Thursday, July 7, 2016

Restoration in First CenturyWhen the Holy Spirit filled the apostles on Pentecost in Acts 2, He had His work cut out for Him.  Even though Peter spoke by inspiration, the newly formed “called out” brought centuries of tradition with them which baptism could not wash away!  We seek to be an image of that assembly in belief and practice as if they were everything we are not, but should be.  Some believe that if we cloned ourselves after them, we will be unique.  We could find that “uniqueness” to be more than we bargained for!

The problem is that the Jerusalem church was a work in progress, not a perfection to be copied.  From Acts 2 to 10 everyone in that called out group thought salvation was restricted to Jews.  Every apostle, prophet, elder, deacon, and member thought Gentiles were equal to Bar-B-Que and catfish!  Going into all world and sharing the Good News with barbarians never disturbed their brain cells.  A decade or more would pass before the Holy Spirit was successful in upsetting their thinking!  Although the gospel spread from Jerusalem to Samaria, for some, faith in Jesus included a righteousness received by law.  This view was amplified after Peter entered the home of an uncircumcised barbarian (Acts 11:1-3)!  Some thought salvation was based upon what they had done right, by keeping that law, rather than by what Yahweh did through Jesus (Acts 15:1, 5; Galatians 5:3-4).  Jewish saints thought if they were obedient in keeping the Law, their righteousness would save them.  Yet, justification was not based upon successfully keeping that law (Galatians 2:16).  The entire Old Testament period illustrated that fact over and over!  Yet the circumcised saints attempted to carry that philosophy over into the new covenant (Acts 15:1, 5).  Such an attempt would not work under the second covenant since it failed under the first!  The perfection of our obedience is not our Savior, Jesus is!

Law demands perfection.  One infraction makes the perpetrator guilty of all.  Since that one infraction makes the practitioner a sinner, it eliminates him in being his savior.  One may be able to accomplish more obedience than others, but regardless of his successes, he remains a failure.  Why?  One sin ruins him (James 2:10).  One sin removes him from the “savior status,” demoting him to the “lost” category (Romans 3:10, 23)!   That’s why mankind needed God’s grace (Jeremiah 10:23)!  That’s why our salvation is dependent upon faith in Him “who knew no sin”!  (2 Corinthians 5:21).

When one believes that his obedience is his savior, he needs to ask if his efforts have reached Jesus’ perfect standard?  If not, stop bragging, humble yourself, and repent.  When one believes that his obedience is sufficient to grant him entrance into heaven, he needs to question the volume of that obedience.  Honesty will reveal that he is on the losing end of that total.

Is obedience necessary?  It has always been, whether one lived under the Old or New Testaments.  Yet, if one is basing his salvation on what he has done, rather than the obedience of Jesus in his behalf, his allegiance to self is the wisdom of a fool.

As one reads the New Testament, he does not find human beings in any first century location being touted as the perfect assembly.  If perfection was achieved by a first century assembly, surely it would have stood out from all the others?  Perfection comes, not from our achievements, but his!  It is not our righteousness to boast, but his.  Our standing with God depends upon Jesus’ blood, not a false pride in our accomplishments.  If our obedience is co-equal in salvation with Jesus’ blood, what percentage does it earn?  When Paul admonished, “Work out your own salvation” and Peter warned, “Save yourselves” were they saying our works are meritorious in paying a certain percentage on our salvation (Philippians 2:12; Acts 2:40)?  If so, what amount must we have in order to supplement the saving power of Jesus’ blood?  For some, it is almost impossible to get away from the idea that their works pay a part of what is needed to complete their salvation!

When Philip preached to the eunuch, he did give him a lesson on cloning, by preaching Jesus (Acts 8:35).