OriginalChristianity

Not Traditional, Original

T1.31 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.1  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 verses2.

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

21.1.2 One Benefit of All These Divisions in the Christian Church

The focus of this website is looking at original Christianity and how it has progressed from then until now into a myriad number of denominations.  One tenet of original Christianity is unity of mind and judgment.  In fact, there is one verse that may be quoted more than any other on this site:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.  (1Co 1:10 ESV)

Paul is writing in the time of original Christianity, and there were already divisions then, just not the huge amount of them that there is today.  And the point is and always has been that the best state for all Christians is one body united with one mind and judgement.

So, a question might be; is there any benefit to having all this division?

When I was a very young kid I had this naïve thought.  I thought that what we needed was a government based on God, a Christian government, if you will.  I spoke that rash thought and was assaulted with history lessons of all the disasters caused by all the theocracies in the world.  More specifically, in the USA, this country was founded, in part, to free itself of governments that were rife with the integration of the Christian church and state. 

England, the sovereign nation over the colonies, specifically, was a monarchy with a Christian state religion.  In the early 17th century the Puritans disagreed with the state of Christianity in England and pushed to “purify” the religion to biblical norms, hence the name Puritans.  They pushed to remove things like the cross, the priest’s vestments, and perhaps even the altar from the church.   And they argued that the episcopacy, the rule of the church by bishops was not biblical, and therefore not a divine right, and many Puritans argued for a Presbyterian form of church government, as presbyters are found in the New Testament.[i]

In fact, it was the intent of James 1st of England to use the church to increase his power which he thought was his right as king.  He is said to say, “Without bishops, there is no king.”[ii] Like many places in the Western world, Christian doctrine was a matter of government policy. So which forms of Christianity were to be allowed was a matter of Government interest.   For James, Anabaptists were to be persecuted, Catholics treated as traitors, and anything Calvinist was seen as friendly.  The Puritans were basically Calvinists so at this time they fared well in England.

But things were not great for all puritans.  One of the issues brought up by the Puritans was whether the church should be separate from the state.  The Puritans pushing for separation were called separatists.  The problem was that separating from the Church of England was considered treasonous.

Some of these separatists migrated to Holland, and then to the new world on the Mayflower.  And they certainly brought the concept of separating church and state functionality with them.

After James came King Charles 1.  Charles’ wife was Catholic and Charles swung to the Catholic side which meant poorer times for the Puritans as well as other Protestant factions.

In the middle of these times, actually 1618-1648, came the 30 Years War, a terrible waste of life and limb that was started by rivalry between the Protestants and the Catholics.  While other issues came to bear in the dispute, this started as Christians fighting Christians over doctrine.

Furthermore, religious wars were so commonplace in European history that the Encyclopedia Britannica has a section called The Wars of Religion.[iii]  Look at the article to see things like “cuius regio, eius religio” (whose realm, his religion) applied as the resolution to some of these conflicts, which basically meant that whoever was the ruler got to dictate the beliefs of the people.  Also in the article are examples of religious support for groups in order to get political or military advantages, like the “Catholic king Henry II of France, supported the Lutheran cause in the second Schmalkaldic War in 1552 to secure French bases in Lorraine”.[iv] France had religious wars that ran off and on from 1562 to 1598, in all religious and political interests were intertwined.  The end result of a conflict might be that a ruler would change faiths as did Henry II accepting Catholicism.

The problem with national religions is that they are run by secular leaders with the apparent mindset that they have the God-given right to tell people what to believe, whether it be Catholic, Christian, Muslim, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or no-religion in communist or fascist countries.  Within the Catholic-Christian European landscape, with the emergence of the Reformation, as new denominations grew the chances grew for political upheaval and war. But the point of the reformation or even just of Christianity, the spread of the word of God in the message of salvation brought by Jesus Christ was not the point of these political maneuverings; it was the pursuit of political power that seems to be the base of all these religious wars.

If this looks like a terrible picture that’s the point!  A major portion of this misery happened because of Government control of the churches in different countries.  At that time there were an increasing number of denominations but nothing like we have today.

Fast forward to now with our tens of thousands of denominations and “non-denominational” groups.  At the same time the decision for even having a national religion in a lot of these countries have been changed to “no”.  The Church of England remains the state church of England, but the United Kingdom as a whole has no official religion as is the case with Spain, France, Germany and a number of the countries involved in the religious wars of Europe.

Interestingly, Italy only stopped having Roman Catholicism as its national religion in 1984.[v] It has taken many centuries but now in the 21st century, the Vatican’s power and control have finally waned to where it can’t control countries and their populations politically or otherwise like it once did.

With so many churches with varying beliefs in extant today it is much harder to coerce one denomination over another.  In other words, all these divisions have made it easier for Christians to be able to worship without interference in a lot of places.

However, we know that there are still a number of countries where Government policy dictates which faiths are acceptable.  (And we are not talking here just about Christianity.  For example, we know that Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Kuwait are Muslim countries.  Bhutan and Sri Lanka are Buddhist countries.  In all those places the government has a say in what is acceptable as far as faith[vi]

We also know that there are governments who persecute certain religions, Christianity not being the least of them.  We must never cease from praying for those countries, that the believers there are blessed and protected, and that the countries themselves change to allow religious freedom.

But, for a lot of us, especially in the western world, the abundance of Christian Groups works against one group being powerful enough to persecute those who disagree with their tenets.  That is one benefit of having all these divisions, freedom of religion is more available now.

Praise the Lord that some of us, at least, are free to pursue God without being forced to cower before authorities.  Praise the Lord for the freedom of religion where it exists, and we pray for the spread of the word of God in those areas where it does not currently exist.

And I pray in the name of Jesus Christ that the need for a lot of divisions continues to lessen and that the number of divisions decreases so that the whole body of Christ grows to that model of having one mind and one judgment.


[i] THE STORY OF CHRISTIANITY, Vol 2, Justo L Gonzalez, Harper Collins, New York, 1985, p. 150-151

[ii] Ibid, p. 152

[iii] Encyclopedia Brittanica, The Wars of Religion at https://www.britannica.com/topic/history-of-Europe/The-Wars-of-Religion

[iv] Ibid

[v] The New York Times as found at https://www.nytimes.com/1984/02/19/world/italy-abolishes-state-religion-in-vatican-pact.html

[vi] Which Countries Have State Religions, Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3710663/Barro_WhichCountries.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

June 5th, 2019 Posted by | Divisions, Movements | no comments

Did Jesus Really Break God’s Rules by Healing on the Sabbath?

I want to preface this article by saying I had a hard time writing it because I love pastors and Bible teachers even when they teach opposing doctrines. They’re dedicated, hard-working, sincere, loving people who sacrifice much of their lives for their people. But it hurts my heart when I see teachers teaching different things about a topic in the Bible.  One thing that hurts is that these teachers often present these doctrines as clear and absolute when in fact there are probably people in the pews who have been taught the opposite of what they are now being presented. I can feel the pain that conundrum causes in those people when they must ask themselves whether this teacher is right or was their old teacher right? That does not serve to strengthen their faith.

Like most of you I talk to people about my faith in Christ. While I have been blessed to have lead someone to Christ on a few occasions most the people I talk to do not change their beliefs after we talk. From time to time I have asked why they don’t believe. Of course there are many and varied responses from things like “I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny either”, to “I believe in science” to “look at the corruption in the Catholic Church. I don’t want any part of that”. But a response that I have heard on a regular basis is that people don’t believe because it’s obvious that anybody can take anything out of the Bible to say anything they want it to say.  Then they cite examples of how Southern preachers in the past used the Bible to enforce slave practices, how Mennonites use the Bible as say that anything modern is sinful, how white supremacists use the Bible to reinforce their ideology, and how you can go from one church to another and hear different teaching on the same topic.  How can the Bible be truth if so many people say it says so many different things?  This last witness is true. And it is at the heart of this discussion.

This brings up something that I’ve talked about in another article, Yo-Yo Christianity. Not everyone stays in the same church all their life, in fact, most people I know, for different reasons, go to at least several different churches over the years. Yo-yo Christianity is what happens as people move from church to church, and are forced to accept different teachings then they were taught previously.     I personally have been in churches that have taught that Jesus broke God’s rules by healing on the Sabbath day and that Jesus never broke God’s rules by healing on the Sabbath day. Agaon, Yo-yo christianity works against strong faith.

I want to add that I’ve also talked to pastors at different times about various teachings and the differences between denominations and so forth and what I have heard is that seminary doesn’t delve that deeply into a lot of the topics that I talk about here on this website. In fact, several pastors from different denominations told me the same thing, that is, that seminary is a rigorous curriculum where topics are covered quickly in a lot of cases and moved on. They say that theology is only one of the many things covered. Moreover, theology is almost uniformly presented from whatever denomination or doctrinal school founded the seminary. In other words, they may have been taught that a certain doctrine is different than Catholic doctrine or some other denomination but there was not an in-depth look at all viewpoints on the topic. And for the most part the last thing you want to do in seminary is disagree with your church’s teaching. And lastly, seminary for almost all of the pastors that I have talked to is more about preparation for leading a church including certainly preaching, but also administration and all the different programs in a church than it is about in depth theological training into Christian doctrine.

Some people teach that Jesus was able to break God’s rules. In my experience more teachers have taught that Jesus always obeyed the Law but was only accused of breaking the Law by religious leaders. Of course christian doctrine is not a democracy where the most votes win, it just appears the former viewpoint is in the minority.  As one writer put it, “One common misconception regarding the behavior of Jesus is that, on occasion, in healing the sick and performing other benevolent actions, He broke the Sabbath in order to accommodate the higher law of love. This viewpoint leaves the impression that law is sometimes, if not frequently, antithetical to being loving. It implies that sometimes breaking God’s laws is necessary in order to be loving.”[i]

There are a number of records where the Pharisees point out that Jesus is breaking the law of the Sabbath.  Here are a couple of them:

One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”  (Mar 2:23-28 ESV)

Here we see the Pharisees pointing out that it is against the law to pluck grain on the Sabbath.   I have heard preachers say that Jesus here was breaking the law of the Sabbath but it was okay because of who he was.   Let’s look at another section:

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.  (Joh 9:13-16 ESV)

Again, some have taken verses like these to say that Jesus broke the law (or God’s rules) and we have him as an example that it is okay to sometimes break God’s rules.  I mean it looks like Jesus broke the Law, right?    The Pharisees were Israel’s guardians of the law.   And we know that breaking the Law is sin:

Through the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom 3:20b ESV)

If Jesus really broke the law then he would be a sinner but we know that sin was not found in him.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  (2Co 5:21 ESV)

How can this be reconciled? 

Let’s look at another account:

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”  (Mat 12:9-12 ESV)

Aha, in this account we see Jesus teaching the teachers, even if they’re not willing or able to hear it, in which case he is still teaching the people around him.  Notice that his point here is that what he was doing was lawful!   Jesus did certain things on the Sabbath day and taught that things like pulling an ox out of a ditch, or eating grain off the stalk, or healing someone is not violating the Law!

There is a section in the Law that requires people to pull a fallen animal out of the ditch:

“You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. And you shall do the same with his donkey or with his garment, or with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he loses and you find; you may not ignore it. You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again.  (Deu 22:1-4 ESV)

Look at these verses and notice that there is no exception for the Sabbath! By the law of  Moses if someone is walking and sees that a fallen animal in a ditch they are commanded by the law to recover the animal! There is no provision that says not to do it on the Sabbath!

That is exactly what Jesus says in these verses:

The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (Joh 7:15-24 ESV)

Here, Jesus turns the tables on those who accuse him of not keeping the law. He says that none of them keep the law, yet they are trying to use it to try to kill him!  Jesus then uses the example of their own behavior to show that his practices are similar to some of their own practices. He cites the example of circumcision. By law circumcision is on the eighth day. Sometimes the eighth day is on the Sabbath. People perform circumcisions on the eighth day yet that is a form of manual labor! So he asked them why it is okay for them to perform a circumcision on the Sabbath when they condemn him for healing on the Sabbath!

Let’s look at the some of the stringent law regarding the Sabbath in the Old Testament.  Here is one of the commandments:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.  (Exo 20:8-11 ESV)

This rule is reiterated later in Exodus:

And the LORD said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’” (Exo 31:12-17 ESV)

There are some specifics given about the Sabbath:

Moses assembled all the congregation of the people of Israel and said to them, “These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do. Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.” Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded.  (Exo 35:1-4 ESV)

Okay, no fire kindling restricts cooking, doesn’t it?

What is not here is the rabbinical delineation of definitions that were decided by the Pharisees on what constituted a breaking of this law.  The Israelites interpreted the above law to make a list of forbidden activities.

Here is a breakdown of the forbidden activities from a modern site on Jewish law:

“Sowing, plowing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, sorting, grinding, sifting, kneading, baking, shearing wool, whitening it, combing it, dyeing it, spinning, weaving, making two loops, weaving two threads, separating two threads, tying [a knot], untying [a knot], sewing two stitches, tearing for the purpose of sewing two stitches, hunting a deer, slaughtering it, skinning it, salting it, curing its hide, scraping it, cutting it, writing two letters, erasing for the purpose of writing two letters, building, demolishing, extinguishing a flame, lighting a flame, striking with a hammer, carrying from one domain to another. These are the principal Melakhot – [they number] forty minus one.”[ii]

Do a Google search on Talmud and look for all the rules of the Sabbath.   Here are a few examples: 

“A man may not go out with a sword, nor with a bow, nor with a shield, nor with a round shield, nor with a spear. If he has gone out [with any of these] he is liable for a Chattat. Rabbi Eliezer says: They are ornaments for him. But the Sages say: They are nothing but an indignity, for it is said, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears unto pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4). A garter is not subject to impurity and one may go out with it on Shabbat; foot-chains are subject to impurity, and one may not go out with them on Shabbat. “


“A woman may go out with braids of hair whether of her own [hair]
, or of another woman, or of an animal. [She may go out] with a frontlet [on her forehead], or with bangles if they are sewn [to the cap]; with a cap [under the head-dress] or with a wig into the courtyard; with wool in her ears, or with wool in her shoe, or with wool she has arranged for her menstruation; or with a pepper, or with a grain [of] salt, or with whatever else she [is accustomed to] put in her mouth [to dispel bad breath] provided she does not first put it [into her mouth] on Shabbat. And if she drops it [out of her mouth] she may not replace it. [With regard to a] false tooth or a gold tooth, Rabbi allows [one to go out with it], but the Sages prohibit [it].”

Now as you can see from reading the above passages that this is a very strict interpretation of the Law just as we see in the records we have with Jesus.  The Pharisees were citing Jesus and his disciples because eating grain from the field requires reaping and reaping is a violation of their codification of the law. But their codification was more than what God specified,and that was Jesus’ point.

There are many valuable lessons here. Obviously, the lesson foremost is that Jesus did not break the law of the Sabbath by healing on the Sabbath day, or letting his disciples eat grain out of the field.

Jesus did not break the law! He broke the Pharisee’s understanding of the law, but their understanding was erroneous!

It is very important when reading the bible to understand that just because people are saying something or accusing something that doesn’t make it true! You have to dig deeper into the context, both the local context and the greater context of the whole word of God.

The bigger lesson here is how misunderstandings, i.e., divisions among believers happened over these teachings like these. There are some that teach that Jesus broke God’s rules, i.e. the law, and that that was okay whereas others teach that the point of the whole topic is that Jesus did not break the law, rather it was the Pharisees who misunderstood and misappropriated the enactment of the law.  How is this different than the issue of righteousness by faith or works? How is this different than the issue of child baptism vs believers baptism! How is this different than the issue of whether it’s okay to drink alcohol or not? The answer is that it is not!

Here we have a clear case of how the divisions among us spring up.  And that is the biggest lesson of all.  We have this example in the Bible of some strict instructions regarding the Sabbath. God worked six days on creation and rested the seventh day. He set that as an example as a guide, not impediment, to us so that we might be able to rest one day a week. When God gave the law he said some strict instructions about not working. But as Jesus pointed out God gave the law for the good of man, not to hurt man.  Yet the Pharisees over time constructed this intensely legalistic definition that completely went against what God had intended for the law all along.

Misunderstanding the intent of Scripture is a big part of the lesson here. 

This legalistic tendency shown in the healing on the Sabbath stories was not just limited to the time of Jesus. We still have that tendency and there are some among us that’s still are under its spell.  Can you see a correlation to some denominational laws and systems? I can.  What other things have individuals and whole denominations misunderstood?

The nature of this discussion is right at the heart of the originalChristianity.net website because misunderstandings have escalated within the body of Christ to where there are tens of thousands of denominations all over the board on a host of issues.

First I want to pray. I pray that God the Father works through the power of the Holy Spirit that touches us all to help break down these barriers between us, these bastions of ideologies and competing religious dogmas that divide us in so many ways to bring us back to the unity of one spirit and one knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, our blessed Savior, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But I also want to issue a challenge to all believers to be like the Bereans:

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Act 17:11 ESV)

Be like the Bereans and research! When you search the scriptures don’t just guess what they mean, rather use tools like concordances and lexicons to get to the intended meaning of the words in the verse. Search online to find out what other teachers have written and examine their logic. Has the writer searched out the meaning in the local context and the greater context in the word of God? Have they compared all the sections of scripture that relate to the subject? If part of the support is things written by the church fathers and later writers then read those writings for yourself and decide if those writers are correctly portrayed or are their writings used in a manipulative fashion where they perhaps mention the topic but don’t give the meaning of the topic that is now being presented.

I want to issue a challenge to pastors and Bible teachers everywhere. Teach the same thing. Don’t get so locked into your tradition and denominational background that you are part of this problem. Before you just reiterate something that you heard before from even someone you may have respected very much take the time to check it out, look at the different viewpoints, and be courageous to speak the truth even if it goes against your denominational tradition.


[i] http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?article=5155

[ii] https://www.sefaria.org/Mishnah_Shabbat.7.2?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en

March 27th, 2019 Posted by | Divisions | no comments

Neither Baptism Nor Communion Services for Quakers and the Salvation Army

First, it should be noted that not all Quakers consider themselves Christians but many doi, and since they do that is why they’re being considered here. On the other hand the Salvation Army considers itself “an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church” ii, and they appear to be unique as a group that as is purely Christian group that does not acknowledge the practice of baptism, and communion.

While the Salvation Army does allow its members to participate in communion services outside the Salvation Army for the purposes of fellowshipping with other churches, its long-standing practice has been to not hold communion services itself. This stance is based on the belief that communion and baptism are outward signs in the world whereas the real importance is on what is going on spiritually and internally. It is also a form of protest over some of the divisiveness caused by different churches’ stances on the sacramental nature of these practices. I think the following gives an excellent explanation on the position of the Salvation Army – this is right from a Salvation Army site:

The reasons for The Salvation Army’s cessation of the sacraments may be summarised as follows:

1. The Army’s Founders felt that many Christians had come to rely on the outward signs of spiritual grace rather than on grace itself. William and Catherine Booth believed, with the Apostle Paul, that salvation came solely from the grace of God personally received by faith. They felt that much of what passed for Christianity in their day was primarily an observance of outward ritual.

2. Some Bible scholars had pointed out that there was no scriptural basis for regarding the sacraments as essential to salvation or Christian living. Many Christians assumed that Jesus commanded the use of baptism and holy communion. But there are very few New Testament references to these practices and it was argued that none of them showed any intention by Jesus that they (or any other practice) should have become fixed ceremonies.

3. The sacraments had been a divisive influence in the Church throughout Christian history and at times the cause of bitter controversy and abuse.

4. Some churches would not allow women to administer the sacraments. The Army, however, believed that women may take an equal part in its ministry, and did not want to compromise this stance.

5. The Society of Friends (the Quakers) had managed to live holy lives without the use of sacraments.

6. Many early-day converts to the Army had previously been alcoholics. It was considered unwise to tempt them with the wine used in holy communion.
To a large extent this is still the Salvationist’s standpoint. However, it should be stressed that Salvationists have never been in opposition to the sacraments. Indeed, when they take part in gatherings with Christians from other churches, Salvationists will often share in using the symbols of the Lord’s Supper as a sign of fellowship. Furthermore, Salvationists are not prevented from being baptised in other churches should they so desire.”iii

The Quakers, as the Salvation Army notes, have long taken the stand that what happens inside a person is more important than what happens outside. The Quakers see themselves on a mission to go back to primitive Christianity whereas they view Christianity in the modern world as one of ‘Form Without Substance’.iv If you listen to the speaker talk on the site referenced below you’ll hear him talk about the working of the Spirit – being led of the Spirit, and how that was elementary to the primitive church. Their objection is to the use of ritual practices as a sign of what is going on inside.  They, like the Salvation Army, reject the mainline churches position on Sacraments as being too much concerned with what is going on outside, and not emphasizing enough what is going on inside.

Also, it is significant to note that the protests of these groups is only on the outward ritual, not on the inward experience what happens to us when we become Christians.

ihttps://www.fgcquaker.org/explore/faqs-about-quakers#Christian

iihttp://www.salvationarmy.org.au/en/Who-We-Are/About-Us/FAQ/

iiihttp://www.waterbeachsalvationarmy.org.uk/what-to-know-more/why-does-the-salvation-army-not-baptise-or-hold-communion/

ivForm Without Substance – https://www.fgcquaker.org/resources/form-without-substance

August 14th, 2017 Posted by | Divisions | 2 comments