The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Thursday, May 24, 2012

God is Love!

We are all quite familiar, if not with the exact reference ( I John 4:8; I had to look it up too ), at least with this very revealing phrase, but what exactly, does it mean?

Like many other such phrases, we 'bandy' those three words, 'I love you' about, often without really thinking about what they truly mean. Many often mistake the feeling, whether a companionable, warm feeling, or one more akin to a lustful feeling, emanating ( rising ) from some sexual urge, and most usually, rising to the occasion and creating a big mess! While true love can result, and should result in the first of these feelings, and often, depending on many different circumstances, in the second; love, first and foremost, is an action. James said, as I've been known to quote before, 'faith without works is dead': he goes on later to say 'show me your faith without ( doing ) works, and I will show you my faith by ( doing ) my works'. As faith without works is dead, so love without action is useless, and dead; this is where the choice comes in: there comes ( 'trust me, I'm a doctor' ) a time in every relationship where we don't feel love, anymore, for our mate, or spouse, in my case, the wife of my youth. When this happens, we have a choice before us! Do we go with our feelings, which by this time, may have turned to feelings of distrust, dislike, disgust, or even hate, or do we, because God loved ( us ), choose, because of our commitment, and love for God, continue to actively love that person?

I have said before, maybe in other words, and at other times, 'if you tell your wife every day that you love her ( I know, I can cry 'mea culpa' here ), how can she trust your words unless you show, by doing things for her, with her, etc., that you truly mean what you say, that you love her?' How is she to know, unless she sees it with her own eyes, feels your gentle touch with her own body, that you love her? Here is where the kinship between feelings and an active love comes in; a truly active love, depending, again, on circumstances, like to whom it is directed, will, as it should, most often result in the release of those sexual urges, while, in other cases, it is more akin to a brotherly ( or  sisterly ) affection, which again, if true, will result in action ( of a different sort )!

'God is love'; okay, we get it, but do we really? Try looking at it this way; 'God is Love, Love is God': while love may seem to be just another aspect of the nature of God ( and it is that, an aspect of His nature ), it is so much more than that! Many have asserted the proposition, or position that, because we have become one with God, and God is Love, we therefore, are Love as well. To some extent, this is true; we have become one with our Creator, through marriage to His Son, and thus with God Himself, but we are not God, and only love finitely, whereas He IS Love, infinitely! God, in His very essence, along with many other attributes, is Love itself! If we do not have a right relationship with Love itself, how can we truly love others? The apostle John put it this way; 'If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can[c] he love God whom he has not seen?' ( I John 4:20 ) I believe that this cuts both ways; if one does not love, or know true Love, how can he truly love another? God is Love, therefore, without God, there is no love, except what is often mistaken for love, and more often masquerades, sometimes quite successfully as love, feelings! To paraphrase a certain Scripture, 'feelings fade, but the Love of God lives ( abides ) forever'!

The way we feel toward a person, whether that person is our father, mother, brother, sister, spouse, can change, usually on a mere whim, and sometimes from day to day ( 'I don't like you today; go away!' Ever hear that? ), but the Love of God, and thus Love Itself, never changes!

'In' Love, being loved, and loving,
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Rabid Evangelicalism ( individualism )

In society at large today, there is a growing number of Christians who are seemingly swallowing the separation of church and state 'hook, line, and sinker'. Thankfully, there is also a growing number who are beginning to see the utter vanity, indeed the danger of this proposition. It is God's Church, after all, of which He is in full and total control!

Many Christians seem to be afraid to venture into certain areas of discussion, even ( maybe 'especially' ) with other believers, for the sake of unity.  A question, though, that needs to be asked; 'can there be true Christian unity, when there is no unity of faith ( as opposed to mere, simple belief )? A good friend of mine recently posed this question, 'How can one who lives honestly and who despises covetousness have any "unity" with one who presses the civil authority to plunder, lie and steal?' Can we agree to disagree on such a matter? I think an honest interpretation of Scriptural principles would tell us that we cannot! There is right and there is wrong, and right can only be right, while wrong can only be wrong. As we often tell our children, when faced with a situation of, 'well, he/she did it first'; 'two wrongs don't make a right'! Our Lord's brother put it this way, 'Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.[b]' We are commanded to bring every thought ( this would include 'word and action' ) into captivity to God ( II Corinthians 10:5 ), so how can we say, 'that's a different realm, we have no authority there'? 'I mean, doesn't Revelation 22;11 say 'He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still'?' Well, sure; it does say that, but, aside from pulling that statement out of its historical context, to apply this statement to our situation today, and use it as an excuse to stay out of the 'political' realm, so as not to dirty our hands ( so to speak ); flies in the face of Jesus' commands!

The apostle Paul asked the question, 'what communion has light with darkness?' ( II Corinthians 6:15b ), and tells us, 'have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose [ them ]' ( Ephesians 5:11 ). How are we to have true unity if one believes that we can, on one hand, collaborate with 'the darkness' and on the other, claim to be the 'light of the world'? Some believe that we can straddle this fence. It seems that they think that just by being there and shaking our head and rolling our eyes at their silliness, we can make a difference. Better not voice too much disapproval though, or we might lose our favored 501 ( c ) 3 status!

Much of today's church, what might be called 'that inhabited by a rabid evangelicalism', has become such because of bad theology, or a wrong understanding of God and Who He is, based on a faulty interpretation of the revelation of His Word.  One simple example of this is our foreign policy, which, for the most part, and again, because of a faulty interpretation of certain Scriptures, is fully supported by many evangelical leaders. Much of the reason, I won't say all, for this unfailingly blind support, at least for the war in the Middle East involving the nation/state of Israel, in the ancient land of Palestine, is based on the belief that the promises of God given to Abram and his descendants were of a physical, rather than a spiritual nature. The apostle Paul, in numerous letters to the Church, clearly states that the promises made to Abraham were of a spiritual, rather than a physical nature ( although these promises, the land promises, in particular, can be shown to have seen their fulfillment to that 'generation' ). Several examples where Paul clearly states this are Romans 2:28 & 29, where he wrote, 'he is not a Jew who [ is one ] outwardly, nor [ is ] circumcision that which [ is ] outward in the flesh', and 'circumcision [ is that ] of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter'. Later on in this letter ( 9:8 ), he wrote, 'those who [ are ] the children of the flesh, these [ are ] not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed'. In his letter to the Galatians: the apostle, at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, implied strongly that the physical signs and seals given under the old covenant, were simply shadows, or pictures, previews, if you will, of the greater spiritual realities of the New Covenant in Christ. He wrote ( 3:29 ), 'if you [ are ] Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise' ( see also 3:7 ). Later, in Galatians 4:24-26; we read that, 'these are the[d] two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar-for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children-but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all'. In his letter to the Ephesians ( 3:16 ), Paul prayed 'that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man', 'the mystery', he wrote, 'which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets'.

'Isn't it a bit harsh to call modern evangelicals 'rabid?'

First of all; I did not say that all modern evangelicals are 'rabid', or even that evangelicals at all, in part or in whole, are 'rabid' ( ie, just because one is evangelical, does not mean that one is 'rabid' )! The rabidness depends, in large part, on the nature of the individual. Many seem to have the notion that, if you don't believe exactly the way they do, ascribe to their doctrinal 'stance', or even attend the same church they do, then you may not be headed for 'heaven' and are likely not even worth their time. There are many evangelicals out there who practice their faith, relying, not so much on what one believes, but on what one does ( 'You will know them by their fruits' ( Matthew 7:15-20 ) as to whether one is 'in the faith' or not. Although these most often have a somewhat misguided doctrine in some areas, eschatology, for instance, they are true to their evangelical 'faith', working to bring God's Kingdom 'on earth as [ it is ] in heaven' ( Luke 11:2c ). Others have taken the bait, and have latched onto an individualistic interpretation of Scripture, one which is even harder to avoid with an almost full-scale worship of statism. This individualism, I believe, as opposed to a covenantal approach, is largely at fault for a misunderstanding of many Scriptures, and the adoption of the idea that it is more important what you believe than what you do, at least, outside the four walls of the church ( building )! While it is important that one believes certain things, in that one usually acts according to one's beliefs, it is of utmost importance that one do the right thing, else, as James said, 'Show me your faith without your[d] works, and I will show you my faith by my[e] works' ( James 2:18b ). 'Even the demons believe', James said, so if one simply believes, but does not act accordingly, 'this one’s religion is useless' ( James 1:26 ).

Individuality, don't get me wrong, is a good thing, and something to be celebrated, but individualism is not a good thing, and must be avoided at all costs! As individual members of the Body of Christ, we are, in that sense, One ( corporate ) Body, but, while we retain our individuality, we must realize that it is not about individual human beings; it is about the Body of Christ: it was not individual human beings, random persons who would accept Him, for whom Christ died, and shed His precious blood, it was for His people that God sent of Himself and 'bore our sins in His own body on the tree'( I Peter 2:24a ).

Thus, I am not, by any means, saying that our individuality should go out the window since we, 'being many, are one body' ( although certain aspects of it should ). The marriage bond, at its basis, is identical to the covenant between us and God, for as God said in Genesis 2:24, 'they shall become one flesh'. Now we know that when a man and a woman are joined in marriage, they do not actually become one body, or one person. They are both individuals, one a male and one a female, with different ( and inter-locking ), but complimentary parts. But this is the analogy that Paul uses of Christ and the Church in Ephesians 5:32. Though we have become One with Christ, having joined Him in the spiritual marriage covenant, we are still individuals. We all have differing gifts, different parts, and when we work together as One Body, which we are, regardless, it is a beautiful thing; God is glorified, and we experience heaven on earth!

The Danger of Individualism!

I recently heard a saying, and you may have heard this before too; 'the only good 'ism' is a prism'! Evangelicals, as I said earlier, are not a bad thing; we are to evangelize ( spread the good news ), whether by sharing our thoughts, words, or deeds ( mostly, hopefully, by our deeds! ), but when the point of the whole operation comes down to 'being saved', or 'pulling them out of the fire' ( Jude 1:23 ), it becomes pointless, having become 'evangelicalism'. As discussed before, the difference between individuality and individualism is quite marked; one is a product of God, one is a doctrine of demons, er, man! There are many other 'isms' that could be mentioned here, and when you really think about it, add 'ism' to any doctrine, or theology, and it is proven to be, not only man-based, but man-centered!

Individualism is dangerous for several different reasons: first, it puts the focus more on the individual 'getting saved', etc., than on the salvation that Jesus wrought for His people ( Matthew 1:21 ), and secondly, it tends to focus more on what the individual MUST do, rather than on what Jesus ( God ) did! This is not, again, to say that the individual has no choice, or responsibility in the matter, but the fact is; if indeed Christ died for a certain people ( 'His People' ), and gave them 'a new heart and...........a new spirit' ( Ezekiel 36:25-27 ), then, because of the redeeming work of the Holy Spirit ( God ), they WILL make that choice, having been given, not only individually, but as we read about in  the following chapter ( 37 ), corporately, as a Body, the Body of Israel, 'a heart of flesh', not one of stone, which is not mold-able or pliable, but can be broken when trying to shape.

Individuality, again, and even the celebration of it, is a good thing; we are all different people ( thank God )! We each have a part to play; that's the way God has designed it, I believe, each one doing his part to make one perfect ( completed ) whole. Think of Henry Ford's success with the assembly line.When we live in communion, as One Body in Christ ( as the Body of Christ, more precisely ), even though we all have differing gifts, and may even have our own ( individual ) little 'quirks', then the Body of Christ functions as it should, honoring it's Head! When we do do not act in communion as we should; errors abound, not least of which is the abomination known as 'divorce'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Statement of Belief

I believe

1. I believe and trust in the One, True, Eternal God, the great I AM; Who always has been, and always will be.

1a. I believe; although I am not willing to be divisive about it, that the Father and Son together, make One holy Spirit!

( Genesis 1:1 & 2, John 1:1-3, Genesis 6:3, Exodus 31:3, Numbers 11:25, Deuteronomy 34:9 ( Proverbs 1:20 ) II Samuel 23:2, I Chronicles 12:18, Nehemiah 9:20, Job 26:13 ( 33:4 ), Psalm 51:11 ( 104:30 ), Psalm 139:7, Proverbs 1:23, Isaiah 11:2 ( Luke 4:18 ), Isaiah 32:15 ( Joel 2:28, Isaiah 44:3, Ezekiel 39:29, Zechariah 12:14, Matthew 12:18, Acts 8:17 ( Acts 10:45 ), Ezekiel 3:12-14, Ezekiel 36:24-28 ( 11:19 ), Daniel 4:8 ( 5:11 ), Micah 2:7 ( 3:8 ), Haggai 2:5, Zechariah 4:6, Malachi 2:15, Matthew 1:18, 3:16, 10:18-20 ( Mark 13:11 ), 12:28, Luke 1:15 ( 1:35 ), 3:22, 10:21, John 1:33 ( 3:5 ), 4:24 ( 6:63, Genesis 2:7 ), 14:17 ( 14:23 ), 20:22 ( Genesis 2:7, Romans 8:2, Galatians 5:25 ), Acts 2:4 ( 2:17, Joel 2:28 ), 8:39, Romans 2:29, 7:6, 8:9-11, 15:13, I Corinthians 2:10, 6:19 ( John 14:23, Ephesians 2:22 ), 10:4, 12:1-13, II Corinthians 1:21 &; 22 ( 5:5, Galatians 5:5, Ephesians 1:15, 4:30 ), 3:17, 13:14, Galatians 3:3, 4:6 ( 4:29 ), Ephesians 1:17, 2:18, Philippians 1:19, I Thessalonians 4:8, I Timothy 3:16, Titus 3:5, Hebrews 3:7 ( Psalm 95:7 ), 10:29, James 4:5 ( Ezekiel 39:25, 36:5 & 6 ), I Peter 1:11, 3:18, I John 4:2, 5:6-8, Revelation 2:7, 22:17 )

2. I believe that this One, True God created the worlds*, and that nothing in His creation happens without His all-powerful Hand.

( Genesis 1:1-2, Job 1:6-12, Isaiah 45:7, Romans 9:1-29, 11:32-36, Galatians 4:4, John 1:1-3 )

3. I believe that the Father sent His only begotten Son to the earth, when, as prophesied in Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit came upon the virgin, Mary, who bore, of her own flesh and body, our Lord Jesus Christ.

3a. I believe, though again, I am not willing to make it a point of division, that God sent of Himself, to become human, to dwell among us, as a foreshadow of His  Presence ( John 14:23 ). He Himself impregnated a virgin to produce an 'Immaculate Conception', in order to consummate, in a type, the marriage of heaven and earth..

( Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, 61:1 ( Jeremiah 31 ), Luke 1:26-39, John 1:14, Hebrews 2:17, Revelation 14:4 )

4. I believe that this Seed, Jesus Christ, born according to the flesh, suffered a normal* human existence, until He was sacrificed as the propitiation for the sins of His people, who had broken covenant relationship with Him.

( Isaiah 53:2-6, Luke 2:21-51, John 11:49-50, I John 4:9 & 10, Daniel 9:4-19,  Hebrews 4:15, Hosea 2:5, Judges 10:13, Jeremiah 2:13 )

4a. I believe that, in God's Eternal Covenant, this once-for-all sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, was ordained before the worlds were formed.

( Genesis 1:26, John 1:1-3, Genesis 3:15, Revelation 13:8, Isaiah 53:10, I Peter 1:20 )

5. I believe that this one, final sacrifice was sufficient to cleanse His people from all blood-guiltiness, and to bring His people into the Kingdom of Heaven, and back into relationship with Him..

( Isaiah 53:4-12, Psalm 51:7-12, II Corinthians 12:9, Hebrews 7:25-27, II Thessalonians 1:5, I Peter 2:9 )

5a. I believe that the Holy Spirit of God must first open our 'eyes' to the fact that He has made us a 'new creation' in Him, before we will acknowledge Him and His redemptive work as fulfilled in His people.

( Romans 10:10-15, Philippians 3:8-11, Psalm 51, Ezekiel 36:25-27, 11:19 & 20, Colossians 1:9, Titus 3:5, Genesis 3* )

6. I believe that the Christ died, that He was forsaken by the Father, that His physical body was buried in the grave, and that after three days, He rose again, in His physical body* along with many of the saints who had fallen asleep, and ascended, in a cloud, to the glory He had forsaken for a time, at which time He began His reign, which according to Scripture*, will last forever!

( Matthew 27:46, Psalm 22, Luke 23:50-55, 11:51, Psalm 16:10, John 2:19-22, Matthew 27:52 & 53, Acts 1:9-11, Daniel 7:13 & 14, Revelation 20:4, 22:1-5, Hebrews 8:8-12, Isa. 60:19 & 20, II Peter 1:11 )

7. I believe He returned to that same wicked generation, as the Scriptures prophesied, to judge apostate* Israel, and to open the way for the new and better covenant, through the destruction of the Jewish Temple and the changing of the covenant economy.

( Matthew 10:23, 16:28, Matthew 24, 26:64, Luke 17:20-37, Isaiah 1:25,26, 5:24, John 4:19-24, Hebrews 7:18-22, 8:1 & 2 )

8. I believe in one baptism; that of and by the Holy Spirit, and with fire*.

( Ephesians 4:5, John 1:26-33, Luke 3:16, Psalm 66:11 & 12, I Samuel 16:13, Psalm 104:30, 143:10, Proverbs 1:23, Isaiah 42:5 ( 44:3 ), 59:21, Ezekiel 36:26 & 27, 37:14, Joel 2:28 & 29, Micah 3:8, Zechariah 12:10, Matthew 1:18-20, 3:11, Mark 12:36 ( Psalm 1:10:1 ), Mark 13:11, Luke 1:15, 3:16, 10:21, John 1:32, 3:5, 6:63, 16:13, 20:22 ( Genesis 2:7 )

9. I believe in a spiritual communion of the saints ( the Body of Christ ), by means of fellowship and worship of the One, True God, in Spirit and in Truth.

( Matthew 18:20, Acts 20:7, Romans 14:17-21, Leviticus 26:12, John 4:23 & 24, I Corinthians 2:14, I Peter 2:5 )

10. I believe that, as time goes by, sanctified ( Spirit-led ) man will will be awakened to knowledge of the One, True God, and in His righteousness, and that, finally, all knees will bow before God, and acknowledge Him as Lord and Creator.

( II Corinthians 9:10, Isaiah 9:7, Colossians 1:9,10, Philippians 2:10, Isaiah 45:23, Revelation 13:8 )

by God's Grace

Charles Shank

1*. questionable, this portion not found in certain older texts.

2*. universe

4* common to all human beings.

6*. His human body, I believe was reanimated when He rose from the tomb, but shed when He ascended to the Father.* Luke 19:12-27

7*. their rejection of Christ was the final "straw" ( read Josephus' "Antiquities" for more info ).

8*. trials, tribulation.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Sons of God and the Son of God

Both of these phrases should be very familiar to my readers, in the first case, traditionally referring to those who were brought into covenant with their Creator through the formation of the heavens and earth as recorded in Genesis 1 & 2 ( Genesis 5, Deuteronomy 7:14 ), and then to those who were adopted into the family of God through the Revelation of His Son, the true Covenant ( Romans 11, Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5 ) , and in the second case, the phrase 'Son of God' refers traditionally to that very Covenant ( Isaiah 42:6 & 49:8 ), to Jesus, who was the Christ, the Anointed One who became flesh in order to save His people from the sin and the death of Adam.

The first direct reference to these 'sons of God' that we find in the Hebrew Scriptures ( Genesis 6:2 ), is where we find that these 'sons of God' had union and pro-created with those 'daughters of men', the women of the surrounding nations who had no knowledge of their Creator. Some have speculated in the past, and I believe there is still the misguided notion in some circles, that these 'sons of God' referred to male spirit beings who impregnated female human beings. This is a ridiculous notion, and should be discarded 'out of hand'! In reference to this speculation, and related to it, or most likely the cause of it, is where in Job 1:6, this phrase is used to refer to those 'sons of God' ( 'Satan' among them ( ? ) who presented themselves before God on some regular basis.

In the New Testament, or Greek Scriptures, this phrase referred to those who had entered into covenant with God by virtue of their adoption, or by their creation as 'the sons of God' ( II Corinthians 5:17 ). Jesus, in His 'Sermon on the Mount', as recorded in Matthew 5:9, said 'Blessed [ are ] the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God'. When confronted by the Sadducees about a question concerning the resurrection ( which they didn't even believe in ); Jesus told them that 'those who are counted worthy to attain that age', as opposed to the present age, the age in which they were living, 'are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection' ( Luke 20:34-36 ). In the 8th chapter of the book of Romans, verses 14 &19, Paul wrote in much the same manner, saying that 'as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God', and furthermore, that 'the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God'. These 'sons of God' were about to be ( Greek, 'mello' ) revealed in the first century, with the final Revelation of the True Covenant, the Son of God!

Throughout, in particular, the apostle Paul's letters, we find numerous references to the fact that we are 'the Body of Christ'. I do not believe that this is just Paul's way of saying that we have metaphorically become 'a dwelling place of God in the Spirit' ( Ephesians 2:22 ), or even that we are subservient to Him, as He is 'the head of the body' ( Colossians 1:18 ( Ephesians 5:23 ), although these are both glorious facts; I believe that Paul is saying, along with the whole record of Scripture, that, as the Body of Christ, we ARE the veritable 'Son of God', and in that sense divine, though not divinity in the sense that He is the Creator and we the creature, or created ones!

Old Testament Reference to 'the Son of God'

Most famous, probably, is Hosea 11:1; 'When Israel [ was ] a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son', and when Matthew quoted this passage in his Gospel ( 2:15 ) concerning the escape of the child Jesus from the murderous Herod, we can see that, while Hosea is looking back to the escape of the children of Israel from the bondage and slavery of Egypt, Matthew correctly read this as a prophecy of the true Son of God, who would lead His people out of the true bondage and slavery,that of the sin and the death of Adam.

Although the above is most likely the clearest reference to 'the Israel of God' ( Galatians 6:16 ) being 'one' ( Genesis 2:24 ) with 'the Son of God'; we see Adam ( the first Adam ( I Corinthians 15:45 ), in Luke's genealogy ( chapter 3 ) referenced as '[ the son ] of God'. Now granted; the words found in brackets may not be in the original Greek manuscripts, but the idea is there, that as all the others listed were the natural sons ( begotten ) of those listed after them, so the First Adam was truly 'the son of God'! The First Adam, as a historical figure, was a type of the Last, or True Adam, He who would be revealed as the true 'Son of God, the Head of 'the Israel of God'!

 We've already seen most of the Old Testament references to 'the sons of God', but as I've mentioned in the past, I believe; I find it rather interesting that one these 'sons of God', Ezekiel by name, was often called by the name that Jesus 'adopted', calling Himself the 'Son of Man'..

I am not trying to argue here, or make the case that, as certain sects would say, we become gods ( although Jesus does quote from the Psalms ( 82:6 ), 'I said, “You [ are ] gods, and all of you [ are ] children of the Most High', in John 10:34. As I said earlier, 'He is the Creator and we the creature'; we do not become the Creator, although we do have union with Him, and in that sense, become One!

New Testament Reference to the Sons of God

The Apostle Paul, being the most prolific writer in what became the Greek, or New Testament Scriptures, had therefore, much to say about 'the sons of God'. Speaking of the 'age to come', wherein the people of God would once again enjoy union with Him, and the sweet fellowship of His Living Presence; Paul wrote to the followers of Christ in Rome, 'And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You [ are ] not My people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God', quoting Hosea 1:10.

Paul further wrote, in Galatians 3:26, 'For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus'. Although we are not, in this sense, as the Creed says, 'begotten of the Father before all worlds', and as John 1:18, 3:16 & 18 ( Hebrews 11:17 ), and I John 4:9 say, His 'only begotten Son'; we are yet, in a very similar, yet very different sense, begotten of God. As sons of God by adoption, you might say, and the apostle says as much, we have, as Jesus told Nicodemus on that most memorable night long ago, in a place far from here ( and yet near, at the same time ), entered His Kingdom, having been 'born of........the Spirit' . In John 3:5, Jesus told Nicodemus, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God'. Nicodemus thought that by virtue of his natural birth, as did most, if not all Jews, that one was a son of the Living God, and therefore able to enter His Kingdom, but Jesus set the record straight, telling him, in other words, 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit' ( Zechariah 4:6 ). It is only though His power, and not through any vain planning of our own that we became 'the sons of God'!

The Myth of Individuality

Especially in the modern church, but pervading today's society and culture as well, is this notion of individuality, as some have put it, 'me and Jesus', or 'my faith is between me and my God'; 'it's personal'! While all of this is certainly true, in a sense, ( God is a personal ( maybe 'personable' would be a better term? ), and it is true that we are individuals, and that each of us must make the choice of whether to follow the leading of the Spirit or to live in 'Hades'; it was not individual sinners, in that sense, that the Son of God came to save! Some of my readers have no doubt heard this before, or rather seen in my writings, but Matthew 1:21 tells us that Jesus came to 'save His people from their sins'. True; as 'His people' is constituted of individuals, even those who have not yet known, or reconciled with their Father; as the apostle Paul again wrote, 'we, [ being ] many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another' ( Romans 12:5 ). Although we are individuals, and each one of us makes our own individual choices; it is not just 'me and Jesus': as part of the Body of Christ, our faith is not a private matter 'between me and my God'. We are accountable, not only to God, and to Jesus Christ as our Head, but we must remember that as 'members of one another', we are accountable to each other as well! If we claim, individualistically, that we are accountable to God alone, and that only He can judge us, not only will His 'judgment' fall hardest on us, but our life will not be blessed by the communion of the Body of Christ, because we will have basically become our own god, deciding ( interpreting ) for ourselves what is right and what is wrong!

I have mentioned this before, but John 3:16 is probably one of the most famous, as well as most misinterpreted and misunderstood passages ( especially when it comes to soteriology ).

First of all; we must realize that Jesus was nearing the end of His conversation with Nicodemus, in which He had been addressing a specific problem that Nicodemus, as a representative of the Jewish school of thought, had presented. Without rehashing much of the ground that we have already trod, let me just say that Nicodemus was also coming at the problem from an individualistic point of view; 'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?' This tells us, among other things, that even though he was very familiar with the prophecies of the new birth, or resurrection of Israel, he truly did not understand what Jesus was saying; Jesus was simply stating, in other words, what prophets, like Ezekiel in Ezekiel 37, had spoken of.. Neither Jesus, nor the apostles, were saying anything new, but only what had been concealed in the Hebrew Scriptures, writings which the leaders of that rebellious generation were very familiar with!

Secondly; we must understand, as I just hinted at, that the 'world', of which Jesus spoke in this famous verse, was not the 'world' that we are used to thinking of! God does, no doubt, love His entire created 'order', and while that 'created order' is made up of individuals; Jesus was addressing a specific problem in this conversation, and was referring, in that context, to the 'created order', the 'world' of Nicodemus, and the Jewish economy, for as we saw, Jesus came to 'save His people from their sins'!

Thirdly, and finally; we must look at this passage, or verse, from the covenantal point of view, which is necessary to a correct understanding of all of Scripture. Note that 'God so loved the world', in the first part of this wonderful, but often misleading statement, which is later qualified with 'whoever believes'. This again ties in with what I wrote earlier, about keeping in mind passages like Ezekiel 37, where, although individual bones came together, making up individual bodies, it was the Body of Israel that was signified as being raised from the dead, or born again; as Paul, again, said in I Corinthians 15:36, 'what you sow is not made alive unless it dies'.

The Scriptures are a 'covenant document' from Genesis to Revelation, and so, I believe, must be read with this in mind, if we are to correctly understand them! Proof-texting is yet another problem that is and has been prevalent in the Church, as regards this individualistic way of thinking. No Scripture can be correctly interpreted without examining other like Scriptures: another way of saying this is, 'no Scripture stands on its own'! Like Solomon the Preacher said, '[ there is ] nothing new under the sun'. It's all been said and done before; what God did in the New Covenant ( Jesus ), was to renew His original creation, not make a whole new one!

'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.'

Read individualistically, we are presented here with a potentially omnipotent ( but closer to impotent ) God who, because of His great love for every individual in the world, sent His Son to die for that world, all the while wringing His hands, hoping against hope...................oh wait, He has foreknowledge too, so He knows that not all will believe.............hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm............. 

From a covenantal point of view, though; we see an omnipotently sovereign God who, because of His love for His people, sent His Son to die for their ( yes, our ) sins, that, yes, whoever, as part of His Body, or People believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Through covenant lenses; we also see things like the fact that it is not simply belief in Him that brings us into communion with Him ( everlasting life 
): 'No', James said, 'Even the demons believe' ( James 2:19 ). It is only when we act rightly, according to that belief, that we have communion with our Creator and enjoy His Presence forevermore!

We are thus presented with a choice; as 'sons of God', will we live individualistically, bumbling through this drama that we call life, trying to make sure that everyone for whom Christ died ( 'the world' ) believes in Him, and thus 'holding His hand', so to speak; or will we live covenantally, bringing every aspect of life ( our life ) in subjection to Him, not just existing, but participating in His Kingdom, which has been brought from heaven to earth, knowing that He has, through His Advent ( life, death, and resurrection ) completed His work of salvation, and now dwells with in and through His people!

Let us, as 'sons of God', so conduct ourselves in His Kingdom, as to present the 'Son of God' ( with Whom we have Union ) before those who have not yet entered the City, and to build up the Body in which we partake!

A 'Son of God',
Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Sanctity of Marriage

Some people out there, not necessarily any of my regular readers, might be thinking, 'yeah, you really shouldn't be spouting about the sanctity of marriage'! Well, maybe I have no business doing so, but after hearing this morning about the people of North Carolina passing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions, or 'marriages'. I decided to 'jump on the bandwagon'!

Did you know that '4 out of 5 'Christian' divorcees hate homosexuals for ruining the sanctity of marriage'? Being one of those divorced persons myself; I can say that I must be the 1 out of 5 that doesn't hold that against homosexuals! Now, please don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that I love the things homosexuals do ( although sometimes, I think they act more Christ-like than many 'Christians' ); on the contrary, I abhor that death-style, and believe that they are flagrantly 'thumbing their noses' at God and His institution of marriage ( union ) between a man and a woman. One way to put it is, 'God brought Eve to Adam, not Steve to Adam'.

Following somewhat of a rabbit-trail here, viewing some of VP Biden's remarks this morning on this subject, I read, 'I just think that the good news is that as more and more Americans come to understand what this is all about, it is a simple proposition: Who do you love? Who do you love? And will you be loyal to the person who love?' There is much talk from those who are either homosexual, or at least pro-homosexual ( or pro-choice ) about 'love'. What is love? I have asked that question in several articles that I have written on the subject, and I have come to the conclusion that, as Scripture says, 'love [ is ] the fulfillment of the law' ( Romans 13:10 ). Just prior to this startling ( to some ) statement, Paul stated that 'Love does no harm to a neighbor'. Love, as I have discussed in the aforementioned articles, is an action, and not so much a feeling. Although most of us naturally and usually act on our feelings, those actions are not always right, because our feelings are not always correct. If we, however, act according to what God has revealed to us through His Word, then we are truly acting in love, and not just having warm feelings for our brother one day, and giving him the 'cold shoulder' the next, based on our 'roller-coaster feelings'!

In other news, and the most recent addition to our subject, the restaurant chain 'Chick-fil-a' has recently come into the headlines for their admittedly admirable stand for traditional marriage, and against same-sex 'union' ( what 'union' can there be between two people of the same sex; surely not physical: more later.... )! How many managers/employees of Chick-fil-a, do you suppose, have ruined the sanctity of marriage by divorcing their spouse for an unbiblical, even wanton reason?

Back to the subject now; you must see the irony in any 'Christian' who denounces anyone else, homosexual or not, for 'ruining the sanctity of marriage' ( being divorced myself, as I said; I can say this, pointing at least four fingers at myself ). What is the 'sanctity of marriage', except, as Paul wrote, a picture, or example ( earthly ) of  'Christ and the church' ( Ephesians 5:32 ). When we, as Christians, base our marriages and, God forbid, divorces, on our feelings, and not on the Word of God, then we make a mockery of this institution!

Many have come out, in defense almost, of those who feel free to pursue this, or other 'death-styles', saying things like, 'well, one sin is no worse than another, so we shouldn't condemn'! In a sense, they're right; we shouldn't condemn homosexuality over divorce, when it comes to 'the sanctity of marriage'. As Scripture does give allowance for divorce, though ( Matthew 19:1-10 ), although He still hates it ( Malachi 2:16 ); nowhere does Scripture make allowance for homosexuality, or more correctly, 'sodomy'! The practice of homosexuality runs in direct opposition to God's Revealed Will, and therefore should be opposed, itself, at every turn, but is it truly homosexuals and their push of the recognition of same-sex unions that are ruining 'the sanctity of marriage', or is it those of us who divorce 'for [ just ] any reason', Christian or not, who are turning the picture of  'Christ and the church' into a laughable ideal?

Writing to myself more than anybody else,
Charles Haddon Shank