Making Bad Fish Smell Good

Peace, Peace When there is No Peace

They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. Jeremiah 6:14 

In the time of Jeremiah the prophet, the nation of Israel was filled with sin and Jeremiah was warning them of the impending judgment of God that was coming on the nation. In opposition to Jeremiah, the false prophets were telling the people of Israel, they had nothing to worry about, God would do nothing to punish them for their sins and they were secure in the land.

Today things have not changed. The false teachers are still telling backsliders and lukewarm Christians that in the end, they are ok with God. They tell people they can have assurance of salvation by simply putting their faith in Jesus and reciting the sinner’s prayer or merely by accepting Jesus into their hearts. It all sounds good, but what does the Bible say?

The apostle John does tell us that, “we can know that we have eternal life however, he does not say that it comes from faith alone, reciting the sinner’s prayer or by accepting Jesus into your heart. His affirmation was “I write these things to you who believe on the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13). From John’s short epistle,  we can learn how a believer can know they are saved. If you have time I would encourage you to read the entire book of 1 John in which you will find a detailed account of how to know you have eternal life.

However, for now let’s look at a few verses in 1 John, which tell us how we can know, that we have eternal life.

1 John 2:3-4

“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.”

1 John 2:5-6

But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

1 John 2:29

If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

1 John 3:14

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.

What do we learn from these passages? First, we learn that a believer can know that they have eternal live. Secondly, we learn that it is not by faith alone. In fact the expression “by faith alone” is never used in scripture. True and saving faith is never alone inasmuch  “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26). We also learn from John that a person needs to be walking in the love of God and their brothers to have the assurance of salvation, and this love must be demonstrated by deeds done in love for your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Note that we are not talking about salvation, but rather the assurance or certainty of salvation. Good works do not save a person but a person cannot be saved without them, unless you’re the thief on the cross. Moreover, you cannot have certainty of salvation without seeing in your life the fruit of good works. This is the tension of true faith, a tension that false teachers want to eradicate in their effort to make bad fish smell good (Matt: 13:47-49).

The Ten Commandments and the Law of Christ

 

The Ten Commandments and the Law of Christ

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:17-18).

There has been a number of groups in the Christian movement who have argued that Christians are more or less, still under the Ten Commandments, found in the Old Testament Scriptures.  Some have gone so far as to make an arbitrary distinction between what they call the moral law of the Old Testament and the ceremonial law.  They persist in claiming that the ceremonial law was done away with in Christ and yet the moral law remained in force.  However, when they make these distinctions in the law of the Old Testament, it is without any clear scriptural authority.  Some have tried to argue that there is a distinction between the law of the Lord and the law of Moses in Scripture.  But again, where is this taught in the Bible?  In fact, in Luke 2:22-24 scripture appears to use the terms interchangeably.

Before addressing some of the clear problems with maintaining the above position, it would be expedient to clear up some of the confusion that most Christians have concerning the Old Covenant or Old Testament. One of the greatest misunderstandings is that the Old Covenant was  created for all of humanity or the whole world.  In Scripture, the Old Covenant was made exclusively with the nation of Israel.  Though misunderstood by many Christians, it has always been clear to the Hebrews, for they understood that the covenant was made with them, not with the Gentile nations or even with their forefathers, like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  This is clearly taught in Deuteronomy 5:1-4.

“Moses summoned all Israel and said: Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3 It was not with our fathers whom the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.”

It is obvious from the above text that Moses was speaking directly to the nation of Israel and not to the whole world. It is also obvious, that the covenant which Moses gave to Israel was not the Everlasting Covenant or sure blessing of David made between God, Christ and the people of the world (Acts 13:34,  Isa 55:2-5).  Rather, the Old Covenant was a temporary covenant to take Israel to Christ, (Gal 3:23). It therefore, points to the Everlasting Covenant between God and Christ. In other words, the Mosaic Covenant was a shadow of the covenant that God made between himself and his son (Heb. 10:1). The Everlasting Covenant is the New Covenant that a person entered into when they are baptized into Christ (Rom 6:1-3). In entering Christ they share in the covenant that God made with his Son in eternity.

Further, proof that the Old Covenant was given to the Hebrews and not the world is that the fourth commandment of keeping the Sabbath was based on and was a remembrance of the Hebrews bondage in Egypt. In essence, it was a celebration and a remembrance of God as creator and the emancipator, and creator of Israel through delivering them from their bondage in Egypt (Deut 5:15, Ex 20).

“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deut 5:15).

“In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?”  tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.  Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders–great and terrible–upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household.  But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers.” (Deut 6:20-23).

For the Hebrews, the Sabbath as well as the Passover feast were memorials of their deliverance from Egypt.  However, for Christians both the Passover feast and the Sabbath were and are shadows, which pointed to the delivery of Christians from the bondage of sin.  For the Christian, the memorial of the Lord’s Supper or communion symbolizes their deliverance.  It was the tradition of Christians in the early church to gather on the first day of the week to celebrate their freedom in Christ (Acts 20:7, 1Cor 16:2). This is also supported by the early church fathers of the second and third centuries (note attached pages below).

It is interesting to note that the Sabbath commandment is based on the Sabbath beginning at sun set and ending at sunset, this is extremely hard to obey if you live and worship in the Arctic and parts of the northern region of Europe and Asia, where it is dark for six months out of the year. There is no sun rise or sun set for half of the year.  Sabbath keeping in those regions of the world would have to be quite arbitrary; therefore, we must surmise that the Sabbath commandment was given to the indigenous people of a particular region and not to the people of the whole world. This gives credence to the fact that the Old Covenant in its entirety was given to the nation of Israel and not to all nations (Gentiles).

In the first century as the gospel spread into the Gentile world,  the first big question that came up was, must gentile believers also be required to keep the law of Moses, which translated means, is the Old Covenant binding on them or would they have to convert to Judaism, which would mean that they would have to be circumcised and keep the Sabbath?  The act of Circumcision brought a man into Judaism and as a consequence, under the Old Covenant.  This question was brought to the leader of the church in Jerusalem and we have their meeting recorded in the book Acts (Acts 15:1-19). Now, it is important to note that the question put to them was, do believing Gentiles have to become converts to Judaism putting them under the law of Moses?

We first have the Apostle Peter’s conclusion on the question written in Acts 15:7-11.

Acts 15:7-11

“After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?  No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

Then we have James’ conclusion on the question in Acts 15:19-20.

Acts 15:19-20

“It is my judgment; therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.  Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.

Finally the conclusion of the whole church in Acts 15:28-29.

Acts 15:28-29

“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:  You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.”

Why the Confusion?

There a number reasons for the confusion about the covenants.  One of the reasons is that the scriptures were put into one volume making it one book and in turn the one book is given to people without explaining that it contains two different constitutions for two groups of different people (nations).

The Old Covenant and New Covenant

Jeremiah the prophet foretold the day when God would make a new covenant with Israel.

Jeremiah 31:31-32

“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel,   It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.

After quoting this passage the Hebrew writer says it was fulfilled by the New Testament and the work of Christ.

He adds, “By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” (Heb 8:13).  The law and the Jew’s religion were completely destroyed in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. However, a hybrid form of it continues to this day.

Now, the New Covenant was made with the new Israel or people of God, by Jesus Christ. He is the mediator of  the New Covenant, just as Moses was of the Old Covenant. Every covenant not only has a mediator, but it also has a law and group of people.   The Apostle Paul speaks about The Law of Christ which is the law of love (1Cor 9:19-22) and the people of the new covenant are all those that believe in Jesus and look to him as the head of the new humanity and the new Israel (1 Pet 2:9,10).

“To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law” (1 Cor 9:19-22).

What is the Law and Commandments in The New Covenant?

Now the question is, what are the laws or the commandments of Christ; the commandments which Christ said one would keep if they loved Him.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command…. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:15, 21).

When you consider the above text, what are the commands Jesus is alluding to in verses 15 and 21 and are they the Ten Commandments, or are they simply the teachings of Christ?  The answer is not far away. In verses 23 and 24 Jesus tells us exactly what he is talking about.

“Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.  These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:23-24).

In the writing of the Apostle John the law of Christ and the commandments of Christ’s are His teachings to believe on him (love Him) and to love your brethren.

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

“This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:16-17).

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.  And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.  Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 John 3:21-24).

It should be noted that in verse 23 the two commandments, to believe and love are referred to in the singular as His command. John also used this linguistic construction in 2 John 4-6.

“It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love” (2 John 4-6).

My conclusion is that in the writings of the New Testament the terms commandments, commands and command singular all refer to the teaching of Christ to love him and to love all those that believe in Him. When referring to the Old Covenant law the New Testament writers simply take it for granted that it was superseded by Christ (Gal 3:24-25). To New Testament writers, the highest revelation of God is Jesus Christ and that revelation supersedes and has replaced all other revelations of the Father. All that is needed to know the Father is the revelation of his Son. If you know the Son, you know the Father.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:17-18).

We are saved by believing in the gospel nothing more or nothing less. This means that the old law or commandments have nothing to do with are salvation. We come into Christ through faith and we stand in Christ by that same faith. Our justification comes through faith in Christ and our sanctification is through that same faith; as faith perfects our love for Christ and our brethren.

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Early Christians Fathers on The Sabbath.

  • 90AD DIDACHE: “Christian Assembly on the Lord’s Day: 1. But every Lord’s day do ye gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. 2. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. 3. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, saith the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.” (Didache: The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, Chapter XIV)
  • 100 AD BARNABAS “We keep the eighth day [Sunday] with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead (The Epistle of Barnabas, 100 AD 15:6-8).
  • 100 AD BARNABAS: Moreover God says to the Jews, ‘Your new moons and Sabbaths 1 cannot endure.’ You see how he says‘The present Sabbaths are not acceptable to me, but the Sabbath which I have made in which, when I have rested [heaven: Heb 4] from all things, I will make the beginning of the eighth day which is the beginning of another world.’ Wherefore we Christians keep the eighth day for joy, on which also Jesus arose from the dead and when he appeared ascended into heaven. (15:8f, The Epistle of Barnabas, 100 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, pg. 147)
  • 110AD Pliny: they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath not to (do) any wicked deeds, never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of good food—but food of an ordinary and innocent kind. (About three years after the death of Ignatius in 250, an important official communication was sent from one Pliny to Trajan the Roman emperor. Pliny, the Roman governor of Bithynia, wrote of the Christians who had been congregating there probably from at least A.D. 62 onwards. In this remarkable it is explicitly stated that these early Christians observed the substance of most of the Ten Commandments, and it is implied that they observed all ten as far as they were able to do so. As far as they were able, for as most of the early Christians were of slave stock or from other lower classes’-, and those who had heathen masters or employers—the vast majority—would be forced to work on their day of rest, which was unfortunately an official working day throughout the empires’ until Constantine’s “Sabbath” Edict in 321 A.D. gave them some measure of public protection. Hence one reads that after meeting “on a certain fixed day before it was light”, the first century Bithynian Christians had “to separate”—many of them having to labor for their masters and/or employers from dawn to dusk—”and then reassemble to partake of . . . food”. The “certain fixed day” [stato die”‘] on which the Christians met, is regarded by Seventh-day Adventists as Saturday’-. Certainly the expression would seem to indicate a regular day of meeting, probably each week. But Sunday is far more likely to have been the “certain fixed day” than Saturday. For if Pliny had been referring to the old Saturday Sabbath, as a Roman he would doubtless have referred to the “later” meeting first and only then to the morning meeting on the day alter the “certain fixed day”, seeing that the old Saturday Sabbath was demarcated from the evening of one day to the evening of the following day. But Pliny makes no such reference. Instead, he mentions that the pre-dawn meeting took place first—and only afterwards the later meeting; and that both meetings took place on the same “certain fixed day”. This rather points to the Roman (and—more importantly!—New Testament) midnight to midnight demarcation of modern Sunday-keepers than to the evening to evening demarcation of the Jews and the Seventh-day Adventists. (The covenantial Sabbath, Francis Nigel Lee, Pg 242)
  • 150AD EPISTLE OF THE APOSTLES.- I [Christ] have come into being on the eighth day which is the day of the Lord. (18)
  • 150AD JUSTIN: “He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist, affirming both that we glorify His name, and that you profane [it]. The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first of all the days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first.”. (Justin, Dialogue 41:4)
  • 150AD JUSTIN: …those who have persecuted and do persecute Christ, if they do not repent, shall not inherit anything on the holy mountain. But the Gentiles, who have believed on Him, and have repented of the sins which they have committed, they shall receive the inheritance along with the patriarchs and the prophets, and the just men who are descended from Jacob, even although they neither keep the Sabbath, nor are circumcised, nor observe the feasts. Assuredly they shall receive the holy inheritance of God. (Dialogue With Trypho the Jew, 150-165 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, page 207)
  • 150AD JUSTIN: But if we do not admit this, we shall be liable to fall into foolish opinion, as if it were not the same God who existed in the times of Enoch and all the rest, who neither were circumcised after the flesh, nor observed Sabbaths, nor any other rites, seeing that Moses enjoined such observances… For if there was no need of circumcision before Abraham, or of the observance of Sabbaths, of feasts and sacrifices, before Moses; no more need is there of them now, after that, according to the will of God, Jesus Christ the Son of God has been born without sin, of a virgin sprung from the stock of Abraham. (Dialogue With Trypho the Jew, 150-165 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, page 206)
  • 150AD JUSTIN: “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.” (First apology of Justin, Weekly Worship of the Christians, Ch 68)
  • 150AD JUSTIN: Moreover, all those righteous men already mentioned [after mentioning Adam. Abel, Enoch, Lot, Noah, Melchizedek, and Abraham], though they kept no Sabbaths, were pleasing to God; and after them Abraham with all his descendants until Moses… And you [fleshly Jews] were commanded to keep Sabbaths, that you might retain the memorial of God. For His word makes this announcement, saying, “That you may know that I am God who redeemed you.” (Dialogue With Trypho the Jew, 150-165 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, page 204)
  • 150AD JUSTIN: There is no other thing for which you blame us, my friends, is there than this? That we do not live according to the Law, nor, are we circumcised in the flesh as your forefathers, nor do we observe the Sabbath as you do. (Dialogue with Trypho 10:1. In verse 3 the Jew Trypho acknowledges that Christians ‘do not keep the Sabbath.’)
  • 150AD JUSTIN: We are always together with one another. And for all the things with which we are supplied we bless the Maker of all through his Son Jesus Christ and through his Holy Spirit. And on the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live in a city or a rural district. (There follows an account of a Christian worship service, which is quoted in VII.2.) We all make our assembly in common on the day of the Sun, since it is the first day, on which God changed the darkness and matter and made the world, and Jesus Christ our Savior arose from the dead on the same day. For they crucified him on the day before Saturn’s day, and on the day after (which is the day of the Sun the appeared to his apostles and taught his disciples these things. (Apology, 1, 67:1-3, 7; First Apology, 145 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , Vol. 1, pg. 186)
  • 155 AD Justin Martyr “We too would observe the fleshly circumcision, and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined [on] you–namely, on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your heart. . . . How is it, Trypho, that we would not observe those rites which do not harm us–I speak of fleshly circumcision and Sabbaths and feasts? . . . God enjoined you [Jews] to keep the Sabbath, and impose on you other precepts for a sign, as I have already said, on account of your unrighteousness and that of your fathers” (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 18, 21).
  • 180AD ACTS OF PETER.- Paul had often contended with the Jewish teachers and had confuted them, saying ‘it is Christ on whom your fathers laid hands. He abolished their Sabbath and fasts and festivals and circumcision.’ (1: I)-2
  • 180AD GOSPEL OF PETER: Early in the morning when (the Sabbath dawned, a multitude from Jerusalem and the surrounding country came to see the scaled sepulchre. In the night in which the Lord’s day dawned, while the soldiers in pairs for each watch were keeping guard, a great voice came from heaven. [There follows an account of the resurrection. Early in the morning of the Lord’s day Mary Magdalene, a disciple of the Lord …. came to the sepulchre. (9:34f.; 12:50f.)
  • 190AD CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: (in commenting on each of the Ten Commandments and their Christian meaning:) The seventh day is proclaimed a day of rest, preparing by abstention from evil for the Primal day, our true rest. (Ibid. VII. xvi. 138.1)
  • 190AD CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: He does the commandment according to the Gospel and keeps the Lord’s day, whenever he puts away an evil mind . . . glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in himself. (Ibid. Vii.xii.76.4)
  • 190AD CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Plato prophetically speaks of the Lord’s day in the tenth book of the Republic, in these words: ‘And when seven days have passed to each of them in the meadow, on the eighth they must go on.” (Miscellanies V.xiv.106.2)
  • 200AD BARDESANES: Wherever we are, we are all called after the one name of Christ Christians. On one day, the first of the week, we assemble ourselves together(On Fate)
  • 200AD TERTULLIAN: “We solemnize the day after Saturday in contradistinction to those who call this day their Sabbath” (Tertullian’s Apology, Ch 16)
  • 200AD TERTULLIAN: It follows, accordingly, that, in so far as the abolition of carnal circumcision and of the old law is demonstrated as having been consummated at its specific times, so also the observance of the Sabbath is demonstrated to have been temporary. (An Answer to the Jews 4:1, Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 3, page 155)
  • 200AD TERTULLIAN: Let him who contends that the Sabbath is still to be observed a balm of salvation, and circumcision on the eighth day because of threat of death, teach us that in earliest times righteous men kept Sabbath or practiced circumcision, and so were made friends of God. .. …Therefore, since God originated Adam uncircumcised, and inobservant of the Sabbath, consequently his offspring also, Abel, offering Him sacrifices, uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, was by Him commended… Noah also, uncircumcised – yes, and inobservant of the Sabbath – God freed from the deluge. For Enoch, too, most righteous man, uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, He translated from this world… Melchizedek also, “the priest of most high God,” uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, was chosen to the priesthood of God. (An Answer to the Jews 2:10; 4:1, Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 3, page 153)
  • 200AD TERTULLIAN: Others . . . suppose that the sun is the god of the Christians, because it is well-known that we regard Sunday as a day of joy. (To the Nations 1: 133)
  • 200AD TERTULLIAN: To us Sabbaths are foreign. (On Idolatry, 14:6)4
  • 220AD ORIGEN “On Sunday none of the actions of the world should be done. If then, you abstain from all the works of this world and keep yourselves free for spiritual things, go to church, listen to the readings and divine homilies, meditate on heavenly things. (Homil. 23 in Numeros 4, PG 12:749)
  • 220 AD Origen “Hence it is not possible that the [day of] rest after the Sabbath should have come into existence from the seventh [day] of our God. On the contrary, it is our Savior who, after the pattern of his own rest, caused us to be made in the likeness of his death, and hence also of his resurrection” (Commentary on John 2:28).
  • 225 AD The Didascalia “The apostles further appointed: On the first day of the week let there be service, and the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and the oblation, because on the first day of the week our Lord rose from the place of the dead, and on the first day of the week he arose upon the world, and on the first day of the week he ascended up to heaven, and on the first day of the week he will appear at last with the angels of heaven” (Didascalia 2).
  • 250AD CYPRIAN: The eight day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, and the Lord’s Day.” (Epistle 58, Sec 4)
  • 250 AD IGNATIUS: “If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death-whom some deny, by which mystery we have obtained faith, and therefore endure, that we may be found the disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Master-how shall we be able to live apart from Him, whose disciples the prophets themselves in the Spirit did wait for Him as their Teacher? And therefore He whom they rightly waited for, being come, raised them from the dead. If, then, those who were conversant with the ancient Scriptures came to newness of hope, expecting the coming of Christ, as the Lord teaches us when He says, “If ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me; ” and again, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad; for before Abraham was, I am; ” how shall we be able to live without Him? The prophets were His servants, and foresaw Him by the Spirit, and waited for Him as their Teacher, and expected Him as their Lord and Saviour, saying, “He will come and save us.” Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; for “he that does not work, let him not eat.” For say the [holy] oracles, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread.” But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week]. Looking forward to this, the prophet declared, “To the end, for the eighth day,” on which our life both sprang up again, and the victory over death was obtained in Christ, whom the children of perdition, the enemies of the Savior, deny, “whose god is their belly, who mind earthly things,” who are “lovers of pleasure, and not lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” These make merchandise of Christ, corrupting His word, and giving up Jesus to sale: they are corrupters of women, and covetous of other men’s possessions, swallowing up wealth insatiably; from whom may ye be delivered by the mercy of God through our Lord Jesus Christ! (Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter IX)
  • 250AD IGNATIUS: “On the day of the preparation, then, at the third hour, He received the sentence from Pilate, the Father permitting that to happen; at the sixth hour He was crucified; at the ninth hour He gave up the ghost; and before sunset He was buried. During the Sabbath He continued under the earth in the tomb in which Joseph of Arimathaea had laid Him. At the dawning of the Lord’s day He arose from the dead, according to what was spoken by Himself, “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of man also be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The day of the preparation, then, comprises the passion; the Sabbath embraces the burial; the Lord’s Day contains the resurrection.” (The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians, chapter 9)
  • 250AD IGNATIUS: If any one fasts on the Lord’s Day or on the Sabbath, except on the paschal Sabbath only, he is a murderer of Christ. (The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians, chapter 8)
  • 250AD IGNATIUS: “This [custom], of not bending the knee upon Sunday, is a symbol of the resurrection, through which we have been set free, by the grace of Christ, from sins, and from death, which has been put to death under Him. Now this custom took its rise from apostolic times, as the blessed Irenaeus, the martyr and bishop of Lyons, declares in his treatise On Easter, in which he makes mention of Pentecost also; upon which [feast] we do not bend the knee, because it is of equal significance with the Lord’s day, for the reason already alleged concerning it.” (Ignatius, Fragments)
  • 300 AD Victorinus “The sixth day [Friday] is called parasceve, that is to say, the preparation of the kingdom. . . . On this day also, on account of the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ, we make either a station to God or a fast. On the seventh day he rested from all his works, and blessed it, and sanctified it. On the former day we are accustomed to fast rigorously, that on the Lord’s day we may go forth to our bread with giving of thanks. And let the parasceve become a rigorous fast, lest we should appear to observe any Sabbath with the Jews . . . which Sabbath he [Christ] in his body abolished” (The Creation of the World).
  • 300AD EUSEBIUS: “They did not, therefore, regard circumcision, nor observe the Sabbath neither do we; … because such things as these do not belong to Christians” (Ecc. Hist., Book 1, Ch. 4)
  • 300AD EUSEBIUS: [The Ebionites] were accustomed to observe the Sabbath and other Jewish customs but on the Lord’s days to celebrate the same practices as we in remembrance of the resurrection of the Savior. (Church History Ill.xxvii.5)
  • 300 AD Eusebius of Caesarea “They [the pre- Mosaic saints of the Old Testament] did not care about circumcision of the body, neither do we [Christians]. They did not care about observing Sabbaths, nor do we. They did not avoid certain kinds of food, neither did they regard the other distinctions which Moses first delivered to their posterity to be observed as symbols; nor do Christians of the present day do such things” (Church History 1:4:8).
  • 300 AD Eusebius of Caesarea “The day of his [Christ’s] light . . . was the day of his resurrection from the dead, which they say, as being the one and only truly holy day and the Lord’s day, is better than any number of days as we ordinarily understand them, and better than the days set apart by the Mosaic Law for feasts, new moons, and Sabbaths, which the Apostle [Paul] teaches are the shadow of days and not days in reality” (Proof of the Gospel 4:16:186).
  • 345 AD Athanasius “The Sabbath was the end of the first creation, the Lord’s day was the beginning of the second, in which he renewed and restored the old in the same way as he prescribed that they should formerly observe the Sabbath as a memorial of the end of the first things, so we honor the Lord’s day as being the memorial of the new creation” (On Sabbath and Circumcision 3).
  • 350 AD APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS: Be not careless of yourselves, neither deprive your Saviour of His own members, neither divide His body nor disperse His members, neither prefer the occasions of this life to the word of God; but assemble yourselves together every day, morning and evening, singing psalms and praying in the Lord’s house: in the morning saying the sixty-second Psalm, and in the evening the hundred and fortieth, but principally on the Sabbath-day. And on the day of our Lord’s resurrection, which is the Lord’s day, meet more diligently, sending praise to God that made the universe by Jesus, and sent Him to us, and condescended to let Him suffer, and raised Him from the dead. Otherwise what apology will he make to God who does not assemble on that day to hear the saving word concerning the resurrection, on which we pray thrice standing in memory of Him who arose in three days, in which is performed the reading of the prophets, the preaching of the Gospel, the oblation of the sacrifice, the gift of the holy food? (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, book 2)
  • 350 AD APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS: For if the Gentiles every day, when they arise from sleep, run to their idols to worship them, and before all their work and all their labors do first of all pray to them, and in their feasts and in their solemnities do not keep away, but attend upon them; and not only those upon the place, but those living far distant do the same; and in their public shows all come together, as into a synagogue: in the same manner those which are vainly called Jews, when they have worked six days, on the seventh day rest, and come together in their synagogue, never leaving or neglecting either rest from labor or assembling together… If, therefore, those who are not saved frequently assemble together for such purposes as do not profit them, what apology wilt thou make to the Lord God who forsakes his Church, not imitating so much as the heathen, but by such, thy absence grows slothful, or turns apostate. or acts wickedness? To whom the Lord says to Jeremiah, “Ye have not kept My ordinances; nay, you have not walked according to the ordinance of the heathen and you have in a manner exceeded them… How, therefore, will any one make his apology who has despised or absented himself from the church of God? (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, book 2)
  • 350 AD APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS: Do you therefore fast, and ask your petitions of God. We enjoin you to fast every fourth day of the week, and every day of the preparation, and the surplusage of your fast bestow upon the needy; every Sabbath-day excepting one, and every Lord’s day, hold your solemn assemblies, and rejoice: for he will be guilty of sin who fasts on the Lord’s day, being the day of the resurrection, or during the time of Pentecost, or, in general, who is sad on a festival day to the Lord For on them we ought to rejoice, and not to mourn. (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, book 5)
  • 350 AD APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS “Which Days of the Week We are to Fast, and Which Not, and for What Reasons: But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast on the second and fifth days of the week. But do you either fast the entire five days, or on the fourth day of the week, and on the day of the Preparation, because on the fourth day the condemnation went out against the Lord, Judas then promising to betray Him for money; and you must fast on the day of the Preparation, because on that day the Lord suffered the death of the cross under Pontius Pilate. But keep the Sabbath, and the Lord’s day festival; because the former is the memorial of the creation, and the latter of the resurrection. But there is one only Sabbath to be observed by you in the whole year, which is that of our Lord’s burial, on which men ought to keep a fast, but not a festival. For inasmuch as the Creator was then under the earth, the sorrow for Him is more forcible than the joy for the creation; for the Creator is more honourable by nature and dignity than His own creatures.” (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, book 7)
  • 350 AD APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS “How We Ought to Assemble Together, and to Celebrate the Festival Day of Our Savior’s Resurrection. On the day of the resurrection of the Lord, that is, the Lord’s day, assemble yourselves together, without fail, giving thanks to God, and praising Him for those mercies God has bestowed upon you through Christ, and has delivered you from ignorance, error, and bondage, that your sacrifice may be unspotted, and acceptable to God, who has said concerning His universal Church: “In every place shall incense and a pure sacrifice be offered unto me; for I am a great King, saith the Lord Almighty, and my name is wonderful among the heathen.” (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, book 7)
  • 350 AD Cyril of Jerusalem “Fall not away either into the sect of the Samaritans or into Judaism, for Jesus Christ has henceforth ransomed you. Stand aloof from all observance of Sabbaths and from calling any indifferent meats common or unclean” (Catechetical Lectures 4:37).
  • 360 AD Council of Laodicea “Christians should not Judaize and should not be idle on the Sabbath, but should work on that day; they should, however, particularly reverence the Lord’s day and, if possible, not work on it, because they were Christians” (canon 29).
  • 387 AD John Chrysostom “You have put on Christ, you have become a member of the Lord and been enrolled in the heavenly city, and you still grovel in the Law [of Moses]? How is it possible for you to obtain the kingdom? Listen to Paul’s words, that the observance of the Law overthrows the gospel, and learn, if you will, how this comes to pass, and tremble, and shun this pitfall. Why do you keep the Sabbath and fast with the Jews?” (Homilies on Galatians 2:17).
  • 387 AD John Chrysostom “The rite of circumcision was venerable in the Jews’ account, forasmuch as the Law itself gave way thereto, and the Sabbath was less esteemed than circumcision. For that circumcision might be performed, the Sabbath was broken; but that the Sabbath might be kept, circumcision was never broken; and mark, I pray, the dispensation of God. This is found to be even more solemn that the Sabbath, as not being omitted at certain times. When then it is done away, much more is the Sabbath” (Homilies on Philippians 10).
  • 412 AD Augustine “Well, now, I should like to be told what there is in these Ten Commandments, except the observance of the Sabbath, which ought not to be kept by a Christian . . . Which of these commandments would anyone say that the Christian ought not to keep? It is possible to contend that it is not the Law which was written on those two tables that the apostle [Paul] describes as ‘the letter that kills’ [2 Cor. 3:6], but the law of circumcision and the other sacred rites which are now abolished” (The Spirit and the Letter 24).
  • 597 AD Gregory I “It has come to my ears that certain men of perverse spirit have sown among you some things that are wrong and opposed to the holy faith, so as to forbid any work being done on the Sabbath day. What else can I call these [men] but preachers of Antichrist, who when he comes will cause the Sabbath day as well as the Lord’s day to be kept free from all work. For because he [the Antichrist] pretends to die and rise again, he wishes the Lord’s day to be had in reverence; and because he compels the people to Judaize that he may bring back the outward rite of the Law, and subject the perfidy of the Jews to himself, he wishes the Sabbath to be observed. For this which is said by the prophet, ‘You shall bring in no burden through your gates on the Sabbath day’ (Jer. 17:24) could be held to as long as it was lawful for the Law to be observed according to the letter. But after that the grace of almighty God, our Lord Jesus Christ, has appeared, the commandments of the Law which were spoken figuratively cannot be kept according to the letter. For if anyone says that this about the Sabbath is to be kept, he must needs say that carnal sacrifices are to be offered. He must say too that the commandment about the circumcision of the body is still to be retained. But let him hear the apostle Paul saying in opposition to him: ‘If you be circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing’ (Gal. 5:2)” (Letters 13:1).

 

 

 

 

 

Joshua and the Cross, A View of the Atonement

Joshua and the Cross

A View of the Atonement

 

Many of you may be already aware of the fact that the name Joshua in Hebrew is the same as Jesus in English. The meaning of Joshua and Jesus is “Yhawah Saves.” We might say that a man who bore the name Joshua or Jesus was to be a living symbol that God was a God who saved His people. He is a God who is faithful and always rescues His people from the injustices of the wicked.

When we look at the life of Joshua and Jesus Christ we see many similarities. Therefore, it would be correct to look at Joshua as a type of Christ. By type, I mean that many of his characteristics and actions point to Jesus Christ. We might say that Joshua was a living prophecy of what Jesus would be like and what he would do. What I would like to do in this lesson is to look at the life of Joshua and see how it points forward to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We will see that there are many striking parallels between the life of Joshua and the life of Jesus.

The section of scripture that we want to look at is actually a prophecy made by Moses concerning Joshua. However, it applies to Jesus as well. It is found in the book of Deuteronomy, and it reads, “Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The LORD has said to me, ‘ You shall not cross the Jordan.’ The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the LORD said. And the LORD will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. The LORD will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deut. 31:1-8).

From the above scripture let us try to draw some similarities between Joshua and Jesus. Most of the similarities are found within the areas of the work and mission given to them by God. Joshua was given the work and mission of leading God’s people into the land that God promised to their fathers. In like manner, the mission of Jesus is and was to bring many sons to glory [Heb. 2:10]. In order to fulfill God’s mission, Joshua had to cross over the Jordan River be­fore the Israelites. In like manner, Jesus had to cross the river of death into glory to blaze the trail for all those who would believe on him. Joshua had to defeat the inhabitants of the land before the Israelites could possess the land. Again, in like manner, Jesus had to enter into the heavenlies and defeat the principality and powers in the heavenly places before the new creation could be formed. Finally, both Joshua and Jesus had to believe in the abiding pres­ence of God in order for them to accomplish God’s purpose. In order for them to be faithful, they had to cling to the promise, “I will never leave you or for sake You.” We will come back to the importance of this promise later.

Moses, Joshua, and Jesus

We can also see a remarkable parallel between Joshua and Jesus in their relationship to Moses, who was a symbol of the Law that he gave to the people. Under the leadership of Moses, the people lived under the law and yet never received the promise. However, under the leadership of Joshua they received the promise. In essence, Moses pointed God’s people to the one that would lead them into the promised inheritance. This is similar to the law of Moses that points men to Jesus who in essence is the true promise and the true law. “The Law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” In the book of Galatians the apostle Paul says, “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:24). The law leads to the promise, but it will not take us into the promise. The promise can only be entered by believing the promise and the Promised One, who is Jesus Christ. If we are going to receive the promise, we must follow the Promised One into the promise. In light of this, the words of Jesus, “follow me” takes on a new significance.

Unfortunately, there have always been those in the Christian church who have believed that the way into the promise is by following the Law of Moses or some religious system. This error in one form or another has plagued the church from the beginning and continues to this very day. It was this error that crept into the Galatians churches after the apostle Paul left and is rebuked sharply in his letter to those churches. “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing— if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard” (Gal. 3 : 1-5)? From this scripture it is quite obvious that the way into the promise is for the promise to get into us, and it is also obvious that it gets into us through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ apart from the law of Moses or any other law or religion (Gal. 3:21).

The modern preachers of law, who believe that the law of Moses (Ten Commandments) must be preached to convict the sinner of his sins before the gospel of Christ can be received, has no precedents in scripture. The gospel of Christ is the bearer of the spirit and has all the power that is needed to convict the sinner of his need to follow Christ. In fact, it is in this area that we see one of the weaknesses of the law of Moses and religion; that is, they are too weak to convict the religious man or the morally good man of sin. Both the religious man and morally good man love to hear the law preached for it confirms their righteousness. However, when Christ is preached in the power of the Spirit, the lie of self-righteousness is exposed and the truth that “all have sinned and are falling short of the glory of God” shines into men’s hearts.

An example of this is the apostle Paul himself before knowing Jesus Christ. Even though he lived under the law of Moses he believed he was righteous (Phil. 3:6). It was not until he saw the glory of God in the face of Christ on the Damascus Road that he realized his spiritual poverty. It was a revelation of Christ that convicted him of his sin not the Ten Commandments or a written code of any kind. In essence, the answer to all self-righteousness and perfectionism is a revelation of Jesus Christ. The very presence of self-righteousness and the preaching of law is a sign of an absence of a revelation of Jesus Christ. How could the preaching of law bring about a revelation of Christ? When the law is preached a veil remains over the hearts and minds of the listeners (2 Cor.3:14). My friends, Christ must be preached if men are to receive the grace of God in its fullness.

Still another example of what I am saying is found in the story of the rich young ruler. Once I head a well-known conference speaker use this story to prove that the law of Moses must be preached and the sinner must be convicted by the law before he can come to faith in Christ. But does the story teach that or just the opposite? In the story we find a rich young man coming to Jesus and asking him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” In turn Jesus asked him “What do the commandments say?” and then cites a number of the Ten Commandments. But the question is, did this convict the rich young ruler? The answer is no. It did not. His answer was, “All these I have kept since I was a boy.” This is not the answer of a convicted sinner. So, here we find a case where the law of Moses is too weak to convict a religious man of his need for Christ. But what did convict him of his need? Did Jesus call him a liar for saying that he keeps the commandments? No! In fact, it is inferred by Jesus that he had kept the commandments for Jesus said, “One thing you lack.” The thing that convicted this man was not the law, but rather the words of Jesus, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Luke 18:18-23). The simple words, “follow me,” had power to convict this man and any sinner, which all of the law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments could not convict. Therefore, if you really what to convict people of sin, preach Christ. However, be assured that religious men will not hear it long before they go away sad. If you want large numbers of religious men to respond to your preaching, preach religion and law, for in so doing, you will simply confirm the religious man’s self-righteousness and the good moral people of their own goodness. Yes, the world will flock to hear you tell them how righteous they are for keeping the law.

The Mission of Joshua and Jesus

It is important for us to understand the mission of these two men, for though there are many similarities, there are also many differences. The mis­sion and purpose Joshua was to bring the children of God into the Promised Land. This would fulfill the promise that God had made to their father Abra­ham. However, here is where the differences begin to surface. The land promise itself was only a type that pointed to the true promise that pointed to the true inheritance kept for us in heaven ( 1 Pet. 1:4). The writer of the book of Hebrews says no less than this when he says, “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day” (Heb. 4:14). In this, the writer of Hebrews-is telling us that Joshua and the promise of the land were types pointing to another person and another place. The other person is Jesus and the other place is the heavenlies.

The Word of God Verses a Theory

In reality, the story of Joshua and his mission of taking the children of God into the Promised Land is a type that points to the eternal purpose of God, which is to have Jesus Christ lead the sons of God into glory to rule the eternals with His Son Jesus Christ (Heb. 2:10). Unfortunately, there still are many in the Christian church who believe in the type instead of the reality of the type. That is, they believe that our final inheritance is the physical earth made new. Though we believe that this earth will be a part of our inheritance as the Sons of God, it will only be a very small part of that inheritance. For in the new heaven and new earth the sons of God will rule with their Lord as the one new man. In essence, the eternal purpose of God is that one new man created in the image of the eternal Son will rule over both the seen and un­seen. Who could ever imagine the eternal Son being limited to the earth when he is and was the creator of the entire creation both seen and unseen? Why would anyone believe that he is coming back to the earth to rule when he is now ruling the entire creation from the right hand of his Father (Acts 2:29-32)?

Did God Forsake Christ?

There is a very popular theory which teaches that God did forsake Christ on the Cross and that this is the reason why Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. The truth of this theory cannot really be tested until we establish what the test of Jesus was as he faced the Cross. Was the test, whether or not he would face a God forsakenness or sell out to Satan? If God forsakenness was the fear or test, would he had not experi­enced the same God forsakenness for selling out? We believe that the thing which he feared in the garden was not the cross per say nor God forsaking him, but rather he feared, in the face of the king of terrors he would lose faith in the promise that God would never forsake him. In other words, the test would be whether or not he would believe the promise and the word of God that said, ” I will never leave you or forsake you.” The theory which we are discussing says that God either broke His promise or Christ lost faith in the promise and came to believe, because he was suffering in bearing the sins of the world, that God had indeed forsaken him. In essence, this theory is saying that Christ sinned in breaking faith in the promise of God which said that He would never leave or forsake His Son. This theory not only makes Jesus the sin bearer of the world, but it also makes him a sinner in breaking faith with the Father. In this, the theory ultimately charges him with committing the same sin that fleshly Israel committed in denying the continuing help of God and the promises of God in His word.

 

We believe that it is religion that says that God must turn away from sinful man and not God. In fact, the cross and resurrection teach that God will not forsake His people even in their sin. He will save them and deliver them from their sin. This is what the cross teaches. It does not teach that man is forsaken by God, even though he may feel forsaken. He must cling to the promises of God, even in his sin. The Lord left us that example. Even though he was bearing the sins of mankind, he claimed the promise, “Unto you I commit my Spirit.” Even if he was actually bearing the guilt of the sin of the world, he did not draw back and hide from his Father as Adam did, but rather he committed himself to a loving God that had promised to never forsake him. In his faithfulness to the promise of his Father he met the test; the test that whether in suffering, death, and darkness he would trust God to be the kind of God who never would forsake His child. When you are tempted to doubt God’s presence or to think that He has forsaken you, just remember to ask, “Is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ that kind of God?” The answer is revealed by the cross-resurrection event and is no. He is a loving, forgiving, God who will never leave you or forsake you. Only believe, trust the prom­ise, and cling to it with all your might.

 

Some may be struck by what was just said, but please do not leave me as yet; give me a hearing. The concept that God forsook Christ on the Cross is not taught anywhere in the Bible and is only inferred in the cry of Jesus, “My God my God, why have you forsaken Me?” But the question arises, is this a question, a plea for help, or a statement of fact? If it is a question, this would raise a number of very difficult problems. One of these would be, if Jesus knew ahead of time that God was going to turn away from him on the cross as he was bearing the sins of the world, why did he ask such a question? It seems as if Jesus would have already known why God was turning away from him if this theory is right. And if he did not know that God would turn away from him, why was he so upset about the cross? Was he simply a coward who was afraid of the cross, a form of death that thousands of men had faced before with much more courage? Or was it the test itself that he feared know­ing that the destiny of the universe and all of mankind would be determined by belief or unbelief in the promise as stated in scripture and confirmed at his baptism? Would he believe in God’s abiding presence and Son ship in the face of the most hideous power in all of creation, the power of death or would he shrink back, believing that God had forsaken him?

In essence, the temptations that the Lord faced on the cross were the same that he faced at the beginning of his ministry. In facing these tempta­tions, the cost of failure was beyond human imagination. The eternal purpose of God and the destiny of man hung in the balance. If we can understand the nature of his first temptation, it may help us in understanding the nature of his encounter with Satan on the cross. In the first temptation story we find Satan trying to tempt Jesus to deny his Sonship, which was based on God’s word. He tried to get him to go beyond the word of Sonship and to seek conforma­tion in the miraculous. If Jesus had succumbed to this temptation, he would have shown a lack of faith in God’s word and in the God who speaks through scripture. He then, in essence, would have denied his Sonship and the Father­hood of God.

When Jesus was hanging on the cross, we again see that it was his Son ship and God’s fatherhood that were at stake. If Jesus was truly the Son of God and if God was his Father, he must trust the promises of his Father. The promises that God would never leave him or forsake him and that God would hear his cry and deliver him as his very name Jesus [God delivers] symbolized. Doubting the promise of God’s faithfulness would be equal to Jesus questioning his Sonship and the very Fatherhood of God. It also would have been equal to unbelief or sin. But Jesus did not sin or doubt the promises of God, but rather he was faithful as a Son clinging to the faith­fulness of his Father. Therefore, Jesus has now become a symbol that prom­ises deliverance to all those who will put their faith in him. In Jesus we see the promise that God will answer the cries of His people for deliverance and justice (Luke 18:6-8). In Jesus we have a guarantee that God will never leave us or forsake us.

Let look a little closer at the words of the Lord, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” These words are a quotation from the Psalms 22 and were first spoken by King David. With just a casual reading of the Psalm, one is immediately struck by the fact that the Psalm is not a statement of fact about the condition of David, but rather a plea for help. But even more than that, it is a positive affirmation that God is present and will not forsake His holy one. “For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help” (Ps. 22:24). It is clearly stated in this passage that the David’s words are a “cry for help” and there is no doubt that when you look at the gospel record that those standing by the crucifixion interpreted the Lord’s cry as a cry for help from God (Matt 27:46-50). In response to his cry, the Father sends his angels to rescue him from the powers, but only after the Father’s heart was revealed in the loving sacrifice of His Son. It is finished. The Father had been made known to the world through the cross of His Son. The power of the cross is that it is a revelation of the Father’s heart. It also reveals a God that will never forsake His people and a God that will always be with those who cry out to Him.

I also have some serious doubts about a forsaken Christ because there are so many plain passages of scripture that explicitly teach that God would not forsake his elected one. One of those passages is the one sighted above; Ps. 22:24, that plainly teaches that God would not turn His face away from Christ. Another passage that seems to add doubt to a forsaken Christ is found in the Book of Acts. David said about him: “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence” (Acts 2:25-28). This passage raises the question; was there ever a time when the face of God was not before Jesus the Christ? According to this passage, there was not. Throughout the gospels we see the same thing; a Christ who had an absolute unbroken fellowship with the Father.

If the idea of a forsaken Christ is not taught in scripture, where did it come from? I believe we can trace the source of this theory to still another theory. The other theory is the Penal Theory of the Atonement that was set forth by some of the early fathers of the church and then by some of the reformers. The Penal Theory of the atonement is formed on the inviolability of God’s Law and the justice of God. In short, the divine law cannot be set aside and sin must be punished. Someone must die to satisfy the demands of The Law. “For the wages of sin is death.” When death is interpreted as sepa­ration from God, the death of Jesus must infer that he was at some time separated from God; thus, My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” This all sounds logical, but only if you carry in your mind as your principal model of God as judge. For the person or culture whose main model of God is that of a loving Father, this view not only sounds strange, but also unjust. The image of God which teaches that God is a judge who demands that the letter of the laws’ punishment be handed out, does not seem to go along well with the image of the Father, who Jesus painted for us in the story of the prodigal son. In that parable, there is not even a hint of any form of retribution or payback for the son’s misbehavior. The Father simply forgives as a free act of love, and no one is punished for sin. But why is no one punished? Because that is the kind of God we worship. He is a God who will never leave you or forsake you. So let us follow the example of the author and perfecter of our faith our Joshua, Jesus Christ, who has crossed the Jordan before us by hanging on to and believing the promises of God; the covenant promise that says, “I will never leave or forsake you.” Let us commit to walk by faith and not by sight. Let us not ask for God to prove His presence by signs and wonders as the Israelites did, but let us simply believe the word of the promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Ex. 17:2-7, Matt. 4:7).

 

Lewis on Good and Bad People

Good and Bad People

A friend read my piece concerning what C.S. Lewis said about good and bad people.  For those who did not read it, I will quote again:  “When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him.  When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less.  A moderately bad man knows he is not very good; a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right.  This is common sense, really.  You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly; while you are making them you cannot see them.  You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk.  Good people know about both good and evil; bad people do not know about either.”

Point to ponder:  How do Lewis’s remarks measure up against the views Thomas A. Harris stated in his book, I’m OK, You’re OK ? 

My friend brought up two points that I would like to share with others.  He said that he thought he was ok.  He based this statement on the fact that he lived his life in such a way that he did not hurt anyone.  My reply was, “You are asleep.”  My friend is very much like a lot of people in our culture who see morality only as a negative.  However, there is such a thing as a positive morality.  All morality does not begin with “thou shall not.”  A positive morality is a morality that tells you what you should do.  You should spend time helping the poor, encouraging your friends, etc., in short loving people in a real way.  Morality should not be solely defined by what you should not do.  A cigar store Indian does not do anything wrong, but he also does not do anything right; he does not do anything but take up space.  Doing nothing other than taking up space is sinful.  By sinful I am taking the word “sin” in its uninterrupted sense.  It simply means “to miss the mark.”  We were created for doing good, not for taking up space. Taking up space is to miss the mark.

There also is another problem with thinking that you are ok because you do not break a law or hurt someone.  The reason for your success at your negative morality could simply be that you did not have the need or the opportunity to break the law or hurt someone.  Where is the virtue in that?  The virtue may be in the situation and not in the person.  There is no virtue in being faithful if one is never tempted to be unfaithful.  You do not know where your limits are until they are tested.  A man who prides himself on being faithful to his wife and looks down on other men who are not faithful, may simply be a moralist who never has been tempted by a beautiful woman.  Moreover, he may not have been tempted because God knows that he would fail the test.  We ought to be careful about judging others.  However, to choose one situation over another could in itself be virtuous if a man chose that situation because he knew his weakness and was trying to avoid it by keeping himself from temptation.

My friend, also pointed out that people have different definitions of morality.  However, that does get one out of the pickle that Lewis puts us in, because Lewis is not talking about any specific morality.  If a man is awake, he will become increasingly aware that he does not even live up to his own personal morality and that he is continually lowering or ignoring it to justify himself.  Every time you hear the voice “you ought” and you silence it, the voice gets weaker and you get a little worse. It is a very slow process but if practiced long enough it will kill the voice. LD

The Great Myths of Modern Man

The Great Myths of Modern Man

The lawless man is produced by the spirit of evil and armed with all the force, wonders, and signs that falsehood can devise. To those involved in this dying world, he will come with evil’s undiluted power to deceive, for they have refused to love the truth which could have saved them. God sends upon them, therefore, the full force of evil’s delusion, so that they put their faith in an utter fraud and meet the inevitable judgment of all who have refused to believe the truth and who have made evil their play-fellow. The Apostle Paul

Before we can have a rational discussion on the subject of modern myths, we need to understand the terms and concepts we are using.  When I use the word myth, I am not referring to something that is false, but rather to a large explanatory story or narrative that gives us some insight into what stands behind the way we view the world.  In science they are called models or paradigms.  In religion they are called shadows, types, or parables.  In essence, myths are large metaphors that we use to talk about the things that we cannot see and yet believe they are there.  They are believed to be the truths that point to the truth that stands outside of man’s grasp.  All true myths in some fashion and to some degree, depict reality.  If this were not the case, they never would have been elevated to the place of myth.  With this in mind, we are ready to talk about the great myths of modern man.

In order to understand the making of the great myths of modern times, we have to understand the time of the Enlightenment in Europe which gave rise to the great myths of Western civilization.  The Enlightenment was a time of great upheaval and change in the thinking of man.  The old authorities in every area of life were being challenged and being replaced.  Feudalism was being replaced with democracy, magic with science, capitalism with socialism, and faith with atheism.

During this Enlightenment period there was a tremendous effort by the skeptics of religion to move the masses away from religion.  To do this, they would have to convince the masses that heaven could be created on earth by man and a transcendent God and a heaven up there was no longer needed.  If you recall, mankind had once tried to build a tower to heaven, which ended in Babel[1].  If man could not storm the gates of heaven, he would simply build his own on earth, while shaking his fist in defiance at the God of the true heaven.

However, to storm the gates of heaven and bring heaven down to the earth, mankind would need a huge amount of power; he would need a machine that could replace God.  He found his machine in the creation of the modern state.[2]  The state would be God walking on the earth creating heaven on earth, a heaven in which the God of heaven was no longer welcomed.  In the new myth of the state, it would be God who is banished from the new paradise, not man.  In this, we see the birth of the modern state and atheism, which are the two greatest myths of modern time.

In order for the modern state to become a god in the eyes of the majority of people, they would have to believe it had the power to save them and deliver them from the forces beyond their control.  These forces would include natural disasters, diseases, the very forces of nature, even death.  In order to accomplish this, the state would need to have a mechanism to convince the people that it was their true savior and not religion.  It would also need a discipline that could be used to support it. That discipline was found in the new field of science.  It is self-evident that science and the state have grown together and are very much dependent on each other.

And since the time of the Enlightenment the state has continued to annex more and more of the scientific enterprise for its own selfish ends, those being ultimate authority and domination.  In the last few decades science has been increasingly controlled by the flow of money provided by the state to support its research.

Another great myth of modern man is Darwinism.  The thinking of the Western world has been controlled by the concept or myth of undirected evolution since the time of Darwin.  In fact, it has become the dominating concept behind most science and thinking in general.  For many, the concept is now a self-evident truth.  To most, everything is getting bigger and better, moving from the simple to the more complex.[3]  Of course, this concept fits well into the ideological concept of progress that was implanted in the midst of the Enlightenment by Christian millennialism[4] and was the foundation on which they built the humanistic project of replacing the concept of a heaven up there with a heaven down here.  It also fit well as it supported the ideology of a capitalistic system, which was the prevailing economic ideology during the time of Darwin.  Darwinism has always been strongly supported by the ruling class, which maintains its place through the educational system of the state.

You could say that Darwinism was the missing link that the humanist skeptics of the Enlightenment (not science) needed to banish God from the earth.[5]  They needed a theory of how things could be explained without an appeal to a deity.  So the maxim was created that everything in the new discipline of science must be explained by natural causes without an appeal to a deity.  Of course, this sealed the faith of the new discipline of science as the weapon of choice for the skeptics and atheists to support and spread their unbelief or should I say their new belief?

However, true science was not created to banish God from the earth and many of the greatest scientists have been believers.[6]  Science as a discipline is the study of nature and has little to say about the existence of a God who stands outside nature.[7]  Science can make the statement that it has not found God in nature, which is a statement that theologians could make as well; on the other hand, many men of science can and do say that they see things in nature that seem to point to a deity who had organized all things.

To the thinking person and the person who truly understands science, science explains nothing; it only describes things.  It answers the “how” question not the “why” and “what” questions.  For example, when it speaks about light, it does not explain it but rather describes the way it behaves.  Sometimes it behaves like a wave and sometimes it behaves like a particle, but these are metaphorical descriptions and do not tell us what light is.  In fact, if we where to ask science to explain itself, it could not give an explanation without the aid of philosophy; in itself it could only tell us what it does, not what it is.

What are the great myths?  They are the myths of the mega state and the myth that it has the power to save, which is the myth of modern science-ism.  It is the belief or myth that everything in reality can wholly be explained by the theory of materialistic evolution.  Evolution is surely a large part of the circle of existence, but it is not the whole.  It may help us with a number of how questions, but it never answers the why questions of existence, and it is the why questions that gives life meaning.

In view of the above, the question must be raised as to how many of the new myths really square with reality and how many of them are simply illusions.

[1] Babel means confusion.

[2] Note: The Myth of the Machine by Lewis Mumford.

[3] This view of evolution is not based on science and is believed by the masses.

[4] The Christian faith believes that everything is moving toward perfection and completeness.  This concept evolved in the West into a strong belief in the concept of progress.  Without the Christian faith, the question must be raised as to whether or not there are any grounds for a belief in progress.

[5] Of course, true science explains nothing; it simply describes things.  When it slips into explaining things, it ceases to be science and becomes philosophy or something else.

[6] To name a few: Nicolas Copernicus, Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Galileo, Rene Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Max Planck, and Albert Einstein.

[7] The US National Academy of Sciences has gone on record with the following statement: “Science is a way of knowing about the natural world.  It is limited to explaining the natural world through natural causes.  Science can say nothing about the supernatural.  Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral.”  This was taken from Who Made God?: A Searching for a Theory of Everything by Fay Weldon.

Why I Need the Church and the Bible

Why I Need the Church and the Bible

Some people wonder why they would ever need the Church or the Bible.  Why not just go for a walk on the beach or climb a mountain and meet and worship God there?  Can you not experience God as well or perhaps even better in nature than at Church or from reading the Bible?  I do not doubt for a minute that you can experience God in nature, for I have done that myself.  Nature has a way of opening the human spirit to the Divine.  Our experience of God while in nature often seems more real than anything that we may experience at Church or from reading the Bible.

I have found that when I wish to travel to a place, I want to know everything about it. I will read everything I can about it, and I will try to find people who have been there and are able to answer questions about that particular place.  I find myself filled with questions.  What is the best way to get there?  What should I see?  What should I avoid?  What should I wear for clothing?  You see, I do not want to be surprised.  I want the best trip possible.  I especially do this when I go for a hike in the mountains, for I do not want to get lost.  The harder the climb, the more research I do.

Going to church and reading the Bible are like the research one would do for a journey unto a very high and often dangerous mountain.  For me, it seems only natural to talk to as many people as possible who are on or have made the journey.  I once went to Africa and climbed Kilimanjaro.  I called everyone I could find who had made the climb, even complete strangers, and asked them about the mountain and the trails.  I wanted to be ready for anything.  I wanted to make it to the top.  When Christians gather at church, it is mainly to talk about the journey and to study the map.  They consider their map to be the Bible.  The strong and knowledgeable ones among them who have been on the journey a long time do not attend church solely for themselves, but also to help the young and weaker ones among them.  They want everyone to get to the top.  They share with them the trails to avoid and the ones to take.  They make sure that the young ones know the map and the right and best guides who can help them on their journey.

Let me say something about the map.  It is true that sometimes people get the map mixed up with the real territory.  When that happens, people often spend more time reading the map than moving on in their journey.  I know some people who are always reading and talking about the map, but never seem to get too far along on the journey.  They seem to have confused reading the map with the journey.  This is truly sad because it confuses people about the reasons for the journey and the purpose of the map.  Of course, on the other side of the coin are those who feel they can do okay without a map, compass, or a guide.  These folks often end up in a briar patch lost, cold, and hungry.  They often spend a great deal of time backtracking and wandering around aimlessly.  However, some of the stronger ones seem to get along fairly well without the map, but when asked where they are, they often do not seem to know.  The little ones and weak ones without the map and compass often just die or quit.

Because the journey is often long and hard, the map at times can be quite hard to read.  It does have a lot of details about the journey.  It is there to help and is very important.  However, it can be confusing to someone not too skilled in map reading.  When the journey gets difficult, it is then a person needs to remember the training in which the guides taught him about how to use the map.  It is even better if travelers have cell phone, so they can call a guide for further directions on how to make best use of the map.  We always need to remember that the map is a piece of paper that only reflects the territory.  It is not the territory.  We also need to remember that the map was made by a lot of people who have made the journey and left us their story about it.  When we read the map, remember that those who wrote it were all on the same journey, but not all used the same trail and all did not make it to their destination.  Like in nature, some trails are better than others and a bad choice can cause you to lose your way or even perish.  Yes, some died on the journey without making it to top or back home.  This is another reason why we should study the map; we want to know that we are on the very best trail.

If you are not a member of a church, let me suggest that you find someone, maybe some of your friends who are on the journey and ask them about the church they attend.  Ask them if they study the map and if its members are excited about the journey.  If they say yes to both questions, you might want to check it out.  You can also begin the journey by getting a Bible and start becoming familiar with what it teaches.  You do not need to understand everything—just start reading it.  A good place to start is the Gospel of John.  If you do not know of anyone who is able to help you, you can write me, and I will be glad to help.  I often have map reading courses at my office or even in people’s homes.  If you would like to attend one, let me know.  You can reach me at lyleduell@gmail.com

Atheism, Natural Law and Self-evident Truth

Atheism, Natural Law and Self-evident Truth

Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also big bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them. Rom 2:13-14

The natural law[1] of God is found everywhere you encounter man and is self-evident to any man who is in his right mind. It has been called a number of different things throughout the world and history. It has been call the Tao (the way) in the Orient, the Logos by the Greeks, wisdom by the Hebrews, self-evident truth by the founding fathers, and the first principles of philosophy or the cosmic order by the Europeans. It has been codified in every culture under heaven and is the bases of all values and morality. Of course, this impulse is stronger in some than others.[2] Some have hardened themselves to it to the point that the voice or impulse is very weak. However, this is abnormal and recognized as such. We call those who have a deficit of these impulses fools, idiots, and morons. Those who have no understanding of it we call psychopaths and label them as being mentally ill. The reason is that we recognize that this condition is totally abnormal. We tacitly recognize what is normal, which is a self-evident truth made known among all men by the cosmic order. For the sake of brevity, in this article we will call this phenomenon the Tao.

We find natural law or the Tao in every culture. The variation of Tao in different cultures comes from the culture filters, which mediate the values and principles of the cosmic order. Therefore, in each culture the Tao is colored by the mediators of the culture in which it is observed. These mediators work like sunglass, which protects the eyes of one looking at the sun, but at the same time can distort it. Jesus spoke of this when someone asked Him why God allowed a man to divorce his wife. He said it was because of the hardness of this man’s heart. In this He was telling the people that they could not bear looking directly at the sun. In other words, some cultures and men are simply not ready for all the implications of the natural law of God or Tao. So God speaks to them through mediators who filter the Tao.

If an unbeliever is a moral person, he himself is the evidence of natural law (principles) or self-evident truth (common sense),[3] for he does by nature what is in the law of God, even though his philosophy ultimately denies the cosmic order of the supreme truth and good. Even in his denial his reasoning cannot escape or silence the moral impulse to do the good and seek the truth. This impulse is so strong in some that it can actually drive one to madness. In conforming to this impulse, the unbeliever shares in the grace of God that comes through the wisdom of God which is known tacitly by all men.

Like the religious person, the atheist may interpret the impulse for the good to be a sign of his own goodness and therefore, falls under the illusion of self-rightness as do some religious people. This illusion of rightness, which is a perversion of the moral impulse, will further his alienation from God as it does the religious person and will reflect the very spirit that atheists hate in religious people, i.e., self-rightness. Self-rightness is nothing more than spiritual pride and is one of the most subtle hindrances to the moral impulse. It distorts one’s view of natural law in the religious individual and unbelievers.

What about the amoral atheists? The unprincipled unbelievers are no different than the amoral believers. They will both pay the price of breaking or ignoring the cosmic order. God’s moral law is much like His natural law. If one breaks the law of gravity enough times, it will catch up to him, and he will suffer some negative consequences. The same is true if one breaks the moral law or natural law. He will suffer loss, e.g., health, relationships, respect and such. In essence; one does not break the law. It breaks him, and he will suffer loss.

Because conformity to the Tao (the truth) is a prerequisite for a person being happy, anyone can experience happiness who does the truth and lives by the principles (wisdom) of God. If the unbeliever’s life is in more conformity to Tao than a believer’s, he will most likely be happier than a believer. I personally know an atheist who found one of the secrets of happiness in the Bible and started to practice it and found that it made him happier. At the same time, I know some religious people who have just enough religion to make them miserable.

[1] Self-evident truth or natural law can be weakened or even denied by people accepting an ideology or philosophy that is contrary to reality. Common people often refer to those in academia as having no common sense. In saying this, they may be more correct than they think.

[2] Self-evident truth is experienced corporately and is akin to a social consciousness. It is close to Freud’s group consciousness.

[3] The words and concepts of law and self-evident truth have been so neglected in Western culture that their meaning has been lost or distorted. One the best books on this concept is C.S. Lewis’s book, The Abolition of Man.