REDEMPTION IN THE APOSTOLIC SCRIPTURES
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of G-d, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of G-d may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
- What are the “Apostolic Scriptures”? Why not call them the “New Testament”?
- Is G-d’s Word divided between a message of Law (old, bad) and a message of Grace (new, good)?
- Is the primary contest in the Apostolic Scriptures the same as the one in the TaNaKh (i.e. repentance, returning to Him through the atonement, etc.), or is it a contest between “Law” and “Grace”?
- Why is it that some circles have often used the back third of their Scriptures to combat and annul the front two-thirds of their Scriptures?
Dispensational and Supercessional Colored Glasses
- As sincere believers, one thing hinders our study of Scripture more than anything else. We tend to study Scripture from either a view that is:
- Dispensational, or
- The dispensational view sees Scripture operational within time and space determined by “ages” or “dispensations” (e.g. “Dispensation of the Law” vs “Dispensation of Grace.”)
- The Supersessionism view sees Scripture operational within differing peoples or “groups” (e.g. Israel was the “chosen people” but now the “church” is the chosen people).
- At times there is considerable overlap between these two views but they both represent the majority of traditional Christianity. Both share this one thing in common: the “dividing line” between either dispensation or between people groups is to be found about the time of the resurrection of Messiah. That event either began a new dispensation, or it began a new chosen people. Both views would hold that the beginning of the book of Acts as being the beginning of the “church” and the beginning of the “church age.”
- The problem with these two views is that they have tainted the way we study Scripture, often times simply because the translators approach their work from one of these two biases (e.g. NIV, KJV version of John 1:17).
- History can explain a lot. The history of the division between “church” and “synagogue” has more bearing on Christianity and Judaism than most imagine.
The History of the Division between “Church” and “Synagogue”
- The first followers of Yeshua did not view themselves as separate from normative Judaism of the day. They saw themselves as “the Way” within the religious construct of the day. Until Acts 9, they were all Jewish, or Jewish Proselytes.
- What began the split between the followers of Messiah and the rest of Judaism was not “law vs grace” or even the person of Messiah Himself (Acts 2:46-47). Instead, the conflict began with the inclusion of Gentiles who had not undergone ritual conversion to Judaism. Even within the early assemblies, this was controversial (Acts 15:1).
- Following the return from the Babylonian Captivity, there was an increased concern among Jews about being led astray by Gentiles. Later as a reaction to Hellenization, a formal means of ritual conversion was devised so that Gentiles could “become Jews.”
- When Paul understood that G-d had always planned to add Gentiles to His family (i.e. grafted into Israel), and that it was through the work of Messiah that it was accomplished, the first believers began rejecting ritual conversion as a means for adding Gentiles. This was tantamount to ethnic genocide to some Jews of the day.
- The traditional synagogues began rejecting believers both Jew and Gentile over the Gentile impurity issue.
- After the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, where the believers had heeded Yeshua’s warnings and fled, many began to view believers as traitors.
- When the Fiscus Judaicus (Roman tax on Jews) was enacted after the first Jewish revolt, many Gentile believers began to distance themselves from their Jewish brothers and the accompanying persecution.
- Early in the Second Century, many Gentile believers considered themselves separate and distinct from Israel and considered themselves the “New Israel” (e.g. Justin Martyr, Ignatius, etc.)
- By the Fourth Century, Christianity was made separate and distinct from Judaism by imperial decree (Constantine’s Nicean Canons, etc.).
- During the time of the Reformation, sola scriptura was the principle, but in reality, the Reformers were hard pressed to get past the ante-Nicean church fathers and truly draw from the First Century and as such truly be sola scriptura.
- The writings of the ante-Nicean fathers are still used for a context in translating Scripture and in formulating what is considered by some as “orthodox” Christian theology. In so doing, Scripture is trumped by the writings of men who, in some cases, lived hundreds of years after the book of Revelation was written.
The Theme of the Apostolic Scriptures
- Losing sight of what the true theme of the Apostolic Scriptures can be detrimental to your theology. The theme is the same as all of Scripture: redemption.
- Not redemption from “slavery to the Law” as it is often explained – it is the same as all of Scripture, redemption from slavery to sin, and an undoing of the consequences of sin. We were expelled from the Garden because of sin. G-d dealt with our sin and made a way back to the Garden – to fellowship with Him.
- Messiah is that way – the only way. He has always been the only way.
- There was never a different “Old Testament” way to return to G-d (e.g. works-based salvation). The way to return to G-d was always the same as it is now. Although Messiah died and rose in time and space, there is no dispensational change at that event. Hebrews 11 should prove it to all. The commandments of G-d were not given to prove our inadequacy – they were given to reveal the righteousness of G-d.
- Although within Israel there are individuals who do not acknowledge Messiah, there was never a replacement of G-d’s chosen people by what some call “the church.” Gentiles have been grafted into Israel, G-d’s community of “called out” ones [ekklesia]. Same people. Romans 11 should prove this to all.
Setting aside our theological biases is difficult, but sometimes necessary to uncover the truth of the Apostolic Scriptures. We are only beginning, so let’s take off those “glasses” and read “all Scripture” and see it as profitable…