OriginalChristianity

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T 1.9 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 9, Church Government in the Body of Christ

Who was in Charge in the Apostles’ Tradition?

While there is no manual on Church government in the New Testament, there are numerous sections of scripture that itemize requirements of leadership as well as records of leadership decisions. But, most importantly, the role of the headship of Christ and the operational capacity of the Holy Spirit in the church is emphasized.

Jesus Christ is in charge, the body operates in sync in The Holy Spirit.

The Apostles’ tradition shows a church under Jesus Christ via Holy Spirit guidance.  First Christ is in charge:

which he worked in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come. He put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things for the assembly, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.  (Eph 1:20-23 WEB)

Yahweh gave Christ to be head over all, the above verse says.  The prophet, the apostle, the pastor and teacher, the bishop all are under Christ.  Christ heads the church and directs the church via the Holy Spirit.

Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of the Lord and God which he purchased with his own blood.  (Act 20:28 WEB)

We read in the above verse that the Holy Spirit makes people overseers. Christ is the head but the energization, the enablement is done via the Holy Spirit.  That concept is explained more in John chapter 16, starting in verse 13:

However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself; but whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming.  (Joh 16:13 WEB)

The above verse explains that it is the Holy Spirit that does the guiding, but the Spirit is only acting on what he is told.  The next verse tells the source who is telling the spirit:

He will glorify me, for he will take from what is mine, and will declare it to you. (Joh 16:14 WEB)

This is Jesus speaking, and he said that the spirit gets his information from him.  Next, Jesus said where he, Jesus, gets his information:

All things whatever the Father has are mine; therefore I said that he takes of mine, and will declare it to you.  (Joh 16:15 WEB)

Here Jesus said that he gets his information from the Father. Putting these verses together Jesus is declaring that He will be in charge, but he is just reflecting the Father’s will, and the Holy Spirit is carrying out that same will of the Father via Christ when he guides the church.

In T 1.7 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 7, The Apostles Taught the Body of Christ Energized in the Spirit we read how Christ’s church works as a body where every member has been set by God. The members include apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, miracle workers, healers, helps, government, speakers in tongues, interpreters of tongues, and more.  All members manifest the spirit in the work that they do.  The holy spirit is the glue and the driving force of all the members of the body.

Government is listed as one of those members. Government is the Greek word kubernesis, G2941 in Strong’s, and means pilotage, directorship. The church needs Holy Spirit guided government.

When the term church is used it refers both to the local congregation and to the total body of believers. I Corinthians 1:2 refers to a local church.

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

Colossians 1:18 refers to the whole body as the church.

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Col 1:18 ESV)

Acts 20:28 above refers to the whole body of believers.  The Holy Spirit is to make all the overseers in the whole body, the whole church.  That doesn’t mean that overseers can’t be mistakenly appointed without the Spirit’s guidance, just that the Father set it up that the Spirit appoints the ones that are to be made overseer.

While we are on the topic of churches it is important to note that the church is a group or assembly of believers, not a building.

However, the Most High doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says, ‘heaven is my throne, and the earth a footstool for my feet. What kind of house will you build me?’ says the Lord. ‘Or what is the place of my rest? Didn’t my hand make all these things?’ (Act 7:48-50 WEB)

As far as the buildings go this new church was very practical as to where these new churches would meet. For the most part they met in houses:

Likewise, greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.  (Rom 16:5 KJV)

It says greet the church that is in their house. First-century churches often met in houses for the most part.

The word church above is the Greek word ekklesia, G1577 in Strong’s, and means assembly. The church is that group or assembly of people, not the building. Interestingly, while the word for synagogue is a different word in Greek, it also means assembly. Ekklesia is translated assembly in the WEB version and others while it is translated church is still others.

The assemblies of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you much in the Lord, together with the assembly that is in their house. (1Co 16:19 WEB)

to the beloved Apphia, to Archippus, our fellow soldier, and to the assembly in your house: (Phm 1:2 WEB)

Paul rented a house in Rome to teach from.

Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who were coming to him, (Act 28:30 WEB)

There is Paul’s Christian teaching center in a rented house. The fact that there is not more guidance about facilities is indicative a lot of flexibility in the choice of this matter. And, notice that there are no building drives in scripture, nor are there mentions of expensive temples in the New Testament. Not that it would be wrong to buy a building, or even have a large beautiful facility, but that was not the emphasis. The place where they met for fellowship was of lessor concern. The greatest concern was the spread of the word of God.

There are records of churches being started and leaders put in place in the New Testament but there are no intricate guidelines in the bible for church governance. Jesus Christ is the head, who guides through the Spirit. And sometimes we will see that the guidance included elections by the members of the church which means there was human input, but only with the validation of the Spirit.   This all indicates that there is some freedom and flexibility built into the plan on how to spread the word of God, and build and govern churches.

The initial headquarters of the church was at Jerusalem which coordinated efforts in spreading the word, including resolving issues.

Who was the overseer in Jerusalem?  Many people assume that Peter was the first overseer because of his acts of leadership. Peter stands up in Acts 2 and becomes the spokesman. Yet we see when we look at Acts that it was James who is actually the head of the church at least when Paul went there. Notice that when Paul went in to present himself to the church it was to “James” and the elders.

And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.
And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.
And when he had saluted them, he rehearsed one by one the things which God had wrought among the Gentiles through his ministry. [Act 21:17-19 ASV]

This is really a case of Paul presenting himself to leadership, in this case it appears it was James who was in charge of the Apostles.  And, incidentally. James is listed with the apostles,

But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. [Gal 1:19 ASV]

There are numerous records that show that the leadership at Jerusalem directed the efforts on different fronts. For example, the Jerusalem leadership had heard that there were believers in Samaria that had received the word of God but did not manifest the spirit of God (the Holy Spirit had not fallen on them). Jerusalem sent Peter and John.

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.  (Act 8:14-16 WEB)

Here is another record of Jerusalem’s oversight. There was a quarrel over the gentiles who had received the spirit and what needed to be done.

Now the apostles and the brothers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. When Peter had come up to Jerusalem, those who were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men, and ate with them!” (Act 11:1-3 WEB)

This is the fantastic record where the Jerusalem leadership learns that Peter was directed by the spirit to minister to Gentiles and that they had received the Holy Spirit just like they had.

And another example of oversight was recognizing who to minister to Jews and who to the Gentiles.

(for he who worked through Peter in the apostleship with the circumcised also worked through me with the Gentiles); and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcision. (Gal 2:8-9 WEB)

Headquarters received some of the moneys collected. Here we see that local churches sent offerings for different purposes to Jerusalem. First, we see a general collection.

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I commanded the assemblies of Galatia, you do likewise. On the first day of every week, let each one of you save, as he may prosper, that no collections are made when I come. When I arrive, I will send whoever you approve with letters to carry your gracious gift to Jerusalem. (1Co 16:1-3 WEB)

Next, we see a collection for the poor at Jerusalem.

For it has been the good pleasure of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are at Jerusalem. (Rom 15:26 WEB)

As far as collections for the saints went, Jerusalem was not the only recipient. Not all moneys went to the headquarters.  Here different local churches are supporting Paul’s missionary journeys directly.

However you did well that you shared in my affliction. You yourselves also know, you Philippians, that in the beginning of the Good News, when I departed from Macedonia, no assembly shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you only. (Php 4:14-15 WEB)

Missionaries were sent by Church Leadership with guidance from the Spirit and not just from the main headquarters.  There were more than one centers of Christianity.  Antioch was a center of Christianity while Jerusalem was the main headquarters initially.  The leaders at Antioch prayed and fasted and were told by the Spirit to send Barnabas and Saul on a missionary journey.

Now in the assembly that was at Antioch there were some prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen the foster brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they served the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate Barnabas and Saul for me, for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.  (Act 13:1-3 WEB)

Significantly, Barnabas and Saul returned to Antioch and reported back to them what had transpired.

From there they sailed to Antioch, from where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled. When they had arrived, and had gathered the assembly together, they reported all the things that God had done with them, and that he had opened a door of faith to the nations. (Act 14:26-27 WEB)

Paul and other Apostles appointed leaders in places where they started churches.  Here is a record of Paul and Barnabas appointing elders.

When they had appointed elders for them in every assembly, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed. (Act 14:23 WEB)

There is no record that headquarters in Jerusalem had any say in this matter.  Paul’s ministry, the administration of the church to the Gentiles, included appointing the elders in those churches. This indicates the office of apostle includes governance.

Here Paul appoints Titus to oversee Crete including appointing elders in the cities.

I left you in Crete for this reason, that you would set in order the things that were lacking, and appoint elders in every city, as I directed you; (Tit 1:5 WEB)

As far as Paul’s ministry with concerned, he had a number of people, a team if you will, whom he sent to minister and he wrote recommendations for them so that they would be well received.

All my affairs will be made known to you by Tychicus, the beloved brother, faithful servant, and fellow bondservant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, together with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you everything that is going on here. Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, greets you, and Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you received commandments, “if he comes to you, receive him”), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for God’s Kingdom who are of the circumcision, men who have been a comfort to me. (Col 4:7-11 WEB)

But we beg you, brothers, to know those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you, and to respect and honor them in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. (1Th 5:12-13 WEB)

Demetrius has the testimony of all, and of the truth itself; yes, we also testify, and you know that our testimony is true. (3Jn 1:12 WEB)

Paul also “unrecommended” people.

I wrote to the assembly, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, doesn’t accept what we say. Therefore if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words. Not content with this, neither does he himself receive the brothers, and those who would, he forbids and throws out of the assembly. (3Jn 1:9-10 WEB)

On the other hand, Acts 15 shows that Paul subjected himself to the leadership in Jerusalem.  And we have this:

As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered the decrees to them to keep which had been ordained by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem. So the assemblies were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily. (Act 16:4-5 WEB)

Each local church was connected to headquarters from which decrees were disseminated from and sometimes these missionaries disseminated the decrees personally.

Now, there was some hierarchy in these appointments by Paul:

I left you in Crete for this reason, that you would set in order the things that were lacking, and appoint elders in every city, as I directed you; (Tit 1:5 WEB)

Now, we see Titus, under Paul’s authority appointing elders. Paul appointed elders who appointed other elders.  However, there is no record that these elders reported exclusively to Titus who reported to Paul, although that may be what happened most of the time.

Additionally, although Paul was the apostle that founded many churches, when he later dealt with problems in those churches, he didn’t just rule on everything but delegated to the local leadership which was wasn’t necessarily just one overseer.

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

Evidently Euodia and Syntyche had a dispute.  Paul asked some unnamed partner to help resolve it. Next, in Corinth someone did something sinful and was rebuked and the person repented but the matter was not quite resolved.

But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow, not to me, but in part (that I not press too heavily) to you all. This punishment which was inflicted by the many is sufficient for such a one; so that on the contrary you should rather forgive him and comfort him, lest by any means such a one should be swallowed up with his excessive sorrow. Therefore I beg you to confirm your love toward him. For to this end I also wrote, that I might know the proof of you, whether you are obedient in all things. 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 2:5-11 WEB)

Then there is the matter of incest that evidently wasn’t taken care of.  Paul wrote:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles, that one has his father’s wife. You are arrogant, and didn’t mourn instead, that he who had done this deed might be removed from among you. For I most certainly, as being absent in body but present in spirit, have already, as though I were present, judged him who has done this thing. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, you being gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, are to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1Co 5:1-5 WEB)

So, Paul ordained elders and he even charged some elders to ordain more elders.  The local elders handled some things but Paul intervened at times. And it is an apostle that is setting up these government positions.

There is no New Testament example of a stronger hierarchy than this. But there is an Old Testament example of spirit led hierarchy of authority under Moses.  Remember that while we are no longer under the law the Old Testament it is given for our learning and there is some useful wisdom in Old Testament examples:

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

If you read management advice you will find that one person can only successfully lead a small number of people in a team.  The optimal size is 8-10 people under you.[1]  That is not a biblical law expressly but there is the example of Jethro’s advice to Moses that suggests that.

Moses appointed a hierarchy:

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God. Aaron came with all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God. On the next day, Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from the morning to the evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did to the people, he said, “What is this thing that you do for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning to evening?” Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a matter, they come to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor, and I make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. You will surely wear away, both you, and this people that is with you; for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to perform it yourself alone. Listen now to my voice. I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You represent the people before God, and bring the causes to God. You shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and shall show them the way in which they must walk, and the work that they must do. Moreover you shall provide out of all the people able men which fear God: men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. Let them judge the people at all times. It shall be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they shall judge themselves. So shall it be easier for you, and they shall share the load with you. If you will do this thing, and God commands you so, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.” So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law, and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. They judged the people at all times. They brought the hard causes to Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves. Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went his way into his own land. (Exo 18:12-27 WEB)

“Rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens” indicates a hierarchy where the basic unit is about 10.  And the advice is simple, everyone is trained in the statutes and laws and how everyone should walk and what work needs to be done.  Each ruler has oversight over his group and advises that group, handling most matters at the local level. Issues in the group are handled in the group unless it is a great matter which would go up the hierarchy all the way to Moses if necessary.  So, there is a biblical example for a hierarchy.

And there is more.  You see the great Moses, and he truly was great, got so burned out that he literally said to Yahweh, “Kill me now.”  Yes, it’s true.

Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, every man at the door of his tent; and Yahweh’s anger burned greatly; and Moses was displeased. Moses said to Yahweh, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why haven’t I found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Have I conceived all this people? Have I brought them out, that you should tell me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which you swore to their fathers?’ Where could I get meat to give all these people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. If you treat me this way, please kill me right now, if I have found favor in your sight; and don’t let me see my wretchedness.”  (Num 11:10-15 WEB)

Moses was pretty upset here.  But the Lord was gracious and provided help. Moses received revelation, word of wisdom, to farm out his responsibilities even further:

Yahweh said to Moses, “Gather to me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit which is on you, and will put it on them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you don’t bear it yourself alone.  (Num 11:16-17 WEB)

So, there we have the example of division of labor in leadership.  Moses was led by the Spirit to start a council of leadership that shared his leadership responsibilities.  These new counselors were empowered with the holy spirit to make godly decisions.

Back in the New Testament, there are guidelines given for the selection of these elders that were appointed,

I left you in Crete for this reason, that you would set in order the things that were lacking, and appoint elders in every city, as I directed you; if anyone is blameless, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, who are not accused of loose or unruly behavior. For the overseer must be blameless, as God’s steward; not self-pleasing, not easily angered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for dishonest gain; but given to hospitality, a lover of good, sober minded, fair, holy, self-controlled; holding to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, that he may be able to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict those who contradict him. (Tit 1:5-9 WEB)

This is quite the list of requirements and will be discussed further in a future article. Notice it says the overseer needs to be faithful to the “word which is according to the teaching”. Part of the tradition of the apostles is that the elders, the overseers, teach what the Apostles taught. And not only the elder himself needs to be upright but also his family needs to be godly.  Timothy was told this:

This is a faithful saying: someone who seeks to be an overseer desires a good work. The overseer therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, modest, hospitable, good at teaching; not a drinker, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having children in subjection with all reverence; (but how could someone who doesn’t know how to rule one’s own house take care of God’s assembly?) not a new convert, lest being puffed up he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover, he must have good testimony from those who are outside, to avoid falling into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1Ti 3:1-7 WEB)

This is a similar list to what is in Titus. One thing new in this list is that he can’t be a new convert, a bishop, an overseer, has got to be experienced.

As far as the deacons are concerned, in Acts 6:1-6 the apostles directed the people to select seven men to act as administrators in the business end of the ministry. These men were the first deacons.

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, a complaint arose from the Hellenists against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily service. The twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not appropriate for us to forsake the word of God and serve tables. Therefore select from among you, brothers, seven men of good report, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will continue steadfastly in prayer and in the ministry of the word.” These words pleased the whole multitude. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch; whom they set before the apostles. When they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. (Act 6:1-6 WEB)

The word deacon in the bible is the Greek word diakoneo, G1247 in Strong’s, and means to be an attendant, or to wait upon.  These men were to oversee the daily distribution which was either food, or money provided to the widows in the church.  This service identifies them as deacons. The apostles, and other gift ministries ministered the word and prayed steadfastly.  But the other work, in this case, the daily ministration required appointment of people of good report, full of holy spirit, and wisdom. These people are deacons.

There are guidelines for selecting deacons also in Timothy.

Servants, in the same way, must be reverent, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for money; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. Let them also first be tested; then let them serve if they are blameless. Their wives in the same way must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let servants be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well gain for themselves a good standing, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.  (1Ti 3:8-13 WEB)

The Church Council

There is one church council in the New Testament from which we can learn a few things.  The council at Jerusalem was called to settle the matter of circumcising the believers. It was held at headquarters in Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas reported to the whole assembly where the Judaizers called for both circumcising the gentiles and keeping the law of Moses. (No wonder Paul writes so heavily about the law in his epistles.) The apostles and elders gathered to reconcile the question.  The Apostle Peter rose up and gave his judgement that they “abstain from the pollution of idols, from sexual immorality, from what is strangled, and from blood”, but not troubled with trying to keep the law.  And they qualified their judgement with:

For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay no greater burden on you than these necessary things: (Act 15:28 WEB)

How did they know that it seemed good to the Holy Spirit?  There is only one way, the manifestations of the spirit.  That means word of knowledge and/or word of wisdom.  And we know that there were prophets there who are charged with the task of confirming whether something or not is of the spirit:

Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged the brothers with many words, and strengthened them. (Act 15:32 WEB)

So, the apostles and elders decided the question under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Notice that there is no mention here of bishops in the decision.  The offices mentioned in this outcome were apostles, elders, and prophets.

Prophets as spokesmen for God, encouragers and comforters and confirmers of the Word are seen here and other places. They also were instrumental at times in governing the church.  Here Agabus foretold the famine and a relief effort was set up.

Now in these days, prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up, and indicated by the Spirit that there should be a great famine all over the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius. As any of the disciples had plenty, each determined to send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea; which they also did, sending it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. (Act 11:27-30 WEB)

We also have the record of multiple prophets telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem.

Having found disciples, we stayed there seven days. These said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. (Act 21:4 WEB)

Coming to us, and taking Paul’s belt, he bound his own feet and hands, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit: ‘So will the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and will deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” (Act 21:11 WEB)

As I state in T 1.31 More on Paul’s Decision To Go To Jerusalem, How Tradition Can Affect Translation And Meaning, Accepting Deliverance When Available I believe Paul was being told not to go to Jerusalem and he couldn’t hear it so he went anyway.

Prophets were at the Jerusalem council and spoke encouraging words about the decisions made there.

So far it appears that the church in original Christianity operated pretty much in a hierarchical way.  I believe that to be true. But we do have records in the time of Jesus’s ministry, and in the time of the apostles that show believers administering independently of the main organization.

First, Jesus himself was asked a question in this topic.

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone who doesn’t follow us casting out demons in your name; and we forbade him, because he doesn’t follow us.” But Jesus said, “Don’t forbid him, for there is no one who will do a mighty work in my name, and be able quickly to speak evil of me. For whoever is not against us is on our side. For whoever will give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you are Christ’s, most certainly I tell you, he will in no way lose his reward. (Mar 9:38-41 WEB)

This is the Lord Jesus himself talking. John asked him about someone else who was, according to the script, casting out devils in Jesus’s name! How amazing is that? Almost as amazing to me is that God says the Apostles forbade him to continue. But Jesus straightened them out. He said not to forbid anyone. He said that whoever is not against us is on our side. If this isn’t an endorsement of the availability for people to start ministries independent of the main group, I don’t know what is.

And we have the record of Apollo in the book of Acts.

Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by race, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus. He was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside, and explained to him the way of God more accurately. When he had determined to pass over into Achaia, the brothers encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him. When he had come, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he powerfully refuted the Jews, publicly showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. (Act 18:24-28 WEB)

So here we have an independent, a man named Apollos. He is mighty in the Scriptures. It says he taught accurately the things concerning Jesus. That’s a good thing, right? Yes, it is.

Look what happens next, Priscilla and Aquila heard him, and they told him to quit, right? No, they “explained to him the way of God more accurately”. Then it says the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to receive him.  From this point it looks like Apollos was incorporated into the church.

So, we have a couple of records that show that there is no authority to stop people from preaching and/or performing the mighty works to God for people.

We have been looking at the records in the New Testament that describe the governing of the church. First, we acknowledged that Jesus is the head who gets his guidance from the father. Then we acknowledged that the Holy Spirit, who gets his info from Jesus Christ, works in us in this awesome body of Christ. There are many members in the body of Christ, and some of those members relate to the governing, the directing, the pilotage of the church.

We saw that there is a headquarters at Jerusalem from which a lot of activity was directed. We also saw that there were other centers like Antioch. Most people today see the bishop and his staff as the leadership of the church. We saw that in original Christianity the leadership of the church was directed via the spirit through apostles, prophets besides overseers (bishops) and deacons.

Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, are necessary for the church to grow up because those are the offices that God has set in the body to enable that.

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)

Remember the teaching about the uniqueness of the members of the body. The eye is the eye and does the seeing. The ear is the ear and it does the hearing. The eye can’t hear and the ear can’t see. For the Holy Spirit to operate it assigns functions to different members. Now, in truth some people have multiple functions like pastors and teachers, Paul was an apostle and a teacher and he prophesied. But one of the points about this lesson is that we need to call things what they are, and set things up the way God does set them up to be.  The role of the bishop is not the role of the apostle, or prophet. The office of Bishop doesn’t automatically include the office of apostle and/or prophet.  God set up the church with apostles, and prophets etc. because all those capacities are needed for the body to work.

The need for “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” did not go away with the passing of the apostles. Thus, the need for apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers didn’t go away either. And they are of vital part of the body of Christ, including the governing of the body of Christ.

Bishops are vital in their roles. They need to be well grounded in the apostles doctrine, apt to teach, given to hospitality and the like. But the bishop’s role is not the apostle’s role, or the prophet’s role. The bishop’s role is the bishop’s role.. The apostle’s role is the apostles role. The prophet’s role is the prophet’s role.

As far as hierarchy is concerned, and division of authority, we see in these records in the New Testament great examples from which to work. There is some hierarchy, but it is not rigid and it is always flexible to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

That is the apostles tradition that was set up in Original Christianity, and it is what we are charged to follow.

[1] https://wideangle.com/many-direct-reports-can-manager-successfully-lead/, https://www.quantumworkplace.com/future-of-work/whats-the-optimal-span-of-control-for-people-managers

June 11th, 2021 Posted by | Tradition | no comments

T 1.7 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 7, The Apostles Taught the Body of Christ Energized in the Spirit

The epistles are packed with references to the body of Christ.

For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. 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. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot would say, “Because I’m not the hand, I’m not part of the body,” it is not therefore not part of the body. If the ear would say, “Because I’m not the eye, I’m not part of the body,” it’s not therefore not part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the smelling be? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body, just as he desired. (1Co 12:12-18 WEB)

We are not actually the physical ears, eyes, feet, hands, elbows, and knees of the physical body of Jesus Christ.  This is an analogy.

Google defines an analogy as “a comparison between two things, typically for the purpose of explanation or clarification.”  Here a physical human body is used as an analogy of how Christ’s church works.   A body has many parts like the eyes, ears, hands, and feet mentioned above. It’s just a partial list, we know there are many more; arms, elbows, knees, lungs, liver, on and on.  We are going to see below a comparison of how the body with a list of these parts is like our great church with its parts and we will see a lot of these church parts or roles mentioned.  We will see verses with these parts of Christ’s church; apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, miracle workers, healers, leaders (governments), helps, speakers in tongues, and interpreters of tongues.  This also is a partial list as there are more church roles talked about in Scripture, but we will see verses with these offices below in the article.  These church roles are comparable to how the different parts of a human body consist of different parts with each one having unique functions and all of them being important to the essential operation of a human body.  All of the roles listed for the church are just as unique and important for the essential operation of the church.

In this analogy, the inference of, say, “Because I’m not the eye, I’m not part of the body” is that the help can’t say, “Because I’m not the apostle, I’m not part of the body.”  And, just like God set the hand to be the hand, he set each office, the help, the prophet, the apostle, the speaker in tongues, etc., where it is.  If God sets something up, who are we to change it, or to say it is changed because we don’t see it or agree with it or whatever reason.

And one point from the above verse I want to focus on now is that we are baptized into this body in one Spirit, and we as a body are energized by that same spirit.  Paul emphasizes the Spirit as both the driving force and the glue! We are baptized in one Spirit and we all drink of that same Spirit.  Above these verses, we read some about how the Spirit works.

No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” but by the Holy Spirit. Now there are various kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are various kinds of service, and the same Lord. There are various kinds of workings, but the same God, who works all things in all. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the profit of all. (1Co 12:3b-7 WEB)

Simply put, these verses just say that there are different kinds of gifts, different kinds of service, different kinds of workings, and there are those awesome manifestations. These are all different things. In other parts of Scripture Paul elaborates more on what those spiritual things are. For example, Paul writes specifically about gifts:

But to each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Therefore he says, “When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to people.” (Eph 4:7-8 WEB)

THE gift of Christ is the gift we all receive when we accept him as Lord when we are baptized in the same Spirit; holy spirit, eternal life, new birth, Christ in us.  But beyond that there are other things that are taught in Scripture as gifts:

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)

Here’s more scripture about these gifts given to the body as well as some other roles and functions discussed:

Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. God has set some in the assembly: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracle workers, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, and various kinds of languages. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all miracle workers? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with various languages? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. (1Co 12:27-31a WEB)

The apostle Paul used the analogy of a body to describe how this wonderful church of ours works with its apostles, prophets, helps, miracle workers, and the like. This section talks about how each believer is a member with specific roles and functions. The last point that Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 12:12-18 above is that God has set the members! God sets us where we are! We need to accept how he has set it. We’re not to mess with how God has set up the roles and functions of each member.  In this simple analogy, it’s easy to see how a foot needs to be a foot and an ear needs to be an ear. So, by the same token whatever role and functions that God has set up it’s not up to us to change it because of what we think.  The role of help is to be a help and not a miracle worker, apostle, or evangelist.  The role of government is to provide oversight and administration, but that government role is not the role of a prophet, or healer.  The prophet’s job is done by the prophet and miracle worker is done by the miracle worker.

And we should not feel left out if we are not an apostle, or prophet, or healer, but our role is a vital part of the body of Christ.

Paul writes about workings, operations, services, gifts, and manifestations of the spirit in the body. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers are listed as gifts. You can see that because it says, “He gave” in Ephesians 4:11. When something is given it is a gift. However, these gifts are not to that person, they are to the body of Christ. Some people call these gift ministries, they are gifts to the body to minister to them. You can see that because of the purposes listed for the gifts, the perfecting of the saints, the work of serving, and the building up of the body of Christ. These gift ministries are given to keep we believers from being tossed about by every wind of doctrine.  They are gifts to the body.

It must be noted that while the gift ministry is given to the body, it is work for the believer who is given the ministry.  It is a blessing to the body, and the minister himself is blessed with the rest of the body as he/she ministers, but it is a gift to the church.

Notice that in the particular verses above it specifically says apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers when it comes to who God has set up help the individual believers grow up to adulthood. It doesn’t say it is the healers, miracle workers, bishops, or governments and the other gifts talked about in other places in the epistles. Those are important functions in the church too but they accomplish other things. Those five gift ministries do the main work of the perfecting of the saints, and other things as mentioned in the verses above.  It’s not that people without those gift ministries don’t teach some, prophesy here and there, maybe take care of people, and so forth, they do, but in order for saints to be perfected, built up, and led to be full-grown believers God sets some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers who are the real driving forces in their roles.

These scriptures are talking about the uniqueness of roles.  Just like hands, feet, ears, eyes do different things in our bodies different members of the church do different things, they are unique in their function.  The foot can’t say it is the eye!  Just like the eye, ear, hands, and feet are unique with their own distinct function and role so the apostle, prophet, teacher, leader, administrator, aide have their unique function and role.  And they are not interchangeable.  The role of the prophet is different than the role of the director which is different than the miracle worker.  You can’t substitute one for the other.

But and this is a big but.  There are people with multiple gifts. In fact, it is not uncommon in scripture or in life.    David was anointed king and he was a prophet.  Some are pastors and teachers. Paul was an apostle, a teacher, and he prophesied. So, while the shepherd role is different than the teacher, one person could be gifted with both roles if God chooses, and more than that, we can desire that;

Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. God has set some in the assembly: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracle workers, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, and various kinds of languages. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all miracle workers? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with various languages? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. (1Co 12:27-31a WEB)

The above verse ends with “earnestly desire the best gifts.” We are charged to desire the gifts.  Each of us is a part of the body and we have been set into a certain place by God.  In the above verses Paul talks about a number of ministries; apostles, prophets, and teachers, miracle workers, gifts of healing (healers), helps (assistants, aides, ushers, staff), governments (leaders, administrators, overseers).  Again, Paul is not listing all of the ministries available here, just some of them. And he ends with the point that we should earnestly desire the best gifts!  That means we have some input into this. God does the setting in place of these roles, but we can desire for certain gifts, not necessarily just for us, but for us to have contact with where we are in our group of believers.

So, apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, pastors, miracle workers, healers, helps, administrators, overseers, are the eyes, ears, mouth, legs, liver, lungs, hands, and other parts of the body. We see that in the above verses because of the first sentence where it says you are the body of Christ and members individually and then it talks about these different functions.

Let’s talk a little bit about what these functions are.

Apostles are sent by the Spirit to do something, to administer something as God’s representative. Apostle is apostolos in the Greek, G652 in Strongs, and means delegate, a sent one, a commissioned one.  Did you know that the word missionary comes from the Latin word missionem (to send) which corresponds to how apostle comes from the Greek word apostello ( to send)?   Missionary and apostle are synonymous words. The original apostles were sent by the Lord to start the church age in Jerusalem and outward from there. Paul’s apostleship was the administration of the mystery, that the gentiles were joint heirs of the same promises as Israel.  Paul was sent to the Gentiles.

if it is so that you have heard of the administration of that grace of God which was given me toward you; how that by revelation the mystery was made known to me, as I wrote before in few words, by which, when you read, you can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ; (Eph 3:2-4 WEB)

Prophets speak for God; they are God’s spokespeople. They not only speak God’s word they confirm God’s word. And they judge whether what people say is of the Lord or not.

And let the prophets give their words, but not more than two or three, and let the others be judges of what they say. (1Co 14:29 BBE)

Now, really all believers are supposed to do that some but prophets are really empowered to do it big time.

If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you, that they are the commandment of the Lord.  (1Co 14:37 WEB)

Prophets also build up believers with words of exhortation and comfort.

Evangelists are empowered by the spirit to reach unbelievers with the message of God’s word. They are preachers, usually traveling.  All believers are lights, and hopefully, that light reaches unsaved people within their sphere, but evangelists have a Spirit-empowered calling where you see people being reached and saved on a regular basis. In the Bible Phillip is the only named evangelist. And it says he “he preached the Good News to all the cities.” (Acts 8:40b WEB)

Pastors, also called shepherds, shepherd the flock. They care for people spiritually; they look over them. Teachers are empowered by the spirit to teach the rightly divided word of God and explain things by the spirit so that it makes sense to people and reaches them.

Miracle workers, healers, helps are pretty self-explanatory.  Governments include people who administer: overseers (bishops), deacons, and elders.

Now maybe in your experience, you haven’t seen a lot of these roles. That sounds all great and good for these believers in Corinth, but does this really apply to believers in New York, or Kansas, or Botswana?  I mean this was a letter to those believers in Corinth that were missing the boat on so many issues at the time of Paul, right? Well, let’s just take a quick look at the beginning of the letter:

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)

Yes, this is a letter to Corinth. But Paul doesn’t just say that he is addressing the Corinthians with this letter. He writes “with all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place.”  In fact, as Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians he charges us believers to follow the Apostles traditions as contained in the words and letters of the apostles:

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)

So, yes, this teaching of the body of Christ and how it is to work applies to all believers in every place. And, there is no one-generation time limit stated anywhere in these letters. In fact, we know that Paul was writing to believers on what would happen after his death when he gave warnings like in Acts 20.

Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of the Lord and God which he purchased with his own blood. For I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore watch, remembering that for a period of three years I didn’t cease to admonish everyone night and day with tears. Now, brothers, I entrust you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build up, and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Act 20:28-32 WEB)

Paul is warning that after he departs there will be wolves from outside the church but also teachers from the flock (“from among your own selves”) that will teach perverse (twisted) things.  That means that his teaching isn’t just for his time, but carries on after his departure.  The end date for the administration of the church that was given to Paul is the return of Christ, not Paul’s and the other apostles’ deaths.

So, this teaching about how the church works as a body with all the different roles and functions applies to all believers in the church age including now.

So, this is what the epistles teach about how the body of Christ is to operate.  It is different from a lot of peoples’ experience in their Church.  But, our experience is often not as much revelation about God as much as it is an indicator of what is happening in the world.  A lot of people can’t visualize churches with apostles and/or prophets, miracle workers, healers, and the like.  Some can’t recognize the spirit in the church, not only in the ministers but in the people around them.  But, as Peter proclaimed on Pentecost God has wanted to pour out his spirit for a long time as prophesied in Joel.

But this is what has been spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘It will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions. Your old men will dream dreams. (Act 2:16-17 WEB)

God wants people to be filled with the spirit and to manifest the holy spirit. God has wanted that since the beginning. Getting people to be filled with his spirit into manifestation a desire of God and God’s leaders. Look at this section:

But two men remained in the camp. The name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the Spirit rested on them; and they were of those who were written, but had not gone out to the Tent; and they prophesied in the camp. A young man ran, and told Moses, and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!” Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his chosen men, answered, “My lord Moses, forbid them!” Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all Yahweh’s people were prophets, that Yahweh would put his Spirit on them!” (Num 11:26-29 WEB)

Look at that, the great Joshua was shocked when a couple of Israelites prophesied in the camp. He actually said to Moses, “forbid them”.

How much of the time in the Old Testament do you think prophets were well known to be around? The answer is only a minority of the time, and part of the reason can be inferred from the verses above. People may be shocked when they hear someone prophesy. People may be uncomfortable that someone prophesies. Not only that but there were different times in the Old Testament when people were taught that prophecy had ceased like after Malachi and after the age of the apostles some people started teaching that prophecy and other workings of the spirit had ceased.

But God has always been in business. God has always wanted to manifest himself to people. God has always desired to pour out his spirit. But also God will only manifest himself to people who look for him.  God doesn’t respond to unbelief.  God responds to belief.

It is available for people to manifest spirit now as years ago at the time of the apostles. In response to 1 Corinthians chapter twelve, no, not all are apostles, not all are prophets, not all are teachers, not all are miracle workers. But all believers can manifest spirit:

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the profit of all. (1Co 12:7 WEB)

That verse says “each one is given”. That means all believers are given the manifestation of the spirit. Not only that it says these manifestations are given to profit all, the whole church. The next verses talk about what the manifestations are:

For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; to another faith, by the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, by the same Spirit; 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. But the one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing to each one separately as he desires. (1Co 12:8-11 WEB)

There really is so much in here. First of all, it lists nine manifestations; word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith or believing, gifts of healings, workings of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, different kinds of languages (speaking in tongues), interpretation of tongues.

To manifest means to display. Spirit is not something that you can see of itself in the natural world. The way that spirit is seen is in displays, manifestations. The word of wisdom is being informed what to do about something. Word of knowledge is being informed by the spirit of some knowledge that isn’t available by natural means. Believing faith is the spiritual power to accomplish things spiritually. Gifts of healings are the spiritual ability to cause healing through means that aren’t natural, they’re supernatural. Miracles are when things happen supernaturally like walking on water, or drying up a fig tree. Discerning of spirits is the supernatural ability to ascertain the presence of spirit, either holy or unholy. Speaking in tongues is the ability to speak languages of men and of angels without training as a means of perfect communication with the father. And the interpretation of tongues is the supernatural ability to interpret what has been spoken in an unknown tongue.

If God is displayed to men in any way, it is by way of one or more of these manifestations by themselves or in combination. The manifestations themselves are a subject that needs a thorough investigation to understand.

If you are a believer, you may have already experienced some of these manifestations without being able to identify their names. I know people who have known God has told them something, and he did, and that was either a manifestation of word of knowledge and/or word of wisdom. Or in a circumstance perhaps, people have looked to God and have been miraculously delivered from something or given something. Their faith manifested the working of a miracle, they just didn’t know to explain it that way in scriptural terms.

So, wrapping this up, the Apostles taught that the church is one body. All believers are members together in this one body having been baptized in the spirit in their new birth and continued drinking in the spirit in the spiritual life. God has set people in this body. The analogy explains believers and their roles as eyes and ears and feet and so forth. But it also explains that God gives gifts, specific functions, and roles to believers as he sees fit. He has designed the body this way and that is how it works best. He designed the body to be built up by apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. He empowers people as healers, miracle workers, leaders, aides, and a host of other functions. He empowers people with abilities of mercy, generosity, and other aids to the body. Each role or office is important and useful within the body. On top of all that, each believer is empowered with the manifestation of the spirit and while different believers may be more capable in different manifestations than others, all are profitable. We are warned to not think that if we don’t like our function that we are not of the body. But we are also encouraged to seek the best gifts to help the body.

The church operating as a body with all these gifts, services, workings, and manifestations are how original Christianity worked and is part of the apostles’ tradition that we are charged to follow.

God has always wanted to pour out his spirit upon all flesh. With Jesus’ death, he paid the price so that men can once again have spirit, and God has designed the church to be a body united spiritually that so that all the members minister to each other.  If you want to experience this and haven’t yet, these words in the Scriptures say that you can. If your church doesn’t look like this one-body model then look for one that is more like the biblical model.

The Word says that God is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him.  Seek and you shall find.

May 31st, 2021 Posted by | Tradition | no comments

T 18.1 The Prohibition Tradition in Some Modern Churches

Today’s topic is an emotionally charged one.  Many of us know or have known people who have been affected by the destructive power of the overuse of alcohol. God forbid that you know someone who has killed someone while driving drunk, or lost their house, job, and/or marriage because of the inability to overcome the lure of drinking to the point that some people do. Or just the poor decisions or poor health that can happen due to forming a dependence on alcohol.

Or perhaps you have been ingrained with the doctrine that any use of alcohol is sin, to the point where you have not only committed yourself to not using it, but also to be one preaching against all alcohol use.

I’m going to ask you to just consider these words. We are interested in learning and adhering to the word and will of God. What is God’s viewpoint, and direction on this important matter?

Remember we are comparing modern traditions with the apostles’ traditions in original Christianity which we are charged to do in Scripture (2Th 2:15). The Apostles’ traditions are both the beliefs and practices handed down by the apostles.  And, in fact, 2Thessalonians 3:6 says to avoid the fellowship of those who don’t follow the apostles’ traditions. Jesus taught that the traditions of men, including religious ones, make void the word of God. (Matt 15:3-6)

We are going to look at the ban on alcohol which is part of some churches’ traditions today and see whether it is apostles’ tradition or man’s tradition.

The doctrine of prohibition, the banning of alcohol, in the churches is relatively new. In fact, in the United States, the Temperance movement was established in the early nineteenth century when it picked up enough support from evangelical preachers who started preaching that any alcohol drinking was sinful[1]. This is despite the fact that there is a long history in the Scriptures that show the acceptance of alcoholic beverages from ancient days through the book of Acts.

The Law definitely supports the use of alcoholic spirits.

You shall trade the money for whatever your soul desires, for cattle, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatever your soul asks of you; and you shall eat there before Yahweh your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. (Deu 14:26 WEB)

This verse endorses that it is acceptable to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages, in this case as part of the tithe.

The word for wine above is yayin in Hebrew, H3196 in Strongs, and has the root of effervesce as in fermented.  Strong drink is shekar in Hebrew, H7941 and means intoxicant.  There is another Hebrew word for wine, tiyrosh, which means new wine, which was not the mature wine that yayin is. In this article we will be talking about yayin and shekar .

Strong drink always refers to alcoholic beverages, and yayin wine is an intoxicating beverage.  With this verse in the law establishing fermented wine as acceptable as tithe along with what the words for wine and strong drink mean we see that there is no question that alcoholic beverages are what is being discussed here.  Next, look at this in the New Testament.

And be not drunk with wine, in which is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;  (Eph 5:18 Webster)

This is an instruction by the Apostle Paul which certainly qualifies as part of the apostles’ tradition.  It sets a standard for drinking alcohol.   The word drunk is methusko, G3182, and means intoxicated or impaired, and this is reinforced with the word excess, asotia, G810, which means profligacy, excess, or riot.  Drinking a glass of wine is moderate, drinking a whole bottle of wine is excessive or riotous.  This verse is not a ban on all drinking, rather it is a warning to not drink excessively to the point of not being clear headed enough to follow the spirit.  The phrase “in which is excess” clearly draws a line between acceptable moderate drinking and unacceptable drunkenness, and makes this the central issue in the verse.

Paul advised Timothy to drink wine moderately.

Be no longer a drinker of water only, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities. (1Ti 5:23 WEB)

This verse not only lists wine as an acceptable thing to drink, but as a recommended practice in certain circumstances.  The next set of verses is about Jesus’s first miracle as described in the Gospel of John.

The third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there. Jesus also was invited, with his disciples, to the marriage. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with you and me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever he says to you, do it.” Now there were six water pots of stone set there after the Jews’ way of purifying, containing two or three metretes apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the water pots with water.” They filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the ruler of the feast.” So they took it. When the ruler of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and didn’t know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the ruler of the feast called the bridegroom, and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when the guests have drunk freely, then that which is worse. You have kept the good wine until now!” This beginning of his signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (Joh 2:1-11 WEB)

Wine was part of celebrations worldwide thousands of years before Christ.  We mentioned Deuteronomy 14:26 above, but the truth is that wine as part of celebrations is a theme in the Old testament. Wine is part of the celebration of the conquering of death. Wine is part of the communion memorial.  Notice the next verse says choice wines. That is not grape juice, ladies and gentlemen. That is choice, fermented, wine.

This next verse is a proclamation of a feast by Yahweh, and it includes choice wines.  Surely you are not saying Yahweh is sinning here by serving yayin, intoxicating wine?

In this mountain, Yahweh of Armies will make all peoples a feast of choice meat, a feast of choice wines, of choice meat full of marrow, of well refined choice wines. (Isa 25:6 WEB)

After the book of Acts, there is a long history of acceptance of alcoholic beverages including Christians, ministers, and churches all not only consuming alcoholic beverages but making them.

In the second century, Clement of Alexandria affirmed the use of alcohol in the church then with these words in his book Paedagogus:

“And he bound, it is said, the colt to the vine, having bound this simple and childlike people to the word, whom He figuratively represents as a vine. For the vine produces wine, as the Word produces blood, and both drink for health to men — wine for the body, blood for the spirit.[2]

Brett McCracken documents the use of alcohol by Christians throughout the ages including at ministry functions like ordinations[3].

In fact, at a relatively recent Southern Baptist Convention, the topic of allowing alcohol was brought up again with some people on the side of no longer banning alcohol consumption. And things that were brought up included the fact that it was a Baptist minister named Elijah Craig that invented bourbon whiskey[4].

Drinking of alcoholic beverages was not forbidden for 18 centuries after Christ.  Look at this quote acknowledging that from an anti-alcohol book:

“ In the 17th century all Old England and New England drank. The Puritans were no exception. Puritans’ soldiers drank heavily. Farmers, doctors, laborers, lawyers, magistrates, ministers, mothers, selectmen, governors, judges, babies, the sad, the gay, the well, the sick – all drank.”

This quote is from a 1943 book put out by the Southern Baptist convention against drinking.[5]

What the above timeline establishes is that the doctrine of drinking alcohol is sinful is a modern doctrine and not one that traces back to the apostles.  In the 19th century, a movement started to counter the damaging effects of the excessive consumption of alcohol. That movement was called the temperance movement. And eventually, laws were enacted to ban alcohol from society. Those laws were called prohibition.  This movement really got traction when it was adopted by some churches.

It’s not that the bible doesn’t warn against the dangers of overconsumption.

The Lord has sent among them a spirit of error: and by them Egypt is turned out of the right way in all her doings, as a man overcome by wine is uncertain in his steps. And in Egypt there will be no work for any man, head or tail, high or low, to do.  (Isa 19:14-15 BBE)

This verse above clearly describes the state of being overcome with wine as being uncertain in your steps.  Or how about this one?

They made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father. He didn’t know when she lay down, nor when she arose.  (Gen 19:33 WEB)

Lot’s daughters got their father so drunk he didn’t know he was having intercourse with them?  Now, who says wine in the bible isn’t that alcoholic?  This next verse equates drunkenness with ruination.

Do not get drunk with wine, which will only ruin you; instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Eph 5:18 GNB)

There are many more verses that pronounce the dangers of drunkenness.  Here’s one:

Those who stay long at the wine; those who go to seek out mixed wine. Don’t look at the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly. In the end, it bites like a snake, and poisons like a viper. (Pro 23:30-32 WEB)

“Those who stay long at the wine” refers to overindulging and the effect is likened to being bit and poisoned.  Next, here’s one that includes what effect drunkenness has on the ministers and prophets.

They also reel with wine, and stagger with strong drink. The priest and the prophet reel with strong drink. They are swallowed up by wine. They stagger with strong drink. They err in vision. They stumble in judgment.  (Isa 28:7 WEB)

Drunkenness blocks the spiritual connection with Yahweh.  Drunk prophets err in vision. Drunk ministers stumble in judgment.

But it is twisting scripture to turn a scriptural ban on drunkenness into a ban on drinking in moderate amounts.  For example, the Alcohol THE DESTROYER book cites this verse as a denunciation by Habakkuk on all drinking[6]:

“Woe to him who gives his neighbor drink, pouring your inflaming wine until they are drunk, so that you may gaze at their naked bodies! You are filled with shame, and not glory. You will also drink, and be exposed! The cup of Yahweh’s right hand will come around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. (Hab 2:15-16 WEB)

Context, context, context!  Yes, there are people that get other people to drink to the point where they will agree to have sex with them, and that is clearly a maneuver of the adversary. It is wrong and no one disputes that. Alcohol overindulgence is a major problem and we can never forget that.

But every Presbyterian or Methodist sipping a glass of wine at home or at a restaurant is not pouring wine down their neighbor’s throat to see them naked!  Habbakuk 2:15-16 are verses against overindulgence, not against moderate use of alcohol.  But it is twisted in the prohibition literature to make it look like it is saying something it is not.  And so are a lot of verses.

Yes, there are many verses on the dangers of overconsumption. Shouldn’t all those warnings be the overriding factor?

In civil law here in the United States, decisions are based upon the preponderance of the evidence weighing more heavily on one side or the other.  Both sides present their cases and the judge or jury decides who will win.  Sometimes I think that some people think that the word of God is like that, especially in cases like this.  If someone can present more verses that point to the dangers of something, in this case, drinking alcohol, than verses that can be found allowing for alcohol consumption then the alcohol banning folk should win their case, according to that logic.   But the word of God is not like that.  If there are verses that allow something under certain circumstances, then even if there are more verses against overconsumption of alcohol, they will never be sufficient to overrule the sanctioned use of alcohol in the word of God

So again, as stated above, the moderate use of alcohol is something sanctioned by the Father.  The moderate use of alcohol is allowed with many warnings against overindulgence given.

Remember the two sources of wisdom; the wisdom from above, and the wisdom of the world, ultimately from the adversary. If God the Father gives us something to enjoy then denying people that enjoyment goes against the purposes of God even if there is a problem with overconsumption. The correct response to the overconsumption of alcohol is to stop over-consuming, not to ban it.

That is not to say that some individuals don’t need to stop themselves from drinking, at least in the short term, and possibly long-term.  So I’m not saying that people in AA shouldn’t be in AA or going to counseling.  Some people need programs to stop the destruction that alcohol can cause when people lose control. But, making laws that ban alcohol, in general, is a man-made doctrine in the tradition of men.  And the people twisting scripture to say that the biblical standard is to ban alcohol make void the Word of God.

Remember this too. It may be okay for you to drink, but if you are with someone who has a problem with alcohol, then you don’t want to be a source of temptation for that person.  As Paul wrote, all things are lawful for us, but not all things are expedient. We don’t want our liberty to be a stumbling block for someone who is weak. (Romans 14:21)

Here are some anti-alcohol teaching statements in the anti-alcohol tradition taught that make void the word of God:

“The Bible gives principles of Christian living, not rules.… If Christ were in our midst today, there can be no doubt in the light of truth that he would utterly condemn the liquor traffic and oppose the drinking of alcoholic beverages on the part of his followers.”[7]

This is nowhere taught or practiced by the Apostles.  Jesus not would not condemn the drinking of alcohol.  He is going to be at the Yahweh for armies party with wine.  He ate and drank while he was here!

“One who opens the door to physical indulgences such as drink closes his ears to the voice of his finer sensibilities.”

The context of this statement is not the overindulgence of drink, it is regarding any drinking of alcohol whatsoever, contrary to what the bible teaches.  While having a lot of wine impairs judgement, having a little wine does not close someone’s ears to their sensibilities, or else Jesus would not have drank (Luke 5:27-32).

“Beverage alcohol is the foe of spiritual living and the destroyer of everything dear to the heart of my Lord.”[8]

This statement is part of a Baptist pledge. This statement goes way beyond preaching against the dangers of overindulgence while allowing for the temperate use of alcohol that the Bible teaches. I’ll agree that alcoholism is a foe, and can work to destroy people, but statements like this twist the Scriptures into what looks like an attempt to manipulate people away from any use of alcohol at all.  Jesus told us that the truth sets us free, but unfortunately, this isn’t it.  The scriptural standard is not to avoid alcohol or you are a lost sinner. That standard makes the Lutheran and Episcopalian having a glass of wine or beer an unbeliever or at the very least a lost Christian. Having a glass of wine does not destroy everything dear to the heart of the Lord.

Here are more scriptures that show moderate alcohol use as part of God’s wisdom.  Wine was acceptable as part of the drink offering instituted by the Lord.

and for the drink offering you shall offer the third part of a hin of wine, of a pleasant aroma to Yahweh.  (Num 15:7 WEB)

The word for wine there is the word yayin in Hebrew, meaning fermented drink. We know that yayin was intoxicating because the first time yayin was used the person got drunk from drinking it.

He drank of the wine and got drunk. (Gen 9:21a WEB)

We’re not talking about grape juice here.  He got drunk from it!  Again, the wine talked about in these verses is intoxicating!  Intoxicating wine is in this next verse:

When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bulls, and one ephah of meal, and a container of wine, and brought him to Yahweh’s house in Shiloh. The child was young. (1Sa 1:24 WEB)

These verses show where intoxicating wine was part of the offering that Yahweh told his people to offer, and thus wine was included in offerings to the Lord.  If God calls something acceptable and pleasant who are men to say otherwise?

Or is the Lord compared to a sinner in this verse?

Then the Lord awakened as one out of sleep, like a mighty man who shouts by reason of wine. (Psa 78:65 WEB)

No, this is a favorable comparison where the Lord was awakened with the force like someone shouting with wine.  Or look at these verses that include wine as one of the blessings of the Father who created us.  Psalm 104 is a litany on the blessings of the Lord and wine is listed in the long list of favors Yahweh has granted:

He sends springs into the valleys. They run among the mountains. They give drink to every animal of the field. The wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the sky nest by them. They sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his rooms. The earth is filled with the fruit of your works. He causes the grass to grow for the livestock, and plants for man to cultivate, that he may produce food out of the earth: wine that makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his face to shine, and bread that strengthens man’s heart. Yahweh’s trees are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon, which he has planted; (Psa 104:10-16 WEB)

“Wine that makes glad the heart of man” is listed with animals drinking freely from springs in valleys and on mountains, the grass growing for livestock to feed upon, oil to make a man’s face shine, and bread to strengthen a man’s heart as great blessings from the Lord!  And there are many more blessings listed in this psalm for which the psalmist praises the Lord.

“Wine that makes glad the heart of man” is a blessing from the Lord, so says the psalmist, and calling all alcohol use sinful makes that verse wrong!  Again, wine there is yayin in Hebrew, intoxicating drink!  Wine, intoxicating drink, was given to make glad the heart of man?  Saying otherwise is nullifying the word of God.

Or are you going to throw out this wisdom?

Give strong drink to him who is ready to perish; and wine to the bitter in soul: (Pro 31:6 WEB)

This verse says a little wine to ease bitterness or ease someone who is suffering or dying is a good thing.  Saying otherwise nullifies the word of God!

Or is this actually a good thing that Yahweh does in this verse when it is prophesied that wine will stop being produced for these people?  Remember, this is supposed to be something bad happening because these people were not following the Lord.

Gladness is taken away, and joy out of the fruitful field; and in the vineyards there will be no singing, neither joyful noise. Nobody will tread out wine in the presses. I have made the shouting stop. (Isa 16:10 WEB)

The same thing is seen here.

The earth also is polluted under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell therein are found guilty. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left. The new wine mourns. The vine languishes. All the merry-hearted sigh. The mirth of tambourines ceases. The sound of those who rejoice ends. The joy of the harp ceases. They will not drink wine with a song. Strong drink will be bitter to those who drink it. (Isa 24:5-9 WEB)

These sections are talking about being cursed, the opposite of being blessed by the Lord. So, these people are cursed (v. 6).  Part of the curse is that singing and celebrating has stopped.  “They will not drink wine with a song” is presented as something that shows the blessing of God is stopped.  But if intoxicating wine use is sinful then how are they cursed?  The answer is that they are cursed and part of the curse is that they no longer drink wine with a song!  Drinking wine with a song, having a heart made glad with wine, having bitterness eased with wine is part of the word of God and preaching against any alcohol use makes that word of God void!

Also, while there are many secular articles on the destructive nature of alcohol abuse, there are some on the beneficial nature of moderate drinking, including links to improved cardiovascular health, improved diabetes management, improved digestion and general wellbeing[9]. The article cited gives some details on the many factors of alcohol consumption.

It’s key to note that scripture says the traditions of men make void the word of God. It doesn’t matter how bad the problem, or how noble the intentions are.  It is also key that statements of faith affirming the primacy of scripture do not guarantee that the teaching the church is following is the rightly divided, actual word of God.  This is one of many examples where scripture is twisted to the point where the actual word of God is nullified.

The ban on all alcohol by certain traditions is no different than the Jewish leaders in Jesus’s time creating bans and laws that work against the word of God. An example is the Sabbath being given as a day of rest. In the law, there were details given to further define work like not starting any fires.  And exceptions were listed like pulling oxen out of ditches they might have fallen into.  But the religious leaders overreacted and tried to make any action into an act of work. So, we all know how the Jews accused Jesus of not honoring the Sabbath when he healed people on the Sabbath.  Likewise, the anti-alcohol crowd is over reacting and going way beyond scripture with their reasoning in making any alcohol use a sin.

The ban on all alcohol is an overreaction. It is not godly. The teaching around it makes the word of God void.  That makes it a false doctrine according to the standard of original Christianity, the apostles’ tradition, and it needs to be proclaimed as such.

In this mountain, Yahweh of Armies will make all peoples a feast of choice meat, a feast of choice wines, of choice meat full of marrow, of well refined choice wines. (Isa 25:6 WEB)

Further Reading:

THE BIBLE AND THE QUESTION OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES, Kenneth L Gentry Jr available at https://intoxicatedonlifedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/ctrgentryformatted.pdf  This looks like an early version of some of the material in the book in the next line.

GOD Gave Wine, What the Bible says about Alcohol, Kenneth L Gentry Jr, Victorious Hope Publishing, Fountain Inn, South Carolina, third printing, 2015

[1] https://law.jrank.org/pages/10714/Temperance-Movement.html#:~:text=The%20TEMPERANCE%20MOVEMENT%20in%20the,drinking%20alcohol%20as%20a%20sin.

[2] The Paedagogus (Book I) at https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/02091.htm

[3] CHRISTIANS AND ALCOHOL: A TIMELINE at https://www.brettmccracken.com/blog/blog/2013/07/17/christians-and-alcohol-a-timeline

[4] Baptist history on alcohol: not totally teetotaling – Baptist News Global

[5] Alcohol – THE DESTROYER, C Aubrey Hearn, Convention Press, Nashville Tennessee, 1943, P. 3

[6] Alcohol – THE DESTROYER, C Aubrey Hearn, Convention Press, Nashville Tennessee, 1943, P. 16

[7] Alcohol – THE DESTROYER, C Aubrey Hearn, Convention Press, Nashville Tennessee, 1943, P. 17

[8] ibid., P. 123

[9]  Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

 

May 8th, 2021 Posted by | Tradition | no comments

T 1.64 More on Spirits: Some Specific Spirits

In 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 we looked at an overview of the role of the Adversary in the world today.

After a review of some key points, we are going to get into more specifics of the realm of the devil including what scripture says about specific spirits.

Remember, greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world! Remember that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Remember, that God never allows a man to be tried more than he is able. So, you will never be put in a position where you will be overpowered by the adversary.

On the other hand, Jesus came to expose the works of the devil. Because of Jesus, we learn the following; The devil walks about seeking whom he may devour and that’s just not unbelievers!

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: (1Pe 5:8 KJV)

The devil blinds the eyes of those around him.

in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them.  (2Co 4:4 WEB)

The devil seduces.

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; (1Ti 4:1 KJV)

The devil is clever, and has designs and schemes that he gets men to follow and entice others with.

so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.  (2Co 2:11 ESV)

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; (Eph 4:14 WEB)

The devil has been around much longer than any person so he has more experience and so it is not wise to underestimate him.

So, while no one is overpowered by the adversary, many have been seduced and tricked into doing the devil’s bidding, oftentimes thinking they’re doing the right thing.

And remember this, perhaps above all. in its simplest form wisdom is either of God or of the devil in its original source.

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

“This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic” is a comparison. This verse talks about two sources of wisdom, from above and demonic.  God is the author of peace, gentleness, reasonableness, and mercy and His wisdom reflects that.  The devil’s way has bitter jealousy and selfish ambition involved.  And where they are, there is confusion and every evil deed. This gives us a framework to gauge situations and people.

But that does not mean that everything that has something amiss means there somebody that is possessed. On the contrary, the world, which is the devil’s domain, is full of his influence.  That is what the bible is teaching when it says “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them.”  So we see that the devil has plans to thwart God, and designs his world where we live with the aim of keeping people from God.”  Of course, everyone in the world is not possessed, but everyone is constantly under the attack of his influence.

As examples, in Acts chapter 15, it says Peter and Paul had a big contentious argument. That doesn’t mean that they were possessed, either one of them. In the Gospel of John in chapter 9 Jesus healed a man that was born blind. It’s says in that record that there was a question by the people of who sinned.  The answer was no one sinned, this was done to show the glory of God.  So here was a man that was blind all of his life, and it wasn’t because of sin, and he certainly wasn’t possessed. He was just born blind.

You need discerning of Spirits to know if a spirit is involved.  Spiritual things are foolishness to natural men,

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)

But we have access to recognizing spirits with the gift of holy spirit and its manifestations:

For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; to another faith, by the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, by the same Spirit; 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. But the one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing to each one separately as he desires. (1Co 12:8-11 WEB)

The listing of the manifestations of the spirit includes discerning of spirits, that’s the ability to recognize when someone is actually controlled by an evil spirit, or that they are born again, or an angel, for that matter.

Not that every contact with an angel is made known as it says in Hebrews:

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it.  (Heb 13:2 WEB)

Now, about individual spirits, Scripture calls demons unclean or evil spirits:

The multitude also came together from the cities around Jerusalem, bringing sick people, and those who were tormented by unclean spirits: and they were all healed.  (Act 5:16 WEB)

The simplest breakdown concerning spirits is that we get holy spirit from the Holy Spirit under his leadership, and the Devil has control over his host of unclean spirits. Now just as people with holy spirit can have a strength like a spirit of gentleness, or a spirit of power, the Devil’s spirits can have strengths too like a spirit of fear, or a spirit of lying, or a spirit of divination.  But all believers’ spirits are holy spirit, and all devil spirits are unclean spirits.  Likewise, the Holy Spirit gives gifts like prophecy and teaching to some while the devil imitates this by making some of his followers false prophets and false teachers. Thus, there are some parallels between God’s kingdom and the Devil’s domain, the world, because the devil sets himself up as an angel of light and his domain as enlightened so as to fool people.

As an example of unclean spirits, here’s the famous story from the Gospels where Jesus delivered the legion of evil spirits from a man and they went into pigs. Some people have taught that unclean spirits are sexual in nature but that record talks about other behaviors.  Notice that it doesn’t describe lewd acts or sexual sins as the characteristic of this spirit here (although that could have been part of the manifestation). The unclean spirit(s) enabled this man to tear apart chains and break fetters apart. He was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.  It looks like he was extremely wild and uncontrolled.

They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. When he had come out of the boat, immediately a man with an unclean spirit met him out of the tombs. He lived in the tombs. Nobody could bind him any more, not even with chains, because he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him, and the fetters broken in pieces. Nobody had the strength to tame him. Always, night and day, in the tombs and in the mountains, he was crying out, and cutting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and bowed down to him, and crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have I to do with you, Jesus, you Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, don’t torment me.” For he said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” He asked him, “What is your name?” He said to him, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” He begged him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now on the mountainside there was a great herd of pigs feeding. All the demons begged him, saying, “Send us into the pigs, that we may enter into them.” At once Jesus gave them permission. The unclean spirits came out and entered into the pigs. The herd of about two thousand rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and they were drowned in the sea. Those who fed them fled, and told it in the city and in the country. The people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus, and saw him who had been possessed by demons sitting, clothed, and in his right mind, even him who had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who saw it declared to them what happened to him who was possessed by demons, and about the pigs. They began to beg him to depart from their region. As he was entering into the boat, he who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him.  (Mar 5:1-18 WEB)

Jesus recognized that the man had unclean spirit(s) by the manifestation of discerning of spirits.

Here’s another example where the term “all unclean spirits” was used.  The twelve were sent out and they were given authority over all unclean spirits:

And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;  (Mar 6:7 KJV)

That use of all unclean spirits there means there were none of the devil’s soldiers who wouldn’t be dealt with in a godly manner by the twelve, no matter what their strengths were.

Another example of recognizing strengths or abilities of spirit is in Ephesians:

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

“A spirit of wisdom and revelation” is in the above verse.  We know that there is just one spirit when we’re talking about holy spirit. But, as we read in first Corinthians chapter 12, different believers serve different functions within the body. A spirit of wisdom and revelation is that same holy spirit that we are all sealed with, but it has abundant strengths of word of knowledge and word of wisdom.

Next, we are going to look at specific spirits written in scripture, and what, if anything, scripture teaches us about that particular kind of spirit. Just like everything else related to original Christianity I want to look at what scripture says.  There are some things written in this area that are from secular sources which I do not use.  There are some things where people read more than there is into the verse.  For example, was Cain possessed to kill Abel? There is no record in scripture that says that. Abel brought an offering of his first fruits to the Lord which pleased the Lord.  Cain just brought an offering and the Lord didn’t respect his offering.  Cain got very angry, the scriptures say. But it stops short of saying Cain was possessed.

The first spirit we will look at is a spirit of fear written about in 1 Timothy.  One of goals of the devil is to instill fear and doubt which counters believing faith.  There is a devil spirit of fear which can paralyze people and stop them.  The spirit in us, Christ in us, is a spirit of power, love, and self-control.

For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control. Therefore don’t be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner; but endure hardship for the Good News according to the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before times eternal,  (2Ti 1:7-9 WEB)

As we saw in the previous article and as written in Ephesians, we are to put on the whole armor of God which includes the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit which is the word of God.  Enduring hardship, remaining steadfast is part of that shield of faith. Wielding the sword of the spirit, speaking the truth in love as led by the Holy Spirit, unleashes the power of God.  All this counters the attack of the spirit of fear.

So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.  (Rom 1:15-17 KJV)

Next, Paul and Silas encountered a spirit of divination in Acts 16:

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)

From the record we see that fortune telling is one of the manifestations of this evil force. This is the ability to predict the future.  You don’t think that’s real?  There are American presidents that have used fortune tellers so some people believe.  Franklin D Roosevelt consulted with Jeanne Dixon.  “Dixon is also famous for predicting the death of J.F. Kennedy in an interview with Parade magazine in 1956. She said that a Democrat would win in 1960, but would die in office.”[1]

Divination is the same spirit that King Saul inquired of back in the book of first Samuel but it is called a familiar spirit or medium in some texts.  He did this after he tried to inquire of Yahweh, but Yahweh chose not to answer him.

When Saul inquired of Yahweh, Yahweh didn’t answer him by dreams, by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek for me a woman who has a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her.” His servants said to him, “Behold, there is a woman who has a familiar spirit at Endor.” (1Sa 28:6-7 WEB)

Notice that these verses list different avenues that the Spirit communicates with our spirit and Saul looked for those, dreams and prophets.  (There are numerous ways that Yahweh communicates including dreams, visions, angels, communicating directly, and via prophets.)

In Acts 16 Paul knew by discerning of spirits that there was a spirit of divination and he received the go-ahead (word of wisdom) to command the spirit out in the name of Jesus Christ!

There is a great record of deliverance from divination in Acts:

When they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of understanding. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul, and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who is also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fastened his eyes on him, and said, “You son of the devil, full of all deceit and all cunning, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is on you, and you will be blind, not seeing the sun for a season!” Immediately a mist and darkness fell on him. He went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.  (Act 13:6-12 WEB)

This next section talks about a spirit of deep sleep, also called a spirit of slumber.

It will be like when a hungry man dreams, and behold, he eats; but he awakes, and his hunger isn’t satisfied; or like when a thirsty man dreams, and behold, he drinks; but he awakes, and behold, he is faint, and he is still thirsty. The multitude of all the nations that fight against Mount Zion will be like that. Pause and wonder! Blind yourselves and be blind! They are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. For Yahweh has poured out on you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes, the prophets; and he has covered your heads, the seers. All vision has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is educated, saying, “Read this, please;” and he says, “I can’t, for it is sealed;” and the book is delivered to one who is not educated, saying, “Read this, please;” and he says, “I can’t read.” The Lord said, “Because this people draws near with their mouth and honors me with their lips, but they have removed their heart far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men which has been taught; therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the understanding of their prudent men will be hidden.”  (Isa 29:8-14 WEB)

Remember that all spiritual action was ascribed to Yahweh in sections in the Old Testament because natural man could not understand spiritual things. Some interesting things about this section of Scripture include that these are prophets who could no longer see, it says that the wisdom of the wise men perished, and the understanding of the prudent was hidden.  This is the work of a spirit of slumber.

Next, we have a record that refers to a troubling spirit.  This happened when political power was transferred from King Saul to King David.  Part of that transfer meant that the holy spirit that was on Saul left him while holy spirit came to rest on David.  And an evil spirit, one that troubled Saul, came to rest on him, but only at times.  The record says that when David played his harp for Saul the evil spirit left Saul for that time.

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the middle of his brothers. Then Yahweh’s Spirit came mightily on David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up and went to Ramah. Now Yahweh’s Spirit departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Yahweh troubled him. Saul’s servants said to him, “See now, an evil spirit from God troubles you. Let our lord now command your servants who are in front of you to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp. Then when the evil spirit from God is on you, he will play with his hand, and you will be well.”  (1Sa 16:13-16 WEB)

The spirit of antichrist is written about in 1 John 4.

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 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.  (1Jn 4:2-3 WEB)

The above verse establishes the criteria of whether our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ actually had a physical body on earth as critical to recognizing this spirit of antichrist. This verse says that those who have confessed their Lord and Savior came to earth have the spirit of God. And it says those who say he never came to earth, he never had a body, and he never lived, have the spirit of antichrist. That’s what the verse says.

Next, we look at a record of a spirit of infirmity. This next section describes a woman who was so bent over for 18 years that she could never straighten up even when she walked. Scripture says this woman had a spirit of infirmity.

Behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and she was bent over, and could in no way straighten herself up. When Jesus saw her, he called her, and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.” He laid his hands on her, and immediately she stood up straight, and glorified God.  (Luk 13:11-13 WEB)

Now, this is not to say that everyone with arthritis, or some medical condition is possessed. There are many records where people were delivered of sickness, and there’s no record of demon possession. But, as this record illustrates, some people do have a spirit controlling this. This spirit would have to be discerned, there is no way in the natural to know other than discerning of spirits.  So, like in this case, just because a person is bent over, it doesn’t mean that they are possessed.

Next, we see Jesus dealing with what is called a deaf and dumb spirit.

One of the multitude answered, “Teacher, I brought to you my son, who has a mute spirit; and wherever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth, and wastes away. I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they weren’t able.” He answered him, “Unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to me.” They brought him to him, and when he saw him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground, wallowing and foaming at the mouth. He asked his father, “How long has it been since this has come to him?” He said, “From childhood. Often it has cast him both into the fire and into the water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out with tears, “I believe. Help my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a multitude came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to him, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” After crying out and convulsing him greatly, it came out of him. The boy became like one dead; so much that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand, and raised him up; and he arose. When he had come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we cast it out?” He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing, except by prayer and fasting.”  (Mar 9:17-29 WEB)

The words “and fasting” are not in the text.[2]  This kind of spirit removal requires prayer.

Lying Spirit

Micaiah said, “Therefore hear Yahweh’s word: I saw Yahweh sitting on his throne, and all the army of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left. Yahweh said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ One spoke saying in this way, and another saying in that way. A spirit came out, stood before Yahweh, and said, ‘I will entice him.’ “Yahweh said to him, ‘How?’ “He said, ‘I will go, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ “He said, ‘You will entice him, and will prevail also. Go and do so.’ “Now therefore, behold, Yahweh has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets; and Yahweh has spoken evil concerning you.” (2Ch 18:18-22 WEB)

Remember, Yahweh does not tempt. But in the Old Testament people did not understand that the devil and his host of angels were in rebellion, and that’s why they do these things. So it was narrated to look like all things came from God, because in a sense they do. But it is Lucifer, the Morningstar, the adversary, that is in rebellion against our God and father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is the doer of these evil deeds like putting lying spirits in prophets’ mouths.

People open themselves up to influence, and in extreme cases, possession of their own free will. Ahab chose his lifestyle of rebellion against God, and God’s prophets. Ahab chose to have prophets that would prophesy against the prophets of Yahweh.

A Spirit of Error

Isaiah chapter 19 talks about a prophecy concerning Egypt. All kinds of things are prophesied to go wrong. The country will be put in the hands of a cruel Lord. Egyptians will be rising up against Egyptians. The fishermen, the linen workers, the wise men will all be put to shame. Then there is this verse:

The Lord has sent among them a spirit of error: and by them Egypt is turned out of the right way in all her doings, as a man overcome by wine is uncertain in his steps. And in Egypt there will be no work for any man, head or tail, high or low, to do.  (Isa 19:14-15 BBE)

Once again, in the Old Testament they did not understand that the devil is the prince of the power of the air and in rebellion to the Father. They also don’t understand that when people turned their backs to God that they open themselves up to devilish influence, and yes, even evil spirits. The verse above says that a spirit of error was going to be able to work in Egypt to the point where Egyptians rise up against Egyptians, and the whole economy and lifestyle of the Egyptians was going to waste.

This same spirit is mentioned in 1 John:

We are of God. He who knows God listens to us. He who is not of God doesn’t listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. (1Jn 4:6 WEB)

The spirit in us, our holy spirit, is the spirit of truth.  The Devil’s purpose is to promote error, and cause confusion. A spirit of error specializes in causing confusion. Confusion is a major tool of the devil. One of the reasons why it is important to agree on all the counsel of God and not just on some minimal framework of beliefs called essentials where everything else is nonessential is because we want to avoid confusion.  Instead of confusion we want peace.

for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace, as in all the assemblies of the saints.  (1Co 14:33 WEB)

Spirit of Prostitution

This spirit is referred to in the book of Hosea. Prostitution is usually defined as the exchange of sex for something else, often, money. But in the book of Hosea we see that it is used in that way but it is also used in reference to worshiping other gods. When God’s people go after other gods he describes that process using the analogy of prostitution, where his spouse isn’t faithful to him, and rather gives worship to something else. In the record he calls what they worship a wooden idol.

It will be, like people, like priest; and I will punish them for their ways, and will repay them for their deeds. They will eat, and not have enough. They will play the prostitute, and will not increase; because they have abandoned giving to Yahweh. Prostitution, wine, and new wine take away understanding. My people consult with their wooden idol, and answer to a stick of wood. Indeed the spirit of prostitution has led them astray, and they have been unfaithful to their God. They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains, and burn incense on the hills, under oaks and poplars and terebinths, because its shade is good. Therefore your daughters play the prostitute, and your brides commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they play the prostitute, nor your brides when they commit adultery; because the men consort with prostitutes, and they sacrifice with the shrine prostitutes; so the people without understanding will come to ruin. “Though you, Israel, play the prostitute, yet don’t let Judah offend; and don’t come to Gilgal, neither go up to Beth Aven, nor swear, ‘As Yahweh lives.’ (Hos 4:9-15 WEB)

Do you see where it says both “your daughters play the prostitute” and “Though you, Israel, play the prostitute” using the reference for both actual prostitution and idolatry? When people worship false idols, whether it is statues, animals, or things like greed and power, scripture calls that worship prostitution.

Be subject therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (Jas 4:7 WEB)

The devils’ domain is real, and in this section we have been looking more at how it works. But I will end as I began. Remember that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Remember, that God never allows a man to be tried more than he is able. So, you will never be put in a position where you will be overpowered by the adversary. And always remember, greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world!

[1] 8 US Presidents that Used the Services of Psychics, https://summary.org/8-us-presidents-used-psychics/

[2] While there are texts that have “and fasting”, I agree with Metzger who wrote “In light of the increasing emphasis in the early church on the necessity of fasting, it is understandable that ??? ??????? is a gloss that found its way into most witnesses. Among the witnesses that resisted such an accretion are important representatives of the Alexandrian and the Western types of text.” A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Bruce M Metzger, Second Edition,United Bible Society, p. 85

April 28th, 2021 Posted by | Tradition | no comments

T 1.63 There are Kind People Everywhere, We Don’t Wrestle People, We Wrestle Against the Spiritual Forces of Wickedness in the Heavenly Places

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.  (Eph 6:12 WEB)

Although it may appear so, scripture says that our Christian struggle is not with people.  Sure, there are people we may have problems with, whom we might consider unfriendly, or even evil that we definitely have to deal with.  And there are people and situations that we have to avoid in this spiritual walk.

But many people are kind.  Many have been kind to me over the years. And I have seen and heard innumerable accounts of people being kind to others.  Kindness is being useful to someone, helping them in some way. I have been on the receiving end of many kindnesses. And I don’t just mean by upright Christians. I have been helped by all colors and creeds, male and female.  Agnostics, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, and more, male and female, with all colors of skin have helped me with different things all my life.

Nice means to be pleasant, or agreeable.   Usually, these people that helped were very nice, very friendly. And I have seen many people being nice to other people.  There are many nice people in the world.

I bring this up because I have been looking at unbelievers a lot in these articles lately. Scripture talks about unbelievers as being the children of disobedience under the influence of the god of this world. Scripture talks about the serious sins that unbelievers get caught up in. There are warnings in Scripture against being unequally yoked with unbelievers and how evil friendships corrupt good morals. There are warnings in Scripture to avoid even believers who teach divisive doctrines. It is all true and it is not a pretty picture if that is all you look at.

But we must never forget that there are many nice, kind people in the world.  People have given me help in times of need; pushing my car, shoveling my walk, giving me rides, caring medical and professional help. People have shared friendly greetings, smiles, and words of encouragement. People have shared their cars and houses with me. People have shared garden vegetables, loaned tools, hospitality, gave a helping hand, helped me move, given presents during holidays, given me money, and more.

It is true that the Bible says that no one is righteous without Jesus Christ. The Bible says that believers who walk in the spirit are righteous. But they are only righteous by the grace of God and by what Jesus accomplished for us. Believers are just like all the unbelievers in that without Jesus we could never be good enough to stand in the presence of God which is what both the current situation and the end game is all about. We want to be with Jesus in the presence of God for eternity. We believe the Scriptures that tell us that Jesus accomplished that for us, that while we were yet sinners, he paid the price that we could be made righteous.

That is something I know that I, and many others, need to remember when we talk about “unbelievers”. So, of the many people who have helped me over the years in many ways, I am talking about people who were Jews, Muslims, agnostics, Buddhists, and other faiths. I’m talking about people who practiced all kinds of unscriptural behaviors; free love, living together unmarried, and homosexuality. I’m talking about people that may have used illegal drugs and/or drank too much on a regular basis, lied and other things.  Those are just examples. The kindnesses of these people are of the kinds listed above. Thank you all, kind people.

Scripture teaches to be thankful in all things and that includes the things I am writing about here.

In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you.  (1Th 5:18 WEB)

Being thankful for everything includes being thankful for people.

Jesus ate and drank with sinners.  The implication is that he ate their food and drank their wine, accepting their hospitality and spending time with them.

As he passed by, he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he arose and followed him. He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners sat down with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many, and they followed him. The scribes and the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why is it that he eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  (Mar 2:14-17 WEB)

There is a sermon in there about how we are ambassadors for Christ and are called to do the same. Notice that when he was with them the topics included things of the kingdom of God and Jesus held forth the truth.  Jesus’ point is that his mission, our mission, is to call people to repent of unrighteousness and join the kingdom.

Part of this article also is that being nice and/or being kind isn’t enough to gain entrance to eternal life with Jesus.  These sinners were kind enough to invite Jesus to dinner. Jesus still called them to repentance. No one can be good enough on their own.

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

There is salvation in none other, for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, by which we must be saved!”  (Act 4:12 WEB)

Jesus is the only way to be made whole and have eternal life.  Being nice and kind unfortunately isn’t good enough.

An emphasis of this message in standing against our adversary is that we don’t wrestle with flesh and blood. The whole time that we are looking at this formidable domain of Satan a key point is that harming all people is the goal of Satan. Yes, Satan is aiming to harm us but unbelievers are also harmed: robbed, killed, and destroyed.   It may feel like it is people that we are fighting against but the real enemy is the devil.

The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.  (Joh 10:10 WEB)

Scripture says that the devil has blinded unbelievers into following his snares.

in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them.  (2Co 4:4 WEB)

Unbelievers sincerely don’t see what we believe.  Likewise, even for believers who believe divisive doctrines.  Especially today, none of us have an exceptionally sharp picture.

So, all are to be loved, believers and unbelievers.  They all can be kind. Not that they always are, of course.  And even those who oppose you directly are people we are called to love.  Believers are called to even love their enemies!

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.  (Mat 5:43-48 WEB)

It may look confusing.  Avoid sinful companions.  Love your enemies.  Avoid teachers of divisive doctrines. Jesus ate with sinners like the tax collectors of his day, who were some pretty mean people at times according to the scriptures.

And we all know that looks can be deceiving.  People can appear nice and kind, but really don’t have our best interests at heart.

Jesus taught us:

“Behold, I send you out as sheep among wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.  (Mat 10:16 WEB)

And Paul wrote:

Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise;  (Eph 5:15 WEB)

We need the spirit of God because navigating these challenging situations is a walk of the spirit.  God set up these guidelines to protect us in our walk and to help us not be dissuaded of our reward.  So be wise as serpents but harmless as doves. Walk wisely. Follow the spirit of God in you. But remember people are lovable, even if the love sometimes is tougher than we would like.

All people are to be loved.  I, for one, am very thankful for the many kindnesses I have received from many people, not just believers, over the years.

We wrestle against the devil and his domain.  We love people and are thankful for all their kindnesses.

Walk in love wisely.

April 10th, 2021 Posted by | Tradition | no comments