had the opportunity to observe a teenage girl being “born again” at an evangelistic Gospel Music concert. What immediately followed when an appeal was made at the end of the concert was a classical evangelical conversion experience for this teenage girl. I did some follow up with her and I was convinced that she was in the Kingdom of God; however, within a matter of weeks this girl was pursuing Satanism with a vengeance and finding it very much to her liking.
Faced with these two experiences I was forced to go back to Scripture and painstakingly review my classical evangelical view of “being born again”! What follows here is the result of that journey.
In the natural realm, if a vinedresser wishes to graft a branch from one vine into another vine he must first cut that branch from its parent vine.
The thought of a parent vine takes us to those words, spoken by Yeshua, to the Pharisees in John 8:
43 “Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
Clearly, Yeshua saw the Pharisees as being attached to the devil, the false vine, and their parent vine.
It is crucial to stop and realise that this was Yeshua’s assessment of the spiritual state of one of the most influential religious groups in all of Israel! In Yeshua’s opinion the Pharisees had aligned their desires with the desires of the devil, just as Adam and Eve had done in the Garden of Eden.
If this is true, then what is Yeshua’s assessment of those of us who make up the influential denominations and movements of our day?
What is His appraisal of you?
What is His assessment of me?
These are important questions because they clarify for us personally our need to be cut to the heart, which is the first step towards being cut free from the false vine. It also serves to focus our attention on where we are at “spiritually” right at this moment.
The phrase: “cut to the heart” only occurs twice in the NT and both occasions are in the Book of Acts:
2:37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
7:54 When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.
Before we look at the context of each of these verses let us look more closely at the meaning of the words in this phrase. The word “cut” in Verse 37 means “to pierce thoroughly” and the word “cut” in Verse 54 means “to saw in two”. The word “heart”, in both Verses means “the middle” or “the thoughts and feelings”.
To my way of thinking what is described by this phrase is not a positive, emotion-charged, pleasurable experience, rather it is an intensely painful process. There is a direct parallel between the physical cutting of a branch with a knife, or a saw, and the cutting through or the piercing thoroughly and exposing the centre of the thoughts and feelings of a human being.
This is the starting point for people really encountering the Gospel.
If I understand the Scriptures aright encountering the power of the Gospel is not intended to be a wonderful, enjoyable and warm emotional experience. Experiencing the vitality of the Gospel is intended to be a painful encounter, a devastating occurrence, something that tears at, and through, our flesh.
How foolish this Gospel is, in that it must bring such intense pain to our human flesh before we can ever begin to understand its truths!
Let us look firstly at the context of the verse in Acts 2. It was the Day of Pentecost. It was the day that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples who had waited for this promise of the Father in that upper room in Jerusalem. As the impact of the Holy Spirit’s entry into the lives of these people became public, in the streets of Jerusalem, Peter began to preach. Peter preached in the power of the Holy Spirit. The condition of “being cut to the heart”, recorded in Verse 37, is directly attributable to Peters’ preaching in this manner.
This fact leads us to a very important verse in Hebrews:
4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
We see this verse in full action mode as Peter preaches on the Day of Pentecost. The word of God, flowing through Peter as a channel, is cutting those who hear this word to the very centre of their being. It is here, at the centre of their being, that their thoughts and attitudes are exposed and they are seeing the thoughts and intentions of their hearts in all their gory detail, perhaps for the first time in their lives. They were under the conviction of the Holy Spirit (see John 16:8).
At this point let us shift our attention to the context of the verse in Acts 7. Here we find Stephen preaching under the power of the Holy Spirit. Again we see Hebrews 4:12 in full action mode as Stephen preaches. The word of God, flowing through Stephen as a channel, is piercing those who hear this word to the very centre of their being. This second group of people are also having their thoughts and attitudes exposed and they are seeing them in all their gruesome detail, they too have come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Here again, the condition of “being cut to the heart” is directly attributed to Stephen preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is more than interesting to discover such strong parallels between these two passages, up to this point!
Whilst the means of being “cut to the heart” are identical (i.e. the Word of God being preached under the enabling of the Holy Spirit) in both passages, the response of the hearers could not be more contrasting.
In Acts 2 the hearers respond by asking: “What must we do?” The hearers in Acts 7, on the other hand, respond by getting so angry that they begin to grind their teeth!
This presents us with a mystery: how could the Word of God working as the Sword of the Spirit, bring about such differing responses? How can 3,000 people be added to the Church in Acts 2 and yet not one soul be saved in Acts 7?
The answer to this mystery is to be found in studying the vine and the branch. Remember, we said earlier that before a branch can be grafted the vinedresser must cut the branch from the parent vine? Initially, the vinedresser will cut the branch to its centre, or its heart, but in so doing the vinedresser has not separated the branch completely from the parent vine, it is still half attached.
This was the case when Peter preached and when Stephen preached. As they preached, the Word of God cut like a knife to the centre of each listener (branches on the false vine) exposing the thoughts and attitudes of their hearts. But, despite this fact, all those who heard the Word were still firmly attached to the parent vine, satan!
Something more was required to see these people cut free from the false vine; that “something” is found in Acts 2 but is noticeably absent in Acts 7.
What is it?
It is Verse 40 of Acts 2:
And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!"
It was the “many other words” and Peter’s continued “exhortation” that saw the Word of God cut through the remaining half of these hearts (branches). Stephen did not have the opportunity to “solemnly testify and exhort with many other words”, because his hearers in their anger at being cut to the heart murdered him; hence he was no longer able to preach. So it was that his hearers remained in that place of being attached to the false vine.
There is no detailed identification of those who murdered Stephen. Hence, we do not know whether there were Pharisees actively involved in his death. However, we do know that a young man called Saul, who was a Pharisee, is identified as being present at the murder of Stephen and Scripture records this fact: “Now Saul was consenting to his death.” (Acts 8:1)
Saul must have heard the Word preached through Stephen, he must have been cut to the heart. However, we know that Saul did not experience salvation; he was not born again at this point in time but continued to be a branch attached to the false vine.
In Saul’s case it was not until he was confronted with the Living Word Himself, Yeshua, on the road to Damascus that the other “half” of Saul the branch was cut through.
The point, which must be made, the point that we must comprehend is this: you can be “cut to the heart”, you can have a spiritual experience of hearing the Word and yet still remain in a place where Yeshua would say: “You are of your father the devil”.
This leaves a devastating question hanging in the air: How many people are there in Christian communities, as we know them today, who have been “cut to the heart” by the Word of God, maybe once, maybe many times, but have never been cut free from the false vine?
That young teenage girl was “cut to the heart” on the night of that concert, but she was not cut free from the false vine; hence it was quite easy for her to have a classical evangelical conversion experience and then plunge headlong into the worship of satan. You see, despite hearing the gospel she was still under bondage to the law of sin and death.
There are numerous ways in which a human being can react to being “cut to the heart” by the Word of God. What happened in Acts 7 is one of the more extreme reactions of human nature, as was the reaction of the teenage girl I have spoken about. Other people, after being “cut to the heart” develop a fascination for the Word of God and for Christian community, but their true allegiance remains in, and with, the prince of this world, the false vine! Their lives continue to be dominated by the law of sin and death, manifesting itself in the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.
Obviously, in the light of these facts, we need to develop our understanding of the human heart a lot further if we are to comprehend what occurs when people are “cut to the heart”.
To accomplish this let us consider the example of Pharaoh, in the Book of Exodus. Pharaoh is a particularly interesting case because we find clear evidence of God “hardening Pharaohs’ heart” and of “Pharaoh hardening his own heart”.
10:1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might show these my signs before him:
9:34 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.
Here we are confronted with the sovereignty of God. It was for the accomplishment of Divine purposes that the Lord God moved to harden Pharaohs heart. This is a difficult issue for us to comprehend and yet it is a fact that God took an active role in hardening Pharaoh’s heart.
Nevertheless, an equally impelling fact is that Pharaoh played an active part in hardening his own heart. It is this aspect that we need to focus on if we are to understand what happens when people are “cut to the heart”.
In Exodus Chapters 7, 8 & 9 it is stated again and again “Pharaoh would not hearken”. In Hebrew that old fashion sounding word “hearken” means “to hear intelligently with the intention of obeying”.
It is clear, from this definition, that there are two important factors involved if we “hearken” to the voice of someone. First, we must listen to what is said, and secondly, we must obey what we have heard.
"But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46)
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
People who suffer from hardness of heart refuse to listen and refuse to obey; that is, they refuse to act upon what they have heard. Those who heard Stephen preach were suffering from hardness of heart. Even though the Word of God cut them to the heart, when that Sword of the Spirit hit its mark they refused to hear or obey. They refused to respond to the stark reality of the evil thoughts and intentions that existed in their hearts.
The second symptom of hardness of heart is also a recurring theme through these chapters in the Book of Exodus. It is Pharaoh’s refusal to “let go” of the Children of Israel:
Exodus 10:27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let them go.
Clearly, the Children of Israel had become such an asset, such an important element in Pharaoh maintaining his image as a god, (in the eyes of the Egyptian people), that he could not even entertain the thought of letting them go. This was a direct result of his hardness of heart.
People who suffer from hardness of heart refuse to let go of those things that they consider as being able to control their destiny. Their focus is not on the reality of God being well-able to guide and guard their steps; it is on the false reality of the power of people, material possessions, status, political power and a host of other things, to control their destiny. Hence, they refuse to let go of these things. Look back at Yeshua’s words in Matthew 10:34-38!
Also, if you read Stephen’s sermon, in the Book of Acts very carefully, you will see that he was homing- in on this point and that his hearers flatly refused to consider letting go.
What I am about to say few people will be willing to accept. Nevertheless, I consider it to be an essential truth that we need to be confronted with. I have noted that there exists a deep and profound unwillingness amongst people within Christian communities to “let go” of the man-made denominations and movements in favour of acknowledging Yeshua as the only Foundation of the Body of Christ. Hand in hand with this goes an unwillingness to “let go” of relationships that are based on the “club mentality” of the denominations and movements of our day. Hence, hardness of heart prevails and an environment has been created in which people who have been “cut to the heart”, yet still remain attached to the false vine, live very comfortably.
The third symptom of hardness of heart is that it causes us to harden our hearts even more.
Exodus 9:34 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.
Hardening your heart is a sin. It puts you in a place of rebellion against God the Father. That is why it says in this verse that Pharaoh “sinned yet more, and hardened his heart”.
So too, in the case of those who listened to Stephen preach. Initially they hardened their hearts, which led them to sin yet more. They went from being angry with Stephen to murdering Stephen!
In a nutshell these are the symptoms of hardness of heart:
(1) Refusal to listen with the intention of obeying.
(2) Refusing to let go of those things that we consider as having the power to influence our future life.
(3) Keeping on sinning, keeping on hardening our hearts in rebellion against God.
When that sharp blade, which is the Word of God, comes and cuts us to the heart it brings each one of us to an important cross road in our lives. Here, we have concentrated on the negative response, which the Bible calls hardness of heart, but now we can move on and look more closely at the “positive” response to being cut to the heart.
Vine: Hugging and Turning
In John 15:1 Yeshua says: "I Am the True Vine". This establishes for us the identity of the One who is the only Foundation of the Body of Christ.
Have you ever stopped to contemplate why Yeshua didn't just say `I am the vine'? If Yeshua is the True Vine then it means there must be a false vine!
In Romans 11 Paul is speaking about olive trees, rather than grape vines, but he too makes this same distinction between the True and the false, but instead he uses the terms Good Olive and wild olive.
Romans 11: 17-18 & 24 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the Olive Tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you boast, remember that you do not support the Root, but the Root supports you.
For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a Good Olive Tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
These verses have much to say to us about the vital role that Israel has, and must continue to have, in the plans and purposes of God. It also speaks of an intimacy that should exist between Jews and non-Jews who have been grafted into the Good Olive, or the True Vine. But all these things I must put to one side for future study, because as yet I have not comprehended the richness of what the Spirit is saying to the Church about these things. But let me just note one thing; clearly Paul is stating that both Jews and non-Jews alike must be grafted into the Good Olive Tree (the True Vine).
Also, at this point, we wish only to establish that there is a wild olive/false vine. Moreover, you and I have been, or we currently are, attached to this wild olive/false vine.
The identity of this wild olive/false vine is, of course, prince of the power of the air.
Ephesians 2:1-3 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
The intimate relationship between humans and the false vine was established in the Garden of Eden. Indeed, there we also find two distinctive plants, or more precisely, trees: The Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
It should not surprise us to discover both these trees in the midst of God's creation. But not only do we find them here, we also find them side by side, expressed in one form or another, throughout the pages of Scripture. That is, until we get to the Book of Revelation that speaks of The Tree of Life, but no longer do we find the tree of the knowledge of good and evil standing.
All this is to say that the decisions taken by Adam and Eve, in the Garden, resulted in humans becoming branches of the false vine, the prince of the power of the air; rather than people living in vital union with God. Before they made their decisions, Adam and Eve were able to walk with God, but afterwards this was no longer possible. God was the Tree of Life to them and they were abiding in His fellowship every day. However, it was God's desire that Adam, Eve and their children’s on-going fellowship with Him should be a choice which stemmed from their hearts, rather than being a matter of robotic compulsion.
The key components that describe our union with prince of the power of the air, are: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
John refers to these fundamentals in his letter; 1John 2:
16 For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world.
If you look again in Genesis 3:6 you will see these components at work in the decision-making processes of Eve.
So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
To lust is to long for, or desire, that which is forbidden. It is interesting that in the Hebrew language the words “pleasant” and “desirable” are extensions of the meaning of “to lust”. We can quickly diagnose whether we are in relationship with the false vine by noting how often we lust: “good food”, or what is “pleasant to the eyes” or that which is “desirable to make us wise” (or at least appear to be wise!)
GOOD-PLEASANT-DESIRABLE are angels of light to us. Their apparent light hides the reality that they are in fact the operatives of the law of sin and death, the operatives of the prince of the power of the air. It is that which was good, pleasant and desirable in the opinion of Eve, Adam and the prince of the power of the air which led to humans being separated from the grace of God. It is that which, in our opinion, is good, pleasant and desirable which will keep us out of the protection of God and in union with the prince of the power of the air.
God knew, all too well, that the temptation to agree with the opinion of the prince of the power of the air would be too much for Eve, and in turn for Adam.
For God the Father, the only way back into fellowship with mankind was to plant out His own Son as the True Vine and thus make the way possible for people to be cut free from the false vine and be grafted into Christ, the True Vine.
What God foreordained and what God did through Yeshua is summed up in the words SALVATION and REDEMPTION.
In John 15 Jesus goes on to describe how He, and the Father, together, accomplished Salvation and Redemption for us. But Yeshua also goes on to explain, in plain language, what is required of us in entering the fullness of God’s salvation and redemption.
What is required is expressed in the key word of John 15: abiding, or to express it in other words to maintain a living common union.
I am convinced that the study of the meaning of this word, “abide”, as it exists in the heart of God, is fathomless! What we can learn about this word from our study of the Scriptures falls well short of all that God has ordained for us if we will abide in Christ.
Therefore, in the next chapters we will consider The Importance of Being Cut to The Heart followed by The Importance of Being Circumcised in Heart. These truths are indispensable; for the actions of “being cut to the heart” and “being circumcised in heart” prepare us to enter that place of abiding in Christ.
I realise we appear to be moving slowly, but it is difficult and slow work when you are crawling down around the foundations of a building! Just remember that the importance of the foundations rests in the fact that they (the foundations) ultimately determine what (fruit) can be built upon those foundations. Like Abraham we need to be certain that the Architect and Builder of these foundations is God and not man.
Branch: To protect a mighty harvest.
It is no longer permissible to simply know that the foundations exist in your house and then take that fact for granted because, as we saw in the previous chapter, a time is coming when everything that can be shaken will be; including the house you live in.
But such apathy towards foundations is now even more dangerous when it comes to the foundations of the Gospel or our spiritual foundations.
There must be an intimate relationship between the Foundation Stone and those stones that are built upon The Foundation, which is Yeshua. Anything less than this will result in a very unstable building and the Kingdom of God is not unstable! In fact, it is only the Kingdom of God that will be left standing after God has severely and thoroughly shaken everything in heaven and on earth. (See Hebrews 12:25-27)
So, what form does this intimate relationship between The Foundation Stone (Yeshua) and those stones that are built upon Him take?
The fact is the analogy of a building falls short of communicating, in a comprehensive way, the level of intimacy that God has ordained for those He has called and chosen to be built into His Spiritual House.
If we attempt to use the building analogy, as the basis for understanding our intimacy with Christ, what we end up with is a sense of our dependency on other human beings. We see this in many churches of our day. It is what I refer to as the “club mentality”.
The point is this, when you look at a brick or stone-wall what you see is the relationship between each adjoining stone, or brick, rather than the relationship of dependence that exists between each individual stone, or brick, and the foundation stone.
In saying this I am not suggesting there is not a place for relationship with one another in the Body of Christ, but here again the foundation of those relationships must first and foremost be Christ Himself.
Consequently, we must purposely turn our thoughts to consider the analogy of the branch and its relationship to the vine, in order that we might begin to understand the level of intimacy God has called us to.
In John 17: 21 Jesus personally describes for us the relationship that His Father has ordained: "that they all may be one, as You Father are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me."
In heaven, before Yeshua was born into this world, the relationship that existed between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit can be pictured as follows.
God the Father: the HEAVENLY VINE. Jesus: the HEAVENLY BRANCH abiding in the HEAVENLY VINE. The Holy Spirit: the LIFE-GIVING SAP flowing through the HEAVENLY VINE into the HEAVENLY BRANCH.
The Vine, the Branch and the Sap are all ONE in Heaven!
But God ordained, before the foundation of the world that this intimate relationship would have to be modified, for a time, for the sole purpose of re-establishing relationship between God, the Creator, and human beings, His creation.
Isaiah wrote of this event in Isaiah 53:2 & 3: For He (Yeshua) shall grow up before Him (God the Father) as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
It is important for us to note, at this point, that Yeshua is referred to 17 times in the NT as Yeshua of Nazareth. The word Nazareth, or Nazarene, means, “branch”. Hence, we see the importance of this verse of Scripture:
Matthew 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, "He shall be called a Nazarene."
This verse states clearly “He shall be called a Branch”.
Yeshua went from being a Heavenly Branch, in intimate relationship with God the Father, the Heavenly Vine, to be a planting of the Lord God. God the Father cut His Own Son from Himself in order to plant Him in the dry and dusty earth of humanity. This is the event that Isaiah is speaking about in Isaiah 53. I encourage you to sit down and read the whole of that chapter.
Paul also speaks of this event when he writes to the Philippians.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Ch.2:5-8)
This is what I view as the `pruned lifestyle of Yeshua'. The human flesh Yeshua took upon Himself became a barrier to His intimate relationship with the Father. Therefore, His intimacy with the Father was no longer a "given". Intimacy with the Father could only be maintained now through Yeshua’s human flesh being constantly pruned.
A branch planted out, as a cutting, isn't much to look at. It has been severely pruned to improve its chances of forming a new plant.
This was the case with Yeshua, when He became a cutting from the Heavenly Vine; He wasn't much to look at. But, God the Father had ordained that He would become the Foundation of God’s Kingdom here on earth. He had decreed that The Branch should grow up and fill all things with the Glory of God. He had determined that once again Yeshua would become the Heavenly Branch connected to the Heavenly Vine and thus the means of re-establishing unity between God and mankind.
Zechariah was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write in the following vein: "Behold the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place, He shall branch out, and He shall build the Temple of the Lord; Yes, He shall build the Temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; so, He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both." (Ch.6:12 & 13)
So, when Yeshua begins to speak, in John's Gospel, about the level of intimacy that should exist between the Vine and the branches, He speaks out of that relationship of intimacy between His Father and Himself. He also speaks as one who has not only been pruned, as a Branch, but as one who has become a Holy Cutting in the plans and purposes of God.
When Yeshua returned to the Father, after His resurrection from the dead, He once again became the Heavenly Branch intimately joined to God the Father the Heavenly Vine. Now, at the same time, Yeshua is both the True Vine and the Heavenly Branch. This is how He has redeemed us and restored us to fellowship with the Father.
John 14:20-21 “At that day you will know that I am in My Father and you in Me, and I in you. "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."
In your mind, you may be questioning the use of the word “intimacy” in this context. I use it purposely because Yeshua saw a direct parallel between the intimacy of sexual union between a husband and wife and the spiritual union which is to exist between the believer and Yeshua and thus with the Father. Let me show you this from Scripture by looking at the use of the word “know”.
Matthew 1:24-25 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.
Here the word “know” clearly refers to sexual union between man and wife.
This brings us to an important spiritual principle that was stated by the Apostle Paul:
1Corinthians 15:46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.
The intimate relationship between a husband and a wife is the natural; it follows then that there is a spiritual equivalent to this natural intimacy.
Matthew 7:22 “Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
I believe that in this statement Yeshua is referring to the absence of spiritual intimacy that is akin to the physical, emotional and spiritual intimacy between a husband and a wife. The presence or absence of spiritual intimacy will be one of the criteria Yeshua will apply in weighing our relationship with Him.
In the natural, we all know that a vine does not bear fruit but rather the branch does. However, the ability of the branch to produce fruit is totally dependent upon the maintenance of intimacy with the vine. Also, in the natural, men do not bear children, rather the woman does. Nevertheless, the ability of the wife to bear this holy fruit of marriage is dependent upon the maintenance of intimacy between a man and a woman.
In the natural God has provided clear models for our intimacy with Himself.
At this stage the relevance of spiritual intimacy may seem difficult to pin down. However, as we move on it will become increasingly clear that Yeshua’s expectations are much higher than ours when it comes to this issue of intimacy with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
In the next chapter, we will look at The Importance of Understanding that There Are Two Vines. As you will see, this is a vital forerunner to our fully understanding the intimacy of relationship that God has called, and chosen, His people to experience with Him.