“The hour is coming, and is here already,
when true worshippers will worship the Father spiritually and truly,
for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
God is a spirit, and those who worship
Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Jesus, in John 4:23–24
To a self-willed, proud heart, the most cursed condition possible is to be set free from one’s own ways. The majority of Jews in Paul’s day, having rejected their Messiah, looked upon the Gentiles who were “standing fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free” as cursed people because they were not keeping the law. The most precious blessing on earth, the greatest gift God has ever given – life in His Spirit – was condemned by those who were bound by their ignorance of the truth.
The very thing for which Christ suffered – liberty from the flesh and its ways – is the very thing that those who are “in the flesh” consider most evil. Those who are still in the flesh cannot understand God, serve God rightly, or please God (Rom. 8:7–8). Though He no longer accepts such worship, they continue to serve God in the flesh (that is, ceremonially) instead of in the Spirit, and they are afraid not to serve God that way because Christ has not “purged their conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14).
Paul’s gospel for us Gentiles honored the Son perfectly. Peter’s gospel for the Jews did not; it was a mixture of worship in the flesh and in the Spirit, for it mixed the rites of the law with worship in the Spirit.
Walking in the liberty of Paul’s gospel, a person pleases God to the utmost because that gospel honors the Son to the utmost. And yet, what we see in the book of Acts is that the light of Paul’s gospel was so hated by men who were still “in the flesh”, both Jew and Gentile, that those men were willing to do anything – lie, kill, whatever – to rid the earth of those who walked in it.
The Lord showed me in a dream that those who are in the Spirit can go backwards if they choose to do so, and mix ceremonial rites with their faith. The saints in Galatia did, and Paul told them they had fallen from grace and that Christ had become worthless to them (Gal. 5:4). However, Paul himself circumcised young Timothy in the flesh so that Timothy could travel with him and preach to the Jews in their synagogues! And that same Paul, who taught the Gentiles that Christ has become our Passover and that there were no Sabbaths and holy days for believers to observe, himself pushed hard to get to Jerusalem so that he could be there for the Passover! And then, when he arrived, he offered sacrifice at the temple along with some of his Jewish brothers!
He whom Christ sets free is free indeed, but that perfect liberty, which Paul demonstrated, angers those who are still in the flesh. They sense that God’s children have a liberty to choose what is an abomination to them – worship without ceremonial works. Those in Christ are free to do whatever pleases God; they are not bound to circumcise, and they are not bound to not circumcise. They are not bound to baptize in water, and they are not bound to not baptize in water. For a man to circumcise another because he feels obligated to do so is sin, for there is only one circumcision that matters to God, the invisible circumcision His Son administers to our hearts by the holy Ghost. But for a man to circumcise because it would better serve the purposes of God in a particular situation, as in the case of Paul circumcising Timothy, is God’s kind of righteousness. That is the liberty we have in Christ, the liberty to do whatever God wants done, and the world hates it.
Are you free to baptize in water? Are you in bondage not to? If you are in bondage not to baptize, you are in no better spiritual condition than those who are in bondage to baptize in water. Bondage is bondage. Are you free today to do whatever pleases God? Are you free to do whatever God wants done? Or are you still bound by some superstitious fear that prevents you from doing whatever pleases God?
When old Uncle Joe received the holy Ghost, he received it in a meeting down in Florida conducted by a minister of the Oneness faith. That sect believes that unless a person receives their water baptism, he cannot be saved in the end. Uncle Joe knew better than that, and he considered himself free of any obligation to be baptized in the flesh. So, he refused to allow those people to baptize him. In the following weeks, they persisted in their demand that he be baptized, and he persisted in his refusal, and sometimes, the verbal battle became heated.
As this battle of wills went on, Uncle Joe corresponded with Preacher Clark, and in time, Preacher Clark discerned that Uncle Joe was developing an ungodly attitude toward those who were bound to worship in the flesh. He did not want Uncle Joe to fall into bondage in the other direction! He finally wrote Uncle Joe and asked him, “Why don’t you just let them baptize you so they can get it off their mind?” Preacher Clark saw that, in that particular case, Uncle Joe, a newly born child if God, needed to get fleshly baptism off of his mind so that he could focus on the things of God. Preacher Clark was truly free, “free indeed”. He had no superstitious fear that obligated him to baptize, and he had no superstitious fear of not baptizing. He was free to do whatsoever would accomplish the will of God. Uncle Joe never was baptized in water, but Preacher Clark’s letter rescued him from falling victim to a spirit of strife against those who were in bondage to fleshly worship.
“To the pure, all things are pure,” and Paul was as pure when he circumcised Timothy as he was pure when he told the Gentiles never to do such a thing. He was as pure when he went to Jerusalem for the Passover as when he taught the Gentiles that Christ was the only Passover they needed. And when he shaved his head and made sacrifice in Jerusalem, Paul was as pure as when he wept because the Jews were still doing such things. Paul was free to know and obey the Spirit, and he never surrendered his liberty to any man.
Jesus straitly commanded me, many years ago, “Don’t you ever surrender your liberty to any man!” And I have never done so. I am still standing in the liberty of Christ, where “all things are lawful for me”, and yet I know, as Paul did, that “all things are not expedient.” I know, as Paul did, that “circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but faith that works by love.” I know as well that people’s observance of holy days is nothing to God, but I also know that my not observing holy days is nothing to God. I know that Christians baptizing in water is nothing and that my not baptizing in water is nothing. Faith, working through love, however, most certainly is something, and whoever does not serve God that way is unwise.
Some ministers have this knowledge, but they use it craftily to their own advantage, not wisely, to liberate God’s children. They do not warn the children of God about the worthlessness of worship in the flesh, but go along with such worship, justifying their actions by saying, “It doesn’t matter either way.” But how we worship God does matter because it matters what the Son of God suffered to set us free to do.