Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
In Part I, I looked at some of the writings of Paul and considered what they had to say concerning man's problem and God's solution (salvation) to that problem. I noted Paul's statement that man's problem is death and God's solution is an influence on the heart that brings life. I asked the question, "How are we to encounter this divine influence upon the heart (i.e. God's grace)?
In part II, I want to examine a passage from the Works of Fox, which pertains to the answer to this question.
...I was moved to declare of three estates and three teachers, viz. 'God was the first teacher of man and woman in paradise; and as long as they kept to and under his teaching, they kept in the image of God, in his likeness, in righteousness and holiness, and in dominion over all that God had made; in the blessed state, in the paradise of God. But when they hearkened to the serpent's false teaching, (who was out of truth,) disobeyed God, and obeyed the serpent, in feeding upon that which God forbade; they lost the image of God, the righteousness and holiness, came under the power of satan, and were turned out of paradise, out of the blessed into the cursed state. Then the promise of God was, "That the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head," break his power that man and woman were under, and destroy his works. So here were three states and three teachers. God was the first teacher in paradise; and whilst man kept under his teaching, he was happy. The serpent was the second teacher; and when man followed his teaching he fell into misery, into the fall from the image of God, righteousness, and holiness, and from the power that he had over all that God had made; and came under the serpent whom he had power over before. Christ Jesus was the third teacher; of whom God saith, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him:" and who himself saith, "Learn of me." This is the true gospel-teacher, who bruises the head of the serpent the false teacher, and the head of all false teachers and false religions, false ways, false worships, and false churches. Christ, who said, "Learn of me," and of whom the Father said, "Hear ye him," said, "I am the way to God, I am the truth, I am the life, and the true light."
Pause a moment and remember what Jesus told the people who believed what he spoke in the temple, "If you abide in my word [or in my teaching] then you are indeed my disciples; you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." (See John 8:31-32) I have had people tell me: "...Christ died on the cross to make them [man] right with God rather than the idea in `religion` that man is acceptable to God purely by obeying the commandments or even of listening to `Christ` within and doing what He says." If you can't trust what Jesus teaches you to make you "right with God", then you can't say you believe in him. Your belief is in something else: a body of doctrine, a theological framework, the "wisdom of the ancients" (Moses in this case), or whatever it may be. God has ceased to be your source of knowledge of good and evil, and you have become your own god. The antidote, as Fox described is:
So as man and woman come to God, and are renewed up into his image, righteousness, and holiness by Christ, thereby they come into the paradise of God, the state which man was in before he fell; and into a higher state than that, to sit down in Christ who never fell. Therefore, the Son of God is to be heard in all things, who is the Saviour and the Redeemer; who hath laid down his life, and bought his sheep with his precious blood.
If you have ever had a course in chemistry, you will perhaps recall how certain chemical reactions are reversible. A + B yields C plus a certain amount of energy. The process can be reversed by taking C and adding energy getting a return to A and B.
In like manner, Fox is detailing how mankind is to be returned to our state before the fall and to a state more stable than that. Man enters the fallen state by listening to the wrong teacher. We are returned to the image of God by following Christ, the teacher whose voice we are to hear in all things. These "all things" include Jesus Christ's various functions or offices within and among us.
Who hath any thing to say against our way? our Saviour? our Redeemer? our prophet, whom God hath raised up that we may hear, and whom we must hear in all things? who hath any thing against our shepherd Christ Jesus, who leads and feeds us, and we know his heavenly voice? who hath any thing against our bishop, in whose mouth was never guile found, who doth oversee us in his pasture of life, that we do not go astray out of his fold? who hath any thing against our priest, Christ Jesus, made higher than the heavens, who gives us freely, and commands us to give freely? who hath any thing to say against our leader and counsellor, Christ Jesus, who never sinned, but is holy, harmless, and separate from sinners? God hath commanded us to hear him, and he saith, "Learn of me;" and if we should disobey God's and Christ's command, we should be like our father Adam and mother Eve, who disobeyed God's command, and hearkened to the serpent's teaching...
John 3:16 is often quoted as a key to understanding salvation: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life." (See John 3:16) However, these quoters seldom clarify what that "belief" is. Is it merely mental acknowledgment of his life on Earth, his death on the cross, and his resurrection?
And whereas, some have objected, "That although Christ did speak both to his disciples and to the Jews in the days of his flesh, yet since his resurrection and ascension he doth not speak now;" the answer is, as God did then speak by his Son in the days of his flesh, so the Son, Christ Jesus, doth now speak by his spirit. Wherefore, John saith in the Revelations, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith to the churches." Rev. ii. "And Christ is said to speak from heaven." Heb. xii. 25. "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh; for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven." They that resisted Moses' law (who spake on earth,) died for it without mercy, which was a natural death; but they that refuse him that speaks from heaven, neglect and slight their own salvation, and so die a spiritual death through unbelief and hardness of heart.
Many who quote the John 3:16 passage are referring to Jesus' death on the cross. Their "belief" does not encompass a living, present teacher, whose salvation is based on today hearing his voice. Belief that results in life flows from the experience of being taught, of encountering Christ Jesus in these offices Fox is pointing at.
Therefore was the exhortation given of old, "To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation," &c. Heb. iii. 15, &c. They, who neglect or refuse to hear the voice of Christ now speaking from heaven in this his gospel-day, harden their hearts. Therefore let all mark well these three states and teachers: the God of truth was the first teacher, while man was in paradise and in innocence. The serpent was the second teacher, the false teacher, who by his false teaching came to be the god of the world which lies in wickedness. Christ Jesus, that bruises the serpent's head, is the third teacher, who saith, "Learn of me;" of whom God saith, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him;" and of whom the testimony of the saints of old was, "That God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son." Thus they, that come to be renewed up again into the divine heavenly image in which man was at first made, will know the same God, that was the first teacher of Adam and Eve in paradise, to speak to them now by his Son, who changes not; glory be to his name for ever!' (All the above quotations from Fox are taken from Fox's Works, Vol. II, pp. 144-146)
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