In my last blog post titled, “How To Deal With A Sticky Theological Issue Part 1” we began the discussion of understanding why there are so many theological problems, and Tom Bradford gave us several examples. Today we are going to go further into this study. If you have not read the first part of this issue, I strongly recommend that you do so, so that you can grasp what is being taught here.
It is this mindset that the ancient Hebrew scholars and the first generation of Believers in Messiah Yeshua looked at the Bible. And I am firmly persuaded that this is the path back to the days before the notion of orthodoxy and heresy wormed its way into our beloved church and set us on a long path towards the disunity and confusion that we see among our brethren today.
A wall has only two sides: in or out, orthodoxy or heresy. On the other hand, a sheepfold creates a safe, definable AREA in which to operate freely, and in the process, it creates boundaries and has limits to surrounding us.
A sheep running within a sheepfold has lots of latitude and liberty to stand at one end or the other of the sheepfold, or to move from the top left to the top right, or to the center. Anywhere within that sheepfold the sheep choose to stand the sheep is within the authorized boundaries as defined by the shepherd who built the sheepfold, and thus the sheep are safe.
Now might some sheep prefer one spot in the sheepfold to another because for them it seems more comfortable there? Certainly. Might it be that all the other sheep think the same way and also have the same preferences? Not likely.
But it doesn’t matter because all the sheep honor the boundaries of the sheepfold as created by the shepherd. Just because some prefer the north end and some others the south and still others the center, doesn’t mean that some are in and others are out, or that some are right and the others are wrong.
Applying the sheepfold metaphor to how worshippers of God ought to read and perceive the Holy Scripture. If we can refrain from seeing every theological subject as a coin with one side, and stop seeing it through the filter of assumptions based on a particular orthodoxy/heresy, then our minds and consciences can be freed.
And we can begin to take notice that most of the questions we ask about Christianity that helps us to ascertain that perfect and divine truth that the Lord has graciously provided for us are constructed like a sheepfold and not a defensive wall.
How can it be that any and every theological question can have so many conflicting answers from outstanding bible scholars and godly men, and each denomination that holds to one answer or the other is unwilling to budge and thus sees all other possibilities as an error? And that without hesitating, each denomination can point to a scripture verse that indeed seems to validate their point of view?
Because while that scripture verse does indeed exist, it is also unconsciously perceived as a significant block added to that defensive wall rather than the addition of another post out of the many posts that form the safe inner area of a sheepfold.
The orthodoxy/heresy system is the champion of the “my verse is better than your verse” argument by which the Bible is typically read, and doctrines are established and debated.
I emphatically say to you today that the place we have arrived in Christianity whereby rigid sound-byte answers to complex and multifaceted theological questions have had the unintended consequence of stunting our spiritual growth and creating an atmosphere of disunity and thus fractured the fellowship of God’s people.
Now before I give you an example of the sheepfold method of reading the Bible, so that I am not misunderstood, I need to say a couple of things.
First I’m not speaking about embracing tolerance as it is defined today. I’m also not talking about accepting as valid the liberal church doctrines that simply disregard the Scriptures altogether and replace it with excellent sounding philosophy. I’m also not suggesting that I have discovered something new or perfect or a better doctrine.
Second is that while a sheepfold does offer a substantial area of freedom to roam around in, there does remain an outside. And if one goes outside of the sheepfold’s boundaries then one is no longer within the safe confines of that sheepfold.
It is dangerous out there and to try and exist outside that sheepfold is to try to live outside of God’s protective boundaries that consist of His laws and commands, principles and patterns, his Messiah.
Now let me give you some examples of the sheepfold method of perceiving God’s Word, and in so doing setting up boundaries in which we are to live (in liberty) as redeemed folks.
Earlier I gave you four examples of the several theological issues that Systematic Theology addresses:
- The Law,
- Eternal Salvation,
- Sabbath, and
- The Deity of Christ.
I have no intention of declaring a right answer or pointing out a wrong answer or of pronouncing a new doctrine or criticizing an existing one about any of these subjects. Rather I only intend to show you how Scripture constructs a sheepfold, and not a wall, for the Believer.
Let’s begin with the subject of the Law. I’m going to use only New Testament verses to create some posts for our sheepfold. However, there are so many New Testament passages about the Law (and each of the other three examples) that I can only use a few, or we’d be here for hours.
But the idea is to give you a sampling of aspects of New Testament views of the Law, eternal security, Sabbath and the deity of Christ, hopefully, balanced between what some might regard as negative and positive or pro and con.
CJB Matthew 5:17
Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah (Law) or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete.
CJB Galatians 3:24
Accordingly, the Torah functioned as a custodian until the Messiah came, so that we might be declared righteous on the ground of trusting and being faithful.
CJB Galatians 5:18
But if you are led by the Spirit, then you are not in subjection to the system that results from perverting the Torah into legalism.
CJB Galatians 5:4
You who are trying to be declared righteous by God through legalism have severed yourselves from the Messiah! You have fallen away from God’s grace!
We have established four posts in our sheepfold that concerns the Law: The Law is not abolished, the Law was brought to us to act as a custodian for God’s people, but on the other hand if the Holy Spirit leads one then the Torah system is not the source of our righteousness.
And if one is saved and tries to use the Law (the Torah) as our righteousness then we have fallen away from the grace provided by God through Messiah.
These 4 of many aspects of the Law are equally valid and carry the same weight. When used together they help to establish a set of boundaries concerning the Law that we are free to operate within.
Modern Systematic Theological principles, however, don’t allow for a doctrine that is flexible in this way. Instead, one verse (one facet of the Law) is pitted against another, and we must choose ONE BEST answer and at times explain away the others or relegate the remaining answers (Scripture verses) to less relevancy.
CJB John 3:36
Whoever trusts in the Son has eternal life. But whoever disobeys the Son will not see that life but remains subject to God’s wrath.”
CJB Titus 3:5
He delivered us. It was not on the ground of any righteous deeds we had done, but on the ground of his own mercy. He did it by means of the mikveh (a bath in which certain Jewish ritual purifications are performed) of rebirth and the renewal brought about by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit),
CJB John 10:28
And I give them eternal life. They will absolutely never be destroyed, and no one will snatch them from my hands.
CJB Romans 11:22
So take a good look at God’s kindness and his severity: on the one hand, severity toward those who fell off; but, on the other hand, God’s kindness toward you- provided you maintain yourself in that kindness! Otherwise, you too will be cut off!
Here are four more posts marking the boundaries of our sheepfold, and these concern our eternal security. In just this small sampling of the many verses concerning this subject, we see that it was the Lord who delivered us. And our redemption has nothing to do with our merit or deeds, that all who trust God’s Son have eternal life but on the other hand, those who disobey the Son will be subject to God’s wrath.
Further, no created being of any kind can snatch a saved person away from Messiah Yeshua, but then again one must maintain one’s self in God’s kindness, or He will cut you off!
Notice that these are pretty wide ranging comments on the same issue and how multifaceted the subject of eternal life is and that several aspects of it are all true simultaneously.
The problem we face in the standard orthodoxy/heresy mindset system of creating doctrine is that these four issues of eternal security are sufficiently different enough that we are forced to accept one aspect as “most true” and then figure out what to do with the others.
Let’s take a look at just a few of the several New Testament passages concerning the Sabbath.
CJB Hebrews 4:9
So there remains a Shabbat-keeping for God’s people.
CJB Luke 23:56
Then they went back home to prepare spices and ointments. On Shabbat the women rested, in obedience to the commandment;
CJB Colossians 2:16
So don’t let anyone pass judgment on you in connection with eating and drinking, or in regard to a Jewish festival or Rosh-Hodesh or Shabbat.
CJB Acts 20:7
On Motza’ei-Shabbat, when we were gathered to break bread, Sha’ul addressed them. Since he was going to leave the next day, he kept talking until midnight.
I’m staying with the CJB in every case, so we’re consistent. Motza’ei Shabbat means the day after Shabbat, the 1st day of the week, Sunday. And with these four posts, our sheepfold boundaries are starting to fill in a bit.
Concerning the Sabbath, we see the aspects that a Sabbath keeping is still in effect and that in fact, the Believing women who tended to Christ observed the Sabbath to obey the commandment.
On the other hand how exactly one goes about keeping the Sabbath is not to be judged by another. And further that while Sabbath (Friday night to Saturday night) is the king of days, it is not the only acceptable day of meeting for Believers as we find Paul meeting with other disciples on the 1st day of the week, Sunday.
Finally, as to the subject of the Deity of Christ.
The Deity Of Christ
CJB John 1:14
The Word became a human being and lived with us, and we saw his Sh’khinah, the Sh’khinah of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.
CJB John 10:30
I and the Father are one.”
CJB John 14:28
You heard me tell you, ‘I am leaving, and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would have been glad that I am going to the Father; because the Father is greater than I.
CJB Hebrews 2:9
But we do see Yeshua- who indeed was made for a little while lower than the angels- now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by God’s grace he might taste death for all humanity.
And here are 4 of some of the most important sheepfold posts that act as boundaries for we sheep. Christ was indeed a human being, but He was also God’s son. Yeshua was one with the Father in one sense yet in another sense Jesus pronounces that the Father is greater than He is.
There was even a time when the divine Jesus was made lower than the angels. That we cannot understand how some of these aspects of Yeshua harmonize with the others is irrelevant. They are all true, and we should not be trying to explain any of them away, or explaining one aspect as overriding another.
While there are many other aspects of our sheepfold that we’ll not discuss today, the point is that by perceiving God’s Word this way, we can quickly move from the unyielding orthodoxy/heresy viewpoint of “either/or,” to the Scriptural view of “this/and.”
We are permitted by the Lord to move closer or further away from one aspect or the other inside a Scriptural sheepfold, but provided we don’t add to or subtract from God’s Word by creating our doctrines and philosophies because if we do we are going to find ourselves outside that sheepfold. All is well, and regardless of where we stand inside of it, we can remain united and in harmony with the Lord.
Suddenly the disharmony among Believers begins to fade away. Splintered denominations have little to argue.
Armed with this understanding, I think it’s time to end our detour and circle back to 1st Samuel, which we’ll take up again in earnest next time.