Curtis C. Wynne
©1993, 1998, 2009
A NOTE ON THE 1998 REVISION
A good friend suggested that, to provide useful guidance to the truly seeking reader, it would be helpful if I annotated "Things of the Spirit," first written in 1993. The 1998 revision does just that. During my research for the annotation, using a computer to help me find key phrases that bounced around in my head, often unattached to specific verses, I found so much more than I bargained for. Praise God, when He wants to tell us something, there’s never a lack of resources. He also taught me that when we ask in prayer, seek in sincerity, and knock in humility, He will give us the power to hear with spiritual ears and see with spiritual eyes. Many of the verses listed in the endnotes are supported by companion verses elsewhere, but these should suffice to begin a prayerful search. (Note for Web readers: Please click on the Bible icon in the text to be see the Biblical reference. After checking the Scripture, just close the window to return to the text.)
I would like to thank the minister who, in 1979, helped me return to the Faith of Jesus Christ, without Whom I feel I never would have discovered the Baha’i Faith. In subsequent years, my love for Jesus and joy of life have grown without bounds. However, because the minister himself rejected my discovery, I won't cause him embarrassment by mentioning his name.
"Things of the Spirit" is my publication alone. While nothing in it contradicts my convictions as a Baha’i and everything in it is the product of my own prayerful independent investigation, this publication is not to be construed as the official position of any institution of the Baha’i Faith.
THINGS OF THE SPIRIT
By Curtis C. Wynne
A growing throng crowded nearer as Jesus of Nazareth opened His mouth to speak, first offering nine blessings and then proceeding to weightier matters of justice, mercy, love and faith.
Some in the crowd recalled this same Jesus, Who spoke from the Spirit and with authority, stressing the spirit behind the laws of Moses, a spirit they had forgotten in their zeal to follow the letter of the law. He shocked many, comparing hatred and anger, crimes of the heart, to murder. He told them that having feelings of lust is equal to committing adultery. He explained that the words coming out of the mouth defile a man more than the physical food that goes into his body.
Jesus’ teachings, while outwardly little more than obedience to the laws of Moses, demanded a deeper look into each heart. Indeed, Jesus came to change the hearts, even though His contemporaries were expecting a Messiah who would come to change the political scene. To their disappointment, politics meant little to Jesus. He sought spiritual eyes to see and spiritual ears to hear the message of the Spirit. The Kingdom of God is within you, He said.
On another occasion, Jesus tried to give the apostles a deeper understanding of spiritual matters when He identified John the Baptist with the return of the prophet Elijah. Centuries earlier, Elijah had been taken up into the sky on a chariot of fire, according to Hebrew Scripture.
Many of Jesus’ contemporaries expected the ancient prophet to return the same way he left and, according to their Scripture, what Christians call the Old Testament, his return must precede the coming of the Messiah.
So, they said, if Elijah had not returned, Jesus couldn’t be the promised Messiah.
Jesus understood things of the Spirit
Jesus knew John was John on the physical level, but he also knew John was the return of Elijah, in spirit and power from the womb of Elizabeth, as reported in the Gospel.
John’s denial that he was Elijah is not a Bible contradiction as some people believe. John was thinking on the physical level, while Jesus was talking about the Spirit. Both spoke accurately.
Every step of the way in His ministry, Jesus impressed upon any who would listen that things of the Spirit far outweigh things of the flesh. An unbelieving generation missed His point, as have most Christian leaders for the next twenty centuries. Even today, many churches teach a flesh-and-blood victory over evil which is certainly possible because God is All-Powerful. But even if it’s true, it would be immeasurably insignificant compared to a Spiritual victory – if we are to take Jesus’ own teachings to heart.
The spirit of the Sabbath, Jesus taught, made it lawful to do good on that Holy Day, even though the law as imposed by the Pharisees required no work, good or otherwise. On another issue, Jesus pointed out the spirit of the law that required Jews to honor their parents was made void by a Jewish policy allowing sons to bequeath their property to the temple rather than use it to care for their parents. It is in this context that Jesus admonishes the religious leaders for teaching as doctrine the sayings of men and invalidating God’s laws.
Jesus also told one of His followers to "let the dead bury their dead," when that follower sought permission to delay his spiritual commitments to attend a funeral. There’s a big difference between life in the Spirit and death in Spirit, regardless of physical condition. In other words, Jesus was pointing out that some people are really dead, spiritually, where it counts, even if they are alive physically.
Later, the apostle Paul preached that the Law of Moses would be of no effect without the spirit as taught by Jesus, and that the flesh is nothing in comparison to the spirit.
Jesus Himself said plainly that God is a Spirit, a fact that is often overlooked by modern religious leaders who claim that references in the Bible to the mouth of God, or His feet or hands, or other body parts is proof that He is a person, that "personal God" spoken of by some Christian leaders.
The apostle Luke reports in his second book, the Acts of the Apostles, that angels stood by as the resurrected Jesus ascended into heaven on clouds. The angels told those who witnessed the ascension that "this same Jesus" shall return as He had left, strong evidence in favor of the argument that Jesus will physically descend on physical clouds, and every physical eye will see Him physically. That would be a neat trick, though, since the earth is round, something that people of the first century didn’t know when Acts was written.
Although such an event is unimaginable, it must be possible because God is All-Powerful and He could do it if He chose to; but it would have the opposite effect from what Jesus taught. It would exalt the physical over the spiritual.
New knowledge about the world in which we live should not make Holy Scripture meaningless or abstract. Neither should a stretch of imagination beyond logic or truth be necessary to justify Scripture.
Faithful believers, in honesty to themselves and to God, will re-examine the original teachings in light of the new knowledge and seek a meaning that fits, even if it means letting go of some old traditions. They know they must find out what the Scripture really meant, if what they and their forefathers (and their church leaders) always thought it meant is proven wrong.
Perhaps it is more likely that the angels, who were spiritual beings, intended their comment to be taken spiritually, like Jesus’ comment "let the dead bury their dead." What if "this same Jesus" were to fulfill their prophesy in the spiritual sense? Wouldn’t that be more appropriate to Jesus’ teachings? If Elijah came back through the womb rather than on a chariot of fire as the Jews expected, is that not sufficient to suggest that Jesus might return similarly?
A loving and merciful God would ask no more of limited mortal minds and hearts, but apparently He does ask that much, as Jesus’ experience with the unbelieving Jews of His day attests.
How easily, though, the exponents of His cause forgot Jesus’ message about the Spirit, how God tested the faith of the Jews by sending Elijah in the physical body of John instead of down from the sky in a flaming chariot, how things of the Spirit far exceed things of the flesh. A minister once told me things will be different when Jesus comes again, there won't be any doubt. I've always wondered if that minister also believed that God thought the Jews of 2,000 years ago were much smarter than we are today and that's why He tested them so severely.
A New Name, Too?
According to the Book of Revelation, Jesus said He would have a new name when He returned. Elijah also had a new name when he returned as John. Might not "this same Jesus," the One Who spoke from the Spirit, of the Spirit, by the Spirit, and through the Spirit, also return in the Spirit and in a different physical body? Since the physical has no value in comparison to the Spirit, why not?
Did We Listen?
Some sincere believers steadfastly insist the same physical body of Jesus of Nazareth must return. Sadly, they trap themselves in illogical dogmatism:
- Those Christians miss how much they are like those Jews who wouldn’t believe in Jesus because Elijah had not returned physically. Many modern Christians also claim certain things have to happen in a certain way before they can accept His return, just as did the Jews who insisted the real Messiah would destroy the Roman Empire and the Greek way of life, as they understood prophesy. The Jews misunderstood and encouraged His crucifixion. Good Christians should beware the signs.
- Those Christians don't see their own contradiction. Why would He have a new name if He must return in the same body? The "new name" is a clear statement from Jesus through John, twice in Revelation, and does not lend itself to other interpretations. Either He will have a new name or He won't; He says He will. The "same body" belief is an interpretation of a spiritual pronouncement (from angels) which can have several meanings, as Jesus Himself indicated.
- Those Christians exalt things of the flesh over things of the Spirit, teaching that physical victory over evil really means something special and that people who believe in the supremacy of spiritual victory are in error. Jesus called that attitude a "corrupt generation" and "blind leaders of the blind." (The latter also is an example of allegory.)
Jesus warned His listeners that on Judgment Day, He would judge Christians. No other judge will there be, by whatever name He chooses to use.
It is certain He would NOT be called Jesus Christ.
Scripture is clear on that point.
(See Rev. 3:12 and Rev. 2:17.)
True Christians who love Jesus might wonder whether they have been misled by religious leaders of this day, teaching sayings of men as doctrines of God, not in some cult but in the mainline churches.
The dramatic concept suggested here deserves serious and prayerful, very prayerful, independent investigation.
If an independent investigation leads to acceptance that Jesus COULD or MAY return in a different physical body with a new name, then it would be careless not to examine every possibility that He already has done so. He is reported to have said He would come as a thief in the night and no one would know when, presumably until the event had already occurred.
One who truly loves Jesus would hardly want to be judged – by Him – as having failed to seek Him out when the opportunity arose. Certainly, the investigation would include such questions as, if such an appearance actually occurred,
When did it happen?
Where did it happen?
What was the new name?
What were the circumstances of the appearance?
Why do other prophesies which are told incessantly from the pulpit – physical signs of the Second Coming – seem not to have been fulfilled? Or were they really fulfilled in other ways?
Why has such an appearance gone unnoticed or even scorned by the learned clergy of this Day?
More importantly, Who was the bearer of the Christ Spirit and what were His Words and Works in this Day?
Questions and Answers
All these questions and much more are addressed in the teachings of the Baha’i Faith, an independent world religion adhered to by more than seven million believers around the world, a religion that really isn’t new at all, but is the latest, not last, of a series of Revelations in God’s endless communication with His creatures.
This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future. Let him that seeketh, attain it; and as to him that hath refused to seek it--verily, God is Self-Sufficient, above any need of His creatures.-- Baha'u'llah, Proclamation of Baha'u'llah, p. 119
The Encyclopedia Britannica reports the Baha’i Faith (after just a little over 150 years) stands second only to all of Christianity as the most widespread religion in the world. That probably makes the Baha’i Faith the single most widespread unified organization in the world.
The crowd on the mount listened intently as Jesus redirected their attention, from blindly following the blind, to understanding things of the Spirit. He neared the end of His famous sermon with a warning against false prophets, assuring the people in the congregation they would recognize true prophets "by their fruits." Many years later, the apostle Paul, writing his letter to the Galatians, listed nine fruits of the Spirit, all found in the Baha’i teachings.
Finally, Jesus warned that on Judgment Day, many would claim to have preached in His name and cast out devils in His name, but He will not accept them. He had just spoken of sincere worship as contrasted to public show of worship, but could He also have alluded to their using the wrong name?
Jesus said, "Seek, and ye shall find." He said later, "I will not leave you comfortless."
The Baha'is are always open to those who seek comfort in the spiritual truth for this new Day of God. Seek them out; check the telephone book or ask the local newspaper religion page editor. If the local group is too small to find, call the Baha'i National Teaching Committee in Wilmette, Illinois. You may also find the Baha'i Faith in your local library and on the Internet. Use any search engine and seek "Baha'i."
If you believe and would like
to enroll in the Baha'i Faith,
then please pick a rose.
Frequently Asked Questions for Christians
"Ask, and it shall be given you."