Rebuilding the Foundations: The Cross, the Resurrection, and the Foundation.

To be sure, the cross of Jesus Christ was an amazing place. I cannot do justice to its importance or to the unfathomable spiritual battle that happened there. The cross released us from all that had held us in bondage. There the fall of man was undone. Adam made us sinners at the tree of transgression; Jesus made us righteous at the tree of his obedience, the cross.

The resurrection was equally important. While he released our debts to the law with his cursed death on the cross and paid our ransom and redemption price with his blood, he made the release practical when he rose from the dead, leading captivity captive. He gave us resurrection life, a new creation, a new race as sons of God rather than sons of Adam. As we were baptized in the likeness of his death, released from our old man and our old life, so we were raised into newness of life.

We cannot compare the importance of the cross and the importance of the resurrection. Both were absolutely important, and there is no salvation without both.

That said, the following statement, which I found in the writings of a teacher I respect very much, is not true.

We are going to consider … that which is the essential foundation of the church, and that is the Cross. (T. Austin Sparks, The Lord’s Assembly: Part 2, ch. 1)

The cross is not the foundation of the Church. Jesus is the foundation of the Church (1 Cor. 3:11), and Jesus said he would build his Church on the rock of the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matt. 16:16-18). Jesus is the foundation, Peter was the first rock put upon it because he was the first to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. As we each are given the same revelation by hearing the  good news that he is Christ, Lord, Judge, and Son of God, then we become rocks added to the foundation as well.

The crucifixion of God’s Son was the most important event in the history of the world, but its power is not contingent upon us believing in its power. Its power is contingent on our confessing that Jesus is Lord because we believe that God raised him from the dead (Rom. 10:9-13).

It is good to teach about the cross. It is not good to teach that the cross is foundation of the Church because it is not; Jesus is.

As usual, the rest of Mr. Sparks teaching has amazing truths in it that many of us never see. Nonetheless, when you get the foundation wrong, the teachings that you build off that wrong foundation will always be skewed, maybe a little or maybe a lot.

 

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Rebuilding the Foundations: What is the Gospel?

Some writers struggle with writer’s block. My problem is having too many things to write about!

I have to finish Rome’s Audacious Claim. That is a priority.  The draft in 90% done, but there will be a lot of editing and rewriting, and I want to release it June 1. On the other hand, the “Rebuilding the Foundations” series, which I started on this blog, is really what is on my heart. It will be the next book after Rome’s Audacious Claim.

“Rebuilding the Foundations” is a series of teachings, though, and I am going to break it down into small bits so that others can teach it as well. Since I need to post regularly on this blog anyway, I will return to writing those small bits on this blog.

The first small bit is the Gospel.

Rebuilding the Foundations: What is the Gospel?

This foundation is based on four passages, though there are many more Old Testament prophecies and New Testament passages that could be cited.

Matthew 16:16-19

In this passage, Simon confesses that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus changes his name to Peter (Petros=Rock), tells him that he will build the church on him, and then makes several wonderful promises to him.

We all know that Jesus is the only foundation for the Christian and the Church (1 Cor. 3:11). Peter is not the foundation itself, but he is the first rock set upon the foundation of Christ. All the major branches of Christianity believe that Peter’s confession is also the rock.

If Peter’s confession is the rock as well, then Jesus is building his Church on it. If Jesus is building his Church on it, then we should too!

The other passages we will look at simply prove that the apostles preached the Gospel in such a way as to get their converts to make the same confession Peter made.

John 20:31

No explanation needed here. John said that he wrote his Gospel to get people to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, which was exactly Peter’s confession. Those who believe Peter’s confession have life through Jesus’ name.

Acts 2:36

Acts 2:36 is an example that is true of all the rests of the apostles’ preaching in Acts. Peter first proclaims that the Holy Spirit has arrived according to the prophecy of Joel. Then he preaches Jesus, telling the Jews first that they killed him, then that he rose from the dead, and finally calling all Israel to “know for certain” (NASB) that Jesus is “Lord and Christ.”

His whole sermon is based on the idea that the resurrection establishes Jesus as “Lord and Christ,” not exactly the same as “Christ, the Son of the Living God,” but the same idea and conclusion.

We learn from Acts 2:36 that it is not the exact terminology that matters. Believing that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ=Messiah) or Lord is the same as believing he is the Son of God because the Messiah is said to be the Son of God in Psalm 2:7 and the Lord in Psalm 110:1.

Romans 1:1-5

Here we see from Paul the same thing that we find in Acts 2 (and the rest of Acts). The goal of the apostles preaching was to get their hearers to believe that Jesus rose from the dead because this would prove that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the confession on which Jesus builds his Church.

“[He] was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead,” Paul wrote (v. 4). He says that this is “the Gospel of God” (v. 1).

As a side note, in verse 5, Paul says that he is bringing about “obedience” to this faith. Our modern preaching to the lost is primarily based on the atonement, believing that Jesus died for our sins. While Jesus did die for our sins, one cannot “obey” faith in Jesus’ atonement. Faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, however, does call for obedience to Jesus, because the Christ is not just the Son of God. The Messiah also sits on the throne of David to rule God’s kingdom forever (Ps.  2:2,6,12; 110:1-2).

Romans 10:9-10

Again, much of evangelical Gospel preaching calls on hearers to believe that Jesus died for their sins and to confess that he is their Savior. Romans 10:9-10, though, says that salvation and righteousness come to those who confess Jesus as their Lord and who believe he rose from the dead. This is the rock upon which Jesus said he would build his Church.

This lines right up, obviously, with the other passages we have looked at. Our initial Gospel preaching should lead hearers to confess that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, proven to be so by his resurrection.

Summation

The Gospel contains much more than just the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. This is evidenced by the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all of which contain Jesus’ teaching, life, miracles, his death, his resurrection and some of what those things mean for us. Thus, the contain much more than just the confession that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus’ death for sins is not only true and important, it is part of the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-3).

Nonetheless, the purpose of our Gospel preaching should be to prove to the lost that Jesus is the resurrected Christ and Son of God, for it is by believing this, and then becoming obedient to that faith, that they will be saved. Jesus died for our sins, but believing that he died for our sins is not enough. It is through calling on him as the resurrected Lord of our lives that we are saved (Rom. 10:9-13).

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… And Then There Are People: A Story of Innocence, Impurity, Repentance, and Purity

Kingdom Christians.

It is a wonderful sounding term, and it is associated with several important scriptural doctrines.

  • There are two spiritual kingdoms. One is the kingdom of this world run by “the ruler of this world” (Jn. 12:31; 14:30) and “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). The whole world is under his sway (1 Jn. 5:19). The other is the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col. 1:13). Christians live as citizens, servants, and ambassadors of God’s kingdom (Php. 3:20; 2 Cor. 5:20).
  • The Gospel is the good news of a King, Jesus the Son of God, and the opportunity to enter his kingdom by repentance, faith, and baptism. (Many benefits are of course associated with entering God’s kingdom.)
  • Obedience to Jesus is an “of course” response to the Gospel because Jesus is King.

As wonderful as these things are, in many cases Kingdom Christianity has been associated with modern Anabaptist movements such as the Mennonites and Amish. This has resulted in an overemphasis on doctrines unique to that movement. Those are:

  • Modest dress (for both men and women)
  • No divorce and remarriage
  • Wearing head coverings (for women)

It is not wrong to address these issues. The complete disregard for these issues in most evangelical churches does call for reform, and thus for those who are willing to be bold reformers.

On the other hand, an overboard focus on these issues can lead to a problem Jesus talked about in Matthew 23:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (Matt. 23:23, NASB)

Divorce and remarriage is a much more important subject than making sure one’s tithe includes the spices on the spice rack. Nonetheless, it is still wrong to exalt the strict wording of a teaching above “the weightier provisions of the law.” Justice and mercy and faithfulness trump strict, legal adherence to even valid teachings of Scripture.

As an example, the adulterous woman in John 8:3-11 should have been stoned to death according to the Law of Moses (Lev. 20:10). The man should have been brought to be stoned as well, but that is irrelevant to the current point. Jesus did not condone the stoning of the woman, but with wise words (“Let him who has no sin cast the first stone”) he saved her life and sent her away without condemnation and with a command to repent.

Strict, unbending adherence to the Law of Moses or even the commands of Jesus is highly commendable … until people show up.

As an example, I met a family–this is a true story–with ten children. The father and mother had been married for twenty years. The mother, however, had married as a teen on a whim. The marriage lasted seven days before the couple divorced.

Here they were, more than twenty years later, and the family was rejected in Anabaptist circles because of their teaching on divorce and remarriage. That rejection was based on a rigorous, but not righteous, adherence to the teachings of Jesus, it was based on a pharisaical rejection of justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

In dealing with the adulteress woman, Jesus was showing a principle I call “… and then there are people.”

In fact, a better word than people is persons. Real, live persons with real, live, and unusual experiences, such as the family mentioned above. Rigorous application of the words of Jesus sometimes mows such people under, leaving them to be trampled and ignored. Jesus was not like this. If he had to choose between people and the Law–” living oracles” (Acts 7:38)–he chose people.

We like to exegete  (expound upon or interpret) the Scriptures. They are letters on a page. They endure from generation to generation, and the curve balls thrown to us in certain odd verses do not bother us much. Generations before us have taken care of that for us, exploring them, and writing dozens of commentaries on them.

Jesus, however, exegeted God (Jn. 1:18). Our infinite God is not so easy to exegete as a 1200-page book; so Jesus came down and showed us his exegesis. He lived it out in front of us (Jn. 14:9ff). That exegesis of God ought to affect our exegesis of the Scriptures (Jn. 5:39-40).

Jesus’s exegesis of God was that he cares more about people than he does the Law of Moses. It was better for the women who had a flow of blood, and was thus unclean, to touch Jesus and be made whole than to obey the Law and stay away from him (and those she must pushed past in order to touch him).

Innocence, Impurity, Repentance, and Purity

It is a very cool principle that Jesus changed the flow of impurity. When the Law of Moses is applied, impurity flows from impure things and defiles pure ones. When Jesus arrives, however, purity flows from pure things and purifies impure ones. Even in the Old Testament, where we find pre-incarnate Jesus, the Only-Begotten Son, sitting on the throne in heaven (Jn. 12:40-41), Isaiah’s unclean lips do not make the coal from the altar impure. Rather, the coal purifies Isaiah’s lips. (Thank you, Bible Project, for pointing this out.)

Jesus explained with his life that God does not pitilessly reject the impure. He lovingly accepts the repentant, and lovingly and boldly rejects the self-righteous until they too repent.

If Jesus wanted innocent people in his Church, he would have seen to it that Adam and Eve were never tempted. He would never have allowed us to become sinners. He wants purified people in his Church. Purity is different than innocence, which is why the entrance requirement into his kingdom and his Church is repentance rather than righteousness.

 

 

 

 

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The Inward Journey to the Release of the Spirit

The title of this post is the combination of the titles of the two books that have most changed my life and most marked my 36-year journey with King Jesus.

I read The Release of the Spirit by Watchman Nee during the first year I was a Christian. It taught me that I am a three-part being. I am a soul, and I communicate with the physical world with my body and the spiritual world with my spirit. The work of God is first from the inside working through his Spirit which has taken up his dwelling place in my spirit. Secondly, it is from the outside, where God controls all the circumstances of my life to get through the flesh and break open the hardness of my soul. The goal of this dual working is for the hardness of my soul to be broken open so that the light of Jesus might be revealed, shining from within my spirit, as unhindered as possible by my soul.

Watchman compared this work to a seed. When it is buried in the ground, the pressure of life growing from the inside along with the moisture and pressure on the outside breaks open the seed to release the life within.

I read The Inward Journey by Gene Edwards in my second year as Christian. I would suggest this is out of order because Gene describes the work of God in a Christian’s life while Nee carefully explains God’s working.

The Inward journey taught me what a difficult work God would have with me. It explains the need for suffering and pain in our lives so well that I came away longing to suffer more. (There is nothing wrong with this since it is a gift of God to us that we may not only believe in Jesus, but also suffer with him–Php. 1:29).

Edwards explained how hard I would have to work to prevent myself from fighting against the work of God. He made it clear that the most painful circumstances of my life were the ones most perfectly designed to transform the deepest, most hidden and secret places that I was hiding from God; the ones I most feared being brought to the light of day. The book reveals what frauds we are, deceiving the world around us to look good, trying to deceive God in the same way, and in the end thoroughly deceiving ourselves.

Whether you agree with those teachings or not, they made me a pliable Christian. They enabled me to go through the emotional trauma I desperately needed as a younger man and the two cancers and death of a son I experienced in my 50’s. I am 57 now, and I am more impressed and deeply at peace with God than I have ever been. I am more grateful than I have ever been, and I believe myself to be more pliable than I have ever been.

I love our Father in heaven, I give thanks for the amazing sacrifice, the amazing power that raised him from the dead, and the merciful call of Jesus his Son, and I long for even more of the work of the Spirit in my life. I thank our holy God for putting those books in my life early on to lay such a strong foundation in me.

I do need to make it clear that I am not endorsing all of Watchman Nee’s theology, and I am not endorsing Gene Edwards at all. Gene’s early books are great, and he is one of the best storytellers in the world, but I believe him to have departed from the path I want to be on (or want you to be on). Nonetheless, The Inward Journey has been a major foundation in my life.

Paul Pavao

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Paul and Barnabas Encourage the Churches

The email Bible study I sent to the new converts at Rose Creek Village today:
This is a short study of Acts 14:21-23. It is prompted by my wondering what to tell a new Christian.
Acts 14:21 lets us know that Paul and Barnabas are finishing their first missionary journey, though Luke (the author of Acts) does not call it “first missionary journey.” We modern Christians call it that.
Now that their first journey is over, they want to go back and strengthen the churches. Obviously, they did not swing through and say only one sentence, but the Bible only records one sentence of what they said. It seems to me that sentence must be awful important!
Verse 22 gives the sentence: “It is through many tribulations [troubles] that we must enter the Kingdom of God.”
Here’s what I have to give you from verse 22. Remember, this is the only sentence that Luke thought important enough to write down from their visit to three churches.
1. Your Christian life is not meant to be easy or trouble-free; it is meant to be lived in the power and peace of Jesus, overcoming tribulation (cf. Jn. 16:33).
2. The Kingdom of God is what we are trying to eventually enter. You will find out, if you have not already, that we are already in the Kingdom of God (Col. 1:13). We are in the kingdom here, and by faith we can obtain and use its power, just as Jesus did, but on the Last Day we will inherit the kingdom (Matt. 25:34-40). At that point, the Kingdom of God will be the only rule on the earth, and we will be among the rulers if we suffer (2 Tim. 2:12). Don’t worry, though, God has promised to grant us suffering (Php. 1:29)
Those two points introduce you to several ideas. Also, if you are not familiar with Bible abbreviations, you will get used to them. Again, ask me if you do not understand any of those abbreviations.
Finally, verse 23 tells us that Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in those churches they visited. This means that for a while, those  churches functioned just fine without elders. It probably took a little time (in this case a few weeks) to have some standout people who could be trusted to preserve what Paul and Barnabas had taught them and to shepherd the flock.
Compared to modern Christianity (including RCV), it appears to me that Paul and Barnabas were more willing to trust the Holy Spirit to handle the disciples. On the other hand, they did not have all the counterfeits that we have today. They also checked on the churches regularly. Paul liked to write letters to them, which is to our benefit.
The churches founded by Paul and Peter were all led by a group of elders. Those elders were also called overseers. Nowadays, as a quirk of language, “overseer” has become “bishop.” Those first churches had many bishops, all also called elders. We will go more into that some time in the future.
For now, I want to encourage you with Paul and Barnabas that it is through many tribulations that we enter the Kingdom of God. Don’t lose heart. Fight your way forward. Equip yourself with the Word and fight valiantly.
With that exhortation, I guess the next email should be about the armor and weaponry of our spiritual warfare!
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The Roman Catholic Church Changed the Ten Commandments

For some reason I do not think of it much, but the Roman Catholic Church changed the ten commandments. I have to suppose it was to try to hide from their members that bowing down in front of statues is idolatry.

I am not sure when they did this. It was probably in the late medieval period while they were putting people to death for translating the Bible into languages other than Latin.

You may be thinking this is an outrageous attack on the Roman Catholic Church, but it is simply fact. If you click this link, it will  take you to the Vatican web site. You will see three columns: the 10 commandments from Exodus, from Deuteronomy and the “Traditional Catechetical Formula.” The third column is the list as they teach to their members. The omission of the second commandment is obvious there, right on the Vatican web site. The way they turn the 10th commandment from Exodus into two commandments is not to split it down the middle, but to pluck a center part out.

Why would the only church in the world that bows and prays before statues remove the commandment that says not to make a graven image or bow down to it? 

No need to call a detective for that one. 

Really, it makes all the other unique claims of the Roman Catholic Church void, don’t you think?

I apologize if you think this post is rude or dripping with sarcasm, but this issue is off the charts outrageous. 

The Roman Catholic Church is the only church that does this:

That last site says, “Protestants, Jews, and Catholics number the commandments in slightly different ways,” but you will see the Protestants and Jews give them exactly the same way.

‘Nuff said.

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Real Church, Francis Chan, and the Roman Catholic Church

This was the newsletter I sent to my Christian-history.org newsletter list:

 
I was asked yesterday what I thought the best denomination was. I had a chance to address that at the “Heaven’s Family Reunion” in Pittsburgh in August. I focused on Hebrews 10:24-25.

One of the lines in that passage says that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Everyone knows that line, but it seems that almost no one knows what the rest of the passage says. What are we supposed to do instead of forsaking the assembling of ourselves together? Does the Scripture say, “Don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together, but be sure to sit in a pew, hear a sermon, sing some songs, and help pay rent and salaries?”

You know it doesn’t, but I bet you don’t know what it does say to do.

That passage says that we should “know,” “consider,” or “understand” one another so that we can provoke one another to love and good works. The specific sentence says, “Not forsaking …, but exhorting…”

Exhorting is a big word in Greek, and Bibles translate the word “parakaleo” as beg, plead, comfort, console, exhort, and other similar words. It covers everything we can say to help a brother or sister walk in the will of God. A good definition of “exhort” might be found in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, where we read, “Warn the unruly, comfort the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

When you assemble yourselves together, do you go to warn the unruly, comfort the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient as you do so? Are you prepared to do these things because you have “considered” how your brothers and sisters are doing so that you can “provoke to love and good works”?

That is my answer to real church. “Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” is in the Bible, at 2 Timothy 2:22. These sorts of things are biblical commands, and they are what should be done rather than forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. There are no commands to go to Sunday school or listen to sermons every Sunday morning.

If your leaders have not trained you to do the work of ministry and edify the church, they have not done their job (Eph. 4:11-16). Until everyone is involved, we are not doing “real church.”

Those are my words and my teaching from Scripture, but Francis Chan has come out with some very similar teaching from the same passages. He recently released _Letters to the Church_ that talks about how he began to realize that his megachurch, Cornerstone, was not a biblical church. I would recommend the book.

Finally, I mentioned the Roman Catholic Church in the heading of this email. That’s because I only recently realized I had written a page on the origin of the RCC that I really like. Of course I really like it because I wrote it, but I also wrote my Roman Catholicism page, and I don’t like it. I am going to completely change it soon.You can read the good page at https://www.christian-history.org/when-did-roman-catholicism-begin.html.

Grace, peace, and mercy to you as you focus your life on the divine Son of the living God, Jesus Christ our Savior.

 

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Dealing with Scripture Honestly: Galatians 6:7-9

In my previous post, I explained why I am writing about honest interpretation of the Scripture. I can’t explain what I mean by dealing with Scripture honestly without giving you examples.

Galatians 6:7-9 is associated with an experience for me. Long ago, in the Southern Baptist church in which I met my wife, I dropped in on the church’s most popular adult Sunday School class. The teacher was an acquaintance, and I was on good terms with him.

As was common in those days, I “chanced” upon the class while a controversial passage of Scripture was being covered. In the 1980’s, it seemed to me that no matter how hard I tried to avoid controversy, God kept putting me in the midst of it. In this case the controversial passage was Galatians 6:7-9.

Galatians 6:7-9, In the New American Standard Version, reads:

You need no advice or explanations to interpret Galatians 6:7-8. You already know what it means without my saying anything. If you sow to the flesh, you will reap corruption. If you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life. You cannot reap corruption and eternal life both. They are opposites of one another.

This is obvious, but the pattern I was taught as a young Christian was that if I don’t believe a verse, I should use every method I could find to make it say what it does not, whether that explanation is reasonable or not. In fact, I commonly heard arguments that were not only unreasonable, but entirely irrational.

“Galatians 6:8: Is Eternal Life Earned?” has one of those irrational arguments. Author Bob Wilkin says, “While all believers have eternal relationships with God, not all will have abundant eternal lives with Him.” He goes on to explain that reaping corruption means winding up with meager eternal life rather than abundant eternal life. In other words, what seems obvious–that one cannot inherit corruption and eternal life both–is false. We can inherit corruption and still have eternal life!

The answer to that ridiculous argument is to simply point out that it is ridiculous. We all know it is ridiculous. 

The author justifies his ridiculous interpretation by giving verses that he believes contradict the obvious meaning of Galatians 6:7-8. Those verses, in his mind, give him the right to say any ridiculous thing he wants about any passages that seem to contradict his interpretation of those other verses. 

I was taught this sort of ridiculous reasoning, too. As a young member of the Assemblies of God, I reasoned ridiculously with the Baptists, and they reasoned ridiculously with me.  Most Christians get used to this outrageous way of arguing.

I can’t. 

I’m begging you. Please stop being ridiculous. There are reasonable solutions to seemingly conflicting passages of Scripture. We can find them if we pursue them, but how can we expect to learn what is true using the ridiculous Bible interpretation method described above?

Galatians 6:9

The only thing I want to point out from Galatians 6:9 is that it says that if we want to “reap,” we must not grow weary in doing good. In context, what we reap for not growing weary in doing good is eternal life. In context, “sowing to the Spirit” produces “doing good.” There is another verse in Scripture that says “doing good” leads to eternal life as well. That verse is Romans 2:7. Hush, though, not too many evangelicals are aware Romans 2:7 is in the Bible.

More on this in the next post.

 

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

The teacher (paraphrasing from memory) said, “This means we can lose our salvation.” Then he paused and added, “Just kidding. No, It doesn’t.” He probably addressed some other verses about why we can’t lose our salvation, but said nothing more about Galatians 6:7-8. He just moved on.

I wrote him a note that said, “Brother, even if you don’t believe that Galatians 6:7-9 does not say you can lose your salvation, it is certainly a warning. You should at least have passed the warning on to your class in some way.”

Rather than replying to me, he delivered the note to the pastor. The pastor called me into his office and asked how I dared send a note like to that to one of his teachers. (Both I and the teacher who sent the note to the pastor would learn over time that the pastor’s spiritual gift was intimidation. It was the teacher who would eventually be put out of that Baptist church for crossing the pastor’s wishes.)

Anyway, I told the pastor that I thought I was simply sending a note to a friend. Changing the subject, I asked if he objected to what I wrote. I don’t remember what he said, but I do remember it went nowhere, and he was as frustrated with me as I was with him.

Those conflicts make great stories, but I better get to the point.

How does one honestly interpret Galatians 6:7-8?

You need no advice or explanations to interpret Galatians 6:7-8. You already know what it means without my saying anything. If you sow to the flesh, you will reap corruption. If you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life. You cannot reap corruption and eternal life both. They are opposites of one another.

This is obvious, but the pattern I was taught as a young Christian was that if I don’t believe a verse, I should use every method I could find to make it say what it does not, whether that explanation is reasonable or not. In fact, I commonly heard arguments that were not only unreasonable, but entirely irrational.

“Galatians 6:8: Is Eternal Life Earned?” has one of those irrational arguments. Author Bob Wilkin says, “While all believers have eternal relationships with God, not all will have abundant eternal lives with Him.” He goes on to explain that reaping corruption means winding up with meager eternal life rather than abundant eternal life. In other words, what seems obvious–that one cannot inherit corruption and eternal life both–is false. We can inherit corruption and still have eternal life!

The answer to that ridiculous argument is to simply point out that it is ridiculous. We all know it is ridiculous. 

The author justifies his ridiculous interpretation by giving verses that he believes contradict the obvious meaning of Galatians 6:7-8. Those verses, in his mind, give him the right to say any ridiculous thing he wants about any passages that seem to contradict his interpretation of those other verses. 

I was taught this sort of ridiculous reasoning, too. As a young member of the Assemblies of God, I reasoned ridiculously with the Baptists, and they reasoned ridiculously with me.  Most Christians get used to this outrageous way of arguing.

I can’t. 

I’m begging you. Please stop being ridiculous. There are reasonable solutions to seemingly conflicting passages of Scripture. We can find them if we pursue them, but how can we expect to learn what is true using the ridiculous Bible interpretation method described above?

Galatians 6:9

The only thing I want to point out from Galatians 6:9 is that it says that if we want to “reap,” we must not grow weary in doing good. In context, what we reap for not growing weary in doing good is eternal life. In context, “sowing to the Spirit” produces “doing good.” There is another verse in Scripture that says “doing good” leads to eternal life as well. That verse is Romans 2:7. Hush, though, not too many evangelicals are aware Romans 2:7 is in the Bible.

More on this in the next post.

 

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Dealing with Scripture Honestly: Introduction

As a young Christian in an Assembly of God church, I was trained to deal illogically and dishonestly with Scripture. Because of the Christian atmosphere in my town, at least among evangelical denominations, I was also trained to argue vehemently on behalf of my own denomination. As I argued, I saw that both the defenders of other evangelical denominations and defenders of groups we called “cults” treated the Scriptures in the same irrational and dishonest manner.

I was only 9 months old in the Lord when the US Air Force sent me to Galena, Alaska on a remote assignment. There were about 700 Native Americans there in two small villages, about 300 military, and about 200 other government workers. The available choices for attending church were the Catholic service at the chapel, the Protestant service at the chapel (led by a North American Baptist chaplain), and the little missionary church of 10 members or so in the Indian village.

I tried the Protestant service at the chapel, but it was clearly meant not to bother the unbelievers, so it did nothing for me. In the small world of Galena Air Station, I quickly found out who the committed Christians were. Including the chaplain, there were seven.

I got them together for Friday night prayer and Saturday evangelism in the Indian village. The chaplain did not join us for these. The others were all from varying backgrounds, and it took only 6 weeks for them to stop speaking with each other.

At that point, I realized I needed to start over. I needed to get in the Scripture and read the Bible just for what it says. 

That is not as easy as it sounds. I was filled with preconceived notions that I had rapidly accumulated as I read the Bible and listened to sermons over my first year as a Christian. Divesting myself of those was not easy.

I have been working at reading the Bible honestly since that turn of mind in 1983. It is a chore that requires great effort. 

The great effort is not the study. I love looking up Greek words, reading commentaries, and comparing passage to passage. I love finding out about the various books of the Bible, and the writers. 

The great effort is fighting my desire to be right. The great effort is choosing what is right when I am embarrassed that I am wrong. Most often, this problem arises when someone else points out a solid truth in defense of a doctrine with which I did not agree.

I say “did not” because I have learned to quash that defensive desire. Nowadays, when I realize I was wrong, I change. 35 years have given me a lot of practice at being wrong and changing sides. It is no less painful and humiliating, but I have gotten used to the pain.

This series, “Dealing with Scripture Honestly,” will describe some of my embarrassing experiences, if I can remember them. They’re painful. Mostly, though, I want to point out some of those irrational and dishonest interpretations of Scripture that you, myself, and others have held or still hold.

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All Sins: Past, Present, and Future … Or Not

So I’ve got a guy on Facebook telling me that when the Bible says that all our sins are forgiven (Col. 2:13), this necessarily means that even our future sins are forgiven. He wants me to show him a verse that says “not my future sins.”

This is ridiculous, of course. Imagine that your credit card company comes to you and says, “We forgive you all your debts.” Would you even consider the possibility that they mean all your future debts too, so that you can now go out and charge whatever you want on your card without having to pay for it?

Of course you wouldn’t. In the same way, it is silly to suggest that when Jesus forgave all our sins that all our future sins are forgiven too, whether we repent or not.

Another example is a humorous one. Back in Martin Luther’s day a Roman Catholic by the name of Johann Tetzel was selling indulgences, promising people that if they gave money to the church, their relatives would be released from Purgatory. A thief came up to Tetzel and asked if his donation would lead to the forgiveness of his own sins. Johann assured him that it would. The thief then asked if the donation would forgive future sins. Again Tetzel assured him. The thief gladly gave him the money, and that night he stole it back.

Johann Tetzel is real, though that particular story almost certainly is not. Nonetheless, it illustrates the foolishness of assuming that the forgiveness of all debts or all sins includes future ones.

It is the aforementioned Facebook person who needs to show that future sins are forgiven in some verse somewhere because Colossians 2:13 does not say, imply, or hint that our future sins are forgiven. Instead, 2 Peter 1:9 tells us that if we do not add to our faith (v. 5), then we will forget that we were ever purged from our PAST sins.

This person is making a further mistake in thinking that Colossians 2:13 says that our sins are “paid for.” Colossians 2:13 says that they are forgiven, not paid for. In fact, that verse uses an unusual word for “forgive.” The Greek word is charizomai, which is the word for grace (Gr. charis) used as a verb. “Forgive” here carries the idea of favor and compassion, not payment.

Jesus died for us, not God. God was merciful from the beginning. He IS love. A loving person forgives, and a loving God also forgives. The problem we had was that we were not a repentant race. We kept sinning, and God’s forgiveness is for those who repent (cf. Ex. 34:6; Ezek. 18:20-30). Therefore, Jesus died for US. He purged us of our iniquity, and purchase us as a people for his own possession. His grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and his death makes us a people zealous for good works (Tit. 2:11-14).

Jesus did not have to “pay” for sins. He had to pay for us. He redeemed us, as in buying us out of a slave market. He ransomed us, as in buying us back from a captor. He did become a curse for us, so that we are no longer subject to the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:13), but we Gentiles were never subject to the Law of Moses anyway. It was the law God put in our conscience that condemned us (Rom. 2).

All of us, Jew and Gentile, were the captives of sin. He redeemed us from that captivity, and he gives us grace (Rom. 6:14; Tit. 2:11-12), the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:3-13; Gal. 5, 6:7-9), the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and each other (Heb. 3:13; 10:24-25) to ensure we never slip back into slavery to sin. Nonetheless, even as Christians, we are warned that we are slaves to whomever we yield ourselves to obey, whether sin leading to death or obedience leading to holiness and its end, eternal life (Rom. 6:16-22).

As a final note, I would be surprised if no one noticed that I ended my reference to Romans 6 at verse 22. Let me address verse 23.

The wages of sin is death, and that is true for Christians or non-Christians (cf. Rom. 6:1-22 & Rom. 8:12). The gift (Gr. charisma as in a spiritual gift, not a birthday present) of God is eternal life, referring back to verses 16-22. Paul did not suddenly change his theology in between verse 22, where eternal life is the goal of holiness, and verse 23 when eternal life is the gift of God. Eternal life is the gift of God because he delivered us from slavery to sin, so that we could yield our members to him as instruments of righteousness, which leads to holiness, which has as an end eternal life (cf. also Heb. 12:14).

If you are at all honest, you have to admit I am just reading Romans 6 and Colossians 2:13 for what they say.

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