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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

One Book, One People

The following is written in reply to someone who emailed me last night about my 1st post on Billings: The Word of God for the People of God. The writer wanted to correct Billings' position (and mine) about the fact that Christ is the primary focal point of the Old Testament.
Are there real, valid reasons for reading the whole of Scripture (Old and New Testaments) as one book, the book about Jesus Christ? Though some want to see a rock-solid barrier between the Old Testament and the New, and others even go so far as to pronounce a wall of separation between Paul’s writings and the writings of the other apostles, it appears that the Jesus truly has “broken down the middle wall of separation” (Eph. 2.14) in Himself.

To begin with, Jesus Himself declares, after the resurrection, that all the Old Testament spoke of Him. “Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24.44-45; see also v.27-28 & 46-49). Notice that Jesus states He had been teaching them this all along, “These are the words I spoke to you while I was still with you,” and now that He has been raised, He affirms specifically that from one end of the Old Testament to the other, He is being spoken of. Therefore, if the Apostles are His sent-out delegates to represent Him and His world rescue project, one would assume that they will point out the same thing, which they appear to do.

In 1 Peter 1.10-12, Peter writes to the dispersed believers how they are to read the prophets with Jesus as the focal center, “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven--things which angels desire to look into.” Peter asserts that the prophets were filled with the Spirit of Christ, and primarily spoke of “the grace that would come to” us, they spoke of the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow, and they ministered more to us than to themselves and their own era.

Even Paul addresses the subject in a similar fashion. In all of Paul’s preaching in Acts he continually declares things like, “according to the Way which they (the Jewish hierarchy) call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets” (Acts 24.14, by the way, Paul said this to a Gentile). The things he preached and taught were in accord with the Hebrew Scriptures, especially the things he preached and taught about Jesus (see Acts 13.15-47, for example).

In another place, Paul writes to Timothy, a young man raised by a Jewish mother, “that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work“ (2 Timothy 3.15-17). Now what Scripture did Timothy learn from childhood (long before the New Testament was written)? What Scripture was it that was able to make wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? What Scripture did Paul have in mind that was inspired of God and still profitable for the Christian? The Old Testament. The New Testament wasn’t yet fully written, and Paul’s writings weren’t around when Timothy was a little fellow. So the Old Testament points us to Jesus, declares Jesus, brings us to faith in Jesus, especially if read the way Jesus our Lord and Savior taught us.

Here are three more places where this becomes clearly laid out. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul is writing to a church which is made up of Jews and Gentiles (Acts 18.1-8). Observe the shocking way he starts out this chapter, “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ” (10.1-4). What does Paul do? 1st-he declares that the Israelites in the wilderness were the forefathers of the Christians (Jews and Gentiles); 2nd-he shows how they too tasted of the sacramental (baptism, bread and drink); 3rd-he shows Christ [the rock] in the wilderness. Then he goes on in that chapter and twice points out that these things were written for our examples (v.6), and written for our admonition, upon “the ends of the ages have come” (v.11). Then he starts applying this Christ-centered episode to us. Thus the Christ-shaped pattern of reading the Old Testament with Jesus as the interpretive center and the Old Testament being our Scripture, the Word of God to us.

Look into Galatians, the great book on Justification received by faith alone. In chapter 3 Paul repeatedly, strongly, muscularly affirms that the promises to Abraham, were made to his “seed” and that seed is specifically Christ (16 and 19). Then, as we, Jew and Gentile, are untied to Christ (26-28), we now become the seed of Abraham and heirs of the promise (29). The plan all along was for us and our salvation in and through Jesus Christ.

The final place is Ephesians. Cutting straight to the chase, look at Ephesians 2. In verses 1-10 he declares how Gentile and Jew were dead in their trespasses and sins, living in bondage to sin and Satan; but God, rich in mercy, saved us by His grace through Jesus Christ. Then Paul comes to verses 11-22 where he addresses those who would divide Jew and Gentile Christians. He stresses (in v.11-12) that as Gentiles we were outside the commonwealth of Israel, without God and without Christ. That was out condition and situation. But something happened starting in v.13, those who were far off (Gentiles) are brought near through the blood of Jesus. Near to what? Near to the commonwealth of Israel, near to God, near to Christ. Thus in v.14-18, Paul hammers home that there is one people of God, Jews and Gentiles who have become united to Christ. Jesus, our peace, has made of the two groups, one new man (14). He did so through His cross (and resurrection), wiping out the requirements in the law that mandated Jewish/Gentile separation, creating (notice, this is an act of new creation) “in Himself” (in union with Him) “one new man from the two” and so making peace (15). He has reconciled both to God in His church (16) through His cross, so that now we both come to God in the same way-through Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit (18). The result is that we Gentiles are no longer strangers and aliens/foreigners (strangers & foreigners of what - the Commonwealth of Israel), thus we are fellow citizens (of what? The Commonwealth of Israel). Members of His one household, built on the foundation of the apostles (delegates of Jesus) and the prophets (1 Peter 1.10-12, and Acts 24.14. The Prophets of the Old Testament!). We are being built up as the temple of God and dwelling place of the Spirit. The point is that the Bible is one book (Old announces what is in the New, and the New makes clear what is in the Old….Jesus Christ the Lord) for the One People (before the coming of Messiah, primarily Jews. Since the coming of Messiah, Jews and Gentiles who are in Christ).

This is how Jesus taught the Apostles to read the Old Testament, and this is how the Apostles preached and taught. To read it any other way is to move away from the Jesus-authorized plan and pattern. To read it any other way is to put asunder what God as put together.


1 comment:

Michael Gormley said...

Dear Mike,

Abide in Me, and I in You...

Jesus said:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you."
(John 15:1-7)

Wow! In those seven verses, the word ABIDE is mentioned seven times. The context of those verses provides us with a lot of light as to what is required of us by GOD for our eternal salvation.

Jesus said:
"Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:13-14)

So we must not only ABIDE in Him but we must also strive to enter by the narrow gate. If we do not ABIDE in Him, then it is obvious that we are not on the path to the narrow gate of salvation, but on the path to the wide gate and to eternal destruction.

So Jesus said that if we do not ABIDE in Him (the Vine) then we will be taken away from the Vine by the Father, and will be cast off only to wither, to be gathered, and then to be thrown into the fire and burned.

Now that I have your attention, shouldn't we now find the meaning of the word ABIDE?

The theological meaning of ABIDE is to dwell within. Jesus would come and dwell in us and we likewise in Him. So as long as we do what Jesus requests of us then we are on the path to the narrow gate to salvation.

So to assure that we are on right path, Jesus has commanded that we must ABIDE in Him.

What is required in order to have Jesus ABIDE in us and we in Him?

Can we do it:

1. By accepting Him as our our own personal Lord and Savior ?
No. Where does the Bible say that?

2. By the grace of GOD only? Sola Gracias?
No. Where does the Bible say that?

3. By faith in GOD alone? Sola Fides?
No. Where does the Bible say that?

It is simple common sense that since He commanded that we must do something, then doesn't it stand to reason that He would also tell us how to do it?

Jesus was very clear in what we must do in order to have Him ABIDE in us and we in Him.

Jesus left this command for us in John 6:53-57:

53 "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (the taken away branch);

54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.


57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me."