OriginalChristianity

Not Traditional, Original

The Vision of OriginalChristianity.Net

The vision of OriginalChristianity.Net is to look at the beliefs and practices of the the original Christians.  The reason why this is important is that over the millennium Christianity has developed numerous factions that all claim that that they are the true continuation of original Christianity.  I heard exactly that when I visited a Greek Orthodox Church, I have read it in Roman Catholic literature, it is in the bulletin of a local non-denominational church in my area.  They make these claims despite the fact that they have disagreed, even violently at times.  For other articles on this topic, see A Major Objection to the Restoration Movement Is That Christianity Has Not Changed Substantially Over Time, and Another Claim of Original Christianity in Practice Today,

Throughout this website are numerous articles written on the numerous divisions in the Church that we have today, how a lot of these doctrines developed that are behind all these divisions, and some key points on how original Christianity differed from today.  It is important to look at all these things because they are part of Christianity now and play a big part, perhaps more as obstacles, in the faith of the individual believer.

But the key point of this website is to be able to envision what original Christianity, and in particular the time of Jesus and the apostles and disciples that he touched was really like. There was an incredible spirituality. With the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, and afterward the sending of the Holy Spirit we see the most incredible movement of God on earth since creation.

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This was a time of power, miracles, healing, and deliverance, not only by Jesus, but by those he touched, his apostles and disciples. People saw God in action through these men. They saw the word of God living, because they lived it together. There was incredible community and sharing. There was incredible believing. There was great faith.

It was a time of simple doctrine.  There were no official doctrines on infant baptism or believer’s baptism. There was no doctrine that prophecy and the other gifts and manifestations of the spirit had ceased. There were baptisms being carried out, and the last supper repeated as a memorial, but there were no “sacraments”, somehow mysteriously conveying grace by ritualistic practices. There were no autonomous churches disputing which form of church government was doctrinally correct, which end times theology was correct, or arguments over whether or not there was eternal security.

There was no argument over the status of the Bible, because there was no Bible. Jesus had referenced the law and the prophets, including the Psalms, as the word of God. And only those books with the addition of the words of Jesus were considered the word of God. There were no written Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There were no epistles of Peter, Paul, Hebrews, John, and Jude. So there was no argument over doctrines derived from them like eternal security, justification by grace, predestination, or even the Trinity.

Philosophy was rejected as an unwise practice of the Greeks that actually tore down faith more than it built, so discussion of faith wasn’t an analytical exercise in the nuances of the meanings of words, but rather simple directives, and powerful stories and analogies that emphasize the important meanings to be focused on while ignoring the myriad details that can lead people astray.

What existed was the good news that Jesus the Messiah had come, that he had fulfilled the law, had sent the Holy Spirit, and now many believers were walking in great faith and power. What existed was great praise, great faith, and great love of God.

All of this is not to say that this was an easy time. There were persecutions, challenges, and trials, as both the Jews and the Romans saw this burgeoning Christianity as a threat. But this just served to bring the Christians closer together, and more united in their faith.

Original Christianity was a time of great unity, simple doctrine, great believing, with many believers walking in the love of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

So as you read these articles that discuss all of the divisions, and developments, both good and bad throughout the millennia of history of Christianity, it is important to maintain the focus of the simple vision of original Christianity.  Pray, praise the Lord, walk in the power of the spirit, love God and love your neighbor, and rejoice in what Christ has done. Join together with any Christian who is doing the same.  And in the process perhaps we can bring some of what made original Christianity so great back to life.

© copyright 2012 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

February 12th, 2012 Posted by | Original Christianity | no comments

The Leading of Original Christianity Was Done By Apostles and Other Gift Ministries through the Spirit, Not by Bishops As We Have Now

Paul writes in first Corinthians about the preeminence of the gift ministries in operation:

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, divers kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28 ASV)

We can see that this was the actual practice by some of the records in the book of Acts:

And certain men came down from Judaea and taught the brethren, saying, Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved. And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and questioning with them, the brethren appointed that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. They therefore, being brought on their way by the church, passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church and the apostles and the elders, and they rehearsed all things that God had done with them. (Acts 15:1-4 ASV)

Here we see a problem that has arisen to the church.  The problem is that some have said that believers must be circumcised, but others have rejected that notion. What we are looking at here is the fact that this issue was brought to the attention of Paul and Barnabas, who were apostles. It was not brought to and resolved by bishops. Paul and Barnabas, in turn, took the issue to Jerusalem, where it was presented to, again, men with gift ministries, as well as the “elders”. It is clear from these verses that the ultimate authority in deciding what was true doctrine was in the hands of the apostles.

However, in other places, it may not look as clear.  Look at these verses:

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. (Acts 21:17-19 ASV)

The context is that Paul had been advised by prophets on numerous occasions not to go to Jerusalem. And when he gets to Jerusalem it says that he went to James, and the elders.  This makes it look like he went to the Bishops, as opposed to going to the apostles and prophets.

However, on closer examination, we read that James, while he was recognized as the “Bishop” of the Jerusalem church, he was also an apostle.  This is seen by verses from Paul’s writing to the Galatians:

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and tarried with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. (Galatians 1:18-19 ASV)

So here we see that James (identified as “the Lord’s brother” because there was more than one James) was also recognized as an apostle.

So it is consistent that the authority of the church in original Christianity clearly presided in the apostles and other persons with gift ministries.

This practice changed relatively quickly after the writing of the book of Acts.

In 01.1.3 Clement Used Apostolic Succession as the argument against replacing Presbyters in 1 Clement, we see the just decades after the end of the book of Acts there are already movements to establish the distinction of clergy versus laity with the bishops holding the ultimate authority in the church. Here we see the foundation for the formation of Cessation doctrine, the doctrine that states that the “gifts” inclucing the gift ministries of apostles, prophets and so forth ended with the original apostles. See The Argument that Tongues and other Gifts and Manifestations have Ceased for more on Cessation doctrine.

Nevertheless, we must always acknowledge that in original Christianity the ultimate authority of the church on earth laid in the hands of the apostles, prophets and others with gift ministries.

© copyright 2011 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved

December 11th, 2011 Posted by | Original Christianity | no comments

Original Christianity Did Everything in the Name of Jesus [Christ]

The name of Jesus Christ was critical in Original Christianity.  Paul wrote that the name of Jesus [Christ] was the most powerful authority on heaven and earth, and everything that was done by a believer was to be done in the name of Jesus Christ:

In General

that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, (Philippians 2:10)

Being So powerful, Paul wrote that all things in word or deed should be done in the name of Jesus Christ:

And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)

If ye are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are ye; because the Spirit of glory and the Spirit of God resteth upon you. (1 Peter 4:14)

men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 15:26)

that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:12)

And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as he gave us commandment(1 John 3:23)

Salvation

Calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ was part of the instruction to the people on how to be saved:

And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Acts 2:21)

for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)

These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)

Baptism

Calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ was part of the instruction to the people on how to be washed (baptized):

Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: (Matthew 28:19)

And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

But when they believed Philip preaching good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.(Acts 8:12)

for as yet it was fallen upon none of them: only they had been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 8:16)

And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days. (Acts 10:48)

And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:5)

Ministering And Healing

When the Apostles ministered healing and miracles it was in the name of Jesus Christ:

But Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but what I have, that give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk. (Acts 3:6)

be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even in him doth this man stand here before you whole. (Acts 4:10)

while thy stretchest forth thy hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of thy holy Servant Jesus. (Acts 4:30)

And this she did for many days. But Paul, being sore troubled, turned and said to the spirit, I charge thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And it came out that very hour. (Acts 16:18)

But certain also of the strolling Jews, exorcists, took upon them to name over them that had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. (Acts 19:13)

And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, that dwelt at Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. (Acts 19:17)

in the name of our Lord Jesus, ye being gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1 Corinthians 5:4-5)

Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: (James 5:14)

Speaking and Preaching

When the Apostles and Disciples spoke and preached it was in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ:

And they called them, and charged them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:18)

And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles unto them, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. (Acts 5:40)

But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. (Acts 9:27)

preaching boldly in the name of the Lord: and he spake and disputed against the Grecian Jews; but they were seeking to kill him. (Acts 9:29)

Prayer and Thanksgiving

Is prayer is to be done in the name of the trinity? No, it is be done in the single name of Jesus Christ!

unto the church of God which is at Corinth, even them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, their Lord and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2)

giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; (Ephesians 5:20)

Notice in the above that Paul directs that prayer is in the name of Jesus Christ to God the Father, not in the name of God the Father!

Used in Commands to the Disciples to Charge Them to Do Things

When the Apostles commanded things they did it in the name of Jesus Christ, not the trinity.

Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us. (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

The Oddity of Matthew 28:19

Now, notice that every one of the above verses except Matthew 28:19 specifies the name of Jesus Christ, and doesn’t mention the name of the Father, or the Spirit.  So, let’s look at that famous verse that some call the great commission:

Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: (Matthew 28:19)

Some people teach that there is no difference between “the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” and the name of Jesus Christ.  Yet the latter is used exclusively for everything in the rest of the New Testament, and the Apostles are very specific that “the name of Jesus Christ” is the name of authority.  They NEVER use “the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. The practice of doing everything in the name of Jesus Christ including baptism appears to be the norm for Original Christianity up until the time of Justin Martyr.

Bible teachers and pastors will tell not to make a doctrine out of a single verse, but that is what is being done here!

So what is the answer?  We need to follow the instruction of the apostles and do everything in the name of Jesus Christ.  And concerning the oddity of Matthew 28:19 we will look more at that in another article.

© copyright 2011 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved.  Revised 2019.

March 20th, 2011 Posted by | Original Christianity | no comments

The Apostles and Disciples Had Major Disagreements and Made Mistakes

Most people are familiar with Jesus rebuking the apostles for their unbelief and their mistakes in the Gospels.  But somehow some think that everything the Apostles said and did was perfect and according to the will of God after the day of Pentecost when the Apostles record many great manifestations of power and believing.  Look at these verses:

And with great power gave the apostles their witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:33)

And every day, in the temple and at home, they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:42)

And Simon also himself believed: and being baptized, he continued with Philip; and beholding signs and great miracles wrought, he was amazed. (Acts 8:13)

And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: (Acts 19:11)

The Apostles led a world changing movement of the word of God.  They preached, people believed and signs, miracles, and wonders happened

But that the Apostles and Disciples disagreed and made mistakes is easily proven with a look at some other accounts in the book of Acts.  First we have the record of a couple of the followers:

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? (Acts 5:1-3)

These guys were part of the church!  There are those that teach that once someone believes they are above being manipulated by the devil.  There are even those that say that believers no longer sin, but I beg to differ, and this section in Acts is proof.  What is terrifying is that in this case the followers in question were rebuked so much they died.  Maybe they had heart attacks, maybe it was shock, the verses don’t say.  But the verses are a clear warning not to try to lie to God.  What is amazing in this situation is that there was no requirement that these people give all the money to the Church, they chose to lie that they were giving all the money when in fact they were not.

But some may argue that Annanias and Sapphira were just small time believers, that the Apostles, Prophets, and other leaders were above these kinds of error.

Look at this record:

And Barnabas was minded to take with them John also, who was called Mark. But Paul thought not good to take with them him who withdrew from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And there arose a sharp contention, so that they parted asunder one from the other, and Barnabas took Mark with him, and sailed away unto Cyprus; but Paul choose Silas, and went forth, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches. (Acts 15:37-41)

Paul and Barnabas were major figures in Original Christianity.  They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted ways.

And of course there is the record of Peter ministering to Cornelius’ family in Acts 10.  Cornelius was a Gentile.  Peter was instructed in a vision that it was acceptable to include the Gentiles in the movement of the word of God.  Still, when the Apostles and brethren heard what Peter had done, some contended (opposed) him.

After Peter explained that the spirit had instructed him in a vision, the opposition ceased.  But it still shows that just because Peter was an Apostle everything he did was not automatically accepted.

The next example is in Acts 15:

And certain men came down from Judaea and taught the brethren, saying, Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved. And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and questioning with them, the brethren appointed that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. They therefore, being brought on their way by the church, passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church and the apostles and the elders, and they rehearsed all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees who believed, saying, It is needful to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider of this matter. (Acts 15:1-6)

“No small dissension” is how this disagreement is described.  In fact, there are a number of important points here.  First, the church was divided over the issue of circumcision.    To anyone that thinks that there were no division in the first century church this disproves that.   And this was not a disagreement where they had broken fellowship over the division; even though they disagreed over the circumcision they still fellowshipped together, as evidenced by the meeting above.  In this case the issue was pretty much resolved as later in chapter 15 they issued a proclamation on how to handle this situation.

However, according to Galatians chapter 2 we see that Peter did not get the truth of the situation all that easily:

When Peter came to Antioch, I told him face to face that he was wrong. He used to eat with Gentile followers of the Lord, until James sent some Jewish followers. Peter was afraid of the Jews and soon stopped eating with Gentiles. He and the other Jews hid their true feelings so well that even Barnabas was fooled. But when I saw that they were not really obeying the truth that is in the good news, I corrected Peter in front of everyone and said: Peter, you are a Jew, but you live like a Gentile. So how can you force Gentiles to live like Jews? (Galatians 2:11-14 CEV)

Anybody that thinks that Apostles had perfect understanding all the time needs to commit these verses to memory.  Peter was the one that had ministered to the first gentiles, Cornelius and his family.  Peter was the one that corrected the Apostles and brethren back in Jerusalem when they contended with him over the issue.  Still, Paul writes that Peter was afraid of those that promoted the circumcision,  stopped eating with the Gentiles and was hypocritical about the whole issue to the point that Barnabas was fooled.  In spite of the direction given that the Gentiles were to be fully accepted into the fellowship, Peter, of all people, did not!

Here again we have clear written proof that the disciples and even the Apostles made major mistakes both in practice and doctrine.

This next error by an apostle is one that most churches do not teach at all, and it goes to show you how the theology of the translators can affect biblical translation.

Was Paul supposed to go to Jerusalem?

We are going to look at the record of Paul making the decision to go to Jerusalem, prophecies being given advising him not to go and what will happen if he goes there, his ultimate decision, and how the translation of a single verse changes whether or not Paul was walking according to the word of God or not. We will start by looking at the account in Acts chapter 20:

For Paul had determined to sail past Ephesus, that he might not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hastening, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost. And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called to him the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, after what manner I was with you all the time, serving the Lord with all lowliness of mind, and with tears, and with trials which befell me by the plots of the Jews; how I shrank not from declaring unto you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Spirit testifieth unto me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But I hold not my life of any account as dear unto myself, so that I may accomplish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I testify unto you this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I shrank not from declaring unto you the whole counsel of God. Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:16-28)

Paul says, “I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Spirit testifieth unto me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.”

This verse says that Paul is aware, because of the prophecies given in every city, that there is a problem in going to Jerusalem.  Paul takes on the tough guy attitude here saying that he doesn’t count his life that precious, the most important thing is the work of the ministry.  But Paul still appears to think that it’s either okay if he goes to Jerusalem with God, or that God, in fact, still wants him to go. But that is not what it says in the next section we are going to read:

And when it came to pass that were parted from them and had set sail, we came with a straight course unto Cos, and the next day unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara: and having found a ship crossing over unto Phoenicia, we went aboard, and set sail. And when we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left hand, we sailed unto Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unlade her burden. And having found the disciples, we tarried there seven days: and these said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not set foot in Jerusalem. (Acts 21:1-4)

Verse four above says that the disciples said to Paul through the spirit that he should not set foot in Jerusalem.    That looks pretty simple, plain, and straightforward; the message is that the spirit is telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem. That isn’t what Paul said above where he said he was going “bound in the spirit” to Jerusalem, and he didn’t care what awaited him there. Paul wasn’t getting the message!  Let’s look at the next record about this:

And when we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais; and we saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day. And on the morrow we departed, and came unto Caesarea: and entering into the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we abode with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters, who prophesied. And as we tarried there some days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And coming to us, and taking Paul’s girdle, he bound his own feet and hands, and said, Thus saith the Holy Spirit, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. And when we heard these things, both we and they of that place besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, What do ye, weeping and breaking my heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.  (Acts 21:7-14)

This section actually has multiple prophesies, because the four daughters of Philip the evangelist prophesied, and then after that Agabus prophesied.  It doesn’t say exactly what the prophecies of Philips daughters were, but the context here is that the spirit is prophesying the Paul not to go to Jerusalem because bonds and afflictions await him. I think you can include the daughters of Philip as members in a chain of people sent via the spirit to tell Paul not to go to Jerusalem.

Then Agabus gives a prophecy where he bind his own feet and hands with Paul’s girdle and says that that is what is going to happen to Paul.

Despite all of the prophecies warning Paul about the dangers and especially the word given in verse four that the prophecies were warning Paul NOT to go to Jerusalem, most people still believe that Paul was not disobeying the spirit, rather he was actually supposed this go to Jerusalem after all of that because of acts 21:14:

And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

Anybody that reads this verse the way it is can only say, but that it is obvious that it was the will of God for Paul to go, that’s why they stopped trying to tell him not to go.

The problem is that acts 21:14 is completely changed by the addition of two commas, neither of which was in the original text as there is no punctuation in the Greek manuscripts.  Here is the same sentence without the commas:

And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased saying the will of the Lord be done.

Oh my gosh! When you remove the two commas the verse is completely different in meaning!  Without the commas the verse says that the believers stopped telling Paul to do the will of the Lord because he would not be persuaded!

Now one could argue that because of Paul’s own testimony that he was bound in the spirit to go, that adding the commas was the correct translation.  However, that doesn’t solve the problem of the contradiction that that translation creates with Acts 21:4. In Acts 21:4 it says that the disciples of the spirit were telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem. What does it mean for disciples to tell somebody something “through the spirit”?  It means that the agent of the message is the spirit, not the person. And what is it when you have a person who gives a message from the spirit? That is prophecy. So here we have a clear statement that the prophecy was that Paul SHOULD NOT go to Jerusalem, and that makes the correct translation of Acts 21:14 that the believers stopped telling Paul to do the will of the Lord because it was obvious that he wasn’t getting the message, and he was being stubborn, and would not be persuaded.  Paul, at best, misunderstood the message while the spirit was sending prophet after prophet telling him not to go!

Another key to the correct translation is the phrase “and when he would not be persuaded”. Does the will of God depend on whether or not someone is persuaded or not? If it’s the will of God for you to start a church, does it stop being the will of God because you stubbornly refuse to believe that God wants you to do that? Of course not! And neither did Paul’s refusing to be persuaded change God’s will about going to Jerusalem. But there comes a point when it becomes obvious that just telling someone again isn’t going to work.  So you stop telling them, and that is what God did.

In the book of Acts we have both the good and the bad acts of the apostles. They preached mightily, they healed people, they performed miracles, they instructed many in the word of God, and did great things.  But they also made mistakes and those mistakes are also documented as we have seen above: Annanias and Sapphira lied to the spirit, Peter stopped eating with the Gentiles, some at Jerusalem promoted circumcision, Paul refused to believe that God didn’t want him to go to Jerusalem.  In some of these the record says that there was no small dissension, or disagreement. In Acts then we see mighty great works of the apostles, and mighty mistakes.

How did it come then that the apostles came to be viewed as such perfect creatures? We will see when we look at Irenaeus about 150 years after Paul that Irenaeus wrote the apostles were deemed to be recipients of perfect knowledge.  We see that as time went on the reputation of the apostles grew. This is a common phenomenon. Everybody is familiar with the story of the fisherman who caught a big fish, but the fish grew the more the story was told.  It appears that the more the believers talked about the original apostles and disciples the more perfect they became.

© copyright 2011 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved.

March 16th, 2011 Posted by | Original Christianity | no comments

Paul Wrote About the Lure and Futility of Philosophy

In preparation for studying the apologist movement in the early church I have been studying philosophy more than I ever have. I am starting to understand the lure that philosophy has. If you don’t have any absolute truth that you believe that has been revealed by God that you are only left with whatever you can determine by investigation. Philosophy is an exhaustive investigation process of everything from the earth and nature to God, the soul, man’s behavior, and the afterlife.

Perhaps more than any other philosopher,  Aristotle set the stage for how knowledge is pursued, at least in the western world.  Aristotle wrote this about his method:

To examine all the opinions that have been held were perhaps somewhat fruitless; enough to examine those that are most prevalent or that seem to be arguable.[i]

This clearly states that Aristotle’s method was to examine many arguments in relationship to any question. So while he states that he’s going to throw out some, he plans to engage any argument that is either prominent, or holds merit. This is the exhaustive investigation of his and other philosopher’s writings.

Paul had experience both with Greek people and the arguments of philosophy. We read in the book of Acts that Paul led Greeks to the faith. For example, in Acts 17 we have this record about new believers in Thessalonica:

Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed; also of the Greek women of honorable estate, and of men, not a few.(Acts 17:11-12)

So here we have that, not only were there new Greek believers, there were new Greek believers of “honorable estate”, meaning these were people of distinction and wealth in the community.

It’s only reasonable then that Paul would address some of the Greek influences in his writings.  Paul mentions Greeks numerous times in his writings:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Paul makes a point that when it comes to the things of God there is no distinction between Jews and Greeks, or barbarians or any other classification of people:

but glory and honor and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek: for there is no respect of persons with God. (Romans 2:10-11)

Paul makes a point to distinguish between the wisdom of God, and the wisdom of this world. He specifically warns against being spoiled through philosophy:

Take heed lest there shall be any one that makes spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ: (Colossians 2:8)

One of the traits of the Greeks is the pursuit of learning. Paul warns that it is available to be always learning, yet never learning the truth.   This indicates that Paul is acknowledging some sort of compulsion, or addiction where people are always seeking knowledge:

…ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:7)

In numerous places Paul compares the wisdom of God to the wisdom of men:

Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words. Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged. (1 Corinthians 2:13-14)

Here Paul says that there is a requirement to be able to learn the wisdom of God. That requirement is that the person seeking the wisdom have the spirit of God in them. Without the spirit of God a person cannot comprehend the wisdom of God because it is spiritually discerned.

It is in the first chapter of the first book of Corinthians that we see Paul specifically addressing a conflict between those seeking the wisdom of this world (philosophy) and those seeking the wisdom of God:

For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the discernment of the discerning will I bring to nought. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe. Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumblingblock, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: (1 Corinthians 1:19-26)

There are a lot of points here. Paul plainly writes that the Greeks seek after wisdom, a direct reference to the emphasis of philosophy in the Greek culture (philosophy means love of wisdom). He calls this Greek emphasis on philosophy “being wise after the flesh.” He also says that the wisdom of God in sending Christ as the savior is foolishness to the wisdom of the flesh. He says that because of this conflict many of these wise men after the flesh (philosophers and followers of philosophy) don’t believe in Christ and what he has accomplished.

In contrast to what we will see in later Christian writers Paul does not embrace philosophy.  He clearly distinguishes between philosophy, “the wisdom of the flesh “and  “the wisdom of God”.  He states there is a clear conflict between the two.  Paul contends that while the Greeks may seek after wisdom, it is futile because the wisdom of the world is different from the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world considers Christ foolishness.


[i] From the Internet Classics Archive at MIT, this page located at http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.1.i.html.  This is at the beginning of Aristotle’s NICHOMACHEAN ETHICS.

November 14th, 2010 Posted by | Original Christianity, Philosophy | one comment