Hear the word of the LORD…give ear unto the law of our God…To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?…When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?…Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth…when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land… (Isiah 1:10-19, much abreviated)
God’s call to council, “come let us reason together,” not particular beliefs about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, is where salvation begins. You can ‘believe all the right things’ regarding Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, but unless you live by hearing his voice speaking to you in your heart, you have no salvation. George Fox’s statement, “Christ is come to teach his people himself,” sums up all Isaiah stated in the above quotation. Take each statement beginning with, “Wash you, make you clean” and ending with, “let us reason together” and ask “How am I to do this? The answer is “Christ is come to teach his people himself.” Can you cease to do evil and learn to do well without Christ’s teaching? No, you only know good from evil by Christ teaching you in your heart. Can you do any of the other things Isaiah admonished his hearers to do without Christ teaching you what is to be done? No, he alone is the judgment, he is the relief that brings release to the oppressed. He is the Word made flesh through whom we reason together with God.
All this portrays God as one who reveals himself to humanity. This is the profound significance of the prologue to the book of John. We are to know him by direct experience rather than by hearsay (or ‘readsay’). The purpose of this experience is that in this relationship of revelation and response we are made living beings, we are taught what to do and what to leave alone, which amounts to being taught how to continue to be living beings. In this relationship we are clothed in the light and life. Apart from this relationship, mankind is compelled to “stitch together fig leaves” in an effort to hide their nakedness, their loss of the garment of the image of God.
Now, some may object, saying, “What about Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection? Aren’t those critical components of God’s plan of salvation?” If Christ is your teacher, can you trust him to teach you what is necessary to know and do concerning salvation? Will he lead you down the wrong theological path? If Christ is not your teacher, what good is acceptance of historical facts? Yes, Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross outside the gates of Jerusalem. Yes, Jesus rose from the dead because through death he overcame him who had the power of death. But these facts will give you no benefit unless you take up your own cross. Can you die to self unless you encounter Christ who calls you to follow him? Here you must either continue to be your own god or willingly yield authority over your life to the Creator. Can you rise to life any other way than to hear his voice and in obedience to that voice, step out of your grave?
There are many who attempt to come to life some other way. Jesus chided those Jews who searched the scriptures thinking that in them they would come to life. The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647, declared that God does not reveal himself nor give knowledge of his will, necessary for salvation, to people in any other way than through scripture. David F. Watson, Acadamic Dean and professor of New Testament at United Theological Seminary, has stated that apart from Scripture and tradition, “we cannot know who Jesus is. We cannot comprehend how we should properly relate to God, including how we should live, and the kinds of behaviors that separate us from God. We cannot understand what salvation is…Without divine revelation mediated to us through Scripture and tradition, we don’t know who we are.” (See https://davidfwatson.me/2019/01/28/on-the-authority-of-scripture/)
Those words, to which the Jews looked, to which the 1647 assembly of Divines and the 2019 statement of David Watson point, those words are a testimony to Christ come to teach his people and this teaching brings salvation and life.
This is the crux of Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” This is not talking about the atheist who has examined the evidence put forth by Christendom and declared it to be foolishness. The greater fool is the one who professes belief but neither comes to nor abides in the council of God.
Jesus stated: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of my Father which is in Heaven.” (Matt. 7:21) This “doing the will of my Father” is made possible by sitting in council with God, by experiencing Christ come to teach you. Reading the Bible and trying to follow its precepts are not the same thing as hearing and obeying Christ speaking to you. A self imposed “taking up your cross” and “dying to self” is nothing more than self deception, self is still god.
Jesus told the Jews who believed in him, “If you abide in my teaching you are truly my disciples, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31, my paraphrase). Here is the answer to the question posed in Psalms 15, “Lord, who shall abide in your tabernacle? who shall dwell in your holy hill?” The Psalmist answered, “He that walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart.” (Psalms 15:1-2) The only way to know the truth, as Jesus pointed out is to abide in his teaching. The only way to speak truth in your heart, is to walk in obedience to Christ teaching you in your heart. Only thus can you abide in the Lord’s tabernacle.