The Fork in the Road: The Progressive Line, Part 2

Second, one thing that greatly bothers many who first hear this teaching is the lack of objective commands. Faith and penitence are so subjective — surely there are actual commands that must be obeyed!

Again, harken back to when we first baptize a convert. What commands must they obey to be saved? Well, often the only command we teach, at first, is baptism. And we expect them to obey what they’ve learned because they are penitent. But we don’t ask them to confess a position on instrumental music or male elders.

But, by definition, penitence means a willingness to obey God’s commands. Where does a convert learn God’s commands? Well, from the faith community that converted her and from the scriptures. And because the convert has a heart for God, we expect the convert to be willing to receive instruction from her congregation and from the Bible.

Thus, John writes,

(1 John 4:6)  We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

A penitent person necessarily “listens” to the apostles. Compare this use of “listen” to —

(John 6:45)  It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.

(John 8:47)  He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

(Same words in the Greek.) “Listen” doesn’t mean “perfectly obey” or even “perfectly interpret” or even “understand all doctrine.” Rather, it means to be willing to learn and submit to what you learn. It’s just another way of looking at penitence.

Third, there is one essential, central command.

(1 John 3:11)  This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

Notice the use of “hear” (or listen to). What we are expected to hear is “love one another.” We often fail to appreciate how very encompassing this command is. But consider what John actually says —

(1 John 3:14)  We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.

(1 John 3:18-19)  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence

(1 John 4:7-8)  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

(1 John 4:12)  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

(1 John 4:16-17)  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.

John says that if we love one another, we remain saved. If we don’t, we don’t. Indeed, if we love “with actions” then we “know that we belong to the truth.” I’m entirely comfortable with taking John at his word.

Now, “listen to the apostles” and “love one another” are co-extensive. If you listen to the apostles, then you’ll listen to their message, that is, love one another.

We shouldn’t be surprised that John says things so starkly, so simply. Paul is no different —

(Rom 13:8-10)  Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

(Gal 5:6)  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

(Gal 5:14)  The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Paul says in Gal 5:6 that the reason circumcision isn’t necessary to our salvation is that it is neither faith nor love. As love is what God commands, those who are penitent — who listen to God — love.

Therefore, the marks of the church are faith and love, not a cappella music and male elders.

It’s important to realize that 1 John was written so his readers could determine whether they remain saved.

(1 John 5:13)  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

He offers several tests — faith in Jesus, love for one another, possession of the Spirit, listening to God’s apostles, and obedience — and says not a word about ecclesiology, that is, nothing about congregational autonomy, nothing about plurality of elders, nothing about acts of worship or “marks of the church” other than faith, love, the Spirit, listening to the apostles, and obedience. John obviously understands God’s will very differently than we do.

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23 Responses

  1. Jay

    With most, really nearly all COC congregations, it’s all about getting the subject immersed. After that there are no discipleship classes or classes on evangelism or anything on community out reach. What limited work is so called church work involvement. Waiting on the table and maybe being a greeter or usher, song leader, etc., etc.

    You are right, we need to express our faith by letting the Holy Spirit show the world who we are, that is a disciple of Christ leading others to Christ.

    I have been critized for mentioning the Salvation army as a Christian group who help the poor. Where are they now?…in Haiti . Where have they been?….in Haiti before the earthquake. Why can’t we imulate groups like the Salvation Army and volunteer for all kinds of good works directed at showing the world who we really are.

    We spend far too much time devouring each other over trivia.
    The lost see this and wounder who the saved are…them or us.

    Bob

  2. Amen Bro. Bob!! I know where you are coming from. Many times I’ve asked members to bring food to the building and we will take it to the local food bank. No, can’t do that. How about getting involved in the community, supporting the anti-abortion movement in this country etc. No, can’t do those things. Why?? People might think we agree with those not of our fellowship. So, nothing gets done and the Church stands by and says, The world is in sorry shape.

    We must train disciples to be a light in this dark world. Get involved and make a difference for the cause of Christ!!!!!

  3. Brother one cup

    I know your plight. We can bicker about many things that each of us believe to good or bad doctrine. But expressing our faith is a command.
    Are you from Kanas City by any chance?

    Bob

  4. There are many Christian groups that are all over the world…digging wells in Africa, building houses, building orphanages, feeding the hungry every day. They do much much more. They do all this in the name of Jesus. Just two of these are Life outreach international and Feed the Children. They were in Haiti when the earthquake hit. And I know there are many more Christians that are doing the same. I also know some COC that give out food baskets at Christmas and the COC does sent truck loads of food and other items to hurricane victims. And were highly criticized by some members of the Church. Didn’t want people thinking they were a missionary society.
    But I also know of COC congregations that won’t do anything to help people unless they are members of the Church . I don’t believe that is what Jesus told us to do. May we all do what we can to help..doesn’t matter where we go to Church. God be with those poor people. Margaret

  5. Jay,

    Based on Hebrews 5-6, isn’t it the case that there is a period of time after which God expects us to have learned some things (and learned quite well if we’re expected to teach them) that we were previously ignorant of? –and if after that time we are still ignorant of those things, then we are *culpably* ignorant? If we are culpably ignorant of a command we ought to know about and be obeying and able to teach, isn’t it then possible that we are culpably disobedient to a command of which we are ignorant? In other words, isn’t it possible for us to be impenitent in relation to a command of which we are ignorant (because we ought to know about that command)?

    –Guy

  6. Its seems to me there is a conflict between the church and the Bible not the church and it’s members. As much as we want to teach ideas of salvation and Christian living the Bible turns around and forbids people from doing so like women. Then if the church doesn’t have Elders or preacher again no church teaching is done. Thus it becomes the work of member to watch for their own families and friends. Often it means baptizing your own family members and quietly teaching them yourself.

  7. I totally agree that we need to major in majors and get out and do the Lord’s work, but I fail to see why reading and applying genuine Scriptures such as 1Tim 3 & Titus 1 and therefore having male elders is a point to be scorned and attacked. I read through the post and just don’t see where your contention has any substance. Love, faith, obedience are all essential. I agree if that’s what you’re saying. You ask, “Obey what?” The apostles? Seems like you’re saying, “Yes, obey the apostles.” Isn’t 1Tim 3 & Titus 1 apostolic?

  8. I read it again, and I suppose you’re saying it all boils down to obeying the central command to love one another. Ok, I get that and don’t necessarily disagree, but loving is obeying when it comes to God. How can a Christian or group of Christians throw aside the Scriptures (like those about elders, for instance) and still claim to love God genuinely? If that sort of thing didn’t really matter, why is it in Scripture?

  9. I agree. Way too many churches do way too little in terms of loving our neighbors. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting prisoners, etc. Basically, the things which the Lord said would separate the sheep from the goats in Mat. 25. In fact, too many Christians (even churches), do nothing of the sort. Our Christian beliefs need to translate into doing good things and being better people.

    But, I have to agree with Joshua Pappas. Exhibiting love and insisting on an an all male eldership are not mutually exclusive.

    And just because John did not mention the will of the Lord regarding his elders….we shouldn’t conclude that to disobey what he did say about them elswhere would have no bearing on our salvation. I mean, John didn’t mention what happens to the sexually immoral, the impure, the sensual, drunkards, and things like that but, we know that they will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    The Bible teaches that “the sum of your word is truth” not — “that some of your word is truth.” No offense intended…. I couldn’t resist.

  10. Hank,

    Rather than arguing about male elders, can we discuss 1 John? Have I misquoted him?

    When he says that we remain saved if we continue in our faith and love our brothers, what does he mean if not what I’ve suggested? What would be your interpretation of 1 John?

    And wouldn’t it make sense that being “sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler” (1 Cor 5:11) means you either lack faith (for an idolater) or that you lack agape?

  11. Hi Jay, (I will be quick). You wrote:
    “Rather than arguing about male elders, can we discuss 1 John? Have I misquoted him?”

    Yes. No.

    You wrote:
    “When he says that we remain saved if we continue in our faith and love our brothers, what does he mean if not what I’ve suggested? What would be your interpretation of 1 John?”

    I would interpret it the same way (I think). However, I also believe that we need to understand what the writer means when he says that our main commandment (what keeps us saved) is love.

    Remeber that Paul wrote — Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,”[a] “You shall not covet,”[b] and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”[c] 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law Rom. 13:8.

    Accordingly, love = not commit adaultery, love = not stealing, etc. Basically, love = obeying the will of God in whatever things the Bible tells us. If love sums up every other commandment (as Paul has written), then obeying God’s will concerning elders = love.
    It is not that John is saying “love” is more important than obeying God’s will regarding elders, but rather, love IS obeying his will refarding such.

    Lastly, you wrote:
    “And wouldn’t it make sense that being “sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler” (1 Cor 5:11) means you either lack faith (for an idolater) or that you lack agape?

    Yes, I would. But, I would again add that every single command of God could be summed by the word “love.”
    Jesus told the church in Ephesus that they had abandoned the love the had at first. And then he added, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen.; repent AND DO the works you did at first.” And then he added, “If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent.”

    If that church did not start doing again the works they were doing at the first…they would be lost. Again….

    Do we know what things they were doing at first but later stopped doing? Or what things they could have been? Or what things they could not have been? That they had abandoned their “love” could have been any number of things.

  12. Hank,

    We’re making progress. But there’s an important point. Paul says that those other commands are “summed up” or “comprehended” in “Love your neighbor.” The point is that we will not commit adultery or steal etc. if we truly love our neighbor.

    (Rom 13:10) Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

    In other words, he says quite plainly, if we love, we fulfill the law because that’s all the law there is. It’s not because we love God and therefore obey his commands (which is true, but not Paul’s point). It’s that love doesn’t harm our neighbors and so love includes the entirety of the law.

    Just so, Paul says,

    (Gal 5:14) The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    “Summed up” is literally fulfilled. If you love your neighbor, you’ll fill up the law because all the law requires is love for your neighbor.

    The only commands that we can’t easily fit into “love your neighbor” or “faith” are the positive commands — how to worship, how to organize the church. And these are the very commands that divide us — because we can’t even agree on what they are.

    The reason we can’t agree is they are built entirely on inferences, because none of those things we imagine to be commands are actually commanded.

    At the least, John is telling us that these are not salvation issues. After all —

    (1 John 4:7) Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

    John is also not speaking of love for God here. He says love for our neighbor is enough to show that we are saved.

    Try this exercise. List all the rules for how to worship. Literally sit down and write them down. Then look in your New Testament and see how many of those are actually commanded to happen in a weekly assembly of Christians.

    By “command” I mean command — not an inference or an example — a command such as we find in Leviticus.

    The answer is zero. Yes, we are supposed to pray, preach, sing, and make announcements, and give — but not a one is commanded to take place in a weekly assembly of Christians today.

    We have an example of communion taking place on a Sunday. In Acts. And it’s ambiguous because “break bread” could just as easily refer to the love feast or other common meal.

    That’s it.

    But there are actual instructions for how to conduct the assembly and its purposes. And the ones we actually have — in Heb 10 and 1 Cor 11 – 14 are all about faith and love and the Spirit.

    Consider 1 Cor 14. Paul was confronted with the question of whether it’s permissible to speak in tongues or prophesy in the assembly. He doesn’t ask whether these are on the list of pre-approved authorized acts. Rather, he asks —

    (1 Cor 14:2-4) For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. 3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.

    He asks whether the proposed activity edifies, encourages, strengthens, or encourages the church. These are pragmatic considerations reflecting Paul’s desire that the church benefit those present.

    And if you follow his logic, he approves those things that edify and disapproves those things that do not. And he allows activities that don’t edify to be modified so that they do.

    Paul sees the assembly as being about serving one another — love. And that’s the test he applies.

    The commands aren’t positive at all. Rather, they are logical corollaries of “love one another.”

    Paul doesn’t reason the same way we have historically reasoned. And I think we would do better to think like Paul.

  13. Jay,

    Perhaps you’ve already covered this, but can you show where Scripture makes a distinction between “positive” commands and “moral” commands such that we can treat them as having different obligatory force? You keep making this distinction which may have more support than i’m aware of, but i’m reminded of Seventh Day Adventists who distinguish between the moral law and ceremonial law to defend their use of the OT.

    –Guy

  14. The church of Ephesus is a church that can become a church without the ability to shine on others. Our Lord puts it in one brief phrase, “You have abandoned your first love.” that is the problem and “If you do not correct it, I will remove your lampstand.” The removal of the lampstand does not mean all the individual people at the church would be lost or condemned to hell. What it means is the church would lose its ability to shed the light of truth. The light from this church would stop shining. They would become a church with no influence or impact spiritually upon the community around. They would still be working, but inconsequential, with no light, no impact. The light from this church would stop shining. They are no longer concerned about those around them without Christ, but are focused on themselves. The church has too many who are busy doing religion focusing more on entirely irrelevant things. They are still maintaining, but inconsequential, with no light, no impact, they are not growing. There lamp stand has been removed.

  15. Hi Jay,

    When a person replies under the name “anonymous,” are there more than one? I ask that because I have responded to an “anonymous” from time to time and am wondering if there are more that one of them?

    Just curious as to how this here works….

  16. Guy,

    Easy as pie. Of course, “positive” is not used in that sense in the scriptures. But the distinction is made clearly enough.

    Argument 1.

    (Rom 13:8) Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

    This and the several parallel passages from the Sermon on the Mount, Galatians, and James all point to the conclusion that if it’s not subsumed in “love one another,” it’s not law.

    Moral law is whatever law is subsumed within “love your neighbor,” and positive law is any other command, by and large.

    Argument 2.

    (Gal 5:18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

    Those things prompted by the Spirit are moral law. All else is positive law. What does the Spirit prompt? Well, it’s a long list, but a typical list is —

    (Gal 5:22-23) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

    This topic can and needs to be expanded on quite a bit, but for now, just consider those passages that directly attribute a particular behavior or virtue to the Spirit.

    Argument 3.

    It would be a mistake, of course, to discuss morality without discussing Christology. We are baptized “into” Christ. We become a part of his body on earth. We are transformed by the Spirit into his likeness.

    Therefore, acting/becoming like Jesus is moral. All else is positive.

    What did Jesus do on earth? Preached the good news of the kingdom of heaven, did works of compassion, and gave his life to serve those he loves. This is moral. All else is positive.

    Argument 4

    (Eph 4:22-24) You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

    We were saved for a purpose — to be like God. In particular, we were saved to do good works, which are the same works that God wants us to do because they are also his works —

    (Eph 2:10) For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

    God transforms us by his Spirit to do good works — as part of his cosmic plan. We participate with God in his mission.

    Conclusion

    By those definitions — which are four ways of looking at the same thing — moral law is higher than positive law, indeed, the continuing existence of positive law becomes suspect. Honoring our place in Christ, being led by the Spirit, living lives of love, participating with God in his redemptive mission — are repeatedly stated to be the most important thing, even the sufficient thing for those who are in Christ.

    Read 1 John. It’s all there.

  17. Hank,

    I get to see the email address of the various Anonymouses (is that a word?). The Anonymous writing at the Letter to a Gay Man series is not the same as the atonement theory Anonymous. It can be a bit confusing. The icon beside the comment will distinguish between Anonymouses — different email gets different icon.

  18. But, I have to agree with Joshua Pappas. Exhibiting love and insisting on an an all male eldership are not mutually exclusive.

    Then you do not actually agree with what Joshua said. I don’t believe Joshua meant what he said, because I’ve corresponded with him many times over the past decade and found him to be a gracious, loving, and dedicated servant of the Lord. I think he misspoke out of frustration, but he did refer to those who disagree with him on male eldership as those who “throw aside the Scriptures and still claim to love God genuinely.” Since Jay and others have shared with the world the pages and pages of Scripture that they believe support their understanding on the male/female question (such as Jay’s series Buried Talents), it seems unloving to characterize such people as hypocrites (which is merely a one-word summary of Joshua’s accusation).

    I’m pretty convinced that neither you nor Joshua thinks that Jay is a hypocrite — I just wish we wouldn’t use such volatile language as Joshua did to describe our conversation partners.

  19. Jay,

    i do not see your distinction following from any of the passages you cite.

    Regarding your “Argument 1,”…

    Paul says in Rom 13: Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    “And whatever other commandment there may be” makes it clear enough to me that Paul does not demarcate a subset of commandments which are “moral” and mean to exclude the rest which are “positive.” Keeping the Sabbath holy fits under “whatever other commandment there may be” but i take Sabbath-keeping to fit into your “positive” category though. The only reason i can think to exclude Sabbath keeping from the phrase “whatever other commandment there may be” is if i came to this passage already being committed to this distinction you’re making.

    Regarding your “Argument 2″…

    You say that whatever is prompted by the Spirit is moral law…

    Did the Spirit not prompt the author of Leviticus to write commands regarding sacrifices and priestly ceremonies? Is it the case that when Christians observe the Lord’s Supper, their doing so is *not* subsumed under “being led by the Spirit”?

    Regarding your “Argument 3″…

    Yes Jesus did works of compassion and helped the poor. He also observed the Passover, went to synagogue and read Scripture, and made quite a scene correcting the Jews’ practices in the Temple. Why should these things be excluded when investigating what it means to be like Him?

    Regarding your “Argument 4″…

    i read that avoiding falsehood about Christology by way of testing prophets for such false (4:2-3) and listening to apostles’ teachings (4:6) and avoiding idols (5:21) are also among the things John finds it pertinent to stress in his first epistle.

    i understand your point as a logical distinction. i just don’t see where the scriptures point out that distinction such that we’re allowed to dismiss or devalue whatever we consider “positive.” i see that the passage you cite do sometimes offer lists of items for us to consider, but where does it say that we ought to consider such things comprehensive and exhaustive such that “positive law” is practically abolished? (ya know, i recall from my reading of K.C. Moser that he warned conservatives of treating baptism as though it were a “positive” command which could just as easily have been anything else.)

    Jesus told the Pharisees in Matt 23:23-24:
    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

    i take it you’d consider the Pharisees’ tithing of minutae to fit in the “positive” category. i grant you that Jesus points out a notion of “rank” within one’s obligations–there are matters which are weightier than others. But clearly Jesus says the Pharisees should’ve done *both* the justice/mercy *and* the tithing. He criticizes them for straining gnats and swallowing camels–something of which many in the CoC are certainly guilty. But Jesus’ conclusion is *not* that they should start coughing up the camels and swallowing gnats instead; His conclusion is that they shouldn’t be swallowing either.

    i see you using this distinction as an interpretive tool, but i don’t see this distinction rising out of the particular passages you cite. expedients-subordinate-to-a-command is similarly an interpretive tool, is it not? (Okay, i didn’t mean that to be as much of a jab as it probably sounds like.)

    –Guy

  20. Guy,

    These are good questions all. I’m working up a series of posts. It’ll take about 4 days to appear here — because I’ve got some other posts that really need to come first. I’ll be coming back to your questions.

    Thanks for pushing me to explain myself better.

  21. Guy,

    The Law of Moses is chock full of positive commands, and before the cross, they were to be obeyed. Jesus obeyed them and taught that they should be obeyed — at that time. The new covenant is different.

    It’s a mistake to read the OT into Paul and 1 John, for lots of reasons.

    If Sabbath keeping were within “Love your neighbor,” then why wouldn’t we still keep the Sabbath? Paul’s statement is specifically —

    (Rom 13:9) The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    Those Mosaic commands that aren’t within “Love your neighbor” are no longer commands. (But they were commands before the cross.)

    This is more clear in Gal 5, where Paul argues that circumcision is no longer binding — although it goes back to Abraham! — because it’s not faith expressing itself in love.

    It’s telling that in order to make your arguments you are repeatedly forced to go back into the Law of Moses — as though it were still binding — which neither of us believes. And yet by your arguments, it would be.

    Regarding Argument 4 — it’s not love all by itself. It’s faith expressing itself in love. Love without faith leaves one damned.

    Faith contradicts idolatry and false teachings about the nature of Christ.

  22. Jay,

    i go to the Old Law because it was authored by the same God who authored the NT. It sounds as though you wish to criticize the very idea of positive commands or ceremonial obligations as though its inherently contrary to love or faith or a right heart etc. Yet all those laws are a product of the mind and character of God. Was God’s character contrary to love or faith during the OT and He had some things to learn? God struck down a man for picking up sticks on saturday (Num 15), and that’s the same God who sent Christ into the world. Is the Old Law flawed? Did God produce poor work in the OT when He wrote the law of Moses? Is God capable of mistakes?

    No, i don’t believe you or i or anyone living today is obligated to obey the specific content of one jot of the OT; but if you claim that there is something amiss about the very notion of God having “positive” expectations, it seems you come very, very close to something akin to Marcionism.

    Regarding Jesus, of course He was a Jew and kept the law and taught His contemporary followers to do the same. i’m not saying His example binds us to keep the Sabbath. But i am saying why not understand His example to show us that we should stick to the “positive” observances appropriate to us? In other words, you seem willing to take certain of Jesus’ actions as exemplary of principles we ought to follow, but not others. Why dismiss these “positive” instances as telling us about something else about Him we should imitate? It sounds picky-and-choosy to me.

    i’ll admit i wrestle with Romans 13 in general for other reasons (obvious in other topics we’ve discussed). So, no, i don’t claim to understand Romans 13 well. But i will say a couple things.

    (1) You aimed to show me that the positive/moral distinction arose from this text (that’s at least how i took you). And i pointed out that Paul say “whatever command” leaving it more open than you are. i didn’t mean to imply i think that we’re obligated to be Sabbath-keepers. i don’t think we’re obligated to keep a single one of the 10 commandments *qua 10 commandments.* Our covenant may contain many of the same norms, but it’s a different covenant nonetheless. But in this text and related to the particular point at hand, i don’t see Paul drawing the clear category boundary that you’re claiming, especially when he says “or whatever other command…”

    (2) More importantly, how do you figure that Sabbath keeping is not subsumed under “love your neighbor”?? Speaking as a hypothetical Jew, (a) My Sabbath keeping is a day of rest for me. Taking care of myself equips me to take care of others. (b) My Sabbath Keeping exemplifies that principle of self care to those observing me who might otherwise be tempted to break the Sabbath. (c) Taking a day to honor God and do so collectively is loving to those who join in and to those for whom it is only an example. Aren’t i loving my neighbor when i exemplify to him my loving God with all my heart/soul/mind/strength? (d) Furthermore, if something like Sabbath-keeping or other ceremonial commands have nothing to do with love (for God or neighbor), then why did God command them? To waste people’s time? Just to make things harder? What was His motive if not love? Does God have motives which are unloving or goals that have nothing to do with love?

    Yes, Paul in Galatians 5 says that circumcision is meaningless *in Christ.* i don’t mean to contradict that at all. i take any mark of Judaism to be pointless in Christ in terms of spiritual value. But you are saying something beyond that. You seem to be saying (correct me if i’m wrong) that based on statements like these, it must be the case that in principle *any* “positive” observance is meaningless in nature. i see the former from the NT, but not that latter. Paul was talking to people actually dealing with Judaizing teachers. But i don’t know of any CoCers telling people to be circumcized or Sabbath-keepers or priestly-system-organizers as divinely obligatory for Christians. Whether Paul feels that “positive” observances which are *Christian* in nature (as opposed to Jewish) are somehow ‘bad’ in the same way, i don’t know. –Mostly because i don’t see him making the same distinction you are that there are things God expects of people which are divorced from love or morality or ethics or which are arbitrary in nature. Either way, it’s an inference at best.

    i’m more puzzled by your last statement–“faith contradicts idolatry and false” Christologies. i certainly agree. But if it’s okay to say this, i don’t see why it’s not okay for some CoCers to say that faith is contrary to certain other things (like faulty “positive” observances) as well. It may be that those people are mistaken in what they believe is contrary to faith (some order of worship or whatever). But this is where i’m taking issue with you–you seem to be making a far deeper claim than merely, “CoCer’s are wrong regarding certain of their doctrinal tenets.” Heck, i agree with that, for sure. But the deeper claim you seem to be making is that some CoCers are wrong for thinking that faith obligates us to certain “positive” observances *at all.* That’s quite a different level of critique.

    i’ll tell you that in terms of just ‘best-i-can-figure-common-sense,’ i really don’t see why particulars about resurrection matter at all. Yet Paul spends an entire chapter on just that topic, and furthermore, calls out some people by name who taught falsely on the topic. From the same perspective, i also don’t see why the minutae of Christology matters. Yet John is willing to make quite a fuss about it in two different epistles.

    Why does it matter? Couldn’t God just as easily handle resurrection some other way? Couldn’t God have made Christ slightly different metaphysically speaking? To my simple mind, it is arbitrary. But that’s just it. God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways are not mine. For all i know it isn’t arbitrary. For all i know it matters quite a great deal that it’s done a certain way and is the way it is. It may not seem that way to me. But God has wisdom beyond mine.

    What that tells me is that my tiny mind is not a reliable gauge for intuiting what really matters. i would’ve just told people, ah, forget about resurrection. God will do it however He does it, so what should we care what particulars we believe about it? Yet that’s not the message the Spirit inspired Paul to write. And same goes for certain beliefs about Christ’s nature.

    That’s why i don’t see why CoCers have done something wrong in principle by treating what you term “positive” observances as important. i grant you something is wrong if we don’t apply the appropriate weights to various matters of obligation (per Matt 23:23). i also grant you that CoCers have just been flat wrong in some of their conclusions regarding some “positive” observances. But i don’t see why they’ve done something wrong by thinking they need to strive to do exactly what God wants even in “positive” matters.

    One more crack at the OT confusion: i’m not at all talking about us obeying bits of the OT or Paul saying something which implies such. You have claimed that there are two categories: positive and moral. i’m understanding you to being saying that those categories are separate. If what you claim is true, then i believe i should be able to go to the OT (or likely to ANY legal system probably of any kind) and observe commands which are wholly positive and others which are wholly moral in order to see your distinction at work. In other words, i go to the OT for examples of your distinction–to see if it can be found there and can be consistently applied.

    i understand you to be using at least one criteria to measure the distinction: only moral commands are subsumed under “love your neighbor” and positve commands are not. i understand you to be saying that positive commands are somehow arbitrary in nature–God could’ve just as easily commanded something else instead. Have i got you right?

    But i’m saying two things: (1) i don’t see where scripture itself clearly draws those two categories and makes any sort of conclusions about them. You’ve mentioned passages you think make that move, and i’ve told you why i don’t see it there. Again, Paul in Rom 13 for instance, i don’t think he’s telling us that we have to keep the sabbath because the OT says so anymore than i think he’s saying we have to not steal *because the OT says so.* (2) i don’t see how i could know that a positive command has nothing to do with neighborly love. And in fact, it seems that some examples from the OT which you would categorize as “positive” could arguably be loving in motive and result. And regarding other “positive” examples where i might not be able to see how their observance subsumes under neighborly love, that doesn’t necessarily imply that they don’t. God may see how they do even if i don’t.

    And further and centrally, i still don’t see the distinction you’re calling for between the “positive” and “moral.” How do you know that “positive” things are “positive”? How do you know that they could’ve easily been anything else? How do you know they aren’t at all moral in nature or that they aren’t at all subsumed by love God/love neighbor?

    –Guy

  23. Guy (and others),

    I have to admit I got extremely excited reading your post because you are totally asking the right questions. I do not have the time to answer your questions point for point, but I will do my best to mention a few things that stood out to me.

    Why I get so excited by your questions is because, growing up, it felt to me like there was almost no connection between the God of the OC (Old Covenant) and the God of the NC (New Covenant). Everyone generally saw that Jesus became our sacrificial Lamb, but that was about as far as the connection went.

    But the infinite God of the universe is NOT ARBITRARY. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. I’d encourage you to read without commentary the entire book of Hebrews. It is so chalk full of richness and understanding about the connection between Old and New.

    So here are some thoughts…

    Hebrews 10:1
    The law is only a SHADOW of the good things that are coming–not the REALITIES themselves.

    In the past, I never understood the Biblical idea of SHADOWS and REALITIES.

    This stuff isn’t weird or numerological or anything like that. It is simply the wisdom of God.

    But any human understands that a shadow of a man looks like a man. But it is not the man. It has his characteristics, sometimes even exaggerated, but it is only a shadow.

    The Hebrew writer says: the oc law is only a shadow. So NOTHING about it was arbitrary. It was ALL in the heart of God, the God who never changes. But it is crucial to understand that it was ONLY the shadow.

    There is an amazing synchronicity between the OC and the NC and even among the NC writers, you see harmony on THIS ISSUE.

    Paul says:

    Colossians 2:16, 17
    Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a SHADOW of the things that were to come; the REALITY (or SUBSTANCE or EMBODIMENT), however, is found in Christ.

    What are they saying? Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like they are saying this:

    EVERYTHING in the Law has its REALITY, SUBSTANCE, EMBODIMENT and FULFILLMENT in Christ. Did Law go away? Not a chance.

    Matthew 5:18 – Jesus talking:
    I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

    I’m no greek scholar, so I’m not exactly sure what “accomplished” means here, but I can tell you that what Jesus says and what Paul says and what the Hebrew writer says all feel like they are on the same page…. that the Law didn’t go away but that it found its reality and fulfillment IN JESUS.

    So far so good I hope. There is soooo much more I could say, but I need to be brief.

    Let’s consider the Sabbath. What was it? What was it for? Did it go away? Is Sunday the new Sabbath? Is Sabbath really about taking it easy and enjoying a power nap? I thought the Sabbath was Eternal? Does the Sabbath really deserve to be one of the Ten Commandments? What is the big deal about the Sabbath, because there are over one hundred verses about it?

    Exodus 31:14-16
    “Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant.

    If one does a search and reads every verse in the Old Testament about the Sabbath, one can ONLY conclude that the Sabbath is HUGE in the heart of Father. ENORMOUS. It is breathtaking to see how SERIOUS He is about it. You mentioned this verse:

    Numbers 15:32-36
    While the Israelites were in the desert, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. THEN THE LORD SAID TO MOSES, “THE MAN MUST DIE. THE WHOLE ASSEMBLY MUST STONE HIM OUTSIDE THE CAMP.” So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the LORD commanded Moses.

    WOW!

    Now why was the man PUT TO DEATH? Was he put to death for breaking a commandment? Not all commandment breaking carried the DEATH PENALTY. But this one did. But was he put to death for the disobedience or for DISHONORING IN HIS HEART something that was DEAR to the heart of God? Well, it was both. It was disobedience. But more than simple disobedience, this commandment carried the death penalty because it was SO DEAR to the heart of God. But why? What was the big deal? He was just gathering wood, maybe to keep his children warm or so that they could eat the evening meal. God sure seems like an angry God over such a trivial issue. Maybe the man already had his nap and he felt like getting some exercise.

    BUT GOD WAS FURIOUS and they stoned the man to death, outside the camp.

    Why so furious?

    Because the Sabbath was just a shadow of something REAL in Christ. The woodsman wasn’t breaking a little sleep law. He was breaking a FOUNDATIONAL REALITY that is IN CHRIST. The stick collecting man might as well have SPIT INTO JESUS’ FACE ON THE CROSS. He was VIOLATING and regarding as UNHOLY the REALITY of CHRIST.

    So what is the REALITY of the Sabbath in Christ?

    Sections of Romans 3 and 4
    Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by OBSERVING THE LAW; rather, through the law we become CONSCIOUS OF SIN.

    But now a RIGHTEOUSNESS FROM GOD, APART FROM LAW, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who BELIEVE. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished– he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

    Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of OBSERVING THE LAW? No, but on that of FAITH. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

    (Here is where it gets GOOD)

    What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was JUSTIFIED BY WORKS, he had something to boast about–but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham BELIEVED GOD, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

    NOW WHEN A MAN WORKS, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, TO THE MAN WHO DOES NOT WORK BUT TRUSTS GOD who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness APART FROM WORKS:

    “Blessed are they
    whose transgressions are forgiven,
    whose sins are covered.

    Blessed is the man
    whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”
    ____

    The REALITY of the SABBATH is that we are to REST from OUR WORK and believe and trust God for the WORK HE ACCOMPLISHED IN CHRIST.

    SABBATH = FAITH IN Christ

    Faith is a place of ****TRUSTING****** OBEDIENCE and NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT ABSOLUTELY NEVER ***WORKING**** OBEDIENCE.

    John1:17 For the LAW (with its required WORKS and SHADOW of GOOD things to come) was given through Moses;, but PROVISION (no longer “works”) and REALITY (no longer “shadow”) came through Jesus Christ.

    Is obedience still important? ABSOLUTELY! TOTAL obedience is still the standard. 1 John makes that PERFECTLY CLEAR. The one with the SEED of GOD in him will not practice sin. HE CAN’T ***IF***, and ONLY IF, he is really born again. That is why 1 Cor 5 is in the Bible and is possible to be applied. Because real obedience is possible in the NC. BUT, it is NOT an obedience that is based on earning Father’s favor, because that would be WORKS and therefore breaking the REAL SABBATH. Living by the letter BRINGS DEATH. When I seek to earn God’s favor by my obedience, or approach Him from a mindset that is LAW- or LETTER- or LEGAL- or CODE-based, I am JUST LIKE mister stick picker upper. I am VIOLATING the Sabbath REST that God has provided in Christ. I am seeking to establish my own righteousness which is putrid and an abomination to God, and death is the result.

    Can you admit to the death in your bones from trying to live by rules? It is DEATH.

    But Jesus said:
    Matthew 11:28
    “COME TO ME, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you REST (SABBATH). Take my yoke upon you and LEARN FROM ME, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (SABBATH) for your souls. [I’m not suggesting the greek here is Sabbath, but the word REST is the same word God uses in Hebrews about the Sabbath Rest]

    John 5:39, 40 Again, Jesus…
    You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that BY THEM you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify ABOUT ME, **YET** you refuse to COME TO ME TO HAVE LIFE.

    Notice the parallel “Come to me!” commands. Jesus HIMSELF is the SABBATH, HE IS OUR REST. And THAT rest won’t come from searching the scriptures and trying to find a righteousness by OBSERVANCE. We must come to Him, the really living Jesus.

    Please be patient and read the this whole passage below:

    ___________

    See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, UNBELIEVING heart that turns away from the LIVING God. BUT ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER DAILY, as long as it is called Today, SO THAT NONE OF YOU MAY BE HARDENED BY SIN’S DECEITFULNESS. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said:
    “Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
    as you did in the rebellion.”

    Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his REST (SABBATH) if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their UNBELIEF.

    Therefore, SINCE THE PROMISE OF ENTERING HIS ***REST*** STILL STANDS, let us BE CAREFUL THAT NONE OF YOU BE FOUND TO HAVE FALLEN SHORT OF IT. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, JUST AS THEY DID (The Sabbath is the GOOD NEWS); but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard DID NOT COMBINE IT WITH FAITH. Now WE WHO HAVE BELIEVED ENTER THAT REST (not just once at our conversion, but each TODAY we must live a life of FAITH AND BELIEF), just as God has said,

    “So I declared on oath in my anger,
    ‘They shall never enter my REST.'” (This by the way is the same word for REST that Jesus uses when He says, “I will give you REST”)

    And yet HIS WORK has been finished since the creation of the world.
    For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day (SABBATH) in these words: “And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.” And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”

    It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before:

    “Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts.”

    For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; FOR ANYONE WHO ENTERS GOD’S REST ALSO RESTS FROM HIS OWN WORK, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO ENTER THAT REST, so that no one will fall by following their example of DISOBEDIENCE.

    _____________

    I know this is a lot to take in. And as 2 Cor. 3 states, for some a veil remains over their heart so that they can’t even comprehend it. They read the words, but the REALITY of it just goes right over their heads.

    But I pray that for you, the Glorious TRUTHS here are helpful.

    This point is crucial then:

    So did God formerly have a high standard and now He has a low standard? NO.

    Did God formerly require obedience and now he just covers us with grace? NO.

    Did God formerly have weird arbitrary laws and now we have new laws that aren’t quite as detailed, but every disobedience is still judged harshly? NO.

    ___________

    Quick aside:
    all the intricate detail about the Tabernacle/Temple had to be made “ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN” because it was a shadow of the the REALITY of the CLIMAX of this planet, the CHURCH….

    1Corinthians 3:16
    “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and YOU ARE THAT TEMPLE.”

    And again, a mind blower:
    Revelation 11:19
    Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant (Jesus).”

    Jesus prayed,
    “Let your KINGDOM COME, your will be done, AS IN HEAVEN, SO ON EARTH”

    Hebrews 8:5
    They serve at a sanctuary that is A COPY AND SHADOW OF WHAT IS IN HEAVEN. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “SEE TO IT THAT YOU MAKE EVERYTHING ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN.”

    Hebrews 9:24
    For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was ONLY A COPY OF THE TRUE ONE; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. )

    Please oh please SEE that this is why the church is SO MUCH MORE than a little organization that men with bible degrees think they can go to a town and set up. They rent a buidling, HIRE a preacher, put a sign on the door an call it a church. IT ISN’T!!!!!!!!!!!

    The church is a supernatural entity. It is the REASON for earth. With ALL MY HEART I wish I could impart this directly to your hearts.

    And because the church on earth is directly connected to the TEMPLE IN HEAVEN (THAT IS WHAT IT SAYS), no unholiness can remain. YES SIN HAPPENS. But GOD IS LIGHT and IN HIM there is no darkness at all. AT ALL. So, IF WE WALK IN THE LIGHT AS HE IS IN THE LIGHT, ********THEN********** the blood of Christ CONTINUALLY Cleanses us from ALL SIN …. SO THAT God’s Heavenly Church can remain LIGHT WITH NO DARKNESS AT ALL.

    Here is the passage RIGHT AFTER the passage (I mean, the VERY NEXT VERSE) about the stick man who got bashed to death with rocks.

    Numbers 15:37-41
    The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may OBEY THEM AND NOT PROSTITUTE YOURSELVES BY GOING AFTER THE LUSTS OF YOUR OWN HEARTS AND EYES. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt (the world) to be your God. I am the LORD your God.'”

    Is God serious about keeping His Church, His Holy Temple HOLY? You bet your LIFE that He is.!!!!! And NEVER forget that.

    BUT…………….. Back to our Sabbath Conversation…

    __________________

    The passages in Hebrews EQUATES a REAL walking by Faith, a real walking in the REST of the Sabbath, to a life of OBEDIENCE.

    But NOT Obedience of works or of sweat or of code keeping. Our SALVATION and ETERNITY is a SETTLED issue if we are IN HIM. “Blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven.”

    Our obedience is “BY FAITH in the Son of God who LOVED ME and GAVE HIMSELF for me.”

    Again, Hebrews:
    See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, UNBELIEVING heart that turns away from the LIVING God. BUT ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER DAILY, as long as it is called Today, SO THAT NONE OF YOU MAY BE HARDENED BY SIN’S DECEITFULNESS. We have come to share in Christ IF WE HOLD FIRMLY till the end the confidence we had at first.
    Therefore, MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO ENTER THAT REST, so that no one will fall by following their example of DISOBEDIENCE.

    It is a law like gravity that when we live by law observance, not only THE Law, but BY LAW versus BY FAITH, that it brings DEATH. Romans 7 speaks about that death, that BODY of DEATH. That is why a legalist (and by legalist, I don’t mean a CONSERVATIVE. I mean, someone who lives by RULES versus BY FAITH THROUGH THE SPIRIT) will always experience Romans 7 life…. constant failure. If you really want to follow God and IN YOUR MIND you love the commands of God but find that you are NEVER able to overcome SIN, it is because you are living BY LAW, BY THE LETTER. “The letter kills–Rom7, the Spirit GIVES life–Rom8.

    SO did the author of Romans 7 and 8 live in Romans 7 life or Romans 8 life? Did he live by works or by faith? The answer I believe is both. Because our temptation as flesh is TO DO IT OURSELVES. Like babies, we don’t want any help and don’t need any help… or so we think. We like to pick up our own sticks on the Sabbath. Growth in Christ is learning to TRUST the Christ within versus our minds and willpower. It is a scandal for our independent flesh to function DEPENDENTLY on an invisible God. I believe Paul, for the most part, lived in the VICTORY of Romans 8, but occasionally felt the failure of Romans 7. Because KNOWING about life in the Spirit doesn’t make it automatically happen. It is a growth process.

    But whether Romans 7 or Romans 8, sin is still not allowed to just thrive within the Heavenly Temple of Jesus, the Church. Sin must be HEALED within an individual, it must be IN THE LIGHT or the leaven will leaven the whole batch and the Lampstand will ultimately be removed. Will a church whose lampstand has been removed still meet? Probably, since they were ignoring Jesus already, they won’t miss Him when He’s withdrawn His Anointing Presence. And that is a SAD place to be.

    So are there positive commands that we are required to obey under this new regime? Well first… this, Hebrews 8:

    “For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.

    It will NOT BE LIKE THE COVENANT I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.

    This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I WILL PUT MY LAWS IN THEIR MINDS AND WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

    No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.”

    LET IT BE KNOWN FOR ALL TiME AND ETERNITY, that Matthew through Revelation is NOT, ABSOLUTELY NOT the New Covenant. It is NOT the new rule book. It is NOT the new Torah. The New Covenant, according to prophecy (Jer 31:31) and the Hebrew writer’s own words, via the HOLY SPIRIT…. is written on hearts, not on tablets of stone or scrolls of papyrus or onion skin paper in leather bound Bibles that say “New Testament” on them. That is a lie from hell that hurts people.

    2 Cor 3:3
    …written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone (a reference to the Law) but on tablets of human hearts.

    Colossians 2:13
    When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, HAVING CANCELED THE WRITTEN CODE, WITH ITS REGULATIONS, THAT WAS AGAINST US AND THAT STOOD OPPOSED TO US; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

    Why is it a lie to call Matt-Rev the New Testament and how does it hurt people? Because when we view the New Covenant as a New Written Code, our flesh is driven to pick up wood on the Sabbath, forfeiting our walk of rest and embracing a walk of works. AND THAT EQUALS DEATH.

    And the sad irony is that those who approach God on the basis of rules ARE the spiritual reality of the Sabbath Breaking wood collector. They are sweating when they SHOULD be resting. They profane Christ by their EFFORT to EARN. They say they trust in the FINISHED WORK of Christ, but the FRUIT of their lives (Rom 7) PROVES OTHERWISE. And not just AT CONVSERSION, but throughout their lives as they SERVE GOD.

    Ezekiel 44:17,18
    ” ‘When they (i.e. the PRIESTS, which is YOU–1Peter 2:5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house [the Temple] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.) enter the gates of the inner court, they are to wear linen clothes; they must not wear any woolen garment while ministering at the gates of the inner court or inside the temple. They are to wear linen turbans on their heads and linen undergarments around their waists. THEY MUST NOT WEAR ANYTHING THAT MAKES THEM SWEAT.” (is this arbitrary or a SHADOW?)

    Rom 7 pieces
    So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to HIM who was raised from the dead, in order that we might BEAR FRUIT TO GOD (there is that phrase again… bearing FRUIT). For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions AROUSED BY THE LAW were at work in our bodies, so that we BORE FRUIT FOR DEATH. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the NEW WAY OF THE SPIRIT, and not in the old way of the WRITTEN CODE.

    For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For APART FROM LAW, SIN IS DEAD. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.

    1Corinthians 15:56
    The sting of death is sin, AND THE POWER OF SIN IS THE LAW.

    Do you want to be dead to sin? Sin only has POWER, power to enslave us, because of the law, the rules, the code.

    WRITTEN CODE living = failure, death, sin, division

    SPIRIT FILLED living = overcoming, life, righteousness, unity

    Whether written code or Spirit filled, the FRUIT is essentially passive. Written code, Paul says, PRODUCES the FRUIT of DEATH and the Spirit produces the FRUIT of LIFE. Our part is choosing WHERE we put our FAITH: in self (sweat, work) or in Christ (Sabbath-Rest). As the Hebrew writer says, we must MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO ENTER THAT REST. Sounds funny to “make EVERY EFFORT to rest” but that is why Jesus said…

    John 6:29
    Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.”
    Again, not just at conversion but throughout your life, a moment by moment trusting of the LIVING Jesus. The JUST shall live BY FAITH. Not just saved, but LIVE BY FAITH, BY SABBATH.

    This is NOT heresy. This is what the Bible that we all respect and say we believe SAYS…. Apart from law, sin is dead.

    So do we live LAWLESSLY? God forbid.

    Galatians 3 and 4:
    What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.

    Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could IMPART LIFE, then RIGHTEOUSNESS would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that WHAT WAS PROMISED, BEING GIVEN THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST, MIGHT BE GIVEN TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE.

    Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith (SABBATH-REST) should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

    You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

    What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world (look at Colossians 2:20). But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. BECAUSE YOU ARE SONS, GOD SENT THE SPIRIT OF HIS SON INTO OUR HEARTS (THIS IS THE NEW COVENANT), the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

    Galatians 5
    So I say, LIVE BY THE SPIRIT (by LAW? NO!), and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

    BUT IF YOU ARE LED BY THE SPIRIT, YOU ARE NOT UNDER LAW.

    BUT IF YOU ARE LED BY THE SPIRIT, YOU ARE NOT UNDER LAW.

    BUT IF YOU ARE LED BY THE SPIRIT, YOU ARE NOT UNDER LAW.

    (personal note: but how do we KNOW we are being led by the Spirit? There must be SOME STANDARD?)

    Galatian 5 continues…..

    The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, THAT THOSE WHO LIVE LIKE THIS WILL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD. (another personal note: But what about Grace? What about imputed Righteousness? I thought I could lust indefinitely and idolize stuff in the world and feel jealous and I thought ambition was a good american trait?) THOSE WHO LIVE LIKE THIS WILL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. AGAINST SUCH THINGS THERE IS NO LAW. THOSE WHO BELONG TO CHRIST JESUS HAVE CRUCIFIED THE SINFUL NATURE WITH ITS PASSIONS AND DESIRES. (Personal note: not just forgiven, not just stamped with Christ’s Righteousness, but TRULY CHANGED) Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Personal note: not “try to read our Bibles real hard and apply it but INSTEAD: KEEP IN STEP WITH THE SPIRIT) Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

    (Personal note: Paul starts getting down to business here. Based on the list he JUST GAVE, Paul says…)

    Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted (leavened). Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

    Whoa! What did Paul just say? The law of Christ? I thought we weren’t under the law. We are under his NEW LAW, WRITTEN ON OUR HEARTS. And notice how Paul says we FULFILL THAT LAW… By bearing each other’s burdens. And those burdens, in context, are sin issues that MUST be resolved.

    FULFILLING THE LAW OF CHRIST = HELPING EACH OTHER OVERCOME SIN

    What did Hebrews 3:12,13 say about our DAILY JOB in helping each other ENTER THAT SABBATH REST?

    “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, UNBELIEVING heart that turns away from the LIVING God. BUT ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER DAILY, as long as it is called Today, SO THAT NONE OF YOU MAY BE HARDENED BY SIN’S DECEITFULNESS.”

    If we aren’t doing THIS JOB, we are NOT fulfilling the LAW OF CHRIST. This is Christianity…. Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our neighbor as ourself. And how do I love my neighbor? I help him DAILY in the mutual battle we share against the flesh, nudging each other toward keeping IN STEP with the Spirit, BY FAITH (Sabbath REST) in the Son of God, who loves me and gave Himself for me.

    And Paul says in Colossians 3
    Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

    Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. YOU USED TO WALK IN THESE WAYS, in the life you once lived. BUT NOW YOU MUST RID YOURSELVES OF ALL SUCH THINGS AS THESE: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, WHICH IS BEING RENEWED IN KNOWLEDGE IN THE IMAGE OF ITS CREATOR. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and IS IN ALL.

    Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved (RESTING IN HIS SABBATH), clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

    Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ (not new code, but His living Word, Hebrews 4:12) dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another (DAILY, Heb 3:13) with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

    1Corinthians 10:23
    All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify

    1Corinthians 8:1
    Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

    Heb 12:18ff
    You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

    But you HAVE COME (present tense) to Mount Zion (personal note: He is not talking about heaven here, he is talking about the church NOW), to THE HEAVENLY JERUSALEM, the CITY OF THE LIVING GOD. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, TO THE CHURCH OF THE FIRSTBORN, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, TO JESUS THE MEDIATOR OF A NEW COVENANT, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

    SEE TO IT THAT YOU DO NOT REFUSE HIM WHO SPEAKS. (personal note: He STILL SPEAKS because HE IS ALIVE. You CAN hear Him if you are born again. But is he speaking NEW CODE, NEW REGULATIONS? No because there is NO NEW CODE. JESUS HIMSELF IS INSIDE YOU, the AUTHOR OF THE WHOLE BIBLE. But He speaks to you and is writing His Covenant on your heart. Our job? Be transformed as we BEHOLD HIM–2 Cor 3:16-18 and help each other with that process Heb 3:13 and Gal. 6:1,2) If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from HIM WHO WARNS US FROM HEAVEN?

    There is much more Richness and Exploration than can be written here. And the other issues like leadership, women’s roles, eschatology… God’s WISDOM is accessible and discernible and knowable, but it is NOT found in written code. The Gospels and the letters of Paul and others give us some clue of what New Covenant life looks like, but we have access to the same SPIRITual resources they did–Jesus HIMSELF. And in the context of GIFTED LEADERSHIP (Eph 4:11, 12) and the church, which is Christ’s BODY INCARNATE AGAIN, the PILLAR AND FOUNDATION of TRUTH (1 Tim. 3:15), those things get worked out.

    Please, if you are serious about these things (and you should be, because they are Life and Death issues with God’s Eternal Purpose and Glory at stake), then check out these links, written by brothers who I walk with daily… All are free and can be downloaded as PDFs. Much here ti ingest but surely worth your time more than a football game or tv show. 😉

    http://books.jesuslifetogether.com/Jesus-Christ-In-All-His-Fullness

    http://books.jesuslifetogether.com/Tasting-the-Powers-of-the-Coming-Age

    http://books.jesuslifetogether.com/Revelation-of-Christ

    http://books.jesuslifetogether.com/Setting-Captives-FREE

    http://books.jesuslifetogether.com/Foundations-Series/Anvil/How-to-Eat-From-the-Tree-of-Life

    For the lamb…

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