I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people (Luke 2:10b)

Parts of the world has just been celebrating the birth of Christ which took place more than 2,000 years ago. But the picture of Christ as Savior bringing justification to the world is in the churches often distorted with another image of Christ and his disciples bringing new laws and confusion about whether the old law of Moses is done away with or not. This is a category error. We read of the Law:

1 Timothy 1:8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.

There is no difference here to the traffic law. If you are capabable of breaking the speed limit, the traffic law is for you. From this perspective, we can understand why also Paul seems busy making laws to the congregations in his day. The good news is not an overnight change. As long as we are in this “body of death” (Romans 7:24) we are subject to laws. The Bible even outlines that very well known coming judgment of all men, yet another obstacle for man to understand the good news. Of this Paul says:

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

After this the chapter of law and non-reconciliation is finally closed:

1 Corinthians 15:24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 For “He has put all things under His feet.”But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

And then the light of the good news wills shine clearly for all.

John 5:18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

1 John 2:2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

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The God of judgement versus the God of love

A much pointed out biblical disagreement is the cruelty of the Old Testament God, his covenant curses and his people opposed to the love of Christ and his Gospel. A host of quotations from the Old Testament and less from the New, mostly Revelation, can be presented to show cruelty. On the plus side, we should also note that the Old Testament does contain evidence of God portrayed in line with the majority descriptions in the New Testament. And let’s be clear we don’t believe in a evil God. We believe in a good God.

While the issue certainly is difficult, I believe there is a better explenation than the usual of turning men into monsters alienated from God which doesn’t include Augustine’s original sin demonizing and lowering mankind far beyond the biblical and reasonable. Marcion was an early heretic who reasoned that the God of the Old Testament had to be another being than the God revealed in the Old Testament. He rejected the Old Testament as a revelation of an evil lower god and removed all references to it in his version of the Bible containing a number of what we call New Testament scriptures. I suggest we recognise he was on to something while we reject his conclusion. Also I suggest we recognise that the Old Testament doesn’t have any relevation of God as a Trinity, except a small and speculative evidence like Genesis 1:26 and Isaiah 48:16. On the other hand, Paul again and again speaks of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and John’s Gospel and the 1st letter of John goes into great detail about the Father and Son relationship. The revelation of God is considerably different. Acts 7:53 says Israel received “the law by the direction of angels”, Galatians 3:19 says it was “appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator” (Moses). Hosea 12:4 says Jacob struggled with the angel, although Genesis 32:28-31 says he struggled with God. I suggest that when the Old Testament speaks of God, it is very often an angel. I don’t believe the Angel (or angel, no capital letters in Hebrew) of the Lord is a codeword for God, rather God’s angels mostly represent God and rarely (in comparison) are spoken of as the distinct beings they also are.

So how does it help the issue that it is an angel of God saying “go utterly destroy them all”? I believe agency plays a big part in the Bible and God’s dealings with mankind. We can rule out that this world affairs are governed directly by the Almighty all-good being himself. There is indeed reign and authority still to be subjected (1 Corinthians 15:25). Evil could not exist if it was the case. God would walk in the garden of Eden so to speak (Genesis 3:8), not manifest himself through angels (means messenger, the man Jesus Christ is in this regard an angel Malachi 3:1). God is not at present “all in all” as 1 Corinthians 15:28 says God will be one day. But I think we can believe that the Almighty all-good being deals with creation through agencies with a strange / difficult plan and purpose as explained in my previous paper. It was this God, the man of Nazareth revealed and spoke of as his Father. Through faith, we can trust God knows and is in control.