PART 1 PERSONAL ASSOCIATIONS
Knowing When to Maintain Them and Knowing When to Avoid Them
●Know No Man after the Flesh
As believers in Christ, we are called to be a light to the world, a city that is set upon a hill which cannot be hid. Whatsoever we do, in word or deed, we are to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12)
We are to have our manner of life honest among the Gentiles so that when they speak of us as evildoers they may by beholding our good works glorify God in the day of visitation. How does this idea of walking in good works convey the mindset that at times we might have to make decisions to not associate with certain people? At first glance the answer by most Christians would probably be that this should not be the case, because God’s love is unconditional. Therefore, they would say that there should never be an instance where we should choose to no longer associate with someone else. This sounds right, doesn’t it? What do the scriptures have to say about this?
In order to answer, this, we need to understand what is meant by stating that God’s love is unconditional? This kind of love is exemplified in John 3:16.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
The Koine Greek word for “loved” is eegapeesan from agapeo and it refers to a love that provides a benefit for someone else which is free and unmerited, and not based on any attractiveness or deservedness of the recipient. So, God the Father gave the life of his Son on the cross on behalf of mankind thus satisfying the debt, which was owed to the justice of God. The barrier between God and man, sin, has been removed once and for all. However, each member of the human race still has a sin nature that sins. Heaven can only receive those whom God has made holy. God makes those unbelievers holy who have either believed in Him as he was revealed in the Old Testament or believed in his Son in the New Testament.
God provided unconditionally his Son for all mankind, but entrance into heaven is conditional, based on repentance and belief. Not everyone is going to repent and believe. If God’s love was unconditional in this regard, then all mankind would simply be allowed to enter heaven at physical death.
As Christians, we now have God’s love, the fruit of the Spirit operating in us. Should the love that we evidence toward others, whether they are believers or unbelievers, be unconditional or conditional? If we say unconditional, then this would mean that our love toward them would never involve making a decision to not agree with anything they have to say or do, and in like manner this love would never cause us to disassociate ourselves from them. Is this the manner in which God’s love should be expressed toward others?
This study will convey to you the varied circumstances that will probably occur in your walk with God and with others, whether they are believers or unbelievers, which in some cases we will be directed by scripture to walk away from and no longer keep company with them? This topic will be very difficult for some believers in Christ, because of their uncertainty as to how they should respond to believers or unbelievers under certain conditions due to a lack of thorough teaching on this topic.
Hopefully, this book will help provide us with insight as to what our response should be toward the varied situations that involve both believers and unbelievers so that we will be able to apply the word of God in the proper manner.
Know No Man after the Flesh
In order to know no man after the flesh, we need to have a different perception about Christ:
2 Corinthians 5:16
…though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. (2 Corinthians 5:16b)
What does it mean to know no man after the flesh?
I wonder how many churches in their teaching emphasize to the assembly of believers the many stories about Christ. They say this is how we should live by emulating him. So they try to be like him. As he fed others through miracles, so should we help others by providing for their physical sustenance needs. As he healed others of various illnesses, so should we try to help them by providing the means necessary so that they could receive medical help.
The apostle Paul had a Jewish view of the coming Messiah. He, like his fellow Jews, was waiting for someone who would be born of two earthly parents, whom God would raise up to be an earthly king in order to free them from Roman oppression and establish an earthy kingdom with its capital at Jerusalem. However, when Paul believed in Christ a change took place in his life concerning his perception about Him.
Before our conversion, we probably at some point in our life have heard about the various stories associated with Christ while he walked the earth. We marveled at the miracles. We were surprised at his rejection. We heard about his resurrection. Yet our lives in regard to walking after the flesh (the sin nature) didn’t change. Why? We never heard the gospel spoken from those who told us about these many stories about Christ. We thought that by going to church, emulating Christ, and trying to live a good life as described by the churches teaching was the way to get to heaven. So we tried our best to do what we were told.
The apostle Paul said that his views about Christ changed when he was converted. He understood that He was not just a man, but the God-man, God incarnate. He was not sent to set up an earthy kingdom at this time, but to go the cross and become a substitute for mankind by paying the penalty for the sins of the world thus satisfying God’s justice. And when he fulfilled his mission sin would no longer be a barrier between God and man. Heaven was now open to receive all those who repented and believed in Him as He was revealed in any dispensation.
Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh… (2 Corinthians 5:16a)
In order for us to have a different view of others, we need to have a different nature along with a new mind whose thoughts are reflective of it. Where do we get this new nature from? This is from the person of the Holy Spirit, who is another member of the trinity? How does he come into our life? He comes into our life when we repent of our sins to God the Father and believe in his Son Jesus Christ, who as one of the persons of the Godhead, preexisted time, came to earth in the form of a man being born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, went to the cross and paid the penalty owed by mankind for sin to God the Father along with providing forgiveness for it, rose from the dead after three days never to die again, walked the earth for forty days in his resurrected body, and ascended into heaven. Once the Holy Spirit comes into our life we have a new nature.
Now that we have a new nature, how is the new mind formulated?
We formulate a new mind by hearing about the new person we have become at salvation by means of the word of God. As we appropriate these new thoughts about ourselves, the spiritual qualities (e.g. a divine love, a divine joy, a divine peace, etc.) of the Holy Spirit become operational within us and evidenced to others. Our life begins to emulate Christ’s life not in the sense of trying to imitate his actions, but by operating in the spiritual qualities of the Spirit as He did.
As our thoughts about ourselves change, so do our thoughts about those around us change. While we are still aware of other people’s faults or sinful behavior, we understand that these areas of their life can truly be addressed by the impartation of spiritual life by someone else. If they are an unbeliever, it begins at conversion. If they are a believer, it begins by recognizing those areas of human weakness or human strength and replacing them with divine viewpoint.
So, to know no man after the flesh, we need to know about ourselves after the Spirit. As we grow spiritually, our mindset toward unbelievers should be to present to them the gospel, and for those who are saved to help them learn about how they can not only recover from their sinful tendencies, but also be consistently free from engaging in them, which is not relegated by trying to stop doing them, but by having their minds renewed according to the word of God.
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Should a Christian's love toward others be unconditional?