William Andrew Dillard
Hyper-evangelism and the great debates of a couple of generations ago have produced in some an all encompassing point of spiritual completion in the experience of the spiritual new birth. For this reason, a host of scriptures that speak to the salvation of the mind-life are simply written off as applicable to the spiritual new birth which is thought to be the sum and substance of New Testament Christianity. Little thought is attributed to spiritual salvation by grace being 4,000 years old when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Such a mindset produces error in rightly dividing and interpreting scriptures. For example, it is assumed that 3000 people were spiritually saved on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2. The Bible says no such thing! What it says is that 3,000 were added to them (the church). Of course some may have been saved on that day, but doubtless most of them were of old, saved Jews, and others under the ministries of John and those in the limited commission. At one time there was some controversy about that. John 4:1 records, When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,). It is evident that a great number of people were saved and baptized who did not have the privilege of accompanying Jesus and the apostles during His earthly ministry. Referencing those, Jesus said, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” John 10:16.
Inasmuch as Jesus’ prayer in John 17 was adamant in several expressions that His church body be one, even as He and the Father were one, it is reasonable to believe His statement in John 10:16 was referencing the many disciples who were to be coalesced into the one fold prior to the great, initial outreach. Pentecost and the days following, as in Acts 4:4, then would be. in a manner of thinking, a roundup of the sheep into one fold under one shepherd.
While this reasoning alone is not proof of the state of those added to the church on Pentecost, when coupled with the fact that the Bible pointedly does not say those 3000 did not all experience spiritual salvation on that day lends heavy credence to that being the case of their being already saved disciples, rejoicing over the New Testament message, and being brought into the one fold.
It is not good to build theology on an “assumed, thus add to the Word” mentality. It is better to coalesce reasonable, bible support, than to change what is said to fit an accepted line of theology. Either way, what difference does it make? Not much except one way is right and another is wrong, just the difference between right and wrong!
YE ARE COME TO WHAT?
YE ARE COME TO WHAT?
William Andrew Dillard
Parson to Person
“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” Heb 12:22-24.
There is much to glean from these verses of scripture. They center on the contrast between the law, and the church as expressed by “church of the firstborn.” Here, the Old Testament world of shadows and symbols, and the New Testament world of realities come together in a most thrilling way.
It begins in the Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt. God purchased to Himself the firstborn by the blood of the Passover Lamb. He emphatically proclaimed to the Hebrews that the firstfruits of man, beast, the field, etc. belonged to Him, and such must be yielded to Him or redeemed with fair price. Soon a census was taken and the tribe of Levi almost matched in number the total of firstborn saved from death by the blood. Whereupon, God traded the firstborn back to the Hebrews for the entire tribe of Levi who would produce the priests and minister about holy things. It is important to connect the dots here. The Old Testament priests then became representative of the firstborn ones from Egypt.
The Levitical priesthood was destined to cease, giving way to another priesthood, and another high priest after the order of Melchizedec Who would serve the covenant people of God without end. He, of course, is Jesus. Who is THE FIRST BORN from the dead among many brethren.
When the New High Priest fulfilled every jot and title of the Mosaic Law, He redeemed His people of covenant out from under the Old and into the New. The expression of the New Covenant among men is the New Testament Church (purchased with holy blood) and the pillar and ground of the truth. Soon after the empowerment of the church by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, gentiles were added as it grew by leaps and bounds under the missionary efforts of the Apostle Paul and others. The people of this New Covenant are called the “Israel of God,” Gal. 6:16. Moreover, Peter calls them “a royal priesthood.” I Peter 2:9. Consequently, the writer of Hebrews emphasizes that we are no longer under the law. We have not come to Mt. Sinai, but to Mt. Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem . . . To the church of the firstborn…. But while we have this blessed status and enjoy the understanding and spiritual maturity it affords us, there is much greater personal responsibility regarding personal submission to the instructions of Christ Jesus, our eternal high priest. We must not turn away from Him Who has spoken to us. We must learn to worship and serve God acceptably. While it is sweet to enjoy our relationship with Him as our Loving Heavenly Father, we must hear the following verses as well, and know that our God is indeed a consuming fire.
The church of the firstborn! What a lofty position to which we have been elevated in Christ Jesus!
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