OriginalChristianity

Not Traditional, Original

The Vision of OriginalChristianity.Net

The vision of OriginalChristianity.Net is to look at the beliefs and practices of the the original Christians.  The reason why this is important is that over the millennium Christianity has developed numerous factions that all claim that that they are the true continuation of original Christianity.  I heard exactly that when I visited a Greek Orthodox Church, I have read it in Roman Catholic literature, it is in the bulletin of a local non-denominational church in my area.  They make these claims despite the fact that they have disagreed, even violently at times.  For other articles on this topic, see A Major Objection to the Restoration Movement Is That Christianity Has Not Changed Substantially Over Time, and Another Claim of Original Christianity in Practice Today,

Throughout this website are numerous articles written on the numerous divisions in the Church that we have today, how a lot of these doctrines developed that are behind all these divisions, and some key points on how original Christianity differed from today.  It is important to look at all these things because they are part of Christianity now and play a big part, perhaps more as obstacles, in the faith of the individual believer.

But the key point of this website is to be able to envision what original Christianity, and in particular the time of Jesus and the apostles and disciples that he touched was really like. There was an incredible spirituality. With the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, and afterward the sending of the Holy Spirit we see the most incredible movement of God on earth since creation.

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This was a time of power, miracles, healing, and deliverance, not only by Jesus, but by those he touched, his apostles and disciples. People saw God in action through these men. They saw the word of God living, because they lived it together. There was incredible community and sharing. There was incredible believing. There was great faith.

It was a time of simple doctrine.  There were no official doctrines on infant baptism or believer’s baptism. There was no doctrine that prophecy and the other gifts and manifestations of the spirit had ceased. There were baptisms being carried out, and the last supper repeated as a memorial, but there were no “sacraments”, somehow mysteriously conveying grace by ritualistic practices. There were no autonomous churches disputing which form of church government was doctrinally correct, which end times theology was correct, or arguments over whether or not there was eternal security.

There was no argument over the status of the Bible, because there was no Bible. Jesus had referenced the law and the prophets, including the Psalms, as the word of God. And only those books with the addition of the words of Jesus were considered the word of God. There were no written Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There were no epistles of Peter, Paul, Hebrews, John, and Jude. So there was no argument over doctrines derived from them like eternal security, justification by grace, predestination, or even the Trinity.

Philosophy was rejected as an unwise practice of the Greeks that actually tore down faith more than it built, so discussion of faith wasn’t an analytical exercise in the nuances of the meanings of words, but rather simple directives, and powerful stories and analogies that emphasize the important meanings to be focused on while ignoring the myriad details that can lead people astray.

What existed was the good news that Jesus the Messiah had come, that he had fulfilled the law, had sent the Holy Spirit, and now many believers were walking in great faith and power. What existed was great praise, great faith, and great love of God.

All of this is not to say that this was an easy time. There were persecutions, challenges, and trials, as both the Jews and the Romans saw this burgeoning Christianity as a threat. But this just served to bring the Christians closer together, and more united in their faith.

Original Christianity was a time of great unity, simple doctrine, great believing, with many believers walking in the love of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

So as you read these articles that discuss all of the divisions, and developments, both good and bad throughout the millennia of history of Christianity, it is important to maintain the focus of the simple vision of original Christianity.  Pray, praise the Lord, walk in the power of the spirit, love God and love your neighbor, and rejoice in what Christ has done. Join together with any Christian who is doing the same.  And in the process perhaps we can bring some of what made original Christianity so great back to life.

© copyright 2012 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

Welcome to Original Christianity.Net

It appears that universally, in the church, we Christians marvel at both at Jesus’ miracles and the wisdom in his parables. We especially are in awe of his life, his incredible birth, his short but incredibly powerful ministry, his passion, death, and resurrection. We love him for those. We are also moved by the depth of the wisdom and inspiration of books like the Psalms and Proverbs. Almost universally, although most would say all true Christians, acknowledge him as Lord, and strive to follow his leadership as we walk in a dark world filled with daily challenges, including overcoming evil.

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In fact, there are some universal, and some almost universal, elements in Christianity. Universally held elements of Christianity include this deep awe of Christ, and likewise, for the bible. The bible, or at least for some, sections of the bible, such as the parables of Christ in the gospels, the powerful poetry of the Psalms, and the wisdom in Proverbs are universally held in the deepest regard. Almost universally held elements include the belief in Christ as the only begotten son of the Father, physically born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, who died for out sins, and was raised from the dead and is presently seated at the right hand of God. Christians look forward to spending eternity with the Lord. Even more, there is common ground as churches promote worship, baptism, and communion with some similarity.

But beyond some basics like these, there is far less agreement on the tenets of Christianity. In fact, there is an elephant in the Church, an elephant of disagreement resulting in tens of thousands of sects, disagreeing on many doctrines.

The disagreements have been legion, often bloody, and always confusing. Christians have killed other Christians for defying the rule of infant baptism and proclaiming “believer’s baptism”. Many Christians have declared other Christians apostate because of their view of the Bible, whether it is inerrant, infallible, or at least partially of human origin.

And even if they agree on the status of the Bible, they don’t agree on what it says on these issues. For example, there is disagreement over basic principles of interpretation like whether the overriding principle is based on the covenants of God versus which dispensation we are in.

There are Christians that call other Christians apostate (traitorous) because they believe that the gifts of the spirit, i.e., prophecy and speaking in tongues, etc. still exist, and vice versa. These days there are sharp divides over homosexuality, abortion, the Word of Faith movement, the emergent Church movement, and the role of women in the church.

Even if Christians don’t call others apostate, they still disagree to the point of not fellowshipping over issues like: dietary laws (whether they need to be followed), drinking alcohol, end times (Eschatology), eternal security, evolution vs. literal seven days of creation, giving vs. tithing, predestination, psychology: the acceptability of Christian counseling, sacraments as conveyers of grace or not, the “in the name of Jesus” debate, and pacifism vs. the concept of a just war, and other issues.

Then there is the ecumenical concept of Christian “orthodoxy” that suggests that none of the issues so far discussed really matter even there are huge divisions over them. The only issue that really matters in “orthodoxy” is whether one accepts the doctrine of the Trinity, that Jesus the man is really God and a person in a triune godhead with two other persons, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. This doctrine is promoted as the absolutely most important concept in Christianity even though this emphasis is totally missing for the first centuries of the church.

And let alone that the very doctrine of the Trinity has been disputed over the centuries with more Christians killing other Christians over this issue than any other. It appears that for some that as long as a church accepts the doctrine of the Trinity it doesn’t matter if it teaches that homosexuality is normal or apostate, and/or abortion is choice or murder, and/or baptism should be infant baptism or believer’s baptism, and/or there are two “ordinances” or seven sacraments, and so forth, and so on.

This mess is a huge blemish on the body of Christ. Some of these issues may be legitimate, but to have so many “orthodox” churches teaching so many disparate doctrines flies right in the face of Paul’s charge for believers to have the same mind:

Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all say the same thing, and there be no divisions among you, but you be united in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10 LITV)

If, as Paul teaches, we corporately are the body of Christ, then does the current collective body of competing Christian theologies accurately reflect the mind of Christ. Certainly, no one can think so.

But, before the present time with our tens of thousands of Christian denominations, and before the Reformation that shifted the focus of Christianity from the decisions of church councils and the Pope to the Bible as the principle source of guidance, and before the great schism about a thousand years ago, even before there were arguments over the nature of Christ, the Trinity and whether Mary was the mother of God in the beginning of the age of Christendom (fourth century), even before there was a Catholic church (110 A.D.) there was original primitive Christianity.

While some of the focus of Christianity remains, much has changed over the millennia. The question is whether all or even any of the different traditions that have developed are correct, or the original believers were the ones that actually got it the most right. The place to start is by looking at the beliefs and practices of original, primitive Christianity, and seriously consider embracing them again even though some of them may be radically different from what you or I hold today.

In the days of original, primitive Christianity:

(In the listings below hyperlinks offer more information on the point being made.)

Elements usually still held today:

Elements still held today by some:

Elements held today by few, if any believers:

Elements that are divisive today but didn’t appear to exist then:

The most current blogs (articles) are below. The articles can touch on a large number of topics including ancient history, the original language of the bible, grammar and logic, dividing doctrines besides the basics of Christianity, what Jesus taught, and development (movements) in Christianity throughout the centuries. For an organized listing of the blogs (articles) to get an overview and better understanding of the contents on this web site, go to the table of contents. There is more information on design of this website on this page; look on the right sidebar under Original Christianity and click “Why? Click to Read More…”

Jesus’ Source For Truth Was Revelation From The Scriptures

Jesus lived by revelation, the revelation in God’s word.  He also walked by the spirit and knew things that he only could have gotten by supernatural means.  For example, he knew that the comforter would come shortly after his ascension.

In The Not Enough Information Rule – Sticking to What is Revealed we looked at revelation as the source of all our knowledge about God.

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.  (Deu 29:29 ESV)

God has given us enough revelation knowledge in the scriptures to be able to live our lives in his will.  But we also know that it is available to be deluded by “plausible arguments”:

that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.
(Col 2:2-4 ESV)

God forbid that we should fall into the category of being deluded by plausible arguments, but how else can you explain so many different theologies with so many differences on issues in the thousands of Christian denominations.  I have sat in a pew and been taught that manifestations ceased with the apostles (and that only devil possessed people believe otherwise) and I have sat in a few and been taught that manifestations are happening in many congregations worldwide.  I have been taught that the bread is literally the body of Christ in a grace-giving sacrament called the eucharist and been taught that the bread represents the body of Christ in a Christ-given memorial. I have sat and been taught that the Roman Catholic church is the only true church, I have been taught that the Lutheran church is the reformation of that church, and I have been taught in many other churches that they are true autonomous churches, the first century church brought forth into modern times. I can go on and on about having been taught competing arguments on so many other issues: infant vs. adult baptism, no drinking vs “a little wine”, tithing vs liberal sharing, man-woman marriage vs LGBTQ inclusiveness even in marriage and so on and so on.

All of these differences work to create division, and sow doubt about the Gospel.  And they are all the result of new traditions that started being generated right after the time of the apostles and continue to be generated up to the present time.  Paul was not kind in describing the people that would teach things other than the original faith.  He called some of them wolves, and the things they taught, twisted things:

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.  (Act 20:28-30 ESV)

Now, the Catholic Churches, and most Christian churches, following suit, said these wolves with their twisted things were the heretics. And groups like the Gnostics and Marcionites among others did spring up.  But the verses also talk about people in the original church twisting things. We saw in T 0.1 Introduction to Tradition in the Church that anyone that didn’t follow the apostles’ doctrine was someone to be avoided!  And we have just seen in Col 2:4 the danger of listening to plausible arguments.  So we have a scenario of people in the church twisting things and presenting them with plausible words.  Hence, division.

On that note lets just look at where Jesus got his doctrine:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.  (Mat 4:1-11 ESV)

First, in this record, the devil tries to goad Jesus into doing contrary to what the spirit was leading him to do. Remember, it says that the Spirit led Jesus to fast this incredibly long fast and be tempted by the devil.  Jesus was starving, and the devil knew it.  The devil says “if you are the son of God…”  But Jesus knew that the purpose of the fast was to be tempted by the devil and he was ready. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 when he said: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Jesus spoke revelation truth.  He spoke what was in the word of God

This record is also an example of twisted words.  The devil tells Jesus what it says in Psalms 91:

For He shall give His angels charge over You, to keep You in all Your ways. They shall bear You up in their hands, lest You dash your foot against a stone.  (Psa 91:11-12 MKJV)

Here the devil takes revelation truth, the word of God, and twists it to suit his purpose.  Yes, the angels are charged to protect Jesus, but Jesus was following the leading of the spirit here.  The devil attempted to get Jesus to not follow the Spirit who told him to fast and be tempted because the word of God says the angels will minister to him if he commands.  Jesus would then be disobeying! And he would be doing an incredibly foolish thing in jumping off a cliff!  Jesus responded with the rightly divided word of God, speaking verbatim, without twisting, adding, or subtracting to God’s word! He said:

“You shall not put the LORD your God to the test…  (Deu 6:16a ESV)

We are not to test God by arbitrarily doing something dangerous and expecting God to save us.  Miracles happen when people are walking in the spirit, not against it.  The devil knows what usually happens when someone jumps off a cliff.  Boy, how easy that would have made things for the devil if he could have gotten Jesus killed just when his ministry was starting.

The devil also tempted with power and glory,  He took him to a high spot where he could look over the land, and offered him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.   Remember, he could do this because he, the devil, is the god of this world (2Cor 4:4) and has dominion over all the earth.  Again, Jesus’ source for truth was the revealed word of God when he spoke “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”

Jesus spoke the word of God regularly and applied it to the situation at hand.  Here area few examples:

Jesus spoke the truth of God’s word to the Pharisees who tried to get Jesus to teach his followers to follow the tradition of the elders rather than what he knew was the rightly divided word.

You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;

Jesus spoke the truth of God’s word about why he taught in parables:

(Mat 15:7-8 ESV)

Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not; nor do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which said, “By hearing you shall hear and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see and shall not perceive; for this people’s heart has become gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and they have closed their eyes, lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Mat 13:13-15 MKJV)

When asked about marriage and divorce, Jesus spoke the revealed truth in Genesis 2:

And the Pharisees came to Him, tempting Him and saying to Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And He answered and said to them, Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”, and said, For this cause a man shall leave father and mother and shall cling to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh?
(Mat 19:3-5 MKJV)

There are many more, these are just a few examples.  Jesus’ source for truth wasn’t the literature of the day, what the culture was doing, the philosophy of the times, or his own mind, it was in the revelation given in the scriptures, and the leading of the spirit. And for those of us who call him our Lord, it is up to us to follow that example.

The Not Enough Information Rule – Sticking to What is Revealed

Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 29:

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deu 29:29 ESV)

This verse is fairly plain but let’s just look at some of the words to clarify. The word “secret” in the verse is the Hebrew word sathar which means secret, hidden, concealed, or absent. The word “revealed” in the verse is the Hebrew word galah, which means revealed, denuded, disclosed, or uncovered.

The things that God told us through his prophets are what he has revealed. According to the word of God, those are things that we can know about God. That is what revelation is about. God has revealed to us certain things that we can know, But there are many things that we cannot know about God. There is no amount of philosophizing, speculating, hypothesizing or inductive reasoning that will allow us to break the revelation barrier.

God’s mind is literally on a plane so above ours that there is no comparison. Unless God tells us things about how he and heaven and eternity work we simply can’t know them. We can’t figure them out. Look at these verses that say just that. First, we can’t even understand how great God is:

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. (Psa 145:3 ESV)

We can’t think like God. Unsearchable means that there is no place that we can look to find out what we want to know. God says we can’t figure him out:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:8-9 ESV)

What does that even mean? Here’s an example. The vast majority of us humans think of everything, even eternal things in human terms. For example, time is a human reality with beginnings, middles, and ends. Everything is linear; one thing happens, then another. You wake up, you eat breakfast, you get dressed, and then you go to work or school.

A common timeline belief is that you live, and then you die and go to heaven. N. T. Wright, a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St Andrews, says that belief actually comes from a philosophy called middle Platonism that was common around the time of original Christianity. But, according to Wright, original Christians didn’t actually believe that; rather they held a belief that heaven and earth were twin halves of the Christian life at the same time. According to this belief, heaven and earth exist at the same time!i

Sound too strange? Look at these verses:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus [emphasis added], so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:4-7 ESV)

Look at the tenses involved here. The people reading this are alive in this world. But they are being told that that they are seated in heavenly places, i.e. they are in heaven like they have died or been caught in the rapture! This already happened the way this verse reads! But the people reading this are alive in this world! Yet the verse is talking like we have passed on and are no longer alive and are residing in heaven? Or rather, that we are alive now, but also seated in heavenly places at the same time! There is the earth plane and the spiritual plane, and they co-exist! We are alive now and seated in heavenly places at what we perceive as the same time. Wright says this is more like how original Christians thought.

Now, a common explanation for these verses is that God foreknew that we would believe so he has a place reserved for us, which makes sense for people like us with our analytically based educational system that has foundations back to Greek philosophy.  It certainly sounds like a good explanation to me.  It makes sense.

But, as God’s word says, God’s ways are not our ways! His thinking is so advanced it looks like gibberish to us. We have to stop thinking like we can figure everything out! It doesn’t matter if its the first century, the twenty-first century or the forty-first century if the Lord tarries that long, God’s ways are beyond our reach to understand. So, maybe on God’s plane we are here and seated with him at the same time! How can that be, since we can’t be in two places here in our universe? I don’t know that it is, but, well, God’s ways are unsearchable and it may be just that in God’s reality. Again, he says that in Ephesians 2 above and in Romans 11:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (Rom 11:33-34 ESV)

Deuteronomy states that some things are hidden with God and the above verses say that our ways are not God’s ways and our thoughts are his either. Again, we don’t think like God.

A little more on God’s view of time can be seen from verses like:

For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.  (Psa 90:4 ESV)

I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days; Your years are through the generation of generations. Of old You have laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They shall perish, but You shall endure; yea, all of them shall become old like a garment; like a robe You shall change them, and they shall be changed; but You are He, and Your years shall have no end.  (Psa 102:24-27 MKJV)

These verses above are comparing God’s time to our time in terms we can understand.  But make no mistake, they are also saying that God doesn’t have the constraints of time that we have.  So we don’t really know what time is like for him.

Look at this. I can take a picture of a beautiful vase of flowers. That picture is an image of those flowers, they can reflect the beauty and intricacy of design the colors and outside structures of the flowers, but they are in no way the equal to the flowers. Likewise, we are made in the image of God but are in no way the equal of him who created us. We have an image of God’s thinking, but we in no way have God’s thinking on a lot of areas. We’re not even in the same ballpark!

Look at ants. They are impressive creatures really; they live in highly structured social colonies. They all know their jobs and they work as a team, building incredible colonies. They communicate with each other. ii They can carry 20 times their body weight.iii  Did you know that ants farm other animals? Yes, some ants farm aphids, maintaining herds of them and milking them for food.iv  And just because you haven’t figured out how to talk to an ant doesn’t mean that it doesn’t think in at least some rudimentary form. There are scientists who say that many animals have a wide range of thoughts and feelings.v Ants are pretty sophisticated creatures. vi

But we are so far advanced over ants, or so we think. that there is no comparison. And I don’t think that we are even like ants compared to God, he is that incredible! Yet so many of us think we can figure so much out about God and heaven and eternity! Science has its big bang theories and Christians since the apostles have been taking fragments of writings and extrapolating wide-ranging theologies. They do this utilizing Greek analytical methods of deduction and especially induction reasoning, epistemological tools from Philosophy.

Wisdom and knowledge in the world come under the heading of Philosophy. Philosophy is broken down into branches. There’s ontology or metaphysics which is the study of being. There’s epistemology which is the study of knowledge. There’s ethics which is the study of morals.vii Another division is called aesthetics which in its simplest definition means beauty.

This website has a small section on philosophy because it is referred to in the bible. Whether we realize it or not philosophy has been incorporated into the education of most people in civilized society and recognizing our philosophical indoctrination is crucial to our understanding the topic of differentiating revelation from world influences.  Our educational systems engrain philosophically based analytical thinking into our brains starting in kindergarten.  While our educational systems have yielded great benefits in worldly pursuits in areas like medicine, transportation, communication, industry, and science, they can hinder us greatly when we think we can use them to understand God beyond what God has revealed in his word,

Especially, to those who say that you believe the Bible, I am going to ask, what does the Bible say about how the world teaches us to think? Look at this:

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1Co 1:17-25 ESV)

Do you think because you live thousands of years after the apostles that things are different now? Do you think because we invented computers and sent people into space that we smart enough now to figure out God?  The bible says we are not.

Paul asks rhetorically whether God has made foolish the wisdom of the world! He declares that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men. God says he is going to destroy the wisdom of the wise. So where does that put the wisdom of God? The answer is way, way, way up there, beyond our comprehension.

Remember that theologians include philosophical arguments in their reasoning about theology when they use things like deductive, and especially, inductive reasoning. What are deductive and inductive reasoning you say? Deductive reasoning is “the process of figuring out things that are necessarily true, provided that the assumptions that we start with, are true.”viii If A = B and B = C then we deduct that A = C.

On the other hand, inductive reasoning is “drawing conclusions from particular evidence: if certain things are true, we can induce that other things of the same kind will probably be true.”ix A keyword there is probably. Induction comes without absolute certainty.  It’s taking a bunch of facts and drawing conclusions about them.  We can do this with some success in the natural world but the spiritual world is different.  There aren’t any verses that say that men of our time are different and will be able to figure out things that were previously secret.

SO what are we to do? Study the scriptures as the prophets searched the scripture: carefully:

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, (1Pe 1:10 ESV)

The prophets looked to see what was revealed. Yes, they look for small details that might help them understand better. But they stuck to what was written. And they didn’t take a group of details and induce a new theory, then teach it as truth.

Now, being like the prophets and sticking to what has been revealed can give us great understanding:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, (Col 1:9 ESV)

All doesn’t mean absolutely all. You have to derive the meaning of words in the bible in the context of all of God’s word.  If all in the above verse meant that we could have absolutely all spiritual wisdom and understanding that would contradict the previous verses we looked above that declare that God has secret things that belong just to him and his mind is unsearchable to us.  No, in this case, all means all that is available to us.  But still, to be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding is an awesome thing!  And next, we will read about being encouraged, knit together in love, with full assurance and knowledge of God’s mystery, in Christ.

that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. (Col 2:2-4 ESV)

That sounds awesome because it is; being encouraged, knit together in love, with full assurance!

Now, I want to talk about the plausible arguments mentioned in the verse.  Remember when we defined inductive reasoning, drawing conclusions from pieces of particular evidence. In our universe scientists do this all the time, looking at what is known about something and then drawing conclusions.  So many scientific theories are formed this way, That the theory of evolution is an exercise in inductive reason is something that is well taught.x There are a lot of things about the theory that are plausible, believable. In many scientific minds, it is so plausible that it is accepted as true, but it is not a proven theory. Much of science is like that. And so is a lot of theology!

People have been constructing plausible arguments on everything from soup to nuts including theology, the study of God, using a lot of inductive reasoning since Adam. Sometimes the argument does prove to be true. Sometimes it takes a long time to find the flaw in the argument. Other times the flaw in the induction becomes obvious rather quickly. So much scientific investigation is based on inductive reasoning, looking at collections of facts, drawing conclusions, hypotheses, that are further tested to see whether they bear out as true in the long haul.  It’s right at the fabric of how we think in the world these days.

But, when it comes to God, and eternity, and the universe, we can’t know everything we need to be able to induce reliable conclusions about eternal realities because the secret things belong to God. So a lot of theologies are based on the faulty premise that we can know things that we cannot know because God has hidden them!

Again, the knowledge of God that we can know can bring a peace that passes understanding which is so awesome.

And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Php 4:7 MKJV)

I have tasted that peace and it is so soothing, so comforting. On the other hand, philosophy and its methods can drive you nuts! If philosophy has such perfect and true reasoning then all the philosophers would agree, but they don’t! Frederick Schuller wrote:

We are all aware that philosophers are even more prone to disagree than doctors, and probably all of us are ready upon occasion to contribute our quota to the disagreements that mark, and scar, the face of philosophy. xi

The wisdom of the world is a fickle master. And God is going to destroy it in the end.

On the other hand, Jesus didn’t quote any philosophers, he quoted the word of God, and referred to what prophets said, people charged with delivering revelation, messages from God.

Col 1:9 and 2:2-4 are so very interesting because they acknowledge the reality that we can have great spiritual wisdom and understanding but also that we can be deluded with “plausible arguments”, also translated “enticing words”. The trick is to stick to the text of the word of God, as original as can be found, not adding or subtracting from it. And sticking to what is revealed. Especially remember the downfall of inductive reasoning, that we will never in our current form have enough information to inductively conclude things on God’s plane.

So don’t be afraid to say that there isn’t enough information to know something.  It’s a basic rule in understanding the word of God.

iThe New Testament Doesn’t Say What Most People Think It Does About Heaven, N.T. Wright, https://time.com/5743505/new-testament-heaven/

viiThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Pjilosophy, Jay Stevenson P.h.D, Aplpha Books, (Penguin Books), 2005, p.6-7

viiiIbid, p. 21

ixIbid, p. 22

xThe Origin of Species, article, Spark Series teaching notes, https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/origin/themes/

xiDisagreement in Philosophy An Optimistic Perspective, HERMAN CAPPELEN, http://hermancappelen.net/docs/DisagreementinPhilosophyCambridge.pdf

Jesus and the Manifestations of the Spirit

Some people say that the reasons that Jesus performed all the miracles he did certainly included compassion but also to establish that he was awaited Messiah.i  But Jesus himself stated another reason for his many wonderful works; he was teaching by example that we might follow his powerful walk in the spirit:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (Joh 14:12-14 ESV)

In the church epistles is where we are taught about the manifestations of the spirit, but that is not where they were introduced, just where they were enumerated and expounded on. Manifestations of the spirit are all over the bible.  Lets talk about a few:

And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” (2Ki 6:12 ESV)

Elisha manifested word of knowledge here. He knew by the spirit of God what the opposing king was planning in his bedroom!

And Samson said, “With the jawbone of a donkey, heaps upon heaps, with the jawbone of a donkey have I struck down a thousand men.” As soon as he had finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone out of his hand. And that place was called Ramath-lehi. And he was very thirsty, and he called upon the LORD and said, “You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant, and shall I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” And God split open the hollow place that is at Lehi, and water came out from it. And when he drank, his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore the name of it was called En-hakkore; it is at Lehi to this day.
(Jdg 15:16-19 ESV)

Samson manifested faith to best a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey and again to have a rock split to be refreshed from his thirst.

Anyone with a knowledge of bible history knows the story of Naaman. The manifestation of a gift of healing cleansed him from leprosy.
Of course there are many more, but it isn’t until after Pentecost when Christ’s awesome sacrifice allowed us to be redeemed and have the spirit of God in us again for the first time since Adam’s sin (Old testament believers with spirit had the spirit on them, not in them!) And Paul’s dealing with the Corinthians led him to expound on the manifestations of the spirit.

So, in 1 Corinthians 12, we read about manifestations of spirit:

For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. (1Co 12:8-10 KJV)

From above we see listed nine manifestations: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith or believing, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning (distinguishing) of spirits, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues. Jesus manifested seven of these. Speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues was not introduced until Pentecost.

First of all, while there may be occasions where only one of these manifestations occur in the event, it may be that more than one manifestation is demonstrated in an event. For example, a person loves God, strives to live righteously, and looks to God in every event. And in the normal course of life he sees many needing healing, but while he can pray for each one, he is powerless to heal them. Then he encounters a certain someone, and he senses the spirit energizing in him to heal this time. This time he trusts that there will be healing; that is the manifestation of faith. When he lays hands on the person and speaks the words of healing that is the manifestation of the gift of healing. There may also be the word of knowledge and/or word of wisdom given him to give to the person in the event, perhaps telling them to avoid certain activities that led up to this illness.

So lets look at Jesus Christ manifesting the spirit. Here are verses where Jesus manifested word of wisdom:

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” (Mat 17:24-27 ESV)

An internet search of this event can be found listing this as a miracle. ii It certainly is a demonstration of supernatural power. But the supernatural event may not have been that a coin was created in a certain fish as much as Jesus knew how to tell his apostle to find a certain fish in the sea that had somehow swallowed a coin! Knowing what to do is wisdom, and that would make this event an example of a word of wisdom.

Here are verses where Jesus manifested word of knowledge:

On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts [emphasis added], and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. (Luk 6:6-11 ESV)

Now, this was miraculous healing and that is powerful, but the fact that he knew their thoughts was divine revelation, in this case, word of knowledge. Word of knowledge is gaining information that can only be gained by the spirit of God. That is what happened here. There was also the manifestation of a word of wisdom in knowing by the spirit the best way to handle the situation. And there was the manifestation of faith and the gift of healing.

Jesus manifested faith:

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Mat 21:18-22 ESV)

We clearly see that Jesus used this exhibition to demonstrate the manifestation of faith. While this was not a healing or some miraculous feeding of thousands, Jesus both demonstrated and taught the manifestation of faith here.  It was Jesus teaching moment, one of many in the gospels.

Jesus manifested gifts of healing; there are so many:

While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” (Luk 5:12-14 ESV)

And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. (Luk 17:12-14 ESV)

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. (Mat 12:13 ESV)

And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. (Mat 8:13 ESV)

Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Mat 15:28 ESV)

Jesus demonstrated such a powerful healing ministry.  Next, Jesus manifested working of miracles:

And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. (Mar 6:35-44 ESV)

Here we see the faith to perform this miracle of multiplying a few loaves and fishes into feeding thousands.

Jesus manifested prophecy. Jesus prophesied doom for cities that rejected him:

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (Mat 11:20-24 ESV)

Jesus prophesied his betrayal:

When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” (Mat 26:20-25 ESV)

Jesus prophesied the coming the baptism of the holy spirit:

He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Act 1:3-5 ESV)

Jesus manifested discerning of spirits:

As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” (Mat 9:32-33 ESV)

And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region. (Mat 8:28-34 ESV)

So we see that the manifestations talked about in 1 Corinthians chapter twelve were on full display by our Lord and Savior, certainly to serve us but also to teach us!

ii The Miracles of Jesus Christ: The Coin in the Fish’s Mouth, https://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/BS/k/1586/Miracles-Jesus-Christ-Coin-in-Fishs-Mouth.htm

Jesus Taught the Kingdom of God.

Most people understand the idea of a Kingdom or monarchy. It is a land or a realm where a king or queen rules. Examples in the bible include Kings Saul, David, Solomon, and the succession of Kings in Israel and Judah. Examples of monarchs today are Queen Elizabeth of the British Empire and Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of the Kingdom of Bahrain where he has been the ruling since 1999i. What may be confusing are kingdoms where the king or queen is mostly ceremonial and the land is instead governed by a democratically elected government like Britain is today. In Israel, the king was the absolute ruler and that is the kind of kingdom of the Kingdom of God or Heaven at which we will be looking. Just remember the kingdom of God is the realm where God is the king or absolute ruler.

Before Jesus began his ministry John the Baptist began preaching about the Kingdom:

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mat 3:1-2 ESV)

Likewise, Jesus, from the first of his ministry, preached the same message:

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mat 4:17 ESV)

Jesus continued that theme throughout his ministry on earth:
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.  (Mat 9:35 ESV)

Then when Jesus sent out the twelve he made a point about the importance of the Kingdom of God:

And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. (Luk 9:1-2 ESV)

Preaching the Kingdom of God is central to the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.

Here are some verses about the Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God that help us understand what it is (while there is some debate among scholars, the terms Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God are used interchangeably):

Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God [emphasis added] has come upon you. (Mat 12:22-28 ESV)

We learn something about this kingdom here; in it, the Spirit of God is energized to rule over demons! And there is a critical defining bit here about what this Kingdom is, “if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” The “place” of this Kingdom is where the Spirit of God is!  The place of the Kingdom is the spiritual realm.

This brings up another point. The Devil is real. Jesus taught about him, how he works, and what he can do. With Jesus, you have nothing to fear, but without him, as we shall see, you are living in the devil’s realm.

Another benefit of the residents of the Kingdom of Heaven is understanding:

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven [emphasis added], but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. “Hear then the parable of the sower: (Mat 13:10-18 ESV)

People in the kingdom of heaven have their understanding opened to be able to see the things of God while the people of the world are blind to them. Only people in the Kingdom can understand what is going on with God.  The world blinds people to the realities of both what God and the devil are doing. The world says God is dead, or not doing anything for anyone really, or its all science, and there is no devil, devils are just characters in horror movies and so on and so on.  The word of God shows us the life of the Redeemer so that we can share in the true life that is available to us.  Jesus is a worthy Lord, follow him!

The Gospels are chock full of teaching about the Kingdom:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
(Mat 7:21 ESV)

This verse says that it isn’t enough to go to church and act like a Christian.  God looks at the heart and what people are really doing in their lives.

Perhaps some think that this is much ado about nothing because God created the earth, right? So he should already be king, right? Well, he did but he’s not. Look at these verses:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
(Joh 18:36 ESV)

I (Jesus speaking) will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me,
(Joh 14:30 ESV)

Jesus is talking about Satan here who literally is the ruler of the world! For a moment I want to look at the Epistles for further enlightenment. Paul expanded on what this means:

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  (2Co 4:4 ESV)

1 John adds this:

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.  (1Jn 5:19 ESV)

Basically, mankind was given dominion over the earth in Genesis:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion [emphasis added] over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:27-28 ESV)

But Satan gained that control (dominion) when he got Adam to sin:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned [emphasis added] from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Rom 5:12-14 ESV)

I repeat: Satan gained dominion from Adam when he got him to sin.  Part of Redemption is freeing believers from the god of this world, Satan.

So, now, back to what Jesus taught. Here again, are previously mentioned Gospel Kingdom verses relating to the topic of two kingdoms:

And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?… But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Mat 12:26,28 ESV)

Jesus declares here the battle of the kingdoms, the kingdom of God, and that of him who is enemy to God: Satan. The realm is the spiritual realm. And Jesus got very specific about the fact that every person is either in one or the other. First, read this whole passage:

Do not lay up treasures on earth for yourselves, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up treasures in Heaven for yourselves, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye. Therefore if your eye is sound, your whole body shall be full of light. But if your eye is evil, your whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say to you, Do not be anxious for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Behold the birds of the air; for they sow not, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them; are you not much better than they are? Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his stature? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They do not toil, nor do they spin, but I say to you that even Solomon in his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Therefore if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much rather clothe you, little-faiths? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, With what shall we be clothed? For the nations seek after all these things. For your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
(Mat 6:19-33 MKJV)

Now, let’s look at how the above discussed the living in different Kingdoms. “No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon”, this verse is saying you are either in one kingdom or the other. What is mammon, you say. It is part of the realm of Satan where “treasures on earth” are heaped up. The passage describes those under mammon who pursue treasures on earth including foods, drinks, fine clothes, but also any earthly treasure: houses, jewelry, vehicles, entertainment experiences. The passage describes that pursuit as full of darkness and evil. Pursuing the other kingdom means seeking the righteousness of God. And the passage says that amazingly, people in the Kingdom of God get earthly riches, they just don’t pursue them first, they pursue God first.

Look at the battle between the two kingdoms in this parable:

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom (emphasis added). The weeds are the sons of the evil one (emphasis added), and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Mat 13:36-43 ESV)

This could be called the plight of the sons of the kingdom versus the plight of the sons of the evil one. This parable is preaching the benefits of the Kingdom of God. The sons of the kingdom are clearly the winners here.  There is also prophecy in this parable, that the Son of Man will send his angels and throw in the fiery furnace.
There are so many references in the Gospels to the Kingdom. Look at these parables:

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven [emphasis added] may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Mat 18:23-35 ESV)

In the Kingdom of God God expects us to have mercy on others the way He has mercy on us, Here’s another parable:

“For the kingdom of heaven [emphasis added] is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”
(Mat 20:1-16 ESV)

In the Kingdom of heaven, God expects us to realize that greatness isn’t determined by who was born first or called first.

There are many more. For an exercise look at the references to the Kingdom of God in the Beatitudes.
Jesus proclaimed many things about the Kingdom and it was and is a main emphasis in his teaching ministry.

T 1.1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 1b, The Nothing But the Truth Rule

OriginalChristianity.net is about what Original Christians actually believed and practiced, and then how it evolved over the millennia into a widely divided system of now thousands of denominations. So it is important to focus right here on key elements that contributed to this massive splintering. Critical to that point, we start in Part one discussing how part of the Apostolic tradition is to avoid any traditions of men that nullify the word of God. We saw in the article, T 0.2 The Jews and Tradition, that Jesus took great issue with the system of the Jews that built up a huge theological system around the Law that they considered just as important as the Law but it actually was a stumbling block. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees with truths like that there were many lepers in Israel when Naaman was healed by going to the man of God but no one in Israel was healed, and it was because how tradition had worked against the people.

Now I want to look at what I call the Nothing But the Truth rule of the Old Testament:

“Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.  (Deu 12:32 ESV)

Because this concept was integral to Jewish life under the Law, it was integral to the Apostles, being Jews.  It is also important to anyone who is a witness.  The concept of a good witness is seen in numerous passage in both the Old and New Testaments.  Here are a few examples:

I can do nothing of My own self. As I hear, I judge, and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of the Father who has sent Me. If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.  (Joh 5:30-32 MKJV)

You sent to John, and he bore witness to the truth.  (Joh 5:33 MKJV)

And the apostles gave witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power. And great grace was on them all.  (Act 4:33 MKJV)

Therefore they stayed a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who bore witness to the word of His grace, giving miracles and wonders to be done by their hands.
(Act 14:3 MKJV)

These examples illustrate the meaning of witness which is to give reliable evidence or proof, whether it be concerning the truth of God’s word or regarding some life event.

Now, the only way that the Jews created and built up the huge tradition that they had was by adding and subtracting to the Law.   That’s so easy to see in many places. For example, in the Law it was illegal to eat after noon on the 14th of Nisan, but the Jews added two hours. That’s violating Deuteronomy 12:32 by adding! Another example is that the Law specified work exceptions of the Sabbath. Not only was certain work allowed on the Sabbath, but you were breaking the Law not to do certain things like rescuing an animal that had fallen into a ditch. There is nothing in the actual Law against healing someone of the Sabbath, but the Jews had added that to the Law thus nullifying the love of God in the Law! The Jews built up their huge tradition by adding and subtracting to the Law in Genesis through Deuteronomy. Remember, their position was that the Law given to Moses was incomplete, and the oral law was needed to understand the written law. But in looking at this oral law we see that it is the result of debate and consensus building over the ages, definitely the practice of adding and subtracting, in violation of Deuteronomy 12:32. (See T 0.2 The Jews and Tradition for more examples).

In my country, and in many places around the world, is the concept of sworn testimony. The person giving the testimony says the following:

“I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” Many other countries use similar phrasing.

So, if the person does not tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, they can be liable to the charge of perjury. I call this the Nothing But the Truth rule. There’s nothing in the bible about this particular oath, but as mentioned above there are a lot of things about being a witness.  Here are a few more that relate to testifying:

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Exo 20:16 ESV)

Interesting, also, is that the standard in a criminal case was to have more than one witness:

“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. (Deu 19:15 ESV)

At least in modern times, eyewitness testimony has not been found to be that trustworthy i. It appears that was the case in Old Testament times as God required more than one witness to institute a charge against someone.

What a person says on the witness stand needs to follow the guidelines in Deuteronomy 12:32. They cannot add to or take away from anything that happened. If you have multiple people saying the same thing you can have certainty in what happened.

The same truth applies to the teaching of God’s word, when multiple witnesses all teach the same thing you can have certainty that what they say is true. But, when you have multiple teachers and they are all over the board, it becomes harder and harder to have certainty. One says that the manifestations of the spirit ended with the Apostles, another says they are available. One says Jesus broke the Law, another says Jesus was accused of breaking the Law but he didn’t. One teaches it is a sin to drink any alcohol, another teaches that we can enjoy a glass but shouldn’t drink to excess and even Jesus turned water into wine. One says tithing is mandated, another says that it was for the temple only but we are taught to give liberally how and when we can. One says the bible clearly teaches that homosexuality is expressly denounced both in Old Testament and New, another says that in the New Testament age that we are in the New Testament is silent so it must be okay. One teaches that the Old Testament standard for false prophecy (all prophecies come to pass), another teaches that in the age of grace it’s okay if a prophecy doesn’t happen. Christian teachers teach against each other over many other issues too: autonomy of the local church, to have clergy or not, abortion, evolution, eternal security, predestination, the acceptability of Christian Counseling, the role of women in the church, the end times, and more. All of this argument over what scripture says does not build faith and certainty, it breeds doubt and uncertainty.

But, from Deuteronomy 12:32 we see that living and speaking Scripture is supposed to be under this same Nothing But the Truth rule.

This is critical to having one faith, one mind, with people saying the same thing.

There isn’t a true count of how many Christian believers there are in the world, but estimates put the number at over 1 billion. If every other person just changes one little thing in the word of God, by the time that changing is done, what would we have left?

What we have now with just thousands and thousands of different denominations teaching various viewpoints and theologies is at least partly the result of different people saying that the same words in the Bible mean different things.

I grew up in the Roman Catholic system and was instructed that the Roman Catholic Church, being Jesus’s replacement on earth, has the right to institute all policies it decides to because it has been given that power in Matthew 16:

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mat 16:17-19 ESV)

The wording in this verse is misleading if you don’t read it correctly in the whole context of the word of God.  The correct understanding is that believers on earth have authority on earth to bind that which is already bound in heaven and the same for loosing.  If the Catholic Interpretation is true then Jesus is giving Peter more authority than Jesus himself has because we read in verses like John 5:19:

Then Jesus answered and said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, The Son can do nothing of Himself but what He sees the Father do. For whatever things He does, these also the Son does likewise.  (Joh 5:19 MKJV)

Since Jesus can only do what his Father in heaven does, Peter is going to be limited by that also when given the keys to heaven from Jesus!

Nevertheless, the Catholic Church preaches this verse differently so one of the things it decided to do was model itself after the Jewish system in many ways. You can also see this from the institution of baptism as the replacement for circumcision to the institution of the Catholic priesthood as a replacement for the Levitical priesthood, and not that every case is wrong. So some people make the case for the former from these verses:

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Col 2:11-12 ESV)

Scripture is saying here that there is a symbolic comparison to be made between baptism today and circumcision in the Old Testament so there is some validity for the Catholic doctrine here. But the latter point that the Church could and should institute a priesthood like the Levitical priesthood is not found in the New testament. Yet Catholics argue that it is biblical because we are called “the Israel of God in Col 6:16, ergo modeling Christian elements like the priesthood after Israel is part of the New Covenant ii:

And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (Gal 6:16 ESV)

You have to do a lot of reading into this verse (private interpretation) to say that it is telling us to set up a priesthood using the Levitical priesthood model after the day of Pentecost. The website says “it is biblically reasonable and fitting” without showing any actual direction from scripture to do this task. That says to me that while the new Testament does not say to do this they are saying there is a way to interpret both the Old and New Testaments to allow the church to make this decision. That is not the way of the Apostles tradition, that is the way of Jewish tradition that Jesus fought against. We will talk about this much more when we look at Catholic tradition, but it illustrates the point of not going beyond what scripture actually says.

So, please be careful with what we read in the New Testament and subsequently preach. It is so easy to have confirmation bias and make substitutions that are really changing the word of God.

I have heard many teachings and preaching over my years and I have heard preachers stay true to the text that they are preaching, but I have also heard many preachers teach in ways that are more than what the verses they are talking about say. I have heard them read into verses things that are not there like the Catholics with Matthew 16:17-19. I have heard them preach about what the person in the record “must have” thought or felt. It’s one thing to try to engage the listening audience by talking about the possible thinking or emotions involved as long as you specify that this is supposition. Otherwise, you are adding to the account things that are not there.

Also when discussing alternate viewpoints on something preachers are preaching on I have heard them make villains of people who disagree with them rather than clearly show how what they are teaching from scripture is indisputable.

Remember the Nothing But the Truth Rule, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Or as is says in Deuteronomy, everything that we are commanded, we shall be careful to do. We shall not add to it or take from it in either our actions or words. That way we can say we are committed to this verse:

But I exhort you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1Co 1:10 MKJV)

Biblical references are from the ASV version unless otherwise noted.
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