THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The knowledge of good and evil is an indication of our growth in Christ, or should we say the growth of Christ in us. Satan offered such wisdom to Adam and Eve before they were prepared to deal with it. The result was spiritual and eventually physical death—separation from God.
God certainly intends for us to learn the difference between good and evil, for apart from such knowledge we cannot fulfill our destiny as God’s judges, rulers and priests. It is time now for the members of the Body of Christ to follow the Holy Spirit as He enables us to distinguish between good and evil, and to embrace the good and renounce the evil.
Table of Contents
THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL
I do not understand why so much of the Bible is becoming clear now—much clearer, it appears, than has been true previously.
Assuredly we are not more worthy. It is probably because the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth is so very close.
One area of doctrine being revealed is that of righteousness and sin, or the knowledge of good and evil. Of course we Christians have known about sin, and yet we haven’t been really clear about what constitutes sin under the new covenant nor have we been clear about what to do with the problem of sin in the Christian life.
Perhaps many have viewed the breaking of any of the Ten Commandments as being sin, and the belief is held that we now are under grace so we do not have to worry about the Ten Commandments. But this has not been thought through to a consistent position in many instances.
We know some things are wrong. For example, grace or no grace we would not stand for fornication or thievery in someone who claims to be a Christian leader. Yet we would be hard pressed to explain why, since we teach that God sees us only through Christ and our salvation is an unconditional amnesty.
The feasts of the Lord indicate that after the Pentecostal experience comes judgment. The Blowing of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement, of Reconciliation, follow the feast of Pentecost. These two observances speak of war and judgment—war against the enemies of God and reconciliation to God through judgment.
The customary Christian teaching concerning Divine judgment is that it does not affect people who have accepted Christ. In fact, many are teaching today that we need have no fear of the Judgment Seat of Christ as long as we are a professing Christian, even though our conduct has not been according to the standards set by the New Testament. This is hardly scriptural!
Peter tells us that judgment begins with the house of God.
The truth is, God is beginning to judge His people. According to our understanding, this judgment, or program of reconciliation, will continue from now until the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age and is the purpose for the Kingdom Age.
Perhaps we had better take a look at the Book of Romans and see what provision God has made for the problem of sinful behavior on the part of His elect.
Romans, Chapters Three Through Five
Paul’s teaching in Romans, Chapters Three Through Five, is the basis for the current teaching that Christians are saved by faith in Christ and not by trying to behave righteously. Righteous behavior is always desirable. Any reasonable Christian would agree to this. But, according to today’s teaching, righteous behavior is not a necessary part of salvation. We are saved by an unconditional grace.
We find such verses as the following:
However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:5—NIV)
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (Romans 5:1—NIV)
However, as we look more closely at Romans, Chapters Three Through Five we discover by “works” Paul is referring to the works of the Law of Moses. In fact, it appears Paul was addressing Christian Jews or Christian Gentiles who were being influenced by Jews. Paul was not speaking of moral purity, kindliness, or honesty but of circumcision, the kosher dietary regulations, and other aspects of the Law of Moses.
You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:23,24—NIV)
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (Romans 3:20—NIV)
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. (Romans 3:28—NIV)
However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:5—NIV)
It is obvious in Romans, Galatians, and other places when Paul is emphasizing that we are saved by faith in Christ rather than by works he means the works of the Law of Moses.
This fact is exemplified in the Book of Galatians where Paul argues against the need for circumcision, saying if we are circumcised we might as well keep the whole Law of Moses. In this case there is no profit in receiving Christ.
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:2-4—NIV)
We understand, therefore, that we Gentiles have woefully misunderstood Paul. We thought Paul meant it does not matter if we behave righteously, which, of course, would contradict the greater portion of His Epistles.
Well, one may say, we are not saved by any code of behavior. This is absolutely true. We cannot save ourselves by rejecting Christ and trying to live righteously.
But there is a big difference between emphasizing that we are not saved by keeping the Law of Moses and emphasizing that we are not saved by any other code of moral behavior.
Our salvation in Christ does not result in our obeying the Law of Moses, such as the dietary laws or the feast days. But our salvation in Christ always results in moral purity, honesty, a loving disposition, self-control. When God’s grace in Christ does not produce a new creation of righteous behavior in an individual, then we may safely say that grace has been made of no effect in this instance.
Paul would never, never, never contrast God’s grace in Christ with righteous behavior. Paul was contrasting God’s grace in Christ with circumcision, kosher dietary laws, and the other strict regulations of the Orthodox Jew.
You see, the first Christian church was composed of five thousand Orthodox Jews. This was the first Body of Christ. These Christians knew nothing of salvation apart from the Law of Moses. God gave to one person, the Apostle Paul, the understanding that circumcision and the other works of the Law are not part of our salvation in Christ. It was up to Paul to stand against the entire church of his day and to insist we are not to add any part of the Law of Moses to our salvation.
We are saved by faith in Christ, entirely apart from the Law of Moses.
Our error as Gentiles has been to interpret Paul to mean we are saved by faith in Christ apart from a change in our behavior. This error will go down in history as one of the greatest misunderstandings of all time.
Well, that day is past. God is showing us through His Holy Spirit that the whole point of salvation is to create a righteous royal priesthood who are able to assume the positions of authority from which God drove the angels. Angels no longer are permitted to govern. By the Word of God they now are servants whose task is to minister to the heirs of salvation.
God is beginning to teach His elect the knowledge of good and evil that they may embrace the good and renounce the evil. This is the baptism of fire of which John the Baptist spoke. This is the purifying of the priesthood spoken of by Malachi. This is the doctrine of eternal judgment set forth in the sixth chapter of the Book of Hebrews. This is the process that will bring forth a bride for the Lamb who will be without blemish.
Romans, Chapter Six
It seems people were getting the idea that Paul was saying now that we are under grace we can sin. And so Chapter Six was written as an explanation of his previous teaching in Chapters Three through Five. From my point of view, there are few passages of the Bible as valuable to the student who would understand the new covenant as is true of Chapter Six of the Book of Romans.
You can see at the very beginning of this chapter that Paul is reacting against people who were saying it did not matter if the Christian continues to sin.
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so grace may increase? (Romans 6:1—NIV)
Can you hear in this expostulation a reaction to people who were reasoning that if Divine grace expands to cover my sinning, then the best thing I can do is to sin more so grace may abound?
I don’t think many Christians take this attitude today. Rather the current feeling is, “I really shouldn’t sin, but if I do it is no great tragedy because I am saved by grace and not by works.”
However this attitude is as far from Paul’s explanation in Chapter Six as is true of the notion that we ought to sin more so grace will increase.
If you will read carefully the text of Romans, Chapter Six, you will see that Paul is saying the following:
It is not permitted to you to continue in sin, because you have been crucified with Christ and you now are raised with Him that you might walk in newness of life. It is not that you no longer have a sin nature, or that it does not matter if you do sin. Rather it is true that to continue in sin is not consistent with the position you have taken by faith—that you have died with Christ on the cross and have been raised from the dead along with Him.
God has assigned your entire old personality to the cross so God might be able to destroy the body of sin that dwells in you.
Now that you are a Christian you have a choice. You can choose to be the slave of sin or you can choose to be the slave of righteousness.
- If you as a Christian choose to be the slave of sin you will die spiritually.
- If you as a Christian choose to be the slave of righteousness you will live spiritually.
If you choose to be the slave of righteousness the result will be holiness and the result of righteousness and holiness will be eternal life. The gift of God is the ability to choose to be the slave of righteousness that you might receive eternal life. Eternal life will be your wages. If you as a Christian choose to be the slave of sin your wages will be eternal death.
We usually preach Romans 6:23 to the unsaved. This verse was written to the saints in Rome, not to the unsaved. The unsaved cannot choose to be the slave of righteousness before they receive Christ! The verse is not applicable to them!
Go ahead now and read the chapter. See how close I came.
Romans, Chapter Seven
Chapters Three Through Five tells us that we receive righteousness through our faith in Jesus Christ, not by continuing to observe circumcision or the kosher laws.
Chapter Six informs us that the Christian, through the grace of Jesus Christ, has the gift of being able to choose to be the slave of God and thus gain eternal life.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22—NIV)
What, then, is Paul saying in Chapter Seven?
First of all, we must recognize that in Chapter Seven Paul is speaking primarily to Jewish Christians who were troubled about leaving the Law of Moses.
Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? (Romans 7:1—NIV)
Paul was addressing men who knew the Law of Moses.
Paul goes on to explain that we do not become adulteresses by marrying Christ, because we have been crucified with Christ. We are dead. Therefore the Law no longer has authority over us.
Paul then shows the problem with the Law, as far as the Jew (and in fact all of us) is concerned. The Law serves only as the knowledge of good and evil. It is my opinion that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, growing in the middle of the Garden of Eden, is the eternal moral law of God, of which the Law of Moses is an abridged, covenantal version.
Paul was alive without the Law. But when the Law came, the sin that Paul was committing became obvious. Since Paul was unable to overcome the sin, Paul’s conscience was troubled. Paul was alienated from God. He “died,” in this sense.
The Law revealed to Paul that sin was resident in his flesh.
When we think of Adam and Eve we see this is exactly what happened. God created them naked in the garden. The Bible teaches us it is a shame to be naked, it is a violation of God’s eternal moral law.
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. (Revelation 3:18—NIV)
The Bible has quite a bit to say about nakedness, and it usually is not good.
But Adam and Eve knew no shame because they did not know the difference between good and evil.
The Tree of Life also was in the middle of the garden. It is my point of view that the only Tree of Life is Jesus Christ and those who grow out from Him.
And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9—NIV)
Both trees were in the center of the garden and both were good for food. But God knew if they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, before God through Christ made them able to cope with this knowledge victoriously, they would die spiritually.
They died because of disobedience. They had sinned against God’s express command. They were guilty and ashamed for God to see them. First they had disobeyed. Second they now understood that they were in a shameful state. They hid from God for these two reasons.
We as Christians have both of these aspects to consider. The first aspect is our obedience to God. The second aspect is the realization we are sinning, the realization Paul came to as he stated in the seventh chapter of Romans.
God is not nearly as concerned with our sinful nature as He is with our obedience. God knows we were born with a sinful nature. God understands that the sincere believer, such as the Orthodox Jew or the fervent Christian, hates the fact that sin dwells in him or her. It would be unrighteous for God to condemn us for something He has power to change and we do not, especially since we abhor the presence of sin in us.
God did not blame Adam and Eve because they were naked any more than He blames us because we are spiritually naked.
What God is concerned about is our obedience to Himself. If we are obedient to God He will lead us along until we are totally free from sin. But if we are not obedient to God, then we will be punished for our disobedience and also for the sinful acts we have committed because of the sin dwelling in us.
Thus Adam and Eve died because the sin of disobedience and then fled from God’s Presence because of their guilt and because of the shame of their nakedness.
If we would understand the way God deals with the sin in us we must keep clearly in mind that God is not condemning us because of the sin over which we have no control. God does not condemn us unless we refuse to receive Christ in the first place, or else having received Christ refuse to follow the Spirit of God as He enables us to put to death the sinful deeds of our flesh.
Notice carefully what God said:
And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” (Genesis 3:22)
“The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” Being in the image of God requires that we know good and evil.
I think sometimes today Bible teachers imply that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil causes a person to practice evil. This is not the case. It is not the tree of evil but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that is, the tree of the ability to judge right from wrong.
Growth in Christ is actually growth in the ability to judge good and evil, and to be able to embrace the good and renounce and reject the evil. Otherwise we are as babies needing milk. Apart from the ability to exercise Divine judgment we are not able to eat strong meat.
Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:13,14—NIV)
The problem with Adam and Eve, and the problem with all of us, is that if we know we are sinning, and yet do not have the ability to get rid of the sin, we are worse off than if we did not know we were sinning. God warned Adam and Eve, but they would not listen. They clothed themselves with aprons made from fig leaves until they looked ridiculous.
God intended to cover them with His own righteousness at a later date. They picked the wrong tree to eat. They should have eaten of Christ, of the Tree of Life. Then He could have covered them with His splendor and He would not have had to cover them with His blood. He would not have had to die on the cross.
But God knew in advance what would happen, as He always does. The Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world.
This is all that the seventh chapter of the Book of Romans is saying. Here we have the devout individual, chiefly the Jew in this case, who despises his or her own sin. Yet when he attempts to live righteously he finds there is a law of sin dwelling in his flesh that invites and deceives him into sin, making it difficult if not impossible for him to live righteously.
The Law of Moses provides no solution. The Law exposes and accentuates sin but does not remove the compulsion to sin. Since the destruction of the Temple the Law does not provide even for the removal of guilt through animal sacrifice.
The righteous individual then cries, “Who will deliver me from the death I am carrying around in my body? I am God’s slave in my mind but sin’s slave in my body.
“I have eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil by learning the Law of Moses but have no access to the Tree of Life!”
Romans, Chapter Eight
We cannot be made righteous before God by keeping the Law of Moses, only by placing our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yet we cannot continue as the slave of sin. If we do we will die spiritually.
The Law of Moses is little help to us. The Law emphasizes our sin, reminding us that God does not accept behavior that is contrary to His moral law.
What solution is provided by the new covenant?
It appears there are three important elements to consider.
- First, the guilt of our sin.
- Second, the compulsion to sin resident in our personality.
- Third, our obedience to God.
We can do nothing about the guilt of our sin. The blood atonement made by Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary forgives the guilt of our sin.
Deliverance from the compulsion to sin is accomplished by our cooperation with the Spirit of God.
Obedience is our problem. We can ask God to help us by giving us a spirit of obedience. This is a righteous prayer.
One great lack in today’s Christian preaching is an ignoring of the scriptural emphasis on the believer’s role in obeying God throughout his or her discipleship. There is too much stress on what God can and will do and not enough stress on the part the believer plays, the effort the believer must make if he is to avail himself of the fullness of redemption.
The Judgment Seat of Christ will emphasize the choices we made during our lifetime, the actions we had control of not the areas over which we had little control, that is, the chains of sin. We cannot remove our evil nature but we can confess our sins and we can ask God to help us turn away from them. These are choices we make, actions over which we have control.
Three elements: removal of the guilt of sin; removal of the compulsion to sin; the believer’s faithful obedience to God.
Now as we turn to the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans we see how faith works through obedience to answer the question: “Who will rescue me from my sinful condition?”
To begin with, we can rest assured that as long as we are abiding in Christ, doing His will, we are without condemnation in the sight of God. No matter how immature we may consider ourselves to be, God is pleased to consider us His righteous children. To be righteous is to be pleasing to God.
Righteousness is not inherent in any religious action. Righteous is inherent only in obedience to God. Eating pork is unrighteous under the Law of Moses. But if a man is starving and the only food we have is ham, then feeding the person ham is a righteous act.
We see therefore there is no righteousness inherent in not eating pork or eating pork. Righteousness comes only as we are pleasing God.
Here is the great weakness of religion. Religion seeks to enumerate a list of things we can do and cannot do, and terms us righteous if we follow the list. But the true salvation that is in the Lord Jesus Christ looks always to the Lord for continual direction as to what to do and what not to do. Our righteousness comes from faith in Him, not from any set of actions.
Yet, we are not as bubbles floating around in moral space. The Scriptures, particularly the New Testament, command us what to do and what not to do.
How then do we combine the concept of righteousness derived from obeying the Spirit of God and righteousness derived from obeying Christ and His Apostles?
The answer is simple. We look always to the Spirit to help us correctly and effectively obey the commandments of Christ and His Apostles, while the Scriptures ensure that we do not become the prey of demons while we are learning to be led by the Spirit.
Learning to be led by the Spirit of God is a difficult curriculum filled with numerous traps and dangers. The role of the Scriptures, and of the elders of the churches, is that of keeping us from these traps and dangers until we know the voice of the Spirit and are not easily led astray.
We please God when we obey His Son. Therefore if we are doing what is pleasing to the Son we can ignore the Law of Moses because God’s command now is that we hear His Son.
When the Apostle Peter went to the house of Cornelius he was behaving righteously because God sent him, even though visiting a Gentile was against the Jewish law at that time.
We now are free from condemnation, but then there remains the problem of slavery to sin and the resulting spiritual death. And if, as Paul says in the sixth chapter of Romans, we must turn from slavery to sin and become the slaves of righteousness, then it follows that the Spirit of God will provide us with the knowledge of good and evil. How can we turn from evil and embrace good if we do not have the knowledge of good and evil?
The key to the way slavery to sin is dealt with under the new covenant is found in verse four of the eighth chapter of Romans.
In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4—NIV)
Remember, Paul is speaking to those who know the Law of Moses. Paul is telling them if they live according to the Spirit of God, God will regard them as having kept the Law of Moses perfectly.
The key is living according to the Spirit of God. “Who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”
Here is where we Gentiles misunderstand the Divine plan of salvation. We are teaching that if we put our faith in Christ for salvation, Christ’s righteousness (the One who kept the Law of Moses perfectly) is imputed to us.
We often do not insert the qualifier: “Who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”
Because we do not insert the qualifier, we are not candidates for imputed righteousness. God’s Christian people are continuing in slavery to sin, heading for spiritual death, destroying their own resurrection. Yet they are looking forward to an unscriptural “rapture.” It is a tremendous mess of confusion!
Maybe God has been winking at our ignorance. Let us hope so. In any case, now is the time to ask God to help us grow in the ability to distinguish between good and evil, and in the strength to embrace the good and to renounce and resist the evil.
The power God has given us to overcome sin, under the new covenant, is the Holy Spirit of God. We are to live according to the Spirit of God.
Paul proceeds to elaborate on this thought:
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8—NIV)
We have been crucified with Christ and have been resurrected with Christ. In addition we have been raised with Christ to the right hand of God.
Now that we are dead with Christ it no longer is appropriate that we sin. Yet we have a sinful nature. How do we proceed?
We proceed by first of all realizing that we are without condemnation before God. We must be full of joy and strength before we can continue with the removal of sin from our personality.
We must present our body a living sacrifice to God. We must pray, read our Bible, and gather with the saints (as possible) on a consistent basis. As we seek the Lord each day the Spirit of God will point out some aspect of our behavior that is not in accord with God’s will for us. It may be in the area of the love of the world, or the passions and appetites of our flesh, or our self-will and personal ambition.
This is our sinful nature and those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
As soon as the Spirit begins to deal with the area of concern we are to go to God, confess our sin, receive our forgiveness and cleansing, and then resolve to renounce and resist this sin at every opportunity. Some sins leave us quickly. Others require a long battle before they finally leave. But we are never to quit. The Christian discipleship is a protracted battle against our sinful nature.
It never, never, never is God’s will that we continue blithely and carelessly in known sin. If we cannot gain the victory by means of prayer, then we need to go to others in the Body of Christ, or the elders of our church, and ask for prayer. We may have to fast and pray on occasion. Christ will bring us to perfect victory if we do not give up.
All deliverance from sin is conducted by the Spirit of God. Notice especially the following two verses:
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:13,14—NIV)
The sons of God are led continually to put to death their sinful deeds. By so doing they enter eternal life and prepare themselves for the redemption of their physical body at the coming of the Lord.
Do you remember our discussion of Romans 6:22, that the result of being the slave of God is holiness, and the result of holiness is eternal life? Eternal life is something you have to sow to each day, and you do this by walking carefully in the Spirit of God, confessing your sins as you become aware of them, singing and praying as you go about your business.
Really, the secret of living in the Spirit of God is the practice of bringing every decision, great and small, to the Lord in prayer. We make numerous decisions each day, mostly little decisions but sometimes major ones. We are to bring all to the Lord. This is not as difficult as it may sound.
In all our ways we are to acknowledge the Lord. Then He shall always direct our path. This is what it means to live in the Spirit.
As we submit to the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus we are without condemnation before God and we are slowly but surely gaining the upper hand over worldliness, lust, and self-will. This is what it means to be saved. Christ came to save us from our sins, not in our sins.
There is an excellent passage in the Book of Galatians that shows us how we escape slavery to sin and become the slaves of God and of righteousness.
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Galatians 5:16—NIV)
How do we keep from living in the sinful nature? By living by the Spirit.
As we said, we live by the Spirit by acknowledging Christ in all our ways, in the meanwhile singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord. When we live this way it is so much easier to resist sin.
For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so you do not do what you want. (Galatians 5:17—NIV)
We understand from the above verse that we have two forces directed against our personality. One force is the indwelling Spirit of God. The other force is our sinful nature. We must at every point of decision during the day choose to be led by the Spirit of God. This is how we overcome our sinful nature.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. (Galatians 5:18—NIV)
Can you see from the above that Paul was always reacting to the Law of Moses? The Gentile Christians in Galatia were being pressed by Jewish Christian teachers to add some or all of the Law of Moses to their salvation, particularly circumcision. Paul responds that when we are led by the Spirit we are not under the Law. The other side of the coin is that if we are not being led by the Spirit we come under the jurisdiction of the Law.
This is where Gentile Christians are today. They are spiritual “singles.” They do not obey the Law of Moses and they do not follow the Spirit. Thus they are under condemnation even though they do not feel as though this is the case.
Next the Apostle Paul feeds us from the tree of the knowledge of evil.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; Idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions And envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21—NIV)
Sexuality immorality, impurity, and debauchery.
Idolatry and witchcraft.
Hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage.
Selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy.
You will find most of these behaviors among Christians. We just have not known what constitutes sin under the new covenant or how to deal with it. Yet there are several such lists of sin in the New Testament. I guess the lists of sin have been sealed supernaturally because the pastors and teachers seem to be unaware of them, or else suppose they are addressed to the unsaved.
I think we are hearing much more about the “rapture” and going to Heaven then we do about what behaviors we should be resisting. Is this a fact?
Such behavior is enough to keep us out of the Kingdom of God. These practices are not permitted in the Kingdom! We may talk about going to Heaven. The issue is not Heaven, it is the Kingdom of God—whether or not we inherit the Kingdom! You cannot bring sin into the Kingdom. These sins Paul has mentioned produce spiritual death. They are the expression of our sinful nature. It is to these we are in slavery until we choose to follow the Spirit of God and put them to death.
Next we see the result of choosing to live in the Spirit of God. Paul at this point is feeding us from the tree of the knowledge of good.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, Gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22,23—NIV)
“Against such there is no law.” Paul is informing the Jewish brothers that the Law of Moses does not condemn love, joy, and peace, so why not be a Christian and do what the Law does not condemn?
These attitudes and behaviors are not the fruit of the Christian but the fruit of the Spirit. It is only as we live in the Spirit that we are able to renounce and resist the actions of our sinful nature and change into the image of Christ.
The Kingdom of God is found in the fruit of the Spirit. To be saved is to be rescued from the sinful nature and to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. Remember, salvation is not directed toward residence in Heaven but participation in the Kingdom of God.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24—NIV)
We are born crucified when we first become a true Christian. Then we have to keep our sinful nature, with its passions and desires, on the cross. We can only do this by walking before God, acknowledging Christ in all our ways, confessing our sins when they are pointed out to us, singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord continually.
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25—NIV)
What a wonderful way of expressing a profound concept: “Let us keep in step with the Spirit.” We do not have to figure out how to control our sinful nature. Thank God for that! All we have to do is to keep in step with the Spirit. The Spirit leads each of us as an individual into deliverance from the sinful nature. All we are required to do is to follow the Spirit, live in the Spirit, present our body a living sacrifice to God so we may discover what gifts and ministries the Spirit has given us, and then under the Spirit’s guidance and enablement build up ourselves and the other members of the Body of Christ with the gifts given to us.
We of the Pentecostal persuasion speak in tongues. The purpose of tongues is to lead us into the rest of God, that is, into the life lived in the fullness of God’s Spirit.
We begin in water to the ankles, then to the knees, then to the hips. If we keep on sowing to the Spirit we will find ourselves in waters to swim in, a river that cannot be crossed. Then God will bring us back to the bank that we may serve as a tree of life to the dead sea of mankind.
All depends on living in the Spirit.
God desires to feed us with the knowledge of good and evil, but only a little bite at a time. Each time He gives us a bite He also gives us the power and wisdom of the Spirit that we may embrace what is good and reject what is evil.
Adam and Eve ate too soon. They were not ready, not able to cope with the knowledge of their nakedness.
Now in Jesus Christ our sins have been forgiven through the blood of the cross. We have been filled with God’s Spirit. We are prepared to grow in Christ, in the ability to distinguish between good and evil.
God is ready to baptize His people with the fire of Divine judgment. We must be made aware of what is sinful and what is righteous; what is filthy and what is holy. To not know the difference between good and evil is to be as an innocent child. Like Adam and Eve, we are in a sinful condition and do not know it.
Now is the hour for us to buy white clothes from the Lord to cover our shameful nakedness.
Soon it will be time for Christ and His army to appear from Heaven and install the Kingdom of God on the earth. Each soldier who follows Christ is clothed in the white robe of his own righteous conduct, the righteous conduct that flows from the nature of Christ that has been formed in him.
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (Revelation 19:8—NIV)
No Christian will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, at His appearing, who is not clothed in the fine linen of a transformed life. No believer who rides behind Jesus Christ in the Day of the Lord will be worldly, sinful, or self-willed. I think you can see the reason for this.
One of the principal tasks of the royal priesthood will be to judge Satan and the rebellious angels. You can understand readily that believers who themselves are guilty of the sinful deeds of Satan will not have the authority of Divine judgment that will make it possible for them to remove sin from God’s creation.
And this is the very reason for the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation. There Christ is telling us, from the Word of the Father, that only those who overcome worldliness, the sinful nature, and self-will are qualified to eat from the tree of life, to wear the crown of life, to govern the nations with the iron scepter of Christ’s righteousness.
Those who overcome will sit in the Throne of Christ just as He overcame and sits in the Throne of His Father.
We have been chosen, in place of the angels, to govern all the works of God’s hands. But we must be found worthy to do so. We must run the race until we are both qualified and competent to serve as members of the eternal royal priesthood.
The meek, God-fearing people of the nations of the earth, always suffering from the unjust rule of unscrupulous kings, dictators, prime ministers, and presidents, are waiting for the Servant of the Lord to bring justice and peace, to put an end to war, famine, disease, poverty. The Servant of the Lord is Christ—Head and Body.
It really is amazing how the Gospel of the Kingdom of God was changed from the coming of a righteous King to establish justice on the earth into a flight of Christian Gentiles to lay on their couches in their mansions in the spirit realm.
We may think the purpose of the return of Christ is to carry His Church to Heaven but this is not a scriptural point of view. The purpose of the return of Christ is to bring justice to the nations of the earth so the people, especially the poor (for the Gospel is to the poor) will be delivered from the heel of the oppressors who for so many centuries have kept them in poverty and hunger.
If we wish to be a member of the Body of Christ, to return with Him to bring justice to the nations, we must be brought to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ.
We must keep on washing our robe in the blood of the Lamb by becoming the slave of righteousness and rejecting sinful behavior. This we can do through the Spirit of God.
The victorious saints are ready now to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As they triumph each day over the evil of the day, through the daily grace of Christ given to them, they gain increased access to the Tree of Life, to the body and blood of Christ.
If they learn to live by the body and blood of Christ, as He lives by the Father, then at the Lord’s appearing their mortal body will be redeemed and then clothed with a body of glory so they will be like our Lord and will be able to see Him as He is.
Everyone who has this hope in himself is busy, with the help of the Spirit of God, purifying himself or herself by learning to distinguish between good and evil, and then embracing the good and renouncing, rejecting, and resisting the evil with continual diligence and vigilance.
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (I John 3:2,3—NIV)
(“The Knowledge of Good and Evil”, 3670-1)