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“Set apart for Me…” the Holy Spirit said.  As He said that to the church in Antioch, so now the Holy Spirit has been and is saying to the church at the end of the age.  Men and women (for the first elect of the Holy Spirit was a woman) have been hearing the call of the Holy Spirit and responding.  The raising up of His elects by the Lord, the Holy Spirit, will continue until the Lord Jesus Christ arrives on clouds of glory with His elects gathered from the ends of the Heavens and the Earth.

As much as Barnabas and Saul were set apart by the Holy Spirit for His work, so now you and many others are being set apart by the Holy Spirit for the work He has for them.  The reality that Jesus Christ will return is a foregone conclusion from the perspective of the Father and the Holy Spirit… and even from the devil’s perspective.  Satan does not doubt that Jesus will return; He knows that Jesus will return.  His main game so far has been to delay that return with the help of the prostitute, and when that fails, then his backup plan is to resist the arrival of Jesus Christ with the help of the armies of the world and most importantly of all, with the help of the false prophet, the antichrist, who has enough supernatural power to do all sorts of signs and wonders, even calling fire down from the sky in the sight of men.  The supernatural power possessed by Jesus means that no mere mortal can kill Him if He did not permit them.  Since the defeat in Heaven has proven to Satan and his angels that their powers are no match for Michael and his angels, Satan knows full well that he cannot win in a one on one confrontation with Jesus Christ.  However, another man who possesses the power of the Holy Spirit without limit (so it seems) might just be able to do the unthinkable – kill Jesus Christ again.  So as the days are being shortened, both in numbers and duration, Satan will be looking for, eyeing that one person in the ranks of the disciples of Christ on Earth now who has miraculous power… perhaps sufficient enough for Satan’s purposes.

Likewise for the Holy Spirit… the inevitable arrival of Jesus Christ is not what is foremost on His mind, for it will happen by the Father’s will and timing once the scriptures are fulfilled… and the scriptures will be fulfilled, for no scripture can be broken as Jesus has said, “…and the Scripture cannot be broken…” The concern of the Holy Spirit is the manner of the welcome Jesus will receive when He arrives.  This one question of Jesus is foremost in the Lord’s mind, and if it is also foremost in your mind (heart), then the fruit of your election is coming forth.  As He was teaching the disciples to persevere in prayer as they were journeying to Jerusalem for the final and last time in Luke 18… Jesus asked this one question almost whimsically, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the Earth?”

What an insult it would be to Jesus if on His arrival He found no faith… no one who would believe in Him waiting for Him to greet Him.

This is not as ridiculous a question as it seems, but rather, a question that echoes and reflects the conditions of the end times.  A time when the love of many would grow cold because of wickedness and worse still, a time when men would curse God because of the plagues that are being unleashed.  For just prior to His arrival, the Earth suffers at the hands of the two prophets who can shut up the skies so that it will not rain and who has been striking the cities with plagues as often as they wish.  The whole mood of the Earth is such that when the beast that came out of the abyss kills them, the world celebrates. And three and a half days after they are killed, Jesus arrives.  As such, when you look at Jesus’ question in the light of what the world will be like just prior to His arrival, it is a most appropriate question.

As such, you can rest assured that the Holy Spirit’s agenda and plan is to have men and women set apart who can go through these days of distress and be there to greet Jesus with not only faith, but also knowledge, praise and honour.

So as Saul and Barnabas were set apart by the Holy Spirit for the work of their day and time, so likewise anyone who is an elect of the Holy Spirit has been set apart for the work the Holy Spirit has for our time.  And what a time it will be… “…days of distress unequalled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equalled again.”

To allow the Holy Spirit to fulfil His plans for which He set you apart for, then each and everyone of us must overcome the weakness common to the elect of the Holy Spirit, that is, the failure to remain set apart.

Barnabas had this weakness, so when men from James arrived and Peter ventured into hypocrisy by abstaining from eating with the gentiles and the other Jewish disciples joined Peter… Barnabas followed them so that Paul could write for us:  The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. Led astray because he failed to remain set apart from the other Jewish disciples and not participate in the hypocrisy.  Perhaps it was out of ignorance or perhaps it was a manly desire and urge to not ‘rock the boat,’ ‘to preserve the peace,’ ‘to go with the flow’ and to preserve the unity, when in truth the teachings of the men from James brought division, not unity, setting the circumcised apart from the uncircumcised when circumcision mattered for nothing to a disciple of Christ.  Barnabas was led astray whilst Paul remained standing true to the full gospel.

However, even Paul could not maintain the stance and so we see him in Acts 21 going along with the ridiculous suggestion of the elders of Jerusalem who fearing that the presence of Paul would upset those who are zealous for the law, said to Paul, “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do?  They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you.  There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved.  Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”  The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them.

Paul who had resisted the men from James in Galatians 2.11 could not resist the persuasion of the elders of Jerusalem to indulge in a partial observance of the Mosaic Law for the sake of not offending those who believed in Jesus but yet remained zealous for the Mosaic Law.  Whatever was Paul’s motivation to gain their acceptance to preserve the peace and unity, his agreement with their suggestion led to his arrest when the real Jews saw him in the temple.

If this has not been made clear before, let it be made perfectly clear now… no one who has eaten blood, much less the flesh of a man, can be allowed into the temple, for by the law they are cut off from the people. The eleven, having eaten the bread and drunk the cup of the New Covenant, had no right to go near the temple for anything.  In fact, the persecution by those who were still under the law of those who had believed Jesus because they set foot in the temple is correct and justified by the law.  When some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple.  They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, “Men of Israel, help us!  This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place.  And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place,” they were doing the very thing demanded of them by the Law of Moses they were under.  But Paul was in fact the one who had betrayed the grace and freedom he had received through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, for the wrongdoer in this case was Paul as someone who had drunk the blood and eaten the flesh of Jesus.  For Paul freely confessed he had received this revelation from Jesus personally: For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you:  The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the New Covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

As such, Paul stood accountable, for by His own admission he received the revelation of the body and blood from the Lord directly and not through the teachings of the eleven.  And doubly so, for Paul’s knowledge of the law as a pharisee of pharisees meant that the rulings of Leviticus 17.10 makes it perfectly clear Paul by Acts 21 was cut off from the Jewish people.  He had no right to enter the temple grounds and defile what others still held to be holy according to the faith accorded them by God, and in a way also became guilty of hypocrisy because of what he had written in Romans 14.  Whereas those Jews who recognised Paul for the flesh eater and blood drinker that he was, rightly seized him to cast him out.  And so Paul was imprisoned from then on.

The failure of Barnabas to remain set apart led him astray, and the failure of Paul to remain set apart led him to prison.  Had Paul made clear to James and the elders of Jerusalem the mistake of James’ recommendations in Acts 15 all those years ago and set out clearly for them, as the apostle who was the pharisee of pharisees, the true meaning and implication for every Jew who believed Jesus enough to eat and drink the bread and wine according to Jesus’ words, then Paul would have escaped imprisonment, and what’s more, may well have set the Jerusalem church free from the curse of partial observance of the law to have saved Jerusalem from its sacking in 70AD.

Jerusalem was not sacked by the Romans because the Jews had disobeyed God in matters of the Mosaic Law.  They had been doing that for centuries, so much so that even after their return from exile, God could not and would not restore to them the ark of the covenant, but rather, had it removed and placed in the temple in Heaven where John saw it… Then God’s temple in Heaven was opened, and within His temple was seen the ark of His covenant.

If God had wanted Jerusalem sacked because of Jewish disobedience, Alexander would have been used.  However, by 70AD the temple in Jerusalem had become a place of idolatry and prostitutes… not by the Jews who refused to accept Jesus, but by the Jews who had received Jesus, who had eaten the flesh and the blood, but who still went onto the temple grounds for prayer and participated in all sorts of Jewish rituals.  In our ignorance, in our lack of knowledge, we had to be destroyed.  That temple had to be destroyed, for it had become a curse to the disciples of Jesus and the disciples of Jesus had become a source of constant defilement of it.  God had become a laughing stock because of the ignorance of both His church and His nation.  Though Jesus had foretold the sacking of Jerusalem, we know that repentance and intercession can always turn God’s will from punishment and judgment.  Even Ahab was able to save himself and Nineveh’s repentance turned Jonah into a false prophet as it were.

Our failure to remain set apart, to be holy as God is holy, is always the cause for disaster that befalls the unknowing world.  First Israel, then the church and now, elect, our failure to remain holy (set apart) for the purpose God has for us permits the evil of Satan and the destructiveness of sin to wreck havoc on this hapless world in a way that God would have wished to avoid.

Had Paul in Acts 21 been able to convince the elders of Jerusalem and in particular James the Younger of his error in continuing to teach the gentiles to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality, rather than a holy unsevering focus on the words of Jesus and Jesus alone… perhaps, just perhaps, a church holy to Jesus would have emerged and Jerusalem saved and the temple preserved for Israel who chose to remain under the law.  Indeed, Jerusalem would have become like a sheep pen where the two flocks would be one – the Israelites who remained under the law, observing the law, and the disciples of Christ who were outside of the law, observing the words of Christ, so that God is proved true in both His covenants, the old and the new.

That is not history.  History is the sacking of Jerusalem in 70AD and the temple’s destruction in fulfilment of Jesus’ words.

For you, the present elect of the Holy Spirit, the weaknesses of our forebears must become our strength and perfection and to learn the lesson.  If the Holy Spirit has set you apart for His work, then you are set apart and set apart you must remain.  For if you remain holy to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to remind you of what Jesus has said, to show you what is yet to come, to make known to you what He has heard, to guide you into all truth as well as all the other works Jesus said He would do in John 14, 15 and 16 so that He can tell you what the eleven could not bear to hear, then you will be able to preserve the faith until Jesus comes and not just the faith, but make manifest that which the Holy Spirit has in mind for the welcome of Jesus.

Remember, although you are the elect of the Holy Spirit, the word is ‘elect,’ not ‘elite.’  Remember that and you will save yourself from error that comes from pride and avoid useless controversies.  And to keep you sober as your election may be dawning upon you, I leave you with the words of Paul… To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”

If the grace be sufficient, then how much more the Spirit of Grace be the abundance?  “Be holy as I am holy.”

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