Redeemed or Forgiven?
Part 8 of 8
This final article in this series will cover the topic of obedience.
This is very lengthy so I have broken it up onto 2 pages. You can find the 2nd page entitled “Part 8 (continued)”, by clicking the menu screen.
This article is not necessarily designed to present any certain theme or conclusive doctrinal point. There are many aspects of obedience so my intention is to cover all that I can about it although it may not contain any specific order. It’s impossible to cover everything about obedience on a blog page so there will be a great deal that I cannot cover, but this article is not meant to stand alone on the topic of obedience. This article is in conjunction with the 7 previous articles on the subject of redemption and I would recommend them in order to understand the progression leading to this article because they lay the groundwork for these conclusions on obedience.
Not everything in this article is meant to be in direct opposition to the Hebrew Roots Movement. We may agree on some points. If anything, I will show what is lacking on the part of the HRM, as much as I may show what is wrong. If we agree, then “Praise the Lord”.
I believe I am fully qualified to address this issue due to the fact that my life has experienced the up’s and down’s, and the extremes of obedience and disobedience. I have dealt with this issue on a personal level and I have experienced this issue in the world of religion, churches and church bodies, but I don’t intend to give anyone a sign that leans toward one side or the other. I preach Christ and Him crucified. That is the only sign I give and it is up to each person to build upon that for themselves and understand where it applies to their life.
Obedience can be the substance of Christ-likeness, or it can be the substance of cults, heresy, and spiritual abuse. It’s important to know which one of these realms you are living in or subject to in your life.
I’m not scared to talk about obedience. Why should I be?
And with that said, I do believe that a great percentage of the Hebrew Roots Movement, are in fact, the ones who are afraid of obedience despite the fact they try and monopolize the realm of obedience and morality. The HRM is not prepared for people who will “up the ante” on them when it comes to sin and obedience. The HRM believes that there is only one way to obey God, and that would be through the Law. If anyone differs with the HRM on this point, they are usually accused of lawlessness, disobedience, and/or rejecting obedience altogether. God bless them in all that they do, but I find their perspective and interpretation to be quite limited even though I don’t discredit their sincerity and steadfastness.
Believe it or not, there was a time when I would have taken sides with the HRM because of their stance on sin and obedience, but I have come to learn what the reality and substance of sin, righteousness and obedience really is. For many years, I lived according to the type of fundamentalism and sentiments about obedience that we see in the HRM until I came to realize that much of it was only just that: sentiments, fundamentalism and ideology.
There is no way to accurately and respectfully determine, what a person’s motives, attitudes, sentiments and passions are when it comes to their walk with God, therefore, I have tried to refrain from initially labeling the HRM along these lines. The real issue comes down to 2 things:
-Object and Substance
At the end of the day, the HRM does not present Jesus Christ, the work of the Cross, and the Holy Spirit as the objects and substance of our life when it comes to dealing with sin, righteousness and obedience. They may present these 3 things as ordained and credible means to a desired end, but they do not present them to be an end in themselves.
No matter how right a person may be in their faith, motives and sentiments; it is all lawlessness if it is not aligned with what God has ordained as the structure, substance, and object of His will.
I am all for someone desiring to obey God, but we can’t kid ourselves into believing that God has His stamp of approval on it simply because a person believes that they are upholding a Biblical concept. True obedience is in relation to the to revelation of righteousness through the means that God has designed and structured. Obedience apart from this revelation and structure is lawlessness.
OBEDIENCE IN RELATION TO REDEMPTION-
How does all this fit in with this series of articles on redemption and forgiveness?
Our redemption is foreshadowed or paralleled in the story of the Exodus. In Christ, we have the same format of pre-existing bondage, Passover, death to Egypt/sin in the Red Sea/water, the promise of inheritance, context of righteousness and sin, and testing in the wilderness and a Prophet to lead us.
The HRM will affirm these similarities and parallels to a point, but they stop short of believing that there is any other workmanship of God in Christ that is foreshadowed in these similarities. Let’s look at some examples:
“And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
And at the giving of the 10 commandments:
“And God spoke all these words, saying:
‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage’.”
I truly believe that these verses have a paralleled application for those who are in Christ, but here is the problem.
The HRM would like me to say that “we weren’t delivered from physical Egypt so therefore we don’t have to keep the commandments”, but I never say that. However, the reality remains that we were not delivered from Egypt.
Our redemption is not the same as that of Jacob/Israel.
The workmanship of God’s redemption is not the same for us as it was for Israel. It is different, it is better.
It is the HRM who appears unwilling to obey God in relation to His workmanship through Christ. They are not seeking a better workmanship of God that was foreshadowed in the Exodus. The fact remains that many see more credibility to the format and function of obedience to the Law in relation to the work of redemption from bondage to Egypt than they see in the format and function of obedience in relation to the work of Christ’s redemption from bondage to sin.
That’s the bare naked truth and brass tacks of this whole series of articles concerning redemption. I’m raising the bar and it’s the HRM who refuses to comply and obey with the structure of obedience according to the workmanship and redemption of God. They are willing to admit to a improved sacrifice for sins but they seem reluctant to admit to a better redemption that produces better obedience. It’s a classic case of new wine into old wineskins because they are unwilling to relinquish the old format of redemption and obedience to God.
GOD’S WORKMANSHIP OF REDEMPTION-
Riddle me this:
Can a man be made morally pure from within, apart from the Law, to the satisfaction of God and His moral precepts, or is a man dependent on the Law for him to satisfy and meet the moral demands of God?
What do these verses tell us?:
“So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, PURIFYING THEIR HEARTS BY FAITH.”
“as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
(2 Peter 1:3-4)
Let’s get even more specific:
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
The workmanship of God is for us to be created in, and transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Let’s read:
“…of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is CHRIST IN YOU, the hope of glory. HIM WE PREACH, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to HIS WORKING THAT WORKS IN ME mightily.”
Everyone might agree with this but there is a problem concerning who Jesus is and His function.
LIKE FATHER LIKE SON-
Carefully consider this verse:
“Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel’.”
One of the main positions of the HRM is to say, that because we are to be like Christ, and He lived according to the Law, then His function in our lives is to help us live according to the Law.
The HRM believes that Jesus is a portrait of the Law and they put forth this idea in a number of ways.
1)They hypocritically set aside their opposition to the trinity, and make Jesus co-equal with the Father in order to make the commandments spoken of in John 14:15 the same as the commandments in the Law.
2) They incoherently and inconclusively suggest, that because Jesus is foreshadowed in the OT/Law; the Law is the Premier of God and Jesus is the administrator and representative of it.
-The HRM can never come to a conclusion as to whether Jesus serves the Law, or whether the Law serves Him.
-They can’t decide who is greater in substance, Jesus or the Law?
-They can’t decide whether the Law is an expression and exhibition of God/Jesus, or whether Jesus is an expression and exhibition of the Law.
This hazy portrait of Christ results in a misunderstanding about the workmanship of God and obedience according to it.
The HRM swings wildly at random between Jesus as God and Jesus as the human Prophet. These roles are not necessarily separate but the message of the Bible places Jesus in a distinct role.
In John 14, Jesus begins His whole message about obeying His commandments by responding to Phillip’s inquiry to see the Father. Jesus responds by saying:
“…He who has seen Me has seen the Father…Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the FATHER WHO DWELLS IN ME DOES THE WORKS.” (vs. 9-10)
Jesus claims right out that He is the portrait of the Father and that His life is an exhibition of the Father.
Nowhere in this passage does Jesus say that His words are a recitation of the Law. This passage is the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18 where God says that He will raise up a Prophet and put His words in His mouth.
Everything that Jesus describes in this passage is about His immediate relationship with the Father at that present time. Jesus declares that His works, words and obedience are intimately tied to the workings of the Father within Him, right there and then. This construct of the relationship with the Father is what seems to get swept under the rug by the HRM.
This construct and portrait is what Jesus is giving as an example to us but the HRM wishes to tell us that Jesus was trying to show us how He obeyed the written Law of Moses, and in other words, that He was a portrait of the Law.
In John 14, the error of the HRM is in how they separate obedience from the structure that Christ presents in the description of His relationship with the Father. The life of Christ is nothing less than the exhibition of the life of the Father. The workmanship of God is that we exhibit Him also through the life of His Son.
When people think that Jesus is a portrait of the Law, then it’s no wonder why they think that their life should be an exhibition of commandments, but if Jesus is a portrait of the Father, then the goal of our life is to exhibit the Father through the Son through the Spirit.
EXTERNAL LAWS AND OBEDIENCE-
“but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.”
God is not some deity who simply has the best rules to follow.
What source of morality is there besides God Himself?
Never do we see Jesus claiming that He was obedient to an external format and duty the way the Law is and was to the people of Israel.
Where and when did God come up with His “Law”?
A natural man or religious man can only see and value the commandments in the Bible as they pertain to duty, honor and morality, but it’s a rare occasion for a person to see them as a revelation about his own character and the character of God.
The natural man fails to bring into question the condition of his life in light of the commandments. He champions them as an external standard that he feels men should align themselves with for various and multiple reasons, but that is usually the extent of his perception. He sees right and wrong as something that pivots on the alignment and obedience to that external standard.
The whole point to this in regards to Romans 9:31-32 is that the people had sought a standard and not the source or substance of that standard:
“Now faith is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11)
The HRM almost always puts God or Jesus Christ as an instructor, teacher or leader of a created standard. No matter how much they attribute and connect this standard to God Himself, at the end of the day, there is still a huge disconnect between God and His standard. This is why Jesus Christ is often viewed as an instructor of this standard rather than the substance of God Himself revealed in the standard.
People who are not born again have no substance within so they must always have or create some type of format to follow. There must always be a god, entity, or body of concepts that they give life and substance to, in order to create a mediation or mediator to align with and adhere to.
The glory of Jesus Christ coming to earth eradicated the separation between God and His people through an external standard.
“…and we beheld His glory”
“And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
Even more than Jesus coming to earth, we now have the Holy Spirit to all the more, eradicate and destroy the dependency on external elements and conditions for obtaining God’s righteousness.
Rather than viewing Christ as the substance of righteousness; He and the Holy Spirit falsely become a type of assistance or facilitating “boost” in keeping a supposed external or separate standard.
LAWS WRITTEN ON THE HEART-
When the Bible speaks about God’s laws being written on our heart, it’s an obvious metaphor with spiritual implications. The heart itself is also an obvious metaphor for the inward nature of a person.
I’m not going to criticize someone or judge their motives based on their terminology or lack thereof, but this metaphor is being thrown around very loosely by those who want to spiritualize the idea of an external laws and obedience.
It’s a very serious thing for God to prophesy that His laws would be written on our hearts in a new covenant apart from the likeness of the covenant with Moses (Jeremiah 31:32). God is talking about a covenant, not just something like an attitude change or “love” for the commandments.
A covenant comes with a whole bunch of conditions, dynamics and logistics.
We have 4 passages in the Bible that speak of a transfer of laws, statutes and judgments from something external to something internal. These passages are:
2 Corinthians 3:6-9
It is up for debate as to whether Jeremiah 31 has been fulfilled yet or not but Ezekiel and Corinthians both speak of God’s Spirit being the major factor and Jeremiah speaks of something different to the covenant with Moses.
Despite what a person’s interpretation is to these passages, the real debate lies in trying to determine if these passages are speaking of a new type of obedience to same format and commandments of the Law, or if this is a new obedience to a new ministry of righteousness.
Many in the HRM will tell you that this is a new obedience to same external righteousness of the Law. They claim that God has put something WITHIN them in order to keep something that remains WITHOUT.
This idea suggests that God’s statutes, laws and judgments are still externally revealed and presented, but they have become written on our hearts because they are attached to some type of inward passion or motivation to keep them. Is this true? Is the job of the Holy Spirit to create passion and motivation to observe the Law? Doesn’t Ezekiel 36 say that we will be caused to keep God’s statutes because of this new Spirit put with in us?
This sounds very very spiritual and I don’t wish to take this positive approach to God away from anyone, but a person has to decide what God is desiring us to focus on. Does God desire for us to focus on our inward passion towards Him, or does He want us to focus on the Law?
Remember that “heart” is a metaphor. Circumcision of the heart is presented in the NT (Romans 2) as our new identity as God’s people rather than external circumcision.
The Greek word for law is nomos(nomw) but this word is philosophical in nature, “…and thus was amended by Plato and other philosophers, who asserted that nomos was, or at least could be, based upon a process of reasoning whereby immutable standards of moral conduct could be discovered, which could then be expressed in specific laws.”
(nomos. (n.d.). © Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.. )
Nomos comes from the verb nemo- meaning to “dispense or allot”.
It’s almost impossible to refine, define and teach the level or degree of motivation and passion in which everyone should operate. We can’t teach passion; a person must seek and gain that for himself. Laws (nomos) are standards of moral conduct and obedience is of the will. You can’t teach passion, but you can teach revelation, so the idea that laws written on our hearts is about passion or motivation is controversial, but if we look at laws on our hearts, as being moral standards(nomos) written(nemo-dispensed) on our hearts, then we are on to something bigger and better.
(I’m not trying to force an interpretation from the Greek, but even if you used Hebrew, torah would still be compatible.)
This would make laws written on our hearts as something we obey through internal revelation and understanding. When a person defines laws written on our hearts as passion unto a external revelation, then what they are essentially saying is that there is no more revelation of righteousness apart from the Law. This would make the Beatitudes and words of Jesus Christ to be of none effect.
If we consider God’s Spirit; Jesus said that He will teach, guide, convict and speak for Christ who speaks for the Father (John 14/16).
-Paul says that we no longer serve according to the letter but the Spirit (Romans 7:4-6).
-Paul says that righteousness is revealed apart from the Law (Romans 3:21)
-Paul says that righteousness is by the Spirit/faith and not the Law (Galatians 5:5, 5:18)(Philippians 3:9).
So when those who use the idea of laws written our hearts as a means of promoting the Law, it becomes a complete misuse of the phrase because it still leaves righteousness as something according to the Law and separate from the believer when it comes to the revelation of it. The passion of our lives comes from the life of Christ within is and our unique standing before God in Him. Our watchful eye should be on this alone because everything pleasing to God is found therein and springs from it.
If you have passion for the Law, then more power to you, but I have one question. How did you get that passion?
By keeping the Law? Or did you come by that passion by being made right with God through Jesus Christ by faith?
Is your job now, to keep the Law or keep that passion?
The reality of life is that people do what is right because of their relationship with Christ, but you will lose that passion sure enough as the sun rises and sets. Where people fail is that returning to that passion can seem hard so they feel if they will keep doing what that passion made them do, then hopefully that passion will return by doing those things. This is the birth of self-righteousness, and these people will pile on every supposed right thing in order to deceive themselves into thinking they have returned to the first fruits of their faith. They must continue to hold on to their works or whatever else consoles them, with every ounce of their being, or everything is truly lost, but it’s not if they would only let go.
if they don’t, then with every dependency on signs and works, the revelation and sign of Christ and Him crucified grows more dim within the heart and passion degrades to religious zeal and human effort, then ultimately…bitterness.
Many in the HRM deny the fulfillment of Jeremiah 31, but those in the HRM who believe that it has been fulfilled, still deny that there is any greater substance and revelation through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit when it comes to God’s righteousness. They still believe that righteousness is by the Law no matter if they believe in some type of transposition of that Law to the heart.
When I was conversing with someone in the HRM who believes that Jeremiah 31 is still future tense, I asked them if they believe that the laws which will be written on our hearts will include the words and interpretation of Jesus in the Beatitudes, or will those laws only include Mosaic laws?
They couldn’t answer it because I don’t believe, that they believe, that Jesus Christ offers the premier exposition and interpretation to the morality and righteousness of God.
You see, my question puts some HR people in a bind because they view Jeremiah 31 as a sole promotion of the Law. In doing this, they would have to either deny Christ’s words as greater in substance and revelation, or they would have to admit Jesus Christ offers or adds a different approach to understanding righteousness, and if they admit this, it calls into question the content and context of the new covenant and its timing now that Christ and His words are involved.
Ask someone who promotes living under the Law whether or not the words and interpretation of Jesus will be included in the fulfillment of Jeremiah 31? Then ask them why or why not?
Many of those who believe in the Law as the end all be all for obedience will most likely dance around this question because it invokes the idea of seeing and obeying God through inward compulsions and revelations. This completely shatters the image they have created of their obedience according to the outer man that they can see and do without any responsibility to God’s call upon the inner man.
ABRAHAM’ OBEDIENCE TO AN EXTERNAL STANDARD??
The first clear-cut example of a life of obedience is found in the story of Abraham.
Abraham was not just one of many who fell under a universal set of laws to obey.
Abraham had a personal covenant and relationship with God.
God chose Abraham and God already had a purpose in mind. Do you know what that purpose was?
God gave Abraham a son, but more importantly, God gave Abraham 2 things:
1) A revelation of God
2) A ministry to the world
Abraham’s personal relationship with God goes to show that there is an intended purpose in obedience which would later be fulfilled on the basis of Christ and Him crucified.
The HRM may agree whole heartedly with the idea of a purpose in obedience but they reserve the Law as the only means of fulfilling this purpose, but the covenant/law of Moses came after Abraham.
The Law cannot be reserved as the only method of God for securing what He has purposed when the Law did not enter before Moses and also because the Bible says:
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)
It simply says that the Law could not perfect all that God had purposed when it comes to righteousness.
“For Christ is the end of the law for RIGHTEOUSNESS to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4)
Like Abraham, God has to deal with us on a personal level because sin and darkness resides with us in a uniqueness to our own individuality. The story of Abraham is an outline of what God wants to work in us when it comes to a revelation of Him and a revelation to the world through us.
Nowhere do we see God giving arbitrary and random commands to Abraham. God established a relationship with Abraham on faith and the subsequent commands were uniquely designed to solidify that relationship and bring about the work and purpose that God pre-ordained.
The mystery of Abraham’s life is not in his obedience. The mystery of his life is that God came to him and chose him. God chose Abraham to work “His”work.
Abraham believed God and obeyed, but Abraham was still lacking in revelation of God, His purpose, and His ability.
God commanded Abraham and Abraham obeyed God. That is very simple and not to be overlooked, but God did no throw down a list of laws and give Abraham a certain amount of time to keep them. God’s commands progressed as Abraham’s revelation of God progressed. Each time Abraham obeyed God, he let go of himself little by little and in doing so, he laid hold of God and an understanding of Him, more and more.
The object lesson that we should take from the story of Abraham is that he walked and talked with God directly rather than indirectly through surrogate or mediation of commands. God formed His will and purpose in Abraham to be a blessing to all people through what He directly commanded to Abraham, but it’s imperative to understand that God came to Abraham with a pre-ordained purpose and that purpose took a turn for the wrong whenever Abraham took it upon himself to work out that purpose. The uniqueness of God’s relation with Abraham wasn’t meant for his cousin Lot or anyone else. God did not tell Abraham that random commandments would be his assurance. He told him quite the opposite:
“…I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”
God’s relationship with Abraham was two-fold. It secured and formed the revelation of God and His purpose within Abraham. It brought Abraham to a place where he could say through revelation and confidence:
“…My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering…”(Genesis 22:8)
This is all about revelation. Abraham originally obeyed God because of faith, but now he is obeying God based on a revelation of God. Abraham now understood that there was a finished work that God would fulfill. Abraham was simply walking in it. Oswald Chambers explains the idea that if Abraham would have been a fanatic when it comes to obedience, he would have actually gone ahead and sacrificed Isaac, but Abraham was concerned with listening to God rather than viewing his relationship as a list of commands. Abraham was not an arbitrary and religious commandment keeper; he walked and talked with God and therein was the context of his obedience.
Abraham obeyed “God’s voice”.
The second aspect of God’s relationship with Abraham was the security and formation of blessing to the rest of the world:
“…’By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice’.”(Genesis 22:16-18)
We have been given this two-fold construct of revelation and ministry/blessing through obedience in Jesus Christ. Let’s take a look at this next section concerning this.
**Please click the menu screen to find the second half of this article entitled-Redeemed of Forgiven? Part 8 (continued).