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…”

Giving vs Tithing

Some churches teach that Christians are required to tithe. Tithing is giving one-tenth of your income to God’s work. I have personally heard tithing taught in Baptist, Full Faith, Assembly of God, and Pentecostal churches. Most of these churches teach that not tithing is robbing God. And I have sat and heard those warnings.

In contrast, Catholic and mainstream protestant churches may or may not mention tithing to their congregations, but they ask for support. Some evangelical and other protestant denominations may teach the tithe (10%) as an example of what is good to give back to God in recognition of God’s provision.

Both groups may teach that God does not want your gift if it is given begrudgingly. Both groups may teach the attitude of cheerful giving. They teach that the law of sowing and reaping; you reap according to how much you sow is the key factor. And that God loves a cheerful giver.

I have been in Bible Churches, Evangelical Churches, mainstream protestant, and Catholic churches among others that teach the attitude of cheerful giving liberally without requiring tithing.

2007 research revealed that only 5% of adults tithed.i  The inference is that even if the church teaches tithing that there is not compliance. In other words, the church may teach tithing, but the attendees don’t necessarily follow or agree.

Biblical Basis

Most preachers of tithing emphasize the teaching in Malachi 3.

Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.Mal 3:7-12

This is a powerful section of scripture. The first verses start with a reproof for Israel to return to God’s ordinances which is, of course, the Law.  So we are talking about Israel under the Law not doing at least this part of the Law. The text says that it is referring to this nation which is Israel. Then we read about robbing God, and the curse that follows for not tithing to God. Then we read about testing the promise of tithing to see if there isn’t an incredible blessing. It is important to recognize that tithing was part of the law for Israel and also that as a theocracy tithing was how Israel received its income to function.

Proponents of tithing cite that Abraham tithed to Melchizedek and Jacob vowed to tithe previous to the giving of the Law. Thus, by their logic, tithing was instituted as a standard before the law, and so Malachi’s guidance on not tithing being robbing God is the standard not just for Israel under the Law but for all believers for all time.

However, tithing appears as a one-time event in Abraham’s life, not a regular practice and it has a specification that it was a tenth of the spoils of war that Abraham received in fighting under Melchizadec.  It was not a tenth of all, just of the spoils and that makes it a unique circumstance different from the requirements of the Law.

The other example of tithing prior to the Law is Jacob who makes a vow to tithe “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear,  so that I come again to my father’s house in peace” appears conditional and voluntary by Jacob.  While there are numerous men of God mentioned in Genesis there are no other examples of tithing until the law.  The argument that tithing was the norm prior to the Law is weak at best. Not that people can’t tithe if they choose to like Jacob,  I agree with the many that say tithing was not the norm prior to the Law.

Furthermore, Jesus Christ fulfilled the law, we are no longer under it. Therefore, since we no longer practice the dietary laws, use the priests to offer sacrifices, or even support a Levitical priesthood, why should we continue to be required to give tithes to support the operations of Israel under the law? Also, the tithe was paid to the temple and was not paid to synagogues when there was no temple.  As we have no temple, we wouldn’t be required to tithe even if we were still under the law.

And critical to those endeavoring to understand the apostle’s doctrine the apostles taught giving without any discussion of the tithe.  In fact, the Corinthian epistles are full of reproof and correction on a number of matters, and 2 Corinthians chapter 8 is an example of that.  There the Corinthian believers were reproved for their giving practices without any mention of the tithe.

The alternative to tithing biblically is giving liberally.  Teachers of giving or sharing liberally focus on 2 Corinthians chapter 8 where Paul notes how the believers “overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.”:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. (2Co 8:1-8 ESV)

This first section gives important teaching on the attitude of giving. We are instructed to excel in this grace (charis, describing giving as grace) just as we abound in believing, speaking the truth, in zeal, and in love (agapeo, the love of God). And excel in this grace is exactly what the Macedonian church did. They set an excellent example, giving “beyond their means.” Whenever we do something that is beyond our ability, then the power must come from God.

For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich.2Co 8:9

Here the example of Christ is given, that he exemplified the right attitude.

And herein I give my judgment: for this is expedient for you, who were the first to make a beginning a year ago, not only to do, but also to will. But now complete the doing also; that as there was the readiness to will, so there may be the completion also out of your ability.2Co 8:10-11

The Corinthians are reproved here because they started to collect an offering a year ago, now they are told to complete the offering and send it.

For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according as a man hath, not according as he hath not. For I say not this, that others may be eased, and ye distressed: but by equality; your abundance being a supply at this present time for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want; that there may be equality: as it is written, He that gathered much had nothing over; and he that gathered little had no lack.2Co 8:12-15

This section says that having the right attitude, the attitude of giving to support God’s work is what is important. In this section, there is a point that I have never heard taught in a church that it expressly says that if someone doesn’t have any money, then they shouldn’t give thus resulting in them being distressed so that others could have their life eased. Giving should be according to your capacity to give. So, if a person is truly poor, living, for example, in inexpensive housing and not purchasing more than the basic necessities and maybe not even all of those, they shouldn’t give up eating or medical care so that someone else in the church should have their life eased. On the other hand, if you can afford better things, go on vacations, buy nice gifts at Christmas time, but feel your income is too tight to give very much or at all, then where is your attitude?  Where is your love of God?

There is, of course, the parable of the widow’s mite, which is sometimes used to teach people to give even of their necessities:

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”  (Luk 21:1-4 ESV)

This is a powerful example.  What I see is this: this was an example of faith that the woman gave and still believed that she would be taken care of.   This is an example of commitment because the woman gave all she had.  I don’t believe that she would have done that if she didn’t believe in the function of the temple and that it was a vital part of her life.

On the other hand, while Jesus praises the greatness and sacrificial giving of her gift I do not believe that it is teaching a requirement to give all your funds for basic living away.  First of all, the widow was under the Law where a certain amount was required whether it looked like it was within your means or not. And she would have been aware of the promise from Malachi which says “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” The text doesn’t specify whether this was the required offering or not.

Jesus praised the fact that the rich people gave and still were rich but the poor woman gave when it was all she had thus making her the greater giver.

In contrast to the Law, and the story of the widow’s mite, 2 Corinthians 8:12-15 is telling the Corinthians to collect whatever they could according to their ability to give. Concerning the right attitude and the ability to give we have this following section from 1 Timothy 6:

Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed.1Ti 6:17-19

Statistically, the more money people have, the less they give percentage-wise. (I did accounting and tax work for a number of years and can personally testify to that fact.) These verses in 1 Timothy exhort those with money to do just the opposite. “To be ready to distribute, willing to communicate” is to have an attitude of giving. Importantly, this giving is important in living a life that is truly abundant.

Budgeting is a concept many of us are familiar with and from a budgeting standpoint, the charge to them that are rich to give more, it is perfectly reasonable for any rich individual to personally decide to tithe, that is, give ten percent, or double tithe, twenty percent, or triple tithe, 30 percent in their financial planning.  In First Timothy chapter six the rich are charged to give a lot so that they “may lay hold on the life which is life indeed”, in other words, so that they may lay hold on the truly abundant life in the spirit.  The more well off you are, the more are called to share of that wealth.

Flaws of Requiring Tithing After Pentecost

So, putting it together, what’s the problem with requiring tithing? The first problem is that it says that the non-tither is gone away from God’s ordinances. What ordinances are they? They are the law. We are not under the law. We are under grace. Malachi does not explain grace; grace, as it pertains to giving, is explained in 2 Corinthians chapter 8.  This puts tithing in the category of a covenantal requirement.  In the Old Testament with the coming of the Law tithing became a requirement.  With the fulfillment of the Law in Christ that requirement went away. There is teaching to the Christian church to give liberally, financially, and otherwise while the charge to tithe is conspicuously absent.  To excel in giving liberally is the charge to the body of Christ.

Summary and Conclusion

From this study, we can determine that it is not a function of giving a specified percentage or amount of money that is the important principle to Christians. There is no retirement to tithe in the body of Christ.  The attitude of giving is what is important. In that vein, if you can’t give money because it is all you can do to have the bare necessities, then give time if you can, or support. On the other hand, if you have resources, and can’t see to share very much this is an important signal that your Christian walk is more focused on the material that the spiritual. If so you are especially included in those to whom Paul, by the Holy Spirit, is directing to follow the example of the Macedonians who so excelled in giving that they gave beyond their power to give and so participated in the abundant life that Christ came to give to us all.

The charge to believers in original Christianity is to excel in the grace of giving financially as well as other areas with a cheerful heart and the love of God.

This is another example where Christians don’t agree. Furthermore, it can be very divisive when Christians who don’t believe that Christians are commanded to tithe are told they are robbing God because they aren’t obeying this law.

i. http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/18-congregations/41-new-study-shows-trends-in-tithing-and-donating

(c) copyright 2009-2020 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved. Revised and re-published 7/2020

T1.4 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 4, They did Everything in the Name of Jesus Christ

Believers are charged to follow the apostles’ tradition:
So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. (2Th 2:15 ESV)
Remember that tradition encompasses both what is taught and what is practiced.  One thing the apostles emphasized both in teaching and practice was doing everything in the name of Jesus Christ.  Look at how the apostle Paul touts the greatness and power that is in the name of Jesus Christ:
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Php 2:9-11 ESV)
This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Act 4:11-12 ESV)

This verse says that there’s no name other than that of the Lord Jesus Christ that does the saving. There are variations in that the verse may say the name of the Lord, name of Jesus, name of Jesus of Nazareth etc, but they all refer to Jesus Christ who has the power vested in him.  These scriptures do not mention the name of the Father, or the Holy Spirit.  Rather, scripture is very plain in that it is the name of our Lord Jesus Christ alone in which the power is vested.

Remember the admonition from Deuteronomy about changing scripture:

“Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. (Deu 12:32 ESV)
So one principle of Original Christianity is that all things were done in the name of Jesus Christ. This is as much a part of the Apostles’ tradition as anything else. Look at all these records and it becomes apparent that there is an emphasis to promote the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and and promote that name they did.  This is vitally important to us because we are looking at the apostles’ doctrine and it is clear that doing all things in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord is part of the apostles’ tradition that we must keep:
But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. (Act 3:6-8 ESV)
And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. (Act 4:7-11 ESV)
And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Act 4:29-31 ESV)
And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.  (Act 9:26-28 ESV)
men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Act 15:26 ESV)
We are not done looking at verses declaring the importance but its time to take a good hard look at the lone exception to doing things in the name of Jesus Christ, Matthew 28:19:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Mat 28:18-20 ESV)

We have addressed this verse in both Original Christianity Did Everything in the Name of Jesus [Christ] and
Matthew 28:19 – Legitimate Verse that was not Carried Out by the Apostles or Scribal Forgery? and now its time to address it in even more detail.  When I was in Catholic High School, over 50 years ago, the abnormality of this verse was brought up in Class by a Catholic Brother, who admitted that while officially this was always in the Bible, unofficially this verse was understood to be changed by the Catholic Church to conform to Catholic doctrine hundreds of years after the Apostles died.  Furthermore, do a google search and you will find numerous sources that say that Matthew 28:19 in its current form with the trinitarian formula cannot be the original.  Here is a quote from Edmund Schlink, a German-Lutheran theologian, that says just that:

“Most probably baptism was probably performed in the name of Christ and this was later expanded, as in the later expansion of the Christological confession into the Tripartite creeds.  In that case, the baptismal command in its Matt 28:19 form cannot be the historical origin of Christian Baptism.  At the very least it must be assumed that the text has been transmitted in a form expanded by the churchi

Schlink, in the above quote, references the movement in the early centuries after original Christianity to change the name of Jesus Christ standard to the tripartite (trinitarian) formula.  When Schlink says, “At the very least it must be assumed that the text has been transmitted in a form expanded by the church”,  he is saying that they changed scripture because expanding scripture (adding the Father and the Holy Spirit to the recognition of the Son’s power to emphasis the newly promoted trinity doctrine in the centuries after the apostles) means adding to scripture which is changing scripture!

Here is Matthew 28:18-20 in Youngs Literal Translation of the Holy Bible:

And having come near, Jesus spake to them, saying, ‘Given to me is all authority in heaven and on earth; having gone, then, disciple all the nations, (baptizing the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all, whatever I did command you,) and lo, I am with you all the days — till the full end of the age.’

What is significant here is the parenthesis around “baptizing the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” which is Young’s technique for calling attention to sections of scripture that are doubtful.

Also, remember that one reason that there are no manuscripts earlier than the 4th century with Matthew 28:19 wording is Diocletian’s persecution in 303AD and other document destructions of the age.  Rome just didn’t make martyrs of the saints, they burned the texts, along with killing the Christians and they even burned their houses and possessions!  Ones they didn’t kill were often maimed and tortured hideously.  So there are no manuscripts with Matthew 28:19 earlier than the fourth century, but as mentioned in the above-cited articles there are references in early writings that refer to Matthew 28:19 without the trinitarian formula.

In the New American Bible, a Catholic bible,  a note on Matthew 28:19 reads “the baptismal formula reflects the church’s gradual understanding of God as three Persons.”  This is a roundabout way of saying this wording was not in the original and was added later in the Catholic tradition to promote the trinity.  Thus it was not part of the apostles’ doctrine in original Christianity.  Now, remember Jesus’ charge to the Jewish leaders who made the word of God of no effect by substituting their tradition for the word of God.  The Catholic Church substituted its tradition for the word of God and even changed the manuscripts to reflect the change!

Let’s keep looking at the places where it is cited that when something was done in apostles’ time it was done exclusively in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. (Act 16:16-18 ESV)

And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.  (Act 19:4-7 ESV)

And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.  (Act 19:11-17 ESV)

The above records cite places where the use of the name was practiced.  Below are some more places where the usage of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is taught:

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  (Rom 10:13 ESV)

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:  (1Co 1:1-2 ESV)

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  (Col 3:17 ESV)

Part of what makes this important is what Paul tells us about intercession:

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,  (1Ti 2:5 ESV)

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
(Rom 8:34 ESV)

Let’s just read the words in a verse that has Jesus, God and the spirit:

And such were some of you. But you were washed (apolouo, not baptizo), you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1Co 6:11 ESV)

This verse says that the actions of washing, sanctifying, justifying were accomplished by the Spirit of our God.  But it is certain, it was done not in the name of the Spirit, or the name of God, but in the name of Jesus Christ.

Here’s a tribute to the power of the name of Jesus :

For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1Co 15:27-28 ESV)

There are clear distinctions about who has the power here, according to this scripture. The Father has given the power to the Son, but the Son is still subject to the Father.  For the process of redemption to be accomplished, Jesus Christ paid the price.  And his reward is to reclaim the power given to Adam as ruler of the earth with complete dominion.  The following verses show this:

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1Co 15:14-26 ESV)

“He must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet”  “Then he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.”   It’ not that God the Father doesn’t have power, its that the plan for redemption was that Jesus Christ would be given the power until the final victory is complete!  That’s why only the name of Jesus Christ has the power.  That is what the apostles both taught and practiced.  That is the apostles’ doctrine and tradition.  It is the standard of original Christianity.

iThe Doctrine of Baptism, Edmund Schlink, Translated by Herbert J A Bouman, Translated by permission, Concordia Publishing, 1972, p. 28

T 1.2 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 2, Teaching and Preaching Jesus, Discipleship

The message of the Gospel is the good news of Christ. And spread that message is what Apostles did, first and foremost.

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (Act 5:42 ESV)

When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him [Paul] at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. (Act 28:23 ESV)

The width and breadth of all that it means to preach and teach Jesus is huge. The fact that the Apostles wrote or had written the Gospels illustrates the kind of material that was presented by them, The Gospels talk about Jesus on earth, while Acts and the Epistles talk about what his passion, death, and resurrection accomplished for us both now and in the ages to come.

The Gospel records are incredible accounts of Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy, his birth, young life, and then his incredible ministry. He taught with such authority, and he healed with such power. He walked on water, healed the eyes of a man born blind, fed thousands miraculously, and raised the dead.

Some of what Jesus said and did we have covered in Jesus Taught the Kingdom of God, Jesus Taught Men To Love God, Jesus Taught With The Right Kind Authority- The Kind That Delivered People, Jesus Taught Miraculous Believing, Jesus and the Manifestations of the Spirit, Jesus Charged us to Live By the Word of God, How Jesus Responded To Temptation, Jesus States His Mission, Jesus Taught Men To Pray, and Jesus Taught About The End Times.

And we need to remember that Jesus did much, much more than what is in the Gospels:

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (Joh 21:25 ESV)

But, for the most part, the Gospels are about Jesus preaching and teaching and walking in power, delivering people all the way to his crowning achievement, his death and resurrection. On the other hand, the Book of Acts, and the epistles record the teaching and preaching of the apostles that was handed down.

There are so many powerful and wonderful accounts of Jesus being preached that we have in so many scriptures. Here is the first sermon on that fateful day of Pentecost, preaching Jesus Christ:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Act 2:22-36 ESV)

This is just part of the powerful sermon that Peter delivered on the day of Pentecost. It is focusing on the powerful ministry of Jesus with mighty works, wonders, and signs as well as his resurrection, and his ascension to be with the Father. Peter says here that the promise of the Holy Spirit has been poured out and the witnesses there saw it.

This sermon is typical of the practice of the apostles and sets the stage for the tradition of teaching and preaching Jesus Christ that the apostles handed down.

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they [the apostles] did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (Act 5:42 ESV)

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1Co 15:1-5 ESV)

Now, teaching and preaching Jesus Christ is certainly something that happens in the vast majority of Christian Churches. But, again, we also know from part one of this topic that it is not just about teaching the word of God, it’s about teaching the rightly divided word of God. It’s about being faithful to the apostle’s traditions which includes both what they taught and what they did.

So we have the apostle’s traditions on one side and on the other, we have Catholic tradition, Orthodox tradition, Reformed tradition, Lutheran, and so forth.  Besides the teachings of the apostles recognized in the New Testament these latter traditions incorporate theologies written by church councils and the Popes (in the case of Catholicism), church fathers, doctors of the Church like Augustine and Jerome, and reformers like John Calvin, Martin Luther, and William Tyndale as well as all the denominational disagreements among the many denominations.  This website is focused on the apostles’ doctrine as being the charge that all believers and churches are to follow.  We are in the middle of looking at that Apostles doctrine right now and will start looking at where the denominational traditions diverge from that in the not too distant future.

So, in the apostles’ tradition, following Christ’s example, when reading the books left us by the apostles and their agents, other than verifying the authenticity of the text,  there is no guesswork, no private interpretation, for example, no expounding on the thoughts and motives of the individuals involved in the accounts beyond what is in the texts. That is not to say that you can’t speculate on what someone may be thinking as long as you declare that this is your speculation and not what is being declared in the text. But I have sat in pews and listened to many times to preachers expanding on the text, saying what “must” have been going on, and what they “must” have been feeling and what they “must” have been thinking. This is all adding to the text, and remember the sworn testimony rule, no adding!
And it is teaching nothing but the truth. It is not reading Church doctrines into the verse as we saw in T 1.1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 1b, The Nothing But the Truth Rule.

For example, let’s look at this account of Jesus with the Pharisees:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ (Mat 23:1-16 ESV)

This is a powerful record that actually goes on for another 23 verses. Later, he calls the Pharisees hypocrites, blind guides, serpents and vipers. Everything in this section is strong wording.

Now I love to hear a passionate speaker as much as the next person.  There is an attention-grabbing intensity that some speakers have that just is wonderful and amazing so I never want to discourage that. But it has to be done right.  So, I want to ask you, what was Christ feeling here? What was his tone of voice? Was he yelling? One might speculate any number of things, but they would all be just speculation. But I have sat in the pew and heard preachers preach about how angry he was, and then they acted out how he “must-have” acted, and what he “must-have” been thinking. Especially, in the exchanges between Jesus and the Pharisees, I have heard preachers teach about how angry he was.
But none of that is in all these verses. I can imagine that Jesus possibly sounded angry when talking about or to the Pharisees, but I can also imagine that he was cool as a cucumber making the same presentation. Sure, it’s easy to imagine him saying “You blind fools”, “you hypocrites”, “you snakes” with venom in his voice. But, especially, when he was teaching the people I can just as easily see him talking quietly with deadly seriousness. Perhaps he had a tone of gentle advisement because he was talking to his followers eagerly listening to every word. You don’t think so? Well, I don’t know either, but that’s the point, neither do you. Who knows what he was thinking, what he was feeling, how he presented himself if it isn’t written here or somewhere else.

Now we do read that Jesus did upturn the tables, scatter coins, and drive the men from the temple in John, Chapter 2.  And in Mark, chapter 3 we read that Jesus looked around at the leaders of the synagogue in anger and we know Jesus was distressed at their stubborn hearts because all of these things are in the text.  But in Matthew chapter 23 he is not dealing with these men, rather he is teaching his people, and his feelings and thoughts at that interaction are not written about.

Some of this, I believe, comes when someone hears someone they respect preach in a powerful way, and it has a powerful impact on them so they begin replicating the sermon with all the additional thoughts and feelings ascribed. I have heard ministers go off on tangents about some mentor’s masterful presentation while presenting their material but some of the material they are presenting is not in the texts!

Remember the sworn testimony rule: nothing but the truth.  It is okay to present how you think the exchange may have gone as long as it is plainly presented that it is how you think he may have felt or thought, but that is often not the case. Again, I have heard it presented as to how it “must” have been. Or the preacher just lets loose with his private thoughts on what the scene must have looked like without identifying that this is his speculation. And in that case, it seems to me that the way the preacher expresses Jesus’ emotions sometimes reflects the culture of the crowd. If the crowd is quieter and more genteel, Jesus is presented as quieter and genteel and if the crowd is loud and more expressive then Jesus is presented as loud and more expressive.

The epistles preach and teach more than Jesus’ actions on earth. The Apostles’ teaching contained therein includes our calling to be disciples, to live a holy and righteous life. It includes how we are redeemed, justified, and made righteous. It teaches us about sanctification. For example:

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  (Joh 8:31-32 ESV)

Disciple is the word mathetes in Greek.  It means student, pupil, disciplined one.  Disciples need to know what redemption, justification, sanctification, and righteousness mean:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
(Rom 3:23-24 ESV)

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,  (1Co 1:30 ESV)

Redemption is apolutrosis is the Greek.  It means ransom.  With his death Christ paid the ransom for our sins so that we would be freed from the control of the god of this world, Satan, and from the death requirement that is the payment for sinning.  That the wages of sin is death is no joke.

Justification is dikaiosis in the Greek.  Justification means acquittal (on the charges of sin), made righteous.  Christ died in payment for our sins so we don’t have to.

Sanctification is hagiosmos in the Greek.  Sanctification means “set apart”, made holy, dedicated to God’s purposes.  Believers aren’t saints after someone has verified a miracle in their lives, believers are made saints when they accept Christ who calls us to follow in his steps:

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together [emphasis added] with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
(1Co 1:1-2 ESV)

Righteousness is dikaiosune in the Greek.  Righteousness means being just and fair in all your dealings.  Being redeemed we are freed from the power of sin:

Being then made free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Rom 6:18 MKJV)

The Apostles’ teaching goes into more detail about what righteousness looks like in everyday life. For example, a righteous life, a holy life includes living God’s concept of right living in the bedroom as well as in the whole home, at work, and everywhere else.  The Corinthian epistles list many instructions on the right things (in order to live righteously) to do about many things. Questions about marriage, marriage separation, divorce, incest, homosexuality, lawsuits, fleeing idolatry, the proper use of remembering Christ’s passion and death with bread and wine, the teachings on spiritual matters including gift ministries, the manifestations of the spirit, and giving with the right heart are just some of the topics.

And, if you think that these things are not part of the traditions handed down, look at this verse, right in 1 Corinthians:

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.
(1Co 11:2 ESV)

This exhortation is right smack dab in the middle of all the instructions that Paul has been giving in answer to the questions that the Corinthians wrote to him about.

And, if you think that this was just written to the believers at Corinth, carefully re-read the salutation of the letter again:

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: (1Co 1:1-2 ESV)

This says the letter is to the church at Corinth, called saints, but also to all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. That last phrase says Paul was writing to all believers everywhere. That includes you and me.

A powerful part of the Apostles’ teaching is on the Law. Understanding the Law is important because it exposes the power of sin in our lives. A lot of Christians say that we really don’t need this in Paul’s epistles because Jesus freed us from the Law and it doesn’t apply to us anymore. Remember, Paul was sent to the Gentiles. The places where he sent letters were places filled with Gentiles who had little exposure to the Law. But he wrote extensively about the law because it is important to understand God’s plan for all of us from the beginning.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. But the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; so that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom 8:1-4 MKJV)

Here, Paul, writing to all believers everywhere explains that Christ’s sacrifice enables the righteousness of the Law to be fulfilled in us. Paul explains the grace that we have because of Christ’s sacrifice:

and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (Rom 3:24 ESV)

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Rom 5:17 ESV)

While we live in a church of grace we are called to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom 8:28-30 ESV)

More than just talking about Jesus the apostles set the standard of following Jesus by becoming disciples first. The method of doing this is by renewing their minds to carry out the things our Savior called them to do. Paul takes most of the book of Romans talking about the law and the battle with sin to get to this pivotal verse for us as Christians to learn to renew our minds away from the wisdom of the world to the milk of the word all the way to the whole armor of God:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom 12:1-2 KJV)

Renewing the mind is also called putting on the Lord Jesus Christ:

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Rom 13:14 ESV)

Here Paul writes about putting on the whole armor of God:

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 schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, (Eph 6:10-18 ESV)

We put on the whole armor of God by renewing our minds!  And we are called to do this within the body of Christ which collectively is all the believers together acting as one unit. Look at this powerful explanation of the one body of Christ working together:

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:4-21 ESV)

We will cover more about the apostle’s doctrine in future articles, but I want to close with this.  Still, in its simplest and most powerful form what we are called to do is love with the love of God (agapeo):

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Rom 13:8 ESV)

This takes us back to the simple message from Christ himself about what are the greatest commandments?

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  (Mat 22:36-40 ESV)

All of the learning about the law, grace, the battle against sin, renewing the mind,  putting on the whole armor of God, how the body of Christ works together, following the apostles’ tradition and even the law and the prophets, are part of the details we are taught in learning how to love more perfectly with the love of God.

Jesus Taught About The End Times

Jesus taught about the end of times. And as I write this the world is in the middle of the corona virus pandemic. As usual there are some that are saying that this is the beginning of the end. Matthew chapter 24 is the most prominent place in the Gospel where Jesus talks about the end times, so I am going skip to the end of Matthew 24 to read this:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. (Mat 24:36 ESV)

Now, this verse says that no one, not even the Son, knows the day and hour. So no one knows that the coronavirus is the beginning of the end, the middle of the end or the end of the end. Now we do know from the day of Pentecost the Apostles were saying that we are in the last days:

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘And in the last days [emphasis added] it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; (Act 2:14-17 ESV)

So, it is the last days, but it has been thousands of years since the apostles and it may be thousands until Jesus comes back. After all. God promised Eve that her offspring would be the redeemer, and she thought that when Seth was born, that Seth was the redeemer, but it was about four thousand years after that Jesus was born. And in that four thousand years you have the covenant with Abraham, and the period of the Patriarchs, and  and the tribes of Israel, and the period of the Judges, and then the Kings. Interspersed in there were prophets and mighty men of God who acted on God’s behalf. It was a couple of thousand years before Abraham came along and God formed a covenant with him. There was a lot of work to do, and there may still be a lot of work to do before Jesus comes back. Now, that’s not to say that we have all the time in the world and can dawdle. He could come right now! And no matter when he comes. we have to walk carefully.

As Paul wrote:

Therefore he says, “Awake, sleeping ones! And arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Eph 5:14-16 MKJV)

Not only that but this race we run isn’t a sprint, its a marathon. It’s not a quick game, it’s a long game. Notwithstanding that any one of us could be gone in an instant, we must run our race with patience:

Therefore since we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2 MKJV)

Having said all that, Jesus spoke of signs of the end:

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Mat 24:3-14 ESV)

Remember Jesus was sent to Israel and here Jesus is telling  Israel of their future and how things will end. (Remember the mystery that gentiles would be joint heirs was not yet revealed.)  Jesus says that there will be all kinds of bad things happening; wars, rumors of wars, famines, and earthquakes, but that is not the end. There will be persecutions and many false prophets.  And, he warns, that all that bad stuff is just the beginning of the birth pains!

Now, at this point, we’re talking about false prophets. Now, what is a false prophet? Good old Wikipedia says “a false prophet is one who falsely claims the gift of prophecy or divine inspiration, or to speak for God, or who makes such claims for evil ends.“ We discussed in The Definition of Prophecy in the Bible   that prophecy is speaking for God.
Whether they are false or not depends on whether what they say is in alignment with the prophets of old and now the apostles doctrine.  If they are in aligmenment they are true.  If prophets after Jesus contradict the old testament prophets or the apostles doctrine, they are false.
Remember how when we talked about the manifestations in Jesus and the Manifestations of the Spirit we said that sometimes more than one manifestation would be manifested in an event? Well, Let’s look at Paul in that light. Look at these declarations about Paul and notice that he is attributed more than one of the gift ministries which include apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, and teachers:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, (Rom 1:1 ESV) (Paul is called an apostle here.)

For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (1Ti 2:7 ESV) (Paul is called an apostle and preacher here.)

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Act 13:1-2 ESV) (Saul (Pauls’s earlier name) is listed among the prophets and teachers.

Paul is called an apostle in the first example. He is called a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher in the second. And he is in the list of prophets and teachers in the third. There are prophecies in his writings. So, while his strong suit appears to be apostleship as he is stated as an apostle most, he had more than one gift ministry.

This is just to say that people can have multiple ministries.   Likewise, on the other side, you can have someone who is a false prophet, a false teacher, and/or a false miracle worker.  Just beware.

Paul reveals what is revealed to him here:

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
(Eph 3:1-10 ESV)

Paul writes here that he received the revelation that the Gentiles were joint heirs of the promise in Christ; “how the mystery was made known to me by revelation”.   We also read that Paul was given the job of declaring this new revelation from God to people.  Besides being an Apostle (one sent, set apart for a mission) that makes Paul a spokesman for God which is the office of a prophet.  As an apostle he was sent to the Gentiles with the message of Christ the Savior that they too were partakers. (We can’t assume when it says apostles and prophets that the term refers to separate people.)

Now, just as we see that Paul speaks for God in the right way, Matthew chapter 24 says that there will be many who speak for God in the wrong way. That is, they will say that God has said things that he did not say. There is going to be a lot of those guys.

A key element in the end times is in verse 14: “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Before the end, the gospel will be proclaimed in every nation as a testimony to all nations.

Next, Jesus taught on the abomination of desolation which is first mentioned in the book of Daniel:

And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days. (Dan 12:11 ESV)

“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. (Mat 24:15-28 ESV)

With the abomination of Desolation will come the greatest tribulation. Many false Christs and prophets will arise and there will all kinds of false signs and wonders. Christ is saying to not be fooled and follow them.

Then here he comes to collect his people:

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Mat 24:29-31 ESV)

This is a glorious time when Jesus comes back!   But Jesus warns that no one but the Father knows the timing of this. He warns that he doesn’t know it, the angels don’t know it, only the Father knows. So we must always be ready:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the myaster of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
(Mat 24: 36-51 ESV)

Remember, that Jesus gave some key things to watch for, some warnings for how challenging it will be, and how he will gloriously return, but the biggest points include no one but the Father knows when it will happen, and consequently, we need to be ready all the time.

Black Lives Matter

It has been on my heart to write a post about the racial tension soaring around the States these days but unlike what usually happens there have been no words coming to me, only intense sadness and sorrow. Every time I start to think about it my mind gravitates to the picture of the white police officer calmly kneeling on the neck of that poor black man, George Floyd, ever so calmly killing him. What an image!  And as hard as it is to look at, I am glad that the light has been so brightly shone on this latest example of racial injustice usually done in the shadows. Other images then come like Armaud Arbery jogging and being killed, as well as scenes of protests and riots with pain, sorrow everywhere. While the George Floyd incident is new I have been aware of racism all my life and everywhere I’ve been in this great country. I was in grade school when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was generating heat all around the country and in high school when Martin Luther King was shot.  There were riots then with lots of conflict and blood shed, and they have surfaced on a regular basis since.

Yes, blacks have risen to the point where there have been blacks elected to power in everything from school board seats to President of these United States.  But there is still that great divide where George Floyd and Armaud Arbery incidents demonstrate the severe distrust and a vein of racial injustice that is so damaging to our society.

I have heard and seen some wonderful sermons about the situation and how we as Christians are called to a ministry of reconciliation and are called to act in reconciliation. They are great, and need to be said.  There is a lot of media attention and some good programming dealing with this.  Like so many of you I am watching.  But my prayer is that this will not just be another in a long line of racial injustices with the resulting both peaceful protests and rioting that will continue down the road for more generations.

But now is a time for mourning, and I am grieving.  I think of the families of those poor people, and of widespread injustice, and my tears flow. 

I am sure of this, this injustice is real, and cannot be swept away. 

The leaders in our country from President Trump on down need to know as well as acknowledge that these injustices must be addressed whether answered out by new law, or  existing laws enforced, and the example of reconciliation from all our leadership from top on down needs to be displayed. Yes, police practices everywhere must be reviewed as well as personnel. 

With the COVID crisis both impacting our health and our pocketbooks what this country doesn’t need is another escalation of racial tension that is already marking 2020 as a multifaceted trauma year for this great country.

Black lives do matter! The Black lives matter movement needs to be acknowledged by all leadership from the White House down.

I heard two pastors talk about verses that hit their hearts about this crisis, and they touch mine as well:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;  (Jas 1:19 ESV)

The emphasis there is on the importance of listening, and now especially to those who are grieved.  The second verse is our charge as Christians to share the pain and feel the hurt with those who hurt.  It is a simple five words, but they are not always followed.  It is certainly time now to:

Weep with those who weep.  (Rom 12:15b ESV)

Biblical references are from the ASV version unless otherwise noted.
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