|Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2000 - 8:10 pm: || |
6. The New Covenant has no continuing sacrifice (part 2)
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Rom 12:1,2 NIV
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? . . These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. Col. 2:20-23 NIV
In the first part of this study, we examined how some false teachings in the institutional churches would attempt to undo Christ's once-for-all sacrifice and make it a perpetual hell of suffering. The two most prominent teachings implicated were the Roman Catholic doctrine of the mass and the Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of the investigative judgment.
In addition, we need to consider another manner in which fallen humanity attempts to bring sacrifice into the New Covenant. It is the teaching that believers are obligated to conform to external regulations as a 'sacrifice' to restrain the flesh. What shall we say in response to the myriad of propositions regarding this?
I would encourage those reading to meditate on the scriptures quoted as an introduction to this study. Rom. 12:1,2 should never be contemplated without also considering Col. 2:20-23. A legion of false notions are being promoted today (and in all history) as to how we must 'sacrifice' in order to restrain the flesh. I once watched an Episcopal minister as he was interviewed on TV. After explaining all of the foods and other 'indulgences' that his church required to give up for Lent, the host asked if abstaining from these things for 40 days was absolutely required for salvation. The minister enthusiastically replied, 'yes!'. The rationale given was that unless we restrain the flesh, we will have no hope of entering the purity of heaven--where none of these wonderful foods and recreational indulgences exist.
Well, if you believe this minister, I guess that you can enthusiastically sing the old jingle: "in heaven there is no beer, that's why we drink it here!"
None of this is the spiritual service of Rom. 12:1,2. It is all foolish regulation. It manifests itself in many proposed exercises that supposedly please God. In addition to food & drink regulations, some other examples are methodology, disciplines, poverty, & conjugal restriction.
We are confronted all the time with 'steps' or 'methods' which are purported to be the keys of achieving holiness. Methodism has been a curse to the gospel in such a way that it cannot be described in human language. As a reaction to the opposite extreme of scholastic Calvinism, it has done damage to the Christian cause that is seemingly infinite. A good number of the popular heresies in churchianity since the 18th century (including SDAism) had their roots in Methodism. From an external standpoint, it seems that humpty dumpty will never be put back together again. But what is impossible with men is possible with God. Obedience to the gospel can NEVER be reduced to a series of methods or steps that we must follow. Any time that puny men (or women) attempt to propose a series of defined steps to achieve holiness, it is time to put husher plugs in our ears and run away at 100 miles an hour.
Methodism has its practical conterpart in the secular world. Evangelicalism has learned well from the 'management by objective' philosophy of Harvard, which was once a Christian institution founded on biblical principles. But acceptance of people based on the achievement of goals is the foolishness of human philosophy. It is practiced in nearly all churches. We have the modern 'evangelical' movement--which majors on 'steps' to obtain salvation instead of the gospel, the charismatic movement, the church growth movement, the ecumenical movement, the 'latter rain' movement, the Kansas City 'prophets' (the 'new wine' movement resulting in the Vineyard phenomenon and Promise Keepers), the 'third wave' movement of new & strange 'gifts', the pre-trib/pre-mil movement of prophetic interpretation, the reconstructionist/post-mil movement of prophetic interpretaion, & so many others. All of these add human regulations or philosophy to the gospel--either as specific legal requirements or a series of humanly-contrived methods/ideas that must be followed. But Paul is clear on the obligation of Christians to avoid all of these regulations. They deny the liberty of the gospel & attempt to threaten the rightful position of Jesus Christ as Lord of history.
I once attended a Promise Keepers conference. It quickly became apparent that conformity to the bodily exercises there (standing in agreement with false teaching, praying the words given by the speaker, reciting pledges, taking off shoes in agreement with wrong teaching, shouting slogans when prompted, etc.) was required for acceptance by the group. I was often the only one sitting in my area of the stadium. I was definitely the only one left with my shoes on. My point: conformity to the ideas of this age is so universal that discernment is very rare. Our actions speak louder than what we profess to believe.
The true sacrifice of Romans 12;1,2 is that of continuously seeking God's revelation in the scriptures, which transforms our minds and hearts. It is not methodism.
If a 'series of steps' or acceptance of a philosophical system in order to achieve holiness is wrong; what about disciplines, poverty, & conjugal restriction? Let me propose how these 3 notions strike-out.
God has no use for humanly-contrived disciplines. He is interested only in the renewing of our minds. What is of more use in renewing the mind--fasting or the impassioned study of scripture? The latter, of course. The way out of confusion on important but confusing issues is not to ignore them--but to study the Bible with such passion that God will reward the seeker with true enlightenment. I am not suggesting that Bible study is a human work. But if the gospel motivates us to seek out what God has revealed with much prayer & humility, he will reward our diligence.
What about being poor? Is living in poverty a sacrifice required by God? No. The NT never mentions it. Although the deception of riches is continually emphasized, there is nothing taught about the inherent evil of possessing money itself. Paul has much less to say about condemning rich people than James or other authors. The Gentile culture in Asia Minor was not filled with poverty, unlike that in Jerusalem. It was slightly more like the culture of America. Paul talks about the obligation of giving in 2 Corinthians but refrains from the rhetoric of James in condemning the rich. The reason is this: true giving is a matter of a transformed heart. If a rich person with an unregenerate heart does not give to others, he/she is only doing what comes natural to someone under the power of sin. But if someone with means is compelled to ask what can be given to honor the gospel and help believers in need, that person has been transformed by God's spirit.
Finally, there is the matter of conjugal restriction. Western religious institutions (including the SDA 'prophet') have emphasized this issue a lot. But the NT has nothing to say about a requirement to avoid marriage or an obligation to restrict sexuality in marriage. It is very lucid on the point that the marriage bed is undefiled (Heb. 13:4) and that real spiritual danger will result from a husband or wife not giving himself/herself unreservedly (1 Cor. 7:3-5). This is not a 'duty' but an honor. Don't believe the worldly nonsense being promoted today (especially by the media and film makers) that the important thing in this area is one's own happiness. No satisfaction will ever be found if that perspective is maintained: indeed, the happiness of both partners will be lost. The joy of a 'one flesh' relationship will only be experienced if the happiness of the other party is the focus of concern. This is one of the most important tests of our Christian commitment. If we can't demonstrate the unconditional love and forgiveness of Christ to our spouse, who else can we demonstrate it to?
God has given us the true gospel as our heritage. It is so amazing and transcendent that the corruptions of puny men are a pale and devilish imitation. We should not even stop to consider the notion of fleshly sacrifice. The only sacrifice that God requires is the abandonment of meritorious works and forsaking the pursuit of fleshly indulgences, both of which are a substitute for true gospel. A dedicated study of the New Covenant will reveal the futility of any substitute for the glory of Jesus Christ.
Still to come:
7. The New Covenant has no sacraments.
8. The New Covenant has no sacred times.
9. The New Covenant has no works to gain blessing.
10. The New Covenant has no deserters.
Conclusion: the new wine of the gospel.
|Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2000 - 9:07 pm: || |
Bill, thank-you so much! A wonderful study... Your mention of the Promise Keepers reminds me of my long-standing disagreement in my spirit over "altar calls". The preaching of the Cross is where the power is!! I think sometimes the preacher just can't believe this and wants some outward assurance of himself and his effect on the listeners...
This whole area of a continuing sacrifice is such a huge, far-reaching problem that permeates so many churches. I recently visited a church that was really into the Toronto Blessing movement. Lots of 'tongues' and then being 'slain in the spirit.' The deacons came and discreetly covered with a sheet anyone who collapsed...
I totally agree with your final comment about the gospel and how both the pursuit of fleshly indulgences... and also relying on, or advocating meritorious works are SUBSTITUTES for the true gospel!!
There is definitely no substitute for the Glory of Jesus Christ!! May we safely rest in Him alone...
p.s. Bill, you mentioned in a long ago post that you have been a member of the Presbyterian (PCA) church, but that it had caused you much grief. I have attended that denomination's church off and on since Jan, plus gone to a number of yearly conferences at the large Tenth Presbyterian Church (of Barnhouse, Martin, and 'Questions on Doctrine' fame of the fifties) in Philadelphia. I have been blessed by much of their preaching! But I have had some reservations lately in studying their Westminster Catechism views on the Law (literal Ten Commandments still binding to Christians as the Moral Law). They also seem to be slightly rigid on the ways of acceptable worship; and also--and I know this is a real debatable topic-- their views on the role of women in church. I realize I can't be so picky over everything, but when I've been in one church so long (S.D.A.) and disagree over doctrine, I tend to be wary of wholeheartedly embracing something else; being very cautious, I guess. Amidst it all, my security and hope remains in Christ alone.
I would be very interested in knowing your experiences with them. If not here at this site, maybe you can e-mail me when you get the time... Blessings to you!
|Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2000 - 10:49 pm: || |
Bill, Thank you for the great study!
|Posted on Monday, July 10, 2000 - 4:24 am: || |
I like your wisdom. I pray that God will bless you as you continue.
|Posted on Monday, July 10, 2000 - 3:57 pm: || |
Dear Bill and all the other brethren:
Your zeal for the purity of the message of Grace makes my heart leap for joy and places a shout of Halleluyah so loud in my lips that my neighbor will shout from his home "Bless you" thinkng I sneezed!
Bill, you know me and you know why I call myself this self serving name (for some) of Grace Ambassador. You know as well that I've been called a zealot for Grace for being so staunchly opposed to any ADDITIONS to the pure message of Grace, even in our worship gatherings. I am glad you wrote what you wrote. Once I told my Charismatic Episcopalian pen pal: traditions that become conditions are nothing but ADDITIONS.
We may think that we ourselves are NOT GUILTY of additions to the message of Grace. But please take a good look at our hymnology! Hymns have become as important as the Bible in some evangelical circles. And some hymns preach the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches. Example: "Hold to God's unchanging hand" when the Bible tells us in John that God is the one who will never cast us away, therefore, it is His initiative to hold on to our hands! (Just as a father GRABS the hands of his child when crossing a busy street).How about "I found a great Savior" Who said He was lost! I am glad that HE FOUND ME!!! Also in our "symbology". Example, who has instituted the crucifix as a symbol of Christianity. Even the empty cross? Where does it say in the Bible that we should testify of our faith by wearing a cross around our necks? One may say that such as above are not harmful... Hummmm! They would not be harmful if they would not be the means commonly accepted as the beares and "inspirers" of God's presence. And I submit that they are harmful exactly for being so innocent and having such an appearance of something that it is not harmful, thus causing so much harm.
We can go even farther. The other day I heard a preacher say "We will keep our fingers crossed". Well, even if one does not know the ocult implications of such a statement, what is wrong with "I will keep believing God for it".
In a lighter example, but with the same DEADLY effect, I heard another preacher say: "It is ONLY on your knees in your prayer closet that you will find the answer you're seeking from God..." Sounds good? Sounds wise? Sounds unharming? Well, can anyone give me a BCV which means Book, Chapter and verse. And if there is no BCV why then say it in a "service". The people, following the prompts of their flesh did not deny the AMEN for such a Grace Killing statement!
I could go on and on... I do not want to start a new law by preaching Grace. That would be an oxymorom. But we should police ourselves, if necessary, as Paul said, "buffeting my body" or, denying the desires of my flesh, and avoid such statements and beliefs. And yes, please, Pastors: Check your hymnals!!! There is some very good Holy Ghost inspired hymns for us to sing, but when they say "There shall be showers of blessings" "Mercy drops on us are falling" when Paul says that "we have been blessed with ALL kinds of spiritual blessings in the heavenlies", and "blessings" as something accomplished for us by Christ, ALL OF THEM. What blessings we're still to receive beyong God's perfect gift, or blessing CHRIST HIMSELF? I'd rather sing the scripture.
I did not mean to get off the subject. Again, neither do I want to start a law. I just wanted to emphasize how easy it is for me, starts with me, and all who care to admit, to fall into the pitfalls of the erros cited by our brother Bill!!
And since I spoke of hymns, here is part of one that I think is Biblical and in line with this discussion:
DID WE IN OUR STRENGH CONFIDE?
OUR STRIVING WOULD BE LOSING!
WE ARE NOT THE RIGHT MAN ON OUR SIDE!
THE MAN OF GOD'S OWN CHOOSING.
DOTH ASK WHO THAT MAY BE?
CHRIST JESUS IT IS HE!...
(you can pick up from here...)
|Posted on Monday, July 10, 2000 - 5:09 pm: || |
Graceambassador, Great points! To be a zealot for GRACE is what I desire... And how easy it is to fall into the pitfalls; the substitutes for the marvelous free grace in Christ. I pray we will constantly realize our position in Christ and joyfully live in response to Him!
I don't have a hymnal with me; is that a Martin Luther one? I remember the hymn, but not all the words...
p.s. I will confess that I wear a small cross necklace (gold with a silver drape signifying the Risen Christ)... but I would say I like it a lot--its' beauty and symbolism-- and probably the fact that I had always been told that wearing jewelry was "sinful"!
|Posted on Monday, July 10, 2000 - 6:08 pm: || |
Thank you for the words!
The hymn I cited is Martin Luther's A Mighty Fortress.
My experience tells me that the additions to Grace spread world wide. But I am excited that God is not passive about it! His Spirit is actively illuminating people all over the world to understand Grace!
I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I became a minister there first and I've been in America for 12 years this time and I lived here before for 2 1/2 years. So, I've been here, as a minister, for a total of 14 1/2 years. I include my background here just to enforce the point that this problem of mingling Grace and Law is a common problem all over the world. (In Romans 7 this is called SPIRITUAL ADULTERY One can't sleep with law if they're married to Grace and vice versa. It is impossible to love the law, be married to it and then try to draw pleasure from Grace in a nocturnal escapade! It is adultery!).
See, I speak Portuguese (my native language) English, Spanish and Italian. I translated for many big shot preachers on stage in Brazil (you name them). I quit doing it to my own financial harm because they do commit Spiritual Adultery. Furthermore,I often listen to preachers from other nations in these languages. It is the same! Obviously, most of the trash is imported from the good old USA. But some are simply created there, in their own countries, and more is added all the time. But there is good news. There is a return to the purity of the message of Grace in all of these countries. Denominations that continue to commit such kind of Spiritual Adultery are missing the boat and God is separating the wheat for Himself.
And one thing I noticed, that is even more evident in this list: THE MORE LEGALISTIC A MOVEMENT GRACE DELIVERS A MAN/WOMAN FROM, THE MORE AVIDLY AND VEHEMENTLY HE/SHE TURNS AGAINST ANYTHING THAT EVEN SMELLS AS LEGALISM. I believe this is the same sentiment God gave Paul as expressed by him in his epistles! He identifies himself as a Pharisees of the Pharisees, but now that he knows Grace, He even calls preaching legalism after Grace "Bewitching". It is in Galatians 3.
I believe what brother Bill wrote is the same kind of "bewitching" of the Galatians days transported to our days!
|Posted on Monday, July 10, 2000 - 6:49 pm: || |
It is me again! I just got rebuked!!!!
Hey, someone just called my attention that the last phrase of my last post:
"I believe what brother Bill wrote is the same kind of "bewitching" of the Galatians days transported to our days."
Should be read:
"I BELIEVE WHAT BROTHER BILL WROTE ABOUT (NOT WHAT HE WROTE) IS THE SAME KIND OF "BEWITCHING" OF THE GALATIANS DAYS TRANSPORTED TO OUR DAYS"
I was referring to the subject matter of his great writing!
I pray that this was understood!
|Posted on Monday, July 10, 2000 - 7:21 pm: || |
Dear Milton, Cindy, Colleen, & the rest of the brethren:
I'm amazed! I was concerned because I threw this last covenant study together in such a hurry. I thought it would not be as effective as the others. I am working 12+ hour days and have serious family issues to deal with. Well, God certainly suprises us all!
I will have to remember Milton's classic jingle: "Traditions that become conditions are nothing but ADDITIONS."
That is truly inspiring. What a pot of gold is contained in that statement!
To answer Cindy's questions:
I have been associated with the PCA since 1987. I agree with you totally about the erroneous teaching regarding old covenant law. The reason I 'hang around' is because of the consistent preaching of Christ and salvation. That cannot be found in most of the denominations. If I attend a service on Easter or anytime really, I want to hear about the finality and supreme transcendence of the gospel. That is what I can count on in most of the PCA congregations.
'Church' is a strange thing. Once I am finished with the studies on the covenants, the Lord willing, I will next post a series on "A New Ecclesiology". If the Lord blesses it will clear up a lot of our false notions about "church". I still attend church to show Christ's love & forgiveness to my fellow saints, even though I often disagree with them.
In addition, because of involvement in the PCA, I have had opportunity to dialog with many Christian scholars that I otherwise would have had no opportunity to study with.
Well, I look forward to much Christian dialog and exchange in the future!
|Posted on Monday, July 10, 2000 - 7:29 pm: || |
I, for one, do not believe that your title is arrogant or self-serving. I am so familiar with your real name, however, that I have unconsciously slipped in using it when I suddenly realize that you are no longer signing your posts (that I was so long familiar with) except as graceambassador. I sincerely apologize!
|Posted on Monday, July 10, 2000 - 8:09 pm: || |
Hey Bill. Its Okay. I am Milt and to even to the flock God allow me to oversee I am "uncle Milty".
As to the "classic jingle", the discussion was about "crossing oneself". My Episcopalian brother is a good brother but he defends traditions. I said the "jingle" and then added: Look at the word TRADITION: 2/3 OF IT IS "ADITION", JUST ELIMINATE THE TR AND ALL YOU HAVE IS "ADITION" with one "d" of course.
Your post is so blessed because it deals with issues with no fear of tr-aditions.
My friend's church is a sure proof that the reformation did exactly what Jesus told us not to do: mend old cloth with a new one! Thank God for the message of "justification by faith alone" but the reformation never dealt with the traditions of Roman Catholicism (how can one be universally Roman???). My friend believes in a baptism that is a Christian Baptism, which is different from the Baptism of John. When I pointed out to him that John said himself that his baptism was to be supressed by the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, and that the new Baptizer of this coming Baptism would be Jesus himself, my friend send me a treatise, very good, by the way if you are free to disagree, on the "traditional baptism of the Church" which identifies Christians with their history. That was sad! We allowed the reformers to keep the most horrific and spooky elements or Roman Catholicism to creep in our churches.
Even the churches that brag that they were never influenced by Roman Catholicism, as the Baptists for example, seem not to be able to answer the following problem I often propose to them:
"IS BAPTISM IN WATER FOR SALVATION?
ANSWER - NO (THE BAPTIST ANSWER)
"IS IT AN ORDINANCE FROM JESUS FOR TODAY AS IT WAS IN HIS DAYS?"
ANSWER - YES
"ASSUMING THIS IS RIGHT, IF ANYONE REFUSES TO BE BAPTIZED IN WATER, ARE THEY DISOBEYING JESUS"
ANSWER - YES
"CAN ANYONE WHO DISOBEY JESUS BE SAVED?"
ANSWER - NO
"THEN, IS IT NOT THE SAME AS TO SAY THAT BAPTISM IN WATER IS FOR SALVATION?"
ANSWER - NONE
Same with tithing: Ask the same question and follow the same logic changing it to "robbing God".
They will not answer!
So... here, without saying, they made BAPTISM AND TITHING requirements for Salvation.
I prefer to keep what God calls traditions and shun what He chose to PROSCRIBE with the message of Grace!
Thsnk you for your great work!
|Posted on Monday, July 10, 2000 - 8:44 pm: || |
Excellent studies, here and elsewhere on the site. Can I e-mail you privately regarding these studies? Please e-mail me at: email@example.com to let me know if I can talk to you privately. I haven't had enough time to read and discuss with you some of the points you bring up, but want to at some point.
Graceambassador, nice insights about the Baptists. I once attended a Baptist church in Albuquerque, New Mexico where they were conducting a 7-week series on SDAism. I went there to defend SDAism. They really had awfully poor arguments. During the two months I was there, I was truly amazed at the legalism regarding the tithing issue. I did not expect to find that there, but it was virtually a commandment with them.
With my current search for a church, you can bet that my eyes are wide open for any signs of legalism. (Oh, I know. There probably isn't a congregation that is completely without any legalism. It's part of our human condition, so I definitly am not looking for a "perfect" church, since I don't think one exists.)
I'm also trying to avoid adding ANYTHING to God's grace, but am sometimes misunderstood when doing so.
|Posted on Saturday, July 15, 2000 - 6:08 pm: || |
Thanks for your words of encouragement in the Lord, I did not previously acknowledge your post as I should have.
Thanks for your understanding! The next study I am about to post should at least help to deal with the legalism regarding water baptism that you mentioned. I'm hoping that you will continue to post here as I truly believe that those reading want to be blessed by your words.
I have not been deliberately ignoring you! I have not signed on for a number of days because of a heavy workload and did not see your request until now. I will e-mail you privately.
Following is my next post on the covenants.
|Posted on Saturday, July 15, 2000 - 6:26 pm: || |
Covenant, part VII
7. The New Covenant has no sacraments.
" . . . only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings--external regulations applying until the time of the new order." Heb. 9:7-10
A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. He stood beside me and said, . . . "what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name." Acts 22:12,13a,16b
" . . . and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" 1 Peter 3:21
"Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf." I Cor. 10:16,17
"For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." 1 Cor. 11:26
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." Luke 22:20
Scriptures are NIV.
What is a sacrament? I'm going to shortcut around the debate on sacrament as 'mystery.' Instead, I want to focus on the main historical issue regarding the word 'sacrament.' It is proposed to be a visible, external means of grace. Most Christians are probably familiar with the controversy about how many sacraments there are. In the Roman Catholic tradition there are seven. Eastern Orthodoxy also proposes a multiple number of sacraments. Luther reduced the number to three (including confession) in his early years of ministry. But we know that the agreed number of sacraments in Protestantism quickly became two: water baptism and the Lord's supper.
This study will not be concerned at all about the number of sacraments. Nor will we focus on the issue of whether Christ's presence in the supper is transubstantial, consubstantial, or spiritual. We must ask the more basic question: does the 'apostles doctrine' (Acts 2:42) enforce ANY sacraments on the conscience of the believer? That is the real issue. As a basis for discussion we will consider only the two proposed sacraments of confessional Protestantism.
Have men attempted to bring sacrament into the New Covenant and bind it upon the conscience of believers? Yes, absolutely! Sacramentalism originated in the second century A.D. by the time of Justin and is very attested to in the writings of Irenaeus. In the formula of Concord, the Lutheran argument for sacramentalism is based on the ancient nature of the doctrine: it is clearly taught by the 'early fathers' of the church.
Sacramentalism arose in part as a reaction to the gnostic heresy. The demonic teaching of gnosticism first tormented and opposed the true gospel in the doctrine of Hymenaeus, Philetus, and Alexander the metalworker (1 Tim. 1:18-20, 2 Tim. 2:17,18; 4:14,15). These men were the instigators of the first great apostasy away from the apostolic doctrine of Christ and salvation. The apostasy was in full-swing before the death of Paul. As a result, the faith of many professors was proved to be no faith at all. Apostasy of those who 'seemed so immovable' is nothing unique to our era. Anyone who is tempted to minimize the importance of right doctrine should study 1 and 2 Timothy over and over. Many of us were indoctrinated from the cradle up in a false system of religion. But let us not forget that the true gospel of grace is the 'apostles doctrine.' Everything taught by humans must be evaluated in the light of the new and everlasting covenant of Grace. We must stand for the faith once-for-all delivered to the saints to the very end.
Sacramentalism moves in the opposite direction of gnosticism. The gnostic heresy teaches a spiritual reality that denies the importance of the material. Hence, Christ appeared in a phantom body simply to communicate with us in the present physical realm. The physical world is of no lasting significance or value. The final eschaton is one of pure spirit. Hence, the only resurrection is spiritual and the final eschatology of pure spirit is entered at the death of the body. There is no final, visible eschaton of a material Christ, coming back to resurrect our material bodies, judge the material world, and establish a material new earth. Physical resurrection is scorned and laughed-at, just like the Greek philosophers at Mars Hill mocked Paul. This teaching is so prominent in evangelicalism today (both conservative and liberal) that it has hardly been noticed. The reason: its inherent deception of emphasizing the spiritual reality. Spiritual language can be very deceptive. When will we start evaluating the real content behind the sermons that we hear? Gnostic teaching is rampant in the seminaries of our land. An emphasis on the 'glory' of heaven, 'standing' before God's glory with the angels singing 'holy, holy, holy' for eternity: if this is all that is preached regarding the future of believers, it is pure gnosticism.
The ancient Christian writers were very eloquent in opposing this stuff ('Against Heresies' by Irenaeus, for example). But they erred in drifting the opposite direction. Proposing the physical presence of Christ in the sacraments was an attempt to affirm the value of the material creation: something that is God's gift and the object of redemption. Another anti-gnostic extreme doctrine of the second century, adapted from rabbinic Judaism, was Chiliasm--or the teaching of a fleshly millennium. Again, the motive was to affirm the redemption of the material creation in such a way that it was impossible to 'spiritualize' away the eschaton. But it departed from the apostolic doctrine by teaching a 'hybrid' of the redeemed and the carnal after Christ's final coming.
In our first passage above, the writer of Hebrews is describing the sacramental nature of the 'old order' when he refers to the external food, drink, and water regulations of that covenant. It is not that these things were a means of eternal salvation. But they were required means of continuing to receive the blessings promised in that era. All of this system of external observances failed to bring peace to the consciences of those participating. It was impossible to completely follow all the rules of washing when contaminated, avoiding contact with everything and everyone until the required time had elapsed, eating only kosher food, drinking only kosher wine, etc. The complete failure of that system led the way into a new and superior order of things in the gospel.
The Greek word for 'washings' is baptismos and should really be translated 'baptisms.' I have never seen any validity to the submersionist argument that 'baptismos' should be removed from the 'baptizo' family of words--simply because this particular derivative is used only once or twice in the New Testament! What a strained interpretation. The NT concept of ceremonial application of water (baptism) includes modes other than submersion. Holy Spirit baptism is a 'pouring out upon' and not a submersion. The word baptizo would not be used to describe the action of the Spirit if the only meaning is 'to submerse.' A believer is not dipped in and out of the Holy Spirit, rather, the Spirit descends upon the believer and remains with him forever.
Some may ask what this has to do with sacramentalism? Plenty. To establish a sacrament, one must place great emphasis on the correctness of a particular mode of observance. The confessional stream of Protestantism has only two common modes of water application: dipping or dabbing the head. 99% of all water baptisms are one practice or the other. Nothing else will do. To request something else is considered hair-splitting and 'disturbing the peace and order of the church.' A few Mennonite or nonconformist ceremonies (which I have never witnessed) are the only exception that I've heard of. If you think this is ridiculous, try requesting to have a bucket of water poured over your head outside of the baptistry or font in the 'Lord's house' and check the response!
Well, I despise every tradition that challenges the liberty of the gospel, including this one.
Some have probably wondered why I omitted all of the profound and God-ordained words of Ananias in the second passage quoted above. I wanted to emphasize that the notion of water washing away sin, if that is what Ananias was affirming (this is a debated issue), was rooted in his 'devout observance of the law' and respect among the Jews. Peter also preached baptism 'unto the remission of sins' (Acts 2:38). If he was referring to water and meant 'for' instead of 'with a view to' remission of sin (another debated issue), it only illustrates the Judaistic nature of his early zeal. He also asked Jesus whether the kingdom was going to be restored to Israel at that time (Acts 1:6). In his epistles, he never mentions the notion of Jewish restoration at all (study the eschatology of 2 Peter 3). He also refers to Holy Spirit baptism into the resurrection of Christ, instead of water that cleanses the body, as that which initiates salvation (see the passage above). Paul also declares that he was sent not to baptize but to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17). That is very strange language if water baptism is a sacrament required for salvation: one that communicates grace!
What about the Lord's supper? It was originally established by Christ as a remembrance of his death and the sign of the New Covenant. Among early believers, it was practiced frequently and was not viewed as 'majic' or a sacred mystery. It was a participation in and communion with the body of Christ (the fellowship of Jesus himself and all of his people). The 'breaking of bread' in the New Testament was not a mere meal. It was a fellowship of communion in Christ's body. As to the significance of the wine (cup), that will be covered in the final study of this series.
|Posted on Saturday, July 15, 2000 - 6:31 pm: || |
Covenant, part VII (continued)
When the focus of the communion lost its orientation around Christ's body and became sacramental, it metamorphosized into an individualistic ceremony. The concept of true koinonia (communion of believers with each other in Christ) was lost. Instead, the emphasis became a mysterious communication of grace in the elements to each participant. The Lord's supper ceased to be a meal of celebration and remembrance of Christ's death. Instead, it became a 'snippet and sip' ritual of awesome fear and trembling! This has continued to this day, both in Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations.
When humanity attempts to bring sacrament into the New Covenant, the gospel is diminished as severely as it is with any of the other perversions that we have considered in the first six studies. Instead of running after majic water and a passion to 'eat Jesus,' let us consider what the faith and teaching of the apostles truly was and be zealous to return to it! The gospel of grace was their motivation in all that they believed and practiced.
Still to come:
8. The New Covenant has no sacred times.
9. The New Covenant has no works to gain blessing.
10. The New Covenant has no deserters.
Conclusion: the new wine of the gospel.
|Posted on Sunday, July 16, 2000 - 5:49 am: || |
Dear Bill, Your above study on the Sacraments was very interesting. I am going to study more of the Scriptures on this subject. I agree so much! with what you said...
"Everything taught by humans must be evaluated in the light of the new and everlasting covenant of Grace. We must stand for the faith once-for-all delivered to the saints to the very end."
I had always thought Baptism was 'somewhat' of a 'requirement', but then again, I have been appalled at the way in the S.D.A. church the 'candidates for baptism' are questioned on their belief on all the DOCTRINES of the church. Many times in the front of the church before their actual baptism. I knew there was something horribly wrong with adding all these requirements for joining the Body of Christ!
Are you saying that Baptism is an unnessary requirement in the New Covenent of Grace...?
As far as Communion; I have had a long-standing disagreement with the 'Ordinance of Humility' (foot-washing) that precedes it in S.D.A. churches! I've heard some other churches do it also. Years ago I studied this and came to the conclusion that Christ did NOT institute this as a continuing "DUTY" to be followed. EGW clearly says He did!
It is mentioned in the Gospels only in John, and I feel it showed the wonderful humility and servant atttitude of Christ. Later, the term, "washing the feet of the saints" appears, but seems to me to be indicating acts of mercy and love done by the body of Christ. I have questioned whether my pride keeps me from participating in this, or just my confidence in the Gospel of Christ--He alone is sufficient to give me true Humility!-- and by doing this 'Ordinance', I would just be bowing to EGW's "inspired commentary", not what I really believe!
I know this is a very meaningful service for many people, and I guess I need to extend freedom to them if they want to do it! Just don't present it as something Jesus said we are to do!!
For the last five years I've just stayed in the 'sanctuary' during this time and talked to others who feel like me. Unfortunately, guilt is subtly enforced by this because you are supposed to be HUMBLE and PREPARE YOURSELF for the Lord's Supper--to eat it in a 'worthy' manner.
As far as the Lord's Supper, I was trying to find my 'Modern Reformation' magazine (past issue) on the Sacraments, but have misplaced it. Do you get this magazine? Edited by Michael Horton... I've liked a lot of what they say, but really question some of it!! I know they are big on the Sacraments being a means of Grace...
I do know the S.D.A. teaching about the "bread and wine" is very superstitious and Old Covenental! I have helped with cleaning up after Communion and mistakenly started to throw out the "bread"! Horrified, the Head Deaconess said I was supposed to take it home and burn it (or bury it?)--not just throw it away! I guess that is in the "church manual" somewhere...Can you believe it!?
Well, I dutifully took it home...And then fed it to my dog! I hope that wasn't a mortal sin!
Thanks again, Bill! I'm enjoying these studies. I really pray to have my eyes focused only on the All-Sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice alone. May His Spirit be our Guide...
|Posted on Sunday, July 16, 2000 - 8:07 pm: || |
Regarding the leftover communion bread, you said:
"Well, I dutifully took it home...And then fed it to my dog! I hope that wasn't a mortal sin!"
I can't stop laughing . . . REALLY! I'm cracking up.
That's one of the best stories I've heard in a long time. If we think of the bread as having some redemptive power (a Catholic teaching) then you did commit a sin, but if we accept the Reformers (and I believe Biblical view) that it is a symbol, a holy symbol, but just a symbol, then you did nothing wrong at all.
Perhaps your dog got a blessing out of it that would have been lost if you had "properly" burned it.
I can't stop laughing!
|Posted on Sunday, July 16, 2000 - 8:30 pm: || |
I'm so appreciative of your thoughts and dialog. I like to be challenged!
I can't agree more with your thoughts on footwashing. As a modern equivalent of expressing humility, shining each other's shoes might be a good equivalent!
I have heard Michael Horton on the radio a number of times. Although he has some good thoughts on a Reformation perspective of Christ and salvation, he is relentless in his dedication to Reformed confessional churchianity. He definitely believes in the physical presence of Christ in the communion (I heard him say this to his Lutheran friend & colleague, Don Matzat); also in the communication of grace in the sacraments. He is ruthless on the obligation of the law-covenant (10 commandments) for believers.
You might find amusing an incident that I heard Don Matzat (a Lutheran radio personality in St. Louis and other cities) mention. He and Michael Horton were having a beer together. In their light-hearted spirit and laughter, they admitted to each other that there was no way either would take communion in the other's church! So there you have it. This illustrates more the arrogant nature of institutional churchianity than anything I can think of.
I'm afraid that your experience with the Adventists could be duplicated in a lot of sects. The sacred, privatistic 'snippet and sip' has replaced NT communion of the body for about 1800 years.
On the obligatory nature of water baptism, I continue to study. The command of Christ in this regard was certainly general (pertaining especially to that era) and not covenantal. I admit that I do not have all the answers. I do know this: God has long ago confused the language of his followers on this subject; as certainly as he confused the languages at Babel. I believe that the way this issue evolved was a judgment on the idol that sacramental baptism became. Once an exact mode became important to salvation, the just judgment on those perverting God's Word with this error was to confuse the understanding of the mode and subjects. That way the real baptism: union with Christ by the Holy Spirit, would be exalted to its rightful place! Institutional churchianity will NEVER get humpty-dumpty back together again and come to a unified position on the mode and subjects of water baptism.
I think that water baptism is wonderful as a simple testimony of coming to faith in Christ. It is most God-honoring if it doesn't mimic either of the common sacramental modes.
In the gospel,
|Posted on Sunday, July 16, 2000 - 9:07 pm: || |
I'm really enjoying your studies, Bill. They're penetrating and provocative.
I'm having a little bit of trouble with the "no sacraments" idea. I think the problem, for me anyway, is how we define sacraments.
Here's where I absolutely agree with you: we have no requirements for our salvation or for membership in the body of Christ except to believe in the Lord Jesus. No other rites or dutiesójust our belief and acceptance of our Savior!
My subconscious pondering of this subject became more conscious this morning when our pastor referred to the sacrament of communion. He even said we have only two sacraments now: baptism and communion. I know, however, that neither baptism nor communion is required for membership at Trinity EV Free church.
So I went to the New Bible Dictionay published by the Intervarsity Press, 1996 (the latest) edition.
I'll quote a couple of excepts from the "Sacraments" entry. It is "an outward and visible sign, ordained by Christ, setting forth and pledging an inward and spiritual blessing."
"The obligation to continue sacramental rites depends on: (1) their institution by Christ; (2) his expresss command for their continuance; (3) their essential use as symbols of divine acts integral to the gospel revelation."
Further, "The sacraments are covenant ritesÖIt was the gospel word or promise accompanying administration which gave meaning and efficacy to the riteÖIn the NT there is no conflict suggested between the use of sacraments and spirituality. Whey they are rightly received the sacraments do convey blessings to the believer. But these blessings are not confined to the use of the sacraments, nor when they are conveyed through the sacraments does their bestowal conflict in any way with the strong, scriptural emphasis on faith and godlinessÖThe sacramentsÖrecall us continually to the great ground of our salvation, Christ in his death and resurrectionÖ"
In other words, there is no rite we do which ensures or enhances our salvation. But we do have two rituals which Jesus himself (as opposed to church fathers) asked us to do: be baptized and celebrate communion. He asked us to do these things because they would be blessings to us. They would enhance our relationships with Jesus.
The rituals themselves have no power, but when we practice them we are intentionally putting ourselves in a position to experience closeness with Jesus and to participate in his life and love. A limited metaphor of a sacrament would be exchanging cards/gifts and going to dinner with your husband or wife to celebrate your anniversary.
The gift exchange and the meal have absolutely no bearing on your married status. But they do enhance your relationship with each other.
If you think of "sacrament" as meaning something we are required to do as part of our salvation, then I agree; we have no sacraments in the New Covenant.
But if "sacrament" means something commanded by Christ for the purpose of our participation in symbols which reveal the heart of the gospel, then yes, I believe we do have two sacraments: baptism and communion.
I see sacraments not as components of our salvation but as signs or symbols we embrace because our God is sovereign, and he has asked us to do these things in order to intensify our relationships with him.
I praise God for loving me and for saving me!
|Posted on Monday, July 17, 2000 - 3:35 pm: || |
Hi Colleen and Bill:
If I may, let me come in the discussion on Baptism.
Bill has known my position in this issue and I just want to quote Colleen's statement in her last post:
"The rituals themselves have no power, but when we practice them we are intentionally putting ourselves in a position to experience closeness with Jesus and to participate in his life and love. A limited metaphor of a sacrament would be exchanging cards/gifts and going to dinner with your husband or wife to celebrate your anniversary.
The gift exchange and the meal have absolutely no bearing on your married status. But they do enhance your relationship with each other."
This is a very proper comparison. No doubt. I could not have said it better myself. Let me, however point out that we can say that the "lack of a gift exchange and the meal will also not have any bearing in the marriage status".
"Churches" today have a tendency to place symbolism over substance (under the penalty of sounding as a famous political commentator that I love)!
Paul came to a point that he did not even remember if he baptized more than a few people (1 Cor 1) and even was thankful that he did not baptized very many. Why would Paul exempt himself from such an honor? He says that God called him to preach and not to baptize!
Why would Jesus command His disciples to baptize and and then Paul declare that he, as an apostle is exempt from such, at best, an honor and at worse, AN ACT OF DISOBEDIENCE?
Also, is John's Baptism, which is the one Jesus was baptized with, the Christian Baptism or is it what happened in the day of Pentecost?
When faced with these questions above, I considered the following:
1 - The Bible cannot contradict itself
2 - Paul was not a rebel rabbi or a rebel Apostle even though there is evidence in his writings that he was accused of such
3 - In all God's plan and revelation, God had things that were important for a time and then faded away with "better things". Such are animal sacrifice and others. We cannot do God's will out of its timing.
4 - The book of Hebrews and indeed the Apostle Paul's doctrine tells us that the ek-klesia does have a "covenant of BETTER THINGS AND BETTER PROMISES".
Therefore, I have to decide how I am going to teach my church about water Baptism and how important I am going to say it is!
To go back to Colleen's example, in an extreme, if on the way to the dinner and the gift exchange I suffer a car accident and one of us or both dies, WE'RE STILL MARRIED! The married status will not change either!
I know you already see where where I am getting:
IF I DIE WITHOUT BAPTISM, I WILL STILL BE PART OF THE MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB. AS THE EK-KLESIA, I AM AND FOREVER WILL BE HIS BRIDE!
Glory to His name!
Drowing in Grace and enjoying the gasps!