Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Religions are made of debt. The gods require a code of subservience because they are supposed to have some power we humans want. They require our possessions in the form of money or animals or even human sacrifices. We are to pay a debt we owe the gods to get their power or permission.

Of course this never works because the gods we make are wood or stone.

In the ancient Greek tales, the Greek king Agamemnon must sacrifice his 14 year old virgin daughter Iphigenia to the gods so that the Greek ships would get favorable winds to get to Troy. The gods had said the Greek will win the Trojan War but without this human sacrifice they can't get their ships there. The gods have to be paid.

However Christianity does not operate on the basis of debt. It operates by a gift.

We have been given the gift of God's presence in our lives and in our souls when we were made in His image. Ephesians 1 tells us we were chosen to be in God's family even before we were born. This is the gift of eternal life which we already have. This gift is called an unspeakable gift, 2 Corinthian 9.15. Grace is a gift, Eph. 4.7. James says every good gift is from above, James 1.17. Romans 5.17 says righteousness is a gift. Acts 2.38 says the Holy Spirit is a gift to the Gentiles.

All of this means Christianity is about the gift of God in His Son. We do not pay the gods debts, we receive the gifts He pours into our souls and then give those gifts away.

Some religions say when you earn an insight, you keep it to yourself. Go off into the mountain caves, wear ugly robes, don't brush your teeth, and contemplate yourself and your own achievements. Christianity says when you are blessed by God from above, you give that blessing away to someone else so that you may be filled to the fulness of Christ. And then you brush your teeth.
This is why Christianity is about abundant life, generosity, blessing. The key is to receive what God has given us, but not to earn or struggle or take something which is not ours. Freely you have received, freely give, Matthew 10.8.

The image in the OT is of a vessel. But our soul as a vessel is open top and bottom. God pours into us, we pour into others.
John the Baptist uses water as a symbol for God's blessing, that He has included us in His family, John 1.26-28. Jesus uses water as an image of eternal life to the woman at Jacob's well, John 4.10---If you knew the gift of God and who it is who says to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.

When the woman realizes what Jesus is saying, does she keep this to herself? Decisively not.

She goes and tells the people of her city, Sychar, that the messiah has come. What she received she gave away.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Theologians have said for many years that the Law, the Torah of the Hebrew Bible, is to show Israel that it cannot be holy before the Lord, it cannot keep the Law to fulfill it. This is meant to show that only the doctrines of grace can enable a man or woman to stand before God.

The idea is that the Law would show Israel how it failed.

I have always found this to be a strange way to run a country. I don't think any people would be encouraged to come before the God who does this. Can you imagine telling a child everyday he has failed? How do people gather together as a nation under this sentence?

They can't.

So what would be the purpose of the Law?

The purpose might have been to show Israel how to bring sin to God for forgiveness. This cleansing from sin would enable Israel to be with God.
The Law begins with Passover. Notice who will come over Israel and Egypt that night---I will go through the land of Egypt that night...I will execute judgment---I am the Lord, Exodus 12.12. So we have the Law beginning with the appearing of God the Lord. The Passover lamb is for Israel's sin, the Lord's appearing of the Lord is for every Israelite to see Him.

When Israel leaves Egypt, they will build the tabernacle. The outer court is for Israel's sin, the inner court known as the Holy of Holies is for the Lord to reside and appear.

The same Lord had appeared to Abraham in Genesis 18.1, to Lot in Gen. 19.1, to Hagar in Gen. 21.17, to Isaac in Gen. 26.24. Now in Exodus the Lord takes up residence in their midst. John Calvin said the Law was to bestow God's presence among the people of Israel.

As the Lord is in Israel's midst from Exodus onward, He gives His word to the nation through Moses and Joshua and eventually the prophets in the OT. The Law will strike down sin among the people because they are to stand before the Lord. As the sacrifices are there for cleansing from sin, His presence is there for blessing and holiness.

This is the Law of God.

So why does Jesus say He fulfills the Law in Matt. 5.17? If I obey the civil law to not steal, I have obeyed the law but it would not be said that I fulfilled it. So how does Jesus fulfill the Law, the Torah?

He does so because the Law was always to reveal Him as Lord and God. The sacrifices prepared Israel to stand before Him by cleansing them of sin, as if they were all priests ministering to Him. Then they can see Him as He bestows Himself before them.
Joseph and Mary take Jesus to Egypt so that when Herod dies they can return. Matthew says this was so that---what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled saying・\out of Egypt did I call My Son, Matt. 3.15 quoting Hosea 1.11. This is the first indication that Jesus will not just keep the Law perfectly but fulfill it. We might think of the Law as a lens through which to see Jesus as the Lord.

In Romans 3.19 Paul makes some insightful comments about the Law. He makes a statement that due to the Law---all the world may become accountable to God. What this means is every created being is dependent on God, no one human or angel or devil can come before God on the basis of their own perfection. Even an angel of light such as Lucifer sinned.

The Law puts every created being in its place under God. When Lucifer tried to exceed that place, he was thrown out of heaven to await judgment.

But when Jesus came, His baptism fulfilled all righteousness, Matt. 3.15. Jesus could be said to fulfill the Law because it was given to show Israel who He was and is. What this means for us is that we do not relate to the Lord through the Law as Israel did. We relate to God through the acknowledgment that Jesus is the Lord who was revealed in the Law and the prophets.
Paul says this in Rom. 3.20---But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus.

We stand before God as the priesthood of believers through our faith in the Lord, Jesus of Nazareth.