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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next look at this crown talked about in 1 Corinthians:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 30th, 2020 Posted by | Tradition | no comments

T 1.3.1 Don’t Extinguish the Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3ibid

November 20th, 2020 Posted by | Tradition | no comments

Theology Is As Clear As Mud To Americans in 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

October 30th, 2020 Posted by | Modern Christianity | no comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now consider this section:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some things we are taught about being critical:

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

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

Contrast that to this:

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

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

A believer’s response to that is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 25th, 2020 Posted by | Biblical Translation And Interpretation, Theology, Tradition | no comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But look at this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Acts 21:4

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

Here is Acts 21:9:

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

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

This one is trickier:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


August 15th, 2020 Posted by | Biblical Translation And Interpretation, Divisions, Tradition | no comments