“I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”
We live in a world of technology which enables us to communicate with many people, research any subject and obtain vast amounts of information almost instantaneously which has erroneously given man comfort in the illusion of power. The information super highway has become the avenue whereby facts and figures, whether confirmed or substantiated, are transmitted for support of a cause, verification of a proposition or the dissemination of an idea seemingly without the burden of time. Man in the corruption of his nature has been given a toy by which he may hide in the darkness of ambiguity, strike from a well concealed location and find comfort in his indiscretions in the vastness of the cyber world.
In the fullness of time at the end of the age, Yehovah God became flesh and dwelt among His people. He walked upon the earth according to that labourious mode of transportation and word of mouth was the means for the transmittal of the evening news. Yehovah God was incarnate in demonstration of the fullness of His salvation which was to all men, the Jew first and also to the nations and in the midst of this primitive order His Word went forth. He walked the face of the earth, in what is called the years of His earthly ministry, covering many miles to meet with certain people, attend to various and sundry illnesses and maladies and to preach the power of God unto deliverance; for the Kingdom of God was present.<'p>
The fact of the time ordained of God for this magnificent demonstration of the love of God for His Beloved in His absolute sovereignty over His creation, which He created for His good pleasure, demands that everything necessary for the accurate and efficient communication of the purposed intent was prepared and present in this primitive culture and isolated region of the world. He did not need the mass media of this day or the rapid communication of facts and figures for His Word to go forth into all the world. The Salvation of Yehovah came to seek and to deliver they who were lost and in perfect demonstration of His great power over all things, He found certain ones who had been stricken with illness, born with congenital defects or possessed by demons; each of which were properly outfitted for the manifestation that the fullness of God dwelt in this man bodily being prepared by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. No modern medicine, advanced pharmacological wonders or medical training of this day was needed for the Great Physician had come and everything was exceedingly good.<'p>
The Apostle Paul was one, as it were, born out of time. He was restricted to the use of vocal communication (no PowerPoints, video conferences or social media) and limited to the writing of letters on scrolled parchments transported by currier's to certain people in specific locations who did not have addresses on their front doors or a centralized postal system, yet the letters arrived at their appointed destinations and the brethren were comforted. The Apostles had no organization to fund them for their mission trips or agencies to sponsor them with advanced intelligence of the regions of their work or the indigenous people of the regions for when the Spirit of God moved the men of God were made ready, willing and able as they went forth, not knowing where they were going, to do the will of God.
Paul had been properly equipped with a wonderful knowledge of the law as set forth in the scriptures which was for many years clouded in the traditions of man. He was an educated man of many different subjects and a tradesman in the art of tent making but he was made zealous for the ways of Israel in both a social and religious manner. He lived his life in strict conformance to his understanding of the righteousness as found in the Pharisaical interpretation of the law and was deceived to conclude that he was right for he profited above all his kinsman in his endeavours. But, in the fullness of time, God revealed that this morally righteous and devout man was persecuting the very One he thought he defended.
Then, after a fourteen year hiatus, wherein this man was taught of the Spirit as he grieved over the many dear brethren he incarcerated, tortured and consented to be put to death, he was returned to the work which God has chosen him unto properly prepared for the work of the ministry. He returned to the ‘gathering places’ (synagogues) and stared at the crowd of zealous men wherein he once sat, and reasoned with them from the scriptures that Jesus was anointed of God as that Prophet who should come. He also disputed and reasoned with the common people of the land who were uncircumcised in the flesh, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, unclean by reasons of heritage and customs and at one particular location, “we sat down and spake unto the woman which resorted there” (Acts 16:13).
Here at Philippi, a certain woman from Thyratira, who was a merchant of garments and products that had been dyed purple, a color indicating royalty and wealth, was among these women gathered in this certain place worshipping Yehovah God, “whose heart Yehovah opened”. She heard the word of truth as the true sound of that certain trumpet, and she attended to Paul and his company. The Lord had ordained that she should be who she was, where she was , employed as she was, yet in the exact location with open ears to hear what He had prepared for her to hear. Then, in the day of His power, He made her willing to be baptized and to extend her hospitality of all that God had given her (most likely through the employment wherein she was engaged) so that Paul would abide with her until such time as the hand of God brought before him the agent and means whereby he should be taken, falsely accused, beaten and incarcerated to meet another member of the little flock of the Fold of God; the jailor.
Thus as the Lord gave forth such testimony in the earth-quake, the manifestation of His people and the testimony of His servants, the gospel was preached by the mouth of various men despised of all men for His name’s sake. Proud men were brought low, the powers of the Adversary with his messengers and ministers was proven to be impotent before the power of Yah and the rulers of this world bowed low before the name of Jesus and His people rejoiced; they did not become famous, wealthy or holy as they were scattered by the hand of God among every kindred, nation, tribe and tongue of this world and like Elijah by the brook, God provided for them such things as were needful to sustain them. These had no confidence in the flesh, either in ability or assets, for they were taught of the Spirit the wretchedness of their vile bodies as they walked by faith not by sight; therefore whatsoever was set before them they ate, asking nothing and whatsoever things they had they were taught to consider them sufficient.
“But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me flourished again, wherein you were also careful, but you lacked opportunity” (4:10)
The experience which Paul had in Philippi resulted not only in the manifestation of the presence of the Holy Spirit in His children but a strong personal bond was forged in and through the common deliverance of the family of the election according to grace. During the ten years or so after his departure from the region, Paul would travel many miles and experience a multitude of trials, tribulations and persecutions from defenders of the Law, scholars of philosophy and Zionists who zealously looked for the return of the kingdom of Israel. This chosen vessel walked the assigned path that brought him to the areas where the power of God was to be preached, for the ground had been prepared either to receive the word in power or to dismiss it as worthless, and the same Spirit did not allow him to preach into other areas (Acts 16:7).
As a result of this preaching of the gospel, Paul was received of the poor and afflicted brethren whom the Lord had scattered as the seed in the garden, yet he would not be accountable to any of them for his needs. He labored, not only in the work of the ministry but also in the trade for his keep, (18:3) as he and his fellow labourers were sustained by such as the Lord saw fit to supply. These left their homes and as led by the Spirit, entered in where they were received and accepted such as was set before them. There were times when they went without food or shelter yet the Lord provided. Paul was stoned and left for dead, as a testimony to the power of the Spirit of life and the power of the resurrection; in this he was abased as a criminal against the Law of Moses and the nation of Israel but he was also exalted to be counted worthy to suffer for the name of the Anointed.
The hand of the Master had made this man into the bold and arrogant defender of the law and the same hand had made his speech rude and his appearance repulsive to the eyes of man. He took the one who would kill for his understanding of the truth up to the third heaven and revealed the beauty and wonders of God which man cannot see or comprehend. He reasoned with the learned and was gentle with the weak as the truth was revealed to the world “that the race was not to the swift nor is the battle to the mighty, neither yet bread to the wise nor yet riches to the men of understanding nor yet favour to men of skill but time and chance happens to them all” (Ecc. 9:11).
This servant of God received forty stripes five times, was beaten three times with rods, stones, suffered shipwreck (floating a day and a night in the deep), robbed, ridiculed and cast out by his countrymen and the heathen, being pursued in the cities, the wilderness and upon the seas (oft-times the same mobs would follow him from town to town stirring up the people against him) and now he was, once again, incarcerated for that very truth. He labored by the strength of the only One who strengthened him in all things that he might preach the Salvation of Yehovah which is good news to all who have been delivered and whether he was weary or in pain, hungering or thirsty, cold or naked this chosen vessel proclaimed that whatsoever state he was in, he had learned to be content.
It was through the heritage of his father that Paul was given to appeal to Rome yet nothing is said concerning this vital thread in the tapestry of his life. He is sent by this means to Rome where he is treated kindly, not because of diplomatic involvement or any compassion of the leaders of the day, it was according to Roman law that this man be held safe until such time as he could be heard of Caesar; once again an element which neither Paul nor his adversaries had any hand in preparing for this time in his life.
From this new dwelling Paul wrote to confirm the churches and to encourage them as to his well-being and the continuance of the truth. Many had risen up seeking the pre-eminence among the brethren and had exalted themselves to positions of power. These were given of the Lord to think more highly of themselves than they ought and the Spirit revealed many to the brethren yet others flourished as the congregations disbanded going forth into all the world. The assembly at Philippi heard of Paul in Rome because the Spirit had laid it upon his heart to send Epaphroditus to them to strengthen them for they were concerned of his condition being in bonds. Paul sent ‘love’ (Epaphroditus) to the brethren because the love of the brethren is not confined to space nor limited by time to convey to those of like precious faith that man had not effected the Spirit of God in any manner for “Many brethren waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear; some even preach Christ even of envy and strife and some also of good will: the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds but the other of love knowing that I am set in defense of the gospel. What then? Notwithstanding every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached and I therein do rejoice yea and will rejoice” (1:14ff)
This one who had labored day and night for them in love of the brethren continued to warn the assembly that there were many who would come in among them and usurp authority by condemning this same man because of his imprisonment. The word which was given was first of the Anointed One who made Himself of no reputation, then of the brethren who labored until he was nigh unto death and finally of himself who indeed had all the credentials (naturally speaking) to be a teacher of Israel but who had been made low for the glory of the gospel. Even though he had been adorned with the prestige and qualifications of man, yet his zeal was for the fellowship of the sufferings of Messiah through the power of His resurrection as he continued to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ” of which all who are perfect, complete in Him, are of the same mind.
All who have been born from above, whom the Spirit has revealed the light of truth unto in the time appointed of the Father, know that the nature of man is unclean and his works unprofitable. They have the fullness of the Godhead in them as the Spirit causes them to ‘hit the mark’ in the keeping of His law and statutes and hereby do they know by experience that man cannot ‘hit the mark’. Paul was not intimating that he had found a way for the natural man to improve his aim or change his weapon of choice so that he now was able to ‘hit the mark’ nor was he admonishing the brethren that they should do that which he did not find a way of doing in himself.
All that he had done as a fledgling Pharisee had made him powerful and wealthy in this life but the Spirit had shown him that they were all dung. This was to be taken out and burnt outside the camp for it had no place in the service of the Tabernacle; the irony is that indeed this action was in keeping with the demands of the covenant of the law. There was a Priest assigned to the collection of the innards of the animals being slain, including the dung, whose duty to the law was to remove these vile things and burn them with fire outside the camp. This is the type of the Refiner’s fire which burns the outer man, then inner passions and the wastes of the natural man and when the Priest returned to the camp, having completed his assignment for that day, he was unclean until morning. Then in a type of the resurrection, after showing himself to the High Priest to confirm that he had done his job, he appeared unto the people, having washed the blood off himself and being given a change of clothing, to signify that the work was finished.
This type stood as the representation of the resurrection of Messiah who took the sin of His people outside the camp, being consumed in the fire of His judgement, and returned to show Himself unto the Father saying, “Behold I and the children whom thou hast given unto Me”. The Father, seeing the travail of His soul and being well pleased, declaring the generation of the Anointed Salvation of Yehovah in the resurrection of the Son by the Spirit of Holiness, has predestinated that His children be conformed to the image of the Son by the fellowship of His suffering; thusly Paul said “I know both how to be abased and I know how to abound everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need”.
“Those things which you have both learned and received and seen in me, do and the God of peace shall be with you” (4:9)
The apostle was not entering into a long series of admonitions and exhortations whereby he instructs the people to be thankful for what they have and quit complaining; nor was he giving a lesson in mission support or the financial assistance of the labourers in the field. He was setting forth, through the example of his own life, the truth concerning the state or condition he was in. All that had transpired in his life was essential to bring him to the place where he was (in prison) and all this was for the edification of the saints. The same people who were frightened and confused by the notion that the persecutor of the church was a child of grace, were now emboldened by the persecution which he endured for the gospel of Jesus Christ. His life was a tangible manifestation of the inner testimony of truth; that there is no good in the flesh, the accomplishments of man are but the means whereby the will of God is performed and everything comes to pass as appointed by the absolute sovereignty of Almighty God.
Paul was taught by the Spirit through many trials and tribulations that whatever state God had him in was the perfect place for the work that he was assigned and that all which proceeded that time was an essential foundation on which to build, not according to the works of man which are wood, hay and stubble, but rather in the weakness of the flesh the Spirit was manifested as the strength of Yehovah. Thus all that he was and did was by the power of God concerning the deliverance of His people from the body of this death through the shed blood of the Lamb of God.
The fact that God does not change and there is nothing new under the sun should be sufficient to conclude that those things which were seen in the life of this chosen vessel are indeed the same that happens to every child of the kingdom. Since God has predestinated His children to be conformed to the image of His Son it must be that they walk the same path of the fellowship of His suffering by His power who is the first resurrection. Each is born in the fullness of time and made subject to the dictates of this creation and the vanity of this world. Every man in his order experiences the contradiction of sin against himself as the Spirit reveals the truth which shows that the outer man is being consumed by the Refiner’s Fire as the inner man is strengthened by the Spirit of God. The labours of the flesh are unprofitable while the good works that the children of hope have been created unto are for the supplying of the needs of the members of the body. Thus the Apostle, who was the chiefest of sinners, could say “Be a follower of me even as I also of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1)
This is the fruit that abounds to the account of the brethren, that sweet smell of the acceptable sacrifice before the Lord well pleasing unto the Father. His children have all things necessary which pertain to their station in life and the labours they have been assigned which is manifested in time as they become necessary because;
“My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now unto God our Father glory for ever and ever Amen”
Your servant in Christ,
(Elder) Chet Dirkes
March 18, 2018