The following Scripture passages are offered to aid beginning fellowships. The readings and commentary for this week are more in line with what has become usual; for the following will most likely be familiar observations. The concept behind this Sabbath’s selection is how to know one is sent.
For the Sabbath of December 12, 2009
The person conducting the Sabbath service should open services with two or three hymns, or psalms, followed by an opening prayer acknowledging that two or three (or more) are gathered together in Christ Jesus’ name, and inviting the Lord to be with them.
The Apostle Paul, after saying that his people Israel had a law that would have lead to righteousness if pursued by faith, continues his thought that there is a righteousness that has come from God:
For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim) [Paul’s citation is from Deut 30:11–14]; because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for
“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”
But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”
Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” (Rom 10:5–21 emphasis added)
Virtually all of Christendom will have Paul’s citation of Joel—“And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (2:32)—applying to themselves in this present age, not to humankind after the spirit has been poured out on all flesh (v. 28) when the kingdom of this world is given to the Son of Man (Dan 7:9–14; Rev 11:15–18).
Catholic dogma [realized eschatology] holds that the kingdom of this world presently belongs to Christ Jesus; that Jesus is either directly or indirectly responsible for Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, the Spanish Inquisition, and Islamic fundamentalism … if Jesus were the presently reigning prince of the single kingdom of this world, He would be responsible for everything that happens and has happened in this world. Orthodoxy does, indeed, hold Him responsible—and this is an accurate stating of either the argumentative assumption or claim held by Christian theologians who contend that everyone who calls on the name of Jesus shall be saved.
Yes, when the spirit is poured out on all flesh, when Satan and his angels are cast from heaven (Rev 12:7–10), when all of humankind is called of God (Rev 18:4), when all of humankind has the Torah written on hearts and minds so that all Know the Lord (Heb 8:11–12), then whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Then whoever endures to the end shall be saved (Matt 24:13; 10:22). Then the kingdom of this world will have been given to the Son of Man, and the glorified Christ will have baptized this world into life as the Lord baptized the world into death in the days of Noah. Then a person will have to mark him or herself for death by rebelling against God, by taking onto the self the tattoo of the cross [Chi xi stigma — Rev 13:18]. Then what Paul wrote will pertain to every person, not to just those whom the Father has drawn from this world beforehand (John 6:44).
The above is what Paul didn’t understand, or couldn’t say after he visited the third heaven. And in this same epistle, Paul writes, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom 7:15) … Paul apparently expected that once sin no longer had dominion over the disciple, the disciple would no longer transgress the commandments, as in coveting (transgression of the 10th Commandment — Deut 5:21). What Paul didn’t understand was that it was only the inner self, the new creature, the indwelling son of God over which sin no longer had dominion. Paul didn’t understand that the tent of flesh (the fleshly body—of the disciple) would remain subject to, or in bondage to sin and death until the Son of Man was revealed. When Paul wrote to the saints at Rome, he apparently did not expect to die but to remain alive until Jesus returned: he tells the church of the Thessalonians,
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:13–17 emphasis added)
Paul was not given knowledge that the Church has today, for the prophecies of Daniel were not then unsealed, nor was John’s gospel or the Book of Revelation written. Paul knew a little about the Tribulation: he knew that there must be, among disciples, rebellion against God when the man of lawlessness [man of perdition] is revealed (2 Thess 2:3), but by his own declaration, he didn’t understand why sin continued to dwell in his fleshly members when sin had no dominion over disciples and when it was his will that he keep the law of God (Rom 7:25).
By force of will, by determination, by choice—no one can outwardly keep the commandments perfectly until the second Passover liberation of Israel from indwelling sin and death. John writes, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8–10). But John adds in this same epistle,
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (2:3–6)
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (3:4–10 emphasis added)
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (4:20–21)
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (5:2–3)
The love Philadelphia has for Christendom is that this fellowship will tell all Christian pastors and teachers the truth. This fellowship will not tell lies to garner membership or income or importance in this world; for this world and the things in it are passing away. They really are of no importance. And the “good” that the Lord intends for Israel is salvation, not fine suits or cars or gold chains that bind their wearers to the Adversary as his bondservants.
Is a person any less bound to disobedience by a gold chain than by iron shackles? Is a pastor any less a servant of the Adversary if he or she disguises him or herself as a minister of righteousness? Is not the pastor who asks for donations or tithes thoroughly false (2 Cor 11:7–15 — there is a difference between asking and accepting what is freely offered as Paul accepted support from the brothers who had come from Macedonia)? Indeed, he or she is a deceitful workman who has disguised him or herself as an apostle of Christ just as the Adversary has disguised himself as an angel of light; as the “Christ.”
Paul asks, “How then will they [Jews or Greeks] call on him [Christ Jesus] in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” And the answer to Paul’s question is that Christians cannot call on the Father or the Son and expect to be heard if they practice lawlessness and do not love their brother[s]. They simply cannot continue actively sinning and be saved, and that is what visible Christendom does: it actively and knowingly commits sin. Yes, it does! Denials only condemn those Christians who assemble together Sunday mornings. Denials only condemn those Sabbatarian disciples who believe that they constitute the entirety of the Christian Church—they are without love for their brothers who are trapped in lawlessness by generations of orthodoxy. Denial only condemns those pastors and theologians who have so badly misread Scripture that they believe the world is now baptized in life. Denial condemns those who teach infant sons of God to transgress the commandments.
Before a person begins to teach others, the person needs to realize that it is not enough to have a heart for the Lord: the person who teaches needs to have been sent by the Lord to teach as Paul and Barnabas were set apart for the work of God by direct command of God, this command heard as spoken words and this calling also heard by Simeon called Niger [Latin: black or dark], Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen of Herod’s court (Acts 13:1–2).
Philadelphia and the work that Philadelphia does are by a direct command of God, heard as spoken words.
Paul had knowledge that he could not set down in words (2 Cor 12:4), and again, the prophecies of Daniel were kept sealed and secret until the time of the end; so even if Paul knew that a second Passover had to happen before the new covenant was implemented, he couldn’t reveal all he knew let alone what he didn’t know … Christendom is built on Judaism rejecting knowledge of God, and the glorified harvest of firstfruits is built on today’s Christendom rejecting knowledge of God: the Church in this present era is the reality that casts as its lifeless shadow both the scribes and Pharisees in the 1st-Century and ancient Israel in Egypt. The man Jesus was the prophet like Moses (Deut 18:15). The two witnesses are, just prior to the second Passover, as Moses and Aaron were prior to the first Passover; the two witnesses will be, after the second Passover (i.e., in the Tribulation), as Moses and Aaron were in the wilderness and as the Lamb of God and the Remnant will be in the Endurance. Thus, the two witnesses in the Tribulation (the first 1260 days of the seven endtime years) form the shadow and copy of the Lamb and of the Remnant (from Rev 12:17) in the Endurance (the last 1260 days of those seven endtime years). But neither the Pharisees nor Paul nor the early Church had knowledge of the Endurance. None of them needed to know about the Endurance. It didn’t pertain to them, as it didn’t pertain to the Radical Reformers in the 16th-Century. It didn’t pertain even to saints in the early 20th-Century. It does, however, pertain to saints in the early 21st-Century; so the visions of Daniel were unsealed, and God called those whom He chose to reread prophecy.
But God isn’t without memory: Paul writes,
For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Rom 9:6–13)
God’s purpose of election isn’t an eeny, meeny, miny, moe count that has “this person” being one of the Elect and “that person” consigned to damnation. It is, instead, God remembering who made him or herself into seed of the Adversary before being born of spirit, with this person being hated by God before birth.
There is never any justifiable reason for a “Christian” to continue walking in this world as a Gentile after professing with his or her mouth that Jesus is Lord … a “Christian” mocks Christ when the person continues in lawlessness (sin) after being born of God, and one thing very apparent when reading Scripture is that Christ Jesus dislikes being mocked.
If Christians were today truly under the new covenant, no one who keeps Sunday as the Sabbath would be saved; all would be condemned because of their unbelief, or not believing the truth, not walking as Jesus walked.
Paul expresses the concept that those who say they are of Christ ought to walk as Jesus walked when he says,
· “I urge you, then, be imitators of me” (1 Cor 4:16);
· “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1);
· “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph 5:1);
· “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Phil 3:17);
· “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord” (1 Thess 1:6);
· “For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea” (1 Thess 2:14);
· “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:7–8);
· “‘Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I [Paul] committed any offense’” (Acts 25:8).
No Christian can walk as Jesus walked or imitate Paul as he imitated Jesus and attempt to bodily enter into God’s presence on the first day of the week—and that is what Sabbath observance represents, bodily entering into God’s rest, with God’s rest being a euphemistic expression for God’s presence. Thus, the person who attends Christian worship services on Sunday does not walk as Jesus walked, but seeks darkness rather than light regardless of what this person thinks his or her relationship with Jesus is. And the person who teaches potential or infant sons of God to seek darkness is a servant of the Adversary who has disguised him or herself as a minister of righteousness. This person has not been sent by God to teach; this person is a liar and murderer, with his or her condemnation long established before judgments are revealed.
Jesus, to whom all judgment has been given (John 5:22), did not come into this world to judge it but to save it (John 12:47). Jesus, who will reveal judgments, chose not to judge the world even though all judgment was given to Him. Rather, He left His word [o logos], His message, with His disciples, and this message should be the judge of all who do not believe the writings of Moses and hear and believe His voice.
Philadelphia routinely receives requests for affiliation or offers to translate its writings into languages other than English from “Christian” fellowships that assemble on Sunday … why? Is there any ambiguity about Philadelphia teaching that disciples are to imitate Paul as he imitated Jesus? Is there ambiguity about Jesus being an observant Jew, or about Paul committing no offense against the Law or the temple? There really is no ambiguity that Peter was teaching Gentile converts to live as Judeans (read Gal 2:14 in Greek). There is also no ambiguity about James teaching that a disciple’s faith must be as Abraham’s faith was, professed with the mouth (Gen 15:6), then made complete by deeds (Jas 2:22–24; Gen 22:9–19) — the promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12:2–3 and in Genesis 15:5 and in Genesis 17:2, 4 seem to be self-contained declarations, but they were not established before God until Abraham demonstrated his willingness, by faith, to sacrifice Isaac. The Spokesman of YHWH tells Abraham,
By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you [Abraham] have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice. (Gen 22:16–18 emphasis added)
No additional promise or covenant was made with Abraham when he offered up Isaac, but rather, as James understood (and as Paul apparently did not), Abraham’s faith that was counted to him as righteousness was made complete or established before God when Abraham acted upon what he had professed with his mouth and believed in his heart. And it is this establishing of faith by deeds (by works) that lawless theologians, with Martin Luther being high on this list, have not understood and cannot understand because they have not been sent out by God as Paul and Barnabas were.
There is no doubt that Martin Luther had a heart for God, or that Augustine had a heart for God. But neither understood that even faith equal to that of the first apostles must be supplemented: Peter writes,
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (2 Pet 1:5–10 emphasis added)
Faith is, of itself, hardly adequate to make one’s calling and election sure. This Peter understood; this James understood; and this Paul understood although Paul expressed the concept differently. Paul wrote,
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Gal 2:15–21)
What Paul wrote in the above passage to the Galatians must be held in tension with what he wrote to the Romans: “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (2:13).
Paul makes a distinction between the works of the law [Torah] that are principally the animal sacrifices as Israel’s covering for sin, and being found to be sinners, which equates to being found lawless or as transgressors of the law. Clearly Paul states that is the doer of the law—the one who keeps the commandments—who will be justified (again, Rom 2:13). Also, Paul clearly states Israel had a law that would have lead to righteousness:
That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. (Rom 9:30–32)
The law which would have led to righteousness is the Moab covenant, what Paul calls, “the righteousness based on faith” (Rom 10:6), a covenant that would have Israel returning to the Lord by faith (Deut 30:1–2) and keeping all that is written in the Book of Deuteronomy (v. 10).
Christian theologians are poor readers of Scripture and do not comprehend that Paul assumed converts, once free from sin and mandatory transgression of the law, would embrace God and present themselves as willing instruments of righteousness (Rom 6:13); for he writes,
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (Rom 6:16–19 emphasis added)
If disciples as former sons of disobedience, “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2), were slaves to impurity and to lawlessness (Rom 6:19), then Paul would have these former sons of disobedience—when set free, not from the law but from disobedience or lawlessness—present themselves as slaves to righteousness, which John defines as keeping the law and having love for brother. Paul expects converts to keep the law; he doesn’t expect disciples to sin or transgress the law.
Therefore, the person who was not keeping the law as a cultural mandate but was living as a son of disobedience—when this person by faith turns to God and professes that Jesus is Lord and believes that the Father raised Jesus from the dead, this person is at the point where it is time to add virtue to the person’s faith, with virtue represented by beginning to keep the law. This person needs to cease breaking the commandments: if this person has been a fornicator as many are in this world, this person needs to cease fornicating and sin no more. If this person has been a liar, this person needs to cease lying. If this person has been a thief, this person needs to quit stealing. If this person has been a Sunday keeping Christian, this person needs to cease transgressing the Sabbath commandment and begin assembling before God on the Sabbath, the 7th-day. If this person has been an idolater, this person needs to cease praying through idols, cease bowing before idols, cease lighting candles to idols. And it really doesn’t matter what the person thinks about what he or she does; it matters what the person knows, for what Christian doesn’t know that the Sabbath is the 7th-day? What Christian in this age of inexpensive Bibles has no knowledge of what Moses wrote, or that Jesus said, “‘If you believed Moses, you would believe me … if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words’” (John 5:46–47)?
Christendom simply does not believe Jesus’ words; thus, they constitute the hated son even before they are born of God. And there is nothing (or not very much) that Philadelphia can do to cause visible Christendom to believe Moses or to hear the words of Jesus.
The Christian minister in India or elsewhere who introduces himself to Philadelphia by saying how he goes door-to-door preaching the gospel of Christ, or how he has an orphanage devoted to Christ, or how he has held many soul-winning campaigns identifies himself as a servant of the Adversary … what might impress others discloses to Philadelphians the person’s lack of foundational knowledge of the Father and the Son—and Paul’s questions must again be asked, And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
To Paul’s questions is one that’s thought but seldom verbalized: How are they to know who has been sent? How is a Sabbatarian disciple to know that a person outside of the Sabbath keeper’s sect has been sent by God? Both will keep the commandments and teach others to do likewise. And the test comes down to what Paul wrote to the saints at Ephesus: “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets [en pneuma in spirit]” (Eph 3:4–5). Not much of a test, but when it takes faith to please God, it is enough of a test: does what has been written reveal an insight into the mystery of Christ which was not previously known? If it does, then Philadelphia should be believed as Paul was—and how many believed Paul when all in Asia had left him (2 Tim 1:15), when those in Achaia were questioning whether he was of God, and those in Judea were seeking to kill him.
Not much has changed in two millennia.
The person conducting the Sabbath service should close services with two hymns, or psalms, followed by a prayer asking God’s dismissal.
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"Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved."