Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Heidelberg Disputation Series Part 9: The Truth About Galatians 2:20

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 25, 2015

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Welcome truth lovers to Blog Talk radio .com/False Reformation, this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, part 9 of “The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, The Truth About Galatians 2:20.”

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Galatians 2:20 is the go-to verse for all stripes of progressive justification. For those who seek to live an aggressive sanctification and life of fearless love, its constant twisting by proponents of progressive justification is an ongoing nuisance of biblical proportions. This episode attempts to end the argument once and for all.

What is the constant mantra that we here today in regard to Galatians 2:20? “See, it is not I who lives, I am still spiritually dead, and the life I appear to live is really Christ living through me.”

First, what is our specific beef with this notion? Ok, so folks have a passive view of sanctification (Christian living); so what? The so what follows: a passive approach to sanctification assumes that justification is an unfinished  process, and therefore, any actions by “saved” people must not circumvent the justification (salvation) process. That’s default works salvation because we are involved in keeping the salvation process going, albeit doing nothing with intentionality.

This is the crux of the Protestant gospel; justification by faith. We are justified by faith alone in the same gospel that saved us because not doing anything but believing is supposedly a faith alone work. But not doing anything with intentionality is doing something—that’s the problem. And as we will see, the biblical definition of faith is contrary to the Reformed definition of faith.

Let me walk you through our process tonight. We will begin by looking at the proper interpretive method that must be used in rightly dividing Galatians 2:20. Then we will look at the proper context, followed by the right definitions of the words used in the verse resulting in correct interpretive conclusions.

Let’s look at the proper interpretive method for rightly dividing Galatians 2:20. We call this hermeneutics. Whenever we read our Bibles, we must ask ourselves if the context is justification or sanctification. What is the difference?

Justification, unlike the Reformed definition, is a state of being brought about by the new birth. It is not merely a legal declaration that changes our status. The Bible uses the words “justification” and “righteousness” interchangeably.

Know the difference between the Biblicist remedy to prevent legal fiction, and the Reformed remedy to prevent legal fiction. The Reformed remedy states that the declaration is not legal fiction because the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the “believer” and substitutes the believer’s righteousness with the righteousness of Christ. This is Martin Luther’s alien righteousness and the Reformed doctrine of Christ for us. Even though the saint remains a sinner, Martin Luther’s Simul iustus et peccator, or simultaneously saint and sinner, covers the believer with the righteousness of Christ. In Reformed thought, the standard of this righteousness is the law.

The Biblicist remedy doesn’t cover sin, it ends it. The standard for righteousness in being justified is the new birth, not the law. We are not only declared righteous, we are righteous because we are born again into the literal family of God. In essence, the Trinity became a family. That’s huge. For eternity the Trinity was only one between the three of them, but their remedy for sin was to make mankind one with them as a family. In the plan of salvation, in the election of the salvific plan, God became a Father, and the Messiah became a Son. This nomenclature denotes the plan of salvation specifically; God not only redeems man, He makes Him His literal family through the agency of the Holy Spirit.

Hence, righteousness is not a declaration made true by a double substitution, it is true because the new birth makes us righteous; it is a state of being, not a mere forensic declaration. The new birth is a onetime event that results in the Spirit living within us forever. Our hearts are truly redeemed, but we are still weak and therefore susceptible to breaking the law. Yet, we are righteous because God’s seed dwells within us, and the law’s ability to judge us has been cancelled. More on that later.

Therefore, Scripture verses must be interpreted by the context of justification or sanctification. Does the verse pertain to the new birth which is a onetime finished event, or the Christian life which is ongoing? What is the difference between the two?

Simply stated, one is a gift, and the other is a reward. Does the context speak of the gift, or what we do to earn our rewards? Does the context speak of the finished work of salvation, or our endeavor to live in fearless and aggressive love followed by its rewards and blessings?

Let’s define the difference by defining the lost versus the saved; the unrighteous versus the righteous. The two have a different master, a different reward, and a different law. The master correlates to the wages received according to their slavery.

We are all born under sin which is defined in the Bible as a master. In this sense, we are/were enslaved to sin. As slaves under the Sin master, though they can do good works, the only wage that can be received is death and condemnation. The law, or the Bible, condemns those who are “under law.”

In contrast, Christ purchased all men with His blood by paying the penalty for sin. He has effectively purchased all slaves from the other slave master. You were “bought with a price.” If you believe this, you are now a slave to the new Master through the new birth. You can only receive wages for life, and there is no condemnation. As Christians, our goal is not to stop doing sinful things; our goal is to gain things pertaining to life. Christians focus on sin way too much—our focus should be love. Peter said that “above all” focus on love because love covers a multitude of sins. The Bible is now our guide for loving God and others, and does not condemn us.

Moreover, salvation is not a mere assent to the facts of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, it is a decision to follow Christ in death and resurrection through the baptism of the Holy Spirit that results in the new birth and the permanent receiving of the Holy Spirit. The old you literally dies and you are resurrected a new person.

Amazingly, lost people know this intuitively; the most common reason that the unregenerate don’t want to become saved is because they know it means giving up their present life, and being resurrected to the uncertainty of being a totally new person sold out to the kingdom. I believe that to be the focus of Christ’s exchange with Nicodemus in John 3.

And this is also the focal point of Galatians 2:20. Proponents of progressive justification use this verse to refute Biblicism which proffers a radical dichotomy between justification and sanctification. But in truth, Paul is attacking the Galatian error of progressive justification which substitutes the believer’s love in sanctification for a ritual that keeps justification moving forward. It’s the exact same error propagated by the Reformation.

The context is Paul’s rebuttal regarding how the Galatians were attempting to be justified. Justification is clearly the context. The fact that Paul is addressing the subject of justification in the body of text where Galatians 2:20 resides, is clearly evident (three times alone in Galatians 2:16, Galatians 2:17, 2:21, 3:8, 3:11, 3:24, 5:4). The Galatians were being led away into error via a justification which has law as its standard. It’s the same old song and dance with progressive justification; some sort of ritual or tradition fulfills the whole law which is not the standard of justification to begin with.

Since people cannot keep the law perfectly, the law is dumbed down into some sort of ritual or ceremony. Paul therefore warns them that if they want to be justified by the law, they are responsible for all of the law, not just the recognition of a few rituals:

Galatians 5:2 – Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Obviously, they believed that circumcision satisfied what many call today the “righteous demands of the law,” or a satisfaction “under the eyes of the law.” It is clear that a salvation by circumcision (ordinance) is in the mix here: 2:3, 2:12, 5:2, 5:3, 5:6, and 5:11. Perhaps circumcision saved you, and then the ongoing observance of other rituals maintained ones “just standing” (Gal 4:10, 11). At any rate, this results in the “relaxing of the law” for purposes of love in sanctification. Or in other words, antinomianism:

Galatians 2:15 – We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified[b] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.

Galatians 5:7 – You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

Galatians 5:13 – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Of particular interest to further the point is Paul’s assertion as to what actually fulfills the law; LOVE, not ritual or tradition, especially since we are not justified by the law to begin with.

Now, as we move into the focal point of Galatians 2:20, it is important to define the words used in the verse.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (KJV [nevertheless I live excluded by ESV]).

Look, this verse is nothing more or less than run of the mill Pauline soteriology. It speaks of the Spirit’s baptism and the new birth. It is arguing against progressive justification by reiterating the new birth. “I am crucified with Christ” speaks of the old us that was crucified with Christ:

Romans 6:1 – What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free[b] from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

In light of Romans 6 and 7, here is what I think this verse is saying:

The old I was crucified with Christ, but nevertheless the new I lives, not the old I, but the new I that is indwelt by Christ. The new I lives by faith in Christ who loved me and died for me.

In light of other Scripture, this is the only conceivable interpretation. And we must also consider the biblical definition of “by faith.” Galatians 5:6 makes the definition absolutely certain:

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Also note what James said about faith:

James 2:14 – What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

This is the EXACT same faith that is advocated by progressive justification soteriology in general, and Reformation soteriology in particular; a faith without works that invokes some kind of substitution for our works in sanctification. And they love to use Galatians 2:20 to promote it. Last week, we looked at this in-depth through the ministry of one of the more mainline evangelical churches; John MacArthur’s Grace to You ministries. We deconstructed a sermon on Galatians 2:20 by one of the ministry’s most prominent leaders, Phil Johnson, [also see Part 2 here].

In his Reformed run of the mill evaluation of the verse, he advocated the idea that it is a paradox; Paul was speaking of one man that is both dead and alive. Because of Christ, we are dead to the law because Christ fulfilled the law for us. We are alive when Christ’s fulfillment of the law is imputed to us in sanctification. Justification does not change the person in any way, shape, or form, but because of Christ, we are dead to the law for justification and alive to the law in sanctification because Christ fulfills the law in our place. There is no real exchange of masters because justification does not change us; the other Master, Christ, is a servant for us while we remain a slave sold under sin.

As John Piper once stated it, Christ is a school teacher that does our homework for us, and takes the test for us as well. He is also, for all practical purposes, a Master who purchased us with His blood, and then does our work for us. Again, it’s a matter of several single perspectives that unites what God separates. And in fact, the Reformed state constantly that Christians are still enslaved to sin.

This also unites gift and reward making salivation the reward for living by their definition of faith alone. This makes faith alone a work for purposes of earning our salvation. It is doing nothing with intentionality because love in sanctification is deemed works salvation. The servant is not free to love. The servant is not free to serve the other Master because he/she is still under the law that cannot be kept perfectly. But, it is love that fulfills the law, not law-keeping.

Note the following text:

Hebrews 6:9 – Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Note that God would be “unjust” in not rewarding their love and servitude. Why? Because sanctification is about the earning of reward while justification is a gift. Scripture must be interpreted according to the context of justification or sanctification accordingly.

Faith works in love. Faith works—this is not mere contemplationism or faith in Christocentric facts, it’s a working faith that we will be rewarded for. Let’s now define how faith works by, or through love. It’s the freedom to obey the law of the Spirit of life as opposed to the law of sin and death that the new man was under (Romans 6:14 and 8:2). This is what fulfills the law, not a dumbed down tradition. This is why Christ said that our righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees; it must be a righteousness that works through love and fulfills the law accordingly. Not that the law is a standard for justification to begin with, but this is set against the idea that it is. The new birth frees the saint to aggressively love through obedience without any fear of condemnation.

Because the Pharisees sought to fulfill the law with their traditions, they relaxed the law and ignored its weightier tenets of mercy and love. As a result, they were rank antinomians on the inside and the outside (Matthew 23:28, Luke 11:39), and just another example of those who hold to progressive justification.

Moreover in closing, if justification does not change us through the baptism of the Spirit and Galatians 2:20 pertains to mere death and life experiences imputed to us by Christ as proponents of progressive justification assert, that leaves us with the raw reality of what the institutional church will look like. As ones still under the law of sin and death, the reading and teaching of God’s law will actually provoke people to sin:

Romans 7:7 – What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

Sin is empowered by its ability to condemn through the law (1Cor 15:56). Sin is empowered and alive via condemnation. The person who is not reborn is under the law and its condemnation. Sin is still empowered by its ability to condemn through the law. This is why Christ came to end the law (Romans 10:4). Regardless of what kind of front the institutional church is able to erect, progressive justification keeps people under the law, under the Sin master, and the law itself will only provoke and promote sin.

In fact, in regard to youth groups, they will turn your children into antinomian rebels. This is irrefutable and a foregone conclusion regarding any doctrine that keeps people under the law. The law will only provoke them to sin because of its ability to condemn those who are still under it. In contrast consider the following:

Romans 7:1 – Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

See what is really going on in Galatians 2:20? Take the “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” and interpret it with, “you also have died to the law through the body of Christ.” Because the verse is strictly about how we are truly justified, it must be interpreted with the law in mind. And you can see that context in the venue of Galatians 2:20 with a capital C. Consider another interpretive paraphrase:

I am crucified with Christ and no longer under the law that enslaved me to sin, nevertheless I live according to the new way of the Spirit; yet not the I that was under the law, but the I with Christ living in me because I died to the law through His body: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith working through love according to the Spirit’s law of life.

This is a fair paraphrase unless you want to totally disregard Romans 6, 7, and 8, or worse yet, contradict those chapters. So why in the world is Galatians 2:20 worded this way? First, remember, it is ONE verse, and unlike any other verse about justification. Is this some sort of thumbnail statement that represents the corpus of Paul’s teachings on justification? I think that is very likely. Paul bemoans throughout his letter to the Galatians that he had invested all kinds of time in teaching them about law and gospel. It is very likely that this is a bumper sticker statement that represents the corpus of that teaching. If this verse says what purveyors of progressive justification say that it says, the rest of Pauline soteriology is clearly and completely upside down.

But be certain of this: this teaching of Galatians 2:20 is exactly why the institutional church looks like it does today. It is a return to Pharisee-like antinomianism traditions. It was in fact the Judaizers that were troubling the saints at Galatia.

With that, let’s go to the phones.

The Potter’s House: Lesson 71 of Romans Series

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 25, 2015

HF Potters House (2)Series Archives

Romans 15:1-14 audio link. 

The Potter’s House: Romans 15:1-14; Points About Authority and the One Body of Jews and Gentiles

We are finally back to our study in the book of Romans. We have the last two chapters left, and this morning we resume at verse one in chapter 15. The first eleven chapters are a heavy dose of justification, and what we have learned from them has radically transformed our lives. A lot of Bible “learning” unfortunately comes from second hand knowledge rather than God speaking directly to us. After learning many things about justification in the first eleven chapters, we are now learning many things about the roles of Christians in kingdom living. One we should take note of is that there is NO horizontal authority among God’s people. Elders aid believers in exploiting the full potential of their hope—they have no authority.

God’s assembly is not an institution. Institutions are always defined by some kind of authority structure. Authority necessarily needs something to be in charge of, and at least within the walls of the institutional church, it is in charge of truth which leads to orthodoxy. An explanation of truth that is a commentary between God and everyday people is a troubling idea in and of itself. Once you concede that there is horizontal authority in the church, the logical questions that follow are not only troubling, but are answered by the slippery slope of Protestant tyranny. Authority is conceded, but the specific bounds are the elephant in the room because history shows that the church is utterly unable to restrain its own authority. As John Immel often notes, “polity,” or church polity is a soft term for church government. This all implies an authority over truth on behalf of God. There is no orthodoxy—only truth. There is no church government—only gifts, and there is no authority other than Christ.

And as we progress in Romans from chapter 12, we see this reality more and more, beginning with verse 1 here in chapter 15:

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. (NIV)

“Neighbors” is really a word that refers to someone close. It doesn’t exclude the literal neighbors of the hearers, but primarily refers to the fellow believers at Rome. Notice that this verse is an exhortation to the “strong,” and “each of us” in general should focus on building others up. This is a glaring pattern in the New Testament. The call to build up the body is to everyone and those we usually deem as God’s authoritarians are conspicuously missing throughout Scripture. In regard to the all-important elders and pastors, where are they? An inspection of Scripture in regard to this question reveals a stunning reality: elders and pastors have little significance in the New Testament. The emphasis is everyone working together for the building up of the body which as we will see includes a call to ministry usually ascribed to pastors and elders. Where are the elders? And who are all of these people who are supposed to be doing their jobs?

Let’s look at the word, “shepherd,” as in, you know, John MacArthur’s annual “Shepherd’s Conference.” The word (poimēn) appears 17 times in the New Testament and mostly refers to Christ or literal shepherds of herds. As far as I can tell, the word is only used once in regard to a pastor and that is in Ephesians 4:11. Think about that, reference to pastors as a shepherd appears ONCE in the New Testament.

Let’s look at “overseer.” The word (episkopos) appears five times in the New Testament. It refers to pastors once in Acts, once in 1Timothy, Once in Titus, Once in Philippians, and a reference in 1Peter about Christ.

Let’s look at the word “pastor.” It is the same word as “shepherd.” The two are used interchangeably in English translations. Both together represent the aforementioned 17 citations of which one speaks directly to the idea of “pastor.”

Let’s look at the word “bishop.” See, “overseer.” Again, these two words are used interchangeably for the same Greek word in the English translations.

But most telling is where these words are not used. In the magnum opus of justification, Romans, elders are not spoken of in any way, shape, or form. In the magnum opus of correction, the two letters to the Corinthians, again, there is no mention of pastors or their supposed roles even in Christianity gone wild. Of the 27 New Testament letters, at least 19 are corrective and address false doctrine, yet as mentioned before, a direct reference to pastors only occur in about five books. Only three books address leadership specifically with the remainder always addressing the congregation as a whole. Even in regard to the letters addressed to individuals, they were obviously intended to be made very public as well.

But most astounding is the fact that throughout the Scriptures those who are primarily addressed, the general congregation of God’s people, are called on to do ministries that we usually attribute to the “qualified pastorate.” And we will continue to see that throughout this study as well.

Romans 15:3 – For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written:

“The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Psalm 69:9)

4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (NIV)

The Scriptures were written to “teach us.” This is a direct line of sight from the Bible to believers in general. Nowhere in Scripture is there any merit for an orthodoxy overseen by elitist teachers or elders.

Romans 15:5 – May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)

Listen, this is it in a nutshell: the goal of one mind in Christ resulting in one voice. You decide from what we have learned in the past two lessons; does Paul say that is a result of blind obedience to authority, or is everyone to be convinced in their own mind? Granted, persuading those who are free to follow their own conscience is hard work. But that is the calling of a true elder. The New Testament does not endorse the dictation of truth in any way, shape, or form.

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: (NIV)

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;

I will sing the praises of your name.” (2 Sam. 22:50; Ps. 18:49)

10 Again, it says,

“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.” (Deut. 32:43)

11 And again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles let all the peoples extol him.” (Psalm 117:1)

12 And again, Isaiah says,

“The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.” (Isaiah 11:10)

When Paul writes, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” he is talking about Jew and Gentile, he is writing about the mystery of the gospel. Remember what that is? It is God’s promise that He would bring Jew and Gentile together into one body for His praise and glory. And I do not think that goal has ceased—this is still the mystery of the gospel. This is why anti-Semitism is completely unacceptable among confessing Christians. Listen, any separation gospel or supersessionism is a blatant denial of the gospel. And this is yet another lost aspect of Christianity that must be recultivated; that is, the mystery of the gospel. Jew and Gentile worshipping together in unity is a major source of glorification. This opportunity is probably lost to a great degree because of Jewish customs that are no longer recognized by Christians. We know that Christ’s assemblies recognized Passover for at least 200 years after Christ’s ascension.

As home fellowships learn and grow, I think we will see the power of God’s word come alive to His glory in many-faceted ways. Also, let’s note Paul’s use of the Scriptures to make his case in citing three Old Testament passages. This speaks to the continuity and truth that guides us.

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 14 I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (NIV)

Once again, on the one hand, we see a sparse emphasis on elders in the New Testament while God’s people in general are told to do the tasks and ministries that are usually attributed to the “expertise” of the elder.

I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.

The fact that the institutional church pays pastor’s CEO-like wages for something that God’s people are called on to do leaves one dumbfounded in the face of how powerful the traditions of men are. The Scriptures are clear as to what roles pastor’s play in Christ’s assembly.

Ephesians 4:11 – So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

First of all, some of these gifts are starter gifts. Prophets were a temporary gift to the church to get things started. But at any rate, these are “gifts” and not offices of authority. Pastors are not mediators or authoritarians. The office of mediator between man and God and the authority thereof is the exclusive office of Christ. Unity in regard to a single truth is not by authority, but as each Christian is “convinced in their own mind” (Rom 14:5). The apostles who were the forerunners of the elders (1Pet 5:1), and continually beseeched the saints to be “one mind in Christ” (Rom 15:6, Phil 2:2, 1Cor 1:10, 1Pet 3:8, 1Cor 2:16).

Key to this unity and cooperation is a proper biblical ministry model. Listen, if the mystery of the gospel is the joining of Jew and Gentile into one body, who’s in charge? That’s an interesting question, no? The answer is that no one in these two groups has authority—it’s a cooperation of gifts under one head which is Christ. What is the biblical ministry model?

Ephesians 4:4 – There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

When Christ arrived on the scene and began preaching the good news of the kingdom of God, it was in the midst of a Jewish religious community heavily predicated on hierarchy and authority. Judaism was an institutional monstrosity fraught with the traditions of the Jewish sages and ruling sects. The issue of Jesus’ lack of formal authority in institutional Judaism is a constant theme throughout the gospels. This is the reason Jesus came performing authenticating miracles—if you were not a recognized religious authority in that day, your ministry was going nowhere. Jesus broke the cycle and ushered in a new ministry model. Today, we don’t have authenticating miracles to validate our message, but we do have the testimony of the Scriptures.

Regardless of the massive religious system of that day, Christ made it clear that the people were “sheep without a shepherd.” They were not led. Jesus was not talking about a lack in the people being ruled over, there was plenty of that, He was talking about the people not being led in the truth.

The new way is a body of believers working together in mutual edification according to the gifts given them by God—a faith working through love. It is unity in one truth according to the way the one master thinks, and that one master is Christ. We are baptized once into one body with one head—one master—one Lord.

Our calling is unity in the one body and its maturity to God’s glory. Over and over and over again the apostles “appeal” to love and unity—NOT authority. It is a cooperation of gifts that are obedient to the one Master. In the rest of chapter 15 and also chapter 16, we see this in action bigtime.

Outraging the Spirit of Grace by Preaching the Gospel to Ourselves Everyday

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 26, 2015

There is no new thing under the sun—just different variations of the same thing. Sure, a company in Israel has developed a car that can run on water, that seems to be new, but they stole the idea from fish.

Likewise, man is heck-bent on either being owned to quiet his fears derived from presuppositions or being one of the elite owners of men. The argument most used for this cause is the biblical Old Covenant. Hence, there will always be various and sundry variations of a priestly class ruling over the great unwashed masses.

It goes something like this: the Old Covenant sacrifices were a shadow of Christ who offered himself once for the sins of man. Everybody agrees, but the devil is in the details; was Christ’s death a modification of the Old Covenant covering that still needs to be repeated albeit a different way? Did the Old Covenant sacrifices cover sins, or take them away? Did Christ present a variation of atonement (covering), or did He end atonement? Sure, Christ only died once as opposed to the repetition of the Old Covenant sacrifices, but must we continually return to the one time offering of Christ in order for our sins to be continually covered?

According to this construct, we remain the same except for a continual return to the sacrifice of Christ in remembrance for the forgiveness and covering of sin; after all, we still sin, right? Present sin must still be covered, no? So, instead of offering animal sacrifices, we continue to remain covered or atoned for by “remaining” faithful to the New Covenant.

How do we do that? It’s pretty clear: faithfulness to the local church through formal membership, obeying the New Covenant priests, tithing (and don’t forget “offerings” as well, and the building program, and…), baptism, sitting under elder preaching of the gospel, and especially the Lord’s Table which is one of the “grace imparting” ordinances of the church. We ALL still need grace, right?

But here is the money question: What is meant by “grace”? It can mean “help,” or it can refer to salvation. In this construct, trust me, it’s the latter.

Here is the second money question: is the New Covenant a covering of sin or a taking away of sin? “Paul, it’s only a covering because if our sins were taken away we wouldn’t sin anymore.” One of the most popular rhetorical questions in our day for someone who dares think that Christians no longer need “the gospel” (in a salvation sense) follows: “Did you sin today?” As one commented on PPT, “Well, I would hope we have forgiveness for present sin!” Hence, present sin would condemn us if we don’t continue to receive a covering for our sins. And, this covering can only be obtained in the institutional church through the “ordinances that impart grace.” You still need grace don’t you? “Are you saying that you don’t need grace?”

Therefore, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” “The same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us.” “You need the gospel just as much today as you did when you were saved.” “The gospel is not the ABCs of the Christian life; it is the A-Z.” “The gospel is not a rung on the ladder, it’s the whole ladder.” “If you leave the gospel and move on to something else, you lose justification and sanctification both.”

What does the Bible really say about all of this?

Let’s start with the Old Covenant which was, in fact, a covering for sin, but spoke of an actual ending of sin (taking away) and saints made presently holy regardless of sin.

In Leviticus 16, we find the regulations for the Day of Atonement (covering). The sacrifice included one bull, one ram, and two goats. Only the High Priest, Aaron, could perform the part of the ceremony that involved entering the Holy of Holies or the “Holy Place.” This was the inner chamber of the tabernacle separated from the entry chamber by a veil where the Ark of the Covenant was located. The fact that only the High Priest could enter the inner chamber is very significant. There was only ONE priest that executed that function. While other ceremonies only required hand washing, this ceremony required the complete washing of the body.

Laxness in regard to any ceremony connected with the Holy Place directly or indirectly resulted in instant death. This is what happened to Aaron’s two sons. The Holy Place was VERY inaccessible. The terror of the Old Covenant was for the express purpose of drawing a contrast between the Old Covenant and New Covenant.

The one priest, the inaccessibility to the Holy Place, the washing of the whole body, and the two goats are what we want to focus on in order to meet the objective point of this post. We have covered the first three, let’s consider the two goats. One was sacrificed. In regard to the sacrifices for sins, Aaron had to wash his whole body and sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat of the Ark in the Holy Place. In regard to the other goat, Aaron laid his hands on it and pronounced the sins of the people upon it, and then turned it loose into the wilderness. So there is a death resulting in a complete washing and the taking away of sin.

Now let’s go to Hebrews to find out how this all applies to the New Covenant. The Hebrew writer, probably Paul writing on behalf of the Apostles, is dealing with the same age-old problem of covering versus ending. That is the mere covering of sin versus the ending of sin. This also defines who the Christian is. If our sins are only covered we are only declared holy, but are not personally holy.  If our sins are taken away, we are personally holy and possess the righteousness of God. “But Paul, we still sin!” I will get to that.

Also, if our sins are not ended, continued atonement is needed as well resulting in a system that accesses that continued atonement. For the Hebrews, that was easy because Old Covenant Judaism was alive and well. In our day, that has been replaced with some sort of system that returns us to Christ’s sacrifice for sins. Or in other words, a return to the same gospel that originally saved us.

The glaring problem with this is the fact that Christ only entered the Holy Place once to offer one sacrifice for all time, and made the Holy Place accessible to all people. That’s the coup de grace for all of these types of systems; if what Christ did is only a covering, the Holy Place would not be open to all. Christ would still be the only one who could enter the Holy Place on our behalf like Aaron did for the Israelites:

Hebrews 10:19 – Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

We ourselves have access to the Holy Place without the representation of a High Priest walking on holy eggshells lest he is struck dead. There is only one way we can enter that Holy Place—if we are truly holy. If we are not truly holy, and our sins are only covered, only Jesus would have access to the Holy Place—not us. Notice also that we have full access with our bodies completely washed from sin—the sins carried into the wilderness by the other goat.

Curiously, most English translations interpret the Holy Place in Heb 10:19 as “holy places.” Plainly, in the context that is an anomaly, but it should be noted that the KJV (“holiest”) and the Complete Jewish Bible (“Holiest Place”) have it correct.

So, how is it possible for us to have access to the Holiest Place while we in fact still sin? One thing and one thing only: belief in Christ’s death and resurrection resulting in the new birth or the baptism of the Spirt of grace. Legally, we died with Christ and are no longer under the condemnation of the law (Roman 6,7), and Spiritually, our minds are renewed (Ibid) and we have the very seed of God within us (1Jn 3:9). Even though we still reside in a mortal body where sin can harass us, our mind is regenerated and we are enabled to use our bodies as holy sacrifices unto God (Rom 12:1).

Christ offered one sacrifice to set us free from sin’s slavery, and we are now free to offer holy sacrifices to God in sanctification. The flesh is weak, but not inherently sinful. In fact, since the Holy Spirit permanently indwells us, it is His temple:

1Corinthians 6:19 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Unfortunately, sin still dwells in our mortality, but sin’s power comes from its ability to condemn. Christ died on the cross to end the law and its ability to condemn (Rom 10:4, 1Cor 15:56), but that’s only one side of the coin; on the other side is the reality that the Holy Spirit also raised us to new life with Christ. This means we are no longer under the slavery of the law and its condemnation (we were bought with a price from the slave master), and free to serve the Spirit of God (Rom 7:6).

Before we were saved, sin was able to use the law to provoke us to sin through desires of various kinds (Rom 7:5), this is when we were “living in the flesh” because sin was our master and had the upper hand (Rom 6:20). Now, that same sin wars against us and the Spirit who dwells within (Gal 5:16, 17, 1Pet 2:11). The “lust of the flesh” refers to when sin uses our body to bring about fruits for death; it does not mean the flesh is inherently evil. The flesh, like creation, is presently “weak.”

All in all, we must define present holiness the way the Bible defines it. But the denial of our personal holiness also denies the new birth and denies us access to the Holy Place. In that case, only Christ can enter in. Christ has not sat down at the right hand of the Father, but rather still offers the daily sacrifice (Heb 10:10-14). So, instead of our focus being…

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

…and faith working through love (Gal 5:6), keeping yourself saved through a perpetual need for atonement is the focus.

That denies the new birth and outrages the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29). A return to the same gospel that saved us suggests that we are still under law and did not die with Christ; and additionally, not free to serve in the new way of the Spirit via being resurrected with Christ—Christ must continue to stand in the Holy Place and continue to offer His blood daily. He has not sat down at the right hand of the Father.

This is how preaching the gospel to ourselves every day outrages the Spirt of grace.

paul

From New Testament Synagogue to Home Assembly

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 28, 2014

ppt-jpeg4It can be confusing. After the birth of the assembly of Christ; seemingly, Christians just start meeting without any planning or protocol. They just start “doing church.” Unfortunately, the fact that the New Testament assembly was essentially Jewish for a number of years was a shocking revelation to me. Folks can say all they want about Baptists correcting Reformation anti-Semitism—it just isn’t so. Baptists have done nothing to preserve the Jewish roots of the church, and more than likely, the overall ignorance concerning our Jewish roots is foundational to most of the problems we see today within the Evangelical church. A proper understanding of the New Testament assembly model is critical to our philosophy of ministry.

Acts 10 and 11will give you a good perspective on how Jewish the church was—the Gentiles were recognized as part of the same body with much controversy and ado. Once you understand this, it is assumed that New Testament believers simply followed the form of worship that they were already accustomed to. Let’s not forget; for many Jews, the birth of Christ’s assembly was a major event, but not a conversion for them. Many were already born again before the cross (see John 3). So, what you see in New Testament assemblies was pretty much what was going on in the Jewish synagogues prior to Pentecost.

Therefore, it is no surprise to see the apostolic church ministering at the temple, in synagogues, and in homes. It was a natural transition, and a reflection of what had been happening at Jewish synagogues.

The synagogue is a concept that began sometime prior to the exodus. An Old Testament word search of “elder” makes it abundantly clear that elders led groups of people within Israel. During the exodus, the tabernacle was the primary focus for ritual, and God’s people were divided into small groups of learning overseen by elders. Again, a simple word search and observance of how the word is used in the Old Testament makes this abundantly clear. Though these small groups served many critical functions, the primary focus was that of learning. Traditionally, the synagogue is known as Bet Midrash (house of study), Bet Tefillah (house of prayer), and Bet Knesset (house of assembly).* Today, many synagogues have floor plans that accommodate these major ideas; a room for assembly, a room for prayer, and a room for study.

This is a longstanding tradition, and consequently, we see the same pattern in the book of Acts. Certainly, the concept of synagogue was institutionalized, and the first century was no exception. The first century synagogue, numbering around 400 in Jerusalem alone, was a combination of politically well-connected and highly structured centers and less formal home assemblies that were strictly that of the laity.** Along with being well connected with state politics, many of the institutionalized synagogues integrated Greek and Roman paganism into Judaism. † Due to the traditional Jewish mentality in regard to synagogues; i.e., the term “small sanctuary” was used interchangeably between the assembly and the family, ** the assemblies were unaffected by these unfortunate integrations if they chose to be, and many were.

Note: Christ’s assembly grows from 120 to 3000 in one day according to Acts 2:41, and in the following verse we read, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Where to put all of these people and what to do with them was of no issue, they merely returned to their existing assemblies, primarily in homes, and continued in the synagogue tradition. Acts 2:46 makes it clear that they met at the temple and had fellowship meals in their homes which would have also included teaching, prayer, the remembrance, and a departure with the singing of a hymn. The so-called last supper would have been very indicative of what went on during these assembly/synagogue meetings.

But also remember, the Jews that made up the apostolic assembly were VERY aware that the temple was temporary. In fact, after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD,

Following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E., the rabbis decided the home would be the mikdash m’at—”small sanctuary”—a holy place responsible for fostering the family’s spiritual life.††

In addition, Christ’s ministry probably produced many solid synagogues prior to Pentecost.

This model continued predominately for the next 200 years, and there is no reason to think that Christ prescribed any alternatives.

Paul

Notes:  

*George Robinson: Essential Judaism; Pocket Books 2000, p. 46.

**Louis H. Feldman and Meyer Reinhold: Jewish Life and Thought Among Greeks and Romans; Augsburg Fortress 1996, p. 68.

†Louis H. Feldman and Meyer Reinhold: Jewish Life and Thought Among Greeks and Romans; Augsburg Fortress 1996, p. 73.

†† Jewish Home & Community: My Jewish Learning.com; Online source | http://goo.gl/N6Udu6

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