Here we are. The world has fallen apart, and we’re arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Or are we? In the first place, we’re not the only people in the world who have doctrinal differences, and it’s not just limited to churches. There are all kinds of Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Baptists, and Lutherans. You see, the search for truth leaves casualties behind. The problem is that sometimes what’s called a search for truth is merely the drawing of unwarranted inferences from ambiguous scriptures, where egos are involved. Unhappily, that’s often the case,–not always the case, there are times when warranted inferences can be drawn in simple situations. For example, using the constitution of the United States, the first amendment to the constitution guarantees to the citizens of this country ‘free speech’. Well, if a man walks around carrying a sign saying ‘overthrow the government’, is that actually free speech? We live in an age–you and I–where we’re all very much more comfortable than people have been in the past and very less well informed. There’s a natural tendency to drift back together with those from whom we’ve separated ourselves. I mean, after all, nobody’s faith is perfect, right? So if nobody’s faith is perfect, and they’ve got some of the faith, what’s all the fuss about? An ecumenism is desirable to cut out the heat, but the problem with that type of philosophy is that it’s what has gone on since Christ ascended into heaven. The germ of the truth is found–a small body of believers support it– for a time in some medieval century and then gradually it either dies or is snuffed out either through lack of conviction or oppression of the church and it disappears. But look. Think about it. The First Presbyterian Church over here –one of their wealthy members recently gave the church $600.000 to buy a new organ. They’ve got one of the finest pipe organs in the world that will blow you out of the church. I tried to go to the first recital–it didn’t cost money, but you had to have a ticket to get in the place. And that church is full of some of the city’s finest young people–I know a lot of them—and they are zealous to good works. And it would be wonderful to be a member of that group. But I can’t let that happen.
Why not? Because they ‘re Christians, and I’m a Jew. That’s an overstatement, but you get my point. ‘For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain’, said Paul to the Jews in Rome who questioned his fidelity. For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. My hope is the same as yours. Jesus said, salvation is of the Jew. Paul in his letter to the Romans said, You Jews are the wild branches grafted into the good olive tree. In the first chapter of Ephesians he uses a different figure. He says, you are Jews by adoption. You are no longer aliens from the Commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise. And why not? The first thing you looked at when you were baptized–and I hope you haven’t forgotten–from the third of Galatians–8th and 9th verses, and the scripture, forseeing that God would justify the heathen trough faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying in thee shall all nations be blessed. So then, they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made, and not to seeds as of many but as of one and to thy seed which is Christ’s, and then v. 26 , ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s --you’re gonna inherit the land –you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise. That makes you a Jew. But unfortunately that notion has been lost to mainline protestant Christianity. Here’s a little summary of what’s happened.
The principal of exclusivity, that is that salvation is for the seed of Abraham, is completely lost in protestant theology. They preach that the only barrier to heaven is personal sin. The total emphasis centers around the forgiveness of sin. Christ died for the sins of the whole world. Accept Christ as your personal savior and your sins will be forgiven and you will be saved. A neat system of salvation is worked out wherein the Abrahamic covenant has no place whatever. If the Abrahamic covenant had been omitted from the Bible protestant theology would not change one iota. Get it? I mean, you can be a Christian today and the Old Testament theology is irrelevant. Fortunately, 7,000 have not bowed their knee to Baal , I am talking about Abraham’s seed being saved. In a book I read by a layman who spent his life studying the Bible, he says this: Most Christian commentators dismiss altogether a literal interpretation of Isaiah 11 (that’s what he was talking about here, a picture of a literal kingdom that’s going to come), Israel attacking its enemies is interpreted as being the church spiritually triumphing over its enemies by the preaching of the gospel. So all that stuff in Isaiah and Zechariah and Ezekiel that talk about the battles in the last days between Israel and its enemies, that’s all a metaphor, so it says. Has nothing to do, literally, with Christianity. Now I said they are Christians and we’re Jews. That’s an overstatement, because in the book of Acts, you know, the Jews who became followers of Christ were called Christians at Antioch, we read. They were called Christians because while they were Jews they were called Christians to distinguish them from Jews who didn’t believe in Christ.
You’ve got a conditional bequest, as we say at the law. You’ve been promised a place in the land if you but keep the faith. I mean you’ve got the bequest but it is subject to being taken away from you. It’s a way of saying it, You are special; you are God’s elect. That’s not because you’re better–most of us are worse than the people around us. But God chose Abraham and his seed. There’s no evidence in the Bible when Abraham was plucked up out of Ur that there was anything special to commend him; it turned out later in his life there was something special to commend him as he worked out his salvation through faith. But God chose Abraham arbitrarily.
And you say to me–hypothetically–those of you who are disturbed by God’s arbitrariness, God is arbitrary.
And I say to you, of course He’s arbitrary . There are no rules to judge God by. God makes the rules. Would you impose on God rules you make up? He made you. Shall the thing formed say to Him who formed it, why hast thou made me thus? Said one of Job’s comforters.
I say to you, concerned with this arbitrary God, look at salmon–very few come from those billions of eggs that are laid; very few oak trees grow from all those acorns that hit the ground. Observe in nature the exclusivity: strait is the gate and few there be that find it.
And you say to me, stop changing the subject, we’re not talking about salmon and oak trees here. We’re talking about human beings in our lives.
And I say, OK, I’ll agree with you, from your point of view God is arbitrary and God is not fair. The God of the Bible. What are you going to do about it? Can you get God to change His rules.
You say, well, I won’t believe in Him. I’ll construct my own God. And He’s probably the real God, anyway. And he’ll be fair. That God that I construct, He’ll be fair.
I say, Let me ask you this. Do you really want a God that is fair? I mean, where would you stand if there’s a division between those who’ve done good works and those who haven’t? Are you going to compare favorably with the Christian martyrs ? With Albert Schweitzer? With Mother Theresa? You don’t stand a chance if you’re looking for God to be fair. You see the point. You’ve been trying to save yourself. You are trying to let other people save themselves. That’s what was wrong with the Jews–they thought they could save themselves. God will save who He said He would save, no matter how capricious it may appear. Salvation is a gift, not a wage earned. So back to the subject.
Is Christianity a way of life? Of course it is, but it is much more than that. My father–it was one of his favorite phrases. But he understood about the promises,’ Christianity is a way of life’ was the icing on the cake, so to speak. The cake was his faith. Christianity is a way of life, but much more than that. God’s purchased, chosen people –that’s you and me–must be zealous of good works, , we’re told. We must not forsake the weightier matters of the law–justice, mercy and faith–as the Jews did. You know in Matthew, John told the Pharisees and Sadducees who were puffed up about the fact they were the seed of Abraham–they didn’t need to be baptized. And John said to them, "God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham." And so, lest you get puffed up, I want you to think of yourself in the same way. You are a stone, that God has chosen to make a seed of Abraham. Reading from Malachi 3. 16+ - a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be mine, said the Lord of Hosts (and the name Lord there is the covenant name, Yahweh), in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him. Well, your job is to polish that stone. That is you; that represents your character, so that you can be a beautiful, polished jewel when Yahweh makes up his jewels.