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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Giving Titles to Men in the Present Age

Within Christian circles we like to confer titles for some reason.

I think the clergy/laity system has led to some people shirking their personal responsibility to study and interpret scripture for themselves. I've heard more than once over the years statements like, "I'm not the Pastor" or "I didn't go to seminary" when discussing a passage of scripture.

In one Sunday night study I attended, I asked a few questions of a "professor" who was teaching the Revelation as allegorical. It was a pleasant and respectful exchange, but he ended it by saying "oh you're one of those" after I offered a literal interpretation of a passage.

After the class I was approached by several older men who chastised me for questioning the professor, "have YOU been to seminary?" "Don't you know he has a ThD?" Things along those lines. [Irony alert, I was defending the stated position of that local church: literalism.]

There may be some who "pastor" a local body, but I have never liked the title "Pastor." I get it. I'm not angry about it. I just can't bring myself to give a man a title. Even if we hold it to be a Spiritual gift, we don't give other gifts "titles."

"Hello, I'm Discernment John and this is my wife, Administrations Rachel."

I don't hold to any special Spiritual gifts in this age, but I do recognize that some teach and some lead based on maturity in the Lord and in understanding Scripture (and I respect them as such). But I don't confer titles.

The one that puzzles me most is the title "Rabbi" used by Messianic Jews and repeated by some Christians. I'm a Zionist (I have a daughter named Moriah and another named after John Darby). I believe Israel still has a unique calling and is central in the ages to come. But even in the context of Israel alone, the Lord was very clear:

"They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren."

DO NOT BE CALLED 'RABBI' is pretty clear.

That was said in a Jewish context to those sent to Jews in Matthew 23. The title is even less relevant in this present age.

That's part of the irony. Most of these ministries hold Matthew as binding on the One Body of this age, yet they ignore a number of things in that gospel. I hold that Matthew is on Jewish ground, but that just makes "Rabbi" even more remote.

If you hold to Matthew as binding, it clearly states "do not be called Rabbi." If you don't, there is no way you can justify the title in a Christian context.

Again, not going to the mat over it. It's just a curiosity... even though I do believe we should abandon titles for men. In other ages, Christ is the "Chief Shepherd" to his Messianic flock. Under-shepherds should be content to serve him and skip titles.





Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Christians Calling God a Racist


This scripture has been abused much in recent days:

"For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation" -Eph 2:14


Trying to avoid any landmines here, but suffice it say, the "middle wall of separation" spoken of by Paul in Ephesians two is not racism. It is discrimination... God-ordained discrimination.

As Charles Welch framed it, under the Old Covenant, the best gentile was farther from God than the worst Israelite.

God wasn't "tearing down prejudice" he was creating something new after the Acts age (which was "to the Jew first"). He was creating the "one new man" (2:15), "fellow members of one body" (3:6; Gk: sussomos - only time used in scripture). He broke down the wall HE erected.

This poor epistle is being trampled on for political purposes. Ephesians is the Magna Carta of this age. Again, the wall of separation was God-ordained and had nothing to do with racism, hatred, or prejudice (in its negative connotation).


Ephesians: The Great Epistle of Our Hope


Ephesians is the glorious revealer of the new hope "far above the heavens;" a greater hope than inheriting the earth or living in the New Jerusalem. It takes Gentiles, those who were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world," and gave us a special hope which was hidden from the prophets from before the foundation of the world!

"To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ."
-Eph 3:8-9
"Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."
-Eph 2:19-22

Amidst all the self-flagellation, I will not stand for God being named as the author of hatred. The wall of separation preserved a people through whom God would send a savior for the world. To charge God with racism is bad exegesis at best and blasphemy at worst.

Beat yourself if you feel you must, just don't drag God's chosen into your guilt.

Leave Ephesians 2 alone. Let us look to our own hearts and stop charging God and his chosen apostles with crimes against humanity. If we've erected walls for our own purposes, don't blame it on God or on those hand-picked to bring his message of salvation to ALL who believe.

A little miffed today, but Christians need to understand the implications of condemning the middle wall.




Sunday, August 13, 2017

Israel Will Turn to Their God

Nehemiah 9 is an incredible chapter. It recounts the history of the blessing and rebellion of the people of Israel, yet the LORD always heard their cries of repentance... and will again. They involved themselves in every kind of immorality, idolatry and pride, yet he heard their cries.

"Yet for many years You had patience with them,
And testified against them by Your Spirit in Your prophets.Yet they would not listen;Therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands.Nevertheless in Your great mercy You did not utterly consume them nor forsake them; For You are God, gracious and merciful."


Israel will once again turn to their God.

The great Apostle to the Circumcision, Peter, says to the nation of Israel in Acts 3 (post-cross, post Pentecost):

“Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began."

This is a specific call for Israel to repent, which must precede the return of Christ (in Acts 1 the twelve looked for the restoration of Israel and Lord says that while it is coming, they did not need to know when).
In Acts 3 is Peter accusing the Body of Christ of crucifying the Lord? Is he promising The Body that if we repent the Lord will return? Did God speak of a time of refreshing through his prophets to the Body? Were we spoken of by the prophets SINCE the world began?
Those things were spoken to an earthly people with an early earthly purpose and an earthly promise. The Body is an heavenly people with an heavenly purpose and an heavenly promise. We were hidden from the prophets. We are a company from BEFORE the world began (Eph 3).
We must make distinctions where scripture makes distinctions. There are "promises made to the fathers [of Israel]" which are not ours and promises to the Body which are not theirs. Rightly divide the Word of Truth.

Our hope in the far above the heavens, Israel's hope and promises are connected to the promised land the New Jerusalem which comes down from heaven.








Saturday, August 12, 2017

David Hocking, Gentiles, and Acts 15 Council at Jerusalem

The Acts 15 Mini-Law and the Present Age


I have been thoroughly enjoying David Hocking's series (July and August 2017) in Genesis 1 (I highly recommend). He's pulled out some things I had not seen or considered before. That's not to say I agree with everything. The Berean spirit (Acts 17:11) reminds me that I am responsible for my own theology.
David didn't make a big point of it, but while going over dietary guidelines in scripture separating what man is to eat and what animals can eat, he referenced the four commands given to Gentile believers in Acts 15. To his credit, staying consistent with the "today's church started at Acts 2" position, he holds that those laws are still binding... on gentiles.
I admire David for not doing what many do and dismiss the Holy Spirit-approved mini-law for Gentiles by claiming that everybody was so prejudiced that God had to add to grace just to placate the racists. That's an unfair accusation and it unwittingly opens the door to all kinds of doctrinal compromise and nicolaitanism.

You Can't Have It Both Ways


So how do we reconcile the mini-law, given to gentile believers only, with the Acts 2 position that "the middle wall of partition" between Jews and Gentiles came down at Pentecost? Putting it simply, you can't. Well, not without assuming things in scripture which are not there.
If Pentecost is the beginning of the age we are in, Acts 15 (repeated in Acts 21) is binding on gentiles to this day (and Jews and gentiles are still separate).
The answer goes back to what we've looked at in previous blog entries: the Body of Christ of this age did not begin at Pentecost. The removal of the middle wall of partition was taught in Ephesians and Paul tells us that this was a truth never before revealed to the prophets.
All through the Acts age (in Acts and in the Acts epistles), Paul tells us that he never teaches anything that was not spoken by Moses and the prophets (See: Acts 26; Gal 3; Rom 15; etc.). So, Jews keeping the laws of cleansing and Gentiles being given a mini-law of purity, is consistent with the Acts age (and its hope), but not applicable to this current age (or to our hope).

Jewish and Gentiles Believers Acts and Post-Acts


The Book of Romans clearly recognizes two groups of believers: Jewish and Gentile believers. There is no difference in the gift of eternal life (because that has been the same since Adam), but in function, the two groups are distinct in the Acts church.
"It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality."
-Acts 15:28-29
These are given to gentile believers only. But what of Jewish believers in that age (note the distinction still evident)?
In Acts 21, James tells Paul of an accusation against him, that he is teaching Jews to forsake Moses and not to circumcise. Paul was not guilty! It was a false accusation. Paul himself circumcised Timothy (Acts 16). I've covered that elsewhere, but suffice it to say, in the Acts age and in the Acts epistles of Paul, God still recognizes a distinction between Jewish and Gentile believers. It is in Acts 21 that the mini-law for gentile believers is repeated.
The middle wall of partition coming down and the mystery of the "one new man" which was kept secret from "BEFORE the foundation of the world, unknown by the prophets... was not revealed unto the Book of Ephesians, after the end of the Acts age (Acts 28:28-31, Paul turns to the Gentles, and no man can forbid him).

Acts Age (7)
Romans
Galatians
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 Thessalonioans
2 Thessalonians
Hebrews
Post-Acts (7)
Ephesians
Colossians
Philippians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
Titus
Phlemon
Apostles to the Jews/Dispersion (7)
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John
Jude
James
We must remember to "rightly divide the word of truth" (2 Tim)