Monday, September 14, 2015

What Does The Bible Say About Israel's Status With God Today?

Does ethnic Israel have any special status with God today?  No!  Salvation comes through Jesus Christ for everyone… one person at a time no matter what his or her nationality….  We must let the New Testament give us more complete revelation.

Speaking of Jews and Gentiles Paul says….. (Ephesians 2:14-15 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace,)
Notice Jews and Gentiles are now one, the law has been set aside with it’s commands and regulations.  There is now one people of God, not two.

(Gal. 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.)
Again one people of God through faith in Christ

(Romans 2:28-29
A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.)
A Spiritual Jew includes all who have been regenerated [born again] through the circumcision of the heart.  These are the people of God and they include both Jews and Gentiles.

(Romans 9:6-8 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”
In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.)
Can it get any clearer who God’s children are?

(Hebrews 8:8-9 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,

when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.)
God showed no concern for them!!!  That certainly points to the status of unbelieving Jews.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Who is the wretched man of Romans 7?

Is the wretched man passage of Romans 7 describing a believer’s battle with sin or an unbeliever trying, but failing to keep the Law of Moses?  Should believers look to the Law of Moses for sanctification?  I think not and if we follow the immediate context of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he clearly distinguishes between law/sin and Spirit/grace.   

Romans 6:14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
Under grace sin is not a believer’s master.  Therefore, why would believers want to place themselves under the law?

Romans 6:17-18 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.  You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
Unbelievers are slaves to sin.  Believers have been set free from sin and are slaves of righteousness.  The wretched man is a prisoner of sin [Rom. 7:23].  How can a believer be set free from sin and yet remain a prisoner of sin? 

Romans 6:20-22 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.  What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
Believers were slaves to sin but have been set free from sin… IOW, no longer have to sin.  Believers are now slaves of God.  How can a believer be set free from sin and still be a prisoner of sin [Rom. 7:23] at the same time? 

Romans 7:4-6 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.
 For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Unbelievers are in the flesh and in sin that bears fruit for death.  But now believers have died to the law and bear fruit for God.  Believers serve God in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.  Why would a post conversion Paul immediately go from saying this to talking about serving in the old way of the written code and failing?  It makes no sense.     

Note that in the past three passages Paul makes a clear distinction between believers and unbelievers, law and grace, Spirit and flesh, Spirit and written code…  

Romans 7:14-16 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.
The man here is a slave to sin.  He is unable to do follow the law although he admits the law is good.  Does this sound like the believer Paul has described in chapter 6 and chapter 7 verse 6 that has been set free from sin and serves in the new way of the Spirit?  No, this is a pre-conversion Paul that is serving in the old way of the written code and has not yet become a believer.

Romans 7:19-20
For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Does this really sound like a person who has been set free from sin, serves in the new way of the Spirit, and is a slave to righteousness?  No, this person is trying to serve in the old way of the written code… he is not yet resting in the blood of Christ.

Romans 7:24-25 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Hmmm! Are we to believe the man who was rescued from sin in chapter 6 and became a believer is now once again a slave to sin and needs more rescuing!!!  No I think not, I believe the wretched man is an unbeliever attempting to keep the law of Moses and he realizes that it is Jesus Christ who delivers him from the curse of the Law.  He is finally looking to Christ instead of the abrogated law of Moses. 
Romans 8:1-2 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Paul starts all over describing how the law of the Spirit sets an unbeliever free from the law of sin and death.  If this had already happened to the wretched man, why would he need it to happen again?  Does a believer oscillate between being wretched and being free from the law of sin and death?
CONCLUSION:  Why would Paul totally divorce law keeping from the gospel of grace in Romans 6, the first part of Romans 7 and then reverse course in the wretched man passage by presenting law keeping as normal in a believers life?  Was he schizophrenic?  The whole epistle to the Galatians was written to refute keeping the Law Moses for justification or sanctification.  The Jerusalem Council ruled against it [Acts 15].  Look at following passages:
Galatians 3:1-3 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.  I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
Galatians 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Clearly Paul does not recommend, “finishing” through law keeping by means of the flesh.  Therefore why would a believing Paul be finishing by the law in the wretched man passage?  

Note: I fully affirm that believers should seek to live Godly and Biblical ethical lives through the indwelling Spirit [Rom 8:12-14, Rom. 7:6] and the law written on the heart.  I also affirm the reality of indwelling sin in the lives of believers.  However, Romans 7 is not about indwelling sin… It is about the error futility of trying to keep the Law of Moses, which has been abrogated [Heb. 8:13, 2 Cor. 3:7-9].  Note Paul’s point in the following passage where the ministry of death clearly refers to the Ten Commandments:
2 Cor. 3:7-9
Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!

Are we to believe that Paul as a mature believer in Romans 7 is trying to keep the Ten Commandments that he calls a ministry of death? 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Only one spiritual body

Does God have two separate spiritual bodies in the nation of Israel and the Body of Christ? 

1) In Romans 9 Paul makes the point that God’s word did not fail because all that are descended from Israel belong to Israel.  He goes on to say it is NOT the children of the flesh that are the children of God, but it is the children of the promise.  Paul is clearly separating the ethnic nation of Israel into two groups.  The larger group is Israel by birth but they are not saved and do not inherit the spiritual promises made to Abraham.  This group does not belong to Israel according to Paul and are not the children of promise.  Paul even uses the examples of the twin brothers of Jacob and Esau, Abraham’s grandchildren, to make this point of distinction.  The children of the promise that inherit spiritual salvation are spiritual Israel.  Therefore, according to Paul God’s spiritual promises were for them only and his word did not fail.  The distinction between spiritually saved Israel and unsaved Israel is clearly established in this passage. 

2)  It is also clearly established in Rom 2:28-29 where a Jew is described as being regenerated by circumcision of the heart and not just by being physically born a Jew.  Here again Paul makes a distinction between spiritually saved Jews and unsaved Jews.

3)  Does this category of spiritual Israel include Gentiles?  Does it include the church aka the body of Christ made up of Gentile believers?  Paul clearly says Gentiles are included in this category in Ephesians 3:6 where he says Gentiles are members of the same body: 
This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

4)  Galatians 3:28-29 confirms that Gentiles are included in spiritual Israel when Paul says:  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
Everyone that is spiritually saved is described many times in the NT as being in Christ.  Therefore, this verse is referring to both Jews and Gentiles.  Since Gentiles are called Abraham’s offspring and they are not offspring by the flesh, he has to be referring to being spiritual offspring.

5)  In Galatians 6:16 Paul calls this body of believers the Israel of God…..  It has to be a spiritual Israel he is referring to because it cannot possibly be unsaved ethnic Jews.

When we let the divinely inspired writers of the New Testament interpret the Old Testament and it's fulfillment in Jesus Christ, it is clear that there is only one spiritual people of God.  They are in Christ through faith and is doesn't matter if they are Jew or Gentile.  They all have the same destiny and that is a new heaven and a new earth..... quite a magnificent land promise!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Differences in the Old [Mosaic] Covenant and New Covenant

What are the differences between the Mosaic national covenant God made with ethnic Israel and the New Covenant that God made with spiritual Israel, which include Jews and Gentiles?

The following passage shows the Mosaic covenant blessings were based on keeping the covenant conditions of the Law of Moses….. 
(Exodus 19:5-6 ESV) Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

The following similarly worded passage shows that New Covenant blessings are based on God’s sovereign grace and the only covenant condition is faith…..
(1 Peter 2:9 ESV) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

For ethnic Israel it was IF YOU OBEY……  For spiritual Israel it is YOU ARE A CHOSEN RACE…..  Old Covenant blessings were based on obedience to the Law of Moses, while New Covenant blessings are based on God’s grace through faith alone.  Membership into the Mosaic Covenant was through physical birth and Jews remained in the Mosaic Covenant whether or not they became believers.  New Covenant membership is through spiritual birth [regeneration] and all that are included are born again believers.  There was then and is now a small portion or remnant of ethnic Israel who became believers and are part of spiritual Israel. 

Whether one is Jew or Gentile, spiritual salvation does not come through groups.  It comes on an individual basis and is based on individual saving faith.  The only people in Israel today or in the future that will receive any spiritual blessings are those who are spiritually redeemed through personal faith.  Gentiles with saving faith receive the same blessings as Jewish believers.  Paul states this fact clearly in Ephesians 3:6: “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

The Mosaic [Old] Covenant was temporary and has ended.  The New Covenant is everlasting and is the fulfillment of all the promises made to Abraham.  Abraham looked forward to a heavenly City of God and not a strip of land in Canaan as Heb. 11:10 points out: For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.  Although most of the Israelites delivered from Egypt died in unbelief without seeing it, the physical land God promised Abraham was fulfilled when the Israelites under Joshua conquered Canaan.  The spiritual Promised Land, a new heavens and new earth, will be realized by Abraham’s spiritual seed in the eternal state after history has ended.

The redeemed spiritual people of God include both Jew and Gentile believers but not the entire ethnic nation of Israel.       

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Thursday, June 27, 2013

How do we fulfill the righteous requirements of the law?

Rom. 8:3-4 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. How is the righteous requirement of the law fulfilled in believers? I believe it is a mistake to believe this passage is referring to the actual performance of believers in keeping God’s law. Since that takes perfection, it is impossible for believers to be successful law keepers and that is why Paul calls it a ministry of death. Seems to me this passage is referring to the fact that Jesus kept the law and it is fulfilled in those who walk according to the Spirit, which describes believers. A chapter earlier Paul said, Rom. 7:6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. 

Therefore, we are released from the law of sin and death and set free by the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2).  The bottom line of this passage is that God sent his son to do what we cannot do and that is to fulfill the righteous requirement of the law for those who, through faith, serve in the new way of the Spirit. To think that this passage is teaching successful law keeping by believers is to miss the point that Jesus Christ successfully kept the law in order that those who are in him through faith might be covered in his righteousness, not ours.

Believers should rejoice in being free in Jesus Christ and following the lead of the Holy Spirit rather than submitting to the Old Covenant yoke of slavery through law keeping.    

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

We are only a mist

When I was a senior in college I met and became friends with a graduate student who came to Mississippi State to get his masters degree. After I graduated in May of that year, I lost contact with him.

A few years later in May of 1967 I entered Air Force pilot training at Vance AFB in Enid, Oklahoma. In the middle of that summer I received a phone call from someone I didn’t know who was a friend of my friend from my college days. She informed me that he had been killed in a commercial plane crash and that his wife, whom I had never met or even knew about, asked her to call and inform me. He would have been about twenty-seven years old and I later learned that he had gotten his PhD degree in engineering and had a very promising career ahead of him. He had been married for about a year and his wife was five months pregnant when he died. A few weeks after that shocking phone call, we had a fatal T-38 crash at Vance that killed a student and instructor pilot.

All of these people had plans and were looking forward to long lives in which to pursue their goals. While there is nothing wrong with making temporal worldly plans, the reality is there are no guarantees that any worldly plans can be realized due to the uncertainty of life itself. The Bible points this out…………

(James 4:13-14 ESV) Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

However, there is one kind of planning for the future that cannot be shipwrecked by death or worldly events. While we are alive in this world we can make solid irrevocable plans for where we spend eternity. These plans are secure no matter what happens in this world of trouble and the Holy Bible gives us instructions on how to make these plans. The bottom line is ………

(Romans 6:23 ESV) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

These are the only future plans that a person can count on. Have you made your plans for your future in eternity?