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Shadow or Substance?
By David A. DePra
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body (SUBSTANCE AND REALITY) is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increases with the increase of God. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh. (Col. 2:16-23)
Paul is drawing a contrast in this passage between SHADOW and SUBSTANCE. He is contrasting those things that are merely a shadow of Christ – he is contrasting those over and against the Person of Jesus Christ Himself.
The words, "shadow of things to come," is significant. Paul is not talking about world events that will happen in the future. Rather, he is talking about ETERNAL things. This is usually what the NT means when it speaks of, "things to come" – the eternal things that are coming to pass through Jesus Christ.
Now, you will also note that Paul is talking about RELIGIOUS things in this passage. In fact, he uses an example of a shadow God’s own LAW and ordinances. God gave the laws of clean and unclean meats, the OT Holy Days, the calendar based on new moons, and certainly gave the Sabbath commandment. So when we think in terms of a SHADOW we must not think of sin, or some pagan religion. No. The SHADOW in this passage are those things which God gave – they are, in fact, a SHADOW of Christ.
A SHADOW of Christ is a representation of Christ. Sure – just as our shadow represents us. If you stand outside on a bright, sunny day, and allow your shadow to be cast in front of you, does not your shadow accurately represent you? Absolutely it does. Your shadow is an accurate outline of you. It is in your shape. It’s just that it is all filled in with darkness, where your body is blocking the sun. This is also the case with the many SHADOWS OF CHRIST. They do rightly represent Him – they are God given. As far as they are able, they rightly speak of Him. They are TRUTH. But they are NOT – I say NOT – Christ Himself. This is what Paul is trying to tell us.
Imagine of you tried to give a shadow a big hug, instead of the person casting it. It could not be done. Imagine if you tried to have any kind of relationship with a shadow, rather than the person. That would be utter nonsense. In fact, you can see only the shape of a person, and perhaps pick up a few details of a person, from their shadow. But from the most part, you cannot know many details about them. And you certainly cannot know THEM from their shadow. You can know only a few things ABOUT THEM – and those few things have nothing to do with a relationship with them.
Now, the shadow DOES point to the person. In fact, without the person, there can be no shadow. God gave His law and His ordinances to point to Christ. They DO accurately represent Him – for they are in the inspired Word of God. But God never intended for us to settle for the shadow. He intended for us to come to know the Person.
There are Christians by the millions today who know only the SHADOW. That is a problem, to be sure, but actually isn’t the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that they think the shadow of Christ IS the Person. In other words, they are deceived.
One of the most often used wiles of the Devil is to get us to settle for less than God has for us, all the while convincing us that we have all that God has for us. Of course we do have some blame in this matter. Some Christians are so prideful that they will not be exposed by God as coming short of what He has for them. They take pride in living in a relationship with a shadow of Christ – because they insist they are special in God’s eyes – and so they demand that, "they have arrived." There is little or no humility or submission to God. So they will not accept being told they are less than mature saints. Others simply refuse to go on to the Person of Christ because it requires that they be moved out of their comfort zone. A shadow isn’t very demanding is it? But neither can it bless. I hope we get the point.
God doesn’t want us to get wrapped up in even the shadows of Christ that HE HIMSELF HAS GIVEN. There are certainly OTHER shadows that He has not given, and those also would be things to avoid. Paul is telling us that right in this passage. He is telling us that there is reality and Truth and life – not merely in teachings about Christ – but in CHRIST HIMSELF.
Actually, Paul is
not merely correcting Christians in Colossians 2. He is warning us. Note that.
Colossians is an epistle about the centrality of Jesus Christ. In chapter 2,
Paul gives us four ways in which Christ is all things to us. He says,
In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2:3)
Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. (Col 2:7)
And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Col 2:10)
Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (Col 2:17)
Christianity is CHRIST IN US, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27) Chapter 2 is really giving us four ways in which the Christ who is in us will be revealed to us, and experienced by us. But you will notice that with each of these statements about Jesus, there is also a warning given by Paul – lest we be drawn away from the Truth. He says:
And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. (Col. 2:4)
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (Col. 2:8)
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: (Col. 2:16)
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, (Col. 2:18)
And yet despite these, and so many other warnings from God, Christians rarely do BEWARE. They almost never, "test the spirits," or even pause to question whether something is taught in the Bible. Instead, we assume that if the masses are following a certain course, then it must be right, because God would not let that many people be deceived. We assume that if a movement is highly successful selling books, with TV ministry, going around the world, and especially if they claim souls are being won, that this must be of God. We assume that if a famous preacher affirms something, then he must know. Satan has absolutely succeeded, over the last fifty years, in softening up the Body of Christ to the point where many Christians will accept anything, as long as it is packaged with hype, supposed miracles, and especially if it makes them feel good about themselves. Almost never do people actually strip off all the hype, the pressure to join the crowd, and the names that affirm such movements and simply ask: "What does it REALLY say about this in the Word of God?" And just as importantly, "What does it NOT say about this in the Word of God?"
Paul said BEWARE. But again – beware of what? Well, we certainly ought to beware of false teaching. We need to make sure that this does not gain entrance into our lives. But Paul is actually getting at something more. He is saying, "Beware lest you be lead away from JESUS CHRIST as your very life! Beware lest you follow a substitute for Christ – some philosophy or law. Beware lest you be in a relationship with a shadow of Christ, instead of Christ Himself."
The words Paul uses in his warnings are significant. He uses, "beguile," twice. That word means, "to cause to falsely reason." What a description of deception! And many today are taking that bait – they are allowing false reasoning to appeal to what ails them, or to what they desire. Paul also uses the word, "spoil," which actually ought to be translated, "let no man carry you off as spoil." Well, what is spoil? It is the profit or gain that a conqueror wins. Thus, Paul is telling us not to allow anyone to use us as a profit center for their ministry, or to use us a merely a source of income. And lastly, Paul uses the word JUDGE. We are not to allow someone to put us under their law in order to exact from us what they want. We are to hold fast to the reality we have in Christ.
Christian people need to hear this loud and clear: God is NOT going to spare us deception or the consequences of deception if we neglect to heed His warnings. He WILL NOT. His warnings ARE His protection for us – and these will always be augmented by the Holy Spirit in us – IF…IF…IF…we are open to God for the Truth. The suggestion that God would never allow you to be deceived if you are, "sincerely," but ignore or neglect His warnings is not only dangerous, but it is equal to saying that all of His warnings were needless. God’s warnings to us on these matters PROVE that deception is possible. And if we just open our eyes and look at Christianity around the world we will see that there is MUCH deception among sincere people.
To God, "sincerity," is not a matter of me really believing what I believe. To Him, "sincerity," is being committed to Jesus Christ no matter what – including even if that means paying the price for Truth. Sincerely, to God, is a matter of having a single eye and a single heart. I want His will and glory no matter what. This alone, coupled with a commitment to adhere to the Word of God, is how I stay out of deception. I stay out of error by walking in the Truth.
The Law is a Shadow
I want to take a few examples of shadow vs. substance in the Christian life. Some are God-given shadows. Others are man-made shadows, which are mere imitations of the real. Some are a mix. But the point is, God wants us to experience, not a shadow, but the REAL.
The first shadow, and it is the one Paul mentions, is the law. Now, note that we are here not talking about some pagan law. We are talking about GOD’S LAW.
God GAVE His law, and Jesus plainly stated that He did not come to abolish it. No. The law is still, "holy, just, and good." (Rom. 7:14) But the law is not LIFE. The law is not salvation. Most importantly, the law is not Christ Himself, who is IN US.
But if you look at the law, it is sort of a shadow of Christ, isn’t it? I mean, the law was a written expression of the righteousness of God. Christ, however, is the living expression. Thus, since both are an expression of the ONE righteousness of God – the law being the written, and Christ being the living – they certainly ought to look alike. And they do – which is why the law is said to be a SHADOW, while Christ is the BODY, or substance. In short, the law is the shadow OF Christ – who IS the righteousness of God.
As mentioned earlier, it would be fruitless if all we did was live with the shadow but not with body to which it points. And really, this is about how far off the track legalism takes us. Indeed, Paul calls it, "another gospel." It is entirely possible to spend a lifetime trying to keep yourself righteous by keeping the GOOD laws of God – but to never see the grace of God, and never really know the Person of Jesus Christ. Just look at a shadow. How much can you really know a person, or experience a person, if all you have ever experienced about them is their shadow?
Now, you will also notice that if we live in a relationship with Christ that this will result in us seeking to keep God’s law. For even though the law is a shadow of Christ, it is an accurate shadow of Him. Practically, what this means is that, no, the works of the law are not the MEANS by which we maintain our relationship with Christ. But the works of the law will be the OUTCOME of being rightly related to Christ by faith. Sure. If you believe and trust Christ, and belong to Him, you will want to obey Him. You will fail many times. But you will WANT to obey Him.
Legalism is a big subject. But the point here is that Christianity is not a religious system of law, or of form, or of things to believe. Christianity is CHRIST IN US, and the unfolding of Him to us. If you are trapped in legalism you may never really know Christ. But if you truly know Christ, obedience will always be the outcome.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
Another way in which many of us err in this matter of shadow vs. substance is in the matter of the PEACE OF GOD. Too often we think that peace is a condition of mind, or emotions. And so Christians seek a condition of mind called, "peace" – but this is not the peace of God. Rather, we should seek Christ Himself. For once we see Him, and walk in Him, His peace will be operative in and through us.
Today there is more and more preaching on Christian TV that amounts to nothing more than pop psychology. Many teach how to be happy and achieve emotional wholeness. The goal, in many cases, is to achieve peace of mind, and the way to achieve it is to get it from God. Of course they bring Christ in to the picture, and do mention obedience and faith. And much of it might sound good, and indeed, some of it may have a basis of Truth. But almost all of it completely misses the point. Jesus Christ did not die to give us a happy and comfortable state of mind or emotional life. No. He died to give us HIMSELF. Any happy emotional state that is of the Holy Spirit must be the result of knowing HIM, and walking in HIM.
What I am saying is that the PEACE OF GOD is not so much a THING or a CONDITION that God gives us, in the sense of doing something to us. Neither is the peace of God EVER to be divorced from the Person of, or life of, Christ IN US. No – peace is NOT a separate thing from Christ. The peace of God is Christ in us – and the result of us being one with Him.
But now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; (Eph. 2:13-14)
The fact that HE IS OUR PEACE is verified once we remember that PEACE is one of the fruits of the Spirit. FRUIT is the outcome of a growth process – NOT a gift. This not only tells us that peace is ultimately what grows in us from knowing Jesus, but since peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit, it tells us that the peace of God is NOT primarily something the belongs to the realm of the natural or flesh – no, it is the fruits of the SPIRIT! Thus, we see the nonsense of trying to achieve the peace of God by trying to get our flesh to behave, or by trying to bombard our emotions with psychological techniques. No. Get to know Jesus Christ, and be at one with Him, and the peace of God will BE THERE.
There is also a prevalent notion among Christians that if we, "have peace," as Christians, then we must indeed be in God’s will. People are taught to examine whether they, "have peace," in order to determine the will of God. You hear this all the time, that if, "I have peace about something," it is a witness that I have seen God’s will.
I would not dismiss this as a consideration, nor ever suggest that peace in our spirit is not important. It is important. But to examine ourselves to see if we have peace – and then to use that alone as a sign of the will of God – well, that is quite dangerous and unreliable. Why? Because the first and foremost necessity for discerning the will of God is NEVER whether I supposedly, "have peace." The first and foremost necessity for discerning the will of God is whether I have surrendered to God.
It is entirely possible to NOT surrender my heart to God, and then to use whether I have peace as a barometer for the will of God. Well, if I’m not surrendered to God, I’m NOT in His will, even if I happen to have the facts, or the, "what should I do?," question right in a specific case. Using peace as a barometer will never work if I am not first surrendered to God. And if I am surrendered, peace alone isn’t the barometer. I mean, have we forgotten the written Word of God, and have we forgotten that we ARE supposed to KNOW Jesus Christ with a renewed MIND?
Many Christians don’t know the difference between peace in their spirit, and peace in their emotions. It is quite possible to think you, "have the peace of God," about something when all you really have is, "peace of emotions," about something. The two are NOT the same, and because of the possibility of walking in error on this matter, it is important to see the difference.
Let’s get to the core of this matter: The PEACE OF GOD is the result of PEACE WITH GOD. And the only way to get PEACE WITH GOD is by surrendering TO HIM. Thus, we see that the peace of God is NOT merely a condition of mind or emotion. Rather, the peace of God is the result of right RELATIONSHIP with God on a specific matter. It is a matter of being ONE with Him through surrender.
Peace is the absence of conflict. So if I am ONE with God as to purpose – in other words, I am absolutely committed to the same thing that God is committed to – HIS will and HIS glory – the peace of God will follow, for there IS not conflict WITH GOD. But if I am unwittingly at odds with God, there will be conflict, rather than peace. Thus, surrender to God is the key.
However, we must never push aside KNOWLEDGE of God. Some people don’t believe we have to know Christ to walk with Him, but that we can just go by whether we have peace. Yet this is nonsense. The peace of God will always agree with the true knowledge of God. And if I read my Bible correctly, knowing Christ with a renewed mind is the emphasis for guidance, rather than walking by whether I feel peace.
If I think that I can walk in God’s will simply by whether I think I have peace, rather than by a knowledge of the Truth, I am already going down the road to deception. Yet this is widely taught today – indeed, I have known people to completely put aside what the Bible teaches because they said, "they have peace," about something otherwise. I have known others who have said that we don’t walk according to the Bible, but are to be, "led by the Spirit." They act as if the two are contrary to each other! No. They are NOT. The Holy Spirit will NEVER lead us in a way that is contrary to the Truth of the Bible. Thus, if you have peace about something and it is contrary to scripture, you are wrong – this is NOT the peace of God. The peace of God will be ours only if we walk according to the Truth of the Bible. The Bible, the Holy Spirit in us, our knowledge of Jesus Christ, and the peace of God – all these will agree.
Remember that Jesus did speak of the, "peace of the world," which is NOT the peace of God. Earlier, I said that the peace OF God is the result of peace WITH God. Thus, the peace OF the world is the result of peace WITH the world. But perhaps not in the way we think. Peace WITH the world is really peace, agreement, or compromise, with the spirit of the world. Or, to put it another way, I can have a certain amount of peace simply because I want, or have gotten, my way and my will.
If peace is the absence of conflict, then I will have peace if I get my way. I will be satisfied in that case. This is possible for Christians. If I seek MY will – even if I don’t know that is what I am doing – and I get it, then there will be peace for a time. The peace of the world will be mine because I have made peace with that which is of the world.
If the emotional life of my flesh is in disarray, because I am unhappy with life, or with myself, I will have a peace if my flesh is given what I desire. Today, people are being presented with the gospel of self-esteem – and this is why, if they embrace it, they have a certain peace and joy. It is also why, in certain churches that allow immorality, people are able to rejoice, and even, "give God the glory." All that it takes for the flesh and emotional life to come into a sense of peace and wholeness is for conflict to be removed. But this is a false peace, based on the spirit of the world.
What I am saying is this: You can have peace that is the result of separation from Christ. Sure. If the Holy Spirit is shut out, then it is possible to have the peace of the world – because conviction is now removed, and there is no conflict. But it is a peace that is the result of shutting out Christ, rather than the peace that is Christ. This is why false gospels, and terrible error, can sometimes make people happy, and make them feel satisfied and whole. But all of it is DIVORCED from Christ, not the result of Him.
We will see this later when we talk about UNITY, but notice what Jesus said about the impact HE WOULD HAVE upon the peace of the world:
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. (Matt. 10:34-36)
In a nutshell, Jesus is saying that He will destroy all peace and unity that is NOT the result of HIMSELF. If there is peace because people have gotten their own way, Jesus will break it to pieces. It is NOT possible to walk with Jesus Christ and to construct peace around anything else.
So if you want the peace of God, surrender to God. This is really how we ought to obey the following passages:
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also you are called in one body; and be ye thankful……and whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (Col. 3:15,17)
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7)
Paul is NOT saying that whatever gives you a feeling of peace, then this must be of God – he is not saying that we ought to let this feeling of peace RULE our hearts. That is vital to see, because it is exactly what is often taught – and emotions always get in the way. No. Rather, he is saying that our hearts ought to be ruled by our desire to have the peace of God. In short, to let the peace of God rule in our hearts means that we seek peace with God on a matter, which is equal to seeking the will of God.
Get the distinction: On the one hand people are examining whether, "they have peace," and based on that, deciding the will of God. Where is the Bible in all of this? Where is the knowledge of Jesus? Is a feeling of peace supposed to replace those and govern us? No. So rather than deciding the will of God based on whether we have peace, we ought to SEEK the will of God, and when we see it, peace will come. And the will of God will always line up with the Word of God and it will glorify Jesus Christ.
The peace of the world is a shadow – it is based on a façade; on that which is NOT reliable. But the peace of God is substance, and the real. Indeed, the peace of God is more than just an emotional condition. It is a fruit of the Spirit – and really, a RELATIONSHIP word. The peace of God is the result of having peace WITH God through Jesus Christ.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Rom 5:1-2)
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. (Matt.10:34-36)
Unity is the result of everyone being governed by the same principle. It occurs when everyone, yes, agrees on the same goals, but also when people agree on the same MEANS of achieving those goals. Once we realize this, we see the possibility of a shadow unity – a false unity. It is entirely possible to have perfect unity among Christians – but for that unity to be in error.
What this tells us is the unity – of itself – means absolutely NOTHING. It does not prove that the Spirit of God is in a group or church, and it does not prove that the Bible is being obeyed. All unity proves is that everyone agrees – but they may be agreeing on error.
I once heard someone say that unity among brethren would keep error out and Truth in. This is total nonsense. If a group in unified in deception, they will keep TRUTH out and ERROR in. This goes on all the time – this is actually how cults keep going. And really, unity in error is the very definition of a cult, and of bondage. There are some Christian groups who are bound together in the same way. They have all agreed in error, and will not permit anything that bucks the system – all the while they congratulate themselves for standing for the Truth.
The Bible teaches that true unity is found only in the Person of Jesus Christ. But this doesn’t mean that if we are all born again that we are automatically unified in Christ. No. It means we OUGHT to be. The reality is, Christians are rarely unified in Christ. Read I Corinthians. The Corinthians weren’t unified in Christ. Indeed, the fact they weren’t stood at the basis of most everything else that was wrong in that church.
There can be no unity in Christ unless there is unity in TRUTH. Sorry, but it is a fact. Jesus said, "Those who worship God must worship Him in Spirit, and IN TRUTH." (see Jn. 4:24) Why? Because what I say is the Truth is my description of Christ – for He is the Truth. But I’m not only talking about doctrinal Truth – although that is important. I’m really talking more about what we could call, "RELATIONSHIP Truth." Am I being governed by the same goal in Christ as you are being governed?" If not, there is no unity.
And what IS supposed to be our goal in the Christian life? Just this: The will of God unto HIS glory. Individually, we are to be expressions of His resurrection life, and we are to live lives unto His glory. Well, if your idea of that is contrary to mine, there isn’t going to be much unity – certainly not in practical living. At best, we have a different knowledge of God, which means ERROR for at least one of us.
So what is the solution? To agree to disagree? Well, that’s nice, but it solves nothing, does it? "To agree to disagree," is really nothing more than people deciding to make peace and unity, but it leaves Christ out of the picture. The real solution is that ALL continue to seek the Truth – something that almost NO ONE today, especially in ministry does.
For example, I have been in many pastor’s groups over the years. Sadly, they are usually competitive, tense, and at times, fake and quite unpleasant. Everyone has their little kingdom they are trying to protect or promote, and consequently, it seems like everyone has fenced themselves off from each other with certain boundaries. One of the most noticeable results is that there are huge areas of the Christian experience that cannot be discussed because everyone knows that there can be no agreement in those areas. If nothing else is a fact, this means that everyone but one person is wrong – for all disagree. And it is even possible that everyone is wrong. Yet you will NEVER have a situation in a group like that where they seek the Truth in Jesus Christ. There will never be an actual change of attitude, or of doctrine. No, everyone just holds their ground and things remain the same forever.
This is not unity – even though I’m sure people would say that there is some basis for it. But what basis? Unity is more than a matter of finding common ground, it also is a matter of seeking the same Christ! How can the Body of Christ edify one another in Christ if each of the members has a completely different idea of who He is, what He does, and what is His purpose?
That you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel….If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfill you my joy, that you be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:27-2:5)
Paul says that Christians ought to have ONE MIND – striving together for the faith of the gospel. Well, this is impossible if everyone has a different idea of what the gospel IS! But you know, it could still be possible, even if everyone disagreed, if everyone did strive together to discover and experience the TRUTH of the gospel. In short, one-mindedness means that we all seek the SAME thing – seek the same Truth, seek God’s will to His glory. We may not all start the same place, but we are supposed to be seeking the same thing.
Note that we are all to have the SAME MIND – the mind of Christ. You are not to have MY mind, and I am not to have YOUR mind. It is quite possible for a group of people to achieve what appears to be unity if everyone simple adopts the mind of the leader. Then they will have strong unity. But it will not be unity IN CHRIST, but will be unity in the leadership. No. Unity in Christ is only possible if each individual has a one-on-one unity with the mind of Christ for themselves. Then they will share HIS MIND with each other.
One of the biggest and most often-repeated errors in Christianity for the last two-thousand years has been on the very point. People follow a leader. People teach that God expects you to submit to a spiritual authority if you want to be in His will. This has led to leadership in churches and home groups who control the personal lives of people, who control their thinking, and in the end, the whole thing can become bondage, or a cult.
I have know individuals who have taken it upon themselves to direct the lives of others, and have fashioned it into such an, "art form," that they are able to do it with an iron fist, and yet pass it off as, "love." The people who they control actually become convinced that they are, "being loved," and that this control is for their best good, and many of these controlled people actually believe that they are growing and being blessed because they submit to such control. This is deception and bondage. Those under such bondage can never come to the freedom of knowing and walking with Christ.
The real Truth is that leadership in the Body of Christ ought to be teaching individuals to know Christ for themselves. THAT is real leadership – you guide people to Christ as their real leader. Leadership ought to teach people that they belong to NO ONE except Christ. What else would true servanthood do? John made this clear:
Let that therefore abide in you, which you have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abides in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teach you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (1 John 2:24-27)
John was a leader in the NT church, and he writes this, "that no one may seduce you." And what did he want his readers to see, in order that they not be seduced? He wanted them to see that Christ was in each of them through the Holy Spirit – and that this meant that they did not have to go to anyone else to receive what is already IN CHRIST.
Today we are being told by charismatic TV preachers that there is such a thing as an, "impartable anointing." In other words, there is an anointing which can be passed from one Christian to another – or more specifically, from leadership to the people. Of course, you must come to them for this impartation. This is a lie. And if you read the above passage from I John, you will see that this is the VERY LIE against which John is warning.
Think about it. What does it mean when a Christian leader believes in such a thing as an impartable anointing – which does not exist? What else does this call into question about them?
Well, rather than tell us to come to them for an impartation, John says that leadership ought to be teaching us the Truth about the Christ who is already in us. He says that leadership ought to be teaching that EACH believer has in them everything they need to walk with Christ – but they need to realize that and know that. This is what John himself was teaching, wasn’t it? Should we be teaching otherwise?
John was getting at the root of true unity – each believer’s personal relationship with Christ. If each believer has the same goals as Christ, then they will have the same goal as each other. If each believer has the mind of Christ, then believers will have the same mind – HIS MIND – as each other. What I am talking about here is REAL UNITY IN CHRIST. I am not talking about fake or shadow unity – not a unity that is a façade, where believers just blindly follow a leader who is really a seducer. No. I am talking about a group of people who are taught by the leader the same Truth that John taught – that EACH believer has Christ in them, that EACH believer has personal access to God, and that EACH believer needs to look to Christ for themselves. That will produce real unity.
What we are seeing is that real unity is not built through religious systems, doctrinal statements, agreeing to disagree, the imposition of one personality upon others, or by anything else that religious flesh tries to do. No. Real unity is really the RESULT or OUTCOME of each believer knowing Jesus Christ.
So what we see is that we cannot build unity and expect it to edify anyone in Christ. No. For that unity might be in error, or might, in fact, be nothing more than a religious FORM or shadow. Rather, we must edify each other in Christ and then unity will result. For then it will be IN HIM.
When a group of believers all have the same kind of relationship with Christ – based in Spirit and in Truth – then there will be unity, even if no one actually calls it by that name. Unity is what you reap if you sow Jesus Christ in individual believers.
For godly sorrow works repentance unto salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death. (2 Cor. 7:10)
There is so much Truth in this verse, and it is tempting to get off the subject and bring it out. First of all, you can see that this verse clearly indicates that you MUST repent in order to be saved. "Godly sorrow works repentance UNTO salvation," is a phrase that proves that – along with many other verses we could quote. I say this because so many today are refusing to preach the necessity of repenting of sin towards God in order to be saved. Another closely related thing this verse proves is that repentance must PRECEED salvation. I mention this because Calvinism teaches that the new birth precedes repentance and faith in Christ. This is fundamental to Calvinism. But here we see it stated loud and clear: Repentance UNTO salvation. Not, salvation UNTO repentance. And lastly, we see in this verse the indication of eternal security. "Godly sorrow works repentance unto salvation not to be repented of." In other words, REAL repentance – I’m not talking about all the possibilities of fake or religious repentance – REAL repentance, by definition, is eternal. Sure, because it is our response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Thus, it is a permanent change of heart towards God. Real repentance will not be, "repented of."
And yet back to our subject. Paul contrasts, in this verse, Godly sorrow, which is REAL, over and against the, "sorrow of the world," which is the shadow. Many Christians don’t know the difference.
Worldly sorrow is sorrow because I am suffering consequences for sin. It happens completely within a person, and has nothing to do with a relationship with, or accountability to, God. Godly sorrow, however, is sorrow because I have sinned against God.
Now, don’t mistake Godly sorrow for feeling the negativity of condemnation for sin. No. Godly sorrow is because I have come to see the love of God, the grace of God, and really, because I have come to see God Himself. Thus, I revere Him. So when I am convicted of sin, there is a frame of reference in Christ. I sorrow because I see the wrong I’ve done, and grieve because it has violated Christ.
This is why Romans is able to say that it is the GOODNESS of God that leads us to repentance. This doesn’t mean that God is so loving that He tells me that my sin isn’t that bad, or that I can just skip confessing that I am a sinner. No. The goodness of God leads me to repentance in that repentance is the result, not of God scaring me with condemnation, but of God revealing to me Jesus Christ, and His offer of life through Christ.
The gospel is NOT a threat of punishment. That is not God’s tone or intent – regardless of whether some preach it that way. God does not say, "Believe in Jesus, or else!!!!" Now, we know that eternal separation IS the alternative to Christ. But scaring someone into buying spiritual fire insurance isn’t going to convert them. This will never produce Godly sorrow. The real gospel message is an offer of LIFE. In other words, instead of threatening us with death, God says, "You are ALREADY dead in Adam. I have sent my Son that you may have LIFE."
And yet, can we see that this will mean NOTHING to us if we don’t see that we ARE dead in Adam? If we don’t see that we have rebelled against God and violated the very ONE who gave Himself for us. No, we MUST see we are dead sinners if we are to repent and be saved. Thus, the goodness of God leads us to REPENTANCE – the goodness of God doesn’t tell us that our sin isn’t all that bad.
Some today teach that because God is love, and forgiving, and so full of grace, that we don’t need to repent or have sorrow over sin. Often they point to that same verse in Romans which says, "The goodness of God leads us to repentance." Somehow they think that if we just focus on the positive, and upon the fact that God loves us, and invite Jesus into our heart, that we can sweep under the rug our sin. Some even believe that as Christians we need no longer concern ourselves with whether we are sinning or obeying God – because His grace just covers it all.
In reality, the first impact of the goodness of God upon you is going to be to show how bad YOU are. Sorry, but it is a fact. That is WHY the goodness of God should lead us to repentance. The goodness of God brings both the promise of life through Christ, but always does so by showing us that we are DEAD. Have we forgotten that we are all born IN ADAM? We have NO LIFE or TRUTH in us through natural birth. None. Consequently, when life and Truth come into us through Christ – or when God initially brings us face to face with Him as Savior – we are going to see that we are hopeless sinners. We just will. It is what automatically happens when you meet the Lord.
Repentance is not a mechanical religious exercise whereby I give intellectual assent to the Biblical doctrine that states that I am a sinner and that I must confess and repent. People do this all the time. No. Repentance is the result of SEEING JESUS CHRIST. That will reveal to me both my sin and the Savior. And unless I see both, it is not real repentance UNTO salvation.
So what we see is that Godly sorrow is a GOOD thing. It leads to repentance UNTO salvation. I come to terms with my personal condition of unbelief, and hopelessness, and come to terms with my personal accountability to God.
Substance and Reality
Since Christ is the substance and reality, it ought to tell us that unless He is in what we are doing, it is a shadow – at best. The Body of Christ is to be the expression of Christ, and not a religious shadow of Christ. May God show us the difference.
Paul tries, as he goes on in Colossians 3:
If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory. (Col 3:1-4)
The rest of Colossians is basically a matter of Paul giving practical instruction on how to live as the result of the Truth in this passage. In other words, if you are IN CHRIST – risen with Christ – THIS kind of life ought to be the result.
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