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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Race, Ethnicity, The Traditions of Men, and Lent

Rightly Dividing Israel

I'm still planning on getting to the rest of the parables in Matthew, but I've seen a disturbing pattern recently which is important to the whole series on Matthew.

I'm used to the Replacement Theology folks confusing Israel and the Body. I've documented the fall of dispensationalists from a proper understanding of Israel and the New Covenant to a muddled one. 

But I've noticed as of late a complete blurring of lines. This is disturbing. If we are going to discuss issues such as race, we need to understand God's understanding of race. 

This begins with His distinction in both Old and New Testaments between Israel and the nations (heathen, gentiles, etc.). Scripture knows of three levels of distinction which we will cover in the section below.

At the core of just about every error (as I see it) in Christendom is this blurring of lines concerning the plan of God for ages for Israel and the nations. We're at the point at which Hebrew words are forced upon our Apostle, Paul, declaring his use of Greek of none effect. Paul himself, as the Apostle to the Gentiles, would be appalled. God's choice of Greek for most, if not all, the New Testament is His inspiration. To force Hebrew upon it is to question God's inspiration.

Surely, I believe Israel has a central role to play in the plan of God (laid out in other posts). She has promises and hopes unique to her. But God also has a unique plan for this age which is primarily for gentiles and which recognizes no partition between Jew and Gentile. Many would say they understand this, but in word and deed they display that they do not.

In this present age, theologically, there is no Jew or Gentile. But in the plan of God, ethnically, God still makes a distinction. Scripture has plans for Israel. The Body is part of the greater family of God, but is wholly independent from Israel. Her feasts, rituals (including baptisms and Passover - "Lord's Supper") are hers. They serve nothing in this age apart from robbing from Christ.

Until these distinctions are understood and obeyed, the confusion will continue.

We are soon entering the time on the calendar of great outward displays of religious tradition (Ash Wednesday, Lent Holy Week, etc.). It may make us feel puffed up in the flesh, but we risk losing reward (disqualification).

DO NOT let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. DO NOT let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, WHY, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human [church] commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
-Col 2:16-23

Scriptural Background on Race

Let's now look at some scriptural nuts and bolts. We have three levels of race and ethnicity in scripture (among men):

  1. The Human Race descended from the first Adam 
  2. The separation of the nations after the flood
  3. The descendants of Jacob and the rest of the nations (Israel and gentiles)

These are the only distinctions of consequence. For the Christian, our concern is not race or ethnicity, but biblical standards consistent with this age and our hope and calling.

Enter here, the concept of culture:

But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.-Gen 15:16

God didn't hate the Amorites. He doesn't hate gentiles (thankfully), but he does hate sin. He is patient as he was here with the Amorites. To Nineveh (gentiles) he sent Jonah to offer them a chance at redemption, and they answered.

God does eventually deals with the Amorites. Men are impatient with God's mercy and long-suffering, then critical of his judgments. "Why does God allow sin!" followed by "Why must God judge!" In Jonah's case, Jonah was upset that God showed mercy to Nineveh.

Now to translate that into today. As a Christian, I see all men as equal before a thrice holy God. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. All are under the Adamic curse of death and decay. I make no judgment based on anything but God's gracious gospel (which is offered to all).

In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
-Rom 2:16

That is in regard to eternal life. However, there is the matter of culture. God does not excuse sin or error merely because it is a matter of one's culture or if it is a matter of one's race.

Manasseh was a king in the line of David from the tribe of Judah in the nation of Israel. He adopted, however, the wicked culture of the Amorites.

Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols. Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle.-2 Kings 21:11-12

We judge no man by his race or ethnicity, yet we must judge all issues of culture by the Word of God. If something is not addressed directly or by principle, we offer liberty. But if something is opposed to the Word of God, it must be rejected.

We should not seek wisdom or help from Egypt (the world).

The race issue is a simple one in Christendom: we recognize all as equal before the one with whom we have to do. We believe in equality before the Lord. In regard to cultural issues, I will listen only to those who know the Savior, believe his word, and rightly divide it. Anything else is a waste of my time and an insult to God's word.

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help
and rely on horses,
who trust in chariots because they are many
and in horsemen because they are very strong,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel
or consult the Lord!
-Isaiah 31:1
And yet [the Holy One of Israel] is wise and brings disaster;
he does not call back his words,
but will arise against the house of the evildoers
and against the helpers of those who work iniquity.
-Isaiah 31:2
The Egyptians are man, and not God,
and their horses are flesh, and not spirit.
When the Lord stretches out his hand,
the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall,
and they will all perish together.
-Isaiah 31:3

We make a colossal mistake when wee seek answers from the unregenerate. Occasionally, they may stumble near the truth (Acts 17:28), but give no heed to their instruction. Bowing to unregenerate men and plead for them to teach us? May it not be so.