The Apostles Doctrine II – On to Fatherhood and Intercession
By Fred Pruitt
(Note: This is a much edited and shortened excerpt from a previous post, The Prize of the High Calling.)
Click to read The Apostles’ Doctrine I – the Spirit and the Word
What is next? People have often asked the question, “Now that I know union, what do I do now?” A lot of us, in the beginning especially, experience a sense of joy, freedom and rest when we realize our own union with Christ. It marks for many the end of our self-effort struggle, as well as an understanding or a knowing that HE now lives our lives and “as He is, so are we in this world.” (1 Jn 4:17) I described it poetically from the Song of Solomon: “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?” (8:5a). That is what it seemed like to me. That I had been on a long wilderness journey, and now at the end I am “leaning upon my beloved,” and have safely arrived at home.
But then what? We may need to season a bit in our new understanding, but after a time we realize this new reality into which we have been invited by the Living God, is part of the River of Life, and that Life cannot be contained nor dammed.
Helped by others, NPG being the chief helper, I began to catch the even deeper truth contained in the truth of union. And that simply is this: when we are in union with Christ, we are in union with His will and His purpose. And His will and His purpose in this world until the final consummation are to continue the Life of the Lamb in each of us who are His. We realize we are not our own, but bought with a price, and have no other will nor purpose except that which the Spirit expresses as Christ in us. And that will and purpose, in a nutshell, is to experience deaths of some sort, so that others might find life. For some, it is physical death. Stephen’s death in the Book of Acts gave us Paul the Apostle! But for most of us, it is other sorts of deaths, often only known by the persons who are experiencing them.
Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (Jn 12:24). He was both telling what was about to happen in the next few days, and giving us the principle of intercession – which is death and resurrection.
Now, understand what I mean, because many preconceived notions can enter in here. I am not talking about giving up coffee for a month, or praying a certain amount of hours or days, or sacrificing some favorite pastime. We are not dealing quid pro quo with God, tit for tat. We are living by the Spirit, and He leads us into these things.
This is what both Fatherhood and Intercession are all about. Being a father means one is a provider, counselor and protector of others. One’s own life is secondary to the lives of those in his charge. Intercession is almost the same; we might say it is the main activity of “fathers.” Prayer and words of faith are powerful, and we need not neglect them, there is no doubt of that. But being both “fathers” and “intercessors” means we get personally involved in some way. God is moving in us, not in a vague way, but for something specific. A particular situation to be rectified, a “vision” of something to accomplish, something for a neighbor or a family member, a heart for a particular group in society – it could be anything! The sky is the limit.
We call that commission. Something we almost cannot help but to do, and inwardly we are urged that we simply must bring this about. It is no longer we “working for” God. Now we do the “works of” God, as Paul said in Eph 2:10 – “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
There is a “gap” somewhere that needs someone to stand in it. That “someone” is to be God’s agent to be “in the gap” between God and man, to reconcile the situation in the power of the Spirit, whatever it is. “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” (Ez 22:30). He found none in Ezekiel’s day, but now He has – foremost the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose Life now lives in you and me in the same Spirit! We’re the ones tapped on the shoulder now.
But the commission has a cost. What do I mean — that we must do something to earn it? No, I mean that to follow through on God’s commission, will cost us our worldly life in some way. We may lose friends, situations, jobs, kicked out of churches, again – the sky is the limit. In certain countries today people preach the gospel with the risk of death hanging over their heads. But they do it anyway. The Spirit witnesses this in Revelation, and it applies to all of us, whether we suffer physical death for Christ’s sake or not: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Rev 12:11).
I read one time of an account of Norman Grubb giving the welcoming speech to the new batch of recruits who had come to WEC to train to be missionaries. Instead of telling them how exciting their lives would be, the sights they would see, and the glories of the work, he told them, “Some of you will be beaten, some tortured, some raped, and some of you will be killed.” How’s that for an orientation speech? We may think it cruel or harsh, but many WECcers were beaten, some raped and some killed in a mission field in Africa in the early 1960s, and others in other fields as well. He spoke the truth. They knew what they were facing, and went anyway. They weren’t any more special than you or I. They simply did what they were led of God to do, trusting Him only, and walking in Him, we do, also.
But truthfully, we put all that aside and make nothing of it, since eventually it is forgotten when the joy comes — because there IS a harvest! What went into the ground in seed form (to die) is reborn (resurrected) when the plant grows! And instead of just one seed, there are infinite seeds in this new plant, because each seed in the new plant will grow more new plants with many seeds and so on and on and on into the eternal! Though we speak of death, we are not death-minded. We are life-minded, and as such, we always look to the harvest. Every day!
The following verses of Philippians comprise one of the most encapsulated versions of this truth in all of Paul’s writings. He tells it personally, as it happened to him, and that to me is what makes it truly alive. Because if we see this, that Paul is relating, not as something he learned from another professor in a course he took, but that he is sharing his very life in Christ, not to impress us with how spiritual and close to God he is, but that this same Spirit is operating in exactly the same way in us, also, and leads us all to the same outcome, since He is the Author and Finisher of the faith of all of us! And so that is why I weave it somehow into my personal experience as well, because all any of us can ever testify to, is to those things “we have seen and heard.” In ourselves, and the world around us.
Let’s first look at those verses in their context. This is Philippians 3:4-6.
“Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”
In the letter, Paul has just given his “credentials.” They are very impressive! And all of them are in a sense, outer things. Starting with circumcision. To me it is a little more than ironic, perhaps even a great Divine Joke that causes a hearty chuckle every time it is mentioned in heaven, that of all the deeply serious and eternal questions which “religion” or spirituality tackles, that so much fuss and attention is made over the foreskin of a human penis. It became such a controversial issue during the early apostolic period, whether the new Gentile believers (males) could be received unless they were also circumcised, that the question merited the first great and ONLY apostolic conference recorded in scripture, in Acts 15, purely to resolve the issue of circumcision. To many of the Jewish believers, the physical cutting away of the foreskin was a necessary and faithful act, continuing the covenant of Abraham, and if the Gentiles are being brought into that same covenant, then they should be circumcised, as a sign of being part of the covenant. But Paul has seen what apparently many others had yet to see, that we are received into the covenant of Abraham in exactly the same way as was Abraham, in that Abram “believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness.” (Gen 15:6).
Paul does not stop there in his qualifications, though. Next he gives his physical heritage. He is “of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews.” Basically he is saying that no one could be more a “Jew” than Paul. He has given his whole life and career toward rising up in the Temple hierarchy, studying under Gamaliel, one of the most renowned rabbis of the day.
Then Paul says, “touching the law, a Pharisee.” Let us understand, the term Pharisee is not something bad in itself. We hear the term and to us it means someone self-righteous, sanctimonious, judgmental, etc. But in its time it did not necessarily mean that. It was actually a sect, or maybe a “school of thought,” that was prominent in New Testament times. Both Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea were probably Pharisees. It centered in strict adherence to the law in its minutest details, and yet had a Spirit side to it also. The Pharisees were differentiated from the Sadducees, the other major “school of thought” at the time, in that they believed in the resurrection of the dead, and they believed in the Spirit, both truths which the Sadducees denied. The Pharisees were more like the evangelical/fundamentalists etc of our time, whereas the Sadducees were the modernists who in our time deny the same things they denied in the time of Jesus. But NOBODY was zealous for the Law like the Pharisees. And without any further understanding from the Spirit, how could any Jew in their day not agree with their stand?
My point is that when Paul says he was a Pharisee, he was not saying he was self-righteous and judgmental, as much as he was saying he was part of those who were most zealous toward the things of God in Israel. To further underline that point, he reminds them, “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church.” He is basically saying he could not have been a more faithful, more serious, more zealous Jew, after the traditions of the fathers! He was ready to stomp out any threat for the good of Israel! He had the zeal of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the High Priest, who pierced through with a javelin those who had brought a plague of the spirit into Israel. (Num 25). In Paul’s mind (when he still was known as Saul), the scourge of a false faith in a false Messiah, had to be stomped out with as much zeal and boldness as had the plague stopped by Phinehas! And for a time, he was that man!
Paul is always throwing us curve balls, and his next phrase is one of those. “Touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” Whoa, Paul, this does not go along with my theology! How can he say that? He kept the commandments according to the strict adherence of his sect, but they had also sort of “toned down” some portions of the law, making it something more manageable, so that those who persevere and by sheer force of will, effort and self-denial, are able to keep all the outer commandments down to their minutest details, to the “tithing of mint and rue,” and thus may consider themselves “righteous” by the effort and self-sacrifice they put forth.
In another way, Saul could have considered himself blameless in the law by virtue of the fact that when he did commit some offense under the law, the law contained sacrificial remedies that the sin might be remitted, except in certain “capital” matters. One remained “blameless” under that system by adhering to all the proper commandments and the sacrificial remedies where necessary, as well as being ritually totally cleansed of the past year’s sins on the Day of Atonement, when the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies to intercede for all Israel. “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.” (Rom 10:5). Saul of Tarsus was just such a man.
Either way, without realizing it, they had made life in God more like an athletic event. Who are the most successful in athletics? The first advantage goes to those who are naturally disposed toward athletics, and then out of those, the ones who become champions will beat their bodies into submission, training and exercising, denying themselves pleasures and an “easy life,” in order to gain mastery on the field of competition. That is what they had made life under the law to be. There were some who were suited for it it seemed, and Paul was one of those. He excelled at all things having to do with the faith of Israel. And by his own testimony, he worked harder than and exceeded many of his peers, in his passion to purify the faith! He was on the fast track for becoming an important person in the Sanhedrin one day. It was his whole life.
But we know what happened to him. This is how he described his life before Christ, and after, in one of his last letters to the churches, written from the Roman prison:
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” (Phil 3:7,8)
Everything he “boasted” of, all his accomplishments, his status among the influential Jews in the Temple, his almost certain rise to great importance in the hierarchy of Jerusalem, he said he counted as “loss.” What does that mean, loss? It means that he had counted it precious, or he would have had no sense of loss. It costs him something, and he feels the loss. He had all these “things” somewhat in his possession, but now they were gone. It is no wonder he felt their loss. His whole life, his very identity, his reason for living, had been wrapped up in all those things. They were who he was. When they go there’s a bit of mourning along with it.
But, Paul had cast them aside, like furniture thrown out on the Oregon Trail by the pioneers, because it was weighing them down. “Oregon or Bust,” was their motto, but for Paul it was “Christ or bust.” Why did he allow the loss? Because something far greater came along – “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”
What is it, what is this “knowledge of Christ Jesus,” that is so overwhelming, that for more than two-thousand years people have left all to find? Language is insufficient in this, because Christ cannot be fully described, like an object on a table, but by grace through faith Christ can only be lived, experienced or known. We “know” Him in the living and the experiencing. And the Spirit is the only Teacher and Revealer. Underneath all that fleshly zeal in Saul of Tarsus, there was a true heart for God! Once Saul met HIS Lord on the road to Damascus, there was never any question of turning back.
His first words to the Vision that overwhelmed him were, “Who are You, Lord?” His first declaration is to speak the Truth he cannot fail to know, “Lord!” But the Vision answers back, “I am Jesus, whom you persecute ….” (Acts 9:5).
So this is a great thing Paul is experiencing. He has come into intimate personal knowledge of Christ, and truth be told, it is not compatible with his old life. He cannot go back to that. He has seen into the depths of the Godhead, has seen things perhaps no man has ever seen before or since, things which cause all the gold and silver, other precious metals and jewels, as well as status, prestige, an abundance of possessions on the face of the earth, to be nothing but human excrement, in comparison to the riches of the kingdom of Christ within us! This is of the same stuff as the people on the list in Hebrews 11. No greater statement can be made than this describing Moses – “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” (Heb 11:26,27).
He endured, as seeing Him Who is invisible. (This is the Life that is our heritage.)
Paul has transitioned from “suffering loss,” something precious which he nevertheless gave up for the furtherance of the cause, to the things suffered in the loss to be worth nothing, nothing whatsoever, and further, that “nothing” now has the stench of excrement on it! It was loss at first, but now it stinks, and is no longer something precious which has been given over voluntarily to loss. Now it is garbage and we do not want it anymore. In comparison with the mixed-with knowing of Christ (“one spirit with him,” 1 Cor 6:17, and, “I and my Father are one” John 10:30), it has the preciousness of dung. It is all, every bit of it, “self” stuff! That is why it stinks!
Paul finishes that thought with his primary motivation for casting it all away – “That I may win Christ!” What does he mean, “that I may win Christ?”
Is Paul linking his eternal salvation with this, and telling us if he had not cast those things out of his life, then he would not be received in Christ, that he would be eternally lost? If that is the case, Paul sets the bar pretty high!
But no, that is not the message Paul is sending. Paul is introducing us to a completely different way to look at Jesus and the spiritual life, a way that does not center on ourselves and what “we” get out of it (salvation), but rather a moving into Christ in oneness with Him and all His activities and concerns, thus bringing us into the fatherhood level in Him, in which our lives have lost their self-focusing “what about me?” syndrome (what Christ does for me), and moved into Who Christ is – the spoken “I AM” of the Father now dwelling in us and as us, and What Christ is – the “Lamb slain from the foundations of the earth,” Who lays down His Life even for His enemies, and now we see that THIS is the life that we are now. It is no longer about Christ Who has delivered me, keeps me safe, answers my prayers, blesses me – but Christ by me Who now delivers others!!!!
“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
Stripped down to nothing, Paul find himself “in” Him, and the “dung” which he has discarded has made way for the true righteousness. Only someone who comes to this point can truly understand what it means to “not have my own righteousness.” I cannot have my own righteousness. If I think I do, then I can only still be susceptible to the law, responsible to it and incomplete in myself. That is what it means when it says a little leaven leavens the whole loaf. Even if I could keep all the outer commandments, I could still not fulfill the one “law” of the New Testament, love, because love is intangible and has no solid outer measuring stick. “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Gal 5:14).
This is one of the deepest and hardest-to-come revelations any of us may receive. We have no righteousness of our own. We have all given lip service to the idea, “Oh yes, we know, it is not by our righteousness,” but we don’t really KNOW it yet. The temptation is always there, that we might need just a little tiny teeny weeny itty bitty pinch of our own righteousness now and then, and that is the culprit, right there. It’s the pea under our mattress.
“Our own” righteousness is a sneaky thing. I used to pray, “O Lord, You know how much I want You, I want to know You more! I love You and desire nothing but to be with You. Take away my impatience, let me listen better to others, give me wisdom, give me peace and joy, etc etc etc, because I want to be a better instrument for Your use blah blah blah blah.”
One day I heard what I was saying, and I started laughing, because I saw the irony. I saw how absolutely silly it was to think of myself praying “righteous” prayers, or having godly motivations. It was there that I saw how totally caught we each are in our own all-pervasive vanity – in self-focus, independent self, self-will, self-love, etc. And that there was NO WAY OUT (by our own efforts). Even my desire to “get out of it” was tainted by the very selfishness I wanted to escape!
Only a death could deliver me, not another renewed effort to greater devotion or dedication. I saw for the first time, my true state as regards righteousness, holiness, love, etc., and my true state was zero. I had NONE. And in that regard, I had sunk down into “nothing,” except, “to be.” And from then on it has been, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but he sees the Father do, the Son does the same.” What else could the Son of God as Son of Man confess?
This is part of what Paul is describing as “winning” or “attaining” Christ. The Greek word is translated both ways. The sense of it is not that Paul is leaving behind all these things that had been valuable to him in order to impress Christ, or to gain his salvation as a reward for his works through Christ, but rather and more fully, he has an unrelenting inner drive to be a participator in His outpoured Life, “partners” so to speak with Christ, which is found no other way than by grace through faith to enter into the works of Christ, to be doing what Christ is doing, that Christ through the Spirit might live His intercessory Life in and as our human lives. That his (Paul’s) human life would be in the flow of Christ in him, which is nothing other than a laid down life for others. Discovering his own “nothingness” in the equation is the beginning, which then leads here.
“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death”
This is a power-packed sentence! This is not Paul praying he would become more spiritual. This is not Paul praying for revelation so he could share deeper things with his followers. This is not Paul praying that he and Jesus would become closer, so that he could know Him better as a buddy sitting on the chair opposite him. Nor is Paul going for great sanctification and holiness, so that one day he might manifest the Stigmata.
Paul knows what he is seeking and what he will find. Do we want to “know Him?” Do we want to know the depths of the Godhead, the revelation of the Christ? Then let us put out of our minds visions of heavenly glory, stars in our crowns or heavenly rewards, lights, angels, colors, sights, wonders beyond our minds and understandings. Let us not make those things our goal. They may yet be ours, but in this exceedingly short moment we are given, there is something infinitely more urgent, more immediate, than the attainments of any heavenly visions or manifestations.
All the sheep have not yet come home. Some are still in chains of bondage, either as slaves still held in Egypt, or brethren still in the wilderness of the bondage of self-focus, independent self – the flesh – awaiting their release from the chains. As the old gospel song says, “None of us are free, if one of us is chained.” There is a debt yet to be paid, not “paying back” the Lord for what He has done for us, which would be preposterous, but the debt which Love owes to all God’s creatures. We have entered the Life which is Divine Love, indebted to the whole world to fill it with itself.
And it is still true, what Paul wrote to the Romans 10:11-15 –
“For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
With that in mind, we can begin to see why Paul would want to be in the “fellowship of His sufferings,” or, to “be made conformable unto His death?” This is not some sort of morbidity, some sick preoccupation with death. Paul has seen the glories of Christ in ways he says it is not lawful even to describe, yet here he is, not seeking those glories, but instead seeking suffering and death! Why? Is he death oriented? Does he like pain? Is he masochistic?
No, no, no! This is Life unto Life, and that is the power of resurrection over and above the law of sin and death. The only entrance into the life of Christ is to first enter into His Death, because in His death to Sin/Satan we experience our own particular death to Sin/Satan, which is the preamble to everything else! When we realize the truth laid out clearly in Romans 6 and in other places, that we are “dead,” – dead to sin/Satan, dead to the law, dead to who we once thought we were – we may not realize it in that moment but this is the foundation of everything. It changes everything else, to know that we know that when He died, we died, and when He rose, we rose.
But to what? This that we are speaking of in the moment is not the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth at Easter, nor our own personal resurrection after we have come to the knowledge of our death to sin and the law. Those two resurrections are the foundation and background for all we are in Christ. But these two resurrections were “for us.” We would not be able to come to what we are discussing here except for those two resurrections – Jesus out of the grave on the third day, and our own rise to newness of life by the power of the Spirit to live as an instrument of righteousness, as symbolized by water baptism.
But as I said above, we have moved away from “Christ for me,” and now into “Christ as me for others.” What we are speaking here is what Paul means when he says, “I die daily.” People quote that to me all the time, as an objection to the things we say. Many people see that as having to fight and win the “sin fight” every day, battling the so-called “sin nature” that somehow, contrary to scripture, escaped its death on the Cross and continues to fight us every day.
But “I die daily” is not the word of the raw beginner recruit soldier, whose focus is on shining his boots and making sure his uniform is pressed and that he marches perfectly in step anytime they are drilling marching or actually marching in a parade. That’s what beginners do, they practice the most basic things. And what practicing marching does for soldiers, is not concerned with “marching” per se, but rather that the constant practice makes a group of individuals, into a unit working together, each dependent on the other, all taking orders from the same head. But when they get into a combat/war situation, shined boots and ability to march in step has no value and is no one’s concern. But their cohesion as a real team, all of whom instantly obey orders, is of exceeding great value.
What am I pointing out? Only that the soldier is trained in the beginning, getting down the most basic things that soldiers do. One of the most important things a soldier gets out of basic training, is to have a change of mindset. He must begin to think of himself as a soldier, not a regular citizen. He has been separated out of one mindset, private citizen, into an another mindset, a soldier. Therefore, what happens in the mind of the recruit during training which is both physical and psychological, is that he “dies” to being a civilian, and “resurrects” to being a soldier. One day without even realizing it we wake up as a soldier when we had fallen asleep the night before still a civilian scared out of his wits in this military barrage on his mind. But once it happens, it happens, and another civilian turns into a soldier. It was a death out of one mindset, rising up into another.
“I die daily” would be what the soldier in the field, in the line of fire, would say, because he was a soldier. Every day he comes face to face with death. He sees his friends and comrades taken away in a moment. I have never been a soldier nor in any kind of combat. So I do not speak from personal experience. I cannot imagine being in a situation where someone was shooting in my direction with a machine gun trying to kill me and my friends, while we were going up to take the hill where he was, trying to kill him. I cannot imagine the terror of it. I have heard various people talk about it, and humanly speaking, I can see no way to stand up and rush a defended site where people were shooting at us with automatic weapons while lobbing explosives our way, too, without giving myself over to death, just to quell the fear. But that is the intercessory cost soldiers pay. Even if I don’t die that day, it was “as if” I had died just in the acceptance of death which quelled the fear, and in that “death” I rise up out of my position and not for myself, but for my unit and the ones I represent, and charge on to victory – or death.
And that is what this “I die daily,” “the fellowship of His sufferings, and “being made conformable to His death,” has to do with. Not for the sake of death but for the resurrection unto Life!
To give it a name, it is the intercessory life, or the “fatherhood level.” Paul is talking about the principle of intercession. But it does not even need a name or a special designation or title. It is simply the Lord being Himself in us, as us, in this “level” as much as we have known Him to be in us, as us, in all the others.
End Part II