Not Traditional, Original

Clergy and Laity Distinctions: Biblical or Not?

Most Christian denominations designate certain individuals as “clergy.”  Clergy in these denominations or groups hold most, if not all, of the leadership positions.  Besides administrative functions, they do most of the teaching, perform baptisms, weddings, and lead services, etc.

It is hard to pin down the purpose of having a laity.  Most groups with clergy acknowledge that “lay” people are members too and are important, but the emphasis always seems to be about how important the clergy are in leading the church.  Still, it is acknowledged that all kinds of church “roles” like lectors, ushers, business administrators, small group leaders, even theologians, are “lay” people.

On the other hand, there are groups that do not recognize clergy at all.  For example, the Brethren practice the universal priesthood of all believers to the point that in each service there is no designated leader, different men lead hymns, pray, teach in spirit-led worship.   They do not practice ordination, believing it unscriptural.

Some churches ordain pastors but do not use the term ”clergy”, rather they are recognized as gifted or ordained to be ministers without using the title of Reverand.

There is a lot written by credible sources about this problem on the internet.  I searched Google, “churches that don’t use the term clergy” and got article after article from a variety of denominational and non-denominational backgrounds.

The tradition in the Christian Church traces to the Catholic church who defines the laity from the Greek “laos”, the people and clergy from the Greek “kleros” meaning “a lot.”  A catholic becomes a clergyman by going through tonsure, having their head sheared, and being given a tunic or surplice.  Historians date the beginnings of the practice of defining clergy in the Christian Church to the second century.[1]

Catholic and other sources document the model of the Levitical priesthood and the Law as their model in establishing the clergy in the Catholic Church.[2] One argument is that while there was a Levitical priesthood Israel is talked about as potentially having a priesthood of all followers like Peter writes about.[3]

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:  (1Pe 2:9 KJV)

This actually is a quote from the book of Exodus that refers to the nation of Israel.

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples; for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (Exo 19:5-6 WEB)

This shows the desire of Yahweh that Israel should be a kingdom of priests! And it somehow is used to substantiate following the Levitical model found in the Law in the Christian Church where the law has been superseded.

Here’s something interesting about clergy.  Some people may be surprised to find out that Knights Templars, and at present the Teutonic Knights and Knights of Malta all are considered clergy.  The Knights Templars are famous for their pursuit of the holy grail, but basically, they were an elite fighting force.  They were instrumental in the crusades and later in banking.  The Teutonic Knights are European monks now, but their original charge was to capture and hold Jerusalem.  Likewise, the Knights of Malta are a religious order but they were instituted and charged with the defense of the Holy Land.

Clergy is a legal term and clergy are given special privileges in many countries. Some clergy historically have held special privileges in some countries like land ownership and even noble status.  In the United States clergy can opt-out of Social Security.  Marriages performed by clergy are in some places legally recognized automatically.

The problems cited with the system include that it is unbiblical, it promotes a system where tremendous burdens are placed on the clergy class while at the same time giving them too much power, and it works against “lay” people seeing the importance of their role in the church.

We do have some New Covenant scripture to consider. There are appointments or “ordinations” in the New Testament.  The appointment of Barnabus and Saul is cited as a model for New Covenant ordination.  It illustrates that men are appointed or ordained to a task, in this case, to be missionaries, or even to be pastors.

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)

Furthermore, Paul appointed people who appointed others as elders.

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)

However, while this talks about people being appointed to certain tasks or responsibilities, it never goes as far as distinguishing them as a class called clergy, separate from a class called laity.  That is what is in dispute.

The argument is not just from smaller groups on the fringes.  There are even Catholic priests who complain that the clergy distinction problem is unbiblical and creates an unsustainable model.[4]

[1] A History Of The Christian Church, Williston Walker, Scribner, New York, 1958, p. 82-85

[2] The true origins of the Clerical Collar. http://www.independentmethodist.org/index.Clerical.Attire.htm

[3] The-Catholic-Priesthood.pdf (holytrinityparish.net)

[4]  Clergy-Laity Divide in the Church – Church Authority

last edited 8/10/2021

August 8th, 2021 Posted by | Divisions | no comments

Philosophy in Christianity – Welcome Addition or Intrusion of Worldly Reasoning?

This article discusses the controversy over philosophy in Christianity. Remember the point of this website is to see how different doctrines developed over time, and how they compare to original Christianity in order to understand how we got so many divisions and what we must do to restore the church. This article will just look at how philosophy, with controversy, became part of Christianity.  Later articles will discuss how these concepts align with the tradition of the apostles in original Christianity.

First, I want to look at what some systematic theologians have commented about philosophy or how they used it in their works.

Grudem defines philosophical theology as “studying theological topics largely without the use of the Bible, but using the tools and methods of philosophical reasoning and what can be known about God from observing the universe”[1] Grudem then puts philosophy in the category of extra-biblical reasoning. Remember extrabiblical reasoning is the practice of using thinking and or terms outside of the bible to develop Christian doctrine. Grudem acknowledges that there will be some consideration of philosophy at points in his work.

One point that theologians make also is that God reveals his truth in his creation.  Some of the arguments they make are presented from examples and other sources outside scripture.

Theissen contrasts theology and philosophy by saying that theology has a “solid objective basis”, but philosophy “rests merely upon the assumptions and speculations of the philosopher.” Yet they both are seeking the same thing, a way of explaining everything, a comprehensive worldview. He goes further to say “philosophy has definite value for the theologian.” He adds that philosophy can support the Christian position, argue for the existence of God and other things in the spiritual plane. But, most of all, philosophy does not have a Genesis story, and a salvation story so, according to Theissen, the theologian is drawn to God’s revelation in Scripture. Theissen says that philosophy will never bring someone to Christ.[2]

Paul Tillich was a Christian philosopher and Lutheran theologian and considered one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century. As far as Scripture is concerned Tillich wrote that “Theology moves back and forth between two poles, the eternal truth of its foundation and the temporal situation in which the eternal truth must be received. Not many theological systems have been able to balance these two demands perfectly.  Most of them either sacrifice elements of the truth or not able to speak to the situation.… They confuse eternal truth with the temporal expression of this truth. This is evident in European theological orthodoxy, which in America is known as fundamentalism. When fundamentalism is combined with an anti-theological bias, as it is, for instance, in its biblistic – evangelical form, the theological truth of yesterday is defended as an unchangeable message against the theological truth of today and tomorrow.” [3]

Notice that there are no scriptures in Tillich’s comments. I have Tillich’s three-volume set named Systematic Theology. The first thing I noticed when glancing through it is there are, relatively speaking, very few Scripture references. What I do see is about 900 pages of theological philosophy.

As an example, Tillich writes “Revelation is the manifestation of the mystery of being for the cognitive function of human reason. It mediates knowledge – a knowledge, however, which can be received only in a revelatory situation, through ecstasy and miracle. This correlation indicates a special character of the “knowledge of Revelation.”[4] These are the first three sentences of the section in Volume 1 entitled The Knowledge of Revelation. This section on revelation is three pages long and there is not a single biblical reference.

Tillich is obviously an extremely intelligent, and even popular theologian – philosopher. But he is an example, in my opinion, of philosophy run amok in Christian theology.  Everything I read of his is examining not Scripture but concepts from under the authoritative analysis of philosophical methods. What I see in his writing is that Scripture is not the authority, philosophy is.

From this, we see there are varying degrees of acceptance among these theologians from the stand that philosophy can really lead you away from scripture but has its uses to the full embracing of all things philosophical.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy the section on Christianity and Philosophy starts with this:

“In the history of Christian theology, philosophy has sometimes been seen as a natural complement to theological reflection, whereas at other times practitioners of the two disciplines have regarded each other as mortal enemies.”

Next, we will look at what some Christian historians recorded about the infusion of philosophy into Christianity.

The truth is that there has been a long-running controversy over the role of philosophy in Christianity. We’re talking all the way back to the second century. Before that, everything points to a strong rejection of philosophy in the first century of Christianity. But that didn’t last.  Frend in The Rise of Christianity categorizes a changeover at the end of the sub-apostolic period as one from detesting philosophy to one embracing it as a weapon. He writes that in the days of the original apostles, Jews and Christians associated philosophies with pagan morality and refers to this verse.

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)

In Colossians (2:8) Paul associated philosophy with “empty deceit, according to human tradition,” to be contrasted with the way of Christ.

But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve in his craftiness, so your minds might be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2Co 11:3 WEB)

In second Corinthians (11:3) we see Paul entreating the Corinthians not to let themselves be seduced “from the simplicity that is in Christ.” Frend notes that Paul writes nothing positive about the Stoics and Epicureans whom Paul met in Athens.  Frend continues that this attitude toward philosophy continues throughout the New Testament as does the church Fathers that came immediately after like I Clement and Polycarp.  Frend notes “that Christians could have anything in common with pagans and their ideas were abhorrent to Polykarp.[5]” Frend also acknowledges that there were succeeding early church fathers like Iraeneus that believed heretics derived many of their heresies from philosophy.

Williston Walker in The History Of The Christian Church doesn’t discuss this shift in attitude over philosophy but calls the period from 70 A.D. to 110 A.D. a period of Christianity that is “non-– Pauline.” He says that not only is very little known about this time but is a period where Christian beliefs and practices were modified.[6]  This suggests that Christianity was being Hellenized but come short of saying it precisely. But the next historian we will look at does say just that.

Justo L Gonzales in The Story Of Christianity notes that there was a movement within Judaism at this time (sub-apostolic period) “to show the compatibility between the ancient faith in the best of Hellenistic culture.” He goes on to say that the Hebrew prophets preceded the Greek philosophers, and thus the Greek philosophers got their wisdom from the Hebrew prophets[7]. Remember that Christianity at this time, immediately after the apostles, was still considered a part of Judaism.  Gonzalez goes on to say that in this time frame Christians were finding two philosophical traditions attractive: Platonism and Stoicism.[8]

Philosophy does not seem to be embraced quickly in the early days of Christianity. Acknowledgments that the philosophy might possess truths and insights valuable for the deeper understanding of Scripture were always begrudging. Even at the end of the patristic period, John of Damascus (c. 750) wrote, “let us use whatever we can from the Greeks, for we received many things from the Greeks that will enable us to fight against the Greeks,”[9]

Thus, the inclusion of philosophy in Christian communication is given as a matter of necessity, namely, to be able to battle intellectually with multiple groups in society who were denigrating Christianity. (Just remember that just because something happened in Christian history does not make it right. “The end justifies the means” is not a verse from Scripture.)

Frend writes that from the outset the Christians were at a disadvantage. He writes that although Christians were articulate the Gnostics and other heretical groups were more capable intellectually and more in tune with the dialogue of the times.  Friend writes that Christianity at this time was “hardening into formal and legalistic tradition” which didn’t help its image. Orthodox Christianity appeared to outsiders as introspective, “frogs squatting around on marsh discussing who was the most sinful among them.” It was an intellectual battle and the Christians were on the losing side[10].

Notice the emphasis on the intellectual in the above paragraphs.  The battle was over who had the more persuasive words and the rulebook was philosophy. Compare that to:

My speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (1Co 2:4 WEB)

This verse is another scripture that compares the advantages of human wisdom with the power of the spirit brought by Christ. In the comparison of human wisdom with its persuasive words versus the spirit, the spirit wins in Scripture. In philosophy, persuasive words win.  The shift we are discussing is one from ignorant and unlearned men demonstrating the spirit in power (Acts 4:13) to elite learned people for the most part unable to demonstrate power waging intellectual battles using the tools of philosophy.

Part of the reason for this, according to Frend, is that “God active in history on behalf of his people had little in common with the God of Stoicism or Platonism who existed but did not come into contact with matter, let alone intervene in nature.”[11]  People, maybe including the believers of that time, didn’t understand that our God was a God who enabled us with power for abundant living, and so instead chose to battle on the intellectual front rather than the spiritual.

That is not to say that defending the gospel with reasoning was not part of the original Christians’ charge given by the apostles.  The charge in scripture is to examine, reason, and defend what the gospel says. See the words examining, reason, and defense emboldened in the verses below:

Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. (Act 17:11 WEB)

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be prepared with a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; (1Pe 3:15 EMTV)

It is even right for me to think this way on behalf of all of you, because I have you in my heart, because, both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the Good News, you all are partakers with me of grace. (Php 1:7 WEB)

Paul also wrote the warning against the wisdom of this world in the first chapter of Corinthians.

For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, I will bring the discernment of the discerning to nothing.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the lawyer of this world? Hasn’t God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For seeing that in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom didn’t know God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save those who believe. For Jews ask for signs, Greeks seek after wisdom, (1Co 1:19-22 WEB)

It is written in Scripture to examine, to reason, and to defend the gospel at the same time we are to avoid the wisdom of the Greeks and the world.  The wisdom of the Greeks is philosophy. Paul charges us to examine, to reason, and to defend without using the wisdom of the world, philosophy.

Frend also notes that at this time the church was becoming increasingly Orthodox especially in Rome. For Irenaeus (circa 185) Rome became the example of a church emphasizing the importance of apostolic succession[12].  Remember apostolic succession means that the power and authority vested in the original apostles are transferred from Bishop to Bishop through ordination. But that also signifies that gift ministries like apostles and prophets manifesting the spirit are no longer in operation. There is clearly a shift from the emphasis of manifesting the power of the Holy Spirit to the intellectual and philosophical.

So thus emerged the age of Christian apologetics. This is the witness of the age. Christian apologists wrote letters to pagan magistrates and leaders but they were really open letters targeted to influence provincial opinion. The amount of writing done suggests that there was a place in society for this expression of Christian philosophy.[13]

According to Frend the apologetic movement looked to both Jewish models and the methods (but not the ideas) of philosophers.”[14]

Not all church fathers embraced this movement.

In the second century, the church father Tertullian wrote The Demurrer Against The Heretics[15].  In it, he says (in a form of older English) that

“these are the Doctrines of Men and Devils, derived from the Wisdom of this World, by Men who have curiously itching Ears; to which Wisdom our Lord having given the distinguishing Term and Denomination of Folly, “hath chosen the foolish Things of the World to confound the Wise.” For a rash Explication both of the Divine Nature and Dispensations, and the Manner of God’s Proceeding in the Work of Creation is the subject Matter of all wordly Philosophy. And from this corrupt Fountain did Heresies originally flow…from which the Apostle restraining us, hath especially bid us to beware of Philosophy, in his Epistle to the Colossans, saying, “Beware lest any Man spoil you thro’ Philosophy and vain Deceit, after the Tradition of Men, and not after Christ.” The Apostle had been at Athens, and from his learned Conversation there, had become acquainted with that human Wisdom, Which carries with it an Affectation and Pretence, as well as a Corruption of the Truth; and which is divided into a Multiplicity of Sects that strenuously oppose and contradict each other. But what Relation is there between Athens and Jerusalem? What Communion hath the Academy with the Church? or what part have Hereticks with Christians?”

There is nothing supportive of Christian philosophy in these comments by Tertullian who was writing at the beginning of the third century which is after the age of apologists started.

But as time went on more and more church fathers supported philosophy.  By the third century, Christians put forth that their God was the supreme being of the philosophers which enabled them to be accepted among the intellectual crowd. The danger of course was that instead of talking about Christian truth in scriptural terms Christian truth was now discussed philosophically.[16]

Continuing this new tradition, the great Doctor of the Church, Augustine, argued that philosophy was a complement to theology when the philosophical insights used were rooted in an intellectual commitment to the truth of the Christian faith.

The prevailing attitude of people in support of the use of philosophy in Christian theology is that it is a necessary discipline to enhance biblical interpretation and explanation.[17]

Philosophy only became increasingly dominant as the centuries wore on. Here’s some insight that shows you how dominant philosophy was in the Middle Ages. And note that that philosophy was not always Christian:

Michael Psellus (1017-1078) was primarity responsible for the medieval revival of serious philosophical studies in the Byzantine East. He especially liked Platonism, and this led to the rise of the (mostly, but not always) Christian Platonism that became the dominant tradition of Byzantine civilization by the later Middle Ages.   The Platonist revival of the Western Renaissance followed from this.[18]

Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, on the eve of the Council of Florence, was sent to Constantinople where he encountered Byzantine Platonism and scholarship. He reported that that caused a great awakening about things such as the nature of the infinite, upon God, the person of Christ, even celestial movements.[19] Notice this another reference to Byzantine Platonism which is a dominant philosophy from the world. This reflects how entrenched in worldly thinking the church was by the Middle Ages.

There are more on a list of famous Christian philosophers including Thomas Aquinas and Soren Kierkegaard.

In more recent times Christian theologians have embraced philosophy for the sake of philosophy.  Look at this quote

“Quite apart from its relationship to Christianity, we believe that philosophical debate has merit. Its questions are significant and of fundamental and enduring value. It is true that philosophical thought can significantly contribute to theological understanding. However, the heirs of philosophy must be recognized and refuted, to confirm the reasonableness of Christianity.”[20]

In modern times there are books written promoting the advantages of incorporating philosophy into Christianity. First, it is presented that philosophizing is a common activity by people:

“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.”[21]

According to philosophical theologians, the value of philosophy is that it “can help liberate one from the grip of prejudice, provincialism, and poor reasoning. In philosophical reflection, we can gain distance from her own beliefs and those of others, and view them with some skepticism.”

The authors of Introduction to Philosophy proceed to the point of extolling both the need and virtue of philosophy:

“A Christian has a specific interest in and responsibility to study philosophy… Since all truth is God’s truth, and since philosophy is a quest for truth, then philosophy will contribute to our understanding of God and his world. Furthermore, history shows that philosophical arguments and concepts have played a large and important role in the development of Christian theology… While not all theologians agree on the value or appropriateness of these arguments, all admit that some knowledge of philosophical roots is necessary to the understanding of Christian theology.”[22]

The above statements acknowledge the development of Christian doctrine by philosophical means as opposed to just sticking to what is revealed in scripture.

A more in depth look at the methods of philosophy is necessary to understand the implication of the statements above. Previously on this website we have looked at some of the origins of philosophy and its thinking processes.

In philosophy logical arguments break down into two basic kinds, deductive and inductive.[23]  Rules for the validity of deductive arguments are in the form of deductive syllogisms, consisting of a major premise, minor premise, and a conclusion, and these were first systematically set down by Aristotle.

Aristotle is credited with defining the rules for deductive reasoning. “Simply put, deductive reasoning is arguing from the general to the particular. If all horses are four-legged animals (the general), and the black beauty is a horse (the particular), then it follows that black beauty is also a four-legged animal.” This series of propositions is called a syllogism, the standard form of a deductive argument. Inductive reasoning is the reverse whereby one argues from the particular to the general. For example, all observable elements of a wall are stone. Therefore, this is a stone wall.[24]

Inductive reasoning is the other form of reasoning with its own set of rules. Inductive reasoning is used to construct Christian doctrine by looking at a comprehensive view, examining the parts of the whole, and making conclusions as to whether or not something is true.

Part of the process here includes using “a priori” claims. 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.

There are also “a postieri” (from the Latin meaning after) claims.  These are conclusions reached after experimenting to find the truth.  They are a vital part of the scientific method.

An example of inductive reasoning is used when saying water baptism is the standard for all time.

I have read books that said that water is assumed (a priori claim) when the word baptism is used in the Bible. The inductive argument that follows goes like this. There was a practice of baptizing in water in the Old Testament. John baptized with water, and he also baptized Jesus in water. In the New Testament, Philip baptized with water, and even Peter asked “who can forbid water?”  Now add in the assumption (a priori claim) that the definition of baptism implies water (which it does not, but we need to go along to see how the reasoning works) and what you have is that every time it mentions baptism it means baptism in water. The only exceptions are the day of Pentecost and in other places where the descent of the spirit is explicitly detailed. Plus, in looking at the documents in the early days of the church after the apostles we see that water baptism is practiced. Thus, looking at all these details, we come to the conclusion, falsely I believe, that water baptism is the God-given standard for all time. We have taken all the pieces, accepted the assumption that baptism means with water, and found a way to inductively prove that water baptism is the standard. Even the mandates of “John baptized with water but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost” are handled with the explanation that Holy Ghost baptisms were just a few exceptions and water baptism is the norm.

In contrast to that, you could just read what is written. The word baptize is translated wash in Mark 7:4,8. The prophecy could be translated “John washed with water but you shall be washed with the Holy Ghost”. This is a classic case of everything that is done in the Old Testament are examples and foreshadowing of the things that are done in Christ’s church (Heb 10:1, ICor 10:11).  What does the prophecy say about water washing and spirit washing? For example, cars in the 20th century use gasoline but cars in the 22nd century will use electricity. No one misunderstands that that means that electricity is going to replace gasoline as the fuel. Or Roman soldiers used swords but today soldiers use guns. Again, is there any misunderstanding that sentence means that guns have replaced swords as the weapon for soldiers? No of course not.  The prophecy clearly says spirit washing replaced water washing.

Now, there were water baptisms mentioned in the book of Acts, but when we see those circumstances we see that apostles were sent to make sure that Spirit baptism occurred. All of these factors teach us that the assumption that baptism automatically means water is false, and part of the mission of the apostles in the first-century church was to bring in spirit baptism as a replacement to water-baptism as it so plainly says in “John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit”. Yes, it looks like the practice was lost not long after the apostles, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the mandate then, and more importantly, it’s still the mandate today. (See T 1.8 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 8, The Spirit Baptism Mandate, John Baptized With Water, But You Will Be Baptized with the Holy Spirit for more)

Likewise, the Cessation doctrine starts with the assumption (a priori claim) that the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit ended with the apostles.

The classic example of inductive reasoning in Christianity is the Trinity and so we will look at it here. First, there is no deductive proof of the Trinity so in order for the proof to work the Trinity must be assumed to be true.

For example, there is no proof, philosophical or otherwise, for even the existence of God. In making their arguments for or against God philosophically, both Christians and non-Christians start with their assumption that either God exists in the case of the Christian, or the God doesn’t exist in the case of the atheist.

No proof of God means that there is no proof of a solitary God or a triune God, so likewise the Trinitarian starts with the axiom (a priori claim) that God is triune. Then the logic flows in inductive reasoning “from the parts to the whole.”

So, the logic flows like this:  if God is a triune God, then what would we expect to find?   We expect to find that there is only one God in the Bible.  We expect to find that God exists in three persons named the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We expect to find that Jesus preexisted before his birth from all eternity and was never created or brought into existence. We expect to find that the attributes of God are attributed to Jesus. We expect to find that Jesus was called God and worshiped as God by the first Christians.  There are more requirements in this list of expectations.  But theologians seeking to prove the Trinity have used this inductive method of logic to first assume a triune God and put the pieces together to prove what has come to be is called essential Christian doctrine in Orthodox Christianity.

The Trinity is so important, in fact, that it has been declared “whosoever will be saved, we all before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic [that is, the church’s Orthodox] faith; which faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt, he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic faith is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in unity (Athanasian Creed)”.  One author goes on to say that salvation by grace alone, Christ’s atonement, and the resurrection may be all of first importance but they don’t make the gospel Christian! The Trinity does.[25]

However, despite the fact that the above is written in an introductory book to Christians, the fact is that the Athanasian creed above is rarely mentioned in churches, and the doctrine contained therein not promoted.[26]  In Theology Is As Clear As Mud To Americans in 2020 we see that while most Americans (72%) will at least partly agree with the statement that there is one true God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, only 36% disagreed with the statement that Jesus is not God and 55% at least partly agreed that Jesus is the greatest being created by God.  Both of these latter statements are not Trinitarian statements. That indicates that the doctrine is either not understood or just not agreed with, no matter how much it is preached from the pulpit or written about in books or articles. Nevertheless, this is the dominant doctrine in Christianity since the 4th century.

The things in the paragraph above point to the added complexity that this inductively developed doctrine brings to the table, and the problem that it creates for people.  As mentioned in other places both the use of inductive combined with deductive reasoning and the whole development of the Deity of Christ, the Trinity as well as Mary as the mother of God among other developed doctrines were intellectual battles among very intelligent learned bishops where the final victories were celebrated as intellectual victories.

Let’s look at more verses used in the proof of the Trinity:

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)

The above verses talk about one Spirit, one Lord (Jesus Christ), one God and father of all, the three persons named as the Trinity. However, this is not proof of the Trinity because all of the requirements of the Trinity are not fulfilled in these verses. For example, it does not say that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are of the same substance. It does not say here that they are all co-eternal.  In applying philosophical methods to this verse and others like it, there is not enough to deductively prove the Trinity. But given the assumption of a triune God, this verse is consistent with that assumption of the Trinity and thus is used in an inductive proof of the Trinity.

The Trinitarian view is that the Trinity has internal consistency within a comprehensive view of scripture and accounts for all the facts of stated about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit without contradiction.  Of course, you must start with the assumption of a Trinity which philosophy allows you to do and you must use extrabiblical arguments as well as concede that even with that the doctrine will be not understandable.

Likewise for this verse:

I and the Father are one.”  (Joh 10:30 WEB)

This verse does not prove that Jesus is God as the Father is God. But used in an inductive argument it is consistent with the Trinity once you make the assumption of a triune God that includes the Father and the Son.  But if “oneness” with the Father makes one God, then what happens in this verse:

that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me. (Joh 17:21 WEB)

Here we have the same kind of “oneness” that we see in John 10:30 above expressed in John 17:21 to include all of us believers. If John 10:30 makes Jesus God the same as God the Father, then John 17:21 makes you and I and every other believer on the same level of godhood as the Son of God and God the Father, according to that logic.

Thus, according to what is involved here you can’t prove the Trinity or the Incarnation without philosophy, specifically including inductive logic methods using a priori claims, and this is why many modern theologians promote philosophy as absolutely essential to understanding Christianity.

These are not fluke examples. There just are no verses that prove the Trinity by themselves. Look at this:

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)

The above verse discusses the Father, the Son, and the spirit but in no way teaches that they are all God, or co-eternal, or other important elements of the Trinity.  How about this famous one:

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 Trinity? It must, right? The truth is that scholars agree that most texts do not say God there. Instead of Theos in the Greek, the Greek word used mostly in the texts is hos which simply means which or who. The verse talks about the mystery of godliness which was manifest in the flesh.  Every being with Holy Spirit, which includes all true Christians, manifest godliness whenever they walk in the spirit. Every time someone speaks in tongues or hears from God or heals someone, they are manifesting godliness. No, this verse does not prove the Trinity.

Or how about the verses used to prove he is co-eternal?  Look at Colossians 1:

who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things are held together.  (Col 1:15-17 WEB)

What about “by him all things were created”? Doesn’t that mean he is God? The Greek word translated “by” is en,  which means in, not automatically making him the causal agent. Things created in someone are not the same as created by someone.  Or how about “all things were created by him” later in the verse?  That preposition is dia, which means “through”, or even “because of”.  Again, created through someone is not the same as created by someone.

The word image is ikone in Greek, meaning likeness or representation. That is saying that Christ is a representation of God as opposed to God himself. Coupled with that he is the “firstborn of all creation” and the above elements, the logic here is that Jesus Christ was created first (first born) and all other things were created on account of him. Without the assumption of the Trinity, biblical hermeneutics would lead one here to that firstborn here should be interpreted like all the other places that firstborn is used, the first child of the parent, with the implication that he didn’t exist and now he does.

“He is before all things.”  If I said to you “before anything else I want you to pray” it means that praying is the most important thing, it is first and foremost.  Likewise, “He is before all things” means Jesus Christ is foremost or most important.

Thus, if you don’t assume the Trinity this verse doesn’t prove the Trinity.  However, like the above verses, if you assume the Trinity then this verse can be used to help inductively “prove” the Trinity as long as you argue that “firstborn of all creation” does not mean that Jesus Christ had a beginning. You just have to assume here that firstborn doesn’t mean created like all those other places in Scripture despite the fact that all other usages of “firstborn, including the first usage refer to a created being.  “Begotten, not made” is the argument we have all heard.  Firstborn of all creation in the proof of the Trinity does not mean that Christ has a beginning or was created, rather it means he was more important than all creation. It has to be that way because that is the only way that phrase fits into the comprehensive view of a triune God.

Hopefully, now you are beginning to see why scholars have said that there are no verses that prove the Trinity directly nor is the Trinity directly taught in Scripture. For every verse that supposedly proves the Trinity, without the assumption that the Trinity exists there is a valid counterargument to disprove the Trinity. That is why the doctrine of the Trinity was developed using extra-biblical means, the inductive logic methods and a priori claims used in philosophy as well as words like homosousias (of one substance) not found in scripture. The New Bible Dictionary says:

“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.”[31]

The doctrines of salvation, atonement, and many others are fully formulated in Scripture.  The Trinity is not.  It can’t be read as is or deducted from scripture.  It has to be constructed using these a priori, inductive tools of philosophy.

However, the Trinitarian position is that every one of the above verses I discussed is consistent with an inductive proof of the Trinity once you include the “given”, the assumption that the Trinity exists before you start the proof.  But this opens the door that it is okay to go to scripture with assumptions or preconceived ideas and find ways that scriptures can be interpreted to prove your assumption.  So water baptism as the norm in the church age is inductively provable.  The cessation of spiritual manifestations is inductively provable, and so forth.

How is the Trinity explained and taught today? It’s just preached while admitting that it is confusing. One website writes, “The most difficult thing about the Christian concept of the Trinity is that there is no way to perfectly and completely understand it. The Trinity is a concept that is impossible for any human being to fully understand, let alone explain.”[27]

Still, as regards including philosophical things in the study of Christianity, Christian philosophical theologians argue that you cannot be aware of false philosophy unless you are first aware of it. They say the Christian church has been led into false teaching because they are not adequately trained to detect false teaching. The good counterfeit will be as close to the truth as possible. That’s why false non-Christian philosophies dressed up like Christian philosophies are the most dangerous.

One famous pro-philosophy Christian writer is CS Lewis who said “to be ignorant and simple now – not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground – would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray her uneducated brethren who have, under God no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.”[28] Here CS Lewis clearly delineates between good philosophy and bad philosophy and he promotes the necessity of the use of philosophy in studying God.

Some writers contend that in order to think properly, that is, correctly and comprehensively about the world or the Word, one must use philosophy. Philosophy is required in the systematization of Christianity, and also required for proper communication. In the end, the authors contend that it is philosophy which enables the Christian to make sense out of his faith.[29]

The fact still remains that there is no scriptural endorsement of philosophy, only warnings about its dangers, and in contrast to that, there are numerous books that say without philosophy you cannot understand essential Christian doctrine, especially the Trinity.

And all of this is despite the fact that studies have shown that the majority of Christians, at least in this country, either do not understand or believe the doctrine of the trinity with its philosophically based proof.[30]

I can’t remember being at services where a preacher closed it with a call to the Trinity.  They close their services with an altar call and preach verses like:

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

The philosophically based method of inductive reasoning developing Christianity theology is used to say verses like Romans 10 : 9-10 are insufficient by themselves for salvation because the doctrine of the Trinity is the more important doctrine.  That is controversial, to say the least.

The same method allows for making claims like the word baptism means with water, and the gifts of the spirit have ceased, by making a priori claims or assumptions, and then finding verses that substantiate that claim.

Philosophy has now been controversially used in the church for nineteen centuries.


[1] Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, Zondervan, Grand Rapids,1994, p. 21

[2] Lectures in Systematic Theology, Henry C Theissen, Erdman’s, Grand Rapids, revised 1979, P. Three

[3] Systematic Theology, Volume 1, Paul Tillich, the University of Chicago press, Chicago 1950 1P. Three

[4] Ibid, p. 129

[5] The Rise of Christianity, W. H. C. Frend, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1984, p. 230

[6] A History Of The Christian Church, Williston Walker, Scribner, New York, 1959, P. 31

[7] The Story Of Christianity, Justo L Gonzales, Harper one, New York, 2010, P. 19

[8] ibid., P. 22

[9] The Rise of Christianity, P. 230-231

[10] Ibid.

[11] The Rise of Christianity, P. 230

[12] The Rise of Christianity, P. 232

[13] The Rise of Christianity, P. 234

[14] The Rise of Christianity, P. 231

[15] Joseph Betty, Tertullian’s Prescription against Hereticks. Oxford (1722) pp. 1-87, Chapter VII

[16] The Story of Christianity, P. 182

[17] (DOC) How is philosophy related to theology Philosophical and Moral Theology | Regenerated mbc – Academia.edu

[18] The Story of Christianity, David Bentley Hart, Quercus, 2007, p. 145-146

[19] The Story of Christianity, Hart, P. 178 – 179

[20] Introduction to Philosophy, A Christian Perspective, Norman L Geisler and Paul D Feinberg, Baker books, Grand Rapids, 1980, P. 5 – 6

[21] Introduction to Philosophy, P. 12

[22] Introduction to Philosophy, P. 20 – 22

[23] Introduction to Philosophy, P. 28

[24] Introduction to Philosophy, P. 41 – 42

[25] Delighting In The Trinity, Michael Reeves, University press academic, Downers Grove, 2012, P. 14

[26] What is Athanasian Creed?

[27] What does the Bible teach about the Trinity? | GotQuestions.org

[28] Good Philosophy Must Exist | Bible.org

[29] Introduction To Philosophy, p.78

[30] Theology Is As Clear As Mud To Americans in 2020

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

last edited 1/24/22

July 12th, 2021 Posted by | Divisions, Philosophy | no comments

Apostolic Succession – Biblical or Not?

“The first Christians had no doubts about how to determine which was the true Church and which doctrines the true teachings of Christ. The test was simple: Just trace the apostolic succession of the claimants.”[1] So starts a pro-Catholic article on catholic.com.  The principle of Apostolic Succession says that the original apostles ordained bishops and authorized them and them only to ordain succeeding bishops. A primary benefit of this succession is the guarantee that this process ensures that the apostolic truth continues from generation to generation.

Apostolic succession is seen written about in the first writings of the church fathers. Here is Clement (C. 90AD):

“Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of oversight. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect foreknowledge of this, they appointed those already mentioned. Afterwards, they gave instructions, then when those men should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of the opinion, therefore, that those appointed by the apostles, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed a good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry.”[2]

Here Clement of Rome is testifying that apostolic succession is a practice ordained by the apostles themselves.

Irenaeus (C. 180 AD) had some interesting things to say about apostolic succession.

“Therefore, it is within the power of all in every church who may wish to see the truth to clearly examine the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the world. And we are in a position to reckon up those who were instituted bishops in the churches by the apostles, and the succession of these men to our own times…. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries,… They would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men.”[3]

Here we see the link between knowing that it is the truth in apostolic succession. “It is within the power of all in every church who may wish to see the truth to clearly examine the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the world” says just that.  The way you know that is the truth is if it is something that has been handed down from generation of bishops to generation of bishops all the way back to the Apostles.  This cannot be emphasized enough.  The Catholics and others that rely on this doctrine say that apostolic succession is a guarantee for truth.  When a Catholic bishop is ordained that ensures that they will be “very perfect and blameless in all things”.  The process of apostolic succession is the transference of the apostles’ authority and power from generation to generation. Considering the other side, a bishop without apostolic succession does not have the truth, or authority of the apostles.

One place where you can see this in action is in the General Councils. The bishops in the General councils believed that they received the power to rule on these matters because of apostolic succession.   That gave them the right to proclaim what was apostolic doctrine and who was speaking apostolic truth and who was a heretic.[4]  According to the doctrine of apostolic succession, all of the decrees of the General Councils have apostolic authority.  That means every one of them.

Now, something else that is very interesting is in Irenaeus’ quote in the sentence “For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries,… They would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the churches themselves.” This sentence possibly allows for the possibility that some things were handed down orally. Possibly this phrase allows for things not found in the bible to be called truth.  That would be very similar to the claim of the Jewish elders who claimed that after Moses revealed the Law, there were other sayings not written down that were verbally communicated from generation to generation which became the Jewish Talmud.  However, it might also be a rejection of Gnostic teaching that there was secret knowledge.  In any case, apostolic succession says that the bishops ordained by apostolic succession would know because they would know what was handed down.

Irenaeus also said:

“In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same life-giving the faith, which has been preserved in the church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.”[5]

There it is again, the true faith of the apostles is continued exclusively through apostolic succession.

Other church fathers including Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Cyprian as well as church councils and the apostolic constitutions document affirm this teaching that goes back to just after the time of the apostles and has continued until the present.

So, you can see that this has been a long-standing doctrine of the Catholic Church. Some Protestant denominations also make the claim of apostolic succession including Anglican and some Lutheran churches.

Calvinist International presents some of the counter-argument in an article by Ian Mosley.[6]  Basically, the argument starts with that there is little if any scriptural support for apostolic succession.  (Not one of the church fathers discussing apostolic succession is considered a writer of Scripture.) Furthermore, none of the church fathers’ statements about apostolic succession correspond to statements in scripture. Additionally, in these writings of the church fathers on apostolic succession, there appears to be mud in the water over the terms “bishop” and “presbyter”. They are not clearly and distinctly used. And as the terms bishop and presbyter are key terms in these church fathers’ statements that affirm this principle of apostolic succession then that also challenges the basis for claiming the validity of apostolic succession.

We opened with 1st Clement 44, but the version on the CalvinistInternational site has some subtle differences, namely the use of these words; bishop and presbytyr.

“Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those presbyters already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters…(1 Clement 44)

Clement begins by referring to the episcopate, but then seems to refer to the same ministers as “presbyters.” He alternates between the terms throughout, never clearly intending any kind of transition to discussing a separate ministry.”[7]

Clement apparently uses the words bishop and presbyters interchangeably while these terms are used more precisely in the other quotes of the church fathers.  Also notice the inclusion of “the consent of the whole church” as part of the process, another divergence from traditionally stated apostolic succession doctrine.

Mosley also points out the statements in Hippolytus writings and the Apostolic Constitution that both set the process of selecting a bishop as an election by the people.  Hippolytus (c. 215 AD) wrote:

Let the bishop be ordained after he has been chosen by all the people[8]

Williston Walker notes in his A History of the Christian Church is that the development of church government and hierarchy is obscure in the New Testament epistles whereas it suddenly is very clear in the epistles of Ignatius.  Walker says that in contrast to the New Testament Ignatius “exalts in every way the authority of the local monarchial bishop…”[9]  He further adds Clement of Rome “traces the existence of church officers to apostolic succession” which he believes Clement bases on an apparent misunderstanding of 1 Cor 15: 15-16.[10]

Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer.  (1Co 16:15-16 ESV)

These verses show that converts in Achaia became servants to the ministry, but it does not say that Paul ordained them to be overseers giving them his same authority and power, and then charged them to transfer the same to prospective leaders in their care.  Thus this is not biblical support for apostolic succession.

The Protestant position is that since there are no real supporting scriptures this is not a valid doctrine.  Furthermore, there is no basis for saying that any decree of the General councils or practice of the Catholic Church is true based on apostolic succession.

So, we have the Catholics including some Orthodox churches, some Lutherans and the Anglicans promoting Apostolic Succession while the bulk of churches in the protestant tradition do not.

[1] What the Early Church Believed: Apostolic Succession,  https://www.catholic.com/tract/apostolic-succession, quote is from 1 Clement 44

[2] A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, David W Bercot, Hendrickson publishers, Peabody, Mass., 1998, P. 70

[3] ibid., P. 31

[4] https://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepursuitofholiness/2020/09/1198-apostolicsuccession/

[5] A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs. P. 31

[6] The Historical Untenability of Apostolic Succession, https://calvinistinternational.com/2020/02/05/the-historical-untenability-of-apostolic-succession/

[7] ibid

[8] https://www.catholicfaithandreason.org/st-hippolytus-of-rome-170-236-ad.html, also The Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume 1, William A Jurgens, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN, 1970, p. 105

[9] A History of the Christian Church, Williston Walker, Scribner, New York, 1958, p. 41

[10] Ibid, p.42

June 5th, 2021 Posted by | Divisions | no comments

T 1.31 More on Paul’s Decision To Go To Jerusalem, How Tradition Can Affect Translation And Meaning, Accepting Deliverance When Available

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

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

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

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

So, this is a controversial topic and there are people on both sides as to whether Paul disobeyed the Spirit.[efn_note]Some sites that say Paul disobeyed the Spirit:

  • https://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/acts/pauls-mistake
  • https://formerheathen.wordpress.com/2018/07/09/did-paul-disobey-the-holy-spirit/

Some sites that say Paul didn’t disobey the Spirit:

  • https://www.tonycooke.org/articles-by-tony-cooke/did-paul-miss-it/
  • https://bprentice.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/did-paul-disobey-the-spirit-in-acts-214/
  • https://www.fairviewparkchurch.com/articles-menu/christian-living/1397-the-time-paul-disobeyed-the-holy-spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But look at this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, let’s go back to the record of Paul being told not to go to Jerusalem.  Let’s look at some of the unpunctuated Greek and the word for word translation of some of those verses[efn_note]Interlinear verses and translation come from Greek New Testament (Public Domain, available in the E-sword program) and The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament, George Ricker Berry, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1974 p.378-379[/efn_note].

Here is Acts 21:4

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

Here is Acts 21:9:

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

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

This one is trickier:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giving vs Tithing

Some churches teach that Christians are required to tithe. Tithing is giving one-tenth of your income to God’s work. I have personally heard tithing taught in Baptist, Full Faith, Assembly of God, and Pentecostal churches. Most of these churches teach that not tithing is robbing God. And I have sat and heard those warnings.

In contrast, Catholic and mainstream protestant churches may or may not mention tithing to their congregations, but they ask for support. Some evangelical and other protestant denominations may teach the tithe (10%) as an example of what is good to give back to God in recognition of God’s provision.

Both groups may teach that God does not want your gift if it is given begrudgingly. Both groups may teach the attitude of cheerful giving. They teach that the law of sowing and reaping; you reap according to how much you sow is the key factor. And that God loves a cheerful giver.

I have been in Bible Churches, Evangelical Churches, mainstream protestant, and Catholic churches among others that teach the attitude of cheerful giving liberally without requiring tithing.

2007 research revealed that only 5% of adults tithed.i  The inference is that even if the church teaches tithing that there is not compliance. In other words, the church may teach tithing, but the attendees don’t necessarily follow or agree.

Biblical Basis

Most preachers of tithing emphasize the teaching in Malachi 3.

Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.Mal 3:7-12

This is a powerful section of scripture. The first verses start with a reproof for Israel to return to God’s ordinances which is, of course, the Law.  So we are talking about Israel under the Law not doing at least this part of the Law. The text says that it is referring to this nation which is Israel. Then we read about robbing God, and the curse that follows for not tithing to God. Then we read about testing the promise of tithing to see if there isn’t an incredible blessing. It is important to recognize that tithing was part of the law for Israel and also that as a theocracy tithing was how Israel received its income to function.

Proponents of tithing cite that Abraham tithed to Melchizedek and Jacob vowed to tithe previous to the giving of the Law. Thus, by their logic, tithing was instituted as a standard before the law, and so Malachi’s guidance on not tithing being robbing God is the standard not just for Israel under the Law but for all believers for all time.

However, tithing appears as a one-time event in Abraham’s life, not a regular practice and it has a specification that it was a tenth of the spoils of war that Abraham received in fighting under Melchizadec.  It was not a tenth of all, just of the spoils and that makes it a unique circumstance different from the requirements of the Law.

The other example of tithing prior to the Law is Jacob who makes a vow to tithe “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear,  so that I come again to my father’s house in peace” appears conditional and voluntary by Jacob.  While there are numerous men of God mentioned in Genesis there are no other examples of tithing until the law.  The argument that tithing was the norm prior to the Law is weak at best. Not that people can’t tithe if they choose to like Jacob,  I agree with the many that say tithing was not the norm prior to the Law.

Furthermore, Jesus Christ fulfilled the law, we are no longer under it. Therefore, since we no longer practice the dietary laws, use the priests to offer sacrifices, or even support a Levitical priesthood, why should we continue to be required to give tithes to support the operations of Israel under the law? Also, the tithe was paid to the temple and was not paid to synagogues when there was no temple.  As we have no temple, we wouldn’t be required to tithe even if we were still under the law.

And critical to those endeavoring to understand the apostle’s doctrine the apostles taught giving without any discussion of the tithe.  In fact, the Corinthian epistles are full of reproof and correction on a number of matters, and 2 Corinthians chapter 8 is an example of that.  There the Corinthian believers were reproved for their giving practices without any mention of the tithe.

The alternative to tithing biblically is giving liberally.  Teachers of giving or sharing liberally focus on 2 Corinthians chapter 8 where Paul notes how the believers “overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.”:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. (2Co 8:1-8 ESV)

This first section gives important teaching on the attitude of giving. We are instructed to excel in this grace (charis, describing giving as grace) just as we abound in believing, speaking the truth, in zeal, and in love (agapeo, the love of God). And excel in this grace is exactly what the Macedonian church did. They set an excellent example, giving “beyond their means.” Whenever we do something that is beyond our ability, then the power must come from God.

For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich.2Co 8:9

Here the example of Christ is given, that he exemplified the right attitude.

And herein I give my judgment: for this is expedient for you, who were the first to make a beginning a year ago, not only to do, but also to will. But now complete the doing also; that as there was the readiness to will, so there may be the completion also out of your ability.2Co 8:10-11

The Corinthians are reproved here because they started to collect an offering a year ago, now they are told to complete the offering and send it.

For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according as a man hath, not according as he hath not. For I say not this, that others may be eased, and ye distressed: but by equality; your abundance being a supply at this present time for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want; that there may be equality: as it is written, He that gathered much had nothing over; and he that gathered little had no lack.2Co 8:12-15

This section says that having the right attitude, the attitude of giving to support God’s work is what is important. In this section, there is a point that I have never heard taught in a church that it expressly says that if someone doesn’t have any money, then they shouldn’t give thus resulting in them being distressed so that others could have their life eased. Giving should be according to your capacity to give. So, if a person is truly poor, living, for example, in inexpensive housing and not purchasing more than the basic necessities and maybe not even all of those, they shouldn’t give up eating or medical care so that someone else in the church should have their life eased. On the other hand, if you can afford better things, go on vacations, buy nice gifts at Christmas time, but feel your income is too tight to give very much or at all, then where is your attitude?  Where is your love of God?

There is, of course, the parable of the widow’s mite, which is sometimes used to teach people to give even of their necessities:

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”  (Luk 21:1-4 ESV)

This is a powerful example.  What I see is this: this was an example of faith that the woman gave and still believed that she would be taken care of.   This is an example of commitment because the woman gave all she had.  I don’t believe that she would have done that if she didn’t believe in the function of the temple and that it was a vital part of her life.

On the other hand, while Jesus praises the greatness and sacrificial giving of her gift I do not believe that it is teaching a requirement to give all your funds for basic living away.  First of all, the widow was under the Law where a certain amount was required whether it looked like it was within your means or not. And she would have been aware of the promise from Malachi which says “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” The text doesn’t specify whether this was the required offering or not.

Jesus praised the fact that the rich people gave and still were rich but the poor woman gave when it was all she had thus making her the greater giver.

In contrast to the Law, and the story of the widow’s mite, 2 Corinthians 8:12-15 is telling the Corinthians to collect whatever they could according to their ability to give. Concerning the right attitude and the ability to give we have this following section from 1 Timothy 6:

Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed.1Ti 6:17-19

Statistically, the more money people have, the less they give percentage-wise. (I did accounting and tax work for a number of years and can personally testify to that fact.) These verses in 1 Timothy exhort those with money to do just the opposite. “To be ready to distribute, willing to communicate” is to have an attitude of giving. Importantly, this giving is important in living a life that is truly abundant.

Budgeting is a concept many of us are familiar with and from a budgeting standpoint, the charge to them that are rich to give more, it is perfectly reasonable for any rich individual to personally decide to tithe, that is, give ten percent, or double tithe, twenty percent, or triple tithe, 30 percent in their financial planning.  In First Timothy chapter six the rich are charged to give a lot so that they “may lay hold on the life which is life indeed”, in other words, so that they may lay hold on the truly abundant life in the spirit.  The more well off you are, the more are called to share of that wealth.

Flaws of Requiring Tithing After Pentecost

So, putting it together, what’s the problem with requiring tithing? The first problem is that it says that the non-tither is gone away from God’s ordinances. What ordinances are they? They are the law. We are not under the law. We are under grace. Malachi does not explain grace; grace, as it pertains to giving, is explained in 2 Corinthians chapter 8.  This puts tithing in the category of a covenantal requirement.  In the Old Testament with the coming of the Law tithing became a requirement.  With the fulfillment of the Law in Christ that requirement went away. There is teaching to the Christian church to give liberally, financially, and otherwise while the charge to tithe is conspicuously absent.  To excel in giving liberally is the charge to the body of Christ.

Summary and Conclusion

From this study, we can determine that it is not a function of giving a specified percentage or amount of money that is the important principle to Christians. There is no retirement to tithe in the body of Christ.  The attitude of giving is what is important. In that vein, if you can’t give money because it is all you can do to have the bare necessities, then give time if you can, or support. On the other hand, if you have resources, and can’t see to share very much this is an important signal that your Christian walk is more focused on the material that the spiritual. If so you are especially included in those to whom Paul, by the Holy Spirit, is directing to follow the example of the Macedonians who so excelled in giving that they gave beyond their power to give and so participated in the abundant life that Christ came to give to us all.

The charge to believers in original Christianity is to excel in the grace of giving financially as well as other areas with a cheerful heart and the love of God.

This is another example where Christians don’t agree. Furthermore, it can be very divisive when Christians who don’t believe that Christians are commanded to tithe are told they are robbing God because they aren’t obeying this law.

i. http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/18-congregations/41-new-study-shows-trends-in-tithing-and-donating

(c) copyright 2009-2020 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved. Revised and re-published 7/2020

July 27th, 2020 Posted by | Divisions | no comments