Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What Can We Learn From The American Revolution?

Here's an analogy that popped into my head on the way to work this morning.

The United States started as a colony in service to England [Old Covenant]. Now that we have gained our freedom, we are no longer under the laws of England but we are our own people [New Covenant]. Does it make sense to insist that in order to remain a free nation we must all continue to operate is if we were still of England? No. Why become free, then? Most especially not when those who insist upon such things cherry pick the laws as they deem convenient, make claims like "Mr. Armstrong changed the law out of necessity", and by no means keep them all (GAL. 5: 3). Even so, does it make sense that because we are a free nation that everyone just lives in anarchy, just doing any wicked thing that comes to mind because we're free? Absolutely, positively not! Everyone is familiar with the example that we have freedom of speech, but it is illegal to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

As I am fond of saying, this is why Benjamin Franklin said that this nation will only work for a moral people. Why? Because moral people govern themselves. If people will not govern themselves, then someone certainly will have to govern them, and that responsibility falls to the government which, by the way, can govern only by threat of force, and that destroys the whole American ideal of personal freedom and limited government. But it is self evident that a moral people do not need a preponderance of laws written out for them to follow. They "do unto others" and that works. Is it utterly perfect? No. But an unimaginable multitude of laws as we see today is for a people that refuse to govern themselves; it is a reflection of our national condition.

This is the same with the Covenants.

We see the Old Covenant from Sinai, which is likened to Hagar and bondage (GAL. 4: 21-25), was a covenant of laws from the outside governing by threat of force. It is plain from a reading of the Bible that this was done because of the hardness of people's hearts (EZE. 3: 7; MATT. 19: 8; MARK 6: 52; ACTS 7: all, especially v. 51; ACTS 28: 27) and that they wouldn't keep God in mind (do a search on "forget god" and see how very much comes up). Even before Israel crossed the Red Sea there was grumbling (EXO. 14: 11). Even before Moses made it down the mountain the people had already forsaken God (EXO. 32). Before the people had entered the Promised Land, God prophesied that they would be driven out of it (DEU. 30: 1-3). So we see that even though the law came a mere 430 years after Abraham (GAL. 3: 17), it didn't change the people's hearts (DEU. 10: 16; JER. 4: 4). Because they would not govern themselves they were under the law and appointments were set for them to keep, and all this just to keep God in their minds. (That they were far from God is evident in that they had to travel to be near Him three times per year, and only the High Priest one time each year could enter into His presence.)

But now we have been purchased by Christ (ACTS 20: 28), adopted as sons (GAL. 4: 5; EPH. 1: 5), and we are free from the former bondage (MATT. 17: 26; JOHN 8: 32, 36; I COR. 7: 22; GAL. 4: 13). We are no longer under the law, but under grace (ROM. 6: 14-15). The law no longer governs us by force. So does it make sense to insist that the former things still hold us? Not at all! But while we see plainly that the Old Covenant is gone, how should we live? As anarchists without moral governance? Absolutely, positively not (ROM. 6: 1, 15; I PET. 2: 16)! We are to be a moral people, with the New law written on our hearts (JER. 31: 33; ROM. 2: 15; HEB. 8: 10; 10: 16). How can we know what is right from wrong without the Old Covenant law? Read Peter's works. He says all that a Christian needs to hear on conduct. Does he say "keep Sabbaths and rituals and days"? No. But he says this:

(I PET. 2: 1-2) 1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby

And this:

(2 PET. 1: 5-8) 5 ... add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And this agrees fully with Paul who tells us that if we insist on continuing in "the flesh" [ungodly lifestyles] then we cannot please God (ROM. 8: 8) and we will die (ROM. 8: 13). Did Adam and Eve need the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil [Old Covenant] to obey God? No.

The question we must ask about this law that is written on our hearts is, which law? The old law, that could not bring righteousness (GAL. 2: 21) or remove sin? Is there a righteousness without the old law, then (ROM. 3: 21)? Is there a new law; a superior law (JOHN 13: 34; 2 JOHN 1: 5)? The Old ways were removed. Notice how Peter not once mentions Sabbaths, even though he was the Apostle to the Jews (GAL. 2: 7-8), and his first epistle was to the "the pilgrims of the Dispersion", or in other words the Jewish converts (as opposed to the Gentiles). Notice how Paul never mentions Sabbaths when he describes "the flesh" in Romans 8. Coincidence?
A converted, repentant, faithful heart guided by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit does not need the law. Does that contradict II Timothy 3: 16? No. Indeed all scripture is good for our instruction, even the law. But just because we can learn from it doesn't mean we are to be bound to an annulled Covenant!

(I TIM 1: 8-11) 8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.

As the United States no longer serves the King of England but rather we are free, so a New Covenant Christian is no longer is under bondage to the Old Covenant system. America may have learned much from England, but that by no means puts us under that old system. But this new Way is only good for a moral person. If we do not govern ourselves (or rather allow God to govern us directly by the indwelling of His Spirit), then we must be governed. If we disregard such an awesome salvation and defile the temple, how can we possible escape judgment (HEB. 2: 3)?

People who were taught to look to the Old Covenant law will have a hard time understanding grace vs. law. They will think it nonsensical or meaningless, and claim that we "follow our conscience as our guide". I should know because less than 1 year ago I was an Armstrongite legalist who set myself up on a pedestal because of a partial keeping of the old law, and as recently as last night I heard these same sorts of concerns from current members. This is no different from how the Europeans couldn't understand American freedom, but instead called us "uncivilized", "uncultured", and other such things. But I humbly submit that this reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the Way. It is not us at all that leads, but Christ. And if Christ leads from inside, why need have we of law from the outside? Stop trying to take matters into your own hands. Accept that Jesus Christ died which in and of itself removes the Old Covenant, He paid the penalty of the law on our behalf - and thus removed the teeth of the law (I COR. 15: 56) - He lives to give us hope that we will live, gifted us salvation for no effort of our own, receives us as an inheritance from the Father through nothing we have done, makes us one body and one bread with Him and thus we receive the promise given to Abraham. How many more ways can He possibly say that we are saved if we believe (MARK. 16: 16; ROM. 10: 9-13)?
Now, this "saved" means SAVED! Past tense (it's already finished), perfect tense (it's completely complete), passive voice (it's not you that does it, but you that receives it). It's not "saved for the next 5 minutes" because it's completely complete. It's not "saved at some time in the unknowable future" because it's past tense. It's not "IF you qualify" because it's perfect - it's completely complete, as a gift, just like the Bible says.

It is a misnomer to say that we must follow the Old Covenant law to hold on to salvation. The law was given to bring in condemnation, to arouse sinful passions (ROM. 7: 5), to make sin extraordinarily sinful (ROM. 7: 13), and to make offense against God abound (ROM. 5: 20), but it does not bring justification. Why does a good law do such apparently negative things? Answer: "to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (ROM. 3: 21-26)!
So, after Christ has come in, and we understand that sin is harmful and that following God is best, what good is the law? Because "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (ROM. 8: 1).

It is not our righteousness which comes from the law that God looks for (ROM. 3: 21; 10: 4; PHP. 3: 9), but His own righteousness (II COR. 5: 21). Righteousness is not of the Old Covenant law anyway (GAL. 2: 21; 3: 21). So what good is it? When Jude says things like "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (JUD. 1: 3), is it really the Old Covenant law that he is referring to? How on earth can it be? How can it be that America must look to jolly old England to make our way into the future? But we look to the law given to us from our beginning, meaning the Constitution, not the law given to Britain from its past. We are not ancient Israel, so the Christian looks to the things Jesus inspired His Apostles to give to the Gentiles, not the things Moses gave to ancient Israel. And this is our law: "love one another as I have loved you" (JOHN 13: 34). It is not by the Old Covenant that we interpret the New Covenant, but the other way around! The veil over Moses is removed in Christ, not the other way around.


It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom.

Acts 17:11



Bill said...

Good analogy. Reminds me of the first episode of Red Dwarf. "They're dead Dave... they are all dead... dead Dave... Dave, they're dead..." It just doesn't sink in to those who hold to the o.c. law that they are not a party to it, and cannot be held liable to its conditions. Life without law; especially the TEN COMMANDMENTS!!! is "impossible."

Richard said...

I've been thinking of this historical event as well -- and went back in Bible study this week to a two-part sermon a WCG Pastor (now in UCG) gave in September 1987 on "God's Government."

It was timed for the 200th anniversary of the Constitution -- a document he said "contained the seeds of America's destruction."

The message was largely anti-democracy (the U.S. is a republic, you know), and anti-rebellion. "A revolution is a rebellion that succeeds," he noted.

Yet the pastor also claimed God allowed the U.S. and the Constitution to take effect so that God's Work could be done.

So here are my leftover thoughts, which admittedly the Pastor did NOT say:

1. Since rebellion is of Satan, did God use Satan to instigate the American Revolution -- especially to fulfill the 2,520-year prophetic timeline COG's maintain had to be met?

2. If the U.S. is Manasseh and the U.K. is Ephraim, how did God separate these two tribes to make sure there was no intermingling?

3. Does the result of Korah's rebellion in Numbers 16 prove God opposes free speech?

4. Was "I Love Lucy" a Satanic TV show -- since the Pastor claimed in part two it was based on rebellion against the God-given authority of the man over the home?

Seeker Of Truth said...

I like this analogy. Who knew there was another way to say we're not obligated to the Old Covenant?

It really is difficult to understand though, if you can't loosen that white knuckle grip on the idea long enough to consider that it may not be true, & to ask God to show you the truth... I know... I was once there.

I don't have to try to figure out how to earn that kazillion dollars... He gave it to me as a gift!

Praise God for His love, mercy & kindness! Praise Christ Jesus for paying my enormous debt! Praise God for the Down Payment, the Guarantee (Holy Spirit) of eternal life in His Kingdom!

xHWA said...

Amen! Seeker.
A thousand times AMEN!

xHWA said...

Those are great questions, Richard. Thanks for sharing those!

About church government, I always get a kick out of reading late 1930's HWA, where he excoriated top-down government, calling it the image of the beast, and then comparing that to late 1950's HWA where he's all for the idea of top-down government.