Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Why Jesus Taught Law Teachings That Are Not for Christians

Many people believe that as Christians we are to follow all of the words of Jesus.  After all, Jesus is our Savior, so it only makes sense that all the words He spoke were meant for us to follow.  What many don't understand, however, is that many times Jesus was speaking "Old Covenant" talk to those who were under the Old Covenant (Israel), and He wasn't actually always speaking about life in the New Covenant, which had not yet come.  So the question comes up about why Jesus taught the Law/Old Covenant, even right before the New Covenant came to be.

A while back my podcast co-host Mike Kapler and I did a 20-part Growing in Grace series on why Jesus taught two covenants.  You can find the first part here, and then click on "Newer Post" at the bottom left to go on to each subsequent part.  But in the meantime, here is a brief explanation on why many times Jesus wasn't teaching about life in the New Covenant, but rather life under the Old Covenant, even right before the New Covenant was about to be put into effect.

The thing that made the switch turn on for me was this verse: "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." (Rom 3:19)

From this verse (and many other verses as well), I began to see that the law's purpose was to stop mouths and to make people guilty. So the law had a very important purpose. It's just not the purpose that many people think! Many think that the law was meant to help people live right, but it actually does the opposite. The law is "the ministry of death" and "the ministry of condemnation" (2 Cor 3:7-9). Through the law, sin abounded/increased! (not decreased) (Rom 5:20). "When the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (Rom 7:9).

And ultimately, what this all did was to point to the need for a Savior. We needed Someone to do for us what the law could not do. Shortly after the above verse from Romans 3:19, Paul gives us the solution: righteousness apart from the law and being justified freely by God's grace through the redemption that is in Jesus. (see Rom 3:21-26).

So what the law did was it served as a tutor to bring people to Christ, so that they might be justified, not by law but by faith. Then once they've come to faith, the tutor's job is done and over with. (see Gal 3:24-25).

So then, getting back to Jesus' Old Covenant ministry of preaching the law, we can see that He did it perfectly and He did it for the very reason that the law was given. He used it to stop mouths (from justifying themselves). He used it to show them how guilty they actually were (according to the law) and how the law actually condemned them and didn't help to justify them. He used it exactly as it was meant to be used: as a tutor to lead them away from justification by works, and to faith in Him.

When Jesus was walking as a man on the earth, the Old Covenant was still in effect. When Jesus died, the New Covenant came into effect. The Old was then made obsolete (Heb 8:13). Jesus had been preaching the Old Covenant as the means of pointing ahead to the New Covenant. Now that we're in the New Covenant, and the Old Covenant has been made obsolete, we don't follow Jesus' Old Covenant teachings! Why follow something that is obsolete, especially when we now have something that is far superior!

I'm hoping this helps anyone struggling with why Jesus taught the Old Covenant, when the New Covenant was about to come into effect.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Speaking in Tongues

I've been asked about speaking in tongues a couple of times recently, and I thought I'd go ahead and post my thoughts publicly.

I think tongues is a wonderful gift, and from what I can tell in the scriptures it's been used differently for different purposes. In the early church, in Acts, speaking in tongues was primarily a supernatural gift used to proclaim God to people who spoke other languages. In Acts 2, the apostles (not all believers) began speaking in tongues, which was a matter of them "speaking the wonderful works of God" in the languages of the other people from other countries who were either living in Jerusalem or visiting there. In Acts 10, the gift was also given to the Gentiles, who were magnifying God in other languages. This wasn’t a "prayer language." It was a practical matter of evangelism, done supernaturally.

Then in 1 Cor 12, 13 and 14, it talks about different uses of tongues in the church. In 1 Cor 14, Paul says, "he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries." Then it says, "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church." So in this case, it doesn't appear to be used for the sake of others, but rather for self-edification. The word "mysteries" means "secrets" or "hidden things."

Self-edification is a good thing. Speaking mysteries, hidden things or secrets to God in the spirit is a good thing. But it's even better, according to Paul, when one prophesies (1 Cor 14:5). But yet they're both wonderful things. The main caution that Paul gives is that since others can't understand what you're saying when you're speaking in tongues, if I may paraphrase Paul, "speak in your own language when around others (the language that they understand), unless there is someone there to interpret your tongues."

Again, speaking of the public use of tongues, Paul says, "If I come to you speaking with tongues," it doesn't profit you. In a gathering, this use of tongues doesn't profit others. However, "if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful." It's great for my spirit to pray. It's a matter of self-edification and speaking hidden things in the spirit, which is good, so I pray in tongues privately. But I pray both in tongues and with my understanding. (1 Cor 14:13-17)

Do I think that everyone must speak in tongues? Do I think that tongues is a necessary evidence of salvation or that someone has the Spirit? Not at all. Not all have the gift, and that’s absolutely the way it’s meant to be. In Acts 2:4 and 19:6, it does indeed say that people were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began speaking with other tongues. But this does not in any way mean or suggest that this is what must happen with all people. In fact, there are other passages that talk about people receiving the Spirit, with no mention at all of tongues. And nowhere in the NT epistles, where the message of salvation is clearly given, is tongues attached to it in any way.

Back to 1 Corinthians. In Chapter 12, Paul is talking about various gifts that God has given to members of the body of Christ for the benefit of all. Tongues is one of these gifts, among many other gifts. Paul asks rhetorically, "Do all speak with tongues?" The implied answer is "No." His point in the chapter as a whole is that the body of Christ is made up of many different parts. Not all members of the body of Christ are the same, and they don't all function in the same way. The gifts are diversely spread throughout the body. Not everyone has the same gifts... and it’s set up that way by God Himself, all for the good of the body as a whole.

God has blessed the body of Christ with the gift of tongues - one gift among many gifts, just as with all the other gifts. The body works well when all the parts aren't doing the same thing, but are doing what they were individually called to do! On top of all this, Paul says there is something even greater than walking in any of the gifts, even the "best" gifts. He is, of course, speaking about love. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal." (1 Cor 13:1) No matter what our individual view of "tongues" is, or if we use it in the same way or not... it all means nothing apart from walking in love.

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I also posted this as a Facebook note, and there is a good conversation going on about all of this here:

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

The Answer Is Always B - 8/2/17 - Temporary or Eternal Life

What is the correct wording of John 3:16?

A. "God gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should be given temporary life, until that person sins again, and then that person loses that life until he confesses and repents and starts doing good again, and then he'll be given temporary life until he sins again. And if at the time of his death he happens to have even one sin that he hasn't confessed and repented of, then it's curtains for him and he perishes, but if he did manage to confess and repent, then and only then will he be actually given eternal life."

B. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."

C. "Am I only dreaming or is this burning an eternal flame?"

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Communion Isn't for Remembering Our Sins - It's for Remembering Christ!

"For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes." 1 Cor 11:26

Communion, or The Lord's Supper, isn't for the purpose of remembering our sins. It's for the purpose of remembering Christ, who took away our sins!

But you say, "Let a man examine himself!" Yes, Paul said that, but what was he referring to? He has just finished telling the Corinthians that when they come together for the Lord's Supper, some are eating ahead of others, letting others go hungry. And some are getting drunk. He tells them, "Don't you have your own houses to do that in?!?" This is the "unworthy manner" in which they were partaking of the Lord's Supper. This is what he was telling them to examine themselves about.

Again, the true meaning of Communion is to proclaim the Lord's death. The Lord's Supper is meant to be a celebration - or at the very least, a remembrance - of what was accomplished through the Lord's death. Jesus Himself said, "Remember ME." Not "Remember your sins." Through His death, our sins were taken away once and for all! In remembering Him, and proclaiming His death, we remember that through His blood our sins were cast into the sea of forgetfulness!

It certainly would be worth examining ourselves if while we were getting together to do this, certain people were eating all the food and others were getting drunk. That manner of remembering the Lord's death would certainly be unworthy of the majesty of all that we're gathered together to celebrate! But when we're eating a wafer or a tiny piece of bread, and a thimble-sized shot of wine or grape juice, how is it even possible for us to do what the Corinthians were doing? ;)

"God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8). This is what we are remembering in celebrating the Lord's Supper.

Here's a video I did on this:

The Gospel Reveals the Gift of God's Righteousness

"I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'" Rom 1:16-17

The gospel isn't the power of "I cleaned up my act." It's the power of God. The gospel isn't about "I now do righteous things." It's about God's very own righteousness given to us as a gift.

The gospel is contrasted with the wrath of God, of which Paul speaks for several verses following the above passage. He writes that the wrath of God is revealed against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness of mankind. But, he says, the gospel is the answer to it all. The answer is not "keep the law of God," because nobody keeps it! The answer is not "change from doing bad to doing good," which, like keeping the law, is a form of self-righteousness.

The answer is the gospel, which reveals the gift of God's righteousness, given freely, "through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe." (Rom 3:22). It's for anyone and everyone, not by works, but simply by faith.