Discipleship Narrative Theology

God’s Grand Story & Our Role In It

Narrative theology is a relatively new undertaking and is one good example of a positive development in theological studies, due, in part, to the influence of postmodernity.[1] I would suggest that the contributions of this movement will surprise many with numerous insights into how we might better approach the theological task, read the Bible, and live as faithful disciples in an ever-changing postmodern world.

Among the many emphases of story theology is the underlying claim that story plays a central role in how human beings make sense of the world and how they process and organize their experiences.[2] N. T. Wright expounds on this fundamental role of story:

When we examine how stories work in relation to other stories, we find that human beings tell stories because this is how we perceive, and indeed relate to, the world.  What we see close up, in a multitude of little incidents whether isolated or (more likely) interrelated, we make sense of by drawing on story forms already more or less known to us and placing the information within them.  A story, with its pattern of problem and conflict, of aborted attempts at resolution, and final result, whether sad or glad, is, if we may infer from the common practice of the world, universally perceived as the best way of talking about the way the world actually is.[3]

While raw information can stimulate and exercise our brain muscles, it is usually a good story that moves us to tears.  And it is when we are moved holistically—both mentally and emotionally—that we are most likely to be changed or transformed.[4] As Wright puts it, “Tell someone to do something, and you change their life—for a day; tell someone a story and you change their life.”[5] As Clark Pinnock describes it,

Stories are what tend to precipitate change and transformation in our experience, in a way that dogma and law simply cannot.  It is when we hear the story of an act of courage or self-sacrifice, for example, that we are challenged to compare ourselves with this act of heroism and identity with what the agent does.  We are less moved when someone commands us to be heroic and self-sacrificing, however right they may be.[6]

We begin to see here how story can be a vital tool in ministry for sparking transformation as a person’s own personal story is confronted with and invited into God’s greater story of redemption.

As we begin to recognize the centrality of story in the Christian life, we realize discipleship is more about living our lives within a particular story than about adopting a new moral ethic.  Salvation, with all its dimensions, includes also the grace of God reaching out to those writing their own futile stories and inviting them into the life, or Story, for which they were originally created, but have been unable to live since the original story plot was so ruthlessly twisted by Sin and Death, when these two villains first entered the stage of history.  Hauerwas expands on this narrative dimension of discipleship and salvation:

As disciples, we do not so much accept a creed, or come to a clear sense of self-understanding by which we know this or that with utter certitude.  We become part of a journey that began long before we got here and shall continue long after we are gone. Too often, we have conceived of salvation—what God does to us in Jesus—as a purely personal decision, or a matter of finally getting our heads straight on basic beliefs, or of having some inner feelings of righteousness about ourselves and God, or of having our social attitudes readjusted.[7]

Salvation means being graciously grafted into God’s great epic of redemption, where we, the church, now share the stage with the risen and exalted Christ in enacting the next great chapter of history.  Again, Hauerwas explains:

The story began without us, as a story of the peculiar way God is redeeming the world, a story that invites us to come forth and be saved by sharing in the work of a new people whom God has created in Israel and Jesus.  Such movement saves us by (1) placing us within an adventure that is nothing less than God’s purpose for the whole world, and (2) communally training us to fashion our lives in accordance with what is true rather than what is false.[8]

Have you found yourself swept up by this Story?  Have you found your special role within it’s ongoing action and plot?

[1] For an introduction to narrative theology, see Carl F. H. Henry, “Narrative Theology,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001) and for an evangelical perspective, see “Narrative Theology: An Evangelical Appraisal,” Trinity Journal, 8 (1987): 3-19.  See also Alister McGrath, “The Biography of God,” Christianity Today 35, no. 8 (July 22, 1991): 22-24 and Stroup, The Promise, 84-89, for an overview of the origin’s of narrative theology.  Other well-known studies include: Hans W. Frei, Theology and Narrative: Selected Essays, eds. George Hunsinger and William C. Placher (New York: Oxford, 1993); James Wm. McClendon, Jr., Biography as Theology: How Life Stories Can Remake Today’s Theology (Nashville: Abingdon, 1974); Mark Ellingsen, The Integrity of Biblical Narrative: Story in Theology and Proclamation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990); and George A. Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age(Philadelphia: Westminster, 1984).

[2] See Stephen Crites, “The Narrative Quality of Experience,” in Why Narrative? Readings in Narrative Theology, edited by Stanley Hauerwas and L. Gregory Jones (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 65-88, for the classic study on this view.  See also, Terrence W. Tilley, Story Theology (Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1985), 23-26.

[3] N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 40.

[4] I have written elsewhere on the role of story in sparking transformation.  See Jeremy L. Berg, “Revelation, Illumination and Transformation: A Narrative Approach,” (Unpublished paper, 2002).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Pinnock, Tracking the Maze, 165.

[7] Hauerwas and Willimon, 52.

[8] Ibid.

Dr. Jeremy Berg is the founding and Lead Pastor of MainStreet Covenant Church in Minnetonka Beach, MN, where he has served since 2010. He is an Adjunct Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Bethel University, University of Northwestern—St. Paul, North Central University, and Solid Rock Discipleship School. Jeremy earned a doctorate in New Testament Context under Scot McKnight at Northern Seminary (Chicago). He and his wife, Kjerstin, have three kids, Peter, Isaak and Abigail.

1 comment on “God’s Grand Story & Our Role In It

  1. When i viewed Tim Kellers viewpoint about Luke 16 regarding Lazarus and the rich man i feel that he has made the story a way off target. The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus has been told and retold many times. Sadly much has been misconstrued and because of this many have been deluded into believing error. Many foundations of Christendom have been established upon teachings which have been erroneous and consequently many saints have become confused, believing myths rather than truth. It behooves us to diligently search for the truth that we may be established therein and not to founder on what seems to be real, but ultimately becomes the unreality upon which we are disappointed, disillusioned leading to despair. May the following exegesis become reality to the reader and a reality of blessing as he reads and is illumined thereby. The Holy Spirit is come that he may lead us into all truth and also show us things to come. May He quicken and enlighten your spirit with joy and peace. Much of what is recorded here I received from my brother in Christ, J. Preston Eby. I thank the Lord for allowing me to hear through this chosen vessel and what follows is mainly what I have learned from his writings and searchings. May the reader also see the truth. Amen. Luke 16:19-31 ‘There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: ‘And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, ‘And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. ‘And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; ‘And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. ‘And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. ‘But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivest thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. ‘Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: ‘For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. ‘Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. ‘And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. ‘And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.’ The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is recorded only once in the Gospel of Luke. It is an analogy to illustrate certain truths contained within the story. Unless a person has his ears and eyes opened he cannot receive or understand a parable. The religious people of Jesus’ day did not receive the messages contained in the parables and even today we need revelation as given by the Holy Spirit. John 16:13 ‘Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come’ If we are unable to receive the truth then we walk in confusion, doubting and even disbelieving. Mostly we consider things out of context or out of the setting within which they take place. This parable is one of several spoken on a Sabbath day. Indeed, Jesus had healed a man of dropsy, given some straight from the shoulder counsel and spoken some parables in the chief Pharisee’s house, where he had been eating. Then on leaving, multitudes of publicans and sinners followed him. Mingling with them were the ever critical and judgmental Scribes, Lawyers and Pharisees. These latter were always looking for fault and accusing Jesus of receiving these outcastes of society. This is the back-drop to the parable that then follows. There are five in all, yet Luke 15:3 it is recorded: ‘He spake this parable unto them’. The Greek substantiates this point that it is one parable and the narration omits further mention of such. The dialogue continues on and the five are in reality a part of the whole parable. (There were no chapter or verse divisions in the original writings) The divisions are: The lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son; all to show the love and grace of God towards the sinner. The last two parts regarding the unjust steward and the rich man are directed towards his accusers, condemning them for their covetousness and pride. Many preach this parable as if it is actual fact, the reality of what is about to happen in the affairs of humanity. Briefly, let us consider a few points contained in the parable to see if this be so. The implications are grave indeed as we shall see. If this parable is describing actual conditions of the future then those in heaven will be able to hold conversations with those in Hell. People will be able to look across the impassable gulf and see their loved ones in indescribable torment. Fathers will see daughters, mothers will see their sons, husbands and wives see relatives all uttering ceaseless pleadings for cool water to assuage their thirst and anguish of soul. Continual torment as such being witnessed by loved ones, seeing and hearing such screaming and hopeless despair would hardly give one in heaven a sense of bless! Such a harrowing situation in no way would grant peace to heaven’s occupants! Could you dear reader enjoy such a state of affairs? Surely this could not be the state into which Jesus through His redemption would place us who are redeemed? Does a man because he is rich, well clothed and fed, represent all sinners in this world? Is it the poor man, covered in sores, representative of all the righteous? The scriptures say nothing about the rich man being a sinner not the poor man as being a saint. If all the rich, the well fed and well clothed in the world are fated to eternal damnation then it would behoove us (particularly those of us in the Western world who lack so little) to get rid of all we have and become like Lazarus else we will burn in Hell. The only reason Jesus gave for Lazarus resting in Abraham’s bosom was that he had had a tough life. If this be the necessary qualifications for heaven, then maybe all Christians had better become beggars, diseased, hungry and give up the doctrines of health, healing and prosperity! If this story be literal then how could we believe that one drop of water on the tip of one finger could alleviate those who are incarcerated in such a fiery torment? Or for that matter, how could a drop of water exist in such a place as this imaginary flaming Hell. Again, if this story be literal then how does one who has died and is buried possess a tongue to speak? Do the disembodied ‘souls’ in the spirit realm have a tongue? If the rich man’s body was dug up from the grave it would be found there in a state of decomposition. Such are the problems that the literalist have if they regard not this scripture as a parable. Doctrines have been formulated from it – such as eternal torment for poor sinners. This is the misapplication of the parable and the misunderstanding of it’s message. Has the purple and linen of the rich man been explained or the fact that he had five brothers? What about the dogs licking the poor man’s sores? This parable is speaking spiritual truth as well as prophecy. This parable is a satire, ridiculing the stance of the Scribes and Pharisees. It is a prophecy to be fulfilled in time. The Man with no Name Why was one saved and the other lost? Neither had any quality or action that would allow entry to or eviction from the heavenly place. Romans 9:21 ‘Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?’ Both lived this life in the position in which he had been placed by the wisdom of the Almighty. Exodus 9:16 ‘And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth’ God is sovereign. The difference between the rich man and Lazarus was not of position and/or possession, but their personal response to their own particular situation. The great warning contained in this parable is for those who in Christ’s day enjoyed privileges, position, possession, status. The rich man was of the seed of Abraham and in Hell he cried ‘Father Abraham’. His purple and linen spoke clearly that he was a child of the Kingdom and as such he ‘fared sumptuously everyday’. This rich man is the nation of Jewry, yes Judah and as represented by their religious leaders. Abraham also recognised him as such for he in turn called him ‘son’ and goes on to explain some reality. In your life-time you had good times and Lazarus a tough time, now the situation is reversed. Not only that but there is a great gulf fixed between us and no-one can transfer from one place to the other. Listen carefully to the true interpretation of the Greek. Son (Greek: teknon = offspring) between us and you (Greek: hoomone = of [concerning] you, your [own selves] yourselves) or you people, there is a great gulf fixed: so that they or those (Greek: oi [plural] the ones) which would pass from hence to you (Greek: [is plural] those or you people) cannot; neither can they pass that would come from thence. A plurality of people are being addressed, not just one man, for he is but representative even as Adam was of the whole human race. This rich man was of the seed of Abraham, an Israelite, a highly favoured, blessed peoples. The Pharisees made their boast of being Abraham’s seed and because of that, fully expected free entrance to heaven’s blessed estate regardless of their hypocrisy. Purple stands for royalty and Linen for righteousness and in this case ‘of the Law’. Those in purple ruled and Judah was the Royal tribe, it also had within it the ministry of the Priesthood. The whole nation had been called to be a Kingdom of Priests. Exodus 19:6 ‘And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel’ The rich man ‘fared sumptuously’ every day, but this is not speaking about food and drink for the natural body, but about a people who, as the chosen of God lived in His mercies and blessings. What nation can boast of the favours bestowed upon Judah? The Temple with all the sacrificial ceremonies was situate in Jerusalem. The Law, the Covenants, Prophets and all pertaining thereto they had it all, they were richly blessed. This is the rich man, rich in oil and wine, teaching, the word, covenants, promises, the centre of all religious activity. Rich by the blessings of the God who had chosen them to this exalted place. Romans 9:3-5 ‘For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen’ This man had five brothers, Luke 16:27-28 ‘Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment’. This is a definite number and has a definite meaning. As a son of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob you just need to read the genealogies to discover a man who would have five brethren. Genesis 35:22-26 ‘And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine: and Israel heard it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve: The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun: The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin: And the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid; Dan, and Napthali: And the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid; Gad, and Asher: these are the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padan-aram’ The scriptures record for us the sons of Jacob through Leah were six, thus Judah had five brethren, all full-blood brothers. Those who would have heard Jesus 2,000 years ago would have understood as they lay great store in their ancestry. This rich man then was Judah the southern kingdom of the Jews. The condemnation of the rich man, Judah, was he was so pre-occupied with his blessings, they became his curses. He was occupied with the gifts rather than the giver. His full table was his pre-occupation. Romans 9:11 ‘(For the children not being yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth)’ All Judah had in the law and the covenants, their occupation with ceremony and traditions filled them with self-righteousness. Having all the calling of God, Priests, Prophets, Kings etc. they considered themselves in possession of absolute pure religion, chosen of heaven, utter self-approbation; the holy and perfect race. In a nut-shell: they were the extremely exclusive. Revelation 3:17 is a classic example of Pharisaic bragging. ‘Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked’ . Sadly those so rich in promises and prophecy had become spiritual paupers. Jesus saw their whole religious programme as a pretence and performance, cluttered up with the traditions of men. Matthew 23:1-33 ‘Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And the greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be ye not called Rabbi: for one is your master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you devour widow’s houses and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell then yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the Temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the Temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the Temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the Temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God and by him that sitteth thereon. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Hell?’ They called Jesus a sinner, a liar, a fake, a blasphemer and a law-breaker. This He could receive and not attempt a defence, but hypocritical religionists were anathema and required the façade to be stripped away. The Son of God who would have pure religion and undefiled, exposed their pretence. James 1:27 ‘Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world’ The Man who had a Name Lazarus, a poor beggar, neglected, full of sores. Dogs showed more mercy and kindness than the rich man. Lying at the gate of the rich man unwanted and ignored, when so much blessing and deliverance was at hand. The name Lazarus means; without help (or whom God helps) and is the only time Jesus gave a name to a character in a parable. Jewry considered everyone and every nation outside of themselves as dogs and heathen. Lazarus represents those outside of the blessings of the covenants, not having received the riches and oracles bestowed upon the Israelites, and in particular, Judah. Lazarus is the heathen world, lost, diseased, poverty stricken, an outcaste, spiritually dead. Luke 16:21 ‘And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores’ The KJV translation would better be put as ‘the other dogs came and licked his sores’ The Greek word ‘alla’ means others and not moreover. If we were to follow and understand Greek grammar we would find that the word ‘alla’ is in the nominative case which names the subject and belongs to it. Dogs is the subject and thus they belong to each other and ‘alla’ is the modifier of the Greek word ‘kunes’ or the dogs. Another way of putting it: ‘This beggar Lazarus, a dog; had his sores licked by other dogs’ It is common for dogs to lick sores of others, on themselves and especially of their own kind. In this portion of scripture we are referring to the nations outside of Israel, heathen people who help one another the best way they can, not knowing any better way. But also like dogs they fight each other over their supposedly own territory. Begging was always done at the city gate where most people congregated or passed by. Lazarus was a beggar in his own eyes, but a dog as far as the Jews were concerned. He represents all nations outside the commonwealth of Israel, outside the covenants and outside the benefits and blessings. In Genesis 10:25 ‘And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan’ Peleg means division. Genesis 10:5 & 32 ‘By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongues, after their families, in their nations.’ ‘These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.’ This took place at the Tower of Babel, clearly recorded in Genesis 11:8-9 ‘So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth’ The descendants of Noah spread everywhere across the whole earth, establishing themselves after their tongue, in their families and finally as nations. Deuteronomy 32:8 Amplified ‘When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the children of men, He set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the Israelites’ Acts 17:26-27 ‘And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us’ All has been determined by God, what nation settles where, how large or small it’s boundaries and also who it’s neighbours will be. All was established in relation to Israel, geographically at the junction of Africa, the two Asias and nearby Europe. The reason: that they (the nations) might seek after the Lord and find the blessings promised through Abraham. Genesis 22:18 ‘And in thy seed shall ALL the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice’. ALL nations shall be blessed, this is the will and purpose of the Almighty. This spiritual beggar called Lazarus stands for these nations of the world and is right at Judah’s gateway so to speak. The Greek ‘Lazarus’ has it’s counterpart in Hebrew ‘Eleazer’ which means: ‘he whom God helps’ or ‘whom God aids’. The Greek word for name is ‘onoma’ and not only means ‘a name’ but implies ‘one possessing a certain character’ or characteristic. Thus it could be written: ‘Outside the gate of Judah there were the nations of the world, whose characteristic was they were beggars and diseased, all needing the help of God’. Matthew 15:21-28 ‘Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto Him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and besought Him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But He answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, help me. But He answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour’. Here is a remarkable event that took place at the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and Israel when Jesus visited that region. He never went outside the boundaries of Israel for He was sent first to that nation. ‘I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ John 1:11 ‘He came unto His own, and His own received Him not’ He came to His own, Judah for He is the lion of the tribe of Judah. He ministered first to them and then died for them and the whole world. Israel were firmly convinced that they only would be saved and go to heaven, all other nations were heathen rejects – dogs! At the gate of Israel this woman begged for deliverance for her devil vexed daughter. His first reaction: He ignored her; she was not an Israelite and His disciples would have her excommunicated. Jesus then explains His calling and mission; to lost Israel. The Syrophenician woman was an inhabitant of Canaan but she recognised the quality and power of the life in the Son of God. She then came and worshipped even after apparent disinterest and seeming lack of compassion in the one whose favour she sought. It was then she said, ‘Lord, help me’ A prayer of just three words. She was without help, but recognised here was one person, the Lord, who can help. How unusual and seemingly hard is the answer with which the Lord responded. ‘It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to dogs’ In other words He categorised her just as an Israelite would, as a dog, a Gentile, outside the covenants and hope of Israel. How would today’s so-called liberated women have responded, or better reacted? But not this woman, she recognised her place, accepted the appellation and still thrust forward in faith. Her response was not of anger, but one of confession and agreement, ‘Truth Lord’ yet in spite of this state of affairs presently existing she pressed her claim and made her point, ‘yet the little dogs (Greek) eat of the crumbs that fall from the masters’ table’ True Lord, I am a little dog, but I will claim a crumb that falls my way. She passed the test of being ignored, the silent rebuke, the disciples reproach, the hard response and then open and crude application, being classified as nothing more than an animal. Her great faith and humble response gained the master’s commendation and her daughter’s deliverance. ‘Lord, help me’ was her cry at the borders or the gate of Israel and links in with the meaning of Lazarus’ name ‘whom God helps’. Only God could help her. The expressions in this story parallel those in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, he who begged at the threshold of the well endowed, looking for crumbs from his table. Other dogs licked his sores and placed him in the same category. He was a Gentile, a pagan, a dog. With regard to truth and religion all the nations outside of Israel only fed on the crumbs that fell from the chosen race’s table. They had received the oracles of God, no other nation had been chosen and so signally blessed as Israel and Judah. All others got were the crumbs of accident. Paul calls to remembrance the past situation of the Gentiles. Ephesians 2:11-12 ‘Wherefore remember, that ye being in the past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world’ Without Christ – aliens – strangers – no hope – without God! Both died Luke 16:22-23 ‘And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man died also, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom’ The death of these two is symbolic, representing a basic change in their circumstances. Lazarus was not buried, he was carried into the bosom of Abraham. He represents the heathen nations of the world and we see the transfer of relationship. One who by natural birth is outside Israel, but now is brought in by faith to apprehend and receive the blessings in Abraham. The rich man is buried and Israel lost her inheritance in Abraham, being cut off, disinherited, never again to be the chosen nation. Not until Judah is joined unto the Lord Jesus, is sanctified in Christ, will they be recognised again as a people of God. Yet, in spite of burial there is hope of resurrection which at the parables telling had not taken place. Romans 11:26 ‘And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob’ When Jesus came 2,000 years ago He changed history, time, religion and brought within Himself dispensationally a spiritual revelation. 1 Corinthians 15:45-47 ‘And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven’ Truth has it that there are only two men in this world, the first Adam and the last Adam. Let us quote from J. Preston Eby, who gives a clear pronouncement of this truth. The first Adam is the first man, but the last Adam is the second man and the second man is also the last man. These simple statements, which on the surface seem so insignificant and scarcely worth our notice, are in fact pregnant with meaning, and full of wisdom and understanding. The first Adam is said to be the first man. The last Adam is declared to be the second man. If the second man is also the last Adam, He is also the last man. Now if the first Adam is the first man, it would of necessity follow that there were no men on the earth before him, for he was the first. And if the last Adam is the second man then there were no men on earth between the first Adam and the last Adam, for the last Adam is the second man, and there can be no men between the first man and the second man. If there were even one other man between the first man and the second man, obviously the second man could not BE the second man; he would be the third man, the one hundredth man, or the five billionth man. And since the second man is also the LAST MAN, there can not have been any men since him, for if others have followed him, he is not then the last man. So then, the first man was the first man, the second man was the second man, and the second man is the last man, so that there have been only TWO MEN who have ever lived upon this planet – Adam and Jesus Christ! There were none before Adam, none between Adam and Christ, and none since Jesus Christ. Only two men, no more, no less. End Quote. All humanity has been included in the first Adam, every one being an individual member of that corporate body. The scriptures declare in 1 Corinthians 15:49 ‘And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly’ Just as all were in the first Adam, so too will all be incorporated in the second Adam. God the Father, in His ineffable wisdom and grace worked in Jesus Christ the miracle of redemption. He has paid the price in full for every man. His purpose is revealed in: Ephesians 1:10 ‘That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one ALL things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him’ Hebrews 8:11 ‘And they shall not teach EVERY man his neighbour, and EVERY man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for ALL shall know me, from the LEAST to the GREATEST’ Colossians 1:28 ‘Whom we preach, warning EVERY man, and teaching EVERY man in all wisdom; that we may present EVERY man perfect in Christ Jesus’ Revelation 5:13 ‘And EVERY creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and ALL that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever’ Psalm 22:27-28 ‘ALL the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord; and ALL the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the Kingdom is the Lord’s: and He is the governor AMONG the nations’ Just as death came by the first Adam and has affected and continues to affect ALL men, so too life came by the second or last Adam and has also affected and will continue to affect ALL men. Romans 5:18 ‘Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon ALL men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon ALL men unto justification of life’ Our old Adamic nature was crucified with Christ and as we once were included in the first Adam, the natural carnal man, so now we are included by faith, in the resurrected Saviour, the spiritual man. Romans 5:19 Amplified ‘For just as by one man’s disobedience (failing to hear, heedlessness and carelessness) the many were constituted sinners, so by one man’s obedience the many shall be constituted righteous – made acceptable to God, brought into right standing with Him’ We must ask ourselves the question ‘Is life stronger than death?’ ‘Is the light greater than the darkness?’ ‘Is the power of the first Adam greater than the power of the last Adam, Jesus Christ?’ If the first Adam brought all men into sin by his action in Eden, then by the same wisdom the second Adam is able to bring all men into life by His death, burial and resurrection! Who is greater the natural man or the spiritual man? A rhetorical question! Now back to our parable. When Jesus was crucified and died, both the rich man and Lazarus died with Him and in Him. The old dispensation of the Law was fulfilled, a new dispensation of grace was available to both. Now we are enabled to walk in a new way of life, delivered from the old letter to walk in the spirit. Both were now dead to previous conditions before Calvary and now could live in the unfolding revelations of God’s grace and mercy. The Jew living in his sumptuous state with the oracles of God now finds a new redemptive purpose and process, divine correction – but because of his pride and arrogance and rejection of the Messiah, he finds himself now buried in torments of Hell, cast out, rejected, confused and hard of heart. Beggar Lazarus now found a new way, he could enjoy comfort in Christ Jesus, the seed of Abraham. Now he is able to rejoice in the bosom and blessings of father Abraham. The Greek word translated Hell is Hades, coming from ‘a(i)des’. The ‘a’ is a prefix meaning in English ‘un’ and the stem ‘id’ means to perceive. Thus we have unperceive, unseen. This is Hades – unseen, the unknown realm. The English word from Anglo-Saxon ‘hillan’ or ‘helan’ means a cavern, a concealed or unseen place. To ‘hell’ something is to bury it in a hole or pit, out of sight. The rich man went to Hell, into the unknown and the unseen, into an experience never desired. A place of uncertainty, of myths, unreality, bondage, pain and suffering. Who has been so tormented and persecuted, hunted, haunted, ridiculed and selected for torture and death as the Jews in the last nearly 2,000 years? In Germany, Russia, indeed in many nations they have not found acceptance nor been assimilated as others, but retained their identity as a badge of their reviling before all men. The Ghettos in Europe, the horrible ethnic purgings down through the centuries and of recent times the holocaust. This is the rich man’s Hell, tormented and insecure within himself. (A reading of Deuteronomy 28 aptly describes the incredible suffering of a disobedient people) Heaven? Many preachers use this particular parable as an illustration of Heaven and Hell, but scriptures give absolutely no warrant for this interpretation. Besides, what happened to the righteous who predeceased Abraham? Where did they reside? Abraham’s bosom is not Heaven for the expression ‘Abraham’s Bosom’ comes from the custom in Christ’s day. It speaks of an honoured guest who sat next to the host. This was referred to as a reclining on his bosom. In the Eastern countries you reclined when eating and one’s head would be near the chest or bosom of the one next to him. The word is used 41 times and anything anyone embraces is referred to as ‘in the bosom’. It indicates a close personal and honoured relationship. In John 13:23 ‘Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved’ and also referred to in John 21:20 ‘Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on His breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth Thee?’ This does not mean that John was all over Jesus like a rash. It simply means he was next to Him as the honoured one at the last supper. They had a close personal relationship for scriptures affirm that John was that disciple ‘whom Jesus loved’. Again scriptures show the closest of all relationships existed between the Father and the Son for He was IN His bosom. John 1:18 ‘No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is IN THE BOSOM of the Father, He hath declared Him’. We often use the term ‘bosom buddy’ or ‘bosom friend’ to express friendships and close relationships. This term comes from the arrangement and placing of guests at a meal or banquet. Seeing Lazarus there in Abraham’s bosom showed he was entered into a banquet, sharing a personal relationship with Abraham in a place of honour. The Jews had received many blessings and honour for the sake of Abraham, but now this was all transferred to the Gentiles, represented by Lazarus. The promises are found in Abraham and we need to consider them. He was to become a great nation, a multitude of nations, kings were to come out of him. His posterity would spread to the North, South, East and west. He is the founding father of all God’s chosen people and his seed would bless all nations. He would be the father of many nations. Much of this has a fulfilment in a natural way, but greater are the implications and the spiritual applications. Why accept the lower level when the higher level of spiritual truth is made available. Hear the word of the Lord in Romans 15:8-9 ‘Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers; And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, for this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name’ To confirm the promises made to the fathers; in other words the Greek meaning is: That Jesus came to make sure or guarantee those promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Acts 3:13 ‘The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go’ Acts 7:32 ‘Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold’ Listen to the promises. Galatians 3:14 ‘That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith’ Yet in searching of the promises made to Abraham there is no mention of the Spirit! In Genesis 13:15 ‘For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever’ This promise has more to it than just a geographic location for the promise is both to Abraham and to his seed (as the dust of the earth) forever. Here is a promise made to give eternal life, and the only way Abraham and his seed can possess something forever is that they must also possess an eternal life by the Spirit. This promise is more than that of land, it is an eternal inheritance. Acts 7:2-5 ‘And he said, Men, and brethren, and fathers, hearken; the God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land, which I shall show thee. Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. And He gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that He would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child’ As yet Abraham has a promise but no heir to inherit it. Also God did not give, at that time, any inheritance in the land, but promised it to him afterward. In Abraham’s life-time he received not, but by faith. By faith he sojourned in the land living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, all died in faith. Hebrews 11:8-9 ‘By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should afterward receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise’ This promise of eternal inheritance, has of necessity the promise of eternal life. One can only possess something forever if he lives forever. All who go by the way of death and the grave leave their inheritance to others. Jesus came and confirmed this promise. John 10:28 ‘And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand’ 1 John 2:25 ‘And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life’. In Acts 26:6-8; 22-23 ‘And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers; Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?’ ‘Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing to both small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles’ Here Paul explains clearly this truth. Jesus rose from the dead by the eternal Spirit of life and thus quickens us by the same Spirit to life. Romans 8:11 ‘But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you’ Now let us be further established in the truth, by meditating on that seeming preposterous statement of Jesus in John 10:7-10 ‘Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep, All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly’ Let us restate one phrase ‘All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers’ He did not say ‘some’ ‘many’ or ‘a certain group’ but ALL without exception. Let us consider some of the ‘all’. Hebrews 11:4 ‘By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh’ Although dead he still speaks to us. Hebrews 11:7 ‘By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an Ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith’ Perfect in his generation, a preacher of righteousness, condemning the world’s unbelief, he became an heir of righteousness by faith. Hebrews 11:8 ‘By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went’ The father of the faithful, who by faith went out, sojourned in the land, looked for a city which has foundations, believed and received Isaac; yet died, not having received the promises, but was persuaded and embraced them in faith. ‘By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible. Through faith he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest He that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned’ Hebrews 11:24-29 What can we add to further enhance this statement regarding God’s man, Moses? This great deliverer, receiver and giver of the Law, his mighty deeds and fullness of faith, yet with all others he is declared to be a thief and a robber!! The ‘all’ includes these great persons of faith, patriarchs, priests, prophets, the Psalmist and Judges of Israel. The ‘all’ included everyone that came before Him, they are thieves and robbers in comparison In deed and in truth thieves and robbers continue today also, many of them practise their art in Babylonian religions and even in Christendom. The Jews were obviously offended by His statement and today, when faced with the truth, many become offended and protest their innocence. How we need to understand the anointed message of Jesus; that all who come with any message that does not have ‘life’ in it, as it’s ultimate expression, is a thief and a robber! Many have come with great teaching, philosophies, laws, precepts and practises, but none were able to impart incorruptible and eternal ‘life’. 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 ‘For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death’ Our greatest enemy is death, Jesus came to give ‘life’. All the good men, all the righteous men, all the obedient and holy men as Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah etc. all died and passed into corruption. Hebrews 11:13 ‘These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth’ All ministered in limitation, not having the ability to impart ‘life’ but imparted death, for their ministry and lives did not possess that most valuable commodity ‘eternal and incorruptible life’. The Law came by Moses and it brought death. All their messages and lives fell short of immortality in relation to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is alive, having once and for all conquered that last enemy, death. A new life, eternal, incorruptible, is available, only He can impart it. John 11:25-26 ‘Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?’ He was the first to rise from the dead – immortal and incorruptible. He has made possible the fulfilment of the promise. Hebrews 9:15 ‘And for this cause He is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance’ Eternal inheritance means and incorporates eternal life, else the words are meaningless. This is the work of the eternal Spirit for Jesus was raised from the dead by the Spirit of the Father. Romans 8:11 ‘But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you’. Let us digress for a brief moment to understand that God’s eternal and holy plan for mankind’s redemption began with Abraham. Before Abraham, God dealt with several individuals; such as Abel, Enoch, Noah in specific ways. None were chosen with regard the ultimate redemptive purpose of God. They were only called and dealt with in relation to the need and situation of their time. When Abram appeared on the scene it was then that God chose him specifically in regard to his future purpose and redemption for mankind. As it was with Jesus, it was the fullness of time or the appropriate time in the eternal counsels of the Almighty for certain steps to be taken and an interference in the affairs of a man which would affect all men. Abraham is regarded as the father of the faithful as God’s divine plan and promises originate in him. Jesus came to confirm the promise to the fathers of eternal inheritance. The scriptures do not say He took the nature of angels or the seed of Adam; but the seed of Abraham. Hebrews 2:16 ‘For verily he took not on the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham’ All the promises in regard the eternal and redemptive plan in the purpose of God centre in two chosen people; Abraham and his seed. Galatians 3:16 ‘Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ’ Jesus came to confirm the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham is the starting point of all things pertaining to the eternal redemptive plan of the Almighty God. Abraham was to become a great nation, a multitude of nations, kings shall come out of him, his seed was to spread to all corners of the globe. Not only a multiplicity of seed like the stars in the heavens and the sand of the sea shore and the dust of the earth, but, ‘one’ seed and that seed is Christ. Galatians 3:16c ‘And to thy seed, which is Christ’ 1 Corinthians 12:12 ‘For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ’ The seed is a corporate body made up of many members. Romans 4:16, 20-21 ‘Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all’ ‘He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform’ Hebrews 11:13 ‘These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth’ He embraced them! That which is embraced is held in the bosom of a person. This is what is meant in ‘Abraham’s bosom’. To be in Abraham’s bosom is to be like Abraham in heart/faith, believing the promises though they be far off. Receiving and believing the eternal redemptive purposes of God to ultimately by faith receive the incorruption of eternal life. In so doing, whosoever believes becomes that seed of Abraham, embraced in the Abrahamic covenant extending from the natural (dust) to the spiritual (stars) realms. Unbounded fulfilment of the promises, a true Israelite indeed! Truth is that God’s chosen nation of Israel never obtained the promises, nor inherited the blessings through natural descent. His promises are only applicable and applied to a people who receive them by faith. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him’ Romans 4:3 ‘For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness’ God started a new nation through one man, Abram. Genesis 12:1-2 ‘Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing’ The father of all who believe, though they be not circumcised. Romans 4:11 ‘And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also’ This promise to Abraham and his seed, to be heir of the world was not through Law, works or natural lineage, it was by righteousness of faith. Romans 4:13 ‘For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith’ An intimate and vital relationship between God and Abram was the beginning of a people of faith; a people who clasped this faith fellowship to their bosom. Galatians 3:7 ‘Know ye therefore that they which be of faith, the same are the children of Abraham’ Thus Abraham’s seed are those which be of faith! The natural nation of Israel rejected the promises when they crucified Jesus, the seed! John 1:11 ‘He came unto His own, and His own received Him not’. If the blessings and promises followed natural descent, then Ishmael would by natural law and customs have inherited it. Also Esau should have inherited, not Jacob. From these men, also Abel and others we see the principle of second birth to enter the covenant promises. John 3:3 ‘Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God’ God’s covenant is not with a race, a particular group of people, but with those who believe regardless of their being Hebrew, Greek or Gentiles, Jew or African, Chinese or Eskimos. Galatians 3:26-29 ‘For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise’ Genesis 17:4 & 7 ‘As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations’ ‘And I will establish my covenant between thee and me and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee’ The covenant was with Abraham and his seed – his offspring. Listen! It had nothing to do with ancestry, but to do with his posterity! There were no racial conditions or discriminations whatsoever. Exchange of Place, Exchange of Race In this parable the rich man stands for the Jewish nation who enjoyed God’s favour and blessings. Lazarus represents a people who lay at Judah’s gate, those who received not the benefits – Gentiles. They were an ostracised, dog class people, outside the covenants and promises, no hopers. The only benefits they enjoyed were the crumbs, they might be fortunate enough to gather. Jewry at this time with it’s influences permeated all the Roman kingdom. The parable has within it a prophecy that the two characters mentioned are to change places. The rich man to suffer rejection, pain, poverty and punishment and Lazarus to enjoy comfort, peace and honour in a close relationship; Abraham’s bosom. A covenant relationship with all the promises being fulfilled. Philippians 3:2-3 ‘Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh’ (Concision means mutilation, the cutting off an essential part, to render imperfect, destroy) During Paul’s ministry there were those Judaizers who continually worked among believers to defile them with works of the Law. Teaching them to practise circumcision, obey the Law and rituals, becoming legalistic to the letter of do’s and don’ts, not the spirit of life. They were from Judaea. Acts 15:1 ‘And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved’ Pharisees who believed, Acts 15:5 ‘But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses’ These were those who belonged to the church in Jerusalem. Acts 15:24 ‘Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the Law: to whom we gave no such commandment’ Hear the words of Paul as recorded in Galatians 5:1 & 6 ‘Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage’ ‘For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love’ Beware of the mutilators of your faith, who claim flesh exercises reap righteousness when the scriptures are expressive and explicit. We live by faith, not by works. Romans 2:29 ‘But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God’ Ephesians 2:8-9 ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast’ Circumcision practised by Abraham was merely the sign, an indication that sealed the fact of his righteousness by faith, which he had before he was circumcised. It was an ordinance, a symbol of the inner workings of grace. Romans 4:1-17 ‘What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he hath wherewith to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them that were not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the Law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the Law worketh wrath: for where no Law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the Law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all. (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were’. Abraham is declared to be the father of all who believe, with no distinction with regard to race, nationality, colour, sex, customs, status, caste or laws. Those who are of the same persuasion/faith of Abraham, become his seed, his posterity, his children. Romans 4:13 ‘For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith’ He, Abraham, is father of us (believers) all. Romans 10:12 ‘For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him’ There is no racial or class difference. Galatians 3:7-9 ‘Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham’ . Jesus Christ came of the seed of Abraham. Galatians 3:16 ‘Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ’ So of all the millions, only one seed inherits all the promises given to Abraham, Jesus the Christ. In the Edenic prophecy the Lord God spoke of the ‘seed’ of the woman, no reference to a man as the bruiser of the serpents head. Genesis 3:15 ‘And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel’ Seed is not only the product of a previous life but also has within it the capacity to reproduce itself in multiplicity. John 12:24 ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit’ This seed would in time produce a vast multitude of Himself, in His likeness and in His image. (See Genesis 1:26 ‘And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth’) Every seed sown reproduces itself in multiplicity – an increase. Mark 4:28 ‘First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear’ Only one seed has been planted -Christ, and now He the blade has appeared in His resurrection, then following will be the ear (Sons of God) followed by the full corn in the ear, the great harvest – the seed of the seed, all in exact likeness of that which was planted in death and burial. The seed is one; it is Christ and every seed reproduced will have the same quality of life, His image and likeness, born of the original seed, having the same resurrection life. The Christ, the corporate body, the Sons of God. Romans 8:29 ‘For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren’ All who partake of His (Jesus) life, who is the seed of Abraham, they become Abraham’s seed. Galatians 3:16 ‘Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ’ It is not given to seeds (plural) but to one seed, Christ. If to the plural then it would have been fulfilled through Israel by natural lineage. It is through this seed (singular) all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Genesis 22:18 ‘And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice’. Down through the centuries as generations have been born, lived and died, each was a seed to their generation. Then Christ came and purchased a Bride with His blood and at Pentecost the believers received the incorruptible seed of the word and by the Spirit. A new generation by the Spirit was born and ministered into the Spiritual womb of the Bride the incorruptible seed of Christ. Down through the past 2,000 years the seed of each generation has ministered until we come to this present time. The seed of Abraham is working again in us so that the matured Bride (woman) will bring forth a matured man, a many-membered body in the likeness of the incorruptible and holy image of Jesus Christ – THE SEED. Revelation 12:5 ‘And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne’ Ephesians 4:13 & 16 ‘Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ ‘From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself

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