Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Acts Transition, Part 7

You may listen to the audio version of this study on SoundCloud.

We pick up our study through the book of Acts in Acts 2:5 today.

VERSE 5: And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Notice that this verse tells us that those who were present were only Jews. These Jews were men who had come out of every nation under heaven to Jerusalem for the mandatory feast days. These included Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Weeks or Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles or Booths). At this point, we must remember that the Jews had been scattered to the nations as a result of the diaspora (the dispersion) after the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 723 BC. There was also no doubt some expectations in regard to the messianic prophecies that were most likely fueled by possibly the wise men who had come earlier, Simion's statement in Luke 2:25, and maybe the study of the faithful in regards to Daniel's prophecies in Daniel 9:24-27. Jerusalem must have been abuzz.

VERSES 6-11: Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. Immediately what happened was noised abroad. The term has nothing to do with the modern sense of abroad. The sense here is that of a rumor.

Notice the multitude in v.6. This is referring to the Jews that were just mentioned in v.5. They were amazed and marveled because all of those filled with the Holy Ghost and speaking in other tongues were Galileans, but each of them was hearing in their native tongues in which they were born. Remember, these Jews were from all over the known world who were in Jerusalem for the feasts. Notice that everyone present for this event were Jewish, either naturally born or proselytes (v. 10). In other words, this was not a Gentile event.

VERSES 12-13: And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. Notice that there are two responses to this event: those who doubted and those who mocked. On a side note, that is exactly what happens today in regards to how people respond to God. The word doubt more so implies that they were perplexed more than that of being skeptical. They simply did not know what was going on. On the other hand, the mockers out-of-hand rejected the event as being a work of God.

VERSES 14-15: But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. At this point, Peter, being the designated spokesman for the group, as appointed by Christ himself in Matthew 16:17-19, stands up to explain just what is going on. And notice, who he is addressing. He is addressing the Jews that had assembled in Jerusalem and had just witnessed this outpouring of the Holy Spirit. His first concern was to refute the mockers who had assumed that the event had occurred because of drunkenness.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Dispensationalism, Part 3

You may listen to the audio version of this study on SoundCloud.

The next essential belief to dispensationalism is that Israel and the church are distinct and cannot be identified as one with the other. All dispensationalists agree that the church is not a new Israel as those of the covenant persuasion insist. Dispensationalists may disagree as to some specifics, but none of them, unless seriously confused, embrace "replacement theology" or what is also called "supersessionism".

The greatest argument for this is the fact that the term "Israel" is used seventy-three times in the New Testament and it is always, without fail, referring to ethnic Jews. Some will contend that Paul's use of the term "Israel of God" in Galatians 6:16 is referring to the church. However, the context clearly dictates that he is not referring to the church, but instead to believing Jews that had rightly rejected the teaching of the Judaizers.

Those who believe that the church is the new Israel say that this exchange if you will, happened on the day of Pentecost. But strangely enough, even after Pentecost, there is always a distinction made between Israel and the church. In the book of Acts alone, the term "Israel" occurs twenty times and the church term church (ekklesia) occurs nineteen times. Yet, the two are always kept distinct This is just further proof that the church is not Israel and never will be. Those who confuse the two will forever be inconsistent in their view of Scripture and God's distinct plan for both.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Are We Living in the New Covenant?

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The question that I posed to my Bible study last week was simple, "Are we living in the New Covenant?" After all, in all of our Bibles, there is a page between Malachi and Matthew which clearly says, "New Testament" which means New Covenant.

First, we must understand that the New Covenant was a promise that God gave to the nation of Israel that he would bring them back unto their land where they would realize the blessings promised to their fathers (Luke 1:72-75). The beginnings of this covenant are found in Deuteronomy 30:1-9 where God promises he will: have compassion on them (30:3), gather them together from out of the nations (30:3-5), allow them to dwell in the promised land (30:3-5), circumcise their heart so they can obey the commandments (30:6-8), and make them plenteous in every work of their hands (30:9).  The end result would be that the covenant would provide for their redemption and institute what was needed to begin God’s plan for blessing the "kindreds of the earth" through their priesthood (Gen 12:3, 22:18, Acts 3:25). In other words, what Israel failed to accomplish on their own under the Old Covenant, God would provide for them under the new.

The prophets also reminded the Jews of the promised New Covenant when Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 31:31, "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:”. He also goes on to describe how God will put his "law in their inward parts" and will "remember their sin no more" (Jeremiah 31:33-34). Ezekiel also describes the supernatural empowerment that will accompany the New Covenant as he writes, “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 36:27). Ezekiel goes to mention how God will do several things that Jeremiah also mentioned when he said that He will gather them from all countries (36:24), allow them to dwell in the Promised Land (36:28), multiply the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field, and they would receive no more reproach from the heathen (36:30).

Also, in the book of Romans, Paul says that Jesus was a minister to the circumcision to "confirm the promises made unto the fathers" (Romans 15:8). Hebrews tells us that Jesus came as the mediator of the New Covenant. Jesus testified to just that during the Passover supper with the disciples when he described the symbolism of the meal when he said, "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Christ spent his earthly ministry preparing his followers for the coming Kingdom and the New Covenant by teaching them about the law and how they would receive supernatural empowerment that he would send to do so in John 14:26 and Matthew 6:24-33. Hebrews also tells us that the new covenant could not be in force until after Christ died when it says, "For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth” (Hebrews 9:17). So, when Jesus died, he sent down the "Comforter" who would prepare them for the New Covenant with power to enter the kingdom (John 14:26).

It is the same "better covenant" that the author of Hebrews refers to in Hebrews 8:6 when he says, "But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.” Also, it must be understood that before He  could bring in the new covenant, Israel's past transgressions under the old covenant had to be redeemed according to Hebrews 9:15 where the author said, "And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance."

Are we living in the new covenant? No, we are not. While it was offered, it was never realized because the nation of Israel rejected the message and the Messenger. As a result, God raised up the Apostle Paul to reveal the mystery of the church which will continue until "the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" (Romans 11:25-27), during which time He will reconcile the world back to Himself apart from any covenant or special people (2 Cor 5:19). During this current dispensation, believers receive the benefits of the redemptive work of Christ on the cross outside of any covenant relationship. Today there is neither Jew nor Gentile. Paul said that "God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all” in Romans 11:32.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Dispensationalism, Part 2

You may listen to the audio version of this study on SoundCloud.

Picking up in our study of dispensationalism, we continue to look at the essential beliefs of this lens of Biblical interpretation. Last time, we looked at essential belief that the primary meaning of any passage in the Bible is found in that passage of the Bible. The New Testament does not reinterpret or transcend the passages in the Old Testament in any way that would override or cancel the original intent of the author. Again, that is a high view of Scripture that simply means that the author said what he meant and meant what he said when he said it and who he said it to.

Today, we look at the next essential belief which is that types do exist but national Israel is not an inferior type that is superseded by the church. That just simply means that the church never replaces Israel. The study of typology is a special kind of symbolism. A symbol is something that represents something else. We can define a type as a “prophetic symbol” because all types are representations of something yet future. For example, Adam is a type of Jesus as we are told by the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:14 and 1 Corinthians 15:45. The flood of Genesis 6-7 is used as a type of baptism 1 Peter 3:20-21, etc. Another way of putting it is that types by definition involve God intended correspondences between Old Testament persons, places, things, and events with New Testament realities.

Those who do not embrace dispensationalism in favor of covenant theology will say the exact opposite and say that Old Testament types do indeed superceed New Testament realities. For example, they will say that Old Testament Israel was a type of the church and now everything that was for them has transitioned to the church. In other words, the church has replaced Israel. They say that this happened on the day of Pentecost. Dispensationalists categorically reject that notion.

The bottom line is that we believe that God made unconditional covenants and promises to Israel that must be and will be fulfilled. In Jeremiah 31:35-37, it says, "Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me forever. Thus saith the Lord; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord." That sounds like a pretty iron-clad promise to me. Also, Paul said in Romans 9:4-5, "Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen." As dispensationalists, we believe God's very integrity is in question here. Why would God make promises to one group, pull the proverbial carpet out from under them, and give them to another? Seriously?

Paul said in Romans 11:28-29, "As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." He says that God's promises are without repentance. That means irrevocable. Paul told the Galatians that once a covenant "has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it (Galatians 3:15). Some will argue that the covenants made to Israel were only for that generation to which he made it. No, the Bible makes it clear that the covenants were trans-generational Deutoronomy 30:1-10 and Leviticus 26:40-45. Also, the salvation and restoration of Israel are reaffirmed over and over in the New Testament (Mat 19:28; 23:39; Acts 1:6; 3:19-21; and Rom 11:26-27). If Israel is the transcended type that those of the covenant theology persuasion say, why does the New Testament make so much about Israel's glorious future? The obvious answer is that Israel still has a glorious future and they are wrong. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Mediator of the New Testament

You may listen to the audio version of this study on SoundCloud.

Hebrews 9:15 says, “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance."

I have been studying this verse for a few days now. In all my years of ministry, I have been averse to studying the book of Hebrews. Not sure why, but I am finding that it is a treasure trove. Maybe it is because I have heard interpretations that I knew could not be right.
Be that as it may, this is the verse I am currently looking at. Notice that it says that Christ is the mediator of the New Testament, or as most of us refer to it, the New Covenant. No doubt, we all know that, but I would disagree with those who go so far as to say that we are under said New Covenant and I will explain why. This covenant, as with all covenants, is with the nation of Israel and their future redemption. To say otherwise is Replacement Theology.

Notice also that it says that he did this "by means" of his death. This speaks of his act of mediation through which he became the arbitrator in the dispute between God and Israel in regard to their "transgressions that were under the first testament" which had not been permanently removed through the temporary atonement that was provided through the sacrifice of animals (Hebrews 10:4). So, Christ's death on the cross was to provide redemption for the sins of Israel that they committed under the first covenant so that they (Israel) "might receive the promise of eternal inheritance" which will come to them through the New Covenant.

So, are we, the Body of Christ, living under the New Covenant? No, we are not, because it is not for us. The covenant was never actualized because the offer of the Kingdom was rejected by the nation of Israel. It will be instituted at the Second Coming and in full force during his millennial reign.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Acts Transition, Part 6

You may listen to the audio version of this study on SoundCloud.

We pick up our study through the book of Acts today in Acts 2 which deals with the day of Pentecost.

We pick up our study through the book of Acts today in Acts 2 which deals with the day of Pentecost.

Chapter 2
VERSE 1: And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. The day of Pentecost was the 50th day after the first day of the week after Passover, as instructed in Leviticus 23:15-16. This day was fully come only after seven sabbaths had passed, not counting the Sabbath immediately following Passover, but only those after the feast of firstfruits, which was always on a Sunday. I know that is a mouthful, but there it is.

Notice that they are all with one accord in one place. Acts 1:13 says that they were in an upper room when they chose Matthias; however, we are not told that they are still in the upper room here. The only insight as to where they were is found in verse 2, where we are told that they were in a house. Since few houses (then or now) would hold about a hundred and twenty people (see Acts 1:15), it could be that only the 12 were present in this particular house (though the traditional view says there were 120). I personally believe that only the Twelve were present for the following reasons: few houses can hold 120 people, let alone seated (v.2); if there were 120 of them, they were all Galileans according to v.7; and verse 14 speaks only of the Twelve. Of course, that is just my perspective and I don't plan on starting a church on it.

VERSES 2-3: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. These two verses give the physical description of the event, the next verse will give the spiritual description. Just as a side note, the word cloven means split or divided. Dr. Randy White points out that it is interesting that from the English language: in Old English cleave meant "to separate," while in Middle English, cleave had come to mean the exact opposite (as in Genesis 2:24).

VERSE 4: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. While we know that this event was both prophesied (cf. vv. 16-17) and phenomenal, we are not fully able to understand what it means to be filled with the Holy Ghost, at least not from this passage alone because we were not there and this event only happened one time. The tongues in this text are referring to other human languages that were understandable by those present.

Interestingly, almost the entirety of Christendom will point to this verse as the birth of the church. However, that can not be drawn from the text at all. Instead of being the birth of the church, I submit to you that it was instead just an adding to the already existing kingdom church. Why do I say that? - Because this is not the first time that the Holy Spirit had been given to the apostles at all. In the Gospel of John, it says, Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Again, nothing in the verse implicitly says that this was the birth of the church. To do so is using eisegesis (reading into the text) instead of exegesis (drawing from the text). I also believe it will become more apparent as we make our way through Acts that the church of which you and I are a part was not born in these verses. The literal Kingdom was being offered and ultimately, refused which led to God raising up the Apostle Paul to take the Gospel of Grace to the Gentiles.

Just a bit of backtracking here on my part. If you read the Gospels with the lens that says Jesus was creating a new spiritual Jerusalem as a new spiritual Moses, leading a new spiritual exodus to a new spiritual Kingdom, you will arrive at the church was born in Acts 2. However, if you will read the Gospels literally and stop spiritualizing the text, you will see that Jesus literally came to offer a literal Kingdom that was ultimately rejected and postponed, you can not arrive at the birth of the church in Acts 2. So, before you start regurgitating what you have been taught by your milder replacement theology friends, take the lenses off and read the text using proper exegesis.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Acts Transition, Part 5

You may listen to the audio version of this study on SoundCloud.

Before proceeding into chapter two, I think that it would be a good time to give a primer on Pentecost. Firstly, in my opinion, Pentecost has everything to do with the Kingdom and nothing to do with the Body of Christ. I say this because the Body of Christ could not have begun until the Kingdom had been officially been offered and rejected by the nation of Israel. For too long I believed that this was done in the Gospels. No, it wasn't. In the Gospels, the message was "repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 10:7). Notice, it says, "at hand", not here, but at hand. It could not have been offered until the Messiah had been crucified (Hebrews 9:16-17). This is exactly what happened in the first several chapters of Acts. It was offered by Peter and was ultimately rejected at the stoning of Stephen. Afterward, the mystery of the Body of Christ was revealed to the Apostle Paul.

Again, the Gospel of the Kingdom had to be rejected first. Paul explains it this way in Romans 11:28-32, "As concerning the gospel, they (Jews) are enemies for your (Gentiles) sakes: but as touching the election, they (Jews) are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye (Gentiles) in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their (Jews) unbelief: Even so have these (Jews) also now not believed, that through your (Gentiles) mercy they (Jews) also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them (Jews) all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all." Pentecost was the beginning of the Jewish nation being "in unbelief". The NASB uses the phrase "shut up in disobedience". This had to happen before mercy could be extended to the Gentile.

However, with that said, God was not surprised by their rejection and already had a plan that involved the Gentiles. Paul says in this way in Romans 11:15, "For if the casting away of them (Jews) be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them (Jews) be, but life from the dead?" In other words, the casting away of the Jews meant the reconciliation of the world. That means that it was only by the setting aside of Israel that the rest of the world could be a recipient of God’s grace through Christ's crucifixion. Of course, it will also be the removal of the church through which Israel will be the recipient of God’s promises to Abraham.