Monthly letter archive

Monthly Letter, June 2012

Restoring Original Christianity—for Today!

Christian Biblical Church of God

Post Office Box 1442
Hollister, California 95024-1442

Fred R. Coulter,

June 14, 2012

Dear Brethren,

This year’s Elders’ Conference was held May 16-19 at the Greater Cincinnati Hilton in Florence, Kentucky. Attending were the elders and their wives, as well as senior men and their wives. They are truly dedicated servants who love God the Father and Jesus Christ, and are zealously serving the brethren in love and humility, feeding the flock in any way possible. On the Sabbath of May 19, over 150 brethren were present for morning and afternoon services.

In the morning, Wendell Yeary and Norbert Bohnert gave split sermons. Wendell spoke on the importance of holding each other up, and Norbert spoke on “cutting the coal.” Jay Ellis, a newly baptized member, sang a song for special music that he had composed, O How I Love Your Law. Roy Mack was ordained an elder, and Wendell Yeary’s previous ordination was confirmed. In the afternoon, Lawrence Burchfield spoke on love, and I followed speaking on the subject of “grace upon grace.” (All the conference Sabbath sermons were sent to you in our last mailing.) Roy Assanti, our office manager in Australia, is working up a colored brochure with pictures and a summary of the conference. We will forward it to you as soon as it is completed.

Pentecost: From the reports and communications from the brethren writing in and sending e-mails, it is evident that God the Father and Jesus Christ blessed all of us with a tremendous, spirit-filled Feast of Pentecost. As you know, the Feast of the Firstfruits pictures the first resurrection when Jesus is returning to the earth. Pentecost also pictures the beginning and the ending for the Church of God, the body of Christ, Who is the head of the Church. By sending the Holy Spirit in power (as recorded in Acts 2) on the day of the Feast of Pentecost in 30 AD, Jesus began His Church. On a future Pentecost, He will resurrect all the saints from Abel to the Two Witnesses—and we will all meet Christ and God the Father on the Sea of Glass. That event will mark the end of the Church of the Firstborn—the firstfruits of God, changed in the twinkling of an eye from flesh to immortal spirit at the last trumpet. This is the goal of our calling. May God the Father continue to bless you in every way as you grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior.

News and Current Events: There is a lot of news, especially after the “recall” win by Scott Walker in the state of Wisconsin. On the economic front, the USA and Europe are teetering on the edge of the cliff of trillions of dollars of debt—which could cause our economies to implode at any time. It is too early to anticipate when and how things will begin to unravel. However, what happens in the near future will likely give us clues as to how prophecy will continue to unfold. We know end-time events will happen precisely as God has prophesied in the Bible, which may not always be the way we anticipate them. For example, the European Union has nearly collapsed due to the escalating debt of some of its member countries. Yet few anticipated this turn of events. Likewise, the USA is rapidly moving toward debt implosion. This is why we are admonished by Christ to watch. We must always be alert and watch world events, as they sometimes take unexpected turns (as we have seen recently). Perhaps God is telling us that there is much more time in His schedule for the fulfillment of certain prophecies. Consequently, I will wait a little longer before I write about current news items; perhaps I can address them in the July letter. But for this month, it is important that we carefully examine what it means to be “under law.”

Part One
“Under Law” vs. “Under Grace”
What does It Mean to be “Under Law”?

In Protestantism, there is nearly a complete misunderstanding of “grace,” causing a great deal of confusion as to what the Scriptures truly teach. Paul writes that those who have repented, been baptized, and have received the Holy Spirit are not “under law” but “under grace.” But what do these two phrases mean? The traditional (orthodox) Christian interpretation is that the Law has been abolished for Christians and is only for Jews. Hence, anyone who attempts to keep the commandments of God has removed him or herself from being “under grace” and have placed themselves “under law.” Furthermore, it is claimed that those who are keeping the laws and commandments of God are trying to earn salvation by their own works of “law-keeping.” Hence, they have fallen from grace and are under a curse.

Are those assertions true? As we will learn, they are not true—they are utterly false! Rather, such beliefs are the foundation of a “lawless grace,” which Paul calls the “mystery of lawlessness” that was already working early during his ministry (II Thess. 2:7)!

In the apostle Jude’s urgent warning to the brethren, he writes that this lawless grace was spreading quite rapidly in the churches of God before the death of the apostles: “Beloved, when personally exerting all my diligence to write to you concerning the common salvation, I was compelled to write to you, exhorting you to ferventlyfight for the faith, which once for all time has been delivered to the saints. For certain men have stealthily crept in, those who long ago have been written about, condemning them to thisjudgment. They are ungodly men, who are perverting the grace of our God, turning it into licentiousness, and are personally denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 3-4).

Paul vehemently warned the Corinthians: “For indeed, if someone comes preaching another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you did not receive, or a different gospel, which you did not accept, you put up with it as something good…. For such arefalse apostlesdeceitful workers who are transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And it is no marvel, for Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his servants also transform themselves as ministers of righteousness—whose end shall be according to their works” (II Cor. 11:4, 13-15).

This deception of a “lawless grace” continues to this very day, causing muchconfusion in Christianity around the world. Unfortunately, because most churches of God today realize that they are to keep the laws and commandments of God, “grace” is narrowly viewed as merely meaning the “forgiveness of sin.” On the other hand, they do not understand what it really means to be “under law.”

Consequently, the fundamental question is this: What did the apostle Paul actually mean when he wrote, “For sin shall not rule over you because you are not under law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14)? In order to fully comprehend what it means to be “under grace,” we need to understand what it means to be “under law.”

What Does It Mean to be “Under Law”? Let us examine Paul’s writings to determine how he used the phrase “under law.” First, we need to realize that this phrase—“under law”—is more than just a comparison between the Old and the New Covenants. Second, the phrase “under law” does not solely refer to “those who keep the commandments and laws of God.” As we will learn, it only means this in a very limited, narrow sense. Rather, its full meaning is muchbroader. As we will see, Paul is making some profound points about how God deals with everyone in the world—individuals, communities and nations—as they are all “under law” in relation to God.

Paul demonstrates this in his epistle to the Romans: “Are you ignorant, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know law), that THE LAW rules over a man for as long a time as he may live?” (Rom. 7:1). This statement—that “the law rules over every human being as long a time as he/she may live”—clearly defines the meaning of the phrase “under law.” Thus, this Scripture is the key, revealing that everyone—every human being—is “under law” before God, whether they know the laws of God or not.

Here are two fundamental truths regarding God and the Law: 1) God is the one Lawgiver (James 4:12); 2) The laws of God define sin. Notice: “[Where] no law is, there is no transgression…. For before the law [was given to Israel], sin [which is the transgression of the Law] was in the world [because God’s laws are always in full force and effect]. However, sin is not imputed when law does not exist…. [For] through the law isthe knowledge of sin” (Rom. 4:15; 5:13; 3:20).

Consequently, all who are alive today—and all who are dead—are or were “under law” before their Creator God. As the Scriptures show, everyone is subject to God’s Law as long as they live. Therefore, being “under law” is their standing before God. “God is Judge” (Psa. 75:7), and His laws are the standard by which He judges everyone in the world—judges their choices and conduct, whether unto obedience or unto disobedience: “He shall judge the world with righteousness and the people with His truth” (Psa. 96:13; Rom. 3:6). God is activelyjudgingeveryone in the world, and God is not a respecter of persons (Rom. 2:11). All are “under law” before God.

Beginning with Adam and Eve, God set choices before man, as symbolized by the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, disobeying God’s command, they sinned. Consequently, God judged them for their sins and pronounced upon them the sentence of death and exiled them from the Garden of Eden. But the death sentence was not administered immediately. Instead, God placed the “law of death” within them, and they continued to live in this condition for over 900 years before they died.

Paul writes that in God’s judgment against Adam and Eve, the “law of death” became part of their being and passed death on to all their offspring. Consequently, the “law of death” is genetically transmitted as part of human nature. “Therefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and by means of sin came death; and in this way, death passed into all mankind; and it is for this reason that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

All of God’s Laws Automatically Function All the Time: God’s laws are always in full operation—whether they are the laws and commandments defined in the Word of God concerning human conduct, or whether they are the laws that govern every aspect of God’s creation. On earth and throughout the universe, God’s laws governing the physical creation function automatically. Likewise, His laws governing human conduct toward God and between fellow human beings function automatically. Again, all mankind is “under law.”

In addition, God has given each human being free will—free moral agency, choice. God told Israel that all His laws, which are based on the Ten Commandments, automatically result in blessings for obedience, or curses for disobedience. But they had to choose: “Behold, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil, in that I command you this day to love the Lordyour God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments so that you may live and multiply. And the Lordyour God shall bless you in the land where you go to possess it.

“But if your heart turn away so that you will not hear, but shall be drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I denounce to you this day that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days on the land where you pass over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you thatI have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore, choose life, so that both you and your seed may live, that you may love the Lord your God, and may obey His voice, and may cleave to Him; for He is your life and the length of your days, so that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers—to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob—to give it to them” (Deut. 30:15-20).

Paul writes that because death passed into all mankind as part of human nature, this is the reason that “all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). He also further defines this inherent sin as “the law of sin that is within my own members” (Rom. 7:23). Paul then combines the “law of sin” with the “law of death” and describes it as the “law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2), which is within every human being from conception until death. This is why everyone is designated by God as being “under law.” They are “under law” to God and are under the “law of sin and death,” so long a time as they may live.

During His ministry, Jesus Himself, the Creator of mankind, confirmed the sinfulness of human nature, which springs forth from within human beings—from the inherent “law of sin and death.” He said, “For from within, out of the hearts of men, go forth evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickednesses, guile, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness; all these evils go forth from within, and these defile a man” (Mark 7:21-23).

Cut off from God, motivated by a sinful nature, and under the sway of Satan the devil, mankind has become immersed in sin. Paul quotes Scriptures that describe the carnage of human nature down through history. Yet, instead of repenting, men choose to judge, accuse and revile the righteous God for His judgments against their sins: “For what if some did not believe [God or in Him]? Shall their unbelief nullify the faithfulness of God? MAY IT NEVER BE! Rather, let God be true but every man a liar, exactly as it is written: ‘That You [God] might be justified in Your words, and might overcome when You are being judged by men.’ But if our unrighteousness brings to reality God’s righteousness, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous to inflict His wrath? (I am speaking according to man’s view.) MAY IT NEVER BE! Otherwise, how shall God judge the world?... What then? Are we of ourselves better? Not at all! For we have already charged both Jews and GentilesALLwith being under sin” (Rom. 3:3-6, 9).

In conjunction with Paul’s use of the phrase “under law,” he also uses the phrase “under sin,” showing that those who are “under law” are also “under sin”—which confirms that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” because they have within their beings the “law of sin and death.”

Paul continues to lay bare the works of unbridled human nature powered by the inherent “law of sin and death.” Notice: “Exactly as it is written: ‘For there is not a righteous one—not even one! There is not one who understands; there is not one who seeks after God. They have all gone out of the way; together they have all become depraved. There is not even one who is practicing kindness. No, there is not so much as one!

“ ‘Their throats are like an open grave; with their tongues they have used deceit; the venom of asps is under their lips, whose mouths are full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes’

“Now then, we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God!” (verses 10-19). This shows that the whole world is “under law” and is “guilty” before God.

On the other hand, in verse 19, the phrase “under law” in the Greek can also mean “within law.” This reveals that there are people who do keep some of the laws of God, yet they are also “under law”—no one escapes—because “the law rules over a man as long a time as he may live.” In various societies, such people are recognized as good, law-abiding citizens—those who have a form of righteousness to the degree that they keep some of the commandments of God in the letter of the Law. They believe in God or that He exists. Millions also profess a belief in Jesus Christ as Savior and in His shed blood for the forgiveness of their sins. Because they desire to be good and do good, they keep many biblical principles. Many even read the Bible, pray and go to church on Sunday. They love their wives or husbands and their children. They genuinely desire to help people. They believe in law and order in society, and volunteer to help the sick and elderly. They are generous and helpful to those who are poor and less fortunate. Yet they are still unconverted, carnal people. In spite of these good qualities, they have not been called unto salvation.

Without a doubt, they have chosen, taught and disciplined themselves to be as good and decent as they can. These are the ones who have not given themselves over to the depths and depravity of sin. Paul writes of this when he describes the law-abiding actions of people who are not descendants of Israel, who may have never known about God’s Law. Yet, because they are “under law,” God also acknowledges their obedience, even if they only keep some of His laws and principles: “For when the Gentiles, which do not have the law, practice by nature the things contained in the law, these who do not have the law are a law unto themselves; who show the work of the law written in their own hearts, their consciences bearing witness, and their reasonings also, as they accuse or defend one another;) in a day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel” (Rom. 2:14-16). That day of judgment will be the second resurrection (Rev. 20:5, 11-13; Ezek. 37:1-14), which will take place after the completion of the one thousand-year rule of Jesus Christ and the saints (Rev. 20:4-6).

Thus, the Scriptures reveal that in spite of the inherent law of sin and death everyone possesses, this does not make them totally incapable of obeying many of the Ten Commandments in the letter of the Law. As we know, people can obey God in this manner. Thankfully, the majority of people fall into this category—because they have been taught to do the “right thing” and have the desire to choose the good and to do good.

It should be noted that many Christians today—particularly younger ones—are zealous of good works. Many are involved in mission work or various community outreach programs. Yet they do not make the distinction between “good works”—feeding the hungry, building homes for the homeless, etc.—and obedience to God’s commandments. They have been led to believe that “good works” are more or less required, but that “law-keeping” is taboo. Biblically, however, “good works” begin first and foremost by obeying God’s laws. As James wrote, “pure religion” is not just doing good works—i.e., visiting widows and orphans—but keeping oneself unspotted from the sins of the world (James 1:27). Christian leaders seldom talk about sin today, but they are alarmed by what they describe as a growing level of “worldliness” among church members. Perhaps they need to focus less on outreach programs and more on basic obedience to the Ten Commandments.

This is why God gave His laws to the children of Israel through Moses. Notice what God required of them and that they were capable of obeying in the letter of the Law: “Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord our God commanded to teach you so that you might do them in the land where you go to possess it, that you might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you, and your son, and your son’s son, all the days of your life, and so that your days may be prolonged.

“Hear therefore, O Israel, and be diligent to observe it, so that it may be well with you, and that you may greatly multiply, as the Lord God of our fathers has promised you, in the land that flows with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel. Our one God is the Lord, the Lord. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words [in the letter of the Law] which I command you this day shall be in your heart. And you shall diligently teach them to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the posts of your house and on your gates.

“And it shall be when the Lord your God has brought you into the land which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, to give you great and goodly cities which you did not build, and houses full of every good thing which you did not fill, and wells which are dug, which you did not dig; vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you shall eat and be full; then beware lest you forget the Lord Who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt from the house of bondage” (Deut. 6:1-12).

While the words of God are true, those who are “under law” are still lacking the spiritual power to overcome the downward pulls of the flesh driven by inner lust and the “law of sin and death.” Such obedience to the letter of the Law does not mean that they are converted or called to eternal salvation. That is separate operation of God the Father and Jesus Christ, which can only be accomplished through the grace of God.

How God Judges and Responds to Sin and Letter-of-the-Law Obedience: What if there was one righteous man—would God defer His judgment on a people? Yes, He declares that He would. God told Jeremiah, “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in her open places, if you can find a man, if there is one who does justice, who seeks the truth; and I will pardon her [Judah and Jerusalem for their sins and would not sent them into captivity]” (Jer. 5:1).

In another instance, when God was ready to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham bargained with God not to destroy those cities if there were righteous people dwelling there (Gen. 18:21-26). The Lord said He would not destroy the righteous with the wicked—He would spare everyone. Then Abraham asked the Lord if there were only 50 righteous would He spare the city. Again, the Lord said He would spare it for their sake. Abraham continued to ask Him, “what if there were” only 45, then 40, then 30, next 20—and finally he pleaded with the Lord one last time for the sake of only 10 righteous. Notice Abraham’s humble plea to God: “And he said, ‘Oh, do not let the Lord be angry, and I will speak only once more. Perhaps only ten shall be found here.’ And He said,‘I will not destroy it for ten’s sake’” (verse 32). In the end, only Lot and his two daughters were saved alive—a total of three. Then God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities for their extreme wickedness.

God judges all nations the same way. Because He is God and He rules in the kingdoms of men (Dan. 4:17), when His laws and commandments are violated, broken and cast away, He must judge them for their sins and iniquities. However, He always gives space for the wicked to turn from their sins and to repent. God explained to Jeremiah how He rules and judges various nations: “If at any time I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck it up and to pull it down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have spoken, will turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do to them. And if at any time I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build it and to plant it; if it does evil in My sight, that it not obey My voice, then I will repent of the good with which I said I would do them good” (Jer. 18:7-10).

When the children of Israel sinned greatly by making and worshiping the golden calf, Moses pleaded for mercy, forgiveness and grace that God would not destroy all the people (Ex. 33:12-23). God responded by showing some of His glory to Moses and made this proclamation: “And the Lord passed by before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but Who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, to the third and to the fourth generation’ ” (Ex. 34:6-7). God didn’t destroy all the children of Israel and finally brought them into the Promised Land.

In the case of Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire, God sent the prophet Jonah to warn them of God’s impending judgment. God told Jonah: “ ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out to it the proclamation that I am declaring to you.’ And Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the Word of the Lord. And Nineveh was a very great city of three days’ journey across. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried and said, ‘Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’

And the people of Nineveh believed God. And they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them, for word came to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne. And he laid aside his robe from him, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his great ones, saying, ‘Do not let man or beast, herd or flock taste anything; do not let them feed, nor drink water. But let man and animal be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God. And let them each one turn from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may repent, and He may have pity and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we do not perish.’ And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way. And God repented of the evil that He had said He would do to them, and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:2-10).

Even to the nation of Assyria and the city of Nineveh, God demonstrated that He is a God of mercy and compassion. When they repented with a mighty repentance and ceased their evil and wickedness, He withdrew His hand of judgment and destruction, exactly as He declared in Jeremiah 18:7-8.

Enclosed in this mailing is the sermon “Grace Upon Grace,” Part 2. In this message I cover part of what it means to be “under law.” When we understand the true meaning of being “under law” before God, we realize that it is not a biblical designation of those who keep the laws of God. Rather, this is the status of all people in the world because “the law rules over a man as long a time as he may live” (Rom. 7:1)—except for those who are truly “under grace” to God the Father and Jesus Christ.

Later, when we closely examine the true meaning of being “under grace,” we will likewise discover that the grace of God is much greater and more profound than people have believed or understood.

In This Mailing: In addition to the regular messages on CD, we are sending you nine more half-hour Church at Home video segments: The Return of Christ—A Secret Rapture?; The Return of Christ—The Few Who Escape (#1 and 2); Earthquake in Japan; One Man Speaks the Truth; Heed the Warnings of God Before Disaster Strikes; The Seals of Revelation Six; and Should a Christian Observe Easter? (# 1 and 2).

Appointed Times: By now you should have received the new book The Appointed Times of Jesus the Messiah. This is one of the most important books we have published. No other book or Bible commentary has all of the correct dates concerning Jesus’ life and ministry based on God’s Holy Days and the Calculated Hebrew Calendar (CHC). And as you have learned, the key to understanding Jesus’ appointed times is the CHC coordinated with the Julian Calendar.

If you haven’t received your copy for some reason, please call the office and we will send it to you right away. If you need extra copies, call the office and we will send them to you.

Church at Home Advertising Cards: We have many thousands of advertising cards for Church at Home. Brethren all over the world are giving them to people, posting them on community bulletin boards, and leaving them in various public places. This is a wonderful grassroots way to advertise Church at Home and reach out to new people. We can send you as many as you can use. When you run out, you can order more. Feel free to order several hundred at a time.

Brethren, we thank God for the blessing of serving you and making it possible for you to have the spiritual support to continue to love God and to grow in grace and knowledge every day. Thank you for reaching out to other brethren and to new people—as well as for directing them to Church at Home. Once again, thank you for your prayers for us and for all the brethren. We pray for you every day that God would be with you, strengthen you, and bless you in every way. Thank you for your tithes and offerings that enable us to provide the Gospel without cost. God’s method is perfect. We all give so we can preach the Gospel to others. They in turn reciprocate with their tithes and offerings. This is God’s way. We all give so we can share the knowledge of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and the love and grace of God.

With love in Christ Jesus,

Fred R. Coulter