Friday, December 10, 2010

What About Deathbed Repentance?

2nd in a series concerning baptism's place in our salvation

The New Testament makes a clear case for immersion being an essential part of receiving Christ's gospel. If this idea is unfamiliar to you, please see my previous blog entry, Why immerse? Unfortunately, though, the idea of "baptism for salvation" has simply had no part in mainstream religious training. For this reason , objections are frequently put forth against the teaching.

This series of blog entries began with what might be the most common objection of all, "What about the Thief on the Cross?" Closely related is the question addressed in this entry:

What about deathbed repentance?

If you are unfamiliar with the idea of deathbed repentance, here is how it works (or is supposed to work):

Some poor soul, who has expended the many years and energies of his life in the vigorous pursuit of evil, finally feels a fear of God as his life's force ebbs. So he prays "the sinner's prayer" and is "saved".

The preacher who "saved" him can then stand before the family at funeral time and assure the survivors that "evil old Ed" is as safe as a little lamb in the arms of Jesus. What is more, the preacher can assure them that they too can quietly say "the sinner's prayer". They can do it right where they are, while everyone's eyes are closed! All the preacher asks is that they raise their hand so he will know to follow up with them later.

This is not an imagined scenario. I actually attended a funeral where the preacher did exactly that. A couple of folks probably raised their hands. Most others probably figured they would wait and take care of this business at life's end, like "evil old Ed" did.

If it sounds as though I'm not buying this kind of "death bed repentance" scenario, you are right. It contains too many assumptions unsupported by the Holy Scriptures.

Assumptions In The Scenario:

1st: it is assumes that "the sinner's prayer" is a valid means of salvation.

Supposedly, people are saved when they say "the sinner's prayer". It goes something like this:

"Lord Jesus, I am a sinner. I believe that you died upon the cross to forgive my sins [here, some other things to be believed about Jesus are added in – the recipe varies]. I now ask you into my heart and receive your salvation [etc.]"

The person is then assured that he can know in his heart that he is saved and as a rule, he does. Unfortunately, forgiveness does not take place in the sinner's heart. The man can feel forgiven and can feel this with utmost sincerity. He can even change the way he lives. But unless forgiveness has taken place in the heart of God, the man who has prayed this "sinner's prayer" is still outside of Christ and carrying the guilt of his sins.

No one in scripture was ever converted to Christ by "asking Jesus into their heart". There is no commandment in scripture for anyone to say "the sinner's prayer" at the time of their conversion. Nor is there any scriptural example of anyone ever saying, or being saved by, "the sinner's prayer". It is therefore quite strange that "everyone" thinks that people can be saved in this way today.

Believing an unscriptural thing to be scriptural does not make it scriptural. There is nothing scriptural about the sinner's prayer. Christians are to pray for forgiveness when they sin. But no one in scripture ever became a Christian by such a prayer. Even so, "salvation by the sinner's prayer" has become one of Christendom's most sacred cows.

If we truly want to know how people were saved in the New Testament, there is a true book of inspired history that records many conversions. The gospels were written to record the life and teaching of Christ. All of the teaching contained in them has great value. But Jesus' ministry was to the Jews. Christians are people who are saved by the death of Christ. There weren't any Christians until Jesus went to the cross. To learn how people became Christians in scripture, we can read the book of Acts. You won't find any examples of the sinner's prayer there. There is nothing even close.

2nd, it assumes that every appeal for deathbed repentance is answered by God.

Some might suppose, based on the scenario painted above, that I do not believe in deathbed repentance. Not so. What I don't believe is that people can be "saved on their deathbeds" in an unscriptural way.

What of lifelong sinners, who've deliberately hardened themselves against the gospel?

There are many who were raised by devout parents. They have known the central facts of the gospel from the time of their youth and even supposed the Bible's message to be true. But they have ignored the gospel's message because of their love for evil. All their lives they have hardened themselves against the gospel. They wanted no Bible, no church, no preachers and none of that "goody two-shoes, holier than thou" living. But once terminally ill, they got nervous and wanted to be saved.

Will God receive them? Ultimately, God will make that decision, and it will most certainly be the right decision. He'll hear no complaints from me if He does receive these people. But the following statements from God's word leave me with very serious doubts that He will receive them.

Galatians 6:7-8 – Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Proverbs 1:24-29 – Because I called, and you refused; I stretched out my hand, and no one paid attention; And you neglected all my counsel, And did not want my reproof; I will even laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, When your dread comes like a storm, And your calamity comes on like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come on you. "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they shall not find me, Because they hated knowledge, And did not choose the fear of the LORD.

Psalm 32:6 – Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they shall not reach him.

Psalm 66:18 – If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear;

All scripture quoted from the New American Standard (1977) Bible

Only God can know whether a man's repentance is genuine and the ultimate decision as to who will and will not be saved is His alone. But these passages – among others – offer little encouragement of a successful "deathbed repentance" to the one who has deliberately chosen to walk in darkness though exposed to light.

Those newly coming to know the light

Here the prospects of salvation "on the deathbed" seem much brighter. I knew a "good" man whose religious background was quite dubious. He had never been properly taught scriptural truths but only some nonsensical religious traditions. He was nevertheless – while literally "on his deathbed" – quite willing to hear biblical truth.

On coming to understand the scriptures he responded much in the same way as the Ethiopian treasurer who – having heard the preaching of Jesus – sought to be baptized (see Acts 8:35-36). We asked to speak to the Nursing coordinator. The patient himself made his request known to her and it was arranged for the man to be immersed in the Physical Therapy department's therapeutic pool. That gentleman never recovered from his illness and died, still in the hospital, two weeks later. But the healing he sought at that stage of his life was of a different kind. And I see no reason to believe that he did not receive it.

We are speaking here of assumptions and one of the assumptions commonly made is that people on their deathbeds have no opportunity to be immersed. Not so, as this man's case demonstrates.

By the way, we have just mentioned the Ethiopian treasurer of Acts 8, who was travelling through the desert. If ever there were a case where an exception to the rule might be expected, it was this one. I have actually been asked, "What if someone accepts the gospel and they are in the desert where there is no water for baptism?" One answer is that you go to the Howard Johnson's and use their pool (the Howard Johnson's pool is gotten from the same place the desert wasJ). But the better answer is found in Acts 8. Phillip did not offer to pray the "sinner's prayer" with the Ethiopian Treasurer. Nor did he sprinkle him with a little water from his canteen. They came to water, went down together into the water and the man was immersed there.

3rd it assumes that an assumed exception to the rule overthrows the rule even in ordinary cases.

As stated above, it is assumed that – in the case of "deathbed repentance" – baptism is unnecessary. It is then further assumed that this proves baptism unnecessary in every case.

God is God and makes the rules. They are His rules and He can make exceptions to them if He chooses. I'd have no right to object if He did make exceptions. But I have no right to say that He will. So I wouldn't, even if I wanted to.

Jesus stated a rule in Mark 16:16. "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved…" I have no right to teach that He will make any exceptions to the rule. But what if He did make an exception to the rule? In this case, we need to remember that exceptions to rules do not change rules.

Consider for example the rule of gravity, also established by God (creator of our physical universe). The rule of gravity predicts that a million pounds of metal isn't going to go stay off the ground for long. Yet a fully loaded Boeing 747 Airplane (maximum takeoff weight of 975,000 pounds) can actually stay in the air for hours at a time.

This appears to be an exception to the rule but - one way or another - the airplane always comes back down. So it is actually debatable whether this example is truly an exception to the rule. But even if we agree that it is, the rule of gravity would remain a rule.

The flawed nature of the Objection

People have assumed baptism is optional in a "deathbed repentance" situation. Having assumed baptism is not essential on the deathbed, people then assume it is not essential at all. The first assumption is seen as proof of the second. But assumptions are not usually considered adequate proofs. And possible exceptions to rules do not overthrow rules.

I am, by God's grace,
Rich In Christ

Why Immerse?

The Scriptural Case for Immersion

The New Testament consistently connects baptism (derived from a Greek. word that means to dip or immerse) with salvation themes. (All scriptures are quoted from the New American Standard (1977) Bible)

  • The Bible connects baptism with the forgiveness of sins.

    Luke 3:3 - And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins;

    Acts 2:38-39 - And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself."

    Acts 22:16 - 'And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.'

  • The Bible shows that there is a connection between baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit.

    Acts 2:38 - And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    Acts 19:2-3a - and he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said to him, "No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." Act And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?"

  • The Bible states we are "baptized into Christ".

    Romans 6:3 - Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?

    Galatians 3:27 - For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

  • Jesus Himself said baptism was to be a part of "making disciples" and promised salvation to those who believed and were baptized.

    Matthew 28:19 – "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

    Mark 16:16 – "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

  • The apostle Peter stated plainly that "baptism now saves you" and describes it as an appeal or pledge to God for a good conscience.

    1Peter 3:21 - And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

  • Inspired Biblical History shows that when people believed the gospel they were baptized. This should never have changed. Here are some of the examples:

    Acts 2:41 – So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

    Acts 8:12 – But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.

    Acts 8:36, 38 – And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch *said, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?" …And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him.

    Acts 16:33 – And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.

    Acts 18:8 – And Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.

Why not!

In light of these clear scriptural teachings, we should not be asking "Why immerse?" at all. Rather, the question should be "Why not immerse?"

Most denominations within Christendom don't immerse and the few that do think of it only as a "church ordinance". Others sprinkle infants and call this baptism, even though this was never done in the New Testament. Some of these churches teach – or at least used to teach - that the baptism of babies is for the forgiveness of "original sin". But the baptism of believing and penitent adults "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38) is rarely taught or practiced in today's Christendom.

The idea of immersion having any place at all in our receipt of salvation has had no part in most believers' religious training. As a result, many "believers" find it strange – or even offensive - that anyone would see baptism as a necessary part of salvation.

Why does so much of Christendom neglect this ordinance, commanded by Christ? The short answer is that it is rejected because of religious tradition. In other words, it is neglected for no good reason.

It's still in there!

The story is told (and it may or may not be authentic) of an old country preacher in debate against a college professor from one of the grand denominations of Christendom. The topic was whether or not the Bible taught that being baptized was necessary for salvation. The country preacher contended that it was necessary, whereas this great doctor of theology denied it.

Again and again the college professor would advance eloquent arguments against baptism's place in our receipt of salvation. And by way of rebuttal the country preacher would open his Bible again and again to Acts 2:38-39 and reply "It's still in there!"

I don't think I ever heard whether the audience was won over by the old preachers arguments or not. But it doesn't matter. What matters is that "It's still in there!"

I am by God's grace,
Rich In Christ

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Many Scriptures link baptism together with salvation (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16 and 1Peter 3:21 come quickly to mind). But in the atmosphere of Contemporary Christendom – in which many winds of doctrine blow – this connection is often denied. As a result, many objections are raised when we attempt to show people their need of a scriptural immersion. Perhaps there is none more frequently heard than this one: "What about the Thief on the Cross?"

Many have been taught that the penitent thief – whose example is seen at Luke 23:39-43 – is a model of "salvation by faith alone". Shifting focus to the 3000 converts of Pentecost as a more fitting model of our conversion is not an easy adjustment for them.

As this thief suffered on a cross along-side our Lord, he was promised entry into paradise. There is, of course, no mention of baptism and there was certainly no opportunity for him to be immersed. Naturally, his example is seen as an example showing salvation can be had without immersion.

Considered superficially, the thief's example seems persuasive. A deeper look reveals that this "proof" is actually not so substantial. This has to do with his circumstances, which were completely different than ours and in some ways unique.


There was a change of covenant in the time of Christ. The old covenant was given through Moses and sealed with the blood of sacrificed bulls. The new covenant was given through Christ and sealed with His blood.

Terms or conditions are a universal characteristic of covenants. Covenants have terms of entry as well as conditions defining obedience. Under the covenants of Abraham and Moses, for example, circumcision was an essential condition of entry into the covenant - Genesis 17:10-14. Every male child born into an Israelite home was entitled to be a part of the covenant. This took effect only when he was circumcised, however. Without circumcision, he was cut off from the covenant. Circumcision was therefore a condition of entry into the old covenants--those of Abraham and Moses.

Christianity has an equivalent to Old Covenant circumcision. The apostle Paul points out there ought to be an inward circumcision; one "of the heart, by the Spirit". This is an emphasis of the new covenant, which came through Christ.

Romans 2:28-29 - For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (NAS)

In another place, Paul points to a specific time and event in which the inward, spiritual circumcision takes place.

Colossians 2:11-12 - and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (NAS)

Paul shows that a circumcision of the heart is accomplished through God's power in the ordinance of baptism. His association of baptism and circumcision suggests that the old covenant ordinance prefigured the new. Circumcision was a condition of entry into the old covenant and immersion a condition of entry into the new.

All of this serves as important background information in considering the salvation of the penitent thief dying at Christ's side. Christian Baptism bears resemblance to the old covenant ordinance of circumcision in a specific way. Under the old covenant the uncircumcised were cut off from the blessings of the covenant. In similar fashion, the unimmersed can have no part in the new covenant blessings. The blessings of the New Covenant are for those who are "in Christ" and no others. Baptism is the ordinance in which God places us into Christ – Romans 6:3 & Galatians 3:27.

A great deal depends on what covenant was in effect during the dying thief's lifetime. Baptism is a new covenant ordinance. Under the old covenant--the Law of Moses--no one was ever required to be immersed. The following passage identifies the point in time when the old covenant ended.

Colossians 2:13-14, 16-17 - And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross… Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day -- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (NAS)

The written code with its regulations was nailed to the cross. The things of the law that were shadows of Christ have been removed, they have been canceled. These things died on the cross when Christ did. It was at that point in time that the old covenant ended and the new began.

If this thief was forgiven without immersion under the old covenant – and, of course, he was – what of that? We are under the new covenant, where different rules apply. Are we cut off from the covenant of God if we are uncircumcised? Certainly not! And why is this? It is because circumcision is not a part of the new covenant. Would the thief have been deprived of salvation because he was unimmersed? No, and for the same reason. He lived under the old covenant and immersion was not yet in force as a condition of entry.


We need to consider the exact circumstances under which the promise of paradise was given to this one we call, "The Thief on the Cross."

Please give careful consideration to the following chart, which outlines similarities between this dying thief and those who become Christian:

The Penitent Thief

Those who now come to Christ

  • He was a sinner, condemned to die and dying in sin.
  • We have all been sinners, condemned to die and dying in sin.
  • He originally blasphemed Christ as did the other thief - (Matthew 27:44.
  • As a rule, we are blasphemers prior to conversion.
  • He repented and came to believe, confessing his belief in Jesus - Luke 23:40.
  • We must repent and come to believe, confessing our belief in Jesus.
  • He was crucified with Christ. That is, alongside Him, at the very same time.
  • Christians are crucified with Christ - Galatians 2:20. But how? And when?
  • He was promised a joyous life after death
    - Luke 23:41.
  • We are promised a joyous life after death – Romans 6:5.

Those are the similarities but there are also differences – important differences!

One we have already mentioned is that this penitent thief died under the Old Covenant, whereas we live under the new. But here is another:

The thief on the cross did in a very real way what we can only do in figure. The thief on the cross was crucified with Christ.

People remark that they want to be saved "just like the thief on the cross." That is an admirable sentiment but also an impossibility. The thief on the cross suffered with Christ. He offered our Lord comfort by defending His holiness when even most of the Lord's apostles had abandoned Him. He no doubt brought ridicule and derision upon himself as he took his stand with Jesus. He showed a very real love for Christ in a time when Christ needed it very badly.

If we understand the dying thief's salvation as based on some kind of minimalist faith alone, we have missed what really happened there.

We have no opportunity to do in a literal way what the thief on the cross did. We can do this in figure through baptism, however.

We know this to be true from Romans 6:3-8.

Rom 6:3-8 – Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, (NAS)

The passage above makes it plain that--in God's eyes--we die with Christ and are crucified with Him in Christian baptism. We often think of selfless Christian service as dying and being crucified with Him, as well. These thoughts are entirely appropriate but we must not lose sight of what God has appointed as a death and crucifixion with Jesus. Christendom must give more emphasis to what scripture says in this area.


The thief's example does nothing to prove that baptism is optional in seeking salvation today. We assert this in two ways.

  • The penitent thief lived and died under the law of Moses, which remained in effect until after Christ's death. Since baptism was not a part of the Old Covenant law given through Moses, the thief was not required to submit to it. He lived under one covenant and we live under another.
  • The thief provides an example of conversion that we can identify with. He repented, believed in our Lord, confessed His name before men and died with Christ. We do exactly the same but can die with Christ only in the figure of baptism.

I am by God's Grace,

Rich In Christ

Friday, November 5, 2010

Roots of Compromised Christendom 6

Judaizers! Part Six

Do the Jews have "Special Salvation Status"?

Many seem eager to believe it. And at least one New Testament passage seems to say it.

Romans the 11th chapter and 26th verse, states the following:

"…and so all Israel will be saved…"(NASB)

The passage – viewed on its own - seems to make a very straightforward statement that is easily understood – "all Israel will be saved". The difficulties arise when you begin trying to harmonize the salvation of "all Israel" with the remainder of the New Testament's teaching.

The prevailing view of this passage is that it speaks of events to occur in "the end-times". According to this view, Romans 11:26 teaches that all Israel alive at that time will be saved. But there is also a more radical view; namely that all Jews are going to be saved simply by virtue of being Jewish. Those who subscribe to this view believe and teach that the Jews will be saved even without Christ. Being Jewish is enough. The Judaizers of Paul's day would have loved it.

Actually, I know of this teaching first-hand. While a young school-aged child, being raised in a Presbyterian church, I remember asking about the Jews. I was concerned about what happened to them since they did not believe in Jesus. I was told that there was no need for concern because the Jews were "God's chosen people".

Apparently the number of those who believe this exact thing is growing. In 2002, 21 members of the "Christian Scholars Group on Christian-Jewish Relations" published an official statement to the effect that "Jews are in an eternal covenant with God" and enjoy a "special salvation status". Their belief is that "faithful Jews" are already saved and should not be targeted for conversion. They also seemed to believe that rejection of their view is "anti-Jewish". According to their statement, acceptance of the Jews' salvation is a "Sacred Obligation" within Christendom. You can read the article for yourself at:

The "Christian Scholars Group…", though, was actually taking a more moderate stance than the one that I learned of as a small child. They at least apply their statements to "Faithful Jews", whereas I was told that all Jews were saved. Either way the teaching assumes that there are people who can be saved apart from Christ.

But not everyone accepts this:

John the baptist – Christ's forerunner – did not believe that Jews had special salvation status.

John appeared in the wilderness as the forerunner of Christ, preaching the following:

8"Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. – Matthew 3:8-9 (NASB)

John's audience – who were exclusively Jewish – needed to be warned even in that day that being a descendant of Abraham was not, by itself, enough. He went on to speak of every tree without good fruit being cast into the fire and the wheat being separated from the chaff, which was to be burnt up with unquenchable fire. The inspired prophet and Christ's forerunner, John, obviously did not believe that all of fleshly Israel would be saved.

John's message was intended to correct a prevalent misconception about what it meant to be a Jew. The Jews of that day believed that being descended from Abraham was – by itself – enough to assure good standing in the love of God. They believed this prior to the coming of Christ and continued to believe it once the gospel was fully given. This unfortunate attitude became the foundation of the Judaizers' entire mindset but John the baptist showed this foundational mindset to be wrong.

Jesus Christ – God's divine Son – did not believe the Jews had special salvation status.

In John the 8th chapter and 24th verse, Jesus gave the following warning to the Pharisees who were contending against them:

"Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." (NASB)

In John 8:33 those same Jewish religious leaders claimed to be "children of Abraham". Contrary to what they believed, this was not enough to justify them with God. But it wasn't even true; not in the way that really mattered. In John 8:44a, Jesus identified their true father:

"You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father..." (NASB)

There is no fact more certain than this: those who live as the children of the devil here will live with him hereafter. Jesus did not believe that all of the Jews would be saved and we shouldn't either.

Even Paul, who wrote that "all Israel will be saved", rejected the notion that the Jews had special salvation status.

In Romans chapter 2, Paul is speaking of the absolute justice of God. Look at what he says of the judgment in verses 5 through 11:

5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God. (NASB [emphasis mine - RW])

Please notice that Paul warns in no uncertain terms that all of those who are selfishly ambitious and who do not obey the truth should expect wrath and indignation from God at the judgment. This applies to Jews as well as gentiles, for there is no partiality with God.

There are additional passages, even within the book of Romans, showing that Paul considered unbelieving Jews lost:

  • Romans 9 opens with a lament for his unbelieving Jewish brethren, stating that he could even wish to be accursed for their sake.
  • In Romans 9:27 Paul quotes from Isaiah 10:22, who states, "though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved."
  • In Romans 10:1 he announces that his prayer is for their salvation.
  • In Romans 11:14 Paul hopes that somehow, some of his countrymen might be saved.
  • In Romans 11:17-22 speaks of branches in an olive tree. The natural branches (Jews) were broken off because of unbelief. But wild branches (gentiles) were grafted in. The natural branches were not spared – verse 21. They were dealt with severely – Verse 22.

Romans 11:26 is not talking about fleshly Israel.

Descent from Israel according to flesh alone is not enough:

Consider carefully the following passages:

28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. – Romans 2:28-29 (NASB).

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants… - Romans 9:6-7a (NASB)

In the first of these passages, Paul shows us that there is more to being a real Jew than fleshly descent. And in the second, he shows (much like John in Matthew chapter 3) that not every descendant of Abraham is a part of the true Israel. And Paul is not the only New Testament writer to teach this truth. The apostle John – in the book of Revelation – records messages of rebuke from our Lord concerning those who claimed to be Jews but were not. These messages were given to Christians in the churches at Smyrna and Philadelphia:

"I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan." - Rev 2:9 (NASB)

"Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie--I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you." - Rev 3:9 (NASB)

Who were these people who claimed to be Jews but were in fact a "synagogue of Satan"? They were either unbelieving Jews or Judaizers both of which continually troubled the early church. Either way, they were men of Jewish descent in terms of the flesh. But they trusted in the flesh and refused to embrace Christ and His gospel.

There is also a true Israel – an "Israel of God' – and it is this Israel of which Paul speaks at Romans 11:26.

Turning to Paul's epistle to the Galatians, we read the following:

15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. – Galatians 6:15-16 (NASB)

Verse 15 reminds us of some other writings from Paul, including at least one we have just looked at. The mention of physical circumcision being worthless certainly links with Paul's thoughts of Romans 2:28-29. And Paul's "new creation" remark reminds us of Jesus' teaching on the need to be "born again", not to mention 2Corinthians 5:17.

We can very reasonably assume, then, that the "Israel of God" spoken of in Galatians 5:16 is made up of those who have had a "new birth / new creation" and whose circumcision is not in the flesh but "of the heart by the Spirit". In other words, the "Israel of God" is made up of Christians. This conclusion – in fact – is affirmed earlier in the book of Galatians, at Chapter 3, Verses 26-29.

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.

Who is the Israel of God? The Israel of God is the Lord's church, made up of those who are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, who have been baptized into Christ, clothing themselves with Christ. In becoming Christian, every class distinction is dissolved, including the distinction between Jew and gentile (Vs. 28). Those who belong to Christ are Abraham's true descendants, heirs of the promise that was given to him.

These people, and these people alone are the "Israel of God". And "all Israel shall be saved". Fleshly Israel is in no sense cut off from the grace of God but Jews must receive God's grace in exactly the same way as the people of any other race.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Roots of Compromised Christendom 5

Judaizers! Part Five

The Judaizers' Teaching and the Big "Faith-Only" Lie

To begin, please consider the following passages:

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. – 1 Corinthian 6:9-10

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling - Philippians 2:12

7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. – 1 John 3:7-10

The truths presented in these passages are very clear. The unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God. The one who practices sin is of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin. The difference between the children of God and the children of the devil is obvious. The children of God practice righteousness. The children of the devil do not. Without personal righteousness we aren't God's children now and won't be in Heaven later.

It is necessary now to consider one additional passage of scripture. It is one that receives far more attention than those quoted above.

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law - Rom 3:28

This verse is generally understood to say "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith alone." But that is not what it says.

Christendom's Big Lie

The following remarks are taken from various protestant commentaries, attempting to explain the meaning of Romans 3:28:

Albert Barnes, noted Presbyterian commentator, says "apart from works of the law" means, "No righteousness of their own" and goes on to say, "God has devised a plan by which they may be pardoned and saved; and that is by faith alone."

According to John Gill's Expositor, "apart from works of the law" means, "all this is done without works of any sort…" and "…by faith without works joined to it."

W. B. Godbey states that the phrase "apart from works of the law" means: "…justification is by faith alone without any works of any law… ...without deeds of law; i. e., water baptism or anything else on the line of legal obedience."

Robert Haldane, a Congregationalist who has written a famous commentary on Romans, says: "It signifies that no degree of obedience to law is necessary" and "Good works… are not in any respect necessary to justification. They have nothing to do with it." He also states that "Men are justified by faith … without any obedience of their own."

According to these teachings there is an entire list of things that are completely unnecessary to our salvation: law (any kind of law), personal righteousness, water baptism, obedience, and good works.

But if these interpretations of the meaning of Romans 3:28 are correct, scripture contradicts itself, which is unacceptable. All scripture is God-breathed and – being from a single infallible source – is in complete harmony.

Is it biblically true that:

  • There is no kind of law involved in our salvation? The Son of man will send forth his angels to gather up those who practice lawlessness and will cast them into the furnace of fire – Matthew 13:41-42. Paul stated that he was not without law but was under the "law of Christ" – 1 Corinthians 9:21.
  • Personal righteousness is unnecessary to be saved? The unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
  • No works or good deeds are involved in salvation? We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling – Philippians 2:12. Notice also that both the sheep and goats of the Matthew 25:31-45 judgment scene are assigned to their eternal dwellings on the basis of deeds. Some - as a result of their deeds - gained Heaven, while others - lacking good deeds - are cast into the eternal fires.
  • Water baptism has no connection to salvation? Baptism is for the remission of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit – Acts 2:38. It brings us into Christ, which is where the grace is – Romans – 6:3; Galatians 3:27. From it we are raised to a new life – Romans 6:4. Baptism now saves us – 1 Peter 3:21.
  • No obedience is necessary? Jesus will come one day in flaming fire to deal out retribution on those who do not obey His gospel – 2Thessalonians 1:7-8.

As you can see, none of these "faith-only" assertions – supposedly based in Romans 3:28 – is biblically true. Every one of them is in direct contradiction to clear teachings found in the New Testament.

Are we saved by faith? Of course we are. And we are also saved by a lot of other things. The New Testament makes some very strong statements about faith. But it makes the same kinds of statements concerning other things, such as repentance, obedience, personal righteousness, our testimony of faith in Christ and baptism, among others.

Am I teaching that our salvation is earned? Absolutely not! God has offered me a deal that I did not and could not deserve – and if I am saved, it must therefore be by God's grace. I do not teach or believe that salvation is earned or that it could ever be deserved.

What I am teaching is that the Bible does not teach salvation by faith alone. The doctrine of salvation by faith alone is in direct contradiction to the overall teaching of the New Testament. As a matter of fact, the only time the Bible ever uses these words – "faith alone" – is in James 2:24.

You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. - James 2:24

The doctrine of salvation by faith alone has dominated compromised Christendom for generations but it is not found in the Bible. Not only this, it directly contradicts what is said in the Bible.

A Correct view of Romans 3:28

Romans 3:28 is popularly understood as referring to the principle or idea of law rather than any specific body of law. Godbey's comment above summarizes the mindset; we are justified without: "any works of any law".

There is very good reason, though, to suppose that Paul had one specific kind of Law in mind here; namely the Mosaic Law. Within the book of Romans, Paul actually speaks of "the law" quite extensively. This supplies us with ample opportunity to understand what Paul is speaking of when he speaks of "the law". For example:

  • Romans 2:12-27 mentions "the Law" eighteen times (NAS translation) and there is no question that Paul is talking about the Mosaic Law given to the Jews.
  • Romans 3:10-18 quotes at length from Psalm 14 and 53. Then as we continue into Romans 3:19-21, we read, "Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law" (Romans 3:19)
  • Paul then tells us that "by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20) and "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets".

All of these references are undeniably speaking of Moses' Law. What good reason is there, then, to suppose that Paul shifts his focus away from Moses' Law at Romans 3:28? There is none. Paul does not tell us in Romans 3:28 that our justification is by "faith alone". He tells us that it is "apart from works of the [Mosaic] Law". It is actually quite interesting to compare Romans 3:28 to Romans 3:21.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets - Rom 3:21

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law - Rom 3:28

In the 1st of these passages, God's righteousness was manifested "apart from the Law". In the 2nd, man is justified "apart from the Law". One passage speaks of God's righteousness, the other of man's justification. But in each case the goal is achieved "apart from the Law"; that is, apart from Moses' Law.

An Ironic Contradiction

Here is an astounding fact: the same teachers that champion "salvation by faith alone" have traditionally emphasized the "Ten Commandments" as well. I was raised in one of the mainline denominational churches. We were taught to memorize and recite the Ten Commandments at a very young age. We were taught that good children kept these rules and would someday go to heaven. But any time anyone talked to us specifically about "being saved" it was by faith alone.

No one seemed to notice that they were sending us a mixed message. On the one hand we were told that we had to keep these special rules and that if we didn't we would end up going where the bad children went. On the other hand we were told there weren't any rules – aside from belief – connected to salvation. We were quite literally being taught two different ways of salvation.

It would be hard to name two more prominent examples of popular Christian Orthodoxy over the past few centuries than "the Ten Commandments" and "Faith-Only salvation". Questioning the necessity of either among most groups of "believers" will quickly raise eyebrows, if not peoples' ire. No one could have convinced me, as a small child, that you could go to Heaven without obeying the Ten Commandments. But we were also taught – and by the very same teachers – that to be saved "all we had to do" was believe.

How do we account for these contradictory ideas being presented side by side by the very same teachers? And for the fact that those teachers who present these contradictory ideas have no apparent insight into the fact they are sending a mixed message?

The Judaizers' teaching and Romans 3:28

As has been pointed out in previous lessons, one of the Judaizers' main teachings was that the gospel of Christ was not sufficient, by itself, for salvation. They contended that keeping certain parts of Moses' Law was also necessary. It has been said that the devil only has a limited number of cards in his deck but that he plays them very well. He has been playing his "Judaizers' cards" from the very beginning.

The entire Bible is inspired by God and – as a matter of fact – the Law of Moses is a tutor, or schoolmaster, that brings us to Christ – Galatians 3:24-25. Since the entire Bible is inspired by God it is very difficult for believing people to grasp the idea that Christians are no longer bound to live by the rules and regulations of the Old Testament, yet Galatians 3:25 teaches this exact thing. To suppose that there is not a single rule in the Old Testament that Christians must follow simply feels wrong. Surely something from the Old Testament needs to be carried over into the new and Christendom has nominated the Ten Commandments as the thing to be kept.

Unwilling to see Paul's actual meaning – that none of the Old Testament Law – has anything to do with our salvation there was only one thing left. Paul must have been speaking of the principle of law. That was the thing that has no connection to salvation. He must have been teaching that our salvation has nothing to do with our own good works or our personal righteousness. Paul must have meant that our salvation is by faith alone without any kind of obedience to any kind of Law.

Of course while teaching this exact thing, they do continue also to teach that the good little children live by the Ten Commandments and go to Heaven, while the bad little children don't. Or at least they were still teaching it when I was in Sunday-School. Why can't they see the conflict and contradiction between these two teachings?

God, who searches the heart and tests the mind (Jeremiah 17:10) is the only one that can understand this completely. For my part, I suspect that the answer is to be found in contemplation of 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, especially the beginning of verse 4.

I am, by God's Grace,
Rich In Christ

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Roots of Compromised Christendom 4

Judaizers! Part Four:

The Judaizers' Teaching and Christian Unity

As He anticipated the cross, our Lord Jesus Christ prayed for the unity of His followers:

20 "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. – John 17:20-21.

Jesus was about to depart this earth, leaving His chosen apostles to spread His word. His prayer was for the unity of those who would come to believe through their word. The reason for this prayer is stated at the end of verse 21. Unity among Christ's followers would provide the world with evidence to know that this "man" – Jesus of Nazareth – truly was sent into the world by Almighty God.

Strange as it might seem, the Judaizers' teaching – introduced twenty centuries ago – adversely impacts Christian unity until this day. We will be developing this idea more fully. But first, we will make some remarks on the subject of Christian unity in general.

Was Christ's prayer for unity answered?

Yes it was!

41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. – Acts 2:41-47

Unfortunately, this kind of unity among Christ's followers did not last for very long. His followers in fact, have been so often – and so widely – divided that some have actually believed that Christ's prayer for unity was not answered at all.

The impact of unity versus disunity

Jesus had prayed for unity among his followers with a purpose: "that world might believe that [God the Father] had sent [Him]".

The unity that existed in the early church had its intended effect. The loving fellowship of those early Christians served as evidence that Christ was of God and that His claims were true. The unity of the early church helped to promote phenomenal growth. Their tremendous rate of growth was sufficient for the permanent establishment of Christianity in the world.

But the unity did not last. We see the first clues of disunity in trouble that arose between Hellenistic Jews and Hebrews in Acts 6:1ff. The introduction of the first Gentiles into the church (Acts 10) also created some temporary conflict, even among the leaders of the early church (Acts 11). But those troubles were resolved. Satan's early efforts to "divide and conquer" Christ's followers failed. But he kept trying.

The Judaizers' teaching introduced lasting troubles with disunity. The ruling of the Acts 15 council should have resolved this but the Judaizers did not accept the authority of the decision that was made. Paul's writings, as well, should have been a sufficient "cure" for this "illness". But the Judaizers did not accept his authority either - and many who had followed the Judaizers' teachings were unconvinced.

Disunity among Christ's followers has the exact opposite effect in the world as unity. Unity among Christ's followers gives evidence that Christ Jesus was of God. Disunity creates the opposite impression; that Christ was not sent from God.

There is a town several miles to the west of us where three different church buildings stand together at the same intersection. Why this division if we are one body? Why all the different teachings if there is just one book, one bible, one message? These are good questions and it is only natural for the people of the world to ask them.

Christian Unity?

I have never counted for myself but have been told that there are over 400 different Christian denominations in today's world. In spite of that, many "believers" seem to think that we are all "one big happy family". But the world isn't buying it. And why should they? Driving through town, they see fast food franchises competing with one another on one corner. On the next, they see competitive church buildings. Seeing this kind of thing, they do not believe that we are united – and neither should we. Today's Christendom needs to stop fooling itself.

"Christian unity" as it exists in the churches today is a unity based on compromise. While acknowledging that there are differences between churches, modern Christendom is convinced that it is united "on the doctrines that really matter". We are careful not to delve too deeply into which doctrines these are, of course. That could lead to trouble. But most believers today are nevertheless convinced that we are united on "the important stuff". But there is a fly in the ointment.

This whole concept of "Christian unity" depends on the assumption that there are many doctrines in scripture that really don't matter very much. The denominations of Christendom are for the most part convinced that their unique teachings are derived from the Bible. But their unity with other churches is based on the idea that only a few of those doctrines are important. Biblical authority has been sacrificed on an altar of pretended unity.

As a result the Christendom of our day conveys impressions that promote disbelief.

  • The division itself is the 1st problem. If there is one message in scripture why are there 400 different churches based on that one message? The answers we are able to give aren't really very satisfactory.
  • Essential to our compromised unity is the attitude that a few doctrines are truly important while many others are not. But if only a few biblical doctrines are truly important to modern Christendom, modern Christendom isn't really taking the Bible seriously. And if "believers" don't take it seriously, why would an unbeliever?

Sources of division.

I have often remarked (tongue in cheek) that there was only one flaw in the design of Christ's church; He decided to let people in. The salvation of man, of course, was the whole point of Christ's shed blood for the church. And there are, in fact, no true flaws in the church – as designed by Jesus Christ. But the saying makes a point. Anywhere there are fallible and sinful men, troubles will arise.

Divisions within Christendom arise from the teachings of uninspired men. The Biblical distinctions between the "very important", "moderately important" and "not so important" (?) teachings of scripture are not exceptionally clear. Therefore, if we want to make those distinctions, the task must be entrusted to uninspired men.

Though all scripture contains important teaching, there are clues in scripture that help us recognize its most important teachings. Jesus often said, "Truly, truly, I say…" or "Let him who has ears, hear". Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15 said "I delivered to you as of first importance…" And the overall tone of Ephesians 4:1-16 seems to indicate a listing of doctrines that are "essential" or "central" in nature.

Such clues as these are subject, though, to the interpretive skills of uninspired men. Not all have the same gifts to engage in this task, nor do they all have the same diligence. We also realize that not all interpreters have the most wholesome of motives.

Problems of interpretation, of course, are not the only source of trouble that arise when fallible men are involved. Some problems arise, for example, from a disdain for authority. If those of the 1st century, for example, had respected the authority of the Jerusalem council and the apostle Paul, they'd have complied with their decisions and accepted their teachings.

While on the topic of authority, we must make note of the fact that some men like having it. The religious hypocrites of Christ's day loved to have the best seats, special titles and the praises of men. Those particular men have now gone to "their reward" (such as it is). But it is not as though "their kind" has died out from the earth.

The Judaizers' Teaching as a Source of Division

One of the main points in the Judaizers' teachings was that the New Testament gospel is not enough.

"unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved – Acts 15:1b

Today, circumcision continues to be widely practiced among professing Christians. Though not usually taught as being essential many believing people seem a bit nervous about not circumcising their newborn males, so they go ahead and do it.

Other holdovers from Mosaic Law are taught as essentials, though; most notably the Ten Commandments. Serious discussions about teaching "the Ten Commandments" will reveal that many believers aren't ready to let it go. Not only this, but teaching that it is not necessary to teach them can bring some pretty rancorous opposition.

Prior to the cross, of course, the Ten Commandments were in effect and Jesus even instructed those of that day (prior to the cross) to keep the commandments – Matthew 19:17-19. But when Jesus died, the Law died with Him, being nailed to the cross – Colossians 2:14.

Yet many still want to keep teaching the Ten Commandments. They know that "the sacrificial system" was nailed to the cross but want to keep "the moral law". Why, when the teachings of Christ actually improved on the old moral law? Christ has identified rage as "murder in your heart" and lusting for a woman as "adultery with her in your heart". There is nothing of value in the "ten commandments" which is not contained also in the New Testament, and quite often the New Testament contains these moral precepts in an improved form.

When a clean break has not been recognized between Old Covenant and New, division will inevitably arise. No-one wants to keep all of the Old Testament Law. As stated above, they usually want to keep some parts of it while discarding other parts. Most agree that the "Moral Law" is to be kept and the "Ceremonial" or "Sacrificial" portions of Law discarded. Others say that in addition to keeping the "Moral Law" that we should keep the "Dietary", "Hygienic" and / or "Health" Laws from the Law.

Some of these distinctions are obvious but others – while being obvious to me – might not be obvious to you. The Bible itself does not make any of these distinctions, so when we make those distinctions it is a do it yourself deal. Which slot does the command "Do not boil a kid in its mother's milk" go into? Are the laws concerning mildew found growing in your home still in effect? Why or why not? Is our church going to keep just the "Moral Laws" or do we want to include the "Health", "Hygienic" and "Dietary" Laws, as well. And can you tell me again which ones are which?

Who decides how these questions are to be answered? Fallible men do; fallible men sitting in the high seats of ecclesiastical hierarchies. Those ecclesiastical hierarchies – whether you are talking about the Vatican or some denominational headquarters – are the power structures that divide Christendom. Why? Because they are sources of authority within Christendom made up of uninspired men. They are made up of men who – even if they always had the most wholesome and spiritually focused of priorities – would still make some mistakes in their understanding of scripture, inevitably disagreeing with each other.

We are not so naïve as to suppose that such hierarchies would not exist if Christendom had made the full break from Mosaic Law, as ought to have been done. As we mentioned above, arrogant, ambitious, hypocritical and pretentious religious leaders of the sort who opposed Christ are still present in the world.

But the point is that even if such men did not exist, failure to break cleanly from the Mosaic Law would almost necessitate the formation of some kind of uninspired ecclesiastical hierarchy. After all, I have a skin blemish and according to the Law, might need to be quarantined from the rest of the camp. If there is no governing body over the church, who is to determine whether this part law is still in effect?

By His Grace, I am,
Rich in Christ

Monday, August 9, 2010

Roots of Compromised Christendom 3

Judaizers! Part Three:

Clarification: The nature of our complaint

Perhaps it is time to clarify the nature of the complaint that has been raised in regards to Judaizers in the past two blog entries. Judaizers is a name given to the Jewish teachers who followed Paul's ministry, teaching in the new churches that Christians needed to keep the Mosaic Law in addition to the receiving the gospel.

Judaizers promoted the following ideas in Paul's day and do the same in ours:

  • That the Jews – as a nation – were and always would be God's special people and that they are at the center of all God's plans.
  • Accompanying this in our own day is an attitude that Jews must be highly respected if not revered. Non-Jews included in God's plans are often considered mere tag-alongs.
  • That God has unfinished business with the Jews. The fundamental problem is supposed to be that God promised some things to Israel that have not yet been delivered.
  • Judaizing teachers did not accept that the Old Testament Law was annulled- nailed to the cross. Modern day Judaizers teach that some of the Law has been annulled but that other parts of the old Law must be kept.
  • They did not accept that gospel was a complete replacement of the Law. Instead they saw (and see) it as an upgrade, remodeling, patched-job, or facelift for the Law.
  • In some cases Judaizing teachers will even teach that we are still awaiting the new covenant; that its promise has not yet been fulfilled.

God's Special people:

Please read and compare the following passages of scripture (all quotes from the NASB):

From Exodus 19:5-6 –
5'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."

From 1 Peter 2:5, 9 -
5you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
9But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

From Revelation 1:6" -
and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father--to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

The first of these passages is obviously God's promise given to the Hebrews by Moses. They were to be God's own possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. The quotes from 1 Peter and Revelation, though, make this statement concerning Christians.

It is obvious that the status that was once enjoyed by the Hebrew people exclusively has now been given to Christians, regardless of their racial or ethnic origins. The same lesson might be derived from other passages of scripture, some of which we have looked at in previous blog entries. Some that you should be (or should become) familiar with are Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 3:29 & Philippians 3:3.

As Peter said…

…you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD… - 1 Peter 1:10.

How could this be? God had made a promise to the Jews that they would be His special people! True but the promise was conditional. The idea that God "has strings attached" to any of His promises is not a popular one in the religious atmosphere of modern Christendom but this is biblically true.

Notice from the beginning of Exodus 19:5:

…if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant…

The promise was theirs if they kept God's covenant. They did not. This is not intended as a slur but simply as a statement of biblical and historical fact.

Unfinished Business?

Genesis records that God made promises to Abraham. The first of these is recorded at Genesis 12:2-3:

2And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."

This promise to Abraham was extended and renewed in Genesis 15:5 and 17:4-8. To break down these promises and examine them point by point is unnecessary. It is enough to state that Bible history shows that all that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was fulfilled. The scriptures state this plainly:

"Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the LORD your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed - Joshua 23:14.

"Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant. - 1Ki 8:56

Many have asserted that God has not yet fulfilled all of the promises given to Abraham. But those who teach these things are apparently mistaken, as the Bible itself says otherwise. There were – in Paul's day – some who wanted to be teachers of the Law that really did not know much about the Law – see 1 Timothy 1:7. Such men are still with us today. And their message is quite widespread.

As previously stated above, God's promises to the nation of Israel were conditional. God stated clearly that - if the Hebrew people kept His covenant – that they would be blessed and that He would do wonderful things for them. See Leviticus chapter 26 and Deuteronomy 28. He also stated very clearly that if they did not keep His covenant that He would curse them and do things to them instead. This is also stated in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. If you haven't done so yet stop now, get your Bibles and read these two chapters. They are fundamental to understanding God's dealings with the Jews.

The Law – all of it – nailed to the Cross:

Paul, writing to the Romans, had this to say concerning the old Mosaic Law:

20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, witnessed by the Law and the prophets – Romans 3:20-21.

Then, seven verses later, Paul says:

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law - Rom 3:28

Context most definitely identifies that Paul is speaking here of the Mosaic Law. Faith in the gospel saves apart from the works of Mosaic Law. The Law served as a foundation for the gospel and is "a tutor to bring men to Christ". But there is no portion of Moses' Law that we must obey for salvation.

As a matter of fact, relying on Moses' Law for salvation will destroy our hopes of salvation. Near the outset of Galatians Paul makes the following remarks:

6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! - Galatians 1:6-8

In Galatians 1:9 Paul repeats what he has said in Galatians 1:8, verbatim! So what was this "different" and "distorted" gospel against which Paul warned so strongly? Galatians identifies it clearly. It was the Judaizers' teaching; namely that teachings of the Mosaic Law were still binding on Christians.

Read for example, Paul's rebuke against Cephas (Peter) in Galatians 2:11-16. Peter had caved into pressure from "the party of the circumcision" (Judaizers) to shun the Gentiles. This was hypocrisy because Peter knew better (See Acts 10 & 11). All of Galatians chapters 3 and 4 argue that the Law has been replaced by the gospel. And in Chapter 5 Paul warns the Galatians, as follows:

2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace – Galatians 5:2-4.

The Judaizers of that day were teaching that – in addition to accepting the gospel – you had to be circumcised and keep the Laws of Moses. Today they teach that we must worship on the 7th day of the week – the Jewish Sabbath. Accepting circumcision as a requirement of salvation was the equivalent of being "severed from Christ" and "falling from grace" in that day. What does this say of today's common teaching that we must observe Sabbath worship or memorize the Ten Commandments?

A completely new covenant:

Jesus, in giving us the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, said:

…"This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." - 1Co 11:25

Paul, writing to the Corinthians said that they had been made:

…servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. – 2Corinthians 3:6

Paul continues to compare the Jews' old covenant with what we have received in the new:

  • In Verse 7, Paul refers to the old covenant as "the ministry of death, engraved on stones" (engraved on
    stones obviously refers to the old law. See also 2Corinthias 3:2-3).
  • In Verse 9, Paul speaks of "the ministry of condemnation" (the old law) having had glory (in the past) but then says in…
  • Verse 10 …that in this case what once had glory now has none because of the glory that surpasses it. (We have the new covenant, far superior to the old).

The inspired Hebrew writer – in Hebrews 8:6 speaks of Christ being mediator of a better covenant and then quotes – in verses 8 and following – from Jeremiah 31:31-34, showing that the prophecy of a new covenant was fulfilled in Christ.


He then concludes with this statement in Hebrews 8:13:

When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

If the old covenant was becoming obsolete, growing old and ready to disappear in that day, 20 centuries ago, what does that say about the status of the old covenant / Mosaic Law today?

I guess it depends on who you ask. Some of our modern day Judaizing teachers say that some aspects of that old, obsolete Law are still in effect. Tune in next time…

I am, by God's grace,
Rich in Christ

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Roots of Compromised Christendom 2

Judaizers! Part Two:

What was Paul's problem with the Judaizers? Was he anti-Semitic?

The suggestion that Paul was anti-Semitic is – of course – ridiculous. Paul himself was a Jew. And his love for his countrymen is well known through his writings.

1 I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh - Rom 9:1-3 (NASB)

Paul loved his Jewish brethren so much that he'd have been willing – if it had been effectual – to forfeit his own salvation for theirs. Immediately following this solemn statement he speaks of his nation's past glories, naming no less than seven ways in which they had been historically blessed and glorified.

4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. - Rom 9:4-5 (NASB)

The tragedy was that though the Jews had brought Christ into the world many of the Jews had rejected Him. Salvation was from the Jews. They brought us the Lord Jesus. They brought us salvation. But this salvation was for the Jews, also. Paul's heart was broken because – while many had received Him – many others refused.

His love for the Jews questioned

There is no question that Paul loved his countrymen. Of course, many of Paul's countrymen were convinced otherwise, considering him a traitor to his nation and seeking his death – Acts 22:22; 2 Corinthians 11:24ff.

Seeing that Paul was thought to be a traitor against the nation that he loved, it should not be surprising that some of us – who question that the Jews remain the apple of God's eye – would be thought anti-Semitic. The fact some might believe this, does not make it true, though. Paul's problem with the Judaizers had nothing to do with whether or not he loved the Jewish people; nor does ours.

Paul loved his countrymen but despised the Judaizers' teaching:

Please consider the following remark, reflecting as you do so, that this is taken from the book of Philippians

3 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,. - Philippians 3:2-3 (NASB)

Philippians is – for good reason – known as "the epistle of joy". But when Paul takes a moment to warn against "the false circumcision", no joy at all is evident. Instead there is a seething undercurrent of outrage concerning their evil works.

The True Circumcision / True Jews

It is worth noting that Paul's writing – just quoted - identifies "the true circumcision" quite plainly. The true circumcision is made up of those who:

…worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh – Philippians 3:3 (NASB)

This leaves no doubt at all, as to who "the false circumcision" were. The Jews of that day often referred to themselves as "the circumcision" (see, for example, Romans 15:8 and Gal 2:12). But once they rejected Christ, they were not "the circumcision" (truly Jews) anymore. Not according to scripture. Christians were. And from the coming of Christ's gospel until this day Christians are still the true circumcision and true Jews.

It seems, then, that those who suppose the Jews remain the apple of God's eye are correct. But they'd do well to understand the difference between the "true circumcision" (those who truly are Jews) and "the false circumcision" (those who are Jews in the flesh only).

The Problem:

Paul's opposition to the Judaizers' teaching was based in the fact he was a faithful and inspired apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ. As such he fully understood these words, recorded for us in the gospels and spoken by none other than our Lord Jesus Christ.

36 And He was also telling them a parable: "No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. 38 "But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 "And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good enough.'" - Luke 5:36-39 (NASB)

This parable was spoken to illustrate the folly of trying to mix old things with new. The Mosaic Law was the old covenant. Jesus was ushering in the new. The new covenant was not going to be a patch-up job to the old garment of Mosaic Law. It was to be a full replacement. Nor did Christ intend that the new gospel wine" be used for filling up the old Jewish wineskins. He supplies the new wine and brand new wineskins, as well.

Christ's new covenant of grace was not to be an upgrade, facelift, or remodeling of the Mosaic Law. It was to be altogether new. The parable also makes a couple of additional points:

  • Attempts to intermingle the old Law and new gospel together would lead to ruination. The old garment would be torn and ruined and the new patch would not match. New wine in old wineskins is spilt and the skins are ruined. Both would be lost.
  • Those who've developed a taste for old wine don't often want new. The old wine was the Mosaic Law and those with a taste for that old wine referred to many of the Jews. Jesus' teaching in this part of the parable anticipated that many of the Jews would prefer to hold to the old Law.

Torn Garments, Burst skins and spilt wine:

These words describe the ruination that comes of intermingling the Law and gospel. Virtually every denomination of Christendom has attempted to do so and – as a result - the Lord's Church is compromised and undermined. The world has rarely seen Christ's church in its full glory as God intended. Christendom's failure to let go of the old Mosaic law it is among the main reasons why. There is more to come.

I am, by God's grace,

Rich In Christ

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Roots of Compromised Christendom 1

Judaizers! Part one:


Acts 15:1-2 – 1Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." 2And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.
- New American Standard Translation (NAS)


It has been well-said that when Christianity comes in contact with a new culture, that there is – in the beginning – a clash and confrontation. This confrontation can be and often is quite violent, resulting in severe persecution. Such has indeed been the case through much of church history. The Jewish culture which first encountered Christ and His gospel was no exception.

Christ's Gospel: To the Jew first and also to the Greek

The Gospel of our Lord was "to the Jew first and also the Greek". Through its first several years, the early church was primarily Jewish. Jews were the first to accept and proclaim Christ's gospel to the world. Salvation was - as Christ Himself said – through the Jews (John 4:22).

We are aware though that the gospel message was not received by all. Those Jews who had despised and persecuted our Lord Jesus launched ruthless persecution against the infant church, as well. Saul of Tarsus (later to become the apostle Paul) made his first contact with the church as an official agent of the Jewish state; as a persecutor and prosecutor of Christians.

The Acts 15 text cited above shows, though, that there was another class of Jews that created trouble for the early church. These were the Judaizers; men who promoted a hybrid form of Christianity – a form that demanded circumcision and the traditions of Moses. They were not convinced that men could be saved by the gospel alone. For them it had to be the gospel plus Moses. They treated Christianity and the gospel as the step-children of Judaism and the Law.

Paul made it a primary part of His mission to show that this was not the case; to show that the gospel stood alone. Throughout his writings, Paul contended that a man…

"is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." – Romans 3:28 (NAS).

The Gospel's break from Judaism

Our Lord Jesus, of course, came to seek and save the lost sheep of Israel. And He did save them. He saved the lost sheep of Israel, as well as the lost sheep of another flock, spoken of in John 10:

"I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. – John 10:16 (NAS)

This other flock of which Christ spoke was made up of lost sheep from among the gentiles. Jesus gave His life at Calvary for the salvation of all men; sheep and goats alike. But the goats – among the Jews first and also the Greeks (gentiles) – refuse to have this salvation. The Lord's sheep hear His voice but the goats of every nation – Jews first and also Greeks - willfully deafen themselves against it.

Christ and the gospel came to Israel first. But it was plain from the first that, while seeking Israel, there was also to be a clash with many of Israel. This clash was first announced by the forerunner, John:

"…do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham… - Mat 3:9 (NAS)

To the Jews of that day, being Jewish was everything. But that was about to change and this change was announced even by Christ's forerunner, John.

Jesus, likewise, quickly served notice that there was to be clash and confrontation. There was to be conflict between His teaching and the religious culture of the day:

"For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."
Mat 5:20 (NASB)

Christ's Sermon-On-The-Mount totally rewrote Jewish notions of both blessedness and righteousness. The beatitudes showed that blessedness had far more to do with spiritual character than with the possession of physical goods. The remainder of our Lord's most famous discourse showed that true righteousness arises from correct attitudes of the heart, rather than outward displays or even "rules-keeping".

The Sabbath and circumcision

The gospel's break from Judaism is possibly best illustrated by two Jewish (and Mosaic) institutions; the Sabbath day and circumcision. These were the most precious of Jewish institutions. Yet Christ's gospel – as presented in the New Testament - disregards them both.

Jesus – though He kept Moses Law concerning the Sabbath – routinely and deliberately flaunted the Jews' interpretations of Sabbath day law. See, for example, Matthew 12:10-14.

Paul later wrote that the keeping of Sabbath and other special days was merely a shadow of the gospel's reality and that it should not be used as criteria for judgment – Colossians 2:16-17.

The controversy addressed in Acts 15, of course, centered on circumcision. The gospel's break from Judaism is demonstrated in the fact that the council of Acts 15 ruled that circumcision of converts from among the gentiles was not necessary.

The apostle Paul consistently taught that physical circumcision had become worthless with the advent of the gospel age. See Romans 2:25-29, 1Corinthians 7:19 and Galatians 5:2-4, 6. Note that Paul is not speaking in this Galatians passage of the principle of law but of the Mosaic Law specifically. His teaching was that the Old Covenant had become obsolete and that men were saved by the gospel alone, owing no allegiance at all to the Law of Moses. This is stated quite plainly in Hebrews 8:13.

Still with us

Whatever came of the New Testament's teaching that the Sabbath, circumcision and the Mosaic Law are now done away? Apparently nothing has come of it. Paul's teaching on this matter has been largely ignored.

The Ten Commandments of the Mosaic Law (now made obsolete by the gospel) are among the earliest of our children's Sunday School lessons. Sabbath keeping (though incorrectly on the 1st – not 7th day of the week) is still taught and practiced. And despite Paul's stand against circumcision a large majority of adult males in Christian nations are circumcised and continue to have their sons circumcised.

Such complaints may seem trivial or nit-picky. Such practices may seem – to us – quite harmless. But they are indications that much of Christendom has still not made a clean break from the old covenant given by Moses. That is not harmless.

I also remind you these "trivial" things are the exact practices that Paul stood against. He was willing to suffer persecution due to his stand against such things – Galatians 5:11-12! Paul could have saved himself a lot of trouble by simply accepting that the circumcision of the gentile converts was OK. But he refused to teach that it was OK. As a matter of fact he taught that it was wrong.

The teaching of the Judaizers – to whom being Jewish was everything – prevails in Christendom to this day. I wish that Christendom's continuing reverence for the Ten Commandments along with its practice of circumcision and "Sabbath-Keeping" (so called) were the worst symptoms of the Judaizers' influence among us. They are not.

There is much more to say on this matter. But that will wait for future blog entries.

I am – by God's Grace:
- Rich In Christ