An Explosive View of the Atonement: Ransom and Aphesis

I wrote the following. It is at my other blog.

An Explosive View of the Atonement: Ransom and Aphesis | The Apostles vs. Calvinism: Rebooting the Foundations of the Faith

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Finding a Church and Obeying the Bible from a 21st-Century Perspective

This is not an exhaustive study. This is, however, packed with advice for the 21st century American who needs fellowship and knows it. It probably applies in other countries as well.

The Purpose of Church

This is covered more thoroughly in my “How to Find a Church.”

The purpose of gathering as an assembly of saints is to provoke one another to love and good works. If you gather with the saints, and you did not at least pray about exhorting your brothers and sisters, you have not obeyed the command to assemble in Hebrews 10:24-25. (Note: “Exhort” is a big and often-used word in the New Testament. See the definitions at I consider 1 Thessalonians 5:14 the best definition of “exhort,” parakaleo in Greek.)

This should carry over into our daily lives. Hebrews 3:13 says, “Exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘today,’ lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

This is the central purpose of the getting together with saints. Bible study, prayer, praise, sermons and other forms of teaching, and collecting money to help the poor and advance the Gospel are all good things to be done in a church gathering. The prime purpose, however, is exhorting–remembering the definition of “exhort” in 1 Thess. 5:14–to provoke to love and good works.

Disciple-Making Movements (DMM)

Churches, usually small ones, associated with DMMs are the only churches that I know that are guaranteed to be obeying Hebrews 10:24-25 when they gather. They may even be actively obeying Hebrews 3:13. This is because all DMMs, across the board, are trying to obey Matthew 28:18-20 and the things commanded there:

  • Go (even if it’s across the street or just to work with non-believers)
  • Make disciples
  • Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
  • Teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded

There are several ways to find out if there are DMM churches, disciple makers, or church planters near you. Many DMMs lost themselves at You can also search for Disciple Making Movements, multiplication movements, or Church Planting Movements near you. There is no official theology among those movements except that the Bible is to be obeyed rather than just used for knowledge. All that I have encountered, however, are heavily influenced by evangelical theology. Most have experienced miraculous support in their evangelism efforts, so no matter where they begin on the subject of the cessation of miraculous spiritual gifts, they now acknowledge them because they have experienced them.

Protestant Churches

Because Protestant churches are in a lineage from the Roman Catholic Church, they have a focus on the pastor, and the general membership does not obey Hebrews 10:24-25. Like their Roman Catholic mother, though, the Protestant churches do have members committed to spending time with God, reading the Bible, and obeying it. Many of those will be actively exhorting and serving others.

I never tell people to stop “going to church” on Sunday morning (or Sunday night or Wednesday night), even if they are going to a church meeting in which the members do not exhort or consider one another as the Bible commands. I simply tell them to find those members who are learning, obeying, and exhorting others and grow in Christ with them (2 Tim. 2:22).

The passage I like to quote for this is:

Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Tim. 2:22)

Again, I never tell people to stop going to church meetings just because members are not free to exhort nor to provoke to love and good works. I tell them to find the individuals in those churches who are doing so and join themselves to them.

Liturgy and Sacraments

If liturgy helps you worship God, do it. It does not do much for me.

By definition, all gathering for worship is “liturgy.” but no one uses the word that way. Instead, “liturgy,” as used by the average Christian, means doing what the Episcopalians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox churches do. They have readings, responses, prayers, confessions, and even teachings that are repeated each week. Lots of people like to worship God this way, and some find deep contemplation and communion with God in it. God bless them.

If you want more on liturgy and sacraments. You will have to read someone else’s articles. I do know that the early Christians had tremendous regard for the Lord’s Supper, and they did generally refer to it as the “Eucharist,” (which means “thanksgiving meal”). Most Protestants prefer to call it communion (which means “fellowship meal”), and both are used in Scripture.

One of the earliest Christian bishops (literally “overseer”), Ignatius of Antioch, called the Eucharist “the medicine of immortality and the antidote to prevent us from dying, which causes us to live in Christ Jesus” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Ephesians, ch. 20). I like to point out that if eating the bread and drinking the wine of the Lord’s Supper unworthily can make us sick or even kill us, then it cannot possibly be a merely symbolic thing.

You’ll have to work out how to commune with the saints around you regularly. I do not believe the Eucharist requires the consecration of a “priest” except insofar as we are all priests. A priesthood consisting of clergy is not just unscriptural, it is anti-scriptural. We cannot add a priesthood to the one High Priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 7) and the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet. 2), no matter how “sacred” they may seem. Can you imagine the apostles in a bishop’s robe and mitre?!

“High” Protestant Churches

Churches like the Anglicans, Episcopalians, and others that have preserved at least some form of liturgy are called “high” churches … at least by Craig Allert in his book A High View of Scripture?, published by BakerAcademic. I had never heard the term before reading his book.

Honestly, if you want the “sacred” feeling of a Roman Catholic or Orthodox church, you might try the Anglicans. If you have read many of my articles, you know that I spend a lot of time trying to correct evangelical and Calvinist traditions. The Anglicans are influenced by the Calvinists through John Knox and others, but those of us who have read the early church fathers find Anglican theology much more bearable than typical evangelical theology. (My experience with those who have read the early church fathers is mostly through the “Patristics for Protestants” Facebook group, which has more than two thousand members.) These “high” churches avoid some of the more controversial practices such as bowing before statues or icons.

Roman Catholic Church (RCC)

I disagree with the Roman Catholic Church on a lot of things. I wrote a book, Rome’s Audacious Claim, disproving many historical claims made by the RCC. I think it is crazy to direct prayers to dead humans, no matter how holy they lived, when we have confident access by faith to the throne room of God (Heb. 4:16), who knows everything we need and answers far beyond our ability to ask or think (Eph. 3:20). Nonetheless, I have met plenty of Roman Catholics that I am sure are saved.

Because of reading the early church fathers and talking about them with others, I have met a lot of people, both in person and online, who feel they need to join the Roman Catholic Church in order to maintain the unity of the whole Church on earth. I understand that sentiment.

I do, however, want to point out that I use the term “Roman Catholic Church” because they are definitely not “the Catholic Church.” The Catholic Church split into chunks in the fourth century. The churches in the Roman Empire plus European barbarians were one section. The churches of the Persian Empire were another. The churches of Iran/Iraq split from the rest of the Roman Empire at the Council of Ephesus (AD 432), and the churches of Egypt split at the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451). Finally, the churches led by Rome in the West split from the churches led by patriarchs in the Byzantine Empire in the 11th century. By then, the “Roman Catholic Church” and its clergy were unrecognizable as a Church or as Christians. (See both Rome’s Audacious Claim, ch. 27, and Horace Mann’s Lives of the Popes, the volumes on the 10th and 11th centuries, a set of books ordered by a pope and written by a Roman Catholic.)

No matter how much we hate the idea, there is no way to return to “The Church” in any real way unless we all obey Paul’s command to “make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).

Orthodox Churches

I have a friend who read a history of Eastern Christianity and seems to have remembered it all. I cannot, but I do know that there are several “Orthodox” churches. The churches of the Eastern Empire, led primarily by the bishops (also “patriarchs”) of Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople, split from the Roman Catholics in the 11th century, as said above. East of the old Byzantine Empire are the Assyrian Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, the St. Thomas Orthodox, and at least a couple others. There are also the Coptic Orthodox in Egypt.

The Orthodox churches have done a much better job of preserving the theology of the early church fathers than the Roman Catholics have. Nonetheless, they have all the pomp and circumstance of Roman clergy or even more.

That said, once again, I never tell anyone to quit going to any Sunday morning meeting unless they are being taught that obeying Jesus is optional. The Orthodox do not teach that obeying Jesus is optional. You will need to find ways outside Sunday morning to obey the Bible and exhort your brothers and sisters and provoke them to love and good works. You will have to find saints apart from Sunday morning so that you can “flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22).

Obeying the Bible in the 21st Century

As said, I never tell anyone to stop attending their Sunday morning church meeting unless that church is teaching you that obeying Jesus is optional. Obeying Jesus is not optional, and there are so many Scriptures saying so that I can’t reference them all. Let’s just use “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).

The will of the Father is that when the church assembles, the saints consider one another so they can provoke to love and good works and exhort one another. “Exhorting” includes warning, encouraging, comforting, and helping (1 Thess. 5:14).

Imagine how different the world would be if the 2 billion professing Christians on this earth were all to take up obeying Jesus, provoking one another to love and good works, exhorting one another (which includes encouraging, comforting, and helping one another), and loving the Lord our God with all our strength, soul, mind, and heart.

Posted in Bible, Church | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Gospel Contradictions vs. the Power of the Gospel

My wife told me, “Anyone who says there are no contradictions in the Bible has never read a harmony of the Gospels.” I agree, but this is my testimony.
For four months before becoming a Christian, I was arguing almost daily at work with Sgt. Roger Thomas, my supervisor, but also an assistant pastor at a local Church of God in Christ. He was outspoken and filled with joy. Though I was arguing with him, had recently become an atheist, and thought Christianity was oppressive, I had great honor and respect for Roger and his joy. I would regularly argue him into a corner, and then he would laugh and say, “You’ll make a great Christian one day, Paul. I love your smile.”
I had seen a book once on contradictions in the Bible, and I wanted to find it so I could show Roger the contradictions. I couldn’t find it at the local library, so I decided I would write one myself. I got myself a Bible, and I started with the Gospels. It wasn’t very long before I lost track of looking for contradictions. I was marveling at Jesus. He certainly didn’t seem “sweet,” like everyone said he was. He was amazing, awe-inspiring, majestic, yet humble. He was kind, but he was sharp with those who opposed and frustrated with those who lacked faith.
I was not surprised, then, that the apostles believed he was the Son of God even after having a chance to find fault with him for 3 years. I was, however, overcome by the very idea. I might be able to convince a person or two that I was the sinless Son of God for three minutes. Maybe even three hours, but surely not for three days. Jesus got 11 men who lived with him and followed him around for three years to risk their lives for the proclamation that he was God’s Son.
It was not long until someone else I was arguing with got past all my arguments by asking one question. “None of that matters,” he said, “the only question is whether Jesus is the Son of God.”
I realized with a bit of horror that I did believe he was the Son of God. Jesus did not teach the same things I did. He did not live the way I did. Admitting he was the Son of God would mean significant changes in my life, but I had to be honest.
I said, “yes,” and the whole world changed. I was flooded with joy. Light was brighter, green was greener, life was filled with hope.
I asked God, quietly and inwardly, “What did you do to me? What is this?” He said, “I just baptized you in my Holy Spirit.”
I never got to the contradictions. I only found those after reading and re-reading the Gospels quite a few times. I still don’t care about them. I still care only that Jesus is the Son of God, and I have never regretted those changes I had to make, the many that the Spirit of God required of me after those first few changes, the troubles that come with obeying the Spirit of God, and of course I have never regretted the innumerable blessings and the fellowship with heaven that come from knowing Jesus.
I recommend to anyone that you go find those Gospel contradictions. You can find them better with a harmony of the Gospels, but if you want to keep your life, enjoy the world, and perish, you might want to find other reading. The Gospels will take your life, put you on a course against the pleasures of your body, and grant you a down payment, an escrow, on eternal life, the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Posted in Bible, Testimonies | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Transformation: The Holy Spirit, the Light, and the Renewing of Our Minds

I posted this at my new blog, The Apostles vs. Calvinism. It is an email I sent to an inquirer. It fired me up; I pray it does the same for you.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Christian Cowardice

Have you ever backed down to a wicked man, or simply given way to carnal people because you were sure they would not accept your spiritual advice? Some of you would never do that. Good for you. I have, and fear of bold men is one of the worst temptations I face.

1 Chronicles 27 is just one more passage that lets us know how bad it is to give in to the wicked.

We are not surprised to read that there was no one like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the Lord’s sight. 1 Chronicles 27:25 adds, “whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.”

Verse 27 tells us, though, that when a prophet spoke to him, he repented in sackcloth and fasted. God even regarded his repentance (v. 29). This probably explains why God helped Ahab defeat the Arameans twice. Apparently, Ahab feared the Lord, but he feared Jezebel more.

His soft heart and his cowardice are revealed in the story of Naboth’s vineyard as well. Naboth was able to stand up to the king, and the king simply mourned and wept over it. Ahab probably knew, too, how important it was to God that each Israelite keep the land of his ancestors. But when Jezebel, who was not a coward, had Naboth killed, Ahab jumped up to take possession of the vineyard.

Cowardice leads to wickedness. It is as much, or more, to be overthrown as any other sin in our life. As with any other sin, the answer is to get closer to God and begin ferociously obeying, strengthening yourself after every failure with repentance, tears, and a renewed commitment in the Holy Spirit. All cowards have their place in the lake of fire, the second death (Rev. 21:8), but God has given us a Spirit of power, love, and a healthy mind so we can overcome fear (2 Pet. 1:7).

For those of you that are like me, prone to cowardice, this is probably a dreadful post, but we have to face our weakness. We cannot continue in it. I can give you this encouragement from the Lord, found in Isaiah 51:12-16:

I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you, that you are afraid of man who shall die,
and of the son of man who will be made as grass?
Have you forgotten Yahweh your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens,
and laid the foundations of the earth?
Do you live in fear continually all day because of the fury of the oppressor,
when he prepares to destroy?
Where is the fury of the oppressor?
The captive exile will speedily be freed.
He will not die and go down into the pit.
His bread won’t fail.
For I am Yahweh your God, who stirs up the sea
so that its waves roar.
Yahweh of Armies is his name.
I have put my words in your mouth
and have covered you in the shadow of my hand,
that I may plant the heavens,
and lay the foundations of the earth,
and tell Zion, ‘You are my people.’”

Posted in Holiness, Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Divorce and Remarriage: Taking a Stance Against the Anabaptists

DISCLAIMER: A commenter accurately pointed out that this is too broad a sweep. It may be too harsh, too, but not for the people I am speaking of. My experience with the anti-remarriage crowd may only be the most outspoken of them. Though I have found them mostly to be Pharisees, I may be judging only a small portion. The following is written to the harsh ones I have experience with, and if you have experienced their condemnation too, I hope this will help deliver you.

I wrote the following on Facebook:

If, as many are saying, God will not forgive those who have divorced and remarried and allow them to repent and go forward still married, I would rather to go to hell with my godly divorced and remarried brothers and sisters than endure the hell of fellowshipping with those who are obsessed with condemning them. I say this from 28 years of experience with such people.

I did not offer an explanation on Facebook, but I will offer one here.

In Cookeville, TN, there was once an amazing little horse-and-buggy community consisting of mostly people from an Anabaptist background (Amish, Mennonite, German Baptist Brethren, Hutterite, etc.). We loved to visit there. The fellowship we experienced in the various homes was refreshing. so much so that we thought about moving there.

I asked their leader about fellowship outside the community if I lived there. Would I be able to share the Lord’s table with Christians in Cookeville who lived righteously, but also wore belts and tapered their hair. He said no, and I told him that’s too divisive for me. We still visited regularly. We were served meals in their homes, even the leader’s, and I was included a couple times in discussions about church history with all their leaders.

I loved them, but we could not participate in their divisiveness over their community’s particular standards. The most divisive issue they held, which they rarely had to deal with because everyone knew they held to it, was that every divorced and married person whose first spouse is still living is an adulterer.

That doctrine, held by Anabaptists since the time of the Reformation, has a fairly large following among Protestants today, many of whom got this doctrine from the Anabaptists. The Anabaptist are stringent about the doctrines, but are generally polite and peaceable in nature. Those outside the Anabaptist communities who have adopted this doctrine are not so. They hold this anti-remarriage position with ferocity and devote much of their “ministry” to promoting it.

To be fair, the Roman Catholics–and, I suppose, most Reformation Protestants–would have agreed with them in the 16th century.

The reason is that Europe had been under Roman Catholic control for centuries. While the clergy were corrupt in many ways from top to bottom, the Church itself would not authorize divorce or remarriage. The most famous incident, of course, was King Henry the VIII’s remarriage that led to the creation of the Church of England. 

Before the Roman Catholic Church, however, Roman emperors and the Senate were in charge of southern Europe and Barbarians controlled northern Europe. Divorce was so common in the Roman Empire at that time that a Carthaginian lawyer once said that Roman women longed for divorce like it was the natural consequence of marriage (Tertullian, Apology 6).

If Romans divorced often, then those who heard the Gospel must also often have been divorced and remarried. Despite this, after reading thousands of pages of early Christian writings from around AD 90 through AD 250, there is no record of any Roman convert being told they had to separate from a spouse because they were in a second marriage. There is a record, in Hippolyptus’ Apostolic Tradition, of converts being told to get rid of their concubines in order be baptized, but nothing about splitting up a remarriage.

I, and probably you as well, have met dozens of Christians, divorced and remarried because of diverse circumstances, who love the Lord and have influenced others to follow Jesus. There is no denying that they have the Holy Spirit. I have experienced the unity of the Spirit with them that we are commanded to make every effort to preserve (Eph. 4:3).

It may seem logical, from things written in the New Testament, to condemn their remarriage, but the letter kills and the Spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:6). We are spiritual and life-giving people. Those who adhere to the letter can go on condemning and spiritually killing, but we who are spiritual must bring life.

Posted in Bible, Early Christianity, Gospel, Modern Doctrines, Unity | Tagged , , | 6 Comments


Thank you to all of you for following me, some of you for many years. From now on, I will also be blogging at The new blog will primarily be focused on issues related to my new book (not yet released), Rebuilding the Foundations.

I have written on those subjects on this blog in the past and often. I feel like God has helped me understand the militant resistance I have faced over the years as I have simply recited exactly what the Bible says about the judgment and works.

Evangelicals resist the plain teaching of the Bible on the judgment and works because they have been infected with the idea that our loving God is actually a cruel and wicked God who would torment a human eternally for even one sin. This is a treasured Calvinist [false] teaching. The information age is making that outrageous teaching look so ridiculous that its supporters are abandoning it like the capsized ship it is. Nonetheless, its effects remain in false ideas about the purpose of the atonement and the way Christians should live their lives.

My hope is to reach even more people because of the blog name. I will even be using SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to make the search engines want to carry the new blog. If you subscribe to the new blog, you will not receive more emails than you already do. I am one person, and I will continue writing about as many blogs as I always have. They will just be spread over the two sites, with this site still focusing somewhat on church history and historical Christianity, but covering all my typical random subjects as well.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 13 Comments

Why Is Jesus Knocking at the Door?

I have been seeing this meme around Facebook:

Christians have three false ideas that cause unbelievers to slander Jesus like this:

  1. Works have nothing to do with salvation.
  2. It is not about good and evil, but accepting Jesus.
  3. It is not about dos and don’ts, but accepting Jesus.

In the Bible context, Jesus is knocking on the door of the Laodicean church, which foolishly thinks they are doing just fine without him. What he promises if they let him in is a chance to sit on his throne with him in his everlasting kingdom (Rev 3:14-22).

The meme, though, is not completely wrong. The wrath of God is going to come on the sons of disobedience not because they won’t let Jesus in, but because they are sexually immoral, impure, and greedy (Eph. 5:5-7). So the correct answer to “Save me from what?” is “Save you from what God is going to do to you because you are evil. You don’t seem to have the power to free yourself from these things you’re doing that are harmful to society in general, to the people you know, and to yourself. I am offering to provide you the power, but if you want to just press on without me, you may find God is also mad at you for ignoring the Savior he sent to rescue from your slavery to doing what is evil.”

Salvation is all about works, brothers and sisters. Jesus wants to make us new creatures, created in himself to do good works (Eph. 2:10). He died so we could be redeemed from all unrighteousness and become zealous for good works (Tit. 2:14). It is true that in God’s great mercy, no works are required to become part of this amazing cleansing and transforming machine that is the grace of God, powered by the Spirit of God living in us, but once we are inside, the whole purpose is to transform us into doers of good works that will glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).

This is why the New Testament is full of dos and don’ts. “Turn from evil, and do good,” Peter writes in his first epistle (3:11). If you’re not keeping commandments, John writes, you don’t know God (1 Jn. 2:3-4). Sinner, Jesus is knocking on your door because you are a goat, turning people away that he wants you to help. He is knocking on your door to make you a sheep, empowered by his Spirit to help those in need and to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Pet. 1:3-4). He is knocking at your door because he doesn’t want you to find out on the last day, at the final judgment, that you are about to be destroyed because you chose evil over good.

Posted in Evangelicals, Gospel, Modern Doctrines | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Gems in 1 Chronicles: Leaders in the Kingdom of God

There are some gems among all those lists in 1 Chronicles. Today I read that “A larger number of leaders were found among Eleazar’s descendants than among Ithamar’s” (1 Chr. 24:4).

“Leaders?” I thought. “What marks any of those descendants as a leader?”

The writer answers, “… sixteen heads of families from Eleazar’s descendants and eight heads of families from Ithamar’s descendants.”

So a leader is simply the head of a family. I’m sure some of those were grandfathers rather than fathers but, brothers, have you ever considered that as the head of your family, you are therefore a leader in God’s kingdom?

These men did not just lead their families. They became “officials of the sanctuary and officials of God.”Yes, these were Levites, so they had a special service, but the “leaders” of the other tribes had roles, too, as warriors, builders, and farmers, pulling together to feed, defend, and establish the entire nation.

Brothers, our American churches are infamous for division and infamous for being just like the world. More than one book has been written to statistically prove what we all know, the non-Christians around us are not impressed by American Christianity. One of the biggest problems, if I may use a sports analogy, is that spectators have nothing to do but argue about the manager’s decisions and the players’ performances. Spectators get no training, and nothing they say is put to the test. The skill of the players and the wisdom of the coaches is put to the test everyday. The results are out there for everyone to see. Because of this, they devote time even outside the game to prepare, to train, to hone their skills and study their opponents.

It’s time, brothers, for us to rise up, realize we are leaders–players and managers, not spectators–and fight for our kingdom. Learn your calling, study the opposition, for “we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor. 2:11).

“For by this time you ought to be teachers …” Heb. 5:12

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Twelve Apostles and “Apostolic Men”

I wrote this in an answer on Quora, but I think most of my friends would enjoy knowing the following:

(The question was whether Barnabas, companion of Paul, was one of the 12 apostles.)

Paul himself was not one of the 12 apostles. You can read in Acts 1 that they replaced Judas with Matthias. Paul was converted until Acts 9. The 12 and Paul were certainly the most important of the apostles, but there were more than the 12. Tertullian, a Carthaginian lawyer writing between AD 190 and 215, mentions “apostolic men” as well as apostles:

But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of APOSTOLIC MEN,—a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. (Prescription Against Heretics, ch. 32)

About those “apostolic men”—which would include the 70 that Jesus sent out in Luke 10 and men like Timothy and Silas who traveled with Paul and, as you pointed out, Barnabas—Tertullian would write, “As the apostles would never have taught things which were self-contradictory, so the apostolic men would not have inculcated teaching different from the apostles” (same reference).

I use Tertullian, but having read the church fathers up through about AD 250 and the writings that had to do with the Council of Nicea in AD 325, I can tell you that this honoring of the apostles AND their companions was normal. We have a New Testament because the churches did their best to gather up all the writings of the apostles and their companions.

In fact, an earlier writer with much more authority, having been a disciple of that Polycarp that Tertullian mentioned, who was appointed by John, said that it is the apostles who were inspired. The teaching and writing of their companions were considered inspired because, as companions, they had the approval of the apostles themselves. The earlier writer is named Irenaeus, and he wrote:

For it is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed “perfect knowledge,” as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles. For, after our Lord rose from the dead, [the apostles] were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down [upon them], were filled from all [His gifts], and had perfect knowledge: they departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of the good things [sent] from God to us, and proclaiming the peace of heaven to men, who indeed do all equally and individually possess the Gospel of God. Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. (Against Heresies, III:1:1)

By “perfect knowledge,” he is saying the apostles were inspired. In that same link he says, “We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.” Basically, if the apostles said it, it was inspired.

So, the 12 apostles were important, but so were Paul, Barnabas, and the companions of all of them. Our New Testament Scriptures are Scripture because the churches of the first few centuries were convince that apostles or companions of the apostles, “apostolic men,” wrote them.

Posted in Early Christianity, History | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment