CHIEF APOSTLES

I recently came across a man who refers to himself as chief apostle, and from what I can tell, he seems to teach that he’s called by God as the modern day “chief” of all apostles. He claims to have had an experience (or experiences) with God and was called by God into this prestigious ministry. That alone ought to be a glaring red flag from the get- go, but he has followers.

You may find it interesting that the only use of the word “chief” in relation to apostles in scripture is used by Paul as a description of the self appointed apostles who were deceiving the Corinthians. You may also find it interesting that those who were deceiving the Corinthians were boasting of their visions. If you have never taken time to read Paul’s refutation of the false apostles who were influencing the Corinthians, it is very insightful regarding the mojo of false apostles, the gullibility of those who believe them, and the heart of a true apostle as Paul pleads with the Corinthians.

Paul thought of himself like a father to the Coritnhians because they had been nurtured under his ministry. Paul had not moved in on another man’s labors. Paul genuinely cared for the Corinthians and loved them deeply. In 2 Corinthians 11 and 12, Paul out of sincerity and passion, compares his apostleship with the false apostles who had influenced the Corinthians. One of the things that Paul reveals about the false apostles was their boasting of supernatural experiences. In response Paul says, “I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord…”

This is part of a train of thought in which Paul is basically giving the Corinthians what they want. It would be like him saying, “you want to hear boasting about  visions, well, let me tell you about visions I have had”  Now, Paul does not say this with any pleasure as if he’s truly boasting in his experiences. He is actually saying it to their shame to get a point across.

He goes on to say this:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses—

The context seems to indicate that Paul is referring to his own experience of being caught up into the third heaven, and I believe that many scholars agree that Paul is referring to himself. However Paul did not promote his ministry by such experiences and only brings it up to show the Corinthians their error.

Paul had chosen to boast in his human weakness because the grace of God he had discovered in his own life was available to all through faith in Jesus Christ. Real supernatural experiences, like being caught up to heaven are few and far between, but in real life in this world where there are trials and suffering, people need to know the grace of God in truth.

Those who boast in dreams, vision, and supernatural experiences do so to elevate themselves, instead of the grace of God which is given to all who call on the Lord. Consider Paul’s words to the Colossians:

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. ~ Colossians 2:6-19

Notice that Paul mentioned those who go into details about visions which are puffed up by their fleshly minds and then he says, “not holding fast to the Head”. Christ is the head of the body and those who boast in visions promote themselves and not Christ. They want you to believe they are special and thus they gather followings rather than leading others into the true grace of God.

Those who claim to have a special place in God’s Kingdom because of supernatural experiences are false ministers. A true minister will boast in the grace of God which is available to all of God’s children. God’s true grace cannot be mixed with the boasting of the self appointed, for God’s grace is available to all people who humble themselves under Christ Jesus our Lord. 

THE FOUNDATION OF THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS

The word apostle means “sent one.” It does not mean “the one with authority to govern over your faith.” 

In one sense of the word, anyone who is sent by God is apostolic for those to whom they are sent. Missionaries sent by God are apostles to those to whom they are sent. This does not mean they are apostles to all people or all Christians. It does not mean they are apostles in the same class as the original apostles.

The truth is, many who are apostles would never refer to themselves as such, because they are not desirous of titles, their joy is fulfilled in Christ, and in spreading the gospel and helping those to whom they are sent become established in Christ.

Those who think apostleship is about governing over other believers, and claim apostleship in this regard, have motives you will not find in one truly called to be an apostle.

In scripture, the original apostles (the 12 ordained by Jesus, including Matthias ~Acts 1:15-26) were ordained as eyewitnesses of Jesus’s resurrection. These original apostles along with the prophets who testified beforehand of Christ, gave us the foundation upon which the church is built: Jesus Christ who is himself the chief cornerstone .

The witness of the prophets who testified of Christ who was to come, and the witness of the apostles who walked with Christ give us the foundation upon which our faith rests. We build on the foundation of their witness and testimony of Christ.

In John 17 Jesus prayed for his original apostles and those who would believe in him through their word.  In Revelation, we can see the connection between the calling and ministry of the original apostles and the foundation of the city of God!

And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. ~ Revelation 21:14

The ministry of the original apostles are the New Testament counterpart to the ministry of the Old Testament prophets. The prophets bore witness before Christ came, the apostles bore witness to his having come in the flesh. 

Peter declares, This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour… ~ 2 Peter 3:1-2

Notice how Peter closely connects the ministry of the prophets before Christ, and the apostles of Christ. 

MORE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, MORE OF JESUS

When the 120 disciples of Jesus continued in prayer in one accord, they did so in obedience to Jesus’s command to not leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father. As they waited, imagine how they must have postured themselves. They had seen the power of God at work in and through Jesus, but how would the Spirit that was in Jesus come upon them? 

Suddenly, they heard something: the sound of a rushing mighty wind…

Consider the Holy Awe of that moment, when they literally heard a powerful wind coming from Heaven! Then, without warning there appeared cloven tongues of fire. Wind spreads fire!

The awe they felt must have intensified. 

Then those tongues of fire which appeared, rested on each one of them, and at that very moment (before they could stop and reflect on what they had just experienced) they were all filled with the very same Holy Spirit they had witnessed every moment in Jesus! And they spoke with tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Their Jesus who was now in Heaven had filled their hearts on earth. 

Jesus had done exactly what he said he would do, ” I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you” (John 14:18). Jesus was with them In a whole new way, and joy must have undoubtedly filled their hearts like never before.

Unlike the 120 disciples, too many believers today want tongues as evidence of the Spirit, rather than desiring the Spirit as evidence of Jesus in their lives. When Jesus fills our hearts with his Spirit, the Holy Spirit distributes the gifts of God as he wills.

The disciples had been in prayer for days, now their prayers had turned to testimony as they declared the wonderful works of God in the native tongues of the countries their fellow Jews were born in. Through the Spirit of Jesus in them, God was raising the banner of redemption, and drawing the remnant of his people unto himself.

Thank God for the Holy Ghost! More of the Spirit equals more of Jesus! May God grant you more of his Spirit so that experience more of Jesus in your life! 

IS THE GIFT OF TONGUES ONLY PREACHING THE GOSPEL IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE?

A common argument used by those who oppose speaking in tongues is that it is, or was only a gift for evangelizing those who speak foreign languages.

While it is true that speaking in tongues can serve this purpose, we do not see this as its only purpose in scripture. Those who claim that speaking in tongues is isolated to being a gift for evangelizing purposes often cite Acts 2. However, in Acts 2 the 120 disciples of Jesus were not preaching the gospel to their fellow Jews, who heard them speaking in the language of the nations wherein they were scattered.

The Bible only tells us they heard them speaking the wonderful works of God in those languages (2:6-11). They did not hear the gospel of Christ until Peter stood up and preached it to them. The children of Israel of the Northern tribes had been scattered prior to the southern Kingdom of Judah being taken captive by the Babylonians. The Jews which had been taken captive into Babylon eventually returned to their homeland, the Israelites of the northern Kingdom which were scattered abroad did not. They settled in other countries and when they heard the 120 disciples of Jesus speaking in tongues, they heard them magnifying God in the languages of those nations wherein they had been scattered: And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? ~ v. 8

This got their attention. It did not convict their hearts concerning the gospel. Instead, there was confusion among the Jews as to what was going on among them. According to the Bible, those who heard the 120 disciples speaking in tongues “were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, what does this mean?” ~ v.12

The scripture then says, “Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.” ~ v. 13

They did not hear the gospel until Peter stood up and declared it unto them. Peter did not preach the gospel to them in tongues. They understood Peter without the use of tongues when he stood and preached about Jesus to them. We can see this from the context. The idea that in Acts 2 they spoke with tongues to communicate the gospel of Christ, just isn’t correct.

After they heard the gospel preached by Peter in one language that they all knew, their response was different than when they heard the 120 speaking in tongues of the nations they were all born in. Rather than being amazed and wondering what this means as they did regarding the tongues which brought about mocking from some of them, when they heard the gospel preached by Peter, the Bible says they responded in this way:

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? ~ v. 37

There is a clear distinction between their reaction to speaking in tongues and their reaction to Peter preaching the gospel in Acts 2. In fact, Peter explains the meaning of the speaking in tongues before he declared the gospel of Christ to them.

But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. ~ Acts 2:16- 21

After speaking these words, Peter then begins to declare the gospel of Christ (the message about Jesus) to them:

Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. ~ v. 22-24

Later, after the people were pricked in their hearts and asked what they must do, Peter says the following:

Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. v. 38-39

In Acts 10, Peter was sent to the home of Cornelius who was a Gentile to testify of the gospel of Christ. Cornelius along with his entire household gathered together to hear the words of salvation from Peter, who was accompanied by some of his fellow Jewish believers in Jesus. As Peter shared the gospel with them, the Bible says that the Holy Ghost fell on Cornelius and those of his household and they began to speak with tongues.

While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God… ~ Acts 10:44-46

When the Gentiles first received the gospel, the Holy Spirit fell on them and they spoke with tongues, magnifying God. The Gentiles were the ones receiving the gospel, not the ones evangelizing or preaching the gospel.

In Acts 2, the 120 speaking in tongues got the attention of the Jews and gave Peter the opportunity to preach the gospel to them. In Acts 10, the Gentiles speaking in tongues got the attention of the Jews, because God had given his Spirit freely to the Gentiles apart from the Law.

In the mind of the first century Jew, covenant relationship with God was dependent on Jewish membership along with circumcision and allegiance to the Law of Moses.

However, God had done something so unexpectedly different and entirely new when he sent Peter to Cornelius’ house. He had called out a people from among the Gentiles for his Name and he had done it apart from the Law.

In Acts 15: 7-11 Peter recounts his visit to Cornelius’s house in Acts 10. Peter along with the other Jews who accompanied him saw firsthand the salvation of Gentiles as Cornelius and his house were instantly filled with the Holy Spirit and had spoken with tongues in similar fashion as the Jewish followers of Jesus had experienced in Acts 2.

When Peter returned to Jerusalem from Cornelius’s house he was confronted by the Jews for lodging at the home of Gentiles and eating with them.

And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, thou wentest into men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. ~ Acts 11:2-3

Peter then rehearsed to the Jews his experience from the beginning (Acts 11:4- 17). Notice the following from Peter’s explanation to Jews:

And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? ~ Acts 11:15-17

Then in verse 18, the scripture says: When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

The evidence which convinced Peter and the Jewish believers at Jerusalem that the Gentiles had been accepted as the people of God, was the Holy Spirit. God had given to the Gentiles the same gift he had been given to the Jews at Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit had now become the new identity of the people of God replacing the old identity of physical circumcision and adhearance to the law.Had Peter and the other Jews not heard the Gentiles speak with tongues, they may have concluded that the Gentiles should take on the yoke of the law. However, Peter reached a different conclusion:

And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. ~ Acts 15:8-11

In the early days of the church in the book of Acts, tongues were not used to preach to others in another language. No one did that. Instead, tongues served as a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit, and this arrested the attention of those who heard. In Acts 2 it arrested the attention of the Jews to whom Peter preached the gospel. In Acts 10, tongues arrested the attention of Peter and his fellow Jews who were sharing the gospel so that they would see what God was doing through the very gospel they were preaching!

PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT

Ephesians 6:18 says, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit…” Jude 20 says, “…building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost.”

Notice the similarity of these two phrases, “praying in the Spirit” and “praying in the Holy Ghost.” In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul uses similar language when he describes speaking or praying in other tongues. In verse 2 he refers to speaking in other tongues as speaking in the spirit: For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.”

Jude 20 says we are to build up ourselves on our most holy faith by praying in the Holy Ghost. Paul uses similar language in 1 Corinthians 14:4 where he says, “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself…” To edify is to build up.

Now notice 1 Corinthians 14:14-15, “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul describes praying in other tongues as “praying with, or in, the Spirit” and he uses this language in contrast to praying with the understanding. He also refers to singing in the Spirit in contrast to singing with the understanding.

Paul’s refers to other tongues as (1) speaking in the Spirit, (2) praying with the Spirit, and (3) singing with the Spirit.

THE PURPOSE FOR TONGUES

Speaking in tongues has been a great blessing and benefit to my spiritual life in the past.

I have been discouraged at times because of the abuse I have seen from others. and the lack of sound doctrine, and the teachings, among those who speak with tongues.

Even so, this does not disqualify God’s gifts.

Praying in other tongues is not going to straighten out your theology. It didn’t do that for the Corinthians and it won’t for you either. It is not going to make you spiritual. it didn’t do that for the Corinthians, and it won’t for you either.

This is where I think people mistake the purpose for the gift of other tongues.

In scripture, the primary purpose for tongues is for exalting God (praising and glorifying him) in you personal devotion.

If you pray in other tongues, your spirit is edified, but others around you are not, and that is why the gift of the interpretation of tongues is given.

Praying and singing in other tongues in your personal devotion with enrich your praying and singing with your understanding.

Tongues is given primarily as a gift to enhance your personal devotion with God. In the book of 1 Corinthians 14, the apostle Paul says the following:

I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Notice that Paul makes a contrast between his much speaking in tongues and speaking in the church. While speaking in tongues in private edifies the individual who speaks in tongues, speaking in tongues publicly does not edify those who do not know what you are saying.

This is why Paul says he’d rather speak five understandable words in the church than 10 thousand which can’t be understood by others. When we are in fellowship with others (in church,) we should be concerned with the edification of others, and not ourselves.

Paul tells the Corinthians to keep silent (from speaking in tongues) in the church if there is no interpreter present.

The sad truth is that many Christians are robbed of the blessing of speaking in other tongues because of the abuse of carnal Christians who think speaking in tongues publicly is a sign of spirituality. It is not!

Speaking in tongues publicly with no interpretation, is a sign of carnality, being able to control yourself and keep silent is a sign of spirituality.

Spiritual people do not need to draw attention to themselves with their gifts. Spiritual people are more concerned with using their gifting with discretion and wisdom so that the name of Christ is glorified and others edified.

The same can be said for the gift of prophecy. There has been much abuse of the gift of prophecy, but the real truth is, you don’t have to announce that you are prophesying or giving a prophetic word to prophesy.

Prophecy can edify people and give them hope without them ever knowing they were prophesied to.

if you have to announce that you are prophesying, ask yourself, why?

Are you being carnal, and needing to draw attention to yourself?

If we will grow in our love towards others, the gifts of God can and will enrich our lives and when used properly, be a tremendous blessing to others.

JESUS BORE OUR SINS

The apostle Peter tells us that Jesus is our example of suffering wrongfully and that he committed himself to God who judges righteously. Peter tells us this within the context of Christ bearing our sins. ~ 1 Peter 2:19-25

The Biblical definition of what it means to bare doesn’t actually mean what we sometimes might think it means. For example, as believers we are to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:3). We are to follow Christ’s example in bearing the burdens of others because Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree.

Isaiah 53:12 tells us, He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

The Hebrew word for bare in Isaiah 53:12 is naw-sawand is translated as forgiveness in its various forms on multiple occasions in the Old Testament. For instance, it is translated as forgiving in Exodus 34:6-7.

And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

It is also translated as forgive, forgiven, and forgavest in Psalm 25:16-18 and Psalm 32:1 &5.

Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses. Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins. ~ Psalm 25:16-18

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile…I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. ~ Psalm 32:1, 2, & 5

In the scriptures above we can see that God bares his people’s sins by forgiving them.  In Romans 4 Paul quotes Psalm 32:1-2 (referenced above) in view of the forgiveness which comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. ~ Romans 4:6-8

The Hebrews word naw-saw, which is translated as bare in Isaiah 53:12 appears in 610 passages of scripture in the Old Testament and is referenced a total of 653 times. Here are a few examples of how it is used elsewhere in the Old Testament:

And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth. ~ Genesis 7:17

And the Lord turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt. ~ Exodus 10:19

Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. ~ Exodus 19:4

And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them. ~ Exodus 25:14

Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them. And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone: The Lord your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude. (The Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!) How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife? Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you. ~ Deuteronomy 1:8-13

The Lord your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes; And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the Lord thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place.Yet in this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God, Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day. ~ Deuteronomy 1:30-33

Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. ~ Isaiah 1:13-14

Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. ~ Isaiah 40:9-11

Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you. ~ Isaiah 46:3-4

I will mention the loving kindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his loving kindnesses. For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old. ~ Isaiah 63:7-9

In Isaiah 53:4, the Hebrew word naw-saw is rendered as borne.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 

In Matthew 8:16-17 Matthew interprets Isaiah 53:4 in view of healing and deliverance.

When the evening was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and He cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.

According to Matthew’s interpretation of Isaiah 53:4, Jesus did not take the peoples infirmities and bare their sicknesses by becoming afflicted and sick as a substitute in their place. Instead, Jesus took and bare the infirmities and sicknesses of the people by delivering them from demons and healing them.

From Matthew’s interpretation of Isaiah 53:4 we can see Matthew understood the words of Isaiah in view of the antidote which is healing and deliverance.

In the same way, Jesus bore our sins by giving himself as an unblemished sacrifice so that we could be cleansed from our sins by his precious blood and made alive with him through his resurrection from the dead.

It is in view of the salvation which Jesus obtained for us through the laying down of his life that we should understand what it means that he bore our sins.

THE NEW TESTAMENT 

The Greek word for bare is anaphero, and it means to take up, bear, bring, (carry, lead) up, offer (up). It is used 9 other times in the New Testament in 8 different verses.

1 Peter 2:24 says Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

In Matthew 17:1 it is used to describe Jesus leading three of his disciples as they ascended up the Mount of transfiguration: And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart.

Mark 9:2 also referencing the ascent up the Mount of Transfiguration as leadeth them up.

In Luke 25:51 it is used to describe Jesus’s ascension after his resurrection: And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

Consider that the same Greek word used in 1 Peter 2:24 which declares that Jesus bore our sins is the same Greek word used to describe his ascension into Heaven. This immediately reminds me of the burnt offerings which were offered on the altar of sacrifice in the Old Testament.

The words, burnt offering, come from the Hebrew word, o-law, meaning ascending. The burnt offerings were to be wholly offered to the Lord as a sweet fragrance. Ephesians 5:2 tells us Christ loved us, and gave himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour. Jesus was wholly given to the Lord of us and was accepted for us as a sweet fragrance to God. In this manner, he bore our sins as a sacrifice to God.

In Hebrews 7:27 and Hebrews 9:28 the Greek word anaphero is translated bare, and is used to describe Jesus giving his life as an offering for our sins.

Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. ~ Hebrews 7:27 

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. ~ Hebrews 9:28

In Hebrews 13:15 it is used as a reference to the sacrifices of praise which we offer to God: By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

In James 2:21 it is used as a reference to Abraham offering up Isaac as a burnt offering on the altar of sacrifice: Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

Finally, in 1 Peter 2:5 it is a reference to the spiritual sacrifices which we offer to God: Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

As we can see the word bare has nothing to do with substitution, or becoming the very thing it is removing. It has to do with lifting up, offering up, and ascending. In 1 Peter 2:5 (mentioned above) it is used in conjunction with the spiritual sacrifices which God accepts from believers through Jesus Christ.

Jesus bore our sins by offering himself to God as an unblemished sacrifice. God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf as a sweet fragrance, and by him and through him our sins are taken away by the blood of his cross.

Jesus was not rejected by God in our place, rather Jesus was a holy and pure offering, accepted by God for us and by his precious blood we have redemption.

JESUS AND THE WILL OF GOD

Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me,) to do thy will, O God . ~ Hebrews 10:7

This is a reference to Jesus. The volume of the book refers to the entirety of the Old Testament scriptures which testify of Jesus. In the volume of the book it is written of Jesus.

At the beginning of this verse he says, “then said I.” This is a response to what has been said in the previous verses concerning God not desiring the sacrifices which were offered under the Law.

Now consider this: according to the testimony of the Law, God never desired those sacrifices on which the law covenant was ratified and renewed year by year.

There are some who have claimed that the new covenant is actually the renewed covenant. This is not correct. The new covenant is an entirely new covenant, better and far superior to the first.

There was a renewing of the Law Covenant every year on the Day of Atonement. The reason the law covenant had to be renewed is because it’s representatives were imperfect and it’s sacrifices could not take away sin. Every year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest had to first offer sacrifices for his own sins and for the sins of the priesthood before he could offer sacrifice for the people.

Jesus however, is our perfect representative. He does not need to offer sacrifice every year for himself and for us. He offered himself once and for all and is perfected forever as our Great High Priest. By his blood he has put away sin in the presence of God once for all.

God is so eternally pleased with Jesus that there will never again be the necessity of another representative for God’s people, that is, a high priest to offer sacrifice for sin.

The first Covenant could not give this. It had to be renewed every year and as long as that system was in place there was a remembrance of sins again year after year. Yet in his mercy and grace, God so ordained that the first Covenant be set up in such a way that it would foreshadow the one to come in Christ.

Those things which were only a shadow were never the things which God desired. Jesus, on the other hand, pleases God in every respect. He is unblemished and holy in every respect and he fulfills and fulfilled God’s will perfectly and completely.

It is not merely that he is holy because he never sinned. Rather, he never sinned because he is holy!

He did the will of God, not against his own will as one forced to serve, but as the expression of his own will, for it was his continuous delight to please the Father in everything. Jesus did the will of God from the heart because God’s will was his will and this is what God had always desired. This is what made Jesus the perfect representative to take away our sins.Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. ~ Hebrews 10:5-10

THE FIRE OF GOD

At the inauguration of the service of the Tabernacle of Moses, God demonstrated his acceptance of the offerings which foreshadowed Christ by consuming the sacrifices by fire from His Holy presence.

And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people. And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces. ~ Leviticus 9:22-24

This fire which consumed the sacrifices came from the presence of God from within the Holy of Holies. This demonstration of God’s glory was repeated at the dedication of the temple which Solomon built, except this time the fire came down from Heaven.

Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever. Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the Lord. And king Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep: so the king and all the people dedicated the house of God. And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of music of the Lord, which David the king had made to praise the Lord, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood. Moreover Solomon hallowed the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord: for there he offered burnt offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings, because the brazen altar which Solomon had made was not able to receive the burnt offerings, and the meat offerings, and the fat. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:1-7

When God consumed the sacrifices at the dedication of the tabernacle under Moses, there was lit upon the altar a divine fire. This was the fire of which God had instructed Moses saying, “it shall not be put out” and “it shall never be put out.” ~ Leviticus 6:9-13

This is significant because of the important role which the brazen altar of sacrifice had in connection to the golden altar of incense within the Holy Place.

In scripture, the incense from the golden altar is associated with prayer (Revelation 8:3). The burning of the incense upon the golden altar was evidently from the divine fire taken from the brazen altar.

In Leviticus 10, not long after God had consumed the sacrifices with fire from His presence, Aaron’s two sons (Nadab and Abihu) took it upon themselves to offer incense with strange fire. When they did this, fire once again came from the presence of the Lord, but this time, it devoured the two sons of Aaron.

And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. ~ Leviticus 10:1-2 This all foreshadowed Christ, who is man’s only approach to God, All other ways lead to God’s judgment. Through Christ alone we are enabled to approach and stand in the presence of a Holy God. Jesus gave Himself for us as a sweet smelling savor to God (Ephesians 5:2) and through him alone the authentic fire of God’s presence burns within our hearts. Through Jesus alone we have access with confidence, and in Him our prayers become as sweet incense before God’s throne.

Anything else, other than the authentic Jesus, is strange fire.

WAS JESUS MADE SIN WITH OUR SINFULNESS?

For he (God) hath made him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. ` 2 corinthians 5:21

Sometimes people interpret this text as, “Jesus became sin with our sinfulness.” This is common among those who interpret the cross solely as the place of substitution rather than sacrifice, and there is a difference.

Part and parcel to the belief that Christ was made sin with our sinfulness is the belief that Christ was rejected and condemned by God as a sinner when he died on the cross.

Because this view is so prevalent, it isn’t uncommon to hear someone describe the atoning work of Christ as substitutionary atonement rather than sacrificial atonement – there is a difference, a huge difference. Consider the meaning of the two words, substitution and sacrifice.

A substitute takes the place of another, for all intents and purposes it is a replacement. A sacrifice on the other hand is an offering, something of immense value which is given unselfishly, and is very costly to the giver.

When a firefighter enters a burning building to rescue another person he is putting his life on the line to save another, and if he dies in the process, we could say he sacrificed his life. We would not describe the firefighter as a substitute, and if we did, our words would likely be considered an insult.

Words do have meaning, and I am convinced that many Christians are missing out on truly understanding the power of the cross, because of this.

Throughout the Old Testament the sacrifices which were types of Christ were offered to God as a sweet fragrance (a sweet savor, or aroma) that God would accept on the behalf of the people, as holy sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 22:20, 21, 25, 27). By virtue of these offerings, the people were sanctified and made holy in the sight of the Lord.

In Philippians 4, Paul draws on the language of the sweet savor offerings when he speaks of the gift of support which the Philippians sent to his aid.

But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God.~ Philippians 4:18

In 2 Corinthians, Paul again draws on the language of the sweet savor offerings when he says the following: Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish… ~ 2 Corinthians 2:14-15

In both cases (Philippians 4 and 2 Corinthians 2) Paul appeals to the language found in the Old Testament which described the atonement sacrifices foreshadowing the death of Christ.

No one reading Paul’s words in Philippians 4 and 2 Corinthians 2 would think the expression “sweet savor” had any other meaning than that which is pleasing to God. In fact, Paul uses the words “well pleasing” in his Philippians 4 description.

When Christ died on the cross, he paid the ransom for us with his holy life which he offered to God as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Jesus gave himself as a sweet savor offering, well pleasing to God!

This is why holy communion is so important and powerful. It is a memorial of the death of our Lord, for through Jesus’s sacrifice we are consecrated to God and made holy.

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet – smelling savor. ~ Ephesians 4:32- 5-2

God accepts us because he accepted, not rejected, Jesus when he died on the cross for our sins. Had God rejected Jesus on the cross, we would still be in our sins. Throughout the Old Testament the offerings which foreshadowed Jesus were accepted to make atonement. Those offerings which were rejected did not make atonement.

And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. ~ Leviticus 1:4

Notice the language in the text above: “it shall be accepted for him to mke atonement.” In like manner, Christ was accepted for us. Now consider Leviticus 7:18:

And if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings be eaten at all on the third day, it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be imputed unto him that offereth it: it shall be an abomination, and the soul that eateth of it shall bear his iniquity.  ~ Leviticus 7:18 

Rejected sacrifices and offerings did not make atonement.  Only those which were accepted as a sweet savor did. Yet there is an entire ideology that many have been taught which states that Jesus redeemed us by becoming a substitute rejected by God in our place. This is contrary to the entire narrative of scripture regarding the sacrifices which foreshadowed Jesus, which were offered for atonement. Jesus sacrificed his holy life for us when he died on the cross, and the sacrifice of himself was an offering that was a sweet fragrance to God. 

And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour. ~ Ephesians 5:2

Why then does the Bible say that Jesus was made sin for us, and how should we interpret this verse? 

Paul’s reference to Christ being made sin for us is derived from the Old Testament motif of the sin offerings. The sin offerings were offered to make atonement for sin.

Throughout the Old Testament the word atonement was used to convey the idea of reconciliation, sanctification, consecration, and forgiveness. This is the context which surrounds Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5.

Literally, Paul is telling us that Christ was made to be the offering for our sins, and that is how we are reconciled to God. Christ was made to be our sin offering not our literal sin.

Throughout the Old Testament the words sin and sin offering are translated from the same Hebrew word “chattath”. One writer pointed out that chattath is translated as sin offering 118 times, and translated as sin 168 times. We determine which is being spoken of based on the context. 

In Hebrews 10:6, the writer of Hebrews is quoting from Psalms 40:6 which says, Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.

It is clear that the Psalmist is referring to the sacrifices and offerings and not talking about sin. In Hebrews 10:6, the author of Hebrews cites this text in reference to Jesus, saying, In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. The words “sacrifices for” have been added by the translators of the KJV for clarity, because the context is the sacrifices for sin. Without this clarification, the text could have read, In burnt offerings and sin thou hast had no pleasure.

The Greek word “hamartia” which is used in Hebrews 10:6 in reference to the sin offering, is also used in 2 Corinthians 5:21 in reference to Christ being made sin for us. So we must determine from the context if Paul is saying Jesus was made to be our literal sin, or our sin offering.

It should be of importance to us that the apostle Paul was a Jew who had come to know Christ. The things which Paul taught about Jesus were rooted in his scholarly understanding of the scriptures. Paul most assuredly would have thought through the scriptures as a Jewish scholar and would have understood Christ’s death and resurrection in view of the scriptures. Paul tells the Corinthians the following:

I delivered unto you first of all that 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 15:3-4

Paul certainly understood Christ’s death in view of the Old Testament scriptures and would not have taught anything contrary to the Old Testament’s motif when he speaks of Christ dying for our sins. Paul spoke of Christ’s death in view of the precedent set forth within the sacrificial system because those sacrifices foreshadowed Christ.

Jesus is our Redeemer, and he died for our sins as one who was pure and holy. There is no precedent anywhere in scripture which would indicate that the offerings for sin were made sinful with the sins of the people, which is how 2 Corinthians has been interpreted by some. Instead they were to be offered as unblemished sacrifices which were holy to the Lord.

Leviticus 6:25 says, “Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, saying, this is the law of the sin offering: In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the LORD: it is most holy.

Christ was a most holy offering for our sins when he died on the cross. He was not morphed into a condemned sinner. He wasn’t a sin infested replacement. He was pure, holy, and righteous.

Leviticus 22:21 tells us that the sacrifices which foreshadowed Christ had to be perfect in order to be accepted – And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the Lord to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein.Christ was perfect, He was without sin: he knew no sin. Jesus Christ died as an unblemished lamb whose blood is pure and holy. The scripture says we were not redeemed with corruptible things, instead we were redeemed with the precious blood of Jesus Christ as from a lamb without spot or blemish (See 1 Peter 1:18-19).

Jesus did not become a corrupted sin infused replacement when he died on the cross. He was a holy sacrifice unto God and in that holy sacrifice of himself we are accepted and have access to God.

The teaching of the Bible is that our redemption is by virtue of the blood of Jesus. Jesus is, was, and always will be holy, pure, and just. The apostle Peter declared that he is the holy and just One which the people rejected (Acts 3:14). Peter also declared that he is the prince of life and that the grave could not hold him because God would not allow his holy one to see corruption. (See Acts 2:24, 27; 3:15)

Christ was our sin offering and not our literal sin when he died on the cross.