Until Christ Is Formed

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It’s a very outdated way of describing a woman’s heavy labor during childbirth. A word rarely heard these days. Try dropping the word ‘travail’ at the local Playgroup or nearest women’s health clinic and it’s pretty certain people will look at you like you just landed from Mars. It’s right up there with: ‘curmudgeon’ (ill-tempered person), ‘flummoxed’ (confused) and ‘lollygagging’ (a word my mother used when she meant ‘wasting time’).

In older Bible versions ‘travail’ (Greek ‘odin’) is used instead of ‘labor’ to describe a deep sense of spiritual anguish that can only be compared to a woman in the last stages of giving birth. It is a word Paul used to warn of the sudden destruction coming with the Day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:3). In a much more personal sense it’s also the word he chose to convey the intensity of his own passion to see his spiritual children, those he said he had ‘begotten through the gospel’ (1 Cor. 4:15), grow into the fullness of their salvation:

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you…

Gal. 4:19 KJV

What was it that caused Paul, an apostle, teacher and preacher, such inner distress? It was the lack of tangible evidence that Christ had ‘been formed’ in the spiritual children he loved.

This concept of Christ ‘being formed’ in us is not one that gets much discussion today. In fact it’s about as popular as the word ‘travail’ is. Maybe that’s why modern Christianity is crowded with believers who seem to be permanently parked at ‘Salvation Station’ and seldom progress to their great destination: ‘Christ In Us’.

Paul’s anguish wasn’t confined to the Galatians. To the Corinthians he wrote:

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.   I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. 1 Cor. 3:1-2 NKJV

It’s quite possible to be a Jesus-believer, to have come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ as Saviour, but yet not to have Christ formed in us. For Christ to be formed in us we must do more than believe in Him, we must partake of Him. To partake of Him we must be fed the ‘meat’ of His Kingship and His Kingdom.

The word ‘Christ’ is Jesus’ title, not His surname. It is the English translation of the Greek ‘christos’ and the Hebrew ‘mashiach’. It means Anointed One, Messiah, and King. In Old Testament times only kings and priests were anointed with oil, a sign someone was being sanctified and set apart for service to God and to His people. Jesus Christ is both our Great High Priest and our Messiah/King, set apart as God’s chosen One – the only One worthy to mediate before the Living God for humanity and the only One worthy to reign as humanity’s King.

It is this Christ, God’s chosen and eternal Anointed King who must be formed in us. It is of the knowledge of Him and His Kingdom that we must partake if we are to grow up into mature Christ-followers. It’s important that we start out  adoring Christ as Saviour and seeking to know Him. But it’s important also that we grow beyond that initial stage into the knowledge of Christ as more than Saviour – as the Risen Lamb of God who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I know this statement may be a new thought to some, but evangelization of the world, though a worthy cause, is not God’s greatest purpose for the church. His greatest purpose is to have a people conformed to the image of His Son (2 Cor. 3:18).

Until Christ is formed in us we will continue to follow after men and women in His place. This was the Corinthians’ problem. They had become divided into warring factions, some loyal to Paul, others loyal to Apollos. Paul called their behavior carnal. They may have believed in Jesus Christ, but they had not yet allowed Him to be formed in them. They preferred milk to meat. They preferred to remain as babes in Christ rather than ‘spiritual people’ growing in the fullness of the knowledge of the Christ and His Kingdom (1 Cor. 3:1-9).

Until Christ is formed in us we will continue to live under the bondage of law in place of the freedom of the Spirit. This was the Galatians’ problem. They had been deceived by false apostles into departing from the pure gospel Paul had delivered to them. They were embracing elements of the Old Testament Law, such as physical circumcision, in an effort to be more acceptable to God. They were rejecting the freedom secured at the Cross. Rather than having Christ formed in them they were becoming alienated from Him by nullifying their Blood-bought freedom and seeking a righteousness of their own (Gal. 5:1-8).

The issues Paul anguished over among the Corinthian and Galatian believers have not gone away with the passage of time. Modern Western Christianity is still plagued with the problem of believers who remain immature and carnal for far too long, who prefer milk to meat and whose leaders seem incapable of delivering the solid meat of Christ in any case. Similarly, way too many believers still struggle under a gospel of law-keeping and fail to enter into the soul-rest available to them in Christ (Matt. 11:28-29; Heb. 4:10-11).

Add to this sad situation an army of ‘apostles’ who wouldn’t have a clue what Paul was talking about when he wrote: ‘My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you…’ and it’s no wonder hungry Christ-followers are increasingly crying out for that which will satisfy their longing to be filled with the fullness of Christ.

Let me just add a word of warning here: anyone who claims apostolic authority and does not ‘travail’ in the Spirit until Christ is formed in God’s people is not an authentic apostle. I believe there are apostles among us, and always have been, because Christ gave them and others as gifts to His church when He ascended (Eph. 4:8-13). But they are not busy insisting on a title, accumulating personal wealth, or building little empires. In many cases they are hidden away, unknown and dishonored, but rest assured they know what it is to travail ‘until Christ is formed’ in His church. And they do it again and again, as Paul intimated.¹

The good news is that there is a people in whom Christ is being formed. There is a remnant whose hunger for Christ will not allow them to settle for anything less than ALL the promises of God that He embodies (2 Cor. 1:20). There is a Bride being raised up by the Spirit of God in whom Christ can and will display His fullness. This Bride pursues Him ardently, worships Him as King and increasingly lives within His Kingdom. His Presence with her is her greatest delight.

Let’s not be distracted or distressed by either the chaotic state of the world, or the confused state of organized Christianity. Let’s watch, let’s encourage one another, let’s continue to pursue the Bridegroom above all else…..

Until Christ is both formed in us and comes forth from us in all His Kingly majesty.

¹ For a Biblical perspective on what an apostle looks like read 1 Corinthians 4:1-15.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

Fire And Water

adobestock_91356836Last week I clocked up sixty-six years of living on this planet. I like to deal with the mixed emotions advancing years can bring by imagining each passing year as just another mile. The greatest part of my life’s journey has been travelled together with Jesus. Frankly, I wasn’t in much of a mood to celebrate the conclusion of mile ‘sixty-six’, but not surprisingly the Lord had a more positive spin on my somewhat reluctant milestone. He drew my attention to Psalm 66, in particular verses 9 to 12:

Bless our God, O peoples, And sound His praise abroad,

Who keeps us (me) in life and does not allow our (my) feet to slip.

For You have tried us (me), O God; You have refined us (me) as silver is refined.

You brought us (me) into the net; You laid an oppressive burden upon our (my) loins.

You made men ride over our (my) head/s; We (I) went through fire and through water, Yet You brought us (me) out into a place of abundance. (NASB)

The ancient word-pictures of being caught in a net, aching loins or people riding over our heads can be a little hard to get our twenty-first century minds around. But oppressive life circumstances, dealing with very real life and death scenarios for ourselves or those we love, and enduring false accusation, injustice, heartbreak or soul destroying rejection are things each one of us will taste, some very deeply, on this Christ-following journey.

Sometimes this Christian life can feel like a thousand thunderous riders above us pushing our faces back into the earth we were made from, in case we fix our gaze heavenward and find hope and redemption reaching out to us.

What’s hard to take is the thought that God has actually allowed some of these things to come upon us. “You have tried me, You have refined me as silver is refined.” Silver was refined within a crucible heated by very hot flames. The heat would cause the pure metal and the dross to separate so the dross could rise to the top and be removed by the refiner.

Really? Surely a God Who loves us and died for us would not willingly allow us to suffer hardship, heartbreak or oppression? After all, we now live under a covenant of grace, right?

Ah, but don’t you see it’s grace that bears you up, despite the net that threatens to ensnare you? Do you not perceive the grace that declares victory over that deep-seated fear in your loins? Do you not understand for each rider that pushes your face into the dirt, by grace you will rise again, stronger and more alive than ever, shouting ‘You can’t stop me!’ (Rom. 8:35-39).

Many of us have experienced times and events in our lives when trusted people and man-made religious systems deceived us. When we finally find ourselves walking free from that net of deception it’s natural to ask why God allowed us to walk into it in the first place.

Similarly, we may have endured painful circumstances or devastating loss. We find ourselves under the weight of an ‘oppressive burden’ with no option but to walk it through, clinging shakily to our hope in a God Who has promised never to forsake us.

Where is God, and why does He not always deliver us from such ‘nets’ and ‘burdens’?

Actually, He is right here…..keeping us. The keeping power of God is greater than anything this life can throw at us. If we think we can keep ourselves righteous, strong and committed, we will most certainly be disappointed. It is God’s hand alone that keeps us (Luke 17:33; Jde 1:24; 1 Jn. 5:18; 1 Peter 1:5).

During my journey with Jesus I have failed Him and others many, many times. I have been deceived by the systems and selfishness of men and women; I have known the deepest, darkest fears; I have had my face pushed into the mud more times than I can count. I’m guessing, wherever you are on the journey, you have lived or are living some or all of these things also.

Beloved, we have been through fire and through water.

Fire is a biblical symbol of the testing of God, but it is also a symbol of His Presence (Ex. 3:2, Daniel 7:9,10; 1 Peter 4:12). God’s testing is not an examination to determine our level of righteousness. He has already declared us righteous and holy (Rom. 5:17; Phl. 3:9; Heb. 12:23).

God allows testing to expose hidden areas of our soul to us – things such as fear, unhealthy habits and lying mindsets. God will allow us to experience situations, sometimes several times over, that lay bare these problem areas so that we will let Him touch and heal them. Our natural preference is to hide our weaknesses from Him (and often from ourselves), but His heart is always to reveal and then heal.

Water can symbolize those life-circumstances that threaten to overcome us – to drown and bury us in despair and unbelief; it can also represent bitterness (Ex. 15:23; Rev. 8:11). Such waters can come at us like a flood, leaving us feeling overwhelmed, buried beneath their weight and lost in their darkness.

But many waters cannot match His love for us (Sng. 8:7). We are children of the resurrection. God will never leave us buried beneath such a flood. The waters cannot overcome us, for just as He has set their physical boundaries, so He has set the boundaries of these waters of despair and bitterness that seek to bury us and make our testimony ineffective (Pro. 8:29; Jer. 5:22).

There is another Psalm that celebrates this ‘keeping power’ of God. It is one of fifteen Psalms that are called the Songs of Ascent, because the Israelites would sing them on the uphill ascent into Jerusalem as they came to worship during the festivals.

Had it not been the LORD who was on our side, let Israel now say,

Had it not been the LORD who was on our side

When men rose up against us,

Then they would have swallowed us alive,

When their anger was kindled against us;

Then the waters would have engulfed us,

The stream would have swept over our soul;

Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul.

Blessed be the Lord, Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth.

Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper;

The snare is broken and we have escaped.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,

Who made heaven and earth. (Ps. 124)

However the view may appear from where we are right now, you and I, if we are in Christ, are on the ascent. Our destination is the Kingdom of God in fullness. Our calling is to take our place within the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21).

Psalm 66 concludes like this:

Come and hear, all who fear God,

And I will tell of what He has done for my soul.

I cried to Him with my mouth,

And He was extolled with my tongue.

If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear;

But certainly God has heard;

He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.

Blessed be God,

Who has not turned away my prayer

Nor His lovingkindness from me.

God allows the fire and water that we may be a living testimony to Him. He has never promised otherwise (John 16:33). We don’t undergo painful times apart from Him. He walks with us and keeps us by His enduring grace. He is in the business of transforming us from victims to overcomers. His intention, if we will trust Him, is to bring us through the fire and the water forever changed, with a testimony of His faithfulness, His goodness and His incomparable Love.

As I enter my sixty-seventh year this is my testimony: that He has kept me through the fire, and through the water. Seldom do I share about these things but He has kept me through childhood abuse, despair, betrayal and deceit at the hands of fellow Christians, spiritual abuse, intense spiritual battles over the lives of my children, dangers and isolation while ministering in remote places, false accusation and impending imprisonment in a war-torn country, serious illness, and being disowned by members of my own family. God has allowed refining fires and deep dark waters in my life, but His grace has kept me and His Love continues to enable me.

I share this for one reason: I am a living testimony of God’s keeping power. So are you. You are the bearer of testimony. You are the evidence of Christ’s resurrection. Your testimony has been, and continues to be, wrought in the fires of affliction and the waters of oppression. But the fire and the water cannot stop us because we are held in the arms of Christ Himself. We are on the ascent, we are born to rise. No grave can hold us and no devil destroy us.

Though our flesh be destroyed, yet with our eyes we shall see God. This is not a pep-talk; this is reality for every true Christ-follower. May the truth of who we are and Who we belong to penetrate and transform us as this great journey continues.

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell of what He has done for my soul. Blessed be God who has not turned away my prayer, nor His lovingkindness from me!

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.


Correction to “Where Shall We Buy Bread” Part One

An astute reader  has pointed out to me that there was an error in the first part of this week’s post “Where Shall We Buy Bread?” Part One (thankyou!).

In the section discussing ‘logos’ and ‘rhema’ I stated the Greek word used in Hebrews 4:12 is ‘rhema’, when in fact it is ‘logos’.  The rhema reference should have been to Ephesians 6:17.  The relevant section has now been corrected at  Bread for the Bride to read as follows: 

For instance, Hebrews 4:12  uses the word ‘logos’ in referring to the living Word of God:. 

For the word (logos) of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

But Ephesians 6:17 uses the word rhema for the Word of God:

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word (rhema) of God.
As I know some Bread for the Bride subscribers do use these posts as group Bible Study resources, could you please ensure the above correction is made to any notes before sharing, to avoid any confusion. Thankyou!

Where Shall We Buy Bread? Part Two

Bible on a dinner plate with silverware in lent

This is Part Two of a two part post, Where Shall We Buy Bread? It will make more sense if you read Part One first.  You can find Part One here. Your feedback and comments are always welcome!

Part Two of Two

We are taking up where we left off in Part One, considering God’s dealings with the Israelites when they suffered hunger on the exodus from Egypt. According to Deuteronomy 8 God was humbling and testing His people. It was He who caused their hunger so they could realise their total dependence on Him.

You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord… Deut. 8:2-3 NASB

The people were instructed to gather what was needed for their household for one day only. When some of them disregarded this commandment they found the manna they had tried to keep overnight went bad and filled with worms. Furthermore they were not to gather it on the Sabbath, the day of rest. God would provide double on the sixth day so the people could rest on the seventh. There were those who disregarded this commandment also and went out seeking bread on the Sabbath, but there was none. Israel was being tested by God. Would they trust Him unconditionally to deliver them from bondage and provide for them and their children? And His testing was revealing the true nature of their hearts.

So unfamiliar to the Israelites was this bread from Heaven it became known among them as ‘manna’ which means “what is this”.

The Old Testament manna was symbolic of the Living Bread Who was to come: Jesus the Christ. Now, for the second time in Israel’s history, God had provided bread in the wilderness. And for a second time in their history, many in Israel were saying “what is this?” of the Christ.

But Jesus, the Living Bread, read their hearts. Many of them did not seek Him to quench their spiritual hunger. Life under Roman rule in Israel was not easy. The people sought a political Messiah who would vanquish the Romans, become their national king and cause Israel to prosper so that no-one would be hungry. They were following in hope of easier lives, not because they believed He could save them from their sins.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing,He tells them. The words (rhema) that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63).

It was not very long afterward that many who just one day before had tried to make Him their earthly king abandoned Him, complaining they could not understand what He was saying (Jn. 6:60-66). They could not understand because His words were of the Spirit.

“Do you also want to go away?” Jesus asks the twelve. But at least one of them had understood the lesson of the Living Bread.

But Simon Peter answered him: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words (rhema) of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:67-68).

The life Peter spoke of was the Greek word ‘zoe’, the endless, abundant, spiritual life essence of God. The Logos had spoken truth from the mind of God; the Spirit had breathed the God-Life into Peter’s heart. Christ was being revealed.

Law and Life

You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life (Jn. 5:39-40).

Life! The Bread is always about Life.

The words Jesus spoke were eternal life, spiritual life, God-life. They were rhema. Eternal life is not life after death. Eternal life is always present. It is the endless, perfect, pure Life that is only found in God and emanates from Him. The written scriptures are only life-giving to the extent they reveal a Living Christ to a searching human heart.

As a very young Christian those in authority over me consistently emphasized the importance of daily Bible reading. Being eager and hungry for more of God I followed their advice. I received comfort, hope, instruction, and training by doing so. But the Bible was also law to me. Reading it was a religious duty. I could quote it but I couldn’t live it.

I learned something. If the Bibles we carry around don’t deliver a living Christ to us, they are nothing more than a temporary fix, just like the bread we eat. You will be hungry again tomorrow, as the Israelites were. The Logos is not to be quoted, He is to be lived. Rhema is the Spirit-breathed revelation of the Living Bread being unveiled within our own hungry spirits.

The ‘word of God’ we call a sword is only effective, dividing between soul and spirit, when wielded by the Spirit of God. Scripture on human tongues can convey life or can be used as a weapon of destruction, condemning rather than convicting. Scripture does not convict the world of sin unless it is delivered as rhema, by the power of the Spirit, because it is the Spirit’s role to convict of sin, not ours (John. 16:8).

Some people may as well carry around stone tablets under their arm as their Bible  I have heard people rattle off scriptures like machine gun bullets believing they are speaking for God and carry His authority. They do not. They are speaking condemnation and death. They are merely quoting, but they are not imparting Life. Scripture is only holy as it reveals a Living Christ to us or to others. Otherwise it’s  just another set of moral guidelines like any other religious book, with no life and no power. Many don’t want to hear this but the Bible is not to be treated like a book of magic. We need to stop worshiping the ‘good book’ and start seeking its Author.

Somewhere in my journey I caught a glimpse of the Living Christ in the pages of my Bible and from that point on I began searching for Him every time I opened it. Gradually, the scriptures became a delight to me because I met Jesus there. Everywhere I looked in them I found the Beloved, revealing Himself to me, beckoning me to follow and seek more of Him.

Our attitude to ‘the word’ is determined by who or what we’re looking for. If we are taught, or teach others, that reading the Bible will make us  good Christians, we will find only a moral framework – law. It’s tough to chew and will soon become lifeless ritual.  If, however, we are truly hungry for Christ,  He will reveal Himself to us within its pages.  The word of God really is living and active when wielded by the Spirit of God.

These days I go to my Bible looking for a living Jesus. If I am not beholding Christ within a few minutes of opening my Bible, if I am not receiving a tangible impartation of His Life, I put it down and walk away. I refuse to look for the Living One among the dead letters of law. I love the written Word of God, both logos and rhema, more than I can tell you, because it has become a sacred meeting place to me, where the One who is Life awaits.

The bread I seek to impart through Bread for the Bride posts is always Christ. Truly, if you are not receiving a portion of the living Christ when you read these posts, please do both you and me a favour and unsubscribe. Go somewhere else where you will be fed Christ-Life. I have absolutely no desire to pass on anything but the Living Bread through my writings.

The Word of God, written or spoken can only be two things: it is Life, or it is Law. Law is for the satisfied. But Living Bread is for the hungry. We don’t need an ever increasing choice of Bible colours, covers, styles, and formats to prove we are Christ-followers. Christ does not live in black, white and red print. He lives in His people.

We need Living Bread, the Spirit-breathed revelation of Jesus Christ, in our hearts and on our tongues. That’s when we’ll turn the world upside down.

Related Article: Where Shall We Buy Bread? Part One

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

Where Shall We Buy Bread? Part One

 Bible on a dinner plate with silverware in lentThe following post has been on my heart to write for some time.  Due to length I have divided it into two parts for easier reading.  It could not be fully covered in a shorter article and I believe this subject is worthy of  serious consideration by all committed Christ followers. Where Shall We Buy Bread Part Two will be posted shortly after Part One. Your feedback and comments are always welcome!

I stumbled over our town’s only Christian Bookstore recently. I say ‘stumbled’ because the last time I remember seeing it the store was two streets south of where it is now. When I asked the man behind the counter how long they’d been in the new place, he replied “two years’. Uh huh, I definitely need to get out more.

I admit I barely glanced at the latest book releases – I was too distracted by the bibles. Buying a Bible these days is evidently a minefield. Hard cover, soft cover; women’s, men’s, youth or children’s; study, parallel, large print, travel, compact, slimline, new believer’s or orthodox. How about the ‘thirst quencher’, a ‘manga’ bible or a’ creative journaling’ bible? And several Christian celebrities like Joyce Meyer and Jack Hayford have even come up with their own bibles….who knew?

Add to those a seemingly endless number of translations and the choice becomes even more head-spinning.

As a younger Christian I was taught the Bible, aka the word of God, was my daily bread. Spending time in the ‘word’ first thing every morning was the eleventh commandment, usually preached by a male pastor whose wife fed the kids, got them ready for school and ironed his shirt while he clocked up his essential time in the word.

My little visit to the bookstore prompted me to do a quick, non-exhaustive internet search on the Bible as our ‘daily bread’. Here are some unaltered quotes from my search:

Website One: “The holy Bible is our bread.”

Website Two: “(Ministry newsletter name) delivers the Word of God as the bread of life daily via email. With a few verses from the Bible and a short word of ministry it will nourish you and strengthen your faith.”

Website Three: “I will eat the word of God every day.”

Website Four: Bread represents God’s Word. The Bible is spiritual food. Bread is a symbol for Scripture. The Bible says, ‘People do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord’ “

So is the Bible our daily spiritual bread? Can reading the written word of God every day really strengthen our faith and make us grow spiritually? I believe regularly meditating on scripture can certainly edify, encourage and comfort us. Here’s what Paul wrote to Timothy about scripture:

Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work  (2 Timothy 3:14-17 Net Bible).¹

And this in Romans:

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope (Romans 15:4).

The word used by Paul for written scripture was the Greek ‘graphe’, meaning a document. As we’ve just seen, the purpose of the written scripture is teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness, patience, comfort and hope – “that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.”

However, nowhere in the New Testament do we find bread as a symbol for written scripture. Maybe this is going to be news to some, but our Bibles are not our spiritual bread – Christ is.

But what about this?

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ ” (Matt. 4:4).

Let’s unpack this a little.

Logos and Rhema

There are generally two distinct New Testament Greek words for ‘word’: logos and rhema. Without getting too deeply into linguistics, logos conveys the idea of ‘reason’ and is our source for the English word ‘logic’. In the New Testament logos can be used for the spoken word or the written word. Jesus is called The Word – the living ‘logos’ that was with God and is God (John 1:1). Rhema, on the other hand, usually emphasizes divine utterance.

For instance, Hebrews 4:12  uses the word ‘logos’ in referring to the living Word of God:. 

For the word (logos) of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

But Ephesians 6:17 uses the word rhema for the Word of God:

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word (rhema) of God.

People sometimes define ‘logos’ as exclusively the written word and ‘rhema’ as exclusively the spoken word, but it is not that clear-cut. Logos can be both spoken and written, and rhema can also be written or spoken. Here is one of the best statements I have seen on how both the logos and the rhema can represent God:

“God the Son as the logos word defines, explains and expresses the Father’s thought, and God the Spirit as the breath conveys the rhema word to the recipients and applies God’s essence to them.” (Roger Good)²  

Now getting back to our verse in Matthew 4:4, Jesus is responding to Satan who has tempted Him to turn stones into bread  to satisfy His physical hunger. He is quoting Deuteronomy 8:30.

Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word (rhema) that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ “

So here we have Jesus (the living Logos) quoting written scripture (graphe) stating humanity should live by the ‘rhema’ word (revelatory utterance) of God.

Logos and rhema are not opposites. They are simply the word of God in different stages of declaration as expressed by our three in One, One in three, living God. Logos and rhema are separate yet connected parts of an unfolding process, beginning in the mind of God as divine thought, taking form in human flesh through the Son who is the Living Logos, and quickened as revelatory truth in humanity by the Spirit who is the Breath of God.  In this divine process the written word can, when uttered under the unction of the Spirit, become rhema, or revelation, of the living Christ. Equally, the same written word when uttered under the influence of human flesh, is not rhema, and is no more than a quotation devoid of supernatural power. Even Satan can quote the logos word of God, but the result is death, not life.

The “every word from the mouth of God” that Jesus said we are to live by was not written scripture, but rhema: always fresh, always Life-imparting, always Spirit-breathed, always revealing some aspect of Christ.

The Bread

Many are familiar with the narrative in John 6 which relates the feeding of over five thousand people. A great crowd, after witnessing His healing miracles, had followed Jesus into the wilderness (Luke 9:10). Realising the people are hungry Jesus asks Philip “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” The best the disciples can come up with is five loaves and two fish and Jesus, despite His own weariness, miraculously multiplies them so that everyone can eat and be filled (Jn. 6:1-15)

On the following day many who had eaten the miraculous meal came searching for Jesus. They had seen Him multiply a few small loaves, had tasted and been filled. They knew this was no supernatural food they’d eaten – it was ordinary, everyday, belly filling bread. And they wanted more.

It reminded them of a similar event recorded in their scriptures when their ancestors ate bread in the wilderness on their journey out of Egypt. They started comparing Jesus with their greatest national hero, Moses. Could He provide them with bread for themselves and their families every day?  After all, Moses had done so for forty years, hadn’t he? So they asked Jesus for a sign to prove He was as great as Moses. The sign they wanted was more ‘manna from Heaven’.

Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. (Jn. 6:31-36)

God provided Israel with bread, or “manna”, for forty long years. Think of it, for forty years every Israelite woke up each morning to find fresh bread had appeared in their camp overnight.  God would rain down the manna each morning, which fell as fine dew on the ground and solidified into paper thin wafers that tasted like honey. Six days a week for forty years the Israelites would collect and eat fresh, heavenly manna until they reached the Promised Land (Exodus 16).

What was going on here?  We’ll investigate further in Part Two of Where Shall We Buy Bread.

¹ I quoted the Net Bible in this instance because it is the only translation I found that says ‘person’ rather than ‘man of God’.   If Paul had wanted to be gender specific he would have used ‘aner’ the Greek word for a male, but he used ‘anthropos’, which is a human being, male or female. Why do translators persist in translating this phrase as ‘man of God’?

² God As The Word: Logos and Rhema, by Roger Good

Related Article: Where Shall We Buy Bread Part Two

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

From The Archives: Of His Flesh and Of His Bones: A Mystery

wedding favors and wedding ring on on colored background

One of the things I like about some more historic versions of the Bible is their poetic language. I know not everyone will agree and some struggle to understand the older translations, so this is purely an individual observation. Modern language translations and paraphrases also have an important place and personally I enjoy consulting a variety of Bible versions, old and new, to catch the full panorama of what the writers were trying to convey.

A certain phrase that always draws me in the New King James Version is found in Ephesians 5:30, describing our mysterious relationship with Christ as our Bridegroom:

‘For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.’

In many more recent Bible versions this phrase has been omitted on the grounds it doesn’t appear in some of the oldest manuscripts. I’ll leave the ongoing ‘fors’ and ‘againsts’ for its inclusion in Ephesians to the translators, while still choosing to meditate on the beautiful implications of the words in revealing the depths of Christ’s passion for us. (For a list of some Bible versions that do include this phrase see my footnote at the end.)

In the preceding verses Paul is writing to the church primarily about relationships, with God and with others. He begins to speak about the marriage relationship and in the middle of his statements seems to catch hold of a revelation of Christ and His Bride. (Now I’m not going to divert into the varied viewpoints on Christian marriage in this post, but in case you’re interested in that topic you may find this useful.)

The phrase Paul uses to convey his revelation takes us back to Genesis 2:23 and Adam’s announcement: ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man.’ The first bride, Ishshah (woman), was formed by God from the very physical substance of the first man. (Ishshah was not called Eve until after the Fall.) She was not a separate creation to the man, as many believe. The Hebrew word used to describe her formation by God is ‘banah’, meaning to build, rebuild or establish, and implies a continuation of something already begun (Gen. 2:22). It is not the same word used for humanity’s creation in Genesis 2:7, which is ‘yatsar’.

An enduring truth we learn from the New Testament is that God reveals spiritual revelations first through natural circumstances (1 Cor. 15:46). Jesus is the second Man and the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45-47). Just as the first bride was formed of natural substance from the opened side of the first Adam, so was Christ’s Bride brought forth from His spiritual substance when blood and water flowed from His pierced side at Calvary (John 19:34).

Genetically you can’t get any closer to a person than being their flesh and blood. In using the phrase ‘of His flesh and of His bones’ I believe Paul wanted to bring the church to the realisation that Jesus looks on His Bride not as separate to Himself but as an essential part of Himself, more intimately connected to Him than anything else in all of creation.

Genesis 2 continues: ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’ (v.24). This blueprint for human marriage, which is an imperfect shadow of Christ and His Bride, was reaffirmed by Jesus under questioning from the Pharisees in Matthew 19:3-6.

The perfect ‘one flesh’ unity experienced by the first man and woman is something that was lost to humanity at the Fall. Between them there was no shame, fear, contention, suspicion, envy, or striving to control or rule the other – just a wondrous sense of being ‘one flesh’ in everything. The flesh referred to here is more than just a physical union. The Biblical concept of flesh encompasses the entire earthly nature of man: body and soul, which includes our minds, emotions, wills and thought lives. The very essence of the man, the physical framework as well as the ability to function as a fully individual, intelligent personality, was the material with which the newly fashioned woman was formed. Her breath of life, the spirit, however, was from God (Gen. 2:7). And this ‘new creation’ of womankind had been there, hidden inside the male, from the beginning (Gen. 1:27)

It is not the first Adam and his bride that I want to focus on in this post, but reviewing some of the events in Eden is helpful in understanding our own role as Christ’s Bride. The story of Adam and his bride Ishshah is only a foreshadowing of the more perfect and wondrous oneness that Jesus intends to establish between Himself and His perfected Bride.

Jesus, as the last Adam, left “His father and His mother” – God. (And yes, God is both Father and Mother in the sense that He encompasses what we ourselves have neatly divided into male and female qualities). Jesus, like the first Adam, experienced a deep sleep in the tomb and while His human body slept God was busy building another body: the spiritual Body of Christ we call the church. God specialises in bringing form out of chaos. Amid all the confusion, fear and despair of those hours between the death and resurrection of Christ, the young church, having come forth from the opened wound on His side, was being formed.

Jesus came not only to offer salvation but to ‘be joined to His wife’. This phrase “be joined” does not accurately convey, in the English, the true depth of its ancient meaning. It means to be stuck together like glue, cemented, or to be fastened to one another as two oxen were yoked with the same yoke. Perhaps this is what Jesus had in mind when He told us His yoke was easy (Matt. 11:29-30).

‘This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh’, proclaimed Adam. But in Christ, the last Adam, the order has been reversed: we are of His flesh and of His bones. Bearing in mind that the natural comes before the spiritual, in the first Adam’s statement bone came before flesh. Bones are the rigid inner structure of the body, representing the Old Covenant with its inflexible framework of law inscribed on hard and impersonal stone tablets. The flesh nature, the part of us that houses the heart and the individual personality, characteristics and disposition, is mentioned second, symbolizing the New Covenant relationship of grace instituted by the second Adam, Christ. The law of the Spirit is now written on our fleshly hearts and fulfilled in us by Christ Himself. That is why in Christ, the order has been reversed and we have become ‘of His flesh and of His bones’.

This ‘flesh and bone’ Bride was hidden in Christ from before the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:24; Eph. 1:4), even before the creation of Adam and Ishshah.   She is being made ‘one flesh’ with Him, not through natural means but through His Spirit. We acknowledge this every time we partake of the bread and wine that symbolically represent our Bridegroom’s flesh.

The place Christ has reserved for His Bride could not be any closer or any more intimately connected to Him. He has prepared her a royal table and calls her to sit with Him there, even in the thwarted presence of her defeated spiritual enemies. At that table He pours out His Spirit abundantly upon her, in an unending anointing of His own divine essence. He clothes her richly in His own righteousness and gracious mercy, and provides her a dwelling place with Him into an eternity which God has ordained they will cohabit (Psalm 23:5-6).   Once and for all, two shall be one, not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.

Yes, it is a mystery, but a glorious mystery being unfolded in and upon us, even now. Selah!

Footnote: King James Version, New King James Version, 21st Century King James Version, Youngs Literal Translation, Wycliffe Bible, World English Bible, Jubilee Bible, International Standard Version, Geneva Bible, Darby Translation

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2014   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

The Word

The WordIn the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.

The beginning.  Not the beginning of God, or of the Son, or of the Holy Spirit, for indeed God knows no beginning.  From everlasting to everlasting He is, and was, and ever will be.  But the beginning of this creation, the beginning of our history, the beginning of you and me.

In that beginning was the Word, fully present, fully functional, fully sovereign.  This is the Word, the Logos, of the God Who is One yet Three-In-One. Living Word, Creative Word, Holy Word, issuing forth from the unfathomable mind of the Eternal One True God.

He was there with Father God and Holy Spirit God when creation was but a thought, a desire, as yet unspoken. He was there in that beginning as God, partaking in the unbroken, perfect, equal Community of the Three-In-One Who is One. He was there in the fullness of His unique divinity: God the Word.  He was there when the Breath of God brooded over the deep darkness.  He was the very Utterance of Creation.

All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made.

All things that form the foundations of this earth and the heavens beyond and around this earth, all things that make created life sustainable and renewable and good – light and darkness, sky, land and water, vegetation, sun, moon and planets, every living creature.  And finally – humankind.  All things.  Created by the Word, through the Word, and for the Word.

The mind of Elohim, threefold God – Father, Son and Spirit God – who is eternally One, imagined creation and uttered forth His desire through the agency of The Logos, The Word, the Utterance of God.  And God spoke as One, with one mind, one purpose and one voice.

The Father, Perfect Love, willed;

The Spirit, Perfect Authority, travailed;

The Word, Perfect Truth, manifested.

Love desired, the Breath empowered and the Word created.

He is The Word, the ‘let there be’ of God, who manifested the Life of Elohim into matter.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

In Him:  The Word Who carried the seed of original, absolute, unlimited Life; The Word whose very sound is Spirit-Life; The Word whose very touch creates Life where death, disease and decay encroach.  This Word, this Life-Bearer, this Creator, invaded the darkness of humanity’s fallen environment.

Let there be Light’ burst into humanity’s darkened territory and ‘there was Light’.   And the great deep darkness had no defence or power in the presence of this Life who emanated untainted Light.

That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 

The True Light.  Not the false lights of lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes or the pride of fallen life, for these lights are nothing more than different shades of darkness.  The Word came, the Word manifested.  Into the darkness of a creation trapped in false light “let there be light” broke through to offer true Light to every human being.

The Word who is divine Life shone Truth into every heart He encountered. He Who is Truth exposed the lies of darkness for one does not know they are in darkness until one has seen light.  The Life who is Light shone, not upon this world, but in it; not from the heavens but from a human body of flesh and blood.

He came to light the way back to Life – not biological or psychological life as we in our darkness perceive life, but the abundant, uncreated fullness of the God-Life that is without end, without beginning and without boundary.

The Word came to us, clothed in human flesh, personally delivering His God-Life into a race trapped in darkness and death.  The Word came to us: that humanity may recognise and possess the abundant God-Life that created all things….in the beginning.

And humanity loved the darkness more than the Light.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name;  who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.


As many as received Him:  there were those who, perceiving the Light and in turn their own darkness, reached out to receive the God-Life.  The Word imparted to these the Life for which they had originally been created.  He still does.

Those who had once been born of blood (in the image of Adam), or of wilful flesh (the desire for progeny), or the will of men (male dominion), would be born a second time by the perfect will of God.  They would believe in the name of The Word who is Truth.  That Name is known among humankind as Jesus the Christ, the only name by which human beings may be saved from the darkness of eternal death.

The Word and The Breath once again would provide the agency for that which the mind of God, the mind of Perfect Love imagines, bringing many children into glory, born not of the corruptible seed of the first Adam but of the incorruptible spiritual seed of God. These would become new creations in the image of the last Adam who is The Word – in the image of Life.

The Father, Perfect Love, wills;

The Spirit, Perfect Authority, travails;

The Word, Perfect Truth, manifests.

Love desires, the Breath empowers and the Word creates.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…

The Word, the Creator, the Life, the Light, immersed Himself, willingly and wholeheartedly, in fallen human flesh.  He embraced death and left it cowed and beaten.

The darkness has a vanquisher whose Name is Light.

Death has a Master whose Name is Life.

He is The Word, who is the Beginning and the End, the Author and the Finisher, the Yes and Amen.

…and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

But human flesh and blood could not conceal the glory that is The Word.  John said he beheld that Glorious One, and others also beheld.  There are those walking this earth even now whose privilege it is to always behold the glory of The Word, to walk in the Light of His grace and His truth.

Many children have come to the glory, many continue to come. There are a multitude of children, born of God, but only One begotten of the Father.  He was in the beginning. He was God and He was with God. He is The Word.

And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

Of His abundance of endless Life, we who believe in and follow The Word have willingly taken, and we have received and continue to receive grace without limit.  And we have found no place on this earth where the darkness can overcome His Light.  And we have found no experience for which His grace is not sufficient.

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

The very best that fallen humanity can bring forth is the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, called Law.  Even with the best of intentions, humanity must produce law to live before God and live with one another.

But The Word who is Grace and Truth, the divine grace and truth that created all life, sent forth from the will of God, has come to replace the best humanity can produce.

In Jesus the Christ, God and humanity converged. A new race has emerged, the church of the firstborn, who God has chosen to make His dwelling place. The Word is their Life and their King. Grace and truth are the pillars of His Kingdom.  His Kingdom is without end. His Kingdom is Life.

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

The Word, Divine Personality and equal member of the tri-une Godhead, was manifested in the flesh in human personhood, dwelling among humanity.

And yet The Word remains still within the very heart of the Father, in timeless intention, always being uttered forth declaring to creation the nature, purpose, love and Life of the Living God.

Jesus Christ, The Word, the declarer of God.

Jesus Christ, the only declaration of God.


© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.