Friday, 23 June 2017

The Son of God in the Hebrew Scriptures

John the Baptist bore record that Jesus was the son of God - so John already had the concept of the son of God.

Where might John have gotten that concept from?

The Old Testament, of course!

"In thy seed [not seeds plural, seed singular - which was Christ] shall all families of the earth be blessed."

"I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said, unto me, Thou art my Son' this day have I begotten thee...

...Kiss the Son, lest He be angry with thee".

"The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit at my right hand, 'til I make thine enemies thy footstool."

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given..."

"The name of the child shall be Immanuel [meaning God with us]."

"One like unto the son of God" - in the book of Daniel. 

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Speak in Tongues

One of the best pieces of advice I feel I can give is spend time speaking with tongues.
"He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself..." (I Cor.14:4).
"...he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries" (verse 2).
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26).
"...if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful" (verse 14).
"...I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also" (verse 15).
"...let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret" (verse 13).
"If any man speak in an unknown tongue...if there be no interpreter...let him speak to himself, and to God" (I Cor.14:27,28).
"I would that ye all spake with tongues..." (verse 5).
"I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all..." (verse 18).
"...tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not" (verse 22).

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Jacob Have I Loved, Esau Have I Hated

I benefited from Shane's thoughts about the firstborn versus the second-born.

I also think he was right to say that Paul's whole discussion in Romans 9-11 was really in answer to a question about Israel.

(Except, I don't think it's exclusively about Israel's future, but about the present scheme of things which was already seeing its outworking among Israelis even in Paul's own day.)

The question Paul was answering was not the questions Calvinists debated against Arminians in the 17th century!

And yet many today take Paul's statements in Romans 9-11 as if Paul was directly addressing the Calvinist/Arminian issues, when he really wasn't.

Correctly identifying the first-century issues which Paul was addressing, goes a long way towards answering the questions we (or Calvin and Arminius' students) ask today. In fact, I think it almost eliminates the questions!

The question Paul was answering (and he virtually says so, in the passage itself), put in my own words, I think was something like:

"If God's long-promised salvation is indeed now being offered to Gentiles, on the basis of faith alone, without them also needing to become Jewish by Observing Moses' Law, then wouldn't that imply that God has been unrighteous or unfaithful towards the nation of Israel, seeing they were the original custodians of the promises, and yet so many of them have not believed?"

And Paul's answer of course was, No...

It had always been God's plan to bless all nations on the basis of faith. God gave that promise to Abraham before Israel was even born, before the Law was ever given...

And it was God's prerogative to later choose the nation of Israel as the custodians of that promise, and to preserve their nation alive despite their unrighteousness, until the time of the promise came - and then to offer salvation to the people He'd always planned (which is, to all nations) and on the basis He'd always planned (which is, on the basis of faith)...

It didn't mean God's promises to Israel had failed, because the prophets already foresaw that only the remnant would believe...

And that Gentiles would then also hear and believe...

As Jesus said, this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached to all nations, and then the end shall come.

And it didn't mean God had utterly closed the door on a Jew, because God was still reaching out to more Jews, through believing-Gentiles.

Nothing unrighteous, unfair or unfaithful about that - it shows the extent of God's wisdom and mercy!

That outcome (the remnant of Jews, plus Gentiles) had been a bit of a mystery in Old Testament times - but it's the precise scenario which fulfils Prophecy, and will continue that way until the end.

Thus Paul was explaining and defending his Gospel - proving how it fulfilled Israel's promises; and defending the Gentiles' freedom against the Judaizers.

He wasn't discussing the questions which Calvin's and Arminius' students debated in the 17th century.

I think. But I don't know anything like I ought to.

Friday, 16 June 2017

The Power of God

One day when I was a teenager, our Pastor suddenly stepped off the stage while he was preaching, and approached the husband of one of the women in our church who was visiting that Sunday morning.
When my Pastor raised his hand to pray for him, I saw the man get thrown backwards by the power of the Spirit through two or three rows of chairs.
Another time, another man - the unsaved husband of another of the women in church - responded to an altar-call for prayer. When our Pastor laid hands on him, he fell to the ground.
The man jumped straight up again - and the look on his face was like "What just happened!" Or maybe even a bit more like he thought the Pastor had knocked him to the ground and he was ready to retaliate! He got soundly converted and is still serving the Lord all these years later.
You know these types of men wouldn't fake something like that.
At another meeting in another place, so many people turned up, because they'd heard about the manifestations of the Spirit that were happening, that there weren't enough seats for everyone - so the leaders asked all the children to go outside.
During the meeting I went outside to check-up on the children. I found most of the children were lying on the ground: it was obvious many of them were having a profound spiritual experience. They were laughing for joy, and many of them seemed to be seeing visions.
Many adults were touched by the Spirit in that meeting - but the children were still lying on the ground, in the Spirit, even after the adults finished their meeting.
We asked one of the girls afterwards (who I'm kind of related to), about her experience. She spoke about seeing an angel, and about heaven, and about seeing and interacting with Jesus - she even said an angel was tickling her and making her laugh! She was nine years old.
When children are together with their friends, they wouldn't ordinarily spend the whole time lying still on the ground like that. So even if there are some people who do "courtesy drops" just because it's difficult to stand up, you know these children weren't pretending.
That's the power of God. We ought to be seeing this sort of "demonstration of the Spirit and of power"!
It's Scriptural. Saul (Paul) had a similar experience where "he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" And he got up a changed man.
He said afterwards "And I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision" - Paul started preaching instantly. There was a result.
When someone falls under the power of the Spirit, we may hear the person weeping, laughing, interceding, petitioning God, speaking with tongues, fellowshipping with the Lord or praising God - but very often the person might also be seeing a vision or hearing from the Lord. Having a heart-change. Then when he stands up, he's a different person.
With Pastoral facilitation, we can then encourage the person to go and be obedient to any instructions the Lord gave him while he was on the floor. This can result in much fruit.
It can happen to adults and children alike. Joel did after all prophesy that "your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions" when God will "pour out" His "spirit upon all flesh".
The "fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ" includes seeing the power of God accompanying the preaching of the Gospel. You can see it!
" shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me".
"...these signs shall follow them that believe..." Jesus said.
"And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen."

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Wonderful Jesus

Two issues Paul dealt with:

1. Did Gentile believers in Jesus need to become Observant of the Law - that is, become Jews - in order to be fully accepted as the people of God?

And Paul's answer was: No - since they were justified, sanctified and perfected forever, by one offering - by grace, through faith - the Gentiles were therefore complete in Jesus and didn't need to become Jews. They were free to live-out their salvation in a new and living way.

2. If salvation is indeed offered on that basis, wouldn't that imply that God had somehow been unrighteous and unfaithful towards Israel, seeing many in Israel were missing out, because they still sought it by the Law?

And Paul's answer again was: No - it confirmed God's faithfulness! God had always planned and promised - before Israel was even born, before the Law was ever given - to offer salvation to all nations, on the basis of grace through faith. So it was God's sovereign prerogative to later choose the nation of Israel to be the custodians of that promise, and then to offer salvation on the basis He'd always planned, when the time came. God was in fact still reaching out to more Jews, through Gentile believers!

Paul wasn't directly dealing with the issue which Calvinists argued against Arminians over, centuries later.

Neither was he setting grace off against the importance of holy living. Of course Gentile believers in Jesus were to live holy, upright lives - they just didn't need to become Jews, that's all!

Paul mightn't even have been forecasting a major change of plans in favour of Israel in future - he was mainly explaining and defending his view that the salvation long-promised to Israel had indeed come, through Jesus Christ, in the scheme that was already working in the first century AD.

Paul's Opinion About...

When we read Paul, it makes a difference if we understand the issue/questions he was really dealing with.
Like, one day a group of relatives were walking along the beach, talking about aliens. One of them heard only the last part of the conversation, and she thought they were talking about illegal immigrants.
"It shouldn't be allowed!" she said.
Everybody laughed - it was funny, because that lady was notorious for often speaking-out about her political views!
Or it's like over-hearing someone talking on the phone. You can hear him answering a question - but you don't know what the question was.
You could think they were talking about how to avoid getting a flat cake in the oven - but what if they were really talking about how to change a flat tyre! Make a difference? Sure!
Same with Paul. Very often we impose onto Paul's writings our own modern issues and questions, and then try to read Paul as if he was answering our questions. Well, what if he was really answering a different question.
Trending issues and questions today include:
Grace teachers versus the importance of morals...
Or, Dispensationalism versus so-called Replacement Theology...
Or, so-called 'Hebrew Roots' versus mainstream Christianity...
And the Calvinists versus Arminians issues still linger too, in some schools...
And many of us quote Paul as if he was dealing directly with the same issue and questions that we are dealing with.
But the issues that surrounded Paul in the first century AD was something a little different. And he doesn't leave us wondering - he tells us himself what the issues/questions were.
Paul was dealing with issues and questions like:
Must Gentile believers in Jesus become Observant of Moses' Law - that is, must they become 'Jews' as well - in order to become fully accepted as the people of God?
And Paul's answer of course was, No - since believers were already justified, sanctified and perfected forever, by grace through faith, through one offering, it wasn't necessary for them to also become Jews. They were complete in Jesus.
That answer of Paul's (that God had procured salvation for Gentiles on the basis of grace through faith without needing to become Jewish) gave rise to a further question:
If that's indeed the way God's promised-salvation is being fulfilled, wouldn't that imply that God was somehow unrighteous or unfaithful towards Israel, seeing it meant many of them were missing out (because they were still seeking salvation through Moses' Law)?
And Paul's answer was, No - it confirms God's faithfulness! because God had always planned and promised, even before the Law was given, before Israel was even born, to offer salvation to all nations through faith; it was His sovereign prerogative to have chosen the nation of Israel as the custodians of that promise, until the time came when salvation would be made available to all, by grace.
Far from being unrighteous of God, that fulfilled His promises, and demonstrates His faithfulness. In fact God was even now still reaching out to more Jews through Gentile believers!
So, Paul was really defending the Gospel against infiltration by the Judaizers - he wasn't dealing with the same issue which Calvinists debated against Arminians centuries later, for example...
Neither was he discussing grace over against the importance of believers living morally upright and ethical lives, like some of us discuss today...
Paul mightn't even have been giving any eschatological forecast about Israel, like end-times preachers do today...
Rather he was explaining the Gospel, against the criticisms of the Judaizers -
and defending the Gospel against the cultural insistence of the Judaizers that Gentile believers in Jesus ought to become 'Jews'.
Of course Gentile believers were to live holy, upright lives, in comparison to their Gentile environments - they just didn't need to become Jews, that's all! They were free to express their sanctification in a new and living way.
Of course God's promise to bring salvation for all Israel hadn't failed - salvation was indeed procured for Israel and announced to them, but only believers experienced it, and then Gentiles were grafted-in to the same experience - which was precisely the scenario that had been foreseen in the Torah and the Prophets, Paul asserted.
Understanding what Paul was really on about, positions us to better answer the issues and questions of our own day. It even eliminates some issues altogether - especially if the issue only arose in the first place because readers missed the issue Paul was really addressing. 

What is Sanctification

Many so-called Hebrew-Roots people today, while they concede that justification is by faith, insist that sanctification involves observing the Law.

But that's not what Paul said. Paul said "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified".

Our perfection - our sanctification - our justification - each hark back to a single event in history: the once-for-all offering of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Christ's offering is the true basis for the Jews' justification - through faith, as it was for the original Hebrew, Abraham.

Christ's offering is also the basis of our perfection. Our perfection looks back to a past event: "...he hath perfected..."

Our perfectness is permanent: "...he hath perfected for ever..."

Our sanctification is a past event: "...them that are sanctified". It looks back to the cross. 

What it means is that in Christ Gentiles could eat at the same table as Jews. It meant that through faith in Jesus Christ, the Gentiles, without needing to become Observant of the Law - that is, without needing to become Jews - but by grace alone - were fully accepted, from God's point of view, as the Covenant people of God - justified, sanctified and perfected, forever.

In Christ, Gentiles had become coheirs with Christ. Equal sons of God; equal children of Abraham. 

In fact, Christ is the only way Jews could truly be justified, sanctified and perfected too.

God made one new man, in Christ - which is His body, the Church - comprising both Jews and Gentiles, without distinction.

Without the Gentiles needing to become Jews - that is, without needing to become Observant of Moses' Law. Not that that needs stating today like it needed stating in Paul's day (because Moses' Law can't be carried out anymore today anyway, like it still could in Paul's day).

Becoming Observant wasn't the way to sanctification then - and it certainly isn't today, when it isn't even possible to Observe the Law anymore anyway!

"Christ [alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, regardless of ethnicity, and without the deeds of the Law] is [already, and forever] made unto us [made to you] wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption".

Sunday, 11 June 2017

What Paul Was On About

It really helps to take note of what the first-century issues and questions were which Paul was addressing in his Epistles.
We've got our own issues today of course, like the question of grace versus moral living. And the old Calvinist/Arminian question still lingers too in some schools.
And many pull statements out of Paul's writings as if Paul was directly addressing those questions.
But what if he wasn't? What if he was really on about something else.
The types of issues Paul was really answering in his Epistles included questions like:
Must Gentile believers in Jesus become Observant of Moses' Law (that is, become Jews) in order to be fully identified as the Covenant people of God? And Paul's answer of course was, No.
But that didn't mean Christians weren't distinguished among other Gentiles by their morally upright lives. Of course Christ led them to live morally! Paul's statements weren't a denial of that, because the issue Paul was addressing was not grace versus moral living, but grace versus becoming Jews.
In a sense the issue Paul was addressing in the first century shouldn't even be an issue any more, since the Levitical system no longer exists, whether someone today wishes to become 'Observant' or not. But the importance of living godly lives is timeless.
Another question Paul was addressing was:
Wouldn't it imply that God's Covenant faithfulness (to Israel) has been compromised, if indeed justification is now by faith rather than by the Law - since so many Jews have not become believers? And Paul's answer again of course was, No.
It was God's prerogative to have chosen Israel as the custodians of His promise, and to have preserved their nation until the time - then to offer salvation on the basis which He'd planned all along, which is by mercy and faith, not ethnicity and the works of the Law. God was still reaching out to Jews through Gentiles anyway, despite their unbelief.
But many today seem to miss the issue Paul's statements were addressing - and it needlessly triggers the question which Calvinists many centuries later argued with Arminians about. When really Paul's statements weren't about that question at all.
Instead of taking Paul's statements as directly stating 17th century and 21st century issues, why not take his statements as answers to 1st century questions. Then we'll be better able to apply Paul to present-day issues!
In fact many times it dissolves the issue itself.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Speaking in Tongues at Will

Can we speak in tongues at will, or only when the Spirit moves us to?

"I will pray with the spirit, I will pray with the understanding also" Paul said.  

'I will' indicates volition. It meant Paul could decide whether he would pray with the spirit (that is, in an [unknown] tongue), or with his understanding.

If a person decided to give thanks in tongues, "he verily giveth thanks well" Paul said, but the others can't say "Amen at thy giving of thanks" because they didn't understand him.

The fact he "verily giveth thanks well" meant the Spirit had indeed given the person the utterance - but still, it wasn't the ideal time for a person to speak in an [unknown] tongue. And Paul expected the speaker of the tongue to take responsibility for that.

That shows me the speaker of tongues can decided when to speak with tongues and when not to.

Paul advised someone who addressed a congregation in tongues, to let someone interpret. 

Or if there was no interpreter, he could "pray that he might interpret". 

Or if not, he'd be better to refrain from addressing the congregation in the [unknown] tongue and instead "speak to himself and to God", in the tongue. 

Notice Paul didn't say the Corinthians' tongues were invalid - in fact he validated it. Only he said that there was no sense in them addressing a congregation in an unknown tongue except it be interpreted. 

The other option was to speak "to himself and to God" in the tongue.

That shows the speaker himself was in control of what he did, where, and when. 

So Paul expected them to act responsibly, maturely, decently, orderly, motivated by love, and by a desire for others to benefit. 

Paul said "I thank my God I speak with tongues more than ye all" - yet "in the church" he'd rather address a congregation in a language they understand. 

So it means someone who's received the gift of tongues can decide to pray in tongues privately.

But of course it's the Spirit who gives him utterance. In the spirit he's speaking mysteries, to God not to men.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Dispensationalism, Covenant Theology & the Apostles' Doctrine

I'm not sure that DISPENSATIONALISM, nor strict COVENANT THEOLOGY, deal with Bible-prophecies about Israel satisfactorily.
Bible-Prophecies sometimes mentioned the theme of Israel's regathering after captivity (the rebuilding of their Temple, Levitical priesthood, sacrifices and feasts), and the theme of the coming of Messiah, and of the age to come - all in the same prophetic passages. Almost like it was all meant to occur together.
Dispensationalists deal with that by insisting that a Jewish/Levitical age is still required in future, in connection with the second coming, in order to fulfil Bible-Prophecy.
A problem with that is it conflicts with New Testament theology, which teaches that the Law has passed away and that the new covenant is everlasting.
It implies - and Dispensationalists actually say this - that the Gospel is something largely unforeseen, rather than the fulfilment of Israel's promised salvation. Something merely inserted in the interim while we wait for God to get back to really fulfilling prophecy for Israel.
When you think about it, it would also imply that Jesus was too early in history to be Messiah - because the Messianic prophecies occurred in the same passages of Scripture as the prophecies about restored Levitical worship in Israel.
That's more like the Orthodox Jewish view of Bible Prophecy than the Apostles' doctrine!
But I'm not satisfied with the way strict Covenant Theology deals with it either. Strict Covenant Theology spiritualises the identities, subjects, objects, locations and themes in Bible Prophecy to the extent that Bible-prophecies about Israel are taken as never having been about physical Israel at all, but instead as entirely about the Church.
That means that adherents of strict Covenant Theology are stumped trying to cite a single Bible-prophecy which definitively meant Messiah had to minister in the physical land of Israel at all, or that the Gospel had to be "to the Jew first and also to the Greek". Because that would mean conceding a physical rather than spiritual (covenantal) meaning for 'Israel' - and that's untenable to them.
But that would mean we couldn't use physical facts - such as Jesus' place of birth and ministry - as proof that He fulfilled the details of Messianic prophecy.
It would mean our Gospel-claim is based on personal, ethereal or spiritual claims, rather than on objective, physical, geographical facts as well.
But that's not the way the Apostles used Old Testament Prophecies (about Israel)!
The Apostles' claim was that there had indeed come the fulfilment of God's promises concerning Israel - literally, on the ground in Israel, among Israelis, for Israelis - as objective historical and physical facts - without needing to alter or spiritualise identities in prophecy in order to make that claim.
God had already regathered Israel from captivity; their Temple was already rebuilt; Levitical sacrifices were already restored - and in that historical setting, Messiah came, to Israel, as required by Prophecy.
They claimed Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecies - they were eyewitnesses.
And they said He's coming again.
That was the Apostles' take on Bible-Prophecy. The Apostles' doctrine. Called the Gospel.
So unlike Covenant Theology, the Apostles took prophecies which said 'Israel' to mean Israel - while prophecies which meant Gentiles said 'Gentiles'.
And unlike Dispensationalism, the Levitical themes were taken as already-fulfilled, not future.
Jesus Messiah was crucified, buried and rose again, as prophesied.
All of this fulfilled God's promises to Israel. Jews were the first to hear this good news.
Then afterwards, the Gentiles received the same good news. Not a different good news inserted merely as an interim - but the same good news.
Believers were made one new man - not two separate plans. But it had to happen in Israel first.
There's no other name to call on for salvation but the Name of Jesus.
Keeping Moses' Law won't be necessary in future, and isn't necessary in the present, even if it was still possible which it isn't.
And Jesus is coming again! His second coming will come.
That I think sounds a bit more like the Apostles' doctrine - their take on Bible-Prophecy - the Gospel.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Divine Law

There was Divine law before Moses' Law; and there is still Divine law after Moses' Law.

Two Ways Demons Can Be Dealt with

LUKE 6:17-19
17And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; 
18And they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed.
19And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.

Casting out demons is valid, and we can do it.

But Kenneth E. Hagin said demons don't always have to be discerned and cast out - sometimes just a touch of the anointing can heal people of demonic vexation or sicknesses.

Brother Hagin told of a lady who came to him to be healed of a stomach ailment; she fell under the power - and not only was her stomach healed, but she never had any more of some trouble she'd been having with demons after that, even though Kenneth E. Hagin only prayed for healing.

Another person came for physical healing - and aside from being healed, from that moment on the man said two other things happened: Jesus became more real to him; and he never touched another drop of alcohol again, despite having been addicted to the drink - even though Kenneth E. Hagin didn't pray about alcoholism.

The power of God doesn't only heal people - it'll drive the devil out!

ACTS 19:12
12 so that even facecloths or work aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, and the diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them. 

Notice the demons didn't need to be discerned, nor directly addressed and cast out - the demons just left.ACTS 10:38
38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

It was done by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

When people touched Jesus, they were healed.

And before they came to be healed by Him, they'd heard about Him. They'd come to hear Him, and to be healed. To hear Him.

In that environment demons can come out, and vexations released, as well as sicknesses healed.

Paul on the Law

The Law was a unit. Indivisible. It's passed away. Even that which was written and engraven on stones has passed away. Paul said so. 

Yet Paul also said we fulfil the Law. And that we're not altogether without law, but under the law to Christ.

If we can't say all that, as he said all that; and if we can't reconcile it, as he could - then we either haven't grasped Paul, or we're not using our terms the same way he did.

And it's probably a good idea to use our terms the same way Paul used them - especially if we intend citing Paul in defence of our argument. 

Friday, 2 June 2017

Exhibit in Evidence for Jesus

4 ...many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
Does this verse really refer to a travel and technology boom, as a sign that the "end" is near?
One day I decided to read the whole Book of Daniel through in a single sitting, to see what meaning would spring naturally to light when I arrived at 12:4. When I did so, a meaning for this verse seemed to fall into my lap!
In the lead-up to the verse, and following the verse, you will notice words and phrases such as “knowledge" and "wisdom” and “they that be wise" and "those with understanding" - and it always refers to people who know God: it refers to the knowledge of God.
Daniel wasn't concerned with Boeing 747s, and mobile Apps. When you read the whole book through, you realise how out-of-left-field it is to impose that meaning onto 12:4. Daniel's concern was with his own people and also the surrounding nations knowing God.
Elsewhere in the Old Testament "sealing up" a prophecy meant its fulfilment was for a time future to the writer; and "...they shall run that read it..." meant people would come to understand it and respond to it and broadcast it. It probably doesn't mean anything different in Daniel.
So here in Daniel, "...many shall run to and fro..." probably means heeding and carrying God's prophesied plan which had previously been a mystery; "...and knowledge shall be increased..." probably means the knowledge of God being increased.
Jeremiah also, in foretelling of a New Covenant which God would make with the house of Israel, said, “They shall all know me, from the least of them even to the greatest, saith the Lord”.
When in history did that happen - when was there a sudden opening-up of Divine revelation, a revealing of the mystery, when did many come to know God, when did many begin publishing His Word?
Through the Gospel! John the Baptist was the forerunner; then our Lord Jesus Christ came; He also sent out His Apostles - and it's continuing through the ministry of the Church today: a great light has shone; there's been an unprecedented effusion of the knowledge of God; and a great increase in the numbers of those who proclaim His Word - it began in Israel first, then among all nations - through the Gospel, and by the Spirit of God.
The historical fact that all this is being achieved through the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, is an exhibit in evidence for Jesus as the Messiah foreseen in the Book of Daniel.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Paul's Issue

A lot of Paul's discussions about the Law dealt with an issue which doesn't really exist for us today.
In Paul's day, if a Gentile believer in Jesus wished to become Observant of Moses' Law, he could literally do so - because the infrastructure required for carrying-out the Law still existed (the altar, the Levitical priesthood, etc).
Since it was possible - and since some were asserting that believers were obliged to become Observant - Paul had to deal with it.
And deal with it he did. Paul insisted that it was not necessary for believers in Jesus to become Observant. In fact he said it would be detrimental if they did.
" are not under the Law..." Paul said.
"...if you are circumcised, Christ shall be made of no effect to you..."
But since no-one can carry-out Moses' Law today - not even if he wants to (because the required infrastructure no longer exists), the question itself (to become Observant or not) is nullified.
So we don't face quite the same issue.
What Paul took issue against was the idea that believers should become literally Observant of Moses' Law (as the composite unit that it was) - Paul's issue was never with ethics and morals. Of course he believed in ethics and morals, because he said:
"...yet not without law, but under the law to Christ..."
That meant that although believers weren't obligated to become Observant, they weren't utterly 'lawless' - believers did fulfil the law - Divine law - believers were made partakers of the Divine nature - they did live-out all of the ethics, morals and spiritual principles and realities which the Law could only illustrate and foreshadow and predict. Believers fulfilled divine ethics - but without being required to literally carry-out Moses' Law (as the composite unit that it was).
We have been "...justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ without the deeds of the Law..." - yet the "grace of Christ teaches" us to "deny ungodliness and worldly lust" and to "live holily and righteously".
And having been 'justified' freely by His grace, believers were not then 'sanctified' by becoming Observant, because the Scripture also says:
"By one offering He has perfected forever those who are 'sanctified' ".
"Christ is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption".
So sanctification also - and not only justification - is by Christ, it wasn't by becoming Observant. Therefore sanctification today certainly doesn't involve adopting 'Messianic' versions of modern Judaism.
"And you are complete [justified, and sanctified] in Him, which is the Head..."
"Christ is all [justification, and sanctification]..."
That's good news - and it's for all nations to hear!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Wherefore Didst Thou Doubt

A Facebook Friend of mine, a commercial airline pilot, posted a short video of the view from the cockpit, a view of the Andes coming in from Chile, I think.

You can hear the engines. The wide views the pilots get. Gives you a sense of awe.

Some instrumentation came into view. You realise the gravity of what it is to be a pilot.

As the camera panned right, his co-pilot's face came into view a little bit. What I noticed was how calm the young pilot looked.

Despite the seriousness of his role, so calm. I've seen more tension on the face of a worker at a simple construction site!

I realised, it's because the pilot knows his stuff. It doesn't matter how serious it is, nor  how crucial it is to be accurate - he knows his stuff, and therefore he's calm.

Jesus was like that. In the face of a storm threatening the disciples' lives, He was calm. How? Because He knew His Father - He knew His stuff.

And amazingly He expected His disciples to be calm - to have faith. It surprised Him when they doubted.

We can so "know our stuff" - that we are calm in the midst of impossibilities. Right up to the last minute. Even beyond ourselves.

We can know that we've heard from God; that we've stepped out on His Word; that what we do we do by God; and know that He's carrying us; He's buoying us up; He'll provide; He'll come through for us. And be calm about it.

We needn't look tense while we're trusting God.

Another reason the pilot looked calm, is because he didn't actually have to do much. It was on auto-pilot. All he had to do was be there, pretty much.

All we have to pretty much do is be there too. Because we're on auto-pilot too, in a sense. It is God Who will come through for us - we can't make happen what we need Him to do and what only He can do. So we can be relaxed and wait for God to do His part, and watch it unfold as He does.

And there's still another reason the young co-pilot looked calm. He had the senior pilot - the captain - my Facebook Friend - by his side.

And we have a helper - the Holy Spirit - with us always. "I will never leave you nor forsake you," Jesus said. If we ever do lose our calm, He's always there to bail us out, no matter what!


1. Hear from God

2. Step out in faith

3. Wait assuredly, restfully, peacefully for Him to do what only He can do

4. And you'll watch it happen!


Jeremiah 31

Is there anything in the text of this chapter which can date its fulfilment as still-future, or past.

Let's see:

1At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.

2Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.

3The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

4Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry.

5Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria: the planters shall plant, and shall eat them as common things.

6For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the LORD our God.

The prophecy spoke of a day in which pilgrimage would be carried out as required, to mount Zion. Pilgrimage to Jerusalem for worship ceased to be required, with the bringing-in of a better covenant.
JOHN 4:21-24
2Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.  
22Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.  
23But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.  
24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Therefore the prophecy was likely fulfilled while the Old Covenant still stood. 

7For thus saith the LORD; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O LORD, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.

8Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither.

9They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.

10Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.

11For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he.

12Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.

13Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.

14And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the LORD.

The Levitical priesthood ended with the bringing-in of the new covenant. Therefore the fulfilment probably occurred at a time when priests still served, and still ate their portion of the animal-sacrifices, according to Moses' Law.

15Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.

The Gospel of Matthew states that this verse was fulfilled at the time of Jesus: 

MATTHEW 2:17-18

17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 

18In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

Therefore the fulfilment of the wider-prophecy can's easily be something still-future, or even something which happened 50 years ago.

16Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.

17And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border.

18I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God.

19Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.

20Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD.

21Set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps: set thine heart toward the highway, even the way which thou wentest: turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities.

22How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.

23Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity; The LORD bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness.

24And there shall dwell in Judah itself, and in all the cities thereof together, husbandmen, and they that go forth with flocks. 

25For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.

26Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me.

27Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast.

The prophecy mentioned a distinction between the houses of Israel and Judah. That distinction ceased to exist after the return from captivity, hundreds of years before Christ.

28And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the LORD.

29In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge.

30But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.

31Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

32Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:

33But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

It is stated in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that these verses were fulfilled by Jesus:
HEBREWS 8:6-13 
6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. 
7For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 
8For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 
9Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 
10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 
11And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 
12For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 
13In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

Therefore since those verses have been fulfilled, the fulfilment of the wider-prophecy is not likely still in the future, or even 69 years ago.

35Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name:

36If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.

37Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.

38Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the city shall be built to the LORD from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner.

39And the measuring line shall yet go forth over against it upon the hill Gareb, and shall compass about to Goath.

The Bible itself provides the history, of the wall and House and city being rebuilt (in Ezra, and Nehemiah). 

40And the whole valley of the dead bodies, and of the ashes, and all the fields unto the brook of Kidron, unto the corner of the horse gate toward the east, shall be holy unto the LORD; it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever.

"...for ever..." (Heb. olam) didn't necessarily mean literally forever and ever in eternity. 

If the fulfilment of the prophecy is still future, it implies the New Testament writers were mistaken in thinking there was a fulfilment of parts of it in the time of Jesus and by the offering of Jesus; and implies they were mistaken in thinking there's to be no return to Levitical worship in future. In which case our faith would be in vain.

If therefore it was fulfilled while the Old Covenant infrastructure still existed, what can we say about modern Israel?

I'm not sure that God ever revoked His promises to Israel:
ROMANS 11:28,29 
28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.  
29For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

Therefore it has always been possible for modern Israelis to experience God's goodwill. So when they experience His goodwill, that wouldn't necessarily be the fulfilment of this particular Old Testament prophecy - it's something that was always possible since God, having already fulfilled His promises to Israel, never subsequently revoked it.