Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas and holidays

Now that Christmas 2011 has passed and the holiday spirit lingers I think it is as good a time for this brief document.

Christmas, as far as believers in Christ are concerned, is no more a biblical or commanded day to be observed by the saints in Christ. There are two weak and tragic attitudes and views disciples in Christ often take towards observance of holidays.

The first view in favor of observance of holidays is on the basis of the legal recognition of a holiday, such as Christmas, in America. This, plus its cultural relevance, is all the permission some Christians need to observe a holiday. This view is earthly and carnal and hardly reflects the disciples response as beign with the knowledge and understanding of the scriptures.

The second view is the rejection of Christmas as much as Halloween and all holidays as being of pagan origin. Some of the passages cited include Colossians, "Let no one therefore judge you in eating, or in drinking, or with respect to a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath day, 17 which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ’s." The encouragement by Paul to the Colosse saints was to NOT ALLOW or permit anyone to impose their judgments on the believer. It was NOT a prohibition by Paul to the saints at Colosse not to observe any particular holiday. Elsewhere in Romans 14 Paul's point was to admonish both the brother who judges another just as he himself is judged concerning observance or non-observance of days.

A related element of this view concerns the pagan origin of holidays, such as Christmas, as the reason Christians are not to observe it. This is mistaken.

The truth is Paul was free from the law of Moses. He definitely would never teach the saints to observe a holiday, whether pagan or established by God. Yet, this is precisely what Paul did with Pentecost.

For Paul had determined to sail past Ephesus, that he might not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hastening, if it were possible for him, to be in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 19)

He arrived in Jerusalem (Acts 21) to learn there was a lot of misinformation about his teaching. He accepted the advise of the saints in Jerusalem, went with other men who had a vow into the temple in accordance with the law of Moses and Jewish custom. Incidentally, this did nothing to appease the ignorant, misinformed Jews who still stirred the people to seize Paul.

Is Paul's observance of Pentecost to be taken by the saints in Christ today as an authoritative example to observe Pentecost? After all Pentecost was NOT a pagan holiday. It was established by God.

When the mob seized Paul it provided him the opportunity to proclaim the gospel. (Acts 22) Paul was never at loss as are many saints today to draw a connection between his circumstance and the message of the kingdom. For example he took the inscription, "To the Unknown god" as his perfect cue to preach. Similarly, when the provocation in his spirit could bear it no longer he proclaimed the gospel. (Acts 17:16) Of course, Paul, like Jesus, would never turn down the opportunity or an invitation to preach in synagogue. How many brethren would refuse lest misinformation about them might spread and they fall out of favor with men.

It's time, especially teachers and preachers of the word to the people of God, developed an understanding beyond mere trite, bland responses on observances of holidays. This is equally true of teachers and preachers who rail ignorantly about pagan holidays and do nothing to enlighten the saints nor to proclaim Jesus. This is vital as much for the saints in Christ in Nigeria, Eygpt or America.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in 2012 to one and all. Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, rejoice.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Serving Tables

Youth leaving church

I am leery about a study which focuses on concerns about young leaving the church. The reason I am leery is because of the mindset. It is that same mindset as John's disciples who expressed their concern to John that Jesus was baptizing and all were coming to him. Few leaders and fellowships have the mindset of a servant which John expressed to his disciples. He understood the importance that Jesus must ascend even as John must descend.

A similar response among youth and church leadership

I'm not so much concerned about who goes where or comes from where as much as what they UNDERSTAND about their decision to come/go and do what it is that attracts or compels them. This is true whether it involves the manner of praise in a particular fellowship or the social action of that fellowship.

Invariably, the response by those captivated by the concerns revealed in studies such as this is to either ramp up or cut back on whatever it is they are or are not doing (such as praise, social action, etc.) in order to increase or cutoff the flow of those either coming or going to this church or that church. These responses, unfortunately, are in the same vein as those who decide to leave or to come. The similarity of the response by youth and church leadership is in their lack understanding.

First social action in New Testament

The Bible example on social action is specific. It is the first instance in the NT of the social action (a term not necessarily wrong or evil) by the church. It's not merely that the term does no appear in the NT, but that the concept was not in the church's agenda.

However, that first social action itself was not to those in the world but to the widows in needs. (Acts 6) Certainly, it was not an attempt by the church then, as she so typically seeks today, to change a social status or reform society. This is not to say the church ought not or lacks biblical authority to do so, but the charity instance in Acts began with the widows in the church, first.

The NT requirements for serving tables

Furthermore, I have often noted the requirement by the apostles for those who were to take on this menial task of serving tables. They were to be "full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom." It is significant that the Holy Spirit displayed for the church the work of two to the seven selected for this task, not for their distribution to the widows, but their powerful preaching. They were Stephen and Philip.

The Holy Spirit gives words

Is this to say the church ought to increase or cutback on her social action in the community? No. It is to say that when individuals or the church collectively serves widows, mow lawns, drive elderly to their medical appointments, etc., that the fullness of the Holy Spirit is to be evident for all who draw near to them to inquire what and why they have come to do such a thing. I would not presume to dictate or script response flash cards for those workers. The Holy Spirit through a reading and discussion of the Acts 6 passage is able to give insight and understanding but He is always there with a ready word (Luke 12:12) for those who are about the Father's business of serving tables.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

When the perfect comes

Theology is what we know of and about God. The theology about our belief in God in Christ Jesus is sometimes influenced and shaped in America by what I call bumper sticker theology. We have seen this bumper sticker message: Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. These make great sound bites and have just enough of a faint biblical ring to be embraced as sound doctrine by some. However, they do little to create a bold confidence in the believer.

The truth is despite the call of Jesus to be perfect much is said to dilute and downgrade that call to something less than an attainable perfection. Similarly, Paul’s numerous and seemingly casual references to the saints being perfect instill little confidence in the saints in Christ. Perfection is viewed as unattainable in this life primarily because it is mistakenly seen as the attainment of a sinless state; a notion complete foreign to the scriptures. Perfection is viewed as something that awaits the saints when we reach heaven. Perfection is definitely neither bland nor unexciting.

These different views of perfection and being perfect affect our interpretation of scripture. One such example is the teleion of first Corinthians 13:10 passage, “but when the perfect (teleion) comes.” The views presented here, as these are perceived by different people, range from the daily to the hopeful to the unexciting of human response to scripture.

There is a need to understand this passage is as vital and important as all scripture. Any neglect or refusal to examine it for an understanding leaves the believer exposed and susceptible to the belief, acceptance and practice of things which have little to do with love and less with scripture.

1. The perfect is agape, love.

2. The perfect is the second coming of Jesus, the eschaton.

3. The perfect is the completed canon New Testament scripture.

The perfect is agape, love.

The first view of the perfect as being love may be primarily due to the heavy influence of the subject of love in chapter 13. Love seems such a natural, daily expression it just seems like no better fit for the passage. The key problem with this view is that the love of which Paul speaks was present (verse 4ff) already and he states that love remains (verse 13) after the perfect comes. With or without gifts the Corinthians, Paul reminds them, they have love.

This is not to negate or belittle the power and love of God towards us or in our daily lives, but as an explanation for the perfect it does not appear to offer the best response to the question of the perfect.

The second coming of Jesus, the eschaton.

The second view draws on the numerous undisputable references by Paul to the eschaton, the (second) coming of Jesus in the Corinthian letter. A few of these references include 1.8f; 2.6; 3.13, 15, 17, 22; 4.4f; 4.8f; 4.19; 5.5; 6.2f; 6.9f; 6.14; 7.17-24, 26, 29, 31; 9.24f; 10.11; 11.26, 29, 32; 15.12ff; 16.22. The problem with this view is it seems to inject the second coming of Jesus as a solution to the problems (which span the context of chapters 12 thru 14) of selfish speakers and their disregard for the edification of the disciples in the chaotic worship assembly in Corinth.

The anticipation in the first century of the return of Jesus was a source of much excitement. It is good that we can look forward excitedly to his coming as we live our daily lives for his glory, but as an explanation for the perfect this does not appear to be the best response.

The perfect is the completed canon New Testament scripture.

The third view for the perfect acknowledges, understands and accepts the need and power of love in the assembly of the saints, but sees the passage as concerning the complete canon of scripture. It also acknowledges, understands and accepts the promise of the second coming of Jesus. These matters are undeniable and true.

However, the context, again spanning from chapters 12 thru 14, concerns knowledge and understanding in the context of the worship assembly. Paul introduces this idea as the direction he will follow in 12:1-3 contrasting the way of pagans who are led astray by dumb idols with the disciples in Christ who are led and speak in the Spirit of God.

Tracking backwards from verse 10 the connectors “for” and “but” in verses 9 and 10 respectively suggest the content of the verse is related to the “know” of verse 9 and the “knowledge” of verse 8. As many gifts of knowledge, tongues, prophecy as the disciples at Corinth had in the church they knew only bits and pieces.

Paul’s use of a phrase which has been overlooked in much of this discussion may be the important element towards clarification and understanding this passage. His use of the phrase face to face rings familiar back to the time when God in Numbers 12 spelled out for all time the definition of a prophet. God, in so doing, distinguished Moses from the prophet category.

Paul and the saints in Christ in the first century, like Moses, received the knowledge of the will of God “face to face.” This expression in itself needs to be understood and is outside the scope of this article. Suffice it to say since Moses was not granted his request (Exodus 33) to see the glory (face) of God it should be understood the expression does not necessarily translate to a face to face encounter. Rather it is the clarity with which God spoke to Moses. The Christians at Corinth were seeing things “in a mirror dimly.” They were looking, albeit dimly, directly into the revelation of the will of God and it was not as though the revelation was not clear or not understandable. The idea of the mirror imagery is that what they were seeing was becoming clearer. There was no need to look elsewhere or trust anyone other then the Spirit for the revelation of the will of God.

The analogy of a child by the apostle Paul is the final word in chapter 13 which further strengthens the conclusion of the perfect as being the complete canon of scripture. A child does not merely put away childish things. He becomes a man and takes on the things of a man so as to carry on the work of God. Scripture is not just so many bits and pieces of thoughts from the mind of God for us. These words are themselves, Jesus said, life and they are spirit. These are the words which flow from the innermost of the believer which are spirit and give life to all who hear the believer.

This view lacks what some perceive as the emotion of love. However, inasmuch as this concerns the communication of God for his people it is not without love. This view lacks, as is perceived by some, the excitement of the glorious event such as the return of Jesus for his church. Yet, this view of the perfect as the complete canon of scripture reflects what it also reveals: A love of believers for the word of God even as every day draws us one day closer to the coming of Jesus.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Submission of Jesus

I agree with the video message content. A bit of rough wording near the end is of no consequence overall. I posted this message in a thread discussion on Facebook originally.

Islam means submission Muslims inform us. There could be no greater irony to a claim of the Muslim SUBMISSION to God and their total unbelief and rejection of Jesus. What Muslims can not believe and can not accept is Jesus complete SUBMISSION of his WILL to the Father.

As much as I value and love scholarly study of the original language Christians, as well Muslims language scholars, lose themselves and their audience with their nothing-but-bland, convoluted explanations from the original language. The video (John 5:30) is an perfect example.

The point of John 5:30 (and similar passages) is so ignorantly and blindly overrun by Muslims (as well as some Christians). The Muslim conclusion of the verse that Jesus is weak, hence not God, reveals their total lack of the same SUBMISSION they claim about Islam. They measure Jesus' words in terms of fleshly strength, not the might of the will. It is this WILL that Jesus asserted throughout the gospels he would SUBMIT to the WILL of the FATHER.

They can neither accept the SUBMISSION of Jesus (regardless whether or not they acknowledge his divinity) nor even CONSIDER that God is big enough that He, unlike man, knows how, is not afraid to, can and WILL SUBMIT himself. What could God possibly SUBMIT himself his WILL? It is is easy to disregard and discard his birth, his words, his miracles, but it is his DEATH to which He WILLFULLY SUBMITTED himself that is for anyone who would put their trust in Jesus to understand and imitate in their own DEATH to self and sin.

Putting one's trust in Jesus is impossible without the SUBMISSION of the WILL of the individual.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Spirit and truth: The Samaritan woman and Jesus

This is a brief article on the phrase spirit and truth from the English text. There are two perspectives in John’s account of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. The first is of the woman’s life experience. The second is of her familiarity with the Samaritan worship experience. These experiences offer clues and insights on life and worship. It is hoped believers may obtain an appreciation and understanding of the words spirit and truth spoken by Jesus.

A life without spirit and truth

Jesus met a Samaritan woman at the water well in the above passage from the gospel according to John chapter 4. The meeting is a picture-story of the power of truth to make one free.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In the Spirit

The love of God has been poured out within our hearts.

It truly is a marvel that through the preaching and obedience of the gospel message of Jesus God has raised up sons who love Him and whom He loves.

Being in the Spirit who indwells us

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8 the believer in Jesus is in the Spirit. The believer is assured of this fact IF the Spirit of God dwells in the believer. One indication of this dwelling of the Spirit in the believer is that the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given us.

It is the Spirit who raises up sons to indwell us

But when was that moment the Spirit was given to the believer? Paul gives a significant, powerful clue when he refers to Jesus in 1:4.

Who was declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead,
according to the Spirit of holiness,

What Jesus had previously declared verbally (Matt 22:70) was now declared by the power of the resurrection according to the Spirit of holiness that He is the Son of God.

Similarly, the sonship of every believer is declared at his rebirth. When he is born anew from the watery grave the Spirit declares the believer is a child of God. What is the testimony of the scripture the Spirit of holiness dwells in the heart of the believer? It is that once the believer has been forgiven, cleansed and raised up by the Spirit that the Holy One comes to dwell in that temple of God not made with human hands cleansed and made holy for his dwelling. (Acts 2:38, Romans 6:1ff [ff means following verses] Titus 3:1ff)

But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. 8:11

Anyone who does not have the Spirit who is given freely does not belong to God. (8:9)
Those who are led by the Spirit who indwells them are children of God. (8:14)
We have received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

The scripture testifies of the repentant believer's forgiveness and cleansing of all sin. The same clarity and lack of ambiguity is evident as to when the the Spirit of holiness came to indwell the believer. It is this child of God in whom the Holy Spirit poured the love of God within his heart so that the believer might walk and be led in the Spirit.

Let this be your confidence and your boldness in the Spirit.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Lord's Supper

 understand the familiar view of the bread and wine becoming hosts for the literal presence of Jesus. This is a taken from Jesus' equally literal words, this is my body . . . this is my blood. Furthermore, I agree it is not a symbol.

The Eucharist, or Lord's Supper, may be the sole act of worship which distinguishes and sets apart the worship of believers in Jesus from all others beliefs and practices in the world. Jesus never gave a relic, a piece of land or even his own name with instructions his followers were to take any man's life who would take or speak against relic, land or name. The disciples in the New Testament never fought or passed down to the church crucifix pieces, garment relics or staked neither Jesus' birthplace, crucifixion, resurrection nor ascension place as holy sites or symbols to be defended at all cost of life.

On the contrary, his disciples are to be known by their ready love to lay down their life in love for a friend. Even that love, He made clear to his disciples, we are to extend towards our enemies. Yes, there are more than a few disciples who say they do not live by the sword who are ever ready in fear to take a life with a sword. Their fear is not in taking a life or laying down another man's life, but in laying down their own life for the cause of Jesus.

The Lord's Supper is that one and only act which Jesus instructed his disciples we are to observe. There are some with uncertainty as to the frequency and day of the week this was observed in the first century.

Nonetheless, the commandment from Jesus is present in the New Testament. This act of worship does not center on a dead, lifeless relic, a piece of land or a name or phrase to be numbingly repeated until one attains the light-headedness from insufficient oxygen. The Lord's Supper is that act in which believers gather together privately or publicly to 1) remember Jesus, and 2) proclaim his coming. This act of worship, Jesus said, we are to observe until he returns. It is the continuous, ongoing living demonstration in the lives of the believers of our faith and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior for the world to behold as a testimony and for the world to draw near and inquire as to what this means. It differs from the act of obedience in baptism in that it occurs once in the life of the repentant believer when he commits his life to Jesus as Lord and Savior.

What it means is Jesus, the bread which correlates to the body, is a present, evident and clear manifestation for all eyes to see and behold in the body, the assembly of the saints, the church.

Yet, an uninformed person may well see that same gathering of believers. It means nothing to him because he does not understand it is the blood in which is life. He can no more see the blood which gives life to the believer anymore than he can see the blood which pumps life throughout his own inner body. As meaningful as coming together in the breaking of the bread may be it would be as a lifeless corpse without life were we to forget and were not reminded of the blood that was shed for our sins. This blood is the words, the expression of our life in the body, the rivers of living water which flows from the innermost being from he who believes in Jesus. (John 7:37)

IF the mere act of coming together were to be mistakenly done as a symbol by believers it is the blood, the words of life which flows from and between members in that gathering which affirms that truly Jesus is among us and the Holy Spirit is He who makes evident through those words He brings forth from us. One can no more hold back those rivers of living water than shut off water-flow in a power dam without serious consequences for one and all alike.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Ahamd Deedat Explain who is the Holy Spirit

Deedat, is emphatic in his insistence for just one thing the Holy Spirit which said which Jesus did not say. Well, here's one regarding the deity of the Holy Spirit and the indwelling of this deity in the believer.

The Acts 5 passage records the apostle Peter inspired by the Holy Spirit declaring the Holy Spirit is God.

Then the Romans 5 passage the apostle Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit records we, believers, have received the love of God through the Holy Spirit who has been POURED OUT INTO OUR HEARTS.

Lastly, later in the book of Romans chapter 8 passage the apostle Paul records we, believers, the Spirit of God DWELLS IN YOU, that we are LED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD we are CHILDREN OF GOD and therefore cry out to God as ABBA FATHER!

5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 5:4 While you kept it, didn’t it remain your own? After it was sold, wasn’t it in your power? How is it that you have conceived this thing in your heart? You haven’t lied to men, but to God.”

5:5 and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 5:6 For while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 5:7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man. Yet perhaps for a righteous person someone would even dare to die. 5:8 But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

8:8 Those who are in the flesh can’t please God. 8:9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his. 8:10 If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 8:11 But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. 8:12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 8:13 For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God. 8:15 For you didn’t receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Additional video reference notes:

Time: 45,46sec Deedat says, "A unique verse for a unique personality. Muhammad."
Deedat strives in vain to belabor the point the Holy Spirit is "He", a masculine pronoun denoting the Holy Spirit is a man. However, he has ignored that the God Deedat acknowledges is invisible yet He refers to himself in the masculine gender. I don't think Deedat would argue God is a man.

Time: 1:01 Deedat says, "Is Muhammad a spirit? Yes."
Deedat is correct the term "spirit" does not always refer to the Holy Spirit. However, he is applying the term Holy Spirit as spoken by Jesus to Muhammad.

Time: 1:56 Deedat says, "A false spirit is a false prophet."
What comes out of the mouth of a false prophet? Let the viewer and reader discern and judge Deedat's gesture at time 1:56.

Time: 8:51 Deedat says, "Spirit of truth is the prophet of truth, Muhammad."

The reason I cite this is because despite this claim by Deedat about Muhammad I have been accused by at least one Muslim of "slur"(?) perhaps meaning "slandering" Muslims.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Is Jesus Both God and Man? - - a comment

This is a comment on the above titled article.

If I cut to the chase and state outright "God died" that would put my statement in the same category as others who make sound bite statements with no less understanding or ability to convey their convictions. The tactic of hitting listeners with a barrage of questions so as to stun and mesmerize them creates the desired impression of knowledge on the part of the questioner. Proof this knowledge must reside, it is assumed, with the questioner is the absence of responses from his listeners. This is hardly understanding by those posing the questions anymore than it is teaching on their part.

Judging from your blog you are quite familiar with the usual assortment of proof texts to your claims concerning Jesus. I won't waste your time restating them. Here are a few, but simple matters overlooked.
  1. The statement that God died is not to say that he remained dead.
  2. The statement that God cannot die is not to say he would not die.
  3. The statement God cannot die is a statement of fear. Allow me to explain.
The writer of Hebrews states as much in Hebrews 2:14 Since then the children have shared in flesh and blood, he also himself in the same way partook of the same, that through death he might bring to nothing him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 2:15 and might deliver all of them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

This view on the permanence of death, and I leave it to you to ponder, can probably be traced back to the garden. The death Satan and Adam and Eve had never witnessed or experienced occurred initially and immediately with the spiritual separation between Adam and Eve and God. All eventually saw natural death overcome the man and the woman.

What does a liar do when he is exposed? He creates another lie. When Satan's lie that Adam and Eve would not die was exposed he did as liars do, and as he is the father of all lies (John 8:44), he created another lie. It is the lie many live and die with believing the permanence of death. Satan's work was not completed so as to allow him to rest when Adam and Eve fell into disobedience of God. Once the reality of death became evident his new lie was and remains that death is final. Furthermore, Satan's message to man has echoed throughout the history of creation: God cannot save you from death. God cannot help you. God will not help you. God cannot understand your situation. God is not a man.

Whether Satan knows it or not it seems the lie with which he deceived Adam and Eve that they would not die has become true about Satan himself: It is he who will not die. His condemnation in the lake of fire is not his death as in the sense of annihilation. Who, other than the author of Life could have the power to give life, but to raise the dead, also? As impressive as raising ten Lazaruses it would have been nothing more than just that: impressive. The claims Jesus made openly to his disciples in the hearing of his enemies concerning his crucifixion and resurrection was to be the ultimate in-your-face demonstration to Satan that the giver of life has power over death too.

This God was willing to demonstrate, not by sending yet another messenger to raise a few dead corpses and to raise up that messenger, but to lay down his own life and take it up again. It was an effective demonstration that death is nothing to God. It has no power over him. It is in the palm of his hand. He can lay down his life and take it up again.

A God as all powerful, omniscient and omnipresent at his weakest, most ignorant and limited capabilities is infinitely more than man whom He created. His willingness to subject Himself is well in keeping with the what he expects from those who profess to trust him. Would God cease to be God by taking on the form of man anymore than he ceased to be God when He appeared in the burning bush to Moses and numerous other manifestations throughout history? God, who is acknowledged as being in the garden of Eden, did not lose his hearing, his mind, his memory or his divine omniscience when he called out to Adam and Eve, "Where are you?" Discerning why God called out for the man and woman would be to discern why Jesus called out, "Who touched me?" Unless, of course, one cannot discern the latter of these two, then we are back to square one: Who was in the garden?

Yes, there remain a deluge of questions and not without understanding and answers, but all these pale with the understanding of the blinding effect death has as much over non-believers and professing believers in God the Creator of heaven and earth. Raising the dead, walking on water and all other miracles are mere impressive displays compared to the resurrection. Even more impressive than the resurrection is that it happened as foretold by Jesus. This, presumably, demands a second look at the man called Jesus.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Trinity Delusion: a response

(See my blog article. God is one: On a Unitarian and Trinitarian Debate)
If God Existed
An Incomplete and Disingenuous Apologetic
Is the Resurrection of Jesus a Falsifiable Prediction
Jesus: The Father is Greater than I
He Has Explained
God is One: On a Unitarian and Trinitarian Debate
This is my brief comment on an extract from the article The Trinity Delusion by Adam Pastor in the Adoni Messiah blog. The article content is the usual rehash on the Shema ("Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one"). The points from both sides of the discussion table about God usually fixate on the same: quantitative values of singular and plural pronouns. Of course, the original Deuteronomy 6 passage can't be beat, not because it was, as some cheer for their side, seemingly championed by Jesus. The quotation of the Shema in Mark 12 by Jesus is seized upon by some as an endorsement by Jesus of their particularly numeric, quantitative take on God. What, you might wonder is the Jewish awareness and response to that plurality? Rabbi Goldmark summons it up this way: "We just ignore it." Amazing. There is a gag reflex which overcomes some at the mere sound of a non-biblical term (which is equally unnecessary and non-useful to my understanding and my contribution to the discussion [for those who may not know it that term is, "trinity"]) which is suggestive of a plurality concerning God. One can hardly blame a man for not thinking clearly when he is gagging.

The default interpretation of the Shema from the Jews adapted by

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Wedding

I was glad to join with my brothers in Christ this morning in our weekly Saturday meeting after missing several weeks. What should be the opening topic: the wedding of William and Kate. I told my wife about it and declared to her I should write a post on the subject. Here goes.

Just my mere reference to the wedding couple does not seem right: William and Kate. It may (and probably does for some) smack of disrespect, but that is precisely where I want to go with this article. The wedding ceremony of Prince William and his bride Kate Middleton appreciably showcases some important matters.

It is not the historical, political or economic impact or the significance of the succession of kings to the throne in England that captured my attention. I had no interest in the wedding. I saw a few clips as my wife and daughter replayed an earlier recorded program. What the wedding, and really not so much the actual wedding itself, brings to mind for me is the public acknowledgment, capture and celebration of the event by the British royal family and the British people in full splendor, pomp, circumstance with the invocation of God and His blessing.

I believe it was Richard Harris, a British subject no less, who made the statement in a western movie about the scourge of crime affecting the American west . He attributed that scourge to the lack of royalty and disdain for reverence in America.

No, I'm not advocating for a throne in America but the point Harris about reverence reverberated in the wedding event. It is the public acknowledgment, capture or celebration of any sense of reverence Americans have cast out perhaps not with disdain and contempt but with equal measure of disregard and indifference. This is not to say the British are a devout people towards God. However, it is not as though Americans have never known formality and reverence. Even a young person will have an awareness of what is casual and what is formal; what conveys some semblance or acknowledgment of reverence and propriety in public. If they have never experienced it personally they see formality in their entertainment idols at awards ceremonies as well as the casualness in their idols' lives captured in reality TV shows.

Certainly, one undeniable truth about the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton was the honor of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in purity to maintained in holiness:

 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the bed be undefiled:
but God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers. Hebrews 13:4

This absence or erosion between the formal and the casual in public is evident in graduation ceremonies and other rites of passage and ceremonies. It has become an expected given that crassness will come crashing in at any moment. It may or may not be with the knowledge and consent of those being honored, but that hardly matters because it soon becomes the opportune moment for irreverence. This same crassness-turned-casual is as readily found in the workplace, both in the way people dress and their speech and conduct. (No wonder management is often clueless to handle these promptly and appropriately in the workplace.) The signs of that formal erosion are found in church too, No. Check yourself. Check my words. This is not a call for full button down shirt and tie or leather shoes. The point is everyone of us, as I've stated, has some awareness of what is casual and what is formal as well as what is appropriate and inappropriate in word and in deed. Although we have formal and casual celebrations I wonder how consistent we are in our deliberateness and preparation for those special moments.

I think I hear the cries: What a stuff-shirt! (Yes, that's the G-rated version cry after all the children might be reading this blog :-)

Many are as clueless if not unwilling to acknowledge the celebration of public irreverence in America. What was at one time formal and which received our full respect is now characterized by a brazen irreverence which does not remain behind at those events and ceremonies. A brazened casualness has come home to our marriages, families and homes and workplace driven my the cool gospel message of entertainment. Even church is a gathering of the casual not the holy as evidenced by our interactions and speech with one another. There's biblical principal which may well apply here. The apostle John wrote First John 4:

If a man says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who doesn’t love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 4:21 This commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should also love his brother.

If men and women who can see each other fail to honor each other in different public gatherings to show respect towards each other how will they or why would they show respect to God whom they cannot see? Quizz: Check out the crassness with which people talk with each with words and mannerisms which just a few years ago were the stuff which came just before the fist blows. A quick review of movies or talk shows just fifteen years old will reveal these same changes.

Ironically, the earliest acknowledgment, capture and celebration of reverence was immediately after Adam and Eve disrespected and disobeyed God. Yet, they were no less aware of an innate need to seek and own the reestablishment of their respect towards God. They did not cover their nakedness from themselves as much as from God. Later, when God appeared to Moses in a burning bush Moses was reminded by God that Moses was standing in the presence of the Holy One and told him to remove his sandals. The Levitical priesthood who went before the congregation of the Lord acknowledged, captured and celebrated the Holy God of Israel in appearance and conduct in the tabernacle and later in the temple. Jesus in his very earliest days was readily identifiable by his appearance as a rabbi who acknowledged, captured and celebrated his relationship with His Father through his words and actions.

Lastly, the believers in Christ, also called the royal priesthood in the New Testament have put on, that is, clothed themselves with Christ. It is our clothing in Christ which sets the believer apart from the celebration of the casual in our culture. It makes the believer stand apart. They acknowledge, capture and celebrate the Living God Creator of heaven and earth in all that they say and do in work, worship and play. Each one of us came to be clothed with Christ when we finally confronted our dire, dejected, shameful and sinful condition. We were tired of a living a life filled with the casual without reverence. Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly. That's not just as a private faith secret of the heart, but through our public acknowledgment, capture and celebration of life with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the heart of those who openly put their trust and faith in Jesus, the Son of God. Rejoice, and again I say rejoice, said the apostle Paul.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Judging Others

Judgments are not easy to make. This is especially true when those judgments involve people. Judgments carry the weight of a moral decision. Judgments reflect our understanding of what is right and what is wrong, what is moral and what is immoral. People make right judgments and wrong judgments. Some people choose to refrain from making judgments but the situations and circumstances of life demand that we make judgments whether these involve, as an example, the destructive impact of greed on the environment or the destructive impact of sexual fornication on the marriage in the family home. A correct, moral judgment may come from the lips of an individual with a flawed moral character but that does not invalidate the judgment itself. There’s an important distinction to be made between understanding and conviction as concerns judgments.

Giving an account

Judgments can be made with the solid understanding of the source of authority. The source of that authority to make a judgment may come, for example, from civil law or the scriptures. A judgment with a firm conviction can be morally correct and right. However, without understanding the one making the judgment will find it difficult to give an account of the reasons for his judgment. Yet, it is not invalidated because of lack of conviction. This discomforting position of making judgments is common not only with atheists, (do not mistake this as a judgment atheists are not moral) but with those who profess their morality as being from God. This discomfort, in the absence of any authority or standard, may account for the response of ridicule and mockery from atheists and fear from Christians to situations which demand judgment verdicts.

Just as discomforting and troublesome for some people as to make judgments is to hear other people making a judgment. This is especially true when the person making the judgment is a Christian. The great discomfort in hearing a Christian make a judgment is based on an even greater misunderstanding (see Matthew 7:1,2) Jesus commanded Christians not to judge.

What Jesus commands

Did Jesus command his disciples not to make judgments? A look at his command to his disciples suggests his disciples were to be careful about when and how they make judgments. Disciples are not to make judgments hastily or rashly. Jesus did say he did not judge anyone. Jesus did say He did not come to judge the world. So, did Jesus Himself ever judge anyone?

The gospel according to John in chapter eight relates the account of a woman caught in the immoral act of adultery. It is clear those who brought the woman before Jesus had no interest in making or carrying out a judgment. They did not bring the man caught in adultery with the woman. Invariably, the question whether Jesus judged the woman draws a quick no followed by the clarification Jesus just loved her and did not condemn the woman. However, there’s an implied judgment in his words when He says to her, Go, and sin no more.
This instance involving a woman who had fallen in adultery modeled for the disciples of Jesus when and how we are to make judgments. Jesus modeled the marks of a spiritual: 1) the wisdom to discern, 2) the confidence to judge, and 3) the authority to speak. This characteristic of Jesus to make judgments is a mark of a spiritual. It is vital to judge with understanding and conviction when restoring one who has fallen in sin. (Galatians 6:1,2) The judgment of the woman which Jesus modeled was to save and restore, not to condemn her.

The apostle Paul makes a judgment

The apostle Paul, a disciple of Jesus, modeled what Jesus taught His disciples about making judgments. When Paul learned of the immoral conduct of a so-called brother in the church at Corinth (see I Corinthians 5) Paul judged him. Paul judged the man even though the apostle was not present at Corinth. Paul was neither hasty nor rash in his judgment of the immoral individual. The intent and desired purpose of Paul’s judgment was not to condemn the man, but that the man might repent and be restored. Furthermore, Paul urged the Christians in Corinth to judge the immoral individual themselves. After-all Jesus stated the work of the Holy Spirit was He would convict the world about sin because they don't believe in me. The unbelief which had crept into Corinth was not limited to a single immoral, but it had come to to contaminate and defile the whole body of Christ, that is, the royal priesthood of believers in Corinth.

The church in Corinth did as Paul instructed and judged the immoral individual. The man repented of his immoral behavior. The church did not back down from making the hard but necessary judgment on the immoral. The disciples did not shrug off or dismiss their responsibility in uncertainty and fear saying, no one of us is perfect. The apostle John wrote perfect (meaning, complete) love (I John 4:17-19) in the believer casts out fear. Paul wrote in his second letter to the church for them to welcome the brother back into fellowship now that he was forgiven and restored.

We can avoid the need to make judgments. We can call what is defined as sin by some other term. We can, as previously stated, exempt ourselves claiming we are not perfect. We can claim it's a personal choice, a personal opinion. We can claim a particular behavior is not something we would do, but we're alright if someone else chooses to do act and live that way. In the end our unwillingness and inability to make a judgment speaks more of our selfishness and fear which hide our lack of understanding and conviction. Yet, love desires to bear its fruit in and through each one of us.

Judge a brother, save a brother

Jesus taught and modeled for his disciples how and when to make judgments. He did so in order that those who trust and believe on Him should do so with understanding and conviction. The apostle Paul demonstrated the judgment of the immoral individual at Corinth in the same manner as did Jesus. Furthermore, Paul urged the Christians at Corinth to judge the individual in order that he might repent and be restored to the fellowship of believers in Christ. Once the brother was restored Paul urged the church to, reaffirm your love for him.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Properly Baked Cake

Do you ever approach something with the attitude: I just want to get it done. I just want to get it out of the way. What this attitude reflects is a dislike or displeasure, but vital need in doing that something that needs our action.

When we apply this to our faith in God some people have a ready file to show they got it done a while back. It may have been in their childhood. It may be through mere association with others who profess a faith like them. They've taken care of it. It's out of the way. They are, as they understand, free to carry on with their lives.

There are others whose faith in God means an endless, tiresome exhausting task of work. No matter how small or how big the task they are sure to do it and add it to their works account ready for presentation to God at the appropriate time as proof of their faith in Him.

What these two, faith and works, represent are what I call the "alone" extremes to which people go to get the God thing right and out of the way. They are the extremes of "faith alone" and "works alone."

The Jews in Jesus' day came to Him and asked him (John 6:28,29) for the quick, easy work they needed to fulfill the God thing. Jesus replied that they were to believe in him whom God had sent. In other words, as Jesus states, belief is a work. It is something one does. It is not merely a thought between our ears.

Ironically, Jesus' reply to the Jews has resulted in some who take that and run to the "faith alone" extreme. These two, faith and works, are not opposed or contradictory to each other as some mistakenly understand when they read the letters by the apostle Paul to the Romans and by the apostle James in the letter which bears his name are favorites. The "faith alone" group favors Romans for its emphasis on faith and belief. The "works alone" group favors James because of its emphasis on works. This same approach of viewing one better or more important than the other is not limited to these two. It extends to repentance, confession, etc.

As I drink my coffee, cake comes to mind. It may help illustrate the importance and significance of a humble and sincere obedience to the one whom God has sent. Suppose you invited some friends over for coffee and cake. As they sit at the table you serve a bowl of eggs to one of your friends. Another you serve a bowl of shortening. Another receives a bowl of flour. Another one a bowl of water.

You announce, "Enjoy!" They look strangely at you.

Finally, one brave soul informs you this is not a cake. Another joins in and tells you these are cake ingredients. Another tells you these ingredients are to be mixed and baked in the oven to create a delicious cake.

You gather the bowls with ingredients mix them up. Thirty minutes later you remove it from the oven only to realize the bowl of eggs is on your kitchen counter. No problem, you say, as you break the eggs and spread them over the hot almost-cake. You serve it to your friends. After a while another brave soul informs you this is not a properly baked cake.

Which of these ingredients, flour, eggs, etc., is more important in baking a cake? Clearly, it is not a matter of which is more important but that all these ingredients work together to create a cake.

Similarly, to put one's trust of belief in God and put that belief into action is to understand faith. It is no more important than works or belief more important than repentance. The act of breaking and spreading eggs over the almost-cake is to misunderstand not only the importance of all these ingredients in baking a cake, but to misunderstand the importance of belief over confession, etc.

As an example of this scrambled mixup of imitating the New Testament obedience to the gospel there are some who discard one thing over another as being unimportant. Others will state it is important, but it doesn't need to be done. WHAT?!?!?! Specifically, you may have probably heard baptism discarded as something unimportant. Does anyone believe a person could openly confession Jesus as Lord, be baptized and tell him he can repent of his continued fornication or other sin some time later. Is there anyone who would tell him repentance is not important, or it's good to "DO" it, but not important. This teaching is what leads some to think they have gotten the God thing take care of and it's out of the way. Someone took the liberty to wrongfully teach them of their own accord what they thought as being important and what was unimportant.

A life with that approach to belief and obedience of God does not mock God because God cannot be mocked. However, it does lead one to a life of misery and ruin because they are going about their own lives and not, as Paul wrote, "Christ living in me." The God thing, well, that's at home in their hidden file but ready, if they really must, for display. They mistakenly thought believing and obeying the one whom God has sent is something done once and not something they live in love thereafter.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Khalid Yasin: What Jesus said about Muhammed

Perhaps Khalid Yasin has a better understanding of his new profession of faith in Islam. It appears he was seriously mistaken about the faith he states he once had in Jesus. His professed faith in Jesus may sound good, but it is in total opposition and without substance to what Jesus said and did during his lifetime ministry.

Mr Yasin enumerates four points of what Jesus said to his disciples:

  1. I'm going to send you the Admirable one, Muhammed
  2. your minds are not prepared for all the questions you have
  3. you will know him because he will speak of me
  4. that which he hears from God will remain forever
Yes, Jesus did say all these things which Mr Yasin enumerates. However, his efforts to gloss over them and apply these in the manner in which he does is less than genuine. As an example on his first point, and the single point which is the focus of this comment, Mr Yasin makes a deft application of the Comforter/Counselor as a direct reference to Muhammad. I am familiar with the linguistic efforts by some to extract a rendering of "Muhammed" from Jesus' words which he spoke to the disciples concerning the Comforter, that is, the Holy Spirit, in chapters 14 thru 16 of the gospel according to John. Research in the original Greek language is certainly important, but the truth is Christian as well as Islam scholars can be just as convoluted in their extraction of words and meanings which often do little or nothing to clarify for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

There are several very clear, simple enlightenments on Mr Yasin's first point in plain English.

First, the terms Comforter/Counselor and Spirit/Holy Spirit/Spirit of truth are used by Jesus in the same sentence, same context, to equate all these as one and the same being of which Jesus speaks.

Second, the grammatical tenses indicate the coming of the this individual being was in the future from the time Jesus spoke these words. Some have stated the Holy Spirit was already present and therefore it cannot be the Spirit/Holy Spirit/Spirit of God. They cite King David and Zacharias and Elizabeth John the baptizer's parents as examples. True. The scripture testifies they spoke through the Spirit/Holy Spirit/Spirit of God in them. However, this does not began to compare with the promise of the Holy Spirit as spoken by Jesus. Jesus reiterated this prophecy of promise as spoken by the prophet Joel and which was fulfiled on Pentecost (Acts 2). This was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on sons and daughters, on all who believed in Jesus and obeyed him as Lord and Savior when Peter preached that first gospel sermon on Pentecost. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit of promise was no longer, as in the case of King David's or Zacharias and Elizabeth's, to a mere few individuals, but to all who are faith in Jesus.

Third, the present tense use by the apostle Peter in Acts 2 makes it clear to his audience that what they were amazed by was the fulfillment of what Jesus promised. Thereafter in the New Testament, the grammatical tense with reference to the Holy Spirit is of a fulfilled present reality as the One who dwells in the heart of the believer. The coming of the Comforter/Counselor/Spirit/Holy Spirit/Spirit of God, all synonyms of one another, was to accomplish two things, which Mr Yasin acknowledges, in the disciples: 1) to bring to their remembrance the things Jesus had taught them, and 2) to guide them into all truth.

Here's just one simple question to help further clarify the matter of the fulfillment of Jesus' words concerning the Comforter/Holy Spirit:

For John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now. Acts 1:5

Question: What part of Jesus' words not many days from now would lead one to believe He meant His words would be fulfilled six centuries later with Muhammed? Is that the clear, simple understanding of the passage? Does that make any sense? No. It does not make sense.

Mr Yasin is free to take whatever understanding and stake whatever belief he chooses.  However, it is an understanding completely in opposition to the words spoken by Jesus. Regardless of any one reader's belief or conviction the application of the passage by Mr Yasin to anyone other than the Holy Spirit or a time other than the first century in the manner in which Mr Yasin applies it makes no clear, simple sense of the passage.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Royal Priesthood

The Royal Priesthood of Believers

The apostle Peter calls the body of believers a royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9) It is this priesthood, brothers and sisters of the faith that is in Christ Jesus, who have received a glorious calling to: offer up prayers, praise, edification of the body and the ministry of teaching and preaching. short version article

They proclaim the excellence of the Lord our God who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Yet, that is a call, specifically teaching and preaching, which has been fulfilled primarily by brothers in the faith in private and public gatherings.

Certainly, this is not for lack of will on the part of sisters in the faith.

Whether it is fear or lack of understanding; fear of what men and brethren might think and say or a lack of understanding of the scriptures it is not the triumph of the love that casts out fear.

The contributions of word studies, interpretations for and against the opposing views and terminologies are often lost to the preference and influence of culture. Teachers and preachers in the church often fail to see the abysmal shallowness of their default use of the culture trump card with their listeners. Yes, culture was an undeniable component in the first century but too often the reference to culture is to conceal our lack of understanding of scripture, or despite having that understanding, lacking in conviction. For example, gender inclusivity or women preachers rather than familiar, biblical terminology, of royal priesthood of believers. There are Greek language word study contributions which are excellent and abound in good number. Although these have been resourced and consulted they are not the focus of this contribution to the discussion. Readers are encouraged to consult those sources themselves. The apostolic phrase royal priesthood of believers is not bound by function or gender whether feeding widows or proclaiming the scriptures.

The apostles encountered great personal challenges. However, these personal challenges were always secondary to the preaching of the gospel and their concern for the saints. They taught the royal priesthood how we are to conduct ourselves in the assembly and what and how we are to teach and proclaim in the church and in the world. Ephesus represents that world grand stage, the cultural battlefield challenge, between the renown goddess Artemis with her temple priestesses and priests and the young church with her own royal priesthood of believers, her elders and a young minister named Timothy.

What do Paul's writings to Timothy and the church in Ephesus reveal about confronting the worship cult of Artemis for the priesthood of believers?
How does Paul confront the culture and worship of Artemis while building up the royal priesthood of believers?
How does Paul's defense in this match-up of beliefs impact the royal priesthood of believers?
Why did Paul forbid women to teach a man?
Why did he make a point about a woman exercising authority over a man?

The perspective of past and present in this discussion, with some references and allusions to other contributions to this discussion, will be on the church and the scriptures primarily. The authority of scripture and our understanding of that authority, not unsupported thoughts, opinions or sentiments is what produces conviction, confidence and boldness in our faith, life and ministry in the church now and for the future.

The ancient perspective of scripture

(A definition of perspective: The relationship of parts or points, [for example, past, present and future] to one another.) God established an ancient perspective in the Old Testament scriptures with the house of Jacob, the sons of Israel when God chose and called Israel a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exodus 19:6) The selective Levitical priesthood established shortly afterwards under the law of Moses was exclusively all male. They were charged with leading Israel in prayer, praise, offering sacrifices and teaching the commandments and the law to Israel. The perspective of graphic lessons from the past of those who trifled, rebelled or usurped the word of the Lord are preserved in scripture for the royal priesthood.

The death of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, who offered up strange fire is seared in the minds of those who minister to the people of God before the Lord. Uzzah was struck dead when he presumed to touch the ark of the covenant which not even the priests were permitted to touch. God was greatly displeased when Saul trifled the role of Samuel as the one designated by God to offer sacrifice. Saul offered the sacrifice when Samuel delayed his arrival. Although God was displeased with Saul the consequences were not unlike Moses' failure. Moses failed to honor God at Meribah and lost the honor of leading Israel across the Jordan into the promise land. Saul lost the honor of being king and was stripped of the kingdom. Saul and Moses were not struck dead for their respective failures before God. Lastly, Moses’ sister Miriam predates the Levitical priesthood. She did not die, but God struck her with leprosy because she presumed herself and Aaron on equal footing with Moses before God.

Although all priests were Levites, not all Levites were priests. This stricture as applied to the tribe of Levi precluded men from all other tribes in Israel from the priesthood. Even among the Levites who were qualified to serve in the temple with their brothers their duties were assigned accordingly to the families of Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The all-male Levitical priesthood of the past was not an open door for all aspiring males. It was no less reverend towards scripture, the commandment of God, in its selection and service than is the present royal priesthood of believers.

The authority of truth in the scriptures

The sons and daughters of God revere the truth and authority of scripture saying, speak where the Bible speaks, keep silent where the Bible keeps silent. The inherent truth in the latter part of that phrase is often overlooked:
There is as much authority in the silence of the scriptures as when they speak
and require no less discernment by the saints.
Others think to determine as greater or lesser the weight of truth and the authority in scripture by the number of times or where that truth appears in the scriptures. Still others rule out study and discussion of what is clearly and indisputably stated in the scriptures. However, indisputable clarity of a passage does not preclude study and discussion of the word of God. The indisputably clear words of Jesus that the disciple is to cut out the eye or hand that causes him to stumble are no less clear than Paul’s words,

But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.

There’s a readiness to examine and explain the clarity of Jesus’ words for meaning, but a dismissal for similar examination and explanation of Paul’s words for their meaning.

It is important to note truth in the scriptures is not determined by the number of times it appears in the scriptures or its location in the scriptures.

The nominal number of times and location of some matters of doctrine in scripture is cited by some to diminish the importance of what the scriptures state. Other efforts to trump one truth over another is (as though the writers of the scriptures competed with each other) touting and positing classifications of historical narrative and doctrinal accounts against each other. Therefore, as an example, in this manner it is no less true that Philip's four daughters who were prophetesses  and (Acts 21:9) of whom the scriptures testify one time in the book of Acts, prophesied.

There is neither male nor female

Jesus did choose all men as apostles whom he sent into the world with an extraordinary task. However, neither their gender nor apostleship is unique in the royal priesthood of believers. What is unique about the apostles is not that they received the Holy Spirit as did the household of Cornelius, too. (Acts 15:8) What is unique about the apostles is that they received the ability to impart that gift through the laying on of their hands. This past perspective of the apostles as servants entrusted with a gift to impart gifts in the royal priesthood. The are reveal as being not unlike the Levites in the Levitical priesthood not for their gender, but in terms of their divine, select, assigned duties. The designation by Luke of Barnabus in Acts 14 and by Paul of Junias in Romans 16 as apostles is as inspired as it is undeniably true. However, the likelihood these individuals were sent by the apostles does not signify extended enrollment with the apostles and to associate the gender and apostle designations of these, Junias particularly, as an authoritative example for women preaching is as much a stretch as it is unnecessary.

It was the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit in these servants of Jesus to bring to their remembrance what Jesus had taught them and to guide them into all truth. The apostles did not exalt themselves on the basis of gender or their apostleship above the saints in Christ to whom they ministered.

What makes the apostles together with all the saints in Christ unique is not in the church herself. It is in the world who beholds this unique marvel of selfless servant love in the royal priesthood of believers it can not comprehend.

This royal priesthood in which there is neither male nor female is not bound or limited to ministry within four walls or only to those who enter those walls like the Levites with Israel. This royal priesthood, particularly in its proclamation, ministers to the church and in the world. The royal priesthood, its shepherds and body of believers, is no less selective than the Levitical priesthood in the matter of discerning those full of the Spirit called to minister before the congregation of the Lord. A divine pattern was established by the apostles when they called for the church to select men who were full of the Spirit, _ to serve widows. The word choice (man from anthros not males as from aner and similarly translated men from anthros in I Timothy 2:4 as meaning mankind) in Acts 6 by Peter is equivalent to calling for a selection of seven persons without regard to gender. The divine pattern was not that the chosen seven were males. Rather it was the prerequisite that they be full of the Spirit; the Spirit who was poured out on sons and daughters as prophesied in Joel 2 and fulfilled on Pentecost in Acts 2. The selection of seven males by the church may be more an reflection of a male-dominant culture and not as per the apostles stern instruction. We know the priority of evangelism by the apostles was not as though by mandate to undue or reverse gender status anymore than to dismantle institutionalized slavery.

Prophesy is for believers

Two key passages in the discussion concerning the ministry of teaching and preaching in and by the royal priesthood of believers are I Corinthians 11, 14 and I Timothy 2. The epistle to the Ephesians is of vital importance, too.

Paul instructed the Christians in Corinth a woman is to keep silent in the assembly. This was equally true and authoritative as when he admonished those with the gift of tongues. If an interpreter was absent to interpret the message for the church they were to keep silent. Prophets were to sit and wait their turn to address the assembly. Paul's reference to the women as wives suggests they were probably directing questions to the prophets, their husbands, who were prophesying before the assembly. It was simply an improper interaction by wives with their husbands in the context of the assembly. It would have been equally improper for the husband to interact with his wife while she was prophesying (see I Corinthians 11:5) before the congregation. It is in response to this situation that Paul says wives can direct their questions to their husbands at home. It would be just as improper for an elder or other male to interrupt the speaker with questions and create a scene of chaos and confusion among those present. Even if the speaker were to deliver a false teaching the leadership can address and instruct the congregation afterwards without grandstanding or making a spectacle.

It is plausible Philip's daughters were of like-mind with their father in matters of the kingdom of heaven. They may well have received the gift of prophesy through the laying of the apostles' hands perhaps at the same time as their father received the gift (Acts 6:5, 8:6,7) to cast out spirits and heal the lame. Furthermore, it is as reasonable to conclude that they prophesied in the assembly of the saints. (see I Corinthians 11:5) Some have wondered whether Philip's daughters exercised their gift of prophecy in the assembly. However, that speculation is contrary to what Paul states about the gift of prophecy.

Therefore other languages are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to the unbelieving; but prophesying is for a sign, not to the unbelieving, but to those who believe I Corinthians 14:22

Paul's point is that the gift of prophecy was to be used among believers. Those believers to whom that gifted person was to prophesy could well have been outside of the assembly. However, the context speaks of the assembly of the royal priesthood and it is here that the one with the gift of prophecy was to speak also. We have decorum in the church. We expect and encourage question and answer and discussion in the Bible study class from men and women, believers and non-believers alike, but not during the preaching of the word. The Corinthian worship assembly tended towards chaos and disorder and it is in this matter that Paul gives his instructions for men and women.

Confronting the cult worship of Artemis of the Ephesians - - Fighting with beasts in Ephesus

Paul was concerned about what non-believers might think about the chaos and disorder of the Corinthian assembly. He was just as concerned about Timothy's challenge in Ephesus. Paul stayed in Ephesus at least two years (Acts 19:10) and became keenly aware of life in that city. That challenge was none other than the culture and worship of Artemis of the Ephesians. It is with these observations and experiences in Ephesus in mind that Paul wrote his epistles. He wrote two to Timothy and one to the same church where Timothy ministered. Timothy ministered in the shadow of one of the seven wonders of the world: The temple of Artemis, huntress and protectress of wild beasts.

The myth and worship which developed around Artemis (or Diana) is too diverse and not the focus here. Historical sources attribute three beliefs in Artemis which were common in various regions, cultures and languages: 1) the succession of kings, 2) savior of virgin girls and women, and 3) she came from heaven. Additionally, in response to the killing of a bear by local citizens Artemis punished the people. The people killed the bear for killing a virgin girl. Artemis retaliated angrily by commanding that thereafter virgin girls were to serve in her temple. The New Testament scriptures testify of the frenzied devotion (Acts 19) of the Ephesians towards Artemis in Asia and the world and that she was regarded as sent from heaven. The following may well be Paul's insights to enlighten the eyes of the hearts of the saints at Ephesus on the Spirit message of the gospel to these Artemis cult beliefs.

Artemis was believed to ensure the succession of kings:
Jesus is the King I Timothy 1:17
Jesus is the blessed and only sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords I Timothy 6:15
The saints are to make intercession for kings and all who are in authority I Timothy 2:2

Artemis was believed to be the savior of virgins and women:
God our savior I Timothy 1:1
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners I Timothy 1:15
God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved I Timothy 2:3, 4
The wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus II Timothy 3:15

Artemis was believed she fell down from heaven:
The great Artemis, and of the image which fell down from heaven (Acts 19:35)
(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) Ephesians 4:9,10

It is reasonable to expect that with Paul having spent two years in Ephesus, his ties with Timothy in Ephesus and the fellowship of newborn believers of the faith in Christ Jesus in Ephesus that Paul knew he must confront the culture and worship of Artemis. Like the apostle John when he wrote the book of Revelation Paul may have been cryptic in his writings to the Ephesus church praying that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened so as to not provoke hostilities against the church from wild beasts unleashed by their protectress Artemis against Paul himself.

Paul’s reference to wild beasts (I Corinthians 15:32) is likely a metaphor for men. Artemis’ wild beasts may have been restrained by the city clerk in Acts 19, but it is likely Paul had various encounters with those wild beasts. Whatever Paul suffered at the hands of those wild beasts would have been gladly endured if it meant his brethren in Christ at Ephesus were spared. The city clerk’s testimony of Paul indicates that the apostle was not as iconoclastic in deed as was his preaching and writing against the beliefs of Artemis' worshipers in Ephesus.

The apostle's writings are a prudent, but bold in-your-face confrontation of beliefs in Artemis of Ephesus to build up the faithful in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 1:1) the royal priesthood of believers.

1. It is Jesus who is the only sovereign King eternal, immortal and invisible, appointed by God, not Artemis or man. There no successors to His throne.
2. It is our Savior Jesus who rose from the dead who desires salvation not for women only, as did Artemis, but for all men (mankind).
Salvation is what Jesus our King obtained for all mankind when he descended to earth, much as Artemis was believed to have fallen or been sent from the god Jupiter.
3. Unlike Artemis, Jesus ascended back to heaven after giving gifts to his church for her ministry in Ephesus and the world.

Paul's writings are lavished with two realities in the life of the believer in Christ which were in sharp contrast to the worship of Artemis: love and temple

The ransom of love

The roots of anger ran deep in the worship of Artemis. It was in anger that she had commanded the devotion and service of virgin girls in her temple. This was her punishment of the people for the killing of a bear. Is it any wonder why Paul makes as many references to anger in the Ephesians letter? What a contrasting message that our Heavenly Father should determine before the foundation of the world our redemption in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:6-8) This he did while we were murderers of men, not bears, blasphemers and like Paul, persecutors. God demonstrated his love through the ransom (I Timothy 2:6) of our lives through his Son. He ransomed us with his own blood as a royal priesthood, a holy nation for his own possession

A dwelling of God in the Spirit

We focus rightfully, on Ephesians 2 for the abolishing of the law of Moses and believers in Christ becoming children of God and citizens of the kingdom. However, the Gentiles in Ephesus who obeyed the gospel knew the first hand experience of being strangers and aliens. They traveled from distant regions to Ephesus to come worship at the temple of Artemis before coming to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. The apostles' message of grace was as much as an eighth wonder of the world for these wayfaring strangers. They heard salvation as the gift of grace from God and that believers in Jesus were now of God's household . . . growing into a holy temple in the Lord . . . who are being built together into the dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)

I Timothy 2 - - During the time of war in the Artemis female-dominated Ephesus

The apostle Paul was not timid about making concessions and taking actions as necessary in the preaching of the gospel. He had a keen sense of himself as a soldier at war. He had Timothy circumcised (16:3) to prevent that from being an obstacle among the Jews. He received money from the churches in Macedonia (see Acts 17:1,14, 18:5, Philippians 4:15) shortly after he arrived in Corinth. (Acts 18:1) Later, this was turned against him for not taking money from Corinth (II Corinthians 11:6-9) when he first arrived there preaching the gospel without charge. Yet, Paul was firm to state he would do it again. (II Corinthians 11:12) It was what needed to be done. Paul’s message to Timothy is in the time of war.

2:8 I desire therefore that the men in every place pray, lifting up holy hands without anger and doubting. 2:9 In the same way, that women also adorn themselves in decent clothing, with modesty and propriety; not just with braided hair, gold, pearls, or expensive clothing; 2:10 but (which becomes women professing godliness) with good works. 2:11 Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. 2:12 But I don’t permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness. 2:13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 2:14 Adam wasn’t deceived, but the woman, being deceived, has fallen into disobedience; 2:15 but she will be saved through her childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and sanctification with sobriety.

In Ephesus Paul instructed the men to pray lifting holy hands that the saints might live in peace. Ephesus was a spiritual battleground for Paul, Timothy and the church. A gesture of hands raised heavenward was a contrast to the figure of Artemis with outstretched arms as if to receive or as to exert her power to hold down those under her authority.

It is in the context of this war zone dominated by the female cult figure Artemis and her priestesses and priests that Paul speaks concerning women in I Timothy.

The topics of king (ship), salvation and a fall concerning Artemis in these writings were more than mere discussion points. These are the reasons a soldier goes into battle in service to the king, to save his country and topple the enemy.

The Artemis cult was not limited to Ephesus. It represented an enormously, vast, dominant belief among the Gentiles. It required no less wisdom and resourcefulness from Paul than when he preached to the Jews. As a Christian Paul was no longer bound or obligated to the law of Moses. Yet, he maintained respect towards Jewish customs (hair vow, Acts 18:18) and the temple practices being mindful to not cause offense. (Acts 21:26) These measures taken by Paul were not done as under compulsion or as a requirement of faith. These were not without distortions, accusations and repercussions against him from those who did not understand his actions. He was all things to all men in order that he might win some for Christ; to accomplish the greater goal.

I Timothy 2 – Instructing women in the Artemis female-dominated war zone of Ephesus

The foremost problem for Timothy in Ephesus involved men who engaged in discussions and teachings of myths, genealogies and speculations and knew not, Paul said, what they were talking about. It had the potential of turning the Ephesus church into another Corinth in terms of chaos and confusion. His stern instruction to the women at Ephesus was with the prayerful, confident expectation the saints in Christ would understand, especially after reading the Ephesians letter penned by an apostle whose priority in the battle was to topple the Artemis cult.

Under these circumstances this was not the time to include women teachers in the church at Ephesus. The female-dominated Artemis culture could well have produced a scene of chaos and confusion in the church not unlike those Ephesian mob stirred up by Demetrius.

The subjection with which a woman is to learn is not unlike the subjection, or the mutual submission to which all believers are called to live towards one another. Paul elaborates on that in his letter to the Ephesians. The likely reason for this explicit instruction for women to learn in subjection and not to exercise authority over a man is in the context of war. The divine examples of submission from Jesus and the apostles serve to remind our sisters and brothers in the first century and us submission is not only per our initiative or when it is convenient or requested of us, but when it is commanded of us too. The subjection of our sisters in Ephesus represented a showcase display for Artemis worshipers. The display was that submission to the authority of the one sovereign King and to one another is done willingly between men and women. There is no telling the magnitude of the impact their subjection caused, but it is a fact of history the church gained ground on the Artemis cult and triumphed over it eventually.

The common interpretation of a perpetual silence restriction on sisters in the royal priesthood of believers must be viewed and tested and in the light of Paul’s instruction to be silent in the I Corinthians 14, the I Timothy 2 passages, and the Ephesians letter. Paul did not contradict himself because God is not the God of confusion. The Artemis cult situation in Ephesus was external to the church, but addressed internally within the church. The situation in Corinth was internal, but concerned the probable impression on non-believers and was addressed internally in the church.

Note: There is a unique, if not ironic, directive which involved the apostle Paul and Ephesus. It is unique because it is not given by a man (as in the case of the directive against women teaching men given by the inspired apostle Paul in I Timothy) and the directive itself. The directive is stated twice, the first as from the Holy Spirit, the second as from the Spirit of Jesus. It is ironic because it was in Asia where Paul delivered the no less powerful directive against women teaching. Paul and his companions were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word . . .” and . . . the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them . . .” (Acts 16:6,7) to proclaim in Asia the region and location of Ephesus. Although Paul was obedient to the Holy Spirit and passed through Asia without stopping, went on to Macedonia, Athens, Corinth then Ephesus there is no mention in the scriptures of the directive being removed. Yet, we confidently understand and accept the directive was removed. The apostle Paul arrived in Ephesus and began a teaching and preaching ministry proclaiming the gospel and building up the royal priesthood which marked the beginning of the downfall of the Artemis cult.

Paul's indication that women (such as Philip's four daughters) prophesied in the assembly is not nullified or dismissed by the I Timothy 2 passage. It is significant that Paul speaks of the creation and deception of Adam and Eve in the past tense. However, he speaks in the present active indicative that woman has fallen into disobedience, or transgression. That transgression remains to the present as Paul writes. It would be a travesty on the scriptures and upon the royal priesthood of believers were we to conclude this present active indicative is Paul's belabored point of woman’s disobedience is of our sisters in the faith and not of Artemis.

Point: Artemis was a female figure who fell, or was sent, from heaven as was believed by her worshipers, into her own and her worshipers' disobedience against the true living God. It is a disobedience which remains today and cannot be overlooked or underestimated because worship of idols and idolatry is fundamentally disobedience to the living God.

Both the woman and the man are saved from their sins through faith in Jesus, not Artemis. Woman is saved, that is, she is healthy and complete when she bears children, not saved by rendering temple service from her childhood years as a virgin until her temple service was fulfilled, she married and bore children. The mythology of Artemis was that she was born first than assisted her mother with the birth of her twin brother Apollos. Paul sets the record straight. It was Adam who was first created by God. Adam was not birthed by woman. Then came Eve into God's creation. Paul is not interested in putting down ours sisters in the faith by reminding us of the fall of mankind in the garden. He was not interested in denigrating himself and his fellow apostles when he wrote they had been made as the filth of this world. (I Corinthians 4:13) Rather, his point was to accentuate the grace of God and Paul's love for his readers as his beloved children. It may be tempting to read into this some form of requirement for all women to bear children along with endless speculations about barren women, etc. There's no such requirement, no such speculation necessary.


The Pharisees (Matthew 12) condemned the disciples for something as seemingly mundane as picking heads of grain. They were hungry. It was the Sabbath. Jesus challenged the Pharisees on their interpretation of the scriptures. Specifically, Jesus called their attention to the work the priests performed on the Sabbath. The Pharisees' established traditions prohibiting work on the Sabbath had invalidated the commandment of God. Thereby, according the traditions of the Pharisees as interpreted and applied by Jesus, the priests broke the law. Their interpretation of the scripture was at the expense of compassion and mercy towards the hungry disciples.

The disciples unwittingly cast themselves in the same lot with David and his companions. None of them were priests. This lesson concerning priests and priestly duties as put forth by Jesus speaks of the authority of scripture and non-priests in something as seemingly mundane as, _ eating. The lesson is that it is the authority of scripture which exalts man above ritual in his moment of hunger and his need to eat and to be fed. Certainly, this holds true of the bread that perishes as well as the bread that leads to eternal life. The Pharisees, presumably those expected to know the scriptures, had overlooked the disciples' need to feed their hunger.

What is the humble task of the royal priesthood of believers in which there is neither male nor female if it isn't to feed the Word of God to the hungry? How is the condemnation of anyone called to feed the word of God to his people on the basis of gender different than the Pharisees' condemnation of the disciples, and by Jesus' application, of David and his companions?

There were many disciples, men and women, who walked with Jesus alongside those whom he would send as apostles later. It is the apostles who stand out. Mary Magdalene, a woman and a later disciple, stands out. She has the seemingly insignificant designation and honor in scripture of being the first to proclaim Jesus had risen from the dead. This human, worldly response she received from the apostles was no surprise to the Father. The world had done no less with his Son.

When the scriptures are not the principle source for our word choice in forming and conveying our convictions concerning women teaching and preaching in the church we succumb to the preferences and influences of culture. Culture has become the favored, all-nullifying vague buzz word in ministry to cover lack of understanding and conviction in matters of doctrine in the scriptures. The apostle Paul's tactics on the Artemis worship culture in Ephesus represents the ultimate, not counter culture, but Spirit-guided strategy for the church, the royal priesthood, to emulate in her ministry into the cultures of the world. Whether those preferences and influences of culture are right or wrong they cannot and must not be allowed to detract or displace the significance of biblical guidance on the teaching and preaching ministry in the royal priesthood.

Certainly, there are those, like Timothy, willing, trained, competent, and most importantly called to minister before the Lord’s people. Today Timothy would probably not be looked down upon for his youth nor for his gender, _ provided, given our cultural climate, the local church where he ministered practiced and maintained politically correct gender equality. There are, to be sure, church leaders with firm convictions defined not by fear, but unless they possess an ability and willingness to declare their knowledge of those convictions the Spirit is able to reveal what is in the hearts of men. The absence of knowledge and conviction is hardly exemplary of the royal priesthood, of Spirit-filled believers and those who have had the eyes of their heart enlightened.

This is not a matter for the church to allow herself to fall into chaos and confusion. Fulfillment of the call to teach and preach is not limited to the limelight of the Bible study or the worship assembly. There are online resources including blogs, communities, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and more. Teach the scriptures, not culture-speak, to communicate the call to ministry in the body of Christ. Fear and lack of understanding have a way of robbing the heart of its boldness and confidence, first within the four walls of our study and worship gatherings and second, when we go out ill-equipped in the Spirit to minister in the world.

Flooding this discussion with a barrage of unanswerable and unanswered questions and exchanging one-liners can not pass for knowledge or understanding in the royal priesthood. Comparisons on the eloquence or genetic makeup between priests and priestesses or simply feeling called and being self-assured of God's love are hardly fitting responses from anyone who stands before the congregation of the people of God.

Perfect love casts out fear. Every generation must see for itself whether it will be bound by the fears of what men might say or do as or take confidence in Peter's words, Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves . . .

The Lord bless His people, the royal priesthood of brothers and sisters who offer up prayers, praise, edification of the body and the ministry of teaching and preaching the word of God privately and publicly.