Life – God’s First & Greatest Gift to Man
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” . . . .
(1 Corinthians 15:45a)
The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. (Job 33:4)
Life may be easily observed, but it is not easily defined or understood. One could say that life is the state of self-awareness, self-existence, and self-functionality, which is characterized by vitality and animation. It is the principle or force that composes the unique quality of animate beings, both animals and humans.
From a biblical perspective, few understand the concept of life. Even from a secular-medical position more could be learned as to how or why the body continues to function with its life-giving gyrations (e.g., the heart continue to beat and the lungs continue to breathe, seemingly unconsciously). In Scripture, “life” is used to describe the animating force in both humans and non-humans (Genesis 1:20-22, 27; 2:7, 19-22).
And of all that comprises man, the distinction of life is most sacred, is most valuable. For without life nothing else exists, nothing else matters. And because of this, one may be assured that life was the first and greatest gift that God bestowed on man when He formed man from the “dust of the ground.”
Man’s value of temporal life is demonstrated every day. When it comes to continuing one’s life, most will go to any length to stay alive. As to the quality of one’s life, every avenue is pursued to achieve a comfortable, carefree state of existence. There is no end to the vast array of medical facilities and provisions, all for the extension of one’s life. Above all else, mankind values “life.”
Only God has “life” in the absolute sense. He is the “Living God” and all other life is completely dependent upon Him for its creation, its prolongation, and its preservation.
For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? (Deuteronomy 5:26)
But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God . . . . (Jeremiah 10:10a)
. . . how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.
(1 Thessalonians 1:9b)
He is the “God of the living” (Mark 12:27) and all else worshipped by man are “not gods” at all (Galatians 4:8; Romans 1:25; 1 Corinthians 12:2). In fact, in contrast to God, all idols are “dead” (Isaiah 44:9-20; Jeremiah 10:8-10, 14) and those who depend on them are spiritually dead (Psalm 115:4-8; 135:15-18).
Frankly, “life” (and here we speak of “temporal life”) is the absolute and ultimate connecting feature between God and man. Without life, man has no association, and can obtain no following eternal relationship with the Living God. For without “life” man does not exist. This being the case, no one has a right to end life contrary to God’s Word (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17).
Furthermore, it should be understood that just as God is Creator (“through Jesus Christ” [Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16]), providing life to a portion of His creation by means of personally breathing into it the “breath [spirit] of life” (Genesis 2:7), He is also the Sustainer of all life through (by means of) His Word, the Son of God (Colossians 1:17; 2 Peter 3:7).
In the beginning was the Word [Jesus Christ], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (John 1:1, 3)
For by Him [Jesus Christ] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist [lit. “sustained]. (Colossians 1:16, 17)
This is to say that no life can exist if God withholds His “breath” (Job 34:14, 15). Thus, God rules over both life and death (1 Corinthians 16:7; 2 Corinthians 1:9; Hebrews 6:3; James 4:15). Only God can give “life” (Psalm 139:13, 14) and can sustain it (Psalm 119:116).
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11; cf. vs. 14; Genesis 9:4; Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Romans 3:25; 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14, 20; Hebrews 9:22; 13:12; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5)
God clearly states that the physical (temporal) life of all His living creatures, both human and animal, is “in the blood” of each one (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 3:17:10-14; Deuteronomy 12:23; Acts 15:20, 29), which is to say that within God’s creative beings it is the blood that contains those elements that produce and sustain life.
Without blood, flesh is dead; therefore, God restricts man from eating flesh that contains its blood (“life”) — revealing that the life of both humans and animals are valued by God.
(On a side note and in the truest sense, all men are brothers, all “made from one blood,” i.e., all humans are related to each other regardless of background or color of skin.
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. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwelling.
To understand and fully accept this truth would eliminate “racism” throughout the world).
The reason that God has placed such a high value upon “blood” is because “it is the blood that makes atonement [expiation, covering of sin] for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11), which is to say that the shedding of blood (the shedding of life) represents the sacrifice of Christ — the giving of His life — on the cross of Calvary for the specific purpose of satisfying God by atoning for sins of mankind, which then allows man through faith in Christ to receive remission of sins and eternal life (Romans 3:25; 5:9; Colossians 1:20; Ephesians 2:13; Hebrews 9:14; 1 John 1:7) — a fact initially seen in the Garden of Eden when God shed the blood of animals in order to obtain their skins to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21).
Life at Creation
Contrary to popular belief, the “breath of God” granting “life” to man upon his creation in the Garden of Eden had no intended end to that “life.” In other words, many, if not most, believe that only “eternal life,” a life granted to one who exercises faith in Christ, has no end. True, “eternal life” cannot have an end, by either God or man, while the temporal life initially given to man in the Garden did in fact experience an unintended “end.”
It was only when man violated God’s direct instruction, thereby committing “sin” (Genesis 2:16, 17; Romans 6:23), that “death” (the end of life) was introduced into man’s reality (Genesis 3:19).
But the assignment of death that man experienced at that time was a double-feature — consisting of temporal (physical) and spiritual death, a duality that all mankind would experience from that day forward (with only two known temporal exceptions (Enoch [Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5] and Elijah [2 Kings 2:11]).
The term “death” in Scripture primarily indicates a “separation.” From a temporal viewpoint it refers to one’s separation from the material world; but from a spiritual viewpoint, it refers to one’s separation from God.
Temporal life reflects only a quantitative amount of corporal time; whereas, spiritual life reflects a qualitative Divine relationship. And although Adam & Eve had both upon their creation, both were significantly altered when they committed sin. Their temporal life would eventually end in temporal death; but more significantly, immediately they severed their relationship with God (spiritual death).
And as the federal head of the human race, Adam’s sin introduced the duality of death (temporal and spiritual) to his progenies (descendants).
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. (Romans 5:12)
Life beyond Life
Fortunately for man, God’s grace (unmerited favor) extended the means for man to evade the more serious of the two “deaths” associated with sin, i.e., spiritual death, by granting him the opportunity to obtain eternal (spiritual) life through the death of Another (Jesus Christ).
Whereas many of today’s evangelical churches understand and promote the biblical means of obtaining eternal life by and through faith in Jesus Christ, there is a vast dearth of understanding of how it relates to the composition of man. Most assuredly the salvation, which only Christ could purchase for man on Calvary, serves as the foundation for all aspects of “salvation” available for man, but its fruition is revealed and fully achieved relative to the three components of man — spirit, soul, and body.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23)
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. (Hebrews 4:12)
For a more lucid understanding of how God’s comprehensive plan of redemption affects “total man,” the remainder of this section will reflect the first two chapters and the first appendix of Salvation of the Soul, a book by Arlen L. Chitwood, which along with many others of his works may be accessed from links embedded on the home page of www.bibleone.net.
Salvation — Past, Present, Future
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9)
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit [lit. “for the sake of the ones about to inherit”] salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)
“Salvation” in the Word of God is spoken of in three tenses — past, present, and future:
1) Christians have been saved.
2) Christians are being saved.
3) Christians are about to be saved.
The previously quoted verses provide examples of how Scripture deals with each of these three tenses or aspects of salvation.
In Ephesians 2:8, 9, salvation is a past, completed act.
In 1 Corinthians 1:18, salvation is a present, continuous work.
In Hebrews 1:14, salvation is a future, inherited possession.
Since the Word of God presents salvation in a framework of this nature, it is vitally important in Scriptural interpretation to first ascertain to which of these three aspects of salvation any given passage pertains.
In the past aspect of salvation, dealt with in Ephesians 2:8, the words in the corrected text, “you have been saved,” are a translation of two Greek words that form what is called in the Greek text a “periphrastic perfect.” The “perfect” tense refers to action completed in past time, with the results of this action extending into present time and existing in a finished state. The “periphrastic” construction places additional emphasis on the present, finished state and refers to the persistent results during present time of the past, completed work.
Salvation in this verse is wrought by grace through faith, accomplished completely in past time, and is the present possession of every believer. This present possession, in turn, constitutes an active, continuing, ever-abiding salvation.
The eternal security of the believer cannot be expressed in stronger terms than the periphrastic construction of the perfect tense in Ephesians 2:8, for the present results of the past action, in this case, can only continue unchanged forever.
However, in 1 Corinthians 1:18, dealing with the present aspect of salvation, things are presented in an entirely different light than seen in Ephesians 2:8. Rather than the verb tense in the Greek text referring to a past, completed act, the tense refers to a present, continuous work. The former has already been completed, but the latter has yet to be completed.
Then, in Hebrews 1:14, dealing with the future aspect of salvation, matters are presented in a completely different light yet. The wording in the Greek text of this verse refers to something that is about to occur. Nothing is past or present; the reception of this salvation, in its entirety, is placed in the future.
Further, the salvation referred to in Hebrews 1:14 is not only to be realized in the future, but it is also an inherited salvation. And the thought of inheritance further distinguishes the salvation in this verse from the salvation previously seen in Ephesians 2:8, for the salvation that Christians presently possess is not an inherited salvation.
Rather, our present salvation was obtained as a free gift during the time we were alienated from God. And, as aliens (outside the family of God), we were in no position to inherit salvation, for inheritance in Scripture is always a family matter.
In the Old Testament, “sons” were first in line to receive the inheritance, with “daughters” next. If there were no sons or daughters in the immediate family, the inheritance was passed on to the nearest family member or members, designated by the law of inheritance (Numbers 27:8-11).
Consequently, an individual had to be a family member before he could be considered for the inheritance, which, during the present dispensation, is restricted to “children” or “sons” of the Owner. That’s why the statement is made in Romans 8:17, “. . . if children, then heirs . . . .” And that’s also why in Hebrews 1:14 that an inherited salvation pertains to those who have already been saved, those who are no longer alienated from God but are presently family members.
In this respect, the complete scope of salvation — past, present, and future — has a beginning point, with an end in view. It involves the Spirit of God breathing life into the one having no life, effecting the birth from above. And this has been done with a purpose, an end, in view. This has been done so that the Spirit can take the one who now has spiritual life and perform a work in the life of that individual, with a view to an inheritance that will be realized at a future time.
Thus, one should immediately be able to see the importance of proper distinctions being drawn and observed in the realm of these three aspects of salvation. And depending on how one approaches and deals with the different salvation passages in Scripture, either difficulties can be avoided on the one hand or insurmountable problems can result on the other.
The Tripartite Nature of Man
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Man is a tripartite being comprised of spirit, soul, and body; and the salvation of man within its complete scope (past, present, and future) pertains to the salvation of man with respect to his complete being. In the study of Scripture it is revealed that each of these three parts of man is subject to salvation at different times. Thus, to understand salvation in its complete scope, one must first understand certain things about man’s tripartite nature. Then, salvation in relation to this tripartite nature becomes the issue.
The first chapter of Genesis reveals that man was created in the “image” and “likeness” of God. The word translated “God” in the Hebrew text of this statement is Elohim. This is a plural noun, which, in complete keeping with related Scripture, would include all three members of the Godhead — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (e.g., cf. John 1:1-3).
Since Elohim is a trinity, for man to be created in the “image” and “likeness” of God, he too must be a trinity. Unlike the dichotomous animal kingdom (created apart from the “image” and “likeness” of God) possessing only bodies and souls, trichotomous man (created in the “image” and “likeness” of God) is a triune being. Man not only possesses a body and a soul, but he also possesses a spirit as well.
Jesus is Elohim manifested in the flesh; and having been made in the “likeness” of man (but apart from man’s fallen nature), He, as man, must also be a trinity (John 1:14; Philippians 2:7). This tripartite nature of Christ, in whom “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9), was clearly revealed at the time of His death.
At this time Jesus yielded up His spirit, which went back into the presence of His Father in heaven (Luke 23:46; cf. Ecclesiastes 12:7; Acts 7:59); His soul went into Hades, the place of the dead, housed inside the earth at that time (Acts 2:27); and His body was removed from the Cross and placed in Joseph of Arimathaea’s tomb (Matthew 27:57-61). This threefold separation persisted until the soul and spirit re-entered the body at the time Christ was raised from the dead.
Thus, God, Elohim, is a trinity; Jesus, Elohim manifested in the flesh, is likewise a trinity; and man, created in the “image” and “likeness” of Elohim, can only be a trinity as well. Accordingly, a complete redemption provided by the triune God must, of necessity, pertain to man as a complete being. Man’s complete redemption must encompass spirit, soul, and body.
1) Past, Present, Future … Spirit, Soul, Body
When man sinned in the garden in Eden, the complete being of man — spirit, soul, and body — became in a fallen state. God had commanded Adam concerning the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). After Satan had deceived Eve into eating of the fruit of this tree, she then “gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Immediately following this, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:1-7).
At the time of the fall, Adam and Eve lost something; and it is clearly stated in Scripture that both immediately recognized this fact. That which they lost could only have been a covering of pristine glory that had previously clothed their bodies, for they, following the fall, found themselves in a twofold condition:
2) Separated from God.
God is arrayed in a covering of “light,” connected with “honor and majesty.” And man, created in the “image” and “likeness” of God, could only have been arrayed in a similar manner prior to the fall.
Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, You are very great: You are clothed with [“You have put on”] honor and majesty. (Psalm 104:1)
Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, who stretch out the heavens like a curtain. (Psalm 104:2)
Recognizing the loss of this covering, realizing that they were naked, explains why Adam and Eve immediately sought to clothe themselves following the fall. They tried to replace the covering that had been lost with a work of their own hands, with fig leaf aprons. And then, apparently realizing the utter inadequacy of this covering, they, in their fallen state, sought to hide from God.
God, finding Adam and Eve in this condition, completely rejected the works of their hands. God completely rejected their feeble efforts to atone for their own sin by seeking to replace the covering of pristine glory with fig leaves.
Then, to bring His fallen creature back into a right relationship (although not in complete keeping with their previously un-fallen state — something still future even today), God provided a covering consisting of animal skins (Genesis 3:21). This necessitated death and the shedding of blood; and herein lie basic, unchangeable truths concerning the state of fallen man and the means that are necessary to effect his redemption.
Unredeemed man is a fallen creature, alienated from God; and two things are necessary to effect his redemption:
1) Divine intervention.
2) Death and shed blood.
These truths have forever been set forth in the opening chapters of Genesis and can never change.
(Two different words are used for “naked” in the Hebrew text of Genesis 2:25 [before the fall] and Genesis 3:7 [after the fall]. In the latter [3:7], the word has to do with absolute nakedness, but not so in the former [2:25].
Remaining within the way a person dressed in the East at the time Moses wrote Genesis, and at later times as well, the word used relative to nakedness pertaining to Adam and Eve preceding the fall [2:25] could be used to describe a person clothed in a tunic [inner garment] but lacking the mantle or cloak [outer garment]. In the preceding respect, prior to the fall, Adam and Eve were clothed in the Glory of God but had yet to possess the regal outer garments worn by kings [fulfilling the reason for man’s creation — to rule the earth (Genesis 1:26-28)].
Then, following the fall, no longer clothed in the Glory of God, Adam and Eve were no longer in a position to be further clothed in regal garments, realizing the purpose for their creation. They, apart from the inner garment [the Glory] could not wear the outer garments [royal apparel].
Adam, prior to the fall, never wore regal garments or held the scepter. In this respect, he never moved beyond the description given in Genesis 2:25 — a “naked” condition, “naked” in relation to the reason for his creation [lacking the outer regal garments].
Thus, if man, now separated from the Glory, is to ever fulfill the purpose for his creation, God must act. Redemption has to occur; and this, of necessity, has to include the complete man — spirit, soul, and body — with a view to not only a restoration of the Glory but to regality beyond this restoration.)
Man’s sin in the garden in Eden produced death. Man died the day he ate of the forbidden fruit. Since his body continued to live, revealing that his soul — the life-giving principle in the blood (Leviticus 17:11; cf. Genesis 9:4) — remained unchanged with respect to life (natural life), it is evident that it was his spirit that died.
The spiritual nature is that part of man that links him directly with God. “God is spirit,” and man’s worship of God must be “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24, NASB). The death of Adam’s spirit separated him from God (establishing the primary meaning of “death” in Scripture — separation from God), and this death (this separation from God) “spread to all men” (Romans 5:12).
Scripture speaks of an unsaved person as being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). With an unredeemed, inanimate spirit (spiritually dead), he is alienated from God, separated from God (Ephesians 2:12). But once the person has been born from above, he is then spoken of as having passed “from death into life,” as having been “quickened [NKJV: ‘made us alive’]” (John 5:24; Ephesians 2:5). Possessing an animate spirit, possessing spiritual life (having been made alive spiritually), he is no longer separated from the One who Himself is “Spirit” (John 4:24).
This aspect of salvation is brought to pass by the Spirit of God breathing life into the one having no life, based on Christ’s finished work at Calvary; and once this has been accomplished, everything surrounding the work effecting this aspect of salvation has been completed, with this work existing in a finished state (as previously seen through the use of the perfect tense in Ephesians 2:8). Thus, the salvation experience that man enters into at the time of the birth from above is a work of the Spirit, based on a previous work of the Son. It is a spiritual birth and has to do with man’s spirit alone: “. . . that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6b).
The salvation of the soul, on the other hand, should never be associated with the past aspect of salvation. Scripture carefully distinguishes between the soul and the spirit, never using the words interchangeably in this respect (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12).
And Scripture also carefully distinguishes between salvation in relation to the spirit and salvation in relation to the soul. Salvation in relation to the spirit is always dealt with in a past sense, but not so with the salvation of the soul. Rather, the salvation of the soul is always dealt with in a future sense:
receiving the end of your faith -- the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:9)
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe [are faithful] to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39)
The statements and exhortations in these verses pertain to Christians alone — those whose spirits have already been saved and whose souls are in the process of being saved, with the salvation of the soul being realized only at a future time.
The salvation of the body presents very few problems for the majority of Christians. Very few Christians contend, contrary to Scripture, that the body has either already been redeemed or is in the process of being redeemed. Scripture places the redemption of man’s body entirely in the future (Romans 8:23).
The Christian’s body is presently in a continuous state of deterioration. The body grows old and weakens with time; and the body is subject to sickness, disease, and eventually death. This must ever remain the case as long as the body remains in its present state. The “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and the unredeemed body must pay the price that sin requires.
Within this unredeemed body lie two opposing entities, each seeking dominion — a redeemed spirit, and an unredeemed soul. The unredeemed soul is housed in an unredeemed body, and the two are mutually compatible. But the redeemed spirit housed alongside an unredeemed soul in an unredeemed body experiences no compatibility with either of the other two at all.
Compatibility is not possible, for “what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). This heterogeneous union is what produced the cry of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:24,
O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?
(For information on the redemption of the body, refer to the appendix — “Adoption, Redemption of the Body” — in the author’s book, God’s Firstborn Sons.)
2) Soulical, Spiritual, Carnal
According to the Word of God, every man can be categorized as being either soulical, spiritual, or carnal. The word “soulical” pertains to all non-Christians, and the words “spiritual” and “carnal” pertain to two classes of Christians.
But the natural man [the “soulical” man] does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
The Greek word translated “soul” throughout the New Testament is psuche. This word has to do with “the natural life” of the individual. The soul is the seat of a person’s emotions, feelings, and desires pertaining to his man-conscious existence.
The Greek word translated “natural” in 1 Corinthians 2:14 is psuchikos, a form of the word psuche. Psuchikos is the “natural” or “soulical” life (self-life) that man has in common with the animal kingdom.
The soulical man is dominated or ruled by his soul, which includes all the experiences, desires, emotions, sensations, likes, and dislikes within the personal, natural life of the individual. Such likes, dislikes, etc. will vary from individual to individual, but all emanate from the soul-life of man. The soulical man is alienated from God and, thus, possesses no way to grasp spiritual truth. A man must be born from above — made alive spiritually — before he can possess spiritual discernment.
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual . . . . (1 Corinthians 3:1a)
The Greek word translated “spirit” throughout the New Testament is pneuma. This word is used in the New Testament referring to the Holy Spirit, man’s spirit, angels (both fallen and un-fallen), a state of mind or disposition, wind, and breath. Examples in Scripture of the last four are Luke 8:55; John 3:8; 1 Corinthians 4:21; 2 Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 1:7; 1 Peter 3:19.
Man’s spirit is the seat of the higher divine life pertaining to his God-conscious existence. The Greek word translated “spiritual” in 1 Corinthians 3:1a is pneumatikos, a form of the word pneuma. The spiritual man is one who is controlled by the Spirit of God acting through his own spirit (through a spirit made alive by the birth from above).
The spiritual man, unlike the soulical man, controls his emotions, feelings, and desires pertaining to his still-present, man-conscious existence. He brings his unredeemed body under subjection and exerts control over the soulical man. This, of course, is not performed within his own power, but within the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is an experience open to redeemed man alone, to an individual who has been made alive spiritually.
Unredeemed man, on the other hand, although a trichotomous being, fails to rise above the dichotomous animal kingdom in his natural or soulical existence. He lacks a redeemed spirit with the accompanying, indwelling Holy Spirit. He, with an inanimate spirit, is spiritually dead. And, consequently, he remains alienated from God. Thus, an existence outside the soulical (natural) for unredeemed man is not possible.
. . . but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:1b)
The Greek word translated “carnal” is sarkikos. This is a form of the word sarx, which means “flesh.” Sarkikos (fleshly) is the opposite of pneumatikos (spiritual). The carnal Christian is, thus, “fleshly” as opposed to “spiritual.” He is one who allows himself to be controlled by his soul rather than by the indwelling Holy Spirit. He, as the soulical man (the unsaved man), follows his personal emotions, feelings, and desires.
He, however, unlike the soulical man, has been born from above and is capable of grasping spiritual truth. But, unlike the spiritual man, this truth is not being received. Thus, the carnal Christian, without an impartation of spiritual truth flowing into his saved human spirit, remains immature and fleshly, following the fleshly impulses of the soul.
(The use of “flesh” or “fleshly” in the preceding respect would be a direct allusion back to that which occurred in Eden at the time of the fall. Man, following his fall, possessed a body that was no longer enswathed in a covering of Glory, with the exposed flesh openly demonstrating this fact. This is what is meant by Christ coming “in the likeness of sinful flesh” [Romans 8:3]. Christ came to earth in a body not enswathed in the Glory of God.
This was the crux of the ignominy and shame surrounding the events of Calvary. Not only was Christ’s body of flesh [apart from the covering of Glory] arrayed in a mock regal manner [with a robe and a crown of thorns], but He hung on the cross without even His Own garments to cover His body, for all to behold that which had been wrought by sin 4,000 years earlier — nakedness, and death [Matthew 27:27-36].
There though is nothing wrong with “flesh” per se. Man was created in a body of flesh, Christ presently has a body of flesh, and both God’s Son and man will live in bodies of flesh forever.
But, though there is nothing wrong with a body of “flesh,” there is something wrong with a body of flesh that is not enswathed in the Glory of God.)
Within the scope of that which God reveals about the impartation of spiritual truth to redeemed man alone lies the great lesson concerning unredeemed man’s relationship to the Word of God. It is utterly futile for unredeemed man to either himself attempt to understand the Word of God or for redeemed man to attempt to teach him the Word of God.
Scripture is “spiritually discerned,” and a man must be born from above — be made alive spiritually, which places him in a position where he can exercise spiritual discernment — before he can understand the things of the Spirit of God. The soulical (unredeemed) man, completely alienated from God — spiritually dead and in no position to exercise spiritual discernment — cannot understand spiritual things, and they appear to him as no more than “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
(Unredeemed man can understand the letter of Scripture [i.e., the stories or accounts of events in Scripture, viewing them as he would a secular book]. But to take these stories or accounts of events and see the spiritual content that God has built into them is completely beyond his ability [cf. 2 Corinthians 3:6ff]. He simply cannot understand the things of the Spirit, for, spiritually, he is dead; he is alienated from God.)
Thus, herein also lies the reason why the things of the Spirit have been hidden from the “wise and prudent,” but revealed unto “babes” (cf. Matthew 11:25). Certain Christian intelligentsia of the present dispensation, even though saved and in a position to understand the Word of God, too often seek spiritual discernment in the light of worldly wisdom rather than through comparing Scripture with Scripture and looking to the indwelling Spirit to lead them “into all truth” (John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:9-13).
And those Christians who seek spiritual discernment in this manner may often be looked upon as great spiritual leaders, theologians, expositors, etc. But in the final analysis, they cannot understand these things. Such individuals can only be sadly lacking in the very realm where they are held in high esteem.
While at the same time, “babes” (Greek: nepios, those who are still on the milk of the Word and have not grown enough to even partake of solid food), by the leadership of the Spirit of God — as they compare Scripture with Scripture and look to the Spirit to lead them “into all truth” — can invariably be brought into an understanding of these things. They, by turning to the Word and looking to the Spirit for discernment and leadership, can understand more about these same spiritual truths than the “wise and prudent” who turn to places other than the Word and either ignore or reject the Spirit’s discernment and leadership.
Redeemed man, through a past and finished work of the Spirit, based on a past and finished work of Christ, has been brought from a dead to a living state spiritually. He has passed “from death into life.” And in this living state, he is now in a position to realize the purpose for his salvation — the salvation of his soul.
One aspect of salvation is past. The individual presently possesses eternal life, and nothing can ever change or nullify this fact. But the individual has been saved for a purpose, which will be brought to pass only within the framework of his realizing present and future aspects of salvation.
And this complete panorama of the salvation message, with a purpose in view, must be recognized. Redeemed man must recognize that there is not only a past aspect to salvation but present and future aspects as well. And the present and future aspects of salvation are inseparably connected with man one day being brought into a realization of the purpose for which he was created in the beginning — “. . . let them have dominion” (Genesis 1:26-28).
Present and future aspects of salvation have to do with man occupying regal positions following the time when he, in that coming day, is brought into a realization of the salvation of his soul.
1) The Complete Salvation Issue
In order to effect man’s eternal redemption, the Spirit of God deals with unsaved man on one basis alone. The Spirit deals with unsaved man solely on the basis of Christ’s finished work at Calvary.
But once an individual has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and has been dealt with on the basis of Christ’s finished work, realizing the birth from above — the salvation of his spirit — the salvation issue then shifts from the salvation of his spirit, to the salvation of his soul. The salvation of the spirit becomes a past, completed work and is never dealt with as an issue beyond this point. The Spirit of God, from this point forward, deals with the individual solely on the basis of present and future aspects of salvation. The individual, from this point forward, is dealt with in relation to the salvation of his soul.
Thus, all Scriptures dealing with carnality or unfaithfulness of Christians, resulting in forfeiture or loss, MUST pertain to issues surrounding the salvation of the soul, NEVER to issues surrounding the salvation of the spirit.
Once the salvation of the spirit has been effected, making it possible for the indwelling Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and control an individual’s life through his own spirit, then man’s unredeemed soul occupies the center of attention. And salvation now (in relation to the soul, not the spirit) becomes dependent on the actions of the individual.
Salvation now becomes dependent on the life one lives after his spirit has been saved. Salvation now becomes dependent on the individual allowing the Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and control his life through his own spirit.
An individual allowing the Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and control his life through his own spirit progressively grows from immaturity to maturity. He progressively grows into a spiritually mature Christian. Growing in this manner, he exerts control over his emotions, feelings, and desires pertaining to his man-conscious (soulical) existence. And, by this means, he will ultimately come into a realization of the salvation of his soul (life).
On the other hand, an individual who refuses to allow the Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and control his life in the preceding manner can only remain a carnally immature Christian. Apart from the assimilation of spiritual truth, resulting in spiritual growth, he cannot help but be controlled by his emotions, feelings, and desires pertaining to his man-conscious (soulical) existence. And, accordingly, such a person will ultimately suffer the loss of his soul (life), which can have no bearing whatsoever on his eternal salvation (for that is a past, finished matter which has already been dealt with).
2) The Complete Salvation Message
The shift of the salvation issue from the spirit to the soul at the time of the birth from above necessitates a corresponding shift from the salvation message that is to be proclaimed to the unsaved (which concerns the salvation of the spirit) to the salvation message that is to be proclaimed to the saved (which concerns the salvation of the soul). This must ever be the case, for that which is past ceases to be the issue, and that which is present and future becomes the issue.
The only message to be carried to the unsaved is the gospel of grace. This is the good news that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” This message alone forms the basis upon which the Spirit can breathe life into the one having no life (1 Corinthians 15:3; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1, 2).
But once the unsaved individual has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, experiencing the birth from above, the message must then change, for the goal of the message will have been realized. The Spirit must then deal with the individual on an entirely different plane, with the issue at the forefront no longer being the salvation of the spirit, but the salvation of the soul.
Thus, a minister with a congregation placed under his care has been charged with a tremendous responsibility. His central ministry is among the saved, among those capable of grasping spiritual truth; and he is to disseminate spiritual truth to these individuals as it relates to things surrounding present and future aspects of salvation, not to things surrounding the past aspect of salvation. He, in this manner, is to “feed the flock of God,” looking ahead to Christ’s appearance in all His glory (1 Peter 5:2-4).
This individual is responsible, under the leadership of the Spirit of God, to provide proper spiritual nourishment for those Christians placed under his care. And the only thing that God has provided for him to use as he feeds the flock of God is the Word of God.
As a minister in charge of a flock, he is to expound this Word under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And Christians placed under his care are to receive this proclaimed Word into their saved human spirits. Then the Spirit of God can take this “implanted Word” and effect spiritual growth to maturity, with the end result being the salvation of their souls (James 1:21).
The tragedy in Christian circles today is the light regard that pastors of churches have for fulfilling the very purpose for their ministry. And, the end result of pastors failing to properly “feed the flock” entrusted to their care will be the entrance of innumerable carnal, immature Christians into the Lord’s presence at the end of the present dispensation with redeemed spirits, changed bodies, but wasted and thus unredeemed souls — forfeited lives. Their eternal salvation will remain unaffected; but, with the forfeiture or loss of their souls, they will be unable to realize the inheritance presently “reserved in heaven” for the faithful. Consequently, they will occupy no position among the “many sons” who will be brought to glory.
(The subject surrounding pastor-teachers and each having been entrusted with a flock, with a view to the salvation of not only the souls of the pastor-teachers but the souls of those in their flocks as well, is developed more fully in Chapter 8 of this book.)
Failure to understand and distinguish between the salvation that we presently possess and the salvation to be revealed when our Lord returns has wrought untold confusion in Christian circles.
Many Christians take Scriptures dealing with the salvation to be revealed and seek to apply them to the salvation that we presently possess. And misapplying Scripture in this manner, these individuals arrive at the erroneous conclusion that it is possible for a saved person to be lost, which not only casts reproach upon the sufficiency of the finished work of Christ at Calvary, but also does violence to numerous portions of the Word of God.
Then, on the other hand, there are those Christians who recognize that the loss of one’s eternal salvation is not possible, but still fail to understand distinctions between the salvation of the spirit and the salvation of the soul. Most from this group take many of these same verses and seek to either apply them to the nation of Israel or to unregenerate individuals, whether Jew or Gentile.
And applications of this nature not only remove the Spirit’s exhortations and warnings to redeemed individuals, but erroneous interpretations in one area of Scripture will often, for the sake of consistency, lead to erroneous interpretations in other areas.
Thus, the importance of understanding distinctions between the salvation of the spirit and the salvation of the soul becomes self-evident.
Let it be forever stated: Redeemed man has come into a position from which he can never be removed. But this same redeemed man, in this position, is directly responsible to his Creator; and, at a future date, he will either inherit as a joint-heir with his Lord or suffer loss in the presence of his Lord. The former will be realized through the salvation of his soul, or the latter will, instead, be realized through the loss of his soul.
If Any of You
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone [any of you] desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
For whoever desires to save his life [soul] will lose it, but whoever loses his life [soul] for My sake will find it.
For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matthew 16:24-27)
In Matthew chapter sixteen, coming into the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus took His disciples aside on several occasions and continued to teach them, as before, revealing things to come. Beginning with verse thirteen, immediately after His warning to beware of the leaven (false doctrine) of the Pharisees and Sadducees, this revelation falls into four categories, which are all interrelated:
1) The true identity of Christ (vv. 13-16, 20).
2) The impending inception of the Church (vv. 17-19).
3) The approaching crucifixion of Christ (vv. 21-23).
4) The salvation of the soul in relation to the coming kingdom (vv. 24-27; cf. v. 28; 17:1-9).
Overall Scope of Events
1) “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
The disciples, as evidenced by Peter’s confession, believed that Jesus was the Christ (v. 16); but the masses in Israel believed otherwise (vv. 13, 14).
The word “Christ” (or “Messiah,” as translated from the Hebrew text) means Anointed One. In the Old Testament, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed; and the complete ministry of Christ (past, present, and future) encompasses all three of these offices.
As Prophet (past), “Christ died for our sins”; as Priest (present), “He ever lives to make intercession” for us; and as King (future), “He shall reign forever and ever” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 7:25; Revelation 11:15).
Insofar as Peter himself was concerned, his confession really involved only the latter, the kingly office, rather than all three. The disciples at this time did not grasp the fact that the Cross and the present dispensation (in which Christ would exercise the office of Priest) would precede the kingdom (vv. 21-23; cf. 17:3, 4, 22, 23; 20:17-19; Luke 9:30, 31).
Peter acknowledged Jesus as God’s Son immediately following his acknowledgment of Jesus as “the Christ.” “Sonship” implies rulership, and this is exactly what Peter had in mind (cf. Exodus 4:22, 23; 19:5, 6; 2 Samuel 7:12-14). It was simply recognition by an additional means of that which he had already stated.
In reality though, an acknowledgment of Jesus as “the Christ,” God’s Son, must involve His complete, threefold office — Prophet, Priest, and King. And this was something that Peter did not understand at this time, as shown by his further remarks.
Christ’s future ministry as King, within the Scriptural framework in which it is set forth, cannot exist apart from two things:
a) A finished work in His past ministry as Prophet.
b) A continuing work (to be completed in the future) in His present ministry as Priest.
This is the primary reason for Christ’s severe rebuke of Peter in Matthew 16:23. Peter, in verse twenty-two, unknowingly denied to Christ that which he had previously attributed to Christ in verse sixteen (cf. Matthew 26:63, 64).
Note Christ’s words in this respect to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, following His resurrection:
O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? (Luke 24:25b, 26).
“Suffering” must precede “glory.” And apart from the former, the latter cannot occur. This is an established biblical principle that cannot change (cf. Genesis 37:23-36 and 45:1-15; Exodus 2:11-15 and 40:33-38; Job 2:6-8 and 40:12-17; Psalm 137:1-9; 1 Peter 1:11; 2:21; 5:1).
2) “I will build My Church.” (Matthew 16:18)
Matthew’s gospel is the only one of the four gospels that records Christ’s announcement that He was going to build His Church. The record of this announcement is given in a gospel that, throughout the gospel, centers on Christ’s kingship and the coming kingdom. And the record is given at a particular time in Christ’s ministry. It is given following Israel’s climactic rejection of the King and the proffered kingdom of the heavens.
Thus, this revelation of the Church occurred following a particular set of circumstances occurring within Christ’s ministry, necessitating a change. This though would not be a change in the message but a change pertaining to the recipients of the message, a change concerning those to whom the message would be proclaimed.
The message would still center on the kingdom, but there would be a change concerning those to whom the offer of the kingdom would be extended. In complete keeping with Israel’s climactic rejection in chapter twelve and Christ’s departure from the house in chapter thirteen, the kingdom was about to be taken from Israel and given to “a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matthew 21:43b).
The Church, in this respect, was to be called into existence for definite and specific purposes surrounding the kingdom of the heavens; and these purposes were not only intimately associated with the coming kingdom, but the complete fulfillment of these purposes could not be realized until that day Christ exercised His office as King.
But, preceding the Church being brought into existence, the events of Calvary had to occur first. A means of salvation had to be provided first (a means connected with Israel, yet separate from Israel), else there could be no new entity of the nature referred to by Christ.
(Note that the Passover lamb was given to Israel, and only Israel could slay this lamb [Exodus 12:1ff]. Thus, only Israel could have slain the Paschal Lamb in 33 A.D., which is exactly what occurred [Acts 2:23, 36; 7:52].
Man today is saved on the basis of the death of a Jewish Paschal Lamb and His shed blood — a Lamb slain by the only one who could slay this Lamb, by Israel. But, though the Lamb was given to Israel and Israel slew the Lamb, unsaved man today doesn’t have to go to Israel per se to avail himself of that which has been done. Rather, the slain Lamb [who was raised from the dead and lives forevermore], with His shed blood, has been made available for all — Jew and Gentile alike.
And because this is true, all that a person has to do today — Jew or Gentile alike — is “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” [Acts 16:30, 31]. Then, because of Christ’s finished work at Calvary, the believing individual passes “from death into life” [John 5:24; Ephesians 2:1, 5].
This then allows the Spirit to perform a work in the individual [an immersion in the Spirit], placing him “in Christ.” And this, in turn, allows the individual to be numbered among those forming the new entity — the “one new man” — which Christ announced during His earthly ministry that He was about to bring into existence.)
And, beyond being brought into existence in this manner, it would be necessary that this new entity, as Israel, have a priest. This would be necessary because, as in Israel, salvation wouldn’t do away with man’s sin nature. And, with man still retaining his sin nature, the ever-present possibility of individuals falling into sin would exist among those within the camp of the saved; and sins committed by the saved, by Christians, would have to be dealt with in a manner that was in complete keeping with the way God, in the Old Testament, had previously established that they be dealt with — through a priest ministering on the individual’s behalf, on the basis of death and shed blood.
The whole of the matter of the sin question in relation to salvation — past, present, and future — was dealt with in the camp of Israel by death and shed blood. It was dealt with first by the application of the blood of slain paschal lambs (Exodus 12:1-13). Then it was subsequently dealt with by the blood of other slain animals and the work of priests (e.g., Leviticus 1-7, 16).
The whole of the matter of the sin question in relation to salvation — past, present, and future — is dealt with today through exactly the same means, by death and shed blood. This has forever been established in the Old Testament, and it can never change.
Today, as in the Old Testament, the sin question in relation to salvation is dealt with first by the application of the blood of the slain Paschal Lamb (cf. Acts 16:31; 1 Corinthians 5:7). Then it is subsequently dealt with by Christ’s high priestly work and His shed blood presently on the mercy seat in the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 9, 10).
In this respect — to effect salvation past, present, and future — Christ died “for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3); He presently lives, exercising a priestly office, in order “to make intercession” for us, providing a present cleansing from sin (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 1:6-2:2; cf. John 13:4-12); and Christians, because of this twofold work of Christ (Prophet and Priest), can look forward to a third work of Christ when He comes forth as King. They can look forward to reigning as consort queen with Him during the coming day of His power.
In this respect, everything surrounding God’s redemptive work by and through His Son — past and present — moves toward a revealed time when this redemptive work will be realized in its fullness, in the coming kingdom.
Thus, in Matthew chapter sixteen when Peter denied to Christ His work as Prophet at Calvary — “Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (v. 22) — he, apart from realizing that which he was doing, was not only denying to Christ His subsequent work as Priest but he was also denying to Christ His future work as King as well (something that he had previously acknowledged [v. 16]). And, for this reason, Peter then experienced a severe rebuke at Christ’s hands — “Get behind Me, Satan! . . . .” (v. 23)
The events in Matthew chapter sixteen occurred shortly after Israel’s “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” and Christ’s subsequent departure from “the house” — the house of Israel (chapters 12, 13). And, for all practical purposes, even though the announcement was not made until later (Matthew 21:43), the kingdom of the heavens (at the time of the events in Matthew 16) had already been taken from Israel and was about to be offered to a separate and distinct “nation.” This new “nation,” the Church (1 Peter 2:9, 10), would, in turn, do that which Israel had failed to do — bring forth “the fruits of it [fruits relating to the kingdom].”
Thus, attention called to the Church in connection with the kingdom of the heavens at this point in Christ’s ministry, to later be more fully revealed through the Apostle Paul, is at the exact juncture where one might expect such revelation — after Israel’s climactic rejection (chapter 12), followed by Christ’s departure from the house (chapter 13).
3) Church, Body, Bride
Viewing the matter from another perspective, the basic principles relating to the formation of the bride (who is to one day reign with Christ as consort queen) and the redemptive work of the Son in relation to the bride are introduced in the New Testament at this time, though previously set forth millennia before. They were previously set forth in the first three chapters of Genesis, by the experiences of Adam in relation to Eve; and these principles remain unchanged throughout Scripture, having been reintroduced by Christ during His earthly ministry.
Adam was the first man upon the earth. He was also a type of Christ, the second Man, the last Adam (Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:45-47); and the experiences of Adam in relation to Eve prefigure the experiences of Christ in relation to His bride.
Eve was created in Adam at the very beginning, but was not brought into existence as a separate entity until a later point in time. Adam was put to sleep, his side opened, and from this opened side God took one of his ribs and formed Eve from the rib. Eve, in this manner, was taken out of Adam and then presented back to Adam for a helpmate (Genesis 2:20).
Adam, apart from Eve, was incomplete (for she was part of his very being — bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh). And, because of this, when presented back to Adam, Eve completed Adam, along with realizing completeness herself. In the highest sense, Eve was still part of Adam’s body, and God looked upon both together as “one flesh.” Both of them together, though two entities, formed one complete person (Genesis 2:21-24).
In the antitype, the bride of Christ has existed in the Son from eternity. The bride’s existence and salvation date back to a past time, “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4; Revelation 13:8). The bride, however, could not be brought into existence as a separate entity until the Son, at a time during Man’s Day, was put to sleep and His side opened.
This took place at Calvary. The Son died, and His side was opened. And out of this opened side came forth “blood” and “water” (John 19:34) — the two elements necessary to bring into existence the bride, separate from the body, but still part of the body (the “water” speaks of cleansing after the application of the “blood”).
Once the complete, redeemed bride has been brought into existence in this manner, “not having spot, or wrinkle . . . without blemish” — once Christ has completed the work announced in Matthew 16:18, building His Church — the bride will be presented back to the Son; and the bride will complete the Son (Hebrews 2:10 [the word “perfect” in this verse should be understood in the sense of bringing to completion]). Then, when the bride completes the Son in this manner, in the highest sense, as in the type, God will look upon both as “one flesh.” Both of them together, though two entities, will form one complete person (Ephesians 5:26-32).
In the preceding respect, God’s past work in bringing Eve into existence and His present work in bringing His Son’s bride (the Church) into existence, based on the events of Calvary, must be studied in the light of one another.
As previously seen in Genesis 2:22, God took a rib from Adam’s side, which “He made into a woman.” The Hebrew word translated “made” in this verse is banah, which means “to build.” Eve was created in Adam at the very beginning, later taken out of Adam, built into a bride, and then presented back to Adam.
In Matthew 16:18 Christ said, “. . . upon this rock I will build My Church.” Then Christ was later put to sleep at Calvary, His side was opened, and the two elements necessary to bring the bride into existence flowed forth — blood and water.
(The word “Church” [Greek: ekklesia, meaning “called out”] is used more than one way in the New Testament. The word is used, for example, in Revelation 2, 3 to refer to all of the saved during the present dispensation, those called out of the world. But the word is also used in a futuristic sense, as seen in Matthew 16:18, referring to a segment of the saved — those called out of the larger body of Christians, those called out of the saved [cf. Hebrews 12:23].)
The Church to which Christ referred in Matthew 16:18, synonymous with the bride — created in Christ from eternity — is presently being built in the previous manner. It is presently being removed from the body, called out of the larger body of Christians, and built into a bride. And the time when this process will be completed, with the bride being revealed and presented back to the Son, lies in the future.
Just as Eve was taken out of Adam’s body, the bride of Christ is presently being taken out of the Son’s body. The entire body over which He is the Head consists of all the saved during this present dispensation. But the bride is a smaller group that is presently being called out of the larger group, i.e., called out of the body. All of the saved are “called” (or, “called out” in relation to the world) and form the body, but only the “called out” (from among the saved) — those taken out of the body — will form the bride of Christ. The bride is a selection out of a selection (a removal from the body of those previously removed from the world):
For many are called, but few are chosen [lit., “few are called out,” referring to a select group removed from the “called”].” (Matthew 22:14)
Note that man had no part in God’s work surrounding the formation of Eve — from the time of her creation in Adam, to the time when she was presented back to Adam. Nor can man have a part in the formation of the Son’s bride. Jesus said, “I will build My Church.”
The word “Church” comes from a compound Greek word (ekklesia), which, as previously seen, means “called out” (ek, “out”; kaleo [or, klesis], “to call”). And the clear teaching of Scripture attests to the fact that the Church that Christ is building consists of individuals who are being called out of the saved, not individuals who are being called out of the world.
The Church, in the preceding respect, is the body of Christ in the same sense that Eve was the body of Adam. Eve was bone of Adam’s bones, and flesh of Adam’s flesh (Genesis 2:23).
All of Eve was of Adam’s body, but she was not all of his body. “For we [Christians] are members of His [Christ’s] body, of His flesh, and of His bones” (Ephesians 5:30). All of Christ’s bride will be of His body, but the bride will not be all of His body.
And as Eve was to reign as consort queen with the first man, the first Adam (Genesis 1:26-28), thus will it be for the second Man, the last Adam and His bride. The first man, the first Adam, could have reigned only as a complete being, with Eve completing Adam; and the second Man, the last Adam, can, in like manner, reign only as a complete being, with the bride completing God’s Son.
In that coming day, the King with His consort queen will reign in this manner — as one complete person — fulfilling that which was set forth surrounding man’s creation (male and female) in the beginning.
4) “Whoever . . . .” (Matthew 16:25)
. . . whoever loses his life [soul] for My sake will find it.
For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matthew 16:25b, 27)
Following the revelation of “Jesus” as the Christ, the coming inception of “the Church,” and the coming “sufferings,” “death,” and “resurrection” of Christ, revealed events continue with the announcement concerning “the salvation of the soul” in relation to the coming “kingdom” (vv. 24-27). Then, the last verse in chapter sixteen, along with the first five verses in chapter seventeen (ignore the chapter break), continue with the subject of the kingdom itself.
The entire program of God during the preceding two dispensations (Gentile and Jewish), along with the present dispensation (Christian), moves toward the climactic dispensation having to do with this present earth — the Messianic Era. During Old Testament days, the salvation of the soul in relation to the heavenly sphere of the kingdom was open to those in Israel. Numerous Old Testament saints, desiring positions in this heavenly sphere of the kingdom, governed their pilgrim walk accordingly. And these Old Testament saints, in that coming day when the kingdom is under the rule of their Messiah, Jesus the Christ, will realize these heavenly positions (Matthew 8:11; Luke 13:28, 29; Hebrews 11:8-16).
However, with the removal of this offer from Israel and the subsequent setting aside of the nation, the offer today is being extended to an entirely new nation, a new creation — the “one new man” in Christ. Individuals from this new creation in Christ can govern their lives in a manner during the present dispensation (as individuals from the old creation in Jacob could during the past dispensation) that will allow them to qualify for positions in the heavenly sphere of the coming kingdom. And in that coming day, Christians who have achieved qualification, will, as certain Israelites from the prior dispensation, realize the salvation of their souls (lives).
Hebrews 2:3 reveals that the message concerning “so great salvation [salvation of the soul]” was first announced by the Lord. This message, however, within the text, had to do with a particular group of people outside Israel (“we” [Christians — the new creation in Christ, which was about to be brought into existence when the message was first announced]). And the message involved the same salvation, in connection with a kingdom, previously offered to and taken from Israel — the saving of the soul in relation to the kingdom of the heavens.
The salvation of the soul, as previously seen, was a major subject of Old Testament Scripture (Proverbs 11:30; Ezekiel 3:17-21; 14:14-20); and numerous Old Testament saints, as Moses, “looked to the reward.” They looked beyond their earthly inheritance to a heavenly inheritance. They desired a higher calling, “a better, that is, a heavenly country,” and they will have a part in “a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:10-16, 26, 32-40).
They will realize the salvation of their souls in relation to the heavenly inheritance (cf. Hebrews 10:26-11:1), with the remainder of the nation (the vast majority) realizing an earthly inheritance in the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
(The fact that the heavenly sphere of the kingdom was taken from Israel at Christ’s first coming, following almost fifteen centuries of Jewish history dating back to Moses, or following almost two millennia dating back to Abraham, cannot do away with the attitude that numerous Old Testament saints took relative to this sphere of the kingdom. Many Old Testament saints exercised faith relating to the heavenly sphere of the kingdom, and they will not be denied an inheritance therein [Hebrews 11:39, 40].)
The message concerning the salvation of the soul in relation to a “nation” (the Church) that was not Jewish, which was first announced by the Lord, was not understood by the prophets. They “inquired and searched diligently” concerning something that was beyond their day and, thus, not for them — coming into possession of this salvation through being “partakers of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 1:9-12; 4:12, 13).
Jesus alluded to this new “nation” that would inherit “so great salvation” in Matthew 12:46-50 by referring to a new relationship that was not conditioned on lineal descent (descent from Abraham), and Jesus made known to His disciples additional facts concerning this new entity in the parables in Matthew 13:1ff and His revelation of the Church in Matthew 16:18ff. Then, the full revelation surrounding this separate, distinct “nation,” the Church, was later vouchsafed to the Apostle Paul and is called in Ephesians 3:3 “the mystery,” referring to something heretofore not opened up and revealed.
Revelation surrounding the mystery, in this respect, “first began to be spoken by the Lord,” the message was “confirmed to us by them that heard Him,” and the full revelation was then given through the Apostle Paul.
(That which is seen in the mystery revealed to Paul was not something unknown and foreign to the Old Testament Scriptures. Rather, that which is seen in the mystery revealed to Paul was a major subject of Old Testament typology. The Spirit of God simply took that which is seen in the types and, by Paul, opened up and revealed numerous things previously recorded in this manner.)
Matthew 16:13ff outlines the transfer of the salvation of the soul in relation to the kingdom of the heavens from Israel to the Church, and these verses constitute one of the pivotal sections in the gospel of Matthew. Matthew chapter twelve is the beginning pivotal section, and chapters thirteen and sixteen continue this same trend of thought, providing additional details.
Then, the announcement is made in chapter twenty-one (vv. 33-43) concerning the removal of the kingdom from Israel. And the events of Calvary follow, allowing the Church — the new recipient of the offer to occupy heavenly positions in the kingdom — to be brought into existence and occupy the necessary position “in Christ” (necessary to form a new creation, a new man, a new nation [cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:26-29; Ephesians 2:11-15; 1 Peter 2:9, 10]).
(For additional information surrounding “the one new man” in Christ, refer to the author’s book, Search for the Bride, Chapters 7, 8.)
If Any Disciple
The text from Matthew 16:24-26, dealing with the saving or the losing of the soul, has been removed from its context by numerous individuals over the years and erroneously used relative to the message of salvation by grace as it relates to the unsaved. These verses, however, have nothing to do with a message to the unsaved in this respect. Truths brought out in these verses relate to the saved alone, those already in possession of eternal life.
(Note: Removing these verses from their contextual setting and using them in relation to the unsaved does away with and destroys that which is actually taught in this section of Scripture, along with fostering confusion relative to the biblical teaching concerning the salvation of the soul.
Other passages of Scripture dealing with this same overall subject are, more often than not, accorded this same type of treatment [e.g., the warning passages in Hebrews, or the overcomer's promises in Revelation 2, 3].)
Within the text, Jesus is speaking to His disciples. The words, “If any man” (KJV), in verse twenty-four could be better translated, “If anyone,” i.e., “If any of you [disciples].” The word “man” is not in the Greek text but in the KJV has been supplied by the translators. The disciples were saved individuals (all, including Judas), and the message concerning denying oneself, taking up one’s cross, and following Christ (things not possible for the unsaved to accomplish) was directed to them.
This thought surrounding the disciples in verse twenty-four leads into verses twenty-five and twenty-six, which refer to the saving or the losing of the soul, with a view to being recompensed as stewards in the Lord’s house (reward according to works) in the coming kingdom (vv. 27ff). The word “For” connects verse twenty-five with verse twenty-four, and the same word again connects verse twenty-six with both preceding verses. Denying oneself, taking up one’s cross, and following Christ in verse twenty-four is the manner in which the salvation of the soul is brought to pass (vv. 25b, 26b). And the inverse of this would be true concerning the manner in which the loss of the soul is brought to pass (vv. 25a, 26a).
Within the context, as previously shown, Jesus is dealing with things relating to the kingdom of the heavens (v. 19). His Messiahship (vv. 13-16, 20), the Church (vv. 17-19), the Cross (allowing the Church to be brought into existence [vv. 21-23], along with showing “death” which Christians must experience relative to the self-life, the soul [1 Corinthians 1:18; Colossians 2:12; 3:1-4]), and the salvation of the soul in relation to the coming kingdom (vv. 24-27) constitute the subject matter at hand. One thought leads into another related thought, with the latter, the salvation of the soul in relation to the coming kingdom, being the end or the goal toward which everything moves.
Note how plainly and unmistakably the salvation of the soul (vv. 24-26) is connected with the coming kingdom (vv. 27ff) rather than with eternal life. The word “For” (same word that begins vv. 25, 26) appears once again, connecting verse twenty-seven with the preceding verses.
Thus, verses twenty-four through twenty-seven can only be looked upon as an indivisible unit in Scriptural interpretation, with one thought leading into another and all things moving toward a revealed goal.
(Note that Matthew 16:28-17:5 forms an additional explanation and provides commentary for v. 27, explaining that which is in view by the Son of Man coming “in the glory of his Father with his angels.”
And the thought of reward according to works is dealt with in related Scripture, seen both in connection with the kingdom [Luke 19:12ff] and the salvation of the soul [Hebrews 10:35-11:1, 23-26; James 2:5, 14-26].)
1) Deny Oneself
To deny oneself is to deny the fleshly impulses of the soul — the self-life. The unredeemed soul housed in an unredeemed body is to be kept under subjection by the instrumentality of man’s redeemed spirit.
By and through the impartation of the Word of God into man’s redeemed spirit, individuals, under the leadership of the indwelling Holy Spirit, progressively grow into spiritually mature Christians; and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians growing in such a manner are able to deny the fleshly impulses of the soul, keeping their bodies under subjection.
This subjective state of the soul in relation to the spiritual man can be graphically illustrated from Old Testament typology in the lives of Sarah and Hagar. Hagar (the bondwoman), despised in the eyes of Sarah (the freewoman), had fled into the wilderness. But the angel of the Lord finding her by a spring of water gave the command, “Return to your mistress [Sarah], and submit yourself under her hand” (Genesis 16:4-9).
If a Christian is to be victorious over the fleshly impulses of the soul, those impulses which are under the bondage of sin must be made submissive to that which has been removed from this bondage. This is the clear teaching of Scripture, and there is no alternate way that this can be accomplished.
Sarah’s and Hagar’s sons (Isaac and Ishmael) are set forth in both Genesis and Galatians as typifying respectively the man of spirit (Isaac) and the man of flesh (Ishmael). The soul (self-life) of man (in association with the flesh) must be made submissive to the spiritual man. Hagar was blessed, but only subsequent to her submission to Sarah (Genesis 16:10); and man in his self-life will be blessed, but only subsequent to the submission of the soul to the man of spirit, empowered and controlled by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Accordingly, blessings relating to the self-life (soul) can occur only in connection with the saving of the soul. Thus, the great issue centers on the man of flesh and the man of spirit both striving for control of the Christian’s life (soul), with the salvation of the soul hanging in the balance and being realized only through control of the self-life by the spiritual man.
(Blessings in connection with man’s self-life though are not as one may be led to think — having the best of both worlds, for such is impossible. Blessings in connection with the self-life are inseparably connected with dying to self. One has to die in order to live [John 12:24, 25]. The section that follows deals with this aspect of the matter.)
2) Take Up One’s Cross, and Follow Christ
The “cross” was the instrument of death, and taking up one’s cross is dying to self, dying to the self-life. Christians are told,
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)
The man of flesh, the deeds of the body, exhibited through one’s self-life must be kept in a constant state of dying. The old man, so to speak, is to be affixed to the cross and not be allowed to move about. If mortification after this fashion occurs, the man will live (he will experience the salvation of his soul); however, if mortification after this fashion does not occur, the man will die (he will experience the loss of his soul).
The words “take up” and “follow” in verse twenty-four appear in two different tenses in the Greek text. The first has to do with a one-time act, but the latter has to do with continuous action. That is, Christians are to “take up” the cross at the beginning of their pilgrim walk, never laying it down; and, in this manner, they are to “follow” Christ continuously throughout the pilgrim walk.
(The translation of the parallel passage in Luke’s gospel, “. . . let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (9:23b), would seemingly militate against the preceding. This though is not the case at all.
First, there is some question concerning the validity of the word “daily” in the text. The word is not found in a number of the better manuscripts. But, if the word is to be considered part of the text, this part of the verse should be translated and understood in a similar manner to the way Wuest has it in his Expanded Translation: “. . . let him at once and once for all pick up and carry his cross day after day.”)
The same basic thought is set forth in Romans 12:1, where Christians are told, “. . . present your bodies a living sacrifice.” The word “present” has to do with a one-time act to be performed at the beginning of the pilgrim walk, never to be repeated. As the Old Testament priest placed the sacrifice upon the altar and left it there, the New Testament priest (a Christian) is called upon to do the same with his body. The body is to be placed upon the altar by a one-time act, and the body is then to remain upon the altar in a continuous state of sacrifice, never to be removed.
“Continuous dedication” in the Christian life is the correct biblical perspective. “Rededication” — as men often use the term — is, on the other hand, completely out of place, for such cannot exist within the biblical framework of the pilgrim walk.
A Christian cannot rededicate his life for the simple reason that he doesn’t have a life to rededicate. He has a life that can be given over to “continuous dedication” alone (whether or not he does so), and faithfulness or unfaithfulness among Christians will have to be understood and dealt with in this biblical respect.
3) For Whoever . . . .
The word “whoever” in verse twenty-five refers directly back to verse twenty-four. The thought is, “Whoever of you [disciples] . . . .” Verses twenty-five and twenty-six further amplify that which has already been stated in verse twenty-four, and, along with verse twenty-seven, form the Lord’s own commentary on this verse.
The word translated “life” twice in verse twenty-five and twice again in verse twenty-six (ASV) is from the Greek word psuche, which means either “soul” or “life.” A number of translations (e.g., KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV) render the word psuche “life” in verse twenty-five but “soul” in verse twenty-six. Since “soul” and “life” are synonymous terms, translating psuche as “life” in one verse and “soul” in the next verse cannot really be considered incorrect. But not everyone has access to the Greek text or understands that “soul” and “life” are synonymous terms; and an inconsistent translation of this nature has, over the years, served to foster confusion in the interpretation of these verses.
Any Christian who refuses to “deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow” Christ during the present day (v. 24) — synonymous with “whoever will save his life [soul]” (v. 25a) — “shall [in that coming day] lose it” (v. 25a), i.e., he will experience the loss of his soul/life.
On the other hand, any Christian who will “deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow” Christ during the present day (v. 24) — synonymous with “whoever will lose his life [soul] for my sake” (v. 25b) — “shall [in the coming day] find it” (v. 25b), i.e., he will realize the salvation of his soul/life.
The inverse of the place that the soul/life is allowed to occupy during the Christian’s present pilgrim walk will be true during the coming reign of Christ. A Christian who saves his soul/life today (allows his self-life to gain the ascendancy, allows his soul to rule) will experience the loss of his soul/life in that coming day; and a Christian who loses his soul/life today (keeps his self-life under subjection, refuses to allow his soul to rule) will realize the salvation of his soul/life in that coming day.
The words “profited” and “exchange” in verse twenty-six have to do with building or refusing to build upon an initial investment. Christians alone are in view. Only the saved are in possession of this initial investment and, thus, in a position to profit.
The very ultimate in man’s goals, aims, ambitions, and aspirations — gaining the entire world in the self-life — is set over against forfeiting one’s life (his self-life) for the sake of Christ. And profit is accrued only in the latter. There can be no profit in the former, for the initial investment cannot be used in this realm. The initial investment can be used in the realm where the man of spirit alone is operative. And an accrual of profit on the initial investment will result in the salvation of one’s soul, but no accrual of profit on the initial investment will result in the loss of one’s soul.
“Profit” and “exchange” are the subject of several parables on stewardship that the Lord gave during His earthly ministry, and a brief review of two of these parables, the parable of the pounds and the parable of the talents, will illustrate what is meant by these expressions in Matthew 16:26.
In the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-27), a certain Nobleman (the Lord), before departing into “a far country,” delivered “ten minas [KJV: pounds]” to His “ten servants” and commanded them, “Occupy till I come.” “Ten” is the number of ordinal completion, signifying all of the Lord’s business delivered to all of His servants. The “mina [pound]” is a monetary unit of exchange, and all of the Lord’s servants were to trade and traffic in all of the Lord’s business during His time of absence. And they were to continue in this manner until their Lord returned.
Christ’s clear statement to His household servants before His departure was, “Do business [KJV: Occupy] till I come” (Luke 19:13b). Those in the parable who followed their Lord’s instructions and used the initial investment realized a profit, but the servant who refused to follow his Lord’s instructions and use the initial investment realized no profit at all.
Then, upon the Lord’s return, the servants profiting from the initial investment were rewarded, but the servant who realized no profit suffered loss.
The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) presents another picture of this same truth. A certain Man (again, the Lord) called “his own servants,” delivered to them “his goods [talents],” and then departed into “a far country.” The “talent,” as the mina/pound, is a monetary unit of exchange, pointing to the Lord’s business. The Lord’s servants, as in the parable of the minas/pounds, were to trade and traffic in the Lord’s business during His time of absence.
And, as in the parable of the minas/pounds, those servants who exercised faithfulness and used the talents entrusted to them realized a profit from the initial investment; but the servant who refused to exercise faithfulness and use the initial investment entrusted to him realized no profit at all.
Then, upon the Lord’s return, the servants profiting from the initial investment were rewarded, but the servant who realized no profit suffered loss.
The salvation of the soul is clearly set forth in Matthew 16:24-27 as emanating from works following the salvation of the spirit and has to do with rewards in the coming kingdom.
Salvation completely apart from works applies to the “spirit” alone, and salvation in connection with works applies to the “soul” alone. The former must first be realized before the latter can come into view at all.
Through the salvation of the spirit (Ephesians 2:8, 9), Christians have been “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
(James is the main epistle in the New Testament dealing particularly with faith and works in relation to the salvation of the soul. This subject is developed more fully in Chapter 5 of this book, Salvation of the Soul, which may be fully accessed from www.bibleone.net.)
Justification by Faith, Justification by Works
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? . . .
But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?
And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.
You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. (James 2:14, 20-24)
James 2:14-26 has been an enigma over the years for many individuals studying the salvation message in Scripture. But that should not be the case at all, unless a person tries to see the salvation that we presently possess — the salvation dealt with in Ephesians 2:8, 9 — as the salvation or justification being dealt with in James.
Faith and works in relation to salvation or justification in James is completely consistent with and perfectly in line with the overall salvation message taught elsewhere in Scripture. James is dealing with the salvation of the soul (James 1:21), not with the salvation that we presently possess; and, unlike the absence of works in connection with man in the salvation that we presently possess, works are presented after a different fashion in Scriptures dealing with the salvation of the soul, for man now appears in an active rather than a passive sense in the matter.
In James 2:14, two self-answering questions are asked. The negative used in the Greek text (me) necessitates that the two questions be understood in a “no” respect. A proper translation of the verse into English, with the Greek negative me in view, would read along these lines:
My Brethren, though a man say he has faith, but does not have works, he cannot profit, can he? Faith [i.e., faith apart from works] cannot save him, can it?
And farther down in the chapter, comments and examples are given concerning faith and works in relation to salvation. In verse twenty-one, Abraham is seen as having been justified by works when he had offered his son on the altar, as seen in Genesis 22:1ff. And, calling attention to Genesis 1 5:6, it is also stated in verse twenty-three that Abraham, at this same time, acted by faith; and God reckoned Abraham’s faithfulness to him for righteousness.
The same account, Abraham offering his son, is referenced in Hebrews 11:17. And in this verse, faith to a saving of the soul, as in James, is inferred from the way this chapter is introduced in the last two verses of the previous chapter.
Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul [lit. ‘but of faith to a saving of the soul’]. (Hebrews 10:38, 39)
With these two verses leading into and introducing chapter eleven, providing the subject matter, each reference to “faith” in the chapter should be understood in line with these verses, as faith to a saving of the soul. This chapter, as James 2:14-26, has to do with present and future aspects of salvation, not with the past aspect. And this chapter, exactly as in James, has to do with faith and works in relation to this salvation. And, as in James, so in Hebrews — the actions of individuals in relation to the salvation of the soul are seen.
Actually, in Scripture, there is no such thing as salvation apart from works, whether past, present, or future aspects of salvation. As well, in Scripture, there is no such thing as salvation apart from grace and faith. The wording in Ephesians 2:8, “by grace . . . through faith,” would apply not only to the past aspect of salvation, as seen in this verse, but to present and future aspects of salvation as well — the salvation of the soul (ref. the author’s book, Salvation of the Soul).
(Both “grace” and “faith” are seen in relation to the salvation of the soul in 1 Peter 1:9:
Receiving the end [‘goal’] of your faith — the salvation of your souls.
“Grace” in relation to the salvation of the soul in v. 9 is seen in vv. 2, 10, 13; and “faith” in relation to the salvation of the soul is seen in vv. 5, 7-9.)
The salvation that we presently possess is wrought through divine works — the Spirit breathing life into the one having no life — and is based on a finished, divine work, the finished work of God’s Son. Unsaved man is spiritually dead and cannot function in the spiritual realm. He can do no more than allow God to do a work on his behalf.
But, once man has passed “from death to life,” coming into possession of spiritual life, he can then be active in the spiritual realm. And, as the ruined earth was able to bring forth in Genesis chapter one after the Spirit of God had moved upon the face of the waters, God had spoken, and light had come into existence (vv. 2b, 3 , 11 ), ruined man, as well, is able to bring forth following a divine work on his behalf (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Once man possesses spiritual life and is able to function in the spiritual realm, as in Hebrews chapter eleven or James chapter two, he, as the earth in Genesis 1:11, can bring forth. But faith must precede and be inseparably connected with man bringing forth, producing works. And to understand how this all comes together, a principle from the Old Testament must be understood first.
An Old Testament Principle
To understand the proper relationship between faith and works in the lives of the people of God, one must understand a principle set forth in a number of places in the Old Testament. And this principle is presented in a dual sense in Genesis chapters eighteen and nineteen.
1) Genesis 18, 19
Genesis chapter eighteen begins with the Lord, accompanied by two angels, appearing to Abraham in the plains of Mamre. The Lord had come down to personally see if the report that He had heard about the things happening in Sodom and Gomorrah was true (vv. 20, 21).
(The Lord, in His omniscience, didn’t need to come down in this manner, for He already knew. But this is simply the manner in which Scripture, at times, presents matters of this nature.)
But, though the Lord said, “I will go down,” He remained with Abraham while the two angels accompanying Him went on down into the Jordan plain, into Sodom (vv. 21, 22).
In that respect, did the Lord go down into the Jordan plain, as He said that He would? Or did the two angels alone go down into the plain?
To address these questions, note something very similar, presented after a different fashion, in chapter nineteen. The two angels, having seen first-hand that which was happening in Sodom, told Lot to take his family and leave the city. Sodom, along with three other cities of the plain (Deuteronomy 29:23), was about to be destroyed.
For we [the two angels] will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it. (Genesis 19:13)
Farther down in the chapter, after Lot and his family had lingered in the city, the two angels took them by their hands and led them outside the city (vv. 15, 16). Once this had been done, and Lot and his family were subsequently safe in Zoar, a nearby city that was spared (vv. 17-23),
Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. (Genesis 19:24)
Who destroyed the cities of the plain? First the angels said that they would destroy Sodom (with the other three cities not mentioned at this point), and they further stated that the Lord had sent them to destroy Sodom. But, at the time of the destruction, the Lord is seen destroying Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other two cities (cf. Deuteronomy 29:23).
Did the angels bring about this destruction, as they said they would do? Or did the Lord bring about this destruction, as the text goes on to state?
The principle seen in these two chapters has to do with angels acting under God’s fixed laws, with their actions being seen as the actions of the One who established these laws. Thus, matters can be stated either way, as seen in the chapter — the two angels going down into Sodom is also seen as the Lord going down into Sodom, or the two angels destroying the cities of the plain is also seen as the Lord destroying the cities of the plain.
God governs the universe through angels in this manner. Angels, placed by the Lord in regal positions throughout the universe, govern the universe under fixed laws. And, through so doing, their actions are seen as the Lord’s actions.
To see the converse of this, note Satan’s actions at the time of his fall. Satan had been placed over the earth, as the earth’s ruler. But the day came when he stepped outside the fixed laws under which he ruled and, on his own, sought to occupy a higher regal position than the one in which God had placed him. His actions thus ceased to be God’s actions and were being his own. And this resulted in his fall and subsequent judgment (cf. Isaiah 1 4:12-17; Daniel 4:17, 25).
2) Numbers 13, 14; Joshua 6-8
This same principle is seen again in the account of the Israelites under Moses at Kadesh-Barnea, and again thirty-eight years later under Joshua after the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River.
The Israelites, in both instances, were to go into the land and slay or drive out every single inhabitant (Deuteronomy 7:1ff). The Israelites, going into the land with this goal in view, were to “diligently keep the commandments of the Lord . . . His testimonies, and His statutes” (Deuteronomy 6:17). And they were to go into the land believing that God would do that which He had stated that He would do:
And the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you little by little; you will be unable to destroy them at once, lest the beasts of the field become too numerous for you.
But the LORD your God will deliver them over to you, and will inflict defeat upon them until they are destroyed.
And He will deliver their kings into your hand, and you will destroy their name from under heaven; no one shall be able to stand against you until you have destroyed them. (Deuteronomy 7:22-24)
God had commanded His people to go in and take the land, and He had told them what He would do as they entered the land to take it. Going into the land, they were to act completely by faith, believing God (cf. Hebrews 11:29, 30). And remaining in the realm of faith, their actions would be the Lord’s actions.
Though the Israelites would be slaying the enemy, acting within the realm of faith, the Lord would be slaying the enemy. The Lord would be going ahead of them and delivering the enemy into their hands. It is the same picture, seen from a different perspective, as the angels acting under fixed laws in Genesis chapters eighteen and nineteen.
Under Moses at Kadesh-Barnea though, failure rather than success is seen. Twelve spies had been sent into the land to spy out the land. After forty days and nights they brought back a report concerning the land and the people therein — a land flowing with milk and honey, inhabited by a strong people, some of gigantic stature.
Two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, then rendered a positive statement concerning entering the land, with Caleb calming the people and exhorting them, saying,
Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.
But the other ten followed with a negative and false statement concerning entering the land. They said,
We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.
The people believed the false statement of the ten spies, began to murmur against Moses, and sought to appoint a new leader and return to Egypt (Numbers 14:1-4). And, as a result, in the words of Hebrews 6:4-6 (which, drawn from the account in Numbers 13, 14, has to do with Christians doing exactly the same thing in the antitype relatively to the heavenly land of their calling and its inhabitants [Satan and his angels]), the Israelites fell away at Kadesh-Barnea; and it was then impossible “to renew them again to repentance [to a change of mind].”
At this point in the account, the Israelites committed a sin referred to in Numbers 15:30 as a presumptuous sin and in Hebrews 10:26 as a sin for which there was no sacrifice, with nothing but judgment then awaiting the nation. And, because of the particular nature of this sin, God wasn’t going to repent; that is, God wasn’t going to change His mind (this is the “repentance” also referred to in the antitype, in Hebrews 6:6).
The very next day, the generation of Israelites under Moses repented, changed their minds, and sought to enter the land and defeat the enemy. But God didn’t repent, didn’t change His mind. God couldn’t change His mind and, at the same time, remain true to His Word.
God was no longer among them with respect to their entering and taking the land. God would no longer go before them and deliver the enemy into their hands. And, as a result, the Israelites attempting to enter the land the next day and overthrow a stronger enemy were themselves overthrown and driven back.
Their actions were their own, not the Lord’s (Numbers 1 4:40-45). And their actions were performed separate from faith, for they went forth contrary to that which God had told them. Thus, defeat, not victory, could only have been their lot.
As a result of that which occurred at Kadesh-Barnea, over the next thirty-eight years the entire generation of Israelites twenty years old and above, save Caleb and Joshua, died in the wilderness, outside the land.
Then, once these years had passed and those in the previous generation had died, Joshua, about to lead the second generation of Israelites into the land, sent two spies into the land ahead of the nation. And upon their return, they said to Joshua, “Truly the LORD has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us” (Joshua 2:24b).
The Israelites this time, unlike the previous generation under Moses, believed God and prepared to enter the land and trust the Lord to deliver the enemy into their hands.
After crossing the Jordan River, the first battle involved the destruction of Jericho. And the Israelites, believing God, experienced victory.
The next battle involved the destruction of Ai. The city was not deemed large enough to require the entire Israeli army, so only about three thousand men were sent to take and destroy Ai. But, unlike the battle of Jericho, the Israelites were soundly defeated and driven back, with a number being slain (Joshua 7:1-5).
Joshua, seeking the Lord’s face concerning the reason for this defeat, was told by the Lord, “Israel has sinned . . . .” Then, seeking that referred to by the Lord, Joshua found an Israelite (Achan) who had kept forbidden spoils from the previous destruction of Jericho. There was sin, unfaithfulness, in the camp. The matter was taken care of, and then the inhabitants of Ai could be defeated, with the Lord delivering the city into the Israelites’ hands (Joshua 7:6ff).
Thus, as long as the Israelites went forth in the realm of faith, the Lord gave the victory. The battle was the Lord’s. It could be said that the Israelites destroyed Jericho and Ai, along with their inhabitants; and it could also be said that the Lord destroyed these two cities, along with their inhabitants.
3) 1 Samuel 17
This same principle is seen again in the account of David slaying Goliath.
David was an unproven “youth” in battle (probably in his late teens), going up against “a man of war from his youth.” This man of war, Goliath, was the Philistine army’s champion and stood between nine and ten feet tall (1 Samuel 17:4, 33).
Goliath, to meet David, came out with full armor, carrying a spear and a sword, with a shield-bearer moving with him. The coat on his armor alone weighed about one hundred twenty-five pounds and the head of the spear weighed about fifteen pounds (1 Samuel 17:5-7, 41ff).
On the other hand, David refused to wear armor as he went forth, for “he had not proved” himself in battle. He went forth to meet Goliath without armor or a shield-bearer and with only a sling and five smooth stones that he had picked up in a nearby brook and placed in his bag (1 Samuel 17:39, 40).
He though would need no armor or shield-bearer and would need only one of the five stones. And the reason is seen within David’s words to this gigantic champion of the Philistine army:
You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’S, and He will give you into our hands. (1 Samuel 17:45b-47)
David went forth by faith. He went forth believing God, knowing that God would remain true to His Word and deliver the Philistine into his hands.
Acting apart from the Lord, David would have been powerless. He would have easily been defeated and slain by the Philistine. But, acting by faith, David could only be victorious; acting by faith, David easily defeated the Philistine champion.
David slew Goliath. But it could also be said that the Lord slew Goliath. It is the same principle seen in the actions of the two angels in Genesis chapters eighteen and nineteen. Acting under fixed laws, the actions of these angels were seen as the Lord’s actions; and
acting by faith, David’s actions were seen as the Lord’s actions.
Thus, comparing these accounts in Genesis, Numbers, Joshua, and 1 Samuel, acting by faith can only be seen as acting under a fixed divine law that cannot change.
From Faith to Faith
“Faith” is simply believing that which God has to say about a matter. And, in the realm of faith and works, acting by faith is not acting in a realm where one seeks to go out to do a work for the Lord. Rather, acting by faith is completely stepping aside from one’s own self and allowing the Lord to do a work through the one exercising faith. And the work done through the one exercising faith will be the Lord’s work; it will be a work emanating out of faith and performed in the spiritual realm, completely apart from the man of flesh.
The Christians’ works tried at the judgment seat will fall into two categories, described by “gold, silver, precious stones” and “wood, hay, straw” (1 Corinthians 3:12ff).
The former works (described by “gold, silver, precious stones”) will emanate out of faith and will be works that the Lord performed through the individual. These works will endure the testing through fire, for they will be the Lord’s works.
The latter works (described by “wood, hay, straw”), on the other hand, will be those performed separate from faith, by the individual himself, through the energy of the flesh. The Lord will have had nothing to do with them, and they will be burned by the fire.
The Christian life is one where two things must be operable throughout: “grace” and “faith.” “Grace” can be defined as that which God is able to do entirely apart from human intervention. And “faith,” as previously stated, is simply believing that which God has to say about a matter.
If one moves outside the realm of “grace,” he moves outside the realm where God can be active in his life, for God always acts in the realm of grace; and if one moves outside the realm of “faith,” he moves outside the realm where he can be acceptable to God, or where God can be pleased with his actions (Hebrews 11:6).
As previously shown, both “grace” and “faith” are seen operable not only in the salvation that we presently possess (Ephesians 2:8, 9) but also in the salvation of the soul, the present and future aspects of salvation (1 Peter 1 :2ff). Thus, it should be a simple matter to see and understand that “grace” and “faith” must always be operable at any point in the overall salvation message — past, present, or future. Man has been saved by grace through faith; man is being saved by grace through faith; and man is about to be saved by grace through faith.
But, since man’s works cannot enter into the realm where God’s grace exists, how can grace and works co-exist in connection with the saving of the soul in James 2:14ff?
Note Romans 11:6:
And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.
It is man’s works that cannot enter (Ephesians 2:8), not God’s works. And God’s works must always enter into the matter. Note salvation by grace that we presently possess. This salvation is a divine work (the Spirit moving, God speaking, light coming into existence), which is based on another divine work — Christ’s finished work at Calvary. And since a continuing work of grace is also involved in the continuing aspect of salvation (the salvation of the soul), God’s works, not those of man, must likewise be seen throughout.
Romans 4:1-4 clearly reveals that works emanating from the flesh, from man (vv. 1, 2) cannot enter into the realm of either “faith” (v. 3) or “grace” (v. 4). The works must be God’s works being performed through an individual exercising “faith,” as in James 2:21-24 and Hebrews 11:17. And since they are God’s works, “grace” can enter into the matter; and since they are works being done through man, “judgment” on the basis of works can occur.
The entire matter surrounding faith and works is that simple to understand.
If you are reading this document, you possess temporal life, a life with an expectancy, at least in industrialized western countries, that approximates the natural life span of mankind, which is in line with the length of time recorded in the Psalms:
The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. (Psalms 90:10; cp. 2 Samuel 19:32-35; Luke 2:36, 37)
And although modern medicine, exercise and diet may prolong your natural limit somewhat, it would be quite a reach for you to think that you may achieve the length of years as the patriarchs of old. Many of them lived between 700 to 900 years (Genesis 5:3-31). After the flood, the life span of the descendants of Noah gradually decreased to between 100 to 200 years (Genesis 25:7, 8; 35:28, 29; 47:28; 50:26). In addition to the shortening of the life span, Scripture records many instances of human life being prematurely cut off (Genesis 4:8; 1 Samuel 31:2; 2 Chronicles 35:23-25; Job 21:21; Psalm 39:5, 11; Luke 12:20), all as a result of the fall of man.
The point being that due to the introduction of sin in the garden of Eden, one’s temporal life span, which can be influenced only to a very limited degree, will come to an end; but due to God’s grace and mercy toward mankind, embodied in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary, all have the opportunity to completely change the quality of life after temporal death. Just as temporal (physical) life is a gift of God, so is eternal life (John 6:63; Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:45; Ephesians 2:8, 9).
Yet, it should be noted that life “beyond the grave” is actually compartmentalized. Prior to life throughout the eternal ages, which is actually not well covered in Scripture, there is life relative to the Millennial (1,000 years) Reign of Christ. The firm foundation for both rests in Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary as one accepts it strictly by faith (spirit-salvation), but as previously discussed at length in this document, life during Christ’s Millennial Reign (Messianic Era) is determined by works (soul-salvation), which will be determined at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Should one make a careful study of the “living hope,” which refers to an “inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1 Peter 1:3, 4) that all Christians share and should serve as the key “purifying” influence in their temporal lives (1 John 3:2, 3), one will find that this “living hope” refers to the promise of ruling and reigning with Christ during the Messianic Era, i.e., the possibility of soul-salvation (Hebrews 10:36-39; 1 Peter 1:9; 2 Peter 1:10, 11).
(Some key passages referring to the “living hope” follows: Acts 2:26; 23:6; 24:15; 26:6, 7; Romans 5:2, 5: 8:24, 25; 15:4, 13; 1 Corinthians 9:10; 13:13; 15:19; 2 Corinthians 3:12; Galatians 5:5; Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 1:5, 23, 27; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8; 2; Thessalonians 2:16; 1 Timothy 1:1; Titus 1:2; 2:13; 3:7; 1 Peter 1:3, 4; 1 John 3:2, 3; etc.)
Then, following to the Messianic Era, all Christians should look forward to the vanquishing of “death.”
Then comes the end, when He [God the Son] delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
(1 Corinthians 15:24-26)
This writer implores the reader to understand all aspects of salvation, to be anchored in spirit-salvation, to live for soul-salvation, and to eagerly look forward to the salvation of your body as you daily thank God for His first and greatest gift — Life.