Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“Therefore, the law is indeed holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”
Paul, in Romans 7:12
“Everyone who commits sin also transgresses the law, for sin is lawlessness.”
John, in 1John 3:4
There is not a baby born on earth who knows its mother or father when it is born. Typically, the newborn quickly learns by smell and touch who the mother is, and a strong bond is quickly formed there. But there is no newborn who quickly learns its father, his thoughts, his deeds, and his will. It takes years of normal growth for a baby to attain to that knowledge.
Likewise, there is not a soul born of God who knows God when he is first born of the Spirit. Nobody has ever known God when he was born again, including the very disciples of Jesus. On the day of Pentecost, when they were born of the Spirit, not one of Jesus’ disciples knew the heavenly Father. They obviously knew things about Him. They had walked with Jesus, the very image of the Father, for several years, and they loved him dearly. But when they received the Spirit, they did not know God for themselves. On that day, though, they began the process of receiving the true knowledge of God. “The day you receive the holy Ghost”, my father used to tell us, “is your first day in God’s school.”
Think about it. If you had suggested to Jesus’ disciples on the day of Pentecost that God was going to allow Gentiles to enter His kingdom, the same people whom Jesus once called “dogs”, his disciples would have considered you mad. For God to do that, they would have argued, would be contrary to everything God had done from the time of Abraham, and most certainly since Moses. Besides, Jesus himself had told them not to go to the Gentiles (Mt. 10:5). On the day of Pentecost, not one of those disciples believed that God would ever allow a man into His kingdom who was not circumcised after the manner of Moses. The uncircumcised were excluded from the Jews’ covenant with God, period.
Further, if you had told Jesus’ disciples that the ceremonial form of worship prescribed by the law would become sin (as Isaiah prophesied in that great last chapter of his book), they would have been indignant. They would have pointed to the fact that the Lord Jesus observed the law’s ceremonies, such as the Passover, while he walked on earth. They did not understand that God would bring the holy worship at the temple in Jerusalem to an end, that the time was at hand when such things as physical circumcision and animal sacrifices would mean nothing to God, and that, in fact, such things would become a stench in God’s nostrils and a reproach to the name of Jesus.
Moreover, if you had told those disciples that the door by which Jews entered into the kingdom of God would be closed, and that as it closed, the holy baptism that John the Baptist preached would be holy no more, and that having a genealogical connection to Abraham would mean nothing to God, they would have considered you a blasphemer, perhaps worthy of death. Even Jesus was a Jew, they would have contended. Didn’t that mean something?
Yes, it meant something. But what did it mean? When Paul returned from his visit to the third heaven, he had the answer.
Next time, Part Three: Paul’s Gospel