Archive for the 'Cults & Heresies' Category

Dangerous church trend: Subjective spiritual knowledge

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

https://i0.wp.com/veritas.kr/files/fckeditor/image/kimhubyoung/africa_2013.jpg

(photo courtesy veritas.kr)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The Pentecostal-Charismatic movement has brought many positive dimensions into the church, one of the chief being the teaching on every-member gifts to the church gathering or small groups. See my articles that deal with some of these issues:

clip_image001 Does the superiority of New Testament revelation exclude the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit? Is cessationism biblical?

clip_image001[1] Spiritual gifts sign of Christian maturity

clip_image001[2] Tongues and the Baptism with the Holy Spirit

clip_image001[3] Is the spiritual gift of tongues ‘gibberish’?

clip_image001[4] St. Augustine: The leading Church Father who dared to change his mind about divine healing

However, there is….

1. A BIG negative of Pentecostalism

One of the most devastating influences on the church from Pentecostal-charismatic theology has been the subjectivism and esoteric knowledge that has replaced sound interpretation of the biblical text and solid exposition of Scripture. I encounter it in a growth group led by a Pentecostal and in posts on the Internet. Let’s examine a few examples from Christian forums on the Internet.

I came across a group of Christians who wanted to use types and shadows from the OT to present their subjective opinions of the meaning of these types and shadows. I began this thread,

2. Old Testament types and shadows need New Testament support[1]

Trees With Late Afternoon Shadows(photo courtesy publicdomainpictures.net)

 

A person claimed that these OT words were direct references to Christ and not types or shadows? The words to which he referred were LORD (YHWH), LORD God (Yahweh Elohim), God (Elohim) and Almighty (El Shaddai).[2]

Is it true that we need to go beneath the surface of a word or statement to gain a true understanding of the meaning? Is Noah’s Ark a type of Christ? See 1 Peter 3:20-22 (NIV).

I raised some biblical examples of types from the OT that are affirmed as types in the NT:

clip_image003 John 5:45-46 (NIV), ‘But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me’.

clip_image003[1] Rom 5:14 (NIV), ‘Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern [tupos = type] of the one to come’.

clip_image003[2] In I Corinthians 10:11 (NIV) Paul spoke of the OT patriarchs, ‘These things happened to them as examples [tupikos = typically] and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come’.

clip_image003[3] Colossians 2:17 (NIV) ‘These [laws] are a shadow [skia] of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ’.

clip_image003[4] Heb 10:1 (NIV), ‘The law is only a shadow [skia] of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship’.

We are told in 1 Cor 10:4 (ESV) that ‘all drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, the Rock was Christ’. To which rock is Paul referring in the OT? We know that there are two Meribah incidents involving the rock (e.g. Ex 17:6-7 ESV; Num 20:10-13 ESV) that were about 40 years apart. The first one was at Horeb, Mt Sinai, which was near the start of their wandering in the wilderness. The last one happened at Kadesh which was as they were about to enter the Promised Land.

Matthew 16:16-18 (ESV) and 1 Pet 2:4-8 (ESV) confirm Jesus as the Rock and the 1 Peter 2:6-8 example cites various passages from the OT to lend support for the statements. In 1 Cor 10:1-7a (ESV), Paul tells us:

For I want you to know, brothers [and sisters] that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were….

The issue I am raising is: Do Christians have the right to create their own understanding of what is a type or shadow from the OT that is fulfilled in the NT or do we need the NT’s confirmation that it is a type or shadow? To me, the latter seems to be the biblical means of identification.

How can we confirm that YHWH, Yahweh Elohim, Elohim, and El Shaddai are references to Christ in reality and not in type or shadow? What’s the biblical evidence?

3. New Testament confirmation needed of types

What kinds of responses do you think the above statement would engender?

clip_image005’I agree there must be relevance to Jesus in the names used, but we read in 1 Cor 10:11, Now all these things (Judgments?) happened unto them for ensamples (analogies): and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
As a type or description of Jesus I read the word “Image,” and that being other than spirit we read of in Col 1:15.
Isa 43:3 For I am the LORD (Jehovah) thy God, the Holy One of Israel (Jesus?), thy Saviour (Jesus?).
Isa 43:11 I, even I, am the LORD (Jehovah); and beside me there is no savior (Jesus)?
In power Jesus is described as the almighty in Rev 1:8 during His reign.
He is the last Adam in 1 Cor 15:45.
Other OT references are in Isa 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.[3]

My response was:[4] Apart from 1 Cor 10 (ESV), I don’t think you are giving examples of types or shadows in the OT that are fulfilled in the NT, as demonstrated by NT statements.

In that other thread, we had people using Adam and Eve as types and shadows. My question is: Is it legitimate for Christians to make up, create, decide their own opinion on what is a type or shadow of Christ or some other theology – without the NT confirming that such is a type or shadow?

I’m not discussing the fulfilment of OT prophecy as in the example you gave from Isa 9:6 (ESV), which is fulfilled according to Luke 2:11 (ESV). My discussion is about types and shadows that Christians want to push from the OT, but with no confirmation of such in the NT.

Eugene’s response was: ‘Can you give an example? I may also be guilty of that, although I don’t always attempt to prove the OT with proof from the NT’.[5]

3.1 Example of New Testament application

There are at least 4 different interpretations of 1 Cor 10:3,[6] ‘And did all eat the same spiritual meat’. This is not the place to discuss these. They are articulated by Charles Hodge in A Commentary on 1 & 2 Corinthians (Edinburgh/Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), pp. 172-174. See HERE.

We see Israel’s example in 1 Cor 10:1-5 (NIV) and that example applied by giving a warning against idolatry (1 Cor 10:6-13 NIV).

In vv 1-5, it is a powerful type with the language of ‘our fathers’ and their form of ‘baptism’ and the ‘Eucharist’. It prefigured our baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
What was the purpose of the type given from the OT and articulated in 1 Cor 10:1-5 (NIV)? It continues with some of the events in Exodus to warn the Corinthians (vv 6, 11-12). These Corinthians enjoyed blessings like those of Israel but the Corinthians were in danger of losing those blessings because of their idolatry: ‘Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters….’ (1 Cor 10:6-7a NIV).

These things in Exodus happened to be ‘examples’ to the Corinthians ‘so, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall’ (1 Cor 10:12 NIV).

That’s my understanding of this type. But it is important to realise that it is only a type or shadow because it is specifically mentioned as such in the NT. We are not left to speculate that types and shadows are on nearly every page of the OT. That isn’t true.

Yes, there are types and shadows that are mentioned in the NT that draw attention to examples from the OT, but the NT has to mention them as examples to make them types.

3.2 You limit us too much. Be free to encounter Jesus in other ways

clip_image005[1]This one came out of left field, but it demonstrates the spiritual subjectivism of some people. I don’t know if this person has any Pentecostal leanings. She wrote:

I don’t think we should use only those types and foreshadows that are permitted to us because they’re mentioned in the N.T. as such. Doesn’t this limit us too much? Am I not free to encounter Jesus wherever I might find Him?
The entire bible was written to show God’s relationship to Man. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of that relationship. I see Him all over the O.T., as one poster said from the other thread. Can I not discern the bible spiritually also? Must it always be using intellectual knowledge? Most people don’t know as much as you do and so this question never even arises.
So is the prophetic scripture and the fulfillment scripture not valid unless one of the N.T. writers speaks of it as such? I am trying to understand you better. When I open up my bible, am I entering into a classroom?
Could it be that ALL must be said or it is not valid? Was EVERYTHING written down? John 21:25
1 Corinthians 10:3
All ate the same manna. Jesus is the new manna which does not rot after one day but lasts forever. We must, even today, all eat the same manna.
Manna = Spiritual food.
Jesus is the new manna.
Jesus is our spiritual food.
Now very learned persons will have 3 other meanings for this scripture.
But most of us are not learned and will be satisfied with the above.
I mean, how much do you want us to know??[7]

That one did press my theological buttons, so I came back with,[8]

3.3 Individualistic interpretations

If there is no NT confirmation, then the alleged OT types become no more than individualistic interpretations with no more weight than a person’s assertions or experiences.

Now to some points (not comprehensive) from this person’s post:

  1. ‘I don’t think we should use only those types and foreshadows that are permitted to us because they’re mentioned in the N.T. as such. Doesn’t this limit us too much? Am I not free to encounter Jesus wherever I might find Him?‘ If you invent the types and shadows, that amounts to postmodernism in action. There is no hermeneutical way of countering anyone who comes to this forum and says, ‘Jesus told me X, Y, Z’ and it is not endorsed by Scripture. There are droves of people in my region who have existential experiences of ‘mystery’ that are a country mile from biblical fidelity. I have no way of knowing whether the postmodern, existential interpretation is for real unless I have my thoughts firmly planted in the revealed Scripture. In fact, I have no Gospel to proclaim unless it is biblically based. If I am free to encounter Jesus wherever I have a new revelation of him, are you going to extend that same ‘Jesus encounter’ privilege to the Mormon in the Temple or the New Age practitioner in an occult group?
  2. ‘Can I not discern the bible spiritually also? Must it always be using intellectual knowledge? Most people don’t know as much as you do and so this question never even arises’. That kind of demeaning put down is totally unnecessary on an evangelical Christian forum. If it were not for people with knowledge of the original languages, you wouldn’t even have a Bible you can read in English.
  3. One more, ‘The entire bible was written to show God’s relationship to Man’, you say. Try telling that to the Amalekites who were slaughtered by Saul, ‘Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys’ (1 Sam 15:3 NIV).

There are many other red herrings that this person raised in her post that are unrelated to the topic of my original post.

3.4 Postmodern reader-response

clip_image005[2] An earlier poster came again with input:[9]

Stating that many Christians today create their own understanding of shadows and types I think is the product of precept upon precept, and line upon line as we grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord. Over the years I’ve changed certain views; some due to experience, and at other times maturing in the word of God.
I’ll just give one example how I’ve use (sic) the striking the Rock instead of speaking to it. At first Moses was instructed to strike the Rock, and that to me was a type of the crucifixion of our Lord in Exodus 17: 5-6.

Next I read in Num 20:8 that Moses was to speak to the Rock, but he struck the Rock twice, and God said to him in Num 20:12, And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.
Here there was evident consequence, and we read in Deut 32:50, And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people:
Deut 32:51 Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel.

Now how could or would I use this as a type pertaining to Christendom? We read of a sin that is unto death in Rom 6:16, Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? Did Moses die as the result of his unbelief? Of course, but do any think he went to hell; we see Jesus with Elias and Moses on what has become known as the mount of transfiguration in Mt 17:4. As an example of things, 1 Cor 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition (or warnings), upon whom the ends of the world are come. Could lying [to] the Holy Spirit be justification for such judgment such as that of Ananias & Sapphira of Acts 5:1? I think so.

Image result for clipart reader-response public domain(image courtesy clker.com)

 

My reply was:[10] Have you ever heard of postmodern reader-response criticism? Do you know what it means?

For a brief mention of its meaning, see D A Carson & Douglas Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, pp 61, 62, 66 (online). How do you think your comments here fit with reader-response criticism?

His reply was interesting and revealed some lack of knowledge of the content of the link I gave:

I had no idea that my discussion to a question was a criticism rather than tossing some ideas around concerning types and shadows portrayed in scripture.
Having read the excerpt of Post Modern Reader-Response Error Theology, it seems to suggest there is no right or wrong leading me to wonder at God’s purpose in having the Bible written.[11]

How should I reply? Here goes:[12]

It seems that you are misunderstanding the theory and practice of postmodern reader-response criticism in your own writing. What you did in #10 was give us a string of verses that were interpreted as Eugene’s postmodern reader-response theology.

So, prior to my giving you the link to reader-response theory, it seems that you did not have an understanding of what you have done with these verses at #10.

Reader-response errors happen when a reader accepts that the writer of any document does not determine its meaning but that the reader’s understanding and response are what matters, i.e. the reader’s meaning is the meaning of the text. That seems to be what you have done with the verses you gave in #10.

This is such a serious error infiltrating the Christian church that Kevin Vanhoozer has addressed it in an entire book, Is There a Meaning in This Text? (Zondervan 2009)

Do you think you would read the local newspaper like you did the verses you gave in #10?

9780310324690(image courtesy Zondervan)

 

Now the discussion progresses to:

3.5 The Holy Spirit fills in the blanks

Could you imagine that spiritual individualism and Holy Spirit magic would deteriorate to this point. A fellow wrote,

clip_image005[3]‘We don’t need everything written when we have the Holy Spirit to fill in the blanks’.[13]

That’s like a red rag to me as a theologian and apologist, so I responded:

Subjectivism, whether by the Spirit or any other measure, is very difficult to discern because of the variation from person to person. ‘The Spirit filled in the blanks for me’ is in competition with ‘The Spirit filled in the blanks for you’, the Mormon, the occult practitioner, and the information provided may be very different for the same topic. Subjectivism, whether spiritual or humanistic, is a poor measure of competent content of revelation.[14]

3.6 Multi-faceted wisdom

clip_image005[4]Another said, ‘That’s why it’s called “multi faceted” wisdom, because the truth that is found in wisdom, is like a diamond or precious stone and is relevant as God sees each circumstance’.[15]

The rag for the apologist’s bull is getting redder and more worn from over-use:[16]

That’s why it is called subjectivism and/or Gnosticism as it is impossible to obtain objective information from that ‘revelation’. Your subjective revelation has no more impact than another believer’s or a Gnostic’s insight of esoteric knowledge. I understand this person is using ‘multi faceted wisdom’ as esoteric knowledge, which means:

“Esoteric” refers to insight or understanding of inner (Greek: eso-) or spiritual or metaphysical realities, or a specific teaching or spiritual practice or path or “wisdom tradition” that is based on a mystical interpretation of spirituality, rather than a religious or slavish following of the outer words of scriptures, or pertains to transpersonal or transcendent states of existence. In contrast exoteric knowledge is knowledge that is well-known or public, and does not require any such transformation of consciousness (Kazlev 2016).

This definition of ‘esoteric’ comes from Kazlev who is involved in analysing the philosophy of Ken Wilber and his ‘psychology and spirituality (though many have disapproved of his endorsement of controversial gurus, such as Adi Da[17] and Andrew Cohen[18])’ (Kazlev 2016).

It seems to me that these Christians on Christian forums who are advocating ‘multi faceted’ wisdom and deeper meaning revelation, are following a parallel path with these mystical gurus or postmodern, reader-response advocates. It is a dangerous, subjective and mystical experience that is outside of Scripture and runs the risk of contradicting Scripture.

3.7 Do we need NT confirmation for a type or shadow?

That’s the question I asked for this forum thread? This was one retort:

clip_image005[5]‘Only if you want to impress it upon someone as undeniable fact. Otherwise you can only share it using your best efforts of honest debate you can muster and leave the rest to God’.[19]

How should I counter?[20] Here goes!

That makes you a supporter of subjective interpretation and reader-response ideology. It also makes you a sitting duck for any kind of hermeneutic that comes along and wants to dethrone your reader-response. It makes no fixed interpretation possible.

Try that approach with your next electricity bill, a letter from a lawyer, or reading a local newspaper. Creating your own reality in reader-response theology or esoteric revelation amounts to Gnosticism in action in the 21st century.

That approach makes Jesus a moving target of any kind of interpretation. If you don’t believe me, take a read of John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity (1998).

What is reader-response theory?

Reader response is a school of literary criticism that ignores both the author and the text’s contents, confining analysis to the reader’s experience when reading a particular work. Reader response theorists are particularly concerned with the traditional teaching approaches that imply that a work of literature has a particular interpretation. According to Louise Rosenblatt, one of the primary figures in reader response, all reading is a transaction between the reader and writer (as represented by an immutable text). She further posits that the “stance” of the reader, either “aesthetic” (reading by choice or for pleasure) or “efferent”(reading by assignment or because one has to), has a major influence on the textual experience (source Chegg).

In Christian scholar, Kevin Vanhoozer’s, words, ‘Reader response criticism stresses the incompleteness of the text until it is constructed (or deconstructed) by the reader…. Meaning is the product of the interaction between text and reader (e.g. the “two horizons”)’. The more radical reader-response practitioners such as Stanley Fish and Jacques Derrida agree that ‘there is no such thing as “disinterested,” that is, innocent or objective reading. All reading is ideological and guided by certain interests’ (Vanhoozer 1998:27-28).

This fellow came back with this response:[21]

3.8 No fixed interpretation with plain words of the Bible

clip_image005[5]It makes no fixed interpretation possible in regard to hard and fast and plain words of the Bible. That’s all. That hardly means it can’t possibly be true.

That’s not a good argument to make [about the example of the electricity bill].

No one is suggesting that personal interpretation – meaning that interpretation isn’t spelled out in the Bible word for word – can somehow be inconsistent with what is written in the Bible. Perhaps that is the big mistake you are making about this. This isn’t about saying your electric bill is $30.00 when it plainly says it’s $150.00 on the written bill.

What is being defended in this thread fails to meet the criteria for this being a matter of ‘Reader Response’:

1. Personal interpretation does not ignore the author of the Bible and the context, nor content, of the Bible. One of the rules of personal spiritual revelation not spelled out in scripture is that it can not contradict what the Bible already says.

2. Personal interpretation is not about ‘confining analysis to the reader’s experience’ because it does not consist of analysis confined only to the reader, and is not based on an experience other than the experience of spiritual revelation itself. It’s not about having experiences, and an analysis of spiritual matters that contradict what the Bible does say about a particular subject.

3. The spiritual interpretation that is being defended here is exactly the opposite of being “concerned with the traditional teaching approaches that imply a work…has a particular interpretation”. Because it is open to a greater spiritual depth and insight and understanding of scripture it sometimes grates against the traditional interpretation of scripture (i.e. 1 Corinthians 3:8-15 NASB. Not a terribly good example because so much of the non-traditional interpretation of that passage is directly supported by the Bible).

This promotion of reader-response, subjectivism became more obvious in that post, so I responded:[22]

And that’s the problem. If there are no hard and fast rules for the plain words of John 3:16 (ESV), then you have postmodern reader-response Gnosticism in action. It leads to hermeneutical shipwrecks. If there were not hard, fast and plain meanings to words of the Bible (and to any other writing), what you and I write on CFnet would not be understood. I think you are whistling in the wind of subjective vagueness.

It is a good argument to make [analogy with an electricity bill] because personal, subjective interpretation, is a bummer when it comes to understanding the meaning of your electricity bill. You must read it literally to obtain its plain meaning. There is no other means of interpretation of your electricity bill and it is a fixed interpretation. Esoteric, deeper knowledge ideology will not work.

He also asked if Joseph (OT) was a shadow and type of Christ. My reply was that, as I’ve stated a few times in this thread, an OT person or incident is not a type or shadow unless it is confirmed in the NT as such. Some see the OT story of Joseph (Gen 37-45) as a type of Christ because of Joseph’s humiliation and glorification that could be compared with Jesus’ passion and resurrection. However, the NT does NOT confirm that the OT Joseph is a type of Christ. Joseph’s story is an illustration with a parallel with Jesus – but it is NOT a type or shadow because the NT does not confirm it as such.

As to personal interpretation not ignoring the author, context, etc., I wrote: That might be what you see, but in this thread I’ve seen too many personal interpretations that were subjective impositions on the biblical data. So you say that a rule of personal spiritual revelation (not revealed in the Bible) must not contradict the Bible. That’s your own personal opinion and it is open to contradiction by another personal interpretation. You are building your interpretation on the slippery sands of personal revelation.

As to his point #3, I wrote: That’s subjective Gnosticism in action and it is what the church apologists had to battle in the first few centuries of the church’s existence. Seems like it is alive and well in your posts.

He didn’t seem to like this labelling of subjective Gnosticism, so gave his deconstruction:[23]

I think what you really mean to say is the idea of esoteric knowledge upon which Gnosticism relied seems alive and well in my posts.
If being able to discern things by the Spirit of God that others can’t, or aren’t yet able to discern, is considered esoteric knowledge, then yes, that broad definition and application of esoteric knowledge is alive and well in my posts. That is the very foundation of teaching. I guess your problem is that you feel that is not allowed.
“we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood…” (1 Corinthians 2:6-8 NASB)
By pure definition, if that isn’t esoteric knowledge, then nothing is.
All I’m saying is, it is allowed as long as it does not contradict, or can not be reconciled with what we already know to be true in the Bible. In Paul’s case, his esoteric knowledge did not contradict, or not reconcile with the scriptures of his day, what we call the OT.
The use of Paul’s esoteric knowledge to teach spiritual truth shows us it’s okay to say that Joseph, for example, is a type and shadow of Christ. Does Christianity and the truth of God come crashing down in a worthless heap if, technically, God did not say it’s a type and shadow of Christ? Of course not. You’re tossing out all privilege of personal interpretation and suggestion and it’s value in spiritual education just because there certainly are those who would abuse it. Yours is a misguided, contentious argument. What you should be arguing against is not esoteric knowledge, but esoteric knowledge that has no basis or support in scripture.

Esoteric knowledge in 1 Cor 2:6-8 when it speaks of ‘God’s wisdom in a mystery’?? I replied[24] Where does the Bible provide an exposition of the need for and the meaning of ‘esoteric knowledge’?

Another definition of esotericism is: ‘Esoteric: known or knowable only to initiates; secret or mysterious knowledge; cryptic; hidden; concealed; clandestine, cover’ (source).

1 Corinthians 2:6-8 NASB is hardly an explanation to cover this meaning of esoteric knowledge in the secular world or in a biblical worldview.

3.9 The shifting sands of ‘biblical discernment’

clip_image005[6]Another person entered the discussion:

This is supported [Adam & Eve as types] by the NT (see Ephesians 5 and other passages). Ideally, we should have NT corroboration, but that may not always be found, yet the interpretation will not be in violation of Scripture. There are things which can be spiritually discerned.[25]

I do not find a word in Ephesians 5 that supports what I asked: ‘In that other thread, we had people using Adam and Eve as types and shadows’.[26]

4. The plot thickens: ‘Esoteric knowledge’ enters

I’ve already mentioned this promotion by one person of 1 Cor 2:6-8 in support of esoteric knowledge endorsed by Scripture – so he said. It is necessary to respond.

4.1 What ‘secret wisdom’ is not[27]

Image result for esoteric public domain (image courtesy esotericonline.net, public domain)

 

This person seemed to have missed the meaning of the Greek musterion (mystery) used in 1 Cor 2:7. Paul confronts his Corinthian opponents with the message of the cross (1 Cor 1:26ff) as he is dealing with ‘the mystery cults and gnosticism [that] are directly dealt with’. Wherever musterion appears in the NT it is found in association with verbs that denote revelation or proclamation. ‘It is a present-day secret, not some isolated fact from the past which merely needs to be noted, but something dynamic and compelling. This is vividly expressed in Col. By his office the apostle “fulfills” (Col. 1:26) “the mystery of Christ” (4:3), i.e. by bearing in his own body that which is still lacking in the afflictions of Christ (1:24), he gives practical expression to the “mystery” and carries it on towards its final consummation’ (Brown 1978:504).

It is not esoteric knowledge (he needs to note the difference in meaning between knowledge and wisdom). It is wisdom that was previously hidden that God has revealed – in 1 Cor what is revealed is ‘the message/word of the cross’ (1 Cor 1:18).

Leading evangelical Greek scholar, Dr Gordon D Fee, does not agree with this person in his exegesis of 1 Cor 2:6-8 (he uses the NIV). In his exegetical commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 (partially available online pp 102-106). He states this about the wisdom of God in 1 Cor 2:7-8:

Vv 7-8  In these verses Paul elaborates the two sides of v. 6. V. 7 explains the nature of God’s wisdom that made it impossible for the wise of this age to grasp it; v. 8 repeats the failure of the “rulers” in terms of their responsibility for the crucifixion.

He begins with a sharp contrast to the negative side of v. 6. “No,” he says, “we speak God’s wisdom,” which he immediately qualifies in four ways. The first three describe its nature, so as to distinguish it from the wisdom of this age. First, it is wisdom “in mystery” (NIV, “secret wisdom”).[28] One cannot be certain whether this phrase modifies “wisdom” as an adjective (hence the NIV’s “secret wisdom”) or the verb “we speak” as an adverb. The former seems preferable. God’s wisdom is not some inaccessible teaching, spoken in secret. As Paul will develop more fully in Colossians and Ephesians [see Col. 1:26-27; 2:2: 4:3; Eph. 1:9; 3:3, 4, 9: 6:19], in the singular the term “mystery” ordinarily refers to something formerly hidden in God from all human eyes but how revealed in history through Christ and made understandable to his people through the Spirit. The seeds of this idea are sown here for the first time in Paul; in particular it embraces the paradox of the crucifixion of “the Lord of glory” (v. 8).

Second, and to clarify the phrase “in mystery,” God’s wisdom – salvation through a crucified Messiah – “has been hidden.” The perfect tense, plus the phrase that follows (“before time began”), indicates that such wisdom has been hidden in God from eternity until such a time (“now”) as he was ready to reveal it. What follows in v. 8 suggests further that God’s “secret” remains hidden from the “rulers, ” the representatives of the “wise” of this age.

Third, God’s secret wisdom, long hidden – and still hidden to some – was “destined” by God himself “for our glory before time began.” This is the clause that begins to clarify both the content of “wisdom” and the identity of the “mature” in v. 6. The verb “destined” is an intensified form of the ordinary verb for “determining.” The emphasis lies on “deciding upon beforehand” (BAGD);[29] therefore, to “predestine.” As in [1 Cor] 1:1, God’s call is the expression of his prior will, which in this case is further intensified by the phrase “before time began” (lit. “before the ages”). What God determined “before the ages” has been worked out in the present age, which is being brought to its conclusion as the final glorious age has dawned and is awaiting its consummation – “for our glory.” What has been predestined technically is God’s wisdom; the larger context indicates that Paul has in view God’s gracious activity in Christ, whereby through the crucifixion he determined eternal salvation for his people – including especially the Corinthian believers. Just as God chose the foolish and weak for salvation and thereby “shamed” the wise and powerful, who are being brought to nothing (1:26-28), so now Paul repeats that God “destined” his people for glory (not shame), and has done so in contrast to the rulers of this age who are “coming to nothing.” “For our glory” is eschatological language, referring to the final goal of salvation, namely that God’s people should share in his own glory. Hence the crucified one is in this context also called “the Lord of glory” (v. 8).

Fourth (v. 8a), God’s wisdom is something that “none of the rulers of this age understood.” With this clause Paul elaborates the negative side of v. 6, but now in light of the preceding description of God’s wisdom. The reason for their failure is that it was “hidden in God” and could only be grasped by revelation of the Spirit (v. 10). The reason for repeating the idea seems twofold: first, to reestablish the contrast between “us” and “them” that is crucial to his argument; and second, to confirm their part in the historical event itself, which both demonstrated their “ignorance” of God’s ways and implicated them in the carrying out of his plan. What they did not understand was the nature of true wisdom – God’s wisdom, as spelled out in 1:18-2:5 – which stands in contradiction to human understanding; and because they were thus “ignorant” they did what human “wisdom” demanded – they crucified the one who for them was one more messianic pretender. Thus the divine irony: The very ones who were trying to do away with Jesus by crucifying him were in fact carrying out God’s prior will – “destined for our glory before time began.” Instead of crucifying a messianic pretender, they killed “the Lord of glory” himself, the one who, as Lord of all the ages, is therefore Lord of the final glory that is both his and his people’s ultimate destiny. The Pauline irony, of course, is that the Corinthians in pursuing sophia [i.e. wisdom] are pursuing what belongs to this age, which is passing away and whose rulers were implicated in the divine irony (Fee 1987:104-107, italics emphasis in original; bold emphasis added).

4.2 How to interpret Scripture

To assist with the interpretation of Scripture and any other piece of literature, see my articles:

clip_image007 What is literal interpretation?

clip_image007[1] What is the meaning of the literal interpretation of the Bible?

clip_image007[2] Isn’t it obvious what a literal interpretation of Scripture means?

clip_image007[3] Does God have a physical body?

5. Conclusion

The Pentecostal-charismatic movement, in its emphasis on the Holy Spirit, has rightly pursued the biblical mandate to ‘follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy’ (1 Cor 14:1 NIV). However this movement has introduced a down side.

That negativity is related to the subjective, Gnostic type of knowledge that entered Christian circles through existential experiences of the Holy Spirit. This article has attempted to show through posts on a Christian forum how Holy Spirit encounters, even to the point of thinking this is receipt of esoteric knowledge, has derailed the Holy Spirit’s ministry. The result can lead to Gnostic error.

Image result for Gnosticism image public domain(image courtesy gnosticteachings.org)

 

I suggest that the New Gnosticism is alive and well on this Christian forum. Part of Michael Horton’s assessment is:

Both liberals and evangelicals disdain doctrine for personal experience, and objective truth for personal transformation, and in this sense, each is, in its own way, Gnostic. The anti-intellectualism is understandable, according to Lee. “If God is immanent, present within our psyche, if we already have the truth within, then why go through all the hassle of studying theology?” [Lee 1987:111]. Isn’t this precisely the point of the division many of us grew up with between head knowledge and heart knowledge? The former is intellectual, the latter spiritual – that is, gnosis….

Pentecostalism represents an even greater dependence on Gnostic tendencies…. The outer edges of Pentecostalism are especially blatant in Gnostic emphases, as a number of works have shown, including The Agony of Deceit.[30] Salvation is knowledge – “Revelation Knowledge” (Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Paul Crouch and other “faith teachers” use the upper case to distinguish this from mere written revelation). The Word that truly saves is not the written text of Scripture, proclaiming Christ the Redeemer, but is rather the “Rhema” Word that is spoken directly to the spirit by God’s Spirit (Horton 2016).

If spiritual insight is used as an interpretive measure and esoteric knowledge is permitted as a means of gaining a biblical understanding of the text, then expect pooled ignorance to infiltrate the church. My series of interactions on this topic have demonstrated that ‘no fixed meaning’, ‘esoteric knowledge’, and ‘my understanding’ can derail biblical interpretation.

The New Gnosticism is with us and the landscape does not look pretty. There is a heightened need for apologists and theologians to be involved in addressing this heresy that is invading the church.

6.  Works consulted

Brown, C (gen ed) 1978. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol 3. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Crossan, J D 1998. The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately after the Execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

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

Horton, M S 2016. The New Gnosticism: Is it the age of the Spirit or the spirit of the age? Modern Reformation (online). Available at: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=695#footnote13 (Accessed 17 May 2016). The article originally appeared in Modern Reformation, “Gnosticism”, July/August 1995 Vol. 4 No. 4 Page number(s): 4-12.

Kazlev, A 2016. Integral esotericism: A new integral paradigm in theory and practice. Integral World (online), June 04.[31] Available at: http://www.integralworld.net/kazlev5.html (Accessed 4 June 2016).

Lee, P J 1987. Against The Protestant Gnostics. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press. Also available at: https://arcaneknowledgeofthedeep.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/againstprotestantgnostics.pdf (Accessed 17 May 2016).

Vanhoozer, K J 1998. Is There a Meaning in This Text? Leicester, England: Apollos (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press).

7.  Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net, 13 May 2016, ‘Types & shadows needing NT support’, Apologetics & Theology, OzSpen#1. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/types-shadows-needing-nt-support.64532/ (Accessed 17 May 2016).

[2] They were raised by Malachi#33 at Christian Forums.net, ‘Underlying types & shadows’, The Lounge. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/understanding-types-shadows.64517/page-2 (Accessed 17 May 2016).

[3] ‘Types & shadows needing NT support’, Eugene#2.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#3.

[5] Ibid., Eugene#5.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#6.

[7] Ibid., Wondering#8.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#9.

[9] Ibid., Eugene#10.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#11.

[11] Ibid., Eugene#12.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#13.

[13] Ibid., Sinthesis#15.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#16.

[15] Ibid., JLB#17.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#19.

[17] Adi Da was the Hindu god-man cultist who was head of an abusive personality cult. See: Timothy Conway (2007). Available at: http://www.enlightened-spirituality.org/Da_and_his_cult.html (Accessed 4 June 2016).

[18] On his homepage, Andrew Cohen describes himself as, a ‘modern mystic, cultural critic, and award-winning spiritual journalist’. Available at: http://www.andrewcohen.org/ (Accessed 4 June 2016).

[19] Ibid., Jethro Bodine#18.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#20.

[21] ‘Types & shadows needing NT support’, op cit., Jethro Bodine#22.

[22] Ibid., OzSpen#24.

[23] Ibid., Jethro Bodine#27.

[24] Ibid., OzSpen#28, #29.

[25] Ibid., Malachi#34.

[26] Ibid., OzSpen#40/

[27] This is my response, ibid., OzSpen#44.

[28] Fee’s footnote is, ‘This is another phrase that has caused some to see Paul as reflecting the mystery cults or Gnosticism. But again that not only misses Paul’s own Jewish background, but the whole point of the argument as well’ (Fee 1987:104, n. 27).

[29] BAGD = Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich & Danker Greek lexicon (dictionary).

[30] See The Agony of Deceit, ed. Michael Horton (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991).

[31] It seems that this date is a roving date that will change daily.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 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.

Is the Trinity taught in the Bible?

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Eastern Orthodox icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea (courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

It’s interesting to note how tricky people can be in avoiding declaring that they do not believe in the fundamental Christian doctrine of the Trinity of God. This is how one fellow was elusive on a Christian forum. He wrote that there is no Scripture which refers to the Triune God:

Anti-trinitarian in action

This is how one anti-Trinitarian (a unitarian) explained his/her rejection of the Trinity:

1 Corinthians 8:6, ‘But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him’.

Ephesians 4:5-6King James Version (KJV), ‘5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all’.

There is no scripture saying Triune God…the scripture says continue in the Father and the Son

1 John 2:22-24King James Version (KJV), ‘22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. 23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. 24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father’.[1]

So, according to this person, Scripture does not say Triune God. He[2] continued:

bronze-arrow-small ‘by your own admission ….if the HS [Holy Spirit] is God’s Spirit… then the HS is God and therefore not a third person…which means there is no trinity.’[3]

bronze-arrow-small ‘The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God… Do you not believe the scripture??? Ephesians 4:5-6 (KJV) ‘5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all’.[4]

bronze-arrow-small ‘‘The Spirit of God is God… and NOT something other than God…and thereore (sic) NOT another person or entity. John 4:24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth”. John 14:23, ‘Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.’[5]

bronze-arrow-small The scripture does not teach…..the Holy Ghost is  a person of a Trinity….scripture teaches the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God… Paul said   “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Eph 4:30 KJV)’[6]

bronze-arrow-small ‘You have not been reading scripture …have you?…scripture sats (sic) nothing about a triune nature….it says God is ONE……what are the three natures you are talking about??? show scripture saying there are three natures… Jesus said I and my Father are one….Jesus and  the Father makes their abode with us….One  Spirit’. [7]

bronze-arrow-small ‘OK here is the person…..: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”  who was HE that the disciples Knew???….who was he that dwelleth with the disciples???…and who was the HE that shall be in us????’[8]

bronze-arrow-small ‘where does scripture say one God in three persons….???? you have no scripture to back up that claim.’[9]

bronze-arrow-small ‘none of those say or imply in any way…”one God in three persons.”….. you are reading that into the scripture friend’.[10]

The challenge

After seeing this kind of back and forth from a non-Trinitarian person, I asked him directly, ‘Don’t you believe in the Trinity?’[11] His response was predictably, ‘Where does the scripture command anyone to believe in the trinitarian God???’[12] I replied, ‘You are not answering my question. I asked: Do you believe in the Trinitarian God or not?’[13]

He eventually confessed: ‘I do not believe in the trinitarian god… it is a false doctrine… can you now answer my question??… where does the scripture command anyone to believe in the trinitarian god???[14]

It was at this point I gave him….

A beginning answer [15]

Please note that I do not deal here with the unity of God, that there is one God.

Where does the Scripture command us to believe in the Trinitarian God?

Let’s answer the first issue associated with this question. Where does Scripture command us to believe in God? There are many Scriptures we could choose. Let’s deal with just a couple:

a. ‘And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.’ (Heb 11:6 ESV). ‘And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off for ever’ (1 Chron 28:9 ESV). We could go to other verses as well to affirm the need to believe in God.

b. The second question is: What is the nature of this God? Is he Trinitarian or non-trinitarian? Let’s investigate further.

In a response, this is what happens when a person only gives the biblical verses that support the anti-trinitarian view of god, which is a heretical view of God as was declared at the Council of Nicea in AD 325 (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2015). See the Nicene Creed below. Why? Because he has chosen to exclude the verses that demonstrate that God consists of three persons who are deity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The definition of the Trinity which has biblical support is: ‘God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God’ (Grudem 1999:104).

What’s the evidence that God, the Father, is fully God? It is progressively revealed throughout Scripture. As early as Genesis 1:26 (ESV), God is revealed as a plurality: ‘Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’. Here we have the plural pronouns ‘us’ and ‘our’ used. Are they plurals of majesty or do they indicate that there is plurality in the Godhead? ‘In Old Testament Hebrew there are no other examples of a monarch using plural verbs or plural pronouns of himself in such a “plural of majesty,” so this suggestion has no evidence to support it’ (Grudem 1999:104). The God who is plurality made a human being (man) in their (plural) image.

The persons and deity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit

The “Shield of the Trinity” or Scutum Fidei diagram of traditional Western Christian symbolism (courtesy Wikipedia)

The more complete revelation is in the New Testament where we find that

cubed-redmatteGod, the Father, is regarded as God. ‘For on him God the Father has set his seal’ (Jn 6:27 ESV); ‘God our Father’ (Rm 1:7 ESV); ‘God the Father’ and ‘God the Father’ (Gal 1:1, 3). Isn’t that clear enough? The Father is God.

cubed-redmatteGod, the Son, is regarded as God. He has the attributes of deity: (1) Eternity (Jn 1:15; 8:58; 17:5, 24); (2) Omniscience (Jn 4:24; 16:30; 21:17); (3) Omnipresence (Mt 18:20; 28:20; Jn 3:13); (4) Omnipotence. ‘I am the Almighty’ (Rev 1:8); Heb 1:3; Mt 28:18; (5) Immutable (Heb 1:12; 13:8); (6) He does the actions of deity: creator (Jn 1:3; Heb 1:10; Col 1:16); holds things together (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3); forgives sin (Mt 9:2, 6); raises the dead (Jn 6:39-40, 54; 11:25; 20:25, 28); he will be the Judge (Jn 5:22) of believers (2 Cor 5:10), of Antichrist and his followers (Rev 19:15), the nations (Ac 17:31), Satan (Gen 3:15) and the living and the dead (Ac 10:42).

cubed-redmatteGod, the Holy Spirit, is regarded as God. The Holy Spirit is a person. Take John 16:13 as an example. the neuter substantive pneuma [Spirit] is referred to by the masculine pronoun ekeinos [he], thus recognising the Holy Spirit not as a neuter ‘it’ but as a person, ‘he’. He is the Comforter/Helper (Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). No ‘it’ can do this. The Holy Spirit has the attributes of Deity. He is eternal (Heb 9:14), omniscient (1 Cor 2:10-11; Jn 14:26; 16:12-13), omnipotent (Lk 1:35), omnipresent (Ps 139:7-10). And have a guess what? He does the works of deity in creation (Ps 104:30), regeneration (Jn 3:5), giving us Scripture (2 Pt 1:21; and raising the dead (Rm 8:11).

In preparing these Scriptures I have been assisted by Henry Thiessen (1949:134-146). Thiessen notes that ‘the doctrine of the tripersonality of God is not in conflict with the doctrine of the unity of God. There are three persons in the one essence…. These distinctions are eternal. This is evident from the passages which imply Christ’s existence with the Father from eternity (John 1:1, 2; Phil. 2:6; John 17:5, 24) and from those which assert or imply the eternity of the Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:2; Heb. 9:14)’ (Thiessen 1949:145).

Although the words Trinity, Triunity or tripersonality do not appear in Scripture, the teachings do, as I’ve attempted to show. Exact wording should not put us off. Try finding these words in the Bible: Rapture, inerrancy, infallibility, Bible, literal interpretation, Sunday, Christmas, Easter, ‘Jesus is God’, etc. However, all these teachings can be demonstrated from the Bible.

The above exposition begins to answer the question: Where does the Scripture command anyone to believe in the Trinitarian God? The God revealed in Scripture and who acted in history as described in Old and New Testaments is the Trinitarian God. The God I worship is no Unitarian or Deist God. He is the Trinitarian Lord God Almighty.

Excuses

clip_image002Tanuki cartoon (openclipart)

How do you think a person would reply to the above explanation? He gave me his avoidance: ‘Sorry I have not read your post because you misrepresent me in the beginning…I asked …where does the scripture command anyone to believe in the trinitarian god??? so you are not answering what I asked….plain and simple…you started wrong.’[16]

My reply was:[17]

When you don’t read my post, you demonstrate ignorance of having a reasonable conversation. I dealt with your Unitarian god by addressing two questions that are coherent with one another.

  1. Are we commanded to believe in God? Yes!
  2. What is the nature of God we are commanded to believe in? The Trinitarian God of Unity and Trinity.

I directly answered your question but what have you done? You have given me a flick pass by your use of a red herring logical fallacy. This fallacy is when you decide not to deal with the issue I raised but to take the conversation in another direction. What you have done is engaged in avoidance of the fact that I DID ANSWER YOUR QUESTION but you DID NOT EXTEND TO ME THE COURTESY OF READING MY POST.

You have essentially told me: Don’t waste your time in spending effort on a response to newbirth because he can’t be bothered with answering the issues I raise. He doesn’t even both to read what I write to answer his issues.

Newbirth, there is a place on CB [Christianity Board] where you can discuss your heretical view of God. It’s called the Unorthodox forum. That’s where you should be promoting your Unitarianism and not here on an orthodox Christian thread.

This person is a Unitarian in his/her beliefs

I need to label this heresy for what it is. It is Unitarianism that is supported by, yes, Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, United Pentecostal Church, and others of like minds.

First Unitarian Meeting House in Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, designed by Unitarian Frank Lloyd Wright (courtesy Wikipedia)

 

What do they believe?

Unitarians believe that God is one—one being, one mind, one person, one intelligent agent, and one only, who is supremely wise, powerful, holy, and good, and whose highest attribute is love. This is the one called “Father” by Jesus and his disciples….

As regards God’s indivisible unity. Jesus answered, “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord” (Mark 12:29); “We know . . . there is no God but one” (1 Cor. 8:4); “God is one” (Gal. 3:20)….

Because there are many texts in the Bible plainly opposed to the Church doctrine of the Trinity. Such are the texts in which the Father is called the one or only God, which could not be said if the Son is also God and the Holy Spirit God: “For though there are many that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, (as there are many gods and many lords), to us there is one God, the Father” (1 Cor. 8:5,6); “For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5)….

Unitarians object to the doctrine of the Trinity, because, while acknowledging the unity of God in words, it subverts that unity in effect. The doctrine divides and distracts the mind in its devotion to God. It defeats the effectiveness of true monotheism, which is to offer us one object of worship, one supreme figure, one person to whom we may ascribe all goodness, in whom is concentrated all our love and vitality, and whose beautiful and venerable nature may pervade all our thoughts (Miano 2003).

That is an heretical view that is not supported by Scripture. To refute some of these claims, refer to the material presented above and also,

See these other articles

clip_image003Sue Bohlin, ‘Jesus claims to be God’;

clip_image003[1]Norman Geisler, ‘The uniqueness of Jesus Christ’;

clip_image003[2]Spencer Gear: Is Jesus a God and not the God?

clip_image003[3]Spencer Gear, ‘Was Jesus omniscient while on earth?

clip_image003[4]Spencer Gear, Is the Holy Spirit God?

clip_image003[5]Spencer Gear, Is the God of Islam the same God as Elohim of the Christian Scriptures?

 

Appendix

The nature of God in the persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit were summarised in the

Nicene Creed[18]

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

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Works consulted

Encyclopaedia Britannica 2015. Council of Nicaea. Available at: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/413817/Council-of-Nicaea (Accessed 31 May 2015).

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

Miano, D R 2003. An explanation of Unitarian Christianity. American Unitarian Conference (online). Available at: http://www.americanunitarian.org/explanation.htm (Accessed 1 June 2015).

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes

[1] Christianity Board, ‘Prove practise of worship of the Holy Spirit is biblical’, newbirth#27. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/21183-prove-practise-of-worship-of-the-holy-spirit-is-biblical/ (Accessed 31 May 2015).

[2] I will use ‘he’ but this person will not reveal his/her sex.

[3] Ibid., newbirth#28.

[4] Ibid., newbirth#30.

[5] Ibid., newbirth#32.

[6] Ibid., newbirth#33.

[7] Ibid., newbirth#35.

[8] Ibid., newbirth#38.

[9] Ibid., newbirth#45.

[10] Ibid., newbirth#47.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#52.

[12] Ibid., newbirth#62.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#64.

[14] Ibid., newbirth#66.

[15] Ibid., OzSpen#69.

[16] Ibid., newbirth#72.

[17] Ibid., OzSpen#76.

[18] For scriptural support for the Nicene Creed, see ‘Great stuff – The Nicene Creed according to Scripture’. The Brothers of John the Steadfast (online). Available at: http://steadfastlutherans.org/2012/06/great-stuff-the-nicene-creed-according-to-scripture/ (Accessed 1 June 2015).

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 November 2015.
    

No Sabbath-worship for Christians

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Image result for Christian worship clip art public domain

(image courtesy hdwalls.xyz )

By Spencer D Gear

Is it ever possible to get through to Christians that there is no need to keep the Saturday Sabbath? Or, to put it another way, are all of the Bible-believing Christians who go to worship on Sunday contravening the Scriptures? I’ve had discussions online and in person with people who are Seventh-Day Adventists who push and push for Sabbath worship. See this example of one of my encounters: Sunday or Saturday worship for Christians?

I was engaged in another such discussion online with a Sabbath-keeping Christian. These are some of his statements:

In commending Jim Parker’s post (See Appendix), I wrote:[1] Acts 20:7 states, ‘On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight’ (NIV). A response was, ‘You should know that some new Bible versions translate Acts 20:7, “On the SATURDAY NIGHT, the disciples came together…”’[2]

My reply was:[3]

One of the foremost N T Greek grammarians of the 20th century was the Dr A T Robertson. He focusses on the issues in Acts 20:7. This is from A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (1930. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, pp 338-340, available at: StudyLight.org),

Acts 20:7 [Greek characters deleted & transliterated]

Upon the first day of the week (en de miai twn sabbatwn). The cardinal – miai used here for the ordinal protei (Mark 16:9) like the Hebrew ehadh as in Mark 16:2; Matthew 28:1; Luke 24:1; John 20:1 and in harmony with the Koiné’š idiom (Robertson, Grammar, p. 671). Either the singular (Mark 16:9) — sabbatou or the plural — sabbatwn as here was used for the week (sabbath to sabbath). For the first time here we have services mentioned on the first day of the week though in 1 Corinthians 16:2 it is implied by the collections stored on that day. In Revelation 1:10 the Lord‘s day seems to be the day of the week on which Jesus rose from the grave. Worship on the first day of the week instead of the seventh naturally arose in Gentile churches, though John 20:26 seems to mean that from the very start the disciples began to meet on the first (or eighth) day. But liberty was allowed as Paul makes plain in Romans 14:5.

When we were gathered together (sunegmenown hemown). Genitive absolute, perfect passive participle of — sunagw to gather together, a formal meeting of the disciples. See this verb used for gatherings of disciples in Acts 4:31; Acts 11:26; Acts 14:27; Acts 15:6, Acts 15:30; Acts 19:7, Acts 19:8; 1 Corinthians 5:4. In Hebrews 10:25 the substantive  — episunagwgen is used for the regular gatherings which some were already neglecting. It is impossible for a church to flourish without regular meetings even if they have to meet in the catacombs as became necessary in Rome. In Russia today the Soviets are trying to break up conventicles of Baptists. They probably met on our Saturday evening, the beginning of the first day at sunset. So these Christians began the day (Sunday) with worship. But, since this is a Gentile community, it is quite possible that Luke means our Sunday evening as the time when this meeting occurs, and the language in John 20:19 “it being evening on that day the first day of the week” naturally means the evening following the day, not the evening preceding the day.

To break bread (klasai arton). First aorist active infinitive of purpose of klaw The language naturally bears the same meaning as in Acts 2:42, the Eucharist or the Lord‘s Supper which usually followed the Agape. See note on 1 Corinthians 10:16. The time came, when the Agape was no longer observed, perhaps because of the abuses noted in 1 Corinthians 11:20. Rackham argues that the absence of the article with bread here and its presence (ton arton) in Acts 20:11 shows that the Agape is referred to in Acts 20:7 and the Eucharist in Acts 20:11, but not necessarily so because ton arton may merely refer to arton in Acts 20:7. At any rate it should be noted that Paul, who conducted this service, was not a member of the church in Troas, but only a visitor.

Discoursed (dielegeto). Imperfect middle because he kept on at length.

Intending (mellow). Being about to, on the point of.

On the morrow (tei epaurion). Locative case with hemerai understood after the adverb epaurion If Paul spoke on our Saturday evening, he made the journey on the first day of the week (our Sunday) after sunrise. If he spoke on our Sunday evening, then he left on our Monday morning.

Prolonged his speech (Pareteinen ton logon). Imperfect active (same form as aorist) of parateinw old verb to stretch beside or lengthwise, to prolong. Vivid picture of Paul‘s long sermon which went on and on till midnight (mechri mesonuktiou). Paul‘s purpose to leave early next morning seemed to justify the long discourse. Preachers usually have some excuse for the long sermon which is not always clear to the exhausted audience.

Therefore, Dr Robertson, based on his understanding of the Greek grammar, disagrees with the view you espoused here.

 A.T. Robertson

Dr A T Robertson (image courtesy ccel.org)

 

What kind of reply could I expect to this? This was the beginning of his reply (you can check out the rest by following the endnote):

Thanks for joining us. “The man who speaks first seems right until another answers him”, so I’d like to answer Mr. Robertson.

For the first time here we have services mentioned on the first day of the week…”

There are no “services” mentioned here, but one post-Sabbath “get together” (the subjective implication is that this was some official, precedent-setting event) which took place as the Sabbath sun set and the beginning of the first day of the week began – what we would refer to as “Saturday evening”. Mr. R is attempting to use what he knows is an evening meeting as Biblical justification for the practice of Sunday morning church observance.

…though in 1 Corinthians 16:2 KJV it (church observance on the first day of the week) is implied by the collections stored on that day.”

All honest scholars know that 1 Corinthians 16:2 KJV means “in storage at home” and not the ever popular but false teaching of “in storage in a collection plate at church on Sunday morning”.[4]

Note what he does:

1. He relegates Dr A T Robertson to Mr Robertson. Dr Robertson was an eminent Greek NT scholar of the 20th century who wrote a 1454 page grammar of the Greek NT, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (1914. New York: Hodder & Stoughton; Internet Archive, University of Toronto).

2. He is a KJV only man.

3. He is pro-Sabbath-keeping, so listening to Dr Robertson’s exegesis was not on his agenda. It was a waste of time even raising it.

From Saturday to Sunday worship

Image result for clipart Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy public domain

I responded to this person’s promotion of the Sabbath:[5]

Christian historian, the late Martin Hengel, wrote of ‘the transfer of the celebration of divine worship from the sabbath to the Lord’s day, which is already demonstrable in Paul, is a partial analogy’ (2000:119). Hengel particularly referred to 1 Cor. 16:2; Acts 20:7ff; Rev. 1:10 to support this claim (Hengel 2000:281, n. 481).

These verses do not state in any way that indicates that these early Christians were meeting and worshipping on the wrong day of the week. Not a word of pro-Saturday Sabbath worship is mentioned:

  • 1 Cor. 16:2: ‘On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come’ (ESV).
  • Acts 20:7: ‘On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight’ (ESV).
  • Rev. 1:10: ‘I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet’ (ESV).

Christians are not to observe days and even Sabbath days according to the following Scriptures: Romans 14:5ff, Galatians 4:9-11; 5:1-15 and Col. 2:16-17. These Scriptures indicate that the promotion of Sabbath-keeping is contrary to these biblical injunctions.

Therefore, exaltation of Saturday Sabbath worship is not in accord with NT Christianity.

Here is some historical information about Lord’s Day, Sunday, worship:

See the article, ‘Is the Sabbath required for Christians?

In the early second century vague references to observing the “Lord’s Day”–Sunday–began to appear. Then the voices for Sunday worship grew more strident. Ignatius of Asia Minor and Barnabas of Alexandria both condemned Sabbath-keeping. Although considered Gnostic heresy, Marcion’s anti-Sabbath views were widely promulgated throughout the churches. By 150, Justin Martyr clearly indicated that the day of the sun was the day of rest for Christians. Sunday worship had become a widely accepted practice among these people who professed to follow Christ (“What did the early church Believe and Preach after Jesus’ death?” Available from: http://www.biblestud…istianity1.html).

‘There is a series of articles by Bob Deffinbaugh that refutes the promotion of the Sabbath for Christians and supports the view that New Covenant believers meet for worship on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day. See:

  1. The Great Sabbath Controversy“;
  2. The Lord of the Sabbath“;
  3. The Meaning of the Sabbath“;
  4. The Sabbath Controversy in the Gospels“;
  5. Super-Sabbath: Israel’s Land and its Lord“;
  6. The Sabbath in Apostolic Preaching and Practice“.

Keep the Ten Commandments #

The predicted reply came, ‘To the contrary, we are to observe the Ten Commandments which are written on the hearts of New Covenant Christians, and if not, then which of the Ten are we at liberty to freely break?’[6]

My rejoinder was:

Where does it say that in the NT? Where are we told to ‘remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy’ in the NT?

A requirement to keep the Sabbath of Exodus 20:8 for NT believers would conflict with Colossians 2:16-17, ‘Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come but the substance belongs to Christ’ (ESV).[7]

He could not let it lie there, so he was back again:

Thus saith the Lord Jesus, “pray that your flight be not in winter, neither on the Sabbath day”.  He fully expected His people to continue observing the Sabbath when the Romans came in 66 A.D. else He would have never told them to pray such a prayer. Before you answer, “But that was because the gates to Jerusalem would have been locked”, do not ignore the previous verses where we find Jesus commanding the whole of Judea, not just those in Jerusalem, to pray about not having to flee on the Sabbath, and there were no gates around Judea.

Along with the Sabbath commandment, every other one of the Ten Commandments is repeated in the N.T.  It is a historical fact that the change from Sabbath to Sunday was made my man and happened over a period of centuries, and is not found anywhere in Scripture. If you have a verse which you believe does command such a change, I’d be happy to study it.

BTW, Colossians is speaking in the context of the ceremonial law of offerings and sacrifices (meat offerings, drink offerings, moon observances, Jewish “sabbath” feast days which are called such in Leviticus 23, etc.)  Colossians is speaking of the “law that was against us” and Deuteronomy 31:26 KJV says that law was the Law of Moses which contained ceremonies and sacrifices.  Paul would never teach that the Sabbath of the Ten Commandments no longer existed any more than he would say that “thou shalt not kill” no longer existed.[8]

I replied:[9]

That is not an answer to what I asked at #306, ‘Where are we told to “remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy” in the NT?’

In Col 2:16, the three terms, festival, new moon, and sabbath often occur together in the OT (see the LXX of Hos 2:13; Ezek 45:17; 1 Chron 23:31; 2 Chron 2:3; 31:3). To keep these ‘holy days’ was evidence for OT Israelites that they obeyed God’s law. What was happening at Colossae was the keeping of these holy days for ‘the elemental spirits of the world’ (Col 2:8).

Therefore, Paul’s instruction was: ‘Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath’ (Col 2:16). To require that Christians keep the Sabbath is to do what Paul instructed not to do – to pass judgment on the need to keep the Sabbath for NT believers.

I will not fall for the judgment line that NT Christians should keep the OT Sabbath. That is a passing of judgment that does not meet with the Lord’s approval.

The response was predictable:

In answer to #306, the Fourth commandment is not explicitly repeated verbatim in the N. T., but I find it curious that you demand of me an explicit text which repeats the Fourth commandment verbatim to support the Sabbath in the N. T. while you exempt yourself from such austerity, seeing that you know full well that there is absolutely no commandment or directive in the N. T. authorizing a change from the seventh day to the first day – this change that you claim has taken place is based not on anything explicit, but solely on what you think is implied by John 20:19, Acts 20:7, and 1 Corinthians 16:2.

OK, you still haven’t explained to me why Jesus told His followers who would decades later have to flee from Judea (around which there were no gates) to pray that their flight would not have to take place on the Sabbath day if He did not expect that His followers would still be observing the Sabbath.

Also, why do you force Paul to refer to the weekly Sabbath in Colossians 2:14-17 KJV when the preponderance of evidence suggests he was referring to the yearly sabbath Feast Days of the Law of Moses?  According to Paul’s own words:

  • Paul says what was blotted out was “against us” which Deuteronomy 31:26 KJV tells us was the ceremonial Law of Moses, not God’s Law written by His finger.
  • Paul says this handwriting of Moses was nailed “to His Cross” – you can nail paper books all day long but you can’t nail stone to anything.
  • The ceremonial Law of Moses dealt with “meats, drinks, new moons, holy days and “sabbath days” (yearly “Feast Days” according to Leviticus 23), while God’s Law written by His finger in stone dealt with no such ceremonial laws.
  • Though the yearly ceremonial Feast Day “sabbaths” of the Law of Moses were indeed a shadow of Christ’s mission, the weekly Sabbath of creation was not shadow of anything – it was created as a memorial to Creation when all was light.

By insisting that Paul refers to the weekly Sabbath in Colossians 2:16 KJV, you are forcing an interpretation to support your position that the weekly Sabbath has been done away with, when the preponderance of evidence suggest that Paul is not speaking of the weekly Sabbath at all, but of the yearly ceremonial sabbath Feast Days, which were nailed to the Cross.  At best, we should agree that it is unclear if Paul meant to teach that the weekly Sabbath was part of what he said was nailed to the Cross and allow other Scriptures to decide the issue.  Such as the fact that Jesus expected His followers everywhere to be keeping the Sabbath decades into the future because He commanded them to pray that they would not have to flee from Judea on that day.  What say you?[10]

The New Covenant makes the Old Covenant obsolete

(image courtesy covenantsovereign)

This was my final reply to this resistant KJV Sabbath-keeping legalist.[11]

The apostle Paul made it clear that the Old Covenant was superseded by the New Covenant: ‘For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit’ (Rom 8:3-4 ESV).

Hebrews 8 is clear that God promised for the houses of Israel and Judah that a new covenant was coming (Heb 8:8-12 cited from Jer 31:31-34). What did that mean for the Old Covenant? ‘In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away’ (Heb 8:13).

The obvious conclusion was that the requirements of the OT Law which were now abolished meant that the OT sabbath was also abolished because it was ‘obsolete’ and was to ‘vanish away). Therefore, there is no need for the NT to say, ‘Thou shalt not worship on the Sabbath’ because that law from Sinai had been made obsolete because of the cross of Christ. Golgotha and Christ’s shed blood made sure a new covenant without OT legal requirements came into effect. Since the OT law is obsolete, to enforce OT Sabbath-keeping is to legalistically force on people what the New Covenant abolished.

What do we find in the NT? People like the apostle John could say, ‘I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day’ (Rev 1:10). There are significant reasons why early Christians worshipped on the first day of the week and not the Saturday Sabbath, the most important being that the first day of the week was the one on which Jesus rose from the dead.

The early church confirmed that the Christians met on the Lord’s Day and not the Saturday Sabbath.

  • The Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, early 2nd cent), ‘But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure’ (ch 14:1).
  • The Epistle of Barnabas (ca. AD 130), ‘He says to them, Your new moons and your Sabbath I cannot endure [Isaiah 1:13]. You perceive how He speaks: Your present Sabbaths are not acceptable to Me, but that is which I have made, [namely this,] when, giving rest to all things, I shall make a beginning of the eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world. Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead. And when He had manifested Himself, He ascended into the heavens’ (ch 15).
  • Tertullian (b. ca. AD 160), ‘It follows, accordingly, that, in so far as the abolition of carnal circumcision and of the old law is demonstrated as having been consummated at its specific times, so also the observance of the Sabbath is demonstrated to have been temporary….. Whence it is manifest that the force of such precepts was temporary, and respected the necessity of present circumstances; and that it was not with a view to its observance in perpetuity that God formerly gave them such a law’ (An Answer to the Jews, ch 4). Who was Tertullian addressing about the abolition of the old law and its temporary Sabbath? Jews!

In your response to me, you seem to be missing a fundamental: The Old Covenant has been superseded by the New Covenant. This means that the OT law has been abolished, made obsolete, vanished away and has been replaced by the New Covenant in Christ. When did these New Covenant Christians meet for worship? The first day of the week, the Lord’s Day.

But there’s a another fundamental that we must not forget: All of life is worship to the glory of God! (John 4:21-23)

Appendix A

Image result for New Covenant clipart public domain(image courtesy Polyvore)

 

Jim Parker[12] provided this excellent rebuttal of the statement: “We keep the Sabbath in the same way Jesus and the apostles did”.

Do you do all of these?

EX 16:29 Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

Don’t travel on the Sabbath. A Sabbath’s journey was limited to approximately one mile.

EX 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.

1. Don’t you or anyone in your household do any work on the Sabbath.

2. It also includes animals which have been replaced by cars, trucks, tractors, buses, airplanes, trains, etc., So don’t work and don’t use any sort of motorized vehicle on the Sabbath. (Which means you don’t drive to whatever meeting you might attend on Saturday.)

EX 31:14 ” `Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. 15 For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. 16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.’ ”

1. The seventh day is for rest; do not work on the Sabbath.

2. Israelites are to observe the Sabbath. (not gentiles, Israelites)

3. The Sabbath is a sign between God and Israel. (Again: Israel; not gentiles)

4. God abstained from work and rested on the 7th day and Israel is to do the same.

EX 35:1 states that Moses assembled the whole Israelite community and said to them, “These are the things the LORD has commanded you to do: 2 For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death. 3 Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”

1. The command concerning keeping the Sabbath Holy came from the LORD not from Moses.

2. Rest on the Sabbath and do no work.

3. Do not light a fire in your dwelling on the Sabbath. (Furnace, oven, light bulb)

LEV 23:3 ” `There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD.

DT 5:12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do.

Don’t use any utility (electricity, gas, internet, telephone, etc.) or public service (roads, police, radio, TV, bus, etc.) that requires anyone to work on the Sabbath in order to provide the service.

<<You keep Sunday today as an obedient and slavish devotion to a tradition that had its roots in Mithra>>

ROLF!!!!!!   That’s beyond ridiculous. Where do you get that baloney?  Find another deli!

We celebrate the Lord’s resurrection on the first day of the week (Mar 16:9) just like the church (not the Jews) always did.

Justin Martyr : The First Apology of Justin  C.100-162 AD

But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples,…

The Teaching of the Apostles. (1st Century)

The apostles further appointed: On the first day of the week let there be service, and the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and the oblation: because on the first day of the week our Lord rose from the place of the dead and on the first day of the week He arose upon the world, and on the first day of the week He ascended up to heaven, and on the first day of the week He will appear at last with the angels of heaven.

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians C. 50-117 AD, Bishop of Antioch

Chapter IX.—Let Us Live with Christ.

If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day[1]

…And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week]. Looking forward to this, the prophet declared, “To the end, for the eighth day,” on which our life both sprang up again, and the victory over death was obtained in Christ, …

At the dawning of the Lord’s day He arose from the dead, according to what was spoken by Himself, “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of man also be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The day of the preparation, then, comprises the passion; the Sabbath embraces the burial; the Lord’s Day contains the resurrection.

It has absolutely nothing, zero, zip, nada, to do with Mithras.

<<If Paul taught that the laws of God (the Ten Commandments) had been abrogated, or that the Sabbath in particular was no longer to be observed, how could he claim the above without the Jews coming down on him like the proverbial ton of bricks?>>

Hello-ooo!!!  Paul WAS A JEW. Most Christians are not.

In that passage, Paul was talking to JEWS.

But in Acts 15 he specifically argued, and the JEWISH APOSTLES agreed, that the gentiles were not required to keep the law and be circumcised.

Some other writings

Some of my other writings on this topic include:

Works consulted

Hengel, M 2000. transl J Bowden. The four Gospels and the one Gospel of Jesus Christ: An investigation of the collection and origin of the canonical Gospels,. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International.

Robertson, A T 1934. A grammar of the Greek New Testament in the light of historical research. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Notes


[1] Christianity Board, ‘Sabbath-keeping’, OzSpen#299, available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/20839-sabbath-keeping/page-10 (Accessed 27 April 2015).

[2] Ibid., Phoneman777#300.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#301.

[4] Ibid., Phoneman777#302.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#304.

[6] Ibid., Phoneman777#305.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#306.

[8] Ibid., Phoneman777#307.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#308.

[10] Ibid., Phoneman777#310.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#311.

[12] Ibid., Jim Parker #298.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 23 October 2016.

A Victoria Osteen big-time blooper

Friday, September 5th, 2014

clip_image001
Victoria Osteen (patheos.com, public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

There are some things happening in the Christian world that have to be heard to be believed. What does it take to launch an uproar in the Christian community? Victoria Osteen, wife of pastor Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church, Houston, Texas, made one of the greatest clangers of theological ignorance that I’ve heard in a long while.

Take a strong grip on your theological seats. clip_image003

She told a large public gathering at that their mega-Lakewood Church:

I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God–I mean, that’s one way to look at it–we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we are happy…. That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy….

She continued: “So, I want you to know this morning — Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy…. When you come to church, when you worship him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”

And the congregational response was, ‘Amen’ (in Mohler 2014).

clip_image005Take a listen to the Victoria Osteen clip HERE, followed by Bill Cosby’s confrontational comment, ‘That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life’.

clip_image007 What a blooper by Victoria Osteen! It has the Christian bloggers and writers at their keyboards (including me) pumping out some provocative negative and supportive responses. Take a read of a few of them:

Osteen against the Scripture

Let’s check out the Scriptures to find how close Victoria Osteen came to declaring what God says about the highest responsibility of the individual and of the church?

clip_image009 Romans 15:5-6: ‘May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (NIV).

clip_image009[1] Ephesians 1:5-6: ‘he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves’.

clip_image009[2] Ephesians 1:12-14: ‘in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory’.

clip_image009[3] Ephesians 1:18: ‘I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people’.

clip_image009[4] Ephesians 3:21: ‘to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen’.

clip_image009[5] 2 Thessalonians 1:12: ‘We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ’.

clip_image009[6] 1 Peter 4:11, ‘If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen’.

clip_image007[1] Osteen says, ‘When we obey God, we’re not doing it for God…. When you come to church, when you worship him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy’.

 

What anti-biblical baloney!

   sausage,food,media,clip art,public domain,image,png,svg

How does Osteen’s teaching compare with Scripture? According to the above Scriptures, we are to glorify the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to give him praise for his glory. To God be glory in the church. The person (name) of the Lord Jesus Christ is glorified in believers and we in him.

Now that is a radically different message to what Victoria Osteen proclaimed. She’s into pick-me-up, me-centred, positive thinking psychology and not God-glorifying worship. People should run a country mile from such self-centred opposition to what Scripture teaches.

Two scriptural clinchers are:

clip_image013 Romans 11:36: ‘For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen’.

clip_image013[1]1 Corinthians 10:31: ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’.

The summary of what the Bible teaches is in the first question of the Westminster Larger Catechism:

Q. 1. What is the chief and highest end of man?

A. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God,[1] and fully to enjoy him forever.[2]

The biblical teaching is crystal clear. In whatever you do, including obedience to God, you are to do it for the glory of God. But for Victoria Osteen, her teaching is radically opposed to that. She’s declaring on a TV and Internet programme that which is opposed to what God says. Osteen’s sprouting, ‘When you worship him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy’, is junk theology. I declare it as such, with solid Scriptural support.

What does that make Victoria Osteen?

clip_image015Out of Victoria Osteen’s mouth has come false teaching that is humanistic and contrary to Scripture. What does Scripture say we are to do with false teachers? Take a read of Galatians 5:7-12 (NIV):

7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

My application to Victoria Osteen (based on this passage) is:

clip_image017 Osteen is keeping Christians from obeying the truth.

clip_image017[1] Therefore, Osteen is not teaching the truth. She does not promote God’s truth when she promotes self-benefit from obeying and worshipping God.

clip_image017[2] Osteen’s kind of persuasion that gets an ‘Amen’ from her and the large congregation, is not from God, the one who calls people to himself and they become Christians.

clip_image017[3] Osteen’s false teaching is like yeast that contaminates the Christian community. It is sewing weeds among the good seed (see Matt 13:36-43).

clip_image017[4] With the exposure of Osteen’s false teaching by discerning believers, I am confident that evangelical Christians will see her promotion of a false view of God and cling to the orthodox teaching of glorifying God in all things they do.

clip_image017[5] Victoria Osteen will have to pay the penalty of throwing Christians into confusion with her false teaching.

clip_image017[6] Those who oppose Osteen’s positive thinking message are likely to be persecuted by the health-wealth promoters.

clip_image017[7] The offense of the cross is abolished when one worships God for selfish gain.

clip_image017[8] Victoria Osteen, in my view, has extended the meaning of ‘selfie’. I wish she would go the whole hog, leave the church, and take her message into the self-help psychology classroom. It does not belong in the church or on Christian media.

Victoria Osteen responds

The Blaze has reported Victoria Osteen’s response to her controversial remarks:

Victoria Osteen, wife of megachurch pastor Joel Osteen, responded late Friday afternoon to furor and debate circulating in evangelical circles following a controversial sermon she delivered last month about church attendance and worshipping God.

Osteen said that she could have chosen her words more carefully, but that she did not mean to imply that parishioners shouldn’t worship the Lord, calling such a critique and interpretation “ridiculous” in a statement exclusively issued to The Blaze.

“While I admit that I could have been more articulate in my remarks, I stand by my point that when we worship God and are obedient to Him we will be better for it,” she said. “I did not mean to imply that we don’t worship God; that’s ridiculous, and only the critics and cynics are interpreting my remarks that way.”

Osteen continued, “Every Lakewood member knows what I was talking about because they have experienced first hand the joy and victory of a Lakewood Church worship service, and the honor, reverence and gratitude we show God.”

In the short, 37-second clip that has gone viral and led to intense criticism in recent days, Osteen, who co-pastors Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, along with her husband, Joel, is seen telling congregants that, when people obey the Lord and go to church, they’re not necessarily “doing it for God.”

“I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God we’re not doing it for God — I mean that’s one way to look at it,” she said from the pulpit. “We’re doing it for yourself, because God takes pleasure when were happy. That’s the thing that gives him the greatest joy this morning … just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy.”

She added, “When you come to church when you worship him, you’re not doing it for God, really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy.”

The controversial clip has been viewed and shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media since late August, with some Christians decrying Osteen‘s message — but with others supporting and explaining her commentary.

Consider Steve Camp, pastor of the Cross Church in Palm City, Florida, who said that Osteen ”honestly believes that God exists to make us happy rather than holy.”

“It’s the age old sin of idolatry — that it’s not about God, it’s about us,” Camp told Christian News Network last week. “True worship for the humanist is about how we feel at the end of the day and what gives us meaning, as opposed to what gives God glory” (Hallowell 2014).

Bees

(image courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

Conclusion

Victoria Osteen’s me-centred, worship is for me, is theological junk. ‘When you come to church, when you worship him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy’ is Osteen generated false teaching. I do not find Osteen’s response to be satisfactory in correcting her humanistic view of worship.

Albert Mohler put it precisely: ‘If our message cannot be preached with credibility in Mosul, it should not be preached in Houston. That is the Osteen Predicament’ (Mohler 2014).

The Scriptural view is: ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’ (1 Cor 10:31).

Recommended resources

There is some excellent teaching on the content of false teaching in this article from IVP New Testament Commentaries on Galatians 5: ‘Exposing the false teachers’.

Why don’t you take a read of this assessment of Victoria Osteen’s teaching by Albert Mohler, ‘The Osteen Predicament — Mere Happiness Cannot Bear the Weight of the Gospel‘.

Works consulted

Hallowell, B 2014. Pastor Joel Osteen’s Wife Hits Back at ‘Critics and Cynics’ and Addresses Furor Over Her Viral Sermon About Worshipping God. The Blaze, 5 September. Available at: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/09/05/exclusive-victoria-osteen-responds-to-evangelical-furor-over-viral-youre-not-doing-it-for-god-clip/ (Accessed 15 April 2016).

Mohler Jr, R A 2014. The Osteen Predicament — Mere Happiness Cannot Bear the Weight of the Gospel (online), September 3. Available at: http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/09/03/the-osteen-predicament-mere-happiness-cannot-bear-the-weight-of-the-gospel/ (Accessed 4 September 2014).

Notes


[1] The Scriptural references given were Romans 11:36 and 1 Corinthians 10:31.

[2] Scriptural support given was in Psalm 73:24-28; John 17:21-13.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 April 2016.

 

Sunday or Saturday worship for Christians?

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

(courtesy Google public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

I asked a Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) on a Christian Forum: ‘According to SDA doctrine, will I, a person who worships on the first day of the week, be annihilated in the lake of fire?[1]

Why would I ask this? I had a very good reason. It was because of this SDA teaching:

The beast described in Revelation 13:1-10 is the church-state union that dominated the Christian world for many centuries and was described by Paul as the “man of sin” (2 Thess. 2:2-4) and by Daniel as the “little horn” (Dan. 7:8, 20-25; 8:9-12, KJV). The image of the beast represents that form of apostate religion that will be developed when churches, having lost the true spirit of the Reformation, shall unite with the state to enforce their teachings on others. In uniting church and state they will have become a perfect image to the beast—the apostate church that persecuted for 1260 years. Hence the name image of the beast.

The third angel’s message proclaims the most solemn and fearful warning in the Bible. It reveals that those who submit to human authority in earth’s final crisis will worship the beast and his image rather than God. During this final conflict two distinct classes will develop. One class will advocate a gospel of human devisings and will worship the beast and his image, bringing upon themselves the most grievous judgments. The other class, in marked contrast, will live by the true gospel and “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:9, 12). The final issue involves true and false worship, the true and the false gospel. When this issue is clearly brought before the world, those who reject God’s memorial of creatorship—the Bible Sabbath—choosing to worship and honor Sunday in the full knowledge that it is not God’s appointed day of worship, will receive the “mark of the beast.” This mark is a mark of rebellion; the beast claims its change of the day of worship shows its authority even over God’s law (Ministerial Association General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists 1988:167).

His response was consistent with this teaching on ‘The remnant and its mission’:

NO. No one has the ‘mark of the beast’ yet.  When the time comes for it to become law, then the mark will be seen. and then, yes, Heb. 6;23 comes into effect.  When people are given a choice between wordhipping (sic) God on His Holy sabbath day and the ‘venerable day of the sun’, God then can see who is on His side and who is not. Read your Bible. How many days did God set aside for Holy Purposes?  One.  Just who said that people should only worship on sun day?  As Peter said, “it is better to worship God than man.”

Acts 5:29.  For more thought, just what day did Jesus worship God on? On what day did HE go to church?[2]

My response was:[3]

This is another example of how the SDAs invent theology. This is what is wrong about your theology of the Sabbath:

1. Lord’s Day Sunday and not Sabbath

Christian historian, the late Martin Hengel, wrote of “the transfer of the celebration of divine worship from the sabbath to the Lord’s day, which is already demonstrable in Paul, is a partial analogy” (2000:119). Hengel particularly referred to 1 Cor. 16:2; Acts 20:7ff; Rev. 1:10 to support this claim (Hengel 2000:281, n. 481).

These verses do not state in any way that indicate that these early Christians were meeting and worshipping on the wrong day of the week. Not a word of your SDA theology is mentioned:

1 Cor. 16:2: ‘On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come’ (ESV).

Acts 20:7: ‘On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight’ (ESV).

Rev. 1:10: ‘I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet’ (ESV).

Christians are not to observe days and even sabbath days according to the following Scriptures: Romans 14:5ff, Galatians 4:9-11; 5:1-15 and Col. 2:16-17. These Scriptures indicate that your song and dance about Sabbath-keeping is contrary to these biblical injunctions.

Therefore, the SDA church is promoting error in its exaltation of Saturday Sabbath worship.

Here is some historical information about Lord’s Day, Sunday, worship:

In the early second century vague references to observing the “Lord’s Day”–Sunday–began to appear. Then the voices for Sunday worship grew more strident. Ignatius of Asia Minor and Barnabas of Alexandria both condemned Sabbath-keeping. Although considered Gnostic heresy, Marcion’s anti-Sabbath views were widely promulgated throughout the churches. By 150, Justin Martyr clearly indicated that the day of the sun was the day of rest for Christians. Sunday worship had become a widely accepted practice among these people who professed to follow Christ (“What did the early church Believe and Preach after Jesus’ death?” Available from: http://www.biblestudy.org/basicart/early-christianity1.html).

See the article,Is the Sabbath required for Christians?

‘There is a series of articles on the www by Bob Deffinbaugh that refutes the promotion of the Sabbath for Christians and supports the view that New Covenant believers meet for worship on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day. See:

  1. The Great Sabbath Controversy“;
  2. The Lord of the Sabbath“;
  3. The Meaning of the Sabbath“;
  4. The Sabbath Controversy in the Gospels“;
  5. Super-Sabbath: Israel’s Land and its Lord“;
  6. The Sabbath in Apostolic Preaching and Practice.

2. Predictable response

The SDA Harold’s reply was unsurprising:

>>1 Cor. 16:2: “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.”>>

What day of the work week do you have the most money to spare? Mine is usually the first day. That is what Paul is telling them. Notice that there is no mention of worship, church, God or anything else religious.

>>Acts 20:7: “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.”>>

Put that in context and what you have is a going away party for Paul. Again, no mention of worship,, church, God or anything else religious. Back in Acts two, the Apostles were mentioned as breaking bread DAILY.  We do, too. We usually eat two meals a day in our house.  That is what ‘breaking bread’ means. To eat.

>>Rev. 1:10: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet”>>

What day was that?  Let’s look at who wrote it.  John was Jesus ‘beloved’ apostle. So, what day would that apostle be in the Spirit?  What does the Bible call the ‘Lord’s day’? In mine, it is ALWAYS the Sabbath of the forth commandment.  Who is “Lord of the Sabbath”?  Jesus Christ. What was the Sabbath made for?  Man.  Who has the authority to change ANY of God’s holy ten commandments?

When you can honestly read and answer those points, you will probably have to agree that the Seventh Day Sabbath is STILL the seventh day Sabbath of the forth commandment.  No where in my Bible is there any mention of change to another day. Up until the third century AD, most Christians were still keeping The Lord’s’ day, the Sabbath. It wasn’t until Rome took control of all chuches (sic) that the change began.  Do a little history of the church and see for yourself.[4]

3. Refutation of substance

That is the kind of denial that Harold, the adamant, unchangeable, SDA gets into: ‘No where in my Bible is there any mention of change to another day’. My response was pointed: This is a lie. I provided him with 3 Scriptures (see above and below) that demonstrate that the first century church met, not on the Saturday Sabbath, but on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, Sunday. Why? That was the day of the Lord’s resurrection and the apostles taught and affirmed that the Christian church would celebrate this by meeting for worship, Lord’s supper, and teaching on the first day of the week.

This was my comeback:[5]

Your attempts to rationalise against 1 Cor 16:2; Acts 20:7 and Rev 1:10 do not work.

Your points against Sunday (first day of the week; Lord’s Day) worship by the church of the first and continuing centuries have been refuted over and over.

D M Canright (1840-1919;courtesy Ellen White Exposed) See also D M Canright (Wikipedia)

One to the best refutations of your SDA anti-Sunday worship view is by a Christian minister who was associated with the SDAs for a number of year. I’m writing of Rev D M Canright (1916), The complete testimony of the early fathers: Proving the universal observance of Sunday in the first centuries (online).

Rev Canright begins on p. 5 with ’80 facts about Sunday keeping’. They annihilate Harold’s SDA views with biblical exegesis and historical evidence from the early church.

No matter how the SDA tried to defend his position, Canright’s facts refuted his view. And what is the basis for his refutation of the SDA views? The Scriptures! These 64 pages by Canright (1916) send the SDA Sabbatarian theology packing – on the authority of Scripture as practised by the first century church and the early church fathers.

Canright was an SDA for many years and he demonstrated that Lord’s Day, first day of the week, worship by the church did not begin with the pagans or the Roman Catholic Church, but with the apostles. See also his book, D M Canright (1915), The Lord’s Day from neither Catholics nor pagans.

The origin of worship on the Lord’s Day, first day of the week, Sunday, can be accounted for on one ground and one ground alone – the apostles made the change to honour Christ’s physical, miraculous resurrection from the dead. We are no longer under the Old Covenant and its sabbatical teaching about worship. We are under the New Covenant, thanks to Christ’s passion-resurrection.

For Harold the SDA and the SDA denomination to want to remain under the Old Covenant’s form of Sabbatarian worship is to fly in the face of the New Testament evidence. The demonstration is that the church of the first century, thanks to the teaching of the NT by the apostles, met on the first day of the week to celebrate Christ’s resurrection.

4. An SDA retort to an evangelical Protestant

How do you think Harold, the SDA promoter would respond to the above information? Here it is, word-for-word:

>>Your points against Sunday (first day of the week; Lord’s Day) worship by the church of the first and continuing centuries have been refuted over and over. >>[6]

In what Bible?  Your futile attempts to show that anyone worshipped on sun day in the Bible falls far short of convincing anyone.  You have three examples of somone (sic) meeting on the sun day. You try to twist them into days of worship. It just ins’t (sic) there.  You are attempting to cover up for the RCC who claims, loudly, that THEY changed the day from the 7th to the 1st. So, who are you going to obey?

I don’t know who pointed you to Canright, but he was ejected from the church shortly after he started his tirade.  No one in our church calls himself ‘reverand’ (sic).  No one.  The only articles in the Bible having anything to do with what day of the week we keep as Sabbath are the only ones we use.  Anyone can go outside that Bible and find all sorts of excuses to keep from obeying God. Lets start at the beginning:

Genesis 2:2,3  “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3  And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”

Go through the rest of the Bible and find me one other day that God has blessed and set aside for Holy Purposes. Remember, stick to the Bible.
Next:

Exodus 20:8, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

Ever wonder why that is the only commandment that begins with the word, “REMEMBER”?  Could it be that God knew that most of the ‘so called’ Christian world would forget it? Or at least try to forget?
Next:

Ezekiel 20:12, “Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.”
I put that one in there just to show you WHOSE Sabbath we are talking about.  Do you KNOW who sanctifies YOU?

Finally:
Mark 7:27, “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28  Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.”

So, do you still insist that sun day is the Lord’s day?  Where is your Biblical proof???

There are hundreds more texts that show what day God has given us for His Sabbath.  These were enough to convince me.[7]

5. An evangelical Protestant rejects SDA false  doctrine

Here is my reply as a Protestant evangelical who upholds the authority of Scripture:[8]

<<In what Bible?  Your futile attempts to show that anyone worshipped on sun day in the Bible falls far short of convincing anyone.>>[9]

Not in the SDA eisegesis Bible! I read it in the real Bible, whether it be KJV, ESV or NIV. Sunday, first day of the week, Lord’s Day worship (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2; Rev 1:10) is a direct result of the teaching of the apostles in the NT and it is based on the fact that Jesus’ resurrection was on the first day of the week and NOT the last day of the week.

What is eisegesis? It’s a technical word from the theological discipline of hermeneutics (biblical interpretation). ‘Eisegesis is the substitution of the authority of the interpreter for the authority of the original writer’ (Mickelsen 1963:158). Simply put: Eisegesis is reading one’s own meaning into a text. So in the case of the SDAs and Harold they have read their own meaning into Revelation 13:1-10 when it is not there. See the article, ‘Exegesis or Eisegesis’. ‘Ex’ is from the Greek preposition, ‘ek’, which means ‘out of’ and ‘eis’ is the Greek preposition, ‘eis’, which means ‘into’. So exegesis is obtaining the meaning out of the text, based on the intent of the original author. To the contrary, eisegesis is the interpreter reading his/her own meaning into the text. Michael Houdmann provides this definition that eisegesis ‘is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants’ (Houdmann 2013).

This is what happens when the SDA church (with Harold, the SDA’s support) invents meaning in Scripture. Let’s take a read of SDA official doctrine in their official teaching (Chapter 12: The Remnant and its Mission):

The beast described in Revelation 13:1-10 is the church-state union that dominated the Christian world for many centuries and was described by Paul as the “man of sin” (2 Thess. 2:2-4) and by Daniel as the “little horn” (Dan. 7:8, 20-25; 8:9-12, KJV). The image of the beast represents that form of apostate religion that will be developed when churches, having lost the true spirit of the Reformation, shall unite with the state to enforce their teachings on others. In uniting church and state they will have become a perfect image to the beast—the apostate church that persecuted for 1260 years. Hence the name image of the beast.

The third angel’s message proclaims the most solemn and fearful warning in the Bible. It reveals that those who submit to human authority in earth’s final crisis will worship the beast and his image rather than God. During this final conflict two distinct classes will develop. One class will advocate a gospel of human devisings and will worship the beast and his image, bringing upon themselves the most grievous judgments. The other class, in marked contrast, will live by the true gospel and “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:9, 12). The final issue involves true and false worship, the true and the false gospel. When this issue is clearly brought before the world, those who reject God’s memorial of creatorship—the Bible Sabbath—choosing to worship and honor Sunday in the full knowledge that it is not God’s appointed day of worship, will receive the “mark of the beast.” This mark is a mark of rebellion; the beast claims its change of the day of worship shows its authority even over God’s law (Ministerial Association General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists 1988:167, emphasis added).

This is an invention by the SDAs, imposed on Revelation 13:1-10. There is NOT ONE SINGLE WORD in those 10 verses that mentions Sunday observers as false worshippers. This is an example of SDA eisegesis, which is an interpretation imposed on the text. It is an invention by the SDAs and Harold, the SDA, the audacity to ask me: ‘In what Bible?’ At least my Bible is the KJV, ESV, NIV or any other committee translation. It is not an SDA invented bible. Harold’s objection was: ‘I don’t know who pointed you to Canright, but he was ejected from the church shortly after he started his tirade.  No one in our church calls himself ‘reverand’ (sic).  No one’.

My response was that I am a researcher who is currently writing a PhD dissertation (dissertation-only in the British system), so I’m capable of discovering that Mr Canright was an SDA pastor and member for 28 years. He exposed the false teaching of the SDAs in regard to Sabbath worship and other SDA doctrines, by appealing to Scripture. I gave the SDA promoter links to his books where he gave the biblical evidence. Yes – BIBLICAL EVIDENCE. This evidence is from the Bible and not from SDA eisegesis.

And have a guess what? Canright became a Baptist pastor when he saw the false teaching of the SDAs and exposed them in his writings. D M Canright was an SDA pastor for 22 years before leaving the denomination. There are biographical details about him here: D M Canright.

How the SDA official doctrine imposes on the meaning of Revelation 13:1-10 to get the ‘mark of the beast’ for Sunday worshippers is an example of how the SDA denomination invents its own theology. In the teaching from official sources (see above), I have given an example of how it created doctrine outside of the Bible and then imposed it on Revelation 13:1-10.

Of course, Ellen White also invented a false view of the atonement with her ‘Investigative Judgement’ ideology, a view that is found nowhere in the Bible.[10]

But the SDA on a Christian Forum insists on living under the OT regime and without taking into account the passion-resurrection of Jesus. This is seen in his comments:

Mark 7:27  “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28  Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.”

So, do you still insist that sun day is the Lord’s day?  Where is your Biblical proof???
There are hundreds more texts that show what day God has given us for His Sabbath.  These were enough to convince me.

When will this SDA get it? Matthew 7:27-28 is PRE Jesus’ resurrection. It refers to the Old Covenant, which is where he wants to live as an SDA promoter. His denomination invents a meaning of Revelation 13:1-10 that is not in the text. He wants to live under the Old Covenant (Matt 7:27-28) when the passion-resurrection of Jesus created a New Covenant for NT believers.

Yet he has the audacity to ask me: ‘In what Bible?’

It is time that the SDA, Harold, got back to the Bible, instead of peddling his SDA eisegesis on a Christian Forum.

6. The SDA failure as Bible scholars

Seventh-Day Adventist Church logo.svg

(Image courtesy Wikipedia)

I do not find the SDAs to be good Bible scholars in certain areas where they have serious theological blind spots. These are some examples:

  1. Their promotion of the Sabbath. For a refutation, see,The Sabbath & Sunday‘;
  2. Their teaching on soul sleep. Here is my expose of their teaching: Soul Sleep: A Refutation;
  3. They also have other false teaching about what happens at death that I have addressed in my article: Refutation of Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine of what happens at death;
  4. Their view of the atonement is unorthodox in ‘The Investigative Judgment’. The atonement was incomplete at the cross. See, ‘Investigative judgment made simple‘, by Robert K Sanders. My response to this false doctrine is HERE; see alsoSeventh-day Adventism Teaches That Jesus’ Blood Defiles‘;
  5. Their error about the thief on the cross that I address in: Did the thief on the cross go to Paradise at death – with Jesus?
  6. Etc.

Works consulted

Canright, D M 1915. The Lord’s Day from neither Catholics nor pagans (online). New York: Fleming H Revell Company. Open Library, available at: https://openlibrary.org/books/OL22885651M/The_Lord%27s_day_from_neither_Catholics_nor_pagans (Accessed 15 December 2013).

Canright, D M 1916, The complete testimony of the early fathers: Proving the universal observance of Sunday in the first centuries (online). New York: Fleming H Revell Company. Available at: http://www.exadventist.com/Portals/0/Repository/Complete%20Testimony%20of%20the%20Early%20Fathers%20by%20DM%20Canright.pdf (Accessed 15 December 2013).

Hengel, M 2000. transl J Bowden. The four Gospels and the one Gospel of Jesus Christ: An investigation of the collection and origin of the canonical Gospels,. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International.

Houdmann, S M 2013. What is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis (online)? GotQuestions?org, available at: http://www.gotquestions.org/exegesis-eisegesis.html (Accessed 16 December 2013).

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Ministerial Association General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists 1988. Seventh-Day Adventists believe. At Issue (online). Hagerstown, Maryland :Review and Herald Publishing Association. Available at: http://www.sdanet.org/atissue/books/27/index.htm (Accessed 15 December 2013).

Notes:


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, The Fellowship Hall, ‘Acknowledging of the truth!’, ozspen #141, 13 December 2013. Available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=136&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=122530 (Accessed 15 December 2013).

[2] Ibid., Harold #145.

[3] Ibid., ozspen #148.

[4] Ibid., Harold #156.

[5] Ibid., ozspen #162.

[6] This is a quote from my post at: ibid., ozspen #162.

[7] Ibid., Harold #170.

[8] Ibid., ozspen #172.

[9] I am citing Harold from ibid., Harold #170.

[10] See: ‘Seventh-day Adventism Teaches That Jesus’ Blood Defiles‘.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 April 2016..

The fake and the genuine mixed in some churches: A dangerous concoction!

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Landmine Doctrine

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

I’ve been interacting with a missionary friend in a foreign country who wrote of a person from the Bethel Church who feeds 10,000 children, has established churches, and has a humble ministry of bringing healing to the black children of Africa. A film has been made about this person raising people from the dead. This person gains no money from the actions and aches as she sits in the dust with African children, preaching Christ. But she is part of the Bethel Church, Redding, CA, USA.

The question the missionary asked of me: ‘How can this person be misguided and as far from Christ as the church leaders of Bethel church’?

What does the Bethel Church teach?

Bethel Church, Redding CA

Courtesy Wikipedia

The Bethel Church, Redding, California has this teaching on YouTube where there is alleged gold dust falling. See: ‘Gold dust rains during worship at Bethel!

See also:

blue-satin-arrow-smallBethel testimonies’;

blue-satin-arrow-smallJeremy Riddle – Our Father PART 1/2 (Gold dust in the room)’;

blue-satin-arrow-smallGlory Cloud & Gold Dust at Bethel Church’;

blue-satin-arrow-smallBethel’s ‘signs and wonders’ include angel feathers, gold dust and diamonds’.

Critiques of the Bethel Church movement

Empty Words

(image courtesy ChristArt )

What are the issues with Bethel Church, Redding, California, and its teachings? There are many links to assessment of the heresy of Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Apostasy Watch:

blue-arrow-smallWarning – Bill Johnson and Bethel Church’;

blue-arrow-smallSound advice for Bethel Church Pastor Bill Johnson’;

blue-arrow-smallBob Dewaay: Bill Johnson, IHOP [IHOP], & Ancient Heresy Reborn’;

blue-arrow-smallThe dangers of the International House of Prayer’, CARM;

blue-arrow-smallBill Johnson and Bethel – Report from Redding Record Searchlight’;

blue-arrow-smallBill Johnson / Bethel Church, Redding, California’ (links to other criticisms built into the article);

blue-arrow-smallBirds of a Feather Flock Together: Strange Manifestations in ‘Christian’ Circles – from God or not? Feathers in Church? Bill Johnson of Bethel Church, Redding California’;

Let me say up front that we cannot discern a heart before God of any person, whether associated with a church teaching false doctrine or one teaching the truth. That discernment is in God’s hands. But the Scriptures give some strong indicators of what can happen.

What did Jesus say about the mixture of the fake with the genuine?

When I turn to Jesus, this is the truth that he proclaims:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matt 7:21-23 NIV)

Only Jesus knows the truth of the human heart and the eternal destiny of people. It is evident from these Scriptures in Matthew 7 that Jesus did not regard good deeds and supernatural miracles to be guarantees that a person is a Christian who will enter the kingdom of heaven. It is evident that people can do many good works, perform miracles, and not do the will of the heavenly Father. It sounds strange to us, but God knows this is so. In fact, God calls these kinds of people, ‘evildoers’ (NIV) or ‘workers of lawlessness’ (ESV). So, these people are false prophets, even though they perform mighty works.

Evangelical commentator, William Hendriksen, wrote of this passage:

‘Does not all of this point to the possibility that also the demon expulsions and other mighty works of which the false prophets of Matt. 7:22 boast had been nothing but sham? Have not investigations proved again and again that among false prophets illusions, trickery, sleight of hand, etc., abound, and that what is presented as genuine is very often nothing but deception?’ (Hendriksen 1973:376).

Matthew 7:23 indicates a very high Christology. Jesus decides who will enter the Kingdom on the last day and he also decides who will be banished from his presence. That he never knew these people is because they falsely claimed him as Lord.

I find it interesting how the writer of The Didache, after the close of the New Testament, puts it this way, ‘But not everyone who speaks in a spirit is a prophet, except he have the behavior of the Lord. From his behavior, then, the false prophet and the true prophet shall be known’ (Didache 11.8). This is a good summary. One can use the word, ‘Lord’, of Jesus, allege to be a prophet and perform mighty works, and still be a fraud before Christ.

Therefore, the application to the Bethel Church is that a person can perform miracles, do other good works, but engage in false teaching and still not be a Christian who will enter the Kingdom. This does not mean that there are no genuine Christians associated with this church. That discernment is in Jesus’ control. However, ‘I never knew you’ are tragic words when they think that they are doing it for Jesus. Let’s understand that who enters the kingdom will be decided by Jesus. But here in Matt 7 there are strong indicators that good works and miracles can be associated with those who claim Jesus as Lord, but he is not their Lord. These are the penetrating words of Jesus.

I understand that we would like to think that there are those who perform wonderful deeds towards the needy, are used in supernatural miracles, but proclaim false doctrine, are misled but are truly Christian. But that’s not how Jesus sees it according to Matt. 7. I have to be true to Jesus and his teaching. It will sound harsh, but I have to answer at the end of my life to the Lord for my accuracy or otherwise with my biblical teaching. I hope people understand this. There is an attack on the truth of Scripture in the contemporary world.

Mark 9:39 states, ‘But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me’ (ESV). Those who proclaim false doctrine are speaking evil of the Lord as what they proclaim is not true.

I do not believe that miracles ceased with the original 12 apostles. See my article, ‘Can cessationism be supported by Scripture and church history?

Worm and Lace

(image courtesy ChristArt)

Which Jesus?

There is the problem we face in the twenty-first century that was also there in the first century: Which Jesus are they/we serving? Is He the one who mixes falsehood with truth, or is he the one who is ‘the way, the truth and the life’ ALWAYS?

Consider these sources of falsehood and truth. We have warnings and affirmations in Scripture:

matte-red-arrow-small ‘But test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil’ (1 Thess 5:21-22 ESV).

matte-red-arrow-small‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1 ESV).

They were there in the first century. They are here n the twenty-first century. There will be the fake performed alongside the genuine. To the human eye they may look similar, but to Jesus he is the one who discerns those who knew him and those who didn’t. This we know from his teaching: Genuine good works, genuine miracles, and false teaching do not go together. They are often mixed and Christians are to be people of biblical and spiritual discernment. Too often we are not!

Therefore, the Lord calls all true believers to be people committed to the ministry of discernment:

matte-red-arrow-small ‘But test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil’ (1 Thess 5:21-22 ESV).

matte-red-arrow-small‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1 ESV).

The challenge

Here is the challenge that you and I face, whether in an overseas country or here in my country of Australia. We are to be these kinds of Christians: ‘So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes’ (Eph 4:14 ESV). It is tempting to see those who are doing massive good deeds mixed with fake miracles, to be seen as genuine. But the false and the truth cannot be mixed and come out as genuine. That’s according to Jesus and the Scriptures.

Why don’t you take a read of this article about the teaching of Bill Johnson and the Bethel Church, ‘An Invasion of Error: A Review of Bill Johnson—When Heaven Invades Earth

Part of the problem we face in the contemporary church is that teaching the truth through sound doctrine from the pulpit and in small groups is on such a low level in many evangelical churches. Many are too interested in their contemporary worship, topical sermons, and Gospel light, to be pursuing the need to teach true doctrine and refute false doctrine.

My wife and I had an experience of that in the last 18 months when we moved to a new suburb in northern Brisbane and sought an evangelical church that proclaimed sound theology in both teaching and song. We visited 8 different churches before we found one that came close to sound teaching (expository preaching from books of the Bible) and solid lyrics in the songs they sang. Most were into rock ‘n roll Christianity in their music and songs, and light sermon content.

I emailed one pastor whom I had never met as he wasn’t there and preaching when my wife and I visited his church on one occasion. I had enquired about going to one of his cell groups locally. His response was that a cell group at his church would not be suitable for me as it was ‘more contemporary than the church service’. I had not mentioned a word to him about ‘contemporary’ anything. Obviously the one person we spoke to after the service conveyed to the pastor some of the comments we made about the service. As for solid teaching in the evangelical churches, we did not find it – except for one. But the problem with this one, which we currently attend, is that it is super-traditional in all that happens in the services. However, the pastor is a sound expositor of Scripture who is not afraid to exegete the Scriptures and provide careful interpretations of the meaning.

See my articles:

silver-arrow-smallFive ingredients of a healthy church: Colossians 4:7-18‘;

silver-arrow-smallDouble faults and no aces: Margaret Court’;

silver-arrow-smallAre the dead raised today?

silver-arrow-smallSeventh Day Adventist atonement doctrine’.

T

(image courtesy ChristArt)

References

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

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 April 2016.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses wrong translation of John 1:1

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Watchtower Bible & Tract Society (world headquarters).jpg

International Headquarters, Watchtower, Brooklyn NY (Courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

The New World Translation of John 1:1 reads: ‘In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god’ (emphasis added).

The Greek of John 1:1 is found HERE.

The contentious translation is ‘the Word was a god’ as the transliterated Greek into English is theos aen ho logos. Word order is not important in Greek. However, the conjugations of the verbals and the declensions of the nouns, pronouns, adjectives, etc are important for determining where the word goes in the sentence.

The JWs have violated a fundamental of Greek grammar with their translation, ‘the Word was a god’. In Greek, the subject of this sentence is made plain because it has the definite article with it, ho logos. The complement (what we call it in Australia) or the predicate nominative after the verb to be, aen, is determined by dropping the article. So the meaning is ‘The Word was the God’. Technically in Greek this is known as Colwell’s Rule for determining which is the subject and which is the predicate nominative when a sentence contains a copulative such as the verb ‘to be’.

Colwell’s Rule originally appeared in 1933 in E. C. Colwell’s article, ‘A definite rule for the use of the article in the Greek New Testament’. Please understand that it is a general rule and there are a few exceptions.

Colwell’s Rule in Greek has been defined this way: ‘In sentences in which the copula [e.g. the verb ‘to be’ in John 1:1] is expressed, a definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb’.

We see this rule applied in John, with the translation of 1:49, ‘You are the King of Israel’. There is no definite article before ‘King’ in the Greek. Even the New World Translation has this translation of John 1:49, ‘You are King of Israel’. If it translated consistently with the way it translates John 1:1, it should at least have this translation, ‘You are a King of Israel’.

This has been a technical translation, but it is my attempt to explain why the NWT is not consistent with Greek grammar.

Here is a sound refutation of the JW translation of John 1:1, ‘John 1:1, “The word was a god”’.

 

Copyright (c) 2013 Spencer D. Gear.  This document is free content.  You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the OpenContent License (OPL) version 1.0, or (at your option) any later version.  This document last updated at Date: 9 March 2013.

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Whytehouse designs

Who is the Mormon Jesus [1]

Monday, April 30th, 2012

clip_image002

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

On Christian Fellowship Forum, Clair, a male Mormon, wrote:

I do know Christ. He is my Savior. He forgives my sins and has rescued me more than once. I love him, and I have come to trust him with my thoughts, problems, failings and hopes. He doesn’t reject me, ever.[2]

But who is the Mormon Jesus who is Clair’s Saviour? Mormon elder, Bernard P. Brockbank, of the First Quorum of the Seventy, stated in, ‘The living Christ’, May 1977, that

it is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

There is further evidence of the Mormon’s different Jesus:

In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints “do not believe in the traditional Christ. No, I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. He, together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more of the nature of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages.

“Am I Christian? Of course I am. I believe in Christ. I talk of Christ. I pray through Christ. I’m trying to follow Him and live His gospel in my life” (LDS Church News, ‘Crown of gospel is on our heads’, June 20, 1998).

How is the Mormon doctrine of Jesus different from the orthodox Christian view of Jesus as expounded in the Bible? The following are but a few examples of this false doctrine of Christ.

1. How was Jesus conceived?

“When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who was the Father? He is the first of the human family; and when he took a tabernacle (Body), it was begotten by his Father in heaven, after the same manner as the tabernacles of Cain, Abel and the rest of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve; from the

fruits of the earth, the first earthly tabernacles were originated by the Father and son in succession…..Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven” (Journal of Discourses, 1:50-51)

The Bible’s position is: “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit'” (Matt. 1:20).

Thus the Mormon Jesus is different from the biblical Jesus.

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ChristArt

2. Where was Jesus born?

Both OT & NT confirm that Christ, the Messiah, was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4-16, Matt. 2:1-16; John 7:42). But the Mormons teach that Jesus was born in the city of Jerusalem.

In my copy of The Book of Mormon Alma 7:10 reads,

And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

Again, the Mormon Jesus is different from the biblical Jesus.

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2 John 7, ChristArt

3. Jesus is a spirit child of a heavenly Father and Mother

The Bible declares that Jesus is God: “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6)

The LDS Jesus was a spirit child of a heavenly Father and Mother and Jesus had brothers, including Satan.

In this Mormon Gospel Library Lesson, ‘Jesus Christ volunteered to be our Savior’, it summarised this aspect of LDS false doctrine:

1. In the premortal life we were spirit children and lived with our heavenly parents (Hebrews 12:9).

2. Jesus was the firstborn spirit child of Heavenly Father (D&C 93:21) and is the older brother of our spirits.

3. Lucifer, who became Satan, was also a spirit child of Heavenly Father.

4. Heavenly Father called a meeting for all his spirit children. At this meeting he explained his plan for us to become like him. He told us that he wanted us to go to earth to get a physical body. He explained that on earth we would be tested to see if we would keep his commandments.

The Mormon heavenly father was once a human being who “became” God. And all obedient Mormons have the potential to become a god like Jesus and the heavenly Father. We can have spirit children with our eternal wives.

“It is our privilege to so live as to enjoy the spirit of our religion. That is designed to restore us to the presence of the Gods. Gods exist, and we had better strive to be prepared to be one with them” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:238)

Lorenzo Snow was the fifth president and prophet of mainstream Mormonism. One of his most famous statements was, ‘As man is, God once was: as God is, man may become’. The mormonwiki site states that ‘this short sentence summarizes the traditional understanding of what Joseph Smith taught in the ‘Sermon in the Grove’ and, most famously, in the ‘King Follett Discourse’ (Part 1; Part 2).

Again, the Mormon Jesus is different from the biblical Jesus.

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ChristArt

See the article of refutation by Bill McKeever, ‘As God Is Man May Be’.

4. Jesus was married

The NT Scriptures do not indicate that Jesus married, but the LDS documents state:

“It will be borne in mind that once on a time, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and on a careful reading of that transaction, it will be discovered that no less a person than Jesus Christ was married on that occasion. If he was never married, his intimacy with Mary and Martha, and the other Mary also whom Jesus loved, must have been highly unbecoming and improper to say the best of it” (Apostle Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses, 4:259).

The Apostle Orson Hyde also stated:

Jesus was the bridegroom atthe marriage of Cana of Galilee, and he told them what to do.

Now there was actually a marriage; and if Jesus was not the bridegroom on that occasion, please tell who was. If any man can show this, and prove that it was not the Savior of the world, then I will acknowledge I am in error. We say it was Jesus Christ who was married, to be brought into the relation whereby he could see his seed, before he was crucified. (Apostle Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses, 2:82)

The Mormon Jesus is different from the biblical Jesus.

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ChristArt

5. What about the doctrine of salvation?

Read this statement carefully from the Book of Mormon to get an understanding of the Mormon view of how to obtain salvation:

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23).

For Mormons, salvation is ‘by grace’ AND ‘all we can do’.

See these articles:

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How should Bible-believing, evangelical Christians respond?

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ChristArt

No matter how much a Mormon may say that “I do know Christ. He is my Savior. He forgives my sins and has rescued me more than once. I love him, and I have come to trust him,” the LDS evidence affirms that the Mormon Jesus is ANOTHER JESUS.

How am I to respond to a Mormon when he or she proclaims another Jesus? I answer in the same way that Paul taught the Galatians:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9 ESV).

Paul’s words are strong words and they must be my words to Clair, the Mormon, “Let him be accursed”. I did not invent these words and this result! To be honest to Jesus and biblical Christianity, I must have the same antidote that Paul, the apostle, gave.

This article provides a brief comparison between Christian doctrine and Mormon doctrine to show that Mormonism is not Christian. So my description of Mormon doctrine being anti-Christian is right on target.[3]

I recommend the article, ‘Who is the “Living Christ” of Mormonism?’ by Mormon Research Ministry. For excellent critiques of Mormon false doctrine, I recommend:

Notes:


[1] ozspen reply to cellisut (a Mormon), Christian Fellowship Forum (CFF), Contentious Brethren, “If you only . . .” #12, available from: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=11&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=118642 (Accessed 7 October 2008). Much of the following I have also made as a reply to cellisut on 30 April 2012, CFF, Bible Study & Discipleship, ‘My hypothesis of the trinity’, #78, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=77&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=121124 (Accessed 30 April 2012).

[2] cellisut, CFF, #4, 5 October 2008, ‘If you only . . .’, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=1&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=118642 (Accessed 30 April 2012).

[3] In another post to me on 29 April 2012, Clair had stated, ‘Spencer, that’s pretty insulting language. Meanwhile, I’m off to attend our church services, to partake the bread and water in remembrance of our Lord Jesus Christ. I have been asked to offer the opening prayer today, so I had better be early. If you were here, you could come with me’ (Christian Fellowship Forum, Bible Study & Discipleship, ‘My hypothesis of the trinity’, #77, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?msg=121124.77&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship (Accessed 30 April 2012). I, as ozspen, had stated in #76 of this thread: ‘Because Mormonism wants to be seen as ‘Christian’, but many of its doctrines are anti-Christian, it becomes an effort at redefinition. Or, Mormons want to make their cult doctrines look Christian so the slippery definitions come in’.

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2015.

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Refutation of Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine of what happens at death

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Seventh-Day Adventist Church logo.svg

courtesy Wikipedia

By Spencer D Gear

What happens to human beings at death? Do unbelievers go to Hades (“hell” in some translations of the New Testament) and believers go into the presence of the Lord at death? This has been traditionally known as the doctrine of the intermediate state – where human beings go between death and the final resurrection.[1]

The late John Stott, evangelical stalwart from the UK, stated in an interview with Christianity Today,

In Evangelical Essentials, I described as “tentative” my suggestion that “eternal punishment” may mean the ultimate annihilation of the wicked rather than their eternal conscious torment. I would prefer to call myself agnostic on this issue, as are a number of New Testament scholars I know. In my view, the biblical teaching is not plain enough to warrant dogmatism. There are awkward texts on both sides of the debate.

The hallmark of an authentic evangelicalism is not the uncritical repetition of old traditions but the willingness to submit every tradition, however ancient, to fresh biblical scrutiny and, if necessary, reform.[2]

Since Seventh-Day Adventists believe in soul sleep[3] for the believer and annihilation[4] for the wicked, they regularly promote this view on forums on the www. Here I encountered one example on Christian Fellowship Forum (I’m ozspen).

Harold is an active Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) who promotes SDA doctrine on this Forum. Here is one example of Harold’s response after I challenged his method of proof-texting. He wrote:

“And you will continue to listen to anyone else who agrees with you instead of reading your own Bible.

Why do you think God gave such a warning about talking to the dead?  Why is He so insistant (sic) on staying away from any hint of spiritualism?  Simply because He knows that the dead are dead and the only other entities you can talk to are Satan’s angels.

What is wrong with using texts??  Here:  refute these:

Ecc. 9:5  “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 6  Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.” How dead is dead?

Ecc. 9:10  “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”   Isn’t that where we all are going?????

Just try to reinterpret those”.[5]

I responded to him directly[6] when he stated: “And you will continue to listen to anyone else who agrees with you instead of reading your own Bible”.

I am a long-term student of the Scriptures and believe it or not, Harold, I interpret in context and I do not spout forth what your SDA denomination has told you about these verses. You stated:

“What is wrong with using texts??  Here:  refute these:
Ecc. 9:5  “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 6  Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.” How dead is dead?
Ecc. 9:10  “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”    Isn’t that where we all are going?????
Just try to reinterpret those.”

Let’s try an excellent, contemporary translation of these three verses from Ecclesiastes 9:

5For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. 6Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun…..10Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” (English Standard Version)

Of verses 5 & 6 of Ecclesiastes 9, you ask, “How dead is dead?” On the surface these verses could be thought of as saying what you want them to say that there is nothing or annihilation after death. What do these verses say?

  • We need to remember that the Book of Ecclesiastes is not as Gospel savvy as the Gospel of John. Why? Because the Scriptures teach progressive revelation. Much more is revealed in the NT about salvation and the after-life than the OT. Remember that the Book of Ecclesiastes is written to people “under the sun” (1:3) and is explaining life and death from a human perspective.
  • Eccl. 9:5 states that “the living know that they will die”. This is nothing profound, but the application is that a living person has a distinct advantage that he/she knows that death is coming and can arrange many things in life to prepare for that event.
  • But for those who have died, they “know nothing”. So for them, any opportunity to arrange anything for life after death is gone. Their human knowledge has ceased as they are no longer on the earth. From your perspective, you think that this is a flat denial of any conscious existence in the intermediate state. That IS NOT what this verse teaches. This book is written for those “under the sun” (those in this world). It is not a statement about the state of the dead in the intermediate state after they die. It is only expressing the relation of the dead to this world (as is also stated in 9:6). The limitation of knowledge for the dead is based on the limitation expressed by the context of 9:3, “in all that is done under the sun”. 9:6 interprets 9:5 as the love, hate and envy also have perished. The dead are not able to love, hate and envy anybody “under the sun”. And do you know what, Harold? v. 6 says that “forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun”. That’s the interpretation of 9:5 – the “dead know nothing” of what is happening in this world, “under the sun”.
  • When you proof-text on this Forum, you do yourself a disservice in your own attempts to accurately interpret a verse. But even worse, you force this false interpretation onto others who don’t agree with you. Eccl. 9:5 & 6 DO NOT teach what you want them to say. A good course in hermeneutics would teach contextual biblical interpretation, which you have not done. Instead, you want to proof-text and take verses in isolation from the context.

Taking isolated verses from Ecclesiastes as you do (and with other OT passages on Christian Fellowship Forum) and pushing them to the limits of what you think they mean, is not satisfactory exegesis of the text, especially when there are hefty statements like Eccl. 12:7 that contradict what you want to say about life after death, “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (ESV).

Because the Bible gives a non-contradictory message throughout, your interpretation of Eccl. 9:5-6, 10 MUST agree with Eccl. 12:7. Your teaching does not cause this to happen. Why? Because your SDA presuppositions are being imposed on the text and making it say what it does not say. You stated,

So, I have refuted your views no Eccl. 9:5-6. Please don’t ever get back to me and say that I don’t take seriously the verses you give.
Now to Eccl. 9:10. You ask: “Isn’t that where we all are going?????”

Verse 10 states, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going” (ESV).

This verse makes these emphases:

  • It affirms what nobody should question that during this life there are certain things available to us with certain results. When this life is over and death comes, have a guess what? There is no way that you, I or anybody else could make up for what we did not do in this life?
  • Jesus affirmed this in John 9:4, “We must work the works of him who sent us while it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (ESV).
  • Eccl. 9:10 and John 9:4 both confirm that earthly activities, what is done “under the sun”, cannot continue into the intermediate state when we die.
  • There is no attempt to describe from all angles what will happen after death with a person’s experience in Sheol. So, for you to use this verse to attempt to prove annihilation or soul sleep is completely outside of what Eccl. 9:10 is saying.

What is Sheol? Bob Deffinbaugh in, “A Hell to Shun“, accurately states that, “ Sheol seems to refer primarily to the abode of the dead, righteous or wicked, leaving the matter of their bliss or torment largely unspoken in most instances”.[7] He states:

In the Old Testament, the principle word employed for the abode of the dead is Sheol. Unfortunately, of its 65 occurrences in the Old Testament, the King James Version translates Sheol “hell” 31 times, “grave” 31 times, and “pit” 3 times. The result is that Old Testament saints, who had a sure hope of life beyond the grave (cf. Hebrews 11), seemed to fear or experience hell:

The cords of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me (2 Samuel 22:6).

If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there (Psalm 139:8).

… and he said, “I called out of my distress to the Lord, And He answered me. I called for help from the depth of Sheol. Thou didst hear my voice” (Jonah 2:2).

On the other hand, Sheol was also the place where the wicked would go:

The wicked will return to Sheol, Even all the nations who forget God (Psalm 9:17).

Let death come deceitfully upon them; Let them go down alive to Sheol, For evil is in their dwelling, in their midst (Psalm 55:15).

The translation “hell” seems inaccurate and unfortunate in most, if not all, of the Old Testament passages where the word Sheol is encountered. Sheol seems to refer primarily to the abode of the dead, righteous or wicked, leaving the matter of their bliss or torment largely unspoken in most instances. Occasions of imminent danger are sometimes described as though death were certain, and thus they were facing Sheol (e.g. 2 Samuel 22:6).

This does not mean, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain, that the Old Testament did not speak of judgment after death. It simply was not described by the term Sheol.

Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits (Isaiah 26:19).[8]

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

We must conclude, then, that in the Old Testament the term “hell” was a poor choice of words with which to render the Hebrew term Sheol.

So for you, Harold, to ask, “How dead is dead?” of vv. 5-6 and to ask  of v. 10, “Isn’t that where we all are going?????”, you want to make it mean that there is no knowledge in the afterlife. You want Eccl. 9:5-6, 10 to teach your view of deadness after death and that there is no knowledge where the dead are. This is absolutely false teaching. Your view is NOT what these verses mean.

You do what many false teachers do. You make verses state what they don’t say. You proof-text without interpreting in context. I believe in careful exegesis in context. I have done that for you here and the verses you quote do not mean what your SDA teaching forces them to say.

Appendix A

How did Harold respond to the above refutation of his doctrine?[9]

1.  We need to remember that the Book of Ecclesiastes is not as Gospel savvy as the Gospel of John.

Spencer, are you saying that what you say is more important than what Paul says?  “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: ”   That does not say, “some scripture”.

My response:

This is what happens when you don’t quote the context of what I said. This is exactly what I wrote in context:

“We need to remember that the Book of Ecclesiastes is not as Gospel savvy as the Gospel of John. Why? Because the Scriptures teach progressive revelation. Much more is revealed in the NT about salvation and the after-life than the OT”.

Perhaps you didn’t understand my use of “savvy” (“savvy” is a verb meaning to “know, understand“), but the context of that word clearly states what I meant – we know more clearly what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is in the Gospel of John than in the Book of Ecclesiastes. God unfolds more of the specifics of the Gospel in the NT than he does in the OT. This is known as progressive revelation.[10]

You quote the classic Scripture from 2 Tim. 3:16 of the inspiration/authority of Scripture. What I wrote does not in any way deny the authority of Scripture as stated in this verse. Progressive revelation is a fact of what we see in the inspired Scriptures. God tells us more of his unfolding plan of redemption in the NT than he revealed in the OT.

2. On the surface these verses could be thought of as saying what you want them to say that there is nothing or annihilation after death.

I don’t think that we are told, anywhere, to read between the lines.  Could that be the problem?

My response:

Don’t you know the difference between “on the surface” and “to read between the lines”? I did not say the latter. This is your going off at a tangent! What did I really say in context? This is how I put it: “Of verses 5 & 6 of Ecclesiastes 9, you ask, ‘How dead is dead?’ On the surface these verses could be thought of as saying what you want them to say that there is nothing or annihilation after death. What do these verses say?” Then I provided 4 points of exposition [see above].

You have a very bad habit of pulling a sentence to make it say what you want it to say, but that is not what I stated in context. This is a major problem that you have with biblical interpretation. You are a whiz at pulling a verse here and there to say what you want it to say – on this topic or annihilation or soul sleep. But when it comes to interpreting in context, which I tried to do with Eccl. 9:5-6, 10, you did what you often do with the scriptural interpretation. You create a straw man logical fallacy by making a sentence say what I did not state in context.

3. Their human knowledge has ceased as they are no longer on the earth. From your perspective, you think that this is a flat denial of any conscious existence in the intermediate state.

What gives you the idea that there is any consciousness after death?  There is only one text that even hints at that, and that text is a parable. I have sent over sixty texts that state, clearly, that the dead are dead. Sleeping is what it says.  Jesus said the same thing.  Doesn’t what He says count?  Study the story of the death of Lazarus.  Martha knew where her brother was.  She knew about the resurrection.  What has happened in the last days?  I’ll tell you.  Someone has changed the idea so there would be a better reception for spiritualism. What did God say about that?   NO.  Why?  Because the dead are dead and can not talk to anyone.
What would be the point of having a resurrection if you weren’t even dead?  Why would all the Bible writers speak of the ‘saints’ sleeping in their graves?

My response:

You stated that the teaching on consciousness after death comes from only one parable and you state that you have over 60 texts to demonstrate that the dead are dead – they are sleeping.

Now let’s check only a sample of Scriptures.

The Old Testament gives us little indication of a glorious hope for life after death and beyond the grave and what will happen to unbelievers after death. We have more comprehensive theology about such in the NT.

However, we do have some pointers in the Old Covenant, one of which you have mentioned.

We do know that the OT teaches life after death. All people, whether believers or unbelievers, went to a place of conscious existence called Sheol (a word in the original Hebrew of the OT. These are examples of the use of Sheol: Unbelievers were there (Psalm 9:17; 31:17; 49:14; Isaiah 5:14), as were the righteous (Genesis 37:35; Job 14:13; Psalm 6:5; 16:10; 88:3; Isaiah 38:10).

However, we do not need to go only to the OT to determine the nature of life after death (the intermediate state) for both believers and unbelievers under the Old Covenant. We do need to remain under the OT dispensation to know the fate of saints and sinners. The NT also has details.

The NT equivalent of Sheol is Hades. In the OT era, prior to Christ’s death and resurrection, we know from Luke 16:19-31 (the story of the rich man and Lazarus) that Hades is divided into two places. Lazarus, the poor man, was in a place of comfort (Luke 16:22-23) called “Abraham’s bosom/side” (Lk. 16:22). The rich man was in a place of torment in Hades. The word hell (some translations) in Lk. 16:23 is not “Gehenna” (place of eternal torment) but “Hades” (place of the dead). But it is important to notice that Lazarus’s place of comfort is elsewhere called Paradise (Luke 23:43). Between these two districts of Hades is “a great gulf fixed” (Luke 16:26).

We know from Luke 16:23, the unbelieving rich man was in Sheol/Hades, “being in torment” (ESV) and there is no way, after death, to be able to move from Abraham’s bosom/side to the torment side of Hades occupied by unbelievers. For unbelievers in Hades we do know that it is a place of “anguish in this flame” (Lk. 16:24). “Anguish” is also the word used in v. 25.  Since this is a parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the “flame” is a metaphor to give a pointed description of the seriousness of punishment in Hades for the unbeliever.

There are a few points (based on Hendriksen 1978:874-785) to note about this parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31):

  1. Even though it is a parable, it does teach clear truth about the afterlife and what happens at death.
  2. Some of the language may not be taken literally, but it nonetheless teaches truth about the afterlife. Let’s look at some specifics:
  3. The popular view that Hades is the place of the dead for both believers and non-believers is incorrect according to the Gospels, and this parable speaks of Hades as the place of torments and flame (hell, if you like) for the unbelieving rich man. In Matt. 11:23 and Luke 10:15, Hades is sharply contrasted with heaven.
  4. What happens at death. In this parable, truths are communicated that the departed at death are not asleep (the opposite of soul sleep) but are very much alive. Also, some are saved and others are suffering.
  5. Once a person dies and his/her soul is separated from the body, the condition of being blessed or doomed is forever. It is fixed and there is never any second chance.
  6. The rich man is in torment and in the flame. Is this literal or metaphorical? We know that hell is a place of fire or the flame in other passages from OT and NT: Isa. 33:14; 66:24; Matt. 3:12; 5:22; 13:40, 42, 50; 18:8, 9; 25:41; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 3:17; Jude 7; Rev. 14:10 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; and 21:8. This fire is unquenchable and devours forever. We know that this is figurative language because …
  7. The abode of unbelievers at death also is described as “outer darkness” (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). Evil spirits are kept there “in everlasting chains under darkness” (Jude 6; cf. Jude 13).
  8. If Hades is a contrasting place of light (fire) and darkness, we are talking metaphorically of what it is like. We know this kind of distinction on the human level when we hear of people who have been seriously burned by a certain kind of radiation even though they were in a dark room when they received it. Hendriksen recommends not speculating on how this happens – torment in flames and darkness.
  9. We also know that the everlasting fire is prepared “for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41) who are spirits. This should be enough to convince us that the language of fire, darkness and torment for unbelievers at death should not be taken literally. However, the truth should be very clear. For unbelievers at death, these pictures indicate “the terrors of the lost in the place [Hades] from which there is no return” (Hendriksen 1978:785).

The Scriptures, although not detailed, are clear that at death a person’s spirit “returned to God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7 ESV) – I’ll give more on the interpretation of this verse below. According to John 11:17-26, to live and believe is followed by never dying. Jesus was crystal clear that everyone who lives and believes in Him shall never ever die ultimately. Death for the believer does not interrupt this eternal life that began at the point of commitment to Christ while on earth.

Paul stated that “we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). To the thief on the cross, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

The SDAs & JWs want to shift the comma to say, “Truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise,” meaning that Jesus said it to the thief on that very day and that it had nothing to do with the thief being with Jesus in Paradise on that very day.

There were no punctuation marks, breaks between words, or clearly defined sentences (as we understand them in English) in the original Greek of the NT. Therefore, how do we interpret this statement? Greek scholars have called the SDA/JW interpretation various things, including “grammatically senseless” (Lutzer 1997:49) because it was obvious that Jesus was speaking to the thief on that very day. Jesus could not have been saying it in the past or in the future. Christ was giving assurance to the thief that on that very day they would both meet in Paradise.

Why is the final destiny of the redeemed variously described in the NT as heaven (Col. 1:5), Paradise (Luke 23:43), and Abraham’s bosom/side (Luke 16:22)?

We have no difficulty referring to a house as a residence, mansion, dwelling, and perhaps a palace for some. God has no difficulty referring to heaven by these various designations that mean the same place (see also 2 Cor. 12).

There is a need in the church for clear teaching on the nature of heaven and hell, but your view is contrary to Scripture, even though you want to believe otherwise.

What about the souls of unbelievers at death?

Jesus stated in the story (parable) of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 that the rich man, the unbeliever, went to “Hades, being in torment” (v. 23). The “wicked servant” will go to the place where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 24:51).

What is the conclusion?

For believers and unbelievers, when they die, the soul and body are separated. The souls go to their respective places and are alive. For believers, they go immediately into the presence of the Lord.

Immortality means the eternal, continuous, conscious existence of the soul after the death of the body (Lorraine Boettner).

4. When you do proof-texting on this Forum, you do yourself a disservice in your own attempts to accurately interpret a verse.

I don’t interpret a verse. I post it.  When the Bible says that the dead are sleeping in their graves, I do not try to change anything.  Why would I?  Nobody has taught me a thing about the Bible. I started reading it at about 55 years of age.  I didn’t ask anyone what it said. I comparred text with text until it became clear what the Word was telling me.  I will not back down from that.  The Bible is full of clear texts that state what happens to you when you die.  You can post all sorts of statements from someone else, but if it does not agree with what the Bible says, I will ignore it.

My response:

Harold, you are kidding yourself when you say, “I don’t interpret a verse. I post it”. On this forum you have continuously interpreted verses to support your theology of annihilation and soul sleep.

Your idea of people sleeping in the grave at death is taking a metaphor for what the body looks like at death and making it relate to what happens in the intermediate state – between death and the final resurrection at Christ’s second coming. God’s word tells us something quite different from your interpreted conclusions. Please don’t try to deceive us that you don’t interpret verses. You do and you need to be truthful and own up to it.

5. That’s the interpretation of [Ecclesiastes] 9:5 – the “dead know nothing” of what is happening in this world, “under the sun”.

Where else would they be?  They are dead.

My response: Again, your presuppositions are driving you. Your SDA view of what happens at death (annihilation for the wicked and soul sleep for the believers) is driving your view of “they are dead”. I showed you the meaning of Eccl. 9:5 with this statement:

  • Eccl. 9:5 states that “the living know that they will die”. This is nothing profound, but the application is that a living person has a distinct advantage that he/she knows that death is coming and can arrange many things in life to prepare for that event.
  • But for those who have died, they “know nothing”. So for them, any opportunity to arrange anything for life after death is gone. Their human knowledge has ceased as they are no longer on the earth. From your perspective, you think that this is a flat denial of any conscious existence in the intermediate state. That IS NOT what this verse teaches. This book is written for those “under the sun” (those in this world). It is not a statement about the state of the dead in the intermediate state after they die. It is only expressing the relation of the dead to this world (as is also stated in 9:6). The limitation of knowledge for the dead is based on the limitation expressed by the context of 9:3, “in all that is done under the sun”. 9:6 interprets 9:5 as the love, hate and envy also have perished. The dead are not able to love, hate and envy anybody “under the sun”. And do you know what, Harold? v. 6 says that “forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun”. That’s the interpretation of 9:5 – the “dead know nothing” of what is happening in this world, “under the sun”.

You don’t refute this, but you give me your presuppositions again, “They are dead”, reinforcing your understanding of “the dead are dead”. I provided an exposition of these relevant passages in Eccl. 9 but you have not refuted these.

6. Eccl. 12:7, “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (ESV). Because the Bible gives a non-contradictory message throughout, your interpretation of Eccl. 9:5-6 MUST agree with Eccl. 12:7.

And it does.  WHAT is spirit?  BREATH.  That is the only thing God gave Adam at creation. “Adam BECAME a living soul.” Period.  He didn’t get one.  He WAS one.

My response: Why is it that your favourite KJV does not translate it your way? Eccl. 12:7 reads, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (KJV). Other translations read: “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (ESV); “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (NIV).

Not one of these main translations provides a translation of “spirit” as “breath”. Why? Because that is not what the word means in context. You engage in what you claim you don’t do – you interpreted Eccl. 12:7 according to your SDA doctrine of soul sleep/annihilation. You do not want it to mean what it states in context, so you invent what it doesn’t mean, “breath”.

How do we know that “spirit” in Eccl. 12:7 does not mean “breath”? (1) Take a look at the context in Eccl. 12:5 states what is happening at death, “Man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets” (ESV). What happens at death as breath ceases is not what is stated in Eccl. 12. It is referring to human beings going to their “eternal home”, which means at death, “The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (ESV). How do we know?

Eccl. 3:21 asks, “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (KJV). The implication is that the spirit of beasts perishes with the body (goeth downward to the earth), but the human spirit survives death (as in Eccl. 12:5-7). It is inaccurate contextual interpretation to say that “the breath of man goeth upward”. Why? Because at death, the breath ceases but the person lives on.

Psalm 104:29 also emphasises that the breath ceases at death: “Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust” (KJV). Cf. Gen. 3:19; Job 10:9; Ps. 90:3; 103:14; and Eccl. 3:20.

You have a very limited understanding of what God gave Adam at creation. In Gen. 25:8, according to the KJV, the Lord told Abram (he was not yet Abraham) that he would be “gathered to his people” and that he would be buried in a designated cave “old … and full of years”. The phrase, “gathered to his people” means more that simply “going to the grave”. We know from Scripture that the body returns to dust at death and the soul/spirit is “gathered to” a person’s loved ones.

You stated, “‘Adam BECAME a living soul.’ Period.  He didn’t get one.  He WAS one”.

Gen. 2:7 states, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (ESV). The phrase for a human being, “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”, indicates that the Creator provided the vital breath for the first human being and continues to give that breath until the moment of death. You want to emphasise that the distinctive aspect of human beings is “breath” (Eccl. 12:7) but this cannot be maintained consistently in Scripture.

Also, you claim that Adam WAS a living soul and did not become one. We need to remember that in Gen. 2:7, the author of Genesis is reporting that lifeless clay became animate by the breath of God. In Gen. 2:7, the word “soul” or “living being’ is the Hebrew nephesh because the nephesh is the animate thing in a human being. “God’s Spirit animates the soul, though in a higher sense than it the case with the soul of beasts…. Koenig correctly defines: ‘According to 2:7 the soul is that portion of the spirit which is breathed into man”” (Leupold 1942:117).

7. Eccl. 9:10 and John 9:4 both confirm that earthly activities, what is done “under the sun”, cannot continue into the intermediate state when we die.

Who fed you that word, “intermediate”??  It isn’t in MY Bible.

My response: You are being hypocritical here, Harold. Who fed your denomination the words, “Investigative Judgment”? The words, “investigative judgement” are not in the Bible. They are the words of one of your founders, Ellen White. For a refutation of investigative judgment, see, “Seventh Day Adventism profile“.

I have very briefly explained the biblical doctrine of the intermediate state above.

8. There is no attempt to describe from all angles what will happen after death with a person’s experience in Sheol.

Of course there isn’t.  Small wonder.  You are dead.  There are no experiences.

Now. Everything you have posted, I have answered.  Does it make any difference?  Probably not.  YOu are sold on the immortality of the soul, not taught in any Bible, and you will probably go on believing that lie.  I don’t know what to do about it.  If you don’t believe Jesus, then who can you believe?

John 3:”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  There are dead people and there are people who receive eternal life.  You can NOT have it both ways.  Somebody in there perishes.

My response: I am sold on what the Bible teaches. As explained above, when the last breath leaves my body and I am dead, that is not the end of the story. I have shown you from Scripture over and over the biblical teaching on the immortality of the soul. See my brief article, The immortality of the soul. I have explained some of this material many times for you on Christian Fellowship Forum but you have such a fixation with the SDA teaching that you don’t seem to be open to what the Bible actually teaches. Sadly, you will have to wait to death before you find the truth.

You quote John 3:16 and then add your interpretation:

“John 3:”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  There are dead people and there are people who receive eternal life.  You can NOT have it both ways.  Somebody in there perishes”.

But you don’t read the rest of the Bible for you to make that kind of statement. You have forgotten these verses:

  • John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (KJV). So, the unbeliever is experiencing the wrath of God at death. What is that like?
  • Matthew 25:31-46 states it in terms of the final judgment, the sheep (believers) will be placed on the right and the goats (unbelievers) on his left. What will happen finally to these goats and sheep? “And these [the unrighteous goats] shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt. 25:46). So the length of the punishment for the unrighteous is as long as the life for the righteous at death – eternal. It goes on for eternity.

What is the meaning of “perish” in John 3:16? It will be consistent with: to lose one’s life (John 12:25) and to be doomed to destruction (John 17:12, which uses a cognate of “to perish”). Leon Morris states with regard to “perish”,

“Neither here nor anywhere else in the New Testament is the dreadful reality behind this word ‘perish’ brought out. But in all its parts there is the recognition that there is such a reality awaiting the finally impenitent…. John sets perishing and life starkly over against one another. He knows no other final state” (1971:230).

We know from the verses that follow John 3:16 that to perish is the opposite of being saved (3:17); it is to be judged (3:18); it is to be reproved or convicted (3:20). Thus, “to perish” is denoting utter rejection of God (it is the aorist subjunctive, in 3:16) and the middle voice is used, indicating a person is doing that himself/herself. John 3:17 explains what it means, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (KJV).

To perish does not indicate the end of physical existence, the ceasing of the breath. As John 3:17 confirms, it is the everlasting experience of God’s condemnation; being banished from the God of love and experiencing the God of wrath – forever, eternally. While the unbeliever experiences a dimension of this in the present life, body and soul will experience it at the consummation of all things at the end of the age for eternity.

N. T. Wright (2003:xix), in his magnificent exposition on The Resurrection of the Son of God (817 pages), has stated: ‘When ancient Jews, pagans and Christians used the word “sleep” to denote death, they were using a metaphor to refer to a concrete state of affairs. We sometimes use the same language the other way round: a heaver sleeper is “dead to the world”‘.

Works consulted

Norman Geisler 2005. Systematic Theology: Church, Last Things (vol. 4). Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House.

William Hendriksen 1978. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

H. C. Leupold 1942. Exposition of Genesis (vol. 1). London: Evangelical Press.

Erwin W. Lutzer 1997. One Minute After You Die: A Preview of Your Final Destination. Chicago: Moody Press.

Leon Morris 1971. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

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

Notes:


[1] Of the intermediate state, Norman Geisler has written that “the Bible teaches that between death and resurrection, the human soul/spirit survives consciously apart from its body. This is neither a state of annihilation nor a state of conscious ‘sleep’; this is an eternal state of conscious bliss for the saved and conscious anguish for the lost” (2005:253).

[2] John Stott’s interview with Roy McCloughry 1996, “Basic Stott”, in Christianity Today, 8 January 1996, available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/septemberweb-only/9-1-51.0.html (Accessed 15 August 2011).

[3] The Seventh-Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are prominent promoters of the doctrine of soul sleep. Proponents of soul sleep “claim the dead are not conscious between death and resurrection” (Geisler 2005:247). For my refutation of soul sleep, see, “Soul sleep: A refutation“.

[4] “Annihilationism is the doctrine that the wicked will not suffer an everlasting conscious hell. Annihilationism is also called conditional immortality…. [It] holds that unbelievers, who will not have received God’s gift of salvation, will be snuffed out of existence after the final judgment; accordingly, they will experience no eternal conscious torment forever. It is alleged that this view of the unsaved’s destiny most fully upholds God’s mercy, that nonexistence is the best alternative for the unrepentant sinner. Annihilationists argue that while the lost cannot enjoy everlasting bliss with the righteous, they aren’t deserving of conscious eternal wrath” (Geisler 2005:390). See my article, “The immortality of the soul“, which incorporates a refutation of annihilationism.

[5] Christian Fellowship Forum (CFF), Contentious Brethren, “Side topic: Annihilation”, #16, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=1&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=120786 (Accessed 15 August 2011).

[6] My response is at #25 on CFF. I have edited some of my CFF response for this article. I have incorporated some content from H. C. Leupold 1969. Exposition of Ecclesiastes. London: Evangelical Press, pp. 211-218.

[8] Ibid.

[9] My statements are in bold. Harold’s statements follow the bold, are indented, and then I give my response.

[10] Article V of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy defines progressive revelation this way: “We affirm that God’ s revelation in the Holy Scriptures was progressive. We deny that later revelation, which may fulfill earlier revelation, ever corrects or contradicts it. We further deny that any normative revelation has been given since the completion of the New Testament writings”.

Copyright (c) 2012 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date: 9 October 2015.

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