Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Response to Babylon

Thanks for your clear and honest answer to my questions. Your not moving from the US doesn't bother me. It's just that after I read the article again it came to mind and seemed inconsistent -- that's why I wrote in the first place. But I had completely forgotten Dorothy and that was stupid of me. I don't want you to think me heartless since I can well imagine that this must interject an additional difficulty. Of course, I have no advice to give you regarding this -- I couldn't possibly, since I know so very little about your situation. I was only talking in a general way and am sorry if it sounded a bit pompous or self-righteous of me -- it really wasn't intended to be. I'd just forgotten so much of your personal situation and wondered what you were waiting for.

About RI: I've been thinking about your idea of going to Israel and I wonder if you'd like to discuss this again? You taught us a lot in our heyday of sharing activities but this is one point that we accepted as your view but never really understood it the way you do and certainly remain unconvinced of its application to all of us. I know the scriptures that talk of a "return to Israel" of course, but can you remind me of why you take those verses physically and not spiritually as we think they should be taken? If you've already explained it once, please bear with me. But I'd like to discuss it a little, if you would like to, and have the time. What do you say?

Now here's a little of what we've been into. We've been learning a lot lately from the book of Hebrews and are studying it a lot. As always, we find that it is best to sit down and read it right through in one sitting. We found out together proof that it was written by Paul but it has come to us for the first time who it was written to, since most of the other general epistles were written to churches. It came to us that Hebrews was written to the church in Jerusalem, especially! It was obviously written to specific individuals who Paul knew well (13:18-19, 23-24) and if you read the whole letter with this in mind it takes on a new aspect that is very interesting (for example, 5:12).

The book of Acts shows that Paul had several run-ins with James, Peter (pillars in the Jerusalem church) and even had to take a public stand against their judaizing doctrines. It's just a little insight but I believe it is of the Lord -- what do you think? We even see it as interesting (and maybe significant) that he didn't name this book "Jews" but "Hebrews". Have you ever thought about that detail?

On a deeper level, here are a few things the Lord seems to be showing us taking our studies these days along these lines (some points we've already discussed, of course):

1. We are the real Jews (spiritual children of Abraham)
2. We are the real Israel of God (chosen since the foundation of the world)
3. God does not use prophets (in the OT sense) any more (Heb 1:1-2)
4. All the trappings of the OT tabernacle and temple system were temporary (of course) and designed primarily to be of benefit to first-century Christians (1 Corinthians 10:11) not necessarily for us.
5. We are not living in the time of the end of the world, the way the Bible speaks of it. They already did that (Acts 2:16-17). We need to define what the Bible means when it speaks of the "time of the end" -- the end of what? Much more to say about this, as you can imagine!

Points 1 and 2 we discovered together and have talked about at length but I repeated them here just to put the other two in context because they are important. The real interesting points for us now are 3 and 4 because we're not finished them yet. We are finding the necessity of having a correct definition of prophet of God and the gift of prophecy because we find them often confused and running together in people's minds. Any help in this regard would be appreciated.

Point 3 is in flat contradiction to the charismatic jabberings so common today that start with "Thus saith the Lord ..." and even people who will get up and tell you, "The Lord spoke clearly out loud to me and said ..." and so on. How can we be sure this is of God? Common answer: check it against the Word. Right, but we put ourselves in the following situation:

a) if it is in complete agreement with the Word, then why do we need it? and
b) if it is in contradiction to what is written in the Word, then we don't need it.

Either way I can't see a lot of value in this kind of stuff -- and I can sure see a lot of room for error creeping in. I think everything in the OT was a signpost pointing to Christ. Once you have Him, why go back and study the signpost? (This is kind of point 4 -- I need to write all this down to clarify my thoughts because these days we're going from one thing to another but it is all related). So many scriptures come to mind to support this but they are new (and exciting) thoughts to us. Am I being clear?

I am starting to think we should reject any new teaching or prophecy or utterance that is supposedly from God and stick one hundred percent to the written Word. Otherwise, if this new utterance is from God, why not paste it in the back of our Bibles and memorize it? If we can't do that, it is not God speaking, it is (at best) teaching (which, God knows, has its place) but it is not prophecy. What do you think? Look at Joel 2:28 -- surely this is what God is doing in this time now. This touches on point 5 but doesn't do it justice. I know some of this may sound a bit radical but think about it and see if it might be. Maybe you can help us get all this together into some decent classes on the subject. Raph and Jonathan and I are trying to do that whenever we can.

Well, this has been too long -- hope I didn't bore you. Must get back to work now...