264. Relationship Replaced

Mike Parsons
and Jeremy Westcott

A book they didn’t have

If you have spent any time at all in evangelical Christianity, you have probably been taught something like this:

“The Bible is ‘God-breathed’ (2 Timothy 3:16). The human authors wrote exactly what God wanted them to write, and the result was the perfect and holy Word of God (Psalm 12:6; 2 Peter 1:21).” [1]

As we saw last time, the Bible makes no such claims for itself. The verses quoted are not talking about ‘the Bible’ at all. Jesus is the Word of God, so to describe the Bible as the ‘Word of God’ (especially with a capital ‘W’) is little short of idolatry. We can all have an intimate face to face relationship with the Living Word of God – Jesus – today. Sadly, for many believers, knowledge of the Bible has replaced that intimate relationship with God Himself.

“It’s difficult to expect the same fruit of the early church when we value a book they didn’t have more than the Holy Spirit they did have.” – Bill Johnson[2]

The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit will lead us to Jesus (the Truth and Living Word of God) who leads us to the Father in relationship:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).

“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:12-13).

Jesus promised that more revelation would come through the Holy Spirit. There is no end to that revelation, no caveat that says ‘until the Bible is complete’. Is it possible that God never intended to limit revelation of who He is to the books of what we call the Old and New Testaments? Should the Bible ever ‘be complete’? Was that God’s intention? Did He even intend for us to have a Bible? Is it possible that insights today can be progressively added by the Holy Spirit?

Questions

I began to ask some questions of myself. I encourage you to do the same.

  • How much of what I believe came through direct face to face encounter with God Himself?
  • How much of what I currently believe has come through other people’s teaching and preaching?
  • How much of what I currently believe has come through my own study, leaning on my own understanding, and therefore comes through the confirmation-biased filter of my pre-existing knowledge?
  • How many things that I currently believe are different from the understanding that I have previously held? What are those things?
  • What do I now believe that contradicts something I strongly believed in the past?
  • How much of what I currently believe may change in the future if God continues to renew my mind?

Replacements

In my own conversations with the Father, He made some statements to me about some of the replacements we have made. His intention was to challenge any religious mindset in me. I offer them here so that if any of these statements resonate with you, or if they arouse anger, indignation or some other strong emotional response, you can take them back to the Father, ask Him why and ask Him to reveal the truth of His heart.

Relationship has been replaced by religion
The Spirit has been replaced by a book
The Living Word has been replaced by the written word
The Truth as a person has been replaced by theological and doctrinal belief systems
Hearing My voice has been replaced by studying a book

The truth of the cross that has reconciled creation has been distorted into a lie that has excluded creation
The perfect picture of love has been twisted to express penal, retributive punishment and torment
The love so perfectly displayed for My children and My creation in the self-sacrifice and offering of My Son has been distorted into a disgusting image of cosmic child abuse
Love that brings life has been perverted into hateful punishment that brings death

The correction and refining that purifies in fire has been replaced by eternal conscious torment
The Perichoresis of a relational loving God has been replaced by Augustinian theology of an angry God
Loving, substitutionary atonement has been replaced by penal, retributive atonement

Restoration has been replaced by punishment
Testing has been replaced by torment
Repentance has become re-penance instead of the renewal of the mind.
The wages of sin have become eternal punishment instead of death
The cross has become penal instead of restorative

Love has been replaced by anger
The grave has been replaced by Hell
The Spirit has been replaced by the letter
The torn veil of the temple has been replaced by the mediatorial coverings of men

Heaven and earth have been separated
An open heaven has been deceptively made a closed heaven
The literal truth of an open heaven has been replaced by analogy and metaphor
Access to heaven through the Way, Truth and Life of Jesus, the Door, has been replaced by access through death
The new covenant of life has been replaced by the old covenant of death

Grace has been replaced by the law
The faith of Jesus has been replaced by faith in Jesus
Salvation by grace has been replaced by the salvation of works
The heavenly priesthood of Melchizedek has been replaced by the earthly Aaronic priesthood

Future fulfilment has replaced past fulfilment
The end of the old covenant has been replaced by the end of the world
The celebration and joy of love have been replaced by the tribulation of fear
Victory has been replaced by rescue
The restoration of all things has been replaced by the destruction of all things

The new heavens and new earth, representing a new temple wineskin, has been replaced by the literal destruction of the world
Parousia of presence has been replaced by parousia of coming
Inclusion has been replaced by exclusion
Reconciliation has been replaced by separation

Preaching the good news of Jesus in people has been replaced by preaching the bad news of exclusion among people
The priesthood of all believers has been replaced by the priesthood of one believer

The bride has replaced the wife: the marriage has been made future not past
The present New Jerusalem on earth has been replaced by a future New Jerusalem coming out of heaven
The past resurrection has been replaced with a future resurrection
The past judgment of the cross declaring that all are innocent has been replaced with a future judgment of only the guilty

‘All are made alive in Christ’ [inclusive] has been replaced by ‘only those in Christ are made alive’ [exclusive]
‘All will confess Jesus as Lord’ has been replaced by ‘some will confess Jesus as Lord’
Being ‘born from above’ has been replaced with being ‘born again’
Being ‘born from above’ through the resurrection has been replaced by being ‘born again’ by praying a prayer of salvation

Salvation of all by grace through the gift of Jesus’ faith has been replaced by the salvation of some by their own faith

Take it back to Him

I am not asking you whether you agree or disagree. Whatever your response as you read through that list, I encourage you to take it back to the Father.

Ask the Living Word of God, Jesus, to give you a true revelation of Himself as the Truth and to deconstruct any pillar of sola scriptura from your mind.

Invite the Truth, Jesus, to deconstruct any lies you believe about the Bible, God, others and yourself.

[1] source: www . gotquestions.org
[2]When Heaven Invades Earth by Bill Johnson, Destiny Image Publishers 2013.

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263. The Word of God

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

God spoke

“…the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:21).

In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter tells his audience that God has already spoken about the restoration of all things in the past. So who were those prophets He spoke through, what did He say and when did He say it? And if these things were spoken, were they also written down, and if so, where?

  • In the 39 books which we call the Old Testament? Or the 24 books of the Hebrew Tanakh? Or the Talmud or Rabbinical writings?
  • Is it only the Bible that records what God spoke by His holy prophets? Are there other written records of what the prophets said?
  • What about the Apocryphal books which were once included in our Bible? What about other Jewish mystical writings such as the Talmud, Targum, Midrash and Zohar?

Those are the kinds of questions which go through my mind when I read something like that.

In His Son

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son… (Heb 1:1-2).

That is where we are. We actually do not need a prophet to speak to us anymore, because we have Jesus to speak to us. The Father can speak to us. The Holy Spirit can speak to us. And they can speak to us directly, they do not need a prophet to be a mediator.

When He spoke to prophets who lived 3000 years or so ago, He spoke to them in the context of their own society and way of life. If we simply read what they wrote, it might not mean the same to us (especially if we don’t speak their language). We need God the Holy Spirit to speak to us so that, whether we have it in writing or not, He can say it in a way appropriate for us and apply it to our situation today.

If we will learn to hear God’s voice and discern what He is saying, we may find He has much more to say than we ever thought. He speaks to me in all kinds of ways, not just through scripture. If He speaks to me through a sci-fi film, is that less valid than Him speaking to me through the Bible?

Truth and opinion

I often find I have more questions than answers! That is because I now recognise that many things I thought I knew were only assumptions, or other people’s opinions. My understanding was framed by what I was taught about how God spoke and what the Bible meant. But in the process of God renewing my mind, He began to challenge me on some of these things.

Jesus is the Truth. So wherever there is truth, it must be from Jesus. Whether it is in a movie, or a book, or music, or some other creative work, it must be Jesus. The conclusions people draw, or the way they interpret that truth, that is not necessarily Jesus. We cannot assume that just because one part within it rings true, that everything in it is true. The Holy Spirit will give us that discernment. We can find truth in many things, truth that we might miss if we believe the only way we can receive truth is through the Bible.

The Bible

So where does the Bible (and other ‘scripture’) fit into the picture of what will be restored? Where does the Bible fit into our lives? Is it a manual for living or an introduction to a living, loving relationship with Jesus, the Living Word? Is everything that is recorded in the Bible inspired by God? What do we mean by ‘inspired’? Is all of the Bible inerrant and infallible as we may have been told?

I understand that posing such questions risks causing offence. I am not setting out to deliberately offend but I do want to challenge our view of the Bible as the ‘word of God’. Everything God has ever said, through anyone or anything, is the word of God. But it is not a book. Nowhere in the Bible does it call itself ‘the word of God’ but it does call Jesus Himself the Word:

In the beginning was the Word [Gk: logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

Perhaps we have been taught that the Greek word logos means the written word, the Bible, and the Greek word rhema means the spoken words of Jesus, recorded in the Bible, or the words the Holy Spirit speaks to you when you read the Bible. Logos and rhema do not mean that. They were the normal, everyday terms for written word and spoken word and that is all.

The early believers did not even have a Bible when those words were used. The books contained in our Bible were not originally part of a collection of writings at all. They were letters, or books of history, prophecy, or poetry and so on. And some of the books that were included in the first ‘canon of scripture’ have since been discarded.

Evangelicalism

No one lives without influence. Everyone’s mind is framed by their belief systems. In the process of the deconstruction and renewal of my mind, God showed me that one of the pillars of so-called ‘truth’ that framed my beliefs was evangelicalism.

This is a belief system which teaches that the Bible does not merely contain the word of God, but that every word of it is the word of God. Scripture therefore carries the full authority of God: every single statement of the Bible calls for instant, unqualified and unrestricted acceptance. In fact many evangelical churches hold to the doctrine of Sola scriptura (Latin: by scripture alone): the Christian scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith and practice.

Ironically, you will not find any of that in the Bible. It is not there because it is a man-made doctrine. Not only does the Bible never call itself ‘the word of God’, it does not claim to be inerrant, infallible or the only authoritative guide for us either. The emphasis on following the Bible only arose because no one taught us that we really could have an intimate face-to-face relationship with Jesus in which He could speak to us personally. Jesus is the One we are supposed to listen to and follow, not a book.

In reality, not everything in the Bible applies to us.

Much of the Old Testament and law only applied to Jewish people and converts, or to the specific people being addressed, not to us in the new covenant. Much of the New Testament was written to address the events of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the end of the old covenant system. Paul wrote letters to certain churches in circumstances we do not face today. Some passages only make sense in their own cultural context – though I was brought up in a church which had a stock of head coverings at the door for women thoughtless enough to come without one (1 Cor: 11:5-8).

The Living Word

Jesus never promised a book, but a relationship with Himself, with His Father and with the Holy Spirit of Truth. Everything we read in the Bible needs to be interpreted by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. There is some universal truth within it which is awesome, revealing the loving nature and character of the Father. The Holy Spirit will show us that universal truth and how it is to be applied to our lives.

The Living Word, Jesus, can interpret the written word, speak directly to us daily and bring truth to us even if it is completely out of the context it was originally written in. He did that when He came – and we can read about it in the Bible! How many times in the Sermon on the Mount did He say “You have heard it said… but I say…”? He still does it today.

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The Restoration of All Things

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