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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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Legality, or Life?

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As God began with Israel, giving them the Law as a rule of life so He could show the earth He always has a separated people from most of the world, He also now gives “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” to show He still has a separated people from most in the world. We then should not find it discouraging (though greatly moving) that the majority of mankind is not going to choose “life” (Deu 30:19; Mat 7:13, 14).


It could be an instructional point to note that God, even prior to creation knew most would reject Him, but also knew those who would “receive” Him, and it fails me to think of a more sensible reason for this other than that it is worth it to Him to gain the “few.” For “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:10).


In a general sense, the prior dispensation (OT) found God choosing a certain people (Israelites who chose to believe in Him – John 14:1) to teach them an earthly dwelling. In the present dispensation He chooses all believers (in Christ) to teach them not only an earthly dwelling, but also a heavenly dwelling!


- NC




Legality, or Life?


The law addresses man in the flesh, in Adam. The life of the Lord Jesus, by the Spirit, directs and enables man in Him. It is the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2). The former seeks to produce something from the man, subjecting him to this and that exercise and rule in order to produce a given result. The latter, the Spirit of Christ in me, controls me according to the mind and nature of the Lord Jesus,* “who is my life” (Col 3:4), and uses my body as a vessel.


In the case of one using the law as a rule of life, there is an effort to attain by the flesh that which is not in it* (Rom 8:7—NC). In the other case, the Holy Spirit only expresses the desires of the new man, and then demonstrates the qualities of the Lord Jesus, in spite of the flesh which has not only no sympathy with the Spirit, but on the contrary, has unceasing opposition to Him (Gal 5:7).


When I am legal I am attempting to answer the law by my flesh (Rom 8:3; Gal 3:3; Heb 7:18); I am only occupies with an attempt to extract something from the flesh and so long as I do this, it is in a way pleasing to the flesh, because the flesh is acknowledged. Now the spiritual man is quite different—he has the taste and the power too, to accomplish what he aims at, and he in the Spirit resists and silences the flesh which interferes with him, and there is actual compensation and success at the same time. If there is suffering in the flesh, there is known joy in the Spirit.


There is not, as in the legalist, depression and excitement alternating according as there is hope or no hope from the process of training, or rather exaction. The spiritual man doubts not the power and good quality of that which he depends on, and he is happy in acting according to the mind of the Lord Jesus, no matter what waves and currents he may be exposed to.


Struggling to row a great boat is legality; there may be some progress where there is no opposition, but then all the tugging, though very arduous and self-extracting is of no use. The spiritual life is like a boat powered by steam, and hence it goes everywhere according to the Captain’s orders. Tides, currents and winds are not taken into account.


Where the legalist is baffled and exercised to no purpose, the spiritual man moves on with dignity and purpose, not attempting what is not in him, but answering by the great power in him to the mind of the Lord Jesus. The legalist is ever thinking of his oar; everything depends on his stroke. The spiritual attends only to the Word of the Master, and by the simple movement of the helm turns to the exact point to which he has been directed. The legalist is ever thinking of his conduct*. The spiritual is thinking of the Lord Jesus and His Word, and seeks strength to walk according to it.


You can always distinguish the legalist from the spiritual by the way each moves about or does any act. The former is thinking of how he is doing it, the latter of the intention of it. The former is thinking of his own manner, the latter of his company and how he can serve them. There is moroseness and severity about the former, but a glow of life and triumph about the latter, “who rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil 3:3).


- J B Stoney






Poster’s Opinions:


* “controls me according to the mind and nature of the Lord Jesus”: Believers “have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16), e.g. like minded with Him concerning the Father’s desires and pleasures. This comes through the new nature (Rom 7:22), which nature is from Christ’s nature (Col 3:10; 2 Pet 1:4).


* “attain by the flesh that which is not in it”: “By the flesh” is reference to the old nature, by which nothing of God can be partaken concerning all that is heavenly, nor of a walk involving proper earthly obedience, for it will never be “subject to the law (principles) of God. This answers to the necessity of a new nature, which derives only from the New Covenant and the new birth.


I believe the “Everlasting Covenant” is often misunderstood (understandably so), that it is between God and man, as the prior Covenant was. But the New Covenant is between God and His Son. In the prior Covenant with man, God’s promises were imparted to the ones with whom He made the Covenant, and blessings bestowed were according to the covenanter’s (man – Israel) performance.


This Covenant finds the blessings bestowed according to the Son’s performance, which no man could ever do. Man wasn’t even in existence when the Everlasting Covenant was made and thus had no part in being one of the two Covenanters. The phrase “Everlasting” is not only in reference to the future but also to the past, in which this Covenant has always existed in the mind of God and the Lord Jesus. Though man is not a Covenanter—he is the beneficiary.   


I believe when Jesus said, “This cup is the new testament in My Blood,” He was not then making this Covenant but confirming or ratifying it, e.g. making it come to pass. Hence it was not made with man according to his performance, but according to “the Blood of Christ.” I believe the crux of this Covenant is demonstrated in the act of the Father resurrecting His Son after suffering and dying for man’s sin nature!


* “The legalist is ever thinking of his conduct”: Those reborn are to know that everything done by them is desired and attempted with the motive of pleasing God and this is the goal, regardless the results, though they become more fruitful all the time!






Excerpt from MJS devotional for July 31:


“The present and eternal ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Son; the past, present, and future ministry of the Son is to glorify the Father. Our life and ministry will bring glory to our Father to the extent that we abide in the Son, and are controlled by the Holy Spirit.” - MJS


“When one’s ministry or outreach flows from close communion with the Father, one’s influence and moral authority will be recognized. Moreover, such a workman is not carried beyond what he has received from the Lord, so that his ministry finds sanction in hearts without any pressure.” -J.N.D.


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