Got Milk? And Where's The Beef
“For I have not spared to declare unto you all the counsel of God." (Acts 20:27).
The apostle Paul spent three years in Ephesus, admonishing them through his preaching night and day (Acts 20:31). What did he preach?
He testified, “both to Jews and Gentiles penance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21). But to those who had become Catholics he declared "all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).
Today, most protestant preachers preach only "faith" one which is in many cases a counterfeit one which has resulted in many spiritual "miscarriages" in producing a great multitude of half-converted "believers", who have never turned from their sins, but who want to come to Jesus only in order to be "blessed".
Some preachers however are more Scriptural, and preach that penance must precede faith - as Paul did.
But Paul did not stop even there. He went on to preach the full gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).
Many think that they have experienced the 'full gospel' when they have known Jesus as Savior AND been baptized.
But Hebrews 6:1-2 tells us this is only the beginning of the Christian life: "Wherefore leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, let us go on to things more perfect, not laying again the foundation of penance from dead works, and of faith towards God, (that is, forgiveness of sins and knowing Jesus as Savior), Of the doctrine of baptisms, and imposition of hands, (that is baptism in water and our confirmation), and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. ( that is personal judgment, the second coming of Christ and the general judgment)".
This is the milk that newborn babes in Christ need to drink first . For the Author of Hebrews says, “For every one that is a partaker of milk, is unskillful in the word of justice: for he is a little child.” But because most believers remain babes all their lives, they never go on to experience the solid food of the full gospel. Such were the Hebrew Christians, and the Corinthian Christians. Paul writing to the Christians at Corinth said, "For I judged not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2).
And here is where the Sunday Epistle comes in:
Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; By which also you are saved, if you hold fast after what manner I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all, which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures: (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
Why couldn't he tell them anything beyond the fact that Christ had died for their sins and been raised from the dead?
He explains the reason in 1 Corinthians 3:2: Because they were babes, unable to digest solid food. They had not responded sufficiently even to the foundational truth that they had been taught. So Paul could not lead them further. And so they remained carnal, defeated by strife and jealousy, and party spirit, etc.
When people are babes, we cannot teach them anything beyond 'Jesus Christ and Him crucified'. Thus, such believers remain carnal.
"But," says Paul to the Corinthian 'babes', "Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect: (that is, among those in other churches, who could eat solid food) ….the wisdom of God in a mystery, a wisdom which is hidden, which God ordained before the world, unto our glory:" (1 Corinthians 2:6-7).
The church in Ephesus was one such church where Paul could preach the full gospel. What is the full gospel? We can look at the Old Testament tabernacle and learn some lessons concerning it from there.
The tabernacle was a God-given symbol of His dwelling place. In its symbolism, we can see what the full gospel is and how we can enter into the enjoyment of God's presence and His full purpose for our lives.
The tabernacle had three parts to it - the outer court, the holy place and the most holy place - representing three parts of the full gospel.
The First Part of The Gospel
In the outer court, there were the altar of sacrifice and the laver of water (for washing). The altar represents the message of 'Christ crucified for our sins'. The laver represents the external cleansing of our lives (Hebrews 10:22), and the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5) that we testify to in the baptism in water (Acts 22:16).
This is the first stage of the Christian life, where an adult repents and trusts in Jesus as his Savior - who bore the penalty for his sins - and is then baptized in water.
The Second Part Of the Gospel
Whereas the outer court was open to all the Israelites (but not to the heathen), the Holy Place was open only to the priests - to those who were engaged in the service of the Lord.
In the Old Testament, the most important requirement to serve the Lord - whether as a prophet, priest or king - was the 'anointing of the Holy Spirit'. No human qualification could be a substitute for this anointing. Even Jesus did not step out into His public ministry without first being anointed with the Holy Spirit. The Lord desires to lead His children from 'the outer court' into this realm - to the anointing of the Spirit and the exercise of spiritual gifts for His service. This would be our confirmation. To reach thus far is to reach the second stage of Christian life - receiving not only the forgiveness of sins and water-baptism, but our confirmation as well.
The Third Part Of The Gospel
The Most High Place, was where the glory of God dwelt in the tabernacle. No person - not even a priest - was permitted to go into the Most Holy Place. Even the High Priest could go in only once a year to atone for the sins of the people. This highlighted the fact that the way into the immediate presence of God was still not open for any man (Hebrews 9:8). Under the New Covenant however, the way has been opened for us to enter right through the veil into the Most Holy Place. We are told in Hebrews 10:19-20 that we now have "a confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ; A new and living way which he hath dedicated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh,".
The temple in Jerusalem (built according to the pattern of the tabernacle) also had a veil between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. This was torn from top to bottom, when Jesus died on Calvary (Matthew 27:50, 51). This signified a finished work that Jesus had done in His flesh. The secret of living a godly life (we are told in 1 Timothy 3:16) lies in knowing that Christ came in the flesh and kept His spirit pure and undefiled. It is in this way the Most Holy Place has been opened for us to enter in.
Man's self-will is the thick "veil" that blocks off the presence of God from him.
Jesus denied His own will at all times during His earthly life. It was thus that He kept His spirit pure. We too can walk the same way, if we "crucify the flesh (self-will) with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:24). We can then dwell in the Most Holy Place always as Jesus did.
When the apostle writes to the Hebrews, contrasting milk with strong meat or solid food (Hebrews 5:13), he tells them that the truth, the strong meat was difficult to explain. Or in the apostles words, “Hard to be uttered (verse 11). That truth as the context clearly shows in Hebrews 5:7-10 referred to Christ in the days of His flesh, praying with loud crying and tears, suffering, obeying and being made complete.
Just as it was difficult for many believers to receive this truth in the first century, it is difficult for most believers to receive it today also. And the reason is the same - because they are "dull of hearing" (Hebrews 5:11). And they are dull of hearing because they are content with their sub- standard defeated state. But God gives revelation to those who are hungering and thirsting for a godly life. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him. Thus they find the secret of perfection.
It is only when our self-will is crucified through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can live in the Most Holy Place and love everyone with divine love.
Jesus was tempted in every point as we are (Hebrews 4:15). In other words, He was tempted to do His own will and please Himself in numerous ways. God took His Son, during the 33 years that He was on earth, through the entire range of temptations possible to man. And Jesus came through triumphant in every one of them. He never once yielded to His self-will. Thus He never sinned even once, in thought, word, deed, attitude or motive. Self-will becomes sin only when it is yielded to.
This was the "education" the Jesus went through during His earthly life: He learned obedience, when obedience meant suffering (Hebrews 5:8). And the suffering referred to here is suffering that comes through denying one's own will.
The opposite of suffering is enjoyment. There are two options that we all have whenever we are tempted - either to enjoy the pleasure of doing what pleases us or to suffer by putting our self-will to death. Jesus chose to suffer consistently. "He never pleased Himself" (Romans 15:3).
By the time Jesus died on the cross, He had gone through the entire range of temptations possible for man and come out triumphant in every one of them. On the eve of His crucifixion, He could say, Father, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." (John 17:4). And with the completion of His offering Himself on the cross, the veil was rent. The way into the Most Holy Place was open at last.
2 Corinthians 4:10 says that "Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies." What does the "dying of Jesus" mean here? We can have no part in the death that Jesus died on Calvary's cross, where He died for the sins of the world. There He died alone. There He rent the veil and opened the new and living way for us. We don't have to rend the veil a second time now, for it has already been rent. The way into God's presence is permanently open. But we have to walk the way of the rent veil - the way of the cross. We are to share in His perpetual "dying" - the dying to our self-will.
Jesus is our Forerunner who walked this way of self-denial before us. Through this new and living way that He inaugurated for us, we can dwell in the Most Holy Place all the days of our life. This is not a once-for-all experience like entering through a door. It is a way that we must walk on, day by day - taking up our cross daily.
The full gospel then is that "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh” God did. (Romans 8:3-4). In other words, what was not possible under the old covenant - namely, having victory over sin in our inner life, and partaking of God's nature - is now possible. God has made a way for us to partake of His own nature. When a person enters into the Most Holy Place, he enters the third stage of the Christian life - the highest stage.
In the Most Holy Place, only God dwells. Those who dwell here dwell with God and have been freed from people - freed from seeking the honor of men. They have also been freed from being offended, from complaining and grumbling, and from bitterness and envy. They are now free to love others even as Jesus loved them, irrespective of whether they are loved in return or not.
So let us grow up. Let us begin to set aside the milk and go on to the strong meat. Let us let God through the sacramental graces He has given us through His Church rip apart the thick veil of our self desires. So that we can enter into the Holy of Holies and live a victorious life.