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THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS :
INTROSPECTION, OR HEAVEN-SPECTION?
Authored By : Bill Kochman (aka The WordWeaver)
Published On : July 17, 1997
Last Updated : July 20, 2012
Who Do You Uplift In Your Life And Ministry?
Some time ago, a member of our now-defunct EDGE mailing list asked me a question regarding some quotes that are found in the Gospel Of Thomas. After reading his comment, my mind was immediately filled with a variety of verses which I proceeded to use to answer his inquiry. Realizing that others may have also read the Gospel of Thomas, and that they may likewise have similar questions, I decided to present my response in this current article. Following then is a direct quote from this person's message:
----- Begin Quote -----
I'd really like your comments on "The Gospel of Thomas" especially v3 where Jesus says: "If those who lead you say to you, 'See, the kingdom is in the sky', then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea', then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the Living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you will dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty."
----- End Of Quote -----
To begin this article, let me state that while I have the Gospel of Thomas in my pile of apocryphal works, due to the tremendous amount of unfinished writing projects I have yet to complete, I haven't had time yet to actually read it. The same holds true for many other apocryphal works that I have on my hard drive as well. In fact, I have had many of them for years, and I still haven't made time to read them yet. As such, until I do read the full Gospel of Thomas, I feel that it would be unwise of me to pass full judgment on whether or not it is a Divinely-Inspired work. I am aware that there are opposing views regarding its authenticity. However, I try to not allow such comments to influence me as I wish to begin reading such works with as unbiased an opinion as possible. I am the type of person who likes to form his own opinions on a matter and not rely too heavily on the evaluations of others, particularly when it involves matters of a religious nature.
As I mention in "A Biblical Cafeteria, or the Whole Course?", while I do sense Divine Inspiration in most of the actual Apocrypha, I do not feel the same Spirit in the majority of the other apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works that I have read thus far. The only one I have accepted as having any degree of Divine Inspiration is the Book of Enoch. Even though I have quoted from it, I feel that I should clarify that it is not a one hundred per cent endorsement of the book. I simply found enough information in the Authorized King James Bible which seems to substantiate the authorship of the Book of Enoch. This gives it a little more credence than some of the other works. Please refer to "The Book of Enoch: Truth or Heresy?" for a more in-depth commentary.
Nevertheless, from reading the above comment from our list member, I must admit that I am a bit disconcerted by the contents of the material he quoted from the Gospel Of Thomas. In my view, it describes a self-centered faith rather than a Christ-centered faith which is what Jesus and the First Disciples taught. As I continued to ponder these quotes, the Lord brought a number of verses to mind which I will now share. As you will see, rather than support the purported quotes from Jesus in the Gospel Of Thomas, they do the exact opposite. To begin with, consider what Jesus said in the following verse:
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."
John 12:32, KJV
With this one verse alone, Jesus is making clear that we are to look up to Him for our salvation, and not down or inward into ourselves. The answers to life, particularly eternal life, will not be found in introspection, in examining ourselves, but rather in what we might refer to as Heaven-spection, in looking upwards to Jesus:
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:2, KJV
King David, a man plagued with many problems during his lifetime, likewise knew that the answers to life, and his own salvation, could only come from above:
[A Song of degrees.] I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth."
Psalms 121:1-2, KJV
Again, we are told to lift up our eyes, and not to look downward, or inward at ourselves. We are not told to find ourselves or to know ourselves as the Gospel Of Thomas seems to be saying. Consider also what Jesus said when His disciples inquired of Him regarding the signs of the Endtime:
"And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."
Luke 21:28, KJV
This whole idea of looking inward is a central part of many Eastern religions as well as New Age thought. They say that the answers can be found within ourselves. They teach that we are the masters of our fate. They claim that humans have much more potential than what most people realize, if we can just learn to harness our mental, emotional and spiritual energies. In short, they are claiming that we are our own gods. If you really stop to think about it, this is exactly what Satan did, and it is also what caused his downfall. Because of his own pride and vanity, he took his eyes off of the Lord and looked inward to himself. He deceived himself into thinking that he deserved more, and that he was better than God. I do not believe that this is what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God being within us. Here is exactly what Jesus said when He was confronted by the unbelieving Pharisees:
". . . The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you."
Luke 17:20b-21, KJV
You see, the Pharisees were carnally-minded. They looked upon the things of the flesh, and the things of this world. They were more interested in observing the Mosaic Law, in performing their Temple services, in making loud public prayers, and in wearing their long flowing garments. They were only interested in impressing people with their own outward righteousness so that they could receive the praises of men. This is why Jesus said to them:
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."
Matthew 23:27-28, KJV
The Jewish Elders were so blinded to The Truth that they were looking for, and continue to look for, an outward kingdom. They were looking for, and continue to look for, a physical Saviour who would, and who will, deliver them from the hands of their oppressors. This is exactly what the Zealots were all about. Two thousand years ago they sought for a physical king and saviour who would deliver them out of the hands of their Roman occupiers. Today, Orthodox Jews await the arrival of their "messiah" Moshiach ben David, who they are convinced will deliver them out of the hands of the enemy Arab nations which surround Israel. However, until they fully understand what Jesus meant, they will never be able to enter that Kingdom. That Kingdom is presently invisible, and has been invisible for the past two thousand years; for it is within. Someday it truly will be here in a very physical, very visible sense; but for now, we can only experience it through an inner spiritual rebirth. Because of the Jews' unbelief, that Kingdom has been ripped out of their hands and been given to the Gentiles. Jesus made this very clear when He said the following:
"And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Matthew 8:11-12, KJV
Those who believe that they are the heirs of promise, those who believe that they are the children of the Kingdom, the children of Abraham, the flesh Jews, will be cast out. And do you know why they will be cast out? Jesus provided a very clear answer on this in His teachings:
". . . The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen."
Matthew 22:1b-14, KJV
Notice that in the final verses, Jesus uses the same exact descriptive words that He used in the verse from Matthew chapter eight above. And what is the wedding garment which this man failed to wear? It is the righteousness which only belief in Christ can give us. It is the cloak which covers our sins as I discuss in other articles. It is the Blood of Jesus Christ. Consider the following verses:
"He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels . . . I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see."
Revelation 3:5, 18, KJV
"After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;"
Revelation 7:9, KJV
"And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints."
Revelation 19:8, KJV
Of course, we know that that righteousness can only be obtained through complete spiritual renewal and rebirth, a spiritual washing and cleansing which comes about only through acceptance of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross:
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;"
Titus 3:5, KJV
This is exactly what is meant by the Kingdom being within. This is exactly what Jesus tried to explain to Nicodemus who, while being a Pharisee himself, recognized Who Jesus really was:
". . . Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
John 3:3b-8, KJV
Because the flesh Jews rejected this basic truth, they were denied the Kingdom, and it has been given to the Gentile believers instead. Rather than accept the Garment Of Righteousness so that they can enter freely into the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, they have chosen to be cloaked in their own righteousness. But you see, as I explain in the article entitled "Are You Saved and Sealed, and Healed and Filled?", Jesus ripped that cloak away two thousand years ago, as we see by this verse:
"If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin."
John 15:22, KJV
All of these things have been fulfilled since two thousand years ago. As I point out in "A Biblical Cafeteria, or the Whole Course?", since that time, beginning with the Apostle Paul, we Gentiles have been receiving and believing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, while the majority of Jews continue to reject it. But there is hope. Please refer to the article entitled "Is God A Racist?".
Having now explained what is meant by the Kingdom of God being within, let me continue to explain why we are told to look out and up and not down and in. To refresh your memory, let me again quote part of the material from the Gospel Of Thomas which inspired this article:
". . . Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the Living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you will dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty."
----- End Of Quote -----
In looking at the above quote, we can see an immediate contradiction to what Jesus said to the Pharisees in Luke chapter seventeen. The Lord clearly told them that the Kingdom of Heaven does not come with observation, that it is within; yet according to the Gospel Of Thomas, Jesus said it is without and within. In a sense, I can agree that it is without as well because the Kingdom consists of the born-again believers who we can visibly see. And of course, as the First Disciples began to establish Churches in Israel, Asia Minor and the surrounding areas, the Kingdom became even more visible. In another sense, we also know that sometime in the future, the Kingdom of Heaven will be visibly witnessed on the Earth when Jesus rules during the Millennium as outlined in the book of Revelation. At the same time, we also know that once the Lord creates the New Heaven and the New Earth, the Heavenly City will descend from Heaven to set on or just about the Earth. Looking at it from this perspective, we can see that the words which Jesus prayed in the "Lord's Prayer" have been fulfilled in part since the day He spoke them. Consider this:
"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven."
Matthew 6:10, KJV
Although I can make this part of the Gospel Of Thomas quote fit my understanding, I must still express some doubt as to whether or not these words were really spoken by Jesus. I just don't feel comfortable with them at this moment. Concerning the phrase "When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known", here again, this whole idea of knowing ourselves bothers me. As all of the above verses show, we are to know Jesus, and know His Word as well. That is where hope and Salvation lie, and not within ourselves. As far as being known, I am not exactly sure what Thomas -- assuming that he even wrote this -- actually meant. The only verse that I can think of which might make some sense out of this is the following:
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
John 13:35, KJV
But notice, the emphasis in Jesus' words is not in exalting ourselves, but rather in exalting His Love. He is saying that people will know we are different because they will see God's love shining through us. We are to exalt the Lord through our Christian example . . . and that is where we all have room for lots of improvement, beginning with this writer. As pointed out in other articles, we are only to act as reflectors of His Truth and His Love. We are only to serve as prisms which reflect the different aspects of God, just as a prism reflects the different colors of white light. Through seeing the Love and Light which we reflect, people are supposed to be brought to Jesus, and not just to us or our particular church or organization. We are not the source of that Light and Love; we are only the tools through which the Lord shines. If we are only bringing people to us, or to our particular faith or doctrine, then we have failed. Unless they are firmly established in the Lord and in His Word, then they will also fall and fail in times of hardship.
The true Christian perspective is in direct contrast to the ways of the world. This is why Jesus repeatedly said that His followers are not of the world:
"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
John 15:18-19, KJV
In the school of the world, we are taught to be proud of our accomplishments. From the time we are young we are taught to have personal pride, national pride, pride at work, pride in sports, pride in education, etc. It is all exaltation of self. It is looking inward instead of upward, all glory to self and none to God. John echoed these same sentiments later when he wrote his epistles:
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."
1 John 2:15-16, KJV
The Apostle James likewise had some very strong thoughts to express on this when he said:
"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."
James 4:4, KJV
So then, contrary to the false ideas and values which the world tries to brainwash us with, we are not to seek our own glory, our own credit, or to exalt ourselves in the eyes of men. As Christians, we are instructed to do the exact opposite. Jesus made this very clear when He said:
". . . If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it."
Luke 9:23b-24, KJV
John the Baptist was well aware of this when he said:
"He must increase, but I must decrease."
John 3:30, KJV
He wasn't just referring to the fact that he knew that his ministry must decrease as Jesus started to shine in His own ministry. From the very beginning John had to deny the ways of men so He could fulfill the Lord's work. What if John had been more concerned about the opinions of men instead of pleasing the Lord?
The Apostle Paul also instructed us to present our bodies as living sacrifices in his epistle to the Romans:
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Romans 12:1-2, KJV
He repeated this same sentiment in his letter to the Church at Corinth when he said:
"I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily."
1 Corinthians 15:31, KJV
Unless we are willing to die to ourselves, to die to our own wants and worldly interests in life, unless we are willing to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God, we may never know what God's will is for our lives. Jesus compared this dying daily to a seed planted in the ground:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal."
John 12:24-25, KJV
We each must make the choice for ourselves. Either we selfishly live for ourselves, or else we live for the Lord in daily sacrifice. There is no room for both as Jesus made clear in the story of the rich men who thought he had done all to inherit the Kingdom of God. In the Sermon on the Mount, He also said:
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also . . . No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
Matthew 6:19-21, 24, KJV
We are to lift up Jesus and not look to ourselves. We are to look up to Heaven and not in to ourselves. As I explain in the article entitled "What Really Happens to Us When We Die?", our old man of the flesh, and our old way of thinking and doing things is our enemy. It fights against God and His Will for our lives. As I amply explain in such articles as "Are You Crucified With Christ?" and "So You Really Think You Are So Humble?", it is for this reason that we must deny our old sinful man of the flesh and crucify it, as we see by these verses:
"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin."
Romans 6:6, KJV
"That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;"
Ephesians 4:22, KJV
"Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;"
Colossians 3:9, KJV
As I state in the aforementioned articles, there is a constant war going on between our new man of the Spirit, and our old man of the flesh. While we must know ourselves, that is, be aware of our own human weaknesses and shortcomings, we are not to dwell upon them. It is only in knowing Jesus' Spirit which dwells in us that we acquire Eternal Life, as we see by the following verses:
"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."
John 17:3, KJV
"And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life."
1 John 5:20, KJV
Please go to part two for the conclusion of this article.
⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .