The Spiritual Revolution Of Christ
A Rock of Offence Special Commentary
Important Note: In this article we attempt to correct some common misconceptions among those who participate in the “church growth” and Christian Unity” movements. Generally speaking, we are not against the idea of unity among Christians, or the growth of the Church when it’s properly established on the truth of Scripture and the authentic Gospel of Christ. However, it is a mistake to assume that all Christian church organizations embrace these core attributes. There are certain religious groups, movements and congregations that God does not want His Church to “unify” with because they teach doctrines that are “toxic” and harmful to His people. Many things in this commentary are not commonly taught in a church service because they represent emotional and controversial topics. For the casual reader, our commentary may appear to stereotype all churches and their leadership in a negative light. This is not our goal or intention. To keep the size of this study from spiraling out of control, we focus on the issues and warnings given by both Christ and the apostles in the New Testament. We do not oppose Godly leaders, church groups, congregations and movements that follow the principles of Christ’s New Covenant in the Bible. We do not want to paint every situation with a wide negative brush. However, Jesus warned, as we get closer to the end of the age, there would be MANY false and misleading expressions of Christianity along with deceptive leaders that rule over them. That means the subject of this teaching does not involve some kind of a “fringe” insignificant threat -- it is a MAINSTREAM problem that ensnares literally millions of unsuspecting believers.
In this commentary, we also speak about some of the radical differences that exist between the religion of Judaism and Christ's New Covenant Church. These conflicts and confrontations are taken directly from the Scriptures to illustrate the emotional difficulties facing the churches established by the apostle Paul. One of our objectives is to expose the organized opposition against the Gospel of Christ that existed both in the first century AND NOW. In these discussions, it might appear to the casual reader that we lean toward being "anti-semitic" and oppose the Jewish people. If this is the reader's perception, it is a false one. We do not oppose, but support the rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948 as a fulfillment of Bible prophecy for the end times. We completely agree with her Biblical right to live in the land according to God’s promise given in an “everlasting covenant” made with Abraham and his descendents. Abraham’s descendents are represented by the modern nation of Israel. Regardless of our stand on this topic, it does not necessarily mean that we agree with all decisions or actions of their government.
The topic of “Christian unity”, shepherds, sheep, and the disturbing subject of wolves within the Christian Church, can be very complex and confusing. By its very nature, it produces irreconcilable differences and emotional disagreements, similar to the ones that both our Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul faced in the first century. Suggesting that the modern-day Christian believer should ignore these things because they are “divisive” is doing a disservice to the plain teaching of Scripture. These controversial teachings are commonly “repackaged” under countless different names and labels in order to defend cherished, yet flawed denominational teachings that are hundreds of years old. This causes great confusion in the Church. The Biblical illustration of “shepherds and sheep” is also commonly twisted or redefined to defend certain spiritual leaders who attempt to use their authority in a way that Jesus said was wrong. Abusive churches and even religious cults commonly operate in this “grey area” of Christian Orthodoxy. We are now in the last days before Christ’s return. The proliferation of “Christian wolfism” and how it often hides behind the mask of Christian unity -- along with the various distorted teachings associated with the subject of shepherds and sheep are now occurring at a frightening pace. If you don’t properly understand Christ’s warning about the danger of “wolves in sheep’s clothing” and how crucially important it is today -- it’s almost guaranteed that you will be a victim.
Have You Been Tricked Into Rejecting
"The Time Of Your Visitation?”
"Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, BECAUSE YOU DID NOT KNOW THE TIME OF YOUR VISITATION." (Luke 19:41-44)
Jesus Christ speaks these words against the city of Jerusalem. It is a sad and horrible future prophecy about a series of events that came to pass approximately 40 years after His crucifixion during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Yet, Christ’s words can also be “generally” applied as an illustration concerning the spiritual state of many Christians living today. A great number of Christians are taught to handle and interpret God’s Word in a way that actually downplays the idea that Jesus Christ’s visitation (His first “coming”) made any important changes. It generally teaches that God relates with us the same way in the New Testament as He did in the Old Testament. Those who hold to this belief will correctly say that Christ died on the cross for our sins so that we can be forgiven and go to heaven some day. But, at the same time, they subtly suggest that Jesus didn’t fully deal with sin, which continues to condemn us (and can cancel our salvation) if we fail to live according to some religious code of conduct. False ministers of the gospel cleverly “explain away” or nullify the incredible truth that proclaims Jesus Christ as, “The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” When you closely examine this very popular, yet contradictory theology, you will discover that it’s rooted in an ancient theological error, which attacks the New Covenant truth THAT THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS CHRIST FULLY DEALT WITH THE SIN PROBLEM OF THE HUMAN RACE. This flawed theology, which actually began in the first century, represents a rejection of the revolutionary changes that Jesus Christ and His shed blood set into motion during “the time of our visitation”.
The Blood Sacrifice Of Jesus Christ
Acts chapter 15 is an extraordinary and life-changing section of Scripture. Yet, it is usually redefined or even ignored by many Christian denominations and churches today. It’s under attack because it exposes some false, yet cherished Christian doctrines and traditions. Acts 15 covers what some Bible students refer to as “The First Jerusalem Council”. Simply understood, it was an official apostolic meeting (or council) that was held in Jerusalem in the first century to settle a serious dispute about Bible doctrine. We assume the reader is familiar with this chapter -- and for that reason we will only briefly cover some of the major points.
The dispute involved some “believing Pharisees”, who insisted that not only Jewish circumcision, but also the entire Mosaic Law recorded in “The Old Testament” of the Bible must be obeyed by the New Covenant Church under the authority of Saint Paul. They insisted that obedience to Old Testament Law must be a requirement to obtain and keep Christ's salvation. The “believing Pharisees” of Acts chapter 15 were not like the earlier ones that persuaded the Roman government under Pontius Pilate to crucify Christ. These Pharisees had repented of their previous religious dogma and placed their faith in Christ as the promised Messiah, which is a very notable miracle in itself. This is why the Scriptures refer to them as “believing Pharisees”. Yet, despite their particular type of “faith in Christ”, the apostolic council rejected and refuted their “pharisaical theology” and proceeded to mandate that the “Church of Jesus Christ” is not under the authority of the Mosaic Law (with a few clearly defined exceptions). In a strongly worded letter to the churches, the council declared that they were free from the dictates of Old Testament Law (we call it Judaism today), which included the laws that demand circumcision. They instructed the Church to follow the principles of the “Grace of Christ” taught by Paul instead. Here is the actual letter:
The apostles, the elders, and the brethren,
To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:
Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” -- to whom we gave no such commandment -- it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.
So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement.
How could this council make such a sweeping and radical declaration? They respected the time of Christ’s visitation and understood that His crucifixion had changed everything from the way it previously existed under the old religious order. They remembered the words Jesus spoke at the Last Supper saying, “This cup is the NEW COVENANT IN MY BLOOD” (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 8:8, Hebrews 8:13, Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 12:24). They understood that when Jesus used the word “NEW COVENANT” His words meant exactly what they said -- that a totally new religious order (or a New Covenant of Grace) was starting and that God was now in the process of closing out the old order (or Old Covenant), which was based on obedience to the Mosaic Law.
"But now He (Jesus) has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator OF A BETTER COVENANT, WHICH WAS ESTABLISHED ON BETTER PROMISES. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “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 when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt..." (Hebrews 8:6-8)
"IN THAT HE SAYS, “A NEW COVENANT,” HE HAS MADE THE FIRST OBSOLETE. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:13)
Unfortunately for the Church, that wasn’t the end of the matter. These influential “Christ believing Pharisees”, who lost their argument and case, disregarded the council’s decision and decided to teach their false theology anyway. They designed a diabolical plan to replace Paul’s “Grace of Christ” Gospel with their own “altered gospel” that reinserted (or mixed) the tenants of Old Testament Law back into the evangelistic message in direct violation of the mandate ordered by the Jerusalem apostolic council. Paul later referred to this dangerous practice as “perverting the Gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-9). He also condemned this “pharisaical doctrine” as preaching “another Jesus” and “a different gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). In other words, Paul condemned both “their Jesus” and “their altered gospel” as dangerous “counterfeits”, or look-alikes. However, we must remember that these are “misguided religious leaders”, who sincerely believe their counterfeit teaching is the authentic gospel and the true Word of God. It is their sincerity, good intentions and educational credentials that make them so dangerous. Many are just good people WHO FAILED TO UNDERSTAND THE RADICAL CHANGES THAT CHRIST'S SACRIFICE INITIATED AT THE TIME OF "THEIR VISITATION". Most of them were not out to deliberately deceive anyone. Our churches today are filled with these kind of people.
It’s this “perverted or altered gospel” that’s now foundational in many modern-day mainline churches. It travels under numerous popular names and is expressed in countless different types and “flavors”. Whole denominations and movements have built their ministries around it. In this commentary we refer to it by several names, one of which is, “The Galatian Error”. Certain Bible scholars gave it this name because it successfully infiltrated and corrupted an entire church fellowship established by the apostle Paul in the first century. Paul wrote his “epistle to the Galatians” mainly to combat this false theology (hence the title “Galatian Error”). From there it continued to spread, like leaven, throughout all of the Christian Church despite Paul’s best efforts to stop it. Today, it is mainstream and virtually unopposed. It does not yield to a proper literal interpretation of Scripture and repels all challenges to its legitimacy by allegorizing Scripture -- a dishonest and almost impossible methodology to defend against. It is presented to inexperienced Christian believers as “foundational Bible doctrine”. You also might hear it referred to as “preaching the whole Word of God”, Holiness and Reformed Theology, Christian fundamentalism, and even the newer and more deceptive name of “Biblical Christianity”. Strangely, it operates from within both Catholicism and Protestantism -- two religious sectors that, historically, oppose each other. Yet, the Galatian error is really nothing more than the ancient misguided practice of mixing Old Testament Judaism into the New Covenant Gospel of Christ and calling it God’s original “unified” message of the Bible. It is the “theology of choice” for all “wolves in sheep’s clothing” that both Jesus and Paul constantly warned the Church about.
This theology continues to be effective because inexperienced Christian believers find it nearly impossible to discern the counterfeit nature of its teachings, which are based on Scripture that is skillfully (and subtly) lifted from its context. Many lack the spiritual tools and equipment to accomplish this difficult discernment task. When the apostle Paul warned about those who “handle God’s Word deceitfully”, he was talking about those that preach this dangerous counterfeit gospel (2 Corinthians 4:1-2). The word “deceitfully” means “to fool or trick”. It is designed to fool even the most highly educated among us. It involves the practice of uprooting Scripture from its Divinely intended context in God’s Word and reinserting it into a context of a leader’s own design. This is done to quietly alter its meaning into something that supports a particular teaching or church doctrine. Using this method, the Scripture continues to read the same, yet its intended meaning is quietly altered or “shifted” because of the unnoticed or undetected change in its context. Very few believers have trained themselves to discern this kind of attack on God’s Word, which is now rampant in the modern Christian Church. To the average church member, it all sounds like “good Bible teaching”. However, the apostle Paul calls it “deceitful teaching” that originates, not from authentic ministers of the Gospel, but from our enemy. When you discover what's going on -- it’s actually misrepresenting and distorting what God said, in the name of Christ and His Kingdom.
We recently discovered a commentary from C.I. Scofield, who produced the popular “Scofield Reference Bible” and sounds a sober warning to the institutional Christian Church. We are not necessarily students of Scofield. Yet, we find that his writings reinforce the subject of this commentary.
In contrast to Reformed theology is Dispensationalism. Dispensationalism says that to find the believer’s rule of life you must go not to Mount Sinai, but to Mount Calvary. Mount Sinai is powerless to justify a person and Mount Sinai is also powerless to sanctify a person. The law is not the believer’s rule of life. Something else is. The Scofield Bible states this position very clearly: "The test of the gospel is grace. IF THE MESSAGE EXCLUDES GRACE, OR MINGLES LAW WITH GRACE AS THE MEANS OF JUSTIFICATION OR SANCTIFICATION, OR DENIES THE FACT OR GUILT OF SIN WHICH ALONE GIVES GRACE ITS OCCASION AND OPPORTUNITY, IT IS 'ANOTHER' GOSPEL, AND THE PREACHER OF IT IS UNDER THE ANATHEMA OF GOD."
[From "Footnote #6" in the SCOFIELD REFERENCE BIBLE under Galatians 1:6--Emphasis Mine.]
Most of us have been reared and now live under the influence of Galatianism. PROTESTANT THEOLOGY IS FOR THE MOST PART THOROUGHLY GALATIANIZED, in that neither the law or grace is given its distinct and separate place as in the counsels of God, BUT THEY ARE MINGLED TOGETHER IN ONE INCOHERENT SYSTEM. The law is no longer, as in the divine intent, a ministration of death (2 Cor. 3:7), of cursing (Gal. 3:10), or conviction (Rom. 3:19), because we are taught that we must try to keep it, and that by divine help we may. Nor does grace, on the other hand, bring us blessed deliverance from the dominion of sin, for we are kept under the law as a rule of life despite the plain declaration of Romans 6:14.--C.I. SCOFIELD
[Cited in THE COMPLETE GREEN LETTERS under footnote #10 by Miles Stanford (p. 265)--Emphasis Mine]
What concerns us the most is Scofield's use of the word "anathema" when talking about those who preach this popular gospel (and theology) that mixes Old Testament Law and New Testament Grace. All Scofield is doing is repeating the warning of Saint Paul when he uses the word "accursed" to describe the spiritual consequences that result from preaching this misleading doctrine. Both words (anathema and accursed) suggest a type of "Divine rejection" that falls upon these unsuspecting ministers, possibly without their knowledge. This is a most serious issue that is never properly addressed in a church service because it causes fierce controversy and emotional disagreements. Yet, it is a subject that should never be treated as just some "disagreement" over someone's opinion. The Scripture warns that God doesn't respect the opinions of man -- and that many opinions, no matter how well-intended, are wrong.
As I repeatedly warn in some of my commentaries -- this influence is not some “fringe” sect or movement. It is “mainstream” within the Christian institutional church and has countless expressions. The Galatian Error produces a “false faith in Christ” that is based on a counterfeit Jesus. This is why the apostle Paul practically got on his knees and begged the early Church (and all professing Christians today), in tears, to CONSTANTLY “TEST OURSELVES” in order to make absolutely sure that we are walking in the true faith of Christ of the New Covenant -- and not the difficult-to-discern false faith that comes from the counterfeit Jesus (2 Corinthians 13:5). This is one of the most serious warnings given in the New Testament. Yet, the warnings are ignored, glossed over or “redefined” by most believers and their leaders today who find them too uncomfortable or upsetting and a threat to their cherished doctrines and traditions. It also disrupts and interferes with the popular “Christian Unity” movement, which is another major reason these things are ignored and spurned.
Five Common Scriptural Distortions That Come From
Failing To Accept The Time Of Our Visitation
The source of most wrong teaching in the Church comes from a failure to respect the radical changes that took place under Christ’s New Covenant. Some things that Jesus Himself taught BEFORE He shed His blood, which was required to begin the New Covenant – now suddenly operates by completely different principles AFTER His blood was shed. This confuses many casual readers of the Bible. Before the cross, Jesus conducted His earthly ministry under the authority of the Old Covenant because the New Covenant wasn’t legally in operation. In this section, we briefly examine five examples or changes, which illustrate a truth (Paul called it “a mystery”) that continues to be abused by many churches today. These time periods “before the cross” and “after the cross” represent a sharp line that “divides God’s Word" into two parts. This is the principle that Paul taught his disciple Timothy, that is....if your goal is to properly teach the truth of Scripture, you must “rightly (or correctly) divide God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15). Why is this important? The Bible contains two major, yet different covenants that cannot be mixed or merged together. Preaching "the truth of Scripture" literally depends on respecting the radical differences (or respecting the Bibilcal context) between these covenants and keeping them separate -- or, as Paul taught, “rightly dividing” between them.
Change #1: Christ’s New Covenant Deals
With Unforgiveness In A Different Way
In the Gospels, Jesus taught that we must forgive others so that God will forgive us (Mark 11:25-26). Jesus clearly made this statement and we can read his exact words to confirm what He said. I've heard this teaching commonly applied to New Testament believers simply because it's found in the New Testament section of our Bible. God's forgiveness is one of the most important parts of our salvation. It's impossible to have eternal life without also possessing God's total forgiveness. They are eternally tied together. If you take what Jesus said here without applying any discernment about its context, you must conclude that Paul was incorrect (or worse, that he accidentally left something out) when he later taught that eternal life is now God's gift to the Christian believer. Why? Because Jesus plainly said that our act of forgiving others is a requirement to obtain God's forgiveness (which also carries direct implications to our possession of eternal life). If we don't forgive others God won't forgive us -- and eternal life will be denied or it can be lost if we fail to keep this requirement. This kind of reasoning presents us with a serious contradiction. It says that God's gift "maybe" isn't a gift at all because our efforts to forgive everyone and to continually remain in that condition must be maintained. It suggests that, only when I meet this condition of forgiving others am I qualified to receive (and keep) God's gift of eternal life. What if I forget someone or hold a small piece of unforgiveness that I'm not aware of? Can I ever be sure that I've forgiven everyone over my entire lifetime so that God won't disqualify me from having eternal life? And, how would I know that God didn’t find some unforgiveness lurking in a dark corner of my heart, which disqualifies me without my knowledge? Answer: No you can't know these things, and that's the problem. You can never have a 100% assurance of salvation if you either ignore or fail to respect the context of Scripture in this example.
What's the answer to this horrible dilemma? Jesus made this statement under the authority of the Old Covenant, which provides a “conditional” salvation. How can we say this? The New Covenant was not in force when Jesus said these words -- even though this story is recorded in the New Testament section of our Bible. Very few Christians take note of this important Biblical rule of context. Ignoring this rule distorts (the apostle Paul uses the word "perverts") God's original intention of the New Testament Scriptures. Remember that the New Covenant can’t begin until AFTER Christ sheds his blood at the crucifixion. God never projects New Covenant principles and benefits backward in time before it legally has authority. The Old Covenant and the New Covenant represent sequential "dispensations" or ages. One begins where the other one ends. The Old Covenant remains in force until the new one can legally start. It's actually very simple to understand. But, a majority of preachers and individual Christians continue to deny this simple "rule of context". Why? Because observing proper Biblical context destroys many of their cherished traditions and exposes the flaws in their theology -- something that they feel must be prevented at all costs. This is what motivated the Pharisees to coerce the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, to crucify Christ. He (Jesus) was exposing their false theology and threatening their religious power structure. It’s still going on today under different names.
God's forgiveness is handled a totally different way under Christ's new and better covenant. Under its new "Law of the Spirit of life in Christ" (Romans 8:2), Christ's blood paid the entire price to obtain God's forgiveness -- He then FREELY AND UNCONDITIONALLY GIVES IT TO US AS A GIFT. It can now be offered “unconditionally” because it’s fully paid for. Listen to the New Covenant version of what Jesus said:
"Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; EVEN AS CHRIST FORGAVE YOU, so you also must do." (Col. 3:12-13)
Paul spoke these words after Christ’s New Covenant went into operation. Notice that now we are to forgive others because CHRIST HAS ALREADY FREELY FORGIVEN US. Under Christ's new blood covenant, GOD’S FORGIVENESS ALREADY BELONGS TO US UNCONDITIONALLY. Yet, receiving that great blessing doesn't release us from forgiving others. It means that our ability to obtain God's forgiveness, and eternal life that is directly connected to it, is not hindered by any unforgiveness we may be harboring at the time. Meditate on this Scripture until it sets you free. Jesus and Paul are both correct because they are giving a different "covenant message" to different people WHO LIVED AT DIFFERENT TIMES RELATIVE TO THE CROSS. Jesus was speaking to his audience BEFORE THE CROSS and Paul was speaking to his audience AFTER THE CROSS. Your task is to discern which covenant you currently live under, the old or the new. YOU CAN NOT LIVE UNDER BOTH...even though both covenants are recorded and documented for our instruction in the pages of the Bible.
Change #2: Eternal Life Is Obtained A Different
Way Under Christ’s New Covenant
My second example goes hand-in-hand with the subject of God's forgiveness. In this illustration I will use something from my personal life. As a teenager some 42 years ago, I repeatedly witnessed to my Grandmother about the need to put her faith in Jesus for salvation. She was an elderly bedfast woman who loved and read the Bible for hours each day. She put me to shame by having whole sections of Scripture memorized. She kept the Bible on the nightstand by her bed and claimed to love God with all her heart. However, when I mentioned her need to receive Jesus, she always argued with me. She said, "Years ago when I was attending church as a young woman, my pastor told me that all I needed to do was keep the Ten Commandments and I would be alright". She would then quote from the Bible, where the rich young ruler came to Jesus asking how to receive eternal life -- and Jesus answered him, "Keep the commandments." (Matt. 19:16-19). Years later she died. To this day, I don't know if she made this crucial decision to receive Christ as her Lord and Savior. If she followed her convictions, she was trusting in her obedience to the Ten Commandments (the Old Covenant way that Jesus taught before the cross) rather than the redemption that Christ's shed blood freely provides as a gift under His "new and living way" that began after the cross (Heb. 10:19-20). Today, a frightening number of Christians are on this exact same destructive path. This is troubling because her pastor, who should have known better, taught her wrong. He was wrong because he ignored the Bible's context concerning the two different covenants found within its pages. Like so many, he failed to “rightly divide” The Word (2 Timothy 2:15). Under the Old Covenant, Jesus clearly taught that eternal life came as a result of obedience to the commandments (part of the Mosaic Law). This is what Jesus referred to when he told this young man to "keep the commandments" in order to have eternal life -- and Jesus was correct at the time this was said. HOWEVER, the principles that govern forgiveness and eternal life CHANGED when the new and better covenant began FOLLOWING Christ's crucifixion a few years later.
"But now hath he (Jesus) obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second." (Hebrews 8:6-7)
Under the new and better covenant established on the precious blood of Jesus Christ, eternal life is given as the "gift of God" (Romans 6:23 & Ephesians 2:8) resulting only from our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9-10). This story is both an example of how easy it is to get the context of the Bible wrong -- and a warning of how these things can cause us to miss heaven, while tricking us into believing we're "right with God". Our churches are filled to overflowing with people who have this false assurance that initially comes from the wrong teaching of their leaders.
These two illustrations represent only a mere fraction of the problems caused by failing to respect the context of God's Word and “rightly divide” its teachings. This failure has caused untold misery, suffering and even death throughout church history. It has destroyed the true message of salvation and liberty in Christ. Certain popular variants of the “Galatian Error” are responsible for these destructive distortions. They do serious damage to the integrity of God's Word by redefining the original Biblical context involving two distinctly different covenant messages -- and teach instead that God's Word has only one “unified” message. When we stand before our Lord, we will understand the magnitude of the unintended eternal consequences caused by these wrong practices.
"...NOT BY WORKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH WE HAVE DONE, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that HAVING BEEN JUSTIFIED BY HIS GRACE (UNMERITED AND UNDESERVED FAVOR) WE SHOULD BECOME HEIRS ACCORDING TO THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE."
“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. BUT TO HIM WHO DOES NOT WORK BUT BELIEVES ON HIM WHO JUSTIFIES THE UNGODLY, HIS FAITH IS ACCOUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man TO WHOM GOD IMPUTES RIGHTEOUSNESS APART FROM WORKS: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; BLESSED IS THE MAN TO WHOM THE LORD SHALL NOT IMPUTE SIN." (Romans 4:4-8)
"...BEING JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE THROUGH THE REDEMPTION THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS, whom God set forth as a propitiation BY HIS BLOOD, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:24-26 -- Emphasis Mine)
"AND IF BY GRACE, THEN IT IS NO LONGER OF WORKS; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work." (Romans 11:6)
Change #3: Righteousness Is Obtained A Different
Way Under Christ’s New Covenant
Jesus taught a parable to His audience in Matthew 22:11-14 about a man at a King's wedding feast that wasn't wearing a wedding garment. He was bound hand and foot and thrown into outer darkness for his error. Concerning this incident, Jesus made the statement, "many are called, but few are chosen". Countless numbers of professing Christians are wrongly taught to believe that our Heavenly Father is directing this parable at the New Testament believer. Yet earlier in the text, Jesus indicated that it was directed at an entirely different group of people. In other words, there is a context in this story that must be observed, or we arrive at a wrong conclusion that will take us astray in our faith. In addition to this parable, there are two other Scriptures that are commonly quoted:
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)
"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)
The key phrases to observe in these passages are "counted worthy", "few there be that find it" and "few are chosen". By ignoring the context of these Scriptures, most Christian’s think that God has limited eternal life to only a few that can achieve an acceptable level of good works and religious performance that makes them worthy enough to be included in "the chosen few" or, to escape the coming tribulation that Jesus spoke about in Luke chapter 21. They use these Scriptures (and others) to support their beliefs. They never stop to think about the context of God’s Word and the contradiction in this popular belief. If eternal life is limited to a “chosen few” that attain to some benchmark of religious performance, which somehow makes them “worthy” -- then eternal life can never be called the “gift of God”. If eternal life is limited to a “chosen few” that attain to some benchmark of religious performance, which somehow makes them “worthy” -- then we can never be “saved by the Grace of Christ”. This “performance-based worthiness” that so many think is correct actually contradicts Christ’s New Covenant that began AFTER His crucifixion.
Ignoring or abusing the context of the Bible is now an almost universal problem in the Christian Church. Most of us fail to understand that when you remove a Scripture from the context where God placed it -- and reinsert it into a context of your own design -- what used to be God’s Word is now a false teaching that “appears” to be supported by Scripture. Under Old Testament religion, righteousness (or worthiness) is achieved by how well you keep God’s laws. Diligently keep the rules and you will be considered “worthy”. Fail to keep the rules and you will be considered “less worthy or even unworthy”. This kind of performance-based "conditional" righteousness continued from the Old Testament, through the Gospels and into the book of Acts. The Gospel of Matthew probably has the highest concentration, because it was primarily written to Jewish people who were, at the time, under the Mosaic Law.
The cross of Christ "divides" between these two different religious systems. This is why the apostle Paul told his disciple Timothy that the Word of truth must be "rightly (or correctly) divided" if he was to teach it properly (2 Timothy 2:15). However, most churches today mix it all together into one message. By refusing to respect this "divide" that exists in God's Word, horrible Scriptural misinterpretations occur that carry unintended eternal consequences. THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS, WHICH BEGAN THE NEW COVENANT, LITERALLY CHANGED ALL THE RULES THAT EXISTED PREVIOUSLY. He changed the way our “worthiness” or righteousness is acquired and made it available as a free gift. He cleared the way so that MANY can now receive eternal life, rather than “the few” who were restricted to a performance-based "conditional" righteousness under Old Testament religion. The first Adam, through disobedience, placed the entire human race under the condemnation and dominion of sin. Jesus (also called the last Adam by the New Covenant) restored what the first Adam lost. (read 1 Corinthians 15:45-49) This is why you must ask some important questions when reading the New Testament. Much of what Jesus taught before the cross was correctly aligned with the Old Testament -- because, at the time, He hadn’t died to pay the price required to end the authority of the old system. What Jesus called His “New Covenant in blood” (Luke 22:20) couldn’t start until His blood was shed. Yet, everything changed following Christ’s crucifixion. A totally new system the book of Hebrews calls, “a new and living way”, began. (Hebrews 10:19-20) Professing Christians that fail to observe this important rule of context will always misinterpret the Scriptures to their own (and those that listen to them) hurt and destruction -- and there are many. Preachers that ignore or abuse Biblical context will enthusiastically give false teachings about how righteousness with God is obtained through our good behavior, while believing with all their heart that they’re preaching the truth of God’s Word. This is a mainstream problem in the modern worldwide Christian Church.
“For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, MUCH MORE THOSE WHO RECEIVE ABUNDANCE OF GRACE AND OF THE GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so THROUGH ONE MAN'S (JESUS) RIGHTEOUS ACT THE FREE GIFT CAME TO ALL MEN, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, SO ALSO BY ONE MAN'S OBEDIENCE MANY WILL BE MADE RIGHTEOUS." (Romans 5:17-19)
Change #4: Sin Is Dealt With A Different
Way Under Christ’s New Covenant
The Legal Aspect:
The most serious mistake the Christian believer makes in their interpretation of the New Testament can be seen in the two different ways God deals with sin under Christ’s New Covenant. As we have said many times, Jesus Christ, acting as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, LEGALLY removes (or takes away) all eternal consequences of EVERY ONE OF OUR SINS (past, present and future) WITHOUT EXCEPTION. If The Lamb of God didn’t completely take away our sins, as Saint John said, then God lied about it. Christ’s sacrifice as “The Lamb of God” is so sufficient and so powerful that God declares us “freely justified”, meaning that He now treats all Christian believers as if they had never sinned (pay special attention to the word “freely” -- Romans 3:24-26). This LEGALLY BINDING act by our Lord Jesus Christ provides all the purification from sin necessary to guarantee our eternal salvation from hell AND our place in the soon-to-occur rapture of the Church. Again, it is important to expose a very popular lie that is taught in many churches today -- that the rapture is reserved only for those who attain to some “high level of Christian performance”. However, the rapture CAN NEVER BE a reward for Christian service or sinless living. The rapture is THE COMPLETION of our blood bought salvation and falls under “eternal life, which is given as the gift of God” under the New Covenant (Romans 6:23 -- also read Mark 14:24, Matthew 26:28, Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 8:6 Hebrews 8:13, Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 12:22-25, Hebrews 10:19-23). ETERNAL LIFE AND OUR PLACE IN THE RAPTURE THAT IS DIRECTLY CONNECTED TO IT ARE TWO PARTS OF THE SAME SALVATION PACKAGE THAT JESUS CHRIST PAID FOR WITH HIS OWN BLOOD.
The Experiential Aspect:
As many are quick (and correct) to point out, it is improper for any believer to continue living in sin just because Christ has taken it away. Not only is this practice a “bad advertisement” for the Gospel and the Christian Church, but it’s also harmful to the life of the Christian believer and sends the wrong message to a watching unbelieving world. Christ has forever dealt with the eternal consequences of our sin. Yet, it is our responsibility to “purify (or turn away)”ourselves from sin in our personal life. God cannot do this for us. HOWEVER, IT SHOULD BE UNDERSTOOD THAT OUR HEAVENLY FATHER TREATS THESE TWO SPHERES OF SIN DIFFERENTLY. The “legal sphere of sin” that Christ’s sacrifice dealt with continues to remain in force REGARDLESS OF HOW SUCCESSFUL (OR UNSUCCESSFUL) WE ARE AT TURNING AWAY FROM SIN IN OUR PERSONAL LIFE because it is a “pre-paid” blood bought benefit (or gift). However, God does expect us to make the effort of “turning away from sin” and each of us will have a different measure of success. Those that Saint Paul labeled as “Carnal Christians”, unfortunately, have little success. Yet, carnal Christians possess the same “free justification” from sin as the rest of the Church. This is why it is impossible for Christ to have what some call a “dirty or sin-soiled” Church. The New Covenant declares that all of Christ’s Church is “freely justified by His blood" -- including those with questionable behavior. This fact secretly angers many religious people and their leaders who are unknowingly trapped in "the Galatian error" and labor tirelessly to redefine the Gospel of Christ.
"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. AND EVERYONE WHO HAS THIS HOPE IN HIM PURIFIES HIMSELF, just as He is pure." (1 John 3:1-3)
The testimony of our personal life sets us apart as being a “child of God” and directly reflects back on our Lord Jesus Christ. It is inconsistent for any of God’s children to continue in the sin that Christ died to “take away” (Romans 6:1-4). Also, it is important to recognize that our efforts at “self-purification” from sin in our personal life WILL ALWAYS BE LIMITED AND IMPERFECT AND CAN NEVER ADD OR CONTRIBUTE ANY EXTRA RIGHTEOUSNESS TO THE PERFECT AND LEGAL ASPECT OF CHRIST’S SACRIFICE AS “THE LAMB OF GOD” FOR OUR SINS. (Romans 4:5-8, Romans 3:24-26, Titus 3:5-7)
Grievous Error That Denies Christ’s Redemption
Those that seek to discredit the New Covenant Grace of Christ and the sufficiency of His blood MIX THE LEGAL AND THE EXPERIENTIAL ASPECTS TOGETHER IN THEIR REDEFINED GOSPEL MESSAGE. Once again, this is yet another example of abusing Biblical context. This common, yet perverted gospel, as Saint Paul calls it ( Read Galatians 1:6-9), subtly makes God’s free gift of eternal life dependent upon our efforts (or our works and religious performance) to purify or clean up our personal life from sin. Under these conditions God’s “free gift” becomes nonsensical. Peter refers to these teachings as “damnable heresies” (Read 2 Peter 2:1-2 ). These popular forms of toxic religious doctrine is why many well-meaning evangelists and preachers wrongly teach that some “authentically saved Christians” will be left behind at the rapture to be purified by the horrible trials of the Tribulation period because they failed to successfully “purify themselves” from sin. This is a demonic doctrine (Scripture calls it a “doctrine of demons”) that most Christians and their leaders fail to properly discern. It comes from our enemy and not from God because it’s designed to neutralize the “free justification” (Romans 3:24-26) aspect of Christ’s blood, while appearing, on the surface, to be God's original intention. It is this false appearance of "making God say something that He does not say" (by using out-of-context Scripture) that motivated Peter to label these teachings as "damnable heresies that deny the Lord who bought (redeemed) us".
Again, the reader should not view this as some “fringe agenda” in the Christian Church. It’s a mainstream effort that uses out-of-context Scripture to defend its beliefs. Many Christians are deceived by this theology, thinking they have the true teachings of Scripture. As we said before, this is the common practice of those who not only teach the popular “Galatian error” form of Christian theology that now permeates the world-wide Christian Church, but also of those who teach various forms of the end times “partial rapture” doctrine. It's frightening to consider how many popular denominations and movements embrace these forms of works-based “conditional salvation” doctrines -- and boldly preach them in their services as “The Word of God”. Like so many teachings in the modern Church, both of these aberrant doctrines are interconnected and lead many of God’s people astray in their faith.
"But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, AND THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST HIS SON CLEANSES US FROM ALL SIN." (1 John 1:7 -- Emphasis Mine)
We Are Freely Declared Righteous
Because Of Our Position "In Christ"
As a result of Christ's Divine act, God can now freely declare us "righteous" because Jesus Christ is righteous -- and we are "IN HIM" and "one" WITH HIM. In other words, the righteousness we possess under the New Covenant does not come from our devoted works and religious performance. The New Covenant declares the believer "dead" and dead people have no performance to offer. It is Christ's very own perfect righteousness that we possess because of our position IN HIM.
"For He made Him who knew no sin TO BE SIN FOR US, THAT WE MIGHT BECOME THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM." (2 Corinthians 5:21 -- Emphasis Mine)
When Jesus rose from the dead, He -- along with all believers that are "in Him" -- are now alive from the dead. THIS MEANS OUR OLD ORIGINAL SELF/LIFE (PAUL CALLS THIS PERSON "THE OLD MAN") REMAINS DEAD AND BURIED IN THE GRAVE AS FAR AS GOD IS CONCERNED. This is why the New Covenant IMPUTES Christ's perfect righteousness TO ALL BELIEVERS WHO ARE NOW "IN HIM" as a free unmerited gift (Romans 5:12-19). God imputes this righteousness because the Bible tells us that nobody can achieve, through their own efforts, the religious performance qualifications that satisfies God for a perfectly righteous and sinless life here on earth. (Note: The word "impute" means to legally assign a benefit or attribute to somone who hasn't earned it) HOWEVER, If we insist on obtaining righteousness by our own efforts, then we must keep God's laws perfectly, all the time, with no mistakes, for our entire life. Commit one insignificant sin and you are declared guilty and disqualified with no place of repentance (See James 2:10 below). Since you have chosen to live by the principles of Old Testament Law -- and refuse to accept Christ's perfection freely given through your New Covenant position "In Christ" -- you must be perfect instead. YOU WILL FAIL -- and God will not "give you a pass" -- as outlined in the Scriptures below.
"For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2:10)
"FOR AS MANY AS ARE OF THE WORKS OF THE LAW ARE UNDER THE CURSE; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” BUT THAT NO ONE IS JUSTIFIED BY THE LAW IN THE SIGHT OF GOD IS EVIDENT, for “the just shall live by faith.” YET THE LAW IS NOT OF FAITH..." (Galatians 3:10-12 -- Emphasis Mine)
"Therefore BY THE DEEDS OF THE LAW NO FLESH WILL BE JUSTIFIED IN HIS SIGHT". (Romans 3:20 -- Emphasis Mine)
Yet, for those who trust in Christ, being "righteous" is their current standing (state of being) before God as a New Covenant believer who is "in Christ", REGARDLESS OF HOW DEFICIENT THEY ARE IN GOOD WORKS OR IN THEIR EFFORTS TO LIVE A HOLY LIFE.
Tragically, many professing Christians are taught by their church to reject this liberating New Covenant truth. These people believe, with all their heart, that they're the only "true Christians". At the judgment, many will be shocked to discover that they were wrong. Keep in mind that we're not talking about some "fringe" movement or group. A vast majority of the Christian Church falsely believes that their sincere efforts to achieve a sinless life (the Bible calls it "establishing their own righteousness") satisfies God's requirements. This type of counterfeit faith will end in spiritual disaster for many.
An overwhelming number of professing Christians make the same mistake that Israel made. The apostle Paul sounds a sober warning about attempting to obtain righteousness in the wrong way:
"Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, AND SEEKING TO ESTABLISH THEIR OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:1-4)
What does the New Testament say about the correct right way to understand righteousness?
"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned -- (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But THE FREE GIFT is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and THE GIFT BY THE GRACE of the one Man, Jesus Christ, ABOUNDED TO MANY. And THE GIFT is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but THE FREE GIFT which came from many offenses resulted in justification. For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, MUCH MORE THOSE WHO RECEIVE ABUNDANCE OF GRACE AND OF THE GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so THROUGH ONE MAN'S (JESUS) RIGHTEOUS ACT THE FREE GIFT CAME TO ALL MEN, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, SO ALSO BY ONE MAN'S OBEDIENCE MANY WILL BE MADE RIGHTEOUS." (Romans 5:12-19)
Within seven verses God uses the words "free gift" or "gift" six times when referring to our righteousness. Do you think maybe He wants us to see an important truth?
"And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. FOR SIN SHALL NOT HAVE DOMINION OVER YOU, FOR YOU ARE NOT UNDER LAW BUT UNDER GRACE." (Romans 6:13-14)
"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, THAT WE MIGHT BECOME THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Change #5: Financial Giving Is Different
Under Christ’s New Covenant
"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this, Says the LORD of hosts, If I will not open for you the window of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it." (Malachi 3:10).
On the topic of tithing, we're dealing with the question of whether local church members (and the Body of Christ in general) should practice an Old Covenant law. This is, once again, an issue of right and wrong "theology". When you closely examine Malachi 3:10, you can see that the tithe Malachi is speaking about is not "monetary", but "agricultural". You don't store money in a "storehouse"....you store food. In Malachi, God tells us it is for the purpose of having "food in my house". When you go back into the Old Testament Scriptures, you find that the word tithe means "one-tenth" of your AGRICULTURAL increase (Duet. 14:22-23). This one tenth or "tithe" was also referred to as the "first-fruits" (notice that it's not called the "first-money") and was considered the very best portion of the entire crop. It was taken "off the top" and was presented at the temple before the family that produced the crop was allowed to sell or consume the other nine tenths. In old covenant times, the Levites (one of the 12 tribes of Israel) were the "ministers or priests" of the Jewish Temple (God's house under the old covenant)--God required them to devote their entire life to this service and declared that He (God) would be their only inheritance. Because the Levites had God as their inheritance, they were prohibited from owning their own land. For these reasons, God released them from the considerable burden of having to farm the land and grow their own food. However, they needed food like everyone else. God established the institution of the tithe so that the other Jewish tribes would provide the food for "God's House", which included its Levite priests. It is also important to note that the tithe in those days was also given to help feed the stranger, fatherless and the widow in the land of Israel. In the days of Malachi, Israel was neglecting the tithe and that is why he wrote the warnings of a curse and the promise of blessing connected to it. It's important to remember from Malachi's writings that the tithe is specifically associated with "God's house", which in the days of the old covenant was a PHYSICAL BUILDING.
As we move our focus into new covenant (New Testament) times, we notice that many Christian leaders take the extraordinary liberty of redefining and "spiritualizing" Scripture, which is a common practice under reformed theology. Spiritualizing Scripture is nothing more than injecting a "spiritual meaning" into a Bible verse (or doctrine) that already carries a clear "literal" meaning. When a "literal definition" gets in the way of a personal ministry or church initiative (such as a church growth program financed by tithing), the best way to deal with the threat is to redefine it (spiritualize it) by removing and using other Scriptures out of their "covenant context". This is a very effective tactic used by many leaders and individual Christian believers today. You can't discuss an issue when the "literal merits" are constantly changed by "spiritualizing" them into anything the opposing side wants. I have a new rule. I usually don't engage in a rational discussion with any Christian who insists on spiritualizing Scripture. I've found that it's an exercise in total frustration and always ends in bitter disagreement. This area of tithing is only one example of how Scripture is spiritualized. One major point I've been trying to make in this commentary is that God's Word consists of two vastly different "covenants" with two different sets of rules. Our responsibility as believers today is to discern how each of these covenants (and their messages) apply. Yet, a majority of churches "spiritualize" God's Word by merging these two covenants together and turning the "two different messages" into one. Every day I grieve over the eternal consequences that will result from this practice.
Those who support tithing tell us that the modern day version of "God's house" or "God's storehouse" is our "church buildings" and the "new Levites" are those that do the ministry in these churches (meaning the preachers). Since many of us today don't put food on our tables by farming, preachers insist that instead of tithing crops, God's "redefined" requirement is for us to tithe the "equivalent form of labor", which is money. Also, just like the old covenant Israelites, we are to tithe on any "increase" we receive, such as a weekly paycheck or a bonus or unexpected inheritance. God never "literally" said this in His Word; but it sounds reasonable, doesn't it? We are then told that Jesus commanded the Pharisees to tithe in the New Testament (Matt. 23:23), which proves it remains a requirement for Christians today. If all those things fail to impress us, we are reminded that Malachi issued a warning that we are "cursed" and are "stealing from God" if we fail to tithe. By accusing Christians of stealing from God (something that obviously makes Him angry at us), these preachers are now equating the payment of tithes as a way to be "righteous before God" (a blatant form of fear manipulation or bondage). Removing old covenant tithing from its context and making the payment of tithes a requirement for "new covenant righteousness" IS A DANGEROUS FALSE TEACHING. It's wrong because the Scriptures that reveal the principles of the "new covenant" plainly teach that our righteousness is given to us as "a free gift" (Read Rom. 5:15-19). Righteousness is free to us because Jesus paid for it using His own blood as "Divine currency". Jesus already paid the full price and this is why it is given to us "free and at no charge" under "Christ's New Covenant in His blood" (Luke 22:20). This toxic teaching of associating tithing with righteousness is very common in fundamentalist churches of all denominations. There are numerous other problems with this popular redefined "interpretation" of tithing in the Scriptures.
The New Covenant, is also called "the new and living way of Christ" established on His blood (Read: Matt. 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25, 2 Cor. 3:6, Heb. 8:6-13, Heb. 9:15, Heb. 10:19-23, Heb. 12:24).
New Covenant Fact #1: Under the new covenant, "God's house", or God's Temple is not a physical building like it was under the old covenant. When the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost 50 days after Jesus Christ initiated the new covenant by spilling His blood, He came to "indwell" (live inside) the physical body of the believer, just as Jesus said He would. This made the body of the Christian the new "Temple" (God's house). This means our church buildings can never be considered "God's house" no matter how popular the belief. When a Christian today calls a church building "God's house", it should alert us that they are trying to live for Christ under an Old Testament form of faith (a dangerous false theology).
The New Covenant, established upon God's unmerited favor (Grace), joined Christ and the believer together in a way that was never possible under the old covenant religious system. This blessed state of existence is called living "in Christ". Paul referred to the principles and truths that describe this union as "the mystery of Christ". Few Christians live in the freedom of this mystery (the revelation of the New Covenant) today. Reformed theology (and especially the Galatian error, cheats a vast majority of Christians out of this knowledge. Under the New Covenant, the believer and Christ share all things in common. The Bible refers to this relationship as being "joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). Being a "joint-heir" with Christ is similar to having a joint checking account with a friend. Everything Christ owns also belongs to you and vice-versa. You don't deserve this incredible blessing. Christ's blood purchased it for you as part of His great salvation. It comes to you as a result of being "one with Him". This is called "Amazing Grace". It also means that the New Covenant makes it impossible to "steal from God" (as in Malachi's day), since you now "jointly" own everything He does. This is almost never taught in church services, yet it remains as one of the many "unsearchable riches of Christ".
"And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, AND SHALL BE IN YOU." (Words of Jesus before the Holy Spirit arrived on Pentecost from John 14:16-17)
"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, WHICH TEMPLE YE ARE." (Words of Paul after the Holy Spirit arrived on Pentecost from 1 Cor. 3:16-17)
"What? KNOW YE NOT THAT YOUR BODY IS THE TEMPLE OF THE HOLY GHOST WHICH IS IN YOU, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (Words of Paul after the Holy Spirit arrived on Pentecost from 1 Cor. 6:19-20)
New Covenant Fact #2: Preachers and ministers in today's churches do not meet the strict qualifications to be old covenant Levitical priests and are, therefore, not qualified to receive tithes as described by Malachi. Actually, the Levitical priesthood "ceased to exist" when the Jewish temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70. According to old covenant law, the tithe was only valid when the Levitical priesthood and the temple existed to receive it. If the temple disappears, the priesthood disappears with it and the "tithe of the Mosaic Law" becomes invalid.
New Covenant Fact #3: In Matthew 23:23 of the New Testament Scriptures, Jesus told the Pharisees that it was proper to tithe mint and anise and cummin (Note: all of these are agricultural products). This Scripture is a favorite among those who preach the Mosaic Law of tithing today. But, notice that Jesus said this BEFORE the New Covenant (initiated by his blood at the crucifixion) came into authority. When Jesus made this statement, the old covenant remained in operation and had not yet ended--EVEN THOUGH IT IS FOUND IN THE NEW TESTAMENT PART OF OUR BIBLE. A lot of false teaching in the church can be exposed if we would only pay attention to Biblical context -- such as when the old covenant ended and the new one began. Tithing is not a commandment under Christ's New Covenant, details of which are mainly found in the epistles of Paul to the Church.
New Covenant Fact #4: It is impossible for a New Covenant believer to steal from God as described under the Old Covenant of Malachi's day. Without revealing the details, Jesus gave His disciples a glimpse of the new covenant shortly before the cross. He told them that His sacrifice was going to cause the Father, the Son and "the believer" to become ONE (read John 17:20). If anyone wants to know some primary differences between old covenant and new covenant believers, here are just a few:
- The New Covenant believer enjoys oneness with God (John 17:20)--Old Covenant believers didn't possess this benefit. This "oneness" occurs when the Holy Spirit comes to indwell and seal us the instant we believe the Gospel. This new administration of "indwelling" didn't start until the day of Pentecost following the cross. The indwelling Holy Spirit transforms the body of the Christian into "the temple of the Holy Spirit". All believers in this condition are now called, "the Body of Christ". (Eph. 1:11-22, 1 Cor. 3:16-17, Eph. 1:22-23, Col. 1:18, 1 Cor. 12:27, 1 John 4:4, 1 John 2:27).
- God reckons the New Covenant believer crucified (put to death) with Christ (Gal. 2:20, Col. 3:3) -- his/her sins (past, present and future) are eternally removed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the "The Lamb of God"(John 1:29) -- the Old Covenant believer did not have this kind of security.
- The New Covenant believer enjoys eternal life as the gift of God (Rom. 6:23)--the Old Covenant believer achieves eternal life by keeping the Law's commandments (Matt. 19:16-17).
We can't end this discussion without covering Abraham's tithe to Melchizedek. I won't go into detail about this mysterious visitor who the Bible calls "the king of Salem" and the "priest of God Most High". There's not much information about him. Some Bible scholars believe Melchizedek (also mentioned in the book of Hebrews) is Jesus before the incarnation (before He took on human flesh in Mary's womb). All we know is that Abraham was impressed with him--and "gave him "a tithe of all" (Read Gen. 14:17-10). However, here's something to think about. At this point in Scripture, there was no "old covenant" (or Mosaic Law). It didn't officially start until the scene in Exodus with Moses (the giver of the Law and commandments) and the children of Israel at Mount Sinai hundreds of years later. Therefore, the old covenant "law of tithing" that Malachi spoke of didn't exist when Abraham met Melchizadek. As we said earlier, the word "tithe" means one-tenth or ten percent. In this case, Genesis is not referring to the Mosaic Law form of tithing, which didn't exist--but is simply saying that Abraham gave Melchizadek "one-tenth" of all he had.
Notice two important things. First, there was no commandment that coerced Abraham to give this tithe--he did it as a personal "voluntary act of worship" directed at Melchizedek, who represented God. Secondly, Abraham only gave this tithe ONCE. He didn't continually give a tenth of his "increase" as demanded by old covenant law.
If any believer today wants to voluntarily give a ten percent offering of everything they have (like Abraham) as a one time "tithe of worship" to Jesus--I don't see a problem. However, it would be a problem if they view this "act of worship" as some requirement that God is placing on them....or, if they attempt to redefine their "act of worship" into a binding law that is placed on all believers. If someone makes you feel obligated to pay this tithe, it's not voluntary and it's probably not true worship. God, who sees the heart, will be the final judge.
New Covenant Giving
Where does this leave us? Do we ignore all the needs of our church organization along with the poor and needy because it's wrong to impose the old covenant tithe on new covenant believers? Absolutely not.
God's solution under the New Covenant is "freewill giving". Under the New Covenant, Paul teaches that we are "freely justified" by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:24). Eternal life is given to us as "the gift of God". Romans chapter 5 tells us that in Christ we have received the "free gift of righteousness". Earlier we read where Paul opposed "false believers" from coming in and putting new covenant believers living in Christ's liberty -- under bondage (Gal. 2:4). Do you see a pattern here? Freedom and liberty in Christ is the pattern. Under Christ's New Covenant, there is no law that commands a believer to tithe or condemns him or her for "stealing from God" if they don't. However, the believer is encouraged to give. How much do we give? God doesn't specify. He leaves the decision strictly up to you..."as you purpose in your heart". God only reminds us in 2 Cor. 9:6-7...
"But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver."
God's Word to the New Covenant believer is that they should voluntarily (without guilt or coercion) give "as they purpose in their heart". This could be 1%, 3%, 5%, 10%, 90%, 100%--or anything in between. Yet, if you decide your giving should be 10% (the definition of "a tithe"), understand that this is a personal decision of the heart AND IS NOT BINDING ON ANYONE ELSE BUT YOU. More importantly, God does not "love you more" or assign a "higher righteousness" to you because of your decision. I've listened to various "successful Christian living" message series from popular ministries where the Mosaic Law tithe of Malachi (ten percent) is said to be God's minimum standard of giving for believers today. This common and popular belief is a total distortion of New Covenant principles--AND IT'S NOT WHAT GOD SAID. We are warned that "giving or sowing sparingly" will cause us to "reap sparingly". But, God does not condemn anyone for sowing sparingly, nor does he accuse the person who gives sparingly of "stealing from Him". THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION TO BELIEVERS UNDER THE NEW COVENANT "LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE IN CHRIST" (Romans 8:1)--AND THIS INCLUDES OUR GIVING. Our Heavenly Father never accuses a New Covenant believer of the crime of "stealing" from Him. If your church is teaching this principle from Malachi's day, they are abusing the context of Scripture. God wants a totally free and cheerful giver.
How The Galatian Error Can Distort
Prophecy, Dreams and Visions
At the beginning of this study, we used a term that some readers may not be familiar with, which is "The Galatian Error". A more recognizable name for this same theology is "Legalism". Most modern churches embrace various tenants and aspects of Legalism without knowing its history or true nature. They are fooled into thinking that its good, sound fundamental Bible teaching. This popular covert influence is the reason many of the powerful changes that Christ's New Covenant provides are never taught or practiced. We only briefly looked at 5 of these revolutionary changes. However, there are many more, which we won't cover here. To close out this commentary something must be said about the supernatural occurrence of dreams and visions that are showing up in various churches. We currently live in the last days before Christ’s return. The Bible has much to say about this time period and subject. In the Old Testament, the prophet Joel said that “dreams and visions” would be a common way that God would communicate certain truths to his people in the last days.
"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke." (Joel 2:28-30)
Supernatural events, like dreams and visions, always demand that we exercise a high level of spiritual discernment. Visions and dreams are now occurring all over the Church, especially with our young people -- and they're increasing in frequency as the time of the end approaches, just as Joel foretold. Yet, it’s disturbing how Christian believers react to these experiences. When a supernatural vision or dream occurs, some Christians throw caution the to wind, get all excited, and ASSUME that everything is automatically from our Heavenly Father. Unfortunately, they begin to use the things they see and hear in these experiences as their standard for truth, rather than God’s Word. If these “supernatural encounters” happen to contain some false religious ideologies that “confirms” something the recipient already believes, we’ve got a recipe for disaster that can lead other Christian believers, especially young and inexperienced ones, astray in their faith. This is how some of the more popular religious “heresies” are birthed. Unfortunately, this happens all too often -- and it’s a contributing factor to the horrendous forms of false teaching we currently see flooding the worldwide Christian Church. Scripture tells us that our relationship with God is not by sight, but by faith. For that reason, we don’t always get to “see something”, which confirms (to our senses) that the world of the spirit where God exists is a real place. Some Christians go their whole life without seeing or hearing anything that “confirms” their faith. They just simply “know” that what they believe from the Bible is true. When a vision or dream does occur, suddenly we are confronted with how real the spiritual realm actually is. For some, this is an overwhelming, yet potentially dangerous experience if we don’t respond in a correct Biblical way.
A wise preacher once said, “Visions and dreams come from one of three places: God, the devil, and the leftover pizza we ate last night. This is a funny, but true statement that has a clear message: All dreams and visions must be evaluated against the standard for truth, which is God’s Word. Dreams and visions should NEVER establish the basis for spiritual truth by themselves, no matter how convincing they appear to be. In other words, exercising discernment by comparing the experience with the Holy Scriptures MUST ALWAYS BE USED.
In many of these supernatural occurrences, an angel or a voice or person claiming to be God, or even Jesus our Lord, gives us a special revelation, takes us on a journey of heaven or hell, or allows us to see certain sights and sounds. Some Christians are given these kinds of experiences and the source is properly discerned as coming from our Heavenly Father. In other words, the vision, along with the message or revelation it was meant to convey was tested and proven to be both Godly and authentic. Contrary to some popular teaching, our Heavenly Father continues to do these things today with increasing regularity. However, not all supernatural experiences pass the test of Scripture. Satan is revealed in the Bible as “an imposter”. In other words, his favorite method of trickery is to approach us by disguising himself as God, Jesus Christ, or what the Bible calls “an angel of light” with a special revelation or message that appears to be Divine, but is actually from a demonic and evil source. Many times he (the devil) will use a supernatural vision or angelic appearance because he knows the powerful impact these experiences have on us. What some theologians call “doctrines of demons” start out this way. Yet, they appear to inexperienced Christians as “secret teachings and revelations from God”. For many, this is just too tantalizing to pass up. The unfortunate people who commit their lives to these kinds of false religious doctrines are convinced they are following the true God of heaven. The Bible warns us about “false prophets” that masquerade as true prophets of God. Jesus called them, “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. Many of these “agents of Satan” use the dreams and visions they “supposedly” receive as powerful methods to deceive their audience, or even whole church congregations. They know that many of God’s people are so hungry for the supernatural that they are willing to lay discernment aside and believe anything that has “the appearance” of a godly source. This is the pathway to spiritual disaster.
The Galatian error (or Legalism), which the apostle Paul said comes from our enemy, takes full advantage of the powerful influence found in dreams and visions. Without repeating in exhaustive detail what we’ve already covered in this commentary (and others), it (the Galatian error) subtly REPLACES the “free unmerited gift” (also known as Grace) aspect of eternal life that Christ’s New Covenant promises us -- with a false Judaistic/Old Testament version of eternal life that is acquired by devotional works, holy living or some religious code of conduct. A more common and deceptive variant of this error mixes everything together, making the acquisition of eternal life dependent on both grace and works (religious performance). When you combine this kind of false theology with supernatural dreams and visions, you have a powerful “witches brew” of deception that’s almost impossible to refute. When people think they’ve heard directly from the Lord, or from a heavenly angel in a supernatural dream or vision, it’s very difficult to get them to reject these things when God’s written Word exposes their experience as false.
God gives a stern warning about falsely claiming that a personal prophecy, dream or vision is an unquestionable direct message from Him. Some use the phrase "Thus saith the Lord" to validate their words. Qualifying your message in this way makes it difficult to judge whether the words are actually from the Lord. In this situation, what's actually being said is, "I'm speaking the true words of God -- just trust me." If you go ahead and question the message because it contradicts Scripture, it appears you are opposing God's words. Unfortunately, this is a common tactic used to manipulate and persuade church congregations. The problem is, God condemns the practice.
"I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, 'I had a dream! I had a dream!' (Jeremiah 23:25)
"Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams," declares the LORD. "They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least," declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 23:32)
"If a prophet or a priest or anyone else claims, 'This is a message from the LORD,' I will punish them and their household." (Jeremiah 23:34)
Some churches don’t want to deal with any of this. Leaders simply dodge the issue by telling their congregation that God doesn’t do these kinds of things anymore. Yet, taking that position is not giving people the truth they need. What God wants us to do is sharpen our discernment skills when approaching any kind of supernatural experience. Why? Many times it’s our Heavenly Father trying to get our attention.
Testing And Discerning Dreams And
As we said earlier, In many of these supernatural occurrences, an angel or a voice or person claiming to be God, or even Jesus our Lord, gives us a special revelation, takes us on a journey of heaven or hell, or allows us to see certain sights and sounds. During my 42 years as a believer in Christ, I’ve heard well-meaning Christians talk about these experiences. Here are some examples that contain misleading forms of “revelation” that can lead us astray in our faith. Keep in mind that I am paraphrasing in these examples from memory -- and also to keep things as brief as possible.
Example #1: A few years ago, a woman wrote a book and published her experience on the Internet. She claimed to be a Christian. In her dream, Jesus took her on a brief tour of heaven and showed her certain parts of hell. In her vision of hell, she noticed a certain group segregated from the rest. She asked Jesus, “Who are these people?” Jesus replied, “These are Christians who failed to tithe while on earth. I said in my Word that failing to tithe is stealing from me – and that’s why they are in hell.”
Example #2: In another widely published experience, Jesus took a man on a tour of hell. In his vision, he noticed a certain group of people and asked the Lord about their identity. Jesus responded, “these are Christians who thought that believing on me was all they needed to do. While on earth, they failed to live holy and committed lives in obedience to my Word. They are in hell because of their mistaken beliefs.”
Example #3: A certain popular preacher was given a vision of events that would occur at the rapture. He was shown the Christians that were taken up into the air to meet the Lord and was surprised that the group was so small. Coinciding with the rapture, judgment and sudden destruction was being loosed upon the United States and the rest of the world. But, this man noticed that many Christians remained on earth. He asked the Lord why these Christian believers were left behind. Jesus said, “these are luke-warm Christians who mistakenly thought that eternal life was a gift and that faith in me was all they needed. Yet, they neglected to obey my commandments and do the devoted works I required. They are left behind because of their error and I will ignore their cries and screams for mercy.”
To some readers, these experiences may appear to be total nonsense. But, try to imagine the effect they would have -- if you were the one receiving them. All of these examples can be traced back to some variant of a theology connected with the Galatian error. Since the revelation appealed to the wrong beliefs of the recipient, it was immediately judged by them to be a true experience from God. These dreams and visions may appear, on the surface, to be based on Scripture -- but it’s Scripture that is lifted from its original context and used to deceive. We can’t know whether they were real dreams and visions, figments of someone’s imagination, or ones that were deceptively “invented” to frighten Christian believers and church congregations into obedience. Unfortunately, generating fear by using a dream, vision or prophetic utterance is a common method used in some Christian churches that preach legalism.
Regardless of whether the experience is real or contrived, the intended goal is the same. It involves someone disguising themselves as Jesus Christ to authenticate and circumvent a proper Scriptural discernment of the intended “message or revelation”. Remember that any person, minister or spirit that “impersonates” Jesus Christ in this manner, whether in a dream, vision or prophetic utterance is actually an imposter. Imposters can quote Scripture and appear to be very real and godly; yet do not originate from our Heavenly Father. If you try to challenge these experiences, the recipient may use some defense like, “I know that Jesus appeared to me and I’m going to believe what the Lord said rather than what you say.” Sadly, in these situations involving false “impersonations of Jesus Christ”, you have no other choice but to allow them to live in their own religious deception and pray that they don’t lead others astray.
I was listening to the testimony of one traveling evangelist, who was trying to get a Sunday school teacher to see some of the things written here. This particular woman held some pretty bizarre beliefs about Christ’s salvation and the visiting evangelist was lovingly trying to appeal to her from Scripture. After several minutes of discussion, she stopped and said, “I’ve always believed these things my way....and Bible or no Bible, I’m going to continue to believe and teach them my way.” At that point the conversation ended. If one of my children attended her Sunday school class, I'd immediately take them out. When you’re faced with this kind of dangerous unbelief, there’s really no way to help such a person.
Our goal in this commentary is to warn others about the consequences and dangers of ignoring “the time of our visitation”. Everything changed following the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus started a brand New Covenant that replaced the old religious order. This is why Paul, who wrote nearly half of the New Testament Scriptures, warned that God’s Word is a divided book. All of us need to constantly test ourselves so that we aren’t cheated out of these incredible blessings that were purchased for us by the blood of Christ.
"Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power." (Colossians 2:8-10)
"Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God." (Colossians 2:18-19)
"To me (Paul), who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles THE UNSEARCHALBE RICHES OF CHRIST, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ..."(Ephesians 3:8-9)
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