THE SPIRIT’S SWORD
"And take...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17)
Mt. Baker church of Christ
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In this issue:
A Review of James Johnson's
Bible Newsletter Vol 1, No 1, Apr 1999
The Old Covenant and the Doctrine of Christ
Joe R. Price
A lengthy article bearing this masthead and title was sent to me by a brother for review. James Johnson (North Dayton Church of Christ, Dayton, Ohio) is the author of the article. I do not know brother Johnson personally. My comments will strictly be in reply to what he has written.
Brother Johnson’s basic premise is that the teachings of Jesus prior to His death on the cross are not applicable to Christians today. As he says, “... we should not expect to find commands from Jesus to Christians before the cross.” (p. 2, parg. 5) And again, “Jesus was teaching the law of Moses to the Jews to whom He was the Messiah, the fulfillment of the law.” (p. 6, last parg.)
His attempt to support his conclusion in the following ways:
1) While on earth, Jesus was teaching the law of Moses to Jews.
“The things Jesus taught about the law of Moses during His earthly ministry do not regulate us since they have passed away (Heb. 8:13).” (p. 2, parg. 3)
2) Jesus did not give any commandments about the coming kingdom, only facts.
“The things Jesus taught about the kingdom during His ministry were not law. They were facts about the coming kingdom.” (p. 1, parg. 2)
“The truths Jesus spoke about the kingdom, however, do not constitute commands to be obeyed by Christians. The commands Jesus gave during His lifetime were the law of Moses.” (p. 2, parg. 4)
So, according to brother Johnson, since the law of Moses has been done away and Jesus did not give any commands concerning His kingdom (His church), nothing Jesus spoke before the cross is binding upon God’s people today.
We will take up his points one by one and show his doctrine to be false and opposed to the sound doctrine of the apostles of Christ (2 Tim. 1:13; 1 Tim. 6:3).
Did Jesus Come To Teach The Law Of Moses?
I certainly agree that the law of Moses was still in force during the time Jesus lived on the earth (Lk. 2:22-27). I understand that from time to time Jesus did teach Jews to obey the law of Moses (Mk. 1:44; Matt. 23:1-3). By so doing they would be honoring God who gave it. And, I fully believe that the law of Moses has now been taken out of the way, nailed to the cross and done away in Christ (Eph. 2:14-15; Col. 2:14; 2 Cor. 3:14).
However, I have a major disagreement with brother Johnson over what Jesus came to teach, what He did teach, and over what portions of His teachings are binding upon men today. I happily affirm that Jesus did in fact teach and command things about His kingdom which continue to be binding upon all men today.
Jesus affirmed that He came to preach the kingdom of God - not the law of Moses. “...but He said to them, ‘I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.’ And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.” (Luke 4:43-44, emp. added) To say that Jesus came to preach the Law of Moses to the Jews is to directly contradict Jesus! Furthermore, note that Jesus was busy accomplishing the purpose for which he was sent into the world: “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom....” (Matthew 4:23)
So, the Bible answer to our first question, “Did Jesus come to teach the Law of Moses?” has been sufficiently answered for those who accept Bible teaching as their final authority. The answer is emphatically, “No!” Jesus was sent for the purpose of preaching the kingdom of God.
Did Jesus Only Give Facts About The Kingdom (No Kingdom Commands)?
All that Jesus taught bore the weight of an authority superior to that by which Moses spoke (cf. Matt. 17:3-5; Heb. 1:1-2). His forerunner, John the baptizer, came into the region about the Jordan River “preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Lk. 3:3). He was preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven in at hand!” (Matt. 3:2). Now, pray tell, where is “a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” found in the law of Moses? Yet, the Messiah’s forerunner commanded it as God’s word to man (Lk. 3:2, 7-8).
Likewise, Christ burst upon the scene preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). And again, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel” (Mk. 1:15). It is significant that Jesus did not say, “repent and believe the law of Moses.” He was preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and in doing so, he was commanding people to repent.
The command to repent which Jesus issued was based upon the truth that the kingdom was near - not upon the fact that the law of Moses had commanded it. Brother Johnson is mistaken when he says “The truths Jesus spoke about the kingdom, however, do not constitute commands to be obeyed by Christians. The commands Jesus gave during His lifetime were the law of Moses.” John and Jesus preached repentance and the approaching kingdom of heaven. Jesus’ command to repent issued forth from His authority as the Messiah, not the authority of Moses. All (whether Jews or Gentiles, Christians or alien sinners) are equally under the command of Christ to repent of sins (cf. Lk. 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30; 8:21-24). Would brother Johnson deny that repentance is a kingdom commandment?
So, we have learned that in “preaching the kingdom of God” Jesus was preaching the command to repent. Brother Johnson says he was preaching the law of Moses. But, Jesus was commanding repentance as he was “preaching the gospel of God” (Mk. 1:14-15; cf. Matt. 4:17). Without a doubt, He was not preaching Moses - he was preaching Himself as the Christ and His gospel as the means of salvation!
Here are some additional kingdom commands Jesus preached (necessary to enter the kingdom of God, the church of Christ):
1) Believe that Jesus is the Son of God - John 8:23-24.
This certainly was not a part of the law of Moses. It nowhere identified Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. But when Jesus came “preaching the gospel of the kingdom” that is exactly what he preached (cf. Jno. 5:17-47; 10:22-38). Jesus did more than simply teach the fact that He is the Son of God. Jesus commanded his hearers to believe that He is the Son of God by saying, “...if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (Jno. 8:24). Except one believes Jesus is from above, the Son of God, he will not be saved. Sounds like a command to believe in Jesus doesn’t it? Jesus did more than teach facts about Himself. He also commanded men to obey His truth and believe on Him.
2) Confess one’s faith in Jesus as the Christ - Matthew 10:32-33.
Is it only a fact that Jesus will confess before the Father the person who confesses Jesus before men? Is it not also a commandment to obey? Yes, of course. What Jesus taught about confessing Him - before He died on the cross - must be obeyed by all who desire to be saved (confessed by Him before the Father)!
3) One must be born again of water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God - John 3:3-5.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (Jno. 3:5) This new birth into the kingdom of God is not just a fact which began occurring after Jesus died on the cross - it is a commandment Jesus issued to Nicodemus (and necessarily, to all men)! One is born again when he obeys the word of the Spirit and is baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; 1 Pet. 1:22-23; Eph. 5:26-27; Titus 3:5). What Jesus commanded before His death He also commanded after His death (Mk. 16:16).
4) Jesus commanded how His disciples are to address sin within the church - Matthew 18:15-17.
Jesus did more than establish the fact that a brother would, on occasion, sin against his brother. He also commanded how to address the matter of sin in trying to save the sinner. Verse 17 speaks of the church (ekklesia) getting involved when private and semi-private efforts fail to bear the fruit of repentance. Brother Johnson says Jesus had nothing to say to the church (much less command it) before He died on the cross. This verse, of course, says that He did. The belief that Jesus did not give commands about His kingdom before the cross is a false doctrine.
5) Jesus gave commands about citizenship in the kingdom in His Sermon on the Mount - Matthew 5-7.
Jesus went throughout Galilee preaching “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23). Three sentences later, one of the sermons he preached in Galilee (commonly called the Sermon on the Mount) is recorded by the apostle Matthew. In that sermon Jesus gave clear commands about citizenship in the kingdom of God (cf. Matt. 7:21). Jesus’ teachings in this sermon would bring people into His kingdom, fully equip them to properly live in His kingdom and give the promise of an eternal reward to those who do the will of the Father (Matt. 5:20; 6:33; 7:13-14, 21).
In this sermon, Jesus commanded:
· That we let our light shine before men (5:16)
· That we not be angry at, but rather reconcile with, a brother (5:21-26)
· That we not look upon a woman to lust after her (5:28)
· That we remove every obstacle which would prevent us from entering eternal life (5:29-30)
· That we cannot put away our spouse for any cause other than fornication without bearing responsibility for their subsequent fornication (5:32)
· That we not be compelled to use oaths to verify our integrity (5:34-36)
· That we turn the other cheek (5:39-42)
· That we love our enemies (5:44-48)
· That we do not practice our righteousness to be seen by others (6:1-18)
· That we lay up treasures in heaven (6:19-21)
· That we be singularly focused upon serving Him (6:22-24)
· That we not be anxious but seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (6:25-33)
· That we not hypocritically judge others (7:1-5)
· That we not give holy things to dogs or cast pearls before swine (7:6)
· That we ask, seek and knock and our prayers will be answered by the Father (7:7-11)
· That we treat others the way we want to be treated (7:12)
· That we enter and live in the narrow way that leads to life (7:13-14)
· That we beware of false prophets by examining their fruit (7:15-20)
· That we do the will of the Father in heaven (7:21-23)
· That we hear and obey the words of Jesus (7:24-27).
When Jesus completed His sermon it was clear to the audience that what He was doing was different from teaching the law of Moses: “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (7:28-29). He is superior to Moses and his law (Matt. 17:3-5; Heb. 8:6). Yet, brother Johnson (and others) is saying that when you HEAR JESUS you are HEARING MOSES!
In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus said “whoever” hears His words and does them is wise. Brother Johnson says “no.” According to his teaching Jesus did not mean everybody when He said “whoever.” So, brother Johnson’s teaching concludes that a Gentile can refuse to hear and obey the words of Jesus and still be wise! (Remember, he concludes that what Jesus said do not apply to anyone except Jews, for, according to him, Jesus was teaching the law of Moses - not commanding all people about His kingdom!)
Whether Jesus addressed Jews or Gentiles, His words equipped them to enter the Messiah’s kingdom. Only Jesus could do this - not Moses, Elijah or even John. Only Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets (Matt. 5:17). Whoever will hear and obey His gospel will be wise and saved from their sins!
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