putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. But not long after, a tempestuous
head wind arose, called Euroclydon... striking a place where two seas met, they
ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable but the
stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves."
As a result, I too, have fallen into that turbulent area of two seas meeting. What does that expression about "two seas" meeting imply? Hear me carefully: Two different bodies of water, if they are of different depth, will also be of different temperatures. Where they come together, if the colder water overlays the warm, it will try to sink. The warmer water, by nature, will try to rise. The counter-resistance of these two opposing each other produces a dangerous swirling effect that results in whirlpools. Numerous churches are caught in this same pattern. Some members want to "rise" in the power of the Spirit and welcome the change He brings. Other members feel compelled to resist, to suppress, to keep "things as they were."
Need I say more about church turbulence? My exhortation to pastors and churches is this: At all costs, avoid the mistake of "supposition." Hear what the Spirit is saying and obey Him alone. Do not suppose you know the time to sail or the time to remain in harbor if He has not expressly told you. Fair skies, calm weather, are not your guide. Get in your closet, shut the door, spiritually live there, pray to the Father who sees in secret, and obey when He guides you openly. When you have heard His instruction, follow it. Regardless. Leave consequence to Him alone. If you do that, you will avoid much crisis of "two seas" crashing together. I am not suggesting that all pain will be avoided; but I am saying pastors and congregations can be spared needless heartache by following God. Never trust supposition. True faith rests on hearing the Holy Spirit and obeying His direction.
In one of the New Testament’s strongest defenses for the gospel’s inalterable faith, the Apostle Jude wrote, "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ." Jude 3-5:
The "once for all", translation in our English Bibles comes from a one-word expression in Greek. It is "hapax" and in spite of its brief size carries significant authority.
It, and its’ probable source, "hapas", mean, "one, or a single time, conclusively, absolutely all, every one ..." If you read the Apostle Jude’s statement again, it is impossible to defend the idea that the original gospel and the power it contained were later altered or modified. The Greek does not allow such an idea. The "faith which was once delivered for all" means that in a conclusive, inalterable, unchangeable, way the faith of the Apostolic era was delivered for "all time" and there will never be another. The gospel of the Kingdom is inalterable.
This agrees perfectly with Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 28:18 that believers to "the end of the age" be taught to "observe all things that I have commended you." Then, as if to emphasize the unchangeability of the gospel’s time-span, He said, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Observe the expression "all things". What did He mean by that expression? Scripture does not leave us to wonder. Matthew 10:7-9 makes it very plain: "As you go, preach, saying,'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give."
How can humans accomplish these deeds of healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, raising the dead, and casting out demons? Sincere, Bible-believing Christians around the world immediately cry out, "I don’t believe I can do that!" And of course, they can’t because Jesus said, "These signs will follow those who believe." He never expected miracles to be done by anyone who was not divinely connected to Him. But He did say of believers, "In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." Mark 16:17-18. Jesus never implied that unbelievers could do His same works. But He emphatically declared that true believers not only could do them but would.
The Book of Acts gives us a working model of a conscientious, godly pastor who was preaching a powerless gospel. Like many of us today, Apollos was pastor of a small, struggling congregation. He was faithful, loved God, served the congregation, but was totally bereft of power. While he was away from Ephesus, Paul came and found his church of 12 male disciples with wives and children. In spite of Apollos having excellent credentials for ministry, Paul immediately recognized powerlessness in his flock. Both were men of God, both equally loved the Lord, and each possessed vast knowledge of Scripture. Even so, a major discrepancy existed between their ministries. Paul had power; Apollos did not. Paul preached the gospel of the Kingdom; Apollos obviously knew nothing about it.
In light of the Apostle Jude’s exhortation to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints," we see how Apollos–though innocent of any evil intent–had accepted a partial gospel and experienced partial results. Paul and Apollos and their ministries are a parallel of pastors and churches today. I emphasize the fact that Apollos was ignorant because he had never been taught–not because he had knowingly rejected the truth. Carefully observe these seven facts which Scripture records about Apollos: He was a Jew, an eloquent man, mighty in Scripture, instructed in the way of the Lord, fervent in spirit, taught accurately the things of the Lord, But: He knew only the "baptism of John" --That is, he knew nothing about the baptism in the Spirit. had a partial gospel, a partial faith, and partial results.
When Paul recognized spiritual-powerlessness in the Ephesians, he asked the all-revealing question, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They responded, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." This unfortunate ignorance existed because Apollos knew only the "baptism of John." He knew nothing about the baptism in the Holy Spirit and had left his congregation in that same condition. Paul immediately instructed the Ephesians about the Holy Spirit's empowering and when he "laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied."
Under Apollos' ministry, the church at Ephesus accomplished absolutely nothing to awaken the city. It demonstrated no Kingdom power, remained spiritually paralyzed, and except for the local Synagogue, its presence was virtually unknown. In that state, the congregation had no effective witness, made no impact on the people, was no threat to "Powers, Principalities, Rulers of the darkness of this world," etc. Instead, the dark cloud of paganism gripped the land with unchallenged control. The Temple of Diana--or Artemas--already famous as the greatest of all Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, dominated the area. It was in the shadow of this formidable enemy that this minuscule church, virtually powerless and unknown, lay dormant.
That changed when Paul arrived. When he came on the scene, Ephesus experienced a "Kingdom of God" earthquake. Paul was not the power but he was the instrument for that shaking. He merely provided the window through whom the power roared; Apollos and twelve other windows were already present in Ephesus but they had never been opened. I fear that numerous Christians today have never had the "door of faith" opened personally in their lives.
That there is a distinct, identifiable moment in which the "door of faith" is opened is illustrated many times in Scripture. Here is a primary example that occurred on the Emmaus Road the day of the Resurrection: Luke 24:31,32: Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, 'Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?'" Luke 24:44,45: Then Jesus said to them, 'These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me. And he opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures." Identically, our aim is to get our spiritual eyes opened and like the disciples on the Emmaus Road, to "have our hearts burn within us while He opens the Scriptures to us."
Question: How did God open the "door of faith" to the Gentiles anciently? How does He open the "door of faith" today? God’s method of "opening the door of faith" is illustrated when Paul preached in Illyricum " ... In word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient--in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ." Romans 15:18-19. "Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands." Acts 14:3. It was regarding true faith that Paul wrote the gentile believers in Corinth: "And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. What were the "mighty signs and wonders" God used then? Answer: 1. Survival of persecution. 2. Healing. 3. Deliverance from demons, reversing acts of nature, Holy Spirit encounters, and other phenomenon:
1. Persecution: Whether we like it or not, one of the primary "mighty signs and wonders" is the Church’s survival against persecution, lies, and misrepresentation: Acts 14:19-22. “Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. Strengthening the converts And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God."
2. Healing: The lame man leaps and walks. Acts 14:8-10. "And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother's womb, who had never walked. This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice,’Stand up straight on your feet!’ And he leaped and walked."
3. Deliverance from demons: Fortune-telling girl. Acts 16:16-18. "Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, ‘These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.’ And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit , ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And he came out that very hour."
3. Phenomenon: Ananias and Sapphira killed. Acts 5:9-12. Then Peter said to her, "’How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.’ Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon's Porch."
4. Elymas blinded. Acts 13:7-12. "The proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.’ And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord."
Such faith is both a fruit of the Spirit and a gift of the Spirit. Of all the fruits and gifts, it alone has that honored distinction of belonging to both expressions of the Holy Spirit in the believer. In Galatians 5:22,23, we read: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." In I Corinthians 12:8-10, we learn about "The word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healings, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues." What we are being told in these two listings is that faithfulness in man's character as a "fruit of the Spirit" must be present if faith as a "gift of the Spirit" is to work. That forever settles the issue by saying that an unfaithful man can never become a man of faith. Let me repeat that: An unfaithful man can never become a man of faith. Can we prove that? Yes. "Faith works by love". Galatians 5:6. If love, as the primary fruit of the Spirit is absent there is nothing to motivate or release the power of faith. Attempts to operate faith artificially (without love) are like trying to start a car with the wrong key. It simply will not work. We can shout, praise, sing, clap our hands, get excited, and throw all kinds of religious confetti into the air, but when the noise has ended and the confetti fallen, faith will still be sitting unmoved. It will wait on love. It was this precise point which the Apostle James made when he said "Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works." Love mandates good works. Work is like the lungs, love is like the air. The two go together inseparably. John Owen, the Puritan writer of three centuries ago, said: "We absolutely deny that we are justified by that faith alone which can be alone --- that is, without a principle of life and obedience in all things, at all times ... For we recognize no faith to be of the sanctifying kind, but that which virtually and radically contains in it an obedience at all times --- yea, we acknowledge no faith to be justifying, which is not itself a spiritually vital principle of obedience and good works."
Don’t fall for supposition! You want authentic, working faith. Supposition leads to shipwreck and disaster. If you do not posses that quality of faith ask the Lord to open to you the “door of faith” that you step in.
Faith is a force. A power. It is a weapon in the hands of those who are vibrant and alive. Love, like gravity, is the force which grasps, bonds, holds to itself. Faith, working through love, penetrates, illuminates, radiates. Like sunlight restoring life to a plant kept too long in the dark, faith has the radiating power to change the spiritual environment around it and bring life. You received faith when you were born again. But you must release it through love. This kind of "vital principle" for which we pray! Lord, let it be! I grew up in church singing the following hymn–but did not discover until many years later what it actually meant. Today, I prize its message about faith-endurance:
Oh, for a faith that will not shrink,
Though pressed by every foe,
That will not tremble on the brink,
Of any earthly woe.
A faith that shines more bright and clear
When tempests rage without,
That when in darkness knows no fear,
In sorrow, feels no doubt.