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The evidence of God’s Grace in the midst of the church must be the presence of those who are prepared to testify about their salvation of Christ through no works of their own. Or else there is no salvation by Grace through faith, but rather it would give way to a salvation, which is really based not on Grace but by works or worse still, by birth. When that happens, you will have a synagogue, not a church, for those who are Hebrews are Hebrews by birth, and those who are children of Abraham are children by the flesh rather than by faith, if their righteousness was based on their birthright through the flesh. A synagogue is composed of those who observe the Law for their righteousness, for to them, faith in God alone is insufficient for salvation.

So, the time has come to clearly delineate the line between salvation by Grace through faith in Jesus alone and the salvation that comes because of the Law. Those who are saved by faith in Jesus are saved for membership into the family of God, for John wrote: Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to be children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.[1] And by what process are they born? It is by repentance and faith first into the Kingdom of Heaven and then into the Kingdom of God as they became born again by the Spirit. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”[2]

For Jews were born by the flesh into the Kingdom of Israel. Before they were old enough to decide for themselves, they were all circumcised in the flesh into the covenant with Abraham. But that covenant of circumcision was only the superficial evidence, for Abraham in truth had already received a greater covenant and a greater circumcision, for it is written: Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness[3] before the covenant of circumcision of the flesh was given: “You are to undergo circumcision and it will be a sign of the Covenant between Me and you.”[4]

The history of Israel proved that the Hebrews circumcised their flesh but did not circumcise themselves in their hearts by faith. As such, the repentance that Jesus called them to, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near,”[5] was Jesus speaking to those who were circumcised of the flesh in observance of the covenant with Abraham that predated the Law of Moses, a covenant that followed a righteousness that came by faith. As such, the repentance that Jesus called for was the repentance not from failure to observe the conditions of the covenant with Abraham, but repentance for they had not believed as Abraham did. As such, it is repent and believe as Abraham did, for Abraham, when he left his homeland, was not looking for a city built by man, but as Paul wrote: he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose Architect and Builder is God.[6] As such, he was looking for the city that would be coming down out of Heaven from God,[7] a city into which entry was possible only to those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.[8] And as such, the impurity, the shamefulness or the deceitfulness that excludes entry is not judged by the book of Moses, but rather by the Book of the Lamb. For the book of the Law of Moses contains the names of all who were born Hebrew circumcised at the eighth day in obedience to the Law, but the Book of the Lamb contains the names of all who believed in the Testimony of God and the Gospel of His Son. As such, both circumcised and uncircumcised are there.

Their purity comes from the pureness of their faith in Jesus. Their shamelessness comes from their lack of shame for Jesus, and their truthfulness comes from the fervency with which they worked for the glory of the One who sent them. For according to their faith in the words of Jesus, they are considered so impure that they must be cut off from God by the Law, and thus, by the Law, they are ones who are shameful and considered in the same boat as those who are deceitful. Indeed, many who have professed and held onto the promise of Jesus in the last 2000 years have died as ones who were deceitful and were themselves deceived, for the Jesus whom they professed is coming soon, did not come before they died. As such, to those who are confident of their righteousness according to the Law and look forward to being welcomed by God in Heaven as if Jesus is never coming back, these are shameful, impure and deceitful. But to Jesus and His Father, they are the ones He is seeking for His city from Heaven.

But those Hebrews, who believed in Jesus in John 8:31-59, were still clinging onto their righteousness as descendants of Abraham, saying, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone.” The moment they said that, they denied the very Law they professed to hold onto, for the Law of Moses was given to the descendants of Abraham after they were set free from slavery from Egypt. As such, they were not set free from Egypt because they obeyed the Law, but were given the Law because they were set free from Egypt. Their denial of the slavery in Egypt excluded them from being Abraham’s children by birth, for all of Abraham’s children through Isaac and Israel (Jacob)[9] were subject to slavery in Egypt, but were as the children of Abraham through Ishmael and Keturah who were never subject to slavery in Egypt. As such, they, the descendants of Hagar’s son and Keturah’s sons, would never have need of a Saviour from God to deliver them from slavery.

Thus, those who are confident of their righteousness by birthright and inheritance of the flesh, in denying their slavery, are liars, which is why Jesus said, “You belong to your father, the devil.”[10] They, the Jews, had to repent so that they could also enter the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom that Abraham was looking forward to by faith. Their repentance was to repent of their lack of faith in what Abraham believed in as the source of their righteousness rather than Abraham’s circumcision as the source of their righteousness. So, when Jesus said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed,”[11] He was speaking to them of being set free from the obligations of the covenant that demands circumcision of the flesh, for Jesus came and is the Kingdom of Heaven that Abraham was looking for by the faith he had before circumcision came.

What do the believing Jews of John 8 teach us regarding to that which we face now? In the same way, we now face many who believe in Jesus, but are confident that they have never been slaves because they are descendants of the church by flesh, their baptism was done like the circumcision when they were infants. No faith was called for and their righteousness comes from an observance of the Law handed down by their forefather who proposed something easier for them, which is, we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.[12] A law that delivered them into a cursed life in which even the Spirit of Grace could not move to answer their prayers, for that would have the Holy Spirit Himself opposing Jesus’ words. Yet like the Jews of John 8, these same believers will never believe you when you tell them they have been living under a curse rather than the blessings of Jesus, for whether by deception or by their own laziness or wickedness, they have not searched the Scriptures for the Jesus they profess, nor prayed in the secrecy of their own torment to the One the Father appointed through whom all may approach, that is, through whom they claim to believe in, Christ. They are just like the Jews who claimed to be descendants of Abraham and that they had never been in slavery, therefore thought they were living in the blessings of God; they do not listen to Jesus but love to listen to James who directs them to the Law for their righteousness. Like the Jews of John 8, they will deny that they are living under a curse and so test God to bless them when they have not listened to Jesus.

The command to “listen to Him (Jesus)” is not so hidden that one cannot find it, for we found it although it took some searching. However, unless one is looking for the t/Truth, and testing out the teachings by the Truth, the love of the falsehood that things have been made easier for us by the judgement of James, will blind those who though they see, will not perceive, and though they hear, will not understand.

They will not understand, just as it was with Moses and Israel when Moses had gone to the Lord’s side, the people called on Aaron to make them a god to worship. We have a much worse situation now. For while Jesus was and is gone, even though He has promised to return, by Acts 15 He had not, and this same spirit had arisen in them, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”[13] Except, Aaron was coerced by the people to make the calf but James needed no coercing to make his judgement, which in the eyes of the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is more evil than the golden calf. As Aaron was to Moses, so James is to Jesus. As the golden calf is to Israel, so the partial return to the Law is to the church. For Egypt had many gods; with idols, Israel took only one, the calf. So, the Mosaic Law had many requirements, but James took only four. The judgement of James is worse than the golden calf, for the calf negated only the work of Moses who delivered them without a carved image to go before him, but the recommendation not to drink blood negated the work of Jesus who shed His blood for us that we might drink of it through faith in His words: “Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the (New) Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins,” after He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them.[14]

The cut is sharp and the line is clear. As the Israelites cannot have even one carved image, so, believers must choose to either listen to Jesus or listen to James. Just as Jews cannot claim to be children of Abraham and to never have been slaves, so those who put their faith in Jesus for their salvation cannot listen to James to receive the blessings. There is no middle ground. So the Book of Grace delineates the battle lines, not the peace treaty. That is why He who came full of Grace and Truth said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the Earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”[15] That sword is the sword of the Spirit.[16] For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.[17] Just as the order was given to the Levites: “Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbour.”[18] So likewise, the strapping of the word of God to our hearts until it overflows out of our mouths through persistent, persevering listening to retain and understand the words of Jesus in ever increasing amounts, through unceasing practise of the word until we are able to expertly handle it, will unleash the word as the sword that it is, and “from now on there will be five in one family divided against each other…”[19]

The blessings can only come through Jesus Christ, for by Leviticus 26, those who “will not listen to Me and carry out all these commands”[20] are punished for disobedience by God and cursed by Moses.[21] Your firm adherence and obedience to the decree and command: “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”[22] will unleash the blessings on all who listen to Jesus, all who repent and believe; but on all who love to listen to James and will not repent but insist that James be preached and practised in the churches, your obedience unsheathes the word of God to punish and even to curse so that there will be a clear demarcation between those who listen to Jesus and those who listen to James.

It is a time of judgement. As James pronounced his judgement in Acts 15, so now we pronounce our judgement in Acts 28:30 and turn verse 31 into the new chapters of Acts. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Not for us the kingdom of Israel and the teaching about James. Choose you this day whom you will listen to and whose words you will practise. Amen


 

[1] John 1:12-13

[2] John 3:5

[3] Genesis 15:6

[4] Genesis 17:10

[5] Matthew 4:17

[6] Hebrews 11:10

[7] Revelation 21:10

[8] Revelation 21:27

[9] Genesis 32:28; 35:10

[10] John 8:44

[11] John 8:36

[12] Acts 15:19-20

[13] Exodus 32:1

[14] Matthew 26:27-28

[15] Matthew 10:34

[16] Ephesians 6:17

[17] Hebrews 4:12

[18] Exodus 32:27

[19] Luke 12:52

[20] Leviticus 26:14

[21] Deuteronomy 28:15

[22] Matthew 17:5; also Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35

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