Good and Bad Church Bashing

I was reading a theology guy from the early 1900’s. He bemoaned the “feebleness of the church.”

As I read theology from various centuries, it is fun to notice consistencies over the years. At no point has any theologian said, “Hey, cool, look how awesome the church is doing! We’re really nailing it!”

The church has always been failing.

Yes, we like to point to Acts and how “they had all things in common” and how awesome it was. But notice very shortly thereafter, Ananias and Sapphira totally mess it up.

If the Church ever had a glory day, it was more like a glory half-hour.

The earliest written epistles were written to fix error that was in the church. The New Testament is a constant cry to wake up, fight the fight, watch, be sober, etc.

The Church had already fallen asleep and were bogged down in apathy and false doctrine, and the Bible wasn’t even done yet!

I think we miss that point in our modern-day angst over the poor church.

There is a fun involved with bashing the church. If I can point out how bad “the church” is, obviously I am assuming I don’t have this problem. It’s a great way of saying “Hey, just follow my awesomeness, church!”

I like to bash on the church. Jesus bashed on the religious elites of His day. I think it’s natural and necessary. But it can also just be self-righteous boasting.

Most church bashing is done by those too lazy to go. Another large part is done by those trying to get you to buy their book, product, or church building system. Other church bashing is done by those hurt by a twisted church. Some church bashing is done by those who sincerely care for its future. We should discern between these.

The Church doesn’t “work,” just like theocratic Israel didn’t “work.”

Nothing works until Christ comes to clean house and establish righteousness.

No, this doesn’t mean we chill and wait. It means we take care of ourselves. Judgment begins with the house of God. If each of us took our responsibility in the Body of Christ–the exercise of our spiritual gifts–our individual churches would be better.

Not perfect, but better.

Instead, we like to compare ourselves to Joel Osteen, Rob Bell, and the latest manifestations of antichrist, and relax that we’re not as bad as those guys.

Look to Christ. Do your part as a member of His Body. Fight the fight. Wake up. There’s never been a time when that wasn’t vital to spiritual health.

In the end, the Church works just fine as it is the pillar and ground of the truth. Those in the Truth benefit from the church just fine. The Church was never intended to “change the world;” it was intended to build up the believer into the perfect man Christ Jesus.

I am one believer who has been built up by the Church, and I am forever grateful.

Why Does God Give Grace?

I saw this on the beloved internets:

“God pours out his grace on us because of something in Him, not because of something He sees in us.”

OK, on the surface that sounds lovely. Is it true though?

I can’t find any Bible verse that says it, so that is one knock against it. I always perk up my theological ears when I hear a pithy statement that does not have the ring of Scripture to it.

Yes, there are a couple verses in the OT about God doing things for Israel for His “name’s sake.” But this was done for the covenant people of Israel who were to show off the glories of God. God was going to show glory regardless of their failings. I think it’s a unique situation–see last few posts about how all who were in the Old Covenant were not saved, etc.

So, let’s think about it, what is grace? Grace is one who is in the position to show favor to one who is out of favor.

Therefore, God has to see something in us that demonstrates we need grace. So, there’s at least that! He at least sees our need.

We also must remember that humans are made in the image of God. There is something in us that makes God love us–He did make us after all. Are we suggesting God makes things He doesn’t like?

If you are a hyper-Calvinist, I suppose you would say that. Total Depravity has been taken too far. But I don’t see the Bible saying that.

“For God so loved the world,” there has to be something there.

I am not saying we deserve God’s grace, nor that humanity is so super duper God had to have us. Nor am I saying that we are self-redeemable.

I am merely saying that God still loves us and He did make us. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Why did Christ cry over rebellious Jerusalem if He saw nothing in them anyway? Wouldn’t God desire some to perish if we were as worthless as some say? Yet God does not desire that any should perish.

Without amping up humanity’s self-esteem, I still think God “sees something” in us that makes Him want to show us grace. I really do. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. He “sees in us” if we are humble or not.

I’m sure this means I’m a heretic to many, but alas, I believe you are taking my point too far from what I intend. I believe the quote above takes the point too far in the opposite direction.

It doesn’t hurt to think. When things sound too cut and dry, think on those things, more than likely, the one who said it hasn’t.

The Main Difference Between the Old and New Covenant

One huge thing to remember when thinking about the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is this:

Not all members of the Old Covenant were saved.
Whereas, all members of the New Covenant, are saved.

Did you get that? Because that’s important!

The Old Covenant was made with a genetic race of people–Jews.
The New Covenant is made of all those who are born again in Christ.

The Old Covenant has to do with family (that’s why there are genealogies all over it), an exact geographic Promised Land, a temple with priests and sacrifices, and external, written in stone theocratic law.

The New Covenant has to do with born again members of God’s family (no difference between Jew and Gentile), a call to heaven (the better country), those with the Spirit are the temple, Christ is the High Priest and the sacrifice, and the law is written in our hearts by the presence of God’s Spirit in all members.

The difference between the two covenants is night and day. Hebrews tells us the New Covenant is better, and boy howdy is it!

The Old Covenant was between God and racial Israel, you have to see that point. Violating that covenant meant they’d be kicked out of the Land and dispersed. They violated it and they were dispersed.

The basic summation of Israel’s responsibility is the Ten Commandments along with the other commands, and particularly the commands about their religious service–sacrifices, temple, priests, etc.

New Covenant people don’t need a rock to tell us what to do. We have Christ in us. Christ is the revelation of the righteousness of God apart from the Law and Prophets.

Believers today are in the New Covenant. We are under the Law of Christ, the perfect law of liberty. Where that is in step with the Mosaic Law, that’s fine, but we are not called to follow Moses’ Law, particularly not the religious aspects of it that were all fulfilled in Christ.

This is a big deal. There is much confusion over this issue. It should be handled correctly. Think on it.

3 Facts to Help Make Sense of the Old Testament

Christians have a tough time understanding the Old Testament. We focus on Jesus and the Epistles, and view the OT as tacked on background information. It’s the prequel that really adds nothing to the story.

There are a couple things to keep in mind when reading the OT that I think really help. Here they are, for your convenience:

1) The Law is not about salvation.

Most of the OT is made up of what is called The Law. From Exodus 20 through Malachi is the reign of The Law. The Law, as given by Moses, was not a system to get people saved.

The Law was given as the covenant responsibilities to Israel. Read Deuteronomy and notice how often it says keep this Law to stay in the land. The punishment for breaking the Covenant is not hell; the penalty was getting kicked out of the Promised Land.

People have always been saved by grace through faith, there is no other way. Saved people in the OT would desire to keep The Law, since that is what God said He wanted done–faith comes by hearing the word of God–but keeping The Law is not what saves, never has, never will.

2) Most people under The Law were not saved.

Since The Law was given as the covenant responsibility of Israel to stay in the Land and not as a means of being saved, you should not assume you are reading about saved people in the OT.

As the kings of Israel demonstrate–the OT is a mixed bag. When God judges people in the OT, He is not judging believers–He is judging rebellious violators of the covenant between God and Israel. As Paul later explains, “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.

3) Israel thought they were saved.

Since Israel had the Law, the covenants, the prophets, and so much more, they were “God’s chosen people,” they assumed they were in automatically.

This lead them to believe that since they were circumcised, kept the Sabbath, and killed an animal here and there that God was happy to have them. This mindset lead to the Pharisee mentality. It leads to what Paul explains in Romans 10, “being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

They followed the traditions of men more than God’s commands. They self-righteously assumed they were IN because they were of Israel. Not the case. Just as it’s not the case that you sitting your hinder in the right church gets you to heaven today.

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Those three points are key in understanding what’s going on back there in the OT. It helps to have other things figured out too, but I’ve seen these three things misunderstood many times by Christians.

Remember, there is a reason all that stuff is back there. Israel is a warning to us. One-time religious acts don’t save. Religious works don’t save. Self-righteousness leads to judgment. Following The Group is a broad path to destruction. Each person must come to a point of faith.

Be careful out there; we’re messing up the exact same way Israel did, much of this is due to the fact that we don’t understand what Israel did.

Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

Why Grace Makes Sin a Big Deal

There is no doubt that God is gracious. He has always said so, even under the Law, “The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.”

Jonah did not want to warn Nineveh, not because he was scared of them, but because he knew God was gracious and would forgive them!

Yes, God did judge people in spectacular fashion from time to time back then, but He also put up with a lot. God knew people would not keep His law. Even when Israel insisted they would keep it, He told them they wouldn’t.

God knew it was impossible, thus didn’t get as fed up as He could have.

Now that we are in the New Covenant, what is often called “The Age of Grace,” we assume God is more OK with sin. He’s not doing any judging at all, therefore, we conclude, the edge must have been taken off His wrath.

Since we’re under grace and not law, the thinking goes, sin isn’t that big of a deal.

In fact, the exact opposite is true.

Not only do we now have the full revelation of what God’s standard is, we have also been shown the righteousness of God in human form, and we’ve also been told that Christ’s work has completely equipped us for obedience.

Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Sin is doing the opposite of what God said.

God has told us what to do and God has told us we are equipped in Christ to obey. When we disobey, not only are we not doing what God said, we’re also not reckoning the truth of what God has said about us in Christ.

We’re guilty not only of sin, but of trampling underfoot the Son of God.

To whom much is given, much is required. I imagine this means something, and, if it does, it means we who have the Spirit, the full revelation of God’s righteousness, the Gospel, the testimony of Christ, the completed Word, and oh so much more, are unbelievably required of many things.

But, no doubt, our happy notion of grace and sin not being a big deal will win out, and we will continue to heap up wrath for ourselves in the Day of Wrath.

She Shall be Saved in Childbearing if They Continue

In a list of Bible verses that no one knows what to do with, 1 Timothy 2:15 has to rank near the top!

Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

There are three predominant theories about this verse that go a little something like this:

-Some see this as saying women who have faith won’t die in childbirth. The challenge here is that many women without faith don’t die either, and some of faith have, at least by our judgment.

-Some see that Paul says women who have kids are automatically saved. The only person I’ve heard seriously back this view was someone who was trying to prove how dumb Paul was. This verse was used to show that Paul doesn’t even understand salvation, why should we trust him on anything else?

-Some see the difference in pronouns (she and they) to mean the individual will be saved by women in general carrying out their childbearing until the Messiah came and salvation is available to all now through the child, Christ, who was born of a woman. This is an intriguing theory, but seems to resort to gymnastics.

To me, I would lean toward the simplest reading of the text, which would make me then lean toward the first option.

However, “nevertheless” begins the verse, which is a word used to tie in the following statement with what went before.

Before that, Paul was talking about Eve and her transgression. Right after talking about that, Paul says “nevertheless she shall be saved in childbearing.”

Taking just that part, it seems as though Paul is saying, “Eve messed up big time, but God was gracious to her and allowed her to live and even to go on and have children.”

God could have ended the humanity experiment right there, but He didn’t. He allowed humanity to multiply.

This I am cool with and really like that explanation.

However, Paul goes on to say “she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

Who are “they,” is the big question. My simple answer to that is: I have no idea. But, Adam and Eve are the last two people he talks about. I have no idea if they continued “in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety,” but I do know they had kids.

Perhaps he’s not talking about women in general. Maybe he limited it to Eve specifically. When God judges the world and burns it all, it is because He will not find faith on the earth.

In other words, no one will have kids anymore if there is no faith anymore. Humanity will be gone. God will be done with them and their rebellion.

I like this explanation, but will refrain from saying it is definitive. But I’ll stick to it and try it out for a while and see how it holds up.