OT | Crossing the Red Sea

Illustration from a Bible card published 1907  by the Providence Lithograph Company

Illustration from a Bible card published 1907
by the Providence Lithograph Company

Last week, in our Old Testament Study, we looked at Consecration and Redemption of the Firstborn in Exodus 13 and how it points to Christ as explained in the New Testament. This week, we will continue in Exodus 13 as we examine Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea and how that points ahead to our salvation and baptism.

Reminder of the Strong Hand of God

Let us start off with a reminder of the explanation God gave for the statue of consecrating and redeeming the firstborn.

Exodus 13:13-16 (ESV)

13 Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.14 And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’16 It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”

This isn’t the first time we see this declaration. The same was provided as an explanation for the feast of unleavened bread and the Passover. What follows next is a return to the historical narrative from the legal prescriptions of remembrance of the exodus. All of Israel has left the service of Pharoah, with Egypt’s plunder and a hope of being taken to the lands promised to Abraham, the Land of the Canaanites, the Land flowing with milk and honey. Let us take a moment to remind ourselves of this covenant made between God and Abram.

Genesis 17:1-10 (ESV) | Abraham and the Covenant of Circumcision

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly. Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

This is the covenant of Abraham, of the circumcision. God promised the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession. The children of Israel feared Pharoah, and to say they were reticent to have Moses promise them that God had sent him to them to lead them to the Promised Land would be a huge under statement. Slavery is all these people knew. No doubt that is why God has made it plain to them that the Passover, the unleavened bread, and the consecration of the firstborn are a testimony to what the Lord God has done for Israel, bringing them out of the House of Slavery (Egypt).  What we will see here, though, that their soil is indeed rocky (Parable of the Sower). Let’s continue in the historical narrative of Exodus 13.

Exodus 13:17-22 (ESV) | Pillars of Cloud and Fire

17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.” 20 And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

God knows our hearts. He sees the quality of the soil and knows that they are not yet ready to endure the sight of the Philistines. So the Lord leads them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night into the wilderness. While He is leading the people miraculously, and mightily, their faith is yet very weak. Let’s continue reading into the next chapter.

Exodus 14:1-9 (ESV) | Crossing the Red Sea

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” 6 So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly. The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

Where these places point on the modern map I cannot say with certainty. It is interesting here that the Lord chooses the location for Israel’s encounter with Pharaoh’s men. God chose a location facing Baal Zephon, undoubtedly a significant Egyptian site to one of their gods. Notice the Lord tells Moses what Pharaoh will say and that he will interpret Israel’s movement as chaotic and aimless, that the wilderness will shut them in. Ancient Egyptians idenfitified deities over various lands, so Pharaoh may have thought that while the God of Israel had defeated all of the primary gods of Egypt, that their god (or demon) of the wilderness had ensnared Israel. However it might have played out in Pharaoh’s unbelieving heart/mind, the Lord God indeed hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he sought out the destruction of Israel. I often wonder how much time must have passed between the death of all of the firstborn of Egypt to the time when Pharaoh took to the chase. The Bible does not say. It was long enough to amass quite a chariot army and give chase.

Exodus 14:10-14 (ESV)

10 When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Rocky soil, weak faith. They cry out to the Lord and they turn on Moses, even pull out a “we told you to leave us alone”. Had God broken His promise? No. Despite all that the Lord had done for them, and let’s not forget that the pillar of fire and smoke is still present, when they saw the army of the Pharaoh, they are overcome with fear and are shaken in their faith in God.

Exodus 14:15-25 (ESV)

15 The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.16 Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.

19 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, 20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 Andthe people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.24 And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, 25 clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.

Wow. I’d like to draw your attention to something, in verse 18, and the Egyptians shall know… I found it interesting here that it doesn’t read “and all of Israel shall know”. I mean, it is Israel, who is has suddenly lost their faith. Interesting. Also backing up a bit to verse 17 where we see that God hardens the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will chase Israel through the Red Sea so that God will get glory over Pharaoh. This mighty hand of God moves for His glory, Soli Deo Gloria. The parting of the waters will both make a way of escape for Israel AND serve to bring Glory to God so that Egypt will know that the God of Israel is the Lord. Let’s continue before jumping to the New Testament.

Exodus 14:26-31 (ESV)

26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. 28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. 29 But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

The victory belongs to the Lord. He utterly destroyed the Egyptian army that had gone after Israel. With a mighty Hand, the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, the house of slavery.

Alive and Free in Christ

The Passover points to Christ who presented Himself as our Passover Lamb, slain to redeem all of mankind to God, out of the kingdom of darkness, the house of slavery to sin. The crossing of the Red Sea points to our Baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let’s take a look at a portion of Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

Colossians 2:1-15 (ESV) | Alive in Christ

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.

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.

Amen. Notice some of the familiar wording used, we have the reference to the circumcision (the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham), only this is a better circumcision. Having been buried in Him in baptism. As Israel crossed through the Red Sea, Egypt chased after, and God slowed the wheels of the chariots as they pursued. God nailed the record of debt, of slavery to sin, to the cross. Much like how God brought the waters crashing down upon the armies of Egypt so that they would not follow Israel out of the sea. Also notice how Paul closes this thought… that God disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them in Christ. The open shame experienced by Egypt was only a shadow of the open shame of the Kingdom of darkness in the triumph of Christ at the cross. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that by a strong hand the Lord brought us out of the Kingdom of Darkness, from the house of slavery to sin. The next time you take communion, remember what God has done for you, and know that He alone is the Lord.

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 next week. 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

OT | Consecration of the Firstborn

Christ in Gethsemane by Heinrich Hofmann

Christ in Gethsemane by Heinrich Hofmann

Last week, in our Old Testament Study, we looked at The Passover Lamb  in Exodus 12 and how it points to Christ as explained in Hebrews. This week, we will move ahead in Exodus to see how the consecration of the firstborn of Israel also continues to point to the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God.

 

Consecration of the Firstborn

Exodus 13 (ESV) | Consecration of the Firstborn

13 The Lord said to Moses, Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.”

The Feast of Unleavened Bread

Then Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the Lord brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out.And when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this service in this month. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord. Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lordmay be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt.10 You shall therefore keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.

11 “When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, 12 you shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the Lord‘s. 13 Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. 14 And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’16 It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”

Here we again see that God is instituting a statute of reminder for the people in that context, and we also see a shadow of God’s coming Salvation, the promised seed that would crush the head of the serpent. As with the feast of unleavened bread, the offering of a sacrificial lamb for the redemption of the firstborn is to serve as a reminder of what God has done for Israel, and for what He will do for Creation. The latter might be more difficult to see since what takes place here is a shadow of things to come. As always, to rightly understand the Old Testament, we need to draw our understanding from the New Testament. There are two key terms or concepts that connect this statute of the Law to the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Redemption and Firstborn.

Redemption. Now, in our culture we feel we have an understanding of the concept of redemption. When a store issues us a 25% off coupon, we know that if we decide to shop at that store and present the coupon, the redemption of which means that the store pays for 25% of the item, and we pay only 75%. The store redeems the coupon by paying for (or absorbing the cost of) the discount. But this is a poor explanation for the concept of our redemption. What we have here is a declaration that every firstborn belongs to God. Either it is redeemed by an atoning sacrifice of a lamb, or it must die. Clearly, this is only expected for livestock as all male children must be redeemed and not killed. Still the statute remains as both a reminder and a promise.

Firstborn. As soon as Adam sinned, and he and his wife were made aware of their nakedness in sin, blood was shed to cover their nakedness. This animal sacrifice was not enough to fully redeem Adam (the man, or all of mankind). God promised a seed of woman would crush the head of the serpent. We saw last week that the Passover Lamb pointed to Christ. Now we see that the Lamb is needed to redeem the firstborn. But we also know that Jesus is the firstborn (John 3:16-18) Son of God. Jesus is both the firstborn (that belongs to God) AND the sacrificial Passover Lamb. Now, there was no way of knowing this was God’s plan for redeeming all of mankind at this point, for God will continue to reveal His plan throughout the Law and the Prophets. For now, this is a statute of the Law set as a reminder of His favor, His love, His Grace, and His Mercy for the children of Israel. Let us now look at how the New Testament writers drew their understanding of the Law under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit with the Gospel of the Cross as their focal point.

Ephesians 1:3-10 (ESV) 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Colossians 1:15-23 (ESV) | 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.

Hebrews 9:11-28 (ESV) | Redemption Through the Blood of Christ

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

All praise, glory, and honor be to the our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This week’s reading is a bit short because I want to save the crossing of the Red Sea for next week. For now, let us close this post with the realization and understanding that we, who are in Christ Jesus, have been fully redeemed by God in the sacrifice of the spotless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, on the cross. By His blood you have been redeemed, once and for all. Remain in Him, holding firmly by faith to the promise of the inheritance of eternal life with 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

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

CTT | What is the Biblical Stance on Racism?

CTTThe Bible has many references to people groups, nations, and lineage, but does that make it racist? Not in the way we generally think of racism. In our modern-day we tend to focus on visible distinctions (skin color, hair type, or language) and we use those distinctions to malign people. The color of a person’s skin is used to determine if a statement or decision was racist, wrongfully exempting some and falsely accusing others of racism. When the world rejects Truth and defines all “right and wrong” based on self we shouldn’t really find double-standards all that surprising. We live in a day where sinful judgement takes place all of the time and is often smoke-screened with ad hominem attacks and straw-man racism. Rather than discuss the issues at hand, many who struggle with racism who are caught without a valid argument are the first to play the “racist” card. The world is lost because it has rejected the Truth of God’s Word.

Romans 1:18-20 (ESV)18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

So enough about how wrong and sinful the world is today. Let us turn to the Truth of God’s Word to explore this notion of racism and see what the Bible has to say on the matter.

God Created Mankind as One Kind, a single race.

Let us begin on the sixth day of Creation Week.

Genesis 1:24-31 (ESV) 24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Every living creature is created according to its kind. When God created plant life (day 3), He instituted the concept of bearing seed after it own kind. Each kind of plant will only bear seed of its own kind, and it will not bear the seed of a different kind. A banana kind will not suddenly bear seeds for stone fruit (like peaches). When the Bible refers to procreation of man, it uses the same rules of seed bearing after its own kind. The Hebrew word (אָדָם) is translated Adam, man, and mankind. All of mankind are a single race. That any man can join with any woman and produce children after their own kind demonstrates this truth. The creation account in Chapter 2 further illustrates this truth.

Genesis 2:18-20 (ESV) 18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.

In all of creation, there was no helper suitable for Adam. Therefore God created woman out of man and joined them together. One race, one kind, and it was all very good. Now, God designed within Creation a wide array of variety, for we have classified many variations within kinds (different cats, dogs, fruit, vegetables) of the lower creatures and within mankind (heights, weights, skin tones, hair types, eye colors, etc). Before the fall, there was only Adam and his wife, but the genetic material was all there. With sin came the curse, and degradation of all of creation. Divisions of mankind happened, but they did not become different kinds.

The Reset in the Time of Noah

We know that there was great variety in mankind after the fall as they multiplied on the earth. There were men of great renown (Nephilim or giants) in those days and after the flood (Sons of Anak; Numbers 13 (ESV)).  In Genesis 6, we see God is grieved by the wickedness of mankind on the earth and brought judgement upon it, saving Noah and his family. Now all people groups, all of the race of mankind is preserved in the 8 who were aboard the Ark. After the flood, the face of the whole Earth was changed, as well as its climate, and the need to survive in multivarious environments had to have been designed into the mankind by God, and it was. All of mankind spoke one language, and were one people.

Now sin persists in mankind and soon after the flood and the first harvest of the vine, Ham, sinned against his father, Noah. Noah curses Canaan, the son of Ham, as punishment for the wrong committed him by Ham. This becomes our first major separation of people groups, the sons of Canaan become subjects to Japheth and Shem who did what was right by Noah. This is a prophetic judgement on the house of Canaan, one God revisits in the time of Abraham.

Genesis 17:7-9 (ESV) 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” 9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.

Abraham was a descendant of Shem. But how did the groups become so foreign to one another in the time that passed between Shem and Abraham, such that Abraham was a sojourner in the land of Canaan?

The Tower of Babel

Let’s look turn to the beginning of Genesis 11.

Genesis 11:1-9 (ESV) | The Tower of Babel
1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

So, we see the first separation of people groups after the flood comes as a direct result of sin committed against Noah. A prophetic declaration of separation from the sons of Shem and Japheth and the sons of Ham. After some time, we have a second, major separation when God confused the languages of the people. Remember that everything here was written by Moses as he recorded God’s eye-witness account. We have some clue as to how the languages divided the people by looking at the genealogies recorded in chapter 10, particularly in how the accounts of the descendants of Japheth, Ham, and Shem are concluded. Let’s look at the descendants of Ham.

Genesis 10:6-20 (ESV) 6 The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan.

7 The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca.

The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan.

Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man.He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. 13 Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, 14 Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.

15 Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, 16 and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, 17 the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 18 the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the clans of the Canaanites dispersed. 19 And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. 20 These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.

I’ve highlighted several of the people groups that would become enemies of Israel, worshipers of false gods, wicked men of old. I am confident that most of the highlighted ones are easily recognized while a couple (Heth and Cush) might not be so. We looked at the significance of the descendants of Heth in the story of Jacob and Esau. We will take a look at Cush, but for now I’d like to draw your attention to the significance of Nimrod, the first on earth to be a mighty man. Now, we know that there were Nephilim or giants before the flood, so here the connotation is that Nimrod is perhaps the first earthly king. The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh. This is significant in understanding what went wrong in the building of the Tower of Babel. After having established his kingdom, he sought to build a tower into Heaven, to be like God, and he had the support of the people. We see that when he left the land of Shinar, he built Nineveh.

After God confused the languages of the people, they dispersed in clans, languages, and nations over the Earth. When their languages split, so did their gene pools and their cultures. Very few remembered God their creator… as we see in chapter 12, God calls Abram to leave the land of his family (Ur of the Chaldeans) into a land that God would give him. We see God calling Abram out of the dispersion of people who had at one time committed to build a monument to themselves, a tower to Heaven. Much like today, when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to call out of the world a people for Himself. The key separation here is a people who follow and worship the One True God, the descendants of Abraham.

What about skin color?

Skin color has already varied because our genetic makeup has already been set; however, it has not been mentioned as a determining factor in dividing people groups. Now that we have clans and languages split, and the post-flood world, it stands to reason that skin color may become more and more significant in the natural selection process based on climate and language. Answers in Genesis did a good job of explaining how skin type plays a role in natural selection with regards to climates.

Fast-forwarding to Moses as he records the Law, he is God’s chosen prophet to the children of Israel. God used Moses to deliver Israel from their slavery in Egypt, and to lead the people of Israel through the wilderness while God made Himself known to Israel first, and the rest of mankind later. He promised Abraham that the nations would be blessed by his offspring, that is Jesus Christ, through whom all mankind might be saved from the wrath earned by their sin. In Numbers, chapter 12, we see events transpire that would easily qualify as racism in today’s vernacular.

Numbers 12  (ESV) | Miriam and Aaron Oppose Moses
12 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. 2 And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. 3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. 4 And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. 5 And the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. 6 And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. 7 Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” 9 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed. 10 When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. 11 And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. 12 Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” 13 And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her—please.” 14 But the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” 15 So Miriam was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again. 16 After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran.

Ah, here we have a reference to Cush, the son of Ham. The Hebrew word here translated “Cushite” is elsewhere translated “Ethiopian”. The root of this word is the Hebrew word for the Cush which also means “black”. Cush was probably given his name because he was born darker than his siblings. The land of Cush is the land in the southern regions of the Nile, south of Egypt. Moses had taken a black woman for a wife, Miriam and Aaron oppose Moses for it, and God’s anger is kindled. The people have the Law and the statutes of the Lord. If they had any just objection to Moses marrying this woman, they would have presented their case. They didn’t, Miriam and Aaron objected to the marriage and even slightly invoked their status as having prophesied before the Lord before as somehow supporting their issue against Moses. God was furious. He addresses even the fact that the prophets don’t even speak to God in the same manner that God speaks to Moses. As punishment, God strikes Miriam with leprosy. Even when Moses makes his plea with God to heal her, God insists they abide by the Law, and so Miriam must observe the Law and wait 7 days outside the camp before being allowed back in. Is false judgement according to the color of skin condoned in the Bible? Absolutely not. Miriam was cut off from her people (for 7 days) for it.

Conclusion

What we superficially throw around as racism is in no way condoned in the Bible. God created one race, one kind, that is mankind. There are divisions of people, first and foremost whether or not we know the One True God and worship Him as God. There are differences within mankind, differences that I believe God enjoys, for He is the one who Created our variety, our languages, our appearance, our skills, our laughter. He created us in His likeness, in His image… we are a dim reflection of His Greatness. We all are sinners, we’ve all fallen in the sin of Adam and are born dead in sins and trespasses. But just as in Adam all men have sinned and died, through Jesus a way of salvation was provided for all of mankind.

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.”

John 6:28-29 (ESV) 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Do the work of God, believe in Jesus Christ, whom the Lord God sent out of His love for us, so that we might not perish. Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. May the Lord bless you and keep you in His Word.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Why We Aren’t Cessationists

If you’ve been following us for some time, you’ll know that while we do preach Biblical discernment in all matters, we firmly assert that we are not cessationists. I think today we should clarify our position a bit so that there is no mystery on where we stand.

We are functionally cessationist while theologically we acknowledge
that God remains Sovereign over His gifts

First, let’s clearly define cessationism. Cessationsim is the assertion that certain gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in the Bible are no longer available or in operation today. That at some point in early church history, they ceased. Sometimes this assertion is tied to dispensationalism, at other times it is simply tied to the Apostles (or those upon whom the Apostles had directly laid their hands). When tied to dispensationalism, the assertion sometimes sounds like, “God doesn’t operate or deal with His people in that way anymore”, and when tied to the Apostles it sounds like, “those where only for a short time as a testimony of the authority given to the Apostles, and now that there are no more Apostles, the need for those gifts has gone away”. These views are held (in general) by both Lutherans (who generally take the Apostolic argument) and Calvinists (who generally take the dispensation argument). Our problem with the assertion of cessation of certain gifts of the Holy Spirit is that it isn’t taught in Scripture. That presents a bit of a problem when one considers Sola Scriptura as a major tenet of the Reformation.

Generally speaking, there is an argument within the cessation camp that pre-supposes a win as its fundamental argument for discernment. The argument is, “God doesn’t speak to people directly anymore; therefore, anyone who claims a direct revelation from God is either lying or deceived”. This is an argument that really should cease. If the Bible declared that God no longer speaks to His people directly, then there would be no further argument. That it doesn’t, means that we should drop this argument or at least demote it from being a foundational presupposition. At best, it is an empirical bias that may motivate an individual to exercise Biblical discernment, but the assertion should really be presented as a bias and not an objective Biblical truth.

Common Proof Texts for Cessation of Gifts

To Seal both Vision and Prophet

Perhaps one of my favorite pastors to listen to, whether it be one of his sermons or his discernment ministry, is Pastor Chris Rosebrough. When it comes to preaching the Word of God and practicing sound Biblical hermeneutics in breaking down bad teaching, I’ve not found anyone better. I haven’t heard him speak on this recently, but in the past on his program I’ve heard this approach taken a few times. This proof comes from Daniel 9:24. Let us start at the beginning of Daniel 9 so we understand the context of this passage.

Daniel 9:1-2 (ESV) 1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

Okay, so we have Daniel, one of the exiles who feared the Lord God and was blessed by God and promoted to a leadership position in the realm of the Chaldeans. We see here that as he studied the Scriptures, he perceived the minimum number of years of the exile prophesied by Jeremiah as 70 years. What follows is Daniel’s prayer of repentance for himself and on behalf of Israel. In so doing, Daniel is following the instructions given to Solomon at the completion of the Temple.

2 Chronicles 7:11-22 (ESV) | If My People Pray
11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished.12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17 And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, 18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to rule Israel.’ 19 “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’”

Solomon and Israel did not obey, and God kept His Word, as He always does. But now that the 70 years had been completed, Daniel sought the Lord in prayer.

Daniel 9:3-5 (ESV)3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.

I encourage you to take some time and read his prayer in full. For now, let us skip to the response from the Lord given to Daniel by messenger, the Angel Gabriel.

Daniel 9:20-27 (ESV) | Gabriel Brings an Answer
20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision. 24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Itsend shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

So, our proof text for cessation comes from a Messianic Prophecy. This scripture gets presented as a declaration that when the second Temple is built both vision and prophet are sealed up, which is taken to mean “closed”. The Hebrew words used here can be legitimately interpreted in that light, so there is no point in digging into the roots of the words. There are 2 problems with using this passage, the first is that it comes in a prophecy regarding the Temple and the Anointed One (Messiah or Christ) which points to Jesus. So it is difficult to treat this text as a clear teaching text, because it was a specific message, to Daniel, regarding His plans for Judah and Jerusalem. The second problem is that if we are to take this as a definitive closing of both Prophet and Vision, well, then we have a problem because the New Testament has both visions and prophets revealed by God the Holy Spirit. So, in this text, there is no mechanism for putting this sealed up vision and prophet “on hold” until sometime after the John finishes writing the Book of Revelation on the Isle of Patmos.

This proof-text isn’t always used alone. It is often used in tandem with the following proof text.

But in These Last Days

Many will point to the introduction to the book of Hebrews as the proof that God no longer speaks directly to His people. The argument goes that the author is declaring that while God spoke in many ways to our fathers by the prophets, He now only speaks one way and that is by the Son. Let’s take a look at it.

Hebrews 1 (ESV) | The Supremacy of God’s Son
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”?
Or again,
“I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son”?
6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
7 Of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”
8 But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
10 And,
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.”
13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,
“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

But is the author making a declaration regarding how God will no longer speak, or is he pointing out that in Christ, the Son of the Living God, we now have something far better than Moses and the Prophets? I believe it is the latter. Why? Well, because this letter is first and foremost a letter to those who are familiar with the Law and the Prophets, but need better understanding and teaching on how Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets and is now our perfect High Priest of a covenant superior to all previous covenants. There is also the matter of a member of the trinity not being included in this intro, namely, God the Holy Spirit. We know that God the Holy Spirit was promised to the Apostles to teach, remind, and grant power and gifts for the edification of the Church. Therefore, if the event that silenced God from speaking directly to His people by prophets was the virgin birth of Jesus, then why are we promised God the Holy Spirit?

Prophecies Will Pass Away; Tongues Will Cease

This one is less often used, but I have seen it so I want to point out the issue with using this one. It comes from 1 Corinthians 13.

1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (ESV) 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

The idea behind using this proof-text is that this passage demonstrates that all of these gifts have a limit. What follows is usually an argument from silence or borrowing from the close of the Book of Revelation to suggest that tongues already ceased once we learned how to understand all of the major spoken languages and that prophecies have ceased since the canon of Scripture is now closed. The problem with using this text in that way is that its primary teaching is to demonstrate the eternal quality of love (a more excellent way). Paul explains that we see in part and prophesy in part but when the perfect comes… ah, Paul did insert a marker. To what is Paul referring here as when the perfect comes? The Return of Jesus Christ Our Lord. And that stands to reason, for once Jesus returns, we’ll have no need of prophecies or tongues or even knowledge, for all will know and bow down and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Of this I am quite confident, especially when we consider that the very next chapter is a prescriptive text on the primary gifts of the Holy Spirit that cessationists make off-limits, namely the gifts of Tongues and Prophecy.

Cessationism is Lazy Discernment

It would be very easy to rubber-stamp any claim to a direct revelation from God the Holy Spirit as clearly heretical (and many take that stance).  However, we know that God speaks to everyone through His Written Word, and we know that all scripture is God-breathed. We also know that God will not add to the Law, the Prophets, or Revelation and as such the canon of scripture is closed. We know that if anyone preaches a Gospel that does not agree with the Gospel revealed in Scripture, that person is to be accursed. We know that signs and wonders do not in themselves point to God or His blessing, nor do they prove the existence of an “anointing”. We know this from both the Old Testament Law regarding testing of the Prophets as well as in the New Testament warnings. We also have 1 Corinthians 12-14, we have the Book of Revelation, we have several mentions in Acts of prophets and prophetic words spoken over Timothy.

Biblical Discernment is a Mandate

While I do consider cessationsism to be lazy discernment, what I’ve found in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement is that no one exercises discernment beyond their emotions, or what they call “feeling in their spirit that it isn’t right”. They seem to rely only on the Gift of the Holy Spirit listed:

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (ESV) 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

In the KJV, the highlighted portion phrases it “discerning of spirits”. So, they (in my experience) seem to rely on “those with that gift” to practice discernment just as they rely on those with the gift of prophecy to prophesy. In my opinion, that goes beyond lazy and into negligent. I have yet to find an online biblical discernment ministry from a Pentecostal/Charismatic point of view. I have come to believe (granted, by an argument from silence) that the movement(s) actively discourage Biblical discernment ministries and seeks to silence them. The seeker-mergent church actually teaches in their leadership conferences that those who question the pastor (exercise discernment) are wolves and need to be silenced, even going so far as practicing excommunication. Brothers and sisters in Christ, if you are standing on solid, Biblical foundation, there is no need to fear being challenged doctrinally. I’m not saying you have to stop mid-service to entertain a heckler every time, but the standard is Scripture, not the so-called “vision of the pastor”.

The Biggest Problem in Today’s Church

Cessationism is not the biggest doctrinal problem facing today’s Church. A Church that limits itself to only hearing from God the Holy Spirit as He speaks to them through the Written Word of Scripture has in no-way hamstrung itself, for the Word of God (in this case Written) will not return void. Some leaders take cessationism to an unhealthy extreme where they believe it is unbiblical to pray and ask for healing, or for wisdom, knowledge, etc… but in those cases the Scriptures refute their false teaching directly. Where cessationism is hurting the Church, is in its outreach to those who are lost in a sea of mysticism or being tossed about by every wind of doctrine. When one claims to be engaging in Biblical discernment, and starts with an assertion, that person has laid a stumbling block for the individual similar to that taught in 1 Corinthians 8. By all means, take every thought captive and submit it to Christ, and tear down every lofty opinion that raises itself against the knowledge of Christ. Expose the false teacher by his fruit, his false doctrine.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete,equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 4:2-4 (ESV) 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

The biggest problem in today’s church, is that we’ve allowed the entertainment culture to supplant the preaching of the Word and sound doctrine. And many have turned away from listening to the truth and wandered off into myths. Mysticism has infiltrated every Christian denomination and many have abandoned the infallibility of Scripture because for too long they’ve ignored (or down-played) its sufficiency.

Not every direct revelation was included in Scripture, in-fact, we have record of some direct-revelation that were specifically prohibited from being recorded or spoken. The problem isn’t when someone says, “the Lord showed me” or “the Lord told me” or even “the Lord spoke to me”… the problem is when what is being claimed as coming from God the Holy Spirit isn’t Biblical. When someone claims “thus saith the Lord” when God has not spoken, that is blasphemy, and the individual is a false prophet. A teacher’s fruit is NOT how much money they raise, or how many disciples they gather; rather, it is their doctrine and what they teach.

In closing, if this is your first time visiting this site and you are worried about our non-cessation stance, here are some links to give a better picture of where we do stand. It could be argued that we are functionally cessationist while theologically we acknowledge that God remains Sovereign over His gifts.

Thank you for reading through to the end. Our desire is to study the Word of God in context, and as free from outside influence as possible, by God’s Grace. If you disagree with us, or feel we’ve missed a clear passage of scripture, do please share either in comments below or by contacting us directly. One final thought, in our understanding and application of Sola Scriptura, we affirm that unless a doctrine can be taught from scripture, it shouldn’t be taught from the pulpit. I don’t mind referencing a commentary or “church father” from time to time to maybe bring a different perspective, but we will not be “teaching” from the extra biblical texts. Sola Scriptura is indeed Scripture Alone. As Alistair Begg puts it, “the plain things are the main things, and the main things are the plain things”.

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