“Crucified” or “Being Crucified”?

The gospel makes it very clear that we are ALREADY crucified with Christ. Past tense. Consider:
“We know that our old self WAS crucified with him” (Rom. 6:6)
“I HAVE BEEN crucified with Christ.” (Gal. 2:20)
“For you HAVE DIED” (Col. 3:3), Etc.

But we also read that our old self is NOT YET dead, and we are in a process of putting it to death:
“if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13)
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…” (Col. 3:5)
“those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24), Etc.

In all of these latter examples, the person doing the “crucifying” is the Christian. And he does it by the Spirit inside of him. It is clearly a process that happens over the course of their life. But in the former examples, the crucifixion of the Christian clearly took place at the instant Jesus’ died. In Jesus, we were all crucified. This is not a process, but a past event that we enter into the moment we believe on Chist.

So which one is it? Are we already crucified or is there still a sin nature in us that needs to be crucified? The answer is YES to both.

Yes, we are crucified IN CHRIST. That is, positionally, it is already a done deal. When Christ died, God considered us dead with Him, and we inherit this the instant we receive Him. We are covered in Christ’s death.

However, by CHRIST IN US, that is, the Holy Spirit in us, we work out the putting to death of our sinful nature. It is a process and an experience that is not instantaneous, but takes a whole life of walking by the Holy Spirit–and grows with time.

I think the truth of this duality is expressed concisely in Hebrews 10:14 – “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” In other words, by Christ’s death, God has ALREADY PERFECTED people who are BEING PERFECTED (i.e. being sanctified). We are positionally perfect in God’s eyes, but, in experience, are being perfected as we walk in His Spirit. We are crucified in Christ (our position) while simultaneously Christ is in us (by His Holy Spirit) leading us into the experience of crucifixion, so that we must “die daily” to our sinful nature by His Spirit.

Brian

Who is Isaiah’s “Servant”?

In Matt. 12, we read that Isaiah 42 was a prophecy that foretold Jesus (see Matt. 12:15-21).  So Jesus is God’s “servant” foretold in Isaiah 42:1.  However, when you flip your Bibles to Isaiah, and read chapters 41 and 42, and interesting thing emerges.  In Isaiah 41:8, we read, “But you, Israel, MY SERVANT…” and in Is. 41:9, God says again (to Israel), “You are MY SERVANT.”  So Israel, the nation, is clearly called “God’s servant”.  And the next time after these verses that a “servant’ is mentioned is Isaiah 42, where it begins: “Behold MY SERVANT…” (v. 1).  It would be quite natural to read these chapters and conclude that the “servant” of Isaiah 42 is Israel, and not Jesus the Messiah (this would be even more obvious were you to read it in the original scrolls, where no chapter breaks exist).  Even more, further in Isaiah 42 it describes “God’s servant” as the nation of Israel who is “blind” and “deaf” (see Is. 42:18-25).  So it begs the question…is Isaiah 42 talking about Israel as a nation (as the context clearly implies) or Jesus the Messiah (as Matt. 12 seems to indicate)?

Well, let’s look at some other Bible passages before we answer:

  • In Matthew 2, when Jesus was taken to Egypt, we read, “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.'” (v. 15).  Here, Matthew is quoting Hosea 11:1 and applying it to Jesus.  All seems well, until you flip to Hosea 11:1 and read the whole verse: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”  The whole context of Hosea 11 makes it very clear that the writer is writing about Israel the nation, yet Matthew, again, applies it to Jesus.
  • When Jesus began His ministry, He “was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days,” (Luke 4:1-2).  Similarly, in the O.T. we read of the nation of Israel being led by God in the wilderness for forty years (Deuteronomy 8:2, for instance).
  • Later in Jesus’ life we read of Him choosing 12 men as apostles (Luke 6:13).  While, turning to the Old Testament, we read that Israel began with 1 man (Jacob, see Gen. 32:28) having 12 sons (Gen. 35:22).
  •  In Exod. 4:22, we read, “Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son.”  But in Romans 8:29 (and elsewhere) we read, that Jesus is God’s “firstborn” son, “among many brothers [i.e. Christians]”
  • In Jeremiah 2:3, we read, “Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest,” while 1 Cor. 15:20 says, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

More Scriptures could be used (and books have been written) to show that Israel is a foreshadowing of Jesus.  Or, said in another way, Jesus is the “New Israel” of God.  As a result, “if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s [the father of the Israelites nation] offspring, heirs according to promise,” (Gal. 3:27), so that the church is now called, “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16).  Thus, it is no longer one’s national ancestry that qualifies them as an Israelite, but it is solely your repenting and believing the gospel of Jesus.  For, “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,” (Rom. 9:6).

The implications of this are huge on many levels, but let’s bring it back to the original question: Does the servant of Isaiah 42 speak of Israel the nation, or Jesus?  Hopefully you see that the answer is, “Yes.”  The context clearly refers to Israel as a nation, but the N.T. makes it clear that Jesus is “Israel,” in the sense that He fulfills what was written of Israel, and is the beginning of a new nation/kingdom for all who believe in Him.

Now, reading further in Isaiah, we can see something else emerging…

Isaiah 49 begins talking, again, of Israel as God’s “servant”: “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” (Is. 49:3).  However, not long after this, we read:

“And NOW the Lord says,
    he who formed me from the womb to be HIS SERVANT,
to bring Jacob back to him;
    and that Israel might be gathered to him…
he says:
It is too light a thing that you should be MY SERVANT
    to raise up the tribes of Jacob
    and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make YOU as a light for the nations,
    that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Is. 49:5-6).

From the words, “And now” (49:5), we see that a change has taken place.  It now talks about God’s “servant” in a way that cannot be Israel the nation.  This new “servant” will bring Israel back to God (49:5), and be a light the nations beyond Israel (49:6).  It clearly could not be Israel who brings Israel back to God, but must be someone separate than Israel.

Going further down the chapter, we see that this servant would also:

  • be “deeply despised,” and, “abhorred” by Israel (49:7)
  • be “chosen” by God (49:7)
  • be given “as a covenant to the people” (49:8)
  • releasing prisoners and bringing people out of darkness (49:9)

But this is only the beginning.  In subsequent chapters, the servant is said to:

  • Have words from God to speak to weary people at the right time (50:4)
  • Get his back struck, his cheeks struck, and be spit upon because of His stubborn obedience to God (50:5-7)
  • Speak authoritatively and bring light to darkness (50:10-11)
  • Be exalted, after He is “marred more than any man” (52:13-14)

AND THEN, the climax of the servant’s activities are seen in Isaiah 53 (which is the last place time Isaiah writes about him).  In this chapter, the servant:

  • Grew up without much notice (53:2)
  • Was despised and rejected by men (53:3)
  • was thought by Israel to be cursed by God, though, in actuality, he suffered for Israel (53:4)
  • was pierced and crushed for people’s sins and healing (53:5-6, 8)
  • didn’t speak back when he was suffering (53:7)
  • acted purely, but was killed/buried among the wicked and rich (53:9)
  • suffered because God desired it (53:10)
  • will have God’s pleasure and see many become righteous and receive his rewards, because of being offered for sin and sinners (53:10-12)

The very last mention of the “servant” of Isaiah is in Isaiah 53:11, where God declares that the death that comes to the one righteous servant (singular) will make many (plural) to become righteous.

And then a significant thing happens in Isaiah.  The singular servant is never mentioned again.  However, the plural “servants” of God are mentioned for the first time.  This begins in the next chapter of Isaiah (54).

In Isaiah 54, we read of many children being produced within Israel, presumably because the one “servant” was faithful to suffer and die.  And Isaiah 54:17 gives the first mention of plural servants of the Lord:

no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
    and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the SERVANTS of the Lord
    and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.” (54:17)

So we have servants of the Lord who are vindicated by God and will rise above judgment cast on them.

The conclusion is amazing…

Initially in Isaiah, the “servant” of God was the nation of Israel (beginning in Isaiah 41:8).  But then the servant becomes someone separate from Israel as nation (in Isaiah 49).  The events of this individual person/servant climax in his suffering and death (Isaiah 53), and he is no longer mentioned.  But the last verse that mentions him tells us that the 1 righteous servant’s act of obedience will make many to become righteous.  And sure enough, after this servant dies in Isaiah 53, there emerges many servants of God (starting in Isaiah 54).

As stated at the beginning, Jesus is seen as the “new Israel” of God in the gospels.  But His ministry climaxes when He suffers and dies.  As Paul writes, “By the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. ” (Romans 5:19).  So Jesus, I propose, by His death and resurrection, has created a new Israel that pleases God fully: i.e. all who repent and trust Him.  Just as He is called “the 2nd man” (1 Cor. 15:47), because He brings a new beginning to humanity, so He can rightfully be seen as “the 2nd Israel”.  He came from natural Israel, but established a new Israel.  Just as Israel began with one man (Jacob), and then went to 12, and then proceeded to become a nation, so Jesus spread His life through 12, and then through a whole nation of people (his church).  And the death of one brought life and righteousness to many.

Amen!

Brian

Tithing, Yes or No?

What do you think about tithing? Is it Biblical and God-honoring for Christians to regularly tithe?

First, to be clear on definitions, “tithe” literally means “1/10”. It is wrong to say you are “tithing” anything that doesn’t equal 1/10 of your possessions.

Now, the evidences I’ve been given for Christian tithing are:

  1. The O.T. focuses on tithing, and this law is never abrogated by any N.T. teaching.  God says, “I do not change…I am the same”.  Yet you are claiming He has changed on tithing without telling us in the N.T. that He has changed.  And though parts of the Law no longer apply to Christians (such as what to eat), other parts do (such as “do not commit adultery”)…tithing seems to apply to the latter category, because it is a moral principle (giving) and not a physical principle (such as eating).  See point #2, for further evidence on this…
  2. Jesus says, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These YOU OUGHT TO HAVE DONE, without neglecting the others,” (Luke 11:42).  In other words, Jesus is saying to the Pharisees, “Tithing is not the main focus of God’s Law, but should still be done.”  Do we believe that justice and love no longer apply to us because they are in the law?  If not, then tithing should also apply to us.
  3. In Hebrews 7, Abraham is praised for giving a tithe to Melchizedek.  This tithe predated the law (see Gen. 14), so you cannot say that the tithe is only a matter of the O.T. Law.  In the N.T., we may not follow parts of the law, but we still tithe, as it was practiced even before the Law.
  4. Related to #3…In Hebrews 7, Jesus as High Priest is compared to Melchizedek.  Since Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek, Christians ought to still give a tithe to the church, which is the expression of Christ on earth.
  5. In 1 Cor. 16:1-2, Paul writes, “Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.”  The teaching on giving a portion of your income each week seems consistent with tithing.

(If there are other evidences I didn’t think of, please send them my way).

Initially, this list may seem impressive.  But I am not convinced.  Consider the following responses to each “evidence”:

  1. Yes, in some major ways, the Law still applies to the Church today.  Jesus said, “I did not come to abolish the law…but to fulfill it,” (Matt. 5:17).  However, Jesus lived in perfect obedience to the law, and, therefore, all who trust in Him are judged as perfectly fulfilling the law.  Jesus’ obedience to the law covers us, so that even disobedient sinners like us are judged by God as obeying the law: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Rom. 10:4).  Further, God’s Spirit indwelling us brings us to fulfill the law: “the righteous requirement of the law [is]…fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit,” (Rom. 8:4).  God’s Spirit in us empowers us to obey God beyond the letter of the law, and, instead, obey Him in the substance of the law–in things like “justice and love” (Luke 11:42).  Thus, “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal. 5:18).  Why?  Because the law was just a shadow of Christ.  It gave ideas of what it looks like to live obediently (like a shadow gives ideas of what a person looks like), but it is not the substance.  The law established principles to follow that take us beyond a mere obedience to rules.  For instance, Paul writes that, although the Law talks about not muzzling oxen when they are treading the grain, the principle of that passage can be applied to paying ministers for the work they are doing (1 Cor. 9:9-10).  So, by paying ministers, you are fulfilling the law in its principles, which is more what God’s after than fulfilling it by the letter.  With all of this in mind, as will be shown below, there are ways Christians fulfill the principle of tithe that goes FAR BEYOND giving 1/10 of your income to a local church.
  2. See answer for #1.
  3. Yes, the tithe predates the Law, but so does circumcision (see Genesis 17), and yet Paul explicitly writes, “if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you,” (Gal. 5:2).  Thus, whether a thing predates the law is not the determiner of whether we should obey it still today.
  4. I think there is a far better way of fulfilling Hebrews 7 than urging Christians to give a tithe to their local church.  See below.
  5. 1 Cor. 16:1-2 is talking about them saving money for a special collection that Paul would take to Jerusalem (v. 3), and is not a reference to a regular tithe.  The purpose of saving a little bit every week was so that, “there will be no collecting when I [Paul] come,” (16:2).  Meaning, Paul is advising a better way for them to provide a gift for the saints: save a little each week (notice: no mention of saving a “tenth”), instead of giving a one-time lump sum to Paul when he arrives.  This was not a practice they were already doing, and was something that would find its conclusion upon Paul’s arrival, so using such a passage to support a regular and consistent tithe is a stretch, to say the least.

Finally, the O.T. law of tithing commanded that the Israelites give 1/10 of  what they gather to support the priests (Num. 18:21) and other needs within Israel (Deut. 26:12).  Elsewhere they are also told to give the firstfruits of their produce (i.e. the stuff that came out of the ground first) to the priests, and ultimately to the Lord (e.g. Prov. 3:9; Neh. 10:35-39).  It is unclear to me if the tithe = the firstfruits, or if these were 2 separate offerings (if someone knows, please share).  But suffice to say that Israel gave tithes and firstfruits to the priests, to use and distribute as needed.

So now turn to the New Testament.

First, look at the practice of the early church:

Paul writes: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not…under compulsion,” (2 Cor. 9:7).  This would contradict an obligation to tithe.

Now, consider the O.T. practice of giving tithe/firstfruits to the priests and the temple…

Who/what is the firstfruit?  “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that WE [Christians] should be a kind of FIRSTFRUITS of his creatures,” (James 1:18).  Christians = firstfruits.

Who/what is a tithe? Well…Paul says in Romans 9 that only a small number of Israelites are Christians.  He calls this small group a “remnant” (Rom. 9:27 cf. Is. 10:22-23) and an “offspring” (Rom. 9:29 cf. Is. 1:9) of Israel, quoting specifically from Isaiah 1 and 10.  And in the middle of those chapters, in Isaiah 6, we read more about this “remnant” of faithful Israelites.  In Isaiah 6:13, they are called a “stump” (compared to the whole tree), but they are also called “A TENTH”.  In other words, the relatively small portion of believing Jews are considered to be God’s faithful “tithe”–similar to the 1 leper (out of 10) who returned to praise Jesus after being healed (Luke 17:11-19).  Thus, “faithful remnant” = God’s tithe.

And who are the priests?  According to 1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6, and elsewhere, all believers are priests.  So, believers = priests.

And who/what is the temple? Ephesians 2:21 says the church (i.e. the body of believers) is the temple.  So, church = temple.

In summary, then, all Christians are part of God’s spiritual tithe and firstfruits.  We don’t give 10% and keep 90%.  We must give 100% of ourselves to God and see that 100% of what we have belongs to God.  We are the tithe!  We are the firstfruits!  If you don’t give everything, you are holding back part of God’s tithe.  This does not necessarily mean selling all of your possessions (though it could), but instead means that we completely remove O-W-N from our vocabulary.  As it says of the early church, “no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was HIS OWN,” (Acts 4:32).  And when we see that all of “our” resources are really God’s resources, and are considered “God’s tithe,” we recognize that they are primarily used to serve the church (who are the priests and temple), just as the tithe was primarily for the O.T. priests and temple (note that the tithe was also used to serve the poor [Deut. 26:12], and other needs, just as our resources can also be used to minister to poverty, etc. in the world…but the focus is still on the church, first [Gal. 6:10]).  As it is written…

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common…There was not a needy person among them…” (Acts 4:32-34).  This, I believe, is God’s tithe in action.

Blessings,

Brian

 

“Spiritual Authority”

In the last few weeks, I’ve heard multiple times of un-biblical beliefs and practices related to the issue of “Spiritual Authority”. These bad teachings seem prevalent in Charismatic Christians, but they are everywhere, and have been around since even the times of the N.T. (where they were thoroughly rebuked by Paul and others). They have been institutionalized in the Roman Catholic Church and other professing Christian organizations that claim spiritual leaders have a delegated authority over you that is equal to (or even surpasses) God’s word.

In light of this, I wanted to write this blog post in the hopes that I could make some sort of contribution that will redirect people to what the Bible teaches on this issue. And here is my conclusion: God does place leaders in the church, and does desire organization that accords with the Scriptures. However, those leaders err, and it is the job of all Christians to routinely seek God and His word on what is right, and humbly correct their leaders where they contradict God’s word. The truly good leaders in the body of Christ would embrace and love such God-honoring correction: “rebuke a wise man and he will love you for it” (Prov. 9:9).

So…here are 3 things I put together on this issue:
1) 2015-A Response to Spiritual Authority Extremes (Concise) – e-mail responses written by myself and Rich Geer to a friend who was confronting spiritual authority abuses

2) Scripture or Christian Leaders: What is our Authority? – a response I wrote to a Catholic friend who asked for the biblical teaching on authority

3) Spiritual Authority in the Church (2009) – a short booklet I wrote on Spiritual Authority in 2009, after leaving a ministry that promoted an unhealthy view of spiritual authority

As I said, I hope this speaks truth into the subject.  Also, please share if you have more to add on it.

For Him,

Brian