When I go to Jerusalem, I still get goosebumps.
That was the good news in church today (as I write this). Pastor was talking about how God put His Name in Jerusalem making it the most unique place on Earth. God never removed His promises from Israel and so He is still with them today.
Last week, Pastor started his sermon on Exodus 19:1-25 but he only got to verse 9 before time ran out. He started at verse 10 today and finished the sermon he meant to finish last week.
But since my Sunday school class teaches on each week’s sermon and since the class did get through that portion of Exodus last week, we moved ahead of Pastor and the teacher gave the lesson for Deuteronomy 5:1-5; 22-33.
It was kind of painful.
What do the following say about a “mediator” of the old (first) and new covenants?
- Galatians 3:16-19
- Hebrews 8:6-13
- Hebrews 12:24 and 1 Timothy 2:5-6
-from the Sunday school class notes for Sept. 7th.
If you’re familiar with those verses, you can guess where teacher was going, which is the traditional teaching that the New Covenant replaced the Old Covenant which was “fulfilled” at the crucifixion of Jesus.
Believe it or not, I didn’t breathe a word in this part of the lesson, mainly because it would have taken too long to explain why I disagreed with the entire line of thought associated with this version of replacement theology (New Covenant replacing the Old in the sense that the Torah is replaced by grace for the Jewish people).
The other part is that even though the New Covenant has only just begun to enter our world, teacher acted like it was a done deal. I was sitting with two or three guys and mentioned to one of them (who is currently listening to Lancaster’s audio CD series What About the New Covenant) that the Word (Torah, actually) has yet to be written on our hearts and we won’t all “know God” until the resurrection (and never mind how the New Covenant was only made with Judah and Israel and the complicated explanation attached to how we Gentiles even fit in).
My young friend who is listening to the aforementioned CDs has heard four out of five lectures so far and says he’d like to listen to them all a second time. I’ve been pursuing this line of reasoning for years now and it’s finally just beginning to gel for me. I can only imagine what it’s like for someone really unfamiliar with this way of understanding covenants to be abruptly thrown into it, kind of like learning to swim by being dropped by helicopter into the middle of the Pacific Ocean without so much as water wings.
Another thing in class, and it’s come up before, is how teacher acts like we Gentile Christians were once “under the Law” (meaning Torah). He was talking about that part of Hebrews where we find Jesus entering the Heavenly Holy of Holies once and for all and presenting his own blood as the final atonement for sin. Teacher was saying what a relief that we (Christians) don’t have to go into the Temple once a year and kill an animal.
I did speak up on this one and said that we never had to do that. The Sinai Covenant doesn’t apply to us. We are grafted in under the blessings of the New Covenant which doesn’t require that we offer animal sacrifices for the atonement of our sins (and anyway, only the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, not anyone else, least of all Gentiles).
A couple of times, someone mentioned how when Jesus died and the veil separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was torn top to bottom (Matthew 27:51), that means all Christians can boldly approach the Throne of God without fear.
All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.
–Exodus 20:18-21 (NASB)
Apparently the torn veil means we Christians are better or better off than the ancient Israelites because we don’t have to be afraid of God the way they were.
For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.” And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.
At one point, I thought I’d successfully communicated that Christians often treat God too casually, as if He were a big, cosmic teddy bear. Several people seemed to agree but when it came right down to it, the teacher said that we can approach God, go up and touch Him, and crawl into His lap like He was our big, old, friendly grandfather. Oy.
And the whole point of the torn veil, which I’ll explain in more detail in Wednesday’s review of Lancaster’s sermon on The Holy Epistle to the Hebrews, is that it allowed Messiah as our High Priest to enter the Heavenly Holy of Holies with the blood he had just shed, not that it lets just any ol’ Christian into the Divine Presence in the most sacred place in the Heavenly Court.
To be fair, I just figured that out while listening to Lancaster’s recorded sermon last week, but it makes a terrific amount of sense now, especially with the realization that the New Covenant has been inaugurated but is yet to arrive in its fullness until the resurrection and the second coming of Messiah. We’re still living in Old Covenant times and until the resurrection and we are perfected, no, we can’t enter into the place where our High Priest is. Only he can go because only he has been resurrected.
On the other hand…
As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
–1 Timothy 1:3-7
Maybe I’m pushing too hard and fretting too much over nothing. After all, they’re going to believe what they were taught. It’s a lot to expect that everyone should listen to my interpretation as if I’m always right or something. I’ve learned plenty in church and it’s their church, not mine. All I can and probably should do is put in my two cents worth and let it go at that. Fruitless discussion indeed.
I keep wanting to say that I disagree but I know it would take to long to explain why. And like I said, there really wouldn’t be much point in introducing one controversial interpretation after another.
Next week. Pastor will be going over Deuteronomy 1-5; 22-33 while Sunday school will be one week ahead of Pastor and will teach on Deuteronomy 9. Today, Pastor said that we can’t miss the next two weeks because he has to explain some points he brought up in today’s sermon. One of them was law vs. grace and he said it’s not as simple as there was once law and now there’s grace. I can’t wait to see how he treats this topic.