The Maker's Sword

† Standing Before the Sword of the Spirit †

[Glittering Sword] | [Tares] | [Last Sword] | [Answering] | [Boring a Hole] | [Sacrificial Sword] | [Dividing]
Job 40:19 He is the chief of the ways of God: he that made him can make his sword to approach unto him.

How we stand before the Maker's Sword tells something deep and profound about who we are in relationship to God. I have long been a student of the theology of suffering, and have seen many unsatisfactory answers. I currently hold the opinion that suffering can be understood in the spirit only, not by the mind or the heart. Without firm confidence in one's relationship to the Almighty, it is impossible to stand at the tip of His flaming sword without shrinking.

In this test, we find ourselves shrinking away from the cutting edge. Others are quick to assign all torment to Satan's attacks and forget that Satan does not operate without permission from God. I believe the more common sentiment currently is that God is watching from a distance, waiting to see how we fare. In current world history, there have been many horrific examples of seemingly unjustified suffering and cruelty. Modern theology is right to ask, does Auschwitz change our understanding of God. Who better than Job could answer that question? Job's answer is clear and definitive: draw deeper, lose your self to Him. Job understands now what God meant, "I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee," (Job 40:14).

While many contend our faith is a ridiculous charade or that God has died, departed or otherwise withdrawn from us, God is alive, is with us and desperately engaged. While we run to the fowler's snare, swallowing the hooks the enemy drops in our path, God continues to sweep, clean and light our pathway home. If our pathway is best illuminated by a thorough chastening, God will do so without hesitation.

Ezekiel 21:9-11 A sword, a sword is sharpened, and also furbished: It is sharpened to make a sore slaughter; it is furbished that it may glitter: should we then make mirth? it contemneth the rod of my son, as every tree. And he hath given it to be furbished, that it may be handled: this sword is sharpened, and it is furbished, to give it into the hand of the slayer.
Isaiah 10:16-17 And under His glory a fire will be kindled like a burning flame. And the light of Israel will become a fire and His Holy One a flame, And it will burn and devour his thorns and his briars in a single day.

Fear God's Wrath

Ecclesiastes concludes his treatise: "Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man," (Ecclesiastes 12:13). This theme is picked up again and again throughout both the Old and New Testaments: (Exodus 18:21; Leviticus 19:14 and 25:17; Deuteronomy 6:2 and 10:20; Joshua 4:24; 1 Samuel 12:14; 2 Kings 17:39; Nehemiah 4:9; Psalm 67:7 and 89:7; Acts 13:26; 2  Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:21; Hebrews 12:28; 1 Peter 2:17; Revelations 14:7). While it is popular to believe that the advent of Christ eliminates the fear of God, clearly the apostles did not feel this way. As we shall see, Paul suggests a special measure of fear is due those who accept the grace of Christ and then turn their back on him: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," (Hebrews 10:31).

Since we have begun with the Maker's Sword in the Book of Job, it is worthwhile to note that Job includes Ecclesiastes' conclusion, "And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding," (Job 28:28). Job tells us that this is God's directive, but he while he concludes he treatise on wisdom here, he is far from concluded. The Book of Job is intended to bring us past the fear of the Lord. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom," (Psalm 111:10; also Proverbs 1:7 & 9:10).


The collapse of the World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001 shocked the American public. The thought that this could in any way represent the hand of God seems beyond the comprehension of most Americans. We easily forget that the God who numbers every star and calls them by name (Psalm 147:4) is also the God brings judgments on His own first: "He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD," (Psalm 147:20). We prefer to think of Jesus as our protector. "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows," (Matthew 10:29-30). Look at the context of this passage. Jesus is saying, "fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell," (Matthew 10:28). Jesus would far rather our flesh be thrown into the fire, than our eternal soul (Matthew 5:29-30; Mark 9:43-50).

On September 11, 2001, 4000 souls were cast upon the judgment seat in order that a nation of 285 million would sit up and take notice. While this may sound horrendous, it is only because, like Israel of 2500 years ago, we have forgotten how thoroughly the Lord hates sin. Babylon was the Lord's instrument to chastise Israel, Islam is the Lord's instrument today. When He has done His work, then like Babylon before it, Islam will be punished.

Spirit of Fear vs. Godly Fear

There is a difference between the spirit of fear placed on us by the adversary and "godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28). While it is not the subject of this writing, I mention it so as not to leave the impression that all fear of God is from God or serves the interests of God. Godly fear is essential to a true commitment to righteousness by which the Holy Spirit is able to transform us. Many modern day Evangelicals seem to believe that the whole purpose of Christ is to bring us to accept Him as Lord and Saviour. That is only the beginning. Christ's purpose is to transform us through sanctification of the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:13), that we might stand before the throne with our robes washed clean by the blood of the lamb (Hebrews 13:12; Revelations 7:14). Those who arrive at the banquet without a wedding garment will be bound hand and foot and caste into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth; "For many are called, but few are chosen," (Matthew 22:13-14). God hates "even the garment spotted by the flesh," (Jude 1:23).

God Hates Sin

There is no question that the Lord prefers mercy and gentle exhortation. However, God's law is absolute. God passed in front of Moses, proclaiming "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation," (Exodus 34:6-7). It is not merciful to overlook our transgressions now if the end result is eternal loss. Jonathan Edwards, one of the great lights of The Great Awakening, preached one of the most renowned sermons ever delivered "Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God". To read his other writings, it is difficult to connect the man to this fiery exhortation. Edwards understood that God's grace and mercy do us no good unless we fear the wrath to come and turn from our sin, give up on our own goodness, and abandon our selves to Jesus.

Paul exhorting the Romans to remain obedient to authority, tells us that the authority "is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil," (Romans 13:4).

"Ye have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you, saith the Lord God," (Ezekiel 11:8). That fear is the cold bite of our conscience arguing against our rebellion, our pride, our illusion of self-sufficiency. We imagine that God hates sin, but not the sinner. We forget that it is not the sin which will be pitched into the fire. "Therefore I also will act in fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them,” (Ezekiel 8:18).

1 Peter 4:17-19 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

Matthew 3:10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Separating the Wheat from the Tares

Jesus tells the parable of a man who sows good wheat, but whose field is sown with "tares" by his enemy (Matthew 13:24-30). The servants wish to uproot the tares immediately, but the master tells them to wait until the time of harvest when the difference between the wheat and the tares will be plain, lest the servants pluck up good wheat in error. Tares are a weed that looks very much like wheat, but when matured, they bear no fruit (grain). At the time of harvest, they are to be uprooted and thrown into the fire.

This is an unmistakable warning to the church: on the Day of Judgment there will be a reckoning starting with the Lord's own house. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:21-23).

Fruits unto Righteousness

Matthew 25 relates two parables of Jesus in this same vein, the parable of the foolish virgins unprepared for the bridegroom and the parable of the servant who hides his talents. The matter of fruit is essential to understanding Christ Jesus. "Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit" (Matthew 7:16; also 12:33: Luke 3:9, 6:43-44 & 13:6; John 15:2). The parable of the sower has to do with fruit (Matthew 13:3-9; Mark 4:3-8; Luke 8:5-15), as does the owner of the vineyard come to collect (Matthew 21:33-40; Mark 12: 1-9; Luke 20:9-16). Jesus curses the fig tree for failing to bear fruit (Matthew 21:19; Mark 11:13-14).

I could slide far off topic here, so let me just say that fruit and works are for the Gospel's purpose the same, and that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26; Titus 3:8). So too, works without faith is to no avail: "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:4-5).

Isaiah reminds us that "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). That which is not fully submitted to God is detestable in the sight of the Lord. For this reason, many works, seemingly wonderful righteous works, fail. It is easy to do things "for God" that are not of God. "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them" (Matthew 6:1). It is far too easy for us to do good works, even to dedicate our lives to God to be seen of men. "They have their reward" (Matthew 6:2). Job, under the torment of Satan, longs, not for the Lord, but for the Lord's admiration and the praise of men (Job 29:1-16). He will not be delivered until he repents and turns fully to the Lord.

Matthew 7:19-23 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Romans 11:19-22 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

Hebrews 10:26-31 For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Hebrews 12:18-25 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven.

Jude 4-5 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

Rebellion Against the Spirit

The carnal mind is as opposed to God as God is opposed to sin. "For to be carnally minded is death... Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be," (Romans 8:6-7). Romans Chapter Eight outlines the importance of walking in the Spirit. By returning to the ways of the flesh, which in the context of Romans includes not only placing our physical satisfaction above spiritual satisfaction, but also "soulishness". Soulishness is to focus on the things pertaining to satisfaction of the mind, emotions or will. Modern psychology, self-help and the New Age movement would fall into this category.

Walking in the Spirit

"God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth," (John 4:24). It all becomes a question of the spirit. How does one worship in the spirit? "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," (John 3:5-6). In this passage, Jesus is relaying to Nicodemus where the spirit comes from. He continues with the well know John 3:16 passage. He is saying to Nicodemus that when we turn to God, when we turn to the Son of God, the spirit is ministered unto us by God's Holy Spirit. There is an important distinction here. When we turn to God for God, we walk in the spirit, that is the Holy Spirit is able to move in us. We can easily turn to God for other reasons, self-centered reasons. At this point, we are not walking in the spirit. Let me not denigrate petitions to the Lord for these can be important and legitimate. But, as the Book of Job reminds us, our needs, desperate as they may be, must be sublimated to our desire for God. "Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee," (Job 40:14).

The basic rule governing the flesh is: anything by which you turn to your self first and God second is walking after the flesh. The so-called "Prosperity Gospel" would be included high on that list. "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it," (Matthew 10:39). The flesh belongs to this world and this world belongs to Satan. For this reason, those of us who have turned to the Spirit "groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body," (Romans 8:23). Until then we are in the crossroad of the call of the flesh and the call of the Spirit. We must continue to choose the spirit. Jesus is not a one time choice, but a continual choice.

As Paul tells us in the two quotes above (Romans 11:19-22 and Hebrews 10:26-31), it is a serious thing to come to the knowledge of the holy and then turn about and walk after the flesh. "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more," (Luke 12:48). Yet in practice, it is easy for Christians to worship God for all the wrong reasons, reasons of the flesh. How many Christians have we met whose praise of the Lord abounded in self-righteousness or was fixed on prosperity or miracles. Matthew Chapter Six, which includes the Sermon on the Mount, is largely a homily on avoiding spiritual practices done for show, "for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward," (Matthew 6:5).

Can Salvation Be Lost?

I am well aware of the doctrine of "once saved, always saved". But I would suggest that there are many cases of fervent Christians who have been corrupted to the point of serious perversions. Jim Jones and David Berg began as solid Christian leaders. Jim Jones was ordained in the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ. David Berg, founder of the Children of God, started as an evangelist for the Christian and Missionary Alliance and was a leader for Teen Challenge. This begs the question: where they never saved, or can someone who is saved drift far enough away that they loose their salvation? Either the appearance of salvation is not trustworthy, or it is possible through disobedience to the Holy Spirit to loose that salvation. Ultimately, a certain wariness is called for.

The impression left by Romans 11:19-22 is that someone grafted into the body of Christ Jesus can be cut off. Further, Hebrews 10:26-31 clearly suggests that such a person who, having full knowledge of Christ, sins willfully is particularly despised of God. "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind" (Romans 1:28). Finally, Hebrews 6:4-6 states that someone who was a partaker of the Holy Ghost but falls away cannot be reclaimed. Paul is not complacent to this in his own life: "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Corinthians 9:27). If Paul is not complacent, how much less should we be. God is quick to forgive and eager to redeem, but there is a time when a person is no longer able to return and face God.

Hebrews 12:5-7 My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons.

Proverbs 3:11-12 My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor detest His correction; For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.

Deuteronomy 8:5 You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you.

Standing Before the Sword

King David is reserved a special honor in the Bible as a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22). This is a rare honor indeed. In fact, David is the only one so honored. Yet, in many instances, his ways departed greatly from those of God.

David: Adultery, Deception, Betrayal and Murder

In a most glaring instance of departure, David committed adultery with Bathsheba, tried to cover his treachery through guile, and then had Uriah, her husband and his loyal champion, murdered to hide his (David's) sin. When Nathan the prophet confronts David with his sin, David confesses immediately, as if the weight of the lie is too much to bare. "And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD" (2 Samuel 12:13). Because David is immediately contrite when confronted, Nathan tells him that God will not kill him. However, there is great consequence: the child born of this adultery is to die (2 Samuel 12:14), David will not be able to live in peace, "Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house" (2 Samuel 12:10), and rebellion will come from within his own house, and his wives will be openly defiled (2 Samuel 12:11).

Immediately, The curse is brought against the son born of this act of adultery. Although David weeps and cries out pleading for the life of his for his son, still the child dies. The servants are afraid to tell David, having seen how fervently he wept for the child, while still alive. The servants are astonished to see David take the news with peace and calm (2 Samuel 12:15-23). David desperately prayed to spare the child, but fully accepted, without hesitation, the judgment of God. I am afraid that many of us are the opposite. We fail to pray fervently when we can, and then refuse to accept the judgment when it is carried out.

Again, true to Nathan's prophesy, Absalom, one of David's sons, formed a conspiracy against David (2 Samuel 15:10-12), sending David fleeing in fear of his life and of the destruction the rebellion would cause Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:14). Fleeing through a place called Bahurim, Shimei, a relative of the former king Saul, begins to mock and curse David throwing stones and jeering at the passing army. David's soldiers beg to be allowed to decapitate Shimei (2 Samuel 16:9). David sees that he is under the judgment of God: "let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?" (2 Samuel 16:10). David sees that he must accept God's punishment to be released: "let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him. It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day" (2 Samuel 16:11-12).

The curse continues. Absalom pitched a tent on the roof of the palace, where he raped the concubines which David had left behind, to dishonor his father, and in further fulfillment of Nathan's prophesy (2 Samuel 16:22). Yet, David, knowing this is God's hand, was unwilling that Absalom should die (2 Samuel 18:5). David fully accepted the guilt for his son's rebellion as his own, and grieves for Absalom when he is finally killed.

David is quick to see the hand of God at work, in every calamity brought against him. I believe it is a case, that David being totally secure in the knowledge of the love of God is secure accepting the rebukes of God. How different this is from Job, for whom my opening quote is made ('He is chief of the ways of God...'). Job complains bitterly against his fate, demanding an audience with God, "let me speak, and answer thou me," (Job 13:22).

David's Plague

David's departs from God's chosen path on other occasions. First Chronicles relates another incident in which David demands a census be taken, which is against God's commandment to Israel, and against the advice of his advisors (1 Chronicles 21:1-4). Punishment is levied quickly. "And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel," (1 Chronicles 21:7). As in the first example, when confronted by God, David confesses his sin and accepts full responsibility. "And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly," (1 Chronicles 21:8).

God sends punishment in the form of a plague. "David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued" (1 Chronicles 21:16-17).

David has a heart wide open to God... to recognize his guilt, to repent of it, and to take full responsibility for it. If David's righteousness where the important factor here, many of us would compare well against David's adultery, murder, disobedience, and lies. But, who among us is as quick to recognize our own guilt, and to pray with total earnest for those injured by our iniquity. Who among us is as quick to step before the burning sword of God with honest contrition.

Exodus 21:5-6 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.

Boring a Hole

Mosaic Law provides a way of paying for a debt by selling yourself into slavery, but places a strict limitation of six years to such bond-slavery, on the seventh years the slave must be set free (Exodus 21:2). If the master has given the slave a wife, he cannot take that wife or any children born to them when he leaves servitude. In that case, the slave may prefer to remain in bondage permanently. A covenant made by the slave and his master to this effect is signified by boring the ear through with an awl (i.e. piercing the man's ear lobe).

When a person is knighted he kneels before the king who places his sword on both shoulders. This act of fealty exposes the neck at the jugular vein to the king. In a society where the king's desire is law, this requires faith in the king. In our life of faith, we must be that vulnerable to the Lord of Lords. If we refuse to bend the knee or bow the head, the king's choice is crush us completely or to force us to our knees. "And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder," (Matthew 22:44; Luke 20:18).

Saul: Rebel to Bond-Slave

Saul of Tarsus, traveling on the road to Damascus was struck to the ground by a vision of great light. Saul, as we know, was a proud Pharisee and Roman military officer, and he was going to Damascus with a commission from the chief priests to bring Christians back to Jerusalem in chains, (Acts 26:12). Saul was a man on a mission. He stood in approval at the stoning of Stephen, (Acts 7:58). He made havoc of the early church, breaking into Christian homes and dragging off men and women to prison and condemning them to death, (Acts 8:3 & 22:3-4).

Jesus, appearing in a blinding light, stops Saul and his party of soldiers just outside of the town. "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" (Acts 26:14 & 9:4-5). Jesus has come to confront Saul directly, but notice he implies that this is not the first time to try to turn Saul from his way. The word "kick" here is "laktizo" in the Greek from the adverb "lax", meaning heelwise. The implication is of recalcitrance, stubborn refusal, or turning one's back (heel). "Pricks" in the original Greek is "kentron", which is a sting or goad. This implies that God has already been forcefully confronting Saul but that Saul has been stubbornly refusing to recognize and obey the call. This time it is different.

"I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision," (removing the double negative: 'I obeyed'), Saul, now called Paul, tells King Agrippa (Acts 26:19). Paul has come to Jerusalem, now many years later, still in the steadfast service of Jesus Christ, already having suffered greatly for the cause of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:25), knowing that great danger awaited him there, (Acts 20:23, and 21:4 & 9-12), but "bound in the spirit", (Acts 20:22). Paul is obedient to the Holy Spirit, whether it brings him imprisonment or death, (Acts 21:13).

Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord, but Saul actively and stubbornly struck the people of God. When stopped at the point of the sword of Jesus Christ, for I do believe it was a life or death choice and that Saul would not have been permitted to continue his persecution, Saul became Paul, a bond-slave to Jesus. When he was tried in the fire, he offered his ear against the door post, that it might be bored through by the Holy Spirit. Paul continued steadfastly in all things obedient to the Holy Spirit, even to his death.

Zechariah 13:7-9: Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith Jehovah of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered; and I will turn my hand upon the little ones. And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith Jehovah, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part into the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried. They shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, Jehovah is my God. (NAS)

A Lamb for the Slaughter

My sin cannot be cleaned away with a simple I'm sorry. I am no mass murderer or serial rapist. But sin clings like a stain, a tattoo that cannot be washed away. There are things in my life that can be pointed too. They are visible to all. But much sin is hidden in the recesses of the heart. Gloating, arrogance, rebellion against God, parents, other authorities, vain or perverse philosophies, the list is endless. We must be clear about this: God HATES sin.

In My Flesh Dwells No Good Thing

God is merciful and just and quick to forgive. Paul who masterfully reveals the nature of sin in his letter to the Romans, and who excoriates the bretheren that those released from the burden of sin must not sin, (chapter 6), goes on to explain how thoroughly sin fills us: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do," (Romans 7:18-19). This creates a paradox. On one hand I must not sin, on the other I cannot help but sin.

God has provided a solution. As Paul continues, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," (Romans 8:2-4). "The law of the Spirit of Life" has been given to us by Jesus Christ to free us from the "law of sin and death". Notice that in this instance he is not talking about the guilt of sin, but the actual law of sin. If we are free of the law of gravity, we are freed of bondage to the earth. Being free of the law of sin is being free of the compulsions placed on us by the law of sin, free of sin. This happens by attaching ourselves to the higher law, the law of the Spirit of Life. The attachment is accomplished by walking after the Spirit. The clear implication is that if we chose to walk after the flesh, we will continue to be subject to the law of sin.

The Task That Jesus Feared

For the purposes of this discussion, we are concerned with how God defeated the law of sin and death. "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh," (Romans 8:3). Jesus came in the flesh, with the likeness of sinful flesh. He was subject to all the desires and temptations that lead us astray. Jesus rose above sin, never becoming subject to sin, he was without spot or blemish. He rebuked the devil, continually casting out the works of darkness. Finally an event so loathsome to Jesus that he had to "steadfastly set his face to go," (Luke 9:51), called him to Jerusalem. When Peter suggested there was no need to go, Jesus turned to Peter and rebuked Satan (Matthew 16:23 & Mark 8:33). Satan clearly knew that Jesus trembled before this final task. Finally, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus calls Peter, James and John to pray with him. "And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, 'Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done'. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground," (Luke 22:41-44; also: Matthew 26:39 & Mark 14:36).

To this day, it is impossible for us to understand what Jesus was facing. Jesus, who was one with the Father, able to call upon him at any moment faced a profound change. The thought that the humanity in him feared death seems totally dismissive of Jesus. Many lesser men have faced death for lesser causes without agony. Jesus was sweating blood. He was about to be separated from the Father and to be offered up to His wrath. Jesus did not fear death, he feared separation from God the Father, and he feared the wrath of God the Father. "And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?' which is, being interpreted, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'" (Mark 15:34). Jesus understood what was happening, and what was to happen: the moment the Father withdrew his love from him, his soul was attacked without mercy. Logic and reason could not truly prepare him for this event. I can only glimpse this event by working backwards from those brief moments in my life when the presence of God was thick around me. Knowing that feeling, and assuming it to be but a small portion of what Jesus knew continually, and knowing how my life has been profoundly marked by those encounters, I reason that the shock of losing the intimate presence of God the Father at the moment of crucifixion would kill the strongest man.

Wrath Poured Out

The Father did not turn away from the Son with indifference. Jesus now stood in the place of sin. "It pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin," (Isaiah 53:10). Because you and I can not bear our just punishment, and therefore stand without hope of redemption before God, Jesus stood before the Father's wrath in the place of you and I. God Hates sin. "It pleased the LORD to bruise him," (Isaiah 53:10). Sufficient offering without spot or blemish was made to quell the wrath of God and to open the gates of Heaven.

Matthew 10:34: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The Dividing of Soul and Spirit

Jesus open the gates of heaven, and made the Holy Spirit available to us all. By putting our lives in his hands we become inheritors of all that he has done. Unfortunately, turning to Jesus is only the beginning (salvation) of what is usually a lengthy process(justification, sanctification, and glorification). I like to remind believers that the works of the New Testament were written for the sake of believers. Turning to Christ is the beginning, not the end. Our growth as Christians depends on our understanding of the Word and our diligent practice of it. "He [Jesus] became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him," (Hebrews 5:9)

Jesus Does the Dirty Work

In my own strength, I cannot cleanse myself from sin. By diligent prayer, study, and by placing myself under anointed authority, I become aware of those faults in me which grieve the Lord. I must repent of my sin, and turn to the Lord for cleansing. It is not advisable to constantly dig for sin. The Holy Spirit will show you in due time. Undue focus on personal sin causes a person to become self-focused.

Constant self-focus traps a person in the soul, often referred to as "soulishness". Walking after the Spirit requires one to rise above the body (desires or cravings of the flesh) and the soul (mind, emotions and will and all that comes from them) to the level of the spirit. To stay in the Spirit: "Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks," (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). "Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land," (Psalm 37:34).

Those sins which the Lord has put His finger on, opening your eyes to, repent of them and ask the Lord to cleanse you. When the tempter comes again, immediately run to the Lord. "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you," (James 4:7). When I run to the Lord immediately, the devil flees. When I linger, my resistance crumbles and I must repent again.

In practice, the temptation to a particular sin will diminish and disappear with firm and constant resistance, for the Holy Spirit intervenes at our request to give us strength. The devil will have to use more subtle temptations. The Holy Spirit will reveal them as well. With each victory, our sanctification increases, glory to glory, until we are ready and able to stand before the throne of glory, cleansed, purified and dressed in a spotless garment to the praise of God. This is Glorification.

"He who stands firm to the end will be saved," (Matthew 24:13).

*All Bible quotes are from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated.

Wm W Wells: August 12, 2001

Copyright © 2001-2002 Wm W Wells. May be copied freely without alteration.