These notes from Paul Tothill were based on his message preached at Gateway Church on 27/5/18.
You can also listen to the message on the Gateway podcast (Apple Podcasts or any other device).
We have been speaking on a continuing theme of working out our salvation by understanding the nature of the finished work of the Cross, the necessity of perseverance that Dave spoke about and community that Mark spoke about over the last while.
Last week I spoke in part about the fulfilment of God’s promise of the Holy Spirit announced by Jesus and modelled by the life of Jesus. Of course, the grace-gift of the Holy Spirit was received by the church upon its commissioning at the Day of Pentecost after the apostles and disciples were told by Jesus to wait in Jerusalem to receive power from on high.
The power on high as I said last week was for purpose to be the witnesses of Jesus to the world. This purpose needs to be understood in the journey of the Old Testament and the Prophets and Psalms for it to have meaning for us today in much the same way the apostles understood it. Let’s take a look at what Paul says on that, what was prophesied by Haggai and spoken in the Psalms and then what Biblical worldview and storyline underpins that.
ROMANS 15:8 (Passion translation)
I am convinced that Jesus, the Messiah, was sent as a servant to the Jewish people to fulfil the promises of God made to our ancestors and to prove God’s faithfulness. And now, because of Jesus, the non-Jewish people (Gentiles or the nations) of the world can glorify God for his kindness to them, fulfilling the prophecy of Scripture:
“Because of this I will proclaim you among the nations and they will hear me sing praises to your name.”
And in another place, it says:
You who are not Jewish, (Gentiles or nations) celebrate life right alongside his Jewish people.
Praise the Lord Yahweh, all you who are not Jews, (Gentiles or nations) and let all the people of the earth raise their voices in praises to him.
As Isaiah prophesied:
An heir to David’s throne will emerge, and he will rise up as ruler over all the non-Jewish nations (The nations) for all their hopes will be met in him.
Now may God the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with the uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super-abundance until you radiate with hope!
HAGGAI 2:6 (Prophet of the Old Testament)
This is what the Lord Almighty says: In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations and the desired of all nations will come and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord Almighty. The silver is mine and the gold is mine declares the Lord Almighty. The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house, says the Lord Almighty. And in this place, I will grant peace, declares the Lord Almighty.
Let’s turn to the Psalms. This is the same Psalm that the apostles used when the Sanhedrin opposed them. I am using the part that applies to Jesus.
The Son speaks.
I will reveal the eternal purpose of God. For he has decreed over me, “You are my favoured Son. And as your Father I have crowned you as my King Eternal. Today I became your Father.
Ask me to give you the nations and I will do it and they shall become your legacy. Your domain will stretch to the ends of the earth. And you will shepherd them with unlimited authority crushing their rebellion as an iron smashes jars of clay!"
There are of course many more Scriptures we could point to. For the sake of time this at least gives us some understanding why Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem to receive the promised Holy Spirit and then to proceed systematically out from Jerusalem into the nations.
In addition, it places our salvation into a bigger God story. We, even here, as a small community of believers in the north of Adelaide are a part of a far bigger story of establishing God’s future Kingdom into the present, by demonstrating and proclaiming the Gospel of grace, restoring people to the heart of God and rescuing them from spiritual darkness. In doing this our wrestle is not with people, but principalities and powers as I said last week.
SAVED BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH
Our salvation is a wonderful grace gift of God towards us. Its depth and hope is found in the narrative of the Old Testament.
Well before Israel was a nation God had in mind that humanity created in His image and likeness would live from a deep relationship with Him and His fullness (His rest), carrying His image and spiritual government from Eden into the world.
When Jesus came to save us by grace through faith in Him, He had something in mind: A people who would not only image Him in free will and His love, but a people who would carry God’s purposes, known in the NT as the Great Commission, into the nations. We are by God’s clear intention a missional people. A going and revealing people. We have been co-missioned, to be co-labourers with Jesus to fulfil God’s plans on earth into all the nations.
EPHESIANS 5 (Passion Translation)
Follow God and imitate all He does in everything you do, for then you will represent your Father as His beloved sons and daughters. And continue to walk surrendered to the extravagant love of Christ, for He surrendered His life as a sacrifice for us. Verse 9. Your mission is to live as children flooded with His revelation light. And the supernatural fruits of His light will be seen in you- goodness, righteousness and truth. In this revelation-light you will learn to choose what is beautiful to our Lord.
THE BIGGER STORY OF OUR SALVATION
God created human beings and divine or celestial beings as an expression of His love and His image and likeness to reveal Him, or to image Him to the earth and the cosmos. Two essential features image God. His divine love and freewill.
As an expression of God’s divine love, He gave us and created divine beings free will. In the exercise of that free-will, God faced rebellion towards His loving authority and His plans. Scholars suggest only God is genuinely perfect and true to himself. His creation is imperfect in that sense although God saw it was very good. In love God was willing to risk with free-will. Therefore, what I am about to speak on is significant.
We are set free in Christ to live the way of God’s love empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is the highest expression of the Gospel as Paul makes plain in his epistles. That naturally gives us a free will choice as to who we will serve, just like Adam and Eve and just like the Divine Council, the sons of God or the Holy Ones and the angels in heaven.
Divine love is the foundation to spiritual government and authority and eternal truth and justice both in heaven and on earth. As I have said before, divine love and eternal truth are one, so we cannot have the modern idea of God’s love and not have His eternal truth revealed in the words of Jesus. It is God’s truth that keeps us free and empowered in God’s love.
This is why we need a clear understanding of God’s word as revealed in Jesus as sound doctrine- or teaching in our life.
We cannot simply live from experiences. We live from the words of Christ by faith, that keep us revealing Him in our life.
We have been given the Holy Spirit revealing the words of Jesus as God’s wisdom to our hearts to make good decisions and to come into our spiritual calling for our life. But there will be a competition for how we use our free will.
The Holy Spirit will empower us to a path of eternal truth, love and righteousness, following God’s words as life, but we still have to bring our will to that choice. It’s not automatic.
Jesus said, “Loving me empowers you to obey”. From a Biblical worldview, who we worship on earth is who we serve amongst the gods or God. Who we serve is who we obey. Obedience to Christ- His words of eternal life in this world actually empowers us and keeps us free and in the reality and momentum of our calling. In this sense, on this simple day-to-day experience we need to be overcomers. More of that later.
The flow of the Kingdom and our calling is first as it is in heaven and then on earth. It was of course in the Garden of Eden that humanity fell and indeed that Satan was judged and removed from God’s presence. Then humanity was divided by those who worshipped God and those who worshipped Satan or the nachash - the serpent, who was thrown down as the Lord of death, or the god of this age or the prince (ruler) of the air.
Later in the story line there is another rebellion by the Watchers, the Holy Ones in Genesis 6. They were trying to illegally reformulate Eden on earth and left their Estate. God sent a flood as judgment and to re-establish His plan for relationship with humanity and that Eden would again cover the earth through humanity as His spiritual sons. Mankind’s original assignment and commission was still in play.
We can immediately see that God is not the source of evil in the world. Evil is the result of the expression of free-will exercised by God’s created beings both on earth and in heaven. This is important because how we exercise our freedom - our freewill is very important. Even as a believer Paul warns us very clearly about this. From a biblical worldview, free will means we are self-governing and responsible people choosing in love to worship and obey the One true God - YHWH revealed by Jesus over all the other gods.
Then there was of course more rebellion against God by the nations who then decided to build a ziggurat- a temple, at Babel. Again, humanity in its unity and desire was trying to create a false Eden on earth and usher in the now corrupted lesser gods. They were less concerned with ascending and more concerned with the temple being filled with a deity. It was then that God once more had to judge the rebellion and the constant desire for humanity in their sin to worship lesser gods. So, God temporarily gave the nations over to those gods as He restarted once more His plan to have a people as His own inheritance and who would worship Him, serve Him and fulfil His purposes on earth.
Abraham was the father of that nation. But once more we see that Israel was constantly torn between worshipping God and worshipping the corrupted gods of the nations around them despite God being long suffering, patient and faithful.
In giving the Law the first commandment was a cosmological one. It told them they will have no other gods before them and they will not make idols. This was very important because idol worship was in fact to worship the deity that filled the wooden carving or structure. Further it was well understood, what you worship you serve and give allegiance to. A spiritual law that is also in place is that you become like the god you worship . Hence as we worship the One true God revealed by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit we behold Him and become like Him .
2 CORINTHIANS 3:16-18
But the moment one turns to the Lord with an open heart the veil is lifted and they see. Now, the Lord I am referring to is the Holy Spirit, and wherever he is Lord, there is freedom. We can all draw close to Him with the veil removed from our faces. And with no veil we all become like mirrors who brightly reflect the glory of the Lord Jesus. We are being transfigured into his very image as we move from one brighter level of glory to another. And this glorious transfiguration comes from the Lord.
Paul understood this story line as a foundation to the Gospel in particular the role of spiritual powers to influence the heart and minds of humanity and the god of this age to veil hearts from God’s truth. Sin was not just ascribed to humanity- the rebellious gods of the Divine Council also rebelled and sinned.
And through rebellion to god they invoked man into evil by the exercise of their own free will.
Israel was to be God’s light in the darkness, His chosen people, a nation of priests and spiritual kings who would establish God’s plans and purposes on earth to bring everything back under the one true God and to fulfil God’s Eden mandate. There was spiritual conflict but God showed how He is greater than any other God. He showed His faithfulness over and over again. Then came the time for God to restore the nations as His inheritance.
In that sense the Cross of Jesus is a significant event. Not only did God forgive the sin of His people, He forgave the sins of the nations, and re-established through the forgiveness of sins a new people in the line of Abraham, but who through God’s mercy love and grace, would come into a new life as one new people in Christ. Jesus was given as a love sacrifice for the world and the whole cosmos. This is the primary thrust of the new testament and Paul’s writings.
This is why the Gospel is so powerful. It has a significant spiritual power against the hold of corrupted lesser gods and Satan who illegally spiritually rules over nations and humanity as Christ’s inheritance, keeping them in bondage and the effects of sin- living apart and outside of the One True God, His love and His spiritual reign.
Through Christ’s suffering and atonement, His blood sacrifice as the forgiveness of sins, Jesus paid a price to rescue us from the corrupt spiritual government of lesser gods, the hold of sin in our life that was master over us, and a fallen nature separated from the love of God. By His atoning sacrifice He reconciled us back to the heart of God, brought us to a place of rest in Him, gave us a new nature, and empowered us with His love as sons of God, for a purpose: to fulfil a great commission on earth that began in Genesis. To establish the boundaries of Eden as God’s Kingdom rule and reign over the entire earth.
Therefore, we have been saved by grace for a purpose. Every single born again believer. This is why we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, in absolute reverence towards God.
Our salvation is not primarily about us. It is about God. We are the beneficiaries of His goodness and love. God’s grace and mercy towards us should not attract any sense of entitlement whatsoever. It should attract humility and reverence and the desire to serve God’s purposes in our life. According to Scripture this grace and mercy is being witnessed by cosmic spiritual forces throughout the generations and dismantling their power.
Our salvation, God’s grace, has brought us back to God’s heart in Jesus Christ, back into the fullness of His love, so that we can be conformed to the likeness of Christ as His image bearers and carry His governmental authority on earth to overcome the power and hold of the defeated gods lead by Satan to establish God’s future Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We are now chosen by God before the foundation of the world as His called- out Ones and witnesses to the nations.
That means our daily decisions and activities reveal the reality of the Gospel at work in us - so that the Gospel will be revealed through us to the world around us. We are not just sons of God, adopted into His family. We are also His servants on earth.
The journey of restoring the nations starts with our own Jerusalem, our own heart and family and church family. This is the hardest place sometimes to reveal the gospel because we see our own imperfections and failures and wrestles, and if we don’t people are quick to point them out to us! But we must learn to move beyond that into God’s empowering grace and to our neighbours and the spheres of influence God has given each of us. In Christ we can do all things!
We are not doing God a favour by serving Him with the life He has given us and brought us into. He is being kind towards us! By living in our calling as His servants and witnesses we are revealing our love for Christ and reverence for God. This is paramount. One of the works of the Holy Spirit is the reverential awe of God. When we walk in the Spirit we will indeed revere God which is the beginning of wisdom. Jesus is our friend, our older brother, but He is also our heavenly King and He is not our equal. He is God and we are sons of God living under His loving authority as earthly co-labourers with Him.
Through our baptism in water, we identify our life by faith with the death and resurrection of Jesus. We signify the old Adam life with self at the centre is gone. The new life we now-live is our life in Christ. But there is something more. By being saved and being baptised as the witness to that faith reality we are also bringing our whole life under Jesus Christ as the true King over all things in the cosmos. We are those who carry delegated spiritual authority. We are under His authority to carry His delegated authority.
Our baptism understood as the early church understood these things meant declaring our allegiance to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. It is cosmic. By public rite of passage, we have let the heavens know who we belong to and who we worship and who we serve. We have taken a stand and we have taken sides. We are on God’s team. We are on the side of the One true God. And all the heavens know that!
Importantly we have joined our life in the purposes of God. We have joined our life with Christ to serve God’s purposes in imaging Him and establishing His kingdom reign as co-labourers in this world.
Friends, we have been saved into an eternal Kingdom that cannot be shaken. We have been saved into God’s purposes not just for our life but to see the nations restored under King Jesus, the one who demonstrated God’s love for the world in His atoning suffering and death. And we do that by both becoming the gospel and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus to the nations.
This cosmic battle motif has largely been lost from our modern understanding of the gospel. We have been taught of course forgiveness of sins avoids me going to hell. Sin originated on earth with Satan in the Garden. The wages of sin are death, and because the nations, and even Israel, through their ignorance or free will had chosen to follow Satan, nachash, as the leader of the corrupted lesser gods they have given allegiance through their free will to the Father of lies. (sin) Their destiny is determined by who they choose to worship and give their allegiance to.
They have linked their destiny to the one they worship and serve. This is not God’s intention towards them. In His love, He wants to rescue them. Each person has free will, and God will not in His love override that free will. He will of course send the Holy Spirit to someone’s heart to pierce the veil over their heart, to open their heart and mind to the power of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit is constantly moving in that way. This is how the Kingdom advances- one person at a time. This is why we need to pray for the harvest of souls and live the way we pray.
By contrast, we have linked our faith and heart to the One true God who we worship and serve. This is how the spiritual world seems to function according to the Bible. This is why we must both live the gospel full of the Holy Spirit and proclaim the Gospel, knowing of course we may meet some resistance and need to overcome the world even as Jesus did. He has overcome the world so we may overcome in Him.
Salvation is the grace gift that rescues people from this spiritual reality and brings them into an eternal hope.
Jesus was never on the defensive in His desire to bring people out of spiritual darkness and into His Kingdom by believing in Him. He knew by entering God’s rest He had the power and authority of God over all the lesser gods.
I repeat, He was never on the defensive with respect to His desire to overcome the spiritual authority and power of Satan, the deceiver or Father of lies. That was His mission. He loved Israel and the nations too much to be passive with His mission. They were His inheritance. They were spiritual prisoners and captives doomed to a fate of the gods they worshipped. We are inspired by the Holy Spirit to pursue our mission with the same heart attitude and approach.
For a while God had disinherited the nations. But His plan was always that Jesus was the desire of all nations and they would be His inheritance. The Cross marked the liberating conquest of Jesus as Christos Victor over sin, death and the power of the lesser gods in particular according to Psalm 22 the Bulls of Bashan who ruled over the nations.
JESUS MADE IT CLEAR ABOUT HIS CHURCH
When Jesus was at Caesarea Philippi before He went to the Cross, He had a conversation with his disciple Peter who had received a fresh revelation from God about who Jesus was. Many scholars believe Jesus was inviting a showdown to invoke the demon gods into God’s plan. They indeed fell into God’s plan quite unwittingly.
MATTHEW 16:18 (Passion translation)
When Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples this question: What are the people saying about me, the Son of Man? Who do they believe I am?” They answered, “Some are convinced you are John the Baptiser, others say you are Elijah reincarnated, or Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
But you- who do you say I am” Jesus asked. Simon Peter spoke up and said, “You are the Anointed One the Son of the Living God!”
Jesus replied, “You are favoured and privileged Simeon, son of Jonah! For you didn’t discover this on your own, but my Father in heaven has supernaturally revealed it to you. I give you the name Peter, a stone. And this truth of who I am will be the bedrock foundation on which I will build my church- my legislative assembly, and the power of death (or the gates of hell) will not be able to overpower it! I will give you the keys of heaven’s kingdom realm to forbid on earth that which is forbidden in heaven and to release on earth that which is released in heaven. He gave his disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that He was God’s anointed.
The clear meaning of this interchange is foundational to the issue of our salvation. Jesus would build His church with revelation, authority and power, so that the gates of hell would not be able to stop the growth and development of the church in its mission to the nations. The interpretation of “not be able to overpower it” is not a defensive posture from the church, but instead a posture of advancing into the spiritual darkness. The Cross was not just the forgiveness of sins and judgment it was a declaration of Jesus’s intention towards spiritual rulers about His inheritance in the nations.
According to scholars, the geography of Caesarea Philippi is important. This location was at the foot of Mount Hermon where it is believed that the Watchers, the Sons of God who were part of God’s Divine Council, His holy ones, left their estate and came down to engage with “the daughters of men” as Genesis 6 tells us.
This became the site of Hell’s gate in Biblical times, a place where rituals and practices to the lesser and corrupted gods took place, literally at a place called Bashan. The name for these gods were the Bulls of Bashan, the very same gods that David refers to in Psalm 22 when he is speaking about the Cross.
The levels of meaning here are fascinating. But we are part of an advancing and unshakeable Kingdom. This is why we need to be an empowered, going and pioneering people. Even though it gets a little disquieting, and we momentarily have to hold our ground, and we need to persevere, we remain on the advance. The purpose of the Church is very clear. God’s plans and purposes come alive in us as we give ourselves to this eternal purpose by the daily decisions we make and what we choose to reveal through our lives. We need to keep God’s purposes and His enabling power as His grace towards us foremost in our mind and hearts.
Jesus was in effect standing in the most spiritually oppressive and active area of the region and letting all the principalities and powers know His intention. He would be building a legislating people who would carry spiritual authority and power over them based on the revelation of Christ they carried. That power and authority was of course the Gospel and Christ’s death and resurrection. Jesus most certainly shook the heavens and the earth at the Cross!
Friends this is why we must come together in worship and prayer hearing the words of God so that we can co-labour with Him on earth. Together with God’s purposes in mind we become part of a bigger story, celebrating the testimonies we have in advancing the Gospel just as the early church did.
HOW DO WE LIVE THIS OUT?
Jesus gave us the answer over and again, and Paul practically taught the church that a spiritual life in the world looks very different from a worldly life in the world. What the ancients understood and Jesus practiced were foundational to ensuring their life was constantly found in God and fulfilling His purposes in the midst of a spiritual battle and the church fulfilling their mission towards the nations. They were a people of faith, hope, and love, praise, prayer and revelation through the teaching of the Scriptures.
We know that all we do is spiritual. This is a correct Biblical worldview. Jesus wanted us to know that the strength we have and life we have is found in Him. This is our starting point.
Witnessing as mission starts with our life with Jesus and overflows from that reality. We cannot do anything apart from the Holy Spirit who empowers us. So, it behoves us to be full of the Holy Spirit and learn to become friends with Him as Jesus taught. Now we have received power from on high we need to know how to walk in that power and authority from our new identity. We also need to know how to walk with the Holy Spirit as Jesus did.
Jesus taught how the Kingdom works through the unforced rhythms of grace. After declaring judgment against the cities where He worked the hardest but whose people had responded the least, He prayed. This should give us confidence in our own mission!
MATTHEW 11:25-26 (Message translation)
Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “the Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself: I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me- watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
The giving of the promised Holy Spirit is fundamental to us living in this reality. In John 14, Jesus tells us that He would send another just like Him and we will know Him and we will become friends with Him. This is the Spirit of Holiness, the Spirit of Truth, The counsellor, The Spirit of Christ. He has many names but He will both dwell in us and rest upon us.
Everything flows from this divine connection or union and entering into God’s rest, meaning living from His power working in us in all that we do. Even in our weakness, God’s strength works in us. Even when we do not know what to pray, the Holy Spirit shows us. Even when we do not feel like worshipping or giving thanks, the Holy Spirit leads us and inspires us. Even when we feel inadequate the Holy Spirit empowers us and gives us courage and faith to overcome and to live in what God has called us to live in as His witnesses and imagers. Importantly, we are to both walk with Jesus through the Holy Spirit and work with Jesus through the Holy Spirit. He will show us what to do and how to do it.
This becomes the foundation to our mission and our ability to be overcomers. This is what Paul says to the church at Ephesus:
EPHESIANS 6:1 (Passion translation)
Now beloved ones, I have saved the most important truths for last: Be supernaturally infused with strength through your life union with the Lord Jesus. Stand victorious with the force of his explosive power flowing in and through you.
Every action, every faith discipline flows from this place. In walking with the Holy Spirit, we will find that prayer becomes real and normal, effective and powerful. We will be lead in all kinds of prayer. We will find that we will want to give thanks and praise, instead of judging and critiquing everyone and everything. We will want to plunge into the depths of God’s word to understand who we are, what we have and what we are called to. We will want to be with the assembly of believers, and pray together, and we will want to reveal Jesus to others. We will recover our joy which is our strength.
Who and what has filled our hearts will be revealed in our life well beyond our personalities and uniqueness we all carry. Jesus walked as one with the Father through His complete submission to the Holy Spirit. We are called to do the same.
I recognise my own imperfections and encourage myself in the Lord. We must once more walk with the Holy Spirit in an even deeper way, empowered into the witness and calling God has called each and every one of us into as His witnesses. We have been saved for a purpose. And now it is time to be witnesses.
Want to get the latest from Paul Tothill delivered to your inbox? Submit your details here, and Paul will send you a weekly digest of thoughts, news and content.
 See below, GK Beale.
 There is a great deal of Biblical scholarship on these things. See for example the work of GK Beale “We become what we worship” and the Biblical theology of idolatry. See also Gregory Boyd, “Satan and the problem of evil” and Michael Heiser, “Supernatural” and “The unseen realm”.