Yom Kippur 2018

Yom Kippur 2018

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                        “So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place,

                         because of the uncleanness of the children of

                         Israel, and because of their transgressions, for

                         all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabern-

                         acle of meeting which remains among them in

                         the midst of their uncleanness.”

                                                            Leviticus 16:16

 

                        “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost

                         those who come to God through Him, since He

                         always lives to make intercession for them. For

                         such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy,

                         harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and

                         has become higher than the heavens…”

                                                            Hebrews 7:25-26

 Yom Kippur is the Great Day of Atonement. It is an awesome day in which nothing moves, cities and their commerce come to a complete standstill in Israel and even the roads, just the day before congested and given to gridlock, are empty. It’s as if all of creation is holding its breath since this is the Day when sinners, living under the wrath of God, can be freed from it. It requires introspection, fasting and prayer and the courage to acknowledge one’s sins and cast one’s self upon the grace of God. Only God’s unmerited favor can save us from His anger and a lost eternity.

In days of old the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies on this day and there before the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant he would present the blood of the Lord’s Goat.  Around his one foot a rope was tied in case He was struck down dead and thus he could be pulled out by it. On the fringe of his High Priestly Garments were little bells, which, when the power and glory of God came down upon the High Priest, would tinkle together as a sign that God had accepted the atoning sacrifice made on behalf of His people (Exodus 28:31-36). It was a sound of joy and the whole nation would listen intently for it. If heard they knew that their sins were again overlooked (Romans 3:23-25)(Acts 17:30) and not attributed to them. They were free from the wrath of God! According to Jewish legend a ribbon dipped in the blood of the atoning goat was attached to the outer structure of the Temple for all to see and so when the atoning sacrifice had been approved and accepted by God it turned white as snow. This is a reminder of what the Prophet Isaiah had stated in chapter one and verse eighteen of his oracle:

 

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord,

                         though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white

                         as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be

                         as wool.”

 The Scapegoat was at the same time brought before the High Priest who confessed the sins of the nation over it and then sent it away into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:20-22). This goat was called the Azazel, which also means “The one who opposes.” So, the Scapegoat not only carried the sins of the people away into the wilderness of forgetfulness but it also symbolized release from the Devil and his demons. What an amazing picture of God’s perfect deliverance in Christ Jesus.

The Day of Yom Kippur reminds us of the gravity of sin, the great price that Jesus paid to release us from its grip and the joy of being reconciled to God. The Scapegoat also symbolizes our complete deliverance from inbred sin and from the Devil. This is exactly what Jesus came to do (Acts 10:38). This is a Day that reminds us of God’s mercy and love and just how undeserving of these we are. It teaches us to fear God and live righteously before Him since Jesus, taking our place on the cross, spilt His blood to save us from the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 1:10). A great price was paid for our redemption and we should never forget it (1 Peter 1:18-19). This is precisely why we take the sacrament of Communion regularly. We surely must remember what Jesus did for us on the cross and thus Yom Kippur is an awesome reminder of the reverence we should hold in our hearts for God’s great redemptive act in Christ.

Malcolm Hedding.

The Ten Days of Awe

The Ten Days of Awe

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                        “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh

                         month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a

                         Sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing trumpets, a holy

                         Convocation.”

                                                                        Leviticus 23:24

 

                        “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the

                         Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for

                         you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering

                         made by fire to the Lord.”

                                                                        Leviticus 23:27

             

                         “I, therefore the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to

                         walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,

                         with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering,

                         bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep

                         the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

                       

                                                                        Ephesians 4:1-3

 

Days of Reflection

 Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Great Day of Atonement, there are ten days. These are meant to be days of personal reflection, repentance and prayer and they are to fill us with a healthy fear of God. Therefore they are also called the Ten Terrible Days. Not only are we to awaken to righteousness and zeal as we hear the trumpet blast at Rosh Hashanah but we are also to think most seriously about our relationship with God and with one another.

Reconciliation and Unity

The message of the Bible is about reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). That is, reconciliation with God and with our fellow man. Sin alienates and divides people and thereby births conflicts, wars, murders, outbursts of anger and all manner of hatred between people, families and races (Galatians 5:19-21). Those who come to God by faith in what He has done for them in Christ, the Messiah, have this cycle of alienation and hatred broken in their lives. For the people of God to live in schism and disunity constitutes a denial of the very essence of what it means to be a Christian (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). This should not happen and we should do everything to preserve the unity of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:1-6). In the end contentious people should be rejected and removed from the community of faith after having been appropriately warned (Titus 3:10). All of this dear friends is very serious business and we would do well to think deeply about it.

Humility and Grace

When living in Jerusalem a very dear friend of mine, and a beloved Rabbi of blessed memory, asked to see me during the Ten Days of Awe. He had promised to do something for me and had forgotten. While praying and reflecting upon his life he was convicted of this and felt that he had to ask my forgiveness and so it was that he came to my office and apologized for his lapse in memory, asked for my forgiveness and promised to rectify the matter; which he did. I was greatly moved by this and cannot help but wonder what would happen to the body of Christ if we all acted in this way. The Ten Days of Awe therefore enable us to take hold of the grace of God and to be the people that Jesus wants us to be (Ephesians 4:31-32). Five is the number of grace in the bible and so the Ten Days of Awe, two fives, remind us of the amazing, blessed and abundant grace of God that has come to our lives by Christ Jesus. We need to think about this and respond appropriately. This period reminds us of these wonderful things and challenges us to be all that God, by Christ Jesus, wants us to be.

Indeed the Ten Days of Awe help us to focus on what it means to truly be a child of God; just as Passover or Easter enable us to see more clearly what Jesus did for us on the cross. We need these times to refresh our souls and draw closer to God.

Malcolm Hedding

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah

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                        “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, speak to

                         the children of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month,

                         on the first day of the month, you shall have a Sabbath

                         rest, a memorial of blowing trumpets, a holy convo-

                         cation.”

                                                                        Leviticus 23:23-24

                         “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of

                         Christ, that each one may receive the things done in

                         the body, according to what he has done, whether

                         good or bad.”

 

                                                                        2 Corinthians 5:10

Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year, is the Jewish New Year and as such is a proscribed biblical celebration. It is also known as the Feast of Trumpets because it constitutes a clarion call to the believers to take stock of their lives always remembering that God Himself is weighing them in His scales to determine how pleasing they are to Him. If we live for Him, in all that we say and do (1 Corinthians 10:31), we shall have a sweet year and so at this annual celebration apples and honey are eaten in the hope that we will all have a good inscription or assessment. Paul echoed the same sentiments when he stated that we should make it our constant aim to be pleasing unto the Lord (Colossians 1:10) (Hebrews 13:20-21).

There is no doubt that believers who are not pleasing to the Lord have limitations put on their lives and actions. For instance Paul says that if we live lives that are not clean and holy and consistent with what Jesus did for us on the cross and then, we take Communion without making the appropriate corrections, we can bring weakness, sickness and even death to our lives (1 Corinthians 11:23-31)! We are thus called upon to carefully examine or judge ourselves before sharing in the Lord’s Supper. This is the meaning and message of Rosh Hashanah and we would do well to embrace it. Of course this is not about works in terms of salvation but about the love for Christ that should flow out of our lives because of His death, burial and resurrection on our behalf. Jesus Himself stated that He cannot endure lukewarm Christians and that those Christians who are in this state should make some hard decisions (Revelation 3:16). Repentance is the only remedy!

Rosh Hashanah is therefore followed by the Ten Days of Awe wherein the believer should embrace with joy the blessedness of repentance. That is, godly repentance that truly and joyfully turns him away from everything that displeases God in his life (2 Corinthians 7:10). Paul writes in his Ephesian letter that Christ followers should awaken from their spiritual sleep and eagerly embrace the blessings of God (Ephesians 5:13-15). We should all heed these exhortations because it is so easy to slip into a spiritual routine that can make us deaf to the voice and presence of God.

Rosh Hashanah is therefore also a picture of that great final Day of Judgment that awaits all of us for we shall all stand before God one day to give an account of our lives (Romans 14:10-12). On that Day we shall not be able to hide anything or make any excuses since everything about us will be laid bare before Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. That Day will determine our place of standing in heaven and we should all live our lives in the light of it. Rosh Hashanah is a timely reminder of all these things and we should heed its message. May you have a good inscription!

Shana Tova,

Malcolm Hedding.

Prayer Horizons

Prayer Horizons

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional

            Now in the morning, having risen a long while before day-

            light, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and

            there He prayed.”

                                                    Mark 1:35

 

            “And take up the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the

            Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all

            prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this

            end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”

                                                Ephesians 6:17-18

Prayer can be defined as talking to God. This, of course is a very simple definition of the practice and yet it is true. More definitely, prayer is working with God to bring forth His purpose in the world (2 Corinthians 6:1). This is a privilege that every Christian should shoulder. The Bible clearly teaches us that all of life is to be handled with prayer but indeed there comes a time when prayer must move away from concentrating on ourselves but rather on the will of God for the world around us. The great intercessor Rees Howells bore the prayer burden of saving Britain from a Nazi invasion during the Second World War. God heard him and did just that!

Jesus invites us into a meaningful prayer life and in this study I want us to lift our horizons to see what types of prayer we can move into if we are prepared to enter this adventure with God. Prayer is hard work, it demands discipline but God does nothing without it! It is also rewarding because we observe the hand of God moving in response to it. Prayer is thus the ultimate demonstration of a life that is fully submitted to god!

  1. The Call to Prayer

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers,

 intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,

 for Kings and all those who are in authority, that we may

 lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”

                                                1 Timothy 2:1-2

       It will be noted from this passage that there are different types of prayer. Namely; those that plead with God (supplications), those that please God (prayers), those that do for others what they cannot do for themselves (intercessions) and those that give thanks. It will also be noted that our state of national security and peace is dependent upon the people of God praying in these ways! No wonder Jesus said that His house should chiefly be a “house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17).

  1. The Nature of Prayer

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according

to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal

but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the

knowledge of God……”

                                                2 Corinthians 10:3-5

There are five types of prayer in the scriptures and these, as far as Paul was concerned, constituted our mighty weapons for the ”left and right-hand.” At some point we need to learn how to pick them up, as our effectiveness is dependent upon it!

  1. Responsive Prayer

This is caring and instant prayer that introduces the recipient to the love and grace of God. Jesus employed it when upon the cross He prayed, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” We call it the “Let’s pray model.”

  1. Conditional Prayer

Prayer is made powerful and effective by lives that reflect the character of God. Clean lives attract the power of God. James wrote, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”(James 5:16). Peter warns that if husbands do not treat their wives in a godly way God will not hear their prayers! (1 Peter 3:7) God honors the prayers of godly men and women.

  1. Importunate Prayer

This is the type of prayer that never gives up. It is sincere and earnest and those who utter it cast themselves on the grace and mercy of God like Cornelius did (Acts 10:1-4).  The early church also employed it on Peter’s behalf (Acts 12:5). Jesus said, “Keep knocking and the door will be opened up to you” (Matthew 7:7).

  1. Battle Prayer

This type of prayer takes hold of the Word of God and its promises and holds them up before God until He does what His word proclaims (Isaiah 62:6-7). Daniel prayed in this way and consequently great spiritual strongholds, that held the people of God captive, were brought down (Daniel 9:1-3). A great spiritual stronghold in our nation is that of abortion. The Word of God is against it and believing Christians can bring it down. However, this will demand dedication and commitment. Paul acknowledged this realm of prayer when he wrote that out conflict is “not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).  Meanwhile other spiritual strongholds are growing and threaten to engulf us with evil. We must lift our prayer horizons urgently and deal with these dark powers.

  1. Regular Prayer

The early Church believers were together all the time in regular prayer meetings. (Acts 2:42). Prayer was undoubtedly  “the lungs of the Church.” They could not survive without it and so the book of Acts states, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…” (Acts 1:14). It is from regular prayer that the local Church derives its power and we would see more evidence of the power and presence of God amongst us if more people would gather in this manner. The fact that too often the prayer meeting is the smallest weekly meeting of the local church is evidence of our spiritual weakness. We will not change our world until this changes. Indeed we will sing and shout the victory but it will remain just words! (Exodus 32:18)

  1. The Content of Prayer

As far as Paul is concerned prayer should cover all things in life. He again wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known unto God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).Prayer has more to do with our mental well being than we imagine or care to admit.. Anxiety leads to fear and fear to depression and prayer is the way out of these crippling mental disorders.

I firmly believe that we should employ the “Lego Principle” in living this out. That is, enlarge your prayer life by adding new issues and topics to it all the time; just as one adds one Lego piece to another. If you are faithful and regular in this you will not believe how God can use this and thereby entrust to you a “memorial” that will be raised up in heaven before Him. God answers prayer like this.

Malcolm Hedding

 

 

The Testings of God

The Testings of God

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional

 

            “Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing

             toward the sons of men. He turned the sea into a dry land; they

             went through the river on foot. There we will rejoice in Him.

             He rules by His power forever; His eyes observe the nations;

             do not let the rebellious exalt themselves.”

                                                                                                Selah

            “Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise

             to be heard, Who keeps our soul among the living, and does not allow

             our feet to be moved. For You, O God, have tested us; You have

             refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid

             affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads;

             we went through fire and through water; but you brought us out to

             rich fulfillment.”

                                                                        Psalm 66:8-12

 

Definition of terms:

Trials and tribulations constitute that process whereby God deals with our characters. The “Testings of God” is that process whereby God deals with our love for, and friendship with, Him.

God is actually looking for friends but a friend of God is a person that actually does what He commands. Consequently such a person will be entrusted with the secrets of heaven!

“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No

             longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know

             what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for

             all things that I heard from My Father I have made known

             to you.”

                                                John 15:14-15

 

An invitation to understand the sovereignty of God (V5-7)

If we do not have a good understanding of the sovereignty of God we shall not be able to trust Him; we will establish our own ways and thus become rebellious. Consequently Jesus will not have His way with us and we run the risk of disqualifying ourselves from participating in His purpose. Trusting God based on our understanding of who He is is at the root of building a friendship with Him.

An invitation to worship God (V8-9)

Worship is that activity whereby we chiefly describe the worth of God. By it we give God what He is due in righteousness and we behold His power and glory. This calms us down and makes us candidates for a miracle. (Acts 16:25-28)

An invitation to embrace the testing of God (V8-12)

 Testing imparts the ways of God into our lives and usually it is:

  1. Mysterious

There is not always a discernable reason as to why one is put to the test other than that God believes the time has come to accomplish additional things in one’s life (1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 Peter 4:12). By the testing process of God we discover things about ourselves that we didn’t know existed and we change!

  1. Refining

The process by which silver is refined is different to that of gold! That is, the refiner takes particular care over each piece of raw silver to ensure that it is not over heated and spoiled. When he gets it right the silver is pure and easy to work with. If he gets it wrong the silver may still be pure but it becomes hard to work with and is consequently used for less important projects. Paul alluded to this in 2 Timothy 2:20-21.

  1. Difficult

God traps you, like a bird, in His net and leads you through paths that are difficult just like He led His people into a desert and there He tested them and they, we are told, “murmured in their tents” (Psalm 106:25).

  1. Humiliating

Sometimes God will even allow others to gloat over you even though you know that you are in the right and have done nothing wrong. This teaches us to let Him vindicate us in due time. It is a hard lesson to learn but learn it we must (Romans 12:17-21).

  1. Blessed

Those who endure the testings of God will emerge into “rich (or abundant) fulfillment”. This implies that Jesus has a wonderful purpose for your life that He can only bring you into by the process of testing. Do not forget this.

Three examples

Peter

 Peter was put to the test at the trial of Jesus and was humiliated by a little girl. He found out a lot of things about Himself, learned the lessons and changed. It was He who once had no boldness, who was able to stand up on the Day of Pentecost and with boldness preach the gospel (Acts 2:14). Peter’s denial of Christ was in fact a breach of friendship and consequently Jesus was more heart broken than Peter (Luke 22:61). For this reason when Jesus met up with Peter at the Sea of Galilee, after His resurrection, He asked Peter three times whether he was indeed His friend (John 21:15-17). The word that Jesus uses here for love is not agape’ but phileo which designates the love of friendship!

Abraham

He was called by God to sacrifice Isaac upon whom all the promises of God in terms of world redemption rested. Abraham was tested as to whether He really believed God and trusted Him no matter what; even when no way forward is evident. Abraham was brought to a dead end and only the word of God sustained him and because of this God called him His friend (Isaiah 41:8). It is important to recognize that God called Abraham to do something that God never really intended him to do. It was in effect a test that had to do with the matters of trust, friendship and obedience. Consequently God shared the complete DNA (secrets) of world redemption with Abraham! The Lord placed a similar test before us at the beginning of this year and so told us to apply for a ministry position on the Isle of Wight. As it turned out He had no intention of sending us there but He did put us to the test to see if we would still obey His command and give up everything again to follow Him. This is what His friends do!

Joseph

God spoke to him about his destiny and then put him through circumstances that would appear to contradict everything that God had said (Genesis 37:7-11). He was sold into slavery by his brothers, taken to a foreign land, falsely accused, thrown in jail and then raised to the right hand of power and his brothers did indeed come before him and bow down! (Psalm 105:16-22) If God has really spoken to you about a particular destiny that He has for you then you are probably a good candidate to have it all taken from you! The question is, will you give up or better still are we the friends of Jesus? This means; are we involved with the kingdom of God in order to fulfill our purpose and destiny or to be the friends of Jesus?

False Teachings of the End Time

False Teachings of the End Time

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional

 

                        “For false christs and false prophets will rise

                         and show great signs and wonders to deceive,

                         if possible, even the elect.”

                                                            Matthew 24:24

 

  1. Truth

There is no doubt that one of the great signs of the end time is the re-emergence of the state of Israel on the stage of world history. This is a sign without precedent, as it constitutes the first time in over two thousand years that the Jews have sovereignty over Jerusalem again. Jesus placed this reality in the basket of His signs pointing to His second coming (Luke 21:24). He also stated that in the days in which this miracle occurs there would be world-wide upheaval, wars and rumors of wars and the arrival of a perilous time, such as the world has never seen before, called the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21). Israel on the very brink of annihilation at the hands of a global attack will be saved out of this tribulation physically and spiritually (Zechariah 12:1-10). This spiritual salvation will be the “trigger mechanism” for the return of Christ to the Mt of Olives. That is, Israel’s recognition of Jesus’ messianic credentials will bring about what Paul called “resurrection from the dead”. This means that the Church of all ages will come out of their graves and, together with living believers, will rise to meet Christ as He comes again in great power and glory to place His feet on the Mt. of Olives (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

This picture that I have painted above is the one that scripture gives us and it is the one that was embraced by the early Church. The blessed hope of the Church is not a renovated world system because of some great end time revival but it is indeed, and only, the second coming of Jesus (Titus 2:11-13). The present world is actually passing away (1 John 2:17) because it is an “evil age” (Galatians 1:3-4) and God is determined to bring it down and He will. Every city and nation will be brought down as God visits the planet with what scripture calls the Day of the Lord (Revelation 16:19)(Joel 3:9-17). Our hope is not in the man made systems of this world but in the living God who by His glorious Gospel has saved us and given us a longing for a new heavens and a new earth wherein righteousness will dwell (2 Peter 3:13). You need to be assured of this: That we are approaching a global upheaval the likes of which the world has never seen before and, as the prophet Daniel stated, wars and desolations are determined until the end! This is not an eschatology of pessimism but one of hope because it is anchored in the truth of God’s word and in the promised coming of Christ.

The documents of the Early Church, that is the very Church founded by the Apostles themselves, testify to this understanding of scripture. Here below is a sample of these writings all of which were written before the fourth century.

The Epistle of Barnabas

“The final stumbling-block approaches. We take earnest heed in these last days; for the whole time of your faith will profit you nothing, unless now in this wicked time we also withstand coming sources of danger; as becometh sons of God. That the Black One (Antichrist) may find no means of entrance, let us flee from every vanity, let us utterly hate the works of the way of wickedness.”

Justin Martyr

The man of apostasy shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us Christians….”

The Shepherd of Hermes

“Happy ye who endure the great tribulation that is coming on.”

The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

“For the whole time of your faith will not profit you if you are not made perfect in the last time. Then shall appear the world-deceiver as Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and perish; but they that endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself.”

Irenaeus

“….and they shall give their kingdom to the Beast and put the Church to flight.”

“But he (John) indicates the number of the name now, that when the man comes we may avoid him, being aware who he is.”

Hippolytus

“Now concerning the tribulation of the persecution which is to fall upon the Church from the adversary (The Antichrist). That refers to the one thousand and three score days during which the tyrant is to reign and persecute the Church.”

Tertullian

“Now the privilege of the favor awaits those who shall at the coming of the Lord be found in the flesh, and who shall, owing to the oppressions of the time of Antichrist, deserve an instantaneous death which is accomplished by a sudden change to become qualified to join the raisings saints..”

The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles

 “…for through the abounding of iniquity the love of many shall wax cold. For men shall hate, and persecute, and betray one another. And then shall appear the Deceiver of the world, the enemy of the truth, the prince of lies, whom the Lord Jesus shall destroy with the spirit of His mouth, who takes away the wicked with His lips; and many shall be offended at Him. But they that endure to the end, the same shall be saved..”

  1. False truth

 In recent years a new message is being preached by Evangelicals, Pentecostals and neo-Pentecostals and this message is false but it is being accepted and embraced everywhere and essentially it states that much of Matthew 24 and the other great eschatological passages of the Bible have been fulfilled and now we await a great end time revival that will actually transform nations, rehabilitate all spheres of human endeavor and usher in peace and then, and only then, Jesus will come again.  This is actually Kingdom Now or Dominion Theology or Postmillennialism built on the foundation of Preterism (The belief that all of Matthew 24 etc. has been fulfilled by past historical events)(1). Indeed many of the propagators of this error are telling us that a soon coming spiritual revival in Israel will bring resurrection blessing and power to the nations thus sweeping multiple millions into the Kingdom of God. All of this sounds very triumphant and wonderful but in reality it is a false teaching and in fact a very dangerous one at that because it is based on a totally false exegesis of Romans 11:15 and thus does not prepare Christians for the great trials that are about to come:

“For if their being cast away is the reconciling of

                         the world, what will their acceptance be but life

                         from the dead?”

 This “life from the dead”; otherwise translated as “resurrection from the dead”, means exactly what it says in that, according to Paul, Israel’s spiritual recovery will trigger the literal and real resurrection of the dead and usher in the visible second coming of Jesus. “Life from the dead” means then that all the saints of all of history will come forth from their graves to meet Christ in the air as He descends to the Mt. of Olives. It is to be noted that Paul’s teaching in this regard is further clarified in verses 25 and 26 of the same chapter. That is, it is only after the fullness of the Gentiles has been gathered in that Israel gets saved; not before, and consequently the Deliverer (Savior) will “come out of Zion.” Meaning that Zion or a Jewish Jerusalem brings Christ back to the earth. Jesus in fact said that this would be the case (Matthew 23:37-39)(Luke 13:34-35).

The fullness of the Gentiles is completed before Israel’s acceptance of Jesus’ messianic credentials and not afterwards as these false teachers assert. So then there are not two “fullnesses of the Gentiles” in scripture; only one. To teach otherwise is a contradiction of the context and is just nonsense and yet this is exactly what is being taught with the expectation that the nations will get saved in a manner never seen before after Israel comes to faith. This is not true. Israel is not a catalyst for a world-wide revival. If anything she is a catalyst to save the world from utter destruction as her spiritual restoration brings the King of Kings back to the earth at a time when things are so bleak and dark that God has to shorten the time in order to save humanity from total annihilation (Matthew 24:21-22).

Furthermore, those propagating this error frequently support their error by quoting passages from the Bible that refer to the coming Messianic Reign of Christ or what is known as the Millennium. That is, these passages describe global conditions after Jesus has come a second time and not before. Sadly the unsuspecting unable to “rightly divide” scripture buy into this error and so one such passage is Isaiah 2:2-4:

“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the

                         mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on

                         the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above

                         the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people

                         shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the

                         mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob;

                         He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His

                         paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the

                         word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge

                         between the nations, and rebuke many people; they

                         shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their

                         spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up

                         sword against nation, neither shall they learn war

                         anymore.”

 Again, this picture of peace and absence of conflict only applies to the age to come or to what the Bible calls the “regeneration” when Christ sits on His glorious throne ruling and judging the nations with a “rod of iron” (Matthew 19:28) (Revelation 12:5). The consummation of our age will be characterized by global conflict, on a scale never seen before, the falling away or apostasy of millions of Christians (2 Thessalonians 2:3), great natural disasters and upheavals, the persecution of the Church, the rise of a new Hitler or Beast, who will be destroyed by the second coming of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:8), (2) and the Great Day of the Lord. In fact Jesus warned that the situation will deteriorate rapidly, just as an expectant mother experiences a growing intensity in her birth pangs, and that consequently those days will have to be shortened lest no flesh survive on the earth (Matthew 24:21). This is not a picture of some great global revival but in fact just the opposite and, if we do not prepare ourselves for it, we may well fall away or, worse still, give our allegiance to a new global order actually driven by Satan himself and characterized by great signs and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Jesus, concerned about the state of the Church in the world in the end time, wondered whether He would find the faith on the earth when He comes again (Luke 18:8).

The picture I have described above is not pessimistic but biblically realistic and anyway our hope is not in a rehabilitated world that is passing away but in the coming of Christ and His visible and regenerated kingdom on earth (Hebrews 9:28). Beyond the “birth pangs” then is a new age of peace and joy in a world finally free from war. We are also not going to lock ourselves away with our “end time prepper provisions” and hope for the end to come. This too is certainly not biblical. No, we are going to do everything possible to call people out of the world to the cross of Jesus since this glorious Gospel will be preached in all the world as a witness and then the end shall come (Matthew 24:14). We have good news to preach and we had better do so now, more than ever, for indeed the “night cometh when no man will work.” (John 9:4).

Even so Lord Jesus come!

Malcolm Hedding

 

(1) Preterism is an eschatological teaching that was compiled in 1614 by a Jesuit Priest called Luis de Alcazar. He did this specifically in order to counter or resist the Reformation in that Luther, and the other reformers, accused the Pope of being the Antichrist. The strategy was simple: If all the Antichrist passages of scripture were fulfilled in AD 70 then it is not possible to accuse the Pope of being an Antichrist!

(2) The fact that the Antichrist is destroyed by the coming of Jesus a second time is consistent with Daniel’s prophetic oracle and constitutes proof that the events of the end time, as described by Matthew in his 24th chapter, were not entirely fulfilled in AD 70 and beyond. They have more than one fulfillment and are therefore what we call “progressive prophetic fulfillment”.

 

Faith to live by

Faith to live by

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional Weekly Devotional

 

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who

             comes to God must believe that He is a rewarder of those

             who diligently seek Him”

                                                            Hebrews 11:6

Definition

Faith is the unshakable belief in the reality and existence of God and that He is able to do anything and everything when diligently petitioned.”

 

  1. The nature of our commitment to Christ

The Bible tells us that when we surrendered our lives to Christ we handed our lives fully and completely over to Him. We surrendered possession of ourselves to the God of heaven!

“… and He died for all, that those who live should

             live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died

             for them and rose again.”

                                                    2 Corinthians 5:15

 

            “Or do you not know that your body is the temple

             of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have

             from God, and that you are not your own?”

                                                       1 Corinthians 6:19

  1. The nature of faith

The messianic believers referred to in the book of Hebrews did not expect to be persecuted and abused when they embraced Christ as their Lord and Savior. They expected a different outcome and so when these difficulties arose they were disappointed and considered abandoning their faith and returning to Judaism. Consequently the writer of the book exhorts them to continue and to have faith in the reality and goodness of God.

That is, he desires that they should entrust themselves to Him and in so doing he reminds them of the Prophet Habakkuk who, having encountered the same dilemma, was told by God that he would have to trust Him by walking in faith. Hence we have the famous statement, “The just shall live by faith.” True faith does not determine the outcome but believes that whatever the outcome it will be for our good and that God has indeed answered (Hebrews 10:32-39). Actually, this is precisely Paul’s point in Romans 8 where he declares that in fact we do not really know the outcome of our prayers but we confidently entrust ourselves to a loving God who will cause “all things to work together for good” for those who love Him (Romans 8:26-28).

Hebrews 11:1-6 is a response to Hebrews 10:32-39 and a preamble to the great passage that follows, which many call the “role call of faithful people.” In other words the context of the chapter will reveal what his definition of faith in verse one of chapter means i.e.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the

             evidence of things not seen.”

It is very important to note that in every case here mentioned faith is a positive response to the self-revelation of God. That is, people accomplished great things not because they knew the outcome of their journey but because they knew the God of the journey! This is precisely why the more one knows the Bible so the more one comes to know who God is. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

Consider this: Abraham did not know where he was going when he left Ur of the Chaldeans and he did not know that Isaac would be spared when God called upon him to sacrifice him. Enoch so trusted in God that, though he was well pleasing to God, he did not know that God would one day take him. Moses’ mother trusted in God but did not know that when she put Moses in the river that Pharaoh’s daughter would find him and adopt him. Neither did she know that she would end up nursing her own son. She had faith in God but did not know the outcome. Some of these great saints trusted God but never expected to be sawn in two and then all of them died having never experienced the full outcome of their faith (Hebrews 11:13). They had faith in that they fully entrusted themselves to God, as they were not their own, and they left the outcome to Him.

In fact it must be noted that Abraham’s biggest mistake was to seek to determine the outcome of his walk of faith by manipulating the production of a son through one of his servants called Hagar. He could not trust God and consequently his attempt to “determine the end” gave birth to Ishmael and with him came a huge conflict that still rages to this day. Despite all of this Abraham remains a great man of faith who was able to trust God fully with his life.

Seeking to determine the outcome is actually like playing “Russian Roulette.” It’s a dangerous game and while sometimes it works in most cases it doesn’t and the consequence are not good to say the least. For instance, in the case of healing, not even ten percent of people prayed for are healed in the way that we hoped for and firmly affirmed. A lot actually die even though time and time again we pronounced them healed and urged them to hold to this positive confession. The burden placed upon these people is immense and truly quite cruel but we persist in this call to faith because we have falsely believed that this is what faith is. It is not! Please remember that even Jesus struggled with the outcome of His faith journey and had to learn to entrust Himself fully to God His Father:

 

“…who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up

             prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears

             to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was

 heard because of His godly fear, though He was a

             Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which

             He suffered.”

                                                Hebrews 5:7-8

Faith is the unshakable and unswerving belief in a righteous and good God who will always answer our prayers but in His way. To determine the outcome is to play god. Another way of putting this is to say that, faith is believing in God in such a way that you can feel, see and touch Him. (1 John 1:1) When you have this “substance” in your hand you know that God will do everything you ask of Him, but again, in His way. Oral Roberts, the great healing evangelist of the last century, recognized that the majority of the people he had prayed for in his great healing crusades were in fact not healed. Of course a small percentage were but he was honest and concerned enough that he embarked upon the building of a hospital.

  1. The challenge of faith

Do you have faith? That is, are you able to entrust your self to Him so that He can do anything He likes with your life; even heal you by taking you home? This is precisely where we come apart because we strongly desire to determine the outcome because we are, rightly so, consumed with compassion, sorrow and yes self-interest. We want our friends and loved ones to continue with us and so we construct prayers that are more a commentary on these desires than real faith. I have seen so many people, even dear friends of mine, go through this “spiritual obstacle course” and then when they died and were not healed, as was so fervently affirmed, discouragement, confusion and even anger at God set in. On the other hand, as a Pentecostal preacher, I have indeed seen many people instantly healed and set free from their terminal illness. In this I have greatly rejoiced but it was faith in God and not in the outcome that did this and also Jesus gives us the gift of faith by the Holy Spirit whereby we just know for certain that if someone is prayed for they will be instantly healed (1 Corinthians 12:8, Acts 14:8-9). This is all true and we must affirm it within the boundaries that our faith is in God and He has the right to do with His children as He pleases.

  1. The foundations of faith

We need to live our lives in such a way that God can help us in our time of need. We must be true to our verbal commitments to Christ and we must live holy lives. We have handed our lives fully over to Him as Lord and Savior and so we must live in harmony with this act of dedication. Failure in this regard means that God Himself may well strike us down with physical weakness, sickness and even death. No amount of so-called believing faith will reverse this except real and sincere repentance. Paul warns of this when giving instructions about taking the communion elements. We must take these “judging ourselves” meaning that we must consider our commitments to Christ based on what He did for us on the cross. To “eat of the bread and drink of the cup in an unworthy manner” will invite God’s correction and judgment (1 Corinthians 11:29-30).

Conclusion

There is a real need for biblical counseling and care when dealing with people who are facing real and serious life threatening medical challenges. We must tell them the truth and thereby affirm that God will answer their prayers and those of the ones who stand with them. Indeed He will heal them but in three possible ways: by reversing the condition instantly, by the use of medical attention and treatment and by taking them home. In every case they will be healed because they entrust themselves to Him. And, in every case, He will deposit His supernatural power, strength, blessing and peace upon them.

Sometimes the end of this struggle can appear to be so definite and hopeless especially if the person we were believing God to heal died. However an understanding of the word “end” in the Bible fills us with real comfort and hope. In the Greek this word “TELOS” does not mean the end of the matter as of something definite and conclusive but rather it means the conclusion of a set of circumstances that actually pave the way for the “new” to come. An example of this is that the end of the age is not simply to bring the present age to a close, but to allow a new age to emerge wherein peace and righteousness will prevail and dwell. Those who come to an end in this world are passing into something glorious! We do indeed mourn the loss of their presence but we also rejoice in their triumph in Christ.

May we forever hold this in our hearts!

Malcolm Hedding

The Word of God

The Word of God

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional Weekly Devotional

 

                        “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord God,

                         that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine

                         of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the

                         words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to

                         sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and

                         fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not

                         find it.”

                                                            Amos 8:11-12

We live in a time when our world, that is the western world in particular, is literally awash with numerous and various translations of the Word of God and then to add to this we have all sorts of study aids to the Bible and commentaries that seek to address every book contained in this scared volume. And yet, for all of this, we still have congregations that are in the most part biblically illiterate and cannot in truth tell one much about the books of the Bible that they read. There is indeed a famine “of hearing the words of the Lord.”

At one level we must ask, “Why is this so?” And the answer would probably be: Because the people of God are not really encouraged to “receive the word implanted” (James 1:21) or thoroughly ingested by those who occupy our pulpits. Rather the people of God are encouraged to read snippets of the Bible every day that essentially disinvests them from acquiring an understanding of it contents. By contrast the Bible itself encourages us to dwell in its pages “day and night” and Jesus likened our intake of it to that of our daily consumption of food (Matthew 4:4).  Actually, to be honest, we all eat too much and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had too much to eat of the Word of God. Sadly this is not true and in the main, despite all our translations and various “helps” the average Christian knows very little about the Bible.  Paul well knew the power of the Word of God and so when he finally took leave of the Ephesian Church leaders he said, “So, now brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:32). There is indeed a famine of the words of the Lord!

The context of Amos’s statement above is that of a people who, having the Word of God, have nevertheless not taken its pages seriously and have consequently lived in wicked ways and have even sought for ways to undermine its pages in a manner that it appears to condone this wickedness. Jesus understood this twisted practice of the human heart and said in response, “ But why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46)” Today the biggest threat to the true Church is the wider church itself in that many denominations and movements that once, by their founding fathers, supported a Bible believing faith have actively sought to dismantle this by condoning behavior and practices that are in reality clearly condemned by scripture. This has impacted their understanding of marriage, family, sexual purity and mission in the world. Peter, in his day, encountered these same people and warned his readers, in his second epistle bearing his name, about them (2 Peter 3:14-18). Churches that remain true to the Word of God are therefore despised and ridiculed by so called fellow expressions of the Christian faith and this encourages the ungodly to join this throng of abusers. The God of the Bible warns through Amos His prophet that these evils will bring upon those who practice them a famine of the words of the Lord. They may seek the words of God and in so doing “run to and fro” but it will not help until they repent and amend their ways.

So then, apart from there being human reasons for which the Bible is a closed book to many in the Church today, there is in fact a heavenly reaction to neglect, wickedness and distortion that locks the truth of the pages of scripture from them. In short the famine “of the words of the Lord” is sent from heaven as judgment or as an instrument of correction with the hope of bringing them to repentance. We should note this carefully.

In the end we must humble our hearts before this amazing book and approach it with great reverence because it is fully inspired (2 Timothy 3:16) or “God breathed” (2 Peter 1:19-21) and we should cultivate reading habits of it that enable us to absorb, understand and know it contextually. When we do this, as the Psalmist declares, it will become “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).” Indeed we should read all of Psalm 119 in order to appreciate the extreme importance of living in the Word of God.

When I first came to Christ He showed me that I needed to live in the Bible and read at least ten chapters of it a day. I did this by the grace of God and consequently my life has been transformed and my understanding of its pages has been enlarged. I then agree with David when he wrote the following:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel

                         of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners,

                         nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight

                         is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law he medi-

                         tates day and night.”

                                                            Psalm 1:1-2

 Malcolm Hedding

 

Israel in the New Testament

Israel in the New Testament

Blog

 

            For many “there is the settled conviction that the Israel of the

            Old Testament has been ‘replaced’ or ‘fulfilled’ in the Church

            of the New…but the Jewish nation as a whole is no longer

            God’s chosen people and must be regarded, treated and judged

            like any other. The Jews as such no longer have a place in the

             plans and purposes of God…I believe that Israel has a future in

            God’s purposes; that He has not finished with Israel; that neither

            the people nor the place have been left behind in God’s purposes.”

 

                                                                        David Pawson

Today old and yet false theological schemes are emerging that challenge the biblical credentials underpinning Israel’s modern day restoration. The recent 70th year celebrations of Israel’s independence coupled with the democratic decision of the American people to move their embassy to Jerusalem has ignited intense debate in the wider Church about these things and consequently these false teachings are being asserted again. They all have one thing in common and that is that Israel’s modern day restoration enjoys no biblical significance and is nothing more than a political coincidence. The teachings of which I write are the following:

Replacement Theology

Fulfillment Theology…and,

Dominion Theology

In the first the Church is now the sole expression of the purpose of God on earth and as such is the “New Israel of God.” The Jewish people, having failed God, have forfeited the promises made to them in the Abrahamic Covenant and especially those that promise them everlasting possession of the land of Canaan for the purpose of world redemption.

In the second Jesus in His own life and body fulfills all the promises that God made to the Jewish people in the Abrahamic Covenant including those that have to do with bequeathing to the Jewish people the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession.

In the last of these, that is Dominion Theology, the Church is destined to take dominion over the world and set up a type of global expression of Christendom. Once this has been achieved, in that the seven mountains of human activity have been Christianized, Jesus will come again. In other words the Church ushers in the Millennium before Jesus comes and therefore there is no need for a restored Jewish state in the land of Canaan to do so. Only a restored Church can accomplish this and thus this false teaching asserts that a new type of empowered Christian is going to emerge who will bring the Kingdom of God to the world in a new and dynamic manner. Consequently, once again, Israel’s modern day restoration is irrelevant and therefore enjoys no biblical credentials. Dominion Theology is nothing more than the emergence of an old teaching called Post-Millennialism.

Those holding to these theological positions constantly claim that the New Testament does not support a restoration of the Jewish people to the land of Canaan. In fact for them the New Testament does just the opposite in that it teaches that in the light of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection men everywhere should now repent regardless of ethnicity, race, position or gender. This of course is true but only partly so! Indeed a careful examination of the pages of the New Testament will reveal a different story. A story that will confirm that no part of the Abrahamic Covenant has been abolished or adjusted and that God still remains faithful to all the promises He ever made to the Jewish people in it. This in turn means that Israel’s modern day restoration enjoys significant and amazing support from the New Testament scriptures. Consider the following:

 

  1. The Abrahamic Covenant

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac,

 and he who had received the promises offered up his only

 begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall

 be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up,

 even from the dead, from which he also received him in a

 figurative sense.”

                                    Hebrews 11:17-19

 “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He

 could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying,

 “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply

 you.” And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the

 promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath

 for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God,

 determining to show more abundantly the immutability of His

 counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things

 in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong

 consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope

 that is set before us.”

                                    Hebrews 6:13-18

It is the Abrahamic Covenant that promises the Jewish people the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession for the purpose of world redemption (Genesis 13:14-15; Genesis 17:7-8; Psalm 105:7-12). The Covenant was conditional upon Abraham’s obedience and was certainly “cut” with him by God in an unconditional manner. That is, God alone undertook to fulfill all the promises and obligations in it (Genesis 15:12-21). Indeed Abraham, having been put to the test, gave full obedience to the command of God that required that he, Abraham, should sacrifice Isaac upon whose existence all the promises of land, of a coming Messiah and of global salvation (blessing) rested (Genesis 22:1-2).

 

Abraham believed that God would still fulfill these even if Isaac were taken from him leaving him with no heir. Because he demonstrated unswerving faith in the promises of God, God considered Abraham His friend (2 Chronicles 20:7) and swore by Himself and by His word that He would be faithful just as Abraham His friend had been faithful! Theirs was a true friendship based on the fact that God does not lie. Those espousing the errors outlined above believe that God did in fact lie and has broken His friendship with Abraham by dishonoring His promises that He made to him. In fact the truth is just the opposite because God remains faithful to all His promises to the Jewish people because of His friendship with their Fathers, which includes Abraham! Paul picks up on this in Romans 11 when he makes a remarkable statement that goes like this:

Concerning the Gospel they are enemies for your sake, but

             concerning the election (that is, God’s call over their lives)

             they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and

             the calling of God are irrevocable (that is cannot be changed

             or removed in any way).”

                                                Romans 11:28-29

In Galatians 3 Paul recognizes that while the Abrahamic Covenant has many parts actually as a Covenant it cannot in any way be annulled. It is one Covenant and no part of it can be changed because God is faithful and a true friend to Abraham.

“Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a

             man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds

             to it. Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made.

             He does not say, “And to seeds” as of many but as of one, “And

             to your Seed”, who is Christ.”

                                                Galatians 3:15-16

For Paul then the Abrahamic Covenant cannot be adjusted in any way (‘no one annuls or adds to it”) but this is exactly what the preachers of these false teachings do. They adjust (add) things that the very nature of the Covenant precludes one from doing. Here Paul is referring to that part of the Abrahamic Covenant that promises that salvation would come to the world through one individual (seed) and not by the giving of the Law given to the many (seeds). In this vain, Luke admits that the many holy men of God who came to Israel, to fulfill their ministries, did so because of the promises that God made to the Jewish people in Abraham. So, John the Baptist came into the world precisely because God remembered His people and His promises to them in Abraham and this too was true of Christ. Speaking of whom he records Mary’s Song as follows:

“He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has

             sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, in remem-

             brance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and

             to his seed forever.”

                                                Luke 1:53-55

And then of John the Baptist he records Zacharias’ Prophetic word as follows:

“That we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand

             of all who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers

 and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore

 to our father Abraham: to grant us that we being delivered from

 the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness

 and righteousness before Him all the days of our lives.”

                                                Luke 1:71-75

So, it is clear from these passages that the apostolic writers recognized that in the Abrahamic Covenant God made promises to the people of Israel that embodied land, deliverance, the coming of a herald to the nation and the arrival of a Messiah. In short in sending John and Jesus to the people of Israel God honored the promises that He had made to His friend Abraham.

In Galatians 3 Paul firmly entrenches the unshakable nature of the Abrahamic Covenant because for him:

It promised salvation in Christ and not by means of the Law (Galatians 3:16).

It is everlasting and cannot be annulled (Galatians 3:15).

It is, by virtue of being in Christ, the means to receive the promised Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:14)…and,

It is, by virtue of being in Christ, the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations (Galatians 3:29).

It is to be noted that in Galatians 3 Paul is seeking to combat those who were seeking to destabilize the Church by insisting that aspects of the Law had to be observed in order to be saved (Galatians 2:11-21). These people were called “Judaizes”. Paul is thus demonstrating that 430 years before the Law was given on Mt. Sinai God promised in the Abrahamic Covenant that salvation would come to the world through a “Seed” (Christ) who by His death on the cross would save us from the curse of sin (Galatians 3:13). The Law, writes Paul, serves as a  “tutor to bring us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24). Paul is definitely not here debunking the other parts of the Abrahamic Covenant that bequeath to the Jewish people the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession as some erroneously assert. He was only dealing with the issues surrounding the Law and Grace.

  1. Jesus

 Jesus, recognizing the call of God over the nation of Israel, said:

“Salvation is of the Jews.” John 4:22

 This is an amazing statement in that in reality Jesus is the only Savior and yet He recognized that the Jewish people, in their historical journey, undergirded only by the Abrahamic Covenant, are the custodians of redemptive truth. Even Jesus needed their historical journey because by it the Word of God was produced that gave Him context and credentials for His redeeming work. That is, “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). Paul reinforced the same truth in Romans 9:1-5.

Jesus knew then that the Abrahamic Covenant had made promises to the many (the Jews) and promises to the One who would bring blessing (salvation) to the world, that is, Himself. There is no other way to interpret this statement and to therefore assert that somehow God held true to all His undertakings to Abraham for 2000 years until Jesus came, and then broke them is ludicrous but this is precisely what these three false teachings claim.

It follows then that the modern day restoration of Israel is in fact no coincidence but the outflow of God’s word to “the fathers.” Also, the fact that salvation is of the Jews; means that their existence, revelation, land and Messiah are testimony to the irrevocable call that God placed over their national destiny for the blessing of the world. This call has nothing to do with racial superiority but rather with blessing (salvation) for the nations and yet the nations, and even segments of the Church, resist this call and thereby in fact resist the purpose of God. This was true of old and it is true today. Israel exists only for the blessing of the nations; even the Arabic speaking nations! If only they would recognize it.

It is also worth noting that Jesus foresaw an end-time return of the Jews to Jerusalem (Luke 21:24) and, in response to a question put to Him by His Disciples, affirmed that a day would come, known only to the Father, when the “kingdom would be restored to Israel” (Acts 1:6). This clearly implies a restoration of the Jews to Canaan with Jerusalem as their Capital!

 3.Romans 9, 10 and 11

             “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ

             for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,

             who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the

             glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the service

             of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and

             from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is

             over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

                                                            Romans 9:3-5

 It must be, and should be noted, that according to Paul the “Israelites” remain the recipients of “the covenants” and “the promises” and Paul is confirming this to Christians who come from a Gentile background. If this be true then who are we to assert that this is actually not true since he writes this after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus? The false theological systems, mentioned at the beginning of this paper, actually claim that by the death, burial and resurrection of Christ the promises made to Israel in the covenants and especially in the Abrahamic Covenant have been altered, changed or abolished. Paul uses the present continuous tense in this passage meaning that all the covenants and promises related to Israel remain intact.

Actually the very fact that Paul dedicates an extensive part of his Roman Epistle to the question of Israel is highly significant in that this alone proves that the Jewish people take and hold a unique place before God in terms of His plan for the salvation of the world. If they were like any other nation, as is asserted by these false teachings, why would he bother for certainly he does not write about Australians or Canadians in this way. What is it about the Jewish people that demands a unique explanation? The answer is the following:

They are, “beloved of God”, even in their unsaved state “for the sake of the Fathers(Romans 11:28b). That is, God has remembered all the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and will not renege on them. Indeed He will not go back on His “election” of them. Meaning that though unsaved they remain “elected” in the sense that they carry the redemptive purpose of God in their national destiny.

They are, “enemies of the Gospel for your sake” (Romans 11:28a). This is a remarkable statement in that it acknowledges that Jewish unbelief has enabled the Gentile world to hear the Gospel. No other nation on the earth is an enemy of the gospel for our sake and this underlines the fact that even in their unbelief the Jews are a blessing to the world!

They are, not cast away from the promises of God because they “stumbled” over Christ and so they have not been disinvested from anything that God said to them. Paul writes:

“I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall (be dis-

             inherited of God’s promises to them)? Certainly not! But

             through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has

             come to the Gentiles.”

            Romans 11:11

 In fact their “fall” is “riches for the world” (Romans 11:12). Again, if God has no other destiny for them as a nation then why would Paul write in these terms and indeed he goes on to declare that their recovery, spiritually speaking, will mean for the Gentile world “life from the dead” (Romans 11:15). That is, the literal resurrection of the dead for Gentile Christians. Jesus is not coming again until the full restoration process now unfolding in Israel will be completed. Peter agrees fully with Paul on this as, when preaching to the “men of Israel”, he said:

            “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be

             blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the

             presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who

             was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until

             the times of the restoration of all things, which God has spoken

             by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.”

                                                Acts 3:19-21

 They are, to be dealt with by kindness and appreciation. Paul warns that if Gentile Christians despise unsaved Jews and deal with them arrogantly and wickedly God is watching and will in the end even remove them from the olive tree of salvation! This is serious business and it is here that vast segments of the Church have failed and have sinned before God and continue to. This reality only pertains to the Jewish people and no other nation and this in turn indicates that as a nation they stand in a unique place before God. We should read the following words of Paul very carefully:

“And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being

             a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them

             became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do

             not boast against the branches. But if you boast, remember that

             you do not support the tree, but the root supports you. You will

             say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.”

             Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you

             stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if god did not

             spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.”

                                                Romans 11:17-21

 The historical record of Christian Anti-Semitism is wicked, awful and overwhelming and much of it has been driven by the three false theological systems mentioned above. These false teachings all have one thing in common; they disinvest the Jewish people of their unique national destiny and consequently assert that there is no biblical significance to their modern day restoration. The New Testament refutes these false claims everywhere. And so, finally:

They are, the recipients of a destiny given to them in Abraham that is “irrevocable(Romans 11:29). The word “irrevocable” is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as: “That which is unable to be changed or reversed.” Paul here affirms that when God called forth the Jewish people in Abraham He made promises to them that He would never, in any way, go back on. How strange it is then that so-called Christian theologians have no understanding of what the word “irrevocable” means. Actually they have the same problem with understanding the word “everlasting” found in the pages of Genesis.  This theological ineptitude has robbed the Church of truth, displeased God and brought much misery to the Jewish people. If only we had properly read the New Testament after all, as concerning the Jews, “we share in their spiritual things (Romans 15:27)!

 Important Summary

 It is important to note then that any careful and honest examination of Romans 9,10 and 11 will reveal that unbelieving Israel enjoys a relationship with the God of the Bible that, while not saving, is real and unique and that no other nation on earth enjoys. According to Paul unbelieving Israel is “beloved for the sake of the fathers”, has not been rejected or “cast away”, enjoys a calling that is “irrevocable” and those who mistreat or despise her could be removed from the olive tree of salvation. This is New Testament theology and consequently two questions have to be asked:

  1. On what biblical grounds does unbelieving Israel enjoy these blessings? The answer is, and can only be, the Abrahamic Covenant…and,
  2. What other nation currently on the earth enjoys such blessings and protections? The answer is, none!

Malcolm Hedding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Divorce and Remarriage

Divorce and Remarriage

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional Weekly Devotional

 

There is no doubt that divorce for any and every reason is a plague in the Church and more important still it robs the Church of God’s presence and blessing. To be honest, I fear that, apart from the intervention of God, the “horse has bolted” and not much will be done to rectify the matter since many preachers and respected leaders are themselves guilty of license in this area. This matter must be urgently addressed by the Church, for no other reason than to attract the blessing of God to our communities. Nothing is more destructive to society than the break- up of Christian homes. This must be stopped, families must be secured with biblical values but where there is divorce this should be governed by scripture; all the time avoiding very hard-line or ‘anything goes positions’. Above all we must call for restoration and clothe ourselves with compassion. It is with this in mind that I write this paper.

 

For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce

                                                 for it covers one’s garment with violence,” says the

                                                 Lord of hosts….”

                                                                                                Malachi 2:16

                                                “Furthermore it has been said, “Whoever divorces his

                                                 wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say

                                                 to you whoever divorces his wife for any reason except

                                                 sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and

                                                 whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits

                                                 adultery.”

                                                                                                Matthew 5:31-32

                                                “But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or

                                                 sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has

                                                 called us to peace.”

                                                                                                1Corinthians 7:15

The Historical View

While early Church leaders had differing views on the matter they generally moved between two positions on divorce and remarriage. That is, divorce and no remarriage as in Tertullian…or…divorce in the case of “uncleanness” or adultery and remarriage as in Origen’s view. He stated that God’s divorce of Israel for spiritual adultery and remarriage to the Church is proof of this (Jeremiah 3:8)! Thomas Aquinas (1226-1274) put in place the Catholic Church’s position on divorce. That of no divorce at all but divorce could be had if the aggrieved party requested an act of nullification from the Pope called, “Divorce a Vinculum Matrimonii.” As you know, Henry the eighth requested this, didn’t get it and consequently broke with the Catholic Church. Strangely, God was in this so what does this say to us?

This view is called the “kinship View” as it views marriage as a sacrament by which the parties are made one and thus in dissolvable (Genesis 2:24). They are one both spiritually and physically. The other Orthodox Churches generally followed this view and within their fraternity it is still embraced today though many of their adherents have abandoned it because of the infiltration of secularism.

The Protestant View

This is where it really becomes intriguing because the Protestant Leaders departed significantly from Rome on this matter as they accused Rome of propagating their view to lure people into celibacy in order to fill the dwindling ranks of their monastic orders. So, the Protestant View, held by great leaders like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Erasmus and Martin Bucer, was that divorce could take place for fornication (which in the original language (pornea) means adultery, homosexuality, bestiality and sexual perversion of any type) and that the offended or innocent party could remarry but only in the Lord. They also viewed what is called “Paul’s Exception” (1Corinthians 7: 14-15) as referring only to abandonment because of one’s faith in Christ and thus they also permitted remarriage. The word used by Paul, in terms of not being in bondage, has roots indicating that one is not in “legal enslavement” and implies remarriage, but only again in the Lord.

As a matter of interest Luther and Calvin spoke of marriage as a civil institution thus over-reacting to the Catholic position of a sacramental institution. This Protestant view is also called the “Majority View” but there are evangelicals, who subscribe to what they call the “Minority View.” That is, the minority view in the evangelical world which holds that divorce for adultery is permissible but not remarriage. The same rule applies to “Paul’s exception”, if applied.

Modern Day Evangelicals

In this world scholars like William Heth, Professor of New Testament and Greek at Taylor University, are the most influential. Heth held the minority view for years but now holds the majority view and writes:

“The majority of evangelicals believe that Jesus permits remarriage after divorce for marital unfaithfulness (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9) and that Paul sanctions remarriage when Christian spouses are abandoned by unbelieving mates. (1Corinthians 7:14-15)”

People like Heth believe that “sexual union is the indispensable means” for the consummation of marriage both in the Old Testament and the New. This union when violated by adultery is destroyed and this is why Jesus permitted divorce, and in his view, remarriage. As to the latter he writes, “Jesus cannot be construed as teaching an “exceptionless absolute” based on Mark alone because both Matthew and Paul qualify Jesus’ prohibition of marriage after divorce.” Moreover, in terms of the full biblical record valid divorces always included the right to remarry but only in the Lord. So then it can be deducted that valid divorces are God’s permissive will for some innocent victims of divorce. It must be stressed, in my view, that Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:9 clearly justify divorce for immorality and permit remarriage, only in the Lord. Having said this it seems to me that it is inconsistent with the heart of God, as revealed in scripture, that the innocent partner in a broken marriage not only be subjected to the trauma and distress of such a break up but also be barred from the joy and comfort that comes to one in a “new” marriage.

Adultery actually must be persistent and everything must be done to seek restoration rather than divorce. It is precisely here that the modern day Church has lost its way. Divorce is permitted for every reason under the sun and the consequence is that many lives, mostly children, are brought to ruin. God hates it! In Jesus’ day, as the records prove, a man could divorce his wife for burning the food; and they did! Many then believe that Jesus spoke strongly about this to rectify the chaos and place the emphasis in the right place just as He did when He said that one has to hate one’s family if you wanted to follow Him (Luke 14:26). We must then embrace a very high view of marriage since it is not simply the union between a man and a woman but also a reflection of the unity and love that exists between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Our emphasis should not be on forgiveness but faithfulness and the boundaries of marriage, divorce and remarriage have to be significantly narrowed.

For me then both sexual immorality and abandonment violate the fundamental biblical components of marriage and, if persisted in, leave the innocent party without any options at reconciliation. They are consequently not in legal bondage and can remarry but only in the Lord. These “two violations” have to be carefully and thoroughly proved and serious efforts at restoration should be our first and paramount concern. The evangelical theologian Hays writes:

“The Church must recognize and teach that marriage is grounded not in feelings of love but in the practice of love. Nor is the marriage bond contingent upon self-gratification or personal fulfillment. The church has swallowed a great quantity of pop psychology that has no foundation in the biblical depiction of marriage…….When marital union is rightly understood as a covenant, the question of divorce assumes a very different aspect. Those who have made promises to God should trust God for grace sufficient to keep those promises, and they should expect the community of faith to help them to keep faith, by supporting them and holding them accountable.” Blomberg adds:

“Married people should always be seeking ways to improve and enhance relations with spouses rather than wondering how they can get out of commitments they have made.” This is so very true!

Conclusions

I have now, chiefly because of my research on this matter, come to the “Majority View.” I have to recognize that this view was held by great spiritual leaders that we admire and quote in our sermons all the time and yet I admit that there are still issues to be resolved. However, I believe that people holding my view have to be stricter and stronger in asserting the biblical position on this matter and I believe that people holding to the “Minority View” need to be a little more caring for the injured and innocent party since great preachers have also held this position. Both positions have been long accepted views within the evangelical Church. This is like grappling with God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Once we hold a strong position either way we tend to be unbalanced. I am guilty of this as we all are from time to time!

Malcolm Hedding.