Saturday, April 14, 2007

Faith Like Abraham's …

The Apostle Peter said: God has made no distinction between natural Israel and Gentiles converts, having cleansed the hearts of those Gentile converts by faith (Acts 15:7, 9). Receiving a circumcised heart and mind requires faith of the magnitude Abraham displayed when leaving kith and kin and journeying to Canaan where he sought a city whose builder and designer was the Lord (Heb 11:8-10). A circumcised heart doesn’t require physical circumcision, or sidelocks, or fringe, or any physical thing [even plain dressing--although Peter does specifically address women's attire] to remind the person of the Commandments, for the laws of God are written on the heart and placed in the mind through receipt of the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t require relocating home and business to physical Jerusalem. The ruling of the Jerusalem Council was simplified in the letter sent out:
The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Celicia, greetings. Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immortality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell. (Acts 15:23-29)

What degree of faith is necessary for a Greek living as a Greek to turn to God, profess that Jesus is Lord, and cease living as a Greek, cease eating blood, cease eating meats that were strangled so as to retain the blood, cease eating meats offered to idols, cease frequenting prostitutes, and begin entering the synagogue on the Sabbath day to hear Moses read (Acts 15:21)? Is not the above degree of faith comparable to the faith of Abraham who left home and kin to journey to Canaan, the Promised Land, the visible representation of God’s rest? It is, isn’t it? And since it is, then do these Greek converts need to do anything more to have their hearts cleansed by faith? They don’t, do they?

What about the children of these Gentiles? They will grow up not eating blood or meats strangled or offered to idols, and will grow up in a household shunning all forms of sexual immorality. What degree of faith is required of them to continue doing what they grew up doing? Not much? That is correct, not much. If a child grows to maturity in an environment where the laws of God are kept, the child will keep these laws as part of the expectation of the household. Solomon wrote, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6). Both Lenin and the Roman Church have similar sayings.

It takes considerable faith to leave kith and kin and the practices of the household in which a child grew to maturity, but no great amount of faith is required to continue doing what the person has always done, and this includes keeping the commandments of God as well as keeping the limited requirements of the Jerusalem Council.

The limited requirements of the Council were addressed to a specific audience as a solution to a specific problem, just as the ordination of deacons to serve the neglected Hellenists widows was the solution to the first serious conflict the Church addressed (Acts 6:1-6). There will be no next generation like the generation of the Gentile households that first professed that Jesus is Lord. The next generation will not be without knowledge of Jesus. The next generation will not grow up eating blood and visiting prostitutes. So what is an appropriate action of faith (an act that will cleanse hearts) for the first generation of Gentile converts will not be an appropriate action of faith for the next generation. Rather, the second generation of disciples must go beyond the first generation in deeds; for faith of a comparable quality to that of the first generation’s must be displayed by this second generation. Doing what the first generation did is not enough, for the second generation does not begin where the first generation began. Therefore, before the hearts of the second generation will be cleansed by faith and spiritually circumcised, this second generation must display faith of the quality of the patriarch Abraham.

If you are being convicted to plain dressing and headcovering, and your kith and kin have no such tradition, does not your forsaking of tradition and beginning to live your new faith equate to beginning the journey of faith like our father Abraham? Welcome to the journey …

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