Making a Way for the King

Robert Wurtz II


A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3-5). 


Whenever and wherever the LORD comes, the path must be made straight. When He appears, just as when the Temple was dedicated, His glory is revealed. In other words, men no longer fear continually falling short of the glory of God–for He works in them to will and do His good pleasure. Yet we have a glaring failure among multitudes who neglect to prepare the way for God to enter their life. When God breaks into human existence, He must travel “the way of the Lord” and that path is a straight and smooth one. Figuratively, the obstacles must be removed, the crooked made straight, every mountain made low, and the uneven ground leveled out (see Luke 3:5). This is a way of describing the process that God works out in a person as they respond to His word in the power of the Holy Spirit prior to receiving the Spirit.  



A Straight Path into You


If God is going to enter a person they have to prepare themselves. This preparation is a common theme in scripture as we read in Isaiah 40:3 above. It continues to be a theme even in regards to the second advent where we learn, “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47). A group of Puritans revived this theme of “preparation” in the American Colonies, but it was short-lived and fell on hard times. It’s a vital doctrine but one that is exceedingly unpopular. 


God requires a straight path. Isaiah 40:3-5 is referenced concerning John the Baptist’s ministry who had been sent by God, full of the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, the second greatest man who ever lived, to make “straight” the way of the king of Kings. The Greek word for straight as used in Isaiah 40:3 (LXX), Matt. 3:3, Mark 1:3,  and Luke 3:4 is euthus. The cognate word euthuno is used in John 1:23. 


To understand euthus we have to look at how it’s used in the Acts. In Acts 8 Simon the Sorcerer tried to “fly under the radar” and enter the church. After asking to buy the power to administer the Holy Spirit by laying on of hands, Peter diagnosed his problem, “You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God” (Acts 8:21). The Greek word here for “right” is euthus (straight). In other words, he went through the process of salvation without first repenting in the “John the Baptist” sense of the word. He was in the bond of iniquity and perishing, but wanted the Holy Spirit. Amazing. 


When John the Baptist made the path straight, the people repented and kept on confessing their sins as he baptized them (Matt 3:6f). He gave them instructions that they should bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. This is hard evidence. Some were to give away possessions, and others were to stop mistreating people. In other words, there were positive and negative (do this or stop doing that) instructions depending on if “the mountain needed to be brought low or the valley filled in.” The Jews codified the OT law into 365 negatives (don’t) and 248 positives (do) commands. So the Jews understood this principle of making low and leveling up. 


When Saul (Paul) met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was sent to a road that was called “straight” (Acts 9:11). This is the same Greek word euthus. Saul was in the throws of a total mind change (metanoia repentance). He was in the process of preparing himself to receive the Holy Spirit by lining up parallel (if you will) with what God has said about Jesus Christ and everything else. All his life he had resisted the Spirit so he needed this process to turn things around. No person can receive and resist at the same time. Saul (Paul) fasted food and water for three days. This fast was according to Isaiah 58:5-9. It utterly afflicted him and broke him down before God. When it was over, he called on the name of the Lord, received the Holy Spirit, and was a new man in Christ. 


Receiving the Spirit Without a Fuss


Paul’s receiving of the Holy Spirit was so utterly without a struggle that the scripture implies merely that it happened. There was no fuss or failure. No seeking the Lord for months. He prepared himself, got the path of God straight INTO him, and he received the Spirit. So this is the crucial thing, “preparing a straight path.” Repenting of all known sin, humbling ourselves utterly before God, and stopping resisting the Holy Spirit when He deals with us. Saul became Paul and applied this EXACT pattern everywhere he preached (see Acts 26:17-21).


After Paul’s conversion and transformation, he preached Jesus and repentance boldly. Our first record is regarding his confrontation with a sorcerer named Bar-Jesus (Elymas) who tried to turn Sergius Paulus out of the faith. Paul confronted him saying, “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10) That is a straight statement that would get a Christian rebuked by his peers in the 21st century. However, notice what was happening. A straight path was being made INTO Sergius Paulus, and Elymas was trying to impede it. This is frequently the strategy of the enemy. He will often use a false teacher to twist the straight path made into a person. He typically does it by saying that “all this repentance stuff is not necessary.” Or “Don’t you think you are taking this ‘Christianity’ thing too far?”


God give us men like John the Baptist and Paul who understood the necessity of preparing the way of the Lord and making His paths straight. This was the basic message of two of the greatest men of God who ever lived. Yet multitudes of ministers overlook this fact. Perhaps it’s because the people who preach in this way typically lose their head for it? We know John the Baptist was beheaded according to Matt. 14:11. Tertullian in his Prescription Against Heretics (200 AD) records that Paul was likewise beheaded. Long before Paul’s martyrdom, he revealed to us that when he preached “John the Baptist style” repentance that, “For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me” (Acts 26:21 NKJV). Is this the price for preaching what Paul preached? If it is may God grace us with the Spirit that we might be that kind of voice.  


A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3-5). 

Ready to Receive (Lessons from the house of Cornelius)

Ready to Receive
Robert Wurtz II


Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.” And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa. (Acts 10:5–8 NKJV)

So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.’ So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God. (Acts 10:30–33 NKJV)



It is hard to imagine it today, but there was a time when Gentiles were not part of what we know as the Church. In fact, with the possible exception of proselytes, the Church was entirely Jewish until Acts 10:44-46. There had been a few Gentiles who believed, but it was Cornelius and his house who were the first to receive the Holy Spirit as He was poured out on the day of Pentecost.

A close examination of our text reveals an important characteristic of this Roman Centurion (Cornelius). Having done well serving the Lord and trusting Him in prayer, an angel appeared to him with an announcement,“Your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God.” God had taken notice of what this Gentile had been doing. However, what really sets him apart is his great desire to know what God is saying to he can be swift to obey. We read, So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God. 

Cornelius wanted to hear and obey all that God had to say. This is a common characteristic of those in the book of Acts who went on with God. Moreover, it is a prime characteristic of those who receive the Holy Spirit. Some are said to have “received the word” and others “received the word with gladness.” However, Cornelius went out of his way to find out what God was saying in the first place… sending out people to fetch Peter to his house so he could listen to what God had to say. This is an awesome thing to consider. He wasn’t trying to avoid God and His word; he was doing everything in his power to hear from God. 

I Isaiah 66:1-3 we are told that God makes His abode in people who are of a broken and contrite spirit and that tremble at His word. These are the essential things. Cornelius trembled at God’s word before he even had a chance to hear it! 

And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa. The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city. (Acts 10:7–9 NKJV)


Cornelius didn’t take any chances. He sent a devout soldier with the two messengers to fetch Peter so he could bring back the word of God. Cornelius was serious about hearing what Peter had to say. This is the attitude of people who want God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. He was anxious to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God; he only needed an opportunity to do it. 

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. (Acts 10:44 NKJV)

It would be easy to assign this baptism in the Holy Spirit to God’s sovereignty; but a close examination of the context reveals that the house of Cornelius was ready to receive the Holy Spirit. The story demonstrates just how easy it is to receive the Spirit once we are ready to receive. Cornelius lived by every ray of light that God had shined upon him. He longed to know and do God’s will. In fact, his approach to God had come up as a memorial in heaven. 

I’m reminded of a similar event earlier in Acts where we read, And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. (Acts 8:6–7 KJV) This is always the key thing, a willingness to give heed to what God is saying to us. 

It is certain that if we get our hearts right with God in a way Cornelius, and his house had done we would receive an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. There wouldn’t be any fuss. This means we need a desire to receive God’s word. Reading Acts 10 it’s obvious why the house of Cornelius received an Acts chapter 2 experience. They had prepared themselves to receive the Spirit by seeking out and obeying God’s word — so they could obey Him and do His will. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. (Acts 5:32 KJV) How can we obey God if we’re not willing to search out what He would say to us? Cornelius sent two men with an armed escort to make sure he heard the word of the Lord.  


Receiving the Holy Spirit (Baptism in the Holy Spirit)

Receiving The Holy Spirit (Baptism in the Holy Spirit)
Robert Wurtz II

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:38, 41 KJV)

Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 8:14-17)


While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. (Acts 10:44–48 NKJV)

There are multitudes of people who attend church faithfully who have never consciously received the Holy Spirit. Most have been told that they received the Holy Spirit when they believed; unlike Paul who asked the Ephesians if they received when they believed. (Acts 19:2) Therefore, they do not seek the Lord for the Spirit. What happens? They realize that something is lacking so they search earnestly for what the lack might be. And because they believe they have already received the Spirit, they never think about their condition rightly. 

Struggling to Be a Christian


Tragically, many well intended believers end up compensating for not having received the Spirit with everything from asceticism to legalism. In some cases liberalism* and mysticism. In other words, these ideologies become an empty substitute for the reality of being Spirit-filled. This entry is written with a view to helping people, who, as I once did, struggle to understand and experience the reality of the Spirit-filled life. 


Regretfully, for fifteen years (age 8-22) I was an “in and out” and “off and on” Christian. I called myself a Christian at times; while others my life was so bad I was ashamed to be around Christians. I still cringe thinking about some of the sins I committed back then. Often I would be what is commonly called “backslidden.” If I saw a preacher coming, I would go the other way. There were extended periods when I tried really hard to do the Christian life. I responded to more altar calls than I care to remember. I must have said the sinners prayer more times than anyone on earth (one of the reasons I have no confidence in it). In time I came to think that this was an acceptable way of living the Christian life. 

There was one thing I need to mention; even though I attended mainly Pentecostal type churches, I had never received the Holy Spirit. In the back of my mind I always wondered if this was my problem. In some ways I was afraid of the Holy Spirit, because I didn’t want to commit blasphemy.   When I was a child people still had the fear of God. People didn’t handle the things of God flippantly. I knew receiving the Holy Spirit would mean I would have to get serious with God. 


It was not until a tragic accident left me temporarily unable to use my left hand that God got my undivided attention and began dealing strongly with me. My career came to a halt and I came face to face with God. Similar to what the Puritans used to call, “preparationism” God led me to prepare myself to receive the Holy Spirit. If God was truly going to come and live inside me — I needed to get right with Him. In time, as I read the bible and God dealt with me, I realized that God wanted to establish His authority in my life. Once I truly submitted my whole life and will to God, I received the Holy Spirit without any fuss. It was as simple as in the book of Acts. 


This entry does not answer all the questions. No entry could do that. Nevertheless, for all its shortcomings I trust it will help someone who is earnestly seeking the Lord to receive the Holy Spirit. If it helps just one person it was worth the time to write it.

Having Begun in the Spirit


Paul asked the Galatians that if a person has “begun in the Spirit” can they be made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3) Obviously, the answer is no. The whole of the Christian life is made possible when we receive the life of God through the Holy Spirit. We may have had many starting points, but we have not “begun” in the New Covenant sense of the word until we “begin in the Spirit.” (Galatians 3:2) The question is, have you and I begun in the Spirit or did we have some other lesser beginning? This question is utterly important because there is no replacement for consciously receiving the Holy Spirit.


The First Experiences


In the first century (before theologians worked for hundreds of years to muddy the waters), becoming a Christian was a very straight-forward process. People genuinely repented of their sins, received Christ, were baptized in water, and received the Holy Spirit. That was the basic package. the result was a “world turned upside down” with the Gospel being preached to the far flung regions of the world. Today most people repeat a prayer and are then told by a well intended “counselor” that they are eternally secure — sealed by the Holy Spirit. Their pastor, mentor, or discipleship leader then works tirelessly to make sure they don’t backslide. 


People generally adjust their theology to fit their experiences. If they struggle with sin, they believe (and teach) that people will always struggle with sin. If they find no fruit in their life, they find a “theological” reason for it. Generally they quote Paul’s pre-regeneration experience from Romans 7:18-19. Nevertheless, if they began in the flesh they will continue in the flesh. It can be no other. However, when a person truly begins in the Spirit… a radical work of God takes place. 


Judea, Samaria, Uttermost Parts of the Earth


I have chosen the three passages at the beginning of this entry to illustrate our topic of receiving the Holy Spirit in regards to the Jews, Samaritans, and the Gentiles. The emphasis in each passage is different, but the result is the same. In fact, the Gentiles received the word with such readiness — that the Holy Spirit fell upon the people while Peter was still speaking! We then observe that water baptism and Spirit baptism can be reversed in terms of their chronological order. What remains in all three cases is the receiving of the word of God as it was preached to them. 

Repent? I Already Did that!

Over the years I have met many people who claim they have sought the Lord to receive the Holy Spirit and have come up empty. Generally I tell them that the key to receiving the Holy Spirit is true, bible-based repentance. This almost always angers the person. They would have me to believe that the problem was on God’s end. However, God is more willing to give us His Holy Spirit than a good parent is willing to feed their children. Many times I have held my peace and watched the person(s) who have not received. Generally time reveals what the problem was. I have had young men say they had “surrendered all” to God only to have them admit later that they were going to strip clubs. That’s right. I have had women pretend they repented and later on they endorse all kinds of questionable behaviors up to and including full-blown homosexuality. They have a hidden attitude that “nobody is going to tell me what to do!” In other words, their rebellion surfaces. It eventually will. It’s only a matter of time. They never fooled me for a second; and they definitely never fooled God. 


Obstacles to Receiving the Holy Spirit


1. A lack of Genuine Repentance


I wish to first draw attention to the fact that in both of our passages the people “received the word.” In fact, the people in Acts 2:38 gladly received the word.” What was this word? Again, Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Repentance has to do with coming into full agreement with God when He tells us something in His word. 


If God calls a particular behavior “sin” it is sin. In fact, everyone knows deep down inside whether or not their behavior is sin. God has made us this way. The word of God merely throws extra light on things we already have a basic knowledge of. Repentance means we stop rebelling against what we know is right and wrong — because God is the one we are rebelling against — not anyone or anything else (even if they are a secondary offended party in our behavior.) When we realize that our sin is against God, alone, we are on our way to true repentance. (Psalm 51:4)


2. Unwillingness to Get Alone with God  



In the 21st century multitudes are suffering from a couple of very effective strategies of the enemy that are hindering them from truly receiving the Holy Spirit. Sadly, most have no clue it’s happening. First, Satan employs the “divide and conquer the mind” strategy. This is particularly effective in modern times. Multitudes have their attention divided into so many places, that they cant give their undivided attention to anything or anyone. Do you recall grammar school when your teacher would say, “Now look up here class… give me your undivided attention!” If you were toying around with something else while she/he were talking, you were liable to get called down. Why? Some things require our undivided attention — our complete focus of mind and heart.

What is dividing your attention? Is it a hand-held device? Is it a loyalty to a hobby? Is it a favorite ball team or television program? Is it your career? What is dividing your attention to the point that you cannot get alone with God and give Him your undivided attention. Generally, church is not a good place to get alone with God. Sound blasphemous? Not really. There is too much going on. Sadly, when there is an altar service most musicians are so bent on “being heard” that they distract the people in the altar area from doing any real business with God. Add to that the fact that most altar workers have no idea how to counsel a person who is trying to get through to God and we find church as one of the last places some people will ever get focused on God and His dealings in such a way that they can receive the Holy Spirit.

3. They Refuse to Stop Resisting

You stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom you have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. (Acts 7:51-54)


In Acts 2 the people were said to have “gladly received the word” and as a consequence were baptized. However, in Acts chapter 7, the people resisted instead of receiving. When a person resists God’s word they are consequently resisting His Holy Spirit. Moreover, they are resisting God’s authority. The Holy Spirit and the word of God agree. The people resisted Stephen’s preaching and they resisted the Holy Spirit. God was trying to establish His authority in their lives, but they closed their eyes and stopped their ears. We have this passage in Isaiah:

That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it. (Isaiah 41:20)

You will recall that part of Paul’s commission was to “open their eyes” so as to turn the people from darkness to light. Paul preached so that “they may see, and know, and understand, and consider…” This is what Stephen had done. At first Paul (Saul) resisted the message and refused to consider. Nevertheless, in time Paul did see and understand. In fact, when we get to Acts 28 he thoroughly explains the process by another reference to Isaiah:


And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Isaiah the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Acts 28:25-27)


 Will you notice, “their eyes they have closed.” This is an obstinate refusal to recognize the truth of what is preached. Their heart had “waxed gross” or in the language of Hebrews, they had an evil heart of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:12) This means that their heart refused to receive what was said and consider it. No matter how much evidence was brought to bear, the people still refused to believe. They needed to be healed of their backsliding and rebellion, but they resisted the one who wanted to come in to them and do the work. One cannot receive the Holy Spirit without agreeing with God’s word and believing on Him. We simply cannot receive and resist at the same time.


4. They Rebel Against God’s Authority


And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him. 

(Acts 5:32 NKJV)

Many people want to receive the Holy Spirit, but they don’t want to submit to God’s authority. They fail to understand that Satan and a third of the angels were cast out of Heaven because of their rebellion. God wants His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. This is possible in the life of a true born again believer. 


However, Acts 5:32 implies that obedience is something that must happen prior to receiving the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God. This is the plain sense of the text. The Greek word for obey is pitharchousin and it is in the present active. Notice the word in the middle pitharchousin. The “arche” signifies obeying someone who is in authority. It is the same word used a few verses before when Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29 KJV) How people receive what is preached is out of the minister’s control. It is not our responsibility to force people. We lay out the message and the response is between the hearer and God.

________________

* I mean here “liberal” in the sense of being open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values: they have more liberal views toward marriage and divorce than some people.


Started in the Spirit (Begin in the Spirit)

Started in the Spirit
Robert Wurtz II

Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3 KJV)

In the winter months in the central United States we have our fair share of cold weather. Many places are colder, but we still endure temperatures that can make life challenging. One of those challenges is the simple process of starting an automobile. Generally a car is “started” by rotating the ignition key to the start position and when it starts the key is released and a spring rotates it back to its default position. Other cars have a either a push button or toggle type switch that is pressed until the car starts and then it is released. 



With this in mind I would like to draw a simple analogy from our passage that says, “…having begun in the Spirit.” All analogies break down at some point so we have to be careful how we use them. However, I just want to draw an illustration to help understand “starting.” First, the Galatian letter was written to people who had truly received the Holy Spirit. If you were to ask them, as Paul did the Ephesians, “Did you receive when you believed?” they would have answered “yes.” They would not have given proof-texts or anything like that. They would have answered according to their conscience experience. Secondly, Paul remind them that they have begun in the Spirit. This word suggests the start of their Christian life. This does not mean that they “began” when the Spirit came. They already existed long before that. It means that they started in the Spirit, whereas before they had been in the flesh (carnality and sin). 

By way of analogy, we can see in a sense how this plays out. When I go to start my automobile I switch it to turn the engine over. A small electric motor rotates the engine so it will fire and start running. If the engine does not start right away there is generally a reason why. Some people, especially in the winter months, turn their car over until the battery runs down because it does not start. Nevertheless, if the engine does not start, the button defaults back to the run position. It is dead. Unless your engine has started, the default state is “dead.” However, if the engine does start, then it defaults back to the run position and keeps running. The whole process is determined by whether or not the engine has started. 

Nobody ever yet held down the start button and then attempted to put the car in gear and take off. If they did, they would not get far. And nobody ever yet tried to help the engine out by turning it to the start position after it was already running. Likewise, if a person does not “start” in the Spirit, they will default back to “dead” in trespasses and sins. In the automotive world we call this a “no start.” There is a reason why they did not “start” in the Spirit. The best thing to do is go to God and have Him raise the hood and point out the problem. He will even fix it if we let him. The trouble is that most people refuse to raise the hood so God can get in there and do the work. When He does get in there they refuse to agree with Him concerning the problem. Hence, they keep running the battery down trying to start. Some even go to meeting to get a “jump start” and still can’t get started. Why? There is a problem under the hood and they refuse to have it fixed. In the words of Jesus… For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. (John 3:20–21 ESV)

God is the ultimate mechanic. He can fix anything if we will allow Him. But we got to let Him under the hood. We have to believe the diagnosis and then approve the repairs. Best of all it’s free. The tow, diagnosis, and repair… no charge. The only thing you will be giving up is the old dead life. 


When "Something" is Worse Than "Nothing At All"

When “Something” is Worse Than “Nothing At All”
Robert Wurtz II

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6–9 KJV)

How often have we heard the saying, “Well, it’s better than nothing?” What about the sibling notion, “Well, at least they are doing something.” From a Biblical perspective one might say, “Well, nevertheless, Christ is preached.” These sayings are certainly valid in proper contexts; however, what are we to make of them when it’s the Gospel itself that is in view and at risk?

Galatians is the only epistle that Paul wrote with his own hand. Typically he employed an amanuensis to do the writing — as he did the dictating. Men like Tertius (Romans 16:22), Tichicus or Onesimus (Colossians 4:18) wrote the epistles, and Paul would write the salutation at the beginning and end (see 1 Corinthians 16:21, 2 Thess. 3:17). However, in Galatians 6:11 we don’t have the signature of an amanuensis; we have the words, See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!” Undoubtedly Paul’s eyesight did not allow him to write in normal sized characters. It must have looked like a first grader had written those words. Why the sudden change of process? Why no amanuensis?

The situation at Galatia was too urgent. He had to get the letter off to the people and right now. When they beheld his writing they must have been horrified. What could possibly be so serious that a man half-blind would take the time to write out with his own hand a letter such as this. Their alarm would not have been unfounded. They had hardly passed the salutation when they were confronted by the sentence, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. The word accursed comes from the Greek anathema and means Divine disfavor. It is the opposite of grace and peace. Paul uses the word again in 1 Corinthians 16:22 where we read, If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come! (NKJV) These sayings strike most Christians as harsh, but that is more of the result of the world’s influence on them than anything else. God is who He is and His word is what it is — not as He is or His word is as seen through the lens of God’s enemies. Comprehending Paul’s use of anathema will go a long way in restoring a proper reverence to God and the Gospel. Otherwise, the offenders will be accursed. 

A Gospel of the Flesh

The enemy doesn’t seem to care what kind of fleshly means he uses, so long as he can get Christians to employ the flesh instead of continuing in the Spirit. What did Paul say? “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3 NKJV) This is any means of perfection and maturity in Christ other than walking in the Spirit. Some prefer coming under the Law to walking in the Spirit. It is the flesh. Others are living in sin and abusing grace (trying to) and that is also flesh. Flesh is flesh is flesh is flesh; and it comes in many flavors. Again, the enemy doesn’t care what version of flesh you choose — so long as he can stop you beginning in and continuing in the Spirit. 

The consequence for those who teach these type of things is that they are accursed. Whether they realize it now or not — they… are… accursed. It will be evident in the Judgment if they don’t turn from their ways. Why? Because people who take it upon themselves to pervert the Gospel deserve to be without grace. If they didn’t, God would not have inspired Paul to pronounce a curse on them. Are we nicer than God? Paul said it, “Let them be accursed.” The word let in the Greek is in the present imperative. 

It would seem to me that ministers and teachers would examine what they are preaching and teaching against what Paul has preached to make sure they are not cursed. None are exempt from the possibility of cursing. Not even angels.  But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. Paul preached repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ until the end of his ministry. They who would pervert the Gospel and turn grace into lasciviousness will not admit this. However, we have it in Paul’s own words. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. (Acts 26:20 emphasis added) From here folks were to be baptized in water and receive the Holy Spirit. This “receiving of the Holy Spirit” is what Paul describes as “having begun in the Spirit…” 

Let us keep our minds on what Paul said, “If anyone preaches any other Gospel than what we have preached to you — let them be accursed.” I can’t feel safe preaching the Gospel according to Martin Luther, Charles Finney, D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, Bill Bright, Billy Graham, Joel Osteen or (insert favorite preacher here ________): I have to preach the Gospel that Paul preached; that is, if I am to avoid the curse pronounced in Galatians 1. We cannot look to men, we must look to God’s word. Nevertheless, multitudes are willing to risk being cursed and all the while proclaiming to be blessed. How many today are preaching grace, but are really under a curse? Any Gospel that does not result in a Christian receiving the Spirit by the hearing of faith and continuing on walking in that Spirit that they began in… is not Paul’s Gospel. There are a great many names we can apply, but Paul’s would not be one of them. 

Going back under the Mosiac Law is a curse waiting to happen. Bringing in the world’s hair-brained schemes to supplement the Gospel is as much madness as when Sarah tried to help God by giving her husband Abraham an Egyptian slave woman to have relations with. Paul called Ishmael a child born after the flesh. The Gospel is being preached “after the flesh” every time someone tries to freshen it up with worldly – secular – God-hating contributions. What fellowship has light with darkness? Certainly it was serious enough for Paul to rush off a letter written with his own handwriting. I suppose if that didn’t get their attention — nothing would.   



       

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: