the gospel

What Should You Say To Your Teenager?

There are many things that a parent could say to his/her son/daughter from the ages of 13 to 19. These years, called by most the “teen years” because of the obvious appellation of “teen” in the numbers, are for many the most difficult, strange, and scary years for them. That is, the mind of the one who used to play in yard pretending to be an airplane, cowboy, or dinosaur is now interested in earning a living, physical appearance, and his future. The mind and heart has now shifted to greater realities and the days of pretend are changing to the stuff of reality. What do you say to a teenager in these years? What would a conversation look like from a Christian parent to their “teenager”? Here goes:

 

“God has designed that you, my son/daughter, are maturing past the things that used to hold your attention. You are “growing up” and as such you are learning to shoulder responsibility. You are beginning to learn the priceless, and most difficult aspect of adulthood: self-sacrifice. You are beginning to see that you cannot simply do things you want to do without consequence. In short, it is exactly what Jesus Christ said in relation to following Him. In a world that tells you to fulfill your dreams, Christ says to deny yourself. Let me explain.

Jesus taught that entrance into the kingdom of God only comes at the expense of a complete denial of yourself. This isn’t a self-righteous thing that you do in order to get accepted by God. That is not how God operates. It is that you realize that the sin that is in your heart and mind, and you know it well by now, keeps you from God. You have come to see and understand, as Mom and I have instructed you, that sin really does live in you. You are seeing more and more of your impulses, reactions, and desires are, basically, selfish. You most often think of your future, your interests, and your life. You find it difficult to think past your hopes for the future and the present responsibilities seem to be an intrusion into your plans. You understand little of how the inconveniences of doing the dishes and mowing the grass can further your future plans. However, Mom and I are not nearly as interested in your future plans in life as we are concerned about your life in the future. By that I mean we are most concerned that you follow the Lord Jesus Christ right into His kingdom. And that does not require a résumé, or an itinerary, nor does it require a bank account and a three-piece suit. What is required, quite simply and most impossibly, is the rejection of yourself and a complete submission to the will of Jesus Christ.

It has been said that you cannot serve two masters. You have heard this many times. However, have you ever considered this in light of your life? Ask yourself, “Who am I serving?” If you don’t know, examine whose will you are following. Self-interest, self-promotion, and self-aggrandizement are, well, all about self. The display of your own glory by means of your looks, skills, interests, right down to the car you drive, is not the will of God. However, the display of the glory of God by means of your looks, skills, interests, right down to the car you drive, is the will of God. You know this, I realize that. You have heard it many times before from Mom and I. However, you are prone to forgetting. And, unfortunately, it only gets worse.

Son, daughter, don’t follow your own will. Submit your will, hopes, plans, dreams, all the stuff the world tells you to achieve, to the will of the God of your Father and Mother. We have been following Jesus Christ now longer than you have lived and we can tell you that He is worthy of all our allegiance. He is worthy of our lives.

You might think, “Then what do I do? Do I not plan for the future? Do I not pursue work, family, and things that my heart wants?” No. That is not the point. I am talking about your will, not your works. Don’t miss it. It is as simple as asking yourself, “What do I want?” You can have all that you plan for, as long as it is the result of  the pursuit of obedience to the will of God and His glory. Or, you can have all that you plan for as the result of  the pursuit of your own desires apart from God’s glory. Subject all that you are thinking about your future to the eternal will of the Father as explained in the Bible. In summary, do all that you do for the display of God’s brilliant glory and everything you do will be established in His pleasure. This is a pursuit that is full of light and is glorious, at the expense of your life. However, to pursue your life at the expense of the will of God is extreme poverty of soul and darkness. James said it like this,

James 4:13–17

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”

14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Son, daughter, Jesus Christ is God, the Son of the Father. He has come in order to take away sins. He has come in order to live and die in the place of those who would ever believe in Him by His doing. He is coming again in holy array and will take His church to Himself. When that day comes, it will not matter if you were a ditch-digger or a neurosurgeon. The only question that matters is: “Did you deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Him?”

Entering the Kingdom: The Nature of the Kingdom

Last post, I introduced this series meant to clear up much confusion concerning the kingdom of God. In case you think this is just some kind of exercise for seminary students or theologians only, consider this:

  1. Your understanding of the kingdom affects every moment of your life.
  2. A proper understanding of the kingdom builds your family the way God designed it to be.
  3. A correct understanding of the kingdom determines whether you will enter it or not.
  4. A correct understanding of the kingdom governs how you evangelize.
  5. A correct understanding of the kingdom establishes how angry you become when someone else challenges your thinking on the matter.
  6. A correct understanding of the kingdom will demonstrate how much you love the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  7. Ultimately, understanding the kingdom explains to you the relationship between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is by far the most important factor in any consideration of the Bible.

I also want to make a few initial comments as well. What I write here is the result of months of exegesis and work. I have been teaching, in one way or another, on this subject in our church (Berean Bible Church of Kalispell, Montana) over the last few months and it has produced in us such a clarity of mind on so many other topics for us, that I would consider myself unfaithful if I did not attempt to make the teaching of the Word of God in this area available to more people. I also understand that what I will write here will also challenge the consideration of some concerning their view of the kingdom. Although I am not attempting to sling mud, I am attempting to correct patently incorrect teachings on this subject, as well as other subjects that accompany these things. It is necessary to expose error. Error is defined by any teaching that is not taught in the Bible. This does not mean, however, that we hate those teaching it. I cannot harbor hatred in my heart on account of false teaching. However, to boldly, solidly, confront the error is the duty of every pastor, and saint (Jude 3; cf Romans 16:17-18; 2 Corinthians 10:5). And especially, on a topic of this magnitude, we cannot afford to be wrong: both for the glory of God, and the good of God’s people.

When we ask, “What is the kingdom of God?” we also are asking questions like, “Where did it come from? Whose is it? Of what does it consist? Is it open to everyone?” These are questions that arise as a result of simply asking, “What is the kingdom of God?” I will tackle this one question, and as a result, deal with the others as well over the next few posts.

What is the Kingdom of God?

 

The kingdom of God is that kingdom which the Father gave to the Son. It is that simple. It involves the lordship of Jesus Christ, the submission of His subjects, the glory of the Father, and the proclamation of the gospel. The kingdom of God is just that-“of God.” This means that,

“[The kingdom of God] may employ an essential relationship. Thus ἡ βασιλεία θεοῦ is the kingdom which has as its distinguishing attribute its relationship to God.” (H.E. Dana, Julius R. Mantey, A Manuel Grammar of the Greek New Testament, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1927, p.74).

That is to say, the kingdom is defined by God. The nature of God defines this kingdom. A kingdom is pretty simple to understand. It is a locale, condition, or act of ruling. The quality, standards, and kind of ruling are all defined by the nature of God. God Himself rules (Psalm 103:19). However, we must define this further as it relates to Jesus Christ. For now, just understand that as we take the truth of the kingdom of God back to its most basic character it is that kingdom, a condition of ruling authority, which is defined by God. All that God is is expressed in that kingdom. And, the character of rulership is also defined by God. Further, those who enter in is defined by God.

That does not answer all the questions, but it gets us headed in the proper direction.

Above, I said that the kingdom of God is that kingdom which the Father gave to the Son. However, that is a step removed from the very foundation of the kingdom. The kingdom of God, ultimately, is the rule of God, the Father. This rulership is defined by God Himself, the three Persons existing in one God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forever. Who God is defines the kingdom. In fact, I believe it to be evident that the kingdom of God itself was the condition of the godhead before creation. It was the rulership of the Father over the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

The Headship of the Father Over The Son

 

Paul makes a very interesting statement in 1 Corinthians 11:3. He wrote, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (see also 1 Corinthians 8:3). Apart from the obvious teaching on the man and the woman, notice the end of the verse. “God is the head of Christ.” Paul wrote earlier in chapter 3 verse 23 that Christ belongs to God in the same way, somehow, that believers belong to Christ. John tells us that Christ understood the Father as His Father and God (John 20:17). The relationship we begin seeing is that of headship of the Father over the Son, and assumedly, the Holy Spirit as well. If God is the head of Christ, then God (the Father) has authority over Christ. Otherwise, what Paul wrote concerning the headship of men over women, and a husband over a wife, does not make sense. By the way, the very authority and character of authority of God over Christ is what should define the character of the headship of a man over a woman and a husband over a wife. The relationship of the Father and the Son is that of Head and submitted One. This is a profound truth. We ultimately see this in Paul’s teaching later in the same letter:

1 Corinthians 15:28

28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

In the end, all things will revert back to the beginning, or rather, before the beginning. The kingdom of God will continue to be that kingdom over which the Father rules, and Christ, the Spirit, and the saints willingly, lovingly, submit so that God (the Father) may be all in all.

Although it is hard to understand, we must attempt to comprehend the relationship between the Father and the Son. The Father is the head of the Son, as noted from Paul’s teaching. But, what does that look like? How do we understand this? We are limited in our understanding, but we do see glimpses, and sometimes a brilliance, of this relationship in Christ’s own teaching, and example. Let’s review a couple to start.

Whenever I consider these things, I am always drawn to John 14:31. In this verse, Jesus tells us what His relationship with the Father is like. He said,

John 14:31

31 but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here.

A few things to note here. First, Christ was concerned to some degree that the world might understand the love that Christ has for the Father. We often think about God’s love for the world (John 3:16). However, when have we given much time to the love of the Son to the Father? Here, Jesus said that He loved the Father and that motivated Him to obedience. So that the world might know of His love for His Father was a motivation for the cross. Next, since He loved the Father, He obeyed Him. Not only that, but He obeyed Him exactly. This assumes that the Father gave a command to the Son. What was the command? Well, it certainly included what Jesus endured on the cross. It was the command to die. Further, it was the command to be punished by the Father (Matthew 27:45-46; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:10). The Father commanded the Son to die, as well as to come to earth, be given a body, to minister the way He did, and a million other things that our Lord did when He came to His own (John 1:11; 21:25) and His own people rejected Him.

Jesus tells us that all that He did was as a result of love for the Father. The Father had commanded Him, at some point in the past, and the Son submitted. This was no demeaning submission of a lesser god to a greater god. This was not dictatorship. This was, as we cannot comprehend but is our example, the submission of love. The submission of love. Jesus loved the Father. That did not break the real condition of authority of the Father. Love of Christ for the Father established the authority of the Father. The Father had commanded the Son to come to earth, proclaim the kingdom, be rejected, taste death for many, and be raised from the dead in order to inherit the kingdom, and return it back to the Father. Jesus obeyed because He loves the Father. This is the way it should be between fathers and sons for us as well.

Notice also Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He wrote to them concerning these things. He wrote,

Philippians 2:8

8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus Christ was obedient. To whom? Well, who else is there? He was obedient to the One who commanded Him to die, even on a cross. The Father instructed the Son to do all that He did when He was conceived, born, lived, and died. All of this, really, was simply the obedience of the Son to the Father.

The question at this point is, “Why?” Why even do any of this? Was this whole scheme a reaction from the fall of man? Was it established before creation? Why did this even happen?

We will cover that question next time. It is a stunning display of the kingdom of God.

Challenging Covenantalism: The Covenant of Redemption

What motivated God to initiate His saving work?

That is a fair and appropriate question to ask. The Covenantalist avers that it was an

“…inter-Trinitarian pact made in eternity past, in which the Father designed, the Son agreed to undertake, and the Spirit agreed to apply the results of redemption.”  (http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/qna/worksgraceredmpt.html , accessed 10/2/2012).

According to CT, God the Father and God the Son undertook a “pact”, or covenant, that Christ would satisfy the Father and do so on behalf of the elect. This is the foundation, they say, of all the other covenants. However, unlike the other covenants of CT, this particular covenant does not get as much press.

According to Witsius again, the initial passage that speaks of this Covenant of Redemption (CR) is Luke 22:29, which reads, “…and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you.” (Herman Witsius, The Economy Of The Covenants Between God and Man, vol.1 [London: Thomas Nelson, 1822], p. 166) If I were to presuppose a conclusion, like CT does here, I can easily concede that this would speak of a kingdom which was “covenanted” to Jesus before time. However, right hermeneutics would ask, “What does the context say?” Thus, in the next verse we read, “…that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Just as is taught by our Lord in and Matthew 19:28 and  elsewhere, which we will cover in a future post, this is not a kingdom promise because of a covenant between the Father and the Son in eternity past. This kingdom is reserved for the covenant fulfillment of David’s promise of 2 Samuel 7:13,16 (cf. Psalm 89; see also Daniel 7:22; Revelation 20:4). The teaching of the inherited kingdom of Jesus Christ is a vast, and easily verifiable, teaching of Scripture. Nowhere in that amount of data is an ‘inter-Trinitarian pact’ spoken of or alluded to. It is easily, and consistently, taught by reason of the actual covenants historically promised by God. The entire paradigm of the true, biblical, covenants, then, is undermined by the illusory covenants of CT. This is a very grave error.

A further error that I see repeated by CT is taking actual terms, events, and truths and superimposing the “covenantal” structure over them such that they become actually subject to the philosophy of CT. As R. Scott Clark has written, “Covenant theology structures all of Biblical revelation.” (R. Scott Clark, “Theses on Covenant Theology”, http://clark.wscal.edu/covtheses.php, accessed 10/2/2012). It this true? Does CT actually structure all biblical revelation? No, this is not true, since the Bible does not actually teach CT. However, what is happening is that CT is ‘extrabiblical’ and this  extrabiblical system is being imposed upon inerrant Scripture. The Covenant of Redemption is a very good case in point.

Michael Horton has written, “The covenant of redemption, therefore, is as clearly revealed in Scripture as the Trinity and the eternal decree to elect, redeem, call, justify, sanctify, and glorify a people for the Son” (Michael Horton, God of Promise [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006], 82). Is that true?

Taking apples and pasting them to an orange tree does not make the orange tree an apple tree.

You can’t take the fruit of God’s true work in time, and affix it to a man-made system and redefine what God has actually done! In an effort to support his claim, Dr. Horton refers to those wonderful passages in the gospel of John wherein Jesus teaches that the Father has given some (people) to the Son (see John 6:39, 10:29; 17:2, 4-10 etc.). However, just to get straight to the point, if we will once again notice the context of John 6:37-30, for example, we will see repeatedly that this “giving” is the result of the sovereign will of the Father (e.g. John 6:37, 38, 39, 40). So, in that scenario, how is it that there was an agreement between the Son and the Father, to say nothing of the Father and the elect? Otherwise, the Father’s will would not be free to do all that He would, and thus be sovereign. The Father’s will would be bound to an agreement, or some other motivation, that would actually add to His will. That would not, then, allow for absolute sovereign freedom to do all according to the kind intention of His will (Ephesians 1:5). Herein is the irony:

Covenantalists make ideal Arminians.

Instead of asserting and maintaining the biblical understanding of God’s sovereignty, they insist that God’s free will was actually bound by an agreement made between the Father and the Son prior to creation. Thus, the elect, too, can agree to the terms of this agreement, and/or other agreements, and enter into the redemption that is insisted upon because of this so-called Covenant of Redemption. In other words, man, once again, has a say in his salvation. This impugns the sovereignty of God, which those holding to CT so strongly, arrogantly, insist they believe. Yet, when compared with Scripture, we see the arrogance of man contributing to the pure, undefiled, will of God to sovereignly elect whom He will according to His kind intention.

What does the Bible actually say about all this?

The Father commanded the Son to enter into human history and become a Man; man who was made in His own image and likeness, and die the death that man so-rightly deserved. The Spirit of God empowered Christ by giving Him signs and wonders such that He would fulfill Scripture which said the Messiah would perform such signs verifying Who He was. The Son would be punished by the Father, die, then rise again. He would then ascend to share the throne of His Father until He re-enters earth and assumes a throne promised to the Seed of David, Himself the Seed of Abraham, thus the Seed of the woman. He would rule, fulfilling the promises upon which the true, biblical, covenants were made in history, for a time, as promised to Israel. Then, to restore the sovereign rule of the Father over everything, He, the Son, will return all things to the Father, and subject Himself to Him as well. Did/will all of this happen because of a covenant? No. This is all

“…according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will…to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:11b, 12b

Does His glory involve a pre-temporal pact? No. It is the simple exertion of sovereignty. It is simply the will of the Father commanding the subjected (but not inferior) Son who obeys because He loves His Father, and for no other motivation (John 14:31). Thus, sending the Spirit to, in fact, create new creations from dead and sinful ones. The Son will subject all things to the Father once again, after He has vanquished all His enemies, so that the Father’s supremacy will be restored over all creation and the Father may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28), just like it was before Genesis 1:1. To add to that scenario is to add to actual revelation. It is to add to God’s purposes. It is to add to God and Who He actually is and what He has actually done. CT does this. Covenantal Theology needs to be held accountable for the confusion it has caused.

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.

The Future And The Gospel.

Current Evangelicalism’s understanding of the gospel is shallow at best. Is it any wonder that that is the case when speaking of the gospel, we usually hear something like this, “Trust Jesus as Savior”, or, “Invite Jesus into your heart.” What is interesting about these appeals is that they are not truly biblical concepts. Certainly, we are to trust in the Lord, and certainly we are to call upon the name of the Lord. However, these formulas are not referring to that. They are often, if not always, understood and presented as a kind of mantra that is repeated in hopes that Jesus will respond in like manner and obey. Further, oftentimes we make a certain distinction between the gospel and future things. Again, this is superficial, arbitrary, and unbiblical. To distance the future of the world from the gospel itself is to have a shallow view of the gospel. In this post, I hope to demonstrate that the gospel is brought to fulfillment in the events that will take place yet to come. To separate the two, the gospel and eschatological events, is short-sighted.

To begin, turn to Galatians 3:8. Paul writes a very amazing thing here that serves as our starting point.

      8      The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.”

This Scripture is interesting on many levels. First of all, the Scripture is the preacher. Second, the justification of the Gentiles was a foundational component of the Abrahamic promise/blessing. That is fascinating in light of the fact that oftentimes the Jews of the OT are seen hating the Gentiles. Did they forget/disregard God’s promise to justify them? But, for our purposes here, Paul makes a correlation between the Abrahamic promise and the gospel that I don’t hear in many evangelistic sermons. The proclamation of the gospel to Abraham is summed up by Paul (and Moses, for that matter) as, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” This reference is from Genesis 12:3. It is the foundation of the Hebrew nation in that it is from this promise and subsequent covenant that the nation is formed. The Jews were not delivered from Egypt, and consequently made their own Theocratic nation because they were wonderful people (see Deuteronomy 7:7). He chose them and delivered them because He had made a covenant with Abraham, based upon the promise of Genesis 12:3, and God cannot break His covenant, although Israel did (see Deuteronomy 7:8). This blessing that God promised to all the nations through Abraham is summed up by Paul as justification by faith. What that means is, the calling, sanctification, regeneration, glorification (all OT terms by the way), which is what we all understand as the benefits of the gospel, are bound up in Genesis 12:3.

But what else does it mean, especially in regards to future things? The promise of God is that He will restore Israel as a demonstration of His perfect ability to keep His promise, in spite of Israel’s unfaithfulness and rebellion. That restoration of Israel is promised and prophesied and will come to pass. Isaiah prophesied,

         1      The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
         2      Now it will come about that
      In the last days
      The mountain of the house of the LORD
      Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
      And will be raised above the hills;
      And all the nations will stream to it.
            3      And many peoples will come and say,
      “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
      To the house of the God of Jacob;
      That He may teach us concerning His ways
      And that we may walk in His paths.”
      For the law will go forth from Zion
      And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
            4      And He will judge between the nations,
      And will render decisions for many peoples;
      And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
      Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
      And never again will they learn war.

Is 2:1–4 (cf. Micah 4:1-5).

Joel writes,

         1      “For behold, in those days and at that time,
      When I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
            2      I will gather all the nations
      And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat.
      Then I will enter into judgment with them there
      On behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel,
      Whom they have scattered among the nations;
      And they have divided up My land.
            3      “They have also cast lots for My people,
      Traded a boy for a harlot
      And sold a girl for wine that they may drink.

Joel 3:1–3.

 

The entire chapter of Zechariah 14 is a prophecy concerning the Lord’s judgment on the nations that attack Jerusalem and the restoration of the earth so that Israel will prosper, according to His covenant with them.

All of this (and the entire literature of the prophets lists all these things in detail and with tremendous clarity) is a result of the promise to Abraham, “In you all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” Paul writes in Romans 11:11-12, with exclamation, “

   11      I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. 
   12      Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!

Israel has rejected their Messiah. That has lead to Christ being preached among the Gentiles exclusively (as per the Abrahamic promise). However, there is coming a time when they, Israel, will not reject her King but will bow down Him (Romans 11:25-27)! In that day, according to the prophets, all the world will be affected. The earth will be leveled, Jerusalem will be raised up higher, all the nations will be subjected to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and judge by Him, and worship will once again resume in the Temple (see Zechariah 14). All of this because God promised to bless Israel and the nations through Abraham (since Israel is a nation of the earth which is included in the “all nations” of Genesis 12:3).

If, then, the gospel is Genesis 12:3, as Paul says it is, then I would have to conclude that the gospel of Jesus Christ has eschatological ramifications! We cannot separate the gospel from future events. In doing so will do damage to the gospel, and thus the promise of God.

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