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February 19, 2004

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Q/A Topics:
Personal Relationship (with Jesus)?

READER QUESTION:
Question regarding the famous phrase "personal relationship". I'm not sure I like the term anymore. At the moment it almost seems self serving--as if we've done something to be part of the salvation process. What's your take?

VW ANSWER:
This, along with that other related famous phrase, "Accepting Christ" We did not choose Christ, but He chose us: "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you.." (Jn15:16) And when He chose us, He made us "accepted in the Beloved" (Eph4:4-6)

(While you're right 'here' at the moment, and you've just freshly read it, please re-read and note the grammar in that last verse, of the word "accepted". It's not a verb. We'll address the significance in a bit.)

Some may think this is a wrangling about words, after all, isn't "accept" and "receive" the same thing? If a person "receives" a gift, are they not also synonymously "accepting" it? We are told that, to become children of God, we must "receive" Jesus Christ. (Jn1:12)

However, the term "accept" also includes an aspect of "judgment" as to "suitability". Is the thing "accept-ABLE"? Does it meet the necessary standards? Does it measure 'up' to the high standards of the one doing the accepting? Please read that article (above link) from September,95

The sinner has no position of loftiness whereby to -presume- to judge God, or Jesus' 'suitability'. It is -we- who must somehow attain to suitability and "acceptability" -TO- GOD! It is not we who accept Christ, but we come to God and plead: "Will You PLEASE ACCEPT ME!" based on the cleansing work of Jesus on the cross

[VW: In case any of you think I'm straining at gnats here, making this all up, pulling this stuff out of thin air to create a straw man to huff at: please understand that charismania (one of the entities that claim god-hood for themselves these days) used to actually have the song: "I Find No Fault in Him" !! :VW]

Today's 'famous' theology has this exactly BACKWARDS. And as such, "many" on the "broad way [to] destruction" are in for quite a shocker when they will hear, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who work out lawlessness!" (Mt7:13-23)

Which, finally, brings us to your question. If Jesus declares (in that day), "I never knew you"...what happened to that so-called "personal relationship" everybody basks in as they are also "spirit-filled"?

I don't know for sure what this expression originally meant to those who first started using it. I know what it meant to me when I started hearing it. I suspect its origins were out of a legitimate effort to distinguish True Faith in Christ from the stuffy liturgical idolatry of the so-called main-line denominations and religions, where the perceived "salvation" was a product of works, penances, masses, church membership, baptisms, soul-winning campaigns, altar calls, etc. The need for a person to not merely perform the rituals of "THE CHURCH", but to "know" Jesus Christ (Php3:10), to be included in the group of those Jesus calls His "friends". (Jn15:14)

Trouble is, wherever this expression may have had its start, today it has become a matter of desiring to "[lean] on [Jesus'] breast" (Jn21:20); with a total disregard for Jesus as the "Alpha and Omega", the One with "eyes like a flame of fire", at whose feet John fell down in a faint "as dead". (Rev1:8-17)

Today's so-called gospel of graaeeesss, that has God accepting the sinner "just as we are" (with no changes/repentance), also sees Jesus as our "buddy", our "pal"; like the Hollywood-esque renditions of the rebellious hippy who frolicks and wrestles around in the dirt with sinners; but does not acknowledge the "Revelation" of -who- Jesus Christ truly is, the majestic, all-powerful "Son of the Most High God". (Lk1:32)

Thus, today's concept of "personal relationship" has people going forward to: shake hands with Jesus (How do you do), add Jesus into their rolodex and cell phone pre-sets along with all their other acquaintances (and if He's 'lucky' they even give Him the #1 preset), to call Jesus up once in awhile when they 'need' something, dream and swoon about sunset walks barefoot-in-the-sand along the beach hand-in-hand with Jesus (as their lover), call up Jesus as they are about to embark in some direction and ask: I'm going to do X, Y or Z, so won't You come along and join me, so we can go along side-by-side in this venture I have planned. To them, Jesus is just merely another 'person' just like themselves; who is at their beck-and-call. After all, didn't Jesus say: "..whatever you ask in My name, that I will do..." (Jn14:13) ??

Well, here is what God says about that: "These things you have done, and I have kept silent; YOU THOUGHT THAT I WAS LIKE YOURSELF; but I will rebuke you, and set in order before your eyes." (Ps50:21)

As we progress to the next question, indeed, the Believer in Jesus Christ has a 'personal' relationship, as we are called the "bride" of Christ. But how do we get to that place?

Here again, western society has it all backwards. In the beginning God brought Eve -to- Adam to be his "helper to complement him". (Gen1:18) The 'head' of that relationship being the 'man'. (1Co11:3)

Lately there's been a sickening plethora of these bachelor, bachelorette, ordinary joe, meet my folks, etc so-called "reality" TV where the males and females mix-it-up, swap around, and in the end the hope is that a compatible "match" is found, and a wedding results. I don't watch them, but have seen enough of passing glimpses and promos, to realize how disgusting they are. But in them... as well as traditionally in society... when a proposal of marriage is given, who does what? Who says what? What is the station of each of the parties involved, in relationship to each other?

Typically: The female is on her 'throne', sitting there goddess-like, all (supposedly) 'wonderful' and beautiful. The male comes in subservience to her, doing homage on bended knee, seeking the 'favor' of his 'exalted' queen. So the question everybody holds their breath to know: How will she respond? Will she 'accept' his proposal? (See? There's that word "accept" again!) Does he (the one God placed as "head") measure up to her (the one God placed in "submission" Eph5:22)? And he promises to "be pleasing" -to- her for the rest of their lives together (not the other way around).

I don't recall the last time (if ever?) I've heard the female express, as Abigail did at David's marriage proposal, where it says: "And she arose, bowed her face to the earth, and said, Behold, your handmaid, a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord." (1Sa25:41)

This-all is a recent 'observation' that has just dawned on me within the past couple of weeks (perhaps a nauseation over all the recent Valentine commercials?), that society has marriage all backwards. And in similar fashion they have our relationship with Jesus Christ all backwards. In the case of earthly marriage, it is merely about inter-spousal relationships. But in the case of Jesus Christ, it becomes a question of Eternal Life. With certain animal species, there is a certain mating ritual which, if one of them gets something wrong, they get killed and eaten, as being an extra-species imposter. In the case of our eternal souls, the result of getting it "wrong" (being an imposter) is eternal damnation! "...how did you come in here without a wedding garment? And he was speechless. And the king said to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Mt22:12-13)

In that day when we stand before the "...great white throne and Him who [sits] on it, from whose face the earth and the heavens fled away" (Rev20:11) "...this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is IN HIS SON." (1Jn5:11)

Do we sit piously, self-righteously, waiting for Jesus to bend-the-knee to us with diamond-in-hand; or do we come prostrate to Him, "God be merciful to me the sinner" (Lk18:13) and in tears (Ja4:9), "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!" (Mk9:24)

And yet, for all of man's sinful self-piety and pride, Jesus pleads: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." (Rev3:20) Thus "..His hand (of mercy) is stretched out still." (Is5:25, 9:12, etc)

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Body or Bride (of Christ)?

READER QUESTION:
I would like to know if there is a difference in the term [the bride of christ] and [the body of christ]? if so who is in which? what people are considered in the body or in the bride?

VW ANSWER:
In Jer2:32 God likens Israel to His "bride". God calls Himself Israel's "husband". (Is54:5) In Eph5:25-32 Paul speaks of "Christ and the church" in spousal terms. The "New Jerusalem" is spoken of being "adorned as a bride" (Rev21:2) And the invitation at the very end: "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come." (Rev22:17)

It is traditionally thought that God (the Father) was dealing with Israel in the O.T. -BUT- that the Church is the realm of Jesus Christ; as though the two are distantly distinct. But recall that the "Rock that followed them (Israel)...was Christ" (1Co10:4) Jesus was the Theophany/Christophany through the "Angel of Jehovah" (Gen16, 22:11, Ex3:2, Jug2:1-4, 13:16-22, etc) If you look up these passages, (or find others like them that I didn't list here), you will notice that the "Angel" does not say, "Thus says the Lord" (speaking on God's behalf); but speaks from His own authority, just as Jesus did to Israel: "as one having authority". (Mt7:29) The O.T. "Angel of Jehovah" was, in fact, Jesus Christ.

See also: "Q/A: Seeing God?"

So, even though the O.T. focuses on God the Father, the Son was there throughout. By the same token, even though everything in the N.T. is "at the name of Jesus" (Ac2:38, Php2:10); Jesus Himself said, "I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things" (Jn8:28); as He also explains to Philip, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father.." (Jn14:9) as it is explained how the Father's "essence" is revealed to us through His Son. (Heb1:2-3) And Paul speaks of bowing the knees in prayer "to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ". (Eph3:14) As our prayer actually involves all three: Through the Holy Spirit, via the advocacy of the Son, to the Father. (Rom8:26-27, 1Jn2:1)

And even though we typically think of the Holy Spirit as being something 'new' as of Pentecost in Acts ch2, God distributed His Spirit to the 70 in the wilderness (Num11:25-26); and when Elijah was taken up, a "double portion" of his spirit was given to Elisha. (2Ki2:9-14) And there are many other such O.T. references to the Holy Spirit.

Thus, you see... No part of God is ever minus the other 'parts' (persons).

In similar fashion, being the "bride" of God is for -all- Believers. God called out Israel, but even in his dedication Solomon prayed regarding foreigners who would hear of God, and pray towards the representation of God's dwelling on earth at that time, the temple. (1Ki8:41-43) We know specifically of Naaman. (2Ki5:17) When a foreigner wanted to partake in the sacrifices, they had to first be circumcised; the physical essence of what it meant to be a "Jew". (Ex12:48, Gen34:15) So, in the O.T. after Moses, Believers were associated with "Israel", or being a "Jew".

In the N.T. the disciples began to be called "Christian". (Ac11:26)

But notice that the "faith of Abraham" is the same for Jew and Gentile, alike. (Rom4:16) Because: "Abraham believed God" (Rom4:3, Ga3:6) That is how the Scriptures begin: "In the beginning -GOD-" (Gen1:1) And so, even though Israel treated Gentiles like "dogs" (Mt15:26), Jesus came to make things right. Among those things, we are told that in Christ: "...that He might reconcile them both (Jew and Gentile) to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity." (Eph2:16)

Yes, there is presently the "Church" made up of believing Gentiles and Jews. In the O.T. those who were found pleasing to God were believing Jews as well as believing (foreigners) Gentiles... such as Rahab, Ruth, Naaman, Queen of Sheba, etc. Notice that the New Jerusalem includes both the 12 tribes of Israel named on the gates, and the foundation as named with the 12 apostles. (Rev21:12,14) But before Abraham and Moses it was neither Jew nor Gentile; it was those who were obedient "by faith". (Hebrews ch11)

Before we continue, however, let's be clear on something: God yet has prophecies to fulfill regarding the -nation- of Israel. There's many false prophets today who proclaim what we have just observed (above) here, proclaiming it accurately; but then, mysteriously without any rhyme or reason, totally ignoring the multitude of promises of God's future restoration, conclude, as a result, that Israel is "done for"; there is no-more-Israel in God's plans. They proclaim that Israel was done for in 70AD. But they seemingly neglect to notice that all those prophecies in Joel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Micah, Zechariah, etc have not yet been fulfilled. They are yet future. And they were -to-, and are -about- Israel. And seeing an -actual- nation of "Israel" over there in the middle-east, over which the nations of the world are presently "trembling"; the "cup" of Jerusalem (Zech12:2-3); it should give them pause, to open their eyes. There is a national entity there, albeit yet in unbelief.

Being in unbelief as they are, they are not part of the Church of Jesus Christ. But prophecy also tells us God's promise to give them a "new heart" (Ezk26:36) as Paul confidently proclaims, "And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins." (Rom11:26-27) You see: their salvation will be for them the same way it is for the Church... the removal of sin from the heart.

Salvation has -always- been "by grace through faith" (Eph2:8) Abel was the first martyr for offering a Godly sacrifice. (Gen4) Centuries before Noah they "began to call upon the name of Jehovah" (Gen4:26) Noah was a "preacher of righteousness" (2Pe2:5) And even after Abraham comes along, against whom "faith" is compared (Rom4:3), there is Melchizedek, outside the Abrahamic covenant, "priest of the Most High God". (Gen14:18, Heb7) And if it is true that Job lived during the time that Israel was enslaved in Egypt (see: Q/A: Job?) well, he was another Believer 'outside' the Israel/Church covenants. So, just because there was Israel, then the Church; and then the future with Israel again; that does not negate Christ's "other sheep" that "are not of this [Israel] fold". (Jn10:16) And also contrariwise, those who are Believers of God through Jesus Christ, the way people have always been Believers, through the "Seed" of the woman (Gen3:15), should not be disparaging of God's future restorative promises regarding Israel, through whom the Seed came, to whom the Seed will return to reign on David's throne. (Is9:6-7)

Be very careful what is in your heart regarding Israel, God's "elect"; even though they "have not known [God]". (Is45:4) God's judgment is not limited to devils like Hitler or Islamic Jihad who murder and maim Israelis. Through Abraham He promises blessing for those who bless Israel, and also: "I will curse him who -despises- you" (Gen12:3) When someone belittles Israel, saying that they are "done for", is that not a form of "despising"? Remember: Jesus was born a Jew, and Israel was His "brothers" (Ps22:22), who did not "receive" Him. (Jn1:11) But notice what John exhorts regarding claiming to love God, but not the brethren: "HE IS A LIAR; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how is he able to love God whom he has not seen?" (1Jn4:20)

Therefore, TAKE HEED! The term "brother" is a unique term referring to the 12 tribes (brothers) of Israel, and the resultant nation-family. The Church, on the other hand, while we see many references to "brethren" in the N.T., remember that the fledgling Church was Jewish, so they still Jewishly called each other "brother". But the Church of Jesus Christ is a 'body'. Do our hands, or big toe, or hair call each other "brothers and sisters"? Not really.

So... What about the "body" of Christ?

This is ultimate "personal relationship" (from the preceeding question). The term "bride" is the -label- for all Believers. The 'body' is the substance and/or essence of that bride; and it should be clear that it, too, includes -all- Believers (in Jesus Christ).

Paul talks about Christ's body, "which is the church". (Col1:24) We addressed this in the Ephesians series (you can find it in the Library); but the body, the church, is Christ's "fullness". (Eph1:23) When I see such words put together in a statement like that, and realize the meaning of those words, I understand better Paul's words later on when he speaks of the "two become one" being a "great mystery"; since the husband/wife relationship is such a mystery; of how much greater mystery is the fact that the church is "one" with God! (Jn17:21) Remember: "mystery", by definition, means that we don't yet fully understand it, and won't as long as we are only yet seeing "through a mirror dimly" and not yet "face to face" (1Co13:12); at which time we "shall be like Him, [as] we see Him as He is" (1Jn3:2)

When we consider the ministries and gifts that each body member is entrusted with through the Holy Spirit (Rom12, 1Co12), we are, each one, a "part" of the body, and also inextricably 'attached'. (Rom12:4-5) If we trim our toe nails (those parts at our extremities), and happen to get too close to the flesh... it HURTS! Our little toes are 'part' of us. They are attached. The nerves (Holy Spirit) runs from them up to the brain (Father) just as they do from the hands, or stomach, or mouth, or eyes.

As long as the same -BLOOD- courses through all the body parts, it is all part of the SAME BODY.

In similar fashion, all those who have been cleansed by the -same- "BLOOD of Jesus" (Heb10:19) and had their sins "washed...in His own blood" (Rev1:5), and thus been "cleansed" (1Jn1:7)... are part of the -same- 'body' of Christ.

Just as the "soul of all flesh is in the blood" (Lev17:11), so too, "without the shedding of blood there is no remission (of sins)" (Heb9:22) Thus, Jesus Christ offered Himself "to bear the sins of many" (Heb9:28)

Thus, becoming a part of the "body of Christ" is simply a matter of "receiving" Jesus Christ.

"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those believing into His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (Jn1:12-13) It is a matter of being "born from above". (Jn3:3)

Now...if a Believer is a "member" (1Co12:14,19,26) of Christ's body, in answer to the previous question: how much more "personal" can the "relationship" be?! Yes?

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