Saturday, July 9, 2016

Symbol of Nicaea

O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, You are everywhere and fill all things, Treasury of blessings, and Giver of life: come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us (three times).
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it is now, was in the beginning, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

Σύμβολον τς Νίκαιας
Symbol of Nicaea

The Father

Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα Θεὸν: Πατέρα, Παντοκράτορα, Ποιητὴν; οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς; ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων.
We believe in one God: Pre-primordial Patriarch, Prime Mover, Prime Maker; of heaven and earth; of all things both visible and invisible.[1]

The Son

Πιστεύομεν καὶ εἰς ἕνα Κύριον: Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν, τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ, τὸν Μονογενῆ, τὸν ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς γεννηθέντα πρὸ πάντων τῶν αἰώνων, φῶς ἐκ φωτός, Θεὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ, γεννηθένταοὐ ποιηθένταὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί, διοὗ τὰ πάντα ἐγένετο, τὸν διἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους, καὶ διὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν σωτηρίαν, κατελθόντα ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν, καὶ σαρκωθέντα ἐκ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίας, τῆς παρθένου, καὶ ἐνανθρωπήσαντα.
We believe also, in one Lord: Jesus Christ,
       the Son of God,
       the Only-begotten,
       the One begotten of the Father before all the ages, light of light, true God of true God, begotten – not made – of the same essence as the Father, for whom all things were made,
       the One Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, was made flesh of [the Holy Ghost] and Mary, the Virgin, and was made man.[2]

His Works

Σταυρωθέντα τε ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου, καὶ παθόντα, καὶ ταφέντα, καὶ ἀναστάντα τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρα, κατὰ τὰς γραφάς, καὶ ἀνελθόντα εἰς τοὺς οὐρανούς, καὶ καθεζόμενον ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ Πατρός, καὶ πάλιν ἐρχόμενον μετὰ δόξης κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς; οὗ τῆς βασιλείας οὐκ ἔσται τέλος.
He was crucified on our behalf by Pontius Pilate:
       He suffered,
       He was buried,
       He raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
       He ascended into the heavens,
       He was seated at the right hand of the Father,
       He is also coming again with Glory to judge [the] living and [the] dead; Whose kingdom shall not end.[3]

The Spirit

Πιστεύομεν καὶ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα: τὸ Ἅγιον, τὸ Κύριον, τὸ Ζῳοποιόν, τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον, τὸ σὺν Πατρὶ καὶ Υἱῷ συμπροσκυνούμενον καὶ συνδοξαζόμενον, τὸ λαλῆσαν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν.
We believe also, in the Spirit:
       the Holy,
       the Lord,
       the Life-giver,
       the One Who proceeds from the Father,
       the One Who with Father and Son is worshiped together, and Glorified together,
       the One Who was speaking through the prophets.[4]

The Church
Πιστεύομεν καὶ εἰς μίαν, ἁγίαν, καθολικὴν καὶ ἀποστολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν.  ὁμολογοῦμεν ἓν βάπτισμα εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν.  προσδοκοῦμεν ἀνάστασιν νεκρῶν, καὶ ζωὴν τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰῶνος.  Ἀμήν.
We believe also, in one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church.  We confess one baptism for the remission of sins.  We look for the resurrection of the dead, and [the] life of the coming age.  Amen.

Our fourth article of faith outlines The Church and her work. The only definition for The Church, to which definition we must look is:

“You have come to mount Sion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, which speaks greater things than [the blood] of Abel.

“See that you do not refuse Him Who speaks: for if they did not escape who refused [Moses] who spoke on earth, much more, we shall not escape, if we turn away from Him Who speaks from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will not only the shake earth, but also heaven.’  This word, ‘Yet once more’, signifies the utter transformation of those things being shaken, as the mere institutions or inventions they are, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain (Which speaks of the final fulfillment of Daniel 2).

“Wherefore, since we are receiving an unshakeable kingdom, let us have grace, by which we may worship God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire.” — Hebrews 12:22-29

We realize that several earthy organizations have apparently legitimate claims as heirs of this, The Church, yet none of these earthy organizations holds such a claim exclusively.  God is the decider of all such things.

Her Oneness

As far as the matter of oneness is concerned, on this point we must disagree with a few statements made by Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones in his booklet, “Authority” (IVP, Chicago, 1958: 94 pages).  Dr. Jones asserts that oneness is unimportant.  We disagree.  Here is why.

“Now I am no longer in the world, yet these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep these whom You have given Me through Your own name, so that they may be one, as we [are one].” — John 17:11

“That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in me, and I am in You, so that they also may be one in Us: so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.  The glory, which You gave Me, I have given to them: so that they may be one, even as We are one. — I in them, and You in Me: so that they may be made perfect in one: so that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them, as You have loved Me.” — John 17:21-22

“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” — Acts 1:14

“And when the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all with one accord in one place.” — Acts 2:1

“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,” — Acts 2:46

“And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, ‘Lord, You are God, Who have made heaven, earth, the sea, and all that is in them:’ ” — Acts 4:24

“And the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that anything they possessed was their own; they had all things common.” — Acts 4:32

“And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were performed among the people; they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.” — Acts 5:12

“And the people with one accord gave heed to these things which Philip spoke, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.” — Acts 8:6

“It seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,” — Acts 15:25

“For since we have many members in one body, all members do not have the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members of one another.” — Romans 12:4-5

“Be of the same mind toward one another.  Do not mind high things, but condescend to men of low estate.  Be not wise in your own conceits.” — Romans 12:16

“Now may the God of patience and consolation grant that you will be likeminded toward one another according to Christ Jesus: so that with one mind and one mouth you may glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Wherefore receive one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.” — Romans 15:5-7

“Now I beg you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, so that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” — 1 Corinthians 1:10

“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?  For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” — 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

“For as the body is one, and has 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 are Jews or Gentiles, whether we are bond or free; we have all been made to drink of one Spirit: for the body is not one member, but many.” — 1 Corinthians 12:12-14

“And if they were all one member, where were the body?  Yet now they are many members, yet only one body.  The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” — 1 Corinthians 12:19-21

“There should be no schism in the body; so that the members should have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.  Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” — 1 Corinthians 12:25-27

“Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell.  Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” — 2 Corinthians 13:11

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” — Galatians 3:28

“That in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him:” — Ephesians 1:10

“For He is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; to make in Himself one new man from two, so making peace: so that He might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross, having slain the hostility by it:” — Ephesians 2:14-16

“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.  Yet to every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” — Ephesians 4:4-7

“Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members of one another.” — Ephesians 4:25

“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ: so that, whether I come and see you, or whether I am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;” — Philippians 1:27

“Fulfil my joy, be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” — Philippians 2:2

“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, for which you are also called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” — Colossians 3:15-17

“For both He that sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters,” — Hebrews 2:11

“Finally, be all of one mind, having compassion for one another, love as brothers and sisters, show pity, be courteous:” — 1 Peter 3:8

“This is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” — 1 John 3:23

“I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” — Revelation 21:2

From these many verses, we see the essential failure of earthly churches in the modern world.  Trusting a pseudo-spiritual unity, ignoring true unity, we fall short of real obedience.  Desperately needing each other in the spiritual battle we will have limited success at best, until we face the reality that there is only one holy city, only one bride.

Her Accord in the Spirit

There is only “one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church,” which, as we saw in Hebrews 12:22-29, is headquartered in heaven under the supreme command of the Son of God, Jesus, Who is also called Christ.  From Acts 1:8 we also learn that the Holy Spirit is The Vicar of Christ on Earth.

“You shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be My witnesses, both in Jerusalem, in all Judaea, in Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The rest of Acts provides an ample sample record of this powerful working of the Holy Spirit.  This record speaks repeatedly about the oneness of The Church, which was born on Pentecost, 33 AD.  We have quoted many such verses about the oneness of The Church; yet, these are only a few of the many more passages that could be found.  Among these verses, several speak specifically about one accord, the perfect agreement that existed in The Church in its first days.

“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” — Acts 1:14

“And when the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all with one accord in one place.” — Acts 2:1

“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,” — Acts 2:46

“And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, ‘Lord, You are God, Who have made heaven, earth, the sea, and all that is in them:’ ” — Acts 4:24

“And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were performed among the people; they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.” — Acts 5:12

“And the people with one accord gave heed to these things which Philip spoke, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.” — Acts 8:6

“It seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,” — Acts 15:25

“Now may the God of patience and consolation grant that you will be likeminded toward one another according to Christ Jesus: so that with one mind and one mouth you may glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Wherefore receive one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.” — Romans 15:5-7

“Fulfil my joy, be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” — Philippians 2:2

Her Enemies

The enemies of The Church also gather with one accord.

“Then they cried out with a loud voice, and shut their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,” — Acts 7:57

“Herod was highly displeased with the people from Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, their friend, desired peace; because their country was supplied by the king’s country.” — Acts 12:20

“When Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat,” — Acts 18:12

“The whole city was filled with confusion: and having arrested Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s traveling companions, they rushed into the theatre with one accord.” — Acts 19:29

Her Battle Lines

We see then that The Church is set in array at prayer against the enemies of God, who are equally arrayed, and frequently more unified.  We do well to ask, where the dividing line might be drawn between these great armies: for the tares are sown throughout the wheat field (Matthew 13:25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 36, 38, 40).  We read:

“He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.” — Matthew 12:30

“Whoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; the Son of Man shall also be ashamed of him, when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” — Mark 8:38

“For he that is not against us is for us.” — Mark 9:40

“He has showed strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.” — Luke 1:51

“Jesus said to [John], ‘Do not forbid him: for he who is not against us is for us.’ ” — Luke 9:50

“He who is not with Me is against Me: and he that does not gather with Me scatters.” — Luke 11:23

“He who is an hireling, not the shepherd, the sheep are not his own, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and flees: so the wolf catches them, and scatters the sheep.” — John 10:12

“Truly, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, against Your holy child Jesus, Whom You have anointed.” — Acts 4:27

“[When] Saul was consenting to [Stephen’s] death.  At that time there was a great persecution against the church at Jerusalem; they were all scattered abroad throughout Judaea and Samaria, except for the apostles.” — Acts 8:1

“The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” — Galatians 5:17

“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” — Ephesians 6:12

“Consider Him Who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be weary and faint in your minds.” — Hebrews 12:3

“Your gold and silver have been corroded away; and their corrosion shall be a witness against you, which will eat your flesh as if it were fire.  You have heaped wealth together for the end of days.” — James 5:3

“The eyes of the Lord watch over the righteous, and his ears hear their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” — 1 Peter 3:12

“When I come, I will remember his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words: and not even content with these, he himself does not receive the brothers and sisters, yet he forbids those who would receive them, and casts them out of the church.” — 3 John 10

“I have a few things against you, because you have those who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to set a trap for the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.” — Revelation 2:14

“I have a few things against you, because you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.” — Revelation 2:20

We see then, that this battle line of spiritual warfare extends to the utmost extremities of the Universe; to the heights of leadership among both angels and men; to the castles and mansions of the wealthiest; it penetrates and pervades everything, even the hallowed halls of churches, and the inner sanctums of the human heart.  In such a spiritual warfare we do best to err on the side of mercy; as well as to cling to the Holy Spirit.

Our Obedience

“He shall have judgment without mercy, who shows no mercy: mercy trumps judgment.” — James 2:13

“The wisdom, which is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easily approachable, full of mercy with good fruit, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” — James 3:17

“All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven men.” — Matthew 12:31

“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.’ ” — Acts 2:38

“Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?  And they said to him, ‘We have not so much as heard whether there is any Holy Spirit.’ ” — Acts 19:2

“Don’t you know that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” — Romans 6:3

“Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” — 1 Corinthians 1:13

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” — Galatians 3:27

[1] We could use your help here.  We tried to capture the punch (pardon the pun) of these three Greek names for God, all of which begin with the letter P: Patera = Father, Pantokratora = Almighty or All ruling, Poiêthên = Creator or Maker.  We think you can come up with a better way to capture this idea of three words beginning with the same letter.  Please help make the punch of the P’s pop.

The main concept is that the three P’s hang together in Greek.  In English we try to make the sentence read “Creator of heaven and earth.” Still, God is just as much the Father of heaven and earth; just as much the Ruler of heaven and earth, as He is Creator of all these things.

So there is a kind of triple three dimensionality to the prayer.  We see the three names of God which we do not understand.  We see the heaven and earth which are also beyond our grasp.  Finally, we compare the sensate world with one that cannot be measured by the five senses or by science, and now we have lost all hope of understanding.  The glory, immensity, and wonder of God, are reflected in the overwhelming vastness of the universe, and the infinitesimal nature of mater is exemplified by the Higgs particles.  Finally, such glory insists that beyond the majesty of nature, over and above everything around us, that another order of creation, a spirit world exists, which cannot even be felt by ordinary human means.

To what does this prayer declaration of the immensity of God call us?  In 325 it called 318 pastors together to try to unify The Church against several growing heresies: they fell short of perfection, but to their credit many disputes were resolved, they did a better job than anyone since.  Today, more than ever, The Christian Church needs to stand together.  What prevents us from standing together with these 318 pastors to pray this prayer with them?  If we could do that, we might see God change our world.

[2] This is all about who Jesus is as a person.

Maybe we get all hung up over the words, same essence, or sometimes the translation, same substance.  The problem with same substance is that it seems to imply that God has material substance, which is untrue.

The real problem here is that in 325, no Greek words could be found to adequately name the unknowable internal nature of God, His being.  At least two words were found, synonyms, these were pressed into service in spite of the difficulties, and given new technical meaning.

The trouble with this solution was that different parties preferred different words.  The above solution satisfied about 2/3 of all parties concerned, which was better than none.  Still, we are left with ongoing divisions today.  Does Jesus have one nature or two (one Divine and one human)?  Does Jesus have one will or two (one Divine and one human)?

The Greek words selected were ousia and hypostasis.  Arbitrarily, the word ousia was chosen to represent God as the Trinitarian Whole.  Thus Jesus is of the same identical ousia as the Father and the Spirit.  The word hypostasis was chosen to represent the three distinct, yet inseparable, persons.  So there is only One ousia in three hypostases.  Jesus’ hypostasis is different in that He adds to Himself a perfect human nature: He is God-man, Theanthropos, or Theandros.

It is not as though the words ousia and hypostasis have some real human meaning: they were chosen to name that which was not, and still is not understood: they have technical meaning.  Any reality that they express is their heavenly reality, which is still beyond our grasp.

One might hope that after what is now approaching two thousand years, we might have got this word mix-up sorted out.  Alas, such is not the case.  What is wrong with us that after 1,691 years, we still haven’t got this sorted out?  This is just a root of bitterness.  We have no good excuse for not coming together as the 318 pastors tried to come together in 325.  For them there were communication barriers: it took years to get letters around the empire.  Today, such communication takes place in seconds.  What is wrong with us that we cannot stand together with the 318 pastors over the issue of who Jesus is?

[3] This is all about what Jesus, the God-man did.

The term, “by Pontius Pilate,” does not harp on Pilate’s personal sins, which were no more terrible than Paul’s.  “By” indicates the governing authority under which the crucifixion was authorized: it was under Pilate, an authorized Roman representative (fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judaea).  The crucifixion of Jesus was a legal act under Roman law.  The term, “by Pontius Pilate,” also fixes the date of the crucifixion to the prefecture of Pilate (26-36).

The phrase, “He descended into hell,” from the Apostles Creed, is not found here.  This is not a big issue.  This phrase might easily have been added, it was certainly believed, and a page or two of supporting Scripture is not difficult to find.

What is contained in these phrases that does not come directly from Scripture?  What is found in these phrases about which we may still disagree?  What is wrong with us that we cannot stand together with the 318 pastors over the issue of what Jesus did?

[4] By 381 AD most or all of the original 318 pastors had fallen asleep.  The Nicaean statement of faith had made its way throughout most or all of Christendom, had been ratified by the churches, and returned with suggested amendments.  Constantinople had changed too, and was now the dedicated capital city of the Roman Empire.  So 150 pastors met in Constantinople at 381 AD, a few miles away from Nicaea.

The main amendment was this addition describing the person and work of the Spirit.  In a secondary amendment, the word, “we believe”, was not repeated in each paragraph: in Greek, the word, “and”, is sufficient to carry the force and meaning of the opening word, “we believe”; since this is not true in English we added the original word, “we believe”, back in again, in order to make the meaning very clear.  This is a statement of faith, a prayer, from beginning to end: it has four main paragraphs concerning Christian faith, each beginning with, “we believe”.  The details of these and other amendments are found in this link.

After the late 6th century, the Filioque controversy arose over this one Latin word, “filioque”.  While there are many theories about the source of this word, we believe it is best understood as a scribal copying error: a fatigued scribe simply inserted the words, “and Son” into the previous phrase by mistake.  Some insist that such an error can only happen in the forward direction.  However, we have over five years (over 5,000 hours, over 10,000 – 8-1/2 x 11 pages, all hand lettered) experience in scribal work, and assure you that this sort of error was committed many times, both backward and forward.  Those who wish to assign blame, or insert profound theologies concerning these two Greek words are not serving the peace of The Church.  Because these two words have no historic basis in early manuscripts, serve no biblical necessity, and are offensive to many: we simply left them out in the interests of peace.

What remains with which we cannot all agree?  Why do we continue to grieve and quench the Spirit by our divisiveness?

[5] If you have been blessed or helped by any of these meditations, please repost, share, or use any of them as you wish.  No rights are reserved.  They are designed and intended for your free participation.  They were freely received, and are freely given.  No other permission is required for their use.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Bible Study Errors, Trap 2

Trap 2
Beginning Bible students also fall into the trap of believing that there is a radical difference between Law and Gospel, or between Law and Grace.  In some circles this difference is so pronounced that a week will not go by without emphasizing it.  Little by little it becomes so dominant that nothing else is seen in the Bible: thus the rubric replaces the very words of God the Word, and the hearers become dormant and unfed.
Frequently, such ideas are couched in terms of distinctions: there is a distinction between Law and Gospel, or there is a distinction between Law and Grace.  So what can the word, distinction, possibly mean?  Does this not mean that Law and Gospel, or Law and Grace do not have the same content, essence, and meaning?  This, we claim, is wrong; no such distinction really exists.
Have you not read:
“Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long on the land which the Lord your God gives you.” — Exodus 20:12
How can you possible read this without realizing that Christ is the only child to ever, honor His Father and His mother perfectly?  So, planted right here in the middle of the Law of Moses is the assurance that the Son comes to fulfill all of the Law’s righteous demands for us.  How is it, then, that we can think of the Law as different in content, essence, or meaning than the Gospel?
“Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets: I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill: for truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, one iota or one tittle shall never ever pass from the Law, until everything is fulfilled.” — Matthew 5:17-18
“When they had arrived, they said to Him, Master, we know that You are true, and show no favoritism to any man: for You do not regard the status of men, but teach the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” — Mark 12:14
Here, both Jesus and His adversaries understand that this tests to see if Jesus really obeys the Law.  Jesus prevails because He does obey the Law.
“A certain lawyer stood up, tempting Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?  [Jesus] said to him, What is written in the Law?  How do you understand it?  He replied, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.  [Jesus] said to him, You have answered correctly: do this, and you shall live.” — Luke 10:25-28
If the Law and the Gospel were really different in kind or in quality how could both Jesus and the lawyer understand correctly that the Law is about love?  Wouldn’t the Law necessarily be about condemnation if Law and Gospel or Law and Grace were really distinct?  Or how is it that the Law is about Jesus, Who is the Gospel, the living Grace of God?
“Philip finds Nathanael, and says to him, We have found Him, of Whom Moses in the Law, and the Prophets, wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” — John 1:45
Jesus, while teaching the Law says:
“Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you keeps the Law? Why do you go about [seeking] to kill me?” — John 7:19
And so Paul understands the meaning of the Law to be about the Gospel of Christ:
“This I confess to you, that after the way which they call heresy, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets….” — Acts 24:14
“When they set a day for [Paul], many came to him at his house; to whom he explained and witnessed about the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both from the Law of Moses, as well as from the Prophets, from morning until evening.” — Acts 28:23
So how is it that the Law justifies if the Law is really distinct from the Gospel in nature?
“For not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law shall be justified: for when the Gentiles, who do not have the Law, do the Law by nature; these, not having the Law, are Law within themselves: which proves the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, so that their thoughts either accuse or else excuse them.” — Romans 2:13-15
Or why would the Law be important to the Gentiles in any way if Law and Gospel really differ in kind.
“For circumcision really profits, if you keep the Law: but if you are a Lawbreaker, your circumcision is made uncircumcision.  So, if the uncircumcised keep the righteousness of the Law, shall not uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?  Shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge you, who by letter and circumcision break the Law?” — Romans 2:25-27
So if keeping the Law is righteousness for the uncircumcised, how can it be different from the Gospel?
“I came as a Jew to the Jews, so that I might persuade Jews; to those who are under Law, as under Law, so that I might persuade those who are under Law; to those who are without law, as without law, not without law toward God, yet in Christ’s Law, so that I might persuade those who are without Law.” — 1 Corinthians 9:20-22
The answer is that the difference does not come from the Law itself, but from the attitude and means by which we approach the Law: for the Law itself is always good and always filled with the Gospel.  The Law always had as its intent that it be approachable through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Jews seeking to approach the Law in the flesh, put themselves under the Law, finding only condemnation.  The Gentiles being without the Law, made no approach, finding blessing in the obedience of simple conscience.  Paul, who is in Christ, builds on the Law by the power of the Holy Spirit.  This, then, is the better way with which Paul persuades Jews under the Law, and Gentiles without Law to come to the Law of Jesus and become builders on its foundation.  This always was the original intention expressed in Exodus 20:12.
“So then the  Law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, in order that we might be justified by faith.” — Galatians 3:24
It is absolutely impossible that a tutor accomplish any goal by teaching that which is contrary.  Nor does a tutor succeed via condemnation.  The Law itself is given only to a redeemed people and speaks only of freedom and love, condemning only those things which oppose freedom and love.  “The  Law was our tutor to bring us to Christ,” precisely because the Law teaches the Gospel with unmatched clarity.  What Galatians repeatedly condemns is not the Law; but rather the works of the Law done in the flesh.  So in contrast to dead works of the Law done in the flesh, we fulfill the Law of Christ.
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ.” — Galatians 6:2
So where did this perverted use of the Law come from?  Did it not come from the Pharisees?  Is this not Paul’s whole argument in Romans?  The Sadducees did not believe much of anything; they were happy in their unbelief as long as they kept their temple power: so Christ drove them away.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, applied rule upon rule in order to keep the Law by the flesh.  Neither Pharisees nor Sadducees received Jesus, the King of the Law; neither of them sought to keep the Law by the Spirit.
“It is the Spirit that brings to life; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are Spirit, and they are life.” — John 6:63
It has often been said that the Law is a curb on society, a mirror of reality, and a guide for sanctification.  This approach completely ignores the context of the giving of the Law: thus it is terribly misleading.
First, the Law is given to a redeemed people, it is not given to bring people to redemption.  Pesach, Pascha, or Passover, which corresponds to the death and resurrection of Christ is now a past event.  The Law is most certainly not an overture for evangelism.  So the Law builds on redemption and is in no way its precursor.
Second, the giving of the Law is most closely related to Shavuot, Weeks, or Pentecost.  Pentecost marks seven cosmic events: the giving of the Law, the establishment of Israel as a new nation under Law, the ascension of Jesus into heaven, the seating of Jesus on the throne of David in heaven, the opening of the Scroll in heaven, the coming of the Holy Ghost with power, and the birth of The Church.  Hence, the Law is not our tutor bringing us to Christ as our Savior: that is a Passover act.  The Law is our tutor bringing us to Christ as our LORD, Master, and King.  So the Law commands to “honor father and mother” as its centerpiece, which is an act of Pentecost.
Third, so yes, the Law is the only guide for sanctification, since it teaches us how to live a Christ-like life.  Yet, even this is misinterpreted.
What we frequently have in mind when we think of curb, mirror, and guide is the horribly punitive model left over from the Middle Ages: that the Law is primarily about the punishment of sin and sinners.  If we wish to find such a model, we should look to Passover, not to Pentecost: for Passover is behind us.  Yet, what does the Law itself say?  “I have brought you out of the land Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  The Law is not a litany of threats about sin, it is the condemnation of all things that tend to slavery.  In the seminal idea of freedom it is not possible to list all things that are free, it is only possible to name the boundaries of freedom, which may not be crossed.
So, if the Law is the only guide for sanctification, it is only so in Christ-like living; it is only so in absolute real and perfect freedom; it can only be so in love, hence the exhortation to love both God and neighbor; and it has nothing to do with the terror of sin.  The terror of sin should have been sufficiently learned in Egypt: for the terror of sin is learned from sinful behavior.
What shall we then say about the Law as the mirror of reality?  Does it help us to see our own sin and corruption more accurately?  Is that what the Law says about itself?  In no way.  The only true mirror of reality is in, “looking unto Jesus… (Hebrews 12:2; Jude 1:21)”: for here alone is the Perfect Man in the fullness of His stature.  So, once again, our only mirror can be found in Christ-like living, freedom, and love.  Hence, it is not a mirror at all; rather, it is a brilliant flame in the darkness, our tutor, guiding us to Christ.
How then can the Law possibly be a curb on society?  Has any person ever hated or forsaken sin out of mere fear of the consequences?  Au contraire!  “The goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4; 11:22)”, and repentance follows redemption.

We conclude that Law and Gospel are not distinct.  Rather they are completely complimentary and inseparably intertwined.  Wherever the Law is found, there is the Gospel also.  Wherever the Gospel is, it stands rooted in the Law.  The one cannot exist without the other.

Bible Study Errors, Trap 1

Trap 1
Beginning Bible students often fall into the trap of believing that the Old and New Testaments radically differ; that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are different Gods.  Allegedly, the God of the Old is all about wrath, judgement, condemnation, and destruction.  Supposedly, the God of the New is only about mercy, love, warmth, and forgiveness.  These are old wives fables, urban legends, false rumors spread by gossip: not one idea among them is close to being true.  Yet, even seasoned Bible teachers fall into this trap as they try to simplify understanding for congregations and classes; as they simplify, they oversimplify and fall into error.
If any of these things were true, Jesus could not have said:
“I have not yet ascended to My Father: go to My brothers and sisters, and say to them, I [am about to] ascend to My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.” — John 20:17
For Jesus would have had to be radically different from His Father to make any of these wild tails true: yet, Jesus ascends because “[He] and the Father are One (John 10:30).”
Nor could Jesus have taught:
“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” — Luke 24:27
“These are the words which I spoke to you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which are written in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, concerning Me.  Then He opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, … Thus it is written, and thus it was the obligation of Christ to suffer, as well as to rise from the dead the third day: so that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.” — Luke 24:44-48
For as Jesus taught these things no New Testament as yet existed.  He is clearly teaching from the Old Testament; He even takes pains to emphasize the Old Testament’s three parts: Law, Prophets, and Psalms.
If any of these things were true, the ancients could not have written:
“In a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you, says the Lord your Redeemer.” — Isaiah 54:8
“And the children of strangers shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you: for in My wrath I struck you, but in My favor I have had mercy on you.” — Isaiah 60:10
“O Lord, I have heard Your speech, and I was afraid: O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.” — Habakkuk 3:2
For these verses make no sense at all if God’s wrath is not always found with mercy.
As soon as Adam and Eve sin they are immediately met with the wrath of God; yet, shortly afterward the Father provides clothing for His naked children.  Adam and Eve, having fallen into a state of death, are driven from Eden before their state becomes an eternal curse.  A wicked world witnesses the wrath of God; yet, God shows mercy in Noah.  Abraham lives in wandering and turmoil; yet, more than any other, he receives the promises of God.  With horror we watch as Abraham takes Isaac to the mountain to die; when God in mercy intervenes.  Yet, without this event, neither Abraham nor Isaac would have begun to understand the death of the Son in Jesus, with its open display of both wrath and mercy.  Joseph is thrown in prison; saves a nation and his family as the instrument of God.  The Gibeonites, faced with certain defeat, lied in order to be close to the Israelites, judging that it was better to be slaves in the Presence of God at any cost.  Jonah suffers much; still he leads the Assyrians to repentance.  Daniel and his friends overcome confrontation with powers, fire, wild beasts, and rejection to prevail in God’s mercy.
Hebrew 11 provides an extensive list of the faithful, who incessantly witnessed God’s wrath mixed with mercy.  Yet, this does not end with the close of the Old Testament: for Paul immediately writes:
“Wherefore seeing we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us; let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God: for consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your minds.
“You have not yet resisted to blood [death], striving against sin.  You have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as children, My children, do not despise the punishing of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked by Him: for whom the Lord loves, He punishes, and scourges every child He receives.  If you endure punishment, God deals with you as children: for what child does the Father not punish?  Yet, if you are without punishment, of which all are partakers, then you are illegitimate, and not children.
“Furthermore, we have had earthly fathers who corrected us, and we gave them respect: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live: for in reality they punished us for a few days to gratify their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.  Now no punishment, for the present, seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who are exercised by it.  Therefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be cast away; let it rather be healed.” — Hebrews 12:1-13
So we see that God’s wrath has purpose: it is for the profit of His children, so that they might become truly holy, really righteous, totally healed.
For those who see only wrath in the Old Testament, and only mercy in the New, we have a few more things to consider:
“He that believes in the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him.” — John 3:36
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” — Romans 1:18
“And to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, Who delivered us from the wrath to come.” — 1 Thessalonians 1:10
“For our God is a consuming fire.” — Hebrews 12:29
We conclude, then, that there is no difference in the nature of the message of the Testaments.  Neither is the God of both Testaments changed.  Is there any difference between the Testaments.  Yes, they are only divided by time.  It was time for the Son and the Spirit to be presented to the human race.  It was time for us all to become God’s ambassadors.
“When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law….” — Galatians 4:4
“Jesus came and spoke to them, saying,  All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth.  As you scurry about, make disciples among all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to obey all things whatever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the ages.  Amen.” — Matthew 28:18-20

“You shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost comes upon you: and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judaea, in Samaria, and in the remotest places of the earth.” — Acts 1:8