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Did the Apostle Paul believe Jesus was the Prophet-like-Moses? And does it matter? Post 8 - Paul's teaching in Acts - What does Grace mean?

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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Comment by Ellis Hein on 9thMo. 8, 2014 at 12:07

Dan, This is excellent, giving a lot to consider. I particularly like your conclusion, "The grace of God is the voice of declaring: "This is the way; walk in it." My mind jumped to the voice the disciples heard stating, "This is my chosen one, hear him." These are the same experience, not separate experiences. This hearing and walking has to do with everything pertaining to our life in Christ. Thank you for putting this together in such a compelling way.

Ellis

Comment by Allan Halton on 9thMo. 9, 2014 at 23:11

Greetings, Dan.  I have enjoyed reading through your blog; I have never fully searched out what the New Testament writers had to say about “that Prophet.”  Did they (particularly Paul) see Jesus Christ to be the fulfillment of Moses’ ancient prophecy?  Personally I have never questioned that Jesus Christ was “that Prophet,” but I don't think I realized the implications of this.  They are afresh in my heart now.    

You ask in your previous post, “Did Paul believe Jesus was the prophet Moses foretold?  If he did, it may be possible to read his epistles in a different light than has been taught in Protestant and Catholic circles.”

I am not sure I understand just what you mean by this last statement.  What do you mean by “a different light?”

Perhaps you mean that a lot of Christians view Paul’s writings (and all of the New Testament for that matter) as more or less an instruction book, which, when followed as best they know how, will result in their living the Christian life.  They have no further light than that; they do not believe it is possible to hear Christ speak to them personally beyond the letter of “the sacred page.” 

However, the sacred page itself teaches otherwise—and I think this must be the “different light” you have in mind.  Paul himself wrote (in one of my favourite passages), “But ye have not so learned Christ, if so be that ye have heard Him, and been taught by Him...” (Eph. 4:21).  How could this be so?  The Ephesians had never met Him in the flesh.  How could they have heard Him, and been taught by Him?  But this, to my mind, is That Prophet speaking from Heaven with new-covenant words of life that are charged with enabling grace.  

So, Christ admonishes us, (in one of the verses you quoted earlier on), "Take heed how ye hear..."  I want to train my ear more to hear words from the mouth of That Prophet, and recognize when it is He who is speaking to me.  His words, because of the grace in them, can be heeded... and must be.      

Comment by Dan Davenport on 9thMo. 11, 2014 at 17:01

Hi Allan, It seems you answered you own question well.  Thanks for the pointer to the passage in Ephesians.

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