Mt. 23:2-3 π Jn. 1:11 π Jn. 4:24 π Jn. 6:63-64 π Jn. 10:16 π Jn. 15:5-6 π Rom. 2:6-11 π Rom. 11:18-22 π 1 Cor. 11:31 π Col. 2:19 π Heb. 5:9 π Heb. 6:4-6 π 1 Jn. 2:27
Jesus said, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” ( Jn. 10:16 ) Many have rightly recognized that Jesus was speaking of the Gentiles. But few seem to realize the fullness and depth to which this dividing line goes, nor do many seem to hold to that event which made it possible for Jesus the Messiah to become the one Shepherd over the one flock. To begin to recognize this depth, we must also remember that Jesus also said (to a Gentile woman, no less), “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” ( Jn. 4:24; top )
When we look around the world and begin to compare those groups who have the truths about Jesus Christ with those who do not, we discover a peculiar trend. This trend does not apply to all groups by any means but there are too many examples of this trend to ignore. Consider as but one example the Puritans who came to the Massachusetts Bay area. They brought the gospel facts to be sure. But when the Europeans’ pigs began to destroy the native Americans’ crops, the natives resorted to war. The whites feared the natives among them and, in the middle of wintertime, put several hundred of the unarmed natives who lived among them out an island in the bay to freeze and starve to death. Truth? Yes. Spirit? No. Several native American tribes have demonstrated a superior moral and spiritual connection to the Spirit of the Creator than have the descendents of the European immigrants. True, many tribes also bowed to evil demonic spirits but the Europeans, under the demonic deceptions embedded in the so-called Enlightenment, lived as if there were no spirits (good or evil) whatsoever!
This same imbalance is what we see in the Jews of Jesus’ day. The scribes and Pharisees had the truth as it had been revealed to Moses and interpreted down through the centuries. Jesus even said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.” ( Mt. 23:2-3 ) But the story doesn’t end there. “He [Christ Jesus] came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” ( Jn. 1:11; top ) In the end, the Jewish leaders rejected and even executed their Messiah because He who was truth contradicted their self-centered, self-righteous interpretations of the truth. Truth was in their hands and minds but God’s Spirit was not in their hearts.
Though modern “Christianity” places great emphasis on “sinner’s prayers” and “church” attendance (neither of which, as routinely practiced in modern times, can be found anywhere in the New Testament), we do find this dividing line of spirit and flesh throughout the writings of all the authors of the New Testament documents. Jesus even said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” ( Jn. 6:63-64; top )
The genuine life of the believer is not a question of facts and mere intellectual agreement with those facts. If this were all that were required, the Pharisees would have been in the right and Jesus would be in error. Since the Pharisees were wrong, however, we must rightly conclude that much of modern churchianity is in the same class of confused traditionalism and blind hypocrisy as the Pharisees were in. The Pharisees, who acted and lived in a certain way, cannot be placed in a different category from those who act and live in that same certain way just because we intellectually know that the Pharisees are “the villains” of the New Testament story. We are what we are until Christ, by His Spirit, conforms us into His likeness – denial of our own ways of existence does not change the truth about ourselves!
We must not think of the genuine life of the believer as only a question of truth vs. error or of spirit vs. flesh. Rather, we should think of a four-way interaction of opposites. Truths is opposed to error and spirit is opposed to flesh.
One who walks in truth can also walk according to the flesh just as one who lives by their spirit can still be governed by error (especially superstitious beliefs) and not truth. One of the earliest divisions in church history was between “the spirituals” (of whom Montanus represented the extreme) and “the carnals” or “soulish ones.” The “carnals” went on to formulate authority structures and rigid liturgies by which God was to be “worshiped.” The “spirituals” went on to ecstatic extremes and rigid aesthetic codes that still too-often devolved into immoral practices. Neither group was right – though one has historically prevailed and maintained that they were! Both failed to hold fast to the Head Christ Jesus. (see Col. 2:19 , etc.; top)
We must indeed discern between truth and error and also between spirit and flesh. But we cannot maintain a balance between them based on our own understanding. Christ Jesus Himself must be our balance. He is the Spirit of truth. There is neither fallen flesh nor deceitful error in our resurrected Lord. Apart from Him we have no valid basis by which to determine whether we have allowed our life to slip from spirit and truth into some impure mixture with flesh or error. We must judge ourselves according to His righteous standards or else He will judge us in order to keep us from being condemned with the world. ( 1 Cor. 11:31; top )
What of those who fail to submit to these judgments and persist in their own fleshly or erroneous ways? Only God knows the true condition of the heart and He alone is capable of any final decisions – but that a “point of no return” exists is clearly seen in the Scriptures (for those with eyes to see – Heb. 6:4-6 And we can know by what standards He will evaluate all men. Paul wrote, “[God] ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness – indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.” ( Rom. 2:6-11; top )
Though modern “Christianity” likes to toss around phrases like “once saved, always saved” and even “eternal security,” few seem to like to mention the believer’s responsibility to abide (remain, say, dwell) in Christ and God’s keeping power. ( Jn. 15:5-6 , 1 Jn. 2:27 , etc.) Without our obedience to Christ, however, how can we possibly entered into the salvation of which He is the author? ( Heb. 5:9; top ) Those whose loyalty to their “church” and its doctrines and “worship styles” is greater than their loyalty to Christ have opted into a different gospel!
In the end, we will find there is only one flock under one Shepherd. Paul (using a different metaphor), spoke of the people of Israel as an olive branch and the Gentiles as wild olive branches grafted into the one vine. He wrote, “Remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you… ‘[Jewish] branches were broken off that [Gentiles] might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they [Jewish Israel] were broken off, and you [believing Gentiles] stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.” ( Rom. 11:18-22; top )
The one flock will be those who have followed Christ and God in both spirit and truth by virtue of the light and understanding they possessed. Those who reject the truth or embrace flesh will face the consequences of their actions. Woe to those whose grasp on the truth keeps them from living by the Spirit of God! And woe to those whose quest for spiritual liberties and experiences keeps them from all the truths of God held in Christ Jesus!
Let he who has ears hear.
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