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…”

The Importance Of Each Word, More on Word Studies

I have many times heard a preacher or teacher substitute one word for another in a verse or set of verses.  For example

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved[emphasis added]. (Rom 10:9 ESV)

The teacher might say that instead of saying “saved” just use the word “changed”.  Is that okay?  Or they might say instead of reading “glory” in a verse use the word “beauty”.   It really happens a lot in sermons just like in day to day conversation it is common to offer a different word when someone sees someone struggling to understand what is said.

Translating words to more accurate terms is a good thing as long as the replacement term is more accurate.  I am going to say that in my experience sometimes the preacher’s choice of a replacement word is great, and other times, not so much.  I am confident the teacher is not intending to misrepresent God’s word and the Lord knows we all stumble with words at times.  But it is the word of God we are talking about.  Yes, use a synonym that translates something better but be accurate!  If you are not good with languages including biblical languages then you are not the one to be re-translating words.  Get some help.  Even if you think your spirit has received the true meaning test it.    I John says:

Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  (1Jn 4:1 WEB)

What aren’t we supposed to just believe here?  The answer is words that we think are from the spirit of God.  That could be words that someone else has said came from the Spirit, or it could be words in our head that we think are from the Spirit of God.  Even on the fly when there isn’t time to check with someone you can run some checks in your head.  Does what you have heard line up with what you know from scripture.  If it is changing a word does it fit when substituted in other scriptures using the same word?

We read:

Let the prophets speak, two or three, and let the others discern.  (1Co 14:29 WEB)

When prophets speak, and that is anyone saying that they received something from the spirit that they are communicating, other prophets observing are supposed to evaluate if the message is genuine.  I see a lot of people saying that they believe the Spirit communicated this or that, but I don’t always see some checking.

So, research it in the lexicons and concordances, or find someone good with translations and languages to back up your re-translation

By now we should be well aware of the scriptural admonition in Deuteronomy:

You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.  (Deu 4:2 ESV)

In my previous article, T1.31 More on Paul’s Decision To Go To Jerusalem, How Tradition Can Affect Translation And Meaning, Accepting Deliverance When Available I show how Agabus’ prophecy that the Jews would “deliver” Paul into the hands of the Gentiles is the Greek word paradidomi, which means surrender or yield up and so “deliver” might be misleading.  In fact, in numerous articles, I do the same thing where I see the translation might be misleading. When there is a word that is possibly misleading or hard to understand, my pattern is to show the Greek word, as well as meaning in English as well as some alternative translations.

However, I have also heard preachers just use other words, that is, just translate on the fly, in order to talk in terms that they think that their audience will better understand than the word or words in scripture. When I hear that I wonder if it is the preacher just trying to make it more understandable for the believers or that he doesn’t understand the term well enough himself and just substitutes words that he feels more comfortable with.  Unfortunately, that becomes private interpretation, something we are warned not to do:

knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke, being moved by the Holy Spirit.  (2Pe 1:20-21 WEB)

Private interpretation is literally one’s own explanation or interpretation.  The prophets were warned not to do that and neither should we.  The difference is between just saying what we think it means and what the words in the actual message are.  Anyone with kids knows scenarios like this.  The parent says the child can’t go out until their homework is done.  In frustration, the child says “you  never let me do anything.” It’s an extreme example but you get the point.  The child is interpreting what was said from “I can’t go out until my homework is done” to “I’m can’t do anything.”  It’s actually close to what the parent said, but it’s not what they said.

If we are going to satisfy the scriptural mandate not to add or subtract from scripture, and we want to deliver the meaning of the scripture, in our language instead of the original, then we need to teach the true meaning of the term.  If we think the translation isn’t really accurate then we need to translate it ourselves more accurately. That means work.  That means nerdy stuff like researching.  One way to is to do a word study, and see how the word is translated in other places as we did in Doing a Word Study To Determine a Word’s Meaning in the Original language.
Once we have the real meaning of the word then it is up to the teacher, and even the preacher, to teach what that word really means.  Teaching a word study isn’t something that everyone in the pew is going to lap up; the teacher does it and shares enough in teachings to help people better understand without boring them to sleep.  I’ll grant you it’s not always an easy task.

For example, the word saved mentioned above, I have heard replaced with the word changed among other things.  How accurate is that?  A word study of the word saved shows that it appears 57 times in the KJV.  Looking at Strong’s Concordance we see that the Greek word for save(d), sozo, has been assigned the number G4982.  And a search of G4982 shows that it has been translated 103 times in the KJV meaning that it has been translated something other than saved 46 times.

Here are some verses where it was translated save(d):

She shall give birth to a son. You shall call his name Jesus, for it is he who shall save his people from their sins.”  (Mat 1:21 WEB)

They came to him, and woke him up, saying, “Save us, Lord! We are dying!”  (Mat 8:25 WEB)

For the Son of Man came to save that which was lost.  (Mat 18:11 WEB)

that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  (Rom 10:9-10 WEB)

It will be that whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Act 2:21 WEB)

These are familiar verses.  Please note that the word salvation has the same root word as saved, salvation being the state of being saved.

But “saved” isn’t really a term people commonly use outside of church that much.  So what is a better translation?  Let’s look at some of the other ways it has been translated as well as the context around those verses and see if those translations communicate better.

And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.  (Mat 9:20-22 ESV)

Made well in the verses above is G4982.  That’s pretty understandable and looks correct in the context.  How about this one?

And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.  (Mar 6:56 ESV)

Again, sozo has been translated as “made well”.  They were ill, now they are healthy.  Instead of “made well”, these verses are translated “made whole” in the KJV.  And look at this one in the MKJV:

And Jesus said to him, Go, your faith has healed you. And instantly he saw again, and he followed Jesus in the way. (Mar 10:52 MKJV)

The translators of the MKJV used the word “healed” for G4982, sozo.

Look at this verse.  Guess which word is sozo?

And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me for his heavenly Kingdom; to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.  (2Ti 4:18 WEB)

Did you guess deliver?  That is actually the Greek word rhuomai (G4506), which means rescue.  In the above verse “preserve” is sozo, and means kept healthy or kept whole.

So, by now, it is pretty obvious that translating sozo as “made whole” or healed makes a lot of sense in those verses.  In fact, made whole or made well is a pretty good replacement for saved in general.

A concordance is a listing of words in a text.  Strong’s is the one that we have been referring to, but there is another concordance that I have used for many years and that is Youngs Analytical Concordance of the Bible.  It doesn’t have its own numbering system.  But it does list all the words used in the bible, and it has something else, index-lexicons.  These tools list the Hebrew and Greek words with all the ways that they are translated in the KJV.  In the index-lexicons, it also cites Strong’s number for each word enabling you to use Young’s along with Strong’s to get a more complete picture.

Regarding the word sozo, Young’s tells us that it was translated

heal 3 (times)
make whole 9
preserve 1
save 92
Passive: be whole 2
do well 1
save one’s self 1
Participle: save one’s self 1

There is also a sense of rescue in saved and saved in modern terms can mean being rescued.  When someone is in danger, that is damaging to them.  They are put under stress.  Their life is negatively affected.  Saving them makes them whole or well so that their life is not negatively affected.  The people in the boat asked Jesus to make them whole by removing the danger to their lives.

So, do you see the word changed in any of those translations? No.  But, is “changed” a legitimate substitute for saved?

A legitimate substitute is a word that is a synonym, a word that can pretty much replace the original term without any loss of meaning.  Funny and humorous are synonyms.  You can use funny everywhere you use humorous and not lose anything.   Likewise for industrious and hard-working.  You can use hardworking everywhere for industrious and not make a mistake.

Saved and changed are not universally synonymous because while being saved is always being changed, being changed is not always being saved.  Being saved is always a good thing.  It is being healed, being made whole or well.  Changed can be a good thing or a bad thing.  A person can be saved and is now a healthy person.  A person can be changed and is dying. Changes can come in degrees.  Saved gives the connotation of a complete restoration.  A better word than changed would be restored.

By the way, I have heard the word “changed” substituted for saved in different groups so it may be a lesson that has made the rounds.  I will say this, one time I heard it the teacher explained why he was using the word changed.  He said he saw people coming to meetings and nothing appeared to be happening to them.  His point, he said, is that that if you get the Lord in your life there should be some good change to see, and if there isn’t, we need to look at what is really going on with this person.  That is a very valid point.  I agree that we can say that part of being saved is that a person is changed for the better, and there should be some evidence of that.  That is much closer to the definition of sozo.

So, is this nitpicking?  If it is, then Deut 4:2 is nitpicking.  Scripture is a book of words, all it has is words.  The scriptures we call the word of God are God’s words.  The law and the prophets are holy men of God speaking as they were moved by the holy spirit.  Who are we to idly change God’s words?  While certainly, part of the ministry of a teacher is to make sense of what is written, we are charged with being diligent in searching the scriptures to find what God meant and present that accurately.  The charge not to add or subtract is a necessary safeguard.

When we find that the current word seems hard to understand, we need to be worthy workmen and diligently search out the meaning:

Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.  (2Ti 2:15 MKJV)

Word studies are key disciplines in rightly dividing the word of truth and getting the words right.

Doing a Word Study To Determine a Word’s Meaning in the Original language

This particular word study is very personal to me, and it may be to you because it has to do with the origin of the Gospels. I was raised a Roman Catholic and had twelve years of religion classes in Catholic schools. However, my mother’s side called themselves Protestant and believed in the Bible as the only source of truth. Additionally, my mother agreed not to talk to me about anything about her faith as a condition of her being married to a Catholic! However, the things of God were very important to me even as a very young child. I pestered my mother for answers, and she reluctantly started to tell me what the Bible said about different things.
That caused a problem because I was very excited about these things and brought it up with a priest that I talked to even back in first grade and onward. But, when I said that my mother told me it was from the Bible, the priest got very mad and proceeded to chew me out for paying attention to such forbidden topics as at that time we were forbidden to read the bible especially non-Catholic bibles. But I knew that what I heard from the Bible gave me joy while I so often felt dead in religion class and wanted to learn more from my mom’s side. So, while I was very excited about learning things from the Bible, that priest tried to drill into me that the Mother Church decided all things doctrine!
One thing that resulted from this was that, different from many raised in Christian churches, I was not raised, nor did I believe at that time, that the Bible was the sole source of the Christian faith in this world. We did have a Bible history class where we were taught the inspiring stories of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samson, David, and so forth, but that was just for some history. There were occasional bible verses thrown in to support Catholic dogma, but it was Catholic dogma as displayed in Catechism that was paramount.  I was taught from an early age, even back then, that there was a Magisterium, a ruling body in the church that decided what is true, that there was a Canon of laws independent of the Bible, and that the Pope at times spoke ex-cathedra. If anything in the Catholic church was infallible, it wasn’t scripture, it was the Pope. So, while I was thrilled with bits of the Bible that I picked up here and there, I was drilled in Catechism and I had no sense growing up that the Bible was the sole source of truth as my Protestant relatives professed.
As a result, when I believed that God raised Jesus from the dead, when I confessed him as Lord at about seven years old I was overjoyed realizing I had eternal life, but I did not believe in the Bible like so many others in my family did and perhaps you.
Then in my early twenties, I was exposed to the Bible, taught that the 66 books of the Protestant Bible were the inerrant word of God. Compared to the deadness of Catholic dogmatic teaching I was thrilled with the life-giving truth of the Bible and accepted it wholeheartedly as the sole source of truth for doctrine. But as time went on, the many divisions and controversies in the Church confronted me to investigate all of the claims that so many Bible-believing Churches make with the view toward reconciling how so many groups declare Scripture as the sole source of truth while teaching so many different things including traditions and nonapostolic sources as gospel truth. And I realized that there are problems with different teachings of Scripture that need to be dealt with for the body of Christ to mature.  As evidenced in the section on this website called Divisions, there are many biblical topics that different believers and churches teach different things about and so all cannot be correct.
But, a warning, be ready for push back. Look at this record.  Remember when Jesus sent the twelve in Matthew 10?  He sent them to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  Well, all of the division in the body of Christ, with all the controversies over doctrine and all the dependence on so many traditions that have sprung up since the Apostles’ traditions were established means that there are lost sheep in the Christian Churches today.  And even ones that are saved may be lost in the sense that they are stuck in infant mode because of the nonapostolic traditions that have been ingrained in them.  But we have an example, Jesus sent out the twelve, remember, not to unbelievers but to the assemblies of Jews, the religious people who thought they were on the right track following the traditions of the elders. Look at these instructions that he gave:

As you enter into the household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come on it, but if it isn’t worthy, let your peace return to you. Whoever doesn’t receive you, nor hear your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Most certainly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city. “Behold, I send you out as sheep among wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to councils, and in their synagogues they will scourge you. Yes, and you will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the nations. But when they deliver you up, don’t be anxious how or what you will say, for it will be given you in that hour what you will say.  (Mat 10:12-19 WEB)

The twelve were warned that the good, synagogue going people might do all kinds of bad things including being thrown out of the synagogue, and even being scourged, and brought before authorities.  This has happened in Christian times, especially during things like the Inquisition, and there are places on earth today where certain Christians are persecuted, but in a lot of places, even without authorities stepping in, churches and church people may take action against you.  This is called persecution in the Bible.

“Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  (Mat 5:11-12 WEB)

Look at that.  People are rewarded with what is called a prophet’s reward for enduring persecution, and are encouraged to rejoice and be exceedingly glad!  Your eternal rewards will be greater because you chose to follow the truth rather than go along with the crowd!

One thing that I have realized throughout this whole process is that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life and died on the cross for your sins and mine, and was raised from the dead, went to the Father to be the intercessor for all who claim him. And maybe because I believed that way before I was ever taught that the sixty-six books of the Christian Bible are the inerrant written word of God then whatever errors and controversies I see don’t daunt my faith in Jesus as the living word of God. But there is still grief at the loss of relationships over this matter just like any other loss.
So, keep in mind the goal of seeing the whole body of Christ mature until we all, as many as are true believers, in true unity get to the knowledge of the Son of God to where we are as mature and complete as the Lord Jesus Christ:

until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;  (Eph 4:13 WEB)

So, back to Luke 1:3:

It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, (Luk 1:3 KJV)

Once I started being taught about the word of God status of the whole Bible, more than once I sat and listened to teachings that in The King James Version translation of Luke 1:3 the words “perfect understanding” signified the Holy Spirit guidance of Luke’s writing making it scripture just as described in 2 Peter:

For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke, being moved by the Holy Spirit. (2Pe 1:21 WEB)

In those same teachings, more than once I was taught that the only way someone can truly have perfect understanding is by being moved by the Holy Spirit. I was told this verse is proof that these gospels are in the same category as the Law and the Prophets. I was taught that this was proof that the gospels were revelation just like the Old Testament. But are they? They don’t say that the writers received the word of the Lord. But, on the other hand, neither does this in any way prove that they are just human inventions and not true accounts of what happened.

When I read this verse I read that the writer chose to write these words because he had an excellent understanding of what happened. First off, when I read that it seemed good to him to write that indicates it was the man’s choice, it was his will to do this, not that he was following the Spirit’s guidance. I don’t see anywhere in these words that he received these words by revelation or that they were God’s words or anything that indicates that it was the Spirit of God’s decision for the author to write these things or that the Spirit moved to have these words written.   And, we have that he had “perfect understanding” in the verse. I know that the word perfect in the Bible doesn’t necessarily mean divine. So, in order to get to the meaning of this verse that the writer intended, I did a word study of the words “perfect understanding”.

In order to do a word study, we need to understand a few things. We want to look at the verse as close to the original language as possible. And the original language of the New Testament books is a little controversial. The most popular view is that they were written in Koine Greek, commonly spoken Greek, as compared to Classical Greek. Greek was the most common language in that part of the world just like English is a common language today even in places where it is not the native language. However, some have argued that Jesus and the apostles spoke in Aramaic, and would have written in that language and promote the Peshitta texts as the original form. After all, it is argued that “Aramaic is the oldest continuously spoken and written language in the Middle East, even older than written Hebrew and Arabic. It is among the oldest written languages in the world.”i

And it is known that Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew, so there is some argument for Hebrew originals as well. There are Latin texts but they didn’t come until later.

The Greek texts give by far the greatest evidence, and they are the tools that we will use today. But a good exercise would be to investigate these words in Peshitta and Hebrew Texts if you have access to them.

The Koine Greek words for “perfect understanding” in this verse are akribos and parakoleutheo. Definitions of words are determined by looking at how they are used in other places as well as secular sources. In our case akribos is used five times and parakoleutheo is used four times in the New Testament in the KJV. In order to understand these words more fully, we will look at how these words are used in these other places.  We will look at the context of those verses and determine their meanings.

First, how do you know what the Greek words are? There are translations that assign the Greek word to the translated word in the form of what are called Strong’s numbers. Way back in 1890, James Strong developed a concordance of Bible Words and their Hebrew and Greek counterparts, the root form of the word in the translation. There are other lexicons and concordances that you can use, but Strong’s is a good tool.  Tools like the free e-Sword program present verses in the Bible in the following manner with the Strong’s numbers:

Luk_1:3  It seemed goodG1380 to me also,G2504 having had perfectG199 understandingG3877 of all thingsG3956 from the very first,G509 to writeG1125 unto theeG4671 in order,G2517 most excellentG2903 Theophilus,G2321

This is the verse, Luke 1:3, in the KJV version of the Bible with Strong’s numbers. In our case, we are interested there to see that perfect is assigned the Strong’s number, G199, and understanding is assigned G3877. In the e-Sword program you can hover over each Strong’s number and a pop-up will appear with the Strong’s number definition, the definition that the people at Strong’s determined from studying how that Greek word was studied. Here is the G199 pop-up:

Here are the other occurrences of G199:

Then Herod secretly called the wise men, and learned from them exactly what time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, and said, “Go and search diligently for the young child. When you have found him, bring me word, so that I also may come and worship him.” (Mat 2:7-8 WEB)

The word “diligently” is translated from akribos, and you can see that there is no implication that Holy Spirit guidance was implied in Herod’s instruction to the men in how to search for the young Jesus. There is nothing in this usage to indicate that their search was other than human, not perfect in the sense of being divinely inspired.

This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John. (Act 18:25 WEB)

The word “accurately” above is akribos (G199), and it looks like it is accurately translated, pun intended. While he was accurate on what he knew, what he knew was incomplete. So his understanding was not perfect and doesn’t appear to be divinely inspired, although the verse does say he was fervent in spirit, but that is not the same.

Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; (Eph 5:15 WEB)

The word “carefully” above is akribos (G199), and it looks like it is accurately translated too. While we are to follow the spirit in everything that we do, this verse is charging us to use our senses to “watch carefully.”

For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. (1Th 5:2 WEB)

Here akribos (G199) is translated as “well”. The implication is that these people have been well taught, and have a good understanding, not that they received this knowledge by revelation.

Likewise, the word “understanding” (G3877, parakoleutheo) in Luke 1:3 is used three other times in the New Testament in the KJV. The Strong’s definition (from the e-Sword program) is “to follow near, that is, attend, trace out”. The definition means following something, tracing something out.

These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new languages; (Mar 16:17 WEB)

The word “accompany” above is the word Greek word parakoleutheo (G3877). Another way of translating it would be “Signs will be traced back to believers…”.

If you instruct the brothers of these things, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine which you have followed.
(1Ti 4:6 WEB)

The word “followed” above is the word Greek word parakoleutheo (G3877), and it looks like a reasonable translation.

But you did follow my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, steadfastness, (2Ti 3:10 WEB)

The word “follow” above is the word Greek word parakoleutheo (G3877), and it too looks like a reasonable translation.

Combining the words akribos (G199) and parakoleutheo (G3877) we get the sense of “carefully following” something, “carefully tracing” something out. This is the description of a careful human process as opposed to divine revelation.  Luke said he carefully traced what happened and decided to write about it.

We also have the record of Papias on this very topic. Papias writes about how Mark, one of the gospel writers constructed his Gospel record with careful attention to detail:

“And John the presbyter also said this, Mark being the interpreter of Peter, whatsoever he recorded he wrote with great accuracy, but not, however, in the order in which it was spoken were done by our Lord, for he neither heard nor followed our Lord, but, as before said, he was in company with Peter, who gave him such instruction as was necessary, but not to give a history of our Lord’s discourses: wherefore Mark has not erred in anything, by writing some things as he has recorded them; for he was carefully attentive to one thing, not to pass by anything that he heard, or to state anything falsely in these accounts.”ii

I write more about this is in The New Testament Books Were Not Received as the Word of God Initially, at Least Not by Papias. Also, there have been other things brought up as to the scriptural status of the gospels like that the order of events in the different gospels don’t always appear to match. The fact that they were not written by revelation, rather that they are eyewitness accounts written decades after the life of Christ goes a long way toward explaining the conflicts in the timing of events in the Gospels.

Back to the word study, there are more sources than these to further establish the meaning of these words in the texts. Using the e-Sword program you will find that the Apostolic Bible Polyglot version shows akribos (G199) used eleven times, two in the Old Testament, and nine in the New. There are also secular Koine Greek sources from which to further study.

But what we have seen looks sufficient to establish that the words akribos (G199) and parakoleutheo (G3877)used together mean to follow something carefully, to think something through carefully. Nothing in what we have seen appears to establish that these words put the gospel accounts in the category of holy men of God writing as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, rather than the gospel writers were men who used their mental faculties carefully to give an accurate and reliable record. They were good witnesses, and the fact that there were multiple witnesses satisfies the Biblical mandate for multiple witnesses to establish truthfulness.

It’s also written in your law that the testimony of two people is valid. (Joh 8:17 WEB)

This is the third time I am coming to you. “At the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” (2Co 13:1 WEB)

So, while this verse does not qualify the gospels to be of the nature of holy men writing as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, it does satisfy the word of God mandate to establish them as true!

From this lesson, we see that we need to get as close to the original meaning of the words in a verse as possible and not rely on the modern meaning of words or even one particular translation to understand scripture.  We also need to read what is written and not just follow tradition in determining what a verse means.  In this case, Luke 1:3 reports that some people and he, Luke,  is one of them that followed gospel events carefully and chose to give a report on them.  It also establishes that some things reported by two or three reliable witnesses can be trusted.

Looking at multiple translations can also be helpful as we will do in a minute.  But, only a word study in the ancient languages these texts were written in enables us to find the accurate meaning of the texts.

Looking at numerous translations we see that there are numerous translations that translate Luke 1:3 more accurately. A great way to see that is also in the e-Sword program where there is a Compare tab to view the different renderings of a verse and compare them. Here is part of that screen shows for Luke 1:3:

(ABP+)  it seemed good G1380 that I also,G2504 having followed closelyG3877 from the beginningG509 in all thingsG3956 exactly,G199 [2in orderG2517 1write to you],G1473 G1125 most excellentG2903 Theophilus,G*

(ASV)  it seemed good to me also, having traced the course of all things accurately from the first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus;

(BBE)  It seemed good to me, having made observation, with great care, of the direction of events in their order, to put the facts in writing for you, most noble Theophilus;

(CEV)  So I made a careful study of everything and then decided to write and tell you exactly what took place. Honorable Theophilus,

(DRB)  It seemed good to me also, having diligently attained to all things from the beginning, to write to thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,

(EMTV)  it seemed good to me also, having followed up accurately all things from above, to write to you in orderly fashion, most distinguished Theophilus,

(ESV)  it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,

(ESV+)  it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write R8an orderly account for you, R9most excellent R10Theophilus,

(GNB)  And so, Your Excellency, because I have carefully studied all these matters from their beginning, I thought it would be good to write an orderly account for you.

Looking at the above you can see that “perfect understanding” is translated in much better ways such as “having made observation, with great care,”, “ made a careful study of everything”, and “followed all things closely”.

So, I have shown you a word study of “perfect understanding” in Luke 1:3 in the KJV.   We looked at the Greek words (akribos and parakoleutheo) and used the e-Sword program and the Strong’s numbering system to see what the words were and where those words were used in other places.  We looked at the context of those verses to determine their meanings.   We looked at how the words are translated in other places.

While we have no originals, we have a lot of tools to dig deep into the meaning of these books of the Bible to get closer to the original text and its meaning.  We looked at how the words in the verse were translated in other versions.  If you want to really know what the writers meant when they wrote what they wrote, research like this is the way to go.  While it may be painful to realize that what we have been taught by tradition is not what the verse actually says, choosing to believe what the verse actually says can free us from traditions that are not based on truth.

i https://www.globalizationpartners.com/2016/05/04/aramaic-the-oldest-living-middle-eastern-language/

ii ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF EUSEBIUS PAMPHILUS, Eusebius Pamphilus, chapter XXXIX

T1.5 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 5, The Apostles Taught Eternal Rewards (Heavenly Treasures)

One of the effects of different believers and churches teaching different things is that they will be rewarded differently. If what we believe is true, then we will be rewarded accordingly. But if not, then all of our works will be for naught, or worse, work against us. And all of this is because of heavenly treasures, eternal rewards, promised to those who follow Jesus. The apostles were trained by Jesus who taught them about eternal rewards and we read verses about it in places like Matthew chapter six:

“Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Mat 6:19-21 WEB)

Jesus says right there to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” That’s what we mean by eternal rewards.
Now, it’s not that we’re saved by works. We are saved by faith, but we are saved so that we can do good works:

for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them. (Eph 2:8-10 WEB)

There is some awesome truth in these verses. We aren’t saved by anything we do, it is the gift of God accomplished by what Jesus accomplished on the cross. So there is no bragging, not even saying that I am a good person. No one deserves what Jesus made available, and I and many of you are extremely grateful for what Jesus made available. And notice that it says God prepared the good works that we should do! God planned for us to do things! It’s about God, and what he wants, and not only that what he planned for us beforehand!

But, by the same token, we are created to do things for the Lord! And, as we do those, we are storing treasures in heaven.

This is part of the Apostles’ tradition. Paul not only addresses it verses like above, but he charges Timothy as a minister of the gospel to teach this.

Charge those who are rich in this present world that they not be arrogant, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on the living God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to share; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold of eternal life. (1Ti 6:17-19 WEB)

Heavenly rewards will not be the same for everyone! The Bible does not teach that it’s enough to claim Jesus as Lord and thus to gain access to the same heavenly rewards as everyone else. In the above verses, we see that sharing your material wealth with the right heart is one way to lay up eternal rewards. Each believer will be rewarded according to their labor that survives the purification by fire. That means that things we did or taught thinking they were godly but weren’t will not be rewarded.:

Now he who plants and he who waters are the same, but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. (1Co 3:8 WEB)

with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men; knowing that whatever good thing each one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is bound or free. (Eph 6:7-8 WEB)

“Be careful that you don’t do your charitable giving before men, to be seen by them, or else you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Therefore when you do merciful deeds, don’t sound a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may get glory from men. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you do merciful deeds, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does, so that your merciful deeds may be in secret, then your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Mat 6:1-4 WEB)

There it is, we are rewarded according to the labor we put in, as long as our hearts are right! But we need to be careful, too, because it is available to lose some of our rewards:

Watch yourselves, that we don’t lose the things which we have accomplished, but that we receive a full reward. Whoever transgresses and doesn’t remain in the teaching of Christ, doesn’t have God. He who remains in the teaching, the same has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you, and doesn’t bring this teaching, don’t receive him into your house, and don’t welcome him, (2Jn 1:8-10 WEB)

The above verses are the carrot as to why we need to piece back the fragments of the true church. If someone believes, for example, that God wants them and all other Christians to be materially wealthy because it says in Deuteronomy:

But you shall remember Yahweh your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth; that he may establish his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as it is today.  (Deu 8:18 WEB)

There are people who take verses like this as a charge to pursue wealth. They dedicate prayer and their faith to pursue wealth. But Scripture is full of admonitions against the temptations and traps that come with wealth:

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t serve both God and Mammon. (Mat 6:24 WEB)

Mammon means the accumulation of wealth. This verse specifically says that you can’t serve the accumulation of wealth. This is just one example of a doctrine that some follow that could be leading in a path with no eternal rewards.

So, who gets to decide what things we get rewarded for? It’s God. We may think that some cause is right, but only if it is in line with God’s plan will it be something that we will be rewarded for. Otherwise, in the final reckoning, it will just get burned up like chaff.

Therefore also we make it our aim, whether at home or absent, to be well pleasing to him. For we must all be revealed before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2Co 5:9-10 WEB)

This verse says that there will be a time before the judgment seat of Christ. We will be judged. What will be judged on? It’s our works. Our works will be judged and we will be rewarded accordingly:

Now he who plants and he who waters are the same, but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s farming, God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or stubble; each man’s work will be revealed. For the Day will declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself will test what sort of work each man’s work is. If any man’s work remains which he built on it, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, but as through fire. Don’t you know that you are a temple of God, and that God’s Spirit lives in you? (1Co 3:8-16 WEB)

So, at the end of this age, we will be judged and everything we do will be be “revealed in fire”, which is a term representing the purification process. This is representing the spiritual refining process in similar term to the metal refining process which started in Old Testament times. According to Brittanica.com, “Iron, copper, and lead are fire-refined by selective oxidation. In this process, oxygen or air is added to the impure liquid metal; the impurities oxidize before the metal and are removed as an oxide slag or a volatile oxide gas.”1

In other words, fire purifies the metals and that is the analogy here. The metal refining process is similar to the spiritual refining process we will go through at the judgment seat.  At the end of the age all of our works will be judged in fire and only those that survive the fire will gain us rewards in the ages to come.

Does the Bible give specific things that will be rewarded? Yes, it does. For example, believers will be rewarded for enduring persecution:

“Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mat 5:11-12 WEB)

Some of the rewards are crowns. The Epistles say there are five crowns that believers are capable of earning:

Not to be confused with eternal life, the crown of life is a reward for those who endure:

Blessed is a person who endures temptation, for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love him. (Jas 1:12 WEB)

Those who have witnessed to people and built them up will receive the crown of rejoicing:

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Isn’t it even you, before our Lord Jesus at his coming? For you are our glory and our joy. (1Th 2:19-20 WEB)

Next look at this crown talked about in 1 Corinthians:

Don’t you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win. Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore run like that, not aimlessly. I fight like that, not beating the air, but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected. (1Co 9:24-27 WEB)

There is an incorruptible crown that will be given for running to win the race. Achieving this crown requires discipline, bringing our body into submission.

Or how about the crown of righteousness? Paul talks about that here:

I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith. From now on, there is stored up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day; and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved his appearing. (2Ti 4:7-8 WEB)

And last, but not least, Peter talks about receiving the crown of glory:

Therefore I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and who will also share in the glory that will be revealed. Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, not for dishonest gain, but willingly; neither as lording it over those entrusted to you, but making yourselves examples to the flock. When the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the crown of glory that doesn’t fade away. (1Pe 5:1-4 WEB)

The crowns of life, rejoicing, running to win, righteousness, and glory are eternal rewards set as carrots for all of us to run our race as hard as we can.
So, there we see that the Apostles tradition includes teaching about eternal rewards. We will all come before the judgment seat and it won’t matter how well we argue our works will be judged and anything that isn’t truly of God will be burned away no matter how much we want to believe in it. What’s left is what we will be judged on and given rewards that will be with us through eternity.  With that in mind, we need to be sure that what we believe and practice is really what God wants.

Now, the same Apostles that told us about eternal rewards told us to stick to their traditions, their beliefs, and practices.  Part of the Apostles’ tradition is teaching us about eternal rewards and following the Apostles’ tradition is how we are going to get the best rewards:

So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter.  (2Th 2:15 WEB)

1https://www.britannica.com/science/metallurgy/Refining

T 1.3.1 Don’t Extinguish the Spirit

Paul admonishes believers to not shy away from the manifestations of the Spirit .

Don’t quench the Spirit. Don’t despise prophesies.
(1Th 5:19-20 WEB)

The word quench is the Greek word sbennumi. Its translated quench, extinquish, go out. Here’s an example where it is translated “going out”.

The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ (Mat 25:8 WEB)

This is a great example with great visualization. Picture a flame going out because it runs out of fuel or you block its access to oxygen, that is the word sbennumi. Now Paul charges us believers not to do that to the spirit. One way to extinguish the Spirit is to despise prophesies. To despise means to hold in low esteeem.

The opposite of despising is valuing something highly. Paul charges us believers to earnestly desire spiritual gifts, especially prophecy, and that is valuing something highly:

Follow after love, and earnestly desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. (1Co 14:1 WEB)

There are many Christians who hold the manifestations of the spirit in our day and time in low esteem. I have listed a number of websites that teach against the manifestations of the Spirit after the Apostles.1 If you look at them remember that all the points in a Charismatic lesson are not necessarily invalidated if some points are wrong. Likewise for faulty logic, just because some charismatic group misinterprets some instruction about the manifestations, that doesn’t invalidate all what the Bible says about them. For example, I agree that equating Paul’s experience of being blinded by the light and thrown to the ground with the modern practice of being slain in the spirit as a regular and expected experience in services is an overreach. But just because someone teaches that does not mean that everything they teach about the manifestations and everything they experience is false! That’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

So, yes, there are errors in charismatic theology just as in so many other places.  There are multiple instructions on when the spirit is received.  One teaches that there is only one baptism where the spirit is received at the time of the new birth.

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all.  (Eph 4:4-6 WEB)

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all given to drink into one Spirit. (1Co 12:13 WEB)

The above verses clearly say that there is one baptism and when we are baptized into the body of Christ we drink of that one Spirit.  But others teach that there is a second Baptism where the spirit is received.  One record used to teach this is:

Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for as yet he had fallen on none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of Christ Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.  (Act 8:14-17 WEB)

This verse appears to say that they were baptized a second time which is the second baptism position.  But does it really?  It doesn’t say baptized twice.  It says baptized and then hands laid on them to receive the Holy Spirit.  The word translated receive in the Bible can be different words in Greek.  Here the Greek word is lambano which means, according to Strong’s “to get ahold of”, even “to take”.  It is an active verb, the person gets ahold of the Spirit and does things.  Another Greek word translated receive is dechomai which is not active and it means simply to accept.  That word dechomai is also in the above verses, “Samaria had received the word of God”.  Samaria had accepted the word of God, but they didn’t take hold of the Spirit and actively use it or manifest.  When hands were laid on them, they took hold of the Spirit and manifested, or how else would they have known that they received (lambano) the spirit.  So there are not two baptisms here.  Rather, it appears that the norm was for believers to manifest the spirit through speaking in tongues and prophecy when they believed, and when they didn’t, as in this case, apostles were sent to remedy the situation.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the word. They of the circumcision who believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was also poured out on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in other languages and magnifying God. Then Peter answered,  (Act 10:44-46 WEB)

This point of receiving (lambano) Holy Spirit with accompanying manifestation is seen in another record where some say that there are two baptisms:

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul, having passed through the upper country, came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They said to him, “No, we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” He said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John indeed baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe in the one who would come after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke with other languages and prophesied.  (Act 19:1-6 WEB)

This section shows that the first century standard since Pentecost was that when people accepted(dechomai) the word of God it was expected that they would receive (lambano) the Holy Spirit and manifest.   As it says here when the Holy Spirit came upon them the people spoke with other languages and prophesied. In other words, they received (lambano), took ahold of the spirit and manifested.

The fact that we have records that show that when new believers didn’t manifest the Holy Spirit they got the attention of the apostles who come and laid hands on them so that they did manifest shows that the tradition of the Apostles was to lead people into both accepting, receiving (dechomai) Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit into manifestation.

Now, as to times when there aren’t any prophets or other displays of the Spirit we can say this.  The absence of manifestations of the spirit in a place or time is not as much proof that God has stopped being willing to send these manifestations as much as they are indicators that the people are not believing to receive them. Jesus chided the Pharisees with the fact that there were a lot of lepers in Elisha’s time who didn’t have the will to ask for healing, and only a non-Jew received this miracle of healing from this mighty prophet.

I have also heard that the teaching correcting the use of the manifestations was just given to the Corinthians in the Apostolic age because it is in that book to the Corinthians. First of all, that book is written to all believers in every place, not just to the Corinthians:

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the assembly of God which is at Corinth; those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours: (1Co 1:1-2 WEB)

Furthermore, if you say that the sections on the manifestations were just written to the believers during the first apostles time, then what is to stop someone from saying that every word in every epistle is just written to the believers during the first apostles’ time. To say that the instruction on the manifestations was only written to believers in one time or place is just flawed logic. God has always desired to pour out his Spirit on all flesh!

Christian theologians were not the first to teach cessation doctrine, that prophecy and other manifestations were ended for one reason or another. Jewish theologians did it in Old Testament times. For example, some Rabbis declared Malachi the last prophet for various reasons.2 In the cited article several possible reasons are given as to why God declared the end of prophecy”. One reason cited is:

“Some sources suggest that the loss of prophecy was punishment for sin. Over 200 years before Malachi, the prophet Amos predicted the cessation of prophecy”3:

Behold, the days come,” says the Lord Yahweh, “that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing Yahweh’s words. They will wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they will run back and forth to seek Yahweh’s word, and will not find it. (Amo 8:11-12 WEB)

Yes, that verse says that there will be days coming when men will seek the word of Yahweh and not find it. There will be a famine of God’s word. But famines end. There’s nothing in that verse that requires that famine to be of any particular length. That’s twisting scripture.

The truth is that some theologians, whether they be Jewish or Christian seem to have a habit of thinking that if they are not in a time where they see prophecy then prophecy must be over, which is just wrong, if for no other reason than what James declared when he wrote, “you have not because you ask not”.

Lastly, the manifestations of the spirit are listed as an explanation for how the Spirit works. Some groups claim that the gifts have ceased still claim to be led, inspired, or otherwise somehow moved by the spirit, but they are not going to call it prophecy, or word of knowledge, or word of wisdom, or any of the other listed gifts because they claim those things have ceased. If a person or a group is claiming that the Spirit led them to some truth somehow, then they are saying that the spirit of God was manifested in some way. Manifest simply means to make known, If something from the spirit is made known, then the spirit was manifested. It doesn’t matter if it is the Spirit leading you to go another way to work one day, to teach the Bible in a new light or you are led to minister healing to someone.  Calling those things spiritual impressions or anything else doesn’t make them not manifestations.  If the Spirit in any way makes something known to you or enables something in your life that is a manifestation.

Now, of course, it could be that what someone, especially a Cessationist, thinks is of the Spirit is just an idea that that moves them a certain way. It could be thinking that looks brilliant, or wise, but really is not from the Spirit. The very idea that the Spirit could give spiritual impressions where the Spirit guides people to certain doctrines and practices but that it is not a manifestation of the Spirit falls into that category.  For that reason, the possibility that it is not the Spirit guiding us, that it is just an idea we came up with or from some other source, is why we speak carefully, and why other prophets judge.  And God forbid, that you align yourself with a group of professed prophets that think some worldly idea is from the Holy Spirit.  Need I remind you of the warnings against false prophets.

So, yes, parts of what each Pentecostal and Charismatic teach about the Spirit could be wrong.  But that doesn’t negate that the Apostles’ tradition is to manifest the holy spirit. Remember that this verse is written to us:

Follow after love, and earnestly desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. (1Co 14:1 WEB)

Don’t put out the spirit. Don’t hold prophecy in such low esteem that you avoid it and/or teach against it.  Desire spiritual gifts and especially to prophesy.

2The End of Prophecy: Malachi’s Position in the Spiritual Development of Israel, at https://www.jewishideas.org/article/end-prophecy-malachis-position-spiritual-development-israel,

3ibid

Theology Is As Clear As Mud To Americans in 2020

A recent article in Christianity Today starts with, “Are American Christians really this bad at theology? Are we simply just a band of unwitting heretics? Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research’s recent State of Theology study seems to indicate that, yes, a large percentage of us are at odds at what we believe.”1

The article goes on to explain the statement. A Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research’s State of Theology study asked theological questions of Americans and found that Americans are not consistent in following the Bible and the basic teachings of the church.

I have stated on this website that the wide-ranging differences in the Christian community on a number of doctrines work to decrease faith. Paul’s charge to speak the same thing and to not be divided speaks directly to this problem. After all, when the acceptable state is that one church teaches that the manifestations of the spirit like speaking in tongues, prophecy, miracles, and healings have ceased while another teaches the gifts are possible but won’t teach them while another teaches that they are not only available but people are getting delivered by them, what are people supposed to think about theological matters? Or that it’s okay to drink moderately while others say drinking alcohol is an abomination? Or that only men can lead while others teach that there are examples of great women leaders in the bible? Those are only a few of the disagreements among churches, denominations, and believers with the resultant confusion and decrease in trust in Jesus Christ and the word of God.

The study said they surveyed 3002 Americans but they did not identify how many of these said they were Christians. According to a recent Pew study, approximately 70% of Americans identify themselves as Christians.2 Look at the links in the footnotes to find and read more on this incredibly revealing study

As part of the study, they adopted the National Research Evangelical Beliefs Research Definition which includes, among other things, that the Bible is the highest authority for belief, that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that can remove the penalty of sin, and that only trust in Jesus Christ can enable one to gain eternal salvation.3 In giving the results I am including many of the actual survey statements to be clear as to what people did or not agree with.

Concerning the supremacy of the Bible as the source for truth the study found that most Americans say religious beliefs are a matter of personal opinion, “And that’s made clear by examining the varying, and sometimes contradictory, theological doctrines they hold.””4 Original Christianity as depicted in the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles did not have the bible that we have today but were charged to follow the traditions of the Apostles which includes both the doctrines and practices the Apostles established as evidenced in their writings.

So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter. (2Th 2:15 WEB)

Concerning the exclusivity of accepting the Lordship of Jesus as the source of eternal life the study found that most Americans agree with the statement, “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.” If most people believe that God accepts the worship of all religions then they don’t accept the Lordship of Jesus as the exclusive path to salvation.

that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Rom 10:9-10 WEB)

Central to the Lordship of Jesus is the resurrection which is fundamental in Christ’s achieving our salvation. Only 45 percent of respondents strongly agreed with this statement, “Biblical accounts of the physical (bodily) resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate. This event actually occurred.”

Belief in the risen Savior is crucial to salvation but it doesn’t appear to be crucial to everyone calling themselves Christian.

The Bible says in Romans 3:10 that there are none righteous and develops every believer’s battle with sin in later chapters. Most Americans, however, at least somewhat believe the statement that “Everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.” This is a critical element of good person theology where people are not compared to biblical standards, but to personal or group ideas of what constitutes a good person.

Not included in the National Research Evangelical Beliefs Research Definition but emphasized in the definition of orthodox Christianity is the importance of the Trinity.5

Concerning adherence to a doctrine critical to the Trinity, only 36% of Americans at least partly disagreed with the statement that Jesus was not God. More significantly, 55% at least partly agreed with the statement that Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God. Remember, the definition of the Trinity includes that Jesus is fully God and co-eternal with God. These results were despite the study finding that 72% at least partly did agree with the statement “There is one true God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.” One article explained that this shows that Christians are better at recognizing orthodox statements than ones that Orthodoxy deems heretical, and thus are more compliant than understanding or fully believing the concepts.

A similar conclusion was, “One discouragement was that regular churchgoers were more likely to deny the personhood of the Holy Spirit”. Without believing that Jesus is God or the Holy Spirit is a person you don’t have much of a Trinity. While they have memorized key statements, it doesn’t appear that people really grasp or accept the concept. It appears that despite the ability to spot the orthodox statement in the positive and the willingness to say it is true the actual Trinity concept is beyond the capacity of the populace to really understand, especially in the negative. They either can’t understand it or they don’t believe it or both.

That said, since this website is focused on original Christianity, while the Trinity is a primary doctrine in modern Christian traditions, it was not part of the Apostles’ tradition. The power of the name of Jesus, not the Trinity, was what the Apostles emphasized, taught, and practiced.

Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Php 2:9-11 WEB)

The results of the study show a wide range of degrees of Christian faith among the American populace. Only 48% agree that the bible is 100% accurate in what it teaches. Only 51% agree or partly agree that the bible has the authority to tell us what to do. On the negative side, forty percent agree, partly agree, or are not sure (don’t disagree) that the Holy Spirit can tell someone to do something that is not in the Bible. Isn’t that saying a bunch of people believe the Holy Spirit will make sinful things not sinful for them?

But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female.  (Mar 10:6 WEB)

Yes, 79% agree that God created male and female.  But, 52% disagree or somewhat disagree that gender is a matter of choice. 51% aren’t sure at least partly agree or aren’t sure about the statement, “Modern science disproves the bible.” It’s also close to 50/50 on issues like abortion as a sin, that sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin, or that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality doesn’t apply today.

With all of this confusion over spiritual matters it is no wonder to me that most people, 58%, agree at least somewhat that worshiping alone or with your family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church despite the Bible’s charge to worship together:

not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching. (Heb 10:25 WEB)

As the title of the article says the study shows a population that is not clear about Christianity and holds as much to modern science and public opinion as it does to adherence to biblical principle. The Bible talks about immature believers, children, being tossed back and forth and carried about with the winds of doctrine, and that’s what I see when I read these results:

He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ; (Eph 4:11-15 WEB)

The winds of doctrine are all the different theories, opinions, movements in the different cultures in the world.  The answer to children being tossed back and forth by winds of doctrine is the Spirit guiding apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds (pastors) and teachers in perfecting the saints, helping them mature with sound doctrine, teaching them the way that is Jesus Christ more fully. And consistency is a big key, all Christian leaders need to speak the same thing, and work to have no divisions among them, preaching the word of God in season and out.

1Our Favorite Heresies of 2018: Experts Weigh In, located at https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/october/evangelicals-favorite-heresies-ligonier-theology-survey.html

2Religious Landscape Study, at https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/

3http://lifewayresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/NAE-LifeWay-Research-Evangelical-Beliefs-Research-Definition-Methodology-and-Use.pdf

4Americans Hold Complex, Conflicting Religious Beliefs, According to Latest State of Theology Study, located at https://lifewayresearch.com/2020/09/08/americans-hold-complex-conflicting-religious-beliefs-according-to-latest-state-of-theology-study/

5Dictionary.com defines orthodoxy to include the Trinity, “The form of Christianity maintained by the Eastern Orthodox Church. Orthodox means “correct in teaching”; Orthodox Christians consider the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant churches to be incorrect in some teachings, including the relations between the persons of the Trinity.”

 


Biblical references are from the ASV version unless otherwise noted.
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