Something totally new, not the ‘old raised to perfection’

The Portuguese-language Ave Maria Bible has a strange expression in its Doctrinal Index, in the entry on the word “covenant”. It briefly discusses the covenant with Israel, with a short list of various covenants made with Adam, Noah, and Abraham. There is a single sentence (how strange!) about Christ’s covenant, which mentions the covenant with Israel:

“Jesus Christ at the last supper and in the sacrifice of the cross raises this covenant to perfection, conferring on man true righteousness and divine adoption, Matthew 26.28; Romans 3.21ff.”

Let’s hear what the Lord Jesus himself said. Continue reading “Something totally new, not the ‘old raised to perfection’”

The Bible is more than a love letter

On January 24, 2021, in his Sunday homily, Francis, the Catholic chief, repeated the words of philosopher Sören Kierkegaard who said that “the Bible is God’s love letter addressed to us.” Wishing to emphasize the closeness of God’s Word, Francis had an underling to read the following:

It is a love letter, written to us by the One who knows us best. In reading it, we again hear his voice, see his face and receive his Spirit. That word brings us close to God. Let us not keep it at arm’s length, but carry it with us always … (Homily 2021)

In general, his point is more than appropriate: God speaks through the Scriptures to everyone and we must listen to them often. Continue reading “The Bible is more than a love letter”

Reflecting Jesus

Why would anyone want to go back to the Law of Moses after tasting the salvation of Jesus? Sadly, this is something Christians in the first century struggled with, particularly those who had been raised as Jews under the Law of Moses. Even more sadly, there are Christians today who want to return to the Law of Moses and add it to what we have in Jesus. Notice what Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians.

“The law that brought death was written in words on stone. It came with God’s glory, which made Moses’ face so bright that the Israelites could not continue to look at it. But that glory later disappeared. So surely the new way that brings the Spirit has even more glory. If the law that judged people guilty of sin had glory, surely the new way that makes people right with God has much greater glory. That old law had glory, but it really loses its glory when it is compared to the much greater glory of this new way. If that law which disappeared came with glory, then this new way which continues forever has much greater glory.” (2 Corinthians 3:7-11 NCV)

Continue reading “Reflecting Jesus”

Jesus’ covenant is better

After establishing that Jesus is not only a high priest for God’s people but a better high priest, the writer of Hebrews goes on to establish that everything about Jesus being our high priest is better than what the Jews had with their high priest.

“Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We have this kind of high priest. He sat down at the right side of the throne of the majesty in the heavens. He’s serving as a priest in the holy place, which is the true meeting tent that God, not any human being, set up. Every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices. So it’s necessary for this high priest also to have something to offer. If he was located on earth, he wouldn’t be a priest because there are already others who offer gifts based on the Law.” (Hebrews 8:1-4 CEB)

The high priests of Israel initially served in a tent that people made, following in every detail “the pattern that I [God] showed you on the mountain” (Hebrews 8:5). Later, although not mentioned by our writer, the priests served in a temple, a building that Solomon had constructed. But our high priest serves in “the true meeting tent that God, not any human being, set up”. It is a “heavenly meeting tent” (Hebrews 8:5). It is in the presence of God himself. Continue reading “Jesus’ covenant is better”

The Rise and fall of the Levitical priesthood

In a previous article, we introduced the importance of studying the priesthood. The priesthood is a story of us, sin, forgiveness, and service. Here we wish to lay a bit of groundwork about the priesthood, and examine why something far greater was necessary.

While the Patriarchs functioned in a priestly fashion (see Genesis 8:17-20; 12:1-9; 14:18-20; Job 1:5; 42:1-9), it is Aaron and his lineage that devoted their lives to the priestly service. Continue reading “The Rise and fall of the Levitical priesthood”

The promises and their impact

Decades have passed since I made some promises to a young lady in two different languages. Those promises announced my marital commitment and intended faithfulness to my young bride. At that time, I slipped a tangible symbol of my vows upon her finger to remind her of what I had promised.

God has also made some promises and provided us with a tangible reminder of them. However, he has offered the greatest promises ever – promises offering hope, identity, peace and holiness. Furthermore, unlike us, God is always faithful to his promises. We can know and rest assured God will deliver. Continue reading “The promises and their impact”

The problem of a bad beginning

Maybe it was the fruit trees or something else, but a sweet aroma welcomed the traveler as he entered the spacious valley filled with orchards. Having heard about oranges, but never having eaten one, he stopped to inquire, “Is this an orange orchard? Might I purchase an orange?”

A chuckle preceded the reply, “The first one is my gift!” With this, a round bright orange fruit was tossed at him. Eating it, he experienced a juicy sweet sensation.

Continue reading “The problem of a bad beginning”

Where’s Waldo?

by Barry Newton

The book “Where’s Waldo?” challenges us to find an elusive Wally with his distinctive red-and-white-striped shirt, bobble hat, and glasses.

At times we may find the search exhilarating or perhaps frustrating. The search for Wally can also provide us with a parable of sort. The setting of this parable involves two young people on a train.

Sitting on a crowded commuter train side by side, a young man picked up a book presumably discarded by an earlier traveler. Turning to the bored-looking lass sitting beside him, he inquired, “Have you ever tried to find Waldo in these books before?”

Perhaps the fact that she even ventured to respond is as surprising as her words, “No, have you?”

He mused, “This will be my first time.”

Together they opened the book to the first bewildering page of colorful detail. Immediately he began methodically scanning every inch of the picture . After several minutes he announced, “Wally is not here.”

Looking up from the same page, she asked, “Why do you say that? I thought Wally was supposed to be on every page.”

Exuding a deep confidence he informed her, “I am quite sure that Wally must have 14 stripes. And none of these characters has 14 stripes on their shirt.”

Her retort was quick. “To me that seems so narrow-minded and maybe even mean-spirited.” Then in an effort to display graciousness and pursue the high road, she announced, “I think everyone on this page is Waldo!”

The story seems far-fetched. No one would make these claims. Furthermore, we know they are both wrong. But how do we know this?

We recognize that the reader does not determine who Wally is. Neither the reader’s character nor his thinking influences who Waldo really is or is not. Instead, many years ago the illustrator Martin Handford decided what Waldo looks like. And when anyone applies his criteria, they are neither being narrow-minded nor gracious, just accurate.

Likewise, who is and is not a Christian is not a matter of our opinion.

If in an effort to be gracious and broad-minded we extend an inclusiveness as far as our hearts can expand, this does not help us identify who Christians truly are. Conversely, if we restrict true Christianity to only those conforming to our privately constructed criteria, similarly our vision will remain muddled.

To accurately perceive Christian identity depends upon listening to the Author who created and still makes people into his new creation.

As far as I can ascertain from scripture, people become Christians when they enter the new covenant created by Christ’s death upon the cross (Hebrews 8:8-13; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27).

Specifically, when people believe the claims of the gospel about Christ and choose to receive the blessings and identity his death made possible, they are to respond to Christ by acknowledging him and relying upon him in immersion.

How accurate are we in identifying Wally? How about those who belong to Christ?