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Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Universal Priesthood of Man and the Expansion of the New Covenant

You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and [ how ] I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant,
 then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth [ is ] Mine. 
 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
These [ are ]the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.
Exodus 19:6 


Israel was born to be God's Priest to the nations. I don't think anyone would argue against that. Some would say that Israel's purpose failed, and to a point we might agree, but God's Purpose never will! It is very arguable that Israel did keep God's Holy Covenant, especially in the context of what we call the Old Covenant Age, but in the light of certain Scriptures, prophecies like Isaiah 42:6 and 49:8, both of which speak of the Christ, the Redeemer of Israel, it is clear. that 'first' covenant ( Hebrews 8:7 ) was simply a picture, a foretaste, a shadow of better things to come! As Paul said, 'the law was our tutor [ to bring us ] to Christ'. 

 Permit me to follow a rabbit trail here; there are many out there who claim that the law was abolished, that it perished at the cross, and Scripture does say that that Jesus has 'taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross', while the writer to the Hebrews said ( of that first [ covenant ] ) that 'what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away'. Though the Mosaic Law did become obsolete for the people of God, and vanished away like the vapor it was, the Law that it foreshadowed was the True Law, the Royal Law of God, you could say, the Christ Himself! ( I know; we HAVE been down this road before, but it is very important that we stay on this Path! ) There are many, many Scriptures that could be cited here that plainly say that the law, and more precisely, the royal law is good, but that it only showed the rebellious and sinful nature of man, and magnified his transgression, made it clear, so to speak. The Psalms and Proverbs, for instance, are full of such references. Now; back to our regularly scheduled programming.


Old Covenant ( Hebraic ) Israel was, in the sense above, itself a picture, a foreshadow of the True Israel, the Israel of God ( yes; we've been down this road too, but it's setting some context, so please bear with me ). Clearly, when God declared through the prophecy of Hosea ( 11:1 ), 'out of Egypt I called My son', He spoke of the time to come when Joseph and Mary would bring the Child Jesus back from Egypt after having escaped to there from the hand of the new pharaoh, Herod, the false king of Israel. It should be abundantly clear, as well, that the Church, as the Body of Christ, is the ( made ) New Israel, being the New Temple of the Holy Spirit! All these shadows simply pointed toward the Shadow-maker. Think of it as the Sun casting a long shadow in front of a man on a journey; the closer he gets to his destination, the shorter the shadow appears, and finally disappears! The shadows of that first covenant have disappeared, and in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Destination ( John 11:26 ) has been made manifest!


For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive
.
I Corinthians 15:22

Paul made quite a universalistic statement when he wrote these words! Reading these words in the correct context, both historically and covenantally, we can clearly see that, just as the 'world' that God so loved in that famous passage in John 3, so the 'all' here does not speak ( primarily ) of every single human being, individually. Actually, even in this very phrase, it is clearly stated that, 'in Christ, all shall be made alive' ( sure, you can argue that I'm putting the apostrophe where there isn't one, but I'm just sayin............) The question before us, one of them anyway, is, 'who are the 'all' that died in ( the first ) Adam?' Is it not those same people who were made alive in Christ? Some would posit this supposed dilemma as saying that it was only Israel that was made alive..................and well, yes, that would be correct, only God's people were made alive and continue to be wakened from their slumber!

Bonus question; 'Who ARE God's people?'

Well, there you go; I've done it now! Here come all the comments about me being a universalist! I must admit that the whole idea is very attractive to me, but for now I will console myself ( and others? ) by giving myself the moniker of 'covenant universalist'' I really don't mind all the 'jabs', though some of them do kinda hurt: I have always said that I was 'saved' 2,000 years ago, for God's sake!

Here's THE question; 'Who are the people, or even 'children' of God?' The ready ( Scriptural ) answer, of course, is 'only those who are in Christ'! There are numerous Scriptures that can be shown as proof of this, most notably I John 3:10, 'In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor [ is ] he who does not love his brother.' Pretty clear statement, right? Those who do not practice righteousness are not ( children ) of God, right? Yes, we've been down this road, too! As I recall, it had something to do with the historical and covenantal context, but I could be wrong! Think 'children of Israel'!

Okay; another question: 'What does it take to be in Christ?' Maybe a better one would be, 'How do we know when one is in Christ?'' Well, the first thing to come to the lips of most Christians might be the Scriptural answer that Jesus Himself gave, 'You will know them by their fruits' ( Matthew 7:16 ). It is not, however, that our obedience causes us to be in Christ; it is rather the opposite, it is our being in Christ that causes ( enables ) us to bear fruit! So, we can without doubt say that if one shows signs of a disobedient and rebellious nature, there's a good chance that one is not in Christ, right? The first thing we must understand here, aside from the fact that we belong to the corporate Body of Christ, is that our being in Christ is a work of God; it is not of us! It is in God's good timing, not ours, that the evidence that one is in Christ, if ever, will manifest. We can look at a person who is obviously, or apparently living a life contrary to the orthodox doctrine found within the pages of Scripture, and say of that person that he or she is definitely not in Christ, nor in covenant with God, right?

Ready for the next question? 'What does it take to enter into covenant with ones Creator?' Yes; I know what a covenant is, it's a set of binding agreements, made by two or more parties ( in essence, though maybe different words ), not a uni-lateral statement of promises made by the Almighty Creator of the universe. Frankly; I'm about tired of hearing it, not because it's not true, but because it brings God down to our level, which is not fair, or right! This is where the Nature of God comes in: the Godhead is traditionally composed of three parties! I believe we've been down this road as well, so we won't go too far on this one! The Covenant, as has been discussed in previous articles by this author, and others as well ( A.W.Pink, for one ) was made between the Father and the Son, as is evidenced, for instance, in the fact that 'God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life'! This too, being an eschatological statement, maybe a better, and our next question should be, 'does one enter into covenant with his Creator, or now ( post-AD70, as some might say ) are we born into covenant with our Creator?' Well, now; if we say that the 'all' of I Corinthians 15:22 ( et al ) is only speaking of Old Covenant Israel, it seems we might have a problem on our hands! If only Old Covenant Israel, who died in Adam, was made alive in Christ, then where are we? We were never dead in Adam! If the 'all' is universally true ( mankind ), then we have another 'problem' on our hands, the other side of the coin, you might say!

I have a 'problem'; I am accused of being extra-biblical, and worse yet, I readily admit it! At this point, some would probably throw up their hands, or better yet, clasp them in prayer, thinking, 'this poor deluded fellow's really gone off the deep end now'! Yes, don't worry ( too much ); I still read my Bible, several different ones, in fact, I still talk to God, and look to the Revelation of His Word for inspiration and guidance, but we have the Word of God inscribed on our 'hearts', as we are inscribed on the palm of His 'hand'. Although we can and should still make application of many of the principles He has written down for us by His servants the prophets, we now have the Living Word within us, attached to the very core of our being!

Going 'extra-biblical' on you, so to speak, could we not safely, more or less, speculate then, that God, since the Revelation of Jesus as the Christ, and the New Covenant, has shown how He is in covenant with 'all' His creation, and desires, through His Son, and through us, to have a blessed and intimate relationship with them? As Israel, under that 'first' ( covenant ) was made a 'a kingdom of priests and a holy nation', so we now, according to I Peter 2:5, are 'a holy priesthood', and why priests? The context of Peter's words tell us; it is so that we may offer sacrifices of love, pleasing to His nostrils! We have been given a flag ( Law ) to follow, and that flag is the banner of love that we read about in the Song of Solomon 2:4, that the Beloved placed over His Lover! Being the New Temple of the Holy Spirit, we are to offer ourselves, as did the Son of God, as living sacrifices of love, sharing His love with 'all' His creatures. As the New Israel, and thus God's Priest to the nations, or 'world', we have a renewed mandate, to have the dominion, not in a physical sense, as Israel under that 'first' ( covenant ) did, in order to symbolically cleanse the Holy Land. Our renewed mandate is to have dominion in a spiritual way, thus spilling over into the physical, over 'all' His creation, to return it to a right relationship with Him! We know from Scriptures like II Peter 3:9 ( a truly eschatological statement ) that God is 'not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance'. Though this was an eschatological statement, and thus was fulfilled in the first century, is it not very applicable today? Can we not safely speculate here that God desires 'all' His creation, His 'children', so to speak, to repent from their wicked and rebellious ways and return to a right relationship with Him?

Returning, once again, to Paul's universalistic statement in I Corinthians 15; as in the passage from 11 Peter, it is an eschatological statement, but would it not be safe to assume the same here? Are the two 'all' statements in that passage speaking of the same group of people, or has the definition of 'all' necessarily expanded with the Parousia of the New Covenant? Can we not safely speculate that the 'all', just as they were God's covenant 'children' who died in Adam, has now been expanded to include His entire creation, 'all' of His 'children', 'all' of whom have been made alive in, or through the sacrifice of the Son of God, though many have not yet been awakened to that reality?

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, 
and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity 
[, that is, ] the law of commandments [ contained ] in ordinances,
 so as to create in Himself one new man [ from ] the two, [ thus ] making peace,  
and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross,
 thereby putting to death the enmity.  
And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.  
For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
Ephesians 2: 14-18 

We cannot argue, nor should we, I believe, that 'all', having been reconciled with their Creator, are thus are 'in Christ', in the biblical sense, but I believe that the purpose of God in Jesus the Christ has been made plain, or revealed in its essence. It is the reconciliation of His creation to a right relationship with Himself, no more, no less. It is clear, from passages such as that above, that it is only 'through Him' that His Creation has been, and is being restored; as Jesus said, 'No one comes to the Father except through Me.' ( John 14:6b  ) As the Body of Christ on earth, the Revealed Son of God, through the Power of His Holy Spirit, and as His Priest to the ( expanded )  'world', we, in actuality, though not in Reality, are the ones who spread abroad the Gospel of that reconciliation, shining His Light into every 'heart', thus aiding in the restoration of the relationship that He so desires!

In conclusion; we have a job to do! As always, we have before us a choice as well; will we choose to continue the work of God in Jesus the Christ, or will we continue, as those errant 'children' did, under that 'first' ( covenant ), to take, rather than have dominion, the dominion that we have been given, as the New Priest of God?! The world, as Jesus spoke in eschatological parable to His followers, is 'white for harvest' ( John 4:35 )! In a sense, this is a different harvest than what Jesus referred to His first-century disciples, but in the greatest sense, it is one and the same! It is the New Harvest, the 'awakening of men' by the New Priest! We are all priests after a sort, and though we all have different ministries, gifts, and callings; one calling is common to 'all', to spread abroad the Love He has shone in our lives through the Son of His Love!

Will we do it?

Humbly, and with Love in my 'heart',
Charles Haddon Shank


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