April 20, 2014

Renewal

4-20-14

Col 3: 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Last week we looked at Col 3:9…

Colossians 3:9 (NASB) Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,
Here the words “laid aside” mean: “to take off clothing.” This term refers to the effects of the cross. The Greek indicates that this stripping off from oneself took place at the cross. That is where the great change took place. The work of the cross is the basis for all spiritual life in the New Covenant.

Notice the end of verse 9, “…with its evil practices” – The word “practices” is from the Greek word praxis, which means: “practice.” “Practices” implies ongoing activity or responsibility. Because the “old man” was removed, so should the sins that were connected with the old man. We are to stop acting based upon our old life and start acting based upon our new life.

Colossians 3:10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him

Every believer is a new man in Christ:

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

We are new, because we possess the life of Christ in ourselves. We are new, because of our position before God.

Now notice what Paul says about the new man, “…which is being renewed to a true knowledge…” Most of us probably would see this verse as speaking about the believer’s journey of spiritual maturity. And that certainly is a valid area of concern for all Christians. If we look at many who call themselves Christians today, we can say that spiritual maturity is an ongoing issue.

Now having said that, remember that the Apostle Paul has been writing about who we are in Christ, all through the first two chapters. He writes about our position with Christ. We were buried with Him, we rose with Him, and We live in Him. He gave us everything we need already. We are complete in Him.

vs. 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed…
The new self was put on at salvation, it is in the past tense. But the being renewed is something that was happening to the entire church. Paul bases the actions of verse 9 (don’t lie to one another) with the new man that was put on and continues to be renewed. This renewal was not a behavior, but something that was happening to them, as a body of believers.

The word “renewed” means: “to cause something to become new and different, implying that the church is being transformed into something superior. Now we may be tempted to think of an individual Christian’s maturity level when we try to understand this. But I think there may be something here that escaped my notice until recently. And of course I could be all wrong in this, I was wrong once before. But listen closely the next few minutes and see if this makes sense.

From God’s perspective, the Temple in Jerusalem which represented the dwelling of God among men, was still standing. And since the Temple was still standing, the church was not yet fully developed and fully mature. And I’m not speaking of individual spiritual maturity, but rather of completeness with regard to God’s plan of redemption of the church. The church could not reach maturity with the Temple still standing.

The church of the first century (pre 70 AD) is referred to in the New Testament as partly knowing, partly seeing, childish, immature, an incomplete building, and under construction. Now if Jesus had established His Kingdom in its fulness and His work in the church was completely done at the cross, then Paul should not have spoken of the church with those words. And though people were complete in Christ, the church was not yet fully mature in God’s plans. God had not yet fully revealed His complete and mature church. He had more to reveal to them.

1 John 3:2 (NASB) Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.

To put this verse in perspective, remember when we looked at Mt 16:27, 28?
27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. 28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Some look at these verses (27, 28) as totally unrelated. They see Vs 27 talking about a future return of Christ that has not yet happened, and vs 28 talking about the Transfiguration that happened on the mountain in the very next chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. But these verses have the same subject: the Son of Man coming. And most English translations of vs 27 are misleading. I looked up on the Internet 21 different English versions of this passage, and out of 21, there were only 3 that had the translation correct. Young’s Literal Translation is one that has it correct. ‘For, the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of his Father, with his messengers, and then he will reward each, according to his work. The Greek word here (about) cannot be understood as a 2000 year period. Jesus used this same word when He said He was about to be betrayed by Judas. Vs 28 tells us how soon the coming of His kingdom in its fullness would be. Some of His disciples would still be alive, when He returned, or as 1 John puts it, when He appears. In Mt 24, Jesus said that the generation of those living at that time would still be alive when He appeared.

Back to 1 Jn 3:2… when He appears… we shall be like Him. John, heard Jesus’ words and was expecting His coming. And Jesus foretold that in Mt 16, and Mt 24, and other places. But John says “we shall be like Him.” In other words, John is expecting a change to happen. And I believe that change was 2-fold. From the perspective of God, the removal of the Temple signified God completing His perfect plan of redemption. Worship of the true God was now seen to be in the new tabernacle. From man’s perspective, believers would now see that they themselves are that new dwelling place of God. They would soon see that time Jesus spoke of when those who worshiped, would worship in Spirit and in truth. They would see God’s glorious plan for the church revealed by bring the Old Covenant to its final end. God’s plans for the church could not be brought to completion while the Temple in Jerusalem was still standing and animal sacrifices were still being made. God had to fully close the Old Covenant, and its priesthood.

1 Cor 13:9: For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. Paul is most likely writing about the same thing. At His coming, a change will happen. The church will be complete, and it will be the dwelling place of God, fully mature in the Gospel.

I think that Paul, here, spoke of a transition age as a time of “partial” vs. the complete or “perfect”; the “childish,” as opposed to the coming “manhood” or maturity; the “darkly” vs the “clearly” stage of knowledge.

There are so many more passages we could look at that speak of this transitional time between Pentecost and 70 AD. God was building up Christ’s body, the Church, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the purpose that the Church would grow up to be Christ-like, as a mature or perfect Man. And what does the mature or perfect man (the mature church) look like?

The church, was growing and maturing to become the dwelling place of God:
Ephesians 2:19-20, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord;

When the Church finally reached maturity or completeness, it was to become God’s Temple. The Church was being fitted together to grow into a holy temple in the Lord. God brought that to completion at 70 AD, when the Old Covenant Temple was removed.
Ephesians 2:22 (NASB) in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

During the transition period from Pentecost to A.D. 70, the church was maturing to become God’s dwelling place. The Apostle Peter also referred to that future perfection when he wrote:

1 Peter 2:5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
In God’s new Temple only acceptable sacrifices are made to God. The earthly Temple in Jerusalem was full of corruption, and had outlived its purpose. Jesus had died. The final sacrifice was made for sins. To continue on with Temple sacrifices, or to support a rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the re-institution of animal sacrifices, is an act of unbelief, and a mockery of Christ’s work.

The Body of Christ (the Church) would eventually become the perfect tabernacle of God:
Hebrews 9:11 (NASB) But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation;

“The greater and more perfect tabernacle” – Here is a contrast between two tabernacles – the earthly one in verses 1 & 2, and the perfect one in verse 11. What is the greater and more perfect tabernacle? or as Heb 8:2 puts it, the “true tabernacle”? The text says it’s, “not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.” It does not belong to the natural creation, the material universe.

The “more perfect Tabernacle” here is that heavenly “Temple” or “Dwelling” unto which the Church was growing through the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:22). It corresponds to the heavenly “building,” “house,” and “home” with which the Church was expecting to be clothed:

2 Corinthians 5:1-4 (NASB) For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven;
Jn 14:23 says “Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” The true church is the “abode” of the Father and the Son. And it is the promised “Tabernacle of God among men” which the Church was anxiously awaiting:

Revelation 21:3 (NASB) And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them,

According to the Apostle Paul, that is our reality right now. Heb 9 makes the point very clear. Hebrews was written most likely during the start of a severe time of persecution for the church, around 66 AD. Evidence from within The book of Hebrews indicates that the Temple was still standing when it was written.

Heb 9:8 The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, 9 which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience,

At the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, every Gentile believer, and every Jewish believer, would then understand that God’s people are His dwelling place. The earthly temple was removed so that God could dwell with His people in the building He built, one made without hands, one that is served by those who love Him, instead of those who didn’t know Christ.

The saints knew that the Way into the heavenly Tabernacle or Sanctuary (the face-to-Face Presence of God) had not yet been manifest, because the first, earthly tabernacle, was still standing (Heb. 9:8,9). In other words, as long as the worldly, fleshly, Old-Covenant temple of God was still standing, then “the more perfect Tabernacle,” the Temple of God, the complete, blood-perfected Church had not yet come in its fullness. As long as the imperfect earthly house of God remained standing, and its sinful ministers were still in power, the “more perfect tabernacle” was not yet established with finality in Christ’s true people.

In Heb 8:7 ff quotes Jeremiah 31:31ff where it speaks of the New Covenant. And the writer to Hebrews concludes with this:
13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

The writer to Hebrews is indicating that there was a transition period between the establishment of the New Covenant and the phasing out of the Old Covenant. In A.D. 70, about 40 years after Jesus’ prophecy, the old temple and the old covenant world were thrown down. God’s heavenly Temple was then completely established among men. The Church was complete in the New Covenant presence of Christ.

Today believers stand perfect in Christ, we share his righteousness, we are the dwelling place of God. The transition period is over, the church has been renewed (it became something new and different from what previously existed) it went through its maturing period, and has become the dwelling place of God.

I know that was a lot of Bible text and information all at once, but here is the bottom line: We who trust Jesus Christ are the true church. We are the dwelling place of the most high God. Let’s offer spiritual sacrifices and praises that are suitable for Him. If God dwells within us, what manner of people ought we to be?