The front cover of the first UK Highway Code.
THE HIGHWAY CODE was first published in 1931. I have a photocopy of it here. It cost a penny and contained 24 pages, six pages of which were adverts. There were no road signs. That had to wait until the second edition, and even then there were only ten road signs.
Seventy-five years ago, no one would have guessed you would need to know about motorway regulations, satellite navigation, seat belts, mobile phones or indicator lights. So if you wanted to take your driving test today, the first edition would be useless to help you pass. However, some things never change.
Here are the opening sentences of the 1931 Highway Code - "Always be careful towards others. As a responsible citizen you have a duty to the community not to endanger or impede others in their lawful use of the King's Highway." About one million copies of the Highway Code are sold every year. It is a bestseller and can claim to have saved thousands of lives. There is another bestseller that has also saved thousands of lives.
But this one isn't rewritten every few years to take into account changes in technology. The Sacred Scriptures have stayed the same since they were completed. Before they were completed, the largest group of followers of Jesus Christ were Jews. Today, the number of Jewish believers is comparatively small.
The Bible is sometimes called a history book. But it is not the history of the Ming dynasty or the Aztecs or the Eskimos. It is a history of ISRAEL and the nations around Israel. And a story of Israel's future on this EARTH.
When Paul said, "Know you not that you shall judge angels?" some people must have said, "The man is mad. How can we judge angels who are in heaven when we are on the earth?" That concept did not appear in their Highway Code.
When I was preparing this talk I made a common error. I assumed that what applies today also applied years ago. I was going to say that the Highway Code shows two hand signals you never see today. SLOW DOWN and TURN LEFT.
But I had no excuse; I had a copy of the 1931 Highway Code in front of me. Slow down and turn left were the same hand signal. So if we use the OLD Highway Code we shall cause confusion. But the point remains. Can you imagine using these hand signals at night on the Motorway? There would probably be more accidents than there are now!
There was a time when you could see both - hand signals and indicator lights. There was a TRANSITION period when people used either method. You could say that drivers were divided into TWO groups - those who used HAND signals and those who used INDICATOR lights.
The Apostle Paul faced a transition period in his early ministry. He preached to TWO different groups but it wasn't a simple division between Jews and Gentiles. Not pharisaic Jews steeped in the Torah and the traditions of men on the one hand, and forward-looking Greeks on the other.
No one is campaigning today to abolish indicator lights on vehicles and return to hand signals - to go back to the "Good Old Days". But in Jerusalem at that time, many people wanted to be faithful to the Law given through Moses. And they campaigned to rid the world of what they considered false teaching. They were prepared to kill, thinking they were doing God a service.
We are not talking about people who rejected Christ. No, the two groups can be distinguished by their use of two words - Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus. Many would say there is no difference, but there is all the difference in the world. Beginning with the death and resurrection of Christ, the original apostles proclaimed JESUS CHRIST as the rejected Messiah, the King of Israel who would one day soon rule on this earth. These apostles had been chosen by Christ in accordance with the REVEALED COUNSEL of God. Their teaching was in line with God's promises in the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms. They had been with Christ during the whole of His earthly ministry. Jesus Christ appeared to the Twelve in human form after His death. On one occasion He even prepared a meal for them, and ate with them.
But the Apostle Paul proclaimed CHRIST JESUS as the One exalted in glory in heaven now. Paul was chosen by the WILL of God to reveal new directions in God's purpose. We have no evidence that Paul ever saw Christ before His resurrection. But it is certain that he had not lived with Christ from the beginning of His earthly ministry. He only knew the resurrected Christ in glory. That is how Christ had shown Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus, outside of Israel. This made a big difference to Paul's preaching.
We can sympathize with the mainly Jewish first group because there were no road signs in their Scriptures to point to the new teaching. Why was God changing direction? Yes, it is true that God was justified in doing so, because Israel had rejected Him. But it is more than that. God had never intended to confine His blessings to one nation forever. Abraham had been told that he would become a great and powerful nation and ALL nations on EARTH would be blessed through him. Yet this new revelation preached by Paul, was even greater than that promise.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who blesses us with every spiritual blessing among the celestials, according as He chooses us in Him before the disruption of the world, we to be holy and flawless in His sight."
Why did God set aside Israel for an interval? One word appears again and again.
Let's see that word once more. Ephesians 1:5b, 6a:
"In accord with the delight of His will, for the laud of the glory of His GRACE, which graces us in the Beloved, in whom we are having the deliverance through His blood, the forgiveness of offences, in accord with the riches of His GRACE, which He lavishes on us, in all wisdom and prudence making known to us the SECRET of His will, (in accord with His delight, which He purposed in Him)."
That word is GRACE.
Can we begin to see what a revolutionary new concept Paul preached? Many of the "Jesus Christ" people were not ready for Paul's message. Especially what he wrote in Romans 10:12:
"For there is NO distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same One is Lord of ALL, being rich for ALL who are invoking Him. For everyone whoever should be invoking the name of the Lord shall be saved."
And in Galatians 3:26-29:
"For you are ALL sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus. For whoever are baptized into Christ, put on Christ, in Whom there is no Jew nor yet Greek, there is no slave nor yet free, there is no male and female, for you ALL are one in Christ Jesus. Now if you are Christ's, consequently you are of Abraham's seed, enjoyers of the allotment according to the promise."
"If you don't agree with the message, attack the messenger" has been the standard practise for thousands of years. So they rejected God's apostle Paul. Many would not believe he was an apostle.
That is one reason, why he begins the Ephesian letter with:
"Paul an APOSTLE of CHRIST JESUS through the WILL of God, to all the saints, who are also believers in CHRIST JESUS."
Paul continues in Ephesians 1:9-10:
"And making known to us the secret of His will, (in accord with His delight, which he purposed in Him), to have an administration of the complement of the eras, to head up all in the Christ, both that in the heavens and that on the earth."
The first secret was to be revealed at the right time and it was that Christ would rule Heaven and Earth. This display of GRACE is not just for human beings. It is not just for OUR benefit. It is also for the benefit of the SPIRIT world. This planet is like a stage for celestial beings.
1 Corinthians 4:9:
"For I suppose that God demonstrates with us, the last apostles, as death-doomed, for we became a theatre to the world, and to messengers and to men."
In Ephesians 3:8-11, Paul says this GRACE was granted to him in accord with God's powerful operation.
"To me, less than the least of all saints, was granted this GRACE: to bring the evangel of the untraceable riches of Christ to the nations, and to enlighten ALL as to what is the administration of the SECRET, which has been concealed from the eons in God, Who creates all, that now may be known to sovereignties and the authorities among the celestials, through the ECCLESIA the multifarious wisdom of God, in accord with the purpose of the eons, which He makes in Christ Jesus, our Lord."
Those verses are breathtaking in their scope. Christ is not just King over a limited geographical area, over the nation of Israel, but He is King of the Universe - over all human and CELESTIAL beings.
And it is being revealed by US, the Church.
When spirit beings look upon this world, perhaps they too feel discouraged about the pain and suffering, the heartache and bloodshed that they see. They can also see that God is not using the wise according to the flesh, not many people are powerful, not many are noble. But God chooses the stupidity of the world to disgrace the wise, and He chooses the WEAKNESS of the world to disgrace the strong. He chooses the IGNOBLE things of this world and the CONTEMPTIBLE things, [Yes, that is US] and the things that are not - to discard that which is. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
It proves to the spirit beings that no matter how bad things appear, no matter how weak and foolish we humans are, no matter how hopeless things seem, God is still in control of the Universe. But more than that: it proves God is a loving God and is gracious to an undeserving creation. If God can make precious jewels out of this worthless clay, how much more will be HIS glory!
With the benefit of hindsight and the scriptures before us, we may find it difficult to understand how this teaching could be attacked. But if you had been a Jew who had followed the teaching of Jesus from the time He turned water into wine, you could not possibly have known what God was eventually going to do in the next 2000 years.
Yes, Christ fulfilled ALL the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. Not just the ones you thought you understood, but also those you didn't, like His death and resurrection. If you had followed Jesus for His entire three and a half years ministry, you would sometimes have been elated, sometimes surprised, sometimes mystified. Many times you would have said, "What on earth is God doing? I don't understand the signals." You may have known the Torah inside out, as well as all the rules and regulations added by the traditions of men. But God is signalling a new way. Your mind needs to be adjusted to a new understanding. This NEW Highway Code will bring greater maturity. Your world as a Jew 2000 years ago was turned upside down - never to be the same again.
It would be easy to classify the 'Jesus Christ' people as the 'baddies' and the 'Christ Jesus' people as the 'goodies'. But that simplistic view would not be fair. The 'Jesus Christ' group could have quoted Christ Himself in Matthew 15:24:
"I was not commissioned except for the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
They could also quote the words recorded by Isaiah:
"Remember this and be ashamed, recall it to heart, transgressors, remember the former things from the eon; for I am El, and there is no other; Elohim! And none like Me! telling the hereafter from aforetime what has not yet been done, saying, 'All My counsel shall be confirmed, and all My desire shall I do.'"
But this is the problem. God had not in this case, made known the end from the beginning. That is why it was a secret. It had to be made known by special revelation. So what was the new teaching?
It is found in Ephesians 3:2-6. God's people were now no longer confined to the people of Israel. Gentiles were no longer just GUESTS at Israel's table. They were much more than that. Not just HEIRS together with Israel. Not just sharers together in the PROMISE in Christ Jesus; (all this would have been wonderful), but also members of one JOINT body.
The whole emphasis of Paul's message was on the heavenly realms. The message of the 12 original apostles was restricted to this earth. Paul was opposed by many people, but even here Paul did not consider human beings as his enemies.
He wrote while in prison,
"For it is not ours to wrestle with blood and flesh, but with the sovereignties, with the authorities, with the world-mights of this darkness, with the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials."
Why would spirit beings attack us? Because one day we shall take over from them. Paul asked the saints,
"Pray also for me, that expression may be granted in the opening of my mouth, with boldness to make known the SECRET of the EVANGEL, for which I am conducting an embassy in a chain. Pray that I should be speaking boldly, as I must speak."
That prayer for those who preach the mystery of the gospel is still needed today. When we understand the secret of the evangel, we will understand something that puzzles many people.
Zechariah 14:4 reads,
"And His feet will stand in that day on the Mount of Olives, which is adjoining Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very great ravine, and half of the mountain will remove northward, and the half of it southward."
"Then Yahweh will come to be King over the entire earth."
That prophecy refers to Christ coming to this earth to set up His Kingdom. Shortly afterwards the 12 apostles will rule over the 12 tribes of Israel under Christ.
1Thessalonians 4:16, though seems to tell a different story. But if we rightly divide the Word of Truth, as it says in 2 Timothy 2:15, we will understand.
Paul wrote to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:16-17):
"For the Lord Himself will be descending from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the Chief Messenger, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall be rising first. Thereupon we, the living, who are surviving, shall at the same time be snatched up together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the AIR. And thus we shall always be together with the Lord."
So what is it, does Christ stand on the earth or meet us in the air? Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:50 that FLESH and BLOOD cannot enjoy an allotment in the Kingdom of God. In verse 52 Paul tells us that we will all be changed, in an instant, in the twinkle of an eye at the last trump. Why will we be changed?
One reason is because our bodies need to be changed so that we can live in heavenly places. Today, people travel in special suits during space flights because our earthly bodies cannot survive without them. Our present bodies were not created for life among the stars, but they are perfect for life on earth.
We Christians are a new creation spiritually now, but not physically. So both scriptures are true. The saints of the Hebrew Scriptures will live in a paradise on earth. Paul's disciples will live in the heavenly places.
There comes a time when any transition period is over. You could say that the transition period when hand signals and indicator lights are both used is over. Even though hand signals are still shown in the latest edition of the Highway Code and may legally be used, for all practical purposes their use is finished.
Just so the transition period of the two dispensations is long passed. Paul announced it in Acts 28:26-28 when he quoted the prophet Isaiah (6:9-10):
"'Go to this people, and say, 'In hearing, you will be hearing, and may by no means be observing, you will be observing, and may by no means be perceiving. For shortened is the heart of this people, and with their ears heavily they hear, and their eyes they have squint, lest at some time they may be perceiving with their eyes, and with their ears should be hearing and with their heart may be understanding and should be turning about, and I shall be healing them'. Let it be known to you, then, that to the nations was dispatched this salvation of God, and they will hear."
God had now put aside Israel and was going to the Gentiles. Nevertheless, Paul had some encouraging words for obstinate Israel. Romans 11:25-32:
"For I am not willing for you to be ignorant of this secret, brethren, lest you may be passing for prudent among yourselves, that callousness, in part on Israel has come, until the complement of the nations may be entering. And thus all Israel shall be saved, according as it is written, 'Arriving out of Zion shall be the Rescuer; He will be turning away irreverence from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them whenever I should be eliminating their sins. As to the evangel, indeed, they are enemies because of you, yet, as to choice, they are beloved because of the fathers. For UNREGRETTED are the graces and the calling of God. For even as you once were stubborn toward God, yet now were shown mercy at their stubbornness, thus these also are now stubborn to this mercy of yours, that now they also may be shown mercy. For God locks up all together in stubbornness that He should be merciful to all."
To pass your driving test today, you don't need to know the history of the motorcar or previous outdated highway codes. Nor do you need to understand the working of the petrol engine. It may be helpful, but it is not essential. But the driving test is not an end in itself. It should be the beginning of a lifetime journey of safe driving.
Likewise, this knowledge of the mystery of the gospel is not an end in itself. It is the beginning of a lifetime journey of security because there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.
We don't have to worry if we are good enough to be saved. This gospel is preached for faith-obedience among all nations.
ALL who believe are reconciled by God's grace. We who are Ambassadors of Christ have a righteousness of God through JESUS CHRIST'S faith. It is not our faith, but CHRIST'S. Ephesians 2:8-9:
"For in GRACE, through faith, you are saved. And this is not out of you; it is God's approach present, not of works, lest anyone should be boasting."
Then Paul says something astounding (verse 10):
"For His achievement are we, being created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God makes ready beforehand, that we should be walking in them."
Yes, it is not enough to pass our driving test, we must continue in our journey of doing good works that God has already prepared for us. As we grow more confident on our journey we must not think that our good works earn us salvation. We need to always remember the sign Paul gave in all his letters. It is very clear in 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18:
"This salutation is by my hand - Paul's - which is a sign in every epistle. Thus am I writing: The GRACE of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all."
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