Saturday, July 30, 2016

Making known the manifold wisdom of God: Ephesians 3 Commentary

Ephesians 3:1-21 NKJV  For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles;  (2)  if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you,  (3)  how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already,  (4)  by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),  (5)  which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: Paul has said that the mystery of Christ was withheld from ages past. However, he was given the privilege of being the apostle to the Gentiles. He was given revelation that would shed light on the mystery and bring it out into the open. So what is the mystery? He answers the question in the next verse.  (6)  that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel. Essentially this is the mystery. The Gentiles will have an inheritance in the promises to Abraham. Should that be a surprise? Not really because God had promised Abraham that in him, that is, in Abraham’s seed, ALL of the world would be blessed. It was not solely for the sake of the Jewish people. It was not solely for the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. All the nations/Gentiles would be blessed as well. So you can say to me, well it wasn’t a mystery was it? Well yes, the mystery was that it would be Abraham’s SEED singular, and not seeds plural. Jesus of Nazareth, the Word incarnate, would be the single representative which would be the Israel of God. Furthermore, it is through this one SEED, that both the Jew and the Gentile would find fulfillment of the promises of God. The blessings of Abraham, the promises to Abraham would be realized in Jesus the Messiah. He would be the first fruit. He would be their righteousness Jehovah Tsidkenu… the Lord our righteousness (Jer 23:6 & 33:16.)

(7)  of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.  (8)  To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,  (9)  and to make all see 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; Ephesians chapter one and John chapter one tell us a unified, singular tale. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1;) and just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,” (Ephesians 1:4 NKJV.)  It is the same message. It was God’s intention before creation to redeem humanity through the SEED of Abraham. The blessings of Abraham are the unsearchable riches of Christ. Paul was given revelation to bring about this understanding of this mystery. That makes Paul’s revelation very important in helping one understand the scripture that came before him. Paul alone is explaining the purpose for the Jew/Gentile distinction that was in ages past, and likewise, explaining how the middle wall of partition is now torn asunder in Jesus.

(10)  to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,  (11)  according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,  God intended to make known his wisdom by the church preaching the gospel of Christ Jesus. Not just to humanity but also to the spiritual principalities and powers. We are told in Hebrews that believers are given information that angels desire to look into or know about. This is the mighty charge to the church, called-out ones. May I say bluntly that the church as a whole has failed miserably at this charge being so concerned with being teachers of the law that they have missed the opportunity to share the pure gospel with other humans, let alone the principalities and powers of the heavenly realm. The gospel is the most neglected message in evangelical Christianity. God wants the principalities and powers of the angelic realm to wonder in amazement at His grace and they cannot because it is not properly demonstrated.

(12)  in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. Jesus Christ is the reason for our boldness and access to the Father. In Hebrews we are told to go boldly to the throne of grace to find grace and mercy in our time of need. Confidence in the Fathers love; confidence in imputed righteousness; confidence in our inclusion into the promises of Abraham is the substance of our faith. Though we have not seen it, we are confident that it is ours; we are confident that God accepts us in the beloved. It is the confidence that makes us acceptable. Confidence is our faith. Confidence is the act that demonstrates that we have accepted our reconciliation to the Father.

(13)  Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.  (14)  For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,  (15)  from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. Paul asks them not to lose heart at his tribulations but they should also not lose heart at their own. They will be given glory for believing the gospel message of Paul in spite of his tribulations. Now, Paul is dropping to his knees to pray for these saints. He reminds them of the fact that the earth and the fullness thereof is the Lords. Here is Paul’s prayer: (16)  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,  (17)  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  (18)  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height;  (19)  to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. The way to be filled with the fullness of God is to be able to have strength within your spirit (inner man) that is confidence in the promises and declarations of God in Christ. Further, the way to have Christ dwell in your heart is to believe the gospel. Being rooted and grounded in love is to be rooted and grounded in God’s love for you. It is not our love, but God’s love for us that is the grounding force. Comprehending the width, length, depth and height of Christ’s love is difficult to do but through the Holy Spirit, one can begin to grasp the love of God in Christ. This love surpasses our knowledge but keeping confident in this love, twenty-four seven, will supernaturally allow it to grow ever increasingly in our inner-man. We are partakers of the divine nature when we are basking confidently in this love.

(20)  Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,  (21)  to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. What a wonderful benediction. God is truly able to do above all we can ask or think, and He will do it through the power that is at work in us…. Think about that! There is power that we do not often tap. We allow it to go untapped largely because we find it difficult to properly believe the gospel mystery. You must continue to tell yourself that you are the righteousness of God; that the Lord Jesus is your righteousness.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Abolishing the Enmity: Ephesians chapter two commentary

Last Sunday, I did a commentary on Ephesians chapter one. I showed that all of the declarations and decrees in chapter one belonged to both the Jewish and Gentle Christians alike, and that Paul's distinction between Jew and Gentile was one of time/seniority in God's program and not importance or privilege in status and stature before God. Paul now, at the beginning of chapter two goes back to making a distinction we/you just to clarify that both are equal under the New Covenant. It is with this we/you language, meaning Jew and Gentile, that I begin this probe into chapter two.

Ephesians 2:1-22 NKJV  
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,  (2)  in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,  (3)  among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. Paul makes this distinction here to show, similar to what he did in Romans one and two, he showed all people, both Jew and Gentile are both equally guilty and without hope. He acknowledges that prior to the gospel, the Gentiles were dead in trespasses and sins, but now, with the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the unbelieving Jews, "the sons of disobedience" are equally lost without Jesus. When Paul mentions the desires of the flesh and mind he also includes self righteousness, religion, and the pursuit of acceptability to God as well as other things that would more commonly be associated with fleshly lusts. Yes, it is a fleshly lust to strive to be acceptable to God by ones own effort and merit. The distinction here shows that the Jews striving to live the law by fleshly means, and the Gentiles, totally disregarding the law, pursuing the lusts of the flesh were indeed equally erroneous.

(4)  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  (5)  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  Paul is back to us again with verses four and five, both Jew and Gentile are alive in Christ Jesus. When he writes "by grace you have been saved" he means that it was God's grace that made the gospel available for ALL. It is a result of God's love/agape. Need I remind you that the apostle John said that God is love/agape (1Jn 4:8.) God's love/agape causes God's mercy and grace. The focus of the good news is God's love/agape. Paul is showing us that God's love is the catalyst for all that the gospel offers. (6)  and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  (7)  that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  Do you see the focus of Paul's thinking? It centers on God's grace and kindness. Now, under the New Covenant, the Jew and Gentile are raised up together and seated in heavenly places. I would like to take special note of verse seven. Paul states that in the ages to come, not the age to come; he makes it plural as to more than one. I think that this is significant as it allows for a series of ages to come. It is interesting to me that there is roughly four thousand years of biblical history. There is roughly two thousand years (an age) between Adam and Abraham, and another two thousand year age between Abraham and Christ. Further, there has now been another two thousand year age from Christ to 2000AD, and we are just beginning yet another age. We can already see that there has been ages to come. Could the years from Christ to Y2K, be the church age, and could we be in the beginning of the kingdom age? Just asking to stimulate thought? It appears that God does something unique and big every two thousand years and we are just beginning a new one. The thing to remember is that in ALL the ages to come, whatever they may be God plans to show the exceeding riches of his grace and kindness.

(8)  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  (9)  not of works, lest anyone should boast. This is one of the most powerful messages in the New Testament. I have disconnected it from verse ten, not because I want to eliminate the thought of verse ten. I have disconnected it because verses eight and nine are the prime drivers in Paul's discussion of the gospel, and the way it works spiritually/supernaturally.  This again, like Romans 10:9-10, and 2Cor 5:17-21 is a concise expression of the gospel. God's plan of redemption that was spoken of so eloquently in Ephesians chapter one. It is all by grace; all done by God; not of human merit; boasting is eliminated. (10)  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. In the first chapter of Ephesians Paul states that it is God who works EVERYTHING to the purpose of His will to the praise of His glorious grace. Verse ten is one of those things that God works. However, I do not believe that current evangelical doctrine and dogma properly understands the gospel well enough to know how God has planned to have each believer walk in good works. They erroneously teach that it will be from reading the law, and as a new creation be able to obey the law. They completely have missed the supernatural transformation process. This will be discussed in more depth as we look on in this chapter.

(11)  Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh —who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—  (12)  that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Paul reminds them of their former state. It is worthy of mentioning what the covenants of promise were. In short, they were the covenant of Noah, the covenant of Abraham, the covenant of David, and the New Covenant. These were covenants that were attached to the promise seed in the Abrahamic covenant. (13)  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  (14)  For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,  (15)  having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,. It was the death burial and resurrection of Jesus that brought the Jews and Gentiles together into the covenants of promise. The wall of separation was the law of Moses. The law of Moses was at enmity with humans because the only way to obtain righteousness through the law was to obey it all, always, (James 2:10.) Jesus abolished the law in his flesh on the cross. The one new man, Paul calls it the new creation in Galatians, receives righteousness by faith in the gospel. So then, why was the law enmity? Simple it was enmity because it was impossible for humans to be made right by the works of the law. Paul explains in Romans chapter eight that the law was actually the law of sin and death. The law showed humanities sin and it caused death. Jesus fulfilled the law and made it possible for their to be a law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which set humanity free from the law of sin and death. When Jesus died on the cross he abolished the law of sin and death, and when God raised him from the dead, he brought forth the law of the Spirit of life. This is what put an end, abolished the enmity. This made peace with the Father for all who would believe (Romans 5:1.)

(16)  and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.  (17)  And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.  Peace with the Father was what ended the enmity. Again, the preaching of peace with the Father, is the message of the gospel. There is no longer a cause for fear. Bringing death to the enmity meant bringing death to the law. The law that condemned humanity was rendered dead, abolished by the cross. It was no longer a means for judging righteousness. Righteousness was determined by faith in the gospel. Righteousness came strictly from grace, "for by grace are you saved through faith;" the enmity that came from the law was enmity with God. Grace and kindness, motivated from the love/agape of God ended once and for all the enmity.

Look at what comes next, (18)  For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.  Who has access by the one Spirit? Both Jews and Gentiles. (19)  Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,  (20)  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,  (21)  in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,  (22)  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. God ended the enmity so that by faith he could create a dwelling place for himself on earth. It is by the indwelling Spirit that we become members of the household of God. Here is where grace becomes ultra important. This fact, that God has abolished all enmity through Christ, will produce in the saint who truly believes it a deep abiding love for such a gracious God.

It is the deep abiding love for God, absent any fear because the enmity has been abolished, that begins to supernaturally produce the transformation of the saint into the image of Jesus Christ. The love God has for humanity is contagious. When one is truly exposed to God's love one cannot help but catch it. It begins to work supernaturally within the individual. It is the catalyst for change in the saint. It does not enable the person to begin to obey the law, how can one obey the thing that is abolished? No, this gospel fact, the abolition of the enmity begins to allow the saint to look at the law with fresh eyes. It is no longer a source of fear as it has been abolished. It could be a source of informing the saint what the good works of Ephesians 2:10 are if they realized that it was for informing and not condemning. Still so many evangelicals emphasize the law of sin and death. Sunday after Sunday they continually put saints under condemnation and reinforce the enmity. If they would but follow in the footsteps of the apostle Paul and preach the gospel with encouragement explaining that peace with the Father is a reality 24-7.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Ignorant of the Righteousness of God: Romans 10 Commentary

Romans is a complex epistle in many ways. Paul gives his best explanation of the gospel, and the mystery of Christ in Romans, and he does it in more detail than in any other letter. Chapters one through eight offer an in-depth, step by step development of the gospel emphasizing the righteousness of God as a free gift based on faith in Christ. Then chapters nine, ten and eleven are parenthetical in nature. He uses them to explain why the Gentiles were brought into the new covenant, and why much of Israel was excluded. I think that chapter eleven offers a radical outcome, but that is for another post. Chapter nine begins by showing that God had asserted his election throughout much of the Old Testament. Now, I don't want to lead you to believe that I am a five point Calvinist, or scare you away because of it, and if by chance you are one, take the time to read this anyway. I believe that election has more to do with the Jew-Gentile distinction then it does with arbitrary eternal salvation and damnation. I see too much election in the scripture to eliminate God's sovereignty, and I see too much choice to immediately dismiss universalism.

My purpose for selecting this passage however is not so much to discuss election, as to point out some places where it is mis-interpreted by mainstream evangelical dogma and doctrine. Also, I think that there is a strong case to be made, that this passage directed at first century unbelieving Jews has a lot of relevance for the current evangelical church. This is especially true in view of my paradigm shift that sees the scripture as solely redemptive, and the Word of God as the gospel, rather than scripture in general. With the above points made, I will continue with this commentary on Romans chapter ten.

Romans 10:1-21 NKJV  Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.  (2)  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  (3)  For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.  I think that this verse could have the language changed slightly and be very pertinent today. I could read, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the evangelical church is that they may be truly and completely saved." Not so much that they are not saved, but rather that they do not understand salvation as God intended it. Paul had two meanings in my estimation: 1.) eternal salvation. 2.) Salvation from the oncoming destruction of the temple and the judgment of Judaism. Paul is far more interested in the salvation of the Jews from judgment for rejecting the Messiah. However, today's message for the church would be that the zeal they have for God is not according to knowledge. Evangelical dogma and doctrine is too steeped in error. The error is the leaven of the Pharisees that has permeated church doctrine. Most people are trying to establish their own righteousness rather than simply submitting to the righteousness of God offered as a gift for faith in Christ.

(4)  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. It does not mean that Christ is the end of the law per se. He is however, the end of the law for righteousness. One cannot determine the righteousness of a saint by the law. Since the vast majority of the evangelical believers adhere to a legal, constitutional reading of scripture, they cannot avoid using the law as the measuring stick for righteousness. They therefore are in fact NOT SUBMITTING to the righteousness of God. Submitting to God's righteousness is trusting in the declaration that one is made right by faith alone. It is a fearless assurance that one is made the righteousness of God. Most saints do not really believe that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. Most are concerned about establishing their own righteousness by the things they do and say. This prevents the gospel from supernaturally producing love in the believer, and stifles and stymies the true transformation process. When a saint uses the law to establish their own righteousness they are not using it lawfully (1Tim 1:8.) The only lawful use of the law is to drive one to Christ. The legal, constitutional reading of scripture in the end makes it impossible to use the law lawfully.

(5)  For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, "THE MAN WHO DOES THOSE THINGS SHALL LIVE BY THEM."  This is from Leviticus 18:5. It clearly states that for a person to made right by the law they must do them, all of them, never break them ever, not even one (James 2:10.) I love this analogy: Imagine one could connect a linked chain between two sky-scrapers. The chain represents the law. Imagine that the chain is strong enough to hold a little seat that one can peddle across the chasm. Imagine a person seated on this seat peddling across between the buildings. Imagine that when one gets two thirds of the way across one of the links breaks. Scary thought right? That is precisely the case of counting on law righteousness. Breaking one law is the same as breaking one link in the chain. Disastrous is the only word to describe it. No one will ever be made right by the deeds/works of the law. So again, a question that I ask over and over throughout this blog; why do so many preachers and teachers place so much emphasis on the law of sin and death (Rom 8?) In other words, why is their so much focus put on sin and law? Yet, most sermons to saints are filled with law and sin.... is it any wonder that they bring about fear of the law of sin and death?
(6)  But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, "DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, 'WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?' " (that is, to bring Christ down from above)  (7)  or, " 'WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?' " (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  (8)  But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART" (that is, the word of faith which we preach):  Paul gives illumination to the Old Covenant scripture at this point. This quote is from Deuteronomy chapter thirty. Paul is saying that he has finally been given the correct interpretation of what the passage meant. It was a prophecy that was meant to point to the time when righteousness would be given for faith in Christ Jesus. He is saying here that the "word that is near you" mentioned in Deu 30, is really the word of faith that Paul and the other apostles are preaching. It is not the law per se. It is the gospel! How do we know this? It is simple: Paul goes on to say; (9)  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  (10)  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  Romans 10:9-10 is a concise definition of the gospel. One believes the report, the message of the gospel for their righteousness, and one confesses this belief for their salvation. Furthermore, he connects this to the message of Deuteronomy chapter thirty which is in effect a New Covenant promise and prophecy found in the Old Covenant. Neither Israel nor anyone else would get at the promises of Deuteronomy 28-30 through law obedience. It would only come to and through the ONE SEED, and it would only come from faith in the report! The important message in the New Covenant is not the one about the law of sin and death. The important message of the New Covenant is righteousness by faith!

(11)  For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES ON HIM WILL NOT BE PUT TO SHAME."  (12)  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.  (13)  For "WHOEVER CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED."  Now Paul gets back to his parenthetical argument. Salvation was never meant for the Jews only. This is eternal salvation that Paul is speaking of here. Election of the Jews was not meant to make them the only ones God would bless. Election was meant to bless all people, especially those who call on his name. The Jews were elected for a specific purpose. That was explained in Romans 9:4-5 NKJV  "who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;  (5)  of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen." They were elected to be the way in which God brought forth the Messiah and the New Covenant. They were given the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the law and the promises. The most important promise was the SEED and the gospel.

It becomes clear that the following passage first and uniquely pertains to Israel, but then, on a larger scale after the death burial and resurrection of Jesus, it pertains to all people including the Gentiles. (14)  How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?  (15)  And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO PREACH THE GOSPEL OF PEACE, WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!" This was the point of the Old Covenant and the election. It was to bring the good news of the New Covenant and the promised SEED of Abraham. Paul quotes Isaiah the Prophet (Is 52:12.) The importance of the gospel message is heralded by the prophet. Isaiah is uniquely important in the prophetic message of the gospel and the SEED, and the Jews were given a very important place in this mission but had actually failed by not recognizing that Jesus was Messiah. Paul is alluding to justification of why many were going to be judged and that the Gentiles were given a place in the New Covenant. This again is part of his parenthetical argument. 
(16)  But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?"  Here Paul reminds the reader of the warning question of Isaiah 53. It begins, "who has believed our report?" Isaiah chapter fifty-three is all about the suffering servant. I always wondered how anyone could read Isaiah 53 (one of my favorite gospel passages) and not conclude that it was describing Jesus and his mission. I later found out from an unbelieving Rabbi that the Jews interpreted this passage to refer to them. They see Israel the nation as the suffering servant. Israel has not obeyed the gospel. Here is another place where believing and obedience are synonymous. Most of the Jews of the first century did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah. Isaiah's prophecy had come to pass indeed.

Next comes one of the most mis-interpreted verses in the entire bible: (17)  So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Let me set it straight right now. Faith comes from hearing the gospel. It does not necessarily come from hearing the scripture. First, by the very context of this passage it is obvious that in this case, Paul meant gospel in writing word of God. In fact, most all of the other translations render the verse as is done in the NASB (so then faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.) The reason for the difference is that in some ancient manuscripts it reads word of God, and in others it reads word of Christ. In either event, it is clear from a context standpoint grammatically that gospel is the intended meaning. Yet, so many preachers, Sunday after Sunday isolate the one verse, Romans 10:17, and use it as a proof text to insist that faith comes from hearing any the scripture no matter what covenant. Paul however was using it as a reason that the Gentiles were getting ahead of so many Jews. It was because of the fact that they had heard the gospel and believed it and Israel, had heard the gospel over and over from the beginning and did not believe.

(18)  But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: "THEIR SOUND HAS GONE OUT TO ALL THE EARTH, AND THEIR WORDS TO THE ENDS OF THE WORLD."  (19)  But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: "I WILL PROVOKE YOU TO JEALOUSY BY THOSE WHO ARE NOT A NATION, I WILL MOVE YOU TO ANGER BY A FOOLISH NATION."  (20)  But Isaiah is very bold and says: "I WAS FOUND BY THOSE WHO DID NOT SEEK ME; I WAS MADE MANIFEST TO THOSE WHO DID NOT ASK FOR ME."  (21)  But to Israel he says: "ALL DAY LONG I HAVE STRETCHED OUT MY HANDS TO A DISOBEDIENT AND CONTRARY PEOPLE." Paul finishes the chapter with the way in which Israel's rejection of the gospel had been prophesied. He will go on in-depth in chapter eleven how God will indeed keep his promise to Israel. That will be an interesting commentary and I will attempt it fairly soon, but for Sunday this week, I will continue with Ephesians chapter two.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

God is in total charge: Commentary Ephesians Chapter One

I am planning a series of posts beginning today, Sunday July, 17, 2016 that will look at the first four chapters of Ephesians in commentary form. This particular series will take on the method of expository teaching. Hopefully, this will aid in the further acceptance of my paradigm shift and will strengthen your resolve to allow yours to shift also. This, like all of Paul's Epistles begins with an explanation of the gospel and grace. It is my hope that this pattern of Paul in his epistles; along with the understanding of the redemptive focus that Jesus gave the scripture; along with "the redefining" of the phrase the *word of God* from Torah to gospel that Jesus taught his first century followers, will serve to strengthen your opinion, and embolden you to allow your paradigm to shift to a totally New Covenant focus, and embrace all that it entails and implies. With this in mind let's look at chapter one:

Eph 1:1-23 ESV
(1) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:  (2)  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul simply provides a familiar greeting that he uses in all of his letters/epistles.  I want to point out here at he is addressing ALL the saints, both Jewish and Gentile. The reason that I want to make this point is that several of the following verses are directed to ALL the saints both Jew and Gentile. Later on he will make a brief distinction between the Jewish believers that he will refer to as us and the Gentile believers that he will refer to as you, but it will only be to show that the Jews had hoped in Christ for a much longer time than had the Gentiles. Therefore, the letter itself is to ALL Ephesian believers both Jew and Gentile. 

(3)  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, Ephesians is an epistle full of God's sovereign decrees. Let me define a sovereign decree. It is a statement that cannot be altered by further conditions. A decree is a statement that shows who is in-charge, and what that means. So, in this first decree we see that God has ALREADY blessed them, both Jew and Gentile with EVERY spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.   Some of the sentences are so important that they must be examined clause by clause. This is certainly one of them so the first clause is as follows: "(4)  even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, This stated decree explains that the choice was made before the foundation of the world. That is, the choice was made before creation. This means that God's first thought in creation was redemption. In other words, God created the world to redeem it! It was not a solution to an accidental circumstance. Redemption was the first stated purpose in creation. Think about that. Think about what that implies. God could have never been angry about the fall of man. It was God's purpose.

Why did God purpose this? that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love Now, when Paul writes that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love, he meant that we should be holy and blameless in his sight. It is stated that way in many of the translations. The reason is that the word translated *before* him, actually means in his sight. So then, the clause is not saying that we should be holy and blameless as much as it is declaring in conjunction with the former statement that God has made us holy and blameless. This is not referring to our holiness but our declared holiness by virtue of receiving the righteousness of God as a gift based on faith in Christ Jesus. (5)  he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, Here you have a clear statement that is by the sovereign choice of God, and not the choice of humanity. This again is a decree. He goes on to answer why. He gives God's purpose in this"  (6)  to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. So now we see the motivation. God first purpose in creation was redemption, and it was to the praise of His glorious grace. God created humanity to praise Him for his grace!  Grace then, is the prime factor in all that God does. It is most important of all concepts. God's grace is a direct result of His love. It is not Law. It is not wrath. It is in fact grace that proceeds from God's love. With this in mind. Grace is the driving prerequisite force in all that God ever planned! Don't you see that evangelical doctrine and dogma is so far off the mark when the focus is on law obedience?

(7)  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,  (8)  which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight  (9)  making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ  Paul is still addressing ALL the Ephesian believers, both the Jew and Gentile. Again, see it is the riches of his grace that is the reason. God's mysterious will was hidden prior to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It was in wisdom that God did this. God knew that grace and his love would be far more transformative than simply giving a law to be followed. Grace is that which allows us to properly and truthfully love God.

(10)  as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.  (11)  In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,  God planned for the fullness of time, according to Paul's argument, the fullness of time was then, Paul's time, the Ephesians time. The fullness came in the first century. They were awaiting the promised destruction of the temple and the time when God would manifest that his sons and daughters were those who believed in the gospel. We also see in this decree that God purposes all of this to the counsel of his own will. Again, we see the sovereignty of God in this decree.

Finally now Paul makes a distinction between the Jew and Gentile believer. (12)  so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.  Here Paul is speaking of himself as a Jew and all of the Jewish people that came before him. They indeed were the first to hope for a Messiah. (13)  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  (14)  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  Now Paul is speaking of the Gentiles. It is important to see in these verses that Paul defines the phrase the "word of truth." He plainly states that the word of truth is the gospel of salvation and not the entire scripture. Paul would of-course, hold on to this meaning of the phrase through all of his writings so, when he speaks about rightly dividing and correctly handling the word of truth in 2 Tim 2:15, he obviously means rightly dividing the gospel or correctly handling the gospel. To rightly divide the word of truth is to correctly handle the gospel as it resides in scripture. Several years ago, I came up with a slogan of sorts. It was as follows: "the only way to rightly divide the word of truth is with the cross." After all, the cross event is dividing act between promising the gospel and realizing the gospel.

Notice also that after hearing and believing the word of truth, (gospel), one is sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of redemption. Redemption, eternal communion with God is the prize, and the indwelling Holy Spirit is the guarantee of that.  ANYONE who sincerely believes the gospel has the Holy Spirit as a guarantee. It may not be fully realized, but that does not negate that ALL believers have the Holy Spirit as a gift of redemption.  Notice further that it also is to the praise of the Glory of God, and by extension from the previous decree in verse six is to the praise of the glory of His grace. Again, the driving force, the catalyst for all that God has purposed in the fullness of time is GRACE. When God so clearly focuses on grace, why do so many focus on the law of sin and death?

Now, because of all these wonderful decrees, Paul acknowledges their faith and love and begins a prayer that calls for a blessing on all the Ephesian Believers. (15)  For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,  (16)  I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,  So look at what he prays;  (17)  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,  (18)  having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  (19)  and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might  (20)  that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,  (21)  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  (22)  And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,  (23)  which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Please receive with the Ephesians, the spirit of wisdom and revelation into this glorious inheritance that by decree does not depend on you but rather on God's decree and what he has already accomplished from before the foundation of the world. It was a done deal before he created anything. This decree came from the time prior to Genesis 1:1. It came from the time of John 1:1; "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God!" 

I will continue this teaching series next week. Until then be blessed and concentrate of the grace of God, the love of God and the gospel of Christ!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

No Condemnation: Romans Eight Commentary.

Rom 8:1-39 NASB  "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." This is a declarative sentence and it cannot be altered. Anyone in Christ Jesus is not condemned. Declarative sentences are such that they have to be true always. The bottom line then is this... anyone in Christ Jesus has no condemnation ever!  (2)  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. We see here that there is a law of the "Spirit of Life" and there is a "law of sin and death." I believe that it is the same law but, the operation, how the law is accomplished and fulfilled, is different. We will see later on in Paul's argument how to tell the difference.  (3)  For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, The first thing to realize is this: There has never been anything wrong with God's law. The problem has always been, and always will be the flesh. That is why the condemnation was placed on Jesus, flesh on the cross, and buried with him in his death. There was a purpose which will be stated in the next verse, verse four. (4)  so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. The law is fulfilled in any who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. But, what does it mean to walk according to the Spirit and not the flesh? This is a place where mainstream evangelical theology, doctrine and dogma have failed miserably.

Twenty some years ago, I was a guest on a radio talk-show program in St. Louis MO. It was on Sunday evenings at 7PM Central, I believe it was called "Grace Talk;" It was hosted by a brother named Dawan Ferguson. That particular evening the show focused on Romans 8:1-4. A caller named Jerry called in and insisted that verse four meant that one would be obedient to the law, and that walking in the Spirit meant walking in the law. I know that there are many who take that position but it is erroneous and misleading. Actually the text goes on to explain exactly what walking in the Spirit means. (5)  For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  (6)  For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,  (7)  because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,  (8)  and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Several years later the Spirit grabbed my thoughts one Sunday morning as I was again reading this passage. It was an epiphany. I heard in my mind clearly, "Joe, did you get that? Having ones mind on the flesh, and fleshly things was walking in the flesh, and having ones mind on Spiritual things was walking in the Spirit." It went on to tell me, "Joe, if your mind is on the flesh to sin, or if your mind is on the flesh to try not to sin, it is still on the flesh." That was an earth shaking, paradigm shifting, thought. Especially in view of verse eight that clearly states that those with the mind on the flesh cannot please God. So then, all the preaching that focuses on talking about not sinning, actually puts people in a place where they cannot possibly please God. Ouch!

The mind on the Spirit is not the mind focusing on sin. No, the mind on the Spirit is the mind focusing on the gospel. We should have known that from Romans chapter seven. Didn't Paul plainly state that the Law brought about all kinds of sin because of the weakness of the flesh? So, all those who believe that once a person is saved that the Holy Spirit helps one obey the Law are off base. Being guided by the Spirit comes from having ones mind on the spiritual revelation that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting sin. (9)  However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.  (10)  If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. Any person confident that they have the indwelling Spirit of God must also be confident that there is NEVER any condemnation for them! So what is the righteousness that makes the Spirit alive? It is the righteousness of God that comes from faith in Jesus. Here is a place where the working of the Spirit in the redeemed needs some explanation. Let's just say that it is not simply that the redeemed believer automatically receives the ability to follow and obey the Law. There is a specific operation in the transformation process and it involves believing the gospel, and not reading, understanding, and fulfilling the Law.

In the following passage, Paul begins to explain how this supernatural operation of the Spirit in the believer works. Look at Romans 8:11-13... (11)  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.  (12)  So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh--  (13)  for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. The key in this passage is looking at how one puts the deeds of the body to death by the Spirit.  It centers on the effect that believing the gospel has the individual.  (14)  For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  (15)  For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"  Here is the key. The Spirit is not a Spirit of slavery and fear. This coincides nicely with the passage in First John Chapter 4. 1Jn 4:18  "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." It takes assurance and resting in the "no condemnation" to cast out fear. So what does it mean to be made perfect in love? That is simple, one is perfected by believing that the love of God has made one the righteousness of God. Now then, as one believes the gospel; believes there is no condemnation; believes that it is a gift of God by grace; believes that they are no longer are under law, but under grace, then they will begin to automatically love God. In fact, when they realize the truth of God's grace they cannot help but love God. This is precisely how to be made perfect in love, and it also is the way that one can walk in the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the body. It is only by this operation that one can ever be properly informed by the law and discover what pleases God. However, it always must be aside from fear, and it cannot be tied to pleasing God. One has to remember that without faith it is impossible to please God, so one has to have faith in the fact that he/she is righteous because God has declared it based on faith to please Him.

When one believes the gospel the following condition kicks in. "(16)  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,  (17)  and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him."  In the KJV it says that His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are his children. This emphasizes the importance of preaching the gospel over and over, even to seasoned saints. There never comes a time when the gospel is not important, and there NEVER comes a time when preaching condemnation to saints has any benefit at all. The minute that a Saint hears a condemning message from the Law they are forced to focus on the flesh and how they can try to get their flesh under control. At that moment in time, the supernatural transformation flies out the proverbial window because fear and punishment are reintroduced. The perfection that comes from love are lost, or diminished to a time past and that is why you have so many people coming to the alter to be saved over and over again, Sunday after Sunday. In reality, the continuous preaching of the Old Covenant, the Law, and condemnation is having the opposite effect as is planned. This is why Paul told the Corinthian Believers that he determined to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ crucified, (the gospel.)

It is in verse eighteen that grammar plays an important and decisive part in proper interpretation. "(18)  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." When you read Paul write about the present time, he is not speaking of *any* time present... it is NOT our present time. The reason is that the Greek word that is translated as time is not chronos, but rather kairos. The present time in Paul's usage is the right time, the ripe time, it is the time present to the Roman Believers only. They were suffering something specific, and awaiting something specific. The thing that they most awaited was the destruction of the temple, and the time/kairos (ripe time) when God would show who his real sons and daughters were. It would be the time when at last, Old Covenant Judaism would be judged with the destruction of the temple and the true sons and daughters of God, those who believed in Christ would be REVEALED, (manifested, made obvious.) It is stated plainly in verse nineteen: (19)  For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.  Notice my emphasis. The awaited manifestation of the sons of God was the destruction of the temple which would bring the dawning of the end of the Old Covenant and the FULL installation of the New Covenant.

Now comes a fairly long passage verses twenty through twenty-seven that explain the fall. (20)  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope  (21)  that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  (22)  For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.  (23)  And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.  (24)  For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?  (25)  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.  (26)  In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;  (27)  and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  Who subjected the creature to the fall? The answer is God. Humanity had to experience the knowledge of good and evil to be able to recognize real good when they saw it. However, the fall was a painful process and it ultimately required redemption. It required that there ultimately be a First-fruits of redemption and righteousness. And, since we do not fully understand all this the Spirit must intercede and utter our petition according to the will of God. This is the purpose, function, and importance of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

"(28)  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."  Yes, we can individually rest in the promise that all things work for good, and why not, Paul says here that the fall worked for out good! Within the context of this passage, Paul is clearly stating that the fall, (the creature being subjected to futility) worked for the good. How much more will ALL THINGS not work out for our good?

Now comes Paul's great poetic doxology to the thoughts of this chapter. "(29)  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;  (30)  and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.  (31)  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?  (32)  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?  (33)  Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies;  (34)  who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.  (35)  Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  (36)  Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED."  (37)  But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  (38)  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  (39)  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." We were predestined, called, justified, and glorified from before the foundation of the world. Yes! Yes! Yes!!!! IF GOD IS FOR US, WHO CAN BE AGAINST US?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Secret Place of the Most High is the Sabbath Rest

Psa 91:1 KJV  "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."

The ninety-first Psalm is a powerful comfort to the believer. This is one place where the King James Version has no rival. "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High" is indeed the Sabbath Rest, mentioned in Hebrews three and four. Paul stated that the gospel was a mystery, a mystery that had been held tight until the time of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. This mystery was revealed in its fullness to Paul. He shared it with the believers of his day, but it was prophesied in the ninety-first Psalm. In fact, the only way to abide under the protection of the Almighty God is to REST in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. God's secret place, God's place of seclusion is found in resting in Jesus. With this in mind, let us take a fresh look at the ninety-first Psalm.

We know that it is prophetic of the life and work of Jesus. It pertains to Jesus as the first-born, but then it pertains to all believers. It is also the prophetic promise of God's keeping of "his own." Jesus as the first born is "his own," but we, united with Christ in faith are "his own" also. Psa 91:2  "I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust." This verse is descriptive of the Sabbath Rest. One only need be reminded of the promise that in Christ, through Christ, we are the very righteousness of God.

Psa 91:5-8  "Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;  (6)  Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.  (7)  A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.  (8)  Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked."  This is a wonderful precious promise that the one resting in Jesus can take to the bank. We can rely on God and his promises and declarations. In fact, when we rely on, trust in, and cling too the promises in verses 5-8 we do enter the Sabbath Rest. We realize that we need not work at it. God has taken control of it for us!

Psa 91:9  "Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;" Listen to the words of the Psalmist here: By entering in to the Sabbath Rest, making the most High your dwelling place, you bring the promises to fruition. It is not by the good one does. It is by making the promises of the Lord a resting place that all of the promises come to you. That is, the promises that are above in verses 5-8 and the promises that follow in verses 10-13.

Psa 91:10-13  "There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.  (11)  For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.  (12)  They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.  (13)  Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet." Entering into the Sabbath Rest affords so many rich benefits. The angels are watching over the one resting in Jesus. Snakes, roaring lions, and dragons shall be under your feet. Isn't it interesting that Satan has been referred to as a snake/serpent, a dragon, and a roaring lion?

Now, here's what God says: Psa 91:14-16  "Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.  (15)  He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.  (16)  With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation." These promises are there for the believing. Believing in these promises is in fact entering into HIS REST.

Heb 4:9-11  "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.  (10)  For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.  (11)  Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." The promises of God are yes and amen in Christ Jesus.  Meditate on the 91st Psalm and enter the rest, believe the promises and abide in the shadow of the Almighty!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Gospel According to Paul; Proof positive why current evangelical doctrine is an error, Part II

In the previous blog post we established that Paul defined the gospel very specifically in 1 Corinthians 15 as simply and completely the death burial and resurrection of Jesus. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is in fact the full content of the good news. It was God's act to reconcile the world to Himself. Faith in that message gives peace with God which in turn ultimately creates supernaturally a love for God that is trans-formative in nature. We also established that 2 Corinthians 5 offers the clearest statement of the good news (2Co 5:16-21.) The first blog post is only half of the proof though. The second half of the proof is in the New Testament definition of the word of God. Time after time in this blog we have demonstrated that mostly when Jesus made the statement, and completely from Acts forward, whenever you see the phrase "word of God," it means the gospel or Jesus the gospel made flesh.

Now then, why do you think that John MacArthur wrote "The Gospel According to Jesus?" It is simple. He wanted to demonstrate that the gospel involves law obedience as well. He will deny that but it is ridiculous for him to try to do so. That indeed was his purpose. It was to convince people that the one who is truly saved will, in fact, supernaturally try to obey the Law. That is a sad error. That is in fact, the "leaven of the Pharisees." The gospel was not meant to allow the Christian to obey the law supernaturally. The gospel was meant to cause the believer/Christian to supernaturally love God. It is a supernatural love for God that is trans-formative in nature. Believing the gospel creates a true love for God based upon His grace. 1Jn 4:10 NLT  "This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins." The unconditional grace of God, apart from any act of law obedience is the source of the transformation. John MacArthur's error only produces fear ultimately. 1Jn 4:18 NLT  "Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love." The only way that one can experience this perfect love is by believing the gospel as Paul explained it in 1Co 15 & 2Co 5. The minute that law obedience is attached as a proof of conversion it changes to a law based righteousness.

In the previous blog post  we saw that the gospel according to Paul was one of total, unconditional grace that does not focus on sin. Rather, it focuses on the supernatural way that God removed sin from the equation. We wondered why current Christian doctrine focuses so much on sin and law. It stems from a basic misunderstanding of the scripture interpretation. This is the reason that Christian doctrine is so far of the mark, wallowing in the mud bog of error. In this post we can answer the question that so many have. If you are right about the gospel and unconditional grace, why then is there so much that appears to be law in the New Testament writings? Most evangelicals cannot get past the law passages. and we have to answer that question satisfactorily.

Let me restate the question again at the beginning of this paragraph: If we are indeed not under law and instead under grace, why is there so much ink in the New Testament writings that appears to be law? The reason is very simple. The New Testament writings were not written directly to us. They were written to an audience that was in the middle of transition from the Jew only Old Covenant to the all inclusive New Covenant. They were written during a transition period that runs from John the Baptist to the destruction of the temple. Law was very important in the Old Covenant economy as it acted as a teacher, or tutor that was preparing the way for, and pointing the way to Christ Jesus. To emphasize the nature of this transition period look at Hebrews nine. Heb 9:7-8 NLT  "But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for His own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.  (8)  By these regulations the Holy Spirit revealed that the entrance to the Most Holy Place was not freely open as long as the Tabernacle and the system it represented were still in use." All of the New Testament was written before the destruction of the temple while the Old Covenant limped along side of the New Covenant. The believers both Jew and Gentile were being shown a new and better way, but during the transition period there was an already/not yet mixture of the Old and New Covenants.

To facilitate the new and better way, the better covenant, based on better promises, Jesus and his first century followers redefined the phrase "word of God" from the Old Covenant definition of Torah to the new covenant definition of gospel. So in the gospel according to Paul, the word of God was the gospel. If you read Romans 10:17 in its context, you will have to admit that Paul was speaking of faith coming by hearing the gospel. Paul went on to define specifically the "word of truth." It is not the scripture per se, but rather the gospel. He gives the definition in Ephesians 1:13 in which he says "the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation."

It is obvious that Jesus and his first century followers were redefining "word of God" from Torah to gospel to make sure that everyone understood that the scripture had a redemptive gospel focus and not an Old Covenant "law centered" focus. In fact, the early church fathers in the second century forward went back to calling the scripture "the word of God" with an interpretive method that was similar to the Pharisees. In fact, current evangelical scripture interpretation is "the leaven of the Pharisees." This is precisely what Jesus warned his first century followers to beware of and watch out for.

So then, it is by an erroneous way of interpreting scripture that evangelical doctrine has nullified grace by making law more important than grace in the day to day lives of believers, when in fact, the gospel plan, the mystery that was revealed in Paul's day is just the opposite. I hope you take time to read part one if you have not done so as they are important to be read as a unit. This is what makes the gospel according to Paul so critical and of first importance in proper understanding of the correct Christian doctrine.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Gospel According to Paul; Proof positive of why current evangelical doctrine is an error!

There is wide disagreement in evangelical Christianity as to what exactly is the content of the gospel. John MacArthur, wrote a book entitled "The Gospel According to Jesus." That book, and many like it, just continue to perpetuate the error that besets the evangelical church. The title of the book, "the gospel according to Jesus" suggests that Paul somehow got the gospel wrong, or did not completely explain the gospel. I say that if that was true, then Paul was a false prophet, and if that was true, Christianity would have been founded in large part on error. Further, if it was true, that Paul was wrong about the content of the gospel, then the record of the gospel, all of the Pauline writings, would be of little or no value, and there would be no reason whatsoever to believe the bible. Paul is an authority on the basis of the concept of progressive revelation. That means that what was revealed through out the scripture was illuminated and given proper context and meaning by subsequent revelation. In other words, each author, in his or her own way, added illumination to the plan of God. Paul explained that it was a mystery in times prior to his. This statement to be true, means that Paul was given insight into explaining the mystery. So then, what was the gospel according to Paul? actually it was succinctly explained in his first epistle to the Corinthians in chapter 15.

1Co 15:1-9 NLT  "Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it.  (2)  It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.  (3)  I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.  (4)  He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.  (5)  He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve.  (6)  After that, He was seen by more than 500 of His followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.  (7)  Then He was seen by James and later by all the apostles.  (8)  Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw Him.  (9)  For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I'm not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God's church."

As you can plainly see, the Good News (gospel) according to Paul was a very simple message. Here is the entire message of Paul's gospel: "Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.  (4)  He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said." In fact, the gospel is so simple that it is almost Zen. In the above passage, Paul is reminding the Corinthians of the gospel he preached, the gospel they welcomed, the gospel they stood firm in, and the gospel that had saved them if they continued to believe it. To make such a bold and all inclusive statement one would have to believe that Paul was going to explain the gospel in its entirety, and if he did not, then he would be lying, and his witness would be unreliable. So then, let me repeat what he said the gospel was in view of all of his declarative statements. He said it was the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. So then, what did the death, burial, and resurrection of the Jesus mean to Paul? The simple answer is that one is justified by faith, saved by faith, kept by faith, resurrected to eternal life by faith.

Here is a passage of scripture that puts Paul's understanding of the gospel most succinctly: 2Co 5:16-21 NLT  "So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know Him now!  (17)  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  (18)  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to Himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him.  (19)  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.  (20)  So we are Christ's ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, "Come back to God!"  (21)  For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ."

The gospel according to Paul is this: Humanity has been reconciled to God through Christ. Further, God has given everyone who knows and believes this message the ministry of reconciliation. Even further, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself not counting sin. Even further, he made Jesus, (the one who did not know the concept of sin) to be MADE SIN so that the rest of us could be made the righteousness of God in Him.

This is the ULTIMATE REVELATION! This is the explanation of the MYSTERY! Why is it that all of evangelical Christianity is so wrapped up in the discussion of sin? Why is there so much focus on sin? Why is there so much discussion of Old Covenant Law? Why is there so much hate, fear and bigotry? The answer is obviously simple; evangelical church doctrine is a complete ERROR!

The two overriding messages of the scripture

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