Dead to the Law?

In Romans 7:4a the Apostle Paul makes an extraordinary statement:

Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law…

What does he mean in saying that? Are we now free to steal, murder and commit adultery?

Context is everything.

In the preceding verses Paul states the obvious truth that the law has no jurisdiction over a dead person (v.1). He then demonstrates that the death of a husband also changes the status of the wife. She is no longer a wife, she is now a widow, and freed from the covenant of marriage (vv. 2-3). In like manner, he is explaining to Jewish believers (‘those who know the law’) that the death of Christ changes their status in regard to the torah covenant. They have died to the Torah Covenant and, like the widow, are free to embrace the New Covenant in Messiah.

So how did they die to the old covenant?

As the next phrase in Romans 7:4 explains:

…through the body of Christ.

Since Christ is our corporate solidarity, his death is our death. The torah covenant has no jurisdiction over him… or us. But that doesn’t free us from God’s definition of right and wrong. Rather, as the apostle explains in verse 7, we are now empowered for obedience by the Spirit of God:

…so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

Baruch haShem!

The Body of Christ?

Why does the Apostle Paul refer to the church as the ‘body of Christ’? His turn of phrase is based on an ancient concept called ‘Corporate Solidarity’. It’s an assumption that what is true for the significant individual is also true for the group or tribe which he represents.

Here’s a biblical example:

Yes, he [Jacob] struggled with the Angel and prevailed; He wept, and sought favour from Him. He found Him in Bethel, And there He spoke to us…    (Hosea 12:4 – emphasis mine)

The prophet Hosea is declaring that, in speaking to Jacob, God was speaking to all Israel, for Jacob is a corporate solidarity for all his descendants.

Messiah has become the corporate solidarity for all his followers. That’s what Paul means when he talks about being ‘in Christ’ (as opposed to remaining within Adam’s corporate solidarity).

Since we are ‘in Messiah’, he is our corporate solidarity and we (figuratively) constitute his ‘body’.

Baruch haShem!

Sermon .mp4 Option…

Some of you will recall during the lockdown last year (yes, this is Tasmania – we’ve only had one lockdown ever… so far!), that I posted videos in .mp4 as well as the audios in .mp3 format (downloadable). I’m hoping to reintroduce that practice beginning this Sunday (22nd August). I still haven’t worked out a download button for the videos, but at least those who like the pretty pictures with the commentary will be able to stream them online.

That is, of course, if I can get the technology to stop fighting me and just cooperate for once.

Baruch haShem!

Is God Guilty of Gender Discrimination?

I was asked the other day why, following their revolt against the leadership of Moses in Numbers chapter twelve, Miriam was punished with leprosy and Aaron appeared to ‘get away with it’? Why is that so? Does God punish women, but not men? There quite a few opinions on this question, at least according to the internet. I disagree (predictably) and see the incident, like so much of the OT narrative, to be a messianic midrash

  • Aaron was a prophetic type of Messiah as High Priest.
  • It was he who interceded on behalf of Miriam (Num 12:11-12)
  • Though not punished, he also bore her sin as well as his own (Exod 28:30).
  • Moses was also a type of Messiah as Prophet when he interceded before the Father (Num 12:13)
  • Miriam’s sin was to reject the authority of Moses the type of Messiah
  • Her being cast out for the perfect/complete amount of time (7 days) is a picture of Israel’s present wilderness wanderings
  • At the end of their being outcast, God will ‘cleanse’ them (Ezek 26:25,33)
That’s my twopence worth, do with it what you will…
Baruch haShem!

Bless the Lord?

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews  employs a midrash on the encounter between Abraham and Melchizedek (Genesis 14) to demonstrate the superiority of Yeshua’s priesthood over the Aaronic system. In chapter seven he states explicitly:

Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better.    (Hebrews 7:7 – NKJV)

How then is it possible for David to write in the Psalms:

Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!    (Psalm 103:1 – NKJV)

If the lesser is blessed by the better, how can a humble human being bless almighty God?

The answer is to be found in the next verse of the Psalm:

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…

The Hebraic concept of ‘blessings’ ‎[בִּרְכֹ֥ת b’rachot] to the Lord consist of short prayers of praise for all the wonderful things the Lord bestows upon us. Pious Jews say several blessings throughout the course of a normal day. These may include blessings of gratitude expressed to God for: granting another day upon rising; for food and drink or eating a piece of fruit; for smelling a fragrant spice,  or even in appreciation of our bodily functions working as intended when going to the toilet.

How much of your day is spent giving thanks to God for His rich blessings upon your life?

 

Does God Want Us to be Nice? (Ephesians 4:25-32)

When I did my basic training in the Air Force we had an Administrative Officer who taught ‘O & A’ which was an abbreviation of ‘Organisation and Administration’. If one cadet was a bit rude to another cadet, this officer would rebuke us by saying, “Be nice!”. His name was Flight Lieutenant B.N.P. Thompson and, behind his back, we would joke that his initials stood for ‘Be Nice Please’.

But, as Christians, are we meant to be nice all the time?

Clearly, we’re called to be gracious in our speech (verse 29) and to treat one another with kindness, compassion and forgiveness (verse 32). Is that the same thing, though, as being nice?

In verse 25, the Apostle alludes to a passage in the Old Testament Book of Zechariah:

These are the things you shall do: speak each man the truth to his neighbour; give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbour; and do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,’ Says the LORD.”   (Zechariah 8:16-17)

 In this text the Lord instructs us on what to do and what to avoid. We are to speak the truth and judge righteously. We are not to plan evil strategies or swear falsely.

The question boils down to this: Are there times when judging righteously and speaking the truth could be considered less than ‘nice’ in our modern society?

Absolutely.

In our modern culture, we are loath to bring a rebuke to those who are acting improperly. Yet the scriptures command us to bring rebuke when appropriate. Consider the following texts:

You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbour, and not bear sin because of him.    (Leviticus 19:17)

Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.    (Proverbs 9:8) 

Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.    (Proverbs 27:5) 

Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.    (Luke 17:3) 

Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed    (Galatians 2:11)

Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.   (1 Timothy 5:20)

Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.    (Titus 2:15)

If I rebuke my neighbour for doing the wrong thing, how can I be sure that I’m not ‘thinking evil in my heart’ about him?

The test we can apply to our actions is also be found in chapter four of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians:

but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ    (Ephesians 4:15)

If my motivation is anger, I may well be out of line. But the truth, spoken in love trumps being ‘nice’ every time.

Baruch haShem

By His Stripes…?

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I find that some Christians take exception to my stance on healing. That’s because I don’t believe that we are guaranteed healing in this age through the work of Christ on the cross. The Apostle Peter cites Isaiah 53:5 in his first epistle (chapter 2 verse 24) in the context of us being healed from the power of penalty of sin. Similarly, the original text in Isaiah is what we call a ‘Hebrew Parallelism’. That is, saying the same thing twice in different words to aid memorisation. An example of parallelism is if I were to say:

“A dog is a faithful companion and a canine is a loyal friend.”

Here’s the text from Isaiah noting the parallel statements:

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

His stripes brought the peace with God (Romans 5:1) that was necessary because of sin.

It’s true that everybody Jesus ministered to during his earthly ministry was healed at the time (note that they didn’t have to keep on believing in their healing in the absence of any physical change in their symptoms!). That’s because, the Kingdom of God was in their midst (Luke 17:21) in the presence of the King. When Messiah returns, the Kingdom of God will be fully established and healing and miracles will be the norm. In the meantime we see glimpses of the Kingdom whenever God blesses us with a miracle or a divine healing.

Baruch haShem

The Resurrection Body?

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven…  (2 Cor 5:1-2 NKJV)

The Apostle Paul refers to our human bodies as ‘earthly houses’ or ‘tents’ and contrasts this with the ‘heavenly clothing’ we will receive from heaven. Question is …When do we receive the ‘heavenly tent’? Is this our reward in heaven? Personally, I don’t think so. Jesus is the only one so far to have been clothed in his immortal, heavenly body. He is the:

“firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor 15:20). 

While those followers of Christ who have gone before us absent from their physical bodies but are, nonetheless, enjoying the presence of the Lord (2 Cor 5:8). The idea of an eternal non-physical existence has its roots in paganism and not the Scriptures. That’s why some of the men in Athens mocked Paul when he talked about the resurrection of the dead (Acts 17:32). Hellenistic thought infiltrated the Church fairly early in its history and emphasised the goal of ‘going to heaven when you die.’

Going to heaven when we die is not our ultimate goal. It is a wonderful intermediate fringe benefit we can delight in, as we await our glorified immortal resurrected bodies. These will be like Christ’s glorious body and we will be clothed with them at his return (1 John 3:2).

If you don’t believe me… dig up a departed Christian’s grave. His or her bones will still be there.

But Jesus’ tomb was empty.

Baruch haShem

Everybody’s Twopence Worth?

How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26 NKJV)

The above passage is regularly used to justify every church member being involved in a speaking ministry of some kind. For the text explicitly states each of you. But context is always king in scriptural interpretation. The apostle has been rebuking the Corinthian assembly for their lack of order and abuse of the gift of tongues in their meetings. The question that begins verse 26 – How is it brethren? – is, in my opinion, meant to introduce another criticism as in, “What on earth are you doing?” He then goes on to describe their practice of everybody is getting involved – each of you. In contrast, teaches Paul in the second half of the verse, all things are to be done for edification. Let two or three speak in tongues at the most (verse 27); let two or three prophesy, and let the first be silent if another gets a revelation (verses 29-30).  

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are wonderful things but are to be used decently and in order (verse 40). Only those who are appropriately gifted should sing, teach and edify the saints through interpreted tongues and prophecy.

The rest will utilise the non-verbal spiritual gifts that our great and gracious God has bestowed upon them.

Baruch haShem

The Sacred Ark

Contained within the Ark of the Covenant were the pot of manna, Aaron’s Rod and the Tablets of the Covenant (Heb 9:4). The Ark was made of shittim wood and covered with gold. The gold lid was the kapporet, which English translations tend to render as the ‘Mercy Seat’. The Greek term used to translate kapporet in the Septuagint (LXX) is hilasterion – the same word we find in Chapter 3 of Paul’s Letter to the Romans:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation [hilasterion] by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness . . . 

(Rom 3:23-25 NKJV)

The Ark, like so many other things in the Tanakh (aka the ‘Old Testament’), is a picture of the Messiah. It is he who is the sacrifice whose bleood was sprinkled on the mercy seat, his cross. The gold covering of the Ark speaks of his immortality and the wood pictures his humanity. Messiah is the d’var elohim – the Word of God – made flesh. The manna was in the Ark because Messiah is the bread from heaven. Aaron’s rod that budded was in the Ark because Messiah is the resurrection and the life. The tablets were in the Ark because Messiah is the Torah incarnate.

The Ark went two thousand cubits ahead of the people across the Jordan (Josh 3:3-4). Messiah preceded his people into the olam haba – the Age to Come – by about two thousand years.

Baruch haShem.