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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Is the Church in America Unequally Yoked?

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? ... “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” - 2 Corinthians 6:14, 17 (NIV)

No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. - 2 Timothy 2:4 (NIV)

The other day as I was entering the building where I fellowship. Someone handed me a lapel pin. It was a cross with an American flag filling it in. I handed it back. Could you imagine this kind of thing happening in the 1st century church? 

You're in Ephesus. It's evening and you're on your way to brother Caius' house for fellowship. Paul the apostle is there. As you approach the home Paul is out front greeting people. As he is greeting people he hands each person a small cross and in the middle of the cross is a little Roman iron eagle symbol. 

I hope you are saying to yourself. "No I don't see that happening." Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. Its from another place." I can't find anywhere in the NT were the disciples were instructed to go and make the nations of this world into Christian nations. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ there is only one nation that is Christian on this planet and it belongs to Jesus and it is His bride. It is the body of believers throughout the entire world. Peter calls us a holy nation. In modern day American evangelical Christianity the moto is God and Country. However, Jesus tells us its Him alone and His kingdom. It's His kingdom we live for and it alone. When someone is saved they become citizens of a new nation, a new kingdom who's king is Jesus. It is his rule we follow. We are to follow his lead no matter what the cost. When he tells us to love our enemies that doesn't mean kill them in self defense. He tell us to not resist an evil person. 

People ask me the question, "What if someone breaks into your house and you have a wife and kids, shouldn't you defend yourself and shoot them before they shoot you?"  That is what you would call a hypothetical. Then I must ask myself should I interpret scripture in light of hypotheticals? Should I interpret scripture through the filter of my patriotism? The answer is no. That would be bad exegesis. Hypotheticals do not determine how we are to read the NT. We read the truths of scripture and filter the world around us through it. 

Here's a hypothetical. Imagine the 12 apostle living during the civil war of the USA. 6 of them lived in the south and the other 6 lived in the north. The authorities of that time, on both sides, tell them to take up arms and shoot each other to secure justice for their particular side. Do you think John would point a musket at Peter and shoot him dead because the authorities tell him that this is God's will and you must obey the authorities because our cause is just and right? The honest answer is NO. Hypotheticals can be made up for either side of an argument. That's why we don't interpret scriptures in light of hypotheticals. 

We must let the NT speak for it's self. As followers of Jesus Christ we are to live for His kingdom alone and not the kingdoms of the world. 

You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. -  James 4:4 (NIV)

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.- 1 John 2:15 (NIV)

We cannot create Jesus in the image of an earthly kingdom. That is exactly what we do when we wrap Jesus in an American flag. We yoke the kingdoms of this world with the kingdom of God. This is not part of the gospel of the kingdom of God we see in the NT. If it's not there, it shouldn't be here.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Who Are God's Chosen People?

Who are God's chosen people? The quick answer is those who are in Christ. Are the Jews God's chosen people? Yes and No. They where and are no longer, unless they are in Christ then they are. In the Old Testament they where. Their origins begin with Abraham. From there we have the tribes, the nation, the Law and the prophets. God's main purpose for choosing this ancestral line of humans was to bring salvation to all of humanity through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

God's chosen people in the OT where defined as Jews or Israel. God made promises to them and covenants with them. These were for the purpose of introducing Jesus to the world. When we look at all the promises and covenants today they are to be filtered through the person of Jesus Christ and what He has established. The new covenant. Because it is through Jesus that God is now accomplishing his plan for all of humanity.

We always interpret scripture in light of scripture. With the new covenant in place we see in the writing of the New Testament the redefining of terms as the writers were moved along by the Holy Spirit. For example; Paul in the letter to the Romans redefines a Jew. In the OT a Jew had a human ancestry, an ethnic origin, a blood line. However, Paul, as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote, "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God." (Romans 2:28-29 (NIV) Then later on in this letter Paul says, "It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring." (Romans 9:6-8 (NIV) Biblically speaking the nation of Israel today is not the country in the Middle East. It is the people that believe that Jesus is the Christ and who are born again by the Holy Spirit. These are the Israel of God as Paul testifies too.

We see this same Holy Spirit inspired sentiment from the Apostle John where he states, "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." (John 1:12-13 (NIV) This theme continues as we continue to read the gospel of John. We come to a story he tells that illustrates this truth of who are God's chosen people, His children. Jesus has an encounter with a Jew, a Teacher of the Law, a Pharisee named Nicodemus. If there was a person that from all outward appearances, as measured by the OT standards, this person would probably be considered a person that would be apart of God's kingdom, a chosen one. However, Jesus tells him that unless he is born again he would not be able to see or enter into God's kingdom. That he would be excluded from citizenship into God's kingdom. His national heritage no longer counts. Later on John quote Jesus as saying, "Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36 (NIV) There is no nation of the earth from the time of Jesus till now that is God's chosen nation or a Christian nation. Because Jesus' kingdom is not of this world or from this place.

The question might be asked, What about all the promises and covenants made by God through the prophets in regards to Israel's possession of the land forever? All these must now be filtered through Jesus and what he communicated to his apostles as written in the NT. Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises and covenants that God made. "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Matthew 5:17 (NIV) With this declaration by Jesus all the OT must now be filtered through Jesus and what he established. That includes what God's chosen people now look like.

The only nation that is made up of God's chosen people is the body of Christ. This is confirmed by Peter where he states, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 (NIV) Peter is writing to believers in Christ. They are the chosen people. They are God's holy nation. A nation without borders. However, at the end of the age when Jesus returns he will take up residences somewhere on this planet but it will be made up of those who believed in Jesus and where born again and not because of belonging to a certain blood line.

When we read Genesis 12:2-3 (NIV)
“I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
We must interpret scripture in light of scripture. This great nation promised to Abraham started with Israel and is now fulfilled in the body of Christ. As Paul said Israel is now made up of those who are only believers. As Peter said we believers are God's holy nation. This new nation is made up of both Jews and Gentiles in Christ and Christ alone. God will bless those who bless his body and curse those that curse his body.

Paul clarifies the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:7, 13:15, 17:7,8,10, 24:7 in Galatians 3. It is Jesus and not a group of people that God's promises was meant for. So that it is through Jesus and not an ethnic groups of people that we interpret the promises of God. Because of this all his promise still stand. Paul goes of to say that, "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." (Gal 3:26-29)

Therefore God's chosen people are now those who are in Christ. These are the real Jews. These are the real Israel. These who are saved by grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is not because a person that has a certain human ancestry. There is only one group of not two who are the chosen people of God.

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