Propitiation and the Red Heifer

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"For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" [Heb 9:13,14]

This is an extract from some posts made by Ron Bailey on http://www.sermonindex.net about a conversation he was having with someone else in another forum. Follow so far? Good, here is how Ron introduces the subject:

"In my conversations on another forum I was talking to a gentle Calvinist who genuinely wanted to know what I thought. His question was 'if God has been propitiated, and that propitiation was for the 'whole world', in its fullest sense, how can God remain angry with the sinner whose sins have already received atonement? Good question, I thought. I have prayed a little and thought a little, and this was my reply. There will be some nuances you will miss because you haven't seen the rest of the conversation, but I think this will stand on its own feet so here we go…"

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Receiving Christ

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The phrase has become one of the most familiar in contemporary evangelical Christianity, but what does it mean?  In most evangelical groups it has come to mean a personal response to the gospel.  In evangelistic meetings or personal evangelism the enquirer is encouraged to make a response to a small subset of Bible doctrines often referred to as the gospel.  These are sometimes reduced to 4 steps, the concept being that agreement with these truths and the praying of a simple prayer of confession and commitment effects a transaction in which the enquirer ‘receives Christ’.  I came this way, as have many thousands of others.  It was a starting place and not to be dishonoured.  Every genuine response to God is of vital importance and not to be mocked.

It may come as a surprise to some reading this that this concept of ‘the gospel’ and of ‘receiving Christ’ was the product of the evangelistic campaigns of the 20th Century.  This pattern of evangelism has no roots in the history of the Church as we read in the Acts, nor is it in any other part of the New Testament.  “But it can be a real help” says the objector.  Yes, it may.  The purpose of these thoughts is not to undermine or attack any.  My anxieties lie in the fact that counsellors or personal workers may ‘go through the motions’ and then declare that the seeker has ‘received Christ’.  This then becomes like a Catholic sacrament which is effectual as long as it is in accordance with a pattern.

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The Old Testament’s Hidden Baptisms

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In a series of posts to a forum on http://www.sermonindex.net Ron wrote about the “The Old Testament's Hidden Baptisms” with a view to trying to discover what the word 'baptism' means by just using the scriptures. Having re­discovered the meaning of the word 'baptism' he would then go on to see how this fits in to a definition of 'baptism in the Spirit'?

This PDF contains the extracts only to do with the “The Old Testament's Hidden Baptisms”, including:

  • The Flood
  • The Crossing of the Red Sea
  • Naaman's Baptism
  • Isaiah's Baptism
  • Ezekiel's Baptism

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Can Anyone Tell Me What Heaven is Really Like?

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You don't have to read far into the Bible before you meet the word 'heaven'. The first chapter has seven separate references to 'heaven'.  But where is it and what is it?  The first reference appears to add to the confusion as it literally reads "God created 'both heavens' and the earth".  Both heavens? Two heavens? How many heavens are there? Well, the romantic may say he is in the 'seventh heaven' but the Bible makes reference to three.  Modern commentators sometimes say that the Hebrews believed in a heaven and earth of three concentric spheres but that is because modern commentators think that ancient people were too unsophisticated to speak in pictures.  Their comments tell us more about modern arrogance than ancient naiveté.  We might as well conclude that the 21st Century man who says ‘the sun rises at 5.30’ thinks that the earth is flat and that the sun is doing the moving.

The Hebrew word for heaven means something that is "above" and is a relative term.  (The Greek word for 'heaven' has the same kind of etymology.) Consequently there is a 'heaven' above the earth where the sparrows fly, and there is a 'heaven' above that where the stars shine. (Gen 1:16, 20)  And above (or beyond) that a third!  The imagery is of a place beyond man's reach.  Modern scientific technology may have taken man through the sparrows' heaven and into the starry heavens (or to the moon, as a start) but the third heaven still remains above, beyond his reach. 

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The Word Became Flesh

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How can the creature search out the Creator?
How shall the finite describe the Infinite?
How can Man know God?
 
The answer to these questions is more simple than might at first appear; God has chosen to reveal Himself.  Mankind does not need to remain in ignorance of God.  Finite creatures can know the unknowable.  There are many things that man can know about God, because God has revealed them.  If God had remained silent, man would have remained ignorant.  God has revealed Himself in nature, although that is now a very imperfect revelation.  God has revealed himself through the Holy Scriptures, although even that is a very incomplete revelation.  God has fully revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ.

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