Not Traditional, Original

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul took this commitment seriously.

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

The body of Christ is called a family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, some elders can be very wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s an example of letting seniors mentor.

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

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

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

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

Wisdom is something that is accumulated with age.

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

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

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

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

We are charged to respect our elders.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

last revised 4/7/22

April 1st, 2022 Posted by | Tradition | no comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at these wisdom references:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To one degree or another, we are all philosophers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Believers transform themselves into wiser people when they renew their minds

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1]Introduction to Philosophy, P. 12

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

[3] ibid, p.31-32

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

last edited 1/3/2022

December 22nd, 2021 Posted by | Philosophy, Tradition | no comments

T 1.10.1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Not Only Is Jesus Called God In Scripture, But So are Moses, Judges, Magistrates, The Adversary, And Devil Spirits, But All Are Subject to the Father

Previous posts have declared that Unitarianism was the belief in Original Christianity including the last post, T 1.10 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 10, The Apostles taught the Father alone was God, one of the Most Hidden Truths in Christianity Today. We have looked at references that admit that Unitarianism predated Trinitarianism.  We looked at quotes that cite that unlike the apostles in scripture theologians after the apostles say philosophy and its tools are essential. And we looked at the reasons why. For example, look at this:

“Much contemporary Christianity is in essence adoptionistic. Early in the 19th century Frederick Schleiermacher conceived of Jesus as the man with the most sublime God consciousness, while Albrecht Ritschl saw him as endowed with the most perfect sense of duty. For the 20th century Anglican John A. T. Robinson, Jesus was “the man for others,” perfectly transparent to God. Adoptionistic ideas always arrive arise wherever Christians are reluctant to use the language and tools of philosophy [emphasis added] to grapple with the apparent conflict between the unity of God and the deity of Christ.[1]

I have underlined “reluctant to use the language and tools of philosophy”. This is talking about using world philosophy tools such as a priori claims and inductive logic. The need for philosophy is given again here.  Without philosophy, the conflict between the unity of God and the deity of Christ is too great. Brown says that without these worldly philosophical tools the natural result is adoptionism, which is a form of Unitarianism. When you just let the scriptures speak you get Unitarianism, God as a single entity.  With the Trinity, God as three persons,  you have to make a priori assumptions, add terms not found in scripture, and change the meanings of verses from the way they naturally should be interpreted. And even then, Trinitarianism remains incomprehensible whereas Unitarianism is not.

I have known some people that seemed to accept Unitarianism easily.  The Trinity was always so confusing to them. Unitarianism is easier by far and all of it is scriptural.  But, if you are like me at all, you may take a lot to be convinced on so important a topic.   I don’t change my mind that easily, some things can take years for me to be persuaded otherwise.  So, I don’t blame you if you are still unsure or skeptical.  What I will say is to keep at it.  Really consider what is said.  Have you really tried to prove the Trinity?  Or, are you like me, I heard it mentioned as the truth so often for so many years that it was like second nature to accept it.  And this was in spite of the fact that when confronted I had to admit that I had never seen proof of the Trinity. All I had heard were verses here and there that were used to support the Trinitarian argument. Even though it was confusing it was just so widespread and generally accepted for so long that I had a hard time believing that there was a chance that it might not be right.  But when I really looked at it, I said, oh my Lord, how could that have happened?  And likewise for many people throughout the millennia. And I came to the conclusion like so many before me; the Trinity is a man-made doctrine; only God the Father is God of all.  Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the King of Kings, but he is subject to God and not equal to him.

Today we’re going to look at more points of emphasis in the Trinitarian argument. The first is that Jesus is called God in places in scripture.  The second is the Trinitarian argument which says that Jesus admitted he was God.

I mean, after all, if the Bible clearly calls Jesus God and he also admits it, doesn’t that make the case for both the deity of Jesus and the Trinity?

It may be confusing to some when they read that Jesus is rightfully called God in some scriptures but not part of a Trinity, but only until it is understood that many beings subordinate to God including judges, prophets, idols, the adversary, and devil spirits are also called god.  But all are subject, subordinate to God the Father, even his son.

What adds to the confusion is when Bible translators capitalize God.  Capitalizing God is the custom in English when it is God the creator, the supreme being.  The Trinitarian tradition that includes the Son and Holy Spirit as part of God almighty adds to this confusion.  The theology of the translator is clearly evident here.

In numerous posts, we have looked at varied verses that are used in support of the Trinity, and in each case shown that those verses did not prove the Trinity.  As stated in Philosophy in Christianity – Welcome Addition or Intrusion of Worldly Reasoning? scholars admit that scripture does not directly teach the Trinity.  What they say is that the “elements” are there to construct the doctrine of the Trinity.  Here’s the New Bible Dictionary on the subject:

“As already indicated, Scripture does not give us a fully formulated doctrine of the Trinity, but it contains all the elements out of which theology has constructed the doctrine.”[2]

I think that is being generous but at least they admit that scripture does not directly teach the Trinity. It’s true that many elements of the trinity are taken from scripture. This definition fails to add that there are also elements not in scripture that are required for the Trinity to work such as the word homousias (of the same substance) and the doctrine that Jesus had two wills when there is no scripture to support it.

So, let’s look at where Jesus is called God in scripture.  For clarification, elohim is one of the Hebrew words translated “God”, and theos is the Greek word translated “God”. God the Father’s name is Yahweh.

The biggest lesson here is that just because something says “God” it does not necessarily refer to God the Father, creator of heaven and earth.

Now, the overwhelming majority of times God is referred to in scripture it is talking about God the Father, but there are times when the text says God, but it is not God the Father. It is true that Jesus is called god, but so are the divine council, judges, prophets (Moses especially), kings, and even the devil.  And God the Father is over all of them.

Here’s the first. Moses is called Elohim, God.

Yahweh said to Moses, “Behold, I have made you as God to Pharaoh; and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. (Exo 7:1 WEB)

Moses is certainly not God. But he was called God, Elohim, because he represented God and the power of God flowed through him. Notice the capitalization. Because he represented the Supreme Being it is correct.

In the New Testament, the Greek word theos corresponds to the Hebrew word Elohim.  This word is used of our adversary, the devil.

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 adversary is clearly called god (theos) here. And no one disputes that he is not God Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth, the father in heaven.  The lack of capitalization is correct.

The same goes for false gods like Dagon, the fish god of the Philistines.

The lords of the Philistines gathered them together to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice; for they said, “Our god has delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.” (Jdg 16:23 WEB)

The Hebrew word for god here is, guess what, elohimElohim just means god.  The name of the elohim here is Dagon. The lowercase g is correct.

(Of note, too, is that elohim is a plural noun but Dagon is a single god.  This is proof that the use of elohim does not automatically indicate a plurality. In other words, elohim refers to a single person or god. Just like Dagon is not a trinity, the use of elohim does not mean a trinity when it refers to Yahweh, God the Father.)

Likewise, the commandment not to worship false gods is the Hebrew word elohim.

“You shall have no other gods before me. (Exo 20:3 WEB)

Look at this one:

The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid! What do you see?” The woman said to Saul, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.”  (1Sa 28:13 WEB)

This is Saul with the medium of Endor.  Saul had inquired of Yahweh but Yahweh had stopped talking with Saul.  Saul made a major mistake and consulted a medium.  She said she saw a god (elohim) coming up out of the earth. That spirit was elohim.

The lack of capitalization in the last two verses is correct.

Next, we are going to see a place where the translators understood that elohim could refer to even men. In this next verse that we are going to look at the text says Elohim (God), but it really means judges.

then his master shall bring him to God, and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him forever. (Exo 21:6 WEB)

This verse is talking about a slave that decides he wants to remain a slave because of how good the human master is, and so there’s a procedure for that. The slave goes before the judges, but in the text, it’s the word Elohim, and on earth the judges represent Elohim, God the Father. The capitalization is correct.

This is a case where people, in this case, judges, are called God because of representation. We use representation to refer to people all the time. Here’s an example, a couple of weeks ago my wife called me and asked me if Amazon had delivered her package. I told her, yes, I got it and put it by her desk. Now, Amazon is a huge global company. It did not take the huge global enterprise with all of its many thousands of employees to deliver that package. One sole driver drove it to our house. But what my wife said in my conversation with her was not incorrect. Amazon had delivered the package. The driver is Amazon’s representative just like the judge in Exodus 21 is God’s representative.

Next, look at a section where the king is referred to as god (elohim). These verses are important because later in the New Testament we will see that they are used in reference to Christ.

My heart overflows with a noble theme. I recite my verses for the king. My tongue is like the pen of a skillful writer. You are the most excellent of the sons of men. Grace has anointed your lips, therefore God has blessed you forever. Strap your sword on your thigh, mighty one: your splendor and your majesty. In your majesty ride on victoriously on behalf of truth, humility, and righteousness. Let your right hand display awesome deeds. Your arrows are sharp. The nations fall under you, with arrows in the heart of the king’s enemies. Your throne, God, is forever and ever. A scepter of equity is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness, and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows. (Psa 45:1-7 WEB)

It is very important to realize that the subject of these verses is the king as it says in verse one, “I recite my verses for the king”. Look at the pronouns. “You are the most excellent of the sons of men” starts a list of things talking about this king. Now, surprise!  In verse six, this king is called God (Elohim)! God is capitalized here but it shouldn’t be because it’s not talking about God the Father. But this god in verse five is under God the Father as it says in verse seven where it says “therefore God, your God, has anointed you…”.  In Psalm 45 the king is referred to as god because kings were appointed by divine right. Kings were God’s representatives on earth. We are going to take a look at this quote again when we come to discussing our Lord, Jesus Christ.

So, we have clearly established that just because the text reads elohim or theos, it does not mean God the Father.

By the way, I haven’t discovered that elohim and theos don’t always refer to God Almight on my own, in fact, this is pretty well known. It’s listed in dictionaries.[3]  And it is well understood by many bible students, whether they are Unitarian or Trinitarian

Next, we are going to look at a verse with our Lord Jesus Christ. And this is a verse that is used to supposedly support the Trinitarian doctrine that includes that Jesus is God. In this text, Jesus is accused of claiming he is God.

Therefore, Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of those works do you stone me?” The Jews answered him, “We don’t stone you for a good work, but for blasphemy: because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Isn’t it written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods?’ If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture can’t be broken), do you say of him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You blaspheme,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God?’ If I don’t do the works of my Father, don’t believe me. But if I do them, though you don’t believe me, believe the works; that you may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” They sought again to seize him, and he went out of their hand. (Joh 10:31-39 WEB)

Yes, these Jews accused Jesus of claiming that he was God the Father. I have sat in a pew and heard it taught that Jesus was claiming to be God here! That is twisting the Scripture. Instead of acknowledging that he did say he was God, on the contrary, Jesus refutes their argument. You see, Jesus had just said, “I and my Father are one”. And he also made the connection to the divine council where God the Father called subordinate rulers gods.  But he also has said that he did his mighty works in the Father’s name. He has also said that the Father was greater than all, and “all” includes him even though he is the Christ. Jesus here does make the claim that he is the son of God. But he is the son of God because God is his Father. That doesn’t make him God like God the Father. It just makes him the son of God. Jesus is actually teaching here that it is a mistake to equate saying that you are the son of God is the same as saying that you are God like the Father.

Just because someone is accused of saying something does not mean that they said it.  It may be that someone’s words are being twisted to say that someone is saying something that they did not say.  That is what is being done here. Jesus says as much.  The Jews took “I and my Father are one (in purpose)” and twisted it to “I and my Father are the same (in substance)”!

To see that this oneness is in purpose compare “I and my Father are one” to “…that they may be one, even as we are one” later in John 17:22.  No one is saying that we are Jesus Christ because it says we are one there.

So, this verse does not say Jesus is claiming to be God. Rather, he is explaining his unique relationship with the Father.   But this scripture has been used to make the claim that Jesus said he was God.

Jesus, in John 10 above, makes the point of saying scripture calls some gods (small g) as we are talking about in this article.  Look at Psalms 82 here:

God presides in the great assembly. He judges among the gods. “How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked?” Selah. “Defend the weak, the poor, and the fatherless. Maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy. Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.” They don’t know, neither do they understand. They walk back and forth in darkness. All the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you shall die like men, and fall like one of the rulers.” Arise, God, judge the earth, for you inherit all of the nations. (Psa 82:1-8 WEB)

Psalm 82 refers to what some call a divine council, a group of subordinates (angels, men?) to God where all of the subordinates are called gods (elohim). The job of these subordinate gods is to defend the weak, the poor, and the needy.  It is to maintain the rights of the poor and the oppressed.  It’s to deliver these from the wicked. They were put in charge to do things but they weren’t getting results.  They aren’t doing so well, and they are told they will die like men!  Yet they are elohim!

Now, let’s look in the book of Hebrews at another place where some have said Jesus is called god, and in this case, rightfully so.  But is it saying that he is God like God the Father? No.

God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds. His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, who, when he had by himself purified us of our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become so much better than the angels, as he has inherited a more excellent name than they have. For to which of the angels did he say at any time, “You are my Son. Today I have become your father?” and again, “I will be to him a Father, and he will be to me a Son?” When he again brings in the firstborn into the world he says, “Let all the angels of God worship him.” Of the angels he says, “Who makes his angels winds, and his servants a flame of fire.” But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your Kingdom. (Heb 1:1-8 WEB)

First, the “through” in “through whom he also made the worlds” is the Greek word en (Strongs G1223)En can mean the channel or cause that something is done, but it can also mean the reason something is done.  The translation “through” would be better translated “on account of” or “because of”.  This shows the Trinitarian theology of the translator.

Jesus is called God here (although it should be “god” instead of “God”). This verse in Hebrews is a quotation from Psalm 45 that we looked at earlier. However, this time it’s not talking about the current king. It is talking about Jesus Christ. However, the same thing that applied to the king in Psalm 45 applies the Jesus here. Just like the King was called “God” in Psalms, Jesus is called “God” in Hebrews. But then, we see the verse, following “therefore God, your God…  So, just like the king was subject to God the Father so Jesus Christ is subject to God the Father.  Again, the capitalization is misleading in the translations.

Therefore, Jesus Christ is referred to as god but he is still subordinate to God the Father.

I want to look at more verses that call Jesus God. Remember that when we are reading these verses in English they are just translations of mainly Greek texts. 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 look at how translation is often not a simple, straightforward process. It can get complicated, and produce misleading results.

Here are some things involved in translating from Koine Greek to English. In translation the order of words in Greek sentences is different than that of English sentences. In English a noun is made plural usually by adding an “s”.  In Greek to make a noun plural you have to know both its gender and the letters in which it ends in order to attach the right ending to the noun. In Greek, nouns are masculine, feminine, and neuter. But that does not mean that the item that the noun represents is masculine, feminine, or neuter. Whether or not a noun has an article attached can change its meaning. For example, hos theos, is “God” (theos) with the article, “the”, hos.  That combination is the one that can indicate the supreme Deity, God the Father.  By itself, theos without the article means less, like god (small g), magistrate, or even godly.

And there is no punctuation! The words just run together.  There are other issues as well. Here’s a picture of a manuscript in Greek that shows no punctuation and words just running on and on.

How do you divide those Greek letters above into words that form sentences and whole thoughts? In the article mentioned above, I talk about Acts 21:14 where a problem like that was explored. Here are the text and translated words.

The use of a comma here dramatically changes the meaning of this verse.  A lot of translators translate this, “We stopped,  saying the will of the Lord be done.”  But without the comma, it is, “we stopped saying the will of the Lord be done.” A single comma there makes a difference as to whether or not something was even said. And it certainly dramatically changes the meaning. That’s how important the translator is. And it shows how impactful his theology (and the theology of his “school”) is in translation.

An example of that ambiguity is found in some verses that call Jesus “God”, and maybe not just god, but appear to at least imply God over all.

looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ; (Tit 2:13 WEB)

Once again, the Greek text does have these words; God, and, Savior, Jesus Christ. To see the difference that punctuation makes look at the same verse in Webster’s version.

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ; (Tit 2:13 Webster)

Do you see the difference? The WEB version says “our great God and Savior” as if it’s one and the same person. The Webster version says “great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ”, recognizing two different beings.

Let’s compare how these two versions translate second Peter 1:1 which is another example of the same thing.

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: (2Pe 1:1 WEB)

Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ: (2Pe 1:1 Webster)

This one is a little less conspicuous, but is still there. The WEB version says “God and Savior, Jesus Christ”, making Jesus both God and Savior. In contrast, Webster’s version says “God and our Savior Jesus Christ”. It doesn’t put the comma after Savior thereby lumping God and Savior as the descriptor for Jesus Christ. And, you can see here, hopefully, that the translators could have just as easily written, “God, and our Savior Jesus Christ”, clearly distinguishing between God, and Savior as two different entities.

The lesson here is that Trinitarian doctrine has influenced the translation as there is absolutely nothing in the Greek text that requires “God and Savior”.  And “God and Savior” contradicts verses like Eph 4:4-6 and 1 Cor 15 below. With the ambiguity these verses have they certainly don’t prove the  Trinity.

Compare the above two verses above with:

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

Lord and God are both in this verse but they are not next to each other. The separation alone between “Lord”, and “one God and Father of all” indicates that they are not the same entity. Also, it is itemized here that the “one God and Father” is of all, over all, through all, and in us all. God alone is over all. It is clear here that Jesus Christ is the Lord while God the Father is the one who is over all.

We have discussed this next one in Philosophy in Christianity – Welcome Addition or Intrusion of Worldly Reasoning?.

Without controversy, the mystery of godliness is great: God was revealed in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, and received up in glory. (1Ti 3:16 WEB)

How can “God was revealed in the flesh” not prove the Incarnation and thus the Trinity? It must, right? The truth is that there is a problem with the word God there. Instead of Theos in Greek, the Greek word used in texts other than the Alexandrian family is hos which simply means which or who. The verse actually talks about the mystery of godliness which was manifest in the flesh.  Every being with the holy spirit, which includes all true Christians, manifests godliness whenever they walk in the spirit. Every time someone speaks in tongues or hears from God or heals someone, they are manifesting godliness. This verse is talking about the mystery of godliness and how that works.  It is not a declaration of Jesus as part of a trinity.  No, this verse does not prove the Trinity.

Here is a translation that says “which” instead of God.

And evidently great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared unto angels, hath been preached unto the Gentiles, is believed in the world, is taken up in glory. (1Ti 3:16 DRB)

This next verse is talking about Jesus Christ as the greatest example of godliness on earth. That is something we are charged to seek

For bodily exercise has some value, but godliness has value in all things, having the promise of the life which is now, and of that which is to come. (1Ti 4:8 WEB)

So we see that despite having a number of verses that look like what the Trinitarians say are clearly teaching both that Jesus Christ is God, and even God the father, it is not that simple.

Who, again is Jesus in relation to the Father? Remember Jesus’ words as he talked about who he was in relation to God:

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

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

Again, these are Jesus’ words! He calls God the Father the only true God!  Jesus says the only God (with a Capital G) is God the Father.  Jesus tells us that he is the one sent by the Father.

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

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

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

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

All verses about the divinities of God, Jesus Christ, or anyone else for that matter have to interpreted in light of the above clear verses.  Jesus himself said that he, the son, can do nothing of himself, he is subject to the direction of the Father.  Paul wrote that the Son himself is subject to God the Father.

God, whether from elohim in Hebrew or theos in Greek, may refer to God the Father, Jesus, prophets, angels, priests, judges, kings, the adversary, devil spirits, and false gods. But it is 1Co 15:24-28 above that sets the pecking order in the spiritual realm for men and gods.  Part of the Trinity doctrine is that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal.  But 1Co 15:24-28 above as well as other verses mentioned all put Jesus as not co-equal, but subject to the Father.  Jesus is not an equal partner in a trinity, Jesus is an underling.  Albeit, he is the Lord, he is the savior, he is second in command, he is still an underling who carries out what the Father directs.

That is Unitarianism.  God is one. There are other entities called god in scripture, angels, devils, judges, prophets, kings, even Jesus, but there is only one God who is over all, and through all, and in us all, and that is the Father.

Further Reading on Christian Unitarianism (including links to resources available online)

Encyclopedia Americana, 1920 Edition, Vol XXVII, p. O301 available online at https://ia800305.us.archive.org/33/items/encyclopediaame23unkngoog/encyclopediaame23unkngoog.pdf. This article in this century old Encyclopedia Americana is the better part of 10 pages long and reflects that Unitarianism was more known then. Find the topic Unitarianism

Statement of Reasons For Not Believing The Doctrines of the Trinitarians, Andrews Norton, London, 1846

The Doctrine of the Trinity, Anthony F. Buzzard and Charles F. Hunting, Atlanta Bible College and Restoration Fellowship, 1990

The Elements of Unitarianism, George Chryssides, Element Books, Dorset, 1998

The Epic of Unitarianism, David B. Parke, Skinner House Books, Boston, 1957

The History of The Doctrine of the Trinity The True Scriptural Picture, http://www.antipas.org/books/trinity/trinity1.html  

The Trinity: True Or False? Peter J. Southgate, Dawn Book Supply, 1995, A Christadelphian book available at https://www.the1way.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/THE-TRINITY-true-or-false-2nd-edition.pdf

The Racovian Catechism, available at http://thehumanjesus.org/media/pdf/The_Racovian_Catechism.pdf

The Two Treatises of Servetus on the Trinity, Michael Serveto, Translated by Earl Morse Wilbur, Wipf & Stock, Eugene, Published 2013

One God & One Lord : Reconsidering the Cornerstone of Christian Faith, Mark H Graeser, John A. Lynn, John W Schoenheit, Christian Educational Services, 2000

One God Over All (Class), Living Hope International Ministries, available at https://lhim.org/lhim-class/?id=84

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Trinity, at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/ (Completely from a purely philosophical point of view – shows the debate about the philosophical merits and flaws in Trinitarian arguments)

Further Reading Pro – Trinitarian Sources including Philosophy, and Heresies

The New Bible Dictionary, Eerdman’s, Grand Rapids, 1962, Reprinted 1974, p. 1298-1300

The Trinity, Evidence & Issues, Dr. Robert A Morey, Xulon Press, 1996

The Trinity, The Classic Study of Biblical Unitarianism, Edward Henry Bickersteth, Kregal, Grand Rapids

The Doctrine of the Trinity, Leonard Hodgson, Nisbit, Digswell Place, Seventh Printing  1964

Delighting in the Trinity, An Introduction to the Christian Faith, IVP Academic, Downers Grove, 2012

Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, Zondervan, Grand Rapids,1994, p. 226-261

Lectures in Systematic Theology, Henry C Theissen, Erdman’s, Grand Rapids, revised 1979, P. 89-99

Systematic Theology, Volume 3, Paul Tillich, the University of Chicago press, Chicago 1950 1P. 289-294

Heresies, Harold O. J. Brown, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Massachusetts, 1984, P. 96, see index

Introduction to Philosophy, A Christian Perspective, Norman L Geisler and Paul D Feinberg, Baker books, Grand Rapids, 1980, P. 75, 174-177

The Blessed Trinity, New Advent (a Catholic organization)  at  https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm

Early Christian Doctrines, J N D Kelly, Harper Collins, 1978

A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, David Bercot, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Seventh Printing, 2008, p. 651-657

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 18th Printing 2007, sections 232-260, see Index

The Code of Canon Law, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Published 1983


[1] Heresies, Harold O. J. Brown, Hendrickson publishers, Peabody Massachusetts, 1984, P. 96

[2] New Bible Dictionary, Erdman’s, Grand Rapids, 1962, P. 1299

[3] For ex., Strong’s definition is: el-o-heem’, Plural of H433; gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative: – angels, X exceeding, God (gods) (-dess, -ly), X (very) great, judges, X mighty. In Strong’s definition, see how Elohim is defined as the supreme God or just gods, also magistrates, angels judges, or even godly or mighty.  Clearly, Elohim doesn’t just mean God the Father. Thayer says that besides God,  theos can also mean God’s representative or viceregent,  including magistrates and judges

last edited 11/10/2022

November 8th, 2021 Posted by | Biblical Translation And Interpretation, Tradition, Trinity | no comments

T 1.10 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 10, The Apostles taught the Father alone was God, one of the Most Hidden Truths in Christianity Today

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)

OriginalChristianity.Net has been looking at where the Church is today doctrinally and in practice, and how the church has gotten from the exciting, powerful times of the New Testament to the church of today with many people professing Christianity, teaching scripture, even proclaiming manifestations of the spirit but also with many divisions and opposing viewpoints on many scriptural issues.  And we read again in the verse above the Apostles’ charge to us to maintain the traditions that they handed to us.  Traditions include beliefs and practices. We are charged to follow what they taught.  And we have been warned in Acts 20 that after the Apostles’ passing that there would be people from both outside the church and inside that would twist the scriptures, drawing people away from the truth that Paul and the Apostles taught.

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Act 20:29-30 ESV)

This verse is a prophecy that there would be people teaching things twisted from what the Apostles taught. The doctrine that we are looking at today has both extra-biblical thinking, for example, Jesus had two wills, and terms like homoousia, of the same substance, that are not in scripture, which are crucial to the Trinitarian argument.

This verse and other prophecies of things that would happen before Christ’s return also indicate that what Paul and the Apostles taught was not just for the Apostles’ time on earth.  Their teaching was for the church age. As we are still awaiting the return of Christ, that includes us.

We are looking at a critical issue today, Unity vs Trinity, one person or three, what did the Apostles believe, teach, and practice?  The answer lies in the fact that while “essential Christian Doctrine” today focuses on the Trinity, the Trinity was not present in original Christianity but scholars all agree that it was developed in the early centuries after Christ. So, the question is then what was the belief, if not the Trinity, about the natures of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the holy spirit.[1]

The answer is that, in fact, as is discussed in John 1 – The meaning of the Logos; The Slippery Slope of Applying Mathematical Precision to Language Expressions and, as it is stated at places as a historical reality, original Christianity started out Unitarian.

(Before proceeding any further it must be emphasized that we are talking about Christian or biblical Unitarianism and not Unitarian Universalism which is totally different and may not be Christian at all.)

Unitarian comes from the number one just as Trinity comes from the number three.  It’s as simple as that, look it up.  Unitarianism, simply put, is the belief that God is one.  In contrast, Trinitarianism is the belief that God is three. Trinitarians say God is three persons while Unitarian just say God is one.  Look at these references to what people believed in the first centuries about whether they believed that God is one or three persons:

“Justin nowhere asserts that the father, Son, and Spirit constitute one God, as became the custom in later ages, after the doctrine of the Trinity was fully matured. Strictly speaking, he was a Unitarian, as were the orthodox fathers generally of his time: that is, they believe the Son to be being really distinct from the Father, and inferior to him; which we take to be the very essence of Unitarianism.”[2]

That is another reference to the fact that the “orthodox fathers” of Justin Martyr’s time were generally Unitarian, God is one, not three persons.  Look at this:

Even after the elimination of Gnosticism, the church remained without any uniform Christology; the Trinitarians and the Unitarians continue to confront each other, the latter at the beginning of the third century still forming the large majority.[3]

As it says above, Unitarians still formed a large majority at the beginning of the third century, indicating the Original Christian church started out Unitarian and continued that way for a least a couple of centuries.

And look at this Encyclopedia Americana reference to Unitarianism and its start:

“The most conspicuous point of departure from trinitarianism, the point usually emphasized, is the refusal to regard Jesus as “very God of very God” and the assertion that he was distinctly and unqualifiedly a human being. This belief in some form in a varying degree has accompanied Christianity from the beginning, at least as one of its forms.” [4]

There it is again; this belief [Unitarianism]… has accompanied Christianity from the beginning! That is the truth. But it’s also a truth that many theologians work to deny as evidenced in the next paragraph in the above-mentioned article. The Unitarianism of the original church is often denied today and it is barely conceded that the original church was not Trinitarian. Look at this careful wording as the article reads on:

It is usually conceded that even though it might not be correct to speak of Christianity during the first two or three centuries as being substantially Unitarian, it at least was not Trinitarian. It was this generally held belief that Christ was a man that Arius was trying to save in his conflict with Athanasius. It was this championship of Arius, of the human side of Jesus, that for centuries gave the name Arianism to any belief in the humanity of Jesus.[5]

“It is usually conceded” alludes to the reluctance that the Trinitarian faction in the Church to admit the legacy of Unitarianism and that the Church took centuries of human debate over scripture that also included extra-biblical thinking and extrabiblical terms like homoousia (of the same substance) before it was declared official doctrine and more centuries to be put into its final form. “That it might not be correct” allows for a small chance for error, possibly because the Trinitarian contingent is widespread and regular with anti-Unitarian rhetoric.  And it alludes to the fact that Unitarianism has never gone away, but has continued to be believed by some despite severe unscriptural practices like burning at the stake, the Inquisition, not to mention forfeiture of property, status, and position when churches and states were so intertwined.  This quote also alludes to the fact that Unitarianism is most commonly called Arianism which was denounced when the deity of Christ and Trinitarianism began to replace Unitarian doctrine in the fourth century. I say began because Arius’ Unitarian teaching continued for some time after the council of Nicea.

So, while many Trinitarians do not want to concede that the church started out as Unitarian, it did and we are going to look at what they believed.

Tertullian was the first to introduce the concept of a trinity at the start of the third century.  So, up until Tertullian the terms Trinitarianism, Unitarianism, and anti-trinitarianism didn’t apply so believers didn’t identify themselves as believing any of those doctrines, but in today’s terms, they were Unitarian.

Also, Trinitarians label Unitarianism as Arianism as if Arius invented it, but he didn’t.  While what Arius taught completely about his viewpoint is unknown and we don’t know how much it resembles scriptural Unitarianism in its entirety Arius just tried to continue some of what had been received by most as correct doctrine since the Church began, that Jesus was a man, a very special man, inferior to God, and certainly not God himself.

Also, in regards to terminology, there is a bias in being known as anti-anything,  For example, anti-abortion paints people as a negative while pro-life paints people in a positive. Is the other camp pro-choice or anti-fetal rights?  While Trinitarians like to call Unitarians “anti-trinitarian” they weren’t anti-trinitarian because Trinitarianism didn’t exist so there wasn’t even anything to be “anti” against at that in the first century. If anything, it is Trinitarians that are anti-Unitarian because Unitarianism predates Trinitarianism. And that makes Anathasius, Constantine, the majority of the Nicene council, and every one up to now that is Trinitarian “anti-Unitarian”.

Once again, as Merriam-Webster defines a Unitarian as someone who believes that the Deity exists only in one person, then they, the original Christian believers were Unitarian.  Unitarianism, though, has been seen in different forms.

Here’s another quote showing that Unitarianism came first, that it is the Apostles’ tradition:

“Unitarianism as a theological movement began much earlier in history; indeed it antedated trinitarianism by many decades. Christianity derives from Judaism, and Judaism was strictly Unitarian. The road which led from Jerusalem to Nicaea was scarcely a straight one. Fourth century trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was on the contrary a deviation from this teaching. It developed therefore against constant Unitarian or at least anti-Trinitarian opposition.[6]

What is Unitarianism?  Compared to the Trinity, Unitarianism is simple and uncomplicated without the impossible to understand incongruities that the Trinity carries with it.  The Father alone is God.  Jesus was a special man, fathered by God, but just a man who took on the assignment of our salvation and died for our sins, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of God. As God is holy, and God is spirit, holy spirit is just God in action. Holy spirit is the term used when the power of God is communicated in creation and inspiration.  It’s that simple.

As Judaism is and was strictly Unitarian, no Jew misunderstood King David when he wrote:

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Don’t throw me from your presence, and don’t take your holy Spirit from me. (Psa 51:10-11 WEB)

David would have been shocked had someone said to him that the holy spirit he was talking about was another person in a triune Godhead! David understood that the holy spirit he had was his connection to God, placed upon him for inspiration and guidance. His request shows how God uses the holy spirit to form a relationship with him. He begs the father to not discard him and take his holy spirit away from him because he knows when his holy spirit is gone from him he is no longer in God’s presence. Remember that in the Old Testament holy spirit was placed upon select people whereas Christ made it available for all believers to receive the holy spirit in us. David’s predecessor, Saul, is an example of someone who lost his holy spirit in Old Testament times.

The original Christians believed that Jesus was subordinate to the father, not coequal, not coeternal, and not part of a Trinity!  Only the Father is God eternal!  Look at Jesus’ words:

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

Jesus called the Father the only True God. That’s Unitarian doctrine. Jesus didn’t say they were God together, he said the Father is the only true God.

Paul, likewise, wrote of one God, the Father, and one Lord (Master, ruler, the guy in charge while he may have a boss).  Yahweh is God, while Jesus is Lord because Yahweh empowered him.

So, in this original Christian setting, who is the Father?

Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God. Yahweh is one. You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. (Deu 6:4-5 WEB)

The Lord God is one.  He is one person!  He alone is God.

Yahweh… says: “I am Yahweh, who makes all things; who alone stretches out the heavens; who spreads out the earth by myself;  (Isa 44:24b WEB)

Yahweh says he alone spread out creation.  Alone refers to a single person. Myself refers to one person! Yahweh says “I” here and in so many places. (Yes, there are a few places where the pronoun “we” is used but even there the verb indicates singular, not plural persons acting.) Yahweh is referred to as a person, but only one person.

Who is this God the Father, Yahweh? Yahweh’s declaration of his name to the children of Israel speaks loudly to who God is and how hard he is to comprehend to us mere humans.

Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the back of the wilderness, and came to God’s mountain, to Horeb. Yahweh’s angel appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the middle of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. Moses said, “I will go now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When Yahweh saw that he came over to see, God called to him out of the middle of the bush, and said, “Moses! Moses!” He said, “Here I am.” He said, “Don’t come close. Take off your sandals, for the place you are standing on is holy ground.” Moreover he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look at God. Yahweh said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey; to the place of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Now, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to me. Moreover I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “Certainly I will be with you. This will be the token to you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Moses said to God, “Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and tell them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you;’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What should I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM,” and he said, “You shall tell the children of Israel this: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  (Exo 3:1-14 WEB)

God is not a person like you and me.  God is so awesome that we cannot look at him in our weak state.

“I am that I am” as a name is so powerful and speaks more to who God is than calling him just a person like the rest of us.

God named himself YHWH to which the vowels were added and became Yahweh, as it says in the next verse.

God said moreover to Moses, “You shall tell the children of Israel this, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations. (Exo 3:15 WEB)

Yahweh is the creator.  Scripture starts with the declaration that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  And as we read above (Isa 44:24) he did it alone.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen 1:1 WEB)

Now, in that creation, he created a lot of stuff, stars, worlds, etc.  He also created angels, though there is little about this in scripture.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. (Gen 2:1 ESV)

The host referred to above could mean all the stars, galaxies, planets, and such but it could also refer to angels.  Angels aren’t Yahweh, they are created spirit beings with power and responsibilities.

God alone is God, and his being, his power is beyond us to measure.

But will God in very deed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens can’t contain you; how much less this house that I have built! (1Ki 8:27 WEB)

But our God is in the heavens. He does whatever he pleases. (Psa 115:3 WEB)

Great is our Lord, and mighty in power. His understanding is infinite. (Psa 147:5 WEB)

We can’t fathom his thought processes, his mind, his intelligence.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:9 WEB)

God speaks and things happen.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways,” says Yahweh. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down and the snow from the sky, and doesn’t return there, but waters the earth, and makes it grow and bud, and gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so is my word that goes out of my mouth: it will not return to me void, but it will accomplish that which I please, and it will prosper in the thing I sent it to do. (Isa 55:8-11 WEB)

God’s word, his planning, his intelligence, his Logos, gets spoken and starts to work at the same time.

Now, while this does say that God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are so much higher than our thoughts that we can’t understand them, we can understand the things that he tells us.

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

Yes, God is this incredible reality beyond our comprehension, but we can understand what he tells us because he knows what we will be able to understand and he wants us to know some things.  There is one and only way to know something about Yahweh; what he has revealed to us, the other things are secret.

In the physical world, we have a grasp of a lot of things and can experiment to test to see how things are.  That’s science. That’s inductive reasoning, and we can use it in the physical world to learn things.

Beyond what he has revealed we cannot be sure of how God works or his nature because he is so beyond our understanding.  Beyond what is revealed cannot be determined because of the uncertainty of trying to figure out something beyond measure and beyond our comprehension. Yes, we know some things he has revealed in his word, but there is so much that we don’t know that we cannot make determinations about what is not revealed.

But as it is written, “Things which an eye didn’t see, and an ear didn’t hear, which didn’t enter into the heart of man, these God has prepared for those who love him.” But to us, God revealed them through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God, except God’s Spirit. But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things. 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 2:9-14 WEB)

The words in these verses are all about the futility of trying to understand the nature and workings of God through human means like philosophizing and making hypotheses and testing them with inductive logic, incorporated with deductive logic and a priori assumptions, and the like which is how the doctrine of the Trinity was constructed.  Men can’t understand God with philosophy, human wisdom.  That’s what the verse above says.

“God revealed them through the Spirit” is how we know things about God!  Natural man can’t know them because they are spiritually discerned.

We know the things freely given to us by God via the spirit. That is what scripture says.  It also says we can’t know them with man’s wisdom.  Our philosophies (wisdom of men) can teach a lot of things but not things of the spirit of God. If we know a truth from God it has been spiritually discerned either by prophecy in scripture or personal revelation (refers more to things happening in a person’s life).

Jesus Christ in Unitarianism is a man who accepted the commission to be the Messiah.  Jesus clearly taught that by himself he did not have God’s power, but he was just following God the Father in what he did. Therefore, he is God’s appointed agent, his Messiah, his Christ. Here Yahweh’s Messiah talks about his relationship to the Father:

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

Jesus can do nothing of himself!  God can do things of himself, Jesus can’t. Jesus is subordinate.

Jesus was a man, a seed (offspring) of Eve, who was promised to rectify the debacle in the Garden of Eden when the Devil deceived Eve into sinning and Adam followed suit.

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Gen 3:15 KJV)

Jesus was special in that he was the second Adam, and born by the power of the holy spirit.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. (Mat 1:18 KJV)

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. (1Co 15:45 KJV)

Jesus, being a man, didn’t know everything, he was limited in certain ways and had to grow as all people do.

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

But no one knows of that day and hour, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Mat 24:36 WEB)

But Jesus fulfilled his mission!  And Jesus was elevated to God’s second in command when he fulfilled that mission and was raised from the dead.  All power is given to him, except it is known that it is God the Father that gives him this power and is truly God over all, even over Christ.

This Jesus God raised up, to which we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted by the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this, which you now see and hear. (Act 2:32-33 WEB)

Still in all this Christ is subject to the Father as it says in the following verse.

The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For, “He put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when he says, “All things are put in subjection”, it is evident that he is excepted who subjected all things to him. When all things have been subjected to him, then the Son will also himself be subjected to him who subjected all things to him, that God may be all in all. (1Co 15:26-28 WEB)

The above verse says that God the Father put Christ over all things except the Father.  Everywhere and at all times Jesus was and is subordinate to the Father.

God is holy spirit because God is holy and God is spirit.  That is just who he is.  Whenever holy spirit is used in scripture it refers to God inspiring and empowering others in the gift he gives to us.

For I am Yahweh your God. Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy. (Lev 11:44a WEB)

God is spirit…” (Joh 4:24a WEB)

There it is: God is holy and God is spirit; God is holy spirit. When we believe, Yahweh gives us some of his holy spirit;

Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Act 2:38 WEB)

Yahweh communicates with the spirit he puts in us;

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God; (Rom 8:16 WEB)

Yahweh empowers us through his spirit;

that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; (Eph 3:16 WEB)

Yahweh enables different gifts to people through holy spirit;

Having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, if prophecy, let’s prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or service, let’s give ourselves to service; or he who teaches, to his teaching; or he who exhorts, to his exhorting; he who gives, let him do it with generosity; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.  (Rom 12:6-8 WEB)

That is the Apostles’ tradition, what they handed down to us.  It’s what they put in practice.  It is what we are charged to follow in 2Tim 2:15 and other places.

Compared to the incomprehensible doctrine of the Trinity Unitarianism is a welcome breeze of fresh air.  It is much simpler.  It is understandable.  It is freeing not to be bound under the weight of the mind-boggling complexities of the Trinity, a man-made doctrine that took centuries to formulate, and then the Roman Church took extreme measure to enforce compliance to point that it is still embedded in so many Christian lives today.

Be free from the ravages of this incomprehensible doctrine.  If the Father is God and the Son is God and the Spirit is God why aren’t they equal to each other? In Philosophy that is called incongruence. It doesn’t work.  Where in scripture does it say that Jesus had two wills? Yet that is what the doctrine of the Trinity demands because Scripture says that God cannot be tempted but Jesus was tempted in all ways.  The incongruities go on and on. Be like the original Christians, accept the Unitarian view, God the Father alone is God, Jesus Christ, a man, was the son of God, and holy spirit refers to God in action with us as he gives the gift of holy spirit to men and interacts with them.

Always remember that we are charged by the Apostles to follow their tradition.

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)

In closing, I want to ask an interesting question. What do Henry W Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Cullen Bryant, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Q Adams, Millard Fillmore, William H Taft, and Daniel Webster all have in common? The answer is they were all Unitarians![7]  So were Isaac Newton and John Milton.[8] These are just some of the many notable people that have realized the truth in this area.  This is not a doctrine believed by just unlearned and ignorant men.

It’s time for all who call upon the name of the Lord to embrace Unitarianism again.


Further Reading on Christian Unitarianism (including links to resources available online)

Encyclopedia Americana, 1920 Edition, Vol XXVII, p. O301 available online at https://ia800305.us.archive.org/33/items/encyclopediaame23unkngoog/encyclopediaame23unkngoog.pdf. This article in this century old Encyclopedia Americana is the better part of 10 pages long and reflects that Unitarianism was more known then. Find the topic Unitarianism

Statement of Reasons For Not Believing The Doctrines of the Trinitarians, Andrews Norton, London, 1846

The Doctrine of the Trinity, Anthony F. Buzzard and Charles F. Hunting, Atlanta Bible College and Restoration Fellowship, 1990

The Elements of Unitarianism, George Chryssides, Element Books, Dorset, 1998

The Epic of Unitarianism, David B. Parke, Skinner House Books, Boston, 1957

The History of The Doctrine of the Trinity The True Scriptural Picture, http://www.antipas.org/books/trinity/trinity1.html  

The Trinity: True Or False? Peter J. Southgate, Dawn Book Supply, 1995, A Christadelphian book available at https://www.the1way.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/THE-TRINITY-true-or-false-2nd-edition.pdf

The Racovian Catechism, available at http://thehumanjesus.org/media/pdf/The_Racovian_Catechism.pdf

The Two Treatises of Servetus on the Trinity, Michael Serveto, Translated by Earl Morse Wilbur, Wipf & Stock, Eugene, Published 2013

One God & One Lord : Reconsidering the Cornerstone of Christian Faith, Mark H Graeser, John A. Lynn, John W Schoenheit, Christian Educational Services, 2000

One God Over All (Class), Living Hope International Ministries, available at https://lhim.org/lhim-class/?id=84


[1] Much of the groundwork for this has already been laid. In 03.25.1 The Great Councils Continued, Finishing the Development of Trinitarian Doctrine and Related Issues; Over 500 Years of Debate on the Nature of Christ and the Trinity we see that the Trinity was a slowly developed doctrine based on philosophical arguments that started early in the second century and was initially put in place at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.  That article explains how beliefs changed from original Christianity slowly and all of the changes to fully develop the Trinity weren’t fully in place until the seventh century A.D.  It also explains that in the process of developing this doctrine, extra-biblical terms and thinking processes were used to formulate it.
Also, the co-equality and co-eternality of the persons in the Trinity are building blocks of Trinitarian doctrine.  In John 1 – The meaning of the Logos; The Slippery Slope of Applying Mathematical Precision to Language Expressions. the true meaning of the Logos is presented. And it is shown that this section of John’s gospel does not substantiate the Trinitarian view.  Not only that, it is recognized and shown in the article that originally Christianity was not Trinitarian, but was actually Unitarian and this is written in sources such as:
The Encyclopaedia Britannica Vol.23 :  Internet Archive p.963, says “the Trinitarians and the Unitarians continued to confront each other, the latter at the beginning of the 3rd century still forming the large majority”[1].
Furthermore, it is impossible to prove the trinity without the a priori assumption of a triune God.  Only Trinitarian Christians believe in a triune God. Despite some imaginative research into Jewish writings, look at any Jewish site for support of the Trinity and you won’t find any. The original Apostles were all Jewish and believed likewise. Look at this statement on the Jewish encyclopedia.
(Despite arguments by Trinitarians purporting that the Jews believed in the Trinity),” The controversies between the Christians and the Jews concerning the Trinity centered for the most part about the problem whether the writers of the Old Testament bore witness to it or not, the Jews naturally rejecting every proof brought forward by their opponents.” (TRINITY: https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14519-trinity).
According to Supplement to Trinity, Judaic and Islamic Objections, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/judaic-islamic-trinity.html, it is generally accepted that neither Jews nor Muslims believe in a triune God.  As the number of people believing in the trinity is not even a majority of persons this a priori assumption has poor justification.
Much of this including a priori assumptions is also discussed in Philosophy in Christianity – Welcome Addition or Intrusion of Worldly Reasoning?  A priori comes from the Latin meaning “before”. A priori claims are things that you can base your argument on because they are self-evident.  You don’t have to prove these claims because everyone knows that they are true, or at least that is the claim of the philosopher.  In math, all angles in a triangle add up to 180 degrees.  When you are arguing math, you don’t have to prove that.  Or that 1+1=2. In your argument, you can assume them to be true. When you use a priori claims you are starting with an assumption that something is true.  That is part of this process.

Do all math knowledgeable Christians, Jews, Muslims, and every other kind of religion all believe that the angles in a triangle add up to 180°? There is no dispute, no matter the religion on that claim. But, do all Christians, Jews, Muslims, and every other kind of religion all believe that God is triune? Of course, the answer is no, they do not. While some Christian groups have attempted to “prove” the existence of Trinitarian ideology in Jewish writings, there are no Jews or Muslims that believe in a triune God. That makes using the existence of a triune God as an a priori claim not justified. The original Apostles were all Jews and didn’t believe in the Trinity.

Additionally, in these and other articles, scripture verses that are used to preach the Trinity are shown that they don’t actually prove the Trinity as it is defined. Part of the reason for this that some verses are mistranslated to appear to substantiate the Trinity when they do not.  For example, things created on account of Jesus Christ are not the same as things created by Jesus Christ. That all things were written on account of Jesus Christ is what is written, and so forth.

[2] The Church of the First Three Centuries, Alva Lamson D.D., Horace Fuller, Boston, 1880, p.80 available at https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Church_of_the_First_Three_Centuries/i21QAQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&printsec=frontcover

[3] The Encyclopaedia Britannica Vol.23 :  Internet Archive p.963

[4] Encyclopedia Americana, Vol 23,  page 301.

[5] Encyclopedia Americana, 1920 Edition, Vol XXVII, p. O301 available online at https://ia800305.us.archive.org/33/items/encyclopediaame23unkngoog/encyclopediaame23unkngoog.pdf. This article in the Encyclopedia Americana is the better part of 10 pages long. In a much more recent addition of the World Book Encyclopedia, the entry on Unitarianism was a long paragraph, a fraction of a page. That again demonstrates that the prominence of Unitarianism, the original belief of Judaism and its successor Christianity, has been slowly hidden over time. In searching the library catalog of my local library, there were no whole books on Unitarianism, and there were three books that had small references to the subject while a century ago Unitarianism was still a huge topic as demonstrated by the size of the entry into this encyclopedia that is about a century old!

[6] Encyclopedia Americana, volume 27, 1956, P. 2941, quoted in The Doctrine of the Trinity, Anthony F. Buzzard and Charles F. Hunting, Atlanta Bible College and Restoration Fellowship, 1990 P. 19

[7] Encyclopedia Americana, 1920 Edition, Vol XXVII, p. O301 available online at https://ia800305.us.archive.org/33/items/encyclopediaame23unkngoog/encyclopediaame23unkngoog.pdf

[8] The Doctrine of the Trinity, Anthony F. Buzzard and Charles F. Hunting, Atlanta Bible College and Restoration Fellowship, 1990 P. 112-113

revised 11/3/2021

November 1st, 2021 Posted by | Tradition, Trinity | no comments

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