The Promise is the Unity

It’s easy to say the Bible is written around the unifying theme of Jesus, but it might be a little difficult to see exactly where He is sometimes. Words are used such as “promise” and “covenant” (essentially a promise too). But sometimes even those key words are absent such as in Genesis 3:15 when God promises (without using that word) a descendant who will crush the head of the serpent. Abraham was “promised” (using the word “covenant” instead) that this descendant would be from a child born to Sarah, who would “bless the nations.” Later on Isaac was called the “son of the promise” by Paul in places such as Romans 9:9 and that thought is tied with the “seed of Eve” all through the Bible. David was included in the promise. God said he would have a son who would sit on his throne in a kingdom that would last forever. This promised son and blessing was part of the gospel (good news) preached to Israel at Sinai (Hebrews 4:2). The Law was part of the promise because it lays out behavior expected by God as He takes up residence according to the promise. He took up residence in Israel and expected certain actions, and as He takes up residence now in believers those expectations have not changed.

 

If the Bible really is “one faith” (chapter 4) delivered to “one body” (chapter 3) by “one God” and “one Lord” (chapter 2) as Paul says in Ephesians 4 then the next question is “Why aren’t we (the church) following it?” If the New Covenant is the Law written on a heart of flesh, then it seems some biblical practices are being ignored by those who are supposed to have this covenant as their operating document. If the Bible really is one continuous, unified message (and it is) with no breaks or stops and starts or new bodies created then the next step is to grab hold and put it into every area of life. Not just as a novelty or for some chuckles once in a while but hungering and thirsting for it as if His Word was a treasure hidden in a field or a pearl of great price. I know I’m mixing metaphors but you get my drift.

 

All the books of the Bible were written by people who understood the continuity of this promise from God and included continuous revelation from God as to how this promise would be realized. All the believers throughout the ages who accepted God’s Word looked forward to the delivery of the promise and its full implementation. The first century church lived all of it. When we throw out parts of the Word, whether we dismiss them as merely “civil” or “ceremonial” shadows or “fulfill” them and terminate them, we destroy the unity and continuity of His living oracles. The promise (or promises since there are other parts to the promise) cannot be seen, hoped for, or realized as well as it could. Like a guitar with a string missing, or a violin without a bow, if we remove any part of His Word the gospel and the promises of God are reduced to a limited discordant series of feel-good proverbs lacking the power to move us as they are intended.

Contradiction – A Loving God Executes Judgment

There are no contradictions in the Bible. Yeah, I know, if you’re a believer you get the contradiction thing thrown at you all the time, but it’s just not true. The word contradiction literally means (from Latin) “to speak against” and includes “assertion of the opposite” or “direct opposition between things compared.” It is asserted that the Bible contradicts itself, therefore it cannot be believed. But it’s not the Bible that is contradictory, it is the person viewing it.

 

Usually the reason for the contradiction is all in the head. A contradiction is perceived because of limited understanding, limited information, or limited willingness to do what God says. Mostly it’s the lack of willingness. You can tell this by the extra tag on the alleged contradiction such as “I can’t believe in (or follow) a God who says He’s a God of love but would wipe out an entire race of people.” The “I can’t believe” statement gives them away. What they really mean is “I don’t want to do what God says and I’m using this as an excuse to do it.”

 

God is all love, but He is also all justice. He doesn’t stop being loving in order to be just, nor does He stop being just in order to love. He is always good, right, and holy. His love and justice go together. By definition whatever God does is good, right, holy, loving and just. We may not see it, or agree with His actions, but that does not mean that God contradicts Himself.

 

Have you ever heard it said, “You haven’t done what I’ve done” or “You wouldn’t understand what I’m going through because you haven’t been through it yourself” or similar statements? It’s wrong (do we have to hit a finger with every kind of hammer out there to know how it hurts with all of them?) but let’s go with the thought for a minute. People who trot out the contradiction thing judge the Bible without actually doing what it says. They haven’t “been through it themselves” so they will not understand. Their “natural minds” refuse God’s living oracles which affects understanding. They have no intention of doing what God says, therefore they think a contradiction exists in the Bible when it only exists in their head.

 

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14, ESV)

 

So if you are accosted by a person who insists on contradictions, just tell them they don’t understand because they haven’t been through what you’ve been through!

Childbearing salvation

One of the more puzzling verses in the Word is directed at Timothy by Paul in what some refer to as a pastoral epistle.

 

Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:15, ESV)

 

It seems that Paul is saying that women can be saved through having kids. I’ve heard a lot of teaching connected with this, mostly focusing on the second part of the verse (faith, love, holiness, self-control) but also trying to work in how women are saved by having kids. I’ve tried to understand it myself by going with that teaching and thinking that perhaps the discipline of actually having kids (it is very difficult to bear children in case you didn’t know) was somehow helpful for learning salvation. Sort of going along with “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). But I could never really make it fit with my understanding of other parts of the Word, such as that salvation is by grace through faith.

 

I recently read a different take on this by Dr. Walter Kaiser in the book The Promise Plan of God. He says that we should think of this as the act of childbearing as in the fact that the Son of God was birthed by a woman. Salvation came to the world because a woman bore a child. Paul was trying to elevate women because of the gift of bearing children, contrasting their poor treatment at the time (which continues to the present time) with the godly point that they should be honored instead. Yes, Eve was deceived, but a woman was given the privilege of birthing our Messiah Jesus.

 

Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. (1 Corinthians 11:11–12, ESV)

 

Paul is encouraging godliness by acknowledging faults in both genders and at the same time pointing out equal blessings from God. We are not independent; we are interdependent. We each have different jobs, we are made differently (thank you Jesus!) but one gender is not inferior to the other. Women are not property, they are sisters in the household of God and have equal standing with men before God. The childbearing gift was how God chose to bring the Messiah to us, and should not be discounted. Women are saved through the act or gift of childbearing, because our salvation Jesus came to us by way of a woman.

 

An interesting proposition, and one that fits better with the rest of Scripture than any others I’ve heard so far. It’s probably an old teaching in some places, but it’s the first I’ve heard of it.

 

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4–5, ESV)

Start of the Church

I was raised thinking that the church started at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. The story I was told was that God finally got fed up with Israel and switched His program to the Gentiles. As if the Gentiles were so wonderful or more receptive or better behaved or something. Translations of the Bible reinforce this story because they pretty much universally use the English word “church” in the New Testament but not in the Old.

 

The word the translators (and pastors, priests, and rabbis) think is associated with the church is the Greek word we transliterate ekklesia (ἐκκλησία a-klay-see-uh Strong’s number 1577). This word simply means “assembly” or “congregation.” The Hebrew words for assembly or congregation are qahal (6951) and edah. They mean the same thing as ekklesia, and in fact the Greek Septuagint uses ekklesia about 52 times. Sometimes the assembly is formal, such as when kings called Israel together, and sometimes is was an informal family gathering. But ekklesia is not translated “church” in the OT in any of the English translations I consulted.

 

There’s simply no reason to make an arbitrary distinction for the assembly between the OT and the NT. God’s assembly has been gathering for a long time. The plan of God is continuous, without interruption, and didn’t start in Acts 2. It might’ve gotten a kick in the pants, but the congregation has always been around. The “assembly” that Jesus said He would build (Matthew 16:18) has a foundation that was started in the Garden and goes on into the future as a kingdom that never ends.

Continuity Central to Whole Bible Belief

A big issue addressed in the book Whole Bible Christianity is that of continuity. There are those who teach that the Bible is a series of starts and stops in the plan of God. They see Israel and the church separated, the Law stopped and grace started, and so on. Their version of God appears to routinely change His plans because of man’s lack of cooperation. This is called discontinuity.

We see continuity in God’s plan. He doesn’t have a series of starts and stops in His work because He can’t figure out what man is going to do next. He’s always been on top of things, has one plan (He calls it a Promise) one Body, and one faith. That faith is delivered to us in plain language, repeated over and over, hasn’t failed yet, and will not fail. The Body has been around since the beginning and we are privileged to have many outstanding members such as Ruth, Rahab, Noah, David, Daniel, Isaiah, Huldah, Paul, Andrew, Matthew, and all the others named and unnamed. The Promise is Jesus the Messiah, who made possible a reunion (a union broken in the Garden by disobedience) with God by His death and resurrection. The message is clear: abide in His Word and live. Reject it and die.

The only discontinuity is in a break with God. We see discontinuity because it is in our heart. Continuity resumes when we restore our union with Him by His grace through faithful abiding in every word out of His mouth.