Saturday, May 12, 2012

Answers to Jessica's ("Raggthyme") Questions

Jessica aka Raggthyme posed some questions in the comments section of my post entitled New Covenant Does Not Abolish Law But Does Abolish Old Covenant.  I could not post my answers in the comment section, unless I were to make comment after comment after comment.  I posted a reply to get an email address, but I have not heard anything in these last months, so I have decided to share the answers here in a blog post.  Perhaps it will also be of help to others.  I will quote Jessica's questions here, and then I will post my answers after each.

Thank you Tara. I read your article on the Paul rejectors, it was full of info and very interesting. These folks I've come across who reject Paul do so (it seems) because they believe Jesus, being the word of God made flesh, was actually the Torah in flesh. I will write out some of the things I've read and then post what I am struggling with and what I disagree with.
But not as the carnal “old” covenant based on letter.

1.They say that He commanded we follow Him, that He did not come to abolish the law but to live it perfectly. And by giving us His Spirit, we are able to walk as He did. And when we sin, He is the propitiation for our sins, being that he died and rose again.
True, except he did it truthfully, from the heart, not limited to some letter [of the law] to simply avoid penalty.

2.They mention John in his first epistle a lot, who says that if we say we abide in Him we ought to walk just as He walked. This, in their estimation, means that we obey all the commandments of God the way Jesus did.
True again.  All ten commandments and all that they encompass.

3.That Jesus was angry with the leaders because they didn't keep the Torah as God intended, but they added all the commandments of men to weigh people down and keep them from entering the kingdom, not having a heart for God but for themselves. Jesus came to draw men to Himself, the Torah (teaching, instruction) in flesh to fulfill it from the heart.
True.  Men did add and add (just as our own leaders in the U.S. do), taking away liberty.  At the same time, they were corrupt at heart and didn’t keep commands where they count, themselves (again, just as our own leaders).

4.They say in Rev. 2:2 Jesus is referring to a trial of Paul at Ephesus, where they tested him and found him (and others) to be false apostles. They say there are only 12 Apostles which Jesus Himself commissioned to go into all the world, to all nations (Jew and Gentile), and Peter says that by His mouth the Gentiles should hear...
 This is false assumption regarding Rev. 2:2, and they are foolish to think apostles would stop with the first twelve.  They died just like all other men.  They are not here today to do the work of an apostle.

5.They also say that Jesus, condemning the eating of meat offered to idols in Rev. was referencing Paul, a type of Balaam, since Paul said an idol is nothing, suggesting that the conscience of a man supersedes the Law of Moses, causing the children of God to sin.
Jesus said himself that some things were allowed under Moses because of carnality.  Furthermore, a lot of physical/carnal ordinances applied (penile circumcision, tassels, etc.)  Idols truly are nothing, and how are we to know whether someone sacrificed meat to idols and why bother asking whether someone did, because we know they are indeed nothing and are not going to truly defile the  meat, as long as the meat was good to begin with--not an animal not intended for food (like pig or dog) and free from disease and/or loads of hormones and antibiotics.

6.They bring up the fact that Jesus only wrote to the 7 churches in Asia because they were the only churches He established and rebuked in love. 
Those were true physical church groups, but there is a bigger message there, likely representing ages of the Church and the dominating characteristics, all of which serve as a warning to each of us as individuals, too.

7.They say Paul admits all in Asia had forsaken him and that means they didn't receive his doctrines. Jesus commends the church in Ephesus for standing firm in the faith, testing those who say they are apostles and are not.
Paul’s doctrines were the same as the others and the same as Christ’s, so what was said to Ephesus has nothing to do with Paul.  Those in Asia simply rejected truth.  People rejected the truth when received by other apostles as well.

8.They say James was written for a trial of Paul, specifically correcting the doctrine of justification by faith alone, saying Abraham was not justified by faith alone, but by doing what God commanded, thus his faith was made perfect.
There is no contradiction between what Paul and James wrote, and those that teach such obviously ignore all of Paul’s words.  He taught very clearly that one must keep the law as defined by the ten commandments (in their spiritual intent, of course, just as Jesus magnified examples for us, recorded in Matt. 5).  We are saved by grace through faith, not by works, but if we are not abiding by the commands and we have no works, then we don’t have true faith.  If we believe something, truly have faith in something, then we do that thing.  If my son has faith in me, then when I tell him not to walk into the road by himself, then he will work obedience.  Those who do not have works to back their faith do not have true faith and do not have grace, either.

9. They say Jesus told His 12 Apostles "freely you have received, freely give" whereas Paul taught that the Scripture about not muzzling an ox was written for men and that he should be allowed to reap their material benefits.
Paul freely gave and worked his own trade, but he was correct that some of our tithe money can go to those who are devoting most of their time evangelizing.  Think of how difficult it must have been for Paul with all his travels, need of food, etc., and all the time he put into teaching, leaving little time to do his regular work to support him.  We--the member of the spiritual Church Body--make up the new covenant priesthood.

10. They say that Jesus warned that if any man says He returned, believe him not. And Paul was given a whole lot of instruction from this Jesus he met on the road to Damascus that added to what Christ taught His Apostles.
He never did return bodily to the earth.  John also was revealed things and heard Christ speak (the Revelation).  Wonder how they neglect to remember this.  In neither case did Jesus return bodily or ever contradict any previous teachings.

11.They say all the factions of Christianity come from Paul and his letters, not from the teaching of Jesus Himself. That there is one flock and one Shepherd, there are not supposed to be shepherds/pastors or teachers in the congregations of the Lord's people. This has led to much error. 
Paul taught the very same thing in his first letter to Corinth.  Peter also warned about people twisting Paul.  Paul is not liable for people twisting him and making a religion(s) based on their misinterpretations of his teachings any more than Mary is liable for people worshiping her as the “Mother of God” and “Queen of Heaven.”

I would say first, I myself question Paul because of some of the things listed above. I am asking God for wisdom, which I believe He gives liberally to those who seek to know the truth and not follow the ways of any man. I'm asking that He root out all error from my heart and show me what is true.

So if you don't mind, I will start with my struggle with #11. I have always questioned the countless number of denominations that all name the name of Christ, but hold to so many different doctrines. Jesus said that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. All these teachers teach something different because they all interpret the Bible differently, especially Paul's writings. This divides. If we would have followed Jesus teaching, no one would be called "teacher" or "leader" save Jesus alone and all brethren would heed His words spoken in the gospels. He has the words of eternal life. These are recorded in the 4 gospels and I believe the words that came out of His mouth are our Father's words and are fully sufficient for knowing Him in truth. John even says that the Son has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true. The word was made flesh and dwelt among them. This is that Prophet to whom Moses testifies, saying that God would command Him what to say and all should heed His words. My sheep hear MY voice... amen?

Now Paul comes along, with this vision of Jesus, never having met Jesus in the flesh. He just sees this bright light who proceeds to give him much doctrine in revelations etc. I am not at all saying this isn't from God, but I want to test ALL things. Shouldn't we test every vision and revelation? Even Paul says, let God be true and every man a liar. So my question is this.. John says that Jesus Christ (Eternal Life, the Word of the Father) has come IN THE FLESH, and by this we can know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. I believe this means that every word which proceeded from Jesus own mouth came of the Father, that we may live thereby. This is the Spirit of truth. Jude says they were to contend for the faith which was ONCE FOR ALL delivered to the saints. Was there really a need for a second appearing of Christ (not in flesh) to teach much doctrine and mysteries never taught to the disciples? Maybe so, but I still want to make sure I'm hearing His voice alone. Jesus tells His own that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth and would bring to their remembrance all that He taught them. If Paul met Christ on that road and repented and believed, wouldn't you think he would have gone to the twelve to receive Jesus doctrine? He even prayed "I pray not for these alone (his disciples), but for all who would believe in me through THEIR words."

I have to say it is interesting that Paul refers to these revelations he had, and that John also had a Revelation and wrote it down for the 7 churches. The difference though is that John said that it was a revelation of Jesus Christ, which "God gave him to show his servants" and he sent and signified it by his angel to John. So that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. Whereas Paul, all alone, heard this voice and received instruction privately, then taught this to the churches. I don't understand why the Lord wouldn't have revealed Himself like He did with John, since He Himself said that He comes in His Father's name, by His authority. Not speaking on His own authority or by His own name. Some say the Jesus who was revealed to Paul spoke by his own authority, not in His Father's name. I won't go so far as to call this one an "angel of light" as they do, but I still question and want to test this against Jesus own words. He says He goes away and sends the Spirit to lead them into all truth. 
Concerning visions, you’re forgetting that the Lord told Ananias in a vision that Saul (who became Paul) would come and that he should baptize him.  Peter also had a vision of animals, and the Lord spoke to him in that, revealing that he should not consider gentiles as unclean.

While Paul gives a TON of instruction to his churches, teaching so much doctrine on practical living and mysteries and such, John writes in his first epistle to the church with such simplicity, that they needed NO MAN to teach them because the anointing they have from God teaches them, His word abiding in them. Jesus said the words He spoke to them while He walked on the earth were "spirit" and "life." John says that the Word is that Eternal Life which was with the Father and was made manifest to those who saw and touched and walked with Him. That they were actually the Father's words, commanded (as Moses said in Deut) by God to be spoken to the people so they would heed them, (every word) and live by them.

I myself do not believe the these folks who say Jesus commanded us to follow the Torah. I believe He commanded us to follow Him. That He alone is the Good Shepherd and the Way to life. I believe that He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets when He spoke God's words to us and finished the works of His Father. I believe that Christ Himself is our Law. If we abide in His teaching, found in the gospel accounts, believing and obeying all that He taught, we will ourselves fulfill the requirements of the Law. And when we fail, He is the propitiation for our sins. The Spirit is given to us to do all of this, not by our own strength, or by the flesh, but by the Spirit of God we walk in obedience to Him and know Him. And this is eternal life.

At least that's my understanding of things so far. I am always open for God to help me see where I am in error. I don't know what to believe about Paul, but I don't think one needs to read his writings to understand that Jesus brought about a New Covenant. He said that the Law and the Prophets were until John. He is the New Covenant. So I figure if I just spend my time reading the gospels for awhile, and letting that soak in really deep, I think all the other things will fall into their rightful place. Thanks for letting me share with you, Tara. I hope to hear what you feel about these things I've mentioned.
Well, Jesus himself said before he left to “teach” all nations, baptizing them... Some have the gift of teaching, while others have different gifts.  Many teachers even can learn one from another.  BUT, everyone with God’s Spirit conception has the ability to search the scriptures to make sure the teachings are correct and can also be led in right or wrong by the Spirit.  So there is no contradiction.  We can be led by the Spirit, but not all have a teaching gift, which is a very useful tool to help other members in the body grow.