OriginalChristianity

Not Traditional, Original

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

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

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

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

Scripture paints a totally different picture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography

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

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

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

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

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

As mentio

February 14th, 2021 Posted by | Tradition | no comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ; from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love. (Eph 4:11-16 WEB)

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

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

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

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

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

What did the Apostles say that we should follow?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2https://www.history.com/topics/reformation/thirty-years-war

3https://www.christianweek.org/essentials-unity-non-essentials-liberty-things-love/

5https://www.moravian.org/2018/08/in-essentials-unity-understanding-the-essential-things/

6https://www.gospelproject.com/wp-content/uploads/tgp2018/2018/03/99-Essentials-Booklet.pdf

January 21st, 2021 Posted by | Tradition | no comments

T 1.5 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 5, The Apostles Taught Eternal Rewards (Heavenly Treasures)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next look at this crown talked about in 1 Corinthians:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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