Man was created an eternal righteous being in God's image, not His exact likeness. "He, God, has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (Eccl 3:13) God prepared a Paradise for them and instructed them to maintain Eden, to reproduce and NOT to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil for by doing they would die. It is unknown how long they lived there, but sometime later they ate of the fruit of the tree, consequently God removed them from Eden. It is believed this is when time began as Adam and Eve could no longer eat of the tree of life and live forever.
Many years later God instructed righteous Abraham to go to a place He had prepared for him and his descendants, one of which would bless the world. It was over 400 years before Abraham's descendants, the Israelites, arrived in the land promised to Abraham. While there they were looking for a redeemer that could forgive sins. if they obeyed Him.
By action of the Holy Spirit God came to live on earth as a human to become the only sin offering and "to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." (John 14:3)
Following Jesus' death by crucifixion and His resurrection, He returned to Heaven and on Pentecost Day "pour(ed) out my Spirit on all people … everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Acts 2:17, 21) not just the Jews. Christ's apostles proclaimed the Good News - forgiveness of sin and salvation is now available to all mankind who put their trust and obedience in Christ by dying to sin and being buried into His blood, immersion in water - baptism. God then raises these forgiven obedient people from their burial putting them in a kingdom not made by hands. You must study God's word for your salvation, and not "rely" on interpretations by others; e.g., BibleWay Publishing, commentaries, priest, pastors or preachers. (Phil 2:13)
"When the Son of Man comes … He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the wo1rld." (Matt 25:31-34)
Adam and Eve were separated from their loving father and creator, but God had a plan for bringing man back into that perfect relationship. He told the serpent, Satan the deceiver and father of lies, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (Genesis 3:15)
Comment "Crush your head" Christ's atoning sacrifice and resurrection put an end to eternal death by providing for forgiveness. Victory over sin and death, Satan's hold on man, to all who call on Christ through faith, belief and baptism into Him death.
Comment: "Strike his heel (of the offspring of woman)" is the attempt to take Jesus' life by crucifixion.
Later following Cain's unacceptable offering, God again warned of the consequences of man's rebellious actions, "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:7)
Comment: Cain did not listen to God's warning. He sinned even more by killing his brother Abel. The consequences of his actions resulted in him becoming a wanderer or fugitive.
During the days of Noah, we read "The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time." (Genesis 6:5)
Comment: God removed all evil before him by destroying by water all people living upon the earth, except righteous Noah and his family.
God revealed to Abraham his thoughts about Sodom and Gomorrah. "And the LORD said, 'Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.' ... Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. So, He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground." (Genesis 18:20-21 and 19:24-25)
Comment: God heard their outcry indicated God is aware of everything going on among the people of the earth. In this case He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with all their wicked people.
Comment: These events show that God does not tolerate wickedness, disobedience or sin and will take action against those who practice such, but not always immediately.
From Adam and Eve through Judas, Jesus' betrayer, sin prevailed as it does today. Paul through the Holy Spirit said "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" ... "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 3:23; 6:23)
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)
The Gift of God - Jesus, The Person
Promises concerning God's Gift
There are many Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus but what were the possibilities of making just 25 predictions about someone who was to be born many years later and having these predictions come true?
Dr. Hawley O. Taylor has provided this answer: If the events foretold for Israel's Messiah who was to come, then the overall probability that all n events would find their fulfillment in one person would be 33 million. Even if the prophecy regarding the virgin birth be excluded, the number remains astronomically large. Too large to assume that this accidentally happened! Dr. Taylor's statement is provided in Appendix A prior to a list of over 60 prophecies and their fulfillment. This is only one of the proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be, God in the form of Jesus.
Prophecies concerning God's Gift
- Following Adam and Eve's disobedience God told Satan "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (Gen 3:15)
- Years after the flood God call Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees and go to the land of Canaan stating "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; … and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Gen 12:2-3) and later God made the same promise to both Isaac and Jacob.
Some Specific Prophecies
- Daniel interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the statue of gold, silver, iron and clay stated - "And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed." (Daniel 2:44)
- God proclaimed (to Mary and Joseph) before Jesus' birth that He would be called "the Son of the Most-High." (Luke 1:32)
- Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." (Isa 7:13-14)
- "God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary." (Luke 1:26-28; 35)
- "The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most-High will overshadow you. So, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God'". … "and to Joseph the angel said 'The virgin (Mary) will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel'-which means, 'God with us.'" (Matt 1:23)
God, the Son, intentionally emptied Himself of His divine nature, left Heaven, became flesh and lived among His created beings.
Birth of Jesus
"His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'" (Matthew 1:18-21)
"All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel - which means, God with us.'" (Matthew 1:23)
The environment into which Jesus was born was a closed society, a people who considered themselves superior to all other people. They were Jews and took great pride on being the Children of Abraham, God's chosen people. 'Abraham is our father' (John 8:38). They had immense hatred of the Samaritans as they considered them to be half-breeds, Jews who had forsaken the Law of Moses during the period of Babylonian captivity. Their hatred was so great they would go out of their way to keep from setting foot in the land of the Samaritans. Roman occupiers were no different and any Jew who associated with "those occupiers" was a "sinner;" e. g., Matthew, the tax collector.
They were also legalistic of the highest degree. The made sure they fulfilled the letter of the law, not necessarily the intent, in order to earn God's promises. For instance, Moses required them to tithe, give a tenth. To make certain they gave the tenth but no more, they counted the seeds of plants to give a tenth and only a tenth.
Rome required the Jews to carry a soldier's load for one mile. So, the Jews put down markers to make sure they went no farther. Remember Jesus stated that if someone forced you to go one mile; go with him two. (Matthew 5:41)
Into this culture came the Messiah, The Anointed One, the Christ. The Jews believed that when He came, He would restore the earthly kingdom of Israel to its 'God given right' to power and honor. Their Messiah would be the King of the Jews and rule like David.
What First Century Writers Said
"The Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me." (John 5:37-39)
The Apostle Peter
Christians wears the name of Christ because Christ is their Lord, Teacher, Guide, Savior, Redeemer, Model, High Priest, Hope, Sacrifice for sin and much, much more. The rock-solid foundation for our faith is the truth of Peter's confession - "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:16) Jesus is real and the Bible is true. All that needs to be known about Jesus is found in the Bible. All of human history revolves around Him. Jesus is the central character of the human drama. It is not surprising that the history of the world is divided into two spans of time: before Christ (BC) and after Christ (AD).
The Apostle John
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." (John 1:1-13)
"All this was done that anyone who received him, those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." (John 1:12-13)
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)
John the Baptizer
"He (John) cries out, saying, 'This was he of whom I said, He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' From the fullness of his grace, we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." (John 1:15-18)
"The next day John (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29-30)
The Roman Governor, Pilate
"Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?' 'Is that your own idea,' Jesus asked, 'or did others talk to you about me?' 'Am I a Jew?' Pilate replied. 'It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?' Jesus said, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.' 'You are a king, then!' said Pilate. Jesus answered, 'You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.' 'What is truth?' Pilate asked." (John 18:33-38)
"'We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.' When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. 'Where do you come from?' he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 'Do you refuse to speak to me?' Pilate said. 'Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?' Jesus answered, 'You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.'" (John 19:7-11)
"Jesus looked toward heaven and prayed Father; the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted Him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." (John 17:1-5)
The eunuch said to Phillip
"And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.'" (Acts 8:37)
Matthew states "They had crucified him … and sitting down, they kept watch over him there … from the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land." (Matthew 27:35-36; 45-46)
Mark put it this way "At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour." (Mark 15:33)
Thallus, a Samaritan-born historian who lived and worked in Rome about AD 52, quoted by Julius Africanus, a Christian chronographer of the late second century. 1 "Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun." Africanus stated his objection to the report arguing that an eclipse of the sun cannot occur during the full moon, as was the case when Jesus died at Passover time. The force of the reference to Thallus is that the circumstances of Jesus' death were known and discussed in the Imperial City as early as the middle of the first century. The fact of Jesus' crucifixion must have been fairly well known by that time, to the extent that unbelievers like Thallus thought it necessary to explain the matter of the darkness as a natural phenomenon. ... Ironically, Thallus' efforts have been turned into the mainstream of historical proof for Jesus and for the reliability of Mark's account of the darkness at his death." 2
"A manuscript in the British Museum preserves the text of a letter sent to his son by a Syrian named Mara Bar-Serapion. The father illustrated the folly of persecuting wise men like Socrates, Pythagoras, and the wise king of the Jews, which the context obviously shows to be Jesus. 'What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their king? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the seas; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. … Nor did the wise King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which He had given.'" 3
A Roman historian living from about AD 50 to AD 100 wrote regarding Nero's fire. "Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus." 4
A Roman governor in AD 112 wrote to Emperor Trajan "They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang an anthem to Christ as God, and bound themselves by a solemn oath not to commit any wicked deed ... after which it was their custom to separate, and then meet again to partake of food, but food of an ordinary kind." 5
An annalist and court official of the Imperial House during the reign of Hadrian wrote about AD 120 in the Life of Claudius. "As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he (Claudius) expelled them from Rome."6 Edward C. Wharton then states "The reason for the fame of this quotation is due to the fact that Luke, some sixty years earlier, had recorded this same incident as the reason for the apostle Paul yoking up with a Christian Jewish couple named Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:1-2). Again, the mention of Christ in the historical context is observed in extra-biblical literature." 7
Josephus has an interesting observation. "There arose about this time Jesus, a wise man, if indeed we should call him a man; for he was a doer of marvelous deeds, a teacher of men who receive the truth with pleasure. He won over many Jews and also many Greeks. This man was the Messiah. And when Pilate had condemned him to the cross at the instigation of our own leaders, those who had loved him from the first did not cease. For he appeared to them on the third day alive again, as the prophets had predicted and said many other wonderful things about him. And even now the race of Christians, so named after him, has not yet died out." 8
Early Jewish and Gentile Writers
The following quote from F. F. Bruce summarizes this very clearly. "Whatever else may be thought of the evidence from early Jewish and Gentile writers...it does at least establish, for those who refuse the witness of Christian writings, the historical character of Jesus himself. Some writers may toy with the fancy of a 'Christ-myth,' but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic [self-evident rd] for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the 'Christ-myth' theories." 9
1. F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents, Eerdmens, p. 113.
2. Edward C. Wharton, Christianity: A Clear Case of History Howard p. 7.
3. British Museum Syriac Mss., F. F. Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 31.
4. The Annals and the Histories, 15:44. From Britannica Great Books, Vol. 15, p. 168.
5. Epistles, 10:96.
6. Life of Claudius, 25:4
7. Edward C. Wharton, Christianity: A Clear Case of History, Howard p. 11.
8. Antiquities, 18,3. 3.
9. F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents. P. 119. All the above were cited by Edward C. Wharton in his book Christianity: A Clear Case of History
Words and Actions about God's Gift
When Jesus was baptized, immersed, by John in the Jordan river, the heavens opened: "And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, 'You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.'" (Luke 3:22)
"The devil said to him, "If (forasmuch as or since) you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." (Luke 4:3)
"In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.' This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah. A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" (Matt 3:1-3)
John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29-30)
"As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" (Matt 3:16-17)
"The tempter (Satan) came to him and said, 'If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.'" (Matt 4:3)
"The woman (Samaritan woman) said, 'I know that Messiah' (called Christ) 'is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.' Then Jesus declared, 'I who speak to you am he.'" (John 4:25-26)
For several years Jesus taught as one having authority confirming His message by miracles, signs and wonders such as causing the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk and raising the dead to life again.
"Jesus asked his disciples "'But what about you?' he asked 'Who do you say I am?' Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.'" (Matthew 16:15-19)
Comment: "On this rock" - the fact that Jesus was and is the Son of God is the foundation of "My Church."
Comment: "Hades" is the temporary residence of souls of the dead.
He was more specific about the time His Kingdom would come for "he said to them, 'I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.'" (Mark 9:1)
Comment: Christ would be establishing his church during the lifetime of some of his hearers.
He then intentionally gave his life as the sin-offering, a sacrifice, to atone for man's sin by allowing the Roman government to crucify him. They buried him in a secure grave with guards to prevent the theft of his physical body. But God, the Father, raised Him the third day before his body decayed, conquering death and the grave.
"About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'-which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' When some of those standing there heard this, they said, 'He's calling Elijah.' Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, 'Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to save him.' And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit." (Matt 27:46-50)
"His disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.' Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!'" (John 20:26-28)
Some forty days later His return to Heaven was witnessed by the apostles. The Holy Spirit was sent to guide them in preaching and recording the Gospel, the power of God unto salvation. Initially many Jews and later many Gentiles acknowledged Jesus as God, the Christ (the Anointed One). Many witnesses in Judea, Galilee and Samaria who lived while He lived and taught, testified of His coming back to life (resurrection) and His return to Heaven (ascension).
The Foundation of "My Church"
"It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He (Jesus) is 'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:10-12)
"Who (Jesus of Nazareth), being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." (Philippians 2:6-7)
Comment: God, the Son, chose to become a physical body of flesh in the form of Jesus to live among men and face temptations, trials and rejection by the very beings he created. This topic is discussed in The Man Who Was God by BibleWay Publishing.
Christ is the foundation of the church. Ephesians 2:20: "having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone"; 1 Corinthians 3:11: "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" and 2 Timothy 2:19: "Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, The Lord knows those who are His."
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come - the everlasting age. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all." (Ephesians 1:18-23)
Following Jesus' ascension to heaven the apostles returned to Jerusalem as He had commanded them. Many Jews were gathered in Jerusalem, because it was Pentecost. "And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance." (Acts 2:1-4)
The sound of rushing wind brought a great crowd to the assembled apostles. Peter and the other apostles seized the opportunity to remind them of what they and their religious leaders had done, stating, "'Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.' When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off (all people) - for all whom the Lord our God will call.'" (Acts 2:36-39)
Comment: "Repentance" is not a mere feeling; it has not the uncertainty of moods and sentiments. It is not a simple change in the weather of the soul. It is a distinct alteration of the focus of the intelligence; it carries with it a movement of the will; in short, it is a revolution in the very ground of the man's being." (Al Maxey in Reflection)
Comment: "Baptized" was transliterated from the Greek word baptizo meaning to submerge, dip, plunge under. Baptizo should not be confused with the Greek words; rantizo, meaning to sprinkle or with the Greek word cheo meaning to pour over.
"This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:11-12)
Many Jews on Pentecost Day realizing their sinful condition put their trust in Christ by calling upon God to forgive them by being immersed in water (baptism) into Christ's death after which God raised them from their death, burial in water and added them to His disciples thereby establishing His body of forgiven sinners, His church.
"So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." (Acts 2:41-42)
"And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." (Acts 2:46-47)
James, addressing those IN Christ, stated: "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (James 1:12-15)
Comment: Knowing there are consequences for sin, you and I need to be forgiven, redeemed, reconciled and brought back into a righteous relationship with God. Those who are forgiven and reconciled are put into the Kingdom not made by hands. Following this reconciliation to God's relationship one must grow into God's likeness They had in the beginning by studying Christ message, the Bible.
"The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)
"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." (2 Corinthians 7:10)
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10)
"For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." (Romans 5:10-11)
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
Comment: "A new creation" is a spiritual creation of forgiven sinners made priest to serve God. The first creation, physical man, was made from earth's elements. This new creation is made from God's grace, and man's faith, trust and obedience.
"'I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.'" … "After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: 'Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.'" (John 16:33, 17:1-4)
Since Jesus is God's gift of eternal life, what must one do to accept this gift? On Pentecost Day, 40 days following Jesus' return to Heaven, Peter answered this question and the Spirit was poured out on all men. "God had promised him (David) on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear." (Acts 2:30-33)
"'Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.' When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.'" … "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day." (Acts 2:36-38, 41)
"They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:46-47)
There are many examples of others who accepted Christ by dying to sin, being buried (immersed in water) into Christ death, raised by God as new spiritual beings and put in Christ's Body and in fellowship with God.
- Ethiopian eunuch - Acts 8
- Samaritans - Acts 8
- Saul of Tarsus - Acts 9
- Cornelius - Acts 10
- People in many in cities of Philippi, Ephesus, Corinth and Rome.
How Does One Get in the Kingdom Today?
- Diligently read and study what Christ and the apostles preached for they are the Words of life.
Believe that Christ is God who wants to forgive
- All men are sinful, having disobeyed God's righteous commands.
- I have sinned and am not living according to God's commands.
- My sins will result in my eternal death.
- I must be forgiven to have eternal life with God.
- Christ, the sin offering that atones, is the only way for me to be forgiven of all my sins.
- Jesus was and is God who came to earth in flesh as Jesus of Nazareth and lived among men.
- Jesus willingly gave His physical life being crucified - the perfect sacrifice to forgive man of his sins.
- He was buried, rose from the grave on the third day and appeared to hundreds of his disciples.
- He ascended back to heaven to be with the Father.
- Change my life from sin and disobedience to trust and obedience.
- Acknowledge and believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
- Put to death my old, sinful, worldly life.
- Since your sinful life has died, it must be buried in Christ's death in the grave of baptism by immersion in water.
- Following your death to sin and burial into Christ death, God resurrects you into a new spiritual being, gives you the Holy Spirit and puts you into Christ Body, His church.
- Continue to live steadfast and obedient to Christ, the blood sacrifice that forgives sin and will continue to cleanse all who live in obedience through faith and trust from a contrite heart. IN Christ you are as a servant and priest to do God's will.
The Decision is Yours!
Will you choose Eternal Life or Eternal Death?
Assembling to Encourage and Edify
The Bible does not provide specific instructions for the frequency of or the location for assembling together. Jesus in talking with the Samaritan woman (John 4) was explicit that in the future worship was not about location.
The meetings of the early church were marked by every member functioning, spontaneity, freedom, vibrancy, and open participation. (1 Corinthians 14:1-33 and Hebrews 10:25)
"The first-century church was a fluid gathering, not a static ritual. And it was often unpredictable, unlike the (our) contemporary (institutional) church service (worship service)." (Pagan Christianity?, Frank Barna and George Viola pg. 50)
They met in temple courts public places, and in Christians' homes. With the onset of persecution by the Jews and Romans the temple courts and Solomon's colonnade ceased to be available. Therefore, they began assembling together in homes and other available sites.
The Hebrew writer admonishes Christians "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24 - 25)
Comment: "Forsaking" is intentionally choosing to cease assembling with other Christians.
Comment: The emphasis clearly was to assemble together, to be knowledgeable of one another's difficulties and concerns, and to encourage fellow Christians to live faithfully and do works that glorify God and are beneficial to others.
Comment: What causes abandoning the assembly together and fellowship? There are innumerable possibilities - attitudes of superiority, fear of persecution, self-centered unloving members, controlling personalities, being ignored, and not fitting in economically or socially. This should not be so among Christians.
Scripture referring to Christians coming together:
- Many were gathered together praying (Acts 12:12)
- The disciples came together to break bread (Acts 20:7)
- Gathered the church together they reported (Acts 14:27)
- Gathered the multitude together - delivered letter (Acts 15:30)
- When you come together to eat (1 Corinthians 34)
- In the presence of all rebuke sinning elders (1 Timothy 5:20)
- When you gather together … deliver one to Satan (1 Cor. 5:4-5)
- Read Scriptures, give your understanding and listen to others understanding (Colossians 4:16 and Acts 11:26)
- Sing to one another (Ephesians 5:12)
- If the whole church comes together in one place (1 Cor. 14:23)
Comment: The current day "Worship Service" does not appear in the Bible. However, when the Saints assembled to edify each other they certainly worshipped, but not a formal assembly or liturgy.
"But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying." (1 Cor 14:3-5)
Comment: "Tongue" was translated from the Greek word gloóssais which means "the language used by a particular people in distinction from that of other nations." (Thayer's Greek Lexicon)
"So also, you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me." (1 Cor 14:9-11)
Comment: "Barbarian" is from Greek word barbarous. The Greeks used barbarous of any foreigner ignorant of the Greek language and culture, whether mental or moral. (Thayer's Greek Lexicon)
"I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue." (1 Cor 14:8-9)
"Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, "by men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to me," says the Lord. So, then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe. Therefore, if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so, he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you." (1 Cor 14:20-25)
"What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints." (1 Cor 14:26-33)
"The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?" (1 Cor 14:34-36)
"If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized." (1 Cor 14:37-38)
"Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner." (1 Cor 14:39-40)
Comment: The assemblies of the Corinthians were marked by disrespect, chaos and confusion. To correct this problem Paul wrote stating:
- Speakers were to be silent if their language could not be understood and no one available to interpret.
- Speakers were to take turns, one following another, while addressing the assembly as God is not a God of confusion.
- Wives of speakers were to show respect to their husband by not questioning them in public but to seek clarification in the privacy of their home.
- Let ALL things be done decently and in order (one following the other, sequential) does NOT mean there must be an established order or ritual without any extemporaneous activity whether song, prayer or speech, but not at the same time.
The Corinthian type behavior may have contributed to flawed interpretation by God's shepherds of their function. Within a few years after Paul wrote to the Corinthians and a short time after John's death, church leaders began to change these instructions to a coercive authority to assume control over a congregation.
Ignatius, 35-110 AD, opined "In Like Manner let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father, and the presbyters as the Sanhedrin of God, and assembly of the apostles. Apart from these, there is no Church." (Ignatius to the Thrallians III)
Ignatius also claims that no Christian activity is valid without the participation or approval of the bishop: "For, since ye are subject to the bishop (Polybius in this case) as to Jesus Christ, ye appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, ye may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as ye indeed do, so without the bishop ye should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ." (Ignatius to the Thrallians II)
Within a few years the assembly of those in Christ ceased being vibrant and participatory and began being controlled by one shepherd and his "sermon."
The question to be answered is how are Bible teachings to be interpretated? A Specific instruction is a "do" or "do not do" command, He either requires one to perform some action or to refrain from performing some action. Therefore, His specific instructions must be followed at all times and by all His people.
When Christ or His Apostles have not spoken specifically then one must make a judgment based upon his understanding of what God desires without violating their conscience. His understanding may be flawed due to lack of study, human weakness, some type of bias or by putting self-first; e.g., a desire to control, fame, fortune, honor, ahead of a desire to please God.
No one has a perfect understanding of God's will; if he did, he would be God. In fact, the more one studies the greater the probability they will revise, alter or change to some extent a previous understanding. Such is the nature of the acquisition of knowledge. It is important not to rely on another's understanding as many "Bible Scholars" preachers, pastors and teachers differ in their understanding, but God's word is True.
Now immediately following Pentecost Christians (Jews and proselytes) were one, united In Christ, undoubtedly the unity mentioned in Christ's prayer in John 17.
Oneness - Unity - Fellowship
Later after many other Jews believed and obeyed, we see they were still united in love for one another:
"All the believers were together and had everything in common [They were united as one in Christ and in Fellowship with God and man]. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need [love of brethren]. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together [breaking bread] with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people." (Acts 2:44-47)
But it would not always be this way, in a short time, perhaps within weeks or months love thus unity begins to fade, the Grecian Christian widows were ignored. They were Jews but not from Judah, not Hebrew speaking Jews:
"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need." (Acts 4:32-35)
The solution to the problem of caring for the Grecian widows was much easier to resolve than maintaining unity and fellowship among all those in Christ.
"In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food." (Acts 6:1)
Fellowship is from the Greek word koinoonia, communion in Latin.
- The Thayer Greek Lexicon defines koinooia as the share which one has in anything, participation; contact, fellowship, intimacy.
- Strong's states in Strong's # NT:2842 fellowship is association, community, communion, joint participation, contact.
- Wikipedia referencing the American Heritage Dictionary defines it as sharing in common, comradely.
- Easton's Bible Dictionary has fellowship defined as mutual affection, enjoyment of his presence.
- Koinoonia is also translated eleven times as fellowship, seven times as communion and one time as distribution.
Therefore, fellowship (koinoonia) could be expressed as - a non-sexual intimate relationship based upon love, which is the nature of God.
This is the relationship in which God created man and the way man originally lived with God before he sinned. The great two commands of Matthew 22 are the fulfillment of the creation fellowship.
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:36-40)
We are not in fellowship because we walk in peace, but we walk in peace because we are in fellowship. Fellowship does not require approval or support of the opinion or acts of another. Equality of spiritual knowledge is not the foundation for fellowship. Fellowship is unity of the Spirit. Unity is based upon community not conformity. (adapted from Our Heritage of Unity and Fellowship, Cecil Hook)
It is noted that Christ's Church is a body of those called out of sin into righteousness by the forgiveness of sins. "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" … "All those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." (Acts 2:42, 44-45)
"We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints- and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us." (2 Corinthians 8:1-5)
"At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings." (Romans 15:25-28)
"There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet." (Acts 4:34-37)
Not in Fellowship
"But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.'" (Acts 5: 1-4)
"I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people- not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat." (1 Cor 5:9-11)
"Do your (Timothy) best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me." (2 Tim 4:9-10)
Removal from Fellowship
To the church in Ephesus "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent." (Revelation 2:4-5)
Comment: "You have abandoned" is an individual action which occurs when one ceases to love Christ.
Comment: "Remove your lampstand" is done by God to those who refuse to repent and return; not by His servants.
"I also received a report of scandalous sex within your church family, a kind that wouldn't be tolerated even outside the church: One of your men is sleeping with his stepmother." … "When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord." … "I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people- not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat." (1 Cor 5:1-2, 4-5, 9-11)
Comment "Eat" Greek sunesthíein meaning to eat with a companion, one with whom you have a close and personal relationship.
Comment: However, Christ's assembly of servants can withhold the common sharing of their personal relationship for the purpose of bringing one from a lifestyle that leads to eternal death. They are not to force a personal understanding of some scripture others.
Differences in understanding, as in the eating of meat sacrificed to idols as in the Corinthian church, may be the result from lack of knowledge, intellectual ability endowed by their creator; pre-Christian background or their lack of spiritual growth and maturity. Neither you or them are to force personal understanding upon other parties.
Consider a hypothetical situation
In AD 76 you began a 6-month Bible study. Over a hundred prospective students show up, most were just curious but 25 signed up for the class. They were from all walks of life as depicted in the table below.
||Miser (greedy and covetous)
||Foul mouthed person
||Dead beat (owes everyone)
||Dishonest tax collector
||Divorced and remarried
||Living together but not married
As their teacher you knew:
- The gospel, the atoning sacrifice (death by crucifixion), burial, resurrection and ascension of Christ they will be taught.
- What it means to believe - not just the acknowledgement.
- What action one must take to be in Christ.
By the end of the study all had given themselves over to Christ and were added to His Body. Are they in fellowship with Christ, each other and the other Christians? YES!
After two or perhaps three years one of the students desired to renew the fellowship, they had during the six-month study and scheduled a reunion. They requested that you address their gathering. As you might expect some could not attend. One had died and another had been put to death by Roman authorities.
Some different understandings of those attending are listed below:
- One had returned to his former homosexual way of life
- Two were assembling where more than one container for the fruit the vine was used that some considered contrary to scriptures and that the bread must not be broken before the prayer of thanks.
- One reported he his brother was so disabled they did not think he could be immersed so they poured water over him.
- Two had come to the conclusion that holy hands must be raise unto God when praying.
- One divorced his wife even though she had not done anything to break their marriage covenant.
- One thought it unnecessary to assemble together due to possibility of persecution.
- One Christian talented in music sang several solo songs during the assembly for the purpose of praising God and edify all present.
- Several assemblies took the Lord's Supper during the week in addition to Sundays.
As their teacher they asked you to discuss unity in Christ. Specifically, how Christians with such diverse personal interpretations of the Bible could remain united. Are they all still united in Christ and in their fellowship with each other? Are any of these personal interpretations binding on others or are they just a diversity of opinion? But before answering these important questions consider the various methods used in interpreting scripture is discussed below.
Interpreting the Scriptures - Does Silence Prohibit or Permit
Does the lack of any Bible instruction; (Biblical Silence) provide for any practices or teachings? Tertullian (ca. 150-225) taught that "anything not taught in the Bible could not be practiced." Luther espoused -- "What is not against Scripture is for Scripture, and Scripture for it." Zwingli maintained that anything "not enjoined or taught in the New Testament should be unconditionally rejected" and others taught anything not forbidden could be practiced.
Today just like the days of the "church fathers" many people agree with Tertullian while others disagree. Both opposing views cannot logically be valid. Great caution must be exercised in researching, analyzing and drawing conclusions about what God has or has not specified.
The following examples should help explain the difference in God requiring, restricting or being silent.
|Make yourself an ark of gopher (cypress) wood … now Noah did everything just as God commanded him. (Genesis 7:14, 22) What would be wrong by using oak?
God specified so Noah built an ark of the wood God Specified. No other kind could be used.
|The Lord spoke to Moses … he (Aaron) is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the Lord … Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense and they offered unauthorized, or strange, fire before the Lord contrary to His commandment. (Leviticus 16:12, 10:1) Why were Nadab & Abihu condemned?
|| Nadab and Abihu each put ordinary fire in their censers and laid incense on it contrary to the specified fire. God specified fire for the censers was to come from the altar before the Lord.
|Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him "Come over to Macedonia and help us." … From Troas we put out to sea and sailed … we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. (Acts 16:9, 11-12)
Could Paul have gone to Macedonia some way other than sailing?
||Paul sailed from Troas to Macedonia God did not specify how to go [Bible was silent] so any mode of transportation was permitted and none was prohibited. But he was required to go.
|Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved Mark 16:15. Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name Acts 22:16. Peter stated "baptism now saves you" … an appeal" 1 Peter 3:21. Why should or should not infants or children be baptized?
||Infant baptism has been practiced for years. Radical reformers and Restorationists rejected infant baptism as not authorized in the Bible. God specified believers who call on Christ to forgive were to be baptized.
Methods used in interpretating
Any specified action related to the topic, either requires or prohibits, all other action.
When the Bible is silent about a subject it neither requires nor prohibits an action. Therefore, it allows one to come to reasonable and responsible understanding, which may vary by one's knowledge and intellectual abilities. Thus, different understandings may exist among those in Christ but one's understanding must not be forced upon another. They must remain private interpretations.
A necessary inference would require Christians everywhere and at all times to comply. Someone's judgment has established a practice or procedure equivalent to a command of Christ based on their personal interpretation. The question then becomes who is authorized to decide for others what inference is necessary.
A New Testament example of inference is one's conclusion that eating meat sacrificed to idols is worshipping the idol, therefore a sin. If it is a necessary inference, then it would be a sin for a Christian to eat even though in their heart, they considered the idol nothing while giving thanks to God for all His Blessings.
An inference is one's personal interpretation about a teaching and must never be forced upon others to remain in your fellowship.
Procedures or practices while not explicitly prohibited or required are considered permissible because they are instrumental to the execution of some other clear biblical command.
Examples in the Bible that show actions of an individual or an assembly of Christians are generally confined to one location rather than universal. They are actions and practices based upon their understanding of some Bible teaching. Examples are not commands.
By understanding the methods used to interpret scripture one can begin to answer the questions about fellowship of the hypothetical class of 76.
One needs to know how to use these interpretation methods to be able to properly understand scripture regarding beliefs, practices and procedures.
- Examine all scripture relating to the procedure or practice
- Is the belief, procedure or practice specified [commanded]? If so, then all other things relating to it are excluded. For instance, God specified that gopher wood was to be used in the construction of the ark. So, all other wood was excluded.
- If nothing was mentioned [silent] then reasonable and responsible options are available. For instance, Paul could choose to sail, walk or ride to Macedonia. He chose to sail.
- Every example must be analyzed to determine if they agree with or explain a specified command.
- If it does, it is not the example but the command that is must be followed.
- If it does not relate to or explain a command, individuals or congregations have an option whether to follow or refrain from following the example.
- If it is contrary to a command, then it is detrimental to the body, if followed.
If something is specified, then all Christians everywhere, at all times and in various cultures and societies must comply. God has spoken. Man must obey. But if it is not specified then reasonable and responsible personal judgments are allowed but not binding upon others.
In the years following the apostolic era (after 100 AD) the writings of the "church fathers" begin following their own opinions based upon a faulty conclusion about Bible silence which neither requires nor prohibits an action. Over the years their teachings and practices became so bad or corrupt that Catholic Bible scholars rejected the practices and teachings of the Catholic Church at the risk of life and livelihood. Some wanted only to reform some of the worst practices rather than a complete return to the Bible for all teachings and practices.
The Apostles' warnings
The apostles warned about the time when people would turn away from sound doctrine and follow their own desires. This was evident by John's letters to the churches of Asia.
James warns of the dangers of teaching when one believes he has all, complete and perfect knowledge and understanding of God's will. He reminds them that they are not perfect as all stumble and that their incorrect teachings will affect one's entire course of life.
"Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body … but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so." (James 3:1-3; 8-10)
Paul warned the Ephesian elders, those who watchmen over the flock to be on guard and watch for those intent on the destruction of the flock (wolves) at the time when some within their close-knit community were attempting to draw people unto themselves not Christ. Even today some attempt to convert people to "their church" rather than teach Christ and allow the gospel convert them to Christ.
"Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you (as if or pretending to be Christians) and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number (elders) men will arise and distort the truth (by teaching their interpretations) in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard (as a good sentential)!" (Acts 20:28-31)
Paul instructed Titus "For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach." (Titus 1:10-11)
Comment: "There are many" professing to be Christians but insist one must also follow Moses.
Peter issued a warning to all Christians
"There were also false prophets during the Covenant given by God through Moses) among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you (teachers during the New Covenant as all truth has come).They (spiritual wolves with their personal interpretations) will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them [probably the Gnostic belief that Jesus was not human only a phantom therefore nullifying His atoning sacrifice) - bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed (desire for fame and/or fortune) these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up (their personal necessary inferences and interpretations)." (2 Peter 2:1-3)
Christ's Body of Forgiven Sinners
"This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:11-12)
Those called out from a sinful life into a holy and righteous life through obedience to Christ are the church Christ built, the Kingdom not made by hands. They strive to live a life following Christ, the righteous one - who had no sin, because without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)
"All those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." (Acts 2:44-45)
"The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together, assembled, in Solomon's Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number" (Acts 5:12-15). "So, the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith." (Acts 6:7)
But things changed as the leaders of the Jews who had rejected Jesus and His miracles by crucifying Him now turned against His people, that body of obedient disciples referred to as His Church. "... On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria." (Acts 8:1)
"But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison." (Acts 8:3)
Comment: "The church" is a body of people not inanimate objects such as buildings.
This persecution resulted in even greater growth as "Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." (Acts 8:4)
Comment: "Those who had been scattered" were individual Christian - no mention of a preacher. Later, Phillip, the evangelist, went there.
Comment: Therefore, the church was already in existence prior to this persecution.
"Paul, previously known as Saul, was now preaching the Gospel in Antioch. "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' So, after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." (Acts 13:2-3)
"From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia" (Acts 13:13a). "On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: 'We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: 'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth'" [from Isaiah 49:6]. "When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord." (Acts 13:44-48a)
"At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed" (Acts 14:1). On this and several other trips they proclaimed the gospel in many cities, Lystra, Debre, Lycaonia, Corinth, Ephesus, Athens, Phillipi and eventually Rome, the Imperial city, where "For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 28:30-31)
Everywhere Paul went he preached Jesus death and resurrection, the Gospel - the good news. It is this Gospel that Paul said "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Romans 1:16)
It is of grave importance that those in Christ proclaim Christ for mankind to know what Christ instructs them to do to receive the gift of forgiveness and salvation. God adds, those called out of a life of sin who put their trust in Christ and obeyed His commands through faith based upon knowledge, to Christ's Body as forgiven and saved spiritual beings.
God created man a physical living being with the ability of choice. God placed man in the Garden of Eden with the instruction to tend it (work), not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (obey), and to be fruitful and multiply (reproduce). After Christ's resurrection spiritual beings are created by obedience to Christ's Gospel and given similar instructions. If you love me you will keep my commands, do good to all men and reproduce new Christians by teaching Christ's Gospel.
God is the source of all life and all sinners are under the curse of eternal death. The only way to remove the curse and to return to the original relationship with God is to be reconciled to Him. When the recognition of the need to be reconciled to God causes one's attitude to change to a desire to do whatever it takes to receive forgiveness, then one will unashamedly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is God. "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (Romans 10:9-10) "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
This recognition comes from hearing and understanding the Gospel of Christ. Then putting our trust in Christ as the sin sacrifice. With the change in attitude and the desire to be forgiven, one needs to repent, change from sin and rebellion to righteousness. Then, confess their sinfulness and acknowledge to all that Jesus is God, the Christ. From conviction and obedience, one is united to Him in His death following a buried through water baptism and resurrection as a new creation. This is stated in Romans 6:3-7 "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been freed from sin."
Comment: All people who hear the Gospel have a choice to make. Will that choice be for Christ or for the world?
Comment: Those who accept His call and obey will be IN CHRIST.
Christ's Body - An Organized and Functioning Organism
Paul planted the seed of salvation, the Gospel of Christ: "… Apollos watered (Greek word epótisen) supplied the source for growth and how to live righteously, but God made it grow." (1 Corinthians 3:6-7) The seed is the Word which Paul taught to those who did not know Christ. Apollos taught Christians the way of the Lord, perhaps like Priscilla and Aquila who explained the way of God more adequately. (Acts 18:26)
In New Testament times evangelists proclaimed the Good News while the elders/watchmen/sentinels/shepherds, men skilled in instructing, taught the new Christians how to live sacrificial lives pleasing to God; thereby helping them to mature into the nature of God His likeness.
On Pentecost Day men and women who accepted God's message of redemption delivered by Peter and the other apostles were immersed into Christ death and "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. All the believers were together and had everything in common." (Acts 2:42-44)
The Bible does not appear to provide instructions for the frequency of or location for meeting together. In fact, Jesus stated to the Samaritan woman that the location was not important. (John 4:3)
"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another." (Heb 10:25)
"You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellences of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9)
Much is recorded about the actions of these 1st century called out people
- Devoted themselves to apostles' teachings. Acts 2:42
- Had everything in common. Acts 2:44
- Met together daily, ate, shared what they had, gathered at Solomon's Colonnade. Acts 5:12
- Elite Hebrew Jews ignored the Greek speaking widows, Jews from different parts of the Empire. Acts 6
- The church body chose servants to provide for the needs of the Greek Christian widows. Acts 6
- Buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.
- Remained faithful while being persecuted. Acts 8
- Fleeing persecution, abandoned their home and non-Christian family.
- Upon arrival in their new land, they taught the Gospel. Acts 8:4
- So, the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. Acts 11:29-30
- Many were gathered together praying. Acts 12:12
- Gathered the church together for a report. Acts 14:27
- Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. Acts 15:22
- Gathered the multitude together - deliver the letter Acts 15: 31
- The disciples came together to break bread. Acts 20:7
- When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus … deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit (soul) may be saved in the day of the Lord. 1 Cor 5:4-5
- In the presence of all rebuke sinning elders. 1 Timothy 5:20
Comment: When the whole church came together in one place their meetings were of a functioning body, freedom, vibrancy, open participation to all, but not necessarily always in unity.
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing, psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word (say) or deed (do), do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Col. 3:16-17)
Comment: "You" includes both men and women who may have a psalm, teaching, prophesying, revelation, or interpretation. But not everyone would be performing all these functions.
Comment: Don't take glory from God unto yourself.
"But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work." (2 Timothy 2:20-21)
"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices (offerings) God is pleased." (Hebrews 13:15-16)
Comment: "Fruit of lips" is not limited to singing.
The Church Christ built is an organized organism not an organization with positions of authority or rank. It is a body of faithful, obedient and believing people with differing functions (gifts) in a way that the Christian body may fulfill its mission of seeking the lost, care for one another and carry out all the services that Jesus Christ, the Head of the Body, gave them to do. No one was inferior or superior - all are necessary for the Body to function properly. The Body is one in Christ and united in Him and His purposes rather than in agreement of opinion and interpretation.
"For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts (functions) differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them." (Romans 12:3-8)
Comment: One is not important because they have a special gift, such as speaking in a language unfamiliar to them, a tongue.
Comment: Functions are not based on education or on secular occupation but on needs of the Christian family.
Comment: Man's heart is no more important than his intestines. So, one Christian's function is no more important than another's.
Those in Christ, His Body, are called out of sin unto righteousness, a changed forgiven people and part of the One Body - a living organism, with many parts. It is compared to the human body with its many parts all functioning in harmony, with each part performing its unique function.
Therefore, the Church Christ built is a body of faithful, obedient and involved people organized a way that the body may grow and fulfill its mission by caring for one another and performing services that Christ, the Head of the Body, gave them to do.
However, in the church in Corinth there appears to have been chaos - all talking at the same time not one following another and little respect for one another.
"What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two - or at the most three - should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored. Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way." (1 Corinthians 14:26-40)
Begin Corinthian Church Comments:
End Corinthian Church Comments
- Under these conditions the Corinthian Christians could learn little and few, if any, were edified. Perhaps many felt "my function is more important than yours I can ____________."
- Teaching was more important than being heard.
- Orderliness and understanding are important.
- Participation by all Christians important.
- Edification is necessary for faithfulness and growth so, do not abandon coming together.
- Respect of others enhances unity.
- Respect of law and customs cannot be ignored.
- Wives conduct dishonored a husband or someone else by their questions that appeared to be a challenge.
- Disrespect of others by trying to talk louder than them.
- Their actions needed to display their love for each other so any observing outsider would glorify God.
"If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power forever and ever." (1 Peter 4:11b)
"Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those [Christians] who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body." (Heb 13:1-3)
Comment: "Show hospitality" is to take care of the needs of others, including travelers but not those who taught a message contrary to Christ's Gospel.
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." (Colossians 3:23-24)
"Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation." (1 Peter 2:12)
"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves as one who serves by the strength that God supplies-in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever." (1Peter 4:8-11)
Comment: "Grumbling" - Why do I have to do this? Or, I don't want to but, I will do it out of duty.
"If anyone does not take care of (provide for) his own relatives, especially his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Timothy 5:8)
"A religion that is pure and stainless according to God the Father is this: to take care of orphans and widows who are suffering and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:27)
"For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end." (Hebrews 6:10-11)
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (Galatians 6:9-10)
"But in fact, God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." (1 Cor 12:18-26)
"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." (Rom 12:3-8)
"He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. It was he who gave
He gave some (some from the Greek word toús)
" to be apostles and (and from the Greek word de)
" to be prophets and (and from the Greek word de)
" to be evangelists and (and from the Greek word de)
" to be pastors and teachers (and from the Greek word kai)
some to be apostles,
to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Eph 4:10-13)
some to be prophets,
some to be evangelists, and
some to be pastors and teachers,
Comment: "Some" Greek Word toús meaning separated from;
"and" Greek Word de meaning to distinguish difference between;
"and" Greek Word kai a connecting word. Since de separates, while kai connects, then pastors are connected with teachers but separated from the apostles, prophets and evangelists. The better translation would have been teaching pastors. Therefore, the work of apostles was different from the work of the prophets, which was different from the work of evangelists, which was different from the work of pastors and teachers. However, all can proclaim Christ in their work.
"Some to be apostles" Greek word Apostólous - one sent forth with orders, a messenger. The word is used of the Lord Jesus to describe His relation to God, Hebrews 3:1 "Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus."
Apostello - set apart, to send out, John 17:3. "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." According to Acts 1:21- 22 an apostle of Jesus was "one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us - one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection." The appointing of apostles appears to have ceased following the selection of Mathias except for Paul who was appointed by Christ as an apostle out of season.
"Some to be prophets" from Greek word Profeétas - one through whom God speaks, a foreteller, an inspired speaker. The "prophet" proclaimed the message given to him, as the "seer" beheld the vision of God. (See Numbers 12:6, 8) Thus, a prophet was a spokesman for God; he spoke in God's name and by his authority. (Exodus 7:1) He is the mouth by which God spoke to men. (Jeremiah 1:9; Isaiah 51:16) 1 Corinthians 13:8 states that the need for prophecies, thus prophets, would cease: "Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they would cease."
Comment: "Cease" is from the Greek word katargeo meaning to render entirely idle, useless. (Biblesoft)
"Some to be evangelists" from Greek word euangelistás one who proclaims good tidings, good news, the gospel. Only Philip and Timothy were specifically called evangelists. Philip taught the gospel and Timothy assisted Paul in teaching the Gospel. One who goes forth to proclaim may go far or near and he could stay for a longer period of time in one location than another, as in the case of Paul. No doubt the receptivity of hearers was a criterion to determine whether to stay or go. One may also feel compelled to remain in one area, perhaps even longer than originally intended, until they have completed the task(s) they set out to accomplish.
On Pentecost Day those who accepted God's message delivered by Peter and the other apostles were immersed and "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." (Acts 2:42-43)
Paul evangelized, taught the gospel: "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." (1 Corinthians 3:6-7) The seed is the Word which Paul taught to those who did not know Christ - the Non-Christian. Apollos taught Christians the way of the Lord, perhaps like Priscilla and Aquila who explained to him the way of God more adequately. (Acts 18:26)
Evangelists and heralds, (preachers) generally proclaim the Good News. Mature Christians and elders/watchmen/sentinels/shepherds/
overseers skilled in instructing, taught them how to live sacrificial lives pleasing to God helping them to mature into the nature of God.
Comment: "Watered," is from the Greek word epótisen, - the source for growth.
"Then Philip, the evangelist, opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told, him, the Ethiopian eunuch, the good news, Jesus - the Christ." (Acts 8:35)
Comment: "Told" is from the Greek word eueengelísato meaning to proclaim, evangelize.
Pastors and Teachers - Teaching Pastors
In 1 Timothy and Titus Paul tells us about the character traits of these teaching pastors who are to a perform specific function within the Body. They are also known as:
Elders (presbuteros)- an adjective to denote seniority older man.
Shepherds (poimen) - a provider of nourishment and protector against dangers (a feeder).
Overseer/ watchman/guardian/sentential (eepiskopeés) - one who alerts others of pending danger, watches over, guards, inspects, visits (with visit meaning to take care of their needs) and teaches. (Thayer)
Is the elder/shepherd/overseer/watchman/guardian function the most important function of the Body? NO - Every function is equally important; e.g., the human body will cease to function if the colon and intestines cease to function. So, Christ's Body will cease where the Gospel of Christ is not proclaimed or works abandoned or obedience becomes unnecessary.
Perhaps an understanding of shepherding sheep and goats will provide the key to understanding the function of shepherding spiritual sheep.
A good shepherd cares for his sheep and wants to take on the responsibility of their wellbeing. He will constantly be with them calling them by name for they must recognize his voice [trust] in order to follow. It is the shepherd's responsibility to locate pastures near still or slow-moving water but away from danger. He must have knowledge of and remove toxic plants in pastures so they won't be able to eat them and become sick and die. He must be physically strong to protect them from thieves and predators. It is not a job for anyone who just needs a job or money. Recall David's 23 Psalm "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. … You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies."
On the other hand, goats are independent, inquisitive and difficult to herd whereas sheep are followers and require continual care and protection.
As a young Jewish boy your father has decided it is time for you to assume the responsibilities of a shepherd. You have been with him or your older sibling while they were shepherding. Are you prepared?
- Do you know the sheep by name so they will follow you?
- Do you know how to lead or are you a driver; e.g., a cowboy?
- Do you know where to find green pastures and still water?
- Can you identify and remove food they must not eat?
- Can you recognize predators that are intent on killing or rustling?
- Are you physically strong enough to fend off the enemy?
- Do you have the tools necessary for tending the sheep and taking care of your safety such as a sling, pouch, stones, rod, staff and tunic? Are you proficient in their use?
A biblical elder/shepherd/overseer/watchman/guardian need to have:
- A close relationship with God and Christians in his congregation.
- A good knowledge and understanding of the teachings of Christ and the teachings of His apostles to prepare Christians for ministry (serving) and to bring them to maturity into God's nature.
- Ability to recognize false teachings and provide opportunity for those under their care to learn, recognize and acquire ability to refute such teachings. For example, in their time a prevalent teaching was all flesh is evil. Jesus could not have been in an evil human flesh; therefore, He was just a phantom - Gnosticism.
- Knowledge of difference between an understanding/opinion and a false teaching.
- Ability to lead without forcing opinions on others.
- A clear understanding of the spiritual tools needed for performing the shepherding functions and proficient in their use to defend those under his care, to lead fellow Christians to spiritual food, to mature them into the likeness of Christ and to defend them from spiritual predators.
If "qualifications" were viewed as character traits or tools to accomplish shepherding work, they take on a different meaning; e.g., not combative, not a loose cannon, not contentious; but gentle when expressing concerns.
Functions shepherds - NOT some hireling - are to:
(1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-11; 1 Peter 5:2-4; Acts: 20:28-30; Ephesians 4:11-15; Ezekiel 34:2-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14; James 5:14 and Luke 15:3)
- Teach, feed, equip and bring to maturity.
- Exhort, admonish, edify and strengthen.
- Convict false teachers and their false teachings:
- One who denies Christ as God in human body.
- One is saved without being cleansed by Christ's blood.
- Salvation is earned by what a person accomplishes.
- Promote unity and harmony.
- Comfort the physically but primarily spiritually weak and sick.
- Seek and restore those who have drifted or are drifting away.
- Pray for self, brethren under your care and the lost.
- Warn of dangers lurking in the pathway of life.
- Prepare God's saints for work of service (show & tell).
"Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap." (1 Tim 3:1-7) Some early translations have office of a bishop rather than being an overseer.
The character, qualifications, of men He wants to fulfill such important functions are listed below from Timothy and Titus and an interpretation.
Begin "office of overseer" Comments:
End "office of overseer" Comment
- "Office of a bishop" was translated from the Greek word episkopeés, meaning watchman, sentinel, guardian or one who watches over thus an overseer.
- Bishop - a title for various government officials, later taken over in the Catholic and Angelicin churches (etymonline.com). The word "office" is not in the Greek text.
- A "noble task," a good work, is a function not an office. It is a work or task from the Greek word érgou - an act, deed or a thing done.
- "Faithful and Trustworthy" - (Thayer - one who is convinced that Jesus is the Messiah and the atoning sacrifice; Strong -sure, true and faithful).
- "Overseer" is from the Greek word episkopeés, in biblical Greek it is the act by which God looks into and searches out the ways, deeds, character, of men, in order to adjudge them their lot accordingly, whether joyous or sad; inspection, investigation, visitation when he shall search the souls of men; i.e., in the time of divine judgment. (Thayer's)
| 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
|| Personal understanding
hold firmly to the message
||be faithful to Christ - to know Him and His apostles' teachings
||not open to censure
good reputation, blameless
||good reputation with outsiders
|the husband of one wife
||Not a polygamist, and not still married to a "sent away" wife without a certificate of divorcement
|temperate, sober minded
||uses good judgment
||not a loose cannon
||orderly, good behavior
||takes care of the needs of others
able to teach
|| powerful in communicating
|not given to drunkenness
||not drink excessively, no brawler
|not a striker (violent)
||not combative or quick tempered
||kind and considerate of others
||not contentious - argue; e.g., "my understanding is from the Bible"
||does not put material things first
|manage his own family
||family lives within income -
not a spendthrift
|not be a recent convert
||needs to face trials as Christian
|Children-not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient
||children not rebellious whether a
Christian or not a Christian
Paul wrote during the persecution of Christians by the Jews and Romans. Therefore, those desiring the work of shepherding were willing to put their lives on the line to protect his fellow brethren. The spiritual wellbeing of the brethren was more important than his physical body. It was not a position of honor, power or prestige but a dangerous work which requires:
- The desire to protect your brethren even if it cost your life.
- Able to teach or apt means communicate effectively (from the Greek word didaktikos meaning skillful in teaching -Thayer).
- Patience - not to fly off the handle or quick to judge.
- Men known in an intimate relationship as righteous men, not pretenders intent on identifying Christians to persecutors.
Warning to Teaching Pastors and Deacons
The words spoken by Ezekiel long ago to God's shepherds of Israel under the Old Covenant are also applicable to His spiritual shepherds under the New Covenant who are not performing the tasks given to them by God.
"The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel (their leaders); prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not
Isn't this the work or function of New Testaments shepherds!
Christ made these decisions for all congregations - His Church.
- strengthened the weak
- healed the sick
- bound up the injured.
- brought back the strays
- searched for the lost."
If the above are the Shepherds' functions then who makes decisions for local congregations? Such as:
- Be faithful to the person Christ and the Apostles teaching.
- Do Good works that glorify Christ.
- Make disciples by teaching Christ crucified.
- What teaching is scriptural or false opinions?
- Who approves or authorizes where one can teach?
Where is the Body to assemble?
Is assembling together for the purpose of edifying one another, fellowship, or is the purpose to conduct acts of worship as a "worship service?"
Are acts of worship identified and commanded?
Are examples of acts of worship required, if so, is there a specific order?
Who is to take care of widows and orphans?
Who decides how and where contributions are to be spent? Can one give to a specific work; e.g., missions work rather than to the "church treasury?"
Who exercises "oversite" (whatever that is) of a mission work?
What should be done when one is caught up in a sin?
- In a bible class in the "church building"
- Home Bible study
- Using correspondence courses
- Individual or one-on-one studies
- Excessive drinking
- Forsaking assembling together
- Fornication, when known
- Greedy, liar, drunkard, gossiper, not providing for family.
Paul warned the Ephesian elders "Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number (among elder/shepherds) men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!" (Acts 20:28-31)
Comment: "Wolves" people pretending to be Christians for purpose of betrayal and destroying faith. "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." (Matt 7:15)
How could elders in sheep's clothing "from your number" come in?
- The process of selecting them.
- The body of Christians is not being involved with each other such that their beliefs and opinions are unknown.
- The training and equipping method is faulty, insufficient or turned over to others.
- Not hearing the concerns of the spiritual meek and gentle while paying attention to voices of the vocal or are large contributors.
Spiritual wolves are people within the assembly professing to be Christians but have a non-biblical agenda. How can they be prevented from drawing Christians away after their teachings? It is to equip and train the Body with knowledge by open discussion of prevalent teachings comparing them to biblical truths. Christians need to be able to recognize their teaching as false. Christians must cease being hearers, "pew warmers" only and become serious students of God's Word while receiving and participating in much instruction, discussion and edification by their, watchmen/shepherds and others knowledgeable in the Word.
"You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So, they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them." (Ezekiel 34:1-6)
"''Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them." (Ezekiel 34:7-10)
"Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so, hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself." (Ezekiel 3:17-19)
"My people come … to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice." (Ezekiel (33:31-32)
"Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus." (1 Tim 3:8-13)
Comment: Unfortunately, the word deacon represents a position or office in the church of England. If the Greek word had been translated as servant there would be less confusion.
Comment: All Christians are priests to serve God. Thus, all are diakonos, servants, man and woman, performing the same type functions God commanded Adam and Eve to do but spiritual rather than physical. Such as:
Obey - If you love me you will keep my command -- do not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Work - As you see opportunity do good - tend the garden.
Reproduce - plant the gospel seed as it is the power of salvation - be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
- "Deacons" (Greek diakónous - gender neutral) - vs. 8
- "Women" (Greek gunaíkas woman)- (universally, a woman of any age, whether a virgin, or married, or a widow or wife depending on context from Strong's). vs. 11
- "Their wives"- idíous is the Greek word for their. It is not in the Greek text which has only the Greek word gunaíkas, woman. Youngs Literal translation reads "Women - in like manner grave, not false accusers, vigilant, faithful in all things." By adding "their" to the English translation the meaning was changed from women servants, diakónous, to wives of men servants. vs. 11
- "A deacon must be the husband of but one wife" excludes polygamist and men who put away a wife without a certificate of divorcement consequently they are still married to the put away wife. Here deacon is from the Greek word diakonos, (nominative singular masculine per Vines). vs. 12
Since these diakonos having similar character traits and qualifications as shepherds, their work must be closely related.
Christ's church is compared to our physical body, it also has many working parts performing different functions. If these "church" body parts do not function, the "church" body in a weakened condition and it will wither and die.
The work of men having the character traits similar to shepherds is not specified so any understanding is an interpretation or opinion.
The following is quoted from a lesson by Joe McKinney
"In certain context the term 'diakonos' takes on additional specific meaning and significance when it refers to a group of servants with unique spiritual qualifications as in 1 Timothy 3 where it was transliterated deacon. In a sense, this was a helpful practice, since it calls attention that certain Christians are chosen to do a special service probably assisting the overseeing watchmen in their spiritual function.
"While we do have a certain conviction about the work of Christians having these special qualifications, we should never be so dogmatic to think that this is the last word on the subject. We must keep in mind certain Biblical truths about the Body of Christ so that any interpretation will be consistent with these truths. Since their qualifications of character and experience are already proven, it is reasonable to assume they assist the elders in their spiritual work of taking care of the spiritual needs of the church, especially those needs that are urgent. Deacons are not "junior elders" although their work would be similar to some work the shepherds perform and the experience could be good training for these men to one day may desire or aspire to the function of guardian, watchman, sentinel.
"The Body of Christ a living, growing and battling kingdom - a living organism - has many dynamic needs that are constantly changing.
"Problems arise, needs appear, emergencies occur: someone gets sick, another loses his job, families have squabbles, parents have problems with children, people die and families must be consoled, important ministries need to be developed. Not all the needs in a church are dynamic but many are and, at times, they are unforeseeable or even emergencies. When these needs appear, they must be met, and met right now! Who is going to meet these needs of the church? Who will serve? Who are the servants of the church?
"Consider that during the first century whenever a Christian failed to assemble all were concerned. Did the Roman authorities arrest him for his faith? Did a sect of the Jews do physical harm to him? If so, it would have been appropriate for the Christian family, or their watchmen to ask a brother living in close proximity to go by and check on his well-being and supply any missing need.
"All Christians are servants. All are called to serve. The church can call on anyone to meet a need (to serve). It depends on the situation. For example, in the area of finances, the church ought to choose someone with a good knowledge of accounting, who is trustworthy and has the integrity and honesty necessary to do that job. But is it really necessary for that person to be married with children in order to be the treasurer of the church? Does that person have these spiritual qualifications? Any Christian can serve and should serve in some area, independently of the special qualifications. He just needs to be qualified to do that particular job. But all Christians, man or woman, should and can serve in some area.
"Now when dynamic needs arise; that is, when emergencies occur, normally, there is neither time nor opportunity to research the talents and investigate the character of the brethren in order to discover who can serve that particular need at that moment. The church needs a group of servants, already spiritually qualified; proven and identified who are available to be called upon to assist the shepherds/ elders/ watchmen in unforeseen situations where the need is of an emergency nature and must be handled immediately."
(End quote from lesson by Joe McKinney.)
The diakonosus qualifications given above include being husband of one wife and managing his children and household well cannot apply to all diakonosus as all Christian men and women are diakonos servants. Therefore, the function of men with these qualifications must be different from other men or women diakonosus.
Some people infer that the seven selected by the Jerusalem church in Acts to take care of the Grecian widows' needs were deacons. But they are not referred to as diakonos nor are their qualifications given neither is it known if all the seven met the character traits in 1 Timothy.
Many today consider the work of elders as men over spiritual matters while deacons are men over physical matters. This appears to be an incorrect understanding, for by doing so, the work of all other members of the Body, man or woman, is grossly restricted. In fact, if elders do the spiritual and deacons perform the physical, there is no work left for non-deacon servant. But this cannot be the case for Peter writing to the exiles of the Dispersion states in 1 Peter 4:10 "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace." The word "each" includes men or women with and without the special qualifications. If "each" does not include women then Paul was in error by stating in Romans 16:1 that Phebe was a diakonon, a servant.
The contemporary concept that deacons to take care of the physical needs of the congregation, such as upkeep on the building and grounds, is not derived from New Testament practice since there is no record in the New Testament of any assembly of Christians owning or maintaining physical facilities. The church's needs during the period of persecution were people needs not property or things. This is true today as the church as people not property.
Warning to all Christians
Peter issued a warning to all Christians, "there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them - bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed (for money, power, control or prestige) these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up." (2 Peter 2:1-3)
Comment: Prevention of false teaching is obtaining a better knowledge of the teachings of Christ and the apostles. Another possibility of false teaching is from a hireling, a preacher, with unknown personal opinions and interpretations, a wolf in sheep's clothing - see 2 Timothy 4:3-5.
The Holy Spirit through the apostle John in Revelation 2 and 3 warned the Christians in six of the churches in Asia to repent as they had fallen away or were gradually falling away from Christ.
"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26-28). God is not partial (Acts 10:34). All are priests to serve God. (Revelation 5:10)
The Greek word I is a gender-neutral, either male or female. The Latin word for diakonos is minister, while the English word is servant. Diakonos or its variants occur 28 times in the New Testament, one of which refers to Phebe, a female servant (diákonon) and twice as deacon in Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:8-13 and Rom 16:1.
"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues." (1 Cor 12:27-29)
God through Paul set forth character traits for the shepherding function.
Following the character or qualifications of these men Paul discusses character traits, qualifications of servants who apparently help in this important work of the overseeing watchmen, guardians, sentinels. Functions by other members of the Body are just as important, necessary, essential and indispensable whether performed by man or woman.
Women Identified by Name
In the New Testament several women are identified by name while inclusive words such as, all, each, everyone, include men and women. By examining activities of God's diakonos one should be able to determine if there are any functions Christian women are required to do or are prohibited from doing.
"But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds … about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, 'Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.' And she said, 'Yes, for so much.' But Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?" (Acts 5:1-2; 7-9)
Comment: Sapphira and Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, an intentional sin.
"Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity." (Acts 9:36)
Comment: Tabitha, Dorcas, helped the poor by doing good and charitable works. An activity done outside the assembly.
"He (Peter) went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying." (Acts 12:12)
Comment: Mary used her house for saints to come together. In this case the gathering was for the purpose of praying for safety of all Christians but especially for Peter, as a short time earlier Herod beheaded James.
"And after she (Lydia) was baptized she urged us saying 'If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.' And she prevailed upon us." (Acts 16:15)
Comment: Lydia used her possessions to take care of the needs of Paul and those accompanying him.
"And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women." … "Now these Jews (men and women) 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. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men." … "But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them." (Acts 17:4, 11-12, 34)
Comment: Damaris believed. She was perhaps a prominent Athenian woman as she was in attendance at the Areopagus when Paul spoke.
"After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla. … Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus (as recorded in the Old Testament), though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately." (Acts 18:1-2; 24-26)
Comment: "They," Aquila and his wife Priscilla, taught Apollos not just Aquila.
"On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied." (Acts 21:8-9)
Comment: Philip's daughters prophesied. From 1 Corinthians 14:21 we learn that prophesies are for the believers. There is no indication that they prophesied only to women or only when not assembled.
"I commend to you our sister Phebe, a servant in the church in Cenchreae." (Romans 16:1)
Comment: Some Bibles transliterate diákonon as deaconess. But every person, male or female, in Christ is a servant, diakono, in the Body of Christ as well as priests to serve God. The Bible is silent about the type of service Phebe rendered. All we know is she served. We also know she did not meet the unique qualifications for the work of servants having a wife translated as deacons. (1 Timothy 3:12)
"Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners." (Romans 16:3-7)
Comment: We do not know what work Mary performed. However, we know she was not lazy as she worked hard.
"The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca (Priscilla), together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 16:19)
Comment: Priscilla and Aquila's home was open for Christians to assemble.
"I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement." (Philippians 4:2-3)
Comment: These women were apparently from Philippi. They helped Paul in teaching the Gospel. They did more than just being present to remove any appearance of impropriety. They taught the gospel as they labored with Paul and Clement.
"I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well." (2 Timothy 1:5)
Comment: They passed their faith on to their family.
"To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house." (Philemon 1-2)
Comment: "Apphia" a Christian woman known to Paul and Philemon.
Women by Inclusive Words - All, Each and Everyone
"So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:41)
Comment: "Those who received His Word" include men and women.
"The disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea." (Acts 11:29)
Comment: "Everyone" includes women, so women helped in determining.
"Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas." (Acts 15:22)
Comment: The "whole church" includes women. Therefore, women participated in choosing.
"So, when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement." (Acts 15:30-31)
Comment: The "congregation" included women who heard and rejoiced.
"Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs." (Acts 24:23)
Comment: "Friends" included men and women who attended to Paul's needs.
"There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality." (Romans 2:9-11)
Comment: "Every human" makes no distinction between men and women who do good or evil.
"For in Christ Jesus you are all sons a of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:26-29)
Comment: A son had a legal right of a father's inheritance. But "As many of you" who were baptized included women. Then women in Christ acquired the right of inheritance. Paul then mentions that those in Christ are one. No one in Christ is a second-class Christian for all are servants and priest to serve of God. (1 Peter 2:16 and Revelation 1:6)
"She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings." (1 Peter 5:13)
Comment: "She" could either be a Christian woman or an assembly of Christians - don't know.
"The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth." (2 John 1:1)
Comment: "The elect lady" could either be a Christian woman or an assembly of Christians - don't know.
The terms all, each and every includes women. Therefore, Women are to participate for the Body of Christ to function as a united body otherwise part of the body is considered a drag on the body or dead.
Women's Activity and Attitude
"So, whether you (male or female) eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoreth his head (Christ). But every woman praying or prophesying (neither prohibited) with her head unveiled dishonoreth her head; for it is one and the same thing as if she were shaven. For if a woman is not veiled let her also be shorn: but if it is a shame to a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be veiled
(1 Corinthians 10:31- 11:6)
- always seek the other person's well-being - 10:24
- whatever you do, glorify God - 10:31
- men and women, do not dishonor your head - 11:4
- do not treat the financial poor Christian as inferior - 11:21
- don't consider your spiritual gift more important - 12:
- love is most important - it last forever. - 12:31-13:13
- encourage, respect, honor one another and especially those having responsibility for your well-being, avoid confusion - 14.
Comment: "Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks" means do not be the cause of a Christian brother or sister to lose faith by ignoring their customs and traditions.
Comment: "Tradition" from the Greek word paradóseis meaning substance of the teaching. (Thayer's)
Comment: "Prophesying" from the Greek word profeeteuoo meaning foretelling future events pertaining to the kingdom of God or to utter forth, declare, a thing which can only be known by divine revelation. (Thayer's)
Comment: "Every Man" from the Greek word andrós meaning either man or husband depending on contacts.
Comment: "Every Woman" from the Greek word gunaikós meaning either woman or wife.
Comment: "Shorn or shaven" - Women who had their hair shorn indicated punishment of whoredom, or adultery. (Adam Clarke)
Comment: Paul is reminding the Corinthians that respect and honor is of utmost importance probably more than custom when praying or prophesying. The custom of the time was for men to remove their head covering in the presence of a superior and for women not to be seen in public without a head covering. So, was the head covering an act of righteousness or a custom of respect and honor? A husband could divorce his wife for such disrespect, not having her head covered. Paul's condemnation appears to be the dishonoring of God by a man who does not remove his head covering and by a woman dishonoring the man responsible for her wellbeing (husband, father or eldest brother) by not having her head covered by a veil. Both violate tradition and custom of respect in their society, or legal rights possibly imply acceptance of pagan practices. This does not prohibit either men or women from praying or prophesying. But one's freedom and liberty in Christ must never result in or lead to disrespect of others.
"A wife ought (under obligation) to have a symbol of authority (power) on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches" of God." (1 Corinthians 11:10-16)
Comment: Actions of a woman that disrespect of her husband, her head is not proper.
Comment: During the times before and after Christ when Rome ruled the world, most women were considered under the authority or power of men. For married women the veil covering their hair, 1) signified her marital status, 2) her submission to the husband's status as head, 3) an indication of modesty and purity and 4) protected her from men's solicitations. Women without a veil were considered rebellious often prostitutes with hair cut short, shorn or shaven heads. Customs in one culture are not binding as law in other cultures. Today in some areas of the world; e.g., India, women wear symbols of their marital status. After a Hindu marriage is consummated, the wife is never supposed to leave her arms bare. She must always wear bangles to signify that she is married.
Comment: The veil (Greek palla) was the symbol of a married woman, and in their culture a mark of husband's authority.
Comment: Those in Christ 'not independent of' suggest not superior or inferior but equal in value to God and needed in His kingdom. Equal in Christ does not alter God's directive that the man has the responsibility for the family unit and that the woman by creation was his helper and companion, not his servant. Any action she does that is against the teachings of Christ and His apostles or against local customs such that the community consider her actions out of place, she dishonors her husband and does not promote the cause of Christ.
Comment: Daily activities must display respect and honor which promotes unity in all relationships whether in the family, community, work place, government or church whether assembled or not. Everyone in Christ, man or woman, has equal spiritual status before God.
"What then, brothers when you come together, each one has a hymn, 1 a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, 2 or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up (encouragement). If any (man or woman) speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn (in sequence), and let someone (man or woman) interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them (man or woman) keep silent in church (the assembled body of Christ) and speak to himself (not gender specific) and to God. Let two or three prophets (not gender specific) speak, and let the others (not gender specific) weigh 3 what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches (congregations or assemblies) of the saints, the women (your women, wife - KJV, NKJV, YLT) should keep silent in the churches (ekkleesíais - assemblies). For they are not permitted to speak,4 but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands (ándras - any male person, a man - Biblesoft) at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church." (1 Corinthians 14:26-36)
Comment: "Brothers" Greek adelphos male and female. (Vine's)
Comment: "In submission" means being respectful to her husband by not embarrassing him in public. She can ask him at home.
Comment: "Not permitted to speak… as law also says" - "'In Jesus' time, women participated fully in the religious life of the community. This included participation in synagogue services and in the regular study sessions that were conducted in the synagogue's bet midrash (house study). There was no separation of the sexes in synagogue and women could be counted as part of the required congregational quorum of ten adults. There was, however, one inequality. For social reasons, women were not allowed to read the Scriptures publicly.
Comment: In the Babylonian Talmud and the Tosefta, we ?nd an early rabbinic (tannaic) ruling: "All are qualified to be among the seven [who read from the Torah in the synagogue on the Sabbath], even a minor or a woman; however, the sages ruled that a woman should not read from the Torah out of respect for the congregation." [Babylonian Talmud. Megillah 23] This is apparently a reference to the same social custom or decorum that we find in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. https://www.academia.edu/35099564
Comment: Some have interpreted in submission to refer to Genesis 3:16 "To the woman he said, 'I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.'" They then draw the conclusion that women are prohibited completely from any appearance of rejecting their submissive role to man. They must remain silent in all public instructive situations especially in the church assemblies. Others believe it refers to Corinthian custom or some tradition of the Jews.
Comment: The Christians in Corinth were assembled together as Christ's Body where they sang, taught (didacheén), 5 gave revelations and spoke in other languages through interpreters. The purpose of assembling together was to encourage Christians to remain faithful and do good works. Speakers, men or women, who were not able to be understood because an interpreter was not present, were to keep quiet. Chaos and confusion caused by all at the same time praying, speaking or singing would cause visitors to think "you are out of your mind" and preventing God's message from being heard. Allowing everyone speak or sing in succession, one following another, is respectful to God and one's fellow man.
Comment: "Two or three prophets speak" - a prophet is a male or female through whom God speaks. (from Thayer's Greek Lexicon)
Comment: While still on the subject of maintaining orderliness, Paul instructs the Corinthian women to keep silent and not interrupt their (idíous - one's own) husband but wait and ask him when you get home. Paul's instructions would not apply to Christian women whose husbands were pagans, dead or had abandoned them. The key is to respect their husband who was teaching and to respect others - men, women or visitors. So, "the law" probably refers to synagogue rules or traditions.
Comment: When assembled together all Christians are to participate in an orderly manner while respecting others, not all speak at the same time creating confusion and chaos. Women are not to question or challenge comments of the man responsible for their wellbeing, whether their husbands, father or brother or display a disrespectable attitude especially toward any man.
"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, … Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Colossians 3:12, 16)
Comment: The "chosen ones" include women and men. Both are to teach and admonish in wisdom, knowledge. The instruction is silent as to whether this is to be done in private or assembly. The text states the teaching and admonishing is done in song in the heart unto God. But teaching and admonishing one another requires one to speak from their heart whether written word or spoken.
Opinions Of A Few Commentaries:
Albert Barnes Notes
"'They were not to teach the people, nor were they to interrupt those who were speaking' Rosenmuller. It is probable that, on pretence of being inspired, the women had assumed the office of public teachers."
Comment: They held to the didactic teaching method of lecturing / sermonizing.
Adam Clarke Commentary
"There was 'a Jewish ordinance (note the statement "as the law also says"); women were not permitted to teach in the assemblies, or even to ask questions. The rabbis taught that 'a woman should know nothing but the use of her distaff (a tool used in spinning).' And the sayings of Rabbi Eliezer, as delivered, Bammidbar Rabba, sec. 9, fol. 204, are both worthy of remark and of execration; they are these: 'Let the words of the law be burned, rather than that they should be delivered to women.'"
Roy C Deaver
"The meeting in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 was for the purpose of exercising and receiving the benefits of spiritual gifts. Prophets were exercising their gift of prophecy. 'The prophets' wives were instructed to 'keep silent in the churches.' They were not permitted to speak [break their silence]. They were to be in subjection. If they would learn anything (with regard to the message coming through the husband/prophet) they were not to interrupt the prophecy, but were to wait and ask their husbands at home. It was 'shameful' for the woman (wife) to speak in that meeting." From Contending for the Faith October/1995, p. 2; Guy N. Woods, Questions and Answers OPEN FORUM Freed Hardeman College Henderson, TN: 1976), pp. 106-109.
Guy N. Woods
"Who were the women required to keep silent in the passage under study (1 Corinthians 14:34, 35)? They were the wives of the prophets considered in the foregoing paragraph (his comments on previous verses). Forbidden to interrupt, or to make inquiry, during the process of revelation, the apostle laid down the very sensible rule that they should wait a more opportune occasion to propound the question; i.e., until they were able to ask their husbands at home. These women were married, they had husbands; their husbands were capable of answering their inquiries at home." From Contending for the Faith, October /1995, p. 10; from Roy C Deaver, The Role of Women (Wellington, Texas: Copyright, No Date), pp.13-15.
"In world in the early days of the (Roman) Republic women were not even allowed to make suggestions, but by the beginning of the Empire many men were seeking and even following the advice of their wives. It was all right to do so, provided the advice was given in private. The Athenians men considered women not much better than property." Power rest with the strongest.
1. Psalmón Strong's NT#:1568; Vine's Expository Dictionary - primarily denoted "a striking or twitching with the fingers (on musical strings)"; then, "a sacred song, sung to musical accompaniment, a psalm. Strong's Numbers and Concordance - a set piece of music, i.e. a sacred ode (accompanied with the voice, harp or other instrument; a "psalm"); collectively, the book of the Psalms. Thayer's Lexicon - a striking, twanging.
2 Gloossa, gloóssee, Strong's NT#:1100 - 1. the tongue, a member of the body, the organ of speech: Mark 7:33,35. 2. a tongue, i. e. the language used by a particular people in distinction from that of other nations (Thayer's Lexicon); i.e., "Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God Acts" (2:11 KJV).
3 Diakrinétoosan Strong's NT#:1252 - Thayer's Greek Lexicon - make a distinction, discriminate, distinguish.
4 laleoo NT#:2980 - Thayer's Greek Lexicon - to use words in order to declare one's
mind and disclose one's thoughts;
5 Didaskalos (didacheén) - Strong's NT#:1321, - appears 97 times - 83 relating to the teachings of Jesus, Holy Spirit or the Apostles, 5 times to the Pharisees, 1 time each to John the Baptizer, women [1 Timothy 2], Jezebel and Balaam and 3 other times. Didáskein Strong's NT#: 1320, occurs 59 times - 46 as master in the Gospels, once as doctor in Luke, 1 time in the epistles as teacher and once as master in James.
The common theme throughout the New Testament is to proclaim the Gospel to the lost. First century evangelists performed the function of teaching the gospel to the lost and according to Acts 8:4. The Christians, man or woman, who were scattered from Jerusalem preached the Word wherever they went.
Today preachers primarily present their interpretation of some Biblical subject of their choosing to those in Christ without any opportunity for questioning or discussing. However, some preachers teach directly from the Bible by directing their thoughts to the passage under consideration. There is no mention of proclaiming the Gospel, death, burial and resurrection, again to those already in Christ, the saved.
God relies on Christians within His kingdom to teach and proclaim the gospel so that none perish and all remain faithful as a living sacrifice. The mission of the living Body of Christ, men and women is to:
The most effective method of evangelizing is on an individual basis. It would be rare if conversions occurred from mass communications, a method used to create awareness and to provide a source for obtaining additional information.
If the gospel is to be preached to the entire world, then congregations of Christians must place more emphasis on evangelism regardless of the English name associated with the activity; e.g., teacher, minister, missionary, evangelist, preacher, servant, pastor, elder, watchman or disciple - but using Bible names will prevent confusion.
What is to be taught?
"And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
All Christians are to teach is some manner, Hebrews 5:11. One of the requirements for shepherds, guardians, sentinels, from the Greek word episkopeés is to be skillful in communicating, so they can exhort and rebuke those God has assigned to their care. Shepherds passing their function of teaching those God placed under their care to a paid professional does not appear to be biblical concept.
When one obeys the Gospel message of the crucified and resurrected Christ, they become a cleansed, forgiven and redeemed new creation, added to the Body of Christ, His Church. They are now in Christ and "In him (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins." (Ephesians 1:7)
This community of changed people are to grow, mature and perform functions needed by Christ Body. He did not build an unorganized group of people without direction. He called these forgiven people His body, having many functions and compared it to the human body. Each member has a function to perform in His Body. But Jesus is the head of that organism giving it direction. (Ephesians 5:23)
Paul explains to the Ephesians Christian, men and women, how they were to live righteously in a previse world (Ephesians 4-5). They were to avoid:
Paul addresses actions and activities of Ephesian Christian men and women in or outside the assembly. "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery (extreme indulgence in sensually), but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual 1 songs, 2 singing 3 and making melody 4 to the Lord with all your heart, 5 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Eph 5:15-22)
God placed the responsibility of teaching the Gospel to the lost to all Christians, men and women not to a few evangelists who devote the life to evangelizing. Christians to whom the Hebrew writer is addressing were slack in their teaching responsibilities. They were immature in their knowledge and with little a desire to teach.
The context of these passages focuses on the message one sends by the way they conduct their lives and relationships - calm, godly and simple lives, preferring others over self, not demanding of others, not calling attention to their knowledge, wealth or position but in all actions respecting others whether poor or wealthy, Jew or pagan, man or woman. Thus, Christian men and women will be known by their righteous lives and by their appearance and demeanor in public by not calling attention to the sexual and sensual but to the spiritual. Their teachings will reflect their humility and respectfulness.
A Christian's righteous living and a united family based on love will be displayed in all relationships with others.
In Acts 20:7 in Troas held a discussion from the Greek word dielégeto 10 with the Christians assembled, both men and women. The King James Bible mistranslated the Greek word as preached, however, preach is from the Greek kerusso or keerux meaning herald or proclaim.
"Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives- when they see your respectful and pure conduct." Peter and Paul are addressing the actions and attitude of Christians as they live daily among the saved and the perishing." (1 Peter 3:1-5)
Paul stated that the submitting by Christian wives to their husbands' decision is the way Christians submit to Christ; e.g., "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)
Christians are fully assured of Christ's love, knowing that He always chooses what is best. So, also the Christian husband's decision must be whatever is best for the family. However, a wife cannot submit to any decision of Christian or non-Christian husband that would violate her relationship with Christ.
In the parable recorded in Luke 10 often referred to as the parable of the Good Samaritan a comparison is made between the living by law, the Old Covenant, and living by love, the New Covenant. The Samaritan had love, compassion, on the one robbed and beaten, recognized his needs and took care of them. Whereas following their tradition and law the priest and Levite, religious leaders of the Jews, ignored him and his needs. In the New Covenant of grace love for the destitute, especially widows, is expected.
Christians are to have compassion for those known to be lacking in the necessities of life; e.g., the Gentile Christians sent relief to Hebrew Christians in Jerusalem.
Destitute widows prior to widowhood who by their actions had a reputation of doing good and living pleasing to God, can be employed by the church. The Bible is silent regarding the functions needed by the Body. It could have been helping those suffering but not destitute, teaching non-Christian women the Gospel, teaching younger women how to treat their husbands and children with love and respect and to encourage them to do good works.
"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind." (1 Peter 3:8)
All Christians whether male or female are servants to do the will of God which is to be faithful, do good works and to teach the gospel. Unity of mind among those in Christ is not the same as complete agreement. There is still room for differences in understanding, opinion and interpretation on a teaching (doctrine). To be united in Christ there must be agreement of what constitutes the gospel and being in Christ - Jesus was God in human form, His atoning sacrifice, burial and resurrection "the power of God unto salvation'' and how God adds one into Christ's Body. Unity does not include agreement on personal opinion and interpretation which is never to be a test of fellowship.
There must be forbearance, tolerance, mercy, longsuffering, patience, in doctrine (teaching) and opinion but NOT the gospel. The Gospel is the way unto salvation whereas the inspired apostles' doctrine is the way unto godly living while taking the Good News to "all the world." Christians are to never cease evangelizing.
Alexander Campbell in an address caused concern about unity. John Rogers and others of Kentucky wrote to him expressing their regrets over his remarks stating the unity movement would never divide if: 2
Raccoon John Smith identified the Gospel as a system of facts, commands, and promises, and insisted that no deduction or inference drawn from them, however logical or true, forms any part of the gospel. Opinions about the gospel are not part of the gospel and therefore cannot be held as threat over those who deny them. One should surrender any opinion for sake of unity but never give up one fact, command, or promise. 2
Demanding a personal opinion be made a test of fellowship causes strife and division.
1 Restoring New Testament Christianity, Adron Doran p. 44
2 Our Heritage of Unity and Fellowship, Leroy Garrett and Carl Ketcherside, pgs. 38-40
Reprove, Rebuke and Exhort
The church established by Christ, also referred to as the Body of Christ, has many parts each performing different functions. It is a living organism not an organization or building. Like the human body sometimes the members of Christ Body do not perform as desired. For His Body to be healthy occasionally disciplinary action may be necessary. Most of the time this action is minor, a few times it is major but seldom radical.
There appear to be four types of treatment for the ailments of the spiritual body depending of situations.
Brothers having different understanding of apostolic teaching
Brother sinning against brother
"Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that 'all of us possess knowledge.' This "knowledge" puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that 'an idol has no real existence,' and that "there is no God but one." For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth-as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"- yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. "However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so, by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble." (1 Corinthians 8:1-13)
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." (Matthew 18:15-18)
Comment: There was sin present. Fellowship and relationship between brothers is strained and in need of restoration. The offended brother is to go to the offender, face to face, not - send a letter, someone else, an e-mail, phone call or text message. They need to meet face to face and to resolve the situation.
When one-on-one does not produce repentance and restoration then other Christians must become involved. Two or three Christians respected by the offending brother and the whole congregation, but not his a buddy of the offended, should go with the offended, brother to discuss his situation (Matthew 18:16). In the unlikely event this action does not result in repentance and reconciliation, radical action by the entire Body of Saints must be taken as his everlasting life is at stake.
As a last resort the whole congregation need to confront him in person, not by letter, e-mail, text message, tweet, phone call or public announcement. It is not the elders' problem it is the whole congregation's problem and all are to be involved. (Matthew 18:17)
Brother living a sinful and ungodly life
"I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people- not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler-not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you." (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)
Comment: This lifestyle choice has severe consequences as a brother is living an ungodly life that leads to eternal destruction if he does not change his way of living and return to his redeemer and loving Father.
Comment: God's people are to correct their brethren sometimes in what may appear to be extreme punishment. 1 Corinthians 5 states "Purge, cleanse, out the old leaven" (vs 7) "not to keep company, not associate, with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of:" (vs 11)
- Immorality (fornication) - Sexual relations with someone other than spouse whether heterosexual or homosexual, married or unmarried.
- Covetousness - One who takes advantage of another for unjust gain. This can occur among elderly, youth, men or women. - "I want it and I will do whatever it takes to get it."
- Idolatry - Putting things or activities ahead of God; e.g., self-indulgence.
- Reviling; slanderer, gossiping.
- Drunkenness - Lack of self-control while under the influence of alcohol (or drugs).
- Wickedness (extortioners) - Laziness or inactivity by one capable of caring for self while obtaining another's possessions by deceit, trickery, undue force, power, or intimidation.
- Disorderly - Out of Step with others in Christ, offensive conduct.
- Divisive - One willing to fight and divide in order to get their way. It must be what 'I' want or understand regardless of the consequences. Thus, believing one's interpretation is the correct and only valid interpretation causes divisions.
What does "not associate with" or keep company with entail? Is it shunning, not speaking to, not giving aid to, prohibit from assembling with, not eating or sleeping with family and the ceasing of close companionship? The purpose of discipline is to cause a change, a return to God and reconciliation with His Body. So, no association of any kind prevents communication thus defeating the purpose of disciplinary action. Stopping all close companionship; such as, not eating the communal meal, agape meal, when the Lord's Supper was observed, is the intended action.
Brother who wanders from the truth
"My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20)
Comment: There is always hope that a wayward brother will repent and return to Christ and be re-united with his Christian brethren. For "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." (1 John 6:9-10)
Comment: This brother was in process of moving away from Christ. He was wandering from the truth, Christ. It is worth noting that some "Christians" referred to as Gnostics denied that Jesus was God in the flesh or human so no atoning sacrifice, sin offering.
Re-United with Christ
When a Christian yields to temptation and returns to their former sinful way of life and later desires to be reconciled to God, what action does God require of him? Does God require penance, physical punishment, some financial penalty or baptism again? Must a Christian desiring to be reconciled to God restore to the one sinned against all the wrong they have done? Does the Bible proscribe a restoration course of action to be followed by the wayward Christian and for the local assembly of Christians when one is reconciled and re-united with Christ?
The reconciling process must begin with the recognition of one's rebellious state and with a desire to be reconciled to God and to anyone harmed by their sin. But desire alone is not enough; there must be a change in attitude, heart, mind and their inner being. They must communicate their desire to be forgiven and restored to the one(s) to whom they seek reconciliation - God and man. The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 appears to explain this process. God is always open to repentance and reconciliation. However, this is not necessarily true with all who claim to be in Christ even though they are to forgive as Christ forgave them.
All of us are faced with some type of sin that, if not cleansed by the blood of Christ, will separate us from our Lord and Savior. James expressed our problem of yielding to temptation stating "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." (James 1:13-15)
The Apostle Paul stated that all mankind suffers from the sin problem stating: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation [atonement] by his blood, to be received by faith." (Romans 3:23-24) Then a little later he wrote: "… the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:21-23)
God's children through the ages have had the sin problem. The Children of Israel, the race God chose to bring Christ, the Messiah, into the world were constantly rebelling against Him thus committing spiritual adultery by worshipping the idol gods of the nations near them, thereby breaking their covenant relationship with Him. But every time they turned from their sin of rebellion, repented of their sins by tearing down their idol false gods and returning to Jehovah with a penitent and contrite heart, He forgave.
David, a man after God's own heart, is an example of an individual sinning against both God and man when he committed adultery and then murder in an attempt to cover up his sin. When the prophet Nathan confronted David, David's heart, his inner being, was filled with grief, his attitude changed stating "I have sinned against the Lord." He returned and repented. God forgave.
Demas was a companion of Paul's on one of his missionary trips as he sent his regards to the Colossian church (Colossians 4:14). Later
Paul stated "Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted, forsaken, abandoned me." (2 Timothy 4:10)
In the New Testament we read that Simon, the sorcerer or magician, of Samaria requested to purchase God's gift. Peter forcefully explained his sinful situation to him stating; "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." And Simon answered, "Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me." (Acts 8:20-24
In 1 Corinthians 5 we read of a Christian brother involved in a sexually immoral situation not even tolerated by the pagan Gentiles. Paul told the Corinthian disciples to deliver him to Satan in order he would become aware and acknowledge his sin so that his spirit (soul) might be saved. In 2 Corinthians 2:6-9 Paul is concerned that the Christian delivered to Satan, who had repented did not feel he was accepted by the Corinthian Christians "The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him."
Comment: Repentance is "Not a mere feeling; it has not the uncertainty of moods and sentiments. It is not a simple change in the weather of the soul. It is a distinct alteration of the focus of the intelligence; it carries with it a movement of the will; in short, it is a revolution in the very ground of the man's being." The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 18, p. 66 quoted in REFLECTIONS #515 Al Maxey, January 3, 2012
Perhaps the Bible expresses it better: when Paul stated "now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done." (2 Corinthians 7:9-11)
Comment: Repentance produces an action, a change in one's life course from worldliness to godliness.
James tells Christians to "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." (James 5:16)
Comment: One is to confess to the one sinned against, either God or man or both. Scripture does not say confess "I have sinned" but confess "your sins."
John, the aged apostle, wrote in Revelation 1 to the churches of Asia telling then that unless they repented God would take action against them. Their salvation was not guaranteed for they needed to repent and return to God.
Comment: There may be more scriptures on the need to repent and return to Christ; all require a change in attitude. When a rebellious child of God become aware of his or her sinful situation, turns his or her life from its sinful course toward one pleasing to God, prays earnestly for God's forgiveness, then God forgives. "If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:6-7)
Comment: They are not to be regarded as second-class Christians who are not allowed to serve. For who but Christ has authority over His servants? They are to assemble with other Christians who are to help and encourage them to live faithfully to God. They have returned to their former forgiven state and are to perform functions needed by the Body. Leaders and brethren must not consider them less necessary or less important as all have sinned, repented and returned at some point during their Christian life. In fact, they must assist them in becoming workers in the Kingdom.
The End of Time
For Bible believers everywhere, somewhere in the back of our minds there looms thoughts and questions about the end, the day when Jesus will come back and everything that is on this earth, as we know it, will shut down. The questions begin to multiply. When is that going to be? What's going to happen? Will the earth continue? Will it be destroyed? What will happen to our bodies? What about the dead? The questions go on and on and on. Those questions are spurred periodically by our subconscious to our conscious by volatile world events, and by "end of time" prognosticators.
When is Time Going to End?
We all want to know when. Is it going to be today? Is it going to be tomorrow? Will it be 100 years? 1000 years? When is Jesus coming back and when will time--as we know it--end?
There are many theories. You can go back in history and see where there have been vain attempts to try to predict the end of time. For example, if you look back to William Miller, a figure associated with the founding of Seventh-Day Adventist religion, he predicted the date of Christ's Second coming as being somewhere between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. He prepared all of his camps for that Second Coming and the end of time and nothing happened. He assumed he had miscalculated the date so he re-figured. This time it was going to be October 22, 1844, but again nothing happened. I don't really need to tell you the rest of that, do I?
In an effort to advance his movement, Charles Russell, the founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses, advanced the notion that Jesus was going to return in 1874. But again, the wait was in vain.
In the 1980's an author brought in a great deal of money for potentially projecting the date of the rapture. Then when he missed that date, he put it a little bit farther ahead. All of that has come and gone as well. Let me make a couple of statements about those predictions--recent or long ago. All of those predictions stem from a handful of verses, some of which are found in the first half of Matthew 24, which was not spoken by Jesus about the end of time but the destruction of Jerusalem. Some come from apocalyptic literature. That's vivid literature filled with imagery (some in the Old Testament, some from the book of Revelation). Most of the time, pulled out of context from verses not meant to apply to the end of time.
In fact, if you study the Bible with any scrutiny at all, you realize that the predictions are pure folly because "The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." (2 Peter 3:10) Listen to the words of Jesus from the last part of Matthew 24, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father."
The point is when anyone informs the world that he or she has suddenly discovered the time of the Lord's Second Coming, they immediately reveal themselves as a false prophet. Because the day of the Lord will come like a "thief in the night."
What is not going to happen
We don't know when. There has been such a proliferation of propaganda concerning what's going to happen when the end of time occurs. Let's go to the Bible to find out what is not going to happen when Jesus comes again.
1. Not set up a Kingdom
The doctrine has its roots all the way back to C. L. Schofield and some others, but frankly, it's not Biblical. Oh, it's true there is a
One of the more popular theories regarding the last days is the fact that Jesus will come and establish some kind of utopian 1,000-year reign, during which time there will be peace and prosperity all across the earth. According to this theory, which is called the Millennial Theory, the temple of the Jews is going to be rebuilt, temple worship will be restored, Jesus will rule from David's throne for 1,000 years, and he will evangelize the world from that throne.
kingdom and there are also Biblical prophecies about the Messiah sitting on David's throne, but the Bible teaches these prophecies have already been fulfilled. The Messiah has come and he has already established his kingdom. In fact, here is an inspired interpretation of those very prophecies. It is found in Acts 2:29-33 when Peter preached the first sermon about Christ on Pentecost Day.
"Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear."
Peter said this prophecy about Jesus was fulfilled when he was resurrected. Right now, he is seated on his throne, and the kingdom is under his charge now. All the prophecies about the kingdom reign are fulfilled in the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus. Speaking of Jesus, Colossians 1:13 states "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves." The same is true in 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death." It just says the same thing; Jesus is reigning over his kingdom now.
Comment: "Brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves" clearly shows the Kingdom, Christ Church, had been established at this time.
2. No 1000-Year Reign
"Where do they get the idea about the 1,000-year reign?" That comes from Revelation 20. If we begin to take every image and symbol and number from Revelation literally, we will be the most confused people on the face of the earth. Written apocalyptically, the number 1,000 is a symbol. Ten (a number of completeness) cubed, which represents further completeness. That 1,000-year reign represents the last days of the Christian age, and we are living in that right now. It's the 1,000-year reign. So, don't misunderstand. God is not coming again to set up a kingdom, the kingdom is here.
3. No Special Favor on the Jews
When Peter was instructed by God in Acts 10 to go to Cornelius and open the doors of the kingdom to the Gentiles, Peter did as he was
This is a spin-off to the Millennial Theory, it's a premillennial idea that Jesus' Second Coming will be just before that 1,000-year reign. The concept is the Jews will be saved during that 1,000-year period of evangelism and they will be instruments of Christ to evangelize the rest of mankind, those still lost up to that point. During that time, the Jews will supposedly come from all over the earth to their homeland of Palestine when Christ will bestow special favor on them. Christ will then begin to reign over all man. If there is one thing the Bible makes abundantly clear in the New Testament, it is that the time of any nation or race of people receiving special favor from God has long since past. It is never to be revived, and not to be resurrected.
told (with some coaxing). But here's the conclusion he reached in Acts 10:34-35: Then Peter began to speak, "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right."
If there was any question about God coming to bestow special favoritism on the Jews, or anybody else, Paul answered that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:28-29) The time has long since passed where God will bestow special favoritism on a race of people.
4. No Rapture
Almost everyone has heard the "rapture theory", that one day, there is going to be an evacuation--that really will be more like a vaporization -- of all the Christians on earth. Suddenly, they are just going to disappear. Then after the rapture, supposedly, there will come some seven-year period of tribulation, then 1,000-year reign, and then you know the rest of it from what we have justdiscussed.
"Where did that idea come from?" That concept goes all the way back to James Brooks in the latter part of the 19th century. It comes from two great passages: 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-55. In both of those passages, Paul speaks of the dead being raised then the living being caught in the air, given a new incorruptible body to live with through eternity. In those passages there is no indication that life on earth is going to go on as usual; that all of those who are not saved are going to keep doing their thing. To the contrary, Philippians 2:10-11 says, "Every knee is going to bow, every tongue is going to confess." Matthew 25:34-46 tells us that when Jesus appears again, that is going to be followed immediately by a great judgment scene, not some rapturous disappearance of the saints. That is not found in the Bible.
What Will Happen
Let the Word of God tell us in passages that deal with the Second Coming of Jesus what will happen at the end of time.
1. The Lord will appear [a spectacular thing]
"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, and the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God..." (2 Thessalonians 4:16a) Every human being living on the face of the earth, whenever that day is, will hear that trumpet and our attention will be suddenly captured on a moment's notice.
2. The dead will be raised
"The dead in Christ will be raised first." (2 Thessalonians 4:16b) That is corroborated in I Corinthians 15:52 "in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable." When Jesus comes again, the graves are going to be emptied, all of those that we have known.
3. The living are going to be changed
"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep (i.e., die), but we will all be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality." (1 Corinthians 15:51)
These first three are all going to happen practically simultaneously:
- A trumpet will sound
- The voice of the archangel
- The dead will come out of the graves, and the living at that time will be caught in the air with them. Therefore, all of humanity, from the beginning of time, will be caught up in the air with Christ himself. It is going to be something, isn't it?
4. A Great Separation-Judgment
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left." (Matthew 25:31)
5. Inheritance for the Righteous
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." (Matthew 25:34)
6. Sentence Pronounced on the Disobedient
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41)
John writes (having seen that revelation), "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and the books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books." (Revelation 20:12)
7. The destruction of the earth
"The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens 1 will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare." (2 Peter 3:10)
(1) Aerial or atmospheric heavens, as "birds of heaven" or "clouds of heaven
(2) Sidereal heavens, the region of the "sun," "moon," and "stars
This earth is not going to continue for another 1,000 years after Jesus returns. Jesus is not coming to set up a kingdom. He's going to deliver the kingdom that is already his to the Father after the judgment. Those of us who are part of that kingdom live forever with the Father for eternity.
I realize that when one talks about the end of time and the Second Coming of Jesus, it is a fearful thing for many people. It is not meant to be for those in Christ. We've been reading from it two or three times in the lesson. But in 2 Thessalonians 4:18 "...encourage one another with these words." Oh, if you are in Christ, it is going to be the greatest day that ever happened. It will be the most beautiful day you've ever seen, and the sound of the shout and the trumpet will be the most beautiful things your ears have ever heard if you are a Christian. That is what's going to happen at the end of time. The question is "Are you ready?" The End of Time - Amazing Grace Lesson # 1015, Steve Flatt