This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
Welcome to the first in a series of four sessions of teaching on a theme of which the title is “Who Am I?” The subtitle gives you a hint of where we’re going to go for an answer, “Discover Yourself In God’s Mirror.” So, the aim of this teaching will be, as it were, to hold up a mirror to you in which you can see yourself. But you’ll not be seeing your outward visible form, you’ll be seeing something you cannot see in any other mirror, which is what you’re really like inside.
Before I get into this subject I think I need to say a little about my personal background because it’s relevant to this. Before I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ personally—and I met Him one midnight in an army barrack room of the British Army—late in July in l941, from which time there are two things I’ve never doubted. First of all, that Jesus is alive; and second, that the Bible is true. I came to both those conclusions in one night.
But let me tell you how I came to them. Before that happened to me I was a professional philosopher. You probably don’t meet many, there aren’t many—which is probably a good thing! When I say a professional philosopher I mean I earned my living by it. It wasn’t a very substantial living, at least it kept me alive. I actually held a fellowship in philosophy at Kings College in Cambridge in Britain. We won’t go into the relative merits of British universities, we’ll leave that one to one side.
I was a philosopher because I was looking for an answer. I think I was one of those people, I was born with a question inside me. The question was, “What’s the purpose of life? What are we here for, what is worth doing and what is not worth doing?” I had grown up in the nominal church in Britain but I didn’t think that I would find an answer there, so when I went to Cambridge at the age of eighteen I decided that I would look in philosophy for an answer. Philosophy means the love of the search for wisdom. I have that kind of mind, it’s very much at home in the abstract and doesn’t like to get bogged down in practical details. There are only two things I know about a car. One is when it goes and the other is when it stops. And my system in life has always been to know somebody who knew more than I did about cars!
But, when it comes to the abstract and to the logical realm, I think God gave me a natural gift in that area.
So, for seven years at Cambridge I pursued the study of philosophy and I can say objectively I was successful. I held the most prized research studentship at the University for two years in succession, and was one of the youngest people ever to be elected as a fellow of Kings College Cambridge.
But then the war came along and I was uprooted—which was a very good thing I realized afterwards. But in philosophy I had not found the answer I was looking for. I studied Greek philosophy extensively and also a good deal of what was then contemporary philosophy, it’s probably out of date today. I also studied some of the other European philosophers.
So when I came to being called up into the army, my big problem was what am I going to take with me to read. Because, in the army you can’t carry a library around with you. And books are heavy and you have to carry them yourself. So I thought to myself there’s one book that really is a book of philosophy and, actually, it’s probably the most widely read book in the world and the most influential in human history. And I know very little about what’s in that book. The book I had in mind was the Bible. So I felt it was my philosophic duty to study the Bible. I bought myself a nice new black Bible, I couldn’t conceive you’d ever have any other color but black, and took it with me into the army and started to read it.
Well, I found it the first book that really baffled me. I couldn’t make head or tail of it, I didn’t know how to classify it, I found it very boring. But I started at the beginning and I was determined that no book was going to beat me, I would read it through to the end. Well, after nine months of struggling with this book I met the author and the next day the book made perfect sense. The change was not gradual, it was instantaneous from one day to the next.
And so, since l941 up to the present time, I’ve been studying the Bible. And I would like to say I find it richer, more exciting and more illuminating today than I did when I first started. It has never become dull and the more I read it the more I see there is to learn.
I think I need to say something else too, in the context of Christianity. God called me specifically, verbally, in l944 when I was still in the British army in Palestine, to be a teacher of the scriptures. It was as clear and precise as anything that ever happened in my life. And I have been seeking to do that ever since. I’ve had the privilege in the last 20 years or so traveling very widely, ministering to Christians of many different national and denominational and cultural backgrounds. I’ve been part of what is called the Charismatic movement since the early l960s. Not that that was how I came into the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I was so ignorant that I got baptized in the Holy Spirit without knowing you had to wait for it. And I didn’t go to church, I got baptized in the Holy Spirit in the same army barrack room where I got saved. And being still ignorant, I didn’t know you had to wait six months to get spiritual gifts, so God immediately gave me the gift of interpretation. And at that time every time I spoke in tongues I interpreted. I don’t want to go into that.
But anyhow, I have a pretty wide acquaintance with the Body of Christ today. I love God’s people, I thank God for what He’s doing through the earth. But I have one deep concern as a Bible teacher. It seems to me that the majority of God’s people don’t have a really strong solid foundation of Biblical knowledge. That’s why I produced that set of books which Ruth held up a moment or two ago, “The Foundation Series.” My aim being in a clear, simple, non-theological way to present the great foundation truths of the Christian faith.
You see, I meet people everywhere who go to conventions and conferences and maybe schools and colleges, and they get a lot of different pieces of information. But in many cases they don’t have anything to assemble them into. God gave me a sort of mental picture of somebody who bought a building lot in order to build a house. And this person assembles all the materials that are needed for a house, but he never lays the foundation of the house or, if he does, he never raises the bearing wall. Consequently, there’s really nothing he can do with all the material. So, then he goes to another convention and he comes back and tells his friend, “Look at this wonderful marble bath I got. Isn’t it beautiful?” Well, it’s a beautiful bath but what do you do with a bath if you have no plumbing system. All you can do is leave it lying around.
Or, he comes back and says, “Look at this beautiful oak front door I got.” But you can’t do much with a door if you don’t have a wall to build it in.
So, my primary drive everywhere I go and in everything I do is to give a foundation simple, practical, not theological, not complicated, on which people can then build all the wonderful truths that they subsequently glean or that they’ve already gleaned. And I trust this will be true of what I’m going to be teaching here.
The nature of man is a vast subject. It includes psychology, physiology, many other ologies. I am not competent to teach either of those subjects. What I would like to do is give you a framework into which you can fit the specific areas of knowledge that you acquire. If you’re a counselor, you’ll learn psychology and other aspects of related truth. But it’s very dangerous to have these isolated on their own away from the total context of Biblical truth. It’s very easy to go into error, to become one-sided, and to become ineffective in really helping people. Because, in the last resort, what all people need is the truth of God’s word. Nothing else is sufficient.
So, having said that I hope you’ll understand the direction that I’m hoping to take in these sessions. Now I’d like to justify the use of the phrase mirror by turning to the epistle of James, the first chapter and reading from verse 22, a few verses. James is speaking about what you can expect the word of God to do for you. And he says, in effect, it’s like a mirror. But he says you better make the right use of the mirror. He said what would be the use of having an ordinary material mirror, looking into it, seeing what you look like, discovering that your face is dirty, your clothes are stained, your hair is unkempt, and then going away and forgetting what you saw in the mirror and doing nothing about it? And he says in the same way when we look in the mirror of God’s word, we don’t see our outward physical form but we see something that is not revealed anywhere else: our inward nature. And when we see that in the mirror, then James says we better act on what we see. If our hair is untidy we need to straighten it. If our face is dirty we need to wash it. If our clothes are unclean or a ragged, we need to have them cleaned or repaired. But act on what you see.
And I would like to say that to everyone here. This is not just an interesting set of theories, this is something which if you receive it and act on it in faith, I can guarantee you it will change your life. And if it doesn’t, I will consider that I have failed in my purpose.
So, let’s read these words. Verse 22 of chapter 1 of James:
“But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the word, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
We won’t go into all the details but you see the picture is clear, the Bible is a mirror that shows you not your outward physical form but your inward nature, what you’re like inside.
Now, in the course of studying philosophy, I came to a conclusion that there are three things that man can never know except by divine revelation. He cannot know the origin of the universe, he cannot know the origin of man, and he cannot know the nature of man. They’re all things that can be known only by divine revelation. Of course, for the people who are called humanists who want to believe that man can solve every problem, this is not good news. In fact, they resent it intensely. However, that’s their problem, not mine.
So I’m going to be doing my best to hold up this mirror and inviting you to look in it.
Now I’d like to turn to what will be really the key scripture for this whole series, that’s 1 Thessalonians 5:23. This is a prayer that the apostle Paul prayed for the Christians, for the Body of Christ. He prayed specifically for the Christians in Thessalonica but obviously it’s for all of us. 1 Thessalonians 5:23:
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely and make your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As I told you earlier, I find this very helpful to take relevant passages of scripture and make them a confession or a prayer. So, the way Ruth and I do it, and we’ve probably said this several hundred times, we make it personal. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify us completely, and make our whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now, because you’re all such adept students, I’m going to believe that you can join with me without prior practice in this session and I would like to invite you all to say that as a prayer. As a very meaningful prayer, believing that through these sessions God will begin to answer that prayer. You know the word sanctify means to make holy. So you’re going to be praying to God to make you holy. If there’s one desperate need of the Body of Christ today, I would say it’s the need for holiness. So it’s a very relevant prayer. Now, see if you can say it. I tell you what, say it after me the first time and then say it with me the second time. All right. Phrase by phrase. Are you ready? “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify us completely, and may our whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Let’s say amen, shall we? Now let’s say it together, can you do it? Just take your time. “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify us completely, and may our whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now I’ll share something personal with you. I’ve pondered for a long while on precisely what is the implication of saying that my whole body be preserved blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I trust that I’ll give you some basis for an answer but I’m not sure that I have a complete answer myself. That’s what makes the Bible exciting, there’s always something new to discover.
Now, I want to turn also to Hebrews 4:12, which is another picture of what the word of God is like. The writer of Hebrews says it’s like a dissecting implement, but it dissects what no human doctor can dissect. And I want to point out to you the things that it separates between. Hebrews 4:12:
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword or any doctor’s scalpel, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
I want to draw your attention particularly to that phrase that it penetrates to divide between soul and spirit. And the writer says even. In other words, the hardest thing that it could ever have to divide between is soul and spirit.
And so we come back to the statement in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 that a complete person, because Paul is talking about being sanctified completely. A complete person consists of three elements: spirit, soul and body. Now, most people except philosophers probably have no problem about having a body. I mean, I can remember at Cambridge we would spend one semester discussing whether our body was really there. But, let’s not get involved in that because that’s one of those caves where all the footsteps lead inwards and none of them ever get out again. Thank God, mine got out of it but that’s the exception.
We basically will agree we have a body. I’m sure Christians will agree we have a soul. But many, many Christians really aren’t aware that the spirit and the soul are distinct. In fact, I once had to teach in a Bible college in western Canada, where everything had to end in ology. So, the study of the church was ecclesiology, and the study of salvation was soteriology, and the study of the Holy Spirit was pneumatology. And, I had to teach, I think it was theology, rather dull. But anyhow, I had to teach from a textbook. It was a Pentecostal Bible college, the textbook was not prepared by a Pentecostal man. And it only acknowledged soul and body. It didn’t see any difference between spirit and soul. And I ran into continual problems teaching that textbook.
So, this made me very aware that we are obscuring a very important distinction if we don’t see that spirit and soul can be divided.
On the other hand, a passage in Hebrews seems to indicate that the only thing that will divide between them is the word of God. If we go to any other source we’ll not get an answer. And I think those of you that are involved in any kind of form of psychology would agree that the majority of contemporary secular psychologists do not really acknowledge the spirit as something distinct from the soul. I believe the only people who can understand that are the people who go to God’s word and look in that mirror which shows us the distinction.
Now I want to go back to the origin of man and I want to consider man as God created him. I believe God created man. I don’t have any problems about that. I’ll tell you one thing the Bible did for me that nothing in philosophy had ever done, it explained me to me. And since I’ve become familiar with the Bible’s record, I find continual ongoing evidence that it applies to me. It helped me to understand myself in a way no philosophy had ever done.
So we go back to the record of God creating man. And so marvelous is the Bible that this immensely marvelous event is described in one comparatively brief verse. When I studied the philosopher Kant, some of his sentences ran for two pages without a period. What a relief to get to the Bible! All right. Genesis 2:7:
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.”
I object to the word being, I much prefer the word soul which is the old version. Man became a living soul. I happen to know we have an Israeli here who speaks perfect Hebrew, and in advance I will ask her indulgence if my pronunciation is not perfect, but I’ll do my best. Because really, you need to know the Hebrew words that are used here. First of all, when it says the Lord God formed, it’s the verb from which the word for a potter is formed. It suggests molding in clay. Although it says dust, the verse before says a mist went up and watered the earth. So it wasn’t dry dust, it was damp dust, it was moldable clay.
And then it says he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul. For me this is intensely dramatic and intensely vivid. I am naive enough to believe it happened the way it’s described. If you have problems with that, at least be indulgent with me. I believe that the Lord God is the person who was revealed subsequently in human history as Jesus of Nazareth. Because, John says at the beginning of his gospel that all things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made. So he was, if I may say so, the agent of God the Father in this creative process. And one of the interesting things about God’s dealings with man is every time God deals with man, He has to stoop. So creation, as I picture it, this wonderful, glorious, divine being knelt down, put His divine hands in the clay and molded a body. The most perfect piece of molding that’s ever been seen. Much greater than anything Michaelangelo could ever have produced. But it was just lifeless, it was just clay.
And then this divine being stooped further and put His divine lips against the lips of clay and His divine nostrils against the nostrils of clay, and He breathed the breath of life. I said that word breathed with emphasis because the Hebrew word is a tremendously powerful word. It is ?viapach?. I think I’ll try and write it. I can’t write Hebrew on the board but I’ll try and write it in English. ?Viapach?. Now, if you’re not familiar with Semitic languages or similar languages, you won’t be able to say the last letter. It’s a hhhhhch. All right. Should we try and say it? ?Viapach?. Consider the meaning of it. Hebrew is one of those languages in which the words are often indicative of the thing. Like the word for to ring a bell is ?silsel?. The word for thunder is ?ra-am?. The word for an earthquake is ?ra-ash?. You can hear the land sliding after that noise. And this is a very good example.
The interesting thing about this is this letter in English, p, is called a plosive. If you’re familiar with phonetics, a plosive is a letter that requires an explosion to make it. There’s only really one good plosive in English and that’s p. I think there’s too much air here, I probably won’t be able to do it, but I want you to look at this as I say the word pepper and you’ll see if it works, each of the p’s is an explosion. Pepper. Can you see that? Well, here we have a double explosion because the p is doubled if you can double a Hebrew letter, which you can in a way. So there’s an explosion and then there’s this long outgoing breath. ?Viapach?. And I think God put all of Himself into that breath. He didn’t breath a languid breath, He focused His whole being and breathed Himself. And the results, to say the least, were dramatic because what had been merely a form of clay became a living human being. The brain, the heart, the lungs, every organ started to function. Can you explain how the wonderful nature of man came into being? Doctors tell us one human eye has got more than three million working parts. If you can believe that happened by accident, you can believe things I can’t believe. But I believe that the mind of God was breathed into that clay and directed the clay to become what God intended it to be. And so out of that breath there came a living human being.
Now, the inner part of man in infinitely wonderful but even the body is wonderful. David said years later, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and my soul knows that right well.” To me this is important because it makes divine healing so totally logical. If the Holy Spirit could create out of clay a living body, surely the Holy Spirit can heal any disease or deal with any physical malfunction. I have to say just to be practical, that in the course of my ministry, which has never focused primarily on healing, I have seen these things happen. I have seen a man with a leg that was two inches short, the leg grew out perfectly more than once, several times. I talked to a surgeon once and he said if you knew what was involved in a leg growing two inches, you’d realize it was stupendous. We have seen blind eyes opened. The eyes of a woman in Pakistan born blind, about the age of sixty receive sight.
I don’t want to dwell on this but I just want to say it’s not a theory, it works. After all, when your watch needs repair you don’t take it to the bootmaker, do you? You take it to the watchmaker. When your body needs repair, what more reasonable than to take it to the body maker?
Thank God for doctors and all who help fight disease. This is not something setting aside doctors but the doctor behind all doctors is the Creator.
Now, consider what is involved in this scene. The Spirit came from above; the soil, the earth, came from below; and they met and created something that hadn’t existed before: a living soul. And so you see there is a kind of built in potential for tension in us human beings. There’s something in us from above and there’s something in us from beneath. None of you have ever experienced that tension, have you, that one part of you wants to go up and another part is pulling you down. The philosopher Plato described it this way, he said, “The chariot of the soul has got two horses, one white and one black. The white horse wants to go upwards, the black horse wants to go downwards.” Well you see, that’s a figurative picture but I believe this one is the real truth.
Out of this creative act there came this triune being: spirit from above, soul was the result, and body was the clay that was transformed.
Now I’m going to go a little further in Hebrew. This fascinates me. If I wasn’t a philosopher or a preacher I’d probably be a student of linguistics. Language fascinates me. There’s an Arabic proverb that says in every language there is a person. I think you’ll know that if you really want to relate to people you have to relate to them in their own language. And those of you that are born with some other language, you would know you can just never say in any other language some of the things you can say in your own language.
Now, the word for spirit—I’ve got to do it in English, you understand, ?ruach?. You’ve got the same. The word for soul is nefesh. Ruach is uncreated and life-giving, nefesh is created and dependent. If you turn for a moment to 1 Corinthians 15, you’ll see the difference. This is the great resurrection chapter, it’s not that I’m going to deal with. 1 Corinthians 15:45, Paul says:
“So it is written the first Adam became a living being [soul, nefesh], the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”
Notice the difference. The spirit gives life, the soul receives life. The spirit is self-existent, the soul depends on the spirit. This will cause you to smile but you’ll probably remember it. I said that Hebrew words often represent by their sound what they are. So I want you to think of somebody fast asleep and is very fast asleep, and he goes like this [breathing sounds]. See what that is? That’s the dependent soul, do you understand? But the ruach just goes on breathing out. Ruach, and you can go on as long as your breath lasts. See? That’s just a vivid way of portraying the difference.
Let’s look at the next sad part of this story. Nelda, would you perform your function? Are you tall enough to reach up there? Thank you. I’m going to do something now which is very risky, I’m going to do a diagram. And Ruth is smiling at me because she knows I’m not a graphic artist. And bear in mind also that even if it is a good diagram it wouldn’t adequately represent invisible spiritual realities. But I’m going to try and show you the relationship now between spirit, soul and body.
So we start with something that I sort of make to look like—that’s a combination of wind and fire; that is, God’s Spirit. The ruach. That comes down into something like this which is man’s spirit. That’s the highest element in man. You’ll find that Paul speaks of the spirit, soul and body. This comes down into that which is guess what? It’s the soul, that’s right. I’ve divided it into three areas because when we come to look at the soul, generally speaking, most Bible teachers say the soul consists of the will, the intellect and the emotions. And then we come down one more to—which is [audience answered, inaudible], that’s right. Okay. Now I know that’s not good art but I hope that it gives you a little idea of what we’re talking about.
Now let’s look at this tragic story of man’s fall very quickly in Genesis 3:1–7. I’ll read it, I’m sure it’s familiar to most of you.
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beat of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?’”
Beware if the devil asks you a question. And the woman was very unwise and shouldn’t have answered, did so. In fact, a friend of mine, a preacher, said what Eve should have done at that point was say, “I never talk to strange snakes without my husband.” But she didn’t. How different history would have been if she had.
“The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’’ The serpent said to the woman, ‘You shall not surely die.’”
Notice Satan’s tactic, it’s never changed. Why should he change it, because it always works. The one thing he has to do is break down our faith in the word of God. He doesn’t make a direct attack, he starts with a question. When we’re silly enough to answer his question, then he begins. And this is what he wants to do. Three words beginning with D. First of all, he wants us to doubt; secondly to disbelieve; and thirdly, what’s the third word beginning with D? Disobey, that’s right. And let me say if you do disbelieve and don’t repent, you will disobey. It’s absolutely sure. Every time he comes into your life, when you analyze it, the tactics are the same. Why should he change, because they always work. I mean, he’s undermined countless millions of lives with those three approaches.
Let’s go on. The devil said:
“You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. So when the woman saw...”
See the descent? She moved from the faith realm to the sense realm. She trusted her senses more than the word of God.
“When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her and he ate.”
Notice the three basic forms of temptation which John speaks about in his first epistle: the lust of the flesh, good for food; the lust of the eyes, nice to look at; and pride of life is going to make me wise. I’m going to be clever. I’m going to be as clever as God.
Now, what I want to point out to you is the motivation in itself was not evil. It’s good to want to be like God, it’s good to want to know good and evil. What was the evil? This is very important. The evil was the desire to be independent of God. And the essence of sin is not the desire to do evil, it’s the desire to be independent of God. And no one and no thing in the universe ultimately will be independent of God. God will not tolerate it. There’s a period of grace but there’s coming a day when anything that is not submitted to God will be banished. There’ll be no place in heaven, no place in earth. It will be consigned to a place which Jesus called outer darkness. We need to see that.
You see, if we stop doing bad things, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the problem has been resolved. And there is something in every fallen child of Adam that does not want to depend on God. I’m not the only one that has that problem, be honest with me. Whenever I’m confronted with a problem, even today, and I’ve been a Christian nearly 50 years, my first instinctive reaction is what am I going to do about it? Thank God I’ve come to the place where I’m usually sensible enough to say, “God, what should I do?”
But there’s something in Adam and his descendants. And the key word, if you want it, is a rebel. There’s a rebel inside every one of us. Paul calls it the old man, the old Adam.
Interestingly enough, when Paul talks about the old man, he never talks about the old Jewish man or the old Gentile man or the Old Catholic man. It’s the same in all of us. There are later accretions of nationality and culture, but the basic rebel is the same no matter what your nationality or your culture.
So, along comes our enemy in the form of a serpent and he does not attack the spirit. He attacks the soul. And I want to say in my judgment, every major struggle and problem in the Christian life is fought out on the battlefield of the soul. The soul is the battlefield. And we do not need to feel condemned if our soul is a battlefield. Every saint of God has gone through similar battles. That’s just the result of the fall. So don’t be condemned, don’t feel you’re an awful person, but bear in mind you’ve got to learn the devil’s tricks and how to deal with them.
Now, in my simple way, I’m going to try to draw a snake. That will represent the devil. Okay. It’s also an S, it can stand for Satan, whichever you like. Satan bypassed the spirit, you see, he always goes the illegitimate way. He didn’t go to the husband, he went to the wife. He didn’t go to the spirit, he goes to the soul. And he comes with his suggestions. When the soul responds, something happens and Satan has succeeded in cutting off our direct contact with God. See that? When he approaches the soul, the soul responds to him, our contact with God is broken. That’s the essence of the fall.
Let’s very quickly look at the results of the fall in three areas. The spirit—this is my understanding. I mean, these are inferences, they’re the best I can do, but you’re perfectly free to disagree with me and you could even go to heaven without agreeing with me! As I understand it, the spirit died, was cut off from the only source of life which is God. You see, if you look in Genesis 2:17, God said to the man—and He didn’t say it to the woman. Did you ever notice that? Who told the woman? The man, that’s right. It was his job. But anyhow, He said to Adam, “The day you eat of it you will surely die.” Now, Adam lived 900 years physically. But spiritually he died the moment he disobeyed God. His spirit was cut off from God. After that he was like some electrical apparatus which has been disconnected from the battery. It will go on functioning but it’s running down all the time.
Let’s look at two passages in Ephesians 2 just to see what Paul says there. Ephesians 2:1, he says:
“You God made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins...”
Not physically dead but dead spiritually because cut off from God by their trespasses and sins.
And in Ephesians 4:18, speaking about the Gentiles in their unregenerate condition he says:
“Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them...”
So we are alienated, cut off from the life of God by our disobedience.
Then the soul, as I understand it, becomes a lost rebel. The soul, we’ll come to this hopefully tomorrow, is the decision making part of you. It’s the soul that says “I will and I will not”. It’s the soul that gets saved. The soul says, “I will receive Jesus”, salvation follows. If the soul says, “Don’t give me that stuff”, and the soul is lost. Every human being without Christ is a lost rebel wandering aimlessly, not knowing the real purpose of life. So if Paul says in Ephesians 2:2–3 about trespasses and sins:
“...in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience...”
Who is the spirit that works in the sons of disobedience? That’s right, do you see how he’s working? As a spirit in the area of the soul.
“...among whom also we all once conducted ourselves...”
There’s no exception, Jews or Gentiles, Catholics or Protestants, it makes no difference. We were all in the same boat.
“...fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
Why were we children of wrath? Because we were sons of disobedience.
And then the body, if you want to look in Ephesians 4:22, Paul is speaking about the transformation that should come when we become believers.
“That you put off concerning your former conduct the old man which is growing corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.”
The key word to describe the physical nature of fallen man is corrupt. He’s subject to corruption, to decay which will terminate in physical death. And though the English version says the deceitful lusts, the Greek says the lusts of defeat. So how did Satan procure our downfall? By deceiving us.
Then you look on to the alternative which is in verse 24, that you put on the new man which was created according to God in righteousness and true holiness. But the real translation is holiness of the truth. So deceit brings corruption, truth brings holiness.
As I understand it, God never ceased caring about Adam and his descendants. This is one of the amazing facts of history. And in James 4:5, this is only found in the New American Standard, but I believe it’s the correct translation. He says:
“God jealously desires the spirit he has made to dwell in us.”
God breathed a little of Himself and He’s never given up on that. He’s never said good bye, I abandon you. For thousands of years He’s been jealously craving a renewed relationship with that spirit. And Jesus said in Luke 19:10, we don’t need to turn there, that he came to seek and to save that which was lost. That which God had imparted into man and had been separated and cut off and, as it were, carried away on the tide of rebellion. Jesus came to seek and to save. The high priest said about Jesus just before they procured his crucifixion that they didn’t understand that it was profitable for the nation that one man should die rather than all the people should perish and that ye might gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. I believe that in a sense that refers to God’s passionate desire to gather back that which was scattered and lost. Jesus came for that purpose.
And then we’ll turn to 1 Corinthians 15 for a moment, which contains a wonderful revelation. We’ll go back to one of the verses we looked at, verse 45:
“And so it is written the first Adam became a living soul, the last Adam became a life giving spirit.”
We’ve looked at that. And then verse 47:
“The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second man is the Lord from heaven.”
Now there are two different titles of Jesus. It’s very important to get them right. A lot of people get them wrong. First of all, He’s called the last Adam. Not the second Adam but the last Adam. Spiritually He was the end of the whole evil Adamic inheritance. When He died on the cross and was buried, that whole evil inheritance was buried in Him. He was the last Adam. He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. When He rose from the dead three days later He was the second man, a new kind of man, the head of a totally new race that had never existed before because it was the God/man race, a race in which God and man are fused together in one nature.
And then Peter addressing believers says:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who, according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
So through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can be begotten again or born again out of sin and out of death into the new race of which Jesus is the head. Jesus as the head has been born again from the dead, Colossians 1, because He’s the head and we’re the body. We know that the head comes first in a birth and the body follows. So we are part of His body, we’re part of this new race through faith in His death and resurrection. Is that clear?
Now, let’s look at the new creation just for a few moments in closing. This is the most glorious revelation. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul says:
“If any man be in Christ he is a new creation, old things have passed away, all things have become new, all things are of God.”
That’s exciting. The new creation is entirely of God. It’s totally new. God doesn’t patch us up, He doesn’t repair us, He doesn’t improve us, He makes a new creation in Christ. Only God can do that because He’s the Creator.
Now, the way it happens is vividly described in John 20, the resurrection appearance of Jesus to His disciples. Beginning in verse 19, He appeared behind closed doors and said:
“Peace be to you. When he had said this, He showed them his hands and his side, proving that it was the same body they’d seen crucified. And then he said to them, ‘Peace be to you. As the Father has sent me, I sent you.’ [and here’s the key verse] And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”
But the Greek could equally well be translated “receive holy breath.” It was the Holy Spirit but it was breathed into them.
If you consider the old creation, here’s the exact counterpart in the new creation. The resurrected savior, the totally victorious Christ, meets His disciples and breathes into them a totally new kind of life, a life that has triumphed over sin, death, hell, the grave and Satan. A totally undefeatable life. That’s what it is to be born again. That’s what it is to be a Christian. It’s to meet the resurrected Jesus and receive from Him divine eternal resurrection life. Can you say amen?
At that point the disciples passed out of Old Testament salvation into New. Old Testament salvation looked forward, New looks back to an accomplished historical fact. To enter into New Testament salvation, Paul says in Romans 10:9, you have to do two things: confess Jesus as Lord, believe that God has raised Him from the dead. That was the first moment that the disciples believed that God has raised Him from the dead, they had already confessed Him as Lord, they entered into salvation through a new birth. And Peter says they were begotten again.
He says a little later on in the same first chapter, verse 23, “they were begotten of the word of God.” And John said, quoting Jesus, “You must be born again. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” So here is the new birth. You see, I believe if we Christians could grasp what the new birth is, we’d turn the world upside down. We don’t realize what we’ve got. We’ve met the resurrected victorious Christ, He’s revealed Himself to us, He’s breathed into us divine life, we’ve been born again of the eternal incorruptible word of God and of the Holy Spirit of God, the life that’s in us is eternal, incorruptible and victorious.
Let’s look in 1 John 5 to close this tremendous revelation. 1 John 3, first of all. Verse 9:
“Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for his seed remains in him.”
He cannot sin. Not that does not mean that I cannot sin again but it means that there’s a life in me that cannot sin. It’s the life of God. Whether I sin or not depends on whether I let that life control me. But that life in me cannot sin.
And then in 1 John 5:4, he says:
“Whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”
So the new birth gives us a life that is divine, incorruptible and undefeatable. Can you say thank God?
A free copy of this transcript is available to download and share for personal use.