The Exiled Church

The Old Testament story is dominated by two national events. The Exodus was the salvation of God’s people from slavery in Egypt, bringing Israel into the promised land and making them distinct from all the other nations to be God’s holy people. The second national event is far less positive.

The Exile dominates much of the Old Testament literature, explicitly in many of the Prophets and in the Psalms as well as the historical accounts of the tragic fall of God’s people. The Exile forms the backdrop to the New Covenant inaugurated through Christ, a renewed relationship between God and his chosen people as stated by Jeremiah (31:31-34).

Now, the Exile occurred after generations of neglecting the law of God. After Solomon, many of the kings of both Israel and Judah are described as doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Usually the idol worship is chronicled, but this signifies the wider problem of disobedience. It must be remembered that for God’s people, their religion and their social lives were indistinguishable.

So as God’s people ceased to worship him, they lost their distintive character as a nation. They ceased to be the people God made them to be.

And so, after generations of unrepentant sin, God acts. Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon marches on Zion, the city of God, Jerusalem, and takes it. ‘He carried away all Jerusalem and all the officials and all the mighty men of valor, 10,000 captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained, except the poorest people of the land’ (2 Kings 24:14).

God was no longer there to shower favour and blessing upon his people, for they had turned from him! He was no longer their greatest treasure, so he was going to take away everything he had blessed them with, until they turned back to him, and knew he was their greatest gift of all.

I write this very brief history in order to introduce a concept in contemporary Theology. I study theology at a Bible College in the heart of England and so get the opportunity to hear the views of some of the top thinkers in the Christian church today. One popular notion is that the church today is in ‘Exile’. In order to explain the dwindling presence of Christianity in the public conscience and marginalisation of the Church, people smarter than me look in the Bible and borrow this language of Exile to describe the current experience of God’s people in the west.

The Church in Exile is the big idea.

I was at a day conference with Chris Wright, who wrote The Mission of God, one of the best books I’ve encountered for understanding God’s ongoing work in the world today. I asked him to what extent he believed the Church to be in ‘Exile’, and more importantly, why God would exile the Church.

His response was very interesting indeed. Firstly he explored how God had been pushed out of society, with little complaint from the Church. He pointed to the Liberal theology of the 19th century which marginalised belief in favour of reforming society and he equally blamed the failures of Evangelical theology for making faith into a private matter of personal preference. Ultimately, though, the greatest sin of the Church for which God has ordained Exile was labelled as idolatry.

Just like God’s people in the Scriptures, we forgot who God was. We went to science, and sociology and enlightenment progress and kneeled before it and praised it saying:

“From you will our salvation come! You are our hope and our peace!”

Paul puts it like this:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

(Romans 1:21-25)

Yes, it is an ancient story. When God’s people reject the Saviour they know, when they push him aside, he will push them aside.

Has God pushed aside his people? In the west, I would argue yes. Globally, this is an insignificant blip since the Church is experiencing massive growth where his people will unashamedly live out their calling in every part of life.

Yet perhaps God sees it to be the right time for us to be drawn back to him in a new way. Without the Church’s centrality to society, without the ethical compromises and moral discrepancy, God may well be taking us by the hand down the Narrow Way we have forgotten.

The task, then, is to re-imagine the Church in the light of God’s sovereign action. Let us, therefore, read our Scriptures. Read the parts written in Exile. Read the parts about longing form God, read the parts about yearning for his blessing. Remember that God promised his people a renewed encounter with him at the end of their exile and remember that God promises us the same.

For generations we have forgotten our Lord, but now may the Church meet him again, though there are few of us and the times are hard.

Peace

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19 Comments

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  1. What a load of rubbish.

    Have these so called theologians actually bothered to read the bible.

    That quote from Romans is about NON CHRISTIANS NOT CHRISTIANS.

    Does God lie when he says I will NEVER leave you nor forsake you. Where two or three are gathered together there am I in the midst. The gifts and calling of God are IRREVOKABLE? God CAN’T take his blessing away from the CHurch because he has promised not to and he doesn’t break his word. Now that people who call themselves Christians choose to have nothing to do with what God actually says is completely another matter but you cannot blame God for this. He has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm – and he has NOT taken any of this away from us. If we in the west are not experiencing his blessing it is not because he has exiled us – it is because we have openly and willingly bought into the lie of Satan rather than believing the truth of the bible. God has blessed us beyond belief. That we choose NOT to operate in these blessings is entirely of our choosing – God HAS NOT sent us into exile. He punished JESUS for our sins ALL his wrath was placed on Jesus – he would be completely unjust to be punishing US for sins he punished Jesus for – he would have to apologise to Jesus if he was punishing us and sending us to exile.

    Theologians obviously don’t understand Grace at all! And they are doing so much damage to you students who are innocently lapping it all up – rather than doing what the bereans did in Acts 17 and checking for yourself what they say against what God says in His WOrd. Romans says let God be true and every man a lier. If someone says something contrary to the Word of God – guess who is wrong.

    Do these so called men of God (theologians) ever bother actually picking up God’s word and reading it before they write this rubbish?

    Do they not understand anything Paul says in Romans or what the writer of Hebrews says to Christians?

    Are they not concerned at the passage in James which warns that teachers will be more severly judged.

    I beg of you Ian be more discerning that this – you are a bright intelligent man of God – don’t be succumed by the devil’s trap. He would like nothing more than to see you walking in the superficial “christianity” or “churchianty” sold by these theologians who have made God’s word into a lie. Satan has cleverly filled the church with these men – so that the word of god becomes ineffective through the traditions of man – Satan is happy for there to be “church” as long as the Word of God is watered down and misrepresented and therefore not attractive to those who need to hear it.

    Why do you think you are full of self doubt and self loathing? Do you think this is what God intends for you? Do you honestly think this is why Jesus died for you so that you could continue in self doubt and self loathing? Or do you know in your heart that it is supposed to be better than you are experiencing?

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  2. Beverly,

    You have made some vast generalisations that could not possibly be fair. It is not possible that every single theologian does not grasp the concept of grace in any way.

    You, it would appear, have skimmed through Ian’s well-thought-out post in an attempt to pick it apart. You have not fully, or arguably even partially, grasped what he was saying.

    Moreover, you spelled the word liar wrong. Who does that? Absolutely no one I know. And that includes the severely autistic child my mother works with every day. Therefore, everything you have just said has become invalid.

    Ian, you are great. God bless. x

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  3. Hmm interesting Kathryn – notice neither you nor Ian have actually answered any one of my reasons why this theology does not stand up to examination from the Word of God.

    You accuse me of not even partially grasping what Ian has said – I don’t think there is any ambiguity in this statement Ian has made ……..Has God pushed aside his people? In the west, I would argue yes

    Please do inform me at least how God has left us in the west in exile with no communication from Him (which is how he left the Israelites) when His Word promises He Will NEVER leave us nor forsake us. Again I ask (and for your benefit I will spell liar correctly = mayhaps I spelt it wrong in my anger at God’s Word being so mis represented?) are these theologians and even Ian calling God a liar?

    Please do inform me how God could have “pushed us aside” whilst “never leaving us nor forsaking us”. I await your explanation with anticipation.

    As far as I am concerned – either God’s Word speaks the truth or it doesn’t. I see NO ambiguity in God’s word – but plenty in man’s word.

    As for vast generalisations – think Paul could be accused of the same thing in many of his letters!! If we as Christians believe God’s Word then it is our duty to stand up against the crowd – and that means ANY crowd – even theologians – and say they are WRONG.

    I take it from this by the way that both you and Ian believe in the Six Day creation – as you are happy now to identify that science is a false God?

    PS a little childish and immature don’t you think to disregard a complete writing because there is one spelling mistake. That assumption will not get you far in life I can assure you.

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  4. Whilst it is indeed true that God said to his servant Joshua that he would never leave him nor forsake him (Joshua 1:5), and the writer to the Hebrews similarly implores his readers to not seek after money and wealth because God cares for them (Hebrews 13:5), the concept of exile does not contradict this principle.

    I would hasten to agree that the Church has been wooed by Satan’s alluring voice, substituting God for the things he made, like science and development and economic success. That is why I referred to Romans 1. I don’t think it’s exclusively writing about non Christians, so much as anyone who did not/does not worship the true Living God. As the Church has been tempted away from a true understanding of God, the principle in Romans 1 makes sense – foolish and futile in thinking, given up to their passions.

    The response that surly Jesus has been punished for our sins is a legitimate one, so perhaps a brief explanation of my understanding of the Cross is in order.

    Christ has indeed died for our sins, and made a way to God for all who would believe. Indeed, because of Christ, we (gentiles) have been grafted in to God’s chosen people (Romans 11:17). Indeed, Christ came to gather the Gentiles into his sheepfold, according to John 10:16. Thus, by embracing the Cross of Christ, all may become a part of God’s people promised to Abraham, who was made righteous by faith. Thus by sharing in the same faith and the same righteousness, all may become a child of Abraham.

    So when I think of the Church, I regard her relation to God rather like Israel’s relation to God. Now, when God’s people were saved from Egypt, he set out the shape of his relationship with his people. In Deuteronomy 28, a series of blessings are set out and so are curses. This is God’s way of keeping his people on track. When they worship him, he will cause good things to happen to them, but when they turn from him, he will cause them to turn back to him again.

    Please, don’t hear what I am not saying. I am not saying that we must do anything to be saved, because Israel did nothing to be saved either! The first line in the 10 commandments is ‘I am Yahweh, your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery’. Gospel always comes before command.

    The biblical idea of Exile, foreseen in Deuteronomy and enacted with the Babylonians, is within the context of a covenant of grace with Israel. When God exiled his people, he did not forsake them. Much of the preaching of the Prophets originates from the Exile. Jeremiah gives direction from God for his exiled people, showing God’s concern for them even though it is a time of discipline (Jeremiah 29:5-7, 10-14, etc).

    God never forsook his people, always maintaining a relationship with some, those who would seek him. I maintain that the same principle is applicable today. Remember, Proverbs 3:11-12

    11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline
    or be weary of his reproof,
    12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves,
    as a father the son in whom he delights.

    So, as God’s people we are under his divine care and divine discipline. He saved us to bring us into a living relationship with himself, and in that relationship he does allow, and even cause, things to happen to us which we would rather he didn’t. Of course he poured out his wrath upon Christ on the Cross, but God is still concerned for the holiness of his people, and that they would seek him and find him and be satisfied by him.

    As Moses wrote to the people in Deuteronomy 30:15-20:

    15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

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  5. As an academic exercise in examining God’s relationship with his people the Israelites this is a good essay Ian. But I struggle so much that there seems to be nothing in this that relates to new testament covenant or indeed the relationship God has with you – the power he has given to you – the things he wants you to do. Your comment about Joshua is interesting – mainly because God kept his promise and indeed never did leave Joshua nor forsake him.
    Now you choose to quote Hebrews as one of the occasions where we have the promise that God will not leave us nor forsake us. God’s promise to Joshua was to one man and he kept his promise. Who is God’s promise to in Hebrews? I would suggest ALL Christians – therefore your assumption God can take the western church into exile would mean him breaking his promise to all western Christians wouldn’t it? God made no such promise – without the condition IF to the nation of Israel – so I suggest it DOES make a difference whether God can exile the church or not.

    I query your wording “the church” by which I assume you mean christians – and I would question that any person calling themself a Christian and not at least trying to put God first – confessing him as Lord and believing he rose from the dead – would have difficulty justifying their right to call themselves a Christian – if they were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict them. I hope we would both agree that the western church today is full of people who just may not be Christians in the biblical definition. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian – Goind to McDonalds doesn’t make you a beefburger!!

    I am so intrigued that you are always so keen to quote old testament instructions and so reluctant to quote new testament instructions and yet I presume you agree we are not living under the law any more?

    I struggle with your concept that somehow God can put ALL his wrath on Jesus and STILL punish us? If ALL his wrath has gone on Jesus – how come there is any Wrath left? or do you have a different translation of ALL?

    As far as us becoming holy – we are told that because of Jesus (and not because of anything we can or do do) we are already the righteousness of God – because God has put on us Jesus’ righteousness. So no we don’t have to strive to be holy – indeed this was the point of the law that we failed to achieve and the very reason Jesus had to come and do it for us in the first place.

    I agree completely about God wanting to bless us and not curse us – but aren’t you missing the point that Jesus has become the curse for us – so God can no longer curse us and just wants to bless us – if the curse has been taken by Jesus then only the blessing is left.

    Now whether we choose to accept the blessings and walk in them or not is of course a choice entirely of our own making (as indeed the choice was entirely of the Israelites own making). The difference is we live in an age of grace and whilst we may choose not to walk in the blessings – it is no longer possible for us to walk in the curses as Jesus has become the curse for us. Either he has (in which case we can’t) or he hasn’t (in which case the Bible lies).

    I see you have adopted calvinistic teaching that God causes evil to happen – I find no evidence of this whatsoever in the new testament – and this teaching again doesn’t fit the new testament teaching that ALL God’s wrath was put on Jesus. Let me ask – would you give your children cancer to punish them? If you did would not the authorities put you away as an unfit parent? Is God an unfit parent or does he only give GOOD things James 1 v 13 James 1 v 17.

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  6. I have a suspicion that you have heard what I am not saying.

    I referenced Joshua and Hebrews because those are the scriptural references concerning the promise ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’. In regard to not having anything to do with the New Covenant – I have been going at great lengths to suggest that the New Covenant is, in part at least, a ‘grafting in’ for all people to the people of God.

    Anyway. I’m not sure God’s promise to his people in Hebrews becomes invalid if God does sent his people into exile. Surly, even in exile, we can expect God to provide for his people! He did for Israel, preserving the remnant to bring them back to the promised land.

    When I refer to ‘the Church’ I am describing the people who, through faith in Christ, have been given God’s Spirit and have become part of his visible community on earth. Of course in this community, as the Lord said, there are the weeds who will grow up with us, but who were never a part of us.

    I quote the Old Testament because that’s where the bulk of New Testament teaching comes from! Everything Jesus said has Old Testament source, and Paul totally believed every word of it! Jesus regarded it with great significance (Matt 5:17, 18) and the Early Church believed in them as their scriptures, before the NT was finally compiled (2 Tim 3:16).

    And again, Gospel always comes before Law. It is a misreading of the Old Testament to think that it’s all about what people have to *do* in order to be acceptable before God. God saved his people long before he gave them any law. It’s the same today. Jesus gave a lot of commands, commands far more rigorous and demanding than the Old Testament ethic. Just see his Sermon on the Mount!

    Of course no one thinks that the Sermon on the Mount is a list of things we need to do to get saved, and it is the same with the Old Testament Law. The Law was a means by which the people could seek God. Unlike the pagan gods, Yahweh had a strict, set legal code so his people would not be confused about what his will is. The Law was given in grace, to show God’s people how they could meet with him and how they should live.

    Paul explains how, because of the Law, there was great wrath incurred because of disobedience. Yes, it is of course true that God made his Son to drink that cup of wrath, thus sparing the human race. I don’t see any contradiction between this concept and the idea of God disciplining his people. Because Jesus took God’s wrath, the way is clear for us to meet God – yet God’s intention is to transform us into the people he made us to be. Christ died the death we deserve – that’s biblical. But for God to allow sin to go rampent and unchecked? No, God disciplines those he loves!

    And that process of sanctification – God making us holy – is the lifelong adventure of the Christian. Paul discussed that we who believe can be filled with the Holy Spirit, and by walking with him might also be changed. Paul implores the church: ‘If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:25). I’m not going to address here what that means, but that is a treasured passage for me.

    To me it seems biblical that God is even in control of bad things. Indeed, as I have encountered God, he has displayed his awesome, saving power by taking the darkest situations and actions and transforming them into means of his grace. Amos 3:6 asks a rhetorical question to which the implied answer is ‘yes’ ‘Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?’. And we see events like that throughout the Old Testament, and in the New Testament the recorded history of the Early Church has God strike people down for disobedience (Acts 4 and 5).

    Paul reiterates the Old Testament theology that God will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy and compassion upon whom he will have compassion (Romans 9:14-18). I don’t see God being in any way unjust in causing bad things to happen, because he is God and he will do whatever he wants. God therefore can allow our desires to strongly tempt us (RE: James 1:13).

    What we see in scripture, again and again in my view, is paradox. Yes, we are forgiven because of Jesus, and yet there is still this divine justice and discipline for his people against sin.

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  7. I just don’t read your explanation in the bible …… it feels to me that you see the bible as a reference book on the history of a people (or two peoples – the old and new covenant people) without it relating personally?

    God didn’t send people in exile until he had prophecied he would do so, and he brought a remnant back because he had already promised and prophecied to bring a remnant back. If God has sent us – the new covenant people in the west into exile – where is the new testament prophecy that God was going to do this to us – and where is the new testament prophecy that he will bring back a remnant. God never does anything without telling people in advance he’s going
    to.

    Also in exile the people didn’t hear from God for 400 years – in fact the first time they heard God’s will for their lives during and following exile was John the Baptist – that’s why they rushed to the desert to hear him. They were starved of words from God and rushed to hear. . We in the church in the west today cannot in any way claim we are starved from the words of God can we? We have a) the revelation and b) the holy spirit who will lead us into all truth. If you are going to build an argument matching the church in the west to the israelites in exile – surely the same rules have to apply?

    Glad we both agree that the churches are full of Christians and Non Christians – not sure this equates to the israelites going into exile does it? If we who are the Christians in the church today are full of the Holy Spirit as I assume you believe by what you say – does this mean the Holy Spirit goes into exile with us – or does the Holy Spirit leave us – which would again seem to contradict Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Spirit. And if the HOly Spirit comes with us into exile then actually we aren’t in exile are we? And if the Holy Spirit has left us – then by definition this means we aren’t God’s children any more doesn’t it – guessing that you are a OSAS how would this fit your theology?

    As for God allowing sin to go rampant and unchecked – a) didn’t he do just that from the time of Adam to the time of Noah? They were living before the law was given in an age of grace – because he didn’t punish them according to their sins – the first murdered wasn’t killed – quite the opposite in fact he was protected – the first man to pick up sticks on the sabbath after the law was given – was murdered? The law was and is always the law – it hasn’t changed – but before God spoke the law to Moses – he couldn’t punish because they didn’t know the law. His eradication of people at the time of Noah was because they had ceased to worship him (and Romans 1 tells us that NO ONE is ever able to say they didn’t know God) Jesus came and fulfilled the law meaning that he could accept the punishment for us not being able to fulfill the law – and we can no longer be judged according to the law.

    And I question how God can have put ALL the sin of the world (past present and future) on Jesus and put ALL his wrath on Jesus and Jesus bore ALL the punishment for your sin and for mine – and yet God still needs to punish us? Apparently according to you there is still all this sin going around needing to be punished still? Does this mean Jesus has to get back on the cross because what he did wasn’t enough?

    Amen that because the Spirit lives inside us we already have – in our Spirit – all the fruit of the spirit. – this isn’t something we are striving to get – if we have the Spirit we have his Fruit don’t we?

    Acts 5 – often misquoted by Calvinists as God punishing. Please show me which verse says that God struck them down. All I read is that Peter knew they wife was going to die like her husband- is this not reading into the text something that isn’t here?

    I believe the only passage you will find where you could imply that God punished is further on in acts when Herod is struck by the angel for accepting worship as God (and Herod was operating under the Old Covenant) and the magician who if you actually read what is there was possibly not “struck blind” but temporarily experienced literally the hand of God over his eyes – interesting concept worth examining further.

    Again the Romans 9 quote often used by calvinists to support their definition of sovereign (which interestingly doesn’t fit any dictionary definition!) – however to read this passage in context and for it not to conflict with the other passages in the bible clearly telling us God is no respecter of persons and God is not impartial – we see that the argument in Romans is to Israelites (who thought they were the “bees knees” and the only ones to whom God was going to be merciful and generous) and showing them that actually God had the right to be merciful to who ever he wanted to (so in fact this passage which is supposed to be a positive passage – as is confirmed by his conclusions in Romans 10 that actually anyone who confesses and believes can become saved and not just the jews as they were arguing.

    I see no paradox whatsoever in the bible. I see consistant straightforward continued revelation of the love of God to usward. God is Love.

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  8. I fear I am not being heard. I did not say that God punishes his people for the sins he laid upon Christ. I said that the Lord disciplines those he loves. Exile is a grandiose example of this.

    Theres a lot of things that have happened in the world and a lot of occurrences which the Bible does not name directly. That does not mean God is silent over those issues or occurrences, but that the Church must seek God in response. The New Testament did not foresee the Church’s unholy union with the Roman Empire in 313 AD!

    In exile the people did hear from God. I mentioned earlier the writings of the Prophets. And just because there was no scripture recorded for 400 years does not mean that people did not encounter God in that time!

    The notion of the western Church in exile can’t be an exact match to Israel and the Babylon exile. Nothing about the Church today can be matched precisely to Scripture. Our context is totally different!

    I have no idea what OSAS means. Please explain before I respond to your accusation.

    As for Acts 5. Job praises the God who gives and takes away (1:21). I am very comforted with the principle that God decides when everyone lives and dies. Thus any death we read in the Bible was foreseen and planned by God.

    I don’t know why there is a hang up on the idea of God punishing his people. I have tried to be clear: Yes, God dealt with our rebellion on the cross, allowing us to enter into a living relationship with God, yet God seeks to transform us and to prune us. That can be painful but it within the context of God’s great love for his people.

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  9. Sorry – you are losing me completely here – it is very very clear in the OT that God sent the israelites into exile for their sin – for their disobedience of the law. They were given a straight choice – obey my law and be blessed – disobey my law and be cursed? They sinned – time and time and time again. They were given warnings time and time and time again – they disobeyed the warnings time and time and time again – they received just punishment for their sins.

    That you think of exile of the church as just discipline and not punishment staggers me. How does old testament exile differ from new testament exile and why? Where is your biblical reference. Would you stop all communication with your child and withdraw yourself completely from them – having punished someone else for what they’d done wrong? Believe me Exile was a punishment of the severest kind – how would you like to think that God had completely removed himself from you. Indeed how would you even operate as a Christian without God’s power in side of you?

    What are we receiving this discipline (in your terms physical punishment and separation from God) for? not for sin presumably because you believe sin was dealt with by Jesus – so if not sin what?

    Discipline comes from disciple – growth – receiving discipline is received teaching and growth and advice and guidance and help and steering. There is a big difference from teaching a child what is not good for them and punishing a child for doing something they know they shouldn’t have done. God is growing us into new life – a life we did not know about – hence lots of learning in a loving environment to be done. Punishment for sins is sorted – hence we can have the type of relationship with God that the Israelites could never have – Hebrews 11 – the people of faith never received what they were waiting for ………..

    More and more reading your comments I see you understand the Church as an organisation – as a corporate body, an establishment- a concept that I do not believe we find in the bible. We are all as individuals the body of Christ – God deals with us individually as a body – each one member of the body is special – each one member is held responsible for its actions and the effect it has on others – no concept of corporate responsibility as an organisation. Of course there is no specific revelation in the bible about the Catholic Church and the State – because that was not an action of Christians! There is – however – plenty of warning in the bible about what will happen to Christians if they let themselves be led down the wrong path – and these warnings aren’t about being smitten by God – but about allowing the devil in.

    And your comment “Nothing about the Church today can be matched precisely to Scripture” – surely you don’t mean this? Everything about the church today should be able to be matched precisely to scripture – if we are not scripturally based we are NOT church.

    Again this confusion with an organisation as opposed to the body of Christ. There is exact and clear and concise teaching in scripture about the church today (and interestingly also about all the errors being done in the church today).

    Perhaps you need to help me understand what you see Scripture as? I see Scripture as the very Words of God spoken to me, spoken to every person on this planet. I see the nature and character and consistency of God, I see the overwhelming LOVE of God to his creation, I see His suffering and weeping for US, I see his salvation plan purely a gift, I seen his redemption plan I see the progression of carrying this plan out – from Adam to the Israelites to the fulfilment of the Law through Jesus and his new covenant, making the old one void – inviting those who will believe on him to live in a new way – with the Holy Spirit permanently in them.

    OSAS – means once saved always saved. Surprised you haven’t come across that in the Calvin teachings. Part of the TULIP acronym.

    Interesting quote on Job – how do you feel that relates to what Job actually learns at the end of the book once he is humbled by God. What he says in the beginning of the book is before he is humbled?

    Of course I have a deep hang up on the idea of God punishing his people – because God says he isn’t going to punish us any more because he put all the punishment on Jesus. Again define what you feel the word punishment means and why the Israelites were punished? Was it not because of their sin? So if they were punished for their sin what do you think in your view we are to be punished for? Is sin sorted in your eyes or is it not?

    Looking forward to your explanation of whether the Holy Spirit (which never remained on people in the Old Testament but has been promised to remain with us forever in the new testament) comes with us into exile or not – and if he does how that means we are in exile?

    By the way – I am part of the body of Christ – his church and I am certainly not exiled. I have a living loving relationship with my heavenly father that keeps me gowing and growing day by day – I talk to him – he talks to me – he leads me – he guides me – he is NOT cross with me – he loves me – he is patient when I don’t do what he says – he disciplines me by pointing me always back to his word and showing me through his word where I have gone wrong -(as Paul tells timothy – 2 timothy 3 verse 16 scripture is the way the Lord reproves us and corrrects us – because we now have a full revelation. )None of this physical punishment you seem so keen on.

    Does not the bible say we should have no more consciousness of sin (Hebrews) and that our sins are not longer imputed (Romans). What do these words mean if God is still punishing us for our sins?

    Pruning is an interesting phrase – pruning means cutting back good healthy this year’s growth in order to encourage even more good healthy growth. That’s not punishment. Bring on pruning. Like Pauls says – he put EVERYTHING behind him – that means all the good and all the bad – so he could move on.

    That is very different to the warning about dead wood being cut out of the vine – that is a real warning – but means actual people losing their salvation – not disciplining Christians. Hebrews tells us no one walking away in full knowledge can ever be grafted back in. This isn’t exile – this is full blown exclusion.

    Yes as you say God’s correction is painful – but it is painful because of relationship – when I realise how much I have hurt God (again and again) the regret and remorse I have that I have again hurt him hurts so deeply because of the relationship he has with me. I don’t need to be physically punished to feel sorry for what I have done – the Holy Spirit lives in me and I am in relationship and as in all relationship realising how much you have hurt the person you love is severe discipline and makes me rush back to God and to his word.

    The “church” are the believers of Christ – not the establishment. It is very very clear to me that there are many people in the west who are in very close communication with God – where do they fit into to this so called exile? The church is a body – Christ’s body? How on earth can Christ exile his own body.

    I was thinking about your comment on the weeds in the church – and it struck me that the very reason Jesus was talking about this is that he was saying that these would not be sorted out until the harvest – surely that implies Jesus was saying no judgement would be carried out until the end? So if no judgement until the end – then we can’t be in exile can we – or isn’t that judgement? It was most certainly called judgement in the old testament.

    Over to you!

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  10. Ok so just been talking with the Lord about this and he has given me a picture. The Church of Christ – is ONE body – I hope we both agree on this? So distinguishing the “church” in the west as separate from the world wide church is actually not possible. We are either all one body or not.

    Now you will have no arguement from me that the “church” in the West (that part of the body that represents the western church) is very very sick. Very sick because of it’s own stubbornness and refusal to read and obey the word of God I would add – not sick because of punishment from God. The church in the west and willinging invited the devil in despite all the warnings in scripture about how this could happen and how to stop it.

    Now when a part of your body is sick – how do you deal with that sickness – do you cut out the part of your body that is sick and send it away to hospital until it gets better then have it grafted back into your body?

    Is Christ able to split up his body and send the bad part into exile until it gets better?

    No you deal with the sickness that is in your body – by applying the approriate medicine and taking the whole body to hospital if necessary!!! Now the medicine may not be very nice (perhaps your definition of punishment – although of course this isn’t punishment it’s healing) and of course you aren’t treating your body you are treating the sickness IN your body.

    How does this grab you as an explanation as to why the western church cannot be in exile?

    Thank you Lord.
    Amen

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  11. I think it is helpful to picture the church as sick. But I shall stick with the imagery of Exile. For me, exile best explains the state of the Church today. I would rather have God be responsible for his church than either the church or Satan. In my view, because the Spirit of God is in our church communities, he has responsibility over us. This is a paradox, however, since God wants to deal with out idolatry in a very real, experiential way. God’s presence is intimately linked with his people. The Church is the Church because of God’s Spirit. I would argue that we see the Spirit of God less active today in the Western Church. With the idolatry, sin and lack of miracles we could claim the Spirit is, for some reason, not acting as he did in the Early Church. That’s not to say the Spirit of God isn’t with his people.

    Exile was the means by which God brought his people back to himself when they had abandoned him. God did not cease to care for his people when he sent them into exile. It was precisely because he cared for them that he acted in that way.

    What I have noticed is that in the context of God’s redeeming love, the Lord does allow the consequences of sin to catch up with us. Like the man who was excommunicated in the Corinthian fellowship, in order that his sin would lead him back to God.

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  12. Then we will have to agree to differ.

    Your definition of what happened to the Jews in exile (totally uncontacted by God) and the spirit being “less” active really doesn’t work at all and I suspect you know in your heart it doesn’t work but pride maybe stops you admitting this.

    Think I will stick to how the Bible explains the problems in the church today rather than picking on a idea from a theologian. I find every answer to my questions in the bible – not in an imaginery exile under the new covenant that isnt’ even mentioned in the Bible, doesn’t explain anything and doesn’t fit any model given to us in God’s word.

    Exile was not the means by which God brought his people back – exile was the means by which he punished them for their sins. There is no record that once they started worshipping him in exile he brought them back? It is true that once they returned they never worshipped idols again – but then it is also true that the rejected their saviour – which to you is the bigger sin?

    No response then on how it works regarding whether the Holy Spirit comes with us or not then or how Christ deals with his body.

    I shall be intrigued to see how your thinking changes when you start examining the NT in detail next year.

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  13. Interesting read…I want my 20 minutes back! I had to close my eyes for an extra few minutes before I wrote something regrettable!
    I’m glad three of nine from the fruit bowl were present on Ian’s part; personally I’m not sure I could have been that measured. However, maybe I just need more theological training? I better not bandy about any Reformed doctrine because it OBVIOUSLY only has TULIP as its substance and I’m not sure Beverly would appreciate my carved idol of the genius that is John Calvin (you may like my ST. Augustine, he’s currently trumped Mary for the top shelf). Damn self haters! Surely they’re not Christian, do they not know God is ONLY love and joy and all pretty things with miracles on top? God has given me a picture…oh wait…no it was my imagination. Snap, back to reality. 1 Opinions 3:13-18

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  14. Beverly: I definitely need to disagree with your interpretation of biblical exile. God was as much a part of the nation in exile as he was in the land of promise. Remember the way he called his people back to himself through the prophet’s preaching?

    I think the idea of ‘bigger’ sin is a trick question. All sin is idolatry.

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  15. Haha…I love you Nathan!

    Oh, and F.Y.I. – Hebrew, the Holy Tongue, is utterly precise. In Hebrew, “Exile” is called “Golah.” But this very word also hints the path to redemption. By inserting the letter Alef, the word “Golah — Exile” becomes “Geulah — Redemption.”

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  16. Wow – ruffled some feathers I see and actually got you engaging with the bible instead of theology. Hallelujah Nathan at last some truth yes and amen God is Only love – and how grateful I am that he is – or else he wouldn’t have sent Jesus to take his wrath against sin for me. And yes actually the bible does say damm self haters – pride is a sin in the bible – and self haters are just as proud as those who big themselves up – both are forms of putting self first – so good of you to point that out. So amusing of you to ridicule the very theology that started the ridiculous and biblically unfounded statement that the church in the west is in exile when the bible tells us that Jesus/the Holy Spirit/God will NEVER leave us – Always with us – Not condemning us – we are to have NO consciousness of sin – God is Not imputing sin to us and that God placed ALL his wrath on Jesus. Actually still waiting for a biblically sound explanation of how all these sayings fit the idea that we are in exile. Maybe instead of trying to ridicule me Nathan you could turn your attention to that?

    Also thing you need to reread your ephesians – there is only ONE fruit – not 9 – they are not separate fruits that we try and obtain – they are the character of the Holy Spirit – and he is ONE not separate parts – he is ALL Love he is ALL JOY he is ALL PEACE (etc) – and even more amazing all of us who are believers (and I assume you are Nathan) – already have this fruit already in our spirit – the Lord is just longing for us to appropriate what he has already given us. This means in bad situations we can rejoice because we have joy, peace etc already on the inside of us and we don’t have to look to our fleshly response but to the response to a situation in the spirit. Anyway there is another message.

    Ian as I read biblcial prophecy about and during the exile (and I am indeed at that very point in my bible reading through the year) God was indeed punishing them – he was indeed going to bring back a remnant – was he calling them back? did they have to respond? (a good one for Nathan and calvin – were they capable of responding – or was God going to do it anyway.

    Nice one Enola – but of course that would be playing about with the Word – and aren’t we specifically told not to play about with the Word, indeed as you say the Holy Tongue is utterly precise. The letter Alef ISN’T -inserted in the word Golah how ever much you might like it to be and it makes a nice theory – hence exile still means exile – because God always uses the words he wants to.

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  17. By the way Ian – doesn’t John chapter 16 verse 9 tell us that the “only” sin anyone will be answerable to at the final judgement is not believing on Jesus – so yes maybe bigger sin isn’t the correct wording – maybe ONLY sin left – those Jews who returned from exile will still be asked by God “did you believe in my son” – and their answer will determine their fate.

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  18. I never said exile meant God wasn’t with us. I’d always hasten to say that it is God who is taking his church into exile. Just as God made Babylon rise up to take Israel captive, thus the exile was God’s initiative. In this contemporary exile, I would stress that God’s hand is leading us.

    God’s faithfulness to his people mean that he kept the covenant with them, blessing their faithfulness and punishing their iniquity. I see no reason to believe that the Holy Spirit doesn’t similarly discipline God’s people in this very real way. Through Christ, we become part of God’s people who are in relationship with him. A relationship where he leads and directs and shows the way.

    Whilst it is true that Christ has accomplished all the work of salvation (That sounds a little Calvinist to me), I think it’s cheap to just excuse our moral disobedience with this notion that it’s all really ok, that we ‘already have this fruit in out spirit’. The point Paul seems to be making in that passage is that the Fruit is an existential manifestation of a close walk with Jesus. If our walk with Jesus doesn’t produce real, tangible and tasteful fruit, can we really say we have much of a walk at all?

    Exile is about God reclaiming what is his. The Exiled church is the church that God still cares about, showing his resilient love that will not simply let them be, but will do what must be done for their good and for his purposes.

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  19. Ok so define exile? If God is with us in exile – why would you call it exile? What do you mean by exile? What does the OT mean by exile? It certainly means punishment – hopefully we are both agreed on that?

    If it does mean punishment – then where in the new covenant does it say that God is still going to punish us even though he has punished Jesus in our place?

    You say you “see no reason why the Holy spirit doesn’t similarly discipline God’s people in this very real way” – what about all the bible verses in the new testament that clearly state that we are no longer under punishment – that our sins are no longer being imputed to us, that having been cleansed of sin we should have no more consciousness of sin, that we are no longer in condemnation, that we are no longer under law but under grace.

    Are we being punished for something other than sin?
    If so what is this “other thing” we are being punished for and why? Does this really equate to the exile the israelites suffered where they were very clearly punished for their sin because they were still under the law.

    God doesn’t need to reclaim what is his – because quite simply because of what Jesus did on the cross the “church” and I do not really like that word nowadays because people equate it with demoninational building structure rules and doctrine and not just the body of Christ in the whole world, the church IS his bride – nothing in the new testament to indicate anywhere that God needs to reclaim his bride.

    Now if you want to talk about individuals within the body of Christ being able to walk away from their salvation – you will have no argument with me – BUT that cannot be classified as exile because a) the separation isn’t of God’s doing it’s the choice of man to walk away and b) Hebrews clearly states that anyone choosing to do that cannot come back into the church as that would mean crucifying Christ twice and that isn’t going to happen -so they cannot be “reclaimed”.

    I’m sorry to labour the point but I really would like your explanation about how God can punish us for our sin at the same time as saying he isn’t going to and that he doesn’t even look on our sin he looks on us and sees Jesus. Maybe my brain is not sufficiently intellectually developed to understand this?

    Can’t go along with your definition of what Paul means by the fruit – certainly I know there is no way I can develop that fruit in myself – I am just grateful to know like everything else provided by God’s Grace I am a grateful recipient of that fantastic fruit. I can tap into it and use it in situations – hence I can obey Paul when he tells me to have joy in all circumstances – because it’s not my joy – human joy depends on the circumstances – the joy I am able to experience in bad situations is spiritually joy given to me by the holy spirit and within the power he gives me to exercise that joy.

    Do you know the wonderful thing about grace is even if we end up being the worst Christian on the face of the planet – God isn’t cross with us – he still loves us – after all – he loved us while we were yet sinners – he died for us while we were sinners – how much more does he love us now we have chosen to follow him (however badly). I know for certain as I have experienced it in my life that God keeps loving me even when I let him down.

    By the way I am most certainly not excusing our moral disobedience just trying to say that because we never could or never will be sinless and perfect that is exactly why Jesus came and that one drop of Jesus’ blood in repayment was worth so so much more to God than our sin *(that isn’t to belittle sin in any way – just magnificying what God did for us) – so we are so completely washed clean that all our sin past present and future (and there will be future sin) has magnificantly, wonderfully, amazingly, marvellously, miraculously, mercifully and graciously (and I hope your friend who is keen on spelling isn’t reading this!) removed ALL our sin from us.

    What a super marvellous wonderful amazing awesome God is he.

    God bless xxx

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