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…”

T 1.6 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 6, The Apostles Taught About Our Adversary, the Devil, and that We Have the Power to Overcome Him

In the world, there is a lot of television programming these days about the devil. Lucifer is a TV program that presents the devil who looks like a charming man in all of his charming ways. He is the hero of the show and presented in a somewhat sympathetic way. Supernatural is a show where it’s hard to figure out who the good guys and the bad guys are the way angels and demons interact.

Witchcraft in the Scriptures is presented as a practice that taps into the power of the devil but there are a number of shows on TV that present that craft in a beguiling fashion. Years ago, there was Bewitched. Other shows like Charmed, and Sabrina all present witchcraft as pretty much a good thing. All of the witches are good people if misunderstood.  They are heroines.

So, in the world, we have this entertainment element that presents the devil and his domain as fantastic elements in stories and fables.  It’s fun, it’s playful, it’s great entertainment.

Scripture paints a totally different picture.

But before we start talking about the devil in scripture, we must start with the truth that “Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world”, and so we have within us at all times the power to overcome Satan.

and every spirit who doesn’t confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God, and this is the spirit of the Antichrist, of whom you have heard that it comes. Now it is in the world already. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world. (1Jn 4:3-4 WEB)

We state this now and we will refer to this truth regularly in our discussion of the Adversary. Additionally, Jesus was sent to destroy the works of the devil. There is a real battle, but Christians are on the winning side.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (1Jn 3:8 ESV)

Let me repeat that last sentence! The reason Jesus appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. And we need always remember that the New Testament is full of records of deliverance from the devil in every way, from simple healing to deliverance from possession.

While we are on the topic there is the belief in the world and even in Christian circles that devils do not exist and that everything can be explained by science. Some go as far as to say that devils didn’t really exist in New Testament times, that was just how people explained a lot of things back then.  And now, according to some, mental illness, addictions, and even criminal behaviors are can be boiled down to chemical imbalances.  In fact, killers now are using that reasoning as a defense.[1]

However, science also acknowledges the power of the mind to affect the body, it is thinking that is behind so much of what goes on in the body.[2]  Stress causes and worsens physical illness. Thoughts of fear generate a chemical ambush in the body generating a fight or flight response.  It is thoughts that generate nerve impulses that contract muscles, make your skin blush, or raise goosebumps.  Thoughts change the body.

The question is who is in charge of your thoughts. Most people are in charge of their minds, but not all.  And an important question is who or what is the person allowing himself to be influenced by.  And then,  who or what is in charge of the thoughts of an addict, be it to drugs, gossip, gambling, or serial killing?  That’s not to say that if someone takes too much hydrocodone after an automobile accident to the point where they are going to experience severe withdrawal if they don’t stop that they are possessed, that is not the criteria, although that is still a problem.

Now scripture calls some possessed by a devil.  Possession refers to control.  Why is it so wild an idea that someone could decide to give over control to some mental force not realizing its devilish origin and wind up addicted to any or several various compulsions from the less violent sins like lying and stealing to murder?  Yes, there are real diseases, mental imbalances, and treatments for a lot of those things, no one is disputing that.  But that doesn’t negate the possibility that somewhere in the cause of that, somewhere in the mind is devilish influence, or even in more extreme cases, possession by devils.

Let’s talk about examples and let’s take an easy one with stories online, serial killers.  The serial killer BTK, who went on a murderous rampage in Wichita, says he was possessed by a demon, “At some point in time, it entered me when I was young, and it basically controlled me.”[3] This is part of BTK’s story.  Another infamous serial killer was Ted Bundy who confessed to thirty murders besides kidnappings and rapes.  Here is an excerpt from Psyhology Today about Bundy

“To several of his post-arrest interviewers years later (William Hagmaier, Robert Keppel, Steven Michaud), Bundy described a malignant being — an “entity” — that emerged from him whenever he was tense or drunk…Defense investigator Joe Aloi seemed to have gotten a clear view. While they were talking, he suddenly noticed an odor emanating from Bundy as his face and body contorted. “I felt that negative electricity,” Aloi said, “and along with that came that smell.” Aloi was suddenly terrified that Bundy would kill him.” [4]

The same article in part 2 talks about John Wayne Gacy, Peter Sutcliffe, Israel Keys, Sean Sellers, Danny Rolling, and Gary Gilmore, all with demonic influences.[5]

There are no statistics on how many possessed people there are.  Serial killers get some press but what about people who have given control over to wealth to the point where they will do anything to acquire it, or political power, power in business, and other domains?

As mentioned above, in all this discussion, keep uppermost that Christ came to destroy the works of the devil and greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.  This article is about delivering people from the power of the devil, not increasing his influence.

The Scriptures talk about the devil and his domain starting in Genesis. Jesus, in his ministry on earth, delivered many of devil possession. He also taught some about how the devil works. But the greatest explanation about the workings of the devil and his kingdom is in the epistles. And the reason for that is because before the church age spiritual discernment was only available to those limited few who had the spirit upon them whereas now discerning spirits and spiritual operations is part of the manifestation of the spirit. That’s what it says in this verse.

Now the natural man doesn’t receive the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1Co 2:14 WEB)

Scripture calls a man without spirit a natural man. And it says that things of the spiritual realm are unknown to the natural man because he has no spiritual discernment.  Before the ability to be born again with spirit on the inside that was made available on the day of Pentecost people didn’t have the ability to understand these spiritual realities.  Only people with the gift of the holy spirit can really understand.  There are a lot of “natural men (people)” in the world who can’t understand the workings of the devil.

and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; to another different kinds of languages; and to another the interpretation of languages.  (1Co 12:10 WEB)

One of the manifestations of the spirit is discerning of spirits. Notice it doesn’t say discerning of evil spirits. It just says discerning of spirits.  That indicates the ability to discern both holy spirit and evil spirit.

So, until the spirit was made available for all on Pentecost, most people had no holy spirit and could not understand spiritual things.  But there were a few things made known. There is some information about the devil in the Old Testament starting in the Chapter 3 of Genesis. In the garden, we have the record of the serpent who beguiled Eve. While it doesn’t say a lot about him it does say that he was the shrewdest creature in the garden. We also see that God declared that there would be enmity between the devil and mankind as a result of this interaction in the garden whereby Satan convinced Eve to transgress the commandments of God, and cause him to become dead in trespasses and sins. We have that he beguiled Eve and Adam followed, but the deeper explanation isn’t given until the Church age as shown in the following verse.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Eph 2:1-3 ESV)

Look at that explanation! The sin in the Garden of Eden made a huge change according to scripture. The day that Adam and Eve transgressed the commandment of God they died (became “dead in trespasses and sins”) in fulfillment of God’s warning.  Prior to the sin Adam and Eve freely communicated with the Lord.  When they sinned, they lost that spiritual connection.  Physically they were still alive.  Spiritually they were dead as it says in the verse above.  Here is the prophecy of their death.

but you shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.” (Gen 2:17 WEB)

In Genesis before the sin, Adam and Eve had dominion.

God said, “Let’s make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Gen 1:26 WEB)

Now, the devil tricked Adam, Eve, and all their descendants into giving up that dominion. People, dead in trespasses and sins are ruled by the god of this world. That’s what it says in Ephesian above where it says, “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”  When the first people sinned, they relinquished their dominion and became under the influence of the prince of this world, the devil.  Everything changed as they now “lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

But in the Old Testament people couldn’t understand that so mankind had to wait for the Redeemer to come, enable us to be born again, and so have the ability to understand this spiritual reality.

Back to the Old Testament and what was known about the devil, again in Genesis 3, last but not least, there is the prophecy that the heel of the seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head.

Yahweh God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed above all livestock, and above every animal of the field. You shall go on your belly and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.”  (Gen 3:14-15 WEB)

After that, there are tidbits about the devil and his domain. We have references in the OT to lying spirits, and false prophets, but it’s not in the depth that is presented in the New Testament. In one place in the OT, it is presented that the lying spirit got his authority from Yahweh. So we see a lying spirit talked about as an agent of God.  But this is a figure of speech because God does not tempt man, that is the domain of the devil.

Yahweh said to him, ‘How?’ He said, ‘I will go out and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ He said, ‘You will entice him, and will also prevail. Go out and do so.’ (1Ki 22:22 WEB)

Before Christ believers could not understand that there was a domain of the devil in charge in the world so all actions, good or evil were attributed not to Satan, but to God.

In Zechariah we have reference to Satan standing before the Lord whereby Yahweh rebukes Satan showing him to be his adversary:

He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before Yahweh’s angel, and Satan standing at his right hand to be his adversary. Yahweh said to Satan, “Yahweh rebuke you, Satan! Yes, Yahweh who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Isn’t this a burning stick plucked out of the fire?” (Zec 3:1-2 WEB)

We also have references in the Old Testament to false gods.

Concerning the prophets: My heart within me is broken. All my bones shake. I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine has overcome, because of Yahweh, and because of his holy words. For the land is full of adulterers; for because of the curse the land mourns. The pastures of the wilderness have dried up. Their course is evil, and their might is not right; for both prophet and priest are profane. Yes, in my house I have found their wickedness,” says Yahweh. Therefore their way will be to them as slippery places in the darkness. They will be driven on, and fall therein; for I will bring evil on them, even the year of their visitation,” says Yahweh. “I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria. They prophesied by Baal, and caused my people Israel to err. In the prophets of Jerusalem I have also seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one returns from his wickedness. They have all become to me as Sodom, and its inhabitants as Gomorrah.” Therefore Yahweh of Armies says concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall; for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land.” Yahweh of Armies says, “Don’t listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They teach you vanity. They speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of Yahweh. (Jer 23:9-16 WEB)

“They prophesied by Baal” in the above verses lists the work of the adversary, false gods who enabled men to prophesy, albeit falsely. “They commit adultery and walk in lies, They strengthen the hands of evildoers so that no one returns from his wickedness.” talks of the operation and power of the kingdom of the adversary.

At best, in the Old Testament we learn that there is a devil who is our adversary and, especially seen in the case of Eve, incites man to sin. We see devil worship in gods like Baal, and that the influence of the Adversary is real and pervasive, even operating false prophets. But, in the OT we do not see references to fallen angels, occurrences of devil possession being delivered by men of God, and beyond all this, there is not a lot of awareness of the workings of the devil, especially as attributed to the fact that the Jews attributed all things, good and bad, to Yahweh.

So, we don’t see deliverance from devils until Jesus in the gospels and then the apostles and disciples in the Book of Acts. In the gospels and epistles, we see explanations of what was going on in the old testament concerning the dealings of the devil.

Why don’t you understand my speech? Because you can’t hear my word. You are of your father, the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and doesn’t stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks on his own; for he is a liar, and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you don’t believe me. (Joh 8:43-45 WEB)

Above we see that Satan is the force behind murder and all manner of lying. People under his power are blinded to the truth by him. Before this verse, Jesus calls unbelieving Jews children of Satan

“The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; (Mat 25:40-41 WEB)

Above we see that the devil has angels (devils or demons) under his command, and they are slated for the everlasting destruction of eternal fire.

Here is another record of deliverance.  Notice it says many were possessed with demons.

When evening came, they brought to him many possessed with demons. He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, “He took our infirmities, and bore our diseases.” (Mat 8:16-17 WEB)

There are more references in the Gospels and the epistles. There are many places in the New Testament that refer to devils as unclean and evil spirits. They include Matthew 2:43; Mark 1:23; 3:11, 30; 5:2, 13; 7:25; 9:17; Luke 6:18; 7:21; 8:2; acts 5:16; 8:7. devils are angels who have fallen from their highest state through sin and will eventually be consigned to help, Matthew 25:41; second Peter 2:4; Jude 6. In the meantime, they can roam about the earth (Luke 8:31; first Peter 5:8;). They dwell in the air, Ephesians 2:2; 6:12, and in desert places, Matthew 12:43; Luke 11:24,. They live near tombs Matthew 8:28; Mark 5:2; Luke 8:27. They can inhabit unclean animals such as swine, Matthew: 31; Mark 5:12; Luke 7:33. They are listed as principalities and powers who cleverly holds sway over the whole earth in Ephesians 6:12. (See the Bibliography for more details on these functions of the devil.)

Their ruler is called Satan, the adversary, Matthew 410; Romans 16:20. He’s called Beelzebub in Matthew 10:25; 12:24, 27; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15, 18, 19. He’s called a liar in second Corinthians 6:15. He’s called the devil, the Diablos, the accuser, in Matthew 4:1 and following; 13:39. He’s called the prince of the demons in Matthew 9:34. He’s called the prince of this world in John 12:31. He’s called the prince of this age in second Corinthians 4:4. He’s called the great dragon, the serpent, the seducer of the whole world in Revelation 12:7, 9 and 20:8.

Satan puts obstacles in the way of those who preach the gospel, first Thessalonians 2:18. He is the tempter in 1Thessalonians 3:5. And in second Corinthians 2:11, he exerts all of his craftiness to seduce men to sin.

Now I also forgive whomever you forgive anything. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, that no advantage may be gained over us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes. (2Co 2:10-11 WEB)

This is the Apostle Paul writing about him and his cronies being potentially bested by Satan!  If the apostle Paul was concerned about being influenced by the devil, we are certainly susceptible also!

Even the most sacred persons are not immune from his solicitations as evidenced by Jesus’s temptation and verses like Matthew 4:1 and following; John 12:2, 27: Luke 22:31. He receives divine worship when men adore idols as seen in first Corinthians 10:20.

But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God, and I don’t desire that you would have fellowship with demons.  (1Co 10:20 WEB)

Then there is the topic of doctrines of devils as the source of division in the church:

But the Spirit says expressly that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron; forbidding marriage and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer.  (1Ti 4:1-5 WEB)

Doctrine is a word that puts some people off, but it just means instruction. Scripture warns us that some will teach doctrines of devils.  The topics, forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from foods indicate that these are religious groups, possibly Christian, that are being talked about here. We aren’t just talking about Satanic cults here, we talking about groups and churches that may call themselves Christian teaching doctrines of devils.

The scriptures instruct us one way and the devil tries to instruct us another way.  God instructed Adam and Eve that in the day they ate that certain fruit that they would die and Satan instructed that not only would they not die, but they would be like God knowing good and evil.  Unfortunately, they listened to the devil and brought death into the world, spiritual death as well as physical death.

Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but you shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.”  (Gen 2:16-17 WEB)

As an example today, scripture instructs us that “Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will join with his wife, and they will be one flesh.” (Gen 2:24 WEB), but the world today tries to instruct us that “Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will join with his husband, and they will be one flesh”, and “Therefore a woman will leave her father and her mother, and will join with her wife, and they will be one flesh.” And the world (the domain of the devil) says those are all the same instructions.  When you change God’s word you no longer have God’s word.  That is one of the wiles of the devil, to influence people to change God’s word to something that promotes the devil’s agenda.

There are countless examples, as discussed above scripture warns us that some will forbid to marry (1 Tim 4:3) but in scripture, we are instructed that it is better to marry than to burn. (1 Cor 7:9)

God puts limitations on the devil in that men are not allowed to be tempted beyond their strength in first Corinthians 10:13, and God provides ways to overcome the wiles of Satan as seen in first Peter 5:8; James 4:7; Ephesians 6:11, 16.

Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1Pe 5:8 WEB)

Still, the Bible says that demons can take possession of people and afflict them with ailments as seen in Matthew 12:22; Mark 9:20; Luke 9:39.

We just need to remember that Jesus had absolute control over all devils whom he expelled at will during his lifetime as in Matthew 4:24 and Mark 134. And he granted this power to his disciples into his church as in Matthew 10:1, Luke 10:17, and in Acts 5:16.

Again, that people possessed by devils have various ailments in no way means that the ailments are not real, or that everyone who gets sick is possessed. It just means that part of the power of the god of this world is working to bring sickness and death to everyone as much as it suits his purpose. And he is good at it.

When we are sick, we certainly want to seek the Lord in prayer, maybe also be ministered to for healing. But we still treat our ailments with medicines and follow good health practices to maintain our health in this challenging world.

Again, remember what we said at the beginning, Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world, and so we have within us at all times the power to overcome Satan.

More than that, the Apostle Paul charges us in the book of Ephesians to “lock and load”, to arm up with the whole armor of God to stand against the devil!

Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth buckled around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having fitted your feet with the preparation of the Good News of peace; above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; with all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints: on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Good News, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Eph 6:10-20 WEB)

The verses above say that our spiritual battle is not with people, but with the devil and his whole realm!  This is part of the whole counsel of God and part of the Apostles’ traditions that we are to follow. The whole armor includes having the truth of God’s word as opposed to doctrines of devils or man’s traditions and philosophies. That truth of God’s word is our utility belt.  Our armor includes the breastplate of righteousness (right living) as opposed to following the ways of the cultures of the world and not being concerned with sin.  It includes the shield of faith which is able to withstand all the wicked one’s fiery darts.  Salvation protects our heads while skillfully using the rightly divided word of God is able to pierce the lies of the devil. We are to stand diligently, prayerfully in the spirit, standing such for the requests of all the saints.

Thank God that we can now see what is going on. Look at these records in the book of Acts of deliverance over the devil:

The multitudes listened with one accord to the things that were spoken by Philip, when they heard and saw the signs which he did. For unclean spirits came out of many of those who had them. They came out, crying with a loud voice. Many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. There was great joy in that city.  (Act 8:6-8 WEB)

As we were going to prayer, a certain girl having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by fortune telling. Following Paul and us, she cried out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us a way of salvation!” She was doing this for many days. But Paul, becoming greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” It came out that very hour.  (Act 16:16-18 WEB)

Peter opened his mouth and said, “Truly I perceive that God doesn’t show favoritism; but in every nation he who fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him. The word which he sent to the children of Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all— you yourselves know what happened, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; even Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.  (Act 10:34-38 WEB)

Standing against the devil is part of the Apostles’ traditions that we are called to follow including following the Lord’s teaching on exposing the work of the devil and his world, putting on the whole armor of God, and being part of the solution.

Greater is he that is in us than he who is in the world!


THE DEMONOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, Michael J. Gruenthaner. The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 1 (January, 1944), pp. 6-27 (22 pages), Published by: Catholic Biblical Association (available on Jstor)

[1] Blame my brain: A killer’s bold defense gets a court hearing, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/blame-my-brain-killer-s-bold-defense-gets-court-hearing-n998676
[2] What Happens to Your Body When You’re Thinking? https://www.verywellmind.com/what-happens-when-you-think-4688619

[3] https://nypost.com/2018/09/03/notorious-serial-killer-says-demon-possessed-him-in-new-confession/

[4] Bundy’s Demon: Part I, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shadow-boxing/201309/bundys-demon-part-i

[5] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shadow-boxing/201309/bundys-demon-part-ii

As mentio

T 19.1 Modern Christian Traditions – The In Essentials Unity Doctrine.

“In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.”

I have heard this quote repeated in regards to many of the differences between churches. It has been attributed as the watchword of Christian peacemakers by Phillip Schaff, a noted nineteenth century church historian. While some ascribe this quote to Augustine, it actually comes from a relatively unknown German Lutheran theologian of the early 17th century, Rupertus Meldenius who wrote it during the Thirty Years War, a war where the two sides were denominations, one of the wars of religion, and a war that killed somewhere between four and eight million people.1 History.com calls that particular war “one of the longest and most brutal wars in human history.”2 So it has been used to stop the violence between literally warring factions of the Christian Church,
This quote has since served as the peacemaking rallying cry for encouraging groups of churches with varying differences to join together in hope of bringing all the many churches back together, another most worthy cause. It is part of the ecumenical movement started a century or so ago, with its resultant World Council of Churches.3 I actually embraced this concept many years ago before I realized it was a non-starter.

There is just one problem. The In Essentials Unity quote itself, and especially the way it came to be applied is not part of the apostles’ tradition. While there is a little of this kind of teaching in the scriptures on truly insignificant issues, it is not on the scale in the word to which it has been applied and so, it is not part of the New Testament. There are others that have written things against the In Essentials Unity doctrine, but it is very popular.4

First here are things that are not truly important or essential according to scripture.

Let no one therefore judge you in eating, or in drinking, or with respect to a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath day, (Col 2:16 WEB)
Now accept one who is weak in faith, but not for disputes over opinions. One man has faith to eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Don’t let him who eats despise him who doesn’t eat. Don’t let him who doesn’t eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you who judge another’s servant? To his own lord he stands or falls. Yes, he will be made to stand, for God has power to make him stand. One man esteems one day as more important. Another esteems every day alike. Let each man be fully assured in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks. He who doesn’t eat, to the Lord he doesn’t eat, and gives God thanks. (Rom 14:1-6 WEB)

These verses talk about how to deal with truly insignificant matters. Romans 14:1 says not to get into arguments over opinions on what to eat, which days are more important, and things like that. Romans 14:2 warns us to avoid getting into arguments over whether it’s a good thing to eat a vegetarian diet! Here we have clear instructions on avoiding arguments on insignificant, or nonessential items.

That said, the in non-essentials liberty part of the quote in question looks consistent with scripture.  And the commandment to love God first, and your neighbor as yourself, means that there is nothing wrong with “in all things charity”

Also, one verse I have heard used to justify this doctrine is:

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. (Php 4:5 KJV)

The word moderation above is the Greek word epieikes (Strong’s 1933). The other places it is used are translated gentle and patient in the KJV.  Here is Philippians 4:3-9 in the WEB version:

Yes, I beg you also, true partner, help these women, for they labored with me in the Good News, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, “Rejoice!” Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things. The things which you learned, received, heard, and saw in me: do these things, and the God of peace will be with you.  (Php 4:3-9 WEB)

In the WEB version epieikes is translated as gentleness, “Let your gentleness be known to all men.”   In looking at the context we see the subject being character; having the attitudes of rejoicing, gentleness, staying peaceful, staying focused on things that are lovely and of good report are encouraged here.  There is nothing in the context that discusses essential and non-essential doctrine.

What it comes down to is what the “In Essentials Unity” promoters call essential.

Let’s look at the In Essentials Unity doctrine. The Moravian Church has its beginnings in this doctrine and is one of its founders if you will. And yes, it is a doctrine, one which I have heard referred to from the pulpit. It may not be called a doctrine but if it is taught then it is a doctrine.  I just heard it referred to again the other day. At the beginning of the Moravian Church, they distinguished between Essentials, Ministerials, and Incidentals. In a time when the Catholic Church could take away your life, not to mention your bibles, robes, and everything involved in Christian services and Christian life Moravians initially distinguished Essentials to be living faith, love, hope. Then the Moravians progressed to teach that six things are essential: God creates (and God’s creation is good), God redeems, God blesses, and we respond by having faith in what God has done and is doing; by loving God, loving ourselves, loving our neighbors and loving our enemies; and by looking to the future with hope because we know we will be with God5
Okay, that does sound pretty good, right? I mean, what’s wrong with it?

What’s wrong with it is that it is elevating human reasoning to and making it the rule over God’s Word. Or as Jesus said to the religious leaders of his time, it makes the word of God to have no effect. How, you ask?

Where is the leading of the Spirit in the list of essentials? The answer is that it’s not there. Of course, if you want to believe that the Spirit leads, and guides, that’s fine according to this doctrine. But you can just as well believe that the Spirit does not lead people in our day and time according to this doctrine, and that’s also fine. This doctrine says that it doesn’t make any difference whether you are a cessationist or a continualist, that is whether you believe that the manifestations and gifts of the Spirit ended with the apostles or currently still happen. This doctrine says it doesn’t matter whether you believe the Pope is the head of the church on earth or not. It doesn’t matter what you think is a sin or behavior that is to be avoided. It doesn’t matter if you believe the Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman, or that that’s just an example and marriage is between any two or more consenting people. It doesn’t matter, according to this doctrine, that Jesus said the works that he did we can do also. Because those are not essential doctrines in this scheme.
Do you see that it is universal among Christian denominations and groups that they teach that God is the creator, God sent his Son to redeem us, God blesses us with eternal life, and we are to respond by loving God, our neighbors as ourselves, and look to the future with hope. What Christian church doesn’t practice that? The Catholics do, the Baptists, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the missionary alliance, the Pentecostals, the charismatics, every Christian  church that I can think of, they all do that. Yes, Christian denominations all have these so-called essentials. But do they have the whole counsel of God? No, they do not.

for I didn’t shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. (Act 20:27 WEB)

The whole counsel of God was what Paul preached because that was what his job was to preach. Paul was the apostle charged with the job of starting the church to which you and I belong.

of which I was made a servant, according to the gift of that grace of God which was given me according to the working of his power. To me, the very least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now through the assembly the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord; in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through our faith in him. (Eph 3:7-12 WEB)

Here’s another problem.  There are other lists of “essentials” and they are different from group to group.   Most other groups’ interpretations of essentials include more things than the Moravian’s, mostly the things they have determined are important. The Gospel Project has a pdf on no less than 99 essential doctrines.6 We see with this edition of essential doctrines the ability to compile a list of essential doctrines that summarizes a denominational statement of beliefs using their interpretation of scripture to establish this standard. But look at the Moravian church essentials and Gospel Project essentials.  They still miss on important, yes, essential, issues.

Here are some things not in these “essentials” lists.  It is essential that Christians believe in the leading, and power of the Holy Spirit. It is essential that Christians believe in the manifestations of the spirit. It is essential that Christians believe that Christ died that the things that he did they can do also. It’s essential because Jesus said that what he did we can do too. It’s essential that Christians understand that the power is in the name of Jesus Christ because that’s the word of God and that is where the power is. It’s essential that believers understand they can’t change the word of God because the word of God says that. It’s essential that Christians understand how the Jews’ traditions placed undue burdens on the people while making the word of God of no effect with their traditions, and that they don’t wind up doing the same thing. It’s essential that if the word of God allows for people to ease their infirmity with a little wine as long as they don’t get drunk that no group calling itself Christian teaches against that. The in essentials unity group says that’s not important, but it is because the word of God makes that distinction.  These are just some of the things in the whole counsel of God missing in the essentials lists. These things are missing in essentials lists but they are essential in the word of God.

The In Essentials Unity doctrine is a false doctrine. The so-called unity it creates is a false unity. It winds up being a loophole that allows Christians to teach almost anything they want, and it does not help apostles, pastors, evangelists, teachers, prophets build the body in Christ into a group of mature believers who are not tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. The In Essentials Unity doctrine doesn’t allow or help that because it allows so many winds of doctrine.

This website is about original Christianity. Paul and the apostles fought for unity where believers spoke the same thing. There were factions, albeit limited, springing up then.  Centuries down the road original Christianity wound up being split in an untold number of pieces. The In Essentials Unity doctrine is just a Band-Aid. Even if the Band-Aid helped stop the warring factions from killing each other years ago the doctrine doesn’t work to facilitate the John 5:19 ideal in the church.

Jesus therefore answered them, “Most certainly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things he does, these the Son also does likewise. (Joh 5:19 WEB)

The Father is not telling one group we can drink and another group that drinking is an abomination. That’s bad parenting! Our Father is the best parent ever. Our Father is not telling some people that the manifestations have ceased, and others that they’re in full swing, and others that it’s okay to believe in the manifestations but not to teach them. That’s bad parenting and our Father is not that kind of parent.

The Father has prophesied that he wants to pour out his spirit on all men.  He wants people to earnestly desire to prophesy and manifest the gift of the holy spirit he gives us.   That’s not on the essentials lists I’ve seen and that is just one example.
Good sports teams know what unity is. They all know the same playbook and they carry it out the same way. Let’s say that you have an American football play called diamond sweep right foxtrot. The play calls for most of the team to start executing to the right except for two wide receivers both on the right. I’m oversimplifying but know this, every player has an assignment that needs to be carried out for the play to work.  The receiver on the end runs around the opposite way, the left, and takes a handoff from the quarterback. The receiver in the slot position runs a pattern towards the left pylon on the goal line. After the first receiver takes the handoff he has the option to continue running if the field is open. But he’s looking for the other receiver and throws him the ball if he’s open.

Now that’s the play. Every person on that team has to be thinking the same thing for that play to work. That’s unity. Everyone understands the terms of the play the same way. One guy can’t be saying that what he thinks he should be doing instead of blocking is running down and catching the ball too. That would leave a hole for some defender to come right in and bust the play up. People understand unity when it comes to sports teams. But when it comes to the church they want to reduce it to just agreeing to these very basic concepts because that is all these immature churches can agree on. No, unity is all of us understanding the playbook the same way and carrying it out.

Here’s the play that Jesus has been calling since Pentecost:

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; from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love. (Eph 4:11-16 WEB)

This play is an intricate play led by the spirit working in members in the body to work together like a well-oiled team. The knowledge that is being talked about here isn’t just a few generalizations. It’s the teaching and practices of the epistles.  It’s the whole counsel of God that Paul and the other apostles wrote about as well as the prophets. Our team, the body of Christ, is mature and powerful when it is armed with all the knowledge available and unswayed by all the arguments and excuses that try to stop it.

Ephesians 4:11-16 is what a unified church looks like.  That’s not what we have now.  And as long as the In Essentials Unity doctrine is allowed to prevail it is blocking the church from going after true unity.

The In Essentials Unity clause is not scripture!  It is not found in scripture!  Furthermore, the In Essentials Unity clause is actually an impediment to the growth and movement of the word of God because it says the things required to make Ephesians 4:11-16 happen are not important, that they are not essential doctrines, and just the opposite is true!

The In Essentials Unity doctrine is a modern Christian tradition. It was not written by the apostles and prophets.   And it is not part of the apostles’ traditions. As such it a case of teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.

The Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why don’t your disciples walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with unwashed hands?” He answered them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But they worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Mar 7:5-7 WEB)

What did the Apostles say that we should follow?

But we are bound to always give thanks to God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth; to which he called you through our Good News, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter.  (2Th 2:13-15 WEB)

Hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter, Paul wrote.  Do you believe that Paul was the apostle charged to teach us what was important in the church Jesus made alive by his sacrifice?

Moreover, was what Paul and the other apostles taught the essentials of the faith?  What did Paul say to do about believers, even church leaders, who taught differently than what he and the other apostles taught?

Now I beg you, brothers, look out for those who are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and turn away from them. (Rom 16:17 WEB)

Whoa!  That is a strong stance.  But you either believe the whole counsel of God or not.  If you want to exclude parts of the apostles’ teachings then you just wind up with another gospel.

The ones to avoid in Romans 6:17 isn’t every follower in the pews, it’s just the one promoting doctrines at odds with the apostles’ doctrine.  The man in the pulpit may be preaching that prophecy ended almost two thousand years ago, which makes him one to avoid.  The people listening to him may not have made up their minds about it.  I have talked to a lot of people in churches who are taught against the manifestations of the spirit in our day and time, and a lot of those people have told me they believe the Spirit does lead them and does manifest.  More than that, we are to love always, not just our like-minded brethren, but even those who oppose us.  And I believe that the charge to avoid these false teachers doesn’t mean you can’t hire them to work in your kitchen, buy things from them at the store, sit with them at a PTA meeting, or even eat with them at a family dinner.  You need to not be there when they are teaching things contrary to the apostle’s doctrine, you need to avoid them when they are teaching things contrary to the apostles’ traditions.

Instead of the In Essentials Unity doctrine, we need to carefully examine the whole counsel of God in the apostles’ traditions and all of scripture, come together on what that means independent of all the traditions and philosophies of men and work that until Ephesians 4:11-16 is a reality in our day and time.

1In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity, by Mark Ross at https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/essentials-unity-non-essentials-liberty-all-things/





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/


T 1.5 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)


Biblical references are from the ASV version unless otherwise noted.
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