Summary: Many believe we are in the end times, the prophesied "last days." I too lean strongly to that opinion. If so, it is urgent that we heed the charge of the great apostle Paul when, in light of his admitting he was "not already perfect," he said, "This one thing I do!" Let's look at Paul's cry, find what it means, and follow it to our immense benefit.
The great apostle Paul who wrote that Scripture knew that he had been saved (born again) through his personal repentance for sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). He knew He had received the power-imparting baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5-8; 2:1-4; 9:17), with the biblical “evidence” of speaking in tongues — see Paul’s own testimony in 1 Corinthians 14:18 and his extensive writings on the subject in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 14.
Yet the apostle still knew that he was “NOT…already perfect.” What was his solution? — “This
There is a “high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” It’s beyond getting saved by faith in “Christ our Passover” (1 Cor. 5:7). It’s beyond being baptized with/filled with the Spirit (Pentecost). Paul had already experienced both of those. But the apostle knew that his ongoing imperfections kept him short of attaining that high calling. So did he just throw in the towel and quit trying? Did he give up and just resign himself to maintaining the present level of his Christian experience?
No! Saved and Spirit-filled Paul had one goal in mind — “This one thing I do” — and that was to keep pressing forward (Philippians 3:13, KJV) … to keep aiming higher (vs. 14) … to keep making “every effort” for holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 2 Peter 3:14) … to not lose sight of attaining the very high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Paul by the Holy Spirit even wrote the startling verse
Let’s look at the Corinthian church to which Paul wrote two of the Bible’s epistles. The apostle was clearly addressing them as born-again people who had been saved by “Christ our Passover lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Also Paul addressed them as believers who had received the baptism with the Holy Spirit. In fact, Paul addressed two entire chapters (12 and 14) to instructing them in the proper understanding of their Pentecostal experience.
There was something more than their personal Passover and Pentecost that Paul spoke of for them to hope for and to press toward. That subject is vast and would take far more time than we have here to fully examine. But in brief, I believe the truth Paul alludes to can be seen symbolically and prophetically in the three major Old Testament “Feasts of Israel.” These were Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, specifically, the feast of Tabernacles’ central day — the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur — which to this day is still the holiest day in Judaism.
That sacred Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) occurred only once a year for Israel (see Leviticus 16). On that day Israel’s high priest did extensive ministry, the holiest part of which was his bringing sacrificial blood into the very Holy of Holies of the Lord’s Tabernacle. The awesome result of this Day of Atonement ministry for God’s people was (Leviticus 16:30) — “On this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins.”
Were the Corinthian Christians saved and Spirit-filled? Clearly the apostle addressed them as such. Had the guilt of their sins been washed clean by the blood of Christ our Passover? Certainly. Had they been empowered by the mighty Pentecostal baptism of the Spirit? Again, yes they had. And yet the apostle still described them as “carnal” (1 Cor. 3:1-4, KJV). But look now at the Scripture directly below, in which Paul lays before those same believers (and us) a high and holy vision — what I believe is “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14, KJV), which the same apostle wrote about in his Philippian epistle. [Note: I do realize that there can be more than one valid understanding or application of Scriptures. On that point most agree. That said, I'm convinced that what I'm writing about in this study is a very important and valid application of these Bible verses for these end times.]
This theme of the Lord’s Church being called to be the Bride of Christ occurs significantly in Paul’s Scriptural writings. He tells us that the Church at large is “espoused” to one husband, clearly Jesus Christ. Various translations render the verb as espoused or promised or betrothed. That is God’s great desire, as expressed by His servant Paul, that the Church be a fitting Bride for Jesus Christ. Most commentators (I believe correctly) see this as a spiritual relationship, not the physical sense of our earthly marriages.
But Jesus is not going to settle for just any Bride. There are qualifications for that Bride. Let’s look at the prophetic typology of the first marriage God put together, that of Adam and Eve. The apostle Paul, interestingly, uses Adam as a type or symbol and Jesus Christ as the antitype, either like Adam in some ways or distinctly opposite of Adam in other scenarios. Paul adopted the language of “the first man Adam” and then Jesus as “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45).
In Genesis 2:18-24 we see the account of God, having already created Adam, then creating a bride for Adam — a “help meet” for him (vs. 18, KJV) … a “helper comparable to him” (NKJV) … “a helper (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him” (AMPC). God fashioned a bride from a portion of the first man Adam’s body. And at that time, before their fall into sin, Adam and Eve were both sinlessly perfect.
Let’s summarize that: for the first Adam God prepared a bride who, like Adam then, was sinlessly perfect. And she was from, not Adam’s whole body, but from a portion of his body. There is a widely accepted law of Scripture interpretation called “the Law of First Mention.” It says basically that the first mention of a theme in the Bible is often the simplest and clearest presentation of a doctrine or theme that is more fully developed further on in the Bible. So then, was does “first mention” say about the bridegroom/bride, Adam and Eve? 1) They were sinlessly perfect when brought together by God. 2) Eve, the bride, was formed from a portion, not all of, Adam’s body — the rib that God used. And 3) When God had created Adam, but not yet Eve, although Adam was “very good” (Gen. 1:31), God still declared, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). So God fashioned for Adam a perfect bride, Eve.
And that brings us back to Paul’s “prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Paul had told the Corinthians believers that his desire was to present them (plural) to one husband, that is, as a chaste virgin to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2). Spiritually speaking now, the “last Adam” Jesus is to receive for Himself a perfect Bride — from a portion of His “body” the Church (Colossians 1:24). Let me clarify quickly. I’m not saying only the Bride makes it to heaven and all others end up in hell. No! I’m saying, and I believe the apostle Paul taught (and John also in Revelation 12), that there will be a special blessing and role on earth in the last days for those believers who will choose to achieve Christlike holiness (their New Testament “Day of Atonement”) and will qualify in the end times as the “chaste virgin” Bride of Jesus Christ. How chaste? Let’s see the apostle Paul’s teaching in the illuminating Ephesians chapter 5.
Typified by Adam and Eve at the beginning, Jesus the Son of God (Paul’s “last Adam”) will likewise at this far end of the age be presented with a perfectly holy, sinless, spiritual Bride fashioned from a portion of His body the Church. This is not a divisive doctrine. Not in the least. Every Christian is called to that holy, spiritual marriage relationship with Jesus Christ. But not all will get there. How? Why? Because Christ’s Bride will be (the inspired apostle’s words): radiant, holy, chaste, without stain or wrinkle, holy and blameless. And that, my friends, is in my estimate the ultimately desirable “prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” that the apostle said to press toward.
Are you saved and washed by Jesus’ blood? Wonderful! Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues? That too is an awesome blessing. Paul had both of those experiences when he said that he was “not already perfect.” Paul said (and wrote about) the call of the Church to go beyond even Passover and Pentecost and to reach forward, with the Holy Spirit’s necessary help, to that radiant bridal holiness necessary for Jesus to be presented with a “help meet” (suitable, adapted, complementary) to Him. When Paul taught these things about the Bride’s call to absolute holiness, he closed the teaching by removing all doubt: “I am talking about Christ and the church.”
God the Father will present His Son Jesus with a perfectly holy spiritual Bride. Those days could be soon upon us. If God has touched your heart, you’ll be following Paul’s example: “This one thing I do … I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Let’s all determine not to stop at Passover, not to rest content even at Pentecost. Let's press toward a New Testament high calling, the fulfillment of our Feast-of-Tabernacles “Day of Atonement” that Jesus and the Holy Spirit can work in us. That is, not just being “positionally” holy and righteous, as the theologians say, but literally and practically in our daily lives, walking before Him “clean from all [our] sins” (Leviticus 16:30). With such a holy goal we can press toward the Lord’s high calling to be presented to Him as a radiant, holy Bride. As in all things that the Bible exhorts us to, this is achievable through the abundant, merciful grace of God that comes to us through our marvelous Lord Jesus Christ.
Hopefully our Bible study today has inspired many of you to dig deeper into this topic of God’s call for a spotless, perfectly holy and radiant Bride for His Son. To help you with further study, let me suggest some Scriptural articles I’ve written on various aspects of the Bride of Christ.
The Spotless Bride of Christ: A Radiant, Perfected, Pure Church
The Bride of Christ | Characteristics of His Radiant, Holy Bride (our most detailed Bible study)
Preparing the Bride of Christ for Jesus Her Bridegroom
Revelation 12: No Pre-Tribulation Rapture | The End-Time Bride of Christ
Jesus’ End-Time Glorious Church | A Worthy Bride for Him
BONUS! For those desiring an in-depth study of the end times, I highly recommend Bible teacher Elton McMillan's website. I believe it's among the very best end-time Bible studies available today. Elton's many excellent, descriptive charts and artwork are best viewed on your desktop or laptop computer. You'll find this free treasure trove of last-days teaching at The End Times Explained Step by Step | Bride of Christ
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