Archive for the 'Jesus Christ' Category

Perpetual virginity of Mary promoted by false document

Monday, April 24th, 2017

File:Blessed Virgin Mary.jpg

(Blessed Virgin Mary, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Did Mary, the mother of Jesus, remain a virgin all of her life?[1] That’s the meaning of the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary as promoted by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches today, some early church fathers, and some Protestants in the early Reformation period.

A Roman Catholic explanation is:

When Catholics call Mary the “Blessed Virgin,” they mean she remained a virgin throughout her life. When Protestants refer to Mary as “virgin,” they mean she was a virgin only until Jesus’ birth. They believe that she and Joseph later had children whom Scripture refers to as “the brethren of the Lord.” The disagreement arises over biblical verses that use the terms “brethren,” “brother,” and “sister.”
There are about ten instances in the New Testament where “brothers” and “sisters” of the Lord are mentioned (Matt. 12:46; Matt. 13:55; Mark 3:31–34; Mark 6:3; Luke 8:19–20; John 2:12, 7:3, 5, 10; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:5).[2]

Here is how some Roman Catholics argue:

1. Roman Catholic support for The Protoevangelium of James

A person online wrote:

Are we to ignore The Protoevangelium of James written in 150 AD? I know you will because it doesn’t fit your theory 1900 years later. The Origin of Alexandria’s commentary on Matthew 10:17 written in 249 AD? He is wrong because______________????? I could go on and on throughout history and quote some of the greatest Christian theologians/teachers of the Christian Church to rebut your theory but you have decided you are right and everyone else is wrong.

So, once again, what makes your interpretation right(?) and the historical writings and interpretations of The Protoevangelium of James, Origin of Alexandria, Wycliffe and Calvin (who you love to quote on your website when they agree with your personal doctrine) wrong??[3]

The Protoevangelium of James (The Infancy Gospel of James) is a fake that is in the Pseudepigrapha/Apocrypha. It is a false document attributed to Jesus’ brother, James. Early writers used this tactic to try to gain credibility for what they wrote. And Tom used it to support his unbiblical view of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Tom has created a straw man argument of my view. I do not support the use of a false document to augment the case for Mary’s perpetual virginity.

2. Some of the early reformers supported perpetual virginity of Mary

Surely it’s a killer blow for the Protestant rejection of the perpetual virginity of Mary for a RC person to isolate the Reformers and their support of the perpetual virginity. This is how one of them did it:

The Reformers on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary:[4]

Martin Luther

It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin. … Christ, we believe, came forth from a womb left perfectly intact. (Weimer’s The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v. 11, pp. 319-320; v. 6. p. 510.)

John Calvin

(On the Heretic Helvidius) Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ’s “brothers” are sometimes mentioned. (Harmony of Matthew, Mark and Luke, sec. 39 [Geneva, 1562], vol. 2 / From Calvin’s Commentaries, translated by William Pringle, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1949, p.215; on Matthew 13:55)

[On Matt 1:25:] The inference he [Helvidius] drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband . . . No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words . . . as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called “first-born”; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin . . . What took place afterwards the historian does not inform us . . . No man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation. (Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 107)

Under the word “brethren” the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity. (Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 283 / Commentary on John, [7:3])

3. Was it plagiarised information about the Protestant details?

I asked:[5] Did you obtain your information here from https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/maryc2.htm? You seem to have done that. Why don’t you acknowledge your sources?  If you have not read these actual documents to get these quotes and have obtained them from another source you have not acknowledged, then you have plagiarised from that source. If you obtained your citations from this website, it is a global RC television network. It comes with a decided agenda to promote RC theology.

See the article on ‘Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ and the assessment of statements by Luther, Martin. The article begins: ‘Luther’s opinions on Our Lady are not wholly consistent, not altogether free from tension. They are abundant and it would be possible to select a series of extracts that would make him look like a Catholic’.

Of course you can find statements from Luther that would make him look like a RCC adherent. After all, that was the system he had left and his theology was in transition. There will be examples of contradiction in this process at various stages of his movement away from the RCC. I know that when I moved from being a cessationist to being a supporter of the charismatic gifts, there were (and could still be) contradictions in my statements. That’s called growth and change.

Pulling out some pro-RCC statements from Luther is a questionable tactic when he was a man in process of transitioning from one theological system to another.

As for John Calvin and John Wycliffe, they should have known better because of the biblical evidence that contradicts their positions. Scripture states that Jesus had siblings. Matt 13:55-56 (NLT) states, ‘Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas.  All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?”’

The perpetual virginity of Mary is a misnomer perpetrated by the RCC.

She was a privileged lady but not in such a prominent position that causes schools in my electorate to be named in this kind of way to exalt her: Our Lady of the Way Catholic Primary School, Petrie, Qld, Australia.

The exalted Mary, mother of Jesus, cannot show the way to eternal life. That’s for Jesus alone (John 3:16 NLT; Acts 4:11 NLT). The Scriptures describe Mary: ‘Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”’ (Luke 1:28 NLT)

4. Logical fallacies and promotion of perpetual virginity

(The Vladimir Eleusa icon of the Ever Virgin Mary. The Aeiparthenos (Ever Virgin) title is widely used in Eastern Orthodox liturgy. Courtesy Wikipedia)

 

Example 1

I wrote: Some of the RCC doctrines that are contrary to biblical Christianity have been exposed over and over. See: https://www.gotquestions.org/Catholic-Biblical.html.[6]

This was one person’s RC reply:[7]

Gotquestions.org is a website run by Protestant,  evangelical, fundamental, and non-denominational people. Of course they are going to be anti-Catholic. It comes with a decided agenda to refute RC theology!!

Why aren’t Protestant beliefs or your beliefs that you promote on your website contrary to biblical Christianity that have been exposed over and over?

Here Tom55 has committed a genetic logical fallacy.[8] His genetic fallacy, a fallacy of reasoning, is based on what Tom sees as a defect in the origin of a claim, i.e. GotQuestions.org is a Protestant, evangelical, fundamental, non-denominational website. What he did in perpetrating this fallacy is:

  1. The origin of a claim about the perpetual virginity of Mary is from a Protestant, evangelical source;
  2. The claim is wrong because of that source.

This sort of reasoning is erroneous because blaming the source does not deal with the evidence for the issue. In the link I gave above it gave the example of, ‘Bill claims that 1+1=2. However, my parents brought me up to believe that 1+1=254, so Bill must be wrong’.

Of course there are examples where the origin of a claim is more relevant to its being true or false when, for example, a reliable expert in a field is more likely to be correct than a person with little expertise. I have had 5 open heart (valve replacement) surgeries. I would trust my cardiac surgeon’s knowledge on the need for a valve replacement than the knowledge of a lay person because of his expertise in these matters.

However, to claim that denial of the perpetual virginity of Mary is wrong because it comes from a Protestant, evangelical site, avoids the issue of the evidence. Tom committed a genetic logical fallacy. We cannot have a rational conversation when Tom does this.

Example 2

It was stated, ‘PS – when a poster starts complaining about the formatting style of his opponent, it usually means that his argument has run OUT of steam’.[9]

My response was: [10] When I complain about your shouting on an internet forum, it has zero to do with conceding defeat but bringing to your attention the need for etiquette when we speak to one another online. This was a red herring logical fallacy that did not deal with the fact that he was using capital letters, bold and enlarged font. He would not agree that he was wrong with his etiquette on a forum.

Example 3

Can you show me one single verse of Scripture that states that Scripture is our final authority??
I can show you verses that make this claim about the Church – but not about Scripture . . .

Matt 16:18-19 – Jesus told Peter that WHATEVER he ordained on earth would also be ordained in Heaven.

Matt. 18:15-18 – Jesus told Apostles that WHATEVER he ordained on earth would also be ordained in Heaven.

2 Thess 2:15 – Paul tells his readers to stand firm in the TRADITIONS they taught – WHETHER by oral statement OR by letter.

Luke 10:16 – Jesus tells hid disciples that whoever listens to THEM or rejects THEM – listens to HIM or rejects HIM and the ONE who sent Him.

Eph. 1:22-23 – Paul refers to the Church the FULLNESS of Christ.

Scripture is the written Word of God and is Authoritative – but NOWHERE does it claim to be our SOLE Authority.[11]

Notice what he continues to do! He screams at me with capitals, bold font and underlining.

Now to his rejection of the sole biblical authority.

Are you so blind[12] that you cannot see that ‘all Scripture’ that comes with the authority of being breathed out by the perfect Lord God who has absolute, sovereign authority of the universe has less authority than the early church fathers and popes?

N T Wright wrote an article, How Can the Bible Be Authoritative?[13] In his conclusion, Wright wrote an excellent summary of scriptural authority:

I have argued that the notion of the ‘authority of scripture’ is a shorthand expression for God’s authority, exercised somehow through scripture; that scripture must be allowed to be itself in exercising its authority, and not be turned into something else which might fit better into what the church, or the world, might have thought its ‘authority’ should look like; that it is therefore the meaning of ‘authority’ itself, not that of scripture, that is the unknown in the equation, and that when this unknown is discovered it challenges head on the various notions and practices of authority endemic in the world and, alas, in the church also.

Seems to me that your push for the authority of the church violates God’s authority that is exercised through Scripture.

See the article, ‘What is sola scriptura?

Example 4

Tom55 wrote on the forum: ‘Once again. You love to quote the Church Fathers on your website when they agree with you but avoid them when they prove you wrong…. How dishonest and sad’.[14]

I couldn’t let him get away with that one:[15] You have responded with a straw man fallacy. It is erroneous reasoning that falsely presents my view!

I use the church fathers when they agree with the Bible. When they invent something opposed to the Bible, as with the Evangelium of James (pseudepigrapha – fake stuff), I expose it. That’s what any sound exegete of Scripture should do. Seems as though you don’t want to venture into that realm of where the church fathers promote doctrines contrary to Scripture, but you reject the church fathers’ views in favour of the RCC’s position…. I have a brain that I use in reasoning. You are misrepresenting me with your erroneous reasoning.

5. What is the origin of perpetual virginity?

First page of the Gospel of Judas (Page 33 of Codex Tchacos)(copy of Apocrypha, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

It is understood[16] that the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary originated with The Protoevangelium of James (dated about AD 150) which also is known as The Infancy Gospel of James. What is the nature of this writing? Is it from the pen of James?

Gregory Elder’s assessment of this document is:

It was almost certainly not written by the James, the “brother” or “kinsman” of Jesus mentioned in the Bible. The earliest reference to the book appears in a third-century document and it was probably written in the middle of the second century A.D.

No Christian church today regards it as scriptural, and it is agreed to be apocryphal. That said, it is relatively early as Christian documents go, and it has some very interesting stuff in it.

The relatively short document is written in Greek, and it apparently was quite interesting to the early church communities, as more than 130 copies of it have survived, suggesting a wide readership for a day when handwriting was the only way to disseminate texts (Professing Faith: The Protoevangelium is noncanonical but influenced Christian beliefs 2014).

Here is a table of some contradictions between The Protoevangelium of James and the Bible (from, Is the Perpetual Virginity of Mary a Biblical View?)

 

Protoevangelium of James The Bible
1 Gabriel is called an archangel (Chapter 9:22), which was a common designation for Gabriel in apocryphal literature written after the first century. (For example, see Revelation of Paul, The Book of John Concerning the Falling Asleep of Mary, and The Apocalypse of the Holy Mother of God.) The Bible never identifies Gabriel as an archangel, but Michael is described as an archangel in Jude 1:9. The idea of Gabriel as an archangel seems to be a misconception that began in the second century.
2 Mary’s response to the angel is different than what is recorded in Scripture. “What! Shall I conceive by the living God, and bring forth as all other women do?” (Chapter 9:12). Luke 1:34 states, “Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’”
3 Elizabeth fled the Bethlehem region with her son John (the Baptist) to the mountains because of Herod’s wrath when he decided to kill all the baby boys around and in Bethlehem (Chapter 16:3). Concerning John the Baptist, Luke 1:80 states, “So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.” It was Joseph, Mary, and Jesus who fled from Bethlehem because of Herod (Matthew 2:13–15).
4 Jesus was born in a cave outside the city of Bethlehem (Chapters 12:11–14:31). Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the town of David, according to Luke 2:4, 11 and Matthew 2:1.
5 The angel of the Lord, when speaking to Joseph in a dream, said to take Mary but does not mention having her as a wife. The priest chastised Joseph and accused him for taking Mary as a wife secretly by the priest. Joseph takes her home but is reluctant to call her his wife when they go to Bethlehem (Chapters 10:17–18, 11:14, 12:2–3). Matthew 1:19 reveals that Joseph was already Mary’s husband (they were betrothed) before the angel visited him in a dream. Matthew 1:24 points out that after the angel visited Joseph, he kept her as his wife.
6 Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling cloths and hid him in a manger at the inn to keep him from the massacre by Herod’s men (Chapter 16:2). Mary and Joseph were warned of Herod’s plot by an angel, and they fled to Egypt (Matthew 2:13–14).
7 Wise men came to Bethlehem and inquired of Herod where the Child was born (Chapter 21:1–2). Wise men came to Jerusalem to inquire where the child king was (Matthew 2:1).

 

This comparison should lay to rest any support of the pseudo ‘Infancy Gospel’ of James as a genuine document to be followed in its support of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

The Protoevangelium of James (The Infancy Gospel of James) is a fake that is in the Pseudepigrapha. It is a false document attributed to Jesus’ brother, James. And this RC promoter dares to use it to support his unbiblical view of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

6. Evidence for Jesus’ brothers and sisters

Matthew 13:55-56 (ESV) states,[17] ‘Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?’

Here is the scriptural support for the other children, brothers and sisters, of Jesus. The brothers (adelphoi) are named as James, Joseph, Simon and Judas, but the sisters (adelphe) are not named. The origin of his brothers (whether by Joseph and Mary after Jesus’ birth; step brothers of Jesus, etc), in my view, has not been determined in any definitive way.

Some commentators consider them to be sons and daughters to Joseph and Mary, born later than Jesus’ birth. Others think of these brothers and sisters as from a previous marriage by Joseph. We know from a verse such as Mark 6:3 (ESV) that Jesus is called ‘the son of Mary’, but this verse again states that Jesus is the ‘brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon’.

Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe summarised the biblical evidence in a more than adequate way when they examined MATTHEW 13:55-56. Was Mary a perpetual virgin, or did she have other children after Jesus’ virgin birth?

PROBLEM: Roman Catholicism teaches that Mary was a perpetual virgin, that is, that she never had sexual intercourse, even after Jesus was virgin born. Is it true that when the Bible refers to Jesus’ “brothers and sisters” (Matt. 13:56) it means cousins or close relatives?

SOLUTION: It is true that the words for brother and sister can mean close relative. This must be determined by the context and from other Scriptures. And in the case of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, the context indicates they were his real half brothers and sisters.

First, nowhere does the Bible affirm the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity. Like the Roman Catholic doctrine of Mary’s sinlessness (see comments on Luke 1:46), there is no statement anywhere in the Bible that supports this teaching.

Second, when “brothers and sisters” are used in connection with father or mother, then it does not mean cousins, but actual blood brothers and sisters (cf. Luke 14:26). Such is the case with Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Matthew 13:55 says, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?” (cf. Mark 6:3)

Third, there are other references in the Bible to Jesus’ “brothers.” John informs us that “even His brothers did not believe in Him” (John 7:5). And Paul speaks of “James, the Lord’s brother” (Gal. 1:19). On another occasion Mark refers to “His [Jesus’] brothers and His mother” (Mark 3:31). John spoke of “His mother, His brothers, and His disciples” (John 2:12). Luke mentions “Mary the mother of Jesus, with His brothers” being in the Upper Room (Acts 1:14) [Geisler & Howe 1992:346].

I find nothing in Scripture to confirm the perpetual virginity of Mary.

When examining this issue, we need to deal with biblical evidence and not tradition, whether RC or Protestant.

7. Roman Catholic and other commentaries affirming perpetual virginity

One RC person online wrote:

Mary’s perpetual virginity bears witness to the uniqueness and Christ and to the divinity of Christ.

Denying the perpetual virginity of Mary subtly denies the divinity of Christ in the womb.[18]

There is not a word in Scripture that supports such a view. It’s a doctrine invented and perpetrated by the RCC. Even Roman Catholic priest, Fr Angelo Mary Geiger, associates the perpetual virginity of Mary with Jesus’ divinity in this statement:

The essential truth of the Virgin Birth, as taught continually by the Fathers and defined by the Church, does not concern the presence or absence of pain during Jesus’ birth. The central truth of the Virgin Birth is that Christ was born of Mary miraculously, as a sign and confirmation of His divinity (Geiger 2007).

Johannes Quasten wrote: ‘The principal aim of the whole writing [Protoevangelium of James] is to prove the perpetual and inviolate virginity of Mary before, in, and after the birth of Christ’ (Patrology 1:120–121, cited in ‘Mary: Ever Virgin’, Catholic Answers 1996-2017).[19]

St Augustine wrote of Mary: ‘A Virgin conceiving, a Virgin bearing, a Virgin pregnant, a Virgin bringing forth, a Virgin perpetual. Why do you wonder at this, O man?’ (Sermon 186.1).[20]

See the interaction on Catholic Answers, ‘Was Mary a perpetual virgin?’ (February 24, 2016).

Mark Lambert (2012) concluded that

from a modern perspective this doctrine [of Mary’s perpetual virginity] may to many seem fantastic. Without the theology it may seem unnecessary, with an anachronistic perspective it may seem misogynist, with a scientific perspective it might seem impossible. Yet with the information handed down to us from the early Church, we have to ask ourselves why would they make it up? If it wasn’t true, isn’t it just too complicated to make up? And for what purpose? Would it really bother anyone if it wasn’t the case? Logically, it seems that once one can accept the possibility of the virgin birth of Jesus of Nazareth and the necessity of that fact for the reality of the Incarnation, the historical evidence to support the claim is more than adequate (Lambert 2012).

The idea that because early church fathers affirmed Mary’s perpetual virginity, this means that it is true, commits the appeal to tradition logical fallacy.

8. Assessment by a few Protestant commentators

How do these Protestant commentators conclude with the evidence for Jesus’ brothers and sisters? Are they siblings, half-brothers and sisters, cousins, or in some other relation to Mary and Jesus?

8.1   William Hendriksen

He wrote of Matt 1:24-25 about ‘the case against Mary’s perpetual virginity ’ and stated that

a. According to both the Old and the New Testament sexual intercourse for married couples is divinely approved (Gen. 1:28; 9:1; 24:60; Prov. 5:18; Ps. 127:3; 1 Cor. 7:5, 9). Of course, even there, as in all things, self-control should be exercised. Incontinence is definitely condemned (1 Cor. 7:5; Gal. 5:22, 23). But no special sanctity attaches to total abstention or celibacy. b. We are definitely told that Jesus had brothers and sisters, evidently together with him members of one family (Matt. 12:46, 47; Mark 3:31, 32; 6:3; Luke 8:19, 20; John 2:12; 7:2, 5, 10; Acts 1:14). c. Luke 2:7 informs us that Jesus was Mary’s “firstborn” (Hendriksen 1973:144).

Taken together, these three arguments provide ‘the evidence [that] becomes conclusive. The burden of proof rests entirely on those who deny that after Christ’s birth Joseph and Mary entered into all the relationships commonly associated with marriage’ (Hendriksen 1973:145).

An RC response by Fr. Geiger is:

The virginity of Our Lady after the birth of Jesus concerns the fact that Mary never had marital relations with St. Joseph and therefore, of course, conceived no other children. Her whole life was that of consecrated virginity. Most Protestants do not hold this position. They argue that the brethren of the Lord referred to in the Gospel are the other children of Mary. The short answer to this problem is that the brethren in these passages refer to relatives such as cousins, and not siblings born from the same mother (Geiger 2007).

8.2   R C H Lenski

In his commentary on Matthew 12:46, he wrote:

Who “his brothers” are, in the writer’s opinion has not been determined. Modern commentators answer: the sons of Joseph and Mary who were born later than Jesus. But here and elsewhere they act as though they were older than he. Others think of sons of Joseph by a former marriage. In Mark 6:3 Jesus is called “the son of Mary” in a marked way (compare John 19:26) and is kept distinct from the brothers and the sisters. In Acts 1:14 Luke writes: “Mary, the mother of Jesus and his brothers” – not “her sons.” Still others, for instance, the Latin Church since Jerome and older Protestant theologians and some interpreters of our day, think of the sons of Clopas, a brother or a brother-in-law of Joseph. Thus these brothers would be first cousins of Jesus (Lenski 1943/1961:502).

8.3   D A Carson

Commenting on Matthew 12:46-47, he wrote:

The most natural way to understand “brothers” (v. 46) is that the term refers to sons of Mary and Joseph and thus to brothers of Jesus on his mother’s side. To support the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity, a notion foreign to the NT and to the earliest church fathers. Roman Catholic scholars have suggested that “brothers” refers either to Joseph’s sons by an earlier marriage or to sons of Mary’s sister, who had the same name…. Certainly “brothers” can have a wider meaning than male relatives (Acts 22;1). Yet it is very doubtful whether such a meaning is valid here for it raises insuperable problems. For instance, if “brothers” refers to Joseph’s sons by an earlier marriage, not Jesus but Joseph’s firstborn would have been legal heir to David’s throne. The second theory – that “brothers” refers to sons of a sister of Mary also named “Mary” – faces the unlikelihood of two sisters having the same name. All things considered, the attempts to extend the meaning of “brothers” in this pericope, despite McHugh’s best efforts, are nothing less than farfetched exegesis in support of a dogma that originated much later than the NT (Carson 1984:299).

While Lenski doesn’t know who the brothers and sisters of Jesus have as parents, Hendriksen and Carson acknowledge them as children of the one family of Joseph and Mary.

None of these commentators supports the perpetual virginity of Mary. The RC opposition would say: Of course you would expect that. They are Protestants who do not respect the tradition of the universal church from the time of Jesus. My response is: Each of these commentators and Geisler and Howe examine the exegetical evidence in Scripture to arrive at their decisions. If the evidence led to perpetual virginity, they would, in all honesty, accept such a view. However, Hendriksen’s statement reaches a profound conclusion that is substantiated by the evidence:

9. There is no perpetual virginity of Mary

Image result for image perpetual virginity public domain(courtesy Creed 101)

 

‘The evidence becomes conclusive. The burden of proof rests entirely on those who deny that after Christ’s birth Joseph and Mary entered into all the relationships commonly associated with marriage’ (Hendriksen 1973:145).

The RCC has not demonstrated that Joseph and Mary did not enter into the marriage relationship and have children after the birth of Jesus.

Mary’s virginity at the time of Jesus’ conception assures us that Jesus was not infected by sin and is uniquely God’s Son. However, it is not related to Mary’s perpetual virginity.

It is a straw man fallacy that the denial of Mary’s perpetual virginity denies Christ’s divinity in the womb. Christ’s divinity is guaranteed by the divine manifestation and confirmation by God himself that Jesus is the unique Son and Messiah. This happened at Jesus’ baptism: ‘Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”’ (Luke 3:21-22 ESV).

This is God from heaven proclaiming Jesus as his Son and with Jesus, God is ‘well pleased’. Do you remember who declared Jesus’ divinity? It was not linked to Mary’s perpetual virginity.

According to Luke 3:21-22, it is God, out of heaven proclaiming Jesus as His Son, the Son of the Most High God, as Gabriel had said He was, Immanuel, God with us.  And the Father is also proclaiming His perfection saying He is well pleased with everything about Him.

Concerning the birth of Jesus, Matthew 1:22-23 (ESV) states,

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us).

This is a quotation from the prophet Isaiah 7:14 and is fulfilled in Jesus’ virgin birth where he was called Immanuel, which means, ‘God is with us’. Thus, Jesus’ divinity is not related to any perpetual virginity of Mary but to a declaration by God Himself and biblical teaching that Jesus is eternally the Son.

See my articles in defence of the virgin conception and birth:

Flower16 The virgin birth of Christ

Flower16 The Virgin Birth: Fact, Fiction, or Something Else?

Was Jesus God prior to his virgin birth? See the content of the article,

Flower16What is the doctrine of eternal Sonship and is it biblical?’ (Got Questions Ministries).

Flower16 I commend to you the excellent summary of the biblical material in context that does not support Mary’s perpetual virginity, ‘Did Jesus have brothers and sisters (siblings)?’ [Compelling Truth]

10. Works consulted

Carson, D A 1984. Matthew, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol 8, 3-500. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library (Zondervan Publishing House).

Geiger, F M 2007. The Virgin Birth of Jesus is a dogma of faith, in Michael: A journal of Catholic patriots for the Social Credit monetary reform (online), 01 January. Available at: http://www.michaeljournal.org/articles/roman-catholic-church/item/the-virgin-birth-of-jesus-is-a-dogma-of-faith (Accessed 24 April 2017).

Geisler, N & Howe, T 1992. When critics ask: A popular handbook on Bible difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Hendriksen, W 1973. New Testament commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lambert, M 2012. The perpetual virginity of Mary. De Omnibus Debitandum Est (blog). Available at: http://marklambert.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/the-perpetual-virginity-of-mary.html (Accessed 27 February 2017).

Lenski, R C H 1943/1961. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel. Minneapolis MN: The Wartburg Press/Augsburg Publishing House (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. edn.).


Notes

[1] Much of the information in this article is based on my interaction on the Christian forum, Christianity Board 2016-2017. ‘When did the universal Church first mentioned in 110AD stop being universal?’ (online). Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/23002-when-did-the-universal-church-first-mentioned-in-110ad-stop-being-universal/page-24 (Accessed 3 February 2017).

[2] ‘Brethren of the Lord’ 1996-2017. Catholic Answers (online). Available at: https://www.catholic.com/tract/brethren-of-the-lord (Accessed 9 April 2017).

[3] ChristianityBoard.com, ‘When did the universal Church first mentioned in 110AD stop being universal?’ (online), Tom55#726.

[4] Ibid., BreadOfLife#707.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#711.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#692.

[7] Ibid., tom55#715.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#722.

[9] Ibid., BreadOfLife#729.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#730.

[11] Ibid., BreadOfLife#731.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#733.

[13] NTWrightPage 1991. How can the Bible be authoritative? Vox Evangelica, 21, 7-32. Available at: http://ntwrightpage.com/2016/07/12/how-can-the-bible-be-authoritative/ (Accessed 3 February 2017).

[14] ‘When did the universal Church first mentioned in 110AD stop being universal?’ (online), tom55#744.

[15] Ibid., OzSpen#745, #746.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#742.

[17] Ibid., OzSpen#724.

[18] Christianity Board 2017. ‘It’s not in the bible … sola scriptura’ (online), Mungo#6. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/23615-it-is-not-in-the-biblesola-scripture/ (Accessed 24 April 2017).

[19] Available at: https://www.catholic.com/tract/mary-ever-virgin (Accessed 27 February 2017).

[20] See also: http://www.churchfathers.org/category/mary-and-the-saints/mary-ever-virgin/ (Accessed 27 February 2017).

 

Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 April 2017.

Was Jesus’ Resurrection a Bodily Resurrection?

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

Garden Tomb

Todd Bolen, “Garden Tomb

By Spencer D Gear

The apostle Paul was awaiting execution in a Roman prison when he wrote his final letter to Timothy in about AD 64-68 (intro in ESV).   What do you think would be the last words from one of the greatest church leaders of all time – just before he was killed as a martyr for the faith?  Listen carefully to 2 Tim. 4:1-4:

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when [people] [1a] will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (NIV).

A.    What happened in the years immediately after the death of the apostles?

Was Paul’s warning to Timothy fulfilled?   Was sound doctrine compromised?  Were there listeners with “itching ears” who “turn[ed] their ears away from the truth and turn[ed] aside to myths”?  Yes, there were and here we will describe some of the teachings.

We need to understand that these church leaders were defending the faith against one of the most destructive heresies concerning Christ that developed towards the end of the first century.  A similar kind of heresy is with us today.  Back in the first and second centuries, this false teaching was called Docetism (a form of Gnosticism).

Docetism is based on the Greek verb, dokew, which means, “I seem.”  This heresy taught that:

designQuilt Jesus only seemed to be human; he was not really human;
designQuiltHis human body was a ghost;
designQuiltChrist’s suffering and death were only appearances of suffering & death;
designQuiltThey denied his humanity, so there was no bodily resurrection of Christ.  But they affirmed Christ’s deity.
designQuiltWe see possibly an early stage of  Docetism being addressed in I John 4:2, when John wrote, “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”  In 2 John 7, we read, “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

This is why early church theologians and writers after the death of the apostles had to preach against this heresy.  I’ll mention a few examples of this correction, particularly as it applies to the resurrection of Christ.

1. Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 35-107) [2]

He taught: “For I know and believe that [Jesus] was in the flesh even after the resurrection. And when He came to Peter and those who were with him, He said to them, ‘Take, handle me and see that I am not a spirit without body’” (written about the year AD 110) [Ignatius n.d., 6.3].

2.    Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165)

Justin wrote:

“Why did He rise in the flesh in which He suffered, unless to show the resurrection of the flesh? And wishing to confirm this, when His disciples did not know whether to believe He had truly risen in the body, and were looking upon Him and doubting, He said to them, ‘Ye have not yet faith, see that it is I;’ and He let them handle Him, and showed them the prints of the nails in His hands. And when they were by every kind of proof persuaded that it was Himself, and in the body, they asked Him to eat with them, that they might thus still more accurately ascertain that He had in verity risen bodily” (Martyr, J., n.d., ch. 9).

This letter was written about AD 110.  Why did he have to teach that Jesus rose from the dead in a body of flesh?  Because there was false doctrine around in the early second century.  He went straight to the Bible to get the proof.  We have to do the same with new challenges to Christ’s bodily resurrection.

3.    Tertullian (ca. 160-225)

Tertullian wrote a book titled, “On the Resurrection of the Flesh,” in which he asked and responded:

How then did Christ rise again? In the flesh, or not? No doubt, since you are told that He ‘died according to the Scriptures,’ and ‘that He was buried according to the Scriptures,’ no otherwise than in the flesh, you will also allow that it was in the flesh that He was raised from the dead.

For the very same body which fell in death, and which lay in the sepulchre, did also rise again (Tertullian n.d., ch. 48).

4.    Irenaeus (ca. 130-200)

Saint Irenaeus.jpg

(This image courtesy of Wikipedia)

This church father wrote a book titled, Against Heresies, in which he stated:

“In the same manner, therefore, as Christ did rise in the substance of flesh, and pointed out to His disciples the mark of the nails and the opening in His side (now these are the tokens of that flesh which rose from the dead)” (Irenaeus n.d., 5.7.1).

5.  Origen (ca. 185-254)

In Contra Celsus, Origen refuted Celsus’s charge that the resurrection appearances of Jesus were those of a ghost.  He asked:

“How is it possible that a phantom which, as he describes it, flew past to deceive the beholders, could produce such effects after it had passed away, and could so turn the hearts of men as to lead them to regulate their actions according to the will of God” (Origen n.d., 7.35).

Docetism was one of the major destructive heresies of the church in the first-to-third centuries and these defenders and teachers of the faith had to teach against the false doctrine of a spiritual or phantom resurrection of Christ.  Paul warned that “destructive heresies” would come and that people would have “itching ears” to receive and promote such false teaching.

B. What do we have today?

I hope you don’t get angry with me for mentioning names of people who teach false doctrine.  I am following the example of the apostle Paul who, in Galatians 2:11ff, condemned the apostle Peter — and named him.  Peter had been eating with the Gentiles, but when certain Jews came from James, Peter drew back and separated from the Gentiles.  Paul named Peter as a hypocrite and we have had it in writing for 2000 years.  

Paul said in 2 Tim. 4:14, “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done.”  We have had this also on record for 2,000 years.

When people are preaching false doctrine in the church or anywhere, when people are harming the church and God’s people, we need to name them, correct them, and proclaim the accurate biblical message.

In regard to the bodily resurrection of Christ, what false teaching do we have today?

1.    New Zealand Presbyterian minister, Lloyd Geering

Lloyd Geering, 2011.jpg

(Sir Lloyd Geering, image courtesy Wikipedia)

 

He defended what “Gregor Smith had said in [a book called] Secular Christianity . . . that the Christian is free to say that the bones of Jesus lie somewhere in Palestine, and until the Christian feels free to say that, he hasn’t understood what the Resurrection is about” (in Kohn 2001).

Geering continues, “The Resurrection was not a resuscitation, it was not a return to this life of a physical body. It was in fact something quite different. It was in fact the rise of Easter faith in the disciples, more or less as Bultmann had been explaining for some time” (in Kohn 2001).

In other words, the resurrection of Jesus was not a risen body in the flesh, but it was a spiritual experience for Christ’s disciples.

You possibly won’t read Lloyd Geering and some of these other false teachers today, but do you know the people who do read them?  Those in the mass media who want to create doubt or a controversial perspective, readily seek comments from these doubters.  When it comes to Easter and Christmas times, they won’t call on you and me, but these false teachings and their heretical teachers will hit the headlines.

2.    Edward Schillebeeckx

A Dutch Roman Catholic, he wrote, “Jesus’ resurrection is not a return to life as in the story of Lazarus… it is certainly not a miracle of intervention in natural laws to raise a corpse to heavenly life” (from Schillebeeckx, God Among Us, p. 134, cited in Mann 1993).

3.    The German Protestant Lutheran, Rudolph Bultmann

Bultmann wrote that “the resurrection itself is not an event of past history” (from Kerygma and Myth, p.39, cited in Mann 1993).

4.    Protestant theologian Karl Barth

“Christians do not believe in the empty tomb but in the living Christ. Is the empty tomb just a legend? What matter? It cannot but demand assent, even as legend.” (from Church Dogmatics III, 2, p.454).

5.   Former Episcopalian bishop of Newark, NJ, John Shelby Spong:

“The probable fate of the crucified Jesus was to be thrown with other victims into a common, unmarked grave. The general consensus of New Testament scholars is that whatever the Easter experience was, it dawned first in the minds of the disciples who had fled to Galilee for safety, driving us to the conclusion that the burial story in the gospels is both legendary and was developed directly from the words of II Isaiah” (Spong 2004).

6. John Dominic Crossan, a Roman Catholic, of the Jesus Seminar

Crossan speaks of “the apparitions of the risen Jesus.”  What’s an apparition?  A phantom, a ghost.  Jesus’ resurrected body was not real flesh.   He says that “the resurrection is a matter of Christian faith” (1995, p. 189).  So, for him, the resurrection of Christ is really a spiritual resurrection among believers – whatever that means.

So, what happened to the body of Jesus?  Crossan wrote: “Jesus’ burial by his friends was totally fictional and unhistorical.  He was buried, if buried at all, by his enemies, and the necessarily shallow grave would have been easy prey for scavenging animals” (Crossan 1994, p. 160).

Let’s come closer to my home in Queensland – in my hometown of Bundaberg, Qld., Australia.

7.    Rev. David Kidd, Bundaberg Uniting Church

At Easter time 1999, David Kidd wrote an article in The Bugle, a local freebie newspaper that was titled, “The Resurrection of Jesus” (Kidd 1999, p. 19). I lived in Bundaberg at the time.  In it, he stated: “The resurrection of Jesus.[3] It’s impossible.  Even our brain dies after a few minutes of death.  It’s just not possible.’”[4]

 

C. What does the Bible say?

It is very easy to show from the Scriptures that Christ rose from the dead in a physical body.  Let’s look at the evidence (based on Geisler 1999, pp. 667-668):

1. People touched him with their hands.

Jesus’ challenge to Thomas in John 20:27 was: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  How did Thomas respond, “My Lord and My God” (20:28).

Jesus said to Mary as she grasped him, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father.”  Matthew 28:9 tells us that the women “clasped his feet and worshiped him.”

When Jesus appeared to his disciples, what did Jesus say?  Luke 24:39, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a [spirit ] {5} does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

Do we need any further evidence that Jesus had real human flesh after his resurrection?

2. Jesus’ resurrection body had real flesh and bones.

The verse that we have just looked at gives some of the most powerful evidence of his bodily resurrection: “Touch me and see; a [spirit] does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (Lk. 24:39) and to prove that he really did have a real body of flesh and bones, what did he do?  According to Luke 24:41-42, Jesus “asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’  They gave him a piece of broiled fish.”  Folks, spirits or spiritual bodies do not eat fish.

Third piece of evidence in support of the bodily resurrection of Christ:

3. Jesus ate real tucker (Aussie for “food”).

As we’ve just seen, they gave him “broiled fish” to eat.  He ate real food on at least 3 occasions, eating both bread and fish, (Luke 24:30, 41-43; John 21:12-13).  Acts 10:41 states that Jesus met with witnesses “who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

That sounds clear to me.  Jesus ate food after his resurrection.  People in real bodies eat real food.

A fourth proof that Jesus was raised in his physical body:

4. Take a look at the wounds in his body.

This is proof beyond reasonable doubt.  He still had the wounds in his body from when he was killed.  John 20:27, “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’”

When Jesus ascended, after his resurrection, the Bible records, “This same Jesus [ie this divine-human Jesus], who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
There’s a fifth confirmation of his bodily resurrection:

5. Jesus could be seen and heard.

Yes, Jesus’ body could be touched and handled.  But there is more! 

Matthew 28:17 says that “when they saw [horaw] him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” On the road to Emmaus, of the disciples who were eating together, Luke 24:31 states, “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.”  The Greek term “to recognize” [epiginoskw] means “to know, to understand, or to recognize”  These are the normal Greek words “for ‘seeing’ (horaw, theorew) and ‘recognizing’ (epiginoskw) physical objects” (Geisler 1999, pp 667-668).

Because Jesus could be seen and heard as one sees and recognises physical objects, we have further proof that Jesus rose bodily.

6. The Greek word, soma, always means physical body.

When used of an individual human being, the word body (soma) always means a physical body in the New Testament.  There are no exceptions to this usage in the New Testament.  Paul uses soma of the resurrection body of Christ [and of the resurrected bodies of people – yet to come] (I Cor. 15:42-44), thus indicating his belief that it was a physical body” (Geisler 1999, p. 668).

In that magnificent passage in I Cor. 15 about the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of people in the last days, why is Paul insisting that the soma must be a physical body?  It is because the physical body is central in Paul’s teaching on salvation (Gundry in Geisler 1999, p. 668).  We’ll get to that in a moment.

There’s a 7th piece of evidence in support of bodily resurrection:

7. Jesus’ body came out from among the dead

There’s a prepositional phrase that is used in the NT to describe resurrection “from (ek) the dead” (cf. Mark 9:9; Luke 24:46; John 2:22; Acts 3:15; Rom. 4:24; I Cor. 15:12).  That sounds like a ho-hum kind of phrase in English, “from the dead.” Not so in the Greek.

This Greek preposition, ek, means Jesus was resurrected ‘out from among’ the dead bodies, that is, from the grave where corpses are buried (Acts 13:29-30).  These same words are used to describe Lazarus’s being raised ‘from the dead’ (John 12:1).  In this case there is no doubt that he came out of the grave in the same body in which he was buried.  Thus, resurrection was of a physical corpse out of a tomb or graveyard (Geisler 1999, p. 668). 

This confirms the physical nature of the resurrection body.

8. He appeared to over 500 people at the one time.

Paul to the Corinthians wrote that Christ

appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me [Paul]also, as to one abnormally born (I Cor. 15:5-8).

You could not believe the discussion and controversy one little verb has caused among Bible teachers.  Christ “appeared” to whom?  Here, Paul says, Peter, the twelve disciples, over 500 other Christians, James, all the apostles, and to Paul “as to one abnormally born.”

The main controversy has been over whether this was some supernatural revelation called an “appearance” or was it actually “seeing” his physical being?  These are the objective facts: Christ became flesh, he died in the flesh, he was raised in the flesh and he appeared to these hundreds of people in the flesh.

The resurrection of  Jesus from the dead was not a form of “spiritual” existence.  Just as he was truly dead and buried, so he was truly raised from the dead bodily and seen by a large number of witnesses on a variety of occasions (Fee 1987, p. 728).

No wonder the Book of Acts can begin with: “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

D. We need to look briefly at a few objections to bodily resurrection

One of the objections sometimes raised is that Christ’s body after the resurrection had some unusual supernatural features and that this means it was not a real physical body.  One objection is that

1. Christ would just appear and disappear

Take a verse like Luke 24:34, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”  Then go to Acts 9:17, “Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’”

In these two examples the word “appeared” is used.  One of Jesus and the other of Jesus appearing to Paul, many years after Christ’s ascension.  Both of these are in the passive voice (Greek) , so it means that Christ “let himself be seen. . .  Jesus took the initiative to make himself visible at his resurrection appearances” (Geisler 1999, p. 659).  “Appeared” means that “he could be seen by human eyes, the appearances were not just visions” (Rienecker in Geisler 1999, p. 659).

The NT speaks of sudden appearances by Jesus, like to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus.  It is stated: “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight” (Luke 24:31).  This could have been a miraculous act of power, a sign that he was both human and divine.  We must get this one correct, as Norman Geisler puts it:

The text nowhere states that Jesus became nonphysical when the disciples could no longer see him.  Just because he was out of their sight does not mean he was out of his physical body.  God has the power to miraculously transport persons in their pre-resurrection physical bodies from one place to another (1999, p. 659).

Remember when Philip the evangelist was with the Ethiopian eunuch, “the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39).    Here was Philip, a real human being, whisked away by the Spirit of God.

So for both Jesus and Philip, the text does not say that either one became non-physical beings.

A second objection:

2.    Jesus didn’t die but swooned in the grave

H. J. Schonfield made this popular in his book, The Passover Plot (1965).  But this view is as old as Celsus in the 2nd century.  The view was that Mary Magdalene nursed Jesus back to health.  “Forty days later his wounds bot the better of him, and he died and was buried secretly” (Green 1990, p. 186).

This is fairy story stuff.  There is not one bit of evidence to support it and it doesn’t understand “the brutal Roman method of execution” (Green 1990, p. 186).  I found Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” terribly brutal but it did give a realistic picture of how final Roman execution really was.

3.    The disciples stole the body

If the Jews and Romans wanted to silence the facts about the bodily resurrection of Jesus, all they would have had to do was to produce the body of Jesus.  They didn’t.

Get this.  It does not make sense to claim that the disciples stole the body of Jesus, went forth proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus, and then

They were willing to be imprisoned for this faith, torn limb from limb, thrown to the lions, or turned into human torches in the Emperor Nero’s gardens for this conviction that Jesus was alive.  Would they have endured all that for a claim they knew was [a fake] (Green 1990, p. 190)

Why did some of the Bible teachers after the death of the apostles teach Docetism,  that Jesus did not have a physical body and could not have risen with a physical body?  They could be the same reasons for such teaching today:

6pointColored-small  They don’t believe the authoritative Bible is the infallible Word of God.  OR

6pointColored-smallThey don’t believe in the supernatural.  They are naturalists who believe that “the ‘natural’ universe, the universe of matter and energy, is all that there really is.  This rules out God, so naturalism is atheistic” (MacDonald 1984, p. 750).  This is like David Kidd, formerly of the Bundaberg Uniting Church, who said that the resurrection of Christ is “impossible.  Even our brain dies after a few minutes of death.  It’s just not possible” (Kidd 1999, p. 19).  That’s naturalism.

Naturalism is the belief that everything in nature originates from natural causes. There cannot be any supernatural or spiritual explanations. They are either excluded for relegated to some discounted position.
6pointColored-smallEven though deniers of Christ’s bodily resurrection may be in the church, according to Rom. 1:18, they still “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”  They are rebels against God and don’t want to understand the resurrection of Jesus as God told us.  They are engaged in ungodly activities and can’t see the light of the Gospel.  In reality, they are atheistic concerning the supernatural God of the Bible.

6pointColored-smallPaul warned that these false teachers would attract people “to suit their own passions” (2 Tim. 4:4 ESV). 

6pointColored-smallSatan, the enemy of our souls, loves to dress up false doctrine to make it look like the real thing.

E. Why is the bodily resurrection of Jesus important?

We must understand how serious it is to deny the resurrection. Paul told the Corinthians: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (I Cor. 15:13-14).

The updated World Christian Encyclopedia … by Oxford University Press, says that by midcentury there will be 3 billion Christians, constituting 34.3% of the world’s population, up from the current 33%.

Christians now number 2 billion and are divided into 33,820 denominations and churches, in 238 countries, and use 7,100 languages, the encyclopedia says (Zenit 2001).

If there is no bodily resurrection, we might as well announce it to the world and tell all Christians they are living a lie and ought to go practise some other religion.

British evangelist, Michael Green, summarises the main issues about the bodily resurrection of Christ:

The supreme miracle of Christianity is the resurrection. . . [In the New Testament] assurance of the resurrection shines out from every page.  It is the crux of Christianity, the heart of the matter.  If it is true, then there is a future for mankind; and death and suffering have to be viewed in a totally new light.  If it is not true, Christianity collapses into mythology.  In that case we are, as Saul of Tarsus conceded, of all men most to be pitied (Green 1990, p. 184).

The bodily resurrection is absolutely essential for these reasons:

1. Belief in the resurrection of Christ is necessary for salvation

Rom. 10:9 states: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Salvation means that you are saved from God’s wrath because of the resurrection of Christ.  You are saved from hell.

Your new birth (regeneration) is guaranteed by the resurrection.  First Peter 1:3 states that “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

The spiritual power within every Christian happens because of the resurrection.  Paul assured the Ephesians of Christ’s “incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 1:19-20).  You can’t have spiritual power in your life without the resurrected Christ.

In one passage, Paul links your justification through faith to the resurrection – he associates directly your being declared righteous, your being not guilty before God, with Christ’s resurrection.  Rom. 4:25 states that Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

Your salvation, your being born again, your justification, your having spiritual power in the Christian life depends on your faith in the raising of Jesus from the dead.  Not any old resurrection will do.  Jesus’ body after the resurrection was not a spirit or phantom.  It was a real, physical body.  If  you don’t believe in the resurrection of Christ, on the basis of this verse, you can’t be saved.
Second:

2. Christ’s resurrection proves that Jesus is God

From very early in his ministry, Jesus’ predicted his resurrection.  The Jews asked him for a sign.  According to John 2:19-21, “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days’ . . . But the temple he had spoken of was his body.”  Did you get that?  Jesus predicted that he, being God, would have his body destroyed and three days later, He would raise this body.

Jesus continued to predict his resurrection: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40).  See also Mark 8:31; 14:59; Matt. 27:63.

The third reason Christ’s bodily resurrection is core Christianity is:

3. Life after death is guaranteed!

Remember what Jesus taught his disciples in John 14:19, “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”  If you truly have saving faith in Christ, his resurrection makes life after death a certainty.

There a fourth reason:

 

4. Christ’s bodily resurrection guarantees that believers will receive perfect resurrection bodies as well.

After you die and Christ comes again, the New Testament connects Christ’s resurrection with our final bodily resurrection.  I Cor. 6:14, “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.”

In the most extensive discussion on the connection between Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection, Paul states that Christ is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor. 15:20).  What are “firstfruits”?  It’s an agricultural metaphor indicating the first taste of the ripening crop, showing that the full harvest is coming.  This shows what believers’ resurrection bodies, the full harvest, will be like.

Do you see how critically important it is to have a biblical understanding of the nature of Christ’s resurrection – his bodily resurrection.

In spite of so many in the liberal church establishment denying the bodily resurrection of Christ or dismissing it totally, there are those who stand firm on the bodily resurrection.

F. Those supporting the bodily resurrection

Eminent British New Testament Scholar and former Anglican Bishop of Durham, Dr. N. T. Wright, said:

I simply cannot explain why Christianity began without it [i.e. without the resurrection of Christ]…. If Jesus had died and stayed dead, [his disciples] would either have given up the movement or they would have found another messiah.  Something extraordinary happened which convinced them that Jesus was the Messiah (Jennings 2000, p. 51).

N. T. Wright has since written these 817 pages to support the bodily resurrection and refute those throughout church history, including current scholars who deny the literal resurrection of Jesus.  Wright concludes: “The proposal that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead possesses unrivalled power to explain the historical data at the heart of early Christianity” (Wright 2003, p. 718).

G. What’s the remedy for this church and every church today when the bodily resurrection of Christ is denied?

It is the same for us as Paul’s last words to Timothy: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). I have great concern that the churches in Australia today are becoming suckers to rampant false teaching.  Why?

6pointColored-small We don’t take seriously Paul’s command to “preach the Word.”  Preaching about the Word, preaching my own ideas, is NOT preaching the Word.  I do not know how to preach the Word other than to systematically preach through the Bible, or to focus on certain biblical topics as I am doing today.
6pointColored-small   When should we do this?  When it’s appropriate and when it seems inappropriate.  Paul’s words were: “Be prepared in season and out of season.”

6pointColored-small  This preaching of the Word must include correction, rebuking and encouragement.  My task today has been to correct false doctrine, based on the Scriptures.  I don’t believe we take seriously the command: “Preach the Word.”
6pointColored-small  It is not too late to make a change.  False doctrine will increase and the need for correction, rebuking and encouragement will be urgently needed.  Paul says that we must do this “with great patience and careful instruction.”  But I’m not sure that we care about false teaching.

6pointColored-small  Will this church take seriously this command from Paul, so that we will not become a victim of false teachings?  All of us must be vigilant.  We cannot know what is false without knowing the truth of the Word.  We must preach the Word.

Appendix:

1.    Theologian and apologist, Norman Geisler, wrote: “Those who try to get around the resurrection walk against the gale-force winds of the full evidence.  The facts are that Jesus of Nazareth really died . . . and actually came back from the dead in the same physical body” (1999, p. 656).
2.    Wayne Grudem wrote, concerning Jesus’ resurrection body, that “the texts . . . show that Jesus clearly had a physical body with ‘flesh and bones’ (Luke 24:39), which could eat and drink, break bread, prepare breakfast and be touched. . .  These texts are not capable of an alternative explanation that denies Jesus’ physical body. . . Jesus was clearly teaching  them that his resurrection body was a physical body” (1994, p. 612).

See my other articles on the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Notes:

1a. The original read, “Men,” but the ESV translates as “people.”
2.  Earle E. Cairns considers that his “seven letters must have been written about 110” (1981, p. 74).
3. “The Resurrection of Jesus” was the title of the article and the first sentence began with, “It’s impossible.  Even our brain dies . .
. ,” so I am left to conclude that the article’s title was the introduction to the first sentence.
4. The original article had closing inverted commas here, but there were no introductory inverted commas.
5. The NIV reads, “ghost,” but the ESV translates as “spirit.”  The Greek is pneuma = spirit.

References:

Cairns, E. E. 1981, Christianity through the Centuries, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Crossan, J. D. 1994, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco.

Crossan, J. D. 1995, Who Killed Jesus? HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco.

Fee, G. D. 1987, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (gen. ed. F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Geisler, N. L. 1999, ‘Resurrection, Evidence for’, in Norman L. Geisler 1999, Baker Encyclopedia of  Christian Apologetics, Baker Books, Grand Rapid, Michigan.

Green, M. 1990, Evangelism through the local Church, Hodder & Stoughton, London.

Grudem, W. 1994, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England.

Ignatius n.d., ‘The Epistle to the Smyrnaeans’, Early Church Writings, available from:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/srawley/smyrnaeans.html [Accessed 19 July 2005].

Irenaeus n.d., ‘Against Heresies’, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, available from:
http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-01/anf01-63.htm#P8967_2580595 [Accessed 19 July 2005].

Jennings P. 2000, ‘Peter Jennings Reporting’, ABC television (USA), aired on Monday, June 26 2000. This quote is from Christian Research Institute 2000, “Point-by-point Response to ‘Peter Jennings Reporting: The Search for Jesus,’ available from: http://www.equip.org/free/DJ036.pdf [Accessed 31 May 2005].

Kidd, D. 1999, Bundaberg Uniting Church, “The Resurrection of Jesus,” The Bugle (Bundaberg), March 19, 1999, p. 19.

Kohn, R. 2001, The Spirit of Things (radio program), ‘Tomorrow’s God, with Lloyd Geering’,  Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 4 March 2001, available from: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/relig/spirit/stories/s253975.htm [Accessed 19 July 2005].

Mann, J. 1993, ‘Justification’, available from: http://www.fountain.btinternet.co.uk/theology/justific.html [Accessed 19 July 2005].

MacDonald, M. H. 1984, ‘Naturalism’, in W. A. Elwell (ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp. 750-751.

Martyr, J. n.d., ‘Fragments of the Lost Work of Justin on the Resurrection’, Early Church Writings, available from:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/justinmartyr-resurrection.html [Accessed 19 July 2005].

Origen n.d., ‘Contra Celsus’, Early Christian Writings, available from: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/origen167.html [19 July 2005].

Schonfield, H. J. 1965, The Passover Plot, Bantam Books, New York.

Spong, J. S. 2004, Review, ‘The Passion of the Christ’ — Mel Gibson’s Film and Biblical Scholarship – Part 4, available from Arianna Online Forum at: http://www.ariannaonline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1025 [Accessed19 July 2005].

Tertullian n.d., ‘On the Resurrection of the Flesh’, Early Church Writings, available from:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/tertullian16.html [Accessed 19 July 2005].

Wright, N. T. 2003, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Fortress Press, Minneapolis.

Zenit 2001. World Christianity on the rise in 21st century (online. Available at: https://zenit.org/articles/christianity-on-the-rise-in-21st-century/ Accessed 29 March 2016.)

 

Copyright © 2007 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date:20 February 2017.

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Growing weary of constantly correcting false teaching

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

 Image result for clipart grave

By Spencer D Gear PhD

What should I say to a person who claimed this?

“Hades” which is the Greek term used to translate the Hebrew term Sheol, basically refers to the grave or the abode of the dead and clearly the parable of the rich man and Lazarus describes this intermediate state as being a place of consciousness. But sheol during the Old Testament period also describes a place devoid of consciousness, for example Ecclesiastes 9:5, Ecclesiastes 9:10; Psalms 88:12 (NIV). In other words the intermediate state proceeding (sic)[1] the resurrection has more than one meaning.[2]

1. Hades, the place of departed souls

Those who know Hebrew and Greek disagree with him. [3]

According to OT Hebrew commentators, Keil & Delitzsch, ‘Sheol denotes the place where departed souls are gathered after death’ (n d:338). As a general description, this is not referring to the grave.

Image result for hell clipart public domain One of the leading exegetical Greek word studies edited by Colin Brown states:

In the LXX [Septuagint] hades occurs more than 100 times, in the majority of instances to translate Heb sheol, the underworld which receives all the dead. It is a land of darkness, in which God is not remembered (Job 10:21f; 26:5; Ps. 6:5; 30:9 [LXX 29:9]; 115:17 [LXX 113:25]; Prov. 1:12; 27:20; Isa. 5:14) (Brown 1976:206).

So in the Septuagint (OT Greek), hades is a Greek translation of the Hebrew, sheol.

There are further explanations of hades and sheol in my articles,

On this Christian forum (online), the regular rejection of the orthodox doctrine of life-after-death and the immortality of the soul has become such a drone that a person expressed dismay over what was happening. I understand and sympathise with his perspective.

However, a biblical response is needed to this disillusionment.

2. Growing weary of correction

Jim Parker wrote:

There is truly nothing new under the sun.
Here, we seem to be on a wheel which periodically brings around OSAS,[4] faith alone without works, no eternal punishment in hell, baptism’s just for show, and a few other favorites which don’t come to mind at the moment.

I have attempted to show where people’s comments have been illogical or taken totally out of context only to find that logic and context are concepts with which many, not only do not know anything about the subject, but, often, don’t even suspect there is something to be known. I have attempted, in response to “proof-texts” to show the rest of the story (as Paul Harvey used to say) only to have them either dismissed out of hand or completely ignored and then be assailed with another barrage of “proof-texts.”
I grow weary.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in its petty pace from day to day and all our yesterdays light fools the way to dusty death.

or

Proof-text after proof-text after proof-text drip like a leaky faucet from day to day and all the light of logic and learning offered is snuffed out by fools in darkness on their way to the next pop-theology Bible study.[5]

I encouraged him not to become weary in doing good through correcting those who proof-text out of context to modify or change what the Bible says about life-after-death issues.

3. Do good to everyone – correct false teaching in the family of faith

Doing good to everyone sounds more like good works in the community (food hampers, meeting human need) and to believers at church. However, could it have a broader application?

Let’s look at a few verses in context:

Image result for false doctrine clipart public domain6 One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 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. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Gal 6:6-10 ESV).?

We will use this section of Gal 6 to apply to the title of this thread, ‘Contradictions and the soul of man’,[6]

  • Those taught the word (about the immortal soul) should teach this good word (immortal soul) to the teacher.
  • It is possible to be deceived in this teaching – hence the term ‘contradictions’;
  • God is not mocked because what is sown in eisegesis will reap its reward (loss, penalty or punishment) in confusion over the nature of what happens at death for believers and unbelievers.
  • The one who sows to his own fleshly understanding of what happens at death – no hell for unbelievers and no soul/spirit to enter the Intermediate State for believers – will reap corruption. In this post title, this is called ‘contradiction’.
  • The one sowing to the Spirit by obedience to Scripture regarding eternal damnation and eternal salvation will not reap corruption of understanding but will be enlightened by the Spirit’s understanding.
  • Refuting and challenging such fleshly understanding can cause some to grow weary in the good action of challenging incorrect exegesis. Those who remain true to Scripture will reap truth if they don’t give up.
  • On this Christian forum, we have the opportunity to do good to everyone by agreeing, challenging, correcting and defending the truth of what the Scriptures say about the immortal soul. There are no contradictions in Scripture, only ‘apparent human contradictions in understanding’. Instead of promoting feel-good Christianity (no eternal damnation), we have the opportunity of doing good by correction. It doesn’t feel good at the time of giving correction over and over as it can become wearying. But it is important to continue to be faithful exegetes and not base our responses on being politically correct and following Rob Bell’s view of no eternal punishment in hell.
  • Let us continue to do good on this forum and in other situations (whether in a church setting or the general community) by challenging and correcting views that are contrary to Scripture in regard to eternal life and eternal damnation (Matt 25:46 ESV).

Yes, it can be wearying but we are exhorted by Paul to the Galatians to ‘not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up’ (Gal 6:9 ESV).

Jim’s response was: ‘It still feels like trying to teach a pig to sing. All it does is annoy the pig’.[7]

I understand that it is tough going on many occasions, even on this forum. However, this is our biblical responsibility before God (see 1 John 4:1-3 ESV).[8]

The challenge to Bible teachers is that they will endure a ‘stricter judgment’ (James 3:1-2 ESV) because of the requirements placed on God’s teachers of testing the spirits to discern false prophets (and false profits) and those who do not confess Jesus as being from God. This means weeding out those who proclaim a human Jesus without the deity of Christ or a divine Jesus without the humanity of Christ (the latter being a form of Docetic Gnosticism). It applies to all other departures from biblically orthodox doctrines.

3.1 Docetic Gnosticism explained

One error that invaded the church in its first few centuries was Docetic Gnosticism. What is it? Church Historian, Earl Cairns, explained the Docetic Gnosticism threat:

Image result for clipart gnosticismGnosticism, the greatest of the philosophical threats, was at its peak of power about 150. Its roots reached back into the New Testament times. Paul seemed to have been fighting an incipient form of Gnosticism in his letter to the Colossians. Christian tradition related the origin of Gnosticism to Simon Magus [Acts 8:9-24], whom Peter had to rebuke so severely. Gnosticism sprang from the natural human desire to create a theodicy, an explanation to the origin of evil. The Gnostics, because they associated matter with evil, sought a way to create a philosophical system in which God as spirit could be freed from association with evil and in which man could be related on the spiritual side of his nature to Deity….

To explain Christ, they adopted a doctrine known as Docetism. Because matter was evil, Christ could not be associated with a human body despite the Bible’s teaching to the contrary. Christ as absolute spiritual good could not unite with matter. Either the man Jesus was a phantom with the seeming appearance of a material body (Docetism), or Christ came upon the human body of Jesus only for a short time between the baptism of the man Jesus and the beginning of His suffering on the cross. Then Christ left the man Jesus to die on the cross. It was the task of Christ to teach a special gnosis or knowledge that would help man save himself by an intellectual process (Cairns 1981:98-99)

With the advent of the Internet there are more opportunities to sow seeds of false doctrine and water the seed into full-blown false teaching. This is happening in droves on Christian forums.

Keep watch, brother in Christ. Don’t grow weary in doing good in correcting false doctrine and proclaiming orthodox teaching.

3.2 Correctly explaining Scripture

Is it doing good to correct false teaching? In the context of exhorting Timothy to be a worker approved by God (2 Tim 2:14-26 ESV), Paul wrote, ‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth’ (2 Tim 2:15 ESV). The New Living Translation translates this as, ‘Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth’ (emphasis added).

What is the danger of false teaching, whether it be on life-after-death theology or any other teaching? Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is clear that he, the pastor, should be one who is ‘rightly handling the word of truth’. What is the meaning of ‘rightly handling’?

‘Rightly handling’ is the Greek, orthotomounia, present tense, active voice, infinitive. Being present tense, it refers to continual action by pastor-teachers to correctly explain God’s word of truth (the Scripture). Explaining truth means the teachers also correct errors. The Greek is a late and rare compound word (orthos and themnw) that means ‘cutting straight’ and is the only time it is used in the NT. The LXX uses it in Prov. 3:6 and 11:5 for constructing straight paths. There is a parallel verse in Heb 12:13 (ESV), ‘Make straight paths for your feet’ (Robertson 1931:619).

Theodoret explains it to mean ploughing a straight furrow. Parry argues that the metaphor is the stone mason cutting the stones straight since themnw and orthos are so used. Since Paul was a tent-maker and knew how to cut straight the rough camel-hair cloth, why not let that be the metaphor? Certainly plenty of exegesis is crooked enough (crazy-quilt patterns) to call for careful cutting to set it straight (Robertson 1931:619-620).

In dealing with the false teaching of soul sleep, annihilation of the wicked at death, and no eternal punishment for unbelievers, there is need for correctly explaining the word of truth. This involves constructing straight paths of the true meaning of Scripture. To do this, often one has to cut out foreign, false teaching and provide correct exegesis by cutting straight to the heart of the text. This involves historical, grammatical, contextual understanding of all sentences in Scripture.

4. Be warned: True prophets acknowledge the truth about Jesus

John warned us in 1 John 4:1-3 (NLT):

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

While this addresses a threat in the early church of Gnosticism, it has broader application. Gnostics did not and do not believe Jesus had a real body of flesh. Second John 1:7 (NLT) addresses the same issue: ‘I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist’. Today there is similar opposition from people who do not believe that Jesus is God (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, Oneness Pentecostals, Christian Science, Armstrongism,[9] etc).

The anti-Christian website of Religious Tolerance (Ontario, Canada) claimed this as a Gnostic belief about Christ: ‘Some Gnostic groups promoted Docetism, the belief that Christ was pure spirit and only had a phantom body; Jesus just appeared to be human to his followers. They reasoned that a true emissary from the Supreme God could not have been overcome by the evil of the world, and to have suffered and died’ (Robinson 1996-2007).

4.1 Application of 1 John 4:1-3

Visit Christian forums such as Christian forums.net, Christianity Board, and Christian forums.com and you’ll get some views of how people allegedly listen to the voice of God for preaching, teaching and direction in their lives.

They will claim to speak by the Holy Spirit. John warns us that:

  • We must test what these people say to discern if it comes from God. Here you need the Scriptures and spiritual insight by the Spirit to bring discernment.
  • You know they speak by the Spirit if the following happens:

clip_image002 (a) They acknowledge that Jesus had a real human body while on earth. That demonstrates the person has the Spirit of God.

clip_image002[1] (b) If they don’t acknowledge the truth about Jesus (from Scripture), they are not from God. Therefore, a person who does not view Jesus as God cannot be a true prophet or teacher of God.

clip_image002[2] (c) That person has the spirit of Antichrist, which means he/she is proclaiming teaching that is anti-Christian.

clip_image002[3] (d) Antichrist is coming into the world and already is here.

This is a serious biblical exhortation to determine how to discern false teaching in the body of Christ. Pastors and teachers in the Christian churches must not be slack with these responsibilities. I note in passing that Bible teaching has a low level of priority in the seeker-sensitive model that dominates the contemporary church.

4.1.1 Pop-psychologizing church

Dorothy Greco addressed some of this problem in her article for Christianity Today, How the seeker-sensitive, consumer Church is failing a generation (Greco 2016). Greco makes this pointed analysis:

Many churches gradually, and perhaps unwittingly, transitioned from being appropriately sensitive to the needs of their congregants to becoming – if you’ll permit some pop-psychologizing – co-dependent with them.

What does co-dependence look like within a church? Avoiding sections of Scripture out of fear that certain power pockets will be offended. Believing that repeat attendance depends primarily upon the staff’s seamless execution of Sunday morning – rather than the manifest presence of God. Eliminating doleful songs from the worship repertoire because they might contradict the through line that “following Jesus is all gain.”

Jesus was neither a co-dependent nor a businessman. He unashamedly loved those on the margins and revealed himself to all who were searching. He seemed quite indifferent about whether or not he disappointed the power brokers. Additionally, Jesus understood that the irreducible gospel message—that we are all sinners in need of being saved—was, and always will be, offensive. No brilliant marketing campaign could ever repackage it.

4.1.2 Bill Hybels’ shocking confession

Related image

Bill Hybels

In 2007, Bob Burney provided this assessment of the seeker-sensitive movement, with quotes from Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek Church’s research:

Willow Creek has released the results of a multi-year study on the effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry. The study’s findings are in a new book titled Reveal: Where Are You? co-authored by Cally Parkinson and Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Hybels himself called the findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking” and “mind blowing.” And no wonder: it seems that the “experts” were wrong.

The report reveals that most of what they have been doing for these many years and what they have taught millions of others to do is not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers yes, but not disciples. It gets worse. Hybels laments:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.

If you simply want a crowd, the “seeker sensitive” model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it’s a bust. In a shocking confession, Hybels states:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

Incredibly, the guru of church growth now tells us that people need to be reading their bibles and taking responsibility for their spiritual growth (Burney 2007).

What a shocker of a confession that they ‘made a mistake’, got it wrong and invested millions of dollars into promoting something worldwide that does not make disciples of Christ but promotes a way to get crowds into the church.

4.1.3 Promoting nonsense, the work of Satan and of pure evil

This is the kind of response that could lead Jim Parker (cited above) to despair over what is taught on this Christian forum and want to give up participating there:

You are free to believe what you want to believe.
If a man can believe that all men were born with immortal souls and that our … senses and our awareness and our ability to reason and perceive will live forever, and at the same time also believes 1 Timothy 6:15-16 (NIV) tells us God alone is immortal, then the question I have to ask myself is what other nonsense does he believe in?
He can philosophise all he wants to reconcile these differing views to his concept of reality so that he can continue promoting and maintaining the grotesque and vile idea that God will condemn the least knowledgeable and least offensive of souls who die without Christ to be tortured, screaming in agony forever, but in the end he will see what he believes is in fact nothing other than the work of Satan… or to put it another way, it is a work of pure evil.[10]

I couldn’t let him get away with this kind of assault on orthodox Christian belief of eternal damnation.

(a) Believe whatever you want

Am I free to believe what I want to believe about what happens at death for believers and unbelievers?

No I’m not![11]clip_image003

I’m only free to believe the truth about Jesus and the whole of revealed truth. 1 John 4:1-3 (NLT) provides my teaching responsibility of testing the spirits:

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

(b) Supporters of torment in hell: The work of Satan and of pure evil

This was the accusation promoted on this Christian forum that those who philosophise and promote the grotesque and vile idea of God’s condemning ‘the least knowledgeable and least offensive of souls who die without Christ to be tortured, screaming in agony forever’, are promoting ‘the work of Satan’ and ‘it is a work of pure evil’.

I responded:[12]

Are you accusing others on this forum and me who believe in eternal life and eternal damnation that we are promoting ‘the work of Satan’ and that what we teach ‘is a work of pure evil’?

Is that what you are declaring on this forum about these people and their teaching?

He came back with a copy and paste of his post to which I had responded.[13]

I pressed him further: ‘So is what I write on this forum in support of eternal damnation for unbelievers “a work of pure evil”?’[14]

5. God alone is immortal

Justice emblemIn spite of this person’s opposition to the immortal soul, he does raise a good point. First Timothy 6:15b-16 (NIV) states: ‘God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might for ever. Amen’. This also is affirmed in 1 Tim 1:17 (ESV) where God is described as ‘the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God’.

Since God alone is immortal, how can we speak of immortal souls of human beings? Although 2 Timothy 1:10 speaks of another dimension of immortality besides that of God, here’s the context:

8 So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News (2 Tim 1:8-10 NLT).

God’s plan was to show us his grace through Jesus Christ and an important dimension of that grace is that the power of death has been broken and the way of life, which brings immortality to human beings, has been illuminated through the Gospel.

What does this ‘immortality’ mean in v. 10? It comes through the Gospel, so applies to Christian believers.

It transcends by far mere endless existence or even endless conscious existence. The gospel of our Savior Christ Jesus is far better than anything Plato ever excogitated.[15]

It is clear … that though even here and now the believer receives this great blessing in principle, and in heaven in further development, he does not fully receive it until the day of Christ’s re-appearance. Until that day arrives, the bodies of all believers will still be subject to the laws of decay and death. Incorruptible life, imperishable salvation, in the full sense, belongs to the new heaven and earth. It is an inheritance stored away for us (Hendriksen 1957:234)

Jim Parker stated it well on the Christian forum:

When scripture speaks of God as immortal, (1 Tim 6) the meaning is that God has no beginning or end. That is the more precise meaning of the word “immortal” in Christian theology.

When scripture speaks of man as immortal, (1 Cor 15) the meaning is that man, as a created being, does have a beginning but that, after the resurrection, he will have no end. So, in Christian theology, the word “immortal” when applied to man, is not the same as when referring to God.

That’s why 1 Co 15:53 (RSV) says: For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.

Our nature, as created by God and damaged by sin, is now perishable and mortal. At the resurrection, our nature will “put on”, as something unnatural to it, imperishability and immortality. It will put on those attributes because Jesus, by His death and resurrection, has destroyed death and perishability.[16]

The dynamic equivalence of the New Living Translation translates 1 Cor 15:53 (NLT) as, ‘For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies‘. So, Christian believers will receive their immortal bodies at the resurrection according to 1 Corinthians 15:53.

This principle should not be difficult to understand. God alone is the only one with immortality, which means he has no beginning or end. For human beings, it is a derived immortality through the Gospel. Human beings had a beginning but their eternal life will never end, thus meaning it is immortal.

Therefore, there is another meaning of immortal. Our immortality of the soul is in a derived sense and applies to all people, believers and unbelievers. Second Timothy 1:10 (ESV) speaks of God’s purpose and grace ‘which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel’.

5.1 Secular immortality through biology

The scientific community and secular media enjoy speaking of immortality on earth. Here is but one example from the Daily Mail,

‘Scientists say humans really could become IMMORTAL like the characters in new film Self/Less, but only if they’re wealthy’,

While the technology remains in the realm of science fiction, experts have claimed that the ability to create immortal humans may not be all that far-fetched.

I would see immortality coming from the biological sector,’ said University of Arizona researcher Wolfgang Fink, during a recent panel discussion in California.

‘If you manage somehow to prevent cell death from happening or if you extend the life span of cells beyond their natural life span’ (Zolfagharifard 2015).

5.2 What a shock is coming!

What astonishment they have coming! The Scriptures as the God-breathed word of God could not be clearer: ‘Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment’ (Heb 9:27 NIV). There is not a chance of immortality on this earth. ALL will die or face the Lord alive if they are alive on earth when he returns to the earth.

This is what happened 2,000 years ago with Jesus:

After saying this, he [Jesus] was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” (Acts 1:9-11 NLT).

6. Conclusion

There is a torrent of false teaching surrounding life-after-death issues, particularly from those who oppose eternal torment for unbelievers. Correcting this false theology often becomes laborious for the astute Bible teacher. This issue of growing weary from false teaching was raised by an orthodox Bible teacher on a Christian forum.

An examination of sheol in the OT and its translation as hades in the LXX and the NT, denotes the place where departed souls of all people are gathered after death.

I suggested that doing good to everyone (Gal 6:6-10) included correcting false doctrine. One example that caused the early church a lot of strife was Docetic Gnosticism – Jesus only seemed to have a physical body but it was not so. Orthodoxy promotes that Jesus is God but at his incarnation he became a fleshly human being. True prophets acknowledge the truth about Jesus – he has always been God but at the first Christmas he became a human being of flesh (but did not cease to be God).

First John 4:1-3 demonstrates the responsibility of the church in correcting false prophets. Seeker-sensitive Christianity is not creating disciples according to a survey conducted at Willow Creek Community Church, the creator of seeker-sensitive services. Instead, it is generating a pop-psychologised church for the contemporary marketing generation.

A person chimed in with the statement that I can believe whatever I want to regarding life after death. No I can’t! I must conform to what the Scriptures state. This person claimed that those who promoted eternal damnation for the wicked were doing the work of Satan and my belief about damnation of the wicked is a work of pure evil.

This article affirms that what the Bible teaches is that God alone is immortal – having no beginning or end – and that human beings have a derived immortality. This means that they have a beginning at conception but have an existence that is eternal – eternal life or eternal damnation.

The secular community wants to invent immortality through biology. What a shock they have coming. Immortality is God’s provision for the damned and the saved: ‘Just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment’ (Heb 9:27 NLT).

To my dying day, I will engage in the task of correcting false doctrine in the church and on the streets and Internet. I ask the same of godly teachers who check my teaching and the teaching of others (whether in a formal church setting or on the Internet) by comparing what is taught with Scripture. We need to become and function as ‘Bereans’ (see Acts 17:11).

What will you do about false teaching in the

church, even YOUR church?

‘Now the Berean Jews were of more noble

character than those in Thessalonica, for they

received the message with great eagerness and

examined the Scriptures every day to see if what

Paul said was true’ (Acts 17:11 NIV).

7. Works consulted

Brown, C (ed) 1976. The new international dictionary of New Testament theology, vol 2. Exeter: The Paternoster Press.

Burney, B 2007. A shocking “confession” from Willow Creek Community Church. Townhall.com, (online) 30 October. Available at: http://www.townhall.com/columnists/BobBurney/2007/10/30/a_shocking_%e2%80%9cconfession%e2%80%9d_from_willow_creek_community_church?page=full&comments=true (Accessed 2 November 2007). This is no longer available at Townhall, but I located it at Crosswalk. Available at: http://www.crosswalk.com/news/a-shocking-confession-from-willow-creek-community-church-11558438.html (Accessed 29 October 2016).

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the centuries: A history of the Christian church, rev & enl ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Greco, D 2016. How the seeker-sensitive, consumer Church is failing a generation. Christianity Today (online). Available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/august/how-seeker-sensitive-consumer-church-is-failing-generation.html (Accessed 29 October 2016).

Hendriksen, W 1957.[17] New Testament commentary: Exposition of Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.
Keil, C F & Delitzsch, F n d. Tr by J Martin (from the German). Commentary on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch, vol 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Robertson, A T 1931. Word pictures in the New Testament: The epistles of Paul, vol 4. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Robinson, B A 1996-2007. Gnosticism: Beliefs and practices (beliefs and practices). Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (online). Available at: http://www.religioustolerance.org/gnostic2.htm (Accessed 29 October 2016).

Zolfagharifard, E 2015. Scientists say humans really could become IMMORTAL like the characters in new film Self/Less, but only if they’re wealthy. Daily Mail (online), 23 July. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3171283/Could-Self-reality-Scientists-say-humans-someday-IMMORTAL-wealthy.html (Accessed 22 December 2016).

8.  Notes


[1] I think he means ‘preceding’.

[2] Christian Forums.net 2016. Contradictions and the soul of man (online), freewill#57. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/contradictions-and-the-soul-of-man.66925/page-4#post-1258832 (Accessed 29 October 2016).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#64.

[4] OSAS = Once-saved-always-saved.

[5] Contradictions and the soul of man, Jim Parker#68.

[6] This is my response in ibid., OzSpen#71.

[7] Ibid., Jim Parker#72.

[8] This is my post at ibid., OzSpen#74.

[9] This was when this cult was led by Herbert W Armstrong.

[10] Ibid., freewill#75.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#76.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#77.

[13] Ibid., freewill#75. The copy & paste is at freewill#78.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#79. At this point I reported him to the moderators for his flaming and goading.

[15] Oxford dictionaries online (2016. s v excogitate) gives the meaning of excogitate as to ‘think out, plan, or devise’.

[16] Ibid., Jim Parker#97.

[17] Hendriksen previously published The Pastorals as a single volume. It is now incorporated in this combined volume.

 

Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 January 2017.

No torment forever and ever (Revelation 14:11)??

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

Image result for clip art flames public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The destiny of unbelievers at death continues to bother some Christians. Some believe that the Bible confirms eternal punishment (meaning punishing with torment forever after death) for unbelievers. Others consider that this eternal damnation is false teaching.

There was a back and forth between people who believe in eternal damnation of unbelievers and those who reject this doctrine on an Internet Christian forum.

One fellow said:

Those verses [Mat 25:46 and Rev 14:11] say that their punishment/torment goes on, continues, for ever.

In order for the punishment/torment to continue forever the person being punished/tormented also must "go on forever."

A person who is reduced to a pile of ashes can no longer be punished or tormented.

I don’t understand why that is so hard for you to grasp.[1]

This person supported the eternal torment for unrepentant unbelievers after death.

1. Torment of unbelievers does not continue forever

Another had been defending no eternal punishment for the wicked on a Christian forum. He wrote:

Rev 14:11 doesn’t say their torment continues forever. It clearly says the smoke of their (Beast worshippers) torment rises forever. And furthermore this occurs in the presence of the Lamb, not in Hell or the Lake of Fire. Is it your view that the Lamb will be in Hell tormenting the lost forever?

Revelation 14:10 he himself also will drink of the wine of the anger of God that has been mixed full strength in the cup of his wrath, and will be tortured with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. ?

The Bible doesn’t say that the lost’s eternal punishment is torment forever. It clearly teaches that death (a second death) is the punishment called for.[2]

2. Proof-texts lead to wrong conclusions

Image result for proof-texts clip art

My response was:[3]

This is what happens when you pluck one verse (Rev 14:11 ESV) out of context and make it a proof-text. Let’s look at the context:

6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgement has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

8 Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshippers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labours, for their deeds follow them!” (Rev 14:6-13 ESV).

3. The teaching of Rev 14:6-13 (ESV) is that

clip_image002 John in his revelation saw angels who had an eternal gospel to proclaim to people on the earth from every nation, tribe, language and people (v. 6).

clip_image002[1] That message was to fear God and give him glory because …

clip_image002[2] An hour of judgment has come (v. 7).

clip_image002[3] Another angel proclaimed that message of the fallen Babylon the great who made nations drink the wine of the passion of sexual immorality (v. 8)

clip_image002[4] Another angel, with others following, announced in a loud voice that anyone who worships the beast and its image and receives the mark of the beast will drink of the wine of God’s wrath and will experience the full strength of the cup of God’s anger, being tormented with fire and sulphur (vv. 9-10).

clip_image002[5] This experience of God’s wrath and anger will be in the presence of holy angels and the Lamb (v. 10).

clip_image002[6] smoke%20clipartThe smoke of this torment goes up for eis aiwnas aiwnwn, i.e. for aeons of aeons. The meaning is that ‘smoke’ (a symbol) of this torment is for ‘many eons, each of vast duration, are multiplied by many more, which we imitate by "forever and ever." Human language is able to use only temporal terms to express what is altogether beyond time and is timeless. The Greek takes its greatest term for time, the eon, pluralizes this, and then multiplies it by its own plural’ (Lenski 1943/1963:48, 438).

clip_image002[7] ‘Smoke’ is parallel to ‘fire and brimstone’ and is human language to convey what is experienced in the place where the worshippers of the Beast experience torment that continues for multiplied aeons. This is hell with eternal torment, using symbolic language (v. 11).

clip_image002[8] If one wants to water down the ‘aeons’ to make it less than forever and ever, John makes that impossible in v. 11 because he adds, ‘they have no rest, day or night’. There is no rest 24/7 for the unbelieving worshippers of the Beast.

clip_image002[9] It is not surprising, therefore, that John – in light of the horrific eternal experiences of the unbelievers – calls on the saints to endure and keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus (v. 12).

clip_image002[10] In contrast to those serving the Beast, those who die in the Lord are blessed from now on. They rest from their labours (again this contrasts with the horrible experience of those drinking God’s wrath and the cup of his anger) – v. 13.

3.1 The damned experience torment forever after death

There are excellent, contextual reasons to demonstrate that Rev 14:11 (ESV) refers to the damned who experience torment for aeons multiplied by aeons – forever and ever. The verse reads, ‘And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshippers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name’.

They receive no rest day and night from this. It’s in the presence of the Lord because it is the Lord’s wrath they experience.

Coffman’s Commentary on Revelation 14:11 is:

Verse 11

and the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, they that worship the beast and his image, and whoso receiveth the mark of his name.

The doctrine of the New Testament is so strong and emphatic with regard to the eternal punishment of the wicked, that we are simply not allowed to set it aside as, "sub-Christian, or to interpret it in such a way as to remove the abrasive truth of eternal punishment."[Mounce’s commentary, p. 277] Jesus spoke of this at greater length than did any of his apostles. After we have made every allowance for the figurative nature of the apocalyptic language, there still remains, "the terrifying reality of divine wrath,"[Mounce’s commentary, p. 277] to be poured out upon those who persist in following the devil. It is no light matter to abandon the holy teachings of the sacred New Testament, and to substitute the easy rules of man-made, man-controlled, and man-centered religion.

3.2 The torment of God’s wrath in the presence of the Lamb

Therefore, the context of Rev 14:11 (ESV) demonstrates that those who are serving the Beast, the unbelieving damned, will experience the torment of God’s wrath in the presence of the Lamb for aeons upon aeons – forever and ever Amen!
That’s clear Bible teaching and one has to do a lot of squirming to make it say that unbelievers do not experience eternal torment. It’s called eisegesis to impose another reading on it.

See my other articles on this topic:

clip_image003Is there literal fire in hell?

clip_image003[1]Is hell fair?

clip_image003[2]Are there degrees of punishment in hell?

clip_image003[3]2 Thessalonians 1:9: Eternal destruction

clip_image003[4]Hell in the Bible

clip_image003[5]Paul on eternal punishment

clip_image003[6]Hell and judgment

clip_image003[7]Eternal torment for unbelievers when they die

4. Works consulted

Lenski, R C H 1943/1963. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. John’s Revelation. Minneapolis MN: Augsburg Publishing House (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. edn.).

 

5.  Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net 2016. Apologetics & Theology, ‘The soul of man’, Jim Parker#117. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/the-soul-of-man.66737/page-6#post-1252053 (Accessed 13 October 2016).

[2] Ibid., chessman#119.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#120.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 30 October 2016.

James 2:21-26 (ESV): It’s true you can be justified by works.

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

 By Spencer D Gear PhD [1]

It’s true clip_image002

You can be justified by works clip_image004

Is James a preacher of falsehood?clip_image006

1. Introduction

It was early May 2015 and our backyard was flooding with water pouring onto it from the neighbour’s property. I needed sandbags to stop the water from coming into our house. To go to the Council’s works’ depot, I drove down Boundary Rd., North Lakes towards Deception Bay Rd. I came to the creek and the water was flooded over the causeway. Instead of trying to cross, not knowing the depth of the water, I turned around. Was I justified in not crossing the flooded causeway? Of course!

In my writing of this paragraph of my sermon, I have used the ‘justify’ format so that my writing is carefully aligned on the right and left margins. I have used the “justify” format function of MS Word for this paragraph.

 

Daniel morcombe.jpg(Daniel Morcombe photograph, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

DANIEL Morcombe, 13, went missing while waiting for a bus in 2003 [on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast]. It was almost eight years before his remains were found’. In 2014, Brett Peter Cowan faced trial charged with his murder’.[1a]

ABC News (Australia) reported on 15 March 2014 that

Brett Peter Cowan has been sentenced to life in jail with a minimum non-parole period of 20 years for the murder of Sunshine Coast teenager Daniel Morcombe.

Cowan was … found guilty of murder, indecent treatment of a child and interfering with a corpse.[2]

He was sentenced in Brisbane’s Supreme Court by Justice Roslyn Atkinson. Was the Justice justified in sentencing Cowan to life in prison?

Here I have used the English word, ‘justified’, to mean 3 different things:

Flower24 Justified in not crossing a flooded road;

Flower24 A paragraph of my typed sermon justified as part of its written format;

Flower24 A justice in court justified in inflicting punishment on a criminal, based on Australian law.

Please keep these examples in mind as we examine the language of this passage from James 2:21-26.

(a) Abraham justified by works (v. 21);

(b) Rahab, the prostitute, justified by works (v. 25);

(c) ‘You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone’ (v. 24);

(d) Then Paul has the audacity to state this of believers: ‘Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom 5:1 ESV).

1.1 A quick review (James 2:14-20)

Since I preached on James 2:14-20 a month ago, you may have forgotten some of the content. James 2:17 gives a quick summary of this passage: ‘So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead’

1.1.1 Faith by itself isn’t enough.

1.1.2 Unless faith produces good deeds, it is not the real thing.

1.1.3 Faith without good deeds is dead or useless.

True faith is demonstrated by the good works that follow faith. James is not teaching that good works are need for you to obtain genuine faith. But if you have fair dinkum faith, we will see that unseen faith by the seen good works that you do. That’s the fundamental teaching in James 2:14-20.

Now to understand what James is saying that caused Luther so much heartache. It is not that difficult to understand if we keep this in mind the negative aspect in vv 14-20 – faith without works is useless. Now James turns to what a genuine, saving faith will look like.

He gives one example that we could expect – Abraham. But the other seems out in left field – Rahab, a prostitute. These 2 OT characters are as different as chalk and cheese by outward appearances. But when we get to the heart of the matter they are on the same page. You might say: What? Abraham the man of faith and Rahab the harlot. Those 2 examples seem such an unlikely couple to demonstrate justification by works.

To understand James 2:21, we must know the meaning of James 2:20. It reads, ‘Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?’ (ESV).

Now James sets out to demonstrate that genuine faith that is not followed by good works is useless. Look who he uses as his first example.

2. Abraham justified by works?

Faith & WorksNote the entire verse 21 (ESV): ‘Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?’ The NIV translates as: ‘Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?’

This verse refers to Abraham’s offering up Isaac, recorded in Genesis 22. When Abraham was obedient to God’s test and bound Isaac to the wood on the altar, took the knife to slaughter his son (Gen 22:10) but the angel of the Lord intervened to stop this sacrifice of Isaac. These are the works that James is speaking about.

2.1 Didn’t this happen when he offered Isaac on the altar? (v. 21)

What we are not told in verse 21 is about Abraham believing God and being justified by faith, or being counted as righteousness. We have to wait until James 2:23 to read about that.

However, it is critical for our understanding that we know that Abraham’s being justified by works in James 2:21 follows Abraham’s being justified by faith.

We are told about this justification by faith in Genesis 15 in God’s Covenant with Abram. God’s promise was his very own son to be Abram’s heir (Gen 15:4) and Abram’s descendants would be as many as the stars in the heaven (Gen 15:5). Then in Gen 15:6 we have these words from Abram, ‘And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness’. This is where Abram was justified by faith in God alone.

This is the verse to which Paul refers when he wrote to the Romans 4:3, ‘For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”’. To the Galatians 3:6, Paul wrote, ‘Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”’. In these 2 verses in Romans and Galatians, Paul is referring to Gen 15:6 when Abram was justified by faith.

However James 2:21 is referring to another incident in the life of Abraham when he offered up Isaac as a sacrifice, a demonstration of Abraham’s faith in God.

Commentator C. E. B. Cranfield summarised this very well:

For James, no less than for Paul, the words of Gen. 15.6 quoted in [James 2] verse 23 (“And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness”) are decisive. It was by his faith that Abraham was justified. His works (his readiness to offer up Isaac related to Gen. 22) did not earn his justification (about which we hear already in Gen. 15): they were simply the fruit and the outward evidence of his faith (Cranfield 1965:340).[3]

That’s an excellent statement and summary. Even though these verses got Luther tangled up, they are not all that difficult to understand if we consider the context in James 2 and the references to Genesis 15 and Gen 22. In James 2:21, Abraham is stated as being justified by works. This is an illustration of the true faith that Abraham already had. Abraham’s good works and his faith are inseparable, but the works DO NOT lead to Abraham’s faith and righteousness before God. Abraham’s work of offering up Isaac is a proof of genuine faith.

Again, Cranfield said it well, ‘Had there been no works, Abraham would not have been justified; but that would have been because the absence of works would have meant that he had no real faith’ (Cranfield 1965:340).[4]

So to answer the question, ‘Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac?’ We say, ‘Yes, Abraham the father of the Jews, including Jewish Christians, ‘was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar’ (that’s the NLT translation). However, this demonstration of works was based on Abraham’s being declared to be righteous by faith.

The same applies to all believers. Our good works demonstrate that we are already believers who have been justified by faith. This leads to the summary in James 2:22,

2.2 Faith active with works (v. 22)

This is what I’ve just explained and James 2:22 states, ‘You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works’. Or as the NLT puts it, ‘You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete’.

What could it possibly mean that Abraham’s

3. Faith completed by works (v.  22)

arrow-small NASB, ‘as a result of the works, faith was perfected’.

arrow-small CEV, ‘He proved that his faith was real by what he did’.

arrow-small NRSV, ‘faith was brought to completion by the works’.

‘Was completed or perfected’ is the aorist tense (point action) of the verb, teleiow, meaning ‘to carry to the end, to complete like love in 1 John 4:18’,[5] which reads, ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love’. The same verb is in James 1:4 with ergon teleion, ‘And let steadfastness have its full effect (or ‘must finish its work’ NIV), that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing’ (ESV).

Faith is ‘brought to its intended goal’ by good works. Abraham was justified by faith (Gen 15) but his faith was made complete by his offering of Isaac as a sacrifice (Gen 22). Your works will demonstrate whether your faith is the real thing.

My wife, Desley, and I really enjoy custard apples. They are grown in different parts of the Queensland east coast and into northern NSW. A custard apple tree is made perfect, brought to its intended goal, by producing custard apple fruit. If you have faith that is genuine, you will have that faith perfected by your doing good works (Hiebert 1979:194).

Let’s use a down to earth analogy: This photo is an example of justification by works for the custard apple tree.

clip_image008

(courtesy www.custardapples.com.au)

This is the justification by faith for the custard apple tree – flowers:

clip_image010

(photo courtesy toptropicals.com)

Wherever you have a genuine custard apple tree and flowers, it must blossom into the good works of custard apple fruit.

So, wherever people have genuine faith, it must blossom into good works – feeding the hungry, clothing those needing clothes, and meeting human need. It will also blossom into Christians proclaiming the Gospel. Timothy was a pastor who cared for people. However, what did Paul say to Timothy? ‘But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry’ (2 Tim 4:5 NIV). Primarily, he was not an evangelist, but God’s instruction still was, ‘Do the work of an evangelist’.

No matter what the gifts of people, we need to engage in practical good works among needy people. We may choose to do it locally or through international humanitarian groups such as Compassion, Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, Mercy Ships, or many other ministries.

Notice the emphasis of James 2:23:

3.1 Scripture was fulfilled (v. 23)

‘and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God’.

This refers back to Gen 15:6, which I’ve already covered, when Abraham was justified by faith.

3.1.1 Abraham believed God (v. 23)

3.1.2 It was counted to him as righteousness (v. 23)

a. Abraham was called a friend of God (v. 23)

Where is Abraham called ‘a friend of God’? These words do not come from Gen 15 or Gen 22. So to what is James referring? Here are a few possibilities:

clip_image012A close relationship between God and Abraham is implied in Gen 18:17-18 (ESV): ‘7 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?’

clip_image012[1]We know from 2 Chron 20:7 that King Jehoshaphat while addressing God, spoke of Abraham as ‘Abraham your friend’ (ESV).

clip_image012[2]In Isa 41:8, God spoke of ‘Abraham, my friend’.

So there you have a few examples of Abraham’s intimate relationship with God so that Abraham could be called a ‘friend of God’.

Now James 2:24 gives a summary:

4. This means: A person is justified by works (v. 24)

‘You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone’. How is that possible? As I’ve attempted to show in my last message and this one that being justified by works and not faith alone means that genuine faith, fair dinkum faith in Christ alone for salvation, is not the real thing unless it is shown by its good works. Good deeds follow salvation but they are a package. If there is no good works, there is no genuine faith. So it is biblically sound to say that a Christian is justified by works and not faith alone, as long as one remembers that faith and works are used interchangeably as a demonstration of genuine faith in Christ alone for salvation.

4.1 Not justified by faith alone (v. 24)

Miss Placed FaithNow, you won’t accuse me of preaching a false doctrine when I say that we are not justified by faith alone, will you? That’s exactly what James taught because of the compulsory combination of genuine faith expressed through good works. If you don’t have the good works, you don’t have real, saving faith. But the good works come after saving faith. They demonstrate that you already have faith.

Then we come to an unexpected example of justification by works. We can understand Abraham demonstrating his faith by moving to sacrifice Isaac on the altar. Abraham was a hero of the faith.

But then we have this provocative example in a Jewish culture that treated women as sub-standard. Bible History online has an article, ‘Jewish women and the Temple’, in which it says this about Jewish women in the first century AD:

Rabbinic literature was filled with contempt for women. The rabbis taught that women were not to be saluted, or spoken to in the street, and they were not to be instructed in the law or receive an inheritance. A woman walked six paces behind her husband and if she uncovered her hair in a public place she was considered a harlot.

In ancient Israel the Jewish culture was one of the most male dominant cultures in the whole world…. The Mishnah taught that a woman was like a gentile slave who could be obtained by intercourse, money or writ (m. Qidd 1:1).[6]

The Mishnah dealt with the debates on the Jewish oral law that were composed by the Jews between AD 70 and 200 and forms part of the Talmud. If you want to investigate any teaching (such as that on women) within the Mishnah, that is called a Midrash.[7]

Now to …

5. Rahab, the prostitute, justified by works (v. 25)

She is a very unexpected example. Not only was she a woman, but also she had been a prostitute. We read about Rahab in Joshua chs 2-6. Remember the story? Paul Cornford has been preaching about her in recent weeks. Just a few incidents from her life are mentioned here in James:

5.1 She was justified by works (v 25)

This verse from James 2:25 (ESV) states, ‘And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?’

Don’t miss the introductory words, ‘And in the same way’ (homoi?s). And in the same way as Abraham, but what a prominent contrast. James has taken 2 people of very different characters and demonstrated how their faith was followed by works, thus proving their justification by faith.

Remember the story?

5.1.1 When? Receiving messengers & sending out by another way (v. 25)

What were the works that justified her? We know from Joshua 2:1 and 6:17, 22 that Rahab received the spies (here in James they are called messengers). Joshua had sent 2 spies to check the land of Canaan, but especially Jericho. Rahab hid these spies in her house. The King of Jericho went to Rahab saying, ‘Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house for they have come to search out all the land’ (Josh 2:3).

To protect the spies, what did Rahab do? ‘She let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall’ (Josh 2:15). The spies departed by another way and Rahab ‘tied the scarlet cord in the window’ (Josh 2:21).

That’s all we have reference to here in James 2:25, but that’s enough to demonstrate she was justified by works. HOWEVER, where is Rahab’s faith that preceded her good works?

This we know:

clip_image014 Rahab has her name in Christ’s family tree, his genealogy, according to Matt 1:5 (ESV): ‘and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse….’

clip_image016 Here’s the BIG one regarding Rahab’s faith: ‘By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies’ (Heb 11:31 ESV).

In the great faith chapter of the Bible we have proof of Rahab’s faith and this meant she did not perish with the disobedient ones because of what she did for the spies.

When James asks, ‘Was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works?’ He is asking: What works did Rahab do to demonstrate she had faith in the living God? Her good works entailed what she did for the spies, the messengers.

Now James concluded his discussion:

6. Faith without works is dead (v 26)

James 2:26, ‘For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead’ (ESV).

6.1 Just as the body apart from the spirit is dead (v. 26)

What happens when your spirit leaves your body when you breathe your last breath? We have information about this in Eccl 12:6-7 (NLT):

‘Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. 7 For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it’.

The analogy is:

6.2 In a similar way, faith without works is dead (v. 26)

I hope you have gained the message in my expositions on James 2 that if you don’t have works that follow faith, then your faith is not genuine.

So to say that you are justified by your works is using justify to mean demonstrate to be righteous. Just as custard apples justify the existence of a living custard apple tree that blossoms and produces fruit, so a Christian’s works justify that he or she has genuine faith. Unless you have works accompanying faith, you do not have fair dinkum faith that saves.

7. Conclusion

Wayne Grudem, a Reformed Baptist theologian, summarised his interpretation of James 2, stating that

“show to be righteous” is an acceptable sense for the word justified, but also on the consideration that this sense fits well with the primary purpose of James in [James 2].[8] James is concerned to show that mere intellectual agreement with the gospel is a “faith” that is really no faith at all. He is concerned to argue against those who say they have faith but show no change in their lives. He says, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (James 2:18) [Grudem 1999:322].

Now to some,

7.1 Applications of James 2:21-26 to your life and this church

Let me suggest a couple before I ask for your contributions:

  1. What does it mean to be justified by works? It means that you will SHOW you are righteous before God by your good deeds. What good works should we be doing as individuals and as a church?
  2. No matter how bad your past, Rahab is an example that demonstrates that justification by faith leads to justification by works – the practice of good works.
  3. Is the title of this sermon accurate? ‘It’s true! You can be justified by works!’ Dare I add, true Christians MUST be justified by works!
  4. Now it’s over to you. How can you apply this message to your life and this church’s ministry?

8. Works consulted

Cranfield, C E B 1965. The message of James. Scottish Journal of Theology 18 (3), September, 338-345.

Grudem, W 1999. Bible Doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

Hiebert, D E 1979. The Epistle of James: Tests of a Living Faith. Chicago: Moody Press.

Robertson, A T 1933. Word Pictures in the New Testament: The General Epistles and The Revelation of John, vol 6. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

James 2:21-26 English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

9.  Notes


[1] Preached at North Pine Presbyterian Church, Petrie Qld., Australia, Sunday 17 June 2016, PM Service..

[1a] The Courier-Mail 2013. 10 years later, the life and death of Daniel Morcombe (online), December 06. Available at: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/years-later-the-life-and-death-of-daniel-morcombe/story-fnihsrf2-1226776823830 (Accessed 28 August 2016).

[2] ABC News, 2014. Daniel Morcombe’s killer sentenced to life in prison (online), 15 March. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-14/daniel-morcombe-killer-brett-peter-cowan-sentenced/5320538 (Accessed 7 May 2016).

[3] This Cranfield citation is from Hiebert (1979:192).

[4] This citation is taken from Hiebert (1979:193).

[5] Robertson (1933:37).

[6] Bible History online n d. ‘Women in Jewish history’. Available at: http://www.bible-history.com/court-of-women/women.html (Accessed 10 May 2016).

[7] What is a midrash? (online), Got Questions? Available at: http://www.gotquestions.org/Mishnah-midrash.html (Accessed 10 May 2016).

[8] The original said, ‘this section’.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 August 2016.

Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus (John 6:53-54, 60, 66)

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

clip_image002

(image of Eucharist courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

It is not unusual to meet someone with an Anglo-Catholic understanding of the Eucharist who makes extreme claims like this:

If you are WRONG then you are divisive. When Jesus says this is my flesh/blood and you then say it isn’t….you are being divisive. One of us is right and the other is wrong.

No pointing fingers. He is flat out wrong and so are you if you don’t believe what Jesus said. I believe what Jesus said.[1]

I had made the comment to another person online:[2]

The Roman Catholic New Advent exposition of ‘The real presence as a fact’ states: ‘The whole structure of the discourse [John 6] of promise demands a literal interpretation of the words: “eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood”‘ (The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist).

Interpreting it literally sure sounds to be closer to being a vampire.

A. You are non-believers if you don’t accept what I believe about the teaching on Jesus’ body and blood.

This fellow became even more dogmatic:

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day” [John 6:52-54]. Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him [John 6:66].

The Jews questioned Him and you can see what he told them. Now you are questioning Him. I think he has the same message for you. They walked away and so are you. How sad.

clip_image004So I Tom55 say to you non-believers what Jesus told the Jews….VERY TRULY I TELL YOU IT IS HIS FLESH AND BLOOD. Walk away if you want. It won’t effect (sic) my salvation

As we know “This is a hard saying so who can listen to it?”  Apparently those of you who don’t believe what Jesus said (blue font emphasis added)[4].

So those who don’t accept his sacramental view of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his flesh are non-believers who don’t believe what Jesus said.

Really? Or is this tom55, the interpreter, imposing his view on the biblical text? Could Tom be engaging in eisegesis instead of exegesis of John 6:53-54?

See the article, ‘What is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis?[5]

Now let’s do some checking, using contextual interpretation of Scripture.

B. Which is the correct interpretation?

Let’s check who is really right or wrong. Could this be a classic example of misinterpretation because of failure to observe the context?

John 6:47-58 (ESV) states:

47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread[a] the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live for ever.”

C. Meaning of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood

1. Let us deal with the meaning of vv 53-54,[6] which states,

53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day’.

Here, Jesus repeats a truth he stated as the second part of v. 51, ‘If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever’. Note the emphasis in v. 53, ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man … you have no life in you.’ Now v 54, ‘Whoever feeds on my flesh … has eternal life’.

2. What will be the result of this? ‘I will raise him up on the last day’ (v 54).

3. Who is the one whose flesh is eaten? He has the title of ‘the Son of Man’ (v. 53). Yes, he is a fleshly human being – a man – but God has placed his seal of approval on him (Jn 6:27).

4. So the meaning is that the Son of Man is a title given to Jesus, but it does not overlook the fact that he is a flesh and blood human being. The supreme revelation of God is through Jesus, the Son of Man. Unlike any other fleshly human being, he has the amazing ability to grant a person eternal life if that one ‘eats’ of him.

5. ‘Drink his/my blood’ is added in vv 53 & 54. The Jews objected strongly to this statement (see v 51). Why? The Law of Moses forbade the drinking of blood (see Gen 9:2-4 ESV). So to drink the blood of the Son of Man was offensive to them.

6. John 6:54 & 40 have a close connection:

(a) v. 54, ‘Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day’, and

(b) v. 40, ‘For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day’.

clip_image006The only major difference between these two verses is eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood vs. looking to the Son and believing in Him. We come to an obvious conclusion of interpretation: The eating the flesh and drinking the flood is a metaphorical way of referring to looking to the Son and believing in the Son. How come? The result of both activities is the same – receiving eternal life and being raised on the last day.

7. This caused the eminent church father, St. Augustine of Hippo, to state: ‘Believe, and you have eaten’ [Tractate 25.12 (John 6:15-44)]. This is a concise summary of the teaching of John 6:53-54.

8. There are no indications in John 6:53-54 that this refers to the Lord’s Supper. If we make it refer to the Eucharist, it means that one of the things necessary to receive eternal life is to participate in the Lord’s Supper to eat the body and drink the blood. This would amount to works religion which is antithetical to New Testament Christianity (Eph 2:8-9 ESV).

9. There are cannibalistic overtones if one accepts the literal body and blood instead of the metaphorical meaning that points to looking to Jesus and believing in Him to receive eternal life.

10. When John stated, ‘And I will raise him up at the last day’ (John 6:40, 54), it demonstrates that eating the flesh and drinking the blood literally does not confer immortality/resurrection at the last day. The Lord’s Supper/Eucharist is not designed for immortality. However looking to the Son and believing in Him are for that purpose.

D. How to add confusion: Tom’s responses

This fellow added bewilderment with his deliberate distortion of what I wrote. This is his answer to the 10 points above. [7] I’ll reply as Oz[8] between each point to determine if he had understood what I wrote and responded accurately:

1. Thank you for making my point. I agree with you. “Jesus repeats a truth” which means it was important which is why he repeated it.

Oz: He has not known the truth to which I referred. I’ll repeat what I stated: Jesus repeats a truth he stated as the second part of v. 51, ‘If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever’. Note the emphasis in v. 53, ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man … you have no life in you.’ Now v 54, ‘Whoever feeds on my flesh … has eternal life’.

The truth repeated is this: When Jesus said anyone was to eat his flesh, it meant that it was the means of receiving eternal life, living forever. It was not referring to eating Jesus’ literal flesh but to living forever through faith in Jesus Christ. To eat his literal flesh then or now was impossible. He was not dead when he said this. After his death, there was no literal flesh to consume (and so to avoid the charge of cannibalism).

This demonstrates that Tom is so entrenched in his Roman Catholicism of interpreting the eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood as literal that he cannot understand the context is referring to a metaphor for receiving eternal life.

What’s a metaphor? A metaphor is ‘a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money); broadly: figurative language’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary. s v metaphor).

2. And the result of this truth is ‘I will raise him up on the last day’

Oz: The result of eternal life is that the believer will be raised up at the last day. The result of eating the flesh and drinking the blood literally is not being raised up. The resurrection at the last day is dependent on a person receiving eternal life before that person’s physical death.

3-4-6 is double speak, confusing and rubbish

Oz: This is an offensive way of addressing me and does not deal with the content of what I wrote. Therefore it is a red herring fallacy of a reply.

What did I say in #3? I referred to the one whose flesh was eaten had the title of ‘the Son of Man’ (v. 53). While on earth, he was a man of flesh and God approved him (Jn 6:27). What’s double speak, confusing and rubbish about that? I know I needed to explain further the meaning of the Son of Man. To explain the meaning of this title for Jesus, see What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of Man? (gotquestions.org).

In #4 I continued with the emphasis that the Son of Man title for Jesus does not overlook his being a flesh and blood human being. This amazing, fleshly Son of Man has the ability to grant anyone eternal life if he/she ‘eats’ of him, i.e. eats = has faith in him.

My point at #6 of the close connection between John 6:40 and 54 was not explained well enough by me. The close connection is that those who look to the Son and believe in Him have eternal life (John 6:40) and that’s the message of John 6:54 except that Jesus uses the metaphor of eating his flesh and drinking his blood to have eternal life.

5. You are right about the Jews and it being abominable to them. They walked away and then Jesus doubled down on what he said. He didn’t clarify and say it was a metaphor or a symbol. He let them walk away and asked his Apostles if they were going to walk. IT WAS A HARD SAYING!! They didn’t believe him….. Just like you don’t.

Of course the Jews would object to the eating of flesh and drinking of blood that Jesus used (see my comment in #5) because they didn’t understand the metaphor Jesus was using. This is not a rubbish of an explanation but a fact. If anyone reads John 6:53-54 in a literal fashion, they would find it abhorrent. It was a hard saying because it would require the Jews to believe in the Son of Man to receive eternal life. They were not near ready to do that.

7. I am glad you brought up Augustine. Like a good protestant you only quoted what fit your belief. Here is more of what he said:

“I promised you, who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the sacrament of the Lord’s table. . . . That bread that you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ” (Sermons 227).

“What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may perhaps be sufficient for faith; yet faith does not desire instruction” (ibid., 272).

“Nobody eats this flesh without previously adoring it” (Explanation of the Psalms 99).

“He took flesh from the flesh of Mary . . . and gave us the same flesh to be eaten unto salvation. . . . We do sin by not adoring

Oz: Like a good Roman Catholic you did two things:

(1) You ignored the quote I gave from Augustine, ‘Believe, and you have eaten’ [Tractate 25.12 (John 6:15-44)]. Augustine knew exactly what John 6 was referring to with the eating and drinking. It dealt with believing in Jesus.

(2) You quote some other examples from Augustine and then don’t understand that Augustine used further metaphors to explain his position. These metaphors are the ones you have highlighted:

  •  That bread … is the body of Christ’.
  •  That chalice … is the blood of Christ’.
  •  The bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ’.
  •  gave us the same flesh to be eaten unto salvation’.

Every one of those examples is a metaphor, just like when Jesus said,

  • ‘I am the door’ (John 10:9 ESV). He was not a literal door.
  • ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8:12 ESV). He was not a literal, physical light.
  • ‘You are the salt of the earth’ (Matt 5:13 ESV). Christians are not literal salt.

clip_image008The problem Tom runs into is that his RCC fixation on literal flesh and blood will not allow him to see that the context is using these metaphors as believing, in order to receive eternal life and to be resurrected at the last day.

8. During the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said “this is my body/blood do this in remembrance of me” and your theory there are no indications John 6:53-54 it refers to the Lords Supper?? You TWISTED that so much it broke!!!

Oz: No, Tom, I have ‘twisted’ nothing. I have read the verses in context and there is not a word in John 6 to indicate a thing about the Lord’s Supper. There is not a word that Jesus was here referring to the Eucharist – not a single word.

9. Look up the definition of the word cannibalism.

Oz: Why didn’t you provide me with that definition, Tom?

Look again at what I wrote at #9: ‘There are cannibalistic overtones if one accepts the literal body and blood instead of the metaphorical meaning that points to looking to Jesus and believing in Him to receive eternal life’.

What’s the definition of cannibalism? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s first definition is that cannibalism means ‘the usually ritualistic eating of human flesh by a human being’ (s v cannibalism).

What I wrote was true to the definition. It is Tom’s position that plays into the overtones of cannibalism in the ‘ritualistic’ eating of the flesh and blood of a human being – Jesus.

10. Makes no sense.

Oz: Perhaps my explanation was not as clear as it ought to have been. I wrote at this point: When John stated, ‘And I will raise him up at the last day’ (John 6:40, 54), it demonstrates that eating the flesh and drinking the blood literally does not confer immortality/resurrection at the last day. The Lord’s Supper/Eucharist is not designed for immortality. However looking to the Son and believing in Him are for that purpose.

clip_image010This is what I meant: To be able to speak of resurrection at the last day (John 6:40, 54), one has to have received eternal life. Therefore, what John is stating in using the metaphor of eating flesh and drinking blood is to give a picture of how to receive eternal life. To engage in physical eating of human flesh and drinking human blood does not bring eternal life that leads to last day resurrection. What does do this? Looking to the Son and believing in him.

That’s exactly what John was teaching in John 6:40, 54. He was not dealing with a literal eating of flesh and blood but referred to a metaphor of eating flesh and blood that was designed to represent the faith in Jesus to receive eternal life.

E. John 6:60, 66: Why did many of Jesus’ disciples desert him?

Let’s deal with two verses that Roman Catholics sometimes use to support their claim that John 6:53-54 refers to the bread and the wine literally becoming the flesh and blood of Jesus when the Eucharist is celebrated. Tom indicated in his statement about John 6:66 that those who don’t believe this refers to literal flesh and blood are regarded by him, a Roman Catholic, as non-believers (see above).

Those verses are:

  • John 6:60 (ESV), ‘When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”’ and
  • John 6:66 (ESV), ‘After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him’.

1. Who were these disciples?

You will note from John 6:67 (ESV), the context of John 6:66, ‘So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”’ So the ‘disciples’ of John 6:66 are separate from the Twelve.

Who were these disciples who were not among the Twelve? The larger context from John 6:59 infers that they were Galileans (from Capernaum) and were from a larger group of disciples who followed Jesus. A sifting of the larger group of disciples began to take place here (John 6:60, 66). Verse 66 says ‘many of his disciples turned back’. It does not say that all of his extra disciples deserted him; however, many did. We do know that of the number who remained true to Jesus, there were more than 500 brothers and sisters who assembled to meet the risen Jesus after his resurrection, according to 1 Cor 15:6 (ESV).

2. How did the disciples respond to Jesus?

According to John 6:60, the disciples (not the Twelve) reacted with skleros to Jesus’ message. They, figuratively, reacted in words that were ‘hard, harsh, unpleasant’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:763.1.b). Lenski describes the skleros reaction as ‘“stiff,” dried out and hard, like a twig that has become brittle. The word does not here mean dark and difficult to understand but objectionable, offensive, impossible to accept and to believe’ (Lenski 1943:504-505).

In John 6:60, where it states, ‘This is a hard saying’, the Greek, ho logos houtos (Lit. the saying this), we need to comprehend that this refers to the entire Bread of Life discourse (John 6:22-59). What offended them and caused the stiff, unbending, harsh reaction? In this discourse there seems to be four main issues about which they reacted (stated by Carson 1991:300):

(a) They were more interested in food (6:26), Jesus’ becoming a political king (6:14-15), and manipulating the miraculous (6:30-31), than in dealing with the spiritual realities of eternal life.

(b) They were unprepared to give up their personal, sovereign authority, even in Christian matters. So they did not take the first steps of genuine faith (see 6:41-46).

(c) What particularly got up their noses was Jesus’ claim that he was greater than Moses and was sent by God and uniquely qualified to give life (John 6:32ff., 58), and

(d) The stark metaphor of eating the flesh and drinking the blood (John 6:53-54) was offensive to them.

Those who consider that in John 6:60, 66, John is speaking in terms of the human body or humanity, have a general objection that this is referring to the ‘the idea of eating and drinking the human nature of the one whom these disciples saw standing before their eyes like any other man’ (Lenski 1943:505). This is how the Roman Catholics interpret it – as literal body and blood. Tim Staples gives his RC explanation:

When we examine the surrounding context of John 6:53, Jesus’ words could hardly have been clearer. In verse 51, he plainly claims to be “the living bread” that his followers must eat. And he says in no uncertain terms that “the bread which I shall give . . . is my flesh.” Then, when the Jews were found “disput[ing] among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” in verse 52, he reiterates even more emphatically, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you”….

Moreover, when we consider the language used by John, a literal interpretation—however disturbing—becomes even more obvious. In John 6:50-53 we encounter various forms of the Greek verb phago, “eating.” However, after the Jews begin to express incredulity at the idea of eating Christ’s flesh, the language begins to intensify. In verse 54, John begins to use trogo instead of phago. Trogo is a decidedly more graphic term, meaning “to chew on” or to “gnaw on”—as when an animal is ripping apart its prey (Staples 2010).

However, the wider context (as I have tried to show in this article) demonstrates that the eating of the flesh and drinking the blood is used as a metaphor to demonstrate the nature of belief in Jesus that leads to eternal life and the resurrection at the end of the world, i.e. ‘I will raise them up at the last day’ (John 6:54 NIV).

3. Alleged disciples do not make Christian believers

Since many of Jesus’ disciples here found his teaching to be harsh, the question needs to be asked: Were these ‘disciples’ true believers who became hardened by his message and stiffly resisted it, or were they really unbelievers who gave up pursuing Jesus? Carson explained:

“Disciples” must be distinguished from “the Twelve” (cf. vv. 66-67). More importantly, just as there is faith and faith (2:23-25), so are there disciples and disciples. At the most elementary level, a disciple is someone who is at that point following Jesus, either literally by joining the group that pursued him from place to place, or metaphorically in regarding him as the authoritative teacher. Such a “disciple” is not necessarily a “Christian”, someone who has savingly trusted Jesus and sworn allegiance to him, given by the Father to the Son, drawn by the Father and born again by the Spirit. Jesus will make it clear in due course that only those who continue in his word are truly his ‘disciples’ (8:31). The ‘disciples’ described here do not remain in his word; they find it to be hard teaching…. These “disciples” will not long remain disciples, because they find Jesus word intolerable (Carson 1991:300).

The conclusion is that John 6:60 and 66 refer to a bunch of disciples (not the Twelve) whose faith was so frail or non-existent that they found it easy to drift away when they couldn’t tolerate the stiff, hard, harsh or unpleasant teachings of Jesus in his whole Bread of Life discourse. Therefore, they did not continue in his teachings and can be written off as his disciples.

F. When will the supply run out?

One fellow asked these two brilliant questions:

Regarding the eating and drinking of “Jesus’ flesh and blood” being ‘literal’, how long will it be before it has all been consumed and none remains?

Or is it not that ‘literal’?[9]

G. Conclusion

In context, the meaning of John 6:53-54 is easy to discern. It has to do with obtaining eternal life and being raised at the last day. Therefore, it could not refer to the literal eating of Jesus’ body or drinking of Jesus’ blood. It is a metaphor for believing in Jesus.

Image result for clipart believeIt does not refer to a sacramental view of the Eucharist. Therefore, those who disbelieve in the literal meaning of the body and blood of Jesus are not non-believers but are Christians who correctly interpret these two verses in context. This is a classic example of how eisegesis can overcome a passage and cause it to become void of sound exegesis.

It is important to believe what Jesus stated but the meaning of some of his statements are sometimes misconstrued because of lack of knowledge of the culture from 2,000 years ago or failure to engage in careful hermeneutics in context. That’s the issue with tom55. He has failed to interpret contextually and then has labelled people who don’t believe as he believes, as non-believers. He thus has become a dogmatic extremist in his approach to other believers.

Augustine summarised the biblical content well: ‘Believe, and you have eaten’.

It was expected that a Roman Catholic would distort this metaphorical meaning of eating the flesh and drinking the blood to indicate believing in Jesus to receive eternal life. He could not get out of his fixation with a literal eating and drinking, which makes no sense in context or throughout Scripture.

As for the disciples who deserted Jesus, these were not the Twelve but part of a larger group of followers who may not have been believers. However, there was a separation of the wheat from the weeds in discerning true believers from the false.

H. Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature [10]. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Carson, D A 1991. The Gospel according to John. Leicester, England / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Inter-Varsity Press / William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Lenski, R C H 1943. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (1943 The Wartburg Press; assigned 1961 to Augsburg Publishing House).

Staples, T 2010. What Catholics believe about John 6. This Rock 21(6), November. Available from Catholic Answers (1996-2016) at: http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/what-catholics-believe-about-john-6 (Accessed 1 September 2016).

I.  Notes


[1] Christianity Board 2012. In Reference To CyBs Statement of Faith – Christian Forum (online), tom55#251. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/17009-in-reference-to-cybs-statement-of-faith-christian-forum/page-9 (Accessed 20 August 2016).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#250.

[4] Ibid., tom55#252.

[5] Got Questions Ministries 2002-2016. What is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis? (online) Available at: http://www.gotquestions.org/exegesis-eisegesis.html (Accessed 20 August 2016).

[6] Many of the following points are based on Carson (1991:296-297).

[7] Ibid., tom55#254.

[8] My response is at ibid., OzSpen#257.

[9] Ibid., Oneoff#256.

[10] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 September 2016.

Jesus as the one way, except ….

Monday, August 8th, 2016

Jesus Is The Way

By Spencer D Gear PhD

A skeptic about Jesus as the only way to salvation showed up on Christian Forums.net. He wrote:

I was born again in 1970, worked with Campus Crusade for Christ, attended Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and have been waist-deep in theology for many, many years. So, yeah, I’ll match “Christian credentials” with other posters, if that’s important to you.
Do I believe my statement, “Pretty soon the category of people ….”?

Yes, I do. The exceptions pretty much reduce the doctrine to “the only way, except when …,” which is quite different from “the only way.” It strikes me as slightly bizarre that the hardline “only way” folks are willing to consign all Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims, not to mention Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, to Hell, while carving out exceptions for those who have not reached the fictional age of accountability or are mentally disabled. (True hardliners, of course, permit no exceptions – so at least their theology is consistent, albeit repulsive).??[1]

My reply was:[2]

Key with Jesus name on itGod does not talk of exceptions; that is human language to try to explain what seems unreasonable to us when we deal with God’s kingdom and who should enter. God’s language is that he has made provision for the salvation of certain people in His ways. I have addressed this as it relates to children in, Children and heaven.
Now to your view that Jesus as the ‘only way’ consigns Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Mormons & JWs to hell. So did God mean it when he said,

‘You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them’ (Ex 20:3-5 ESV)?

Yes, he did mean it and if the nation violated God’s laws they suffered the consequences. This is because God is a jealous and holy God who will not tolerate other gods of worship. He’s the same God in OT and NT – in spite of what some higher critics want to say about the alleged differences.
Those who do not submit to the Trinitarian Lord God are serving ‘other gods’ and such worship is forbidden if one wants to get into God’s kingdom. You’ll probably label me as a hardliner. The fact is that I want to remain faithful to Scripture and the one who said his people are to have no other gods, is the same one who said that Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6 ESV) and that there is salvation in no other person than through Jesus (Acts 4:12 ESV).

A.  The ‘only way’ is a fabrication

He stated:

Do I consider that Jesus as the only way to salvation to be “hollow” and/or a fabrication?

No, I suspect that the conventional doctrine is probably fundamentally misguided, meaning that we are not fully grasping what Jesus meant. (I am admittedly troubled by how many of the really puzzling and divisive doctrines have their roots in John and Revelation, but I realize that concerns about inerrancy are not permitted at this site.) I will not be surprised at all to meet hordes of people in Heaven whom the hardline “only way” folks would not now recognize as Christians at all. On the other hand, I will not be shocked if the most hardline “only way” folks are entirely correct and even infants are consigned to Hell – nothing requires God to be the sort of God we might like Him to be. On all of these potentially repulsive doctrines, my position is simply that we will eventually see that the end result is worthy of the Creator of the Universe.?[3]

Knock KnockThe fundamental doctrine of Jesus as the only way to salvation is not misguided, as you suggest, but is based on God’s holiness and perfection in determining who should be saved and how they should be saved and enter His presence.

Seems to me that your Jesus is one of syncretism who allows anyone into his kingdom because the hardline ‘only way’ Jesus is too narrow minded for a syncretistic view.
You claim that you are ‘troubled by how many of the really puzzling and divisive doctrines have their roots in John and Revelation”. Acts 4:12 (ESV) is not in John’s writings. Neither is Acts 13:26 (NIV), which provides this insight, ‘Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent’. God-fearing people have received the message of salvation.

Acts 10:43 (NIV) confirms: ‘All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name’. They believe in Jesus for salvation. Then they become Christians and are no longer Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Shintoists, pagans, New Agers, JWs, Mormons, secularists, atheists, agnostics, etc. They become born-again Christians who have received Jesus as the only way to salvation.

B.  An area of agreement

However, there is one area in which I would agree with you: ‘Nothing requires God to be the sort of God we might like Him to be’. There will be God-fearers who make it into God’s kingdom whom we would never know how they came to fear God. However, I dare not make ‘one way’ Christians into hardliners who are unreasonable. Those who believe Jesus is the ‘only way’ to salvation are following what Scripture teaches.
God doesn’t dance to your or my tune. He sets the boundaries for who is in and who is out of the kingdom. From the teaching available to us, salvation through Jesus Christ alone is the only way to become a Christian (John 14:6 ESV; Acts 4:12 ESV).

C.  One way in other religions

It is a fallacy to think that evangelical Christianity is for hardliners who require Jesus as the one and only way to salvation.

Have you checked out these other religions and what they consider as the way to enlightenment and Paradise? See my articles:

bronze-arrow-small  Is Islam a religion of peace at its core?

bronze-arrow-small  Visualization and Affirmation

bronze-arrow-small The dangers of Eastern meditation

Take a read of these other articles that demonstrate that Christianity is not the only faith that promotes a narrow way:

designRed-small  Why Hinduism is the “Eternal way”, the true religion (Western Hindu);

designRed-small Buddhism, The ‘only’ way to enlightenment.

designRed-small Islam, ‘This is Islam – The Only Way for This Life and The Hereafter’ (The Islamic Bulletin).

DirectiondesignRed-small What about atheism? Its one way must exclude belief in God. See Atheist Foundation of Australia where it states that membership is open to ‘any natural person, who subscribes to the Objects of the Foundation and agrees to be bound by its Rules, may be admitted to membership by the Committee’. What are the objects of the foundation?

    i. To encourage and to provide a means of expression for informed free-thought on philosophical and social issues.

ii. To safeguard the rights of all non-religious people.

iii. To serve as a focal point for the community of non-religious people.

iv. To offer verifiable information in place of superstition and to promote logic and reason.

v. To promote atheism.

So even atheism has a one-way to membership through your acceptance of its 5 objects.

I wish you good fortune in trying to find the secret to the Google, Bing or Yahoo one-way formulas they use to search the Internet for your words.

D.  The Jesus’ one-way difference

What makes Jesus as the only way different to other world religions and philosophies? Briefly, these are fundamentals you will not find in other religions:

clip_image002 Forgiveness of all your sins (Matthew 6:14-15; 1 John 1:9).

clip_image002[1] Freedom from the guilt of sin (Psalm 103:8-12; Romans 8:1);

clip_image002[2] Eternal life that begins now and extends into eternity (Matthew 7:13-14; John 3:16; 1 John 5:13-14);

clip_image002[3] Ultimately this eternal life means life after death and ultimate Paradise in the presence of God (Luke 23:43; John 11:25; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; Revelation 21:1-27).

E.  Conclusion

Because other ways state they are the only way to various ultimate realities, which ones forgive sins and guarantee eternal life? This is the one that means changed lives in the present as well? It changes drunkard abusers into loving husbands whose life focuses on serving others.

Only one! That’s the Christ of Christianity who saves people from sin, cleanses the guilt, offers peace within and peace eternally, and an eternal relationship with God.

F.  Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net 2016. Apologetics & Theology, 24 June. ‘It’s so simple’, Runner#17. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/its-so-simple.65197/ (Accessed 25 June 2016).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#19.

[3] Ibid., Runner#17.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 8 August 2016.

Heresy or not: First-born of creation

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

File:People burned as heretics.jpg

(people burned as heretics, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)

15 He [God the Father’s beloved Son[1] – Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by[2] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

1. The Controversy

There’s a highly contentious and controversial phrase in this passage about the Son, Jesus Christ. He is:

3d-red-star‘the firstborn of all creation’ (v 15).

For us as English speakers, what immediately comes to your mind when you hear the word, ‘firstborn’?

3d-red-star I think of the first child born in my family. He was conceived in a sexual union between mother and father and he was then born as the first child of the family

We must get rid of that idea when we are dealing with this phrase that Jesus is ‘the firstborn of all creation’.

There was a heresy that emerged in the Christian church in the fourth century that devastated the church and part of its teaching was a wrong view of the meaning of Jesus being ‘the firstborn of all creation’.

This false teaching is known as …

2. The heresy of Arianism

Arius portré.jpg(image of Arius, courtesy Wikipedia)

What is a heresy?

In NT Greek, the term from which we get the English, ‘heresy’ is hairesis. Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek Lexicon (1957:23) states that hairesis means ‘sect, party, school’. It was used of the Sadducees in Acts 5:17; of the Pharisees in Acts 15:5; of the Christians in Acts 24:5. It is used of a heretical sect or those with destructive opinions in 2 Peter 2:1 (‘destructive heresies’ ESV, NIV). This latter verse uses ‘haireseis (plural) of destruction’.

The Oxford dictionary gives these meanings of heresy:

(a) ‘Belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine’;

(b) ‘Opinion profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted’ (Oxford dictionaries 2016. s v heresy).[3]

From the NT, we see the term, heresy, being used to mean what Paul called strange doctrines, different doctrine, doctrines of demons, and every wind of doctrine (I Timothy 1:3; 4:1; 6:3; Ephesians 4:14). This is in contrast to sound doctrine, our doctrine, the doctrine conforming to godliness, and the doctrine of God (I Timothy 4:6; 6:1,3; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1, 10).

For much of this analysis on Arianism, I’m indebted to systematic theologian, Wayne Grudem (1994:243-245).

Arianism is a heresy that was taught by Arius, a presbyter (church elder) of Alexandria in northern Africa, on the Mediterranean coast of what is Egypt today. Today it’s a bustling sea port on the left bank of the Nile River. Founded in 331 BC by Alexander the Great, it is understood that Christianity was brought to this city by the evangelist, Mark. In 2006, it had a population of 4.1 million people and about 80% of Egypt’s exports and imports come through it. It’s the 2nd largest city in Egypt. In the first century (based on a papyrus from AD 32), it had a population of between 500,000 and 1 million.[4]

But that’s not what made it famous in the 4th century. Church historian, Earle Cairns, stated that it unfolded like this: In about 318 or 319, the bishop of Alexandria, Alexander by name, preached to his presbyters on the topic of ‘The Great Mystery of the Trinity in Unity’. One of his presbyters and an ascetic scholar and popular preacher, Arius, attacked that sermon because he thought it failed to support a distinction between the persons in the Godhead. Arius wanted to avoid polytheism and its understanding of many gods, but in opposing Bishop Alexander, he ‘took a position that did injustice to the true deity of Christ’. The issue related to the nature of salvation. ‘Could Christ save [human beings] if He were a demigod, less than true God, and of a similar or different essence from the Father as Eusebius of Nicomedia and Arius respectively asserted? [I use ‘essence’ in the sense of the substance or being of God.] Eusebius of Nicomedia is not to be confused with the distinguished early church historian, Eusebius of Caesarea. Just what was Jesus’ relationship to the Father? (Cairns 1981:133-134).

Arius put Alexandria on the map with views that were condemned by the Council of Nicea that met in Nicea (near Istanbul, Turkey) in AD 325. Arius died in AD 336. Istanbul was formerly called Constantinople.

clip_image001(map courtesy YouTube)

Arius’s teachings included the following (based on Grudem 1994:243-244):

  • God the Son, Jesus, was at one point created by God the Father;
  • Before that creation, the Son did not exist; neither did the Holy Spirit. Only God the Father existed.
  • The Son was a created heavenly being who existed before the rest of creation and he is greater than all of the rest of creation.
  • BUT … he was not equal with God the Father in all of his attributes.
  • It could be said that he was ‘like the Father’ or even ‘similar to the Father’ in nature. But he most definitely could not be ‘of the same nature’ as the Father.
  • The Arians relied heavily on texts that stated that Christ was God’s ‘only begotten’ Son (e.g. John 1:14; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). What does ‘begotten’ mean? It’s an old-fashioned adjective that means something is generated by procreation – by being fathered. So it means to father or produce an offspring.[5] To ‘beget’, according to the Oxford dictionary means ‘(Especially of a man) bring (a child) into existence by the process of reproduction’ (2016. s v beget).[6]
  • That is what got them into theological trouble. They reasoned like this: If Christ is begotten by God the Father, he is conceived by God.
  • Then they turned to a verse like Col 1:15, ‘He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation’. Therefore, ‘first-born’ implies that the Son was brought into existence by the Father. If that were true of the Son, it was also true for the Holy Spirit as well. Both were created beings.

Arius and the Arians met a formidable foe in Athanasius, who lived from about AD 295-373. He was only a young man when he became embroiled in refuting this heretical doctrine. His name is associated with the orthodox view.

His wealthy parents had provided for his theological education in the famous catechetical school of Alexandria. His work De Incarnatione[7] presented his idea of the doctrine of Christ. At the council [of Nicea] this young man, slightly over thirty, insisted that Christ had existed from all eternity with the Father and was of the same essence (homoousios) as the Father, though He was a distinct personality. He insisted on these things because he believed that if Christ were less than he had stated Him to be, He could not be the Savior of [human beings] (Cairns 1981:134).

Athanasius contended that the question of people’s eternal salvation was dependent on the relationship between the Father and the Son. ‘He held that Christ was coequal, coeternal, and consubstantial [i.e. of the same substance] with the Father, and for these views he suffered exile five times’. However, Athanasius was promoting the orthodox biblical view (Cairns 1981:134).

2.1 Who are the modern day Arians?

They include:

gold-button Jehovah’s Witnesses;

gold-button Locally to where I live in an outer, northern Brisbane suburb, Qld., Australia, there is another active, but small, group of Arians known as the Christadelphians. The Maranatha retirement village on Anzac Ave, Kallangur, Qld 4503[8] is operated as an aged care facility by the Christadelphians.

2.1.1 Jehovah’s Witnesses

(photo of worship at a JW Kingdom Hall, courtesy Wikipedia)

This cult uses Rev. 3:14, where Jesus calls himself ‘the beginning of God’s creation’ to promote a heretical doctrine. According to their publication, Should You Believe in the Trinity?[10] they state that

the Bible plainly states that in his prehuman existence, Jesus was a created spirit being, just as angels were spirit beings created by God. Neither the angels nor Jesus had existed before their creation.

Jesus, in his prehuman existence, was ‘the first-born of all creation’. (Colossians 1:15 NJB). He was ‘the beginning of God’s creation’. (Revelation 3:14, RS Catholic edition)…. Jesus was created by God as the beginning of God’s invisible creations.[11]

But Rev 3:14 does not mean that Jesus was the first being created. Why? The same word for ‘beginning’ (Gk. arche) is used by Jesus when he says that he is ‘the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13). In that verse, ‘beginning’ is a synonym for “Alpha” and ‘first’.

We also have God the Father saying of himself, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev. 1:8). In both cases, to be ‘the Alpha’ or ‘the beginning’ means to be the one who was there before anything else existed.

The word does not state or imply that Jesus, the Son, was a created being who was begotten by God or that there was a time when he began to be. This is because both the Father and the Son have always been ‘the Alpha and the Omega’ and ‘the beginning and the end’, since they have existed eternally.

The NIV translates Rev. 3:14 with a different emphasis, ‘the ruler of God’s creation’. Remember that the NIV is a dynamic equivalence translation that gives meaning-for-meaning and not word-for-word translation. The NIV for Rev. 3:14 is an acceptable alternative for arche: see the same meaning in Luke 12:11 and Titus 3:1.

See the article by Ryan Turner, ‘Arianism and Its Influence Today’.[12]

2.2 These texts do not support the Arian position

Grudem puts it this way:

Colossians 1:15, which calls Christ “the first-born of all creation,” is better understood to mean that Christ has the rights or privileges of the “first-born”—that is, according to biblical usage and custom, the right of leadership or authority in the family for one’s generation. (Note Heb. 12:16 where Esau is said to have sold his “first-born status” or “birthright”—the Greek word protokia is cognate[13] to the term protokos, “first-born” in Col. 1:15.) So Colossians 1:15 means that Christ has the privileges of authority and rule, the privileges belonging to the “first-born,” but with respect to the whole creation. The NIV translates it helpfully, “the firstborn over all creation” (Grudem 1994:243-244).

2.2.1 Christ the ‘only begotten Son’

What about the texts that say that Christ was God’s ‘only begotten Son’? The early church was convinced that there were many texts that supported Christ as being fully and completely God so they concluded that ‘only begotten’ did not mean ‘created’ and that is how they put it in the Nicene Creed of 325. It affirmed that Christ was ‘begotten, not made’. This is what the first version of the Creed stated:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (homoousion) with the Father.[14]

This was reaffirmed at the Council of Constantinople in 381. But a phrase, ‘before all ages’ was added after ‘begotten of the Father’, so that people would understand that this ‘begetting’ was eternal. There was no point in time when Jesus’ begetting was happening. It was eternally true.

Grudem’s view was that ‘the nature of that ‘begetting’ has never been defined very clearly, other than to say that it has to do with the relationship between the Father and the Son, and that in some sense the Father has eternally had a primacy in that relationship’ (Grudem 1994:244).

3. Conclusion

The phrase ‘firstborn of all creation’ (Col 1:15 ESV) led to the heretical interpretation by the Arians that Jesus was a being created by God the Father who existed before the rest of creation, but he was not equal with God. They relied on texts which emphasised ‘firstborn’ and ‘only begotten’ to describe the origin of Jesus.

In this short exposition, it was shown that ‘firstborn of all creation’ means that Jesus has the rights or privileges of the family’s firstborn but it means that Christ has the privileges and authority of the firstborn in regard to all of creation. Thus he is ‘the firstborn over all of creation’ (NIV). However, he is not a created being but has existed eternally.

To speak of Christ as the ‘only begotten Son’ does not mean that he was begotten as a creation of the Father but that he was fully and completely God, of one substance with the Father. While ‘begetting’ has not been defined clearly from a biblical understanding of the text, it deals with the relationship of the Father and the Son, and the Father in some sense has eternally had a priority in the relationship with the Son (and the Holy Spirit).

Modern promoters of the heresy of Arianism include the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christadelphians.

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (4th ed). London: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition to Zondervan Publishing House).

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the centuries: A history of the Christian church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Notes


[1] The context is vv 13-14 which identifies the Father God (v. 13) and ‘his beloved Son’ (v. 14).

[2] Footnote, ‘That is, by means of; or ini.

[3] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/heresy (Accessed 12 May 2016). Throughout this document I’ll use ‘s v’ as an acronym for the Latin ‘sub verba’, i.e. under the word. When I write ‘ s v heresy’, it means that you need to go to the reference in the resource to obtain the meaning (here it is Oxford dictionaries online) and check the word, ‘heresy’. S v is used primarily for dictionary and encyclopaedia entries.

[4] This is based on information from Catholic Encyclopedia (1907. s v Alexandria); Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Alexandria, Egypt); Wikipedia (2016. s v Alexandria).

[5] This definition is from ‘begotten’, vocabulary.com, available at: http://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/begotten (Accessed 18 March 2014).

[6] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/beget (Accessed 12 May 2016).

[7] An English translation of this document is available as, ‘On the Incarnation of the Word’ at New Advent (online). Available at: http://newadvent.org/fathers/2802.htm (Accessed 12 May 2016).

[8] It is at 1582 Anzac Ave., Kallangur, Qld 4503. Details at: http://www.chomes.com.au/facilities/maranatha (Accessed 12 May 2016).

[10] Brooklyn, N.Y.: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1989, p. 14. This booklet was previously available online by the Watch Tower, but it has been removed. Another source, The Snarky Apologist INFO blog, has provided this booklet online at: http://thesnarkyapologist.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/should-you-believe-in-trinity-booklet.html (Accessed 19 March 2014). I located an abbreviated edition of the JW article at: https://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/g201308/trinity/ (Accessed 12 May 2016).

[11] Ibid., p. 14.

[12] CARM (online). Available at: https://carm.org/arianism-and-its-influence-today (Accessed 12 May 2016).

[13] ‘Cognate’ is used in linguistics to mean, ‘(Of a word) having the same linguistic derivation as another (e.g. English father, German Vater, Latin pater)’ [Oxford dictionaries online 2016. s v cognate].

[14] In Grudem (1994:244). Grudem noted that ‘this is the original form of the Nicene Creed, but it was later modified by the Council of Constantinople in 381 and there took the form that is commonly called the “Nicene Creed” by churches today. This text is taken from Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, 3 vols (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983 reprint of 1931 edition), 1:28-29’ (Grudem 1994:244, n. 25).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 8 June 2016.

Salvation by grace but not by force: A person chooses to believe

Monday, May 9th, 2016

(tulip image public domain)

Image result for photo rose public domain

(rose image public domain)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

In the argy bargy that goes on between Calvinists and Arminians over the nature of salvation, some important elements are minimised or rejected. If TULIP is promoted by Calvinists, what is excluded? If semi-Pelagians are identified as Arminians, what is added to Arminianism? What about the FACTS of Arminianism?

I write as a convinced Reformed/Classical Arminian who is not a semi-Pelagian in my doctrine of theology.

1. Why do some people reject salvation?

I was engaged in a discussion online about why some accept Christ while others reject him.

I confirm that I believe in salvation by grace,[1] but NOT salvation by irresistible grace and unconditional election. Why? The Bible tells me so! This is what the Bible teaches about salvation by grace:

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:29-31 NIV)

What did Paul & Silas say to the Philippian jailer? It’s a command, ‘[You] believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’. So Paul and Silas confirm that there will be no salvation unless ‘you believe’ [aorist imperative]. It does not command, ‘God will believe in the Lord Jesus for you and you will be saved’. It does not say, ‘You will be irresistibly drawn by grace to Christ for salvation and be unconditionally elected’.

So I believe in salvation by grace where the person believes. Acts 16:31 (NIV) does not teach irresistible grace. There would be no command to ‘believe’ that would have meaning to the Philippian jailer if it were not possible for him to believe or refuse to believe. Yes, ‘believe’ is an imperative in the Greek language – a command – but that does not state or imply that he must obey the command. It is not ‘you must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you have no choice in the matter because God has decreed and guaranteed your election to salvation. You have no choice in the matter; you are forced to come to Christ’. That would be a gross interpolation of the command, ‘Believe’.

Ribbon Salvation ButtonEphesians 2:8-9 (NIV) provides the critical dimension from God’s perspective: ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9 not by works, so that no one can boast’.

However one understands the reason for people accepting or rejecting salvation, these are the core elements of salvation:

  • It is by God’s grace.
  • It is by faith.
  • This salvation of grace through faith comes as a gift from God.
  • It cannot be obtained by good works, thus eliminating any personal bragging about the works done to earn salvation.

Salvation as a gift from God does not eliminate a person’s saying, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to salvation. The ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ provides the means while the substance, salvation, is a gift from God himself. There is a human mystery of how this takes place that salvation is a gift from God but human beings need to respond positively to the Gospel to receive it. The most obvious solution, to me, is to state that God’s gift is mediated through human receipt of that gift.

We see this on the human level. I have known of situations where a wife purchased an expensive gift to give to her husband for his birthday but when she presented it to him it was rejected. He had a number of reasons for not receiving it, some related to unresolved conflict in the marriage. So it is possible for an expensive gift to be purchased and rejected. A similar situation develops when the supreme sacrificial gift of salvation is offered to people and for various reasons they reject the offer.

2. God frees the will to believe

Image result for two ways clipart public domainI was following up a comment online that stated: ‘Those Christ died for are reconciled to God while they are enemies/unbelievers Rom 5:10! You are denying what Christ’s death done’.[2]

My response was:[3]

I know you don’t like the theology of Christ dying for ALL sinners, but as has already been pointed, that’s exactly what 1 John 2:2 (ESV) teaches: ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’. So, the sins of the whole world come in the embrace of God’s propitiation. What is propitiation? Romans 3:24-25 (ESV) states believers

are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

‘Propitiation’ here refers to ‘a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath to the end and in so doing changes God’s wrath toward us into favor’ (Grudem 1999:254). So, instead of being opposed to sinners, God is now favourable towards them, because of Christ’s propitious sacrifice.

There are other emphases that point to God freeing the will so that it is open to receiving Christ.
That God has freed the will is inferred from the number of exhortations in Scripture to:

It would be impossible to turn to God, repent or believe if God had not in some way made it possible for such to happen for rebel sinners. He does this by sending grace beforehand. Titus 2:11 (ESV) teaches this, ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’.

The only way I’ve seen Calvinists squirm out of verses such as 1 John 2:2 (ESV) and Titus 2:11 (ESV) is to redefine ‘world’ to mean some people groups of the world or the world of the elect. However, we can’t do that in either of these 2 verses that make it clear that they refer to the ‘sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2 ESV) and the grace of God has appeared ‘bring salvation to all people’ (Titus 2:11). This latter verse makes it clear it is ‘to all people’ and NOT ‘to all elect people’.

There is no problem with the grace of God bringing salvation to all people and not all people being saved (universalism) when one understands that God has freed the human will to respond. How do we know? I’ve demonstrated that above with the exhortations:

  • turn to God;
  • repent, and
  • believe.

None of these exhortations would have meaning if they meant,

  • turn to God and by that God means, I decree you to turn to God and you are forced to make that decision.
  • repent, but God predestines that repentance and it is irresistible;
  • believe, and you have no choice in the matter. You are unconditionally drawn to Christ.

What kind of God would coerce people to turn to Him, force them to repent, and compel them to believe? That would be an example of God, the bully, who is a monster of partiality. He decrees salvation for the elect and damnation for the unbelievers – but the unbelievers cannot choose to believe because of God’s will that they be damned forever. That is not an example of the God of grace and mercy towards the undeserving.

Another chimed in:

Why would someone not accept reconciliation? That makes no sense.

The answer is … you don’t accept reconciliation because you can’t. You’re dead in your sins and trespasses…you are not a sheep who hears Gods call … you are not chosen by God. God has decided not to have mercy and compassion on you.[4]

3. Salvation by grace, but not irresistible grace

This is a response that is typical of arrogant Calvinists I meet on Christian forums or in some Calvinistic churches:

Reconciled while being enemies!
False religionists, who reject Salvation by Grace, do also reject the Truth of God’s Grace, that those Christ has died for, had been reconciled to God, by that Death, while they were enemies Rom 5:10,
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
This reconciliation to God was without them meeting any conditions, not any requirements, in fact it occurred while they were in a state of hostility and hatred and enmity against God;
And it was while they were being so, that they were actually reconciled, that is brought into harmony and agreement with God, received into His Favor and Friendship ! Don’t be deceived by false teachers, they were reconciled to God, not potentially reconciled to God, it was not just possibly and not actually, they were reconciled to God on the bases of the Death of Christ. If it was only made possible, Christ’s Death fell far short of the Glory of God. They were all reconciled to God and put in harmony with Him, as they had been when they were in harmony with God in Adam before the fall!
The fleshly carnal mind ruled by pride cannot receive this Grace Truth, it rejects it every time![5]

That kind of comment is like pouring petrol on the fire of this Reformed Arminian, so I replied:[6]

I most certainly believe in salvation by grace, but NOT your salvation by irresistible grace. Why? The Bible tells me so!clip_image001 This is what the Bible teaches about salvation by grace:

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:29-31 NIV)

What did Paul & Silas say to the Philippian jailer? It’s a command, ‘[You] Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’. So Paul and Silas confirm that there will be no salvation unless ‘you believe’ [aorist tense imperative]. It does not command, ‘God will believe in the Lord Jesus for you and you will be saved’. It does not say, ‘You will be irresistibly drawn by grace to Christ for salvation and be unconditionally elected’.

So I believe in salvation by grace where the person chooses to believe. Acts 16:31 (NIV) does not teach irresistible grace.

4. Objection to God who frees the will to believe

The examples I gave above of turn to God, repent, and believe, brought this response:

The contradiction is still there. Those enemies Christ died for are reconciled to God by His Death while they are enemies, which is not true for all, since some who are enemies are under Gods Wrath and Condemnation John 3:18, 36.[7]

He added:

All the scripture you quoted [for turn to God, repent, and believe] I have no problem with. Yet you can not explain why some as enemies and unbelievers are reconciled to God by Christ death, and others are not, and are under Gods Wrath and Condemnation John 3:18, 36.[8]

These last two quotes by this poster are conveying the same message with almost identical words. Calvinists with a fixation on TULIP cannot get past what God has done in freeing the human will of all human beings to believe or reject the Gospel. This is my attempt to explain further. It is not comprehensive and a person may pick holes in some of the points:

Do you want me to conclude that the God of Calvinism has the answer to why some receive Christ and others reject, because of unconditional election and irresistible grace – married to limited atonement?

There are simple steps to the solution to why some accept and others reject salvation. These steps are not comprehensive and some may take exception to some. I don’t expect Calvinists to endorse any action of free will in salvation:[9]

  1. Salvation is by grace through faith, without good works (Eph 2:8-9 NIV).
  2. ‘Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ’ (Rom 10:17 NIV). There is no salvation through exposure to natural revelation (e.g. Rom 1:18ff), but a person must hear or read the Gospel message.
  3. ‘You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life’ (John 5:39-40 ESV). Individual choice is involved. People refuse to come – for various reasons. Jesus’ words are profound, ‘Yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life’. They refuse to come. They have the free will to receive or reject. This is Jesus telling us part of his theology of salvation.
  4. ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day’ (John 6:44 NIV). The Father draws; he does not drag people into the kingdom through unconditional election or irresistible grace. The drawing is not forceful, to the point of giving no other alternative.
  5. We know from Titus 2:11 (ESV) that ‘the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’. This grace of God appeared with the passion-resurrection of Jesus, making salvation available to all. Yes, ALL!
  6. The fact is that people who hear the Gospel are drawn by the Father, but they have a choice to make – accept or reject the Gospel. The human will has been freed to enable human beings to make a decision for or against Christ. Human beings who are dead in sin are freed to believe by God himself.
  7. There is a godly mystery (1 Cor 2:7 NIV) involved in how God, by his Spirit, takes the message of salvation, exposes human beings to it, they are drawn (not forced) by the Father, and they have the choice to reject or ‘believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household’ (Acts 16:31 NIV).
  8. In this process, Satan’s influence cannot be under-estimated in influencing people to reject salvation. We are reminded in 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV), ‘Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’. Satan the deceiver and devourer of all things good, including the Gospel, should not be ignored.

Leave out the free will choice – as Calvinists do – and it excludes a core element in the reception of the Gospel by people. Exclude free will and you eliminate what Jesus included: ‘You refuse to come to me that you may have life’ (John 5:40 ESV).

Salvation is all of God. He has provided it through Christ’s sacrifice, which was a propitiation, but in God’s grace He has made salvation available to people to receive or reject – with eternal consequences.

5. Begging the question fallacy

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fallacies

If a person starts an Internet discussion with a post that supports the premise of limited atonement and reaches the same conclusion, what has he done? This is what a fellow did on a Christian forum. He began,

Not all men are reconciled to God by Christ’s death while being enemies, and that’s simply because Christ’s death was not for everyone without exception. That’s why some are reconciled to God while being enemies and unbelievers Rom 5:10 and why some are under Gods wrath and condemnation while being enemies and unbelievers Jn 3:18, 36!

There is simply only one explanation for this, Christ died for some who are enemies and unbelievers and did not die for others who are enemies and unbelievers!

The enemies and unbelievers that Christ died for are reconciled to God by it, did not perform any conditions whatsoever, because they were actively enemies and unbelievers, So Christ fulfilled all the conditions necessary for them to be reconciled to God while being enemies and unbelievers![10]

There was a back and forth with a number of different posters, including myself, until he came to this conclusion:

The contradiction is still there. Those enemies Christ died for are reconciled to God by His Death while they are enemies, which is not true for all, since some who are enemies are under Gods Wrath and Condemnation John 3:18,36.[11]

Notice what he did. He cited the same verses (John 3:18, 36) in this second post as with his first one. My response was:[12]

I can be the super, computer geek fixer for all the IT problems of the world – through my international agencies in every country – but not one person with a PC or laptop or IPad breakdown will receive any help from the super geek fixers until they pick up the phone, go to the Internet, or email with details of the issue.

This analogy demonstrates the truth of 1 John 2:2 (ESV), ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’. Jesus has propitiated the wrath of God for the sins of the whole world, but not one person will receive the benefits of that propitiation until he or she bows the knee in submission to Jesus Christ and accepts his offer by faith and repentance.

There is no contradiction. The issue is with your failure to see that God has ordained it that human beings must ‘pick up the phone’ and accept Jesus’ propitiation for their sins. Your problem is with the human side of accepting God’s forgiveness and responding in faith to the offer of salvation.

That’s because of your fixation on limited atonement and refusal to admit to what 1 John 2:2 (ESV) teaches in relation to propitiation for the sins of the whole world and that requires human response for redemption to happen.

This fellow’s claim is that

No one has been able to appropriately answer the points made in the op. Those Christ died for are reconciled to God while they are enemies and unbelievers Rom 5:10, yet that is not the case with all men without exception John 3:18, 36.[13]

My retort was:

That’s because you engage in a begging the question logical fallacy. In this instance, you begin with this premise:[14]

Not all men are reconciled to God by Christ’s death while being enemies, and that’s simply because Christ’s death was not for everyone without exception. That’s why some are reconciled to God while being enemies and unbelievers Rom 5:10 and why some are under Gods wrath and condemnation while being enemies and unbelievers Jn 3:18, 36!

There is simply only one explanation for this, Christ died for some who are enemies and unbelievers and did not die for others who are enemies and unbelievers![15]

What’s your conclusion? ‘No one has been able to appropriately answer the points made in the op’.[16] So you conclude where you began with Calvinism’s answer, which is your premise, thus demonstrating you use a begging the question logical fallacy. This is also called circular reasoning.
You will never ever receive an answer to the questions of the original post because your premise is embedded in your conclusion. Nobody will be able to convince you that your premise is wrong when you don’t seem to be open to such a challenge. You refuse to conclude with anything other than a Calvinistic conclusion – limited atonement – which was your premise.

6. Conclusion

Calvinists promote salvation by grace through faith that is irresistible because God has unconditionally elected a person to salvation. Add to this the fact for them that Jesus did not die for all people, but only for the elect. Therefore, it is logical for them to say that human beings have no need to receive Jesus into their hearts as God has already saved them by his eternal decree.

Reformed or Classical Arminians believe salvation is by grace through faith but any person can resist this grace that God has extended to them when salvation is proclaimed. For Arminians, God has freed the will of all people so that they can respond with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the offer of salvation. However, salvation is always that which is provided by God himself through Christ’s sacrifice.

I conclude in favour of the Reformed Arminian theology because I understand it as providing the consistent biblical view. For a further explanation, see my articles:

clip_image003 Salvation is a work of God and human beings: More misinformation about Arminianism

clip_image003[1] Calvinist misrepresents the Reformed

clip_image003[2] Blatant misrepresentation of Arminians by Calvinists

clip_image003[3] Some Calvinistic antagonism towards Arminians

clip_image003[4] Stutters on the stairway: Arminianism vs Calvinism (eternal security)

clip_image003[5] Prevenient grace – kinda clumsy!

clip_image003[6] It’s amazing what some Calvinists will do

clip_image003[6] Is any flavor of Arminianism promoting error?

7. Works consulted

Grudem, W 1999. Bible Doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press (published by arrangement with Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan).

8.  Notes

[1] This is my post at Christian Forums.net, Apologetics & Theology, ‘No conditions to be reconciled’, OzSpen#36, 18 April 2016. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/no-conditions-to-be-reconciled.64255/page-2 (Accessed 19 April 2016). This was a reply to beloved57#12.

[2] Ibid., beloved57#19.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#37.

[4] Ibid., Cygnus#23.

[5] Ibid., beloved57#12.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#36.

[7] Ibid., beloved57#40.

[8] Ibid., beloved57#42.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#51.

[10] Ibid., beloved57#1.

[11] Ibid., beloved57#40.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#70.

[13] Ibid., beloved57#66.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#68.

[15] Ibid., beloved57#1.

[16] ‘op’ means original post,Beloved57#1.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 May 2016.

Why is eternal security such a touchy subject?

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Hanging Cat

(image courtesy ChristArt.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

If you want to stir up some controversy, go to a Presbyterian church and question the eternal security of the Christian believer. To suggest that a Christian can fall away and even commit apostasy from the faith (1 Tim 1:18-20; Heb 6:4-6) is almost to have the anathema pronounced over you. I had a TULIP Presbyterian member tell me on 1 May 2016 that he would not attend a Wesleyan Methodist church in his rural community because those people ‘believe people can lose their salvation’.

1. Samples of OSAS

Try opposing once-saved-always-saved (OSAS) in some Baptist churches and you could be vigorously opposed. I’ve experienced similar animosity in opposing OSAS on Christian forums where Calvinists and Arminians hover and engage in sometimes antagonistic interaction. Some examples of this included:

bronze-arrow-small ‘Surely Satan does not want us to know that faith is the security of our salvation: “who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5 NASB)
He wants every one of us who believes to stop believing, so we will no longer have access to God’s protection for our salvation through that faith’.[1]

bronze-arrow-small ‘Some teachers and preachers of the Word teach OSNAS [once saved not always saved] so that they can keep their congregation under their thumb—fearful, insecure and dependent on their leaders to know what to do to maintain or keep their salvation. (Many cults function this way.) The more sincere ones are just afraid that teaching OSAS will cause their congregations members to leave church and sin like there’s no tomorrow. This opposite is true, though’.[2]

bronze-arrow-small ‘This statement — “faith is the security of our salvation” — is also one of the reasons why there is resistance to the doctrine of eternal security. There are many Christians who believe that it is their faith and/or their good works which keeps them saved’.[3]

You can encounter similar antagonism by promoting TULIP in Wesleyan, Assemblies of God, or Free Will Baptist churches. Then if you promote Arminianism in Reformed, Presbyterian, or Reformed Baptist churches, you’ll find similar resistance.

That’s a sampling from an online Christian forum, but it could happen anywhere that there are Christians from both sides of the theological fence in a congregation – promoting Arminianism or Calvinism.

2. Eternal security: A touchy topic

Why is eternal security such a contentious subject among Christians? I encountered it again with the topic, ‘Why is there so much resistance to the eternal security of the believer?[4]

2.1 He fired away

The opening post got the discussion underway with this perspective:

The eternal security of the believer is a fundamental Bible truth (1 Jn 5:13). Yet there is considerable resistance to this doctrine in many quarters, and at the same time many believers who really don’t know the Scriptures are uncertain about something which should be absolutely certain. So why is there so much resistance? I believe there are at least two reasons, and perhaps you might find that there are several others.

The first reason in my esitmation (sic) is the opposition of the archenemy of God and of the Christian. Satan does not want anyone to know – without the shadow of a doubt – that their salvation is eternally secure.

The second reason is that Gospel Truth is not being preached and taught as it ought to be (in all its fulness), babes in Christ are not being discipled as they ought to be, and too many believers do not really understand their position in Christ. The point of this thread is to determine whether we clearly understand our position in Christ.[5]

How should I, a Christian believer who accepts perseverance of the saints but not OSAS, answer such a person’s unfortunate misinterpretation of 1 John 5:13 (ESV)? I responded:[6]

2.2 The meaning of 1 John 5:13

What does 1 John 5:13 (ESV) teach? The verse states, ‘I write [Gk aorist tense] these things to you who believe [Gk present tense] in the name of the Son of God that you may know [Gk perfect tense] that you have [Gk present tense] eternal life.

The aorist tense is point action. The present tense refers to continuing action in the present time. The perfect tense refers to an action in the past with continuing results. In Dana & Mantey’s advanced Greek text, they explain that there are ‘two fundamental ways of viewing action’ for Greek tenses. ‘It may be contemplated in single perspective, as a point, which we may call punctiliar action…; or it may be regarded as in progress, as a line, and this we may call linear action…. The perfect tense is a combination of these two ideas: it looks in perspective at the action, and regards the results of the action as continuing to exist; that is, in progress at a given point. Hence the perfect has both elements, linear and punctiliar. The aorist may be represented by a dot (clip_image001), the present by a line (————), and the perfect by the combination of the two (clip_image001[1]————-) [Dana & Mantey 1955:179].

Therefore, the meaning of 1 John 5:13 (ESV) is NOT that somebody believed in the past and thus is guaranteed eternal security for salvation, no matter what he or she does after saying ‘yes’ to Jesus. The meaning is that it is written to those ‘who continue to believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may continue to have the result of knowing that you are continuing to have eternal life’. So, perseverance of the saints is better language than eternal security OSAS, based on this verse, 1 John 5:13 (ESV). Christian believers are those who continue to believe to the end of their lives.
Why is that the case? It is because the original Greek language of the text affirms that the Christians who continue to believe in the name of the Son of God will know that they continue to have eternal life. Thus, eternal life is guaranteed to those who persevere in the faith – they continue to believe.

3. Resistance to teaching on eternal security

Another person made a perceptive observation:

What security EXACTLY is being resisted? Rom 8:38-39 (NIV) or some other issue?

1 John 5:13 (NIV), IN context, refers to EVERYTHING John wrote in this whole letter. It says nothing about ‘eternal security’.

That is a catch phrase for RT [Reformed Theology].[7]

He’s correct. First John 5:13 (NIV) reads, ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life’.

What is being resisted is the spiritual condition of continuing to believe (Greek present tense). For those who continue to believe, the result is that the believers will know they have eternal life.

Why is there resistance to the eternal security teaching? From my point of view, it is related to these issues:

1. It is not a biblical teaching and when this is shown to the OSAS folks, they can get defensive and resistant to hear what the Scriptures state. I’ve found nothing in Scripture that supports the view that a person can believe in Christ once, live a life in continuing, deliberate sin, and be guaranteed eternal security of salvation. See my articles:

clip_image003 Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again?

clip_image003[1] Loss of salvation is nowhere taught in the Bible;

clip_image003[2] Where do Scriptures say Christians can be lost?

clip_image003[3] Controversies: Once saved, always saved.

clip_image003[4] What does it mean to shipwreck your faith?

clip_image003[5] Did Arminius refute eternal security?

2. They may resist the doctrine of eternal security or OSAS because the biblical view is perseverance of the saints. They have not been taught this.

This doctrine is taught in passages such as John 3:36 (ESV),

Whoever believes [continues believing] in the Son has [continues having] eternal life; whoever does not obey [continues not obeying] the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains [continues remaining] on him.

What I have inserted in square brackets [ ] indicates the meaning of the Greek present tense. There is only eternal life for those who continue believing in the Son, Jesus, and continue to remain in him. There is no eternal life for those who continue not to obey the Son.

Perseverance of the saints is the biblical teaching that believers who continue believing in Jesus to the end of life or the second coming of Jesus, are the ones guaranteed eternal life. They are the ones who enjoy eternal security.

3. This is a core issue: A person’s theological views are driven by presuppositions.

Concerning NT scholars, Graham Stanton wrote:

Why do the conclusions of New Testament scholars differ so widely? Anyone who begins to read books about the New Testament soon becomes aware that competent scholars defend with equal vigour and sincerity widely differing approaches to the New Testament. The variety of viewpoints often causes great perplexity both to theological students and to the church at large…. The presuppositions adopted either consciously or unconsciously by the interpreter are far more influential in New Testament scholarship than disagreements over method (Stanton 1977:60)

If it is not possible for a person to lay aside his or her presuppositions, Stanton recommends three safeguards:

(a) The interpreter who is aware of the danger of not laying aside the person’s assumptions is more likely to avoid this problem.

(b) Use the historical, critical method. This will help rule out fanciful, allegorical [and postmodern][8] interpretations.

(c) ‘The third safeguard is even more important. The interpreter must allow his own presuppositions and his own pre-understanding to be modified or even completely reshaped by the text itself. Unless this is allowed to happen, the interpreter will be unable to avoid projecting his own ideas on to the text’ (Stanton 1977:68).

While Stanton wrote for a scholarly audience, his ‘safeguards’ are just as important in Christian conversation, preaching and discussion about Calvinism and Arminianism.

Until those presuppositions change, the possibilities of changing from one view to the other is nigh impossible. The Calvinistic view of OSAS or perseverance of the saints is driven by the presuppositions of TULIP and if one accepts the content of TULI, then P is a normal and natural consequence. The Arminian theology is driven by FACTS. ‘Arminianism may be represented by the acronym FACTS’:

Freed by Grace (to Believe)
Atonement for All
Conditional Election
Total Depravity
Security in Christ (Abasciano & Glynn 2013).

See my articles in support of this latter view:

clip_image005 Continue in the faith to guarantee eternal life;

clip_image005[1] Loss of salvation is nowhere taught in the Bible;

clip_image005[2] Is it possible or impossible to fall away from the Christian faith?

Now let’s look at the teachings of some leading lights in this theological debate.

3.1 Arminius and eternal security

It is sometimes said by those who oppose Arminian theology that Arminius (1560-1609)[9] did not believe in eternal security. Let’s check out some evidence:

clip_image007

Jacobus Arminius (image courtesy Wikipedia)

It is worth quoting Arminius at some length in his teaching on ‘The Perseverance of the Saints’:

My sentiments respecting the perseverance of the saints are, that those persons who have been grafted into Christ by true faith, and have thus been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, possess sufficient powers [or strength] to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to gain the victory over these enemies—yet not without the assistance of the grace of the same Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ also by his Spirit assists them in all their temptations, and affords them the ready aid of his hand; and, provided they stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves, Christ preserves them from falling. So that it is not possible for them, by any of the cunning craftiness or power of Satan, to be either seduced or dragged out of the hands of Christ. But I think it is useful and will be quite necessary in our first convention, [or Synod] to institute a diligent inquiry from the Scriptures, whether it is not possible for some individuals through negligence to desert the commencement of their existence in Christ, to cleave again to the present evil world, to decline from the sound doctrine which was once delivered to them, to lose a good conscience, and to cause Divine grace to be ineffectual.

Though I here openly and ingenuously affirm, I never taught that a true believer can, either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish; yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those answers to them which I have been permitted to see, are not of such a kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding. On the other hand, certain passages are produced for the contrary doctrine [of unconditional perseverance] which are worthy of much consideration.

Thus, Arminius, whose views have been most often associated with loss of salvation and repudiation of eternal security, actually stated that the one who is ‘a true believer’ (presumably meaning that he/she continues as a true Christian), cannot either totally or finally commit apostasy and fall away from the faith. Here’s the key: Is that person continuing to trust in Jesus alone for salvation?

3.2 Calvinism and eternal security

clip_image009

John Calvin (image courtesy www.biography.com)

 

John Calvin (1509-1564)[10] was the one after whom the Calvinistic system of theology was named. He promoted the view of eternal security that the Lord’s promise declares that all who have been received by the Lord ‘in true faith have been given to him by the Father, no one of whom, since he is their guardian and shepherd, will perish [cf. I John 3:16; 6:39]’. Of Judas, Calvin claims that ‘the Lord’s assertion in another passage [John 6:70] that he was chosen by him with the apostles is made only with reference to the ministry…. That is, he had chosen him for the apostolic office. But when he speaks of election unto salvation, he banishes him far from the number of the elect’ [John 13:18] (Calvin, 1960:3.24.7 and 3.24.9, pp. 973, 975).

What was the Calvinistic view of perseverance of the saints by those after Calvin? The Synod of Dort[11] that met in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, in 1618-1619, in response to the Remonstrants’ challenge, concluded that

for God, who is rich in mercy,[12] according to the unchangeable purpose of His election,[13] does not completely withdraw His Holy Spirit from His own even in their deplorable fall.[14] Neither does He permit them to sink so deep that they fall away from the grace of adoption and the state of justification,[15] or commit the sin unto death[16] or the sin against the Holy Spirit[17] and, totally deserted by Him, plunge themselves into eternal ruin (Synod of Dordt, Head 5, Art 6).[18]

It is not surprising that Calvinism would adopt the position of eternal security since it believes that the only ones out of all humanity who are recipients of salvation to eternal life are those who have been unconditionally elected to salvation and drawn through irresistible grace. The natural corollary is that those who are predestined unconditionally to salvation will persevere to the end. If such a person, in the Calvinistic system, were to fall from grace, then it would be a demonstration that that person had not received the effectual call of salvation. See the explanation of TULIP (the five points of Calvinism).

The Westminster Confession of Faith,[19] an eminent Calvinistic confession, in its chapter, ‘Of the Perseverance of the Saints’, states:

1. They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

3. Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves (ch 17).[20]

Therefore, the Calvinistic position is that those who are unchangeably drawn to salvation by God through election, will not be permitted to fall away from the grace of adoption in Christ to return to eternal ruin. The perseverance of the saints depends, not on human free will, but on the immutable decree of election. However, they may be tempted by Satan, fall into severe sins and even continue committing such for a time and bring temporal judgments on themselves. However, their salvation will not be lost.

3.3 The church fathers and eternal security

What can we discern from the writings of the church fathers on this topic? It was Arminius’s view

that almost all antiquity [i.e. the teaching of the church fathers] is of the opinion, that believers can fall away and perish…. “Elect” and “believers” are not convertible terms according to the view of the fathers, unless perseverance be added to faith. Nor is it declared, by Christ, in Matt. xxiv,24, that the elect can not depart from Christ, but that they can not be deceived, by which is meant that though the power of deception is great, yet it is not so great as to seduce the elect (Arminius, 1977:493, emphasis in original).

 

Using Judas as an example, these church fathers reached different conclusions concerning his eternal destiny in the beginning and at the end of his life.

 

a. Concerning Judas

File:F463.highresBaiserJudas.jpg(Francais: Daiser de Judas, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Irenaeus (ca AD 125-202),[21] bishop of Lyons in Gaul about the year AD 180, wrote in Against Heresies (about AD 185), of Judas[22]

‘who was expelled from the number of the twelve, and never restored to his place…. but Judas was deprived [of his office], and cast out, while Matthias was ordained in his place….’

‘But Judas having been once for all cast away, never returns into the number of the disciples; otherwise a different person would not have been chosen to fill his place. Besides, the Lord also declared regarding him, Woe to the man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed [Matthew 26:24]; and, It were better for him if he had never been born [Mark 14:21]; and he was called the son of perdition [John 17:12] by Him’ (Against Heresies, 2.20.2, 5).

Chrysostom (ca AD 347-407),[23] was born and ministered in Antioch, Syria, and was the golden-mouthed expositor and orator. He wrote, ‘For Judas too was a child of the kingdom, and it was said to him with the disciples, you shall sit on twelve thrones [Matthew 19:28]; yet he became a child of hell’ (Homily 26 on Matthew).

Ambrose of Milan (ca AD 340-397),[24] administrator and preacher, said, ‘For both Saul and Judas were once good…. Sometimes they are at first good, who afterwards become and continue evil; and for this respect they are said to be written in the book of life, and blotted out of it’ (cited from The Works of John Fletcher, p. 137).

St Augustine of Hippo (ca AD 354-430),[25] philosopher and theologian, in his Tractate 62 (John 13:26-21) had quite a bit to say about Judas and his condition. This is but a sample:

It was after this bread, then, that Satan entered into the Lord’s betrayer, that, as now given over to his power, he might take full possession of one into whom before this he had only entered in order to lead him into error. For we are not to suppose that he was not in him when he went to the Jews and bargained about the price of betraying the Lord; for the evangelist Luke very plainly attests this when he says: Then entered Satan into Judas, who was surnamed Iscariot, being one of the twelve; and he went his way, and communed with the chief priests [Luke 22:3-4]. Here, you see, it is shown that Satan had already entered into Judas. His first entrance, therefore, was when he implanted in his heart the thought of betraying Christ; for in such a spirit had he already come to the supper. But now, after the bread, he entered into him, no longer to tempt one who belonged to another, but to take possession of him as his own.

But it was not then, as some thoughtless readers suppose, that Judas received the body of Christ. For we are to understand that the Lord had already dispensed to all of them the sacrament of His body and blood, when Judas also was present, as very clearly related by Saint Luke [Luke 22:19-21]; and it was after this that we come to the moment when, in accordance with John’s account, the Lord made a full disclosure of His betrayer by dipping and holding out to him the morsel of bread, and intimating perhaps by the dipping of the bread the false pretensions of the other. For the dipping of a thing does not always imply its washing; but some things are dipped in order to be dyed. But if a good meaning is to be here attached to the dipping, his ingratitude for that good was deservedly followed by damnation (Tractate 62.2-3).

What can we conclude from these church fathers about Judas’s destiny? He was once a child of the kingdom (Chrysostom) and then was damned after Satan entered him and he betrayed Jesus. Movement from being chosen as a disciple of Jesus to being a ‘son of perdition’ is a demonstration that these church fathers saw a falling away from grace.

b. Church fathers and eternal security for believers

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Irenaeus (image courtesy Wikipedia)

clip_image012 Irenaeus (ca 125-202), bishop of Lyons, ‘was most influenced by St. Polycarp who had known the apostles or their immediate disciples’. It was he who wrote in one of his most celebrated publications:

Christ shall not die again in behalf of those who now commit sin, for death shall no more have dominion over Him…. We ought not, therefore, as that presbyter remarks, to be puffed up, nor be severe upon those of old time, but ought ourselves to fear, lest perchance, after [we have come to] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we obtain no further forgiveness of sins, but be shut out from His kingdom (Against Heresies 4.27.2).

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Tertullian (image courtesy Wikipedia)

clip_image012[1] Tertullian (ca 155/160-220)[26], the son of a centurion and a pagan until middle life, wrote,

But some think as if God were under a necessity of bestowing even on the unworthy, what He has engaged (to give); and they turn His liberality into slavery…. For do not many afterward fall out of (grace)? Is not this gift taken away from many? (Tertullian, On Repentance, ch. 6).

clip_image012[2] St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430)[27] wrote: ‘This grace He placed in Him in whom we have obtained a lot, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things.’ And thus as He worketh that we come to Him, so He worketh that we do not depart’ (Augustine 1887b).

Augustine also wrote: ‘He that made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves’ (cited in Wesley, 1872/1978:281).[28] We note Augustine’s struggle with human free will and divine sovereignty in the following teaching from, “A Treatise on Grace and Free Will” (Augustine, 1887a):

Lest, however, it should be thought that men themselves in this matter do nothing by free will, it is said in the Psalm, ‘Harden not your hearts;’ [Ps. 95:5] and in Ezekiel himself, ‘Cast away from you all your transgressions’ [Ezek. 18:31]…. We should remember that He says, ‘Make you a new heart and a new spirit,’ who also promises, ‘I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you.’[Ezek. 36:26] How is it, then, that He who says, ‘Make you,’ also says, ‘I will give you’? Why does He command, if He is to give? Why does He give if man is to make, except it be that He gives what He commands when He helps him to obey whom He commands?…” [Ch. 31 (XV)]

It is certain that it is we that will when we will, but it is He who makes us will what is good, of whom it is said (as he has just now expressed it), ‘The will is prepared by the Lord.’ [Prov. 8:35] Of the same Lord it is said, ‘The steps of a man are ordered by the Lord, and his way doth He will.’ [Ps. 37:23] Of the same Lord again it is said, ‘It is God who worketh in you, even to will!’ [Phil. 2:13] It is certain that it is we that act when we act; but it is He who makes us act, by applying efficacious powers to our will, who has said, ‘I will make you to walk in my statutes, and to observe my judgments, and to do them’ [Ezek. 36:27]…. [Ch. 32 (XVI), emphasis in original].

Forasmuch as in beginning He works in us that we may have the will, and in perfecting works with us when we have the will…. On which account the apostle says, “I am confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” [Phil. 1:6] He operates, therefore, without us, in order that we may will; but when we will, and so will that we may act, He co-operates with us. We can, however, ourselves do nothing to effect good works of piety without Him either working that we may will, or co-working when we will’ [Ch. 33 [XVII]).

These church fathers taught that a person who believed in Christ could be shut out of the kingdom, thus losing salvation. However, Augustine’s view was people ‘act when we act; but it is He [God] who makes us act, by applying efficacious powers to our will’.

4. Conclusion

There have been those throughout church history who have believed it is possible for a person to commit apostasy and fall away from the Christian faith. Others teach the opposite. This Arminian-Calvinistic divide will continue. Reasons were suggested why eternal security (OSAS) is a touchy subject and provokes such antagonism in the Christian community.

One of the dominant reasons suggested for such continuing conflict involved the presuppositions from both sides of the debate. If a person cannot lay aside his or her presuppositions, Graham Stanton suggested three safeguards: (1) Interpreters are to be aware of their own presuppositions; (2) Use the historical critical method to avoid fanciful allegorical interpretations; and (3) Most importantly, interpreters need to allow their own presuppositions to be modified by the content of the biblical text. Unless this happens, the interpreter will impose his or her own ideas onto the text (Stanton 1977:68).

5. Works consulted

Abasciano, B & Glynn, M 2013. An Outline of the FACTS of Arminianism vs. The TULIP of Calvinism. Society of Evangelical Arminians (online). Available at: http://evangelicalarminians.org/an-outline-of-the-facts-of-arminianism-vs-the-tulip-of-calvinism/ (Accessed 1 May 2016).

Arminius, J 1977, The writings of James Arminius, vol. 3 (Nichols, J & Bagnall, WR eds.), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Also available at CCEL, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/arminius (Accessed 1 May 2016).

Augustine, A 1887a. ‘On grace and free will’, in Schaff, P (ed), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1st series (online), vol 5. Tr by P Holmes & R E Wallis.  Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co. Rev & ed for New Advent by K Knight at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1510.htm (Accessed 10 April 2015).

Augustine A 1887b. ‘On the predestination of the saints’, in Schaff, P (ed), Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers, first series (online), vol 5, rev by B B Warfield. Tr by P Holmes & R E Wallis. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co. Rev & ed for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/15122.htm (Accessed 10 April 2015).

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the centuries: A history of the Christian church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Calvin, J 1960, Institutes of the Christian religion, vols. 1-2 (McNeill, JT ed. & Battles, FL transl.), The Westminster Press, Philadelphia. Also available online at CRTA, http://www.reformed.org/master/index.html?mainframe=/books/institutes/ (Accessed 1 May 2016).

Dana, H E & Mantey, J R 1927/1955, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. Toronto, Canada: The Macmillan Company.

Harper, J S 2002, “A Wesleyan Arminian view,” in Four views on eternal security, gen. ed. J. M. Pinson, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Stanton, G N 1977, Presuppositions in New Testament criticism, in I H Marshall (ed), New Testament interpretation: Essays on principles and methods, 60-71. Milton Keyes, England: The Paternoster Press Ltd. This chapter is available also at: http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/nt-interpretation/nti_03.pdf (Accessed 1 May 2016).

Wesley, J 1872/1978, The works of John Wesley (vol. 6), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Also available at Wesley Center Online, http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/ (Accessed 1 May 2016).


Notes

[1] This is located at Christian Forums.net, Apologetics & Theology, 29 May 2015, Jethro Bodine#3. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/why-is-there-so-much-resistance-to-the-eternal-security-of-the-believer.59729/ (Accessed 3 June 2015).

[2] Ibid., DWJL511#4.

[3] Ibid., Malachi#9.

[4] Ibid., Malachi#1.

[5] Ibid., Malachi#1.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#132.

[7] Ibid., StanJ#16.

[8] Postmodern is my insertion.

[9] Lifespan dates, Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Jacobus Arminius). Available at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Jacobus-Arminius (Accessed 2 May 2016)

[10] Lifespan dates, Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v John Calvin). Available at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Calvin (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[11] Dort is the English spelling for Dordrecht, the Netherlands.

[12] Eph 2:4-5 (NIV).

[13] Eph 1:11 (NIV).

[14] Ps 51:13 (NIV).

[15] Gal 4:5 (NIV).

[16] 1 John 5:16-18 (NIV).

[17] Matt 12:31-32 (NIV).

[18] Canadian & American Reformed Churches 2016. ‘God will not permit his elect to be lost’. Available at: http://www.canrc.org/?page=281 (Accessed 18 April 2016).

[19] This Confession was produced by the Westminster Assembly, completed in 1646 and approved by the British parliament in June 1648 (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2016. s v Westminster Confession). Available at: http://www.britannica.com/topic/Westminster-Confession (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[20] Available from The Orthodox Presbyterian Church at: http://www.opc.org/wcf.html#Chapter_17 (Accessed 18 April 2016). Scriptures to support this position are provided in Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 17, Center for Reformed Theology & Apologetics 1996-2016. Available at: http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ (Accessed 18 April 2016).

[21] Lifespan dates are from ‘St Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons: Biography’, Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/irenaeus (Accessed 29 December 2013).

[22] These details of Irenaeus are from Cairns (1981:110), who stated that he ‘was born in Smurna, had been influenced by Polycarp’s preaching while Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna’. Against Heresies is his ‘greatest work’ and ‘was done in the field of polemics writing against Gnosticism’ (Cairns 1981:10).

[23] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:141).

[24] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:145).

[25] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:146).

[26] Lifespan details, Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Tertullian). Available at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Tertullian (Accessed 1 May 2016).

[27] Lifespan dates, Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Saint Augustine). Available at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Augustine (Accessed 1 May 2016).

[28] This quote by Augustine is from John Wesley’s Sermon LXIII, “The General Spread of the Gospel”(in Wesley, 1872/1978b, p. 277ff). However, Wesley did not footnote his bibliographical details for Augustine and Augustine’s quote was repeated in Harper (2002:251), also without bibliographical information. I have not been able to locate Augustine’s exact quote in his works on the World Wide Web.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 May 2016.