The most raging religious controversy the world has ever known has always been between the do-it-yourself religions and the God-alone-can-save-you kind. Man has always been trying to save himself with just a little help from God thrown in, so he doesn't have to thank God too much but can give himself most of the credit, and do his own thing and go his own way.
The first murder was committed by a religionist of the do-it-yourself kind when Cain killed Abel--a man who was trusting God--the beginning of the persecution of the True Church by the False Church. Cain was religious, very religious, and he was trying very hard to save himself in his own way, even sacrificing to God and claiming to worship God, and doing his best to ask God to help him earn his own Salvation--but his best wasn't good enough! His way was not God's way! It was the way of all false religions. They are all dependent upon self-righteousness and their own way! Most of them claim to be worshipping God and seeking a little help from Him to make it, but working so hard to earn it they figure they deserve it, with or without His help, and are quite offended if He doesn't seem to appreciate their goodness! "Why, look at all I've done for You, God.--You really oughta give me a medal! I really deserve to be saved! If You're ever gonna save anybody, You should save me! If anybody's gonna make it, I should certainly make it!"
On the other hand, Abel just did what God told him to do, "and offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain," the sacrifice of pure faith in the Word of God--the blood sacrifice of a lamb typifying Salvation only through the blood of Christ, showing that he was trusting God alone to do it and that only the righteousness of God could save him. He knew he had only God's righteousness and none of his own and it was purely a gift from God.
This made such a fool out of the hard-working Cain, the self- made man and devout religionist devoted to his own form of worship, and so totally exposed the futility of it all, that he was furious at this exposure of his sincere hypocrisy. It so blew his whole thing after all his hard work, the labours of the flesh, his legalistic reasoning, his demands for Salvation for all he was doing and his insistence on earning his own thing that he tried to wipe out the awful truth of the failure of his religion to save him by killing the man whose simple faith in God's Grace had exposed him.
Thus began the battle royal between pride and humility, between the damned religionists and the saved sinners, the perpetual warfare that has been waged ever since between the False Church and the True Church, the Whore and the Bride, Carnal Babylon and Spiritual Jerusalem, the Flesh and the Spirit, Works and Faith, Law and Grace, Self and God.
This has resulted in some of the greatest misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the Scriptures that have ever existed! People have been trying to save themselves ever since, with as little thanks to God as possible and wresting the Scriptures to prove they could do it! Since God can't help you to save yourself, since He does not help those who think they can help themselves but only those who know they can't, and you can't save yourself, no matter how much you try to get His help, and you cannot serve two masters, yourself and God--you cannot serve God and Mammon--the religionists wound up serving Mammon alone without God, and were destroyed in the flood of His Judgements!--Noah and his family alone being saved by the Grace of God in the Ark, a type of Christ, and the very waters which destroyed the working world delivered the trusting believers!
But still they didn't learn! As the great historian Toynbee said, "The only thing we ever learn from history is that we never learn from history!" They were soon at it again--this time building themselves a tower to try to get to Heaven by their own works to make a name for themselves and get credit for their greatness--but that didn't work either! It only resulted in Babel, or total confusion, and we've been suffering from this babbling of many voices ever since!
Even Abraham tried to pull a few tricks to save himself and his posterity, until God had to show him it was all by faith and the miracle-working power of God--and not his own stinking flesh; and yet his natural children are still claiming to be saved by his natural fatherhood--the Jews!
Moses tried it and fell flat on his face before God in the desert when he found he couldn't make it on his own! The Children of Israel tried it, and were defeated many times when they thought their own arm could save them!
Even Samson found he was a weakling without the power of God. And Saul and David and Solomon all found that they only made fools of themselves whenever they tried to go it on their own, whenever they failed to recognise that only God could save them, that it was all God and nothing else.
This was the biggest Church fight amongst the early Christians: Whether you could just believe and be saved, or didn't you have to keep the Law too, to make it? The Jewish Christians just couldn't help but believe that Jews were a little bit better than Gentiles, even amongst Christians. "Sure, we believe that Jesus is the Messiah," they said, "but we still have to help Him save us by keeping the old Law." This obnoxious mixture of works and grace so nauseated Paul that he bawled Peter out publicly for it, and spent most of his years fighting it in Epistle after Epistle.
Therefore, although you can bump into this battle all through the Bible and history, we're going to make a special study of the epistles of Paul on the subject since his writings deal with it more fully and thoroughly than anywhere else! I never cared too much for the Epistles of Paul before! I always thought they were a little too technical, too theological, too analytical, and too complicated. I liked the simple words of Jesus, myself, that almost any child like me could understand. I was also fascinated by the thrilling predictions of the future found throughout Bible prophesy.--Even these were clearer to me, by the gift of God's discernment or wisdom, than the involved legal arguments of the Apostle Paul.
For a few years as a young Christian I, too, was deceived by the delusive doctrine of these religious devils of the churches with their off-again, on-again, gone-again, eternal insecurity of the believer, and their damnable religion of works, until one day as a teenager I was thrilled to discover the simple truth of Jn. 3:36. After years of insecurity and lack of assurance, discouragement and defeat I found all I had to do was believe, and that did it! "He that believeth on the Son hath Everlasting Life."--right now!--No if's, and's, or but's about it. No "providing you're a good boy and go to church every Sunday"; none of this sinless perfection of the sanctimonious self-righteous, holier-than-thou, so-called holiness saints! I just hadn't been able to make it, and I knew it! It seemed like the harder I tried to be good, the worse I got! "Oh, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!" And that's all there is to that--nothing else, no other way, no righteousness of your own, none of your own good works.--None of these can keep you saved any more than they can save you in the first place! Only Jesus can do it! He not only saves you, but He also does the works through you--and it's all Jesus--none of your damn self or your own stinking self-righteousness-- just Jesus! And boy was I relieved, 'cause I knew I could never make it otherwise! It had to be God! I just couldn't do it!--So He did! That's it!
I didn't need any further big doctrinal arguments to convince me, and I couldn't figure out why Paul had to spend so much time harping on the issue with the Jews until I got to Israel and had this revelation from the Lord about them, and now I dig it--and we're going to prove the point. Paul knew his Jews! Even we modern Jewish Christians have always had the feeling we had a slight edge on the rest of the Christians! God had just a little bit more preference for us--just a little more respect of persons in our case, that we were just a little more Christian than any other kind since we had our Salvation from both directions. Even though it plainly says, "There's neither Jew nor Greek in Christ Jesus", that we're all one and all equal in Him, we Jews have always felt a little elite, for whom all other Christians should be very thankful and give due deference!
Even the fanatically Jewish Apostle Paul seems to have a hint of a hangover along this Jewish advantage kick in some places, but I guess we'll have to forgive him for it. Just as we'll have to forgive the rest of the Jewish Christians for their snobbish, egotistical, "Behold, I am a Jewish Christian" attitude, because there's no difference, except they were the first to hear and believe, first in chronology, in time, not in preference or prestige.--Which is what is meant by one of their favourite verses, "To the Jew first." Their advantage was purely chronological and geographical, not in any way spiritual! They have no more right to Salvation, and deserve it no more than anyone else! If anything maybe even less, considering the way the vast majority of them rejected and crucified Jesus and persistently persecuted His followers, and have been doing it ever since!
IT took this trip to Israel and direct revelations from God to jolt me out of my Jewish jealousy, and I hope it doesn't take the same for you! For years I had been persuaded by the pro-Jewish jealousy Christian doctrinaires, like most of the rest of the Church, that the Jews still had some kind of advantage over us Christians--that God was still going to somehow bless them, without Christ, and be somehow received by God without Christ even though they had rejected Him in rejecting Jesus! Tommyrot! That's a bunch of ... propaganda fostered by Jews and Christians alike to excuse the Jews for their flagrant, blasphemous, and unpardonable sin of unbelief. I honestly believe that a lot of Jewish Christians just couldn't bring themselves to face the fact that they were no better than any other Christians, and just couldn't bear to abandon their cherished Zionistic aspirations of somehow, someday, being more blessed by returning to Israel than returning to the spiritual Kingdom of God!
After all, Israel's a beautiful country. It has an ideal climate, like California, and has the blessing of Father America, and makes a wonderful place to visit and retire to in the smug complacency of prophetic fulfillment in a sort of "Behold, I have arrived!" attitude! "I've made it to Heaven just a little before the rest of you poor Gentile Christians. God loves us Jews a little bit more than He does you Gentiles." Humbug! Baloney! That's a lot of hooey! God is no respector of persons! He doesn't love you or me anymore than anybody else and, if anything, He might have some excuse for even hating the Jews a little bit more considering the way they've treated Him, if He were going to have any preferences!--But this is not the case!
In this series of studies, we believe GOD'S Word is going to prove it! It would take a lifetime to undo all the damage this doctrine has done, but let's try!
As you'll notice by the heading, we have moved from the Old Testament to the New--from Old Testament characterisations to the New Ones! The trouble with too many Christians today is that they're still living in the Old Testament, and making of it a works religion. When our missionaries first went to Japan the Japanese would ask them, "Are you Old Testament or New Testament Christians?" At first they didn't understand what they meant, but they soon found out that an Old Testament Christian meant those whose major emphasis was on temples, cathedrals, ceremonies, formalism, and tradition, and particularly a religion of works, such as the Catholics and most major Protestant denominations. But a New Testament Christian meant one whose major emphasis was not on buildings and pomp and circumstance and the things which are seen, but rather on the simple life of everyday Christian living, like Jesus and His disciples, and the unseen things of the Spirit! What a comparison, and how true!
Too many religions and religionists are still living in the past, even a pagan past, in which they have inherited too many hangovers from the former paganism and idolatry of heathenism with its love of buildings, temple worship, sanctimonious priesthood, elaborate trappings, complicated ceremonies, superstitious traditions, and a dictatorial strangle-hold on the souls of men, making merchandise of them through their insistence on Salvation by works--their kinds of works, their particular religion the special corner on God that they claim to have!
Even God had a hard time getting the Children of Israel out of the idolatry of Egypt and had to lead them through Moses, with the Law as their schoolteacher, by childish little illustrations and rituals, little material object lessons--the Tabernacle, the Ark, animal sacrifices, and the blood of beasts.--Types and shadows, mere pictures of the spiritual realities and eternal verities He was trying to lead them into--almost ridiculous little analogies, like flannelgraphs and motion songs designed to show spiritual truths to little children. He has to take what they understood, the things and forms with which they were familiar in the religions of Egypt and other heathen nations around them, in a fatherly attempt to audio-visualise for them the genuine spiritual truths of the mature adult true worship of God Himself! As the Apostle says, these were all "figures of the true", mere visual likenesses or illustrations of the real unseen things of the Spirit!
But the types and shadows, pictures of the Old Testament, are a whole study in themselves which perhaps we can give you at some later date, or you may have already seen for yourself! As Paul says, "For now we see through a glass darkly, but then shall I know even as also I am known." For when I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things"..."But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away!"
Paul was saying that even the gifts of the Spirit of this enlightened era are almost like childish toys--gifts from a loving Father to His simple, little children to help communicate understanding of Himself and His Will! How much more then were the materialistic object lessons of the Temple worship of the Old Testament even more childish toys for even tinier children spiritually to help them understand the Father's love! But "God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son", and when Jesus came He told the woman at the well of Samaria, "The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father,...but the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." And this is the spiritual stage in which we are now living in the Lord!
But Paul goes even further than this in his prediction to the Corinthians and says that the time is coming when we shall see Jesus face to face, and put away even these child-like gifts of communication in the Spirit. For "whether there be Prophesies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." Even what we have now is only a sample of glorious realities to come!
In the Old Testament were the illustrations; in the present New Testament time are the spiritual truths which we have now by faith alone. (Jn.1:17.) But when Jesus comes again, we shall see him as He is, and be literally like Him, face to face, actually experiencing the fullness of the realities of God and the world to come! Hallelujah! Now you only have your Salvation by Faith and in the Spirit; then, it will become a living, visible, tangible reality, including a new body and a new world--complete!
So you see, God's Church is going through stages of growth, like children --but the trouble with some people, like Judaism and Old Testament Christianity and modern Churchianity, some get stuck in one stage, and never get out of it, like retarded children--spiritual imbeciles, idiots, morons, maniacs, or even worse--either totally helpless infants, or invalids, or worse yet: the stillborn, the dead!