Tag Archives: theology

Predestination revealing God's Sovereignty

6 Oct

Predestination is a topic within Christianity that has largely been argued over hundreds of years. Some would argue that it has even divided Churches. There are numerous arguments, theologies, doctrines and schools of thought that give this topic such fierce ammunition for discrepancy, however our aim here is not to argue a case but reflect upon Christ and his word that we may gain a clearer perspective of his glory.

There are so many scriptures surrounding the subject that provoke questions. Questions are a natural response to life’s conundrums. Responding to God’s word is commendable and something that we should regularly seek to do. With this in mind I will try to conclude some questions that may arise within our human thinking in regards to predestination.

Does God choose us or do we choose him?

Do we not have free will or the ability to choose God? Are we created to be robots?

If God chooses some and not others does this mean he has predestined some to hell?

Is God unjust?

Is Christ plan A or plan B?

Does God contradict himself?

God knew we would sin so why create man?

Will we ever get to the bottom of predestination? Is there any point thinking about it?

There are, I am sure many more questions, but for now we will not seek to answer these questions directly but find meaning of the scriptures through Gods sovereignty.

The essence of humanity is that we are utterly sinful. We by nature are children of Adam and therefore corrupt, in need of a redeemer.  Naturally we are opposed to God in our flesh and therefore we cannot receive God.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Only by the holy spirit can we discern what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom 12:2).

With this in our midst we know that God who is infinitely greater than us cannot be comprehended fully in our human mind. His thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). This is not a ploy to avoid knowledge or understanding; however we must accept that unless God reveals we will not understand, especially with our limited capacity to discern the things of God naturally.

As humans we like things to be black and white, we like definite because we have a need for a level of control. This is how we survive, how we make correct judgment and make decisions. Black and white is clear and this gives us security, it is absolute, understanding God is no different. We want to understand God in terms of absolute, and God after all I believe is absolute, he is complete and is definite in all he does; he is not half hearted and eternally does what is right. There arises a problem, as man we find it hard to see that God in all he does is clear; it often seems clouded and grey. How can God desire that only certain people be elect/chosen and simultaneously desire all to be saved? In our thinking this has no logic; it is not black and white but grey. The issue dwells with us; we are the fallible ones, not God because he is always just.

It seems then that there are two wills with God. Jesus death is a prime example; Gods word tells us Christ was righteous, his will is that the righteous live. God does not will that a righteous man be put to death, yet Christ was crushed to the point of death by God himself. Through one lens we see a God who does not wish that his servants suffer, that his people are comforted and at peace, through another lens however, we find that God perfects his children through suffering. Israel, the people of God were called to be a light to the nations, an example people to reveal the glory of God, however they failed to live up to Gods will. On one hand it was Gods will that they be a light, yet on the other hand it was Gods will that only Christ and those in Christ be a light. God wills that Israel be fully successful in their pursuit of revealing his glory to the gentiles whilst paradoxically having the foreknowledge of Israel’s failure and the revealing of God to the gentiles only in Christ. God desires that all men be saved and at the same time has predestined only some to obtain an inheritance in Christ according to the purpose of of Him who works all things to the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11).

Does God therefore contradict himself and thus stand unjust?

No, I can answer this question directly for two reasons. One, scripture tells us God is just (which I will expand on further) and two, as we described before, man has a fallible mind that cannot comprehend the things of God unless revealed to him for heaven.

Let’s turn to Romans 9 to give us a greater insight into the sovereignty of God.

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed [c]forever. Amen.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice wouldstand, not because of works but because of Him who calls12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

The context of this scripture is regarding Israel. The point Paul is aiming to get across is that we are chosen not because of our works but because of him who calls giving a fuller meaning to who’s Abrahams descendants are.

Firstly we can say that God does choose and that he does not choose us on the basis of ethnicity, for it’s the children of promise who are descendants, not those who are fleshly descendants i.e. ethnic Jews (non gentiles).

Secondly, those in Christ are not chosen because God in his foreknowledge knew that we would someday choose him. To declare that would be to place man at the centre of his own salvation, this I believe is unbiblical. God is central to salvation and we have no part to play in God giving us sight to see him or faith to believe in him. In the context of Jacob and Esau it could be argued that God knew Esau would sin by giving up his birth right and therefore God chose Jacob as a result of this foreknowledge. However Romans 9 clearly tells us that “for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice wouldstand, not because of works but because of Him who calls12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

We can conclude that God does not choose in light of a decision we make to salvation according to his foreknowledge.

So is God unjust to love one and hate the other? Scripture tells us “may it never be!” God has mercy and compassion on whom he wills. God hardened Pharaohs heart that His name “might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth”. The bigger picture that we must recognise is God’s glory. He does as he wills for his name to be magnified and exalted, his will at times seems unjust from our micro prospective, God however is in control of the macro perspective which ends ultimately in His own glorification. The natural question to ask then is, how can God find man guilty and at fault if he has no seeming choice in the matter of salvation? Paul answers this question eloquently and reverently by challenging us on our authority to question his justness and more significantly his sovereignty. In the end, God will always have the final word and his will stands eternally. This gives me comfort to know that despite many questions regarding his ways, God is always just and does what is right.

Genesis 18:25 Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

Christ has always been plan A and not plan B. God did not find that man needed a redeemer due to man’s sin therefore sending a remedy. His purpose was that Christ always be eternally plan A, he has never been a reserve, he has and always will be at the forefront of all He does and is. Am I suggesting God is the author of sin? No, whether he is or he isn’t, one thing I am sure of is that Christ was not simply a remedy for our sickness but at the cross He was glorified and made magnificently central, Jesus was born as a man to die in Gods foreknowledge that he firstly may be glorified and that we as redeemed servants be glorified with him. He was and always will be the firstborn from of all creation (Col 1:15).

If there were no sin, there would be no need for a saviour, no need to receive grace and mercy; we would have no knowledge of Gods kind nature. How would we know these wonderful characteristics God displays and freely graces us with we hadn’t of sinned? God in his foreknowledge had Christ at the forefront of his mind to redeem us from sin and be hailed as Lord for all eternity.

Will we ever get to the bottom of predestination? I would suggest it is highly unlikely. Like all things in life we must seek to gain a good balance, in regards to predestination it would be unwise and harmful to get caught up in trying to find out the answers, to somehow work God out, this I believe is futile. To disregard thinking and searching scripture likewise would be unwise, as God reveals himself more and more to us we begin to grasp an understanding of Gods sovereignty which is key to walking in fellowship with him and accepting the things of God. I do firmly believe that a security can be found in Christ as he reveals his divine election and choosing of his saints. So balance is what we seek, not an extreme need to work God out and by no means an apathy towards understanding through revelation.

I have purposely sought not to answer questions that I mentioned above for the sole purpose of highlighting Gods sovereignty. Before answering any question in terms of salvation, predestination and like topics we must first know that God is. He is the “I am” and all things are in subjection to Him.

Hebrews 2: 5 – 8 For He did not subject to angels [g]the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying,

What is man, that You remember him?
Or the son of man, that You are concerned about him?
“You have made him [h]for a little while lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And have appointed him over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”

For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.

All things are in subjection to Christ. At times we don’t see all things subject to him but what we do see is Christ crowned with honour and glory who tasted death for everyone. He is the centre, he’s central to predestination, he is the centre of foreknowledge, he is the centre of his choosing who he wills and he is all and in all and through all.

Amen.

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Heirs of Promise

22 Aug

Since the day faith came under the New Covenant ethnicity is no longer the requirement to be a descendant of Abraham. Only those of faith in Christ receive the promises given to Abraham.

What was the promise?

Land

  1. “Get thee out of thy country…unto a land that I will shew thee” (Gen. 12:1).
  2. Abraham “went on his journeys…to Bethel (in Central Israel) And the Lord said unto Abram…Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever…walk through the land…for I will give it unto thee” (Gen. 13:3,14-17).
  3. “The Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (Gen. 15:18).)
  4. “I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession” (Gen. 17:8).
  5. “The promise that he (Abraham) should be the heir of the world” (Rom. 4:13).

Seed

  1. “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee…and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:2,3).
  2. “I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered…all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever” (Gen. 13:15,16).
  3. “Look now toward heaven, and tell (count) the stars, if thou be able to number them…So shall thy seed be…Unto thy seed have I given this land” (Gen. 15:5,18).
  4. “I will give unto…thy seed after thee…the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Gen. 17:8).
  5. “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:17,18).

Neither Jew nor Greek

Galatians 3

Verse 7 “Therefore be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham”.

Verse 28-29 ” There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abrahams offspring, heirs according to promise.”

To be an heir of Abraham is not based on ethnicity, gender, race etc but is based on faith in Christ. Why? The law did not nullify the promise given to Abraham, however it couldn’t enable us to receive the promise as we were shut up under sin (verse 22) but is given to us not on the basis of our works, ethnicity or race but on the basis of who Christ is. He is the author, fulfiller and rightful heir of the promise. Therefore the promise can only be received in Christ by faith (not based on merit).

Romans 9:6-13

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s [d]descendants, but: “[e]through Isaac your [f]descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as [g]descendants. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would [h]stand, not [i]because of works but [j]because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Geographical or heavenly?

When coming to the Old Testament we must view it through a New Testament lens. With this in mind we can say that the things of the Old Testament pointed to something greater, namely Christ.

Hebrews 11:8-10

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

The land of promise that Abraham dwelt in pointed to something far greater which he looked for. Not a geographical dwelling place but a dwelling place with foundations God has built, namely the eternal land of promise, a dwelling place in God that can only be accessed in Christ. This is indicated by the fact that he is described as an “alien living in a foreign location”. So the promise of land points to a greater completion of the promise fulfilled by Jesus, the nations having access to dwell with God in Christ, not in Canaan geographically but a heavenly Canaan, the Kingdom of God.

The writer goes on to say, “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”

In revelation 21:1 John writes “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.”

This is the city Abraham longed for. He had knowledge of him being part of a much bigger plan, namely Christ’s bride. He looked forward to the heavenly marriage, the heavenly city that will be established on earth by Christ at his return. He looked to something greater than an earthly land or location we know presently.

Hebrews 12:22-24

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

Similarly, this scripture states that we have now come to the city of the living God, In contrast the preceding verses compare Mount Sinai with Mount Zion. Sinai was a mountain that could not be touched or commonly accessed; it represented law, judgement and Gods holiness. Now, however, we have come to an accessible Mount Zion, which represents Grace and Gods righteous judgment through Christ. Those who have come to it are made perfect by Jesus who’s covenant is far greater/gracious than the punishment/judgment for the shedding of Abels blood which Cain describe in his own words as “too great to bear” (Gen 4:13).

Then, under the Old Covenant, Mount Zion where the temple was located was a place of bloody sacrifice and offering which God had no desire for. Now, under New Covenant, Mount Zion is a place where we find grace and refuge from the wrath of God, where the Son of Man offered a perfect sacrifice reaching all eternity.

Therefore no longer do we seek an earthly Zion, but a heavenly one, a heavenly City for which we are enrolled in now and will be partakers of through Gods grace at his coming.

We align our hearts with the writer of Hebrews, “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.” Hebrews 13:14

So we can rule out two questions.

1/ Does ethnic Israel have a basis for receiving the geographical land today? No

2/ Do those in Christ (heirs of promise) have a basis for receiving the geographical land? No

The picture is not the church or ethnic Israel taking possession of an earthly nation, but a heavenly nation is formed in Christ through the gospel. One day Christ will return to establish this heavenly Kingdom on earth where He will reign over all creation.

Conclusion

So we can conclude as follows

1/ Inheritance of the promise given to Abraham is not based on ethnicity, gender or race but is based on faith.

2/ The land promise has been fulfilled in Christ, we look no longer to an earthly city but a heavenly one in which we are enrolled in now and will partake in at Christ’s return.

3/ There is a bigger picture than a receiving of an earthly location as an inheritance but a heavenly nation is formed in Christ in which we harvest the benefits of through faith.

Thoughts on The Temple

15 Aug

The Temple

The temples destruction in 70AD signified the end of the old covenant. The Jews who now worship at the old temple are as people who are nursing a dead corpse. The destruction of the temple and its ruins are a sign to us that God cannot be contained in a temple made with hands. The temple in its glory once represented an old covenant life. The destroyed temple and raised Christ (living temple) now represent a new covenant of living.

 Luke 19:44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

The Romans in 70ADravaged the city of Jerusalem and the temple, just like Christ had forewarned, but the Jews didn’t recognise the true temple in front of their very eyes.

Mark13:1-8 

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

The signs that were to follow his warning to his disciples indicated the end of era. The end of the old covenant period would be marked by the destruction of the temple where no stone of its walls would be left upon another, never to be physically built again, but access to God would now be through faith, not through geographical location but through an embodied raised temple, namely Christ.

Issues of land

 Under the old covenant in the Old Testament Israel were to return to Jerusalem from exile to Gods holy city, where he dwelt in the temple. Under the new covenant God no longer dwells in a physical temple but dwells in creation. He is not confined to land or geography. Therefore the promises given to Abraham are fulfilled in Christ in that Abrahams seed, (that is Christ) Gods people of faith (not of ethnicity) are the Israel of God (Gal 6) who were once in exile (spiritual bondage) but now have direct access to God in his temple through Christ, not in a physical location but a heavenly one. An example from the New Testament would be the patriarchs in Hebrews 11 who looked for a heavenly country, not a physical location.

Nowhere in the New Testament is a solid basis for ethnic Israel to inherit a physical land. We must view the Old Testament through a New Testament lens which means viewing the Old Covenant through a New Covenant lens. Gods purpose is one of transformation and expansion to the nations and all of creation, (Mark 16:15) not one of confinement and limitation to an ethnicity or geography.

The meaning of Eternal Life

13 Aug

The meaning of eternal life

John 6:40

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

When we think about eternal life we often think of it in terms of a length of time, meaning forever, never ending etc. However I want to look at life from another perspective and to do so we will look at another scripture in John as follows:

John 10:10

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

The word eternal is not solely a description of how long a period of time is but more appropriately refers to “a quality of life”.

Martin Scott describes this further in his eschatology notes as follows:

“The adjective ‘eternal’ is the Greek word aionios which means ‘of the age’. Eternal life thus means life related not to this age but of the age to come. We have this life now – we do not simply have normal life but life of the coming age. We enjoy now what is a foretaste of what we will experience then in fullness. Eternal life is not then something that simply begins when we die.”

(http://3generations.eu/blog/eschatology-notes-2/eschatology-notes/3)

We can conclude therefore that God is pro-life in the here and NOW on earth, he is focused on bringing his life to earth as it is in heaven through his redeemed people. We have in part an affirmation of life now which will eventually result in an ultimate fulfilment of the fullness of life here on earth at his “parousia” (Christ’s return).

As described in John 10:10, the kingdom of darkness is attempting to steal life (quality) away from God’s people, but Christ has founded a Kingdom with himself at the centre channelling life in its fullness to his people.

1 Corinthians 15:20-25

20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For sinceby a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in [a]Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after thatthose who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to theGod and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.

This scripture suggests that the Kingdom in one shape or form is alive and active and will be subjected to God by His son at the consummation of the age.

Greek / Hebrew world views

Our society is largely affected by a Greek worldview or mind-set that can often have negative consequences when understanding God’s word.

A Greek mind-set is one of looking to escape the world i.e. the world being corrupt and evil can only be escaped, we cannot enjoy Gods kingdom until the second coming of Christ. Often we think of eternal life in terms of an experience after physical death where we are transported to heaven in which we stay forever (length of time).

Life – Death – Heaven/forever

However a Hebrew mindset is one of living the fullness of life here on earth now. Throughout the whole of the bible the direction is not from earth to heaven but heaven to earth. Jewish thinking is that of Gods kingdom coming to earth. Those who have died who are righteous will be raised at the end of the age and are currently in a waiting place in heaven.

Life – Death –end of the age/ Coming of the messiah – resurrection of the dead

These two worldviews can have a large influence on our view of God’s kingdom and his plan for the transformation of the earth. We are not seeking to escape the earth but we are to live in the fullness of life God has provided through his Kingdom that is in our midst now which will eventually reach its full establishment forever when Christ returns to rule over all.

So to summarise:

1/ eternal life has more meaning that that of a period of time. It is a quality of life.

2/ this must affect the way we act on earth in regards to God’s transforming Kingdom in the here and now. God is for the transforming of our world through us whilst looking forward to a completing/fulfilling of this work at his “parousia” (return).

2/ Greek and Hebrew worldviews influence the way we view Gods transforming kingdom and life here on earth in this present time/age. God wants this evil age to be influenced by His transforming Kingdom until Christ’s return when the fullness of the Kingdom is established. We are not looking to escape, but live life to the full (John 10:10).

The bigger picture of Creation

9 Aug

Christ’s redemptive work brings harmony to his father’s creation

The Jew and gentile are made one in Christ through his blood, the dividing wall has been broken down so that we become one new man. However this speaks of something even greater than Jew / gentile relations. It speaks of harmony within creation, which is Gods temple where he dwells. His purpose is not just to bring Jew and gentile together but something far greater, his plan of redemption is to bring creation back into alignment, to synchronise it with his purposes rather than mans. God not only brings down the wall that divided sacred and secular, he brought down the whole temple and made it irrelevant under a new covenant. Why because God cannot be contained in a temple with walls, his temple is his creation. The cross does not solely unite humanity, it reforms/realigns creation into its rightful place. Therefore this brings hope to our world rather than a longing to escape.

The bigger picture is creation not humanity, Israel or the church.

Israel were chosen to be lead stewards of God’s creation on earth. They were to be a light of stewardship, an example of good stewarding to the gentile nations. However Israel/humanity proved to be bad stewards. God therefore sent the creator / gardener to redeem the garden /creation and also the failed stewards of the garden. Humanity is one aspect of the much greater creation that had to be redeemed. We are now redeemed stewards in which the Gardner, that is Christ, lives within to bring his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

 Creation is God’s temple

God’s ultimate purpose is that He may fill the earth with His glory, “the earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it” (Psalm 24:1). Creation is redeemed for the sole purpose that he may fill it with his presence.

Creation is his temple. Acts 7:48-50:

48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:

49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool
.
What kind of house will you build for me?
says the Lord.
Or where will my resting place be?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?’

Ezekiel prophecies regarding the new covenant God will make with his people. Ezekiel 37:24-28:

24 “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. 25 They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will [a]place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. 27 My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. 28 And the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.”’”

God’s purpose is to dwell amongst his creation forever on earth. Ezekiel prophecy’s that Gods sanctuary/temple will be in our midst forever under the new covenant.

All that God has made he dwells in and with. He cannot be confined to a temple, to buildings made with hands. Mark 16:15 “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”. His purpose is that we steward the earth , proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ who redeems creation in order that it may be a sanctuary for God.

For those with dispensational theology regarding the rebuilding of the temple I would suggest that moving towards a rebuilding of an earthly temple made with hands is unbiblical in the light of the greatness of God and new covenant, he cannot be contained. God can only dwell within that which he has made.

Psalm 78:68-70

69 And He built His sanctuary like the heights,

Like the earth which He has founded forever.

God has founded the earth forever to be his tabernacle. His sanctuary as the psalmist declares is built like the heights. In other words there is no limit. “Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool”. His tabernacle is not temporary like temples made by man, it is eternal, designed to be a dwelling place for an eternal God.

Achievement

6 Aug

Over the past week we have seen some awe inspiring athletes compete in one of the greatest athletic events, the Olympics. As I watched Andy Murray on Sunday I was on the edge of my seat waiting in anticipation and excitement for him to beat Roger Federer to win the Olympic gold tennis tournament in Wimbledon at the London 2012 games. Andy’s last winning serve led the crowd into a roar of celebrations, after years of gruelling, long, hard, rigorous work, he had finally achieved his goal. In his own words “It’s number one for me,” he told BBC1. “The biggest win of my life. What an achievement for one man.

As he received the gold medal in splendor I couldn’t help but begin to look at my own life, “What have I ever achieved?” Have I achieved anything worthwhile?” “Why can’t I be talented or at least achieve something decent?”

Pondering further it dawned on me that I was thinking not from a Godly perspective but from a self motivated desire. My desire to achieve, to be something or someone, to be different from the average Joe is influenced by a longing to be recognized, to receive glory and if you will accept the root of which is a want to be worshiped.

When Christ chose his disciples he chose those who were the rejects of society or more to the point, ordinary. They were mere men who had not made it as educated Rabbis, they were seen as unimportant and irrelevant. Their jobs were that of what we may deem today as working class. The point is that Jesus doesn’t look for those who have made it, who have achieved great things, but he comes for the weak, the ugly, the unintelligent, those who have missed the mark.

So what am I saying? God wont chose Andy Murray to be his disciple because he has achieved great things? No, in the gospels and throughout the whole of scripture it is clear to see God is impartial, The whole message of the gospel and the issue I want to hopefully relay is that God doesn’t choose on the basis of our works, rich or poor, weak or strong. The message I believe Jesus conveys to us through his choosing of the disciples is that the requirement of being part of his Kingdom is not based on achievement or whether I have done right or wrong but on the basis of his choosing alone.

John 15:16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

This I believe gives us great hope. This unbiased impartial God speaks to us of his unconditional love, something that can be a rarity in today’s society. We have no need to prove ourselves or work up some kind of achievement to be accepted.

This revelation of the Kingdom also destroys our self glory/worship. The Kingdom is divine with only one King over all, namely Christ. Our achievements pale into insignificance at the sight of Jesus’ achievement on the cross. This gives me rest in my soul to know that despite me missing the mark, not being good enough and those works which are good, even those are rubbish in the light of the accomplishments of the cross.

Paul’s journey in Christ is a great example:

Philippians 3:1-14

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Is achievement wrong?

For me to suggest that achieving something is all about self would be wrong. Achievements should rightly be celebrated. The Olympics has highlighted fantastic talent and hard work and has hopefully inspired many young people to continue in the athletes footsteps. However I would suggest that our longing to achieve can be influenced by wrong motives. Achievement in itself is not wrong, what leads us to achieve is that which must be questioned.  We must look into our hearts to make sense of our motives, to ask ourselves “Am I doing this out of a need for recognition or am I doing this to bring glory to God?” When the answer is for self, come to Christ who is our advocate and ask him to deal with the wrong motive. When it is to glorify God, ask him to multiply and increase the pure motive.

God is continually bringing those in Christ to the end of themselves. Why? His main purpose is that He, The King may be rightfully worshiped. When we want the “I” in us to be worshiped we deflect God’s deserved praise to our undeserved selves. When we are brought to the end of ourselves, there is no more “I” to be praised but only glory can be credited to God.

So I encourage you to look at your motives. What motivates you? Have you achieved lots? Lay it at the cross. Have you achieved little? Know that you are accepted and not rejected.

May God continue to bring us to the end of ourselves to live a life that reflects Gods true nature and brings him glory.

The Nations, Israel and Christ

1 Aug

The bigger picture

There was a much bigger picture than Israel, namely the nations. God declares in Isaiah 49:6 that it was too small a thing for His servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the preserved of Israel, but He would also make Him a light of the nations so that Gods salvation would go to the end of the earth.

Israel Not forgotten

This does not mean that God had forgotten Israel as verse 14 – 17 reads, “But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, And the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. “Behold I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands; your walls are continually before me.”

Israels failure

God declared He would redeem Israel through His servant (Isaiah 49:5) who would bring back Jacob to God, in order that Israel might be gathered to God. However, he would not only redeem Israel but the nations. Israel had failed to be a light to the nations as God had commanded them (Genesis 18:17-18, 12:3). They had failed to fulfil their great commission to bless the nations and reveal God’s righteousness (Isaiah 48:18-19).

Christ becomes the centre

Gods servant, namely the messiah became the focal point, the one who would not only redeem Israel but the nations, so that all men whether Jew or gentile would be saved through Messiah (scripture). Not of works so that no man may boast (Ephesians).

Christ fulfills all promises (the gentiles grafted in)

God grafts the gentiles in so that “salvation may reach to the end of the earth” and Israel is therefore enlarged as a result. Christ fulfils the promises given to Abraham that in him that “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed”, his descendants become like the sand and offspring like grain. In Abrahams seed (Genesis 22:18) that is Christ (Galatians 3:16), all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.

Christ redeems Israel

Christ is sent to the house of Israel to redeem her through the cross and a new commission (or previous commission made able by Christ) is given to Israel (disciples, the Israel of God – Galatians 6:16), Abrahams descendants (Galatians 3:29), through Christ (Abrahams seed) to be witnesses to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6, Matthew 28:16-20).

This was also spoken of beforehand by the prophet Isaiah in chapter 43:8-13 where he says that “all the nations have gathered together” (Pentecost). God then declares “you are My witnesses” (Acts 1:8) “and My servant whom I have chosen, in order that you know and believe me, and understand that I am he.” Christ chose the disciples (one new man, the commonwealth of Israel) similarly as God had chosen OT Israel to witness that He is the only true God.

This does not mean Israel is replaced; it is expanded in Christ by adding nations/gentiles into its commonwealth.

To make Israel or the Jews centre would be wrong. To emphasise one group or race over another is anti-Christ. Hitler’s Arian race would be one example of an attempt to glorify one race over another. Our goal and focus must be on the centrality of Christ. This does not mean Israel has no importance in history, present time or future. Without the Jews there would be no salvation for “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).

Christ is Israel

To emphasise Israel or to emphasise the church (with a motive to replace Israel) can often separate the God of Israel and Christ. Christ however is the God of Israel and if you will accept, Christ is Israel (Isaiah 49:3). For Christ is Abrahams seed, he is God’s promise who fills and fulfils all things.

Dr Constable’s commentary on Isaiah 49:3 describes Israel and the Messiah as follows:

Yahweh called His Servant Israel. Israel would indeed prove to be an instrument of God by which He demonstrated His glory, but in the context, the Servant appears to be an individual. Messiah was Israel, in that, He was the personal embodiment of ideal Israel, what the nation should have been but never attained. Furthermore, He was the Prince with

God that neither the nation nor its namesake ever fully became. When God referred to His Servant as Israel He was referring to the Servant’s function, not His identity. Throughout this book we have seen that the nation Israel was not able to carry out her function of being a light to the nations because she was blind, deaf, and rebellious. God would provide an individual to do what the nation had failed to do.

“Faced with Israel’s failure, God does not wipe out the nation; he simply devises another way in which Israel’s servanthood could be worked out: through the ideal Israel.”

(Dr. Constable, http://www.soniclight.com)

Hosea and Matthew provide further evidence for Christ being Israel:

Hosea 11:1 1 When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.

Then Matthew directly quotes Hosea:

Matthew 2:13-15 13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”

14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.”

Israel (the nation) is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end which is the Messiah. Israel therefore is a means to Christ. Similarly as the Law leads and points us to Christ so does Israel. Israel is not ended in Christ, Israel is fulfilled in Him for Christ is Israel. He is the fulfilment of all that Israel was called to be.