Who are you? Who did God design you to be? If you were created in the image of God, what does that really mean? What purpose does a human being ultimately have? Are there many purposes or just one? How can someone understand God’s specific will for their lives using a collection of writings dating back approximately over 3400 years (based on 1Kings 6:1) covering over nearly 6000 years of human history (including foretold events that occurred in the 20th century)? Regardless of a person’s faith or worldview, the Bible – Holy Scripture – holds the answers to all of these questions specifically because it is the Word of God. The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12 NKJV.
Over the years I have heard both believers and unbelievers comment on “contradictions” in the Bible; yet, I have come to the conclusion that there aren’t any contradictions – only opportunities to dig deeper to either find answers that are truly scriptural gems or to realize the greatness of our God who is not limited to the dimensions of human existence such as time and space nor our understanding. Take the concepts of predestination, the Trinity, spiritual gifts and callings, individual purpose, love versus hatred, and many other subjects that sometimes cause Bible-believing individuals to be challenged in finding the unity that Christ prayed for His followers to have.
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. – John 17:20-21 NKJV
Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32 NLT. This tells me the application of Jesus’ teachings (His Word) will cause the believer live free by knowing the truth.
Prior to the availability of documented Scripture and broad literacy, Scripture was made available to others orally. In the book of Romans (1:19-21), Scripture explains that even without oral or written guidance, what may be known of God has been made obvious to everyone because He has made His invisible qualities (including His eternal power and divine nature) known through everything He made. Every human being intrinsically has an awareness of God because He has made it obvious to them. Yet although human beings sense God exists, many refuse to acknowledge God as creator so people conceived foolish ideas of what God is like using their own wisdom.
God further displayed kindness and grace to His creation by ensuring Scripture was made available to reach people as the world’s population grew. The disciples and apostles peached Jesus’ words which never contradicted Scripture; rather Jesus explained Scripture from the heart of the the Father. “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. – Matthew 5:17 NLT.
While well-studied, Spirit-filled teachers who are gifted by the LORD are necessary and given to the Church, they do not replace the work of Holy Spirit within a person who reads Scripture. The Bible states: “Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” – John 14:23-26 NKJV. Stating the obvious: it is difficult to remember what you have not read and placed within your heart.
So over the millennia, various consortiums of Christ followers have classified themselves further by distinction of their understanding of doctrine in Scripture. Christians are not the first to do so – almost every world religion has created sects within their overarching belief. At the time of Christ, the Jews had sects such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and Zealots. Into this setting Christ declared to the divided sects that He was the “I AM” that existed before Abraham; the voice Moses heard in the burning bush. With this, those who refused to seek understanding held to their tradition so tightly; angered with a blinded belief system they truly believed Jesus was blaspheming (Refer to John 8:58-59).
So how do you know the truth? How can you understand the purposes of the LORD for His Kingdom and for your life? With so many teachings from people who sincerely love the LORD and believe they are right, how can you determine truth from error? Before going further, we ought to thank God for His grace. God has sealed us with His Spirit and if a heart is set on the LORD and His ways, He will guide, correct with His rod and staff (Psalm 23 can be applied to all areas of our lives).
The key to the illumination of scripture rests in the work of the Spirit of God or Holy Spirit within a heart that is seeking deeper relationship with Him. Even a brief review of early church leaders can reveal how human thinking needs to be guided by the truth. It seems to me that the disciples who were directly groomed by Jesus for 3.5 years and Paul who had studied Old Testament Scripture as a Pharisee were reminded by the LORD to avoid relying on human reasoning to interpret God’s heart on a matter.
There are many instances where the LORD brings correction to His children whom He loves so deeply (Hebrews 12:5-6; Revelation 3:19). These early leaders where hand picked by the LORD to write Scripture and encourage the LORD’s church preaching Jesus’ teachings – rightfully so! AND in their humanity, they would have not be able to achieve any of it without the Spirit of God. Yet Jesus never laid the responsibility of thinking for another person on his disciples. From the very beginning, Jehovah who is the LORD God, expected the individual to be responsible for following Him regardless of any other another human being. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:16-17 NKJV. The Genesis account is a good example of how humanity shifts the responsibility of understanding and choices to another when found to be in error.
The LORD is the cornerstone of the church and He (the vine) uses branches connected to Him to produce fruit:
- For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. – Hebrews 3:4 NKJV
- And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. – Colossians 1:18 NKJV
- All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, – 2Timothy 3:16 NKJV
- knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. – 2Peter 1:20-21 NKJV
Now God desired relationship with thinking, able, beings – beings that He would talk with – beings created in His image and He has invited man to reason with Him (refer Isaiah 1:15, 17-20). The word “reason” used in Isaiah in the Hebrew language is yâkach and using Strong’s definitions (H3198) means reciprocal, to argue; causatively, to decide, justify or convict:—appoint, argue, chasten, convince, correct(-ion), rebuke, reprove. This means the result of reasoning with God is to be brought into truth, correction and conviction. I love the passage in Isaiah 55:6-11 that reads: “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Many times I have cried out to the LORD on my knees, sometimes with tears, groans, and helplessness for the answers, direction, clarity, and yes even understanding of past experiences relative its purpose. We long to know what, why, how and when…. In these times, although I have been blessed to be surrounded by many wise and scholarly people, I have found no lasting answers or lasting comfort from people – how could I? Only Holy Spirit can bring the peace that passes human understanding – the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7 NKJV
Recently I had the most wonderful time with the LORD when I raised a concern before Him and He answered me with an impression followed by scripture! I love those interactions. Before going there, the backdrop to this answered prayer is important. I so long to be true to His purposes and His Word and sought Him for clarity on a matter that has divided so many churches over hundreds of years . I truly did not want to be ignorantly out of line with Scripture and it seemed as though there were scriptures that could be argued on different sides of the debate. Again – there are no contradictions; only opportunities to grow. For me, my dilemma had to do with something that God was birthing in my heart with growing intensity over a 3-year period. The Bible says to delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. – Psalm 37:4-5 NKJV.
If you are obedient to the LORD in devotion and in action, I believe the Godly desires that in the heart are placed there by Him. As such, as you continue to commit your course of life and daily actions to the LORD, He will bring those dreams to fruition (and there is no promise that it will be without trouble or how we imagined it). If there is a God-given dream or desire in your heart, it will be for the Glory of the LORD and for the betterment of others. If there are desires that are not coming to pass despite prayer (faith) and sufficient effort (works), it is wise to submit the desire under the Lordship of Jesus Christ – leave it and its frustrations there for His presiding. Careful not to have your desire become your idol. Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. – James 4:1-3 NKJV
Now I had been praying for scriptural clarity for 3 years and throughout that period of time the Lord continued to confirm for me in various ways (always growing clearer) that this matter was of the LORD: (1) He brought scriptures to my remembrance; (2) He gave me a very overwhelming and memorable dream that made me reverentially tremble; (3) He placed me in situations that aligned favourably with the desire; (4) He surrounded me with leaders who unknowingly confirmed it; and (5) then He began to make able the desire in very tangible ways. Now one might wonder why I would pray about something that God continued to confirm and develop in my heart. The challenge for me rested in the varying interpretations of various scholars whom I hold in high regard and there seemed to be scripture to support the various views. While God can and does answers His children immediately (yes, no, wait, particular scripture), there are times when the answer is timed for: (1) either a very specific alignment with other circumstances; or, (2) one’s own development/maturity/perservance. I am so thankful God only provided me with answers, gifts, resources and opportunities when I could be trusted with them; it was truly grace to refrain from granting some requests immediately. Refer to Proverbs 30:5-9
The LORD answered my question by providing a scripture from both Old and New Testaments that was relevant to my specific conundrum. It was liberating, empowering and humbling. While I will not provide the details, I will remind you that our LORD is the same yesterday, today and forever – Hebrews 13:8. He does not change – Malachi 3:6. He does provide revelation and brings about His purposes in His time – Titus 1:2-3, Ecclesiastes 3:1. Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth–in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. – Ephesians 1:9-12 NKJV
Before Jesus fulfilled Old Testament Scripture which required Him to allow His own crucifixion and thereby accomplishing the greatest and final atonement for mankind’s redemption (Isaiah 53), Jesus first taught in the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles about the Holy Spirit. It was on the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. – John 7:37-39 NKJV. And so after Christ’s resurrection Jesus appeared to His disciples and He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the 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 to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” – Luke 24:44-49 NKJV
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, those who were tarrying in the upper room were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke to in other languages so that the various nationalities gathered in Jerusalem heard them speak in their own respective language (of the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya,Cyrene, Rome, Cretans and Arabs). Peter preached and explained, “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh….” Peter explained that Jesus was delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God to be crucified and was resurrected as was foretold by David. Peter spoke with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and three thousand souls were saved. This account can be read in Acts 2:1-47. Yet shortly after that mighty message, Peter received a correction from heaven that revealed the heart of God: “But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ “Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. (Read Acts 11:1-18). So Peter learned that the plan and heart of God was for people from every nation be saved; he realized that the Holy Spirit came upon both Jews and Gentiles; a Jesus appointed preacher was corrected by THE TEACHER. Peter then understood the plan of salvation from the beginning was for all nations as Abraham was not “Jewish” when the promise was given, nor was Adam and Eve when the prophecy about Christ was given (Genesis 3:15). God selected, blessed and preserved a people whom He sovereignly chose to fulfill His plan. The plan was so complex and well spaced over thousands of years, it was impossible for an imposter to fulfill all of Scripture. The word remained consistent and had an appointed time for fulfillment. Interim provision for worshipping God and obtaining forgiveness was given for a time while awaiting the fulfillment of the prophecy.
So you see, if God has authored a desire, a dream, a purpose, a season, a correction, a trial, a struggle – anything, it is not a question of someone’s interpretation, philosophy, or of a human’s will. The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” – Isaiah 40:8 NKJV. There is no contradiction; there is only your opportunity to discover what God’s truth is directing you to be obedient to. He will bring about His purposes; He will grow our understanding of what that truly means as we prayerfully search scripture and allow Holy Spirit to illuminate the eyes of our understanding; the fruit thereof is unity in the truth among believers, love of Him and others, and His glory!
- All your children will be taught by the LORD, and great will be their peace. – Isaiah 54:13 NIV
- There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28 NIV
For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body–whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. – 1Corinthians 12:13-18 NIV
For each of us who continue in our faith and fellowship in Jesus Christ, our sanctification is in the hand of our LORD who is the author and finisher/perfecter of our faith. What an encouragement to know that in Scripture and through the Holy Spirit we have the full assurance of understanding the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ (in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge). So don’t let anyone deceive you with persuasive words. Just like we have been saved/justified by faith alone in Christ Jesus the Lord, we need to be rooted and built up in Him by faith with the abundance of thanksgiving. If you hear/read a teaching, search the scripture to ensure no-one is able to cheat you through philosophy according to the human wisdom or the basic principles of the world. Praise God – In Jesus, the Word made flesh, dwells all the fullness of the Godhead; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. He has already seen the end from the beginning and has declared you complete! You are just walking out your faith in this dimension of time. If you are in Him and He is in you then all sufficiency, knowledge, wisdom, power, love and purpose are there for your discovery through prayer and Scripture.
After-all, you were created in His image.
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! – Psalm 139:13-17 NKJV