Key precept: Its always been about redeeming the whole world back from the Serpent.
As this study reaches the point at which the nation of Israel comes into existence, don’t abandon the foundational theme, plots and definitions already established. If we maintain the same consistency with the Bible as with any other work of literature, we will avoid the all-too-common practice of lifting passages out of context to make the text say the exact opposite of what the entire message actually is.
Why would anyone do that? To benefit one person or group at the expense of others. This is a common strategy among:
- family, acquaintances and co-workers to damage others’ reputations in order to gather supporters during conflicts of interest,
- politicians to smear their opponents during an election campaign,
- military tacticians using propaganda to minimize opposition,
- historians and educators re-writing history to strengthen grassroots support of a changing paradigm,
- and of course, religious leaders setting themselves up as the source of truth in order to gather a following.
Patching together desired pieces of the biblical message while repudiating the undesired parts, or even denying the validity of the whole book, is how there are so many denominations, just counting within Christianity, as well as Judaism, Islam, and cults following various self-proclaimed prophets and prophetesses.
- Anyone who makes him / herself the authority to redefine the authorship and meaning of parts of this thousands-years-old book is frankly a deceiver because he / she doesn’t have enough data about the circumstances in the time and place of the biblical writing to corroborate their claims. As with other literature, internal evidence provides reliable and valid conclusions.
- “New revelation” by Mohammed or Joseph Smith or any other individual bolstering their legitimacy by using the Bible as their launch pad is invalidated by pre-existing contradictory biblical statements.
If we will treat the Bible as one coherent piece of literature, we will be able to recognize the falsehoods on which the many Bible-based religions have staked their claim. Every true prophet of the God of the Bible stays true to the pre-existing record. Even the Son of God backed up every claim he made with “it is written.”
“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:16-21)
The vast number of spinoffs from the Bible indicates there is some fundamental truth in this book for so many religions to use it to validate themselves, and for science to put so much effort into attempting to discredit and replace it.
That truth is the sinful / self-centered heart of every person which explains the inevitable conflicts between individuals and nations and the need to transform into gentle, generous people through some means to reconcile relationships and to prevent social chaos from spreading into utter destruction of our world. Whether directed by a Creator, Father God, mother goddess, psychotherapists, physical sciences, other-worldly beings, or self, the goal of every transformative process is overcoming self-imposed limitations and destruction caused by one’s own sin / trauma caused by others / need for universal evolution in consciousness, or whatever the same underlying characteristic in every human being is called.
And one of the oldest false Bible-based religions is Judaism. I know. I sound racist and I’m very sorry about that. Please don’t take me out of context. Christianity takes as much of a hit as well.
There is a common misconception among Christians as well as Jews, frankly racist by both parties, that under the Mosaic covenant only Israelites / Jews could be saved from eternal damnation, and that this was accomplished by following the law of Moses, and that under the New Covenant Gentiles get saved by grace alone and laws no longer apply to them.
Dispensationalism is a prime example.
(Don’t try to comprehend everything in these examples, simply take note of the distinctions made in the means of salvation by law and by grace.)
Covenant Theology is another.
However, if we treat the Bible as a whole book, maintaining consistency from the beginning to the end, we understand that the law of Moses, given to Moses by God about 2,500 years after God gave the promise of salvation to all humanity through identification with the Seed of the Woman, is not a unique means of salvation from the curse of sin and death for a select group of people.
Job’s account of his righteous standing before God is acknowledged to be the oldest document in the Bible, predating the establishment of the nation of Israel. In it he clearly articulates faith in God’s promise of redemption and resurrection from the curse of sin. given at the beginning of time to all humanity.
“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:24-16)
The book of Job was undoubtedly one of Paul’s sources for arguing that the Mosaic covenant was never an alternative means of salvation for a select group of people which was replaced when Jesus died on the cross.
Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect [humans, not angels], and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;” (Titus 1:1-2)
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime [in the Old Testament] were written for our learning [in the New Testament], that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope [of eternal life].” (Romans 15:4)
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith…that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets [witnessed, as in a court of law – the law of Moses and the prophets provide the evidence that proves that this is how we achieve righteousness] ; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of The Seed of the Woman / Yahweh’s Anointed Savior / Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God…that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus…Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:” (Romans 3:19-29)
Paul clearly articulates that the law of Moses, which did not institute but rather affirmed the earlier practice of the identifying mark of circumcision, is NOT a means of salvation but a code of righteous conduct for those who are already in a faith-based relationship with the LORD God, saved by believing in the efficacy of the atoning blood sacrifice mandated by God.
“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh [follows a religious code of conduct] is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness…And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised…For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law [of Moses], but through the righteousness of faith…whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were….And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up [our redeemer] Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:1-25)
“We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of The Seed of the Woman / YHVH’s Promised Savior / Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:15-16)
Is it possible to approach this next section of the Bible with an open mind, not prejudiced one way or another from previous assertions you heard but didn’t take the time to prove from the supposed source text? Let’s proceed in an organized way through the biblical account from Abraham, the father of the all who are accounted righteous by faith to one of his “many nations” to discover why the nation of Israel has a unique and enduring standing with the “Maker…the LORD of hosts…Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall [in the future] he be called.” (Isaiah 54:5) In the end, you choose what you want to believe, but at least give yourself options.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son. That whosoever believeth on him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”(John 3:16-17)
If you spent any time in church you must recognize this verse. The classic retort by people determined to keep God out of their lives is to deny that God loves us. The proof? The presence of preventable evil causing pain and suffering in the world.
Let’s make sure we truly understand what the word “love” means. Here it is translated from the Greek agapao and means “to take pleasure in, to wish well, to long for; denotes the love of reason, esteem.” Another, significant, passage that uses this same word, thereby clarifying its meaning, is found in The Sermon on the Mount. This shows both how much humans are to “esteem” each other and how much God “esteems” us.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love [esteem] thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love [esteem, wish well for] your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust…Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
So this answers the question of how a loving God can allow evil in the world. He doesn’t.
We do. Remember, God esteems us so much that he gave dominion over the world to his human sons. What happened after that is up to us.
Compare God’s attitude towards everyone – friends and enemies – to that of Epicurus, a major Greek philosopher of the third century BC. The contrast couldn’t be greater.
Compassionate Love For Others vs Callous and Utter Selfishness
He taught that the point of all one’s actions was to attain pleasure (conceived of as tranquility) for oneself, [emphasis added] and that this could be done by limiting one’s desires and by banishing the fear of the gods and of death. Epicurus’ gospel of freedom from fear proved to be quite popular, and communities of Epicureans flourished for centuries after his death.
Yes, and communities of people continue to exist today, whose point of all one’s actions are to attain pleasure (defined as tranquility AKA zoning out of consciousness) and who have lost fear of death to the point of often welcoming it. Only we call them the streets.
And this is just one example of how humans don’t just allow, but create evil in the world. There are at least two sides to the problem of homelessness – those who irresponsibly bring it on themselves through substance use, unemployment and destruction of essential relationships, and those who don’t care enough about those less fortunate than themselves to do anything about it, at the very least through higher taxes to help those who truly cannot help themselves, like the mentally ill who end up on the streets through lack of adequate government resources.
And we can add to homelessness, poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, and fractured families the problems of terrorism, war, environmental catastrophes. Can humans really address these problems? They do take massive resources, but more than that, they take compassion. This is how we can be “perfect” in love.
“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;” (Matthew 9:35-37)
How few? Christians should be shocked at the statistics. The people with the greatest resources in knowledge, political power, finances and supposedly morality are the “Christian” nations. So why is the world in such bad straits?
And this shows the average income. We know there is great poverty in these countries as well as wealth. So what percentage of the world’s population actually holds therefore dispenses the world’s money?
So the “Christian” nation of America “under God”, which is only 4.5% of the world’s population, controls 25.4% of the world’s wealth?
Let’s drill down even further in the data. What percentage of people control the accounts in the bank from which the world could draw the funds to feed the children?
In 2018 about 1% of the world’s population controlled about 45% of the world’s wealth, while about 64% of the world’s population had to subsist on just 2% of the world’s money.
And it’s not evening out.
You can see why God would have to intervene.
The Nation of Israel
Joseph was chosen to be Jacob’s / Israel’s heir, over his twelve brothers, because he was the “one with”, the image and likeness of, the righteousness and responsibility that his father had matured into in his old age.
It is possible that Joseph’s famous coat of many colors was the means by which Jacob/Israel publicly proclaimed his heir to the Melchizedekian priest-kingship. For certain Joseph did assume the role.
“Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren…and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report. Now Israel loved [identified with] Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his [maturity, wisdom] old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved / felt one with him more than all his brethren [i.e. as Isaac had when he made Esau his heir] they hated / repudiated unity with him, and could not speak peaceably unto him. And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying. And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem. And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. [Because he cherished them and feared they would perish in the vendetta created at Shechem]. And he said to him, Here am I. And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again…And Joseph went after his brethren, and…when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. God did send me before you to preserve…you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance…And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept [exactly as “Jesus wept” because they don’t understand him even now after all he’s proven to them of his CHARACTER AND POWER WITHIN HIMSELF THROUGH HIS IDENTITY WITH HIS FATHER WHO SENT HIM TO RESCUE THEM FROM THEIR SIN] when they spake unto him. And Joseph said unto them, Fear not…ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 37:2-18; 45:7; 50:16-20)
“And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him…I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham…But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham…I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth…Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying…Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. (John 8:29-53) Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation [brotherhood]. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us [the brotherhood of priestly rulers], that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation / brotherhood of rulers perish not / be disbanded and replaced. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 11:47-52; 3:16-17)
Still want to blame God for human pain and suffering?
A thoroughly secular article entitled Why Do We Harm Each Other in Psychology Today offers some secular insights into the problem.
Not long ago, while doing research for my second novel, I interviewed a man who’d grown up in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war…As my interviewee remembered, “The dear friend you played with as a boy might now knock on your door and shoot your mother in the face.”
…How could former friends and neighbors suddenly commit egregious acts of violence? Reading the oral histories of war victims suggests a pattern: under certain conditions, especially during times of state upheaval or governmental collapse, ordinary people can be persuaded to commit atrocities or to enable others to commit them…during times of stress…Self-preservation becomes our focus and our instincts drive us to align with the powerful, the winning side.
For example, it is well known that the economic crisis in Germany due to the loss of World War I led directly to the rise of the Nazi Party whose platform was to rekindle World War.
Neither hatred nor anger completely explains how intelligent, rational people do the unthinkable. In their testimony, Eichmann and other Nazi officials responsible for the death of millions prided themselves on…their lack of hatred…In the minds of these courteous and civilized killers, they were only doing their jobs…
How do cruelty and meanness become normalized? …”humans can shift our minds into making sense of and accepting things that, before we became insiders of utterly distorted systems, we would have found impossible to imagine ourselves approving of, let alone doing.”
…Warnings are issued…suspicion takes root, and rumors abound. Fear infects people’s thought processes. As the fear increases, [the enemy] go from being shunned, to being taunted, to being hunted and killed. Some of the greatest sci-fi movies of the fifties, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and the adaptation of George Orwell’s books, 1984 and Animal Farm (the 1954 American animation was funded by the CIA), aptly symbolize our fear of “aliens,” the national paranoia of communism at that time, and the surreality of living under absolute power. Orwell’s books, in particular, depict how the accretion of propaganda can numb our brains and change our hearts and minds…
In the preliminary stages of propaganda, people’s perceptions of the Other change…feelings about a person change…The vilification of another leads to his objectification. We know from history that if we dehumanize a person, it’s easier to take violent action against her…
…psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas lists the mental mechanisms we use to dispassionately de-personalize the Other. The list includes distortion or slander of the other’s point of view; denigration or belittling of the other; caricature, or the cartooning of the other individual; character assassination; change of name as in labeling, and name-calling…
What we do know is that when propaganda and the distortion of truth rule, we have stopped paying attention to reality and have ceded moral reflection and self-awareness to an authority outside the Self.
The bottom line is that there is Truth, AKA Right vs Wrong, AKA Righteousness, and deviating from the right way guarantees a crash and burn.
With this in mind we should be able to notice how the one who becomes the God of the nation of Israel identifies himself as the one is already the God of the existing nation of Hebrews. This has far more significance than just historical as we shall discover.
“…when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.” (Ex 2:11)
“God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you…And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. ” (Ex 3:15-9:1)
“And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel…Now therefore, IF ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, THEN ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19:3-6)
As a kingdom of priests within the larger Hebrew nation, the sub-nation of Israel was given a complex system of rules and daily sacrifices defined by the Mosaic law. These behaviors sanctified, set apart the people of Israel “that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.” (Ex 28:41) They did not alter God’s way of salvation from sin which defines the subjects in the Hebrew nation. That had been established with the first Adam at the beginning of time and carried forward after the flood by the Hebrew nation – faith in the promised Seed, the Redeemer / the Chosen One / Christ. Paul did not create a new religion when he wrote the letter to the Romans. He simply analyzed the existing way of salvation and shared his “aha!” moment.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Yahweh’s Savior the Promised Seed unto all and upon all them that believe…[which is] Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.” (Ro 3:20-30)
The Pharisees, steeped in prophetic scriptures, would have been able to understand the spiritual aspects of John’s message, and in fact we know that there were ” certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed.” (Act 15:5)
- take you from among the heathen, and
- gather you out of all countries, and will
- bring you into your own land. Then will I
- sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I
- cleanse you.
- give you a new heart, and
- a new spirit will I put within you: and
- take away the stony heart and
- give you an heart of flesh. And
- put my spirit within you, and
- cause you to walk in my statutes, and
ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God [Ruler / King].” (Eze 36:24-28)
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever...Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For…He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter…” (Isa 9:6-7, 53:1-7)
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing/overwhelming with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth/overwhelms with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” (Joh 1:29-34)
“And when the day of Pentecost [harvest celebration like Boaz had after winnowing his grain] was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled/to the greatest extent, accomplished with the Holy Ghost And began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven…Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God…they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (Act 2:1-11, 37-41)
“John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received…” (Joh 1:15-16)
This Christ- / Seed of the Serpent- ian nation is not a brand new government replacing the nation of Israel after the Jews rejected their Messiah.
“Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: if those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.” (Jer 31:35-37)
“I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” (Ro 11:1-5)
There was a nation that was replaced, but it was one of Antichrist’s Anti-governments, wolves in sheep’s clothing.
“And when he [Jesus] was come into the temple, the chief priests [who we’ve learned from the previous post were not the legitimate Levitical priests] and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?…And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. [Outrageous public defiance!] Jesus saith unto them…the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him…There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard…and let it out to husbandmen / authorities, and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen / authorities took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another…last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them…Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a[nother] nation / brotherhood of authorities bringing forth the fruits thereof…And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.” (Mat 21:23-46)
“Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation / brotherhood of authorities. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people / subjects of the authorities, and that the whole nation [of Israel] perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied [howbeit unwittingly, remember God can take over voice controls] that Jesus should die for that nation [of Israel]; And not for that nation [of Israel] only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. (John 11:47-52)
This is what was understood as the Gentiles read the gospels of John – “He came unto his own [the ruling tribe / clan of Judah], and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God” (Joh 1:11-12).
This is what was understood as the Gentile new converts read the letters of Paul – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ…unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will…For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; (Eph 1:3-5, 2:18-19)
Paul did not construct a new religion of Christianity on the rubble of Judaism. At that time and in that culture everyone knew exactly what he was talking about. This is why followers of Jesus Christ threatened the stability of Rome in the same way Moslems threaten the stability of America.
Devout Moslems’ first loyalty is to Muhammed, his writings, and their clan, not to the President and the American constitution. First century believers’ first loyalty was to the Promised Seed of the Woman, the Messiah, Christ, the ancient scion of the king of heaven and the whole earth, not Caesar, the ruler of the Roman Empire. And by the way, “Caesar” is a family name that each successor, then each claimant, took as the adopted son of the previous ruler as part of establishing their legitimacy to the throne.
What John and Paul proclaimed was that anyone from any nation on earth – Egypt, Greece, Persia, India, etc. – was eligible to be adopted into God’s nation along with the “saints” from ages past – Adam, Noah, King David, Daniel, etc. Just like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego demonstrated their higher allegiance to God by refusing to worship the Babylonian gods represented by their son Nebuchadnezzar, so believers in Jesus Christ as God’s son refused to worship the Roman gods represented by Caesar.
Abraham is the father of the original assembly of believers before there was a nation of Israel, and he continues to be the father of the same assembly of believers after the establishment of the nation of Israel. We can’t be ethnocentric. The story that ends in Revelation began in Genesis, not in Exodus or Acts!
“…behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:5-10)
Consider the “mixed multitude” of ethnic groups in the Empire of Egypt who obeyed God’s call through Melchizedek Moses. They were saved by faith, just like the Israelites, even though they did not know how to worship like the Israelites.
“For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine [Pharoah’s] heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go? Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now. Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die. He that feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses: And he that regarded not the word of the LORD left his servants and his cattle in the field…So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast.” (Ex 9:15-25) “And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. And a mixed multitude went up also with them…And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts [plural] of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt…And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: [obviously non-Israelites are present]. But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof…And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.” (Ex 12:37-38, 41-49)
We see here that under the Old Covenant there were uncircumcised people who associated with Israelites because of shared faith in a saving God. This was the basis for the ruling that uncircumcised New Covenant Christians from a mixed multitude of ethnicities can associate with faithful adherents to the Old Covenant including circumcision.
“there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them [the Gentile believers], and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” (Act 15:5-18
“He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” (Gal 3:5-9)
Can we understand that becoming Abraham’s seed / children is a real national identity, based on established social principles, in effect during – and since – Abraham’s day? When we apply the full meaning of father as we’ve come to understand it in ancient culture, we understand the extent of Paul’s claim to Gentile Christians. He is not allegorizing a relationship. He is stating a fact that Gentiles have equal standing with the physical descendants because the Father says so.
“Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law [of Moses], but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,)” (Ro 4:6-17)
Notice exactly what it is that Abraham and his seed are promised – to be heirs of the world, claiming the inheritance lost to Satan in the garden of Eden.
“O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph. For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth. He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet. He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved. Selah. God is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding. God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness. The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham: for the shields of the earth belong unto God: he is greatly exalted.” (Psa 47)
Those who are identified with The Promised Seed / Messiah / Christ through the faith of Abraham are granted fellowcitizenship with all the saints, obviously including Abraham but also his godly ancestors like Shem, Noah, Enoch, etc. back to Adam back in the day when there was only one language, ergo one nation. God is restoring his one world government.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God [Genesis 1-2] so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous [Genesis 4], God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death [Genesis 5]; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; [Genesis 6] by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went, not knowing whither he went…Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth…But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. (Letter to the Hebrews 11:1-19)
“Thus saith the LORD God; I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence. And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.“ (Eze 11:17-20)
We understand this about the nation of Israel, but this applies to all the peoples of the world. Eber’s nation, the Hebrew nation, is the core assembly to which people from every nation are gathered back as God’s people, reversing the scattering under Antichrist Nimrod.
“Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. “ (Eze 36:22-23)
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus [Jewish and Gentile believers] and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, [i.e. to belong to his nation] according to the good pleasure of his will…having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven [our predeceased forefathers], and which are on earth [those who are alive at his coming]; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance.” (Eph 1:1-11)
Sound heretical to lump New Testament Christians in with the ancient Hebrews? Read the letter to the Hebrews.
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers [including our father Abraham] by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son,” (Heb 1:1-2)
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong . crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb 4:14-5:14)
“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house[hold]; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts.” (Heb 3:1-18)
If, as I am asserting, people from different ethnicities could be amalgamated into the Hebrew nation, how could they be distinguished from their old ethnic association?
By taking on a characteristic trade mark.
“And God said unto Abraham…This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised…every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed…And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant…And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.” (Gen 17:9-23)
Ishmael provides us with the evidence that simply going through religious rituals like circumcision or baptism doesn’t qualify one to be a member of Abraham’s household of faith.
“And Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned. And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son. And God said unto Abraham…in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. (Gen 21:8-12)”
Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage…and answereth to Jerusalem which now is [not true Mosaic Judaism but the 1st century legalistic demands on behaviors that had nothing to do with the heart of relationship], and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. Now we, [Christian] brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. Behold, I Paul say unto you [former Gentiles now Christians], that if ye be circumcised [in order to be saved], Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” (Gal 4:21-5:6)
So Gentile children of Abraham do not take the mark of circumcision as a sign of God’s covenant with them in Christ. However there are other marks besides circumcision indicating ownership.
“And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: [Do you catch the implications for your family in serving the Lord?] Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.” (Ex 21:5-6)
Former-Gentile Christians don’t get “let off the hook” by not getting circumcised. The fact of the matter is that the New Covenant, by empowering believers so much more, demands so much more from the believer than the Old! “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” (Lu 12:48)
Paul describes the mark which shows that one is a New Covenant believer. It is doing the will of the Father which is in heaven (Mat 7:21), which will show in changed likeness (behavior) and image (appearance) of God.
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From henceforth let no man trouble me: [can’t you hear his exhaustion – from defending himself from fellow believers?] for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus...
- in stripes above measure,
- in prisons more frequent,
- in deaths oft.
- Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
- Thrice was I beaten with rods,
- once was I stoned,
- thrice I suffered shipwreck,
- a night and a day I have been in the deep;
- In journeyings often
- in perils of waters,
- in perils of robbers,
- in perils by mine own countrymen & in perils by the heathen,
- in perils in the city & in perils in the wilderness,
- in perils in the sea,
- in perils among false brethren;
- In weariness and painfulness,
- in watchings often,
- in hunger and thirst,
- in fastings often,
- in cold and nakedness.
Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” (Gal 6:15-17, II Cor 11:23-28)
This obviously comes at a much greater cost than men sacrificing a bit of flesh. Christianity costs doing one’s own will and is a very public testimony of one’s love for, and placing one’s trust for the future in, the Father, by following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ whose name we claim as Christians. It is also a very lonely experience that can only be managed by drawing closer to God our Father.
“Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. (Matt 26:27-44)
Wow. How many Christians do we know who live like this? We understand that many of us who were born as American citizens take our national privileges for granted and refuse to perform our responsibilities. Even worse, many of us who were born into Christian church-going families take our spiritual privileges for granted and refuse to perform our responsibilities.
“…the Hivites…said unto Joshua, We are thy servants…thy servants are come because of the name of the Lord thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt, And all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth. And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live…but let them be hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation.” (Josh 9:7-21)
“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not [in skepticism] in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Ro 10:3-11
“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mar 8:34-38)
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it…Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit…A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire…Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Mat 7:13-23)
Sidebar as here we see one of those balancing acts so often provided in scripture to keep us centered, as the works that Jesus rejects are the very works he also promised would prove Spirit indwelling. Which is it?
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mar 16:15-18)
Paul explains this apparent contradiction.
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant…Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For
- to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom;
- to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
- To another faith by the same Spirit;
- to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
- To another the working of miracles;
- to another prophecy;
- to another discerning of spirits;
- to another divers kinds of tongues;
- to another the interpretation of tongues:
But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body…And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing…Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. Brethren, be not children in understanding…In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.” (I Cor 12-14)
Paul makes it clear that the “signs” – which can be faked – aren’t the works that Jesus demands of us for salvation or even to prove salvation. They are, however, the proof that the Jews, who “require a sign” (I Cor 1:22), need to be convinced that the Gentiles are blessed with God’s presence and power like they are.
Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:…my sentence is, that we trouble not them [to be circumcised to finalize salvation], which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:” (Act 15:12-19)
“Go and proclaim these words toward the north [the map shows that “north” is the first direction in the crescent route around the desert to the mighty empires of Assyria and Babylon in the east], and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers. But I said, How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? and I said, Thou shalt call me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me. Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord. A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the LORD their God. Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God. Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel. For shame hath devoured the labour of our fathers from our youth; their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.” (Jer 3:12-25)