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Friday, July 19, 2019

"Who Is a Jew" A Series Examining the Book of that Title

Looking at the short book, "Who is a Jew"

God's Kingdom Ministries is the website of Stephen E. Jones. Dr. Jones boasts a wide range of materials, but I have chosen to review this particular book as I believe it will prove an interesting study in rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2 Tim 2:15) and how we are to understand Paul's epistles and the difference between the Acts Age and the Post-Acts Age (which is very central to this blog's goals).

My intention is not to demean Dr. Jones or to call into question his intentions or his commitment to Christ. I do not know the man and I am not familiar with most of his writings. I will try to limit my commentary to the work noted in our title ("Who Is a Jew"), and if we look at any other works, it will be linked.

For starters, I will go ahead and link the book HERE. Feel free to read it for yourself. If anyone feels I have not been fair or that I've not given proper context, he can make that determination from the original. My goal is to try and be fair to the original intent as I examine it against the witness of scripture.

This series may not cover the entire book if the points being made become redundant. In fact, my goal is to establish what the premises to the overall argument is and examine these. Once a premise is discussed and either affirmed or contradicted, that can then be applied to the rest of the book.

Readers of this blog know full well that I make a clear distinction between the Body of Christ and Israel as well the distinctions among the different hopes and callings in scripture. I will apply these principles to the book in question.

I will simply begin by quickly examining the opening argument of the book.

Man’s definitions of a “Jew” must be taken seriously, but the real issue before us is how God defines a Jew. The clearest statement in the New Testament on this question is found in Romans 2:28, 29,
 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

Here Paul tells us pointedly who IS a Jew and who IS NOT a Jew. He does not base his definition upon men’s views, for most men in his day considered a Jew to be one who followed the leaders of the temple in Jerusalem, who had rejected Jesus.

As always, we want to look at the greater context of the passage in front of us.

For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. -Rom 2:25-29

 Note Paul tells us that it is profitable to keep the law. For eternal life? No. We know that Paul argues in Galatians  that had there been a law which could give life, surely God would have given it (the gift of life has always been by grace). So what is profitable about circumcision? And is circumcision still profitable? We will keep questions like these in mind as we progress through our study.

Throughout the Book of Romans (as in Paul's other Acts Age epistles) he switches between addressing Jewish Believers and Gentile Believers. Let us quickly look at an example of this in the Acts Age epistle of 1 Corinthians.

Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. -1 Cor 10:1-3
You know that when you were pagans [Greek: éthnos, Gentiles], you used to be enticed and led astray by mute idols. -1 Cor 12:2

In Romans 2 he is addressing the Jewish believer. Paul is not writing to unbelievers ("To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called saints"). We make a mistake of sorts when we speak of the Roman Road to Salvation. Verses can be used to explain our hope, but we must be careful to remember that they are addressed to believers.

  • Chapter 1 speaks of the unbelieving nations (gentiles). This is the backdrop for chapter 2 when he turns to the Jews.
  • Chapter 2 is directed to Jews, sandwiched by the opening statement of Chapter 3 (remember, there are no chapter divisions in the original texts).

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar... -Romans 3:1-4a

Note the conclusion here. In that age, there was advantage in both being a Jew (by birth or by proselyte) AND in circumcision. Even if we limit that to the past, it cannot be missed that being a Jew AND being circumcised had an advantage (which we will see later on). Unbelieving Jews (third person, present, "their") tells us they were still Jews, distinct from Gentile, even though they were in unbelief. Paul is distinguishing (as he does elsewhere) between a "true Jew" (inwardly) and the unbelieving Jew. Circumcision was an advantage, but all is predicated on belief.

To what does the "faithfulness of God" refer? The promises made to the fathers which the Lord came to "confirm" to Israel (Rom 15). The promised Kingdom of God, in the land, over which the 12 apostles would sit as rulers (Matt 19) and about which he taught them for 40 days (Acts 1).

So, what was the Jew's advantage? That advantage is clearly seen in the Lord's ministry.
  • The "Gospel of the Kingdom" was forbidden to be preached outside of Israel (Matt 10)
  • The Lord affirmed that "salvation is [now "was"] of the Jews" (John 4)
  • The Jew had his request answered immediately (Matt 9 and Matt 20 versus Matt 15)

The condition was always faith (“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Matt 9:28). But we are working within the realm of Israel. So among the Jews were believers and unbelievers. That is part of the context of Romans 2 where Paul is addressing Jews ("to the Jew first"). And behind all this is the central point that post-Pentecost, there were still Jews and Gentiles, and they were under different conditions (we've covered this in other studies). We cannot impose the understanding of this present age on the previous age.

Paul speaks that among the national Jews, there is a believing remnant. The "true Jew" is one who is both a child of Abraham by birth and also a believer. This the "Israel of God." In the Acts Age, gentiles were grafted in. Grafted in to what? Into the root, Israel. Israel was still at the center of God's plan in the Acts Age. And that plan is where we started: the promise of the establishment of the Kingdom of God in Israel, on earth, in the land (Acts 1:6).

Gentiles were included in that promise by faith as we note three truths foreign to our age:

  • Gentiles were brought in to make Israel jealous (Rom 10, Rom 11)
  • Gentiles could be "cut off" from the root if they became haughty against Israel (Rom 11)
  • Gentiles had to keep "four necessary things" (Acts 15, Acts 21)

None of these things are true in the present age. If I came to your assembly and tried to teach that, you'd accuse me of legalism. But it was not legalism in the Acts Age, it was the condition for enetring the Kingdom (not for life). When the Lord states that keeping the commandments is a condition for entrance into the kingdom, he is not lying or playing game.

 Dr. Jones then applies this argument:

Paul did NOT say that a Jew was one with outward circumcision, while a Christian was one with the inward circumcision. Not at all. He said clearly, “he is a Jew who is one inwardly.”

Is he attempting to say that all believers are thus "real Jews?" The argument seems to be these "inward" Jews are the true Jews (nothing else applying). But what is the distinguishing mark of the "inward" Jew according to Paul? He "keeps the righteous requirements of the law." Is that truth for today? Has that ever applied to the Gentile?

Paul speaks of the Gentile who is obedient gentile earlier in Chapter 2:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Two quick thoughts:

  1. Note that Gentiles do not have the Law. Ephesians teaches us that Gentiles NEVER had the Law. All the Law was to the Gentile was an exclusion. A Gentile could not be an "inward" Jew. 
  2. So what does the conscience tell the Gentile? It tells him that stealing is wrong. It tells him that murder is wrong. It will even tell him that adultery is wrong. It will never tell him that he should be circumcised if he wants to keep the Passover. That was the realm of the children of Abraham.

Dr. Jones continues:

We do not expect such “Jews” then or today to accept Paul’s definition. But Christians who claim to believe the New Testament ought not to disagree with Paul. We understand that Paul’s definition was based purely upon biblical law—the very law that the temple priests claimed to believe, but which, in fact, they had violated. But before we can understand how the divine law itself defines a biblical Jew, we must again give the background material that Paul had studied.

I do not "disagree" with Paul. I will attempt to keep Paul's context as we move forward. Since the question may be inferred: Are Jews then all believers? I can tell you most assuredly, the Law, and Christ himself, did not believe so. Among the children of Abraham, the true children were believers, but they were believing Jews. His question here seems to be predicated on the single verse concerning the "inward" Jew, but it ignores the passages before and after.

We have a believing Gentile in Matthew 8. The Lord acknowledges that such believing Gentiles may have a place in the future kingdom, but he maintains their juxtaposition to Israel. They were not "inward" Jews.

When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! 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.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour. -Matt 8:10-13

The "many" are from among the nations (see Matt 25, Sheep and Goats, Gentiles) and they are set against "the sons of the kingdom," that is, Jews who were heirs of the promise who lose their inheritance by being unprofitable servants (see Parable of the Talents). Would we ever call an unbeliever a "son of the Kingdom?"

So, before Gentiles were "grafted in" (starting in Acts 10, not at Pentecost) for the stated reason to make Israel jealous, no gentile could be called a "Jew" merely because he had faith. In the Law itself, Gentiles were welcome to live among Israel, but they could not partake in Israel's (earthly) feasts unless they were circumcised. No time, in any age, in any scripture is a Gentile referred to as a Jew (or an Israelite). There was only one way for that to be true, become a proselyte and be circumcised.

Gentiles were welcome to live in Israel, and could even have faith unto life, but they could not participate in the Law. There was no "inward" Jew. He could have faith. He could be more righteous than some Jews. But the Law forbade him from participating as a jew, even if his heart desired to.

And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. -Ex 12:48

What advantage was there in circumcision? "Much in every way." Not sufficient on its own (you had to come by faith), but it allowed a certain access to God which was forbidden to the Gentiles (the uncircumcised). Exodus 12 is dealing with physical circumcision. Paul, in Romans, is noting that faith is superior to circumcision, but he does not discount it as worthless.

The fact that most Jews were unbelievers and still uncircumcised in their hearts did not, and could not, nullify the promises God made to national Israel (the promise of the Kingdom on earth as stated in the Old Covenant and affirmed in the New). CERTAINLY NOT! And as a Gentile who was never under the Covenant, I make no claims to its promises (my blessings are in "the far above the heavens" where Christ sits as the right hand of the Father).

For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. -Rom 3:3-4

Having laid the ground work for the context of Romans, we will move on to other assertions in the book under scrutiny.

A few slides to help:

There was still a distinction between Jew (physical) and Greek (physical), the Circumcised and Uncircumcised in the Acts Age.  

 Gentiles being blessed through Abraham and Israel was revealed in scripture. It was known to "Moses and the prophets" which is all Paul preached in the Acts Age (Acts 26:22)

The "grafting in" of Gentiles into Israel (Romans 11) occurred during the Acts Age. Gentiles were grafted in to the "root," but could be cut off from the same. Could they lose the gift of life? No. They were grafted in to Israel's blessings (earthly) without coming under the law, but they could lose that hope. Post Acts, all blessings and hope are in the far above the heavens where Christ sits at the right hand of God. This age was not revealed in Moses and the prophets. It was not known until revealed by Paul.

In Paul's Acts Age epistles. Abraham and the Jews are prevalent. Post Acts, they almost disappear completely (as do the prophets). During the Acts, Paul addresses Jews and Gentles alternately. Post Acts, in the "One New Man" of Ephesians, we are all essentially Gentiles. Israel will take its place at the center of God's Plan in the future, but in this age, we (believers) are one.

Uttermost Parts of the Planet?

A commonly quoted verse used to instruct (command) Christians to go to all the nations of the world with the message of the Kingdom is Acts 1:8.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” [NKJV]

Every translation at Bible Gateway translates "γῆ" or "ge" as either "earth" or "world." But is that correct? Now, depending on context, as in English, some Greek words can have different implications (see below for another possible implication). But does the context of Acts 1 demand we use "earth?"

Let's look at the verse in context:

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-8)

 Before we explore the implications, let's look at how "ge" is understood during the Lord's ministry.

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”

“Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

(Matthew 2:6, 20-21)

Applying this to the instructions to the future 12 rulers over Israel (who are instructed in Matthew 10 to not preach the kingdom outside of Israel) in Acts 1, we now get:

 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the land.”

This limits their ministry to the land of Israel. This is consistent with their calling as "apostles to the circumcision" (Gal 3) and a continuation of the Lord's command to "not go into the way of the Gentiles" in Matthew 10. We have looked at their ministry in the Acts elsewhere. Suffice it to say, they never went to Gentiles (save Peter, once) and we no reason to believe that before the revelation of the current dispensation to Paul (Eph) they ever left Palestine.

And I know of no one who argues they ever came close  to visiting every part of the planet. Would Rome be the "uttermost" part of earth? Even Paul desired (and may have gone) far beyond that to Spain. Yet we have no reliable witness of any of the 12 going beyond Israel. Again, after Paul's revelation, they may have gone to nearby regions, but certainly never to the "uttermost parts of the earth."

"Uttermost" is translated from the Greek word " ἐσχάτου." Strong's definition has in part, "properly, last, final (the furthest, extreme-end)." Even if we believe Peter got to Rome, how is that "the extreme end" of the earth? The excuse is given that the reference is to "the known world," but that does more violence to "the end of the earth" than limiting them to Israel and "the end of the land."

A common practice among Christians is to wantonly replace Jerusalem with their hometown without cause. We hear things like "Chicago is my Jerusalem." But even if we allowed such violence to scripture, do these people go to "the end of the earth?" Even if they become missionaries to Guatemala, is that the end of the earth (the "extreme -end") from Chicago? Allowing that the verse even states "end of the earth" (and not the land), how do we take it away from those to whom it was given?

Looking back at the so-called "Great Commision" in Matthew 28, how many "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations?" Most never make any attempt to leave their hometowns. 

Once we allegorize something, especially out of its context, we destroy scripture and it can then mean anything. "Jerusalem" ends up meaning any city. "Ends of the earth" becomes hosting a "revival." Etc. This does violence to the Word and is a hindrance to interpretation, the right division of the Word.

I believe Acts 1:8 and the "Great Commission" of Matthew 28 were both given to same group, the 11 (12) Apostles of the Lamb. We have no right to claim these. And for those who do, you might want to read the details and examine if you are actually obeying. 

More context for Acts 1:8

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” -Acts 1:4-5
So, I can plug in any city here as well? If so, how do I know which city to plug in? No, he commanded THEM (the 11) to wait in Jerusalem. This, after 40 days teaching them about "the kingdom of God." And that message of the Kingdom is very different than the message we have today. For theirs concerned the establishment of the promised kingdom in Israel.

Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” - Acts 1:6

To believe the kingdom they were taught  is what we preach today is to believe that the enlightened, chosen apostles of the Lamb spent 40 days with the risen Lord learning about the Kingdom of God and somehow got it very wrong. Let's not slander them this way.

Also note, there was still an Israel.

We offer one alternative to the idea of the witness of the 12 going to all the nations in all the Earth. 

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. -Matt 24:14
The Lord could very well be referring to the ministry of the 12 during the millennium wherein israel shall serve as priests and witnesses to the nations. Not the timing. This is just before the end of an age (world). It is during the time of Jacob's Trouble (the Great Tribulation).

This is reflected in the so-called "Great Commission" of Matthew 28.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Again, we see "the end of the age" in view. And although "all authority on heaven and Earth" had just been given to the Lord Jesus Christ, all things were not yet under his feet.

For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. -Heb 2:8

So, whereas there is nothing left not subject to him (his authority), we do not see it in practice. More specifically, they did not see it in the Acts Age at the time of the writing of Hebrews. These were people waiting for the Great Tribulation. Although all things were under his authority, some would still have to die (Matthew 24). The gospel of the kingdom (Israel's Kingdom) would be declared during that time and certainly in the millennium.

This is the hope for which Paul was a prisoner. The hope for which he was in chains in the Acts Age (Acts 26, 28, etc.)

Friday, July 12, 2019

Cross Out Old Testament and New Testament from Your Bible

One of the most unfortunate traditions to be inflicted on Christianity is the "Old testament / New testament" split. That is, it artificially breaks up the revelation of the Mystery of Christ and gives people the idea that the way to life changed from works to faith and that all humankind is either under one or the other.

There are lines in scripture, and one of those lines is pre-Christ and post-Christ, but that has nothing to do with the Old Covenant and the New Covenant (neither of which have anything directly to do with Gentiles in any age). There was no Old Covenant for ~2000 years and it was given only to Israel. The New Covenant has not come in yet, and it too is given only to Israel.

The Mystery of Christ was unfolded from Genesis and then through the ages. All of these things made know "since" or "from" the foundation (overthrow) of the world (Rom 16). Paul then revealed the final Mystery which was hidden from "before" the foundation of the world (Eph). 

Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began. (Rom 16)

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. (Eph 1)

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ... (Eph 3)

The revelation of the Mystery of Christ unfolded over time and that which was obscured became clear throughout the ages. This is the mystery of Romans 16. However, the Body ("one new man," "joint-body," Gk: sýssōmos) was never known until revealed by Paul.

We can see Christ being revealed through Moses and the Prophets (the Lord pointing to these as a witness to Himself and Paul preaching nothing Moses and the Prophets in the Acts Age). But no prophet saw the "one new man." No prophet saw the middle wall of partition abolished.

Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body [sýssōmos], and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel... (Eph 3)
Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me  [Paul] for you, to fulfill the word of God ; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.(Col 1:25-26)

This is not the same truth Paul was teaching in Galatians (Acts Age). It is not that Gentiles would be blessed through Abraham. That is truth revealed in scripture and known since it was promised to Abraham.

And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. (Gal 3:7)

Surely, it was not understood how or when or why, but it was plain to see. It came to pass when Gentiles were "grafted" into Israel (Romans 11), but that grafting no longer occurs in this age. All believers are essentially Gentiles.

For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.
(Acts 28 to the Jews at Rome)
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward.
(Ephesians 3, Post-Acts)

We must draw straight lines (2 Tim 2:15), and the OT/NT split confuses that calling. As I understand it, it was a creation of Jerome for the Vulgate and has carried into all translations.

We need to be careful with things which are not inspired. Take them as opinions (at best) and examine all by the whole counsel of God.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Creeping Legalism Among Dispensationsalists

The problem of law-keepers has plagued the visible church since Paul revealed the Mystery after the Acts Age. We've touched on this a number of times before, but my sense from recent personal interactions is that the problem is mushrooming out of control.

It appears that dispensationalists (who should know better) are getting caught up in the frenzy. I spoke this past week with two people looking for the "pre-trib rapture" who have become enamored of Jewish laws. As one who embraces the truths of the Mystery age revealed by Paul, I am not a traditional "classical" dispensationalist. But, in general, we all have some of the same basic understanding of scripture.

First and foremost is the distinction between a gentile "church" and Israel. While not overtly abandoning that truth, many classical dispensationalists have abandoned the right division of the gospel accounts (the Lord's earthly ministry) and the application of the New Covenant to Israel.

Darby, Kelly, Chafer, and other key figures in the classical mold presented the New Covenant as the scriptures present it (Jer 31, heb 8, etc.) as for the House of Judah, for Israel. It is clearly future at the time of the writing of Paul's epistle to the Hebrews. This is long after Pentecost.

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. -Heb 8:8-13

You can hardly find a dispensationalist today who doesn't apply the NC to the current age and who does not regularly teach from the synoptic gospels. This is even true among the Plymouth Brethren who were the stalwarts of classical dispensationalism for generations.

These are dangerous changes.

One woman told me there are blessings attached to keeping the Passover. Sure. FOR ISRAEL, when they are in the center of God's plan in his land. She was concerned she may not be keeping it correctly. I didn't see the blood of lamb on her hands, so I'm guessing no. They might argue the sacrifice is only for those "in the land," but I doubt they even understand that much and the additional problems that creates for them in regard to Israel.

In this age, Paul is clear:

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a [feast day] or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility -Col 3:16-18

These things are connected to Israel and earthly promises. Our citizenship is in heaven. Our hope is in the far above the heavens. We have no need for the rudiments of this world.

As noted, I expect these dangerous trends among the sacramentalist and Replacement Theology churches. It's just disturbing to see dispensationalists embracing the danger. It will take them where millions of professed Christians end up: in slavery or in pride. In either case, reward will be lost and the world will not see the grace of God.

I recommend this series on the current movement towards "Messianic" Christianity: CLICK HERE

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Can We Be Angry and Not Sin? (Eph 4:26)

Ephesians 4:26 is often quoted to justify anger. But we need to be careful with this verse. Here is one way to look at this verse:

‘Can ye be angry and sin not? (Author’s translation). Let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil’ (Eph. 4:26,27). 
-Charles Welch (Things Most Surely Believed)

Another take:

The anger is to be transitory. The quotation is from Psalms 4:4 (Septuagint), where Hebrew reads, "tremble, and sin not", the meaning of which is shown by the use here, for it is as easy to tremble from anger as from other powerful emotions. 
-E.W. Bullinger (Companion Bible Notes)

Uncontrolled anger is a terrible thing. It often originates from the old nature (flesh). And even if we lean towards Bullinger's commentary, "righteous indignation" is often mixed with carnal hatred. We need to be very careful with anger.

I believe that Judas was a believer and has resurrection life. However, he lost all (perdition) reward and blessings because of his greed and anger. Take note the circumstance of his decision to betray his Lord.

When the Lord was at the home of Simon the Leper in Bethany (Matt 26; Mark 14; John 12), he was chastised by the disciples for allowing a woman to anoint him with expensive oils. It was after this upbraiding that Judas sought for an opportunity to betray him.

"For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her." 
"And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them."

In John's account, he singles out Judas' anger:

"But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 'Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?'"

Judas' greed was couched in concern for the poor. His anger then led him to betray his Lord and master.

I'm not saying there are not times where "righteous indignation" may have a place, I am only saying that the emotion of "anger" is a dangerous thing. And how often has "self-righteousness" or "self-aggrandizement" (look at how much I care!) been hidden under the mask of "righteous indignation?"

I think it is good to start with the translation option of "can ye be angry and sin not?" before we chalk up our anger as "righteous indignation." We need to ask ourselves if we have that capacity. Are we truly concerned or are we simply filled with either rage or self-importance?

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A Literalist Must Recognize Figures of Speech

It is most important to notice these [figures of speeech]. It is absolutely necessary for true interpretation. God's Word is made up of "words which the Holy Ghost teacheth" (1Cor. 2:13. 1Thess. 2:13. 2Tim. 3:16. 2Pet. 1:21, &c.). 
A "Figure of speech" relates to the form in which the words are used. It consists in the fact that a word or words are used out of their ordinary sense, or place, or manner, for the purpose of attracting our attention to what is thus said. A Figure of speech is a deigned and legitimate departure from the laws of language, in order to emphasize what is said. Hence in such Figures we have the Holy Spirit's own marking, so to speak, of His own words. 
This peculiar form or unusual manner may not be true, or so true, to the literal meaning of the words; but it is more true to their real sense, and truer to truth. Figures are never used but for the sake of emphasis. They can never, therefore, be ignored. Ignorance of Figures of speech has led to the grossest errors, which have been caused either from taking literally what is figurative, or from taking figuratively what is literal. 
(E.W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, Excerpt)

I am a literalist. That is, if the Bible states that Adam did this or David did that, I believe Adam did this and David did that. But, as in normal literal life, I understand when the scripture speaks metaphorically. Obviously, I don't hold the parable of the Sewer as referring to an actual person throwing actual seed. The Lord explains this is figurative language.

We must also recognize when someone is relating a vision, he is doing exactly that. Daniel is not prophesying that an actual lion is going to come up out of the sea (Daniel 7). Likewise, John is not saying a literal woman is going to ride a literal beast (Revelation 17).

With this in mind, we note that what the disciples saw on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17 was  a vision. Moses and Elijah were not there. What they saw was a "vision" of them. They represented the Law and the Prophets. Christ is greater than all. This is the lesson. Peter and the others missed it.

Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”

Let's look at one quick example from John's vision on the Isle of Patmos. First, we note that John was (obviously) seeing a vision.

And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. (Rev 9:17)

I have heard discussions in regard to the blood rising to the horses' bridles in Revelation chapter 14. I've heard it proposed that this will be a post-nuclear scenario wherein men again fight on horses. But shouldn't we just accept this as a metaphorical vision? Why would we see beasts coming out of the sea as metaphors while see blood on a horse as literal? We hold the wine-press to be a metaphor, why not the bridles?

And the wine-press was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the wine-press, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs [200 miles]. (Rev 14:20)

Is it possible they will fight on horses? Sure. But as this prophecy is not given to us gentiles for this age, we have no idea how this will play out. However, as with the Parables, those who need to know will understand. Even Daniel was puzzled at his own prophecies as were other prophets.

Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, “My lord, what shall be the end of these things?” And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand. (Dan 12:8-10)

Daniel did not understand his own vision and prophecies, because he did not need to understand. I don't quite understand Daniel or the Revelation in full, but I don't need to understand. At "the time of the end" we are told "the wise shall understand." So, we must be careful not to be too dogmatic when handling prophecies for Israel in regard to the time of the end. Study? Yes. Meditate? Yes. Diligently seek the Lord on these matters? Sure. But always understand that we will not completely understand.

[We pause to say again that the metaphors depict real, literal entities and events. This is not some flowery language. These are not as Aesop's fables. There is a Day of the Lord coming (The Lord's Day in the Revelation) and it will be very real.]

We must apply this understanding to the rest of John's vision in the Revelation, and that includes the final chapters. The prophecies contained in both Daniel's and John's visions (as well as in Ezekiel's, Zechariah's and others) refer to literal events. We do not doubt that. But they are shown visions, not movies.

Will the Lord return on a literal white horse? Possibly. But when we compare scripture with scripture we have the Lord returning in the clouds (Acts 1; 1 Thess 4) and the Lord returning in a flaming fire (Matt 25; 2 Thess 1) and returning on a white horse (Rev 19:11).  All of those conditions could take place, but I'm only certain of the first. As they saw him leave, so shall he return to Israel (Acts 1:11), in the clouds.

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in ine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. (Rev 19:10-15)

If we hold to a literal horse, do we hold to a literal "robe dipped in blood?" Do we believe he will have a literal sword coming out of his mouth? I don't know. But we clearly read most of John's vision as metaphor, so why must we insist that certain things are literal?

I believe this verse in Rev 22 is where John's vision ends, as the Angel confirms the vision:

Then he said to me [John], “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place. (Rev 22:6)

John, an apostle to the circumcision, was shown a vision of how the words of the prophets would play out. The events are very real. The prophecies involve real things. The Jews were well familiar with  those prophecies and would understand the context of John's vision. The Revelation is a thoroughly Jewish book. In the Acts age (when John received his vision), the tribulation was "at-hand." It will again be "at-hand" when the current dispensation ends.

I believe a literal John had a literal vision of things that will literally come to pass. However, he saw only metaphors of those things. We must start there when discussing the Revelation and Israel's future. And this future surely is for Israel.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Iraqi Christian Burned Alive by ISIS Three Times?

Fox News (and many other sites, news and Christian) are recounting the tale of a Yazidi man who claims he was stoned without harm and set on fire three times without harm. In the stories and videos I have seen, I do not see the man's name listed or any account of reliable witnesses. (Video)

More troubling is the fact that I cannot find even one skeptical comment at the sites I've visited (apart from my own). The man's confession of faith consists of Christ Jesus supposedly appearing to him in a dream and telling him a secret. I don't recall Paul giving us that particular path to resurrection life.

I am not limiting the Lord's ability to visit someone in a dream (although I find it unlikely in this age), but even if such a case did occur, God cannot lie. Everything must line up with the revealed Word of God. That is, we must have reliable witnesses and what God is reported to have said must be consistent with scripture.

This scripture was posted by one enthusiastic commenter:

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
-Isaiah 43:2

My first question for her is what would she tell the thousands of Christians who were burned and stoned?

This is where the importance of "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth" guides us once again. We have looked at this issue in almost all our studies. It is vitally important that "cut straight" scripture. We can get into a lot of trouble and bring scorn upon the true faith when we fail to properly draw our lines.

Back to Isaiah 43, you can read the entire chapter for yourself, but the first and third verses are clear enough.

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine...

For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.

We need to be careful not to rob from Israel nor should we open the Lord to mockery. We cannot just open our bibles and apply everything to ourselves.

Unless there is more in regard to his confession of faith apart from "Jesus appeared to me," I have no way to assess that this man even understands who the true Christ is. We need to be careful when declaring something as fact without establishing it via reliable witnesses. There are many false-Christs, we must be able to establish the true from the false and we do that through scripture.

Rightly divide the Word of Truth.

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Late Great Discipline of Study

Hal Lindsey to Retire

I heard this morning on HisChannel that Hal Lindsey lately of The Hal Lindsey Report and author of the 1970 best-seller The Late Great Planet Earth is retiring. First, let me say that Hal has been a workman these many years. He helped introduced a dispensational view to the Jesus Movement of the late 60s and early 70s. He has had a powerful influence on the Calvary Chapel Movement. I am not the judge of another man's servant (Rom 14:4), but none of our teachings are above scrutiny (cp Acts 17:11).

This is not meant to cast a dim light on Hal, but I do want to use the influence of his book to make a greater point. My theology is not what is was 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 1 year ago, last month. The course of my understanding can be seen as moving in a particular direction, yes, but it is nonetheless moving. And as I continue to dig into some topics I also acknowledge that some things I hold are set in stone. I am building upon a firm foundation. We lay a firm foundation on Christ and then study to show ourselves approved unto God (2 Tim 2:15). We build with gold, silver, and precious stones or we build with wood, hay, and stubble (1 Cor 3:11-13).

Hal's book has been treated by some almost as though it is inspired. They would never agree to such an assessment, but I ask those who continually make reference to it, have you questioned anything in it over the last 5 decades? Is it above scrutiny? Is Hal wrong about anything in your view?

God's Thoughts Are Higher Than Our Thoughts

I am thankful for the work of John Darby (I have a daughter with the middle name Darby), but he is not my "authority." I have used his work to help me, but I have moved beyond him in a number of ways. None of us in infallible. There are a number of Bible teachers I utilize and trust, but nothing they teach is above scrutiny. A true Bible teacher would have it no other way.

Scripture is an incredible book. It contains truths a child can understand. We can clearly see a God of love, a God of history, a God who offers a free gift of life through the name of the Savior. We also see tremendously complex and deep thoughts which are sometimes beyond comprehension.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts..."
-Isaiah 55:8-9

 We cannot conceive of an eternal past or an eternal future, but logically we know it must be true. We cannot fully grasp the Trinity, but it is the witness of scripture. The examples are legion. Scripture itself purposely hides or obscures things requiring us to dig deeper (Prov 25:2). In some cases, the Lord spoke to purposely hide truth from those who refuse to listen to his clear teachings.

And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. -Matt 13:10-12

Earlier this year I offered a short study titled The Christian Journey - Don't Find Yourself Stuck.  Allow me to quote a short excerpt from that entry:

To this day, I continue to grow and study and "mark things that differ [Phil 1:10]." As I look back over some of these posts over the last couple of years, I see studies for which I now feel as though I have greater insight. What was somewhat foggy is slightly more clear. The way I explain a passage is now more refined. Never rest. Continue to build upon a sure foundation. Compare scripture with scripture, rightly divide the Word of Truth, and trust no man as your authority. 

Sometimes something becoming more clear means that a previously held position is now less clear. That is, a topic seen in a more focused context may make a previously stated opinion not very solid. The solid becomes as clay and is allowed  to be remolded by scripture and the Holy Spirit.

The Lord is Patient and Rewards Those Who Diligently Seek Him

Pray that the Lord lead you into all truth. Follow a thing to its end, then revisit the path again. Make your own charts. Compare scripture with scripture. Mark the things that differ. Rightly divide the word of truth. Mark the audience, the situation, the age in which God speaks. Note the address on the envelope, as it were, as you read and study.

Don't be like the retired pastor I once encountered who said he settled every Bible issue decades before when he left seminary. What he did was study what someone else believed which is based on what someone before him believed. Our beliefs must be our own in the end. We will stand alone at the Bema Seat. No seminary or church or pastor or priest will answer for us.

The study of scripture is a lifelong journey. The Lord knows we are but dust. He knows we are frail creatures with weak minds and limited capacity. He knows we have a lazy, wicked flesh which recoils at correction or conviction. In spite of all that, he loves us and will reward those who diligently seek him.

"The Late Great Planet Earth" has its place, but it is not the 67th book of scripture. As valuable as it has been in some ways, in many other ways, it may have stunted the growth of many a Christian (including Hal himself).

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Fresh Look at 1 John - Part 2

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. -John 8:12

We turn our attention to the full context of "light" and "darkness" in 1 John. We noted last time that the "cleansing" of 1 John 1:9 is a continual action. That helps us see the "confessing of sin" in the past tense. All sin was taken away by the cross ("the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world... it is finished"). God has reconciled the world to himself through Christ (2 Cor 5:18). But we experience that past act as a present condition.

Something like: "If we are counted among those who have confessed they are sinners and were cleansed, he is faithful and is continually cleansing us from sin." 

  When we widen out from that verse, it starts to become clearer still.

Verse 8: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Believers have Christ, thus we have "light" (John 8:12) and we have "truth" and his "word" is in us. 

Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. - John 18:37c
But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. - John 5:38

Verse 10: If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

This is not a warning that one can have light, then lose it. It is a clarification and comforting reminder to the believer. In that age (and the focus of John's ministry as an apostle to the circumcision), these are Jews who were cleansed from the condemnations and unrighteousness resulting from the law.

John writes (1:1-4) that he seeks the fellowship of fellow believers because all are in Christ and all have eternal life. He tells them he is wring to them "that your joy may be full." Those to whom John ministered could not lose "life" (it has always been a free gift), but they could be "disqualified" (2 Cor 9:27) or even lose the inheritance of the kingdom (1 Cor 6:9, parables of the kingdom, etc.).

Verses 5-7 lay out the basis for fellowship: they are all "in the light" and the blood of Christ continually cleanses them from all sin. 

Verses 8-10 explain the difference between a true believer and a false believer. This clarification is evident in 1 John 2, culminating is verse 19:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Backing up a little in 1 John 2, we read:

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world... 
-1 John 2:1-2

We see, again, that sins are continually considered cleansed. John then returns to light and darkness:

He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loves his brother abides in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hates his brother is in darkness, and walks in darkness, and knows not whither he goes, because that darkness has blinded his eyes.
-1 John 2:9-11

We will find fellowship with other believers. There are "professing" Christians who truly hate the light. They claim Christ, but oppose and blaspheme true believers. These are those who either never enter among us or, as we see in verse 19, go out from among us at some point.

We may have clashes with individual Christians, but we do not condemn true believer as a whole. In our age, this calls to mind the instruction in Ephesian 4:3, "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." It is not a "created" unity by man, it is the maintaining of a unity created by God. This particular unity is given to the Body in this age:

"There is one spirit. When the Spirit seals and indwells, there is no room for other spirits. This is the true unity God desires for all, but is enjoyed only by His body. There is one calling to the body. The body is the called out assembly. Those believing ones are called out of the miasma of the world to walk the walk of those who please Him." -Jack Eberle 

There is a dispensational difference here. The "unity" of this age is unique, but we can see some parallels with John's instructions. True believers in Christ (those baptized into his death) will, in the new nature, seek fellowship with the like-minded. We naturally love the brethren. I know some who naturally hate true believers while claiming to be Christian.

We also see a parallel in Paul's admonition that we go on to "the unity of the faith" (Eph 4:13). In contrast to the "keeping" of verse 3, this unity is achieved through seeking perfection (maturation). It is also unique to the Body, but, in any age, as believers come to a greater knowledge of the truths of that age, there will be a unity of faith. A truth for all ages:

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
-Psalm 133:1

I will close this study here. I still have much reflection to do on this book and I may revisit it again in the future. But for now, I look back at 1 John 1:9 and say again that it is wonderful to know that the blood of Christ continually cleanses (current and past act) those who have come into the light of Christ by faith in his name!

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Two Terrible Dichotomies of Christendom

We previously looked at The Two Great Dichotomies of Scripture (The Seed War, The Two Trees), along with another great dichotomy: the New nature versus the Old nature. But there are two unbiblical dichotomies prevalent in our churches which obscure a clearer understanding of the bible. 
When we read heaven/hell (the traditional "hell" of Christendom) and saved/lost into every scripture, we end up missing quite a bit (and risk great loss). In our study on Walking in the Spirit we noted the Christian is quite capable of being rather slothful and wicked. Peter even goes as far as warning his readers (Jewish believers) they should not be condemned as murderers, thieves, evildoers or gossips. 

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. -1 Peter 4:15

Can a Christian be a murderer? Obviously this is possible. Does he forfeit a free gift? No. That's impossible. We have covered the Christian walk in our series on Walking in the Spirit, so we only say here, if a Christian chooses to walk according to the flesh (the old nature), he risks great misery now and great loss at his judgment.

In our study on Scriptural Mysteries we observed how trying to apply warnings to Christians to unbelievers ends us confusing the gift of eternal life with rewards, prizes and crowns. By limiting ourselves to the saved/lost paradigm, we are forced to either explain away the words of the Apostles or fall into a trap of believing one can forfeit a free gift (thus making ourselves our own saviors).

In addition to 1 Peter 4 (among other examples), we have Paul's list of wicked acts to the Corinthians and a similar list to believers in Ephesus:

No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! 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. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. - 1 Cor 6:8-11
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. -Eph 5:1-5

If all you have is heaven/hell and saved/lost what do you do with these?  Paul is clearly addressing believers. He states they have been "washed." But if "the kingdom of God" must mean "heaven" because that is all you have, you're on perilous ground. Likewise, if we teach that "real Christians" can't be wicked, these warnings make no sense.

In looking through a number of commentaries on the passage in 1 Corinthians, I cannot seem to find a definitive statement of the loss of the kingdom in view save possibly in Daniel Whedon's commentary. As an Arminian he does not outright say that a Christian can forfeit the free gift of life through his name by faith (an Arminian belief)), but he sure muddies the water.

The central problem in all of these somewhat confusing commentaries is a misunderstanding of the many facets of God'd kingdom. As noted, Whedon was an Arminian. We expect him to deny the free gift. But what of the one who preaches the finished work of Christ and the free gift of life by faith alone? If we must have only saved/lost and heaven/hell what does not inheriting the kingdom entail?

Ironically, Whedon accidentally comes close to the truth when he writes:

This paragraph condemns... All idea that the being once justified insures, in spite of relapse into vice, a secured inheritance of God’s glorified kingdom...

Whedon is denying that "once justified" means "always justified" (for life, it does mean this), but had he understood the kingdom in view here, his statement would be true. One can have life and not inherit other promises. One can forfeit crowns, prizes, rewards. One can be "disqualified." We can be "vessels unto dishonor." None of that, however, is s forfeiture of the free gift of life by faith alone.

We saw in our studies on the parables that some servants will be cast out of the earthly kingdom. Some will forfeit blessings. Some will gnash teeth and weep. But these will see resurrection and have a promise of resurrection life. If we do not understand this, we end up denying the work of Christ and the free offer of life.

Once we understand the difference between that which is free and that which requires qualification (the just servant from the unjust servant are both servants), we can start to make sense of these passages (and many others).

If we fail to "mark the things which differ" (Phil 1:10), we may end up denying the cross or putting men under bondage to fear. Scripture is a tapestry which God wants us to study in way that we will be "approved." God wants us to seek out truth. The saved/lost and heaven/hell dichotomies melt scripture down to childish simplicities. We find ourselves explaining away difficult passages. Let us to the work of a workman and rightly divide God's word.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Fresh Look at 1 John - Part 1

The Common Understanding 

I endeavor in my studies to seek out the truths of scripture by studying verses, passages, books, etc. in context. In the case of 1 John 1:9, I have not been comfortable with the common interpretation and application of this popular verse.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Pretty straightforward, one would think, but there are a few concerns I have with its blanket application. I'll quickly address the most obvious: this can only refer to true Christians. While that may seem obvious, it is important to note that almost the entire Bible is written to believers. This is especially important to note when dealing with the epistles. We start, then, with noting this is given to sanctified and secure believers. That "security" will be important as we look at the greater passage.

Beyond the seemingly obvious application to believers, we need to look at the surrounding context and John's audience. As with a few other commonly-quoted verses, the accepted understanding makes less sense when we look at the whole chapter and even the whole book in which we find it. We saw this in our study on 2 Cor 5:8 (The Most Misquoted Verse in Scripture).

The accepted understanding is that when a believer sins, he must confess that sin (to God) and then he will be cleansed from the unrighteousness brought on by that sin. As we go forward, let us remember this is supposedly in regard to sanctified and secure believers.

Cleanse and Cleansing 

Let me lay some groundwork by pulling out the word "cleanse." We need to note here verse 7 which also includes this idea.

But if we walk in light, even as he is in light, then we have fellowship with him, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Both verses employ the Greek word "katharízō." It is in the aorist tense, which, for our sake, means it is not locked into past, present, or future.

Something like, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and we are continually being cleaned from all unrighteousness."

A very good consideration to explain this verse is along this line: when we "sin," we must agree with God that what we have done is sin. This is born out in the following verse, "if we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." This is slightly problematic for me as it is possible for a Christian to sin and not fully realize it. But, again, it's a reasonable argument.

Walk in the Light

That said, I think if we widen the lens, we start to see that the passage is addressing a past action. That is, being in the light (verse 7) leads to a continual action of cleansing.

But if we walk in light, even as he is in light, then we have fellowship with him, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son [continually] cleanses us from all sin.

This verse is the condition. So what does it mean to "walk in the light?" Conversely, what does it mean to "walk in darkness" (verse 6)? John and the Lord give us the answer, I believe, in John's gospel.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness comprehended it not. -John 1:4-5

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. -John 8:12

I am come a light into the world, so that whosoever believes on me will not remain in darkness. -John 12:49

From these verses, we can see that one is in "darkness" until he truly has faith. We note here that john's gospel is written to the world (those in darkness) while his epistle is written to believing Jews in the Acts age. We will get to chapter 2 of 1 John soon, but let me dip my toe in that water while we're looking at "darkness."

Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. -1 John 2:8

This "darkness," which is "passing away" is the darkness which was upon Israel. Matthew in his gospel of the kingdom to Israel alone quotes Isaiah in regard to the coming of the Messiah to his "people" (Israel):

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death, Light has dawned.” -Matt 4:16 (Is 9:2)

So, this is still the kingdom period when the Light of the Messianic kingdom in Israel was still anticipated.  The Light of that kingdom was shining in the Acts Age as the kingdom was being offered (from Pentecost to the end of the Acts).

Next time we will take the idea of "darkness" being unbelief and "light" being faith and the acceptance of the offer of the finished work of the Savior and apply it 1 John chapter 1 as a whole.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Scriptural Mysteries

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
-Prov 25:2 
The Bible has a series of "mysteries" which the Lord unfolded as he willed.

μυστήριον = musterion = something hidden (until revealed)

Now, the mysteries in scripture are not puzzles or "secret knowledge." This is no Gnosticism. When the Lord reveals these mysteries, they can be known. Sometimes they're obvious, sometimes they are meant to be difficult.  Sometimes people just refuse to see it because it messes with their preconceived theology.

We saw this diversity in understanding in our series on the parables of Matthew.

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

-Matt 13:10-13

The parables spoke of "mysteries" which were meant to hide greater meaning beyond the obvious. For a more in-depth look at this part of the Lord's earthly ministry, visit our study on those parables.

The Mystery of Christ

Probably the first "mystery" in scripture (as I see it) can be found in the revelation of the coming Messiah after Adam and Eve introduced death into the current world.

I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.
-Gen 3:15

The "Mystery of Christ" (Romans 16, Ephesians 3) was revealed over time, in various ways, through the ages beyond Gen 3:15. Immediately in Genesis 3:21 the Lord sheds the blood of animals and covers Adam and Eve. This is another picture of Christ and his ministry. It is a little more disclosure of hidden truth.

Christ's place of birth, his bloodline, his manner of death, etc. These were all revealed through the ages and were fulfilled in Christ in his first advent. And then, after the Lord had risen and spent 40 days teaching the eleven about the coming kingdom, there is further revelation when the Lord reveals the grafting into Israel of Gentiles at Acts 10.

All of this was "hidden," from full understanding, but not hidden in God. It was not understood in God's word, but it was there. We see in Romans 16 that the Mystery of Christ is said to be "since the foundation of the ages." In Romans 15, we see multiple scriptures quoted which pointed to Gentiles being blessed in Abraham. All of these were "hidden," but not "unrevealed;" "misunderstood," but not "impossible to understand."

All these, as we have noted, were hidden in the Word, "since" the ages began.

The Dispensation of the Mystery

The Great Mystery of the One New Man (Gk: heîs kainós ánthrōposEph 2:15) as revealed in Ephesians, however, was hidden from "BEFORE the foundation of the ages." It is a created Joint-Body (Gk: sýssōmos, only used in Eph 3:6) which has no reliance on Abraham or the program for Israel. This is not to say God is done with Israel. No. We only note that "this present age" is independent of Israel and her future restoration (Acts 1:6) and glory (Jer 31; Isaiah 66; etc.). The plan for Israel is currently on hold.

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began.
-Rom 16:25

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
-Eph 1:3-4

Romans 16:25 states that "the mystery" there was "kept secret." That is, it was not understood. The Greek word here is "sigáō" which means "to keep silent " or "to keep close" (Strong's). It is also defined "to keep silence, hold one's peace" (Thayer's). Paul preached the "revelation," that is "the revealing" of the things kept silent. They were all there. This is how Paul could proclaim Christ using the Hebrew scriptures alone.

To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass. - Acts 26:22

The Lord's earthly ministry was to confirm the promises made to Israel.

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs. -Rom 15:8
For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain. -Acts 28:20

Paul, in the Acts Age, only preached and revealed what was hidden in the Hebrew scriptures. This was not something "new," but something newly revealed. To the Jews to whom he preached in that age, they could test him by the Hebrew scriptures.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. -Acts 17:11
In Ephesians, Paul tell us that he was privileged to have the Dispensation of the Mystery revealed to him alone. The Mystery of Christ could be found in Moses, the prophets, and through the Apostles. But the One New Man was only known through Paul as it was hidden from BEFORE the overthrow of Genesis 1:2.

To me [Paul], the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the incomprehensible riches of Christ, and to reveal for all people what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God, who created all things through Jesus Christ... - Eph 3:8-9
I have been made a servant of it according to the commission of God, which has been given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, even the mystery which has been hidden from past ages and generations, but now is revealed to His saints. To them God would make known what is the glorious riches of this mystery among the nations [Gentiles]. It is Christ in you, the hope of glory... - Col 1:25-27

There are many commonalities in scripture which last through the ages. For example:

  • God is love
  • Resurrection life is a free gift by grace through faith
  • God's word is unchanging
  • God's promises are true and will all come to pass

But in different ages, God has dealt with men in different ways. God has offered different hopes and promises. We have covered these previously, but we can easily see that God has promises which are tied to the earth and others waiting in "the far above the heavens." Commands for one age are wholly out of place in other ages. Certain promises are specific to individuals, nations, ages. This is why we must "rightly divide the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15) and "mark things that differ" (Phil 1:10). 

After the Kingdom offer ended after the end of the Acts Age, we entered into the present age. Today, those who have been "chosen from before the ages began" know no Jew or Gentile. We have no earthly ordinances. We have no hope on this earth. We have nothing to do with angels. We have no part in the "New Covenant" promised to Israel.

Compare Paul's' 7 epistles written during the Acts Age with the 7 written after Acts 28. Among other differences, the Old testament essentially disappears. The few scant references pale compared to the overwhelming use in the first 7. And we even see a change in application when we do see it.

“Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise, “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” -Eph 6:2-3 
Honor your father and your mother, just as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you. -Deut 5:16

In the Septuagint, the Greek word "'ădâmâh" is used for "land," whereas in Ephesians the Greek word "ge" is used for land/earth. To be clear that is not sufficient a reason to declare a great difference, what is more telling is the absence of the phrase "which the Lord your God is giving you." Israel is promised a land, while the blessings of this age are "spiritual, in heavenly places" (Eph). The principle of obedience applies, but it is no longer connected to any earthly promise. 

We "mark the things that differ" here (Phil 1:10), and we can see a change in hope and focus.

Reiterating the Importance of Right Division

If we fail to make these distinctions, we may lose out on reward in the age to come. We might even be found guilty of teaching horrific error and even blaspheming the God who bought us. 

I attended a service recently wherein speaker was asked about homosexuality. While he properly answered that we must lean on God's word and not on our worthless opinion (very true indeed), he inadvertently denied the work of the Lord on Calvary and the assurance of the gift of life by pointing us to 1 Cor 6.

There he noted that the homosexual and the effeminate cannot "inherit the kingdom." True. But he went on to say that the passage also applies to those living together outside of marriage and those who do not tithe. Well, he's right (well, greed is a disqualifier, we'll ignore the tithe for now). But, unfortunately, the implication, if you wrongly divide the word, is that homosexuals and those who do not tithe have no salvation at all and will be sent to traditional "hell." Is that the message of this age? Is that the message of any age?

We know the traditional doctrine of "hell" is a gross mutation of the true doctrine of death, but in his context (no matter the punishment), he was unwittingly arguing that we must tithe to maintain the free gift of life by faith alone! Conversely, as 1 Cor is written to Christians who have been recociled to God and cleansed, why would Paul be warning them about such terrible sins? Must they "maintain" their salvation by obedience? Must we? Can a free gift be forfeited? God forbid!

This is horrific error and is the result of a false notion of hell and failure to understand the "kingdom" in sight in 1 Corinthians, in the Acts Age. One can lose his place in the earthly kingdom (we saw this in our study on the parables), but one cannot lose a free gift. Right Division holds the key to right understanding. Otherwise, we leave people confused and in bondage to fear.

Paul warns the Corinthians who were once involved in wicked lives of all kinds that they risked being cast out of the coming kingdom on earth. Never, never, is the free gift subject to loss for disobedience. Certainly no one is going lose a free gift (or be tortured by fire in their theology) because he does not tithe! Is that salvation by philanthropy? It is a blasphemy against the work of Christ. He didn't mean it as such, but the implication was confusing at best, a denial of the free gift at worst.

We cannot stress enough the importance of rightly dividing the word of truth.

Final Thought

The current dispensation of the Mystery completes the greater Mystery of Christ. It completes the revelation of God. Paul had a unique calling and we do as well. Let us look again at Colossians 1:24-28. We noted part of this passage earlier, but now we will consider it in a different light (the Word of God is deep!):

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of GodEven the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus...

In this dispensation of the Mystery Body, God is calling all men into the unsearchable riches of Christ. We have no ordinances. We have no earthly hope. We look to no temple (for we are the temple). We must start with an understanding of this Mystery if we are to understand the present age and if we are correctly handle God's word (a task for which we will answer before him one day soon).

Related Studies:

Monday, April 22, 2019

Quick Thoughts on the Reformed Movement and Tradition in Charlotte

Readers of this blog know that those holding to Reformed and/or Replacement theology would have very little use for my studies. I get it. But I leave open a door for basic fellowship over the finished work of Christ and his glorious free gift of life.

Unfortunately, in my Christian life I have seen many in the Reformed movement wander into very strange territory. They seem completely unaware sometimes how far they've wandered from Sola Scriptura (the authority of the scriptures alone).

Take, for example, this line from a recent post at Reformation Charlotte (Click for the entire article by Jeff Maples):

J.D. Greear is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and his image fits a growing swath of millennials who are hell-bent on undoing the sacred traditions of the historic church...

Imagine a Reformed site defending "the sacred traditions of the historic church." Who is writing these articles, Pope Leo X? Tradition, in almost every case, is Scripture's greatest enemy.

I'm not going to defend every practice in contemporary congregations, but give me scripture, not "the sacred traditions of the historic church." Are you kidding me?

They continue:
the reverence of the regulative principle of worship, and most importantly, the primary function of the Church — to go into all the nations and make disciples

To sum: they teach that only that which is expressly instructed in scripture is permitted in worship (don't miss the irony in also promoting "the scared traditions of the historic church"). Of course, as a proponent of Right Division, I would draw from only that which is given to me (if the regulative principle were my guiding principle). So, immediately, I would conclude that these who do not Rightly Divide, no matter if it is in scripture or not, are not being obedient to our commands. Immediately, I would have to object to the inclusion of Matthew 28:19 as the "primary function of the Church." Just because something is "in scripture" does not mean it is applicable in every age.

That aside, the idea that anything not expressly given in scripture is condemned is misguided. We have covered worshiping in spirit and in truth elsewhere. Let me quote just one small excerpt:

Truth is independent of time ("it's an ancient practice!"), independent of man's authority ("the church teaches it!"), independent of numbers ("millions worship this way!") and independent of anyone's opinion ("it works for me!"). None of these arguments will
make something into truth.

How many of these "Reformed" congregations practice Jewish rituals? How many have adopted Catholic structures? How many disobey the commands of Colossians 2?

In my early Christian life I found myself in Philadelphia. being an admirer of Donald Grey Barnhouse's ministry, I visited the famous Reformed Tenth Presbyterian Church. I though I was in a Catholic service. Dr. Boice provided an application message from Jeremiah, but the whole thing reeked of Catholic leftovers. You'd be hard-pressed to find any of that service in scripture. Applying the Regulative Principle, one would have to condemn the whole thing as Satanic.

In regard to music, how many sing hymns which contain error? Which were penned by Catholic composers? We have also covered music in earlier posts. I attended a performance of Handel's Messiah in my local Presbyterian Church in Alabama. Can I say I was entertained? Does that contaminate the evening? can that which is edifying also be entertaining? Are these mutually exclusive ideas?

It seems the arbiter of what is allowable to these folks are songs which are "ancient" or "historic" while not being "entertaining." Odd, as none of that is particularly scriptural.

I am familiar with one line of argument which posits that musical notes were found in some manuscripts and we are thus bound to them. I have also wasted my time in arguments on the complexities of composition which require an advanced degree in music to understand (and which are highly debated at the highest levels in any regard).

Things such as wearing a tie, using only certain instruments, building facilities based on historical patterns, practicing only that which passes the "Sacred Tradition" test are dangerous. This is not an endorsement of every sort of entertainment or "worship" in the congregation, but it does not exclude anything unless it is expressly forbidden in scripture. This is the standard by which we apply across the culture.

But, again, if you are looking in parts of scripture not directed to you, you will most likely end up in more damnable practices than using a PowerPoint and an electric guitar. Practicing the Lord's Supper (Passover) or robbing from Israel is other ways is more of an affront to Christ than

One last thought from the article:

My recommendation is that if you’re looking for a place to worship on Good Friday, find a small church who preaches the gospel and obeys the calling of the Church. God doesn’t need your money to worship Him.

I would note, from the principle of Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth and not from "Sacred Tradition" :

  • God never instructed anyone to build a church building.
  • "Good Friday" is a Catholic invention
  • We preach the gospel of the dispensation of the Mystery in this age, not Matt 28.
  • "God doesn't need you money" but they all ask for it. Tithing is for another age, but many reformed "churches" teach it (or "free-will offering") as necessary for this age.

In short, Christians have obligations both to tithe (free-will offering is probably better term) and to care for the poor.
[T]he New Testament nowhere revokes the command to tithe, and Jesus himself affirms it (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42; however see, "as long as you live in your land," Deut 12:19).

About that "as long as you live in the land." Why do they quote it here as they dismiss it? Are Reformed pastors claiming to be a Levitical priesthood? The "church" has no land and the "church" is not Israel. As for the other verses (spoke to Pharisees) they merely state that the Pharisees tithed while neglecting greater matters of the law. How is that an affirmation of tithing in this age? Pulling back from that, do they really want to declare that the Lord's commands are for us to obey today? What gospel did he preach? Not the gospel of this age. So, should I declare a coming kingdom, a gospel which is devoid of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord? That's the gospel he preached. Should I preach it only to Jews and only in Israel? That's what the Lord commanded.

You're not "obeying" any of this:
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. 9 Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, 10 nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. 11 And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. 12 And when ye come into an house, salute it. 13 And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. 15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

As for the rest of the New Testament, do they still separate Jews from Gentiles in their teaching as the Apostles did in the Acts age? Do they keep the Law as the apostles did? Do they warn gentile believers (only) that they may be "cut off" from Israel? The Lord does not mention tithes in The Book of John. The Apostles don not mention it, save Paul as part of Israel's history in Hebrews.

It is very dangerous to fail to rightly divide. It enslaves both the one who fails and those who put themselves under his dominion.

Reformation Charlotte is supported by donations. Donations cover travel expenses, printed materials, bibles, and other ministry costs. We appreciate your willingness to support us and see the gospel proclaimed among the people bringing God glory. 
-Reformation Charlotte


I seem to remember how Jesus reacted once when he came into His people’s place of worship and found money changers there. 
-Reformation Charlotte 

Reformed T-shirts and other gear are available for purchase here at the money-changers table: God's word on a t-shirt for only $24! But it's the Southern Baptists who are temple money-grubbers?