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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ecclesiology Debate: Opening Statement 2 (Beau)

Opening Statement -- Positive (Beau's opening statement)

My pastor likes to begin debates by establishing common ground. In the short time Ive had the priviledge of knowing Tyler, I know we both have a strong commitment to the Lord and a passion for His word. Despite disagreeing on doctrinal issues I'm confident the two of us seek to edify each other and those reading.

"Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures; He was buried, and He rose again the third day, according to the scriptures." (1Cor. 15: 3-4)

Paul's message, above, to the Corinthians, was the new salvation message, for those in the Body of Christ. "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved..." (1 Cor.15: 1,2) Peter's message in early Acts, was "repent and be baptized (water) for the remission of sins. That was a message for Israel. The body of Christ is so divided on just that issue. Baptism. Dunk or sprinkle? Infant or adult? Is water baptism necessary for salvation or simply a testimony of your faith? Paul was baptized, and he baptized some. But, it was never a part of his "salvation message..."For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel..." And, not the gospel of the circumcision.

I am a "Mid-Acts" dispensationalist. My disagreement with "Acts 2 believers" is not to question their salvation. However, doctrinal differences cause confusion, and the ears of the "mission field" hear a mixture of messages. Are believers "sealed onto the day of redemption?" Or is their salvation in jeopardy, daily? What about works? Which epistle are we to follow? The one written by James: "..by works a man is justified, and not by faith, only". Or, the one written by Paul: "..a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faithfullness of Jesus Christ." By the faithfulness of Jesus Christ - WOW!

How many Christians believe they must "do something" to earn salvation? Must believers confess their sins? Or, are our sins buried out of God's sight? Have you ever lost a friend, for not keeping the Sabbath? Remember when Peter said, "sell all your possessions, to use for the common good"? Or, was that Karl Marx? Confusion, on Biblical truths, leads to many dire consequences. William Jennings Bryant, Christian lawyer during the Scopes Monkey trial was twisted into knots by Clarance Darrow over the age of the universe. Because he (Bryant) didn't believe in the literal 6-day creation. As teachers, we need to be good Bereans.

When Paul says "rightly divide" does that mean something? Throughout the Old Testament, before this present dispensation of grace began, to enter into relationship with God, Gentiles had to become part of Israel's covenant of circumcision (proselytize). Gen.26:4; Gen.28:14; Is.2:1-4; Is.27:13; Micah 4:1-3; Zech.8:20-23; Zech.14:16 and others make it clear that Gentiles would never be acceptable to God without first blessing the nation of Israel. Prophecy in Old Testament scriptures never predicted that Christ would die for the sins of Uncircumcised Gentiles, and certainly never indicated they would be saved through Israel's fall. But that is exactly what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write. "I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles."(Romans 11:11) Now in the Body of Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile.

Most of today's Christians lay claim to Israel's covenants. They're quick to say, "Our circumcision is of the heart." However, the Books of Ezekiel and Isaiah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, are in conflict with that theology. Because Ezekiel wrote this, when describing the future temple:"Thus saith the Lord God; no stranger. uncircumsised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into My sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel." (44:9) Isaiah wrote, Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city! For the uncircumcised and the unclean Shall no longer come to you.(52:1)

Anyone who claims Gentiles are spirtual Israel, not only, has to contend with Isaiah and Ezekiel, but, also, deny or distort what the apostle Paul wrote, in Rom. 11:25,26: "...blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, And, all Israel shall be saved. As it is written, there shall come out of Zion, the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins." Compare what Paul wrote in Romans, with the writer of Hebrews: "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel (and the house of Jacob) after those days...and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." (Heb. 8:10-12)

During his earthly ministry Christ focused specifically on the people of Israel. In Matthew he says, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of Israel." He commanded his apostles,"Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Matt. 10:5-6 Jesus's plan was to prepare Israel as a nation to bring the gospel to the world.

In the three years leading up to Pentecost Christ had preached that the kingdom of God was near. His death and resurrection had fulfilled all that was required to atone for sin. He had risen from the dead. Israel was at the threshold of achieving all that the prophets had foretold. Only one thing was required: the nation had to repent (Acts 2:38). If they would, God the Father would send Jesus Christ to establish his kingdom on Earth (Acts 3.19-21). These events would correlate perfectly with Daniel's 70 week timeline with the events of Revelation being fufilled during this last week.

The apostles being filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues at Pentecost was a key element of God’s prophetic program to Israel (Joel 2:16). It was not the birth of the Body of Christ. These events were an essential part of the new covenant announced by Jeremiah (31:31-33) “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people,” which Jesus had initiated at the Last Supper (Matthew 26.27-28). Peter was warning the last days were at hand.

Consider: The Lord's parable recorded in Luke 13: 6-9. “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’”The above parable is referring to Christ's three year ministry, when He sought fruit in Israel, and found none. Still, He decided to postpone, for one more year, their national judgement, that of Israel being cut off.

Peter’s message in Acts was a message of repentance. His message echoed the message of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Twelve except that it followed Jesus’ resurrection. Peter did not preach the death and resurrection of Christ as a glorious victory over sin and death but as a cause of condemnation for Israel. Not until Paul was Christ’s death and resurrection preached as good news and the message of reconciliation declared (2 Corinthians 5.18-21). For Peter, the kingdom of God, proclaimed throughout the gospels, was still the plan of God. He called upon the nation to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2.38). Paul’s message is “believe and be saved”. This is the message for the Church today.

After Pentecost, as late as Acts 10, Peter and the apostles had not gone to the Gentiles. In Acts 10, God gave Peter a vision and a specific command to go to the the Gentile Cornelius’ house. Peter obeyed, but not joyfully. "But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean." Peter is still following dietary laws! "And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again(Acts 10:14-16). "Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation? But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. (10:28)." When Peter went to relay this news to the other apostles they were thrilled right? "Salvation has now come to the Gentiles," they rejoiced! No, quite the opposite. "Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!” (Acts 11:1-3)

They “took issue with him”. In their view, Peter had abandoned the divine program. Only after Peter related the entire episode did they quiet down and accept him.

The Apostles took Christ at his word when he said he was returning soon to establish His Kingdom. Were they foolish for selling off their possesions in anticipation of the Lord's imminent return? The expectation was the Lord would return before some of them would die. ..."There are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God." Luke 9:27 ..."there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power." Mark 9:1 Matthew also records,"...there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." (16:28) Saying some would not die implies that many or most would. If by kingdom Christ meant the church at Pentecost this would not be plausible given the short amount of time between these statements and Pentacost.

The Body of Christ began with the conversion of the Apostle Paul. When God saved him in Acts 9, Paul became the first man to receive God's mercy and grace in this new dispensation. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering as a pattern to those who are going to believe on him for everlasting life (1 Tim 1:16). Paul was the first in line "in the beginning of the gospel" he received mercy: "Now you Phillipians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only (Phil 4:15)." But what about the twelve apostles? Were those believers saved before Paul not recipients of God's mercy? Yes, they were. However, Peter and the others were saved under the "Gospel of the kingdom ( Matt 4:23)," in the covenant of circumcision (Acts 7:8), during the dispensation of the law. Paul became a pattern for those who now only have to believe to be saved.

Paul rarely used the term kingdom and not in the technical sense that Jesus did. Yet, he emphasizes being in Christ's body 117 times, mentioning the Body 24 times, and that believers are "in Christ"(77 times) and being "in Him"(16 times). The letters from those of the kingdom gospel never mention the Body of Christ once.

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