More “Coincidences” (God-incidents)

This story reminds me that I used to have a better understanding of “the burden of the Lord” than I do now. I really need to beef up my prayer life, and I am giving strong effort to do so. As the Scripture says, “The Lord is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6).

This happened a long time ago, in 1985 or 1986. My sister wrote me about here son “Jo-Jo.” She and her husband had been moved to an air base near Washington, D.C. so he could be treated at Bethesda Hospital. I was stationed in Germany at the time, and I did not know about his eye infection, nor even that my sister had moved.

The letter I received told me that my nephew had had a persistent eye infection for over a year. He was now blind in that eye, and the infection had spread to his other eye. He was losing vision in that eye, too.

The day I received that letter, I brought it to a couple with whom I was close friends. We prayed for about 45 minutes over that one problem. As I prayed, I could feel “the burden” lifting. Towards the end of that prayer time, I felt lighter, but that last little bit of “burden” just would not go away.

Two weeks later, I got another letter. In those days, it took a week for mail from the U.S. to get through the military postal system to me. So the letter I got had been sent one week after our prayer. It said that Jo-Jo’s sight had returned, and the infection was almost gone. The doctors expected the rest of it to go away.

I don’t want to take anything away from the doctors, who must have found a way to treat the infection. I also do not want to take anything away from God. Not only did this happen right after our prayer, even though it had been going on for over a year, but after praying, I had that feeling that we were not quite there. I am convinced that God let a little bit of the infection remain to help our faith there in Germany. My nephew did get all the way better.

If any of you want to share a story of yours in the comments, feel free.

One interesting thing was that after I was in a back and forth with atheists on EVCforum.net years ago, one of the atheists told one of those “amazing coincidence” story. There was no reason to attribute this to God, but it was amazing. Apparently his grandfather had a favorite clock that sat on his mantle all his life. Yeah, you guessed it. When his grandfather died, the clock stopped working, forever displaying the time of its owner’s death.

Not all amazing coincidences are Christian events. God makes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust. Again, I would love to hear your stories in the comments.

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Faultless Before His Throne

A friend of mine from England commented on a recent post. He feels condemned a lot when I write. If you do too, I can’t write things that are less convicting, but I can share how I deal with conviction. (I wrote this in a comment, so this is a repeat.)

Here is what I believe, Jon. I believe that he who has begun a good work in me will continue it until the day of King Jesus (Php. 1:6). I believe that Jesus will confirm me to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:8). I believe that my Father is able to keep me from falling and to present me faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy (Jude 1:24).

Back when I was giving in to my pornography addiction, I was pretty sure I was going to hell. I’m not doing that anymore, thank God.

I believe everything I wrote in my post because it is what the Bible says. I believe everything I just wrote because it is what the Bible says. God has a vested interest in making sure I live up to the things he shows me. He has a vested interest in you living up to the things he shows you.

Thus, I expect when he convicts—or even frightens me—I expect it to be impossible for me not to succeed in going forward. God does not convict to condemn. He desires the repentance of everyone (2 Pet. 3:9). He takes no delight in the death of the wicked, but that they should come to repentance (Ezek. 18:23).

By the saving power of Jesus Christ, I am zealous for good works (Tit. 2:11-14). Thus, when he convicts me of something, it is good news. He is going to help me get closer to him. That is especially true in this case because repentance means spending more time with him. Time with him is the best of the best of good works, though it’s probably not accurate to call it a good work.

So, yes, I think what I wrote is good news.

I read about a preacher a long time ago who said, “I will preach the truth even if the truth condemns me.” I do not know what it is like in England, though I have heard it is better than the U.S. Here, a true biblical standard is in desperate need of being set. My posts—and the Bible—set an impossible standard, but that is biblical. Meeting that standard is supernatural.

One of my favorite early Christian writings is Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho. In it, Trypho (the Jew) says he loves the precepts that are in the Gospel, but he doubts that anyone can keep them. Christianity is a miraculous religion. It depends on, not just amazing grace, but miraculous grace. It also depends on abundant mercy, for none of us live up to it perfectly. What I described in this post is what I am going to fight for, confident in Christ that I am going to succeed, for as long as it takes. I will get closer and closer to God, turn my riches over to God more than I have, cast my cares on him more, and leave the pleasures of this world further behind. I am less touched by those things today, and I will be even less touched by them tomorrow. Next week, I will need to read Luke 8 again and refire my desire to please him, and I will advance even further.

A friend shared this from Clement of Alexandria recently. It is from The Instructor, written about AD 190 or 200. It says:

Now, O you, my children, our Instructor is like His Father God, whose son He is, sinless, blameless, and with a soul devoid of passion; God in the form of man, stainless, the minister of His Father’s will, the Word who is God, who is in the Father, who is at the Father’s right hand, and with the form of God is God. He is to us a spotless image; to Him we are to try with all our might to assimilate our souls. He is wholly free from human passions; wherefore also He alone is judge, because He alone is sinless. As far, however, as we can, let us try to sin as little as possible. For nothing is so urgent in the first place as deliverance from passions and disorders, and then the checking of our liability to fall into sins that have become habitual. It is best, therefore, not to sin at all in any way, which we assert to be the prerogative of God alone; next to keep clear of voluntary transgressions, which is characteristic of the wise man; thirdly, not to fall into many involuntary offenses, which is peculiar to those who have been excellently trained. Not to continue long in sins, let that be ranked last. But this also is salutary to those who are called back to repentance, to renew the contest. (Bk. II, ch. 1).

That is how I look at following Christ. Even if I did not look at it that way, I would still write what I write because that is what the Bible says. I sin, but I nonetheless am a captive of Christ. I cannot but do what he has called me to do. My heart burns at his word, and like Jeremiah, if I am silent, it burns in my bones. I will write these things even if they condemn me, but I know that in the end they will not because he has promised to present me faultless before his throne.

He promised you that, too.

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The Parable of the Sower and the American Christian

I read Luke chapter 8 today, and it was so rich and full that it felt like 560 verses rather than 56. I was astonished. It was like I had never paid enough attention to it before. Today, I think I could expound on the chapter for hours, covering subject after subject, talking about the promises of God, the requirements of God, the amazing love of Jesus, and even a defense against an atheist argument I have heard.

On this blog, though, I just want to cover the Parable of the Sower. In fact, I only want to cover one of the four types of ground upon which the seed was sown.

That which fell among the thorns, these are those who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. (Luke 8:14, WEB)

Do you find yourself too busy to read the Scriptures? Is it hard to find any time for prayer? Then this is you.

I have had times where my time with God competed with work, financial worries, my children, my house, and various others who needed me. At those times, I was the seed being choked out by the care of this world, riches, and the pleasures of life.

I think this is a common American malady.

Yikes.

Jesus said it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This is why.

  • Cares
  • Riches
  • Pleasures of this life

For how many of you is this a scary list? These things have you in a choke hold, and you don’t see it. You think it is the normal Christian life. It is not. We have to free ourselves.

As I’m reading through Luke, I saw the way Jesus dealt with the overwhelming need around him. He withdrew to pray. Before important events, he spent entire nights in prayer.

Can we escape with less?

“Now she who is a widow indeed, and desolate, has her hope set on God, and continues in petitions and prayers night and day, but she who gives herself to pleasure is dead while she lives” (1 Tim. 5:5-6, WEB). Does that standard seem high, or even harsh? Maybe that is because we have not set a high enough standard for ourselves.

Seed that falls in good ground produces fruit, thirtyfold at a minimum. Are you producing fruit? Am I?

Those who are good ground “having heard the word, hold it tightly,” and they “produce fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15, WEB).

Getting out from under cares, riches, and the pleasures of life requires holding tightly to our time with God, and producing fruit requires perseverance. “For you need endurance so that, having done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Heb. 10:36, WEB).

Fight your way out of the thorns and briars, brother … sister … You have need of endurance! Hold tightly to the seed, the implanted Word of God, which is able to save your souls, so that you may receive the promise (cf. Jas. 1:21).

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Coincidences or God Incidences?

“Answers with Joe” is a YouTube series that I occasionally run across. As a science lover, I enjoy them. Yesterday, though, I saw Joe Smith trying to explain some amazing coincidences. He appealed to the same thing that Richard Dawkins does: when there are seven billion people on the planet, some billion-to-one coincidences are going to happen.

Joe’s effort to explain this, though, tanks on the very numbers he appeals to.

Joe gives 10 amazing coincidences, then explains the math on just one of them. Before he does this, he relates a common example: a person dreaming about a loved one, and then the loved one dies the next day. Because dreaming about loved ones is common, and because it is not rare that people die, it is almost inevitable that this occurs regularly. That’s a legitimate argument that an atheist can make, sure.

The problem is that although Joe then gives 10 amazing coincidences, he only does the math on only one of them. The story he does math on is the story of an American lady who was visiting France and saw a book in a bookstore that she had loved as a child. She decided to buy it, and when she took it home, it had a note in it. It turns out the book was the very one she had read as a child. Because of the circumstances involved, Joe computes the chances of this happening as 3,331 to 1.

I am sure that Joe would admit that calculation is not very accurate, but I agree with his point. It is very unlikely, but not impossible, that an American’s childhood book would make it across the sea to France, where she would find it in an English-language bookstore. There are only so many of those in France. Also, to help the odds, her childhood book was part of an estate that was sold, and so the book could have gone anywhere at that time.

On the other hand, one he did not explain was the story of Laura Buxton. Laura was a little girl who let a helium balloon loose with a note on it, a “letter in a bottle” kind of thing. She was living in Staffordshire, England, and the balloon traveled 140 miles to land in the yard of another 10-year-old girl, also named Laura Buxton. They met, arrived in similar clothes, and found out that they both had the same pets: a grey rabbit, a black labrador, and a guinea pig. This happened in 2001 when the population of England was 49.5 million.

According to The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, there are 6,822 Buxtons in England. So the odds of the balloon reaching a Buxton was 1 in 7,256. Laura is not in the top 100 British girl names, so let’s say 1 in 500 girls in the UK are named Laura and multiply that 7,256 by 500 to get 3,628,000.

Now we have to calculate the odds that both girls were ten years old. Snopes and other sources point out that one child was 9, though they were only a few months apart in age, so let’s say the average age a UK woman lives is 70. The odds, then, that our two Laura Baxtons would be 9 or 10 is 1 in 35. Our odds are now 1 in 126,980,000.

Let’s ignore the fact that they were the same height, wore the same hair style, and each showed up wearing jeans and a pink jumper sporting their pet guinea pigs with similar markings. Let’s just add in the odds of both having a grey rabbit, black ladrador, and similar guinea pigs as their three pets! I am going to argue that is no less than a 1 in 100,000 chance, which assumes there are 495 people with that exact combination of pets. That is very generous. Adding five zeroes to our odds, we are now at 1 in 12,698,000,000,000. So with generous numbers and ignoring a few factors, we are at 1 in 12 trillion, over 1,000 times the population of the world.

I do have to point out that the true story is that a neighbor of the second Laura Baxter found the balloon, thought it was his neighbor’s, and he gave it too her. If we include Laura Baxter’s neighbors, the numbers are smaller, but not 1,000 times smaller. And remember, I left some things out.

No, Joe and Richard, we cannot explain away everything that happens by crunching numbers.

To make this post more worthwhile, let me summarize the story I saw on Youtube right after Joe’s failed mathematical defense of his disbelief. You may enjoy watching the video, though.

A man who had been raised by his mom only (possibly a stepfather) longed to know his dad. He knew only his dad’s name, Larry Lambert. Once he got married, his wife saw that he was obsessed with finding his dad. She told him he should start looking, but he had no idea how, so they prayed. That Sunday, a lady named Mary was late to church because she could not find her Bible. She grabbed her old one, the one with her maiden name on it. You guessed it, that week, she decided to sit in a different seat than she normally did, and it happened to be right in front of the man. Her maiden name was Mary Lambert, and her dad’s name was Larry Lambert. Better yet, he had the “Lambert nose,” and his dad was thrilled to find him.

Go ahead and run the numbers. Keep running them over and over and over as odd coincidences and answers to prayer pile up. I prefer to just enjoy the life of Jesus and the answers to prayer that come on an ongoing basis.

One last note. I had a discussion about this very topic on an evolution vs. creation forum a long time ago, 15 years or so. I started giving them stories. The comments slowly changed from “that was chance” to “spontaneous remission happens all the time” to “I think you’re lying.”

The “all coincidences can be explained by probability” argument just does not work, Mr. Scott and Mr. Dawkins.

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The Early Church Fathers, the Law of Moses, and the Road to Emmaus

This is from an email I sent:

The reason I like the early church fathers is because they provide insight into some important interpretations of Scripture, especially in regard to the Old Testament. One teaching that is completely lost to us is throughout the early church fathers. It is in regard to the Law, to sacrifices, and to the Sabbath. It appears to me, though, that all leaders of the early churches knew about it. Jesus literally brought the Law to fullness (i.e., extended, completed it), as he said in Matthew 5:17. Thus, the Sabbath, which was a physical rest practiced weekly, became a spiritual rest practiced continually. We enter into that rest in Christ, as Hebrews 4 teaches, and that rest is perpetual, not dependent an a day.

I can argue that doctrine based on Scripture, but I learned it from the fathers. I also learned about the “second law” from the fathers. While sacrifices existed before Aaran made the golden calf, they were not mandatory or part of the Law until after the golden calf. Moses had to return to the mountain to get this second law. This explains Jeremiah 7:21-23, which is mysterious to us who rely only on the Scriptures. There God denies ever commanding the Israelites to offer sacrifices!! There are a couple other verses like the one in Jeremiah, but I don’t know them off the top of my head.

The early church fathers had a different perspective on the Scriptures and a better understanding of the prophecies of Christ than we do. This is simply true. Wouldn’t you want to know what Jesus said to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? I think the early churches did know because Jesus taught those same things to the apostles over the 40 days before he ascended into heaven. The apostles taught those things to the churches, and we would benefit greatly by learning those things ourselves.

This does not turn the fathers into Scripture, but it does make them better commentators on Scripture than just about anyone around today. There are things we have lost over the last 2,000 years. It would be great to get them back. Some of them are seen in the united churches of the second and third centuries, and some even lasted a few centuries into the apostasy.

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How Do We Prepare for the Judgment?

If we are judged by our works, and if sinless perfection is not the standard, what is? That question is reserved for the Judge of All, but he gives us descriptions that we need to take into account. My next task after Rome’s Audacious Claim is to write a book on this subject, which is worthy of a book. It is mostly written, but in very rough draft form. Here is one of my attempts to gather together Scripture in one place. Feedback welcome.

Paul Pavao So I have already made it clear that I am not talking about perfect obedience. One huge evangelical heresy is that God requires perfection at the judgment. That is based on one verse in James that is not talking about the judgment. Look at the judgment passages in Ezek. 18:20-30 and Matt. 25:31-46. We have to be forgiven regularly, 1 Jn. 1:8-9.

The “line” is not clear, which is why we are commanded to be in fear because of the judgment (1 Pet. 1:17). It is rare that anyone cares to hear that from me, but it is a command, and it is in the Bible. I can give an idea of how to be on the right side of that line.

1 John 1:7 says that if we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from every sin. Thus, John has set a standard for us to follow: walk in the light. Paul gives a description of that in Ephesians 5.

1 John 3:7 is even more important: “Little children, let no one deceive you, the one that is living righteously is righteous as he is righteous.” The righteousness of God is a gift, but that gift is given to those who are in the faith. Those who are in the faith are keeping the commandments of Jesus (1 Jn. 2:3-4). They are loving (1 Jn. 4:7-8). As Ps 36:10 says, “Continue your lovingkindness to them that know you, and your righteousness to the upright in heart.” It is our job to be upright in heart, and it is God’s job to bestow righteousness upon us when we obey.

Evangelicals love to proclaim “faith only,” but they refuse to pay attention to 1 John. Faith cannot be divorced from obedience. A great definition for faith is allegiance. A loyal follower, even of men, may not be perfect, but you can tell the difference between a follower and one who is not a follower. Both John 3:36 and Hebrews 3:17-18 show us the unbreakable link between faith and obedience. That is why the Scriptures say that the Spirit (Acts 5:32) and eternal salvation (Heb. 5:8-9) are for the obedient.

Paul took the judgment pretty seriously. He said he disciplined his body daily so he would not be disqualified (1 Cor. 9:27).. He said he left everything behind, striving for the goal, so that he might attain to the resurrection of the dead (Php. 3). He warned the church in Ephesus night and day with tears so that they would get to the end (Acts 20). We can find ways to soften that, but Paul said to imitate him (1 Cor. 11:1) and ta have the same mind as he had in Philippians 3 (v. 15).

I am not the one who said that is scary. Peter said it. He said the righteous are “scarcely saved.” We have to consider why Paul was warning the Ephesians with tears every day for 3 years. We have to consider why the only thing recorded about their return trip to the churches in Acts 14 is that they appointed elders and warned them that it is through many tribulations we enter the kingdom of God.
Evangelicals play silly games with the warnings of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; and Eph. 5:3-8. They gloss over Rom. 8:12-13 and Galatians 6:7-9. Walking in the Spirit is not an option; it is the only way to be saved. God is able to save. His Spirit is real and powerful. His mercy is new every morning. He bestows righteousness upon the upright in heart. He gives us great and precious promises that have delivered us from the corruption that is in the world (2 Pet. 1:3-4). His mercy is great, but his mercy is for the upright in heart. Walk by the Spirit. Seek God, and you will find great reward. If you mock him, though, then fear.

Posted in Evangelicals, Holiness, Modern Doctrines, Verses Evangelicals Ignore | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lordship Salvation? Works?

This blog was prompted by an email. The writer had been warned to be careful about works, a common problem (heresy) in the evangelical churches.

We have to believe what the Bible teaches. The Bible says that faith and works are tied closely together (James 2; Jn. 3:36; Heb. 3:17-18 are just examples). We become Christians by grace, which we received by faith (Eph. 2:8-9), but that is so we can do good works (Eph. 2:10). We do those good works by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:2-4 and many other verses), by the guidance of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and by the deliverance that grace bring us (Rom. 6:14; Tit. 2:11-14), but make no mistake, we will be judged by whether we did the good works salvation has equipped us to do (2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-8; 1 Pet. 1:17), and if we return to the world after we have experienced that grace and power, then we will be worse off than if we had never heard the Gospel (2 Pet. 2:20).

That basic truth is simple Scripture, and only the obstinate can deny those Scriptures.

Evangelicals are prone to being confused because their foundations are messed up. They don’t know the right Gospel to preach. Jesus said he was going to build his church on the confession that he is the Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 16:16-17). John wrote an entire Gospel just to get us to believe and confess that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God (Jn. 20:31). Yet evangelicals want to build the church and get sinners to confess that Jesus died for their sins. Romans 10:9-10 says to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess that he is Lord, but evangelicals want us to pray a prayer saying we believe he died for our sins and that he is Savior. They’re off from the very outset.

If you go through Acts, you will find the apostles repeatedly emphasizing the resurrection to get people to believe that Jesus is Christ, Lord, and Judge. Jesus did die for our sins, but knowing that does not save us. Making him Lord saves us. The faith of the Bible is the faith that Jesus is the Son of God, the Lord, and the Christ, proven to be so by the resurrection from the dead (cf. Rom. 1:1-4). Those who believe that Gospel can be saved, forgiven, and filled with the Holy Spirit. They submit themselves to the rule of King Jesus by being baptized, and their sins are washed away there (Acts 2:36-38).

True believers know that what they believed requires them to leave the world behind and follow Jesus. He is their new Lord, and if they love their families, jobs, or possessions more than him, they are unworthy of him (Matt. 10:37-38; Luke 14:26-33). They begin to walk in the light, learning from Jesus, being forgiven daily as they make mistakes, but always progressing, growing in knowledge and faithfulness (1 Jn. 1:7-9; 2 Pet. 1:3-11).

That is the faith as the Bible teaches it. What one should be afraid of is the warnings of evangelicals against good works. Paul told Titus to be constantly tell Christians that they must maintain good works (Tit. 3:8). Jesus died to produce a people zealous for good works (Tit. 2:11-14). If we grow weary of doing good works (by the Spirit), we will not reap eternal life (Gal. 6:8-10).

Posted in Bible, Gospel, Holiness, Modern Doctrines | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Faith and Works: A Brief Summary

This was an email response:

I suppose that “faith alone then after than you’ll need works” is a good summation of what I believe. On the other hand, you have to know something else about what I believe to really understand. We can do nothing without Jesus (Jn. 15:5). We fulfill the righteousness of the law by walking by the Spirit (Rom. 8:1-14). God has supplied us with grace so that sin has no power over us (Rom. 6:14) and to teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts so that we can live righteously, sensibly, and godly in this present age (Tit. 2:11-12). Jesus died to purchase out of slavery to sin and to make us zealous for good works (Tit. 2:13-14). He has provided the Scriptures to thoroughly equip us for those good works (2 Tim. 3:16-17). When we were saved by faith alone it was because faith brings grace (Eph. 2:8-9), and God re-creates us in Christ Jesus to do good works (Eph. 2:10). It is because of these things that God’s people are to be careful to maintain good works (Tit. 3:8). He has also provided the assemblies of our brothers and sisters so that we can help each other and provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24–25). Of course, that should be happening more than every Sunday (Heb. 3:13).

We will be judged by our works (Matt. 25:31-46; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 3:4-5), so it is good that he has given us so much so that we can do them. We also have that wonderful promise that as followers of Jesus, he will not impute sin to us (Rom. 4:1-8). Of course, this is assuming that we are walking in the light (1 Jn. 1:7), confessing our sin (1 Jn. 1:8-9), walking in the faith of Abraham (Rom. 4:1-8), and practicing righteousness on an ongoing basis (1 Jn. 3:7; cf. 1 Jn. 2:3-4).

One last promise is that God is well able to uphold us along the way, which is stated all over the New Testament (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:8; Php. 1:6; Jude 1:24). This does not happen without our effort. Again, we need to help each other along the way (1 Thes. 5:14), or else we may not make it (Acts 20:31; Rom. 11:19-22; 1 Cor. 9:27; 10:12; Eph. 5:3-8; 2 Pet. 1: 9; 2:20).

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Rebuilding the (Penal?) Substitutionary Atonement

This is an email I sent to someone who wrote to me (from the Netherlands!). I have edited it to make it clearer, so you are getting a better version than he did.
I would love to discuss the atonement!
There are two things I hold foundational in overthrowing false tradition about the atonement. You wrote one of them: “I realized that payment atonement is the opposite of forgiveness.”
You also touched on the other foundational idea. We can be punished for sin at the judgment (e.g., 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 8:12-13; Gal. 5:19-21; etc.). Obviously, then, the penalty for sin is not paid by Jesus’ death.
So what did Jesus “pay”? He paid a purchase price. He bought us out of slavery to sin. The Scriptures are clear on this. The price he paid was to buy us (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:20). The words “redeem” and “ransom” are also “purchase.” To redeem is re-purchase a previous possession. To ransom is to purchase  something you value from a captor. The captor was sin. Jesus purchased us out of slavery to sin.
Most of the time when the Scriptures say Jesus died for the “remission” or “forgiveness” of sins, the word is “aphesis,” which means release. It has a rich history in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures that the early churches used and from which the New Testament primarily quotes). The word “aphesis” is the Greek word chosen to translate “Jubilee” (Lev. 25); the word for the “scapegoat” on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 26); and the word for the “release” of debts that happened every sever years under the Law of Moses (Deut. 15).
Thus, Jesus’ death produced Jubilee, the return of our rightful land to us and a release from slavery. Our sins were carried away by him (the scapegoat). All our debts are taken away.
At least three times, the New Testament says that Jesus died so that he would be complete Lord, ruler, and owner of us (Rom. 14:9; 2 Cor. 5:15; Tit. 2:13-14). The grace we receive by faith not only recreates us for good works (Eph. 2:10), it frees from the power of sin (Rom. 6:14), and teaches us to live holy (Tit. 2:11-12). This sort of thing is supposed to be taught with all authority, not allowing anyone to oppose us (Tit. 2:15).
Blood is required for that kind of “remission” (aphesis; Heb. 9:22). Plain forgiveness, charizomai in Greek, is provided by the mercy of God without blood. This is what is talked about in Psalm 51:16-17, where David says God does not want sacrifice but a contrite spirit and broken heart. It is also what Ezekiel 18 is talking about, where God says that he is a just judge that will forgive the wicked person who turns to righteousness. We did not need the availability of forgiveness. It has always been there. We need the ability to follow through on our repentance and live righteously. All who “patiently continue to do good” will be granted eternal life at the judgment (Rom. 2:6-7). The problem is that humans do not patiently continue to do good. We need God’s Spirit, so that we do not “grow weary in doing good” (Gal. 6:8-9). If we sow to the Spirit, and thus do not grow weary in doing good, we will reap eternal life.
All this plain truth in the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude can be seen in John as well if we know just a couple things about Greek.
Ok, that’s my quick version of atonement teaching. I would love to hear your feedback.
Paul
Posted in Modern Doctrines, Rebuilding the Foundations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pseudo-History in My Daughter’s College Class

I was horrified and appalled when my daughter told me today about the book she is reading in her college history class. The history is loaded with both falsehoods and sloppy scholarship. It is unacceptable that such a book would ever be brought by a professor into a college class except to expose the willful ignorance of some authors.

I do not have the book name or author. My daughter sent me a few screenshots of the textbook. I sent her responses to the fantasy history of the book. Some quotes from the text and my responses are below.

Textbook

“Paul also taught that converts did not have to live strictly according to Jewish law. To make conversion easier, he did not require male converts to undergo the Jewish initiation right of circumcision.”

Truth

Acts 15 (in the Bible) tells us that a council in Jerusalem, led by Peter and James, was called to discuss Paul’s teaching that Gentiles (non-Jews only) did not have to keep the Law of Moses or be circumcised. The council agreed and put only 4 laws on the Gentiles.

Textbook

“In early Christianity, women in some locations could be leaders—such as Lydia, a businesswoman who founded the congregation in Philippi in Greece—but many men, including Paul, opposed women’s leadership.

Truth

Acts 16 tells us that Paul is the one who found Lydia and other women meeting by a river in Philippi. He founded the church in Philippi through Lydia. He also converted a Philippian jailer there (same chapter). We have no idea who the leader was. That it was Lydia is just an assumption from the text. There is no outside literature verifying that Lydia was a leader in Philippi, just that she was the first convert. Later Paul wrote a letter to the Philippians, and he mentions bishops (literally, overseers) and deacons (literally, servants). Those words are masculine in Greek, not feminine.

Textbook

“Christian leaders had to build an organization from the ground up to administer their growing congregations. Finally, Christians had to decide whether women could continue as leaders in their congregations.”

Truth

The book does not specify the time period but, as you can see, there is no solid evidence that any women were leaders in any churches. That is simply the fantasy of the author. We do know from Romans 16:2 and from the possible wording of 1 Timothy 3:11 that women could be deacons, which literally means servants. That never stopped until much later in church history, maybe in the 800’s or later.

Textbook

After a really excellent section on the martyrs, your book says, “This transformation was painful because early Christians fiercely disagreed about what they should believe, how they should live, and who had the authority to decide these questions. Some insisted Christians should withdraw from the everyday world to escape its evil, abandoning their families and shunning sex and reproduction. Others believed they could follow Christ’s challenging teachings while living ordinary lives.”

Truth

In A.D. 185 (or so), Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons (in modern France), who had been raised up in the faith in Smyrna (in modern Turkey) and was a counselor to Roman bishops (in Italy), wrote, “The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God … As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world.”

What the author of your book must be referring to are the tracts written by a Christian from the church in Carthage. His name was Tertullian, and he wrote about 20 years after Irenaeus. He complained about some of the worldliness going on in the churches in those tracts. This does not mean that there were Christians teaching that Christians can live ordinary lives. His tracts complain about hypocrisy in the church, Christians not living up to the standards of Christ.

What happened to Tertullian was that he was so frustrated that he ended up embracing the teachings of the prophet Montanus. Montanus was the main prophet of a movement that is named after him. His followers were called “Montanists.” Prisca and Maximilla were prophetesses with him. The churches in Asia Minor rejected their prophecies as false.
Those prophecies included things like saying that the Holy Spirit had given the churches time to mature. It had been 150 years since the apostles. While the apostles allowed widows to marry again, the Holy Spirit (through Montanus and these two ladies), was telling the churches that widows could no longer remarry. The churches at that time would allow an adulterer or murderer or robber (etc.) to repent one time and be readmitted to the church. If it happened a second time, they could never come back into the church. Montanus (and Prisca and Maximilla) taught that only God could forgive them. The churches could not forgive such people even once.

Their prophecies were rejected by the catholic churches, and their movement faded away over the next few decades.

About 20 years later—in one church, Rome—Hippolytus formed a new church because he thought the elected bishop (Callistus) was not a good person. His church stayed separate for 17 or 18 years, when another persecution arose. Both Hippolytus and the current bishop (now Pontus) were both thrown into the mines because of the persecution. There they reconciled, and that ended that.

Thirty years later, in Rome again, a man named Novatian (Greek Novatus) started a new church because he didn’t like the bishop Cornelius. This is 251 now. His split lasted for several centuries, but it did not disturb the catholic churches, which continued steadfast. In the fourth century a basic peace set in between the catholic and Novatian churches because they believed the same things. The Novatian churches were just stricter about readmitting those who sinned in some major way.

Textbook

The need to deal with such tensions, to administer the congregations, and to promote spiritual communion among believers led Christians to create an official hierarchy of men, headed by bishops.

Truth

This is an extremely sloppy description of what happened. Bishops (literally overseers) had existed since the beginning of Christianity. They were also called elders. You can read about this in Acts 20, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5 in the Bible. You need to know the origin of the words bishop, elder, presbyter, and deacon to understand the various words used there. What those passages in the Bible say is that the Paul and Peter’s churches were led by elders (presbyters) who held the position of overseers (bishops). There were also servants (deacons) who served the churches in various capacities.

Over a century, for whatever reason, bishop (or overseer) had become separate from elders. Each church (or perhaps each city) had one bishop and many elders. From about that time (150 or so), certain bishops became preeminent. This was especially true of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch. These, along with the bishop of Constantinople after it was built and consecrated around 340, became known as patriarchs. Bishops of cities that were smaller or less important, but still big, became known as metropolitans. So, yes, a hierarchy arose, but not because of the kind of disputes claimed in your book.

Textbook

Your textbook, screen capture 8: “The bishops tried to suppress the arguments that arose in the new religion. They used their authority to define orthodoxy (true doctrine) and heresy (false doctrine).

Truth

This is sloppier than the previous one. The bishops were around from the beginning. Through the second century, the heretics were the gnostics that denied the God of the Bible, thought Jesus failed in his mission, and rejected the apostles. The Montanists did arise in the late second century, but as I said, that was a minor thing.

The authority of the bishops, which really means the authority of councils of bishops, was used to resolve fights over doctrine starting in the fourth century. That really was a bad thing, and the results were terrible. I do not deny that the fourth century begins a horrific downward spiral in the churches.

However, everything this book says about women in authority in early Christianity is speculative and unlikely to be true. The only possibilities of authoritative women, Lydia and Priscilla (not Prisca, the follower of the false prophet Montanus), were brought to Christ by Paul and trained by him (Acts 16 and 18:1-2). Since Paul did not allow women to teach (1 Timothy 2), it is very, very unlikely that either of those women were leaders except in influence.

Textbook

“When the male bishops came to power, they demoted from positions of leadership.”

Truth

I hope you can see by now that this is false. That book has no business being in a college classroom. I am appalled. You are welcome to show this to your teacher. I will be glad to give her more references besides the ones I gave. A lot of the history I gave can be found in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History (or Church History) written in 323. Yes, that history was written by a cleric, but we have volumes of writing from Christians before Eusebius justifying his history. The history in this book you have been given is a fantasy. I would love to see what she calls her sources.

Free Bonus

Notice the disparity in length between the quotes from the book and my answers. It take a much longer time to refute lies than to tell them. This is why falsehood can propitiate so easily. I occasionally write about evolution and Christian anti-evolutionists. I will no longer call them creationists because the many Christians who acknowledge the truth of evolution are also creationists. Creationists pump out false science by the bucket load because it takes little research to deceive. Refutation takes a long time because it does take research to prove to the deceived that the deceivers are really deceivers.

One of the biggest problems in modern Christianity is that Bible study is done for the sake of knowledge rather than for the sake of obedience. Obedient Christians don’t lie. Theologians are dishonest regularly, though for many of them it is simply a habit of intellectual dishonesty taught to them in school.

It is wicked, and it needs to be exposed.

Posted in Christian History News in Focus, Early Christianity, History, Holiness | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments