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I FEAR!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

fearWhen I look at my righteous achievements, I fear. When I look at my perfection, I fear.  When I look at the quality of my prayers, I fear.  When I look at my life each day, I fear.  When I think about dying, I fear.  When I think about the judgment, I fear.  Am I paranoid?  Some might think so, but “No!”  Do I have panic attacks? No. How can I possess fear and not have negative results?  How can I own those fears and be a Christian?  I am one, but my shoulders are too small to bear fear’s burden alone!

My righteous achievements?  Laughable.  My perfection?  Nonexistent.  The quality of my prayers? Dismal. My daily life? Inadequate. My death? Frightening. The judgment? Questionable.

Yet, I don’t have panic attacks nor negative results.  I haven’t been defrocked.  My shoulders remain small.  I fall so short, if measured in inches, powerful microscopes would not see me. Paul may have been “chief” but I’m second.  My cry is the same as his, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  (Romans 7:24 (NKJV).  His and my answer?  Jesus!  Jesus!  Jesus!!  What’s yours?

Without Jesus, fear would be my driver.  What can I do to pay for my sins or assist Jesus’ blood in my cleansing?  If perfection is required, failure is my companion.  Perfection was Jesus’ mission, not mine.  Belief in what He did for me is required, not “Look how much I have done for you, Jesus.”  I sin, but it drives me to the one who remits it.  If I thought my prayers paid for my forgiveness, I would be a fool.  My gospel would not be good news but one rewarded with damnation.  I don’t fear dying because I know who walks with me through that valley.  I am not afraid of judgment because I will not stand there to remind Jesus about how faithful I’ve been, but rather praise Him for how gracious He is.  I will not look at my achievements, but glory in His.  He takes away fears and gives peace! He is my focus, not me!

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  (2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV).

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A COMPLETE BIBLE; A BLESSING!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

In Luke 14: 15-24 Jesus tells about a man who had a banquet but the invited guest had excuses and could not attend.  The master sent hbible-scrollis servant out to invite people off the street.  The hall was still not filled, so the master told the servant to “Go out to the highways and country roads.  Make them come.  I want my house to be full!  I tell you, none of those men whom I invited first will get a taste of my banquet!

We are introduced to the same story in Matthew 22:1-10.  However, a lot of things are added and the purpose is different from the one in Luke.  In Matthew, the secondary invited folks, if not properly dressed, are bound and thrown out.  The story ends with, “Many are invited, but few are chosen” rather than “none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

In Luke’s account the “excuses” are more detailed than in Matthew.  Luke doesn’t mention that this is a wedding party.  Matthew does.  Luke is more descriptive about who the servant invites.  In Luke the guest are compelled to come, but not so in Matthew.  In Luke the host is “a certain man” whereas in Matthew he is “a king.”  In Matthew, how one is dressed is important, but Luke says nothing about it.

The Holy Spirit inspired both Matthew and Luke.  So, why are their stories different?  Both are stories or “parables.”  Matthew is writing to a different audience than Luke.  Matthew fills in some details of Jesus’ story not covered by Luke.  Luke is writing to a Gentile readership.  Luke picks out a lesson that fits the audience he is writing to whereas Matthew uses what will best fit his readers.

Preachers are often approached after a service and told what the individual got from the sermon.  Most preachers are surprised because the point they were making is different from the point that person heard.  Sometimes an audience with different needs receives help to deal with that need from a sermon that wasn’t designed by the speaker to address it.  Sometimes a person is feeling guilty about a secret sin and imagines the preacher is exposing it, whereas the minister is totally innocent of the charges.  It is the power of God’s word (Hebrews 4:12)!

Matthew is not contradicting Luke.  Both are giving the essence of Jesus’ story, but dealing with different points from the story which fits their respective readers.  In the first century, most people would not have both Matthew’s account and Luke’s.  We have the advantage of possessing both so we may gain the lessons delivered to both audiences.

In studying Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, one needs to research the parallels of each to gain all that is being said.  Our studies are enriched by this advantageous blessing.

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WHAT’S YOUR ASSURANCE?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A few Sundays ago one of our songs was, “Lord, I Need You,” written by Matt Maher in 2013.  Some of the words are:

assuranceLord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart.

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You.

As the congregation sang that song I wondered how well those words were sinking into our consciousness?  How many believe God will save them because of their righteousness, performed to co-host His?  One faith teaches that we must have more “good” works than bad ones if we are going to heaven.  In other words, you are on a “point system” and must work to produce “x” number in order to save yourself!  If that is our religious foundation, we have no business singing Matt’s song!

In discussing the righteousness of Jesus as compared to ours, an individual asked if his obedience didn’t amount to something in procuring his salvation.  Is “obedience” necessary?  Yes (2 John 1:9 NIV).  If one loves the Lord, he will willingly obey Him (John 14:15, 23; 15:10).  However, that is altogether different than saying, “My righteousness is worth __% in paying for my salvation.”  Actually, “our righteousness” is like a dirty rag, that if you touched it, you would want to immediately wash your hands (Isaiah 64:6)!

At the judgment, one will not remind Jesus about how well his works measured up to Jesus’ actions upon the cross and expectantly state, “You owe me something for what I’ve done!”  Those who do such have missed the Good News completely.  In fact, it could be another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9).

If my trust in going to heaven is based upon how obedient I am, my failure to “do enough” will leave me frustrated, ridden with guilt, depressed, and with a fear that will consume me.  Why?  Because our obedience will never be sufficient to make a down payment on our sin debt.  However, I can with assurance say that Jesus is my Savior and I trust that He paid it all for me!

“Lord, I need You, oh, I need You, Every hour I need You, My one defense, my righteousness, Oh God, how I need you.”

Jesus paid it all!!  I am not capable of adding even 1%.  Jesus is not a 99% Savior.  He is my 100% Lord and Savior!  He is the one who saves, not me (Hebrews 5:1)!  I obey Him, not to make points, but because He made the points for me.  I can never repay Him.  My obedience does not supplement the full price he paid for me (1 Corinthians 6:20)!  Why do men demote what Jesus did in order to glorify what we think we’ve done?

What is your assurance built on?  You??

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Monday, December 26, 2016

This family got up together.  The boy dressed and went to milk the cow.  The father cut and retrieved wood for the cook stove and started the fire.  The mother prepared breakfast for going-to-church-2everyone after she got the youngest child dressed.

The father fed the livestock.  The mother gathered the eggs and fed the chickens.  The boy strained the milk, separating the cream, and put the milk where it would stay cool.  Everyone finished breakfast, got the Bible, and finished getting ready to go to church.  The mule was harnessed and each member mounted it.  Snow was still on the ground, but the weather had warmed causing the yard and road to be soft and muddy.  They rode five miles to the church building in town, arriving fifteen minutes early.  The year was 1895.

The alarm goes off.  An arm manages to swings out from under the covers and hit the snooze button.  Fifteen minutes later, the scene repeats itself.  He and his wife finally drag out of bed.  He retrieves the Sunday paper and sits to read the funnies.  The wife yells at the two boys to get up, “IT’S SUNDAY”!  There is no response.  A second, third, and fourth warning is called out, each getting louder.  Grumbling is heard.  Arguments begin.  It signals that both are up!

Mom heats up some Pop-Tarts for breakfast.  Three times “Breakfast is ready” bounces off the walls before anyone appears.  There is bantering between the boys but breakfast is soon consumed.  Instructions again about it being Sunday and the boys are admonished to “quit messing around and get dressed.”  Dad is included in the instruction!  He shaves and combs his hair.  He and she get dressed.  A few more admonitions and the boys look half way decent.  It takes a few more warnings to get everyone in the family vehicle.  Off they go.  They live four block from the church building.  The speed limit is 40, but dad fudges 5 miles more.  This morning they hit all the green lights.  They arrive but parking near the entrance is taken.  Four part grumbling fills the car.  They are in the seventh row of parked cars and down about 300 feet.  All four doors open and the family exits, heading for the church entrance.  The wind is brisk and cold.  More grumbling. They are ten minutes late rather than the usual fifteen.  They congratulate themselves on being five minutes earlier!  The father is the great grandson of the youngest brother pictured on the mule.  The year is 2016.

The wife sees that picture every Sunday and wonders if their ride was on a mule rather than in a Ford Bronco, would they arrive at church fifteen minutes early?

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YESTERDAY VS. TODAY?

Monday, January 22, 2018

Recently I downloaded a free book off the Internet.  It contained several speeches given in a lectureship in Texas on November 1-4, 1948.  The title of the book was, “Why I Left.”  The last entrée intrigued me.  A preacher by the name of L. W. Hayhurst offered his, Why I Left the anti-class fellowship.  I was converted when that issue was still hot!

L.W. Hayhurst was a champion debater for the anti-class Churches of Christ. He defended their position twelve times in public discussions. He recognized his error, and being an honest man, explained why he changed. The “anti-class” position is not a major issue today.  A dwindling number of anti-class congregations still exist, mainly in Oklahoma and Texas.  Some no longer make it a test of fellowship.  They do not have Bible classes as a part of their Sunday program.  They were not required to have such since the program is in the realm of human judgment.  There is nothing in the Bible demanding such, although some think there is.  Churches of Christ borrowed the idea, as did other churches, from the Anglicans, who introduced it in the eighteenth century.  Due to objections from the anti-class fellowship, Bible class brethren felt it was essential to give a scriptural reason for women speaking up in mixed classes taught by a man.  For some reason brethren in the early twentieth century thought 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 regulated a woman’s conduct at all church gatherings.  This included Bible classes and the “public worship assembly.”  The ruling which regulated mixed classes, but not the public assembly, was that a woman could 1) ask a question, 2) answer a question, 3) make a comment, or 4) read a passage of scripture.  She must be seated during all four activities to comply with 1 Timothy 2:11-12.  The anti-class brethren challenged the Bible class practitioners to produce a passage giving those four rules.  Bible School brethren thought classes were in the realm of human judgment, so no such proof was given.  Bible class brethren had a rule to prove it was “scriptural,” knowing their rules came from human judgment!  A contradiction.  The issue raged during the thirties through the fifties, then interest was lost, and it was shelved as a non-issue.  Some under forty probably have no idea that such an issue ever existed, nor the arguments each side made.  Sadly, it should never have been an issue!

Different issues cropped up in the latter part of the nineteenth century and with time, were forgotten.  The judgment to have multiple cups, rather than drink from one container, aired in the early twentieth century.  Assemblies still meet that drink from one container, but most prefer the multiple style.  During that early period, some believed the only scriptural greeting of saints must be the holy kiss (Romans 16:16).  Culture and human judgment substituted a handshake.  Some thought a woman must wear a covering on her head when she entered the assembly.   Culture and style caused that demand to disappear.  Modesty had its substitute.  Today, women wear expensive clothes to the assembly and decorate with gold and pearls, but culture and style made its substitution.  Christians serving in the military was taboo after the Civil War.  That criticism disappeared in 1941 with Pearl Harbor.

A congregation hiring a preacher to fill its pulpit each Sunday began with city churches in the late nineteenth century.  A no-located preacher fellowship fought it, but acclimation pushed their issue aside.

As one looks back to the past, some things practiced today are in place because of our American culture, customs, and traditions.  If we returned to the first century, we might be shocked by what first century Christians did not have, which we consider essentials.  We might be surprised at some things they practiced which would put us in hot water if adopted today.

Hayhurst offered his “scriptural” reasons for leaving the anti-class position and embracing the Bible class one.  What is interesting is that some of his arguments, if they were taken to their logical conclusion, would have embarrassed Bible school brethren.  But, all that is history.  Most have no interest in resurrections.

As one reads from those referred to as “pioneer preachers,” it might shock us to see what they thought was the doctrine of Christ, but we don’t.  Probably, in one hundred and sixty-five years, future generations will look at our “binding” judgments, roll their eyes and shake their heads in disbelief!

Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30 NKJV).

FAULTY UNDERSTANDING!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Jesus told his apostles they would receive the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem.  He commanded them to remain there (Luke 24:49).  The Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 2).  As promised, the Holy Spirit not only “taught” them, but also joggle their memory (John 14:26).  Even though they were inspired, there was a problem residing in the apostles and prophets.  They heard Jesus’ command to preach to “every creature” (Mark 16:15).  The Holy Spirit included that command in Peter’s reply (Acts 2:39).  But, despite the reminder, their culture blinded them to that truth!  According to that culture, Gentiles were uncircumcised barbarians unworthy of God’s good news.  It would take them a decade or more to understand who was the “every creature” and “as many as the Lord our God will call” (Mark 16:15; Acts 2:39; Acts 10:34-35)!  After God added Gentiles to the saved, some did not believe they were true saints until they were circumcised (Acts 15:1, 5).  An inspired meeting had to be convened in Jerusalem to settle this misunderstanding.  Even after that, the misunderstanding continued to produce its hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-12).  It even created “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6-9)!

In Acts 8:26 the Spirit told Philip where to meet the queen’s treasurer.  After joining the eunuch, Philip began with Isaiah’s passage and taught the Ethiopian about Jesus (vv.32-35).  The eunuch, wishing to follow the Lord, saw a body of water and asked what would stop him from being immersed (v.36).  Philip immersed him, but the Spirit had another work in Azotus (v.40).  Philip departed.   The treasurer continued homeward bound, but in good spirits (v.39).  Did Philip say anything to the eunuch about organizing the Lord’s assembly in Ethiopia?  Not according to Luke.  We could assume Philip gave the eunuch a quick 25 reasons I am a member of the New Testament church.  Luke doesn’t record that either.  Assumptions are worth a lot less than most owners think.  Assumptions are not an adequate standard of authority.  Some may assume that a fully developed assembly of Christ awaited this new convert when he arrived in country.  Luke doesn’t record that either!  Assumptions can create a congregation in Ethiopia.  Is it Luke or our assumptions?  Assumptions may be valued by their creator, but they are nothing more than exaggerated human opinions or judgments attempting to unseat God!  They are probably worth more to Satan!  Man has a habit of creating the church he is comfortable with.  That is not a valid creation!

The eunuch could have attended the local synagogue on the first Sabbath after he returned.  That too would be an assumption.  We know his Jewish faith and zeal motivated him to travel to Jerusalem to worship.  Luke does inform us on that (Acts 8:27).  As a new convert his knowledge was limited.  Since nothing is said about Philip teaching him on the subject, it would have been unknown to him that in Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female since all “are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:29).  Luke does not inform us about the eunuch receiving an special gifts from the Spirit.  Neither was a copy of the New Testament available to him.  How could the eunuch know about worship “in spirit and in truth” without the gospel of John?  Did he continue to observe the Law of Moses as the Jerusalem church was doing?  Luke does not tell us.  Sadly, the eunuch’s home town actions are unknown to us.  Doctrines should not rest on assumptions, but most find them easy to own.

We do know that the assembly at Jerusalem continued to be “zealous for the Law” (Acts 21:20 NKJV).  The Acts 2 church didn’t begin as a U.S. Caucasian congregation with a heated and cooled edifice.  It was Jewish, born into a Jewish practicing society.  When Paul and company went on their first evangelistic campaign, they visited local synagogues in Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth, and Ephesus.  They spoke in each (Acts 13:14; 14:1; 17:1; 17:10; 18:4; 18:19).  Today, when a preacher speaks, we call it one of the five acts of worship.  The preacher Paul was zealous for the Law and proved it (Acts 21:23-24, 26).  According to Jewish religious protocol, he would be asked to participate in the synagogue worship by the president of that Jewish assembly.  If Paul used scripture, it would be first covenant text since Jewish synagogues would not possess second covenant scripture.  He spoke to them of the Jewish Messiah, prophesied in Isaiah and other passages.  Jewish saints continued to engage in Jewish customs, traditions, law and practices.  The Holy Spirit did not discourage nor condemn it, only relieving Gentile saints from those practices (Acts 15:19-20, 22-29).  It was a practice that some wanted to bind upon Gentiles despite the Jerusalem conference’s decision and letter (Galatians 5:1-12).  Tradition meant more to them than inspiration!  A fault that is shared today.

Although Corinth had multiple prophets, language speakers, and interpreters, they were plagued with problems of misunderstanding.  Division handicapped every facet of their gatherings.  Again, the problem was not with the Spirit’s message, but the men and women who heard it!  Because of human error, an inspired apostle was needed to correct their in-house faults.  Paul was that person!  Inspiration did not guarantee instant understanding upon the part of the hearers.  Paul knew that.  Inspiration did not guarantee that a revelation was full or complete at the time it was given (1 Corinthians 14:30-31; Isaiah 28:10).  For example, Jesus spoke of his return.  The Thessalonian letters were written prior to AD 50.  Some in that assembly thought Jesus’ return was imminent!  Why work if Jesus returns before payday (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:16-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; 2:1-12; 3:10-15)?  There are people today who expect Jesus to return in their lifetime!  Some confuse Jesus’ coming in judgment in AD 70 as his ultimate return.  Even when the inspired message was written down, people continued to stray from its intended meaning and purpose.  The problem is not with the Spirit of God, but with the culture, habits, judgments, religious beliefs, and opinions of men.  That continues to be a problem!

If individuals in the first century, who were inspired by the Spirit, could speak God’s word, but it was either misunderstood or misapplied, isn’t it possible that some may do the same with the message of the New Testament today?  We’ve already seen that the apostle Peter had to be corrected (Galatians 2:11-12).  Were his actions based upon ignorance?  Paul didn’t think so.  Was his problem limited or is it timeless?  Could it be that some congregations today mimic the church in Corinth, Ephesus, Sardis, or Laodicea (Revelation 2:4; 3:1, 15-16)?  If so, shouldn’t we study to make sure we aren’t guilty of cloning one of them?  Yet, despite their errors, wasn’t each assembly made up of God added individuals?  God added the newly saved to each one of those assemblies!

We need to constantly remind ourselves of Philip’s question, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30; Acts 17:11).

 

Soft On Hebrews 10:25?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25 NIV).

It is surprising how many misunderstand this verse.   Some believe if you miss one Sunday morning Bible class, but attend the following assembly, that you have forsaken the earlier assembly.  If you miss Sunday night, you are guilty.  If you miss an entire schedule on Sunday, you have just signed your soul over to Satan for an eternal partnership!  Is that what this passage teaches?

The writer addressed Jewish Christians who are leaving the faith.  Notice the first of two passages.

There is no use trying to bring you back to the Lord again if you have once understood the Good News and tasted for yourself the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, and know how good the Word of God is, and felt the mighty powers of the world to come, and then have turned against God. You cannot bring yourself to repent again if you have nailed the Son of God to the cross again by rejecting him, holding him up to mocking and to public shame” (Hebrews 6:4-6 TLB).

Is that what an individual does by missing Bible class, but arrives for the following service?  Is this what one does when missing Sunday night, or for some reason misses the three scheduled hours on Sunday?  If so, and that individual can slip back in without a public word of rebuke, the problem is not with the individual, but with what is allowed!  If the person returns the following Wednesday night or Sunday, he isn’t among those the Hebrew writer is describing.  Now, look at the second of the two passages!

If anyone sins deliberately by rejecting the Savior after knowing the truth of forgiveness, this sin is not covered by Christ’s death; there is no way to get rid of it.  There will be nothing to look forward to but the terrible punishment of God’s awful anger, which will consume all his enemies.  A man who refused to obey the laws given by Moses was killed without mercy if there were two or three witnesses to his sin.  Think how much more terrible the punishment will be for those who have trampled underfoot the Son of God and treated his cleansing blood as though it were common and unhallowed, and insulted and outraged the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to his people” (Hebrews 10:26-29 TLB).

The person who misses a service, or a Sunday, but has every intention of returning, is not the individual being discussed by our passages.  The Hebrew writer is speaking of those who have totally rejected Jesus and have no intention of returning.  The writer states that if they keep that frame of mind, they can’t be forgiven because they don’t think it is necessary to return to Jesus.  They continue to reject him and shamefully display him with their disbelief!

Sometimes folks will have opinions, attach them to a passage, then quote those verses as if they teach the opinion.  Do that long enough and the number of people accepting that judgment grows, and the majority thought comes to rule as truth!

Recently, due to icy conditions resulting in one person’s death and multiple roadway accidents, several elderships decided to cancel the first day of the week assemblies.  Immediately some doubts surfaced.  The doubters believed Hebrews 10:25 demanded a Sunday assembly regardless of conditions.  Let’s say an eldership sends a message to their membership stating that the doors will be open at the usual morning hour for “those who can make it.”  Instead of the majority showing up, only 20% do, but with the possibilities of endangering their well-being.  There are a few hard falls, and a few fender benders.  Since most cars have a $500 to $1,000 deductible before insurance steps in, the “minor” accidents are not welcomed due to the unexpected personal cost.  Some who fell were fortunate, not suffering any broken bones or sprains.  However, a few do more than fall.  Due to that mishap, work is lost.  Co-pay is not cheap, and pain suffered causes the injured to not be numbered among “those who can make it.”  Did they forsake the assembly?   They weren’t there!  Remember, attendance is demanded regardless of conditions!

Let’s not overlook an important fact.  If Hebrews 10:25 is “a demand, regardless of conditions,” what passage allows an eldership to open the doors to “those who can make it” but allow the rest to remain at home while the 20% do not forsake that assembly?  Is that in Hebrew 10:25?  If the 80% may safely remain at home, because the eldership allows it, then why endanger the 20% who probably get out only because they feel they are sinning if they don’t attend?  Why jeopardize the 20% who attend because they believe it is required or end up in hell?  If it is a demanded exercise regardless of conditions, that eldership has gone beyond what is written and given the 80% permission to rightly disobey God’s word!  If it is demanded by that passage, then 100% of the membership is required to attend regardless of conditions.  That means no human being has a right to change that command, whether elders or preachers!  Break a leg?  Got to go.  In a car accident?  Got to go.  Why?  Hebrews 10:25 does not permit “excuses” nor give a “time out.”  Remember, attendance is demanded regardless of conditions!  The passage needs to be read to see who and why “some are in the habit” of no longer attending (v.25-29 NIV).

Since Hebrews 10:25-29 informs us who those practitioners of habit are, we need to ask if the 80% is numbered in that group?  Are they trampling Jesus under their feet?  Are they treating his blood as useless and unholy?  Are they insulting the Holy Spirit?  If so, then the eldership is guilty of harboring their sin by giving them their blessings by not requiring their attendance because their excuse is, “we can’t make it.”

Some will feel guilty, regardless of conditions, of not being present when the doors open.  Why do they feel guilty?  Are they among those who reject Jesus and despise the Holy Spirit?  No.  Never!  They feel guilty because of the misrepresentation of Hebrews 10:25, which has been erroneously taught for years, and swallowed as truth.

This misrepresentation creates another misunderstanding.  Those who ignore the conditions and do make it to the building, may look upon themselves as “the faithful few.”  Their willingness to go, despite the dangers to themselves and family, proves their spiritual position with the Lord over those who stayed at home.  In Acts 9, persecution caused members to flee from Jerusalem (Acts 9:1).  Since they ran, didn’t they forsake the local assembly of the Jerusalem church?  Did that cause them to lose a few spiritual points with the Lord?  Wouldn’t those who fled in Acts 9, be on a par with those who decided to stay at home due to icy conditions?  Some may assume that the fleeing saints attended where they fled to.  However, Luke doesn’t say that.  If attendance is demanded regardless of conditions, wouldn’t persecution, like ice, be a “condition”?

It is amazing how easily a misunderstanding is accepted as truth, the hold it develops over people of the book, and the doubt it creates concerning one’s faithfulness!

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1 NIV).

The Curse in Revelation

Monday, January 8, 2018

For some Bible students, the book of Revelation is a curious book, but dangerous!  Some begin with Matthew, continue through each book until John’s Revelation.  Chapters one through four will be digested, but five through twenty-two are taboo!  For some, the warning in Revelation 22:18-19 demands that restriction.  Why endanger yourself, even accidently, by adding or subtracting from what God revealed?  Wouldn’t it be safer to start over again with Matthew!  For many, Revelation 4:11 is a safe stopping place!

Scholarship is divided over the date of the book.  Wikipedia states, “Early Church tradition dates the book to the end of the emperor Domitian (reigned AD 81–96), and most modern scholars agree, although the author may have written a first version after Nero’s Great Fire in Rome (AD 64) under Vespasian (AD 69–79) and updated it under Domitian.  The beast with seven heads and the number 666 seem to allude directly to the emperor Nero (reigned AD 54–68).” Emphasis mine, RH.

In the nineteenth century, Philip Schaff listed twenty reputable scholars who believed Revelation was written before AD 70. (The History of the Christian Church, Vol. I, p.837).  The Syriac Version assigns the date to AD 68 and Jerome states that in the year AD 96, John “was with difficulty carried to the church, and could speak only a few words to the people.”  That isn’t a picture of someone delivering the twenty-two-chapter Revelation message as God commanded (Revelation 10:11).  John would have had no problem doing so thirty years earlier around AD 65.

John A.T. Robinson, a liberal scholar, wrote a book, Redating The New Testament, in 1976 giving proof for all 27 books being written prior to AD 70.  Before authoring the book, he had dated all books much later.

It seems strange that John would write to a first century audience, make it appear he was speaking in their time frame, yet he was referring to events that would not transpire until 2018!  Except for chapters one through four, the rest would have nothing to do with anyone in the first through the twentieth centuries.  Writing to that first century audience, he would use “time” expressions that were meant to happen in 2018, rather than in the immediate future of those seven churches.  John would “borrow” expressions from the Old Testament, which related to past judgments, to describe the same thing happening, not during the first century, but in 2018.  Every century since the first one, has produced individuals who believed the time statements referred to their period, rather than John’s!  That interpretation, due to misdating the book, plays a cruel joke on each expectant generation!  When we die, the next generation will erroneously claim that expectation for themselves.  They will disappointingly pass it on as a “cruel” gift to the next one!  Due to an incorrect dating, we’ve been guilty, for twenty centuries, of sharing a false expectation with future generations, who have blindly accepted it as truth!  Isn’t that ironic and cruel?

Jesus prophesied the destruction of the Temple in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.  Josephus, a Jewish historian with the Roman army detailed that destruction in AD 70.  Isn’t it strange that New Testament books, passed off as being written after AD 70, don’t hint at that fulfillment?  Some give the prophecy, but refuse to write one “jot” or “tittle” about Jesus’ prophecy being fulfilled?  The Hebrew writer informs his Jewish audience, “Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away,” but no mention is made by any inspired writer to say, “It happened”!

If Washington D.C. had been destroyed by an atomic attack on December 7, 2017, do you believe the world would be silent about it?  If that event had been prophesied in detail on December 7, 1977 by President James Earl Carter, Jr., wouldn’t it be remembered?  Wouldn’t Carter’s reputation as a prophet be shared far and wide?  Wouldn’t uninspired history books devote several pages to his foretelling?  Yet, several New Testament books are dated after AD 70 and are silent about Jesus’ prophecy being fulfilled!  Is that God’s fault or an error in dating?

Revelation begins with “things which must shortly come to pass” (1:1 KJV), and “the time is at hand” (1:3 KJV).  How would a first century believer understand those words if John spoke them in AD 68 or as late as AD 96?  Would anyone think “shortly” and “at hand” meant 2018?  The book also ends with these words, “Seal not the sayings of this book: for the time is at hand” (22:10 KJV), and “behold I come quickly” (22:12 KJV).  Do the expressions “the time is at hand” and “I come quickly” mean 2018?  If someone told you they were going to place one million dollars in your hands, and the giving date was “at hand” and “quickly,” would you think they meant 4018?  If so, what would you think of that person’s promise?  Would the word “stupid” be a descriptive word to express your condition for swallowing that promise?  Yet, the interpretation given on these words is that they mean what they say to the generation they were addressed to!  If so, why didn’t John say so?  The results of that view is that each generation has foolishly brought the condemnation of Revelation 22:18-19 upon their head, by applying those time statements to their generation rather than the one they were intended for!?  Are you among that foolish, cursed number?  If nothing happens, haven’t we added “2018″ to Jesus’ words and become false teachers (Revelation 22:18-19)?

John is addressing seven churches which existed in the first century, not in 2018.  He calls them by location.  He warned Ephesus and Pergamos to repent or he would come “quickly” to punish them.  If “quickly” meant 2018, would either assembly been concerned about their judgment?  If someone told you they were going to “quickly” place you in front of a firing squad and shoot you, but “quickly” meant 4018, would that “quickly” have any real meaning to you?

In Revelation 11:1-2 John is told to measure the temple of God, the altar, and them that worship therein.  The temple and courtyard were destroyed in AD 70.  If the book was written in AD 96, how would John measure something that did not exist?  Some believe he is told to measure the church not the temple.  If so, one’s definition of “the church” is not the definition given for it in scripture!  Such only compounds the error.

John writes in symbolic, Old Testament language, showing God’s judgment upon the Temple and Jerusalem.  On the day of Pentecost, described by Luke in Acts 2, a new era is being revealed and confirmed.  No more trips to Jerusalem to worship (John 4:19-21).  No more animal blood to be spilled (Hebrews 10:1-18).  A priesthood would not be limited to a tribe (Hebrews 7:12).  Approaching God would not be limited to space nor time (John 4:23-24).  God would dwell, but in human temples (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)!  God would no longer count the sins of a “blessed” person (Romans 4:8 NIV).  All things would be made new (2 Corinthians 5:17; Hebrews 12:18-24, 28).  The old was obsolete and ready to vanish away in AD 68 (Hebrew 8:13)!  The new was being revealed.  A new Jerusalem was coming down out of heaven from God and those that God was adding to the saved were the ones in that new relationship (Revelation 21:2, 9-10).

Jesus tells John, “Surely, I come quickly,” not “Surely, I come quickly for those living in 2018.”  John’s response was, “Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”  John wasn’t thinking “come, Lord Jesus in 2018.”  All 27 books were written prior to AD 70.  Jesus kept his promise and returned in judgment upon the Temple and city, just as God rode into Egypt in judgment (Isaiah 19:1).  We have the privilege of living in the New Jerusalem and God dwelling in our hearts because Jesus has cleansed our temple with his blood!

The Hebrew writer encouraged Jewish believers to remain faithful.  He informs them,

Now, when sins have once been forever forgiven and forgotten, there is no need to offer more sacrifices to get rid of them.   And so, dear brothers, now we may walk right into the very Holy of Holies, where God is, because of the blood of Jesus.   This is the fresh, new, life-giving way that Christ has opened up for us by tearing the curtain—his human body—to let us into the holy presence of God.   And since this great High Priest of ours rules over God’s household, let us go right in to God himself, with true hearts fully trusting him to receive us because we have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean and because our bodies have been washed with pure water.   Now we can look forward to the salvation God has promised us. There is no longer any room for doubt, and we can tell others that salvation is ours, for there is no question that he will do what he says” (Hebrews 10:18-23 TLB).

He ends that section with,

But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39 KJV).

Perhaps Revelation 4:11 is a good stopping place for some!

THE LORD’S SUPPER?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The expression “Lord’s supper” is found once (1 Corinthians 11:20).  Early Catholic and Protestant scholars informed us that “breaking of bread,” and “break bread” are that communion, whereas the expressions “breaking bread” and “broken bread” in their contexts are a “common meal” (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11).  This explanation was accepted with little debate.  Outside of Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, and Luke 22:19-20, details on the Lord’s supper are less than we would like.  Luke mentions the Jerusalem assembly’s activity in Acts 2 and the Troas gathering in Acts 20 of bread breaking.  Yet, there is no new covenant explanation to explain that “breaking of bread” and “break bread” is the same as the “Lord’s supper.”   Neither is there an explanation of why it is impossible for the statements, “breaking bread” and “broken bread” to be the “Lord’s supper.”  In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 and 11:18-34, Paul addressed the Corinthian problem about the communion.  From those passages man has formulated varied beliefs on the subject.  Is the reason for that variety due to the limited information on the subject?

Paul addressed Corinth’s error with, “I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good” (1 Corinthians 11:17 NIV).  The four divisions, introduced in the first four chapters, were destroying their fellowship (1:10-13).  It affected their participation in the Lord’s supper, moving Paul to charge, “When you gather together, you are not eating the Lord’s Supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20 IEB).  How could they not be partaking of that communion if they are using unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine?  Some believe they were bringing a common meal rather than the items for the Lord’s supper.  That is not the reason Paul said they were not eating it.  The reason given is that in that four-way divided group, some refused to wait on the others or to share with them.  Division is an ugly beast defending its rights while neglecting the rights of others!  Division drove those who brought bread and wine, to gorge themselves rather than wait or share with others.  Have you ever observed “spite” exercising its perverted rights?  God illustrates it through Corinth!  How many modern churches have cloned their thinking?

Paul asked, “Shall I praise you for this?  Certainly not!” (11:22b).  Division seeks to flow within its narrow banks, and each clique was going with their flow!  You see this kind of attitude when one individual or family refuses to speak with another.  There is usually no fellowship between them.  They are under the same roof, but not “together.”  That was the case with Corinth.

Paul explained why they had no interest in the communion.  He also outlined the condemnation they brought upon themselves with their divisive attitude when they ate the unleavened bread and drank the fruit of the vine (11:27-29).

As previously mentioned, some believe Paul is correcting the membership for bringing a common meal to the assembly rather than the Lord’s supper.  They believe Paul is telling them it is a sin, as the Sunday assembly, to eat a common meal in the church building.  If what they brought is a common meal, rather than the Lord’s supper, wouldn’t it be right for them to continue to eat what they brought if they 1) waited on one another and 2) shared!  The abuse is not in what they brought, nor where it is eaten, or what they are eating, but a failure to carry out numbers 1) and 2) in the eating of it.  If some are bringing unleavened bread, wine, lamb, a salad, and a green vegetable (a replica of the Passover meal), it would be in harmony with the meal Jesus instituted his supper from.  Although Jesus used the unleavened bread of the Passover meal, and the forth cup of wine to institute his special supper, no restrictions are given to separate it from the meal it was introduced from.  We often forget that this is a Jewish assembly that also continues to be zealous for the Law of Moses (Acts 21:18-26)!  If that is what is being done, Paul does not condemn the bringing, nor the eating, as part of their assembly, only the divisive spirit that negates that eating through a refusal to wait and share while consuming it.  That spirit also was hindering them in correctly partaking of the Lord’s supper.  That kind of spirit needs to “eat at home” (1 Corinthians 11:20-22)!  That spirit is condemned and caused them to eat and drink damnation for themselves by not “discerning the Lord’s body” (v.29b).  The “Lord’s body” which their division kept them from discerning, is the membership, not the bread and cup.  Their divisive spirit kept them from a proper attitude toward one another and turned their eating into this deplorable practice.  That spirit did not die with the Corinthian church!  Division continues to promote it today.

Some who brought the bread and wine were bringing enough, that if they shared, those they shared with would not go away hungry (v.21).  If they selfishly drank all of the fruit of the vine themselves, rather than sharing, were described as “drunken” (v.21).  What was to be consumed by all members together was called “the Lord’s supper.”  Very different from what we describe as a “supper” today!  We still rush to Cracker Barrel afterwards because that “supper” doesn’t ease anyone’s hunger!  Neither do our pews resemble tables, nor does the small singular table, with Luke 22:19 inscription, allow anyone to eat off it.  In our culture, we symbolize rather than copy the actual setting  Time constraint invents expedients that contribute more to our twenty-first century lifestyle than the practicality engaged in by first century saints.  Can you imagine an assembly today filled with tables, ready for a supper, rather than pews which limit our direction of sight?  Church buildings are not recorded until the fourth century, and auditorium floor plans were borrowed from Protestantism.  The house assemblies of Acts 2:46; 5:42; 12:12; 20:20; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; and Colossians 4:15, were not furnished with auditorium decor.

Since Paul does not specifically condemn what was being brought, nor eaten, perhaps the activity in Acts 2:46 makes more sense?  Some have the idea that the 3,000-strong church met each first day in the Temple courtyard for their Sunday assembly.  They believe the Lord’s supper, singing, praying, giving, and preaching “continued stedfastly” there each Lord’s day, not in the house to house meetings (Acts 2:42)!  It may have been possible to get the multitude’s attention on Pentecost with a dozen men addressing thousands of folks in their own language, but getting a work day crowd to be quiet, while partaking of the Lord’s supper, is grabbing at straws.  Don’t forget that Peter and John were arrested for preaching at the Temple!  Having a service in the Temple courtyards would be parallel to holding a Sunday assembly in the middle of Walmart on Saturday!  Keep in mind what was going on in those courtyards.  Also, women could occupy only the one specifically for them.  Animals were being sold there (Matthew 21:12 NIV).  Bargaining was in progress.  The sounds of sacrificial animals would be heard.  There would have been people entering with their animals to sacrifice.  Multitudes were there to pay a priest to sacrifice for them (Acts 21:24 NKJV).  People would be greeting one another.  Discussions would take place.  If a few babies crying during communion disturb you today, their outcries would be nothing compared to the din of noise at the Temple!  Luke states they met in the temple and from house to house (v.46).  Notice where Peter went to find praying Christians (Acts 12:5, 12, 17).  He and John used the Temple courtyards for evangelizing until persecution arose (Acts 3:1, 12; 4:1, 23; 5:12, 42).  They met from house to house for edification, pray, and break bread (Acts 2:42, 46-47; 12:5, 12, 17b)!

Perhaps few would recognize the church of the first century since their practices and culture would not harmonize with theirs.  Some refuse to recognize the first century assemblies as they were, but read our American culture and church traditions into the Bible, assuming we are identical twins.  If Paul and companions came into our Lord’s day assembly this Sunday, would they believe they were in the right place?

WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?

Monday, January 1, 2018

Jesus stated, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).  According to the same writer, the name Jesus was given by an angel from God (Matthew 1:21).  Joseph obeyed and “called his name Jesus” (Matthew 1:25).  Paul stated that God has given Jesus “the name which above every name” (Philippians 2:9).  One of the reasons for biblical misunderstandings is due to the King James Version of 1611, as well as following English versions, neglecting to translate the Greek word “Christ.”  Due to that decision, some believe Jesus’ last name is “Christ.”

The Greek word for Christ is χριστοσ (Christos).  It is a transliteration rather than a translation.  This means they spelled the Greek letters into English.  The Greek “os” was dropped in the process, leaving “Christ.”  What the word means is, “anointed one.”  The Hebrew word is Messiah (Mashiah).  It is found 39 times in the KJV.  37 times it is translated as “anointed.”  Twice is it not and spelled out as “Messiah.”  If all English translations had rendered “Christos” as “anointed one,” as the King James did with “Messiah” in most Old Testament passages, this misunderstanding may not have developed.  In the following verses the translation of “Christ” would remove it as Jesus’ last name!

Jesus asked his apostles who men thought he was.  Peter replied to his question with, “You are the anointed one, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-16).

John ends his gospel account with, “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the anointed one, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31).

On the day of Pentecost, Peter replied to a question with, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus the anointed one, for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38, the word “baptized” in another untranslated word!).

If so translated, it would keep us focused on the Lord’s name in passages like the following:

Let everyone who names the name of the anointed one depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19).

If you are reproached for the name of the anointed one, blessed are you” (1 Peter 4:14).

If anyone suffers as a follower of the anointed one, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Peter 4:16).

Who is “the anointed one”?  What is his heavenly given name?

We read descriptive names, such as “the church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23; Colossians 1:15, 18), “The body of the anointed one” (Romans 7:4; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12), “The kingdom of the anointed one” (Ephesians 5:5), and “members of the anointed one” (1 Corinthians 6:15).  So, who does the church, body, kingdom, or members belong to?  What is his name?  Is it “anointed one”?  That may be his title, but it isn’t his name.  His name “is above every name” (Philippians 4:9)!

Paul mentions first century assemblies in the following passages.   “The churches of God” (1 Corinthians 11:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:4).  “Churches of the Gentiles” (Romans 16:4).  “Churches of Galatia” (1 Corinthians 16:1; Galatians 1:2).  “Churches of Macedonia” (2 Corinthians 8:1).  “Churches of Asia” (1 Corinthians 16:19).  “Churches of Judea” (Galatians 1:22), “All churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33).  “Churches of the Anointed One” (Romans 16:16).

The word “church” or “churches” is an inserted word from the 17th century.  The actual word in the Greek text is ekklesia translated “assembly,” or “called out.”  So, instead of “churches” in the above text, we should have “the assemblies of . . .” or “the called out of . . .,” etc.

It is interesting how false impressions begin and the conclusions they produce.

THE ORIGIN OF YOUR PEACE?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

In four days we will enter a new year.  Slightly more than 2,000 years ago, Jesus was born.  30 year later he began his public ministry.  His death followed a short three-and-a-half-year ministry.  That death brought in a new relationship that earth’s population could enjoy with Yahweh.  Despite the direction taken by man, God made it possible for some to enjoy a peace that “surpassed all understanding” (Philippians 4:7 NKJV).  The “peace on earth” announced by the angels was not a promise that man’s warmongering would cease (Luke 2:14).  Satan would still be deceptive.  Greed, covetousness, hatred, strife, murder, selfishness, suspicion, and such would still be peddled, even in the name of righteousness.  Satan can quote scripture with the best.  Jesus warned, “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division” (Luke 12:51 NKJV).  Some would reject Jesus’ peace and settle for the kind offered by Satan.

The world has always been at war somewhere.  Atrocities have even been committed by one Christian group against another.  Not exactly Christians and not close to the peace Jesus promised.  Yet, both sides justified their actions.  Another peace sought through Satan’s deception.

I can remember the death of the last Civil War veteran, Albert Henry Woodson of the Union Army.  He died on August 2, 1956 at the age of 106.  I also remember the death of the last World War I soldier, Frank Buckles on February 27, 2011 at the age of 110 years.  Both North and South lost almost an equal number of soldiers with the total for both at 1,264,000.  No war since has claimed that many American military lives.

Most have heard of the world-wide flu in 1918 which affected 500 million people, which was one third of the world’s population at that time.  Between 20 to 30 million deaths took place!  99% of those were under 65, with half being 20 to 40 years of age.  Those of us who are older than 70 can remember WWII which took the lives of 50 to 80 million civilians and soldiers from both sides.  The USA lost 291,557.  The Korean War followed WWII, then Vietnam, and more recently the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Who remembers the school drills in the fifties to protect ourselves against a possible atomic bomb attack.  Most over fifty remember the confrontation of the USA with Russia supplying Cuba with missiles in the early 60’s?

Younger folks remember the tsunami that took so many lives and destroyed seaside resorts.  Today we are being threatened by an atomic attack from North Korea.  Wars and rumors of wars have not been restricted to the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Matthew 24).

How can one possess a peace that “passes all understanding” while the world around us wants to blow itself up?  How can we possess such a peace, when so many are filled with hatred, wanting to end our lives because they believe we are infidels?  Will that peace forsake us when a crazy person enters our business shooting anything that moves?  Will it disappear when an intercontinental ballistic missile is headed our way?

Paul was facing death, yet his peace nor hope evaporated.  He wrote,

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.  And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NLT).

Who is the author of your peace?

WHAT ABOUT THAT?

Monday, December 25, 2017

When Jesus was taken to Pilate, Mark refers to the place as the “hall” or “Praetorium” (Mark 15:16).  John calls it the “Pavement” (John 19:13).  The primary motivators who called for Jesus’ death were the “chief priests” (John 19:6).  The exact number of demonstrators is unknown, but it was not every citizen of Jerusalem nor all of the temporary pilgrims in town who shouted, “Crucify him.”  How do we know?

Information on Jerusalem’s population is not exact.  Some give twenty to thirty thousand,  A Roman historian, Tacitus, gives us six hundred thousand!  The trial and crucifixion of Jesus took place when pilgrims were flooding the city during Passover.  Luke names fifteen different places that some called home.  The number of visiting pilgrims also varies.  Josephus, a 70 A.D. Jewish historian, puts the number killed during the siege of the city at one million, one hundred thousand.  He states that ninety-seven thousand survivors were sold as slaves.  That number killed and enslaved tells us the combined number of citizens and visitors.

When Peter spoke in Acts 2, he was probably in one of the Temple courtyards.  It is estimated that one hundred thousand could easily occupy that area with four hundred thousand creating a shoulder to shoulder crowd!  Since “about three thousand” responded to Peter’s message, the non-responding must have been much larger than those who obeyed.  Peter repeated his charge twice to that large gathering,

Jesus . . . you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death . . . Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:23, 36 NKJV).

Someone who had been in the Praetorium crowd, must have asked verse 37’s question.  However, some present had not been at “the Pavement” during Jesus’ trial.  Is that possible?  Were all in Peter’s audience personally guilty of killing God’s Son by shouting, “Crucify him”?

Although Luke focuses upon the apostles in Acts 2, the first chapter reveals that they and one hundred and eight others met together in an upper room (Acts 1:13-15).  The vacancy left by Judas Iscariot was filled by Matthias (verse 26).  In Acts 2 “about three thousand” responded and were immersed (Acts 2:41).  Were the apostles, Jesus’ mother, the other women, and brethren who were included in the one hundred and twenty, also immersed on that occasion?  If not, why not?  One reason given is that the apostles were immersed earlier by John the baptizer.  Jesus, speaking about John, quoted from Malachi 3:1, “For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You” (Matthew 11:10 NKJV).  From this passage the theory is advanced that the apostles were “grand fathered” into the future body of Christ prior to Pentecost.  Therefore, they were not required to submit to the post Pentecost baptism.  What about the one hundred and eight who were also meeting in the upper room?  Were they not also baptized by John?  If so, wouldn’t John’s baptism allow them to be added to the saved as were the apostles without submitting to the Acts 2:38 baptism?  Why would they not be grand fathered too?  If none of them had received John’s baptism, we must assume it.  That would mean that none needed to become better Jews nor to receive the forgiveness of their sins!

There are some differences between the pre-Pentecost and the post practiced baptism.  John’s baptism was not performed in the name of Jesus nor in any other.  It did not put a candidate into the body of Christ prior to nor after Jesus death, resurrection, and ascension.  Its purpose was to make a Jew, who was in covenant relationship with Yahweh, a better Jew.  It’s only relationship to the baptism on Pentecost is that both were commanded, both were by immersion in water, and both were “for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3).   That is where the similarity ends!  John was preparing them for the coming Messiah or Christ.  Matthew tells us, “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him” (Matthew 3:5-6 NKJV, Emphasis mine-RH).  While John was immersing Jews, Jesus’ apostles were doing the same.  If their baptism was not for the same purpose as John’s, no evidence is given to explain their practiced.  Post Pentecost baptism was not limited to the Jews as John’s was.  The Pentecost baptism was to make all, both Jew and Gentile, children of God under the new covenant.  The post Pentecost baptism was in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 10:48).  It was to obey the Lord’s command (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; Luke 24:47).  It was to clothe one with Jesus by putting him on in baptism (Galatians 3:27).  It was so one could be immersed into his death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12).  According to Luke, one’s baptism was followed by the person being added by God to the saved (Acts 2:41, 47; Also see Romans 6:17-18).

How many were immersed during John’s ministry?  Jerusalem had a population between thirty to one hundred and fifty thousand.  What was the population of Judea?  That’s anyone’s guess.  What about the region around the Jordan?  Same answer!  I suspect that the number immersed by Jesus’ apostles was smaller than those baptized by John, since he had been doing it longer.  The scope of John’s work was throughout Judea and around the Jordan River.  People in all those areas sought, heard him, and responded to his command to be immersed.  The only ones mentioned who refused were the Pharisees and lawyers (Luke 7:30)!

If the one hundred and twenty in the upper room were grand fathered into the saved-on John’s baptism, would the multitude immersed by John not also receive that blessing?  Although we believe the apostles were grand fathered into the saved because God ordained John’s baptism for that purpose, we don’t have that detailed for us in scripture.  We assume that it is so, since there is no mention of them receiving an additional baptism.  If we may assume that view for the apostles, why can’t the others immersed by John be added by that same assumption?  If so, then John’s ministry was more successful than we previously thought.  One hundred and twenty is good, but thousands are better!  Because of John’s work, neither those in the upper room, nor a lot of other citizens in Jerusalem, joined in with that crowd who screamed, “Crucify him”!  They were believers and recognized Jesus as the one who fulfilled Malachi’s prophesy.

Merry Christmas

A 130 A.D. NEW TESTAMENT ASSEMBLY!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Justin Martyr was born in 100 A.D.  His father’s name was Priscus, which is Latin or Roman.  He grew up as a pagan, but was dissatisfied with the void left by his teachers’ instruction.  He was converted by a Syrian Christian.  Although most of his writings are lost, two apologies and a dialogue survive.  The two apologies were written to his sons and the Roman Senate.  He was beheaded as a martyr of Jesus in 165 A.D. in Rome.

In his first apology he describes the typical service of the early second century church.  First, he implies that all removed their sandals before worshiping!  Second, they began with prayers (not prayer), after which they greeted one another with a “holy kiss” (Romans 16:16).

He stated,

“There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he, taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands.”  When he is finished, the participants say “Amen.”  Then, deacons pass the bread and wine to each individual present.  The deacons then carry the two elements to those who are absent from the assembly.”

Justin does not inform us if they did that immediately after servicing those in the assembly, or after the brethren had been dismissed.

During the partaking of the Lord’s supper, Justin states that the participants reminded one another about why they are partaking and what it means to them.  Silence was not a part of their activities!  When this activity was finished, members had an opportunity to give.  However, Justin describes this part differently than we practice it today.

“And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost.   they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.”

This action mirrors Luke’s description in Acts, “All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need” (Acts 2:44-45).  This was part of “the worship,” taking place in the assembly.  Notice, it is “they who are well to do, and willing” that give.  Also notice that the contribution is given into the care of him who presides, and he sees to its distribution.  Also notice what the distribution is limited to.

Justin continues with,

“The memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.”

This would also mirror Acts 2:42.

Justin tells us this meeting took place on “the day of the Sun.”  He speaks of the first day of the week from its pagan roots.  As Justin ends this description of a normal Sunday assembly, he states that Jesus, “having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.”

Justin describes a Sunday gathering of disciples taking place about thirty to forty years after the death of the last apostle.  It is an uninspired description complimenting the inspired one given by Luke in Acts 20:7-11 and Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:17-22.  It mentions several details left out by Luke and Paul.  Justin doesn’t give us the time of day when his description took place.  Luke’s account is an evening to midnight to daylight one.  Luke nor Paul tell us how the elements were distributed nor by who.  Justin does.  Luke nor Paul mention deacons taking the communion to those who are shut-ins, or others who could not attend.  Justin does.  Luke and Paul omit prayers.  Justin does not.  None describe an “opening prayer” to “begin worship,” nor a “closing prayer” to end it.  Justin and Paul mention wine, Luke refers only to bread.  Paul refers to the cup, but not its content.  Neither Paul nor Luke mention the collection.  Justin does.  A collection is mentioned with Peter presiding in Acts 5:1-11, but some discount this as “a worship service” or being on Sunday.  Justin believed their Sunday assembly was carried out just as the apostles and disciples had taught!  We usually agree with that thought, but disagree that Justin’s description is right because it is not completely in harmony with ours.

Because Justin was not inspired, some discount what he said that doesn’t agree with their practice.  The matching tidbits are readily accepted.  Most never entertain the thought that if what matches was handed down as acceptable from the apostles and prophets, why not the part that today’s disciples refuse to accept?  Neither Luke nor Paul give us the full details, only partials!  Today’s crowd usually fills in the blanks with each group’s practiced traditions.

It is interesting to see how, in such a short time, New Testament practices were altered or added to.  Although there is nothing wrong with deacons serving the bread and fruit of the vine, that is a man induced program, not a divinely commanded one.  Many of our practices today are manmade expedients wrapped carefully with time and comfort, leaving the impression that they are the best and only way to do worship “in spirit and in truth”!

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