Hypothesis: The Church is Reborn Israel

One theological question which has been a fairly ambiguous realm for much of Church history is that of the actual relationship between Christ’s Church and the people or nation of Israel which came before it. The Biblical data on this is complex and apparently varied, and the historical issue of the Church as becoming predominantly Gentile doesn’t help. This has led to many different views which we might categorize under four basic approaches:

  • Two peoples of God: In dispensationalism, the Church and Israel are two entirely distinct peoples of God. God chose for Himself a nation and race, Israel, in temporal and physical ways, and He also created a chosen people for salvation, the Church. If there is a connection between the two, it is either exclusively or primarily a spiritual analogy or a historical accident.
  • Replacement theology: Various forms of what we might call “replacement theology” have also been generated, in which basically God rejects Israel after their rejection of Jesus, and He chooses the Church as a new people. A lot changes between the kind of people He chose the first time (ethnic, nationalistic) and the second time (spiritual, decentralized). In this case the Church essentially takes the place and role of Israel in a new way, and “steps into their shoes,” but is still a fundamentally distinct body.
  • One people of God but two Israels: In a third approach, Israel is viewed as having always been internally divided between “true Israel” and “false Israel,” those who were faithful to Yahweh and most truly His people, and those who were unfaithful. In views like this, the Church is to be seen primarily as a continuation of “true Israel,” but now expanded to include the Gentiles. The true Israel and the Church are essentially the same body but existing under different covenants (Old vs. New).
  • One people, period: Finally, there is the approach of direct continuity, in which the Church literally is the same people of God as Israel, only now expanded freely to the Gentiles and without all of the trappings of a nation-state or a ceremonial law. Membership is by faith or (depending who you ask) even also by birth. There exists even in this one body some true and some false Christians, but only one covenant people of God.

None of these approaches in their most basic and pure forms quite strike me as fully Biblical. If seems to me that if we are going to appreciate the full scope of what Scripture says about the Church’s place after Israel, we will need to combine some insights from more than one of these approaches, and they will need to be integrated around some kind of key concept. What key concept do we need? What is Biblical?

My own hypothesis is that the key is resurrection and regeneration. The relationship between Israel and the Church should be conceived in terms of the new birth, of the natural man and the man alive in the Spirit, even at a corporate level. It seems most Biblical to me to say that the Church is Israel born again.

The give a full Biblical defense of this position is beyond the scope of this post, which will be long enough. All I seek to do here is to give a narrative description of the hypothesis in the history of Israel, the covenant, Jesus, and the Church. Before I get into that, though, the first principle I should point out in my hypothesis is that regeneration, the new birth, did not ever take place until Christ’s resurrection.1 With this in mind, we follow the story of Israel.

Israel was began as a people created by God from His election of and covenant with Abraham. God promised Abraham descendants which would make up a great nation, which nation would bless the whole world. This was a unilateral promise. God would see to it that this would indeed be fulfilled, not just for the benefit of Abraham and his family but for the redemption of the world.2 

In the process of fulfilling this promise God called the Israelites out of Egypt and established another covenant with them, one which established Israel as a theocratic nation with a divinely provided system of law and worship. Part of the point of this endeavor was to make Israel into a light to the nations, an example of human life rightly ordered by communion with God and with each other. But Israel proved incapable of this task. Even with a God-given Torah they could not become what they needed to be, a true example of redeemed human existence. The deep and radical effects of sin made righteousness under the Torah impossible. And without a righteous Israel, God’s promise to Abraham also seemed in danger. Particularly, the terms of the Torah meant that God would have to undo Israel’s blessings in light of their disobedience, and the public corruption of Israel meant that the nations could not be blessed through them.

It is in the midst of this precarious situation that the prophets, enlightened by the Spirit, began to perceive the only possible solution. Humanity, in particular Israel, was too corrupt to go on in its natural form. The roots of sin were so deep that if purposes of creation and election were ever going to be realized, humanity would essentially have to be created anew. If Israel was going to live up to its calling, it would need a new heart and new spirit, indeed a radical new outpouring of the Holy Spirit who had been working in their midst since their birth as a nation out of Egypt. They needed nothing short of a new covenant and a new creation.

Alas, before this need could be fulfilled there was also the need to deal with the consequences of Israel’s sin. By the terms of the Torah, Israel was condemned. Abraham’s descendants were at risk of being cut off from the promise because of their status under the Law. Thus God appeared to be under two conflicting covenant obligations. The terms of the Mosaic covenant required Him to desolate the same people whom the Abrahamic covenant required Him to bless, and through whom He planned to bless the world. So how was God to be faithful to both covenants, restore Israel, and bring about a new creation capable of redeeming the world?

The answer to this dilemma left hanging at the end of the Old Testament is found in Israel’s Messiah, Jesus Christ. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary, marking the emergence of a new creation out of the midst of the old one. He sanctified His life by sinless communion with God. By His baptism He identified Himself with sinful Israel as their Messiah and in that role took upon Himself the job of their repentance. He brought about signs and instruments of the new creation: healing, forgiveness, and other miracles of the Holy Spirit.

In the middle of this work Jesus also performed a major symbolic act. He appointed 12 disciples to participate in and carry on His work. They were to be apostles, authorized representatives of Himself and His ministry. Yet for Israel, the number 12 was of great significance. This was not just any number, but the number of Jacob’s sons, the number of the tribes of Israel. The Messiah who took upon Himself the identity of the people of Israel expanded that identity into 12 others. He was reforming, reconstituting, recreating Israel around Himself. With His baptism into Israel’s identity and His appointing of 12 new heads, a fresh life for Israel was in labor.

Yet if there was to be a recreation of Israel, there also needed to be a new covenant. The old had failed, and Israel was under existential threat because of it. So on one fateful Passover, Jesus broke bread and served wine as signs of a new covenant with Israel based on Himself, His life and, crucially, death. This covenant was, of course, for Israel and had been prophesied by Israel’s prophets years in advance. This covenant would establish forgiveness of sins and give Israel the Holy Spirit to finally destroy their sin problem even at the root. But how would it work? And how would God deal with the destruction coming from the old covenant?

For this, Christ was crucified. This was God’s solution to the covenant problem. The same judgment He had prophesied for Israel due to their unfaithfulness, His wrath poured out through Rome3, Jesus Himself experienced as their representative. One man gave His life in place of the nation, and in His dying flesh God condemned sin as was fit to His covenantal obligations. As Paul would later explain it, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.'”4 Jesus expiated Israel’s sin in His death and so freed God to proceed with His promise to bless Israel and the nations.

With Israel’s sin dealt with, and with a new covenant established by a sacrifice before God, it was finally time for God to bring about the new creation, the regeneration of human life. Three days after Jesus’ death, He raised Jesus from the dead, vindicating Him and making Him the “firstborn from the dead.”5 People are often hesitant (or call it heretical) to speak of Jesus as “born again,” but this means no more or less than to say that He was resurrected to incorruptible, imperishable, new creation life. In this Jesus still retains His identity as Israel’s substitute and representative Messiah. In Him Israel itself is born again into the new creation. His resurrection life becomes the ground for a new life for Israel. This new resurrection life empowered by the Spirit is the solution to the biggest problem of the old covenant: Israel’s ongoing sinfulness. Israel formerly consisted only of natural men, unregenerate and without the Holy Spirit. The Torah, God-given as it was, could not penetrate to the depths of human existence to purge sin. But Christ’s sanctified and resurrected life imparted by union with Him through the Spirit is enough. It will finally overcome human sinfulness and turn Israel’s sinners into saints, turning apostasy into faith working through love.

Yet Christ’s victory for Israel was not automatic for those who were already members, and the new covenant of the new creation brought with it new terms of membership, a new stage in election. In this new covenant a relationship to Abraham alone would not be sufficient. The new covenant fulfilled the promise to Abraham exclusively through Christ, the elect Messiah. As God had once restricted the promise from Abraham’s descendants to Isaac’s descendants, excluding Ishmael’s, and then restricted it further from Isaac’s descendants to Jacob’s, so now God further restricted the covenant to those who are in Israel’s Messiah.

This next stage, then, at which people of the old, fleshly Israel are incorporated into Christ and thus Israel in a reborn form, occurs at Pentecost. At this point all is fulfilled as the Father and the Son send the Spirit to Christ’s apostles. These apostles, filled with the Spirit, are the first fulfillment to Israel of the promise. In this the new age and the new creation came to life in the midst of the present by the Spirit. Israel, actual Israelites descended from Abraham, received the forgiveness of sins, regeneration, and the Spirit in them. The were incorporated into the resurrected Messiah and so became part of a reborn Israel.

The renewing of election around Christ with a new covenant in place of the old, Torah-based covenant also brings with it an expansion in election. Now it is no longer necessary to be physically descended from Abraham to be a son of the promise. Through the Spirit and faith, even the Gentiles can share in the promise, and thus God’s promise to bless even the Gentiles through Abraham is fulfilled as well. The new terms of the new covenant, reducible essentially to loyalty to Jesus, simultaneously cut off many natural-born Israelites and enable the inclusion of many Gentiles. Thus Israel in its new form, reborn in Christ, becomes also the Church, the assembly of believers.

So what happens to the old, fleshly Israel, Jews who do not recognize their Messiah? They remain in essential exile, having been judged at AD 70 for the last time. Their future lies in the new covenant, the promise of the Spirit. There is no future for them apart from their Messiah. This does not mean that God has abandoned them, for He has fulfilled His promise by instituting a new covenant in which they can have forgiveness and moral renewal. He has taken the next step to rescue them, but those who will not repent and recognize their Messiah cannot benefit from this saving action. The word of God in election and promise has not failed, as Paul argues in Romans 9-11, and in the end we see hints that, perhaps out of continued faithfulness to Abraham and His physical descendants, God will see to it that all Israel will one day find salvation in its Messiah and His new covenant. One day perhaps there will be no more old, fleshly Israel, but all will enter the life of Israel reborn in Christ.

Of course, I am sure that many questions about details and implications of this view may remain. I cannot answer them here, as this post is long enough. But if you have any, drop a comment and I’ll look into making a good reply. I believe the narrative I have articulated here is faithful to Scripture and what is portrays about Israel and the Church. Perhaps one of these days I will get around to developing this further and adding more specific Scriptural support instead of relying so much on allusions and themes I just kind of hope people will recognize.

Hypothesis: The Church is Reborn Israel

Glimpses: Joseph and Jesus Say “Fear Not”

[“Glimpses: Seeing Christ before Christ” is an ongoing series consisting of brief reflections on places in the Old Testament that the light of Christ can be seen.]

Today I was reading Genesis 50:15-26 and I noticed something exciting. At the conclusion of the long struggle of Joseph’s story, his brothers come before him in fear, barely hoping on the basis of a made-up fatherly deathbed request to be spared for their sins. But what happens is probably not what they expect. Verses 18-21:

Then his brothers also came to him, bowed down before him, and said, “We are your slaves!”
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result — the survival of many people. Therefore don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. 

It’s a lovely ending showcasing the triumph of mercy, and I realized that this resonates deeply with the New Testament as well. Joseph is often noted to be a type of Christ, and it is hard to find a place that is more poetic than here. This passage could just as well be rewritten about our approach to Jesus. We come to Him, the risen and enthroned Lord of the universe, the Lion of Judah who judges and makes war, realizing that “it was my sin that held Him there” on the Cross. Should we not expect wrath and fury? Yet He responds otherwise:

“Do not be afraid. I am the in the place of God. Though you did evil against Me, God planned it for good to bring about the present result — the salvation of many people. Therefore don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your little ones.”

Amen. We’re no better than Joseph’s brothers, but the Greater Joseph is even more gracious. So the thought for today: how ought we to live in view of such mercy?

Glimpses: Joseph and Jesus Say “Fear Not”

How to Feel God’s Love in Jesus’ Arms

“I want to feel.” Isn’t that a common desire? I mean particularly for us Christians, especially evangelical Protestants. We want to feel God. Jesus Christ loves us to (literal) death, has brought us full forgiveness, and is our eternal life. Yet we cannot see Him. We cannot touch Him. He is physically away for now, and in the mean time we long to experience that He is still with us as He promised.

Unfortunately, we often find ourselves stuck and frustrated on that point. Unless we go the way of wild youth groups and Charismatic excess, intentionally working ourselves up into emotional frenzy with clever devices of music and social pressure, there’s only so much feeling we can get out of reflecting in our minds on truths about God. It’s just a bit abstract. One of the major methods of devotion is simply prayer and meditating on Scripture, but there’s only so much nourishment we can find in pondering such churchy words as “grace,” “salvation,” “atonement,” or “forgiveness of sins.” In fact, using these words so much often makes them less powerful than they deserve.

There’s another dimension to this. Not only do we want to feel God’s love and presence, but sometimes above all we need to feel His forgiveness and acceptance. When we do wrong, and our conscience beats us down, or when we know we are unworthy and feel ashamed to approach God, there is nothing so necessary to our soul’s health as to feel forgiven. We must experience God’s unconditional acceptance of us who are in His Son. Yet hearing people talk about forgiveness rarely does the trick. Even the best psychologically-devised plans to feeling better won’t always work, nor is it obvious that they even should. We hear about the Holy Spirit living in us, but often don’t feel like that makes any difference on our emotional/psychological state.

So what is the solution? How are we supposed to feel the mercy and grace of a Savior who is, for the moment, ascended to the right hand of the Father instead of present before our eyes? And what does the Spirit do to help beyond those occasional moments of emotional refreshment?

If I am at all on the right track, the answer is relatively simple. We need a hug in Jesus’ arms. And where are His arms? Since His physical body is away for now, we resort to His body by the Spirit.

All of you are Christ’s body, and each one is a part of it.

1 Corinthians 12:27

See, we are Jesus’ body on earth. The major role of the Holy Spirit is integrating Jesus’ life into our lives. So it is up to us to be Jesus’ love, be Jesus’ forgiveness, be Jesus’ acceptance. Since our Lord isn’t around to give us the hugs we need, we need to give each other those hugs by His Spirit.

Everyone should know that we need our senses to truly experience life and relationships. A compassionate hand on your shoulder, a graciously spoken word, or even just an understanding look can make all the difference. Jesus cannot do any of that for us while He is in heaven, but we can do that for each other, filled with His love by the Spirit He has given us. So when our fellow believers come in our churches, looking to know God’s love, we are called to give it to them with our love. You may not be able to feel grace all the time by reading Ephesians 2 (though it can help!), but how can you avoid feeling God’s kindness when your brothers and sisters in Christ treat you as more important than themselves?

None of this should be a surprise, honestly. Throughout the New Testament, we find commands to have unity, to share our hearts with each other, to show compassion and encouragement and mercy. We are repeatedly called to love one another, and we are told that we are all members of each other as Christ’s body. All of this, we are told, is to be done from the Spirit. Should there be any surprise that this is how we can experience our Savior’s love?

This is especially the case with forgiveness and acceptance. I have seen many times the damage that guilt and shame can do on a conscience, especially a believer’s. So often we feel the weight of our sin and unworthiness. How can we feel forgiven? What tangible proof is there that God accepts us in spite of it all? There is nothing more helpful in this matter than to see God reaching out with His forgiving hand through His children. When we forgive and accept each other, bearing with each other’s faults in patience and love, how can we not see that this is God’s own heart?

I actually want to make a serious practical emphasis of this last point. Too often church is associated with judgment. Even in good and supportive churches, it is hard to escape the feeling, “If I let them see me for who I am, they won’t see me the same ever again. They’ll judge me as someone less than them.” Yet too often the very things we are afraid to let everyone else know that we do are things we all do or have done. So why not drop the charade? Why keep pretending that we’re all doing better than we are? That doesn’t show God’s unconditional acceptance of everyone who believes in His Son. 

What we really need to be doing at church is showing the radical nature of God’s grace revealed in Jesus. We need to be able to look at the man who admits he didn’t pray at all last week, or the boy who confesses to a porn addiction, or the girl who says she gave in to peer pressure and got drunk at a party, and give the same response that overflowed from the heart of Jesus: “Neither do I condemn you.” To be sure, we can’t forget the “Go and sin no more” part, but we can’t expect them to listen to that when they’re too busy protecting themselves from a condemning reaction to their failures. Only when we all commit to truly forgive, and truly accept, and then truly encourage towards holiness, can we all enjoy the benefits of knowing Jesus’ love through His own hugs by His body on earth.

It’s simple, really. If we are Jesus’ body as the Church, then we need to be in the business of making His love, grace, and forgiveness things that you can see, touch, and feel for yourself. Otherwise we’ll all be left wishing and longing to feel the presence of our Life. And if you find yourself needing to know God’s love, find believers who by God’s Spirit actually make it real. If we all do this, maybe Jesus will shine bright enough through us for the whole world to see just what kind of God we serve.

How to Feel God’s Love in Jesus’ Arms

John 7:53-8:11 (Are Today’s Bibles Reliable?)

Not everything in your Bible may have come from the Bible. “What do you  mean, Caleb?” you ask. Well, the Bible has a very long history. It was written over a period of more than 1000 years, and was passed on for nearly 2000 since its completion. The timeframes for when some of the books of the Old Testament were written can at best be narrowed down to several centuries. 

Because of this, things can change. Before the days of computers, printing presses, and trivia nerds, copying writings was a very difficult, time consuming, and tedious process. So naturally errors would creep in (even some errors in modern published works go largely  unnoticed and uncorrected). These aren’t anything significant in most cases. Many different small mistakes show up in old copies of Scripture. Someone copying down the phrase “the Lord Christ” may have written “the Lord Jesus Christ” out of habit. A sleepy scribe might flip the order of parallel phrases (“roses are red, violets are blue” might become “violets are blue, roses are red”). Someone translating Numbers might accidentally drop a couple of names from a genealogy.

Fortunately for us, most of these errors can be found and corrected. There were, after all, very few times when only one copy of a book of the Bible was in circulation. Especially in the New Testament, several copies would be going around and being copied at once. So most of the time if there is a copy error in one copy, we can check other copies from other places and times to figure out what the right words are. With so many copies, we can usually fix the problems. Some ancient copies of Romans, for example, have “Amen” at the end of Romans 15:33, while some do not. Which is right? Well, most of the copies, including the oldest ones, include “Amen,” while only a handful do not have it, so it probably was originally there. 

Many different small mistakes show up in old copies of Scripture. But with so many copies, we can usually fix the problems.

Unfortunately, not all of the issues in copies of the Bible are so easy. Sometimes the copies are split 50/50 on how a certain verse goes. Sometimes only a few really old copies say one thing, while a lot of copies from way later down the line say another. In these cases more work is required to figure out what the right text is. Sometimes entire verses are in question. A lot of this came into more popular discussion with the arrival of the NIV, since it was the first of the popular modern translations and made many decisions on these questions differently from the KJV. For more on that, you can check my older post “Why Does the NIV Leave Out Verses?”

Today I specifically want to address one of the more serious cases. There are two places in the Gospels where whole paragraphs are in question. The most prominent of these is John 7:53-8:11, commonly known as the story of the woman caught in adultery (the other is Mark 16:9-20). We all know how it goes. The Pharisees bring a woman to Jesus saying she was caught in the act of committing adultery (that must have been pretty awkward). They remind Him that the Law says to stone women who do this. So what will He do? He writes on the ground (some say listing the sins of the people there), tells everyone that whoever is sinless should cast the first stone, and they all leave one at a time. Finally the woman is forgiven and sent away to sin no more.

Most copies of John from before the sixth century do not include the story of the woman caught in adultery, including one of the oldest copies of the Gospels ever found.

The problem here is that nearly all the evidence indicates that this story was not originally part of John’s Gospel. It breaks the flow in a way that you can see a much smoother story by skipping from 7:52 to 8:12. It contains many Greek words that John rarely or never uses elsewhere. While most copies of John from after the eighth century include this story here, most of the ones from before the sixth century do not, including one of the oldest copies of the Gospels ever found. Some copies of the Gospels from a thousand years later puts this story at the end of Luke. Still another set of copies from that time puts it after John 7:36.

Now, when the Greek copy of the New Testament they used to translate the KJV was put together, no one knew this whole story. Many of the older copies of the New Testament we have now hadn’t been discovered yet. So the KJV and the NKJV after it all include this story in its traditional place, and so it became popular and part of the normal Christian picture of Jesus. People use it to argue theology and practice. Pacifists, defenders of the faith against those who say we should obey the Law of Moses, and those who oppose the death penalty bring this passage up. But it doesn’t seem to be from John.

So what do we do here? Is this story a fake? Did it never happen? Are our modern Bibles not even reliable? Can just anything in the Bible be axed like this?

Calm down if you’re as panicked as the person asking these questions in my head. First off, as I said before, there are two places in the Bible (mainly the New Testament) which question anything more than at most a single sentence. Beyond that, we can prove with the number of copies we have that our modern texts are over 90% reliable, and that none of the questions or variations in them actually have an important impact on doctrine or Christian living. So we are on safe ground for what we believe and do being Biblical so long as we practice good interpretation. We don’t need to worry that the whole Bible will fall apart, because we have solid evidence in history that there have been few changes.

We can prove with the number of copies we have that our modern Bible texts are over 90% reliable.

But still, what about this story? Well, even if it wasn’t part of John, it is old. Early Christian writers mention it from even before we have any copies of it. They considered it Scripture. Moreover, it certainly sounds like something Jesus would do, and most scholars who believe the New Testament is reliable also believe that this passage probably did happen. So where did it come from? No one knows for certain. It did probably come from an early apostle or other disciple. Some people have made convincing arguments that Luke wrote it, maybe separate from the rest of his Gospel.

No matter what the details, we can rest assured that the Bibles we hold in our hands today are pretty solid representations of what God originally gave His people. The story of the woman caught in adultery specifically is probably true, and might even be argued to be actual inspired Scripture. It certainly speaks with the power of the Spirit to the love and forgiveness of Jesus. So no worries. Just keep trusting what God has revealed to us in His Son. Amen!

P.S. Here’s the full text of John 7:53-8:11, if anyone wants it.

So each one went to his house. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

At dawn He went to the temple complex again, and all the people were coming to Him. He sat down and began to teach them.

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. “Teacher,” they said to Him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say? ” They asked this to trap Him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse Him.

Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with His finger. When they persisted in questioning Him, He stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Then He stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only He was left, with the woman in the center. When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? ”

“No one, Lord,” she answered.

“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

John 7:53-8:11

John 7:53-8:11 (Are Today’s Bibles Reliable?)

We Are the Walking Dead (And Good Men Shoot Walkers)

A billion people I know love The Walking Dead. Mind you, I sometimes wonder why, but to each his own. Because of this, at one point I decided to try The Walking Dead and see if the show is good. I came away enjoying some of the story (which doesn’t say much since I can enjoy almost any story) but not really liking the show in general. Honestly, I just don’t love gore and morally ambiguous good guys.

To the point of my post, though. The other day I was listening (in my head, of course) to “Forgiven” by Relient K around the same time that I was imagining how to share the Gospel with someone. I don’t really remember how the train of thought went, but I did come to think of something that may seem startling from these lyrics:

‘Cause we’re all guilty of the same things
We think the thoughts, whether or not we see them through

So a thought struck me. I, along with the rest of the human race, am a monster.

Does this seem far fetched? I don’t think so. See, we all have had moments in our lives where we realized that there was something wrong deep within us. There are times when we think or feel things so shocking that we don’t believe they came from our own hearts. Yet we know the truth. We have all had that realization that somewhere within our souls lurks a monstrous demon who is somehow a real part of us.

“Maybe this is true for you,” you might say, “but I am not that way.” But are you so sure? Maybe I am the only one, but I suspect you all have had the thoughts that prove this. Maybe you’ve caught yourself entertaining the potential benefits if someone you love were dead. I would bet good money you have had an impulse to grab the nearest object and bash someone’s head in. With near certainty I expect you have sometimes felt a hint of fury at someone who has done nothing wrong. Will I judge you for this? No, because I didn’t come up with these out of thin air. I know them from my own experience.

Somewhere within our souls lurks a monstrous demon.

And of course it is not as though we usually embrace these thoughts. For various reasons, we tend to reject them, whether for reasons of convenience, social convention, affection, duty, or a sense of right. Because we reject them, we think of ourselves as basically good. When we realize what we are, we rarely embrace the truth and live like that (those who do are generally considered sociopaths, though I posit they are more true to their nature than most of us). Instead, we deny it, forget it, suppress it, or defy it. Yet this doesn’t amount to much. No matter what the reason, no one will bother to applaud a man for not becoming a demon, but they will rightly condemn him for having such a powerful impulse in his soul. And this is who you are. You are that man. But, again, I cannot judge, because I am, too.

Unfortunately, though I will not judge you, there is Someone who will. For a man named Jesus died and rose again, and God has declared Him Lord over all the earth. He is coming back to judge the living and the dead, and when He does, we’re dead. Or at least we should be.

This is where most people get tripped up. Not thinking of the truth, not realizing or admitting the beast within, we protest when Jesus speaks of hellfire. When God declares a sentence of death, most of us want to say this is unfair. How could a good God do that to us sweet little angels? Yet we ignore the truth. We are monsters, and we deserve it.

For this reason I bring up The Walking Dead. In many ways, our state is similar to that of the Walkers (zombies, for those of you who have not seen the show). Like them, we are not truly alive, at least not from the start. Even though we move around in this world, we are dead and diseased. Just as they are no longer considered human, so we are barely recognizable as humans the way God meant for humans to be. Even our story is similar. In The Walking Dead, every person on earth is infected with a disease, and when they die it turns them into a zombie. Likewise, just as Paul said, we are all infected by sin, and in our case when God’s Law comes, sin comes to life and we die, becoming similarly monstrous creatures. Most importantly, like Walkers, in this state we are a threat to all that is good and right in the world. In our state of death, we are dangerous to those who are alive.

When God declares a sentence of death, most of us want to say this is unfair. Yet we ignore the truth. We are monsters, and we deserve it.

This brings me back to the point of judgment. We are as much monsters as the zombies are, and no one blames Rick when he shoots a Walker in the skull. In fact, when people stubbornly refuse to kill them, but instead treat them as worthy of life, we viewers tend to get frustrated with them. “They’re monsters!” we shout. “Kill them already! Don’t let them live or they will destroy you!” Good guys kill Walkers, and those who don’t are usually ignorant, deceived, or plain evil.

In the case of us, there is only one human left. Only one man has ever gone through life without succumbing to the disease which makes us into monsters. He is Jesus. So Jesus is left in the position of being the only human left, surrounded by monsters. Yet He has done something amazing. See, Jesus knows who we really are. He knows that this monstrous state is not who we would be except for sin. And He loves us. He loves humanity, and because of this He saves us, too. He took the disease of sin on Himself and went down to the grave, but He was stronger than even death, so though sin died Jesus rose again, bringing life back to all who believe in Him. When we eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, which we would expect to turn Him into one of us, He brings us back to His life! So the brilliance of the Gospel shows us that by dying, Jesus undid the disease which killed us all and made us monsters, so now we can live again as human beings. Unlike the zombie virus, for which there seems to be no cure at all, Jesus cures us from sin and death. And this grace is made even more marvelous when we realize that, also unlike Walkers, we remained willing slaves of our sickness!

Good guys kill Walkers, and those who don’t are usually ignorant, deceived, or plain evil.

Still, one problem remains. Not all come back to life. Not all will join Jesus and those to whom He has given life. So what to do with them? This is judgment. Jesus is rebuilding the world. He is taken a creation which has been polluted and broken by the effects of sin and recreating paradise. And monsters have no place in paradise. For this reason they will all die, an eternal death. Everyone who is not with Jesus is still walking dead, and to protect His people and restore this world they will be judged. Yet how can we blame Him? Like I said before, we’re as bad as the zombies, and good men shoot Walkers. If God didn’t judge sinners, He couldn’t be the good guy. He would be naive, confused, apathetic, or worse. What should be more troubling to us than God’s wrath against sinners is His grace towards sinners. Who would show kindness to a zombie?

When we eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, which we would expect to turn Him into one of us, He brings us back to His life!

As a final note, when I say that “we are the walking dead,” I am referring to our state in sin. A monster is what we become because of sin, but in this world that is not always obvious. Like I said, there are social pressures, personal affections, laws, pleasures, and other reasons to hide our evil. And since we all were meant to be alive, since we all were made humans in God’s image first, we know that this monster is bad and try to hide it. Yet in another sense the monster within is not who we really are, no more than a Walker is the same person as it was when it was alive. Humanity is good. Humans are good and wonderful creations. That is our nature. Yet sin infects and corrupts beyond recognition. Also, when Jesus brings us back to life, we are not really this kind of monster anymore. Some of that diseased, rotting flesh still clings to us, but we have been made new. We are human and alive now by the power of the Holy Spirit. We’ve simply spent so much time in this world of death that sometimes we still act like a monster, and the impulses of that old instinct still crop up at times. Yet that is not who we are now. Now we are alive!

We Are the Walking Dead (And Good Men Shoot Walkers)

Sexuality and Sin: Basic Facts

Sexuality is obvious a huge controversy. Homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexualism, and a host of other words fill blogs, newspapers, and airtime. Naturally, if something is so controversial and such a major part of human life, then consulting God about it is a reasonable decision.  I, of course, believe that the Bible is God’s Word, so I search there for answers.

The problem is that this issue is heated and home to many strong opinions, despite the abundance of ignorance and myths involved. In fact, there is quite a bit to say about it, but I would prefer to start with basics and then draw out implications. So, as humbly as I can, I present these truths from the Bible.

Fact 1: Homosexuality (and the like) is sin.

Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

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Sexuality and Sin: Basic Facts