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Israel and the Gospel

Israel and the Gospel

We’re continuing our walk through Paul’s letter to the Roman church. In my last post, we saw how Paul prophesied Israel’s ultimate return to God. He said that all Israel would be saved.

The question is, what does he mean by all Israel. Is the apostle talking about ethnic Israel or true Israel. Will the nation of Israel be restored to faith in the last days?

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

Romans 11:28-29

Paul tells us that as far as the Gospel is concerned, the Jews are hostile non-participants. But, as far a selection goes, they’re loved because of the patriarchs. Some teachers use this verse to say that all Jews go to heaven simply because they’re Jews. Is that what Paul’s saying?

What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.

Romans 3:9

At the beginning of Romans Paul already made the point that both Jews and Gentiles need to be saved through Christ. However, there’s a special bond with the Lord, which is why the nation of Israel will not be destroyed.

They will always be given the chance for salvation. They will always be protected, just like those with praying parents or grandparents. Because of all the intercessions that have gone up for Israel, they will always be drawn by the Holy Spirit.

According to this passage, there are two things that cannot be turned away from. In context, he’s talking about Israel, but this spiritual principle applies to us as well.

The first is the gifts of God. The Greek word he uses here is charismata. This is an endowed gift from God that He retains authority over. It’s the same word used in the gifts of the Spirit.

That’s actually why we’re shocked when we hear what some of the “spiritual giants” have done. How could they have operated in the power of God, all the while participating in secret sins?

The other thing that God never revokes is His callings – literally, the invitations of God. Once God has invited you to do something, it always stands whether you accomplish it or not.

In Abraham, Israel was called to bring salvation to the earth. So they’re still on hold as God waits for them.

Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.

Romans 11:30-31

Paul tells us that in the past it was the Gentiles who were “Unbelievers.” Now we have obtained mercy (sonship by faith) and the Jews are unbelievers. But, because of the grace active in you, they can be brought to repentance.

So it’s because the Gentiles picked up the torch of salvation that Israel now has hope. They can be saved because the Gospel has not been lost.

For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Romans 11:32

God has bound all unbelievers together, both Jew and Gentile, so that now, whosoever will can enter His salvation. He’s calling all people to sonship in Christ.

That’s why living and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ is so important. We’ve been entrusted with the Good News. We can’t be selfish with it.

There’s a world of people around us who desperately need this message. Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit when He prompts you to give your testimony. Pass on this wonderful gift.

Question: How many people have you shared your story with?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2021 in Faith, Israel, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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Gifts and Wages

Gifts and Wages

We’re continuing our walk through the book of Romans.  Paul is using Abraham as an example of the faith that brings righteousness.

Paul explains…

Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.  However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Romans 4:4-5

This is something that we need to come to grips with as believers.  We need to understand the difference between wages and gifts.

As Paul says, wages are obligations.  I do some sort of work and the person I do it for is obligated to pay me.  It’s a very simple concept.

However, the blessings of God, righteousness included, are not wages.  They’re gifts of God’s grace.

Wages are earned.  Before I even start, I know exactly how many hours I need to work to make $1000.  Then, if they don’t pay me, I can take legal action and demand my wages.

This is something that was very hard for me to learn.  I remember an incident that happened very early in my marriage.  I’ll try to shorten the story.

After we had been married a few years, the Lord called my wife and I to move from Boston, the area we grew up in, to Baltimore.  There was a ministry there that the Lord was using to train us.

While living down there, we experienced some financial hardships.  At one point, both our cars had broken down and we had no money to fix them.  We had to borrow a car that was not ours, just to get to work each day.

One Sunday, during that time, someone got up at church to give a praise report.  He explained how he had just learned about tithing a few weeks ago.  He then started to tithe 10% each week.

Since then, a few weeks, he had been amazingly blessed.  Someone gave him a car (he already had two).  Someone else decided to give him a huge sum of money.  He exclaimed, “See what tithing does.  Now I’m Faith Man!!”

You have to understand my thought process listening to him.  My parents had taught me to tithe when I was a teenager.  I had been tithing faithfully for my entire life since then.

When you look at the blessings of God as wages, life can get very frustrating.  I got mad at God.  “What gives?  He’s only been tithing a few weeks.  Where’s my blessing?”

I’ve since learned the mature view of God’s New Covenant grace.  The blessings of God are based upon a combination of faith, obedience, and the lessons God is currently teaching me.

Once we understand that the Lord purchased these gifts on the cross, it’s easier to receive them.  I don’t get mad and frustrated looking at what others are doing and receiving.  I can actually rejoice when other people are blessed, even if I need the same thing they just received.

David understood it.

David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.

Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

Romans 4:6-8

Righteousness is simply one of the many gifts that God has for His children.  I can’t work for it or earn it.  So, don’t frustrate yourself trying to be good enough.  Let the Holy Spirit do His work in you.

Question: How have you been frustrated trying to earn God’s gifts?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2020 in Encouragement, Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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Mutual Encouragement

Mutual Encouragement

As we continue in Paul’s letter to the Romans, he introduces his purposes for them.  From the way he writes, it sounds as if they had not received a visit from any of the apostles at this point.  Paul wants to remedy this since he’s called to be an apostle to the Gentiles.

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.  I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.

Romans 1:11-13

He tells them that he has an intense desire to see them.  It’s not just for a social visit.  He wants to impart to them some grace gifts.

We miss this sometimes in our present church experience.  We sometimes get the idea that it’s every man (or woman) for themselves.  We lose out on the passing of spiritual gifts from one generation to the next.

What gifts are being talked about here?  I believe that Paul is referring to the gifts that he speaks about later in this letter.  I won’t go into detail with them now, but here’s the list.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;  if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Romans 12:6-8

In chapter one, Paul says that he wants to impart grace gifts to them.  In chapter 12, he says that these gifts come as grace is given to us.  That’s why I believe these gifts are the ones he’s talking about.

What we have to realize is that these are the gifts of sharing.  We’re all given the grace of God, but the Lord doesn’t expect us to keep it to ourselves.

These gifts explain how each of us shares this grace with others.  We all have a unique personality and temperament.  We all share God’s grace differently.  Notice that only one of these gifts involves giving money.

But for now you’ll have to be patient.  I won’t talk about these in detail until I get to chapter 12.

Paul goes on, in the verse from chapter 1, to tell them the main reason for his visit.  He wants to see them established in their faith through mutual encouragement.

That was a big part of Paul’s ministry as an apostle.  Look at how the apostle closes this letter.

Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past…

Romans 16:25

This is what the letter to the Roman church is all about.  It was inspired by the Holy Spirit to establish us in the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The term, mutual encouragement, literally means to be coached together.  As we learn the principles set forth in this epistle, we can put our faith together and grow into the mature believers we need to be.

That’s my goal with this series of posts.  To show the journey of faith as Paul lays it out for us.

Question: How do you see yourself sharing God’s grace with others?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2020 in Encouragement, Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Supernatural Church

I’m continuing to talk about Paul’s teaching to the Corinthian church concerning the public use of prayer in the spirit (tongues) and prophecy.  The apostle now gets into some technical guidelines for their worship service.

What then shall we say, brothers?  When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.  All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
1 Corinthians 14:26

This verse gives us some insight into the early church.  It seems that they were a lot like us.  There was music, preaching, and prayer.

The difference is that they looked for the supernatural move of the Holy Spirit in their services.  They wanted to hear a revelation from God either through prophecy or tongues and interpretation.

I don’t know why there are people today who feel that the supernatural has no place in a church service.  Paul says that all of these need to be done for the strengthening of the church.  Does the church not need strengthening anymore?  Of course, it does!

But on the other hand, Paul doesn’t want there to be so many unexplainable things happening that outsiders are scared off.  There needs to be spiritual decorum.

So, Paul continues with his advice.  He starts with the gift of tongues and interpretation.

If anyone speaks in a tongue, two — or at the most three — should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.  If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
1 Corinthians 14:27-28

Please remember, this verse is referring to when there’s one main person praying in tongues.  Everyone else is focused on them.  In that case, there must be someone with the gift of interpretation.  If there’s no one to interpret, then no one should be leading out in their prayer language.

But there’s more to this passage.  It also tells me that I can pray in the spirit silently – within myself.  That’s a good thing to know.  There are times that I need to build myself up in the spirit when it’s not appropriate to pray out loud.  These could be times when I’m at school or at work.

Paul also talks about prophecy.

Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.  And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.  For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.  The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.  For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.  As in all the congregations of the saints…
1 Corinthians 14:29-33

We need the revelation of God in our church gathering.  But the key is that it’s for our edification.  Therefore, the Lord wants everything done in a decent and orderly way.

There is never a time when anyone will be “out of control.”  The Holy Spirit is a gentleman.  He never takes you over and makes you do things against your will.  You always have the choice to flow with Spirit or ignore Him.

I believe that God wants to show up in our worship services.  Our generation needs to be more open and receptive to the move of the Spirit.

That requires God’s people to spend more quality time in His presence.  The more time we spend with the Lord in private, the more prepared we are for His public appearance.

Question: What experiences, good or bad, have you had with the spiritual gifts in the church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Power of Love

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s view of the spiritual gifts.  He’s explaining them to the church in Corinth.  The apostle was trying to straighten out some of their foolishness.

For the last few posts, we saw that the Gifts of the Spirit are useless without walking in love.  That’s the most important ingredient in any ministry.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
1 Corinthians 13:13-14:1

We’re told here, that of the three most important concepts in Scripture – faith, hope, and love – the greatest is love.  Paul then tells us to pursue love.  In order to do that effectively, we need to walk in the spiritual gifts.

It literally says to be passionate about the things of the spirit.  We should especially desire to show love by speaking a Word on behalf of God.  That’s what prophecy is.  God is love and if you speak His Word, then love will be evident.

In order to understand First Corinthians, chapter 14, we need to keep it in its context.  Paul is writing to a church where everyone’s doing their own thing.  All they care about is their own wants and desires.  Love for others doesn’t enter into their thoughts.

He wants them to use their gifts to bless others.  That’s the context of his next statement.

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.  Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
1 Corinthians 14:2-3

There are those who look at these verses, and the ones that follow, and conclude that the gift of tongues is bad and prophecy is good.  That’s not what Paul is trying to get across to this church.  That’s why I talked about the context.

The apostle wants us to see that in the church setting, love needs to be the major component.  Prayer in tongues has a definite purpose.  I use it to build myself up.  That’s a good thing, but it doesn’t directly show love to others.

So if I come to church and all I do is pray in the spirit, then I’m not loving others.  Instead, I’m being self-centric.

In the church, there needs to be an evident communication of God’s love.  Prophecy is a great gift for showing God’s love.  God’s Word can be a powerful encouragement to those around us.

In the church, I have a choice.  I can major on making sure that I’m blessed.  That’s what the Corinthian Christians were doing and Paul wasn’t happy with them.

My other option is to go to church with a desire to bless others.  Through the gift of prophecy, I can speak a word of strength, encouragement, and comfort.  I believe that’s what “being the church” is all about.

And in reality, I’ve found that when I want to bless others, God finds a way to bless me in the process.  There’s a mutual encouragement in the body of Christ.

Be passionate about spiritual gifts.  And seek to show the love of God in all that you do.

Question: How were you positively affected by someone operating in their spiritual gift?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2019 in Fellowship, Ministry, The Church

 

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Love and the Gifts

We’re continuing our study of love in First Corinthians, chapter 13.  Paul is now going to compare its lasting effects to that of some spiritual gifts.

Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
1 Corinthians 13:8

This is a verse that has sparked a lot of debate over the years.  There are those who point to it and say that the Gifts of the Spirit had an expiration date.  They conclude that these gifts ceased to operate after the original 12 apostles died.

I don’t think that’s what Paul is trying to say.  He’s teaching us a more excellent way of walking in the gifts.  Love is a factor that brings greater results.

He starts by saying that love never fails.  This means that the effects of love are enduring.  An act of love will continue to touch someone’s life long after the event has passed.  With that in mind, look at some of the other gifts.

Paul says that prophecies will cease.  That word, cease, means to be rendered useless or idle.  It does NOT mean that people will stop prophesying.

The prophecies themselves are only temporary.  Once they’ve been fulfilled, they have no more purpose.  That’s because a prophecy will always point to something.  And once the focus of the prophecy arrives, we begin a new chapter.

He goes on to say that tongues will be stilled.  Again, this verse does NOT say that the gift of tongues will no longer be available.  The word, stilled, means to be paused or restrained.

This tells me that the gift of tongues will be paused or put on hold.  It also means that those who operate in this gift would be physically or legalistically retrained from using it.  A look at church history will prove the truth of this interpretation.

Finally, the apostle says that knowledge will pass away.  It’s actually the same Greek word he used when he said that prophecies would cease.  It simply means that the usefulness of the knowledge given will come to an end.

Why is Paul telling us all this?  Because he wants to take our supernatural gifts to a higher level.

The Gifts of the Spirit, all by themselves, are only temporary events.  People won’t remember that I gave a prophecy on a certain date in the past.  But they will remember if the prophecy was used to show love to them.

Prophecy, tongues, and word of knowledge – they all give temporary benefits.  But if they’re used to show love to others in a tangible way, they have a lasting effect.

The Corinthian church was boasting in their ability to “flow in the anointing.”  They had all the gifts evident in their meetings.  Unfortunately, it was all for show – “Look what I can do!”

They left out the most important ingredient – love for one another.  There were factions and divisions.  The poor within their congregation was being publically shamed.  Love was noticeably absent.

We need to learn their lesson.  Having a move of God with the Gifts of the Spirit is an awesome thing.  But we can’t leave out love for our brothers and sisters.

It’s not an either/or proposition.  We need both the Gifts of the Spirit and love if we’re going to minister as Christ did.

Question: How have you experienced the Gifts of the Spirit operated in love?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Different for a Reason

We’re continuing to look at the spiritual aspects of serving the Lord from First Corinthians.  We know that the Holy Spirit wants to speak through the church.  How He does that is different in each of us.

Paul brings this out using four important words.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:4

The first thing we’re told is that the same Holy Spirit gives different gifts.  It’s important that we understand what this means.

There are two words in the New Testament that are translated as gift.  The first is the Greek word doron.  This one is more in line with the way we give presents in our society.  It’s a gift that once given, you can do with it what you want.  You can use it, sell it, give it away, or take it back to a store for a refund.

That’s not the word in this verse.  This Greek word is charismata.  This is a gift that the giver still has some strings attached.  The giver tells you how it will be used.

“I’m giving you this money, but it’s only to buy that new suit you wanted.”

So the Holy Spirit has different gifts that He gives the instructions on how they’ll be used.  Nobody can just do as they please in the Spirit.  We must all be Spirit led.

There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
1 Corinthians 12:5

The next group of differences concerns our service.  There are different kinds of servanthood, but we all bow to the same Lord.

We need to see that we’re not all called to serve in the same way.  How I serve Christ may be very different than the way you serve Him.  Because of this, I can’t judge you because you’re not just like me.

There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
1 Corinthians 12:6

Next, we’re told that there are different ways that God works in and through us.  The Greek word used here is where we get our English word, energy.

In the natural, there are different forms of energy.  They’re always active in the world around us, whether we realize it or not.

It’s the same with God.  The verse literally says that He works all in all.  God is not a respecter of persons.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a new Christian or have been walking with The Lord for many years.  He wants to work powerfully through your life.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:7

The final word Paul uses is the bottom line of our walk in the spirit.  The Holy Spirit wants to manifest in each of us.

Unfortunately, the word, manifestation, has become a part of our church vocabulary.  We rarely use it in normal talking.

The Scriptural word means to appear.  It also means to be bright.  It’s like a flashing neon sign that catches your attention as you’re driving by it.

The Holy Spirit in us wants to be like a sign, flashing His presence in our lives.  He wants it to be evident to all those around that He’s actively working through you.

These four things, in combination, make each of us a very unique individual in Christ.  As we come together in agreement and unity, the Spirit is able to do mighty things through His church.

Question: What makes you unique in the Lord?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2019 in Ministry, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Growing Up

Did you know that just because a person or a church walks in the gifts of the Spirit, it has no relationship to their maturity?  A baby Christian can pray for someone and see them healed.  Paul observed that in the Corinthian church as he sought to help them to grow up in Christ.

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:4

The church in Corinth gave Paul a lot of headaches over the years, but he continued to thank God for them.  In spite of their immaturity, Paul saw the working of God’s grace in their fellowship.

For in him you have been enriched in every way — in all your speaking and in all your knowledge – because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.  Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
1 Corinthians 1:5-7

Even though they had many problems, Paul was able to see the obvious working of the Holy Spirit in them.  He says that they had been made wealthy in every way – in Christ.  This was a wealth of spiritual gifts.

This was a result of Paul’s ministry to them.  He spent years teaching them the truths of the kingdom of God.  Because of this, they were spiritually wealthy in their Word and in their knowledge.  Spiritual gifts were operating in Corinth like nowhere else.

But is that a sign of maturity in a Christian walk?  Obviously not.  As we’ll see in future posts, the believers at Corinth were spiritual babies.

The problem is that they weren’t immature because of a lack of teaching.  Paul made sure of that.  They had chosen to live that way.

In the natural, there are people who don’t want to grow up.  I experienced this first hand.  I graduated from high school in 1975.  I went to the first few high school reunions until I realized that I had grown up, but many of my classmates were still trying to be teenagers.

That may be okay in the world, but it’s self-destructive in the body of Christ.  There are things that God needs mature men and women to accomplish.  But for that to happen, our eyes need to be focused on the eternal.

That’s why Paul is reminding them of their hope in Christ’s return.  At that time we’ll face our ultimate performance review.

He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
1 Corinthians 1:8-9

These are the things that need to be constantly before us if we are to progress in our spiritual maturity.  We should all want to be blameless in our walk with God.  According to Paul, this will take the strength of the Lord working in us.

We have to constantly be looking at our relationship with Christ.  We are not alone in our walk.  What I say and do has an effect on the body of Christ around me.

God is faithful to uphold His part of the relationship.  But it’s up to me to understand and cultivate my connection to Him.  That’s why He’s placed the Holy Spirit within us.

I know that there are those who simply seek the gifts of the Spirit with no desire for growth.  My hope is that I can encourage all of us to lay hold of everything that the Lord desires for us.

Question: What’s the next step in your spiritual growth process?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2018 in Return of Christ, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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