Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The New Jerusalem Equals the New Covenant; A wholistic approach to the kingdom Part 4

Revelation 21:1-3 HCSB "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. (2) I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. (3) Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God's dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God."

It seems that most of evangelical and orthodox Christianity is stuck in the already/not yet of the transition period. I wrote a blog post entitled "stuck in the sixties" a while back. If one lives near Berkeley CA, one can see many old hippies that have refused to change over the years, though they are in their 60's and 70's they have remain stuck in the 1960's. Well, evangelical doctrine is stuck in the AD 60's of the first century.

I would love to see Christianity break free of this and walk in the reality of the "New Jerusalem." Remember that Paul said that the New Jerusalem was available in his day. Galatians 4:24-28 HCSB "These things are illustrations, for the women represent the two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai and bears children into slavery--this is Hagar. (25) Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. (26) But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. (27) For it is written: Rejoice, childless woman, who does not give birth. Burst into song and shout, you who are not in labor, for the children of the desolate are many, more numerous than those of the woman who has a husband. (28) Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise." In the above passage, Paul quotes Isaiah 54:1 which proves that the Jerusalem he refers to in Galatians is indeed the "New Jerusalem." Therefore, the passage in Revelation quoted above in all of the posts in this series refers to the same New Jerusalem Paul spoke of who he says is the mother of us all.

In the last post I began to bring together two concepts. 1) The gospel of Paul that deals with redemption, salvation, justification, and a personal relationship with Jesus... and... 2) The gospel of reform and social justice that Jesus spoke of in the gospels. They are two sides of the same coin. However, Paul and the first century saints taught that the former is the transforming catalyst for the latter. So then, the gospel is not just about preparing one for acceptance in heaven. It is also about preparing one to live a kingdom style life here on earth. In other words, Jesus stated them in the gospels during his earthly sojourn, however it was impossible to be really compliant without the understanding that Paul brings into play. The gospel as Paul explains it, creates the proper heart condition of peace with the Father, and love for the Father, that should result in being able to love as Christ commanded. Loving as Christ commanded demands one be focused on social justice and reform.

However, it will only really work as people truly rest in the grace of God thus overcoming the fear that comes from the high standards of God's Law. This is why Paul makes a point of one being NOT under law, but under GRACE. It is also the reason that John penned what we find written in John 1:17 HCSB "for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." This is why those who have perverted the gospel to demand law righteousness create such a stumbling block to the realization of the New Jerusalem. The kingdom can only really be established, in an atmosphere of love and reconciliation. Galatians 5:13 HCSB "For you were called to be free, brothers; only don't use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love." The serving one another through love aspect is the place where Jesus' concerns for social justice should come into play. The rugged individualist ideal that is so American has no place whatsoever in the kingdom of God. It merely proves that sadly, Evangelicalism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy have missed the mark, missed the way in their doctrine.

The fruit of the Spirit will always promote social justice and reform. Those who refuse to see that the scripture over the years reflects the culture it is from, and then pushes the envelop for reform miss the mark. That was true in the Old Testament, and is also true in the New Testament. So many think that working within the culture is a bad thing. It is not. God said in Genesis 1:31 that his creation, including mankind was good. God has had prophets through every stage of the development of humanity to push the the limits of reform. Shouldn't there be prophetic voices today doing the same from the ranks of Christianity?

I want to include all of the posts in this series so that you can read it as a series.

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4

Monday, February 27, 2017

The New Jerusalem Equals the New Covenant; Paul, Justification and the Sermon on the Mount Part 3

Revelation 21:2-3 HCSB "I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. (3) Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God's dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God."

We have stated in the previous posts in this series that the New Jerusalem, and the New Heaven and Earth are synonymous with the New Covenant. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 if you would like the background and since they are a series, that would be the best way to do it.

Over the history of the church, especially from the Reformation on, there has been an apparent disconnect between the gospel as Paul explained it, justification by faith, imputed righteousness, personal salvation, and the gospel that Jesus preached which had strong overtones of social justice embedded in it. This is especially true in the United States of America. The former has emphasized sexual morality over social morality. While it is true that some Protestants have emphasized honesty and integrity in business, and dealings with humanity in general, with a few exceptions, social justice has been ignored.

The merciful, progressive aspects of Levitical Law have been ignored and therefore, the God of the Old Testament is seen as harsh. Take for example Matthew 5:38 HCSB "You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Jesus was reminding them of Exodus 21:24 HCSB "eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot," This was actually at the time it was written to the Jews, reform. While it may seem harsh and severe today, it was a merciful reform at the time the Law was given. Then, a person would pay for an infraction like that with their life or their head. This makes an eye for an eye comparatively merciful. In ignorance, modern day, evangelicals use this as an excuse to show that God is also tough. Jesus, mission included many things. Yes he came to be the savior; to pay our penalty for sin; to grant us his righteousness as a free gift, and to reconcile us back to the Father, but He also came to establish further reform. He said instead of an eye for an eye, one should turn the other cheek. Christ followers, Christians should always be on the forefront of social reform. They should never be silent and overlook injustice and poverty.

That is precisely where Paul's revelation about justification, imputed righteousness, reconciliation with the Father should come into play. Our peace with the Father, (Romans 5:1,) should cause a love for God that would make us want to be loving toward our fellow man. It should allow us to become socially conscious. The New Jerusalem, the City of God coming down from the heavenly rule of the Kingdom of God, should first and foremost establish reform. Our institutions should be reformed by the love and grace of God. Isn't it odd that Jesus statement on the judgment of humanity would be predicated upon social justice issues? Matthew 25:31-46 is a passage about judgment... the judgment of God. Judgment would be based on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the homeless and visiting the sick and those in prison.

Certainly, the present political and social climate here in the U.S. with most evangelical Christians points to the fact that all of Christendom is gross error. They place so much emphasis on sexual morality and the rights of the unborn, but are morally bankrupt when it comes to social justice. They make sure the children are born, but if they starve to death, or suffer from hunger, well, they just chalk that up to lazy parents.

Those who think that they are so theologically and biblically correct are misguided hypocritical fools, that are drunk on their folly.

I want to include all of the posts in this series so that you can read it as a series.

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The New Jerusalem Equals the New Covenant: Part 2

Revelation 21:2-3 HCSB "I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. (3) Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God's dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God."

The first post in this series can be read here. If you have not read it I would strongly suggest that you take a look at it as this is a continuation of a series. The premise of this series is that (1) the new heavens and earth, the New Jerusalem, is the New Covenant, and (2) that from the destruction of the temple forward, the new heaven and earth, the New Jerusalem and the New Covenant have been completely available to anyone willing to believe it was/is a present reality. I used the illustration of the person who had $10,000,000.00 deposited in an account in their name. All they would need to spend the money would be identification, however, if one did not know that the account existed or did not believe it existed, it would really not benefit them rich as they were.

One does not have to wait for a future date for Revelation 21:2-3 to come to pass as it is already a reality. Paul told us in Galatians 4:24-26, that the New Jerusalem was the mother of us all and a current reality at the time of the writing of the epistle. Where is God's dwelling place? It is among men. How you ask. The answer is the indwelling Holy Spirit. That was God's desire from the calling of Israel. Exodus 25:8 HCSB "They are to make a sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them." God dwelling with humanity was always a part of His plan.

Isaiah 66:1 HCSB "This is what the LORD says: Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. What house could you possibly build for Me? And what place could be My home?" Well, from the Incarnation forward, God actually dwelt among men in the temple of a human body. The first fruit, was Jesus, and because of the resurrection and the Holy Spirit, God now dwells in the body of believers. God's temple on earth is made up of lively stones. How many times have you heard a preacher say it is good to be in the house of the Lord today. Well, it is only the Lord's house when spirit filled saints are in attendance. Otherwise it is merely a building made of bricks, or wood, or concrete.

The truth of the matter is this; with a saint, the temple of God goes wherever they go. However, it is important to realize that the New Jerusalem, the New Heaven and Earth are a right now every day reality. It is not something that one has to wait for. Furthermore, according to Paul it is not the physical Jerusalem in Palestine/Israel. Galatians 4:25 HCSB "Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children." Paul also says that the Jerusalem from above, made up of spirit filled believers is free, and is the mother of us all, "us all" being all those believing the gospel of Christ Jesus.

So what you ask? Well the New Jerusalem should be sharing and expanding and growing the love of Christ in the world today. Not in the way that conservative evangelicals are trying to do. Not by legislation, but by the "real pristine gospel" of Jesus. The one that promotes reconciliation to God by the finished work of Christ. The one that promotes the Sabbath Rest in the finished work of Christ. The one that assures people they have been reconciled to God by Christ.

I will have more to say about this in the next post. Thanks for reading this one. Share it and comment.

I want to include all of the posts in this series so that you can read it as a series.

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The New Jerusalem Equals the New Covenant: Part 1

Revelation 21:1-7 NASB "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. (2) And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, (4) and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (5) And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He *said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." (6) Then He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. (7) "He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son."

Have we misunderstood this passage? Do we fail to see the reality because of the figurative language used in the book of Revelation? Most of the confusion about the New Covenant is the result of people taking literal interpretation of figurative language. The Book of Revelation contains figurative language through out. It is mostly all figurative language describing things that are in the process of coming to fruition as well as things that have already come to fruition. Many scholars today, acknowledge the already/not yet tension that is in the pages of the New Testament writings. I have covered this in many blog posts. The reason is that during the New Testament times, there is a transition taking place from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. But, was the transition actually completed?

Paul equates the New Covenant with the (heavenly Jerusalem) New Jerusalem. Galatians 4:24-26 NASB "This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. (25) Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. (26) But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother." Therefore it is obvious that Paul equates the new believers with the New Jerusalem. But, Isaiah also equates the New Heaven and Earth with the New Jerusalem and the New Covenant. Isaiah 65:17-18 HCSB "For I will create a new heaven and a new earth; the past events will not be remembered or come to mind. (18) Then be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I will create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight." This is the same Jerusalem that Paul is speaking about in Galatians. But how do we know that Isaiah is referring to the New Covenant. Earlier in Isaiah 65:1-2 HCSB it is written; "I was sought by those who did not ask; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said: Here I am, here I am, to a nation that was not called by My name. (2) I spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people who walk in the wrong path, following their own thoughts." The reference to being sought by those who did not ask, and found by those who did not seek is pointing to the inclusion of the Gentiles in the New Covenant. All prophetic literature is somewhat figurative, and Isaiah's vision is no different. Much of the confusion that exists now is the result of not recognizing the figurative aspect of scripture. People with a literal focus in their interpretation look for a change in the space/time universe with a literal New Heaven and Earth, and a literal New Jerusalem. The reality is that the new creation that Paul wrote about... along with the "one new man" that he referenced is the same as those in Galatians four which are of the heavenly, new Jerusalem.

What are the implications of this you ask? Well, very significant indeed. This means that once the obvious sons and daughters of God were made manifest, at the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, from that time forward, God had placed his ultimate stamp of approval on the believers. No longer was there the appearance of two competing people of God. The prophecy that Jesus had made in Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13 had come to pass just as it was prophesied, and even in those "so called" little apocalypses, the figurative language of the destruction of the space time continuum has added to the confusion today.

Here is the truth. Since the destruction of the temple forward, the New Heaven and Earth, the New Jerusalem, have been readily available to anyone who would believe it. However, because people continue to believe they are stuck in the already/not yet of the New Testament transition period, they do not see the fruition of the New Heaven and Earth. We have entered a new 2000 year age, and as more and more people begin to have the scales removed from their spiritual eyes, it will grow more and more like the prophecies proclaim.... This is exciting and there will be more to come on this soon.

I want to include all of the posts in this series so that you can read it as a series.

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Ministry of Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NASB (18) "Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, (19) namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation."

I cannot help but believe that if more people really knew the pristine gospel message, believed it, and shared it, that it would make a difference in how people act and treat each other. The above passage is one of the most concise statements of the gospel that is available. Being reconciled to God means that fear is gone. The first step in reconciliation is found in Romans 5:1 NASB "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," This verse is so important in properly understanding the gospel. Humanity, people in general, spend an inordinate amount of time trying to justify themselves. They do this because they have the knowledge of good and evil, and yet, they can never really be sure that they are good. In Genesis 1:31, it is recorded that after God had finished the creation process, including humanity, He declared that it was very good. This definitely included humans, and it was after God had predestined Christ to overcome the fall. Ephesians 1:3-6 explains that God's ultimate purpose in creation was redemption to the praise of His glorious GRACE. So then, you can see that God created mankind, knowing that redemption was necessary and STILL he said His creation was *very good.*

Not many people, if any, believe that they are *very good.* The knowledge of good and evil allows us to see our flaws. Even the most psychologically damaged, believe down deep somewhere that they/we are flawed. There is nothing within our flesh, character, or intellect that can honestly conclude we are good. This is the main reason that we compare ourselves with others. It is done always in an attempt to justify ourselves. How many times have you heard someone tell you, "well, at least I don't do that!" The problem is, that no matter how good we are, we can always find someone who appears to be better. Notice I said *appears* to be better. I can guarantee you, that if you looked long enough, was around them enough, you would find that they are just as flawed as you are, and furthermore, that we all are flawed at the deepest level. This is precisely why God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation."  But Paul goes on with this by saying that he made Jesus, who did not know sin, to be made sin on humanities behalf so that humanity might become the righteousness of God in Christ.

It should be obvious, that the reason for humanities main problem, was not being able to be sure about their goodness, and actually a sense of guilt. The reason for this was a lack of real faith in God's declaration in Genesis 1:31. Once receiving the knowledge of good and evil, humanity always had doubt. Jesus main mission was one of faith. As the last Adam, his faith would redeem humanity the same way in which the knowledge of good and evil brought about the doubt and separation. There are a couple of passages of scripture that explains this from Paul's point of view. The first one is Galatians 2:16 KJV  "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." Christ alone, as the last Adam, had faith in the Father.... particularly, faith that God saw Him as good. Another verse in which Paul gives the same thought is Philippians 3:9 KJV  "And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:" You can see here that we are justified by the *faith of Christ* and not faith in Christ.

This makes Romans 5:1 a lot more interesting. Since we were justified by the faith of Christ, it is only logical that it is Christ's faith that justified us with the Father. That is why 2Cor 5:18-19 is the perfect explanation of the gospel. It is also why imputed righteousness is so important. God raising Jesus from the grave, brings assurance that we are indeed justified, made right, by Jesus Christ. Again I plead, be reconciled to God!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Election: The Calvinist Arminian Debate; Are both wrong? Part 4

This is the last post in this series for a while. You can find the other three at these links; Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3. My suggestion is that you read them all together as they are each a part of a whole. I want to spend this last post of the series discussing the implications.

The question then becomes, what is God's role in salvation, and what is the believers role if any? Is there in fact a synergistic aspect to salvation? The Calvinist would say no, Christ did not die for anyone he doesn't save, and the Arminian would say yes Christ died for the world. I want to use this passage as a jumping off point: Ephesians 1:3-6 NASB "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (4) just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love (5) He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, (6) to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." Let me state first, that while Paul later on in this chapter uses us and you as Jew and Gentile, in this verse the us is both Jew and Gentile. This is assured by the phrase, "he predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself." The ones that are adopted as sons and daughters are the ones that believe in Jesus whether Jew or Gentile.

So then, the above passage from Ephesians is an unalterable redemptive decree. What I mean is, it is stated in such a way, so if anyone was to change the meaning from reading another passage, it would simply no longer be true at all. Further, it states that God chose redemption before creation and it was so that His grace would be glorified. The glory of God's grace was his purpose in creating the world according to Paul in this passage. Think about that, God's purpose in creation was to glorify his grace. So then, what would glorify his grace the most? The fact that He would choose some for salvation and some for damnation? The fact that he would make a way so that some could choose salvation? Or, would the fact that he was in Christ, reconciling the WORLD/KOSMOS to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them. Of course, the greatest glory to His grace would be the latter. God's grace would bring the highest glory if he forgave everyone that he had created.

If you think that people who realize they have been redeemed praise his grace, how much more will some who did not think redemption was a possibility for them, praise his grace when they ultimately discover how amazing God's grace really is? Surely then, the words of scripture, Philippians 2:10-11 NASB (10) "so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." However, there is real reason to proclaim the gospel as Paul proscribed in 2 Corinthians 5:20 NASB (20) "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." Isn't it a shame for someone to go through life, not realizing that they have in fact been reconciled to God? If someone gave you $10,000,000.00; had it in a bank in your name so that with your ID you could access it; but if you didn't know it was there, it would do you no good.  God has redeemed the world through Christ. This is the pure pristine gospel. It is not proclaimed however. Evangelical and Orthodox doctrine has hid the truth.

Many who reject Christianity, do so because they cannot accept the schizophrenic message. At the absolute worst, let's say for the sake of argument that not all are saved. Let's say that some are saved, and some are given life here, and then are annihilated. Even that message would lead to the praise of God's glorious grace. Certainly, no one can honestly claim that Christianity as it is presently described, either by Arminians or Calvinists will lead to the praise of the glory of His grace. The truth is that neither group has the complete truth, and they both have partial truth. But, the pristine gospel that turned the world upside down is no longer being preached.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Election: The Calvinist Arminian Debate; Are both wrong? Part 3

This is the third post in this series. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

It is my belief that all of the discussion in the New Testament about election is there to explain why the Jews who were God's elect in the Old Testament missed out on their Messiah, and why the Gentiles who had not believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were included in the New Covenant in great numbers while the Jews were not.

Romans chapters nine, ten, and eleven are Paul's mini opus on this subject. Paul began his apostolic mission evangelizing the Jews in the diaspora. However, God had chosen him ultimately to be the apostle to the Gentiles, and not just to the Gentiles but specifically to the new creation/ new creature of the New Covenant. The timing of the New Testament writings are unique. There is a transition taking place from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. It is a gradual transition that took place in various stages. This transition began with John the Baptist, the last Jewish prophet other than Christ, and moved on through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The next phase in the transition was Pentecost, and the birth of the first Christian church... still strictly Jewish. It went on from there to the home of Cornelius, where God gave the Holy Spirit to Gentile God fearers. Shortly after that, God showed Paul that he wanted him to move on to the Gentiles and Paul was given revelation about the New Creation.

Also, during this period, it would appear to the onlooker that God had two plans in the works. One, the Old Covenant Jews following the Torah, and the second, the Christ followers made up of believing Jews and Gentiles. Both were claiming that they were the true people of God. Both sincerely thought that they were following God. Jesus told his disciples that the time would come that those who would kill and incarcerate them would believe they were doing service to God. So, when Paul wrote about awaiting the manifestation of the sons of God, he was speaking of a time when God would demonstrate who his true people, true followers were. Jesus had prophesied that this would be accomplished by the destruction of the temple. I like the way that the NLT phrases Romans 8:19 NLT "For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are." How would that come about? The first century believers thought that it would be established by the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. Yes, the manifestation of the sons of God was accomplished by the destruction of the temple. This is a theme throughout the book of Hebrews that I believe is the Rosetta Stone of the New Covenant.

The emphasis on election then was not to show that God arbitrarily elected some to salvation. It was to deal with the reasons for the rejection of many of the Old Covenant Jews. However, Paul also states that the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable. The unbelieving Jews were not eliminated from God's plan for all which was eternal life. They were hardened for a time, until the fullness of the Gentiles were brought into the New Covenant. If you look at Part 2 of this series you will discover that there are three distinct ages... Adam to Abraham.... Abraham to Christ.... Christ to the year 2000 give or take.... and there is now quite likely the beginning of yet another age. I would also call those ages, "humanity in general".... "Old Covenant"...... "Christian Church".... and the age we are now approaching "New Jerusalem." I predict that this age will be one of inclusion. However, the Old never dies easily, and Judaism is still alive and well today.

So then, there is an alternate way to look at the facts. If presuppositions change, the paradigm can shift, and for me it has. Once a person has changed the presuppositions, then either paradigm can be valid and that is where using the preponderance of the scriptural evidence comes into play to convince one of the correctness of a paradigm. There is an equally valid alternative way to look at election. This is my reason for this series. It will never be understood completely without reading the entire series and that means looking forward to subsequent posts as well.

More to come!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Election: The Calvinist Arminian Debate; Are both wrong? Part 2

In the previous blog post in this series, I began to look at Calvinism and Arminianism and their treatment, understanding and teaching about election and salvation. I am offering a third possibility. All of us have presuppositions that we bring to scripture. As I have shown over and over on this blog, even Jesus and his first century followers, had presuppositions with respect to scripture interpretation. They presupposed that Jesus was the fulfillment of scripture, they defined the gospel as the word of God instead of scripture, and they saw scripture as solely redemptive. Further they presupposed that the impending judgment of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the temple was the fulfillment of the day of the Lord as prophesied by the Prophets.

Since the Old Testament, Tanakh, spoke often of Israel's election by God, it was necessary for the first century writers of the New Testament scripture to deal with election, and God's choice of Israel the nation. This becomes the source of the Calvinism/Arminian debate. First, let me state unequivocally, that God is absolutely sovereign. It can be no other way. While both Calvinists and Arminians are in error, the Calvinists are right about God's sovereignty. It is necessary that God elects those who are saved or are not saved. The question is whether or not the election is limited or unlimited. Certainly, one cannot deal with this unless one deals with the concept of judgment and hell. Moreover, it is somewhat dependent on whether or not hell is eternal torture. If election is being elected to eternal salvation, and the non-elected are provided a life here on earth and then annihilated, it is a different matter than if the non-elect are given eternal torture, and separation from God eternally. This is especially true because there is no choice available.

So then, let me deal with one aspect of the doctrine of hell. Jesus use of Gehenna, which is translated as hell in the KJV Bible is metaphorically speaking of the impending judgment on Jerusalem. I have written a blog post about the connection between Mark 9:44-48 and Isaiah 66 it entitled "Jesus Teaching on Hell" Read it for an in-depth look at how I believe much of the teaching on hell as eternal torture is just plain erroneous. If one accepts the concept of annihilation, then Calvinism becomes more palatable, yet, I personally still think it is error. In either event, the teaching about election deals with Israel, God's stated elect from the Old Testament, and the concept of the election as it relates to the bulk of the natural elect, missing out on Jesus and being judged for that. I accept the fact that biblical history deals with two, two thousand year ages. There is Adam to Abraham, and Abraham to Christ. Since that time, another two thousand year age has transpired. Let's call it the age of the Gentiles or the church age. Are we in fact moving into yet another age? I think it is possible.

With that in mind, let's look at God's actual position and view of humanity. Genesis 1:31 NASB "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day." God was happy with his creative work including mankind. He said it was VERY GOOD! This of necessity is God's view of humanity forward, the fall notwithstanding. Yet, from Adam to Abraham, most of the people did not see God as gracious and believe in His love and grace. So the first two thousand year age no one acknowledged God except a few. With Abraham, God chose a specific people to show his mercy and grace. You then have the age of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, through Moses and the Prophets, all the way up to the resurrection. The Jews focused on the Law and missed God's grace. Finally, you have the birth of the church of Jesus, and God included the Gentiles, in fact, in this age it was mostly the Gentiles that heard about God's grace. Yet, they too added religion to God's grace and missed just how loving and gracious God really is.

Now look at this from Romans eleven; Romans 11:25 NASB For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery--so that you will not be wise in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; The fullness of the Gentiles is the fullness of the church age. Two thousand years have passed and the church has not done a much better job with the pure gospel than the Jews did. This makes it plausible to see the following passage as declaring yet another age. Romans 11:30-32 NASB "For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, (31) so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. (32) For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all." The approaching age will be indicative of the passage that directly follows this one...  Romans 11:33-36 NASB "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (34) For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? (35) Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? (36) For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." It is plausible that we are now heading into the mercy on ALL age. It was a mystery but is now being revealed. Certainly there is still reason to preach the gospel. We should, like Paul explained in 2Cor 5, encourage all people to be reconciled to God... Why, because God was in Christ, reconciling the WORLD not the ELECT. Yes world/KOSMOS so this passage does not fit nicely with Calvinism but works well with the fact that ALL  are elected to redemption and reconciliation. In this scenario God remains sovereign in election.

More to come.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Election: The Calvinist Arminian Debate; Are both wrong? Part 1

I have avoided the topic of election for some time now. However, I can no longer remain silent. The debate goes all the way back to Augustine and Pelagius. It is the great divide in Protestant theology. The question is this; is God sovereign, or does humanity have a choice when it comes to salvation? I will likely alienate many in both camps. However, I deem it necessary. It appears that the bible teaches both, and because of this, a great debate ensues. Both sides accuse the other side of being heretical. I think that the debate comes from a total misunderstanding of scripture. In shifting my paradigm, I have come to realize that so much of what evangelical theologians , see as obvious is merely a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of scripture. In no idea is this more true, than election.

First off, let's look at election. It is prevalent throughout scripture. God elected Abraham to bring forth the seed of blessing. Old Testament Israel was elected to be the vehicle by which the Messiah would come. Pharaoh was elected to show God's power. Election merely shows God's sovereignty. When one thinks about it. God must be sovereign, or He would not be God. The very concept of an all knowing, ever and all present, and all powerful God demands sovereignty. One cannot say that God in His sovereignty has given humanity choice, because the minute one says that humanity has more power than God. If humans have a choice in salvation, then they in essence become their own savior. God is left powerless in the salvation realm to the choice of humanity. Ultimately theology demands that God is sovereign.

On the other hand, if God is sovereign, and some people are not saved, then it is of necessity that God elected some to damnation. Even if one says that God foreknew that some would not be saved, the knowing, in and of itself makes God ultimately responsible for their damnation because knowing they would not be saved, He created them anyway. How can this possibly be reconciled with the statement that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance? Certainly this is a dilemma. Yet, if God is truly sovereign and truly does not wish that any should perish, then quite frankly none will perish or God is not sovereign.

Because they mistakenly believe that the scripture teaches this kind of election, there are some that actually believe and teach that God elects people to salvation and damnation. They are fearful of questioning themselves because they are so certain that the scripture teaches this form of election. They never really then ask themselves what kind of a God would create creatures to damn to eternal torture? The reverse however creates complete chaos. When one can choose to be saved or reject salvation, they can never really know if they are truly saved, or if they will stay saved. At least for those who believe in Jesus, election offers the comfort of remaining saved. So I am not in any way siding with the Arminians. Their theology is equally destructive and I believe equally wrong.

What if election was time specific? What if, election was a first century phenomenon that was used by God to include the Gentiles in the good news? What if Paul's mentions of election, as well as Jesus mentions of election, were to explain why many of the Jews who had been Torah Observant missed out on the Messiah, and why the Gentiles who had not sought after God, were included in the New Covenant? When one examines Romans 9, 10, and 11 it becomes clear that Paul, after explaining the gospel of grace, spends time explaining why the Jews missed out on Christ, and the Gentiles were recipients. It is parenthetical.

Jesus' words, "too whom much is given, much is required" explains God's ultimate plan for the Jews and the New Covenant. The blessings of the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants carried responsibility. Yes, the Jews were originally elected by God to bring about the promised Seed of Abraham. And, the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable.

The below passage is misunderstood by all. Yet it truly gives the answer to God's sovereign plan. "God has shut up ALL in disobedience so that he can show mercy to ALL." It brings about the hopefulness of universal salvation, determined by an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and sovereign God. I will posit this portion of Romans 11 for you to peruse and ponder. Romans 11:25-36 NASB "For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery--so that you will not be wise in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; (26) and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB." (27) "THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS." (28) From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; (29) for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (30) For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, (31) so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. (32) For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. (33) Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (34) For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? (35) Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? (36) For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."

Much more to come!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Serving in the Newness of the Spirit Part 1

Romans 7:6 NASB "But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter."

What did Paul mean when he had his amanuensis pen this verse? Yes, Paul did not actually pen his own epistles and if you don't know, it would be good to look up amanuensis. Why do I always digress? It must be the teacher in me LOL. Meanwhile, back to the topic at hand, seriously, what does serve in the newness of the Spirit mean? And further, what does the oldness of the letter mean? Actually today, especially in constitutional law, we frequently hear the term "spirit of the law." In this case it means what the original authors of the law had in mind when they wrote it. However, I do not think that is what Paul referred to in Romans 7:6. He was contrasting serving in the *spirit* and serving in the *letter* and the most important take-away is that they are contrasting or opposite concepts.

Yet, when one looks historically, at orthodox doctrine, it becomes crystal clear that it has a read and do focus that is akin to the Pharisees of the first century. There is no possible way that serving in the newness of the Spirit will coincide with this read and do focus. The reason is that the Pharisees focus of scripture coincides directly with the oldness of the letter. It is a polar opposite to the newness of the spirit. So what exactly is the newness of the spirit? Well, since it was contrasted with the oldness of the letter, then it must be understood to be related to scripture interpretation. I think this is precisely where the scripture focus of Jesus and his followers comes into play. As I have established over and over, in this blog, with a preponderance of evidence, Jesus, and his first century followers focus was extremely targeted. It was solely redemptive.

Jesus was the end of the law. A proper translation would be that Jesus was the goal of the law. So then, serving in the newness of the spirit, is to serve with the indwelling Spirit of Christ. The new covenant, the only covenant that includes uncircumcised Gentiles in the people of God, does not make scripture a legal-constitutional document. It only sees scripture as the story of redemption, or the redemptive narrative. Under the old covenant, Israel served in the oldness of the letter. They actually broke the covenant according to Jeremiah 31, and further to the point, they actually broke it shortly after accepting it, but still it was a legal constitutional covenant. Paul's point was that since they only had the old covenant, prior to the resurrection, they could only serve in the oldness of the letter. However, now because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which installed the new covenant, it was possible to have the indwelling Spirit of Christ, thus allowing one to serve in the newness of the Spirit.

So now, we need to look at what serving in the newness of the spirit actually looks like, and how is it accomplished practically? First, let me explain what I believe the majority opinion is on this within orthodox/evangelical doctrine. In the evangelical view, serving in the newness of the spirit involves acknowledgement that once a person is a christian, they are empowered by the holy spirit to live a lawful life; I did not say a perfect life, I said a lawful life, and by that I mean lawful form the Law of God standpoint. I do not believe that this is correct. I believe that serving in the newness of the spirit is directly related to believing the gospel message. The message that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself not counting their trespasses and he further made him who knew no sin to be made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Believing this no matter what produces the fruit of the Spirit. It produces love for God ultimately, and that comes through peace and joy. Love, joy and peace ultimately lead to all the other spiritual fruit. However, that will only happen as one rests in the truth of the above gospel message. If you have a group/the body all rehearsing and believing the gospel, eventually, the final fruit mentioned, self-control/temperance will be there in ever increasing portions.

Romans 5:1 says it all: "Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God." Peace with God from hearing and believing the gospel message is the way one serves in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. This is why it is necessary for seasoned saints to hear the gospel over and over and over and over again! It is likewise why Paul told the Corinthians that he determined to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ crucified... the gospel.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The transforming gospel: Part II How the Holy Spirit Transforms Lives

If you visit the evangelical and orthodox churches across the country you will find that the majority of time, the majority of sermons, the majority of emphasis focuses on using scripture as a prescription for aiding the saint to become a better person, a better Christian. They view the gospel as an evangelical tool to help bring converts to Christ. Further, they believe that once a person is "saved" they need to use scripture to show them how to live as a Christian. Therefore, the bulk of Sunday Morning Sermons focus on making Christians better Christians. This was not the way of the first century churches. They were all about preaching/proclaiming the gospel.

If you look at the history of revival, the greatest revivals came about from preaching the gospel of grace. A prime example of this is the revivals of George Whitfield. He proclaimed grace and the finished work of Jesus Christ. Thousands upon thousands of people were revived, drawn closer to the Spirit in those revivals.

Further, in examining the evangelical and orthodox churches across the country you will find that they all teach that the Holy Spirit enables believers to live a more Christ like life. The problem is that they do not give a hint as to how the Holy Spirit accomplishes it. I believe it to be, that they do not know how the Spirit enables a more Christ like life so they simply state it saying that if one is saved then the Holy Spirit will automatically enable them to live the Law. People act as if this process happens by spiritual osmosis. In fact, I think that this is a most appropriate way of defining the teaching on sanctification. The spiritual osmosis of the the saved saint allows and enables right living. Of course, a very apt aid in this process is reading, studying and hearing the scripture. But, is this what the first century church taught? I think not.

The first century church understood the transforming power of the gospel first hand. Further in all subsequent revivals historically, the real revivals, the preachers and evangelists understood the transforming power of the gospel. When people hear the truth, that God has redeemed them, that they have Christ's righteousness as a free gift of grace, that they can be at peace with the Father because of the finished work of Jesus Christ, that they are eternal and eternally with Christ and the Father, they begin to have peace that leads to joy and ultimately to love. This is exactly what John meant in 1 John 4:10; "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." The gospel (good news) tells the story of God's love, (God's love is the good news) because Jesus is the manifestation of God's love and Jesus is the good news/gospel. The gospel and ONLY the gospel produces genuine love for God. Let me repeat this; only the gospel produces genuine love for God.

Love for God is the way that the Holy Spirit helps to change the hearts and behavior of the saints. The Holy Spirit uses the gospel to assure you that God is love. It is NOT OSMOSIS. It is the transforming power of the gospel. It can never be preached too often or too much. The more the gospel is preached, the more ones love for God grows. This is the ONLY reason for saints to come together. It is to share, rehearse, proclaim and BELIEVE  the gospel.... Why don't most preachers see this? Why don't most churches do this? I will guarantee that if great numbers of churches began to understand and do this, they would be full to overflowing. People would be shouting and praising God for real... not ginned up by some praise and worship leader that uses shame to get people on their feet praising God.

The transforming power of the gospel is God's way of transforming lives... would to God that the current leaders would repent and preach the gospel; that they would determine to know nothing save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Misunderstanding Holiness: The error of the holiness movement

There are many verses in the New Testament scripture that refers to holiness. Unfortunately, there are those who erroneously think that holiness is something that saints can do or become. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could be farther from the truth. Sanctification is something that is done for the saint by God and growing in holiness is something that accompanies the transformation power of the gospel. This is a continuation of the last blog post  "The Transforming Gospel."

The truth is that many a life has been shipwrecked by the error of holiness, and specifically the Pentecostal movement known as Holiness Churches. The reason for this is that in holiness, as defined by the Holiness Church, it is all self effort. Holiness is something one does. Being sanctified is earmarked by a set of observed behaviors. In fact, the Holiness Church ignores the most important of all concepts, the transforming power and action of the gospel message. Now I realize that it would seem in reading the New Testament that there is a strong case for the necessity of holiness. The problem is that it has been sorely misunderstood. There are many scriptures that the Holiness Church uses to prove the necessity of the holy life. However, they do not mean what the connotation placed on them by the Holiness Church has given them. I will give an example. Hebrews 12:14 KJV  "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:" Pretty straight forward and clear right? WRONG!

Holiness begins with the Greek word HAGIAZO... this means to make holy. It is also used for sanctify, sanctified and sanctification. Then we have HAGIASMOS... this means to become holy or to move toward holiness and sanctification; to become sanctified. Next comes HAGIOS, this word is translated saint in the New Testament scripture. Finally, there is HAGION... this is a sanctuary or a consecrated place. They can be found in Strong's Greek Dictionary as 37, 38, 39, and 40 respectively. I list all of these here because they will aid in showing just how far off the mark the Holiness Church Movement is. Let me give you a hint right now. Anyone's holiness begins with HAGIAZO which God did FOR US in Christ, and HAGIASMOS is something that is done supernaturally over time by hearing the gospel. We, by the act of God in Christ, become HAGIOS, and at the same time we are the HAGION for the Spirit of Christ here on earth. Absolutely none of this is done by our effort, and most definitely, it is not accomplished by our reading and doing. The fact is that the so called Holiness Church has a different gospel. It is a damaging gospel as it kills spirituality.

So let's use the example form Hebrews listed above. There is no way that one could say that the author of Hebrews means what the Holiness Church teaches it means. The reason is that the same author stated a redemptive decree in Hebrews 10:10-14 KJV.  "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  (11)  And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:  (12)  But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;  (13)  From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.  (14)  For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." There is no possible way that the Hebrew writer could have meant what the Holiness Church has claimed for Hebrews 12:14. Paul also writes similarly.  1 Corinthians 1:30 KJV  But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: God made Jesus our sanctification, or in other words our holiness.... and again.... 2 Thessalonians 2:13 KJV  But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

So what about HAGIASMOS? Well, this is where the previous blog post comes into play. Hearing the gospel over and over again builds our peace with the Father and causes us to love the Father "for real" at a depth that is impossible without the gospel. It is from this place that our HAGIASMOS, sanctification and holiness grows ever stronger and more and more like our Savior. However, law and the striving for holiness actually kills this supernatural spiritual movement in our hearts.

The Holiness Church needs to REPENT!!!

The Transforming Gospel...

Romans 12:2 NASB "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

The perfect will of God is as follows: John 6:40 NASB "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." The will of the Father is simple... He wants everyone to accept the reconciliation he provided in Jesus Christ. The fact is that the gospel should be transforming. Let me repeat that for effect. The gospel SHOULD be transforming. The gospel should be transforming all by itself. How does it work you ask? Great question! The answer is simple. The gospel gives one peace with the Father. Once the gospel is believed, apprehended... peace/shalom with God is experienced. This is the fertile ground of the gospel seed. The gospel seed brings about the fruit of transformation. Therefore, it is imperative that one renews their mind continually to the gospel. Paul begs by the mercies of God, again the gospel. Anyone that wants to know what the mind must be renewed with should realize that it is the gospel. It is not the Law. It is not the scripture. Yes, if one is to ever experience transformation, it has to come from the gospel and grace. 

Unfortunately current evangelical and orthodox doctrine is WAY off the mark in this regard. Almost universally, people are taught that they need to renew their mind to the scripture and especially the law. This is completely the opposite of what Paul was getting at when he wrote the first two verses of Romans chapter 12. The mind of the saint MUST  be renewed to the gospel for transformation to ensue. This is why it seems that people are so spiritually dead... especially those in the church. The vibrant ones are vibrant in spite of church doctrine. They are vibrant because deep down in their Spirit they realize that God is graceful and they actually rest in his peace. The really vibrant ones do not FEAR God, rather they truly love Him. Not because of the commandment, but because they have renewed their mind to the gospel. Gospel is good news. It is truly good news that one can have peace with God the Father on the basis of the actions of the Lord Jesus Christ, and him alone. Now hear me, let him who has ears hear the Spirit right now. It takes more for some of us to be at peace with God than others. Not because of God, but because of our faith. Therefore, in order for the gospel to transform, grace must be UNLIMITED!

Yet, today, most of the focus of evangelical Christianity is on self reformation. The jumping off point for this is reading scripture, especially the Law portions, and striving to be better, striving to be more Christ like. Reformation is a fleshly pursuit. It is not placed on the supernatural foundation of true transformation. The majority of evangelicals are caught up in the rat race of being reformation worker bees. Most of what they do is focused on self improvement. This all in the light of, Paul stating, that in him, that is in his flesh, there dwells no good thing. This is not as so many think that Paul is self loathing. No, it is Paul admitting that aside from the gospel of Christ, and God's redemption plan he does not stand a chance of pleasing God. The gospel that Paul and the first century Christian leaders taught is a different gospel than what is taught today. The reality is that evangelical Christianity has developed and is teaching a different gospel.. It is a gospel that demands self effort and reformation in addition to the transforming work of Jesus Christ.

Still, this knowledge is just that, merely knowledge, without the strength of the unified body of Christ, the ekklesia, the called out ones. The transformation, to be ultimately successful requires the body believing the gospel. Until there are groups of saints that join in regularly to renew their minds to the gospel... notice I said to the gospel and not to the scripture and law. The full transformation will not take place, rather it is still-born. People are fearful of trusting completely in grace. They have been duped by ignorant and many times arrogant leaders that make them think they are heretics for believing the gospel of grace. Oh, these leaders talk about grace, but only in a schizophrenic way. They do not allow the time or the atmosphere for the gospel to really transform. These leaders, will ultimately face judgment for their error but not in a time frame that will help the saints move forward in the transformation process.

I challenge anyone to go to any church, pay close attention, and it will become evident that the focus is not on the gospel. Sunday after Sunday the main focus will be on self improvement. It will focus on read and do and not believe and be. NOTHING, in scripture can be properly taught until the gospel and grace are paramount, foundational, and the only focus. There needs to be a paradigm shift that will allow the many things covered in the scripture to be understood within their contextual and historical significance. While I want to see the saints transformed, I also want to see the leadership cease and desist from the current error that they operate under. Stop reading the scripture as a legal constitutional document and begin to see it solely as the redemptive narrative.

She/He who has an ear let him/her hear!

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...