Changing the debate
I do not know how much you read my blog, but I have been very desirous to converse specifically with you about things I see in scripture. I wish to address your comments in a more formal manner than just another comment upon comment that sometimes gets overlooked. Especially concerning such important fundamental truths about the hope held out to us in the gospel. I hope my addresses to your comments will stir a lot of contemplation and a study of scripture by those who observe this conversation between brothers.
I wish to say, I like your summary of where the crux of the matter is for those who put their hope in Jesus Christ. For this truly is the heart of the matter.
“So of course where we are at is that those who desire to be sheep need to take heed that they are not complacent lest they become a instead goat – or they are living as a goat whilst assuming that they are a sheep. I think this is the crux of the matter.”
Ironically this is just one way scripture points to the truth of what you are saying. In other cases it speaks of fruit and trees, again in other places it comes out and plainly speaks of believing in vain or falling from grace, etc. Sadly though one half of Christianity believes these truths are not for them, the other half is completely unaware of these truths. Leaving only a small minority who understand the truth you elaborated on and who strive to live by it.
Concerning eternal security, I too agree that God has called all men everywhere to be saved. The conversation that Christianity couches predestination and election in is something I wish to steer away from. Not to ignore predestination and election but to converse about it from a different perspective of the gospel I see in scripture. In order to do this I need to address your concerns that some of the readers who read my blog might think I am ignoring the distinctions between the two dispensations of the Old and New Testaments.
These distinctions are summed up by you in the following manner.
- The “means” of salvation under the Old Covenant differs under the New. Under the Old Covenant man had to abide by Laws written upon tablets of stone but under the New the Laws are written upon our hearts (the law of the Spirit).
- Under the Old covenant, man in general could not experience the “born again” experience which he is able to do under the New through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
To my limited understanding on this matter of separate dispensation, your summary is a good one. What I say next may come as a surprise to you and others that read or stumble onto my blog, but I reject the teaching of separate dispensations as elaborated on in the examples above. Similar to my desire to couch the conversation of election and predestination from a different perspective, I wish to also couch the conversation of dispensations from a different perspective. In doing this, I will expounded on what I have desired to share with you for many months now.
While giving a summary of what I see scripture teaching, I will make links to the actual line upon line, scripture upon scripture post I have made concerning these summaries. This way you will be able to read my line of thought concerning the scripture I have come to understand.
I do not see scripture teaching, as I have heard from the pulpit many times, the Old Testament had the Law and we have grace. It is my opinion this idea is embodied in item one above. I say this because, we rightly conclude that by the grace of God our sins our not held against us and we are now credited with a righteousness from God. But we wrongly conclude that this grace, this imputed righteousness started in the book of Matthew.
Paul taught that starting with Abraham, God started imputing men His righteousness. Not to him only but to all of his offspring as well, as an everlasting covenant. The seal of this righteousness is circumcision. We gentiles are now included in this righteousness through Christ who is our minister of circumcision as we are circumcised not by hand but receiving the circumcision of Christ.
Paul’s understanding of the righteousness of God which is given to men starting with Abraham, is the righteousness of God that is testified to by the writings of Moses and the prophets. This is why Paul when writing to the Romans said that he is not ashamed of the gospel, a gospel found in the Law, a righteousness from God found in the Law, that the Law itself was not able to give. This is why we find Paul still preaching the gospel he is not ashamed of from the Law of Moses and the Prophets in the last chapter of Acts.
Consequently I challenge the church’s understanding of the two dispensations of the two Testaments. As the church states, they had the Law we have grace. But Paul taught that they having the Law had the same grace and imputed righteousness we enjoy, as we put our faith in Christ. Not because they are like us, rather because we are grafted into the promises given to Abraham.
Understanding this, I have to whole heartedly disagree that there is two different “means” of salvation, the Old Testament through the righteousness in observing the Law and us New Testament believers by grace. Paul teaches us that the Jews rejected the righteousness of God and instead sought it in the Law. Just because they made this error, doesn’t mean it was the gospel they had preached to them.
Concerning the gospel preached in the books of Moses, we understand plainly the shadows and types found in the Law itself. But Paul doesn’t teach his gospel from this perspective like the writer of Hebrews does who said those at Mt. Sinai had the same gospel preached to them as we did to us. Instead Paul’s gospel is established in the everlasting covenant God made with Abraham and all his descendants after him.
This is why even we gentiles are the children of Abraham and not the children Moses. Even though the Law given at Mt. Sinai is our gospel as it is the shadow and type of Christ, Paul taught of the righteousness from God revealed in the writings of Moses not from the Law, but rather from what was promised to Abraham.
Now concerning the Holy Spirit and those who have the Law written on their hearts. It is true that David hid God’s word in His heart, but he still had to obey the Law. Where now we are as dead to the Law as much as there is difference of Priesthood from the Levitical line and that of Christ. One being in the nature of Aaron and Christ being in the likeness of Melchizedek. As stated in the gospel, with the changing of the priesthood there is the change in the Law too. One from the written ordinances of Moses now passing away, to now what is written in our hearts by the Spirit. So this I agree with.
But the promise of the Holy Spirit in our lives is something tied to our being included in the one promise given to Abraham, by which we now share in through Christ. This promise is imputed righteousness by which we receive the Holy Spirit. But let us not forget that we cry the prayer of David, who was not without the Holy Spirit, when we sin and ask God not to take His Holy Spirit from us.
As for item number two in the dispensations of the Testaments, born again is a changed life is it not? Do we not have repentance in both Testaments? Do we not have the Holy Spirit convicting men of sin and judgment in both Testaments? Is any man drawn to God outside of the Spirit of God drawing them? Is there not repentance in both Testaments? However, I grant you the infilling of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking of tongues and being endued with power from on high was not available to those before Christ sent the Holy Spirit back. But how many believers today are born again without this supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit in their lives today? Would not their born again experience be the same as those of the Old Testament who obeyed the gospel preached, starting with Abraham and confirmed in the written Law? Isn’t this the reason for the hall of faith found in Hebrews?
So should believers couch the conversation of dispensationalism in the old manner of the Law verses grace? Should we acquiesce they had the Law and we have grace? Should we confess they had to try to earn their way by obeying the Law, but we get God’s grace in the form of imputed righteousness? Is not the very definition of imputed righteousness not having your sins held against you? Should we now say that of those of the Old Testament did not have our imputed righteousness?
Surely the testimony of our gospel is they had God’s grace to them in the covenant God made with Abraham with the seal of righteousness, this being circumcision. Now we too get to participate with this imputed righteousness because we put our hope in Christ.
I would argue that the two dispensations are in the changing of the Law with the New Priest. Not in the changing of the gospel. The two dispensations are that they of the faith of Abraham are imperfect without Christ, but now with us are made perfect in their faith as Christ is now manifest as the sacrificial lamb.
Now to predestination and election.
We can see in scripture a people who were not just called but elected as the children of Abraham under an everlasting covenant made unto them by God, that they are imputed righteousness. However, even as Paul says, many rejected this righteousness and sought it in the Law or simply fell due to sin and disbelief. As Paul also says in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 speaking of those who were under the same baptism with Moses and ate the same spiritual meat along with the same the same spiritual drink as we do in confession and the Lord’s supper, for Paul says it was of Christ they partook.
I believe as our examples we see a people elected and called in their election who do not attain to the promise, for they do not live as unto the promise. So for us to couch election and calling as simply a foreknowledge of God, as to who the true sheep is as compared to the goat, I must assume, even though true to the omniscience of God, is in error to the actual teaching of election and calling.
As for predestination itself and the foreknowledge of God I believe God in His love has predestined all of mankind for salvation. Is He not willing that none should parish? Has He not by the grace of God tasted death for every man? Has He not reconciled the whole world to Himself? Is not the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world for the entire race of mankind? And if this was done before scripture ever states “In the beginning God” did not God predestine all of mankind to be saved?
The problem with our understanding of predestination comes from the Calvinist, who interpret predestination to be a forcing of His will on the benefactors of His grace. Or us who say God foreknows who are going to be His and those He predestines. I see in scripture a love so great that God gave up His Son for all mankind before He ever said, “Let there be light.” In His great love for us, He predestined all mankind to be saved. This is why the testimony is true concerning Him being the savior of the world. The testimony is true when it says whosoever will. It is predestined for all mankind to be saved since it appropriated before time and space that God would reconcile the whole world to Himself when Christ tasted death for every man before the foundation of the world.
Thinking of such things makes my insides want to burst! I am almost overwhelmed by it as I write it. What a glorious gospel we have!
Now back to what we know from scripture. Paul taught that circumcision is a seal in the flesh of God’s imputed righteousness. But not all lived in this hope held out to them in the gospel. They were all predestined by being part of mankind, they were elected by being part of Abraham’s offspring and they were all called by the gospel that was promised, a gospel that was announced to Abraham in advance and preached at Mt. Sinai.
Yet even in all of this, many died in their sins, even though they were predestined by the eternal sacrifice of Christ, even though they were imputed righteousness by the eternal covenant that God made with Abraham and them, even though they were called by the gospel that Paul preaches over and over again to us in the New Testament.
Back to what Paul said. These things were written for our example. So are all predestined going to be saved? Are all elected going into heavenly glory? Are all called going to inherit the kingdom of God? Are confessions of Christ confessions of a true believer?
It isn’t for no light and transient reasons, men will say to Him on that day Lord, Lord. Imagine all those who had the temple, the covenant, the sacrifices. Now imagine us who understand the manifestation of Christ in the affairs of men and the promise of the Holy Spirit.
It isn’t for no simpleton reason that Jesus says many on the narrow path will not make it through the narrow gate. Not many on the wide path, but many on the narrow path.
It isn’t for the unbeliever only, as the Calvinist teach, that we have warnings in scripture about falling away, coming up short and being a goat.
For we too have Christ slain for us before time began. We being part of mankind have a work done for us that God ordained before the foundation of the world. We have, like those in Israel, been predestined to be saved. Now as being believers in Christ we are the children of Abraham and are the elect in the eternal covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants. Because of the gospel we also share in the calling of God as we capitulate to the Holy Spirit’s continued prompting in our lives, by the power of the gospel.
But in all this do we have any more security than those who died in the desert?
So how could I ever entertain the idea of talking about different dispensations of the Testaments, or having conversation about predestination, election and calling in the context of the churches understanding? I can not. They have become as foreign to me in my understanding of scripture as Paul’s detractors saying more sin brings more of God’s grace, so sin all the more so that God’s grace may abound all the more.
I have become blinded to the other gospel, I see no hope of ever going back and participating in conversations with them in the terms they are used to. What I have come to understand of scripture is foreign to them and repulsive. I have taken much abuse for what I believe and called many hurtful things.
This is why I want your honest thoughts about what I advocate the gospel teaches. Why from you, because I respect what you have advocated for on your blog and I feel a bond with you.
For me the differences in my understanding of the gospel is part of the reason the church does not have the power of God confirming its teaching. And itself is evidence again to how the church does not follow the gospel presented in scripture, and how the great falling away has already occurred. I know you and I in many ways share this understanding of the church. However, I hope you do not consider my comments as arrogant as others have, but again, I wish to discus this with you. I have tried in vain to bounce my understanding of scripture off others to have iron sharpen iron, but I have found none patient enough or willing. Nor do I wish to obligate you if you are not motivated.