The Apple Of God's Eye

April 14, 2011

God’s Holy Days In The New Testament

freebiblestudyguides.org

What do you mean, “New Testament Holy Days”? Weren’t the “Holy Days” Old Testament, Jewish observances, done away with at the cross?

It is logical to begin at the beginning, so we must check to see what days Christ observed. There was no record that He ever observed any of the well-known holidays observed by this pagan world.

What did He observe, then? When Jesus was 12 years old His parents took Him to Jerusalem to observe the Passover:

“Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast” (Luke 2:41-42).

Notice here that His parents traveled to this Feast annually; therefore, Jesus had been to this Feast several times before. He continued this practice with His parents as He was subject to His parents (verse 51).

And not only did they stay for the Passover day alone, but “fulfilled the days” (verse 43) — the seven Days of Unleavened Bread associated with the Passover (see Leviticus 23:4-6).

Why did His parents do this? Because they were devout Jews who “performed all things according to the law of the Lord [God’s law]” (Luke 2:39). Most Jews of that time were really not devout in their religious worship, but the parents God the Father chose to rear His own Son were.

About 18 years later, when Jesus was about 30 years old, we find that He was still continuing His parents’ practice as prescribed in the law of the Lord.

Notice John 2:13: “And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” Some people wonder why this is called the “Jews’ passover” when it is one of the feasts of God (Lev. 23:2). Two possible reasons exist: 1) Only Jews observed these days (gentiles did not), and 2) the Jews had made some changes regarding Feast observance since it was given to Israel in the time of Moses. (more…)

February 15, 2010

Seven Proofs Of God's True Church, Part 2

Seven Proofs Of God’s True Church, Part 2

PROOF TWO: THREE DEFINITE SIGNS

This second major proof of God’s true Church is composed of three important sections.

1. Section one concerns the true name of the true Church
2. Section two is the understanding and observance of God’s seventh-day Sabbath
3. Section three is the understanding and observance of God’s annual Holy Days.

Section 1 — the True Name of God’s Church

Wherever Almighty God speaks of His true Church, identifying it by name — that name is almost always the same.

Jesus prayed, “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world [but not of the world], and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are” (John 17:11). Jesus prayed the Father to keep His own true people in and through a particular name! Jesus prayed that name would be the name of the Father. (more…)

August 22, 2009

What Is God's Name?

homepage.mac.com

homepage.mac.com

God’s name is important! We must not use it lightly or irreverently — but with a genuine sense of reverence and awe (Exodus 20:7). But what is the name of the heavenly Father? What is the name of His Son, our Savior, the Messiah? It is important that we know. For there is only one “name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Must we, as some claim, use only Hebrew names when speaking of the Father and the Son? Is salvation based on the pronunciation of God’s name in a certain language, or on a certain set of sounds? Are we unwittingly transgressing the Third Commandment when we say “Jesus Christ,” “God” and “Lord” — because these are not Hebrew names? There is no need for confusion. Read on and understand!

Sacred names?

The notion that we must use only God’s Hebrew names is of no ancient origin. Actually, the Hebrew-names teaching had its beginnings less than 50 years ago, in the late 1930s. At that time, proponents of the idea began to claim that it is gross sin to say the name Jesus Christ, which is an anglicized spelling of the Greek words lesous and Christos. Likewise, they declared it a sin to utter the phrase God the Father, for the English word God was said to be linked etymologically with pagan worship.

The Deity’s name, they alleged, must be spoken only in Hebrew. This is an important prerequisite for entering God’s Kingdom, they claimed. These same few teach that the sacred personal name of our heavenly Father is Yahweh (or, in its contracted form, Yah) and that the name of His Son is Yahshua the Messiah. The word Elohim, too, must be used instead of our equivalent English word God. They declare that when we pray or speak about the Father and the Son, we must use only these Hebrew names. It is wrong, they say, to translate the names of the Deity into English or any other language. In other words, we may freely read and discuss the Bible as translated into the English language in all terms except the names of God or Jesus Christ. Then we must speak Hebrew. Using substitutes for the names Yahweh and Yahshua, we are told, could deny us salvation.

Are Hebrew names the only ones acceptable to God? Is He insulted by anything else?

The tetragrammaton

First, let’s examine the name Yahweh, said to be the personal name of the Heavenly Father. In Exodus 3:15, the Creator introduced His name — YHWH — to Moses. (In many English versions of the Bible, YHWH is translated as LORD, usually printed in capital letters.)

Unrealized by many, the text of the Old Testament consists of consonants, no vowels. The original Hebrew of the Creator’s name as written in the consonantal text of this verse is spelled simply YHWH, not Yahweh. YHWH is often referred to as the “tetragrammaton,” meaning the “four letters.”

The name YHWH is derived from a form of the Hebrew verb to be. It has the same meaning as the name I AM, mentioned in the previous verse (Exodus 3:14). Hebrew scholars say YHWH could mean “he exists” or “he causes to be.” The English equivalents of this word would be “the Ever-living” or “the Eternal.”

Though we cannot be absolutely certain what the missing vowels in YHWH should be, many scholars believe that YHWH was probably vocalized originally as Yahweh.

The Jews, thinking the name YHWH too sacred to be uttered, ceased to even pronounce it after the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Indeed, it was considered unlawful and blasphemous to utter it. When a Jew reciting orally came to YHWH in a scripture, he substituted the word Adonai (a Hebrew word meaning “Lord” or “Master”) instead. The name of God, in other words, was written YHWH, but pronounced Adonai.

But one thing is certain. The pronunciation of the Hebrew word YHWH was not “Jehovah.” This familiar but erroneous name is a comparatively recent invention, devised by Peter Galatin (the confessor of Pope Leo X) in 1520. Galatin interjected the vowels of the word Adonai (a-o-a) between the four sacred consonants YHWH, producing the hybrid monstrosity YaHoWaH, which later became “Jehovah” in some English Bibles. It is a totally artificial name, formed by adding alien vowels to the Tetragrammaton. It has no claim to legitimacy.

Yahshua is Yahweh!

The first point that must be made in answer to those well-intentioned but misguided advocates of “sacred names” concerns their labeling the Father Yahweh as distinct from His Son Yahshua (which means “Yahweh is salvation”). They claim YHWH is the Father, and that the Son later had to be revealed.

The truth is that the YHWH of the Old Testament is the very One who became Jesus or, in Hebrew, Yahshua! Yahshua, or Jesus, IS Yahweh!

Jesus was the Word (Greek, Logos, “spokesman”) who was with God the Father from the beginning (John 1:1). The Logos was the Creator — “All things were made through Him” (verse 3). That Logos — the Creator — later became flesh and dwelt among us (verse 14). He then declared the Father (verse 18), whom no man had heard or seen before (John 5:37).

Notice further: In Deuteronomy 32:3-4, we read that YHWH (translated “Lord” in many Bibles in verse 3) is “the Rock.” In I Corinthians 10:1-4, we discover that the Rock was none other than Christ. In John 8:58, Jesus reveals that He is the “I AM” of Exodus 3:14. In Hosea 13:4, YHWH says there is no savior but Him. YHWH, then, clearly is Jesus (Acts 4:12)!

Jesus (or Yahshua) was the God of the Old Testament. He was YHWH. With this understanding, one of the major tenets of the sacred names doctrine falls flat! Now look, at another major error in this false teaching.

Evidence from Old Testament

Though the vast majority of the Old Testament was inspired in the Hebrew language, Daniel and Ezra wrote portions of their books in Aramaic or Syriac, the prevalent language spoken throughout the Persian Empire and elsewhere during their time. It had replaced Hebrew as the language of common speech of the Jews.

When these men of God referred to the Creator in those passages, did they use the old Hebrew names, or did they translate them into Aramaic?

Nowhere in the Aramaic passages do we find the names YHWH or Elohim. An examination of the manuscripts reveals that in dozens of places the writers rendered the Hebrew names for God into the Aramaic word Elah. And it is just as proper that the Hebrew El and Elohim should be translated into the English word God.

Moreover, it should be noted that the name El was in use among the pagan Canaanites long before Moses penned the Pentateuch. In the cuneiform religious tablets excavated at Ras Shamra (the ancient Canaanite city of Ugarit in northern Syria), for example, El (El the Bull) is described as the head of the Canaanite pantheon, husband of Asherah and father of all the other gods. If it is a sin for us to use the English word God because pagan Druids used it to refer to their idols, then, by the same reasoning, it is also a sin to use the Hebrew words Elohim and El.

Also notice that the Hebrew word Elohim is used 240 times throughout the inspired Old Testament to refer to pagan, heathen idols (see Exodus 12:12, Deuteronomy 6:14 and Judges 11:24, for example). This usage shows that it is just as permissible to use the English word God today for both the Creator and for pagan idols.

Apostolic example

But what about the New Testament books? The original inspired language of the New Testament was Greek. Greek was virtually a universal language in the first century, widely understood by both Jews and gentiles.

Much of the New Testament was written by the apostle Paul, the apostle sent to the Greek-speaking gentiles who did not know Hebrew or Aramaic. When Paul wrote in Greek to Greek converts, did he pause in mid-sentence and switch from Greek to Hebrew to write Yahweh or Yahshua when faced with a sacred name? Never!

Paul invariably used the Greek words for “God” (theos) and “Lord” (kurios). And he used the Greek name Iesous (Jesus). And so did the other writers of New Testament books, as inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. In 665 places in the New Testament, the apostles translated the Hebrew word YHWH into the Greek word kurios.

There is not one New Testament Greek manuscript with the names of the Deity written in Hebrew!

In the face of these clear facts, “sacred names” proponents have no choice but to deny the New Testament was originally written in Greek. They assert — wrongly — that the whole of the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic (some even say Hebrew), and only later translated into Greek. At the time of this alleged translation, they claim, the sacred Hebrew names were wrongly removed and pagan Greek names substituted. The burden of proof is on them. The evidence? There is none — for it is a totally false notion, devised out of necessity to justify a false premise!

The Aramaic version of the New Testament available today is clearly a later translation from the original inspired Greek. The only copies of the original New Testament writings that have been preserved are in Greek — none in Aramaic or Hebrew.

More proof

Jesus said He came to reveal and declare the name of the Father to men (John 17:6, 26). Yet where do we find any discussion of its pronunciation? Where did Jesus say that Hebrew is the only name we must use? If pronunciation is so all-important, why did Jesus never say so?

Another point: Jesus prophesied that “many [deceivers] will come in My name” (Matthew 24:5). If the only proper form of his name is Yahshua, then Jesus’ prophecy has utterly failed — and He is a false prophet! Have many come in the Hebrew name of Yahshua? No — hardly any. But many deceivers have come in the name of Jesus Christ, which Jesus in this verse clearly calls His name.

In other words, Jesus was saying that false churches would use the true name. Jesus obviously is not concerned with the language in which His name is spoken; it remains His name. There is power and authority in Jesus’ name — the only name by which we may be saved.

Consider further: In John 17:11, Jesus asked the Father to “keep through Your name those whom You have given Me.” As we trace the history of the true Church through the ages; what name do we find it using? “The Church of God,” or the equivalent name in the native language spoken by members of the Church at any particular time! We do not find through history the name “Church of Yahweh” or some other Hebrew form. Either it is acceptable to use the non-Hebrew word God — or the Father failed to answer Jesus’ request!

What’s in a name?

What does the word name really mean, anyway? In Bible usage, a “name” signifies much more than merely a set of vocal sounds. Names convey meaning. They are given for a purpose. “Abraham,” for example, means “father of many nations.” “Israel” means “prevailer with God.” And Yahweh means “the Eternal.”

One’s name summarizes one’s authority, power, reputation and character. It is not merely a certain set of sounds or vocal vibrations that is important, but the meaning and power behind the name.

God’s name has profound significance. The Hebrew text of the Old Testament contains many divine names (some in Hebrew), each descriptive of some aspect of God’s character. Among them is El Shaddai, “almighty God,” as in Genesis 17:1, and Eloheseba’ot, “God of hosts,” as in Amos 5:27. The meaning of each of them is infinitely more important than its mere sound in Hebrew. God’s character remains the same — whatever the language may be.

Moreover, you need to understand that Elohim (God) is a family name (Ephesians 3:14-15)! It has a plural ending — allowing for more than one member in the one divine Family. We may also bear that name — the very name of God! We may enter the God Family by a resurrection.

Performance, not pronunciation

Salvation is not based on pronunciation! Those who would worship the sound of a name — treating it with superstitious and mystical reverence — make an idol out of that sound. Thinking they have some gift of greater knowledge, they actually miss the whole point and intent of the Scriptures, and engender needless strife and division.

Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”

Performance, not pronunciation, is of paramount importance to God. We honor His name by obeying Him, not by mouthing a certain sound. Do not be misled by the naive and misguided “scholarship” of those who would make a “show of wisdom.” Their teachings are not substantiated by the Word of God, but are based on a multitude of woefully misapplied scriptures. Speaking the names of God in Hebrew is not a prerequisite for salvation.

Take reassurance from the statement of the apostle Peter, who declared, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ [Christos in the original Greek], blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (I Peter 4:14).

Source: The Good News, January 1986

August 6, 2009

The Law Of Ordinances Versus God's Spiritual Law

Does Ephesians 2:14-15 do away with God’s Spiritual Law? Definitely not! It is not the law of God that has separated us from God.  It is the violation of that law – sin – that separated us.  That is the meaning of Ephesians 2:14 – “and hath broken down the middle wall of partition”

Notice that the words “between us” have been added and are in italics.  Granted that there was a physical wall in the temple which separated the Jews who were “near” to God from the Gentiles who were “far off,” but merely reconciling Jew with Gentile would not reconcile us with God.  It is our relationship to God that counts!  The only wall referred to in Scripture is the wall that separates man from God.

Notice Ezekiel 43:8. Because of idolatry — sin, God says, “there was a wall between Me and them” (margin).  That wall of sin – the natural ENMITY in the human heart and in society is broken down. Christ paid for it by sacrificing His own life for ours – “having abolished in his flesh the ENMITY” — having paid for sin and making possible the receipt of the Holy Spirit to conquer the carnality of man, the carnal opposition of society with its ways.

Jesus said, “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Through the power of the Spirit in our lives, we, too, can overcome the world, its customs, its false teachings, its heathen dogmas masquerading in the name of Christ, the dictates of society! That is what Christ abolished — “Having abolished in his flesh the ENMITY, even the law of commandments in ordinances”.  Notice it!

The enmity against God is expressed by commands in the form of “ordinances” — “dogmasin,” in the Greek — the very commandments of men, human tradition, heathen customs, the dictates of society, which Paul condemned in Colossians.  That is what Christ abolished through His sacrifice.  The Gentile Ephesians did not know the law of God — they never practiced the law of Moses.  It was their frightful sins which separated them from God.

Now they were reconciled to God, forgiven of their past sin. They had the Spirit of God to overcome themselves and to overcome the world around them, with its human traditions, its human dogmas, its human commandments which were in opposition to God and to His law!  There is certainly not one word here about the law of Moses or the Ten Commandments being annulled.

June 18, 2009

Why Was Barnabas Called The Son Of Encouragement?

www.oneyearbibleblog.com

The apostle Barnabas bent over the bloodied body, perplexed and distressed. At the first moan and stir of what had appeared to be a corpse, the little coterie of Christians gasped in disbelief. Then the short, stocky torso turned. Paul slowly sat up among the blood stained stones.

An ecstatic Barnabas helped Paul to his feet. Paul had survived a stoning. Astonished, the group heard Paul announce he was alright, and watched him turn back toward the city again (Acts 14:19-20).

Such was the character of the man God chose to get the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the known gentile world. But what of the character of his relieved and grateful partner? What was the role of Barnabas in the Work at that time? What value does his example hold for us today?

Some may be surprised to learn that Barnabas was the major human instrument God used to employ Paul in the ministry, and to get the gentile Work off the ground.

Barnabas’s unique qualities

Barnabas was genuinely humble. He was able to see the good in others. Because of this, he became a prime factor in the growth of the early Church. Cultivation of his qualities in our lives can enhance our impact as Christians today.
Scripture makes some unusual statements about Barnabas. One concerns the special name he was given by Church leaders — a name that seems to have characterized his ministry.

In the early weeks of the fledgling Church, the wealthier converts sold real estate and other possessions to share with the more needy brethren. Curiously, the only person named as an example of this generosity was a certain Joses. We are told that he “was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement)” (Acts 4:36).

The use of this name Encouragement is significant. The Greek word has also been translated “consolation” or “comfort.” John 14:26 uses a slightly different form of the Greek:

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things” (Authorized Version).

The name Barnabas, then, has essentially the same meaning as the word Jesus used to describe the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The personification of encouragement as the “father” of Barnabas is also significant. He must have manifested this trait in an outstanding way. This unique individual was a warm and encouraging person. He was positive and uplifting. He was able to see the best in people — to overlook the differences that could produce personal prejudice. This very virtue was used to open the possibility of membership in the early Church to converts of all nations.

Reaching the gentiles

Jesus Christ had shown His intent, just before His ascension to heaven, to ultimately reach all nations with the Gospel of the coming Kingdom of God (Matthew 28:19-20). After He provided His Church with sufficient human and material resources to evangelize foreign lands, Christ had a major hurdle to overcome. Many Jews were prejudiced against non-Israelites. Many felt superior, being the chosen of God, and harbored bias that would have weakened their willingness to reach out to gentiles.

God revealed first through the leading apostle, Peter, His will for the gentiles, through the incident of the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10). Yet the Jews were still hesitant to admit that God must be dealing with gentiles (verse 28). There was some plain foot-dragging going on.

Whom would God use to get things going in the Work to the gentiles?

Enter Saul

Saul of Tarsus had been public enemy No. 1 to the Christians. He led a gestapo-like group of Jewish zealots on a crusade to completely eradicate the Christians (Acts 8:1). While on his way to Damascus, Saul was struck blind and brought to repentance by Christ Himself (Acts 9:1-22). Jesus made it clear He had chosen Saul to “bear My name before Gentiles” (verse 15).

After a narrow escape from would-be assassins at Damascus, Saul went to Jerusalem to join himself to the Christians there. But his reputation as their chief tormentor kept him on the outside looking in (verse 26). God began to use a certain man to champion the cause of suspect Saul.

Barnabas had perhaps believed Saul’s story, perceiving in him the Holy Spirit. Or he had heard of his conversion and powerful preaching in Damascus. He was able to put aside fear and bias to see the good in Saul. Barnabas stuck his neck out to help Saul win acceptance from the apostles (verse 27).

But Saul’s time had not yet come. After more threats on his life, Saul was sent home to Tarsus. God let a number of years go by while He further prepared His Church for the entrance of the gentiles. Growth continued, but no real effort was made to take the Gospel to gentile lands. Something did finally happen far up the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, in a gentile city called Antioch.

When the Church was scattered after the initial severe persecution, some of the believers journeyed as far as Antioch and took up residence in various gentile cities. These brethren witnessed to Jews only, until certain ones of them preached to some Greeks. God backed up their effort, and “a great number believed” (Acts 11:19-21).

When the Church leaders at headquarters in Jerusalem heard this news, they decided to investigate, and selected Barnabas for the trip (verse 22).  He arrived at Antioch and found that the Work of God among the Greeks was genuine. Being the positive, warm fellow he was, Barnabas was delighted. He “encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord” (verse 23). Unhampered by pride and preconceived notions, he could see the potential for good in gentiles. Barnabas lived up to his name, welcoming the new converts.

Another unusual statement is found in the following verse. Luke was so impressed with Barnabas that when he compiled the book of Acts, he stated, under inspiration, “For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (verse 24). Barnabas was filled with the Holy Spirit, known also as the Comforter, which his name meant. He literally stands out for his special ability to see the good in others and encourage them.

Acts 11:24 ends with, “And a great many people were added to the Lord.” The growth was so rapid that Barnabas realized he was overextended. Assistance was needed to properly pastor the new brethren and allow additional growth. Barnabas was about to make a second major move that would ensure the great impact of Saul of Tarsus on the future of gentile Christians.

Remembering what had been prophecied about Saul, Barnabas realized that now was the time, and that Antioch was the place, to activate Saul’s ministry. So, “Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul” (verse 25). Together they returned to Antioch, staying there for a year. Saul probably acted as a kind of associate pastor, subject to the leadership of Barnabas. When the two are mentioned together, Barnabas is named first (verse 30).

Meanwhile, “The word of God grew and multiplied” (Acts 12:24). By the time chapter 13 opens, we find five ministers operating out of Antioch. God’s time had come to expand the Work into other parts of the world.

While the ministry there was fasting and praying about this matter, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit made it plain that God had set apart Barnabas and Saul for a special mission (Acts 13:2-3). A new phase of the preaching of the Gospel was about to unfold.

The pair took along young John Mark and set sail for Cyprus, Barnabas’ home country. It is ironic that a major change in the roles of Barnabas and Saul occurred on this very island. They preached the Word at Salamis on the eastern end, then crossed the entire island to the city of Paphos (verses 4-6). Here, the party encountered Elymas the sorcerer. It was through a confrontation with this false prophet that assistant Saul became leader Paul.

Paul emerges as leader

Elymas withstood the efforts of the missionaries to preach the word to an interested deputy of the country. “Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?’ ” (verses 9-10).

Paul, perhaps remembering the impact of his own bout with blindness on the road to Damascus, used God’s power to smite Elymas with blindness. On this occasion he stood out as a dynamic spokesman. But consider Barnabas’ position. He had been in charge over Paul. He had championed the cause of Saul and helped him into the fellowship of the Church. He was the one who dug Saul out of the woodwork at Tarsus and reactivated him. He was the pastor at Antioch. He was the leader of this evangelical tour.

What if Barnabas had dwelt on all these things?

Barnabas had to decide there at Paphos whether to humble himself and submit to God’s greater purpose. All we know is that verse 13 simply records, “Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga.” Previously it had always been “Barnabas and Saul.” Now it was “Paul and his party.” Paul was the leader. The entire focus of the rest of the book of Acts is on Paul. But let’s focus on the example of Barnabas.

Perhaps he was willing to admit that Paul had certain characteristics that were better suited for the job at hand. Barnabas was a warm and encouraging sort, which is a necessary quality of leadership. But he may have been of such a temperament that he tried to avoid confrontations. On the other hand, Paul was like a seething volcano, always ready to erupt with powerful, convicting preaching or debate, and never backing down from a battle.

Perhaps Barnabas realized this once and for all at Lystra, the city on that first missionary tour where Paul was stoned. Watching beleaguered Paul struggle to his feet and head right back into the city may have convinced Barnabas of the unique qualities Paul possessed.

At least it is safe to say that he had a similar attitude to that of John the Baptist. Submitting to the new leadership of Jesus Christ, John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Barnabas practiced what Paul later preached: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3).

Are you like Barnabas?

Barnabas’ humility is also seen in his freedom from feelings of prejudice. Had he been biased, perhaps Paul would not have gotten anywhere with those at Jerusalem. Barnabas was willing to welcome into the Church brethren of other nationalities and cultures. He didn’t let petty differences keep him from serving God’s people.

God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11). Barnabas manifested this same attitude by seeing the good in people. He dwelt on positives. He saw potential for the future. Exactly how much he had to do with Paul’s development, and therefore with the growth of the gentile Work, we don’t know at this time. We do know enough that we can benefit from his sterling example. What else, after all, would you expect from a man called the Son of Encouragement?

Source: The Good News, 1986

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).

What Is The True Definition Of The Temple Of God?

Paul told Gentile converts that they were the members of the house of God. He reminded them that the spiritual structure was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). This is reinforced in verse 22, where it says true Christians are a holy temple in God. Jesus Christ is not returning to a material temple, but to the spiritual, glorified temple of the living God.

In I Cor. 3:9, the term “God’s husbandry” – (γεώργιον  geōrgion); or “tillage” is entirely unique, as this word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly denotes a “tilled” or “cultivated field” (Albert Barnes’ Notes On The Bible). This shows we are also God’s produce, being harvested by Him.

But unlike what mainstream Christianity teaches, God requires something of us. Verse 13  shows our works (yes these are required) will be made plain. The time of judgment is just ahead of us and God will prove if His people (collectively the temple of God – verse 16) have been building  properly.

Why this requirement? Because the temple of God is Holy – it is where God dwells.  He wants to make sure the temple remains pure and He will not allow defilement, or sin, in this Holy place. This is probably a strange concept to many, because the prevailing thought is that a church is a building. But God clearly defines the Church as His people. It is where He dwells – in each believer.

Deut. 23:14  says wherever God is in the midst of, that place is Holy. Moses had to take off his shoes as God dwelled in the bush.

This is where God gets a little more insistent with His demands. In II Cor. 6:14, He tells true Christians they cannot dwell together with unbelievers. Who are these unbelievers? Again, contrary to popular opinion, there is no wider audience of Christians; there is only one Church of God. The remainder of supposed Christianity is deceived, bickering over pagan doctrines, beliefs and traditions of men. True Christians are to avoid anything that causes them to be mixed together with unrighteousness. When mixed, it is always the unrighteousness – the impurities –  which spread. These have to be eliminated so that the place of God`s residence remains Holy and pure.

Many in the world try to have it both ways, which is why God cannot  work with them. Verse 16 says either God dwells in true Christians or they are in the world. Only God dwelling in them makes them Holy. It is the body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, not the brain or mind. (I Cor. 6:19). Body = soma (# 4983 in Strong’s) = the physical structure.

Our bodies were created to be a temple, or sanctuary for the Holy Spirit. God knows the cleaner, healthier and purer our house is, the more we will be able to use the Holy Spirit. Spiritual growth is definitely, though not the only, factor to spiritual well being. Poor health also inhibits the ability to serve God.

The Corinthians had many vices – they said there was no evil in using what God gives. But just because we have a bodily appetite does not mean we  should use it. There is all kinds of sinful behaviour, even with that which is good and given by God. Sin is not the thing, but the wrong use of the thing.  I Cor. 6:12 says do not let anything master you or control you. The privilege carries with it the obligation of responsibility. There is a right and lawful use for everything, but we have to be careful of excess. The body is not created to serve those desires and be overpowered by them. Otherwise our god is our belly (Phil. 3:18).

We are joined to God in one Spirit (I Cor. 6:17). And since there are sins that affect the outside and sins that affect the inside, we are not free to do what we want with our body (verse 18). We are bought with a price – the body of Jesus Christ (verse 20) and we must glorify God in body and mind.

The first great commandment is to love God with heart, body and mind (Matt. 22:36-38). Then we are to love ourselves and others, which means we keep body and mind clean and pure (verse 39). That is hard in this world polluted by customs and trends of excess initiated by Satan (Eph. 2:2). It is he which  causes us to fulfill the desires of body and mind. Human nature involves mind and body.

We have to counter Satan by using the power of the Holy Spirit to lead moderate, balanced lives with fresh air, eating, exercise, and so on (Phil. 4:5). God does not want unclean things in our body. He is present and He wants to live in us, so the body has to be kept clean. Unless we are spiritually and physically fit, we cannot give service to God.

February 25, 2009

Why Are There So Many Denominations In This World?

This is one of my pet peeve topics. Why are there so many denominations today? Does anyone question the legitimacy of all these quarrelling and bickering sects founded by men? None agree with each other and most teach different things, yet all proclaim to teach the truth. Your mother can go to the Catholic church and your brother may attend a Protestant church down the road with his wife, even though he is Lutheran. Is this what Christ sanctioned when He started His Church? Did he found many denominations? Listen to His words: “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18).

He did exactly that built one true Church, which was commissioned to preach and to publish His Gospel — the Message He brought from God — to all the world!

How Was The Church To Grow?

Most people believe that God’s true Church is probably a huge, powerful organization, exerting powerful influence on the world. Nothing further could be true! Rather, Jesus called it the “little flock” (Luke 12:32).

In His final prayer, Jesus prayed for His Church, not for the world. In fact, He said that the world would hate those belonging to His Church (John 17:9-16). Members are described as being strangers and foreigners in this world — ambassadors, yet never being “of” the world! The true Church of God was to be persecuted and scattered (John 15:20, II Tim. 3:12).

That’s a hard concept to swallow in the civilized portions of the world that pride themselves on tolerance. But Jesus Christ said after He was smitten (crucified), the “sheep” — His Church — were to become scattered! (Mark 14:27, John 16:32).

This persecution and scattering began early in the Church’s tenure (Acts 8:1) and continued throughout history. Despised and scattered by the world — it was never separate and always spoke the same thing. It was never made up of many differing sects, a fact overlooked by historians because they never knew where to look for the true Church — for they didn’t even know what the true Church is.

Most Of The World Is Deceived

You might argue with my last point, but in the Bible, all the prophecies foretold apostasy, deception, and division. Christ himself said “…many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:4, 5.)

Did you notice that? It was the many who were to be deceived, and the few who were to become true Christians, not the other way around! This condition is again pictured by Christ saying, “”Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).

It’s not up to you to believe me, but if you’re a Christian, you had better believe your Bible. All humanity has become deceived by Satan (Rev. 12:9), the god of this world. He appears, not as a devil, but as an angel of light, proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ. “Believe on Jesus and you will be saved,” is the common altar call. But what about the Bible admonition of repentance, and being baptized for the remission of sins to be saved? (Acts 2:38). Why is this scripture lost on much of Christianity?

World’s Influence Into God’s Church Foretold

In Acts 20:29-30, Paul delivered to the elders (ministers) of the Church at Ephesus a final message. He told them that immediately after he left Ephesus, there would come within the local Church congregations false ministers to make a prey of Christians. And even from those elders already in the Church congregations some would pervert the doctrine of Jesus to secure a following for themselves. Peter also warned the churches about this problem (II Peter 2:2).

Although numerous deceivers, called Gnostics, left the Church, drawing away disciples after them, there was an even more dangerous apostasy which infiltrated the true Church. Paul told the Evangelist Timothy, that there would be congregations which would not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts” — would do what they please and elect ministers who for the sake of money would preach fables of mysticism and sun-worship that were engulfing the Roman Empire(II Timothy 4:2-4). The letters of Paul were twisted by them to give another meaning than intended (II Peter 3:15-16).

Here’s the odd part. Instead of leaving the local congregations and forming their own sects, as some Gentiles did at first, the false preachers remained within the congregations and soon began to expel the true Christians (III John 9 and 10), who alone comprised the true Church. They were being put out of the visible, organized congregations. They were the scattered ones of whom John said: “Therefore the world knoweth us not” (I John 3:1).

Where Historians Get Confused

After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and the deaths of the apostles, something incredible happens. The true Church almost disappears from history, and false churches arise! Historian Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, in his book The Story of the Christian Church, page 41, says: “We would like to read of the later work of such helpers of St. Paul as Timothy, Apollos and Titus, but all these… drop out of the record at his death. For fifty years after St. Paul’s life a curtain hangs over the church through which we strive vainly to look; and when at last it rises, about 120 A.D., with the writings of the earliest church-fathers, we find a church in many aspects very different from that in the days of peter and Paul.”

So what happened to the true Church which was lost out of sight by most historians? It did not disappear, but continued to exist from the time of Christ until the present. This is a promise from Christ Himself: …I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

You can find it by looking for a small Sabbath keeping Church which keeps ALL of God’s commands, faithfully preaches about the Kingdom of God, as well as warning the world through prophetic vision. That should be no mystery, but yet it is!

Blog at WordPress.com.