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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Whose Mouths Must Be Stopped

We approach the following verses from Titus carefully. There are a number of warning passages in the epistles concerning false teaches and the like. Here, in Titus 1, we have our Apostle, Paul, addressing the current  dispensational age. One the grave concerns we should have for this age are those who handle the Word of God deceitfully, but we also must have concern for those who handle it carelessly. Many a Bible student has fallen into error merely because he becomes puffed up because of his supposed knowledge. 

We try to assess as best we can and make the distinction noted above (understanding our own frailty and with the hope of rescuing those who have fallen under the voice of a false teacher) . Some are out for self-aggrandizement or to make merchandise of the saints, while others are woefully unenlightened and unlearned  (in regard to the trusts of right division despite perhaps holding advanced degrees) and seek to put believers in bondage to their "system" (especially those who mishandle God's Law). 

I was on my way to Macedonia, in order that you might command some not to teach extraneous doctrines, 4 nor to heed fables or interminable genealogies, which give rise to disputes rather than a dispensation of God in faith. 5 And the goal of the commandment is love from a pure heart and a clear conscience and unfeigned faith, 6 from which things some have deviated and have turned away to idle talk, 7 wanting to be teachers of the law, but understanding neither what they say nor things pertaining to what they assert. 8 And we know that the law is good, if a person uses it legitimately, 9 knowing this, that the law has not been instituted for a righteous person, but for the lawless and unruly, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the irreverent and profane, for those who commit parricide and matricide, for murderers, 10 for fornicators, homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and anything else there might be contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

-1 Timothy 1:3-11 (Far Above All)

Note how our apostle frames his warning concerning the teaching of "extraneous doctrines" [Gk: heterodidaskaléō, deviating from the truth] on the one hand and turning away to "idle talk" [Gk: mataiología, vain or empty] on the other. These are believers. These are those who call themselves teachers. Some deviate from the faith of Paul. They don't necessarily deviate from the truth of life through grace alone, but more likely, they deviate from Paul's gospel of the fullness of grace in the current age. They fail to recognize the Head and fail to recognize the current calling and hope.

We can say this with some confidence as these teachers in our passage are within Timothy's influence. Timothy and Paul would not bother commanding outside teachers or warning of outside teachers. These teachers "give rise to disputes" among believers. The truths of the Ephesian and Colossian epistles are comparatively simple to understand once tradition is discarded and context understood (most simply refuse to see the context). Yet many teachers bring complexity to scripture because they simply fail to "compare the things that differ" (Phil 1:10).

This is why Paul instructs us to do exactly that, "compare the things that differ," in Philippians 1. When we allow scripture to rightly divide itself, to interpret itself, we are safe from manmade traditions and confused contexts. When we read the address on the envelope, we won't get caught up in the complex practice of trying to piece together seemingly contradictory commands which do not even belong to us.

In our passage in 1 Timothy, Paul has a very harsh assessment concerning those who abuse (misuse) the Law in this current age ("understanding neither what they say nor things pertaining to what they assert."). He accuses them of ignorance of basic theology. Could Paul be more clear that, in this age, the Law is for the lawless? For those outside of Christ? Paul cares not if one holds a ThD or a D.Div if he fails to rightly divide. The Holy Spirit's verdict is "you don't understand what you're saying."

Note Paul's context for his assessment:

knowing this, that the law has not been instituted for a righteous person, but for the lawless and unruly, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the irreverent and profane, for those who commit parricide and matricide, for murderers, for fornicators, homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and anything else there might be contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

Even in the age of the Law in Israel, it could not be obeyed in perfection (hence the sacrificial system). Peter tells us it was a harsh yoke for Israel. The obedient life, walking in the Tree of Life, and fulfilling the Law through love of God and love of others was never destructive. Trying to please God through an obedience (through a "knowledge of good and evil") which was according to the letter and not to the spirit, according to the flesh and not to the new nature, was too harsh for any honest person. I deluded man might believe he is faithful to all the Law, but he only proves his ignorance of the Law. The deluded have always believed they could fulfill the Law, but those with a heart towards God see how the Law can only condemn in the end.

In the current age, the Law takes its place in this Gentile dispensation. The Law is for our learning, but it is not a guide for the new nature. Gentiles never had the Law. Even in the age of the Law and the parallel Acts age, gentiles living among Israel were only required to obey the "necessary things" of Leviticus (cp. Acts 15, Acts 21). Today, even these are put aside as their is no Israel in the current age (even though she will soon rise again).

In this age, the Law is seen through "the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which [PAUL has] been instructed." That is the revelation given to Paul alone (Eph 3) and revealed Post-Acts in the Book of Ephesians. We've looked at that truth many times. This truth frames the books of this age while Paul was "in these chains FOR YOU GENTILES"  (Post Acts) as opposed to being "in bondage for the HOPE OF ISRAEL" (Acts Age). 

When we see Paul's calling and his message for Gentiles in this age, it is easy to see how the application of the Law to believers and other deviations to Paul's message have led to strife among believers. It is not hard to see why Paul is so harsh in his assessment in his instructions to Timothy regarding these teachers.

This is also the context for Paul's warnings and instructions to Titus.

Titus 1:10 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:

This would be Jewish believers. In the Acts age some ("certain of the Pharisees") tried to impose the Law upon Gentile believers. It was wrong even in that age, how much more is it to be considered anathema in the current age? These teachers are deceivers. We can understand that doctrine to be deceptive by design or merely by result. Many are deceived themselves. And the biggest deception is the denial of Paul's unique ministry.

Titus 1:11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake.

Such powerful words from the Apostle of Love. These teachers MUST (deî, need to be) be STOPPED (epistomízō, bridled, reduced to silence). The Far Above All translation reads, "who need to be silenced." Paul does not mince words. No mollycoddling here. Tolerance has a place among believers in many ways (we again look to Paul's Love chapter, 1 Cor 13), but it has no place when addressing false teaching. 

If some believers want to heap false teachers unto themselves, there is little we can do. I would suggest in those cases, we should try to rescue those who are open to rescue as we allow them to gather up to themselves those who teach the error they want to hear. Given an opportunity, we must oppose them, but that is all we can do. Each one must make his own decision who he will follow. We follow Paul's message for this age. If others choose to reject Paul, we still love them. We still look for opportunities to share the truths of this age with them. They are not our enemies. The ones whose mouths must be stopped are their belligerent and mocking teachers (despite any outward appearance to the contrary). 

So, let us be careful not to attack our fellow believers, but we hold no allegiance to teachers who reject admonition. We approach them as brothers, but treat them as enemies of the cross of Christ if they persist in trying to put men in bondage to fear and earthly ordinances. It is a delicate balance (patience and final rejection), but we continue to seek to rescue men from their way of perdition (loss). We stop their mouths by removing believers from their influence. 

Titus 1:12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.

A.T Robertson says of the Cretans, "The Cretans had a bad reputation on this line, partly due to their claim to having the tomb of Zeus." Titus 1:5 reveals that Paul had purposefully left Titus in Crete ("The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished..."). Is it cruel of Paul to then to refer to a general summation of Cretan culture? In our modern world we actively shun what we would call a "stereotype," but we cannot deny cultural influences and societal norms. Believers are subjected to cultural influences daily. We should note the possible cultural norms that have infiltrated our thinking and habits.

These cultural and societal distinctions are very well understood by men. We have been conditioned to reject our own common sense and recognizable truths in the modern age. 

Some distinctions are simple: we would not walk down the streets of certain parts of New York City the same way we'd walk down the streets of Tokyo. In our verse, Paul is referencing what is common in the culture has reflected itself in the false teachers Titus would encounter. We must "walk circumspectly" in the culture in which we find ourselves. 

Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

-Ephesians 5:14-16

Many in Crete loved Paul and Titus. Paul loved them so much, the thought of them being led astray into bondage angered him. His statement is not a statement on the inherent evil in simply being a Cretan, but the inherent evils in Cretan culture. In my time in the Southern USA, I have, on occasion, put some on edge because of my ethnicity and accent. I am OK with this as long as I am given the chance to show I am not what they think. Paul asks the same of those in Crete.

Titus 1:13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;

Paul is not calling for all Cretans to be rebuked, but rather those who have not come out from the influence of the prevailing culture; those who, perhaps unwittingly, reflect pagan Cretan culture in their faith lives. He especially refers to rebuking those who have brought in with their deceit false teachings and a denial of the gospel entrusted to Paul for this age. 

More evidence that this passage refers to believers, only believers can be "sound in the faith." 

Titus 1:14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.

The frame here has Judaizers on one side and those who have rejected Paul's gospel on the other. The RSV translates the verse, "instead of giving heed to Jewish myths or to commands of men who reject the truth." The word "myths" gives us the sense of some kind of derived truth that the teachers had taken from elsewhere. In this case, the adjective "Jewish" points us back to the dishonest and deceived teachers of the Law. A core myth about the Law is that it concerns all men of all ages and is somehow required on one's hope of resurrection life.

We recall that the Law has been misused in this age (then as now). It has been wantonly misapplied to Gentiles and to those who have a calling "in the far above the heavens" [Ephesians]. The Law is earthly. Its purpose today is to reveal to men the insanity of trying to reach perfection "in the far above the heavens" by that which is earthly and that which only condemns them. 

The Law is earthly. The Law is holy and good, yet is can only condemn men in the flesh. And, as noted, it pertains to an earthly kingdom promised to a specific people for a specific purpose ("Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites"). 

Titus 1:15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

Let's look at the anchor word, "unbelieving." This is the Greek word, ápistos. It carries the idea of being "unfaithful" or "incredulous." In context, these are teachers who are unfaithful to Paul's gospel (the gospel entrusted to him). Their teaching is "defiled" (miaínō, stained, impure, mixed with error). A teacher may teach that life is a free gift by grace through Christ and mix that truth with all sorts of laws, commands, and complications. In this context, they may teach the way to life by faith while they also deny the hope of this age (heavenly, not earthly). They defile the truth of a hope of being where Christ sits in the far above the heavens by imposing the laws of the earthly Kingdom on that hope, etc. 

Those who understand Paul's gospel of this age can detect that which will defile it. Those who reject Paul's calling (Paul writes later that all in Asia had abandoned him) and Paul's gospel of the dispensation (economy) of the Mystery are in danger of piling on error upon error. Slavery to that which is earthly will not appear as slavery, but as religious pride. It can be a very dark and depressing road and has led to the ruin of the faith of many. Some even abandon the foundation of the finished work of the Savior through the confusion caused by fables and defilement of the message of the age.

A true servant puts his efforts towards the work assigned to him by his Master. Doing any other work, no matter how well done, no matter the volume of work, is of little interest to the Master.

Titus 1:16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
Titus 1:16 They profess to know God, but by their works they deny it, being abominable and disobedient, and unqualified for any good work. (Far Above All)

Remember, the context includes teachers who teach the Law. The "works" which "deny him" includes works of another age. Even in the Acts Age epistle of Hebrews (written to that people), Paul is clear that the blood sacrifice is complete in Christ. There remained no longer a need to picture the truth that has been fulfilled.  Animal sacrifices were in the Law, yet that obedience became disobedience to even the Hebrew believer. A biblical command became a wicked, Christ-denying heresy.

In the Acts Age, Paul also addressed Gentiles who sought to "obey" the Law.

Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised  [in the Law for Israelites, to whom pertain the covenants, Romans 9] that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You [Gentiles] who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

-Galatians 5:3-4

How much worse is it in this age of Paul's gospel revealed in Ephesians for those who seek to put believers into bondage to the Law? The strong language in 1 Timothy and Titus reflect the seriousness of the errors of such teachers. As Paul's anger is kindled towards the teachers, his heart is pricked for those subject to their errors.

I added the Far Above All translation (faraboveall.com) for v.16 because it nicely sums up Paul's thoughts in the words, "and unqualified for any good work." These are unprofitable servants of God. Teachers who, despite any degrees or accolades or experience, are "unqualified" simply by rejecting Paul's revelation for this age. To be more precise, failing to see Paul's revelation for this age. 

A teacher may accurately teach the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He may rightly offer reconciliation to God based on that finished work and God's free offer of life by grace alone through faith alone (and we praise God for such preaching). But that same teacher may also guide his listeners into error concerning their calling, resulting in both teacher and listener losing reward and missing out on unfathomable riches/blessings in the age to come. 

I conclude with a warning from Paul's final epistle, 2 Timothy. Remember, the context is a contrast among believers:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

These will be "castaways," those who are "unqualified." We might recoil at these words for believers, but Paul warms himself in 1 Corinthians. 

"But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified [a castaway].

 These are unprofitable servants. These are rebellious sons and daughters. Note that they "creep into households" to spread their corruption. We get the idea of teachers again. It is much easier for a false teacher with a title and a degree to get into the homes of believers than some seller of a false god.

Paul continues:

Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

There we have it. The subject is "teachers." Their folly will end with the revelation of the Lord. What "truth" will they "oppose?" I would suggest it is Paul's right division of the Word as he taught in the previous chapter.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles [rightly divides],  the word of truth. -2 Tim 3:15

This is a command to the individual to do the work of Bible Study. God will honor the honest seeker. Truths may come slowly as we are but men, but the Lord will bless the journey. Along the way, we must avoid those who come in the name of the Lord who fail to make distinctions where God makes distinctions. we must "test the things that differ."  We may fellowship with those who are His, but we must be careful to check their words against the calling of the current age.

Remember, Paul's warning in Philippians 3 concerning "the enemies of the cross of Christ." These are believers. They are not "enemies of Christ," but of doctrines that will lead to separation and suffering ("the cross of Christ"). Paul weeps for these believers who have their mind on earthly things. Philippians is a book concerning rewards and loss for believers. 

Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction [Gk: apṓleia, Strong's: ruin or loss], whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.

-Phil 3:17-19


There is a study in there on its own, but suffice to note: Paul wouldn't have need for believers to point out the ways of unbelievers. Paul wouldn't weep over their errors. Some believers will suffer loss. They seek an earthly kingdom and practice its dictates and ordinances, so they will lose out on unsearchable riches above. They "mind earthly things." 

We close with this from Colossians 2:

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival [feats days] or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.


What may seem like a doctrine of God because it is found in scripture may become a doctrine of men once it is ripped from its context and yoked upon those to whom it was never given.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

The Believer's Duty to Those in Authority - Part 1

There are a number of passages in scripture addressing the believer's interaction with government/authority. Whether it be Israel's judges and kings, or the people of Israel in exile, or Christ in the Roman Empire, or Paul dealing with both Jewish and Gentile authorities. We will not use this space to try and address every possible response to authority, but rather offer an overview and guidelines.

The seemingly competing ideas at hand in this age are;

  1. Does the believer wholly submit to all governmental authorities as being ordained of God?
  2. Does the believer have the right and/or the duty to oppose wicked or unjust rulers?

I will start by saying that I don't believe that these positions must be in conflict. Yes, there is a careful balance, but I believe there can, and should, be a balance.

This recent comment from an online friend helps us frame the question:

Daniel is one of the greatest example of submitting to the authorities of man, while remaining faithful to God.

Daniel is, indeed, an interesting place to look. In Daniel and his fellow obedient Israelites we see those that clearly honor those in authority. Daniel says to King Darius, "Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever." Now, I believe there is a context to this usage, but be that as it may, Daniel is clearly honoring the King.

Of course, Daniel says this after defying the decree of the King to worship only him. So, we are able to see in Daniel both an honoring of the true God and an allegiance to him that was in authority over him. But be sure, Daniel and his friends openly defied the law of the land. They took the punishment willingly, but that does not negate their defiance of the King's decree for the King's decree was in defiance of the true God (especially for an Israelite). 

If I stood beside certain powerful American politicians and administrators, I would not scoff at their decrees, but I would surely tell them that they in defiance of God's word and will.

That's the crux of what I am saying. I'll acknowledge my superiors in the workplace. I submit to the establishment's rules. I'll follow the state governor's guidelines... except where they are in defiance of God's word and will. That is the crux of the matter. If my place of employment has a provision whereby I can protest a decision or policy, it is within my rights to do so.

An American politician is not a king. The current system of government functions under the premise that politicians serve at the will of the people and serve the people. We swear no allegiance to them, but to the Constitution that limits them. 

I would thus suggest that the powers that rule us are not necessarily of God. They are part of God's permissive will (like my sin), but I would not conclude that God is complicit with their rulership or that it is his necessarily directed will. The Antichrist will be part of God's permissive will, but that does not mean believers will be required to submit to his rule. We are all familiar with the "mark" of the Antichrist and we all know defiance of taking this mark will come at a price. But, as we all know, it is God's will that this decree (and the other dictates from "Babylon") should rightfully be resisted.

It is God's permissive will that allows both the Antichrist and Babylon to rise in power, but they are in no way to thought of as "in the will of God."

Saul and Jeroboam fall into this category.

And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

-1 Samuel 8:7

Was the placing of Saul as King over Israel God's will? No. It was only part of his permissive will.

Although I don't believe we have anything to do with Israel and God's will for the earthly kingdom, it still stands true that the seating of Saul (wrong tribe) and Jeroboam (wrong line) were allowed by God, but in no way could be seen as his will. David obeyed Saul in any way that was consistent with such required obedience, but he clearly defied the king when he was outside God's will.

When the army of Pharaoh was chasing the children of Israel, was it their duty to submit? Was it the Lord's will that they go back to Egypt as Pharaoh desired because it was Lord who placed him over his people?  

As noted, in a representative Republic, power resides with the people. All power of rulers is derived from the will of the people. We have full recourse to oppose anything that defies God's will, God's word, or the restrictions placed on leaders by the Constitution.

Our rulers rule by "the consent of the governed" and I have rights delineated by the Constitution. I have local and state authorities which are independent of national authorities. Our situation is complex, but properly understood, the power of a Republic lies in its recognition of God-given rights, not in its authority to grant rights. This is the basis for the American ideal of government. 

The very Declaration of Independence is a list of grievances against the King and even Parliament. It basis its argument on the notion that the "Creator" has gifted men certain "unalienable rights." Even in the Kingdom in Israel, the King was bound by certain unalienable rights of the people. 

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—-That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


We, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great-Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved

US Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776, excerpts) 

In the case of Daniel, note that the King was bound by his own decree. He was held to his own word. Daniel was bound to defy the King's word and the King was bound to enforce it. I have no issue with either. The executive branch must be bound to enforce the decrees of the legislative and judicial branches (in the USA). I am bound to defy that which goes against God's word, God's will, or the texts of the Constitution. I retain the right to defy an authority which steps outside its limitations (such as requiring police to have a warrant and probable cause).

The Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that women have a "right" to torture and kill their own babies. Divine will and rule says to me that I must oppose that decree. I must oppose it vehemently. From a purely terrestrial view, the Constitution recognizes no such "right" (and God has certainly not granted it as an unalienable right). As a citizen, I have a right to object.

We may delve deeper into the following aspect later, but for now, I will merely note it. Do we expect unbelievers to be obedient to righteousness? The short answer is "yes." When Paul lays out the progression of sins in society in Romans 1, the charge is against all. It may not matter if the unbeliever remains in unbelief, but the actions of the unbeliever may negatively impact others. Even though we expect them to be ruled by the flesh, we can still support laws which protect the innocent against the carnal acts of the wicked.

So, that leaves us with the question, how do I, as a believer, respond to wicked rulers? For me, that's a simple question in the American system. I am free to oppose anything through the Constitutional process. I am also free to oppose, and required to oppose, anything I deem contrary to God's will or God's word.

In part 2, we will step back into scripture, rightly divided, and look at some Biblical guidelines for this current Age. 

Saturday, September 3, 2022

People Are Free to Believe Whatever They Want

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling

-Ephesians 4:4

In the Post-Acts age (the current age), there is One Body and the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile has been taken away (Ephesians), but that wall was clearly still up in the synoptic Gospels and in the Acts age. There are differences in conditions and commands all through scripture. You do not have to acknowledge the differences, but if you don't, you must explain (to yourself) any inconsistencies in the biblical commands and conditions revealed. 

If you read the vast majority of scripture, including the gospels and the Acts age, there certainly was an enormous gulf fixed between the hope of Israel and the hope of Gentiles in God's plan and communication. From Adam, the gift of resurrection Life has always been by grace through faith, but that does not mean all people in all ages from all nations had the same hope. In a future age, the Kingdom will be restored to believing Israel (Acts 1:6, Acts 3; etc.). That is not my hope and that hope was forbidden by Christ himself to be preached to anyone but to Israelites (Matthew 10).

There are earthly hopes and a hope in the far above the heavens. There are hopes given SINCE or FROM the foundation of ages and a hope hidden from BEFORE the foundation of the ages. We must mark the differences that scripture marks. If someone wants to believe these are all the same hope, good luck. Feel free to do so. If some think Matt 5 and Matt 10 and Mark 16 and Acts 3 and Acts 15 and Acts 21 and Acts (etc.) are for them, good luck. Have at it. But if one believes these are for and to him, he is bound to obey it. He is bound to reconcile the practices, conditions, and commands in these passages with his personal faith.

As late as Acts 26 Paul testified, "Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come." NONE. Yet Ephesians speaks of a truth hidden from the prophets from before the foundation of the ages and revealed to Paul alone. Again... if people want to mash it all together, good luck. I say, feel free to try and practice ALL these things together. No skin off my nose.

People are free to pretend they take all scripture for themselves, but they clearly don't (and that is easily demonstrated). I'm not here to convince anyone. If somebody thinks all the commands and conditions of scripture are for all people of all ages, have at it. Clearly some practices and commands contradict others (if we assume all scripture is to all people). But I am not the judge of another man's servant. But, please, if you're going to claim that ALL scripture is to you and for you, then you're going to have to explain some things.

Here's an easy one... BIBLE COMMAND: build a boat of gopher wood, with one door, and pitch it in and out with pitch because a worldwide flood is coming. BIBLE COMMAND! Good luck. Not to me. How do I know? No flood coming. Commands and conditions do not apply in this age. Does the one who claims ALL of scripture is TO him believe he should build an ark for a coming judgment of a worldwide flood? I've never met anyone building an ark, but I've met a lot of people who claim I'm "tearing out parts of the Bible" because I do not believe all of it is spoken TO me.

Do these folks take a sacrifice to Jerusalem for the Feasts? Why not? Do they perform miracles? Do they avoid the Tree of Knowledge? Do they walk around naked? Do they preach to Jews that God will restore all things if they repent? Do they give only gentile believers "four necessary things" to obey? Do they start their preaching in Jerusalem? Do they only speak that which Moses and the Prophets promised? Do they warn gentile believers they will be cut off from Israel if they become haughty against that root? Etc... 

They're the ones denying the scriptures they claim for themselves.

Even Mark 16 should be a clue that conditions have changed since the gospel/Acts age (and that's mild compared to the myriads of other commands and practices of scripture). But, again, folks are free to try and "obey" everything they read. Good luck!

If you acknowledge that, at least to one degree or another, that not every condition and command in the Bible applies directly to you, you'll be happy to know there is a theological word for that. It starts with a "Dis" and ends with "pensationalism."

Dispensationalism. Simply the belief that we must rightly handle the Word of God according to the context (2 Tim 2:15) and mark things that differ (Phil 1:10).

Consequently they know little or nothing of other callings and imagine that God's plans revolve solely around themselves. This is a species of slavery to self that we all need to be delivered from.

-Stuart Allen

Michael's Podcast: The Red Letter Christians Don't Read All the Red Letters



Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The Myth of the Infallible Scholar

One of the problems we've had throughout the history of mankind are "experts." We see almost daily news articles and government policies containing the rationale "experts agree" and similar arguments. In terms of logical thinking, we have to step back and see the subtle flaw in this reasoning.

Experts are not necessarily wrong on the matters discussed, but neither are they necessarily right. The medical "experts" in Washington's day believed that bleeding was a way to fight infection and it cost him his life. They may have agreed on the method, but agreement (consensus) is not evidence (certainly not conclusive, unaltering evidence).

In the course of an interpretive argument, one may appeal to an expert, but such an appeal is not conclusive. Established facts are conclusive. The rest is interpretive theory

The May 5,1978, episode of the TV show "In Search Of" (In Search Of - The Coming Ice Age) begins this way:

In 1977 the worst winter in a century struck The United States. Arctic cold ripped the Midwest for weeks on end. Great blizzards paralyzed cities of the Northeast. One desperate night in Buffalo, eight people froze to death in marooned cars... The brutal Buffalo winter might become common all over The United States. Climate experts believe the next ice age is on its way. According to recent evidence, it could come sooner than anyone had expected. 

Three of the "climate experts" referenced are Dr. Gifford Miller, Glaciologist from the University of Colorado, Dr. Chester Langway, Chairman of the Geology Department, State University of New York (SUNY),  and Dr. James Hayes, Columbia University Geological Laboratory. 

That's a fairly impressive set of credentials. I would conceivably have no way to intelligently discuss a number of issues with these academics. But part of the "evidence" presented in the broadcast are "sea cores, enough to form a detailed history of climate during the last million years." An entire department at Ivy League Columbia University studied a million years' worth of evidence and concluded the earth's climate is cooling. Experts. Top Experts. One of the finest universities in the world.

Only a few years after this show was broadcast, another set of "climate experts" came to the completely opposite, diametrically-opposed, contradictory conclusion that the climate is warming, not cooling. And for the same supposed reason: fossil fuels.  

What happened? What happened was a difference in interpretation based on supposition, guided by tribal and political leanings. The evidence from "the last million years" didn't change. The three PhDs quoted didn't go back to school. What changed was a cultural and political shift in a desired outcome. I have no idea how to interpret sea cores and now I know that so-called "experts apparently don't either. 

What we have seen since the eighties has been a myriad of prediction after prediction after prediction from "climate experts" that have all failed to come to pass. Not even close to coming to pass. And any evidence which contradicts the accepted opinion is squashed. 

This post is about so-called Biblical or Greek or Theological "Scholars," so I won't include an exhaustive list of climate predictions gone wrong, but since I made the assertion, here is a representative example printed in the Associated Press June, 1989:

Other failed predictions:

  • 1990 Five years to save the rainforest
  • 1999 Himalayan Glaciers will be gone by 2009
  • 2000 Snow no longer seen in England by end of decade
  • 2007 Fewer hurricanes
  • 2008 Arctic ice-free by 2013
  • 2012 More hurricanes

ABC News ran a scare piece during their nightly broadcast in 2007 showing Manhattan underwater, milk and gasoline over $10/gal. The year  used for this future, inescapable doom? 2015.

It it also puzzling that some of the most alarmist politicians, who are predicting rising sea levels, have purchased multi-million dollar homes on the east and west coasts of the USA and on the beaches of Hawaii. Clearly, they don't believe their homes will be underwater any time soon.

Just to put a period on these "experts," here is short video of more "experts." Please note this video is from 2020, so we have to add 2 more years to these false prophecies.

Now let's apply this sort of reasoning to theological issues. The logical error in view here is basing an argument, not on established facts, but rather  on established "expert opinion." The underlying problem is the same as with the climate, a tribal desire to find a desired outcome.

When it comes to the interpretation of scripture, the "experts" agree on very little. Even if so-called "Greek Scholars" and/or "experts" agree on the translation of a word or phrase, that certainly does not imply agreement on interpretation. We have evidence. We have scholars. We have disagreement on interpretation. So, to settle oneself firmly in one camp or another based solely on the interpretative opinion of an expert is dangerous indeed. Eternally dangerous if I may say so.

Logical fallacy: Appeal to Authority

When we look at "Greek Scholars," we note that they represent a wide swarth of interpretive opinions. Greek scholars become:

  • Catholic
  • Eastern Orthodox
  • Atheists
  • Reformed
  • Mormons
  • Charismatics
  • Humanists
  • Dispensationalists
  • Fundamentalists
  • Deconstructionists
  • Etc.

IOW, being a "scholar" carries minimal weight in arguing one has the right theological conclusion. The difference between a "Greek Scholar" and me is that he/she might know the definition (or definitions) of Greek words whereas I might have to look for the meanings... from other Greek Scholars. That is, he might know Strong's definition right off, I would have to look for Strong's (or Wycliff's or Mounce's or Bullinger's or Young's, etc.) and by doing so, be just as informed. If the conclusion was unalterable, we wouldn't have such a divergence in interpretive opinions.

I can also look up Greek grammar and word usage. 

The difference is interpreting these words, in their contexts, theologically. We can both know what "ekklesia" or "parousia" may mean, but we might interpret them very differently. Someone being a "Greek Scholar" does nothing for the supposed iron-clad nature of his conclusion (as evidenced in the list above).

As we've repeatedly noted on this blog, when it comes to Bible interpretation, we must seek to be consistent and in context. The Bible does not contradict itself. If there is an apparent contradiction, the problem is in our understanding, not in the text. And this problem almost always arises when we bring our conclusions to scripture (our desired outcome) and try to force them upon the text.

We must also understand, that in the end, the Lord will hold us each individually responsible for how we handle His word. To be sure, the Lord knows we are but dust. We will ALL find that we got some things wrong. The Lord is not looking for perfection. But what the Lord is looking for are workmen who rightly divide the Word of Truth who need not be ashamed (2 Tim 2:15). 

My doctrines are my own, and I have but one authority, scripture. How I handle it is my responsibility. I defer to no "Scholar" on my interpretations, even if I need the scholar to help with translation.    

Study to show YOURSELF approved unto GOD alone.

You are a Theology of One.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Serpent on the Pole (Numbers 21)

And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole (nês): and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole (nês), and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

-Numbers 21:4-9


Thou hast given a banner (nês) to them that fear thee,
that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah.

-Psalm 60:4

Hebrew: nissı̂y = Banner, as in Yahweh Nissi (Ex 17:15, the Lord is my banner)

Here we have another form of the the Hebrew: nês = pole, sign, banner

See also:

Numbers 26:10
Psalm 60:4

So, we have the Lord taking on our sin on a pole ("cross" is really a stake or pole). He became sin for us. He is the substitute. He is our banner.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi: for he said, Because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.

-Exodus 17:14-16

King Saul spared Agag (King of the Amalekites), but the Lord never asked him to. When God delivers, we have no business holding on to the flesh, even if we think it is for some good for the Lord. Saul did not obey the command given to him. God makes war with Amalek (the flesh, the old nature). Remember, we carry an old nature in this life, but we are called to walk according to the new nature (spirit) and according to the calling of the age in which we were called.

 The Lord will make war with Amalek for the ages. The Lord will take out Amalek. The Lord will put Amalek out of remembrance. This victory is of the Lord. The Lord is the banner of protection and victory.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

-Numbers 21:8-9

When the true serpent bites (sin) all one need do is to believe the Lord and look to the brass serpent (a substitute for sin). No other requirement for that particular reward: LIFE. As in "life through his name" (John 20:30-31). Resurrection life.

These are all types and shadows.

We don't have serpents on poles today (and even if we did, they would be useless), because the reality has come. We no longer look to the types and shadows since we now have the reality. All these types (from the high priest to the lamb to the Passover meal; etc.) pointed to Christ.

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival [feast], a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ [but the body is of Christ]

-Colossians 2:16-17

Body is "sōma" in the Greek. When you see someone, you look at the person, not his shadow. You look to the reality, not to the shadow.

The comparative here is between the shadows and the reality/body. The word "however" or "but." This is a clear marker. Everything in the passage is good, but the latter is superior. Once you have the reality, once you have the superior, you no longer need the shadow.

We don't look to the serpent on the pole for our healing from our sin, we look to the reality of the Son of God crucified on a pole. In that faith, we find life.

Christ is "better" than the shadows that came before. We count his sacrifice unholy if we seek to please God apart from or in addition to that perfect offering. The word "better" is used 12 times (significant to Israel) in the Book of Hebrews including a BETTER:

  • Hope
  • Promises
  • Country
  • Things that accompany salvation
  • Sacrifice
  • Covenant
  • Testament
  • Resurrection
  • Things than that of Abel

Some of those better things come by Christ alone, others come by a life of faith and sacrifice in Christ alone. But they do not come by working with and/or in shadows and they do not come by the deeds of the flesh. They are spiritual and come by the new nature (which is spirit).

Saturday, July 2, 2022

The Anatomy of the Sins of the Flesh

When we read the multiple lists of sins in scripture, we seem to understand the sin being addressed. We also have some idea of what might be behind those sins. But I looked over the sins of the flesh as listen in Galatians chapter 5, I thought it might be good to examine each a little more closely (if only briefly).

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

-Galatians 5:19-21

The first thing we must do is recognize two things about the context of this list.  These things are connected to the "flesh," that is, the old nature. The old nature is irredeemable and "must" be replaced with the resurrection, spiritual new body (2 Cor 5). The terrestrial body must but on the incorruption of the celestial body (1 Cor 15). 

The second thing we notice in this particular passage is the context of "inheriting the kingdom." As we have seen clearly in our study of 1 Cor 5-6 (1 Cor 6:9), this inheritance does not have to do with the free gift of life though the name of Christ, by grace, through faith (John 20:30-31; etc.). Unlike with the free gift of age-abiding life in Christ because of his works, those who seek to inherit the kingdom can forfeit that prize by their own works done in the flesh. 

Galatians is an Acts Age epistle and must be understood in light of Paul's preaching of "the hope of Israel" and the coming, promised kingdom and restoration in Israel in that age. Regardless of the age, however, the works of the flesh are always the works of the flesh and they always come with a price (temporally and in the ages to come). 

These are the "works" of the flesh (old nature) which are then contrasted with the "fruit" of the spirit (new nature) in the chapter. We see examples of good fruit and bad fruit in scripture, but here we see the actions growing out of the old nature contrasted with that which flows through the new nature which is given by God.

We are also quick to note that all of these sins can be forgiven. Often the temporal pain remains for our disobedience, but God is always willing to forgive and restore. No amount of guilt should keep us from seeking his abundant grace and forgiveness.

Here is the list. We will then briefly break down each in brief:

  • Adultery
  • fornication
  • uncleanness
  • lasciviousness
  • idolatry
  • witchcraft
  • hatred
  • variance
  • emulations
  • wrath
  • strife
  • seditions
  • heresies
  • envyings
  • murders
  • drunkenness
  • revellings

ADULTERY: Greek, moicheía, This sin is not in all the Greek texts, but it is so closely tied to the next sin on our list that we include it as almost obvious. It is also curious to note that there seems to be quite an agreement in the concordances on the definition of the Greek here. Thayer's, Strong's, and Mounce's, as well as Young's Literal Translation all render it as adultery. Sexual activity of the married outside the bounds of the marriage bond. This sin is particularly egregious when it involves a sex worker. Paul notes this is like taking the holy temple of God and joining to a harlot.

FORNICATION: Greek, porneía, We can readily see the connection to the English word "pornography." This sin involves all sexual activity outside of marriage whether married or not. It is here where we could include adultery so even if we remove adultery from our list, it does not go unaddressed. Mounce defines it this way, "sexual immorality, fornication, marital unfaithfulness, prostitution, adultery, a generic term for sexual sin of any kind.'

UNCLEANNESS: Greek, akatharsía, This is included in case any want to reserve sexual sin merely to the acts of sexual sin. Mounce gives us this definition: "impurity, a state of moral filthiness, especially in relation to sexual sin" and Thayer expands it with, in a moral sense: "the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living; of impure motives." The net is expanding. The idea of "impure motives" speaks to one's intentions. In this context, it is primarily in regard to sex, but the word expands to other impure motives of the flesh.

LASCIVIOUSNESS; Greek, asélgeia, The great apostles further expands out the net. Thayer defines it this way, "unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence." The impure motives and thoughts have now become "unbridled." They are in full control of the person. We have gone from the private, secretive act of adultery to the outward display of debauchery. Mounce gives us, "debauchery, sensuality, lewdness." We have followed the pattern in the individual of the pattern of carnal society as laid out in Romans 1. Just on snippet from that trail of decay, "[they] became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened... who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." As men pursue sin in the flesh, they decay and decay into more wickedness in thought and deed. The believer has a Father who will chastise him in an attempt to gain a turn back to the new nature, but alas, as the flesh is emboldened and empowered, the decay continues.

IDOLATRY, Greek. eidōlolatreía, This speaks of the outright worshipping of false gods to the worshipping of the temporal. One one worships, he is placing faith and hope in something. Even the true believer can put his faith and hope in teachers, or in organizations, or in religious ceremonies, or in formulaic prayers and rituals, or even in one's intellect or riches. All of these fall into this category. In this age, many are not satisfied with unsearchable riches in Christ and a hope in the heavenlies that they seek religious experiences in the flesh. Some refuse to come out of systems which deny the Lord as they find a degree of temporal satisfaction in religious activity. Others will stop looking to the Lord to sustain themselves and look at their wealth and feel satisfied in themselves.

SORCERY/WITCHCRAFT, Greek, pharmakeía, This sin is fascinating. We are looking at the use of substances to satisfy the flesh. Not the obvious things such as rich foods or alcohol, but just as the Greek implies: drugs or pharmaceuticals. This sin follows Idolatry and again we have the possibility of placing hope in this world and in its cures. This does not mean that the taking of an antibiotic (for example) is a sin in itself, but in the reliance of substances (from prescription drugs to Hallucinogens) to the point of hoping and trusting in them above the Lord. This sin also includes the extended world of potions and spells and magic and incantations. Thayer sums it up in his 4th definition, "the deceptions and seductions of idolatry." In the tribulation age to come, pharmakeía will be used to seduce the nations out of Babylon.  

[Babylon] thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.

-Revelation 18:23-24

HATREDS, Greek échthra, We need to recognize the the connection here. One of the effects of drug or alcohol dependence is often alienation of family and friends. There is often a destructive paranoia or anger involved. This word also includes the idea of being generally "hostility" or "antagonism" as Mounce defines it. Those who have come under sway of anything from drugs to riches some to worship and protect those gods. They become antagonistic to anyone or anything that might deprive them of their god or expose their reliance on their god.

VARIANCE, Greek éris, We see the pattern. The antagonism is now as Mounce puts it, "quarrel, strife, dissension, discord." We see the destructive side of idolatry in the flesh. One may even lash out or seek division if his religious activities are questioned. One's slavery to a religious system in the flesh could lead to hostility and eventually to quarreling and discord (separation).

EMULATIONS, Greek zēlos, We have here the idea of "heat" and "zeal." We have moved on to " indignation, jealousy" (Strong's). We must be careful here. Certain zeal is good. A man should be properly zealous and jealous for his wife, for example, just as God is zealous and jealous for our love. The use of this word in this list is wholly negative. This is the stage where our commitment to things of the old natures (religious or sacrilegious) become white hot and very destructive; destructive to our own spiritual lives (lives in the new nature) and destructive to those around us.

WRATH, Greek thymós, Now we come to a more familiar English word and we more easily see its meaning and implications. Again, we are dealing with the negative context of this level of anger. This is not indignation with sin, this is a lashing out in protection of whatever our idol may be. Mounce gives us, "wrath, fury, anger, rage, a state of intense displeasure based in some real or perceived wrong." We have the idea of even a "perceived" wrong. This sin is born within. It is born inside our flesh and grows in intensity as we give our flesh over to our idols.

STRIFE, Greek eritheía, The idea of selfish ambition. We are transitioning to communal sins. Our inward sins have controlled us, we have started to lash out and destroy relationships. We seek in strife to exalt ourselves and our fellow worshippers above the "lowly." This is very much seen in political idolatry. In fact, the only place we see this word before its appearance in the New Testament is in the writings of Aristotle. Thayer states its use to describe "self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means." Power and Influence are wrapped up in this word along with the desire, with such power, to shutdown dissent against one's gods.

SEDITIONS, Greek dichostasía, This word is simply defines by "dissentions" and "divisions." Paul uses the word in his Acts Age epistles of 1 Corinthians and Romans of those within the family of believers who bring division. Remember, our context in Galatians is believers. Paul tell us, when believers get to this stage to "mark them" and "avoid them" for they "walk as men," that is, they are walking according to the old nature. We are the point of separating from these believers.

HERESIES, Greek haíresis, We must not settle on the common usage of this word in our day. Surely there is the idea here of holding to error, but this word goes beyond that. We all hold to some degree of error. When Peter uses the word, he specifies "damnable heresies." The word is used in the Acts of the "sects" of religious orders in Israel. We have the idea of organized error. The one who is shown the truth yet clings to error for the sake of the "sect" and not because of a pursuit of truth. It is one thing to hold to an error because we may not have full understaning and refusing to consider and truth which touches on our sect. We are still seeing Idolatry. We started our list as sins of a sexual nature and have morphed over to sins of a religious nature. From that which is clearly immoral to that which covers its immorality in a false humility of outward morality.

ENVYINGS, Greek phthónos, It might seem strange for this word to appear at this point, but this is an excellent spot for it. It might help to note that the Lord himself accused the Pharisees of having him arrested and put to death partly die to "envy" (Matt 27:18). Their envy grew out of their self-righteous religious sect. Remember, it was not the harlots who burned me like Tyndale at the stake for trying to put the scriptures in the hands of the laity, it was Thomas More and the clergy. Strong uses "jealously," "spite," and "ill-will." One may act or not act out of jealousy, but one sees spite in outward acts of obvious hatred. The Pharisees' jealousy and envying of the Lord was born out of his popularity despite having no "letters." Peter was accused of this same charge. Having no degrees or accolades of men, the Lord and Peter spoke boldly of the things of God. Paul denounced his place among the Pharisees to take a place among the people of God. We should note that we see Pharisees who believe in the Acts age (Acts 15). We must be careful not to condemn all who align with a sect, they may or may not have rejected the truth. Our instructions involve reaching them with the truth, and then encouraging them to come out from among them. If they refuse the truth they will very often lash out in ill-will if we have success among their followers. If those who see the truth refuse to join us, we must offer them a road of return while being clear that we reject their idolatrous sect.

MURDERS, Greek phónos, This follows what we have seen in the Pharisees. Their envy of Christ robbing prestige and followers from their sect ended in murder. This is the culmination of the anger that occurs when you start to touch the idols of both unbelievers and believers. Remember, our context in Galatians is believers acting in the old nature. Just as Paul warns us that believers can be involved in wicked sins like joining with a harlot or even sins so awful they are "not even mentioned among the [unbelievers]," Peter warns that believers may "suffer as murderers." The flesh wars against the new nature (spirit) and it will seek control and seek to satisfy its lusts, greed, and delusions of grandeur. In its worst form it can lead to murder. Remember, the Pharisees themselves did not crucifiy the Lord, but they were complicit in his death. Many will try to distance themselves from the true intent of their hearts and try to convince themselves of their own innocence, but the Lord sees the heart. All of these sins are inward as well as outward. These are all sins of the heart and mind before they become outward sins.

DRUNKENNESS, Greek méthē. Just a quick note on the Greek. I have not done a study on the entomology of the drug "meth," but I find the similarity striking. A question arises here: why does drunkenness appear at this point in our list? The two other uses in the NT are connected to "the day." Both the Lord in Luke and Paul in Romans warn of drunkenness leading to the missing of things related to

Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake... And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

-Luke 21 [Excerpted]  

These believers, living in expectation of the Tribulation in Israel and the coming Kingdom in the land of promise are warned not to be so carnal and fleshly minded that they miss the signs of the coming of the Lord. This sin is so dangerous because it consumes the thoughts of the believer. The god of drunkenness dulls the mind to see the things of God. It makes one center on the now, the "cares of this life." The word translated "cares" is the the Greek word mérimna. The idea is "worry" or "anxiety." Why do many people start on drink or drugs? To dull their minds from the worries and anxieties of life. In doing so, they very well may miss the voice of the Spirit of God.

REVELLINGS AND THE LIKE, Greek kōmos, For this idea, we stay with the warnings against drunkenness."

a nocturnal and riotous procession of half drunken and frolicsome fellows who after supper parade through the streets with torches and music in honor of Bacchus or some other deity, and sing and play before houses of male and female friends; hence used generally of feasts and drinking parties that are protracted till late at night and indulge in revelry. [Thayer].

Mounce adds "orgy." We have thus gone from single adultery to now wanton disregard for any sexual norms. The flesh is so in control is inebriates itself and indulges itself.

Paul and the only spirit add "hómoios" (and the like) or "similar things" so as to leave no possible wiggle room. We expect these things of the world, but they should not be known among the people of God. Again, the admonition of the Lord is that if one is in any of these sins and he will not heed the loving rebuke of the Spirit, we are to have no company with him. We do not do this with the world or we'd have to leave the world, but for the sake of the wandering believer and for the sake of the testimony of his people, we separate.

I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

-1 Corinthians 5:9-11

1 Corinthians is written in the Acts Age, but this pattern applies throughout the Word of God. It has application in the current Post-Acts age. Paul speaks similar words to us in 1 Timothy. 

Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear... If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

-1 Timothy 5:20; 6:3-5

Looking ahead to the time of the tribulation, we see some of these sins of the flesh manifesting themselves out in the open. The power of these sins over the mind and flesh of men is so powerful, even mass death and destruction will not sway men.

And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: neither repented they of their murders [phónos], nor of their sorceries [pharmakeía] , nor of their fornication [porneía], nor of their thefts [klémma].

-Revelation 9:20-21

I believe this is a good cross-section of the sins of the flesh. We again see the sort of culmination sins of murder, witchcraft (deception), and sexual immorality. To these are added the sin of "thefts." 

THEFTS, Greek klémma, This is exactly as we understand it in the English, the wanton taking of another's property. In addition to all the wickedness of the heart and mind, we see greed. We recall that Judas was driven by greed. 

We have not listed all the sins of the flesh revealed in the pages of the Greek texts, but just this limited sampling should remind us of the dangers of waling in the flesh. Even more dangerous is the outward appearance and cloaking of religious piety. It blinds us to exactly how far our flesh is from godliness and clouds the work of the Savior. 

Our glorious and wonderful and holy Savior took all these sins of the flesh upon himself for our sakes. How horrible that must have been for Him! How great is His love for his creation! How dare we think for one moment that we could add anything to that sacrifice and conquering of sin or to think our religious acts can satisfy the righteous anger of a thrice holy God! All glory and honor to Him ALONE!

My we never confuse the obedience of service with the gift of resurrection life. We seek to walk in the new nature, not to appease an angry God in some attempt to pay for the depths of our wickedness, but rather to maintain fellowship and joy and peace in service to our Great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!


Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Quick Reminder on the Use of Words in Scripture (Another "Yeshua" Reference)

Just because there are still people out there insisting that the only proper name to use for the Savior is the Anglicized name "Yeshua." The irony is not lost in me when they Anglicize the Hebrew, but I've covered that in previous entries. 

Today, I just want to remind us of how the Holy Spirit relies on us to use context and common sense. This is part of "rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (2 Tim 2:15). Some people have been put in bnadage to fear of their use of certain words.

Context matters... a lot of people get hung up on certain words, but not so the Holy Spirit.

Hebrew Texts (Old Testament)

Yeshua (יְהוֹשׁוּעַ) is used over 200 times in scripture, yet never of the Savior. The Holy Spirit never refers to the Lord Jesus Christ as יְהוֹשׁוּעַ Yeshua. It is Ok to use the Hebrew, but it is in no way "superior" or required or necessarily biblical.

Greek Texts (New Testament)

  • The Holy Spirit refers to the Savior as well as "a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew" (Acts 13:6) as Jesus (Iēsoûs, Ἰησοῦς) , or Bar-Jesus. The name is also used of one of Paul's fellow worker in Col 4:11. One thing that is unique, is calling the Lord, "The Lord Jesus Christ" or "Christ Jesus" or "Jesus Christ." "Kyrios Iēsoûs Christos." This should be our practice in any language.

  • Judas (Ἰούδας) is the name of the one who betrayed the Lord, also the name of another apostle (Zealotes), and the Lord's brother (author of Jude). In the Greek, it is also used for Judah (son of Jacob).

  • The "ecclesia" (ekklēsía, ἐκκλησία, church, assembly) is used of the worshippers of Diana (Acts 19:32), of the called out assembly of the Lord, individual local assemblies, and of Israel under Moses. We must make a difference, even among its uses in the epistles.

  • Theos (θεός) is used of the true God, the false god of the Greeks, and of "the god of this world" (Satan).

There is also the issue of pronouns. Clearly, we must interpret pronouns in context. "He," for example, could refer to everyone from the true God to Satan. A favorite evangelistic verse is based on pronouns alone:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Hail, Believer, Full of Grace

 Those of us with a Catholic upbringing (or any familiar with the prayers of the Catholic Church) will be familiar with the "Hail Mary." Known officially as "The Hail Mary," it is one of the (if not the) most offered prayers in Catholicism. In the saying of the Five-Decade Rosary, the prayer is repeated over 50 times.

 The text of the prayer is made up a first half carved from scripture (Luke 1:28) and the second half was codified by the RCC in AD1568 as one of the responses of the RCC to the Reformation. It was informally used for several centuries before that, but as with the canonization of the Apocrypha, it found itself becoming "official" in the counter-reformation.

Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
-Douay-Rheims (1899)

The Greek word here is "charitóō." Strong's defines it thusly:
to grace, that is, indue with special honor: - make accepted, be highly favoured.

"Special Honor" and "be highly favored." Wonderful! But let us not miss "make accepted."

Mounce defines it this way:

to give graciously, to show acts of kindness by freely giving; (n.) one highly favored

We note that "freely giving." This explains why such a one is "highly favored." It is not internally true. It is a bestowed honor in this context.

Thayer defines it:

  1. to make graceful charming, lovely, agreeable
  2. to peruse with grace, compass with favour
  3. to honour with blessings

Note "to MAKE" and "to HONOR." 

This Greek word, "charitóō," is used by the Holy Spirit in one other instance in the Greek text of scripture.

Ephesians 1:6

To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Unto the praise of the glory of his grace, in which he hath graced us in his beloved son.
-DR 1899

As with Mary, we are graced from the outside. We are the recipients of honor we do not deserve. Note in Ephesians the praise is for "the glory of his grace." Incredible! His grace surely is glorious! How blessed are we? Blessed beyond measure. Those of us in the One Body are blessed with "unsearchable riches" in the far above the heavens!

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ...

The great apostle Paul takes his place as "less than the least of all the saints." He recognizes the grace given him, an undeserved grace. A grace we all need. A grace we are dependent upon for our hope of resurrection life in the ages to come.

We turn back to Mary and look at her example as well.

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

The word translated "maidservant" here is the Greek word "doúlē." It was used to refer to a female slave or female servant. One who had no rights. Neither Mary nor Paul claimed anything before the Lord. Both understood they were highly graced, blessed beyond measure by a gracious and loving God!

That is the example we need to take from these saints of God. As saints ourselves, we should never forget all our blessings and our hope of life to come is purely by grace alone through faith alone in the death, burial, lack of decay, and resurrection of the Savior, the Holy One of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ!

As to the ending of the Catholic prayer ("pray for us now and at the hour of our death"), we must reject. It is a negation of the grace of God. These words are not found in scripture and surely Mary would have no thought of such a thing.

And Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

God, Mary's Savior. Yes, we call her blessed. Such an honor to bear her own Savior and the Savior of the world!  Mary took her place as God's servant, Paul was faithful to his calling to bring the truth of the Mystery of the current dispensation to us Gentiles. Let us be thankful for their faithfulness and, along with them, give all glory to our Savior and the author of Life eternal, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

The Reference in Romans 2 to Gentiles Blaspheming God's Name

For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

-Romans 2:24-25

Now therefore, what have I here, saith the Lord,
that my people is taken away for nought?
they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the Lord;
and my name continually every day is blasphemed.

-Isaiah 52:5

The question arises when comparing these passages, why does Paul's quotation differ from that which is found in Isaiah? It could be as simple as Paul referencing the Septuagint (which we shall review) or it could be that he was quoting Ezekiel, or combining the prophecies.

The NIV notes: 

And when it had come to the Gentiles, where they went, the Gentiles profaned my holy name, when they said to them, ‘These are the Lord's people, but they have come out of his land.’ Then I had pity on my holy name which the house of Israel had profaned among the Gentiles to whom they went. So say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what my Lord the Lord says: «I am not acting for your sake, O house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name which you have profaned among the nations to which you have gone. And I will sanctify my great name which has been profaned among the Gentiles, which you profaned among them, and the Gentiles will know that I am the Lord, says my Lord the Lord, when I am sanctified among them in their sight.

-Ezekiel 36:2-23 (Far Above All translation)

A noted, the Lord (as recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and the Apostles tended to quote from the Septuagint since they were speaking/writing in Greek.

Here is Isaiah 52:5 in the Septuagint:

καὶ νῦν τί ὧδέ ἐστε τάδε λέγει κύριος. ὅτι ἐλήμφθη ὁ λαός μου δωρεάν, θαυμάζετε καὶ ὀλολύζετε· τάδε λέγει κύριος. δι᾿ ὑμᾶς διὰ παντὸς τὸ ὄνομά μου βλασφημεῖται ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν [éthnos].

Using a couple of online translators:

and what is this, saith the Lord. for my people have been pitied, Ye Marvel, and Marvel· thus saith the Lord. for all my name is blasphemed in this world.

And now what are you, sir? for my people have been free of charge, you admire and solve; for you, for all my name is blasphemed in the nation.

What I am looking for is "éthnos" which is there (ἔθνεσιν, the last word) and why the KJV and others seem to blend it in instead of translating it. It almost always means "gentiles" (the other nations) as used in the OT. Brenton (Brenton Septuagint Translation, 1870) uses "gentiles" which makes it far more clear.

I don't want to open any can of worms, but the Masoretic text doesn't seem to have the reference to Gentiles.

ועתה מה לי פה נאם יהוה כי לקח עמי חנם משׁלו יהילילו נאם יהוה ותמיד כל היום

And now, what -- to Me here, An affirmation of Jehovah, That taken is My people for nought? Its rulers cause howling, -- an affirmation of Jehovah, And continually all the day My name is despised. 
(Young's Literal Translation)

No reference to the gentiles. Implied, maybe, but the word is missing (as far as I can tell, I'm no Hebrew scholar). So, if you stick with the Masoretic text, Ezekiel 36:23 makes more sense. I happen to like the Septuagint (minus the Apocrypha, which has value, it's just not inspired). I would again suggest combining both prophecies. 

Here is Ezek 36:23 in several translations:

And I have sanctified My great name, That is profaned among nations (YLT)

And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen (KJV)

And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the Gentiles (Jubilee)

Verse 22 has the same wording.

I would add that since Paul wrote Romans with the re-establishment of the Kingdom in Israel and the return of the Lord "at hand," his reference to Ezek 36 would be quite appropriate as it goes on to note Israel's future cleansing from sin and the establishment of the New Covenant (which was not yet in place).

Now I want to go back to the verse that follows in Romans 2 (quoted above) and the verse that precedes:

Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. (KJV)

You who tell people not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abominate idols, do you steal sacred items? You who boast in the law, do you through your transgression of the law dishonor God? “For the name of God is blasphemed because of you among the Gentiles”, as it stands written. For circumcision is indeed of benefit if you carry out the law, but if you are a transgressor of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. (Far Above All)

Clearly Paul is addressing the people of Israel who boated and trusted in the Law and God's covenant with them. As we have noted many times, during the Book of Acts age, the Kingdom was still "at hand," Israel was still be offered "the times of refreshing" (Acts 3) and the "restoration of the Kingdom in Israel" (Acts 1) as the Lord had offered in his earthly ministry "to none, but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel" (Matt 15). This was an extension of the "gospel of the Kingdom" Matt 4) the Lord forbade his disciples to teach outside of Israel or to preach to Gentiles (Matt 10). 

Of course, by the writing of Romans, the Lord had grafted in Gentiles for the sake of making Israel jealous (thus exhibiting, again, that God was still dealing with Israel, the root, in the Acts Age). This is part of Paul's argument in the Book of Romans (as we have seen in other studies).

Allow me to turn to the Berean Expositor (Vol 44), not as an authority, but in words which express the teaching here quite well and ties it back to the Lord's teaching in Matthew:

Instead of God’s name being sanctified by the sanctified people serving the Lord and keeping the Law, rather was it being blasphemed through them. Obedience to the voice of the Lord and the keeping of His covenant with them, would have constituted them a “kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exod. xix. 5, 6), but this covenant they brake. Under the terms of the New Covenant there will yet be the fulfillment of this promise in Exodus, and during the Acts period it was anticipated:  
“Peter . . . . . to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus . . . . . ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a people for a possession, that ye should shew forth the virtues of Him Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Pet. i. 1; ii. 9).

 During the future Millennium the promise will find its fulfillment, and then will the Lord God be sanctified in His people, and the prayer, ‘sanctified be Thy Name’, answered in its fullness. 

“For in mine holy mountain . . . . . saith the Lord God, there shall all the house of Israel . . . . . serve me in the land . . . . . and I will be sanctified in you in the sight of the nations . . . . .” (Ezek. xx. 40, 41 R.V.). “When the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their way . . . . . and I scattered them among the nations . . . . . and when they came unto the nations . . . . . they profaned my holy name . . . . . I will sanctify My great name, which hath been profaned among the nations . . . . . and the nations shall know that I am the Lord . . . . . when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes . . . . .” (Ezek. xxxvi. 17-23 R.V. See also Ezek. xxxix. 25-27, etc.). 

The close connection of the clause ‘sanctified be Thy Name’ with ‘Thy kingdom come’ and ‘Thy will be done’, suggests when the answer to this part of the prayer will be fulfilled. The will or wishes of the Father being done on earth will be when this kingdom (the subject of the Lord’s Prayer) shall have come, and at that time will the Father’s Name be sanctified. 

Note the context here recalls the "Lord's Prayer" from Matthew 6:9-13. This is all "Kingdom" truth. Imagine the conditions in Israel during the Tribulation, then read The Lord's Prayer. It makes far more sense in that context than for me to pray it in this current age (while we also recognize the general truths in it, we are careful to place it in its correct context).

Paul is arguing that it is not in being under the Law that fulfilled the covenant of Sinai, but keeping the Law. To that end, no Jew was truly innocent of the Law. They had to trust in the finished work of the Savior on Calvary (in his death, lack of decay, and resurrection) to be eligible for the blessings of the New Covenant (which is not eternal life, but a restored people into a restored Kingdom with renewed hearts and minds, Jer 31, Heb 8, etc.).

As an application, we can bring the Lord's name into disrepute if we teach (or appear to teach) that believers have any hope in our own righteousness. Just Jews in the Acts age still kept the Law (in their daily lives, Acts 15, Acts 20, etc.) as part of an earthly hope, so do we seek to lead lives of purity, love, and kindness with a heavenly blessing before us (and the related judgment of our works for rewards). That is, neither the Jew then nor the believer now should point to his own "righteousness." We preach, teach, and present Christ in all his glory as our only hope.

We could say this to believers today, "do not boast in your supposed morality as your morality is not perfect, boast only in the Lord as you seek a moral life for His sake.'

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

-Ephesians 3:8-10

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

-1 Corinthians 2:1-2

To God alone be the Glory!

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