Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What is the gospel?

It gnaws continually at your inner spiritual knowledge; You can't quite put your finger on it, but you know something is just not right. As much as you love the Lord, you feel that the way the gospel is presented just doesn't make sense. And yet, you cannot seem to prove it; even to yourself. You have given up trying. You never voice what you really believe because you are afraid that someone might call you a heretic and yell at you or, that they might accuse you of not really being saved. Friend, you are not alone. No, you are merely proving that you have been born from above. You know deep in your heart that God is a God of mercy love and grace and yet when you voice it, someone always says well you don't know God very well. The truth is that they do not know God.

One of the many questions that plague many believers is, what is the gospel? It should be such a basic well known fact but it is shrouded by a myriad of interpretations of the content of the gospel.

Some churches call themselves full gospel churches as if some churches do not have the full gospel. John Macarthur has written a book entitled The Gospel According to Jesus as if, this gospel is different than the accepted gospel. This causes great confusion and indecision as to meaning of the gospel. Can the question ever be answered?

What did Paul say?

1 Corinthians 15:1-4, KJV "1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:" This alone is the gospel or Paul is an unreliable witness. How can I make this statement? Well, if one believes that Paul is inspired by the Holy Spirit, then, this becomes one of God's sovereign decrees of redemption. No one can waffle on the gospel or Paul has misrepresented this bold declaration. What does he say first? "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you"This is very clear language. Paul is telling them that he is going to explain the gospel in its entirety to them. this is the gospel he preached. Then he adds even more, "which also ye have received" So, this is the gospel he preached and it is the gospel they received. Look at this passage line by line and precept by precept. One could not make it any plainer. He is intending to present by declaration (a forceful word) the gospel he proclaimed. This is such a clear statement with such a precise intent that it would be impossible to believe that the gospel would be anything other than what he is now declaring. Further, if the statement is not the full gospel then Paul is unreliable. He solidifies this position by making the following additional statement; which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand. This is not only the gospel he proclaimed. It is also the gospel that the Corinthians believed and it is the gospel by which they stand. But he doesn't stop there. He goes on to say that it is by which also ye are saved. 

These statements are examples of Holy Spirit inspired sovereign decrees of God Almighty. The plain fact is that the gospel cannot be any more or less than what Paul is about to proclaim. If it were Paul is unreliable. The gospel is the epitome of reductionism. The following is the gospel in its entirety. for I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; (4) And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: Thats it. It is the death burial and resurrection of Jesus and that is all. The message of chapter fifteen is that the resurrection of Jesus made possible the resurrection of everyone else. The good news is that there is a resurrection and one can take part in the resurrection by believing the good news.

For a further look into the gospel we must look at Acts Chapter ten. This is an interesting and familiar story. It tells of the first Gentile conversion. Cornelius was a Roman Centurion and the account of his conversion and the conversion of all in his household is very instructive as to the scope, content, and nature of the gospel message. We will look at the passage. Act 10:1-2 Now there was a certain man in Caesarea, Cornelius by name, a Centurion of the band called the Italian band, (2) a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. The chapter opens telling of the qualities of Cornelius. He had wealth, power and position because he was a Centurion. Cornelius was a devout man. By devout it is meant that he was pious or religious. There were three more qualities mentioned in his bio. He feared God, he was generous with the poor, and he prayed without ceasing. By Puritan standards, this man was a exemplary individual. He would have been a great candidate for Promise Keepers. The fact we find, in reading the account is that his high standard of moral conduct was not sufficient before God to give him salvation. The Great Deception on the other hand, has humanity convinced that this type of behavior would show that he was a child of God and would keep him safe in that status. The clear fact however was that Cornelius was lost and hell bound without the sovereign intervention of the grace of God.

He was visited by and angel that told him that his prayers had been heard by God and that he should send to Joppa for Simon Peter who was lodging with Simon the Tanner. While this was going on, Peter ends up on the roof ofSimons home at the time for dinner. While waiting for his meal to be served he fell into a trance and had a vision of a great sheet with each of the four corners tied full of all kinds of four-footed animals. A voice in the vision tells Peter to get up kill the animals and eat. Peter protests because he does not want to break any of the Jewish dietary laws by saying that no unclean animal has ever touched his lips. The voice went on to say three times. Peter, do not call that which God has cleansed unclean. This message has great allegorical significance but Peter does not realize it at the time. In the meantime Cornelius men arrive at the door to beckon Peter to come with them to meet with Cornelius. When Peter arrived and found out why he was sought he understood that the gospel was to be given to the Gentiles also. After all, with Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free. The gospel is for all who will believe.

Why has the gospel been made so complicated? The answer lies in the Great Deception. It has been called a strong delusion. 2Thessalonians 2:11-12 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: (12) That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. God has sent this delusion. God has given us the great deception. Why? The reason is, from the beginning men would not believe the simplicity of the gospel. And, to this very day, you have men,  deceived such as John MacArthur, not only believing a lie but also perpetuating it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The gospel is so simple; It is almost Zen

1Co 9:16 HCSB "For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason to boast, because an obligation is placed on me. And woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" These words ring clear to me personally and I suggest that they are meant for everyone who has felt the call to proclaim the gospel of God's mercy, grace and love. So once again, I am faced with answering the question what is the gospel?

In my view, there is no clearer proclamation of the gospel than Isaiah chapter 53. It really must be placed in the greater context of chapters 52-54. The gospel preacher or herald is spoken of clearly in Isa 52:7  How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald, who proclaims peace, who brings news of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" So then, the gospel is the message of peace between God and humanity, and the assurance that God is in control at all times. It was brought to fruition by the faith, life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

Isa 53:12  Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion, and He will receive the mighty as spoil, because He submitted Himself to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels. 
How can I say that it is so simple? What is the nature of the simplicity? Paul states it in 1 Corinthians 15.

1Co 15:1-8  Now brothers, I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed to you; you received it and have taken your stand on it.  (2)  You are also saved by it, if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you--unless you believed for no purpose.  (3)  For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  (4)  that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  (5)  and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.  (6)  Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep.  (7)  Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  (8)  Last of all, as to one abnormally born, He also appeared to me.

That is the simple gospel and there is no more. If there were more to the gospel, then, Paul would not be able to say that it was the gospel he proclaimed, the gospel they received, the gospel they have taken their stand on and the gospel by which they were/are saved. If the gospel is more than that… If it takes more than belief, then, Paul is being untruthful.

Why do I say that it is almost Zen? Well, mainly because Zen stresses the experiential over the theoretical. I believe that the gospel is definitely first and foremost experiential. People experience the peace with God based upon the gospel proclamation. That is how it works. That is the source of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

It is interesting to me the amount of people that I know who have this gospel experience, and in spite of what others say and teach, they know at the most basic level that they are in fact a child of God, and are in relationship with Him via Jesus. It is also interesting that they maintain this ever certain relationship in spite of the teaching they receive by institutional Christianity.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Until Christ be formed in you

This post is the combination of several posts that deal with the transformation process. Of the many things lacking in current evangelical doctrine this is one of the most important. It will help move from read and do legal reformation to be and believe spiritual transformation.

Earlier, we discussed the pattern of Paul’s letter to the Romans. We observed that it took the following pattern. First, it laid out the need of all humanity both Jews and, Gentiles; it moved on to an explanation of the redemptive decrees, the source of the Sabbath Rest and, finally it began to look at reasonable service. It flows this way for a reason as rest is the source of the reasonable service. Paul writes I beseech/urge you brothers/sisters by the mercies of God that you present yourself a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is your reasonable service….spiritual worship (Rom 12:1)
Notice that it is the mercy of God that is the catalyst for the reasonable service. Remember James….”mercy always triumphs over judgment.” What is the mercy of God Paul was writing about? Answer; it is the redemptive decrees that make up the Sabbath Rest.

It is observable that throughout the biblical writings there are statements that can best be described as God’s redemptive decrees. These are statements… that if one ties a condition to them….they end up being untrue. Here are examples; “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that -whosoever believes- in him shall not parish but have eternal life;”-- “that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved;”-- “There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus;” -- “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness;” -- we could go on indefinitely but, you get the idea…these are proclamations that cannot be modified if they are true. They are either true or they are not and, if they are not true they are really worthless.

We have already looked at James and Paul earlier and, we discovered that James was not really saying what most evangelicals have suggested he was saying. The works were not Law works…they were not read and do instructions but rather, were indicative of a heart changed and they were aimed at loving ones brother realizing that mercy always, always, always triumphs over judgment.

The reason for this is that rest is the foremost aspect of the transformation. While there will be no transformation without recognizing the need, there can be no spiritual transformation without the rest. Rest is a term that includes all of the definitions of faith. We are using the Amplified Bible definition of faith which is clinging to, relying on, trusting in and having a settled confidence. It is not merely a mental assent. Still, this rest---faith is the catalyst of the transformation.

Further, real spiritual transformation can only operate if and when a person is resting in Jesus completely. Anything short of transformation from rest is in fact fleshly motivated reformation and is not really transformation at all. Transformation comes from renewing the mind daily to the gospel of grace.

I read a blog post recently on wrecked.org written by George Elerick. It was entitled, Vampire Christians: Jesus was more than the cross. The point of the post was this… a large amount of evangelical Christians see Jesus only as the provider of forgiveness of sin via his cross and his blood and, they focus their attention and effort on sin management. This attitude and idea limits the view of the total transformation expected in the disciple. After all, Paul states that the saint is to be conformed into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29.)

In (Gal 4:19) Paul says the following; “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,” For Paul, having Christ formed in the Galatians meant that they were resting in the gospel; that they were justified by faith and not the works of the law…essentially, they were resting in Jesus and all of the benefits wrought by his death burial and resurrection including the forgiveness of sin.

We have taken an in-depth look at the concept of need, rest and, reasonable service and we see it as being the natural flow of the transformation and, we have shown that the Sabbath Rest of Hebrews 4:9-10 is the catalyst for the transformation. In short, it is resting in Jesus no matter what may come that produces the love for God, that when focused on, will transform the saint out of love and gratitude toward God for the redemption found in Christ Jesus.

Paul realized that any read and do formula for walking in the Spirit would lead to a fleshly attempt at reformation. In fact, reformation will not lead to transformation. Anyone believing in original sin will understand this. Remember, we identified original sin as the condition of human mortality coupled with the knowledge of good and evil. The survival instinct leads ultimately to greed and the knowledge of good and evil helps one in power to justify greed. This is the source of all sin in the world and, for one to be absolutely sure about their eternal life…by the design of a loving God, is the catalyst for transformation.

This is the first step in transformation but, it also requires one to be a part of a community that can help to keep one accountable. It is in accountability that the ultimate transformation will take place. It has to be loving accountability that is seasoned with grace. Loving accountability is the missing ingredient in most if not all evangelical churches…there are some that have accountability but it is a read and do kind of accountability and it works as a legal code. This legal code accountability works against transformation.

It is in this area that the importance of the redemptive focus of the scripture plays the most important part. When we acknowledge that Jesus and his disciples redefined the word of God, word of truth and, word to mean either the gospel or Jesus and, when we see that Jesus taught a solely redemptive interpretation of scripture…one that saw him as the Messiah, we can escape the tendency to have a read and do mentality. This alone will be the force to bring about transformation in the saint of God.

What does the term loving accountability mean and, what does it look like in practice? First, it is a matter of heart which is really a mind set. This is hard to explain but I will try to articulate it as best I can. When the scripture speaks of heart it means; the center of the total personality, especially with reference to intuition, feeling, or emotion; the center of emotion, especially as contrasted to the head as the center of the intellect; capacity for sympathy; feeling; affection; spirit, courage, or enthusiasm. This definition is right out of dictionary.com. I want to emphasize capacity for sympathy and intuition.

Jesus said, (John 7:24) Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." He was referring to their view of Sabbath breaking. They were criticizing him for healing on the Sabbath. He pointed out that circumcision was not considered work on the Sabbath but, they were accusing him of working and breaking the Sabbath for healing a man. Righteous judgment always allows mercy to triumph over judgment.

The Pharisees were trying to hold Jesus accountable to the Law but, they were not using righteous judgment. They were judging solely on the basis of their interpretation of the Law. In other words, they were not judging from their heart. The driving force in all accountability must be grace and truth. Notice this passage of scripture; (John 1:17) For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. What does that mean? Let’s try to break it down.

While the Law was given through Moses…the grace and truth found in the Law, had to be interpreted by Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27; 44-45.) This reinforces the idea of the redemptive purpose of all scripture. It is not that grace and truth was not present in the Law but rather, it was hidden…awaiting the mystery of Jesus Christ and God’s redemptive plan to be revealed. Therefore, grace and truth must always have precedence over judgment.

Back to loving accountability…it must always be used by believers that are trusting and resting in the grace of God, i.e., the gospel message. Loving accountability will be used to help the saint renew the mind to their positional state in Jesus. The saint, according to Paul, is the righteousness of God in Christ. This becomes the first part of loving accountability. Now then, after the mind has been renewed to the position one holds in Christ…it is then possible to look at the reasonable service instructions and explain why following them is God’s best for the individual. Grace must always be the driver.

What must not be done under any circumstances is to judge the saint. Allow the scripture and, the Holy Spirit residing in the saint to be the corrective force. I am not saying that one cannot lovingly correct someone or, lovingly point out what the scripture says about a matter but, it must not be done in judgment with a law mentality. No, it must be from a redemptive, merciful and loving perspective that allows the saint that has come for accountability to be open and honest with the accountability partner. It also helps to have the accountability partner to acknowledge that they are not perfect but a work in progress awaiting Christ to be formed in them also.

What is discipleship? Let’s look at the definition of the word disciple. Here is the definition from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (e-sword:) “The word is found in the Bible only in the Gospels and Acts. But it is good Greek, in use from Herodotus down, and always means the pupil of someone, in contrast to the master or teacher…. In all cases it implies that the person not only accepts the views of the teacher, but that he is also in practice an adherent.” Essentially, a disciple is a student that follows a specific teacher or master and adopts his/her teaching and lifestyle. Therefore, a disciple of Christ Jesus is a student of the teaching of Jesus who adopts the lifestyle of Jesus.

Frankly speaking, I think that discipleship is what Paul had in mind when he called the believers the body of Christ. In other words, the life of the body should be the lifestyle of Jesus…(discipleship)…especially, his compassion, service and healing. The world should see the life of Christ manifested in the corporate expression of Jesus in the earth. Now, while it is true, that to a degree, people will see Christ in the members of the body severally, the true expression of Christ in the world is the body jointly fitting together.

Discipleship is the place that the individual can submit to accountability. A person can become a closer adherent to the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus through mutual accountability in the body….but, it must be stressed here, that this accountability and submission cannot operate at a legal level as is the current practice of the church in general. Rather, it must be from the place of grace and mercy absent of judgment. Individuals must be encouraged to ask for the accountability help from other members of the body. In order for this to happen; they must be able to trust that they will not be judged but instead, lovingly encouraged into accountability. Further, it must be understood that all are in process and all will be in process as long as they live on this earth. Perfection should not be the goal. Growth toward being conformed into the image of Jesus should be the goal…it should always be a marching forward and, this would be possible with a redemptive focus on scripture coupled with loving accountability.

This should come in the form of the individual believer reaching out to the body in general to provide strength and accountability. People would naturally do this if it wasn’t for the fact that when they do, they are judged in far too many cases and the accountability comes in the form of legal instructions. They are in essence given a law to follow.

The church should abandon this legalistic approach. It should stop viewing the bible as the law, legal code and, begin to look at it as the story of redemption. Only in the redemptive view can the reasonable service instructions be used in a proper way. My point in all of this is that, almost universally, especially within the ranks of evangelical Christianity, the reasonable service admonitions are used in a very legal sense. When used this way, it becomes a legal code, a Law that kills the spiritual life of the body. Therefore individuals are left to work it out for themselves with only the aid of the flesh.

I am certain that the first century church was taught the idea of graceful accountability and that it was not legal accountability.

Yesterday we looked at accountability. This was in relation to the reasonable service instructions found throughout the pages of the New Testament. Earlier we discussed need, rest and reasonable service. We looked at how Romans is divided into three major sections. Romans 1:18 – 3:20 shows the need for redemption. Romans 3:21 – 11:36 provides the redemptive decrees that one can rest in and, Roman 12:1 – 16:20 gives the reasonable service instructions. You can find this pattern in many of Paul’s epistles but the need is spelled out best in Romans.

Being conformed into the image of Christ; being a disciple of Christ; requires that one continually grow more Christ like. The reasonable service instructions are there to help one in this endeavor. We are currently exploring how to use the scripture, especially the reasonable service instructions in a way that is consistent with the new covenant dynamic.

The new covenant dynamic considers two essential points. (1) The law is written on the minds and hearts of the believer via the indwelling Holy Spirit and… (2) God is not remembering sin at all. The driver of the new covenant dynamic is found in Hebrews 8:12 “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." This verse is pre-eminent.

We stated that the goal should not be perfection but growth toward being more Christ like and, here, there is perhaps need for some clarification about the biblical use of the term perfect. Jesus said the following in the Sermon on the Mount. (Mat 5:48) “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” It is important to look at the definition of perfect in this sense. The Greek word translated as perfect in this passage is teleios. It means to be complete.

On the other hand, if you look at the definition of perfect or perfection on dictionary.com you will find the following: “1.conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type: a perfect sphere; a perfect gentleman. 2.excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement: There is no perfect legal code. The proportions of this temple are almost perfect.” the definition we have of perfection today is not comparable to the definition used in the Greek of Jesus time.

In other words, we should not be moving toward perfection as found in definition number one above…that is a status we are given in Christ but, rather, we should be ever moving forward toward perfection. Let’s read what Paul said in this matter: Php 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (13) Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, (14) I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. This is the purpose in the reasonable service instructions and loving accountability. Pressing on toward the mark and the mark is Jesus Christ himself.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What was God’s goal in redemption?

When one listens to most of the messages, of most of the pastors, of most of the churches, in evangelical Christianity one could conclude that God’s goal in redemption was to produce more ethical, morally upright people. That indeed seems to be the goal of most sermons. Redemption will make you a better person is how the theme goes. Week after week, Sunday after Sunday this theme is droned on over and over again. In other words God’s goal in redemption is/was behavior modification. Is this really true? I do not believe it is!

God’s goal in redemption was to re-establish relationship with humanity out of love for his creatures. It was to restore to humanity the understanding of God’s love and acceptance of mankind in spite of mankind’s ability to judge good and evil. It appears that of all the creatures God created man alone has the ability to judge right and wrong, good and evil. Man alone has a sense of ethics and morality.

Lions, tigers, rattlesnakes, grizzly bears merely do what they need to do to survive. They eat when they are hungry and attack if they are confronted. In other words they simply do what they were designed to do. There is no morality in their behavior only natural reactions to varies stimuli.

In fact, this was the great challenge of the fall. In order for humans to judge between good and evil there had to be an ethics of sorts. We had to look to ourselves or to a higher power to establish acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Yes, moral codes are indeed necessary. They preserve life and prevent pain inflicted by greed. However, do they make us acceptable or unacceptable to God? Do they alter God’s view of his purpose in creating us? Does God judge a grizzly bear for being a bear? Of course not!

As we read the story of redemption in the bible it begins with humanity in relationship with God and fully aware of the relationship it has. Further in the story humanity has no idea of right and wrong, good or evil but simply the awareness of being in relationship with God.  The analogy is made that humanity could and did walk and talk with God in the cool of the morning. A little further along and humanity partakes of the ability to understand that there is good and evil, right and wrong. Immediately, humanity assumes that it (humanity) is evil for grabbing this knowledge. This judgment is in view of the instruction from God not to. Suddenly there is the awareness of breaking a rule and a wondering of how God views this.

The truth is that God expected it as it was in fact humanity being itself… being what it was created to be…. A morally sentient being. In reality God’s view of this is not different that his view of a bear, lion, rattlesnake etc. Each is being what they were created to be. In the fall, humanity was being what it was created to be.

Now back to redemption and God’s goal... purpose, motive. In Ephesians chapter one it is explained that it was to the praise of his glorious grace. God’s goal in redemption was to re-establish the relationship that He had with humanity before they gained the knowledge of good and evil and thus became moral beings.

Finally, redemption properly understood will assure one of God’s love, acceptance and grace and if we rest in that knowledge by faith it will improve our behavior morally but that was not God’s goal. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God; Hebrews the Rosetta Stone for understanding the New Covenant

Pease forgive the long post. This is a repost of four separate posts that should be read together and therefore I am including them in one longer post.

This post will begin a series of posts looking at the New Covenant. We have acknowledged that the New Testament shows covenants in transition. We have looked at the Jew – Gentile distinction found in the book of Acts and other places and will look at it in greater depth as we explore the New Covenant. To recap this view it can be seen that the New Testament writings transitioned from John the Baptist the last Jewish Prophet through Jesus, Prophet, Priest and King… to the cross and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus… to the day of Pentecost and the birth of the Jewish church… to Cornelius’ house and the inclusion of the Gentiles… to Acts 15 where the elders made rulings on the Jew – Gentile distinction… to the letters of Paul and others that began to look at the New Creation, lively stones etc. All of this was looking forward to the point of total transition where the New Covenant alone would stand all by itself. Furthermore, they were anticipating a time when all of the Jewish prophecies would be fulfilled. And, they thought that it would be imminent. Audience relevance becomes ultra important in properly understanding this transition. The first question one should ask when looking at the New Testament writings is what would the audience that it was written to think?

It seems to me that so much of modern evangelical doctrine does not properly address and consider this all important audience relevance. This generation, the generation alive in the first century, the generation that had gained adult status during the ministry of Jesus is the audience that is being addressed. The old folks during this time might say that they would perhaps not live to see the fulfillment but, surely the young adults would. It was expected that they would view the fulfillment of all things; the passing of the one covenant and, the complete installation of the New Covenant; the end of the age and, the dawn of the age to come. This is what was considered to be the case when one looks at audience relevance and, there can be no other conclusion.

Personally, I think that the book of Hebrews sheds great light on the passing of the old covenant and the installation of the New. The focal point for this event is the destruction of the temple. The tabernacle/temple of the Old Covenant was a pattern for the temple of the New Covenant. The New Covenant temple would not be a stone and mortar building. The New Covenant temple would be made up of living stones that would actually be the arc of the covenant, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and the place whereby God would dwell with men forever. After all the purpose of the tabernacle was stated clearly in Exo 25:8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. The purpose of the Old Covenant and the tabernacle/temple was to foreshadow God’s desire to indwell humanity. In subsequent posts we will look at how Jesus then became the tabernacle/temple of God while here on earth and, how he merely became the firstborn of a living temple for God to dwell in on the earth.

In the last post we began to look at the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant that is found throughout the pages of the New Testament. We began to look at Hebrews. In this post we will look at an overview of Hebrews that explains the transition of the New Covenant which will culminate with the destruction of the temple. In other words, we will show that the Hebrew believers were suffering persecution at the hands of the non-believing Hebrews and, if that wasn’t enough, Nero was beginning to persecute Christians in general i.e., both the Jew and Gentile Christians. It is reasonable to believe that the non-believing Jews were telling the believing Jews that they should repent from their faith in Jesus and, go back to being good Jews…There were no doubt some that were saying that the persecution of the Christians was God’s punishment on the Christian Jews for following Jesus.
Therefore, the writer of Hebrews, set out to show the superiority of Jesus and the way in which the Old Testament scripture spoke of the New Covenant and, specifically how Jesus was the Messiah. He further went on to explain how Jesus and, faith in him as Messiah, was superior to the Judaism of the day and the Mosaic Covenant.

No doubt, there were some Jewish non-believers who were telling the believers that Jesus was just an angel… that he performed good works among them but was not really the Messiah. The writer spends a lot of ink explaining that Jesus was in fact the son of God and, was far superior to the angels.

He goes on to show that Jesus was superior to Moses. In the gospels it becomes evident that many of the Jews, especially the Pharisees were claiming that because of their understanding of Moses Jesus could not be the Christ. Joh 7:47-49 ESV The Pharisees answered them, "Have you also been deceived? (48) Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? (49) But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed." It is obvious from this passage that the Pharisees did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah based upon their reading of the Law.

According to Jesus…the Pharisees and Jews were trusting in Moses. It is natural that they would do this with their view of specularia and Numbers 12:6-8. Jesus on the other hand was telling them that they received the Law and Prophets so that it could point to him so, that in believing in him, they could have and, find life. The gospel in the Old Testament was that Abraham’s seed would bring blessing to the whole world… the Jews thought that it meant them and, Jesus was showing them that it meant him… the suffering servant that would represent Israel. He told them in John’s gospel the following: Joh 5:45 NKJV Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. In reality Jesus explained that had they really believed Moses they would believe him because Moses wrote solely of Him.

The unbelieving Jews were still trusting Moses when the book of Hebrews was written and, they were still claiming that those who trusted in Jesus were accursed because they did not know the law.

In the last post we began looking at the Sabbath Rest spoken of in Hebrews chapter four. This is one of the most important notions in the entire description of true discipleship. For one to be an effective disciple of Christ it is necessary that they are resting in Jesus and his accomplishments. The letter to the Hebrews explains very succinctly what those accomplishments were. Notice this verse: Hebrews 1:3bAfter making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. And in another place it is written: Heb 9:14 ESVhow much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. This is precisely the point of the rest.

Did Jesus speak of the rest in the gospel accounts? The answer is yes; Mat 11:28-30 ESV Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." These words came upon the heels of upbraiding the towns that had rejected him. He was telling the Jews that they were working unnecessarily. What was the yoke? Well, Peter explained it in Acts fifteen. He asked the apostle’s why they should put a yoke on the gentile believers that neither we nor our fathers could bear? The yoke was law righteousness. Notice I did not say obedience…that is another matter that will be explained in this series at a later time. Law righteousness suggests that one gains righteousness or right standing from the works or, doing of the Law.

Jesus said, “take my yoke upon you” and then…he goes on to say,,,”my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The easy yoke and the light burden is the Sabbath Rest, available after the death burial and resurrection and, the writer of Hebrews explains that in great detail. Jesus explained that he had finished/accomplished the work that he came to do (John 17:4).
Since Jesus was the lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8) and, since God had purposed redemption to the praise of His glorious grace from before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4-6) it becomes easy to see why one should be able to rest in Jesus and his accomplishments. In fact, this is what the Sabbath Rest is all about. The Sabbath Rest equals resting in Jesus. Next we will look at what the author of Hebrews has to say about the Sabbath Rest.

What exactly is the Sabbath Rest? The answer is a rest from working for acceptability before God and, salvation at any time. One cannot work to achieve salvation and, one cannot work to maintain salvation. In other words, it is descriptive of one totally resting and relying, totally trusting and, totally confident of the redemption, salvation and, the forgiveness of sin brought about by the death, burial and, resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now you may be asking the question…So? Isn’t that what everyone believes?

My answer is no. That is really not what everyone believes. In fact, while most of evangelical doctrine states the above…it is obvious by actions and attitudes that most do not believe that grace alone is what keeps the saint. This is even true of those who claim to believe in the perseverance of the saints…i.e., that once a person is truly saved, that they will be kept saved, by the grace of God. Why do I say this? Because of the attitude that is reflected in Calvin’s statement….”faith alone saves but, faith that saves is never alone.” This idea renders salvation to be only evidenced by the reformed obedient life and, it puts the saint on a working contract with God.

The Sabbath Rest on the other hand, when properly understood and believed, becomes the catalyst for the reformed life and in some folks, especially those with addictive personalities it takes more patience than in others. Unfortunately, when the saint finds that they can easily conform to the behavioral standards set up by evangelical doctrine and dogma they are cheated of really understanding God’s grace. This quite frankly makes them judgmental and leads to sin…instead of loving their brother/sister, they become a judge condemning them. They are robbed of joy as they remain always concerned that their behavior is not good enough to really please God. This opens the door for the accuser of the brethren, Satan (Rev 12:10), to bring condemnation forcing them to work still harder. The reason for this is that like our first parents (Gen 3:8-10) we naturally hide our nakedness from God…our spiritual nakedness.

Heb 4:3 ESV For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, "As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest,'" although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. …..and…..Heb 4:9-10 ESV So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, (10) for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. I suggest that you carefully read the entire passage from Hebrews 3:7 thru 4:11 realizing that in 4:12 thru 4:16 the Word of God as used in the passage is Jesus and not the scriptures. The passage ends with the concept of going boldly to the throne of grace to find grace and mercy whenever it is needed.
The dynamic of the Sabbath Rest is that grace alone is driving the train taking one to discipleship. It is the engine, if you will allow the metaphor that ultimately over time produces the transformation. Paul said in Romans three that one should realize that it is grace that leads to the repentant life. The Sabbath Rest is resting in Jesus period.

For those of you who follow the blog regularly, I will be blogging three to four times each week and not everyday from now on. I will certainly blog everyday if the need arises but, right now it seems to me that three or four posts a week will cover the material in a year….after that, we’ll see what direction the blog takes then.

The two overriding messages of the scripture

While this blog is dedicated to my paradigm shift it is also about the way in which evangelical Christianity is off the mark in doctrine and...