GCI Update

Jesus: embodiment of the law

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

joeandtammyLast week I noted that on the day of Pentecost following Jesus’ ascension, God fulfilled the many Old Testament promises to send the Holy Spirit to humanity in a new way. You’ll recall that Ezekiel prophesied that God would give his people “a new heart” and put within them “a new spirit” (Ezekiel 36:26, NRSV translation throughout). He also proclaimed that the “breath” or “spirit” of God (either translation is correct) would make the dry bones of “a vast multitude” come to life (Ezekiel 37:10). Joel quoted God as saying, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Joel 2:28). Prophesying concerning this time, Jeremiah gave this declaration from God: “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel… I will put my law [torah] within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33).

Sermon on teh Mo
Sermon on the Mount by Carl Heinrich Bloch 
(Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

What other prophets implied, Jeremiah made explicit: the deep connection between God’s Spirit and Torah (meaning law, way or instruction). But what is the nature of that connection? The answer is found in the New Testament where Jesus spoke of himself as not abolishing the law but fulfilling it (Matthew 5:17). In like manner, Paul spoke of Jesus in this way: “For Christ is the end [telos] of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). Telos, which means “end” or “purpose,” speaks to the fulfillment of the goal to which a thing is related. For Paul, the Torah is fulfilled in Jesus because he is the embodiment of the law.

John addressed this same truth when he referred to Jesus as “the Word” who “became flesh” (John 1:14). Jesus embodied the ways of God—following them and then teaching them to others. For John, as the Word of God in himself, Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Torah.

In connecting Jesus with the Torah, John drew from the Old Testament scriptures and from Jewish tradition of his day (oral tradition that later was recorded in various Jewish writings). These sources present Moses as the one who brings the Word of God (the Torah) to God’s people. The correlation of Moses with God and with God’s instruction (the Torah) was deeply ingrained in Jewish thought.

Jewish tradition associated the Torah with the presence of God. The Rabbis taught that the tablets of stone on which were written the law were made of blue sapphire as a symbol of the heavens and God’s throne to which Moses was said to have ascended to receive the Torah written by the “finger of God.” The Torah itself makes a similar point: “Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up [on the Mountain of God], and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness” (Exodus 24:9-10). In John’s day and beyond the Rabbis referred to the Torah as life and light. But for John, Jesus is the eschatological life and light promised and expected in the Torah. Rabbis also referred to the Torah as the bread of life and truth. As you know, John attributed both to Jesus.

Some Jewish teachers taught that God first created the Torah, then used it as a tool in creating the cosmos. One Jewish commentary notes that when the Torah declares, “In the beginning when God created…” (Genesis 1:1), the word in can be translated “by,” and beginning understood as meaning the Torah. Thus they read the verse this way: “By the Torah when God created…” In like manner, they taught that God, working through the Torah, gave creation its order and moral structure. In contrast, John taught that God created the cosmos through Jesus (John 1:3). Thus the glorious things ascribed by the Rabbis to the Torah, were ascribed by John to Jesus, the Word of God incarnate.

In similar (and rather startling) fashion, John contrasted Moses (the mediator of the law/Torah) and Jesus. In John 1:17, he wrote: “The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” In understanding this and similar statements, it’s important to remember that John was interpreting the Old Testament through a Christocentric lens—reading it in light of the person, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus as being the promised Messiah. With that perspective, John wrote that Jesus, the one who came from the presence of God in heaven, is, in himself, the Word of God who then gave God’s instruction (word) to others. When Jewish religious authorities of John’s day marveled at Jesus’ teaching in the temple, Jesus chided them: “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me” (John 7:16). In speaking of the final judgment for those who reject God, Jesus claimed that, “the word that I have spoken will serve as judge” (John 12:48). Then Jesus explained why: “I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49). Jesus himself is the life and light of the world because he is the Word of God who perfectly fulfills God’s will, ways and instructions [God’s torah].

Like the words (Torah) given to Moses (though far better), the authoritative Word (Jesus) came from a heavenly origin. We note this in Jesus’ high-priestly prayer: “The words that you gave to me I have given to them…. I have given them your word” (John 17:8, 14). John taught that Jesus not only brings the Word of God to people, he is the Word of God come down from heaven to give life to the world. Whereas Moses shared the word (Torah) from God, Jesus is the Word. Only Jesus is the Word personified, the one who includes us in the very life of the Trinity.

But what about the Holy Spirit? How does he fit in? As we learn from John’s further teaching, along with other New Testament witnesses, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to work out in us and among us what Jesus, the Word of God, accomplished for us in his earthly life. The law written on our hearts, and the new life given to us by the Spirit are none other than Jesus the Word of God indwelling us by his Spirit.

Evermore realizing the real life we have in Christ,
Joseph Tkach

Recent ordinations

396-271x300We rejoice when God calls and equips men and women to serve as elders in the body of Christ. Here is a list of those recently ordained to serve the GCI congregations noted:

  • William Patterson, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Kathy Houston, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
  • Raul Horta, Santa Fe Springs, California
  • James Pitman, Antlers, Oklahoma
  • Ronald Hernandez,  Baliuag PHILIPPINES
  • Lenny Underwood, Middletown, New York

Relief work in Nepal

Here from GCI mission developer Rod Matthews is an update about the aftermath of the recent earthquakes in Nepal.

GCI’s ministry partner in Nepal, Deben Sam, sent out from Kathmandu teams of church members to ascertain the circumstances facing the congregations that are part of his Gospel for Himalayas Ministry. What they found is quite distressing. For example, the congregation in the village of Dolakha (northeast of Kathmandu, close to the epicenter of the second major quake; actually a massive aftershock) was devastated (see pictures below). The congregation has 25 believers from eight families.


In a previous message prior to the second major quake, Deben reported on the congregations located northwest of Kathmandu. The homes of over 160 members (including five pastors) were destroyed in five districts (news from two other districts has not been received). Deben requested prayer for Christians in the village of Sankhu where the Hindu residents are blocking food distribution to Christians. He said that most of the Christians from eight churches in the village were living outside without food and tents. Deben reported that his “flying team” had observed the situation there and his “distribution team” immediately raced there to distribute instant noodles and tents to both Christians and non-Christians. Nepal has an estimated population of just under 29 million and only 1.5% are Christian.

With much gratitude, Deben has utilized the emergency funds that GCI has sent him from the Disaster Relief Funds in our Home Office in Glendora, and in our offices in Australia, the U.K. and New Zealand. These funds have been used to distribute food, water and tents first to believers and their families without homes, then to others in need as he has opportunity, especially focusing on his neighborhood. Further funds are being arranged as the task of looking after the members and their families, the congregational meeting places in the villages and in Kathmandu, is exceptionally challenging.

You may recall that several years ago GCI established as a joint project a basic medical clinic to serve the very poor, focused on the brickyard and street workers in the southeast of Kathmandu. The rented building housing the clinic was not damaged in the quake, but the owner’s home was destroyed and he needs to use the clinic building to house his family. Therefore the clinic needs to find a new location. Deben said most of the brickyards which have very tall smoke stacks were badly damaged.

God already knows about these needs, and Deben’s heart for his people impels him and his teams to do as much as humanly feasible to reach, help and comfort people with these practical expressions of God’s love and care. It is encouraging to him, his wife, Manju, his extended family, and the local members and teams, to know that people all over the world are praying for them, for Christians and all people in Nepal suffering so much in this massive natural disaster.

Avoid mistakes in using social media

5.21.CC.SixQuestionsSocialMedia-331x221Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is a powerful tool available to churches to connect with members and with non-members. However, caution is in order to avoid several common mistakes.

For helpful advice about what to do before posting, see the article entitled “Before Posting to Social Media Ask These 6 Questions” on the Church Leaders blog at www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/253997-posting-social-media-ask-6-questions.html.

Allen Bullock

GCI retired pastor Allen Bullock of Denver, Colorado, has been diagnosed with colon cancer. This week he goes to the oncologist and surgeon to determine next steps. Allen and his wife Doris request your prayers. 

Cards may be sent to:

Allen & Doris Bullock
2732 Bruchez Parkway, Unit 104
Denver, CO 80234-3588

Graham Mitchell

Your prayers are requested for Dr. Graham Mitchell, GCI elder in Northampton, England. Graham fell on a stairway and had to be taken to the hospital, where he had surgery for serious injuries. His wife sent this report:

Graham is able to communicate some, with a little nod or shake of the head. It must be incredibly frustrating for him. Yesterday, he told me he loved me, and I managed to lip read that. We are not looking beyond the present, at the moment. I am frightened, and in the dark waking moments at night, find myself considering the worst. Your prayers are of great comfort.

Cards may be sent to:

Dr. Graham Mitchell
11 Kettering Road
Kettering, Northants NN14 1NL

Death of Perc Burrows

Shirley and Perc Burrows

On March 25, we reported on GCI-Canada elder Perc Burrows’ struggle with severe health problems. About six weeks ago he entered the hospital, and several days ago his body began to shut down. Early this week, he died peacefully from pneumonia.

Perc and his wife Shirley were pillars in GCI’s Toronto-area congregations. For several decades they were fondly known as genuine servant-leaders. Perc will be greatly missed.

Please join us in offering condolences to Shirley and the whole family.

Cards may be sent to:

Shirley Burrows
115 Bonis Ave #208
North York, ON M1T 3S4

Pete Kendall

PeteYour prayers are requested for retired GCI pastor, Pete Kendall, who lives in Florida.

Pete and his wife were in Atlanta visiting family. While jumping on a trampoline, he did a back flip and landed wrong, breaking his neck. Subsequent surgery successfully stabilized the neck. The doctors said he narrowly avoided being paralyzed.

Your prayers for his complete recovery are appreciated.

Cards may be sent to:

Mr. Pete Kendall
1321 Mohrlake Drive
Brandon, FL 33511-1825

Death of Linda Dick

Linda Dick
Linda Dick

Last week we reported that Linda Dick, wife of retired GCI pastor Ron Dick, was in hospice care, in the final phase of her long battle with many health problems. We were saddened to learn that Linda died last Saturday morning (May 23). Her battle is now over, and we send our condolences to Ron and the whole family. Please join us in praying for their comfort at this difficult time.

Cards may be sent to family members at these addresses:

Ron Dick
63 Loren Drive
Sarasota, FL 34238-5157

Rae Heaton
3441 Lansdowne Dr
Lexington, KY 40517

Julee Stanley
3445 Lansdowne Dr
Lexington, KY 40517