[b]ADVOCATE OR ADVERSARY[/b]
[i]by Alan Martin[/i]
How can we know whether we are walking as advocates or adversaries towards fellow believers and other people in our lives? We cant know it by truth alone, for truth can be used effectively to advocate or accuse, for and against others. Jesus Christ was sent into this world not merely full of truth, for truth was already in the world through the Law of Moses (Romans 2;20); Christ came full of GRACE and truth! Truth not mixed with grace will produce the same effect that the letter of the law has always produced, DEATH: The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Commands, principles, rules, and laws, by themselves, can never produce life; rather, its intended purpose was, That every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.
Few people are aware that the law was actually written down and preserved as a witness against Israel Deuteronomy 31: 24-27 states, After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord: Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God. There it will remain as a witness against you. For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. Paul was given great insight into this mystery, and it was he who wrote, He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross, Colossians 2:14
We would do well to ask ourselves, are we known as advocates for others, or for the many things that we are against. Are we viewed as advocates or adversaries? Many of us have taken clear stands against certain modes of dress, against observance of worldly holidays, against traditional church services, against popular ministries and movements etc; but are we equally known as passionate advocates for sinners in the same way that Christ was while He walked among men. He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors. Are we known for all the things we are willing to bear? Paul was, Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Jesus Christ. Here was a man compelled by the love of Christ, who bore all things, hoped all things, believed all things, and endured all things. How many of us are experiencing this love of Christ?
It is not surprising that it says of Christ, To Him was given the Spirit without limit, for He did as He taught. He continually prayed to His Father like the man who went to his neighbor seeking to obtain provisions for them. Christ sought no spiritual highs, no new and exciting experiences; rather, He sought what men needed, grace and reconciliation with God. He was selfless in His seeking, His groans, tears and agonies were for others infirmities, and sorrows. He was pierced for our transgression, and took the punishment that brought us peace. How many of us, like Christ, see mens transgressions clearly, yet not with adversarial eyes? Remember how Paul described Christs ministry: That God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting mens sins against them. The question is not whether we can see mens sins clearly, this is no great feat; Satan is better at seeing mens sins than all of us combined, and he is more than willing to lend us a hand if we have failed to notice a particular fault in someone. The real difference is seen in how we react when we see mens sins; do we count them against them, or like Christ, see them and rather than count them against men, choose to make intercession as their advocate.
Seeing sin clearly is not a clear manifestation of spirituality or righteousness; who on earth sees sin better than Satan? It is worth noting that the same Greek word used in II Corinthians 5:19 for counting against is also found in I Corinthians 13:5, as an attribute of love: Love keeps no record of wrongs. In both passages the word denotes that sins were not registered in the memory bank to be used like a prosecutor to prove the criminality of someone. This practice is called accusation and comes from the Greek word katagoras, we derive our English word to categorize from this term. Truth apart from grace serves only to categorize men as sinners and to condemn them as guilty by the light of scripture. Prosecutors use the facts of truth to categorize those they are standing against, and to convince jurors and judges that men or women are guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. If Christ were to take this role towards us, we would all be found guilty beyond all shadow of doubt; however, He chose the role of an advocate pleading not for our innocence, but for our pardon. His groans before the Father came from the perfect love that knew His grace could rehabilitate the vilest sinner He had seen.
Who knew this reality better than Paul, the persecutor, the violent blasphemer, public enemy number one to the church. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinnersof whom I am the worst, But for this very reason I was shown mercy so that in me the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would later believe on Him and receive eternal life. When God wanted to demonstrate His love and patience, He used Saul of Tarsus, who was persecuting Christ Himself, and showered him with grace, love, and mercy; too few know all too little of this love. Can we even endure dull services without powerful praise and worship, or an assembly of people in much need of grace and help form God? There are those who almost boast that they are against Sunday school, against stifling traditions, against One Pastor churches, against Calvanists, against eternal security, against instruments, against contemporary praise choruses etc., etc. and on and on. Such stands, if not taken in the love and grace of Christ, serve only to puff up the mind of the flesh in vain pride unto a subtle form of Gnosticism, the subtle cult of the we have more knowledge!
Will we wake up to the reality that when such divisions are among us, they likely indicate what Paul said, you are completely defeated already! O that God would raise up men and women who know how to contend for others rather than against them, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Where are men like Paul, who say, I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish and I have become all things to all men that I might possibly when some? There are families who want no part of feeling obligated to anyone, much less to commit themselves to help a local assembly of believers whose condition repels them. It seems more believers can relate to having dreams like take my son and flee to Egypt than are compelled by dreams with someone in Macedonia saying, come over and help us; something is very wrong about this picture!
Are we advocates for others, for the church, for the wise and the foolish alike, or are we adversaries taking a firm stand against anything we deem as untrue? What if God were to act towards us in the same way we act towards others; would we experience His patience, kindness, gentleness and mercy; or would we find that He has withdrawn from us like we have from those we have judged as incomplete, or impure? If we would be filled with the Spirit of Christ, it will not be for a self-fulfilling end. Why should God the Father send His precious Spirit just to make us feel good, and enjoy some new spiritual high? This attitude knows nothing of the spirit and purpose of the cross of Christ. Those who spend themselves on behalf of the hungry, who give themselves to make intercession for the transgressors, will be the ones who experience the Spirit of God in power and might. Consider the promises given ONLY to Gods servants in Isaiah 65: 13-14, My servants will eat, but you will go hungry, my servants will drink, but you will go thirsty, my servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame. My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts, but you will cry out from anguish of spirit.
Does this describe our lives: servants with a lavish supply of grace and mercy, sharing spiritual bread with the hungry and destitute? Are we eating and drinking the full supply of the fruit of the Spirit, rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory, singing out of the joy of our hearts? Those ministering in the Spirit experience the living water flowing out of their inner most being. If we only live in the truth of the Law, we experience a yoke of bondage that Peter said, Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? The Spirit is given to those asking to be filled, not for themselves but to enable them to minister the grace of God to others in need.
One last word just in case someone is wondering: What about Laodiceans? We should remember two things: the Spirit directed John to write to the church of Laodicea not just about it; secondly, Paul agonized in prayer for (as an advocate) this very church, as did Epaphras. It takes spirit filled, faith filled, and wisdom filled saints, to advocate for the body of Christ, any backslider in heart can categorize and tear down assemblies. One more thing, even Jesus words to John indicated He was knocking on the door seeking to enter rather than exit.
Are we advocates or adversaries?
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon