Monday, February 15, 2016

Behold: the Extraordinary Love of God

Studies in the Epistles of John the Apostle
Chapter Eleven

Behold: the Extraordinary Love of God

As descendants of Adam, we were conceived with the nature of Adam (Romans 5:12).  Because we are conceived with the nature of Adam, we are conceived dead in trespasses and sin, condemned to eternal separation from God as enemies of God.  We are “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).  As fallen creatures, we deserve nothing more.  It is from this context of understanding that we discover the depth of the love of God reflected by the words of I John 3:1-3.

The word “behold,” that begins I John chapter three, tells us to stand still in awe in the midst of a fallen creation and look upon the masterpiece of the grace of God that loves us so much that He stooped to enter into the filth of our unrighteousness to redeem our wretched souls.  The use of the word “behold” is not intended to direct us to merely glance upon something put before us.  The word “behold” is intended to direct our attention to an unfolding panorama of the grand splendor of an ongoing masterpiece of God.  The deeper we look upon the love of God, the more details of the miraculous vision of the New Creation unfold before our eyes with each new soul saved and as each new life is transformed before our eyes by the grace of God.

“1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:1-3).

The Greek word eido (i'-do), translated “behold,” is in the imperative mood (a command).  Therefore, we are not being asked to merely look and see.  We are being commanded to fix our eyes upon the wondrous truth of God’s love for sinners.  The words “what manner” are from the Greek word potapos (pot-ap-os'), which is an interrogative.  An interrogative is a function word use to raise a question.  The question is about trying to define or comprehend the love “the Father hath bestowed upon us.”  God uses a similar interrogative in II Peter 3:11 connecting the believer to similar responsibilities as I John 3:1-3 describe.  Just as I John 3:1-3 describe the positive extension of God’s love that should prompt the believer to holy living, II Peter 3:9-14 describes the negative aspects of God’s pending wrath, which should also prompt the believer to holy living.

“11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved {the whole first creation; vs. 9 and 10}, what manner {pot-ap-os’} of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (II Peter 3:11-14).

The love of God to believers is expanded upon by the word “bestowed.”  When humans speak of love, we often speak in the terms of quantity.  We want to know how much someone loves us.  We speak of love with qualifiers like more than, or comparatives such as like a mother loves her children.  The Scriptural emphasis upon God’s love is almost always upon the quality and benefits to those loved.  This is expressed by the words “for God so love the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” in John 3:16.  In I John 3:1, the emphasis is upon the marvelous quality of God’s love towards believers.  The quality of the love of God that is “bestowed” upon believers is qualified by the expression “that we should be called the sons of God.” 

A very important truth here that relates to the believer’s eternal security in his salvation is that the word “bestowed” is a perfect active indicative verb.  In other words, once a believer is “called” or named a child of God, it is a once-for-all complete action that is never to be reversed.  The perfect active indicative signifies something brought to perfection or completion.

The Greek word translated “sons” is teknon (tek'-non).  The word can be translated son, daughter, or child; the latter being the intent in I John 3:1.  The implication is an off-spring or a child produced through reproductive process.  The off-spring of God are those “born again” of the Spirit of God into the New Genesis “in Christ” . . . “by grace through faith.”  This expands upon the expression of the interrogative “what manner.” 

There is incomprehensible quality of God’s love to us.  As humans, we can only comprehend the love of God from the perspective of our finite understanding of its outcomes.  We compare God’s love to the love parents have for the children they produce through a loving relationship.  There is an act of procreation when a husband and wife produce a child.  They may love the potential of that child before that child is ever conceived.  They may love that child as only parents can through all of that child’s successes and failures of childhood.  They may invest overwhelming amounts of time and substance into raising that child to be a healthy, educated, mature, and socially fit adult.  However, they will never love their child with the quality that God loves a sinner.

God loves us in unimaginable ways and to unfathomable degrees.  The fact that God calls us His children is not just a name He has attached to us like we are His pets.  God actually recreates us.  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the very nature of God that is part of the believer eternally.  With the indwelling of the Spirit of God, the believer and God are brought together in a unique and eternal union (theanthropic union).  That perfect tense of “bestowed” means this union is once and for ever.  The “divine nature” indwells all “born again” believers forever.

“1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Peter 1:1-4). 

The word “partakers” in II Peter 1:4 is from the Greek word koinonos (koy-no-nos').  It is a derivative of the Greek word koinonia (koy-nohn-ee'-ah), which is usually translated “fellowship” in the KJV.   The word koinonos (koy-no-nos') refers to a partner, associate, or sharer in something.  The union with the Holy Spirit through being “born again” brings every believer into a partnership with “the divine nature.”  Although this partnership is available to every believer, not every believer takes advantage of this extreme gift of God’s love.  The words “might be” in II Peter 1:4 connect to the potential of “life and godliness” in II Peter 1:3 provided to all “born again believers in the giving to those believers His “divine power.” 

The words “hath given” in II Peter 1:3 are from the Greek word doreomai (do-reh’-om-ahee), which can also be translated “bestowed.”  This verb in II Peter 1:3 is also perfect tense.  Therefore, that which God’s “divine power hath given” is a once-for-all, finished, and complete act.  This gift is not something the believer need wait for, or pray for.  The gift will never be taken away.  Every believer has this gift at his disposal at any and every given moment of his life (translation of application: ACCOUNTIBILITY – CULPABILITY - NO EXCUSES FOR FAILURE). 

The impartation of the “divine nature” is what brings us into the unfolding process of “the regeneration” culminating in the believer’s glorification in the “redemption of the body” (Romans 8:23).  The unfathomable love of God not only delivers our wretched souls from Hell, God partners with the believer in ways that are incomprehensive.  The love of God eternally and practically connects the born again believer to the tri-unity of the Godhead.  “Behold” that reality!

The words “that we should be called the sons {children} of God” signify a title given to those “born again” believers.  The title reflects the actually reality of what these believers have become through the “new creation.”  In other words, this is not just a title God tacked onto people that He adopted to be His children.  God is neither our adoptive Father nor our step-Father.  Every truly “born again” child of God is a child of God because God has recreated each of us with His own divine nature intricately interwoven into the very fabric of our new being in Christ Jesus.

Although our KJV uses the word “adoption” in five different texts (Romans 8:15, 23, 9:4, Galatians 4:5, and Ephesians 1:5), the word does not mean exactly the same thing as the English word adoption.  In every case, the word “adoption” is translated from the Greek word huiothesia (hwee-oth-es-ee'-ah).  Understanding the use of this Greek word is really determined by understanding the context in which it is used.

“1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:1-5).

Galatians chapter four begins to develop the difference between Old Covenant believers (“children”) and New Covenant believers (adult “sons”).  The word “adoption” (v. 5) means the placement as adults.  The issue is the difference in position between Old Covenant believers under the Law and New Covenant believers under grace.  The issue of chapter four is that returning to Old Covenant ceremonies and rituals is like adults playing with an infant’s toys.  Because of this, Paul questions the reality of their rebirth (4:19-31).  The intent is that they obviously had not understood the Gospel and therefore needed it presented again.

“My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).

Paul is questioning their relationship to Christ based upon two examples.  These two examples are the son of Sarah and the son of Hagar.  The example is that the son of Sarah was born of grace and free.  The son of Hagar was born in bondage (the Law) and was cast out and rejected in regard to his inheritance.  The son of Sarah represents those born of New Covenant faith.  The son of Hagar represents those who continue trusting in Law/works.  The promise was according to Isaac, not Ishmael.

Galatians chapter five begins to apply these principles.  If a person accepts the teaching of the Judaizers and is circumcised, he is actually rejecting the finished work of grace in Christ and falls away from the grace that is able to save, declaring himself still lost.

“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

Although the Church Age believer has a position greater than the Old Covenant believer in the progressive nature of the unfolding of “the regeneration,” his regeneration is not complete until his glorification.  Paul uses the word “adoption in Romans 8:23 in this context and defines its full realization as the “redemption of the body.”

“17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. 24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. 26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:17-28).

Although John addresses the issue of the miraculous aspects of the new birth in I John chapter three, the Apostle explains this much more thoroughly in his epistles.  The context of the surety of the believer’s future glorification is maintained in Romans 8:29-30.  The key phrase in Romans 8:29-30 is “firstborn among many brethren.”  It is because so many fail to maintain this context that the understanding of these verses is so greatly perverted.

“29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).

Although our physical bodies are “dead because of sin,” the “Spirit” of God indwelling the believer “is life.”  Even though the believer is not yet glorified and, therefore has not yet been fully regenerated, the “Spirit,” who “is life” dwells within him.  As far as God is concerned, the union has already been accomplished “in Christ.”  All that is lacking in the full regeneration of the believer is the resurrection/glorification.  It is clear that this is the meaning of the text in that this is the context that follows through to the end of the chapter; “which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).

In Romans 8:11, the “if” takes on itself this overwhelming future potential “in Christ Jesus.”  The same “Spirit,” the Spirit of God, that “raised up Jesus from the dead” dwells in all true believers.  If that union is real, that same “Spirit” will “also quicken” the believers’ “mortal bodies” one day.  This verse fully moves the transition from practical and progressive sanctification to ultimate sanctification in the believers’ glorification.  The human body is condemned to death and will ultimately return to the dust from which it was created.  This is part of the Adamic curse upon humanity. 

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19).

Even though “dust” is an ultimate reality for the bodies of all still under the curse, all those that have trusted in the finished work of Christ and who have been “born again” have another sure and ultimate reality; there will be a new genesis for them.  God will create a new body for their eternal souls and that body will be eternal.  The surety of this future glorification is vested in the union with Christ as the believer’s new Federal Head in that all believers are indwelled by the Spirit Who “is life.”

“11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (I John 5:11-12; compare Romans 8:9).

Six times in Romans 8:10-17 God uses the word “if.”  The subject and question of the “if” relates to the believer’s new union with Christ.  “If” that union exists, there should be some evident realities that accompany that union.  This is similar to what John is doing in his first epistle.  Although some wonderful spiritual realities exist for the truly “born again” believer, the question of the existence of that new “birth” should also be a concern.  The believer’s future hope of glorification should be accompanied by the pursuit of a right relationship with God in this life “if” regeneration is real.  This continues to answer Paul’s question in Romans 6:1.

“1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:1-3).

“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Corinthians 7:1).

“11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (II Peter 3:11-14).

“3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (I John 2:3-6).

“If” is a big word when it comes to the question of the reality of our salvation.  Paul will deal with the issue of eternal security in Romans 8:31-39, but in Romans 8:10-17 he addresses the issue of assurance.  “If” a person has been saved, baptized with the Holy Spirit into the “body of Christ” (“the regeneration”), and has been indwelled by the Spirit of God, that person is eternally secure and can be sure of his future glorification.  The question that is before us in the six ifs of Romans 8:10-17 is “if” there is any actual/factual evidence in the way we live our lives of regeneration as a reality.
The second “if” is found in the statement of Romans 8:11-12, “11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.”  The hypothetical “if” refers to a present reality, a future reality, and an obligation because of those two realities.  The Spirit of God is the Personification of the power of God.  The Spirit of God is more than a force or non-corporeal energy emanating from God.  The Spirit of God is the third Person of the tri-unity of the Godhead.
“If” a professing believer is truly “born again,” the very same Spirit of God that raised Jesus from the dead dwells within that believer’s body.  “If” that reality is true, the second reality will happen also.  The second event connected to this is that God will bring to life your “mortal bodies.”  The word “mortal” here is from the Greek word thnetos (thnay-tos').  Something that is “mortal” refers to something that is liable to die.  The human body is already dead as far a God is concerned.  Yet, it is dying as far as time is concerned.  In other words, its destiny under the curse is sealed in the same way its destiny in “the regeneration” is sealed.  The former destiny is to “corruption.”  The latter destiny is to “incorruption” (Romans 8:21).
There is some disagreement as to whether this quickening refers to this present life or to the believer’s future resurrection/translation/glorification.  A. T. Robertson has, “Shall quicken (zôopoiêsei). Future active indicative of zôopoieô.”[1]  Although the future tense could refer only to the believer’s future glorification, it seems clear from the context that Paul has a duel meaning here:

1. The believer’s future resurrection /translation/glorification 
2. The believer’s present new life “in Christ Jesus”

The reason we should opt for the duel meaning is what Paul says in the verses that follow Romans 8:11.  The future inevitability of the believer’s resurrection/translation/glorification makes all believers “debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh” (Romans 8:12).  Literally, the believer owes nothing to the “flesh.”  We do not need to live “after” (according to) a fallen state of existence any longer.    Since the believer’s Sin Nature has been “crucified with Christ” (Romans 6:6), he is freed from the union of his corrupt “flesh” or “old man” to be “married to another” (Romans 7:4).  This is the believer’s new union with Christ in “the regeneration” (Romans 7:4-6).  Although that union will not be fully and actually complete until the completion of the glorification, there is a partial fulfillment in the baptism with the Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13) and the indwelling of the Spirit.  Therefore, spiritual life is presently available to the yielded believer (Romans 6:11-13) through the supernatural enabling of the indwelling Spirit of God.
The believer still has two options for this life according to Romans 8:13.  “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”  This does not refer to performance based salvation.  Of this we can be sure.  The word “after” is the key word here.  The subject of the text is the potential spiritual life presently available to the believer pursuing practical sanctification. 

“If” a believer purposefully lives “after the flesh,” it will result in death to any present potential spiritual life (the production of God-kind righteousness) until that problem is corrected by repentance, confession, forgiveness, and restoration to fellowship.  Carnality will not result in eternal separation from God, but it will result in the breach of fellowship with God.  The “wages of sin” (Romans 6:23) is always death to spiritual life.  Simply because the believer is saved and indwelled by the Holy Spirit, that fact does not automatically produce spiritual life in the believer.  The believer must yield to the indwelling Spirit (Romans 6:11-13).  This context from Romans chapter six continues into and through Romans chapter eight.

“19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Romans 6:19-22).

For this “fruit unto holiness to be produced, the believer must “through the Spirit . . . mortify the deeds of the body.”  Adam Clarke says:

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die - Though μελλετε αποθνησκειν may mean, ye shall afterwards die, and this seems to indicate a temporal death, yet not exclusively of an eternal death; for both, and especially the latter, are necessarily implied.

But if ye through the Spirit - If ye seek that grace and spiritual help which the Gospel of Christ furnishes, resist, and, by resisting, mortify the deeds of the flesh, against which the law gave you no assistance, ye shall live a life of faith, love, and holy obedience here, and a life of glory hereafter.”[2]

I believe this statement accurately reflects the meaning of Romans 8:13.  Ralph Earle gives some added explanation:

“The first part of the verse reads: ‘For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.’  Godet paraphrases the meaning thus: ‘There is nothing for you but to die; such is the future which awaits you’ (page 308).”[3]

Earle adds a further explanation regarding the phrase “mortify the deeds of the body” in Romans 8:13:

“Paul is not here pleading for a rigorous asceticism.  He is not advocating the suppression of all physical desires and the denial of any enjoyment of physical pleasure.  What he is saying is that all the bodily activities carried on independently of the Spirit and in defiance of His dominion should be put to death.  The previous clause clearly indicates this.”[4]

It seems clear that the verse following (Romans 8:14) supports this meaning and expands upon this context.  “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”  Again, verses 13, 14, and 15 all begin with the word “for” from the Greek word gar (gar).  This word assigns a reason for a previous statement and gives further explanation of that statement.  Therefore, Romans 8:13, 14, and 15 -17 give further explanation or expansion to what has been said in Romans 8:10-12; primarily the statement of verse 10,  “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”  Therefore, none of the statements of verses 13-17 should be separated from the context of verses 10-12.  The thoughts of these verses are conjoined by the repeated use of the word “for.”
The statement of Romans 8:14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God,” builds upon the statement of verse 13, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”  Yet, Romans 8:14 is an important transitional verse as it introduces us to the subject matter of being “sons of God” and “children of God” (verse 16) and “joint-heirs with Christ” (verse 17) in the primogeniture of Christ as the new Federal Head and “firstborn” (verse 29) of “the regeneration” - “God’s elect” (verse 33).  The indwelling Spirit of God is the connecting link to all of these truths regarding “the regeneration” and glorification that were previously a “mystery” to believers.

“25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. 29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:25-29).

“25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, 26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: 27 To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen. Written to the Romans from Corinthus, and sent by Phebe servant of the church at Cenchrea.” (Romans 16:25-27).

This “mystery” embodies two truths according to the epistles of Paul.  First, the “mystery” embodies the truth of the glorification of believers in the resurrection.  We understand this “mystery” must refer to something beyond the resurrection because the resurrection was taught in the Old Testament books.  However, the glorification of believers into “the regeneration” was not something taught in the Old Testament books other than Christ’s statement in Matthew 19:28.  Paul’s epistles expand upon the glorification of believers into “the regeneration” and how this interrelates with the “church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23) as the “body of Christ” (I Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 4:12).

“6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (I Corinthians 2:6-8).

“51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (I Corinthians 15:51-54).

Secondly, the “mystery” embodies the truth of the Church as the “body of Christ” and the new priesthood of Israel.  This is the subject matter of the epistle to the Ephesians.

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:3-14).

“19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. 1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: 12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him” (Ephesians 2:19-3:12).

“24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:24-32).

These two mysteries, now fully revealed to believers, is the subject matter of Romans 8:14-17 extending through Romans chapter eleven beginning with the statement, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” in Romans 8:14. 

The misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches regarding “adoption” is directly due to the false teaching of Calvinism regarding the doctrine of election.  They teach that election is God selecting or choosing certain lost people to be saved.  They equate this election with God unconditionally adopting certain lost people as His children, regenerating them before they are saved, and giving them (only those elected) the gifts of repentance and faith.  This regeneration before salvation is defined by them by the word Monergism.  This is the Calvinistic idea of adoption.  It is an idea foreign to the Scriptures.

Church Age believers in the New Covenant have a much more intimate relationship with God than did Old Covenant believers.  All New Covenant believers also have greater privileges and greater responsibilities.  Although believers from both dispensations are called “sons” of God, the meaning of the word “adoption” places the New Covenant believer on another plain of existence in his/her relationship with God.

“15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:15-17).

The Law was a “spirit of bondage.”  The New Covenant believer has not received that “spirit.”  The New Covenant believer has received the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.  The indwelling Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of adoption.”  What Paul is saying here, he expands on to some degree in Galatians 4:4-7.  He says almost the same thing, but with some added details.

“4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:4-7).

"Because ye are sons” (Galatians 4:6) - the context continues to maintain the perspective of adult sons due to faith in the finished work of Christ and repentance from the “dead works” of Old Covenant externalism.  “Because ye are sons” in the New Covenant sense of faith, that kind of believer (and that believer only) has a twofold blessing that Old Covenant believers did not have.

1. The believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit.

“15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. 20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:15-23).

2. The believer has a more intimate, personal relationship with the “Father.”  The word “Abba” is of Aramaic origin and came to be used as the most sacred Name of God used in prayer.  “Abba” denotes a special intimacy with God that is due directly to the indwelling Holy Spirit’s intimate knowledge of our heart and mind and His communicating that to God.  It is actually the Spirit of God in us Who prays when we communicate with the Father.

Therefore, the purpose of Romans 8:10-16 is to lead us to the statement of verse 17, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”  The New Covenant believer’s new position makes all believers “joint-heirs with Christ” in Jesus’ primogeniture of the Kingdom of God.  New Covenant believers will rule with Christ in His theocracy of the restored nation of Israel and the One World government of that theocracy.  All Church Age believers will be glorified with Christ and rule with Him as a Kingdom of priests.  The Church, as the “elect” “in Christ” and their future primogeniture “in Christ,” is the subject matter now from Romans 8:17 through 39.
The word “joint-heirs” is from the Greek word sugkleronomos (soong-klay-ron-om'-os).  It refers to participants in common.  Although Jesus will be the glorified LORD of the Kingdom Age, all Church Age believers will be glorified lords over the whole world.  Christ will rule from Jerusalem as Prophet, Priest and King.  The world will be divided into City States to be governed by faithful and glorified Church Age believers.  Church Age believers will be the lords He will be LORD over and the kings He will be KING over.  They will also be the priests He will be HIGH PRIEST of.  This is the meaning of “joint heirs with Christ.”

The translator’s use of the colon after the words “sons of God” in I John 3:1 signifies that what follows the colon is an extension or explanation of the statement preceding the colon.  The extension of the fact that all believers are the children of God is the logical conclusion that “therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.”

The word “world” is translated from the Greek word kosmos (kos’-mos).  The context defines the meaning as all of the satanic influences within the corruptions of religion, politics, and economics.  These influences have varied through the millennia while maintaining certain consistencies within the variations.  Religions have evolved and thousands of false religions have developed over the millennia.  Within all of these false religions there is a commonality in varying degrees of paganism, syncretism, and idolatry.  The word “world” envelopes the realm of existence defined by unbelief, degradation, selfishness, pride, and spiritual corruption.  All of these terms reflect outcomes due to ignorance of God and God’s will.

The lost people of the “world” cannot understand what drives believers. They cannot understand our life priorities.  They cannot understand our being consumed with knowing the Word of God.  They cannot understand any of these things and they cannot understand us because they do not understand or know the God of the Bible.  Faith is a choice of the will to believe in God and then to pursue knowing God through His revelation of Himself and His will in the Word of God (Romans 10:17).  The objective of the Christian life is to be living translations of the Word of God so as to make God known in the world of ignorance and unbelief.  This is the foundational purpose of the statement of I John 3:1-4 before the development of the extension of this reality throughout the rest of the epistle.

The point of the “therefore” statement in the last half of I John 3:1 is that the task before us as children of God in making God known is an extremely difficult task.  It is like trying to describe a sunset to a person blind from birth.  It is like trying to describe the whistle of the wind through the trees to a child deaf from birth.  They have no point of reference.  The point is that by becoming living translations of the Word of God believers become the point of reference that connects the blind to sight and the deaf to hearing.  You may be the only Bible anyone ever reads.  You may be the only definition of the word Christian anyone ever knows.  Do not expect the world to love you, or accept you just because you call yourself a believer.  As you define the term Christian to them through the way you live, you are defining Jesus Christ.  Why would people want what you have if what you have is no different than what they have?

[1] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, IV Epistles of Paul, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Mich., page 374
[2]Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, SwordSearcher Software 4.8
[3] Ralph Earle, Word Meanings in the New Testament, Volume 3, Romans, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Mich., page 152
[4] Ibid, page 152-153
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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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