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Getting to a seemingly right place on the wrong road

{Author’s note:  It is difficult to determine the difference between my writing and that of the article that I am speaking about when reading this in the wordpress reader.  It will be much clearer if this is read from the actual site.}

Have you ever got to the place that you were supposed to go, or at least it seemed to be the right place, but took the wrong directions to get there.

For instance, where I live, there is a Culver’s restaurant just north of my home and there are specific easy directions to get there.  There is another Culver’s restaurant also north of my house, and there are also specific directions to get there.

If I were to say to a friend, meet me at Culver’s, it might be pretty obvious which one, because one is more in my neighborhood than the other, but just suppose for a minute that this is not the case.  If I gave him specific directions to get to the Culver’s at which I was meeting him, I would expect that there would be no issue in getting there.

Now, suppose that he ignored my directions, and went to the other Culver’s.  It would look like the place that I told him to meet me, and everything about it would seem like the right place.

But it would be wrong.  We would not meet, because the right directions were not followed.

I have often stated, that in the “free-grace” vs. “lordship salvation” debate, the problem is a dispensational one, and when the free-grace position is maintained without a good dispensational understanding, it will fall flat.  It will look like the grace doctrine that the apostle Paul taught, but it will be inconsistent and unscriptural.  The lordshippers will appear to have the scriptural upper hand.

Pastor Andy Stanley, the pastor of a large Atlanta area church, ruffled a few feathers recently questioning Christians wanting to post the 10 Commandments.  Earlier in the year, he spoke of getting “unhitched” from the Old Testament, and that ruffled a few feathers as well.


Why Do Christians Want to Post the 10 Commandments and Not the Sermon on the Mount?

https://relevantmagazine.com/god/why-do-christians-want-to-post-the-10-commandments-and-not-the-sermon-on-the-mount/

You’ve heard the story before: A group of Christians puts up a monument of the Ten Commandments in a public space or on government property.

Someone says it violates the separation of church and state.

The Christians say taking it down would violate their freedom of speech.  There’s some back and forth in court and both sides say some not-so-great things about the other.

Rinse and repeat.

But how many times have you seen Christians trying to post the text of the sermon on the mount in a public place? Or the all-encompassing commandment Jesus gave us?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” —John 13:34

The one commandment!

Doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? But if we’re going to create a monument to stand as a testament to our faith, shouldn’t it at least be a monument of something that actually applies to us?


To be fair, many Christians do try to, at least in theory, “post the text of the sermon on the mount” in a public place.  Many even will try and beat others over the head with it, as they attempt to teach the “red letters” and promote the so-called “social gospel”.

Not that I would be against the posting of either the ten commandments or the sermon on the mount.  “The Beatitudes” of Matthew 5:1 – 12 are beautiful and would look great on a monument, public or private.

However, if we look carefully at the sermon on the mount, and for that matter all of the doctrine that the Lord gave to the nation of Israel while He ministered to His own nation at large, and to His “little flock” of followers, He was ministering under the Law.  He even said, in the same context of the Beatitudes:

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:17 – 20

Those who would bring us back under the law (Hebrew Roots, Seventh-Day Adventists, Reformed, etc.) go to this all the time, and it is hard to refute, if we take the sermon on the mount as that which “governs the church” as a replacement of the law of Moses.

Now regarding the new commandment, the Lord did not say to throw out all that Moses commanded and “all you need is love”.  To take a step back from this, He gave this commandment to His disciples after Judas had left, and the commandment was to love one another.  Who are “one another” here, directly?  The believing disciples, no doubt comprise the “one another”.  This love was that they would wash one another’s feet as He washed theirs.  No service to another was too low and dishonorable for the disciple, for their Master and Lord was willing to wash their feet.  He even washed Judas’ feet, knowing that he would soon betray Him!  The commandment was to be loving to the other disciples, not leaving their feet dirty, but washing them.  I will leave this for the reader to make application.

Loving one another was not a new command contrary to the law, or to the ten commandments.  In fact, Christ gave His answer from the law to a lawyer questioning Him about the commandments.  The lawyer said,

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” — Matthew 22:36 – 40

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets!

The “one commandment” did not undo the law, and to say it did is to read Romans 6:14 back into this scripture, distorting it to say that sin no longer matters as long as you “love on everyone”.  Paul, the apostle of grace sent by Christ, has very much to say about the godly walk of the believer, even though not under the law.  In fact, sin was not to be tolerated in the assemblies, as anyone who has taken the time to study his epistles would so attest.  It was not because we are in some way still under law, but we are to walk, as he told the Ephesians, “as becometh saints” (Ephesians 5:3; see also Colossians 3:12).

cropped-0425141721-01As far as something that applies to us, I agree.  Wouldn’t this make a good monument?

Pastor Stanley continues:


Hear me out.

The Ten Commandments are from the old covenant

The Ten Commandments played a significant role in God’s creation of the nation of Israel. It gave them moral guidelines and helped separate this new nation from their neighbors. This was part of the formal agreement (or covenant) God created with his people, but Jesus’ death and resurrection signaled the end of that covenant and all the rules and regulations associated with it.

Jesus didn’t issue his new command as an additional commandment to the existing list of commands.

He didn’t say, “Here’s the 614th law.”

Jesus issued his new commandment as a replacement for everything in the existing list. Including the big ten. Just as his new covenant replaced the old covenant, Jesus’ new commandment replaced all the old commandments.


Yes, it is correct that we are not under the law.  The apostle Paul very clearly, writing to “all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints” (Romans 1:7), says very clearly that those who are in Christ are not under the law, but are under grace (Romans 6:14).  Now, remember, this is the reason that the apostle gives for not allowing sin to have dominion over us.

Pastor Stanley’s comments about the old covenant and the new betray a lack of knowledge about the old and new covenants.  First, the problem was not with the first covenant, it was with the people that were under it.  They were not faithful to it, the nation in its entirety, that is.  Individual Israelites, such as Zacharias and Elisabeth, were noted for walking in all of the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.

In the same epistle to the Romans, in which the Apostle Paul said that we are not under the law, but under grace, he said that “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12).  He was clear, the problem was not with the law.  It was with him.  The law had only power to condemn, and, it does.

Romans 3:19 — “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”

That which the law says, it does say to Israel, and it says it that every mouth may be stopped, not just the mouths that are under the law.  All the world is guilty before God, and all defense is silent.  There is not a thing that you or anyone else can say about it.  You are guilty before God.  That is what the law can do for you.


Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their Bibles. Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his new covenant: as I have loved you, so you must love one another.

The new covenant replaced the old one. The covenant established by Jesus retired the covenant God established with the nation of Israel. This is why most Christians don’t mind a little bacon with their eggs. It’s why you can’t get either at Chick-fil-A on Sunday. (If we were still taking our marching orders from the old covenant, they would be closed on Saturday.)


The terms of the new covenant state that the Lord will put His law in the inward parts of the house of Israel and Judah, and write it on their hearts.  He will divinely empower them to keep covenant with Him, while the old covenant gave commands, but the strength was only in the flesh.  The new covenant is not what makes us Christians. We become Christians when we receive the righteousness of God “by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe” (Romans 3:22), and at that time we are baptized into Christ by the Spirit (Romans 6:3 – 4; 1 Corinthians 12:13).

Again, as Christians we are not under the law, but there is a doctrine of the believer’s walk as a Christian.  Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, if it could be written as a summary statement, would be “stop living and walking as the ungodly heathen that you were, and begin walking as the saints that you are”.  Or, in Paul’s own words to the Romans:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” — Romans 12:1 – 2

The new covenant will replace the old one, but it will be made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, the whole house of Israel.  And where, in the new covenant, does Sunday replace the Sabbath command?


Thanks to the new covenant, we aren’t required to sacrifice animals to stay on speaking terms with God. Skim through Leviticus and you’ll discover a whole lot of things we aren’t required to do.


We are reconciled to God, or as Pastor Stanley says above, “are on speaking terms”, not because we are under a new covenant, but because we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, being justified by faith (Romans 5:1).

It seems as though everyone understands that in the book of Leviticus, there are many things that are not required of us.  But without the correct doctrine to back this up, one cannot be consistent about this.  Without a strong dispensational framework, grace doctrine does not stand, and it ends up looking like a complete mess.  It also allows, that which Pastor Stanley begins to talk about below:


We need to stop mixing the old with the new.

The church has a terrible habit of selectively rebranding aspects of the old covenant and smuggling them into the new.

The blended model began as early as the second century when church leaders essentially kidnapped the Jewish Scriptures and claimed them as their own. In the fourth century, following the legalization of Christian worship under Constantine, church officials began leveraging old covenant concepts to validate the creation of an imperial form of church.

During this same period, the church began doing to pagans what pagans had done to the church. By the eleventh century, the church offered “get out of hell free” cards to anyone who would join a crusade. By the fifteenth century, the church was at war with itself over theology. Entire villages were razed in the name of a version of Christian theology. Over and over, Christianity was weaponized in Jesus’ name.

Wherever and whenever the old was blended with the new, unchristian behavior and attitudes ensued.

The modern church suffers from its own version of mix-and-match theology and practice. We have an incessant habit of reaching back into old covenant concepts, teachings, sayings, and narratives to support our own teachings, sayings, and narratives.

The justifications Christians have used since the fourth century to mistreat people find their roots in old covenant practices and values. Imagine trying to leverage the Sermon on the Mount to start an inquisition, launch a crusade, or incite a pogrom against Jews.


But if you think it your place to baptize all nations in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all that the Lord commanded, in an attempt to establish the kingdom, one just might.  The Hebrew Roots movement would argue “Is not Yeshua the same G-d that gave Moses Torah, and is it not part of all that He commanded?”

Reformed theology argues that the ten commandments were given to a people that was already redeemed, so they play a very important role in the Christians sanctification.  But it is from Paul’s epistles that we find out our sanctification is found in Christ alone (1 Corinthians 1:2, 30).

The bad kingdom theology that is the hallmark of most of what passes for Christianity, or evangelicalism, is not that much different from the bad kingdom theology that characterized the imperial church of Rome.  Any Christian though that considers “the Church” as God’s kingdom on earth is destined to soon become another imperial church.  It cannot help but do so.


But reach back into the old covenant, and there’s plenty to work with.

The early church moved past the old covenant—why haven’t we?


The so-called “early church” did not move past the old covenant:

The apostle Paul had to tell his own son in the faith:

“As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” — 1 Timothy 1:3 – 7

 The early church so quickly turned back to the weak and beggarly elements (Galatians 4:9), and so much so that all in Asia turned away from Paul and his gospel of the grace of God.  Understanding this, the “Christian Church” of the middle ages should be no surprise.


It took the early church more than twenty years to officially disengage from the old covenant. This is entirely understandable. First-century church leaders were Jewish. The old covenant was more than a religious framework. It had been a way of life from childhood. But thanks to the clarity of Paul, the experience of Peter, and the leadership of James, the church eventually abandoned the old for the new Jesus came to inaugurate.


I think I can safely assume that the pastor is referring to the council at Jerusalem in Acts 15 and Galatians 2.  A careful reading of the book of Acts would reveal to the reader that the Gentile believers were not to be bound by the law, but the Jewish believers were told no such command.  In fact, in Acts 21, the (Jewish) believers in Jerusalem were all still zealous for the law, and James commended them for it.

It is not until Paul¹, in the epistle to the Hebrews, writes to the house of Israel at large and to Hebrew believers specifically, that we understand the old covenant as waxing old, and ready to vanish away (Hebrews 8:13).  A big issue in Christendom is that the church in some way looks to the wrong dispensation to find its normalcy, but as C.I. Scofield said in his famous (although, I know to some, infamous) reference Bible:

“Through Paul alone we know that the church is not an organization, but an organism, the body of Christ; instinct with His life, and heavenly in calling, promise, and destiny. Through him alone we know the nature, purpose, and form of organization of local churches, and the right conduct of such gatherings. Through him alone do we know that ‘we shall not all sleep,’ that ‘the dead in Christ shall rise first,’ and that living saints shall be ‘changed’ and caught up to meet the Lord in the air at His return.”


These early church leaders understood something we’ve forgotten—or have missed entirely.

While Jesus was foreshadowed in the old covenant, he did not come to extend it. He came to fulfill it, put a bow on it, and establish something entirely new. The “new” Jesus unleashed made the faith of first-century believers formidable. Their apologetic was irrefutable. Their courage, unquestionable. And the results were remarkable.

Dear Christian reader: Why? Why? Why would we even be tempted to reach back beyond the cross to borrow from a covenant that was temporary and inferior to the covenant established for us at Calvary?

The author of Hebrews says it best. Jesus was the “guarantor of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22). Later he writes, “the new covenant is established on better promises.”

Besides, you weren’t included in the old covenant to begin with!


Technically, you were not included in the second either.  It would be more scriptural to question the reader as to why he or she would reach back  beyond the cross to borrow from the old covenant that was inferior to the grace shown to us at Calvary.

The inspired apostle said it stronger:

Galatians 1:6 – 9 — “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”


So why are we fighting to build monuments to it?


monument

Much of what passes as Christianity, or Evangelicalism, is nothing more than a monument.  It should not be surprising the fights that ensue over it.  The real issue is not the monuments though.  It is the fear of the Lord.  If the fear of the Lord were present, this would not be an issue.  This is true “in the Church” as well as in any the nation. As for monuments, this would be one to build:


Notes:

  1. There are essentially two positions on the authorship of Hebrews:  Paul, or anyone but Paul.

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Charles Miller View All

Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.

One thought on “Getting to a seemingly right place on the wrong road Leave a comment

  1. Chuck, great job addressing this issue! The apostle Paul specifically states that the covenants pertain unto Israel (Romans 9:4); to say that covenants apply to us is nothing short of replacement theology in my estimation.
    I have had the very same conversation with others regarding the LS controversy. It is a failure to divide Kingdom from Grace. Those on the LS side always assume the worst of human behavior if Grace is extended. I have often pondered if this could also be turning the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 4). But the truth of the matter is we all live out what we truly believe. Our lives testify to what is in the core of our being.
    Andy Stanley is concerning for a number of reasons. He has stated that if he were the “evangelical pope” he would close all the churches that were not growing, sell them off, and give the proceeds to the ones that are growing. He has said that we need to move away from the Scriptures and just focus on “who Jesus is.” Problem with that is that you cannot separate Him from His Word! While I would agree that we are not under the Hebrew Scriptures we have no business nor authority to divorce ourselves from them for ALL Scripture is given by God and it is ALL profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

    Liked by 1 person

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