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February 2001

We Have Been Given The Opportunity

This is Stacy's signature.

This first letter to the church in Corinth tells us of the opportunities of the believer in Christ Jesus. We have been given the opportunity to become the healers and deliverers of creation. This is accomplished through a people who announce and manifest God's victory over Adam's transgression and bring all areas of fleshly dominion to naught, for the kingdom belongs to the Lord. (Ob. 1:21). Moreover, we have been given occasion to give a word of wisdom, a word of knowledge, even to impart faith to the darkened world. This we accomplish by manifesting the life of Christ, not just in church, but in every place. The result of putting the redemptive vision into practice is the freeing of the creation from its groan and bondage to corruption. We have been given the opportunity to put all enemies manifestly under our feet by standing up and becoming a part of this first resurrection. That is, we can openly declare and walk in what the Lord has already accomplished at Calvary.

God Is Not Fickle

Now we move onto chapter one of Second Corinthians. Thus far, Paul has spent very little time dealing with the gospel or the mysteries. In his first epistle he deals with the problems that were present in the church at Corinth giving practical solutions and instruction. This second letter comes about a year after the first letter. The church had become influenced by deceitful teachers, who masqueraded themselves as apostles of Christ. (2Co. 11:13). So in this writing Paul deals more directly with the fundamental difference between the Judaic tradition and the gospel.

One of the first things Paul states in this writing concerns the trustworthiness of God. He says, "God is faithful." (2Co. 1:18). It is so important for the believer to understand that God is never fickle or inconsistent. All the promises of God in Christ Jesus are yea, and in him Amen. (2Co. 1:20). Likewise, the word of the ministry must not be mixed with inconsistencies that thwart or defeat God's purposes. That is, one must not frustrate the grace of God by teaching that righteousness comes through works of the law. (Gal. 2:21). Moreover, one must not dilute or adulterate the "sovereignty" of God with humanities "free will."

Now the promise of God was made to Abraham and his seed. God said, "By myself I have sworn, in blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven and as the sand on the seashore; and your seed will possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed." (Gen. 22:16ff; Heb. 6:13ff). The significance of this covenant promise is that it is unconditional and absolute to Abraham and his seed. In the Book of Galatians Paul makes it clear that Abraham's seed is not the nation of Israel, but the seed is Christ. Moreover, he says, "Since we belong to Christ then we are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise." (1Co. 12:12f; Gal. 3:16, 29; Eph. 1:22f). The outcome of this promise is not, nor was it ever dependant on our human ability. God, willing to show to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, established it by an oath. (Heb 6:17f). Moreover, he sealed us and gave us the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest or guarantee of the inheritance. (2Co. 1:22; Eph. 1:13f).

Now Thanks Be To God

Next, we come to chapter two of Second Corinthians where the apostle Paul reveals the basis for our having such opportunities in Christ. Beginning with verse fourteen he says, "Now thanks be to God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are to God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish. To the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ." (2Co. 2:14ff).

This proclamation of victory begins with the recognition that all thanks belongs to God. For the Lord is become our salvation. (Psa. 118:14). We did not save ourselves and we never could have saved ourselves. Yet, while we were living contrary to God and unable to help ourselves Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:6). Our deliverance did not result from our doing the right thing or making the correct choices. We were dead in trespasses and sins, and God showed his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinful.

All of our righteous works were as filthy rags before the Lord. (Isa. 64:6). We cannot now, or could we ever, overcome sin and death with righteous works or obedience to a set of rules. (Gal. 2:16). Even if we had been able to keep the whole law of Moses, and were considered blameless, it would have at best been counted as table scraps to be thrown to the dogs. (Ph'l. 3:6ff). Yet, when we were contentious and adverse to God he gave us his son. It is through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ that we became God's friends. This is amazing when one considers that very few people would die to save the life of someone else. Those who might give their life for another person would probably do it for a good person, but not for an enemy. However, when we were enemies of God, he reconciled us to himself through the death of his Son. (Rom. 5:6ff; 2Co. 5:17ff; Eph. 2:1).

It is God who inaugurated the good work within us and he will consummate it in the day of our Lord Christ Jesus. By grace we are being saved through faith, none of which is our accomplishment, but it is all the gift of God. For it is Jesus, who authored and finished the faith. Moreover, it is God who divinely influences our hearts and causes the changes to become visible in our lives. God did the whole thing, it is not by our works, because if it were we would begin to boast in our own accomplishments. We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus upon the good works that he accomplished. These works God prepared beforehand that we could walk in them. (Ro. 5:6ff; Eph. 2:8ff; Ph'l. 1:6; Heb. 12:2).

God once said, "Let the light shine out of the darkness!" (Gen. 1:3) This is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts by letting us know the glory of God that is in the presence of Christ. Moreover, God has deposited the treasure of the Christ life in our lives. So we are like clay jars that hold the treasure, thus showing that the power of our deliverance is from God, not from us. (2Co. 4:6f; Col 1:26ff). It is God who has invested himself into his creation and his investment will not return to him void. Isaiah said, "As the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth. It will not return to me void, but it will accomplish what I please, and it will prosper in the thing for which I sent it.'" (Isa. 55:7ff).

The apostle John received a prophetic thought that helps give us an understanding of Isaiah's prophecy. He wrote, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of humanity. Now the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overpower it." (Joh. 1:1ff). The Word that both Isaiah and John wrote about first became incarnate in Jesus and now tabernacles in us. Jesus came as the uniquely begotten seed of promise and revealed God's glory, for he was full of grace and truth. (Joh. 1:14). In God's appointed season, the Word fell upon the ground of our Adamic earthiness and died so he would not abide as a single seed. This unselfish act of God's love produced a multiplication and increase of the Christ seed. (Ps. 22:30f; Isa. 53:10). Moreover, it guarantees what God began will also come to completion. That is, through the offering of his uniquely begotten Son God produced many seed to set all creation free from the groan and anguish of corruption. (Joh. 12:24). Yes, all the thanks belongs to God, and he alone deserves the praise, honor and glory. Hallelujah!

The Triumphant Procession

Thus Paul writes, "Now thanks be to God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ." (2Co. 2:14). At first glance one might have a difficult time relating to this statement. For more often, than not, we do not feel as though we triumph in Christ. The church in this day has difficulties with envying, strife, and division, which is carnality. The condition within the church today is much like the church of Corinth in Paul's day. Moreover, the Judaic teachings of the church often keep us focused on our individual failures and not on the hope that is within us. That is, every time we raise our voice in anger we immediately think, "This is not being triumphant in Christ." If for a fleeting moment an unclean thought flashes through our mind, we instantly condemn ourselves to being a failure. Yes, there are moments that we feel triumphant, but all too often we are hanging our head in shame, asking, "Where is this triumph that Paul says we always have in Christ?"

It is because of this kind of thinking that I began to search out what Paul could have meant by the statement, "God always causes us to triumph in Christ." The Greek word, translated triumph in this passage is thriambeuo, (Strong's #2358) and is only found one other time in the entire Bible. That reference is in the Book of Colossians where Paul writes, "God enlivened us together with Christ Jesus, having forgiven us all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in the cross." (Col. 2:13ff).

The word triumph, used in these two passages, is a Greek military term. It speaks of the victorious procession that took place after a Roman general and his army liberated a region from the oppression of an enemy. While the intention of the Roman army was to defeat an enemy they did not want to slay them all. The goal was to take as many captive as possible and make them slaves. Thus the army would come into an area and conquer their enemy and set the oppressed free. After the victory was completely won the triumphant general would strip his foes, binding them up in fetters or shackles, and lead them as captives behind his chariot throughout the villages and cities of the region, making a open show of them in a victory procession. In both of these two passages this term is used as a metaphor to describe how Christ Jesus stripped the powers of darkness of their control over the lives of humanity and now leads them making an acclamatory procession for all to see.

The Book of Colossians tells us that Jesus triumphed in the cross. Now this is foolishness as far as the wisdom of this world is concerned. It also becomes a stumbling block to those who are religious minded and believe that there is something they must do to make Calvary a success. (1Co. 1:23). After all, how many would ever think a dead man could win the complete victory? However, the Father took the very thing that to the natural thinking is totally ridiculous and he made it the wisdom that we lacked. That is, Jesus Christ crucified, to the religious minded became a stumbling block. While to the wise of the world the cross became foolishness. However, to those who are called of God, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is both the power and wisdom of God. Remember. The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of humanity, and the weakness of God is stronger than fleshly strength. (1Co. 1:23ff). God uses things that are senseless to human reasoning to confound the wise. Who could have believed that Jesus would become a total conqueror through death? Not only was Jesus crucified, but they buried him and sealed the tomb. However, on the morning of the third day, following his death, he came forth out of that sealed tomb in resurrection.

In resurrection Jesus became the Triumphing General, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. (Rom. 1:4). David declared: "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.'" Therefore, boldly let everyone know that God made this same Jesus, who was crucified, both Lord and Christ over all the earth. (Ps. 110:1; Ac. 2:34f). What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. It is in this act that God condemned sin in the flesh. (Rom. 8:3). Yes, Jesus took upon himself human characteristics and lived in the circumstances and external conditions of the human race. All the while humbling himself, he became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore, God highly exalted him and gave him the name which is above every name, so at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, those in heaven, and those on earth, and those under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Ph'l. 2:5ff).

The church needs to catch a vision of this triumphant procession. They need more than just a historic story told at Easter time. The doctrine is good, but we really need a vision etched within our mind that unveils what truly took place at Calvary. Yes, we need a mural of the Lord triumphing through the celestial, terrestrial and subterranean realms indelibly painted upon the walls of our mind. The parade of triumph begins with Christ Jesus, The Word of God sitting upon his white steed. His robe is dipped in blood and on it and on his thigh there is a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many crowns of victory. He is called Faithful and True and rides gallantly before the captains of his army, all of which are riding horses. Behind them are his host, all marching in rank, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. (Rev. 19:11ff). Following along behind them, in chains and fetters, is every principality, authority, dominion, and throne that has stood as an adversary to him or his creation. As the parade passes, those who had been oppressed and enslaved by these adversaries are seeing and hearing the acclamatory procession of triumph. The people begin to follow along with banners and tambourines, dancing and shouting for the joy of being set free. (Joh.8:32f). Shouting fills the air, while "Hallelujah" and "It is finished" resounds throughout the streets. The procession continues to grow as the sound of the triumph spreads throughout the land.

The Chief Enemy Destroyed

The first enemy that follows behind this triumphant procession is the great red dragon, in chains, with his tail dragging behind him. The serpent of old who caused the entire creation to groan after deceiving the woman and causing Adam to transgress at the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This defeated foe is called the Devil and Satan. He who had deceived the whole world and caused it to roam from safety, truth and virtue has been defeated. For through death Jesus destroyed him who had the power of death, that is, the devil. (Heb. 2:14, Rev 12:9ff). The word destroyed, used in this passage, is the Greek word katargeo, (Strongs #2673), and means to render entirely idle or useless. Yes, for this very purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. (1Jo. 3:8). That is, he came into the world to loosen or dissolve, (the Greek word luo, Strongs #3089) all the works of the devil. Thus, the adversary that had held everyone in captivity through the fear of death has been rendered entirely useless and we have been loosed from all of his works. A sound from the heavenly ranks penetrates the earthen realm, declaring, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their souls to the death." (Rev. 12:10). Those who are hearing of the victory, and getting a glimpse of what has happened, are dancing, leaping and twirling about with joy as they follow along with this triumphant procession. Excitement fills the air with shouts of praise, as the people experience the great emotion and excitement of the victory.

However, as they dance and twirl with excitement they look up and suddenly find themselves eye to eye with Satan, the Slanderer and Accuser of the brethren. They recognize that this is the Devil, the Adversary that had held them for so long in fear of death. The same one who was the Serpent in Eden, but has fed upon the dust of the earth, or Adamic carnality, until he grew into a Dragon. (Ge. 3:14; Isa. 65:25). Immediately, their hearts begin to fail them for fear of this one who has been so contrary and opposing to everything that is godly. He grins and says, "You can't keep this freedom. You cannot honor such liberty without me." Timidity and apprehensiveness about the future begins overtaking these young converts. They begin to question, "What happens if this is not really a full victory?" "What happens when this enemy becomes free again?"

The Book of Revelation does tell us that the priests of God will reign with Christ for a thousand years. However, when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison. At that time he will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth. Gathering together a number, as the sand of the sea, to battle with the saints. (Rev. 20:6ff). Now, it stands to reason that if we believe Satan led a rebellion in heaven he certainly could do it again within the earth. He might even be more successful this time, because in this realm he is not dealing with angels, but with wicked humanity. It is this kind of thinking that has fueled false hope and helped to strengthen human reasoning to embrace such falsehoods as the "rapture." Remember. We are saved by grace through faith. The Word of faith says, "Blessed is the person who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord." (Jer. 17:8f; Eph. 2:8ff). Therefore, let us look for the "blessed hope" even "the appearing of the glory" of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave himself for us and as us, that he might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for himself a people for his own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Tit. 2:12ff).

In the past I found myself on a roller coaster ride in the park of religious entertainment. One moment I was seeing Jesus and the complete victory of Calvary. This would cause me to soar high above the cares of life. It would bring great rejoicing and expectancy into my circumstances and life. However, the next moment I was looking straight down into the face of the devil and wrestling with my fears, doubts and weaknesses. One day I would be rejoicing in having been set free. The next moment crying out of fear and shame, saying, "Someday I am gonna be free from all these things." This roller coaster ride of the religious realm correlated with the Feast of Pentecost in the Old Testament and it was all I knew for many years. Yet, Father had determined that the god of "gonna" had to be torn down in my life. The god of "gonna" must come under our feet, once and for all time, to never rear its ugly head again.

First What The Devil Is Not

One day I heard the Father say, "Take a good look at this enemy. Once you understand what the character of the enemy is you will never fear again." This put me on a quest to understand the adversary. In my pursuit of comprehending the devil I discovered that I could not say, as I have heard so many say, "There is no Devil. He is just a figment of the imagination" The reason I cannot dismiss the existence of a devil is because the Bible clearly speaks of this adversary thirty-five times after the death, burial, resurrection and accession of Christ Jesus the Lord. However, my studies did lead me to understand that it would be more accurate to say, "The devil is a religious illusion." The American Heritage Dictionary says an illusion is: 1) An erroneous perception of reality. 2) An erroneous concept or belief. 3) The condition of being deceived by a false perception or belief. Thus, there is a very real adversary, however, the religious concept or belief of the devil is founded on erroneous or false perceptions of truth.

Some may need to hear what the adversary is not before they can begin to consider what this foe truly is. Tradition teaches that before the dawn of time there was an archangel in heaven by the name of Lucifer, who was the chief leader of praise and worship in heaven. They say he was "the anointed cherub that covers," and because he was second in command only to God he held the most coveted position among the angelic hosts. This angel became puffed-up with a self-importance and one day decided to organize an insurrection against God in an attempt to usurp his throne. He was so persuasive that he convinced one third of heaven's angels to join the ranks of his rebellion against God. Now, when the Lord learned of the takeover there was war in the heavens. God of course won the battle and cast Lucifer and his angels out of heaven. This theoretically shows us where the world got the adversary that is known as the serpent or dragon, which is also called the Devil and Satan.

Now this was the short version of the story of course, but we do not have the time and space to develop such an obvious error. You may ask, "What is erroneous about this teaching?" Let me say that as a child I always had a question about this teaching and no one was able to answer it sufficiently for me. My question was simply, "Where was God while this was going on in heaven?" "Was he taking a nap or on a fishing trip?" After all these same teachers that taught me about the angelic rebellion also said God was omnipresent or every present in all places. Moreover, they taught that God was all knowing. If these last two teaching are true then tell me how could such a preposterous thing happen behind the back of an all knowing and all seeing God? How did a created being out smart his Creator? If it happened once in a heaven, where perfection dwells, what is to prevent it from happening again? Moreover, if God truly won the battle in heaven and cast these angels out, how did the devil get free to disrupt human affairs on earth? Is it possible that God could not keep this foe under his control? Does this bring to question God's being all powerful? The interrogation could go on endlessly and with every question God's character and ability comes into suspicion. If this is the way one thinks they once again become ensnared and captive to disappointment and misery. (Rom. 8:15, 19ff; 2Ti. 1:7).

However, this thinking only continues because the human understanding does not truly comprehend who God is. (Heb. 11:6). Furthermore, it continues because we have not understood what was accomplished at Calvary. The human heart is polluted with religious ideas, and desperately frail. (Jer. 17:9). Some people still believe they must do something to please God before they can participate in the victory. These have not yet learned that works, even "good" works, will not produce righteousness.

There is even a greater difficulty with this teaching and it becomes crystal clear if one would search the Scriptures to find out if these things were true. (Acts 17:11). Here are some of the things one would find in there search for truth. First, they would learn that there is no reference in the Bible that says the Devil and Lucifer are the same being. However, while man's teaching says that Satan in the beginning was holy and fell from his first estate, Jesus said the devil was a murderer from the beginning. Moreover, Jesus said, "The devil does not know what the truth is. Whenever he tells a lie, he is doing what comes naturally to him. He is a liar and the father of lies." (Joh. 8:44). The Greek makes it clear that the truth never at any time abode in this one. The apostle John also spoke concerning the devil's origin, he said, "the devil has sinned from the beginning." (1 John 3:8). Moreover, there is no reference of Lucifer drawing a third of God's angels with him in rebellion.

Thus, there are some questions, which we need to search out the biblical answers for, before we close this subject and move on. How did the devil come into being? Did God purpose to have a devil on earth or not? Could God get rid of the devil today? If God wanted to, couldn't he have rid the earth of Satan in the garden, 2,000 years ago? Some say that there are two strong opposing forces at war. However, God seems to be the stronger, therefore will win. This is not my image of God. Everything takes place to get God's sons beyond their Adamic connection through Christ to the glory of God. Remember. God never reacts because of some action taken by someone outside of his control. He simply acts according to his divine will, plan, and purpose.

More To Come . . .