“My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”
What guides the direction of history? Fate? Random chance? On this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols evaluates how one Princetonian scholar went about answering this age-old question. Read the transcript: https://www.5minutesinchurchhistory.com/what-governs-history/ A donor-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Donate: https://www.5minutesinchurchhistory.com/donate/What Governs History? — 5 Minutes in Church History with Stephen Nichols
For the Law was given by Moses, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (Jn. 1.17)
There was grace also during the time of Moses but it looked a bit different, clearly pointed to Christ: The Temple with its sacrifices. For sins against God, there was no restitution. Instead, a clean animal was offered with the offender placing his hands upon the animal’s head and confessing his sin before God. This was the sin offering (see especially Lev. 5.5-15). The forgiveness was gracious, though in this case there was cost involved with the sacrifice, but not proportionally. The Temple, High Priest, and sacrifices all pointed to Christ in some respect. Also, not everything is purely gracious today, as explained by Tony Reinke. https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/gods-law-in-the-gospel-age
By Tony Reinke
As with any human endeavor, the great challenge is to find clear purpose. What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Once you get clarity on the endgame, then you can really build a team and make forward progress. This is true of so many things in life, including God’s plan for the local church.
Epicenter of Love
So, the apostle Paul needs Timothy in Ephesus because the church there is young, unstable, and easily wavering from their purpose. That’s all laid out clearly in the early verses. In fact, the first chapter of 1 Timothy offers us one of the clearest texts in all the Bible to explain the week-after-week purpose of pastors and local churches:
The aim [the goal, the endgame] of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)
In a given city, the local church is an epicenter of love — love that springs from a purified heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. That means every gathering, every class, every sermon, every in-person meeting, every Zoom call, every YouTube live gathering, all our musical worship, all the times we’ve taken communion together, every program, counseling meeting, conference, retreat — all of it — aims at this result: to generate in this church a people who love because their hearts are being purified, their consciences are being cleansed, and their faith is becoming more stable and sincere.
Pulling off this glorious calling is the driving question of the Pastoral Epistles. To do it, churches come up with loads of bad ideas. And it’s the awkward calling of pastors to weed out bad ideas. And one bad idea has been put on the table in Ephesus. Someone in the church is saying, “I know how to accomplish this love! We should raise up, in the church, a team of teachers who are experts in the Mosaic law!” Paul facepalms, and then calls Pastor Timothy to remain in Ephesus to answer for the church this question: What’s the purpose of the law in the age of the gospel?
Law in a Gospel Age
That leads to today’s text, 1 Timothy 1:8–11:
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
Rules for the Unrighteous
So, what is the role of the law in the age of the gospel? Paul helps us understand this in verses 8–9. The law is for the lawless. Right off the bat we see that the law is not for the just. That’s because the law cannot justify you or me or any sinner before God. In Christ, our standing before God is not defined by our own law-keeping, “for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4).
Then the law is bad! No, it’s not; the law is good — if we use it lawfully. The law remains relevant for the unrighteous. So, Paul outlines who qualifies as unrighteous in a series of three pairs. He says the law is for
- the lawless (law ignorers),
- the disobedient (law breakers),
- the ungodly (God ignorers),
- the sinners (God rejectors),
- the unholy (holiness ignorers),
- the profane (holiness profaners).
First, notice this is not the ceremonial use of the law. The ethical use is clearly in view in this text.
Second, Paul makes it clear that sin is not something we do; sin is something we are. Sin is deep in us. We are not sinners simply because we sin. We are essentially sinners; therefore, we sin.
So, if you break laws, actively reject God, and profane holy things, the law stands over you. The law binds law-breakers. I think we all understand this. Law-breakers, God-rejectors, and holiness-profaners — people who trample divine things — are worthy of God’s justice. More striking about this list is Paul’s equal focus on the wickedness of law-ignorers, God-ignorers, and holiness-ignorers. These are people who are not high-handed God-rejectors. They are God-ignorers. They, too, are under the law.
Sunday Funday in Phoenix
This strikes me because driving to church on a normal, beautiful Sunday morning in Phoenix, what do you see? You see lots of motorcycles. You see a lot of trucks with trailers full of toys. You see a lot of boats. You see a lot of RVs. You see a lot of ATVs. You see a lot of jet skis. In secular America, Sunday has become a playdate for adults with expensive toys. Now obviously, you can be a Christian and have fun on Sundays and go on vacations and boat and dune buggy. But I suspect a vast majority of people we see out early on Sunday mornings gassing up their toys are living under the assumption that God is materially irrelevant to their lives.
Paul wants us to pause, look around our own city, and see this dynamic playing out. You’re going to see a lot of otherwise nice people who live as if the law, God, and holiness are simply irrelevant to life. And here’s what Paul wants us to see: the law is for them — for them. If you ignore the law, the law binds you. To turn your back on God is cosmic sedition. Even refusing to thank God is high treason worthy of judgment. That’s Romans 1.
So, sinners get two options: you can live under the law, or you can live in Christ. All people in society belong to one of those two camps: under law or in Christ.
I could preach all morning against the law-ignorers, and holiness-ignorers, and the God-ignorers of our culture. But what would be the point? The law-ignorers, and holiness-ignorers, and the God-ignorers of our culture are jet-skiing across lakes and tearing around dusty mountains right now. That’s Paul’s point: the people bound under the law don’t congregate in this room on Sundays.
To make this point even clearer, Paul launches into a vice list of sins we should never expect to find inside a local church. Verse 9: the law is also binding
- “for those who strike their fathers and mothers” — that is, for people who kill their parents;
- and more generally “for murderers”;
- and the law is also for “the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality” — fornication, adultery, and homosexual practices are all condemned by the law;
- and also “enslavers” — those who capture free people and deal them like animals.
That is condemned by the law. As Moses himself wrote in Exodus 21:16,
Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.
Period. Enslave a free man, and the law stands over you, condemning you. The law is meant to restrain cultural sin and to help protect society from widespread consequences and decades of fallout — like the long, sad effects we continue to experience in this country. God condemns enslavers. And few disgraces match the kidnapping of a free man to enslave him like a work animal, stealing away from him his most precious things in life: his home, his homeland, his possessions, his wife, his kids, and all his freedoms — millions of dollars of value all stolen away in order to profit another by a few thousand dollars. So, the law condemns enslavers. But the law is also for habitual
- and specifically, over those who lie under oath: “perjurers”;
- and the law covers all sorts of things in this blanket statement: “and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.”
So, the moral law is blunt-force confrontation with blatant moral failures. The law is for the godless. The law calls out sin. The law imprisons God-ignorers and God-rejectors.
Judicial or Transformative?
Paul’s point is that the law is judicial, not transformative. The law confronts the sinner; it cannot convert the sinner. But we need both. Laws are good. But life-transforming influences are really good. So, you need laws. You need police. You need courtrooms. You need prisons. Those are all good — if handled wisely. But laws, police, judges, and prisons don’t transform hearts.
Parents of teens know this dynamic. The goal of parenting teens is to have a relationship with them in which you talk about life, and help them see wisdom and foolishness and make decisions on their own that are healthy. What a great joy that is to watch a teen mature in wisdom, to see the grace of God transforming them from the inside out.
And what heartbreak it is to see an obstinate teen who chooses foolishness after foolishness after foolishness. What do they need? They require more regulations, limits, clear curfews, clearly laid out consequences. That’s an exhausting and discouraging place to be as a parent, because there’s little transformation happening. You’re left resorting to law.
So, we need both forms of parenting, but the transformative relationship is far greater.
Law and Gospel Together
The law confronts what is “contrary to sound doctrine” (verse 10) and is “in accordance with the gospel” (verse 11). The law confronts sin. And sound doctrine confronts sin too. Both confront sin. Even if you are in Christ, your sin will be confronted. Our sins have to be confronted, or that love — that purpose we talked about earlier — will never happen.
So, the law does not contradict the gospel or sound doctrine. It doesn’t contradict the gospel, even if its work is judicial and not transformative. So, it is perfectly right for a Christian to affirm these four things:
- Cops — stop pressing your knee into the neck of a handcuffed human made in the image of God.
- Abortionists — stop dismantling the bodies of God’s image-bearers.
- Kidnappers — stop enslaving image-bearers to use them for personal profit.
- Everyone — come to Jesus Christ to find forgiveness and life transformation.
All four positions are consistent with “sound teaching.” So, we never want to pit the law and gospel as though the law is bad and the gospel is good. No. They work in tandem, but they accomplish different things.
So, what is the law good at? Paul explains a little more fully on the purpose of the law in Galatians 3:23–26:
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
The law was a prison warden over us. The law imprisons us in our guilt for our sin until Christ could arrive to free us. That is true in redemptive history, and it’s true in the story of each believer. But, as John Piper says, “if the law has done its condemning and convicting work to bring you to Christ for justification and transformation, then it is not made for you anymore. . . . The main point here [in this text] is that the law has a convicting, condemning, restraining work to do for unrighteous people” (“How to Use the Law Lawfully”).
Free in the Son
The whole book of Galatians is devoted to making this distinction clear: either you live under the law as a slave, or you live in the gospel as a free son. If Christ set you free, don’t submit to the law as a slave. Life is no longer about appeasing the law.
So, when Christ, by the Spirit, indwells you, a work is being done in your life that the law was never powerful enough to accomplish in you, so that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22–23). If your prayer is to display the fruit of the Spirit, you’re probably not plotting how to kill your parents or kidnap your neighbor Bob. Your maturity operates at a transformative level the law cannot help you with. The law can imprison you. The law can flog you. The law cannot transform you. Thus, “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18).
But Paul is sounding the warning: every local church is susceptible to slipping into a law-based approach to life — legalism. “Boil Christianity into dos and don’ts.” “Appease God for our sin by trying to make up for those sins on our own.” A life of prohibitions.
So, the law is good if we know what it’s good for. The law is not transformative. It won’t change your life. The law’s work in the world is dirty. It’s confrontation. It’s restraint. It’s prohibition. It’s imprisonment. It’s condemnation. It’s about guilt, and reminders of failure. The work of the law is reminding every sinner of the many ways they have sought and failed to satisfy their own souls apart from God. The law is a warden, restraining guilty sinners, and reminding sinners of their sin, until Christ appears. We were once under the law. And if you are not a believer, that is where you’re at right now: you are under the law. All your sins and failures keep coming up in your mind. You keep replaying all your foolish decisions. That’s the work of the warden: wardens are tasked with reminding you of your personal guilt, to nudge you toward Christ.
But Paul takes a 180-degree turn from all this law talk to relish in the most incredible reality in the universe.
The Happy God
Something greater than the law has arrived! It’s the gospel. And this gospel is the gospel of the happy God. That’s literally what Paul says here in verse 11:
in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God . . .
“The gospel of the glory of the happy God” is a literal translation. God’s glory is essentially his happiness. As one theologian put it,
God is not made happy by making things, but rather he is happy through being all-sufficient to himself and needing nothing that he makes. (John Webster, God and the Works of God, 125)
Fullness of God
Parents know something of this experience. It’s Father’s Day, or Mother’s Day, or your birthday — you are being celebrated — and one of your little kids brings you a wrapped present, and you open it, and it’s something you already own. Your kid went in your office and took something you already own and use, and wrapped it up as a gift. Sentimentally, that’s great. But the gift adds nothing to what you already had. That’s God’s relationship to all creation. God didn’t make Hawaii to make himself happier. Hawaii exists by the happiness of God. Fundamentally — get this — fundamentally, nothing God makes can add to his own fullness. Creation cannot make God happier.
God is entirely happy in himself, and this is true because he is entirely sovereign and self-sufficient. In 1 Timothy 6:15, Paul will celebrate God’s happiness in this letter again, and he will do so as rooted in God’s absolute sovereignty.
From Grumpy to Joyful
In the ancient world, gods were grumpy. Your job as a worshiper was to get and keep your god happy. Happy god — things go well for you. Unhappy god — your life will go badly. Into the Greco-Roman world, Paul proclaims the living God of the universe, who is essentially happy, in himself, and has always been happy. Before you and I exist, he is happy. In other words, the happiness of God does not rest on us. No! He upholds our happiness.
Whatever happiness we have in him, is a happiness he’s given us, through the Holy Spirit, for us to return to him, so that our joy in him and his glory from us is all merged together! Here’s Charles Spurgeon. Get this logic, and it will transform your life:
“The gospel of the happy God” [his translation of the text] means the gospel of the God whom we must bless in return. As being happy, he makes us happy; so we, being happy, desire to ascribe to him all the glory for our happiness.
God shares his joy with us so that we glorify him by returning that joy to him. Or as you may have more popularly heard it: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. This entire dynamic is rooted in one fundamental fact: God is infinitely happy in himself.
Whatever contradicts the happiness of God is confronted by God’s law. Sin grieves God because it violates his essential happiness. And ignoring God is treasonous. If you will not be happy in the happy God, you will be sorrowful in the eternal judgment called down on you by the law.
So, our affectional bandwidth gets stretched like a rubber band ready to snap. Our sin-hating, law-giving God is eternally happy as the essence of who he is. The Lawgiver is the happiest being in the universe.
Glory in the Face of Jesus Christ
We need a whole other sermon at this point. But we’re running out of time. To more fully understand the place of the law and the glory and happiness of God, we must understand the radical changes brought into history by the new covenant. The new covenant should blow our minds. If you were, like Paul, raised to engage God primarily through law-keeping, the new covenant is a revolution where everything gets thrown out of balance. Christ’s arrival means rethinking the place of the law — especially now in the church. So, we have to get deeper in Paul’s head to understand how Christ changes everything. And that means understanding the key text of 2 Corinthians 3:1–4:6.
This is one of the most important sections of the New Testament. It’s absolutely essential reading. I don’t think progress in the Christian life can make much sense without making sense of this text. And it’s one of the hardest sections of Scripture to wrap your brain around because Paul layers metaphors on top of Old Testament stories. But take time this week to read and comprehend 2 Corinthians 3:1–4:6. Here are the CliffsNotes.
It’s a story of two men. Moses with the Ten Commandments coming down from Mount Sinai — a defining moment in Old Testament history. And then a second person, the resurrected Jesus Christ of the gospel, appears. Two figures representing two covenants.
Moses descends from Sinai with two tablets of the Law after being with God. God’s glory left a residual effect, and Moses’s face shines. So, Moses hikes down the mountain with the Ten Commandments, and his face is glowing like an incandescent lightbulb. Weird. I mean it’s a great reading light, but it also freaks everyone else out. So, timid Moses, not wanting to be embarrassed, self-shrouds his face so others cannot see his face-glory (2 Corinthians 3:13). So, that will make all this less weird, right — Moses walking around with a pillowcase over his head? No, it’s still weird — but less weird.
So, Paul says, even today, if you study the Old Testament and become an expert in the law (like the apostle Paul himself), and if you cannot see past the prohibitions to behold Christ’s beauty, Moses’s pillowcase is now over your eyes. You can read the law and seek to obey all the commandments of the Bible, but if that is your confidence, Moses’s shroud is over your eyes; you’re blind to Christ.
Greater Glory in Christ
But here’s the great news: Moses’s glory was to be outdone by a greater glory. The law is a faint lightbulb glory compared to the new, sunshine-intensity glory of Jesus Christ. So, when you treasure the worth of Jesus Christ, the veil over your eyes that blinds you to this greater glory is ripped away so that you can now behold the luminous glory of God. And this changes everything! Paul says it like this:
But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom [freedom from the law]. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:16–18)
Or as Paul says a little later:
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” [back in creation when he lit our sun that now burns Phoenix; that same God] has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)
The law cannot transform. But God’s happy glory does transform. How? By shining in the face of Jesus Christ. This is Christian maturity in summary. Unshrouded, we become like what we behold.
Believe and Behold
This text is very personal and practical for me. For the first 22 years of my life I was spiritually veiled. I thought obedience to the law would get me right with God. I was blind to the beauty of Christ. But at 22, that veil was flung off, and for the next 22 years I have been given the greatest gift any human could ever get: to behold the beauty of Jesus Christ.
The law is a ministry of death; the gospel is a ministry of life. Moses’s ministry is a ministry of slavery and condemnation; the gospel is a ministry of liberation.
Those two aims are not antithetical. They work in tandem. Thus, the law remains relevant today — if you know what the law is for.
And once you see that the gospel originates from within the all-sufficient happiness of God, once you behold God’s glory shining in the face of Jesus Christ, the law’s judicial work over you is finished. The warden’s work is done. We step out of the prison of guilt and eternal damnation into the sunlight of a more potent glory, a glory working inside of us a transformation the law could never bring.
So then — again — what’s the purpose of pastors and the local church? First Timothy 1:5:
The aim of our charge [the aim of our church] is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
And how does this type of transformation happen? Simple: The church celebrates and worships Christ week after week after week, in order that we be transformed and matured to be what the church exists on earth to be.
- The law will not make your faith more sincere; Christ can.
- The law will not purify your conscience; Christ did.
- The law will not cleanse your heart; Christ does.
- The law will not cause love to overflow from your heart; Christ will.
See, Savor, Spread
So, a law-enforcement officer can step in and stop two people from killing each other. But that police officer cannot make enemies love each other. Laws can help restrain massive sin outbreaks, but laws cannot change our loves. This is why in a billion years all the decisions of the Supreme Court will pale in comparison to what happened in our church body each and every week.
The local church is not a cheap social club. Going to church each Sunday is not hell insurance. We’re not here trying to make an insecure god happy. This is not a weekend hobby for the toy-deprived. This is not a tradition we do because our parents did it. This local church is where the unshrouded gather to see again the happy-glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ.
- the law binds those who have turned away from God;
- the gospel transforms those who are transfixed on the face of Jesus Christ.
And this is why this local church celebrates and worships Christ week after week after week, in order that we be transformed and matured to be what the church exists on earth to do and be: to resemble Christ by a “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). The law didn’t plant this church. Moses isn’t the founder of this church. Christ is our cornerstone, because in the face of Jesus Christ, the glory of our happy God shines brightest. And that radiating glory in the face of Christ is the nuclear core that powers everything in this local church.
So, our church motto is “Spreading the joy of treasuring Christ in all of life.” And it brings us, finally, to the final phrase in our text:
with which I have been entrusted. (1 Timothy 1:11)
Paul knew the happy God of the universe is not selfish with his joy. Never. His Trinitarian bliss expands outward as a gift to the creation, a gift to you and to me — the undeserving recipients of the happiness of God in his beloved Son. Our neighbors, right now out on their toys, who think of God as immaterial to life, have no idea the happiness they’ve turned their back on.
So, we go forth to spread the gospel of our gloriously happy God.
Trevin Wax surveys how cultures teach individuals to live their lives. Historically, cultures have focused on the good of the community so individuals were taught to “look around” for their cues to purpose their existence. The western world with its Enlightenment (sic) says to “look inside.” However, God reveals in scripture not only how to live but why with help along the way.
My theological understanding, from from the beginning, of the issue of what Jesus meant when describing the Kingdom in Lk. 17.21, has been to take His phrase as referring to Himself as King in their midst. I no longer believe this view is viable.
Some commentators make much of the fact that Jesus was being questioned by the Pharisees, and therefore, He cannot refer to them as having the kingdom of God inside themselves. This is fairly misguided in my view since it seems to be a very natural question without hint of rebuke or very mild rebuke.
Of all the groups of Jews in the first century, Jesus was most like a Pharisee in doctrine and, at first, associated somewhat with them. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were probably Pharisees who later became Christians. The Apostle Paul still claimed he was a Pharisee after three missionary journeys as a Christian standing before the Council of Jews when defending the resurrection. Instead, here in Luke, Jesus told the Pharisees the reality of the New Covenant where the redeemed will know God personally through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
The primary reason for my interpretation of “within” is, if taken plainly, the text emphasizes that the Kingdom can’t be seen. Therefore, it cannot refer to Jesus as King or to the disciples as a kingdom because they were apparent. By saying nearly the same thing twice in His response, there seems to be a confirmation of imperceptibility of either its members or its physical appearance:
Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (NET)
What did the producers of the NET bible (translators and interpreters) think when they rendered entos as “in the midst of you?” It almost seems as if they were straddling a fence by referring to the two competing ways this verse is taken. The term can really only refer to one view. The meaning is either the Kingdom is within you or the Kingdom is among you; not both. Since Jesus clearly is saying that the Kingdom is not apparent, the first view of the Kingdom inside a person is the correct view.
Finally, entos is only used twice in the N.T. with its other usage in Mt. 23.26 where it refers to the interior of a bowl or cup. Jesus, in this passage, tells His opponents to clean the inside (entos) of the cup and dish to be clean outwardly. This is where we can see a clear usage of the term to mean “inside.” Since Lk. 17.21 is the indeterminate usage, its helpful to see how it is used in its plain sense in Mt. 23.26 to gauge it for the occurrence in question.
The Kingdom is really inside Christians in the sense that they have surrendered themselves to Christ and He now indwells them. Of course Christians still pray: Your Kingdom come, where, in this instance, the external glorious reign of Christ is referred. However, now, Christians are members of that kingdom, since, as citizens and ambassadors we further it.
Abraham Kuyper used to inspired me as he inspires many idealistic Christians today. Kuyper was a Neo-Calvinist who wanted to redeem society. However, the history of the church and Jean Calvin held to the Two Kingdom view where believers were in the Redemptive Kingdom and society, along with the redeemed, formed the Common Kingdom. The redeemed operate in two realms and belong to both while the unsaved belong only to the Common Kingdom.
Therefore, in my mind, Calvinism: good; Neo-Calvinism, not so much. And one doesn’t need to accept the whole kit and caboodle of other teachings often closely aligned with Calvinism such as all the notions of Covenant Theology.
Examining the life and work of those whom the Master sent out to disciple the nations we see no call to transform society in the New Testament. Absolutely none. Its liberating to serve only Christ and to trust Him to deal with His creation.
By Lydia Jaeger
Abstract: The concept of personhood is crucial for our understanding of what it is to be human. This article considers the ways that Christological debates in the early Church contributed to the emergence of the concept of person. It then suggests that neglect of the theological roots of this concept is the reason why modern definitions of person are unsatisfactory. The latter typically refer to particular properties of the individual, whereas the Trinitarian concept of person is relational. Finally, some ethical implications are drawn from the Christological insight that the person is a fundamental ontological category. In particular, this perspective defends the personhood of those who do not meet the criteria of modern definitions of person.
Please find Lydia’s article in TGC Themelios Journal (I couldn’t link to the individual articles). Professor Jaeger has a fuller treatment of these thoughts in French but here is a well crafted and succinct synopsis covering inter-related concepts. Her article is examines biblical concepts and how they impact the understanding of self or the person. Highly recommended.
Make no mistake. There is only one body (Eph. 4.4). This one body is invisible to us since it comprises those whom God knows intimately and personally. It includes those who have died in the Lord previously and those who are chosen, but, who have not yet turned to the Lord. This is the church that Jesus is building (Mt. 16.18 – where “rock” refers to the revelation of the Father in vs. 17). It is comprised of those who are His sheep who know Him personally:
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (Jn.10.14-16 ESV)
You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD. (ESV)
The question that prompted The Parable of the Good Samaritan was a follow-up to the original question posed by a Teacher of the Mosaic Law (lawyer in ESV). The original question is found in Lk. 10.25: And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” To this, Jesus countered to ask the lawyer’s view from the scriptures what that entailed. The lawyer recited part of the Shema, specifically, Dt. 6.5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” This quoted section summarizes The Decalogue, the 10 Commandments as love for God and love for other humans. This quote and summary by the lawyer Jesus affirms: “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” Returning to the lawyer’s initial question, which was: “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?,” we see the lawyer clearly used the term “eternal” (aionias) for his question to Jesus. Lev. 18.5 promises life also for keeping the commands and statutes, and presumably, refers to eternal life also as the parallel of Jesus’ words in Lk. 10.25-28.
The Two Natures of Christ
Most faithful theologians recognize that Jesus had two natures, human and divine. The Logos (divinity) was from the beginning (eternity) as Jn.1.1 affirms. The human Jesus probably did not rely on His divinity to ensure His resurrection. Instead, Jesus kept the Law perfectly (Jn. 8.46 in the context of vss. 34-47). Therefore, it seems justified to view Jesus’ fulfillment of righteousness, as the obedience which Adam lacked, and Jesus fulfilled, so as to win justification of all who are His.
This is a follow – up post to “Don’t Go to Church During a Pandemic”
I didn’t mean to sound as if I was against Christian Music. Music has its place but Evangelical Christians should rethink their worship service. I grew up in the 1950s and most non-Pentecostal Protestant Churches all had traditional services. In the mid-1970s churches were more and more adopting an entertaining format where the congregant was a spectator or induced to join into the powerful music effect. Is this legitimate Christian worship? I did it for a long time and lately have wanted more something resembling the biblical pattern.
Most types of music appeal to me. I’m an old rocker. I remember going to a Petra and other concerts 35 years ago. I had a small music collection at one time. This hosting of concerts in churches, could be done on Saturday night or any day of the week, but not Sunday morning. However, on Sunday, during the Lord’s Supper, soft instrumental could even be played. Psalms from the Psalter, with or without accompaniment, would be fine, but not a praise band. Praise bands can happen at other times, I have nothing against praise bands. It the timing of praise bands is what I’m addressing.
Church Service Additions
The observance of The Lord’s Supper should be held at least once each Sunday. Early Christians interpreted the words of Jesus, “As often as you do this, do it in remembrance of Me,” as a daily, if not twice daily observance. In fact, the Temple had a twice daily sacrifice, which Christ fulfilled by being crucified at the time of morning sacrifice and expiring at the evening sacrifice. Therefore, we read in Acts 2.46 that they broke bread in their homes and not in the Second Temple precincts, probably, as not to be offensive since they attended the Temple also.
This remembrance is the time when non-clerics can say something, to take a stand of sorts. What I mean is that when The Lord’s Supper is observed properly, Christ’s death is proclaimed by those who take the elements. This symbolism is witnessing that one has taken Christ inside themselves by the ritual act of taking symbolic blood and flesh. The wine represents the blood of the New Covenant which promised that everyone would “know” the Lord in an intimate and personal way. I include the ordinance in “additions” since most Evangelicals I’m addressing under – appreciate this observance. It’s a stand that one takes publicly, identifying themselves as trusting Christ’s finished work instead of anything else.
A church meal after the service was also the pattern of early Christians in their “Love Feasts.” This practice seems to have roots in Judaism’s Temple worship where the sin offering is eaten by the owner as a sign of peace between them and God. In Middle Eastern culture, sharing a meal with someone spoke of being at peace with them. In the same way, “love feasts,” a communal meal among Christians, can mend, or induce mending of relations between members, and foster understanding and koinonia. Soft music, at this time, to not disturb the diners would certainly seem appropriate.
An early Sunday morning coffee club could be a fellowship and outreach time when the mood would be lighter and informal. The time could eventually transition into the prayer and teaching segment. Contemporary Christian music would be ideal at this venue.
Christian music is appropriate in many other instances, but just as a school discourages outside music, opting instead for oral and written communication, so the Church Service should feature reading and teaching and application, if one wants to understand what the first Christians did.
Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison. (NIV)
This verse, I believe, has been mangled by many, including John Piper, over the years. I heard his take on this verse in the early 1990s somewhere and was disappointed in his exegesis then as well as now. He is still holding to his view as of 2018: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/an-impossible-covenant/excerpts/church-wont-save-you
Piper sees the exhortation as warning of the false security of belonging to a group. This idea is found in vs. 19: When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. The text seems fairly clear that “going my own way” equates with following other gods of vs. 18.
Piper’s idea, however, says that empty membership is the problem. While false confidence is offensive, it is the result, but not the underlying offense. The text is clear that the offense is idolatry and it is hidden (roots are buried and not seen – the person is living a double life). The root is poisonous – no life can spring from it. The other gods of the nations do not give life is what the text seems to be saying when it speaks of “poisonous.” The self – confidence is empty, yes, but, at the core, they are captivated by other gods, is the real problem.
Piper’s reading of Heb. 12.15, which quotes Dt. 29.18, is also problematic. How he attributes “holiness” of the previous verse as the solution to the quote is mystifying. A better connection would be Esau or the immoral person of the following verses. A case can also be made to see the “missing the grace of God” as someone who has returned to their former Jewish observances secretly perhaps, but also wants to worship Christ, possibly, to hedge their bets. Therefore, this person would need to live a double life.
Regardless, it seems the hidden root of Heb. 12.15 will be judged by God and will affect others related to it. This is what Dt. 29.19 seems to allude to as well with the reference to “the watered and dry” [land].
Folks today, generally speaking, do not adequately understand the primary aspects of the weekly gathering of Christians. The evidence of this is the almost universal adoption of The Willow Creek Model by Evangelicals. The service resembles a concert and people are encouraged to express themselves by singing and movement. This is a departure from the biblical practice. By employing entertainment methods to generate growth they fail to fulfill the discipleship mandate (Mt.28.19-20). They have admitted this themselves-https://www.christianexaminer.com/article/willow.creek.model.its.leaders.say.fails.at.discipleship/44056.htm
Its been 12 years since this was published but have most of the Evangelical Churches pulled back from the model? No. Pastor’s may feel if they reinstituted a tradition service people would not come. The best way to proceed is to first grasp the purpose of the weekly gathering which is to read the scriptures, teach and exhort as commanded by Paul to Timothy: Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1Tim. 4.13)
The Genesis of the Weekly Service
God rested (or enjoyed His creation) after 6 days of creating the universe. The need for rest and reflection seem inherent in humans, His creation in His image and likeness. God instituted this weekly rest for the Israelites when the Egyptians oppressed them with slave labor everyday of the week.
The tribe of Levi were scattered in Israel by the inheritance of cities in each of the other tribal portions. Thus they were strategically placed to help the people, weekly on the Sabbath, to understand the instructions given by God. Moses alludes to this in the blessing he gave to the tribes just before his death: They shall teach Jacob Your rules, and Israel Your Law. (Dt. 33.10)
The Temple and The Synagogue
The weekly service in the Synagogue was separate from the Temple worship and both operated independently. The Jewish Temple signified redemptive themes since animals were sacrificed for the sins and guilt of those who brought them. These redemptive acts reflected Heaven’s realities. Sacrifices and Temple observance have ceased since they were fulfilled by Christ and, in judgement, He has taken them away (see Heb. 8.13 as well as Dan. 9.26).
The early gathering in churches resembled the synagogue gathering with additions. The death of Christ is observed as redemptive in the Lord’s Supper, while Believers Baptism confesses Christ publicly. Neither in Synagogues or Churches did anyone perform music for the first centuries of this era. When music did creep in, it was a chant at first. Later huge organs dominated church buildings-all foreign to the principles of the church’s original mandate of scripture reading, exhortation and teaching (along with the breaking of bread in the Lord’s Supper, Koinonia, and prayers).
Therefore, churches do not need to gather in a pandemic. For now, everyone can study at home. When things return to normal, pastors should teach their flock in settings more akin to a school than a concert.