A Scriptural Study Newsletter edited by Elder Vernon Johnson

How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!




Depravity's Bondage

One way to describe the effects of bondage is to declare what things those in bondage cannot do. For instance a typical prisoner in a Texas jail cannot go wherever he pleases, or see whom ever he pleases whenever he pleases. Furthermore, he cannot choose to do what ever he pleases. His bondage places severe restrictions on his actions.

We were in bondage to our sin corrupt fleshly nature prior to being born again. Romans 8:2, "For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." The "law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus" is the "new birth" and this "new birth" freed us from the "bondage" of "the law of sin and death."

Nature places restrictions on all living creatures and binds them to the limitations of their nature. For instance, birds can fly and snakes crawl on their underside. Just don't expect a snake to fly and a bird to crawl on its underside. Likewise, man before he is born from above (born again) is limited to the abilities of his sin cursed nature. Paul said, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing..." (Romans 7:18)

Let us now look at several things the scriptures tell us that man cannot do before he is born again:

Matthew 19:25, 26, "When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." With these 5 words (With men this is impossible) the Lord put to silence all the advocates who say that man can save himself from sin and cause himself to obtain eternal life. It simply is impossible for man to save himself.

I Corinthians 2:14, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Those that are born again are two fold men. They are natural men and they are spiritual men. Those who haven't been born again are one fold, i.e., they are natural men only. In this natural state they cannot discern spiritual things nor can they receive the things of the spirit of God. This is why Paul said in I Corinthians 1:18, "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness..." Since the preaching of the cross is of the Spirit of God and the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God it is no wonder he considers preaching of the cross to be foolishness.

Matthew 7:18, "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." Based on this statement it is no wonder Paul said of those under the law of sin and death in Romans 3:12, "there is none that doeth good, no, not one." A person that is not born again possesses only the "corrupt tree" flesh nature and according to Galatians 5:19 21 all of his works are evil.

John 3:3, "Jesus answered and said unto him, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Due to the spiritual nature of God's church kingdom, and because he cannot discern spiritual things, the unborn again man cannot see (perceive) this church kingdom.

John 3:5, "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Without a spiritual nature man is unable not only to see the kingdom of God, but also to enter the kingdom of God.

John 6:44, "No man can come to me except the Father which sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." The word, draw, comes from a Greek word meaning "to drag." The meaning is illustrated by a horse drawn carriage. The carriage is inanimate and does nothing to move itself. All the effort to move the carriage is performed by the horse. Before we are born again we cannot come to Jesus. We must be drawn (dragged) of the Father in order to come to Jesus. It is not our effort that brings us to Jesus, but God's drawing that brings us to Jesus.

John 8:43, 47, "Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word. He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God." Before we are born again, we were not of God, thus we could not hear (perceive) God's words. After we were born again we had the ability to perceive spiritual things and therefore could perceive God's words.

John 12:39, 40, "Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them." The Lord told some unbelievers in John 10:26, "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you." Before we are born again we cannot believe. Faith is one of the nine fold fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and comes as a result of the new birth.

Romans 8:7, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." The "law of God" is the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:2). Before we are born again we have only a carnal mind and that mind is the very enemy of God. With that carnal mind we do not seek after God, we do not fear God, and we do not desire God.

Romans 8:8, "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." Thus, before we are born again we are completely unable to please God and furthermore have no desire to please God.

II. Peter 2:14 speaks of the unborn again in this manner, "Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin..." An unborn again person possesses only a fleshly nature and will only walk after the course of this world and the prince of the power of the air, seeking to fulfill the desires of the flesh and mind (Ephesians 2:2, 3) all of which is sin in the eyes of a just and Holy God.

As we see the bondage of our sin cursed depraved nature we can thank God for that "law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus" that has made us free from "the law of sin and death."

The Bridegroom's Joy

There are multitudes of scripture verses that speak of the joy and  rejoicing the Lord's people have in the Lord and truly there is exceedingly much to rejoice in for all the greatness, love, mercy,  grace, and salvation of the Lord. What truly is amazing to me is that the Lord rejoices in his people! Yet the following scriptures teach us of the "bridegroom's joy:"

1. Ps. 19:5, "Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.

2. Is. 62:5, "For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee."

3. Is. 65:18, 19, "But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people."

4. Jer. 32:41, "Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul."

5. Zeph. 3:17, "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing."

6. Heb. 12:2, "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

When I consider myself as one of the Lord's elect people that make up his bride, I find nothing in myself (as the songwriter wrote) that could give the Creator delight. For I know myself to be a sinner and full of iniquity and that all of my righteousnesses are as filthy rages in the eyes of a just and holy God. As the scriptures say, "There is none  righteous; there is none that understandeth; there is none that seeketh after God; there is none that doeth good."

Also the scriptures teach us that all the works of the flesh are wickedness and sinful before God. Truly God's love toward us is amazing  as we read in Rom. 5:6 8, "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." God loved us when we were yet sinners. However, the joy which God has for his bride is not because those who make up his bride are sinners for God hates sin. Rather the joy that our Husband has for His bride is because of what she became based on what he did for her and what he made her. Heb. 12:2 speaks of how Jesus, our Husband, endured the cross, even though he despised the shame, and that was because of the joy that was set before him.

The joy Jesus has in his bride was that she was redeemed from her sins and made righteous by his atoning blood shed on the cross: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Eph. 5:25 27 speaks of Christ's love for his bride, the church, what he did for her, and what she became as a result of what he did for her: "Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."

In nature when the bridegroom comes out of his chamber to marry the bride, he does so with joy looking to the beauty of the one who he has chosen to be his bride and with anticipation of the joy he will have with her. Thus Jesus has made his bride beautiful thru his atoning sacrifice and as the Bridegroom who came out of the chamber of heaven to claim his bride he rejoiced in her glorious beauty of his imputed righteousness.

Depravity Death Nature

The scriptures when describing our depraved natural state often use the word "dead" as evidenced by the following scriptures:

Ephesians 2:1, "And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins."

Romans 8:2, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."

John 5:25, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live."

Ephesians 2:4, 5, "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved)."

Colossians 2:13, "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgive you all trespasses."

Romans 7:6, "But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter."

II Corinthians 5:14, "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead."

I John 3:14, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."

The word, dead, can be defined as the absence of life and the opposite of life. The words, death and life, are diametrically opposed. In describing the total depravity of man in his natural state (before he is born again) the scriptures use the words, dead and death, to mean the absence of spiritual life. For instance in Ephesians 2:1 3 man before he is born again (quickened) is described as following the course of this world, having the prince of the power of the air (Satan) working in him, having his conversation (lifestyle) in the lust of his flesh, and fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.

According to the scriptures, being the friend of the world is to be the enemy of God, to be possessed and directed by the spirit of Satan is sin, and to fulfill the fleshly lusts is sin. Thus, our entire behavior before the new birth is sinful behavior. Paul said, "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh dwelleth no good thing." He also said in Romans 8:7, 8, "Because the carnal (fleshly) mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." Thus the absence of spiritual life renders one totally incapable of righteous behavior, of seeking after God, of knowing the things of the Spirit of God, or of pleasing God.

It is no wonder that the scriptures say, "By grace ye are saved." It had to be by the grace of God due to our "dead" nature. To be dead is to be without strength. A dead person has no strength whatsoever. If he is dead, he cannot as much as lift his little finger in response to an offer nor can he help anyone. Such was our condition when we were
spiritually dead. Romans 5:6 says, "For when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." Being dead in trespasses and sins makes us spiritually without strength. God's grace and God's power as well as his mercy and love were required to bring us out of this state: Ephesians 2:4, 5, "But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)."

In contrast to death, actions are the evidence of life. John wrote, "We know we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." Love is an evidence of spiritual life, of being born again. Galatians 5:22, 23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law." Fruit is borne on the tree. The tree must first be present before fruit can be borne. Fruit is the evidence and identifier of the tree. Anytime any one of the 9 above fruit are borne is evidence of the presence of the Spirit. We can bear this fruit because we have been born of the Spirit of God. For instance, we have faith because we have been born again. Since faith is a fruit of the Spirit, we must have the spirit before we can exhibit faith.

The Lord told us in John 5:25 how we were given spiritual life from the dead state we were in, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." We know this has reference to the spiritually dead and not the dead bodies in the grave because the Lord
said "the hour is coming and now is..." The resurrection of our dead bodies is coming, but it's not now taking place. The resurrection to spiritual life of those spiritually dead in trespasses and sins is both taking place now and will continue to take place in the future till all that God calls are born again. Please note that it is the powerful "voice" of the Son of God that brings life from the dead. No man has this power in his voice or otherwise to raise the dead. If a man wants to convince me he has power to raise the dead, he needs to go create a universe by speaking it into existence and then maybe I will believe him.

As we said before, only God has the power to raise the dead and such was our condition under the law of sin and death. He quickened us when we were dead. Praise be to His holy name.

Four Faces of the Four Living Creatures

Ezek. 1:10, “As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.” The descriptions of the living creatures in Ezek. Chapter 1 given in figurative language are typical of the gospel ministry. The number four is often associated with the work of the Holy Spirit in the gospel. The four faces of the living creatures answers to four necessary characteristics of the ministers of the gospel.

First, it must be remembered that God, the Holy Spirit, calls men to preach the gospel. They are men both before the call and after the call. As men they have the trials and temptations of men and go thru the problems and affairs of men just as other men do. Preachers of the gospel are not to be exalted or worshiped. Peter, when Cornelius met him and fell at his feet and worshiped him, took him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself also am a man.” Men are not to be worshiped nor are to receive worship. Jesus said in Matt. 23:8-10, “But be ye not called Rabbi; for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called master: for one is your Master, even Christ.” Thus the gospel ministry is not to be called Rabbi, Father, or Master! Similarly, the scriptures say that “God’s name is holy and reverend.” Since God’s name is “reverend” it would be wrong to call men “Holy Father or Reverend.” Such exalted terms are to be reserved for God only who is worthy of such praise.

Also it should be noted that the gospel preachers, being men, are men called of God and their work should be respected as such. When he preaches the word and it convicts or reprimands us, we shouldn’t respond saying, “well he is just a man.” Yes, he is a man, but he is a man called of God to preach the word of God in power and demonstration of Spirit.

Next, the gospel ministry, as men, are to be examples of how men are to live. Pete, when addressing the elders in1 Peter chapter five said to the elders, “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” Paul said in Phil. 3:17, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.” Additionally in 2 Thes. 3:9 he wrote, “Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.” Thus the gospel ministers, as men, are to live their lives in such a way as to be good examples of godly living unto those that they serve. To this end Paul told the young minister, Timothy, in 1 Tim. 4:12, “Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” James taught a similar lesson in James 5:10, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.”

The second face of the living creatures was that of a lion. The lion is one of the most bold of creatures. The gospel preacher must be bold. This boldness, however, is not to come from the fleshly nature. Some men have fleshly boldness based on their position in life or society or based on their education or natural strength or on the size of their financial statement or political position and popularity. Paul said of such things, “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eight day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Parisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blamesless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ...” Thus Paul concluded, “rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Since the gospel ministers as well as all of God’s people, are to have no confidence in the flesh, then where is their boldness to come from? Paul said in 1 Thes. 2:2, “But even after we had entreated, as you know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God with much contention.”

In addition, in Acts 4:13 we read, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were ignorant and unlearned men, they marveled and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” To the end that the gospel might go forth the disciples prayed in Acts 4:29, “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings, that with all boldness they may speak thy word.” Then in verse 31 we read, “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” Thus we conclude that the boldness of the gospel ministry comes from a walk with the Lord and the filling of the Holy Ghost, so that they may speak in power and demonstration of Spirit as Paul said, “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” The disciples spoke boldly in the face of much opposition, persecution, and ridicule. To speak the word of God is to speak with the authority that God gives and to boldly proclaim his word. There is no place in the gospel ministry for a timid or cowardly preacher. We are to proclaim the whole counsel of God and some times those to whom we preach will find that offensive. Nevertheless our preaching is to be to the honor and glory of God, not to the pleasing of men.

Next, they four had the face of an ox. An ox is a burden bearer. There is much work and many burdens that the gospel ministry are called on to bear. Paul wrote, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.” Thus the gospel minister is a laborer in the word and doctrine. As Peter was admonished of the Lord, he is to feed the lambs and the sheep. Thus they are to “feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Likewise, Peter admonished the elders to “feed the flock of God which is among you.” Of course that food that is to be fed to the flock is the word of God. Likewise, the elders are to be overseers over the flock as recorded in 1 Peter 5:2, “taking the oversight thereof,” and Acts 20:28, “over which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers.” Also Acts 20:31, “Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warm everyone night and day with tears.” Similarly Paul told Timothy, “But watch thou in all things...”

Addition parts of the work of the gospel ministry are set forth in Eph. 4:12, “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” The gospel ministry is to labor to “perfect the saints.” The word, perfect, here means “maturing.” We are to labor for the maturing of the saints that they may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Next, we are to labor to teach and encourage the saints of God to labor in their individual ministry. Thirdly, we are to “edify” or “build up” the church or “body of Christ” in the worship and service of God.

An additional work of the gospel ministry is to comfort the Lord’s people. Is. 40:1, 2, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” 1 Cor. 14:3, “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation and comfort.” The gospel ministry are to speak comfort to the hearts of God’s people concerning their sins. Also, they are to speak comfort concerning the loss of loved ones as set forth in I Thes. 4:18, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

The gospel ministry are to labor to the timely salvation of God’s people, teaching them to “save yourselves from this untoward generation.” Also they are to teach them to save them from their ignorance and from going about to establish their own righteousness (Rom. 10:1-4). Also, they preach to save the Lord’s people from a condemning conscience (Mk. 16:15, 16; 1 Pet. 3:21).

The fourth face of the living creatures is the “face of an eagle.” The eagle flies high and sees far. Similarly, the gospel ministry thru the leadership of the Holy Spirit are blest to “come up hither” that is to be lifted up in Spirit to the understanding of God’s word. Thru the leadership of the Holy Spirit the gospel ministers are given insights in the understanding of the scriptures and are blest to be lifted up in giving praise, honor, and glory to the Almighty God. In so doing thru their preaching they also raise up the congregations they serve to give praise, honor, and glory to the God of glory for his grace, mercy, and love toward them. The gospel ministry are blest to see the covenant of redemption God made before the foundation of the world and the end results of that covenant that will be fulfilled when time shall be no more. Thus they are permitted to see far off (eternity passed; eternity future) and to be lifted up to preach and lift up the Lord’s people to praise God for his goodness.

Primitive Baptist