Saturday, 6 April 2013

Theme Number 52 Paul in Jerusalem, Purification rites and keeping the law.

Act 21:17  At length we reached Jerusalem, and there the brethren gave us a hearty welcome.

Act 21:18  On the following day we went with Paul to call on James, and all the Elders of the Church came also.
Act 21:19  After exchanging friendly greetings, Paul told in detail all that God had done among the Gentiles through his instrumentality.
Notes : v.18    “we” went to call on James and all the elders of the church came also.
These “we” sections of acts indicate that Luke was with Paul on this occasion. he was the recorder of what happened.
v.19 He declared particularly ( in detail) ... - As an evidence that God had been with him. It is not improbable that there might have been some suspicion in regard to Paul among the disciples at Jerusalem, and he might have heard that they were prejudiced against him. This prejudice would be removed by his stating what had actually occurred under his ministry.

Zealously Obeying Jewish Laws

Act 21:20  And they, when they had heard his statement, gave the glory to God. Then they said, "You see, brother, how many tens of thousands of Jews there are among those who have accepted the faith, and they are all zealous upholders of the Law.
Act 21:21  Now what they have been repeatedly told about you is that you teach all the Jews among the Gentiles to abandon Moses, and that you forbid them to circumcise their children or observe old-established customs.
Act 21:22  What then ought you to do? They are sure to hear that you have come to Jerusalem;
Act 21:23  so do this which we now tell you. We have four men here who have a vow resting on them.
Act 21:24  Associate with these men and purify yourself with them, and pay their expenses so that they can shave their heads. Then everybody will know that there is no truth in these stories about you, but that in your own actions you yourself scrupulously obey the Law.
Act 21:25  But as for the Gentiles who have accepted the faith, we have communicated to them our decision that they are carefully to abstain from anything sacrificed to an idol, from blood, from what is strangled, and from fornication."

I have added this discussion on Obeying Jewish Laws to help us grasp the problem. Please do Read the following.

Should Christians Obey the Jewish Laws? <>

  • God's Law is made up of several parts: The moral law found in the Ten Commandments and the ceremonial law consisting of hundreds of statutes and ordinances. When people ask this question they are generally thinking of God's Ten Commandments. This is only a small part of the Old Testament Law. For the sake of brevity in this discussion we will limit our discussion of the Law to the Ten Commandments. Yet, when discussing our obedience to the Law--all of it applies. Is Salvation dependent upon Jewi
                                    • Is Obedience to the Law mandatory after salvation is received?

      • Some church leaders take advantage of the ignorance that exists on this subject. In an attempt to make their church organization look good, they distort the gospel message to include obedience to certain parts of the Mosaic Law or the man-made laws and traditions of their church or denomination. This is a theological belief system called "legalism". Legalism also results from the teachings of replacement theology that mixes the Jewish gospel (to Israel) with the Grace Gospel (to the Gentiles). It also results from ignoring the truths of the blood covenant on which New Testament salvation is based. Many good people and well-meaning leaders in the church teach various forms of legalism because they were taught that way in seminary, or in their denomination. Whether deliberately or through wrong instruction this practice of linking our salvation with doing certain works causes much damage--especially to new believers. It uses the fear of losing one's salvation (or being displeasing to the Lord) as the motivation to keep their version of God's Law. Yet, salvation is granted to the believer on the basis of faith only. Don't ever trivialize this difference. The modern church is still at war with itself over these issues. So, to answer the question, "Is salvation conditional upon obedience to the Law?" The correct answer according to the writings of Saint Paul is "No".

So, do we throw out God's Law (the moral code)? (Rom. 7:7) The epistles of Saint Paul address this question. Yet, his answer is not linked to losing one's salvation, but on properly representing the Lord Jesus Christ to the world. Paul calls us "ambassadors for Christ" (2 Cor. 5:20). An ambassador is an official governmental representative of a kingdom or nation. Yet, we are not just ambassadors for God's kingdom. We are also the bodily representation of Christ himself on earth (the body of Christ--1 Cor. 12:27). If you're a believer--you may be the only "Christ" an unbeliever will know. You can be saved and be a poor representative. A believer in a sinful lifestyle brings reproach on Jesus Christ. Whether the world sees us or not, God does. It's wrong and dangerous to live contrary to the values and virtues that Jesus Christ our Lord holds dear. Many American Christians do this every time they enter a voting booth. In addition to His role as teacher, the Holy Spirit who indwells all true believers in Christ will let us know when God's interests are violated. He knows your most intimate thoughts and uses conviction and a withdrawal of peace (Col. 3:15) to warn you. You can choose to ignore the Holy Spirit's prompting and live in spiritual misery. Yet, God does not withdraw his salvation that is secure through the "sealing" the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13 & Eph. 4:30). When you seal a container it's to keep the contents (in this case the "contents" is eternal life) from being lost. He didn't lie when He promised that our eternal life is a gift. Your heavenly Father does not want you performing for salvation out of fear like a slave under the whip. Religion (using the fear of the law) commonly uses this tactic, but God does not. He wants us to represent him out of a heart of love and thankfulness for what He did for us at the cross.

On a negative note, Paul also seems to make another important point. Any "professing" Christian who lives in continual deliberate sin may have never been saved in the first place. I'm not talking about a bad habit, sins of omission or the periodical "slipping into various sins" that happens to all of us. Great care should be exercised in making a judgement against anyone because we can't see inside the human heart. Yet, those who continually practice without remorse the works of the flesh that Paul lists below are not "crucifying the flesh". It could be an indication that the Holy Spirit who performs this cleansing work is not present in that life (Rom. 8:9). Paul's list is not a category of sins that can somehow cancel our salvation. Lots of spiritual leaders who reject the security of the believer teach it that way--and it's wrong. Their teachings are designed to generate fear--and it's not the godly kind. Paul's list is a series of indicators that warn us that we're living like the unbelieving world. It requires us to evaluate whether we're "in the faith" or not (2 Cor. 13:5). If we're a true believer in Christ, we'll "crucify our flesh with its passions and desires". God is very serious about this whole subject because his character is being threatened. He takes a dim view on those who profess to believe in him, yet practice a lifestyle contrary to his interests. It's serious because it gives the unbelieving world a reason to reject God and His Word while pointing at our conduct as their example! Our Heavenly Father grants us abundant grace in this area (Rom. 5:20). But, He will eventually discipline those believers who consistently choose sin over living for Him. God does not respect the social values of "political correctness" found in the modern church.

Saint Paul's teaching on this topic does not place us back under Jewish Law, but establishes a checklist of moral behavior that includes some of the original Old Testament moral code. Some characteristics of righteous living doesn't change, because God's character doesn't change. It is also interesting that some commandments, such as keeping the Sabbath, are not included in Paul's list. Other parts of the Jewish ceremonial law, like tithing, are also not included. I cite these two exceptions because a majority of the modern church subtly equates obedience to these commandments to moral character. Some preachers boldly say that you're stealing if you don't tithe to their church. Other leaders suggest that you're being "worldly" and rejecting God if you don't obey the Sabbath (Translation: attend their church services). These are moral issues that Paul must have accidentally left out. It upsets a majority of popular Christian teaching.

Now, let's take a look at the "moral code" according to Paul for the Church-Age believer under grace:

"This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men." (Titus 3:8 KJV)

"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin." (Rom 6:1-7 KJV)

"Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." (2 Tim 2:19 KJV)

"And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Eph 4:24-32 KJV)

"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." (Gal 5:19-24 KJV)

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor 6:9-11 KJV)

"Is Obedience to the Mosaic Law mandatory after salvation is received?" The answer to this question is "No". Yet , a moral code that includes some of the characteristics of the Ten Commandments is considered binding upon the Christian. This "moral code" should not be viewed as "laws" to obey, but sins to avoid if we are to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Lord's calling (1 Thess. 2:12).

The apostle Paul never taught a license to sin as some assert. However, if we don't "rightly divide God's Word" we can be tricked into believing that our salvation is conditional on our Christian service or spiritual performance. It's the difference between living under spiritual tyranny or experiencing true freedom in Christ.""

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