Galatians Promotes and Requires Works, Which Can Only Be Done by the Spirit, Not by Flesh/Law

I hate the fact that I have friends who will strongly disagree with the following. On the other hand, God had strong words to say to those who should have warned, but did not warn, and to those who said, “peace, peace” when there was no peace.

I sent this when a friend emailed me telling me that Calvinists claimed that my book, Rebuilding the Foundations, is the error of the Galatians:

***************

This will be a fun email to write.

Of course people raised up in Reformation traditions will immediately write off everything I wrote in Rebuilding the Foundations as legalism and the error of the Galatians. That is what they have been trained to do. For your sake, let me tell you that from the beginning, all churches founded as a result of the apostles’ ministries agreed with what I taught in the book. It is amazing to me that the divided, mostly nominal churches of today are willing to call the united, mostly holy churches of the second century legalists. Really? The apostles were such terrible teachers that all their churches fell into the error of the Galatians in one generation, and all of them into the same error?

That’s ridiculous. (For just a little evidence that my claim about the early churches is true, see https://www.christian-history.org/faith-versus-works….)

Ok, so, the error of the Galatians. Reformation descendants like to say it is faith vs. works. Not so, it is Spirit vs. the Law. You probably know that in Romans 7 and 8, the issue is that the law cannot subdue “sin in the flesh,” but the sacrifice of Jesus condemned “sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3), so that by the Spirit we can fulfill the righteous requirement of the law. Fulfilling the righteous requirement of the Law would be works, right? However, in Romans 7 and 8, Paul is not saying to do good works so you can fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law, he is saying that in our flesh, we can’t do that (all of Romans 7). By the Spirit, though, we can do good works (fulfilling the righteous requirement of the law).

Paul did not change his mind in Galatians. Paul gives a testimony about deliverance from the Law, and especially about deliverance from Jews over Gentiles, in Galatians 1-2. Then he launches into his argument. He begins with, “Just answer this, did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish, having begun in the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:2-3).

Works are not at issue here. The issue here is “being perfected.” There is a goal. The goal is to be perfected. Will that happen by the Spirit, or are you deceived into trying to be perfected by the Law, which is just depending on the flesh?

This is why, after talking about walking in the Spirit vs. walking in the flesh through the start of Galatians 5, he then gives a list of works of the flesh, that if we practice (Gr. prasso), we will not inherit God’s kingdom. Then he gives the fruit of the Spirit. Notice that it is “deeds” or “works” of the flesh, but it is “fruit” of the Spirit. We are trying to do good works, and the route to those good works is walking in the Spirit, for good works are the “fruit,” i.e., the result, of walking in the Spirit. In Galatians 6:7-9, he puts the ball in our court. Sow to the flesh, you will reap corruption. Sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life. Not only that, but if you sow to the Spirit, according to verse 9, you will “not grow weary in doing works,” and if you do not faint–i.e., not grow weary in doing good works–only then will you reap [eternal life].

This stuff isn’t deep or hard to find. It is sitting right on the surface. Walk in the Spirit, and you will be “perfected,” which, as he goes on to say, means producing the fruit of the Spiriit and continuing in good works. You will need those good works to reap eternal life (Gal. 5:19-21; 6:8-9), but you will never get them by the law. If there had been a law that could give life, then righteousness could have come by the law, but there is no such law (Gal. 3:21). Despite the fact that no law can produce righteousness, righteousness is still the goal! This is because righteousness produced fruit for holiness, and the result of holiness is eternal life (Rom. 6:22; Heb. 12:14).

The reality is that Paul was speaking what is true for everyone, even Christians, in Romans 2:5-8. There is a judgment, and those who patiently continue to do good will be rewarded with eternal life. God has provided the means to patiently continue to do good, which is by the Spirit. Galatians agrees, in an obvious and easy to understand manner, with Romans 8. Walk by the Spirit and you will live; walk in the flesh and you will perish (Rom. 8:12-13).

Predestination is complicated. What I wrote above is plain, obvious, and super important. Predestination is a theory about God’s role versus our role in being saved. Everyone has their own theory about it because there is no practical application to prove anyone right. We all agree, even the Calvinists and even the most eternally secure Baptists, that walking by the Spirit is the route to good works and righteousness.. We cannot do it in our own flesh, but only by the Spirit.

Where we don’t agree is whether that is optional or not. As you can see above, it is not optional. As 1 John 3:7 says, it is not optional. If you want eternal life, you must live according to the Spirit.

The next thing that the tradition-loving rather than Bible-loving will say is that I should say, “live according to the Spirit” rather than “good works.” Yes, if the Reformation and Luther and Calvin were my authority, I should say that. If the Bible is my authority, though, then I should “affirm confidently that those who believe in Christ should be careful to maintain good works” (Tit. 3:8).

Let’s be clear, those people you are talking about and asking about care more about what Luther and Calvin say than about what the Bible says. That’s a problem. Jesus did not react well to people who chose tradition over the Word of God.

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Posted in Bible, Evangelicals, Gospel, History, Modern Doctrines, Protestants, Rebuilding the Foundations | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

An Explosive View of the Atonement: Ransom and Aphesis

Aphesis: release; by implication, forgiveness

This word is not extraordinary if you look it up in a lexicon, but it will blow your mind, capture your heart, and set you free if you look it up in the Bible.

I weep that translators have chosen to translate aphesis as “forgiveness” so often. It is so much more than that.

Aphesis is the Greek word for Jubilee. Every 50 years, the land in Israel was to return to the families who owned it all the way back to the time of Joshua. The land was never to change hands except temporarily. Jubilee came with a trumpet blast, and all land that had been leased out was returned to the original families.

Jubilee came after 7 sets of 7 years. The 50th year was Jubilee, but it was tied to the sets of 7 years. Every 7 years, all Hebrew servants were set free and all debts were forgiven. The Greek word for this 7-year release? Aphesis.

Every year, on the Day of Atonement, two goats were brought before the temple and the high priest. One was sacrificed. The second, called the goat of aphesis, the scapegoat, was released into the wilderness after the priest had laid hands on its head and confessed the sins of Israel.

Aphesis is all these things, so at the end of the very first Christian preaching, on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon Peter, he did not tell them to be baptized so their sins could be “forgiven.” He told them they could be baptized for the APHESIS of their sins. Their ancestral rights would be restored (JUBILEE); their debts would be forgiven, and they would be freed from sin’s slavery (7-YEAR RELEASE), and their sins would be sent far from them (SCAPEGOAT).

In Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:14, we read that we have received “redemption,” the “forgiveness” of sins. This is like reading about a firecracker while Paul actually tossed a hand-grenade.

1 Corinthians 6:20 says we were BOUGHT WITH A PRICE. We were BOUGHT. We say Jesus “paid the penalty,” and we think it is so our sins could be forgiven. When we think that way, we have no problem saying, “Thank you, Jesus. See you down the road when its judgment time, and I can collect my eternal life and any other rewards you care to bestow on me.”

Ha, ha.

Ransom

Jesus paid a price, and that price was to buy you and to buy me, to BUY us. Ephesians 1:7 actually says that we have RELEASE BY RANSOM, the APHESIS of sins, by his blood (StudyBible.info; click on that little “629” above “release by ransom” when you get to the link so you can see the various ways lexicons define that Greek word, all including “ransom”).

Ephesians 1:7 is a huge verse, a grenade and not a firecracker. It BLOWS UP everything you ever knew!! Jesus BOUGHT you by being a RANSOM, a ransom who was KILLED and whose BLOOD was the price of your release from SLAVERY to sin.

The reason that there was a 50-year Jubilee is because Israelites got themselves in trouble, in debt, in poverty, and they had to lease their ancestral land in order to be rescued from their trouble, debt, or poverty. Every 50 years, they got a complete do-over, a re-start. Every 7 years, they got a boost, a release of debts, but they had to wait 50 years for full restoration to their rights as a descendant of Israel.

Jesus gave us all of this and so much more because he is not giving us earthly land that can be taken away, nor the rights as a son of fleshly Israel. When he BOUGHT us with his blood and suffering, he gave us ETERNAL land, ETERNAL rights. We did not receive the favor (grace) of man or of an earthly king. He bought us the FAVOR OF THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE.

We are BOUGHT with a great price, a RANSOM, and we receive APHESIS, a reward so great we cannot really comprehend it, and now … we are now BONDSERVANTS of the living God. Thus Peter writes …

***WARNING: If you read what Peter said, it may shake you to your core.***

If you call on the Father, who impartially judges according to each man’s work, then conduct yourself throughout the time of your journey here with FEAR [see below] because you know it was not by perishable silver and gold that you were RANSOMED out of your useless behavior handed down from your fathers, but with the precious BLOOD of a lamb, unblemished and spotless, OF CHRIST [THE KING]. (1 Pet. 1:17-19)

Some of you lost everything that was said because the word “FEAR” was in this passage. Let’s translate “fear” as …

FEAR: “An APPROPRIATE RESPONSE to the MAJESTIC sacrifice of the MAJESTIC Son of God to RANSOM YOU from your USELESS behavior that was handed down to you by your ancestors and RELEASE you from SLAVERY, DEBT, and SIN, and GIVE you FAVOR WITH GOD and make you an HEIR OF THE MOST HIGH!

If you believe this, how can you not be in AWE?! How can you not BOW in adoration and gratefulness?! How can you not CLEANSE YOURSELF from every defilement of flesh and spirit?!

“HAVING THESE PROMISES, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every contamination of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Cor. 7:1)

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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 StudyBible.info. 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 list themselves at 2414Now.net. 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.

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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.
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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. https://apostles-vs-calvinism.org/blog/perma/1627396260/article/transformation-the-holy-spirit-the-light-the-renew.html

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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.’”

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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.

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Adding Apostles-vs-Calvinism.org

Thank you to all of you for following me, some of you for many years. From now on, I will also be blogging at https://apostles-vs-calvinism.org/. 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.

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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.

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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

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