CTT | Gospel Tract Needs More Gospel

CTTWe don’t see a lot of Gospel Tracts these days while we are out and about. Two weeks ago while shopping at a local Home Improvement store, my son announced his need to use the restroom. While waiting for him to finish his business, I noticed what looked like a gospel tract lying on the toilet paper dispenser. I thought, “hmmm… don’t see that very often these days”. I picked it up quickly and read the cover, “You Say You’re Saved But…” Huh? Okay, then… wasn’t going to leave this behind. Today we’ll work through this tract and the need to distinguish Law and Gospel.

Audience for the Tract

So the front of this tract says this:

You
Say
You’re
Saved

But…

Who is the target audience of this tract? This is a common question we ask here during our Discernment in Music (DiM) posts, so there is clearly a force of habit at play, but seriously, who is the target audience of this tract? Someone who says they are “saved”. That is a particularly Christian turn of phrase. It’s a churchism. So this is a tract that was left in the bathroom stall of a Home Improvement store targeting professing Christians? I agree that there is a lot of bad teaching out there and that the problem of false converts is real, but this is an odd approach to addressing that problem. Without opening the tract, I’m already wondering, “why isn’t this at a Christian bookstore or Megachurch?” I’m concerned about the “but…” in bold letters. What is this tract going to use to counter the reader’s profession of faith?

Does your life magnify Jesus Christ?

Ouch. So, okay… the test for “am I saved” is “Does my life magnify Jesus Christ”? The tract then says

Colossians 3:17a, 1:18c, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…that in all things he might have the preeminence.”
SO, LET ME ASK YOU. ARE YOU SAVED?

It was at this point that I almost lost it in that store. We’ll get to the proof-texting at play in just a minute, but taken at face value, is there ANYONE alive who can rightly claimed to be saved if this is the first test? No. Only Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, Son of the Living God passed this test. And because He did and then gave His Life as a substitutionary atonement for our sin, by the Grace of God and through Faith in Christ Jesus our unrighteousness is exchanged for His righteousness.

Now, let’s deal with the proof-texting. They didn’t even bother to let the Scripture speak for itself. The took a phrase from a verse in Chapter 3 and closed its thought with a phrase pulled from Chapter 1. Does the Bible not plainly teach on salvation anywhere in scripture, such that we are left to matrix the most fundamental of doctrines? In truth, Chapter 3 does contain the Gospel… but since this tract is trying to beat up the reader with Law right out of the chute, the author has taken a Gospel passage and turned into a commandment. The book of Colossians isn’t a dictionary or a lexicon where we strip mine ideas and phrases to construct new thoughts, laws, or principles. It was a letter, written by the Apostle Paul to the Christians in Colossae. This is the only reference to Colossians made in this tract, and they literally flipped the message backwards in their only proof-text. Paul begins with the Preeminence of Christ and builds up the reader into good works as the outflow of the work of the Gospel, yet this proof-text takes good works as that which gives the Lord Jesus preeminence in our lives, proving our salvation. Let’s look at the text in order.

Colossians 1:1-23 (ESV)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The Preeminence of Christ

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

There are so many places to look for the Law of God which convicts us of sin… why do violence to the text, twisting the Gospel into a Law that cannot be fulfilled by our flesh (proof-text portion was underlined above)? Paul goes on in Chapter 2 to warn against being led away or shifting from the hope of the Gospel that was preached to them, particularly for those who would seek to enslave them once again under the elementary principles of law-keeping as a means of proving their salvation (like this tract seems to want to do).

Colossians 2 (ESV)

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

Alive in Christ

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Let No One Disqualify You

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Colossians 3:1-17 (ESV) | Put On the New Self

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity,passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This is a Gospel Epistle… not a test of proving your salvation. Salvation isn’t something you prove by how well you’ve maintained the preeminence of Jesus Christ in your works. What does Paul point his readers to, their good works? Absolutely not! He points them to the preeminence of Christ, His finished work on the Cross for our sake, the Gospel of Hope that was preached to them, the forgiveness of sin by faith in Jesus Christ, for God took our debts of sin and transgressions and left them nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ. Paul transitions, painting a picture of our having joined in the death of Christ in water baptism, and Paul urges us to walk in newness of life by faith. You see, good works flows as the result of our regeneration in Christ, but Paul isn’t making them the proof of salvation here. We will continue to fall short and we will continually need to forgive one another, as we ask for forgiveness in our daily prayers.

This tract continues to take the Gospel passages and twists them into Law, accusing the professing Christian reader of not truly being saved since they cannot live up to standard of Jesus Christ. We’ll continue with the tract for a bit longer.

Does it show in your Lifestyle?

Now, we need to be careful here. We agree that a life of faith should look differently from a life of unbelief, we know this from the Epistle of James. If there is no visible difference in our lives, then can such a faith that produces no good work truly be saving faith? That’s a fair question and that should be where this question is pointing. Sadly, the tract goes back into the burden of law while skipping Gospel passages.

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.”
The “old things” here are the desires one had prior to salvation in Christ Jesus. When someone gets truly born again they are brand new. All the sins they once enjoyed are no longer a part of the will or the life of the new believer, and have been replaced…

See what they did there? If sin is still tempting to you, you aren’t truly born again. Because when you are born again, those desires go away and are replaced with Godly desires. Is that what the Bible teaches? That our flesh becomes perfect once we are born again? Not in this life. Will we be able to measure our salvation by our earthly perfection? Nope. Am I exaggerating the points being made by this tract? Let’s look at the remaining headings:

  • Does it show in your love? Do you love Jesus more than ANYTHING? The only way that is possible is if you are saved….John 14:15, “if ye love me, keep my commandments.”
  • Does it show that he is your LORD? Luke 6:46, “and why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”…if you profess Jesus Christ as Lord, but have never given Him full control of your life, you say you are saved, but it seems just to be a mere profession without salvation.

So, when the tract finally gets around to the Gospel, we get a list of commands:

YOU MUST:

  1. Accept that you are a sinner Romans 3:23, For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
  2. Agree with God, and repent of your ins 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
    Acts 17:30, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent:”
  3. Call on Jesus and ask Him to save you Romans 10:9-10,13, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, though shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Okay, so the reader goes through this list… and within an hour (I’m being generous), the believer will still fail every single one of the tests of salvation presented in the tract. The closing paragraph just before the contact information for the local church that purchased the tract breaks my heart.

God tells us to examine ourselves whether we be in the faith. Let the Lord search your heart. Will you listen to what He has to say to you? If you are not saved, are you willing to call upon the Lord Jesus and ask Him to forgive your sins and save you? Will you give Him your HEART and LIFE? REMEMBER, HE WANT TO SAVE YOU!

If only the Gospel had been clearly presented in the tract… without being crumpled into law. The professing Christian who still struggles with sin, with making Jesus Christ preeminent in his works (words and deeds) isn’t saved? This Gospel tract is an example of confusing Law and Gospel, and it provides no rest for the reader, no hope for the believer, nothing but works-based assurance.

Conclusion

Don’t share tracts like these. Get rid of them. Learn the proper distinction between Law and Gospel. It isn’t your place to measure the good works of one of Christ’s servants, merely to preach law and gospel and let the Holy Spirit work in His people. The Law is holy, and profitable for exposing sin and putting it to death in our flesh. We will all die. Our flesh is cursed, it is rotten and decayed due to sin. Please read through 1 Corinthians 15… Paul repeats the Gospel and then goes on to explain the Resurrection that is to come. We are indeed made new creatures by faith in Christ Jesus, but as long as the old flesh remains, it is being brought to death (by the Law of God as punishment for sin) so that when that which is our flesh finally passes away, that which is Spiritual will rise again in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (ESV)

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Discernment and Discretion in Giving

studyToday’s Completing The Thought (CTT) post will centered around the question of Giving for the Sake of the Gospel. Because the most popular feature of our blog week is our Discernment in Music (DiM) post, our focus today will be on the nature of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) radio stations that are listener supported.

Since we will be speaking about money and giving, I feel it is important to inform the reader of our position on the oft-quoted Malachi 3:10 by those who seek to impose the Mosaic Tithe upon Christians. CTT | Will Man Rob God?

In our area of Georgia, we have two strong (signal-strength) listener-supported CCM broadcast stations, one of which is about to go into their fund-raising week. There are many proof-texts used in church fundraising slogans that we will need to start addressing specifically in our CTT posts. For now, I want to take a more general approach. The intent here is to call my brothers and sisters in Christ to discernment and discretion in their Giving to para-church ministries.

Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians

While modern-day evangelicalism still struggles with the misuse of Malachi in church fundraising, we don’t often get many para-church organizations taking that route. No, instead we generally get more humble appeals to 2 Corinthians 9, beginning in verse 6. Let’s take a look.

2 Corinthians 9:6-11 (ESV) | The Cheerful Giver

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,

“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
    his righteousness endures forever.”

10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

God does, indeed, love a cheerful giver. That is clearly written in scripture. Paul isn’t teaching that here so much as reminding them of this fact of Scripture. In fact, the standard of scripture is such that we are called to give lovingly to our enemies… a far more challenging call to gracious giving:

Matthew 5:38-48 (ESV) | Love Your Enemies

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Please remember that here, Jesus is preaching the Law, the commandments of God. This isn’t the Gospel. On account of our sinfulness, we all fall short of this perfection of the Father, and so incur more sin. The Gospel of Grace is that by faith we are granted the Righteousness of Jesus Christ, and made free to extend the Love and Grace we’ve received. My point here being that these good works cannot be performed in hopes of acquiring righteousness before God; rather, they can only be performed as the result of a righteousness granted to us by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. An excellent little phrase I find most helpful is:

“God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does.” – Gustaf Wingren

So, if Paul isn’t teaching on how to give to please God, what is he doing in this part of his letter to the Corinthians? Let’s read the local and then the greater context of this portion of his letter.

2 Corinthians 9:1-5 (ESV) | The Collection for Christians in Jerusalem

Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints,for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.

There is great need for the people in Macedonia. They had received word of the generosity and eagerness (zeal) of the Corinthians to send a gift to the churches in Macedonia. This promise has sparked hope and has stirred up most of the Macedonians. Indeed, there is an indication that the promise has been in place for over a year. This is no knee-jerk appeal for “sacrificial giving”. On the contrary, Paul is sending his letter and the brothers ahead of himself and his accompanying Macedonians to the Corinthians in hopes that they might be able to faithfully deliver on the promised gift so that it might be fully ready to be presented as a willing gift; rather than for them to show up and none of it be ready, thus taking the form of an exaction. To put it in modern parlance, imagine telling a close relative that you could help them pay their taxes this year, only to have to scramble on April 14th as you break open jars and start counting coins hoping to make the deadline while that relative is standing on your front doorstep? To the observer, it would seem more like a shake-down than your generosity. Paul seeks to avoid such humiliation for himself, the Macedonians who are in need and have been excited for this gift, and for the Corinthians who made the pledge. What Paul has written is Scripture… but how it gets presented and preached isn’t always faithful to its context.

In the greater context, remember that the first letter to the Corinthians wasn’t a pleasant one. There were problems with divisions and sensuality in worship, mysticism, and sexual immorality. There was also problem with chaotic church worship and unrighteousness in taking the Lord’s Supper, such that many were falling sick and some even died. That first letter was very tough. Titus was sent to them and had since returned to Paul to give a good report (2 Cor 7).  We see in chapter 8, Paul gives a report of the cheerful giving of the Macedonians despite their poverty, and of the outpouring of the Grace of God to them throughout their hardship there. We see in the middle of the chapter how a year ago the Corinthians got involved in the work of providing for the Saints in Macedonia and how they were eager to do it, how Paul was encouraged by the response of Titus, and now Paul here is urging the Corinthians to follow through with what they had started. So we see here in the middle of Ch 8, and again at the start of Ch 9, that Paul seeks to aid the Corinthians in every way possible to follow through with their promise of relief. This must not be presented as an exaction or a knee-jerk “sowing a seed of faith” and “making a sacrificial gift” to please God.

That Wasn’t Really Para-Church Giving

Yes, you got me there. The other major teaching points in the New Testament concern compensation for Elders within the Church, for the daily distribution, and enrolling of true widows. In fact, a strong case can be made for avoiding para-church organizations, due to their lack of church oversight. These entities are not under Overseers and deacons of the Church. I think this can be a matter of Christian liberty (whether or not to give to such entities) but I urge each of you to practice discernment. For not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one in truth. Not ministry that claims to preach the Gospel does so faithfully.

With that being said, I’d like to offer the following basic checklist of questions that need to be asked of any ministry that claims to do the work of evangelism, the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Is the Gospel being preached? Using the word “gospel” doesn’t actually convey the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, we see throughout the New Testament the warning of false gospels, false teachers, and false christs even coming up from within our congregations. Since we must do the work of noble bereans for our own churches, we must also discern what is being presented as the gospel in these para-church organizations. Do they rightly handle God’s Word? Do they preach both Law and Gospel? Do they call sinners to repentance? In the case of CCM radio ministry, does the radio station broadcast faithful preaching of the word of God? Some radio programs are solid (Grace to You, Truth for Life, etc) while others do more harm than good (Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, etc). Are the songs played on the radio station held to a Biblical standard of sound doctrine? Do the on-air personalities (DJs) rightly handle Scripture in the segments between songs? All important questions.

Is the money going to the ministry? Modern-Day evangelicalism has completely lost sight of this bit of discernment/stewardship. Creflo Dollar engaged in church fundraising to buy him the most expensive personal jet on the market, claiming that it was necessary for the preaching of the Gospel (read more). Seriously. Well, we know he’s a false preacher and a wolf in the pulpit. Something to bear in mind with a lot of these para-church organizations is that in our culture we practice debt-based financing. We get our toys first, hoping that they will “pay for themselves” in the long run. That isn’t a model of stewardship we see demonstrated in Scripture. In the case of CCM radio ministry, is the money for paying current staff and broadcasting fees or is the station trying to expand its advertising or repeater stations?

What is the appeal being made for the fundraising? Are they offering promises they can’t keep? Are they pressuring you to give under compulsion? Are they making promises on God’s behalf that He never made concerning your giving to their business? What are the stated goals of the fundraising endeavor?

Does the Church need these para-church organizations for the preaching of the Gospel? This can be tough to answer. Personally, I’m a supporter of a para-church organization (Covenant Care Services) that fights abortion in the State of Georgia by reaching out to pregnant women with the Gospel, emotional/physical support, and an appeal to offer adoption services at no cost to the birth mother for local Christian families looking to adopt. This organization does not fall under a local church or denomination of church, which in some ways can allow for broader support, but also leaves room for disagreement in some matters of doctrine. Such situations require a great deal of discernment and discretion. Does the Church need this particular ministry? No… but this work isn’t something each local church is doing on their own. As society continues to wage war against Jesus Christ and believers, the day may come when such organizations will no longer be allowed to operate as they currently do, in which case the church will have to step up. As far as CCM Radio ministry, no, I don’t think the Church needs it. In fact, much of the influx of heresy in mainstream evangelicalism is facilitated by CCM and so-called “Christian Bookstores”. A tough article that draws this point out directly can be found at the Berean Research Blog.

Conclusion

God does love a cheerful giver. We who are in Christ and of the Household of Faith, are set free by the Grace of God through Faith in Christ Jesus to do good works. God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does. As God extends Grace to us to be partakers in the Ministry of the Gospel as ministers of Reconciliation, we would do well to give bountifully. For our treasure is not to be stored up here on earth, where moth and rust destroy; rather, we are called to lay up for ourselves treasures in Heaven. 

Colossians 3:12-17 (ESV)

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Church Discipline

We are living in a time when the visible Church in our day has wandered off-mission in many ways. We have Pastors who think they need to run Christ’s Church as though it were a business with themselves as CEO, we have churches whose sole aim is to entertain unbelievers without preaching Law and Gospel, and we have other churches re-writing the Law as they (or our pagan culture) sees fit, and much, much more. There are many discernment ministries popping up, calling Celebrity pastors and church communities to repentance and a return to Biblical Christianity. There are so many churches that are put together by man’s ideas rather than what is clearly written in the scriptures, that when most people talk about “Church Discipline” we immediately think of Spiritual Abuse like what we saw with Mark Driscol at Mars Hill. It is important to remember, however, that these men abused Church Discipline, they didn’t invent it. Discipline comes from the Lord God. So, let us look first at the purpose of Discipline in our Christian walk.

Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

We are going to begin in Hebrews, Chapter 12. A very interesting thing about the first portion of this chapter, is that it is almost always used in the “feel-good encouragement” that tells the Christian, “hey, it isn’t up to you and your works to perfect your faith”. That is absolutely, true, but it isn’t the whole message Paul was conveying. You see, He perfects our faith but it isn’t always a feel-good process.

Hebrews 12:1-17 (ESV) | Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

So  you see, the writer of Hebrews is treating the Discipline of the Lord God as a form of Grace. Lack of discipline is a sign of illegitimacy. There is grace in discipline, for its purpose is to bring the son into repentance so that he might be spared final judgement. God’s word has very strong warning against leaders who abuse their position, but see here that lack of discipline condemns the sinner to judgement. The examples of the sexually immoral and Esau are powerful examples that carry much weight. The sexually immoral being left to their own demise is an easier concept to grasp for most than the unholiness of Esau, especially for those of us today who don’t have an understanding of birthright.

We’ll focus on the sexually immoral by looking at a sub plot that takes place between Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. But first, let us begin with what Jesus taught regarding rebuking a brother who has sinned against you.

Correcting a Brother in Christ

Matthew 18:15-20 (ESV) | If Your Brother Sins Against You

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Jesus made a clear progression of escalation (I tried to highlight it using color of text). What we see in many present-day accounts of spiritual abuse, church leadership pronouncing public judgement on individuals who sought to follow this prescribed progression. A concerned member of the congregation goes to the pastor to point out questionable teaching in private, and then the pastor and his staff shun and isolate the one who dared question the visionary leader. Such actions serve only to protect the CEO’s reputation rather than the health of the Church or of the congregation. On the other hand, if the church fails to do its part to address open sin within the congregation, the entire body is defiled, as we see in 1 Corinthians 5.

Sexual Immorality Defiles the Church

1 Corinthians 5 (ESV)

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

What is happening in today’s progressive-liberal churches is not new… it happened in Corinth. A man had his father’s wife, and the church was arrogant in their tolerance of this fact. Paul was furious. He demanded that the individual be removed from the local church. This is upper limit of Church Discipline (though some theonomists seem to think otherwise, they are confusing the covenants).

For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

Paul wastes no time instructing how the discipline is to be delivered. It was to be in the assembly. The time for private rebuke was long passed. The sin was public and it was tolerated. It was then reported to Paul who pronounced judgement against the sin and the rebel.

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

And this is absolutely important to understand, brothers and sisters. It is not for us to judge the outsiders, the unbelievers, those who are still dead in their sins and tresspasses, condemned by their unbelief. God judges them. Paul even said something to the effect of, “hey, when I told you not to associate with sexually immoral people, I meant among those who call themselves Christians”. We preach the gospel to the lost in the world, calling them out of their sin by the Grace of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For those who have been born again yet give themselves over to the desires of the flesh, knowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, are to be corrected (Galatians 6:1 (ESV) Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted) but as long as they remain unrepentant we are not to associate with them. Why? So that they might come to repentance, and that their sin might not leaven the whole congregation.

Paul is telling the Corinthians, that they were all in sin for allowing this public sin to go unchallenged, undisciplined, and possibly even celebrated in some twisted sense (I’m speculating on the brand of arrogance Paul points out twice). The individual was to be turned over to Satan. Was that because Satan is in charge? No. God is sovereign over His sons and daughters. Discipline comes from God. We live by His Grace. Therefore, when our rebellion requires discipline, He allows the enemy to take shots at us that are less restrained, so that we might repent. The goal of the excommunication isn’t to condemn the man, but to save his soul in the long-run, even if his flesh suffers damage from the enemy (See also Matthew 5:29-30 (ESV)).

Forgiveness Must Quickly Accompany Repentance

The goal of Church Discipline is not condemnation, but conviction unto repentance. We (as individuals and as a Church) must be ready to forgive, quick to love, and faithful to restore a brother who has repented of sin. Such was the case for the unnamed individual in Paul’s letters.

2 Corinthians 2:3-11 (ESV) | Forgive the Sinner

And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

This is the goal of Church Discipline. It is not loving to interfere or undermine Discipline that is just. As a father, there are few things more frustrating than to have someone interrupt my correction of my children’s behavior to “spare them” from my discipline. My children are to follow my rules, because I love them and I know what is best for them. Similarly, when the Church is exercising just, biblical discipline, the congregation must honor the purpose of Biblical discipline and resist the desire to coddle sinners. Remember what we saw in Hebrews 12, the Discipline of the Lord is a form of grace.

WWUTT | Have Nothing to Do With Them? (Church Discipline)

[youtube https://youtu.be/SOUJdNzwP-Q]

 

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | From Glory to Glory

Growing up in Pentecostalism, there was always a focus on “what God is going to do” either in us, for us,  or through us in Earth. In Pentecostalism, “It is Finished” seems to morph into “It will be finished for those who are filled in the Spirit”. We’ve looked at a lot of the Pentecostal proof-texts here in our CTT posts, today we’ll look one that is used to justify the Pentecostal push for the “new” and why they are always talking about being “in transition” or how we can’t “live in the past” or “rely on former glory”. It is most recognizable in the NKJV

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NKJV)

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Most of the time this gets truncated down to a cliche of “from glory to glory”, as a rationale for some teaching that the Holy Spirit is progressing Christians from one level of power to another. In “Presence” theology, term glory is often used to describe the presence of the Holy Spirit or the Shekinah Glory. Is that the referent here in Paul’s letter? Is Paul talking about a repeating cycle of progression from glory to glory to glory… until Christ’s return? Well, let’s look at what Paul is teaching here beginning at the first verse, paying special attention to the word glory. I’m going to switch to the ESV, but I’ll link the passages with ESV and NKJV side-by-side.

2 Corinthians 3 (ESV) | Ministers of the New Covenant

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Now this is a wonderful Gospel passage. The chapter begins with Paul asking of the Corinthians if they need to prove their ministry to them. He makes reference to others who needed “letters of recommendation”, and Paul tells them point-blank, “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all“. Notice how quickly he takes the concept of “letter of recommendation” and creates a teaching point contracting a letter written with ink on paper vice a letter written with the Spirit on our hearts. He’s going somewhere with this. He then makes a shift from ink to letters in stone and compares the letters carved on stone against the letters written with Spirit on hearts. What is Paul comparing? He’s comparing the Law given to Moses with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In verse 6, Paul is closing out who they are, they are Ministers of the New Covenant (the Gospel) not of the Law but of the Spirit. For the letter kills (Law) but the Spirit gives life (Gospel). Paul went into detail teaching the purpose of the Law (to expose sin) and how the Spirit of Christ sets us free from that sin in Romans 8. Paul does not dismiss the Law outright. The Law is beautiful and it is of God, but it does kill us by exposing how wretched we are in comparison to a Holy God. You see in verse 7 Paul refers to the Mosaic Covenant as the ministry of death. That’s what the Law does, it kills us Justly. The due punishment for our sin is death. The Law makes that clear. And that Law, the ministry of death, came with such glory that Moses had to veil his face. That law which was to be brought to an end in Christ Jesus (who fulfilled the Law) was not without glory. However, once Jesus Christ, the Messiah, had come in His Glory, He would surpass the glory of the Law and the ministry of death. The glory of what is permanent, the Spirit of Christ, far exceeds the glory of the Law that was brought to an end in Christ. In fact, now that Christ has come the Law has no glory at all by comparison.

So we see that Paul isn’t talking in vague generalities here, nor is he suggesting there is to be some succession of glory that Christians or the Church are supposed to experience before the return of Jesus Christ. Paul is very specifically addressing the New Covenant’s replacement of the Old. The Glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, written on our hearts allows us to behold the glory of God with unveiled faces. Why? Because in Christ our sins have been paid and His righteousness has clothed us by faith. Those who would seek to remain under the Mosaic covenant, have no boldness or hope of being made righteous in His sight, not to the extend that we who are in Christ Jesus have.

Romans 3:19-20 (ESV) 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The veil remains over their hearts. They’ve rejected the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Living God and His finished work on the cross. But this isn’t just about the Jews who rejected Jesus. This is about all who have rejected God. For before Jesus arrived, the only glory on earth, the only hope of salvation was Israel, which means all others were lost. Notice, Paul says that the whole world may be held accountable to God. But now that Christ has come, the former glory of the Law is no more in light of the Permanent and Greater Glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

There are several passages the speak to the growing and learning and coming to fullness of Christ who is the Head of His Church. This isn’t what Paul is conveying here when he summarizes this picture of 2 covenants and how we are being transformed from one degree of glory (the Law) to another (the fullness of the Gospel). Until the day of our resurrection in Christ, we don’t graduate from denying our selves, taking up our crosses daily, our sins being mortified in the flesh by Faith in repentance and being forgiven and made righteous in God’s sight by faith in our risen savior, Jesus Christ. When Christ returns, we’ll finally be rid of this body of death and will see what for now we must hope for by faith in Christ. To suggest, that there would be any interim greater glories is to undermine what Paul is teaching in this letter to the Corinthians.

Romans 11:32-36 (ESV)

32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. 33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

OT | The Passover Lamb

Christ in Gethsemane by Heinrich Hofmann

Christ in Gethsemane by Heinrich Hofmann

There has been a great deal of emphasis recently on Jewish traditions, calendars, and ceremonies in the books and sermons in evangelical circles. Some of it is good, but a lot of it is sketchy. We seem to have forgotten Sola Scriptura, and we’ve lost sight of the covenants in Scripture and their role in Christianity. We are of the New Covenant, bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. The Old Covenant points to Jesus, who then fulfilled the covenant in His body, as the Lamb of God. Over the next several weeks we will be looking at the Old Testament drawing our understanding of it not from the Midrash, but from the New Testament. Today, I want to start at the Exodus, with a look at the Passover.

The Passover

Exodus 12 (ESV) | The Passover
1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.

7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover.12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever. 18 In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 19 For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread.”

21 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. 23 For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. 24 You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. 25 And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. 26 And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped. 28 Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

Exodus 12:40-51 (ESV) | Institution of the Passover
40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It was a night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the Lord by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.

43 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. 45 No foreigner or hired worker may eat of it. 46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. 49 There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.”

50 All the people of Israel did just as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that very day the Lord brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.

Okay, we’ve gone through a lot of text (we skipped some verses for time sake), let’s review what have thus far before moving on to Exodus 13. In verse 5, we see God demanding that the Passover Lamb had to be without blemish. This evaluation of the lamb from either the goats or the sheep had to be made physically; therefore, it was only a shadow of the true Passover Lamb, who is truly without blemish. This is why it was so significant that John the Baptist made the following declaration as recorded in John 1.

John 1:29-34 (ESV) | Behold, the Lamb of God
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

Only the Son of God could be perfect and without blemish, and only He could truly be the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

Now, the unleavened bread is very interesting here. Firstly, God is instituting the Passover as a remembrance of His deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. The entire service, really, as evidenced by the explanation given in verse 26 and 27. The point of the Passover is to remind them of what God had done. However, as the Passover and subsequent Exodus comes, there is no time to make extensive preparations for life in the wilderness, particularly in food. Egypt gives up its riches, but we see in Exodus 12:34,39 that they left Egypt in haste and didn’t have time to leaven their bread. This is important because while the unleavened bread points to the Passover, the Passover itself is accomplished by God and the Blood of the Lamb.

The leaven is added to the bread to cause it to raise, inflate, to give a sense of increase though it is a false sense. This understanding can be drawn from Jesus’s warning to His disciples in Matthew 16. We, the children of God adopted by the Blood of the Lamb, we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that all who believe in Him will not perish in Egypt (death of sin), but be freed from Egypt and brought to the Promised Land (Heaven). We dare not add anything to the bread, to falsely inflate it, or to make it more palatable for those who would hear the Gospel. The unleavened bread was to be eaten with bitter herbs, a symbol and a reminder of the harshness of their enslavement, and for us it is of our sinfulness. They didn’t make cake, there was no frosting… and when we preach Law and Gospel, the Law is indicative of the bitter herbs, for the Law convicts us of our sin, and the pure, unleavened Gospel of Jesus Christ reminds us of His Body that was broken for us. Let’s look at how the Apostle Paul referred to the leaven in relation to Communion:

1 Corinthians 5:6-8 (ESV) 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

In Exodus 12:43 we see prohibitions being added, that this Passover was not for the uncircumcised, not for the lost. Salvation, deliverance out of Egypt, is secured by no other means than Christ’s death on the cross, by the Passover Lamb. Communion is not for the unbeliever, for he who has not believed in Jesus stands condemned already.

John 3:16-21 (ESV) | For God So Loved the World
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

That is not to say that Salvation isn’t available to all; rather, that Salvation (and by extension, Communion) is not available for those who do not believe in Christ. We preach both Law and Gospel, so that the lost might hear the Word of God and receive faith, a gift from God, to believe in Him and be delivered from Egypt, out of their sin and trespasses, so that they might join in the Communion of the Body of Christ.

Let us now look at how this Truth of the Passover is clarified in Hebrews.

Hebrews 10:1-18 (ESV) | Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All
10 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,

17 then he adds,

I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

All praise, glory, and honor be to the our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We will continue studying the Exodus and how it points to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. I do hope you will join us again. if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share.

Romans 16:25-27 (ESV) 25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

May the Grace of God be with you today and always,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge