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.

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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

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Common Legalist Arguments - Part V

In my last post in this series, Common Legalist Arguments - Part IV, I went over where and how the Bible tells us the Old Covenant law was annulled. We saw that even though the Bible never uses the phrase "the law was done away with", it indeed shows that the Old Covenant was removed as a whole, along with the law and the priesthood that were part of it, when Jesus died. A New Covenant is now brought in; one that is not merely a modification of the Old.
This time, I would like to address another approach that legalists use to attempt to validate theit law keeping - attempting to prove the law predated Sinai, and therefore it is binding on Christians today.

ARGUMENT #5
"The 10 Commandments predated both Sinai and creation."

For starters, even the Jews, to whom the law was given, do not believe that the law predated Sinai. I would refer the reader to the Noachain laws (aka Noahide laws, Noachide laws - from Noach, ie Noah). Are we to believe that 3,000+ years of Jewish scholarship is somehow wrong about their own law? If so, how can they be called upon as an authority on other things?
It is a puzzle to me how the COGs can call upon the authority of the Jews when it suits them (for example claiming the Jews have kept the weekly Sabbath on the correct day), then turn right around and dismiss them when it suits them (for example claiming the Jews don't know when to keep Pentacost). RedFox at LivingArmstrongism has a remarkable article on this! That sort of reasoning from the COGs is not scholarship, it's hard and fast ideology. It's predetermining what you want to believe, then forcing all possible information to fit that notion after the fact.

(MARK 2: 27) And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath"

So, the Sabbath was made; it was not from eternity. We also know that it was made for man, so it was made sometime after man was made.
For the people who say the 10 Commandments are the timeless precepts of God written down, how can you say this for the Sabbath? It simply cannot be. Not only does the Bible disagree, but common sense does as well. Think about it. God is timeless, the Sabbath is a day. With God a day is like an era of time and an era of time like a day. What good does any day have with God? None! As for the angels in heaven, they are always in God's presence and it is always holy. There is no "time" there, but God's presence makes holy so it is always holy. There is no distinction in Heaven. So we can see clearly that the Sabbath does not predate mankind.

Let's take that idea to its logical conclusion. Revelation 21: 22-26 and 22: 5 lead me (in my limited understanding of prophecy) to believe that in God's dwelling place there will be no night dividing the day. If there is no division of days, then there is no need for a weekly Sabbath. And if not, then not only does the Sabbath have a beginning but it has an end. If the Sabbath has a beginning and an end, then it is not eternal. Argument of timelessness disproved.

Many will at this point admit a pre-creation Sabbath isn't something they can prove, they just believe it to be so. In other words, it's pure un-biblical speculation and conjecture! No man's personal opinion is a sure foundation on which to base doctrine. I have nothing against speculation, but keep it in its place and do not base doctrine on speculation. If this notion of an eternal Sabbath influences your understanding of the New Covenant, I suggest that perhaps it is past time to reconsider the wisdom of this notion.

The argument now becomes "The 10 Commandments predate Sinai."

If that were so, why is it that God had to teach the Sabbath to the Israelites? Why is it that not a single mention of the word Sabbath or anything resembling Sabbath observance appears before the Exodus?

(NEH. 9: 14) You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, and commanded them precepts, statutes and laws, by the hand of Moses Your servant.

The Bible's own words say "by the hand of Moses" - and not before!

(HEB. 7: 11) 11 Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law)...

The old law and the Levitical priesthood are two parts of a whole. They need each other. The law was given under the Levitical priesthood. And when the Levitical Priesthood was replaced by Christ, the law was annulled.

(HEB. 7: 12) For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.

Those who are not aware must know that this argument about predating Sinai is supposed to demonstrate that if the 10 Commandments predated Sinai then they are not technically part of the Old Covenant and are therefore still binding today; thus contradicting both Exodus. 34: 28; and Deuteronomy. 4: 13.
Well then, what of circumcision which was given to Abraham? Or animal sacrifice which we DO see in Genesis several times (even when we do not see the Sabbath once)? Are those still binding as well? Or what of concubinage, practiced by righteous (by faith not law) Abraham as well as Jacob? Is that valid as well? It seems odd to me that men who were supposedly fully aware of the 10 Commandments not only never mentioned the Sabbath but flagrantly violated the prohibition against adultery. And not only that, but while HWA taught that no one must go to war, Abraham did. Does that validate warfare? I point out over and again how HWA's teachings do not mesh with the Bible (or even with themselves).
So, the Sabbath which we don't see prior to the Exodus is binding and valid, but circumcision, animal sacrifice, concubinage, and warfare which we do see are not valid or binding?? Perhaps this argument of his isn't so effective an avenue after all!

Speaking of Abraham, let's ask the Bible when the law was given:

(GAL. 3: 16-17) 16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.

So, according to Paul, the law came 430 years after Abraham, not 2,000+ years before him.
In addition it is not that law that we are under (GAL. 3: 23-25) but the promise by God to Abraham and Christ -- which promise we participate in upon becoming one body with Christ in the Holy Spirit (I COR. 10: 16-17; GAL 3: 26-29).

No doubt someone is out there itching to let us all know that the Sabbath is mentioned in Genesis when God rested on the seventh day of creation. Well, He rested, that much is sure - but that rest was never called "Sabbath". It was a rest that was never entered into by man, including those to whom the Sabbath was given, until Christ died and was resurrected; Hebrews 3 & 4 goes into great depth about that. The weekly Sabbath may not have been from creation but one of the things the Sabbath does is hearkens back to creation.

(EXO. 20: 11) For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
(EXO. 31: 17) It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.

But those verses only tell you why that particular day of the week was chosen for the children of Israel, not why there is a Sabbath Commandment. In other words, they give you the when. For the why, we go to Deuteronomy.

(DEU. 5: 15) And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

THIS verse tells you WHY there is a Sabbath command. It looks back to the Exodus.
Also, this verse gives a vital clue that the 10 Commandments are not the perfect codification of God's nature, but are exactly what Paul said they were, SHADOWS! Jesus said the greatest commandments were not even of the 10. And those pointed to a greater principle yet -- love! I ask, if not the 10 Commandments, then what is the exact representation of God's nature?

(COL. 1: 15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
(II COR. 4: 4) ...Christ, who is the image of God...
(COL. 2: 9) For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily

Christ is the reality. He is the representation of God's nature. It is not to anything else that we should look, least of all demonstrably false prophets, wolves who peddle Christ, and proud men who set themselves and their "ministry" up as your path to salvation.
And what do we see in the word about Jesus Christ?

(MATT. 17: 1-8) 1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. 7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” 8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

Why do I quote these verses? Well, you may not have had these verses explained to you in quite this way before (and why would you; these verses were always read as part of a prescribed manner of prophetic interpretation as taught by HWA), but in tradition Moses represents the law and Elijah represents the prophets. Here we have a vision of Jesus being glorified greatly beyond the law and the prophets. Our Lord speaks with them, and the scene is covered up by a cloud. From that cloud comes a powerful and commanding voice from the Father who says, "This is My beloved Son... Hear Him!" Not, "Hear the law". Not, "Hear the prophets". But hear Christ! When the cloud dissipated, there was Jesus standing alone; the law and the prophets gone. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets!
Now, pay close attention to what Jesus said next:

(MATT. 17: 9) Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”

Tell no one until after His resurrection. Why wait? And why do I mention this? Because certainly there are many who are saying "If we are to follow Jesus' example, and Jesus kept the Sabbath, then we are to keep the Sabbath." In this they demonstrate logical thinking, but not an understanding of the Gospel. You see, as discussed in previous posts in this topic, we learned that Jesus was born under the law in order to redeem those who were under the law (GAL. 4: 4-5). But that Old Covenant, it's priesthood, it's condemnation, could not be annulled for us until His death. Jesus Christ may have been Lord over the Sabbath even while He lived as a man, but those under the law had no such right. When He died, being a primary party to the Old Covenant, that covenant was annulled. Now a New Covenant has come in, based on the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! This is why Jesus commanded the three not to tell a soul until after He died - it wasn't time yet (JOHN 14: 25-26; 16: 12-13).
No, it wasn't time yet. Jesus had more to teach them once they were able to accept it. These things came as a shock to the Jewish Apostles but were confirmed through miracles at the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. In fact, let's look at that. What do we see at first?

In verses 1-5, Paul and Barnabas both could not persuade the Jewish converts that the laws of Moses were not binding on Gentile converts (much like they cannot convince the COGs today). Paul and Barnabas agreed to bring the matter up with the other Apostles and Elders in Jerusalem. When they arrived in Jerusalem there were more Jewish converts professing the need for Gentiles to be Jews in order to be Christians, and another debate arose. Peter stood and spoke to the crowd (v. 6-11). He made this statement:

(ACTS 15: 10) Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

It is not in obedience to God that men attempt to resurrect the Old Covenant, which no man could bear, but in testing God!
Paul and Barnabas then declared the many miracles worked among the Gentiles by the Spirit of God - working in people who had no tradition of the Old Covenant (v. 12)! This was amazing thing! James then stood and reminded the people how God took Israel from among the Gentiles and raised them up, and now He had turned to reunite them with the Gentiles again (v. 13-18). Their conclusion?

(ACTS 15: 24) Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” — to whom we gave no such commandment

Whether you see this as saying those men were not sent, or you see this as saying the message they carried was never commanded, it ends the same way - the Gentiles were never told to keep the Old Covenant in order to be Christians. This conclusion was spoken and agreed upon (v. 19-21), then written in a letter (v. 23-29), then it was again confirmed later on (ACTS 21: 25).

To answer the question from earlier - are circumcision and animal sacrifice which preceded Sinai still binding - the answer is NO! The argument that because something precedes Sinai it is binding on us today is false! What we see is that the Sabbath is never mentioned prior to the Exodus, it was given by the hand of Moses under the Levitical Priesthood, it pointed to God's creation rest that no man entered into until after Christ's resurrection, and it is no longer binding on us because it was fulfilled by Jesus Christ who is the reality that had cast the shadow.
Why is this so hard to accept? We all know that Jesus fulfilled the law, yet HWA in effect taught that He did not fulfill the Sabbath. What sense does that make? Our faith, salvation, hope, life, and whatever else good thing there may be are all wrapped up in Christ and NOT in Moses or the Old Covenant. This is a New Covenant in Jesus. He is our Sabbath rest!

The Sabbath is NOT the thing towards which we should look, but rather it is merely a shadow - the substance, the reality is Christ Jesus! He is the Head over all things, even the Sabbath (MATT. 12: 8; MARK 2: 23; LUKE 6: 5). He fulfilled the law and the prophets - as He said He would. It is the right of Christ, the reality and fulfillment, towards whom the law and prophets pointed and about whom they spoke, to replace the Sabbath day as well.

(COL. 2: 10) and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

The creation rest remains for us to enter into, as we see in Hebrews 3 & 4. The anonymous author of Hebrews tells us when we should rest:

(HEB. 3: 13) but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
(HEB. 4: 6-7) 6 Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, 7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”

THIS is the day that the Lord has made (PSA 118: 24). Today! Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Therefore, Paul says this:

(COL. 2: 16-17) 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

Loved deeply and greatly sought after by God, please do not test Him by making an idol of false prophets and their misguided teachings (COL. 2: 21), by setting aside the glory of the Gospel for the law that was removed because it made nothing perfect, or by setting aside the New Covenant that Christ died to bring you for the annulled Old Covenant. No one is saying, "throw away the distinction between good and evil." Rather, open your heart to Christ and see how this is all about Him. His Spirit will guide you and teach you and confirm these things to you.

If there is anything that really is timeless, love is it. To love is our commandment that we must keep (JOHN 13: 34; 15: 12, 17; ROM. 13: 8; I JOHN 3: 11, 23; 2 JOHN 1: 5).

[Also see Part I, Part II, Part III, & Part IV]

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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
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