Form, Substance,
Reality and Glory

Dear Brethren,

The apostle Paul warns us of a weakness among some of the brethren in these perilous last days.  He distinguishes between the real substance of Godliness, and that which does not measure up to God’s expectations for His people.  Our worship is spiritual, and our goal is spiritual, but there are those in the various church groups today who are only “playing church.” 

They cannot envision the reality of true Godliness because they possess only a form of “church going” that comes far short of God’s standards.  Paul was concerned that Timothy be aware of the distinction between those teachers who only teach a form of religion, and those who teach the requirement of Godly substance.

“Having a form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”  (2Timothy 3:5) 

Paul was describing the “form without substance” church members.  They deny the spiritual intent of the things of God.  They major in the minors.  They are more concerned with looking good than being good.  They wish to portray the image of Christianity without the substance of Christianity in action.  They are not growing in grace and knowledge for the purpose of becoming imbued with spiritual substance.  And this applies to entire congregations having only a form of Godliness, all for show, where their main doctrine is to be nice and non-confrontational in matters of faith and morals.

It is true, form precedes substance, but it does not matter what we were before we were called because the thing that is important is what we are becoming.  Are we becoming men and women of substance?  We must be, for that is the spiritual reality that leads to glory.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:1)

Form has a very useful purpose, but it is transitory and not meant to be sustained forever.  Form is introductory for the purpose of growing into spiritual reality.  God uses symbols, analogies, patterns, behaviors, types/antitypes, parables, allegories and He compares and contrasts those representations—to bring us to a right and good understanding of His word and His Plan for us. 

The Bible utilizes various comparisons and contrasts in order to open our understanding to the higher things of God.  For example, we see the letter of the law being contrasted with the spirit of the law so that we might seek that which is right and better.  In another example, Paul speaks of the law being a shadow.  In that case the law being a shadow is the form that leads to greater things – the very substance of good things to come.

“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.”  (Hebrews 10:1)

Which is the greater reality?  Is it form or substance?  In the flesh we tend to believe that physical things are real, and we are inclined to put great stock in the fact that rocks and rivers and trees are real – and the things we cannot handle we consider to be intangible.  However, from God’s standpoint the spiritual things and the heavenly things are the things of reality.  Everything else is temporal and will eventually pass away.  Even the office of the Old Testament priesthood pointed to the greater reality – Jesus Christ our High Priest.  The unseen spiritual realm of God greatly supersedes anything in our physical realm.

“Who [the priest] serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, says he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shown to thee in the mount.”  (Hebrews 8:5)

Even the Tabernacle which housed the Ark of the Covenant was a form and example of the substantive heavenly temple of God.  Jesus came to add substance to the law – to make the law more full (Matthew 5:17).  The substance we wish to attain to is the same resurrected glory we see in Jesus Christ.

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  (2Corinthians 3:18)

We utilize every single day, but especially the Sabbath Day, to develop into the same substance which is Jesus Christ – just as Jesus is of the same substance as God the Father (Hebrews 1:3).

Yes, we go through a process of spiritual metamorphosis.  We begin with form and are transformed into spiritual substance – that is the reality that leads to glory.

Sermon:  "Form, Substance, Reality and Glory"