Innate Qualities

When considering characteristics of the human body that are innate, several things may come to mind. Actions such as a heart beating, lungs breathing, and eyes blinking are examples of actions that happen involuntarily and do not require to be first taught. When the Lord made Adam, He made him a fully-grown man who’s bodily functions were fully developed. Adam’s mind was made to understand logic, and he was made able to understand the language in which the Lord spoke to him. Mankind was created with a certain set of abilities that needed no instruction, from the moment God breathed into the nostrils of Adam. (Genesis 2:7) Some actions are in some ways obviously and involuntarily innate in regards to the physical, human body; this we know to be true. How often, though, do we take into consideration the innate qualities of our spiritual natures that set mankind apart from the rest of creation? For instance, can communication with words be seen as spiritually significant? Is prayer instinctual? Is the desire to fear and worship a being of higher power something inherent? Questions like these have rattled the minds of philosophers and deep thinkers for ages. Fortunately for mankind, answers to these questions can be found in Scripture, and can be demonstrated through the examples of men and women throughout history.

The first instance of a spiritually innate ability can be found as early as Adam communicating with God in the garden. Starting in verse 16 of Genesis chapter 2, a communication between God and man was happening. “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from there of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.’” It goes on to say in verse 19 that Adam was given the authority to name the creatures God presented to him. These circumstances, although simple in appearance, prove two truths. The first truth that can be noticed is that there is a verbal language which God used to transfer messages to Adam. The second truth is that that language appears to be understood and reciprocated by Adam without him being taught it. In light of these truths, one could conclude that the act of communicating with God was an experience for Adam that was unlike a man’s typical, physical needs, but was a spiritual one that needed to be met just the same.

Although mankind can’t have a verbal conversation with the Lord today, there is an avenue we’ve received by which we can meet the spiritual need to communicate with God, this is prayer. Throughout the Patriarchal Age, most recorded instances of communication had with God was verbal and direct. The word “pray” wasn’t even mentioned until the time of Abraham. Its first reference is made several hundred years after the creation of man, in Genesis 20:7. The context of its inclusion was after the Lord had appeared to King Abimelech in a dream to warn him that Sarah was Abraham’s wife, and not his sister like Abraham had told him. Other occurrences of the word “pray” began to emerge in the Bible after this point in time.  

Due to Abimelech’s preexisting belief in the gods, the word “pray” would have meant something to him. However, moving forward from Abraham’s time, and focusing on the present, there are people who choose to accept a belief in there being no God (or gods for that matter) at all! If we are holding to the concept of this act of communication being one that is innate, then it would be significant to witness individuals who claim, with no belief in a supernatural being, to pray. Such information was given attention by Timothy Keller, a Presbyterian minister and famous author, in his book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. Although not all of what Keller has to say is something I agree with, his cited research on this topic fits in well with the subject at hand. In his book, Keller cites a survey done in 2004 that shows a percentage of atheists who pray. In the original survey, the results concluded that almost 30% of the atheists living in the UK admitted to praying. If the definition can be agreed upon that praying is a form of communication with something of a higher power than the individual, why would someone who claims a belief in nothing pray at all? Could it be that it’s simply a part of the human nature to desire for a communication with what is superior to mankind? A number of God fearing people have answered this question with, “yes.”

In Scripture, there are references to what the innate purpose of man is to be. Both the Old and New Testament share knowledge on what cannot be denied by any human being who has lived, or will live, on the earth. In regards to what the purpose of creation is, one does not have to search very far in Old Testament to discover it. “For the choir director. A Psalm of David. The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands (Psalm 19:1).” Glory to God is displayed in His creation. In regards to what is innately known by man, the apostle Paul makes reference to the fact that man has no excuse but to accept God’s power and divinity. Romans 1:19-20 says, “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” What the writer says in Ecclesiastes 12:13 can be paired well with the words of Paul. “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” 

Due to certain qualities that have been instilled within us, the desire for a connection between us and our Lord is inevitable. The need to express a respect and adoration for a higher power has been something that remains to set humanity apart from the rest of creation. Focusing on the innate qualities of our spiritual natures is something that may prove to be beneficial as we walk our Christian walks. I urge us all to focus on our individual walks and talks with our Lord, and treat them as if their intentional. The Lord calls all of us to Him. “Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made (Isaiah 43:7).”

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The Spiritual Realities of Day to Day Life

The prophecy of Malachi is presented as a conversation between God and His people. In this conversation, God makes several statements and several accusations that the people are skeptical of, leading them to ask the following questions in their unbelief:

  • How have you loved us?
  • How have we despised your name?
  • How have we polluted you?
  • Why does He not regard our offering?
  • How have we wearied Him?
  • How shall we return?
  • How have we robbed you?
  • What have we spoken against you?

These questions are spoken in an incredulous tone, as though the people have no idea what God is talking about. God’s responses to their resentful questions revealed that all kinds of circumstances in their daily lives had a spiritual significance that they have not considered.

  • Though they were unaware of it, their prosperity and their invitation to be God’s special people was a manifestation of His love for them.
  • Though they do not think of it in such a way, their casual practice of giving God their leftovers rather than their best was really an insult on their part towards God.
  • Their sinful lifestyles and selfish decisions were separating them from God with consequences that they would not have imagined.
  • Their attitude of envying the wicked and considering righteous living as burdensome was a wearying accusation that they were bringing to God.

And yet the people saw none of this in their daily lives: God’s love, their disrespect, the spiritual damage that resulted from their foolishness, etc. The spiritual realities of life were lost on them.

Do we recognize the spiritual significance of the happenings in out lives? Do we consider every good thing to be a gift from Him, or is it merely “good luck” when we prosper? Are our sins perceived as private matters with no long term consequences, or do we recognize the damaging ripple effects they can have on our lives and the lives of those around us?

2 Kings 6:17 says “Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

Could it be that our lives are full of “horses and chariots of fire” and many other wonders that are only recognized by those who are spiritual?

God conveys both His love and His discipline to us day by day, whether we take the time to listen or not, and we convey either insults or gratitude to Him in return, whether we do so intentionally or without a second thought. God would have us to open our eyes to those realities.

Do Not Be Arrogant

When Paul wrote his letter to the church in Rome, he had to spend a good deal of effort helping the Jews to overcome the pride and arrogance that could blind them to the true beauty of Christ. It was an unfortunate irony that their rich heritage of religious practices and the cherishing of scriptures might actually work against their ability to obey the gospel.

For one thing, many of the Jews thought that simply being Jewish guaranteed them God’s favor. This led Paul to ask two specific questions designed to help them realize the important distinction between a) conditions favorable to spiritual growth and b) inherent spiritual superiority.

The first question, found in Romans 3:1 is this: “What advantage has the Jew?” and the answer given is “Great in every respect.”

The second question, in verse 9, is this: “What then? Are we better than they?” and the answer given is an emphatic “not at all.”

Notice the specific differences in the wordings of these two questions, for within their subtleties lie the unraveling of the Jew’s false sense of superiority.

The first question, “what advantage has the Jew?” asks simply what special and unique blessings have been enjoyed by the Jewish people. And indeed, there were a great many blessings that the Jews had received. As Paul states in verse 2, “they were entrusted with the oracles of God.” That is to say, that the typical Jewish person grows up hearing and memorizing God’s prophecies concerning His Son and His cosmic scheme of redemption.

The second question, “Are we better than they?” asks not simply what special blessings the Jews have received, but whether or not they are inherently more valuable to God or more worthy of His grace.

The implication is clear, Jews have been favored by God in the sense that He has blessed them with conditions favorable to spiritual growth, but He has most certainly not favored them in the sense of making them ethically, morally, or spiritually superior simply for being a Jew.

Now apply this to your own situation. Perhaps God has blessed you with conditions favorable to receptivity. We a individuals have been blessed with some or all of the following:
• Living in a country with religious freedom.
• Living in a country where Christianity is common.
• Having access to a Bible.
• Being born into a Christian family.
• Being reached out to and taught the gospel by a Christian.
• Attending a church that studies the Bible thoroughly.
• Having a heritage in the Restoration Movement.

We must not make the same mistakes that many of the Jews were making.

We must not, for instance, assume that simply because our church has its roots and heritage in the Restoration Movement, that God will accept us regardless of our specific individual and congregational actions and decisions. Simply having “Church of Christ” on a sign guarantees us nothing. Actually being Biblical in practice is essential.

We must also realize that we are not Biblical Christians because we are just so much wiser or more spiritual than the billions of other people on this earth, but in large part because God has blessed us with conditions that are favorable to our spiritual growth. Had we been born in another country, or another family, or another century, we might not have received the blessings that have brought us to the understanding of the truth that we have today. This realization should result in humility, not arrogance.

An Outline of the Letter to the Ephesians

Ephesians is written primarily to Gentiles.

This becomes apparent gradually through the use of the pronouns “you” and “we” to refer to Gentiles and Jews respectively:

  • “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance… to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance.” (1:11-14)
  • Consider similar instances in 2:11-12 and 3:17-19

The central message of Ephesians is the mystery of Gentile inclusion.

The word “mystery” occurs 6 times, more than any other New Testament book.

  • “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.” (1:9)
  • “By revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ… to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (3:3-4,6)
  • Consider also 3:8-9 

The goal of Paul’s writing is to help the Gentiles grasp the magnificence of God’s gift to them.

  • This is achieved through illustrations:
    • You were dead; God made you alive. (2:1-10)
    • You were strangers; God made you fellow citizens. (2:11-22)

The goal of Paul’s prayers is likewise to help the Gentiles grasp the magnificence of God’s gift to them.

  • “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” (1:18-19)
  • Consider also his prayer in 3:14-21

All glory and thanks be to God for His salvation.

  • It was according to His will.
    • He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” (1:4)
    • He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” (1:5)
    • “According to His kind intention.” (1:9)
    • “Having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” (1:11)
  • He acted for His glory.
    • “To the praise of the glory of His grace.” (1:6)
    • “To the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.” (1:12)
    • “To the praise of His glory.” (1:14)
  • It was His grace, not our goodness.
    “Grace” occurs 12 times, more than any book except Romans.

    • “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” (1:7)
    • “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” (2:4-5)
    • “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (2:8-9)

There is a major shift that pivots on “Therefore” in 4:1.

This is a shift from the theological to the practical, and is emphasized by the word “walk,” which occurs 7 times, more than any other epistle.

  • “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” (4:1)
  • “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind.” (4:17)
  • “For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light” (5:8)
  • “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise.” (5:15)

Walk in unity

  • Attitudes to preserve it. (4:1-3)
  • Truths that establish it. (4:4-6)
  • Leaders who seek to preserve it. (4:7-13)
  • Forces that threaten it. (4:14)
  • An illustration of it. (4:15-16)

Walk in purity (5:1-21)

  • Imitate God.
  • Not in darkness, but in light.
  • Not in: immorality, impurity, greed, filthiness, silly talk, coarse jesting, covetousness, drunkenness.
  • Rather: giving thanks, goodness, righteousness, truth, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Walk uprightly in relationships

  • Wives (5:22)
  • Husbands (5:25)
  • Children (6:1)
  • Fathers (6:4)
  • Slaves (6:5)
  • Masters (6:9)

Having given these moral prescriptions, the letter to the Ephesians now gives encouragement and proper tools for the spiritual battle.

  • Armor of God (6:14-17):
    • “Having girded your loins with truth,”
    • “Having put on the breastplate of righteousness,”
    • “Having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace,”
    • “In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith,”
    • “And take the helmet of salvation,”
    • “And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
  • Prayer: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” (6:18)

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