A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

The Eyes of Faith: A Truth from the Lord for Your Encouragement

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings  (James 1:1)

I was taught that James wrote to Jews who had professed Christ and who were scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Israel had undergone other dispersions — expulsions from the Promised Land, in the past — such as the deportation to Babylon back in Daniel’s day.  It is interesting that Peter speaks similarly to James, addressing Christians who were “in Babylon” or “exiles of the dispersion.”

She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.  (1 Peter 5:13)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.  (1 Peter 1:1-2)

I want to suggest to you that it is quite possible and I believe probable that both James and Peter are not writing merely to Jewish people who are Christians, but that they are addressing the church, consisting of both Jew and Gentile, as Israel in a state of exile.  Let’s think through this idea a bit further and apply it to ourselves.

Certainly in the New Testament days, there were Jewish people scattered throughout the world. Not all the Jews by any means returned to Israel after the Babylonian captivity in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Most of them remained in the “diaspora” which is what the dispersion was called.  They were viewed as exiled.  And here it appears to me that both Peter and James are using that “exile” and “dispersion” language, only they are applying it to all Christians throughout the world. If this be the case, then the question is — what are WE, the church, in exile from?  And the answer is — from our inheritance. From our Land. From the Land and home that Christ has prepared for us. We are exiles in this world:

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  (Hebrews 11:13-14)

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.  (1 Peter 1:17-19)

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.  (1 Peter 2:11)

This means two things:

  • The church is in fact the true Israel, and
  • The church is presently in exile in this present world, awaiting a great Exodus yet to come and a return to our true homeland.

James even addresses the church then as “the twelve tribes.” Of course this is where we embrace quite a different interpretation of Scriptures like this than that endorsed by Christians who are dispensational in their theology.  They would maintain that James and Peter are addressing literal Jews — that the 12 tribes could only mean the 12 tribes of Israel. Well, we believe that as well, but we maintain that James uses 12 tribes as an Old Testament type that is fulfilled by the New Testament church. [On this note it is interesting that Jesus chose 12 Apostles].

Christian, YOU are an exile in this present world. That means that your real homeland, your real country and citizenship is not in this life and not in this place.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.  (Philippians 3:20-21)

Listen to this again —

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  (Hebrews 11:13-14)

This is the description of true faith, of the true people of Christ while we are still in this world. We die in faith. Even at the moment we lie on our death bed, still not having received the things promised us by the Lord, we remain in faith, trusting His promises, because:

  • We have seen these things and welcomed them, even though they are in a far off place,
  • We have come to understand that we are strangers and exiles in this world. That our land is not this land.

And therefore a Christian is a person who is — a seeker, a pilgrim, a person who is traveling through on the way to his true home.

Christian, how is it that the Lord says that you have SEEN the promises? I think this is a reference to what we can call “the eyes” of true faith —

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the people of old received their commendation.  By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.  By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.   By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.  And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.  (Hebrews 11:1-6)

The conviction of things not seen, and therefore, seen.  It is by the eyes of faith that we see and believe everything God’s Word tells us. We were not present at creation, and yet by faith in what the Lord has told us about creation, we are “eyewitnesses” of a rather incredible thing — a universe created out of nothing. And it is through this faith in God’s Word that Christ’s own people have been “commended as righteous” — Abel, Enoch, Abraham, and you.

All of these truths are wrapped up in this wider truth that WE who are in Christ are the true Israel, the real 12 tribes, in exile and dispersed throughout this present world as strangers, as citizens of another Place. Therefore. . .

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4)

This does not mean that we must remain in suffering when there is a way out. All of us have had that kind of “scripture twisting” laid upon us all too many times. It does not mean that an abuse victim has to “put on a happy face” and remain a target of the wicked. But it does mean that in our suffering in this present life, the Lord is there, He is in it, and He is going to bring good to us out of it, and great glory for Himself. These things we see, these things we have seen, by the eyes of faith.

 

 

 

 

8 Comments

  1. healingInHIm

    Very encouraging words from The Word. Thank you Ps Jeff.

  2. Seeing Clearly

    I have read your post, Pastor Jeff, a number of times this afternoon . It is slowly sinking in as to how this relates personally to me in my situation. It is quietly dawning on me. I am praying that all other readers will find the personal application to their own life situation. I accept what you have written as truth. So I am just doing my homework now. I cannot put it in simple sentences yet, But I am moving forward cautiously. Thank you.

    • Jeff Crippen

      You are very welcome, Carol:)

  3. marriedtohyde

    This is so beautiful. God’s Word is like no other book…it brings constant epiphany.

    “… that the 12 tribes could only mean the 12 tribes of Israel. Well, we believe that as well, but we maintain that James uses 12 tribes as an Old Testament type that is fulfilled by the New Testament church. [On this note it is interesting that Jesus chose 12 Apostles].”

    –And also the 12 rocks removed to land from the river Jordan and the 12 rocks from land put back in their place.

  4. Still Scared but you can call me Cindy

    Very encouraging. Thank you. It built me up yesterday when I read it.

  5. Seeing Clearly

    I continue to reread and ponder this message. I don’t doubt that my citizenship is in heaven. However, I am often more comfortable with people who do not wear their religion on their sleeve. As I observe choices I am making, I am finding internal freedoms. Those (c)hurched people who have hurt me and continue to hurt others work me over like sand paper. My issue is not about their citizenship; I don’t care to ponder that now. But there is a sliver festering within me. I do wonder how God allows the injustices to continue.

    Today, my gut says that those who continue to wound in the name of churchianity have made church their homeland, as opposed to heaven. They claim to have it all now. They have all the answers, all the superiority, logged in years of Bible study, perfect attendance, ears finely attuned to god. They claim squatters rights. Their explanation of I Peter 2:11 allows for a differentiation of “passion of the flesh” for church members vs “passion of the flesh” for those outside their society.

    Because I don’t see God putting a halt to their dual citizenship, I am really struggling. I have rubbed shoulders with these people my whole life. They are divisive in my immediate family. It hurts deeply! This is as far as I’ve come in my understanding of my struggle today. I realize that I am in process.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Carol – I hear you. What has helped me is to realize that the Bible is what I have to listen to, not people. And Scripture consistently tells us to watch out for phonies. That counterfeits will creep in disguised as sheep. This is one of the biggest themes in the Bible. I encourage you to consider that even the majority of people who claim to be Christians – aren’t. And if that be the case, then the alienation you are feeling from them is something that every real Christian should be feeling. It is the Holy Spirit telling us “something is wrong here. Be careful.” For myself, I am very comfortable now in our small church and have ZERO desire to ever be part of what is the normal, common local church scene today. There are still some true churches and pastors – Christ always has His remnant. But where real Christians are, we will sense that they are.

      • Seeing Clearly

        “Alienation” should feel natural, and ” something is wrong here” speaks to me of a paradyme shift. It reminds me of the day that I sat in the home of a lady who graciously handed me a book that gave me my introduction to identifying verbal abuse.

        My culture has been pretty much about deciding which groups really preach the gospel and which ones don’t and this gives a good clue as to who is going to heaven. It is subtle, don’t give it a lot of thought on the surface, but I learned how to categorize neighbors with a citizenship in heaven according to church affiliation. While this has been a culture, It has not been my personal practice. Where I have been wrong is believing that many “gospel” leaders and followers posing as sheep are actually wolves.

        For decades, I have puzzled how sheep could treat other sheep so horridly. Wolves! We moved out of a parsonage when I was in my 30’s. I then had a goal to keep my own sheep when I turned 50. It did not happen, not for lack of open space. It could not happen because the wolf did not embrace my passion. It offers quite a spiritual picture for me. This is all very difficult for me to process with other deep implications.

        (Please delete where necessary)

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