Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

There is a saying making the rounds in certain circles of Christianity today that both excites me and bothers me at the same time. That saying is…

“Jesus is perfect theology.”

Most people who use this expression love it, frankly because, who could possibly argue with it? How could Jesus ever not be perfect theology?

Just so we’re clear, I believe this statement is true—Jesus is perfect theology. He was, is, and (always) will be perfect theology—and therein lies an additional and important insight.

You see, what always bothered me about this saying wasn’t so much the saying itself, but how people used it, in other words what people who said it said next. Because whether they realized it or not, they were using this catchphrase as a kind of binding maxim, that is, “an established principle or proposition,” and (again, whether they realized it or not) were counting on this “established principle” to preempt any dissent from their next statement.

The next statement varies, but one of the most common ones is, “I’ll take the words of Jesus over the words of Paul any day.” And now we have a problem, a big problem, because that statement is simply bad theology, hence the need to preface it with what appears to be an unassailable truism.

First, the statement “I’ll take the words of Jesus over the words of Paul,” ignores the orthodox hermeneutical principle that “holy men spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The same Holy Spirit that “moved” Peter, also moved Paul, and also moved Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. A statement in scripture is not somehow “more inspired” because Luke (for example) is quoting Jesus as compared with Paul receiving revelation and writing “the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations but has now been manifested to His saints” (Colossians 1:26).

Second, as is almost always the case with biblical issues, the statement “Jesus is perfect theology” must be put in context. Was Jesus “perfect theology” five minutes after he was born? Hmm? Or did he grow in wisdom as the scripture says? (Luke 2:40.)

Finally, these combined statements essentially ignore the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost—one of the most extraordinary and significant events is scripture and in the history of the world, and the profound changes that occurred as a result. Very simply, the rules changed at Pentecost. Jesus himself anticipated this and spoke to his disciples during his earthly ministry to be ready for it when it came.

You see, Jesus was perfect theology is his earthly ministry and he is perfect theology now in his ascended ministry. But the Gospels do not represent his ascended ministry—the Church epistles do.

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”  [Charles Dickens–A Christmas Carol]

I’ve been seeing a significant number of online articles and Facebook memes this year, desperately attempting to defend Christmas by claiming that the popular theories about early Christians deliberately attempted to co-opt Roman and pagan winter solstice festivals have been debunked. I know I will get called a Scrooge for this, but this is both tragic and ironic, first because it is a logical non sequitur, and secondly because it entirely misses the point.

If you want to celebrate Christmas, by all means, knock yourself out. Christmas can be a wonderful holiday, and millions of people look forward to it and celebrate it every year—and they enjoy it—so please have at it. But Christmas can also be a time that it at best bittersweet because it has been marred by tragedy. For many people, Christmas is a time of intense emotional struggle that is only made worse by those who insist that they should simply stop being depressed and change their emotional state like throwing a switch. There is little question that people who suffer during the holidays need genuine help, but guilting them into “the holiday spirit” does more harm than good.

So please stop trying to defend Christmas as anything other than what it is—a mad-made tradition.

First, the notion that Jesus Christ was born on December 25th is biblically indefensible. There is absolutely no biblical evidence whatsoever that Jesus was born on December 25th.

Second, the notion that as Christians, we should celebrate the birth of Christ is likewise biblically indefensible. There isn’t even a suggestion, let alone a commandment or mandate that Christ’s birthday, whether we know the date or not, is supposed to be celebrated. There is absolutely no biblical evidence whatsoever that Jesus’ disciples and their immediate successors celebrated his birthday.

Third, if you belong to one of the various flavors of Christianity that requires you to “observe” Christmas in an obligatory sense, you truly do not understand the New Covenant.

“Had it been the will of Christ that the anniversary of his nativity should have been celebrated, he would have at least let us have known the day.” [Ezra Stiles, 7th President of Yale College, writing in 1776.]

All of the holiday traditions associated with the birth of Christ developed much later and over time completely separate from any biblical support (since there simply isn’t any).

As a matter of fact, it is much easier to develop a sound biblical case against celebrating Christmas, than it is to develop one in support. The scriptures of the New Testament clearly teach that God has a very low opinion of the “traditions of men,” and Christians are clearly instructed not to esteem one day above another, regardless of the rationalization. All the collective handwringing about “keeping Christ in Christmas” misses the point that Christ is not “in” Christmas anymore than he is in any other day of the year.

But where Christ truly is, should you choose to accept Him, is in you—and you are in Christ. And the ramifications of this truth are beyond stunning. And therein lies the danger of traditions—they distract, deflect, and de-emphasize the biblical truths that would turn everyday into Christmas if we would only spend as much time and effort making them a reality as we do our traditions. If you’re not as excited about say, August 16th or October 18th as you are about December 25th because Christ is in you, then maybe it is high time you put your traditions on the shelf and allowed Jesus to reveal himself in you (Gal. 1:16)—an experience that so overwhelmed Paul the apostle that he immediately separated himself from all distractions so that he could fully embrace this Truth.

Charles Dickens’ said it well in his novella A Christmas Carol, when Ebenezer Scrooge exclaims, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.” If it takes the Christmas season to get you to act like Christ, maybe you’ve missed the point.

I’m sure some reading this will think that I am “anti-Christmas” and I assure that I am not. I have enjoyed many Christmases and experienced more than a few disappointing ones as is likely the case with many of us. Christmas can be a wonderful holiday tradition that encourages us to be with ones we love, and oftentimes reach out to others for whom Christmas may not be so merry. And those are good things—and I never oppose good things. Plus, Vince Guaraldi’s, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is the some of the best Christmas music—ever.

So I do sincerely wish you one and all a merry and blessed Christmas. May you enjoy time spent with loved ones, eggnog, eating too much, and presents under the tree. But I also encourage you to go deeper—deeper than traditions about Christ to straightway into the truth that is in Christ.

When researching the accurate birthdate of Jesus Christ, one runs squarely into an ironic paradox. The notion that Jesus was born of December 25th has been commonly held for so long that is often assumed to be correct without question. And yet, even among those who are aware that Jesus was not born of December 25th the cultural overtones have been so prevalent that we tend to default to a December 25-based paradigm without realizing it. One of the most common ways this paradigm manifests itself is that we tend to assume that Christmas themed “resources” (I use this term loosely), such as Christmas carols and Christmas pageants are factually correct when they rarely are. 

The cattle are lowing

The poor Baby wakes

But little Lord Jesus

No crying He makes

[Away in a Manger—Author unknown.]

Away in a Manager is almost always the first Christmas carol taught to children. The first two verses were originally published without music in a periodical called The Myrtle, in May 1884, in Boston. The article credited authorship of the carol to the Reformer Martin Luther, but this was factually untrue—the author of the lyrics remains unknown. Additional lyrics were added over time, and over 40 different melodies accompany the lyrics.

Although artistic license is allowed, take note that no cattle, sheep or other animals are specifically mentioned in scripture. In addition, great controversy arose concerning the line “no crying he makes”—the heretical implication being that if Jesus did not cry, he was not fully human, and therefore the orthodox doctrine of the Incarnation is false.

Additionally, most Christmas pageants prominently feature an “Innkeeper” as part of the production. Please read carefully.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. [Luke 2:7 KJV]

Take note that although one usually plays a prominent role in most Christmas pageants, there is no innkeeper mentioned in scripture—only the English word inn (in the KJV). In addition, Luke doesn’t use the common word for a traveler’s inn (pandocheion; Strong’s #3829) that he uses other places. Instead, he uses a word that means guest room (kataluma; Strong’s #2646). It’s the same word that he used to describe the place where Jesus took the last supper. It’s ironic that the King James misses it in Luke 2:7, and then nails in Luke 22:11.

Strong’s #2646, kataluma; guest chamber.

And she brought forth her son—the first-born, and wrapped him up, and laid him down in the manger, because there was not for them a place in the guest-chamber. [Luke 2:7 YLT]

When Jesus was preparing for the last Passover, he instructed his disciples to find an appropriate guest chamber where they could have the meal. This was the kind of room a homeowner could loan or rent to family or friends. There is a certain intimacy connected to this type of guest chamber.

And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, where is the guest chamber, where I shall eat the Passover with my disciples? [Luke 22:11 KJV]

This (kataluma) is not the word that would be used to describe a traveler’s inn (hotel/motel), which would be pandocheion, Strong’s #3829—used in the story of the Good Samaritan.

And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn (pandocheion, Strong’s #3829), and took care of him. [Luke 10:34 KJV]

Since Joseph and Mary were traveling to his/their ancestral home, it is likely they expected to stay with relatives. Lacking modern technology however, they could not phone ahead and let people know they were coming. If it was indeed during the high holy days plus the registration, it is quite easy to see how the “guest bedroom” was already taken.

The record of the Good Samaritan is particularly insightful, because in context, a Samaritan would have been unable to rent/borrow a guest chamber (kataluma), but could have rented a room at the local motel (pandocheion).

In addition, we are told that Jesus was laid in a manger—scripture never says he was “born in a stable” (barn, or cave). Joseph and Mary most likely anticipated being able to stay in their relative’s guest chamber, but it was already taken. Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus may have indeed slept in a stable (Jesus in the manger), but most likely he was born in the house of his relatives—just not in the guest chamber.

I tripped over an article on the Internet today about NASA “changing/updating” the astrological signs, and of course, after I clicked on it to read it, up popped an additional article by Snopes.com attempting to debunk the NASA claim. Ironically, the Snopes article pre-dates the other article, and is apparently based on previously published but essentially identical information.

Understanding the accurate birth date of Jesus Christ requires an accurate understanding of both astronomy and astrology—or more precisely, archeo-astronomy—what ancient cultures knew and believed about astronomy and astrology. And although as a Christian, I do not believe in or endorse horoscopes, the basic premise behind these articles is actually rooted and grounded in sound astronomical observation and does have bearing on our understanding of precisely when Jesus was born.

What both articles clumsily refer to is called the procession of the equinoxes, and it is well-known and understood by both ancient and modern astronomers and astrologers alike. As a matter of fact, understanding the procession of the equinoxes is how the ancient Mayans developed a calendar that “ended” on the winter solstice (December 21) 2012, that caused such a hullabaloo few years ago.

The procession of the equinoxes occurs because the Earth’s rotational axis is actually tilted off its orbital axis by approximately 23º. (Ironically, the axial tilt, or “obliquity” also oscillates over time between approximately 21º and 24º.) Because of the axial tilt, the celestial North Pole (the point or spot drawn in the heavens directly above the Earth’s rotational axis, combined with the Earth’s orbit, and the rotation of the Milky Way galaxy, causes this spot to draw a circle in the heavens. The time it takes to draw a full circle is approximately 25,920 years and is known in astronomical communities as the “Great Year” or “Platonic Year.”

The combination of these various orbits and rotations results in the constellations appearing to rotate around the Earth despite the fact that they appear stationary to the naked eye, repeatedly showing up in the same location seasonally each year. The key component however is that this happens very, very slowly and is not observable to the naked eye. It is only noticeable due to prolonged observation and recording of the precise position of the constellations against our sun. By tracking exactly what date each constellation rises behind the rising sun on the vernal equinox (over many, many years), we discover that the constellations rotate approximately 1º every 72 years.

The reason this matters, for those who put any credibility in horoscopes anyway, is that for many followers of such practices, the star charts they are using are up to 2000 years old, during which time the constellations have shifted about 27º, which means the dates for what sign occurs when have changed too.

You see, the “sign” one is “born under” is determined by the position of the sun (what constellation it is in) on the day you were born—not by the date on some chart that says “Pisces” (for example) is between February 19 and March 20. Where these articles got it right (even though they themselves were highly skeptical) is that due to the procession of the equinoxes, those dates are now Aquarius, and March 11 to April 18 is now Pisces. Enter your birthdate into any simple astronomy software and check for yourself. My birthdate is October 18, 1961. Although I never followed horoscopes, I grew up with the understanding that I was either a Scorpio or a Libra, when in reality I am a Virgo! Horoscopic interpretations aside, the dates are purely scientific.

What’s truly amazing however is how ancient societies who were limited to physical observation combined with rudimentary mathematical extrapolation could know about the Great Year.

The end result is that archeo-astronomy, or, what ancient cultures knew and believed about astronomy and astrology plays a major role in our understanding of the accurate birth date of Jesus Christ.

Such massive strides have been made over the past 50 years in the field of archeo-astronomy, that historians now recognize that if one does not understand the astronomy of that culture, you probably do not understand that culture as well as you think you do.

This means we will be taking a long look at Hebrew archeo-astronomy.

More to come.

So I guess today was Theology Discussion Day. I friend asked me to lunch in order to pick my brain about ghosts and demons. Another friend asked if he could give my email or phone number to a friend who had some serious Bible questions (again demonology and generational curses). And another friend and I kicked around some eschatology and apologetics—(If you doubt the historical and textual integrity of the Bible—you basically have to reach the conclusion that Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great did not exist, because the historical and textual evidence for their existence is considered unquestionable and yet their historical and textual integrity is infinitesimally small by comparison to that of the Bible.)

During these discussions, a similar theme kept popping up… “When are you going to start a Bible study?” Or, “Why don’t you start a YouTube channel and do 5-minute videos of Bible questions?” Not to mention the fact that just the other day a fellow “minister” encouraged me to expand my blogging.

These are ideas that have come up many times before, and some reasons why I have never started such an endeavor are obvious—the most obvious being the time commitment. I already work 40+ hours a week, plus the other aspects of just living life, etc., etc. As much as I enjoy these discussions, I do not want to get locked into a weekly commitment. But then there’s the flip side…

I’m a pretty smart guy (humble too)—I know a fair amount about the Bible and related topics—and not just the run-of-the-mill stuff—I have a pretty good grasp of the lunatic fringe stuff as well. And as one friend put it… “There is a need to ‘get this stuff out there’.”

Plus, this is something I have genuinely wanted to do, so I would like to pose a question to those who might be interested…

If I were to do such a thing—the YouTube channel in particular—what are some questions you would like to see answered? Please feel free to post your questions below or send them to me in a private message if that makes you more comfortable.

More to come…

I would like to introduce a new subject to my blog–the birth of Jesus Christ.

Many years ago I was introduced to a provocative theory regarding the accurate birth date for Jesus Christ—and you guessed it—it is not December 25th. This theory fascinated me because it was based on real biblical, historical, and scientific evidence, and not on tradition. Because of this, I have been investigating the historical events leading up to and surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ for over 30 years.

It may come as a surprise that it has been widely known for several centuries, that not only was Jesus of Nazareth not born on December 25th, but in fact could not have been born on December 25th. In over 30 years of researching the birth of Christ, I have yet to discover a single serious biblical or historical scholar who defends a December 25 birth date for Jesus of Nazareth with enough significant reliable evidence to even put a dent in the mountain of evidence that suggests an alternative date.

Given the fact that it is widely known that Jesus could not have been born on December 25th and that no serious biblical scholar has suggested such for several centuries, it is frankly rather astonishing how often people are surprised when informed that Jesus of Nazareth was not born on Christmas Day.

This fact is accompanied by the tragic and ironic fact that the sources for most of what we think we know about the birth of Christ tend to be Christmas cards, Christmas carols, Christmas pageants, and nativity scenes—most of which are built on the false assumption that Jesus was born on December 25th. When it comes to an accurate knowledge of Christ’s birth, and even to a significant degree, who Jesus was and what he was like when he walked the Earth—the “Christmas” sources have done more harm than good.

This is doubly ironic when we consider the fact, that I will share in detail in a later segment, that we have known for several hundred years that Jesus was not born on December 25th—which means that most, if not all, of the “Christmas” related sources that presume a December 25th birth date were developed within a time frame when this fact was already well-known.

The holiday we now celebrate (“Christmas”) is an invention that occurred primarily in America starting in the late 18th century and developing into its current form through the 19th and early 20th centuries. Any association with the birth of Christ is based, although frequently unknowingly, on incorrect facts.

More to come…

On the road from religion to relationship there was one specific discovery that caught me particularly unaware. And when I make this statement, I have chosen the word unaware quite deliberately. I considered using the words off guard, or surprised, or unexpected, but I think the word unaware works best. This is because I wasn’t surprised or caught off guard by the content of this realization, but by the depth and tragedy of its effect. I was aware of the fact of the matter, but I was unaware of just how deeply we are affected by it. I was unaware of just how deeply affected the human race was, and is, by the Fall.

Without going into unnecessary detail concerning the machinations of the Fall, the realization I arrived at is that humanity was rendered dysfunctional by the Fall, and by this I mean deeply, deeply dysfunctional, not the run-of-the-mill dysfunction I was taught in Sunday School.

Furthermore, and what I mean by “run-of-the-mill” dysfunction, is that I believe much of mainstream Christianity is either unaware of this fact, and/or utterly unwilling to admit it. (After all it is very uncomfortable to admit that we aren’t guilty of minor deviations from normal behavior, but are in fact wholly wrong-headed). As a matter of fact, I believe this is one of the root causes behind religion, and therefore the necessity of the journey from religion to relationship. Much, if not most, of mainstream Christianity is Christianity practiced as religion (not what it’s supposed to be), and not as the relationship with God it is intended to be, because we do not really address our deeply dysfunctional nature. Once “saved,” we proclaim that we are new creations in Christ (which is true), but then we blithely continue on our way, living entrenched within our religious paradigms, swapping out New Testament terminology in place of secular psycho-babble, and declaring we are “living the abundant life,” when not much has really changed.

I also came to realize that one of the areas where this hits the hardest is that fallen/dysfunctional humanity is incapable of formulating a correct mindset concerning the true nature and character of God. And furthermore, we unknowingly carry our erroneous viewpoints about God into our new faith when we get saved. This is particularly tragic because there are hundreds of verses in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, that can be used to proof text and therefore “validate” our dysfunctional point of view, thereby camouflaging wrong ideas about God in biblical language.

One way that we incorrectly view God is that because he is transcendent (which he is by the way—don’t get me wrong), we “translate” that into distant, detached, and even unsympathetic. He is “out there” somewhere, watching, and ticking off merits and demerits on his divine scorecard. This comes from viewing God as a divine judge overseeing a judicial paradigm, dispensing divine justice. This is an Old Covenant/religious view of God, not a relational one. The relational viewpoint is of God as father. And while we all are more than aware of this label (father), do we really look at God as a father, our father? Or do we look at him as divine judge, but we just call him father? Likewise, we tend to overemphasize God’s omnipresence and are only casually aware of his indwelling presence. While both are true, the New Covenant/relational paradigm is father, and indwelling. Think about it—God can be omnipresent and a divine judge without the slightest hint of real relationship.

This is the crux, pun intended, of the revolutionary paradigm shift that happened at the incarnation.

Now, do you see what I did there? I used the word crux to get you to think that the focal point of the paradigm shift between the Old and New Covenants is the cross. And while the temporal cross in Judea is the source of the blood of the New Covenant, it is the blood shed on the eternal cross before the foundation of the world that provides the blood of the Everlasting Covenant. Additionally, we (again) tend to see the blood of the temporal cross as satisfying a judicial paradigm—that Jesus was the sacrifice required by God to forgive the sins of the world (a paradigm that is demonstrably incorrect, but that is a different topic for different day). But, it is the blood of the Everlasting Covenant that is relational in nature because the blood of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world set forth God’s deliberate intention to exit eternity, enter time and space, and dwell with his creation. In a word, the incarnation is the focal point of divine-human relationship.

Unfortunately the relational nature of the incarnation has been eclipsed by our judicial/religious mindset, reducing Jesus to little more than a distant on-looker as opposed to God with us. In our judicial paradigm the cross has replaced Jesus himself as the point of eternal significance.

Jesus is the place where the divine and human are united. Jesus is the place where God and humanity come together, connect, and relate (there’s that word again). The eternal purpose and ultimate intention of the Godhead is that the eternal son would become human so that he could mediate the divine life to us, with us, in us.

Another tragedy of the judicial paradigm is that justification has been over-emphasized almost to the exclusion of adoption—again, a systematic paradigm instead of a relational one. Our notion of “the Gospel” is all about humanity’s need for forgiveness. This is of course critically important because we all need forgiveness, but it falls short of the point—forgiveness paves the way for adoption. Forgiveness as a legal paradigm fulfills Jesus’ obligation and then conveniently sends him on his way—ascended to the right hand of the father, and no longer needed. Adoption however, is relational and speaks to our true identity as sons and daughters of God—continually connected to divine life.

Finally, and probably most alarming to many of us (if we are caught unaware) is our perception of God’s holiness. If we were to ask 100 Christians to name one characteristic about God’s nature, it is indubitable that the vast majority, if not all, would say, “God is ‘holy’.” But again, this reveals an alarming discrepancy in our understanding about God. This is yet another example of viewing God through a judicial paradigm common to religious thought. In our minds, holy means moral perfection (read: legal perfection). Because we have not been taught a relational paradigm about God to begin with, and we default to our fallen (old man) religious nature and espouse a religious/judicial mindset, we are completely unaware (there’s that word again), that the single most fundamental truth about God is not that he is holy, it is that he is relational. The true definition of holiness is the expression of beauty, joy, passion, and love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in their relationship, harmony, and intimacy together.

God’s eternal purpose and ultimate intention, as expressed in the Everlasting Covenant, cut by the members of the Godhead before creation, is that God desires to share himself with his creation. Nothing fulfills the purpose of God more than to receive a revelation of his love and then have that love transform us, and lead us through the rest of our lives as a visible expression and ezer kenegdo of the invisible God in the earth.

Have you ever heard a minister say…?

“Christianity is not a religion—it’s a relationship.”

If you have, did the minister who said this ever take the time to explain what this statement means in a substantive way? Did he or she “unpack” this statement so that it can be easily understood and then readily disseminated to others? Or, frankly, did the minister making this statement presume that the meaning is self-evident, and that the statement accurately represents the status quo—(that most Christians are presently experiencing relationship with Christ as opposed to religion)?

In my experience, the phrase “Christianity is not a religion—it’s a relationship,” has pretty much always been used as kind of punch line and was never followed with the kind of substantive explanation I would have expected, or at least hoped for—for example, “If Christianity truly is a relationship, and not a religion, maybe we should camp out here for a while and really explore what this means and what it looks like.” Instead, when asked to explain in more depth, the responses I received, while essentially accurate, tended to be superficial, such as, “Religion is the form—but not the power,” or “Religion is a set of rules—but relationship is intimacy with God.” Again, in my experience, no minister I have heard make this statement ever really made a significant attempt to explain it in a meaningful way, but instead appeared to be operating under the assumption previously mentioned—that the meaning of the statement is self-evident, and that current state of affairs reflects this obvious if under elucidated paradigm. In addition, every time I tried to press for a deeper explanation, I was met with even more “non-answers.” And when I pressed a little harder still, it was made quite clear to me that my questions were making people uncomfortable and were therefore becoming unwelcome.

Now I am not the kind of person who is deterred by a lack of answers—in fact I am essentially the opposite. If I don’t get an answer to a question, I don’t get discouraged, I get determined. So despite the lack of answers and cooperation, I set off to find the answers “myself”—so to speak.

Because this statement…

“Christianity is not a religion—it’s a relationship.”

… deserves to be explained.

This series of essays, in large part, is the record of my journey from religion to relationship.

So, if Christianity truly isn’t a religion, and truly is a relationship, what does this mean exactly?

The statement seems to imply that “relationship” is better than “religion”—so if this is true, why is it true? What are the distinctions between the two (Christianity as religion versus Christianity as relationship) and why does it matter?

And finally, and maybe most importantly—even at face value, this statement appears to imply that living in a relationship with Jesus Christ is not only possible but preferable to this thing called religion—and that the word religion, as used in this context, is pejorative (expressing contempt or disapproval). So if this is true—how do we “do” this? How do we live in relationship with Jesus Christ—and not in religion?

You see—life in Christ is not just about new or different ways to “do church,” or learning new “abundant life principles,” or learning to “exercise our spiritual authority.” Frankly, Christianity is not about us inviting Jesus into our lives as much as it is about the fact that Jesus has invited us into his life—the life he has shared with the Father and the Holy Spirit from all eternity. Jesus has invited us to share his relationship with the Father—in fact to live in his relationship with the Father.

This relationship (there’s that word), the eternal relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the origin and exemplar of all relationships. This is what sets Christianity apart from all “religions” and from Christianity practiced as a religion—God, the Godhead—is relational by definition, and the expression of this relationship—God’s original thought, eternal purpose, and ultimate intention—is the reason for creation itself.

Finally, nothing fulfills the eternal purpose, ultimate intention, and original thought of God more than to receive a revelation of His love, then to have His love overwhelm you, then transform you, and then lead you through the rest of your life as a visible expression and perfect counterpart (ezer kenegdo) of the invisible God in the earth.

In general terms all world religions have at least three, and usually five, foundational components in common. Last week I posted The Sacred Space—this week, The Holy Man.

What Do We Mean When We Say “Holy Man”?

Like the sacred space, all religions have a holy man or woman. Some religions exclude women from being religious officials, some religions exclude men from being religious officials, and some religions embrace both as religious officials. The holy person can therefore be a priest or priestess, rabbi, imam, guru, shaman, etc. Frequently there is an entire specialized group of religious officials that are delineated into a tiered hierarchy with some type of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the top. The names or labels may vary—but there is always some type of high priest or priestess who is “more holy” than the other religious officials and (especially) the common man. Like the sacred space, the primary point is that this person or persons, is somehow special and set apart from “other” persons for God’s use or God’s work. The separation between the holy man and the common man is where we get the idea of clergy and laity. The clergy are the religious experts while the laity is comprised of non-experts, or commoners.

The Holy Man in the Old Testament-

In the Old Testament, the holy people included the twelve tribes of Israel, the Levites, the Aaronic priesthood (sons of Aaron), and the High Priest.

The Priests are Still Human (Look What Can Happen)-

Last week we mentioned that a literal geo-physical sacred space can be damaged or destroyed, or the people can be prohibited access in a variety of ways, thereby potentially compromising a system of atonement that relies on a geo-physical sacred space. Likewise, holy men and women are still human and therefore susceptible to human weaknesses and failures as well as external conditions.

What if an enemy captured or killed all priests? (All the first-born male children? Exodus 1:16.) Or, what if the priests were unavailable to officiate (for a variety of reasons). Or, what if the priests, although present, were corrupt?

Follow the Money-

What if the reason that the priests and Levites were unavailable to officiate sacrifices in the Temple was because they were out working “secular” jobs to feed their families because they were not being paid as stipulated by the sacred code—the Torah?

One of the purposes of the tithes (yes, tithes, plural), under the Old Covenant was to pay the Levites and Aaronic priests for doing their jobs—officiating in the tabernacle, Temple and Levitical cities—in other words—for being religious officials, or “holy men.” If the tithes weren’t paid, the Levites weren’t paid, and if the Levites weren’t paid, how were they to feed their families and “pay their bills” so to speak?

I also discovered that the portions of the Levites had not been given {them}, so that the Levites and the singers who performed the service had gone away, each to his own field. [Nehemiah 13:10 NAS]

One of the main purposes of tithing under the Old Covenant was the maintenance of the mediating priesthood (Levites and Aaronic priests)—without whom, the system of atonement could not function.

This scenario brings into focus two interrelated concepts that will be discussed in detail in future work. The first is the role of money in supporting the Old Covenant system, which sets the stage for understanding the role of money in the New Covenant economy. The second is the nature, and therefore consequences of, a human mediating priesthood.

The knowledge that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10) has given birth to a modern proverb—if you have suspicions about the integrity of an endeavor, “follow the money.” A mediator is a person specifically positioned between two or more people in a dispute in order to bring about an agreement or reconciliation. In religion, religious officials are usually mediators who stand between God and mankind (a.k.a. the “common” people, as opposed to the religious leaders/mediators, who are “holy”) for the purpose of overseeing the rituals that symbolize reconciliation—and they usually are paid to do so. Given the weakness of human nature and the corrupting power of money however, when one class of people officially stands between the rest of the believing community and God, and is paid to do so, the inherent integrity and stability of such a system is not the first thing that comes to mind. Human mediation combined with financial gain is a recipe for corruption and abuse, not stability. We’ll examine this scenario again on the other side of the cross.

The Weakness Inherent in the System-

These kinds of disruptions to the key components of the system of atonement could and did occur in the Old Testament and were a source of great consternation to God’s people, and help inform our understanding of how these concepts come into play on this side of the cross. Frankly, what good is a religious system that could so easily be disrupted? And if it could and did become disrupted, what does that say about God? If worshipping Him is so important and we need a system in order to worship Him properly, shouldn’t that system be a little more stable and secure? Shouldn’t God be protecting the system a little better?

But, what if no matter how “perfect” the system is—the weakness inherent in the system isn’t actually the system—but people?

The Role of Hierarchy-

We should also take note at this point of the fact that the whole notion of hierarchy, historically and etymologically, originates exclusively from religious structures, and only secondarily over time from civil structures. The English noun hierarchy is a derivative of the Greek verb hierarchia, which is a compound of the Greek words hierus (Strong’s #2409), which means “priest;” and arche (Strong’s #746), meaning first, beginning, or origin. Etymologically, hierarchy literally means “government by a group of priests,” and clearly refers to a religious order of authority. The higher one was on the religious ladder, the greater the access to the inner courts of the sacred space, and thereby closer to the presence of God. Frankly, the phrase religious hierarchy is almost redundant.

Understanding these components in the Old Covenant economy, how they point to and are fulfilled in Christ, and their new creation realities under the New Covenant is crucial to understanding and actually walking in the freedom and liberty Christ has called us to.These kinds of religious authority structures have been in place in the world’s religious systems for millennia. And although our so-called modern enlightened mindset may consider this notion antiquated and quaint—the idea was that the higher one was in the hierarchy, the holier one was.

Did We Miss the Point?-

The primary purpose of the mediating priesthood under the Old Covenant was to point to the person of Jesus Christ as our only human high priest and mediator.

Being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. [Hebrews 5:10 NAS]

(The “Order of Melchizedek” means that Jesus Christ is an eternal high priest, without beginning or end. See “The Everlasting Covenant.”)

Again, There’s More…

The Old Covenant mediating priesthood was a model of Jesus Christ as the only human mediator between God and man. No longer are certain persons set apart from “others” for God’s work. In Christ there is no more clergy-laity dichotomy, but all believers are priests unto God. As we are in Christ, so are we all priests unto God under the only human mediator and High Priest, the man Christ Jesus.

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. [1 Timothy 2:5 KJV]

But ye {are} a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: [1 Peter 2:9 KJV]

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. [1 Peter 2:5 NAS]

Take note that the above verse (1 Peter 2:5) mentions three of the five components—sacrifice (a future post), sacred space, and holy man—all three now a reality within every believer.

The Pastor: Christianity’s Holy Man-

The “Pastor” (or Senior Pastor, Apostle, whatever) is the Christianized version of the Holy Man/CEO that sits atop an ad hoc religious hierarchy. But the scriptures clearly teach that as members of the body of Christ and partakers of the New Covenant, all believers are priests unto God under the only high priest, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:9, Hebrews 5:10, et al). Despite seemingly orthodox and historical practices, scripturally, there is no hierarchy in the body of Christ. Every believer is a priest with no other mediator between himself and God than the man Christ Jesus. Despite the fact that the clergy-laity dichotomy was destroyed at the cross, literally millions of Christians teach and/or follow this paradigm as orthodox doctrine. Furthermore, even among certain segments of Christianity that “proclaim” the end of the clergy-laity dichotomy, the practice is intellectually and theologically rationalized and continues unabated. But according to the New Covenant every believer is a priest unto God that ministers to God in the holy place of his own heart.

I should also point out that among certain subsections of Christianity that believe in the “five-fold gift ministries” listed in Ephesians 4:11, some teach that these are in fact hierarchical offices, usually citing 1 Corinthians 12:28 as their proof text. This is an extraordinarily difficult argument to prove however since the explicit context of 1 Corinthians 12 is that all members of the body of Christ perform certain functions, and that all are equally necessary for the body to function properly, which speaks strongly against the idea of hierarchy. In addition, the word office is never even used in the New Testament (at all—let alone in relationship to the five-fold gift ministries), and the five-fold gift ministries are never defined or described in a hierarchical fashion. Finally, we never see Paul, Peter, James, John, etc, establish a hierarchy, or teach others to do so. Jesus’ admonition concerning hierarchy is abundantly clear.

(42) But Jesus called them to {Himself} and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. (43) Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. (44) And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. (45) For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” [Mark 10:42–45 NKJ]

The so-called doctrine of “covering” is one of the most egregious and oppressive lies currently being pedaled to the body of Christ. The scriptures make no claims that a member of the church of Christ needs to be under the covering of a pastor or group of elders in order to have right standing before God. Those who make such a claim are simply repackaging the old creation mediation model and teaching false submission in order to control others for their own ends.

Follow the Money (Again)-

Under the Old Covenant the majority of the believing community owed tithes (plural) to a minority of the believing community (the Levites and Aaronic priests) for the express purpose of performing the functions of mediators. One of the preeminent accomplishments of Christ’s completed work on the cross and explicit purpose of the New Covenant is unmediated access to the presence of God. (No human mediator other than the man Christ Jesus.) Therefore, the notion that the majority of a New Covenant believing community (the so-called “laity”) should pay religious officials (the so-called “clergy”—a minority subset of the believing community) to perform the functions of a mediating priesthood is exclusively an old creation model. The sad reality however is that through a combination of ignorance and obfuscation literally millions of New Covenant believers believe they are obligated to “give” (how’s that for an oxymoron?) money to their “Christian leaders.”

Ask Yourself These Questions-

How much time, energy, and money does your local assembly devote to teaching and practicing the priesthood of every believer as opposed to emphasizing the “vision of the house/pastor”? Your “pastor” is no more a priest than you (nor are you more a priest than him). He does not have a greater anointing than you, and he is definitely not your covering (mediator).

Do you and/or your local assembly, both individually and corporately have a heart-felt, intellectually established, life-changing, practically applicable revelation of…?

  • All believers are priests. There is no hierarchy in the body of Christ. We all have unmediated access to the presence of God.

There is an enormous difference between those men and women who function as pastors (apostles, prophets, teacher, evangelists, etc.) and those who believe, (either as a so-called “leader” or follower), in hierarchical offices in the body of Christ and that we are validated by our “proper understanding” of how these offices work together. Such doctrines and practices are nothing more than conforming to a hierarchy and a form of false submission that is conspicuously absent from the New Testament.

When Christianity is practiced properly—taking life as it comes and interpreting (or reinterpreting) each moment or each event in the reality of an indwelling relationship with the Lord of Life—each and every individual believer, is a holy man or woman with unmediated access to the presence of God.