Should Christians Keep the Jewish Law/Torah

Gabriel Was Not A Trinitarian: Recovering the Biblical Son of God

 

Gabriel Was Not A Trinitarian:

Recovering the Biblical Son of God

Anthony Buzzard

Churchmen of all stripes frequently complain about disunity among Christians. The current ecumenical movement attempts to neutralize contemporary denominational divisions and contentions by promoting elements of faith on which all believers in Christ can agree. The question is, Does such a version of faith, an irreducible minimum which everyone approves, reflect the "faith once and for all delivered to the saints" Gude 3), which Jude saw slipping away even in the first century?

If churchmen desire a common meeting point for differing denominations, why should they not consider with all seriousness the classic words of Gabriel delivered to Mary? When angels speak they are concise and logical. Each of their words must be carefully weighed and every ounce of information extracted. Re­plying to Mary's very reasonable objection that she was as yet unmarried, Gabriel declared, "holy spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, and for that reason indeed (dio kai) the holy child to be begotten will be called Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

I suggest that this Christological statement from the angel Gabriel be taken as the basis for identifying who Jesus is. It should be understood as a clarion call for unity, a rallying point for divided Christendom. What better way of calling Christians back to their first century roots?

The message is simple and clear. The Son of God of Gabriel's announcement is none other than a divinely created Son of God, coming into existence, begotten - as Son in his mother's womb. All other claimants to divine Sonship and Messiahship may safely be discounted. A "Son of God" who is the natural son of Joseph could not, on the evidence of Gabriel, be the Messiah. Such a person would not answer to the Son who is son on the basis of a unique divine intervention in the biological chain. Equally false to Gabriel's defini­tion of the Son of God would be a son who preexisted his conception. Such a son could not possibly corre­spond to the Messiah presented by Gabriel, one whose existence is predicated on a creative act in history on the part of the Father.

Gabriel does not present a Son of God in transition from one state of existence to another. He an­nounces the miraculous origin and beginning of the Messiah (cp. Matt. 1:18, 20: "the origin [Gk. Genesis] of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High God." The later concept of the Incarnation of a preexisting "eternal Son" cannot possibly be forced into the mold revealed by Gabriel. A preexistent Person who decides to become a man reduces himself, shrinks himself, in order to adopt the form of a human embryo. But such a Person is not conceived or begotten in the womb of a woman. He merely passes through that womb, adopting a new form of existence.

Begin at The Beginning

Conception and begetting mark the point at which an individual begins to exist, an individual who did not exist before! It is this non-preexisting individual whom Gabriel presents in the sacred documents for our recep­tion. This Son of God, of Scripture as opposed to later church tradition, is a Son of God with a history in time only, not in eternity.

Following his marvelous promise that the Mes­siah would be the seed of Eve (Gen. 3:15), a prophet like Moses arising in Israel (Deut. 18:15-19) and the descendant by bloodline of David (2 Sam. 7:14), God, in a precious moment of history, initiated the history of His unique Son. This was a Son through whom God expressly did not speak in previous times (Heb. 1:2). Naturally enough, since that prophesied Son was not then alive!

Only a few pages later Luke traces the lineage of Jesus, Son of God, back to Adam who likewise is called Son of God (Luke 3:38). The parallel is striking and immensely informative. Just as God by divine fiat cre­ated Adam from the dust as Son of God, so in due time He creates within the womb of a human female the one who is the supernaturally begotten Son of God. It is surely destructive of straightforward information and revelation to argue that the Son of God did not have his origin in Mary but as an eternal Spirit. This is to dehumanize the Son - to make him essentially non-human, merely a divine visitor disguised as a man.

Luke presents Jesus as Son of God related to God in a parallel fashion to Adam (Luke 3:38). The attentive reader of Scripture will hear echoes of Israel as Son of God (Ex. 4:22; Hos. 11:1) and Davidic kings (Ps. 2). Like Israel before him, Jesus, the Son of God, goes through water to begin his spiritual journey (Luke 3:21; cp. Exod. 14, 15). In the wilderness and un­der trial Jesus proves himself to be the obedient Son unlike Israel who failed in the wilderness (Exod. 14-17; 32-34; Num. 11).

The whole story is ruined if another dimension is added to the story, namely that the Son of God was already a preexisting member of an eternal Trinity. Gabriel has carefully defined the nature of Jesus' Sonship and his words exclude any origin other than a supernatural origin in Mary.

Gabriel's Jesus, Son of God - the biblical Son - originates in Mary. He is conceived and begotten by miracle. In preexistence Christology, the main plank of Trinitarianism, a conception/begetting in Mary's womb does notbring about the existence of God's Son. According to Gabriel it does. Neither Gabriel nor Luke could possibly have been Trinitarians.

The Angel Says...

No need for centuries of complex wrangling over words. All that is required is belief of the angelic communication: "For this reason precisely (dio kai)-the creative miracle of God through His divine power - the child will be Son of God." For no other reason, for this reason only. (Note the very watered-down rendering of the NIV, "so the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.") Jesus as Son of God is "the Son of the Most High" (Luke 1:32; 8:28). Christians are also given this title, "sons of the Most High" (Luke 6:35; cp. Ps. 82:6). Jesus' royal Sonship is established by his miraculous begetting. That of the Christians origi­nates with their rebirth or regeneration.

As the center of a new ecumenism the simple truth about the identity and nature of Christianity's central figure has the backing of those many scholars who know well that neither Luke nor Matthew show any sign of believing in a prehuman eternal Son of God of the post-biblical creeds. Raymond Brown's magisterial treatment of the birth narratives in his Birth of the Messiah makes a major point of the fact that neither Matthew nor Luke believed in the Incarnation of a pre-human, prehistoric Son.

Commenting on Luke 1:35, "therefore," Raymond Brown says, "of the nine times dio kai occurs in the New Testament, three are in Luke/ Acts. It involves a certain causality and Lyonnet (in his L'Annonciation, 61.6) points out that this has embarrassed many orthodox theologians since in preexistence Christology a conception by the holy spirit in Mary's womb does not bring about the existence of God's son. Luke is seemingly unaware of such a Christology; conception is causally related to divine Sonship for him. . .And so I cannot follow those theologians who try to avoid the causal con­notation in the 'therefore' which begins this line, by arguing that for Luke the conception of the child does not bring the Son of God into being."

Raymond Brown insists that according to Luke, 'We are dealing with the begetting of God's Son in the womb of Mary through God's creative spirit." All "Orthodoxy" derived from later Church Councils has to turn a blind eye to Gabriel's defini­tion of the Son of God. It contradicted Gabriel by denying that the conception of Jesus brought about his existence as Son of God.

This is a very serious issue. Is the Jesus of the creeds, the Jesus under whose umbrella churches gather, really the created Son authorized by Scripture in Luke 1:35 and Matthew 1:18, 20?

Again, the exhaustive work of Brown on the birth narratives brings us the important fact that the Jesus of the Gospels is quite unlike the "eternally begotten" Son of the later creeds:

"Matthew and Luke press [the question of Jesus' identity] back to Jesus' conception. In the commentary I shall stress that Matthew and Luke show no knowledge of preexistence; seemingly for them the conception was the becoming (begetting) of God's Son (p". 31).

"The fact that Matthew can speak of Jesus as 'begotten' (passive of gennan) suggests that for him the conception through the agency of the Holy Spirit is the becoming of God's Son. [In Matthew's and Luke's 'conception Christology'] God's creative action in the concep­tion of Jesus begets Jesus as God's Son...There is no suggestion of an Incarnation whereby a figure who was previously with God takes on flesh. For preexistence Christology [Incarnation], the conception of Jesus is the beginning of an earthly career but not the begetting of God's Son. [Later] the virginal conception was no longer seen as the begetting of God's Son, but as the incarnation of God's Son, and that became orthodox Christian doc­trine. This thought process is probably already at work at the beginning of the second century" (pp. 140-142).

Do we really believe the words of the Bible or has our tradition made it difficult to hear the text of Scripture without the interfering voices of later tradi­tion? There is the constant danger for us believers that the words of the Bible can be drowned out by the clamorous and sometimes threatening words of ecclesi­astical teaching, which mostly goes unexamined. At stake here is the whole nature of the Savior. Is he really a human being, or did he have the benefit of billions of years of conscious existence before deciding to become a man? Is this latter picture anything more than a leg­endary addition to Apostolic faith?

Who Defines the Son of God?

The Son of-God, Messiah and Savior, is defined in precise theological terms by Gabriel, laying the foundation of the whole New Testament and fulfilling the promises of the Old. Christians should unite around that clear portrait of Jesus presented by Gabriel. Jesus is the Son of God on one basis only, his miraculous coming into existence in Mary's womb. This was God's creative act, initiating His new creation and providing the model of Christian Sonship for us all.

Though obviously we are not, like Jesus, brought into existence supernaturally, nevertheless we, like him, are to receive a supernatural birth from spirit being born again under the influence of the Gospel promise (Gal. 3:2; Eph. 1:13, 14; Rom. 10:17; Matt. 13:19; Luke 8:11, 12; 1 Pet. 1:23-25; James 1:18). The "divine" nature of Jesus has no other foundation than the stupendous miracle granted to Mary and to humanity. A Jesus who claims to be Son of God for any other reason should be rejected. A natural son of Joseph cannot qualify as the Messiah, nor can a per son whose existence did not originate in his mother's womb by a divine creative miracle.

The constitution of Jesus as the unique Son of God is given its basis by the superb words of Gabriel in Luke 1:35. This definition of the Messiah, Son of  God, should be allowed to stand. It was later, post-biblical tradition which interfered with the definitive, revealing statement of Gabriel. Once Jesus was turned into a preexisting Son of God who gave up one conscious existence for another, Christology immediately became problematic (as witnessed by the centuries of disputes, excommunications, and fierce dogmatic decisions of Church Councils).

A Son of God who is already Son of God before his conception in his mother is a personage essentially non-human. Under that revised scheme what came into existence in Mary was not the Son of God at all, but a created human nature added to an already existing Person. But Gabriel describes the creation of the Son of God himself, not the creation of a human nature added to an already existing Son. The two models are quite different.

No Contradiction

Some may object that John 1:1ff ("in the beginning was the Word. ..") present us with a second Personage who is alive before his conception. If that it is to be argued, let it be clear that John would then be in contradiction of Luke and Matthew. Matthew's and Luke's Jesus comes into existence as the Son of God, not in eternity, but some six months later than his cousin John the Baptist.

John cannot have contradicted Luke and Mat­thew. The solution is to harmonize John with Luke, taking our stand with Luke. John did not write, "In the beginning was the Son of God." What he wrote was "In the beginning was the word” (not Word, but word).

Logos in Greek does not describe a person before the birth of the Son. The logos is the self-expressive intelligence and mind of the One God. Logos often carries the sense of plan or promise. That promise of a Son was indeed in the beginning.

The Son, however, was still the object of the promise in II Samuel 7:14. David did not imagine that the promised Son of God ("My Son"), David's descendant, was already in existence! That Son was in fact begotten in due time. He was "raised up" - that is, made to appear on the scene of human history - when Mary conceived him. Acts 13:33 applies "this day I have begotten you" (Ps. 2:7) to the origin of the Son in his mother.

F.F. Bruce agrees with us:

God "raised up" Jesus "in the sense in which he raised up David (Acts 13:22, cp. 3:22, 7:37). The promise of Acts 13:23, the fulfillment of which is here described [v. 33], has 'to do with the sending of Messiah, not his resurrection which is described in verse 34" (Acts of the Apostles, Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary, p. 269).

The word, plan and promise which existed from the beginning was also "with God." In the wisdom literature of the Bible things are said to be "with God" when they exist as decrees and promises in His divine Plan Job 27:13; 10:13; 23:14). Wisdom was also "with God" (Prov. 8:22,30) in the beginning but she was not a person. Neither was the logos a person, but rather a promise and plan. So closely identified with God was His word that John can say "the word was God." The word was the creative purpose of God, in promise and later in actuality. That creative presence of God eventually emerged in history as the Son of God begotten in Mary, the unique Son (monogenes).

Forcing John

A number of unfortunate attempts have been made to force John not only into contradiction with the clear Christology of Matthew and Luke but into agreement with the much later decisions of Church Councils. There is no capital on "word" in John 1:1, a, b, and c. And there is no justification for reading "All things were made through Him." That rendering improperly leads us to think of the word as a second divine Person, rather than the mind and promise of God.

Eight English translations before the KJV did not read "All things were made by Him." They read "All things were made by it," a much more natural way of referring to the word of God. Thus, for example, the Geneva Bi­ble of 1602: "All things were made by it and without it was made nothing that was made." No one reading those words would imagine that there was a Son in heaven before his birth. And no one would find in John a view of the Son different from the portrait presented by Gabriel in Luke.

Christian tradition from the second century embarked on an amazing embellishment of the biblical story which obscured Jesus' Messianic Sonship and humanity. Once the Son was given a pre-history as coequal and co-essen­tial with his Father, the unity of God was threatened and monotheism was compromised, though every effort was made to conceal this with the protest that God was still one, albeit no longer one Person, the Father, but one "Essence," comprising more than one Person. But this was a dangerous shift into Greek philosophical catego­ries alien to the New Testament's Hebrew theology and creeds (cp. John 17:3; 5:44; Mark 12:28ff).

Several other "adjustments" became necessary under the revised doctrine of God. John was made to say in certain other verses what he did not say. This trend is well illustrated by the New International Version in John 13:3,16:28 and 20:17. In none of these passages does the original say that Jesus was going back to God. In the first two Jesus spoke of his intention to "go to the Father" and in the last of his "ascending" to his Father. The NIV embellishes the story by telling us that Jesus was going back or returning to God.

A Son whose existence is traced to his mother's womb cannot go back to the Father, since he has never before been with the Father.

In John 17:5 Jesus spoke of the glory which he "had" before the foundation of the world. But in the same context (vv. 22 and 24) that same glory has already "been given" (past tense) to disciples not yet born at the time when Jesus spoke.

It is clear then that the glory which both Jesus and the disciples "had" is a glory in promise and prospect. Jesus thus prays to have conferred on him at his ascension the glory which God had undertaken to give him from the foundation of the world. John speaks in Jewish fashion of a preexisting Purpose, not a preexisting second Per­son. Our point was well expressed by a distinguished Lutheran New Testament professor, H.H. Wendt (The System of Christian Teaching, 1907):

"It is clear that John 8:58 ['Before Abraham was I am'] and 17:5 do not speak of a real preexistence of Christ. We must not treat these verses in isolation, but understand them in their context.

"The saying in John 8:58, 'Before Abraham came to be, I am' was prompted by the fact that Jesus' opponents had countered his remark in v. 51 by saying that Jesus was not greater than Abraham or the prophets (v. 52). As the Messiah commissioned by God Jesus is conscious of being in fact superior to Abraham and the prophets. For this reason he replies (according to the intervening words, v. 54ff) that Abraham had 'seen his day,' i.e., the entrance of Jesus on his historical ministry, and 'had rejoiced to see' that day.

"And Jesus strengthens his argument by adding the statement, which sounded strange to the Jews, that he had even been 'before Abraham' (v. 58). This last saying must be understood in connection with v. 56. Jesus speaks in vv. 55, 56 and 58 as if his present ministry on earth stretches back to the time of Abraham and even before. His sayings were per­ceived by the Jews in this sense and rejected as non­sense.

"But Jesus obviously did not (in v. 56) mean that Abraham had actually experienced Jesus' appearance on earth and seen it literally. Jesus was refer­ring to Abraham's spiritual vision of his appearance on earth, by which Abraham, at the birth of Isaac, had foreseen at the same time the promised Mes­siah, and had rejoiced at the future prospect of the greater one (the Messiah) who would be Israel's descendant.

"Jesus' reference to his existence before Abraham's birth must be understood in the same sense. There is no sudden heavenly preexistence of the Messiah here: the reference is again obviously to his earthly existence. And this earthly existence is precisely the existence of the Messiah. As such, it was not only present in Abraham's mind, but even before his time, as the subject of God's foreordina­tion and foresight.

"The sort of preexistence Jesus has in mind is 'ideal' [in the world of ideas and plans]. In accordance with this consciousness of being the Messiah preordained from the beginning, Jesus can indeed make the claim to be greater than Abraham and the prophets.

"In John 17:5 Jesus asks the Father to give him now the heavenly glory which he had with the Father before the world was. The conclusion that because Jesus possessed a preexistent glory in heaven he must also have preexisted personally in heaven is taken too hastily. This is proven by Matt. 6:20 ('Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven'), 25:34 ('Come, you blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'), Col. 1:5 ('the hope which is laid up for you in heaven about which you heard in the word of Truth, the Gospel'), and I Pet. 1:4 ('an inheri­tance incorruptible, and undefiled, which does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you').

"Thus a reward can also be thought of as pre-existent in heaven. Such a reward is destined for human beings and already held in store, to be awarded to them at the end of their life. So it is with heavenly glory which Jesus requests. He is not asking for a return to an earlier heavenly condition. Rather he asks God to give him now, at the end of his work as Messiah on earth (v. 4), the heavenly re­ward which God had appointed from eternity for him, as Messiah. As the Messiah and Son he knows he has been loved and foreordained by the Father from eternity (v. 24). Both John 8:58 and 17:5 are concerned with God's predetermination of the Messiah" (cp. Teaching of Jesus, pp. 453-460).

Note: Things which are held in store as divine plans for the future are said to be "with God." Thus in Job 10:13 Job says to God, "These things you have concealed in your heart: I know that this is with You" (see KJV). "He performs what is appointed for me, and many such decrees are with Him" Gob 23:14).

Thus the glory which Jesus had "with God" was the glory which God had planned for him as the de­creed reward for his Messianic work now completed. The promise of glory "preexisted," not Jesus himself.

Note that this same glory which Jesus asked for has al­ready been given to you ( see John 17:22, 24). It was given to you and Jesus whom God loved before the foundation of the world (v. 24; cp Eph. 1:4). You may therefore say that you now "have" that glory although it is glory in promise and prospect, to be gained at the Second Coming. Jesus had that same glory in prospect before the foundation of the world John 17:5).

Paul can say that we now "have" a new body with God in heaven (II Cor. 5:1) - i.e., we have the promise of it, not in actuality. That body will be ours at our resurrection at the return of Christ. We now "have" it in anticipation and promise only. ('We have a building of God..." II Cor. 5:1). We do not in fact have it yet. This is the very Jewish language of promises decreed by God. They are absolutely certain to be fulfilled.

Sir Anthony Buzzard was born in Surrey England and educated at Oxford University. He holds Master's degrees in languages and theology and presently teaches at Atlanta Bible College. He has authored numerous books and articles including The Doctrine if the Trinity: Christianity's Self-inflicted Wound. In 1996 he was a nominee for the Templeton Prize for progress in religion. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Copyright © 2012 Covenant House One. All rights reserved.

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The Faith of Jesus

 

The Faith of Jesus

By Robert Hach

The New Testament (NT) writers call their readers to believe-to have faith "in" Jesus, specifically in regard to his being God's Anointed (Hebrew, Mashiach, or Messiah; Greek:, Christos, or Christ: the one whom God anointed to rule God's kingdom), who died for the sins of all and whom God raised from the dead and exalted to God's right hand. This is common knowledge among all who profess to be Christians.

What is far less well known, however, is that key texts in the letters of the apostle Paul explain that the righteousness of God-a righteousness of faith that includes the forgiveness of sins and the hope of salvation-becomes the possession of believers not due to their own faith in Jesus but due to the faith of Jesus himself.

The NT Jesus is, therefore, not only the object of NT faith but also the source, as well as the model, of NT faith. Which is simply to say that to believe in Jesus is to believe what Jesus believed and, therefore, sought to persuade others to believe: "the gospel of the kingdom of God" (Luke4:43). The faith of Jesus is often, by Paul, called "the gospel of Christ" (Rom.15:19), by which he meant the proclamation not only about Jesus but also by Jesus, confirmed by the reference of his Roman doxology to "my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ" (Rom. 16:25).

This means that faith that is in the NT Jesus is faith that comes from the NT Jesus. To have faith in the NT Jesus, then, is to take the faith of Jesus as one's own.

Paul's Testimony to the Faith of Jesus

English NT versions typically render Paul's references to the righteousness of God and the faith of Jesus-in Romans 3:22 and 26; in Galatians 2:16 (twice) and 3:22; and in Philippians 3:9-as faith "in" Jesus. Concerning these texts, translators have been forced to choose between "in" and "of' due to the absence of any preposition between the words "faith" (Greek, pistis) and "Jesus" (Greek, Iesous)and/or "Christ" (Greek, Christos) in the original language. (The original language is pisteos Iesou Christou in Rom. 3:22 and Gal 3:22; pisteos Iesou in Rom. 3:26; pisteos Christou Iesou in Gal. 2:16a; and pisteos Christou in Gal. 2: 16c and Phil. 3 :9; also, in Eph. 3: 12 appears pisteos autou, which is typically rendered "faith in him" but may also be rendered "his faith," that is, the faith of Jesus).

The original language allows for either "in" (objective genitive) or "of" (subjective genitive) as possible translations, meaning that immediate context must determine which preposition is the more likely.English versions typically insert "in" rather than "of:' at least partly in view of other "faith" texts in which the preposition "in" (Greek, eis or en) actually does appear in the original language (for examples, John 3:16 and Gal. 2:16b and 3:26, though Gal. 3:26 may also be translated "sons of God in Christ through the faith," that is, the faith of Christ).

Probably weighing even more heavily against a decision by English NT translation committees to render Paul's testimony to the faith ofJesus has been the Trinitarian bias of ecclesiastical translators, whose "Jesus" would have had no need for his own faith in God since he himself was "God in the flesh" and "the second Person of the Godhead." The classic expression of this Trinitarian viewpoint carne from the Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas, who wrote that "from the moment of conception Christ had the full vision of the very being of God ... Therefore he could not have had faith."]

However, adding the preposition "of' rather than "in" to those texts in which no preposition appears becomes the more compelling alternative when the texts under consideration are compared to Paul's reference in Romans to "the faith of Abraham" (Rom.4:16). In this case, also, no preposition appears between the words "faith" and "Abraham" (Greek, pisteos Abraau.All English NT versions naturally render the phrase "the faith of Abraham" because "faith in Abraham" would not make sense.

The fact that Paul's subject is "the righteousness of God" in all the texts which refer to pisteos lesou orpisteos Christou, as well as in his single reference to "the faith of Abraham" (pisteosAbraau) makes rendering the relevant texts in terms of the faith "of' rather than faith "in" Jesus even more probably correct. A consideration of the relevant texts in Romans 3 and 4 supports this conclusion.

First, Paul referred to "the righteousness of God through [Greek, dia] the faith of Jesus Christ [Greek, pisteos Iesou Christou] to [Greek, eis] all who believe" (Rom. 3:22). That is to say, "all who believe" in Jesus receive "the righteousness of God" by means of "the faith of Jesus." Most English NT versions suffer from redundancy by making Paul say that "the righteousness of God" comes "through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" in Jesus. What is the difference between God's righteousness coming through faith in Jesus and coming to believers in Jesus? This rendering makes Paul repeat himself in two successive prepositional phrases.

Instead, for Paul, the faith of Jesus is the medium through which God's righteousness comes to believers in him, that is, to those whose faith is informed by and modeled after Jesus' faith.

Second, Jesus' death on the cross serves "to show [God's] righteousness at the present time, that [God] should be just and justifying the one of the faith of Jesus" (Rom. 3:26, the Greek words rendered "righteousness" and "just" and 'justifying" are all part of the same word family). 1n other words, God justifies-counts as righteous-all whose faith is "of' the faith of Jesus. To have faith in Jesus, then, is to take the faith of Jesus as one's own, so that the righteousness of God working in Jesus' faith, shown especially in his crucifixion, comes to a who are "of' his faith."

Paul's reasoning in regard to both "faith" and "righteousness" is dependent on a covenantal rather than a legal definition of righteousness and, therefore, of justification.

The legal (and, not coincidentally, the ecclesiastical and, therefore, the popular) definition of righteousness is God's obligation to his law: God has no choice but to justify the one who obeys and to condemn the one who disobeys his law. (Note that forgiveness is not an option for the God of legal righteousness: justifying sinners because Jesus paid for their sins is not the same as forgiving them in that forgiveness is, by definition, the cancellation of an unpaid debt; more on this below). By this legal definition, Jesus' righteousness was not a righteousness of, a justification by, faith but, rather, a righteousness of, a justification by, works.

Accordingly, the God of legal righteousness justifies sinners not because he forgives their sins but because of Jesus' obedience to the law and Jesus' payment for sins. This cannot be a matter of forgiveness because forgiveness is, by definition, the cancellation of an unpaid debt whereas God, according to the legal (and ecclesiastical) interpretation of the atonement, justifies sinners not because he has forgiven their sins but because he has been paid (or, according to the Trinitarian gospel, has paid himself by the blood of Jesus to justify them. Ecclesiastical Christianity's so-called (and misnamed) "forgiveness" comes after the legal justification, which itself excludes the possibility of real forgiveness in that God’s justification of sinners is equivalent to God's acceptance of Jesus' payment for their sins.

The same objection to the ecclesiastical theory of the atonement is expressed in The Racovian Catechism, the Socinian treatise on biblical unitarianism:

But to a free forgiveness, nothing is more opposite than ... the payment of an equivalent price. For where a creditor is satisfied, either by the debtor himself, or by another person on the debtor's behalf, it cannot with truth be said of him that he freely forgives the debt. 2

According to the ecclesiastical theory of the atonement, God's legal justice demanded payment for sins, and Jesus' blood provided payment so as to enable God to be legally just and, at the same time, to justify sinners legally . Since law, due to its demand for payment, is incapable of forgiveness (that is, of cancelingan unpaid debt), the ecclesiastical God of legaljustice is equally incapable of forgiveness. (This, I  surmise, is why too many adherents of ecclesiastical Christianity have been unable to receive God's forgiveness and, therefore, remain guilt-ridden).

The widespread belief that God's righteousness is a matter of law-keeping-and, therefore, came to Jesus through his obedience to the Mosaic law-ignores the definitive biblical text regarding the human reception of God's righteousness: "Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness" (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6). Just as was Abraham, Jesus was justified by faith in God's promise. Jesus was not righteous because he obeyed the Mosaic Law; instead, Jesus obeyed the Mosaic Law because he was righteous, that is, because he believed God's Abrahamic promise.

This interpretation accords with Paul's quotation of Habakkuk 2:4 as thematic for Romans: "The righteous one will live by faith" (Rom. 1: 17b). For Paul, Habakkuk 2:4 is arguably a Messianic prophecy: Jesus, as God's Anointed, is the prophesied and coming "righteous one" who would, therefore, "live by faith" and, in so doing, serve as the instrument through which God would justify believers. As Paul explains, and supports with the Habakkuk quotation, the gospel reveals "a righteousness of God from [Greek, ek] faith to [Greek, eis] faith" (Rom. 1:17a). That is to say, God's righteousness comes "from" the faith of Jesus "to" the faith of believers.3

And this interpretation accords with the covenantal (and biblical but largely unheard of) definition of righteousness: God's faithfulness to his promise (see Neh. 9:7-8; Rom. 3:3, 5; 1 John 1 :9), which conditions justification, therefore, on ongoing faith in the promise. According to the covenantal definition, Jesus' righteousness was a righteousness of, a justification by, faith in that Jesus believed God's promise to bless all nations in Abraham's seed (see Gen. 12:1-3; 18:18; Gal. 3:8)-believing himself to be Abraham's seed-and so was justified by faith.

Accordingly, God's justification of sinners is a matter of forgiveness in that, by forgiving sinners, God fulfilled his Abrahamic promise to bless all nations, showing himself to "be just [that is, faithful to his Abrahamic promise] and justifying [that is, counting as righteousness the faith of] the one of the faith of Jesus" (Rom. 3:26).

If the blood of Jesus played the role of paying God to justify sinners, the possibility of forgiveness (which, again, is the cancellation of an unpaid debt) would be excluded.

Instead, however, Jesus' blood plays the indispensable role of providing believers with the assurance of God's forgiveness: the assurance that God will, indeed, not hold their sins against them on the Day of Judgment (as if they were under law) but, instead, will welcome them into his everlasting kingdom. (Accordingly, unbelievers will perish not because God holds their sins against them, being obligated by his law to make them pay, but because of their unbelief regarding God's promise; just as the Covenantal definition of righteousness is faithfulness, so the covenantal definition of unrighteousness is unbelief.)

This assurance of God's forgiveness in the face of the coming Day of Judgment is a true reflection of the faith of Jesus, who faced the judgment of the cross with the assurance that his God and Father would raise him from the dead and exalt him to God's right hand in the coming kingdom. Accordingly, believers in Jesus face the Day of Judgment with the assurance of the faith of Jesus, in the righteousness of his faith, which they have taken as their own. (This is not a matter of "cheap grace" in that just as Jesus expressed his faith in loving service and sacrifice, so his faith persuades believers to behave accordingly.)

Therefore, God did not forgive sins because Jesus died on the cross; instead, Jesus died on the cross because God is forgiving, and so provided the blood of Jesus to believers as the "assurance" of his forgiveness (Heb. 10:22), the demonstration of God's "perfect love [which] casts out fear [of] punishment" (l John 4: 18).

Regarding the third faith-of text in Romans, God's "promise to Abraham and his seed ... through[Greek, dia] the righteousness of faith" (Rom. 4: 13) applies to "those who are of the faith of Abraham" (Rom. 4:16). So, Paul established the connection between Abraham's faith and Jesus' faith: The "righteousness [not of law but] of faith" – exemplified initially, and imperfectly, by Abraham, and exemplified finally, and perfectly, by Jesus-is the instrument through which God's Abrahamic promise was fulfilled and, therefore, comes to all who align their own faith with the faith of Abraham, whose faith was perfected by Jesus, Abraham's seed.

Paul's point that God's promise to bless all nations was given to "Abraham and his seed"-whom Paul made clear in his earlier letter to the Galatians "is Christ" (Gal 3:16)-is the key to understanding the relationship between "the faith of Abraham" and "the faith of Jesus." Just as God's righteousness came to Abraham through Abraham's faith in God's promise-to give Abraham a son, through whom God would make of Abraham a great nation, through which God would bless all nations (see Gen. 12:1-3; 15:1-6; 18:] 8; Gal 3:8)-and through Abraham's faith God's righteousness came to Israel, so God's righteousness came to Jesus through Jesus' faith in God's Abrahamic promise, and through Jesus' faith God's righteousness comes to believers of all nations.

Jesus, then, is the true "seed" of Abraham because he, just as Abraham before him, believed God's Abrahamic promise and so received God's righteousness. And just as Israel’s righteousness came through Abraham's faith in God's promise (and was eventually forfeited due to national unbelief/idolatry), so the righteousness of the international community of faith comes through Jesus' faith in God's promise to bless all nations in Abraham's seed.

The NT Jesus inaugurated the new covenant between God and all nations by believing God's Abrahamic promise to bless all nations through Abraham's seed. Jesus manifested his faith in God's promise by means of his proclamation of the good news of the kingdom of God, which led to his crucifixion at the hands of the religious (Jewish) and political (Roman) establishments (the "Church and State") of first-century Judea.

That is to say, because Jesus believed-was persuaded-that his good news of the kingdom of God constituted God's announcement of the fulfillment of God's Abrahamic promise to bless all nations, Jesus sought to persuade his hearers to believe the good news. And because the implicit internationalism of his good news of the kingdom (which would subsequently spread to all nations through his apostles) threatened the nationalism of both the Jewish and the Roman authorities, Jesus' message-his faith-led to his execution by crucifixion.

Jesus' proclamation and crucifixion, then, manifested his faith in the promise of God, who therefore vindicated Jesus (i.e., declared him righteous/faithful) by raising him from the dead and exalting him to God's right hand in the coming kingdom. And by doing so, God revealed that he would fulfill his Abrahamic promise to bless all nations by raising the international community of faith from death to life in the kingdom of God at Jesus' Parousia, at the end of the present age.

The Testimony of John's Gospel to the Faith of Jesus

While the Gospel of John does not, like Paul's letters, refer explicitly to the faith of Jesus, Jesus' faith is nowhere more clearly expressed than in Jesus' words according to John's Gospel.

Jesus' faith, according to John's Gospel, was informed by "the word" that God the Father revealed to him, and which Jesus came to fulfill. The perfect faith of Jesus is the sense in which "the word became flesh" (John 1: 14).

Jesus' references to his so-called "preexistence" were not the product of recollection, memories of his personal experience as "God the Son" with God the Father before time began. Instead, Jesus' knowledge of his "preexistence" was the product of revelation. That is, God the Father revealed to Jesus the Son through the Spirit the knowledge of Jesus' Messianic role in God's purpose from "the beginning" (John 1 : 1), and Jesus believed God's revelation. As a result, Jesus proclaimed his Messianic glory as existing in the foreknowledge of God before time began.

John's Jesus testifies to his heavenly "preexistence": "He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard ... " (John 3 :31-32). How did Jesus know that he had come "from heaven"? What had Jesus "seen and heard" that gave him this knowledge? The ecclesiastical interpretation is that Jesus' knowledge of his "preexistence" came from his recollection of his personal experience as the so-called "pre-incarnate Word," who existed as "God the Son" with God the Father before creation.

This interpretation, however, rejects Jesus' own explanation of his knowledge about his having come "from heaven": "For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for [God] gives the Spirit [to and through the Son] without measure" (John 3 :34). According to Jesus' own testimony, "the words of God" which Jesus spoke about his coming "from heaven" were given to him by "the Spirit." Which is to say that this knowledge was revealed to him by God. The Father gave the Son "the Spirit without measure" in the sense that Jesus received the complete revelation of God's purpose, the very heart of which was Jesus' Messianic role in God's purpose, a role that existed in "the word" from "the beginning" (John I: I).

What Jesus had "seen and heard," regarding his having come "from heaven," was not, therefore, his divine recollection of his personal experience as the so-called "preincarnate Word" (the way a human being remembers what she or he has "seen and heard" from personal experience). To the contrary, Jesus had "seen" the angelic visions and "heard" the angelic voices that were, throughout biblical history, the instrument of God's revelation through "the Spirit" to his human messengers. (Biblical angels are also called "spirits," signifying their revelatory function as messengers.) Whether in human form (see Gen. 18- 19; 32:22-32) or in the form of supernatural creatures (see Exo. 3: 1-6; Isa. 6; Eze. 1-2), angels appeared to God's human messengers and announced God's word to them so that God's human messengers could, in turn, proclaim God' s word to God's people.

The difference between Jesus and the messengers of God who preceded him was not that he, unlike them, "pre-existed" his birth as the "pre-incarnate Word." Instead, while Moses and the prophets had received God's revelation in various parts (see Heb. 1:1), Jesus received "the Spirit without measure" (John 3:34), that is, the fullness of "the word," revealing to him his role as God's Anointed One in God's purpose from "the beginning" (John 1 :1) as well as in God's promise in "the scriptures" (John5:39). Unlike the partial revelations of God received by Jesus' prophetic predecessors, the complete revelation Jesus received was about himself: the one whom God foreknew and foreordained from the beginning to redeem God's people.

Therefore, God's revelation about Jesus' heavenly "preexistence" as the purpose of God had come through "the Spirit" to Jesus, and through Jesus came to his apostles, who subsequently proclaimed to all nations the revelation of Jesus' Messianic role in God's purpose for his creation and in God's promise to his people.

Jesus' references to his so-called "preexistence," then, expressed not his memories of personal experience before the creation of the world but his faith in "the word," which God the Father had revealed to him through "the Spirit." Jesus' "preexistence," then, was not personal but prophetic,which is to say that Jesus "pre-existed" his birth in the form of "the word": the original purpose (and later the Abrahamic promise) of God for creation.

And so, when John's Jesus says, "before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58), he expresses his faith in "the word" that his coming-and, therefore, his existence-as God's Anointed was foreknown and foreordained not only "before Abraham was" but even before the world was created. And because of God's righteousness-that is, his faithfulness-whatever God purposes and promises, God foreknows and foreordains, which means that it constitutes a "pre-existent" reality from the instant God purposed it.

Likewise, when Jesus says, "And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed" (John 17:5), Jesus expresses his faith in "the word" that "the glory" that he will soon experience through his death and resurrection was purposed–and therefore existed as a foreknown and foreordained reality in the mind of God-"before the world existed."

This interpretation of Jesus' "preexistence"is consistent with the biblical definition of faith: "Now faith is the reality of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. II: I). Jesus believed that his "hoped for" glorification via resurrection from the dead and exaltation to God's right hand was "the glory I had with you before the world existed" (John 17:5). Which is to say that Jesus' "hoped for" glorification had been a "reality" since the beginning because God had foreknown and foreordained it, so that Jesus could ask the Father to "glorify me in your presence" through resurrection and exaltation "with the glory that I had with you before the world existed" (John 17:5). John's Jesus, then, speaks of his "hoped for" glorification as a pre-existent "reality" because God the Father purposed it in "the beginning."

In the case of Abraham, God's promise came with the words, "1 have made you the father of many nations" (Gen. 17:5; Rom. 4:17), centuries before Abraham actually became "the father of many nations." The faith of Abraham was his persuasion that his international fatherhood was as good as done-a "pre-existent" reality-because God had promised it.Which is to say that God's promise was a reality of faith for Abraham centuries before it became a reality of fact.

Likewise, Jesus' glorification through resurrection from the dead was a reality of faith for him before it occurred-in truth, for Jesus, his existence as the glorified Messiah had been a reality from "the beginning"-because God had purposed it and revealed that purpose to him through "the Spirit."Jesus' faith, therefore, was "the reality of things hoped for [specifically, his hoped-for glorification]" (Heb. II :la). And Jesus' faith was "the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1b): the evidence that God will indeed raise those of the faith of Jesus from death to everlasting life in the coming kingdom of God.

And so, though believers' salvation from death and entrance into the kingdom await the parousia of Jesus to raise the dead, judge the world and bring the kingdom, believers "were saved" (Rom.8:24), not when they believed or were baptized but when God raised Jesus from the dead. Believers have already entered "the kingdom of his beloved Son" (Col. I: 13), not when they believed or were baptized but when God exalted Jesus to his right hand in the coming kingdom.

Which is to say that believers in the NT gospel receive the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus. Accordingly, believers receive what God has promised, first, as a life-transforming reality of faith and then, at Jesus' Parousia, an eschatological reality effect.

This is the faith that the NT Jesus modeled and, therefore, that NT believers are called to receive through the NT proclamation of Jesus' gospel of the kingdom.

Receiving the Faith of Jesus

If believing in Jesus means receiving the faith of Jesus through hearing and believing the NT gospel, then the primary purpose of the study of scripture must, accordingly, be to identify and understand Jesus' faith, for the purpose of making Jesus' faith one's own.

Just as Paul summarized his gospel in terms of "faith, hope and love" (I Cor. 13: 13), so to receive Jesus' faith must mean to take Jesus' hope and Jesus' love as one's own.

Regarding hope, Jesus believed and so proclaimed "the gospel of the kingdom of God" (Luke 4:43) as the promise of the ultimate fulfillment of God's Abrahamic promise to bless all nations. The eschatological coming of God's kingdom was, therefore, both the objective hope toward which Jesus' faith pointed and the subjective hope that his faith planted and rooted in his own heart. While Jesus proclaimed the imminent coming of the kingdom with the words, "the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark I: 15), Jesus also acknowledged his own ignorance regarding the timing of the kingdom's arrival: "But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven,nor the Son, but only the Father" (Mark 13:32). Notwithstanding the difficulties for faith that the seeming delay of the kingdom's arrival may pose, Jesus' faith in God's promise of the Messiah's resurrection from the dead and exaltation to God's right hand in the coming kingdom stands as the coming-age hope of all who take the Messianic faith of Jesus as their own.

Regarding love, Jesus'faith in God's Abrahamic promise to bless all nations was expressed in a life of loving servanthood for the sake of his gospel of the kingdom. Jesus evidently saw no contradiction between God's revelation to him of his role as the Messianic Son of Man, the ruler of God's coming kingdom (see Dan. 7:13-14), and his role as God's suffering servant (see Isa. 53): "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Likewise, to receive the faith of Jesus is to believe as he believed in the love of God for all nations and, therefore, to love others as God in Christ has loved one and all.

Paul's letters (along with the other NT writings) are, indeed, best understood as instructions for believing readers to adopt and embrace the faith-and, therefore, the hope and love---of Jesus as their own: "For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything but only faith working through love" (Gal. 5 :5-6).

And so NT believers are called to run the same race of faith that was run by Jesus himself, "looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of the faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb, 12:2).

End Notes: 

I Quoted in Richard Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians3:1-4:11 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002), xlviii.

2 Thomas Rees, The Racovian Catechism (Indianapolis: Reprinted by Christian Educational Services,] 994), 305. 3

3 Douglas A. Campbell, "Romans 1 : 17: A Crux Interpretum for the [PistisChristent] Debate" (Journal of Biblical Literature,Summer 1994), 281,284. 4

Copyright © 2007 Robert Hach. All rights reserved.

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The Radical Deformation A Survey of the History of Dogma, Volume 1

The Radical Deformation

A Survey of the History of Dogma, Volume 1

Alex Hall

"Has a nation changed their gods, when they were not gods'? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit."

Jeremiah 2.11

Adolf von Harnack (1851-1931) wrote his History of Dogma between 1886-1898, motivated by a conviction that many of us share. His view was that the Lutheran tradition into which he was born, for all its being staunchly protestant, belonged to an as yet 'unfinished reformation'. Protestantism simply had not gone far enough in stripping back from the original person and teaching of Jesus the layers of dogma which, growing up around it, had eclipsed some of its most central aspects.

He believed that the process of the development of dogma could be understood historically without recourse to metaphysics and so the objects of his rigorous historical criticism were the sources, which document the development of what was to become eventually the dogma of the Orthodox Church. By delineating the process by which dogmas originate and develop, he sought to obtain a 'critical reduction of dogma', identifying and removing them. The remainder, by process of elimination, would be a fully reformed faith, a pure and authentic snapshot of the religious genius of Jesus.

Historical study for him was the means by which the church could be liberated from the chains of dogmatic Christianity. In this way she could, by means of history, overcome history. On account of this Harnack maintained that a historical knowledge is indispensable to Christian faith. How could any person attempting to understand Jesus, yet being ignorant of the history of the dogmatic development which has come to form the lens through which he is seen, not be destined to fall prey to it?

His thorough treatment of all the contemporary sources, historical analysis and scholarship accessible to him brought about great advances in the field, and earned him an enduring title as the 'prince of church history' among evangelicals.

The value of his work lies in the thorough account he provides of the profound metamorphosis, which took place between the writings of the New Testament and those of the 'church fathers'. I leave it to the reader's judgment as to whether or not he provides a sufficient foundation to support his weighty assertion that, by virtue of this, the task of reformation must be equally radical and far reaching.

This paper will confine itself to examining some of the broad themes that emerge from Volume 1 of The History of Dogma, in which Harnack's provides an account of the earliest period.

Introduction

Poles apart

With lightning speed an alternative and significantly different version of Jesus to the one presented in the New Testament was introduced to the church. The document is 2ml Clement. The verse reads: "If Christ the Lord who saved us, being first spirit, then became flesh, and so called us, in like manner also shall we in this flesh receive a reward (2nd Clement 9.5)[1]

The remark is made in pas ing, while the author is on his way somewhere else.”[2] Blink and you could miss it. Yet Harnack's comment on this short clause is that: "this is the fundamental, theological and philosophical creed upon which the whole Trinitarian and Christological speculations of the Church of the succeeding centuries are but it, and it is thus the root of the orthodox system of dogmatics., [3] The reason for this is that it presents a Jesus who existed as a personal spirit being before 'becoming flesh'.

Contrast this with what Harnack calls the 'classic passage' in which the original Jewish concept of the pre-existence of Jesus is to be found: "For he was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you." (1 Peter 1.20)

Of course, the issue at stake is not whether Jesus pre-existed but, rather, in what sense he did. On this point the Jewish conception, summed up by Peter and the Greek standpoint of Clement are, Harnack notes, "as wide apart as the poles."[4]

In 1 Peter, the key terms are proegnosmenos and phanerotheis. Understood this way, the birth of the Messiah was a transition from being 'fore-known' by God to being 'made-known' to men. But 2nd Clement presents this transition as the "assumption of flesh" of an already personally existent and ontologically distinct (i.e. other than human) being.

This, according to Harnack, has several undesirable consequences among which are the fact that it "threatens the monarchy [supremacy] of God", that it results in a "naive docetism"[5] on account of the fact that "the flesh [of Jesus], that is the human nature created by God, appears depreciated, because it was reckoned as something unsuitable for Christ, and foreign to him as a spiritual being."[6]

It also stands in contradiction to the synoptic birth narratives "The miraculous genesis of Christ in the Virgin by the Holy Spirit and the real pre-existence are of course mutually exclusive. At a later period, it is true, it became necessary to unite them in thought."[7] This tension became explicit later on"[8] For example, [In Justin] instead of the formula' Jesus was born of (ek) Mary,' is found the other, 'He was born through (dia) Mary.,,,[9] The miraculous conception was no longer considered to have any connection with the origin of the Son. Instead, he is a visitor from outside, passing 'through' the human race.

Between 1 Peter and 2nd Clement, a revolution had taken place. Perhaps this had something to with the different backgrounds of the two writers ...

"The main features of the message concerning Christ, of the matter of the Evangelic history, were fixed in the first and second generations of believers, and on Palestinian soil. But yet, up to the middle of the second century, this matter was in many ways increased in Gentile Christian regions ... at the beginning of the second century ... the old tradition was recast or rejected."[10]

The lost years

How did this happen? By what process? The answers to questions such as these can be difficult to find owing to the fact that this pivotal transitional period is shrouded in historical uncertainty.

"The greatest gap in our knowledge consists in the fact, that we know so little about the course of things· from about the year 61 to the beginning of the reign of Trajan [98]. The consolidating and remodeling process must, for the most part, have taken place in this period. We possess probably not a few writings , which belong to that period; but how are we to prove this? How are they to be arranged?

Here lies the cause of most of the differences, combinations and uncertainties; many scholars, therefore, actually leave these 40 years out of account, and seek to place everything in the first three decennia of the second century."[11]

Nevertheless, in spite of this there are some clear milestones- matters, which were undoubtedly of great consequence in bringing about the Christological developments, which were already well under way by the time 2nd Clement 9.5 made its abrupt appearance.

1)    Plucked up by the roots- The Church's break with the Synagogue

To begin with, it bears witness to a fundamentally different worldview from the Jewish one. A severance from the Jewish roots of the Christian faith is evidently already at an advanced stage.

"The Church doctrine of faith, in the preparatory stage, from the Apologists up to Origen, hardly in any point shows the traces, scarcely even the remembrance of a time in which the Gospel was not detached from Judaism. For that very reason it is absolutely impossible to understand this preparation and development solely from the writings that remain to us as monuments of that short earliest period."[12]

But what could have motivated the church to abandon her precious Jewish heritage?

It would not be entirely fair at this very early period to charge the Gentile churches with anti-Semitism and lay the responsibility for the break with Judaism on their shoulders alone. It was not a question of them jumping so much as being pushed.

According to the historian Flavius Josephus[13] (37-100 AD), in 62 AD a prominent leader of the Christian community in Jerusalem was killed, along with 'several others' by a group of Jews at the instigation of the High Priest Annas. The act resulted in his being deposed by King Agrippa. Josephus tells us that this person was none other than James the 'brother of Jesus'. This sent a message to the entire Christian community, which resulted in a slowing down of evangelism among Jews while at the same time the gospel was spreading rapidly among the Gentiles in the regions beyond Judaea,

Divisions were further deepened by the destruction of the temple in AD 70, which did more than just remove a natural meeting place between Jews and Jewish Christians. Though the Jews were expelled, the Christians had not joined in the revolt and so were soon allowed to resettle.

The Jewish leadership had to find somewhere else to go. Talmudic tradition tells us that the emperor Vespasian had previously given permission to Johanaan ben Zakkai to establish a Yeshiva in a place called Jabneh to the West of the city of Jarnnia. And so it was there that the Sanhedrin set up their new base of operations.

By 80 AD at the latest, the Yeshiva formally instituted the 'birkat ha-minim.' This was a curse on Christians contained in the 18 benedictions to be recited as part of the synagogue service."[14] It made it impossible for Christians or even sympathetic Jews to participate in the life of the synagogue without being easily detected.

This rift left an ideological vacuum:

"The separation from Judaism having taken place, it was necessary that the spirit of another people should be admitted."[15]

That the church was now set adrift is not sufficient to account for the radical transformation that its beliefs underwent. They can be explained only in the light of another, foreign, influence.

"The attempts at deducing the genesis of the Church's doctrinal system from the theology of Paul, or from compromises between apostolic doctrinal ideas, will always miscarry; for they fail to note that to the most important premises of the Catholic doctrine of faith belongs an element which we cannot recognize as dominant in the New Testament. viz., the Hellenic spirit."[16]

The Gentile world into which the gospel had gone out and enjoyed such success was dominated by Greek culture, philosophy and religion. This is what Harnack means by the 'Hellenic spirit'.

2)    Another spirit- The origins of Greek influence

To appreciate really how Greek thinking came to dominate the Roman Empire and, as a consequence, the regions surrounding Israel, it is necessary to reach back to a time long before even Jesus.

Over 300 years previous, Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) had overthrown the Persian Empire, conquering the lands around the Eastern Mediterranean as far as India. But his vision was to leave behind a legacy, which would outdo even these extraordinary military achievements. It was his desire to set up an empire in the hearts and minds of men by instilling a respect and desire for Greek culture in the peoples that he conquered.

He established numerous cities, -calling all of them Alexandria (A candidate for 'The Donald Trump of Antiquity' award?)- schools and cultural centers for the promotion of all things Greek, most significantly its language, culture and religion. By the time he died, aged only 33, he had effectively seen to it that the world would never be the same again. It would aspire to and be profoundly shaped by Greek ideals, excepting the more stubborn Palestinian Jews of whom Jesus was typical.

3)   When the fullness of the time was come ... The Graeco-Roman world was hungry for a new religion

But that world, which the Roman empire eventually inherited, was a rapidly changing one. Harnack outlines "the wholly changed conditions of the time" in the period subsequent to Cicero and Augustus.[17]

This brought about a "revival of religious feeling which embraced all classes of society”[18] and which the old religions were unable [0 satisfy. "The ideas of moral personality, conscience and purity" led to new emphases in which concepts of "repentance and of expiation and healing of the soul became of special importance. [19]

Moreover, people had learned to place value, not upon their whole selves but upon their 'soul’, (The juxtaposition itself hears witness to the sharp distinction between the Greek, versus Hebraic understanding of the word). They were disillusioned and weary with the world and longed to be released from it into a state of other-worldly bliss in a supramundane paradise."[20] They sought some religion or philosophy, which would offer them, in this very qualified sense, redemption. From now on, "no one could any longer be a God who was not also a saviour.”[21]

But the salvation of the Greeks was a different matter entirely to the 'salvation of the Jews,[22] so cherished by Jesus and his contemporaries. The latter did not seek escape from either their bodies or the world. They embraced God's material world as essentially good, though temporarily cursed, They looked forward to the 'age to come', a coming palingenesia, -regeneration or second-genesis- of the entire created order in which it would be returned to a pristine, edenic state and both suffering and evil would be forever banished.

The inability of the old pagan religions to satisfy the new requirements left the way open to anything that could. The result was that the Greco-Ronan world was eagerly searching for a religion to satisfy these emerging needs, but would only be ready to accept it based upon Greek presuppositions. The conditions were therefore ripe for Christianity to make her debut and be well received, though not necessarily on her own terms.

4)    Alexander would have been so proud - Egyptian Judaism

A similar dynamic had already been operative for some time in a Southern region of the empire. There the enterprise of mixing the Jewish religion with Greek philosophy bad already been undertaken and developed to a sophisticated level.

The Judaism of Judah had focused predominantly on the temple cult, while in the Northern regions around Galilee the sense of detachment from Jerusalem, coupled with the challenge to Jewish identity posed by living in close proximity to Gentiles, had resulted in a stringent adherence to the Mosaic torah and oral traditions. But another altogether different direction was taken in an Egyptian city named, appropriately enough, Alexandria. There, in the land which God had always forbidden his people to rely on, Alexandrian Judaism sought to appeal to the Greek Pagan world by showing that all that was best in it could be found in Judaism.

"Between the Greco-Roman world which was in search of a spiritual religion, and the Jewish commonwealth which already possessed such a religion as national property, though vitiated by exclusiveness, there had long been a Judaism which, penetrated by the Greek spirit, was, ex professo, devoting itself to the task of bringing a new religion to the Greek world, the Jewish religion, but that religion in its kernel Greek, that is, philosophically molded, spiritualised and secularised...

This alliance, in my opinion, was of no significance at all for the origin of the gospel, but was of the most decided importance, first, for the propagation of Christianity, and then, for the development of Christianity to Catholicism, and for the genesis of the Catholic doctrine of faith [23]… For that non-Palestinian Judaism formed the bridge between the Jewish Church and the Roman Empire, together with its culture. The gospel passed into the world chiefly by this bridge."[24]

So it was among the adherents to this system that the message found a most ready audience: "the great mass of the earliest Gentile Christians became Christians because they perceived in the Gospel the sure tidings of the benefits and obligations which they had already sought in the fusion of Jewish and Greek elements.[25]

But in the process of doing so they made it their own in a very particular sense. They took from it what they wanted and imprisoned its meaning within their existing categories of understanding.

"The Gospel was at first preached to those Gentiles who were already acquainted with the general outlines of the Jewish religion, and who were even frequently viewed as a Judaism of a second order, in which the Jewish and Greek elements had been united in a peculiar mixture ... The conception of the OT as we find it in the earliest Gentile Christian teachers, the method of spiritualising it, etc., agrees in the most surprising way with the methods which were used by Alexandrian Jews.[26]

For this audience to accept the Jewish, historical Jesus and his kingdom message would have meant their undergoing a significant paradigm shift. For them to grasp the meaning of some of the fundamental concepts at stake would unavoidably entail their having to let go of their old frame of reference and embrace a new one. That they did not do so was destined to have a crippling and far reaching effect upon their understanding of some vital issues.

The unfortunate corollary to this willingness to embrace a redefined Christianity was that its genuine form was increasingly lost. The issues it spoke to did not concern this new audience. Matters it valued as being of the utmost importance meant nothing to them. And vice versa. Authenticity was sacrificed on the altar of popularity.

"The Gentile Christians were little able to comprehend the controversies which stirred the Apostolic age within Jewish Christianity[27]... But as soon as that speculation was detached from its original foundation, it necessarily withdrew the minds of believers from the consideration of the work of Christ, and from the contemplation of the revelation of God, which was given in the ministry of the historical person of Jesus. The mystery of the person of Jesus in itself: would then necessarily appear as the true revelation.[28]

Was the church complicit in this process? Had she, in endeavoring to win the world around her, sold her soul and become one with it? Harnack's take on this is pragmatic: "The religion which is life and feeling of the heart cannot be converted into a knowledge determining the motley multitude of men without deferring to their wishes and opinions.[29]

Either way, the impact of this Alexandrian syndrome was destined to be far reaching.

5)    Oil and Water - The church chooses to adopt the methods of Alexandrian Judaism

The analogy of a bridge used above by Harnack is well chosen with regard to the transition between 1 Peter and 2nd Clement. In Alexandrian Judaism "Foreknowledge and predestination invest the known and determined with a kind of existence. Of great importance is the fact that even before Philo, the idea of the wisdom of Gael creating the world and passing over to men had been hypostatised [personified.[30]] in Alexandrian Judaism (see Sirach, Baruch, the wisdom of Solomon, Enoch, nay, even the book of Proverbs [Chapter 8].[31] The new Gentile converts were aware of this but seem to have got a little bit overexcited . In the Alexandrian predilection for personification can be found a connecting link between ideal pre-existence and personal pre-existence. These developments, in turn, go on to inform the most fundamental Christological presuppositions. "The assumption of the existence of at least one heavenly and eternal spiritual being beside God was plainly demanded by the Old Testament writings, as they were understood; so that even those whose Christology did not require them to reflect on that heavenly being were forced to recognise it.[32]

The process of Hellenisation was also destined to be the determinative influence not only on the way the church understood her saviour but also upon the wider issue of how she interpreted her scriptures.

Though she had chosen to revere the Hebrew Bible as her sacred text, its potential to act as a safeguard against further innovations was severely compromised by a commitment to "refute the Jewish interpretation of it.[33] In other words, choosing to read it through the eyes of the Alexandrian, as opposed to Palestinian hermeneutic. Above all else, this meant adopting the allegorical method.

"A historical view of [the Hebrew Bible], which no born Jew could in some measure fail to take, did not come into fashion, and the freedom that was used in interpreting the Old Testament, -so far as there was a method, it was the Alexandrian Jewish- went to the length of even correcting the letter and enriching the content.”[34]

"In consequence of this view, all facts and sayings of the Old Testament in which one could not find his way were allegorised. Nothing was what it seemed, but was only the symbol of something invisible.”[35]

This approach would eventually allow the 'fathers', whilst all the while resisting those who would seek to undermine the value of the Old Testament to be able, at the same time, to conform its meaning to their presuppositions. In other words, this permitted them to decide beforehand what the law and prophets should say and then, with a little ingenuity, make them say it, thus securing their support.

"What a wealth of relations, hints and intuitions seemed to disclose itself, as soon as the Old Testament was considered allegorically, and to what extent had the way been prepared by the Jewish philosophic teachers!”[36]

We could say that on occasion some of the apostles may have done the same. This plea was commonly made in defense of this system. But the difference, and it is an important one which Harnack has already underlined above, is this- they did so in a way that made sense within the scope of existing Jewish frames of reference. In contrast, the proponents of the emerging orthodoxy, seeking to Cree Christianity from these con fines, found the means to overthrow them, allowing "all that was transmitted to remain, and at the same time abolishing it by transforming it into mysterious symbols.”[37]

In effect this subjugated the body of revelation to a tool of the art of the religious philosopher, enabling them to invoke its authority whilst remaining for not a single moment accountable to it.

6)  A bad climate

Change was further facilitated by a more general climate in Gentile congregations, which opened the door to lots of new and revolutionary revelations.

Widespread 'enthusiasm' was left unchecked and taken way too far. With regard to this Harnack notes that "A special peculiarity of the enthusiastic nature of the religious temper is that it does not allow reflection as to the authenticity of the faith in which a man lives.[38]

The lack of objective reflection on Christian doctrine during this time resulted in, among other things, various Gnostic [39] frauds gaining an influential foothold in many congregations. "To understand how such people were able (0 obtain a following so quickly in the Churches, we must remember the respect in which the 'prophets' were held (Didache XI), If one had once given the impression that he had the Spirit, he could win belief for the strangest things, and could allow himself all things possible.[40]

All this was far more exciting than getting bogged down with some dry old texts, "The existing authorities (Old Testament, sayings of the Lord, words of Apostles) did not necessarily require to be taken into account; for the living acting Spirit, partly attesting himself also to the senses, gave new revelations."[41]

With so much fun to be had, reason was painfully out of style. The purpose [or the gathering together of believers began, in many cases, to be regarded as a mystical ritual, imparting a spiritual 'blessing' in which the understanding need play no part The order of the day was "a communion which does not communicate the knowledge by discourse, but by mysterious efficacious consecrations and by revealed dogmas.[42] In the light of subsequent developments it is possible to see here the foundations of the rise to supreme power in the church of those who administered these rites, beginning with the Lord's supper. The origins of the monarchial episcopate

Pagan practices began to replace those of the Primitive church. "In the earliest Gentile communities brotherly love for reflective thought falls into the background behind ascetic exercises of virtue, in unquestionable deviation from the sayings of Christ, but in fact it was powerful.”[43]

This helped to create the conditions in which the church, in a surprisingly short space of time, mutated Christianity into a substantially different faith. It was also these factors, combined with the allegorical interpretation, which the Church had adopted to the Old Testament being applied to the writings of the Apostles that gave the initial impetus to Gnosticism and facilitated its growth and development.

We meet with a religious mode of thought in the Gospel and the early Christian writings, which so far as it is at all dependent on an earlier mode of thought, is determined by the spirit of the Old Testament and of Judaism. But it is already otherwise in the earliest Gentile Christian writings.

The mode of thought here is so thoroughly determined by the Hellenic spirit that we seem to have entered a new world when we pass from the synoptists, Paul and John to Clement, Barnabas, Justin or Valentinus.?"

7)  Losing the plot- The Church begins to forget the gospel and the Biblical Jesus

"The cause of the great historical fact is clear. It is given in the fact that the Gospel, rejected by the majority of the Jews, was very soon proclaimed to those who were not Jews that after a few decades the greater number of its professors were found among the Greeks, and that, consequently, the development leading to the Catholic dogma took place within Graeco-Roman culture.

But within this culture there was lacking the power of understanding either the idea of the completed OT theocracy, or the idea of the Messiah. Both of these essential elements of the original proclamation, therefore, must either be neglected or remodeled.[45]

Among this new breed of believers "the idea of the Theocracy as well as the Messianic hopes of the future faded away or were uprooted."[46] The devastating effect of this can hardly be overstated. The 'Theocracy' here mentioned is nothing less than the kingdom of God- the very substance of Jesus' gospel. The community commissioned to preach the gospel was becoming increasingly ignorant of it. Yet that was not all. The loss of understanding concerning the future kingdom was inevitably coupled with a loss of the sense in which Jesus is the kingly Messiah. "As the Gentile Christians did not understand the significance of the idea that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the designation "christos" [Christ/Messiah] had either to be given up in their communities or subside into a mere name."[47] So where the term remained at all, it was reduced to an empty shell, devoid of its original meaning.

Other titles which the apostles, on the basis of Old Testament witness, attached great significance to disappeared entirely- "It is very interesting to observe how [the title 'servant of God'] was gradually put into the background and finally abolished.”[48]

The church did not value the Jesus who had introduced himself to us in the gospels and set about developing a portrait of him that was more in keeping with the taste of the age- "The Adoptian [49] Christology, that is the Christology which is most in keeping with the self-witness of Jesus (the Son as the chosen Servant of God), is here shown to be unable to assure to the Gentile Christians those conceptions of Christianity which they regarded as of the highest value.[50]

The relation to Gnosticism

Another Jesus was called forth. And so, as Gnosticism began to emerge, a great show was made of publicly refuting it in some areas, but it was not rejected entirely. The back door was left open.

"The Catholic Church has learned but little from the Gnostics, that is, from the earliest theologians in Christendom, in the doctrine of God and the world, but very much in Christology; and who can maintain that she has ever completely overcome the Gnostic doctrine of the two natures[51] nay, even Docetism? ... We might say without hesitation that to most Gnostics Christ was [in the exact language accepted later by the Orthodox Church] a pneuma, homoousion [52] to patri [of the same substance as the Father.]”[53]

"It is therefore no paradox to say that Gnosticism, which is just Hellenism, has in Catholicism obtained half a victory [54]... For the Greek spirit, the element which was most operative in Gnosticism, was already concealed in the earliest Gentile Christianity itself."[55] With the result that "in the communities of the second century there was frequently no offence taken at Gnostic docetism."[56]

So what was the difference between the Catholic end product of this emergent orthodoxy and Gnosticism? Simply this: "The great distinction here consists essentially in the fact that the Gnostic systems represent the acute secularising or hellenising of Christianity, with the rejection of the Old Testament; while the Catholic system, 011 the other hand, represents a gradual process of the same kind with the conservation of the Old Testament [57] and the identity of the creator of the world with the supreme God.[58]

You ain't seen nothing yet

Yet in spite of all this, Jesus' status of actually being God Almighty was still far from a foregone conclusion. Of all propositions to gain eventual acceptance this was surely the most radical of al1.[59]

Not surprisingly, the earliest traces of a movement in this direction are found in connection with language, which describes Jesus in his exercise of divine prerogatives, and thinking of him "hos peri theou"- as of God. [60] This "indirect theologia Christi" or use of oblique 'God language' concerning Jesus is "unanimously expressed in all witnesses of the earliest epoch. [61]

It is of paramount importance to note that, in spite of this “the formula says nothing about the nature or constitution of Jesus.[62] Also that "Christ never was, as "theos,” placed on an equality with the Father- monotheism guarded against that.”[63] It would not do so for very much longer.

There is a world of difference between recognising that a person can function 'as', in the sense of 'on behalf of' or 'on the authority of' another, and their actually being that person. In the Hebrew Bible, for example, Joseph is elevated to a position in which he is described as being 'as Pharaoh,[64] with regard to Egypt. Moses is even made 'a god' to Pharaoh. [65] What Harnack is saying is that in none of the sources from this time does the church seem to have stepped beyond these bounds in their depictions of Jesus.

Further doubt is cast on any ontological connotations even in the use of the word 'theos' -God- (it is notable that 'ho theos' -the God- was not used of him), of Jesus by the fact that "not only are there some passages in Justin to be urged against this, but also the testimony of other writers."[66] So to do this would appear to constitute a reading back of later ideas into the writings not only of the Apostles, but also the first 'fathers' as well.

"The common confession did not go beyond the statements that Jesus is the Lord, the Saviour, the Son of God, that one must think of him as of God, that dwelling now with God in heaven, he is to be adored as guardian and helper of the weak and as High Priest of our oblations, to be feared as future Judge, to be esteemed most highly as the bestower of immortality, that he is our hope and our faith.[67] Nothing controversial in any of this.

Furthermore, faith varied, at this time, not only from congregation to congregation, but also from individual to individual within groups. Upon inspection, the church of the period is shown to embody a spectrum of opinion stretched between two poles. On one, the 'adoption Christology' of Hennas (Closer to 1 Peter and, according to Harnack above, the self-witness of Jesus), and at the other, the Alexandrian style 'pneumatic Christology' typified by 2nd Clement.

"Characteristic of the one is the development through which Jesus is first to become a Godlike Ruler, and connected therewith, the value put on the miraculous event at the baptism; of the other a naive docetism.[68] It may even be that other opinions existed for which no records survive to this day.[69]

Uncertainty

Neither was it in any way clear at this stage, which would eventually gain the most widespread acceptance. "It might, perhaps, still have seemed doubtful about the middle of the second century as to which of the two opposing formulae, "Jesus is a man exalted to a Godlike dignity" and "Jesus is a divine spiritual being incarnate", would succeed in the Church.[70]

Even those writings at the pneumatic extreme of the spectrum were, in comparison with their later developments, extremely unsophisticated ...

"But even to [Ignatius] we cannot ascribe any doctrine of the two natures: for this requires as its presupposition, the perception that the divinity and the humanity are equally essential and important for the personality of the Redeemer Christ. Such insight, however, presupposes a measure and a direction of reflection which the earliest period did not possess [71] ... For no one as yet had thought of affirming two natures in Jesus: the Divine dignity appeared rather, either as a gift, or the human nature (sarx) as a veil assumed for a time, or as the metamorphosis of the Spirit.”[72]

No wonder the pneumatic Christology of this period was destined to have so much difficulty distinguishing itself from the Gnostic version.

Further ambivalence is shown with regard to the spirit of God: "The conceptions about the Holy Spirit were still quite fluctuating: whether he is a power of God, or personal; whether he is identical with the pre- existent Christ, or is to be distinguished from him; whether he is the servant of Christ (Tatian Orat. 13); whether he is only a gift of God to believers, or the eternal Son of God, was quite uncertain. [73]

All this is evidence of a developing and tentative movement away from an original view and towards what would later be considered orthodoxy. It vindicates Harnack's thesis against the prevailing majority church's myth of origins according to which it consistently held fast to the witness that 'Jesus is God' and developed its dogma in the form of apologetics against the onslaught of 'heresy' from the outside.

In fact during this speculative, relatively early period many Christological differences were not fell to be a matter of very great significance. A degree of tolerance that would be completely alien to a later age was still in evidence here and there. Despite being among the foremost proponents of the personally pre-existent Jesus, "Yet Justin [Martyr] did not make this a controversial point of great moment.”[74]

It was only as a result of the Gnostic controversy that opinions hardened and the polemics became heated. Who of the first 'fathers', often victims of persecution at the hands of Pagan authorities, could have imagined that, with the subsequent alliance of their doctrinal heirs with the power of the state, their legacy would result in the torture and murder of dissenters?

These men don't seem to have deliberately set out to alter the faith. Many times they suffered for what they believed. But this doesn't mean that what they presented was the authentic faith of Jesus and his Apostles. Harnack's historical reconstruction accounts for how the powerful social and ideological forces, the very spirit they breathed, led so many of them to embrace a misunderstanding with such sincerity.

Conclusion

Jeremiah's question at the opening of this paper implies that the hardest thing for a people to change is their religious beliefs. To truly follow in the footsteps of Abraham entails being called out from all that is cherished and familiar, even our worldview and most deeply seated convictions." Both first century Judaism and the early Gentile church appear to have been either unable or unwilling to do so. The full price of their tragic choice would be paid over the ensuing centuries.

This may even be the reason why the Protestant reformers themselves were pleased to go back only as far as Nicaea. But a complete reformation requires nothing less than a return back, past even the earliest church 'fathers' all the way to the New Testament.

[1] Two opinions currently prevail regarding the dating of 2nd Clement. Either it was the work of Clement, who was the bishop of Rome between 88-98 AD, or it was written later, at around 140-160 AD. Either way the document is early. Other writers mentioned in this paper are Ignatius, 35 to 98-117 AD and Justin Martyr] 00-165 AD.

[2] This fact is significant in itself since it gives the impression that he expected the proposition to be something his readers would take for granted, and not be in any way controversial.

[3] A. Harnack, History of Dogma (HOD), Volume 1, p.J28

[4]"According to the theory held by the ancient Jews and by the whole of the Semitic nations, everything of real value that from time to  time appears on earth has its existence in heaven. In other words, it exists with God, that is God possesses a knowledge of it; and for that reason it has a real being ... The old Jewish theory of pre-existence is founded on the religious idea of the omniscience of and omnipotence of God, that God to whom the events of history do not come as a surprise, but who guides their course." (HOD, p.318) "According to the Hellenic conception, which has become associated with Platonism, the idea of pre-existence is independent of the idea of God; it is based on the conception of the contrast between spirit and matter, between the infinite and finite, found in the cosmos itself In the case of all spiritual beings, life in the body or flesh is at bottom an inadequate and unsuitable condition, for the spirit is eternal, the flesh perishable." (HOD, p.319)

[5] Docetism, from the Greek dokeo, "to seem" is the belief that Jesus' physical body was an illusion, that is, Jesus only seemed to have a physical body, but in reality he was incorporeal, a pure spirit. This belief is most commonly attributed to the Gnostics, who believed that matter was evil, and hence that a material body would be inconsistent with the chosen one of God. This statement is rooted in the idea that a divine spark is imprisoned within the material body, and that the material body is in itself an obstacle, deliberately created by an evil lesser god (the demiurge) to prevent man from seeing his divine origin. Docetism could be further explained as the view that, because the human body is temporary and the spirit is eternal, the body of Jesus therefore must have been an illusion and his crucifixion as well. Even so, saying that the human body is temporary has a tendency to undercut the importance of the belief in resurrection of the dead and the goodness of created matter.

[6] HOD, p.330

[7] HOD, p.1O5

[8] The time difference depends upon the date of 2nd Clement, see footnote I, page 1.

[9] HOD, p.205

[10] HOD, p.144

[11] HOD, p.l44

[12] HOD, p.47

[13] Jewish Antiquities', 20, 197-203.

[14] It goes something like this: "May apostates have no hope and may the kingdom of impertinence be uprooted in our day. May the Nozrirn and Minim (the Christians) disappear in the twinkling of an eye. May they be removed from the book of the living and not be inscribed among the just. Bless you, Lord, you who cast down the proud." Charming.

[15] HOD, p.47

[16] HOD, p.47

[17] "Corresponding to and including the intercourse and mixing of the notions; decay of the old republican orders, divisions and ranks; monarchy and absolutism and social crises; pauperism; influence of philosophy on the domain of public morality and law; cosmopolitanism and the rights of man; influx of Oriental cults into the West; knowledge of the world and disgust with it." (HOD p.l17)

[18] HOD, p. ll7

[19] HOD, p.l77

[20] "common to them all, as distinguished from the early Stoics, is the value put upon the soul, (not the entire human nature), while in some of them there comes clearly to the front a religious mood, H longing for divine help, for redemption and a blessed life beyond the grave, the effort to obtain and communicate a religious and philosophical therapeutic of the soul." (HOD, p. 122-123)

[21] HOD, p.118

[22] John 4:22

[23] HOD, p.54

[24] HOD, p.56

[25] HOD p.57

[26] HOD, p.54

[27] HOD, p.5l

[28] HOD, p.105

[29] HOD, p.46

[30] Personification, or anthropomorphism is a figure of speech that gives inhuman; and objects human traits and qualities. These attributes may include sensations, emotions, desires, physical gestures, expressions, and powers of speech among others. Personification is widely used in poetry and in other art forms.

[31] HOD, p.109

[32] HOD, p. 197

[33] HOD, p.224

[34] HOD, p.156

[35] HOD, p.224

[36] HOD, p.225

[37] HOD, p.226

[38] HOD, p.141

[39] Gnostic, from the Greek gnosis "knowledge,” gnostikos, "good at knowing.” A collective name for a large number of greatly varying and pantheistic-idealistic sects, which flourished from some time before the Christian Era down to the fifth century, and which, while borrowing the phraseology and some of the tenets of the chief religions of the day, and especially of Christianity. held matter TO be a deterioration of spirit, and the whole universe a depravation of the Deity, and taught the ultimate end of all being to be the overcoming of the grossness of manner and the return to the Parent-Spirit, which return they held to be inaugurated and facilitated by the appearance of some God-sent Saviour.

[40] HOD, p.240

[41] HOD, p.142

[42] HOD, p.227

[43] HOD, p.147

[44] This is how the quote appears in context: 'There is indeed no single writing of the New Testament which does not betray the influence of the mode of thought and general conditions of the culture of the time which resulted from the Hellensising of the east: even the LXX of the Greek translation of the Old Testament attests this tact. Nay, we may go further and say that the Gospel itself is historically unintelligible, so long as we compare it with an exclusive Judaism as yet unaffected by any foreign influence. But on the other hand, it is just as clear that, specifically, Hellenic ideas form the presuppositions neither for the Gospel itself, nor for the most important New Testament writings. It is a question rather as to a general spiritual atmosphere created by Hellenism, which above all strengthened the individual element, and with it the idea of a completed personality, in itself living and responsible. On this foundation we meet with a religious mode of thought in The Gospel and the early Christian writings, which so far as it is at all dependent on an earlier mode of thought, is determined by the spirit of the Old Testament and of Judaism.

But it is already otherwise in the earliest Gentile Christian writings The mode of thought here is so thoroughly determined by the Hellenic spirit that we seem to have entered a new world when we pass from the synoptists, Paul and John to Clement, Barnabas [the epistle, not gospel, that is], Justin or Valentinus. We may therefore say, especially in the framework of the history of dogma, that the Hellenic element has exercised an influence on the Gospel, first on Gentile Christian soil, and by those who were Greek by birth, if only we reserve the general spiritual atmosphere above referred to. (HOD, p48)

[45] It may even be said here that the athanasia [immortality) (zoe aionios), on the one hand, and the ekklesia [church), on the other, have already appeared in place of the busileia tou theou, [Kingdom of God] and that the idea of Messiah has been finally replaced by that of the Divine Teacher and ofGoc1manifest in flesh. (HOD 1 p.50) In plain English, the big losers in this process were the historical Jesus and his message.

[46] HOD, p. l07

[47] HOD, p.l84

[48] HOD, p.185

[49] Adoptionism or adoptianism is an attempt to explain how Jesus is related to God (that is, it was one option that arose in the Trinitarian controversies of the early church.) Adoptionism arose among early Christians seeking to reconcile the claims that Jesus WDS the Son of God with the radical monotheism of Judaism. Adoptionism states that Jesus was born fully human, and he became the Son of God at a later point in his Iife (usually held to be at his baptism), at which point God 'adopted' him. Adoptionism was condemned by the church as heresy at various times, most explicitly at the Council of ‘Nicaea,

[50] HOD, p.199

[51] The doctrine of the Dual-Nature of Jesus, also known as the Hypostatic Union (from the Greek: "hypostasis,”  meaning essence) is a technical term in orthodox Christian theology, used in reference to Christology to define its view of how the human and divine are united in the person of Christ. The term "hypostatic union" became official at the Council of Cha1cedon (AD 451), which stated in its Creed that Got! is one ousia yet three hypostases- yet within the hypostasis of Jesus there were united a further two natures- divine and human.

[52] Homoousian (from the Greek homo meaning common or same and ousia meaning essence or being) means "same substance" It is a technical theological term used in the orthodox Christian understanding of God as Trinity The Nicene Creed describes Jesus as being homoousian with the Father - that is, they are of the same substance and are equally God. The term is not found in the Bible. The homoousian doctrine (or as it is called in modern terms consubstantiality), eventually prevailed in the struggle to define Catholic Church dogma for the next two millennia when its use was confirmed by the First Council of Constantinople in 381.

[53] HOD, p.261

[54[ HOD, p228

[55] HOD, p.218

[56] HOD, p.195

[57] HOD, p. 227-228

[58] "The Jewish, that is, OT element, divested of its national peculiarity, has remained the basis of Christendom. It has saturated this element with the Greek spirit, but has always clung to its main idea, faith in God as the creator and ruler of the world." (HOD, p.52)

[59] Radical, given the fact that Christianity began as a Jewish faith (See previous footnote). For according to their scriptures "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent." (Numbers 23: 19) for Pagans, this was not so much of an issue, for "among the cultured and the uncultured ... They still regarded the gods as passionless men living forever. The idea therefore of a theopoiesis (divinisation of humans), and on the other hand, the idea of the appearance of the Gods in human form presented no difficulty (See Acts XIV. 11 :XXVIII 6)." (HOD, p.11 9)

[60] HOD, p.186

[61] HOD, p.l87

[62] HOD, p.l87

[63] HOD, p 190

[64] "Then Judah came near to him, and said, ' ... let not your anger hum against your servant: for you are even as Pharaoh.'" (Genesis 44: 18)

[65] "And Yahweh said to Moses, 'See, I have made you a god to Pharaoh and Aaron your brother will be your prophet.": (Exodus 7:1)

[66] HOD, p. l87

[67] HOD, p.190

[68] HOD, p.194-195

[69] Whatever happened to Timothy? It is interesting to note that all the Gentile Christian assemblies whose writings remain trace their origins back to the twelve, not Paul (HOD, p.162-163). So what happened to those vibrant Pauline communities? What happened to men like Timothy and Titus who were left with the oversight of them? Did they simply disappear from the face of the earth between 61 and 100 AD? There is a hole in the historical record, the exact shape of the Gentile Pauline communities. If they did not vanish and their voice is no longer heard, then we would have to conclude that the documents that remain to us today only tell half the story.

[70] HOD, p.199

[71] HOD, p.195

[72] BOD, p.195

[73] HOD, p.197-198

[74] HOD, p.298 Justin Martyr did not make belief in the pre-existence or divinity of Jesus a necessary prerequisite to faith in him as the Christ. He described those who deny the personal pre-existence of Jesus as 'my friends'. "'Now assuredly, Trypho,' I continued, '[the proof] that this man is the Christ of God does not fail, though I be unable to prove that He existed formerly as Son of the Maker of all things, being God, and was born a man by the Virgin. But since I have certainly proved that this man is the Christ of God, whoever He be, even if I do not prove that He pre-existed, and submitted to be born a man of like passions with LIS, having a body, according to the Father's will; in this last matter alone is it just to say that I have erred, and not to deny that He is the Christ, though it should appear that He was born man of men. and [nothing more] is proved [than this], that He has become Christ by election. For there" are some, my friends,' I said, 'of our race, who admit that He is Christ, while holding Him to be man of men; with whom I do not agree, nor would I, even though most of those who have [now] the same opinions as myself should say so."" 'Dialogue with Trypho' XLVIII

[75] Genesis 12: 1, Hebrews 11 :8-1 0, 13-16

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Restorer of the Ancient Paths

 

Restorer of the Ancient Paths

by

James Englebert

And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in, Isaiah 58:12

Overview: Great reformation was undertaken in the days of King Hezekiah in the house of Judah. A great number of people turned to the Lord with all their heart and the God of Israel was glorified in His people. 

Lessons from the

"House of Hezekiah”

Extreme Makeover

The Spiritual Edition

 

Setting: Hezekiah, King of Judah in the late 8th Century (724 - 695 B.C.E.?)

Reigned for 29 years, Ascended to the Throne at the age of 25.

Contemporary Prophets - Isaiah, Micah, and Hosea

 

Five lessons gleaned from the context and setting of 11 Chronicles 29 - 32 will serve as our template for restoration.

"Song of the Prophets" - Let him that has ears to hear, let him hear!

Encourages the student to take a closer look at the context that precedes the great reformation under King Hezekiah, and to also consider the voices of the three contemporary prophets Hosea, Micah, and Isaiah in the tumultuous time of the 10th Century B.C. To truly appreciate this great time of restoration - read, meditate, and reread the records of II Chronicles 28 -33, IT Kings 16 - 2] (17*), The book of Hosea, Micah, and Isaiah Chapters 1-11,35 - 39 .... .40,42,49,50,52,53,58,60,61,62 ....

"House Rules" - examines how King Hezekiah set his house in order to minister to the Lord, fulfilling the 'Great Commandment' II Chron. 29)

"Fill the House" - extends and considers the invitation that fulfills God's desire toward all His children. Exemplifying the 'Great Commission'. (II Chron 30)

"Keep the House" - reflects on the 'Great charge' given to His faithful servants (11 Chron. 31)

"United House" - reveals effective keys to sustain an enduring house. Looking into the 'Great Mystery' (11 Chron. 32)

How blessed is the man whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion! Psalm 84:5 NASB **

This unique record under the leadership of King Hezekiah is repeated three times in the Hebrew scripture. This model for restoration offers the student of the bible a rich mosaic that can be revisited over and over again in order to better understand the prophetic voice and its implications. We believe there is a clear, distinct, and emphatic template drawn here for the present day Church in these records. If we can only grasp and retain its fullness, we believe these God breathed writings will come to birth in our midst. As we keep in mind the Author and Finisher of our faith we will see images of the 'King of Righteousness,' a royal 'High Priest' offering acceptable sacrifices, and the 'True prophet' resounding the new torah' .. Behold! I make all things new...'  Rev. 21:5.

If we hear the voice, our call cries out for a response for understanding this life giving message, unpacking and wisely distributing the truth, and applying this wisdom liberally for a generation to come. We, as ambassadors for the kingdom are to prepare the way along the King's Highway, awaiting the new exodus, when the King of Glory shall appear - for we seek a city (the New Jerusalem) whose builder and maker is God.

The wisdom literature serves as a good stepping off point for the king or leader. (Consider: Psalm 2, 24, 48, 72, 84, 102, 110, 126, 128, 133, 134, 145)

But thou, 0 LORD, shall endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations. Thou shall arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favor her, yea, the set time, is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favor the dust thereof So the heathen shall fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth thy glory. When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory. He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer. This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the LORD. For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth; To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death; To declare the name of the LORD in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem; When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD. Psalm 102: 12-22

We know that.... whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:4 

We understand that the scriptures teach us ... all these things were written for examples and for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. I Cor. 10:11

We have heard it said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. In search of this treasure, we must clear the way, unearth the foundations and pillars of truth, and uncover the richness of God's unfailing, everlasting, covenant. We must blow the trumpet of salvation, a clear distinct call that revives God's vision of One God, One people, One hope and sound off. Come to the light, Come taste and see, Come through the gates, Come, all you weary and I will give you rest unto your soul for great is the faithfulness of our Lord to His people. The secret of Jehovah is with those who fear Him; and He will show them His covenant. Psalm 25:14

King Hezekiah must have had a clear vision in his mind, a bright picture, and a colorful dream overflowing in his heart. For on the first day, of the first month, on the first year of his reign as King of Judah be started this Extreme Makeover on the house of God honoring the covenant of Yahweh...

And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD) according to all that David his father did. He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not. II Kings 18:3-7

Under the leadership of King Ahaz (father of Hezekiah), the covenant of God was broken, the house of the Lord was defiled, and the Temple had fallen into ruin.

A lament of the weeping prophet lends us a picture of the dark days under King Ahaz.

How alone sits the city that was full of people! .... The roads of Zion mourn without any going to the appointed feasts. All her gates are deserted; her priests sigh; her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness ... She has become like a widow, once great among the nations, She now bitterly weeps in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks; she has no comfort, she finds no rest, all her strength is gone, and from the daughter of Zion all her beauty has departed. (Lamentations 1).

Many churches need an extreme makeover; Some of us need an extreme makeover. We are in the restoration business. Build lives, our task is enormous, need SPIRIT Wise master builder, Ezra 7:27 Arise!!! build up: living stones, plum line, righteous level.

Restore: to bring back into existence, use, or the like, reestablish. To bring back to former or more desirable condition. To bring back to a state of health, soundness, or vigor.

Restoration - the act of building up, raise up, repair, renovate, renew - make new, revive - give life , redeem - buy back,

salvage - the act of saving anything from destruction or danger.

Our theological studies must reflect and effect changes in the practice of our faith -if they are to have any merit or impact. They must move us to a change that radiates the Lords' vision; “Song of the Prophets” Let him that has ears to hear, let him hear!

Context: a brief summary of this time in the history of Israel and Judah - in the time of King Hezekiah.

Rebellious! Unfaithful! Transgressors! The Prophets shout in unison as a trio sounding the alarm of impending doom. A message and plea in three part harmony is heralded to the once glorious nation of Israel, now divided, tottering on the edge of ruin. Return rebellious, return unfaithful, return transgressors to the Holy One of Israel. The voices of God's servants pierce the silence with a call to repentance, righteousness, and restoration through Hosea, Micah, and Isaiah, seers late in the tumultuous 8th century B.C. Congruous messages are amplified through recurring illustrations and themes urgently pronounced by these three contemporary prophets. We should first explore the setting and background that sets the tempo of our storyline.

To overhear the echoes of the prophets' voices and to feel the weight of the resounding notes we must consider the setting and surrounding carefully. The golden age of Israel is less than two centuries past and now a divided Kingdom vacillates allegiance and loyalties to impending conquerors. Their posture is pictured like a pair of senseless fluttering doves refusing the haven provided by the God of their fathers. Israel and Judah's virtues are compared to a morning cloud dissipating rapidly with the early rising sun. The glory and peace of Solomon's Kingdom have become a faint reverberation, the land of Canaan is forfeited daily as foreign Kingdoms march onward diminishing their borders, and the heartbeats of the faithful have become increasingly discouraged.

Unrest and political instability permeate this era. Fear of invasion is imminent on every side. Israel experiences great strife within its' Kingdom with six different kings in a twenty-five year period. Four of the kings are murdered while in office and one is taken captive. Judah also endures four rulers in this season of great upheaval. Economically the nation still carries a residue of the former glory and prospers, but recently a levy and tax has been placed on the kings by Assyrian forces. Spiritually the nation experiences some of its' darkest hours. Idolatry runs rampant, moral corruption prevails, injustice wins the day, the rich squeeze the life out of the poor, and a haughty rejection of God dominates society. To this status, the prophets make an urgent last chance appeal to the hardhearted nations who have turned their back on their first love. 'Return to me, return to me says the Lord, and I will return to you!' Seek me and Live! Still, immorality breaks out and a spirit of whoredom reigns. Perverted religion and false prophets lure the innocent away, the priests receive bribes and prophets prophecy for beer.

Truth, mercy, and knowledge of God have become desolate in the land. Adultery, stealing, lying, and killing have become commonplace. The very land mourns and weeps over the abundant bloodshed - craving and desiring the serenity of its' former beauty. (Hosea 4)

Each one of the prophets raises charges against the nations in judgment in their opening proclamation. Injustices are confronted headlong. Rebuke of idolatry and immorality are chastened, false religious pretense is counted as an abomination before the Lord. The prophets reiterated the same. message over and over again complimenting one another with a harmonious refrain. A call for repentance to walk humbly, justly, and showing mercy to the needy envelops our progression (Mic. 6:8).

Salvation tidings are induced through Hosea the prophet as he lifts his voice from the northern hills of Canaan. Hosea is the strong tender lead voice among our three contemporary prophets inaugurating a clarion call to repentance. A dissonant shrill fills the eardrums of the inhabitants of Samaria as certain and swift judgment is pronounced upon the kingdom of the house of Israel.

The thundering yet eloquent voice of the prince of prophets rises from the southern kingdom of Judah through Isaiah the son of Amoz. The poetic versatile style of Isaiah is layered with rich prophetic declarations of the corning Messiah and a stern reproof that calls for a radical reform and action from his audience.

The prophet Micah steps forward to center stage and joins hands with his partners in a volatile merging that intensifies and thrusts the movement to a crescendo of imminent resolve. His announcement pleas to both kingdoms as the presence of the Lord promises to invade the scene in an abrupt intervention that will consume and refurbish all the land.

As the sound of the trumpet awakens and arouses the dormant, unbelief is interrogated and called to the light. The word and will of Goel is delivered in its' purest form by these men or God through their own powerful style - revealing and illuminating indelible life giving messages. Through great courage, faithful obedience, and fervent faith the voices of the prophets carry 011 despite the hardness and unbelieving hearts of the wayward children of God.

Their lyrics continue to resonate a call or reform in every area of society: in the home, at work, in the church, on the streets and everywhere your feel shall tread. Cease from evil, do good, seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1) God calls for discipline and punishment of the violators. Yet, the promise of hope and comfort through the Messiah is the expectation of all those who would repent and follow the way of the Lord.

In radical obedience, the prophets plunge into their task fulfilling the commission of the Lord. They speak clear distinct words of judgment, comfort, and hope using startling figures, detailed parables, weeping, wailing, and even degrading themselves unselfishly.

Hosea becomes a living allegory to his countrymen, a final appeal is summoned to a renewed repentance; constrained through the benevolent grace of Goel. The 'faithful' prophet is to many 'unfaithful' and together their children will join the chorus of voices to proclaim the condition of Gael's children through - 'judgment', 'not loved', and 'not my people'. Hosea himself learns and becomes a prophet of extreme love through a spirit of mercy. This colorful, living, breathing picture is painted for all Israel to see the great lengths God will endure to restore His children.

Isaiah had a son who would be named "quick to the plunder, swift to spoil' for before the child grows Samaria shall be conquered; tell me these guys were not committed. We think our kid's give us a hard time over their names - how would you like to try these on for size. God assigned Isaiah to go barefoot and naked for three years around the city to preview Judah's impending status, crying, it's not too late! turn around unfaithful!

Micah also strips his clothes off to reiterate the destruction and exile to come, he wails like a jackal, rolls in the dust, and shaves his head to communicate this lively ballad arranged by the Lord. It appears to me that the prophets were not so concerned with being politically correct, or worried about offending people, but were focused on practicing and conveying the will of the Lord.

We find the prophets continually striking the gavel - calling for order and issuing charges: 'Let him that hath ears to hear let him hear' ... sounds like 'The Prophet'. Hear, 0 Israel! Listen up Judah! Hear, 0 peoples, all of you! For the Lord has a great controversy against the inhabitants of the land. {Hosea 4} The Lord has a case against you. {Micah 6} You have abandoned the Lord! {Isaiah] } God instructs Isaiah to go to the people saying: Isaiah 6: 9,10

"Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear 'with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. "

Hosea continues in this vein 'my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge - for they have not sought the Lord.' Micah shouts - falsehood and lying have hidden you from accessing the throne of God. All day have I stretched out my arms to a rebellious people - exclaims Isaiah. Yet the lord says through his prophets in diverse ways, through many voices, RETURN TO ME ! If you only turn to me and open your eyes, ears, and heart I will graciously receive you and heal you. {Has. 14, Mic. 6, Is. 44}

The prophets used their surroundings to emphatically illustrate their message of hope - from animals to agriculture, heaven to hills, streets and structures, and zeniths to Zion; in a solemn voice to the high pitched soprano - no cost too high to reach the hearts of men. The depth and breadth of these messages must be listened to over, and over again - like the classical symphonies that lift us to the higher ground of praise. A deeper appreciation is nurtured by reflecting on God whose gracious songs triumph gloriously in the hearts of the children of men who put their trust in Him. Through it all a promise of a renewed kingdom awaits in the city of righteousness, where justice rules; offering a lively hope to all those who will join the chorus of infinite praise to the Holy One of Israel.

King Hezekiah may have heard the echoes of this refrain - this song may have resonated in his heart, and this vision called to him for restoration.

Calling for an extreme makeover will demand a clear vision, it requires everything we have: resources, time, gifts, service, perseverance and pooling our abilities together.

Reestablishing the 'House Rules' - fulfilling the 'Great Commandment', This vision sets renewal in motion and overflows with God's righteousness in a passionate plea for souls (bringing many sons to glory). What actions could we take to fulfill tile will of God?

II Chronicles 29: 1 - 11 **

(Joshua 24:15, Psalm 127: 1, 1 Cor. 3:11)

Hezekiah - 'God is my Strength'

He did what was right in the sight of the Lord. (Matthew 6:33 *) ZEAL 4 Thy house

Great Commandment?" 1st Commandment Deut 6:4

1st year, 1st month, 1st day opens and repairs doors to the house of the Lord.

Call - 'the gathering'

Consecration - cleansing of priests and house

Confession - forsaken the Lord, Door shut, Lamp out, (Ps.19, 51, II Chron. 7: 14) No incense, No offerings, State 01· Affairs

Covenant - commitment  (Mt22:37)

Charge - Be not negligent (II Chron.19:5, Zech. 3:7)          

Corporate Obedience to King's command - example II Chronicles 29*

Offerings - Lev. 4 (for the Kingdom) Altar of the Lord Ezek. 14

Worship restored Levites (Clothing) (Neh. 13: 11)

Corporate. worship - offerings

Service re-established in the house of the Lord. V.12 - 36 God prepared the hearts  V. 36 Suddenly - Spirit of God,

What idols or stumbling blocks must be cleared from the temple of our heart? Our challenge is to remove self-interest over God-interest, to struggle past indifference and apathy. To break free of the bonds of religion. (Mt. 23: 13, Lk.1] :52). First, pray and invite the Lord Jesus into our temple to take inventory. Joel 2: mourn, weep, fast. Jesus clears the Temple - My House shall be called a house or prayer! Mt. 21: 13. Problem is not prayer in the schools, but no prayer in the Churches.

Nehemiah: letters from the King. Open door, enter in narrow is the gate that leads to life. One Goel, One people, One hope. Restoration of all things.. Acts 3: 18-21

'Fill the House' Gatherers that celebrate a spirit of communion' The Great Commission' (1 will be their God, they will he My people, and 1 will dwell among them).

Where should we begin such a great endeavor?

The Great Commission - Go into all the world!

II Chronicles 30 Good things

Invitation to the Passover v. 1 - 6 (Mt. 22, Lk. 14)

Christ's parallel I Cor. 5:7 Mt. 21:12,13

Call for repentance V.7-1O Joel 21 Is. 58

Humbled themselves V. 11, 12 Service I Peter 5

Passover Re-instituted Josiah John 2: 13

Gathered many, progression of cleansing Luke 11 :23

Hezekiah's prayer 30:18-20 encouragement

Good and honest heart, hold it fast, with all perseverance Lk. 8

Hearts established - Re -Do ** Another 7 Days Leader’s example of service and dedication

II Chron 30: 27 Priests stood in the gap - preserved knowledge of Lord

Prayers heard on high - acceptable sacrifices ** Aroma of life 1 Fire

* Reconciliation - II Cor 3,4,5 living epistles 1 billboards, emergency lights, Water

Not so much preaching in the streets - heralding a clear message in our gatherings that sounds out to the streets. They turned from idols to serve the true and living God.

We do not need more mental exercise - we need ground ... not a pat on the hack, but a push on the back out the door - no self congratulations. We are losing the war for Souls. We have stopped short of the mark, ... mile markers (losing ground), press on.

If you faint in the day of trial, your strength is small. Deliver those being taken to death, and those stumbling to be killed, unless you hold back. If you say, Behold, we did not know; does not He who searches the heart consider it? And the Keeper of your soul, does He know? And He repays to a man according to his works. Proverbs 24:10-12

'Keep the House' - the 'Great charge' given to faithful servants who raise up new leaders, those who will carru the torch (the word of the kingdom) to a generation to come.

As stewards and faithful servants over the great mysteries of God what is our responsibility in the church today?

II Chronicles 31 I Cor. 4:1-5, I Peter4:7-11

Destroyed altars, high places in the region (progression) Lk 4:43

Returned to their cities - so let your light shine (Mt 5:14-16, Phil 2:15,]6)

Reform continued - Holding fast the faithful word. Zechariah 3

Opened his hand wide.

Sacrifice - Hebrews 12: 12 - 18

Acts 4, 6, 13 - ministering to the Lord  1st  Commandment

What is our reasonable service Romans 12: 1,2

Singers sing, bakers bake conformed to the image of the son, Col. 3 V. 5-10 plurality ** II Cor 9:6-] 4

Distribution centers: not collection centers not a lack of social funds lack of funds in the storehouse

II Chron 19: overseers - Jehoshaphat v.9 Joshua 1: 7,8

Good and Faithful servant Mt 25 :23 Paul - abase and abound

V. 20,21 Hezekiah ministered to the Lord with all of his heart, fulfilling the Great commandment.

Our Strategy must focus on equipping faithful men and women for service. Committed to supporting - discipleship and equipping workers for service. ( 11 Tim 2: 1 ,2. Eph 4:] 2,13) Leadership training, otherwise the burden is on the few. Regional redemption centers. Church builders league - churches yes, people leaders Yes. Build leaders they will build Churches.

We must translate our powerful message so this generation may run with it.

Pictures and parables, words, ideas, meanings, connection What is the big idea?

** United House" - the 'Great Mystery' keeps in mind the Lords picture of wholeness to sustain an enduring house. A house divided against itself cannot stand. We are to endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit (Oneness) in the body of Christ. The spirit of the Lord must be working within us in all wisdom and prudence. Therefore, we must continually discover, rediscover, and reflect the heart of God. Understanding the depths of His love and covenant are the key to freeing ourselves for unity among His people.

Who will stand in the gap?

II Chronicles 32 Luke 11:17

V. 1 Attack of Sennacherib on fortified cities, timing of attack.

V.2  Hezekiah seeks wise counsel.

multitude of counselors is safety Proverbs 11: 14  collaboration

v. 5 took courage - rebuilt {breach} Isaiah 58, Psalm 51, Nehemiah

v.7 - Be strong and courageous  Joshua, David, Ephesians 6

V.8 - Trust  Psalm 127  Lies/ Accuser

v.9 - Die of hunger and thirst.  Relied on God Mt. 4:4

Fear - Degrading our God. v.20 - Prayer with the Godly ones.

Angel of the Lord encamps round about those that fear Him. Psalm 34:7

Rear guard  Pride/Humility  Lord Proved His heart Psalm 84, 93:5

Enemies tactics - be not ignorant of the enemies tactics and devices. To the multitude of counselors there is wise war strategy. Military campaign - breaks communication, takes out the bridge, works in the dark. Smoke confusion. The war is for our youth. They are being consumed and slaughtered, carried into captivity. Read the warning labels. If He can get us to fight in the wrong war - He is winning. Watch distractions and decoys. Careful not to get sidetracked - doctrinal disputes, schisms, threats, division. No vision, the people perish for lack of knowledge and understanding. Not so much disunity in the churches - but disunity in the hearts of men ... they did not understand the covenant of God. Jesus reconnected that which was broken. Jesus' actions always restored the paths of righteousness.

For further dialogue: James Engelbert can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Or you may call (631) 379-9818

Copyright © 2007 James Englebert. All rights reserved.

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