OriginalChristianity

Not Traditional, Original

The Vision of OriginalChristianity.Net

The vision of OriginalChristianity.Net is to look at the beliefs and practices of the original Christians.  The reason why this is important is that over the millennium Christianity has developed numerous factions that all claim 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 faith, pure trust in the Savior’s redemption for all who choose to follow him. In contrast to many times in the world like in Samuel’s day where the true word of God was scarce and there weren’t many open visions, this was a time of brilliant light where the word of God abounded and there were not only visions but the spirit was manifested in all manner of miracles, healings, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, believing, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, and discerning of spirits.

It was a time of simpler 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. Initially 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.  But the apostles were in charge and in the letters they left we are charged with following what they taught.

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.  Certainly, there were powerful visions by the prophets and exacting details in the law, but Jesus taught the people simple truths and parables while he backed up what he said with power as demonstrated in healings and miracles. And the apostles did leave their letters that explain in detail the foundation of the church they were commissioned to start.  They were charged with teaching us the one tradition that they charged us to follow.

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. Become a disciple, a disciplined one in what Jesus and the apostles taught.  And in the process perhaps we can bring some of what made original Christianity so great back to life.

© copyright 2012-2022 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved. Last edited 3/24/2022.

Welcome to Original Christianity.Net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the days of original, primitive Christianity:

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

Elements usually still held today:

Elements still held today by some:

Elements held today by few, if any believers:

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

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

The Lesson of the Downfall of Solomon

We will take a hard look at Solomon.  But before we do that, I want to first look at the life of Timothy and how he developed into such a strong believer.

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, according to the promise of the life which is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve as my forefathers did, with a pure conscience. How unceasing is my memory of you in my petitions, night and day longing to see you, remembering your tears, that I may be filled with joy; having been reminded of the sincere faith that is in you; which lived first in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and, I am persuaded, in you also. (2Ti 1:1-5 WEB)

Paul praises the faith that is in Timothy and tells here how it first lived in his grandmother Lois, and then his mother Eunice.  Wow, what a statement of the power of dedicated, faithful women.  Paul calls Timothy his beloved child and speaks of how he longed to see him, night and day longing to see him, remembering his tears.

That speaks loudly of the impact women can have on people and did have on this wonderful man, Timothy as Timothy’s faith that he got from these women had such an impact on him and the people around him.

But there is a different side to this coin that we will look at here and this is a hard lesson.  We will look at the life of Solomon.  First, we will see Solomon described as a man of incredible wisdom, the wisest man ever!

Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought her into David’s city, until he had finished building his own house, Yahweh’s house, and the wall around Jerusalem. However the people sacrificed in the high places, because there was not yet a house built for Yahweh’s name. Solomon loved Yahweh, walking in the statutes of David his father; except that he sacrificed and burned incense in the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place. Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. In Gibeon, Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask for what I should give you.” Solomon said, “You have shown to your servant David my father great loving kindness, because he walked before you in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with you. You have kept for him this great loving kindness, that you have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is today. Now, Yahweh my God, you have made your servant king instead of David my father. I am just a little child. I don’t know how to go out or come in. Your servant is among your people which you have chosen, a great people, that can’t be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this great people of yours?” This request pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have you asked for riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice; behold, I have done according to your word. Behold, I have given you a wise and understanding heart; so that there has been no one like you before you, and after you none will arise like you. I have also given you that which you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you for all your days. If you will walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” Solomon awoke; and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of Yahweh’s covenant, and offered up burnt offerings, offered peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants. (1Ki 3:1-15 WEB)

There is the story of the beginnings of Solomon and how he became so wise. Notice that it says that Solomon loved Yahweh and walked in the statutes of David, his father.   But, there was as yet no Temple so like the rest of Israel he sacrificed and burned incense in high places.  At this point, Israel still had shrines, places where there were idols, and people burnt offerings there.  Solomon did this practice also.  Still. Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream.  He asked Solomon what he wanted. This is what he said.

Now, Yahweh my God, you have made your servant king instead of David my father. I am just a little child. I don’t know how to go out or come in. Your servant is among your people which you have chosen, a great people, that can’t be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this great people of yours?” (1Ki 3:7-9 WEB)

Now, let’s look at these verses in that section as to what Yahweh said:

God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have you asked for riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice; behold, I have done according to your word. Behold, I have given you a wise and understanding heart; so that there has been no one like you before you, and after you none will arise like you. (1Ki 3:11-12 WEB)

There is the promise of God to Solomon alone. “a wise and understanding heart; so that there has been no one like you before you, and after you none will arise like you.”  Amazing!

An example of that wisdom follows in the text.

Then two women who were prostitutes came to the king, and stood before him. The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house. I delivered a child with her in the house. The third day after I delivered, this woman delivered also. We were together. There was no stranger with us in the house, just us two in the house. This woman’s child died in the night, because she lay on it. She arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, it was dead; but when I had looked at it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, whom I bore.” The other woman said, “No; but the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son.” The first one said, “No; but the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son.” Thus they spoke before the king. Then the king said, “One says, ‘This is my son who lives, and your son is the dead;’ and the other says, ‘No; but your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.’” The king said, “Get me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. The king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.” Then the woman whose the living child was spoke to the king, for her heart yearned over her son, and she said, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and in no way kill him!” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours. Divide him.” Then the king answered, “Give her the living child, and definitely do not kill him. She is his mother.” All Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king; for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do justice. (1Ki 3:16-28 WEB)

This is the famous record of the two women who both claimed the same baby. Two women both had a baby within days of each other. Sadly, one woman laid on the baby in her sleep and it died. Instead of just morning her loss, however, she placed her dead baby in the bed with the other mother and took the other mother’s baby to be her own.

There was no evidence that could prove one person’s claim over the other. Solomon had nothing in terms of evidence to prove anything, one way or another. Yet he had been given this incredible wisdom. In what might appear to some as lunacy he orders that a sword be brought so that the baby can be split in half so that each mother can have part of the baby as they appear to have the same claim. But it never comes to that. The real mother says to let the other one have the baby as she would not harm her baby. It’s an incredible display.

Also, in the prophecy that is given to Solomon, it is told that he will get great riches.

I have also given you that which you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you for all your days. (1Ki 3:13 WEB)

Later, in first Kings chapter 10, we read that the prophecy of both Solomon’s wisdom and wealth are fulfilled.

Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred sixty-six talents of gold, in addition to that which the traders brought, and the traffic of the merchants, and of all the kings of the mixed people, and of the governors of the country. … So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. (1Ki 10:14, 23 WEB)

So, we see that it looks like Solomon is set up to live just an incredibly fantastic life. So, what could go wrong? We are going to start reading in first Kings chapter 11.

Now king Solomon loved many foreign women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites; of the nations concerning which Yahweh said to the children of Israel, “You shall not go among them, neither shall they come among you; for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon joined to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. When Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with Yahweh his God, as the heart of David his father was. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did that which was evil in Yahweh’s sight, and didn’t go fully after Yahweh, as David his father did. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the mountain that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the children of Ammon. So he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. (1Ki 11:1-8 WEB)

Here is the sad lesson. The section above is packed with truths about God, men, and women.  Solomon had been busy politically, marrying royal wives from different kingdoms. This was a very strategic move that built up political alliances that helped strengthen his kingdom. But what good is a strong kingdom if what you’re doing to build it up destroys your alliance with the one true God which is the most important thing in anyone’s life.

We read in the above section the reference to “You shall not go among them, neither shall they come among you; for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” This is seen in other places.

When Yahweh your God brings you into the land where you go to possess it, and casts out many nations before you, the Hittite, the Girgashite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, seven nations greater and mightier than you; and when Yahweh your God delivers them up before you, and you strike them; then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them, nor show mercy to them. You shall not make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to his son, nor shall you take his daughter for your son. For he will turn away your son from following me, that they may serve other gods. So Yahweh’s anger would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. (Deu 7:1-4 WEB)

There it is again. Marrying someone of a different faith causes a problem. “For he will turn away your son from following me, that they may serve other gods”.  Here we have a couple of places that say that is inherent in marriage with someone who believes differently than you do that it will affect you.

Wow, what a change in the life of this man Solomon!

And in the very next section, we read that Solomon made God angry because he sought to accommodate his wives’ religious desires.

Yahweh was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned away from Yahweh, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he didn’t keep that which Yahweh commanded. Therefore, Yahweh said to Solomon, “Because this is done by you, and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. (1Ki 11:9-11 WEB)

Yahweh was angry! The end result was that Solomon would lose the kingdom.

The key that I want to focus on here is how it is written that marrying people of a different faith is a mistake.  Deuteronomy 7 says,

You shall not make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to his son, nor shall you take his daughter for your son. For he will turn away your son from following me, that they may serve other gods. (Deu 7:3-4a WEB)

Now, I have heard different people talk about how they approach marrying someone of a different faith. And by faith, I don’t just mean Christianity versus Judaism versus Hinduism and so forth.  The apostles were very concerned that we followed what they taught exactly so in that sense all the different denominations of Christianity are different faiths because they all follow different traditions.

I’ve heard people say it doesn’t matter what faiths the people in a couple have. I’ve heard Christian people say that they will be a witness to their new spouses and work on getting them to convert. Notice that neither of these options is in these verses. The verses just say not to marry someone of a different faith. And, this same concept is in the epistles.

Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2Co 6:14 WEB)

Now, this verse does compare Christian believers with unbelievers. What does “being yoked” together with someone mean?  It means being bound together in some kind of relationship. It could be marriage, or it could be a business partnership or something like that.

Now there are verses that talk about people being married to unbelievers. But if you read them, you’ll see that they’re talking to believers about what to do if their unbelieving spouse chooses not to believe. The context therefore at least suggests that the case here is that someone was not an unbeliever, became a believer, and then needed to know what to do with their unbelieving spouse. The context does not suggest that it is okay to marry unbelievers.

So, what we have been talking about so far is people not marrying people who follow other gods, gods other than Yahweh. Furthermore, the verse in the New Testament means to not be unequally yoked together with someone who isn’t a Christian.

And, next, we need to look at the fine print. We have been looking at many articles that talk about the charge to follow the apostles’ traditions.

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)

Furthermore, in the faith, we are told to avoid those that don’t hold to the apostles’ traditions.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother who walks in rebellion, and not after the tradition which they received from us. (2Th 3:6 WEB)

Now, that really throws a wrinkle into it, doesn’t it? We have been reading how were not supposed to marry unbelievers. And now we have just read that we’re supposed to avoid even Christians who don’t follow the apostles’ traditions. That really refines the number of people that true believers can marry. If you’re supposed to avoid those that don’t follow the apostles’ traditions then you can’t marry them according to that verse.

Next, I want to talk about some very controversial verses of Scripture.

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the assembly, being himself the savior of the body. But as the assembly is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without defect. (Eph 5:22-27 WEB)

Now, I have seen this verse used in stories in different media like TV and books to display examples of all kinds of terribly abusive husbands controlling women and basically ruining those women’s lives. Now there are certainly examples where this and every other verse of Scripture has been misused. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is Scripture, and if it is Scripture that it must be part of God’s plan.

What is the message here? The verses talk about the husband being the head as Christ is the head of the assembly, the church. And then it reiterates the concept and, that wives are to be subject to their husbands as the church is subject to Christ. That looks pretty plain and simple. It’s talking about spiritual leadership and service.

Husbands are charged with the task of making sure the household follows God. In the case of believers, as we’ve seen throughout many of these articles. That means that the church follows the apostles’ traditions, and in the house, the house follows the apostles’ traditions.

That is not to say that there is any prescription for demanding or enforcing this charge. It’s a pretty simple paradigm. Men are supposed to lead to keep the household following the apostles’ traditions. Women are supposed to follow.

I’ve seen women basically say that they don’t agree with the man’s leadership.  They think that the man is wrong in some way.  Maybe they think it is the wrong church, it doesn’t have the right programs, or the teacher isn’t very inspiring.  Or maybe they just want to go to some other church because they know people there.

There is no capital punishment, there’s no prison sentence or even community service prescribed for households that don’t follow the husband’s lead.  It’s not grounds for divorce.  In other words, if the wife chooses not to follow the apostles’ traditions it doesn’t prescribe any punishment of any sort. Rather, it charges the husband to be like Christ in continuing to offer leadership to get the house lined up with the apostles’ traditions.

Now here is where some of the rubber meets the road.  It’s the husband’s charge to make the decision.  Of course, if he agrees with the wife then there is no problem, right. Everyone is happy then.  There are times, of course, when the wife will be right. And we are all charged to submit to each other, meaning that sometimes the man needs to submit to the wife’s wisdom as being of God.

subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ. (Eph 5:21 WEB)

But what if he doesn’t agree, moreover, he sees the wife’s wisdom as not following the tradition of the apostles?  It is still the husband’s responsibility to make the right choice. There is a piece of worldly wisdom that I hear quoted, “happy wife, happy life!” Unfortunately, that is not biblical guidance.  Making your wife happy by going along with the wrong spiritual program is the downfall of Solomon.

If the wife decides not to follow the husband’s direction, that is her choice.  It is the husband’s job to lead and to endeavor to keep leading.

And the worst thing is to capitulate and just give in to the wife’s desires like Solomon. So, let’s get back to Solomon, and look again at the result of Solomon’s not leading as a man of God in his own house.

Yahweh was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned away from Yahweh, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he didn’t keep that which Yahweh commanded. Therefore, Yahweh said to Solomon, “Because this is done by you, and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. (1Ki 11:9-11 WEB)

Again, we see that Yahweh was angry! And the end result was that Solomon would lose the kingdom. It wasn’t as complete a loss as Saul but it still was a major consequence.

Nevertheless, I will not do it in your days, for David your father’s sake; but I will tear it out of your son’s hand. However I will not tear away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to your son, for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen.” (1Ki 11:12-13 WEB)

In our day and time, it’s not as much about worshiping the gods of these ancient civilizations as it is about following the tradition of the apostles or not.

Let us all realize the lesson of the downfall of Solomon. Solomon allowed himself to be persuaded to follow the spiritual desires of the spouse(s) rather than what Yahweh desired for him to follow.

When Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with Yahweh his God, as the heart of David his father was. (1Ki 11:4 WEB)

As Christians, we are charged not only to follow Christ but to only follow the apostle’s traditions, the teachings of the original apostles on what it means to follow Christ.

Husbands, lead your wives and families to follow the apostles’ traditions. Wives, and families, follow that lead. That doesn’t mean it will be easy.  Marriage is hard work.

In the church in our day and time, our commandment is to follow the tradition of the apostles. Let us do that in this situation also. Husbands, lead your wives and households to follow the apostles’ traditions.

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)

Now I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things, and hold firm the traditions, even as I delivered them to you. (1Co 11:2 WEB)

 

T 1.11.1 Generally the Old (Elders) are the Wisest, Cherish and Honor Them, Although Old Fools can be the Most Foolish of All

The scriptures teach us to respect our elders. In fact, the scriptures don’t paint a pretty picture of those that don’t respect their elders.  Here’s one from the Torah. There is an evil nation that’s going to do something to the Israelites, look at how they’re described.

a nation of fierce facial expressions, that doesn’t respect the elderly, nor show favor to the young, (Deu 28:50 WEB)

A nation that doesn’t respect the elderly is one of the evils of an evil nation.

But in our society today here in the Western world, a growing bias against the elderly is something that is seen both by people in the secular and spiritual realms. The Christian Science Monitor says this.

“In America these days, the perception is that old people are washed up and old fashioned… In America, youth is now valued and esteemed over senior citizen status.”[1]

This is a widely seen phenomenon. A recent article in the Huffington Post describes Western culture as fetishizing youth while removing seniors “from the community and relegated to hospitals and nursing homes”.[2]  And here is a social science view of the problem.

Even though the United States has an aging population there is still a clear bias against aging and a general fear of getting old. Even though the emphasis on youth and beauty has traditionally been directed more toward females than males, we are now seeing an increasing concern with males about aging and getting old. The elderly used to be a highly respected group and were admired for their experience and wisdom. Changes in the political, social, and economic landscape altered perceptions about aging and ultimately decreased the status and position of the elderly in society. With a growing sense of individualism and an increasing concern with staying young, older people have had to face an escalating level of disregard, disrespect, and marginalization…[3]

This is a growing trend in our culture. It may be in other parts of the world but it is obvious here.  Increasingly America is worshipping youth.   In the process, America is devaluing elders with all their experience over decades of being an adult in many scenarios.  These are adults that may have raised families themselves, worked for a living for many years, run companies, and in the process have personally seen many changes in society and felt the effect of those changes.   They are the most equipped to make decisions about those kinds of changes should they happen again. Yet they are being marginalized.

At the center of this marginalization and devaluing of the elderly is the mass media. The mass media has largely become the central nervous system of American society and has a massive impact on people’s values, beliefs, and perceptions[2]. This has been demonstrated endlessly across research in the social and behavioral sciences and the overall belief is that portrayals of the elderly are largely negative and stereotypical. Common feelings toward the elderly are that they are of low status and incompetent [3] and this is a common theme running across media representations. The elderly are often depicted as weak, unattractive, and senile. Other cultural stereotypes often seen in the media portray the elderly as frail, feeble, financially distressed, and not contributing to society

There are numerous examples.  One example is the progressive insurance ad campaign featuring Dr. Rick who is trying to help young and middle-aged adults avoid becoming like their parents. This is a very clever ad campaign. A lot of people seem to be chuckling over these ads. Granted, it is somewhat of a common and possibly unpleasant experience for some to realize that they are doing things like one of their parents. A lot of us have pet peeves against some of the mannerisms of our parents.

On the other hand, as a grandparent, I have watched firsthand seeing grandchildren act out in ways that had the parents frustrated, lamenting, and wondering how their kids could be that way when I saw those same parents acting that way when they were kids. I have heard many a story of this person or that person as a child being someone who was so irresponsible that their parents and/or babysitters would be talking about how they would never be responsible adults only to find 20 years later those same irresponsible juveniles working jobs, paying bills, raising families, and even being in positions of leadership. And, amazingly, at that time it was grandparents and other seniors gently saying, “don’t worry, they’ll be all right, a lot of kids act crazy as kids only to grow up and be perfectly fine.”

Dr. Rick and the progressive insurance ad campaign aren’t doing our society any favors. Sure there are a lot of people that understand the parody in the ads.  But those ads are not just shown to adults. Those ads are shown where kids see a message of “don’t be like your parents”. They see a message of parents doing actually wise things like taking snacks on a plane, planning how long they’re going to stay at a game, and being treated like kids for it. Combined with so many kids’ shows that promote disrespect, the supremacy of youthful intelligence, and outright disobedience it just adds fuel to a Media Fire that devalues elders as well as good parenting itself.

I just another example on the TV show Good Sam.  Good Sam is the story of Dr. Sam Griffin who takes over the job of leadership in her hospital department as chief after the previous leader, her father, Dr. Rob Griffin, winds up in a coma and becomes disabled.
Good Sam could also be called Saint Sam as that character is ideal. She’s young, kind, thoughtful, extremely skilled, top of her class, open to new ideas, tries to work with all the other doctors, and so forth. There’s not a fault shown in the drama for this character so far that I have seen although I’ve just watched two episodes. On the other hand, the father is overbearing, pretentious, and sleeps with a subordinate. He’s dismissive, condescending, and obviously was an absent father to this wonder of a young woman. But, he is brilliant, and extremely skilled which are his only virtues and the reason why he was the leader beforehand.  While Rob is not portrayed as a senior citizen per se, this is an example of respect or lack of respect for elders as Rob is Sam’s elder.
Spoiler Alert – this review will give some details about one of the episodes.

Rob wants his job back. He had been shot and because of a long disabling recovery, he is required to be proctored before he can even operate again. He uses his connections to ensure that the board will reinstate him as chief after he passes his proctorship, which, amazingly only in a story like this, is overseen by his daughter.  He runs roughshod in her meetings and doesn’t follow her rules.  It distresses young doctors in residence because both Dr. Griffins are telling them what to do, often in different directions.
While there is some bond displayed between them, her attitude is that he is an old overbearing dinosaur, in this case, the T Rex, but she is the meteor that will wipe out dinosaurs like him. That attitude is directly portrayed vividly at the end of season 1 episode 2, Natural Order.
What a perfect metaphor for the attitude of some of the younger members of our society. Seniors are overbearing dinosaurs and the youth are the meteor to wipe them out. At the very least they need to get out of the way as the youth have the right ideas.  Not everybody, of course, and while some people care for and respect their parents and grandparents, there is such a strong push in this country and some others to disregard elders.
What other class of people in our society could be treated with this much disrespect here in 2022 America? Women? No! Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, Disabled? No, no, no, no, no. The LGBTQ won’t stand for it. But somehow it’s OK to disrespect the elderly as a class.
I don’t think it’s coincidental that this dinosaur ex-chief is a white male, and the meteor is a young woman. I also don’t think it’s coincidental that the mother of this young woman sides with this young doctor.
Of course, as described, this man deserves to be put in his place because other than his skill as a surgeon he doesn’t have that much redeeming virtue.  But I don’t think that it is truly descriptive of the nature of the relationship between most seniors and their younger counterparts. Rarely are things ever that black and white. It’s just another example of why it is OK not to respect an elder according to world views.

Meanwhile, we have been discussing wisdom, and philosophy in the tradition of the apostles. That makes it part of original Christianity. A component of wisdom right from Scripture is age.  That’s right, wisdom is something that is accumulated with age.

Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days. (Job 12:12 ESV)

This is a general rule, that people get wiser as they age.  However, the scriptures allow for exceptions to this rule.  Look at this:

Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who doesn’t know how to receive admonition any more. (Ecc 4:13 WEB)

So age is not a guarantee of wisdom, just a guideline.  So, while I am saying scripture teaches us to honor and cherish the aged, the sad truth is that it also teaches that old fools are around and a potential pitfall according to scripture.

Still, the standard is that scriptures teach us to respect our elders.

“‘You shall rise up before the gray head, and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God. I am Yahweh.  (Lev 19:32 WEB)

This verse says that standing up and respecting elders is part of respecting God.

This is a clear picture of who an elder is.  In the Greek Old Testament “old man” here is presbeturos which is the word translated as elder in so many places.  Notice the reference to the gray head; this is not a young adult. The above verse depicts the standard for places where there were elders at the gate and so forth.

I have been in more than one church where the “elders” were young adults and regularly saw one or more of them captured by the doctrine of the moment instead of the apostle’s tradition.

Likewise, you younger ones, be subject to the elder. Yes, all of you clothe yourselves with humility, to subject yourselves to one another; for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  (1Pe 5:5 WEB)

Here is a New Testament verse that tells us to respect elders.  This verse is a classic verse that teaches being subject to elders. It does absolutely say subject yourselves to one another, meaning that there are times when the younger person may have the best wisdom, but that will never set a standard that the young have the greatest wisdom, just that the elders if they are truly wise with the wisdom of God, will recognize with humility that they need to learn and change at times.

It’s common in our society to tell grandparents to butt out. I’ve heard more than one young parent vigorously proclaim that they are not a parent like their parents, with some explanation of some evil in their parents’ leadership. I would be very wary of making this proclamation. If your kids see that it’s okay for you to belittle the leadership of your parents it is teaching your kids that it’s okay for them to belittle your leadership.

Do the Scriptures have anything to say about grandparents teaching their grandkids? In fact, it does. Look at who it says we are to teach as believers.

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— (Deu 4:9 ESV)

This verse says that we’re supposed to take the things that we know about God and teach them to our kids, and to their kids, i.e., our grandchildren.

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. (Psa 71:17-18 ESV)

There it is again. Believers are charged to teach their kids and their grandkids.

One wrinkle here, however, is that in this day of thousands of denominations teaching differing doctrines, the parents may have attached to one denomination teaching a different doctrine set.  Of course, that is why “doctrine isn’t important” doctrine has come into play and people have developed the doctrine of sticking with the essentials or sticking with just the concepts of orthodoxy. Some of this is discussed in T 19.1 Modern Christian Traditions – The In Essentials Unity Doctrine. An article on the Orthodoxy movement is coming.

Anyway, the apostle’s tradition is that grandparent believers are charged to teach their grandchildren, especially about God.  But, what does the world say about this?  I found numerous articles on how to tell grandparents to butt out although I did find of couple articles that talked about how to interject your wisdom as grandparents.[4]

Now, before you start saying you think I’m saying that grandparents should run the whole show, let me say this. There is a family component to how church leadership is described in Scripture. The apostles taught that the church is set up and run like the human family. Paul talks about how he fathered people in the word, and more.

For though you have ten thousand tutors in Christ, you don’t have many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, I became your father through the Good News. (1Co 4:15 WEB)

Paul took this commitment seriously.

Behold, this is the third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I seek not your possessions, but you. For the children ought not to save up for the parents, but the parents for the children. (2Co 12:14 WEB)

The body of Christ is called a family.

from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, (Eph 3:15 WEB)

So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, (Eph 2:19 WEB)

More than this even, God is our father and Jesus is called our eldest brother in this family.

For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Rom 8:29 WEB)

As far as how leadership is implemented in the Scriptures it is important to acknowledge that in the general teaching and examples of leadership that there is the theme that the local leader handles most of the issues.  Just using that model alone suggests that the vast majority of things are always done at the immediate level. In other words, yes, parents raised their kids in scriptural times just as fellowship leaders handle the vast majority of things in their fellowship.

In the next verse, the apostle sees a problem in a fellowship but he doesn’t take over and try to fix everything.  The fellowship leader is exhorted to help resolve the issue just as the parents in the family are there to resolve the vast majority of issues.

I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to think the same way in the Lord. Yes, I beg you also, true partner, help these women, for they labored with me in the Good News, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.  (Php 4:2-3 WEB)

Under our scriptural model parents are the local leaders so they should be in charge of their kids even when the grandparents are present.

But telling the grandparents to just butt out altogether is unbiblical. One way to show respect to elders is to let them speak first.  Look at this example from the book of Job:

Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job, because they were elder than he. When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, his wrath was kindled. Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered, “I am young, and you are very old; Therefore I held back, and didn’t dare show you my opinion. (Job 32:4-6 WEB)

Elihu showed his respect for Job by waiting for Job to speak before he spoke. He didn’t just go spouting off all his opinions because he was old enough to be considered an adult. He recognized the principle of eldership and honored the elders in his life by showing respect in these ways.

I am a senior citizen and I remember not too long ago a young person said something like this to me, “I don’t have to listen to you, I’m eighteen years old now. I am an adult.  We’re equal.”  The conversation went something like this.  He was telling me what I considered some very entitled ideas about what society should provide for him like a job with an adequate income, free medical insurance, free higher education, and so forth.  It was very utopian and immature thinking about living in the society that he was born into.  It was certainly something he could work to build in society, but it wasn’t going to happen in the short term and he wasn’t interested in hearing my opinion and experience regarding these issues like being proactive, finding what is available, and doing the best he can.

In modern society, honestly, in western societies in at least modern times, the attitude of the young is that people should listen to the young, up-and-coming crowd. They’ve got the beat on what’s really important. In “Kids These Days Know Better Than Older Generations. Let Them Lead” we read

“Younger people consistently see human rights—racial, immigrant, gender, LGBT—as important and uncontroversial… Young people also endorse progressive ideals, such as strong climate change policies, a proactive government, and economic justice, as well as liberal candidates. The millennial revolution isn’t just talk. As I’ve detailed previously, young people are showing stunning declines in crime, gun violence, rape, incarceration, births before age 25, and school dropout.”[5]

This is quite a statement. “Kids these days know better than older generations. Let them lead.”  The philosophy includes the statements that to young people LGBT and other issues are uncontroversial, that young people embrace progressive ideals like liberal candidates taking the liberal stance on issues like climate change and economic justice.  This propaganda statement purports supportive statements about “stunning declines in crime, gun violence, rape, incarceration, births before age 25, and school dropout.”  Of course, the cause of all these favorable outcomes, according to this author, is the inborn wisdom of these liberal youth who are much better inclined to vote with this liberal agenda. The article is full of philosophical arguments describing how authoritarian models (old white people in power) are destroying America. It further states “Tens of millions of far-right Americans actively seek authoritarian dictates and to harm entire populations because of their color, nationality, and lifestyle.”

We also have the philosophical statement, “Younger people consistently see human rights—racial, immigrant, gender, LGBT—as important and uncontroversial”.  This is embracing the philosophy of the times, and it also shows the political pressure by the LGBT community to accept that lifestyle as normal.

See H2 Born Gay: Scientific Fact or False Idol of Bad Science? for insight on how the false claims of statements like “Born Gay” are used to motivate people and even force them, especially young people, to accept LBGT lifestyles as part of a person’s DNA rather than a choice, albeit, a rather complicated one. Rather than being determined by DNA, a significant element of the LGBT movement wants us to accept that LGBT desires and choices are normal.   They reject any dialogue that LGBT lifestyles are sinful, unholy, or abnormal. Still, the Christian churches that promote LGBT inclusion use the “born gay” mantra to argue that LGBT lifestyles are biologically determined and thus require re-interpreting scripture because this is an issue like the earth being round, a previous misinterpretation of scripture that is truly proven scientifically false.  That LGBT status is biologically determined has not been proven like the fact that the earth is round.

(Before you think the above is a diatribe solely against the liberal political agenda, conservative politics also make fallacious claims.  For example, conservatives since Ronald Reagan have pushed trickle-down economics which purports that making tax breaks and regulations favorable to the rich will result in a “trickle-down” effect thus making all people richer. It is a great theory but has a fatal flaw in that it is dependent on the rich doing certain things like investing the financial benefits gained to produce good-paying jobs so that it results in passing a proportionate share of those financial gains down to the people below them in the economic strata. This hasn’t always happened.  The result is that trickle-down economics has only caused the separation between the rich and poor to get wider.[10] The point is politics are based in large part on worldly philosophies that are not always based in truth.)

There is a push in the UN to eliminate age requirements for public office.[6]  Their stand is that if you can send someone to war they should be able to run for the senate, congress, or even the presidency.

There is a term you may have heard “youthful idealism”.  Some youth have ideas of how to improve things but the folly of youth is foolishness. Here I want to talk about a much very controversial verse of Scripture although it can and has been misapplied.

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (Pro 22:15 Webster)

First, this verse is not advising parents to beat the foolishness out of their kids, although physical deterrence and punishment are advised in the scheme of scripture in certain cases. I want to focus on the word “correction”. Correction is one of the things that the word of God is designed to do. There is a cycle of learning in the scriptural model. We are told things, what to do, why to do them, and so forth. Sometimes we don’t do them, either forgetfully, or by deliberate choice. Then we are to be reproved, told we didn’t get it right. Then we are to be corrected, re-instructed on the right thing to do, the right reasons.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2Ti 3:16 Webster)

These verses, both in Proverbs and in second Timothy relate to our discussion. First is the teaching that foolishness is bound in the heart of the youth. Anybody who’s been a parent, or grandparent, or had anything to do with kids have seen too many examples of this to not know that it’s true. Kids do things just because they want to do them. Very young kids don’t know that fire burns, that electrical sockets shock, or that cars run over people. They also don’t know much else. From the time they’re born we try to teach them one thing after another, stay away from fire, don’t touch the electrical shock it’s, don’t play in the street, and on and on. The process of growing up is slowly growing in wisdom to the point of becoming an adult.

The limits of foolishness are not limited to infantile desires to touch an electrical outlet.  As we grow and see problems in society we also can start thinking we understand the cure and embrace various doctrines of the world but we do it without the experience and yes, wisdom and oversight, that age can bring.

That doesn’t mean that the elderly can’t be wrong, yes, there have been elders that embraced slavery, prohibition, and more ills.  In scriptural history, it was Jewish elders that developed the traditions that our Lord and Savior said made the word of God of no effect.

It appears the elders of the majority of Christian denominations think that the manifestations of the spirit ended with the apostles or while they believe they are possible think that they should not be taught and promoted.

Yes, some elders can be very wrong.

None of this changes the truth of the biblical standard. The battle over which wisdom is the best started with Adam and Eve and will continue as long as there is a devil in power in this world. Scripture teaches that wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.

Proverbs 22:15 says that correction is one of the tools that help us guide youth from their foolishness. That’s what the verse in Proverbs is saying, whether or not you agree with the concept of physical restraint or punishment. I personally have never seen a parent whose child was reaching for a flame or an electrical socket that didn’t physically grab their child and restrain them from doing that.

The scriptural model is about disciplined training, as the means to drive the foolishness out of not just youth, but all people. Christians are called to be disciples, disciplined ones.  We are all children of God the Father.

How all this relates to this article is just this. When we were born we were dumber than dirt. And even though we may be quick on the uptake we have got a heck of a lot of learning to do before we can take care of ourselves in this world, and even more before we can lead others. That process is called growing up, but it’s also called growing in wisdom. The Scriptures simply say that that process produces people that are valuable resources as they near the end of their lives and those people should be respected, honored, and listened to, as well as put in positions of authority and leadership.  The biblical model includes families where there are patriarchs who are the overseers of their families’ families underneath them.

That is the scriptural model. That isn’t to say that a young person can’t have a good idea. That’s exactly what is being set up in first Peter chapter 5 verse five. It does say that we are all to clothe ourselves with humility and be subject to one another. But the verse starts with the younger ones being subject to the elders. That is the general guideline. And that’s not the only place.

Don’t rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father; the younger men as brothers; the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, in all purity. (1Ti 5:1-2 WEB)

Now, this verse isn’t saying that every person that is five years old has to listen to every person that is six years old who has to listen to every person who is seven years old, and so on and so on until you reach 120 years old. People in their early 20s maybe about the same maturity, people in their mid-30s are about the same maturity, and so on. But it is saying that if someone is significantly older than you then you need to defer and show them some respect. Specifically, the verse above says not to rebuke a senior man or woman. In fact, the verse depicts a generational scheme. The elder women are treated as mothers while women of the same age are treated as sisters according to Titus chapter five verse two.

Age is a consideration in the Bible just like it is in the world. Where I live you have to be 16 to drive a car, and 18 to vote in an election.  While in our culture people may be considered adults at age 18, we see a pattern in the Bible that certain positions had an age requirement of at least 30. For example, Old Testament priests officially entered service at age 30.

from thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all who enter into the service, to do the work in the Tent of Meeting. (Num 4:3 WEB)

Even more than that detail, we see that the Levites entered an apprenticeship starting at age 25, and then became officially priests at age 30. They served a 20-year term, after which they entered the tent of meeting.  We get back to the priests in a minute but first, while it may be coincidental, both Saul and David became king at age 30.

Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years. (1Sa 13:1 WEB)

David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. (2Sa 5:4 WEB)

Our King, the Lord Jesus Christ started his ministry at age 30.

Jesus himself, when he began to teach, was about thirty years old, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, (Luk 3:23 WEB)

But then, Jesus is called our high priest and is the man who fulfilled the Law, so he had to begin his service at 30.

Having then a great high priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let’s hold tightly to our confession. (Heb 4:14 WEB)

Now, let’s go back and look at the ages when the Levites did certain things.

After that, the Levites went in to do their service in the Tent of Meeting before Aaron, and before his sons: as Yahweh had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so they did to them. Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “This is that which belongs to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall go in to wait on the service in the work of the Tent of Meeting; and from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting on the work, and shall serve no more, but shall minister with their brothers in the Tent of Meeting, to perform the duty, and shall perform no service. You shall do thus to the Levites concerning their duties.”  (Num 8:22-26 WEB)

Woah, look at that, we saw that the Levites began their apprenticeship at 25, and started their priestly service at 30 which ended at 50. But then, it says, they “shall minister with their brothers in the tent of meeting to perform the duty”. So, they were retired from the priestly service, but they still ministered. They were elders. Here we have a concrete example of when someone became an elder. For the priests, it was 50 years old.

The priestly job was hard work. There was heavy furniture to be carried. It was too hard for people over 50. But Levites over 50 still ministered. What did they do? “By giving advice, instructing younger Levites, and doing lighter service”[7]

Not that it is authoritative in spiritual matters, but neuroscience actually gives some insight into how wisdom is accumulated in humans. What does neuroscience say?

“From a neurocognitive standpoint, wisdom is the ability to see patterns where others don’t see them, to extract generalized common points from prior experience and use those to make predictions about what is likely to happen next. Oldsters aren’t as fast, perhaps, at mental calculations and retrieving names, but they are much better at and faster at seeing the big picture. And that comes down to decades of generalization and abstraction.”[8]

Do you see that oldsters “are much better at and faster at seeing the big picture?”  A big part of wisdom is seeing the big picture.  The current discussion in society may have some trendy concepts, but how do they work in the big picture?  God’s big picture is over eternity, and as regarding us, his picture includes how all of us have been doing since Adam.

Here’s an example of letting seniors mentor.

“In Greensboro, N.C., for example, sociologist Peggye Dilworth-Anderson brought together at-risk African-American grade-school children with older members of the community in an after-school program designed to bolster self-esteem. Some volunteers were retired teachers, but others were illiterate, including one woman who sang Negro spirituals to the children. As part of their bonding with the children, the adults shared their life experiences – describing things like life before television and without indoor plumbing.

Ms. Dilworth-Anderson says she got an unexpected result from the program: an increase among the children of what she calls self-efficacy. “It’s the ability to strategize, to plan into the future, to think about tomorrow,” she says. “Those older people, without pencil or paper, increased our children’s understanding of self-efficacy.”[9]

In summary, I started this article with a scriptural reference that described evil nations as ones that didn’t respect their elders.  From there, we looked at Christian and secular sources that described the lack of respect for elders as part of our current culture.  We looked at examples in media such as the Progressive commercial and the Good Sam TV show as well as sources promoting the elevation of youth over seniors as leaders. Then we looked at scriptural directives to promote the respect of elders as a source of leadership, teaching, and wisdom.

I would like to end by reiterating some key scriptures and their concepts:

Wisdom is something that is accumulated with age.

Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days. (Job 12:12 ESV)

This is a general rule, that people get wiser as they age.  However, the scriptures allow for exceptions to this rule.  Look at this:

Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who doesn’t know how to receive admonition any more. (Ecc 4:13 WEB)

So age is not a guarantee of wisdom, just a guideline.

We are charged to respect our elders.

“‘You shall rise up before the gray head, and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God. I am Yahweh.  (Lev 19:32 WEB)

This verse says that standing up and respecting elders is part of respecting God.

1 Timothy talks about how we are to generally treat our elders differently.

Don’t rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father; the younger men as brothers; the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, in all purity. (1Ti 5:1-2 WEB)

And one task that grandparents are charged to do is teach their grandkids the word of God.

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— (Deu 4:9 ESV)

 

[1] Does American Culture Prompt Us to Disregard or Respect the Elderly, https://licensetoparent.org/articles/respect-the-elderly/

[2] 7 Cultures That Celebrate Aging And Respect Their Elders Updated December 6, 2017, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-other-cultures-can-teach_n_4834228

[3] Aging in America: Ageism and General Attitudes toward Growing Old and the Elderly, Open Journal of Social Sciences > Vol.5 No.8, August 2017

[4] ‘Butt out, Grandma!’ Keeping the peace when your mother knows best, https://www.parentmap.com/article/butt-out-grandma-keeping-the-peace-when-your-mother-knows-best; Grandparents and Parents Disagreeing? 11 Tips for Both of You, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/grandparents-and-parents-disagreeing-11-tips-for-both-of-you/;

[5] Kids These Days Know Better Than Older Generations. Let Them Lead, https://www.yesmagazine.org/democracy/2017/12/22/kids-these-days-know-better-than-older-generations-let-them-lead

[6] Launching Global Campaign Promoting Right of Young People To Run for Public Office, https://www.un.org/youthenvoy/2016/11/launching-global-campaign-promoting-rights-young-people-run-public-office/

[7] https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/numbers-8-26.html

[8] Successful Aging, Daniel J Leviton, Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2020, P. 37 him

[9] US Culture Shift: Respect for Elders, https://www.csmonitor.com/1998/0708/070898.us.us.5.html

[10]Why Trickle-Down Economics Works in Theory But Not in Fact, https://www.thebalance.com/trickle-down-economics-theory-effect-does-it-work-3305572

last revised 4/7/22

A Review of Biblical Interpretation

I have written a number of articles that talk about different rules and principles important to Scriptural Interpretation and I am putting them together here.  This will highlight the major points that have been discussed in articles and you can go to the referenced article for more insight.

Those rules include:

  • sticking to what God reveals in his word, avoiding opinions, assumptions, speculations and private interpretation so that we rightly divide the scripture,
  • examining scripture in both the local and larger contexts,
  • using translations that accurately reflect the meaning of the text,
  • doing word studies where necessary to get to the precise meanings of the original words used,
  • comparing texts with texts and other writings to find and eliminate changes that have crept into the texts,
  • recognizing figures of speech where applicable,
  • differentiating between the verses addressed to us and those that are for our learning,
  • being aware that the apostles prophesied that there would be teachers rise up and teach twisted scriptures, misinterpreted scriptures to lead people astray, and more.
  • watching punctuation. There is no punctuation in the texts that we translate our Scriptures from. And as there is not a one-to-one correlation between languages the theology of the translators affects the translation to show the theology of the translator.
  • watching capitalization. The originals are in the same case.  English and other languages have rules for what is capitalized and this affects the meaning.

Let’s talk more about what all this means. First, in The Not Enough Information Rule – Sticking to What is Revealed we see that part of the word of God is that only some things about God and the spiritual world are revealed. Other things are secret.

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

And the things of God that are not revealed are unsearchable!

Great is Yahweh, and greatly to be praised! His greatness is unsearchable. (Psa 145:3 WEB)

We can’t think like God. Unsearchable means that there is no place that we can look to find out what we want to know about the hidden things of God. God says we can’t figure him out, we don’t even think like him:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways,” says Yahweh. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:8-9 WEB)

As I said in that article, “The trick is to stick to the text of the word of God, as original as can be found, not adding or subtracting from it. And sticking to what is revealed. Especially remember the downfall of inductive reasoning, that we will never in our current form have enough information to inductively conclude things on God’s plane.

So don’t be afraid to say that there isn’t enough information to know something.  It’s a basic rule in understanding the word of God.”  This also applies to philosophy.  Using words and terms not in scripture is not properly handling the word of God.  Using inductive logic to guesstimate things about God violates the Not Enough Information rule because humans are incapable of understanding God like all other things on the earth. Beyond what has been revealed in scripture we can’t understand his ways because he said his ways are unsearchable.  That’s either true or it’s not.  Scripture says it so I believe it. Beyond what scripture says we can’t understand his thinking because he revealed to us that his thoughts are not our thoughts, that they are beyond us.

Also in that article are comments on the importance of context.  Taking something out of context is a recognized principle in communications of any sort. In the article, I talk about the word all and how all has several meanings, all that there is and all that is available.  You have to look at the context to see which meaning it has.  And it’s not okay to speculate on what Jesus’ words meant, the example of the sower and the seed shows a time when a parable meaning is revealed in the context.

In T 1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 1, Rightly Dividing the Word of God we see some of those rules about rightly dividing the word of God and staying away from private interpretations, personal opinions, and impressions of what you and I might think the scriptures mean.  That includes going to the scriptures with preconceived ideas instead of looking at what the scriptures actually say and believing that.  Everyone seems to have an opinion, but I want to know what God meant, what his interpretation is.  And, as Daniel said:

 “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Gen 40:8b ESV)

Both the words of God and the interpretation of them belong to God.  I want to discuss a particularly strongly worded section of scripture:

I will raise them up a prophet from among their brothers, like you. I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him. It shall happen, that whoever will not listen to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.” You may say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which Yahweh has not spoken?” When a prophet speaks in Yahweh’s name, if the thing doesn’t follow, nor happen, that is the thing which Yahweh has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You shall not be afraid of him. (Deu 18:18-22 WEB)

God is explaining how he works with prophets here. We are talking about people with the office of a prophet, the gift ministry. There are some examples of personal prophecy in the Old Testament but mainly in the New Testament where God through the Spirit gives words of edification and comfort for individual spirit-filled believers to deliver to the ones around them. That’s not the office of a prophet. The office of the prophet predicts famines, wars, and other calamities. The office of a prophet goes to Kings and gives them messages of what the enemy is doing and saying in their bedrooms. The office of the prophet is given visions and words to deliver to the body at large. That’s the kind of prophet we’re talking about here. “I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him.” Right here we have the prophecy model. God gives the prophet words to say and the prophet says them. Period. End of story. That’s how prophecy works. There are no committees. There are no councils of bishops. “I will raise them up a prophet from among their brothers…”  God selects an individual from the believers and “raises” them up. God works with an individual to be his spokesperson.  In the previous article, we talked about how we got the word of God through the prophets.

The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 was not a council to develop doctrine.  It was a council to resolve a simple issue, and the spirit was involved as it is written in verse 28, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit…”

What does God’s word say about how we are to treat the words of the prophet, the things revealed by the prophets?

“Whoever will not listen to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him” says if you don’t listen to God’s word given by the prophet, it’s on you. We are charged to follow the words of the prophet because they are God’s word.

“But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.” This is the most strongly worded part of this section. This is part of the law. (In the New Testament believers are warned to avoid false prophets and false teachers with no mention of the death penalty as under the law.) There is some further explanation on how to tell whether somebody speaks presumptuously, and that is the last part of the section. “You may say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which Yahweh has not spoken?” When a prophet speaks in Yahweh’s name, if the thing doesn’t follow, nor happen, that is the thing which Yahweh has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You shall not be afraid of him.”

Let’s take a minute and talk about the word “presumptuously”. It comes from the Hebrew zood or zeed (H2102 in Strong’s) and it has to do with being proud, haughty or presuming.  This points to pride as a cause for someone to speak for God when God hasn’t given them that gift. Look at this:

… We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. But if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he doesn’t yet know as he ought to know. (1Co 8:1-2 WEB)

The above verse says that knowledge puffs up. The Greek word is phusio (G5448), which means to blow up, but figuratively means to make proud or haughty.  The above verse is a warning against becoming proud or haughty the more you know. “If anyone thinks he knows anything, he doesn’t yet know as he ought to know” means that no matter how much you know, don’t get proud because we really don’t know that much.

So, looking at that in context with prophets speaking presumptuously we can see that the temptation for the prophet who has been blessed with knowledge from God is to get proud and to speak more than what God has revealed. But the warning against knowledge puffing up doesn’t just apply to prophets. The warning in first Corinthians is to all of us not to get proud and think we know more than we really do. A Ph.D. from University does not imbue us with revelation knowledge about God. 30 years of pastoring or teaching people in the world gives us a lot of experience, but don’t get proud and presume you know more than you know.

Whether or not something comes to pass is the standard for evaluating a prophet.  Now all kinds of people think that things, certain things, are going to happen all the time and they don’t. A while back people were talking about how long the covid pandemic was going to last. Different people offered different opinions. When people asked me, I thought about it, even prayed about it, and was pretty certain that the government would come up with a plan to vaccinate people by a certain time which was the end of summer in 2021. So, I told people I thought that things would be getting back to normal around that time. However, I did not have any clue about the resistance against vaccination not only here in the United States but in different places around the world. I was shocked to see the extent of vaccination resistance that would prolong the length of this pandemic although I did have an inclination that normal might be different even after people started getting vaccinated. Long story short, we are way past the end of the summer 2021 and the pandemic is still affecting people’s lives. I was wrong, as were a lot of other people. But we weren’t claiming that we had gotten the word of the Lord on it. My thinking was to try to be as upbeat and optimistic as possible and help people look for a light at the end of the tunnel.

However, there were people who proclaimed that they knew from God when things would happen.  For example, “29 February 2020 T.B Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Nigeria prophesied that Covid-19 will vanish on 27 March 2020.”[1]  It did not.  There are articles on the damage that false prophets did not only in Africa but other places as well.[2]

The church of grace to which you and I belong is not charged to kill false prophets, but we are warned of them and advised to steer clear of them.

Nevertheless, we got the word of God, the scriptures, from prophets, and we are charged to heed what they say. Christian philosophy is the wisdom that we get from the word of God and we are charged to treat it just like we are charged to rightly divide without private interpretation of all of God’s word.

And as far as the situation with prophets and the sin of presumption goes, the same goes for teachers.  Knowledge can puff them up too.  And combine a teaching institution that combines scripture with the worldly methods and tenets of philosophy and you have a recipe for producing false teachers.

The problem with errors in some translated verses is discussed in Examples of Scribal Forgeries in the Bible, There are Numerous Variations in the Texts From Which We Get The Bible; Using an Interlinear Text To See Them, and Trinitarian Forgeries in the New Testament.
For example,

And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:29 KJV)

“and fasting” is not in some texts.  And fasting appears to be added by zealous scribes emphasizing the fasting and asceticism movements that became popular in the centuries after Christ.

Or the Johannine Comma example. The words “ in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.  And there are three that bear witness in earth” are added to 1 John 5:7-8. You can ignore these words. This is generally accepted.[3]

Or the woman caught in adultery, John 7:53 to 8:11, is missing from many texts.  As touching as it is, you can ignore it.

Filtering out changed and added verses is part of rightly dividing scripture.  Interlinear texts can help you see the variations in manuscripts.

In The Importance Of Each Word, More on Word Studies we again see the importance in rightly dividing scripture of studying the terms in the scriptures in the original language and then doing word studies of the underlying Hebrew and Greek words to determine whether the translation accurate represents the meaning of the author.

For example, in H3 Four kinds of love in the Bible, When Love is not Love we see that the word “love” can actually come from four different Greek words

The four words are:

  • Agape – unselfish, unconditional love
  • Phileo – friendship
  • Eros – sexual, romantic love
  • Storge – familial affection

This teaching talks about how God’s love is not sexual love which is not family affection which is not the friendship of good friends. The different Greek words really change the meaning of the text and the teaching derived from it.

Or, even prepositions, can have different meanings. For example, en in Greek means a number of things, often “in”, but also “for the sake of” and other meanings.  In “We are created in Christ” in Ephesians 2:10 “in” is the Greek preposition en. It shows we have our eternal purpose in Christ. So, the verse:

For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and for him. (Col 1:16 WEB)

“By” is the Greek word en.  It doesn’t mean that Jesus is the agent of creation, which translating it as “by” implies.  “By” is a mistranslation. Neither does the section “through him and for him” make him the agent of the original creation any more than the verse that says we are created in him make us literally in his Christ’s person, yet we are created in Christ.

The context of this section of scripture actually describes the creation of the new Church in Christ that started on Pentecost.  Colossian 1:13 “who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love” describes just that.  Colossians 1:15-23 describes Jesus Christ in action as head of the Church setting things up.  Jesus is the firstborn, we are people born after him.  He is the most important, though, before anything else (v. 17). and he holds everything together in the body.  The context of this section is the workings of the body of Christ of which Jesus is the head. That’s what it says right here:

He is the head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Col 1:18 WEB)

Now everything was created with Christ in mind.  Jesus Christ was the end game from the beginning.  But it’s easy to take things out of context and just read words like creation, heaven and earth, change “in” to “by” and say this verse is saying Jesus is God almighty, but that is twisting this scripture.

Nevertheless, this verse isn’t an easy translation.  The rule is that more difficult verses have to be translated in light of more clear verses.  As we will see below, all power and authority rest in God the Father alone. Verses like John 17:3 and 1 Cor 15:24-28 explain that below and translating  Colossians 1:16 as Jesus is God Almighty contradicts those verses and others. Jesus, as mighty as God the Father has made him is God’s agent who was elevated to his current level of power when he accomplished our salvation by dying on the cross for all of us.  That is when he was seated on the right hand of the Father. But the whole plan of creation centers around Jesus Christ, his only begotten son.

We need to watch prepositions when we look for the meanings of verses.  Prepositions can have different meanings depending on the context.

We especially don’t want to substitute synonyms for words in a translation based on their modern English meanings.  That goes for other languages as well because it is a well-known fact that languages are always changing and the meanings of words can change.  Did you know that leech originally meant doctor, and flux originally meant diarrhea?[4] Or that nice used to mean foolish or simple while hussy comes from the word housewife?[5] Its important to get to the meaning of the words and terms at the time they were written.

In John 1 – The meaning of the Logos; The Slippery Slope of Applying Mathematical Precision to Language Expressions we look at the importance of understanding figures of speech and not taking sections of text that use, for example in Proverbs 8 and  John 1, personification to be literal.  Both those sections of scripture speak of wisdom and the Logos as if they were persons when they are not, they are attributes of godliness and the spirit.  Figures of speech are used in scripture and in life to emphasize certain points but it is a huge mistake to take them literally.  For example, Napoleon was a giant in history.  This statement emphasizes that Napoleon had a huge impact on history, not that he was physically a giant.  In fact, Napoleon was a short man and there was not physically anything giant about him at all. While God’s wisdom and logos are huge parts of how God works, they are not actually equal to God. Still, we want God’s wisdom and logos in our lives because they are so dynamic.  That is why they are emphasized in scripture. There are numerous figures of speech besides personification.

Also, the same rules apply to rightly-dividing godly wisdom and philosophy as to rightly dividing God’s word because God’s wisdom comes from God’s word.

In All Scripture is for our Learning But All Scripture is not Addressed to Everyone: Administrations we see that we can learn from all scripture but only part of it is addressed to us. Adam and Eve only had one law, to not eat of one tree in the midst of the garden, but they did and the rules changed.  The patriarchs after Adam had a laxer set of rules in that administration.  The Law brought a rich but strict administration full of pageantry and ritual with numerous specific laws that were to be followed diligently.  It had an assortment of feasts and offerings but also the stiff penalty system of the eye for an eye and the death penalty for a number of offenses. Christ fulfilled the Law and brought us to the administration of the church of Grace.  The letters of the Apostles are written to the church of grace and we are charged to follow the traditions in those letters, the epistles.  As we are told not to follow the Law we don’t circumcise or follow the dietary laws etc.

We need to be wary of the possibility of scriptures being twisted in the different denominations and traditions. In T 1.3.2, The Apostles Prophesied That Misinterpreted Things Would Be Taught, While They Were There, After They Passed, And In Later Times we look at how the apostles prophesied that scripture would be twisted by people both in and outside the church and the importance of avoiding twisted scripture.  This is very prevalent these days as there are many, many disagreements on what the scriptures say. God hasn’t told some believers that the manifestations of the spirit ceased while he tells others that manifestations of the spirit are available to all during the church of grace administration.  It is twisting scripture to say the manifestations ceased. T 18.1 The Prohibition Tradition in Some Modern Churches and T 19.1 Modern Christian Traditions – The In Essentials Unity Doctrine show examples of traditions developed based on twisted meanings of scriptures as well other errors in rightly dividing scripture.

We need to be aware of how punctuation affects translation and meaning. In T 1.31 More on Paul’s Decision To Go To Jerusalem, How Tradition Can Affect Translation And Meaning, Accepting Deliverance When Available we see the example of Acts 24:14, which says,

When he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The Lord’s will be done.” (Act 21:14 WEB)

But there is no punctuation in Koine Greek, just letters all running together.  The translated words just are:

When he would not be persuaded we ceased saying the will of the Lord be done.

Rearranging the words as translated just to make read like it was written in Greek, 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.  So 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, by adding 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.

This is an example where the punctuation completely changes whether “the will of the Lord be done” was said or not, and if it was what it meant.  It’s also an example that shows that the theology of the translators may override the true meaning of the text.

We need to be aware of changes in meaning by the use of capitalization. The original texts are in the same case.  English and other languages have rules for what is capitalized and it affects the meaning.  In T 1.10.1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Not Only Is Jesus Called God In Scripture, But So are Moses, Judges, Magistrates, The Adversary, And Devil Spirits, But All Are Subject to the Father we see how the theology of the translator determines the use of capitalization.  In English God refers to the Supreme Deity, God the Father, the Creator. Small “g”, god, can mean people like judges, magistrates, the Adversary, devil spirits, Lords, Kings including the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  The point of that article is to show that the term “god” in scripture applies to a number of entities so just because someone is called god doesn’t make them God the Father. As I wrote in the above mentioned post, it may be confusing to some when they read that Jesus is rightfully called god in some scriptures but not part of a Trinity, but only until it is understood that many beings subordinate to God including judges, prophets, idols, the adversary, and devil spirits are also called god.  But all are subject, subordinate to God the Father, even his son.

This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ. (Joh 17:3 WEB)

Jesus himself delineates between God the Father who he declares is the only true God, and himself who he declares is the sent one, God’s agent, the Christ, the Messiah. God the Father is God over all.  Jesus Christ is his agent.

Jesus himself tells us that his power is totally dependent on the Father:

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

And in 1st Corinthians, we see that even though it reads that everything is subject to Christ, Christ is still subject to God the father.

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1Co 15:24-28 ESV)

It is the verse above that sets the pecking order in the spiritual realm for men and gods.

Still, this area is an example that shows where the use of the capital G in God and other words referring to Jesus infers that Jesus is God over all when scriture says Jesus is and always will be subject to God the Father.  To properly understand the scriptures you have to watch out for capitalization errors.

We can reduce the thousands of denominations and myriad disagreements over what scripture says by sticking to these principles of rightly dividing the word of God.

[1] Science Direct, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590051X21000332

[2] Realistic Hope, Not False Hope: Prophecy and COVID-19, PAULINE WANJIRU NJIRU,
JUNE 8, 2020, https://jpcp.org/realistic-hope-not-false-hope-prophecy-and-covid-19/

[3] http://www.bible-researcher.com/comma.html is one site that points this out.

[4] Five words that have changed meaning over time, https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/znbct39

[5] 20 words that once meant something very different, https://ideas.ted.com/20-words-that-once-meant-something-very-different/

Revised 2/21/2022

All Scripture is for our Learning But All Scripture is not Addressed to Everyone: Administrations

Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, (2Ti 3:16 WEB)

Scripture is the Greek word graphe (Strong’s G1124) which just means writing. Of course, this verse is not saying that everything that has been written in the world is God-breathed. That would be ridiculous, everything in the local library is not God-breathed. Every here just means every writing that is part of the word of God. But look what this verse says about those writings. It uses the figure of speech “God-breathed” to emphasize these words emanated from God even though they had human writers. And it lists three different uses or profits. The first is to teach us. Some versions use the word doctrine, but doctrine just means teaching. The second is reproof which is to tell us when we’re doing something wrong. And the third is correction, which is what to do instead of what we are doing wrong.

The biggest point above is that God is the source of his word which can teach us, reprove us, and correct us. Next, we’ll start to see that everything written, even though we can learn from it, is not written to us.

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that through perseverance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rom 15:4 WEB)

This verse says that the things written before, before meaning before Christ died and paid the price for our sins, were for our learning. They were not written to us, even though there’s a lot of things we can learn from them, and even some things that are universal principles of God. But we shall see that, specifically, things like the law were written only to the children of Israel, and not to us.

Let’s look at another example:

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mat 19:21 WEB)

This is not a command for everyone to sell everything they have and give what money they receive to the poor!  Jesus gave this instruction to a young ruler who had great possessions.  How do I know that? Because we read it in the following verse.

But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sad, for he was one who had great possessions. (Mat 19:22 WEB)

Jesus was teaching here that it is difficult for people with earthly riches to be part of the kingdom of God. How do I know that? Because of these verses.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into God’s Kingdom.” When the disciples heard it, they were exceedingly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Mat 19:23-26 WEB)

Jesus taught here that it’s hard for someone with wealth to enter into God’s kingdom. But he didn’t say it was impossible, in fact, here is where he says that with God all things are possible. Now I’m not saying that Jesus only said that this one person has to sell what he has and give to the poor. That message has probably been given to people via the spirit to people on a regular basis who have great wealth and are not able to enter the kingdom of God because their wealth is controlling them. But here Jesus is just not saying it to everyone.  He just said it to that one man although others might profit from following suit.  The point is it’s not written to everyone.  All Christians are not called to give everything away.

Here’s an important concept in Scripture; the Law and who it was given to.

who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service, and the promises; (Rom 9:4 WEB)

The above verse says that the law was given to the children of Israel.

Now, Israel, listen to the statutes and to the ordinances, which I teach you, to do them; that you may live, and go in and possess the land which Yahweh, the God of your fathers, gives you. (Deu 4:1 WEB)

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days,” says the Lord; “I will put my laws into their mind, I will also write them on their heart. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Heb 8:10 WEB)

The above verse refers to the fact that God gave the Law as a start, afterward he would put a law in the hearts of his people.  But first, the children of Israel were given the Law.

The children of Israel were bound to all the penalties, and rituals specified in the law.  It is important to remember that much of the law was the civil law of a sovereign nation in the world. Whether or not we agree with some of the strict penalties today we have civil authorities that inflict punishment for crimes but the children of Israel were a theocracy, a nation-state where priests rule the state in the name of God with the laws given by him. Our laws of retribution, lex talionis, are founded on the eye for an eye component of the Law. As barbaric as some of the law may seem modern legal education teaches that lex talionis as outlined in the Law actually changed the practice of lawful punishment in the world.  It introduced a policy of proportional restraint in punishment.[1]

The Law had civil, ceremonial, and moral components. The civil law had that eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth, lex talionis, basis.  The ceremonial law included circumcision, as well as offerings and feasts. The moral law included the 10 Commandments, you shall not murder, lie, steal, covet, etc. And while the law is fulfilled, it’s impossible to walk by the spirit of God today, and not honor the moral law of God even though we are no longer bound to the Law of Moses.

But the Law was imperfect, just a shadow of the things to come.

For the law, having a shadow of the good to come, not the very image of the things, can never with the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near. (Heb 10:1 WEB)

But Christ fulfilled the law and ushered in the administration of grace.

For Christ is the fulfillment of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Rom 10:4 WEB)

if it is so that you have heard of the administration of that grace of God which was given me toward you; (Eph 3:2 WEB)

For sin will not have dominion over you. For you are not under law, but under grace. (Rom 6:14 WEB)

What we have here are verses that show that the law is fulfilled and has been replaced with a grace administration. Note that it is called an administration in scripture (Eph3:2). The grace administration, which replaced the Law administration, is the administration we are in. Adam and Eve had their own administration which ended when they were cast out, and the Patriarchal administration, the time of the patriarchs with their lax rules, began.  Whenever the rules change for believers, that marks the change of administration.

Grace is divine favor.  Even though we don’t deserve it we have been saved.  We got forgiveness for the sins in our past when we accepted the Lord.  And we can get forgiveness for our sins by acknowledging them to the Lord.  We aren’t subject to the penalties of the Law anymore.  That’s amazing.  We still are charged, commanded to do things, but we are not bound to the rituals, precepts, and penalties of the law.

Of, course, that doesn’t mean we can do anything we please although seeing some of the people in different churches it may look like it.  That’s why Paul wrote this:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer? (Rom 6:1-2 WEB)

And later Paul expands on the spiritual reality of the freedom we have in Christ.

What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? May it never be! Don’t you know that when you present yourselves as servants and obey someone, you are the servants of whomever you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?  (Rom 6:15-16 WEB)

Now there’s a lot more to this. But, at the very least you can see that there’s an old covenant and a new covenant. And our administration is marked by grace, but that is not a license to sin. But, even more than that, there have been different administrations throughout the Scriptures. For example, in the garden of Eden there was only one rule. The rule was that you could eat out of anything in the garden except for the tree of life in the middle of the garden. That was the rule. That rule no longer exists, that passed with the garden of Eden. After the garden of Eden, we have the time of the patriarchs, from Adam to Moses. The Law was not given yet, so this time period or administration had a different set of rules which were fairly loose.

Right now, we are in the age, the administration, of grace as we read above in Ephesians 3:2. But that time will pass and we will enter into administrations that see the tribulation, the return of Christ, and the age to come.

The important concept is that each time period, each administration has different sets of rules.  But righteous living is living godly in every time period.  This set of laws span the different administrations.

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. A second likewise is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Mat 22:37-40 WEB)

Loving God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds along with loving our neighbors as ourselves is right living, righteousness, no matter what the administration is.

Let’s look at more examples of things written to certain people in the Scripture. Who are the Corinthian letters to? Just the Corinthians?  Let’s read.

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)

There is a salutation in this letter. It says it is written to the assembly of the saints of God at Corinth, right?  But, is that all it says? No, it says that it also is written to “all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place”.  Whoa, that means that it is written not just to Corinth, it is written to all of us.  Look at some other salutations.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus: (Eph 1:1 WEB)

Paul specifies Ephesus here, but adds “the faithful in Christ Jesus”.

Of all the writings in the Scriptures, the church epistles are the ones that are actually written to us. Not only that but we are commanded to follow the traditions of the apostles, as contained in their letters, also called epistles.

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)

The above verse emphasizes the importance of the apostles’ letters as the church is charged to follow what they say.  And here we see the same thing.

Now I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things, and hold firm the traditions, even as I delivered them to you. (1Co 11:2 WEB)

The salutation in 1 Corinthians affirms that these words are written to all of us.

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)

All who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in every place are charged to follow the apostles’ traditions, the beliefs and practices they set up. They will give us the greatest insight into our life here and now as it pertains to life and godliness.

The point of emphasis here is that not everything in the Scriptures is written to every person. That’s an important part of understanding how to interpret the word of God. It’s also important in explaining what looks like at first glance as contradictions.  Does God forbid people from eating pork? Jews were not allowed to eat pork, Christians are. Are men supposed to be circumcised?  Circumcision was a sign of agreement to the Old Covenant. So, Jews had to be circumcised, but Christians don’t, these are examples of different administrations.

Circumcision is a classic example of to whom it is addressed is important.  Only the children of Israel were told to circumcise.

This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you. Every male among you shall be circumcised. (Gen 17:10 WEB)

The new believers in the church were not to be circumcised.

Behold, I, Paul, tell you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. (Gal 5:2 WEB)

Another example is dietary restrictions

Leviticus chapter 11 lists the dietary restrictions.

“Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘These are the living things which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever parts the hoof, and is cloven-footed, and chews the cud among the animals, that you may eat. “‘Nevertheless these you shall not eat of those that chew the cud, or of those who part the hoof: the camel, because he chews the cud but doesn’t have a parted hoof, he is unclean to you. The cony, because he chews the cud but doesn’t have a parted hoof, he is unclean to you. The hare, because she chews the cud but doesn’t part the hoof, she is unclean to you. The pig, because he has a split hoof, and is cloven-footed, but doesn’t chew the cud, he is unclean to you. Of their meat you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean to you. “‘These you may eat of all that are in the waters: whatever has fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, that you may eat. All that don’t have fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of all the living creatures that are in the waters, they are an abomination to you, and you shall detest them. You shall not eat of their meat, and you shall detest their carcasses. Whatever has no fins nor scales in the waters, that is an abomination to you. “‘These you shall detest among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the vulture, and the black vulture, and the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, and the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe, and the bat. “‘All flying insects that walk on all fours are an abomination to you. Yet you may eat these: of all winged creeping things that go on all fours, which have legs above their feet, with which to hop on the earth. Even of these you may eat: any kind of locust, any kind of katydid, any kind of cricket, and any kind of grasshopper. (Lev 11:2-22 WEB)

There is more but you get the point.  Compare that to:

Now on the next day as they were on their journey, and got close to the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray at about noon. He became hungry and desired to eat, but while they were preparing, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and a certain container descending to him, like a great sheet let down by four corners on the earth, in which were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the sky. A voice came to him, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” A voice came to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean.” This was done three times, and immediately the vessel was received up into heaven. (Act 10:9-16 WEB)

So, we see that under the Law males were circumcised but that was done away after Pentecost.  Likewise, under the Law, there were many strict dietary laws that were done away within the church of Grace.

When we read scripture, we need to ask to whom the verses are addressed, and if not to us, what can we learn from them. And, before we say the Scriptures contradict themselves, we need to ascertain whether we have correctly interpreted the scriptures including this principle of to whom the scripture is addressed understanding that part of the word of God is that different people were given different directions individually at times and also as groups in the different administrations.

[1] An Eye for an Eye: Proportionality as a Moral Principle of Punishment, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Spring, 2008), pp. 57-71, https://www.jstor.org/stable/20185360

Last revised 2/3/2022

T 1.11 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 11, Avoid the Philosophies and the Wisdom of the World

God is God of all and Jesus Christ is the central figure throughout Scripture and both are incredibly important in everything a believer thinks and does. Salvation and the power of the spirit in a person’s life allowing believers to have a more than abundant life is a terrifically exciting topic and of utmost importance too. But this topic, avoiding the philosophies and wisdom of the world, is no less important because without understanding the philosophy of the word and avoiding the philosophy of the world people can be talked out of the greatness and simplicity that is in Christ, the abundance of life that’s available now as well as the eternal rewards that can be granted by learning and adhering to the standard of wisdom given by God in Scripture.

The spiritual battle is waged in our minds. And the competing armies are the wisdom of Scripture versus the wisdom of the world. Will you accept the wisdom, the philosophy, of Scripture in all the areas of your life, or will you be seduced into believing the wisdom, the philosophy, of the world in different areas of your life?

The first conflict in the bible is a philosophical one, a battle over whose wisdom to follow..

Now the serpent was more subtle than any animal of the field which Yahweh God had made. He said to the woman, “Has God really said, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees of the garden, but not the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God has said, ‘You shall not eat of it. You shall not touch it, lest you die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You won’t really die, for God knows that in the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took some of its fruit, and ate; and she gave some to her husband with her, and he ate it, too. (Gen 3:1-6 WEB)

In Genesis chapter 3 the serpent told Eve that the wisest thing to do about the tree in the middle of the garden would be to eat the fruit because it would make her like God! It says that Eve saw that the tree was to be desired to make one wise! God told them not to eat! The wise thing would have been to do what God said.  But the serpent enticed with his wisdom.  It was a battle of wisdoms and we all lost that fight.

In its simplest form philosophy is just the love of wisdom. But God’s wisdom follows the rules of God’s word while worldly wisdom has its own rules that can make the word of God void. But make no mistake, the Scriptures are very concerned about where you get your wisdom. There are hundreds and hundreds of references about wisdom and wise people in scripture.

Get wisdom. Get understanding. Don’t forget, and don’t deviate from the words of my mouth. Don’t forsake her, and she will preserve you. Love her, and she will keep you. (Pro 4:5-6 WEB)

Believers are charged to get wisdom.  The words of God’s mouth are the source of true wisdom.  James advises us that if we lack wisdom to ask of God and he will liberally give it.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach; and it will be given to him. (Jas 1:5 WEB)

So, wisdom is something we want, and that is available. Wisdom is such an important topic in Scripture as the word wisdom alone is used over 200 times in the ESV version and about 50 times just in the New Testament.  Note that the young Jesus increased in wisdom.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luk 2:52 WEB)

When people were needed to run things for the new church, wisdom was a quality that was looked for.

Therefore select from among you, brothers, seven men of good report, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. (Act 6:3 WEB)

Look at these wisdom references:

But we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the wisdom that has been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds for our glory, (1Co 2:7 WEB)

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; (Eph 1:17 WEB)

Additionally, the word wise is used over 200 times in the WEB version, often when comparing people wise in the word of God to people wise in the world.

We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You have honor, but we have dishonor. (1Co 4:10 WEB)

In the Scriptures, James wrote about two sources of wisdom.  One is the pure, peaceful, gentle wisdom from above, and the other is the wisdom of the world.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good conduct that his deeds are done in gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t boast and don’t lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition are, there is confusion and every evil deed. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (Jas 3:13-18 WEB)

So, wisdom can be godly or devilish, depending on the source. God’s wisdom comes from his word.

Behold, I have taught you statutes and ordinances, even as Yahweh my God commanded me, that you should do so in the middle of the land where you go in to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who shall hear all these statutes and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”  (Deu 4:5-6 WEB)

Moses here is speaking to the children of Israel when he tells them that their wisdom and their understanding are in God’s statutes, God’s words to them. Do you see the promise there that says that other nations will see God’s statutes and say that Israel is a nation of wise and understanding people? Of course, that is an Old Testament verse. But the principle is the same. Here’s one from the new covenant.

From infancy, you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. (2Ti 3:15 WEB)

Paul simply tells Timothy that it is the Scriptures that are able to make him wise.  God’s wisdom comes from scripture.

The point in the verses above is that the source of this wisdom is the word of God delivered to God’s people.  As we read above, “Get wisdom. Get understanding. Don’t forget, and don’t deviate from the words of my mouth.”  God’s wisdom is limited to what he has revealed.  That’s not what you or I think about what he has revealed, it’s about what he actually has revealed

The book of Hebrews says that we received the word of God from God by way of the prophets and Jesus Christ, who, besides being the Messiah, is the greatest prophet of all.

God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son. (Heb 1:1-2a WEB)

The source for truth and the wisdom of all things spiritual is God, who reveals things to his spokespeople, the prophets, who relay the message to the rest of us.  This is confirmed in many places in scripture.  Look at these verses.

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people; and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets who have been from of old), (Luk 1:68-70 WEB)

That verse says that God has spoken: “by the mouth of his holy prophets who have been from of old”.  That is how we got God’s word. It wasn’t by philosophers, it wasn’t by poets, it wasn’t by men reasoning and debating until they thought they figured it out.  It was by revelation from God. God himself is the source and He communicated through his spokespeople, the prophets, including his Son, Jesus. And he has been doing that from ancient times. Here are more examples.

Yahweh spoke by his servants the prophets, saying, (2Ki 21:10 WEB)

We haven’t obeyed Yahweh our God’s voice, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. (Dan 9:10 WEB)

Yahweh’s word came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and Yahweh’s hand was there on him. (Eze 1:3 WEB)

But the things which God announced by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled. (Act 3:18 WEB)

Now all this has happened, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, (Mat 1:22 WEB)

The issue that we are exploring is wisdom, and right now we are looking at the source of the wisdom.  Philosophy, the love of wisdom, is not innately good or bad. What is good or bad, godly or devilish, is the source of wisdom.

We are charged to follow the original Apostles’ traditions, their teachings and practices.

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)

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother who walks in rebellion, and not after the tradition which they received from us. (2Th 3:6 WEB)

In this tradition, the apostles warned to avoid world wisdom sources.

Be careful that you don’t let anyone rob you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the elements of the world, and not after Christ.  (Col 2:8 WEB)

The philosophy that we are warned against includes Greek philosophers. Greek philosophy is mentioned in scripture:

Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also were conversing with him. Some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be advocating foreign deities,” because he preached Jesus and the resurrection. They took hold of him, and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is, which is spoken by you? For you bring certain strange things to our ears. We want to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the strangers living there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing.  (Act 17:18-21 WEB)

Paul speaks against world wisdom in his Corinthian letters. Corinth was a Greek city with powerful leanings to philosophy.  The Apostle Paul went there and spoke, not from a philosophical point of view, but with a view to demonstrating the power of God in people’s lives:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1Co 2:1-5 ESV)

Paul says that there is no comparison between the wisdom of the world and the power of the word of God to accomplish what it has the power to do.

And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1Co 2:13-16 ESV)

Paul writes that he imparted the teaching about Christ not in words taught by human wisdom.  He says that we have the mind of Christ (when we walk in the renewed mind (Rom 12:2)). Paul is talking to the Greeks in Corinth about the liabilities of worldly philosophy, human wisdom. Paul didn’t quote Plato, Aristotle, or the other Greek philosophers when talking to them about what is truly powerful.  He taught scripture.  And he demonstrated the spirit.

It is important to acknowledge that the people being talked about as promoters of philosophy and world wisdom of the world are not just the unreligious:

Timothy, guard that which is committed to you, turning away from the empty chatter and oppositions of what is falsely called knowledge; which some profess, and thus have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you. Amen.  (1Ti 6:20-21 WEB)

This verse says some have professed some new knowledge and have wandered from the faith.  Now, this could include the Gnostics, a popular group at that time, but is not limited to them.  This could be any of a bunch of people promoting some new “science” or knowledge that opposes what scripture teaches.

The above verse also describes a process that has gone on for ages, that is, saying that there is new knowledge or science that proves something in the bible wrong.  And that is a double edge sword.  For example, there was a time when the Catholic Church taught that the earth was flat!   They got that from verses like this one.

Thus were the visions of my head on my bed: I saw, and behold, a tree in the middle of the earth; and its height was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and its height reached to the sky, and its sight to the end of all the earth. (Dan 4:10-11 WEB)

The interpretation that the words about an end of the earth meant the earth was flat was clearly wrong.  This is an example of taking a figure of speech literally which is clearly something to be avoided.  But this error doesn’t justify either discarding the bible or reinterpreting it every time a scientist, or psychologist, or philosopher declares something unscriptural to be true.

Remember how the discussion went in the garden of Eden.  The serpent advised Eve that she had her facts wrong.  The serpent told her that what God said was wrong, that she wouldn’t die, she would “be like God”, knowing good and evil, and implied that God didn’t want that for her.  That’s Satan’s M O.  He has been presenting new facts, new information, new wisdom, that shows God’s word is wrong since the garden.  He lies about what is true all the time.

But the worldly wisdom we are to be on guard against is not just from famous Greek philosophers or scientists but anyone considered wise.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good conduct that his deeds are done in gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t boast and don’t lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition are, there is confusion and every evil deed. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.  (Jas 3:13-17 WEB)

The above section talks about discerning the source of wisdom for anyone “among you” that is considered wise.

It’s important to realize that when scripture talks about philosophy it’s not limited to famous Greek philosophers talking about abstract concepts.  This topic is so much wider than that.  Yes, we are certainly talking about the concepts of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, and the other philosophers who are recognized as philosophers talking about forms or something abstract.  Philosophy is actually a common, everyday activity in discussions about everyday activities. The scriptures have some insight and godly guidance on everything in life.

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, (2Pe 1:2-3 ESV)

A godly life is a 24/7 activity. The knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord is relevant in all things so as to be godly around the clock.  It is true that some decisions have no bearing on being godly and we have the freedom to choose as it pleases us.  For example, it may not make a difference to godliness whether you take the freeway or back roads to get to work, as long as you are on time, you drive safely, and get there on time.   Another example is that it may not make any difference in the order of things you do in a meeting but scripture does say that all things should be done decently and in order (1 Cor 15:40). Scripture relates to all things in life because we are to be godly in all things so scripture contains all we need pertaining to life and godliness, i.e., godly life in all things.

Now, we are talking about wisdom as it pertains to life and godliness, not the best way to make bread or craft something.  Those can be good things to do, and there are best practices, i.e. wisdom, in those as well as many other endeavors.  Scripture even talks about a spirit of wisdom that some have for tasks such as these.

Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer. (Exo 35:30-35 ESV)

So, it is available to be given the wisdom to be able to craft things via the spirit.  The verse says Yahweh “filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft.”  Wow, skill. intelligence, knowledge, craftsmanship, artistic designs, for work in every skilled craft, what a set of talents. That is awesome, something that is available via the spirit as those things are not in scripture anywhere. But we are more concerned about issues of life in our discussion of philosophy, the study of wisdom.

Philosophy is carried on by everyone from the farmer to the ditch digger to the teacher to the elected official and is carried on in homes, schools, workplaces, sports arenas, and in every imaginable place around the world. It’s carried on by everyone everywhere. Every believer is given this warning.

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone thinks that he is wise among you in this world, let him become a fool, that he may become wise. (1Co 3:18 WEB)

This is a general charge to everyone. “If anyone thinks he is wise among you” means that any of us can think we are wise. So, are we wise in the world or in the word of God? The activity of a philosopher is to study wisdom. As believers that is part of what we are charged to do. We are studying wisdom right now. We are studying philosophy right now.

To one degree or another, we are all philosophers.

“At various times everyone philosophizes… This philosophizing takes place whenever one reflects upon either the fundamental presuppositions of thought and action, or the ends to which the conduct of human life should be directed.”[1]

“Everyone philosophizes,” it says in a Christian philosophy book. Why, how could that be? Because philosophy is just the exercise of people expressing what they think about what people do. Yes, it really is that basic. The Complete Idiots Guide to Philosophy elaborates:

“The fact is, philosophy is unavoidable. Even if you think you don’t already have a philosophy, you actually do. Like everybody else, you live your life according to ideas and assumptions about what the world is like that you picked up along the way.”[2]

How does everyone philosophize, you may ask? Most people just talk, right? They really are trying to be philosophers, are they?  No, it’s simpler than that.  Wisdom is being concerned about how to do things the best way.  Everyone is concerned about that.  Wisdom is focusing on why things are done a certain way.  Everyone wants to do the wisest thing.

Not only that, you probably see or even use philosophical methods regularly. They may be so ingrained that you are not aware of them at times. For example, do you know somebody, perhaps yourself, that is regularly looking for the flaws in an argument? They want to find the angle, the mistake, the reason why what they’re hearing might not be true before they accept it. I know a lot of people that way. Some people even call that healthy skepticism. It’s actually something that’s taught in a lot of elementary schools. One thing it’s also called is the Socratic method, named after Socrates who is credited with starting it. It’s a commonly used philosophical method.  And I am not saying it’s wrong to look for the flaw in someone’s argument, just that it is a common philosophical thing to do.

Or, how about this, do you believe that society’s needs are more important than individual desires? That is part of Confucian philosophy popular in China and other Eastern cultures. Or do you think that values like freedom and equality, that the individual’s success is what is crucial? That is part of Western philosophy from Plato down through the ages.[3] Those are common philosophical positions seen in many places.

When you see a person struggling, are you more inclined to say, “that person needs more help”, or “that person needs to do more to help themselves.”? Those are philosophical statements because they are discussions of what you think someone should get or do based upon what you think.

I am emphasizing the point that philosophizing is not just talking about particular abstract ideas of philosophers, what Plato said or Socrates said, it is talking about why anyone does anything. Understanding that puts the warnings against relying on the wisdom of the world, philosophy, in a finer light. We’re not just concerned about what Plato or Aristotle said. We are concerned about what anyone says about why things happen, and why people do things. We absolutely are not just concerned with Plato’s, Descartes’, or Confucius’ ideas on abstract concepts, we are both concerned with how they but also how everyone else thinks.

And that point is further strengthened when we look again at how James 3:13 starts.  “Who is wise and understanding among you?” is how it starts.  It’s talking about the wise among us.  Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato are not among us.  James isn’t as concerned here about what we think of Plato as what is the source of wisdom for any person who is giving you advice.  And what is the source of the advice that you are giving both to yourself and others?

I was in a group discussion and a grandmother started sharing about her grandkids. I’m paraphrasing, but she said something like, “boys really are mostly spit and vinegar, there always running, fighting, and moving constantly. They’re just wired that way.” She was sharing her wisdom. Some people agreed.  But there were grandparents in the group that had grandsons that were not always running, fighting, and moving constantly, but this grandmother remained convinced. She was sure what she was saying was true. She got her wisdom from her experience. Her experience in her world was that was how boys are. Wisdom of the world is not always Plato and Aristotle, sometimes it’s grandpa and grandma, ma and pa speaking about how they think things are. It could even be a sixth-grader talking to a fourth-grader because the sixth-grader thinks they are wiser.  It could be anybody older or more experienced than someone else thinking they are wiser.  That’s pretty much all of us at different times, isn’t it?

A proverb I hear often is “you get what you pay for”. That is a philosophical statement, a bit of worldly wisdom. I’ve heard it most often when someone is trying to sell me something, but others have made the comment too. I was buying a pair of glasses one time and the frames alone were over $200. I made a comment about that being a lot of money for a few pieces of bent and polished metal to hold some lenses. The clerk said just that, “you get what you pay for”.

So, is that wisdom from God? I am going to say no.  Look at this proverb:

“It’s no good, it’s no good,” says the buyer; but when he is gone his way, then he boasts. (Pro 20:14 WEB)

This proverb talks about what happens in a negotiation.  Both sides of the negotiation say things to make the price better for them.

You see, a lot of people think that Godly wisdom just has to do with salvation, believing Jesus was raised from the dead and accepting him as Lord.  But it has to do with all the details of life.  Some think that how you work and spend your money, and go out and play, all of that has little to do with God’s wisdom.  No, God is interested in every aspect of our lives and his wisdom needs to be what we seek in not only faith decisions but the ordinary things of life as well.

So, God has some wisdom for us in the buying and selling of things. So, should you just pay more when someone says that you get what you pay for?  Okay, sure, some things have a fixed price. But many things even with a fixed price have different prices in different stores. Let’s say that you are looking to buy a certain fitness watch. The suggested price from the manufacturer for the watch is $200. But you can usually get that watch for $160 at a discount store. And then occasionally it’s on sale for as little as $120. “You get what you pay for” would imply that you got something more for paying two hundred dollars than you did for paying $160, or even 120.

An online free dictionary says that the idiom you get what you pay for really means the less you pay for something the lower the quality it will inevitably be.  That sounds more reasonable, but it is not what they say.

Or, how about buying cars? Let’s say you’re looking at a certain make and model of SUV that has a sticker price of $40,000. Most everybody knows that that is not the price that you will wind up paying for that vehicle, although I have known a person or two that did pay the sticker price for a car because they were not aware of the importance of negotiating with a car dealer.  (And I do know that there are some dealers that work with a “no-hassle” lower-priced system where they have priced cars at the lowest price that they are willing to sell them for instead of starting with the MSRP and negotiating with the buyer.)

A recent article that I read says that the wisest approach to used car purchases is to find a source for prices outside of the dealership with whom you are dealing.  Edmunds.com is an example of such a source.[4]  The article said that a good negotiator should be able to reduce the price by 10 to 15%.  Certainly, a person doesn’t get more by paying the extra 10 or 15% they could’ve saved by negotiating.

However, there are limits. So, instead of saying “you get what you pay for”, you might say “higher-quality items generally cost more.” The point of this exercise is to show that oftentimes the wisdom that people follow is a wisdom of the world. I’ve heard too many salespeople rattle off “you get what you pay for” too many times not to believe that it is worldly wisdom designed to help sellers negotiate a price that is better for them.

There are countless examples of philosophical discussions like this in real life in many areas.  When is it okay to get divorced is a philosophical as well as a moral question. Is it okay for a woman to get an abortion? Is love really just love so same-sex relationships as well as polygamy and even what are called incestual relationships really just false taboos?  How far can you go in defending yourself likewise is a philosophical decision as well as having moral and legal components?  How much should you save?  How much should you give to God and to others? What is your philosophy in getting vaccinated?  How should you raise your kids?

All of the above topics are philosophical but not necessarily what some people consider as part of classic Greek philosophy.  But when scripture is talking about not being swayed by worldly wisdom and philosophy it is talking about all of this.

Whether or not Greek philosophy was inspired was a topic around at the time of the apostles. And I have talked to people who have said they believed what the first-century Jewish philosopher, Philo, said millennia ago, that God spoke through the prophets of Israel, who, in turn, influenced the Greek philosophers and he claims that is why there is, to Philo at least, a strong correlation between scripture and philosophy. That is not what the Scriptures teach. And that is especially important here. God spoke, according to Scripture, through his prophets. Now it is true, that he has communicated, in dreams and other ways, to different men specifically at times like Nebuchadnezzar in his dream. But the claim that after God spoke to his prophets the philosophers picked up on that is unsubstantiated.  But I remember that being suggested as a possibility in Catholic high School.

Wisdom from above is something precious, and to be desired. But in this article, we are also looking at the danger of ungodly philosophy, the wisdom of the world, how it is something that we are only warned against, but never charged to accept in any form.

James above says that there are two sources of wisdom, one is godly from above, and the other one is demonic, devilish. That’s a pretty stark contrast. So, when looking at how Scripture talks about worldly wisdom, which category are we to put it in, godly or devilish? Since there are only two sources, the ultimate source of worldly wisdom is the devil.

Let’s look at scripture references on the dangers of world wisdom. Beware of that philosophy, the scriptures say:

Be careful that you don’t let anyone rob you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the elements of the world, and not after Christ. (Col 2:8 WEB)

This verse clearly puts philosophy, with vain deceit and the traditions of men, in the devilish category.  This is a strongly worded warning of the source and potentially destructive nature of the philosophy that is based on the wisdom of the world.

This verse does make a case for Christian philosophy as a wonderful thing as long as it is after Christ, and not after the philosophical traditions and elements of the world. There is Christian wisdom to seek, but it is definitely not the philosophies of the Greeks and other nations of the world. It’s not the philosophy of who might be considered wise in the standard of the world.  That includes wily old veterans in any field, grandparents, old pros; they may have wisdom but it’s only what we want if it is based on what God has revealed in his word. Christian wisdom is sticking to what has been revealed. Again, “Get wisdom. Get understanding. Don’t forget, and don’t deviate from the words of my mouth.”  That doesn’t leave much wiggle room.

The apostles’ tradition was that all godly wisdom comes from God, and is contained in God’s word which came through his prophets.  Believers become wiser in God’s eyes as they set their minds on things above:

If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. (Col 3:1-2 WEB)

Believers transform themselves into wiser people when they renew their minds

Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Rom 12:2 WEB)

It is not an easy task.  In fact, scripture calls it warfare:

For though we walk in the flesh, we don’t wage war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; (2Co 10:3-5 WEB)

“Throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”  is the war between our ears.  It is the process of renewing our minds to the mind of Christ.  It is how we become wise with Godly wisdom.

Seeking God’s wisdom in every area of our lives is part of the Apostle’s tradition. So is avoiding worldly wisdom in any form that it may come in.

Future articles will discuss how soon after the apostles the church began embracing worldly philosophic methods and not too long after that worldly philosophical ideas.

[1]Introduction to Philosophy, P. 12

[2] The Complete Idiots Guide to Philosophy, J Stephenson PhD, Alpha books, 2005, P. 4

[3] ibid, p.31-32

[4] https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Savings/art-deal-haggle-car/story?id=11845530

last edited 1/3/2022


Biblical references are from the ASV version unless otherwise noted.
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