Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Lessons from James

From today's reading, a couple of reminders.

To those who think being seeker sensitive is a good thing, to those who want to reflect the culture to attract people of the world: James 4:4 (HCSB) Adulteresses! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.

This is the same thing we read in 1 John 2:15-16 (HCSB) 15 Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. 16 For everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world.

The local gathering of saints is just that; and if an unbeliever happens to come in, we have instruction: 1 Corinthians 14:23-25 (HCSB) 23 Therefore, if the whole church assembles together and all are speaking in other languages and people who are uninformed or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all are prophesying and some unbeliever or uninformed person comes in, he is convicted by all and is judged by all. 25 The secrets of his heart will be revealed, and as a result he will fall facedown and worship God, proclaiming, “God is really among you.”

So the first point is be faithful to the message given us by God and not be deceived into thinking we can do something new and win people to Christ.

The second point is a reminder to the saints about daily life. James 4:13-15 (HCSB) 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” 14 You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. 15 Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

We can make plans - we all do; but if we take for granted that we have tomorrow, we are being foolish - maybe evil (as James says in verse 16). We all know of someone who died unexpectedly - that could be you or me, for we know not our days. Paul told us that Acts 17:26 (HCSB) From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live.

Our lives are but a vapor.

So let us recognize that we will to this or that, IF THE LORD WILLS. And let us be thankful for another day, wherein His mercies are new and we have breath to tell people that Jesus came to save sinners.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The gifts of the Spirit

Ever consider how most "churches" function? One man preaches and does most of the teaching. Nearly everyone else sits and listens. An elder with a true heart for the Lord will prayerfully seek brothers and sisters who desire to serve the local body of Christ in any way. But sadly, that is uncommon.
How do the majority of "churches" deal with the reality we read here?
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (HCSB) 4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person. 7 A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial: 8 to one is given a message of wisdom through the Spirit, to another, a message of knowledge by the same Spirit, 9 to another, faith by the same Spirit, to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another, the performing of miracles, to another, prophecy, to another, distinguishing between spirits, to another, different kinds of languages, to another, interpretation of languages. 11 But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills.
Note that last sentence: It is God who gifts everyone as He desires. How do mere men think they determine where others will serve, without taking into account evidence of true gifts and the desire to be used by God? We each will give an account to the One Who will judge all flesh. Let us walk in humility and love for another, not being jealous of where each serves.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

A Look at Reformed Rules for Rightly Understanding the Ten Commandments

Chapter 4 of John Colquhoun's book, A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel, is a review of what he and other Reformers term Rule for Rightly Understanding the Ten Commandments.

These rules are required only if you have the view Colquhoun has: that the Decalogue is much more than tablets testifying of the law covenant given to national Israel and are a universal law of some sort. If one rightly discerns the covenant structure of Scripture, accepting that an unchangeable God DOES have different laws for different people under different covenants, it is easier to accept what the Bible plainly teaches about the tablets of stone.

RULE 1. Where a duty is required, the contrary sin is forbidden (Isaiah 58:13); and where a sin is forbidden the contrary duty is required (Ephesians 4:28). Every command forbids the sin which is opposite to, or inconsistent with, the duty which it requires.

Rather than being a categorical teaching on forbidding the contrary sin, Isaiah 58:13 is a very specific rebuke to national Israel for their long-standing, continual abuse of the Sabbath that was given to them as sign to them and no other people (Ezekiel 20:9-20). Where are those in the New Covenant told to keep the weekly Sabbath? Likewise, rather than being a categorical teaching that the contrary duty is required, Ephesians 4:28 is a very specific doctrine wherein one should work with hands to provide for himself and he should be willing to share with others. Telling a thief to stop stealing and to work for his food is not a sweeping command for everyone being rebuked for any sin is to stop that sin and do the contrary duty. Do we see such teaching in the epistles written to the saints? To develop such rules as if they were Scripture puts the teaching of men equal with Scripture.

RULE 2. Where a duty is required, every duty of the same kind is also required; and where a sin is forbidden, every sin of the same sort is prohibited. Under one duty, all of the same kind are commanded; and under one sin, all of the same sort are forbidden. ... When He commands us to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” He requires us to engage in prayer, praise, hearing the Word, receiving the Sacraments, and all the other duties of that holy day.

The Sabbath command has NO instruction anywhere in the Old Covenant law requiring "prayer, praise, hearing the Word, receiving the Sacrament, and all the other duties of that holy day." Reformers have invented a new Sabbath which includes these duties, but the command given to national Israel knows nothing of them.

Colquhoun continues: "Where the duties of children to parents are commanded, not only are all the duties of inferiors to superiors in every other relation required, but also all the duties of superiors to inferiors. On the other hand, when the Lord forbids us to kill, He forbids us also to strike or wound our neighbor, or to harbor malice and revenge against him (Matthew 5:21-22)."

He makes no effort to support the first point, but you will search Exodus 20 in vane looking for it. We do see in Ephesians 6 teaching on children obeying parents (vs 1-3) followed by teaching for slaves to obey their masters (vs 5-9). But Ephesians 6 does not posit the instructions to slaves as being the same command as given to children, but both commands are given in light of who God is in each situation. The basis is not the law given through Moses; it is the revelation of who God is given through the apostle.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is not teaching the true meaning of the law given on Sinai; He is contrasting temporal Israel law with kingdom of God law. There is no teaching in the Old Covenant what we read in verse 22; this is a higher law given to those with the Holy Spirit.

RULE 3. That which is forbidden is at no time to be done; but that which is required is to be done only when the Lord affords opportunity. What God forbids is sin, and is never to be done (Romans 3:8); what He requires is always our duty (Deuteronomy 4:8-9), and yet every particular duty is not to be performed at all times (Matthew 12:7).

In general, this rule is not objectionable. There are some things, however, that are sin in one covenant but not in another. For example, Jews were forbidden from eating many foods; part of the law given them in the Mosaic Covenant to set them apart from the other nations. Generation before that law was given on Sinai, the covenant given to Noah and all creation gave similar but different regulations on food: Genesis 9:3-4 (HCSB) "Every living creature will be food for you; as I gave the green plants, I have given you everything. However, you must not eat meat with its lifeblood in it." Many creatures were forbidden to the Jews. Peter was adamant that food forbidden by that covenant was unclean for him, a Jew. Yet in the vision given him and in the instructions given through Paul, we see that "everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving" (1 Timothy 4:4).

Again, a proper understanding of the covenant structure of Scripture is essential in rightly applying the Decalogue and Colquhoun's rules.

RULE 4. Whatever we ourselves are commanded to be, do, or forbear, we are obliged to do all that it is possible for us to do, according to our places and stations in society, to make others around us to be, do, or forbear the same. We are strictly bound, according to our different stations, to endeavor that every duty is performed, and every sin is forborne, by all to whom our influence can extend (Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Leviticus 19:17).

This rule not only puts a heavy load to perform everything possible but it also takes being your brother's keeper to more than a full-time job. And none of the Scripture passages cited bear this rule out. Now we are to do all for the glory of God, whatever we put our hand to. How does one determine if his "places and stations in society" make our performance possible or "to make others around us" to do everything possible? I heartily agree we are to influence our neighbors and the world for God's glory; but is it our place "to endeavor that every duty is performed, and every sin is forborne, by all to whom our influence can extend"? Where is that taught?

RULE 5. The same duty is required and the same sin is forbidden, in different respects, in several and even in all the divine commands. The transgression of one precept is virtually a breach of all. They are so intimately connected together that if the divine authority is disregarded in any one of them it is slighted in all (Colossians 3:5; 1 Timothy 6:10; James 2:10; 1 John 4:20).

Here I think Colquhoun sees a truth (to break one law is to break the whole law) and stretches it to cover what it does not. The law of Moses is like chain - break one the chain, the whole law, is broken. Nowhere is it written that breaking one law is breaking all of them. And while the character of God is revealed in all law He has given His creatures, not all require the same duty nor forbid the same sin. If this was true, there would be but one law - kind of like in the New Covenant, where we are not bound by the legal code given to national Israel, but bound BY the Law of Christ.

RULE 6. Where a duty is required, the use of all the means of performing it aright, is required; and where a sin is forbidden, every cause, and even every occasion of it, are prohibited. ... when the Lord forbids the profanation of the Sabbath, at the same time He forbids all the employments and recreations by which men profane that holy day.

This rule is another that, on its face, seems good -even though he has no Scripture references to check. When we see the examples Colquhoun uses, we see the consequence of conflating the covenants in Scripture AND conflating ones confession with Scripture.

The Sabbath command in Scripture does not forbid recreation on that day. The command for the weekly Sabbath was to rest from work, in your home. You, your animals, your slaves. The Westminster Confession of Faith has a different Sabbath command, which forbids recreation and commands worship - things not touched on the weekly Sabbath given to national Israel.

Colquhoun also asserts, "Where He forbids murder, He also prohibits the wrath, malice, and revenge which prompt men to commit that crime (Matthew 5:21-22; 1 John 3:15)." Note how he has no Old Covenant reference to support this rule for interpreting the Decalogue on this item? The Old Covenant did not forbid anger within the law against murder. In the New Covenant, we see that our attitude towards a brother is as important as our actions. 1 John 3:15 doesn't forbid anger; it reveals anger as murder in embryo form, if you will allow that word picture. It's part of the teaching that love is contrary to evil and if we are in Christ we will love one another and not be angry with each other but seek reconciliation.

Life in the New Covenant is not a matter of keeping the law - any law - rightly; it's about loving one another as Christ has loved us; loving God because He first loved us. Natural man needs a legal code so other men can punish him for doing wrong. We have the Spirit of God within Who convicts us of sin and guides us in righteousness.

RULE 7. No sin is at any time to be committed in order to avoid or prevent a greater sin. We must not “do evil that good may come” (Romans 3:8)

Again - in general, I am in violent agreement. But - Rahab was never rebuked for misleading the soldiers of Jericho in order to save the lives of the spies Joshua had sent. As a rule, this one is good - but I don't see how it relates to the Tablets of Stone per se. It does relate to our walk as saints in a very comprehensive way. All three of Colquhoun's Scripture references in this section are from New Covenant passages.

RULE 8. The commandments of the second table of the law must give place to those of the first when they cannot both be observed together. Our love of our neighbor, for instance, ought to be subjected to our love of God.

One thing to note in the way he has phrased this rule is his belief that the first and second great commandments given by Christ are the summation of the Decalogue, as is commonly taught by Reformed preachers, even though the passage in Matthew overthrows this error as Jesus says all of Scripture hangs on or depends upon these two commandments. This is why loving God and others is the fulfillment of the law - all of it! It's not required that a saint keep the law; it's required he love God and the brotherhood. This fulfills the law, which is why we are dead to it.

Now then, Colquhoun is right when he reminds us our love of God must outweigh our love for other people. Jesus made this clear when He said He came to bring division, mother against daughter, etc. (Matthew 10:34-37)

I would add, that one's view of love for God and man would have to be very low if the Tablets are your standard. Consider: Don't have other gods; don't worship an idol, don't blaspheme, rest in your home, honor your parents, don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, don't covet. Jesus said to love one another as He loved us. We have a very graphic, specific revelation in Scripture as to how He loved and still loves us. We are taught to love our wives as He loves His own people. If a man loves his wife, he will not be tempted to adultery. The last word on the tablets was one not punished by the leaders of Israel - this was for YHWH to identify and punish. So every command on the tablets save the last has to do with BEHAVIOR and is easy for man to check. This is why law-keeping so appeals to our flesh. But love as Christ does - cannot be verified by man, cannot be measured by man. Natural man hates this law.

RULE 9. In our obedience, we should have a special and constant respect to the scope and final end at which the Lord aims by all the commandments in general, or by any one of them in particular. The great end at which God aims in general, in subordination to His own manifested glory, is perfect holiness of heart and life in His people, even as He Himself is holy (2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Peter 1:15).

This is another rule that has no apparent attachment to understanding the Decalogue, but is a most excellent reminder at how we are to live, keeping our focus and heart's affection on the Lord Jesus and His glory. AMEN!

RULE 10. The beginning and the end, as well as the sum, of all the commandments is love. “Love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10). “The end of the commandment is love” (1 Timothy 1:5).

If the right love of God and our brothers is the fulfillment and end of the law, why the focus on law-keeping? The proper focus for the child of God is to love Him and to love those He has purchase as His own. It's far easier, as 1st century Jews knew, to drum up a few hundred rules to follow and convince yourself and other that THIS was the way to walk. Living by sight - focused on religious rites and religious piety - leads people to reduce faith in Christ to faith in checking off their obedience. That is not the way to walk, do not be led down that path, for it is dangerous to your soul.

In his conclusion to this chapter, Colquhoun gives wonderful praise to the Holy Spirit for the work of regeneration and conversion. And claims that He writes the same ten words He supposedly wrote on our hearts before we were converted on the new heart of flesh He gives. No, saints. The Decalogue was only written on stone tablets, given to people with stone hearts, who worshiped God in a Stone temple. In the New Covenant, people with hearts of flesh have the law of Christ written on fleshly tablets, and they are the temple of God!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Temple of God

The Temple of God

Was reading in 1 Corinthians 3 this week and this passage was before me:

1 Corinthians 3:16-17: Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

This should resonate for the Christian, though we are far removed from the heavily Jewish flavor of the 1st century in Palestine. Jewish Christians hearing this from Paul would likely have connected what he said here with cherished promises they had heard all their lives. But the apostle reveals that the true fulfillment of all of God’s promises are found in Christ, not in a parcel of dirt in the middle east.

Here’s what the 1st century Jews were holding onto:

Abram. Genesis 12:2 & 3: I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

Jacob. Genesis 27:29: Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!

Israel. Numbers 24:8 & 9: God brings him out of Egypt and is for him like the horns of the wild ox; he shall eat up the nations, his adversaries, and shall break their bones in pieces and pierce them through with his arrows. He crouched, he lay down like a lion and like a lioness; who will rouse him up? Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you.

Blessing and curses. God loves His people! Yes, He does. And note: not only does Paul apply this same blessing curse to the body of Christ, he also told us that all who believe on Jesus are true children of Abraham according to the promise. And Matthew told us that when Israel was called out of Egypt (as we see in Num 24, above and in Hosea 11), that this was a shadow of Jesus coming out of Egypt (Matt 2:15).

1 Corinthians 3:11 (HCSB) For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (HCSB) 16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is holy, and that is what you are.

Yes, God loves His people. He sent His Son to redeem us from sin and hell and death. He did this so that we would shine like lights in a dark place, heralding the gospel to a world that consuming itself. Fear not, God is giving His kingdom to His children. Go forth, now and tell people that Jesus saves sinners from a certain doom that is far worse than any “hell” they imagine.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Colquhoun's The Law and the Gospel, part 1

Years ago I read John Colquhoun's book, A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel, written in the early 1800s and recently published (2009) by Soli Deo Gloria Publications.

I decided to re-read this book, having studied many aspects of theology in the past 8 years. Below are my observations of the first half of chapter one. Lord willing, I will write up notes on the balance of the book over the coming weeks.

In the Publisher' Introduction to the 2009 edition published by Soli Deo Gloria Publications, Joel Beeke said "Colquhoun was a Reformed experiential preacher. His sermons and writings reflect those of the Marrow brethren".

In chapter 1, Colquhoun recognizes that "law" has diverse meanings in Scripture. He says law "is used to signify the declared will of God, directing and obliging mankind to do that which please Him, and to abstain from that which displeases Him. This, in the strict and proper sense of the word, is that law of God; and it is divided into the natural law and the positive law."  (page 1) He uses the classic papists and Reformed terms of moral, ceremonial, and civil law but does not divide them in the usual way; this makes following his arguments somewhat difficult.

He says the Old Testament Sabbath, which took place on the 7th day of the week, was altered to the first day under the New Testament (page 2) - but this is a passing comment with no reference to Scripture. There is no Scripture which supports this idea. He repeats this assertion on page 3, saying "It was upon moral ground that Christ the Mediator proceeded when He changed the seals of the covenant of grace, altered the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week, and instituted new ordinances of worship and government for His Church." Note this "standard Reformed fare" as Joel Beeke calls it: the covenant of grace encompasses everything and is only modified by the advent and sacrifice of Christ; whereas the Scripture tells us the Old Covenant was ended as the New Covenant pushed it aside (Hebrews 8:7 & 13). Why Reformed paedobaptists do this becomes clear as one reads more of their material: they must draw equivalence between the ekklesia of the New Covenant and that of the Old in order to establish a connection between circumcision of the flesh and water baptism. They ignore that the ekklesia of the New Covenant is all and only the believing while the ekklesia of the Old Covenant included all who underwent that religious rite of fleshly circumcision. And entrance into the New Covenant comes by circumcision of the heart, not water baptism. There are similarities but there are differences; this is the case in comparing shadow and substance.

Colquhoun goes on to say Adam was as the redeemed are, using Col 3:10 and Eph 4:24 to claim "God, then, created man in His own moral image by inscribing His law, the transcript of His own righteousness and holiness, on man's mind and heart." (page 3). Note how he inserts "moral" to modify image to make a connection to his "moral law." I find nothing in the Bible that hints at any law being inscribed on Adam's heart; we have Reformed presupposition so they can build their case to strap the Law of Moses on the backs of the saints.

On page 8 our author that the law transcribed on Adam's heart was "much obliterated" and "continues still to be, in a great degree, defaced and even obliterated in the mind of all His unregenerate offspring." Hence, when Jesus said (Hebrews 8:10) that He would write His laws on the hearts of His people, Colquhoun claims this means the law given to all men is merely inscribed "anew on the hearts of the elect." If this were true, would not we read that Jesus would re-new the law on our hearts? The author tells us "The law of creation, or the Ten Commandments, was, in the form of a covenant of works, given to the first Adam after he had been put into the garden of Eden. ... An express threatening of death, and a gracious promise of life, annexed to the law of creation, made it to Adam a covenant of works proposed; and his consent, which he as a sinless creature could not refuse, made it a covenant of works accepted." (pages 10 & 11) Pay attention to the theology of the white space: nowhere do we read that Adam was promised life if he obeyed the ONE COMMAND (not ten) given to him; nowhere do we read that Adam was given the opportunity to accept (or reject) the one command. "And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”" (Genesis 2:16-17). No promise of eternal life upon obedience, but a sober warning that death would come if he disobeyed that one command which is NOT written on the tablets of stone. Yet Colquhoun asserts that this passage "was, in effect, a summary of all the commands of the natural or moral law; obedience to it included obedience to them all, and disobedience to it was a transgression of them all at once." (page 12) This shows up on pages 18 and 22 as well. When you derive your theology from your system, rather than from the Bible, you will make bold, unsupportable claims that must be blindly accepted or taken in merely by human wisdom; those "good and necessary inferences" which are used to paper over the white spaces upon which the system rests.

Further, if Adam had been given the Decalogue, he would have known good and evil before the Fall for the law brings knowledge of sin. He did not know both good and evil until after he ate the forbidden fruit. After the Fall, after the curses spoken by God, we read, "The LORD God said, “Since man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.”" (Genesis 3:22) Adam was in a state of innocence before the Fall, not knowing good and evil. He knew the goodness of God and when he sinned, he knew good and evil, for evil was in his being.

Colquhoun's covenant of grace, being "standard Reformed fare," includes the Old Covenant, as he references obligations therein, found in Romans 9:31-32. He claims that every man is in this covenant and subject to its curses for disobedience! He continues with his alleged promise of life to Adam, saying, "That a promise of life was made to the first Adam, and to all his natural descendants in him, on condition of his perfect obedience during the time of his probation." (pages 14 & 15).  This latter statement is "supported" by a citation of Matthew 19:17 and Luke 10:28 wherein Jesus told Jews they would have life if they obeyed the law of Moses perfectly (page 16). He ignores the context of these passages and asserts they describe Adam's situation, as if redemptive history was an all-in-one bucket that applies to everyone at all times.

Our author is not bereft of solid teaching; we read this on page 19 speaking of those trusting in their own works for justification: "they perverted both the law and the gospel, and formed them for themselves into a motley covenant of works."

Again he asserts that the "law of nature" given to all men is the Decalogue (page 25), contradicting the biblical witness that the tablets of stone were given to national Israel and not to any other people. It IS true that the "law of nature" (which I term God's universal law) is from God and reflects the same character, but the law is not the same as that given to national Israel. Why is it inconceivable for some to see that God DOES give different laws to different people? There's no record of the Mosaic Law, in part or whole, being given to the Syrians or any other pagan nation. Why insist the Decalogue is anything more than what the Bible clearly teaches it to be - the testimony of the covenant with national Israel (Exodus 31:18, 32:15, 34:27 - 29). Consider this one aspect: the Bible tells us the weekly Sabbath was a sign between God and national Israel of the covenant He had made with them (Exodus 31:12-18; Ezekiel 20:11-13; 18-21). With this being a biblical fact, how could the Sabbath be a sign to national Israel if it was given to all mankind?

Colquhoun digs this hole deeper by claiming (page 27) that "The Apostle Paul accordingly call it (the Decalogue) "the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2)." Consider the nature of the law written on the stone tablets: 8 prohibitions; one command to rest; one command to honor one's parents. This law was written on stone, given to people with stone hearts, who ended up worshiping God in a stone temple.

When the New Covenant came, the stone temple was destroyed, the stone tablets had been lost in anticipation of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 3:14-17), and all the members of this New Covenant have new hearts of flesh (the heart is not renewed, a new one is implanted - Ezekiel 36:24-32) with the new law written thereupon. And these people are the temple of the living God! Do you see the change from shadow to substance? The priesthood was also changed and with that change, a change of law was required: Hebrews 7:12 (HCSB) "For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must be a change of law as well." Jesus became the guarantee of a better covenant (Hebrews 7:22). Jesus obtained a superior ministry and to that degree (superior) He has become the mediator of a better covenant which has been legally enacted on better promises (Hebrews 8:6). For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second one. By saying, a new covenant, He has declared that the first is old. And what is old and aging is about to disappear." (Hebrews 8:7 & 13) To say that the New Covenant is merely another part of the mythical "covenant of grace" which includes the Old Covenant is to ignore the explicit Biblical witness in favor of "good and necessary inferences." This is very bad theology and cannot be accepted.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Why, then, the Law?

I’m sure you have run across those who claim Paul was speaking to us in the present tense in  Galatians 3:24 when he wrote that the law was our nanny until we came to faith in Christ. There is a two-fold problem with this understanding: First, the context from the middle of chapter 2 through chapter 5 aligns with the passage in chapter 3 which provides explicit language to clarify Paul’s rhetorical question in verse 19 of chapter 3: why, then, the law? Second, a misunderstanding of the answer to this question can lead to believing just what Paul argued against in this letter.
First, does verse 24 in chapter 3 tell us the law was our nanny until we came to faith in Christ? Here’s how the KJV reads: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” In case the formatting doesn’t show up, the phrase “to bring us” is in italics, meaning it was added in by the translation team. Read the verse without that phrase: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The law did not, does not, bring anyone to Christ – the Spirit does that through the proclamation of the gospel! But that phrase was added to make it appear the law carried people to the Lord.
It is clear from the context that Paul is speaking of the Mosaic Law here. As is the case in all the New Covenant passages, the Mosaic Law is spoken of as a unit. We don’t read about this part or that division of the law. Simply the law. We read in Exodus that before Moses went up Mt Sinai to get the second set of tablets, he “came and told the people all the commands of the Lord and all the ordinances. … He then took the covenant scroll and read it aloud to the people.” (Ex 24:3 & 7) And in verse 12 we see YHWH telling Moses “Come up to Me on the mountain and stay there so that I may give you the stone tablets with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.” All the law and commandments, not just the Decalogue nor everything other than the Decalogue; all the law and commandments. This is what Paul was referring to.
The word interpreted “schoolmaster” is the Greek word from which we get our word “pedagogue.” While modern definitions, such as used by the KJV, claim that word means tutor, the ancient definition referred to one who was a slave guardian of his master’s child, to make sure the child was where he needed to be, when he was supposed to be there. He was NOT a tutor or schoolmaster, but one charged with the safety of his charge.
Here’s how several other translations render that verse: “The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith.” (HCSB) The law of Moses was “our guardian” – whose guardian? Go back to chapter 2 and verse 15: “We who are Jews by birth and not “Gentile sinners”” The law of Moses was a guardian for the Jews by birth – national, ethnic Israel, and not to “Gentile sinners.” Some of the folk in the assembly of saints at Galatia wanted to retreat from the milk of the gospel and embrace the heavy yoke that the council in Acts 15 would overthrow. These were called “foolish Galatians” (3:1), followed up by “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh?” (vs 3) If the law brings people to Christ, why would Paul call people foolish who wanted to live under it?
This brings us to verse 19 and the question – Why, then the law? And the answer: “It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come.” Even the KJV agrees with this. The law of Moses was given because of transgressions and only until the promised Seed came. Jesus came and did His work of redemption and is with the Father on high. The law as it was given to national Israel, as a binding legal code with sanctions for violations, was only until Christ came. Paul sums up the condition of his kinsmen of the flesh in verse 23: “Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed.” Some translations do not have “this” before “faith.” No matter – the apostle is restating his message from verse 19, explaining why and when the law was given.
The law was added – had not been given before this, not to Adam, not to Abraham – to remain in place until the promised Seed came. And until faith came, for the law granted faith to nobody, Jews were in chains under the law. But when faith came, when the Messiah was glorified, verse 25 tells the good news to those who were in bondage – “we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (verse 26)
Now back to verse 22: “But the Scripture has imprisoned everything under sin’s power, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” This verse does not say “the law has imprisoned everything under/in sin’s power” – it says Scripture has. Scripture tells us the entire creation was cursed when Adam fell. Scripture tells us there is no salvation except in Christ. Scripture tells us creation groans in anticipation of its new birth, when Christ returns to gather His saints on the new earth. We know that everything IS under sin’s power because of sin. Sickness and death stalk each of us. But the promise given to Abraham, that he would be the father of many nations, is incrementally consummated every time one of God’s elect is raised up to new life in Christ Jesus.
This message is given different views in chapters 4 & 5 but the message is the same: present day (in Paul’s day) Jerusalem represented the slavery of the Mosaic Law; freedom from sin comes only in Christ, the heavenly Jerusalem. The law was added until the promised Seed came. Hebrews tells us the religious rites given through Moses served as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things (Heb 8:5). When the fullness of time came, the promised Seed came and conquered sin and death and the shadows, those types found in the law, came to their end.
Why, then, the law? To show the nation of stiff-necked, loop-hole finding, law-loving Jews how wicked they were; to keep them as a nation to display God’s holiness to them and the pagan nations; to make sure they were around when the fullness of time came and the promised Seed arrived. The law was Israel’s guardian until faith came, because Israel could not keep itself. Their history shows that, if left themselves, they were every bit as wicked as the Syrians, or you and me before we were redeemed.
Once the promised Seed came, the guardian is no longer needed. Faith and the promise do not depend on fleshly procreation. By faith we become children of Abraham. Now that Christ has come, the Spirit keeps His people. The law fulfilled its role, its time is past. The covenant based on shadows and types, with fire and threats of punishment for violations of its law has ended. Faith has come in the person of the promised Seed. The law and all the other shadows of the Old Covenant no longer bind anyone with chains but, as the Spirit gives the light of understanding, serve to instruct us about our innate weakness and need for humility before God and fellow man. Just as we read with New Covenant clarity from Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John.
No need to “un-hitch” the Old Testament from our faith – all of it is from God for us. We belong to heavenly country which has different laws; given by the same God but intended for a people with hearts of flesh, not stone; people who, having been loved by God can and will love Him and one another. No need to tell one another, “know the Lord” for we all know Him. The Mosaic Law was chains for a people who needed to be told “know the Lord.” We in the New Covenant are not that people. We can see the law did not restrain national Israel from doing evil. So God gave His Spirit to will and equip us to do what is pleasing to Him.
Not under the yoke of law, which could not save nor can it lead us to Christ; it can only condemn. Therein is the danger of wrongly interpreting this passage.
New heart, new mediator, new priesthood, new covenant, new law from the new Lawgiver.  That’s the difference being in the New Covenant makes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Sanctification by the law - where is that found?

I've looked and looked and don't find any New Covenant context teaching telling us to go back to Moses. Everything I have found shows me otherwise.
Take Romans 12, for example. First chapter after a bunch of theology, including a bunch of "law" talk. Much encouragement for the saints to walk a certain way and not a hint of law-keeping, other than the exhortation to not take vengeance but leave that to God.
What we see is a continual teaching to live by the grace of God, be transformed by renewing your mind, be humble. In the section on body-life Paul tells us how to love one another with specific teachings - but no law-keeping.
Here's the bottom line: The Mosaic Law and other laws like it (found in many Fundamental fellowships) are intended for those who are unregenerate. What we are taught in Romans 12 is fit only for those indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who wills and equips us to do what pleases the Father.
While all Scripture is for our edification and benefit, the law of the Old Covenant was for those in that covenant. The Law of Moses does not and never has bound people outside that covenant community.
If you are in Christ, there is a better law, fit for a spiritual people. We have a covenant built on better promises, mediated by a better priest, with a new law meant only for the saints.
Rejoice! God's grace was sufficient to save you and by it He is sufficient to renew your mind and sanctify your soul until Christ returns or He takes you home.