Yes – I know – it’s that old chestnut, but I’ve been reading Ezekiel, initially to take a look at ‘end times’ prophecies concerning the nations and Israel.
But in Chapter 18 God sets out the principle that everyone is responsible for their own sins and we have a choice to follow His Laws or not. Further v.24 : But when the righteous turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and does according to all that the wicked man does, shall he live? All his righteousness shall not be mentioned, in his trespasses and in his sin he shall die. v.25: Yet you say the way of the Lord is not equal: hear now O Israel; is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?
Reading this set me to thinking and one thought led to another and I began reflecting on a curious mind set that I find among pre-tribulation Rapture advocates – namely that God has a different gospel for Israel than He does for the Church.
I was taught early in my Christian life that the Church is under Grace but Israel is under the Law; the teaching went something like this : while we are living in the Church age, under grace, Jews may be converted and become Christians, making them part of the Church; but after the Rapture, God begins dealing with Israel under the Law again via the Great Tribulation, so that he who endures to the end of this terrible time will be saved and enter the Millennial Kingdom.
It’s the ‘enduring to the end’ part that seemed to lead to the ‘keeping the Law’ conclusion, so therefore it couldn’t be referring to the Church. The conclusion must be [in their minds] that God has two gospels going on – one for the Church and another for Israel. One by Grace and the other by Works! But I think it most certainly is speaking of the Church – especially in the light of James’ explanation of faith and works. James 2:20-24. verse 22 is particularly relevant in the context of ‘enduring to the end’ because our faith is made perfect by our works.
A further complication arises , because if we think we don’t have to keep the Law [ the ten Commandments etc] to endure to the end, then it becomes a matter of ‘once saved, always saved’ so that it doesn’t matter how we live our lives – we will be saved in the end….. otherwise it isn’t grace .
I think this belief leads to the farcical acceptance of scandalous sin among ‘evangelical’ Leaders : because we are all under grace and musn’t judge another Christian – especially not a Leader or God’s ‘annointed’ ! But Jesus said “He that has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” john 14:21 and “If you keep My commandments , you will abide in My love; even as I have kept My father’s commandments and abide in His love” John 15:10
You only have to study Jesus’ parable of the sower to see what happens in real life when the gospel is preached. I do not see a ‘once saved, always saved’ scenario there! From personal experience I know that Christians can and do fall away – I had friends who were definitely saved but who turned away from it all. One even regarded it as her ‘period of madness’ !!
It is dangerous to assume that a Christian living in obvious sin, without repentance, is still saved. Yes – we all fail and are weak in certain areas – but this is the age-old battle of the flesh with the spirit that Paul talks about in Romans: chapters 7 and 8 and we must walk in the spirit, and trust in Christ’s righteousness to keep us from falling. But that is different to deliberately sinning without repentance.
To return to the question of two gospels – or one gospel split into two as some say [ likewise splitting the Rapture of the Church away from the Day of the Lord] – there is a danger of thinking too highly of ourselves, ie the Church, than we ought. A read of Paul’s coverage in Romans chapters 9 ,10,11 of how we should view ourselves and Israel – especially 11:17-27, should be enlightening.
The New Testament is consistent with the Old and if we read Hebrews 11, we see that the faithful saints of old were indeed saved by faith; however – linking with the truth of Ezekiel 18, Hebrews also emphasises works. Jesus didn’t abolish the law – He fulfilled it ! He took the just penalty for sin that we deserve, but we are still expected to live according to His righteous Laws. The Apostle Paul set out the Jewish ritual Laws that we are set free from eg eating meats etc, but the Ten commandments – which Jesus summed up in the first two – loving God and loving one’s neighbour – are still in force for us.
God doesn’t expect us to do the impossible – He has given the Holy Spirit to indwell, help and guide us. Indeed , if we truly love God, then we are truly willing to follow His ways and love His truth. We are also encouraged to defend the faith , which means speaking out when necessary.
I hope this hasn’t come across as ‘holier than thou’ because I am only too aware of my own shortcomings and struggles – but we press toward the mark do we not?
As always – these are just my thoughts and I welcome any comments , especially if I’ve made any gaffs – highly likely considering my age ! Fings ain’t wot they used to be ….
Bless you for your indulgent time, Eileen