Wednesday, October 15, 2014

And so all Israel shall be saved, and salvation is of the Jews

I very seldom use multicolored posts but I will in this one.  I want to be very clear what Romans 11:25-26 actually says.

This passage, Romans 11:25-26, has been more widely misunderstood than almost any other passage in the Bible. In fact, it is amazing to me that so many Bible "teachers" try to make Romans 11:25-26 say just the opposite of what it says.

This is terrible because they are saying, “Thus saith the Lord,” when the Lord has not said that.

The setting of Romans Chapter 11 is that God is explaining that most of the people in the nation of Israel were blinded, but there is a remnant, chosen by grace, who have become saved. Paul used himself as an example of those who have become saved. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says in verse 5:
Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

Then he says in verse 7:
What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.

Spiritual blindness was the condition of national Israel throughout its history and is still the condition right up to the present day. They absolutely do not want the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They do not want Him as their Messiah. In verse 25, God begins to bring the first 24 verses of this chapter to conclusion. It is addressed to the Gentile world so that we will have an understanding of how national Israel fit into God’s salvation plan.

God says in Romans 11:25:
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel [verse 7 says it happened to most of national Israel], until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. “Until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” means that national Israel will continue to be spiritually blind, except for a remnant chosen by grace, as long as there is one Gentile, or non-Jew, anywhere in the world, who is still to be saved.

In our generation, Israel has been a nation for over 60 years, and they are as adamant about their opposition to Christ as the Messiah as they were at any time in their history.There has been no change, and there will be no change. God says that their condition will remain the same until the last person who is of the elect of God becomes saved. When the last Gentile has become saved, it will be the end of the world. The world will continue to its predetermined end, but before the world can end, all those who have been elected to salvation will have become saved.
Then we read in the first part of Romans 11:26:
And so all Israel shall be saved. . . .

All kinds of Bible teachers do terrible violence to this verse. They understand this verse to say, “And then all Israel shall be saved.” In other words, they change the word “so” to “then.”

They teach that after the Gentiles have been saved, God is going to do a work in national Israel.First of all, that does not make any sense because national Israel, that is, the blood descendants of Abraham, have been on earth for 4,000 years.

What about all the Jews who lived and died unsaved during the past 4,000 years?
They are part of national Israel. They are not going to be resurrected and have a second opportunity. More than that, the word “so” does not mean “then.” “So” is not a chronological word. “So” means “in this manner,” or “thus,” or “in this way.” In what way? In what manner?

In the manner in which God describes in Romans Chapter 11, namely, that most of national Israel is blinded, but there is a remnant chosen by grace. In this manner, all Israel that is to be saved, shall be saved. This is not talking, in any sense, about a future change in God’s plan. It simply ties back into everything that has gone before, as God has reported in the previous 25 verses. God explains why His salvation can come to the remnant of national Israel that is chosen by grace.

He says in the second part of Romans 11:26-27:

. . . as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

When Christ came and took on a human nature, to whom did He come?

He came to the Jews. He was born in Bethlehem, a Jewish city. He was reared in Nazareth, a Jewish city. He was crucified in Jerusalem, a Jewish city. For three and half years, He ministered mainly around the Sea of Galilee, a Jewish area. He came to the nation of Israel, and a remnant of national Israel was chosen by grace. Later, He told the disciples that they were to go into all the world with the Gospel because salvation was to come to Gentiles as well. These verses are easy to understand if we read them carefully.

We cannot superimpose something we have been taught upon these verses. God does not have a future plan for national Israel; that idea is not found anywhere in the Bible. The Bible indicates that we are in the last days; we are headed right toward the end of time. When the last Gentile has become saved, that will be the end of the Gospel era. It will be the end of the world.

This leads now to a similar reading in John 4:22 where Jesus tells the woman at the well that salvation is of the Jews.  Let that sink in:  salvation is OF the Jews.

During Jesus’ lifetime, the term ‘Jew’ was used synonymously for all Israelites, excepting of course, the Samaritans, whom Jews considered unfit and unworthy of the name, “Jew.”  Samaritans were reckoned by Jews to be half-breeds because of their inter-marrying with the Assyrians, Greeks, and other non-Israelites, which were commonly labeled by strict, prejudicial Jews as being, ‘goyim,’ (goyim is a derogatory term that Jews used to describe Gentiles; it means ‘cattle,’ but was a Jewish euphemism for a pile of dung).  Thus, Jews excluded Samaritans from Yahweh’s covenant with the nation of Israel, based solely on manmade, fleshly, outward standards, which never did or ever will align with the view that God uses as criterion for salvation and/or worship.

With this all in mind consider again Jews was a Jew.  Jesus was born and raised a Jew and came to reconcile the Jew first and then others to Father God.  After the coming of the Holy Ghost, all have the ability to repent and accept Christ.  Before that only repentant Jews during the ministry of Jesus before His crucifixion had that ability.  That is why Salvation is of the Jews.

Jesus tells the woman that Samaritans worship what they do not understand.  Jesus is making clear for her to understand what she worships.  God made a covenant with Jews and no other people.  She will have to wait for her salvation until after Christ resurrects and the Holy Ghost comes.  Then there will be worship in spirit and in truth.  Not in Jerusalem nor on any sacred mountain.  In the heart and soul of the redeemed by Christ's blood.

Salvation is of Jesus Christ who again was born, lived, and died a Jew.  Today, Jesus Christ is God and calls all humanity to repent and turn to Him as Savior.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Who Are Puritans

I receive emails and questions all the time asking, "Who are Puritans and what do they believe?"  This also includes the false idea that Puritans are consigned to history and are no longer a Christian denomination.  This is untrue as I am a Puritan elder minister, a bishop if you will.

Puritans today are the inheritors of a Christian tradition that goes back to 1535 and the formal split of the Church of England (Anglican) from the Roman Catholic Church by King Henry VIII.  Puritans were discontent that the Anglican Church had not reformed from the Roman Catholic Church enough and was for all intent and purpose just an English speaking Catholic Church that simply translated everything from Latin to English and felt that was enough reform.

Puritans felt a full purification of the Church was needed.  The Mass needed to be completely reformed.  The altar needed to be disposed of because Christ performed the sole sacrifice on Calvary.  There was the sole sacrifice that once Christ resurrected had cleansed sin for those who repent, turn from sin, and take faith in the Lord Jesus as Savior.  The pulpit needed to be moved front and center as the preaching was the basis of the service.  Ministers were members of the community not a holy man above others.  Their job was to instruct their church on how to live the godly life through preaching.  Choirs were done away with and now the whole church sang.  Organs and pianos were tossed out as they were distractions to worship.  

The churches were simple with a plain table for the communion which now is a memorial NOT a sacrifice.  The pulpit is the center where the minister preaches.  No statues or paintings of "saints", we are all saints who are saved.  No stained glass windows depicting long archaic Greek symbols, snakes, dragons, or pagan elements.  Pews lost the kneelers as there is no kneeling to a piece of bread.  Hymnals were replaced by a simple reprint of the 150 psalms, these are the songs and sung in plain song melody easy to remember.

This is what Puritans did - purify the church so God became the focal pint of worship.  This purification is to come in all of life so that everything is done for the greater glory of God.

God became the center of worship not a piece of bread that sacrilegiously is referred to as the "body of Christ".  Transubstantiation is a heresy of the faith since the one sacrifice of Christ is already made and effective.  Any other sacrifice is pagan and not Christian.  This is true for us to this day, we as Puritans still hold to these practices.

A typical Puritan service (fellowship meeting) begins with a call to worship, a line of scripture such as: Lord open our lips and our mouth shall declare Thy praise.  The minister will usually walk from the front of the church to the pulpit as an expression of "coming form the community".   If there is to be communion: Christ our passover is sacrificed therefore let us keep the feast is usually the call to worship.  Then there is the Psalm which is either read right side to left side of the Psalm paragraphs or sung plain song depending on the particular congregation.  Then a reading form the Old Testament then a reading form a New Testament Epistle (Acts through Jude) then a reading from a Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John).  The Book of Revelation is usually preached on as a sole reading over the course of many months.  Then the sermon, and after the benediction.  If there is communion it is celebrated between the sermon and benediction.  Then a final Psalm and depart.

There are no seasons of a church calendar.  There is no Advent, Lent, or Ordinary Time.  Each Sunday is equally the sabbath so there are no special feasts like Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, or Trinity Sunday.  With the resurrection of Christ all time has been consecrated to Him.  

We worship on Sundays because at the very beginning, the church in Jerusalem met every day in the temple and in private homes (Acts 2:46). Since the first believers were all Jewish, it seems safe to assume that they continued to participate in Jewish synagogue and temple worship for some time.  In time the Apostles stopped observing the Jewish sabbath, but began worship instead on Sunday, a distinctively Christian holy day. 

The records that remain in the New Testament show that the first day of the week soon became a day of worship. When Paul wanted to collect an offering from the church at Corinth, he asked them to gather the money on the "first day of the week" (1 Cor. 16:2). And when he wanted to meet with the believers at Troas, the gathering took place "on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread" (Acts 20:7). 

As Puritans we hold to a strict scripture based doctrine and preach the living Christ who calls all to repentance and salvation.  Our two sacraments are the Biblical sacraments of Communion and  Baptism.  While they are symbols of our salvation they in themselves impart no salvation. 

We were the original free church.  We asked government for no permission to form and applied for no incorporation.  Our freedom as a church is in the fact Christ is head of the church and no king, tax agency, or government official.  Our churches rise, grow, and close on the will of the congregation and their needs.

Today the typical Puritan church meets in the pastor's home, or perhaps in the home of a congregant who wishes to sponsor a fellowship meeting.  There are special church buildings but more than likely the fellowship will be home based.  I grew up in a Puritan church in Farmers Branch, Texas after my family and I moved from Illinois.  It was the home of Rev. Bailey.

Rev. Bailey's home was Valley View Puritan Fellowship from 1971 to 1988

As you can see it was a home large enough to hold a good fellowship size.  We had at the peak of the congregation in 1986, 50 members and fellowship comfortably was held in the living and dining rooms. 

We later moved into a church building that was in the pastor's name.  The congregation supported the building and operation of the church from 1988 to 2013.  The congregation simply had dwindled away as Farmers Branch lost its residential base to a more commercial base.  The mega church craze also holds some of the reason for the closure of the fellowship.  I was honored to pastor this church from 1996 to 1998.  I then pastored an expansion of the church opened a mile away.  The old church building is now a Univeral Unitarian church.

Valley View Puritan Fellowship 1988 to 2013

Monday, October 6, 2014

Christmas Is Not Christian

As a Puritan it is inevitable that the mention of Christmas will come up and the question as to why Puritans to this day still refuse to celebrate Christmas.  Then the comments of, "Well you do believe in the birth of Christ, so what is so bad about celebrating His birth?"  "Tradition is just as important as scripture."  "Just for the kids to have fun is all the reason you need."

It is obvious folks really have no idea about what Puritans strive for.  We strive for three things: Giving glory to God alone, purifying our lives through our faith and worship of Christ, and offering to God a pure worship.  What is bad about celebrating the birth of Christ is the fact Christ in the Gospels commanded His death be memorialized through communion, not His birth nor resurrection.  We are to keep in mind the death of the Savior as our passover.  That is the feast we are to keep in the celebration of communion.

Tradition is not as important as scripture is.  It was a tradition for many to sacrifice human beings, but when one is saved by Christ the scriptures become the guide for living not human constructs of tradition.  For many Puritans the same goes for the tradition of birthdays.

Giving the kids a fun day is not a proper reason for celebrating Christmas.  It does nothing but reinforce the narcissism rampant in society.  Placating children with presents, food, and entertainment only raises petulant children who grow into even more petulant adults who refuse any just authority because Christmas reinforced the "It is about me" mindset.

Christmas is rooted in pagan practices from Rome, Assyria, Druids, Wicca, and all other witchcraft rooted pagan religions.  It is to this day a Roman Catholic holiday that was adopted by other Catholics of the Anglican and Lutheran traditions.  No real Christian would dare insult our Savior by even wishing to celebrate this day.  In fact for many Christmas was not even a holiday until the mid 19th century.  A Christian would do well to avoid any association with this day.