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BULLETIN THIRTY ONE
The Lord, the Grace and the Law
In Galatians 3, the apostle Paul is inspired to write on a singular and particular theme. It is the distinctive character and predicted fruition of the Gospel. Citing Genesis, where God repeatedly makes it clear the promise of the seed of blessing to all the earth is through his seed, the apostle cites Christ as the operative seed, the fulfilling person (as made clear for example in Genesis 3, to be one particular person). To Him then comes the potency of blessing, for Him, and by Him and through Him. Hence, when it comes to the blessing to all peoples, it is indeed to ALL, Jew and Gentile, and through any other possible cleavage among those redeemed (Galatians 3:28).
How foolish, then, for them to trust in the law when it is through the Spirit in the name of Jesus, the Christ, that the blessing is to be, emphatically not just to one people, but to ALL the peoples of the earth. There is a place for the law (cf. Romans7:7-13, Galatians 3:21-25).
If you want to correlate this personal promise of God to Abraham, with the giving of the divinely inspired Law through Moses, then you have to realise there are substantial differences in type. One is person to person, as some telephone calls used to be, so that it did not count for cost unless you got the particular person whom you nominated. It is between just one, God, and just one, a specified man, called Abraham. NOTHING, Paul stresses, can possibly inhibit or 're-interpret' this promise with all the solid power of God to back it, and the integrity of the Lord to sustain it, and its factuality past all quibble or conundrum (Galatians 3:17).
The ONE, the more recent, was made with angelic and Mosaic intermediaries, applied to a nation which included a theocracy with dietary, military, political, medical and various matters, and was set with time bounds (as in Deuteronomy 18:15ff.), focussing the coming transcendent prophet who would categorically supersede it directly. The other, the covenant with Abraham by contrast, was timeless, boundless, bonded between God and His servant without annulment, but with confirmation. Time could not wither it nor the years decay. Such is the message given by God through Paul, expository of the realities concerned.
Thus "the law cannot annul the covenant" (Galatians 3:17), which was "confirmed before by God in Christ", the Messiah and chosen seed then to come (cf. Psalm 2), inviolate, unconditional, of one kind only, a direct word, clear, certain. The law was good, as good as any that could be, but limited in nature, and in this case with a tuition phase, to teach the exceedingly sinful nature of sin (Romans 7:7-13). Coming of age, brings beyond the people beyond this preparatory, spiritual phase. The promises and the premisses are both involved, from Abraham, both of the inviolate, unqualified.
Much in the law was preparatory to the blood of Christ as the ultimate sacrificial atoning offering, and was ceremonial in kind, now fulfilled to the uttermost, whether in sacrificial culmination in Christ, or the former t ype of theocratic rule. Much was indeed purely moral, as the 10 commandments for example, and God does not change (Psalm 102). The ceremonial and the theocratic is gone, since their addressees are temporarily gone (Romans 11:12,23ff.). The seed for blessing all nations has come, thus achieving the multi-national faith result direct.
The nation, pending rebuilding in a new covenant framework, is gone but will be rebuilt; but theocracy is no longer the mode for the spiritual dispersion of information. In the interim before return, Israel is in dispersion, and when it returns it will be to move towards the new covenant spiritual culmination (Jeremiah 31:28ff., 33:11-17, when in those days and at that time, the Messiah predicted in the flesh from the house of David will rule the earth). There are then, things permanent and unsurpassable on earth, and things transient, however much they apply till their specialised work is done. There are things that are so because God said so and thre is no fulfilment of much of such; and in some things, it is temporary because God also indicated this. You have to keep your eye on the road signs, and not either invent them or apply those of 100 miles back to those which you are currently passing through. As Paul says, it is necessary rightly to divide the word of God, which he does lucidly, as in Romans 11, for example.
THE SEED and the Spiritual Significance
What then ? The law was never the mode of salvation, being of a lesser office, though it did depict it in part of it.
When however it comes to the spiritual blessing, it is transcended by the "seed" through whom all nations would be blessed.
As to the famed Galatians 3:20 verse, the point appears this: God is one being, whereas in a mediatorial situation such as the Law was, with Moses and angels at work in the transmission, there was multiple participation at various levels. Not only so, but the blessing phase of the promises to Abraham focussed a seed, also one. There, it was simple: one God, one spiritual blessing to all nations, one seed to accomplish this as in Genesis 3:15, Christ identified as that seed, His Gospel the way into that blessing, so that to and through Him it came, and has come for all who receive it. This is the predicted charter, and it is indeed to all nations. Here there is direct promise, no mediator, and even the operative Messianic seed is deity in the flesh, above all nationalities and aristocracies, abasements and elevations.
Romans 11 speaks in its turn, on a specialised topic, in its olive tree parable. Israel was a branch in this righteous tree (allegorically), and was taken out because of its predicted disruptive and discursive penalty (Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 30-32). Gentiles continued the work of mission, commission and proclamation from the Lord (cf. Jeremiah 16:13-21). These Gentile nations, containing the implant into the tree of faith from which Israel had been temporarily removed, were warned not to be carried away with themselves (Romans 11:18ff.), not to be highminded, and to remember the discipline that Israel suffered is capable of having a correlative one for them!
Of this, now that the years gather for the return of Christ (cf. Luke 21:24), they appear to be growing as forgetful, even inventively idolatrous as Israel was, and to add, not even willing to SEE what happened! Their blindness is special and many nations in morals, education, mystic pseudo-science and religious inaninity, irrational, highminded seem to be seeking some negative sort of prize as the most provocative to the Lord, that it is possible to be, as the great confrontation comes into place, and all gather increasingly, as in Revelation 19:19, against the Lord.
This neither removes that portion of the Gentiles as predicted in Jeremiah 16, nor of Israel, as predicted so often as in Jeremiah 31,33, and Ezekiel 36-39 *1. from their place in the site of the Saviour, ready for pre-judgment removal when the secret time comes (cf. Matthew 24:26ff., Revelation 11, 13).
Moreover, says Paul as apostle to the Gentiles, Israel is coming back to WHERE IT WAS. Of course, it will conform to the tree in its godliness, and not vice versa! So ALL Israel will be saved.
If Israel's departure from the tree were glad in opportunity for Gentiles, what now when it returns, for it will be life for the dead! (cf. Jeremiah 31:ff). Where it was and what it was is restored to it, but in new terms, in which the full-formed Gospel is the mode of operation, and a secret, separate segment has nothing to do with it. But the promises of God have much to do with it!
PAUL stressed this: that the promises to Abraham were direct, one to one, personal and incalculably sure (cf. the last part of Jeremiah 31 and 33 for the enormous emphasis on this certainty regarding Israel as in its own character, though based on the Gospel in that time of return, through a staggeringly large scale conversion as in Zechariah 12:10-13:1. The land was to THE GENERATIONS of Israel, without limit. Hence this too, by the very same argument as induced by the apostle, cannot be removed while the earth lasts. The prophets made this exceedingly clear and emphatic*2
Indeed, not only is
this as itemised in the reference above, a matter of the prophets Moses
(Deuteronomy 32), Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, with Micah and Habakkuk, and
outstandingly in amazing detail, Zechariah, who specifies the terms of the
coming conversion in Israel, when they come back to their land from the
dispersion, at the gates of the end of the Age, but it is presented crisply by
Jesus Christ, but with a summary certainty that is impelling.
THE TWO STEP SCENARIO WITH THE NATION
Thus in Matthew 24, He speaks of the coming destruction of the temple, stone from stone, just as He had lamented on the way to His cross culmination, to the women how they would sorrow at the coming horrors, fit result of attempted deicide, to which the bodily resurrection in its own time, put paid. He indicated as in Luke 21:24, a simple follow-up to the result of the destruction of the temple, and the crushing of Israel which it implied.
Just as the one point, was severely negative, stone from stone in devastation which duly occurred, so the other which would follow, was like a sweet dream (such as was the experience of Jeremiah in this field). No dream were the simple facts. Christ predicted that the time would come when the "trampling down" of Jerusalem, which would continue long, would at last finish. THEN, this was not only to come but an assured and definitive indication concerning His OWN return (following theirs, the signal given for His). This, His re-entry personally to this stricken earth as King as so often predicted during the era of King David a millenium or so before, and following this by other prophets (as in Psalm 2, 67, 102, 110, Isaiah 11, 65, Micah and so on) was as clear as His first coming, duly dated by Daniel, for clearing the sin bomb, worse than any atomic one, which would send all to hell as stricken, separated sinners, had He not so acted (Isaiah 53, Psalm 2, Ephesians 2, 4).
What was that time indication ? His word was that WHEN this delivery of Jerusalem back to Israel from under the FEET of the Gentiles occurred, THEN His own return would be "near". Thus not only was it as categorical as the predicted destruction of Jerusalem when Christ spoke, listed as to come, but as He acted to crush in judgment, so He elected to deliver in mercy, when the time came.
Thus there was a line in a sequence: kill the king (crucifixion as in Psalm 22's prediction) and thus lose the kingdom very much as in Micah 5:1-5. Then they would return, this guaranteed with the same divine assiduity as their going, they would come back to their towns and cities and vineyards and mountains (Jeremiah 33:9-17), return to re-occupy the city by grace only (cf. Jeremiah 36:22), just as all good things from the Lord are from and through divine grace.
Thus here was, and is a major, unequivocal if distant, and simple index to His own movements, and the implant of His kingdom when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (cf. Isaiah 11, Habakkuk 2:14). Small wonder that the Arab, the Islamic States and not a few others like Iran are so keen to bomb, obliterate, exterminate, genocidally bring to nothing this Israel. What is it like ? It is like a war in which the opposing troops to those of the King cannot rest until they kill the messenger of the General! But it is the General Himself who is to be feared, Israel in this the marker, and of course, in its promised sustaining on return (Zechariah 12), there is an index of things to come when the NEXT STEP, its conversion in large measure and the Lord's action against its obsessive-seeming assailants, come to a sudden beginning and end!
So the living word indicated that for those through whom the written word of God had been sent over the millenia, there would be this double axis, devastation and restoration. The former notoriously has happened to Israel, and now, the latter is under way. The harbour is being approached by this divine power, which makes, not when people make faces, but when judgment elects.
THE SPREAD OF THE INTENSITY OF GRACE TO EVERY PLACE
So the word of God is UTTERED, and then DONE, and we have seen both of these elements at this time, leaving us as the world ferments like a restless alcoholic beverage, as if itself become drunken, awaiting judgment. ALL its elements combine legally, judicially, sequentially, in the realm of test and quest , satiation and repudiation till the trials are past and the judgment sits (as in Revelation 20 and Daniel 7:8ff., and of course John 5:19-22). Meanwhile, predicted, performed, the Gospel continues unchanged (Galatians 1 making this so very clear), without addition or qualification, the love of God mobile through it; and the grace of God overwhelmingly declared in word and deed, ministers mercy so that judgment should not swallow up all, but give free pass to heaven through saving faith and regeneration resulting (Ephesians 2 and see for example, Nutshell).
In the special context of Galatians 3, there is another element. The law given to Israel in such detail, had a tutelary, a disciplinary, an educative program, in part, to teach the exceedingly awful character of sin, by its very inflexibility and unwavering justice and in part to show the pervasiveness of righteousness. Its continuance outside such limited areas noted has been pinpointed above. However, there is another difference and it lies in the mode, concerning the law where it is declarative of the very character and way of God, and not merely symbolic and fulfilled, or theocratically not now relevant, where people of all nations are Gospel citizens of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Philippians 3:20ff.).
NO LONGER is there this same KIND of tuition. The point is well made. Now the moral bastions invariable in the law, remain as always, of God and with Him and given to man, just as were other aspects of His image. But in the grace that was always in place, and now is charged to shine like terrestrial light, a searchlight from the celestial, in dazzling brilliance, NOW the law in all its unfulfilled forms (for it is all the word of God cf. II Timothy 3:16) is to be APPLIED with that grace by which the Gospel is placarded. For example, take Colossians 2:16-23. The Greek text in the overwhelming majority refers to SABBATHS. There were a number of these in various ceremonial contexts. This is no longer applicable where fulfilled.
They are no longer required, being part of the symbolic ceremonial. Moreover, the relevant aspect which is in view in Colossians 2, is that of "a shadow of things to come," preparatory and illustrative of what in time would be fulfilled. THE Sabbath was emphatically not of this kind, itself the notable exception to the less impelling as in Jeremiah 17, where it, this rest day, is of so enormous an importance and signification, that it could be used as a total test for the future of the city: WOULD they, COULD they just obey it for now ? or would this sudden proffering of mercy be allowed to lapse! That was the question.
This was not surprising in their disobedient midst. THAT day was part of the creation of man, since the time when he was made in the divine image; and God worked 6 days and rested on the seventh. This is explicit in Genesis. There is reason for it, this day of rest for man in His divine image and that is made the criterion of the reason. The idea of removing this singularity, this rest day, is as far as the past is from the future, or the creation is from the coming consummation. THIS is not a shadow of thigns to come, but of things insitutional, about as far from that as possible. It is not at all the topic therefore of Colossians, and about as far from it as it is possible to go in kind.
It does not fit the specifications, then, in Colossians 2:17, but is entirely and absolutely different. That message does not therefore concern it at all, since it is at the opposite end of the spectrum NOT concerning things to come in its institution, but things done, and indeed, things involving the constitutive NATURE of man, To violate his own nature is always an option, but not basically a godly one! It is sin which is to be violated, to the nature of our construction. It might even be compared to the stated load for a bridge: say, not over twenty tons by a Notice; and then whining about the need to ignore this twaddle and send off 50 ton loads. Man is inventive. It is possible, like any other rebellion against what the Lord has done, how it was done, and why it was done. It is not wise..
But there STILL now is a difference in the way the day of rest is to be experienced. Firstly, it is to be realised, against some rather pugnacious traditions, that the sabbath was made for man, and not vice versa! (Mark 2:27). The illustration of plucking casually in passing along a corn field speaks much on the attitude involved. The Son of Man, further, is LORD of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8), and necessarily so; for has not HIS sacrifice in PERSON, God as man, left behind the other elements to be found in the creation, as if they were almost like dust in comparison. They are far more than sym bols, but for all that, in terms of sacrifice as such, that of the only begotten Son of God is far more than the energic labours of instituting the creation in all its magnificence.
It is not really hard. If the day of rest is institutional, and not 'fulfilled' in that you do not fulfil the action of creating, then equally, the sacrifice of Calvary is redemptive, far more from the Lord than even institution. Hence one keeps the day of rest, but allows the Lord of the Sabbath to exercise His Lordship (as if one really allowed!), in making the rest that from the labour of redemption, salvation, sin-bearing to death and resurrection of His own body. If Thus it has to move to that of actual and bound rest, such as the disciples had, felt and realised when Christ appeared, resurrected in their midst. The rest day now bears on the greatest labour of God for man, the very centre of sacrifice and salvation.
the one is like a large endowment for an art gallery, in some ways, the other is like fighting and dying in a battle to preserve those who depend on one. Moreover, when that One is God, and exhibits His love, it is uniquely precious and effectual as well.
This has some results. Hence there is a certain naturalness, about that rest on the Sunday, the NEW day which is now memorial not to making, but to dying, not to presenting, but preserving, not to offering life, but redeeming it. Its very change to the day on which rest was granted to the anxious and the mourning by the predicted resurrection of the body of Christ on the very day, the third, as predicted often enough by Him, is like a shower of perfume in Spring, a caparison not of scent but blood.
Grace pervades, enables, is the foundation of life, this heralded, proclaimed, set forth like some vast proclamation to a ll peoples. Thus some people may find this or that restful on the Sunday, and others may find such things trivial or demanding. What is excluded is not making it a day of rest by a roving law chiefly, now to convict. That is simple, flat contradiction. HOW you interpret it OUTSIDE business, is a private matter. The spirit of the thing must be preserved, but the grace with which each considers the other is like fresh ocean air, after smog. But it is not restful to deny the way you were made, when God makes it a direct stipulation resulting from it.
Rest is not interpreted as a normal day of labour, without something like pettifogging perfidy. Thus the rest day is not annulled, nor is it rigorously impelled, but in grace and sincerity carried out with relish for what after all is a wonderful gift to man (cf. Isaiah 58:13-14); and it is moved to bring it up to date with the vast and invaluable new work of the Lord, to make man workable and capable of life without condemnation.
CEASE FROM MAN*3
AS GUIDE AND GLORY,
AND NEVER CEASE TO DELIGHT IN THE LORD
So there are these elements in the fruition of so much in so many ways, and the continuation of all that is independent of the theocratic speciality when it is gone, and the sacrificial and allied ceremonies, now they are fulfilled. Indeed, theocracy and symbolic preliminary ceremonies are all past, their time fulfilled. What remains is the WORD of GOD. That is not only profitable in all its parts (II Timothy 3:16), for study, but to be fulfilled to the very jot and tittle, as Christ indicated. God is not slack or slovenly because He is gracious. Those are very different matters.
This, as also seen for example in Isaiah 34 and 59:21, Joel 2:22, this rest day, is to be done because of one thing. It is this. God said it. That is final. As Paul shows, he establishes the law. Its applicability is now narrowed but its usefulness is not lost, in what remains TO BE FULFILLED or NOT RELEVANT to fulfilment, since it is an obligation continual in nature, and not a prediction at all!
It is good to see each emphasis, each specialised topic in its place, and if possible, better yet, to find the acute or even astute harmony of them all. Here, the great, transcendent prophet was to come, and He did; Israel was to come back to its place, and it did. The supernatural seeming wars leading to vast victories by the eventually returning Israel (Zechariah 12) would be covered in time, in that very Israel, duly restored to its place as before it lost it by chronic and captious rebellion; and they have been restored and indeed the land that was desolate has blossomed like the rose.
Many would seek to interfere and clamour, to attack, assault, decry Israel, and this too they have done almost as if they were passionate thus to fulfil the predictions of God; but far otherwise has been their reason. Indeed it was even predicted that this preoccupation with Israel and its affairs, this seething about, would become a heavy burden to THEM! and it has done so, this also.
Nothing is left out. It is all fulfilled and remorsely being fulfilled.
Indeed, apart from the obvious enemies, the UN and at times even the USA have been too strong in virtually belligerent demands, the former in condemnations and vastly unjust. But what might be said of Obama, still President to this day, who after promising Israel that the USA would look after it, and demanding they should not destroy the Iranian atomic efforts, then himself making alliance with IRAN. What of that ? simply this, that that very same Iran was spouting, rather like Sennacherib of stricken fame and name, about the total defeat Israel would suffer, as if HIS word would stand and the word of God which then came from Isaiah in the matter would fail (Isaiah 38). Sennacherib famously fell, even stricken by his own flesh, in the temple of his god. There is also specific annotation of the next lot for us, in Ezekiel 38-39, when the final assailant group of nations blooms with its flowers of evil and arrogance.
The word of God did not fail. It never does. It never will. That is the nature of the Almighty and His honour, integrity, power and provision. You can always rely on Him, since He is faithful, not bending to accommodate His book, His work of creation.
But again, what of the President Obama move to ALLY himself with Iran in Middle East wars actually going, so that intelligence might be shared! What of the additional fact that this particular religion in that particular nation of Iran, was speaking of what amounts to genocide for Israel. To make collaboration in battle with THAT kind of enemy, after that kind of assurance to that kind of effect, it is beyond all efforts to be found to distinguish it from treachery.
Man may and does vary, and as we read in Isaiah 2:22, Cease from man, for in what account is he (that is, in comparison with God, man who breathes). But the word of God does not vary, and it is when Israel's strength is gone, that God will come as in Deuteronomy 32:36, come with incomparable power as in Micah 7:15ff, and paralleled in Ezekiel 38-39.To what end will He so come ?
It is to end the bullying epoch, deliver what then once again are converted people in this staggeringly precise phase of specialised history, so that they may become His active people. He declares that He will so TEACH the oppressors about the fact that they neither made the truth, which in much they witlessly affirm, nor its source, nor can they know it till they surrender to Christ, who as Creator, has suffered much, and that definitively, to effect salvation. It is to Him who is longsuffering, but as you see for example in the case of Isaiah 37-38, acts when it is apt, and often does so suddenly, but NEVER contrary to His word, or with omission of it.
The word of God written, it has place and displaces what denies it; the word of God incarnate, He took the place for all who might receive Him, and bore the sin of all who DID SO, having in unspeakable grace, foreknown these before this world and its sin so much as existed.
As was said of Jesus Christ when on earth: He has done all things well (Mark 7:27), both astonishing the witnesses and fulfiling the identikit provided in the mass of predictions concentrated on His coming. It is a glorious affair, like rest when needed, like salvation as needed, and there is none who as God can countermand the need; and if some want to arrogate divine power, it is merely the rustle of leaves falling in Autumn, with much colour, but no substance, designated to rot.
See Bulletin Twenty Eight for example.
See also Bulletin Fourteen
The Decisive and the Definitive,
See also useful list at:
World Amiss, Heaven Aboard Ch. 11
See on this, for example:
World Amiss.. Chs. 8, 9, 11, 14;
Department of Bible
... Volume 11,
Ch. 13 and Ch. 19;
the last a dialogue.
In Mercy Outdistances Judgment Chs. 9, 16.
See for example on the painfully
inept departure from the AV rendering of Isaiah 2:22, in the NKJV, and the
excellence of its rendering in the AV, Department of Bible ...
Volume 7, Ch. 3. The typical, topical, trenchant,
thematic core in Isaiah 2 at this phase is the utter folly of relying in any way
at all on mankind, in his exalted erraticism, convoluted arrogance or manifold