Mid-Watch Report: June 2003
Time to Live Out the Promise

by Rev. Sterling M. Durgy

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Mid-Watch Report The American Night Watch (TM)

of  The American Night Watch
Vol. 4   No. 3      June 2003

Time to Live Out the Promise

Note: This article builds upon insights presented in “Time for the ‘Holiness Bogeyman’ to Go” in the previous Mid-Watch Report.

In the previous article on holiness, we considered that a true understanding of Christian holiness must come from a correct understanding of the teachings of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. We observed that the many facets of holiness can be summarized in the statement, “Scriptural holiness is Christ-likeness.”

We have also seen that even a brief consideration of the teachings of Scripture regarding holiness yields a number of important points in which a Scriptural understanding of holiness must be grounded:

Further, we considered that to be a Christian is to be - in the original language of Scripture - a “holy one;” so that the Church of Jesus Christ is defined as a holy people (cf. 1 Peter 2:9, 10; Titus 2:14). This holiness does not make people other than human. Rather, the gracious work of God through Jesus Christ that makes His people “holy” is designed to enable them to be all that God created human beings to be.

The Present Victory of God’s People

The saving grace of God that comes to His people - that makes them a “holy people” - brings victory into their lives in a way that they can never experience apart from His grace. This victory is very much akin to the victory of Jesus Christ at Calvary. The world still considers the cross to be the place of Jesus’ total defeat; whereas Calvary was the place of God’s final victory over sin and death (cf. John 16:33, Matthew 28:18-20, Colossians 1:13-15, Hebrews 2:9-15, 9:13-28, Revelation 5). In the same way, the victory that Christians experience in this world is one that the world generally does not acknowledge. This was made plain by the apostle Paul in Romans 8, where Paul explains that even in the midst of the very worst that the world can do, Christians “overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (v. 37).

Recognition of the victory of Jesus Christ is not based upon some “leap of faith,” but follows appreciation of the evidence for the active work of God in this world: either though acceptance of the apostolic witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead found in the Scriptures or by seeing faith in the risen Christ in the lives and attitudes of His people - His Church on earth (2 Corinthians 2:14-3:3).

In his recent work The Rebirth of Orthodoxy, Methodist theologian Thomas Oden wrote that it is the willingness of Christians to suffer and die for their faith that provides the most persuasive argument for faith from the earliest days of Chrstianity to contemporary times.1 This is not a new viewpoint. Oden observed that it was expressed by Vincent of Lerins in the fifth century AD.2 It is a view supported in the New Testament in Scriptures such as Philippians 1:27-30 and Hebrews 11:1-4, 13:11-16.

Again, there is a close relationship between the suffering of Jesus Christ for Truth and the suffering of His people; as indicated by Jesus’ words in John 15:18-21. But, just as Paul states so eloquently in Romans 8, the suffering that Christians endure does not diminish the victory that they enjoy, any more than it robbed Jesus of His identify or victory. Jesus made this clear in words we find in John 16:33 and 17:13-26 (cf. 1 John 5:4, 5).

The chapters leading up to Romans 8 lay the groundwork for our understanding of the victory that Paul describes in that chapter. Paul refers to the victory of Christ at the very beginning of his letter. In Romans 1 Paul wrote that, “Christ Jesus . . . was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 1, 4). In verse 2, Paul notes that this was foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament. As such, the event is the fulfillment of divine promises. In the following chapters, Paul explains what this means for all people.

In Romans 5, Paul focuses upon the death of Jesus Christ at Calvary and its meaning for the entire human race. It is beyond the scope of this discussion to provide a detailed evaluation of Paul’s argument concerning the relationship between the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It suffices, for our purposes, to summarize Paul’s discussion. Paul taught that the Law helps us to understand that we cannot be holy and righteous on our own. Only through God’s sovereign work in us can we be saved from the effects of sin within us; and we can experience this work only if we come to God with faith in Jesus Christ.

Sin, Paul argues in Romans 5, came into the human race through the father of the human race, Adam. This resulted in spiritual and physical death for his descendents. To counter this, Jesus became part of Adam’s race and died at Calvary to provide salvation from the effects of sin (Romans 4:23-5:8, Hebrews 2:14, 15). When Jesus died on the cross; the human body He received as a part of Adam’s race died there as well. The risen Christ, because of His victory over sin and death at Calvary, becomes not simply a revivified Adam - a member of Adam’s race brought back to life - the resurrected Jesus becomes a “new Adam,” the progenitor of a new race; and all who are “born in Him” become members of that new race (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:20-24, 42-57; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; John 1:12, 13; Titus 3:5).

So, Paul’s argument runs, Adam rebelled against God by disobeying God’s command, thereby corrupting his nature in such a manner that all of his descendents inherited a sinful nature as well. When God gave the Law of Moses, he increased each individual’s responsibility for sin because even when people had been told what God expected of them, they still did not do what was right. But God’s grace offered to human beings through Jesus Christ is far greater than all of these; bringing not only victory over sin and death - not just victory over our weak and corrupt human nature - but glorious new possibilities of fellowship and blessedness from God. In Paul’s words of Romans 5:20, “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”

Romans 5:20 is an important statement by Paul, especially coming near the end of Paul’s discussion concerning the effects of Christ’s work in comparison to the effects of Adam’s sin. Unfortunately, our English translations sometimes prevent us from appreciating the full force of Paul’s words here. The NASB is quite accurate here, but still comes somewhat short, I believe, of conveying the contrast Paul is describing between the extent of man’s sin and the extent of God’s grace. This is made plain by the verbs Paul uses. Sin “increased” - the Greek verb pleonadzo - it “increased and became abundant” - and we can see the disastrous effects of sin throughout human history. But, Paul wrote, where this happened, grace “abounded all the more” - the Greek verb huperperisseuo - grace “increased beyond measure.”

Marvin Vincent wrote that this second verb means, literally, “abounded over and above.”3 In his commentary on the Greek New Testament, Henry Alford suggested that Romans 5:20 should be translated, “sin . . . was multiplied, (God’s) grace did beyond measure abound.”4 The conclusions of these scholars suggest that it is helpful to understand this second verb in terms of David’s words of Psalm 23:5, “My cup overflows.” It is important to note, however, that while David seems to be speaking first of material blessings and only secondarily of spiritual blessings, Paul, in Romans 5:20, has spiritual blessings primarily in mind (cf. Ephesians 1:3-2:7). Paul’s purpose here is to show that the victory of God in Jesus Christ on our behalf is not just co-equal to the effects of sin; it is far, far greater. How much greater? As much greater as God, our Creator, is greater than all of His creation - as much greater as the work of a sovereign God is greater than the works of any of His creatures.

Stepping back for a moment, we can conceive of two contrary postures towards the world. We can give primacy to the terrible destructiveness of sin in and upon the human race and human life, and to the grotesque aspect of its consequences upon human life; in which case we will see the grace of God in this age as something of lesser importance, and give the greater emphasis to sin - essentially a view of pessimism. Or, we can recognize that terrible consequences of sin in the world just as in the first view, and yet see the grace of God as the predominant factor in this age; giving greater weight to the victory of God in His people - a view of confidence in the work of God. The latter view more accurately reflects the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me . . . Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful . . . In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 14:1, 27). John wrote, “whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4, 5). John’s source of confidence in the victory of God’s children in this world is the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God, for John explained, “greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

In a similar vein, Paul wrote,

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His (God’s) calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places . . . Ephesians 1:18-20
Later, Paul gave glory, “to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20). So, Paul’s confidence, like John’s, was due to the “power that works within us” - “He who is in you.”

Peter also expressed confidence in the provision of God for His children in this age, writing,

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:2, 3

What all of this means is that the grace of God in Jesus Christ - working in this world, through the Holy Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and the Church of Jesus Christ - is not some weak, half-hearted attempt to confront the evils of this age; it is nothing less than the victorious, overcoming, conquering work of a sovereign God accomplishing His plan in human history.

What must not be missed in all of this is that it is a plan that God is working out through His people. To unite with Jesus Christ - with faith in Him as one’s Savior and with obedience to Him as one’s Lord - is to unite with His victory. The Scriptures do not mislead us; they do not tell us that there will not continue to be a struggle as long as we live in this age - a struggle that will take on new aspects as we follow Jesus Christ “against the tide” of disbelief and disobedience. But they promise that we can “overcome.” There is ultimate victory in Jesus Christ that can be experienced to a great extent even here, even now.

The Mingling of Two Ages

Full victory over all wickedness was accomplished through the death of Jesus Christ at Calvary (Matthew 28:18-20; Hebrews 10:11-15; Colossians 2:9-15). Nevertheless, full victory over sin and death will not be realized in this age, but in the age to come; the age that will be initiated at the bodily return of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:8, 9, 9:27, 28). It is then that the entire universe will be made “new,” released from the bondage of decay and death (Romans 8:16-25, Revelation 21:3-5, cf. Matthew 19:28). The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is incomplete without taking into account the fullness of salvation in the age to come. The Gospel becomes much shallower when Christians present the Gospel solely in terms of what is available in this age. The issue of justice for those who suffer in this world is entirely without resolution if confined to God’s work in this age because, ultimately, in both the Old and New Testaments, justice awaits the coming of the righteous Judge (Psalms 94:2, 96; Isaiah 11:1-5, 28:5, 6, 30:18, 42:1-4). In fact, we can accurately say that in the Old Testament there was no concept of righteous Judgment divorced from the concept of the righteous Judge: the Lord Himself (Psalm 50:6; Jeremiah 9:23, 24; Genesis 18:25).5

However, it is equally in error to believe that the victory of the age to come is in no way present in the age in which we now live. Scripture speaks in terms of an “earnest” or “down payment” on that victory - resident in followers in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:14, 2 Corinthians 1:22, 5:5). Salvation that includes the resurrection and glorification of the people of God is referred to as our “inheritance,” of which the present possession of the Spirit is the first payment. Commenting on Paul’s words in Ephesians 1:14, Andrew Lincoln wrote,

In a down payment, that which is given is part of a greater whole, is of the same kind as that whole, and functions as a guarantee that the whole payment will be forthcoming. . . . The Spirit is seen as the power of the age to come given ahead of time in history but as still only the beginning and guarantee of the full salvation of that age which is yet to come.6
The Scriptures of the Old Testament teach that God is going to bring a decisive end to the age in which we live. At that time, God will extend His rule over all creation, beginning a new and final age, and banishing evil forever. Until that time, the world will still be filled with evil. Jesus of Nazareth brought a new, but not contradictory message; that the Kingdom of God - meaning, the “rule of God” - would begin within God’s people even before the end of this age (Mark 1:14, 15).7 To indicate that the Kingdom of God was being established on earth in this age, the ministry of Jesus was accompanied by signs and wonders that confirmed His message (Luke 4:16-21; Matthew 12:22-29, Luke 11:14-22).

In His ministry, the miracles performed by Jesus confirmed both that God is sovereign over creation and that Jesus is His “Anointed One;” which is the meaning behind both our word “Messiah,” which derives from Biblical Hebrew, and our word “Christ,” which derives from Biblical Greek. Yet, just as markedly, they did not mark the end of this present, evil age (cf. John 16:33, Galatians 1:2, 1 John 5:19, Ephesians 5:15, 16). The “age to come” is still future to us (1 Peter 1:13, Revelation 21:1-7). Instead, they mark the time when the Kingdom of God is represented in the people of God, the Church of Jesus Christ. This was confirmed when the testimony of the apostles to Jesus Christ and His ministry was witnessed to by signs and wonders reminiscent of the ministry of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:3, 4). Willard Taylor wrote of the Church of Jesus Christ,

She is the community where the redemptive gifts and powers of the Kingdom, insofar as they are already present, are known and enjoyed. This means that the Church is not only the creature of the event of Christ, but is also the place where the redemptive glories of that event are made continuous in mankind’s history.8
By “the event of Christ” Taylor refers to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. It was in the ministry of Jesus Christ that the presence of the Kingdom in the world in this age was initiated.

All four Gospels agree that the ministry of Jesus Christ was immediately preceded by the ministry of John the Baptist, whose mission, by his words, was to announce and prepare the world for the ministry of his cousin, Jesus of Nazareth. Part of John’s message was that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Jesus, after His baptism, went forth to proclaim, in words and deeds, the presence of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 4:23, Mark 1:14, Luke 4:43). In Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God became present as the harbinger of the full establishment of the Kingdom in the age to come. The temptation of Jesus immediately after His baptism by John served as an effective demonstration to Satan that, in Jesus, the Kingdom was being established in this world.

When John the Baptist announced the ministry of Jesus, he also announced that the ministry of Jesus would bring something entirely new: the baptism with the Holy Spirit. While there are some significant differences between the material presented in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and the material presented in John’s Gospel, all four Gospels and the book of Acts include John the Baptist’s teaching that while John baptized with water, Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 4:11, 12; Mark 1:7, 8; Luke 3:16; John 1:26-34; Acts 1:4, 5). Luke has an especially beautiful way of referring to the baptism with the Holy Spirit, calling it “the Promise of the Father” (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4). Yet, not one of the four Gospels includes the fulfillment of this part of Jesus’ ministry. This is seen in the book of Acts.

In Acts 1:1-3, Luke tells us that after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, Jesus met with His disciples to speak to them about the Kingdom of God. Then, according to Luke in Acts 1:4-8, immediately before Jesus ascended into heaven, Jesus commanded his disciples to assemble in Jerusalem to wait for the Promise of the Father; which would be the fulfillment of John’s promise that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. They did so. Ten days later, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples waiting in the “upper room,” and the Church of Jesus Christ was born (Acts 2:1-42).

Richard S. Taylor observes that Pentecost was second only to the Passover in the importance of the annual feasts of the Hebrews, “It was a Hebrew harvest festival, called ‘Feast of Weeks,’ with emphasis on the ‘first fruits.’ . . . The feast also was believed by the Jews themselves to be a commemoration of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. Thus can be seen in the day not only the symbolism of harvest but of holiness.”9 The association of Pentecost with the giving of the Law followed the decision of Jewish rabbis that the Law was given by God on Mount Sinai fifty days after the celebration of the first Passover.10

The New Testament, therefore, teaches that the Kingdom of God broke into human history in a new way with the ministry of Jesus Christ. The climax of Jesus’ ministry came when Jesus died on Mount Calvary outside Jerusalem. With the death of Jesus on the cross, He completed the redemptive work God gave Him to do; gaining a great and permanent victory over sin, death, and all spiritual forces of evil (John 10:30; Romans 5:6-18; Hebrews 2:14-17, 7:26, 27, 10:1-10, 13:11, 12, 20, 21; Philippians 2:5-8; Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 2:13-15; Ephesians 2:11-18, 1 Peter 1:17-19; 1 John 4:9, 10). To make this clear, the veil of the Temple in Jerusalem was rent at the moment of Jesus’ death; indicating that full fellowship with God was now possible (Matthew 27:50, 51; Mark 15:37, 38; Luke 23:44-46, cf. Hebrews 10:19, 20). This was new, because the Temple, and the Tabernacle before it, had always enforced a separation between God and His people. The reality of the victory earned by Jesus at the cross was fully demonstrated in His resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-3, 2:22-36, 17: 30, 31; 1 Corinthians 15:1-22). The victorious, resurrected Christ could then say to His disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18, 19).

However, Jesus did not send His disciples into the world immediately. Instead, he told them to wait in Jerusalem for the Promise of the Father. One reason for this was the need for Jesus to ascend into heaven to present Himself before God the Father. This was also the answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17:5 to be restored to the glory that He had before the foundation of the world (cf. Philippians 2:5-7).

The Promise of the Father

The ascension of Christ is a major theme of the book of Hebrews (1:3, 4; 4:14-16; 6:19, 20; 7:23-8:6; 9:11, 23-26; 10:11-25.12:22-24; 13:20, 21). The author writes that Jesus ascended to the very innermost sanctuary of heaven, the Holy of Holies in the true Tabernacle - the Tabernacle “built without hands” - the pattern for the copy Moses built in the wilderness (Hebrews 8:1-5; 9:11, 24; Exodus 25:9). There, Jesus began the time referred to as His “heavenly session” - “sitting down” at the right hand of the Father until His bodily return - meaning that His earthly ministry was finished and that His heavenly ministry of intercessory prayer would begin - another major theme in Hebrews (11:3; 2:17, 18; 4:14-16; 5:9, 10; 7:24, 25; 8:6; 9:27, 28; 10:19-22).

However, the author of Hebrews is not the only New Testament author to emphasize the importance of the ascension and session of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:10, 8:33, 34; Ephesians 1:18-2:7, 4:8-10; Colossians 3:1; 1 John 2:1). Jesus Himself spoke of it (John 6:62, 13:3; 14:2, 28; 20:17). Importantly, it was only after Jesus ascended that the Holy Spirit could be granted in a new way that meant that the Kingdom of God now resided in the Church of Jesus Christ (John 7:35; 14:16, 17; 15:26, 27; 16:7-15).

In the pouring out of God’s Spirit at Pentecost, Jesus fulfilled John’s words that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter affirmed, “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear” (Acts 2:33). Just as the crucifixion opened the way into the presence of God, the pouring out of God’s Spirit on the Day of Pentecost made the physical Temple obsolete. Now, God would dwell in the midst of His people on the earth. The disciples of Jesus would be the living stones of this new Temple of the Spirit of God (1 Peter 2:4-10; Ephesians 2:19-22; Colossians 1:25-27).

Jesus’ promise was that baptism with the Holy Spirit would provide His people all that they needed to be His witnesses in this age. This included courage, strength, and special gifts necessary for successful ministry (Ephesians 4:8-13; 1 Corinthians 12-14; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Peter 4:10, 11). However, we must not think of the Spirit’s work in terms of enabling and proficiency for the tasks of ministry alone. As W. T. Purkiser observed, “The power is not only ‘power to witness’; it is the power to ‘be my witnesses.’ The power of the lip must be backed by the witness of character and life.”11

Reverent Christians are divided in their judgment as to whether baptism with the Holy Spirit is something Jesus gave to the Church only at its birth or whether it is an experience that can take place in the life of every believer. However, disagreement on this issue should not prevent us from seeing that everything that was necessary for Christians to live out their faith in witness to Jesus Christ in this age was granted at Pentecost. Thus, Peter wrote that God, through Jesus Christ, “has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3).

It is unfortunate that, in our time, so many seem to interpret this as meaning that miraculous gifts are as accessible to everyone today as they were to the New Testament apostles; whereas, the New Testament sees the sign-gifts as confirmation of the unique testimony of the apostles (Hebrews 2:3, 4). Peter was an apostle, one of “the Twelve,” and one through whom many signs were performed. Looking back upon Pentecost, Peter saw heart purity - holiness - as its most important gift (Acts 15:8, 9).

The Church has a privilege and a challenge. The privilege is to live under the rule of Jesus Christ, to embody the Kingdom of God in this age. The challenge is to live out the fullness of the Promise of the Father. -SMD

We will continue this discussion in the next Mid-Watch Report: “The Fullness of the Promise.”


Related Readings at this Web Site:

There are many articles at this site that relate to this discussion. Among them are:



1 The Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003), 50-54.

2 Ibid., 37, 38, 51, 52.

3 Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976), 65.

4 Henry Alford, Alford’s Greek Testament: An Exegetical and Critical Commentary, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), 365, 366.

5 Those interested in this subject will find it profitable to study the concepts of judge (shapat) and justice (mishpat) in the Old Testament; as well as the closely associated concept of righteousness (tsedeq).

6 Ephesians, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 42 (Dallas: Word Books, 1990), 40, 41.

7 See Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1981), 409-415.

8 W. T. Purkiser, Richard S. Taylor, Willary H. Taylor, God, Man, & Salvation (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1977), 566.

9 Ibid., 484.

10 Victor Buksbazen, The Gospel in the Feasts of Israel (Fort Washington, Pennsylvania: Christian Literature Crusade, 1999), 27-30. Buksbazen saw the traditional wave offering of two loaves of bread as a type signifying the first-fruits of the Jewish and Gentile communities united in the Church of Jesus Christ.

11 Exploring Christian Holiness, vol. 1 (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1983), 116.

The American Night Watch Mid-Watch Report is an occasional publication of The American Night Watch Christian ministry in support of Scriptural Christianity and Scriptural holiness.

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