Defective Views Of The Church

This article was written decades ago; much more is this counsel needed in our day.

Charles D. Alexander
All By Grace
Sola Christus          
Sola Scriptura           
Sola Gratia           
Sola Fida           
Soli Deo Gloria
Defective views of the Church lie at the root of most prophetical errors, and have played havoc with the holy art of Bible exposition. “Dispensations” have been invented to account for the insertion of the Age of the Christian Church where the kingdom of earthly Israel should have been established according to the literal interpretation of prophecy. So convinced are the dispensationalists that all prophecy is for the nation of Israel that they have introduced the extraordinary theory that the Church as such is nowhere envisaged in OT prophecy, but is hidden from the view of the prophets. This despite the fact that the Day of Pentecost was the subject of the main prophecy of Joel, as Peter asserts in his great Pentecostal sermon   and James’s subsequent verdict at the council of the Church at Jerusalem that the calling of the gentiles into the Church was the subject of the prophecy of Amos in his ninth chapter (see Acts 15:13 18). Paul teaches the Ephesians that the Church, so far from being an unexpected event in history was all along that to which God was working from before the foundation of the world, as the means by which He should make known to all creation His manifold wisdom (Ephesians 3:9 10).
 
In Galatians Paul makes it plain that the Church in her NT form is the continuity of the Israel of the OT and the inheritor, as of rights, of the promises made to Abraham (Galatians 3:26   4.7).
 
There has been but one Church from the foundation of the world, and one faith (which Paul describes in its continuity from Abel down to his own day, and from then on to the end of time   see Hebrews 11). Faith does not change either as to its nature or its object. The object of faith is the promise of life in Christ Jesus, first made in the Garden in the presence of our first parents, around from the beginning. The priesthood of Abel anticipated the sacrifice of Christ. Enoch’s translation was an assurance to the antediluvian world that immortality was pledged in the promise death would be overcome. Abraham’s faith was sealed by the same anticipatory sacrifice as was Abel’s. Paul assures us that so far from the promise to Abraham ‘and his seed’ being the exclusive preserve of the natural seed of Abraham, it was in fact the promise of life to all who believe, be they Jew or gentile. Abraham’s altered name was a pledge of this – “The Father of Many Nations”. “They who are of faith are blest with faithful Abraham”, declares Paul. (Galatians 3:9)
 
The promise of life, made to Abraham, was not to be the prerogative of an earthly people who throughout their history thrust it from them, but was something which only faith could grasp. Hence “It is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all”. (Romans 4:16)
 
Abraham’s seed was Christ: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one: And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). So the natural seed of Abraham was never the subject of the promise only that spiritual seed which by faith and the new birth partake of the new life in Christ. This is the only Israel which inherits the promises, and it is an Israel of Jew and gentile, on terms of absolute equality and right, indifferent as to ancestry, a people of faith and repentance.
 
This Church will continue unchanged as to its calling and nature, till the end of time. No assembly of the Jewish people in Palestine can be regarded as the fulfillment of any promise to Abraham. The land of Canaan was not in itself the fulfillment of the promise, but only a temporal pledge until the seed should come to whom the promise was made, even Christ. Any restoration of the nation of Israel to its ancient privileges would be a reversal of the divine order by which the temporal only foreshadows the spiritual. All the prophecies under the figure of the land of Palestine have been fulfilled in the Church, and are intended to be spiritually understood. The literal interpretation requires that the temple be rebuilt and a ‘most favoured nation’ be established; Christ must vacate His eternal throne to come down to earth as a temporal monarch at Jerusalem. The New Testament knows nothing of this and the New Testament is the sole interpreter of the Old Testament   not the reverse.
 
Our readers should not be startled by the present Jewish occupation of Palestine. It may or may not be permanent, but it is certainly not the fulfillment of any prophecy as understood according to the New Testament. The only ‘nation’ to which the kingdom of God is given is one which brings forth the fruits thereof (Matthew 21:43). To avoid the force of this verse Dr. Scofield introduces a distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven a distinction which does not exist in Holy Scripture.
Literalism has sealed up large tracts of the Divine Word from any relevance to the people of God, and lies at the root of much ineffective preaching today. It also lies at the root of much commercialism in the writing and sale on an enormous scale, of books which purport to foretell the future and read current events in terms of Bible prophecies. It is for this reason that we press on without hope of earthly reward, in our task of presenting our thesis  REVELATION SPIRITUALLY UNDERSTOOD.
 
Note: While this article was written over thirty years ago it is as timely as the current [2006] conflict between “Israel” and Lebanon.

A Light View of Sin

Each week day I drive through a small town on my to and from work. For the past month or more, this sign has been in the yard of a church building. Even with good content, having a message board can be more of a burden than a benefit – it takes work and diligence to keep truth in a short message updated often enough so people notice. But when the message is wretched, one wonders why it is there at all.

Sin like a credit card

While it’s true that sin can seem enjoyable – what value would temptation be to Satan if the end product was rightly portrayed? – it is a biblical fact that we are to hate sin, not enjoy it. Paul addressed this in teaching how abundant God’s grace to towards His children, far greater than our sin, and then asking the rhetorical question:  Romans 6:1-2 (HCSB)  What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply?  Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Does the apostle’s instruction seem more biblical than that of the church board in the picture? Again, the apostle –  2 Corinthians 5:21 (HCSB)  He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Knowing this, that Christ Jesus took our sin upon Himself, for them on the cross and was the object of God’s wrath that was due us, how can we abide a professing man of God who tells us to be cavalier towards sin?

Enjoy it now, pay for it later? It was PAID IN FULL on the cross! We add to the debt we owe Him every time we sin. It’s too often when we diligently seek to pursue Christ, how much more wretched would our track record be if we thought we were supposed to enjoy sin? Let the lyrics of this old hymn pierce your heart and mine. May we NO LONGER be at peace with our sin – or those who tell us to enjoy it! Let us not grow weary in well doing, but press on toward the prize that will not tarnish and be done with lesser things!

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
’Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
’Tis the long expected prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
’Tis a true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
Foes insulting his distress:
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed!
See Who bears the awful load!
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man, and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost.
Christ the Rock of our salvation,
Christ the Name of which we boast.
Lamb of God for sinners wounded!
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hope have built.

The Origins of the KJV

I’ve been told by some KJV-only advocates that one reason they believe the KJV to be THE KING-JAMES-ONLY-115396838242English Bible is that they claim it has been purified 7 times and the Bible prophesied it would be so! Here’s one web site that explains their position. And their summary is:

The seven English versions that make the English Bibles up to and including the Authorized Version fit the description in Psalm 12:6 of the words of the Lord being “purified seven times” are Tyndale’s, Matthew’s, Coverdale’s, the Great Bible (printed by Whitechurch), the Geneva Bible, the Bishops’ Bible, and the King James Bible.

The Wycliffe, Taverner, and Douay-Rheims Bibles, whatever merits any of them may have, are not part of the purified line God “authorized,” of which the King James Authorized Version is God’s last one — purified seven times.

They allude to but do not explain how they made these determinations, but conclude that the 1611 KJV is YHWH’s purified Word. I do find it curious that only English Bibles are included in their lineage of purified Bibles. What does the non-English speaking world do? As for the lineage of the KJV, there is no basis for argument. Here’s how HCSB: Navigating the Horizons in Bible Translations records it:

When in 1604 King James authorized a committee of scholars to publish a new Bible, he directed them to start with the Bishop’s Bible and retain what was already accurate and elegant and excellent, while consulting the original language sources to see if any modifications were necessary. In the introduction, Miles Smith states,

Truly (good Christian Reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one . . . , but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavor, that our mark.

So the KJV, strictly speaking, is not a translation but a revision. In fact, it is a revision of a revision (Bishop’s Bible) of a revision (Great Bible) of a revision (Matthew’s Bible) of a revision (Coverdale’s Bible) of Tyndale’s translation. “A great deal of praise, therefore, that is given to it belongs to its predecessors. For the idiom and vocabulary, Tyndale deserves the greatest credit; for the melody and harmony, Coverdale; for scholarship and accuracy, the Geneva version.”

Yet the authorized version continued to undergo change. From the same book:

By the time the 1762 Cambridge and 1769 Oxford editions were printed, English spelling was standardized. There were nearly 24,000 changes from the 1611 editions.

Advocates of the KJV argue that the only changes were punctuation, spelling, and correction of printers’ errors. Even that would qualify as an “update.” However, also included in the 24,000 changes were around 1,500 significant changes.

Something I was unaware of is that many English Bibles relied on Latin rather than source language sources for most of the Old Testament:

in the chain of revisions from Tyndale’s Bible to the KJV, the last 34 books of the Old Testament were never translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic! Tyndale only translated the Pentateuch before he was martyred, and Coverdale translated the rest of the Old Testament from the Latin. Therefore, technically, even the RV, ASV, RSV, and ESV contain 34 books of the Old Testament that were originally translated from the Latin and then “carefully compared” to the Hebrew and Aramaic. (ibid)

With the recent availability of ancient manuscripts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls we have access to more and older manuscripts for nearly all of the Old and much of the New Testament. Part of the main goal of accuracy in translation deals with the target language; how can the idea given by God in Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew be best translated into today’s English? Advances in translation techniques and software in the late 20th century had given translators the best tools yet to ensure English Bibles deliver the meaning of the inspired texts given to His prophets and apostles.

Those who think English forms of speech from 500 years ago and the faulty sources used by the KJV, it is difficult for me to comprehend why some Christians think the KJV is the best and/or only English Bible we should use. It is a good English Bible, but it is not inspired. Once more from Hcsb: navigating the horizons in bible translations:

The first words of Pr 26:23 were always taken as “silver dross,” and it was hard to understand the sense of the verse. Then starting in the late 1920’s thousands of clay tablets were unearthed at Ras Shamra. The language turned out to be Ugaritic, and the tablets greatly increased our knowledge of Near Eastern poetry, Canaanite mythology, and Semitic vocabulary. The Ugaritic word spsg was discovered, which means “glaze.” By dividing the Hebrew differently, the first line can be translated, “Like glaze on an earthen vessel,” which is an apt comparison to “flattering lips with an evil heart.”

As archaeology and linguistics improve our understanding of the language and culture of the ancient Near East, at some point it becomes incumbent upon the English-speaking church to produce a new translation of God’s Word.

May God grant us wisdom to truly seek the meaning of His message to His people, and avoid treating any translation as a religious relic to be revered.

As a postscript, because some people commenting are mistaken in believing the KJV to be supreme, here is a short article examining errors in the KJV. It’s a good translation, but it is the product of man.

Robert Haldane on Mortifying Sin

Robert Haldane quoting William Romaine in his commentary on the book of Romans: Haldane

True spiritual mortification does not consist in sin not being in thee, nor in its being put on the cross daily, nor yet in its being kept upon it. There must be something more to establish perfect peace in thy conscience; and that is the testimony of God concerning the body of sin. He has provided for thy perfect deliverance from it in Christ. Everything needful for this purpose was finished by Him upon the cross. He was the Surety. He suffered for thee. Thy sins were crucified with Him, and nailed to His cross. They were put to death when He died: for He was thy covenant-head, and thou wast legally represented by Him, and art indeed dead to sin by His dying to sin once. The law has now no more right to condemn thee, a believer, than it has to condemn Him. Justice is bound to deal with thee, as it has with thy risen and ascended Savior. If thou dost not thus see thy complete mortification in Him, sin will reign in thee. No sin can be crucified either in heart or life, unless it be first pardoned in conscience; because there will be want of faith to receive the strength of Jesus, by whom alone it can be crucified. If it be not mortified in its guilt, it cannot be subdued in its power. If the believer does not see his perfect deadness to sin in Jesus, he will open a wide door to unbelief; and if he be not persuaded of his completeness in Christ, he gives room for the attacks of self-righteousness and legal tempers. If Christ be not all in all, self must still be looked upon as something great, and there will be food left for the pride of self-importance and self-sufficiency; so that he cannot grow into the death of Christ in sensible experience, further than he believes himself to be dead to sin in Christ. The more clearly and steadfastly he believes this, as the Apostle did–I am crucified with Christ–in proportion will he cleave to Christ, and receive from Him greater power to crucify sin. This believing view of his absolute mortification in Christ, is the true Gospel method of mortifying sin in our own persons. Read the sixth of Romans, and pray for the Spirit of revelation to open it to thee. There thou wilt discover the true way to mortify sin. It is by believing that thou art planted together with Christ in His death; from thence only thy pardon flows, from thence thy daily victory is received, and from thence thy eternal victory will be perfected. –

In Robert Haldane, An Exposition of The Epistle to the Romans, 253-254

Biblical Covenants – Baptist Perspective

Covenant chart color 768x400

The diagram above is my attempt to show the relationship between the various covenants between God and man discussed below. The covenants with Adam and Noah were with mankind and all the created order. Adam fell and we all are dead in him, our federal head; so too all of creation was cursed because of Adam’s sin.

From the dust of men, YHWH called out a people for Himself, to be custodians of His Word, to shine forth His glories in the wicked world, and to preserve the promised seed as it was carried through the generations from Adam to Christ Jesus. National Israel inhabited what is shown as the Old Covenant. Gentiles are not in the Old Covenant.

If all men are not in Adam’s Covenant, then all men could not die in Adam. But since all men die in Adam, we must see those that God formed into the Hebrew nation were born dead in Adam. The covenant of circumcision and the Mosaic covenant applied to them as God’s temporal people, but in Adam they all died. Some of them were redeemed by faith in the promised Christ and were bought out of the Adamic covenant into the covenant of redemption, to be sealed in Christ in the fullness of time. While they lived in the flesh, they were in the Mosaic Covenant as God’s temporal people. So all national Israel was at all times members of two covenants – one determining their spiritual condition (in Adam or in Christ), the other identifying them as God’s temporal people.

The eternal covenant called out in Hebrews 13 was a prelapsarian agreement within the holy trinity. It was revealed progressively until it was fulfilled by Christ and the issuing of the New Covenant. What the eternal covenant does is provide redemption for sinners (Ephesians 1 and others). 2 Timothy 1 shows us that our redemption was effected before the foundation of the world. I consider this covenant to be the guardian for the elect through redemptive history, until the New Covenant was issued, as was the Old Covenant for national Israel. Hebrews tells us the Old Testament saints waited until Christ came to get their full reward – while saved looking forward to the promised seed, “they did not receive that which was promised (temporal rest), since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.”

Both the Hebrew people and Gentiles have Adam as their spiritual father; only by being given new life in the last Adam do we become children of Abraham according to the promise. This gives us standing with Creator God as His children through the adoption of sons.

The covenant with Noah is outside the redemptive chain, as it is an unconditional promise of God to provide for man and beast seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night until the end of the age. It is included to remind us of God’s kind provision even to those whose best life is now. It mitigates the wrath of God for those in Adam while this age winds down. The shaded oval is labeled “Old Covenant” and represents God’s relationship to national Israel. It includes the three major covenants contained therein, although the Abrahamic Covenant has only one side in this arena. This line of covenants began as YHWH called people from Adam’s line to form His temporal people, and began to close with the Davidic Covenant, coming to a final close when the son of David who was his Lord fulfilled all the requirements of Moses and the prophets and cut the New Covenant (Galatians 3:24). The Covenant of Promise was revealed to man as God cursed the serpent, recorded in Genesis 3:15 and fulfilled in the New Covenant, being revealed with increasing clarity as redemptive history unfolded.

The Adamic Covenant runs parallel to the Old Covenant, and does not expire until the end of the age. All people in history are ruled by this covenant, with God’s universal law at work in the nations; the works of which are written on the hearts of these people (Romans 2:12-16). Those who are in the First Adam remain in this covenant unless, in time, God redeems them. From God’s covenant with Abraham come children of the flesh (being held captive by the Law of Moses – Galatians 4:21 – 25) and children of promise (being set free by faith in the promised seed – Galatians 3:29 & 4:26 – 31). This ever-increasing family gathers members from all races, creeds, and covenants. Sons of Adam who are redeemed have Abraham as their spiritual father (Galatians 3:29) Jesus is the promised son of David (Acts 2:22 – 39), being born under the law and its curse (Galatians 3:10 – 14), and giving Himself as a ransom to buy the elect (John 6:37 – 40). His work of redemption fulfilled the demands of the Old Covenant and all the types that pointed to His coming. This work made the Old Covenant obsolete and introduced the New Covenant which displays the glories of Christ in the lives of the redeemed (Hebrews 8).

With Noah as our federal head, we have so-called common grace from our Creator, both man and creation. The curse of Adam remains throughout this age, conquered but not eliminated, as we wait for the age to come; so the blessings through Noah remain throughout this age, to be made all the more glorious in the age to come.

The Pastor – Chapter 8, Conclusion

If you have listened to this book, you know the author desires only to please YHWH and help Solaequip His people so we will not be tossed about by the whimsy of man. Here’s his wrap for the last chapter:

Having published this book, I know I shall be accused of denigrating both the biblical work of the gospel minister, and the man himself. Indeed, I knew it before I began. But I didn’t agree with it then, and I don’t agree with it now. Yet, if such a critique of an unscriptural title really has undermined what many regard as ‘the ministry ’, then something is seriously wrong with what we think of as ‘the ministry ’. And the sooner we find it out the better. In the 16th century, men like Thomas Cartwright and Robert Browne came to realise that the warrant to preach does not depend on a magistrate’s licence, and they had the courage to destroy the noxious bits of paper which pretended to make a man into a minister. We must show the same courage and the same spirit in our day. If an elder’s authority depends on the invention of an office, on Humpty Dumpty’s misuse of biblical words, or on the use of a title, we ought to recognise where we are – and the consequences of it. To accommodate the words of the Independent, Henry Jacob: A teacher in Christ’s church has a far ‘better original’ than calling him ‘Pastor’; or ought to have! Of course, we must honour all men to whom honour is due (Rom. 13:7). In particular, as I have repeatedly stressed, we should ‘respect’ our elders ‘who work hard among [us], who are over [us] in the Lord and who admonish [us]’, and we should ‘hold them in the highest regard in love
because of their work’ (1 Thess. 5:12-13), but this does not mean we should give them a title.
While we must not undervalue the gifts of Christ to his church, pastor-teachers among them, neither must we make little popes of them! Or big!

Chapter 8 is here.

Chapter 7 can be found here.

The Pastor – Chapter 7, The All-Body Ministry

What is meant by “the priesthood of believers?” Does the Bible show “the pastor” as being the ruler of all that goes on within the local church? SolaHere’s a note from the author on this chapter:

As we have seen, church rule and care has been ruined, twisted into a monstrosity. In tandem – the one feeding off the other – the priesthood of all believers has been allowed to dwindle into practical neglect, so that it has become the poor relation of the Christian religion, rarely discussed, let alone thought about, least of all acted upon. And for those who do have some concept of it, too frequently they think of it as an individual thing, a personal thing – I can go directly to God for my self. A wonderful truth, of course, but one that fails to exhaust the breadth and depth of meaning of this priesthood.

Chapter 7 is here.

Chapter 6 was posted here.