When Christ is discussing salvation with the rich young ruler, elaborating upon which commands to keep to secure eternal life, He lists several from the Decalogue yet mixes in, “Defraud not” (Mk 10:19), which is unexpected.
Torah does contain this command (Le 19:13), but it isn’t one we’d expect Christ to highlight. From context, since Christ is evidently listing commands which relate to how we treat our fellow Man, this might be a reference to the 10th commandment, “Thou shalt not covet.” But if so, why does He reference it this way?
Interestingly, when Luke recounts this same story there’s no reference to this concept at all (Lk 18:20), and Matthew (Mt 19:18-19) replaces it with the 2nd Great Command (Mk 12:31), summarizing the entire horizontal dimension of Torah. (Ro 13:9) What do we make of this?
If we ponder Thou shalt not covet, we might find it includes Defraud not: coveting leads to defrauding – inappropriate wanting tends to wrongful dispossession. Both concepts violate the law of Love, so including love thy neighbor as thyself as a capstone is reasonable. Perhaps Christ hints that this man’s wealth was fraudulently obtained (Ja 5:4), hence the remedy in returning it. (Mk 10:21) Such a cure for the burden of wealth is by no means universal (1Ti 6:16-8), so we’d expect circumstance to motivate His invitation here.
What the variations of this story reinforce is that covetousness and lust are necessarily a matter of defrauding another, violating the law of love. It isn’t wrong to strongly desire what’s lawfully obtained (De 14:26), or to enjoy the inherent goodness of God’s design in Creation. (Tit 1:15) But if we leave another unjustly the worse in obtaining our desire, we should prayerfully reconsider.
I am intrigued by the fact that God blesses the seventh day (Ge 2:3), because it doesn’t actually exist: the seventh day is an abstract concept, like the number 7 — a concept describing a certain pattern or collection.
It isn’t that abstractions aren’t real, perhaps in some sense they’re more real, more permanent than what they represent. And the fact that God blesses this abstract concept of the seventh day, and how He actually does it, fascinates me.
The first sabbath day, the seventh day of time, is unique since it’s the very first day in which God doesn’t create something new and amazing; He rests, or ceases from creating, not because He’s tired, but because He’s finished: His work is complete, and it’s very good. (Ge 1:31) This first sabbath is indeed special.
To commemorate the 7th day, to help us remember the day God rested (Ex 20:11), God sets apart every 7th day, sanctifies each one until the end of time, making them distinct and different. But how does He actually do this?
You see, the very next day, the 8th day of existence, is just like the 7th day in every respect; from the 6th day on God doesn’t make the days materially different from each other — no special cosmic event marks any particular day. It’s only in the conscious mind where these sabbath days can possibly be distinguished, so that’s where God must sanctify them. We aren’t told explicitly how God does this, but there’s a clue in why He does it.
Christ, as Lord of Sabbath (Mk 2:28), reveals that sabbath is made for Man (27): God designs sabbath for the welfare of Mankind. This includes Adam and Eve, and every one born since.
However, if Adam doesn’t start keeping track of which day it is, starting on the 7th day, counting how many days have elapsed since the first sabbath, he won’t know when the next sabbath day is, or any sabbath after that. The fact God makes the sabbath for Man implies God tells Adam about the first sabbath and commands Adam to start keeping sabbath, to rest from his work every 7th day. Adam must understand that he’s to start counting the days and keeping track of them, else the sabbath will be lost. This he evidently does.
In other words, God’s sabbath command actually depends on unfaithful Man keeping track of which day it is, or the sabbath will be lost and God’s design in vain. So, what does Man do with this gift?
Man begins to defy God on every level imaginable (Ge 6:5), yet by the time Noah boards the ark, he not only knows what day of the year it is, he records exactly which day it is (Ge 7:11), and exactly what day the earth is completely dry. (Ge 8:13-14) Noah’s concern with time, keeping track of what day it is and telling us about it, indicates (to me, at least) that he’s stewarding sabbath, keeping it alive for us, along with the animals.
And by the time Israel’s being delivered from bondage hundreds of years after Noah, God doesn’t have to explain to Moses what day of the week sabbath falls on; He just tells Moses to remember sabbath, as if Moses already knows what day this is. (Ex 20:8) Evidently, Man’s unwittingly been keeping track of sabbath for God ever since He sanctified it, observing a 7-day week as a pattern of organizing life, even though, for the most part, he hasn’t been observing sabbath.
God does according to His will in Heaven and in Earth; no one can thwart His purposes. (Da 4:35) As He’s built so much of nature on mathematical patterns, He has imbedded the 7-day concept into the very fabric of civilization.
One of the most abused texts in Scripture must be Romans 10:13– “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Today, it’s generally taken out of context to try to help people receive Christ, teaching that those who ask God to save them are guaranteed eternal life.
But the context indicates we must already believe in God in order to rightly call upon Him, (Ro 10:14a), and that those who thus believe are already saved. (Ro 10:10a) Salvation occurs as we first believe in God (Ga 3:6), as our basis of trust changes from ourselves to Christ, not when we ask to be saved.
This exposes a basic contradiction inherent in the typical evangelical gospel message: when we ask Christ to save us we’re admitting we aren’t saved, and if we aren’t saved then it follows that we don’t yet rightly believe on Christ. (Jn 3:18)
So, asking Christ to save us can’t be an expression of faith; it’s an admission of our unbelief. Teaching that one can be saved like this, by rote prayer as they continue in unbelief, is in fact another gospel (Ga 1:6), a false, perverted one, offering a lie for eternal life.
What’s missing from this mechanical gospel is faith: supernatural assurance that Christ’s atonement has already secured our salvation. Apprehending the true nature of Christ’s work produces solid assurance of eternal life (1Th 1:5); without it we’re still lost, dead in our sin. (Ep 2:1)
Trying to mechanize the gospel takes God Himself out of the equation: yet He must enable us to believe unto salvation (Jn_6:29), bringing us to life as He gives us faith in Christ. (Ep 2:5) Until we’ve experienced this supernatural work, we must continue to seek the Lord.
It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve called upon the Lord if we haven’t believed on Him. Do we believe? That’s the question. It’s about who we’re trusting in: Christ or ourselves.
One way to tell whether we’re grounded in Christ is to notice were we look for assurance of our salvation. Do we look to Christ, and to the work He’s done? Do we look first to the cross, and see the efficacy and completeness of His work, how God has made Christ to be sin on our behalf? Or do we look to something we’ve done, to some act of receiving Christ? It makes all the difference in the world.
To call on the name of God means to take Him at His word, to trust that He’s faithful, reliable, to enter into His rest. (He 4:1) Only those who believe on Him can do this. (He 4:10)
To corrupt the Gospel by twisting such concepts is to miss the narrow gate. (Mt 7:14)Strive to enter; give diligence to make your calling and election sure(2Pe 1:10), and be established in your faith as God intended. (Col 2:7)
The conscience is the part of us affirming us in doing right, and shaming us when we aren’t. It’s like a map and compass in the race of life: absolutely indispensable.
But a conscience can become wounded and weak (1Co_8:12), even defiled and corrupted (1Co 8:7) through our lies and hypocrisy, seared with a hot iron. (1Ti 4:2) Then it’s useless, corrupting everything about us (Tit 1:15); then we’re calling evil good and good evil. (Is 5:20)
We cleanse our conscience by continually recalibrating it with God’s Word (Ps 119:9), comparing its assessments with what God says instead of the world, thereby renewing our minds by persistently aligning our conscience with revealed truth. (Ro 12:2) and allowing it time to adjust. At first, a weak conscience troubles us as we persist in obeying truth with our wills, just as it does when it’s clean and we’re offending against the truth, but it eventually heals and aligns with our will when our actions are according to truth. This is, in fact, the very goal of Torah. (1Ti 1:5)
God tells us to hold on to a good conscience, to protect and guard it (1Ti 1:19), to cleanse our evil conscience (He 10:22) from dead works through His blood. (He 9:14) He does this in us as we obey what we already know to be true (Ja 1:22), repentingof sin and walking according to all the truth we have (He 13:18), consistently delivering ourselves from bondage unto more and more freedom (2Ti 2:25), and ever seeking more truth(Ps 119:30), wisdom and understanding. (Pr 4:7)
The questions we ask reveal our hearts. Are we asking, “Which of God’s law mustI obey?” Or are we asking, “Which of God’s laws am I allowed/permitted to obey?”
As God writes Torah into the minds and hearts of His own (He 8:10), He’s revealing that Torah is holy and just and good(Ro 7:12), such that we “delight in the law of God after the inward man.” (Ro 7:22) As He transforms us we’ll be obeying every law that we’re able to obey as well as we can, and continually asking Him to help us obey Torah better, more perfectly. (Ps 119:35)
But if we don’t delight in Torah, we’ll be looking for excuses and explanations that relieve us of any sense of duty (Ec 12:13), and most any deception will do. (2Ti 4:3) This is the posture of the carnal mind(Ro 8:7), enmity against Torah, and ultimately against the heart of God. (Ps 119:136)
So, ask yourself the question: “What kinds of questions am I asking? What does this reveal about my heart?” Examine yourself (2Co 13:5): does your life reflect the things that accompany salvation? (He 6:9) If our questions don’t reveal a delight in Torah, then something’s wrong with our inward man.
Christ says that unless we’re converted, and become as little children, we can’t go to Heaven. (Mt 18:3) Whatever salvation is, according to Jesus, it includes becoming childlike.
The context of His teaching was a question among the disciples about who would be the greatest in Christ’s earthly kingdom, granted the most privilege and power. (Mt 18:1) The disciples were evidently making comparisons among themselves, trying to exalt some over others, vying for position. Christ tells them that unless they’re changed in the core of their nature, free of such comparison and self-exaltation, they aren’t going to make it into His kingdom at all. In other words, the disciples, at this point in time, are yet unregenerate: lost. Their pride gives them away. It gives everyone away, except the regenerate.
This isn’t the first time the topic has surfaced; in His initial recorded teaching, Christ tells us the poor in spiritownthe kingdom of God: they compriseit — all those in the kingdom are poor in spirit, and all the poor in spirit are in the kingdom. Unless pride begins to die in us, until humility begins to flourish in us, and we’re esteeming others betterthan ourselves, nothing of Heaven can live in us.
Christ continues in His analogy by saying those who humble themselves to become more like little children are the greatest in His kingdom. (Mt 18:4) This relates to a parallel concept: those who obey all of God’s laws and teach others to do the same, are considered great in the kingdom. (Mt 5:19) For both to be true, the two concepts must be equivalent in some way.
Small children tend to be free of pride, haughtiness and ambition; they naturally feel inclined to look up to and emulate their elders; they aren’t preoccupied with judging others, comparing themselves with others, or posing and posturing to be more than they are. They know they’re utterly dependent on others to care for them, and tend to be trusting, not suspicious or jaded. When properly disciplined and loved, young children tend to be obedient and faithful.
In these same ways, those who come to God in salvation as a little childacknowledge their utter dependence on Him, trust Him and believe on Him, taking Him at His Word, obeying Him and seeking to be close to Him.
Each of us is created uniquely by God for a purpose, for a reason. God tells us to diligently search this out, to make both our calling and election sure, for if we do both of these things we’ll be eternally successful. (2Pe 1:10-11) How do we go about it?
To make our election sure, we must examine ourselves to establish that we’re in the faith (2Co 13:5), to ensure we’ve entered into His rest(He 4:3), to verify that our lives evidence and reflect the things that accompany salvation. (He 6:9) Salvation produces certain characteristics in the soul; those who fail to exhibit them should not deceive themselves, but strive to enter the kingdom. (Lk 13:24)
Once we’ve made our election sure, we should also endeavor to make our calling sure, not merely our calling to salvation, but discovering and fulfilling our design and purpose in God, Who has given each of us specific gifts with a certain objective in mind. (1Co 12:7) These gifts are dispositions, skills, passions, talents and opportunities that equip and enable us for His service. As the stones of the altar were not to be polluted with the hammer of Man (Ex 20:25), so those in the service of God, made in His image, need not contrive or force their own orientation, nor force their hearts and minds into a particular mold that does not intrinsically suit them.
Finding our calling in God is an important part of establishing and stabilizing ourselves in our spiritual life. We must observe God’s design in us, and develop it within the boundaries of His Word, to realize His calling in us. If we’re an eye, or a hand, or an ear (1Co 12:14-18), we’re each given gifts to be a gift, both to God and to each other.
When we read about the signsand wonders in the early days of Christianity, do we miss them, and long to see them again? Is it an indictment of our faith if we don’t walk in the miraculous today? What are miracles for, and why don’t we see more of them?
A man once pleaded with God to give his family a fantastic miracle so they would repent and be saved. (Lk 16:27-28) God’s answer was they already had Moses and the Prophets; this was all they needed. (29) The man protested saying it wasn’t enough, but that if someone they knew went back to them from the dead to witness to them, they would repent. (30) God refuted saying, if the Old Testament wasn’t enough, they wouldn’t be persuaded by anything. (31)
This is insightful, suggesting that a key purpose of miracles is to establish the reliability of those who, through the gospel, preach Torah (1Pe 1:25) to those unfamiliar with it (He 2:3-4), and to confirm that Torah points us to Christ (Lk 24:27), both for salvation (Ga 3:24) and sanctification. (2Ti 3:16-17)
The souls watching Noah build the ark heard him preaching righteousness (2Pe 2:5) as God waited patiently for them to repent. (1Pe 3:20) They weren’t atheists or agnostics, nor were they deceived and blinded by a false religious system: they knew about the God of Creation and what He wanted; they simply weren’t interested. Only 8 souls from that wicked generation chose the living God. What’s different today?
Nothing; we’re all the same: no one seeks God on their own. (Ro 3:11) People aren’t lost because they don’t have sufficient witness of God (Ro 1:19-20), but because they are at enmity with Him (Ro 8:7); for those who aren’t already seekingHim, miracles evidently do more harm than good. (Mk 6:5)
God never seeks to impress and entertain with miracles; that’s Satan’s domain. (2Th 2:9) God provides supernatural witness when it’s needful to help those who’re looking for Him to find Him, when the Way is so unclear and the lies are so abundant that we need divine assistance to navigate through them. For souls who already have Moses and the prophets pointing them to Christ, and sufficient evidence of the validity of this witness, it appears we should not expect to see the miraculous, at least as a norm.
And those who think they’ve found the living God, but aren’t yet delighting in Torah (Ro 7:22), should examine themselves (2Co 13:5), and diligently make their election sure(2Pe 1:10-11): the very sign of the new covenant is that we have a new heart in which God is writing His laws. (He 10:16)
The preaching of another Jesus prevails today, and false brothers abound who’ve not chosen a love of the truth. (2Th 2:10) Those who claim to know God but aren’t keeping His commandments are lying; they’ve yet to find Him. (1Jn 2:4)
If we’re still cleaving to dust, dissatisfied in what we’ve found of the God of Heaven, thirsty for more of Him (Jn 7:38), and if we’re looking for miracles to bolster our faith and draw us closer to Him — as we’re neglecting the most powerful witness of His character and nature imaginable — perhaps we should start looking for Him in earnest, where He said we’d find Him. (Jn 5:39)
Living by faith is acting as if God’s Word is true, as if all His prophesies are already fulfilled, being as certain of the eternal as of the temporal. Faith sees the promise fulfilled as soon as it’s spoken, redemption complete long before it’s started (Ro 4:20-21); it calls real what isn’t yet but will be. (Ro 4:17)
It’s looking back two millennia at the cross, standing before the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Re 13:8) as He sets us free from sin, as if it’s happening right in front of us. (Ga 3:1)
It’s rejoicing in trial, trouble and suffering, counting it all joy (Ja 1:2), letting patience have her perfect work that we might be perfect and entire (Ja 1:4), knowing God is working it all for our good. (Ro 8:28)
It’s enjoying the victory in Yeshua’s eternal shout, in God’s final trumpet blast (1Th 4:16), as if justice and glory has already come, as if God’s already trodden down His enemies (Ps 119:118), even as they steal, kill and destroy (Jn 10:10), confident they’ll never answer for their crimes. (Ps 73:11)
It’s knowing we’ll eventually look back over our lives rejoicing in our Father’s care and faithfulness(He 13:5-6), even as we’re struggling through bewildering circumstances, with no earthy prospect of rescue. (2Co 1:8-10)
Living this way requires adding virtue to our faith, and knowledge to virtue, and temperance to knowledge, and patience to temperance, and godliness to temperance, and kindness to godliness, and love to kindness (2Pe 1:5-7) Apart from this we’re blind, unable to see reality through the promise. (2Pe 1:9)
As we cleave to God we can see afar off, embrace eternal reality, and live persuaded of things to come. (He 11:13)
Atheists tell us we’re just electro-chemical accidents, yet most of us instinctively know better, that our lives matter, that we have intrinsic value, that we’re made in God’s image. But what exactly is this image?
God describes us as a trinity: spirit, soul and body (1Th 5:23), comparable to the way He’s revealed Himself as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. (Mt 28:19) This should come as no surprise; an image is a likeness. But are we a soul with a spirit and a body, or a body with a spirit and a soul, or a spirit with a soul and a body? What, in essence, defines us?
Clearly, we’re not our body (Lk 12:4); we’re much more than this.
Are we then a spirit with a soul and a body? The Psalmist views his spirit as something within himself, distinct from his core self. (Ps 143:4) Stephen, upon his death, seems to view his spirit as something conveying him to Christ, but something he has, not what he is. (Act_7:59)
When God created Adam and breathed into him, man “became a living soul.” (Ge 2:7) The essence of our identify appears to be revealed here: we’re souls with bodies and spirits. Our spirit is evidently formed along with our soul and comprises our spiritual temple, being inseparably linked with our souls, through which we know and feel. (1Co_2:11)
It’s our souls that sin, not our bodies or spirits (Ez 18:4), so it’s our souls which need atonement. (Le 17:11)
We can speak to our souls as ourselves, the essence of who we are (Lk 12:19), the source of our motivations, thoughts and intentions. Death is requiring our soul to leave our body. (Lk 12:20) If we lose our soul (Mt 16:26), we lose our very selves. (Lk 9:25)
So, becoming, growing, improving ourselves, who we are, is in our souls, not our minds or bodies (1Ti 4:8); we evolve through our choices, which mold and reveal us. We’re eternal soul beings headed toward eternity, to only one of two possible ends. We’re designed to be gods (Ps 82:6), but we can make ourselves into fiends. (Jn 6:70) Choose wisely: every choice we make shapes us in eternity.