oday’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul unto the churches which are within Galatia. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses fifteen through twenty-two of the third chapter. What we find and what we read in verses fifteen through twenty-two of the third chapter is but a continuation of what we read and what we find in verses one through fourteen of this chapter. As this third chapter opens up and begins it does with the apostle Paul asking what is undoubtedly and incredibly unique question—one which strikes at the very heart of an encounter we find in the Old Testament in the life of Saul who was anointed as king over Israel. When Saul refused to utterly destroy that which the Lord had instructed him to according to the word which came from the mouth of Samuel the prophet it was declared unto him that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness was as the sin of idolatry and iniquity. Within this particular chapter—not only do we find Saul refusing to utterly destroy that which the Lord instructed him to, but we also find the comparison between rebellion and witchcraft. It’s worth noting and recognizing that through the mouth of Samuel rebellion would be compared to something as severe as witchcraft. One can’t help but wonder if the apostle Paul had this Old Testament account of another man who bore his natural name given at birth in his mind when he wrote these words. When the apostle Paul asked the Galatians who did bewitch them that they should not obey the truth, is it possible that he was looking back to another individual who himself was bewitched by and through rebellion within his life? It’s interesting and worth noting that within this passage we not only find the concept of witchcraft, but we also find the reality and concept of obedience, for the apostle Paul asked the churches of Galatia who did in fact bewitch them that they should not obey the truth. I am utterly and completely convinced there is a powerful connection between our willingness to obey the truth that is contained within the word of God, as well as within the words of Christ and rebellion to that truth which can only be described as witchcraft.
In order to recognize and understand that which the apostle Paul wrote in verses fifteen through twenty-two of the third chapter we must examine that which preceded and came before it. In the first verse the apostle Paul asked the churches who did bewitch them that they should not obey the truth, while immediately he transitions to a secondary question—namely, whether or not they received the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith. If we are to properly understand that which the apostle Paul wrote in the second verse of this chapter it’s necessary that we first understand the manifestation of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, as well as certain instances found within the book of Acts that describe the receiving of the Spirit by Gentiles who never knew the Law of Moses, and therefore could not receive that Spirit by a law they had never adhered to or obeyed. Consider if you will the words which the beloved physician Luke records for us in the second chapter of the book of Acts concerning the day of Pentecost: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in. Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Ptonus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytism, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:1-11).
On the day of Pentecost the Spirit was released within and upon the earth, and completely filled the entire upper room where the disciples and the rest of the one-hundred and twenty who were gathered together were praying. Right from the day of Pentecost as Luke records it for us in the second chapter of the New Testament gospel of Acts we find and discover that there was absolutely no connection to the law of Moses in the receiving of the Spirit. There is absolutely nothing found within the second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts that suggests the one-hundred and twenty that were present in that room received the Spirit by works of the law. In fact, if you carefully consider the last words those who were found in the upper room heard Jesus speak in the first chapter of the same New Testament book, you will find the only instruction our Lord gave them to receive the promise of the Spirit: “…but wait for the promise of the Father, which saith He, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 2:4-5). Only a few verses later—after Luke presents us with those who had come together prior to Jesus’ departed—we find them asking of Jesus whether or not He would at that time restore again the kingdom of Israel. In direct response to this question which was asked by those who had gathered together Jesus spoke and declared the following words: “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 2:7-8). These words directly build upon the words which Luke recorded our Lord speaking unto those who were present prior to His departure and ascension to the right hand of His Father in heaven: Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:46-49).
If you read the final words which Luke records Jesus speaking within this first treatise to Theophilus you will find that directly connected to the receiving of the Spirit was the preaching of repentance and remission of sins, the witness of those things which they heard and saw during the three and a half years Jesus walked and talked among them, and their waiting and tarrying in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. There is absolutely no mention of the works of the law of Moses mentioned in Jesus’ words which He spoke unto His disciples and followers prior to His departure and ascension into heaven. Even in the words of John the Baptist which he spoke concerning the baptism of water and the baptism of fire there is no mention of the works of the law. Consider the words which John the Baptist spoke: “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost” (John 1:32-33). In the third chapter of the New Testament gospel according to Matthew we find additional commentary written concerning John the Baptist and the words which he spoke concerning the baptism and receiving of the Spirit: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11-12). IT is quite evident and obvious from the preaching of John the Baptist that while he did indeed baptize with water unto repentance for the remission of sins, there was coming one mightier than he would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Even in the message which John the Baptist preached in the wilderness of Judaea, as well as at the waters of the Jordan River there is absolutely not mention of receiving the Spirit of the Father by the works of the law. John the Baptist only and simply declared that there would come one after him who was mightier than he would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire, thus alluding to Jesus the Christ who would release the promise of the Father in heaven—namely, the Holy Spirit.
It’s worth noting the connection between the release of the Spirit and the prophetic ministry and message of John the Baptist, for when we come to the New Testament book of Acts we find the apostle Paul coming to the city of Ephesus. In fact, if you journey to the nineteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the apostle Paul passing through the upper coasts and coming to the city of Ephesus and finding certain disciples there in that place. Consider the words and language which is written and recorded in the nineteenth chapter of the book of Acts concerning the encounter the apostle Paul had with the disciples of Jesus there in the city of Ephesus: “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him which should come after Him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve” (Acts 19:1-7). This particular passage found within the nineteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is quite astounding and interesting, for within this particular passage we find the apostle Paul directly connecting the ministry of John the Baptist with the release of the Spirit. When the apostle Paul came to the city of Ephesus he found there twelve disciples—disciples whom he asked whether or not they had received the Holy Spirit. Those twelve disciples which the apostle Paul found within the city of Ephesus hadn’t so much heard that there was a Holy Ghost since they believed.
TWO BAPTISMS: ONE OF WATER AND ONE OF THE SPIRIT! Within the account of the apostle Paul and these twelve disciples in the city of Ephesus we discover and encounter one of the greatest truths centered upon the gospel of Jesus Christ—namely, the fundamental difference that there is indeed a baptism of water, and there is a baptism of the Spirit. There is a baptism of water, yet there is also a baptism of fire. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord spoke unto Nicodeums when he came to Him by night to take and learn from him: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, 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. Marvel. Not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again, The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8). When speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus emphatically and expressly declares that until one is born of water and of the Spirit, that one cannot enter into the kingdom of God. It is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to what we find and what we read in these verses, for within these verses we see a clear distinction between being baptized with water (John’s baptism) and being baptized with the Spirit (Jesus’ baptism). Within these words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto Nicodemus we not only encounter a birth that comes of water, but also a birth that comes from the Spirit. It is imperative that we recognize the tremendous reality that there is a baptism of water, and there is also a baptism of fire—one that brings cleansing and another that brings sanctification. This reality is seen even in the earth itself, for there was one occasion when the earth was baptized in and with water in order that all wickedness might be destroyed from the midst thereof. When you come to the New Testament, however, you will find that there is another baptism that will come upon the earth, yet it is not a baptism of water that was seen during Noah’s day, but a baptism of fire similar to what was seen during Lot’s day. [As a side note it is imperative that we recognize that in the Last Days we see the days of Noah and the days of Lot collide and converge, for within the Last Days we see the same judgment the Lord unleashed upon the earth during the days of Noah in terms of scope and magnitude being unleashed upon the earth, yet after the manner as that which took place during the days of Lot].
When we come to the nineteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find the apostle Paul discovering that these twelve disciples whom he encountered did in fact believe, yet they had not so much heard that there was a person of the Holy Spirit. When asked what baptism they received and were baptized into these twelve disciples responded by professing that they were baptized unto John’s baptism which was a baptism of water unto repentance for the remission of sins. The apostle Paul would go on to declare unto these disciples that John’s baptism was essentially a first work and a first grace that readied and prepared a people to receive and encounter a second baptism—one not of water, but of fire. There was a first baptism which was a baptism unto repentance for the remission of sins, but there was a secondary baptism that would be a baptism of the Spirit and fire unto sanctification and empowerment. Luke records that when these disciples heard the apostle Paul speak to them concerning Jesus Christ and the baptism of the Spirit and fire, they were baptized into the name of Jesus. Immediacy after they were baptized into the name of Jesus the apostle Paul places his hands upon them, prays for them, and they immediately receive the Spirit with the evidence and manifestation of speaking in tongues. These disciples had already been readied and prepared for this second work and this second grace by believing and being baptized into John’s baptism, which was one of water. The only thing that was missing, and the only thing that was necessary for these disciples to receive the Holy Spirit was being baptized into the name of Jesus Christ, which took place when the apostle Paul spoke unto them concerning Jesus and His baptism of the Spirit and of fire. There is within this particular passage a powerful revelation that it is the first baptism—the baptism of water (John’s baptism), which is the preceding work prior to the baptism of the Spirit and fire, which is the baptism of Jesus. It is both necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that if we wish to enter into the kingdom of God—at least according to the words which Jesus spoke unto Nicodemus—it is necessary that we are born both of the water, as well as born of the Spirit.
In the tenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find another account of Gentiles—those who were without and apart from the Law of Moses—receiving the promise of the Father, which was the person of the Holy Spirit. It is in this particular chapter we find the apostle Peter entering into the house of Cornelius and expounding unto both he and his entire household concerning Jesus the Christ. Consider if you will the account as it unfolds in the tenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts: “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (He is Lord of all) that word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed Him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is He which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:34-43). With these words we find the gospel message of Jesus the Christ being preached unto Cornelius and all his household. Within these ten verses we find the apostle Peter preaching unto Gentiles the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ after the Lord not only appeared to Cornelius, but also unto the apostle Peter as well. What we read next not only confirms that which we read in the nineteenth chapter of the same New Testament book, but also is in direct alignment with the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches of Galatia. Beginning with the forty-fourth verse we find the following words concerning this encounter with Peter and the entire household of Cornelius:
“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days” (Acts 10-:44-48).
Consider also the words which Luke records when the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God: “And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house: and he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto. Life” (Acts 10:11-18).
It is important for us to recognize and understand the events surrounding Peter at Cornelius’ house, as well as the apostle Paul at Ephesus, for in both occasions we find the Holy Ghost being released upon and received by Gentiles—those who had absolutely no works according to the law to even stand upon. There is absolutely no indication that either Cornelius or his household had given themselves to obedience of the Law of Moses, but only that they believed in Jesus who is the Christ. When the apostle Peter yet spake unto Cornelius and his household the Spirit was released and poured out upon that entire household, and they began speaking in tongues. When the apostle Peter laid his hands upon the disciples which were at Ephesus the Holy Spirit again came upon them, thus signifying the Spirit would be received by those without and apart from the law. It is no wonder the apostle Paul asked the Galatian churches if they received the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith. I am convinced this question was more of a statement than anything else, for the apostle Paul was declaring unto them that when they received the Spirit, they did so by the hearing of faith rather than the works of the law—just like Cornelius and his household did, and just like the Ephesians did. With this question the apostle Paul brings us face to face with the reality that the churches in Galatia had in fact received the Spirit as had the disciples in the city of Ephesus, Cornelius and his household, and a mass number of Gentiles during those days. What we must recognize when reading the words of the apostle Paul which were written unto the churches in Galatia is that they had begun in the Spirit, and yet had somehow transitioned away from that place of faith to that place of works, and from that place of the Spirit to the place of the flesh. TRADING THE SPIRIT FOR THE FLESH! TRADING FAITH FOR THE WORKS OF THE LAW! The apostle Paul begins this chapter by speaking of the Galatians as being foolish, and then asks them if they themselves are so foolish that they would begin in the Spirit and would now seek to be made perfect by the flesh? What’s more, is the apostle Paul goes on to ask them if they suffered so many things in vain—if it be yet in vain. Immediately after this series of questions the apostle Paul transitions to the life and account of Abraham in order to demonstrate this reality.
Immediately after this series of questions the apostle Paul appeals to the example and account of Abraham in that even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness, so we therefore which are those of faith are the children of Abraham. The apostle Paul goes on the declare that the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached the gospel unto Abraham declaring unto him that in him would all the nations would be blessed. Within the life of Abraham we see a man of tremendous faith who believed the word of God and took it at face value. If you study the life of Abraham you will quickly discover that he was a man of tremendous faith as he traveled in a land that was completely unfamiliar him as a man both of the tent, as well as the altar. I remember preaching a sermon on the life of Abraham, and how Abraham was both a man of the tent as well as the altar. Abraham’s faith was displayed in his willingness to live as a man of the ten in a strange and foreign land, for the tent represented that he was a sojourner in a land that was to be the inheritance of his seed and offspring. What I absolutely love about Abraham being a man of the tent is that he was never tied down to any one particular place within the land of Canaan. If you study and examine the life of Abraham you will notice that he could pick up and move himself, his wife, and his household at any given point in time. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand concerning the life of Abraham, it’s that there is a tremendous need for the saints of God to be sojourners in this world—pilgrims of this world who are not tied down to any single place, but can go wherever the Spirit leads and moves them. One of the greatest questions we must ask ourselves is whether or not we have so tied ourselves down to a particular place or location that we are completely unable to be led wherever the Spirit would lead us. How many of us could truly pick up tomorrow and go wherever the Spirit would lead and call us? How many of us are men and women of the tent and could move from one place to another whenever the Spirit leads us?
I am firmly convinced that in these Last Days there is a great need for us to untangle ourselves from that which holds us down and keeps us bound to any specific place within the earth. I am convinced that there is a great and tremendous need for us to do everything in our power to free ourselves from that which would keep us shackled, chained and bound to any specific place. In all reality, I am convinced that this is one of the single greatest benefits of Jesus’ words concerning selling everything we have and giving to the poor, for only when we have nothing can we truly follow Him wherever He would go. How many of us are so entrenched and so entangled in stuff and unnecessary things that it is actually hindering our ability to follow Jesus the way we have been called to? How many of us have great need to rid ourselves of all those things, and all that stuff that not only clutters our lives, but also keeps us bound to the here and the now? I recognize and understand that this isn’t found in this third chapter of the epistle to the Galatian churches, but I believe this is what the Lord demands and requires in this last day. We know we have been called to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow after Jesus, but it is this concept of selling all we have and giving to the poor that is truly worth consideration in these Last Days. I can’t help but feel a strong and powerful urge to begin to disentangle myself from all the stuff I have, and to remove myself from being so entangled in, with and by the things of this world in order that I can truly follow Jesus the way I was born and created to. The reason it was so difficult for this rich man to adhere to the words of Jesus is because he had so much, and selling everything he had would not only require a great amount of time, effort and work, but it would also leave him with nothing. Oh, are we willing to be left with nothing in order that we might be able to follow Jesus? Are we willing to sell everything we have and disentangle ourselves from the things of the world and stuff in order that we might be free—truly free—to follow Jesus the way we were called and created to?
Abraham was a man of the tent which meant that he could journey anywhere the voice and word of the Lord called and instructed him to. I know for a fact that there is much within my life that is keeping and has kept me shackled and chained to this world, and has tremendous impacted my walk with the Lord. I can identify with the rich young ruler because I know that I have spent a lot of time accumulating and amassing stuff and things in this life, and it has actually hindered my walk and relationship with the Lord. I was speaking to someone the other day about living for experiences rather than things within my life, and sacrificing buying things in order that I might be able to gain experiences, but even that statement was jaded and skewed. That which I need within my life is not merely to sacrifice those things which I have, and the accumulating of new things in order that I might engage in experiences that satisfy my senses, emotions, desires and pleasures, but to follow and serve the Lord the way I was created and intended. I am sitting here right now and I am absolutely and utterly convinced that I need to thoroughly engage myself in the apartment I live in and to begin releasing myself and disentangling myself from all the stuff and all the things I have accumulated throughout the years in order that I might truly follow Jesus the way I was created and intended to. The question I must ask you is whether or not you are willing to join me on this journey in order that we might not only be a people of the tent, but also a people of the altar—a people of prayer and worship before the living God of heaven and earth.