Rethinking the Paradigm of Salvation (Week 6 of 7)

From the Seminar, Walking in the Light of Pentecost

Let me summarize our study with three points that seek to address the question, What does the feast of Pentecost—biblically understood—mean to you and me today?

We must rethink ...

  • the whole paradigm of salvation

  • the significance of the Torah

  • the issue of idolatry in our lives

First, we must—as Messiah's church, the people of God—rethink the whole paradigm of salvation.

The grossest misrepresentation of the God of Israel, and of Israel itself, in all of Christian theology throughout the centuries has been this persistent, perverse belief, that Israel was saved by works (by keeping the Law) and we are saved by grace. Let me teach you an important Hebrew word that describes this deception. Bah-low-nee. Baloney! Which translated means it just ain't so!

Not only does this misrepresent Israel, but it also maligns the God of Israel. It was his grace that saved Israel out of Egypt. In fact, the Exodus story is a wonderful paradigm of what salvation is all about; God delivers and redeems by the blood of the Passover lamb. Israel was saved because they were under the blood of the lamb.

Israel was not saved because of any merit, anything they did. God did not send Moses to Israel like a traveling salesman with the Ten Commandments in his briefcase saying, "If you buy these commandments, then God will rescue you." God saved Israel for no reason other than this, he loved her. God so loved Israel that he sent a redeemer. After their deliverance, through his chosen redeemer, God says to his children, "Here is the instruction manual for living in peace and shalom."

Do you see how important it is to get our thinking in line with God's story?

After God saves Israel by the blood of the lamb, he forges them into a holy nation. He brings Israel out of captivity to a place of revelation and responsibility at Sinai. There he takes her as his bride.

The ancient rabbis saw the events in Exodus 24 as a marriage metaphor. Elements of a Jewish marriage ceremony are drawn from this story.

  • As God comes like a bridegroom to Mt. Sinai, so the bridegrooms of old would come preceded by fire.

  • His bride has washed, she has purified herself, consecrated herself, and is waiting for her bridegroom to come.

  • He comes, and then his agent Moses reads the marriage contract, the ketubah.

Notice what happens,

And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Exodus 24:6-8)

He reads the covenant to the people, just like an agent reads a marriage contract (ketubah) to the potential bride. Then the bride, if she wishes to enter into the marriage contract says, "I do." How does Israel respond to what Moses reads? They say they intend to do everything the Lord has said." In effect, the bride says "I Will."

God saves because he loves.

Sinai was not some stopover on the journey to the promised land. It was not a rest stop rather, it was in a real sense the destination of the Exodus. He brought them out to bring them to a place of his revelation and instruction.

The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction. (Exodus 24:12)

The word instruction here is yarah, which is the source of the word torah. The Torah is teaching. God saves Israel, joins himself to her as a bridegroom to a bride, and then gives her instructions on how to live in the way of peace.

There is no more heinous dichotomy in Christian theology than the false division between grace and law.

Grace without law is license; law without grace is legalism—you must have both to live faithfully. Remember, it takes two hands to think biblically: on the one hand and on the other. God, because he is faithful, initiates salvation. He is now looking for your faithful, obedient response.

Keeping the Torah for Israel was not bondage, it was a sign of release from bondage. It was true liberty. Grace precedes and grace proceeds into the giving of the Torah. This is a pattern for life.

This Exodus paradigm is not new, it goes all the way back to Genesis. Has it ever occurred to you there was law in the garden of Eden? God created by his grace, then he gave some guidelines like, "you may eat of this tree, it is permitted" and, "do not eat of this tree, it is forbidden." That was law.

The paradigm is always the same, God creates/recreates by grace and then he gives you instruction. If you violate God's instructions you separate yourself from him, and separate yourself from the fullness of his shalom—just as happened to Adam and Eve. The law was given to preserve that paradise and to prosper his created ones whom he loved.

Obedience leads to life!

That is why the Torah is often thought of in Judaism as the tree of life. The spindles upon which the Torah scroll is wrapped—which you lay hold of when you lift up the Word of God—are called the trees of life. God's Word is a tree of life. Eat the scroll and see that it is good. Taste the text and see if it doesn't bring healing, peace, salvation, and restoration to your life. Stop seeking after your own ways of iniquity, eating from the tree of good and evil in order to decide for yourself what is good and what is evil.

The feast of Pentecost demands we rethink the whole paradigm of salvation. It is purposeful beyond our own little individual egoistic reasons. God saves us for his purposes as well as for our own eternal rewards. His loving initiative should elicit our loving faithfulness.

I say to you it is time to take seriously the summons that followed your salvation. Ours is a high calling to be a royal priesthood, by being built into a tabernacle suitable for God's holy habitation. Ask yourself this question, "How am I responding to his gift of salvation?"

This devotional study is from a professionally produced transcription of Dwight's audio message. It is a full and accurate transcript, formalized and edited for readability and clarity by JC Studies.

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