Title: Names of God; part 34. Being a son in the house of YHVH.
Christianity first came into a Jewish world that was framed with a Jewish world view.
As we know, this world view centered around the works of the law which was accompanied by the oral law of the rabbis and its meaning was man attaining righteousness through attaining and keeping those laws.
The area of what was to become known as Palestine lied at the center of the trade routes from Egypt to Assyria (Iran) and from Arabia to Asia Minor which led to the Continent. Palestine was constantly fought over and was ever a place of greed, wars, and seedy politics. The moral cult developed by the Jews from misinterpreting the Mosaic law and their oral law gave them an identity separate from all others who took turns ruling them.
Despite all of the sects that had developed in Judaism, all Jews believed in the law, an ethical monotheism, and an eschatological hope in the Messiah to come.
ACT 13:14 But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.
ACT 13:15 And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, "Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it."
ACT 13:16 And Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand, he said,
map: Jewish diaspora
However, the Jews were not only in Palestine. The Jews formed important communities in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor, and Rome. They had proselytized many Gentiles in these areas as well. These communities did not assimilate into the culture of their neighbors, but remained separate and distinct and practically self-governing. In the Roman Empire, Judaism was declared a legal religion. These Jewish centers became an important aspect to the spread of early Christianity.
The Jews of the Diaspora, notably those in Alexandria, had been Hellenized (Greek-afied) and desiring to show that their religion was linked to Greek thought, Gnosticism sprung upon the Jews and the church.
The most famous of these Hellenistic Jews was Philo of Alexadria who taught that the Jewish Scriptures and Plato said the same thing. He needed to use many allegories to show this.
Much could be said of his teaching and what developed into Gnosticism and all the sects that Gnosticism developed into. Suffice to say that they believed that matter and the world were evil and therefore God had not direct relationship with the world and so it would be preposterous for the Son of God to become flesh.
Gnosticism from Hellenistic Jews and the calling back to the law from orthodox Jews were among the earliest attacks upon Christian truth.
Both of these, like all falsehood, taught salvation by some form of works. To the orthodox Jews, salvation was by strictly keeping the Mosaic Law and to the Hellenistic Jews, salvation was by increasing knowledge in the spirit, climbing the ladder of more secret knowledge until the soul is ultimately purified by fully separating itself from all things natural.
1TI 1:18 This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may fight the good fight,
1TI 1:19 keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.
1TI 1:20 Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme.
2TI 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.
2TI 2:16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness,
2TI 2:17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,
2TI 2:18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and thus they upset the faith of some.
They likely taught a Gnostic doctrine of spiritual resurrection without bodily resurrection, which to them was like the concept of the spirit of man that had reached the heights of knowledge being absorbed into the divine.
The Greco-Roman world: syncretism - a combination of varying and often opposed beliefs into one system. The Roman Empire had many competing "mystery cults."
As a result of the conquests of Alexander the Great and the ensuing Roman consolidation of that part of the world in an empire, the Mediterranean basin enjoyed a political and cultural unity never before or since equaled. The cultures of Egypt, Syria, far east, and west came under one canopy and with Roman roads and massive amounts of trading in goods and slaves the religions and cultures of all became known and often adopted. Deities from all over were added to the Roman pantheon. Plus, Greek culture or Hellenism also enveloped all other cultures. The popular thing to do among the pagan in the Greco-Roman world was to be a man of the world who incorporated several different religions and different cultures and ideologies.
By the time of Christ, national religions such as the Egyptian under Ra and the Greek Olympic mythology had fallen away and the mystery religions or cults that had evolved from them became popular in their respective places. Every cult competed with the others. They promised mysteries to the inducted and they worked at recruiting through broadening their worship to include as many gods and diverse doctrines as they could.
The cult of Mithra, a god of Indo-Iranian origin, was very popular with the army. The Great Mother Cybele was also popular.
Paul directly counters this idea with the mystery of the Church to which all are invited to know.
1TI 3:16 And by common confession [not hidden] great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Beheld by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory.
There was also a great love of Greek philosophy. Aristotle was mostly forgotten but Plato grew in fame. Platonism became Neo-Platonism and was very popular, and Stoicism, the natural and universal law of the reason was also very popular.
Since all falsehoods borrow something from God, whatever looked like a similarity to Christianity could be used to appeal to outsiders. This was a grave mistake. The gospel does not need the help of man.
This is just the briefest sketch of the world that Christianity came into. It did not come into a religious void, and so we can imagine how easy it was for many people to distort the strict Christian doctrines to include some aspects of the other religions and cults and their doctrines.
However, in order to make Christianity appealing to others who believed in the mystery cults, Judaism, or Greek philosophy, evangelizing Christians often melded these outside beliefs with scripture. They could portray Mary as a great mother, and her and baby Jesus as mother child worship. They could allegorize scripture to make it sound more like Greek philosophy. These compromises would eventually become movements and they would soon become the source of very bitter theological debates.
Christianity is Christ incarnate. He has come from another world called heaven. He is not a fallen man like we are. The truth of Christianity cannot have anything to do with this world or with our human nature.
1JO 3:1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us [perfect tense: it is our permanent possession], that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
1JO 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.
1JO 3:3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
The faith and therefore hope of being in the image of Christ arouses the determination to be pure like Him.
In contrast to the Christian whose hope is upon the Lord:
1JO 3:4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.
The perpetual sinner (unbeliever) has no law. “Lawlessness” - anomia = without law. Satan is called the anomos, “lawless one.”
All believers are under the law of Christ, the law of the Spirit of life, whether they know it or not, whether they deny it or not. We are all responsible to it, and we will all be disciplined if we reject it.
In other words, the son is in the house and he is under the rules of the house no matter what.
Grace in no way lawlessness. Because we are not under the Mosaic Law we are not lawless. We have the law of Christ as our moral code and it is always over us and has authority over us. We are accountable to it, and when we come to understand it, we will see its beauty, simplicity, and purity.