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God’s Standing Orders for Spiritual Warfare

Copyright © 2014

A. David Armstrong III,
Commander U.S. Navy (ret)

Words from a Warrior

Photo of a U.S. Navy warshipHave you read the Captain’s standing orders?1

I offer the following thoughts learned through many years of military service, and through many years as a soldier in the army of my God. God in His infinite wisdom often uses that with which we are most familiar to instruct us. Since the principles of warfare are deeply ingrained in me after many years as a Navy officer, God has utilized that experience to give me insight into spiritual warfare. God also has made us [continue reading…]

The “Judicial Adventures” of Paul the Apostle

Copyright © 1994, 2019

Jim Kerwin

A Look at Roman Law in Acts

“Moving in a Roman World”

The student of the New Testament is con­stant­ly made aware that he is moving in a Roman world,”2 and awareness of the Roman en­vi­ron­ment is the first step toward un­der­stand­ing its significance and influence on the second volume of Luke’s magnum opus and on the life of Paul. By providing the serious Bible student a primer of [continue reading…]

This Shall Be a Sign unto You

Copyright © 20181

Percy Gutteridge

Image of the manger copyright by www.LumoProject.com, licensed exclusively by FreeBibleimages.org for teaching purposes only; used with permission according to license terms.“This shall be a sign unto you.”
But what was the sign?2

1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because He was of the house and lineage of David:) 5to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” 16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Luke 2:1-18

As we read through Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, we discover a key theme of the Christmas season. It’s the message that the angel gave to the shepherds. The fact that an angel said it underscores its importance. He said:

“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

What is the significance of this sign? If God took the trouble [continue reading…]

The Powerful Message Behind Jesus’ First Sermon

Copyright © 2018

by Jim Kerwin

The Importance of Context

a scroll of the Hebrew scripturesWhat is “the acceptable year of the Lord”?1

Every time there is a “first” in the Scriptures, it is good to take note of it, because often the Holy Spirit is laying down a special foundation, or principle, or doctrine. I believe this is true in the case of Jesus’ first recorded sermon, which is found in Luke chapter 4.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me
because He anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free those who are oppressed,
19to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

Part of what I teach leaders when I come to Latin America is the importance of context when they are reading and studying and teaching and preaching God’s word. The two most important points are these:

  1. Every time we come to the Scriptures, as we are reading we must ask ourselves, “What is the context of this verse, this passage, this chapter, this book? What is the context within the text, and what are the historical, cultural, and original language contexts? What do I need to know to fully understand the passage like the first readers did?
  2. The greatest context is that of the entire Bible, which is why I encourage all Christian leaders – indeed, all Christians – to read through the Bible cover to cover at least once every year.

Let’s think about the context of Jesus’ message in Luke 4. In the previous chapter, Luke 3, Jesus was water-baptized by John; immediately the Spirit of the Lord [continue reading…]

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (Part 5)

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

by John Wesley

Part V:
Advice to the Sanctified

Section 25 (continued)

Question 29: Can those who are perfect grow in grace?

Answer: Undoubtedly they can; and that not only while they are in the body, but to all eternity.

Question 30: Can they fall from it?

Answer: I am well assured they can: matter of fact puts this beyond dispute. Formerly we thought, that one saved from sin could not fall; now we know the contrary. We are surrounded with instances of those who lately experienced all that I mean by perfection. They had both the fruit of the Spirit, and the witness; but they have now lost both. Neither does anyone stand by virtue of anything that is implied in the nature of the state. There is no such height or strength of holiness as it is impossible to fall from. If there be any that cannot fall, this wholly depends on the promise of God.

Question 31: Can those who fall from this state recover it? [continue reading…]

Earth’s Most Powerful Preacher

Copyright © 20111

Percy Gutteridge

Psalm 19

  1. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.
  2. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night shows knowledge.
  3. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
  4. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
  5. Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices as a strong man to run a race.
  6. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hidden from the heat thereof.
  7. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
  8. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
  9. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
  10. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
  11. Moreover by them is your servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
  12. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults.
  13. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
  14. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Who Is Earth’s Most Powerful Preacher?

Silouhette of a preacherWho is earth's most powerful preacher?2

Let’s consider the question, “Who is the most powerful preacher that God has ordained on earth?” And understand that I’m not talking about a human being. I am not going to pick out one of today’s famous evangelists or ministers and say, “This one is the most powerful preacher,” because none of them has the worldwide audience or impact of God’s sovereign choice. So then, let’s refine the question and ask, “What is the most powerful preacher that God has ordained on earth?” as we examine potential candidates.

The Sun?

How about the sun? Is the sun earth’s most powerful preacher? Our Scripture passage says that the sun is really a preacher; it comes out of its chamber as a bridegroom. It comes up in the morning and goes down at night, going right over the whole circuit of heaven, and there is nothing hidden from its heat. It preaches of light, it preaches of energy, it preaches of power, it preaches of judgment, it preaches even of love. It preaches also of life, because there would be no life without the sun. The sun preaches to us about so many things.

But men don’t take any notice. In fact, some foolish people [continue reading…]

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (Part 1)

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

by John Wesley

Part I:
Historical Background
of the Teaching

Section 1

What I purpose in the following pages is, to give a plain and distinct account of the steps by which I was led, during a course of many years, to embrace the doctrine of Christian Perfection.  This I owe to the serious part of mankind; those who desire to know all the truth as it is in Jesus.  And these only are concerned in questions of this kind.  To these I would nakedly declare the thing as it is, endeavouring all along to show, from one period to another, both what I thought, and why [continue reading…]

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (Part 2)

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

by John Wesley

Part II:
The Teaching Explained

Section 17

On Monday, June 25, 1744 our first conference began, six clergymen and all our preachers being present.  The next morning we seriously considered the doctrine of sanctification, or perfection.  The questions asked concerning it, and the substance of the answers given, were as follows:—

Question: What is it to be sanctified?

Answer: To be renewed in the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness [Ephesians 4:24].

Question: What is implied in being a perfect Christian?

Answer: The loving God with all our heart, and mind, and soul (Deut. vi. 5). [continue reading…]

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (Part 3)

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

by John Wesley

Part III:
Tares Among the Wheat Contrasted
with the Wonderful Testimony of Jane Cooper

Section 20

In the year 1762 there was a great increase of the work of God in London.  Many, who had hitherto cared for none of these things, were deeply convinced of their lost estate; many found redemption in the blood of Christ; not a few backsliders were healed; and a considerable number of persons believed that God had saved them from all sin.  Easily foreseeing that Satan would be endeavouring to sow tares among the wheat [Matthew 13:24-30], I took much pains to apprise them of the danger, particularly with regard to pride and enthusiasm.  And while I stayed in town, I had reason to hope they continued both humble and sober-minded.  But almost as soon as I was gone, enthusiasm broke in.  Two or three began to take their own imaginations for impressions from God, and thence to suppose that they should never die; and these, labouring to bring others into the same opinion, occasioned much noise and confusion.  Soon after, the same persons, with a few more, ran into other extravagances,—fancying they could not be tempted; that they should feel no more pain; and that they had the gift of prophecy, and of discerning of spirits. [continue reading…]

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (Part 4)

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

by John Wesley

Part IV:
“Farther Thoughts on Christian Perfection”

Section 25

The next year [1763], the number of those who believed they were saved from sin still increasing, I judged it needful to publish, chiefly for their use, Farther Thoughts on Christian Perfection:

Question 1: How is “Christ the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth”? (Rom. x. 4)

Answer: In order to understand this, you must understand what law is here spoken of; and this, I apprehend, is:— [continue reading…]

This entry is part 14 of 28 in the series New Testament Holiness

Public Domain1

by Evangelist Thomas Cook

At the Council of Jerusalem (Acts xv. 8,9) Peter, in giving an account of his visit to Cornelius, and the work of God upon the hearts of those assembled, said: “And God, who knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did to us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.”

Two facts are here stated:—

  • That the same fulness of the Spirit which the apostles received at Pentecost was imparted to Cornelius and his household.
  • That the work wrought was the purifying of their hearts by faith.

The conclusion is inevitable that the baptism of the Holy Ghost includes entire cleansing from sin, or, in other words, that the fulness of the Spirit is a synonym for entire sanctification. Since there are but two forces which can sway the soul, the flesh and the Spirit, to be completely filled with either is to exclude the other. All inward renewal is the result of the Holy Spirit’s operation; He is the indispensable agent in the production of spiritual life, both in its beginnings and in its fulness. Theologians speak of God, the Father, as the originating cause of salvation; of Christ as the procuring cause; of the Holy Spirit as the “executive of the Godhead.” This latter phrase, coined by Dr. Hodge,2 of America, very aptly describes the work in the Third Person of the Trinity in the renewal and sanctification of those who trust in Jesus. He comes to the heart in sanctifying power, excluding the evil and filling it with Divine love, when we believe the blood of Jesus cleanseth us from all sin, just as He comes in regenerating power when we believe for forgiveness, and are adopted into the family of God.

The first point to be recognised, as clearly set forth in the Scriptures, is the fact that all Christians do possess the Holy Spirit. They have not only been brought under His influence, but they have received the Holy Spirit Himself. This is a truth which needs to be particularly emphasised. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” [Romans 8:9]. And the converse of this is necessarily true, that if any man belongs to Christ, he must have the Spirit of Christ. “It is remarkable,” observes Professor Godet,3 “that the Spirit of Christ is here used as an equivalent of the Holy Spirit in the preceding proposition.” Christ dwells in us by His representative the Holy Spirit, so that a Christ-possessed and a Spirit-possessed soul mean exactly the same thing.

When Ignatius4 was on his trial at Rome, he was asked by the Emperor, “What is the meaning of your name, Theophorus?” (God-bearer). He promptly replied, “He who has Christ in his breast.” And all Christians are God-bearers, whether they realise it or not. The unspeakably glorious mystery of an indwelling Holy Ghost is the possession of even the weakest and most failing child of God. The mistake has often been made of looking upon the incoming of the Holy Spirit as an experience subsequent to conversion, as an arbitrary bestowment rather than a necessary vitality. But the Scriptures plainly teach that the Holy Spirit is a universal gift to all believers, one without which they cannot be believers at all. At the same time, we must recognise the fact that to possess the Holy Spirit is one thing, but to be filled with the Spirit is quite another. Before Pentecost the Holy Ghost had been given to the disciples. Christ had breathed upon them and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” [John 20:22]. But Pentecost made an unspeakable difference to them. The visible tongues of fire were only emblems of what had passed within. What new creatures they then became! How their gross conception of Christ’s kingdom was purged away, and how they were raised from earthliness to spirituality! Their intellects were flooded with Divine light, their souls throbbed with Divine sympathies, and their tongues spoke so wonderfully of the things of God, that all who had known them previously were amazed, saying, “What meaneth this?” [Acts 2:12] They were all raised to a new altitude; a new energy and force possessed them. Each one became strong as an iron pillar, “the weakest as David, and the strong as the angel of the Lord.”5 They met together as the sincere, but timid and partially enlightened followers of Christ, but they left the upper room full of light, and power, and love. They were now filled with the Holy Ghost as an all-illuminating, all-strengthening, all-sanctifying presence. The baptism of fire had consumed their inward depravity, subsidised all their faculties, and filled to the full each capacity with Divine energy and life.

“Baptised with” and “filled with the Holy Ghost” are often convertible terms in the Acts of the Apostles, but it is instructive to note that they are not always so. The apostles received but one baptism, but they were “filled” with the Spirit over and over again. The baptism of the Holy Ghost was, and still is, a sort of initiatory rite to the life of Pentecostal service, and fulness, and victory. Christian life begins at Calvary, but effective service begins at Pentecost. Before Pentecost there was not much service rendered by the apostles that was worth the name. But with the Spirit’s baptism they entered upon a new phase of life and service. The analogy of the sacrament of baptism connects the baptism of the Spirit with a new era in Christian life. Pentecost [Acts 2], and the visit to Cornelius [Acts 10], when the baptism of the Spirit is spoken of, were not only historical events, but great representative occasions, which may be held to typify and signify the beginning of the Spirit-filled life.

Almost all prominent Christian workers whose labours have been pre-eminently owned of God bear witness to the reception of a distinct definite blessing which they received subsequent to conversion, and which inaugurated a new era in their spiritual life. If questioned, they would give different accounts, probably, of how they received this experience, and describe it differently, but they suddenly became bold, mighty, aggressive, and conquering. They had received their Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit was in them the fire of love, the light of assurance, and the unction of power.

As far as God is concerned, there is no reason why weary wastes of disappointing years should stretch between Bethel and Peniel,6 between the Cross and Pentecost. It is not the will of God that forty years of wilderness wandering should lie between Egypt and the promised land. In apostolic days there was generally a brief interval between conversion and the baptism of the Spirit, but new converts were introduced at once to this fulness of blessing, and taught to expect it as a positive, conscious, and present experience. Under the preaching of Philip in Samaria [Acts 8:4-13], many were converted, and “when they believed, they were baptised both men and women” [verse 12]. The successive steps through which they passed are mentioned; attention to the word, faith, great joy, and baptism with water. But before they should be disheartened by difficulties and demoralised by defeat, Peter and John were sent unto them from Jerusalem for the special purpose of leading these newly-saved ones into the fulness of blessing. They prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost, and they laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost [Acts 8:14-17].

St. Paul’s first question to “certain disciples,” which he found at Ephesus, was “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” [Acts 19:1-2] “Jesus hath sent me,” said Ananias to the newly-converted Saul of Tarsus, “that thou mayest be filled with the Holy Ghost” [Acts 9:17]. How many backslidings would be prevented if we returned to primitive methods, and urged our converts to seek this experience at the beginning of their Christian life! None can deny that the ordinary Christian in our churches, weakened as he is by doubt and palsied by fear, with his worldliness and backslidings, far more resembles the condition of the disciples before Pentecost than after it. Who can read the Acts of the Apostles without coming to the conclusion that the Apostolic Church enjoyed a much larger measure of the Spirit’s fulness than is generally experienced by Christians today? We claim to be sharers in Pentecostal privileges, and yet how few enjoy the fulness of blessing which Christ is exalted to bestow! If we are not filled with the Spirit, at whose door does the blame lie? The question is not, “Has God given?” but, “Have we received?” The might of God was not exhausted on the day of Pentecost. That baptism was simply a pledge and earnest of what God intends to do for His people. We are still in the dispensation of the Spirit, and the promise still stands: “The promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even to as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts ii. 39). The promise is as far-reaching and extensive as the need, and means that by virtue of our new birth it is our individual privilege or birthright to be filled with the Holy Ghost. Each believer has the right to aspire to this, the right to pray for it, and the right to expect it today.

Cover of Thomas Cook's book Available in e-book format for
Kindle Kobo

It is interesting to note the gradation in the teaching of St. John’s Gospel. In chapter iii we have the “life” in its beginning—the new birth (John iii.7). In chapter iv we have “life abundantly”—“a well of water springing up” [John 4:14]. We fill our cup and drink, and keep on drinking from this inexhaustible supply. Those who have learned to do this shall never thirst. The well is for the supply of personal need. But Christianity extends beyond the individual; provision is made for the needs of those about us. Hence we are taught in the seventh chapter that rivers of blessing shall “flow out” from all believers who are filled with the Spirit. “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” [John 7:38]. Blessing is promised here on a magnificent scale. Notice its hugeness, its Godlike vastness! “Rivers,” not a babbling brook or a streamlet; not even a river, but “rivers.” What Divine prodigality! In this experience, “Grace, not in rills, but in cataracts rolls.”7 If it means anything, it means that there is no limit to the blessing God can send, through the feeblest of His servants, if they are prepared to receive what He is ready to bestow. There shall not only be fulness, but overflow. Spirit-filled believers carry life, and satisfaction, and gladness, wherever they go. Their presence is life-giving, fructifying,8 refreshing, even as a river which blesses as it flows. “Everything shall live whithersoever the river cometh” [Ezekiel 47:9]. The weakest, feeblest member of the body of Christ may be so instinct9 with the most vigorous life, that there shall come forth from him a holy river-like abundance to the blessing of the souls of others.

Let us not confuse this fulness of the Spirit with any particular modes of blessing. Sometimes His coming distils as the dew, or it may be like the gentle summer shower, or as the mighty rushing wind. Some have an overwhelming sense of His presence; to others He comes, as it were, without observation, in quiet gladness and confidence. Souls are brought into this blessing with as much diversity as sinners are brought into pardon and peace. He Who blesses knows best what we need, and will adapt His gifts to us with infinite wisdom. But though His modes of coming vary, when He does come in fulness to the soul, all its chambers are filled with light, and not a taint of impurity remains.

We often speak and act as if it were the most difficult thing in the world to obtain the fulness of the Spirit, and yet it is certain that there is no blessing which the Father is so ready to bestow upon those who ask Him as this very gift. More willing is He to give the Holy Spirit to each believer than a mother to give the healing medicine to her dying child, or a father to give food and raiment to his soldier son who has just returned from the war. “If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” [Luke 11:13]



This entry is part 9 of 28 in the series New Testament Holiness

Public Domain1

Evangelist Thomas Cook

There are various degrees of impurity, but, strictly speaking, there are no degrees of purity. According to Webster, the word “pure” means: “entire separation from all heterogeneous and extraneous matter, clear, free from mixture; as pure water, pure air, pure silver or gold.” The word in the New Testament which is most frequently translated “pure” occurs in some of its forms nearly seventy times. We may get at the idea the word was meant to convey by noting how the original is used. It is used

  • of the body, not smeared with paint or ointment,
  • of an army rid of its sick and ineffective,
  • of wheat, when all the chaff has been winnowed away,
  • of vines without excrescences,2
  • of gold without alloy.

[continue reading…]

The Passing of the Frost: An Easter Meditation

Rev. Isaiah Reid

Copyright © 20081

Article Title over a photo of crocuses emerging from the melting snow.What is the lesson? Life! Life!
New life! Life from the dead!2

We are at Eastertide. About this time we reach the spring frost line. Winter loses his grip and gives up the contest. The ice goes out of the river and streams. The sun shines warm. The fields are lined and seamed with the marks of the plow, and mellowed with the harrow. The lawns show the tender green of a new carpet. Already the maples have cast their blooms, and the wide world seems awake. New life is apparent everywhere. Things apparently dead for months are breaking the confines of their winter quarters, if not what actually was their graves. The sealed buds burst the encasement of their winter tombs. Life, life, echoes from every side. The clouds go sailing past and the sky seems deep and far away. We shall soon look for the early flowers blooming along the streams and in sheltered nooks, and later breaking in on the vision from every quarter. [continue reading…]

This entry is part 8 of 11 in the series God's Ways and Man's Methods

f you are expecting something so great and so essential to heaven itself, you ought to have good reasons for your expectation.  And what are these reasons?  Did you ever see any soul get sanctification at death?  Is there any provision in the economy of grace which is only available at death’s door?  These are some plain questions.  But let us look at the matter a little more in detail.

1. Sanctification will be possible at death
if the conditions are complied with.

But because that is so, owing to the mercy of God, is no more a valid reason for delaying the matter, than it is for a sinner to put off till the day of his death his compliance with the terms of salvation, simply because those terms may be complied with at that time. [continue reading…]