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Jelly-fish Christianity

In case you haven’t heard, the History channel is currently putting out a new series on the Bible. This series airs every Sunday for about 2 hours and will have 5 different parts to it.

This series seems to have quickly become a hit among popular Mega Church pastors all across evangelic America. And of course, it shouldn’t surprise us to much that there is a lot of excitement among many Christians due to 2 events that revolve around this series.

The first thing is the growing intolerance in our country against Christianity. We saw this with Louie Giglio being discouraged from praying at Obama’s inauguration, and more recently with Tim Tebow being “strongly encouraged” not to speak at a Church who took a Biblical orthodox view of Homosexuality and other religions. Therefore, it makes sense that Christians would get excited that 10 hours of national television would be promoting the Bible.

The second thing that causes a lot of excitement are the people who were involved with the making of this series. There was Rick Warren (Mega/Multi-site Church leader), Joel Osteen (Mega Church leader), and T. D. Jakes (Mega Church leader of the famous “Potters House”). These are well-known “pastors” among Christian America. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to go so far as saying that these people are famous to many Christians and so it is no surprise that they have drawn attention to this series.

So let me put the issue bluntly; the Jehovah Witness’ version of the bible is more historically accurate than the one that appears on the History Channel. While many people are getting very excited about this show, it does nothing but mislead people as to what the scriptures actually say and it gives a false view of Christianity.

To be fair, we can probably give a ‘little’ leeway because it would be hard to get all of the necessary points of the Biblical narrative into a meager 10 hours of television. There are a few obvious mistakes that are seen fairly quickly like not telling that Sodom was destroyed because of homosexuality, a whole lot of gaps in Abraham’s and Moses’ lives, and a butchering of many other details in an attempt to make it appealing and exciting.

A few missing details, however, is not the issue. The real problem is that everything that happens and all of the theology about God is being strained through these Mega Church leaders and their theology.

  • Rick Warren promotes a “Purpose-Driven” gospel that ends up doing damage to the true Gospel. This false gospel shows up clearly and early in this series. It twists salvation of Noah and his family, it distorts the promise made to Abraham and it distorts Abraham’s faith, and it goes on to distort the call of Moses and the salvation of Israel from slavery.
  • Joel Osteen promotes a “Prosperity” or “Health and Wealth” gospel that is also seen in this series…
  • T. D. Jakes promotes “Modalism” which is a different God than the Trinitarian God seen in scripture. This has been seen as a heresy since the 3rd century and yet is seen clearly in this new series (mainly in the New Testament). He also teaches the “Prosperity” gospel as well as the “Word of Faith” heresy…

So I have two concerns. The first is that this series doesn’t even come close to actually portraying the Bible; which is a huge problem because non-Christians think that it does. The second is that the theology that comes through is a theology that is directly contradicted by the clear and certain word of God. Not only are people getting a wrong view of the Bible but they are getting the wrong view of God.

But what does it matter? I mean, hopefully it will get people interested and maybe they will read their bibles and maybe they will go to Church. Won’t that make it worth it?

That was the question that was posed to me on my Facebook wall and one that I will try to address here.

First, this is a question about whether or not the end justifies the means. The means here is false teaching about scripture and about God (which is sin). The end is God bringing about salvation. Does the end justify the means? We see all throughout scripture how God uses sin or a bad situation to draw people to Himself and to gain Glory; but we never see that the means that God used being proclaimed as “good” or “worth it”. The fact that God is gracious enough to draw people in spite of sin never acts to support the sin.

Secondly, what is getting these people interested? It isn’t the true scriptures that is drawing them, but a false, “shiny”, “exciting” version that doesn’t reflect the real scriptures which will probably lead those people to discouragement or disillusionment. Maybe they will go to Church then… Again, what attracted them in the first place? A thrilling, “entertaining” view of Christianity. What kind of Church will they most likely seek out? One that provides a big show on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, America is filled with Churches with big stages and large bands and even bigger stage props. These Churches are more worried about fulfilling the “felt-needs” of the congregation than proclaiming the need for Repentance and the Forgiveness of sins found in Christ alone. The likelihood of these people being confronted with the true Gospel is probably pretty slim…

The point is this; what we think about Scripture and God is extremely important. God has revealed Himself in a specific way and we don’t have the right to make things up about Him. We are called to be discerning and to hold on to true Doctrine. When something comes along like this series on the History channel, we don’t go soft simply because a lot of people are excited about it and think that it “isn’t so bad”. We stand up for Truth and we call people believe in Christ.

The title “Jelly-fish Christianity” is J.C. Ryle’s. He talks about a Christianity that has no backbone and is “tossed to and fro” because it has no real beliefs to hold on to. I think that we can see that much of the Evangelic Church is in that same position now because of how readily they accept, promote, and allow something as false as this series on the History Channel.

Here are J.C. Ryle’s thoughts on “Jelly-fish Christianity“…

The consequences of this widespread dislike to distinct biblical doctrine are very serious. Whether we like it or not, it is an epidemic which is doing great harm, and especially among young people. It creates, fosters, and keeps up an immense amount of instability in religion. It produces what I must venture to call, if I may coin the phrase, a ‘jelly-fish’ Christianity in the land–that is, a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or power.

A jelly-fish, as everyone who has been much by the seaside knows, is a pretty and graceful object when it floats in the sea, contracting and expanding like a little delicate transparent umbrella. Yet the same jelly-fish, when cast on the shore, is a mere helpless lump, without capacity for movement, self-defense, or self-preservation.

Alas! it is a vivid type of much of the religion of this day, of which the leading principle is, ‘No dogma, no distinct beliefs, no doctrine.’ We have hundreds of ministers who seem not to have a single bone in their body of divinity! They have no definite opinions; they are so afraid of ‘extreme views,’ that they have no views at all. We have thousands of sermons preached every year, which are without an edge or a point or a corner–they are as smooth as marble balls, awakening no sinner, and edifying no saint!

We have legions of young men annually turned out from our universities, armed with a few scraps of second-hand philosophy, who think it a mark of cleverness and intellect to have no decided opinions about anything in religion–and to be utterly unable to make up their minds as to what is Christian truth. Their only creed, is a kind of ‘nothingism.’ They are sure and positive about nothing!

And last, and worst of all, we have myriads of respectable church-going people, who have no distinct and definite views about any point in theology. They cannot discern things that differ, any more than color-blind people can distinguish colors. They think . . . everybody is right–and nobody is wrong, everything is true–and nothing is false, all sermons are good–and none are bad, every clergyman is sound–and no clergyman unsound.

They are ‘tossed to and fro, like children, by every wind of doctrine;’ often carried away by some new excitement and sensational movement; ever ready for new things, because they have no firm grasp on the old; and utterly unable to ‘render a reason of the hope that is in them.’

All this, and much more, is the result of that effeminate dread of distinct doctrine which has been so strongly developed, and has laid such hold on many pastors in these days.

I turn from the picture I have exhibited with a sorrowful heart. I grant it is a gloomy one; but I am afraid it is only too accurate and true. Let us not deceive ourselves. Distinct and definitive doctrine is at a premium just now. Instability and unsettled notions are the natural result, and meet us in every direction.

Cleverness and earnestness are the favorite idols of the age!

What a man says matters nothing–however strange and heterogeneous are the opinions he expresses! If he is only brilliant and ‘earnest’–he cannot be wrong! Never was it so important for believers to hold sound systematic views of truth, and for ministers to ‘enunciate doctrine’ very clearly and distinctly in their teaching.

Are you “sure and positive about nothing” or do you hold to ” faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3)?

If you want to know what the bible says, may I suggest reading it over watching the History Channel… If you do watch it, remember to use discernment and to evaluate it to see at what points it agrees with scripture and at what points it differs…

The Abundant life? Or Life Abundantly –> Understanding John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

Here is another example of a verse that is taken out of its context and twisted to mean something that it never meant. Even those people who wouldn’t misuse this verse, largely misunderstand John 10:10 and so I wish to demonstrate how proper hermeneutics can help us to see this verse’s meaning.

In order to deal with this verse adequately, we are going to need to use three common hermeneutic rules…

  1. Using context to shed light on the verse…
  2. Using basic grammatical rules…
  3. Using scripture to interpret scripture….

Context, context, context…

In order to keep this short, I will not discuss this verse’s entire context because the context begins in John 9:1 and continues to John 10:21. I think that I will start in John 9:39 so that you can see a little bit of the context. Let me begin by giving you a brief summary of what takes place in John 9. I will not be able to include all of the wonderful details so I commend that chapter to you for further study.

This ‘mini-parable’ by Jesus follows a story where Jesus takes a man who was born blind and He heals him on the Sabbath by putting mud on his eyes and telling him to wash in the pool of Siloam. What follows is a big debate between the man who was healed from his blindness and the scribes and Pharisees who want to discredit Jesus. The debate ends when the healed man says, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing” and then the Pharisees threw him out of the synagogue. Then Jesus finds the man, who had been healed, and the man confesses faith and worships Jesus. Now we begin to look at what happens after this man worships Jesus.

John 9:39-10:1 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.

Now, it is important to understand that the “thief and robber” is referring to the Pharisees because Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees for ignoring the Messiah. This is seen in the way that Jesus connects that statement to “now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” This point is important for several reasons and this begins to shed some light on the verse in question. First, if you do a study of the type of government that God set up for his people in the Old Testament, you will find the position of ‘Pharisee’ conspicuously missing. These people who call themselves ‘Pharisees’ are usurpers of authority because God did not set up that position for His people. You can see this in the way that Jesus talks about how they “climb in by another way” instead of coming through the door. Secondly, the way that the Pharisees retained their authority is through the use of fear. We see this in John 9:22 in how the man’s parents responded to the Jews…

His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.

We see in the next couple of verses that Jesus is demonstrating in his parable that there is a distinction between the one who enters by the door and the ones who enter by another way…

John 10:1-6 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

From vv 1-5, Jesus tells the entire parable. This parable seems to reflect a large part of what happened in the previous chapter. By all appearances, the man who was born blind was one of Christ’s sheep for he would not listen to the Pharisees (those thieves and robbers) and instead he followed the voice of the Shepard and even worshipped Him. However, a common problem arises in that the Pharisees that Jesus was telling this parable to, did not understand what Jesus was saying (verse 6) and so Jesus spends the next 12 verses (including verse 10) explaining to the Pharisees what His parable meant.

John 10:7-18 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

There are many teachers and preachers who use John 10:10 today, but rarely do they take the time necessary to tell you about that verse’s context. In extreme cases, this verse is used to tell you that Jesus wants you to have an “abundant life” filled with riches, health, and earthly success. Is there anything in the context of this verse that would back up such a claim? Other uses lean towards telling people that Jesus has wonderful plans for our lives on this earth. Plans such as a wonderful spouse, a good career, maybe even having a plan for how you are going to be a part of the Kingdom of God. Many of these things are not necessarily wrong and it may be that God is going to put you in a place where you will not have to suffer much pain in this life (other than self-denial that is). The problem is, this verse says nothing of the kind. In order to understand this verse better, we need to move on to the 2nd hermeneutic rule…

Using basic Grammar…

John 10:10- The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

People, who quote this verse out of context, commonly quote this verse one of two ways. The first way is that they will say something like, “In John 10:10, Jesus tells us that He came that we may have an abundant life.” The second way goes something like, “In John 10:10, Jesus tells us that He came that we may have life in abundance.” There is a huge difference between the two where the former is completely false and the latter is much closer to the truth.

What is the difference between being faithful to the text or causing deception? It is the difference between a noun and an adjective. Let’s take a look at the two words that tend to get confused… “life” and “abundantly”…

Life – ζωή (zōē) – This is a noun.¹ Now I make that emphasis because when people generally take this verse out of its context and try to apply it to your life, their main point is that Jesus wants to give you ‘abundance’. According to the grammatical structure of the sentence, however, Jesus is saying that He came to give you ‘life’ not ‘abundance’.

Abundantly – περισσός (perissos) – This is an adjective.² Again, I make that emphasis because so many people use this word as if it were a noun. When you understand that the word ‘abundant’ is an adjective (a descriptive word), then you understand that it is trying to describe the noun in the sentence; namely the word ‘life’.

Now there is still a chance that we could have some confusion about what this verse is saying. Some might say, “That is exactly what we are trying to say. Jesus came to give you life and that life is described as abundant. Jesus really does want you to live a full, rich life while you are on this earth.” That is why I said that we need to incorporate a third Hermanutic rule in order to gain a proper understanding of this verse.

Scripture interprets Scripture

There are two ways of doing this so I will utilize both of them…

1)      Let us start by seeing if we can’t use scripture to gain a better understanding of what the word ‘abundantly’ means. Now how do you go about such a thing? Well, I am going to show you how the Greek word (translated ‘abundantly’ in John 10:10) is translated elsewhere in the bible. This is going to help us understand what John meant when he used this word rather than allowing our 21st century minds to impose meanings that aren’t really there.

Here are some other ways that the same Greek word is used throughout the New Testament: more (Matthew 5:37, 47), measure (Mark 6:51), vehemently (Mark 14:31), advantage (Romans 3:1), superfluous (2 Corinthians 9:1), abundantly (Ephesians 3:20), exceedingly (1 Thessalonians 3:10), highly (1 Thessalonians 5:13).

So we see that the word ‘abundantly’ carries the idea of ‘a large amount’; this is a quantitative type word instead of a qualitative one. What is Jesus trying to tell us that we are going to have ‘a large amount’ of? LIFE! This leads into our second way of using this biblical Hermeneutic rule…

2)      Let us just take a cursory look at how John (and Jesus for that matter) talks about life throughout John’s Gospel….

John 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 4:13-14  Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 6:63  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

John 6:68  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life

John 12:25  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

 

Jesus, when He talks about giving us an abundant life, isn’t referring to wealth, happiness, or earthly success. Jesus is promising to give us so much life that it will last all of eternity. He promises us that He will give us Himself for HE IS LIFE. He gives us the Words of Life that give us life here on this earth and ultimately point us to Christ (John 5:39). This is what John 10:10 is talking about and it is far more glorious when you do not twist its meaning.

1)      The Greek definition of the word ‘life’ used in John 10:10 (G2222) can be found at this link… http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G2222

2)      The Greek definition of the word ‘abundantly’ used in John 10:10 (G4053) can be found at this link… http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G4053

 

To Tithe or Not to Tithe: that is the question…

In order to avoid any misconceptions or confusion, the question is NOT whether or not we should take an offering up during Sunday Morning worship. The bible clearly teaches that the congregation should support their pastor and that they should be willing to give money for the benefit of other Churches, to feed the poor and widowed, and to advance the Gospel in the World. Those things are clear and are not a part of the discussion I am about to undertake. I realize that a lot of people will misconstrue my argument in spite of this introduction but I am not sure what more I can do to clarify my position.

The glaring question that I am going to try and answer is whether or not New Testament believers should give what is known as a “tithe”.

What is the Tithe?

This might seem like a very simplistic question but in order for me to make an argument and in order to avoid confusion, we need to have a common definition. And in order to have a good definition, we need to take a look at how the scripture talks about the tithe.

The first thing that is important to note is that the tithe is nowhere used in the New Testament as a command for New Testament believers. The only mention of the tithe in the NT is found in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42 in which Jesus tells the Pharisees that they should have tithed (as part of the Jewish Law that they were under) but should have been merciful and justice. The fact that the tithe is not given to us as a command is an important clue to my original question.

So what was the tithe in the Old Testament? Everyone knows that a tithe means 10%, but what you may not know is that the Old Testament required three different tithes from the Jews. Many people seem to think that the tithe is somehow simply an Old Testament “principle” while they fail to realize that it had very specific uses.

1) The Levitical or sacred tithe.

This tithe (or 10 percent) was given by the people to the Levitical priesthood for the services that they did in the tent of meeting. This tithe is a common one that people reference when they try to say that the New Testament believer ought to tithe. They argue that Pastor and the leaders of the church are the New Testament “Levites” and that the tithe from the believer is meant to go and support those people.

This argument is ridden with absurdities. The first is seen in the fact that Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the role of the Levitical priest. He made the perfect sacrifice to God (Himself) and the sacrificial system has found its completion in Him. The second absurdity is seen in the fact that believers are encouraged to support their pastors but this is out of respect for the work that they do in preaching the Gospel and not under compulsion (or a tithe).

The third absurdity is seen in the context of the Levitical tithe itself. This tithe can be seen in Numbers 18 where God is giving commands to both the Levites and to the people of Israel. If you remember the story of the Israelites and their victorious campaign for the promise land, then you remember that each of the tribes of Israel received a twelfth of the promise land as an inheritance. The problem is that the Levites were separated from the other tribes and did not receive a land inheritance like the rest of the tribes did. As compensation, God says to the Levites (In Numbers 18:24) “For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the LORD, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance.” So we see that this first tithe is an actual inheritance meant only for the Levitical tribe of Israel.

This type of tithe cannot logically apply to the New Testament believer because we are not a part of the tribe of Israel, nor are our Pastors promised “an inheritance of tithes”…

 2) The tithe of feasts.

This tithe is seen in Deuteronomy 14:22-27 where God says that a yearly tithe should be set aside for the purpose of celebrating the Jewish feasts that God had set into place. The passage here tells the Israelites to either bring the tithe but if their journey is too long, they should convert it to money and bring that to the celebration.

Seeing as we are not part of Israel (or under that same covenant) we are not obligated to participate in all the feasts that were required. Because the feasts are not present, requiring that people still bring a tithe of feasts seems obviously absurd…

3) The tithe for the poor

This was a tithe that (unlike the other two) was taken up every three years. This tithe was the Jewish equivalent of “welfare”. It was a way in which the nation of Israel took care of the poor and estranged in their society.

Deuteronomy 14:28-29  “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

Conclusion…

While it is very clear that the New Testament believer is to be actively caring for the poor, widow, and orphan; nowhere is it connected to the idea of a tithe. The New Testament believer supports the poor because Christ, who was rich, became poor in order that we may gain the riches of God. The idea that the New Testament believer is under some compulsion to give a tithe to the poor is antithetical to the Gospel. Besides, if it were true, then it would only be 10 percent every third year…

By the way, add all these tithes together and you get 23.33% a year. A lot more than the 10% that pastors normally claim people should give.

So we looked at the tithes in the Old Testament and not one of them relates to the New Testament Christian in any way. First, the tithe is clearly something set up within the nation of Israel; something that we are not a part of. Secondly, some of the things that the tithe did (taking care of the poor…) are seen reflected in the New Testament but it is without any compulsion.

So to answer the question that the title asks, Not to Tithe…

Objections/Questions:

Are you stealing from God if you don’t tithe? (Malachi 3:8-9)

No. The prophet here is speaking to the Israelites who had been given the command to tithe whereas we are not under that same law. There are many pastors who use this passage as some sort of scare tactic to get their people to give more money to the Church but in light of the biblical teaching about the tithe and the difference in the covenants, their arguments fall flat.

Are you under a curse if you don’t tithe?

See the above answer. You are, however, under a curse if you break one of the commands that God has given you; say lying, lusting, idolatry, anger, or disobedience. Fortunately, Christ has become a curse for us so that we may become the righteousness of God. If you are concerned that you are under a curse, look to Christ; His life, death, resurrection, and present rule.

Do you gain blessings from God if you tithe?

No. God has set up means by which we may receive his blessings but tithing isn’t one of them.

Ephesians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

How do we receive blessings from God? By being IN CHRIST. How do we get there? By grace through faith (Eph 2:8). And in Christ, we do not find that we lack any spiritual blessing for God has promised that we have every blessing in Christ. There is no amount of tithing or any work of ours that could gain more blessings than we already have gained through Faith in the Savior of the world.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

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Should Christians Tithe?

9 Proofs of Christ’s Divinity

1700 years ago, a man named Arius brought a serious attack on the person and nature of Christ as well as an attack on the Gospel. His claim was that Christ was a created being and that he was not of the same substance or nature as God the Father. He claimed that only God the Father was truly God and the “there was a time when the Son was not”.

At the same time existed a man named Athanasius. This man believed that the scripture revealed a mystery that is hard for humanity to grasp; namely that Christ is God and the Father is God and yet there is only One God. He claimed that the bible taught that Christ has the same substance and nature as God the Father, that the two were distinct in personhood but One in being.

There was a tremendous theological battle that took place (not one of swords but one of teaching, rebuking, and debating) that lasted the rest of Athanasius’ life. Arius’ theology penetrated the Church for many years but Athanasius’ hard work and the sheer weight of scriptural evidence eventually brought the Church back to the Truth; namely that Christ is God just as the Father is God.

Sadly, there are still people in the world today that claim the same theology as Arius. What I am going to do is to give you a small glimpse at the scriptures that proves Christ’s Deity. This is barely scratching the surface and yet the evidence is overwhelming…

1) Christ has the same Nature as God

One of the main arguments made by the Arians, and the Jehovah witnesses who are simply modern day Arians, is to take every shred of evidence that proved Christ’s humanity and then use it as proof against his deity. The Arians were very philosophical and therefore, they could not imagine a Christ that was both fully God and fully man so they thought that his humanity and his voluntary submission to the Father were proof against his deity. They would constantly quote John 14:28 where Jesus says, “The Father is Greater than I” as proof that the Son must be of a different substance then the Father. How could the Son be less than the Father and yet of the same substance?

Athanasius answer to this argument was to point out that John 14:28 must be understood in the light of Philippians 2:6-8

“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The sense in which Jesus is less than the Father is seen in his voluntary submission and his taking on of Humanity. But, remember the context of this submission; Jesus existed in the very Form of God; the very thing that the Arians were denying. In light of this scripture, neither Jesus’ submission or his humanity acts as proof against his deity.

Furthermore, one of the main claims made by Arius was, “There was a time when the Word was not.” Athanasius would often use this quote against the Arians by pointing out that you cannot hold to that position and at the same time believe what the bible says about Christ. Athanasius would say,

“What is the source of your discovery of these things? Nowhere has the scriptures said such things about the Savior. Rather, the scriptures uses such words as Always, Everlasting, Co-existing with the Father, in the Form of God, and so on.”

There were several other common texts that Athanasius would draw on for support of the Divine nature of Christ.

He would quote John 1 which shows that Christ was with God in the beginning and that he was God, eternally.
He would use Revelation 1:8 which shows that Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, who is and who was and who is to come. This again was a major proof of the eternal existence of the Son

This was Athanasius’ main argument, namely that scripture attributed to Christ everywhere, a Divine nature and an eternal existence. In the words of Philippians 2:6, he exists eternally in the form of God, in other words, Christ is of the same substance as the Father.

The Only Begotten Son

This seems to some to be a very sticky phrase to many. This is a key phrase for those who argue for Christ being created while in actuality, it does the opposite.

Athanasius pointed out that the “begetting” took place in eternity [without reference to time] and therefore it speaks of an eternal reality. To us, words like begotten suggest an origin of things such as our birth; but what does it mean when applied to Christ who existed before time? Since he is an eternal being, this term cannot refer to his beginning because it would be a fundamental contradiction of existing apart from time. This saying actually refers to the oneness between the Father and the Son and their relationship to one another. Saying that the Son is begotten of the Father simply signifies that he is of the same substance of the Father. He derives his essence from the Father.

Since both the Father and the Son are eternal, theologians will often speak of the “eternal generation” or “the eternal begetting of Christ”. It might be understood like this: the idea being conveyed is that Christ is eternally of the same essence of the Father, or that he eternally proceeds from the Father.

Furthermore, when Christ claims to be the “Son of God”, it is a claim of his divinity and not of his humanity. That is exactly what the term “Son of God” conveyed to the Jewish people of Jesus’ day because they accused him of blasphemy because he claimed equality with God and they tried to stone him (John 10:36).

2) The Old Testament predicts a Divine Savior

One powerful proof of Christ’s Divinity is the fact that it isn’t only seen in the New Testament but in the Old Testament as well (which should be the case since the bible is consistent with itself). The Old Testament tells us that the Savior who would come to redeem humanity would be Divine. In fact it goes so far as giving the Savior the Divine name “Jehovah”.

  • Psalm 2 – (Paul quotes this in Acts 13:33 as proof that it is a messianic psalm) “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” In this passage, serving the Lord and doing homage to the Son are set as equal and it is even said that you can take refuge in the Son. Athanasius saw this as clear proof of the Deity of the Savior to come.
  • Psalm 110 – David calls the Messiah Lord
  • Isaiah 9:2 – The Savior is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father
  • Isaiah 7:14 – The Savior is called Immanuel – ‘God with us’
  • Micah 5:2 – Shows the eternality of the Savior
  • Malachi 3:1-3 – God says that a messenger will prepare HIS [God’s] way. That messenger is none other than John the Baptist and he prepared the way for Christ

There are a multitude of these types of verses that point to the Divinity of the savior who would come…

3) Jesus uses the Covenant name of God an applies it to himself

  • Psalm 23:1 (Jehovah is given the title of Shepherd) –> In John 10:11, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd” and Hebrews 13:20, Christ is given that same title.
  • Isaiah 6:5 (Isaiah tells us that he Saw Jehovah but the Apostle John tells us that Isaiah saw Jesus Christ [John 12:41])
  • Joel 2:32 – “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”–> The New Testament tells us that we can only be saved if we call on the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21 and Romans 10:13)

4) Titles that are reserved for Jehovah are applied to Christ

There are names in scripture that Jehovah says are unique to him and yet Christ applies them to himself.

  • Isaiah 10:20 (Jehovah is called the Holy One of Israel) –> In Acts 3, Peter applies this title to the person of Christ.
  • Isaiah 44:6 – Jehovah says that he is “The first and the last” but Jesus applies that same title to himself in Revelations 1:11, “the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega.”
    • This passage is also a strong proof of the Trinity. Both God and Jesus are the first and the Last, both equally God and yet Isaiah clearly says that there is only One God.
  • Isaiah 43:11 – (I am the Lord and Besides me there is no Savior) here God says that the title of “Savior” is reserved for him alone and yet  Christ is clearly spoken of as Savior
    • Titus 2:13  waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ
  • Zachariah 12:10 – Jehovah is speaking (we see that from verse 4) and he says “when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced”. God says that people will pierce him and yet we see that is was Christ that was pierced. In John 19:37, John applies this prophecy directly to Christ.

Again and again, the New Testament takes titles that the Old Testament says are reserved for Jehovah alone and they are applied directly to Christ.

A good Hermeneutic to keep in mind, whenever you see Jehovah in the Old Testament, Understand it as a reference to Christ. Almost every reference to Jehovah in the Old Testament is a reference to Christ.

5) Jesus Possess All Of The Incommunicable Attributes Of God

There are certain attributes that God possess that are communicable; in other words, there are attributes that God has that we share. Such as Love, Jealously, and Knowledge.

Incommunicable attributes,  on the other hand, are attributes that God alone can possess. These are the attributes that make God Divine and separates Him from His creation. Allow me to repeat, God alone can have these attributes; and yet Christ has them…

Omniscience – God knows all things, even the things in the minds and hearts of men…

  • Revelation 2:23 – “I [Jesus] am he who searches mind and heart”
  • Eternality – We have seen this already in the fact that Christ existed with the Father before time existed. This, by definition, makes Christ an Eternal Being (John 1:1).

Omnipresence – God is everywhere at once and is not bound by Space. Jesus can be simultaneously with all of his people until the end of the age.Omnipotence – God is all powerful. Christ is all powerful.

  • Matthew 18:20 – “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
  • Matthew 28:20 – “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
  • Hebrews 1:3 – “He [Jesus] upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

Immutability – The unchangeableness of God

  • Hebrews 13:8 – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

The FULLNESS of Deity

  • Colossians 2:9 – “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily”
  • Hebrews 1:3 – “He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature

6) Jesus Does Works That God Alone Can Do.

There are some things that only God can do and yet we see Christ claiming to have done these things.

Creation – Colossians 1:16 – For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

  • If all things were created by Christ, then Christ cannot have been created. If all created Beings were created by Christ then by definition, Christ is not a created Being.
  • Nor can Christ be an angel because all thrones/dominions/rulers/authorities were created by Christ.

The Sustainer of all things – Only God is powerful enough to be the giver and sustainer of life because Life comes from God alone…

  • Colossians 1:17 “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Forgives sins – The Jews were right when they complained about Jesus forgiving sins. They said that it was Blasphemy for Jesus to forgive sins because only God alone can forgive peoples sins and yet Christ proved that he could forgive sins.

  • Mark 2:7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
  • Mark 2:10-11  “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he said to the paralytic–“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”
  • Matthew 9:2-7

Raises the Dead and acts as Judge – Only God has power over life and death and only God is the Judge of the living and the dead.

  • John 5:21-22 “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son”
  • Acts 10:42 “And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.”
  • Acts 17:31 “because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:1 “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom”

Clearly, Jesus does things that are reserved for God alone…

7) Jesus Receives Worship

You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only. Jesus knew this verse, he quoted this verse (Matthew 4:10), and yet he allowed people to Worship Him.

People continually fell on their faces and worshiped Christ and not once did Christ rebuke people for giving him this kind of worship…

  • Matthew 14:33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
  • John 9:38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him

Contrast how Jesus responded to worship to other examples where people or angels are worshiped…

  • Acts 10:25-26  When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.  But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”
  • Revelation 19:10  Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
  • Revelation 22:8-9  I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me,  but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

We see 2 commands in scripture. First, only God should be worshiped and secondly, that Christ should be worshiped.

  • John 5:22-23  The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son,  that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

Jesus makes himself the object of Faith

  • John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

Jesus is not an angel but is worshiped by angels

  • Hebrews 1:6  And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

8) If Jesus is God, you would expect the Bible to say so in the strongest terms possible

If Jesus is god, why doesn’t the bible just say so? It does. Turn with me to John 1:1-3.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Here we have the strongest possible declaration that Jesus is God. This passage is both clear and emphatic about Jesus’ Divinity. Every statement in this passage is very significant.

  • “In the Beginning” – This statement sets the rest of the passage in the light of Eternity. It shows that Christ existed before time and to say that there was a time when Christ did not exist is to contradict this fundamental truth that John speaks of.
  • “The Word was with God” – This signifies the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son. This statement shows that the Son is distinct from the Father and at the same time, One with God from all eternity past.
  • “The Word was God” – The Jehovah Witnesses contest this translation but if you study the Greek, this is the literal meaning of the text. Athanasius pointed out that the Arians could not hold to their opinion that Christ was not God and believe this verse.
  • “Without him was not anything made that was made.” – This statement shows that it is not possible for Christ to be a created being. If he was created, then it could not be said that Christ made everything that had been made. There would be at least one created thing that Christ had not created.
  • John 20:28 – Thomas saw the resurrected Christ, fell down and worshipped him (which is another proof of Christ’s Deity because only Jehovah is worshipped) and Thomas said of Christ, “My Lord and My God”
  • Titus 2:13 & 1 Peter 1:1 – Refers to Jesus as Our God and Savior
  • Philippians 2:6 – Christ existed from all eternity in the form of God
  • 1 John 5:20 – And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
    • Who is the true God? None other than Jesus Christ
  • Hebrews 1:8 – Please note that this is God the Father speaking to the Son… “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever…. It can’t get any more explicit than that

9) Jesus Personally Claimed To Be Divine

Did you ever wonder why Jesus didn’t just come out and say “I am God” and put the end to any confusion that might happen? If you actually take time to look at what Jesus said about himself, he did precisely that. He specifically said that he was God.

John 8:56-59 – Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

  • To his Jewish audience, this statement was far more explicit than if he had simply said “I am God”.

John 8:54 – Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’

  • You worship God but God gives glory to me. Nothing could be more blasphemous to the Jews than this statement. Jesus claims that he receives honor and glory from the One who the Jews worshiped.

John 8:58 – Jesus claims the divine name “I AM” to be his own and nothing could be clearer than that and it was for that reason that the Jews attempted to stone Jesus for Blasphemy.

The Gospel of John uses a whole string of quotes by Jesus were he evokes the name of “I AM” to describe himself…

  • I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51)
  • I am the Light of the World (John 8:12)
  • Unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins (John 8:24)
  • Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58)
  • I am the Door (John 10:7,9)
  • I am the shepherd (John 10:11, 14)
  • I am the Son of God (John 10:36)
  • I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)
  • You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. (John 13:13)
  • I am the way, and the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)
  • I am the true vine (John 15:1)

In each of these cases, the “I am” is speaking of his divinity and with that phrase, he often connects it to titles that are reserved for God alone. The Door, Shepherd, Resurrection, Life, The Way, The Truth, Teacher, and Lord…

Here is what Athanasius had to say concerning the phrase “I am”…

“In the expression “I am”, is indicated that the Son is everlasting and without beginning before every age. Therefore it is obvious that the scriptures speak about the everlasting nature of the Son. Those things which the Arians utter, “he was not”, “before”, and “when”; words like that are for things created, foreign to the [Incarnate] Word of God.”

Jesus speaks of himself as the “I AM”. One without a beginning and therefore eternal and this brings us full circle back to the fact that Jesus shares the same nature as God.

The biblical evidence for the Deity of Christ is Conclusive, Overwhelming, and it is Irrefutable. This is but a small snippet of what could be said about Christ’s Deity. We haven’t even begun to discuss ideas like John 10:30 where Jesus says, “I and the Father are one”.

You can believe that this is true or you can condemn yourself to suffer the wrath of God. To look at this amount evidence and to sweep it aside is to place yourself outside of Christianity and outside of saving faith. Even Jesus said that unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins.

Inherent Contradictions in saying that Jesus isn’t God

The people who claim that Christ isn’t God don’t actually realize the internal contradictions and philosophical absurdities that they have just run into.

  • Polytheism – These people assume that if you say that Christ is God, you are guilty of polytheism (the belief in more than one God) (I will address this in a little bit) but what they don’t realize is that they are guilty of the very thing that they are trying to condemn. These people teach two gods, one uncreated and the other created. One is a supreme god while the other is only secondary.
  • A Divine Creature – Hopefully you see the contradiction in terms here. They hold Christ to be a mere creature, and yet they say that he is the creator of the world; as if a creature could be the source of life, the origin and the end of all creatures!
  • Eternal yet finite – Again, their teaching is internally contradictory. They ascribe to Christ a pre-mundane existence, but deny him eternity, while yet time belongs to the idea of the world, and is created only in relation to the world, so that before the world there was nothing but eternity. They suppose a time before the creation of the pre-existent Christ; and therefore involve God himself in the notion of time; which contradicts the absolute being of God. They assert the unchangeableness of God, but they deny, with the eternal generation of the Son, also the eternal Fatherhood; therefore assuming after all a very essential change in God.
  • The destruction of the Gospel itself – If the Son is a creature, man remains still separated, as before, from God; no creature can redeem other creatures, and unite them with God. If Christ is not divine, much less can we be partakers of the divine nature and children of God.

If Christ is God, are we teaching more than One God?

The simple answer is no, we are not. We see two things clearly revealed in the Scriptures; first we clearly see that the Son of God is of the same nature as the Father and yet separate from him, and secondly we see that there is only One God and beside Him there is no God. This is indeed a mystery but one that has been clearly revealed and one that we believe.

Many people think that the idea of the “Trinity” is some bogus idea that a bunch of old people came up with but after reading this paper, I hope you are beginning to see how it came into existence. We see several truths…

1 – We see that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.
2 – We see that there is a distinction between them and that it isn’t simply One God displaying himself in different ways.
3 – We see that although all three are God and they are distinct enough to be in relationship, there is only one God

And there is the beginning of the Doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine simply teaches that God is ONE IN BEING but He is THREE IN PERSONHOOD. We see this clearly taught in John 1 where the Word is both WITH God and at the same time IS God.

What this comes down to is not whether or not you can grasp the idea of the Trinity or a Fully Divine, Fully Human Savior but whether or not you are willing to submit to the revealed Word of God. Are you going to humbly submit to what the Scriptures say or are you going to arrogantly reject Scripture?

Allow me to end with the conclusion of the Council of Nicaea…

“But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’—they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.”

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By Athanasius of Alexandria (you can read these online for free)

“I Only Believe The Red Letters!” (Part 2)

This is the “fleshing out” of my argument in Part 1. If you haven’t read Part 1, I would encourage you to do so before reading this so that you can get the fuller context of my argument.

In Part 1, I made a series of claims as to why the statement “I only believe the Red letters” is both an illogical argument and contrary to Jesus’ own teachings. This post is meant to further defend those premises with three arguments backed up with logic and the very words of Jesus…

Truly Believing Jesus’ Words

Do you really believe what Jesus said? Then you must also accept what the Apostles taught. Why? Simply put, Jesus gave his approval of the apostles and what they would teach…

John 14:25-26 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

We see two things in this section of scripture that are of extreme importance. The first is that Jesus was talking directly to the Apostles without reference to the coming generations of Christians who would follow them. In other words, this is a specific application to the Apostles and not to us. This is further seen when we evaluate the end of verse 26 where Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

This verse is clearly not referring to us because of two important phrases found in that quote. The first is the fact that the Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance; which cannot happen unless you have already been seen, learned, or experienced those things. What the Apostles taught (according to Jesus) was not their opinion but rather they were simply teaching what they had seen, learned, and experienced while they were with Jesus. What they taught was what the Holy Spirit brought to their remembrance.

The second important thing is the fact that Jesus said that it was His Words that the Holy Spirit would remind the Apostles of. When the Apostles taught the Church, they didn’t do so from their opinions but rather through the Holy Spirit bringing to remembrance the words of Christ. The very commission of “Apostleship” signifies this because an Apostle was someone who “spoke on behalf, and with the authority of the one who sent them”. And who sent and commissioned the Apostles? Christ did, and therefore they spoke on behalf of Christ.

John 13:20 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

Luke 10:16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

Christ clearly is the one who sent and commissioned the Apostles to go out as witnesses (Acts 1:8) and to reject these Apostles’ teachings is not pious. According to Jesus’ own words, to reject the Apostles is to reject Christ and to reject Christ is to reject the one who sent Christ.

By the way, this isn’t something that I just made up. The idea that the Apostles speak with the same authority as Christ is the very foundation of the beginning of the Church.

Acts 2:41-42 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

But of course, we don’t have the Apostles to teach us. So where do we turn so that we may know what Christ taught and know what the Christian life truly is? To the teachings of the Apostles that have been faithfully recorded and faithfully translated.

Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…”

Another issue is that we have clearly been given a command from Christ that we should teach people all that I have commanded you. And where do we find the teachings of Jesus? In two places; first we find some of His words and teachings recorded for us in the Gospel texts. However, John readily admitted …

John 21:25 “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

So the second place where we find the teachings of Jesus? In the very teachings and commandments given to us through the Apostles…

 ..

Okay, so maybe this answers some of the questions about a lot of the teachings in the New Testament but what about Paul? He wasn’t with Jesus during His earthly ministry; why should I believe that his writings and teachings are inspired?

I’m glad you asked…

One Untimely Born

Many times, people can understand why the Apostles had some authority to speak and teach. They were with Jesus. They learned directly from Him. They saw the miracles. They asked questions. Jesus explained the meaning behind the parables that he taught.

But What About Paul? He was a heathen who hated God and then God converted him, just like us. What makes him so special and where does he get the authority to speak as an Apostle? He wasn’t with Jesus while Jesus was doing His earthly ministry!

The story begins with the purpose of God in the conversion and commissioning of Paul.

Acts 9:15-16  But the Lord said to [Ananias], “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

Acts 18:9-11 – “And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”

I have to really wonder if the people who claim to believe the Words of Jesus (and reject the words of Paul), have actually even read the Words of Jesus. Scripture clearly shows that it was Christ’s very words that established Paul as an Apostle.

Not only did Christ establish Paul but look at what Paul pointed to for his authority.

1 Corinthians 15:8  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
1 Corinthians 1:1  Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus
2 Corinthians 1:1  Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God
Romans 1:1  Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God
Galatians 1:1  Paul, an apostle–not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead–
Ephesians 1:1  Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God

Paul continually emphasized the fact that it was God who called him to this ministry and it was God who set him in the position of authoritative Apostleship.

There is an important question that we must consider when thinking about the authority of Paul’s teaching. I think that I have clearly shown that the Apostle’s teachings were authoritative because they had spent much of their time learning directly from Christ but what about Paul. Jesus’ earthly ministry had been over for some time before the conversion of Paul and we know that he was not a devoted disciple before Jesus died, so how do we think about this. I propose that there are three things that will help your thinking on this matter…

1) Paul learned from Christ and not from men

Galatians 1:11-12 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Paul was adamant about the fact that the Gospel that he preached did not come from him or any other man but rather what he preached was taught to him by Christ (just as it was the other Apostles). We don’t know if this was a supernatural “information dump” into Paul’s mind or if he learned from Jesus in the period of three years that he spent in Arabia and Damascus (Galatians 1:17-18). Regardless, we see that when Paul taught people (or wrote epistles), he didn’t teach his “opinions” but rather he conveyed what Christ taught him and advised the Church based on Godly wisdom (James 1:5).

This idea of Paul having received the true Gospel is further confirmed in his relations to the other Apostles. When Paul went up before the Apostles in Jerusalem and laid out the Gospel that he was preaching, they confirmed that he was speaking the truth and gave him “the right hand of fellowship”.

Galatians 2:2 “I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.”

Galatians 2:9 “When James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”

2) A quick lesson from the Thessalonians and the Bereans

1 Thessalonians 2:13 “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”

From the beginning of the Paul’s ministry, his preaching of the Gospel of Christ powerfully lead people to faith in Jesus Christ. As a result, the Thessalonians willingly accepted and believed that the teaching of Paul was “the word of God”. This might sound like it is just a small group of people that have been deceived by this “opinion-giver” Paul but when you combine it with the commissioning of God and the agreement of the Apostles; this passage becomes a powerful demonstration of how we should look at the epistles that Paul wrote…. not as the words of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in us who believe.

Acts 17:11 Now these Jews [at Berea vv.10] 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.

(Historical note: The church at Thessalonica hadn’t been formed at this point). Notice that the Bereans were called noble because they both received the word with all eagerness (the word that Paul brought to them) and they faithfully compared it to the scripture that they had (the Old Testament) to see if Paul was telling them the truth. I think it is safe to say that they concluded that Paul’s words agreed with the Old Testament because they accepted the teaching with eagerness and because many of them believed (verse12).

To those of you who might say “I only believe the Red Letters”, the Bereans would say to you, “Compare Paul to all the rest of scripture and you will find him a faithful teacher of God’s Word and you will not find any falsehood in him.”

3) Peter Confirming Paul

2 Peter 3:15-16 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

Peter (who learned directly from Jesus Christ) recognizes Paul’s writings as Scripture.

as he does in all his letters… the ignorant… twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

The connection is unmistakable. People who reject the letters of Paul sound so pious at times but really what they are saying is that 2000 years later, they know better than Peter did. Peter walked with Jesus while he was on earth and yet these people today are so smart that they can determine that Paul was preaching opinions rather than the Words of God… Anyone else have a problem with that kind of Pride?

Every Letter in the Bible is a Red One…

2 Peter 1:20-21 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Timothy 3:16–17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

These are two passages that you should cement into your mind as the foundation for how you should think about Scripture.

Note the first passage. We already know that Peter says that Paul’s writings are Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16), but notice what Peter has to say about Scripture. Scripture doesn’t come from someone’s interpretation but rather it comes by the will of God. Paul’s writings (and the rest of Scripture) are not a matter of opinion but rather are the very Words of God come through men. The doctrines and teachings that are contained are not a matter of debate or opinion and we cannot say that we accept this part of Scripture while rejecting another part.

This is further confirmed by the fact that Paul told Timothy that Scripture is Breathed Out By God. When people say that the Red Letters are true, they say it because “Jesus actually said those words”. The truth of the matter is that if all of Scripture is Breathed Out By God then that same statement should apply to all of Scripture. Truthfully, Jesus (who is God) was the author and speaker of All of Scripture.

Truly all the Letters of Scripture are Red Letters. If you are going to say that you “believe the Red Letters” and not contradict yourself, you must accept the entire canon of Scripture (that includes Paul btw).

By the Grace of God and for His Glory…we believe what He has revealed to us. Not in Pride; rather we humble ourselves and see the Scripture as our Authority…

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“I Only Believe The Red Letters!” (Part 1)

“How pious and righteous are those who only believe the Red Letters in their bible!”

Okay…not really.

I think that it is good for us to understand why people come to such a position. Normally, this is how I have seen it happen although it might not be identical in every case.

Normally, this person starts off with the claim that all of scripture is inerrant and inspired. However, issues with the claim of biblical inerrancy beings to show when they study the epistles of the Apostle Paul. Paul is very clear when it comes to his insistence on believing certain doctrines that tend to rub our human nature in the wrong way. Doctrines like…

Predestination (Ephesians 1:3-23)
Election (Romans 9:11; 11:1-7, 28)
Justification by Faith Alone (Romans 3:27-28)
The Depravity of Man (Romans 1:18-3:20)
The Day of God’s Wrath (Romans 2:5)
The Inability of Man to Submit to or Please God (Romans 8:7-8; 1 Corinthians 1:22-24; 2:14; Hebrews 11:6)

This person sees these doctrines as antithetical to true Godly Love and as a hindrance to those who might study Christianity. Now, in order to be able to intellectually reject those doctrines as “orthodox belief”, they decide that the best way is to reject everything (except the red letters) by saying that it is just that author’s opinion and not truly the Word of God. They think that there is a fundamental difference between the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of Paul; such that there can be no reconciliation between the two.

However, this view is not intellectually honest and is actually a “self-defeating” argument for several reasons.

1)  If you claim to believe all the words of Jesus to the rejection of the rest of the New Testament; you actually show that you don’t believe Jesus’ words at all. Jesus was the one who established the teachings of the Apostles and so to truly accept the words of Jesus, you must also accept the teachings of the Apostles.

2)  If the Apostles are in the business of simply giving their opinions; how do you know that the words of Jesus that they recorded were truly the words of Jesus and not their opinions about what Jesus said and did? You are putting a lot of faith into writers that you claim are in the business of giving their opinions rather than giving an accurate account of history and doctrine…

3)  Their argument shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of the “Gospel” texts and the Epistles.

1)  While the Gospel texts contain many teachings by Jesus, the main reason for their existence is two-fold. The first is to simply give an accurate record of the events and teachings that surrounded the person called Jesus Christ (Luke 1:1-4). The second is so that by reading the account about Christ, you may believe that He is the Son of God and through your faith, find Life (John 20:30-31). (There are other aspects but these are the ones that are stressed by the gospel writers).

2)  The Epistles, on the other hand, stand as the EXPLANATION of many of the events that occurred in Christ’s life as well as the further explanation of Christ’s teachings. Paul and the other Apostles simply took what Christ said and applied to the new, growing Churches that they were responsible for.  Paul and the other Apostles were not in the habit of giving their opinions but rather to accurately teach the Church what Jesus taught.

4)  Jesus taught the same Gospel and Doctrine that Paul and the other Apostles did (see #3 b). To reject the teachings of Paul is to reject the teachings of Christ.

While people who say, “I only believe the Red Letters” think that what they are doing is very humble and pious, they are actually demonstrating pride and self-sufficiency. Why do they reject the teachings of the Apostles? Because they have determined, through their own wisdom, that only the red letters are inspired.

THEY are the determiners of Truth…
THEY can tell if something is inspired…
THEY are more knowledgeable then those who actually learned directly from Jesus

There is no clearer example of pride than when Man sets himself up as the arbiter of Truth.

To Be Continued…

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Subjective Experience Versus Objective Truth

Our culture, and our generation, is obsessed with personal, spiritual experiences. Many people decide where they go to Church based on how the service made them feel. The ongoing argument over the right type of music to use in worship, and whether or not instruments should be used, is heavily based on people’s experience and how a particular form of music “makes them feel closer to God”.

Sure, this doesn’t apply to everyone in the Church but I would argue that this is an accurate representation of the majority of our generation. Just think about what happens in your local bible study or Sunday school class. We all sit around in a little circle, we read a passage of scripture, and then the leader asks, “What does this verse mean to you?” The worst form of subjectivity happens when someone applies it to the biblical text. By asking “what it means to me” rather than “what it means”, you turn the bible into silly putty and it ceases to be the Word of God. The Word of God means what God wanted it to mean. If it means something different to you then it has become the Word of Joe, or Bob, or Sue.

On the other hand, subjective experiences aren’t all bad. We were created and wired to have personal experiences. It’s how we live, how we remember, how we learn, how we grow into maturity.

Subjective experiences are a reality for humanity; they just aren’t very trustworthy…

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Your heart WILL deceive you. Your heart is quick to justify your sinful desires and will be quick to help you fulfill them. Your heart will pacify your conscience with “it doesn’t feel wrong” or “I feel closer to God by doing this”. Jesus carefully reminded us that it is out of the heart that all evil and idolatrous actions come from (Matthew 15:19).

How are we to think about life and truth in a way which recognizes the reality of our subjective experiences and yet guards our hearts from the false things that we tend to believe and worship?

In order to get a good grasp on what the answer may be, let’s take a look at Peter.

Peter’s Subjective Experience:

If you are like me, then you have probably wondered what it might have been like to be back in the first century and to be around Jesus during his earthly ministry. What would we see and experience? Well the bible records many events that we can read and think about. The story that I would like to point you to for the sake of this discussion is commonly known as “The Mount of Transfiguration”.

Matthew 17:1-8
“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”

Surely this was a magnificent experience for Peter. The disciples experienced many things during their walk with Jesus but if I had to point to two of the top ones, it would be seeing Jesus in His glory on the mount, and seeing Him after His resurrection.

Have you ever wondered what Peter told people when he was trying to validate his claim that Jesus was the Messiah? Have you ever wondered if Peter would use this experience and if he did, what would he say about it? Wonder no more because Peter was kind enough to record it for us…

The Objective Truth

2 Peter 1:13-21
“I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Peter tells his hearers that he will soon die (vs 14) and then he began to prove to them that the message that he brought them concerning Jesus is a trustworthy message. He begins his proof by telling them that he, and the other Apostles, didn’t make this stuff up. Instead they were eyewitness to what Jesus did and taught (1 John 1:1-4). Notice that Peter uses this magnificent experience as an example of some of the things that he and the disciples experienced…

But then Peter says a very odd thing,We have also a more sure word of prophecy” (KJV).

The first question we should ask ourselves is “what is meant by word of prophecy?” The text answers this question for us; Scripture (vs 19).

The second question we should ask ourselves is “more sure than what?” Again, the text answers the question; the Scripture is more sure (or “more fully confirmed”) than Peter’s subjective experience of the Mount where he saw Jesus in His Glory.

Peter thinks about his experience and then he thinks about the written Word of God and says, “The written Word of God is more sure and more faithful than any experience that I ever had. Pay attention to Scripture because we know for certain that the Word is not man’s opinion but it was produced by God working through man.” (my paraphrase of  verse 19-21).

Although Peter referenced his spiritual experience, he didn’t point people to that experience as the ultimate source of truth. Peter didn’t tell his congregation that they should believe because of what Peter saw on the Mount. Instead, Peter says the they should pay attention to the sure Word of God for the foundation of their faith because the Scripture doesn’t come from man, instead it comes from God through man.

I didn’t say it, Peter did. While you may experience many things in your life, there is nothing more sure than the Word of God.

  • What do you use as the determiner of truth in your Christian walk?
  • How do you know God hears you when you pray? Because you felt it or because you trust God’s Word when He says that He hears your prayers?
  • How do you know that you are under no condemnation (Romans 8:1)? Because you felt it or because you trust God’s Word when He says that He has forgiven you(1 John 1:9)?
  • How do you know that you have peace with God? Because you felt it or because you trust God’s Word when He says that you are Justified by Faith (Romans 5:1)?
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