Christianity · Church · Community · Devotional · Faith · Holy Nation

Outside the Camp – B

As mentioned in our first post (Outside the Camp – A), I had just finished a study in Matthew 8, of Jesus cleansing a leper (See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus) and was in discussion with my favorite wifey. We considered the following two verses and started comparing lepers with believers.

Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. – Hebrews 13:13

He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp. – Leviticus 13:46

This post will continue with our thoughts and hopefully provide an opportunity for my readers to discuss additional parallels you may see between lepers and the New Testament believer.

Both communities consist of people who live under a death sentence.

The leper understood the disease would kill him and lived with this truth everyday, as their nerve endings quit working, organs began to shut down and their vision began to slip away.

The New Testament believer is also to understand his day to day experience of living under a death sentence, of carrying a cross and dying daily while in the Christian community. Our experiential feelings of love and belonging to this old world is to die as we grow closer to the One who delivered us.

Both communities have no one else they can trust in.

Both communities, as they experience separation from the greater society, naturally learn to trust in their own community and hopefully in the God who protects and guides them. For the typical modern church adherent, this need for trust within the community is fostered through relationships beyond the Sunday morning entertainment hour. Both communities, in reality have only One they can trust in for their lives.

Both communities experience suffering.

The leper would experience the suffering of exclusion and rejection, of the constant reminder of being out of the camp, away from family and friends. Much of the pain the leper would experience would not be associated with the physical realm, since they could not feel any pain as the nerves died. The suffering would be emotional and spiritual, since it appeared that their disease separated them from the God of the universe.

The New Testament believer also experiences suffering, but in our situation, the suffering may also include physical pain, along with the mental, emotional and spiritual suffering referred to above.

Both communities need to to be thankful for pain

The lack of pain for the leper sometimes caused greater damage to their body, as the leper would inadvertently allow further damage to their body by not recognizing the pain. A case in point is the common occurrence of a leper picking up a hot item, burning their skin and allowing this damage to continue.

The pain we normally experience is actually a gift, in that it guards us from unnecessary damage. The church is to be thankful for the pain of association with the Lord, as the early apostles gave witness. Sad to say, this avoidance of pain is actually encouraged in the modern church, under the teaching that we are to have our best lives now, that we as “children of the King” should only have blessing and good things in our lives. Pain and suffering is to be rejected by simply claiming healing or relief. Some of this teaching actually recommends we command God to remove pain.

Our thoughts on this connection between a leper and a believer are incomplete at best. As you read through this series on lepers and believers, and thoughts came to mind, please comment below. If you know someone this post may bless, send them a link so they may join us also.


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Christianity · Church · Community · Devotional · Faith · Holy Nation

Outside the Camp – A

I recently finished a study in Matthew 8, of Jesus cleansing a leper (See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus), and was chatting with my favorite wife during our Saturday morning tea time, rocking in our rocking chairs, and enjoying each other’s company.

We chatted about what I had found during my study. Lepers were considered rejects and outcasts, and were required to live “outside the camp”. As soon as that term was mentioned, I thought of Hebrews, where the apostle (or his representative) wrote.

Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. – Hebrews 13:13

As I studied the previously mentioned miracle, I recalled one other time this phrase occurred. It was in Leviticus 13, where Moses defined the lepers banishment from the camp. The leper was to be quarantined from those in the camp, and were forced to be “outside of the camp”

He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp. – Leviticus 13:46

Am I correct in thinking the author of Hebrews is actually equating Jesus with those who were outside of the camp, and exhorting believers to join Him outside the camp. He writes of the reproach the Lord Jesus endured, being outside the camp. To bear reproach is to experience disapproval, criticism and/or disappointment. The religious body of the nation of Israel surely poured reproach on the Lord Jesus in their dogged criticism of His teaching and His character. This reproach intensified until the ultimate rejection by the religious elite , resulting in the execution of God, the cruel crucifixion of Israel’s King.

As I have learned through my four decades of learning of the Word and the Author of life, “religion kills”. Only in the Lord Jesus do we find the source of life and His life is found through going to him, outside the camp.

This seed thought got us to thinking. Is not the church called out to be different (holy) and incur the reproach of the world? In what other ways does this description of a lepers’ colony help us understand the parallel existence of the New Testament church?

Let’s consider.

Both communities are rejected by the society they are associated with.

This parallel is somewhat obvious. Numbers 5:1-4 actually commands those in the camp to send lepers away, for they defile the camp.

In our New Testament experience, the tables flip somewhat, and “the camp”, defined in the Old Testament as being where God dwells (the nation of Israel), now is the very camp that has been rejected. To follow God, believers are to go to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. This is the very argument Hebrews brings to those first century believers associated with Judaism.

Both communities seek to be accepted by the society they are associated with.

As a comparison to the previous point, the leper most assuredly desired to be a part of the camp, to be accepted by the society he had been rejected by.

Sadly, it appears that during the church age, (if my understanding of church history is accurate), the established church has also sought acceptance of the world. This desire to be accepted seems evident in a couple ways in my understanding. Firstly, the established church sought acceptance by forcing morals upon the society, as in the medieval times, mixing spiritual authority with political force. Another way the church has sough to be accepted by society is to beg, or at least to mimic the society, in order to be accepted.

I am thankful that the church has had a remnant of believers walk away from the camp in order to maintain their allegiance to the One waiting for us outside the camp.

Both communities are small when compared to the society they are associated with.

Although highly contagious, the leper colony was to be isolated from the general populace and therefore be relatively small in relation to the camp. The infection could not spread if isolated.

So it is with the church, as it is a counter culture that has few that find it, that follow after Him and that openly confess Jesus as Lord.

It is challenging if we follow this metaphor of an infection a bit further and consider Christianity as an infectious disease that spreads rapidly if allowed.

Both communities are considered useless to the society they are associated with.

The leper colony was considered of no importance to the greater society, much like our modern society regards the church. Much of the disregard for the leper colony was due to their physical disfigurement and the ever present fear of infection. This disease resulted in a life of poverty, isolation and rejection. The greater society would not consider the leper colony of any importance.

Is not the church also considered a relic, a cast off that is not to be listened to. How often have you recently heard of the world’s desire to leave the church to history, forging a new society full of promise. The church is a “leper” in the world’s eyes. I suggest we embrace this attitude of the world towards us, in that we truly are a rejected people, and forgo any desire to join with them. Let us speak out as a conscience to a society that has no conscience, as ones who know the truth.

We may be considered useless to the world, but that isn’t our calling.

In closing, does it offend you that to be a believer is likened to a leper? Is there a social stigma with Christianity that is unacceptable to you, or that causes you a discomfort? Our life in Christ includes our dying to this old world and rejecting its opinion of the Master.

Our thoughts on the leper/believer connection will continue in our next post. As you read through this post, and thoughts came to mind, please comment below. If you know someone this post may bless, send them a link so they may join us also.


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Doctrinal · Holy Nation · Kingdom of God

Christianity & America

Is America “A Shining City Upon A Hill”?

Sunday school was informative this morning.

We spent close to an hour listening to quotations of the founding fathers, and the moral foundation required for the republic of America to succeed upon.
Multiple quotations of the founding fathers (and there were a lot of ‘em) referred to the importance of America having citizens with moral character.

May I submit, that the higher the moral character of citizens of any nation adds to the potential for that nation to “succeed”.

As western civilization spread from Jerusalem and Athens, nations have been impacted by the ethic of the Bible and their societies have been influenced by the Judeo-Christian ethic.

As an example, moral teachings such as “thou shalt not steal” produced the social acceptance of property rights.

Thankfully, many nations have claimed this foundation.

But one thing bugs me. During the Sunday school class, a number of times, America was referred to as a Shining City upon a Hill.

His Intentions

When the Master spoke to His disciples of “a city set on a hill”, did He intend for them to understand it as a description of a “nation” as we understand it today?

Matthew 5:14

¶“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.


It appears the Master was speaking to

  • His followers.

  • the disciples that were listening to Him.

  • the individuals that sought to follow Him.

  • the folks who wanted to know more.

To imply that America is that “city set on a hill” described in Matthew, in my opinion, is either innocently misunderstanding the passage, or assuming a description that it has no right to.

Of course, this depends on my understanding of the Masters intended message found in the Sermon on the Mount. If the Master was intending the message to be understood by His followers, and not a collection of people brought together by geographical limits or political systems, then possibly the Body of Christ is the Master’s intended audience.

Let me explain

Lets consider the Church, comprised of all believers, as the intended recipients of this exhortation. Numerous times through the New Testament, the Body of Christ, the Church is referred to as a Kingdom. This can be understood by considering some of the references to “Kingdom” in the New Testament.

An Eternal Kingdom

A kingdom that cannot be shaken. The Hebrews author is comparing the excellencies of the new covenantal church with the first (old) covenantal condition.

Heb 12:28

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

A Non political Kingdom

Sometimes, when I see the word “kingdom”, pictures of a political, physical nation erupt in my mind. Not to sure this passage justifies this understanding. (Note that this passage has bearing on future thoughts.)

 Matthew 21:43

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.

A Non Geographical Kingdom

The kingdom of God is not restricted by geographical boundaries.

Luke 13:29

And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.

A Non Visible Kingdom

The kingdom of God is, in a sense, invisible in its arrival. Get the picture with this next passage. The Pharisees were looking at the King, and asked when the kingdom of God would come. (Somewhat similar to when Pilate was staring at Jesus and asked “What is truth?)

Luke 17:20-21

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

The Kingdom of God in Acts

The first clear instance of the Kingdom describing the New Testament church can be found in Acts 8:12. Earlier passages certainly speak of the kingdom being the Church, but I fear that understanding depends on my eschatology, as opposed to simply the content of the those passages. (Hey – trying to stay away from that dang eisegesis!)

Act 8:12

But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Paul preached of Christ and Him crucified. Numerous times, Luke described Paul’s “preaching” activities as

  • reasoning about the Kingdom of God

  • persuading of the Kingdom of God

  • testifying to the Kingdom of God, and

  • proclaiming of the Kingdom of God.

Act 19:8

And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.

Act 28:23

When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

Act 28:31

proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Kingdom of God in the Epistles

Paul and the rest of the authors of the New Testament didn’t seem to be reluctant to use “Kingdom” as a synonym for the Church.

 Romans 14:17

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

 1 Corinthians 4:20

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.

 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

  1 Corinthians 15:24

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.

  1 Corinthians 15:50

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

 Galations 5:21

envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 Ephesians 5:5

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Colossians 1:13

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

 Colossians 4:11

and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.

1 Thessalonians 2:12

we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

 2 Thessalonians 1:5

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—

 2 Timothy 4:1

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:

 2 Timothy 4:18

The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

 Hebrews 1:8

But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

 Hebrews 12:28

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

 James 2:5

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?

 2 Peter 1:11

For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

My point is that the Church, the Kingdom of God, is comprised of believers who are “the City on a Hill”.

Peter is so bold that he describes the Church, the Kingdom of God as a holy nation. Surely he is not referring to a physical nation.

Let’s think back to Exodus 19. As the tribes of Israel entered into covenant with God at Sinai, Moses defined the family of Jacob, the tribes of Israel, as “a holy nation”.

But centuries later, the Jewish nation, (in the persons of the Jewish leadership) refused their rightful King. The Kingdom of God was then taken from them and given to another people. (Sound familiar? Consider Matthew 21:43 from above!)

As an aside, don’t get lost in the idea that a first century Jew was condemned because of this loss of nationhood. The entire world was condemned. Saving faith for the entire world was to be found in the Messiah.

Peter defines his audience, the believers he is writing to, as a holy nation.

1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

To claim a status describing the Church as belonging to any physical nation seems to blur the distinctions that the New Testament defines for the church, the Kingdom of God.

With all that said, when any nation has an abundance of believers, blessings from God, (through believers), may be experienced. A nation that has a high percentage of believers does not become the City on the Hill. It simply enjoys the benefits of the assembly of believers within her society.

Of course, as any nation experiences a shrinking of the Kingdom of God residing within her borders, that nation will loose the blessing of God through those believers.

Try to remember the Kingdom we belong to. It may help when that other kingdom we associate with disappoints us.

 

 

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