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Sabbath: Covenant Faith — 10 Comments

  1. Paul wrote this at the end of his life as he was passing the torch to Timothy:

    For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Tim 4:6-8

    Is Paul saying that he earned salvation? I don't think he is. Rather he is telling the story of the life of one who is saved. His comments are descriptive rather than prescriptive.

  2. I would invite careful consideration of what is being outlined in today's lesson as an introduction to this week's study. I raise the following so that each may do their own prayerful study and reflection (as Karen Bunch rightly drew attention to last Tuesday: Romans 14:1-5; Acts 17:11).

    Today's lesson states:

    "In one sense, we are like Odysseus, on a long journey home. The crucial difference, however, is that, unlike Odysseus, we can never “suffer enough” to earn our way back."

    I do not believe I am mistaken in hilighting that the lesson is affirming that suffering is at least a (if not the) key part of salvation - that while we can't "suffer enough", there was One who could and therefore the "suffering" requirement was sufficiently fulfilled. This notion is further strengthened by the lesson's assertion that the suffering of a created being (eg the angel Gabriel) would not be sufficient. "Someone equal with God" must suffer in order for that suffering to sufficiently meet the required degree and type of suffering needed to "ransom our souls". Thus the notion of suffering/punishment is put forward as at least a/the key criterion for access to salvation.

    Now let's look at where this notion of the connection of suffering/punishment as the basis of atonement comes from:

    "Finally, after deciding that Odysseus had suffered enough, the gods agreed to allow the weary warrior to return to his home and family."

    This is how pagan religions saw reality operating: Mistakes ('sin's) must be atoned for by the 'sinner' suffering the required amount. This is precisely the same concept of retributive justice that is the foundation of our human notion of justice.

    I would propose that Isaiah 55:6-9 - though only a single passage - is a succinct summary of a wider concept seen throughout scripture (eg, the Matthew 5-7 Sermon on the Mount; John 18:36; etc): God's ways of being and therefore also of doing are considerably "higher" than our ways. Thus, if suffering as punishment is the basis of Atonement with God, then God's ways are conceptually merely the same as human (and pagan) ways rather than conceptually higher.

    Whilst considering the above, also consider what actually 'got broken' in Genesis 3 and therefore what actually needs to be 'repaired' in order for actual restoration/atonement to occur. Was humanity's problem that it had been disobedient to a prohibition and therefore needed to be punished in order to meet the 'justice' requirements of the law (ie violations must be punished as the basis of 'justice')?

    Or, did humanity's terminal condition need to actually be restored by having a 2nd Adam (substitute) become a valid member of humanity and retrace the steps of the 1st Adam but instead of giving in to temptation to self-seeking, hold on to self-sacrificing love no matter what was thrown at Him - even being put to death on a cross? Could this truly 'restorative justice'(actual restoration of that which is broken back to its pre-broken state) rather than punishment be God's higher way?

    May the Holy Spirit guide your consideration and investigation of this matter across this week...

    • Phil - thank you for the ‘alert’ – I see Life-by-Faith, as outlined by God’s Covenant’s with man, as having God's peculiar/restorative effect in the spiritual and physical life of its adherents. I think that Faith opens us up to, as you say, the “ ‘restorative justice’ (actual restoration of that which is broken back to its pre-broken state) rather than punishment” and that it is God’s higher way.
      My understanding is that this restoration takes effect in the spirit of the faithful believer through the work of the Holy Spirit.

      The suffering of Christ on mankind’s behalf always left me wondering about the ‘why’ He found it necessary to go to the extreme length of this physical experience. Yes, it was foretold that He would do this, but why?
      Could it be that the Son of God and Man consented to expirience to suffer and die man's physical death - though guild-free, he was dying, suffering shame and brokenness -, and so with, in His creative/re-creative power, prepared Himself to respond with self-experienced spiritual, re-creative healing to all who come to Him to be restored through faith in His work on our behalf?
      We trust Him to be able to heal us of all our iniquities and restore true life in us. If He would not have experienced physcial dying due to man's sin personally, our healing from this offense against Him would have remained hypothetical, and this is not how the Son of God interacts with man on behalf of His Father.

      Literally, all things are in His hands, but this type of experience/response had never been experienced by the Son of God before. The Creator's love is so great and all-inclusive, that He allowed Himself to die to experience our death so with to spiritually ‘heal/restore’ us to himself.

      As you say: “God’s ways of being and therefore also of doing are considerably “higher” than our ways.” I think that all the true, restorative healing-by-faith takes place in the creative spirit-realm of the Creator who 'converts' matter-based, physical experience into spirit-based experience and so heals us spiritually - re-creating us in the process!
      John 3:16KJV - "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoseover believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This is the Covenant Faith!

      • Thank you for your thoughtful post. I think there is another element in the suffering of Jesus. We recall that he almost died in Gethsemane. The weight of sin was the cause of His suffering, as it is for us. The horrific suffering at the hands of the Romans was Satan's doing. I do not believe it was necessary or even in God's plan. Satan had nothing but hate for Jesus and took the opportunity to torture Jesus physically to add to His mental torture.

        Jesus' last agonizing statement of loss was, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?" That was the proximate cause of Christ's death; the separation.

        So the physical torture was Satan's doing. To believe otherwise distorts our picture of God!

        • Richard - thank you for commenting. Yes, all evil has its source outside of the will of God; is adversarial to the life giving and life sustaining will of God.

    • Without faith in Jesus' death for the sinner through repentance and faith, the soul that sins will die the death from which there is no resurrection. God's provision through Christ is only 1 of 2 options we have to choose from, and each is allowed to make this choice on their own, no one will be forced. For most, the "reward"(Rev 22:12) will be the 2nd death described in Rev 20:9. This is God's justice, not man's.

      Consider the flood, brought by God upon the earth, who also provided a way to escape the inevitable death the flood would bring to any who refused the means of preserving life. All chose freely and received the consequences("reward") of their choosing.

      Doesn't the word of God make all this very simple to understand?
      Yes, God has a better way for us to choose, but if not, there is only one option left for the sinner. This death is not used to fix the problem, only to rid creation of sin, and all who persist in sinning by rejecting the grace of God's means for fixing sinners.

  3. Praise the LORD He is not like the pagan gods, neither our nor even Jesus' suffering are the means of reconciliation with the Father. Jesus died for our sins.
    I have discovered that the Word of the LORD uses a variety of ways of describing the operation of His Plan of Salvation. Just like Jesus used examples familiar to the people of His day to explain the gospel so also the Holy Spirit inspired old and new testament writers to use types we understand to explain atonement. We cannot claim any are wrong just because it is similar to human thinking because that is exactly why the Holy Spirit gave them to the writers. I believe it has been a progressive process suited to the maturity and understanding of the people at each particular time. We are blessed at this time and just as we put all the parables together to understand the gospel so I believe we should put all the object lessons on atonement together to completely understand it.
    So this is my understanding these are some of the concepts used: love, sacrifice, substitution, ransom, example, justice, recapitulation by 2nd Adam, purification, reconciliation. I have discovered that because it is a complicated concept for our finite minds to grasp the LORD has been exposing/revealing it to us in sections and just because one example doesn't include everything doesn't mean they are not also valid. For example one picture will be of a loving forgiving father while another will be of the farmer throwing weeds into the fire - both reveal different aspects but both are valid.
    I believe the most important concept of all is Love.
    For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believed in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

  4. Something nebulous seems to be attached to heaven’s inspired faith, causing it to be left in the shadows of uncertainty. There still seems to be a ‘bubble’ around the term ‘faith’ which makes it more difficult than it needs to be to be the, oh so powerful and reliable faith of our life. Supported by heaven, this faith-life is 'self-sustaining' and its well will never run dry.

    My interpretation of the meaning of faith is – ‘unquestioned, joyful trust’. I hope that our study-focus will be more on the practical aspects of faith then on the theological, religious understanding of our Christ-centered faith. Faith and humbleness go hand-in-hand and so do self-will and haughtiness.

    Matt.18:3KJV - ”Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Is not this what our Faith is all about – living in the kingdom of God instead of the kingdom of man? Is not this the great change to be taking place in mankind’s life, to live by the Faith of our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus?

    The kingdom of heaven’s faith is for those who, like *little* children, live their life according to the Father’s Will; who trust explicitly and follow withersoever the Shepherd leads. Their conscience still allows molding by the loving attention of the Father, sharing their feelings and emotions freely with Him. They experience the joy and exuberance of the protected child under the care of a loving Father and are willing to learn all about life through the Father’s eyes.

    Rom.5:1-5KJV – v.1:”Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” . My heart and mind’s picture of ‘Peace with God’ – The loving Father embracing His trusting, anticipating, grateful, and joyful child!

  5. Actually, similar to Odysseus, we must not give up hope and must fight the good fight of faith in order to “lay hold on eternal life”(1 Tim 6:12). This gift of God does not happen without the sinner exercising faith, often amid great trials and tribulations. None of this earns anything, but it does demonstrate the faith that receives God's grace(Eph 2:8), “for without faith, it is impossible to please Him”. How will this faith be acknowledged by God? By our works.

  6. Now Faith is the substance (something we can claim) of things hope for the evidence of things not seen. Heb 11:1.
    But without Faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is and that he a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Heb 11:6.
    And Jesus said unto them, because your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence......Matt 17:20.

    I just heard a song sang and listening to it took on a different meaning for me today after singing and hearing this song so many times. Song entitled- 'God On The Mountain.'
    Life is easy when we are up on the mountains, but what happens when we are down in the valley? Starting 2019 into 2020 and even now, many of us our faith had been strongly tested. Many great Christian men and women have left Jesus, or not trusting the Lord as before. Some have grown closer to Jesus.

    Covenant Faith
    Does or can Faith operate by itself? What does the bible says?
    Yea, a man may say, (as many people say today) thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Heb 2:18.

    ...The just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:11). What does that meant to us/me. Abraham lived by faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place ....obey and went (works). He was called to offer up his only son, he prepared everything (works). Covenant Faith and works go together and the combination of the two brings about suffering. Suffering is a way of life. We suffer for many reasons even though we are on the right side.


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