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