Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
In the last post I stated my case for believing Paul did embrace the early Church’s teaching that Jesus is the Prophet like Moses. The goal of this post is to draw the connection to what Paul taught as he traveled on his missionary journeys and defended himself before Roman governors.
The disciples saw Jesus’ work and their fellowship anticipated in the Old Testament scriptures. Witnessing the fulfillment of the “new covenant” described in Jeremiah 31, they could see that just as Moses had given the outward law, Jesus was writing his inward law on their hearts. The writer of Hebrews draws this connection explicitly in chapters 8 and 10. The writer of John’s gospel draws the contrast in different words in John 1:17: “For the law came through Moses; grace and truth come through Jesus Messiah.” I got a lot of help from my friend Ellis Hein on this passage in John:
I got to wondering about the definition of "Grace" and looked it up in the dictionary at the end of the concordance… "Grace" means "divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life." John 1:14-18 states that "Grace and truth" are brought by Jesus and links this grace and truth to Jesus' unfolding or revealing the character, the will, and the power of the Father to us. Grace and truth are linked to being given the power to become "sons of God" from vs. 12 and to being born by the will of God in vs. 13. So the long version [of v. 17] would read something like, "The Law came by Moses, divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life came by Jesus."
The word “grace” as used here describes the experience of Jesus present teaching truth inwardly. It is not “saving people in their sins” but saving people from their sins. It has consequences. All the preaching in Acts was about change and turning--grace is the means. That is: grace means having Jesus present, teaching, to be heeded; and in consequence Paul declares to Governor Felix in Acts 24:16: “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and men.” The word “grace” is used this way in a number of passages in Acts--see especially Acts 11:23, Acts 13:43, Acts 14:26. Paul is explicit in his farewell address to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20: Note especially v. 21: the necessity for repentance; v. 24: the means—the “gospel of grace”; V. 27: proclaiming the whole will of God; and, climaxing in v. 32: “I commit you to God, and the Word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Here is more from Ellis:
The implications of this are tremendous and Paul goes to considerable length to flesh out those implications… This IS THE WORK OF THE PROPHET LIKE MOSES. The law that came by Moses worked on the external and the blood of that covenant, the life of bulls and goats, could not remedy the death that sits upon the heart of mankind. The prophet Moses spoke of administers a covenant greater than the covenant brought by Moses wherein the blood (the life that is in the Word that is the light of men) of this covenant does that which the old covenant could not do. The Law came by Moses, but divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life comes by Jesus and it is this divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life by which we are saved. It IS THE WORK OF THE PROPHET LIKE MOSES that brings salvation and Paul preached it all over the place. Every place he talks about grace (and it is the same Greek word) he is talking about this Prophet that Moses spoke of.
Believing is not divorced from hearing and obeying. Together, they lead through repentance to holiness. The grace of God is the voice declaring: “This is the way; walk in it.”
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