Wrong teaching

teacher-476342_640Acts 15:1: But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (ESV)

Jude started his letter by saying he wants the people to contend earnestly for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints.

The faith (deep-seated conviction) is based on certain words, certain teaching, which Paul describes as sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). The faith is based on a particular kind of understanding. It is based on truth. Paul also calls it a pattern of sound words (2Timothy 1:13), whose foundation is Jesus. He said that no other foundation can be laid, except that which has been laid- Jesus (1Corinthians 3:11). Jesus is the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).

Paul said that what he taught was not delivered to him by men but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. He said this to refute the claims of some who claim that circumcision is part of the divine arrangement for salvation.

When Paul shared the content of the message he preaches with those who were apostles before him, e.g. Peter, they said it was all right (Galatians 1:11-15). Paul preached salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8), and Peter through his encounter with God, realised that God accepted everyone, from whatever background with requiring them to be circumcised first (Acts 10-11). That is the authentic gospel. But that was a classic clash between the teachings of the New Testament and that of the Old.

This was what caused the writer of the book of Hebrews to go to great lengths to shows the reader that in Jesus the old is done away with. And Paul talking about the new creature in Christ Jesus said that all things have passed away and all things have become new (2Corinthians 5:17).

But some people coming into the faith at that time, still had the vestige of allegiance to the old, they could not “throw them way,” they could not “throw away” the significant ways God revealed himself to Moses. They could not “leave behind” the length God went through establish a covenant with Abraham. On top of that, they could not look beyond the natural lineage of Abraham to the spiritual lineage. They wondered: is the old now wasted?

But this is the way Paul said that we should associate with the old, he said: the things that were written in times pasts were written for our learning (1Corinthians 10:11).

So they hold lessons of various kinds, but they are not the basis of our faith, Jesus is. He is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). To the extent that we see them reveal Jesus, we can accept them.

The Old Testament was marked by angelic visitation, the temple as a formidable edifice, is built for God and marked by his presence. There was the elaborate Levitical order of priesthood, chosen by God, who carefully followed divinely laid down rules for centuries. All these formed the very identity of the nation of Israel.

All these things blinded the eyes of the Jews and the bible says that blindness for a season has been meted out to the nation of Israel (Romans 11:25). Their history blinded them from the future that God has for them. That history had angelic manifestation, and a covenant, made with the blood of bulls and goats. Hence Jesus told them: except ye be converted and be as a child (who has no history, talkless of holding on to one) you will not enter into the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:3).

Coming to the New Testament, another way that Paul wants us to relate to the Old Testament is as a shadow, with the substance is in Christ (Colossians 2:16-17). In short, the old makes no meaning except in the context of Jesus. Jesus said the Pharisees search the scriptures thinking they have something to give them, but apart from him, they have little else to give (John 5:39). The writer of the book of Hebrews repeated what Paul said about the old being a shadow (Hebrews 8:5, 10:1). So the old is as shadow and an example.

Paul said what was written in time past was for our learning, those of us alive in the last days (Romans 15:4). God dealings with the people of old, helps us to gain a perspective of him, with the revelation of Jesus being the full representation of him (Colossians 2:9). The Old Testament is to be viewed through that prism.

If we try to see the Old Testament as a standalone, we will get into trouble. They should be situated in the context of the New. We have to see the old through the prism of the new.

The writer of the book of Hebrews taught that there is a greater temple than the physical one and Jesus being the greater high priest that the Levitical priesthood, and went to heaven to offer his blood to God, which is superior to the blood of bulls and goats.

If it is about angels, it is the son of God we are talking about and he is superior. His is a superior priesthood, established by an oath; the Levitical priesthood, not so.

As was prophesied by David about Jesus: you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, one without beginning of days or end of life, with an enduring priesthood.

Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we can come to God freely. We come to the very throne of grace, not a figure of it on the earth, but the very one in heaven in a spiritual sense, because through the Holy Spirit that Jesus gave us we have a living and active access to God, not something which symbolises it as in the old testament. The wrong perspective is the gateway to the wrong teaching of those who said that to be saved, one needed to be circumcised.

When Peter wrote about the salvation through Jesus, and he said we need to pay attention to the words of scriptures and focus on them. Anything that points away from the word of God, we should turn away from it.

Isaiah wrote: to the law and to the testimony, if they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

The teaching of the word of God is light (Psalm 119:105), a psalmist says: teach me your ways Oh Lord and I will walk in your truth (Psalm 86:11). If we are taught aright if gives a foundation for living aright. Jesus said that the one who heard his words and put them to use will be like the man who builds his house on a rock and it stands the test of time, the test of adversity (Matthew 7:24-27).

The truth you know and walk in will determine the result you get and how you will end. The bible says there is a way which seems right to a man but the end is destruction (Proverbs 14:12).

About those that we are follow their example, the writer of the book of Hebrews, says that we should observe their end (Hebrews 13:7). There are things we can leant from everyone, but we cannot follow everyone. We should be selective. The bible says he who walks with the wise will be wise because people’s lives are “real life” teaching.

When the queen of Sheba came to Solomon, she was swept off her feet by the wisdom that was displayed all around her (1Kings 10:4-5). What she saw taught her wisdom. That is why Paul was bold to say that evil communication (association) corrupts good manner, leads to the wrong outcome (1Corinthians 15:33).


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