Saturday, November 28, 2015

Awake to Advent

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:8-end)

In this part of Romans, the "how should we then live" section, we have many new commandments, and the first one in this part is to, "Owe no man anything."  How many us can say that we owe no man anything?  Even though everything ultimately comes from God, the means of these graces in our lives are other people.  God gave us life, but our mothers gave birth to us.  Our fathers raised us.  Our friends and family weep with us, care for us, give us their time and money.  Strangers help us, too.  Our employers and governments do things for us.

So, we do owe people.  In fact, it seems we owe a lot of people a lot of things.  The text confirms this by saying, "Owe no man anything, except to love one another."  That's another way of saying, "owe no one anything except everything."  Because, how do we love one another?  By obeying God's commandments, and that includes the second table of the law, which is every way we interact with each other.  So, the seventh commandment against adultery includes any relation that would be called "marital" outside of an actual marriage.  Extra-marital behavior is abusive--physically, emotionally, spiritually--and injures all parties involved.  The opposite is also true: we are to love our spouses in a non-abusive way.  We are to respect our spouses and share the gospel with them.  We are to care for them emotionally, spiritually, physically.  Other bodily abuse is included in this commandment, including gluttony, harming your flesh, and drug use.  This is committing adultery against your own body, and likewise, encouraging others to do the same to theirs.

The commandments bleed into one another.  So, the sixth commandment takes the abuses of the seventh to the extreme: you shall not kill yourself as well as others.  You shall not destroy what God has made, and you shall not encourage others to do likewise.  This is not loving your neighbor.  The opposite is also true: you shall hold all life precious.  Not only shall you not encourage yourself and others to kill, but you will also encourage yourself and them to save life when they can.  This is loving your neighbor: encouraging them to hold all life dear.

Stealing is not limited to money or material goods.  You can steal someone's time, you can waste someone's time.  You can forge a relationship with someone and then walk away.  This breaks both the seventh and eighth commandments.  Of course it's not love to take someone's stuff, but to take part of their life in time is also abusive and unloving.  The opposite is also true: you are to give to the other.  Relationships in which each party only thinks about satisfying him-or-herself is also a relationship involving theft.  We are to live only for giving to the other person in the relationship, either inside or outside marriage.  This includes children to their parents and parents to their children.

The eighth commandment bleeds into the ninth.  Stealing the truth from someone--altering reality--is not loving.  It makes life harder for the other person.  Now the offended party must attempt to correct the falsehood, to bring reality back to normal, or live a life in which the lie is forever attached to the person lied about.  The opposite, to be honest with everyone, is to make people safe, to give them peace.

The tenth commandment against coveting includes all of the above but in the deeper realm of thought and intent.  How we act outwardly can be loving, but if we do not feel likewise in our hearts, we are still disobeying God.  And all violations of commandments to love our neighbors are also violations of the commandments to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

So, you see, there is no violation of God's commandments that doesn't harm anyone.  We hear all the time, "it's not harming anyone," but it is, if not physically then emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually.  And with our being able to communicate our thoughts and intents at the speed of light, we encourage many to do likewise by giving our testimony of sin.  To love is to fulfill the law of God.  To disobey is lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.  Therefore, sin is the opposite of love.

So, we owe everyone.  We don't love our neighbor.  We sin against our neighbor and God.  Can it get any worse?  Yes, Paul exhorts us to wake up to these truths before it is too late, for the time of salvation--or ruin--is coming rapidly upon us all.  There are two advents.  The first is when Jesus Christ came in the flesh 2000 years ago to shine a light in the darkness and draw all of his sheep to him.  The other is the second coming of Christ--judgment day.  We may see it come while we live, but we will all probably die first and then be transported forward in time to that day.  So, judgment day is closer than we think.  Are we awake to advent?

Have we cast off the works of darkness?  Have we put on the armor of light?  Do we walk honestly?  Or do we riot against God an our neighbor?  Do we abuse ourselves and others with drunkenness?  Drunkenness doesn't have to involve alcohol.  You can get drunk on many things, like power, sex, violence, death, deceiving, and desire. But it all amounts to an abundance of selfishness. And this selfishness is jealous of itself.  It hates its neighbor.  It would rather everyone be without than for it alone to be without.

Now that we are crushed, let's get out from under the weight that lies upon us.  The only way out is through the Lord Jesus Christ.  We put him on like a garment, because only he has fulfilled the law, and only through him will the Father say that we have fulfilled the law, too.  When Paul says, "put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof," he is not saying, "do these things and live," but, "Christ has done these things.  Put your faith in him and him alone, and his righteousness will be yours."  You will no longer make provision for the flesh, because Jesus is living in you and through you.  The sanctification process has begun, and our lives become more holy, our repentance more frequent.

Christ never owed anyone anything.  One of the the devil's temptations in the wilderness was that he would give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, if Jesus would bow down and worship him.  Satan was attempting to cut a covenant between him and Christ, the result of which was Christ would owe Satan his allegiance.  Jesus rejected that temptation, like all others.  Likewise, Jesus obeyed the law in word, deed and thought.  He did not commit adultery, even imaginary, he did not kill, he did not steal, he did not lie, he did not even covet.  In other words he fulfilled the second table of the law by loving his neighbor.  He did no ill toward his neighbor.

He also never slept.  He physically slept, of course, but he was never asleep to what he had come to earth to do.  The primary purpose of the incarnation was the salvation of his people.  When we live in the night, our focus turns to worldly things and away from heavenly things.  Jesus Christ always walked in the daylight.  And so, we are to walk in the daylight by faith, so that we may reach our goal of glorification.  Only by faith in Christ can we walk honestly in the day and avoid the licentiousness of the night.

So put on Christ.  He died on the cross for all your sins, and the assurance of your salvation is that God raised Jesus from the dead, proving that he does not lie, so when God says that he has saved you, he has saved you.  Put on Christ like a new flesh.  The old flesh tempted you into darkness.  The new flesh is a suit of armor of light, the indestructible flesh of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Romans 5:19 Twisted

For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)

Ready for some eye-popping scripture twisting?  If you read the above verse in context you will understand the following:

1. The one man who is disobedient is Adam.

2. Because we are all his progeny, we are all made sinners by birth.

3. The one man who is obedient is Jesus Christ.  All have sinned, so he is the only one who ever was obedient to God's law.

4. All those who are born again are now Christ's progeny, and so they are made righteous, not by their own work, but by Christ's work on the cross.  His righteous and perfect life is imputed to his flock, those who put their faith in Christ alone.

This is the only meaning of this verse.  Now, hear a shocking interpretation from an actual pastor:

When anyone is obedient to God's law, he or she will make many righteous.  We have now moved from Christ's perfect obedience to the law for our salvation to our obedience to the law for others' salvation.  We are put in Christ's office and Jesus is marginalized to a spectator, the distinction between the Father and Son blurred.

I never thought I would put these words down, but when I heard this interpretation, after I got past the shock and disillusion (at first I was in denial that anyone could so mishandle scripture and so I pondered what else he could have meant for weeks), I had to write this brief post.  I pray that you will never be led astray by anyone and that scripture twisting like the above will cease.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Heidelcast

Here is a great podcast that I subscribe to and highly recommend.  Rev. R. Scott Clark spends 13 episodes on exploring Nomism and Antinomianism by working his way through the Marrow of Modern Divinity, a book I heartily recommended a few weeks ago.  This series of episodes starts at Episode #58, so begin there.  Below is a link to the Heidelcast and another link to the free ebook of The Marrow.

The Marrow of Modern Divinity

In the Flesh

And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 3:24b-4:6)

When we become Christians, through faith and baptism, we are given God's Holy Spirit as a gift.  There are no exceptions.  There's no delay.  Just as we are washed clean with Christ's blood from all sin, so, too, we are given a down-payment of the Holy Spirit as a promise of everlasting life.  Now, God's Spirit does not lie dormant in us, but he performs certain functions while we still live on earth.  One of these is testing the spirits.

There are other spirits than the Holy Spirit, angels and demons, and according to our passage in 1 John, we are to test them to see if they are from God or not.  These spirits interact in our world behind the scenes, influencing things, either on God's behalf or against God.  Since the Holy Spirit is perfectly good and holy, he will never lead us astray.  Just as he interprets the scriptures for us, he also discerns the spirits that are in the world. This doesn't mean that we suddenly see angels and demons wandering around.  No, we see the influence the Spirits have on people, and it's through observing and listening to the people--what they do and what they say--that we can see the influence the spirits have.

So, when pastors who are supposed to be teaching the truth about God from the scriptures, instead preach themselves or come up with false doctrine for shameful gain, leading their congregations astray, those who have the Holy Spirit will be able to detect this, and depart from under the false teacher's influence. These "false prophets," as John calls them, have false spirits influencing them. The Holy Spirit detects and rejects these false spirits.

Now, John gives us the test.  This is how it looks to us.  It seems as if we are just using logic, and the test is a logical one, but without the Spirit, we are easily fooled, and the false things we hear are easily digestible, easily incorporated into our worldview, and we are led further and further astray from God. 

Here's the test: the Spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. That seems pretty straightforward doesn't it?  In fact it seems so simple, why wouldn't anyone say that this statement is true?  However, there are many truths loaded in that one statement.  So what does "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh" mean?

First, Jesus was the Christ, the messiah, the anointed one, the savior of mankind.  The Old Testament promises a messiah who will save God's people from all their sins.  Jesus is that messiah.

Second, Jesus was fully God.  The scriptures say that the messiah is going to be God himself.  So, Jesus, in being the Christ, is fully divine with all the powers and attributes of God.

Third, Jesus was fully human.  This is what is loaded inside the clause, "in the flesh."  Jesus lived as a man. He bled, he died, he showed emotion, he wept, he touched things and interacted with other humans on a real level.

Fourth, the incarnation really happened.  This is important.  Ancient heresies that are still around today claim that since Jesus was God, he just appeared to be a man.  Or Jesus was just a man, a great moral teacher, who wasn't really God but had the divine spark in him.  No, Jesus is God, and as the second part of the trinity, he was incarnate on earth, born of a virgin, and lived out a fully human life on earth, but at the same time he was fully God.  He died like a man, but he rose again from the dead by the will of God.

Fifth, he taught as a man but with divine authority.  His teachings are pure and good, because he does not lie.  He always backed up his teaching with miracles that only could happen from God, including instantly healing the sick and raising the dead.  We believe his teachings as true because he was God.  We follow his teachings because he was fully man, who could lead by example.

Sixth, he did not sin.  Being fully God, he was purely good and was incapable of sin.  Being fully man, he was tempted by the evil spirits, just as we are.  As God, he resisted the temptations and remained sin-free.  As man, his sacrifice on the cross enables his perfect righteousness to be imputed to us and our actual sins to be imputed to him.  A God who only appeared to be man is not capable of being a human sacrifice for our sins.

Seventh, he actually died.  Being in the flesh, he was actually able to die.  He was tortured, beaten--he bled.  He was hung on a cross, suffocated--he died a true death.  Being fully God he was able to take on himself the sins of the world.  Being fully man, he was able to be killed in our place.  If he did not die in our place, we are doomed and must suffer eternal death ourselves.

Eighth, he rose from the grave into a new body of flesh.  As Christians, our goal is to attain the resurrection from the dead to eternal life.  Jesus showed us what this looks like. His resurrection body is flesh, indestructible flesh, and so we are not to anticipate a spiritual-only resurrection.  Many Gnostic heresies speak only of a spiritual resurrection, the flesh being bad, and so many false teachings come with that idea.  If flesh is bad, then why would our good God create anything inherently bad?  Suddenly our God stops being the creator God who made heaven and earth.  The new heavens and the new earth aren't going to be spiritual places but actual places that we can experience with our senses.  Christ's resurrection is the first fruit of that reality. 
Without these eight details we have no hope.  We are most to be pitied, because we are putting our trust in an illusion.  Without Jesus Christ having come in the flesh, was are still dead in our trespasses and have to account for our sins on the day of judgment.  Without Christ in the flesh, we are ruined.

And the false spirits are still active in the world today.  The false teachings are still happening.  Many, many sermons and teachings about Christ are not really about Jesus Christ but about us, our lives here and now, and how Jesus can magically help us through our earthly problems. Jesus' name becomes a magical code word that allows God access to our selfish, sinful lives.  God becomes a comforter and helper without being our savior.  Jesus becomes a genie who can give us prosperity and riches and fame.  When a teacher is avoiding the cross, because the cross itself implies an actual death of an actual man, when a teacher avoids talking about that, he reveals himself as one who does not believe that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.  He may believe in one aspect of Jesus' nature or the other--perhaps fully God, perhaps fully man--but there is a false spirit with that teacher who is keeping the two natures of Christ apart.

All the cults preach a Christ who was not God but only a man, maybe a man with the divine spark but a man nonetheless.  Those teachers are easier to discern because the whole point of Christianity is that we believe that Jesus was God.  However, more subtle is the preaching that Jesus was God but that his humanity is irrelevant.  Remember, salvation is impossible without Christ being fully man as well as fully God.  Preaching and teaching that focuses on ourselves and Jesus as our genie, or a mystical, personal experience with a spiritual Christ, is preaching that denies his humanity.

Of course, that is why we have the Holy Spirit.  Even though the phrase is simple and logical--Jesus Christ has come in the flesh--the devil has created many ways for us to be deceived from this simple truth.  Without the Spirit in us, even this test becomes impossible to perform, because the false spirits are tricky and will tempt us to believe in anything, just as it was tempting these Christians, to whom John was writing, to doubt Christ come in the flesh.

That is why John begins this very letter with the following: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

See how many times John describes experiencing Jesus Christ with his human senses.  Christ come in the flesh is of paramount importance to our salvation.  Thankfully, God has given us his Holy Spirit to reveal this truth to us and to test the spirits to discern the truth in others who proclaim Jesus.  Remember, he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

God Loved the World in This Way

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

God loves the world in a specific manner.  We translate "so" to mean something like "so much!"  This sounds like God wants to give the world a great, big, God-sized hug!  What this clause actually means is "God loved the world in this way, under these circumstances."  So the definition of Love we have in our minds may not mean the same thing as God's.  We usually think of love being a romantic love, but God's love of the world is very different.  God's love is a self-sacrificial love.  It is a love that involves pain and even death.  It is a love of giving.

God gave his only begotten son.  He gave Jesus Christ as a gift at Christmastime, but he also gave up Jesus' actual life for us.  There was an eternal decree where Jesus volunteered himself up for sacrifice, and it was followed through.  Now, see that the condition of salvation is belief--faith.  It doesn't say that if someone does something spectacular and impresses God, he will save them.  No, one only has to believe in Jesus Christ, to put his faith in Jesus Christ.  That's it.  He doesn't have to prove himself at all.  But we want to prove ourselves.  We want to show God that we are something special.  However, since we are born into sin, everything we do, even if it looks good to the world, is corrupt.  Our greatest accomplishment is like a filthy rag to God, because of sin.

It's the difference between eternal life and eternal ruin.  Belief is all that is needed.  Faith is all that can save you.  And it can't be just any faith.  It has to be faith in Jesus Christ himself.  Even then, it can't be a false Christ.  It can't be a Jesus that loves romantically, or anything else that we dream up.  It has to be the Jesus that loves in the specific way that is described above.  It has to be the Jesus of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.

Christ's first coming was not to condemn the world but to save it.  He was putting a face on salvation.  It wasn't some arbitrary thing anymore.  He specifically came to let everyone know that all who put their trust in him would be saved.  He did not come to judge the world but to save it.  Now, Jesus will be coming again, and the second time he comes will be to judge the world, with fire. And there will be two camps: one camp of people who put their faith in Christ for their salvation, and one who didn't.

Whoever believes in Christ is not condemned.  That seems simple and straightforward.  However, the opposite is not true.  The opposite would be that those who do not believe in Christ are condemned.  This is not true.  Condemnation is not contingent on believing in Christ.  We are not on neutral ground here.  We aren't just purring along with life and then we hear about Christ, reject him, and then God puts us in the "condemned" category.  No, we have been condemned since birth.  Why?  Because we are born into the line of Adam, who sinned against God on the first day of his life.  God created a covenant with Adam, and Adam immediately broke it.  We are Adam's progeny, and so we are guilty of that sin, too.  In other words, we are guilty of breaking God's Holy Law.  Breaking the law leads to condemnation.  Therefore, we are condemned, and have been since our existence.

Now, belief in Christ pulls us out of that condemnation, but unbelief does not put us in the condemnation.  We are already condemned.  Our unbelief merely keeps our status in God's eyes the same.  There is a famous quote from the late Anne Dillard that goes like this: "I read about an Eskimo hunter who asked the local missionary priest, 'If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?' 'No,' said the priest, 'not if you did not know.' 'Then why,' asked the Eskimo earnestly, 'did you tell me?'"  Well, remember what we said above: he who does not believe is condemned already.  The priest in the quote, and Anne Dillard, is incorrect.  The answer is actually "Yes! You would go to hell."  Let's look at Romans 1:18:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Jesus Christ came into the world, and he cast a light on everything, and everyone can, by the light of Christ, see that all the accomplishments, all the great works, all the earnings of their way to God, to heaven, are actually evil works.  The Eskimo was condemned already.  His works were evil, no matter how good his intentions were.  Christ only exposes the wickedness in men's hearts.  Even our greatest accomplishments are worthless and evil in God's eyes.

Now, do you think that the light exposing the evil works would cause the evil workers to change their ways? No! Instead, the evil ones run deeper into the darkness.  They hate the light.  They hate Christ and actively work to ridicule him and lead others away from him.  The devil doesn't want to be destroyed alone.  He wants to take as many with him as possible.

Now, those who do have changed hearts, who do put their complete faith in Christ alone, those people are no longer condemned.  They are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God.  Even their worst failure is made fragrant and pure by the shed blood of Jesus.  Look at Colossians 1:13 & 14:

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

God transfers us from one domain to the other.  He gives us the faith to believe.  What does it look like?  Repentance.  When we are transferred from one domain to the other, we repent of our sins, we turn away from self, and we turn to Christ as the only source of light and life.  Jesus forgives us of all of our sins: past, present, and future.  Out of gratitude we do good works, which do not save us, but these works can be clearly seen by others that they are carried out in God.  With no faith in Christ, our works are poison, even our best works.  When we are in Christ, having put our faith in him alone, our works are blessed, even our worst ones, because they are based on faith.  They are based on our trust in what Christ has done for us on the cross.  His perfect righteousness is what God counts in our favor.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Cleverly Devised Myths

2 Peter 16 reads, "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty."  Peter and his associates didn't make anything up.  They told others their eyewitness testimonies, and these testionies are recorded in the Bible.  The same goes for the other Apostles, and even the Old Testament prophets.  If God didn't want it to be in the Bible, he didn't give the information to his writers.

I heard an explanation of the fall of Lucifer once.  There was a scene where God gathered the angels about and explained to them his plan for salvation--the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Not only was Lucifer having none of this plan and had a third of the angels rebel with him, the story actually has a scene where Lucifer comes to the meeting late and says something like, "hey everybody, what's happening?"  This is a cleverly devised myth, not because of its creativity, but because it succeeds in distracting us from the testimonies about Christ that God has given to us in the Holy Scriptures.  We need to eschew any new information given to us from outside the scriptures as something God did not want us to have and that distracts us from Jesus.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Twenty-Third Sunday After Trinity

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:17-end)

Paul exhorts the Phlippians, and us, to join in imitating him and other disciples.  What does this look like?  Let's look at 1 Corinthians 4:14-17:

I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.

It appears that Paul is telling his congregations to be imitators of him like a child would be an imitator of a father.  As a priest, one of my titles is "Father", but it's a heavy burden being in a Pauline role to my congregation, because there are many things that I wouldn't want my fellow Christians to imitate in my life.  But Paul has given me--and all believers--a qualification.  It can be found in that last sentence.  He has sent Timothy to remind the Corinthians of Paul's ways in Christ, as he teaches them everywhere in the church.  We know from Romans 7 that Paul still sins, so what are these ways of Christ that Paul sent Timothy to remind them--and us--of?  If we look ahead to 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, we see this:

God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? ... Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. ... Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

The immediate issue at hand is what do we do when we become a Christian and our spouse remains an unbeliever?  Our immediate reaction is to separate from the unbeliever, but Paul exhorts us to remain in our condition, for we might bring that unbelieving spouse to Christ.  He then extends this exhortation to all ways of life.  We desire to change our outward condition to reflect the inward regeneration.  We want to up and move, we want to detach ourselves from all remnants of our "old" life, but Paul is saying that the people in your old life are the very people that God wants to reach, and now God has an agent in those people's midst--you. This is the difference between the outward call and the inward call.  When we become Christians, our inward call changes--radically.  However, instead of altering our outward call to fit our inward, Paul exhorts us to keep our outward call unchanged.  Remember, God gave us this outward call, too.  He placed us in time and space exactly where he wants us to be.  We had no choice on where or when we were born, and we have no choice on the people we meet in our lives. We are right where God wants us.  Now with the inward call different, we are to share the gospel with the people of our outward call, no matter where that happens to be.

What about Paul himself?  If we are to imitate him, and he exhorts us to maintain our outward call, is this what he himself did?  Let's look at the first part of Philippians 3 and see:

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Notice that Paul is talking about the change in his inward call.  He did have to alter his outward call, because his whole lifestyle, as a Pharisee, was wrapped up in his inward call.  Likewise, the parts of our outward call that are wrapped up in our inward call--once that inward call gets oriented toward Christ--should be abandoned for the new inward call.  If we are ensnared in a cult, hear the gospel, and are regenerated, we should break free from that part of our outward lives.  But this does not mean to change jobs or change spouses or change friends.

In our passage, Paul tells us about false apostles.  They are those who did not receive an inward call, but they altered their outward call regardless.  Look at 2 Corinthians 11:12-15:

And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

Notice the word "disguise" being used over and over.  This is an alteration of the outward call, people moving from the place God called them to be in life in order to insinuate themselves among a different group of people.  The inward call isn't there, so all they are doing is leading people astray.  Paul actually weeps over this situation--and so should we, for this predicament is happening today, too--but he knows their end: destruction.  Their God is their belly--the flesh. They glory in shame--doing shameful acts, like the people described in Romans 1.  Finally, their minds are set on earthly things, as those without an inward call would so set their minds.

How important is it not only to strive after our inward call but to maintain our outward call as well.  So often we give up our God-given vocations to seek something "better" that God has in store for us, like a hidden treasure.  The result is we no longer are among the people God wanted us to share our faith with.  Likewise, there are those who haven't been regenerated who insinuate themselves among the brethren in order to deceive them.

This sounds like a hard task to maintain, but fortunately both calls have been purchased by Christ as well.  Hear what Paul says: Our Citizenship is in heaven.  He didn't say, "strive to become a citizen of heaven." No, God has already made us citizens of heaven.  From heaven our savior comes to transform our lowly bodies--our outward-call bodies, so to speak--into new glorious bodies like the one Christ had after his resurrection.  This power to transform our bodies is the same power that Christ will use to subject all things to himself.  At the end of the age, not only will our bodies be transformed, but all of creation, heaven and earth itself.  Look at 1 Corinthians 15:

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.”

Our hope lies in the resurrection of the dead, just as Paul claimed when he said, "that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead."  Christ's resurrection is the sign of hope for us.  We were dead in our trespasses, but Christ has made us alive again, and he conquers all of his enemies--including death--and puts all things in subjection under him.  Our obedience to the inward call and the outward call are also part of this subjection. Our wills, our souls and bodies, are all subject to Christ, who won all through his death and resurrection.  What a marvelous peace we have, knowing that Christ not only will subject all things but that we are the firstfruits.  We have been subjected already.  Our sin has been forgiven.  Our wills have been conquered.  Christ obeys for us, through us.