The Modern Church
I wish I had an amusing anecdote from my past to go with todays blog. I always like to have a little “sugar to make the medicine go down” as the old saying goes. I’m afraid today’s subject is a serious one and unfortunately, I fear it will offend some people and set me up to be a person of ridicule. But, this subject is too important to ignore and it can’t be candy coated. Besides being ridiculed for the cause of Jesus isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
I have been accused of being “old testament” by some. I want to go on the record up front and say what you might consider “old testament” is really just very pro Jesus. Why am I so intent on the words of Jesus? I have been over this in previous blogs but it bears repeating. God promises us in Deuteronomy 18:15 to send to us a prophet above all other prophets that he has sent. This prophet will be used as a direct mouthpiece of God. The words that prophet speaks are God’s words. We are required to listen to and obey him. The person that doesn’t listen to and obey him will be cut off from God’s people. For context this is right after the Israelites are met by God in a black cloud and a column of fire with the earth shaking and God’s voice coming out of the cloud like thunder.
Deuteronomy 18:15“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18I will raise up for them a prophet like you (Moses) from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.
Peter identifies Jesus as “that prophet” in his sermon recorded in Acts 3:20that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.
That is pretty self explanatory. Jesus is “The Prophet” and MUST be listened too and obeyed. No other person can make any such claim and no teaching or doctrine can ever supersede or supplant his teachings, period. Jesus is the chief cornerstone
II Peter2:4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 5For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”
8and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, (Jesus’ words) as they were destined to do.
I’m told when an important building is built the first thing established is the cornerstone and all the work that follows must be made in reference to that corner. Likewise, all the work of the church must be based upon the teachings established by Jesus. No ones secret doctrine or private interpretation can be built into the true church of God. Interpretations must agree with what God has already established through his law, prophets and covenants. God doesn’t say one thing for two thousand years then suddenly tell a prophet to teach something entirely different. In fact if any prophet comes to you and teaches anything contrary to what God’s covenant, the prophets and Jesus taught you, you may safely disregard everything he says.
This brings us to the problem of the modern church’s teachings on the law being at odds with Jesus’ teachings on the law. Let’s briefly look at the law before we go further. The law can be divided into three categories. The first category is the moral law. This consists of the ten commandments. It is all about how we act towards God and each other. The second category is the ceremonial law. It was all about how the Jews were to worship in God’s Holy tabernacle (later his temple), make offerings and keep his holy days. Also laws on purity and how to conduct themselves as a nation of priests representing God to the world. The third category is the civil laws of the nation of Israel. It consists of things like if your ox gores my goat how much are you to pay me and other civil affairs like the selling of property. Since the temple was destroyed and the priesthood is no more, the ceremonial law is also no more. Since you probably aren’t jewish and probably don’t live in the nation of Israel, Israel’s civil law doesn’t apply to you. That brings us to the moral law. The moral law still stands. Jesus reaffirmed it and said not one letter of it would pass away from it until all things were fulfilled. Anyone that teaches you that you don’t have to obey the moral law (the ten commandments) is teaching in direct opposition to Jesus. Did I hear you say “no one can obey the law”? Then read this passage.
Deuteronomy 30:11“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. There are many more passages like this but, this one will make my point.
I’m afraid we have been sold a bill of goods on obedience to the law by the modern church and in the process we’ve been given an easy way out. Not only is keeping the law possible it’s a necessity. There is no alternative for a christian. I can hear you now “but, that’s works based salvation”. Let me remind you of the words of Jesus. (Mark 10:17)
As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.
Jesus did not say believe in my death burial and resurrection or lead him in a sinners prayer. James the brother of Jesus explains it very well and in agreement with the teachings of Jesus.
James 2:14What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
18But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
Let me also offer you this verse from Matthew. (this is Jesus speaking) 5:19 So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven!
As you can see here James’ teaching and Jesus teaching are in perfect agreement. The modern church, not so much.