Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Receiving God’s Messenger

If God sends someone to His people, and that person is faithful, he does not just sit around and talk about anything when he comes, or even express his own opinions, “for he whom God has sent speaks the words of God” (Jn.3:34; 1Pet.4:11). This is true even about Jesus. He himself said, “The words that I speak to you, I speak not of myself... but the Father who sent me, He gave me a commandment as to what I should say” (Jn.14:10; 12:49). And on another occasion, Jesus testified, “My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me” (Jn.7:16). Anyone who has truly heard from God can say the same thing. For example, the apostle Paul declared that his doctrine was not taught him by any man, but came by revelation from God. Then, Paul proceeded to utter a curse upon anyone, even an angel from heaven, who taught a gospel different from the one he preached (Gal.1:8-9). Paul did not make such a stern statement because he was arrogant or feared competition for the hearts of believers. He made that statement because God had given him what he was teaching, and he he knew that anyone who taught contrary to that gospel would be cursed by God, whose message it was.

For those blessed people to whom God condescends to send a messenger, fellowship with the Father and the Son is predicated upon receiving that messenger. Jesus told his disciples, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives Him who sent me” (Mt.10:40). With these words, Jesus was telling his disciples that no person or group can please God or draw close to Him if they reject the men God anoints and sends to them.

There is no fellowship with God apart from fellowship with His servants who have fellowship with Him. This unalterable fact of spiritual life is demonstrated in the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, and it is confirmed by events in our own lives if God will give us the eyes to see it.

“Having the Spirit”

There are two ways to “have the Spirit”. The first is obvious. Those who receive the holy Spirit “have” it. But there is a second way of having the Spirit that is often overlooked.

When Paul was giving his counsel to the saints in Corinth concerning marital issues, he admitted that even though some of the counsel he gave was from the Lord, some of it was his own judgment. He concluded the counsel that came from his own heart by saying, “and I think I have the Spirit of God” (1Cor. 7:40). Paul was not saying that he thought he had received the Spirit; he knew he had received the Spirit many years before, when Ananias laid hands on him in Damascus (Acts 9:17).

To “have the Spirit” in matters of judgment means to be led by the Spirit in making judgments. To “have the Spirit” in matters of conduct means to be led by the Spirit in the kind of life you live. To “have the Spirit” in teaching means that your doctrine comes from God.

Jude also used this phrase “having the Spirit” with reference to being led by it when he described certain men who falsely claimed to be sent by God as ministers of Christ. This is what he said of them (Jude 1:16, 19): “These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaks great, swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.... These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” We know that these men had received the Spirit because Jude is talking about conditions within the body of Christ. They had the Spirit in that sense. But they did not have the Spirit in the sense of being led by the Spirit to teach the divisive doctrines they were now teaching.

It is no small matter to “have the Spirit” in the sense of being led by it because in the end, the ones who God will claim as His own will only be those who have been led by the Spirit after they received it. Paul warned the saints in Rome, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). Paul understood that everyone who received the holy Spirit belongs to God, and those without it did not belong to Him (Rom. 8:9). But he also understood that after receiving the Spirit, some of God’s children would continue to “walk in the Spirit” and come to know God, while others would choose to follow their own will instead and never come to know Him. Jesus called the former group “wise virgins” and the latter, “foolish virgins” (Mt. 25).

It is essential that we have the Spirit; that is, to receive it. But if we do not continue to have it afterwards, to guide us in our ways, it will not go well with us on the Day of Judgment. In his own way, Peter said that on the Day of Judgment, it would have been better to never have had the Spirit at all than, after receiving it, not to continue to have it (2Pet. 2:20-22): “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.”