Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul to the saints which were at Rome, and more specifically, is found in verses nineteen through twenty-nine. That which we find and that which we read in this particular passage must in all reality begin in previous verses beginning with the fourteenth verse. When seeking to understand Scripture it’s absolutely necessary and imperative that we do so in context—that which comes before a particular passage and that which comes after a particular passage. Consider the words and language that is found in this particular chapter beginning with the fourteenth verse: “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid? For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willet, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath He mercy. On whom He will have mercy, and whom he will He Hardenbergh. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repiliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lumps to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power kn own, endured with mush longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:14-24).
Taking a step back and seeking to examine one’s specific role, purpose and function before a living God, it is necessary to turn and direct our attention to the first epistle of the apostle Paul to the saints which were at Corinth—specifically the twelfth chapter of this particular epistle. If you begin reading with the twelfth verse of this particular chapter you will read—not merely of roles, of purpose, and function, but also of placement. The twelfth chapter of the epistle of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth not only describes the various gifts that were given unto the body for the purpose of the body, but also the members of the body for the purpose of the body. As we attempt to read this particular passage it is necessary that we not only recognize and understand the placement of the gifts within the body, but also the placement of the members within the body. Within the first eleven verses of this particular chapter we find the apostle Paul describing the placement of the gifts within the body of Christ for the sole purpose of the benefit of the entire body of Christ. Beginning with the first verse we find and read these words: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given Bey the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to a nother the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will” (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).
Within these eleven verses we not only discover the reality that the gifts of the Spirit are indeed and are in fact given by the Spirit, but we are also confronted with the absolutely incredible reality and concept that there is absolutely nothing we can do to dictate and determine the giving of these gifts. There is absolutely no amount of control we can exercise over and upon these gifts, nor is there anything we can do manipulate these gifts. Two very distinct and powerful realities that are found within this passage of Scripture are that the gifts of the Spirit “are given to every man to profit withal” and that “all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will.” In essence and in other words, the purpose of the release of and the manifestation of the gifts bestowed unto the body of Christ are for the purpose and benefit of the body, and are given by the Spirit as He wills and pleases. Perhaps one of the single greatest questions I find myself asking when sitting here and reading this passage of Scripture is how much stock and emphasis we place on the divine pleasure of the Lord of hosts. How much stock do we actually place on the divine pleasures of the triune Godhead, and how much emphasis do we place on that which brings great delight to the heart and soul of the Lord? When was the last time we stopped and took a minute to ask ourselves what would make the Lord happy and what would bring the Lord great joy? It is incredibly easy to spend our days focusing on that which brings great pleasure and delight unto us and within our hearts and souls, and yet we never take the opportunity to devote ourselves to bringing great pleasure to the heart and soul of the living God. As I read this particular passage of Scripture I can’t help but notice the divine plan and purpose of the living God, and how the living God does as He wills when He wills and how He wills. There is absolutely nothing we can do to stand in the way of the will of the Father, for the will of the Father can and will be accomplished whether we want to accept it or not. When reading this passage of Scripture we not only discover the reality that the gifts are given for the benefit and the purpose of the body, but they are also given by and according to the divine will of the divine and Holy Spirit of Almighty God.
Whereas the first eleven verses describe the giving of the gifts of the Spirit unto the body of Christ for the express purpose and benefit of the body, the next set of verses goes on to describe—not the gifts of the Spirit given unto the body of Christ, but the actual members of the body which were given unto the body for the body. Beginning with the twelfth verse of this same chapter we find the apostle Paul going on to write these words concerning the giving of the members of the body unto, and for, and within the body of Christ: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by. One Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, ZBecause I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smellling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
AS HE WILL! AS IT HATH PLEASED HIM! Please pay careful and close attention to each of these expressions and phrases within this particular chapter, for within these two expressions we find that when seeking to understand the gifts of the body, as well as the members of the body, both were given as and according to the divine will of the Father, and as it pleased the Father. In other words, not only do we encounter and come face to face with the divine will of the Father, but we also come face to face with the divine pleasure of the Father. In all reality, it’s absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that both the divine will and the divine pleasure of the Father are intrinsically connected and joined to each other. We cannot, we dare not, we must not make any attempt to separate or distinguish the divine will of the Father from the divine pleasure of the Father, for both His will and His pleasure work in direct relation and conjunction with each other. If there is one thing we must come to terms with when reading this particular passage, it’s that there is absolutely no contending with the divine will or the divine pleasure of the Father in heaven. When writing of the gifts of the Spirit being given unto the body, as well as the members of the body being given unto the body, both were centered upon the divine will of the Father, and both were given according to the divine pleasure of the Father. As it pertains to both the gifts of the body, as well as the members of the body, it is necessary that we understand that the gifts weren’t given for one specific individual or one specific member of the body. There would be those who would attempt to believe that the gifts of the Spirit are somehow for the benefit of the individual unto whom the gift was given, as if it was somehow something to boast about. The truth of the matter, however, is that if you have been given one or more gifts of the Spirit, it has absolutely nothing to do with you, and it isn’t about you—at all. This same reality also hold true when it pertains to the members of the body of Christ, for each of the members of the body were not given for the individual member itself, but for the benefit of the body. Did you know that just as the gifts were given unto the body for the benefit of the body, so also were you given unto the body for the purpose and benefit of the body?
If you continue reading in the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the saints which were at Rome you will find this very same reality expressed once more. In the twelfth chapter—beginning with the first verse—we read these words written by the apostle concerning the members of the body and the benefit of the body. Consider if you will the words which are written by the apostle Paul beginning with the first verse of this passage: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, w high is your reasonable service. And be no conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. For I say, through the graces given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in Prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou s halt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:1-21).
When reading the ninth chapter of the epistle of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome, we are confronted with the divine will and the divine pleasure of the Father of lights who sits enthroned in heaven. In the fifteenth verse of this particular chapter we find the apostle Paul referencing the words which the Lord spoke unto Moses when He declared unto him, saying, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Focus your attention on the words which the apostle Paul referenced within this verse, for within this verse we discover something absolutely incredible concerning the living God—not only is the Lord of hosts not tame, but neither can we put the Lord in a box of our own creation and expect Him to remain there. I am reminded of the closing scene of the C.S. Lewis classic “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Towards the end of the movie we find Lucy watching as Aslan the lion makes his way away from the castle atop the mountain and away from the procession that was taking place inside. As Lucy watches Aslan make his way away from the castle she is approached by the faun Mr. Tumnus, and the two have an absolutely incredibly dialogue. Found within this dialogue is Mr. Tumnus’ statement concerning Aslant when he declared of him “After all, he is not a tame lion”—a statement to which Lucy responds by stating, “No, but he is good.” I can’t help but be reminded of this particular scene within the movie because if you know anything about C.S. Lewis’ series The Chronicles of Narnia, you will find that Aslan is a picture, a shadow and a type of Jesus the Christ. In all reality, when the faun Mr. Tumnus makes the declaration concerning Aslan that he is not a tame lion, we must understand it as a statement concerning a different Lion—the lion of the tribe of Judah—and how this particular lion is not, and has never been tame. Within and throughout human history there has never been anyone who ever been able to tame the lion of the tribe of Judah. Oh try and try as men may there has never ever been anyone who has been able to tame the lion of the tribe of Judah. There have been men and there have been woman who have attempted to tame this Lion, and yet they have found themselves striving against and resisting the very will of the triune Godhead which dwells within and inhabits eternity.
The more I read the words of the apostle Paul in this passage of Scripture, the more I can’t help but get the strong sense that the apostle Paul believed within the very depths and core of his being that there was absolutely no way of taming the lion of the tribe of Judah. I am reminded of the encounter the apostle Paul had while traveling on the road to Damascus, and how when he was brought low before Jesus the Christ, the Lord Himself spoke to Paul about kicking against the goads—in other words, fighting, striving against, and contending with the will of the Lord. There is not a doubt in my mind the apostle Paul believed there was absolutely nothing anyone could do to tame the lion of the tribe of Judah—regardless of and despite how many men and women have made attempts to do so. There is a passage found in the Old Testament book of the Psalms which I believe perfectly and accurately describes this very reality, as men make every attempt to strive against and resist the will, the purpose, the pleasure, and the counsel of the triune Godhead. In the second chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms we read and find these words believed to have been written by David:
“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him” (Psalm 2:1-12).
I have long been fascinated by this particular passage of Scripture, for within it we find heathen, we find people, we find the kings of the earth, and the rulers of the earth all engaging in acts toward and against the authority and the dominion of the Lord of hosts. Perhaps the best way to understand and fully express this reality is to present two distinct passages that are found within the final book of the New Testament—the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. If you direct your attention to the final set of verses within the nineteenth chapter of this prophetic book you will find one of the final attempts to usurp the authority, the dominion, the government and the reign of the Lord. Beginning with the seventeenth verse of this chapter we read these words: “And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of Him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of His mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh” (Revelation 19:17-21). Within this particular passage of Scripture we find the kings of the earth aligning themselves with the beast and the false prophet in a futile and furious attempt to make war with and make war against the One who sat upon the horse, and against His army. There is one fundamental truth and reality that we find within this particular passage—a reality that has been expressed since the beginning of time.
As you read this passage you will find the kings of the earth along with their armies attempting to mount a coup against the Rider on the white horse, and against His army. What’s worth noting and pointing out concerning their attempt to mount this coup against the Rider on the horse is that they didn’t attempt or engage in such an activity alone of by themselves. If you read this text carefully you will find that the kings of the earth along with their armies attempted to engage the One who was seated upon the horse with the beast as well as the false prophet. It’s absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this concept, for if we and whenever we make any attempt to make war against or war with the One who is seated upon the throne, or against the One who is seated at the right hand of the Father, we never do so alone or independent. I am completely and totally convinced that any time we attempt to mount such a rebellion against the authority, the dominion, the government, and the power of the One who is seated upon the throne, and against the One who is seated at the right hand, we do so after bringing ourselves into alignment with the spirit of the antichrist and the spirit of the dragon. There has never and there will never be any insurrection, any rebellion, and coup, any attempt to mount an assault against the authority, the dominion and the government of heaven without and apart from the influence of the spirit of the antichrist, as well as the spirit of the dragon. In all reality, this has been something that has been present since before the foundations of the world were laid as Lucifer mounted a rebellion against the throne of God in heaven when he led a third of the angels against the authority of the living God. It’s actually worth noting that earlier on in the same prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ we find a separate engagement of war initiated and led by the dragon himself. In the twelfth chapter of this prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ we read these words of an insurrection and war the dragon led against Michael and his angels:
“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found Amy more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame Him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Revelation 12:7-12).
There are essentially three distinct engagements of warfare and battle that are recorded for us in the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The first is found in the twelfth chapter when Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. The dragon and his angels could not prevail against Michael and his angels, and was cast forth out of heaven down to the earth. The second battle found within this passage of Scripture is found in the nineteenth chapter when the beast and the false prophet lead the kings of the earth along with their armies against the Rider on the white horse and against His army. The third and final battle is found in the twentieth chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus and is actually one that is led by the dragon himself. What’s interesting and worth noting about this final battle is that while it was led by the dragon himself, it was led after the dragon had already been bound, cast down into the bottomless pit, and sealed with a great seal. This final battle which would take place upon the earth would be one that would take place after the dragon was loosed from the bottomless pit, and released from the chain that bound him for one thousand years. Isn’t it rather interesting that the dragon would think he could actually mount a successful assault and attack against the living God and against His anointed after having already been defeated by Michael and his angels and cast down to the earth, and having been bound, cast down into the bottomless pit, and sealed for one thousand years? What is the first thing the dragon does once he’s released from the prison of the bottomless pit? Scripture records how immediately after the dragon is released from this prison, he attempts to lead a great army against the holy city, against the saints of God, and against the Lamb who was present among them: “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the believed city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceive them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:7-10).
When I read the words of the apostle Paul in this particular passage of Scripture I can’t help but read them as a powerful example of those who would seek to strive against and resist the divine will, plan and purpose of the living God. Within the nineteenth and twentieth verses of this chapter we not only find the apostle Paul speaking of those who would resist the will of the Lord, but also those who would reply against God. The question I can’t help but find myself asking when reading this passage of Scripture is what reply or what replies we have attempted to craft and formulate against the living God within our own hearts and minds. There are specific examples of insurrections against the dominion, the government and the authority of God within Scripture, and when I read these words recorded by the apostle Paul, I can’t help but be struck by the reality of those who would seek to resist the will, and perhaps even the divine pleasure of Almighty God. I am reminded of the words which the prophet Isaiah wrote in the fortieth chapter of the prophetic book which bears his name: “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighted the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being His counsellers hath taught him? With whom took He counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the insoles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beast thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity” (Isaiah 40:12-17). If you continue on in this chapter you will find these words written by the same Hebrew prophet: “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? Saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by name by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heart, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faintest not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength” (Isaiah 40:25-29).