Social Justice and the Gospel: 7 – Justice Is Based On God’s Law

To date we have not attempted to look at the broad topic of Biblical justice. We have focused on examining Social Justice, and have observed that a chief goal, both inside and outside of the church, is to eradicate racial inequality. But justice is more than racial equality.

So now we will attempt to define justice in accordance with the Scriptures. Here is the definition of justice we will seek to prove:

To do justice is to do the Law of God.

In other words, for a society to be just, it must be ruled by the commandments of God. This applies to both the private and public sectors. To base a definition of justice on anything other than the Law of God is to relativize justice and to have it be a matter of “might makes right”. If justice is subjectively defined by the individual or by society, then the people with the power get to define it and justice is inherently capricious (which is another way of saying justice is inherently unjust).

With this in mind, examining Biblical justice is quite simple in concept: go through the Law of God and see what He says. The more a society’s legislation matches the Law of God, the more just the society is. The more a society’s thoughts, words and deeds align with said legislation, the more just the society is. So an unjust society is therefore caused by unjust laws or by not following just laws.

The words of Christ help us start our understanding of God’s Law, for He gives us a succinct definition of what it means to be just:

But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22: 34 – 40)

Here Jesus defines the whole of the Law as “love God, love neighbor.” From this we immediately know any society that is not orienting its heart toward Jesus Christ is fundamentally unjust, for that society is fundamentally not loving God. Furthermore, we know immediately that any society not predicated upon loving one’s neighbor is fundamentally unjust, for they are breaking the second great command.

But the commands to love God and to love neighbor are overarching principles – they lack sufficient detail to allow one to assess whether a particular word, thought, or deed actually qualifies as loving God or neighbor. More detail is needed to discern whether justice is being upheld or injustice is occurring. For this next level of detail we turn to the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments provide more clarity as to what it means to love God and love neighbor. In fact, theologians have divided the Ten Commandments into two parts, recognizing that one part correlates with loving God and the other part correlates with loving neighbor.

Commandment How to Love Description
1 God You shall have no other gods
2 God You shall not make for yourself an idol
3 God You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain
4 God Remember the Sabbath
5 Neighbor Honor your father and your mother
6 Neighbor You shall not murder
7 Neighbor You shall not commit adultery
8 Neighbor You shall not steal
9 Neighbor You shall not bear false witness
10 Neighbor You shall not covet

Let us look now at the commandments relating to loving neighbor, and compare them to our current society:

Commandment Public Violation
Honor your father and your mother Scoffing at the nuclear family, denial of objective definitions of man and woman, father and mother
You shall not murder Legalized murder via abortion, unjust wars
You shall not commit adultery Sexual Immorality of all varieties
You shall not steal Overreaching governmental taxation and fees, corporate fraud / insurance fraud, unjust weights and measures in the marketplace
You shall not bear false witness Mass media, social media
You shall not covet Social ideologies justifying those with less to be angry at those with more

American society regularly breaks every commandment related to loving neighbor. This is not to say each and every individual does, but it is to say that, so far as man is able to discern without divine revelation, God can charge America with corporate sin for complete and utter profanation of the Ten Commandments. We infer that since America regularly breaks all the commandments related to loving neighbor, it also inherently breaks all the commandments related to loving God. After all, does not James tell us this?

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. (James 2: 10)

America has stumbled at more than one point, so how much more is America guilty of all.

But convicting America at large of injustice is different than convicting the body of Christ in America of injustice. This series on Social Justice is focused on the body of Christ, for we know that secular society is unjust, whether along the lines of racial issues or otherwise. But is the American church unjust, as Social Justice Advocates say? If we are to be consistent, we need to remind ourselves of what was said in a prior post: only God can truly charge a corporate body with sin. And only God truly knows the boundary and population of a corporate body. We previously concluded, based on a study of the seven churches in Revelation, that it is not proper to put all of the American church into one large corporate body. A church from the Deep South is going to be different than a church from the Pacific Northwest. And the history of racial injustice is far greater in the Deep South than the Pacific Northwest.

From our mortal perspective, corporate analysis of justice must occur on a localized basis. The starting point is obviously an individual congregation. The corporate body you should have most familiarity with is your local church body. Compare what you know of your church body to the Ten Commandments. Does injustice reign? Is your congregation led by, or full of, adulterers, coveters, liars, thieves, people speaking false things in God’s name, people denying that Christ is the only way to God? Or is it led by, and full of, people who were those things before they came to Christ, and who are now redeemed and living godly lives?

In summary:

  1. Justice is based on God’s Law.
  2. God’s law at the highest level is love God, love neighbor.
  3. The next level down is the Ten Commandments.

Let us look for justice, or injustice, in our local congregations first. If the church family we are a part of does not live according to God’s Law, then we are in no position to deal with other congregations likewise failing in that endeavor. For Jesus says, after all:

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7: 3 – 5)

New Series On Jesus vs Moses

For the past two years the primary output of this blog has been the Faith Foundations series, which has been focused on essential Christian doctrines listed in Hebrews 5 & 6. This series has gone on longer than expected, and although near the end, I am going to cut it short and move onto other things.

The next series will be called “Why Christians Don’t Listen To Moses”. The goal is to increase our understanding of why we as Christians include the Old Testament in our Bibles but do not follow the Law of Moses.

Resurrection of the Dead: 1 – Resurrection Is Not Reincarnation

For over a year now, we have been working through a list of seven doctrines central to the Christian faith. This list was derived from the fifth and sixth chapters of the book of Hebrews. So far we have examined the following topics:

We will now discuss the Resurrection of the Dead, starting by contrasting the Christian teaching on resurrection with Buddhist reincarnation. When the Bible speaks of the resurrection of the dead, it is not speaking of reincarnation. There are important differences between the two concepts:

Resurrection Reincarnation
After death, the soul is separated from the body until the Resurrection of the Dead, when the body and soul are reunited and the body raised to life. After death, the soul is placed into a new body.
The soul has one life to be reconciled to God. The soul has many lives to be reconciled to God.
The soul is reunited with its original body, although the original body is renewed. The new body (human or non-human) is different from the previous one and is based upon one’s karma in the previous life.
When the body and soul are reunited, the soul retains its memory and personhood. When a soul is reincarnated, there is no conscious memory of the previous life.

It is necessary to understand the differences between resurrection and reincarnation, because there are those, who starting with the pre-supposition of reincarnation, read the Bible and claim that it teaches reincarnation. Consider for example John 9:

As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9: 1 – 3)

Now how could a man be born blind for his own sins? That would imply his soul sinned prior to birth, and he was born blind as a punishment for those sins. This apparent account of reincarnation is easily explained – there were false beliefs that existed in the days of Jesus, and this was one of them. Indeed, the rabbis may have very well taught reincarnation or the pre-existence of the soul, but that does not mean their teaching was true. Jesus set their error straight – the man was not born blind for his own sins, but rather that the power of God might be displayed in him. This power of God was displayed when Jesus healed the man’s blindness, giving him sight.

Another supposed instance of reincarnation is in the account of John the Baptist. Malachi said that God was going to send Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD (Malachi 4: 5). Jesus said that John the Baptist was the promised Elijah.

And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. (Matthew 11: 14)

Did Jesus teach John was the reincarnation of Elijah? No. Rather, Jesus taught that John was the typological fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy. John functioned in the same manner as the prophet Elijah, but he was not literally the prophet Elijah. Let us remember that in the transfiguration of Christ, the prophet Elijah appeared with Moses before Jesus and the disciples who were with Him. If Elijah appeared before Jesus, how then could John be the reincarnation of Elijah?

It is crucial to understand the distinctions between reincarnation and resurrection. Reincarnation is fundamentally based upon a judgment of works. The resurrection of the dead is based upon faith in Jesus Christ, Who has made atonement not only for our lack of good works, but for the “good” works we do in an attempt to please God and save ourselves. The gospel of Jesus Christ is fundamentally based upon the fact that humans cannot save themselves – it is the work of Christ that saves us. If someone understands their own heart and their own moral failings, reincarnation is a terrifying prospect. Could you imagine being a weak and terrible sinner, believing that karma is the mechanism by which you will be judged? You would have no hope. But because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the weak and terrible sinner is full of hope. For the gospel declares that people are made righteous through Christ, not through their own power or piety.

It should be easy to see, then, that reincarnation is completely incompatible with Biblical doctrine. If righteousness does not come through the Law, but through faith in Jesus, and if faith in Jesus is a gift of the Holy Spirit, why would the soul be reincarnated over and over and over? The Holy Spirit knows those He has predestined to eternal life, and He gives them faith in the first, and only, life on earth.

God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 4 – Summarizing the Centrality of Christ

Suggested Pre-Reading: God’s Oracles Center Around Christ 3

It has crossed my mind that perhaps the cart has been put before the horse. We have discussed how Christ is central to the New Testament, the Old Testament, and the five major covenants of God. But we have not talked a lot about “the Christ”. So herein is a brief summary of the Christ, serving as the conclusion to our study of the principle that God’s oracles center around Him.

The foundation for the Christ is laid when the prophet Nathan gives King David these words from God:

Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever. (2 Samuel 7: 16)

God promised David an eternal throne. Over the course of time the prophets made it clear that the eternal throne would be occupied not by an endless succession of kings, but by one ultimate king.

…I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. (Jeremiah 23: 5)

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom…(Isaiah 9: 7)

But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. (Isaiah 11: 4)

My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. (Ezekiel 37: 24)

One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7: 13 – 14)

Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices. (Zechariah 6: 13)

Because the prophets clearly told of a coming king from the line of David, one might think that the most frequent rabbinic name ascribed to this anticipated man would be “Melek ben David”, meaning King Son of David. But the rabbis did not call Him that; instead, they referred to Him as “Mashiach ben David”, meaning Messiah Son of David. To understand why the rabbis called this man Messiah, one needs to know what Messiah means:

The word Messiah comes from a Hebrew term that means “anointed one.” Its Greek counterpart is Christos, from which the word Christ comes…In Old Testament times, part of the ritual of commissioning a person for a special task was to anoint him with oil. The phrase “anointed” one was applied to a person in such cases.1

In the Old Testament there are many messiahs. Saul was anointed as king of Israel. David was anointed as king of Israel. God anointed the Gentile king Cyrus to allow the Jews to return to Israel. This concept of an anointed one, which had general usage, took on a new specific usage because of the prophecies about the son of David. The son of David was commissioned by God to be a king. He would be a king, not just of Israel, but the entire world. He would bring about a universal utopia, the likes of which this world has never seen. He would teach the world the commands of God. There would be mass conversion to the God of Israel. The accomplishments of this man would be exceeded by no one. Therefore, this person was not “an” anointed one, but “the” anointed one. That is why the rabbis called him Mashiach ben David. That is why we call Him Jesus Christ.

The magnitude of the messianic vision of the prophets makes it easy to conclude that the Christ is at the center of all of God’s oracles. How could a man commissioned to do all of the things the prophets said not be the primary character of God’s story? How could someone who single-handedly ushers in the utopia we all yearn for not be the central figure of the Biblical narrative? We would do well to remember the words of Jesus, Mashiach ben David, spoken to rabbis who, though waiting for Messiah, thought that the laws and commands of God were the central figures of the Biblical narrative:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me…John 5: 39

The Bible is about Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed One. Of this, we can be certain.

1 Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995)

Noah’s Flood and a Recent Scientific Discovery

I could not help but laugh as I read a Huffington Post article this week about geologists discovering a massive body of water near the earth’s core (a body of water larger than our largest ocean).

Why was I laughing?

Because what is groundbreaking news to the secular scientists has been known and believed for thousands of years by Jews and Christians, by those who believe that the events recorded in the book of Genesis are not fictional, but historical facts.

Genesis, written by Moses over three thousand years ago, tells us that the flood in the days of Noah, which covered the whole earth, was caused not only by excessive amounts of rain, but by vast amounts of water coming from underneath the earth.

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. Genesis 7: 11

Notice how the text says “the fountains of the great deep burst open.” How would Moses, a nomadic desert dweller writing between 1446 – 1406 B.C., without the aid of modern science, be able to make such a statement about the hidden geological processes of the earth? The answer is this: God told Moses about how He caused the flood to happen. God told Moses how the earth worked.

Do you believe that God spoke to Moses, and that He accurately told Moses how the flood happened? Do you believe there was a global flood that wiped out all of a wicked humanity, except for Noah and his family?

If you don’t, then you are not likely to believe Jesus, who tells us that another day is coming, similar to the days of Noah, when God will judge the wickedness of men, and only those who have had their sins forgiven by Jesus Christ will survive this coming flood, which is not a flood of water, but a flood of God’s righteous anger and fire:

And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all…It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. Luke 17: 26 – 27, 30
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promises, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3: 3 – 9

The good news of Jesus Christ is that you do not have to die for your sins. Repent, turn to Him, and you will be saved. This is God’s promise. Just as God promised Noah that he and his family would be spared from the flood of water, so too will all who believe in Jesus Christ be spared from the flood of fire that is to come. This is because on the cross, where Jesus of Nazareth hung unto death, the fire and judgment of God that we deserve was given to Him. He took our punishment in our place, so we would not have to endure it. But the promise of God is only to those who believe that Jesus died for them. To those who don’t believe, they will receive their due, just as those who in the days of Noah disbelieved that a flood was coming, and then they perished.


Technical Difficulties

“Technical Difficulties”

If you are a follower of my blog you may have noticed the posts and e-mail notifications stopped about a month ago. I took a couple weeks off and then returned to discover that a software glitch is preventing me from posting new entries.

I’m not sure if I will find a permanent fix anytime soon, but I seem to have discovered a “workaround” which will let me post a new entry but which for some reason deletes the title of the blog and inserts an arbitrary number in its place.

So I hope to resume posting new blogs, and if you see a number instead of a title, you will now know why.  I will put the title in the actual blog itself, in the meantime.