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WHERE IS GRACE?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, 09-13-2021

Was the woman who was brought before Jesus and charged, guilty of that sin?  She was caught in the act.  She did not deny the charge.  She was expecting to be stoned for her sin.  The ones who caught her made a correct condemnation of her act.  They also knew what the scriptures said about her sin and what punishment she must receive.  Jesus knew what she did.  He also knew the scriptures.  Yet, he told her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:3-11 KJV). Some today might condemn Jesus for ignoring scripture and being “too soft on sin.”  Since her accusers left, she did not have any eyewitnesses to her act.  Jesus did not ask them to spare her life.  He made a simple statement, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”  What sins had they committed that quickly disbanded those accusers?  Maybe several of them had been that woman’s customer and that was how they knew where she was and what she was doing?  Notice how the woman’s partner is not mentioned.  Was he one of the accusers?  Scripture does not say.  Jesus did not condemn her, but his last words were, “Go and sin no more.”

Perhaps that woman learned from that episode and stopped committing adultery.  Did she stop “sinning”?  If Jesus could forgive a person of adultery, could he not forgive her of any other sin?  John 8 stirs up a number of questions.  Did she ask Jesus to pray for her?  John does not tell us.  Did she ask him to forgive her?  If so, John does not record it.  Did Jesus command her to “Repent”?  Again, John is silent.  We assume things which the passage does not reveal.  If she did not repent, does God forgive without repentance?  Later, if she stumbled, fell, and cursed, would God overlook that explicative without repentance or confession of sin?  Some believe this part of John 8 has been added by later writer and John did not pen it.  Perhaps they thought it seemed to put Jesus in a compromising situation and to keep that from happening, it should be removed?

When an individual submits to that burial in water that Paul wrote about, and was raised to walk in newness of life, he was completely cleansed (Romans 6:1-11).  Although he is no longer “a slave to sin” and he has been “set free from sin” (vv.6-7), he does not remain sinless.    For some, that is a contradiction.  Paul informed Christians that all have sinned.  We are not perfect.  We continue to trust in Jesus because we have “died to sin” so it is no longer our “master” and we are no longer its slave (v. 14).  Thankfully, we are now “under grace.”

Paul saw how some might think this gave them the freedom to sin.  He told the Roman saints, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?   God forbid” (Romans 6:1-2).  There are two extremes.  First, one may keep on living in sin since he thinks God’s grace will cover him.  The second extreme is that one must be sinless after becoming a Christian or he is lost again.  Both are extremes and each is false.  Since grace is in the picture, so if the cleansing blood of Jesus.  Notice Paul’s stated, “continue in sin.”  Should we once more become slaves to sin?  No.  Yet, Christians do sin from time to time.  Yet, that sinner does not lose fellowship with God because he continues to trust in the price Jesus paid.

IMMINENT RETURN OF JESUS?

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 09-16-2021

The event called World War I caused Bible believers to think that conflict was described by the book of Revelation.  The events of John’s prophecy did not happen, even though one religious leader still wrote that Jesus would return in 1925.  That date passed without fulfillment.  That leader had his subjects gathering up his “prophecy” for destruction.  His successors would later continue to give dates of Jesus’ return and have the same results.

In 1939 world events began to create war clouds that overshadowed what had transpired in 1914 to 1918.  It was identified as World War II.  The expression “allies” vs “axis” identified the two foes.  The war touched the entire globe.  The USA attempted to remain aloof of events in Europe in 1939 and 1940.  When the USA fleet in Hawaii was crippled by the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, the expression “World War II” became prominent.   The winner of that war was in doubt during the first half as both Germany and Japan successfully began their world conquest.

The European struggle ended on May 8, 1945, identified as VE Day.  On September 2, 1945, the Japanese surrender was identified as VJ Day.  It took the devastation of two atomic bombs to end that struggle.  That conflict ended with 23,967,900 military deaths and 38,968,000 approximate civilian demises.  The USA lost 388,933 service personal.  That conflict affected every area of the United States.  It also reignited some Bible readers to announce that this struggle was the beginning of the end of the world.  The announcement was made that the book of Revelation was being fulfilled.

When the Jewish State was created in Palestine on May 14, 1948, Bible students again thought prophecy was being fulfilled that would result in Jesus’ return.  Forty-seven years later a book, The Late Great Planet Earth suggested 1995 might be the time when Jesus’ glorious return would take place.  The only successful results was that the author led his readers to accept his assumptions.  There were some who sold everything and patiently waited for disappointment.

One lesson came out of all those expectations.  Some decided to never get into the guessing game again and their future prophecies were silenced.  Yet, though the expectation had been rewarded negatively, it still burned within the souls of those who looked for it in their lifetime.  One may admire the faith exhibited by those who continue to look for Jesus’  return, but the failure of past lessons should be an eye opener.

Some interpret the return of Jesus in Revelation to set up his 1,000-year kingdom on earth as a “near” future event.  If that interpretation is correct, I will be among those who rejoice at Jesus’ return.  However, 2,000 years stretches John’s “at hand,” “shortly be done,” “soon,” “time is near,” “time is at hand,” or “quickly” from different English versions Revelation 1:1, 3; 22:6, 7, 10, 12, 20.  John was writing to the first century churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.  Those words should be directly applied to them, rather than ignore and skip over them to make the 2021 church the recipient. With modern happenings grabbing the news, and an awakening of renewed interest in Jesus return, the book of Revelation is once more being spotlighted.  Prophecies are being aligned with modern events to harmonize with the Covid-19 pandemic.  An imminent return of Jesus is exciting hearts again as some believer’s rush to read Revelation’s passages to confirm their belief of that return in our lifetime.  If Charles Taze Russell, Joseph Franklin Rutherford, or perhaps Hal Lindsey could speak up, they would advise today’s excited to be more cautious than they were.   

TWO SWORDS, WRONG WAR

My Thoughts. . . .
Thursday, 09-09-2021

Jesus told the apostles to buy a sword. Then he asked them how many they had. The reply was “two” (Luke 22:38). We know from John 18:10 that Peter was in possession of one. We are not told who carried the other one. Perhaps it was Simon the Zealot? He was “at war” with the Romans. When the crowd came out to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword to defend his Rabbi. I’m not sure why the other sword owner did not join in.

Peter was a fisherman. Ask him anything connected with that trade and he had the answer. Allow the conversation to be beyond that trade and you probably would have lost Peter’s attention. Yet, he possessed one of the two swords. Peter was argumentative. He was also one who spoke up, even when he should have been listening. He possessed a sword, but he apparently was in need of a few more lessons on how to correctly use it!

Peter seemed ready to be first in giving an answer. Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Peter wasn’t hesitate, but replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). Peter was not perfect, but he wanted to be prepared. Men came to arrest His Rabbi. Peter did not give ground, but drew his sword. You have to admire his courage and commitment to protect his teacher. Apparently he was good with a fishing net, but somewhat “rusty” in swinging a sword. He missed splitting Malchus’ head, but succeeded in getting an ear (John 18:10). Imagine his surprise when Jesus ordered him to put up his sword. We never hear about that sword again. Perhaps putting it up saved Peter from being cut down by the Temple guards.

Can you imagine Peter’s confusion? Jesus: “Who has a sword?” Peter: “I do.” Jesus: “Put it up!” Peter was attempting to protect. Jesus wanted to fulfill prophecy. Peter wanted to rule beside Jesus. Jesus want him to feed sheep. A slave girl asked Peter if he was one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter’s allegiance to Jesus crumbled into swearing. Peter, like so many of us was fighting an inside war. Jesus saw something in Peter that the apostle could not see in himself until tears gave him sight.

You and I are sinners. Deny it and you’ve just made yourself one. No matter how intelligent, strong-willed, resourceful, or athletic you may be, sin will grab you by the throat and knock you off your feet. You will question why you caved in so quickly when you knew you should not. Peter denied his soon to be denials. Tears reminded him how foolish his brags were. John and James thought they deserved to sit on Jesus’ right and left whereas Jesus spoke of servitude being better than position. Paul thought he was always in control until he and Barnabas clashed over Mark’s faults. Thankfully, he opened his eyes to Mark’s worth and his own misjudgment.

Our imperfection are the faults that embarrassed us. If observed correctly, we will see the lesson given. If not, we will continue until we hopefully stumble and fall upon the truth.

THE LORD’S SUPPER

My Thoughts. . .
Monday, 09-07-2021

Some churches partake of the Lord’s supper once each year. Some do so once each month. Some do it on special occasions, such as during a marriage ceremony. Some believe if it is taken each week, it will lose its significance and become common place. That may be the reason some refuse to attend services each week? That argument does not stop some from partaking each week since the church at Troas met upon the “first day of the week” (Acts 20:7). Different strokes for different folks.

When correcting the errors in the church at Corinth, Paul refers to it as “the Lord’s supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20). This was about twenty years after Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Out of the five accounts mentioning that meeting in the upper room, Luke and Paul are the only ones who record Jesus’ statement about remembering him. Neither Paul nor Luke were present in that upper room when Jesus made that statement. However they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. John mentions the upper room meeting but completely leaves out any reference of the communion. Matthew was there but does not include that particular statement in his book. The early church did not have the combined 27 documents which makes up the second covenant of our Bible. One would think that Matthew wrote his book first since it appears at the beginning of the New Testament. However, his book was number twenty to be produced. The last book to appear was John’s Revelation. Early commentators dated its production before the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Since the other twenty-six were written prior to Revelation, their date is earlier than 70 A.D. Later scholarship dates Revelation around the end of the first century. Yet, not one of the twenty-seven hints at Jerusalem or the Temple being destroyed by the Romans. For such an important event to be totally ignored would be unusual. Liberal scholarship gives a late date for the writing of all twenty-seven books. They attribute those books to pseudo authors in the second century rather than the actual apostles or prophets who wrote them.

Printing presses did not appear until after 1440. The combining of all 27 handwritten manuscripts is not known until the second or third century. Until the printing press, the average household did not have manuscripts of the New Testament. What they learned came from the clergy. Although the clergy may have read the passages on communion in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul, the traditional way of dispensing it would be more Catholic than biblical.

The universal (catholic) church developed its clergy system which in turn produced communion customs. When the Protestant movement was born in the fifteenth century, those customs changed to conform with Protestant beliefs. However, some carry-over practices from Catholicism were accepted. The clergy-laity system of observing communion continued with Protestantism but with some changes.

Church buildings were introduced in the third century. This ended the house to house style of partaking of communion. Tables surrendered to pews and the “supper” was replaced with bite size wafers. The “cup” contained less and less of the fruit of the vine. Time controlled the event and communion was assigned to its allotted schedule. With the downgrading of “supper” to a sip and eating a small piece of cracker, the expression “hungry” lost its meaning. Even if the fruit of the vine was wine, rather than Welch’s Grape Juice, today’s recipients would never be accused of gorging themselves or being drunk!

Paul warns against partaking by eating and drinking “damnation” (1 Corinthians 11:29). If one eats and drinks “unworthily” he participates in that damnation (v. 29). How does one avoid that sin? Some believe we must silently partake and in that silence remember Jesus’ death. Remember yes, but the word “silent” is not mentioned. The Lord’s supper finds its beginning in the Passover meal which contained scripture reading, questions, answers, and dialogue rather than silence. Is tradition demanded by scripture or condemned (Matthew 15:9)? Some have exhorted members to either pray, read their Bible, or contemplate Jesus’ suffering and death upon the cross. Although there is nothing wrong with the suggestion, scripture is silent about such a requirement. The church in Corinth was guilty of that damnation because they would not share. This caused some to not receive either the unleavened bread or the fruit of the vine. Therefore some went home hungry. Some would not share the wine but consumed it themselves and became drunk. The meaning of the communion was lost in their pettiness which digressed into damnation.

We partake in our air conditioned or heated buildings. Our pews are padded. The “supper” is decreased to small amounts which are quickly consumed in a few minutes under the canopy of silence. What if we met in secret, where the acrid smell of decaying flesh invaded our nostrils and upset our stomachs? Small candles offered dim lights because too much might bring the authorities down on us. Songs were softly sung. Prayers were just loud enough to hear. Scripture was memorized and quoted and the lesson of exhortation was simple and to the point. It was late at night. The catacombs reserved for the dead were visited by the living to encourage and strengthen one another. Christianity was punished by death if caught. A loaf was passed around and each pinched off a portion. A flask of wine was passed and each took a shallow taste. Comments of thanksgiving were made by most as each partook. Nothing was fancy. No one spoke above a whisper. The free and the slave fellowshiped together. Prayer was offered. Each gave the other a holy kiss. Each left singularly or in twos so they would not draw attention. Hopefully the smell of death on their clothing and bodies would disappear in the night air as they made their way home.

THE BIBLICAL MERRY-GO-ROUND

My Thoughts. . . .
Thursday, 08-26-2021

Preachers usually want to work with a perfect church. Members want to belong to one. Both are in the “search” mode which ends in identical results. It is referred to as “failure.” Why? Personal perfection was lost in Genesis 3 and man has failed to regain it!

The Chloe family wrote to Paul about the sinful state the church in Corinth was drowning in. Paul’s corrective letter was lengthy. Their false teaching and practices were multiple. Their attitude toward one another and about Paul were heartbreaking. Surprisingly Paul did not withdraw fellowship from the congregation. They had divided into four different groups, dishonoring him, Cephas, Apollos, and Jesus by naming their divisions after them. Some did not believe Paul was a bonafide apostle. Their assemblies were divisive and confusing. Would the congregation accept the corrections Paul mentioned? Surprisingly he only singled out one member to withdraw from who was doing something that pagans did not practice. The man was living with his father’s wife. They were ignoring the shame this man was bringing upon the body of Christ. So Paul commanded the church to discipline him by withdrawing their fellowship.

It seems incredible that Paul wanted a congregation, with multiple teachings and practices that were sinful, to withdraw from one member when the church itself was plagued with sin! He said nothing about withdrawing from them. Despite their many digressions from the truth, God continued to indwell the membership and gave no hint that he was going to vacate. All the evidence pointed to a continued indwelling due to members retaining the gifts of prophesying, speaking different languages, interpreting, healing, and possessing other miraculous gifts (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 12 & 14). The sins which permeated that congregation were not over night practices. Neither did they correct everything immediately after receiving Paul’s letter. He had to continue warning them in his second epistle.

An invitation to work with the church of God in Corinth would be easy to reject by most preachers today. Today’s congregations would shy away from fellowship rather than building a close relationship with them. Few would point to them as an example of faithfulness or soundness. Christians moving to Corinth would be warned and encouraged to not identify with them. Preachers knew their reputations would be shredded if they even suggested having fellowship with Corinth. Yet, God continued His indwelling.

Is that indwelling by God not unusual, if not contradictory? He even inspired Paul to refer to them as “the church of God” and “the body of Christ.” If one decided to withdrew from Corinth, but God did not, would that not make his congregation guilty of also withdrawing from God? The two letters by Paul to Corinth have a tendency to put the reader on a biblical merry-go-round! Would the reason for that ride be due to our view on disfellowshiping being false?

THE BELIEVER’S CONFLICTS

My Thoughts . . .
Monday, 08-23-2021

“If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back” (Luke 6:29-30).

Notice what Jesus said. If someone sues you, hand it over. If you are slapped on one cheek, make the other one available. If someone wants what belongs to you, let him take it and do not ask him to return it. Who does that today? If he did, would we congratulation him for obeying what Jesus commanded or criticize him for his actions? Perhaps we would agree that Jesus said it, but would we not justify ourselves for NOT doing it? In reality, would we not think someone had lost his mind in suggesting Jesus required that of us?

Do we believe Jesus’ statement applies to us? It we thought it did, would we give that person the coat we didn’t want to wear but keep the one we liked? If someone wanted something we rarely used, we might give it and not expect it back. However, is that what Jesus is actually saying? If that shirt and coat is all we have to protect us from the winter winds, would we happily give it up even if it left us exposed to the elements? Would we argue with the Lord that without a shirt we would get a sun burn or if winter, we would freeze, so we are not required to obey? People in the first century didn’t have a closet full of clothing. So, what did the apostles think of Jesus “cheeky” statement?

Some argue that Jesus said if someone struck you in the face, you should allow him to bloody the other side too. In other words don’t reward violence with violence. In rebuttal one might mention Luke 22:38 where Jesus asked if the apostles possessed a sword. When informed that they did, Jesus did not order them to sell or give them away. Such passages show Jesus expected the apostles to protect themselves against those who might harm them.

Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders” (John 18:36). This passage is often quoted to prove disciples of Jesus should not take up weapons to protect themselves. Actually, Jesus is informing Pilate why believers will not attempt to release him from Jewish arrest. He came to die, not to establish a kingdom which would rid them of Roman occupation. Jesus’ kingdom would use spiritual swords to destroy the devil’s power over man. To fulfill his mission, Jesus did not need Peter’s sword to rescue him from the cross. Jesus came to purchase each one who would accept him and his salvation. To broaden the borders of Jesus kingdom, one wears spiritual armor and uses the spiritual sword to defeat Satan. Jesus makes applications that coincide with that viewpoint.

If God does not want a believer to physically protect himself, why should we think God would allow him to protect his family? If someone lusted after his wife would he sin by protecting her from that individual? Some might think the husband would be a less sinner by not doing anything while his wife was being raped? If someone wanted his pre-teen or teen daughter to satisfy his lust, must the Christian father step aside and invite that person to help himself? What if men wanted the father and husband of the family as the men in Sodom wanted Lot’s guests? Should he wilfully submit? If someone wanted your house, automobiles, savings, or weekly check, are you required to give them what they want? If a believer did nothing, would he not be giving aid to the one doing evil?

God said one should not love the world (1 John 2:15). Did that mean one must love and protect a murderer more than he loves and protects his wife who will be the victim of that murderer? If the government of a nation is “Christian,” would it be scripturally correct to incarcerate a murderer? Remember, Jesus said “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” Someone might say, “Oh, he didn’t mean your wife, your daughter, your son, your house, your automobiles, or your income?

That is why there are multiple divisions among believers today.

(1) Either a passage means what it says and must be obeyed as stated, or. . .
(2) A passage is misunderstood to say something which it does not state, or . . .
(3) A passage states something which is not practiced today, so we assume it is limited to first century culture and custom rather than to us, or . . .
(4) A passage requires one meaning, it focuses on one specific act, which is to be understood from the customs, traditions, and law recognized by folks living in that time period, or . .
(5) A passage is assumed to be for our time period but we must upgrade all events to fit our day rather than first century times, or . . .
(6). Assumptions are given which today’s speaker and audience can understand which may be acceptable, but our assumptions are not what the New Testament writer or speaker intended.

And THAT is the reason there are multiple divisions among believers today!

THE PERFECT PERFECTION!

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 08-19-2021

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

God is perfect because He has never sinned.  Man has been a sinner since Genesis 3, when his perfection was stripped away by his sin..  In fact John tells us, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:10).  If we are sinners, but we are to be “perfect, even as” the Father “is perfect,” how can we be like God nu fulfilling Matthew’s passage?

I have been acquainted with preachers who were hoping to find the perfect church that would employ them.  I’ve been preaching for 64 years and know of no one who has found such a congregation.  Some congregations want to hire the perfect preacher.  Jesus is not for hire, so his employment is out of the question.  The preacher pool may be crowded, but not with perfect individuals.  Preachers usually remind the membership that each one needs to be perfect.  However, the minister needs to practice his own exhortation since all of mankind fails to make that impossible dream into reality.  Paul confessed that he was a sinner.  Sadly, you and I are too, whether we confess it or not! 

If we have not been successful in discovering the correct interpretation of Matthew 5:48, we are in trouble.  If entrance into heaven depends upon our ability to remain sinless, then our interpretation dooms us all.  If “perfection” equals “sinlessness,” then only the boastful have succeeded, which isn’t much to brag about.  The only success that is achieved by such brags is failure which leads to weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).

The word “perfect” found twice in the passage is translated from the Greek word teleios.  That word is rendered as “complete, perfect, or full age.”  The meaning does not necessarily help in understanding what Jesus meant.  Is God complete?  Yes.  Is God perfect?  Yes.  Is God of full age?  What does that mean?  Does it even apply?  Is God old?  Only in human perception.  Is God grown and if so, what does that mean?  If one must be as complete as God is, is man’s completeness the same as God’s?  If “perfect” means without fault, can man reach that status equal with God?  The word teleios may fit God but seems too far removed for man’s ownership.

If, on the other hand, teleios is referring to what God does with us if we submit, then the meaning is closer.  God dwells in the believer.  God is holy, so that indwelling is beneficial to the one He dwells in.  The indwelt are not perfect by being capable of self-sinlessness, but perfect because God’s righteousness makes us a proper dwelling place for Him.  It is God’s perfection working in us.  Yahweh cleanses us with the blood of Jesus and we continue in that state due to God’s grace. If that is not the meaning inherent in the passage, then get ready to live with depression.  If you believe you are capable in living your life without committing sin, you will be guilty of swallowing the devil’s lie.  Self-deception is the singular reward.  Perfection is found in Jesus and only God adds people to that saved condition (Acts 2:40-47; 2 Corinthians 5:21). 

RESULTS OF DIFFERENCES

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, 08-16-2021

I had been a member of the church less than a month when a fellow my age was hired to work at the gas station where I did.  When I found out that he was a member, I was ecstatic.  That is, until he told me I was going to hell.  Why was that location my destiny?  Because we disagreed over a particular practice.   For me it was not that important.  For him it was a matter of where one would spend his eternity!  Disagreements over biblical teaching did not start in 1957.  That activity can be traced back to Genesis 3 when mankind made the wrong choice.

The Jews were the first in becoming Christians (Acts 2).  Gentiles were not thought worthy of hearing the Good News.  If a Gentile submitted to circumcision and followed the Law of Moses, he was accepted with some reservations.  Uncircumcised Gentiles were little more than dogs.  Social contact between Jew and Gentile was not observed with happiness.  For nine to eleven years after the Acts 2 beginning, uncircumcised Gentiles were not in the church’s evangelizing budget.

When the Holy Spirit led Peter to a Gentile Roman soldier’s house, his return to the church in Jerusalem resulted in a reception that was more a slap in the face than a pat on the back (Acts 10-11).  They demanded an explanation for his anti-Jewish actions.  Thankfully God was protecting his back which led to a change in the church’s attitude.  Sadly, that attitude was not eternal in acceptance.  As God added more uncircumcised Gentiles to the saved, zealous Christian Jews were offended because those Gentile converts were not following the Law of Moses.  Since neither Paul nor Barnabas would stand up for the truth and teach Gentiles to follow the Scriptures on that topic, it was their duty to expose and condemn that error.  They demanded that Gentile converts be circumcised if they wanted to be saved.  This resulted in “a different” gospel which neither Paul nor Barnabas agreed with (Galatians 1:6-9).  Scripture taught circumcision.  Yet Paul nor Barnabas required it of Gentiles.  That refusal eliminated Gentiles from salvation according to those Jewish believers.  This created a difference in Paul and Barnabas’ faith as opposed to what those Jewish believers had.  The Jewish pressure demanding circumcision created two different fellowships or churches.  The Gentile church believed they were saved without being circumcised.  The Jewish church believed the Gentile church was lost because they were not real Christians by refusing circumcision.  Paul and Barnabas were caught in the middle of this disagreement and decided to take this problem to Jerusalem.  Some Bible students fail to recognize how tragic and dangerous this difference was.

If we modernize that Acts 15 difference and applied it today, would we understand the seriousness which was faced by the church in the first century? 

1. What if several congregations pulled their membership out of their mother organization by disagreeing over the objectionable lifestyle allowed for some of their clergy?  Should the objectors be classified as pseudo-Christians until they accept that lifestyle as godly?  If you were one of the objectors, would you surrender your convictions because you were convinced that you were being ungodly for not accepting it as holy?

2. Jesus prayed for unity, but modern churches differ in organization, practice, and doctrine.  What if the one having the largest membership declared that it alone was the only godly church?  What if they announced that all who differed with this decision would be classified as non-Christian and be hell bound unless repentance was forthcoming?  What if the government made non-compliance unlawful?  Would you repent or rebel against that announcement? 

Disagreements did not start in 1957.  Neither did it stop.  Circumcision was a cutting problem which brought division to the first century church.  Differences among believers continue to cause the U.S. public to view the church as irrelevant.   Scripture offers the cure, but even it is seldom followed by those who claim to revere its contents.

DOES THE NON-EXISTENT CHURCH EXIST?

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 08-12-2021

Sometime Bible students will read into the scriptures the culture and practices that the reader is engaged in rather than what first century believers practiced.  This is especially true of those who read 1 Corinthians.  The following illustrates that practice.

The Corinthian church had multiple errors that troubled the house of Chloe.  Paul’s letter was correcting those false practices.  Today, 1 Corinthians is studied to guard against practicing their errors.  Despite their numerous doctrinal departures, no present-day student suggests that the Corinthian church was a pseudo church.  If a modern-day church was guilty of the same teaching and practices which that congregation was engaged in, would it be addressed as an apostate rather than a true New Testament assembly?  To fellowship a congregation like Corinth today would be anathema.  Those who would offer their fellowship would be designated as liberal rather than faithful. 

Today, Paul would be titled as “a liberal” for limiting withdrawal to only one member when the entire congregation should have been excommunicated.  The things which that church was openly practicing would have removed them from the pattern that would identify them as the Lord’s church.

Those who believed, taught, and practiced error continued to be in fellowship with God since Paul told them they were indwelt by God and were the “body of Christ” (12:27).  The proof of that indwelling was evident by members continuing to exercise the gift of prophesy, speaking foreign languages, interpreting, healing, and such (12:27-28).  The man who was sleeping with his father’s wife was sinful, but false doctrine and practices lead to hell just as quickly.  In today’s thinking, to withdraw fellowship from that man alone leaves Paul in fellowship with the sins of those he does not withdraw from.  If Paul was living today, his lack of action would identify him with those erroneous practices, and he would be charged with being soft on sin.

It seems strange that no one in the church of God at Corinth was being withdrawn from:

1. Because he questioned Paul’s apostleship or authority (1 Corinthians 9:1-2).

2. Because he supported division by belonging to one of the four manmade divisions (1:10-13).

3. Because he was carnal rather than spiritual (3:1, 3).

4. Because he had “the wisdom of men” rather than the “power of God” (2:5).

5. Because he made invalid claims (4:18-21).

6. Because he was proud that a member was sleeping with his father’s wife (5:1-2).

7. Because he was going to court against another member (6:1-2).

8. Because he was having marital problems (7:1-7).

9. Because he thought nothing of being a stumbling block to another member (8:7-13).

10. Because he did not mind being offensive to another (8:12-13).

11. Because he did not mind being offensive when prophesying or praying (10:31-33).

12. Because he did not mind allowing division to destroy the communion (11:17-22).

13. Because he was not doing the loving thing toward another member (11:21-23).

14. Because as a prophet, a language speaker, interpreter, or some women, were guilty of

 promoting confusion in the assembly with nothing being done to stop it (12:27-28; 14:1-39).

15. Because he with others did not believe that there was a resurrection of the dead (15:12).

16. Because he went along with and did not attempt to right the wrongs being practiced (only the house of Chloe seems to want apostolic correction) (1:11).

If a congregation existed today, identified as “the church of God,” but guilty of Corinth’s sins, would a preacher desire to be identified with them?  Would a God-fearing believer want to place membership with them?  Would gospel papers identify them as faithful and recommend them to others?  Would other preachers in town want to be identified with them?  If not, why did God and Paul continue their fellowship?

The Corinthian body of believers seem to be a contradiction rather than a copied example for today’s church.  To ask, “Why would God want to continue to indwell them?” might be the same question we should ask about the church we belong to!  How sinless must a congregation be, in order to experience the Father’s indwelling?  Most believers are looking for a congregation that is more perfect than the one they left.  When found, will that discovery cause God to stop indwelling those that are equal to Corinth?  Since God continued to indwell the Corinthian congregation, are those who leave, leaving God behind?

The Corinthian church can put today’s disciples in an inconsistent position if we ignore God’s lesson.  Sometimes we miss the point due to reading our culture and practices into the text.   

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