Search This Blog

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Examining My Own Song

Test All Things

In my last post I took a critical eye to the hymn "Saved by the Blood." We saw that nothing is above scrutiny. All things must be tested against scripture and sound doctrine. "Test all things; hold fast what is good" (1 Thess 5:21). In that spirit, I will now subject a song of mine to the same scrutiny.

The song below is just one example. I am sure there are errors, subtle and not-so-subtle, in other songs from the early years. Nothing is above scrutiny. Every teaching, every hymn, every song, every work must be measured by scripture, rightly divided. There are posts on this blog which, if I went back over every detail, I would correct or make more clear based on my continued study. In the end, your theology is your own. I will answer for how I handled scripture as will we all. God is a loving, patient God who understands we are but dust. But that is not an excuse to fail to study and rightly divide the Word of truth.

Come On Home

When I discovered and surrendered to the sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ and faith alone in that sacrifice, his burial without decay, and his resurrection that we might have life, I was playing in a band. I had gone from a devout Roman Catholic (teaching Religious Education in my parish at the time) to being a newborn babe in Christ. This had an immediate affect on my songwriting.

In those early days I penned songs such as "Give Thanks Unto the Lord" and "Don't Worry Anymore" and "No Forgiveness" (based on Hebrews 9:22) among other Christian-themed works. These early works reflected my fresh, yet still growing faith. My faith was still maturing. This is natural process and God is patient with all his children. In the modern age, however, since we have the ability to freeze time via video or sound recording, our less than mature work can get locked in time.

One of the songs I wrote during that era was inspired by looking back at the Catholic students and friends who were still mired in darkness (filtered through Catholic imagery). (There is a subtext based on the creed of my college fraternity with whom I was exchanging letters at the time, but perhaps that story at another time.)

The original draft and recording was written  in a minor key as it was meant to be delivered with a sense of sadness. Later the chorus progression was changed slightly to give it a more hopeful balance. The song is called "Come On Home."

No Love, they give you no love;
No Light, they give you no light;
Sitting in the darkness as they speak their empty lines,
Their minds are cluttered with the thoughts of foolish wine. 
No Truth, they give you no truth;
No Life, they give you no life;
Thinking in their natural minds the thoughts of natural men,
Hoping they'll get saved, they're just not so sure when. 
Come on home, my son,
Come on home, my son,
The work has been done,
Come on home, my son. 
No faith, they give you no faith,
No grace, they give you no grace,
Created righteousness, they trust in flesh and bone,
In filthy rags they'll stand at the Great White Throne 
No hope, they give you no hope,
No peace, they give you no peace,
Slaves of ritual, they tell you what to see,
But the debt's been paid, and Jesus wants you free. 
Come on home, my son,
Come on home, my son,
The work has been done,
Come on home, my son. 
Come on home, we're waiting for you,
Leave the works of flesh behind you,
Fall upon your knees and cry out,
Come on home, my son,  we're waiting here,
We're waiting here.
(This outro was deleted for the final studio version)

OK. Shakespeare I am not. While my intent is good and heartfelt, I cannot deny that the song contains error. As straightforward as it may appear, there is subtle error. In the line, "In filthy rags they'll stand at the Great White Throne," I warn the listener that those who are trusting in their own righteousness to any degree with face judgment at the Great White Throne of Revelation 20:11-15. This is not "rightly dividing the Word of Truth."

This is not a study of the Great White Throne (GWT), but for our purposes here, suffice it to say I have wrongly presented the GWT as some sort of judgment of all unbelievers of all ages. I have taken it from its context and fallen for the false dichotomy of "saved/lost" and "heaven/hell" which we have covered previously.

As we have seen in other studies may times, only those who have professed faith in Christ alone have "life." Only those have the Son have life. The others will not see life. That is, only those who have been reconciled to God by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection (since Christ finished his ministry on earth) have a hope of resurrection. Those who reject Him or have faith in the works of their hands, will not see life. They will not see resurrection.

In context of my song, it should reflect that those who do not "come on home" to Christ will not, as I wrote, appear at the GWT, rather they will not see resurrection or life at all.

In regard to the hope of this dispensation and the hopes of other dispensations and the place of the GWT, I leave you with this quick reference chart from Oscar M Baker (source: HERE)

THE HOPE OF ISRAEL was to be resurrected and possess the land promised to their fathers. They had the 10 Commandments, diverse laws and ordinances, and circumcision. There is nothing in the Old Testament about men going to heaven after death.
THE HOPE OF THE CHURCH OF GOD was to be caught up, either dead or alive, into the air to meet and come back with the Lord when He comes to set up His Kingdom on the earth. This church was made up of both Jew and Gentile with the Jew first. There were two faiths, and two gospels. The middle wall of partition was between. They were to observe water baptism and the Passover. They were still subject to the law, (except Gentiles as in article before).   
THE HOPE OF THE CHURCH WHICH IS THE BODY OF CHRIST is to have an earlier resurrection, to be caught up into the super-heavens and manifested with Him in Glory. This is His coronation where He is made King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This happens before either the hope of Israel or that of the church of God.
That leaves the nations which were before Abraham which are not included in the three groups above to appear at the Great White Throne. There are the four future resurrections.  In which will you appear? What is your hope?                                       
                                        Originally Published Oct. 1948

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Examining a Popular and Beloved Hymn - Saved By the Blood

The intent of this post is not to condemn the hymn "Saved By The Blood," but rather to simply examine it in light of scripture. It's not a horrible song, but it does perpetuate a biblical error. It feeds the lie that we have life by the sacrifice of Christ. It feeds the "saved/lost" interpretation of scripture which we have covered before.

To be sure, the work of Christ on the cross is fully sufficient to pay for all of our sins (past, present, and future), and it has. We dare not offer the works of our own hands as payment. However, we must find resurrection life by grace through faith in that sacrifice. That is, we must believe that without the Lord's resurrection, the forgiveness of sins (on its own) would not give us life.

Ironically, I took the words below from the site "Timeless Truths."

  1. Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
    Now ransomed from sin and a new work begun,
    Sing praise to the Father and praise to the Son,
    Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
    • Refrain:
      Glory, I’m saved! Glory, I’m saved!
      My sins are all pardoned, my guilt is all gone!
      Glory, I’m saved! Glory, I’m saved!
      I’m saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
  2. Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
    The angels rejoicing because it is done;
    A child of the Father, joint-heir with the Son,
    Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
  3. Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
    The Father He spake, and His will it was done;
    Great price of my pardon, His own precious Son;
    Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
  4. Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
    All hail to the Father, all hail to the Son,
    All hail to the Spirit, the great Three in One!
    Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!

First, let me take a line which is not in error. We can find some good truth in this hymn along with the error.
My sins are all pardoned, my guilt is all gone!
This is true, because it is true of all men. It is certainly a glorious truth and it is built on the fact that the Lord shed his blood for the sins of the whole world. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We again look to 2 Cor 5. There we are given our charge, our ministry. We have a ministry of reconciliation as we call men to be reconciled to God, for he has already been reconciled to them in Christ. Their sins are already forgiven.

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. -vs 18-19

So, yes, my sins are all pardoned, my guilt is all gone! But is that truth the same as having life? No. To have life, men must believe. They must believe in the sacrifice and the resurrection. This is what we call men to do. We call them to be reconciled  to God.

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. -vs 20-21

We call men to be reconciled to God by believing on the Son of God and by believing they will have life (John 3:16; 3:36; 5:24; 8:12; 20:31; etc.). When men believe on the Son and profess faith (his death, burial, and resurrection), they are "saved" [they have life] by his resurrection.

But for us also, to whom [righteousness] shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. -Rom 4:24-25

The Lord was delivered to the cross and to his death because of our sins, but it is in his resurrection that we find our hope of resurrection life. "He who has the Son has life, he who has not the Son has not life" (John 5). Men have life through faith. We confess faith in his sacrifice and in his resurrection.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. -Rom 10:9-11

We might be tempted to slough off these differences as semantic, but they are central to rightly dividing the Word of Truth and central to correctly applying the stewardship of the reconciliation which have been called to minister. Our message to the world is that God has already been reconciled to you through the Son's sacrifice, you must now be reconciled to him.

This truth cannot be understood if we persist in the "saved/lost" or "heaven/hell" error. All those in Adam will die. One must be found in Christ to be made alive again (resurrection). One is mortal unless he is clothed in immortality in resurrection. (1 Cor 15).

We covered those two erroneous dichotomies (drawn from mythology and false teachings), but in short: the problem men have is death which is the result of being born in sin and our own sinful acts and thoughts. Those who have life through Christ have life made possible because of his sacrifice, but it is secured through resurrection (his and ours). 

So, when we separate the "saved" from the "lost" it is not "those going to heaven by the blood" against "those who will be tortured." The blood of Christ paid for ALL sin, but one cannot enter blessing apart from faith. This has always been true in scripture. And the blessing to which will enter depends on the hope that is before him. Israel has no hope of "heaven." Their hope is the millennial kingdom and the New Jerusalem which comes down from heaven. Those in the Body for which Christ is the Head have a hope in the "far above the heavens where Christ dwells" (Eph).  

The blood of the crucified one is necessary for resurrection to be possible, but if you believe it does not pay for the sin of the whole world, you have accepted the lie of limited atonement and you have called John (and the Holy Spirit) a liar.

It is a beautiful hymn, but nothing is above scriptural scrutiny. It is one of the most popular hymns and still appears in hymnals across the English-speaking world. But neither popularity, solemnity, nor antiquity make something true. 

Lots of truth in this hymn (lots of wonderful praise), unfortunately, it is overshadowed by a doctrine which falls short and perpetuates an error.
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world [Gk: kósmos]. -John 1:29
And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. -1 John 2:2
But men must believe and be reconciled to God to have life, but their sins are not imputed to them.
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life... -John 3:36a


Addendum in regard to Justification:

A favorite passage among Christians is found in Romans chapter 5:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. -Rom 5:8-10

 Verse 10 is a summation. We were enemies of God when Christ shed his blood on our behalf. It was while were still enemies that were reconciled to God. But that did not save us. It is through his resurrection that we are saved. No one is saved because of the Lord's ministry to Israel as he walked the earth. The "life" in verse 10 is resurrection life.

We see that clearly in the passage we quoted from Romans 4. He was raised for our justification.

We must be careful with the word "justification." It is to be understood according to its context. The Lord Jesus Christ is said have been "justified in the Spirit" in 1 Timothy. This refers back to the testimony of the Father who declared him his "beloved Son" in whom he was "well pleased" as the Holy Spirit descended at his baptism by John.

Paul speaks of justification by faith as James speaks of justification by works. The context in each is a declaration and recognition by God. Abraham believed and his faith was reckoned as righteousness by God (Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6). James draws from the same truth in Genesis in his argument for "justification by works." He also points us to Rahab hiding the spies in Jericho. Since Paul makes it clear in Romans 11 that the free gift of grace and our works are mutually exclusive, we must conclude that "justification" is not the same as the free gift. It is that by which God is able to declare something.

When we apply this to the passage in Romans 5, it becomes more clear.  We are DECLARED reconciled to God "by His Blood," but we are DELIVERED from the penalty of sin (death) "by His life (resurrection)."

In Romans 11, Paul also refers to the "remnant according to the election of grace." This, according to the context, is in regard to Israel in God's plan. They are an elect people, but the individual Jew can only be declared a member of the "elect" by faith, no matter his works. James wrote his epistle to "the twelve tribed scattered abroad," that is, to Jews.

When we put all of these truths together in their place, we can start to understand the Plan of God in the Acts (with application beyond). Israel was chosen by God as a nation. The individual Jew, however, could only be declared righteous by believing God (regardless of works). The evidence of that declaration, then, is found in the resulting works. Rahab is given to us to show there is also an application to the Gentile.

  • Abraham was chosen by God through no action of his own.
  • Abraham chose to believe God and in that alone he was declared righteous.
  • Abraham demonstrated that declaration in full in the sacrifice of Isaac.

Surely we would not argue that the decades of Abraham walking with God before that day on Mount Moriah with Isaac found him wtill under the wrath of God and without hope! No. He was decalred righteous the moment he believed, remained so even through his failings and sin and unbelief in the years that followed. That saving faith then reached full maturity in his obedience on Mount Moriah.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? [mature] And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. -James 2
It is folly to believe that Abraham did not have life or did not have a relationship with God for decades before his day with Isaac. When it comes to grace, works are excluded. All things in context.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Christ Above All

One of the dangers in Bible study is that in our desire to understand the scriptures (a noble and good thing), as we dig, we lose sight of him who makes it all possible. On this blog, we have studied how God has dealt with different people at different times according to different administrations. But there are truths central to all.

We have noted that while some things are limited to certain peoples or dispensations (such as Sabbaths and sacrifices) other truths know no bounds (God is love). In all administrations, the unifying truth and path to life is by faith. No matter the age, no matter the dispensation,  no matter the revelation, faith is the path into entering any blessing.

Central to faith is the Lord Jesus Christ. He declares himself in the Revelation as the "alpha and the omega" (the first and last letters of the classical Greek alphabet), "the first and the last," and "the beginning and the end." He is almighty God. He is one with the Father. He is a member of the triune God.
“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel,
And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
‘I am the First and I am the Last;
Besides Me there is no God.
-Isaiah 44:6
We see that he is the "Aleph-Tav," the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet of Genesis 1:1. Genesis 1:1 contains an untranslatable word. The verse contains 7 words and 28 (4x7) letters.
בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃
Although Hebrew commentators dispute the Aleph-Tav reference to Christ and argue its use is simply a grammatical marker, we have further revelation to help us see the reality.
In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. This word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through [the Word], and not one single thing that has come into being came into being apart from [The Word]. -John 1:1-3 (Far Above All)
[The Son] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. -Col 1:15-17 (NKJV)
He is worthy of worship along side the Father and the Spirit of God. In the true "Lord's Prayer" of John 17, the Lord Jesus Christ prays this:
I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
The Lord Jesus Christ is our Great God and Savior for whom we look.
Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. -Titus 2:13-14
There is so much more to be said of our Savior. He gave his life so we might have life through his name by faith. If you don't know our Great God and Savior, the Book of John is sent to you.
Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. -John 20:30-31
You can read it or listen to it HERE: Gospel of John 

For those of us who have placed our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (especially we Gentiles in the current dispensation), let us pause regularly to reflect upon his glory and the hope of our resurrection life hidden in Him. Let is walk worthy of our calling.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. -Col 1
The "things of the earth" consist of both activities outwardly sinful and inwardly sinful as the Lord deems them (even if men do not). That is, we must not only seek to live "clean" lives, we must live according to our calling, and that calling concerns a future life "far above the heavens."  We must not get bogged down in "religion." We must not look to Israel's earthly promises and partake in her earthly ordinances. These are all holy and good in their place, but our calling is not of this world.

So, first, we must find our life in Christ alone. He is our first and our last! We must pass from death to life (John 3:16; 5:24-28), then we must walk according to calling to which we have been called (Eph 4:1). The free gift of life can never be taken away, but we must build upon it to his glory.

Hopefully, you will find information regarding both the free gift and the worthy walk throughout this blog. In all, may his name be ever glorified and shine through. He is the foundation and the core of the Christian life. Without him, we can do nothing.

Lift him up, higher and higher!
He must increase, but I must decrease. -John 3:30

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Name of God and the Hebrew Roots and Messianic Movements

Let me be sure to say, as I usually do, that questioning a particular teaching does not mean I necessarily condemn everything someone may teach. In this case, Alan Horvath may have some profitable material. I used to follow his YouTube page (although I didn't really watch many of his videos) because he was recommended to me. I've linked his videos in his name above so you are free to judge for yourself.

That said, he falls for the "Yeheshua" error which we have looked at in previous studies. Those posts are linked below. The second is also about Alan Horvath, but I wanted to revisit the topic as this trend, along with the dangerous Hebrew Roots and Messianic movements, is gaining traction within Christendom. I'll take a slightly different tack this time.

The use of "God" and the Dangers of Earthly Practices

Gentiles were strangers to the promises and covenants and we were never under the Law. It is only in this dispensation of the Mystery,wholly independent of Israel, that we have our own blessings and hopes.
Remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands, that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. -Eph 1:11-13

Our epistles are all in Greek. As we have seen, Paul uses the Greek "Theos" to refer both to pagan false gods and to the one, true God. We also noted that the same pronouns are used in scripture to refer to both the true God and to Satan. But God understands, as we do, how pronouns are used. Horvath and other fear-mongers want to scare you into thinking you are actually worshiping Satan if you don't use the "right" words (and Hebrew words at that).

Using Jewish titles doesn't mean God hears you. Don't be enslaved to fear by Horvath's unbiblical teaching. In Matthew 15:22, a gentile woman calls out to Jesus, "Lord, Son of David" (κυριε υιε δαυιδ). She is ignored despit using a true and accurate title of the Lord Jesus. In Matthew 20:31-32, when two Jews cry out "Son of David!" our Lord responds. We need to understand the difference.

Further, the crowds that called for him to be crucified worshiped Him as "Son of David" as He entered Jerusalem. One day worshiping him as the rightful heir of the throne only to reject him and hand him over to be killed shortly after.

We must look at the the heart and the intent of the user. In the case of the gentile woman, to her He is not the "Son of David." That was a title to be used by Jews, not gentiles. But when she drops it and only uses "Lord," she is heard. He is Lord of all. The Lord knows the heart. 

You can use the "right" name all you want, but it (a) won't make a difference if you have not been reconciled to God by faith or (b) you use a title, although Biblical, which does not pertain to you. In 2 Cor 4:4, Satan is referred to as a "theos" (god) just as the true God is referred to as "theos," including the great verse on the full deity of Christ as Creator (John 1:1). Do we thus conclude Jesus is Satan? Nonsense.

The Church Which Is His Body Is Not Israel

Israel has her own promises and hope, and these will surely come to pass in ages to come. However, their hope differs from the hope of the present calling.

This slavery to the use of Hebrew terms is not only unbiblical (you can find none of these in even the Jewish epistles), it also moves free believers into slavery to Jewish practices. These practices are holy and good in their place. They were given to Israel for a purpose, yet that burden was never placed on Gentiles. Even under the dual gospels in the Acts age, Gentiles were excused from the weightier matters of the Law (Acts 15).

In the current dispensation, earthly ordinances and practices are not only wrong, they are condemned. When scripture  warns us against minding "the things of the world," included in that warning are ordinances related to the earthly kingdom.

We have no ordinances in this dispensation. What we call "the Lord's Supper" is the Jewish Passover. Water Baptism (cleansing) has no place in this age. This is not just a question of liberty, but of obedience and hope.

If we believe we are pleasing God by participating in earthly ordinances, we risk missing our hope and calling in the "far above the heavens." Israel will have a new temple one day (Ezek), but we look for a future where the heavenly Holy of Holies is, with Christ, far above all heavens.

Enemies of the Cross of Christ Who Mind Earthly Things

The "enemies of the cross of Christ" who "mind earthly things" are Christians. They do not understand our citizenship is not earthly. The "cross of Christ" speaks of suffering for his name here and "earthly things" pertains to ordinances and practices connected to the earthly promises to Israel. These are not "enemies of Christ," but they are enemies of the truths of this dispensation. Thes are like those who abandoned Paul (2 Tim). They are Christians, but of the world because they do not understand, or they reject, the dispensation of the Mystery revealed through Paul.

We need fresh eyes to read the following passages. The context is fellow believers, yet these are almost exclusively presented as attacks from outside the family of faith. When you have your eyes enlightened to this truth, you will start to see how Christendom has many believers enslaved to earthly practices and dangerously close to losing all rewards.
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ... -Phil 3:18-20
For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain... -2 Tim 1:12-16
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the [i]handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. 20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. -Col 2

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Looking at How the Lord Healed Via Right Division

There came a man, whose name [is] Jairus, and he was a chief of the synagogue, and having fallen at the feet of Jesus, was calling on him to come to his house; because he had an only daughter about twelve years [old], and she was dying... And having come to the house, [Jesus] suffered no one to go in, except Peter, and James, and John, and the father of the child, and the mother; and they were all weeping, and beating themselves for her, and he said, `Weep not, she did not die, but doth sleep; and they were deriding him, knowing that she did die; and he having put all forth without, and having taken hold of her hand, called, saying, `Child, arise;' and her spirit came back, and she arose presently, and he directed that there be given to her to eat. -Luke 8 (YLT)
A Canaanite [Gentile] woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. -Matthew 15 (RSV)

We have  looked at the case of the Gentile woman's daughter in other studies. We noted that when she addresses the Lord as "Son of David," he ignores her. We contrasted this with the stories of the blind men who called on him as "Son of David." He answered these and healed them. In both instances we are told he "touched" them. In the case of the Gentile woman's daughter, the Lord heals her without ever seeing her, and only after the Gentile takes her place beneath Israel and acknowledges him as "Lord" (for "Son of David" was a title meant only for the lost sheep of the House of Israel).

Today we look at a similar healing from a slightly different angle. In Luke 8 we see Jairus' daughter dying (note there is no rejoicing that she is "Abraham's Bosom" in bliss, etc.). Jairus was a chief in the synagogue. He was Jewish, a son of  the Kingdom, a son of Abraham. In this case we see the Lord touch his daughter and call her "Child." She is raised from the dead.

Now let's look at a Gentile leader who makes and appeal to the Lord.
As he entered Caper′na-um, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. -MT 8

We see, again, a Gentile being healed from a distance. The Lord never touches him. We also note a warning to "the sons of the Kingdom." This is warning to Israel. If they lack faith, they stand to lose their place in the promised land and kingdom in a coming age. Clearly this is look to the future as Abraham, Issac, and Jacob have been raised.

In the very same chapter (Matthew 8), before and after this healing of the Gentile, we have healings of Israelites. The leper is healed as is Peter's mother-in-law. In both cases, it is noted that Jesus "touched" them.

Paul directs us to "compare the things that differ" (Phil 1:10) in scripture. This is one the most essential things we must do if we want to truly understand and interpret scripture. We see in the Lord's earthly ministry (which extends in parts into the Acts age), a dispensational truth in regard to Israel and Gentiles.

Since Adam, all who have the promise of life in the ages to come receive that gift by grace through faith. But, clearly, how the Lord administers his plan and to what we must believe changes. There are "things that differ" among all the dispensations.

let's look at another healing.
Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” -Luke 13
 Again, we see the Lord laying hands on a "daughter of Abraham."

This is all part of "rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (2 Tim 2:15). We must not read the gospel accounts of the Lord's ministry, the Book of Acts, or the Acts Age epistles into the current (Post-Acts) dispensation).

When we read about the Lord's earthly ministry (words and deed) we must understand why he came, and to whom he was sent. Surely, part of his ministry was to "take away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), but his coming was a King to his people to confirm the promises made to Israel alone. We've seen in other studies how "the gospel of the Kingdom" is not for us today and is limited to Israel. Similarly, the gospel we preach today is separate from the promises to Israel.
Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision [Israel] for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers. -Rom 15:8
 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” -Matt 15:24
These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick... -Matt 10:5-7
We want to be careful here and add that in all ages and dispensations, the Lord Jesus is to be exalted. He is the Creator God. He is the promised seed. He is the sum and substance of all hopes of all men of all time. But that does not change the Plan of God in regard to the ages. We need to learn to rejoice in the promises of this dispensation. We have a gospel which was hidden from "before  the foundation of the world" and only revealed to Paul after the Acts age.

Israel has her hope and promise, and we have ours.

Paul prays that we will be enlightened unto this glorious gospel. Israel looks forward to her millennium. But even that blessed age, on earth, will have rebellion and turmoil. Our blessings are in the far above the heavens, in the holy of holies where Christ sits at the right hand of God!

May we continued to be enlightened unto this truth. What riches we have!
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. -Eph 1:15-23

Monday, November 4, 2019

A Fresh Look at the Two Roads

As we look at different scriptures in regard to the Christian walk and related topics such as rewards, crowns, the prize, maturity, and waste, I want to be sure that we understand in all of these things, resurrection life is a free gift.

The one thing we can all grasp and agree upon, from the atheist to the polytheist, is that we all die. One of the central themes of scripture is death. It is part of the curse. It is the last enemy. It is that which will one day be destroyed. It is what Christ came ti suffer on our account.
"All in Adam will die, but all in Christ will be made alive." 
It is in light of the free gift of Life and its certainty that we look at scriptures regarding our walk.

So, as we approach the metaphor of the two gates, we do not lose sight of this truth. Those on the two roads are believers. They all have the free gift of life. They all have a new, divine nature given freely by God by grace through faith.

Before we get to out passage in Matthew 7, we must pass through a number of instructions and warnings from Christ Jesus to his brethren in Israel.
  • Judge not, that you be not judged.
  • For with what judgment you judge, you will be
  • Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?
  • Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine
  • Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find
  • knock, and it will be opened to you.
  • Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophet
The Lord is clearly speaking to believers. We have acknowledged these are part of his ministry to Israel (Matt 15:25; Rom 15:8; etc.), but all scripture is profitable and we take principles from here. The believer deals with his "brother" and he deals with "dogs." But in either case, the hearers are assumed to be believers. This leads us into our passage.
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. -Matt 7:13-14
The Lord is telling his Jewish followers  to enter by the difficult and narrow way. Now, is the Lord's burden heavy? Must we work hard to obtain the free gift? No. We are clearly told in Romans 11 that works and grace are mutually exclusive ideas in regard to the free gift. However, entering into certain blessings requires we bear "the cross of Christ."

We have looked previously as how the scriptures instruct the believer in the epistles. We are either moving towards perfection (maturity, completion of the race we are running) or perdition (loss and waste).

For the Israelite, this has to do with a place in the Kingdom. In Matthew we will see the Lord commend the faith of a gentile and warn the Israelites.
And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” -Matt 8:11-12
Are unbelievers the heirs of the kingdom? No, the earthly kingdom is promised to Israel. But some will miss out on its blessings. They will weep, not because God is torturing them (as is often taught from this passage), but because they dis not enter into their blessings by faith.

This is where James' epistle to the "twelve tribes" (James 1:1) gives us some light. The faith here, and in James, produces good fruit. It produces action. Faith is necessary to enter into blessing, but it must be faith that takes action.

Another good illustration is found in the twelve spies who spied out the promised land. While twelve entered (all redeemed out of Egypt and identified with Moses in the Red Sea) only two believed God. Therefore, only these two entered the land of blessing (Numbers 14:29-30).

In Ezekiel 20, the Lord is chastising Israel through the prophet. He reminds them of what he has done for the nation and gives them a grave warning about entrance into the promised land.
I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord. -Ezek 20:37-28
Let us return to Matthew 7. As we continue the Lord's discourse we see additional warnings.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
 While it is true that men, in general, are known by their fruits, here we see the warning in regard to testing prophets. This is, again, clearly for Israel. This is the Lord warning believing Israel test prophets and not to listen to all of them. It is assumed his listeners are sheep and the false prophets only appear so. The point being that sheep can be led astray, or led down the broad road, by false prophets.
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
This passage, I believe, continues to warn Israel about false prophets. These will not enter the kingdom, so don't follow them! No matter what miracles they seem to do, no matter what swelling words come forth from their mouths, beware! They will lead you down the broad road which leads to waste.

"Destruction" can be applied  to either a being or a being's works and rewards. Whereas the lost will themselves he destroyed, so shall the works of the flesh of the believer at the Judgment Seat (though he himself shall have life).

There will be Jews who miss out on the millennial kingdom. These warnings are not directed at believers of this age, but there are principles pointing us to the character of God. In this age, some may miss out on many other blessings through lack of faith or by leading wicked lives. These warnings are found in Paul's seven final epistles (especially in Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians).

The biggest blessing a believer of this age can miss is failing to enter the blessings in the heavenlies by rejecting Paul's gospel of this hour. Paul revealed a "Mystery" (hidden from before the foundation of the world) gospel of blessings in heavenly places. Many have rejected Paul. They still have the free gift of life, but by chasing the rudiments of the world and robbing from others (primarily Israel), they cannot enter into full blessings. Others walk in the flesh and forfeit rewards, crowns, and the prize of high calling.

It is absolutely essential that you believe in His name, confess his death, burial (lack of decay in the grave) and his glorious resurrection as the full payment for your sins and your full justification in his resurrection. God has already been reconciled to you in Christ, you need only be reconciled to him by faith. But after faith, seek to walk in to new nature you receive.
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. -John 5:24
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, -Eph 4:1

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Homosexual Christians and The Kingdom

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. -1 Cor 6:9-10
This commonly quoted passage in 1 Cor 6 concerning (among other things) sexual sin and "inheriting the kingdom" does not involve the free gift of eternal life. That is a dangerous path to take and I see it all the time. Do not conflate "inheriting the kingdom" with the free gift, by grace, of life through his name. If all you have is a saved/lost or a heaven/hell understanding of scripture, you will not get very far.

Just the pronouns in the verses above reveal this is directed as Christians. The whole chapter makes it even more abundantly clear that Paul is issuing this warning to Christians. Is Paul writing to unbelievers here?
Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot?
Clearly this aimed at believers. Paul would never refer to unbelievers as "members of Christ." Yet despite the overwhelming evidence in this chapter (and throughout the ministry of the Lord and his chosen), men still turn this gun towards the world or they chalk it up to Paul referencing the past lives of some Christians.
In this passage we see that the members of the church at Corinth had been guilty of homosexuality as well as many other sins, but they had been converted. The homosexuality is spoken of in the past tense. 
-David Cloud (Excerpt, Way of Life Literature)
Paul does say "such were some of you" in reference to the past lives of some of the Corinthian believers, but even with that understood, why would he have need to warn them if they were never in danger of slipping back into those lifestyles? 

Leaving Sexual sin for a moment, "drunkards" is on the list of offenses. Do we believe that it is impossible for an alcoholic to find eternal life and then fall back into an old habit? Here we turn to a parallel warning in Galatians in light of "will not inherit the Kingdom of God."
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. -Gal 5:16-22
Again the pronouns and context and content can only lead us to see this is addressed to Christians. Unbelievers do no have a new nature (spirit) contrasted with the old nature (flesh). But believers do have this choice. Notice "drunkenness" is on this list as well. These are not "former lives" to which Paul is referring, rather he is referring to future possibilities for believers.

So just as it is possible for a Christian to walk in the flesh and fall into habitual drunkenness, so may a Christian fall into habitual sexual sin.  

Applying right division to these Acts Age passages, we see that these may lose a place in the coming earthly kingdom (which we have covered numerous times). They will not "inherit the kingdom of God." Since one cannot lose a free gift and since grace and works are mutually exclusive in terms of the gift, we must not try to equate inheriting the kingdom with having eternal life.

We briefly point you back to the Lord's warning to some of being "thrown into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth." Surely this is aimed at unbelievers, right? Many an evangelist will use it that way, but the Lord is clear:
And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. -Matt 8:11-12
The warning of the Lord's earthly ministry, and in the Acts age, concern the earthly kingdom. That kingdom is earned. The Lord speaks of profitable and unprofitable servants. Stewardship and faithfulness are addressed. If we interpret all these as simply "saved or lost," we end up in great fear and confusion. We are forced to mangle the Lord's clear words to make them fit the free gift of Life.

Rightly dividing the Word of Truth helps us understand these passages and helps us understand things such as the assumed contradiction between Paul's teachings on justification and James' teaching. Paul argues from scripture that the free gift of life is by grace alone. It excludes all works. The two cannot co-exist. However, James teaches that works must accompany faith in justification. They both point to Abraham.
What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.” -Romans 4
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. -James 2
There are many parallels between the Book of James and the Sermon on the Mount. This is because both are ministering to Israel. Both concern the promises and hope of Israel (the kingdom). Note that James points to an event in Abraham's life which occurred long after the event to which Paul refers. It is not simply that faith results in works (it may or may not), but that justifying faith, in light of the Kingdom, must be made perfect (mature).

Let us quickly look at a popular passage in Hebrews 6 (note, we are addressing Hebrews in the Acts age, just as James addressed "the twelve tribes" in his epistle). Paul urges the Hebrews "to go on to perfection."
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection... But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation... And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. -Hebrews 6:1,9,11-12
These Hebrews had salvation, but they needed to continue on in good works (listed in the chapter) and move on to perfection (maturity). They are warned not to become lazy. They are warned not to stay on the elementary things of the faith lest the continue to crucify the Lord, as it were. Paul again uses Abraham as his model.
For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. -Hebrews 6:13-15
Abraham obtained one promise, but he accepted the cross so he could achieve another.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. -Hebrews 11:8-10
This chapter also speaks of those who sought a "better resurrection." These had the free gift of resurrection life by faith, but they sought a "better" resurrection. We have a similar admonition in our calling. We must strive for a "better resurrection." We must "obtain" a prize through suffering and maturity.
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the out-resurrection from among the rest of the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. -Phil 3

Does Paul doubt his free gift of life? Never. Paul is addressing those things which lie beyond the free gift, things earned, things attained. 

Christians can lose reward. Christians can be murderers (1 Peter). Christians can walk in the flesh (Gal 5). But we are not our own saviors and if you hold 1 Cor 6 to mean eternal life, you are essentially saying we must maintain the free gift ourselves.

There are dire warnings for Christians all through scripture. Too often some warnings, given to Christians, are attributed to unbelievers. But God has but one message to unbelievers: God has been reconciled to you, you just need to be reconciled to God (1 Cor 5:17-18).

Passages like "the enemies of the cross of Christ" and those "whose god is their belly," refer to Christians just as 1 Cor 6 and Peter's admonition not be charged as a murderer, thief, or evil-doer refer to Christians. Those who abandoned Paul in Asia were Christians (2 Tim 1:15).

If you want to argue that 1 Cor 6 concerns unbelievers, you are dangerously close to denying Christ. The context is clear. Paul is admonishing Christians. After the list of disqualifying sins, Paul writes this:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
Who says those things? Christians. Whose body is meant for the Lord? This can only mean Christians. We can be disqualified from rewards, the prize, and crowns. We may "become disqualified" (1 Cor 9:27). We may make a "shipwreck" of our faith (1 Tim 1:19).

Ministries like "Way of Life Literature" make a huge error in simply assigning works of the flesh to the past without understanding the possibility that a Christian can choose to walk in the flesh (hence the repeated warnings). So, yes, there are Christians who practice homosexuality. They are in disobedience, they may lose rewards, but they have not forfeited eternal life.

Those who understand the free gift, yet teach that one cannot be both a Christian and practice sexual immorality have a problem on their hands. Do we become incapable of sin? Is it impossible for a Christian to walk in the flesh? Of course not. And if we walk in the flesh, we can horrible things and we will not grow in the faith. To continue in sin is to silence the voice of the Spirit and suppress the new nature. Without the influence of the Spirit, we cannot be taught. We will fall back to perdition instead of going on to perfection.

We warn Christians about walking in the flesh and according to its lusts. We can't tell unbelievers to walk in the new nature (spirit), because they don't have a new nature.

Ironically, many Christians become puffed up in the flesh because they use passages like 1 Cor 6 to teach that they are either incapable of such sins or they are somehow maintaining their salvation by not falling into "habitual sin." Pride is a sin as well.

Paul warns Timothy when he is appointing elders that he should avoid novices, "lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil..." (1 Tim 3:6).  The same condemnation as the devil? Yes. But since this is clearly for believers and involves pride and not sex (so we can't point fingers), this verse is not taught in the same way 1 Cor 6 is taught.

Have you ever heard anyone teach that an elder who falls into pride was never really a Christian? No, it's too hard to manipulate that passage. However, teachers who don't want to acknowledge other sins of the flesh simply assign most of those sins as signs someone is not really a Christian. But if someone who has the "same condemnation as the devil" can be a Christian elder, so can any Christian fail to "inherit the kingdom of God." And neither of these lose the free gift of eternal life or it is no longer free.

Those who profess to understand the "free gift" are left with the only alternative, wrenching the sins listed there from the context and assuming these never truly had life. But that's rather difficult task in light of Galatians 5 and 1 Timothy 6.

For those struggling with any sin, please see our series on Walking in the Spirit and its parallel study on Walking Worthy.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Understanding Eternal Life

Getting past the simple understanding of eternal (which is actually too complex)

Hopefully, at this point, we should know to test the traditions in Christendom. We must test the things that differ. We have seen the dangers in the simple dichotomies of saved/lost and heaven/hell. We have noted that certain common doctrines are not found in scripture, but rather are mythologies molded to fit scripture (and vice versa).

We noted in a recent study how scripture deals in terms of time. This is a necessity as we are creatures of time and we have great difficulty understanding concepts outside of time. Evolutionists cannot grasp the existence  of matter with no beginning and no end so they simply ignore the problem of the "no start / no end" within the construct of time.

Carl Sagan, in his "Cosmos" series, places the "Big Bang" at about 15 billion years ago. He offers the question in regard to what happened before that and concludes it's not worth asking. This is a necessary backwards period for Sagan as the problem would never end. Matter would have to have always existed, organizing and disorganizing itself endlessly for no reason according to no physical laws except those it would violate. It is assumed there is no beginning and all things continue as they always have. Time has n meaning, yet they are bound by it in a purely physical universe.

We worship a God who is outside of time, but we're not 

This is a high concept and our limited minds fail us as we try to process the thought. However, we are not bound by the laws of time in our interpretation of God. When we understand that time is the stage upon which scripture is revealed, however, we must limit our interpretations, then, to time. We can leave intelligence beyond scrutiny. We can assume intelligence and understanding as part of the creation as we readily observe it. We can conclude it exists beyond matter-only, whereas the slave of the matter-only universe must answer the question in terms of time.

Further, he has to explain his very thoughts and emotions in purely physical terms. Every thought must be the result of some random chemical reaction (emphasis on random). To suggest there is something beyond random chemical reactions is to admit to the existence of that which is beyond the physical and to that which is not random.

We must not confuse things bound by time with things not bound

We will leave that quandary there and move back to Christendom and its attempt to frame things not subject to time in terms of time. Rather, insisting that we see words which suggest a limitation in time and forcing them to fit the false heaven/hell dichotomy.

Our English bibles use phrases such as "forever and ever." This is a nonsensical phrase if we apply the common understanding of these core words. This is not a study simply about the word "eternal" per se, but "eternal" has a similar problem for the English reader. Even without the addition of "and ever," the word "forever" is often misunderstood when we equate it with "endless" in terms of time. "Eternal" is lumped in with these as well.
Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, having in like manner with these given themselves over to fornication and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire. -Jude 7
Obviously, Sodom is not still burning. We see a similar pronouncement concerning the gentile nations who come against Zion in a coming age. The smoke of their destruction is said to rise "forever" (Is 34:10). Both of these thoughts suggest that the destruction and punishment are without change. They shall last throughout time without revision. But they certainly do not mean that the suffering in Sodom and the smoke rising from the nations are, as God, without end into a timeless future.

Ages and beyond

Young's Literal often gives us "age-enduring" instead of "forever." As for the confusing "forever and ever," let's look an example.
The Lord shall reign forever and ever! - Ex 15:18 [NKJV]Jehovah reigneth -- to the age, and for ever!' - Ex 15:18 [YLT]
Even here, Young gives us a more reasonable concept. The God of Israel will reign to the end of the age and from there on out. This is better application to the earthly kingdom expected and promised to David and Israel. But even Young falls short here, I believe. He leaves us with an undefined concept in "for ever." We cannot apply that to the examples we just reviewed. Of course, it can be argued that the context gives the meaning, but I know of no English speaker who would accept different meanings for our word "forever."

In the Greek, we see the words "aionios" and "aion" translated as "forever and ever." But when they used separately, "aion" is given a variety of translations: “world”, “course”, “age”, “eternal” as well as being part of "since the world began." It is a word well-connected to earth and time s well as to the ethereal idea of "eternal.".

Charles Welch adds this thought:
Such translations of a word that can range from a “world” which had a “beginning” and will have an end, to “eternity” which confessedly has neither, are too wide to be of service, especially when the choice depends largely upon the theological views of the translator. (Excerpt - Berean Expositor, Vol. 42)
The Hebrew equivalent is "olam." Staying with Mr. Welch's examples, let's look at the diversity of use in Ecclesiastes.

 In the book of Ecclesiastes the word olam occurs seven times, and is translated in the KJV as follows: 
  • “The earth abideth for ever” (i. 4). 
  • “It hath been already of old time” (i. 10). 
  • “No remembrance . . . . . for ever” (ii. 16).
  • “Set the world in their heart” (iii. 11).
  • “It shall be for ever” (iii. 14). 
  • “A portion for ever” (ix. 6). 
  • “Man goeth to his long home” (xii. 5).

Mr. Welch (ibid):
Such variety provides no connected thought, but a consistent translation of olam reveals a definite line of teaching. Olam in Ecclesiastes. 
A | i. 4. The earth abideth to the age.—The passing generation. 
     B | i. 10. It hath been already in or to the ages.— Nothing new under the sun. 
          C | ii. 16. No remembrance of the wise more than of the fool to the age.— Forgotten in the days to come. 
               D | iii. 11. He hath set the age in their heart.— Beginning to end of God’s work past finding out. 
          C | iii. 14. Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be to the age.— God’s work remains. 
     B | ix. 6. Neither have they any more a portion to the age.— No portion under the sun. 
A | xii. 5. Man goeth to his age home.—The passing generation. 

We start to see a more consistent understanding of the word. We something similar in Ephesians with aion, but we shall leave that there. So, as we start to limit our "forever and ever" to the boundaries of time, we start to see that "eternal" is more of a heavenly experience than a timeless concept.

A quality and not a quantity

We see that "eternal" is more of a quality of something rather than a quantity. When we understand that, we can apply it to "the gift of eternal life." We can have eternal life now, yet we can each experience it in different ways in this age. That is, while all believers have eternal life now, some will "lay hold" of it in the current age and in our current fleshly life while others will not.
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. -John 5:24
When we believe we have "everlasting life" as a current possession.
These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. -John 17:1-3
In the true "Lord's prayer" of John 17, we see the nature and quality of "eternal life." It is a gift and it consists (in this age) of knowing "the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." Paul prays for believers that we may have a "knowledge of him" (Eph 1:17). In Colossians, he emphasizes that Christ is the eternal life which is hidden in God awaiting revelation.
For when Christ shall appear, your life, then also ye shall appear with him in glory.
-Col 3:4
So, we have "eternal life" now, but we shall experience in full at His appearing.

Lay hold on eternal life now

In this life, we can experience some of the quality of that life in the inner man. The gift is unconditional, while the experience is conditional.
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life [laying hold on the life age-during - Young's Literal], to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. -1 Tim 6:11-16
This is parallel to the gift of resurrection (wherein we experience and "put on" immortality). Resurrection is assure the believer. It is a gift. It is true life. However, there are ranks in resurrection (1 Cor 15:22-23) and there is a special "out from among the rest of the dead" resurrection to which we may attain. As with eternal life, there is the free gift and the reward via obedience.
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the [out] resurrection  [Gk: exanástasis]  from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead... -Phil 3:8-13
We may also have a harvest [reaping] of eternal life as a result of our walk.
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. -Gal 6:8
 Since we are stuck, as it were, in time, in ages, we can only speak of life in terms of time. So, we have "eternal life" and we can "lay hold of eternal life" and we may "reap eternal life."

Let us now put all these thoughts together:

  • Eternal Life is found in the Son of God
  • Eternal Life is a free gift
  • Eternal Life is something we have now
  • Eternal Life may be grasped and lived in now
  • Eternal Life is the result of investing our energy into the new nature

So, how can something that is a free possession also be something that must be grasped and something we reap from the life we lead? This can only be understood if we see "Life" in terms of quality and not in quantity. I can live in "endless time" now. I cannot grasp "endless time" now. I cannot earn "endless time" in addition to "endless time." Life cannot be a free gift from which I have already passed into from death and also something I must earn

We must understand it to be a quality of life in and outside of time. And we must never forget the first point and the hope in Colossians; Christ IS our Life!

For when Christ shall appear, your life, then also ye shall appear with him in glory.-Col 3:4
And this is the testimony: that God has given us [free gift] eternal life, and this life is in His Son. -1 John 5:11
For the wages of sin is death, but the [free] gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Rom 6:23
 In young's Literal translation of Romans 6:23, he renders it, "the gift of God [is] life age-[en]during in Christ Jesus our Lord." The context of Romans 6 is life we are living now. The free gift of life will not suffer any threat in the age or ages to come.

Do we have any suggestion of life beyond time? I think we do see this idea in two passages. In 1 Cor 15,  when we have received our new tents in resurrection, we see the idea of men finally becoming "immortal." But before that in the chapter, we see the end of death itself and a condition wherein God is all in all.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. -1 Cor 15:20-28
Eternal Life is experienced in time and outside of time. It is part of the "ages." It has different applications in different ages. It must also be rightly divided. The rich, young ruler asked how he could have eternal life. The answer he received (keep the commandments) is different than the answer we have, but not altogether different. There was a condition for him to enter fully into blessings promised to Israel. For us to enter fully into the blessings in our hope, we must also "walk worthy of the calling to which we have been called." 

But if we stay in the saved/lost or the heaven/hell dichotomy, we will never be able to reconcile these things. We will never enter into the deeper things of God.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Journey Continues

A theme to which return again and again on this blog is the theme of moving forward. Occasionally I look back over my writings and studies and it is then I realize how wonderful it is to keep growing. Some studies are delivered in a rather sloppy way, others simply delivered without the balance of grace and truth.

As I prepare a video series (complete with PowerPoint slides and some of my own charts), I remind myself that I am presenting what I currently have come to understand, not only before any viewers, but before my Lord.

If I were a more disciplined individual, I would take the time to go back and make corrections, clarifications, and additions to all my previous posts. I have done this on a few occasions, but in many instances I have left it to the reader to do his own studying. The Bible is an enormous book and I find more and more enlightening nuggets all the time. This drives me to want to write what I’m grappling with which sometimes leaves little time to go back.

Most of these studies are for me. They force me to lay out the scriptural arguments for myself. Often a post is not published as I deal with my own objections and questions. We are all theologians and each will answer for his theology (beliefs and teachings) as an individual. When I recall things I once believed in light of continual study, and realize how far removed I am from many of those beliefs, I thank God for his patience and for leading me into clearer truths; truths for which I have a far better biblical foundation.

Not to be lost in this journey is our view, attitude, and treatment of others. It is perhaps in this area
I have the most regret. We cannot change yesterday. We should not dwell on our shortcomings. But with whatever time we have left, we need to ask God to fill us with love and grace for those around us.

It is hard to leave yesterday behind, but somehow we must. Whether it be the human traditions which have stifled or enslaved us or our own selfishness and sin, tomorrow must find us moving towards maturity. As we have seen in a number of studies, we want want to be found faithful servants. We do not want to one who beats his fellow servants or one who finds his service for the Lord a waste.

Let us all go to God and allow him to lead us into all truth. Let us be determined to forsake tradition as we realize it might take some time to find the answers. Let us find patience with those around us and ask the Lord to soften our hearts and to give us a love for others born out of his love. He has already been reconciled to men through Christ. We have been made ministers of that very reconciliation.

Friday, October 18, 2019

A Fresh Look at The Rich Young Ruler

Luke 18 gives us the story of the rich, young ruler. This story and the scene that follows are both often misinterpreted by two different factions in Christendom who come to very different conclusions. Also, there is often a failure to connect the passage that follows the encounter with the ruler with the words the Lord had just spoken.

Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ”And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.”  So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. -Luke 18:18-23

Let's look at a couple of examples of how this passage is usually interpreted. First, let us see how "the prince of preachers," Charles Spurgeon, handles it.
All which appears to be simple enough, if you only look on the surface but when you come to recollect that there is an inward, spiritual meaning to all this, that a licentious look breaks the command about adultery, that a covetous desire is stealing, that the utterance of a slander is bearing false witness, and so on, who is he that shall enter into life upon such terms as these? Yet they cannot be lowered, for they are, spiritually, just and right. [Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible]

Spurgeon, in my humble opinion, makes a key interpretation mistake: he unnecessarily complicates the text ("there is an inward, spiritual meaning"). The Lord's answer, pointing to the commandments, is simple and should be understood this way. Yes, the Lord does expand elsewhere in his ministry on the full depth and implications of the commandments, but that in no way robs from this passage nor does it make the Lord a liar.

The key lies in what the meaning of "eternal life" is in the passage. When we finally rise above the saved/lost dichotomy which plagues Christendom, we realize that this phrase has contextual applications. It refers to the hope that is before the listener/reader. The hope of Israel is in sight here. The hope of entering the promised kingdom. In our age, Paul tells the rich to "lay hold of eternal life." Is he implying that these must strive to get or maintain the free gift of life? Certainly not. What he is saying is that these must walk in light of the age to come. For the Jew during the Lord's earthly ministry, this was the hope of the kingdom.

The basic requirement of that hope was to keep the commandments. We have looked at the "gospel of the kingdom" in recent studies and we again note that this cannot be the same gospel which preaches the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. The disciples were sent out to peach the gospel of the kingdom, but when the Lord later reveals that he must go to Jerusalem to die they refuse to believe it. We saw that they were preaching the presence of the King (Gk: parousia)  and the imminence of the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6).

Faith is at the base of every hope and reward. In our passage in Luke, the Lord starts out focusing on the statement that he is "good." Does the inquirer truly understand the implication? If that is the case (which is necessary), the next step is obedience. We see in the parables that those "servants" and "stewards" who act lazily or wickedly will be cast out of the kingdom and into "outer darkness." This is all based on a judgment of works. Do they lose the free gift of Life? Of course not, but they do lose something. The kingdom is not life.

In the Revelation we see the overcomers who qualify by faith and works for rewards and a "better resurrection" (cp Rev 2:15-17). Hebrews 11 speaks of this "better resurrection." Paul speaks of resurrection "according to rank" (1 Cor 15). Resurrection is a free gift by faith, but reward and rank are achieved.

We know from the passage concerning the Judgment Seat of Christ (which is for believers and not for unbelievers as the hymn falsely teaches) that some will have nothing to show for their lives while others will have great reward. In our age, we are warned we may be found "disapproved."

Here is another interpretation from a popular website which essentially accuses the Lord of being obtuse. Now, in the case of the Pharisees, he did speak in parables so they would not understand, but this young man is not out to trick the Lord. We know because he went away sad. he honestly sought an answer to his question.
In telling the young man to keep the commandments, Jesus was not saying that he could be saved by obeying the commandments; rather, Jesus was emphasizing the Law as God’s perfect standard. If you can keep the Law perfectly, then you can escape sin’s penalty—but that’s a big if. When the man responded that he met the Law’s standard, Jesus simply touched on one issue that proved the man did not measure up to God’s holiness. [Got Questions]
The first error assumes the Lord was speaking about resurrection life. The word "saved" is again used and assumed to have only one meaning. Well, no, no one can have life by keeping the commandments, but access to rewards and positions can be attained via obedience. The second  error here is connecting the second half of the passage with the first. That is, they argue that the Lord's follow up regarding "perfection" is just a rewording of his answer. On the contrary, it assumes the young man was asking in honesty. He had a different problem about which he was unaware: he was not mature.

The Lord is not exposing some lie about obedience, he is exposing the lack of maturity (holiness) in the man's heart. This young man was still very worldly, even if he had faith and sought to be obedient. These are sobering thoughts even for our age.

As we have seen in many other studies, the believer is either headed towards "perfection" (maturity) or "perdition" (waste and loss). One can be obedient, but that is not the fullness of perfection.
And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And those who heard it said, “Who then can be saved?” But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Is the Lord saying that retaining riches will lead to death? If we see this passage as a whole, we see it is about reward. "I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life." Clearly, the Lord is not teaching that the way to a free gift is by giving up things. The Lord is saying that the one who seeks the things of God in this life, while forsaking the things of the world, will find a harvest of rewards in the end.

These rewards differ based on the hope before the believer. What a Jew may gain in the kingdom, or an Acts age Jew or Gentile in the New Jerusalem, differs from the rewards, crowns, and prize we seek in this age. In Philippians 3, Paul writes that he "has not yet attained" the special "out-resurrection" spoken of there. Does that mean Paul is teachings a works salvation? Is Paul making some weird point like the Lord is accused of making in Luke 18 by some expositors? No, he is speaking of a "better resurrection" available to us.

Let's revisit our original passage with this understanding and the second half of the conversation becomes clear:
Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.
Is that "treasure" life? Salvation by poverty or charity? A hope of living in heaven? No to all. If we read from Adam through the Acts (and Revelation), the hope of believers is found on the earth (or the New Jerusalem which comes down to earth). So what happens to this treasure in heaven?
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. - Rev 22:12
 The Lord brings the reward from the heavenlies when he returns to earth; and these rewards are based on "works." This cannot be the free gift of life (which excludes works, Rom 11, etc.). This is reward which is beyond decay and beyond the reach of men.
Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal... - Matt 6:20
 We again note that this is part of the Sermon on the Mount as part of the Gospel of the Kingdom which does not involve faith in the Lord's death, burial, or resurrection (nor could it), but rather applies to the promise of the restoration of the Kingdom in Israel.

The rich young ruler had faith. What he did not have is a mature faith. Because he was married to the things of the world, he had no rewards in heaven. He decided to keep his "treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal." 

If we want to experience the fullness of the gift of eternal life and its rewards, we have similar instructions:
And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition [loss, waste]. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. -1 Tim 6:8-12
Do we flee these things in order to gain a free gift? No, we flee these things to fully experience eternal life now and in the ages to come. It is possible for the believer to experience "perdition" (waste, loss) if he he does not "go on to perfection."

Paul goes on in 1 Timothy:
Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. -1 Tim 6:17-19
Not again two things addressed to the rich believer:
  • Good works to lay up things in store for an age to come
  • Laying hold of eternal life
Laying hold of eternal life is to experience resurrection life in the new nature now. When we walk in the new, divine man, we are storing up rewards for that future age.

How do we experience the spiritual blessings of this age? Through good works and obedience.
How do we lay up in store for the age to come? Through forsaking this things of this world.

The teaching is the same all through scripture, but the hope, rewards, commands differ. This is why we must rightly divide the Word of Truth lest we find ourselves striving in vain for another's reward. We will also find ourselves, and many expositors commenting on Luke 18 have, making the plain words of the Lord meaningless and the true meaning to be lost.