CTT | From Glory to Glory

Growing up in Pentecostalism, there was always a focus on “what God is going to do” either in us, for us,  or through us in Earth. In Pentecostalism, “It is Finished” seems to morph into “It will be finished for those who are filled in the Spirit”. We’ve looked at a lot of the Pentecostal proof-texts here in our CTT posts, today we’ll look one that is used to justify the Pentecostal push for the “new” and why they are always talking about being “in transition” or how we can’t “live in the past” or “rely on former glory”. It is most recognizable in the NKJV

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NKJV)

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Most of the time this gets truncated down to a cliche of “from glory to glory”, as a rationale for some teaching that the Holy Spirit is progressing Christians from one level of power to another. In “Presence” theology, term glory is often used to describe the presence of the Holy Spirit or the Shekinah Glory. Is that the referent here in Paul’s letter? Is Paul talking about a repeating cycle of progression from glory to glory to glory… until Christ’s return? Well, let’s look at what Paul is teaching here beginning at the first verse, paying special attention to the word glory. I’m going to switch to the ESV, but I’ll link the passages with ESV and NKJV side-by-side.

2 Corinthians 3 (ESV) | Ministers of the New Covenant

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Now this is a wonderful Gospel passage. The chapter begins with Paul asking of the Corinthians if they need to prove their ministry to them. He makes reference to others who needed “letters of recommendation”, and Paul tells them point-blank, “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all“. Notice how quickly he takes the concept of “letter of recommendation” and creates a teaching point contracting a letter written with ink on paper vice a letter written with the Spirit on our hearts. He’s going somewhere with this. He then makes a shift from ink to letters in stone and compares the letters carved on stone against the letters written with Spirit on hearts. What is Paul comparing? He’s comparing the Law given to Moses with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In verse 6, Paul is closing out who they are, they are Ministers of the New Covenant (the Gospel) not of the Law but of the Spirit. For the letter kills (Law) but the Spirit gives life (Gospel). Paul went into detail teaching the purpose of the Law (to expose sin) and how the Spirit of Christ sets us free from that sin in Romans 8. Paul does not dismiss the Law outright. The Law is beautiful and it is of God, but it does kill us by exposing how wretched we are in comparison to a Holy God. You see in verse 7 Paul refers to the Mosaic Covenant as the ministry of death. That’s what the Law does, it kills us Justly. The due punishment for our sin is death. The Law makes that clear. And that Law, the ministry of death, came with such glory that Moses had to veil his face. That law which was to be brought to an end in Christ Jesus (who fulfilled the Law) was not without glory. However, once Jesus Christ, the Messiah, had come in His Glory, He would surpass the glory of the Law and the ministry of death. The glory of what is permanent, the Spirit of Christ, far exceeds the glory of the Law that was brought to an end in Christ. In fact, now that Christ has come the Law has no glory at all by comparison.

So we see that Paul isn’t talking in vague generalities here, nor is he suggesting there is to be some succession of glory that Christians or the Church are supposed to experience before the return of Jesus Christ. Paul is very specifically addressing the New Covenant’s replacement of the Old. The Glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, written on our hearts allows us to behold the glory of God with unveiled faces. Why? Because in Christ our sins have been paid and His righteousness has clothed us by faith. Those who would seek to remain under the Mosaic covenant, have no boldness or hope of being made righteous in His sight, not to the extend that we who are in Christ Jesus have.

Romans 3:19-20 (ESV) 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The veil remains over their hearts. They’ve rejected the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Living God and His finished work on the cross. But this isn’t just about the Jews who rejected Jesus. This is about all who have rejected God. For before Jesus arrived, the only glory on earth, the only hope of salvation was Israel, which means all others were lost. Notice, Paul says that the whole world may be held accountable to God. But now that Christ has come, the former glory of the Law is no more in light of the Permanent and Greater Glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

There are several passages the speak to the growing and learning and coming to fullness of Christ who is the Head of His Church. This isn’t what Paul is conveying here when he summarizes this picture of 2 covenants and how we are being transformed from one degree of glory (the Law) to another (the fullness of the Gospel). Until the day of our resurrection in Christ, we don’t graduate from denying our selves, taking up our crosses daily, our sins being mortified in the flesh by Faith in repentance and being forgiven and made righteous in God’s sight by faith in our risen savior, Jesus Christ. When Christ returns, we’ll finally be rid of this body of death and will see what for now we must hope for by faith in Christ. To suggest, that there would be any interim greater glories is to undermine what Paul is teaching in this letter to the Corinthians.

Romans 11:32-36 (ESV)

32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. 33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Sow a Seed?

If you’ve spent any amount of time listening to a televangelist or traveling revival preacher or faith healer you’ve undoubtedly heard the “principle of sowing and reaping” leading into a charge or challenge or even command to “sow a seed offering” into their ministry. Is that biblical? No. God did not institute a money tree. There are no “money seeds” that you can sow to reap money as the fruit of a money tree.

Which came first?

Genesis 1:9-13 (ESV) | The Third Day

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

As with all of creation, God made the plant/animal/person first and provided them with the ability to reproduce via seed. Of the fruiting plants, the seed is found in its fruit. Why am I making a big deal about this? Because seed comes from harvest. Also, seed is bound to its own kind. There is indeed a principle of sowing and reaping, but the relationship between the seed and the harvest is fixed.

Christian Giving

Galatians 6:1-10 (ESV) | Bear One Another’s Burdens

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Here, we see the Apostle Paul encouraging the elders and spiritual leaders to pastor the congregation, particularly those caught in any transgression so that they might be restored. Pastoral care must be done carefully, gently, and humbly. These good works are sowing to the Spirit. Paul then says  Let the one who is taught the Word to share all good things with the one who teaches. It is fitting for a pastor’s needs to be met by the congregation he shepherds, and for the church to seek material aid from other churches.

2 Corinthians 9 (ESV) | The Cheerful Giver

Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints,for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,

“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;     his righteousness endures forever.”

10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Verse 6 gets abused heavily by extortionists in the pulpit. Notice verse 10, God supplies the seed to the sower. Our giving is to be a willing gift, not as an exaction (v5). There is no quid pro quo going on here, yet that is often how this verse is preached. God will multiply our seed for sowing and in crease the harvest of righteousness in keeping with how we sow. But pay attention to the fruit, in which we find the seed. Remember Gal 6:8a, For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption… seed bears after its own kind. Proverbs 22:8 (ESV) Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail

Is God bound by the “Principle” of Sowing and Reaping?

There is a very dangerous implication in much of the fleecing sermons alleging a so-called “principle of sowing and reaping” and the compulsion to “sow a seed offering” (of course into their pockets), and that is the implication that unless you “sow a seed offering” God is unable to bless you. Many of the more brazen con-artists (false teachers) will rattle off a list of things God can’t do for you unless you “sow a seed” into their ministry: career advancement, miraculous healing, recovery, financial blessings, etc. So, is God limited by your failure to “sow a seed”? No. He isn’t bound by this so-called principle. We’ve spent the past several weeks of our Gospel Wednesday segment looking at the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the Gospel According to Matthew chapters 5-7. Let’s look again at what Jesus taught in the middle of the sermon:

Matthew 6:19-34 (ESV) | Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The money-grubbers will twist this passage to say “you can’t serve God and Money; therefore, you should give them your money so that God can then be allowed to bless you”. That statement cannot be justified in this or any other passage in the Bible. If you are being coerced into to giving so that you might obtain a financial blessing, you are actually being tempted to “Lay up for yourselves treasures on earth“.  You cannot serve God and money. So attempting to “sow a seed offering” by diverting money you owe your creditors so that God will be forced (quid-pro-quo) to bless you with more money is folly. God looks at the heart, and He is not mocked, what you sow you will reap. If you sow to your own flesh, from it you will reap corruption.

Identify the Tree

So, we’ve established that is it right for us to give, and to give generously, willingly, and cheerfully, particularly to those who have taught us God’s Word. But we also see there is danger in sowing to the flesh and in sowing sin. We need to learn to identify the false teacher. Again, let us turn to a portion of the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 7:15-20 (ESV) | A Tree and Its Fruit

15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

The fruit of a false prophet is what he teaches, his doctrine. Reflecting back on the third day of creation, remember that the fruit is for bearing seed. A false teacher who brow-beats the congregant compelling them to give him money in exchange for some undetermined blessing from God is sowing to his own flesh. And there are many hidden in the church. Jesus taught against it, charging us to beware of false prophets by their fruits. Paul charged Timothy to be on guard against such false teachers right after giving the qualifications for Elders.

Titus 1:10-16 (ESV)

10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

Those are indeed very strong words of rebuke. A sermon that is taught specifically to raise funds via quid-pro-quo promises is false teaching. That individual should be silenced. The role of the pastor is to preach and teach the Word of God, not raise funds, and not to compel others to give money and NOT to offer promises that God will bless those who give them money in ways He won’t bless those who do not give.

Conclusion

We are to give willingly, generously, cheerfully, and faithfully to the ministry of the Gospel. We are to take care of our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ not just in our own local church but in the Church abroad. We are also to share good things with the one who teaches the Word of God, our Pastors and Overseers. However, we must also be on guard against false teachers/prophets, those who would seek to selfish gain and who are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good work. There are no Biblical money trees, and those who lay up treasures on earth will lose it all to moth and rust. Do not be like them. You will know them by their fruit. Trust in the Lord and in His Word. He who takes care of the birds who neither sow nor reap will also take care of His adopted children. Be anxious for nothing. God does not need our good works, our neighbors do. So do good works for others as an extension of the Grace you’ve received from God.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus, Jorge