How Not to be a Spiritual Ishmaelite
Feb 24, 2010
I showed in my book, The Wheat and Asses of Pentecost, how these were the two primary symbols of Pentecost in the Bible.
They also double as the primary symbols of the Old Covenant.
They are Pentecostal symbols because the Church in the Pentecostal Age has proven to be a failure as much as the original church in the wilderness under Moses. In other words, BOTH have failed to attain to the provisions of the New Covenant. The New Covenant was designed to show us the path to receiving the Birthright and become the heirs of the promises of God.
But just as the Old Covenant people failed because they were fleshly, attempting to attain salvation by their own strength and will (i.e., how well they could keep the law), so also did the Church in the New Testament fail.
They failed because Pentecost is a transitional feast between Passover and Tabernacles. Pentecost, though good, was insufficient, because it only gave us the EARNEST of the Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14). That portion of the Holy Spirit is not enough to become the heir.
This corresponds allegorically to Ishmael. His father was Abram, but his mother was Egyptian. Egypt represents the world and the flesh. Thus, Ishmael had the faith of his father, but the works of Egypt. In the Pentecostal realm, faith is not in question. Their obedience (work) is questionable.
The Churches of all denominations, whether they call themselves Pentecostal or not, struggle with the relationship between law and grace (or faith). Some use grace as a substitute for the law and end up to be lawless. Others use grace to put away the law and then substitute church laws (traditions of men) to replace God's law. In other words . . .
You are saved when you become perfect.
You are saved if you are a church member in good standing according to the priest.
You are not saved unless you abide by our dress code.
You are not saved if you smoke or drink.
You are not saved unless you believe in a burning hell.
If you don't believe in heaven, you WON'T go there.
If you don't believe in hell, you WILL go there.
You are not saved if you believe in the Restoration of All Things.
You are not saved unless you keep the correct Sabbath day.
You are saved if you follow this ritual or that ordinance.
These are all church rules that are added to the simple statement in Eph. 2:8, "for by grace are you saved through faith."
It does NOT say, "for by grace are you saved by faith and belief in eternal hell."
These are all evidences pointing to a lack of understanding of the New Covenant. Many have correctly detached the law from their justification by faith, at least in theory, but their hearts still crave works as a means of salvation. And so they attach their own ideas of "good works" to faith and then deny the salvation of all those who break their newly contrived legal standard.
Then there are others who simply put away the law altogether, not only detaching it from their justification but also from their whole life. Such people want to be justified by faith, but do not want to come under the discipline of God to learn His mind and will and to walk in His paths. They see no link between the law (Word of God) and "walking by the Spirit."
Such people inevitably end up in lawlessness, even as the first group (above) end up in legalism. Neither have a real grasp of the purpose of law and grace. The law was never meant to save anyone. It was meant to reveal the mind and will of God and to show us how the Perfect Man would conduct his life. Jesus was the only Man to succeed in doing this--not because the law was evil, but because it was so righteous.
The law teaches us what sin is, for "through the law comes the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20). There are people who do not want to know the law, because they believe that the knowledge of sin is evil and is partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And so they sin ignorantly, if not willfully, because they do those things which are unlawful.
John says that "sin is lawlessness" (1 John 3:4). So what Christian would want to live a lawless life? Many Christians are torn here. They know that they should not be lawless, but yet they have been taught that the law has been put away. So they compromise. They put away the law and then set up their own rules and regulations as a standard of righteousness.
What?? Are men's standards more righteous than God's? Do men know better than God what is sin and what is not?
A good example of this is in the normal Christian view of the prison system. The prison system is very popular among serious Evangelical and Pentecostal believers. Many want to "lock them up and throw away the key." When I present to them the system of restitution in the Divine Law, they look at me as if I had three eyes. And they find numerous objections to the wisdom of God.
The bottom line is that the Church has manifested the same problem as was found in the Old Covenant system in Jesus' day. Men had put away the law by their traditions but they were zealous to keep the outward forms and rituals. Later, the Church did the same thing with traditions of their own.
The Truth of the matter is this: The Old Covenant put the responsibility upon men to be obedient to the law IN ORDER TO BE SAVED. The Old Covenant said, "IF YOU OBEY MY VOICE," then I will bless you. Their salvation depended upon their willingness to vow obedience to God and then upon their ability to keep that vow perfectly.
The New Covenant puts the responsibility upon God to write His laws upon our hearts, so that our NATURE ITSELF is transformed into full compliance with the mind and will of God as expressed in His law.
Both covenants were designed to bring us into agreement with the mind and will of God. But the Old Covenant was inadequate, because death worked in man preventing him from being perfect by his own effort and self-discipline. The law was not at fault here. The Old Covenant was the problem, because no man could fulfill its terms.
So God established a New Covenant after allowing the Old one time to fail. This one cannot fail, because it puts the responsibility upon God, rather than men. Those who truly are led by the Spirit find that their lives start to become aligned with the law of God--not because of their innate ability to be good, but because the Spirit is leading them, and as they experience the life of Christ in them, their very nature is altered to conform them to the image of Christ.
When men say, "Well, I am not under the law, so I am now allowed to violate it in this way or that," they show that they are still not in full agreement with the mind and will of God.
Such is the mind of the modern spiritual Ishmaelite, son of Hagar the Egyptian. Though he has the faith of his father, he still does the works of his mother. That is why the Israelites had the desire to return to Egypt. That is why the people rejected the direct rule of God in the days of Samuel, and chose to have a man rule them (Saul). These are all Pentecostal stories, and they show us why Pentecost is as much a failure as Ishmael and Saul.
For this reason, it is helpful to catch the vision that goes beyond Pentecost into the light of the feast of Tabernacles. The types and shadows help us understand these things and give us a road map to the Promised Land. If we know what it means to be an Ishmaelite we have better opportunity to become "Isaac." If we know the pattern of King Saul, we have better opportunity to join David's band of chosen outcasts who represent the overcomers.
Dr. Stephen Jones