By: Raymond Harris
First Entry: Theology: A Root of Argumentation
Second Entry: Dispensational Theology
Third Entry: Replacement (Supersession) Theology
Fourth Entry: Cessation Theology
Fifth Entry: Covenant Theology
Sixth Entry: Olive Branch Theology
Seven Entry: Continuation Theology
Eighth Entry: My Conclusions
NOTE: Remember that it is not my intention to compose a thesis giving a critical examination of theological perspectives; my reasoning is somewhat simple, doing such an investigation seems to appeal to a small audience. Instead, I am attempting to reveal how I believe the theology is attempting to process biblical teachings. Within that framework, I will reveal some of my thoughts about why I agree or disagree about the theological perspective.
A First Thought
This first thought, at one time, actually was A Final Thought found in “My Conclusion” but as I have had time away from this series, some time listening and reflecting, I want to present something. What follows, is provided verbatim and used to be my final thought in the last section of My Conclusion, from there I will provide my new Addendum, attempting to truly answer the question: Where do we go from here?
I have given my best efforts: first, to have integrity toward God’s Word; second, to test the theologies; and third, to present my thoughts clearly and honestly. This investigation possibly and probably invites more questions, but this information is provided not to answer every question, but to provide a starting point for readers to do their own investigation, “test the spirits” and determine if the information is true. Using famous words, “don’t take my word for it, investigate it yourself.”
So, where do we go from here? The next step is Biblical Interpretation and what it means to find contextual meaning in order to find modern application. Then I will give an in-depth application of Biblical Interpretation by looking at Communion (warning: surprises await!). And from there I will offer my thoughts about Musical Instruments in worship (warning: surprises await!).
God willing, perhaps I will come back and offer my thoughts on these issues (listed in no particular order):
- Greater insight into how to use the OT based on Romans 13.8-10, 15.2-4, 1 Corinthians 10.1-13; 2 Timothy 3.15-17, and other passages.
- How the early Christians reasoned that Jesus was the Messiah from the OT and how the early first century church would have had access only to the OT.
- How the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) resolves Covenant issues making Gentiles amenable to God in a unique way, where Jeremiah 31.31-34 and Romans 2.14-15 seem to have a role to play.
- Based on the Book of Acts, who is the First Century Church?
- That Paul and other Jews had zeal for the [OT] Law.
- But if the OT is not abolished, then what is a Gentile to do (observe Sabbath)? This is answered by the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul (Romans 2).
- Law, the NT’s use of the word, law’s multiple applications (Law of Moses, Oral Law, Law referring to all of the OT), and how Greek word nomos gets its meaning from the Hebrew word torah.
- Does Bible Interpretation really matter? Isn’t God just love? The Universal of Love is just as important as the Particulars of how to love (Referring to the painting School of Athens, and applying 1 Corinthians 13).
So Where Do We Go from Here?
That information represents what I thought was my final thought. But, as I have been reflecting, it really isn’t. I, in a sense, don’t want to deal with Bible Interpretation; I don’t want to reveal the lessons learned; I don’t want to do it. “Why?” You might ask. I have my reasons, but my reasons simply seem to be accepted by me. So, what am I to make of everything that I studied?
To sound a phrase, “much learning doth make thee mad”1 resounds in my heart. But, I am certain that the learning has not driven me crazy, but the problems that I now see, which others have attempted to reconcile, I am wondering if they will be reconciled.
So with my learning I am wondering if something else must be at work. Something that must permit disciples to vary in their Biblical Interpretations, worship practices, and lives. It seems that something must either demand exactitude or permit latitude toward the multiplicity of Churches and Christian behavior.
Both the OT and the NT have too many passages that express, in various ways, “Be Holy because I am Holy.”2 Others are not to be holy because this author is holy, but Holy because the God we proclaim to serve is Holy. Yet, both this author and the reader can attest that fellow disciples, and our very own person fail to live up to the call “to be Holy.” Whether that holiness is found in our daily lives, or holiness in our worship.
Does God demand? Does God command?
Does God lead? Does God love?
Does God forgive? Does God care?
To The Almighty, does it really matter how we live and worship?
My short answer to all the above questions is a resounding “YES!” For the sake of all that is good, it matters; everything matters. But how we show our love matters to Him just as much.
Exactitude or Latitude?
For all that the Bible teaches about exactitude, Jesus nails everything about exactitude down into a One-A and One-B corollary: One-A: Love Jehovah, your God, with everything; and One-B: Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus statement is so important that it is found in Matthew,3 Mark,4 and Luke;5 however, it is important to realize that Jesus draws his One-A One-B corollary from Deuteronomy and Leviticus6 books known for their exactitude.
Yet, that One-A One-B corollary from Jesus must mean that God is concerned about exactitude and latitude. One’s love for God implies a desire for exactitude; but one’s love for God and humanity implies a desire for latitude – a desire to receive latitude from God that in turn gives latitude to fellow humans.
Consider that a command to exactitude of God’s instructions is found when Samuel told Saul that obedience is better than sacrifice.7 But also note that latitude to God’s instructions is found when Hosea said that mercy is better than sacrifice.8 This creates an interesting paradoxical situation. Which one is greater: exactitude, or latitude?
It is interesting, is it not, that even though Jesus is perfect and sinless before God, Jesus challenges the people to Hosea’s message,9 directly referring to Hosea, not Samuel. It is this exactitude of latitude that is the hallmark of Paul’s message of Grace and resounded by James saying that mercy triumphs over justice.10
But what does that mean for Biblical Interpretation? Personally, I seek excellence in Biblical interpretation – exactitude to learn God’s original meaning; yet I seek excellence in latitude for human frailness.
Is There an Answer?
Here is something that I cannot change. Arguments have existed, do exist, and will continue to exist about the Scriptures. Arguments about the Scriptures existed before Jesus was born. Since Jesus, arguments existed about the Scriptures. And arguments about the Scriptures will exist long after I am dead. Arguments from “how to worship” to “who is going to heaven and hell” and arguments for just about everything else.
So, what does it all mean? Is there an answer? If so, what is that answer? And if there is an answer, then will I and will you accept that answer?
The answer is not mine, but it is the answer found since Adam’s Fall, Noah’s Ark, Jesus’ Ministry, and Paul’s Letters. In English, the answer is called grace from the powerful NT Greek word charis11 which is also the Septuagint’s (the Greek OT) translation word for the Hebrew word chen.12
God has given his chen, his charis, his grace to everyone. God gave grace to Adam by helping him when he transgressed at Eden. God gave grace to Noah by telling him how to protect himself and his family. God gave grace to Abram by giving him great promises. God gave grace to Jacob over Esau. God gave grace to a rebellious Israelite nation, letting them return from Babylonian captivity. God gave grace to humanity by allowing only one man, Jesus, to die for all of humanity’s transgressions. And peace eternal is received by God giving his grace.
Consider this as important. God told Moses, centuries before Jesus, and Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans:
15For [God said] to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” [referring to Exodus 33.19]
16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. (Romans 9.15-18 ESV)
Here is what I do know. Exactitude cannot triumph over latitude, because even the most exact in exactitude have failed (in other words: sinned). This means that the person seeking exactitude to the detriment of latitude (establishing themselves as capable of judging righteousness according to the law13); and the person encouraging latitude to the detriment of exactitude (sinning that grace may abound14) each have one thing in common, both have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.15
So let us apply God’s grace, his charis, his chen to Theology. Theology is fabulous, helpful, insightful, and, perhaps, one of the most powerful tools humanity has in their pursuit of God Almighty and Truth; but Theology is limited. Theology, and in turn Biblical Interpretation does not grant blessings or salvation; God, who authored the Bible, grants blessings and salvation.
It seems proper to conclude that one’s Theology could be so askew that God will not overlook it. But, it is just as proper to conclude that God, by his chen, his charis, his grace overlooks inconsistent and incoherent theological misunderstandings of the one whose maintains faith in Jehovah. This seems especially true when the individual has faith that Jesus is the Messiah, offered by God for the redemption of the world.
God’s chen created the world. God charis continued humanity through our fall. God’s grace brought humanity through the deluge into a new world. God’s chen redeemed Israel from Egypt. God’s charis kept him faithful through Israel’s incompetence at keeping their Covenant. God’s grace promised a redeemer. God’s chen gave Jesus as atonement and propitiation. God’s charis redeems. God’s grace overlooks.
Grace and only grace overcomes sin.
Ministers and church leaders, alike, should be pursuing exactitude of understanding when studying God’s Word, but with appreciation that God gives latitude, and in return we demonstrate latitude especially toward those who call themselves Christians, but also to our fellow humans. This simply means that those who do something in Jesus name should not be prohibited from doing something in the name of Jesus, because they cannot do wonderful deeds in his name if they do not esteem the name of the Savior.16
As of now, I am uncertain if I will write a manuscript about the things mentioned in the second section of my addendum: What Was A Final Thought Isn’t. As of now, those things seem unnecessary. However, I simply find no better way to end my series on Theology than to use Paul’s comments from Romans Fourteen (my preference was to quote the entire chapter, but I abbreviated it to these verses):
1As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions [theology and doctrinal interpretation].
2One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.
4Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
7For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”
12So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
13Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Romans 14.1-13, paragraphs mine)
1. “Much learning doth make thee mad.” Acts 26.24 KJV.
2. “Be Holy because I am Holy.” Leviticus 11.45; Ephesians 1.4 KJV.
3. Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22.36-40 KJV.
4. Love your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12.28-31 KJV.
5. Love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10.25-28 KJV.
6. Jesus draws his One-A One-B corollary from Deuteronomy 6.4-5 and Leviticus 19.18.
7. Samuel told Saul that obedience is better than sacrifice. 1 Samuel 15.22 KJV.
8. Hosea said that mercy is better than sacrifice. Hosea 6.6 KJV.
9. Jesus challenges the people to Hosea’s message. Matthew 9.13, 12.7 KJV.
10. James saying that mercy triumphs over justice. James 2.13 ESV.
11. “charis.” Strong’s number G5485.
12. “chen.” Strong’s Number H2580.
13. Establishing themselves as capable of judging righteousness according to the law. James 2.1-4.
14. Sinning that grace may abound. Romans 6.1.
15. Both have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3.22-23.
16. They cannot do wonderful deeds in his name if they do not esteem the name of the Savior. Mark 9.38-40.
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