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Passover and Pentecost: Brings Us In (part 5)

Title Post: Rethinking Salvation

I want to close this study with three observations on the value of the Feast of Pentecost for the church—for you and me—today.

1. We must rethink the whole paradigm of salvation

The​ ​most offensive​ ​characterization,​ ​the​ ​grossest​ ​misrepresentation​ ​of​ ​the​ ​God​ ​of​ ​Israel—and Israel​ ​itself—in​ ​all​ ​of​ ​Christian​ ​theology​ ​throughout​ ​the​ ​centuries,​ ​has​ ​been​ ​the persistent​ ​belief that Israel​ ​was​ ​saved​ ​by​ ​works​ ​and​ ​the church is saved by​ ​grace. Said another way, ​Israel​ ​earned salvation ​by keeping the​ ​Law​ while​ ​we receive it​ ​by​ ​grace alone. Baloney!

Not​ ​only​ ​does​ ​this​ ​misrepresent​ ​Israel, but it also maligns​ ​the​ ​God​ ​of​ ​Israel.​

It​ ​was​ his grace that​ ​saved​ ​Israel​ ​out​ ​of​ ​Egypt.​ ​​​It is quite telling that most Christians don’t understand something quite foundational, biblically speaking. The​ ​Exodus​ ​story​ ​is​ ​a​ ​wonderful​ ​paradigm​ ​of​ ​what salvation​ ​is​ ​all​ ​about​! It is the LORD who redeems​ ​by​ ​the​ ​blood​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Passover lamb.​ ​​​Israel​ ​was​ ​saved​ ​because​ ​they​ ​were​ ​under​ ​the gracious provision of the​ ​lamb’s blood.​ Understand this. There was nothing ​Israel did to merit salvation; it was a gift from a giving God.

Think about it, ​God​ ​did​ ​not​ ​send​ ​Moses​ ​to​ ​Israel​ ​like​ ​a​ ​traveling salesman​ ​with​ ​the​ ​Ten​ ​Commandments​ ​in​ ​his​ ​briefcase​. “Here Israel,” he says, “If you​ ​buy these​ ​commandments,​ ​God​ ​will​ ​redeem​ ​you​ ​and​ ​save​ ​you.” No, ​God​ ​saved​ ​Israel​ ​for​ ​no reason​ ​other​ ​than​ ​that​ ​he​ loved her. The LORD​ ​so​ ​loved​ ​Israel​ ​that​ ​he​ ​sent​ ​the​ ​Redeemer. After​ ​her rescue, he​ ​says,​ ​“Here​ ​is​ ​the​ ​instruction​ ​manual​ ​for​ ​living​ in​ the shalom of my care.”

God​ ​saves​ ​Israel​ ​by​ ​the​ ​blood​ ​of​ ​the​ ​lamb, thereby forging a​ ​holy​ ​nation.​

He​ ​wanted​ ​to take​ ​Israel​ ​as​ ​a​ ​bride, so he​ ​brings​ ​her​ ​to​ ​a​ ​place​ ​of​ ​revelation​ ​and​ ​responsibility at​ ​Sinai. ​The rabbis​ ​saw​ ​this​ ​whole​ ​Exodus 24 passage​ as ​a​ ​marriage​ ​metaphor, from which they drew ceremonial practices for Jewish weddings.​

  • God​ ​comes​ ​like​ ​a​ ​bridegroom to​ ​Mt.​ ​Sinai​; the​ bridegrooms​ ​of​ ​old​ ​would​ ​come​ ​preceded​ ​by​ ​fire.​

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

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

Notice​ ​what​ ​happens. After Moses​ ​builds​ ​an​ ​altar he, 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

Moses​ ​reads​ the covenant to​ ​the​ ​people,​ ​just​ ​like​ ​an​ ​agent​ ​reads​ ​the marriage​ ​contract​ ​to​ ​the potential​ ​bride.​ If​ ​the​ ​bride​ wishes​ ​to​ ​enter​ ​into​ ​the​ ​marriage​ ​contract,​ ​she says,​ “I do.” What​ ​does​ ​Israel​ ​say​ ​after​ ​Moses​ ​reads​ ​the​ ​agreement? They​ ​respond, “We​ ​will.”​ In​ ​effect,​ ​the​ ​bride​ ​said “I do” to the love of God. My friends, we are witnessing God’s​ ​love for​ Israel.

Sinai​ ​was​ ​not​ ​just​ ​some​ ​stopover​ ​on​ ​the​ ​journey​ ​to​ ​the​ ​promised​ ​land.​

It​ ​wasn’t​ ​a​ ​rest stop along the way; in​ ​a​ ​real​ ​sense, it is​ the​ ​destination​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Exodus.​ It​ was​ ​the​ ​place​ ​of​ ​God’s 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.​ ​​​Yarah​ ​is​ ​the source​ ​of​ ​the​ ​word​ ​torah (law in this verse).​ ​​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.

What is missing here? There​ ​is​ ​no heinous, false​ dichotomy​ between​ ​grace​ ​and​ ​law as later Christian theology would posit.​ Now let’s be clear, grace​ ​without​ ​law​ ​is​ ​license, and ​law​ ​without​ ​grace​ ​is​ ​legalism​—both are necessary. There is God’s loving​ ​initiative​ ​and​ ​your​ ​faithful, obedient​ ​response.​ We can say it this way, keeping​ Torah for​ ​Israel​ ​was​ ​not​ ​bondage,​ ​it​ ​was​ ​a​ ​sign​ ​of the end of bondage, of liberation​ ​from​ slavery in Egypt.

Grace​ ​precedes​ ​and​ ​proceeds​ ​into​ ​the giving​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Torah. The​ ​Law is​ ​a​ ​pattern​ ​of​ ​life, for life.

This​ ​paradigm​ is​ ​not​ ​new; it​ ​goes​ ​​ ​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, “You may not eat​ ​of​ ​this​ ​tree,​ ​it​ ​is​ ​forbidden.​ ​​​You​ ​may​ ​eat​ ​of​ ​this tree,​ ​it​ ​is​ ​permitted.” ​That​ ​was​ ​law, commandment, instruction.​

The​ ​paradigm​ is​ ​always​ ​the​ ​same,​ ​God creates and recreates​ ​by his​ ​gracious, loving volition. ​And​ then​ ​he​ ​gives instruction. If​ you​ ​violate​ ​his words,​ ​you​ ​separate​ ​yourself​ ​from him, from each other, from​ ​the​ ​fullness​ ​of shalom, just​ ​as it​ ​happened​ ​to​ ​Adam​ ​and​ ​Eve.

The​ ​law​ ​was​ ​given​ ​to​ ​preserve paradise​ ​and​ ​to​ ​prosper​ ​Adam and Eve because​ ​obedience​ ​leads​ ​to​ ​life.​

In Judaism, the​ ​spindles​ ​upon​ ​which​ ​the​ ​Torah scroll​ ​is​ ​wrapped, which​ ​you​ ​lay​ ​hold​ ​of​ ​when​ ​you​ ​lift​ ​up​ ​the​ ​Word​ ​of​ ​God, are called​ trees​ ​of​ ​life.​ ​​​God’s​ ​Word​ ​is​ ​a​ ​tree​ ​of​ ​life.​ I urge you to eat​ ​the​ ​scroll​,​ taste and​ ​see​ ​if​ ​it isn’t​ good, if​ ​it​ ​doesn’t​ ​bring​ ​healing,​ ​peace,​ ​salvation, and​ ​restoration​ ​to​ ​your​ ​life. ​Don’t seek​ ​after​ ​your​ ​​ ​ways​ ​of​ ​iniquity, ​eating​ from the​ ​tree​ ​of​ the knowledge of ​good​ ​and​ ​evil​—deciding for yourself​ ​what​ ​is​ ​good​ ​and​ ​evil.

In rethinking salvation, we must​ ​also​ ​move​ ​to​ ​the​ ​conviction​ ​that​ ​it​ is​ ​purposeful beyond​ ​our​ ​own​ ​little​ ​individual​ ​egoistic​ ​reasons.​ God​ ​saves​ ​us​ ​for​ ​his purposes as well​ ​as​ ​for​ ​our​ ​eternal​ ​rewards. His initiative​ ​should​ ​elicit​ ​our​ ​faithfulness. It is​ ​time​ ​that​ ​we​ ​take​ ​seriously​ ​the​ ​summons​ ​included with​ ​our​ ​salvation​, our call​ ​to be a royal​ priesthood,​ ​to​ ​be​ ​built​ ​into​ ​a ​holy​ ​tabernacle​ ​suitable​ ​for​ ​God’s Spirit to dwell.​

How will​ ​you​ ​respond​ ​to​ ​the​ ​gift​ ​of​ ​your​ ​salvation?


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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.

Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.

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