Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Holy Spirit’s Blessings

Apostle Paul:  3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. . . . 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son (Jesus). 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased (redeemed) our freedom with the blood of His Son (Jesus) and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding (practical insight and prudence). . . . 19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ (Messiah) from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now He (Jesus) is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else — not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ (Messiah) and has made Him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is His body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with Himself. Ephesians 1:3, 6-8, 19-23 (NLT)

GOD IS GOOD! In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul teaches on the spiritual wealth and goodness of Triune God—God the Father, God the Son, Jesus, and God the Spirit. The true and living God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has blessed all faithful believers of His Son Jesus with every spiritual blessings and riches in the heavenly realms because we trust and obey His Son (Ephesians 1:3).

First, God the Father has blessed every faithful believer with His overflowing and abundant mercy, peace, and grace through faith in His Son Jesus (e.g., see Ephesians 1:2-3, 6-8; Ephesians 2:4-7; Ephesians 3:8, 14-21). Furthermore through our faith and obedience in His Son Jesus, God has declared all believers as righteous, holy, blameless and wise (Ephesians 1:1, 8; see also Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:8-9). Even more, all believers have received an inheritance from God, forgiveness of sins, and adoptions into God’s family because we love and obey His Son Jesus (Ephesians 1:7, 18; see also Acts 20:32; Romans 2:4; Romans 3:23-25; Galatians 3:26-29; 1 Peter 2:9-10). Through our faith in His Son Jesus, the glorious and living God has washed away all our sins, sealed us with His Holy Spirit, and adopted us as His children (Ephesians 1:7, 13-14; see also John 1:12-13; John 3:3-8; 2 Corinthians 5:5). Our Heavenly Father is not poor but rich, and He has made faithful believers’ rich in His Son, Christ Jesus (see Ephesians 3:8). God’s grace supplies the wealth, but our faith lays hold of the wealth.

Most importantly, through our faith in His living Son Christ Jesus, God has given all faithful believers the mighty power and wisdom of His Holy Spirit to help and dwell within us (Ephesians 1:13-14, 19; see also John 14:25-26; John 16:12-14; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 2:9-16; Ephesians 6:10). God has given every faithful believer of Christ Jesus the power of His Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul mentions the Holy Spirit many times in the book of Ephesians because the Holy Spirit is the One who channels our spiritual blessings from God the Father through the Son, Christ Jesus (see Ephesians 1:13-14). The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers is a foretaste or down payment of our inheritance from God, the Father of glory. Not to know and depend on the Holy Spirit’s blessings and provisions available to all believers is to live a life of spiritual poverty! That same Holy Spirit power that resurrected Christ Jesus from complete death and seated Him at God’s right hand in heaven also now lives and dwells within all faithful believers of Jesus (Ephesians 1:20; see also Acts 2:24, 33; 1 Peter 3:18, 22). The living God has elevated His Son Jesus to be far above any other kings, rulers, dictators, and leaders of this world or in the world to come (Ephesians 1:21; see also 1 Peter 3:22). The Lord Jesus Christ is the supreme Head of the Church—which is His body (see Ephesians 1:22-23). As faithful believers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are also spiritually seated with Christ Jesus in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:20; see also Ephesians 2:5-6), and all things are under our feet (see Romans 8:37). “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57, ESV). If we are on God’s side, God will defeat our enemies (e.g., see Psalm 118:6; Jeremiah 20:11; Romans 8:31).

At Calvary’s Cross, Jesus defeated and destroyed evil! Although Jesus has defeated all evil powers, principalities, and spirits, these unclean spirits have not yet surrendered. The residues of their power continue to corrupt the disobedient world (see Ephesians 2:2). When Jesus returns in all His glory with His angels, Jesus will defeat all residues of evil (see 1 Corinthians 15:24).

Sadly, evil enemies want to rob believers of our spiritual blessings (see e.g., Ephesians 6:11-12). Believers can never defeat these evil spiritual enemies in our own power, but we can through the Holy Spirit’s power (see Ephesians 6:10). In the book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wants all believers to know the greatness of God’s power to defeat any evil enemy that tries to deprive us of our spiritual blessings. Because of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the living God has given all believers the power of the Holy Spirit to defeat all strategies and tricks of Satan and his evil followers (see Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:10-11). Believers can resist and defeat Satan and his evil spirits through our TRUTH, GOODNESS, PEACE, FAITH, GOD’S WORD, PRAYER, AND HOLY SPIRIT’S POWER (Ephesians 6:13-18). Believers overcome evil with good (see Romans 12:9, 21).

The Living Bible Paraphrase (Tyndale House, 1971).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House Company, 2001).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary –New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Monday, May 22, 2017

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit

22 Then a demon-possessed man, who was blind and could not speak, was brought to Jesus. He (Jesus) healed the man so that he could both speak and see. 23 The crowd was amazed and asked, “Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, “No wonder He can cast out demons. He gets His power from Satan, the prince of demons.” 25 Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart. 26 And if Satan is casting out Satan, he is divided and fighting against himself. His own kingdom will not survive. 27 And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. 28 But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you. 29 For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house. 30 Anyone who is not with Me opposes Me, and anyone who is not working with Me is actually working against Me. 31 Every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.” Matthew 12:22-32 (NLT)

One day, a demon-possessed man, who was both blind and unable to talk, was brought to Jesus (see Matthew 12:22). Demons – unclean spirits – sometimes inflict physical and mental sickness (e.g., see 1 Samuel 16:14-15, 23; Mark 5:1-5, 8; Luke 9:37-43). As so many times before, Jesus healed the demon-possessed man so that he could both speak and see (Matthew 12:22; e.g. see also Matthew 9:32-34; Mark 1:23; Mark 3:10-12; Luke 11:14). The crowds were amazed and exclaimed, “Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?” (Matthew 12:23; e.g., see also Matthew 1:1, 16-17; Matthew 9:27; Luke 11:15; John 4:29).

During Jesus’ public ministry on earth, He performed many miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit working through Him (e.g., see Matthew 11:5; Luke 4:18-19; John 3:34; Acts 2:22; Acts 10:36-43). The living God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power (e.g., see Matthew 3:16; John 1:32-33; Acts 10:38; Romans 1:3-4). Then, Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were sick and oppressed by the devil for the living God was with Him (e.g., see Matthew 4:23-25; Matthew 12:15, 18; Luke 6:19; John 3:2; Acts 10:38). Jesus is the only begotten Son of the living God, and He came from the living God (e.g., see Daniel 6:25-27; Matthew 16:16; John 1:14, 18; John 3:16; John 20:31; Acts 17:24). Importantly, Jesus was full of God’s grace, glory, and truth (e.g., see John 1:14, 17) because the fullness of God dwelled within Jesus (e.g., see Colossians 1:15, 19; Colossians 2:9-10; Hebrews 1:3-4). Out of Jesus’ fullness, we have all received one gracious blessing after another (see John 1:16).

However, when some Pharisees and others heard about Jesus’ miraculous healing of the demon-possessed man, they said, “He can cast out demons because He is Satan, king of devils” (Matthew 12:24, TLB; see also Luke 11:15-16). Sadly, these Pharisees and some others believed that Jesus was in alliance with Satan and attributed Jesus’ power to Satan’s power at work in Him, not God’s power (Matthew 12:24; see also Mark 3:22; Luke 11:18).

Jesus knew these Pharisees’ thoughts and replied,

25 Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.Matthew 12:25-32 (NIV2011)

As God in human flesh (incarnate) (e.g., see John 1:1, 18), Jesus told the listening crowd that a divided kingdom will end in ruin because a city or home divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25; see also Mark 3:24-25; Luke 11:17). Jesus knew that if Satan is casting out Satan, he is fighting himself and destroying his own kingdom (Matthew 12:26; see also Mark 3:26). Sadly, some of the Pharisees and other Jews believed that Jesus was healing and curing people of demons and other unclean spirits by invoking the powers of Satan (Matthew 12:24, 27; e.g., see also Matthew 9:34; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15-16, 18-19; John 8:48-52; John 10:19-21). However, Jesus healed and cured many people by the power of the Spirit of God (see Matthew 12:28). Satan comes to kill, steal, and destroy but Jesus has come to give everyone the Spirit of life through faith in Him (e.g., see John 1:4; John 3:15-16; John 10:10; John 20:31). The fact that Jesus delivered the demon-possessed man was proof that He was stronger than Satan was and that Satan could not stop Him (Matthew 12:29; see also Mark 1:7; Luke 11:21-22; John 16:33). The fullness of God’s power lived inside Jesus, and the powers of darkness could not overcome Jesus (e.g., see Luke 4:31-36; Luke 11:20; Ephesians 1:19-23; Colossian 2:14-15; 1 Peter 3:22). Jesus introduced God’s Kingdom and rescued people from Satan’s power through faith in Him (see Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:13). Jesus entered Satan’s kingdom, overcame his power, and claimed healing and deliverance for this demon-possessed man. Jesus’ victory was through the Spirit of God and not in the power of the evil one (see Luke 11:20). There is truly power in Jesus! As faithful followers of Jesus, believers share this same power of Jesus to defeat evil (see Colossians 2:20).

Then, Jesus informed the listening crowd, “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man (Jesus) will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32, ESV; see also Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10). Teaching about the unpardonable sin stems from Jesus’ teaching recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels (see Matthew 12:31, Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10). Jesus’ teaching brings a severe warning about the deep danger of attributing the grace and Spirit of God to an act of Satan. In Jesus and His miraculous powers, the true and living God and His Spirit were present and active (e.g., see Luke 4:18-19; John 3:34; Acts 2:22; Acts 10:38; Romans 1:4). To reject Jesus’ ministry was to reject God and so to reject God’s way forgiveness. The unpardonable sin means a blatant hostility and persistent rejection of God’s divine presence with Jesus and His offer of new life and salvation by the Spirit of grace (see Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:26-29; 1 John 5:16-21). In this sin, the Spirit of grace is outraged, and there is no further access to forgiveness. The Holy Spirit bears witness to Jesus, convicts everyone of sin, and draws people to God (see John 15:26; John 16:7-11). Those who deliberately reject the living God and the Holy Spirit’s call to faith and obedience to Jesus have no hope for forgiveness! The rejection of Holy Spirit’s call to faith and obedience to Jesus indicates a deliberate and irreversible hardness of heart and subjection to God’s wrath (e.g., John 3:3-8, 15-18, 36).

The most important gift Jesus gives all faithful believers is the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:1-4), and Jesus promised to give all believers the Holy Spirit to those who trust and obey Him (John 8:30-31; John 14:15, 21, 23; John 15:9-10; Titus 3:5; 1 John 2:3-5; 1 John 5:3; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 14:12). The Holy Spirit brings life now and for eternity (see John 3:36; John 7:38-39; John 20:31; Acts 16:30-31; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:4; 1 John 5:1). Even more, the Holy Spirit gives believers God’s guidance, power, and the seal of salvation (e.g., see Romans 8:26-27; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit brings good gift from God that washes away our sins and gives us a new heart through faith in Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection (e.g., see Luke 11:13; John 4:10; Acts 2:38-40; Hebrews 10:10, 22; 1 Peter 2:24). Moreover, the Holy Spirit also gives believers spiritual gifts (e.g., see Romans 12:5-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4, 8-10; Ephesians 4:4-6, 11-13; 1 Peter 4:10-11).

However, if a person deliberately continues sinning after receiving the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins (see Hebrews 6:4-8; Hebrews 10:26-29). There is only the terrible expectation of God’s eternal judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies (see Hebrews 10:27, 29). It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God (see Luke 12:5; Hebrews 10:31). Jesus told the listening crowd that people of Nineveh repented and turned from evil when the Prophet Jonah proclaimed God’s grace and love to them (see Jonah 3:4-5, 8-10; Jonah 4:2; Matthew 12:41). Jesus said that He was greater than the Prophet Jonah was as He possessed the fullness of God, and yet the people refused to repent and believe in Him (Matthew 12:41; see also Mark 1:14-15; Luke 11:29-30, 32).

Faithful believers of Jesus are God’s children, and they do not make a practice of sinning for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them (see 1 John 3:9; 1 John 5:1, 18). Anyone person who continually practices sin proves that he belongs to Satan (see 1 John 3:7-10). God says many times throughout the Holy Scriptures that He wants everyone wholeheartedly love and obey Him (e.g., see 1 Samuel 15:22, 23; Psalm 40:6-8; Psalm 51:16-19; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 9:13). The Holy Scriptures repeatedly teaches that God’s good blesses come to those who hear and obey God’s righteous ways (e.g., see Proverbs 8:32; Luke 6:47; John 14:21; James 1:22-25). We reject God and grieve the Holy Spirit when we live in sin and disobedience to God’s righteous ways of living (e.g., see Isaiah 63:7-14; Ephesians 4:1-6, 20-24, 30; 1 John 1:5-10). The Holy Spirit is a Person who is sensitive and is hurt by the immoral behavior of those in whose hearts He lives through faith in Jesus (see Isaiah 63:10; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 11, 17, 19-20; Ephesians 2:21-22).

God graciously forgives all sins, blasphemies, and slanders if one humbly confesses and repents of one’s sins and returns to the living God and His righteous ways of living (e.g., see Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13-14; 1 John 1:7, 9). Whoever genuinely repents and seeks God’s grace found in Jesus will find God’s forgiveness and mercy (see 1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:1-2). However, God does not forgive those who continual sin and reject God’s gracious forgiveness and mercy found by faith in His Son, Jesus (see Mark 3:28-30). Such rejections of the Holy Spirit is crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace (see Hebrews 6:6).

NLT Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008).
ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
The Living Bible Paraphrase (Tyndale House, 1971).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House Company, 2001).

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Spirit Brings Life

1 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent You to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with You.3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.4 “What do You mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” 5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. 7 So do not be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you cannot explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
. . . .
13No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. 16 For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.
. . . .
31 “He (Jesus) has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but He has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else. 32 He testifies about what He has seen and heard, but how few believe what He tells them! 33 Anyone who accepts His testimony can affirm that God is true. 34 For He (Jesus) is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God gives Him the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves His Son and has put everything into His hands. 36 And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who does not obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.” John 3:1-8, 13-21, 31-36 (NLT)

During Jesus’ public ministry, the people of Israel and even non-Jews (the Gentiles) knew that Jesus came from the living God (e.g., see John 1:14; John 5:36; John 12:20-23; Acts 10:38). One dark night Nicodemus, a highly respected Jewish religious leader, teacher, and a member of the Pharisees, came to Jesus (John 3:1-2, 10). Nicodemus said to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that You are a Teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him” (John 3:2, ESV; see also John 3:13, 34; John 6:38, Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 9:24). During Jesus’ time on earth, Jesus taught the people with authority and performed many miraculous signs, healings, and wonders (e.g., see Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 1:22, 32-34; John 2:11, 23; John 20:31; Acts 2:22). Yet despite Jesus’ authoritative teaching and miraculous signs, many people refused to believe and accept that Jesus was the Messiah (Christ) and the Son of the living God from heaven (e.g., see John 3:11, 19, 32; John 5:43; John 12:37-43).

Then, Jesus informed Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3, NASB). Nicodemus shouted to Jesus, “How can someone be born when they are old? . . . Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4, NIV2011). Jesus answered Nicodemus’ question with a summary of the Holy Spirit’s giving of new life:

5 . . . “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 3:5-8 (ESV)

Jesus informed Nicodemus that unless one is born of water and the Spirit, that person could not enter God’s Kingdom (John 3:5; see also Ezekiel 36:25-27; Acts 2:38-41; Titus 3:5). Human life comes from human parents, but spiritual life comes from the Holy Spirit (John 3:6; see also 1 Corinthians 15:50). The Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven (John 3:6-8; see also John 6:63; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus taught Nicodemus that unless one is born anew from above by the Spirit of God one cannot enter and see God’s Kingdom (John 3:3; see also John 1:12-13). Everyone is reborn by the Holy Spirit and accepted into God’s Kingdom by their faith, repentance, and belief in Jesus and His Word (Gospel) (e.g., see Acts 2:23-40; Acts 10:37-44; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Peter 1:3, 23; 1 John 5:1, 10-12).

The Greek word pneuma and the Hebrew word ruah are similar for Holy Spirit, stemming from association with breath and the wind (see Genesis 2:7; Ezekiel 1:4; John 3:8; Acts 2:1-2). The word wind in both Hebrew and Greek can also be translated “spirit.” One of the symbols of the Spirit of God in the Bible is the wind or breath (see Job 33:4; John 20:22; Acts 2:2). Like the wind, the Spirit is invisible but powerful; and one cannot explain or predict the movements of the wind. When God sends His Holy Spirit, a new life is born (see Genesis 1:2; Psalm 104:30).

By looking and accepting Jesus and His Word by faith, the Holy Spirit brings a supernatural spiritual birth from above and anew (e.g., see Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:4-5; Acts 11:16; Romans 1:16-17). Just as there are two parents for physical birth, so there are two “parents” for spiritual birth: the Spirit of God (see John 3:5-8) and the Word of God (see John 6:63; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25). The combination of the Spirit of God and the Word of God bring new life and a new heart. The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and, when a sinner believes, imparts the life of God (e.g., see Acts 10:37-44; Romans 10:9-13). Acceptance and belief in Jesus and His Word bring life because the Holy Spirit enters one’s life and heart when one accepts and believe Jesus and His Word (see Acts 10:43-48; Ephesians 1:13-14; Ephesians 2:8-9; see also Ezekiel 37:1-14). Water baptism is also a part of our obedience to Jesus and our witness for Him (see Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38-41). Everyone who believes and obeys Jesus and His Word has God’s new life from above – spiritual, eternal, and abundant (e.g., see John 1:4; John 10:10; John 14:6; Romans 5:17)! The new birth, also known as regeneration, is the act of God that gives new life and new heart to the one who believes and obeys His Son, Jesus (see John 8:30-31; John 14:15, 21, 23; John 15:9-10; Titus 3:5; 1 John 2:3-5; 1 John 5:3; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 14:12). Through our wholehearted faith in Jesus, believers undergo a cleansing from sins and a spiritual transformation and renewal (see 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:9; 1 John 5:1, 4, 18). 

Jesus is the Son of God and the long-awaited Messiah (Christ) that the living God had sent from heaven to save the world and give new life through faith in  Him, Jesus (e.g., see Matthew 1:21, 23; Luke 2:10-11; Mark 1:1; John 3:15-17, 31; John 6:61-65; Hebrews 4:14; 1 John 5:12). Everyone (Jews and non-Jews) who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and they will receive a new life, a new heart, and eternal salvation (e.g., see John 3:36; John 7:38-39; John 20:31; Acts 16:30-31; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:4; 1 John 5:1). The living God did not send His Son Jesus into the world at His first arrival to condemn the world, but to save the world through faith in Him (John 3:17; see also John 1:14, 29, 34-35; 1 John 4:9-10). There is no eternal doom and condemnation awaiting those who genuinely call upon and trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior (John 3:18; see also John 6:40; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).

However, everyone who rejects and do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah (Christ) and Son of God have already been sentenced and condemned because of their rejection of Jesus (see John 3:18). The unrepentant and unbelieving people’s sentence is based on this fact: that the Light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the Light, for their deeds were evil (John 3:19, TLB). Sadly, even today as the first century many people reject the heavenly Light that Jesus brings because they love sin and the darkness (see John 3:20). Instead of turning to the Light found in Jesus, many unrepentant people stay away from that Light for fear their sins would be exposed and they would be punished by God (John 3:20; see also Ephesians 5:11-13). However, those doing right come gladly to the Light of Jesus so everyone can see that they are doing what God delights (John 3:21; see also Matthew 5:13-16). The true and living God is omniscient, and He sees everything even our secret sins (see Psalm 90:8).

Afterward, Jesus and his disciples left Jerusalem and stayed for a while in Judea and baptized many people by the Jordan River (see John 3:22). At this time, John the Baptist was also baptizing people (see John 3:23). One day someone began an argument with John’s disciples, telling them that Jesus’ baptism was best over John’s baptism (see John 3:25). John informed his disciples that his work was to prepare the way for Jesus the Messiah and urge everyone to trust Jesus (John 3:28; see also Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:2-4; Luke 3:3-6; John 1:6-7, 23; Acts 19:4). Jesus is the Light, and John the Baptist, coming in the spirit of Elijah, pointed everyone to the Light of Jesus (see John 1:6-8). Moreover, John knew that Jesus came from heaven and is greater than any other human (John 3:31; see also Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:1, 7; Luke 3:16; John 1:1-5, 14-15, 18, 27, 30; Acts 13:25). Jesus speaks God’s words for God’s Spirit is upon Him without measure and without limit (John 3:34; see also Isaiah 42:1; Luke 4:18-19; Acts 10:38). Importantly, John testified that Jesus is God’s Son, and all who trust in Jesus will have eternal life (John 3:35-36).

In summary, everlasting life is in Jesus, and this life gives light to all humankind (e.g., see John 1:4; John 5:26; John 11:25; John 14:6; Acts 3:15; 1 John 5:11). Jesus is the Light and Life of the world (John 3:19; see John 1:4-5, 7; John 8:12; John 14:6). Jesus’ life is the light that shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish Jesus’ life nor light (see John 1:5). Everyone who wholeheartedly and genuinely seeks, believes, and obeys Jesus will turn away from darkness (sin) and turn to the Light found in Jesus (see John 3:19-21). By turning to the Light, everyone will find salvation and new spiritual life that will make one godly (see John 3:6, 36; see also John 12:46; Acts 13:38-39; Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 5:6; 2 Peter 1:3-4).

When we wholeheartedly receive Jesus into our lives, we share Jesus’ very life and become children in God’s eternal family (e.g., see John 1:12-13; Romans 8:14; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 3:26-29). The Holy Spirit is the essence of Jesus’ gift (see John 6:63). Life and wisdom come through the gift of the Spirit (see John 14:15-20; John 20:21-22; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30). The life-giving Presence of the Father, Son, and Spirit works in perfect unity to bring life to all faithful believers of Jesus. In the Holy Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit), there is life. God the Father is life (e.g., see John 5:21, 26; John 6:33; John 17:3). Also, God the Son Jesus is life (e.g., see John 5:21, 25-26; John 6:33; John 17:3). Finally, God the Spirit has life (e.g., see John 3:6, 8; John 6:63). The transforming power of God’s Spirit is a seal of God’s ownership for Jesus’ faithful followers (e.g., see 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14).

As to Nicodemus the Pharisee, the Holy Scriptures reveal that he finally did “come to the light” and accept Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah. In opposition to his colleagues on the Jewish high council, Nicodemus strongly argued that Jesus should be given a fair trial (see John 7:50-51). After Jesus’ sacrificial crucifixion and death, Nicodemus brought seventy-five pounds of expensive perfumed ointment for His burial (see John 19:38-42). Thus, Nicodemus appears to be an example of a Jewish Pharisee, like the Apostle Paul, who came to believe in Jesus (see Acts 23:6).

Let everyone come to Jesus Christ!

NLT Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008).
ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
The Living Bible Paraphrase (Tyndale House, 1971).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary –New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Baptism and Filling with the Holy Spirit

1 In those days, John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, 2Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”. . . 5 People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John. 6 And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. . . . 11 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I am not worthy even to be His slave and carry His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with His winnowing fork. Then He will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into His barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.” Matthew 3:1-2, 5-6, 11-12 (NLT)

Since the days of the Old Testament prophets, God’s people have looked to the outpouring of God’s Spirit (e.g., see Numbers 11:29; Isaiah 44:3; Jeremiah 31:31-33; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Joel 2:28-32; Acts 3:17-19). When the New Testament opens, all four Gospels and the book of Acts speak of Jesus’ baptism and outpouring of God’s Spirit promised from the Old Testament (e.g., see Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; John 7:37-39; Acts 1:4-5).

The opening verses of the New Testament reveal John the Baptist’s preaching in the Judean wilderness, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2, NLT; see also Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3, 8; Acts 13:24-25). John the Baptist repeatedly warned the people to be baptized to show that they have turned away from their sins and turn to the living God to receive forgiveness of their sins because the Kingdom of Heaven was coming soon in the form of the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus (see Matthew 3:2, 11; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3, 8). With John the Baptist’s preaching, people from Jerusalem, all over the Jordan Valley, and every section of Judea went to the Judean wilderness to hear John the Baptist preach and to be baptized when they confessed their sins (see Matthew 3:5; Mark 1:5). When anyone confessed their sins, John baptized that person in waters of the Jordan River (see Matthew 3:6, 11; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:16; John 1:31). Centuries before, Israel led by Joshua had crossed the Jordan and received a national baptism (see Joshua 3:9-17).

John the Baptist’s preaching centered on repentance (see Matthew 3:2, 8; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3, 8). Generally, repentance means to turn your whole heart and mind away from sin and to turn wholeheartedly to the true and living God and His ways of living prescribed in His Holy Scriptures (see e.g., Matthew 3:2, 8; Luke 3:3). Repentance is orienting your inward and outward life toward God and His righteous ways and turning from sin and a lifestyle of sin and selfishness (e.g., see 1 Kings 8:35; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Jeremiah 36:3; Ezekiel 14:6; Ezekiel 18:30; Acts 3:19; Acts 8:22; Acts 20:21; Acts 26:18; Revelation 2:21-22; Revelation 9:20-21; Revelation 16:11). John was not satisfied with regret or remorse. Instead, John wanted a change of mind and heart that bears good fruit in a changed life (Matthew 3:8; see also Galatians 5:19-23). John knew that no one can pursue God and sin at the same time! True repentance means doing an about-face — an 180-degree turn — from the kind of evil, selfishness, and self-centeredness that leads to wrong actions such as lying, cheating, stealing, gossiping, taking revenge, abusing, and indulging in sexual immorality.

Amazingly, John the Baptist’s message of repentance of sins and forgiveness was the same as that of God’s Old Testament prophets (e.g., see 2 Kings 17:12-14; Isaiah 1:16-20; Jeremiah 7:24-25; Jeremiah 35:15; Ezekiel 14:6). Old Testament prophets and writers repeatedly declared, “if My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NLT; e.g., see also Isaiah 55:7; Ezekiel 18:32; Micah 6:6-8; Zechariah 1:3-4). The true and living God is the only God of heaven and earth, and He wants our whole heart, allegiance, and devotion to Him FIRST (e.g. see, Exodus 20:3-7; Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 22:37). John the Baptist continued the message of the Old Testament prophets and preached repentance and bearing ethical fruit (see Matthew 3:2, 8; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3, 8). Jesus Christ continued John’s message of repentance and bearing of good deeds (see Matthew 4:17; Matthew 5:13-16; Matthew 7:15-20; Matthew 12:33-35; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 6:43-45; John 15:5, 8). Similarly, Jesus’ apostles continued Jesus’ message throughout all Judea, and to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God and prove they have repented by their changed lives and good deeds (fruit) (e.g., see Luke 24:46-49; Acts 2:38; Acts 13:38; Acts 14:15; Acts 20:21; Acts 26:18, 20; Galatians 5:22-23).

Then, John the Baptist proclaimed to the listening crowd in the Judean wilderness that he baptized those who repented of their sins (see Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:16). However, John said that Jesus the Messiah was coming. As the Light of the world and the Son of the living God, Jesus the Christ (Messiah) was so great that John declared he was not even worthy to carry Jesus’ shoes (see Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:1, 7; Luke 3:16; John 1:1-5, 14-15, 18, 27, 30; Acts 13:25)! Importantly, John proclaimed that Jesus would baptize everyone with the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:4-5; Acts 11:16).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to strengthen and empower His disciples to continue His good work of spreading the Gospel (Good News) (see Acts 1:4-5; Acts 2). Today, God the Father and His Son Jesus bring salvation and the Holy Spirit to everyone who genuinely repents by turning to God found in Jesus Christ, confessing their sins, and committing to obey and follow God’s way of living prescribed in His Holy Scriptures (e.g., see John 3:5-8, 16-17; John 14:15; Acts 2:38-40; Acts 5:31; Acts 19:3-7; Acts 20:21). Through repentance and faith in God, a believer becomes one with God, and the Holy Spirit comes to live within that believer as God’s child (e.g., see John 1:12-13; John 17:21-23; Acts 10:44; Romans 8:14-16; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:17, 19; Galatians 3:26; Colossians 2:6). Even more, God the Father and His Son Jesus send the Holy Spirit to be with His faithful people and bring about a spiritual change in a believer’s heart, forgiveness of sins, and release from the power of evil and darkness (e.g., see Jeremiah 24:7; Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 14:16; John 16:7; Acts 26:15-18; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

In Matthew and Luke’s Gospel accounts, John’s preaching declared that Jesus would baptize not only with the Holy Spirit but also baptize with fire (see Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16). Jesus’ baptism of fire refers to the future judgment for everyone who refuses to repent and turn to the living God. Moreover, Matthew and Luke’s Gospel declared that Jesus would one day separate the chaff from the grain, burning the chaff with never-ending fire and storing away the grain (see Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17). Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the eternal fire with unholy trinity (Satan the dragon, the beast (antichrist), and the false prophet) (see also Malachi 3:1-5; Malachi 4:1-3; Matthew 3:10; Matthew 7:19; Luke 3:9 Luke 13:6-9; see also Revelation 20:7-15). Thus, Jesus will baptize everyone either now by God’s Holy Spirit through faith and repentance or later by the fire of His judgment!

The New Testament book of Acts shows the fulfillment of Jesus’ baptism with the outpouring of God’s gracious Spirit to both Jews and Gentiles who repented of the sins and accepted Jesus’ message and life by faith (e.g., see Acts 2; Acts 10:44; Acts 11:16; Acts 20:21, 32; Acts 26:15-18). The promises of the Old Testament prophecy that the Holy Spirit would come in new covenant fullness was fulfilled as Jesus returned to heaven and then was given authority to pour out the Holy Spirit in new fullness and power (see Acts 2:33). During Jesus’ public ministry, Jesus promised His followers the gifting and empowerment of God’s Spirit after His departure and glorification (e.g., see Luke 24:49; John 4:10; John 7:37-39; John 14:17, 25-26; John 15:26-27; John 16:7-8; Acts 1:4-5, 8). With His return to heaven, Acts 2 reveals God’s salvation and outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and God’s continuing outpouring and filling of the Holy Spirit to all faithful and obedient believers of Jesus through their repentance of sins, faith in God, and baptism in the Name of Jesus (e.g., see Acts 2:38-40; Acts 5:31).

Of course, the Holy Spirit was at work throughout the Old Testament beginning with the Spirit’s hovering over the waters of the first day of creation (see Genesis 1:2). Even more, the Holy Spirit empowered God’s faithful people for service, leadership, and prophecy in the Old Testament (e.g., see Exodus 31:3; Exodus 35:31; Numbers 11:16-17; Deuteronomy 34:9; Judges 14:6; 1 Samuel 16:13-14; Psalm 51:11). Moreover, the Holy Spirit empowered such Old Testament leaders as Moses, Joshua, David, Elijah, Daniel, many of the writing prophets, and even Samson for specific ministries. Even before Pentecost, Jesus’ disciples received some foretaste of the post-Pentecostal power of the Holy Spirit when they healed the sick and cast out demons (e.g., see Luke 9:1; Luke 10:1, 8, 17-20, and many other verses) because of their association with Jesus.

The New Testament reveals that Jesus’ outpouring and filling with the Holy Spirit gave Jesus’ disciples more effectiveness in their witness and their ministry (e.g., see Acts 1:8; Ephesians 4:8, 11-13) as well as greater power over sin and wickedness (e.g., see Romans 6:11-14; Romans 8:13-14; 2 Corinthians 10:3-4; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1:19-21; Ephesians 6:10-18; Philippians 3:10; 1 John 4:4). Even more, Jesus’ filling of the Holy Spirit resulted in a distribution of spiritual gifts for ministry to all believers for the uplifting and benefit of the church (e.g., see Luke 24:49; Acts 2:16-18; Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-14:40; Ephesians 4:1-16; 1 Timothy 4:16; 1 Peter 4:10-11) as predicted by the prophet Moses (see Numbers 11:17, 24-29). Moreover, the Holy Spirit comes to believers of Jesus to encourage, teach, guide, defend, comfort, help, protect, empower, and strengthen them (John 14:16-17, 26; John 15:26; John 16:7, 13). The Holy Spirit maintains God and Jesus’ presence in the world, and the Holy Spirit duplicates and sustains Jesus’ work. In effect, the Holy Spirit would be Jesus’ very presence indwelling in close union with Jesus’ disciples (e.g., see John 14:16-17, 26; Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19). Thus, confession, repentance, commitment, baptism, and faith, if they are genuine, can only bring positive results in a person's life. Repentance and baptism are related to death to selfishness and surrender to God (e.g., see Matthew 16:25; Mark 10:39, 45; Romans 6:6-7; Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 5:24). Many faithful believers of Jesus Christ will testify that Jesus’ filling and baptism in the Spirit bring assistance with prayer, Bible study, worship, spiritual gifts, effectiveness in personal ministry, cleansing, rebirth (regeneration), and continual fellowship with the living God and much greater.

Butler, Trent C. Holman Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991). 
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary –New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).