OriginalChristianity

Not Traditional, Original

The Vision of OriginalChristianity.Net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© copyright 2012 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

Welcome to Original Christianity.Net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the days of original, primitive Christianity:

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

Elements usually still held today:

Elements still held today by some:

Elements held today by few, if any believers:

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

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

T 1.3.1 Don’t Extinguish the Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Theology Is As Clear As Mud To Americans in 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

T 1.1.1 Tradition in Original Christianity: The Importance of Doctrine, Reproof, and Correction in Christianity With Its Emphasis on Love

Christianity is about love.  And we are in the administration of grace.  So surely no persons or churches should be reproved, rebuked, or corrected, right? There should be no criticism of any kind, constructive or destructive, right?  Terms I hear expressed are to be loving, forgiving, “giving grace” and “endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” instead of being critical.

To this I refer the charge Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 where they were focusing on the parts of the law they thought were important:

 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.  Mat 23:23 ESV

Everything is important in the Word of God!  Yes, we are to endeavor to walk in love, share grace, and keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. But that doesn’t mean we ignore the other parts of the Apostle’s tradition.  The charges to love, give grace, and maintain unity in peace don’t pre-empt us from striving to have the same mind and make the same judgments which are the mind of Christ :

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (1Co 1:10 ESV)

This verse is from the diverse church at Corinth.  The church today has been compared to Corinth for many years.1.  Maybe we don’t have the severity of sin that Corinth had, but we have more factions.  The Corinthian Church wasn’t just off base because they were sinning by divorcing indiscriminately, practicing homosexuality and other sexual immorality, or turning communion into a food party among other things, they were off in their Christian doctrine by allowing sects to develop, incorporating philosophy into Christianity, and denying that Christ was raised from the dead among other things.  In 2 Corinthians we read of false apostles, messengers of “new” light”, bringers of a different gospel than the one preached by the original apostles.  Notice these false apostles “disguise themselves as apostles of Christ.” (2 Cor 11:13) Putting all this together we are talking about sects, denominations if you will, boasting that they are the true Christian Church.  Paul isn’t talking about other religions or secular ideas taking over, he’s talking about Christian denominations at Corinth who teach a Christian gospel different than the true Apostles’, all claiming to be the true Christian church.  Especially doctrinally, it’s not that different from all the denominational jockeying that is going on today in the Christian Church.

Nothing is impossible with God.  It is possible to reduce the amount of division in the church.  The Reformation may have looked impossible to many with the Catholic Churches’ grip on the Western World in say, 1200 AD.  Pentecostal and Charismatic movements bringing the manifestations and gifts of the spirit to more and more churches may have been unthinkable to many people a couple of hundred years ago.  How is Christ leading the church today for something that will be recognized as another major movement of God?  Yes, there have been revival movements in the last century, there is a 24/7 prayer movement now.

The standard for our mind is Jesus’ mind.  And Jesus mind was focused on what he saw the Father doing:

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. (Joh 5:19 ESV)

Do you really see the Father telling one group that manifestations of the spirit have ceased and others that they have always been available, and still more to not deny the spirit but don’t teach or encourage it?.  Do you see him telling some groups that homosexuality is okay and others that only a man and wife can be holy in bed? Do you see the Father saying to some that alcohol is an abomination that no one should partake and others that alcohol can be a blessing in moderation?

No, the Father is not telling one group to do one thing and another the opposite. The list of disagreements is huge and the church today is as factious or more as the Corinthians were.

To have true unity of the spirit in the bond of peace is when members all can see what the Father is doing, and they follow along together.

I believe that the Father is calling believers to do just that.  I see it actually going back to the Reformation and even before when people have called for restoration to apostolic doctrines.  Now, not that every “Christian” movement is of God or even every single thing in a movement genuinely inspired of God is from God but there have been a number of movements that started with the Reformation that I see as God moving the Body of Christ back to the Apostles traditions.  The return to the writings about the Apostles as the true source (sola scriptura) of knowledge about the faith show movement by God to restore the Church to its foundation of apostolic tradition.  The Restoration movement, which is more geared to restoring the Church to apostolic doctrine than the Reformation was inspired by God to further restore the Church to its apostolic origins. Other movements show to me God working to restore the Church over the centuries.   The Holiness Movement was inspired to return to holiness.  The Pentecostal Movement was inspired to restore the manifestations and diversity of gifts. The Charismatic movement expanded the Pentecostal Movement from the Full Gospel realm into mainline churches and further grew the use of the spirit in the body of Christ. These are just some of the movements.  Steering the huge body of believers is like steering the Queen Mary, while some of us would like to see it happen in an instant,  it appears to be happening slowly and incrementally.  But all these movements combine to show that there is a movement to get truly back to apostolic origins.  And the more that believers follow these incremental moves back to the apostolic traditions the more they will enjoy the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

One element of the Apostles tradition is the purpose(s) of Scripture:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2Ti 3:16 ESV)

Doctrine is teaching, the presentation of the knowledge of God, and His Son, Jesus Christ, his mission, and our part in it.

Reproof is a statement pointing out the error in some one’s ways.

Correction is the explanation of what someone should be doing instead of the error they have been practicing.

Doctrine, reproof, and correction are all part of God’s love.

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.  (Pro 3:11-12 ESV)

Let’s look at examples of doctrine, reproof, and correction.  This section of scripture is about how the spirit works:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.  (1Co 12:4-11 ESV)

This section is all doctrine.  Now it could be part of a bigger section and so be part of the correction from some other doctrine, but, as is, it is just teaching about that is right, holy, and just on how the spirit works in the body. These verses by themselves aren’t telling anyone that did something wrong, they are just teaching the right way to think about these things.

Now consider this section:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord…For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. (1Co 11:27-30 ESV)

This is reproof.  There were Corinthian believers who were participating in communion without regard to what it means.  And they are being told here in no uncertain terms that it was wrong.

But alongside this reproof is the correction.  Look at these verses:

Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup…. if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment…  (1Co 11:28, 31-34 ESV)

Interwoven with the reproof, the pointing out that someone is doing something wrong, is the correction, the replacing of wrong doctrine or practice with right doctrine or practice.  In this case, the offending Corinthians are told to eat at home if they are hungry and to examine themselves, that they reflect on what the bread and wine signify, that is, the broken body and shed blood which was done to for our healing and forgiveness.

Another example of doctrine is that the bulk of the epistle of Ephesians.  Just start reading Ephesians and look at all the doctrine:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  (Eph 1:3-14 ESV)

Look at all the doctrine there, the glorious teaching about who we are now that we have received Christ!  Ephesians is full of awesome doctrine!

in Ephesians, we read a little doctrine about reproof and correction.  Here’s it is:

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. (Eph 5:11 KJV)

The above verse says that we are charged to give reproof. Yes, there is a time and place for things and sometimes it is more loving to overlook a matter, at least for the time being.  Don’t take this wrong; I am not saying the bible calls us to nag people, reminding them of their faults every time they do something wrong. In fact, if you can’t come together on an issue after a couple of attempts you need to stop.  But anyone that says the Bible teaches that we are charged to always look past a person’s or group’s faults is just disagreeing with this scripture in the apostle’s tradition.

The book of Galatians is full of reproof and correction.  At the beginning of the Gospel Paul charges the Galatian Church of twisting the Gospel:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Gal 1:6-7 ESV)

There is that term, distorting the gospel of Christ.  At issue in this case, what is twisted, is the fulfillment of the law.  Paul later recounts the famous confrontation with Peter where Peter stopped eating with the Gentiles because the “circumcision party” came in pushing doctrines of the Law with all its eating laws and rituals like circumcision on Galatians who were never Jews to begin with.

Part of the correction in Galatians is how walking led by the Spirit frees us from walking under the law:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  (Gal 5:16-18 ESV)

It is pointed out in Galatians that the circumcision promoters were Jews who were unwilling to give up elements of the Jewish religion in which they were raised.  That is a trap for all of us.  I was raised Catholic and, even with all the questions I had, it was no small feat to change my thinking from the Catholic doctrine system to the leading of the Spirit and the supremacy of the apostles’ traditions as contained their writings. Every Christian tradition that differs in any way from the apostle’s tradition has raised up believers with baggage that hinders them just as it does me.  The Christian traditions that have been developed over the ages rarely include the precepts of the Law, but they nevertheless have doctrines that differ from what the apostles taught and practiced mainly because they almost invariably come out of the Catholic tradition that started right after the apostles and contain all manner of deviations from the Apostles’ tradition because the Catholics believe that they believe that the doctrine they developed after the Apostles is the continuation of the Apostles.  After all, it teaches that it is the one, holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church and outside the Catholic church there is no salvation.  They believe that the pope speaks ex-cathedra, equating his proclamations as equal in truth to the word of God.  And the Catholic Church embraced the inclusion of philosophy in direct opposition to its rejection to the apostles, citing its necessity in the arguments of early Christian apologists to refute heretics who were arguing philosophically against Christ and his church.  Remember, the reformers chose to reform the Catholic Church, correcting what they considered offenses like indulgences and Vatican excesses and in the process chose to proclaim scripture as authoritative over Church magesterial doctrines.  They still accepted much of the inclusion of philosophy in writers like Augustine. Augustine is credited with infusing Christianity with Neoplatonism in the fourth century2.

The goal of this website is doctrine, reproof, and correction.  With so many competing doctrines being taught in churches that embrace Christ, some of them have to be “the unfruitful works of darkness'”  For example, the apostles taught us that there are nine manifestations of the spirit and diverse gifts given to the church, including prophets and healers among many others.  I  say that teaching otherwise is an “unfruitful work of darkness.”  A huge part of the Gospel is the energizing power of the spirit and  I say that the churches rejecting or even avoiding all the things of the spirit including manifestations like prophecy, miracles and healings, gift ministries, and abilities, teach a darkness that needs to be corrected.  That’s just one example.

Now, let’s contrast that with criticism.  According to Google, criticism has several different meanings.  One is the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of something.  This has to do with evaluation. Anyone who has ever undergone a job evaluation has experienced this form of criticism which is not of itself, negative. But a common understanding of criticism in interpersonal relationships is the expression of disapproval over perceived faults or shortcomings.  This is the one that most people dislike.  No one likes to be told they are doing something wrong, especially repeatedly.

Here are some things we are taught about being critical:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Eph 4:29 ESV)

Here we have a key element in our talking to other people: whether or not it is building up and giving grace.

Contrast that to this:

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. (Jas 4:11 ESV)

There are times when someone is falsely accused, and this is just criticism in the worst sense.  Satan is also called the accuser.  And, if that is what someone is doing, then they are just doing Satan’s work.

A believer’s response to that is:

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  (1Pe 3:9 ESV)

If someone is negatively criticizing us without merit, then we are called to bless them.  Furthermore, there are times when sins are “covered” lovingly:

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  (1Pe 4:8 ESV)

So, there are many times when someone offends us and it is loving to “cover” for it.

But, criticism can a different thing when what is said is not false.  So, if the item being addressed is true, and it is said to help someone perfect their walk in Christ then this is godly reproof and correction.

Also, we need to remember that there is guidance in the bible that there are times when we will be disciplined and that process is uncomfortable:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him [empasis added]. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” [empasis added] It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant [empasis added], but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.  (Heb 12:1-13 ESV)

Discipline is uncomfortable, but these verses say it is what a loving father does.

There is another verse used in the Bible related to doctrine, reproof, and correction.  Leaders are charged to rebuke with authority.  They are not supposed just to let everything go:

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.  (Tit 2:15 ESV)

Titus, in this verse, is charged to rebuke which is a synonym of reprove and means to tell someone what they are doing wrong. In fact, the words reprove and rebuke are the same word in Greek.

Yes, we are always called to love.  Of course, he is dead, but I love Martin Luther.  What a stand he took that enabled the bible and the writings of the Apostles to gain pre-eminence for so many of us over church doctrines and practices that were so bad that the Reformers called the Catholic Church the Anti-Christ.  I have the utmost respect for him and am so thankful for what he did.  So do many, many Christians.  But many of us are not Lutherans because the Lutheran Church, like so much of Christianity, has not moved to where we see it as the best place to fellowship around what we can see to be the truest church to what Jesus and the apostles started.  That doesn’t mean we don’t love them.  We do.  We rejoice in their saving knowledge of Christ.  We rejoice that they embrace the writings of the apostles, prophets, and the psalms as their guide over the church council edicts, papal bulls, and other church laws that their predecessor, the Catholic Church promoted as supreme.  For that matter, we love and are thankful for any Catholic that embraces the saving work of Christ.  We are called to love everyone, even unbelievers.   In all of the discussion of what the Apostles’ tradition calls us to do, it is always done in love.  I have met so many loving, God-fearing people in so many churches from many denominations and “non-denominational” churches.  If we say that this church or that is teaching something that is not in line with the apostles’ traditions, it doesn’t mean that we don’t love them any more than Paul didn’t love the Corinthians while he was reproving them:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,  (1Co 1:3-4 ESV)

I am thankful and praise God for every person that calls Jesus Lord.  All of us called to love even when we find that people believe things differently than the apostles’ doctrine.

So, back to reproof and correction, while we all are uncomfortable with it, it is part of the Christian walk. If God is calling us to speak the same thing, and Paul does say so, then we will not want to ignore this important part of the walk while we endeavor to walk in love, giving grace, and striving to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  We should all endeavor to see what the Father is doing and repeat it together so that we all have the same mind, the mind of Christ, and speak with the same judgment.

T1.31 More on Paul’s Decision To Go To Jerusalem, How Tradition Can Affect Translation And Meaning, Accepting Deliverance When Available

Here is a picture of an ancient Greek manuscript page from the Digital Walters (link opens new tab to view page) which are released for free under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (link opens new tab to view page) license for anyone who wants to use them:

This page is somewhere in Acts or the Epistles. It is written in Koine Greek. Notice the punctuation or lack of it rather.  While there are lots of accent marks, what’s missing to us modern readers of English and other languages are periods, commas, dashes, and all of the other punctuation that we use to help determine what the line says.  In this article, we will be discussing the importance of understanding the translations of words and punctuation.

So, what are we talking about and why are we getting into so much detail?  In the previous post,
T 1.3 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 3, Prophets and Prophecy Were Vitally Important,
we looked at Paul’s decision to go to Jerusalem in the discussion of the role of prophets.  This is a powerful topic.  I have heard powerful emotions being expressed where pastors have praised Paul and extolled his bravery for going to Jerusalem in spite of prophecy that he would be captured and bound.

It is hard to change when you have been taught something and what you believe, even though possibly wrong, has inspired you in the past.  But with so many differences on so many issues in the word of God, if we are ever going to get to the point of having one mind, some of us are going to have to be willing to change our thinking. Perhaps all of us will have to change our minds on different things.

So, this is a controversial topic and there are people on both sides as to whether Paul disobeyed the Spirit.1  The majority of articles that I have read declare that Paul didn’t disobey in going to Jerusalem and that the believers that told him not to go were mistaken in telling him that even though it shows the great concern they had for him.  Some go so far as to say that those speaking in the spirit misread the message from the spirit and the spirit wasn’t really saying not to go.  One argument I read said that this is an example showing where prophecy in the New Testament is inferior to that of the Old Testament and this inferiority is reflected in the teaching of John Piper and the theology of Wayne Grudem.  For example, in this argument, the people in Acts 21:4 were wrong in telling Paul not to go as they were just showing their concern, and in Acts 21:11 Agabus was wrong in the details of his prophecy because it doesn’t say the Jews specifically bound him with his belt while it does say that the Romans did, but with chains. Also, according to some, Agabus prophesied that the Jews would deliver Paul to the Gentiles while the text reads that the Romans came and arrested him. These arguments follow the modern-day tradition that says new Testament prophets were inferior and made mistakes like Agabus here.

As far as it is the majority argument I will say this; the majority of Christians in the world are Roman Catholics so if your argument is that the majority wins then you should be a Roman Catholic.  Likewise, you would have been in the crowd that disagreed with Noah because the overwhelming majority of people thought Noah was a fool.  No, siding with the majority can definitely lead you to places you don’t want to go.

As far as the people in Acts 21:4 being mistaken, the verse says they spoke “dia tou Pneumatos”, through the Spirit.  It wasn’t their determination that Paul shouldn’t go.  It was the Spirit’s!  There is nothing about the peoples’ thoughts or feelings in Acts 21:4.  The Spirit’s message was that Paul was not to go to Jerusalem.

As far as the mistaken Agabus, the text doesn’t say that Agabus prophesied the Jews will bind Paul with his belt, just that the Jews will bind the person who owns this belt and deliver him to the Gentiles.  That the Jews specifically bound Paul with something themselves is not in the text, but the Jews laid (epiballo, to throw upon) hands on him (Acts 21:27) and took (epilambanomai, lay hold, seize) Paul to kill him (Acts 21:30).   Thus Paul was bound by the Jews. Furthermore, he was being beaten (Acts 21:32), and that possibly requires the subject to be bound also for that to happen. And verse 33 says the Romans arrested him while the Jews had him so they must have handed him over.  Agabus said the Jews would deliver (paradidomi, surrender, yield up) Paul to the Gentiles which is what they did.  This is an example where the word used in translation isn’t necessarily the most accurate.  So, I do not accept that Agabus “misread” the prophecy.  His prophecy came to pass.

Finally, one verse that has been used to substantiate the Paul didn’t disobey argument is Acts 20:22.  The Modern KJV reads:

And now, behold, I am going bound by the Spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall happen to me there,  (Act 20:22 MKJV)

This looks like it is saying the spirit bound him to go to Jerusalem

But look at this:

And now, as you see, I am going to Jerusalem, a prisoner in spirit, having no knowledge of what will come to me there:  (Act 20:22 BBE)

What the ESV version translates as “constrained in the spirit” is translated as “a prisoner of spirit” in the BBE version. “Dedemenos to pneumati” doesn’t have to mean that the spirit was forcing him to go to Jerusalem, rather that the spirit was telling him if he goes to Jerusalem he will be a prisoner!  Paul was being told he would be a prisoner if he went to Jerusalem, just like Agabus prophesied.  That might mean he couldn’t understand that he was being told not to go.

Also, this verse doesn’t say that the Spirit told Paul to go to Jerusalem.  These are Paul words, his thoughts, giving his thoughts on what was going on.  He was a prisoner in spirit, not knowing what was going to befall him there,

Now, it’s not that believers can avoid all persecution, trials and tribulations because the word of God says that there will be persecution and more.   And there are martyrs in the word, the ultimate persecution.  Paul is an awesome example of enduring persecution as evidenced by the list in 1 Corinthians:

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.  (2Co 11:23-33 ESV)

But this was not news to Paul as he was told that he would have to suffer many things for the Lord.

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”  (Act 9:15-16 ESV)

There is no doubt that Paul endured incredible ordeals. While not in scripture historically the story is that after all these ordeals Paul died a martyr in Rome around the mid 60’s AD.

Martyrs are incredible.  The first martyr in the Christian era after Christ is Stephen.  The record of Stephen in Acts 7 is overwhelming to me as an example of someone dying for the love of God and his word. It is so inspiring.  It is just glorious, and it must have appeared to the Sanhedrin as such:

And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.  (Act 6:10 MKJV)

And looking intently at him. all those sitting in the sanhedrin saw his face as if it were the face of an angel.
(Act 6:15 MKJV)

Next, we read of the glorious testimony he gave which cut them to their hearts. Then here is the record of what happened after that:

And hearing these things, they were cut to their hearts. And they gnashed on him with their teeth. But being full of the Holy Spirit, looking up intently into Heaven, he saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, Behold, I see Heaven opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. And crying out with a loud voice, they stopped their ears and ran on him with one accord. And throwing him outside the city, they stoned him. And the witnesses laid their clothes down at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen, who was calling on God and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And kneeling down, he cried with a loud voice, Lord, do not lay this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.  (Act 7:54-60 MKJV)

Stephen laid down his life.  There is nothing in this record that says that there was any way out.  I have nothing but admiration for the bravery, courage, powerful spirit, and love of God he exemplified.

On the other hand, sometimes the Lord offers deliverance and people don’t take it or get it, for one reason or another.  The first example I can remember is when Moses sent the spies into the promised land.  The Israelites were on the verge of entering the promised land.  But when the spies came back, all but two were full of doubt:

And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.” But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”  (Num 13:27-33 ESV)

Deliverance was at hand for the Israelites!  They had been in captivity in Egypt for generations.  Now they were walking in the desert without a home.  They had the chance for deliverance, but they couldn’t see it.  They were afraid! None of the Israelites save Joshua and Caleb who did welcome the chance to enter the promised land would get to go into the promised land.  The rest didn’t accept deliverance and never got to go in.

Alternately, we have Jesus Christ himself who until it was his time to suffer and die for all of us, accepted deliverance, and walked out of one dangerous situation after another. See
Jesus Quietly Passed Through Those Trying to Kill Him for more. And Jesus said that the things that he did we would do also! Again, one of the things he did was escape danger.  I’m not saying it will happen every time any more that than when someone prays for healing it doesn’t always happen because we know there are the same principles of believing involved, But it requires listening to and obeying the Spirit.  And Paul was definitely told not to go to Jerusalem by the Spirit.  He was given an escape.  He just had to accept it.

And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.  (Act 21:4 ESV)

One thing that is very interesting here is that we have seen all the records where Paul has heard directly from the Spirit including miracles, healings and other deliverances for people, and also the abundance of revelation about the mystery and other things in his epistles, as well as guidance as in the Spirit telling him not to go Asia.  Yet, apparently, he didn’t hear or couldn’t hear from the Spirit on this.  Thus it was necessary for the Spirit to send other prophets to him with the message.

Paul rebuked the Spirit’s message through the prophets not to go to Jerusalem with his statement, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” After all, he had been told he would have to endure many things. But the key to deliverance is hearing the Spirit and following it.  And when the Spirit tells you not to do something and you do it anyway, you are not following the Spirit.  And you may not get the results you hoped.

Hebrews chapter eleven is an incredible record of believers who both were delivered and not delivered. The chapter starts off with the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah with their progeny, Moses, Rahab, and then it says this:

And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah; also David, and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the strangers. Women received their dead raised to life again, and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance [emphasis added], that they might obtain a better resurrection.
(Heb 11:32-35 MKJV)

Then the record lists terrible ordeals that believers withstood in faith.

“Not accepting deliverance” is very interesting.  First of all, it indicates that they made a choice.  Second, the choice was to be delivered or not.  Yes, it does say the people mentioned did it to obtain a better resurrection. But not all deliverances are an ungodly way out.   Peter and John spoke the words by the Spirit and wound up getting released in Acts 4?  Peter was delivered, freed from jail, by the angel in Acts 12? So, what if it is the Spirit leading you to be delivered to allow the Word of God to further grow by your actions? Now, that’s a deliverance somebody should accept.

Now, let’s go back to the record of Paul being told not to go to Jerusalem.  Let’s look at some of the unpunctuated Greek and the word for word translation of some of those verses2.

Here is Acts 21:4

This is pretty much what the translations say, that disciples said by the Spirit not to go to Jerusalem.

Here is Acts 21:9:

That looks pretty straight forward.  The ESV translates that as “He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied.”  Well, that is pretty easy.  Looks pretty good too. right? Here is the next verse:

The ESV translates above as “While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.”
You can see how the above verses line up with the translation of the words.  A lot of verses are straightforward like that.  But not all of them are.

This one is trickier:

So, rearranging the words as translated just to make it more readable the translation of this Acts 21:14 reads “And since he was not being persuaded we stopped saying the will of the Lord be done.” In other words, the prophets and believers stopped telling Paul to do the will of the Lord.  But this is where it gets tricky.  Tradition evidently had grown to the point where the translators believed Paul followed the will of the Lord here so a straightforward translation of 21:14 doesn’t fit with that.   So, if you add some commas you can change the meaning of this verse.  Look at this verse:

“And since he would not be persuaded,  we ceased, saying, the will of the Lord be done.”  That could mean that they reversed their position, or that they were saying that the will of the Lord is going to happen here even though Paul was warned.

So, without the punctuation, the disciples around Paul stopped saying “the will of the Lord be done.  But, with the punctuation, the disciples said it one last time.  The punctuation completely changes whether “the will of the Lord be done” was said or not.

If Paul was told by the Spirit not to go and he was in 21:4, then it wasn’t the Lord’s will that he be captured and bound.  It is important to note that the decision to go to Jerusalem marks a sharp change in Paul’s activity.  Yes, he got to stand before kings and rulers but he could have done that anyway in his travels.  What did happen is that he spent years in prison, at least two years with Festus and his successor, and then a couple of years under house arrest in Rome, probably five years in all.  Yes, Paul did a miracle or two after this but Paul was indeed captured and bound, and his missionary journeys were stopped.  I submit the Spirit told Paul not to go to Jerusalem to avoid this and enable him to be free to continue his missionary journeys.

Its so amazing that a few commas completely reverse the meaning of the text.  Just remember there are no commas in the manuscripts that this verse is translated from.

The lesson here is that the translator has a lot of power just by adding punctuation.

The situation with Paul is so unique. Yes, we remember that there is an example in Acts where the Spirit forbade Paul to go into Asia, and Paul obeyed. But the book of Acts is the story of the apostles and disciples following the spirit for the most part, but not all.  There are miscues by believers in Acts and also confrontations.  Ananias and Sapphira held back part of the price of the land they pledged.  Part of the believers criticized Peter at first for teaching the word of God to the Gentiles before accepting it as God’s plan.  Peter and Paul had a big confrontation about the food laws because certain believers challenged Peter and he stopped eating with non-jews, leading to the Jerusalem council about 48AD.  That was in Acts 15.  Also in Acts 15 Paul and Barnabus split up because Paul didn’t want to take Barnabus’ cousin John Mark with them after John’s leaving the mission field in Pamphilia.   Despite the abundance of righteous activity, not everything in Acts is somebody doing the right thing.

If what I say is true and Paul’s decision to go to Jerusalem is a story about a powerful man of God with gift ministries who made a foolish, stubborn mistake then the lesson is that the rest of us should be on guard for that.  What thinking are we stubbornly holding onto while the Lord is trying to tell us not to do something we want to do? What teaching is the Lord trying to show us is just a tradition other than the apostles’ tradition and stopping us from knowing the full truth of God word that the Apostles taught and practiced? That God still worked with Paul after this decision is not proof that it was what God wanted in the first place.     You know, I have heard the argument that what some group teaches must be right because they have seen healings or miracles.  But I have seen miracles and healings, or at least what looked to be valid claims of them in groups that teach different things on some issues.  God rewards believing on the part of imperfect people everywhere.  In other words, it is not a requirement for someone to be doctrinally perfect or even perfectly holy for prayers to be answered, or the spirit to be manifested.

Jesus was the only sinless man.  The rest of us have fallen short, including Paul. Everybody will quickly admit that Peter was impetuous and on occasion dead wrong.  But Paul is treated differently after his conversion.  But remember he was very hard-headed and it took a miraculous event for him to be converted.  Remember he heard Stephen speak with such power and he wasn’t phased.  Is it so inconceivable that he could make a stubborn, foolish mistake at some point in his ministry?  Do you think that 1 John does not apply to men and women of God?

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1Jn 1:8-10 ESV)

There are a number of lessons in this post.  One is that translation from one language to another is not simple.  There are differences in the punctuation from the original language to the language it is translated to. There are also problems with meanings of words in the original to meanings of words in the translation. Second is that because of the difficulty in translation we need to acknowledge that the translators used punctuation that was not in the original to give the meaning they believe the original contains.  But translators can be influenced by what they believe as doctrine so as to influence how they translate. Next, what people perceive as blown prophecies need to be examined carefully.  And lastly,  while we should be ready to endure whatever persecution comes our way, if the Spirit gives us direction to avoid something, then we should listen and obey.


T 1.3 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 3, Prophets and Prophecy Were Vitally Important

From the gospels and epistles, we have in the writings of the apostles and their agents that prophets and prophecy were a vitally important part of the apostle’s traditions left for us to follow.  From recognition in the gospels of how the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ were foretold in the Law and the Prophets, to John the Baptist, Christ himself, and other prophets prophesying of both contemporary and future events to the instruction about prophecy and prophets in the church we see that prophecy and prophets were crucial to the mission of the apostles and us.

Remember, prophecy is a message from God either foretelling or forthtelling.  Those called by God to deliver those messages to anyone are prophets and the messages are prophecies.  That is how the Holy Spirit works.  Remember, prophecies come in a number of ways.  Of course, there are words, but there are also dreams and visions.  There are records of prophecies delivered by angels.  And, in people’s personal lives, it may be as simple as someone somehow getting a conviction that something was communicated from the Lord.  If it really was from the Lord, then whatever the conviction was about was a prophecy.

In this article, we will look at just some of the prophecies and their record of fulfillment.

God’s own word was revealed through the prophets.  Both in what we call the Old and New Testaments we see prophets and prophecy delivering the word of God starting with Genesis.  Starting in Genesis and culminating in the gospels we read that Jesus Christ was the promised seed to redeem us from the curse that we were put under when the devil beguiled Eve and then Adam followed Eve into disobedience.  God promised a seed, an offspring, that would correct her mistake :

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen 3:15 ESV)

This seed, a descendent of Eve, became a thread that flows through the Law and the Prophets.  This seed was prophesied to be of the house of Judah:

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (Gen 49:10 ESV)

The first thing that Matthew recorded in his gospel was how Jesus fulfilled that prophecy:

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar…Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
(Mat 1:1,2a,16 ESV)

Matthew traces Jesus’ lineage from Abraham to Judah, and then to Jesus.

It was prophesied that the seed’s throne will be established forever:

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2Sa 7:12-13 ESV)

Paul writes of the length of Jesus’ reign:

that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Eph 1:20-21 ESV)

Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be born to a virgin:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isa 7:14 ESV)

Jesus fulfilled that prophecy as acknowledged by Luke here:

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.  (Luk 1:34-35 ESV)

Jesus’ throne is forever and is the fulfillment of that prophecy. It was prophesied that the Messiah would be called out of Egypt:

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. (Hos 11:1 ESV)

Matthew recorded how Jesus fulfilled that prophecy here:

And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Mat 2:14-15 ESV)

Isaiah prophesied about the nature of Jesus’ ministry:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;  (Isa 61:1-2 ESV)

Luke recorded the time where Jesus acknowledged the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1-2:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  (Luk 4:16-21 ESV)

So far we have been dealing with some of the fulfillment of OT prophecies.  New prophecies arose in the time of Jesus and Apostles:

Here Agabus prophecies a famine, which the believers respond to by sending relief to Judea:

Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.  (Act 11:27-30 ESV)

A number of prophets prophesied to Paul not to go to Jerusalem:

And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.
(Act 21:4 ESV)

Notice the terminology here “not to go to”.  The KJV reads “should not go”. This is an admonition against doing something, in this case, going to Jerusalem.  There is nothing in this verse that says what will happen to him if he does, so these are just “Don’t go” statements. The Holy Spirit was directing the prophets to tell Paul not to go.  There are more warnings to Paul about Jerusalem:

On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”  (Act 21:8-14 ESV)

In verses four, and probably nine, we have warnings telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem.  Then, in verse 21, Agabus tells Paul what will happen if he goes, i.e., he will become a captive.   This is really a story of how Paul responds in that he asks whether they trying to break his heart and decides to go in spite of the warnings and being told not to go.

Some people (including me) recognize that this is a record of what happens to man when he doesn’t obey the spirit while others seem to think that this is a record of Paul simply being told what some of his future sufferings are.  If it were true that he was supposed to go then there wouldn’t have been all the prophets and believers telling him not to go in verses 4 and 12.

In any event, the prophecy proved true, Paul was held captive and his missionary journeys appear to have ended with this decision although clearly the Holy Spirit continued to work through Paul while captive.  Although I don’t agree with them I acknowledge that some people teach that Paul’s journey to Rome in captivity was a missionary journey even though it was not directed by the spirit to do so.

This next account shows how involved prophets and prophecy were in the apostles’ tradition.  Another account that shows that is in Acts 15.  :

So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words.  (Act 15:30-32 ESV)

This record is following the Jerusalem Council where the apostles and elders at Jerusalem under the guidance of the Holy Spirit resolved the question of whether new believers needed to be circumcised and follow other aspects of the Law, and the answer was no, but they still needed to abstain from idol sacrifice products, strangled meats, blood, and sexual immorality.  Notice that the prophets strengthened the believers with many words here!  Remember prophets are not just about predictions of the future but they speak words that edify and comfort to believers:

But he who prophesies speaks to men for building up, and exhortation, and comfort.  (1Co 14:3 MKJV)

In my experience, it seems that when it comes to prophesy, people are interested in how biblical prophecies are going to come to pass, and in the case of personal prophecy, they are interested in what is going to happen in the future.  Or, in some scenarios, we hear of prophecies that reprove someone’s wayward actions.  But 1 Cor 14:3 talks about this strengthening function of prophets where they deliver words from the Lord that build believers up, encourage them and soothe their hearts.  That is so awesome!  That is what happened in Acts 15:32.

There is another function of prophets that is at play here with this record:

For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: (Act 15:28 ESV)

How did they know that it seemed good to the Holy Spirit? Well, we know from verse 32 that Judas and Silas were there, that they were prophets and that they encouraged everyone with many words.  Now look at this:

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace…If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.  (1Co 14:29-38 ESV)

This section is huge.  First, it says that when prophets speak the other prophets weigh what the prophet says. So judging, or verifying that what one prophet says is of the Lord is one of the jobs of a prophet.  Next, it says that any real prophet should acknowledge (Gr. epiginosko, perceive, recognize, know) that what Paul has written are the commandments, precepts, of the Lord!  In fact, if any so-called prophets don’t recognize this, then they shouldn’t be recognized.  True prophets can tell us if what someone says or teaches is of the Lord or not.  It is one of the jobs of the office.

The Other Side of the Coin

We have seen that prophecy is an inherent part of the apostle’s tradition.  Everything we have look at so far concerns prophecies from the Lord.  Yet we are warned that there is such a thing as false prophecy and false prophets:

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.  (2Co 11:13-15 ESV)

History is full of false prophets, false prophets who have been very convincing and led people in their ungodly ways. It seems that every other year or so we hear of someone who predicts (prophesies) the end of the world or Christ is coming back, or the rapture is going to happen at such and such a date, and it doesn’t happen!  Sometimes these people are running a church and sometimes not.  Good old Wikipedia lists predictions (will leave this site and open a new tab) by

  • the Anabaptists that the Millenium would start in 1533.
  • Anglican Church Prelate, Edwin Sandys, who said in the sixteenth century that the signs mentioned by scripture are almost fulfilled.
  • Assemblies of God publication, the Weekly Evangel, that Christ will come before the present war ends, and Armageddon will start shortly.  This was during World War 1.
  • Calvary Chapel founder, Chuck Smith, and Hal Lindsey both predicted that the Lord would come back before 1981.
  • Charles Taz Russell, Jehovah’s Witness, that 1874 was the year of Christ’s return
  • Lutheran monk, Michael Stiefel, predicted the end of the world in 1533

Of course, these were all false predictions.  And these are just a sampling.

In my experience, false prophecies are one of the biggest reasons that people, including believers, are afraid of getting involved with a church where prophecy is practiced.  Stories abound about false prophets as mentioned above as well as numerous people claiming to be the Messiah.  Again, good old Wikipedia lists over sixty people (not just men, some are women) who claim to be the Messiah(will leave this site and open a new tab).

There is definitely a problem with so many that have made false claims.  Whether it is the “savior” Jim Jones killing hundreds of his people with Koolaid, David Koresh with his claim as a prophet leading to standoff disaster with the FBI, or even Rasputin running the whole country of Russia because of his power as a healer and “man of God”, there is plenty of talk about false leaders, prophets and prophesies to convince people to shy away from churches where prophecy and other manifestations of the spirit are practiced.  Couple that with the fact that cessationism (the gifts of the spirit ceased with the apostles, or at least limited to the select miracle here and there) has been around as acceptable doctrine in one form or another since the early centuries after Christ and it is easy to see why so many believers and churches are reluctant to include the pursuit of spiritual manifestations in the churches.

But prophecy is at the core of the Gospel and of the whole word of God and is a crucial element in the spread of the Gospel and the apostle’s traditions. And, when you read the Law and the Prophets, and the apostle’s doctrine you get the idea that the Lord wants more people to prophesy, not less.

But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” (Num 11:29 ESV)

Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.  (1Co 14:5 ESV)

So, despite all the false prophets and false predictions, it is still the charge to believers to seek after prophecy:

So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.  (1Co 14:39 ESV)

So, either the word of God is true and something to be followed or it just a bunch of hooey and we should walk away from it.

We are looking at the apostles’ tradition that we are charged as believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ to follow.  Jesus taught us in dealing with the Jewish leaders that it was their tradition that made the word of God of no effect by changing the word of God to their tradition.  In the epistles, we are taught the importance of rightly dividing what we have been given, and not just letting loose with whatever thoughts and feelings we have about the word of God but handling it carefully.

So far we have covered that the apostles’ tradition included preaching Christ Jesus which so many churches nowadays do in one form or another, although not always rightly divided.  I mean how could they all be rightly divided when they teach so many things contrary to each other as is whether the communion service is a memorial recognizing the meaning of Christ’s passion and death or a miracle where bread and wine are actually converted to the body and blood of Christ, or that the baptism of the spirit is the sacrament of (water) baptism versus that it is the cleansing action of the spirit that washes throughout a person when they accept Jesus Christ as Lord whether they are water baptized or not. Or any of the other disagreements noted in the Divisions section of this web site.

And in this article, we look at the prominent role of prophets and prophecy in original Christianity and in the apostles’ tradition that we are charged to follow.  Without prophets and prophecy, there would be no word of God; it’s that crucial.  Many churches do acknowledge the fulfillment of prophecy that is noted in both the Old and New Testaments.

But not so many acknowledge the charge to believers to earnestly desire to prophesy.  Not so many acknowledge prophecy in our day and time.  Not so many teach that prophets speak a message from God in our day and time. Not so many teach that prophets speak words of building up, encouragement, and comfort.  And who teaches that prophets confirm what the word of God actually is in our day and time?

From what I have heard some don’t teach these things because there have been so many false prophecies that they are afraid to get involved, or they believe that prophecy has ceased, or there have been so many false practices that many consider wild from snake handling to writhing on the floor slain in the spirit that is part of some churches that do teach prophecy.

Nevertheless,  we are charged to follow the apostle’s tradition.  That tradition includes recognizing the role of prophecy and prophets throughout history from Genesis until now.  Here is our charge again:

So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.  (1Co 14:39 ESV)

This is as much a part of the apostles’ tradition that we are charged to follow as teaching Christ crucified, risen, and ascended to the Father for our salvation.


Biblical references are from the ASV version unless otherwise noted.
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