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Saturday, November 09, 2013

Bibliolatry; the Law and the Temple

‘He removed the high places and broke the [sacred ] pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days, 
the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan. 
II Kings 18:4

‘Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery [serpent], and set it on a pole; 
and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks on it shall live.’ 
Numbers 21:8

As we can see from the example above, it is quite possible for people to take something that God had anointed for a certain purpose and make an idol out of it!! Under the Old Covenant, which was mediated by the man, Moses, maybe the most noted example was that of Israel’s idolatry of the Law and later, the Temple. In the New Covenant, which is mediated by God Himself, many still have a tendency to ascribe too much glory and honor to something which simply gives the account of the Law and the History of God’s Covenant people. Too many Christians today revere the pages of Scripture almost as highly as they do God Himself, almost as if they were God Incarnate, or the Very Word of God!

The Scriptures as we have in our Bibles today are undoubtedly the written record of the Revelation of the Word of God; we can read this in places like II Timothy 3:16, and we have faith that what the Bible, or Scripture says about itself is true. Though it is the Revelation of God’s Word ( His Son ); it is not that Word itself; that Word dwells in His People! The Scriptures, as given up to the first century, were what we call the Old Testament Scriptures. These were the available Scriptures of that time, being written on scrolls and handed down from generation to generation. As Jesus’ ministry expanded and the apostles began to plant His Seed, writing their letters to the various established congregations throughout the Empire, these letters came to be on par with the Scriptures, as they taught nothing new or different from what had been given in the Law & the Prophets!

What we call the New Testament, though, really only covers ‘the terminal generation’, the generation that witnessed the Advent of the long-promised, and long-awaited Messiah! As we see in these storied pages, it was ‘this generation’ as well that killed their Messiah! Though Jesus Himself taught nothing but what the Law & Prophets had foreshadowed, these Jews, or the majority of them, could not see this ‘Living Law’ as the True Law, and missed the blessing of God’s Presence because the Law written in stone cast too great a shadow on their stubborn hearts!

Like many Christians today, they could not, or would not believe that God would ever stoop so low as to make His people His Temple. They revered Him so highly, in fact, that they destroyed His Temple, even though, as He claimed, He raised it again in three days! ‘Yahweh must only dwell in a beautiful structure, built perfectly straight, with no flaw’, they might have said. Today, you might hear something like, ‘until humanity is sufficiently beautiful and incorruptible, without sin, we will never be fit to be the Temple of God ( the Holy Spirit, maybe, but not God )’!

The fact of the matter is, that according to the record of Scripture, the People of God have been presented to Himself as a glorious new Temple, perfect and faultless!

As there are many different versions of the Bible, there are many Christians out there who claim to say ‘thus saith the Lord’. Some are right! Although there are many different versions of the Bible out there, as someone once said, in most of them you can read the Gospel. Slightly different wording, perhaps, more words in some than others, but the same basic Gospel! By comparing what these say, whether about God, or how to live Godly, with what Scripture has to say about God and how to live Godly, we can establish in our own minds whether they speak truth or whether they prophesy falsely

We, as the Temple of God, have His Word etched on our hearts, and while Scripture is useful as a tool or measuring line to gauge our lives upon, I believe that many of us too often forget that we are His Dwelling, and trust, as the Jews of Old did, in the word or Law written in stone!

Are we trying to pour Old Wine into New Wineskins?

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary [ principles ] of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,  of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.  And this we will[a] do if God permits.
Hebrews 6:1-3

The Church today, even those who have moved past those elementary principles that the writer to the Hebrews spoke of, is still enamored, for the most part, with discussing those doctrines of baptisms, the resurrection, and the final judgment. 'Should we or shouldn't we, will we be or are we now ( not to mention, the nature of the resurrection- 'How will we come?' ), is it in the past, or do we look for one to come?' Are these things important to affirm? Yes and no. We should be clear on whether or not we believe that these occurred in the past, even the nature of them, but more importantly, we should be affirming them in our lives, living out the effects of our baptism and resurrection, and living without fear, knowing that judgment has been passed!

Our English Bibles today are man's translation of the Scriptures, which were originally given to the people of God in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. As such, they can, for the most part, I believe, be trusted to convey the history of God's dealings with His Covenant People in the past, and we can and should glean instructions from them on how we should live as His People today. We should not, however, view them as the inerrant Word of God! Are they the words of which Peter & Paul spoke ( I Peter 1:21, II Timothy 3:16 )? Not necessarily, although as I intimated earlier, most of the versions out there agree on the main points, and contain the most necessary truths!

God said, through His prophet Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 31:31-34 ) that the New Covenant which He would establish with His people would not be like that first [ covenant ]; this time, since they would not, could not circumcise their hearts, He Himself would inscribe His Law on their hearts, in their Spirit. Rather than a Law that was written in stone or on paper, this would be an incorruptible Record, inscribed indelibly on their ( our ) hearts!

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law,
 these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves.
Romans 2:14

The people of God, like those Gentiles, have the Law written on their hearts, and so, in that sense, are a Law unto themselves, as we do not need a written Law to tell us that this is wrong, and that is right! As Partakers of the Divine Nature, we are assured by our own cleansed conscience that we are right with our Creator, even though we are still pricked by its goad when we would do what is contrary to that Nature. 

Again, this is not to say that everyone out there who bears the Name of Christ can do whatever is right in his own eyes ( we are not moral relativists ), for comparing Scripture with Scripture, we can ascertain whether or not their words, and more importantly actions are true.

As a People who represent an immutably unchanging and Living God, we know that as God was in the Old Testament Scriptures, so He was in the New, and so He remains now! It is His People who have changed, for we are His Creation. We can change, corrupt or destroy what we have written, whether on stone ( new tablets? ) or on paper, but we cannot do any harm to what God has etched in our inmost Being!

This is where the Word of God resides, not in Temples made with hands, or printed on paper!

May we realize this Truth, and see Scripture for what it is, not something to be overly revered, but respected as a record of the Revelation of the Word of God.

WE are the Revelation of the Son of God!

Charles Haddon Shank


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