It is important for every Believer to realize that complete knowledge of who God is and how the christian life “works”, is not granted to you the day you first Believed and experienced redemption (Eph. 1:13-23). This passage in Ephesians explains that after believers have been enlightened to the truth, they can then BEGIN to receive wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Understanding God and how to live as a Christian, obviously wasn’t something you knew before conversion. And we aren’t automatically given this information at conversion. This is what you have to learn and experience after being initially redeemed. This knowledge of Jesus Christ is both mental knowledge, and experiential knowledge (Eph. 1:15-23). This revelation should happen during the continued process of our redemption that is referred to as sanctification (being set apart).
Sanctification actually pertains to all three stages of redemption, but is mostly referred to regarding the second aspect, which is the progressive part of our redemption. The first stage begins at the moment of initial conversion, when after repenting of our sin we believe upon Jesus’ death and resurrection to grant us salvation. We are then sanctified and blameless before God due to our Faith in Christ (Heb. 10:10,14,29, 1 Thess. 5:23). This, allows God to legally declare us sanctified and righteous (Rom. 3:24, 5:1, Gal. 2:6). The second stage involves the progressive work of the Holy Spirit delivering us from our sins as we live our daily lives (1 Thess. 4:3-5, 5:23, 2 Thess. 2:13). This is where we learn more about who and how God is, and begin to experience the benefits of our redemption from sin. This is where the justified live by their Faith (Rom. 1:17, Gal. 3:11-12, 5:18,22-25). And the third aspect of our redemption, is when we receive our glorified bodies at the resurrection. Bodies that do not possess a sin nature (1 Cor. 15:52-57, 1 John 3:2). Then, the final fulfillment of our Faith will be given. Sin will no longer be a problem to us. All three aspects of sanctification are the result of one thing, our Faith in what Christ did at The Cross as our sinless Sacrifice. And, this Faith must continue if we want to experience the second and third aspects of our redemption (Heb. 2:1 3:6,14, 4:11, 6:4-8, 10:38, 12:11-17).
The knowledge of Jesus Christ is about understanding and experienceing a relationship with God, the benefits of your redemption and learning how to continue to access those benefits (Col. 2:1-17). Christianity is more than learning morality. If true Christian doctrine was only about morality, the apostles would have kept teaching righteousness and holiness through means of the Law. The Law was the God given explanantion of what righteousness looked like in daily living. You can’t get any better than that! But the Law only had man’s strength available to try and obey it’s demands. Righteousness and holiness have never come through man’s striving to be “good”. The unredeemed can try to live moral lives. There is much more to this Faith than learning the right thing to do. Jesus Christ died so that we could have power to actually do the right thing. How to access and live in that enablement is what Believers need to be taught. Unfortunately, many pastors messages contain nothing more than knowledge about what is good and the right thing to do. They rarely ever explain HOW TO DO IT! Living a Christian life, according to the Bible, is not about becoming a “better you”. It is rather you learning how to hide yourself in Christ, that He might live through you by the power of His Spirit (Col. 2:20-3:4). It is about learning how to allow Him to live through you.
During Jesus’ ministry on earth, He confronted false teachers and leaders who had corrupted what the redemption plan was founded upon, which was Faith in a coming Savior and redeemer. The Scribes and Pharisees were constantly trying to perform the actions required in the Law that God had given. But, what they were practicing was not actually God’s Way. They were trying to achieve righteousness (right standing with God), through their outward actions. Their focus was on themselves and their own moral performance. God had prescribed how they could be in right standing with Him. This was the “fall back” system to atone (to cover over or “hide” their sin) for their failure to keep His standard of righteousness. They could bring an innocent animal to be sacrificed on their behalf, and trust in the process of a substitutionary death to atone for their sin. They had to trust that the offering up of the life of that innocent victim would allow them to avoid the judgment of a just God. This “simple” act of faith was too easy for the Scribes and Pharisees. These religious individuals had reasoned that keeping commandments was the way to be in right standing with God, so they devised even hundreds of more laws to keep. They thought they could not only keep all the requirements God had instituted, but be able to go above and beyond them! Their pride was what led them into deceiving themselves, thinking THEY COULD live up to God’s standard of righteousness. Due to this deception, they had missed the whole point for which the commandments were given. It’s primary purpose wasn’t in order for them to “better” themselves. Yes, they were to try to keep all of the commandments. But, no one ever could! Therefore, commandment keeping could never be The Way of redemption (Rom. 3:19-28)! It’s primary purpose was to inform them that they were sinners who needed a Savior and a Redeemer (Gal. 3:21-26). Since they didn’t acknowledge their need for a Savior, they rejected Jesus their Creator when He stood right in front of them! That is what deception will do to any of us. It will keep us from seeing and knowing The Truth when it is right in front of us. That is how powerful deception is!
Under the system of the Law, Believers were to recite and memorize Old Testament Scriptures. But, the religious leaders of Israel had turned this gift of knowing the revealed word of God into a means to redeem themselves! As good as memorizing Scripture is, that activity isn’t The Way to become right with God. And they could quote more of the words of Scriptures than you or I probably can, but had no idea what the Scriptures were really saying! They had turned a good practice and discipline into something God had never designed it for. They had turned reading and memorization into the Way of redemption, and the Way to access the benefits of their redemption. This means, you and I can do the same! We can be deceived and accept what sounds like the gospel of redemption, but isn’t. May God’s Spirit, help us all to know The Truth of the Bible, and not just the words and the stories in the Bible.
Jesus said, “but those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man” (Matthew 15:18-20). Jesus taught that mankind’s problem is internal, not external. He was teaching the Jews that they had a problem no religious outward activity could solve, even the activities prescribed by God! Why? They were using them for a purpose God had never designed them to be used for! The Jewish religious system and leaders in Jesus’ day, had left The Truth of the Old Covenant, and had devised their own “religion” to be right with God (Gal. 1:13-14). Yes, they still read the word of God’s Covenant, believed in obeying the ten commandments of God, prayed using the name of God, celebrated the feasts and offered animal sacrifices that God had commanded. But, they either never saw the simplicity of the covenant, or they had allowed it to be lost. Their focus and faith was in the “externals” of the Covenant, and they missed the whole purpose of the covenant. It is possible to practice the “religion of Christianity” and never be a Christian. Biblical Christianity is not a religion, it is a personal relationship with God the Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ, sealed and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God. That is why all Christians must know and be constantly reminded of the fundamentals of The Faith. If not, we, like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, will focus on and place our faith in something other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified as the only means of righteousness, and way to right living.