Theological Training, Apostles & Torah
NCW 29, Special Edition II (January 1996):
Answering the Third Rebellion
Q. Which Theological Seminaries are your ministers trained in? And from which authorised Christian organisation did you receive your commission to be ministers?
The same theological seminaries as the first apostles, viz. the seminary of God's Word, the seminary of revelation, and the seminary of the experience of living. The New Covenant Church of God is not built on any existing tradition nor does it derive any kind of legal or outer "authority" from existing denominations.
We do, of course, recognise the importance of training with a view to comprehending the various interpretations given by secular theologians. We train our own ministers from our background of theological experience to appreciate and discern different points-of-view whilst holding fast to our own which we have received from God. Having said this, it is perfectly true to say that we have been influenced by many different traditions, especially evangelical Christianity, Restorationism, the Hebrew mind-frame and the pre-Mosaic Patriarchal system, but to analyse us in purely these terms would be to fall far short of the mark of understanding who we are. The New Covenant is more than a synthesis of different strands of Christian thought for it claims its greatest input directly from the divine mind.
We are not at all concerned about certificates of recognition from "recognised" seminaries which are, after all, the creations of men and not of God. We do, however, appreciate the dangers of would-be infant theologians interpreting the Scriptures without having a solid background understanding of history, culture, philosophy and all the other factors which have influenced the evolution of Christianity.
In the final analysis it does not really matter whether I learn that 2+2=4 from a university of whether I learn it at home, neither does having a certificate saying I know that 2+2=4 mean that I am more qualified than one who knows the same thing without a certificate. In the end it is the knowledge which qualifies me, not a piece of paper saying I understand. Fortunately, though, the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not work like our universities (though looking at some denominations you would think it does) but is based on the education of life. The Gospel is living, not something abstract or symbolic like mathematics. Yet let us not forget that without the brilliant education of Paul in the School of Gamaliel we would not have the deep insights that that apostle brought to us of the mystery of Christ, and without Moses' Egyptian education it is doubtful he would have had the capacity to be Israel's proxy Law-Giver. Education is not everything but it is most certainly important.
The teachings of Paul and the other apostles do not, however, represent the final crystalised form of the Gospel. Even within their writings one sees an evolution of thought and understanding. If properly understood their teaching is enough to bring people to salvation to one degree or another. Far from needing university-trained theologians to interpret for us, though, what we really need is modern apostles to continue the process of developing the Christian Torah [Law], for it is written:
The New Covenant Church of God is utterly unique in this respect. Whereas almost every Christian denomination regards the Torah or Law to have been superseded, in some way, by "Christ", the New Covenant Church understands that the Old Covenant Law is not "over" but that "the goal at which Torah aims is the Messiah, who offers righteousness to everyone who trusts" (Rom.10:4, Jewish NT). Thus, far from removing the Law, Christ is its goal or consummation.
"But now the work of Yah'shua [Jesus] has been given to us is far superior to theirs [Old Covenant], just as the covenant He mediates is better. For this covenant has been given as Torah on the basis of better promises" (Heb.8:6, Jewish NT).
Most Christians want the mountain top but not the mountain and put Christ up in the sky, joining believers to Him by some imaginary stairway. The Law (Christian Torah) and the Covenants are that bridge, through faith, for without faith we can never make the necessary connection -- faith in Christ, faith in Torah, for they are one and the same. Because of Torah everyone can now know what obedience entails and not just some vague feelings about the Law. The Torah is concrete -- it is the measuring rod we have been given to determine if we are truly faithful or not.
The call of the first apostles, as the modern, is to illuminate that Path called Torah-Christ so that understanding what obedience entails is clearer. By seeing just what obedience entails we are more readily able to enter into covenants with God and thus claim His grace to enable us to fulfil these covenants, which on our own we could not possibly do.
The whole concept of a "covenant", with blessings and cursings, has largely been lost from modern watered-down Christianity. Part of the problem lies in the fact that the New Testament (a misnomer, as we will see) was (with possibly the exception of Matthew and James) written in Greek (NB. this is not finally established). Greek was the lingua franca of the Roman Empire and was the natural medium to express the Gospel in order to make it "international".
But adopting Greek entailed many dangers, most especially because when you speak in a foreign language you inevitably pick up that language's mind-frame. From the beginning Christianity was heavily influenced by Greek thought, completing its transformation by adopting the neo-Platonist philosophy which, thanks to the likes of Augustine, has shaped all the modern Churches. The New Covenant Church of God distinguishes itself by rejecting Hellenistic (Greek) assumptions and has returned to the Gospel's Hebrew roots. This has, for us, been a tremendous liberation, showing us the original intent of the Gospel and not the coloured version that the West has inherited.
The last schism in our Church has, without knowing it, adopted an extreme form of neo-Platonism. It is even more Greek than the Greeks! They reject all forms of covenant and authority, maintaining that the only covenant is that which is given by faith, and faith alone. As we have seen, though, this does violence to the original intent of the Christian writers of the New Testament.
How many people realise that whenever they call upon God -- "Lord" [Adonai] they are calling upon Yahweh [Jehovah] who is the God of Covenants? The God who gave the Torah at Sinai to Moses is the same God who has given the completed Torah, with associated covenants, in Christ! Salvation is not from the Gentiles and their Greek thought but, as Jesus testified: "Salvation is from the Jews" (Jn.4:22). Salvation is from the Hebrew Covenant -- the New Covenant is but the natural development of the Old (better translated as "Earlier"), not a replacement of it.
The New Covenant was prophesied by the Hebrew Jeremiah in which he saw the New Covenant as being the Old Covenent being written on the heart -- not a totally different covenant "enacted on better promises" but the completion of the Old Covenant which alone could be "written by the pen of the Spirit on the human heart". What has happened is that the Gentiles have hijacked the Gospel of Christ and created their own. They have created their own "dividing wall" between the Old and the New and said to the Old: "Be gone with you!" Whereas the apostles, ancient and new, have said, and are saying: "Come, Old Covenant, and fill the vessel of the New, which is Christ". And the eternal part of the Old has flowed into the New, leaving behind all the shadows and types which have been fulfilled in Christ. That is the New Covenant, not the wishy-washy "Covenant" of modern Christians and the schismatics.
I must hasten to add that we New Covenant Christians are not Jews -- we are not "Judaisers" either. We are from many different tribes, some with Israelite blood in them, some with not. Neither are we "anti-Jewish" or "pro-Jewish". We are "pro-Christ" because the barrier between Jew and Gentile has been broken down and there is now no difference in Christ but that doesn't mean there is a "Gentile" and a "Jewish" Gospel -- there is "One Gospel in Christ". And that is the Gospel which we are about.
The word "testament" (as in "New Testament") reflects a tension between the Hebrew language of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the Greek of the New. The Hebrew word b'rit means a "contract" or a "covenant". The Greek equivalent is diathękę can both mean "covenant" as well as "testament". The word "testament" literally means a "will". Now there is a big difference between a "will" and a "covenant". A "will" is a document bequeathing something to someone, as most Christians view the Gospel as being "bequeathed" in the book called the "New Testament". But a Covenant implies a two-way (if unequal) agreement made between two people. Thus the b'rit chadashah or "New Covenant" is an agreement between a believer and God on the basis of the completed Torah [Law] in Christ. That Law is the visible code of commandments and statutes which enables us to measure our faithfulness in Christ through our obedience to the Law of Christ -- the New Testament Torah, as it is continually illuminated by the apostles and prophets who, as is their right, have the responsibility of enacting halakhah which, in the Hebrew, means to "bind and loose" (Mt.18:18) or, better translated, "prohibit and permit", i.e. to be the continuing Torah [Law]-makers of the Christian Covenant as, for example, in making pronouncements on music, standards of dress, narcotics, tobacco, alcohol, tea and coffee, congregational discipline, etc.. Virtually every Christian denomination does this without a second thought by creating a code of discipline for its members.
By setting themselves up as "imdependents" the schismatics are, in reality, setting themselves up as apostles and creating their own halakhah or what would best be called an anti-halakhah of "do your own thing." They are not the first and they will not be the last to do so. It is a serious matter to set yourself up as an apostle or law-maker (or law-destroyer in the case of the schismatics) if you have not been called by God to do so. They bear a heavy responsibility and will be called to account.
This page was created on 8 May 1998
Last updated on 8 May 1998
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