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…But Christians Are Something New

This is long. I could have extended this as part of a series but the thought flow necessitated one long post, so I apologize. Three thousand, eight hundred words longer than any other post I write but I figured that since no one is reading, I figure I could just put this all out there with my thought flow in place. Those who do actually read this are to be commended.

Moses and God’s Message
When God wanted to reveal Himself to the Israelites (Exodus 3), He bound Himself to specific activity. He had to. He was separated, as it were, from them in that they didn’t know Him. To know Him, He had to reintroduce Himself.

Speaking to Moses from the bush that wouldn’t be consumed (authentication), God reveals information about Moses’ mission and mandate. He tells Moses to speak to the Israelites, introduce God as I AM, explain their near-future rescue (and ultimate place of worship) and even what they’re to do in preparation to leaving Egypt—all new information.

But Moses wonders what happens if the people won’t believe him (Exo 4:1). The Lord then shows Moses what He will do to authenticate the message before the people: the staff will turn to a serpent so “that they may believe that the Lord” has appeared to Moses. And as if that isn’t enough, the Lord points out that if the people will not believe or heed the witness of the first sign, maybe they’ll believe the subsequent sign—and here we see Moses’ hand become leprous (Exo 4:8).

The unbelieving people would know that God was really revealing information via the authenticating signs.

God and Moses’ Leadership
In the Wilderness, Moses feels the weight of his mission (Numbers 11:14) in the face of the people’s rebellion against the Lord and the Lord’s anger (Num 11:10). The Lord tells Moses to select 70 Elders who are already Elders of the people and tells them to stand there. From Moses, God will take the Spirit and put it upon the Elders so they may also lead with Moses. Likewise, God gives a message with new information—they will eat meat until they’re sick of it. Moses goes out and tells all this to the people. First we see the Spirit of God upon the 70 elders (Num 11:25) authenticating their leadership before the people but then the text says that they did not do it again.

Their leadership was authenticated and confirmed before the eyes of the community as established by God—no reason to repeat. Likewise, God’s message about meat was authenticated by that sign and confirmed upon the arrival of the quail and the subsequent plaque (Num 11:31-34).

Now, the next rebellion is of the leaders Miriam and Aaron. Miriam is upset that Moses is married to a dark woman and that her calling was the same as Moses’…why do they have less prestige (maybe less than say the 70 elders who prophesied). The Lord calls all three to the tent of meeting and then says that if there is a prophet among them, the Lord will make Himself known to him in a vision or a dream.

That doesn’t limit the way God makes Himself known since the prophets (before) were not asleep, but instead started prophesying forthwith. Even so, that’s not the point here. Moses, in contrast to all the other prophets, meets with God face to face, openly and not in occluded sayings…therefore they should be very careful about speaking against Moses (Num 12:6-8). Because of this Miriam is turned white as snow (in contrast to the dark Cushite) and Aaron, the High Priest, has to appeal to Moses to intercede on his behalf.

The Prophet Moses was in a unique relationship with God.

The Prophet Representing God
Before entering the Promised Land, Moses made sure to go over the entire Law with the generation that had come up and taken the place of the rebellious generation. The Lord, says Moses, will raise up a prophet for the Israelites, from among them, who will have the very words of the Lord on His mouth and he will speak to them all that He commands them (Deut 18:18). This prophet will be like Moses (Deut 18:15) and since he speaks the very message of God, the people are bound to it or they will have to answer to God (Deut 18:19).

The question of how they will know that the message is actually the message of the Lord God is answered by the final fulfillment; that when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord (not only prophesies, but is speaking “Thus says the Lord”) if the thing doesn’t happen, the man is a liar and the people are not to fear this prophet as having any power at all. But if the prophet speaks in such a way, in the name of the Lord, and he is misrepresenting God—that prophet will die.

The seriousness of this is evident among the Israelites.

Moses stands before them sharing this information and he’s a man who received a message of the Lord, went out before the congregation, disregarded God and misrepresented Him before the people. His punishment was that he would not enter into the Land which was given to Israel (Num 20). Misrepresenting God is so dangerous that seemingly minor events (like bringing foreign fire before the Lord, Lev 10, or touching a rocking ox-cart, 2 Sam 6:7) result in catastrophic results. God is to be treated separate; He is to be properly represented.

Upon the death of Moses, and His burial in Moab opposite Beth-peor (Deut 34) the Lord sees fit to record that since that time there has been no prophet in Israel like Moses whom the Lord spoke face to face (Deut 34:10) because of the authenticated message which was confirmed among the community.

Jesus Christ, A Prophet Like Moses
Historically, the Jews took this to heart. Although great prophets would arise, and they would summon fire from heaven authenticating their message, none of the prophets were afforded equal status with Moses. Isaiah may have spoken to God, but all he got to see was the train of his robe—He never spoke to him face to face like Moses, says the Jew. David was a man after God’s own heart, he even ate of the showbread, but even he was not afforded that same status as Moses.

John picks up on this in his prelude to his retelling of the Gospel by first speaking of one who is God and faces God. He ends that first chapter by saying that no one has actually even really seen God.

Even Moses, who hid in the cleft of the rock when he was to see the Lord, only caught (as it were) God’s backside while His “hand” protected Moses from catastrophic exposure (Exo 33). No one really fully understood God (not even Moses, as his misrepresentation points out) but Christ fully understood Him because He is God (John 1) and he had learned directly from God (John 5). No one really had seen God but when God became Flesh, people saw the unveiled God. Grace and truth came through Moses in the giving of the Law—but grace upon grace and truth upon truth came clearly through Jesus Christ. The horror is that even though the prophet that the Jews had been waiting for had come, they didn’t recognize Him. He had come to his family and his family didn’t open the door.

The writer to the Hebrews understood this as he points out that God spoke in many ways, constantly exposing people to His truth, has finally spoken most clearly through His Son (Heb 1). His Son, who could properly represent Him, He came and spoke and sat down with His mission completed.

Christ is that prophet like Moses and He has already represented God.

A Prophetic Change in Creation
As the Lord spoke in the upper room, sharing the horror of what was to come—and yet the immeasurable glory of the event—He imparts to them the promise of a change. Before they were alone (John 14:18), until he arrived, but now they would not be left alone. In the place of Christ, Christ will request of the Father to send the Spirit (John 14:16) and the world won’t be able to receive Him because He is the Spirit of Truth—the world believes the Lie (and this is why they reject the Truth—John 19). Unlike Moses and the Israelites, these believers will know the Holy Spirit internally because of their attachment to Christ; they abide in Christ.

This abiding in Christ is tied to Christ’s message that whosoever believes on Him will have everlasting life. That a person to persist in the eternal Kingdom must be born of above; born of God (John 3). That person isn’t to live by bread alone but by every utterance that proceeds from the mouth of God; they’re existence is one based on the channel of faith in God as Moses established as he spoke the law (Deut 8:3). The people didn’t know that God would provide Manna—but He did. So Christ turns to the devil and says that his dependence isn’t on mere food but with faith in God who does provide.

But just as the people were provided for in the wilderness, the Lord realigns the thinking in this new creation by calling believers salt and light who are not to live like the Gentiles (Mat 6). They have been provided with another Bread of Life which came down from heaven and was confirmed in the eyes of the people with an utterance of God: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear Him. Not only this message was authenticated but even when He points to Himself and says that those who feed on Christ and drink His blood will have truly be his disciples; he does this after feeding the five thousand with nearly nothing. Depend on Christ for your future hope; this is that message that those who follow Him are demarcated as true disciples and believers (John 6, 8).

John expands on this in his letter. By this you know the Spirit of God, he says (1 John 4:2) every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh knows the Spirit of God-; those who do not confess that do not have the Spirit of God. John goes on to say that Christians are little children who are born of God—they are something different. Paul says as much when he says that no one says “Jesus is Lord” except y the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3). The person, who clings to the revealed Word of God, Jesus Christ, is changed into a creature born and empowered by God (John 3, Romans 8).

But what does this look like? Christ said that this Spirit will help, comfort (via peace) and teach them all things. How he helps, I’ll mention below, and how he comforts is seen in the beginning of Romans 5. The believer is a new creation who has been justified; the hostilities with God have ceased; the certificate of debt has been pinned to the tree (Col 2); the enemy has been paraded in the street as conquered.

But what is “teaches all things”? It is not the teaching of mathematics or history but it is specifically tied to all the things Christ contextually says: The Spirit will teach all things by bringing into remembrance what Christ taught and did (John 14:26-27). Unlike the Israelites waiting for a new Prophet, the believers waiting for the Spirit are not a waiting for new revelation, but for the promised seal which would bring back the memory of Christ’s words, teaching and example (John 20:25).

John, noting this, points to the promise of the Lord which is eternal life (1 John 1) and then underscores their anointing received by Christ that they have no need for anyone to teach them (1 John 3) all things about abiding in Him because they, in fact, abide in Him—which Christ says can only happen when attached to Him (John 15).

This Spirit Taught Life is one based on the teaching of Christ, and predicated on the Life of Christ, under a new relationship with God. Says our Lord, upon His resurrection that I go to my Father and your Father, my God and your God (John 20).

This new relationship is not like any relationship that has existed before. It is a relationship dependant on (1) the death and resurrection of Christ, (2) acquired only by hearing the word of truth, (3)by believing the Gospel and (4) solidified by the seal of promise of the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13). A new creation (Romans 5) that lives with new life, unto God (Romans 6) and with the hope of the resurrection (1 Cor 15) and the glorious appearing (1 Thes 4) of the Lord as its focus.

Paul notices the reality of this new creation that is reconciled to God and equipped with the mission of reconciliation—which is in itself God’s mission (2 Cor 5:16-19). Christians are then new creations not made up of male, female, Jew or Gentile (Gal 5) but a creation that is equipped with the very mission of God and where God, in all three persons, is working (1 Cor 12; Eph 3). Christ makes this change very tight when He prays that this new creation will be one with God just as the Son and the Father are one (John 17) and Paul picks up on this by calling believers co-heirs (Col 3) with Christ and who are altogether growing to the full stature of the head which is Christ (Eph 4).

This relationship is so different that Paul can quite honestly say that he is dead in Christ and the life he now lives is actually Christ Jesus living in Him (Gal 2:20). This relationship is so different that Paul points out that Christ sits at the right hand of the father interceding on the behalf of believers, that the Holy Spirit takes their prayers and puts them into the proper words and God the Father has believers backs (Rom 8).

The believer is praying but the Spirit isn’t giving the believer words; He prays with the believer.

This new creation is altogether geared at pointing at the head of its existence (Rom 5) which is not surprising, since this is the very mission of the Holy Spirit. As I stated above the Holy Spirit takes the believer and points him back to Christ but even in the world, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of what happened with Christ (John 16) while convicting the Jew of what happened to the Christ (Matt 26, Acts 2, Acts 7:51, Matt 12:31).

As such, believers find that they know they are Christians because they are Christians—they’re simply to grow in that knowledge of God (revealed in Christ) and in His plainly stated will (Eph 1); they know they are Children of God because they are Children of God who act the part of children of God (1 John…all of it) by keeping His commandments. They are a new creation, recreated by God on the First Day. So even though it is God who wills and works in them, ensuring that the work He has begun in them is perfected in them (Phi 4), it is still believers conforming to the transformation that has already began (Rom 12); it is still believers acting out where they are seated (Col 3, 4); it is still believers at work with God (1 Cor 3)

The Christ and God’s Authenticated Message in the New Creation
So, God has bound himself to reveal Himself as Christ, to point to Christ, to speak of Christ and to teach Christ as ruler of the New Creation and the end of the Old Creation. All prophecy that has come before was ultimately to tie to Christ’s reigning activity (LK 24:25). All prophecy that comes now is that which declares the message of God revealed in Christ. It is this prophetic utterance which is to be sought by believers (1 Cor 14:5) because when the church assembles (1 Cor 14:23) and they prophesy, the unbeliever is convicted and called to account by this message(1 Cor 14:24) and God is declared to be among them.

This unbeliever isn’t convicted of a new prophecy—so said our Lord Jesus Christ (John 16). This person is convicted by the work of the Holy Spirit which is predicated on the word of God, which is the message of the Gospel (Rom 10). There is no other message of God which is as binding, as potent, as fulfilling and as demonstrably authenticated as the very mission of God. The person is convicted of sin, because Christ was killed by men; convicted of righteousness, because Christ has been vindicated by God; convicted of judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. The unbeliever acknowledges that God is among these people because this message says that these people are under His purview.

The apostles, in the transition period that reveals this new creation, spent their time preaching and writing commentary on this prophetic change and having their message authenticated by God.

In Acts 2 we see the pouring out of the Spirit upon Jewish believers authenticating this very message that the Christ who was preached, has come, was killed and rose again. The people heard this foreign message in their own language before believing it but it wasn’t repeated. Paul indeed says that it is better that the different speaking in tongues isn’t done without interpretation at all (1 Cor 14). In Acts 8, the message is preached to the Samaritans, they believe, but they don’t receive the Holy Spirit until the Apostles lay their hands on them authenticating the authority of the Apostles. In Acts 10, Peter goes and preaches to Gentiles after receiving a voice from the Lord but the message is authenticated by God via the Gentiles being baptized in the Holy Spirit without Peter doing anything at all. Still the message points to Christ but Peter realizes that these people should be baptized as well. The message of Christ is so potent that a group that only had the baptism of John found that they needed to receive Christ before suddenly also having that message authenticated by God under the hand of Paul (Acts 19).

Paul, recognizing the importance of the mission, and the fact that it is not his message, can say that the message of God is still being preached even when people are doing it selfishly (Phil 1), that he does his part and another person does their part but it is God who gives the increase (1 Cor 3) and that he technically doesn’t know the quality of his own work (even if he can later look back and see that he’s fought a good fight—2 Tim 4) but he pushes on with the conscience of a person who has been mandated to work with this message(1 Cor 4).

Like Moses’ words of old, introducing God, the Christ’s message has been authenticated and confirmed in the community and the Apostles spent their time spreading this message throughout the known world. Wherever they entered new territory, like the seventy elders of old, God would authenticate His message. The apostles would write reminding them of the signs that were worked among them confirming both the apostolic mission and the message of God—but never another message.

The New Creation Representing God
So the apostles and prophets lay down the foundation which no one else can lay down, and that is Christ. The Gospel is authenticated and confirmed and the work is given to the community dependant on the Gospel.

Christ can therefore point to the large harvest of unbelievers and say that it is plentiful and ready (John 4). This is why He can equip the disciples to be fishers of men (Matt 4), baptizing and making disciples (Matt 28). This is why Paul can point to the sin in the corporate life of the Church and say “this is wrong because Christ died…fix it!” (1 Cor 5). This is why Paul can say that individual is to abstain from sexual immorality because he doesn’t belong to himself (1 Cor 6). This is why Paul can say that believers are to live and act in whatever situation they were called because that is what God has called them for (1 Cor 7). This is why John can say that believers are not of this world; that they are children of God; that they are obedient to the commandments of God with an advocate with the Father who rebuff the works of darkness. This is why Peter can call them a holy nation and a kingdom of priests who are bearing testimony in the world. This is why Christ can say that the way he has been treated that believers shouldn’t expect any better, and the way He treated His own (John 13), believers should do likewise.

God’s message via Christ has been authenticated and confirmed and we have Christ’s example before us and the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2) as a community and the Spirit of God (1 Cor 6) as individuals so that our new reality is made evident in our everyday experience.

Believers have been lifted to a realm that is beyond the prophets of old for the prophets were pointing ultimately to Christ. Believers have been washed, cleansed, given a purified conscience, leveled and stand before their Lord with their convictions exposed in light of the measuring rod of the Gospel (Rom 12-15). It is only now, after the resurrection that even a babe in Christ speaks out the message of God which is beyond anything the prophets could have ever spoken (for they could only look forward with hope to whatever God was doing (Matthew 11); but believers look back to what He has done).

And even with this tremendous work and mission, believers don’t fully know what the New Creation is going to ultimately look like (1 John 3, 1Cor 13). Believers know that the current creation wants this revelation of the Sons of God to happen (Romans 8) and whatever this New Creation does eventually look like when it represents God in eternity (Eph 4) it will consist of a beings that don’t require prophecy (because the Lord has conquered), or tongues (because they are all with Him), or even learning about the promises of God (because the promises have come to be). It will consist of what is part and parcel of this New Creation Creature right now which is faith, grounded in hope and expressed in love because the law of God has already been written on the heart (Jer 31).

1) It is finished. The new creation is here; we’re just waiting for the dénouement. The message of God has been revealed. The message of God has been authenticated. The message of God has been confirmed. Now we persist in the community that has been formed in the era after the confirmation and authentication, like the generation that stood about to enter Canaan. Unlike Israel of old, we don’t wait for a prophet like Moses; that prophet has already come. Any other prophecies, if they are to arise, point back at Christ and if not, no matter the miracle, no matter the message, no matter the angelic being; they are to be rejected (Gal 3).

2) Believers are representatives of God already. For a believer to say “thus says the Lord” and add a message that he is not sure that it is of the Lord (or even open to mistake) or in addition to what the Lord has said, is to deny the way God is to be treated; God’s message is His message and He currently points to Christ—don’t add or take away from that because you are confident in your representation (Rev 22:18-19).

3) Believers should be busy. We know what we should be doing. We are to preach the Gospel in season and out of season, loving our brothers and sisters and doing this to the uttermost, even death on the cross (Phil 2). We’re to live vocationally in the place where we have been called. We’re to point to Christ in our actions. We’re to walk worthy of our calling. If you go left or right, if you preach on Romans 5 or 1 Peter 1, it is all under the purview of Christ’s Lordship. If the Lord stops you by hitting you with a truck, so be it; but to expect some secret message telling you to decide between Romans 5 or 1 Peter 1 is not only wrongheaded in the light of the revelation of God but a denial of the work that has been abundantly laid out. God’s word will not come back empty and there are many workers in the field—there is no reason to wait for an internal nudge to provoke you to action. Act according to your vocation. As a babe is hungry for his mother’s milk, so we should be hungry to do the evident work of God.

4) Believers should expect situations. Since God is over all, and God is in us, Christians shouldn’t be surprised by opened or closed doors. Since we should be busy (and the Lord has specified that there’s much to be busy about) we shouldn’t be wondering if we should go through an open door or knock on a closed door. We’re to expect situations and act confidently before our Lord (Rom 14). Also, if a situation arises in a new area, we shouldn’t be surprised by unbelievers experiencing signs or wonders that authenticate the message of God; God is still active and can, and likely does, do these things.

5) Believers shouldn’t be waiting for signs. Waiting for a sign from God to do what you should be doing is preaching the Gospel of the perverse generation. They were to walk to Canaan after the great rescue that God had performed among them—but then they up and rebelled. We have a greater rescue than the Red Sea and a greater apostle and high priest than Israel ever had; to up and reject His self disclosure as not-enough and wait for a secret message to do, well anything, is not only to deny our new status within this new creation but to doubt the leadership of Christ. He has gone on before, He has shown us what to do and he performed signs confirming it. He has proved that He has power to forgive sins by telling a man to rise, take up his bed and walk; therefore believer, prove God’s forgiveness of your sins within the New Creation by getting up and walking—not sitting down and waiting for a miracle.

6) That’s probably your working conscience talking. As New Creations with a cleaned conscience living with the example of Christ before us, the internal nudges of the Holy Spirit are no longer foreign (that can be removed)—they are ours. Just as a person thinks “This is good chicken” while eating good chicken, so the Believer who thinks “What a great passage to preach on” is only thinking in a way that a new creation thinks. To expect a voice that doesn’t sound like your voice is to tell you to go right or left would be as strange with this New Creation as a person who waits for the voices in his head to tell him to go right or left. The only time it wasn’t your voice is when you heard it preached to you before salvation—that was Christ’s voice; the rest of the time, you are feeling the natural inclinations of a God-empowered New Creation (Rom 7).

7) I don’t see a good reason to expect charismatic gifts happening now amongst believers here. Yeah, I can see the things happening here and there in areas that authenticate the message of God, but I don’t see a good reason to expect those things in a place where God has been rejected. If the people have rejected The Man that has been risen from the dead why should they believe when you or I babble in an unintelligible language? The people in Jerusalem in Acts 2 may have heard what was going on but their solidarity with their leadership was used by the Holy Spirit to convict them of their personal assault on God. But today, in America and Europe, people have heard the message of God and cast it off as passé. Sure I see prophesying via the preached message of God (which is the Gospel) but I don’t expect the message of God telling people what is going to happen in X or Y situation. God is saying what is going to happen in the most important situation and they have rejected it.

8) My reasoning, though more dependant on the theological side of things (above), can be somewhat summed up like this:

  • (h) Premise 1 (first post): The Holy Spirit is God and acts how He wants to act.
  • (x) Premise 2 (second post): God has chosen to act, in time, by binding his message with identifiable authentication.
  • (c) Premise 3 (third post): God’s activity is identified and confirmed in community.
  • (t)Premise 4 (this post): God’s binds Himself to point only to Christ
  • (p) Premise 5 (this post): The community of God’s people are hidden in Christ.
  • (u) Premise 6 (this post): There are people who don’t believe in Christ.
  • (z1)Therefore: God has authenticated that he has bound Himself to point only to Christ. (t + x +c->z1)
  • (z2) Therefore: God has confirmed within the community that He has bound Himself to point only to Christ (z1 + p->z2)
  • (z3) Therefore: The community of God’s people are to point only to Christ…not to themselves (they are hidden) (p + z2->z3)
  • (z4) Therefore: The community of God, when pointing to Christ, must speak the same message that points to Christ. (p +t +z3->z4)
  • (z5)Therefore: since the community has already been authenticated and confirmed in this mission (z2 + z3) and there are unbelievers (u); believers should be pointing unbelievers to Christ not with miracles but with the authenticated and confirmed message (z5)
  • Therefore: a message that does not accurately point to Christ (M1) or a message that doesn’t point to Christ (M2) or a message that confuses from actually pointing to Christ (M1) is to be seriously doubted as coming from God.

Update: That whole section up top where I talk about Christians being Something New isn’t that they get regenerated and then operate independently without God. I don’t know how some people read that into the post, accuse me of out of context proof texting and then cite the same verses I did. I know this is a long post and one sentence doesn’t do it justice but: Just as Christ was incarnated and is now and forever a man; so the Holy Spirit is now and forever part and parcel of the New Creation Creatures (us). We go left or right not because of an interior whisper or a foreign nudge; God lives in this Temple forever. The tabernacle was flawed. When God moved, people would see him moving and pack camp and leave. Now, the New creation (with the New Temple of Our Bodies) moves and it is God moving in us. The separation of the good bits (God) and the naughty bits (Us who have to listen to the good bits) is thoroughly Gnostic. The tabernacle of God is with men.

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