The Salvation of the Jews: John the Baptist, Part 1 (the Kingdom of Heaven)

jewish_starTo a First Century Jew raised on the Torah, a central text was —

(Deu 30:6 ESV)  6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. 

This text was so central that the authors of the NT refer to often so obliquely that we miss it. They understood Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Joel to promise that hearts would be circumcised by the Holy Spirit.

(Eze 36:26-27 ESV)  26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

(Eze 37:12-14 ESV) 12 “Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel.  13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.  14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”

Continue reading

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The Salvation of the Jews: Re-thinking the New Testament, Part 2

jewish_starOn the other hand, the non-biblical literature is very limited and we really don’t know how typical, say, the Book  of Jubilees, was of the Jews of its era. We have the Talmuds — the Oral Law now in written form — but they weren’t written down until centuries after the Temple was destroyed. It’s hard to say to what extent the Judaism of the Talmud reflects the Judaism of Jesus’ day.

Meanwhile, in Europe and the US, during the 19th and early 20th Century, NT studies became very un-Jewish, due in part of anti-Semitism, and in part due to the influences of Modernity. Efforts were made to read Jesus and Paul as Existentialists or whatever the contemporary philosophers were spouting at the time.

Fortunately, E. P. Sanders famously argued for a “new perspective” on NT studies. Continue reading

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Canadian Advice on Same-Sex Marriage

gay christianAnother interesting post from Carey Nieuwhof, a Canadian blogger. His blog is excellent in its own right, but in this case, being Canadian gives him a perspective that we in the USA often don’t have.

Read his entire post, but here are his five points:

1. The church has always been counter-cultural

2. It’s actually strange to ask non-Christians to hold Christian values

3. You’ve been dealing with sex outside of traditional marriage for a LONG time

4. The early church never looked to the government for guidance

5. Our judgment of LGBT people is destroying any potential relationship

What do you think?

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The Salvation of the Jews: Re-thinking the New Testament, Part 1

jewish_starTry to picture First Century Judaism just before the arrival of the John the Baptist.

In fact, the Jews were saved — if they were saved at all — by faith. The Law was, to the Jews, much as the Sunday assembly is to Christians. Christians don’t attend the assembly to be saved. They’re saved; therefore, they attend the assembly.

The assembly is an opportunity to encourage others, to form community with fellow believers, to learn God’s will more perfectly, and to express our love for God in worship. For the Jews, obedience to the Law was much the same thing — at least in theory.

Just as some Christians take a legalistic view of the assembly, making it a means of salvation — give up an hour or two to God earn seven days of salvation — some Jews saw the Law legalistically. In fact, there were several different perspectives on the Law present in Judea when John the Baptist arrived, and we’ve consider some of these recently. Continue reading

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The Salvation of the Jews: Rom 4 (“We uphold the law”)

jewish_starWe start with just a little bit of context —

(Rom 3:29-31 ESV)  29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,  30 since God is one– who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.  31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Verses 29-31 demonstrate that the issue at hand is how the Gentiles can be saved and yet not be bound by the Law of Moses. But if this is so, what is the point of the Law? And Paul begins with his conclusion: “We uphold the law.”

Now, there’s something of a pun here. The Jews used “law” to refer both the Law of Moses and to the first five books of the First Testament. Hence, God’s covenant with Abraham is, in one sense, a part of the law. It’s in Genesis, the first book of the Law. He means much more than that when he declares that he upholds the law, but that is part of what he means. The “law” is not just the 613 commands. It’s also the story of the Exodus. It’s also God’s covenant with Abraham. It all matters. Continue reading

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The Salvation of the Jews: Gal 3, Part 2 (Why Then the Law?)

jewish_starNow, this claim raises the obvious problem. If the Law of Moses could not save, why have a Law of Moses? What was its purpose?

(Gal 3:19 ESV) Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring [Jesus] should come to whom the promise had been made [the Jews], and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.

“Because of transgressions.” Because of sin.

(Gal 3:21-22 ESV) Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.  22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 

Does the Law contradict the Abrahamic covenant? No. The two covenants had two different purposes. The promise given to Abraham was to bring righteousness (by faith). The Law — indeed “the Scripture” — trapped the Jews in sin to demonstrate the necessity of salvation by faith. Continue reading

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Church Growth: Carey Nieuwhof on Multisite Churches

multisiteFascinating post by Carey Nieuwhof on the trend toward multisite churches, that is, churches with one leadership but multiple campuses.

Mega churches once used multi-site campuses as a Band-Aid strategy for growth. They either became too big for their space, or they were restricted by zoning laws to expand. Currently, there are more than 5,000 multi-site churches, and it’s out-pacing the mega church movement as a revitalization strategy for healthy churches whose growth has become stagnant.

It was this graphic that really got my attention: Continue reading

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The Salvation of the Jews: Galatians 3, Part 1 (It is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham)

jewish_starSo if I’m right — and I’ll admit that the evidence is sparse — my understanding of Jewish salvation should fit well within Gal 3 and Rom 4, the two chapters in which Paul argues that salvation by faith in Jesus comes from God’s covenant with Abraham.

Galatians is likely the earliest of the Pauline epistles (some would argue for 1 Thessalonians). So we start there.

(Gal 3:5-6 ESV) 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith — 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 

The issue before Paul is whether Gentiles must become Jews, by circumcision, to be saved. He begins his argument in Gen 15:6. He says that our salvation is based on “hearing with faith” just as Abraham’s was. “Just as”? The Greek is kathos, and can mean “to the very same degree as.” It’s not the same as “similarly to.” It’s stronger than that. Continue reading

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The Future of the Churches of Christ: More Statistics from Ed Stetzer

There’s a lot of false teaching going on within the evangelical church regarding statistics. Authors sell more books when they persuade their audience that sky is falling, the evangelical church is collapsing, and their book offers the solution. Preachers more easily persuade their members to knock on doors and attend next week’s gospel meeting when they are afraid of the imminent collapse of American Christianity. Politicians get more votes when the next election will decide the fate of the church in America.

But the stats say otherwise, according to Ed Stetzer, author and consultant on church growth — Continue reading

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The Salvation of the Jews: The Roll Call of the Faithful

jewish_starNow, I had to explain that in order to explain this.

Chapter 11 is a list of the faithful heroes of the First Testament. It begins with Abel and continues to —

(Heb 11:35-38 ESV)  35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.  36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated —  38 of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 

These heroes did great things and suffered horribly for the sake of the coming Messiah. Continue reading

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