Biblical Principles for Christian Maturity

John H. Stoll, Th.M., Ph.D

Copyright 1996, John H. Stoll

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Chapter 2 - God's Three Essentials

In a point of God's existence, He broke into time and created a world of things, i.e. the heavens, both starry and atmospheric, the earth, and mankind. Genesis 1:26 tells us that God created mankind in His "image and after His likeness", referring not to physical likeness, but according to God's moral character.

In Psalm 8:4-6 it states the threefold purpose for which God created mankind: (1) For fellowship with His creation, v.4; (2) To reflect God's moral character, v.5; and (3) To place mankind as "king" over the rest of creation, v.6. In God's eternal plan this was not only a perfect state, but would be that which would last for eternity. He also told man to fill the earth with his progeny. Into this perfect context Satan came to destroy what God had created, and through deception undermined the creation. This consisted of Satan deceiving Adam/Eve to turn from being God centered to being self centered.

Genesis 3:1-7 recounts for us the story of how Satan through the instrumentality of the serpent appealed to Adam/Eve in three ways: the lust of the flesh, i.e. "the tree was good for food": the lust of the eyes, i.e. "pleasant to the eyes"; and the pride of life, i.e. "desired to make one wise", they ate and thereby separated themselves from God eternally, through their self-centeredness. It was not in the eating, per se, that they sinned, but in their willingness to listen to Satan rather than God.

Into this scene steps God Himself, and in Genesis 3:8-19 we see the confrontation of God with Adam and Eve. In spite of their sin and consequent separation from God, He made a significant pronouncement in Genesis 3:15 that the "seed" or descendants of Adam through their sin would "bruise his heel", meaning that the sin of mankind would cause God's son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross, but in His death/burial/resurrection would ultimately destroy Satan and sin, and provide reconciliation to all mankind.

Now God began the process of carrying out His pronouncement by choosing Abraham to be the father of a great nation, called Israel, through whom would come the "seed of the woman" that would destroy what Satan had caused. In Galatians 4:4, it states that, "when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His son, i.e. Jesus Christ, made of a woman, to redeem them that were under the law, i.e. the law of God's holiness". The first coming of Christ was to destroy the deception of Satan (Hebrews 2:14), so that God would have a basis for reconciling mankind back to Himself, and ultimately fulfill in him the threefold purpose for which He had originally created him. Today, every person who has made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as savior for their sins, has been regenerated, reconciled, and made a child of God spiritually (Ephesians 1:3-14). Now, we await the ultimate fulfillment of our body as well as our spirit (Romans 8:23-25). The Christian today looks forward to the time when God will set up His eternal kingdom, over which we His children will live and reign with Him throughout eternity, and enjoy the ultimate fulfillment of that threefold purpose for which He originally created us. Our knowledge of all this is found in God's revelation to mankind, called the Bible.

The Bible is not a book of all knowledge about everything, though it was written by an infinite, omniscient God. As such, it is a highly selective book, and it contains two basic types of information: (1) ESSENTIAL information that God has revealed to mankind, to help him live for today, and (2) RELATIVE information, which relates to and helps us understand the essentials, but in itself is fragmentary, open ended, and which God has not seen fit to reveal the completeness of it to us today, but may throughout eternity continue to allow us to understand it.

God has given us three essentials in scripture, and of these there is a complete record found. These essentials are for our benefit in order to live in today's world. They are needed now, and will be concluded when Christ takes the Christians to heaven, though our hope of eternity rests upon our understanding and acceptance of them now. They are:

  1. THE REVELATION OF SIN: that is, to show that all have sinned before God, and have come short of measuring up to what His holiness requires. See: Romans 3:10-12,18,23. The results to all are both physical as well as spiritual death. Romans 5:12, John 3:36, 5:24.
  2. THE REVELATION OF SALVATION: to show that Christ came into the world to provide salvation from sin, and to give regeneration and reconciliation to all who trust Him, back to God. He did this through His death/burial/resurrection. Romans 5:6-8,5:18,3:24, II Corinthians 5:19. In the Bible, not only is the way of Salvation made plain, but the complete plan is given. The results to the believer are great: Justification, i.e. God's declaration of righteousness; Sanctification, i.e. the holiness of God conferred upon His children; and ultimate Glorification, i.e. the eternal life of God for us, which He guarantees to us now through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and will someday fulfill for us in heaven. Romans 5:1,2; 8:29; Titus 3:7; Ephesians 2:4-7.
  3. THE REVELATION OF SANCTIFICATION: to show those who are justified by faith and are children of God, how they should live as Christians. Romans 8:3,4; II Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 2:19,20; 5:25; Titus 2:12; I Peter 4:2; Ephesians 5:18 with Colossians 3:16. The Bible provides the guidelines of life, or the track, upon which we should walk, and the Holy Spirit provides the power to enable us to carry out God's principles.
When one evaluates these three essentials of the Bible, it is plain to see that qualitatively they are equal, and must be followed in order. Yet, when evaluated quantitatively, it shows that the first two ways take up very little of the Bible, and the third way consumes the major portion of scripture. It doesn't take God long to show the entrance and destruction of sin, and the need for and way of salvation. but the matter of living a holy life takes a whole lifetime. This is the reason for the history of the children of Israel, the illustrations of life as related in the Bible, and the modeling of Jesus Christ Himself through 33 years of life. All these are to help us pattern our lives after God's will for us.

Part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to guide the child of God into all the truth (John 16:13,14), and to transform him into the moral qualities of God. (II Cor. 3:18). The word "glory", as used in scripture always refers to God's moral qualities, and the Holy Spirit's work is to re characterize Christians so that we reflect those moral and spiritual characteristics of God, as His children. The results are seen in scripture and quantified as the "fruit of the Spirit", of which there are nine elements given. To become more Christ like is not for one to psyche himself up to carry out these elements, rather to allow the Holy Spirit to re characterize him, so that one's behaviors, which show God's character, are those behaviors that reflect the Lord Jesus Christ. In this way we bring glory to Him.

This is the essential purpose of God in the Bible. He has both principles and illustrations to effectively convey His revelation to mankind. The principles are the guidelines for living, and are good constantly, and never change. The illustrations assist us to understand the principles and how to apply them to life's situations. The illustrations were given at a time and location that seem incongruent to modern man, and thereby many not only discount them, but at the same time throw out the principles simultaneously. This is somewhat like "throwing out the baby with the bath water". Though the illustrations may be antiquated, and we are able to replace them with modern illustrations, the principles remain constant. It is the responsibility of the Christian to ferret out the principles, and allow the Holy Spirit to apply them in life to the individual (John 16:13), so that the Christian can "grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).

It is these relative things found in the Bible that are the illustrations, and are also the fragmentary elements that are usually "open ended" in our understanding. Since the Bible is not a book primarily of science, sociology, psychology, history, economics, etc., there are many things that we do not understand of these areas from the Bible. When these fragmentary items are included, they are given to underscore the understanding of the essentials, but, and this is important to accept, are revealed with final truth.

Unfortunately, many have criticized the Bible as being antiquated and not up to date, as far as science is concerned, since the Bible does not give a full dimension in the scientific realm. But that is not the purpose of the Bible. Scientific knowledge is included only in an oblique manner, to help understand the principles, not as an end of knowledge in itself.

However, because the God who wrote the Bible, was also the creator of the universe, and is omniscient, it is reasonable to assume that when He speaks in His word, He speaks with a final truth, that maybe today's science has not caught up with and may someday understand the truth of what God has spoken. The relative or fragmentary knowledges in the Bible are complementary to the essentials, and can be trusted and accepted, even though we may not understand the full import of them. Even the Apostle John noted that if all were written of God's truth that, "even the world could not contain the books that should be written" (John 21:25).

It may be that someday, in eternity, God will see fit to continue to reveal more of Himself and the universe He has created. It seems reasonable that we will not sit in heaven, and become bored with a perfect environment, but that God will continue to teach us. Until then the Bible provides for us, all that we need today, for life and Godliness in this present world. In I Corinthians 13:12 we read, "For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known".

I Corinthians 14:8 reminds us, "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" The Bible underscores the truth that there is a pattern of authority, that there should be a sense of responsibility, and that there must be a realization of final truth. Therefore, "it is required in stewards that one be found faithful" (I Corinthians 4:2). It was Evan Hopkins that once said, "A Christian is one who is intellectually convinced, morally convicted, and spiritually converted." May this be true of God's children. His word can never fail, and we who are His children and ambassadors for Him, should understand His truth, live by it, and let our light shine before others, that they may see the Lord Jesus Christ in us.

O to be like thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer.
Gladly I'll forfeit all of earth's treasures,
Jesus thy perfect likeness to wear.

O to be like thee, O to be like thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as thou art.
Come in thy sweetness, come in thy fullness,
Stamp thine own image deep on my heart.

to be like thee, while I am pleading,
Pour out thy Spirit, fill with thy love,
Make me a temple, meet for thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and heaven above.

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