Monday, February 22, 2010

The Gospel according to Jesus, the Didache, the Sermon on the Mount and Acts 15

There is a large segment of the evangelical community that could be described as the Lordshippers. Essentially, they believe that the necessary evidence of true salvation is a saint who walks according to the principals of the Sermon on the Mount and, the other points of the Didache. If you are not familiar with the Didache I would suggest that you click on the link and read it. It is considered to be one of the oldest writings of the early church fathers and, is a creed of sorts, describing the proper life and attitude of a disciple of Christ. It is amazing to me that while there are many Christians who have never heard of the Didache, most all churches have a basic doctrine that is similar in nature to the Didache.
What I also find interesting, is that within the body of the Didache, there is no mention or explanation of the gospel, salvation and, justification by faith, etc. There was only one mention of grace in the entire document and, it was in a prayer that was to be prayed after taking communion. This mention did not explain or thank God for the grace that he poured out on the saints in Christ Jesus. There is no mention of the Lord’s death, burial and, resurrection but, there is a mention of the hope of resurrection at the very end.
Now, while I believe that the Sermon on the Mount has instruction that is very valuable, obedience to it is still not evidence of salvation and, it is not the Law of Christ. I side with those who believe that Jesus was amplifying the Law of Moses to the Jews. After all, the SOM was spoken to Jews who were under the Old Covenant and, he was trying to show them that they were not obeying the Law blamelessly. We know that they thought they were from Paul’s statement in Phil 3:5-6. Paul said that as a Pharisee and the righteousness that is in the Law he was blameless. So then, Jesus amplified the Law by showing them (the Jews) that lust was adultery and anger was murder.
Now, back to the Didache and the Sermon on the Mount. If it was the Law of Christ then why didn’t the apostles say so in Acts fifteen? When the question of Gentile obedience came up, the apostles via James wrote the following: Act 15:28-29 NKJV For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: (29) that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell. If the SOM and the Didache were really the apostolic teaching…then wouldn’t the apostles have circulated the Didache? Of course they would have….Under the new covenant, obedience is the obedience of faith and the dynamic for obedience is completely different than the read and do of the Old Covenant.

3 comments:

  1. Pretty loose reasoning. If you take the statement of Acts 15:28-29 to be definitive, that would allow stealing, murder, and many other things which I doubt you would advocate.

    The latter half of each of Paul's letters is basically a restatement of the SOM. The goal of the Christian life is to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ the Righteous. That entails obedience to the principles laid out in the SOM for sure.

    Justification by grace through faith alone is not at odds with the law! As Paul said, "Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law" (Rom 3:31).

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  2. Chalopique,

    Thanks for the comment. This post points out that that the Didache as it is known and read is not a read and do manifesto. I am not suggesting that there is no value in the Law. I am adamantly stating that the read and do mentality of the Lordshippers...using obedience as proof of real salvation misses the mark entirely. Come on now, are you suggesting that the apostles learned a better way later? The fact is that Acts 15 is the definitive statement of the apostles conclusions. Certainly, if Paul believed as Lordshippers do would have corrected Luke before he wrote what he wrote. The fact is that Paul did not believe as the Lordshippers do. Grace not law was the driving factor. In the position that MacArthur and others take makes Jesus and redemption subservient to Law obedience. Actually, the obedience of the believer is the obedience of faith. And, the evidence of belief is not law obedience it is the fruit of the Spirit. Notice that Paul put self-control last in his list. Transformation is a process and Lordship Theology does not allow the process.

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  3. I read the Didache, and I see what you mean about not mentioning or explaining the gospel, salvation, and justification. I believe there was no mention of these things because they were speaking on how one is to carry themselves (behavior) and what they were to do to keep away from trouble. At the point of teaching the Didache, I would say one has already been taught about and accepted Jesus Christ.

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