Archive for the 'Theology' Category

Perpetual virginity of Mary promoted by false document

Monday, April 24th, 2017

File:Blessed Virgin Mary.jpg

(Blessed Virgin Mary, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

A Roman Catholic explanation is:

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

Here is how some Roman Catholics argue:

1. Roman Catholic support for The Protoevangelium of James

A person online wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Luther

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

John Calvin

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

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

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

John Wesley

‘I believe that He [Jesus] was made man, joining the human nature with the divine in one person; being conceived by the singular operation of the Holy Ghost, and born of the blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought Him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin’ (‘Letter to a Roman Catholic’, The Works of Rev. John Wesley, vol 10, p. 81).

3. Was it plagiarised information about the Protestant details?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Logical fallacies and promotion of perpetual virginity

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

 

Example 1

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

This was one person’s RC reply:[7]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example 2

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

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

Example 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now to his rejection of the sole biblical authority.

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

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

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

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

See the article, ‘What is sola scriptura?

Example 4

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

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

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

5. What is the origin of perpetual virginity?

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

 

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

Gregory Elder’s assessment of this document is:

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

6. Evidence for Jesus’ brothers and sisters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Roman Catholic and other commentaries affirming perpetual virginity

One RC person online wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Lambert (2012) concluded that

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

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

8. Assessment by a few Protestant commentators

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

8.1   William Hendriksen

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

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

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

An RC response by Fr. Geiger is:

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

8.2   R C H Lenski

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

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

8.3   D A Carson

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

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

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

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

9. There is no perpetual virginity of Mary

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(which means, God with us).

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

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

Flower16 The virgin birth of Christ

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

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

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

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

10. Works consulted

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

[4] Ibid., BreadOfLife#707.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#711.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#692.

[7] Ibid., tom55#715.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#722.

[9] Ibid., BreadOfLife#729.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#730.

[11] Ibid., BreadOfLife#731.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#733.

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

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

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

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#742.

[17] Ibid., OzSpen#724.

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

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

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

 

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

Christians do not sin!

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

Do Christians sin after they become believers in Christ? Of course they do! They commit some sinful actions. However, occasionally I meet a person – generally online – who uses the KJV to try to prove that Christians don’t sin.

I met another one of these and I tried to respond biblically to him/her.[1]

a. Christ made us sinless?

Let’s try somebody else on another Christian forum. He made the comment: ‘all theology is flawed’,[2] to which I responded, ‘That’s because you and I are flawed, imperfect, ineffective and sinful’.[3] His comeback was to cite 1 John 3:9 in the KJV and added:

We are joint heirs in the body of Christ by his Blood.

God cannot look upon sin ,therefore we through Christ have been redeemed from the flawed sin nature into the perfection of the body of Christ.
All men have sinned, but Christ has made us sinless by his Blood.[4]

This is false theology that ‘Christ has made us sinless by his Blood’, so I responded: ‘Christ has not made us sinless by his blood sacrifice. This sacrifice means I am justified by faith – declared righteous. It’s a legal position before God’.[5] Then I proceeded to provide the following exegesis for him.

1 John 3:9 in the King James Version of the Bible states: ‘Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God’.

Some have interpreted this to mean that Christians do not sin. I was responding to this statement:

I believe the issue is now, a matter of the fear that if/when we do presently sin, then how can we claim to have Christ? Or to rephrase, the problem is how is it that we could sin if Christ is in us? Wouldn’t we then never sin? If so, then none of us would need confess our sins and be cleansed. 1 John 1:9. James 5:16.[6]

b. Christians don’t sin continuously

Image result for clipart sinThe translators of the NIV have tried to convey the meaning of the Greek tenses in this verse, 1 John 3:9 (NIV): ‘No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God’.

There is a similar message to this in 1 John 3:6 (NIV), ‘No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him’.
The issues from 1 John 3:9 (NIV) are:

  1. We are talking about those who are born again (favourite language of John), those who are ‘born of God’. We are talking about Christians who have been changed from the inside by God.
  2. These Christians will not continue to sin as a lifestyle. They cannot go on sinning in that way. The Greek present tense verb indicates continuous action, so the NIV presents an acceptable translation. The thought in this verse is NOT that Christians will never commit acts of sin. It is not saying that born again believers will not sin but that they will not persist in sin.
  3. So, the born again believer cannot live in habitual sin.
  4. BUT, there is the possibility of committing occasional acts of sin – as I can testify in my own life. If we commit those acts of sin, 1 John 1:9 (NIV) tells us what we are to do: ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’.

That’s my understanding of 1 John 3:9 and the Greek verb used. Also, it makes practical sense. We know from the preceding verse, 1 John 3:8 (ESV) that ‘whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil’. In other words, they have not been born of God.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil (1 John 3:8).

Notes


[1] This was my reply on Christian Forums.net 2015. 1 John 3:9 What does it mean? OzSpen#201, August 30. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/1john-3-9-what-does-it-mean.59658/page-11 (Accessed 31 August 2015).

[2] Christian forums.com 2017. Bible translations (online), now faith#146, 23 March. Available at: https://www.christianforums.com/threads/bible-translations.7978355/page-8#post-71032433 (Accessed 25 March 2017).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#149.

[4] Ibid., now faith#152.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#154.

[6] Christian forums.net 2015. 1 John 3:9: What does it mean? childeye#200.

 

Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 March 2017.

Growing weary of constantly correcting false teaching

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

 Image result for clipart grave

By Spencer D Gear PhD

What should I say to a person who claimed this?

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

1. Hades, the place of departed souls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, a biblical response is needed to this disillusionment.

2. Growing weary of correction

Jim Parker wrote:

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

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

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

or

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at a few verses in context:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.1 Docetic Gnosticism explained

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

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

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

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

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

3.2 Correctly explaining Scripture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.1 Application of 1 John 4:1-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.1.1 Pop-psychologizing church

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

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

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

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

4.1.2 Bill Hybels’ shocking confession

Related image

Bill Hybels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(a) Believe whatever you want

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

No I’m not![11]clip_image003

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

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

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

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

I responded:[12]

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

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

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

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

5. God alone is immortal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Parker stated it well on the Christian forum:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.1 Secular immortality through biology

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

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

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

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

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

5.2 What a shock is coming!

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

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

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

6. Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will you do about false teaching in the

church, even YOUR church?

‘Now the Berean Jews were of more noble

character than those in Thessalonica, for they

received the message with great eagerness and

examined the Scriptures every day to see if what

Paul said was true’ (Acts 17:11 NIV).

7. Works consulted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.  Notes


[1] I think he means ‘preceding’.

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

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#64.

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

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

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

[7] Ibid., Jim Parker#72.

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

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

[10] Ibid., freewill#75.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#76.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#77.

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

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

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

[16] Ibid., Jim Parker#97.

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

 

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

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

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

Image result for clip art flames public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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

One fellow said:

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

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

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

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

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

1. Torment of unbelievers does not continue forever

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

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

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

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

2. Proof-texts lead to wrong conclusions

Image result for proof-texts clip art

My response was:[3]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.1 The damned experience torment forever after death

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

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

Coffman’s Commentary on Revelation 14:11 is:

Verse 11

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

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

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

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

See my other articles on this topic:

clip_image003Is there literal fire in hell?

clip_image003[1]Is hell fair?

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

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

clip_image003[4]Hell in the Bible

clip_image003[5]Paul on eternal punishment

clip_image003[6]Hell and judgment

clip_image003[7]Eternal torment for unbelievers when they die

4. Works consulted

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

 

5.  Notes


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

[2] Ibid., chessman#119.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#120.

 

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

No need to list Old Testament books in New Testament

Friday, October 28th, 2016

 

{\mathfrak {P}}46 is the earliest (nearly) complete manuscript of the epistles written by Paul in the new Testament (courtesy ‘biblical manuscript’, Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This was an audacious request on a Christian forum that did not seem to indicate too much thought about the question: ‘Where in scripture does it tell us which books of the bible are to be included in the bible? (table of contents)’[1]

How should I respond?

1. No need to inform first century Christians

There was no need to tell the Christians of the first century.[2] They knew which books were included in the OT canon. That’s why Paul could say to the Berean Christians in Acts 17:11 (ESV): ‘Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so’. Which Scriptures?

Isn’t that amazing that the Book of Acts does not need to articulate a list of the Books of the OT so that the Berean Christians would know which books were in the OT and which were out of it? Paul did not have to list them and say, ‘Here is a list of the books contained in Scripture that you should use to check the authenticity and validity of my teaching’. They knew which books were in the OT canon.

And they did not include the Apocrypha in the Hebrew OT (Wayne Grudem).

In the four NT Gospels, I do not read that there was any dispute between Jesus and the Jewish leaders over the extent of the OT canon.

2. Persistence: No list of books in the canon

The forum fellow persisted in another thread: ‘Scripture does not give us a list of books that are to be in the Bible. How do we know we have the right books in the Bible? Scripture is silent about it’.[3]

My response was:[4]

Because the OT and NT do not give a list of books that are inspired of God to be included in the Bible does not mean that what we have is illegitimate. In fact, the word, Bible, appears nowhere in the Bible (that I’m aware of), so why are you supporting the use of the term, Bible?

However, God gave teachers to the church (1 Cor 12:28 ESV; Eph 4:11 ESV) who guide us through that process. These teachers themselves are not perfect in their understanding as Paul told the Bereans (Acts 17:11 ESV) that they were to check his teaching against the Scripture. Which Scripture? The OT. Paul didn’t say in Acts 17, here’s a list of the OT books that you need to use to check my teaching. They knew what they were as affirmed by the Jews.

3. Pseudo-gospels readily available

In the first century and beyond, there were plenty of fake gospels available. Do you want the pseudo-gospel of Peter (GPet) to be in the NT? It was rejected by the early church fathers because of its heretical teachings. It was found with the Qumran documents. It was mentioned by early church historian, Eusebius in his Church History (3.3.1-4; 3.25.6; and 6.12.3-6).

Why not also the Gospel of Thomas (written about mid to late second century)?[5]  If you read the Gospel of Thomas and compare it with each of the 4 Gospels in the NT, you will notice the marked difference in content.  I’d suggest a read of Nicholas Perrin’s, Thomas, the Other Gospel (Perrin 2007).  Perrin concludes his book with this comment:

Is this the Other Gospel we have been waiting for? Somehow, I suspect, we have heard this message before. Somehow we have met this Jesus before. The Gospel of Thomas invites us to imagine a Jesus who says, ‘I am not your saviour, but the one who can put you in touch with your true self. Free yourself from your gender, your body, and any concerns you might have for the outside world. Work for it and self-realization, salvation, will be yours – in this life.’ Imagine such a Jesus? One need hardly work very hard. This is precisely the Jesus we know too well, the existential Jesus that so many western evangelical and liberal churches already preach.

If the Gospel of Thomas is good news for anybody, it is good news to those who are either intent on escaping the world or are already quite content with the way things are (Perrin 2007:139).

This Gospel of Thomas is a different Gospel, “a Christianized self-help philosophy” (Perrin 2007:139). See my article of assessment: Is the Gospel of Thomas genuine or heretical?

4. The walking, talking cross of Gospel of Peter

(walking, talking cross: image courtesy NT Blog, Mark Goodacre)

 

As for the Gospel of Peter [GPet], please read this assessment by C L Quarles (2006).  Here are a few grabs from Quarles’ critique of GPet:

 

Such compositional projection and retrojection [of GPet] are absent from the canonical Gospels. This suggests that the authors of the canonical Gospels were constrained to preserve faithfully the traditions about Christ, but that the author of GP felt free to exercise his imagination in creative historiography. The compositional strategy of projection suggests that the GP shares a common milieu with second-century pseudepigraphical works and casts doubt on [John Dominic] Crossan’s claim that the GP antedates the canonical Gospels….

Compositional strategies that were popular in the second century can readily explain how the author of the GP produced his narrative from the canonical Gospels….

The GP is more a product of the author’s creative literary imagination than a reflection of eyewitness accounts of actual events (Quarles 2006:116, 119).

Charles Quarles has an online assessment of GPet HERE.

Of the Gospel of Judas, the National Geographic reported:

Stephen Emmel, professor of Coptic studies at Germany’s University of Munster, analyzed the Gospel of Judas and submitted the following assessment.

“The kind of writing reminds me very much of the Nag Hammadi codices,” he wrote, referring to a famed collection of ancient manuscripts.

“It’s not identical script with any of them. But it’s a similar type of script, and since we date the Nag ‘Hammadi codices to roughly the second half of the fourth century or the first part of the fifth century, my immediate inclination would be to say that the Gospel of Judas was written by a scribe in that same period, let’s say around the year 400.”

Here is another assessment of the ‘other gospels’ in an article on ‘the historical reliability of the Gospels’ by James Arlandson. He wrote:

The Gnostic authors often borrowed the names of Jesus’ disciples to attach to their texts, such as the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Mary. The Gospel of Judas has been discovered, restored, and published most recently. Using the disciples’ names or other Biblical names gives the appearance of authority, but it is deceptive. The original disciples or Bible characters had nothing to do with these writings. The teaching of Jesus, the names of his disciples, and the four Gospels traveled well. Gnostics capitalized on this fame.

All of these (late) Gnostic documents would not be a concern to anyone but a few specialists. Yet some scholars, who have access to the national media and who write their books for the general public, imply that Gnostic texts should be accepted as equally valid and authoritative as the four canonical Gospels, or stand a step or two behind the Biblical Gospels. At least the Gnostic scriptures, so these scholars say today, could have potentially been elevated to the canon, but were instead suppressed by orthodox church leaders. (Orthodox literally means “correct or straight thinking,” and here it means the early church of Irenaeus and Athanasius, to cite only these examples).

This series challenges the claim that the Gnostic texts should be canonical or even a step or two behind the four Biblical Gospels. The Gnostic texts were considered heretical for good reason.

5. Reasons to reject ‘other gospels’

There are scholarly and practical reasons why the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter (GPet), the Gospel of the Ebionites, Gospel of Marcion, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary and other pseudo-gospels were not chosen over the four NT Gospels.

I examined why some of the content of these pseudo-gospels are not included in the NT in my doctoral dissertation. Take a read of the Gospel of Peter (online) and it should become evident why such fanciful imagination is not included in the NT. This section of GPet states:

35 Now in the night whereon the Lord’s day dawned, as the soldiers were keeping guard two by two in every watch, 36 there came a great sound in the heaven, and they saw the heavens opened and two men descend thence, shining with (lit. having) a great light, and drawing near unto the sepulchre. 37 And that stone which had been set on the door rolled away of itself and went back to the side, and the sepulchre was

X. 38 opened and both of the young men entered in. When therefore those soldiers saw that, they waked up the centurion and the elders (for they also were there keeping 39 watch); and while they were yet telling them the things which they had seen, they saw again three men come out of the sepulchre, and two of them sustaining the other (lit. the 40 one), and a cross following, after them. And of the two they saw that their heads reached unto heaven, but of him that 41 was led by them that it overpassed the heavens. And they 42 heard a voice out of the heavens saying: Hast thou (or Thou hast) preached unto them that sleep? And an answer was heard from the cross, saying: Yea.

Here we have a walking and talking cross that came out of the sepulchre – fanciful nonsense! One does not have to be very astute to reject this kind of extra ‘gospel’, yet John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar believes GPet is the original Cross Gospel from which the other Gospels derived this information (Crossan 1994:154-155).

6. Questions about formation of the NT canon

I still have some questions about the formation of the NT canon that remain unanswered at this time. Historically, there was a partial list available, known as the Muratorian Canon (ca. AD 170-200).[6] My questions surround the process of formation of the canon that included the procedure used to determine if a book was theopneustos (breathed out by God – 2 Tim 3:16-17 ESV). I had questions about two church councils in the late third century that finally affirmed the NT canon.

Historical details include the following:

The first historical reference listing the exact 27 writings in the orthodox New Testament is in the Easter Letter of Athanasius in 367 AD. His reference states that these are the only recognized writings to be read in a church service. The first time a church council ruled on the list of “inspired” writings allowed to be read in church was at the Synod of Hippo in 393 AD. No document survived from this council – we only know of this decision because it was referenced at the third Synod of Carthage in 397 AD. Even this historical reference from Carthage, Canon 24, does not “list” every single document. For example, it reads, “the gospels, four books…” The only reason for this list is to confirm which writings are “sacred” and should be read in a church service. There is no comment as to why and how this list was agreed upon (Baker 2008).

Church historian, Earle Cairns, answers some of these issues with this assessment of the development of the list of books that became known as the NT:

People often err by thinking that the canon was set by church councils. Such was not the case, for the various church councils that pronounced upon the subject of the canon of the New Testament were merely stating publicly … what had been widely accepted by the consciousness of the church for some time. The development of the canon was a slow process substantially completed by A.D. 175 except for a few books whose authorship was disputed (Cairns 1981:118).

Cairns explained further why there was a delay in accepting certain NT books as canonical:

Apparently the Epistles of Paul were first collected by leaders in the church of Ephesus. This collection was followed by the collection of the Gospels sometime after the beginning of the second century. The so-called Muratorian Canon, discovered by Lodovico A. Muratori (1672-1750) in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, was dated about 180. Twenty-two books of the New Testament were looked upon as canonical. Eusebius about 324 thought that at least twenty books of the New Testament were acceptable on the same level as the books of the Old Testament. James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, Hebrews, and Revelation were among the books whose place in the canon was still under consideration.[7] The delay in placing these was caused primarily by an uncertainty concerning questions of authorship. Athanasius, however, in his Easter letter of 367 to the churches under his jurisdiction as the bishop of Alexandria, listed as canonical the same twenty-seven books that we now have in the New Testament. Later councils, such as that at Carthage in 397, merely approved and gave uniform expression to what was already an accomplished fact generally accepted by the church over a long period of time. The slowness with which the church accepted Hebrews and Revelation as canonical is indicative of the care and devotion with which it dealt with this question (Cairns 1981:118-119).

Eusebius (ca. AD 265-330)[8] wrote this of the disputed and rejected NT writings:

3. Among the disputed writings, which are nevertheless recognized by many, are extant the so-called epistle of James and that of Jude, also the second epistle of Peter, and those that are called the whether they belong to the evangelist or to another person of the same name.

4. Among the rejected writings must be reckoned also the Acts of Paul, and the so-called Shepherd, and the Apocalypse of Peter, and in addition to these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and the so-called Teachings of the Apostles; and besides, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seem proper, which some, as I said, reject, but which others class with the accepted books (Eusebius 1890, 3.25.3-4).

7. An eminent church historian’s assessment

Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church is considered one of the most comprehensive expositions of church history by a near-contemporary scholar. He wrote:

The Jewish canon, or the Hebrew Bible, was universally received, while the Apocrypha added to the Greek version of the Septuagint were only in a general way accounted as books suitable for church reading, and thus as a middle class between canonical and strictly apocryphal (pseudonymous) writings. And justly; for those books, while they have great historical value, and fill the gap between the Old Testament and the New, all originated after the cessation of prophecy, and they cannot therefore be regarded as inspired, nor are they ever cited by Christ or the apostles.[9] (Schaff n.d., vol 3, § 118. Sources of Theology. Scripture and Tradition).

8. Which books were confirmed in the Hebrew OT?

Image result for picture Hebrew Bible public domain

Page from an 11th-century Aramaic Targum manuscript of the Hebrew Bible (Wikipedia)

 

Which books were included by the Jews in the Hebrew Bible?

I reject the inclusion of the Apocrypha (Deutero-Canonical books) in the OT. This is the position adopted by Roman Catholic authority, Jerome (ca. 347-420),[10] who, in his preface to the Vulgate version of the Apocrypha’s Book of Solomon stated that the church reads the apocryphal books ‘for example and instruction of manners’ but not to ‘apply them to establish any doctrine’. In fact, Jerome rejected Augustine’s unjustified acceptance of the Apocrypha.[11]

The Jewish scholars who met at Jamnia, ca. AD 90, did not accept the Apocrypha in the inspired Jewish canon of Scripture. The Apocrypha was not contained in the Hebrew Bible and Jerome knew it. In his preface to the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible, he rejected the apocryphal additions to Daniel, i.e. Bel and the Dragon, and Susanna.[12] Jerome wrote:

The stories of Susanna and of Bel and the Dragon are not contained in the Hebrew…. For this same reason when I was translating Daniel many years ago, I noted these visions with a critical symbol, showing that they were not included in the Hebrew…. After all, both Origen, Eusebius and Appolinarius, and other outstanding churchmen and teachers of Greece acknowledge that … these visions are not found amongst the Hebrews, and therefore they are not obliged to answer to Porphyry for these portions which exhibit no authority as Holy Scripture ” (in Geisler 2002:527, emphasis added).

The Protestant canon of 39 OT books, excluding the Apocrypha, coincides with the Hebrew 22 books of the OT.

There are many other reasons for rejecting the Apocrypha. Any reasonable person, who reads Tobit, and Bel and the Dragon, knows how fanciful they become when compared with the God-breathed Scripture.

Here are “Some reasons why the Deutero-Canonical material does not belong in the Bible“. Here are examples of theological and historical “Errors in the Deutero-Canonical” books. It was Jerome who introduced the change from calling these books the Apocrypha to Deutero-Canonical.

See my article, Should the Apocrypha be in the Bible?, that gives reasons why the Apocrypha should not be included in the Bible as Scripture.

9. Conclusion

There was no need for the apostles to provide the people of the first century with a list of the OT Books contained in Scripture. It was a given as Paul, the redeemed Pharisee, made evident with his comment to the Berean Christians in Acts 17:11 (ESV). In addition, the Jewish OT canon did not include the Deuterocanonical Books (the Apocrypha).

The Hebrew scholars who met at Jamnia about AD 90 confirmed the 22 OT books in the Hebrew canon of Scripture (which are 39 books in the Protestant canon).

There are good reasons why Gnostic and other gospels were not included by the teachers of the early Christian church in establishing the NT canon. A reading of the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Judas, and other pseudo-gospels makes evident that fanciful, speculative, creative content was evidence that these ‘other gospels’ were not the genuine product to include in the NT.

At least 22-23 of the 27 NT books had been affirmed as authoritative for the canon by the late second century. The remainder were questioned because of uncertainty of authorship. However, by the end of the third century, all of the NT canonical books had been gathered and affirmed by church use.

10. Works consulted

Baker, R A 2008. How the New Testament canon was formed. Early Church History – CH101. Available at: http://www.churchhistory101.com/docs/New-Testament-Canon.pdf (Accessed 25 October 2016).

Crossan, J D 1994. Jesus: A revolutionary biography. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Eusebius 1890. Church history. Tr by A C McGiffert. Ed by P Schaff & H Wace, from Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers, 2nd series, vol 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co. Rev & ed for New Advent by K Knight at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2501.htm (Accessed 28 October 2016).

Geisler, N 2002, Systematic theology: Introduction, Bible, vol. 1. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House.

Kirby, P 2016. The Muratorian canon. Early Christian Writings (online), 28 October. Available at: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/muratorian.html.

Perrin, N 2007. Thomas, the other gospel. London: SPCK.

Quarles, C. L. 2006, The Gospel of Peter: Does it contain a precanonical resurrection narrative? in R B Stewart (ed), The resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N. T. Wright in dialogue, 106-120. Minneapolis: Fortress Press,

Schaff, P n.d. History of the Christian Church: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity, A.D. 311-600, vol 3. Available at: Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc3 (Accessed 25 October 2016).

11.  Notes


[1] Christianity Board 2016. When did the universal Church first mentioned in 110AD stop being universal? (online), tom55#231. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/23002-when-did-the-universal-church-first-mentioned-in-110ad-stop-being-universal/page-8#entry286284 (Accessed 10 October 2016).

[2] Ibid. This was my response as OzSpen#232.

[3] Christianity Board 2016. What Do You Think Would Have Happened If… (online), tom55#16. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/23066-what-do-you-think-would-have-happened-if/#entry286329 (Accessed 10 October 2016).

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#20.

[5] Perrin (2007:viii).

[6] Kirby (2016).

[7] Eusebius (1890, 3.25).

[8] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:143).

[9] Heb. xi. 35 ff. probably alludes, indeed, to 2 Macc. vi. ff.; but between a historical allusion and a corroborative citation with the solemn he graphe legei there is a wide difference.

[10] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:144).

[11] This information is from Geisler (2002:526).

[12] From Geisler (2002:527).

 

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

Choose does not mean choice! Joshua 24:15

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

Image result for clipart Choice public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Does this verse mean choice for or against God or gods?

‘And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15 ESV).

A. When choose does not mean choice

I was sitting in the congregation of North Pine Presbyterian Church on Sunday, 11 September 2016, when the minister, Rev Paul Cornford, preached on Joshua 24. The title of his message was ‘The Covenant at Shechem’. When he got to Joshua 24:15, he stated, ‘“Choose this day” is a choice between false gods…. It is not a case of coming to the best God’.[1]

So ‘choose this day whom you will serve’ does not mean a choice as to which god/God you will choose to worship. It only applies to choosing among false gods, according to Rev Cornford. Below we will check to examine whether this preacher accurately engaged in correct exegesis of this Scripture in context.

After the service, I challenged the preacher over his failure to exegete the verse in context. He engaged in eisegesis, imposing his Calvinistic meaning on the text.

What is exegesis?  ”Exegesis is the process of interpreting a text of Scripture” (Grudem 1994:109).  The problem any interpreter of the Bible faces is that “everyone who interprets a passage of the Bible stands in a present time while he examines a document that comes from a past time.  He must discover what each statement meant to the original speaker or writer and to the original hearers or readers, in their own present time” (Mickelsen 1963:55).  This is the process of exegesis.  It is critical for the understanding of any text written in the past.

What is eisegesis? See Exegesis v. Eisegesis. Here is a quote from Dr. James White’s forth-coming book “Pulpit Crimes” on eisegesis, which indicates that it means:

The reading into a text, in this case, an ancient text of the Bible, of a meaning that is not supported by the grammar, syntax, lexical meanings, and over-all context, of the original. It is the opposite of exegesis, where you read out of the text its original meaning by careful attention to the same things, grammar, syntax, the lexical meanings of the words used by the author (as they were used in his day and in his area), and the over-all context of the document. As common as it is, it should be something the Christian minister finds abhorrent, for when you stop and think about it, eisegesis muffles the voice of God. If the text of Scripture is in fact God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) and if God speaks in the entirety of the Bible (Matt. 22:31) then eisegesis would involve silencing that divine voice and replacing it with the thoughts, intents, and most often, traditions, of the one doing the interpretation. In fact, in my experience, eisegetical mishandling of the inspired text is the single most common source of heresy, division, disunity, and a lack of clarity in the proclamation of the gospel. The man of God is commended when he handles God’s truth aright (2 Tim. 2:15), and it should be his highest honor to be privileged to do so. Exegesis, then, apart from being a skill honed over years of practice, is an absolutely necessary means of honoring the Lord a minister claims to serve. For some today, exegesis and all the attendant study that goes into it robs one of the Spirit. The fact is, there is no greater spiritual service the minister can render to the Lord and to the flock entrusted to his care than to allow God’s voice to speak with the clarity that only sound exegetical practice can provide (in Reformation Theology, emphasis added).

James White is a Calvinist and among the chief proponents of eisegesis are Calvinists who impose their Reformed Calvinistic meaning on a text with doctrinaire repetition.

If one wants to convey this message to a contemporary audience, the speaker engages in the discipline of exposition, but exegesis precedes exposition: “He must see what meaning these statements had in the past, but he must also show what is their meaning for himself and for those to whom he conveys these ideas” (Mickelsen 1963:55).

B. Calvinism and no choice in choosing God

Image result for Calvinism public domainTo understand why Rev. Cornford takes this line, it is consistent with his 5-point Calvinist theology. You can listen to his sermons on TULIP Calvinism on the church’s website.

However, this article is not designed to respond to the following teaching of Calvinism, but to examine Joshua 24:15 in context. What does it teach regarding a person’s ability or inability to choose to serve God?

What does Calvinism believe about choice in salvation and/or serving God? These are only a few examples from leading Calvinists:

clip_image002 ‘In order for one who is dead to the things of God to come alive to God, something must be done to him and for him. Dead men cannot make themselves come alive’ (Sproul 1986:114). Norman Geisler describes this comment as an example of ‘the extreme Calvinists’ view’ (Geisler 1999:57).

I have responded to the extreme Calvinistic position in:

clip_image004 Who can be reconciled to God?

clip_image002[1] Loraine Boettner, a leading Calvinist of the past, could not state the Calvinistic position clearer:

Man is a free agent but he cannot originate the love of God in his heart. His will is free in the sense that it is not controlled by any force outside of himself. As the bird with a broken wing is “free” to fly but not able, so the natural man is free to come to God but not able. How can he repent of his sin when he loves it? How can he come to God when he hates Him?…

We read that that “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned,” I Cor. 2:14. We are at a loss to understand how any one can take a plain common sense view of this passage of Scripture and yet contend for the doctrine of human ability’ (Boettner 1932:62, 63).

These articles of mine cover some of this opposition to ‘whosoever will may come’ (John 3:16).

clip_image004[1] Do Arminians believe in election and total depravity?

clip_image004[2] Does regeneration precede faith?

clip_image002[2] In this one paragraph, John Calvin emphasised double-predestination twice:

‘The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death’….

‘Each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death’ (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.21.5, emphasis added).

My replies to this view are in,

clip_image004[3] Did John Calvin believe in double predestination?

clip_image004[4] God’s foreknowledge and predestination/election to salvation

Based on this kind of Calvinistic theology, there could be no way that any human being would be able to choose to follow God. That’s because of Calvinism’s bias against it with its unusual understandings of,

  • The meaning of ‘dead in trespasses and sin’;
  • Regeneration precedes faith;
  • Total depravity;
  • Unbelievers are all predestined to damnation (not all Calvinists accept this view that is endorsed by John Calvin himself).

C. What does Joshua 24:15 teach?

Let’s develop a textual outline of Joshua 24:14-28 so that we obtain some context. The heading for this section in the English Standard Version is ‘Choose Whom You Will Serve’. When I prepare to preach an expository sermon (which is my normal approach to preaching from any biblical section), I begin by preparing a textual outline,

1. Textual outline: Joshua 24:14-28

This is based on the ESV text:

1. (A command to the Israelites) fear the Lord and serve him (v. 14);

2. (Command to) put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River (v. 14);

3. (Command to) serve the Lord (v. 14);

4. If it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve (v 15)

5. Choose the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites (v 15);

6. But as for me [i.e. Joshua] and my house, we will serve the Lord (v 15).

7. The people’s answer was: ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods’ (v 16);

8. The Lord our God brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of slavery, and who performed the great signs in our sight and preserved us (v 17);

9. The Lord drove out all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God (v. 18);

10. Joshua said: You are not able to serve the Lord for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God. He will not forgive your transgressions or your sins (v. 19).

11. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good (v. 20);

12. The people said to Joshua, ‘No, we will serve the Lord’ (v. 21).

13. Joshua said: ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him’. The Israelites agreed: ‘We are witnesses’ (v. 22).

14. Joshua said: ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel’ (v. 23);

15. The people said to Joshua: ‘The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey’ (v. 24);

16. Joshua made a covenant with the Israelite people that day at Shechem to put in place statutes and rules (v. 25);

17. Joshua wrote words in the Book of the Law of God and set it up with a stone (v. 26);

18. Joshua said to all the people that the stone would be a witness against us/you lest you deal falsely with your God (v. 27).

19. Joshua sent the people away to their own inheritance (v.28).

2. Homiletical outline: Joshua 24:14-28

This is designed to summarise what the text is saying and grab the attention of the congregation or readers with relevant information that comes directly out of the text. This is the outline for a sermon that I will preach (not prepared yet) on this text. It may take 2 sermons of 30 minutes each to cover this material.

a. God does not deceive you: A command means you can do it (v. 14)

  • Fear the Lord
  • Serve him
  • Put away the other gods.

God would not be commanding you to do it if you were incapable of acting on the instruction.

b. Honest! You can choose today which God or gods you will serve (v. 15)

  • The choice is yours: Choose gods or THE GOD

c. They chose the Lord (vv. 15-18)

d. You are not able to serve the Lord (v 19)

  • Is this a contradiction? (You can choose the Lord, v. 15; you can’t serve the Lord, v. 19? You have chosen the Lord, v. 22)
  • Why this inability? (v. 19)
  • Why it happens – when you forsake the Lord (v. 20)

e. We will serve the Lord (v. 21)

f. KEY VERSE FOR INTERPRETATION: You have chosen the Lord (v. 22)

g. You can put away the foreign gods and serve the Lord (vv. 23-24)

h. Signing the covenant to serve the Lord (vv. 25-28)

D. Choosing God or gods

Image result for picture of Canaanite gods public domain(El, the Canaanite creator god, courtesy wikimedia.commons)

 

What does this outline demonstrate regarding the ability to choose God or other gods?

1.   The command to fear the Lord, serve Him and put away the other gods infers that people are able to choose to do it (v. 14).

2.   You can choose to serve other gods or the Lord (v. 15).

John Calvin’s commentary on Joshua 24:15 is:

By giving them the option to serve God or not, just as they choose, he loosens the reins, and gives them license to rush audaciously into sin. What follows is still more absurd, when he tells them that they cannot serve the Lord, as if he were actually desirous of set purpose to impel them to shake off the yoke. But there is no doubt that his tongue was guided by the inspiration of the Spirit, in stirring up and disclosing their feelings. For when the Lord brings men under his authority, they are usually willing enough to profess zeal for piety, though they instantly fall away from it. Thus they build without a foundation (Calvin’s Commentaries: Joshua 24, Bible Hub).

Calvin gives them the ‘option’ to serve God or not – as they choose – but he considers this one where Joshua ‘loosens the reins’, giving them the opportunity to rush into sin.

3.   They chose the Lord (vv. 15-18).

4.   After the previous and following verses, verse 19 seems like a contradiction, ‘You are not able to serve the Lord’. This is especially a paradox in light of verse 22, ‘You have chosen the Lord’. Verse 19 is an irony with Joshua 24:31 (ESV) in view, ‘Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel’. Keil & Delitzsch (n d, vol 2:231) consider that ‘“ye cannot serve Jehovah” … in the state of mind in which ye are at present, or “by your own resolution only, and without the assistance of divine grace, without solid and serious conversion from all idols, and without true repentance and faith” (J. H. Michaelis)’. What also is puzzling is the statement, ‘He will not forgive your transgressions’, because there are many affirmations in the OT that God is a forgiving God. See Exodus 34:6-7a where the Lord revealed to Moses, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty….’ Surely this is meant to be hyperbole to demonstrate that God will not deal lightly with sin.[2]

5.   Verse 22 gets to the crux of interpretation for this passage. It leaves no doubt as to what the meaning is in context: ‘You have chosen the Lord’. No matter what the opposition from the Calvinistic camp, anybody anywhere can choose to serve pagan gods or the Lord God.

However,

  • since Christ’s death on Golgotha for the sins of the world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2), people need to be drawn by God the Father:
  • ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day’ (John 6:44 ESV).
  • How many will be drawn and how many will be forsaken? Jesus was clear about that: ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’ (John 12:32 ESV).

So, since Christ’s death and resurrection, all people are drawn to Jesus but many reject his offer of salvation. Why?

  • ‘So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?’ (Heb 2:3 NLT).
  • Romans 1:18 (NLT) gives us further insight into why people reject God’s evidence: ‘But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness’.

How did John Calvin understand Joshua 24:22. In his commentary on this verse he stated:

We now understand what the object was at which Joshua had hitherto aimed. It was not to terrify the people and make them fall away from their religion, but to make the obligation more sacred by their having of their own accord chosen his government, and betaken themselves to his guidance, that they might live under his protection. They acknowledge, therefore, that their own conscience will accuse them, and hold them guilty of perfidy [i.e. deceitfulness], if they prove unfaithful…. But although they were not insincere in declaring that they would be witnesses to their own condemnation, still how easily the remembrance of this promise faded away, is obvious from the Book of Judges. For when the more aged among them had died, they quickly turned aside to various superstitions. By this example we are taught how multifarious are the fallacies which occupy the senses of men, and how tortuous the recesses in which they hide their hypocrisy and folly, while they deceive themselves by vain confidence (Calvin’s Commentaries: Joshua 24:22, Bible Hub).

He did not deny that the Israelites were in a situation of ‘having of their own accord chosen his [God’s] government’.

6.   The Israelites could choose to put away the foreign gods in their midst and serve the Lord. This they did and signed a covenant of commitment (Josh 24:23-28).

D. Conclusion

A doctrinaire, Calvinistic, presuppositional view of no choice in salvation is what drove Rev Paul Cornford, an evangelical Presbyterian, to reject the clear teaching of Joshua 24:15 in context. ‘Choose this day whom you will serve’ means that the Israelites could choose to serve other gods or the Lord God.

Joshua 24:22 drives the interpretation home, ‘You have chosen the Lord, to serve him’ (ESV). Other translations are as affirmative:

clip_image006 ‘You have chosen to serve the Lord’ (NLT);

clip_image006[1] ‘Ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve him’ (KJV);

clip_image006[2] ‘You have chosen for yourselves the Lord, to serve Him’ (NASB);

clip_image006[3]’You have chosen the Lord, to serve him’ (NRSV);

clip_image006[4]’You have chosen to serve the Lord’ (NIV);

clip_image006[5]’You have chosen the Lord for yourselves’ (NKJV);

clip_image006[6]’You have chosen to serve the Lord’ (ISV).

Image result for clipart salvationExegesis and exposition are clear for Joshua 24:15 and its context. Norman Geisler reached a consistent position on this verse and related verses:

God desires that all unsaved people will change their mind (i.e., repent), for “he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Like the alternatives of life and death that Moses gave to Israel, God says, ‘Choose life’ (cf. Deut. 30:19). Joshua said to his people: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15). God sets morally and spiritually responsible alternatives before human beings, leaving the choice and responsibility to them. Jesus said to the unbelievers of His day: “If you do not believe that I am … you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24), which implies they could have and should have believed.

Over and over, “belief” is declared to be something we are accountable to embrace: “We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:69); “Who is he sir? … Tell me so that I may believe in him” (John 9:36); “Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe, ‘ and he worshiped him” (John 9:38); “Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you but you do not believe’” (John 10:25). This is why Jesus said, ‘Whoever believes in [me] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18) [Geisler 2004:130, emphasis in original].

E.   Works consulted

Boettner, L 1932. The reformed doctrine of predestination. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.

Delitzsch, F. n.d., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon in C. F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes (vol. 6). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William E. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Geisler, N 1999. Chosen but free. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Geisler, N 2004. Systematic theology: Sin, salvation, vol 3. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Grudem, W. 1994. Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Keil, C F & Delitzsch, F n d. Commentary on the Old Testament: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, two vols in 1, vol 2. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Madvig, D H 1992. Joshua, in F E Gaebelein (gen ed), The expositor’s Bible commentary, vol 3, 239-371. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

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

Sproul, R C 1986. Chosen by God. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

F.   Notes


[1] I take notes in an exercise book for sermons I hear and these comments are based on the notes I took for the sermon on 11 September 2016, 9.00am service, North Pine Presbyterian Church, 55 Old Dayboro Rd., Petrie Qld. 4502, Australia. My wife and I have attended this church for 5 years at the time of writing this article (8 October 2016).

[2] This was the interpretation by Madvig (1992:369).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 August 2017.

Tongues and the initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Image result for free clipart fire public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

It is an important doctrine of leading Pentecostal denominations that speaking in tongues is the initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. You will encounter it in the Assemblies of God (USA), which is now called the Australian Christian Churches in Australia, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (5.6.3), the Apostolic Faith Mission in South Africa (Confession of Faith), Elim Pentecostal Church (UK), and other Pentecostal denominations.

The Australian Christian Churches statement is (4.13 The Baptism in the Holy Spirit):

We believe that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is the bestowing of the believer with power to be an effective witness for Christ. This experience is distinct from, and subsequent to, the new birth; is received by faith, and is accompanied by the manifestation of speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance, as the initial evidence (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-4; 8:15-19; 11:14-17; 19:1-7).

A. Promotion of tongues and Holy Spirit baptism

A Pentecostal believer and advocate online wrote of ‘those who have actually received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues as depicted in Scriptures’ and he placed himself in that category.[1]

I have not reached that conclusion in my study of Scripture, so I responded as follows:[2]

I expect that there could be people on this forum (and I’m one of them) who would not believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of speaking in tongues. Your view is thus encouraging at least two types of Christians: Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal, but the Pentecostals have the superior biblical experience of the Holy Spirit.

I have addressed some of these issues in my articles:

clip_image002 Tongues and the Baptism with the Holy Spirit

clip_image002[1] Baptism of the Holy Spirit: When does it happen?

His reply to this was:

There is no doubt that there are people here who do not believe that speaking in tongues and see initial evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. I for one used to be one of those, even though I experienced the contrary. It took me years and studying this to arrive at my current point of view. If you read Acts and all the events of the baptism of the Holy Spirit you will note that all but one of them mention that the receivers spoke in tongues. The one that doesn’t explicitly state that does state that, “when they saw they had received the Holy Spirit”, implies that there was and outward sign. As tongues of fire was only ever recounted in Acts 2:4, we must assume that the outward sign was the speaking in tongues. I’ll leave it up to you to do the reading.[3]

This is a fairly standard response from Pentecostals. My rejoinder was:[4]

I have presented my evidence to refute your view of tongues as the initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit in, Tongues and the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.

The evidence from Acts 2:4; Acts 10:44-46 and Acts 19:2-7 demonstrates the filling or baptism of the Holy Spirit in the early church (with tongues) was fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. The Pentecostal requirement of everyone since Acts 2:4 to speak in tongues as initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is not consistent with what the Scriptures teach.

According to Acts 8:14-24 in Samaria, when the believers received the Holy Spirit, Simon the sorcerer ‘saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles hands, he offered them money’ (Acts 8:18). This states he ‘saw’ something that accompanied the receipt of the Spirit. One can infer that it may have been tongues that he heard, but there is no definitive statement that says such in this context.

B. Is tongues the initial physical evidence taught in 1 Corinthians?

Image result for free clipart fire public domainFor me, the definitive moment in my understanding of the interpretation of these sometimes difficult verses came when I studied the Greek language of I Cor. 12:29-30 which uses the Greek negative me, thus requiring that a negative answer be given to the question, ‘Do all speak in tongues?’ which is confirmed by the NASB translation: ‘All do not speak with tongues, do they?’

Since the baptism of the Holy Spirit is available to all believers, I Cor. 12:30 confirms that tongues cannot be the initial physical evidence for all believers, since tongues is not given to all. One may argue that in 1 Cor 12-14, the gifts were being discussed and that tongues required the accompanying gift of interpretation (see 1 Cor 14:5, 9-13). The issue still remains: ‘Do all speak in tongues?’ The Greek expects a ‘no’ answer (1 Cor 12:29-30).

Believers in the Christian assembly must strive to edify the other believers (1 Cor 14:3-5). If one speaks in tongues and there is no interpretation, people ‘will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me’ (1 Cor 14:11).

C. Tongues not a reasonable requirement

Therefore, it is not reasonable to expect that all people should speak in tongues as the initial physical evidence of a baptism in the Holy Spirit.

This has led charismatic church leader and pastor of a Vineyard church (USA), George Mallone, to state: ‘Beyond doubt, one of the greatest theological tragedies to befall the church is the suggestion that tongues is a visible sign of having been baptized or filled with the Spirit’ (Mallone 1983:90).

D Martyn Lloyd-Jones was no novice in seeking the baptism with the Holy Spirit or dealing with Pentecostal-charismatics. He wrote: ‘If the suggestion is made that all who have the baptism of the Spirit must speak in tongues and this is repeated and repeated, it is not surprising that people begin to speak in tongues. But the question then arises as to what they are doing…. But all I am concerned about at the moment is that we should never forget the power of suggestion’. In the same exposition, Prove All Things, he also wrote that ‘it is possible for a man to be baptized with the Holy Spirit without ever speaking in tongues, and, indeed, without having some of these other gifts’ (Lloyd-Jones 1985:101, 146).

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on baptism with the Holy Spirit

clip_image004(photo of D Martyn Lloyd-Jones, courtesy Wikipedia)

One of the greatest biblical expositors of the 20th century who had a profound knowledge of the Word was the late D Martyn Lloyd-Jones.[5] In 2016, we celebrated the 35th anniversary of his home-call (he died on 1 March 1981). Lloyd-Jones had a very different view to you of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. See, ‘Lloyd-Jones on Baptism with the Holy Spirit‘.

It was Lloyd-Jones who stated,

The evidence of the history of the church, establishes the fact that the baptism with the Spirit is not always accompanied by particular gifts…. There are people today who say that the baptism with the Spirit is always accompanied by certain particular gifts. It seems to me that the answer of the Scripture is that that is not the case, that you may have a baptism with the Spirit, and a mighty baptism with the Spirit at that, with none of the gifts of tongues, miracles, or various other gifts. No one can dispute the baptism with the Spirit in the case of men like the brothers Wesley and Whitefield and many others, but none of these things happened in connection with them (Lloyd-Jones1985:53).

So am I to cast out Lloyd-Jones’ biblical teaching in favour of your Pentecostal view? Lloyd Jones provides considerable biblical evidence to support his view in Lloyd-Jones (1985).

The Pentecostal with whom I was discussing this theology online was resistant to Lloyd-Jones views, saying:

I don’t agree with Lloyd-Jones conclusions so you can do with him whatever you want. I gave you my perspective in the previous post. You see I tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date. This is not a new issue within Pentecostalism. There are indeed two sides to the fence but in Canada and in the U.S. the two major Pentecostal denominations accept and believe that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the baptism/infilling of the Holy Spirit. To me, that’s enough to know that it is a consensus opinion, and as it is what I see evidence in the scripture I can only concur.[6]

You wouldn’t expect me to let him get away with this misrepresentation, would you? He misrepresented the meaning of ‘consensus opinion’. So, here goes with a refutation, brief though it will be:

E. The Pentecostal consensus opinion

It is NOT a consensus opinion.[7] It is a Pentecostal opinion supported by the Pentecostal denominations such as, Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC), Assemblies of God (A/G), Apostolic Faith Mission South Africa, Elim churches, etc.

There are major Christian denominations around the world that do not accept that view. These include Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Reformed, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Anabaptists (e.g. Mennonites), etc. When you can use ‘consensus opinion’ for 2 denominations, you have redefined consensus. There is NO consensus opinion among the major denominations around the world to make tongues the initial physical evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

F. Don’t use authors who are ‘way out of date’

Image result for tongues of fire public domainSo this fellow will ‘tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date’. So do you want to throw out the teachings of Martin Luther? If you are a Protestant, you are a product of the ministry of a man, Luther, whose ministry is ‘out of date’ from your perspective. His ministry is as up to date as Scripture.

For Luke to be able to write his Gospel, he depended on authors who were ‘way out of date’ – those who ‘from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us’ (Luke 1:2 ESV). If church history is a waste of space to you, then forget about the Azusa Street revival for your Pentecostal verification because it is ‘way out of date’.

Your ‘way out of date’ perspective makes you a sitting duck for heretical intrusion into any assembly/church. We know how to identify heresy because of the godly teachers God has given to the church (Eph 4:11-16) who have equipped the saints for the work of ministry and the building up of the body of Christ – today and down through church history. We are helped to identify heresy by those who have gone before. Athanasius was instrumental in doing this to confront Arius and his anti-trinitarianism at the Council of Nicea. But that’s not important to this man’s view!

Heb 11:4 (NIV) disagrees with this fellow’s ‘way out of date’ view, ‘By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead‘. Abel, though way out of date and dead many thousands of years, still speaks.

This fellow’s ‘way out of date’, short-sightedness will be gone in a few years, and God’s gifted teachers from history will still speak: Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Arminius, Calvin, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon, Seymour, Hodge, Olson, Sproul, Mohler, etc. This really is pathetic that he wants to have nothing to do with God’s great teachers from church history who led the way to where we are today. His own ministry will be impoverished when he denigrates or excludes these teachers.

Why did God give teachers (past and present) to the church? See Eph 4:11-16 (ESV). This poster excluded them and their influence!

I found his response to be incoherent and making many assumptions that need far more biblical justification than he gave.[8]

G. Conclusion

I found it nigh impossible to have a logical conversation with a Pentecostal, tongues-speaking individual online because of:

# His insistence on a Pentecostal interpretation. It seemed as though he had been indoctrinated into this view. Lloyd-Jones states that when a doctrine of baptism of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues is ‘repeated and repeated, it is not surprising that people begin to speak in tongues’ and he likened this to ‘the power of suggestion’ (Lloyd-Jones 1985:201).

# He refused to listen to the teaching of people from Christian history. He lives in the here and now and wants nothing to do with Christian authors who are ‘way out of date’. He has no concept of God’s gift of teachers to the church in the past and present.

# I could not have a rational conversation with this person who refused to deal with some of the issues I presented to him. He engaged in several red herring fallacies and then went into his own spin, ignoring my emphases. This is typical of a person who reverts to using a red herring.

# He made ‘consensus opinion’ of tongues as the physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit sound like he was referring to all churches but he confirmed he was only dealing with Pentecostal denominations. As I pointed out, it is not a consensus theology that applies across most denominations.

H. Works consulted

Lloyd-Jones, D M 1985. Prove All Things: The Sovereign Work of the Holy Spirit. Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications.

Mallone, G. 1983. Those Controversial Gifts. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

I.  Notes


[1] Christianity Board, Testimonial Forum, ‘The Catholic Church gets put down a lot, but it was all that could help’, StanJ#111, 23 January 2016. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22554-the-catholic-church-gets-put-down-a-lot-but-it-was-all-that-could-help/page-4 (Accessed 24 April 2016).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#113.

[3] Ibid., StanJ#122.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#126.

[5] I included this information at ibid., OzSpen#114.

[6] Ibid., StanJ#123.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#127.

[8] See his response at ibid., StanJ#129 & #130.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 27 January 2017.

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

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

 By Spencer D Gear PhD [1]

It’s true clip_image002

You can be justified by works clip_image004

Is James a preacher of falsehood?clip_image006

1. Introduction

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

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

 

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

 

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

ABC News (Australia) reported on 15 March 2014 that

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

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

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

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

Flower24 Justified in not crossing a flooded road;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.1.1 Faith by itself isn’t enough.

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

1.1.3 Faith without good deeds is dead or useless.

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

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

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

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

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

2. Abraham justified by works?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.2 Faith active with works (v. 22)

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

What could it possibly mean that Abraham’s

3. Faith completed by works (v.  22)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

clip_image008

(courtesy www.custardapples.com.au)

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

clip_image010

(photo courtesy toptropicals.com)

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

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

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

Notice the emphasis of James 2:23:

3.1 Scripture was fulfilled (v. 23)

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

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

3.1.1 Abraham believed God (v. 23)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now James 2:24 gives a summary:

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

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

4.1 Not justified by faith alone (v. 24)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now to …

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

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

5.1 She was justified by works (v 25)

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

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

Remember the story?

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

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

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

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

This we know:

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

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

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

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

Now James concluded his discussion:

6. Faith without works is dead (v 26)

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

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

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

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

The analogy is:

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

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

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

7. Conclusion

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

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

Now to some,

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

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

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

8. Works consulted

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.  Notes


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

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

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

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

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

[5] Robertson (1933:37).

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

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

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

 

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

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

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

clip_image002

(image of Eucharist courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This fellow became even more dogmatic:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B. Which is the correct interpretation?

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

John 6:47-58 (ESV) states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D. How to add confusion: Tom’s responses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Look up the definition of the word cannibalism.

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

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

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

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

10. Makes no sense.

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

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

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

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

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

Those verses are:

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

1. Who were these disciples?

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

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

2. How did the disciples respond to Jesus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Alleged disciples do not make Christian believers

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

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

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

F. When will the supply run out?

One fellow asked these two brilliant questions:

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

Or is it not that ‘literal’?[9]

G. Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

H. Works consulted

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

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

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

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

I.  Notes


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

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#250.

[4] Ibid., tom55#252.

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

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

[7] Ibid., tom55#254.

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

[9] Ibid., Oneoff#256.

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

 

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

Jesus as the one way, except ….

Monday, August 8th, 2016

Jesus Is The Way

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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

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

My reply was:[2]

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

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

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

A.  The ‘only way’ is a fabrication

He stated:

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

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

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

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

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

B.  An area of agreement

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

C.  One way in other religions

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

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

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

bronze-arrow-small  Visualization and Affirmation

bronze-arrow-small The dangers of Eastern meditation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

v. To promote atheism.

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

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

D.  The Jesus’ one-way difference

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

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

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

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

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

E.  Conclusion

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

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

F.  Notes


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

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#19.

[3] Ibid., Runner#17.

 

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