“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who overcomes, I will give the hidden manna.” Rev. 2.17
During their journey in the wilderness, after their deliverance from captivity in the land of Egypt, the Israelites were miraculously given manna (called bread from heaven) to eat. It would appear on the ground like a coating of frost, and they would pick enough for the day’s meals. (Ex. 16) It was physical food they could see and touch and taste. It was meant to sustain their physical life. However, the promise made to overcomers in Rev. 2.17 is for spiritual food, not to sustain the physical body but the life of the soul. This manna is food that cannot be seen or touched or tasted. It is hidden from the natural senses of man. For many, the Bible is physical manna that may be seen and known and memorized. But there is hidden manna within the Holy Scriptures, mysteries, which can, and will be, revealed by God to believers who receive Him.
When Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am,” it was Peter who answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” What a marvelous revelation. It was insight above and beyond all the logic and reasoning of man. Of this, Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven.” Mt. 16.17 All true revelation comes from God, and it opens our understanding to those things which have been hidden from view, mysteries, but contained in the scriptures of the Old (and now New) Testament writings.
The revelation of the Word of God brings life. It truly becomes the living Word that works in our souls, but for a Godly purpose. Yes, new and fresh understanding comes, but more importantly, we become transformed by the working of this Word within our hearts. Our walk, or manner of life, becomes changed as we more clearly see the call of God upon our lives. We become aligned with the purposes of God and His eternal plan of salvation. Without such revelation, we are left with this thing called religion, with the putting forth of the Law and ordinances, rituals and ceremonies, and routine practices which all bring obedience to an outward law but is absent of this thing called life. Religion only seems to bring some degree of behavior modification but is powerless to cause character modification in righteousness.
On the one hand, a revelation of the mystery of Christ brings broad sweeping transformation in the lives of believers and in the form and function of the Church. It brings an inner reality of spiritual things. On the other hand, seemingly small revelations can change the way one thinks. I remember quite well the time my wife opened my understanding of the hidden manna of Revelation 2.17. It helped to change forever my understanding of the importance of physical vs. spiritual, the tangible vs. the invisible and intangible, the outward vs. the inward, of behavior modification vs. character modification, and of religion vs. life.
Oftentimes the uncovering of a mystery begins with one who is sent by God, on a mission, to speak the “Word of God,” that it may be heard and received by faith, and revelation or true understanding of those hidden things of God come to our understanding. The prophets are examples of such ones sent on such a mission, and Christ is the supreme illustration. But please understand that even one who considers him- or her-self least in the Kingdom of God may become one sent by God on such a mission to another. Always remember our Lord does not look upon the outward stature of man but upon those things that give inward statures, such as sincerity, obedience, and faithfulness.
I desire to sit at the Lord’s table and eat of this hidden manna. I am sure you desire it as well. Let us explore some scriptures that may further open our understanding of this
“Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch), and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” And after they had fasted and prayed, they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13. 1-3
These disciples were gathered together and worshiping (or ministering) to the Lord. I do not believe they were just sitting in a circle singing songs. They were engaged, fully engaged in a holy or sacred activity—such as singing psalms and hymns, prayer, and very likely celebrating the Lord’s Supper…which was an important part of such gatherings in the early church. It is in such an environment that the Holy Spirit moves among His people, reveals mysteries, gives understanding to His Word, missions are defined, saints are sent, and callings are made into ministries (services.)
“…the Holy Spirit said.” The Lord does speak through believers in various ways, such as by spontaneous prophecy or words of knowledge. (1 Cor. 12.7-10) For example, Paul wrote to Timothy, “This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you,…” 1 Tim. 1.18, and “For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” 2 Tim. 1.6 The question we have to ask ourselves is this, “Are these just one-time occurrences designed only for the early church, or do they set forth a pattern for spiritual ministry. Personally, I believe the latter but with great caution for spiritual discernment between these acts made in the Spirit versus those made in the flesh. Personally, I also believe too much of such prophecy today is done in the flesh. This is to the shame of church overseers and false or want-to-be prophets. Pray otherwise.
“…set apart for My service.” Oh, the importance of understanding this. It is a call of the Lord to separate Saul (Paul) and Barnabas for a particular mission. This little group was based in Antioch. If they were to go in any direction out of that city, there would be a need to hear the Gospel—any direction. And like so, many are the physical and spiritual needs that surround us that seem to be calling for our attention. But it is the Lord who selects and separates unto Himself those for a purpose, a specific purpose to a specific place, at a specific time. One literally becomes apprehended of the Lord. Let us not usurp His authority.
“… for the work to which I have called them.” Do you see that the “work,” which involves all individuals resources, the places, as well as the message to be brought, is not determined by the reasoning of man, but of the Lord. “Dead works,” though seemingly good to the doer, occur when man religiously plans and executes his missions. But this is for the work to which “I” have called them, says the Word. Even as Aaron and his sons and all those of the tribe of Levi were set apart for the Lord’s service, so now we must be separate from all earthly constraints and set apart for the Lord’s mission. There must be the focus and full engagement.
“…praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; Pray that I may declare it clearly, as I should.” Col. 4.3-4
This particular scripture has been written upon my heart. It has apprehended me. I can identify with Paul’s statement, “for which I have also been imprisoned (bound, compelled),” for I too am bound by it. It governs my life and ministry. It determines what I write, what I teach, and missions involving people and places. Therefore, I will make this discussion a little more personal. Let’s explore this passage of scripture.
“Praying at the same time for us…’ Praying with a submissive heart must precede all ministry. It must also be remembered that there are no solo or independent ministries, only those who wish to act independently. We are all members of the Body of Christ and of a local church and must (should) reckon we are but one member of a unified body. I am dependent upon the prayer support of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I know that members of my local church pray for me (and for one another as well), but also I know there are individuals and fellowships elsewhere who have also prayed for me. There can be no boasting of any ministry on anyone’s own part. If it was left only up to me, I would fail. Each one of us needs, rather requires the prayer support of one another. It is good for me to write this because oftentimes I become too focused on myself in ministry and forget prayerfully backing all others who strive in one kind of ministry or another. Having prayed, pray again as the Holy Spirit brings others to mind.
“…that God will open up to us a door for the word…” The rise and fall of many a ministry are founded upon this principle, that is, the principle of patiently waiting for God to open a door of opportunity. All too often we move in the flesh, using our knowledge, skills, and ambition to force the ministry. Perhaps we all should more soberly consider Jesus’ words,
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ When I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’ Mt. 7.21-23
I believe this applies to ‘whatsoever’ ministry, service, or endeavor in our Christian calling. It is sobering indeed. Rather, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Rm. 8.14 and “What He (Christ) opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open,” Rev. 3.7… should be our guiding principle.
“…for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ…” There are a manifold number of ministries called and set into the Body of Christ. Some may be teachers, evangelists, prophets, pastors, psalmists, and so on. But whether one is called to a more noted ministry, or a more quiet member desiring only to serve the Lord in whatever degree the Lord may wish, the highest measure of any call is to speak forth a word of the mystery of Christ. The word (logos) must go forth, whether spoken or in writing. Not just a quoted scripture. The word which unveils Christ must go forth. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Rm. 10.17 To whatever measure of understanding, of the revelation of “The Christ,” it must go forth in word, song, or print. For how can one believe unto salvation or grow up into the higher things of Christ and the Kingdom of God unless they first hear from one sent to speak it forth. (Rm. 10:14-15) Whether it be a word of testimony to a stranger, or a gathering on the mission field, or in the local assembly, the word of the mystery of Christ must go forth…from the one sent.
“Pray that I may declare it clearly, as I should.” We now return to the urgency of prayer, but this time it is not for speaking forth the word with an eloquence that it is well-pleasing to the listener(s), or in a motivational manner to spur or excite them on, or intellectually to add to their knowledge. For all these works of the flesh will not add to the listener’s spiritual stature. These are what the religions of the world are founded upon. It is absolutely necessary that the word be planted in the heart of the hearer. “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints. It judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Heb. 4.12 To the Jew there are two classes of people in the world, the Jew and the non-Jew (sometimes called Gentiles or Greeks.) Each has its own religious focus, but they forget there is a third person, the Christians— “Jews demand signs and Greeks search for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified,…” 1 Cor. 1.22-23 The focus of the Christian is not on signs and miracles, nor is it on the accumulation of wisdom and knowledge, but upon the spiritual reality of the mystery of Christ.
“encouraging you (those of the Church of Thessalonica), comforting you, and urging you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
And we continually thank God because, when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as the true word of God—the word which is now at work in you who believe.” 1 Thes. 1.12-13
Paul is writing here to those of the Church of Thessalonica. He had reminded them of how he and his company of ministries labored and toiled among them so they may not be a burden to anyone…something forgotten by many, to their shame, in ministry today. However, his focus here is how the church of Thessalonica received the word of God. This particular word actually means something higher than just hearing the word. Here receive indicates “warmly receptive, welcoming” the word.
“…urging you to walk in a manner worthy of God.” If we can receive this encouragement to those of the Church of Thessalonica as the word of God, then we are told in our text “to walk worthy of God.” In other passages, we are encouraged to ‘walk worthy of the Lord,’ who is Christ. Or again, ‘of the Gospel of Christ.’ Or again, ‘of the calling wherewith, we were called.’ Or again, of the name of ‘saints.’ As a diamond is one but has many facets to reflect light, if you put all these together, you will get many sides of one thought of walking worthily. And that is the rule of the Christian life as gathered into a single expression—close similarity with, and conformity to, a certain standard: “Be ye holy for I am Holy.” 1 Pet. 1.16 Putting all these expressions together they say that the whole sum of our Christian moral responsibility lies in conformity to the character of a Divine Person with whom we have a loving relationship —and that person is Christ our Lord. One certainly cannot conform oneself to such a high standard, it can only come through a transformation effected by the word of God.
… who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” There is an errant doctrine of election, which teaches that God, in all His sovereignty, elects (or selects) certain individuals for salvation, at the exclusion of others. It is a terribly misguided doctrine. The call spoken of in this verse is literally a summons, an invitation to respond to God’s offer of… salvation in Christ, a Way to grow up as sons and daughters adorning the character of His Son, and/or a commission into service or ministry. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned (or judged).” Jn. 3.18 That is, whoso hears the word, submits and yields to the truth, whether Jew or Gentile, is without thought of particular “selection,” is placed “in Christ” by the Father, and becomes a child of God and resident member of the Kingdom of God.
“We continually thank God…” I believe this is Part B of prayer life, whereas Part A is asking. If we ask God to open doors for ministry, to be given a lively word, to impart something spiritual into the hearts of others, and the opportunity is granted, then the normal response is to return to God with thanksgiving in your heart.
“When you received the word of God that you heard from us…” The welcoming of the word into one’s heart follows the hearing of the spoken word. So appropriate is the Roman scripture: ”How then can they call on the One in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” Rm. 10:14 Note the ordained progression: believing, hearing, preaching, being sent. I believe this ordination applies to every member of the Body of Christ, to one degree or another, according to their spiritual abilities.
“you accepted it not as the word of men, but as the true word of God…” When things are done according to Godly ordination, the ministry of the word is effective in both the lives of the one sent (preacher/teacher/prophet/speaker) as well as the one(s) who hear the word spoken. There is the full conviction that the word heard is nothing less than a message from God Himself (Father/Son) under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. There comes forth two voices. First is an audible earthly voice from the speaker speaking aloud the word. Second is an inaudible heavenly voice spoken by the Spirit into the heart. The word is received both in the understanding of the mind and is written simultaneously upon the heart. It is no longer just the “Rhema” (Gk.) word as written or spoken text, as reading a chapter from the Bible. But the words have also become the “logos” (Gk.) word, a living word as a message from God that brings forth life. Both Rhema and logos are Greek words used to represent the term “word” in the Bible. They are distinct in meaning. One may read and study the Matthew manuscript (Rhema) and not come into a true understanding of the message (logos) of the Gospel. But when the Rhema is anointed and becomes the logos, there is a different response— “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Acts 2.37 We become educated to religion by the Rhema, but our spiritual walk of life is defined by the logos—which is both the anointed word spoken or written and the Anointed One who is the manifest logos.
“…the word (logos) which is now at work in you who believe.” To this, we now find the grand unfolding of a Godly mystery. By revelation divine truth is first received in the mind and heart of all true Christians, it then causes a holy work in the inner man of the heart: for believers to abandon their sins, devote themselves to God, lead pure and holy lives, enabling them to endure trials and temptations, and avail themselves for the work of the Kingdom and building up the Church, the Body of Christ. This is the “work of faith” written in Thessalonians 1.3. It is the work of God’s word (logos) in them. It is in their lives that the word takes effect, puts forth its energy, and does its transforming work. It produces such a change in hearts and lives that it abundantly attests to its divine origin.
“Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Phil. 2.12-13
Revelation of the Word
The mysteries of God are simply those eternal thoughts and plans of God towards man, hidden in the heart of God, until the time of their unveiling (or revelation.) All such mysteries are hidden to the unsaved of this world. The revelation of one mystery or another can only begin with the new birth of a believer—“Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. The flesh is born of the flesh, but the spirit is born of the Spirit. Do not be amazed that I said, ‘You must be born again.” Jn. 3.5-7 As it exists today, the world is blind to the thoughts and plans of God, and they are foolishness to them. In essence, they are the living dead—alive to the elements of this world, but dead to God and the elements of the Kingdom of God.
In the Old Testament revelation came by the prophets, revealing warnings for disobedience, and promised blessings for obedience to the Law. In the New Testament God spoke first through His Son Jesus Christ, then spoke by way of the Holy Spirit through the apostles and prophets. In all cases, each was sent on a mission to declare the heart and mind of God to His people: the Children of natural Israel in the O.T, the children of the Kingdom of God in the N.T.
It remains in the heart of God today to continually unveil His heart to the lost, to the babe in Christ, to His sons and daughters, and to the Church, the Body of Christ—what are His plans? What are His eternal purposes for His people? With each revelation comes transformation and the building up of a people given over to God and His purposes. Today, much emphasis is placed upon what is called the five-fold ministries: apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, and pastors for those chosen and sent upon missions to unveil the mysteries of God. (Eph. 4.11) But it must not, it cannot stop there. It is written, “From Him (Christ) the whole body, fitted and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love through the work of each individual part.” Eph. 4.16 It is true that believers should not think more highly of themselves than they ought. It is equally true that believers should not think more lowly of themselves that they ought, for as God called and anointed the apostle Paul and sent him on far-reaching missions, He also used Aquilla and Priscilla, and numerous others for His purposes of bringing forth His word (logos) to unveil His mysteries, and bring transformation into the lives of those who heard their words. I have witnessed the transforming powers of a simple word of testimony to apprehend hearts.
Whether Christ Himself, prophets, apostles, or whosoever our God and Lord chooses to send, the following is a general summary in the divine plan:
The Calling – The summons of God to salvation, to do or serve, or to become Christ-like and bear much fruit.
Owing to Faith – One must believe, have full conviction the word is of the Father.
Owing to Hearing- One hears or reads the anointed message (logos).
Owing to Preaching- Or teaching/sharing of one sent.
Owing to Mission- A particular assignment or commission from God.
Owing to the will of God to send- “The risen Christ said to His disciples, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so also I am sending you. When He had said this, He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” Jn. 20.21-22
I am reminded of an old poem I once heard. “For the want of a horseshoe nail.” It shows how critical missing a single simple element can affect the rise or fall of a kingdom.
“For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe, the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse, the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider, the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle, the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”
But our consideration of the poem must be spiritual and the thought moves from a simple horseshoe nail to that of the logos word which opens a Godly mystery to revelation to transformation to spiritual reality to the Kingdom of God. All for the want of the logos. Is there the logos word working in you—stirring within the center of your bosom? It is time to go to prayer.