Spiritual disclosure

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians included a prayer that was meant to encourage their spiritual growth. Paul asked, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you” (Ephesians 1:17-18). The phrase “eyes of your hearts” refers to one’s ability to see things that are normally covered up or kept secret in order to prevent them from being disclosed to the wrong person. The Greek word that is translated enlightened, photizo (fo-tid’-zo) is used figuratively to refer to the impartation of moral and spiritual light (G5461). What Paul meant was that he wanted the Holy Spirit to illuminate the minds of the Ephesian believers so that they could understand spiritual truth. The implication being that without the help of the Holy Spirit it would be impossible for the Ephesians to understand what God was saying to them through Paul’s teaching.

The Greek word that is translated revelation in Ephesians 1:17, apokalupsis (ap-ok-al-oop’-sis) means disclosure or an uncovering (G602). Apokalupsis probably originated from the idea of discovering a crime. The reason why the knowledge of God can only be received through a revelation or spiritual disclosure is because the devil has stolen our ability to discern the truth about our creator. In a sense, we are spiritually blindfolded until God decides to reveal himself to us by way of photizo or shedding light on the eyes of our hearts (Ephesians 1:18). Paul said that it is by grace that we are saved through faith. “And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Paul went on to say that believers are God’s workmanship, something that is produced by an inward act of the mind or will (G4160). Paul said, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

The process of spiritual growth includes several stages, one of which King David described as being like a weaned child. David said about the difficult situation he was dealing with, “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psalm 131:2). David realized that his circumstances were out of his control and had decided to accept them rather than scream his head off to God like a hungry child that wanted to be fed immediately. David said, “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me” (Psalm 131:1). The Hebrew word that is translated marvelous, pala’ (paw-law’) has to do with distinguishing the supernatural ability of God. “Pala’, as a verb, means ‘to be marvelous, be extraordinary, be beyond one’s power to do” (H6381). David said that he did not occupy himself with things too great and too marvelous from him. In other words he left things in God’s hands rather than trying to work them out himself.

After Laban departed and returned home, Genesis 32:1-2 tells us that “Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, ‘This is God’s camp!’ So he called the name of that place Mahanaim.” The angels of God did not accidentally cross Jacob’s path, but were there to intentionally intervene in his situation. When it says that the angels of God met him, it implies that Jacob was like a target that they were focused in on and that there was a reason why the angelic host had been sent there. The fact that Jacob was able to see the angels suggests that he had become consciously aware of the supernatural activity that was taking place around him. The reason why he said “This is God’s camp!” (Genesis 32:2) was because Jacob recognized that a spiritual war was taking place (H4264) and yet, he seemed to ignore the angels presence and went about his business as if nothing unusual was happening.

Rather than continuing on his journey, Jacob stopped for the night and sent messengers ahead of him to let his brother Esau know he was on his way home. “And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, ‘We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.’ Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking, ‘If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape'” (Genesis 32:6-8). The thought didn’t seem to occur to Jacob that God’s heavenly host was there to help him and that he had nothing to worry about with regard to engaging in a battle with the four hundred men that were headed toward him with his brother Esau. Even though Jacob could see the angels of God, the eyes of his heart had not been enlightened and he was therefore ignorant about what God was doing in his midst.

John the Baptist is an example of an Old Testament believer that saw Jesus, Israel’s Messiah with his own eyes and yet, was unable to spiritually comprehend what his ministry was all about. Matthew’s gospel tells us, “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?'” (Matthew 11:2-3). John’s question seems completely absurd given that he had already declared Jesus to be “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). John’s ability to recognize Jesus as the Savior of the World did not mean that he understood his mission of spreading the gospel. Matthew said, “And Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me'” (Matthew 11:4-6). In other words, Jesus wanted John to know that he needed to be saved like everyone else.

Jesus explained to his disciples that John was no different than anyone else. Yes, John had been given the gift of prophecy, but that did not mean that the eyes of his heart had been enlightened. John had limited knowledge of God’s plan of salvation and was operating under the assumption that Jesus was going to establish his kingdom on Earth immediately. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11). What Jesus was saying was that John knew more than anyone else from a human standpoint about how God’s kingdom was supposed to operate and yet, he still hadn’t received the spiritual disclosure from God that was necessary to place his trust in Christ. John was blinded to the fact that Jesus was in the process of saving the world even though he was on his way to being crucified by the very people he had come to save.

Jesus told his disciples, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). The Greek word that is translated suffered violence, biazo (bee-ad’-zo) means to “force one’s way into” (G971). Biazo is derived from the root word bios (bee’-os) which means life, i.e. literally “the present state of existence” (G969). The phrase “the violent take it by force” has to do with exerting energy in order to accomplish something. What Jesus may have meant by his comment that the kingdom of heaven had suffered violence until he came into the world was that before salvation was offered to man as a gift from God, the only way people could obtain eternal life was by fighting for it or you might say to demand that God give it to them, except that it was the other way around, God was continually forcing the Israelites to let him save them.

Jacob’s struggle to do things his own way instead of following God’s instructions culminated when he spent the night at Mahanaim, a place he described as “God’s camp” (Genesis 32:2). When Jacob discovered that his brother was on his way to meet him with 400 men, he prayed this prayer:

“O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good.’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Please deliver me from the hand of Esau for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.'” (Genesis 32:9-12)

In his hour of desperation, Jacob poured out his heart to God and was finally willing to ask for his help. One indication that Jacob had a genuine change of heart was that he sent his brother a present in order to make peace with him (Genesis 32:20).

Jacob indicated that he wanted to appease his brother Esau and said, “Perhaps he will accept me” (Genesis 32:20). The Hebrew word that is translated accept, nacah (naw-saw’) “is used of the undertaking of the responsibilities for sins of others by substitution or representation” (H5375). Jacob realized that he had sinned against Esau and wanted his brother to absolve him of his spiritual debt. Unfortunately, the debt Jacob owed wasn’t to Esau, but to God. During the night, Jacob sent his family across the river to safety, “And he was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day” (Genesis 32:24). The wrestling match that took place at Mahanaim may have had both physical and spiritual qualities. The person that wrestled with Jacob was simply identified as a man, but later was recognized by Jacob as God (Genesis 32:30). Therefore, it seems likely that God’s purpose in having hand to hand combat with Jacob was to bring him to a point of submission. It says that, “When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him” (Genesis 32:25).

God’s use of force to disable Jacob suggests that he wasn’t going to let Jacob win their battle of the wills and yet, it says in Genesis 32:28 that God told Jacob, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” The Hebrew name Israel or Yisra’el (yes-raw-ale’) means “he will rule (as) God” (H3478). The key to understanding Jacob’s victory over God could be his demand to be blessed by his creator. After the man put Jacob’s hip out of joint, it says in Genesis 32:26, “Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.'” Jacob was determined to get the spiritual advantage he felt he needed in order to succeed in life. The implied benefits of God’s blessing were righteousness, prosperity, and eternal life (H1293). All of these things together could be summed up in what we think of today as being saved, “the spiritual and eternal deliverance granted immediately by God to those who accept his conditions of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus in whom alone it is to be obtained” G4991).

It isn’t clear how much of what happened at Mahanaim was understood by Jacob. The only thing we are told is that Jacob called the place where he wrestled with God “Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered'” (Genesis 32:30). The Hebrew words that are translated “seen God face to face,” ra’ah (raw-aw’) ‘elohiym (el-o-heem’) paneh (paw-neh’) indicate that Jacob could perceive God’s attitude toward him (H7200/H430/H6440). In other words, Jacob’s personal encounter with God made it possible for him to tell by the look on God’s face how he felt about him. Paneh which is translated face to face is derived from the word panah (paw-naw’) and most likely meant that God was turning towards Jacob or becoming attached to him in the sense of developing a relationship with him (H6437). It’s possible that the Lord was giving Jacob a chance to see that he was his friend, not an adversary that needed to be beaten. The Hebrew word that is translated delivered in Genesis 32:20, natsal (naw-tsal) is the same word Jacob used when he prayed that God would deliver him from the hand of his brother,” so it seems likely that Jacob thought God would kill him if he got too close to him, but discovered that it was safe for him to interact with God in an intimate manner.

Jesus thanked his Father, whom he referred to as the Lord of heaven and earth, because he had hidden the things that he was teaching the people from “the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children” (Matthew 11:25). Jesus was comparing those who had intellectual capability with a simple minded person who had no ability to communicate spiritual truths. Jesus was pointing out that spiritual disclosure wasn’t dependent on a person’s intellectual development, but could even be received by someone that was a brand new believer. An example of this principle was the complicated doctrine that Paul delivered in his letter to the Ephesians, Gentiles that had been deeply immersed in worshipping the Greek goddess of Diana until Paul arrived on the scene. Paul talked to the Ephesians about spiritual blessings in Christ and covered such topics as predestination, redemption, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:3-14) and then, Paul indicated that he was praying that God would give the Ephesian believers the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation of Jesus, so that they could comprehend these great truths.

Jesus told his disciples, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). This seems to suggest that Jesus was entrusted with the sole responsibility of disclosing spiritual truth to believers. Jesus said that all things had been handed over to him, meaning that everything there was to know about God’s kingdom was transmitted to him by his Father. The Greek word that is translated chooses in the phrase “whom the Son chooses,” boulomai (boo’-lom-ahee) “expresses strongly the deliberate exercise of the will” (G1014), indicating that God’s gift of salvation was distributed by means of Jesus choosing who would be saved. Paul said that God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). In other words, Jesus identified the people he wanted to save and communicated it to his Father before the world was created. Jesus’ desire to have certain individuals with him throughout eternity was based on God’s love for humanity.

One of the ways we know what kind of people Jesus wanted to be with him in his Father’s eternal kingdom was who he invited to follow him. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus was looking for people that were tired of carrying the burdens of their sins around with them. Jesus said that his followers could find rest for their souls by taking his yoke upon them. The Greek word that is translated yoke, zugos (dzoo-gos’) means to join and refers to a coupling that enables two people to work together to complete a task (G2218). Jesus said that his yoke was easy, meaning that everything that was needed to get the job done was being provided (G5543); and his burden was light, it would be easy to handle (G1645). The only thing that Jesus required from those that wanted to be saved was faith and he made that possible by enlightening the eyes of the believer’s heart.

If you would like to have a relationship with God, you can do so by simply praying this prayer and meaning it in your heart:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust you and follow you as my Lord and Savior.

If you prayed this prayer, please take a moment to write me at calleen0381@gmail.com and let me know about your decision.

God bless you!

Process of spiritual growth

Peter’s second epistle is believed to have been written not long before he was martyred for his faith during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero (The Second Epistle General of Peter, Introduction). Peter’s final instructions focused on the process of spiritual growth. Somewhat like stepping stones that mark an unfamiliar pathway, Peter identified the characteristics that result from a believer’s diligent effort to produce spiritual fruit. Peter said, “Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (2 Peter 1:5-7).

Peter assumed that the people he was writing to had already been born again because he told them to add to their faith virtue (2 Peter 1:5). Faith in this context is the initial reliance upon Christ for salvation (G4102), a decision to accept Jesus as your savior. Peter indicated that after being born again, a person must learn to or at least make an effort to be virtuous. The Greek word translated virtue, arete (ar-et’-ay) is properly translated as manliness or valor (G703). Arete has to do with the impression one makes on another person. You could say that it is the image of ourselves that we project to others or our appearance. What I believe Peter was getting at was that after we become Christians, we should start looking like Christians. People should notice and be impressed by our Christlike behavior.

Peter instructed believers to add to their virtue knowledge (2 Peter 1:5). The Greek word Peter used that is translated knowledge is gnosis (gno’-sis). Gnosis denotes spiritual truth and in this instance is concerned with the initial understanding that one should have of his or her faith, what it means to be a Christian. In other words, Peter was saying that Christians should understand the Bible enough to answer the question, what does it mean to be saved? The first three steps that Peter identified in the process of spiritual growth were things that almost every person that has been born again is able to do as soon as or shortly after becoming a Christian. They don’t take very much effort. Therefore, you could say they have to do with being a baby Christian, someone that has not really started to mature yet.

Peter said we are to add to our knowledge temperance or self control. Paul mentioned temperance in his list of spiritual fruits (Galatians 5:23). This seems to suggests that Peter was shifting gears and was beginning to focus on the kind of spiritual growth that is usually associated with a mature Christian. The Greek word translated temperance, “Egkrateia is the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites” (G1466). For some people this might be a rather easy task, but for others it can take a long time, sometimes a lifetime for them to get their addictions and habits under control. Peter’s next step, patience is what I would refer to as the characteristic that separates the men from the boys. Patience or hupomone (hoop-om-on-ay’) is also translated as waiting, but it is more than just sitting idly by and expecting something to happen. Patience has to do with enduring trials and is sometimes associated with God’s disciplining of his children.

According to James, patience perfects Christian character (James 1:4). “fellowship in the patience of Christ is therefore the condition upon which believers are to be admitted to reign with Him, 2 Ti 2:12; Rev 1:9” G5281). Peter encouraged believers to go beyond this point and instructed them to add to their patience godliness (2 Peter 1:6). Godliness has to do with conforming oneself to the will of God (G2150). I believe this is where the transformation of a believer’s life becomes evident to everyone around him. You could say that the Christian that exhibits godliness definitely stands out in a crowd. I think this step in the spiritual growth process is where the majority of Christians drop out or give up, thinking that it is too hard or not worth it. I can say from my own personal experience that this step is not for the faint of heart.

The next step in the process of spiritual growth is one that might seem like it should be at the beginning rather than the end. Peter said we are to add to our godliness brotherly kindness (2 Peter 1:7). Brotherly kindness or philadelphia in the Greek represents the kind of love that is usually expressed between blood relatives, but in this context it refers to all believers or the family of God. The final step in the process of spiritual growth, charity is closely linked with brotherly kindness. The Greek word Peter used that is translated charity, agape is the highest or purest form of love that can be expressed between two people. It conveys “the attitude of God toward his Son” (G26). I believe what Peter was getting at was that in order to reach full maturity as a Christian, we need to first learn how to love other believers the same way we love our own family members and then, we need to be able to love everyone else the same way we love ourselves.

Spiritual progress

The underlying message of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was spiritual progress. Paul started by depicting his work of preaching the gospel as laying a foundation that others could build on (1 Corinthians 3:10), then he identified the type of building that was being constructed by asking the rhetorical question, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, ESV). The analogy of building a house for God was Paul’s way of explaining the slow, but steady spiritual progress believers were expected to make in their growth as a Christian. When Paul talked about celebrating the Lord’s supper and receiving spiritual gifts, he was explaining to the Corinthians a spiritual process that sometimes takes place outside of our awareness. Afterward, Paul stated, “But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31, NKJV).

The excellent way of love that Paul described in 1 Corinthians 13 was about an intentional effort to grow in one’s faith. Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that there would come a time in their spiritual growth when they would have to work harder if they wanted to continue to make progress. Paul instructed the Corinthians to “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1, ESV), then he went on to explain that speaking in tongues compared to prophesy was useless in building up the body of Christ. He stated, “The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:4). The point I believe Paul was trying to make was that increased spiritual progress has more to do with helping others to grow than helping ourselves.

The Greek word Paul used to describe spiritual progress was oikodomeo (oy-kod-om-eh’-o). Oikodomeo, as a verb, means literally “to build a house” (G3618). Paul may have wanted the Corinthians to understand that when Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2), he was talking about an actual house or place for them to live in. Paul clarified this point in a letter he later wrote to Timothy. He said, “but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15, NKJV). Paul was writing to Timothy about leaders in the church setting a good example for others. Paul’s reference to “how you ought to conduct yourself” meant that he was looking for a certain type of behavior in mature Christians and told Timothy that godliness was a great mystery (1 Timothy 3:16).

The Greek word translated mystery in 1 Timothy 3:16 is musterion (moos-tay’-ree-on). In the New Testament musterion “denotes, not the mysterious (as with the English word), but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those only who are illumined by His Spirit…its Scriptural significance is truth revealed” (G3466). Paul eluded to this in 1 Corinthians 14:19 when he said, “Yet in church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.” Regarding spiritual progress, Paul was saying that being able to teach others the truth of God’s word through the anointing of the Holy Spirit was the ultimate expression of godliness or Christlike character.

Spiritual maturity

James, who is thought to be the oldest brother of Jesus (Introduction, The General Epistle of James, p. 1777), wrote about the purpose of spiritual maturity and the process we have to go through to gain spiritual experience. He said, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptation; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4). According to James’ teaching, we obtain spiritual maturity by experiencing various difficulties in our lives and the evidence that we have achieved maturity is our exhibition of patience in those situations. The Greek word James used that is translated patience, hupomone (hoop-om-on-ay’) means endurance, constancy (G5281). Another way of describing this quality would be stick-to-itness or not giving up when our circumstances become difficult.

James indicated the motivation for us to strive for spiritual maturity was the reward of a crown of life. He said, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12). The crown James was referring to may have been a wreath given to the winner of a race (note on 2 Timothy 4:8) in ancient Olympic games. The Apostle Paul used the metaphor of a race in his exhortation to live a life that is guided by faith. He said, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). James echoed Paul’s teaching in his identification of God’s word as the source of our spiritual strength. He said, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).

One of the unique aspects of James’ teaching was his emphasis on doing what God’s word tells us to. He said, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22). Three times, James emphatically stated that faith without works is dead (James 2:17, 20, 26). What he may have meant by this statement was that faith was designed to do something, specifically, to bring about change in our lives. Therefore, if faith doesn’t produce change, it has become useless to us, like a dead body that can’t breath or move around anymore. James used a practical example to illustrate his point that spiritual maturity differentiates believers from the rest of the world and linked faith to something as simple as being able to keep our mouths shut when we are tempted to say something cruel or vindictive to a loved one. He stated, “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue amongst our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature: and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: but the tongue can no man tame: it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison…Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge amongst you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom” (James 3:6-8, 13).