The Apple Of God's Eye

February 17, 2011

Conversion: Sudden Experience or Lifelong Process?

Filed under: Conversion — melchia @ 8:17 am
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The Plain Truth, April 1977

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At times I have expressed the idea I think many millions have come to believe and on which they are staking their eternity. It is this: You are on a journey on a railway train. It is your life’s journey, whether long or short. At the end of the line, because of Adam’s sin, the switch is automatically thrown to send you directly down to hell, where you will be burned alive — constantly burning, yet never burning up because you are an immortal soul that can’t die. Or, as millions also believe, it will shoot you directly to “purgatory.”

But, if at any point in your life during the journey you “accept Christ as your Savior,” then at the instant of that sudden experience, in whatever manner such experience takes place, the switch at the end of the line is suddenly thrown to shoot you immediately up to heaven. And there you shall live FOREVER in idleness and ease, in glorious surroundings of splendor, with nothing to do — no responsibilities anymore — nothing but to be enraptured with the delight of gazing continually on the face of Christ your Savior. A man once said to me: “Let me see if I can define your belief as contrasted to what you claim many millions of others believe.” Then he explained the belief of the many approximately as I have stated it just above.

“But you believe,” he continued, “that after one is initially converted, accepting Christ, he must then live a life of obedience to God’s way, struggling against himself to overcome all wrong ways and growing spiritually in Christ’s knowledge and in grace — thus training himself and qualifying to carry an important responsibility in the next life. You believe that when he dies, he is dead, will not go to heaven or hell, but will come to life again by a resurrection from the dead, and he will be here on earth. Then he will have immortality, and he will be rewarded according to what his works were in this life — the biggest reward being to have conferred on him the heaviest and most important responsibility. Is that what you believe?”

“Well, not exactly,” I replied, “but you are not too far off.” (more…)

June 6, 2010

What Is True Humbleness?

Humility Can't Be Flaunted - exchristian.net

Christians speak of humbleness, but do they know what it really means? Most people understand that humility is the opposite of pride, but they might have difficulty further defining what humility is.

Isaiah 66:2 specifically says God looks to the humble man, so it obviously is a quality we need it to please God! Humility is one of the three great qualities God looks for in those who worship Him:

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Mic. 6:8).

God is supreme. He owns everything. All wealth and power and glory belong to Him. He alone has life to give. He possesses perfect righteousness, perfect character. No other creature even approaches His magnificence. And yet who is it this great Being wants to dwell with?

“For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite’ ” (Isa. 57:15, Revised Standard Version).

Throughout the Bible God puts much emphasis on humility and dwelling with those who posses this trait. (more…)

July 31, 2009

Did Jesus Hide The Truth About Salvation To The World?

When Jesus came to earth 2000 years ago, it was not to set up His Kingdom (John 18:36). Christ did not, at that time, come to restrain Satan from deceiving the world.

Contrary to what many have been taught, neither did Christ come to earth to call everyone to salvation. Rather, he came to deliver His Father’s message – the gospel of the Kingdom of God. That message included salvation through Christ. But Jesus did not try to get everyone to believe this wonderful message.

Notice the New Testament proof: Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables to hide the meaning of what He was saying, so the public would not understand.

“And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matt. 13:10-15, Mark 4:11-12).

Christ was plainly speaking ONLY to His disciples, not to everyone else. This point is made clear. In case there is any confusion though, the scripture says Christ spoke to the general public ONLY in parables (Matt. 13:34). It was NOT to clarify, but to confuse the issue to the masses. Why? Because it was not the time for most to be forgiven their sins and converted.

And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? (Mark 4:10-13).

Even His disciples had problems with some of the parables and needed explaining. Those “without” means those not called at the present time – the masses. Christ preached the Father’s gospel to the masses as a witness. But He worked with only a few purposely called and chosen disciples, or students. They were the ones Whom He really wanted to understand the truth about salvation and His coming government on earth.

In fact, Jesus often tried to avoid the crowds that followed Him daily (Matt. 5:1, 8:18, 13:36, Mark 3:13, John 5:13, 7:10). he often told those whom He had healed not to tell anyone who healed them (Matt. 8:4, 9:30, 12:16, Mark 5:35, 36, 41-43, 7:35-36.  He did not want everyone to know who He really was (Matt. 16:20, Mark 3:1-12).

This is a point most of mainstream Christianity does not understand. For most of His ministry, Jesus actually avoided publicity. It was not God’s will for everyone to understand who Jesus was. Spiritual understanding will not be granted to the world until Christ removes Satan from earth’s throne.

It may freely be accentuated that Jesus Christ was successful in avoiding publicity, as after 3 1/2 years of preaching, and after His death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, only 120 disciples remained with Him (Acts 1:2-4, 15). The New Testament Church of God was started with these few disciples who would be trained so that they could teach and train others. Christ at first needed only a few teachers, so God called only a few at that time.

Remember, one can only come to Christ if God the Father purposely selects and calls him (John 6:44, 65). Now I know that some will ask, “What about one who really wants salvation – wants to believe in Christ – is willing to truly repent and come out of this world and be led by God’s spirit in a true commandment keeping Christian life? Do you mean this individual cannot come to Christ unless God calls him?”

Answer: That’s exactly what the scriptures say. Such a person is being called by God, otherwise he or she would have no such desire. However, most who think they are in that category have followed a false gospel, a false teaching and are deceived. They have a false idea of what salvation is, a false concept of repentance and a false idea of what God’s way is.

God foretold that He would indeed only call a few into His Church, and that His Church would continue to be small, and even persecuted (Luke 12:32, Matt. 10:16-17, 7:13-14, John 16:33, 2 Timothy 3:12).

So it is that from Christ’s human ministry until His return to earth, God has called only a small minority of people. God’s Church through the centuries has continued to be small – an “embryo” of God’s  new civilization yet to come. That Church, as we learned, is in training to rule and teach the world with and under Christ in the World Tomorrow.

July 29, 2009

What Is A Real Christian?

Jesus clearly explained what a real Christian is like. He left no doubt. As we consider what he said, we need to ask ourselves why the qualities he described seem to be so difficult to find even in the Christian-professing nations of the world.

Take, for instance, one of Jesus’ teachings in what is often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Luke 6. Surely nothing is more central to Christianity than this portion of the Scriptures. But how often do you see Jesus’ statement in verse 27 put into practice? It says: “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you.”

Some of the most bloody battles in history have been waged by “Christian” nations. “No nations are more warlike than those which profess Christianity,” observed Pierre Bayle, a 17th-century French philosopher.

Professing Christians have even risen up in war against each other. They have impaled each other, burnt each other, blown each other to pieces on the battlefield, all the while praying to the same God for victory.

The English poet Shelley commented: “The same means that have supported every other popular belief have supported Christianity. War, imprisonment, assassination and falsehood; deeds of unexampled and incomparable atrocity have made it what it is.”

How can this be? The one who is supposed to be the Founder of the “Christian” religion — the One whom professing Christians call “Lord” — taught his followers, “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you” (Luke 6:27-28).

This instruction of Jesus certainly is not followed in times of war. But then it is hardly followed in times of peace either. Where is it put into practice in neighborhoods, in social circles, among the people you know on a day-to-day basis?

Jesus also said: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (verse 31). That has been called the Golden Rule. It is thought of as a good slogan to hang on the wall, or to dangle from a charm bracelet, or to teach little children.

But live by it? That’s something else! Jesus, however, did not mean it as a suggestion. He didn’t give it as a thought for the day. For Jesus it was a living law that he commanded his followers — Christians — to apply in their daily lives.

But Will It Work?

“Be ye therefore merciful,” continued Jesus, “as your Father [God] also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven” (verses 36-37).

Look around you. How often does merciful kindness govern what is said and done? Think of the competition and greed in business — the cheating, the gouging. A primary emphasis in today’s world is to get the advantage over others, even if it is necessary to hurt them a little to do it.

The political sphere resounds with name calling, propaganda and condemnation.

Gossip, judging and backbiting are ever popular themes in private conversation. Movies, novels and television programs — including children’s shows — dwell on the idea of getting even or seeking revenge.

Where is forgiveness stressed? Instances of genuine mercy from one human being toward another are remarkable and memorable because they are so uncommon.

Jesus’ teaching even applies to simple lacks of consideration such as a blaring radio, a loud motorcycle, littering the landscape with rubbish, damaging public facilities, spraying graffiti on walls — factors that make life unpleasant for others. Yet so commonplace are infringements of the principles Jesus gave, it makes one wonder: Where are the Christians?

Is This a Christian World?

The Bible describes what a society is like when its religion is a mere form, not having the power to change people’s lives. It reads like the front page of a newspaper.

“For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it (II Tim. 3:2-5, RSV).

It all sounds so familiar! As Jesus was speaking, he knew there were some listening to him who would call him their “Lord,” who would profess to belong to him, but who would not put his teachings into practice.

These are the words of Jesus to them: “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46.) A “lord” is a ruler, a master, one who is to be obeyed. In plain words, Jesus said: “If you don’t obey me, don’t call me ‘Lord‘!”

Too often people talk about “the Lord,” or “the Lord Jesus,” when they don’t have the faintest idea what Jesus said his followers are to do. Jesus exclaimed: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).

That, in simple terms, is what makes a person a Christian. He or she does what Jesus said to do. He or she follows Christ. The ones who are allowed to become members of his spiritual family are “these which hear the word of God, and do it (Luke 8:21).

“Ye are my friends,” Jesus stated, “if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14).

Again, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

Clearly, only a person who does what Jesus said to do has the right to call him “Lord.” That is the biblical definition of a real Christian.

A Way of Life

True Christianity is not merely a set of beliefs. It is not joining a church. It is not something to be practiced one day a week or at odd intervals.

It is a way of life. Early Christians referred to original Christianity as “the way of the Lord” (Acts 18:25) and “the way of God” (verse 26). “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Christ declared (John 14:6).

True Christianity is the Christian way of life. No one can follow what Jesus taught without experiencing a marked change in life and life-style.

Notice how this fact is illustrated in the following example: A rich young man once came to Jesus and asked: “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matt. 19:16.)

This man knew following Christ involves doing something. He asked: “What good thing shall I do?

Many today would have answered: “Why, there is nothing to do. Just accept Christ and it’s all done for you. There are no works involved in salvation.”

How different was Jesus’ answer! “And he [Jesus] said unto him … if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (verse 17).

There was no doubt that Jesus was talking about the Ten Commandments. When the young man asked, “Which ones?” Jesus named specifically the commandments having to do with showing love toward one’s neighbor. To this, the rich man responded that he had been keeping those commandments since childhood (verse 20). The young man, of course, had been reared a Jew. But he wanted to become a follower of Christ.

Which church today would not welcome with open arms such a wealthy and moral individual into its ranks?

But Jesus did not do so. He required in his followers true depth of conversion. He knew the young man had a problem — keeping in their true intent those commandments regarding love toward, giving to, one’s neighbor. So Jesus bluntly told him that his wealth was an obstacle to him, that he needed to get rid of it. Only after that could he become a follower of Jesus — a Christian.

Sadly, the young man departed, unwilling to change his attitude toward life.

Most people, it is true, do not have excess wealth as their major problem. The fact remains, though, that literally keeping the Ten Commandments is essential if you are to inherit God’s free gift of eternal life. So said Jesus!

Maybe you think you have been keeping the Ten Commandments fairly well — like the rich young man. Have you really? Try something. Read them off one by one (they are found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5) and see if there is not room for improvement in your life. In this materialistic, industrial age, you may be especially surprised at what the fourth and tenth commandments have to say.

True Conversion

Being a real Christian involves every moment of every day.

Every activity, every social situation, every endeavor, every goal and plan — Christ has revealed laws that bear on every facet of life. We are even to let our thoughts be ruled by the Lord Jesus, “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,” as the apostle Paul expressed it (II Cor. 10:5).

To some that sounds extreme. But it’s in the Christian Bible. The apostle Paul was only repeating what the Bible says time and again: To do God’s will is to follow his way of life totally. There is a price to pay, however, and for some that price may be too high. That price is surrender of the SELF.

“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts … ,” God says through the prophet Isaiah. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:7-9).

A real Christian is one who seeks God’s way of life, his thoughts, his will. What Isaiah was describing was genuine repentance — the kind of repentance necessary to begin the Christian way of life. When multitudes asked the apostle Peter how to become Christians, Peter responded with the same thoughts (Acts 2:38).

But these inspired instructions are seldom followed today. Why? Why in the mass evangelistic campaigns of the world are people encouraged to make a spur-of-the-moment “decision for Christ” and to come forward in an “altar call,” and to be pronounced “saved” or “born again”? — when that is not how Peter said to receive the Holy Spirit, which is God’s free gift that leads to eternal life. No wonder such “conversions” often last only a matter of days or weeks!

Why Do So Few Know?

Here is where many people stumble. They begin to grasp what real Christianity is all about, then they look around them at the people they know. Or they think of individuals they have known in the past — friends, relatives, perhaps. And they use them as standards of comparison.

They say to themselves: “Uncle Henry and Aunt Ruth and my friend John did not literally obey Jesus’ instructions. But they weren’t ‘bad’ people either. They lived the way they thought was right. I’ll take my chances along with them and with the millions and millions of other professing Christians who are just average people. Surely God won’t deny eternal life or salvation to them! God is merciful.”

God is merciful. That’s true. But then what did Jesus mean when he said keeping the commandments and other lesser requirements are necessary to inherit God’s free gift of eternal life? He meant exactly what he said. Uncle Henry and Aunt Ruth and friend John and all the millions who have professed Christianity without ever understanding what it really is to become a Christian — a follower of Jesus Christ — will eventually have their opportunity to understand. They too will learn that it is necessary to keep the commandments. If it doesn’t happen during this life, then it will happen in a future period of judgment when God’s government rules the earth and all the dead who have not had an opportunity for salvation will be resurrected and given the opportunity to choose the way of life that is based on obedience to God’s laws — the only way to true happiness. That period of time is described in Revelation 20:11-13.

Every human who ever lived will have an opportunity to receive salvation. For most people that time comes after they have lived their entire lives and died. God is just not trying to save the entire world now. That’s why the Scripture says that in general, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this [in a future resurrection!] the judgment [not a sentencing, but a period of testing and judging — their first and only genuine opportunity for salvation]” (Heb. 9:27).

Jesus told his disciples: “Enter ye in at the strait [restricted] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many [the millions, the hundreds and thousands of millions] there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and FEW [during this present age] there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). You probably have not understood this before.

Don’t make the mistake of judging what the Bible describes as true Christianity by the lives of people you have known who may not even have understood what real Christianity is.

To be a real Christian is simply to do what Jesus said to do. He showed the way to truly abundant living. His words are recorded in the Scriptures. But they will only profit someone who reads them there and follows them. “If ye know these things,” Jesus exclaimed, “happy are ye if ye do them (John 13:17).

Source: The Plain Truth, January 1983

July 23, 2009

Simon Magus: The Real "Peter" Of False Christianity!

Simon was the Samaritan sorcerer who professed conversion to Christianity and sought to buy an apostleship. The Bible records this historic event in Acts 8:9-24.

In spite of Peter’s stinging rebuke (verses 20-23), Simon presented himself as an apostle. He invented a new religion by blending his own version of the doctrine of grace with elements of the old Babylonian mysteries and attaching Christ’s name to it. This false religion swept the world and became the visible “Christian” church — incredible as that may seem.

There are veiled references to Simon’s false Christianity in the New Testament. Jude 4, for example, is rather pointed against Simon’s principal doctrine — the heresy that one does not have to obey God’s laws after conversion. John, the apostle who completed the Bible, placed great emphasis on Christians keeping God’s commandments (I John 2:3-6).

Persecution against God’s Church

Much of the early persecution against God’s true Church came as a result of Simon Magus. Acts 8 is the earliest record of the true Church/false church conflict that was to rage through the centuries. Let’s first get an overview of this chapter.

“And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:1-4).

The chapter opens with the final comments related to the stoning of Stephen. Acts 8:1 shows that Saul (or Paul) consented to Stephen’s death. Verses 3 and 4 show that Paul led the Jewish persecution against the Church, personally imprisoning many men and women. Rather than stop the preaching of the Gospel, this action advanced it to other localities (verse 4).

Now verse 5 begins Simon Magus’ history. “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:5-8).

Luke gives us an incredible amount of detail concerning Philip’s activities in Samaria. He performed many miracles there, causing much joy among the people because they were heavily oppressed with demons (verse7).

“But there was a certain man, called Simon which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God” (Acts 8:9-10).

Verses 8 and 9 reflect an extraordinary encounter with a man professing conversion to Christianity. Luke gives more detail about this man than he does concerning some of the other ten apostles not mentioned in the book of Acts. Why?

That man was one of the greatest religious figures in Samaria at that time. He is know in secular history as Simon Magus. The surname “ magus” reveals that he was a member of the priestly caste of ancient Persia, or in other words, a pagan priest. (See any encyclopedia or dictionary ).

Simon Magus Exposed

So Simon was nothing more than a priest of the Babylonian mystery religion, who used used sorcery and magic to bewitch the people of Samaria. He actually believed he was “some great one,” because the whole population of Samaria believed him and worshipped him as the “great power of God.” He had been doing this for so long, they believed that he was God in the flesh. “And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries” (Acts 8:11).

But Philip’s preaching also had great impact on the people of Samaria. Many believed and were baptized by him. Even Simon was impressed: “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done” (Acts 8:12-13).

So great was Philip’s success in Samaria, that news soon reached Jerusalem. “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy [Spirit]: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy [Spirit]” (Acts 8:14-17). The news from Samaria was so exciting that the chief apostle, Peter, went to observe the events. He also took the apostle John with him.

Peter’s Prophecy

When Peter and John arrived in Samaria, they had to complete the work that Philip started. Even though most of Samaria believed Philip and were baptized, the Holy Spirit had not been given to any of them (v. 16). Peter and John prayed for God to give the Samaritans the Holy Spirit.

Simon, ever watchful, noticed this powerful demonstration of the giving of the Holy Spirit. Although he had been a highly respected magus, Simon continued to be impressed by the remarkable powers of the apostles and their ability to heal and to manifest miracles. When he saw Peter and John baptizing people by the laying on of hands, he asked that he might be taught the power of transferring the Holy Spirit to others. Eagerly, Simon offered to pay the apostles a fee to teach him how to manifest the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:9–24).

However Peter severely rebuked him for trying to buy his way into God’s Church. “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:21-23).

Peter recognized that Simon’s heart was not right with God and that he had plainly revealed his true intentions. It is evident he was never converted because he tried to buy access to God’s Spirit and the office of an apostle because he was obsessed with the idea of power.

Looking at verse 23 a little closer, we see that Peter revealed what this man would do in the future to God’s Church.

“For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” Lange’s Commentary says of verse 23, “Peter’s words, literally mean: ‘I regard you as a man whose influence will be like that of bitter gall [poison] and a bond of unrighteousness [lawlessness], or as a man who has reached such a state’” (vol. 9, p. 148).

Peter not only understood the twisted thinking of this man’s mind, he knew that Simon was to become a great adversary of God’s true Church. Simon did not repent of his grave sin.

“Then answered Simon and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me” (Acts 8:24). He only asked Peter to intercede for him, for forgiveness. But he never actually repented and “after this incident, appears no more in the book of Acts. Later literature shows him reappearing in Rome in the time of Claudius in a new movement of his own, curiously combining Christian and pagan elements, and in which he figures as a god” (p. 927, New Lexicon Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language).

The book of Acts was written about around a.d. 62, and Luke took great pains to record much about Simon Magus for us, because of the man’s fame and danger and the damage he had done to the true Church of God. Even the letters of Paul reflected much of this trouble. Luke showed that Simon Magus was not part of the Christian Church, and recorded the prophecy that Simon Magus was to become the founder of Mystery, Babylon the Great—the great false church of Revelation 17. Simon formed a unique league with the government in Rome, which proved to be very deadly for many of God’s true people throughout history.

Interestingly, the term “simony” to describe the ecclesiastical crime of paying for offices or positions in the hierarchy of a church has come down through the ages.

“The intertwining of temporal with spiritual authority in the Middle Ages caused endless problems with accusations of simony. Secular rulers wanted to employ the educated and centrally organized clergy in their administrations and often treated their spiritual positions as adjuncts to the secular administrative roles. Canon Law also outlawed as simony some acts that did not involve the sale of offices, but the sale of spiritual authority: the sale of tithes, the taking of a fee for confession, absolution, marriage or burial, and the concealment of one in mortal sin or the reconcilement of an impenitent for the sake of gain. Just what was or was not simony was strenuously litigated: as one commentator notes, the widespread practice of simony is best evidenced by the number of reported ecclesiastical decisions as to what is or is not simony.” (Wikipedia)

Simony was a serious moral problem of the Roman Catholic Church, the very same church whose “Peter” is the Simon Magus of biblical history.

Additional information about Simon Magus can be found in these reference works:

  • The eleventh edition of the “Encyclopaedia Britannica”
  • Schaff’s “History of the Church”
  • Hastings’ “Dictionary of the Apostolic Church”
  • Hastings’ “Dictionary of the Bible”
  • “Dictionary of Christian Biography”
  • The “Encyclopaedia Biblica.”

May 18, 2009

What Does It Mean To Cast Your Pearls Before Swine?

Matthew 7:6 is an analogy Jesus used to show how people who have not had their minds opened by God to receive spiritual understanding will often react when they hear the true Gospel.

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

Put another way, Jesus was teaching His disciples not to try to convert those who are not yet being called (John 6:44). Such people are likely to respond by treating God’s truth like dirt.

Just as a pig would trample fine pearls into the mud because it doesn’t know any better and cannot appreciate such worth, the person whose mind is not yet receptive cannot grasp the awesome value of the truth. To them, the truth would be meaningless and would be discarded. They would just trample it underfoot, so to speak.

God’s truth should never be forced upon anyone, but true Christians should “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh … a reason of the hope that is in [us], with meekness and fear [gentleness and respect]” (I Pet. 3:15).

In other words, it is right to explain what he believes when someone sincerely asks. Such interest may indicate that God is opening the person’s mind.

Notice how, at another time, Jesus used pearls to express the value of the truth and of God’s Kingdom. He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” (Matt. 13:45-46). God wants us to treat His truth like a priceless gem.

March 17, 2009

Is The Law Of God Abolished In The New Testament?

Do the scriptures of Col. 2:14 and Eph. 2:15 describe the law of God being done away with, as so many believe?

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14)

“Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace (Eph. 2:15).

First, it should be understood that the word “ordinances” in these passages does not refer to God’s laws. It is translated from the Greek word “dogma” and refers to HUMAN LAWS AND DECREES — the “commandments and doctrines of men” (Col. 2:22).

These human ordinances included both the restrictive pharisaical decrees burdening the Jews and the ascetic, oppressive ordinances of “touch not, taste not” bound on the gentiles of Colossae.

Both sets of human ordinances contributed to feelings of prejudice, animosity, suspicion, and separation between the Jews and gentiles who were being called into God’s Church. These ordinances acted as a “middle wall of partition.” But, Jesus abolished that barrier through His supreme sacrifice: “For he [Christ] is our peace, who hath made both [Jew and gentile] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Eph. 2:14).

In Paul’s day, many newly-begotten Christians continued to suffer from the burden of their former teachings. For example, at the Temple there was a literal wall which separated the court of the gentiles from that of the Jews. Death was the penalty for any gentile who dared pass it. Some converted Jews found it difficult to forget and change that deeply-ingrained part of their lives. It affected even Peter. See Galatians 2:11-12.

On the other hand, the gentiles were under the sway and influence of pagan philosophers, with their restrictive rules. Colossae was known for its ascetic society. The pagans judged their Christian neighbors for their freedom in eating the various meats ordained by God, for drinking wine, and for keeping the weekly and annual Sabbaths in the joyous manner prescribed by God. Ascetics were taught that they could receive release from their guilt by doing penance — through abstinence, fasting, and even self-inflicted punishment.

All such practices had no spiritual power or benefit, and Paul spoke out against these human standards and judgments: “Beware lest any man spoil you through [human] philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). Christ came to pay the penalty for all our sins — to release us from the penalty of death incurred through sin and to cleanse our conscience from all guilt.

Christ abolished the ascetic ordinances of the gentile philosophers as well as the Talmudic traditions, which all were yokes of bondage. He did not do away with any part of God’s law. In fact, He made it possible for both Jew and gentile to become spiritual Israelites, the children of God (Gal. 3:26-29), so they might live together in freedom WITHIN His perfect law (Jas. 1:25). He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17).

Yes, to fulfill, to observe, to keep — to set us a perfect example as to how we ought to live. We are to “walk, even as he [Jesus] walked” (I John 2:6). The apostle Peter wrote that Christ left “an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Pet. 2:21).

God’s law is good and for our benefit: “Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, for ever” (Deut. 4:40).

Jesus Christ did indeed do away with the ordinances of men, but the law of God is binding on us more than ever. We are to keep it in the spirit as well as the letter. Jesus said, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17).

February 23, 2009

Is Door To Door Preaching A Biblical Practice?

Everybody has seen people on busy street corners and in large public buildings zealously attempting to hand out religious literature to all passersby. And you yourself may have even had a person with a “Christian message” knock on your door. These are common, everyday occurrences; and most people, even if they don’t necessarily agree with their views, passively accept these door-to-door evangelists as part of Western Christianity.

But did you know that long before the coming of Jesus Christ, the pagan world had its door-to-door representatives? The ancient pre-Christian world teemed with different religious sects, all vying with one another for converts. Many of them were attempting to spread their doctrines and win new adherents by preaching from house to house. Plato remarked that “mendicant prophets go to rich men’s doors and persuade them that they have a power … of making an atonement for a man’s ‘own … sins … at a small cost” (Republic, 364 b-c). Not only did these zealous pagans preach, they also distributed a variety of tracts of a religious and moralizing nature.

Werner Jaeger, an authority on the influence of pagan culture on early Christianity, observes that “we have to reckon with the existence in Hellenistic times of religious tracts as a means of propaganda fides [propagandizing their faith] of many sects” (Early Christianity and Greek Paideia, London: Oxford University Press, 1969, p. 8). Members of such a sect would actually distribute their propaganda literature from house to house. This practice was widespread already in Plato’s day, some four hundred years before Christ. Plato reports about these door-to-door evangelists in no uncertain terms: “And they produce a host of books [tracts] written by Musaeus and Orpheus … according to which they … persuade not only individuals, but whole cities” (Republic, 364e). This was nothing other than the same door-to-door high-pressure evangelism so common among us today.

In fact, so ubiquitous had this practice become among the pagans — and so obnoxious and repulsive to the average individual — that the pagan author Plutarch felt it his duty to denounce it in his writings. In his Precepts for Newly Married People, Plutarch advises wives “not to admit strangers by the back door who try to smuggle their tracts into the house advertising a foreign religion” (Jaeger, p. 8). This denunciation demonstrates how common door-to-door tract evangelism had become. “Let them [the door-to-door preachers] be exterminated from her outermost threshold!” Plutarch thundered (Conjugal Precepts, c. 19).

All this goes to show that the distribution of religious tracts was an obnoxious pagan means of winning converts — and it antedated Christianity by as much as four hundred years! Such a way of “winning souls,” needless to say, is diametrically opposed to the practices and teachings of Jesus. Christ never preached from door to door. He did not hand out one religious tract. He specifically instructed His disciples, “Go not from house to house” (Luke 10:7).

John, the last survivor of the original twelve apostles, admonished the followers of Christ: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine [which John preached and which only the one true Church of God preaches], receive him not into your house” (II John 10). No truth could be learned from the preachings or the writings of these disseminators of error. Paul warned about the type of fellow Plutarch wrote about. “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts” (II Tim. 3:6).

True Christians know and understand that God is the One who calls and converts people (John 6:44). They recognize, therefore, that it would be completely futile — and actually contrary to God’s will — to go out and attempt to win converts by force. The pagans of old, on the other hand, did not serve an active, living God. They had to do the converting themselves in order to gain followers, because their “god” was nonexistent, and the real God was not calling anyone to their religion. And, furthermore, they were not supported by God financially.

That is why, in the words of Plato, the mendicant preachers performed their services “at a small cost,” meaning they charged “a small fee.” Jesus Christ, who supports and finances the dissemination of His message so that it can go out without cost, said “freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8). True Christianity does not go “door-to-door and so is uniquely different from the ways of the pagans!

Source: Tomorrow’s World, July/August 1970

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