“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Rev. 12:11)
The task of the Ephesians 4 ministries, of which the ministry of the prophet is one, is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4: 12-13) That is actually quite a big ask. It’s one thing to run around on the walls of the city waving flags that say “Thus saith the Lord,” but it is something else entirely to enable people to respond to what the Lord saith.
In his first epistle to Timothy, Paul wrote “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith.” (1 Tim 1: 5) This commandment was the “charge” that Paul had instructed Timothy to lay upon the elders of the church at Ephesus that they should not stray from the “sound doctrine” (1Tim 1:10; Titus 1:9) outlined in verse five above. The purpose of the commandment is love. If I have been out in my car and am driving home, the purpose of everything I do is to get me home. Turn here, brake there, indicate now, stop at these lights – many different actions, but all one purpose: to get me home. I can wave lots of flags – and there are plenty of them on this website – but the ultimate purpose of them all has to be to help and encourage the body of Christ to grow in love “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
So according to 1 Tim 1:5, love comes from three sources: a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Each of these sources is in itself God-given. To start with the first one, I know for a fact that my heart, outside of Christ, is far from pure. It is addled with sin and self-interest. But also “I know Him in whom I have believed” (2 Tim 1: 12), and His heart is not only pure, but it overflows with love for me; so much so that when I am walking in the knowledge (the experience, not just the theory) of that love I can love others with it. It’s only the Cross, and the blood that He shed for me there, that can bring me into the place of relationship with Him where His love is “poured into my heart by the Holy Spirit that is given to us.” To lead others into a love that make sense of all the flags I am waving, I need to lead them into an experience of the Holy Spirit that makes His love an empirical reality. Jesus said: “Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matt. 10:8) We cannot give what we haven’t received.
Love comes from a good conscience. Again in the first letter to Timothy (1 Tim 4:2) Paul writes of those who “speak lies with hypocrisy” whose “consciences are seared with a hot iron.” These are people whose consciences have become totally insensitive to conviction of sin, for whom truth and integrity have no meaning or value. A good conscience is the opposite: open to conviction by the Holy Spirit, a good conscience is the reflection of the heart of someone who runs to Jesus whenever sinful thoughts or actions creep into their lives, whose speech is always in sincerity and truth. 1 John 1:7 says “if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” It is the blood of Jesus that keeps us in the light, so we can love (“have fellowship with”) one another.
When Jesus first saw Nathaniel approaching, he said: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” (John 1: 47) In the Spirit Jesus had already seen Nathaniel “under the fig tree” and knew his heart. The Father’s vision for His people was – and still is – that they would represent His ways on Earth, and although we can only guess at what Jesus meant, it would seem logical to assume that the transparency inherent in being without deceit, also translated as “guile,” is a prerequisite to effectively representing and demonstrating the love of God on Earth. The name Nathaniel means “Gift of God.” The transparency of a clear conscience can only be ours through the Cross, as a gift of God’s grace.
Finally, love comes from a sincere faith. Sincere means without hypocrisy; without pretence. Sincere faith is faith that is lived, not just faith that is theorised about. I have written in The Mind of Christ about Peter stepping out of the boat, but another good example of faith at work can be found in Jeremiah 32 vs 1-23. Jeremiah has been imprisoned by King Zedekiah for prophesying God’s judgement on his sins and the sins of Judah. Jerusalem itself is already under siege: destruction and exile to Babylon are imminent. In this context Jeremiah receives a word from the Lord to buy his cousin’s field at Anathoth, which was a priests’ city about three miles from Jerusalem. He obeys the Lord, signs the deeds for the field in the presence of witnesses, weighs out good silver for it, then buries the deeds in a pottery jar to preserve it as a testimony to God’s faithfulness, in anticipation of the day when his prophesy of Jerusalem’s ultimate and glorious restoration would be fulfilled. Jeremiah didn’t just stand up in the storm of imprisonment and destruction and say “God is going to restore Jerusalem:” he demonstrated his faith that God would do as He said.
Those of us who teach and/or prophesy the word of God have a responsibility to demonstrate in our lives that we believe it. We have to be prepared to buy the field; to start walking impossible steps on the waves. We have to have a testimony: without one, our faith is just a theory. Paul said to the Corinthians “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” (1 Cor 11:1). It’s not enough to say “Step out of the boat!” We have to step out of the boat ourselves and say “Follow me!” In doing so we are also demonstrating that we do not love our lives unto death, because if any sinking is going to happen, we will be the first under the water. However if we stay afloat, we are able to reach out a hand to others in the name of the One that we are standing next to and lift them out of the waves.
In “the Mind of Christ” I also wrote how the “effective working” in Ephesians 4: 16 – “the effective working by which every part does its share, (that) causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” – exclusively means the use of supernatural power. The power that God makes available to us is analysed in detail for us in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, and is commonly referred to as the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The growth of the Body which fulfils the vision and purpose of Jesus, the head, happens when all of us are open to, and operate, in the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
If we want to know where to aim for, it’s helpful to remember what Jesus calls effective working. It is what He tells the disciples to do with what they have freely received: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.” (Matthew 10:8) The gifts of the Spirit that He is telling them to use are italicized below: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” (1 Cor 12: 7-11) As Paul writes to the Philippians, we may not have already attained, but we press on towards the goal. John Wimber, an icon in the ministry of healing, said that he must have prayed for a thousand people before the first one was actually healed…
Confidence to operate in the supernatural is best achieved in small groups, down to twos and threes. One of our School of Prophesy members suggests that those who are not confident in using the gifts connect with those who are, and who can help that gift to grow. She says “Growth in the use of gifts helps us to hear from the Lord – we connect in like interconnecting wires attached to the main body.” This seems entirely scriptural to me, as it is a practical application of the principle of discipleship and will contribute to “the effective working by which every part does its share.”
Revelation 12:11 says that the saints overcame the enemy “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” We find in this verse the three foundations of sound doctrine that are expressed in I Tim 5: our conscience is cleansed by the blood of the Lamb so that we are transparent to the Truth; the word of our testimony tells of those acts of faith in the name of Jesus where we have walked in the supernatural ourselves, and we love from a pure heart that is void of self-interest. If we want to help others to overcome, we need to be doing it ourselves.