Rightly Divided: Preface, Chaps 1 & 2, plus Selected Excerpts

Rightly Divided: Preface, Chaps 1 & 2, plus Selected Excerpts

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RIGHTLY DIVIDED

(PORTIONS OF) PREFACE, PLUS TABLE OF CONTENTS, CHAPTERS 1 AND 2

Preface

Jesus said, “Wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” (Luke 7:35) As with any book, the verdict as to this book’s wisdom will be up to the reader. But I believe that he or she will perceive that the ideas presented here are many and that they are tightly bonded in kinship. If that bears out, then it bodes well on the side of truthfulness, for “Every truth leads in another,” as a wise man once said. If only for this reason—for the vigor evidenced by this crop of “children”—the material that follows deserves a look, and hopefully more than that.

Other than the work done by lifelong preacher Dan Billingsly of Lubbock, Texas, this volume is the only work of any length that addresses these Biblical themes, at least to my knowledge and at least as of this writing. To a large extent, this effort amounts to independent verification of what Billingsly has been saying. I have tried to convey enough of the sense of his work that the reader will feel that he or she has gained an overview of it and an insight into it. Yet I am not seeking here to simply repackage or summarize his work. It stands on its own and deserves study on its own merits. So there’s not a lot of reworking of Billingsly’s key scriptural references here. Yet the very approach of not replicating his original arguments is, in itself, a testimonial to the credence of his assertions. For if truths are being revealed by one inquirer (that being Billingsly), then similar, followup inquiries by others ought also to yield truths. That is one test of the reliability of someone’s Biblical scholarship: whether or not it can foster other work that validates its original thrust and builds upon its base. Others besides Billingsly ought to be able to mine the same vein and arrive at yet more conclusions that are consistent with his. I offer this book as testimony that that very thing is going on.

I say relatively little in this book about the issue of marriage/divorce, and that is by design. It is not because the “covenants” understanding of scripture does not have anything to say about that issue, for it has considerable, but rather because there are already too many misconceptions out there about the “covenants” approach being only about marriage/divorce, and that bias, if it were to grow, could hamper the advancement of these ideas. I hope to break down that bias by showing that the “covenants” understanding is about so much more. In fact, I believe that its biggest contributions to our brotherhood lie outside the marriage/divorce issue. I hasten to add, meanwhile, that the “covenants” interpretation of scripture does not reveal or alter the “main theme” of the Bible. The main theme has always been known to us. But by reading the Bible by covenants we can clarify many disputed points, heal some grievous injuries, bridge some differences, and set ourselves onto a clearer and more rewarding understanding of God’s Word.

Jesse Mullins, Jr.

Table of Contents

1. Whose Testament is it?                          1

2. How a Testament is Given                   15

3. A Kingdom Must Have a King            23

4. In the Restoration Tradition                29

5. What Dan Billingsly Teaches about the Covenants            47

6. What We Gain by Understanding the Covenants                53

7. The Strangest Thing                                  57

8. The Primacy of the Resurrection            65

9. Jesus as Crowning Glory                           73

10. Reconsidering the “Groundwork” Assumption            91

11. Why Study MMLJBC?                              99

12. Questions and Answers                        105

13. The “Date of Authorship” Question   125

14. Taking on “the World”                           133

15. Not His Own Prophet                            149

16. Thrice Anointed                                       157

17. Earthen Vessels                                       175

18. Explication of Selected Verses            193

19. Historical Sidelights                              219

20. Conclusion                                               237

Bibliography                                                   241

About the Author                                           243

Chapter 1:  Whose Testament Is It?

What one thing did Jesus say with greater repetition than any other single thing and why is that statement overlooked by almost everyone?

Why did the apostles exalt Jesus but never quote him?

In the Sermon on the Mount, why did Jesus use such phrases as “Ye have heard it said of old time…” when He might have used the more definitive, “It is written”?

Why, after the Resurrection, do Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the angels decline to speak the words of the saving gospel to any penitent believers (Cornelius, the Ethiopian Eunuch, Saul of Tarsus), directing them instead to Christians for this message?

How could the thief on the cross have been saved without baptism? (And no, the answer you’ll find here will not be entirely what you have heard before—within the church or without.)

Why must we be careful not to read the events of Jesus’ public ministry as though the people about him were Christians, discussing Christian issues, developing Christian virtues?

Why does Acts 2:34-36 state that the crucified Jesus was “ascended into heaven” and was “made… Christ” by the Father, after the Resurrection, when Jesus was already “the Christ” before the crucifixion (as per Matt. 16:15-17)?

Why does the word “Messiah” not appear in the Bible after the crucifixion?

Inasmuch as the Bible states that “grace… came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17), why did Jesus never mention “grace” in the years before His crucifixion?

The answers to these questions—all of which are interrelated—await you in the pages of this book.

This study touches upon a diversity of Biblical themes, and builds its cases using many arguments that have never before been applied to the subject at hand. But it has to begin with a question that, to some, will sound unenlightened or even naïve. To certain others it will sound unwarranted. That question is this: Which portions of scripture comprise the New Testament? The reasons for asking that question will soon be shown, but for now it will have to be accepted that its ramifications are considerable.

Meanwhile, to be sure we do not take anything for granted, we ought to begin by establishing, from the start, whose testament the New Testament is. Once we’ve done that, we will be better prepared to answer our question.

“Testament” and “covenant” are words used interchangeably in the Bible. They refer to the same thing. We must be careful not to let the idea of a scriptural “canon” creep into our thinking when we consider testaments. A testament is not a canon. It is something else, as will be discussed below. It was men, not God, who decided to “canonize” the testaments.

Regardless, in the books that men have identified for us as the Old Testament, we see Jehovah God dominating the scene, or at least we see Him taking the lead role as the “speaker,” (so to speak) when words come to man from heaven. He establishes a covenant—actually a series of them—between Himself and man. Perhaps a better way of saying it is that God the Father was the testator, but rather than risk any hairsplitting over terms, let’s just say for now that He is the “speaker.” As for the term “covenant” or “testament,” we might find varying definitions, but if one were to say that God’s covenant or testament expresses the will of God—i.e., the things God wants from us—it does not seem likely that many would quibble with that working definition either. Some might contend that Moses was the testator of the Mosaical Covenant, but none would deny that that covenant expressed the will of Jehovah, not the will of Moses.

Someone’s covenant or testament is what they want. Today, when people die and are buried, their “last will and testament” is read. It reveals the intentions they have regarding their estate. It expresses their wishes. It’s what they want.

Yes, the word “testament” carries additional meanings in the sense of including the idea of promises or a pact, of blessings or curses, as well as conditions, but those sidelights are not relevant to the matters at hand. We are concerned here with doctrine, or law. We are concerned here with Biblical commands. While it might be possible that a testament can entail something more than the will of God, it can never be anything less than the will of God. And it’s in that sense, the sense of it as God’s will, that this inquiry into the testaments has been undertaken.

At any rate, we have determined that as long as God’s “Old Covenant” or “Old Testament” was in effect, Jehovah God was the one whose will was being expressed. It’s what He wanted. “Thy will be done,” as Jesus Himself said.

Now, if there came a change in the testament, and with it a change in the testator, when did that change occur?

In Hebrews 9:16-18, we read, “For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. (17) For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood.” (New King James Version. The NKJV was used here because it uses “testament,” rather than exclusively using “covenant,” though the meanings are the same. Elsewhere in this book, the New American Standard will be used, unless another translation is indicated.)

It can be seen how this scripture might lay things open to some disputation. Someone of a different opinion could argue here, for instance, that for the Old Testament to be “of force,” or ratified, it could only be so if Jehovah God were to have died. And obviously that is not the case. We can see that (A) there was death, and shedding of blood, even if it was only animal’s blood, to maintain the terms of that earlier testament, and (B) besides, Jesus, who was also God, ratified the Old Covenant when He died on the cross anyway, and (C) it can be argued that the Old (Mosaical) Covenant was never fully fulfilled during its “run” anyway. But these are all beside the point, where the matter at hand is concerned. That’s because it is clear from the scriptures quoted above that Jesus is the testator to whom the author of Hebrews refers.

I do not know of anyone who offers any serious opposition to that. And if Jesus is the testator, then it is His testament. The New Testament is Jesus’ Testament. It’s what He wants. It’s Jesus’ will.

But how would Jesus have the authority to declare His will to all men?

He Himself says, after His crucifixion, that, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” (Matt. 28:18.) That should be sufficient.

Before we proceed, however, that scripture merits extra scrutiny, for it rarely gets the attention it deserves. Can it really mean what it says? Shouldn’t it mean that Jesus is allowed to exercise pretty much total authority, but that Jehovah stands ready to resume authority—presumably an authority that He still actually retains—in case He’s needed to? In other words, isn’t this transfer of power—or perhaps unrestricted sharing of power—simply an honorary gesture? The question is not asked to summon any uncomfortable images about Divine government, for it has to be, and is, perfect, but rather it is asked to draw attention to the magnitude of the statement itself. It straightforwardly says that, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” There is nothing anyone could say that is more sweeping, more infinite.

Jesus gave to the Father everything that Jesus had to give, including His life. But here’s what some people are hesitant to accept: the Father then gave to Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth. We know from scripture that at the end of things Jesus will give everything back to the Father. (I Cor. 15:23-24: “But each in its own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, (24) then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.”)  But in the meanwhile, Jesus exercises all authority. His will be done.

But our topic was the New Testament. And if, then, Jesus is the one whose will is being expressed in the New Testament, and if He does not begin to express His will until after His death, then we can apply a test to help clarify this claim. We can go to those portions of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John that describe events before the cross, and there we can expect to find that a contrasting condition applies. We should expect to find there that Jesus does not relate His own will, nor even His own words. And that is what we find in remarks such as these:

(John 5:30)  “…I do not seek my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.”

(John 12:49-50)  “For I did not speak on my own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. (50) I know that his commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”

(John 14:24)  “… and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.”

Jesus makes 14 such comments in the book of John. John the Baptist makes another: “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God…” (John 3:34).

And yet, once Jesus has been raised (after His death/burial/resurrection), we see Him say something vastly different, as in His statement about “all authority.” And the night before the crucifixion, we see Him make this prophetic statement:

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:13)

The differences should be plain. Jesus before the cross did not speak “of His own initiative.” He spoke the Father’s words. The Father’s wishes. The Father’s will. Now, however, things have changed. Jesus will begin (after the Resurrection) to speak His own words, and it is the Holy Spirit who “will not speak of His own initiative. He will… take of mine and will disclose it to you.” The Holy Spirit is to do for Jesus what the Holy Spirit did for the Father. And Jesus is to relate to the Holy Spirit in the same way that the Father related to the Holy Spirit: as the One whose will is to be heeded. And this is a difference. It is not the same as things have been.

Thus, at this point (in John 16, on the night before the crucifixion), we see that a change is imminent. There is about to be a change in the covenant, or testament, and a different person, Jesus, is soon to be the testator, the one who will be expressing His (own) will. He is about to become the “speaker.” Up to this point He has not been the speaker, regardless of what people assume from their readings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, before the cross. In those texts He was Messiah and prophet, and like all prophets He did not speak His own words. It cannot be said strong enough: those words that Jesus uttered during His public ministry are not Jesus’ words. None of them are. Not one. Jesus goes to pains to say so.

But a testament is what someone wants. It’s what someone says. Here in the Upper Room, during the Last Supper, Jesus allows that He soon will begin to speak. He will soon begin to dictate His own desires and designs. He has not done so yet, and that is important. But He will soon begin to express what He wants.

Thus, all that follows in the book of Acts, as well as all the epistles, is the will or testament of Christ. It begins after the cross. Not at Matthew 1:1.

And, just as Dan Billingsly (see my notes on him in the chapter devoted to his ideas/writings) has noted, all that precedes the death/burial/resurrection, all the material in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (before the cross), is the (Old Covenant or Testament) will of Jehovah, not the will of Jesus. Jesus says so. We should not be so disinclined to believe Him.

Only the authority of the glorified Jesus Christ, in Acts 2–Revelation 22, could ever take precedence for us over the authority of Jesus Christ in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, before the cross. But that condition—and, just as important, the fulfillment of the Old Covenant, a fulfillment that separates those two ages—gives us reason, and even Divine command, to regard it as so. It is a serious matter. It reflects the greater authority of the Risen Savior, as compared to the Nazarene, the last prophet to Israel, holy though He was. It is an authority that was paid for with His blood.

Only by approaching the scriptures this way do we fully glorify and magnify Jesus Christ, for only this way do we portray Him as being in true possession of all the authority He holds. He was more than just the messenger. He is the testator of an entirely New Testament.

Dan Billinsgly’s insights into the Bible signal a huge shift in Biblical exegesis. If Jesus is not mixing up Old Covenant and New Covenant teachings in His public ministry, which is presented in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, before the cross (MMLJBC), then our understanding of the Bible is changed not only for those books but for all that follow.

The first 17 chapters in the Book of John are devoted to Jesus’ pre-cross ministry. In the span of those 17 chapters, there are 15 announcements made that Jesus was either (A) not doing His own will, or (B) not speaking His own words.

So it’s worth another moment’s perusal. Let’s consider those other 11 verses in John that we have not examined yet. And let us recall, as we do so, that a testament is someone’s own will. It’s what He wants. It’s what He Himself has to say.

4:34: “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.’ ”

6:38: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

7:16-17: “So Jesus answered them and said, ‘My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. (17) If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.’ ”

8:26: “… He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world.”

8:28: “… I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.”

8:38: “I speak the things which I have seen with My Father…”

14:10: “…the words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.”

15:15: “… but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

17:4: “I have glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.”

17:8: “for the words which You gave Me I have given to them…”

17:14: “I have given them Your word…”

Are these the words of someone who is expressing His own will? Or are they exactly the opposite? What, indeed, is a testament, if it is not what someone wants, or what that someone says, or what that someone wills? If it used to refer to someone’s desires, then ceased to mean that, when did it cease to do so? Can we be so steeped in Catholic or denominational tradition that we no longer can look at a plain English word (testament) and recognize it for what it means? Have we become so used to thinking of a testament as a canon of scripture (and “canon” is not a Biblical word) that we question our own understandings of what it means?

Much of the difficulty today lies in the fact that people do not truly grasp what a testament is, and they do not understand all of what happened at the cross. Nor do they grasp the immensity of the change that occurred in heaven after the cross. Many Christians say that they understand that Jesus, after His ascension, is giving us His commands and His Word in Acts through Revelation, but in practice these people show that they grasp that idea only tentatively. One can tell by the way they handle scripture. To hear them, it is as though it is really only the apostles talking in Acts through Revelation. While they may admit that the apostles are inspired, they do not appear to give much thought to who the Inspirer is, other than simply “God.” People pay lip service to the idea that Jesus is speaking in those books, but in their minds they resist the idea, reserving for themselves the image of Jesus doing His talking back in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Well, He didn’t. Those 15 verses in John are as plain and direct as they can be. Jesus is not giving His own words, or doing His own will, in His public ministry. That’s not to say that Jesus disagreed in any fashion with the Father. We know that Jesus believed in, and strove to do, the Father’s will. But the New Covenant is a different thing from the Old Covenant, and while the Father’s and the Son’s aims were in harmony, the details, or laws, involved in each covenant had to be different, necessarily, because the covenants themselves were different. And each covenant had to come from a Divine will. So we have our basis for understanding that the Son could, in His proper turn, give His own will, and it could be something different, because it came in succession to the Father’s will. Moreover, it displaces some of the Father’s will—that being the Father’s covenant will—but only because Jesus had fulfilled that will for the Father.

This, then, is Jesus’ most oft-repeated statement in His earthly life—that He was not speaking His own words or doing His own will. When we add to this the direct and indirect references He makes to His role as a prophet—references that affirm the same condition, that of relaying Another’s will or words—the emphasis is even more pronounced. And yet it is a thought that has been ignored for at least a few hundred years, and perhaps much longer.

If someone rejects this idea and persists in believing that Jesus, as a prophet, is giving His own words in MMLJBC, then he has to answer for himself whether Ezekiel, say, was giving Ezekiel’s own words in the book of Ezekiel. Did Ezekiel give his own words, or the words of the Father? Prophets speak the words of God, not their own words. It’s the Father’s testament, not Ezekiel’s testament. As Peter wrote, in II Peter 1:21: “No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

But as for Jesus speaking in Acts through Revelation, there is no question. Even the traditionalists admit it, when the question is put to them. Jesus is speaking there. What’s being asserted in this discussion is that those are the only books in which we can hear His will for our lives as Christians.

Incidentally, if Jesus is not the one speaking, ruling, writing, and giving the New Testament in, say, the book of Romans, then one has no basis for asserting that God the Father is the one giving the Old Testament in, say, the book of Ruth. We need to understand what a testament is and how it is given by inspiration. It is given by deity through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, discerning the will of the Father or the Son, revealed to us both testaments. We know that, when Jesus was on earth, the Holy Spirit was speaking to and through Him, as the Holy Spirit did through the other prophets, but the scriptures do not give us any indication that Jesus was then dictating covenant law through the Holy Spirit—not as He clearly begins to do at Pentecost. We must speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.

In MMLJBC, we do not see Jesus commanding the Holy Spirit, but rather heeding Him. We see a Jesus emptied of His [heavenly] glory, One who emphatically denies any notion that He might be doing His own will, or giving His own Word. That comes later.

Chapter 2: How a Testament is Given

This discussion is an enlargement upon the topic that was being covered at the end of the foregoing chapter. There’s another way to approach the matter, and it is covered below. It is probably more illuminating than what we’ve already covered.

It requires us to pose a (for now) hypothetical situation. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, before the cross (MMLJBC) is scripture whose meaning is disputed. Yes, it’s likely that some readers will say they have no reason to dispute it, while others will say that this argument being made here already amounts to a disputation. But just in case some reader is yet unconvinced of what’s been said here, let us just assume that MMLJBC poses a problem for us in deciding to which covenant or testament it belongs.

That being the case, we have a principle we can employ that is used widely in our brotherhood. It’s a principle for scriptural interpretation, and it goes like this: any difficult passages we encounter (in this case, MMLJBC) must be interpreted in light of what we understand about related passages that are simpler, plainer, and easier to understand.

Fortunately for us, our “difficult” passage, MMLJBC, is sandwiched between two related passages that will serve us quite well in this regard. Fortunately for us, these two blocks of scripture are simpler, plainer, and easier for us to understand, at least insofar as our critical issues are concerned. Because of that, our comparions ought to bear fruit.

The passage before MMLJBC is simply this: it’s the Old Testament books (most of them, it turns out) running from, say, Deuteronomy and going through Malachi. Can we determine how a testament is revealed in these books? Yes. It goes like this: the Father, on His throne in heaven, is the One in authority, and His will is conveyed, through the Holy Spirit, and sometimes then through angels, to His prophets, apostles (apostle means “one sent”), and other inspired spokespeople or writers on earth.

Now—as for that passage that falls after MMLJBC: that would be Acts 2 through Revelation 22. Can we determine how a testament is revealed in these books? Yes. It goes like this: the Son, on His throne in heaven, is the One in authority and His will is conveyed, through His Holy Spirit, and sometimes then through angels, to His prophets, apostles, and other inspired spokespeople or writers on earth.

No one, to my knowledge, raises any seriously regarded opposition to the points I’ve made thus far.

So now we’re ready for our comparison. T o which of these patterns does MMLJBC, our “problematical” (disputed) scripture, conform? Is the testament revealed in MMLJBC as it is revealed in the Old Testament books of Deuteronomy through Malachi? Or is the testament revealed in MMLJBC as it is revealed in Acts 2 through Revelation 22?

We can see from the scriptures that there is no problem conforming it to the pattern of Deuteronomy-Malachi. In MMLJBC we still have the Father, on His throne in heaven, in authority. “Thy will be done,” as Jesus Himself prayed.

We know, too, that anywhere the Holy Spirit is mentioned in MMLJBC, the Spirit will be doing the will of the Father. That is, we know so unless we find some evidence that He is doing the will of the Son instead or besides. And since we already know the Spirit’s relation to the Father in these books, the critical passages for us will be those that show the Son’s interaction with the Spirit. If the books follow the Deuteronomy-Malachi patterns, Jesus will be taking his directives from the Spirit, not vice versa. If the books follow the pattern of Acts 2-Revelation 22, then the Holy Spirit will “take of Mine [Jesus] and will disclose it to you [the apostles].” In other words, if the books follow the patterns of Acts 2-Revelation 22, the Spirit will take His directives from Jesus.

That’s because the Holy Spirit is the revealer of the Word. The Word originates with either the Father or the Son, and goes to the Spirit, who reveals it to the prophets, apostles, and other instruments, regardless of which testament is being considered. The Holy Spirit always fills this role. The whole Bible is, in this sense, “written” by the Holy Spirit.

So, again, the passages in MMLJBC that describe the relationship between the Son and the Spirit ought to show us which testament we are in. Here are four I found that appear to have some bearing on this question:

Matt. 4:1. “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted by the devil.”

Mark 1:12. “Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness.”

Luke 4:1. “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Holy Spirit in the wilderness.”

Luke 4:14. “And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit…”

If these are descriptive of the New Testament of Jesus Christ, they seem to be moving in the wrong direction. If this is indeed the New Testament, we should see Jesus commanding or directing the Spirit, not vice versa. And as for being “in the power of the Spirit,” that is a phenomenon we later associate with such apostles as Paul. So surely this phrase cannot refer to commanding the Spirit, because Paul could not command the Spirit. The Spirit commanded Paul.

Incidentally, Jesus is another who is called an apostle in scripture. (“Therefore… consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.” Heb. 3:1) Understanding as we do that “apostle” means “one sent,” we realize that Jesus could have been an apostle only during his earthly ministry, because only then was he “sent” from God. Afterwards, He was received back up into heaven and was no longer “sent.” And we know, too, that Jesus was a prophet, but He was a prophet only during His public ministry.

We also see in the scriptures that the Spirit empowered Jesus to do the works He did. This empowerment began at His baptism and the power remained with Him through his earthly ministry. I’ll cite just one verse: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel [transl.: “the good news”] to the poor.” (Luke 4:18). But again this is consistent with the Deuteronomy-Malachi pattern, with what we see God doing with His Old Testament prophets, who performed their miracles by the power of the Spirit.

In Acts 2-Revelation 22, however, Jesus is not shown to be empowered by the Spirit. Nor is He even on earth anymore. So we do not find consistency between MMLJBC and Acts 2-Revelation 22. There is not the consistency that exists between Deuteronomy-Malachi and MMLJBC. In both of these earlier sections, the Father’s prophets, including Jesus, are all empowered by a Spirit sent by the Father, and are all doing the Father’s will.

It’s different in Acts 2-Revelation 22. Yes, there is still empowerment of apostles and prophets, but the difference lies in where the authority originates. In Acts 2, the apostles were empowered when Jesus, not the Father, sent His Spirit to empower them. Earlier, Jesus had prophesied as much. (John 16:7: “… if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”) Empowerment by the Spirit is something to be received. Its presence indicates not that the recipient holds all authority, but that One with all authority has sent His Spirit to this recipient.

At any rate, we now have demonstrated that all the elements are in place to confirm that our “disputed” passage, which is MMLJBC, conforms to the Old Testament (as in Deuteronomy-Malachi) pattern. We have seen that the Father in heaven is the One in authority. His will is conveyed, through the Holy Spirit, to His prophets and apostles (and Christ qualified as either). We do not have Christ directing the Holy Spirit; if anything, we have just the opposite. (For a fuller exploration, see the chapter entitled “Not His Own Prophet.”)

On the other hand, we cannot find evidence that MMLJBC conforms to the pattern of the New Testament of Acts 2-Revelation 22. That is because, in those books, we have Christ in heaven as the One in authority, whereas in MMLJBC we have Christ on earth as the prophet, doing the will of the Father, rather than His own will. In Acts 2-Revelation 22, we have the Holy Spirit heeding Christ, whereas in MMLJBC we have Christ heeding the Holy Spirit.

How, then, are these books (MMLJBC) supposed to be about Jesus Christ issuing His New Testament?

When we leave MMLJBC and move into the books that are unquestioned and unchallenged as New Testament scripture—these being Acts 2-Revelation 22—we see something different. There we see the relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit conforming to a pattern that we ought to expect to encounter, if this is New Testament scripture:

(Acts 2:32-33)  “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. (33) Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.”

And further on we read of the Holy Spirit as being Christ’s:

(Acts 16:7)  “… they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.”

(Romans 8:2)  “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

(Romans 8:9)  “… But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”

(Phil. 1:19)  “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”

(I Peter 1:11)  “…seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating…”

By contrast, however, we can look back to MMLJBC—specifically to Matthew 10:20, during Christ’s giving of the “limited commission”—and we find Jesus then identifying the Spirit as the Father’s, just as we should expect: “For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”

And again in 12:28, He speaks of casting out demons “by the Spirit of God.” Thus, the Spirit at that time, before the cross, was still the Father’s. The Father had not yet given the Spirit to the Son.

Clearly, a change occurred after the cross, and that change was a change of testators. If either Father or Son is to inspire, or “God-breathe,” the Word, it follows that that Word will be inspired only when the Holy Spirit is in such position as to heed the testator, not to direct Him. For Jesus and the Holy Spirit, that came after the cross.

THUS CONCLUDES Chapter 2. Below appear some selected excerpts from the remainder of the book.

Page 23:

Traditionalists who treat Jesus’ offices of prophet, priest (or mediator), and king as being concurrent ignore the all-important sequential differences that apply to these. As a result, they’ve got Him mediating before He is mediator, and they’ve got Him issuing kingly decrees before He is crowned King. One might say, “Well, I don’t care—the scriptures also show Him to be our Creator, and so anything He wants to do is fine with me, whenever He wants to do it.” Well, it is not fine with some of us, because we believe He paid a great price for His authority to mediate between God and man, a great price for that crown that allowed Him His kingship over us. He paid a great price to be the author of the New Testament. As Dan Billingsly so often says, Jesus “was raised to be our Savior.” It is the Risen Savior who saves us. It is the High Priest made perfect through suffering who intercedes for us. It is the King crowned in Heaven who rules over us and ordains for us His will.

Page 42:

Viewed in this way, context in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is so much simpler. Everything is either a discourse on the Old Law or it is a parable or prophecy of the kingdom that is to come at Pentecost. The context is broad and consistent. It is no longer a patchwork, with Jesus speaking here about the Old Law, and here about the New. It is no longer a back-and-forth testimony without clear transitions between the digressions. It is no longer a set of discourses in which the only road map is the “context” that traditionalists keep telling us is so clear but that suddenly seems to have become vulnerable to disputation. Traditionalists keep saying that the broader the context, the more light is shed upon the scripture. That is true. But theirs is the narrower context. To take Billingsly’s position, to say that the doctrinal statements in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are all about the Old Law—that is broad, simple, consistent context. Are we not entitled to expect that the Word be plain and simple? Yet when the traditionalists maintain, as they do, that the doctrinal statements in those books are a constant jumping back and forth between covenants—what we are seeing is a lot of narrower contexts mixed together. How can traditionalists justify their much-narrower, constantly shifting contexts without specific scriptural support for doing so? If anyone is to make an appeal to context, the burden of proof lies on the defender of the narrower context. It is incumbent upon the traditionalists to prove that God gave us piecemealed context, since scripture nowhere tells us expressly that God is giving us this context piecemeal, nor that He is alternating between covenants. That’s all just assumed.

Pages 91-93:

One of the biggest objections to this “covenants” interpretation of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is the insistence by many that Jesus is “laying groundwork” for His New Covenant in these books, and hence they contain New Testament commands. Others try to suggest the same thing when they declare that “No one can deny that Jesus uttered many remarks that were ‘anticipatory’ of the New Covenant that went into force at Pentecost.” They say this as though the statement, left unchallenged, would constitute proof that MMLJBC itself is New Testament scripture. This approach conveniently avoids the issue of whether or not Jesus uttered New Testament commands in MMLJBC. That’s the question the traditionalists must face. They cannot be allowed to sidestep it by suggesting that Jesus was being “anticipatory,” and then leaning heavily on the unspoken inference that “if anticipatory, then a part of” the New Testament. Does the reader see the subtle progression there? The mere suggestion that Jesus was “anticipatory” in His remarks in MMLJBC seems to say to us that Jesus was therefore giving us New Testament scripture in MMLJBC. To unquestioningly take this leap, though, is to miss something important. This approach, convincing though it sounds, stops short of saying that Jesus was giving us New Testament commands in MMLJBC. Those who employ it could be hoping that we will forge ahead and make the mental connection they are hoping for, and that we will then dismiss any competing ideas.

Now, no one argues the idea of “anticipatory” statements existing in MMLJBC, and therein lies the subtlety of this traditionalist stance. But the real question is this: What kind of anticipatory statements were made? Because if they were merely prophetical utterances, then we have not addressed here the question of Covenant Law. Again, the question that must be met is this: Did Jesus dictate New Covenant Law in MMLJBC? We cannot sidestep that question by merely hinting that He was “anticipatory,” and then hoping that it will settle the matter. It won’t….

How can people say that it was necessary for Jesus to lay groundwork when the Bible offers us no evidence that any groundwork ever achieved its desired effect? If Jesus’ followers were still confused about the nature and workings of the New Covenant right up to the day before the New Covenant was proclaimed (Pentecost), then we have to question the effectiveness of any so-called “groundwork”…. Was not the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection not enough evidence of who He was and what He was about?

The Bible makes it clear that Jesus’ Resurrection was the most profound incident in Jesus’ mission on earth….

Page 129:

It’s time we dispelled some existing or potential misconceptions. Billingsly is not saying that Jesus did not exist. Billingsly is not saying that Jesus did not utter the words that are attributed to Him in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. He is not saying that Jesus said those words, but that they are false. He is not saying that those words have no value for us today. Billingsly is not saying that we are to disregard the words of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, before the cross. He is not even saying that MMLJBC cannot inspire us to become Christians. As long as we understand that Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection saves us, we can find our inspiration to respond to that promise from any source we want. We can find that inspiration in the stories of Moses, as well as in those of Paul. We can find that inspiration in the life of Jesus as well. We can find our inspiration for becoming a Christian in the lives lived by other Christians. We can find our inspiration anywhere we want, and no one can stop us from doing so. In one sense, all that Billingsly is doing is questioning the context in which Christ’s pre-cross statements are given. Billingsly takes Jesus at His word when Jesus says that those words (in MMLJBC) are not His words, but the Father’s words.

Page 154:

When people try to maintain that Jesus was giving New Testament commands during His earthly, public ministry, they have Him “forth telling” as His own prophet. That cannot be. We must determine whose will the prophet is “forth telling”—whether it be the Father’s, as in the Old Covenant, or the Son’s, as in the New. We see immediately that to be a prophet at all means that one is not “forth telling” one’s own will. To be a prophet is to be in “receiving mode.” It is to be receiving and relaying. It has nothing to do with conceiving, deciding, theologizing, or initiating. When looking at the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, before the cross, many people have a hard time accepting the idea that He is not coming up with His statements on His own. He certainly “sounds” as though He’s coming up with them on His own. But then so did most of the other prophets who came before Him. If one allows that Jesus is speaking His own mind, then one has opened the door for the other, earlier prophets to be speaking theirs. Again, as Peter wrote, prophecy comes only when men “moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” To be in receiving mode means that the message itself has to come from someone other than the speaker.

We know that Jesus was still a prophet through his last days, because He Himself says, on approaching Jerusalem for the last week of His life, that “it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem.” Thus, at this late date, it is clear that He is still a prophet, and it is clear from His words that He would perish as a prophet. He would perish still speaking and doing the will of the Father, not His own will.

All of which points us to a broader conclusion that may already have begun to take shape in the reader’s mind through exposure to the various arguments made thus far in this book. It is a conclusion that is so simple, so fundamental, that it’s possible some might find it almost too simplistic to believe. That’s the danger here—not that it will be too deep or complex, but that it will be so stark and so close-to-the-face that it will be hard for some to grasp. But the facts bear it out.

The conclusion is this: When the message originates with the Father, it is the Father’s covenant. When the message originates with the Son, it is the Son’s covenant. But let us remember that the Son, before the cross, consistently disavowed any notion that He might be speaking His own will.

To state it even more simply: The Father’s words are the Father’s testament. The Son’s words are the Son’s Testament.

Can anything be simpler than that? All that comes from the Father is the Father’s testament, and nothing that does not come from the Father can be the Father’s testament. Likewise, all that comes from the Son is the Son’s testament, and nothing that does not come from the Son can be the Son’s testament. The Son gives testimony first for the Father, before the cross, and then for Himself, after the cross. And the Son denies—repeatedly, emphatically, rigorously—in the teachings before the cross, that He is then stating His own will.

The proper test of any testament is the source of the testament.

Page 168:

Thus, given the fact that the baptismal anointing was accompanied by empowerment, we have identified this anointing as His prophetic anointing, and have done so positively, and not just by elimination, which we had already done. Consider what Jesus says of His works during His pre-cross ministry, works that are described in Luke 7:21-22: “At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. (22) And He answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.’ ” These are works of empowerment and proclamation. These are the works of a prophet.

Returning for a moment to the matter of Jesus’ priesthood, let us consider this. We have established the timeframe for Jesus’ anointing as priest—that it had to occur after he had suffered and after he had “arisen” to the office “by the power of an indestructible life”—so it is now that we can give special attention to a much-overlooked verse in Hebrews, that being Heb. 7:12: “For when a priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of the law also.” We have established when the priesthood changed: it changed after the crucifixion. Might this mean that this is when the law, and thus the Testament, changed? That is the literal meaning here. To get anything else out of it, one would have to read something into it. This verse does not say, as so many traditionalists do say today, that the law had already been decreed (before the cross) and here finally went “into force.” This verse clearly states that the law changed (which is more than merely saying it was “in force”) and it states precisely when it changed. If the law changed only when the priesthood changed, then the law changed from Old Law to New Law—from Old Testament to New Testament—after the cross, not before.

Meanwhile, we have established that of the three offices held by Christ, two of these began for Him after the crucifixion. It was for the office of prophet, and for no other office, that Jesus was anointed at His baptism. Only the office of prophet was fulfilled by Christ before His crucifixion.

Furthermore, as prophet He would not have been His own prophet. That much was established in the previous chapter. Jesus on earth would not have been doing the will of an enthroned Jesus in heaven, a Jesus who was issuing His will through the Holy Spirit to His prophets on earth, of whom the earthly Jesus would have been one. We are given no indications in the Bible that Jesus was in two places at once. He could not be ordaining His will from heaven and acting as prophet below, on earth. No, Jesus was instead the prophet of Jehovah. Jesus did the will of the Father. Jesus said so Himself—with frequency. He spoke the will of the Father. The Father’s will, in the form of the Old Covenant, was advanced in each book of the Old Testament from Exodus on, and it was advanced in MMLJBC as well.

Based on our findings here, the idea of being the “Jewish Messiah” hardly seems distinguishable from the idea of being a Hebrew prophet, albeit an extraordinary one. But that is as we should expect to find it.

It is only later, after the crucifixion, after Jesus’ coronation, that He was given authority to use the Holy Spirit to express His will. He was then empowered to use, not to be used by, or be empowered by. This distinction makes all the difference in the world. After the cross, Jesus is not empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is something larger than that. No, here He actually receives the Holy Spirit from the Father (Acts 2:33). To be given the Holy Spirit is a much larger thing than to be used by the Holy Spirit. He is given the Holy Spirit that He might empower whomever He pleases. He is given the Holy Spirit that He might express His Word, His will, His Testament, which we find in Acts and all the books that follow Acts.

Again, there’s a good reason why the offices of priest and king are separated—by the cross—from the office of prophet. It’s because the offices of priest and king are functions of the new (Christian) dispensation, whereas the office of prophet of Jehovah was a function of the Old Testament….

Returning to the question of Jesus being a prophet, we have established that He is not a prophet in this Christian dispensation. He is instead the ruler of this dispensation. Prophets need someone from whom to take orders. Jesus had prophets doing His bidding in the first century. When Jesus Himself was a prophet, He was doing the bidding of the Father, as communicated to Him via the Holy Spirit.

Being an Old Testament prophet, He was empowered by the Father to declare the Father’s will—in other words, to add to the Old Testament body of scripture, to make fresh declarations of law that were to be received under the covenant that was in force at the time, which was the Old Covenant. It was the prerogative of every prophet, or rather of every prophet’s guide, the Holy Spirit, to declare the Father’s law, and the Father’s law was part of the Father’s covenant. Being divine, Jesus had the additional quality of being able to forgive sins. Thus, He could save (or restore) those who had already obtained entrance into the kingdom—those who were already of a fleshly [Jewish] birth. And because these Jews were already in the family—already had the fleshly birth—immersion was not necessary and all that stood between them and eternal salvation was His forgiveness of their sins, which was granted them upon their (expression of) faith in the Jewish Savior who stood before them.

It is for this reason that Jesus nowhere demands immersion whenever He states the terms of salvation to His people, during His public ministry. It’s purely a Jewish salvation, prior to the cross. (Matt. 1:21: “…you shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” Which people does this verse show Him saving? His people. His people were the Jews…)

For a copy of Rightly Divided, send $16.95 (postpaid) to the author: Jesse Mullins, 817 Elmwood Drive, Abilene, TX 79615. Or call 469.371.7323.



One Response to “Rightly Divided: Preface, Chaps 1 & 2, plus Selected Excerpts”

  1. David says:

    can you please tell my about the kingdom of God that Jesus talk about before the cross. Was it new testament teaching???

    thank you

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