July 2012

The Lordship of Jesus Christ

What does it mean that apostate teachers deny our “only Master and Lord Jesus Christ”? This phrase, which is a participial phrase connected to the previous phrase “while turning grace into licentiousness”, is a dominant consideration in the entire epistle.

  • It was the Lord who destroyed those Israelites who did not believe in Him after delivering them from Egypt-v.5.
  • It was the Lord who has kept demons in bonds under darkness until judgment-v.6
  • It was the Lord who had the power to rebuke Satan while Michael was contending with him-v.9.
  • It was the Lord whom Enoch prophesied concerning His return-v.14.
  • It was the Lord from Whom came the apostles-v.17.
  • It was the Lord for Whom we are waiting-v.21.
  • It is the Lord Who is able to keep us from stumbling-v.24.
  • It is the Lord before Whom we will stand in evaluation-v.24.
  • It is to the Lord Jesus Christ which belong the glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Thus, Jude is an epistle written to affirm the lordship of Jesus Christ against those apostates who refuse to submit to Him. Not only will they not submit to Him as Lord, but they secretly infiltrate the church and teach the disciples also to rebel. Remember, they do this “unnoticed.”

The verse says that apostates “deny” the Lord Jesus Christ (v.4). This word “deny” (arneomai/arneisthai) is used often in the New Testament. It means, “to disown, renounce,” or, “repudiate.” (Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg and Neva F. Miller, vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker’s Greek New Testament Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 74-75.) In fact, it can indicate the action of one who at one time confessed Jesus as Lord, but in time disowned and denied Him as such:

b. ἀρνεῖσθαι implies a previous relationship of obedience and fidelity. It can take place only where there has first been acknowledgment and commitment (Gerhard Schlier, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol.1, Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich, eds. electronic ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-], 470.)

This kind of denial is seen in Peter himself when he denied the Lord three times (Matthew 26:69-75). However, in that case, Peter was restored because of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom he disowned. Apostates, remember, fall away from the faith. They don’t outright reject it, they remove themselves from it. They once confessed it, but they turn around to reject it.

However, there is another kind of denial that it prevalent in Jude that is especially appropriate to our day. There is a kind of denial that is more than a denial of a person, such as Peter with Christ. There is a denial of the truth about that person. Again, TDNT gives us insight into this reality:

This leads us to the third form of denial, namely, the failure to acknowledge Jesus Christ in sound doctrine. Particularly when a statement about Christ has consequences for the practical decisions of life, it must be made correctly and cautiously. Nor is it merely the inner connection between teaching and practice which makes of heresy a denial of Christ (cf. 2 Pt. 2:1 ff.). In itself a false statement concerning Christ is a denial of Christ. For the claim of Christ extends to thinking, and where there is a false statement it implies that this claim is heard but not acknowledged” (ibid, p. 470)

This is a fascinating statement. “The failure to acknowledge Jesus Christ in sound doctrine…particularly when a statement about Christ has consequences for the practical decisions of life.” That is, it is not so much the philosophical and theological that is a true denial. It is the philosophical and theological bent toward a repudiation of sound doctrine which leads to a lifestyle of denial. In other words, a person may at one time say, “Jesus is Lord,” however, in time they live as if He weren’t. They may at one time confess Jesus as Lord with their mouth, but they live as if it didn’t matter. Paul is very clear on this point:

 

Titus 1:16

16 They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.

In fact, an entire range of theology teaches that the lordship of Jesus Christ is inconsequential to salvation. “Jesus may in fact be Lord, we don’t deny that,” they say. It just does not have to be something that is included in the gospel presentation to the prospective convert. So, it seems, we teach people to deny who Christ is from the very beginning of their introduction into Christianity.

When a person “den[ies] our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ,” what exactly are they denying? When an apostate turns from sound doctrine and announces that the mastery of Jesus Christ is unnecessary, what is he saying?

The clearest and most direct teaching on the lordship (i.e. absolute authority as a result of an office held, or position attained, over and above any other authority) comes from the Apostle Peter in Acts 2:22-36. The depth and rich expanse of Peter’s sermon here is not something that can be covered in a blog. It deserves the honor of a book or series in order to be understood. However, the teaching here is particularly important in light of the issue of the lordship of Jesus Christ and so needs to be explained.

Peter is preaching to Jews who, fifty days earlier (Leviticus 23:15; Acts 2:1), had crucified Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22-23). He is preaching in light of the sound of the coming of the Holy Spirit, which sounded like “a violent rushing wind” (Acts 2:2). This is the coming of the Holy Spirit prophesied of in Joel 2:28-32, which itself is a component of the New Covenant (Ezekiel 36:27), the giving of the Holy Spirit as a promise (Acts 2:33; Galatians 3:14). Peter begins his sermon to the crowd which had gathered with reference to Joel 2:28-32. Beginning in verse 22, he expounds upon Joel’s prophecy. The evidence of the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit indicates that the “great and glorious day of the Lord” is coming (v.20). Before that day, which culminates in eternal judgment, everyone who calls upon the name of the lord will be saved (i.e. from that day of judgment which is to come). Paul also taught the same thing in Romans 10:8-13. The key to understanding Peter’s sermon is this very reference.

Acts 2:21 

21 ‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

 

Peter then goes on to introduce Jesus, the Man from Nazareth (v.22). He performed the very signs and wonders about which Joel prophesied (v.19). These signs and wonders authenticated the coming of the Holy Spirit both in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, as well as the ministry of His apostles. Further, Peter reminds the people that they crucified this Man days earlier by the hands of Romans (see Matthew 26:15-31). However, the death blow that they dealt Him could not hold Him. Why? Because the prophet David had prophesied that the Christ will neither be abandoned to Hades, nor will the Father allow His Holy One to undergo decay (Acts 2:25-31; Psalm 16:8-11). God had promised that a seed of David would sit upon David’s throne. Thus, David knew that the Christ could not be held by death but had to come back to life so that He could reign. Jesus did in fact rise and thus He will one day complete this prophecy by sitting upon David’s throne. Then Peter tells us that that same Lord who would reign on David’s throne, would be killed and yet not held by Hades or death, and Who is coming in judgment, and yet upon Whose name we can call for salvation, is the very Lord who was given the right and authority to share the throne of the Father. Psalm 110:1 explodes on the scene to complete the picture.

Acts 2:34–35 (NASB95)

34 “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says:

‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand,

35 Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” ’

David, speaking of the Christ, said that the LORD (i.e. the Father) said to his Lord (i.e. the Son) that He is to sit with Him on His throne, after death, resurrection, and ascension, until He makes His enemies subject to Him (a direct reference to the Abrahamic promise that the Seed of Abraham would “possess the gate of their (literally, “his”) enemies” [Genesis 22:17; cf. Galatians 3:15-16]). Thus, David referring to this One as His “Lord”, is none other than the Man from Nazareth, Jesus. What is the conclusion then?

Acts 2:36 

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”

If God has made Jesus Christ Lord, then why don’t we bow before Him? Why do we think that His lordship is something that we can play around with? God has made Him Lord! What does this mean? It means:

  • He has been given a kingdom-Daniel 7:9-14 (Matthew 19:28).
  • He is the King of Israel-Acts 2:30 (Ps. 132:11; 2 Sam. 7:12f; Ps. 89:3f).
  • He is the Ruler of the earth, thus the Last Adam-1 Corinthians 15:45 (Genesis 1:26).
  • He is the Seed of the woman to crush Satan and his works-Genesis 3:15 (Hebrews 2:14.; 1 John 3:8; Revelation 20:1-10).
  • He is the Seed of Abraham who would defeat His enemies and bless the world-Genesis 22:17-18 (Genesis 12:1-3).
  • He is King of all the earth and thus He is Lord, whose name everyone will confess eventually-Philippians 2:9-11 (cf. Is 45:23; Rom 14:11).
  • He alone will inherit the kingdoms of this world and make them His kingdom-Revelation 11:15.
  • He has commanded that all nations repent from their sins and bow to Him alone-Matthew 4:17 (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 17:30-31).

True faith is characterized by the realization that a person is a rebel against the Lord, he is of his true father the Devil, he has offended this One who will come to reign forever, and unless he is regenerated by the grace afforded him by the Lord, he will perish in his sins. Truly, whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

The church cannot budge on this truth-the lordship of Jesus Christ. She cannot throw away, or negotiate this reality. If she does, upon whom will men call for deliverance from the wrath to come? Will their philosophy save them? Will their theological bent save them? Will a Man who portrayed as the Lamb of God, and yet denied as the Seed of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, as well as God Himself really save them? Will a person deny the right and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not be considered a rebel? Can a person resist authority and be called a friend of that authority?

Let us affirm, along with God Himself, that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Apostates deny this magnificent truth…and they have come into the church unnoticed.

How Do They Do It?

When a person reads the epistle of Jude, or Second Peter, you begin to wonder, “How is it that a person can be so contrary to what the Bible says in their teaching and their lives, and yet “creep in unnoticed”?” How is it that the church does not spot them immediately? Consider the description of apostate teachers:

· They are deceptive-v.3
· They resist greater authorities, including church leadership-vv.4, 8, 11, 16.
· They are fleshly-vv. 4, 8,
· They prey on the saints-vv.12,16.
· They don’t care for doctrine-vv. 4,10, 16.
· They complain and criticize-v.16.
· They are a law unto themselves-v.18.

Peter has even more to say concerning their lifestyle, including fleshly indulgence, adultery, and slavery to corruption. The question then becomes, “How can they be ‘unnoticed’?” Jude, along with Peter, tell us how they do it and this modus operandi is very important for the church to consider if it is going to be successful in contending for the truth.

Jude wrote,

         3      Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.
         4      For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

The brother of the Lord, Jude, had the desire to write to the the churches of the dispersion concerning the glories of their salvation. But, he had learned that apostates had entered the fellowship of the saints and with that reality, he was compelled to write to the church to appeal to them to fight hard against the error that would emanate from these men. How he had heard about them, who they were, how he identified them, and were they known in other churches as leading them astray, is impossible to tell. However, Jude is not writing to name the imposters, but to describe them. This is far better so that they, and their kind, can be identified and removed. Further, it serves us better because we can also identify their kind and take steps to deal with it.

The Lord Jesus Christ taught about this. In the Old Testament, if a false prophet would arise, according to Deuteronomy 13:1-11, and counseled rebellion within the context of signs and wonders (which came true or actually happened, by the way) he would be killed. The death penalty was the result for the man who would come in and define God in a way that was not according to the Law of Moses. The death penalty would have the affect of curbing others from following suit.

Yet, we are not under those regulations. So, what are we to do with those who counsel rebellion? The big picture is found in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. This parable, told by the Lord Himself, teaches us how to handle the “sons of the evil one.”

   24      Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
         25      “But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away.
         26      “But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.
         27      “The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’
         28      “And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’
         29      “But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.
         30      ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”

This is a parable meant to teach of the character and economy of the kingdom of heaven. The difficulty of understanding these things demands that Jesus teach in a parable. This parable covers a lot of ground in teaching us how the kingdom of heaven will exist and does now exist. The entire parable is the comparison. In summary, a man sowed good seed in his field, another man, an enemy, came along undercover (unnoticed), and sowed bad seed in the man’s good field. This is a very evil and malicious thing to do. As the crop bore grain, the workers of the field saw the tares alongside of it and went and told the owner that the field has both weeds and wheat. The loyal workers were willing to enter the field and begin pulling up the tares amidst the wheat. The owner, concerned for his wheat, said, “No. You can’t do that without affecting the wheat also. When harvest comes, we will gather the tares and burn them at that time.”

Later, in private, Jesus explains the parable:

         36      Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”
         37      And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man,
         38      and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one;
         39      and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.
         40      “So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.
         41      “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,
         42      and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
         43      “Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

The Son of Man sows the seed of the sons of the kingdom of heaven in the field of the world. The tares, planted by the devil, are the sons of the evil one. The enemy has placed evil alongside righteousness. Both are allowed to co-exist for a time in the kingdom of heaven. However, at the end of this age, the reapers (the angels of God) will be called to separate the wheat from the tares. The evil ones will the judged by eternal fire, and the righteous children of God will enter into the “kingdom of their Father” and will reign in brilliance forever.

Those evil workers are allowed to exist alongside the righteous. We are not called to kill them or anything of the sort. We are only called to wait until harvest and let the Lord separate them out and fulfill that instruction. In the church, we are to identify them, call attention to their teaching, and warn the saints. Pastors are tasked with the burden of protecting the flock of God from these deceptive workers and their leavenous teaching. The saints are to build themselves up on the their holy faith and not spend their days identifying error. There is much more to learning of Christ than there is to learning of Satan. The influence will be felt in the world, and that can, and does, bleed into the church.

But, the question remains, “How?” The brilliance of Satan becomes clear at this point. Notice Jude 4,

…ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Here is their tactic. They are ungodly persons. They are immoral, irreverent, and opposing to God. Their craft is found in the skills of deception. Jude says that these ungodly persons creep in unnoticed by the church because they change the meaning of grace into its antithesis. That is, apostates are skilled at changing definitions of key truths.

The word that Jude uses for “turn” is the Greek word, μετατιθέντες . This word is a very descriptive and clear word. It means, in the temporal or spatial sense, to place and object from one location to another location. In the ideological sense, it means to change, pervert, or transfer meaning from one thing to another. It is the idea of transformation of ideas or truth into something other than its actual meaning. Putting this into the verse, we see that these teachers come in and change/alter the meaning of ‘grace’ from the accomplished righteousness of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:15-21) given to those who believe in Jesus Christ which leads to righteous living (Titus 2:11-14), to then mean the freedom to indulge in licentiousness and pleasure. You see, if they can convince the church that true Christian living is self-indulgence and pleasure-seeking, then their sensual lives will blend right in with the things they assert. If a person can call grace “freedom,” then their so-called freedoms will define grace and thus they sneak in unnoticed. Brilliant!

Consider this, grace reigns in righteousness and leads to eternal life in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:21). Grace is given by God and is necessary for justification (Ephesians 2:8-10). Grace is from the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 15:11). Grace allows God to forgive trespasses (Ephesians 1:7). Grace defines the very throne of God (Hebrews 4:16). Finally, grace, the provision of the righteousness that satisfies the holiness of God which sinners have offended (Matthew 5:48), instructs us

…to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, –Titus 2:12

Nowhere do we find that grace provides for our indulgences, desires, and dreams. Grace, in fact, does not allow for that. Rather, it comes at the expense of denying ourselves. The Lord Jesus told the crowd of disciples on a number of occasions that if they want to have life, they must deny themselves, take their cross, and follow Him (Matthew 10:37-39; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23; 14:27f.). To follow Jesus Christ is a life of the denial of the flesh, not an exercise of the flesh. The cost is more than most want to consider, but that does not change the demand. Grace is grace precisely because it is the provision of the righteousness that we could never generate, but is required in order to approach God. Thus, true grace leads to the practice of this righteousness…through Christ.

So, the next time someone wants to come to you and redefine grace as freedom from rules, laws, and the burden of righteous living, consider the possibility that they might be attempting to redefine grace to provide for their own licentiousness.

Jude-The Epistle of the Search and Rescue

 

The activity of Satan  in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is significant. The real heart and mind of Satan is revealed in his efforts to destroy Christ, whether by murder, or by deception and trickery, or by temptation. From the beginning of Satan’s fall to now, Satan has feverishly attempted to thwart God’s work, receive His worship, and ravage God’s people. He is busy. He is active. He is real. Yet, he is limited and under God’s omnipotent authority.

What is Satan doing now? Because Satan’s attempt to destroy God’s work by destroying His Son was turned on its head, Satan has now begun to hear the ticking of the clock. The time for his judgment is nearer than ever before. He has known since Genesis 3:15 that he would be ultimately destroyed by another Ruler, One who would deliver the crushing blow to Satan and all his works and inaugurate His kingdom. He now knows that Jesus Christ has been handed the kingdom of God by the Father, and the time is coming for Him to come and claim His realm. Satan will have no room in that kingdom. Satan knows that. Thus, now, he is doing what Satan does best-he destroys by deception. He will continue until the Lord banishes him.

Here is a very small sampling of Satan’s work in the church:

1. He is deceiving the church’s minds by introducing another gospel and thus clouding their sincere devotion to Jesus Christ – "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." -2 Corinthians 11:3
2. He tempts believers to immorality – "Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." 1 Corinthians 7:5.
3. He hinders the spread of the gospel – "For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us." 1 Thessalonians 2:18.
4. However, his greatest activity is the work of infiltration. He is the master of infiltrating error into truth. “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” 1 Corinthians 11:13-14

It is that last point that most concerns Jude. It is the fact that certain false teachers have infiltrated the church and have begun to introduce destructive heresies leading to lasciviousness and licentious living. Whereas the bride of Christ is to be pure and holy, Satan has as his target and goal to make her defiled and profane. And we know that he appears to be successful in our day as we see church after church adopt a profoundly worldly behavior that makes the beautiful bride of Christ violated and impure. We see, often, the influence of Satan by the lives of the leadership of the church. They exude impropriety and filthy living. They glory in their shame, and they call the church to follow their fables. These are men who are denying the lordship of Jesus Christ, who is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15), calling their denial “grace".” They refuse to call Him Master and bow their stubborn knees in order to acknowledge His right to rule over them. They are confined in their condition as rebellious subjects and will be treated as such when the Lord returns. Instead of bearing the image and likeness of a righteous God, who is orderly and beautiful, they bear the image and likeness of a world that is on the broad way to destruction. And what is their motive? What motivates these false leaders, whom God has not sent? Money. They seek the gain that comes from declaring themselves God’s man. And their victims are lulled into their scheme because they are, by-and-large, unsuspecting.


This is the tone of Jude. This little letter is polemical and contentious. It is a call to arms and is meant to stir the church to action and teach her how to maintain her post, until the Lord returns. Instead of being a soft and unsuspecting assembly of the redeemed, the church is to wise as a serpent and militant in her defense of the truth about her Husband. She is to be jealous for His glory and the good of His name. She is to contend for the truth, defend the gospel, and expose those who lead the church away from simple devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Peter wrote to us that in the last days, which began when Christ died and rose again and ascended to the Father, there would be false teachers just as there were false prophets among Israel. Israel was warned that there would be those who would enter into the life of the nation and introduce themselves as God’s spokesman. How would they know? What should they do with men like that? Moses told Israel very clearly how to identify these scam-artists and how to deal with them.

Israel is on the plains of Moab and they are poised to enter the land promised to them by God through the promise and covenant made to Abraham. It is the second generation of Israelites, and in order to keep the Law of their God preeminent, Moses expounds the Law to this new generation (Deuteronomy 1:5). Within that Law, he warns Israel about the false prophets.

        1      “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder,
         2      and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’
         3      you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  Dt 13:1–3.

 

This is a very interesting thing for Moses to say. In short, Moses is teaching that there will be men who will come and perform signs and wonders which may well come true. And, if that prophet, by virtue of his tricks, entices you to adhere to a God other than the One revealed in Moses’ teaching, then that prophet is to be rejected and his words are to be ignored. In our day, we see a supposed miracle or hear stories of great crusades of miracles happening in another country, and we think surely God is in that. And yet, when you listen to the teaching of these men (and women) you quickly realize that their description of God simply does not square with Scripture. Thus, signs and wonders are subject to Scripture.

Even if that prophet is a dear family member, or your beloved spouse, they are to be rejected and identified for all to see. What would be their punishment? Death. Like a cancer that is removed from the body with radical surgery, so this man or woman should also be removed. The issue is separation. Thus, we are not to kill false teachers in the church, otherwise we might pull up the wheat with the tares (Matthew 13:24-20). Better to let the Lord deal with that at the final judgment.


In the church, we also have those who say they are from God and yet their teaching and their lives simply do not conform to sound doctrine and godliness. This is not difficult to comprehend. They preach another Jesus and another gospel. Notice I did not say, “They do not preach Jesus.” I said, “They preach another Jesus.” That is, they preach what they imagine in their minds and call that “Jesus.” They ascribe Christian language to their own thoughts, and we think that they are okay. There would be no deception if a man would deny the deity of Christ. However, to redefine deity is the goal. To flatly deny that Jesus Christ is Lord is clearly heresy. But, to redefine His lordship is the method of Satan. To deny the gospel is easy to spot. However, to use gospel terms and give it a different meaning is the modus operandi of teachers God has not sent. Paul warned Timothy in this way, “

   3      If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness,
         4      he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions,
         5      and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. 1 Timothy 6:3-5

Did you notice that Paul said that a true teacher teaches sound words? And what are those sound words? Sound words are the teachings of Jesus Christ. A pastor is to teach the words of Jesus Christ. It is true that the epistles are built on the foundation of the words of Jesus Christ. The epistles are a collection of expositions of truth from Christ. Thus, we do not make up our own doctrines, and we do not detract from these sound words either. Those who do are conceited and ignorant. Their minds are argumentative, morbid, and full of mischief. They generate envy, fighting, and promote profanity, and evil suspicions. They indulge the flesh and train others to do so as well, making them twice the “son of hell” as they are (Matthew 23:15).

But, we have the Word of God. This is why we must study it. This is why we must know it. This is why we must proclaim it. This is why we must suffer for it. For the glory of Jesus Christ, the safety of the saints, and the promotion of the kingdom of God, we must maintain sound words in the church, and thus rescue the unsuspecting from false teachers.

The Sufficiency and Finality of Jesus Christ.

If I had to identify one of the more deadly, and yet more popular, confusions in the church today, it would have to be the issue of what to do with the Mosaic Law. There are some who express the need to continue using the Law for everyday structure of their lives, or for use in the government, or their church. They would say that the Mosaic Law is a binding document and would generate a righteousness that is sorely needed in those arenas. Then there are others who have turned to Jesus Christ and therefore repudiate not only the Mosaic Law, but even Christ’s Law. In fact, they would rather have no commandment ruling over them whatsoever. They are free in Christ, and they plan to live that way. Those who believe that makes you wonder in which Christ did they believe?

However, both of these perspectives are erroneous and deadly. The one is an affront to Jesus Christ’s sufficiency, and the other to Jesus Christ’s authority. Either one will misrepresent Christ, destroy true holiness and godliness, and grieve the Holy Spirit.

What, then, would be the right way to perceive the use of the Law? What is that relationship between Jesus Christ and the Mosaic Law? Are there any clear-cut Scripture passages that teach us these things? Yes, there are.

Paul has a very clear teaching in the letter he wrote to the Colossians that will serve as a comprehensive passage for us. Paul wrote in chapter 2 verses 16-17,

         16      Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—
         17      things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

This particular verse is comprehensive and powerful in what it states. Let’s remember of whom we are speaking. This is the Apostle Paul. His credentials were impressive, at least before man. He was a circumcised Jew at eight days old, according to Mosaic Law, of the nation of Israel, of the Tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, and a Ph.D.-level Pharisee. He despised the church and persecuted it with vehemence. This was Paul. If anyone understood the Law and its demands, he would have. If anyone would have been deluded by “Pharisaism”, it would have been Paul (and he was). He knew and strictly followed the Mosaic Law. When he became a disciple, he then became a scribe who, like the head of the household, brings out of his treasure things new and old (see Matthew 13:52). Thus, when Paul speaks of the food, drink, festivals, or Sabbath observances, he is very capable of comprehending the import of those things. Yet, he still says, “They are shadows.”

What does “shadow” mean? Simply speaking, it is the image cast by an object. So, if the sun is to my front, behind me is my shadow. But is that the sense in Colossians 2:16-17? Some would argue that this shadow/substance, or type/antitype, are merely terms used to accommodate us literarily. That is, in their minds they do not see that the shadow/substance terminology goes beyond a nice way for the writer to refer to something. They do not see it as actual. But for Paul to call the festivals and new moons shadows is no literary figure.

In order to understand this we need to go to Exodus 25:8-9. This is the origination of the truth about shadow/substance. Understanding this clears the air, I think.

Both Moses and David were given instructions from the Lord concerning the construction of the Tabernacle and Temple respectively (Exodus 25:9; 1 Chronicles 28:19). Moses is given these instructions in our passage and it appears that Moses, when given these instructions, understood that he was not building the real Tabernacle. The verse states,

         8      “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.
         9      “According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.

The key word here is “pattern.” This term is used Deuteronomy 4:16 to refer to an image of anything for the purpose of worship and veneration. It is also used in 2 Kings 16:10 to refer to a model of a idolatrous altar, but not the actual altar. It is used in Ezekiel 8:10 to refer to pictures carved on a wall. Finally, and more significantly, it is used in 1 Chronicles 28:19 in reference to the “pattern” of the Temple that David received from God. It was something of an architectural drawing of the Temple which God gave to David to give to Solomon to build. None of these instances indicate literary convenience. In other words, it is not simply for convenient literary accommodation that the writers refer to a pattern, or image, or plan. These things actually referred to something with mass; something real.

What is my point? My point is this. Moses was given the pattern of the Tabernacle and he understood, because his was only a pattern, that he was not actually building the actual Tabernacle of God. “There must, (I am sure he concluded), be an actual Tabernacle after which design I am building.” Thus, when God said, “I am showing you a pattern”, Moses comprehended that his was only that, a pattern. It was not the true Tabernacle (Hebrews 8:1-2; 9:11,12; 10:1). Therefore, all the regulations of divine worship accompanying the Tabernacle were also not the true regulations. That is, they were simply patterns as well. Therefore, the sacrifices, the cleansing, the offerings, the ritual, are all “shadows” cast by the true “substance” in heaven. This is how to conclude then, also, that the regulations of the Mosaic Law are also “shadows” in that they cannot commend us to God because the true Tabernacle has come (and is coming, to sound Johannine). The strictures of Mosaic economy serve their purpose, the revelation of sin. But, they cannot make us righteous. The Law of Moses can demonstrate to us the need for repentance and salvation, but it cannot give us eternal life. They are only shadows. They do not contradict the true Tabernacle and the true Law, the Law of Christ. However, they are not efficacious, that is they cannot do anything for us in actuality. It may be useful for regulating life in the church, as is demonstrated by Paul’s consistent use of the Mosaic regulations in church life (i.e. 1 Corinthians 5:13; 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18; not to mention the myriad of allusions to the teachings of Mosaic Law as in the use of Numbers 30 in 1 Corinthians 7:36-38 and 1 Timothy 5:11-12). But they cannot actually make us members of Christ.

So, when Paul says that the food, drink, festivals, new moon, and Sabbath day regulations are mere shadows, he means that according to Exodus 25:9, those regulations do not actually reach into heaven, where the true Tabernacle is. But, Christ did. His death, resurrection, His life, His priestly work, His prayers, etc. all are performed efficaciously and He has entered into the true Tabernacle and has sat down, not at the doorway of the Tabernacle, but at the actual right hand of the Father. Further, in fact, God the Father and the Lamb are the Temple (Revelation 21:22)!

So, please, don’t let anyone steal your devotion and love for the Lord Jesus Christ by putting you back in the shadows. Worship in the light, as He is in the light.

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