Friday, March 16, 2012

The End of the Mosaic System

Towards the end of Jesus' ministry and at the apex of his popularity Matthew records the following: "When he entered Jerusalem the whole city went wild with excitement. 'Who is this?' people asked, and the crowds replied, 'This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee'" (Matthew 21:10-11; REB used throughout except where noted). John in his abbreviated account of Jesus' startling interruption of commercial proceedings in the Temple records the Jews' challenge: "What sign do you show us, seeing that you do these things?" Jesus' cryptic comment was "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again" (John 2:19). After this encounter Jesus' activity did not escape the eagle eye of the religious watchdogs. The Messiah had nevertheless continued his regular teaching in the Temple although "the chief priests, scribes and principal men sought to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do for all the people hung on his words" (Luke 19:47, 48).

Those who believe Jesus to be primarily a teacher of ethics with a new religious slant, and a Savior who came mainly to die for our sins, have overlooked the dynamic message with which he challenged the nation of Israel.

It was about a new Kingdom freed from Roman control. The Kingdom of God would eventually gain political supremacy over the world. It was the Kingdom which Israel's ancient prophets had repeatedly predicted (Daniel 2:44; 7:18, 22, 27; Zechariah 14:9, etc.).

Contemporary biblical historians have captured the real essence of Messiah Jesus' message. It announced a spectacular turn of events for the nation of Israel and the creation "of a new world order." Peter Jennings' recent ABC production about the "Irresistible Story of Jesus" featured leading scholars who attested to the obvious fact that "Kingdom of God," the heart of the Gospel, is a thoroughly political term. One of these, Professor N.T. Wright, Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey, had written:

"Jesus was announcing a message, a word from Israel's covenant God.... He was a herald, the bringer of an urgent message that could not wait, could not become the stuff of academic debate. He was issuing a public invitation, like someone setting up a new political party and summoning all and sundry to sign up and help create a new world order.

The old picture of Jesus as the teacher of timeless truths, or even the announcer of an essentially timeless call for decision, will simply have to go. His announcement of the Kingdom was a warning of imminent catastrophe, a summons to an immediate change of heart" (N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, pp. 172, 173).

Until this basic fact about the Christian Gospel is recognized the true picture of Jesus is fatally obscured. For many who are unaware of what Jesus was really about, his actions are largely consigned to irrelevance in this modern age.

"I must give the Good News of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, for that is what I was sent to do" (Luke 4:43). With this formal purpose statement Jesus provided us with a clear description of his Messianic agenda. But how could his explosive action in the Temple benefit his Kingdom mission? This man, with a not uncommon name of Jesus (Yeshua), born into a working class family who felt at ease with the less than elite, was viewed as a potent political threat to the establishment. The sheer dynamism of his personality and the politically-charged content of his message addressed to an occupied nation inevitably caught the imagination of his audience.

There can be no doubt: Jesus was perceived as a threat to the religious and political establishment. Mark 11:18 records the desire of the Temple authorities to kill him: "The Chief priests and the scribes heard of this [the Temple cleansing] and looked for a way to bring about his death; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching." His miracles appeared to authenticate his mission in contrast to the failure of previous would-be Messiahs. But why, at this time, after viewing the abuse of the temple throughout his ministry, should he engage in a provocative act that could only hasten his death? His violent intrusion in the Temple must have had a meaning far beyond that of a frustrated reformer acting in an emotional frenzy. What lay behind his dramatic interference with the heart of Israel's worship, the hub of the nation's service to God?

This article is written to suggest answers to these questions; answers with far-reaching implications for the way we understand Christian faith today. In Jesus' time one problem was obvious. Israel had failed dismally under the existing religious system. A new message going to both Israel and all nations was needed. That new Message involved a definite break with Moses. We invite your careful open-mindedness as you weigh the evidence (Acts 17:11).

Matthew, Mark and Luke place Jesus' temple cleansing near the end of the Messiah's ministry on earth. All four gospel accounts describe his triumphal entry as Messiah as the culminating event of his career. From the complete picture we conclude that these incidents were deliberately planned. They were Jesus' most powerfully symbolic acts, driving home the point of his royal Messianic agenda.

Jesus had gathered a large following from the surrounding countryside. This crowd had earlier wanted to make him king (John 6:40). A mass of Jews were supportive of Jesus' claim to be the long-promised Messiah, though only an inner circle understood how the Messianic program was to be worked out. Jesus' public march to the Temple was at the season of a national Holy Day, insuring maximum exposure. He had taken with him the celebrated, resurrected Lazarus as part of his entourage. Lazarus had also been marked for assassination by the Temple authorities (John 12:9-19).

If Jesus had wanted to commit a public act by which the weakness and vulnerability of the Temple could be established, now was the time. His popular appeal showed he was no longer to be considered a harmless preacher with merely a new slant on established religious principles. Jesus was a charismatic powerhouse whose Message threatened the controlling base of the political and theological "ins." As with any religious shrine, the Vatican of Catholicism, the Mormon Temple of the followers of Joseph Smith, or Mecca, the holy city of Islam, the Temple was the center of all that symbolized the Jewish faith. Those in charge of this shrine were threatened with a loss of control over the minds of the people.

Jesus calculated that something new and dramatic must be introduced. A change of religious heart could not be achieved by the mere sprucing up of the ancient system. Jesus' major point was this: Restoration to personal and national freedom could not be gained in the way Israel had been directing its energies. Militant messiahs had repeatedly failed to remove the Roman boot from their neck. A free Israel would not arise through political intrigue or insurrection.
God had given Israel a brilliant set of laws; a moat of protection against the lure of rampant paganism, the treacherous pull of surrounding nations and their own self-destructive natures. Every segment of Israel's life, agricultural practices, personal hygiene and diet were subject to divine legislation. A priesthood was in place to administer those laws, which set standards as well as penalties for misconduct. To keep them in constant remembrance of the presence of God in their midst a truly magnificent Temple had been erected and a set of annual Holy days enacted to preserve Israel's awareness of her unique national calling to be the light of the world and model state. Despite the divine brilliance of the system, human weakness had undermined its effectiveness to produce the desired result.

With the coming of the Messiah, however, a new program was revealed. Jesus made this quite clear with his classic statement: "The Law and Prophets were until John. Since that time the Kingdom of God has been preached" (Luke 16:16). A new era had dawned with John (Matthew 3:2) and Jesus (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14, 15). A message previously hidden from the world at large was to reveal a divine scheme for reshaping the world, "to be put into effect when the time was ripe" (Ephesians 1:10).

The new plan was revolutionary. It meant that both Jew and Gentile could share equally in the promises given to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-4; 13:14; 15:18; 17:7, 8, etc.).

But how was this to be accomplished?

The Mosaic system had failed even with the chosen nation. How could the hostile Gentile world be expected to conform to the will of the God of Israel? It was into a decaying system of flaunted laws, injustice, political intrigue, religious confusion and national captivity that Jesus was born. As the promised Messiah he was the bearer of a new political Message about saving the nation and the world from ruin.

Tragically, as we now know, the Message and the warning to Israel went largely unheeded. The Jewish people as a whole disregarded or resisted the "upstart" Messiah (John 1:11). What followed was the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70 and the dispersion of the people among the nations of the world.

The Temple and the ideals it stood for had been so badly misused that its symbolism was now a hindrance to what God had planned. Jesus, predicting the tragedy about to befall his people, lamented: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, city that murders the prophets and stones the messengers sent to her! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you would not let me. Look! There is your temple, forsaken by God and laid waste." The time of the temple's usefulness and the Mosaic system which it promoted was at an end! (Matthew 23:37-38).

To further his message of renewal and hope Jesus built a power base away from the population centers and in the area of northern Galilee. He issued a new set of standards to be met by those invited to kingship in his coming kingdom. The old Mosaic system divinely proclaimed at Mt. Sinai, was inappropriate to the new Kingdom agenda.

Aware (like all genuine reformers) that his message would be misunderstood, Jesus reassured his audience with the words: "Do not suppose that I have come to abolish the law but to fulfill it... Truly I tell you, so long as heaven and earth endure, not a letter, not a dot will disappear from the law until all that must happen will happen. Anyone who sets aside even the least of the law's demands and teaches others to do so will have the lowest place in the Kingdom of heaven." Heaven and earth still endure, and the Torah, in its heightened sense as taught by Jesus; as "filled full" of new meaning; is still very much in force. But note that the "law's demands" were of a different order from those given to Moses and interpreted by the leaders of Israel. "I tell you, unless you show yourselves far better than the scribes and Pharisees, you can never enter the Kingdom of heaven." So Jesus warned (Matthew 5:17-20).

Introducing the words of the New Covenant (according to Matthew in five blocks of instruction), Jesus taught his disciples that the "law's demands" would put one in a right relation with God and man. Under the new system mercy, justice and faith would reign. This ideal the Mosaic pattern had not been able to achieve because of human weakness. Consequently there needed to be a change in the priesthood and the law, as well as in the hearts of the people - not the abolition of all law but a change!

Five times early in his ministry in Matthew 5:21ff. Jesus makes a clear case that the Mosaic law was not the ultimate guide.

Jesus was advocating a new direction in view of what was to be a charter for the whole world. He said, "You have heard (from the forefathers)... but I tell you this..." "Moses allowed you to divorce for the hardness of your hearts, but I say…" This was an explicit switching from the Mosaic prescriptions to his own pattern of grace and truth (cp. John 1:17, for the contrast between Moses and Jesus; also Matthew 19:12 for Jesus' non-Mosaic view of eunuchs; Deuteronomy 23:1). Jesus now takes the place of Moses: "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me [not Moses]… If you love me obey my commandments" (John 14:6, 15). This is not to deny that the Mosaic system had been divinely instituted, but if God saw a need for change, He was free to do this. The change agent in this case was the new Mediator, the ultimate "Moses," the man Messiah Jesus (I Timothy 2:5), man as he was divinely intended to be.

The changes were dramatic. Jesus bypassed the established Temple sacrificial system when he declared that he had the power to forgive sin. Not surprisingly this claim caused consternation among the Temple representatives. "This man is blaspheming," they cried, when Jesus said to the paralyzed man, "Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven." Jesus' reply to their charge was simply to tell the man, "Stand up and walk, take your bed, and go home." Addressing the professional theologians, the scribes, he said, "To convince you that the son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins I will heal this man" (Matthew 9:2-7). Recognizing this implied revolution as an intolerable threat to traditional practice, the scribes remained unconvinced and hostile.

Note another of Jesus' changes in the law regarding purification. "On another occasion he called the people and said to them, 'Listen to me, all of you and understand this: nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him; no, it is the things that come out of a person that defile him.' His disciples didn't understand. He chided them: 'Are you as dull as the rest? Do you not see that nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him, because it does not go into the heart but into the stomach and goes out into the drain?' By saying this he declared all foods clean" (Mark 7:14-20).

It required a compelling vision in Acts 10, to help Peter erase life-long indoctrination. He had to come to grips with the fact that the Message was now open to the Gentile world, and laws of clean and unclean food were unsuitable for the new conditions. The Gospel message about the Kingdom would be greatly inhibited if the Gentile world were obliged to follow Mosaic food laws. Such restrictions would be impossible in some parts of the world. Paul, facing new believers' reservations about food, wrote in his letter to the church at Rome: "All that I know of the lord Jesus convinces me that nothing [referring to food] in itself is impure; only if anyone considers something impure, then for him it is impure... All things are clean" (Romans 14:14, 20). Paul negates the distinction between the common (koinos) and the clean. He dismisses the impure (akarthatos - "unclean by nature") by maintaining that "all things are now pure (katharos - "pure by nature"). It is a matter not of law but of conscience. To insist that the Apostle was a staunch promoter of Jewish food laws seems a travesty of his plain words here. Paul has taken both words used in the Old Testament to describe the "common" and the "unclean" and negated both. (Here we appeal to our friends in the various Sabbath-keeping groups to reconsider some of their bases, lest they be found muddling two incompatible covenants.)

The writer of Hebrews 13:9; pursues our theme about the replacement of the Mosaic system by the New Covenant introduced by Jesus. He asserts: "It is good that we should gain inner strength from the grace of God and not from rules about food, which have never benefited those who observed them." Old patterns of conduct die hard. Peter had to be reprimanded publicly for slipping back into out-of-date ways of thinking. Paul’s admonition in Galatians 2:14 is clear: "But when I saw that their conduct did not square with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of the whole congregation, ‘If you, a Jew born and bred, live like a Gentile, how can you insist that Gentiles must live like Jews?’" Peter, the Jew, had rightly learned and lived a different life as a Christian, but retrogressed into a Mosaic mode. This is still the habit of some today. It is a fundamental misreading of the New Testament to re-erect the barrier that once separated Jew and Gentile. "Living like a Jew," when this means living under the temporary Mosaic regulations, is an affront to biblical Christianity.

The danger of muddling two Covenants is that we make the Messianic faith of Jesus unattractive or impracticable to the potential convert (just as ascribing belief in the Trinity to Jesus provokes unwarranted hostility from Jews and Muslims).

Mosaic food laws would cause unnecessary hardship in many parts of the world. Should matters of food exclude Gentiles from having a right relationship with God who had legislated specifically for the nation of Israel under the Law?

Jesus chipped away at the Temple authority and the Mosaic system in Matthew 12:6 when he said, "There is something greater than the temple here." Greater than the Temple? This was his answer to the Pharisees when they criticized the disciples for plucking corn on Israel’s official Sabbath. Jesus argued from the Old Testament: "Have you not read what David did when his men were hungry? He went to the house of God and ate the sacred bread, though neither he nor his men had a right to eat it, only the priests. Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and they are not held guilty? If you had known what this text means, ‘It is mercy I require, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath." Attention is thus called to the fact that even under the Law there was a group who were not subject to the restraints of Sabbath-keeping, the fourth commandment. Jesus further observed that the law of circumcision actually took precedence over the Sabbath, if the eighth day of the boy’s life fell on the Sabbath day. With more than a hint of his revolutionary intention Jesus pointed out that even under the Old Testament regime the priests were not bound by the national Sabbath law. They could work in the Temple and remain innocent. How much more, then, are the royal New Testament priests, the Christians (I Peter 2:9), exempt from Sabbath observance? This new priesthood works at promoting and maintaining the new Temple, the body of the Messiah Jesus.

It is quite clear that Jesus intended to show that Sabbath laws were superseded in cases where emergency human needs called for an act of mercy. And by his assertion that he was "lord of the Sabbath" a new view of the whole legal system enters the picture. It is Jesus, not Moses, who is now the interpreter of law. Jesus noted that a troubled cow in a ditch on the Sabbath is worthy of special care. How much more a man whose family is starving in Saudi Arabia because his national laws have decreed Friday as the official day of rest and Saturday as a day of work? Could the dietary economy of the Arctic North be so radicalized that Christians there could avoid the consumption of all "unclean" whales and seals?

National Israel was given the seventh-day Sabbath as part of a unique covenant with their Creator. The Sabbath was never part of the Abrahamic Covenant (Deuteronomy 5:3). Observance of the Sabbath in ancient Israel required no faith on the part of its citizens. As a matter of fact, it would have been awkward not to keep a seventh-day Sabbath as a day of rest. Question: What of the people today, in lands far away from Israel, whose national laws are such that a job, schooling for children and prohibitive religious customs would insure disaster if believers were required to keep the Laws of Moses and the Mosaic Sabbath? It would be a huge sacrifice. Jesus said in reference to the Sabbath, "It is mercy I require, not sacrifice" (Matthew 12:7).

The Sabbath issue was clarified by the Apostle Peter at a conference convened for the purpose of deciding what was required of the Gentile converts. The debate arose when some insisted that "those Gentiles must be circumcised and told to keep the law of Moses." Peter’s response in brief was that God had chosen him to announce that "the Gentiles were to hear and believe the message of the gospel... and God made no difference between them and us. He purified their hearts by faith." Then he asked the august council, "Why do you now try God’s patience by laying on the shoulders of these converts a yoke which neither we nor our forefathers were able to bear? For our belief is that we are saved in the same way as they are: by the grace of our Lord" (Acts 15:5-11). It hardly has to be said that Peter means that the salvation process cannot be facilitated by "keeping the laws of Moses."

All that needed to be said about the new Christian "take" on the legal system was not said by Jesus while he was with the disciples on earth. It was left to the first-century Apostles to develop the Messiah’s instructions and apply them. No true Apostles (despite a temporary lapse by Peter) wandered outside the ongoing guidelines set by the risen Jesus and transmitted by the spirit. Somewhat ironically, it was left to the Apostle Paul, by training a premier legalist, to grant the greatest understanding for the change from the Mosaic system, as well as the reason for new policy. Whole sections of the book of Galatians are devoted to this theme. The lesson of freedom from Mosaic restraints was learned slowly and painfully. So it is today.

Paul spoke to the Gentile world about the now outdated separation between Jew and Gentile. He tried to persuade those opponents who because of Jewish influence wanted to cling to remnants of the Mosaic system: "You [Gentiles] were at one time separate from the Messiah, excluded from the community of Israel, strangers to God’s covenants and the promises that go with them. Yours was a world without hope and without God. Once far off, now you are in union with the Messiah... For he himself is our peace. Gentiles and Jews, he has made one, and has broken down the barrier which separated them." How was this wonderful situation achieved? "For he annulled the law with its rules and regulations, so as to create out of the two a single community in himself, thereby making peace... for through him [Jesus, not Moses or the Law] we both alike have access to the Father in the one spirit" (Ephesians 2:12-18). And the spirit was the spirit received in the reception of Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom (Galatians 3:2), just as Jesus had described the reception of the seed of the Gospel of the Kingdom as the indispensable spark of immortality (Matthew 13:19; Luke 8:11, 12).

Could there have been any clearer statement of the fundamental change in the Law than the one given by this brilliant, zealous ex-Mosaic adherent?

Paul battled continuously with the problem which continued to trouble many of the church congregations. To the Galatians he said, "You stupid Galatians!… You before whose eyes Jesus the Messiah was openly displayed on the cross! Answer me one question: did you receive the Spirit by keeping the law or by believing the gospel message?... Look at Abraham; he put his faith in God and that faith was counted to him as righteousness ...On the other hand those who rely on obedience to the Law are under a curse" (Galatians 3:1ff).

Paul’s whole premise in the book of Galatians was that the legalists were preaching a false gospel; not the one preached by the Messiah. Paul summed up in the clearest terms his argument for the change in the Law: "The power we have comes from God; it is He who has empowered us as ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but spiritual; for the letter condemns to death but the spirit gives life. The ministry that brought death, and that was in written form on stone was written with such glory...even though the glory…was soon to fade…Indeed, the glory that once was is no glory at all; it is outshone by a still greater glory... It is not for us to do as Moses did; he put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at the end of what was fading away. In any event their minds had become closed, for that same veil is there to this very day when the lesson is read from the Old Covenant and it is never lifted, because only in the Messiah is it taken away. Indeed to this very day, every time the Law of Moses is read, a veil lies over the mind of the hearer. But as the Scripture says, ‘Whenever he turns to the Lord the veil is removed’" (2 Corinthians 3:5 ff).

The reality of what Jesus taught as minister of the New Covenant is obscured when we are wedded to the Mosaic system. Even a "little leaven leavens the whole lump," according to Paul (Galatians 5:9).

Paul’s occasional concessions to the Mosaic pattern were for expediency only, so that he might not cause offense to those who considered themselves under the Law. And there can be no doubt about which Law was under consideration. Paul’s words should not be dissolved with the claim that he was talking only about being or not being under the penalty of the law. This argument is a specious attempt to avoid the Apostle’s radical teaching.

Paul confesses: "To the Jews I behaved like a Jew, to win Jews; that is, to those under the Law I behaved as if under the Law…though not myself being subject to the Law; not myself outside God’s Law, but subject to the Law of the Messiah" (I Corinthians 9:20, 21). When Paul wrote to Timothy he made it perfectly clear that the Law of Moses was designed for the law-breakers, and in Galatians 3; the now obsolete Law was a provisional schoolmaster to bring people to the Messiah Jesus and the greater Law of the Messiah. That Law of the Messiah amounted to love toward God and love toward neighbor. "Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the Law of the Messiah" (Galatians 6:2). How does one ritualize bearing one another’s burdens? How do you ritualize love or make rules for love? The Mosaic system, allowing for "just wars," even "holy war," aggressive and defensive, an eye for an eye, did not provide that answer. That answer could come only through Jesus and a change of heart through the spirit of the Gospel of the Kingdom. "Would that they may always be of a mind to fear me..." (Deuteronomy 5:29). But as a nation they never did achieve that mind to obey.

A Christian should look for ways to serve with acts of kindness. In practical terms this attitude surpasses the sentiment of the famous musical: "God made man to serve his neighbor but with a little bit of luck he won’t be home." "Pure religion and undefiled is to visit the widow and orphan in distress" (James 1:27) and to make sure they are home!

The change from the Old to the New Testament Scriptures regarding circumcision clearly associates the radical change in the Law with the change in the priesthood. Hebrews 7:11-12: "Now if perfection had been obtainable through the Levitical Priesthood (on the basis of which the people were given the Law), there would be no need for another kind of priest to arise, described as being in the order of Melchizedek …but a change in the priesthood must mean a change in the Law." Physical circumcision was one of Israel’s most deeply embedded laws. The Jews were identified as "the Circumcision." Circumcision was the very sign of the covenant relationship between God and Abraham. The physical work of circumcision took precedence over the law of the Sabbath. Yet the physical form, not the spiritual principle, of circumcision was abandoned. The spiritual equivalent; circumcision of the heart; remained. Circumcision was "spiritualized," and so was Law of the Sabbath(s). There is no justification for reintroducing either requirement.

Christians are now known as "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16) as distinct from the Israel of the flesh (see I Corinthians 10:18, KJV). We are "the true Circumcision" (Philippians. 3:3). The whole New Covenant system is a transposition into a new and brilliant key. Why destroy this new melody by mixing it with the outmoded melodies of Moses?

It is true that the sacrificial system was not simply removed. It was replaced by a new system. Hebrews calls for a different type of sacrifice, another change in the Law, not an abolition. "Through Him [the new Temple] let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God... And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased" (Hebrews 13:15, 16). Would anyone insist that this must be accompanied by the physical killing of a turtledove?

Paul made it clear to the Galatians church "that God sent His son, born of a woman, born under Law, to buy freedom for those who were under the Law, that we might attain the status of sons" (Galatians 4:4-5). Then he went on to chide them: "How can you turn back to those feeble and bankrupt elemental spirits? Why do you propose to enter their service all over again? You keep special days and months and seasons and years" (vv. 9-10). But Paul is not finished with his point. Further interaction with this brush with the Mosaic system is needed. "Tell me now, you that are so anxious to be under Law, will you not listen to what the Law says? …Sinai [where the law, including the Ten Commandments, was given as the basis of the Covenant] represents the Jerusalem of today, for she and her children are in slavery" (vv. 21-25).

Slavery is the word for the Old Covenant in stark contrast to the Truth of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it, which enables us to be free (John 8:32). Knowing the Truth, the Gospel as Jesus preached it, is the key to freedom.

The writer of Hebrews likewise sees the limitations of the old Mosaic system given at Sinai: "It is not to the tangible, blazing fire of Sinai that you have come, with its darkness, gloom, and whirlwind… No, you have come to Mt. Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem [the Jerusalem of the future]... and to Jesus the mediator of a New Covenant..." (Hebrews 12:18-24). When one has been steeped in the code given to Moses for the nation of Israel, it is most difficult not to want to climb that ladder as a measurable reminder of the success of our own works.

Paul denied that one has a right to the title Jew, if one’s status is merely physical. "The real Jew is one who is inwardly a Jew, and his circumcision is of the heart, spiritual not literal" (Romans 2:29). He tells the church at Colossae: "For you were buried with him in baptism, and in that baptism you were also raised to life with him through your faith in the active power of God …And although you were dead because of your sins ...He has brought you to life with the Messiah… He has canceled the bond against us with its legal demands [not "legal penalties"], He has set it aside, nailing it to the cross… Allow no one, therefore, to take you to task about what you eat or drink, or over the observance of festival, new moons, or Sabbath. These are no more than a shadow of what was to come; the reality is Christ’s" (Colossians 2:12-17). For Paul all three sorts of observance stand or fall together. If one insists on keeping the weekly Sabbath, then Holy Days and the New Moons are equally binding. For Paul the whole system is one; "a shadow." It would be arbitrary to keep one or two forms of observance and not the third.

The Apostles were merely carrying on the work that Jesus had initiated, as he began to build a whole new community around himself; a Messianic community charged with the duty of taking the great prophetic message of hope and freedom for all, news of the coming Kingdom on earth. "Come to me, all who are weary and whose load is heavy; I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me [learn my Gospel of the Kingdom and the Law of the Messiah] and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to wear, my load is light" (Matthew 11:29-30).

This could never be said of the code of Moses. Taking the Good News of the Gospel of the Kingdom to the rest of the world was not governed by the dicta of Sinai. Yet some to this day, all in good conscience, still want to insist that the Sabbath, the Holy Days, the New Moons, the food laws are beautiful practices which must be maintained by all. This code of Moses, brilliant in its proper time for the nation of Israel, would be an intolerable burden incompatible with the light burden promised by the Messiah Jesus. Could the majority celebrate a rest day every New Moon?

We should marvel at the great mercy God provided through His son when He authorized the Gospel hope of the Kingdom of God for the whole world. Those who might be concerned that life without Sinai would be a free-for-all, and that we would now be at liberty to kill, commit adultery, steal, covet and neglect our parents, should be reassured by the Law of the Messiah. It seems obvious that the law of love toward neighbor would preclude any such behavior. So Jesus said in his new instruction, the Sermon on the Mount.

Those who would feel threatened if New Covenant Christians are freed from the obligation of the keeping of a seventh day, sunset to sunset, should find Hebrews 4:4ff, illuminating: "Scripture somewhere says of the seventh day: ‘God rested from all his work on the seventh day’ [note that God, not the Messiah, was the active executive of the creation] and in the passage above we read: ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ This implies that there are some indeed who are to enter that rest, and that those who first heard the Good News failed to enter through unbelief." It was not a matter of stopping work on Friday at sunset but a failure to embrace the spirit and mind of the Messiah, thereby entering into "a Sabbath rest [which] awaits the people of God: anyone who enters God’s rest, rests from his own works as God did from his" (vv. 9, 10). That sort of rest applies to every day of the week.

Joshua led the children of Israel into the promised land. They were given a national law peculiar to Israel. Despite rigorous Sabbath-keeping, Israel’s tumultuous history brought her to the brink of another sad era, the exile; far removed from the rest God had designed for her. In the time of Jeremiah, reliance on the repeated mantra that the Temple could save them showed how far their hearts were removed from true faith. "Thus says the Lord of hosts …‘Amend your ways and your deeds …Do not trust in the deceptive words, saying, ‘This place is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!’ This slogan of yours is a lie; put no trust in it" (Jeremiah 7:3, 4).

Israel nevertheless was still the nation designed by God to hear a life-saving Message involving a completely new focus. Her long-awaited Messiah arrived with his galvanizing Gospel of the Kingdom, a message that was to encompass also the nations of the world (Matthew 24:14). Jesus persistently demonstrated to his people that the time of the Temple and all it stood for was coming to an end. Her cherished Law was inadequate for the period of the announcement of the Kingdom to all the world. By word and deed, he proclaimed that only he had answers to the impossibly difficult problems facing the nation. Peter advocated this teaching by declaring that there was no other Name (i.e. system of faith) given under heaven by which everyone of every nation must be saved (Acts 4:12).

Reflecting on Jesus’ dramatic disturbance of the Temple, "his disciples recalled the words of scripture: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews challenged Jesus: ‘What sign can you show to justify your action?’ ‘Destroy this temple,’ Jesus replied, ‘and in three days I will raise it up again.’ The Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple. Are you going to raise it up again in three days?’ But the temple he was speaking of was his body. After his resurrection his disciples understood the full force of these words. They believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus spoke" (John 2:17-22).

A whole new mindset does not grow out of rules and rituals. You cannot legislate acts of kindness. They proceed from a way of life in the spirit of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Kindness still perpetuates the divine principle of sacrifice. Unblemished animals had to be offered in sacrifice, not the lame and the dying. God is concerned with people, not animals. Our kindness must be wholehearted. Paul joins the chorus of New Testament teachers calling on us to "Carry one another’s burdens and in this way fulfill the law of the Messiah." Laws have not been "done away with." They have been reinterpreted on a new plain in the spirit. The law did not provide a way to life. It is through the new mediator and his New Covenant teaching, as well as his death and resurrection, that we approach God. With the replacement of the Temple we are launched into the new age of the spirit.

The resurrection on Sunday marks the beginning of a new system: "Having risen on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene" (Mark 16:9). That formerly demonized lady enjoyed the privilege of the first exclusive interview with the risen Messiah. Sunday was indeed the appointed "third day since all these things [the crucifixion] happened" (Luke 24:21).

This arresting theme occupies the writer of Hebrews 7:18, 19: "The earlier rules are repealed as ineffective and useless, since the law brought nothing to perfection, and a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God." The entire Mosaic system was suspended. At the Messiah’s death the Temple veil had been torn asunder, ripped from top to bottom. The separation between Jew and Gentile was no more. At this juncture and the resurrection of Jesus the new Temple became the body of the Messiah, available for membership to all nations through repentance, belief in the Kingdom Gospel of Jesus and baptism (Mark 1:14, 15; Acts 8:12; 28:23, 31), apart from the sacrifices and the legalism of the Temple ordinances.

If the Mosaic dispensation had produced a climate that would bring the world in contact with its Creator, why change it? Why remove this system so solemnly and gloriously promulgated at Sinai? The answer is that the Law at Sinai was not God’s last word.

Never did Paul refer back to Genesis 2:3 to sanction the seventh-day Sabbath as an obligation for Christians. Nor did any of the New Testament writers. Abraham was not commended first for his obedience to the Law of circumcision as a path to right standing before God. That rite came only after Abraham was given God’s stamp of approval because of his belief in the promises of God that he would receive the land/Kingdom and the celebrated seed, the Messiah. "Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." That is the New Testament slogan, but it is not the center of the Mosaic code. Abraham was not obliged to keep the Sabbath. To revert to a semi-Mosaic system, despite the constant protestations of the New Testament against it, risks the introduction of another Gospel, one without the power to save (see the whole argument of Paul in Galatians).

Lest anyone misunderstand, Paul says, "Tell me now, you that are so anxious to be under law, will you not listen to what the Law says?" (Galatians 4:21; that Law which gives a sense of our own righteousness). "Such persuasion did not come from God who called you. A little leaven, remember, ‘leavens all the dough’" (Galatians 5:8, 9). This blend of the Mosaic law with its rules and rituals, God’s grace and the laws of the Messiah is a disastrously confusing mixture. It destroys the simplicity of the universal Gospel of the Messiah which is now the vehicle for taking the Kingdom of God message to the whole of the world.

"Those who rely on obedience to the law are under a curse" (Galatians 3:10). "I impress on you once again, that every man who accepts circumcision is under obligation to keep the entire Law. When you seek to be justified by way of Law you are cut off from the Messiah: you have put yourselves outside of God’s grace" (Galatians 5:3, 4). The point could hardly be clearer. But such freedom from Law is not a freedom to be inactive. It is freedom to enter the service of the Messiah in spreading the Gospel of the Messiah, i.e., the Gospel of the Kingdom, Luke 9:60: "Go and preach the Kingdom everywhere."

"You must understand, my brothers, that it is through the Messiah that forgiveness of sins is now being proclaimed to you. It is through him that everyone who has faith is acquitted of everything for which there was no acquittal under the Law of Moses" (Acts 13:38, 39).

No ritual animal sacrifice, food law, keeping of Sabbaths, New Moons or Holy Days, tithing or special offering can strengthen our position with God. God "loves a cheerful giver," certainly, but this is not just a repeat of the Old Testament tithing regulation, which Paul imposed on no one.

With his ministry devoted entirely to proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, Jesus began to remove every barrier which would interfere with his life-giving message to the world. The blindness which clings to outmoded Old Testament regulation can be removed only in the Messiah. The commands of the Messiah are simple. They begin with the summary of the faith: "The Kingdom of God is at hand [and now the imperative]: Repent and believe the Gospel of the Kingdom" (Mark 1:14, 15). "Hear, O Israel, YHVH our God is one Lord" (Mark 12:28ff). Jewish monotheism is still the framework of the faith. Jesus knows of no Trinitarian or Binitarian modification of the faith. Belief in the One God of Israel and in Jesus as the promised Messiah, plus the demands of love to neighbor and brother, summarize the faith.

This new system frees us to concentrate on the command to shoulder the task which counted supremely for Jesus: "I must proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to the other cities also; that is why I was commissioned" (Luke 4:43). That commission passes now to his Church, which, under his supervision from the right hand of God, is to invite men and women of all nations to "repent and believe in the Gospel about the Kingdom," the new way involving the new Hope by which we can approach God (Hebrews 10:20).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Approaching God With Freedom

A Reflective Examination of Ephesians 3:12
by Al Maxey

It was the early 60's A.D. in the city of Rome, and the apostle Paul was again in a forced confinement. Although his liberties were greatly curtailed, his freedom in Christ could not be similarly contained by any human agency. This joyous reality not only enabled him to endure, but emboldened him in his resolve to share that reality with his spiritual siblings. During this confinement in Rome he sent forth four letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon) which have come to be known collectively as his "Prison Epistles." It is a statement found in Ephesians (an epistle in which Paul stresses the vital nature of the universal church and the place, purpose and privileges of the individual disciple within it) that I would like for us to especially notice in this issue of Reflections.

In chapter 3, Paul discusses the gospel of God's grace, which was "in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord" (vs. 11, NASB). This plan for man's ultimate redemption was foreordained from the foundation of the creation, and was implemented on the time/space continuum at the cross. With that gracious gift of His Son, our Father forever secured within the Lamb's Book of Life the names of the redeemed [Reflections #523 -- Foreordained to be Slain]. In the verse that follows, Paul provides us with some insight into the blessings this eternal offering of Jesus secured for us. "In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence" (vs. 12, NIV). There are a number of items within this statement that we need to examine more closely if we are to correctly ascertain the author's intent.

First, we note one of Paul's favorite concepts: being in Christ Jesus, which he mentions and discusses a great many times throughout his writings. Indeed, this thought appears 35 times in this epistle alone, which far surpasses its usage in any one of his other writings. Being "in Him" is the very basis of our hope; the realization of our redemption; the source of our confidence. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," for the "Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:1-2, ESV). We are free! Our bondage is at an end. No longer slaves, but sons, we may now boldly and freely come into the very presence of the Father. We "were called to be free" (Gal. 5:13), and "it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Gal. 5:1). "In Him" we are set free from law; rules and regulations no longer serve as our taskmasters. Such law-based legislation and limitation of our lives is now forever cast off "in Christ Jesus." Unchained, unshackled, unfettered we walk confidently into the very presence of the One who dwells within the heavenly Holy of Holies! The veil of separation has been forever removed; we are free to enter and address the Father as sons! "We have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He has inaugurated for us through the curtain" (Hebrews 10:19-20).

Sin had made a separation between man and God (Isaiah 59:2); that which is unholy can never enter into the presence of perfect holiness. In Christ, however, that brokenness has been bridged; laid low by sin, we are lifted up by the Son, cleansed and made holy, and "in Him" ushered personally back into the very presence of the Holy One. Dr. Gerhard Kittel noted, "He who is in Christ has found again freedom towards God and can approach God with confidence. He can stand before the Ruler and Judge free and erect, not lowering his head, able to bear His presence" [Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 5, p. 883]. "Christ's sacrifice, as it has given infinite satisfaction to God, is fitted to inspire the soul of the believer with perfect confidence. He sees that nothing more is needed to ensure his everlasting acceptance, and is thus led to tread with boldness the entrance into the sanctuary of God's presence" [Pulpit Commentary, vol. 20, p. 116]. At the cross, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (Mark 15:38), an act signifying that the way into God's presence was now made possible by the shed blood of the Son (as the writer of Hebrews made abundantly clear). Thus, access to God is a gift of grace, as it could never be acquired by any act of man, which allows us to enter His presence boldly and freely "without the inhibitions that might arise from any sort of self-reliance" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 48]. "We approach, then, with confidence, not with any reliance upon our own works and merits, ... Christ being the ground of our cheerful confidence" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible, The NT, vol. 2, p. 274]. It is courage born of reconciliation, a reconciliation secured by Jesus alone, not by anything man has done (or ever could do). The faith of the Son, therefore, not only acquired this access, but freed us from any need to try and attain it by our own effort. As a result, our confidence is "in Him," not in ourselves! He paid it all, we provided nothing!

This brings us to another point that needs to be made with regard to Eph:3:12 -- translators differ on how to translate a certain phrase within this verse. Some render the phrase in question as "faith IN Christ," while others opt for "faith OF Christ." Obviously, there is quite a difference between the two. One speaks of our faith, while the other speaks of His faith. Which is it, according to this text, that gains us our confident access into the presence of the Father? Before we seek an answer to that question, notice the various versions that opt for one or the other of these two understandings:

Faith IN Christ

New International Version -- In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Holman Christian Standard Bible -- whom we have boldness, access, and confidence through faith in Him.
Easy-to-Read Version -- In Christ we can come before God with freedom and without fear. We can do this through faith in Christ.
English Standard Version -- whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him.
New American Standard Bible -- whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.
The Message -- When we trust in Him, we're free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go.
New American Bible, St. Joseph Edition -- In Christ and through faith in Him we can speak freely to God, drawing near Him with confidence.
New English Bible -- In Him we have access to God with freedom, in the confidence born of trust in Him.
Hugo McCord's NT Translation of the Everlasting Gospel -- By faith in Him we have boldness and confident access.
Living Bible -- Now we can come fearlessly right into God's presence, assured of His glad welcome when we come with Christ and trust in Him.
Williams' NT in the Language of the People -- By union with Him and through faith in Him we have a free and confidential introduction to God.
Contemporary English Version -- Christ now gives us courage and confidence, so that we can come to God by faith.
American Standard Version -- whom we have boldness and access in confidence through our faith in Him.
Revised Standard Version -- whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in Him.
New World Translation -- means of whom we have this freeness of speech and an approach with confidence through our faith in Him.
The Amplified Bible -- whom, because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness (courage and confidence) of free access (an unreserved approach to God with freedom and without fear).
New King James Version -- whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.
New Living Translation -- Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God's presence.
Lexham English Bible -- whom we have boldness and access in confidence through faith in Him.

Faith OF Christ

King James Version -- whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him.
Lamsa's Translation from the Aramaic of the Peshitta -- whom we have freedom of access with confidence in His faith.
Darby Translation -- whom we have boldness and access in confidence by the faith of Him.
Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him.
Wycliffe Bible -- whom we have trust and nigh coming (to), in trusting by the faith of Him.
Young's Literal Translation -- whom we have the freedom and the access in confidence through the faith of Him.
Footnote: Holman Christian Standard Bible -- through His faithfulness.
Footnote: American Standard Version -- the faith of Him.
Footnote: Lexham English Bible -- through His (i.e., Christ's) faithfulness.
Footnote: New Living Translation -- because of Christ's faithfulness.
Footnote: New American Standard Bible -- of Him.

Although it is clear that the majority of the versions prefer "faith IN Christ," the actual phrase in the Greek appears in the genitive case, which signifies that "faith OF Christ" is actually the more grammatically correct translation (which many versions, that opt for the former rendering, will at least acknowledge in a footnote).

So, why do more prefer the former? In a word, because the concept of men having faith IN the Lord is a far more familiar one than the concept of Christ's OWN faith.

Since some are not quite sure what to do with the latter, the grammar is simply ignored in favor of the more familiar phrasing. Yet, by ignoring what Paul actually wrote in this verse, the sense of the verse is compromised.

The Pulpit Commentary is absolutely correct in stating that this particular clause "influences the whole verse" [vol. 20, p. 107]. The noted NT Greek scholar, Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, stated that "the autou (of Him) is best taken as the objective genitive" [The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 3, p. 310]. He goes on to say, "Thus, as the en ho (in Whom) expresses the fact that Christ is the ground of our parresia (boldness to speak freely) and prosagoge (access), and the en pepoithesei (in confidence) the state of mind in which we enjoy these blessings, so this clause, dia tes pistueos autou (through the faith of Him), declares the means by which they become our actual possession" [ibid]. In other words, we have our access to the Father, and may speak freely before Him in full confidence and without any fear, because of (by means of) the faith OF our Lord Jesus Christ. It was HIS faith, displayed in His perfect life and ultimate sacrifice, that forever secured for us this gift of grace!! All we can do is receive this gift with grateful hearts by our faith in who He is and what He has accomplished for us. I have sought to explain this biblical concept, which is such a vital aspect of the new covenant, in far more depth in the 8th section, and also in the conclusion, of Reflections #185 -- From Faith to Faith, which I would strongly urge the reader to take just a few moments to examine. Grasping this truth will assist you greatly in grasping authorial intent in Ephesians 3:12.

It will also serve us well to take note of several of the Greek words Paul chose to employ in this verse. The word that is generally translated "access" or "approach" is prosagoge, which simply conveys here the idea of "approaching the throne" or "coming into the presence" of one who is vastly superior (i.e., God). By our own effort we would certainly have NO such access; it had to be secured for us by another (i.e., Christ). The renowned John Wesley (1703-1791), in his Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, wrote that in Christ Jesus "we have free access, such as those petitioners have who are introduced to the royal presence by some distinguished favorite" [e-Sword]. Paul had earlier spoken of this blessed reality, saying that we are all "reconciled in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity ... for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father" (Eph:2:16, 18). "We have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He has inaugurated for us through the curtain" (Heb:10:19-20). Therefore, "let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith" (Heb:10:22). And where does that confidence and assurance come from? That's right -- from Jesus Christ, not from ourselves! Rom:5:1-2, where this word also appears, affirms this same doctrine: "Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand." Although some would argue that the justification and access both result from our faith, I would suggest a better view is that they both result from His faith, and are thus benefits we acquire by our faith in Him. In this way we truly receive the gift of grace from faith (His) to faith (ours). Thus, in a very real sense, ours is a receptive faith, not a redemptive faith. HIS faith is redemptive; OUR faith appropriates that perfect faith, and its attendant eternal benefits!

The apostle Paul further states in Ephesians 3:12 that we have this access with "confidence." This is the Greek word pepoithesis, which means "trust, confidence." It is "the joyful mood of those reconciled to God" [Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 3, p. 310]. "Our God is indeed a consuming fire, yet the believer can approach Him without servile fear, simply because Christ is the way of access ... and inspires the soul of the believer with perfect confidence" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 20, p. 116]. "Christ reconciles us with God, and so removes all ground of reasonable alarm. Christ gives to us the perfect love that casts out fear" [ibid, p. 143]. "It is ungrateful, after being thus blessed, to cherish the old fears. ... Thus, spiritual cowardice is a mark of unbelief. He who trusts most strongly will enjoy the most freedom of access to God" [ibid, p. 144]. The word here translated "confidence" comes "from peitho, 'to persuade.' It comes from the perfect participial form which refers to a past process of being completely persuaded, with the present result that we are in a confirmed and settled state of utter confidence" [Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, vol. 1, Ephesians, p. 86]. Our faith/trust in His accomplished act of love/faith at the cross has settled our hearts and minds, casting out all fear and doubt, and we come before the Throne with a depth of confidence that we could not otherwise possess by our own effort or merit.

In the first section of this verse (Eph. 3:12), which refers to Christ Jesus, the apostle Paul writes, " whom we have parresia and access." This word is variously rendered in the versions above: boldness, freedom, speak freely. The word "denotes primarily 'freedom of speech, unreservedness of utterance.' It is the absence of fear in speaking boldly" [The New Strong's Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words, p. 1299]. Although "this word means 'to speak boldly, or freely,' and primarily had reference to speech," in time it "acquired the meaning of 'being bold, or waxing bold,' without any connection necessarily with speech" [ibid]. John Wesley (in the same source referenced above) characterized it as "unrestrained liberty of speech, such as children use in addressing an indulgent father, when, without fear of offending, they disclose all their wants, and make known all their requests." This same word is used in Heb. 4:16 -- "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." This access to the Throne of Mercy is provided by our Lord Jesus Christ, who in perfect faith secured our redemption, which grace we now receive, and in which we stand, by faith in Him.

This concept "is not to be limited to just freedom of speech, freedom in preaching, or boldness in prayer, but is to be taken in the larger sense" of boldness and freedom in our lives and service before God [Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 3, p. 310]. Paul used this word with this larger sense when he wrote, during that same imprisonment in Rome, "I shall not be put to shame in anything, but with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death" (Philp. 1:20). The aged apostle John expressed it this way, "Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have boldness before God" (1 John 3:21). "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the boldness which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us" (1 John 5:13-14). Jesus did not come to earth, suffer and die, and ascend back to the Throne to deliver us out of the hands of an angry, vengeful God, but rather to deliver us into the warm embrace of a loving Father! Because of who He was and what He did, I now have the boldness to stand upright before my God every day of my life, knowing that my speech and my service, my worship and my work, are accepted by Him. It is a confidence and courage conveyed to me by Christ at the cross! Dr. John Gill (1690-1771), in his Exposition of the Entire Bible, observed: "Christ is the way of access; union with Him gives right of access; through His mediation His people have audience with God, and acceptance with Him, both of person and service; and this access is with boldness; which denotes liberty of coming, granted by God, and a liberty in their own souls to speak out their minds plainly and freely; and a holy courage and intrepidity of soul, being free from servile fear, or spirit of bondage" [e-Sword].

Dr. Nicoll, in his classic work The Expositor's Greek Testament, describes this "joyful mood of the reconciled" as a "freedom of spirit, a cheerful boldness" [vol. 3, p. 310]. The boldness before God that Adam lost in the garden (he fearfully hid himself from the presence of God -- Gen. 3:8-10), was graciously restored to man at Golgotha. We have been freed from the curse, and thus, with this newfound liberty, we come boldly into the presence of our God, rather than hiding from Him in fear. This applies not only to prayer, but to our daily walk with Him and our daily worship of Him (whether individual or corporate). We serve not a God of Law, but a Father of Love -- a love that frees us from bondage to rigid religious regulation; that liberates us to express ourselves before Him boldly, being fully assured that we stand approved by Him (even though we may be disapproved by our detractors). "It is Jesus who gives us audience with God, dispelling at the same time from the mind of the worshipper those suggestions which would restrict or narrow the riches of God's love" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 20, p. 116]. Our Lord Jesus Christ, and His gospel of grace and freedom, "destroys the gloomy old religions of terror, bringing liberty and courage; it is essentially the manly faith of the world's adult age" [ibid, p. 143]. We come boldly before God "as our Father, who is waiting to be gracious. It is unworthy to fear. Our prayer should not be the cry of the captive for mercy, but the glad request of the child" [ibid]. Thanks be to God for the indescribable gift of His Son! By our faith in His faith we have redemption, as well as boldness and confidence to speak, live and worship in complete spiritual freedom in His very presence. We have been liberated. Now, go and enjoy it.