Rebuilding Christianity the Way the Apostles Delivered It

I would love to completely deconstruct some of the myths that have made their way into evangelical tradition, then become unquestionable, but which have no Scriptural or historical support. Then afterwards, I would love to retell the story of Christianity the way the early churches said they received it from the apostles.

We would be so blessed; it would honor God, and the Scriptures would fall into place, all saying one thing, rather than our beating each other over the head with competing verses.

But those traditions are so ingrained, it’s hard to do.

As an example, all early Christians knew about Christ’s "new law" (Heb. 7:12), which was not a new law, but the fullness of the old Law of Moses that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5:17. That teaching answers all the fuss about the Sabbath, the ten commandments, why Paul says the Law came to an end (Rom. 10:4), yet appealed to the law (1 Cor. 9:8). Their teaching is clear, and it pulls the Old and New Testaments together in a way we can all understand.

Amazingly, despite the fact that at one time all Christians knew the teaching, no one does now. It’s astounding. You can read the teaching at Christian-history.org.

I have no idea how to do such a reconstruction. Who’s going to believe me?

So, let’s keep picking away at it.

Today, I want to talk one more time about the role of sacrifices.

Yesterday, I went to a National Bible Bee contest. It was a Scripture memory contest for kids with some large cash prizes. The kids were impressive. It seemed like they had the entire Bible memorized.

Anyway, one of the passages was Hosea 6:1-3. This is typing, not talking, so I’ll just quote part of the passage, though the rest is amazing and worth reading, too:

Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. … So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. (vv. 1,3, NASB)

I’ve been somewhat immersed in the writings of second-century Christianity for about twenty years now. When I read an Old Testament passage about returning to the Lord, I know what it’s going to talk about. It’s going to talk about repentance, and it’s going to emphasize that Israel will be wasting it’s time if they try to sacrifice their way back to fellowship with God.

This is not a concept most modern Christians have.

Sure enough, by v. 6, God says:

For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (NASB)

At the start of chapter 7, God tells them that they forget that he remembers all their wickedness (7:2). Towards the end of the chapter, God complains, not that they don’t offer sacrifices, but that "they do not cry out to Me from their heart" (7:14, NASB).

By chapter 8, he specifically mentions their sacrifices, saying:

As for My sacrificial gifts, they sacrifice the flesh and eat it, but the LORD has taken no delight in them. Now He will remember their iniquity and punish them for their sins. (8:13, NASB)

Notice, as I said, that he consistently calls for their behavior to change, their repentance, and he says sacrifices will be a waste of time until they do.

Hosea is an amazingly consistent book, staying on the same subject for chapters, outlining the sins of Israel and Judah before drawing to a conclusion in ch. 14, at the end of the book. By the time Hosea reaches that conclusion, it is surprising what he tells Israel to bring with them when they return to the Lord …

Take words with you and return to LORD. Say to him, "Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously, that we may present the fruit of our lips." (14:2)

One more thing we have forgotten that the early Christians knew is that sacrifices don’t purify the heart. If the heart is wrong, the sacrifice is rejected, and that is consistent throughout Scripture, not just here in Hosea. It is the heart that purifies the sacrifice. That is why King David writes:

For you do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. (Ps. 51:16-17, NASB)

This is as true of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as it is of the sacrifice of animals. Paul tells us, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap" (Gal. 6:7, NASB). He then goes on to say that sowing to the flesh will produce corruption for us, while sowing to the Spirit will produce eternal life.

We are those who have nothing good in us, who rely on Jesus Christ to deliver us from this body of death (Rom. 7:24 w/ 8:3-4). We depend daily on the mercy of God, but we need to know that mercy is poured out on those who confess their sins and repent. Then we can enter boldly into the throne of grace, seeking mercy and grace to help in time of need. God will always forgive the repentant, but if we come boldly into the throne of grace, holding sin in our heart, without crying out for deliverance, we may find ourselves recipients of the mercy of God in a form far different than we expected.

It is possibly to trample the Son of God underfoot, to count the blood of the covenant as an unholy thing, and to insult the Spirit of Grace (Heb. 10:29). The writer of Hebrews tells us that if we do so, there is only a fearful expectation of judgment.

Even such judgment is the kindness of God, for we cannot be allowed to continue to believe that grace is a license to sin. If you care to enter the presence of Almighty God by the blood of Jesus, then take words with you and repent before the Lord. He is well able to cleanse you, but not if you have no care to walk in the Spirit and live pleasing to his will.

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3 Responses to Rebuilding Christianity the Way the Apostles Delivered It

  1. That was a good description, Jeff. Also, I have no intentions of stopping the work of retelling the story of Christianity from the apostolic viewpoint.

    Thanks for the comment, Benjamyn. It reminds me of a quote from George Macdonald:

    “It was not in … a righteousness-hungry heart that the revolting legal fiction of imputed righteousness first arose. Righteousness, God’s righteousness, righteousness in their own being, in heart and brains and hands, is what such righteousness-hungry men and women want, not some make-believe pretend form of what is not righteousness but is called righteousness.”

    Caveat: George MacDonald means the version of imputed righteousness in which people are accounted righteous even though they don’t live righteously, a direct contradiction of 1 Jn. 3:7, something John told us not to be deceived about. Imputed righteousness is Scriptural, but it is never given apart from a real “in heart and brains and hands” imparted righteousness.

  2. I totally agree with this post,Shammah.Some don’t know that God wants to purify us and others are settled with the washing of outward sins. God has been getting deeper inside me since my baptism and shining light on things INSIDE that He wishes to purify out. With the whole thing He gave me to give for the passage and also my single-hood, he has shown me that it is not enough to let him fix us, he must make our hearts like His own so that we can truly reflect His image. Even this is not His finish for the work in us but merely a step further into the vastness of what and who we are as the servant/friend/heir/bride of Christ. Thank you for your faith and continuing to inspire people like me. To the King!

  3. Jeff says:

    RE: “I have no idea how to do such a reconstruction. Who’s going to believe me?”

    I probably would if it bears witness in me. And so would anyone else who wants God’s will. So why not do it?!

    If you have faith for the truth, so might other people “believe you.”

    As for the rest that you write, it is right on. Repentance and faith are needed. A broken and contrite heart He will not despise (or turn away).

    Note to anyone interested: It is God’s will that His people repent as needed, and He will grant them that repentance as they ask Him. David said, “search me try me, see if there be any wicked way in me.”

    God will show where we fall short, and make way of deliverance to those who understand and see this.

    EVEN IF you presently are aware you are double minded, weak willed, or “have no care to walk in the Spirit and live pleasing to his will,” IF you can acknowledge this is a sin and bondage, God can lead you out of this. One must first be willing, and believe grace is that great.

    Even being “willing to be made willing” is a start. Take what sincerity you have and plea before God to have mercy and grace to help.

    God came to call those who are near and those who are far off, and is well able to create in them a “clean heart” if only they will agree with Him with such that they have, and ask believing that He will lead them into all truth.

    This is how the half-hearted may become whole-hearted in time.

    God is very good, and people who deny this or turn away from it will have no excuse.

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