Healing — Rightly Dividing the Word

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We can’t make the Bible say what we desire it to say. We can’t interpret it according to our feelings, or make it conform to worldly standards. And we most definitely cannot build a church based on the dogma and creed of any denomination or tradition of men. With that in mind we shall examine more closely two verses in the B’rit Chadasha (New Testament) that seem to be saying the same thing. But are they?

The preacher on TCT invites the viewer to touch their television screen as he reads this verse from 1 Peter 2:24 …

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

Have you ever reached out to touch the screen believing that you’ll be healed? I am reminded of the story in Numbers 21:8 when YHWH commands Moshe to fashion a bronze serpent, attach it to a pole, and when anyone is bitten by a snake if they look upon the bronze image they will live.

Of course, it is not the serpent on a pole that heals, but the power of God through faith. It came to pass the children of God, believing there was power in the healing pole, began to idolize the bronze serpent. Over the next 430 years — until the reign of Hezekiah — they burnt incense and bowed in worship to what Moshe had created. Their behavior was so blasphemous that the king took the pole and broke it in pieces (2 Kings 18:4).

If you believe that touching your television screen will heal you then may I suggest that you follow the example of King Hezekiah.

This is what happens when tradition — based on our feelings — becomes the foundation of church doctrine. If left unchecked we risk the danger of falling into heresy and condemnation. I mentioned last time that I was banned from a Christian blog because I disagreed with the author’s interpretation of 1 Peter 2:24. They hold to the feel-good proposition that the apostle was speaking of physical healing while I argued that he was referring to spiritual healing. Biblical scholars uniformly agree with the latter interpretation (spiritual) while the modern evangelical church espouses the former (physical).

A similar verse — one that is more specific to physical healing — can be found in Matthew 8:17 …

This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.”

Isn’t that what Peter said? Well, no. In context, Peter is speaking of our sin condition — that Jesus bore our sins so that we would die to sin. Throughout the Bible sin is classified as a disease for which there is only one cure … the blood of Jesus Christ.

Now, the apostles (Peter and Matthew) are both quoting Isaiah.

However …

Peter is citing Isaiah 53:5 …

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

Bible commentators agree with the Rabbin that this is, in fact, a reference to spiritual healing.

Albert Barnes:

We are healed – literally, it is healed to us; or healing has happened to us. The healing here referred to is spiritual healing, or healing from sin. Pardon of sin, and restoration to the favor of God, are not unfrequently represented as an act of healing. [1]

John Gill:

Sin is a disease belonging to all men, a natural, hereditary, nauseous, and incurable one, but by the blood of Christ; forgiving sin is a healing of this disease; and this is to be had, and in no other way, than through the stripes and wounds, the blood and sacrifice, of the Son of God. [2]

The LORD did not lay our infirmity upon the scourged Christ, but our iniquity (Isaiah 53:6).

Matthew, in quoting the prophet, is making reference to physical healing. Both Hebrew and Greek scholars agree on this point, and it has so been taught by the Rabbin:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4).

Griefs (חלי, chăliy) does not refer to sins, but means literally sickness and disease. So, faith healers would be better served to quote from Mattityahu (מתיו) rather than Kephas (פיטר). Why don’t they? Because Matthew is quite clear that this prophesy of Yesha’yahu (יְשַׁעְיָהוּ) was fulfilled by Yeshua HaMashiach.

We don’t know how many people Jesus healed — only that it was multitudes. But the early church recognized that the Christ in their midst was the present fulfillment of the law and prophets. Messiah conferred the power of healing upon His apostles who performed these acts of miracles — even raising the dead — until the last of the twelve (John) passed from life to death.

Dr. J. Vernon McGee:

He says here, He’s suffering now the sins of the world who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). Now, He’s no example to us here. You and I can’t suffer for our own sins let alone the sins of the world, but now he’s talking about redemption. You say, “How do you know?” Well, let’s keep reading here, in His own body on the tree that we being dead to sins  — that was our condition — should live unto righteousness by whose stripes we are healed. Now, healed of what? And I notice faith healers never use this verse, and rightly so because whose stripes you’re healed it’s evident who he’s talking about. He says we were dead in sins. We were absolutely dead and we should live now unto righteousness by whose stripes we’re healed. Healed of what? Of sin, friends. He’s the great healer. I’ll agree with that, but the great healer heals of sin and no human position can handle that problem. [3]

In McGee’s day faith healers did not allude to this verse. It has since been wrongly divided by charismatic evangelicals.

Let me be clear — God still heals by divine will and authority. But when you touch your television screen (by faith), and are not healed, be alert to the Evil One who might steal your hope.

Take your eyes off the bronze serpent and focus on the Christ.

Credits:

1. Notes on the Old Testament, Albert Barnes, (London, Blackie & Son, 1884).

2. An Exposition of the Old Testament, John Gill, (6 vols., 1748-63).

3. Commentary on 1 Peter, Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible (Five-Year Study).

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Rosh Hashanah

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As you read this understand that the LORD, blessed be His name, loves Israel. And I love Israel — enough to speak the truth and overturn some carts.

Three things struck me this day that have churned my soul, and I must write about them as the LORD has so inspired. (This will stub some people’s toes, but it must be shared.)

I was reading the Jewish Press — an article by Yoram Ettinger — about Rosh Hashanah (Hag Sameach). Though not mentioned in the Torah it is a celebration of the Jewish New Year (5776).

There were some interesting bites of information. For example: Why is the pomegranate — engraved on the Ark and sewn on the coat of the High Priest — a featured item at the Holiday meal?

There are 613 genetic seeds in a pomegranate reflecting the 613 statutes of the ceremonial Law, and a customary blessing is typically recited over the meal:

May you be credited with as many rewards as the seeds of the pomegranate.

Comments are welcomed at the end of the JP article with the exception of those that promote foreign religions, gods or messiahs. More on that later.

Having read the article I then climbed aboard the Bible Bus for my daily study with J. Vernon McGee. He began the session by saying that the Abrahamic Covenant has not yet been fulfilled. McGee is at odds with many Dispensationalists who see, at least, a partial fulfillment in 1948 when Israel became a state.

Later, I was watching Greg Laurie, and he carried on with the theme that God’s promise to Abraham has not been fulfilled. What was the promise God made to Abram?

In Genesis 15 the LORD promised Abram an heir (Isaac), and that his seed will possess the land. Abram offered a sacrifice unto God, and while he slept the LORD passed between the carcasses thus affirming His covenant.

In ancient days, two men would validate a mutual agreement by walking between the halves of a slain animal. The LORD put Abram into a deep sleep, and He walked alone between the pieces thus suggesting that the covenant was unilateral, irrevocable and everlasting.

Dispensationalism teaches that the land promise will not be fulfilled until the Messiah returns to establish the Millennial kingdom and reign upon the earthly throne of David in Jerusalem — a fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (Jeremiah 33:17). 

Okay, take a deep breath because what I am about to say will cause some to throw stones. Please hear me out because this is historic Christianity — not revisionist evangelicalism.

I believe the land covenant was fulfilled in the days of Joshua (3500 years ago), and that the Messiah is now reigning on the throne of David.

Jesus Christ said that He came to fulfill the Law and Prophets (Matthew 5:17). All of Jewish history pointed to a singular culmination — the coming of Mashiach. Like the Christians, Jews believe in two comings, but it gets complicated. Mashiach ben Yosef is a descendant of Joseph who will prepare the way for Mashiach ben David who will then reign eternally upon the throne of King David.

The zealots — even some of the disciples — thought that Jesus had come to restore the kingdom to Israel even though He said, My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).

This is the stumbling block for Jews. Christ came the first time, but was rejected by His people. He will come again in great glory taking vengeance on those who know Him not (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Understand what I am saying. All has been fulfilled except the Second Coming of Christ which, according to Jesus, will be on the last day — not pre, mid or post but, as Peter wrote, the day of the Lord which will come like a thief in the night to destroy the heavens and earth with fire. All will be removed (you can call it raptured) — some to eternal life and the rest to eternal judgement. Then the new heavens and earth will descend and the saints will live forevermore in the presence of our Lord and Savior. Blessed be His name. (John 6:39, John 6:40, John 6:44, John 6:54, and 2 Peter 3:10).

What about the land promise? Written between 1400 and 1370 B.C. we find the answer in the Old Testament book of Joshua:

So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it (Joshua 21:43).

You know the history. The Jews are in bondage in Egypt … Moses leads them through the wilderness for forty years … and Joshua provides the details of their conquest and possession of the Promised Land.

Dispensationalists will say that the Jews did not physically occupy all of the land therefore God’s promise to Abraham has not been fulfilled. When the LORD promised to return the captives of Babylonian exile only a remnant came home. Many were comfortable with their adapted lives and chose to remain in Babylon.

No. You can’t be a literalist and then deny a matter-of-fact declaration. Consider this scenario: A father promises his son that when he turns sixteen he will give him the family sedan. The son turns sixteen and his father transfers title, but the son — for whatever reason — doesn’t take possession of the vehicle. Has the father fulfilled the promise he made to his son? Certainly.

I will not split hairs over the meaning of take and possess, (Heb. lakad, yarash). Judah fared well in taking and possessing their inheritance while the northern tribes had difficulty with the Jebusites who were quite tenacious.

In any case, Jesus Christ has fulfilled both the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants. Don’t believe me? Would you believe Luke and Peter?

Read Peter’s sermon as recorded by Luke in Acts 2.

It is the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit has been poured out which Peter cites, by the way, as a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2:16) — you know, the one about blood moons, a darkened sun, signs and wonders (Joel 2:28-32) — the prophecy that, according to Dispensationalists, has yet to be fulfilled. Hagee and Cahn are making lots of money selling books on this false teaching.

Joel was using symbolic imagery to convey a prophetic word from God. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Revelation utilize the same customary style. For example, in describing the destruction of Babylon, Isaiah wrote:

For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light (Isaiah 13:10).

The heavenly imagery depicts cataclysmic events, or prophetic fulfillment upon the earth, and is the literary style of ancient Hebrew text.

Peter then addresses the Jews who believed that King David would return to sit on his throne in Jerusalem. They glean this from Psalm 16:10 where David says that the LORD will not abandon his soul in Hades nor allow His Holy One to undergo decay — an unmistakable reference to Jesus Christ.

David died, was buried and his tomb, said Peter, is with us to this day (Acts 2:29). David isn’t coming back to reign for the prophesy was not about him but the resurrected Son of God.

When David speaks in Psalm 110:1 about the LORD saying to my Lord, sit at My right hand, he is speaking not of himself, said Peter, but of the Mashiach.

Peter was making the case that Jesus Christ is sitting on the throne of David:

Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ– this Jesus whom you crucified (Acts 2:36). 

As Peter revealed that Christ is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, Paul declared that the promise made by God to Abraham had been fulfilled in this same Jesus:

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ (Galatians 3:16). 

Paul explains that God’s promise to Abram came 430 years before the Law was delivered to Moses. The Law does not nullify the promise which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Because Abram was deemed righteous through faith so are Jews and Gentiles counted righteous — not by the Law which came later — but by their faith in the One who fulfilled the Law, that is, Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Galatians 3).

Brethren, we have a problem. I have dared to speak so boldly of Christ at this time of holiday because Israel needs to hear the Gospel that would otherwise be censured.

Citing the aforementioned Jewish Press, understand that Israel (the Jewish people) have rejected Jesus Christ and His atonement. They are in rebellion against the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The olive tree and grape-vine (symbolic of the nation of Israel) are presented afresh in the B’rit Chadasha:

But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree — some of the people of Israel — have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree ((Romans 11:17 — NLT).

With regards to Israel being the vine, Jesus said, I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser (John 15:1). 

Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it (Matthew 21:43). 

McGee and Laurie deride this as Replacement Theology — that the ‘church’ has replaced Israel in God’s plan of redemption. Reformers (such as myself) refer to it as Covenant Theology, that is, Old Testament promises have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ just as the LORD revealed through His prophet (Jeremiah 31:31). Conversely, some evangelicals teach a two-step plan of redemption — one for Gentiles, another for Israel. No, there is only one plan of salvation and that is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

The problem is that Dispensationalism has embraced an almost idolatrous love affair with Israel. How did Paul define Israel?

… they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants … (Romans 9:6-7).

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter (Law); and his praise is not from men, but from God (Romans 2:28-29).

If you, who are Gentile, have been grafted in then you are a Jew, a descendant of Abraham — a High Priest and a Holy nation, God’s very own possession (1 Peter 2:9).

True Israel — the vine being Jesus Christ — consists of believing Jews and Gentiles who have been declared righteous by their faith in Yeshua HaMashiach …

… and in this way all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26).

Stop watching the fig tree and blood moons for your salvation, and keep your eyes on the Lord.

Okay, you can breathe now.

Suggested Reading:

Want to know more about Dispensational Theology? Read our series beginning with the 70 Weeks of Daniel.

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Offensive for Christ

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What does it mean to be salt and light?

… for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:6-13).

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person  (Colossians 4:6).

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).

We understand that salt is used as a preservative, or flavoring. The lesson is that we are to preserve the Word of God in our hearts, and share it with an unbelieving world. To season our speech with salt is to make the Gospel message more palatable. Bible commentators suggest that we can present an offensive message without being offensive, but how is that possible? When salt is poured into an open wound it stings:

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing … For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness … (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

Certainly, we don’t want to be offensive nor alienate our worldly friends and family. So we live our lives almost embarrassed, or ashamed of the Gospel. And who wants to be outcast as strange and foolish? Who among us will stand up and be offensive for Christ?

Red Letter Christians are probably offended at the suggestion. Jesus, they will say, was all about love and forgiveness. Oh, so Jesus Christ never offended anyone?

When His disciples had been upbraided by the Pharisees for not washing their hands before eating, Jesus confronted the lawyers for elevating their religious traditions above the commandments of God. He said to the assembled crowd that what defiles a man is not unclean hands but an unclean heart.

Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” (Matthew 15:12)

If the Pharisees were offended how much more the merchants whose tables were overturned by an irate Christ. The Son of God offended the world system — religious and civil. Can we do no less?

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:24).

This is not the Jesus worshipped by flower-power hippies who have hanging in their VW van a poster of Jesus smoking pot nor liberals who co-opt Christ to promote a social gospel that is lean on theology but heavy on environmentalism, abortion rights, gay marriage, drug decriminalization and feminist radicalism.

I have long-wondered why our nation is so morally bankrupt. If 80% of the populace identify themselves as Christian then how has the nation become so degraded? How do we elect leaders that swear an oath upon the Bible, but don’t believe what it says?

Liberalism.

Government and education long ago were compromised, and now the covenant body of Christ is being sub-divided by false teachers who, like Thomas Jefferson, excise all but the red letters of Holy Scripture.

Red Letter Christians (RLC) are essentially anti-Marcion. Whereas Marcion, branded a heretic, rejected the canon of Scripture (with the exception of the Gospel of Luke and Paul’s letters) the RLC adopts a theology that cedes authority only to the words of Christ.

For some time I have researched “Christian” websites that are anti-Pauline in doctrine. At the core of these ministries is an agenda that promotes freedom of choice and gay marriage. Their theology is based on Matthew 22:36-40 (love is the greatest commandment); and Matthew 25:31-46 (the parable of the sheep and goats as suggestive of a works-based salvation — feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and visiting the sick.) The faith-based teachings found in the Pauline epistles are only subordinate text. It is evident that Paul is rejected solely on the basis that his teachings are at odds with contemporary society. So we have the right to make the Bible conform to our inclinations?

John Gerstner (Professor of Church History at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary) classified the liberal gospel as a gospel of self-esteem. Doing good works makes us feel good, and it softens the ugly truth that there is no good dwelling in us. Like the observant Muslim who thinks he has to do good works to please God, but on the Day of Judgement Christ will say, Depart from me; I never knew you (Matthew 7:23).

Tony Campolo, activist leader of RLC, wrote:

The primary focus of we Red Letter Christians is on what Jesus had to say about the poor. We realize that the only description that He gave of Judgment Day (Matthew 25) was through a parable in which people were evaluated as to whether or not they fed those who were hungry, naked, sick and imprisoned. Because Evangelicals have been steeped in the theology of the Pauline Epistles before they scrutinize the teachings of Jesus in the red letters of the Bible, they have read Jesus through the eyes of Paul.

While he doesn’t deny that evangelicals are very generous towards the poor it does make you wonder what is his real agenda. Campolo insists that RLC is a non-partisan effort to wrestle Christianity from conservative evangelicals who, he says, have hijacked the faith in alliance with Republican politicos who are anti-gay and anti-feminist.

His Christian agenda sounds like the reading of the Democrat platform at the party’s presidential convention. The Gospel is somewhere hidden in a mishmash of environmental activism and wage inequality. When asked his party affiliation, Campolo will typically answer, “That is not the issue.”

So he rails about conservative Christians, but refuses to identify himself as a liberal Christian. Like Hillary Clinton, he is more comfortable with the term progressive as if that can hide a leopard’s spots. Curious how liberals define (or, in the case of marriage, redefine) certain absolutes. Abortion, for example, is not infanticide but free choice.

What liberals have to do is re-interpret Scripture that both Jews and Christians have understood for thousands of years. Progressives (oh, they are so enlightened) will say that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their inhospitality; Leviticus 18:22 suggests that it is unclean for a man to lie in a woman’s bed, and not prohibitive of gay sex; and Paul’s indictment of homosexuality was only a judgement against prostitution.

In any case, they will say, it doesn’t matter what Paul wrote because he doesn’t speak with the authority of Christ.

There is a deception in the church that is blinding the eyes and clouding the minds of those who have not a discerning spirit. The disparagement of Paul within the church is troublesome. Is it Satanic? To diminish Paul’s credentials would be to undermine two-thirds of Christian canon.

We have to be able to answer this question: By what authority did Paul speak?

Peter wrote:

… and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Of course, there are some within the church who doubt the authorship of 2 Peter so this passage would be inadmissible. Very well, then, may I present the testimony of Luke — acceptable even to Marcion:

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias. And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight. But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake (Acts 9:10-16).

Paul was anointed by the Lord Jesus Christ as Paul, himself, testified to the assembly at Galatia:

Paulus an Apostle, not by the children of men, neither by a son of man, but by Yeshua The Messiah and God his Father, he who raised him from among the dead …(Galatians 1:1). — Aramaic Bible

With what, then,  are we left? Jesus Christ is our Lord and Master …

… and …

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

There is light, though, within the RLC. An article, posted on their website, disagreed with Campolo’s interpretation of marriage. The silence of Scripture — that is, Jesus did not specifically condemn homosexuality — is not an affirmation of an act that is clearly condemned in both Jewish and Christian canon. The article honestly cited the Bible’s clarity on marriage, and that sexual intercourse between a man and a woman is the Biblical norm.

We’ve only peeled a few layers off this theological onion. Liberals within the church dispute essential Christian doctrine regarding the deity of Christ, resurrection, faith and salvation. They teach that confession and repentance are unnecessary in this age of grace. Feed the poor and you’ll be okay. Everything else is religion. Jesus, they will say, had no problem with sinners, but with religious people.

How should we respond? Meekness does not mean that we dim our light or lose our savor. In this ongoing spiritual battle we must courageously decide to be offensive for Christ — in the world and from the pew. Let your light be a blinding light, and your words like a two-edged sword.

Remember: Christian love is corrective — not permissive.

Reference:

The Liberal View of Justification, article by John Gerstner.

Red Letter Christianity: A New Name for Progressive Evangelicals, article by Tony Campolo.

When Red Is Blue: Why I am not a Red-Letter Christian, article by Stan Guthrie.

The Problem with Being a Red Letter Christian, article by Ian Paul.

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