The Difference Between Peter and James

I was reading some time ago and I came across in interesting passage in Acts. In Acts 12:1-3, I read: “Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)” As I read further on in the text, I discovered that although James was killed, Peter was delivered from prison in a miraculous way! It was at that point I started asking myself questions: Why was James killed and Peter delivered? Did Peter have more faith than James? Did the church pray for Peter’s deliverance and failed to pray for the deliverance of James? What was the difference between Peter and James? 

Now before I go on, I think it would be well to caution that it is usually bad hermeneutics to formulate any doctrine or principle based solely on the Book of Acts. The reason is because Acts is a record of the beginning of the church. There are things that happen in the “beginning” that don’t need to be and can’t be repeated! The doctor may have had to slap our butts to get us to breathe the first time, but after that, there was no need for a continuous butt-slapping! So, there were things that happened in Acts, at the inception of the church that have not been and really have no need to be repeated. For instance, there are some who teach today, based on Acts, that we should tarry or wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. But the reason the disciples waited, per Jesus’ instructions, in the Book of Acts for the coming of the Holy Spirit was because, prior to that time, the Holy Spirit had not come to dwell within men. In Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit would come upon a person to empower them, but after the task was completed, the Holy Spirit would leave. In the Gospel of John, Jesus promised that after he had left, the Holy Spirit would come, not only to be with the disciples, but to be “in” them. So, the waiting on the Day of Pentecost was for the fulfilling of that promise. However, there is no need for the believer to “wait” anymore for something that has already happened! The Holy Spirit came to indwell within believers on the Day of Pentecost, but He did not leave! He’s still here! So, there is no need to wait for someone who is already here! The Holy Spirit is NOT the Second Blessing or some additional blessing from God for the believer. He is essential and fundamental to the believer’s relationship and standing with God. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:9: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (KJV) Having or being indwelt by the Holy Spirit is not optional or additional; it’s basic and essential! Every believer has or is indwelt by the Holy Spirit! If the Holy Spirit is not in them; they are not a believer or they are not saved at all! But, I digress, so let me get back to my point! I just brought that out to illustrate the danger of formulating doctrines or principles solely from the Book of Acts.

Was it a matter that Peter had more faith than James? I think not! I think it was just a matter of God’s sovereign will! There are those who teach today that faith can overcome any obstacle and that faith has the power to overcome any negative situation. But, faith cannot and will not, change, circumvent, or subjugate God’s sovereign will. Now, we need to understand that when it comes to the will of God, there is God’s sovereign will and there is God’s permissive will. We could look at it this way; God’s sovereign will is God’s overall and unchanging purpose. God’s permissive will is the minor flexible details of His sovereign will. God’s permissive will is subject, to a certain extent to our faith and our actions, but God’s sovereign will is steadfast, unchangeable and uninfluenced by our faith or actions.

The killing of James and the deliverance of Peter was a matter of God’s sovereign will. And in like manner, there are things that happen in our lives that are beyond the scope of our faith and actions. They are beyond our ability to influence by our faith or actions! I know there are some who teach today that people can control what happens to them by their faith, but that’s not completely true! Often those same people will use Hebrew 11 as a “proof-text” to validate their point. They cite the first thirty-five (35) verses as proof of over-coming faith. There is a summation of “over-coming” faith in Hebrew 11:33-35a, where the author wrote: “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. . .” I stopped at 35a because that’s where most of the “faith-teachers” stop! But beginning at 35b, we have, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story! Beginning at 35b, the rest of the chapter reads: “. . . and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” (Heb. 11:35-40 KJV) Were the believers cited in the first 35 verses more faithful than the others cited in the last five verses? No! Not according to the text! All were faithful; but some were delivered and some weren’t!

The difference between Peter and James was that, through His sovereign will, in Acts 12, Peter was delivered like those in Hebrews 11:1-35a, but James was numbered among “the others” mentioned in Hebrews 11:35b-40. But in the end, the difference between Peter and James was not of any real ultimate importance, because (for the record) Peter was eventually killed also! By the way, whether or not we are presently delivered or healed from some affliction or disease is not of ultimate importance in the grand scheme of things (It is to us because, naturally, we want to be delivered and healed). In the end, we will all leave this world! Faith might heal us of a disease or illness presently, but faith cannot and will not cancel our eventual death! Because of his prayer, repentance and faith, God’s permissive will added fifteen years (15) to King Hezekiah’s life (1 Kings 20:1-6; Isaiah 38:1-5), but after that, Hezekiah died! What was the difference between Peter and James? James died then; Peter died later! What is the difference between believers who are healed and those who are not? It’s a matter above all of our pay-grade! It’s a matter of God’s sovereign will! From a purely human point of view, the only difference is; some die now and some die later, but eventually; we all will die!   

Life-Giving Spirits

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:45: “. . . The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” The first Adam (Adam of Adam and Eve) received life; the last Adam (Jesus the Christ) gives life. In the first Adam, all die because of sin, in the last Adam, all can live because of righteousness. Jesus is referred to as “the last Adam” because he was and is the Genesis of a new humanity; human beings who have been “born again” by the Spirit of God. Consequently, those who have been born again, or saved, or who are true Christians, have the Spirit of Christ (Holy Spirit) dwelling within them. Therefore, just as Jesus; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit, those who are in Christ are, in a sense, life-giving spirits.
Note, I said; “in a sense.” A person who is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ is not a life-giving spirit in the exact sense that Jesus is because of the unique and sinless character of Christ. However, since the Spirit of Christ dwells within that person, and that Spirit has life-giving qualities, then it stands to reason that the person or people who have that same Spirit should also have some life-giving qualities in some limited way. 
So, if you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, a person who has been born again and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, do you give life to those around you? Are you a life-giving spirit? Let me further clarify: There are many people in the world who are takers and vampires! They are always trying to get what they can get and if you are not careful, they will suck the very life out of you! These are the people who leave you depleted and drained, after just a brief encounter or conversation with them. They are always needy and always want something from you. Do you know anyone like that? Well, they are just the opposite of a life-giving spirit.
When a person is a life-living spirit, they make you feel better about yourself and about life when you are around them. They are encouragers and motivators and they help to make you a better person. They pour into you; life, joy and happiness. They speak life into your life! That’s what I’m talking about when I refer to life-giving spirits. There are too many users, drainers, blood-suckers, and vampires in life! We need more people who are life-giving spirits. That is exactly what the followers of the Last Adam, who became a Life-Giving Spirit should be! Those who have the Spirit of the One who is a Life-Giving Spirit should themselves be; life-giving spirits.

The Language of Prayer

Language of Prayer

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
Romans 8:26-27 KJV

A spiritual discipline that is essential to the vitality of the Christian life is the discipline of prayer! Much prayer; much power! Little prayer; little power! No prayer; no power! However, there are many Christians who are hesitant in prayer because they erroneously think that the effectiveness of their prayers is tied to their eloquence or command of the English language. But Jesus’ instruction to his followers in Matthew 6:7 was this, he said: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” Real prayer is not a matter of words! Paul stated some very interesting concepts about prayer in Romans 8:26-27. First of all, Paul said that we do not know what we should pray for! The reason for this is because real prayer is petitioning and communicating with God according to the will of God. And because of our human limitations, we can never fully know the will of God! But the Holy Spirit helps us in this regard because the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of God, fully knows the mind of God because the Holy Spirit is God! Therefore, the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings that cannot be uttered!

Now this is the main point I want to communicate in this post! The Bible says the Holy Spirit searches the hearts and knows the mind of God and intercedes for us according to the will of God! Therefore, when we pray, God is listening to our hearts and not merely our words! Have you ever been in a position wherein you wanted to express something, but it seem like there were no words to adequately express what you were feeling or thinking? You knew in your heart, but your mouth could not express it! Well, that’s similar to what happens in earnest prayer! There are no words to adequately express the content, longings, and desires of the heart!

Now, some have taken this passage as an allusion to speaking in tongues, or what many refer to as praying in the Spirit, but the text says, first of all that it is the Spirit that makes the intercessions; not us! Secondly, the Spirit makes the intercession with groanings that cannot be spoken! So when we pray, the Spirit takes the longings and desires of our hearts that constitute our prayers and filter those longings and desires through the strainer of God’s will! So, in the final analysis, real prayer is an expression of the heart and spirit rather than the mouth and the mind! Of course, we should strive to bring what we verbally pray in line with the desires and expressions in our hearts, but in the meantime; thank God for the intercessory aid and translating power of the Holy Spirit! For when we don’t know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit of God knows the language of prayer which cannot be formulated with spoken human words! The language of prayer is the deep inexpressible desires and longings of the heart! So, when you pray and you struggle to find the words to say, don’t worry about it: God still hears and understands!

Concerning Spiritual Gifts

spiritual gifts

Paul said to the Corinthian Church in 1 Corinthians 12:1, that he did not want them to be ignorant; that is unknowing and uninformed, about spiritual gifts. However, thousands of years later, it seems that there still remains a pervasive ignorance among the Body of Christ concerning the spiritual gifts. What is a spiritual gift? Simply put, a spiritual gift is ability or disposition given to the believer by the Holy Spirit when the believer is born of the Spirit. In other words, just as a person is born with certain abilities, gifts, and talents, when a person is “born again,” that person is given spiritual gifts and abilities by the Holy Spirit. Now, I’ve often heard church people say of people gifted with the ability to sing and do other things in worship and ministry, that the person is anointed or gifted by the Holy Spirit to do what they do. But according to the Bible, singing is not a spiritual gift; it is a natural gift and ability! (Of course when one is saved, God does enhance natural gifts and abilities as they are yielded to His control) A spiritual gift is that which is only given by the Holy Spirit to those who have been born again!

There is a non-exhaustive list of the spiritual gifts given in Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and 1 Corinthian 12:28-31. We might take note that the gifts listed in the last reference (1 Cor. 12:28-31) are actually people! God gives us gifts and we are gifts ourselves! Now, I used the term “non-exhausted” to denote the fact that there are spiritual gifts given by God that are not on these lists.

After studying the spiritual gifts, I have discovered some principles that might help us in our understanding of how to operate the gifts. I call these the Spiritual Gifts Principles:

  1. Every believer has at least one spiritual gift
  2. No one believer has all of the gifts
  3. The gift is not for or about the one it is given to
  4. The gift is for others
  5. The Holy Spirit distributes the gifts as He sees fit
  6. The gift cannot be earned or deserved
  7. The gift is to be used in ministry

There is so much more to be said about the subject of the spiritual gifts, but this was just a short introduction to shed a little light on the subject and to provide direction for more intensive study.

Lessons from Buddy!


There is an old familiar saying that says: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!”  Well, I really don’t know about that, but I came to realize not long ago that a new dog can teach you some old truths! The adorable pooch your see in the picture is our new dog. His name is Buddy. Buddy likes to run and play: ALL THE TIME!

One day, I was taking Buddy for a walk when he saw a squirrel, broke loose from his leash and took off in hot pursuit. Needless to say, Buddy didn’t catch the squirrel, but he did catch my wrath! After I ran out of breath trying to catch him, I turned around and headed for home. When Buddy finally came out of the woods and came to me, I spanked him and placed him in his carrier. The next morning, when I took Buddy out for his morning walk, I lectured Buddy once again on the error of his ways, in my spirit I heard the Lord saying:  “You can learn some lessons about how I deal with you from Buddy!”

So, here are the lessons I learned from Buddy: First of all, although we allow him to roam freely inside around the house, we put Buddy on a leash when he is outside because he would run away if we allowed him complete freedom. Well, God has a leash (His Law and His Word) on us and although He allows us a certain amount of freedom, if there were absolutely no restrictions, we would run wild! Now even though Buddy doesn’t appreciate it, the leash is really for his good. If Buddy was allowed complete freedom on the outside, he would run away or run into the streets and get hit by a car! The leash that God has on us is for our good, even though we often resist and try to break free from it. The Lord spoke through the Prophet Jeremiah saying: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV) Remember those words the next time you feel the Lord is “cramping your style!”

Now although Buddy doesn’t like being on a leash, being on a leash while he is outside is the best thing for him. And while he doesn’t know or appreciate that, I certainly do! Well, there are some things that we can’t and don’t know, but God does! He knows what’s best for us and we need to learn to trust Him and believe that He always has our best interest in mind. Just as my actions and motives are above and beyond Buddy’s understanding, many of God’s actions and motives are above and beyond our scope of comprehension. But we do have an advantage over Buddy! God has given us the revelation of His way and His will through His word in a manner we can understand.

Now, if I could just teach Buddy how to read the Bible, maybe he might understand too! LOL!