Aside

Why did God allow Ananias & Sapphira to fall dead after lying & keeping back some money from the church?

First of all, the Bible does not tell us what God was thinking, so anything we can come up with is conjecture or at best hypothesis.

But, here’s some possible reasons:

1.  Maybe their greed & deceit would have spread within the new, young church and God wanted to rid his church of that at its infancy until it was better established and could maturely handle those types of actions

2.  To lie to the Holy Spirit indicates a severe misunderstanding about the nature of God, i.e. his omniscience & omnipresence, the fact that he knows all and is present everywhere.  Maybe, Ananias & Sapphira in a quiet corner somewhere stood counting their profits from the sale of their land.  Maybe, they grinned to each other thinking that they could keep part of it and present their gift like it was all they had.  Who would know?  If they truly didn’t understand that God could know, they may have planned to lie to him and try to appear generous before him expecting to be rewarded.  What happens in the soul of someone who believes this?  Maybe they think they are superior to God, able to outsmart him, master of their own fortunes & fates.  Sounds like pride to the nth degree, similar to Satan in his quest to be like God.  And Peter nailed it when he identified that Satan had filled Ananias’ heart.  It’s uglier to look at the scene like this.  So, why did God punish so severely?  Obviously, God thought it necessary and just.

3.  Maybe it was merciful.  Maybe, if A & S had been permitted to live, they would have continued in such blatant sin & dark deeds that they would have totally walked away from God and caused many others to turn away also.  Maybe their spiritual growth was finished and their purpose on this earth had come to a complete halt. So, God, in his mercy, took them away before they could further damage their own souls & before they could harm others.

4.  Maybe A & S had never even been true believers.  And maybe God knew they never would.

5.  Maybe God’s reasons are unknowable in this instance.  Maybe he chose for multiple reasons, ones that we have no ability to reason out.  That is one of the beautiful things about him, fearfully unpredictable.  He is who He is.  I am that I am.   So, what do we do with this?  Do we cower in fear not knowing what he might choose to do with us?  In my experience, no.  We can trust him to be faithful and kind and loving.  So, what of A & S?  Where’s the love?  Maybe the love is further down the road?  Linked to #3 about mercy.  Moses was a faithful servant, even friend, of God for a long, long time.  However, one very small act of hitting a rock instead of speaking to it cost him the entire Promised Land.  There was no pleading with God at this point.  Moses had crossed some line that God had set up.  Killing the Egyptian wasn’t as bad.  Doubting God as he stood on His holy ground wasn’t as bad.  Smashing the tablets God had just written on was not as bad.  None of those things cost Moses the Promised Land.  But hitting a rock instead of speaking to it did.  Maybe it was pride.  Maybe Moses thought however briefly that he could command water and that it was within his realm of power to provide it, and so he chose to hit instead of speak.  Regardless, what a harsh punishment.  The culmination of all Moses had done was taken away from him.  He would never step foot into the Promised Land.  How could he even bear that?  To be able to look across and see it, but never go to the very place he had so faithfully and patiently pushed the Israelites toward.  Was God unloving and harsh in his judgement?  Or was his love just further down the road?  Fast forward to the New Testament.  Jesus is transfigured with two other people, Moses & Elijah.  MOSES!  After his harsh punishment, God did not forget or disregard Moses.  He had to punish him, why so severely, I don’t know.  But, he did not leave Moses behind.  Not really.  He gave Moses a glorified moment with the Son of God in front of the future leaders of his bride.  So, maybe Ananias & Sapphira also had a severe punishment, but further down the road, invisible to us at this time, they were welcomed into the realm of the forgiven & told “well done.”

Maybe.  Or maybe, it’s something even more wonderful and complex than my wildest imagination.

Ananias & Sapphira

Relationships of the Heart

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If our works are not good enough to earn righteousness before belief in Jesus, how are they suddenly good enough after?

God is after our heart. He has always been. Adam & Eve had that unspoiled relationship with God before sin. They walked together with God in the cool of the day…God was with them. Sin split that relationship apart devastatingly and left man with a severe defect from his heart outward. The Law of God was given to help godless men focus their behaviors so they could be primed to relate to God and to one another. Following the Law would prove impossible. Why? How hard can it possibly be to follow a few rules? Impossibly hard.

The problem doesn’t lie with the Laws, rather it lies in the heart of man. Sin has so disfigured our hearts that even our good deeds aren’t good. Suppose every Law was kept by someone. Would they have achieved salvation through perfect obedience to the Law? I would say no. Because in God’s eyes, it’s not about the Laws themselves, rather it’s about the relationship. Even someone who perfectly kept all the Laws would not be deemed righteous, because the heart of all men is twisted against God. It’s the heart that is impure, even though the outward deeds are perfectly performed. No righteousness can come from a heart that is hostile to God. That is why the rich young ruler who said he had kept all the Laws was challenged to do something not written in the Law…but it was something that revealed the actual condition of his heart–turned against God.

Galatians 2:21
“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

Doing good deeds before a saving belief in Jesus does nothing to earn God’s salvation or approval. After someone has believed, they have something put within them…the righteousness of Christ.

Philippians 3:9
“and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,”

Once someone believes in Jesus, their righteousness is only on the basis of Jesus’ righteousness, not anything they can do. If our good works weren’t good enough to earn God’s approval before saving faith, how could they suddenly be good enough to earn his favor or rewards? They can’t. We are found in Him. Our righteousness can only come from Him. Nothing we do is good enough because, while we’re in the body, we struggle against our sin nature. We have been given a new nature, a living spirit now made alive with Christ.

Romans 8:10
If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

We now have a relationship which is allowed only because we’ve been made righteous by Jesus, not because we can now do right.

So what of good works? If none of our works are righteous, why are we compelled to do them or why does it matter?

From within the restored relationship, where our new nature identifies us as children of God, we are already in the correct position. There is no method, form, or law required to relate to God; we are already rightly related, spirit to spirit, deep to deep, heart to heart THROUGH Jesus.

But what happens is, because there is a new nature, the deeds we do are Christ working through us…His righteousness being manifested, not by our wonderful GOOD choice, but because His righteousness at work in us is automatically righteous. We are doing something we SHOULD and are therefore right before God; we have been MADE something new & righteous and out of that new nature comes righteous deeds. But the deeds are only righteous because they come out of the new, sinless nature which is none other than this: “Christ in us, the hope if Glory!”

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Colossians 1:27

And once again, Philippians 3:9:
“and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,”

What Do You Love? Or Whom?

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I figured out something this morning while worshipping…When I see my Savior clearly, I am totally consumed with Him, as I should be. His brightness & holiness & God-attributes cause within me a weakening of all of I am. I instantly recognize I am nothing, bring nothing, can do nothing. Similar to when people in the bible see God or an angel from God, they drop to the ground on their face. In Revelation, the elders are constantly falling on their faces. Here’s my point, when someone is enamored with someone they talk about that PERSON. They can’t not talk about the person and how amazing that person is, what they love about the person, how they don’t deserve that person, how they can’t wait to spend time with that person. They do not talk primarily about what must be done for that person and what is expected by that person. Instead of talking about what they must do for that person, they spend their time talking about what that person has done for them. The person so consumes them, all that the person has done & is, they DO things for them; BUT all they have to talk about is the person. The Son shines so brightly & is so powerfully everything I am not, I must shine light on HIM, the person. I can’t help but think, see, talk, and worship HIM. He so fills me provoking in me love in heart, mind, soul, & strength, that yes I DO for Him, obey Him, listen to Him, but my entire focus is HIM. NOT the doing for Him. My eyes behold HIM, not all I must DO. I am only acceptable to Him because of Him. My obedience is only acceptable because His grace has made it so. Not because there is anything inherently good in my obedience. Question: Do you primarily love God’s law? Or do you primarily love God? Hint: Of which is you heart most enamored? Of which is it hardest not to speak? Which is most in your writing & your speech. Your answer is the clue to whether you love the God who makes you come to Him only through grace, where no works count or whether you prefer achieving by keeping the Law & the sense of righteousness you believe it gains you. And most poignantly, if the Law of God is most important to you, it is idolatry. Idol worship. And you are among the ranks of the Pharisees who clung to God’s Law instead of loosening their hands from it and embracing their Messiah. They had no inheritance with the Son, although they believed every word of the Law. What or Whom do you love most?

Word of God II

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John 1:1
Why is it, in the beginning was the Word, then the Word is with God, then the Word was God, then skip ALL the law and prophets and Torah, which would be a perfect place to identify the living Word as being interchangeable with Law and Torah, and concluding with the Word became flesh.

Maybe there’s a difference in the written Scriptures and the living Word.
Just like my words are a part of me and communicate part of who I am, they cannot be a substitute for me, the person.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful…”

It doesn’t say all Scripture IS God. No, it doesn’t, no matter how much that is desirable. It says what it means. Because the truth is that Scripture is God-breathed, but not God-incarnate.

The written Scripture, which is not equal with God nor entirely the embodiment of God, is inspired by God and is useful…similar to the definition of Torah as useful.

What about “the Word of God is living & active…”?

The word “Word” and the word “Scripture” are not the same. “Word” is “logos” and “Scripture” is “graphe”.

The word that is living and active is the same word that was in the beginning, with God, and was God. And all written Scripture was inspired by the living God-Word.

Unless we know the Living Word, we can read written Torah and Law all day long and never find the living Word. The indwelling Holy Spirit has a role of teaching. Teaching what? “All that I [Jesus] commanded you.” Not all that Moses gave. Jesus himself speaks of a new command, a new covenant, a new wine skin. And a Teacher/Comforter who will be the authority on writing those new things on our regenerated hearts.

Even John’s gospel separates Jesus’ work from Moses: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” -John 1:17

The WORD which IS God is simply not the Scripture which is inspired by Him. Scripture is inspired by God & useful; the Word is God & is ALIVE.

Forever

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Lev.10:8 The LORD then spoke to Aaron, saying,
9 “Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you will not die—it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations—
10 and so as to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean,
11 and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them through Moses.”

“Perpetual statute”

We are now priests of God….why does this not apply to us since it is a perpetual statute?

Lev. 16:34 “Now you shall have this as a permanent statute, to make atonement for the sons of Israel for all their sins once every year.” And just as the LORD had commanded Moses, so he did.”

Believers say Jesus is the atonement…I do too, because I realize that due to the NEW covenant, this PERPETUAL statute is no longer PERPETUAL.

Did God lie and say perpetual when He didn’t really mean it? NO!

Lev. 23:10 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.
11 ‘He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.
12 ‘Now on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb one year old without defect for a burnt offering to the LORD.
13 ‘Its grain offering shall then be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering by fire to the LORD for a soothing aroma, with its drink offering, a fourth of a [fn]hin of wine.
14 ‘Until this same day, until you have brought in the offering of your God, you shall eat neither bread nor roasted grain nor new growth. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.”

Do we wave the sheaf & offer the male lamb…it is a perpetual statute in ALL your dwelling places.

Lev.23:29 “If there is any [fn]person who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people.
30 “As for any person who does any work on this same day, that person I will destroy from among his people.
31 “You shall do no work at all. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.”

Are we cutting off people who are working on the Sabbath? NO!

Num. 19:20 ‘But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself from uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD; the water for impurity has not been sprinkled on him, he is unclean.
21 ‘So it shall be a perpetual statute for them. And he who sprinkles the water for impurity shall wash his clothes, and he who touches the water for impurity shall be unclean until evening.”

Again, are we cutting off people? It’s a perpetual statute.

Here’s the great description of the Word “forever” (olam): http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/27_eternity.html

GOD gets to define & redefine & make new. FAITH is how we please Him. Which takes more faith, not having a list of laws to keep and having to trust that the Person of God is good whether we understand His ways or not OR having a list of laws that we can check off.

In theory, we don’t even need a relationship with God to keep His laws. We have the list.

But, there is no substitute for a relationship.

Further, an infant never had a list of sins they broke, they haven’t broken even 1. Yet they are guilty before God. It’s not the list and which sin or how many, it’s our sinful disposition.

That is unfixable by laws, but entirely fixed by relationship.

Another problem with the Law being established “forever”…

Matt. 5:18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not [fn]the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished….

Once heaven & earth pass away & all has been accomplished….then the Law can be done away with. Except, now we’re back at the same problem of that pesky word “forever.”

God said His word stands forever, his word is his law, and once all has been fulfilled & heaven & earth pass away (which we KNOW will happen Scripturally), now jots & tittles can fall away?

The truth is that our American or Western understanding of the word forever is “permanent irregardless of time & space, or eternal.” But a Hebrew writer using the word forever (olam) would be meaning this: beyond the knowable or foreseeable future, not implying eternal at all.

Again, God gets to define eternal; not us. So maybe we should examine what’s in Scripture as it really is and not as we would hope it to be. Test everything…

Required for What?

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I hear a lot of 119 Ministries followers say that the Law is required for all believers. My question is, required for what?

For Salvation?
For Rewards?
To please God?
To be counted as righteous?
For a good life?

For Salvation? I haven’t heard anybody who ascribes to following the Law (as a Christian) who believes this. So we are on the same page biblically in this regard. Whew!

For rewards? Now this, I have heard a lot about. And this is how it’s told: we obey the Law out of our deep love for God. But when we obey, we are told we will receive future rewards, future crowns, & present blessings.

Up to this point, Scripture supports this. However, by the time you tack on “required” regarding the Law, you have taken what was a love relationship & made it into an employer-employee relationship. No longer is the focus on the object of your love. Now it is on the requirements and the rewards upon *achieving* (key word) those requirements.

As soon as Salvation is begun at the foot of the cross, where we brought nothing & have received Jesus’ grace & righteousness, we stand up and start achieving suddenly? It’s as if God is holding out a bone saying, “Here, come this way. Look at this yummy treat you get if you obey what I demand…” Except, God is not like that. HE wants to be our reward, what we seek, and our portion forever.

Yes, because He is lavish with His love, He gives all kinds of gifts & rewards. But our obedience to the old Law is not a requirement. Faith in Jesus is what produces this.

To please God?
If we do the Law, God is pleased. If we do not keep the Law He is not pleased. It cannot be any other way if we accept the presumption that the Law is required. However, I do not keep the old Law. Many true believers do not keep the old Law. We please God by our faith. Hebrews 11 lists person after person who pleased God through their faith. Interestingly, their deeds were all vastly different. So the deed itself could not be what pleased God. Rather, what was common to each of them was a solid faith & belief in God. So it becomes clear that not in keeping the Law do we please God, but in having faith in Him. That faith gets walked out, not in the Laws we keep but by our loving desire of voluntary obedience to the Person of God in the moment He asks it of us.

To be counted as righteous?
“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.””
-1 Corinthians 1:30-31

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
-2 Corinthians 5:21

The only righteousness we have is the righteousness we receive in the person of Jesus. We cannot produce any righteous acts. Our salvation & our sanctification are both only possible in the person of Jesus. If our post-salvation deeds can produce righteousness, then we do not need Jesus’ righteousness post-salvation. And, further, if we can produce righteous deeds, we add to the righteousness of Jesus, because it is done extra-Jesus or outside of the person of Jesus. That goes entirely counter to Scripture.

For a good life?
This is shallow at best. And naive. Is it Scriptural to believe that if we keep the Law our lives will be filled with peace, joy, & safety? Consider Jesus…he was rejected, betrayed, beaten, and crucified. He kept every Law even in its intent. Consider Paul…if as Law keepers believe, he also kept the Law vigilantly, why did he suffer beatings, imprisonment, slander, and martyrdom? So a good & happy life is not necessarily going to follow precise keeping of the Law. In fact, Scripture assures believers their lives will be rather challenging & stressful. In God’s sum total of the world view He is privy to, every believer’s life is good and for their good. But the good may not be revealed in this lifetime. So, to claim peace & joyful prosperity as a result of fulfilling the requirement of the Law is scripturally inaccurate.

Lastly, if keeping the Law is required for something & you don’t keep the Law, you cannot receive the thing for which you did not keep the requirement. And if you can, then the thing which is required, isn’t a requirement since you can get it without completing the requirement fully. For example, if you must complete a driving test & submit ID & pay a fee in order to receive a drivers license, those three things are requirements having to be fulfilled. They are not optional. If you don’t do those things, you get no license. If however, you don’t do those things and you still receive your license anyway, then those things cannot not be truly required.

In light of this, if we cannot completely keep the requirements of the Law after salvation, we cannot receive what we would if we could. However, if grace covers the mistakes and sins, then the requirements do not have to be met in order to receive anything. And they cease to be real requirements if, in not fulfilling them, you can still receive what you hoped to. Likewise, if grace does not cover the gaps, and the requirements are true requirements, then we can not afford to leave anything undone. And if this is true, we are ALL without hope.

Clean Food? Part II

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Please read “Clean Food? Part I” before this so you can see how the Old & New Testaments work together here.

(The following is something I had already written in a comment on this site.)

When we get to Acts, Peter has a vision about previously unclean foods. He is told to “kill and eat” repeatedly. If this were referring to Gentiles…is he to kill and eat the Gentiles? Emphatically, No! God was not confused about what His vision to Peter was all about. God wouldn’t tempt Peter to sin…James 1:13 “13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” The sheet with animals came down & Peter was told not once, but 3 times to kill and eat. The voice from heaven even said in Acts 10:15“What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” If it were not about food, then God was tempting Him. But, we know God does not tempt us to sin, so then we can conclude Satan is tempting Peter. No, because Peter clearly recognized it as the voice of God. So, if there is no tempting, clearly, God was telling Peter, “Kill & eat” because God had truly cleansed the food.

So it is possible then for God to cleanse things that were once ritually unclean or unholy (depending on your translation). And if you need more proof that He can cleanse things that were once unclean, look at yourself. (And I’ll look at myself!!). He cleansed us through Jesus’ blood. It doesn’t say this in scripture, but it’s not impossible…maybe the same blood that makes us clean also cleansed all foods and made them also clean. Again, the WAY God cleansed the food is not told to us in Scripture, but whatever way He did it, you can be sure He did it legally, just as Jesus’ blood legally cleanses us. (i.e. it’s not God being a nice God and saying, that’s okay I forgive you for everything…He settled accounts legally with Jesus’ death. So, I’m sure He also had a way to settle it with the unclean animals, legally.)

Further, Jesus explains even prior to the Acts episode in Mark 7:14-23 that it is not what is outside that defiles a man, rather what come from inside.

Rom. 14:1-3 “1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. “

Clearly this refers to food and goes so far as to say “all”. If it were referring to clean food, it would have said so, because Paul is not known for speaking succinctly. He explains things in detail and goes to extreme measures to be understood.

Gal. 2:11-21 “11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?
15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. 17 But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! 18 For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

This passage has LOTS of important things in it. First, we see Cephas (Peter) eating with the Gentiles. What were they eating? You can be sure it was something against the Law because Paul addressed the Law. If was merely that he was eating WITH uncircumcised company, then that would be a custom of the Jews, not a Law. However, if he was eating whatever they were eating, now he would be indeed living like a Gentile, as Paul had said he was.

I want to quote this same passage again because it’s important…Paul said, (v.14) “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

I’ve already talked about Peter living like a Gentile. If you still believe it is in regard to Peter simply eating WITH Gentiles, not WHAT he was eating, he’s how you can be sure…

The second portion of that verse says, “how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Obviously, Gentiles would NOT no longer eat WITH Gentiles…they are one. They were being compelled by Peter to no longer eat “unclean” foods and possibly to wash ceremoniously before hand, so Peter would look good to his fellow Jews and not get flack from them.

Paul did not call him guilty of living like a Gentile; instead, he called him guilty of “rebuilding what [he] had once destroyed” and “prove[-ing himself] to be a transgressor”. v. 18.

Now, what did Cephas once destroy? Living under the Law. And if he again rebuilt that by suddenly living under the Law which he had just not been living under, he proves he is a transgressor of that law.

How strange that Paul did not condemn him for destroying the Law. Rather, he condemned him for trying to rebuild it.

Col. 2:16-17 “16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. “

In this passage, we see that the food & drink regulations, festivals, new moons, & Sabbaths are shadows. Shadows are not real, they are a non-descript outline of what the real thing is, i.e. Jesus. These things had value until now, when we now have something NEW. The reason we have the NEW is because of JESUS who has brought the real, who IS the real.

Eph 2: 11-22″ 11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”

Jesus abolished in His flesh the enmity between Jews & Gentiles. What is that exactly? The Law of commandments. But that’s not all, his put to death that enmity, the Law. Not just setting it aside or doing away with it. He put it to death (v.16). But that, too, is not all! He did this to ESTABLISH something.

Before I go further. Contrast this whole idea with what Law-Keepers believe. Please understand that I say “believe”. Believing it doesn’t make it true. People who believe that a Christ-follower must keep the law believe that when Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill,” the word “fulfill” means”establish”, not satisfy or complete.

But as Paul explains the legality of what happened on the cross, we see that Jesus indeed did NOT come to abolish the Law at all. I.e., He did not come to set it aside or throw it out per say. In His life He fulfilled the requirements of the Law perfectly. In His death, He fulfilled the requirements of the Law perfectly for all mankind, once & for all. If in Matt. 5:17, Jesus had come to abolish the law, He would have been free to live outside of the Law and not abide by it. He didn’t do this, as we know.

However, in His death, He fulfilled it to death. So to speak. It was so fulfilled that is was no longer able to be used. It is an old wineskin that has burst and can no longer hold anything. In the death of His flesh, He abolished the Law. He did not establish it. But, back to what I said before, He did ESTABLISH something.

What is that? Peace. Eph. 2:15 “15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, “

He ESTABLISHED peace by making both groups in Himself into one NEW man! Not putting both groups into the old wineskin…it’s burst and cannot hold the NEW!

So, all this is to explain how, although God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, He chooses in His wisdom what He qualifies as sin. In the garden, they ate no meat. Later, He gave them every moving thing. Later still, He amended the every moving thing to ensure good hygiene & teach the concept of holiness. In Acts, because of Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law and subsequent death, the ordinances are dead.

Not that there is no longer any sin. However, the ordinances are the Old. Jesus has brought both Jews & Gentiles together into something NEW. We now have a totally new way to approach God (through Jesus) and we have a new way to understand sin, the indwelling Holy Spirit.

As such, as believers, we have become members of a new covenant totally dependent on Jesus’ blood and accomplishment on the cross. We no longer have a list of old laws, we have the laws written on our hearts and interpreted to us by the Holy Spirit.

That is how for you, pork may be entirely offensive. To me, it may be a legitimate food which God has purified. Both are acceptable to God.

And for now, that is enough food for thought, pardon the pun. :)

Clean Food? Part I

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First, God gave mankind & animals only plants & fruit as food.

Gen. 1:29-30 “29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.”

Although Abel tended sheep, we only see him using the sheep as a burnt offering to God. Nothing suggest they ate the sheep. Further, Noah is told in Gen. 6:21 to “Take every kind of food that you will need. Store it away. It will be food for you and for them [animals on the ark].” This indicates that the only acceptable food was still plant-based. God instructs Noah to bring 7 pairs of “clean” animals, which looking backward from Moses, seems to indicate clean for eating. But in just examining the text, the clean animals were used for a sacrifice immediately after exiting the ark. So it makes more sense & is in better keeping with Abel’s use of sheep, that at this point, clean animals were not for human consumption, but for sacrificing to God.

Immediately after the clean animal sacrifice from Noah, God clearly gives Noah & everyone after him every moving thing for food. God even goes so far as to add it to what He already gave them, “the green plants.”

Gen. 9:3-4 “3 Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. 4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”

It’s important to note that He gives every moving thing. Not just clean. If it were just clean, He would have said just as He said pre-flood to bring 7 pairs of the clean & 1 pair of all others. He made a point to distinguish clean & unclean to Noah pre-flood; if it were intended in the food allowed, He would have said it here even more so.

Later, in Leviticus 10-11, God gives new laws that specify some animals as clean & edible and others as unclean & inedible. And the unclean animals can make unclean anyone or anything it even touches, except for a spring of flowing water. A small clue is given at the beginning of Lev. 10. God’s first words were that there are a lot of animals that live on the land. The more time had passed from Noah, the more animals had populated the earth, the more predator-prey activity, the more blood spilled, the more disease bred and passed among the animals. Perhaps this & the new wilderness conditions the Hebrews were then living in caused God to enact these new laws. Additionally, He gives other clues saying for the people to set themselves apart & be holy & clean like He is.

There are two beautiful parts to this. One is very practical. God is teaching them to be civilized & have good hygiene for their health. However, He is also teaching them about His nature: that He is holy and clean. He is using something so practical & physical in nature to demonstrate His God-attributes.

It was only at the time of Abel’s sacrifice that people began to worship God. By the time of Noah, ALL people except those on the ark were entirely wicked and godless. So by the time of Moses, we see God having chosen a people who were nothing and now He begins to train them up to teach them in very externally prescribed ways how to behave in their new community along with slowly teaching them who He is. Because at this point in time, God is very much unknown. There is very little history or prophecy as yet to show mankind who He is. He is yet a vague, widely unknown God, rarely sought after. So His use of external food laws to teach himself as holy is beautiful.

By the time we get to Acts, we see an entirely different world in place. The main parts of the world have become more orderly by governments. Cultures have been established where people have a sense of right & wrong (not necessarily Biblically so), instead of complete anarchy & wickedness & disorder as in Noah’s day. Similarly, instead of the baby people-group of Israel just coming out of captivity in Egypt under Moses, where they were suddenly on their own and unsure how or what to do, the cultures in Acts has society are older & established. Hundreds of years of prophecy, law, and history of God’s interaction with people are largely known and studied. Who God is is no longer vague. He’s painted a picture of Himself over time and history.

Jesus has come, died, and been buried & resurrected. From what I read in Scripture, a new covenant has been put into place. Here in Acts, the old food laws are suddenly displaced.

The Word

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When the Word of The Lord came to a prophet, is it then for every believer?

Isaiah 13 says the message given is about the destruction of Babylon. Do we have a hard time accepting that this prophecy, given by God, contained within the Scriptures of God, isn’t prophetically declaring our destruction? Why then do we have such a hard time accepting that the Law given to Moses for the Israelites, was FOR the Israelites?

Because we have been grafted into Israel? Actually, the point at which are grafted in is Abraham (not Moses) and it is regarding a promise, not the Law (read Romans 11 and Galatians 3 carefully).

For those wanting all believers to follow Law & Torah, I often see Scripture quoted and everywhere the word “Word” is, the word “Law” has been put instead. And often the word “Torah” also.

Are you really sure that Rev. 22:
7 “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.” (The book of Revelation is neither Law nor Torah) is not also the “Word” of God included in the following verses?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Heb. 4:12

But the word of the Lord remains forever. And that word is the Good News that was preached to you.
1 Pet. 1:25

God can mean whatever He wants when He says “Word”.

Sometimes it’s Law, other times Torah, other times prophecy, other times the Good News as in 1 Pet. 1:25, and sometimes anything that passes from the heart or mouth of God. And even other times it is a Person.

To focus on the Law & Torah is to intellectualize a Person…God is entirely bigger than our best guess of Him and that is why the great buildup of the initial coming of Jesus is so exceptional and huge. Trying to cram God and our response to Him into the Law & Torah is like trying to cram all His glory into a suitcase…you’ll only fit a tiny bit into it and miss the whole beautiful, unending, inscrutable Person of Him.

My instructions for living come from the living Spirit of Jesus within me who mediates my relationship with my Father and guides me through the Scriptures which He enlivens. The whole of the Old Testament contains many instructions for living, many of which are written on my heart by the living Spirit who teaches and personalized them to whatever wickedness is embedded in my personal heart and trains me toward righteousness.

Maybe others feel comfortable making assumptions about “Word”. I do not. “Word” means what God wants it to mean, not what I or anyone prefers. I won’t claim to have the wisdom or intellect to sort it out, but I do boast in the power and intellect of the Holy Spirit to teach me the mind of Christ as I live through Him.

1 Corinthians 2
Paul’s Message of Wisdom

1When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters,[j] I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan.[k] 2For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the One who was crucified. 3I came to you in weakness–timid and trembling. 4And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.
6Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. 7No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God[l]–His plan that was previously hidden, even though He made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 9That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love Him.”[m]

10But[n] it was to us that God revealed these things by His Spirit. For His Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.
13When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.[o] 14But people who aren’t spiritual[p] can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 15Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 16For,

“Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
Who knows enough to teach Him?”[q]

But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

God Changes the Law

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God changes the Law at times.

At first, God tells all the Israelites they will be His priests. (Ex.19:5-6) Soon after, the people make a golden calf and only the tribe of Levi agrees to stand with Moses for the Lord.

Through Moses, God set up a priesthood to operate exclusively under the tribe of Levi and it was done in conjunction with the Law.

After having established Levites as priests perpetually, fast forward to Jesus as explained in Hebrews 7. Now via an oath, God suddenly breaks through this perpetuality and starts a new & final priesthood with Jesus being the High Priest forever. He changes the Law.

“Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.”
-Hebrews 7:11-12

No longer is this according to the Law, where only Levites can be priests. This is according to some external-to-the-Law oath. God is clearly above the Law, not equal to it. And as indicated in the text below, AFTER the Law, as in post-Law.

“For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.”
-Hebrews 7:28