Paul's Passing Thoughts

A Blog for TANC Ministries

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on February 19, 2016

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One Day Seminar on Justification by New Birth

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 10, 2017

The Art of the Deal…With God

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 8, 2017

170428100933-trump-white-house-0425-1024x576Though I love Rock music, testimonies from Rock musicians about their pacts with the Devil in exchange for fame are more abundant than I prefer to think about. On another front, God does make deals, and the Bible is replete with the terms of such deals.

In fact, in many instances, these are promises from God. What was Trump’s motive in declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel and the eventual moving of our embassy there? Is he cutting a deal with God in exchange for blessings on himself and America? I think this is exactly the case.

Do you find the historical hatred for Israel completely illogical? That’s because it’s a spiritual issue and Israel is ground zero for the historical spiritual warfare between good and evil that will culminate at Armageddon. Israel, one of the smallest nations in the world, if not the smallest, is an ongoing cup of trembling for the world; it doesn’t make any sense at all unless you view it from a biblical perspective.

God’s terms for a blessing contract regarding His people is pretty straight forward and simple: as stated to the father of the Jews, Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” For many examples among myriads, If you know the details of what happened to the German people post WWII, it is an absolutely brutal testimony that invokes undeserved pity. Throughout history, God hangs those with the gallows they prepare for the Jews and in turn heaps additional blessings on the Jews. Historically, EVERY attempt to destroy them only adds to their strength.

Once a people with no land at all and dispersed throughout the world, they are not only the smallest country in the world, but one of the most powerful politically, militarily, and economically.

It’s one of the easiest deals Trump has ever made in his endeavor to “make America great again.”

paul

A Historical Survey of the First Century Christian Assembly – Part 3

Posted in Andy Young, TANC 2017 by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 7, 2017

 The following is part three of a four-part series.
Taken from Andy Young’s third session at the 2017 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny

< Part 1  •  Part 2


 

Breaking of Bread and the Lord’s Table

In part two we were talking about what a first century home fellowship might have looked like. I asked the question, what was the purpose of a home fellowship? What was the purpose of the believers assembling together? I made the case that the purpose of fellowship was for the mutual edification of the Body; each believer coming together and using their spiritual gifts with each believer building up the other. This mutual edification was accomplished through four functions:

  1. Through teaching of the apostles’ doctrine
  2. Through fellowship
  3. Through “breaking of bread” (fellowship meals)
  4. Through prayer

In this lesson I want to focus specifically on the function of edification through the “breaking of bread”.   As I pointed out in part two, it is normal for families to share meals whenever they get together. Since believers are part of God’s family, the situation is no different. An integral part of these fellowship meals in the first century would have been observing the “Lord’s Table.”

In 1 Corinthians 11:23-30 we have this familiar account of Paul’s talking about the “Lord’s Table.” Those of you who have grown up in church and still go to church regularly, every time there is a “Communion Sunday” the pastor will read from this passage whenever they hand out the crackers and the grape juice.

23For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. 27Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.”
~ 1 Corinthians 11:23-30

Side note: Notice that the passing around of the cup did not immediately follow the passing of the bread. The cup came after dinner, “when He had supped.” Jesus passed around the bread, they ate dinner, then He passed around the cup.

Now can I be honest with you? There was a time when those last two verses in the above passage scared the life out of me. I grew up in church. I was saved when I was 7 years old. Any time we’d have communion in church my parents always told me I had to wait until I was old enough to understand it. I think I was 14 or 15 before I finally took communion in church. But ever since then these words in verses 28-30 were always resonating in my mind: “Examine yourself,” “eat and drink unworthily,” “eat and drink damnation.”

Communion service in church is always this somber, solemn event. You have the slow quiet music, every one has their heads down and eye closed cause you’re supposed to be thinking about your sin and the cross and Jesus’ sacrifice. And the whole time I’m replaying all the events in my life since the last time I took communion. “Ok, did I miss any sin? Is there any sin I forgot to confess?”  So, I want to make sure I’m good to go because if I’m not (or I think I’m not) and I let the plates pass, I know someone is watching. Someone is going to notice I didn’t take communion.  And then they’re going to wonder, “Wow what sin does he have in his life?” So now I’m doing it for the wrong reason. I’m doing it just because I’m afraid someone will see if I don’t, and then does that make me unworthy?

So there is this vicious cycle of introspection. I hated communion Sundays because I always felt like I had to carry this burden and play this game of jumping through all these mental and emotional hoops. And then a couple weeks later I might get a bad cold and I wonder, “Oh, is God judging me because I took communion when I wasn’t worthy?” And then you have to pray and ask forgiveness for that. It ties you up in knots.

It is not supposed to be that way. The institutional church has ritualized the Lord’s Table into some mystical experience just like everything else in Protestantism, and they use the Bible to support the tradition. I maintain that the Lord’s Table was not a somber occasion of introspection but rather a time of rejoicing and fellowship.

If our aim is to get at the truth, let us first make sure we begin with the correct assumptions, and the way we do that is to take the time to set the historical context. Let us go back to the very first “Lord’s Table.” No, I don’t mean the one recorded in the gospels.  We have to go back even farther than that to the book of Exodus.

I wonder how many people in church know the real reason Jesus met with His disciples in the upper room that night before He was crucified?  We associate communion with the Last Supper, but I want to stress here that Jesus was not instituting a new ritualistic religious observance. Jesus was there with His disciples to celebrate Passover.

I say “celebrate” because that is exactly what Passover was, a celebration. It was the Jew’s way of remembering and celebrating their freedom from slavery in Egypt. Yes, there was the whole death angel thing and the blood on the door posts and everything, but the real reason for celebrating Passover was to remember their flight from Egypt.

This is also the reason why the streets of Jerusalem were crowded with people on “Palm Sunday” prior to the crucifixion. The city was swelling with people who had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. In each of the four gospels we see this reference to the Passover immediately before the account of the crucifixion.

“Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified…Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover? And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.” ~ Matthew 26:2, 17-19

“And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?” ~ Mark 14:12

“Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover…Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat.” ~ Luke 22:1, 7-8

“Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;” ~ John 13:1-2

Now I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this. All four gospels give an account of the crucifixion. But the gospel of John does not say anything about the last supper. Verses 1 and 2 of chapter 13 contain the only mention of it. There was the Passover, and then after dinner Jesus did such and such. So John doesn’t focus on the last supper at all. He chooses to focus on the things Jesus taught them after supper. You have chapters 13, 14, 15, and 16; four chapters of Jesus giving last minute instructions to the disciples, and then from there you go to chapter 17 and the garden of Gethsemane, and then the soldiers come to arrest Him.

So having said all that, aside from the Passover lamb, what was the other distinguishing part of the Passover? It is referenced in the above verses, but if you go back to Exodus we read this:

“Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.” Exodus 12:15

So on day one, before the feast of Passover, they had to get all the leaven out of their house. Now let us not dwell on the supposed symbolism of leaven. It is not important to this discussion. But my point is that we seem to have this idea that the only kind of bread Jews ever ate was unleavened bread. That is simply not true. If that were the case, God would not have commanded them to get rid of it. There is no point in saying “get rid of the leaven” if you are not using leaven in the first place.

What is leaven? Leaven is anything used to make baked good rise. Today we use either yeast or baking soda or baking powder as leavening agents. Yeast is a microbe that eats the sugar in the dough and digests it and produces carbon dioxide gas, and that gas creates little air bubbles between the strands of gluten in the dough and makes bread rise and get big and fluffy. Baking soda and baking powder cause a similar effect by causing a chemical reaction to take place in the batter. Any of you who have ever baked a cake or cookies knows that if you let your cake batter or cookie dough sit around to long before you bake it, they turn out flat because the chemical reaction is all used up.

Now in Old Testament times (and in some other countries they still make bread this same way) families made enough bread to last a whole week, perhaps more.  And they didn’t use yeast, they would use a “starter” lump which was a small amount of dough with some kind of leavening agent in it, and they would store that starter in a clay jar.  They also had these huge wooden kneading troughs that were big enough to make enough bread for a week. When they were ready to make bread they would add the flour and water and salt and sugar and oil, then they would add the starter lump and knead that all together.  When they were done they would take a portion of that dough and put it back in the clay jar and that would become the starter for the next batch they would make next week. So when God told them to get rid of all the leaven, they were to get rid of all the jars of starter they had in their house.

My attempt at Old Testament unleavened bread

What exactly is unleavened bread like?   Is it just regular bread made without leaven? Well not quite. There is actually a recipe for it found in Exodus 29:40 which says one tenth deal of fine flour (about a gallon) and one fourth of a hin of olive oil (about 3/8 of a gallon).  This is approximately 3 parts to 1. Now I remember thinking when I saw that simple recipe that this is the same recipe for pie crust. Same ratio and everything. 1-½ cups of flour and 1 stick (which is a half cup) of butter. You cut the butter into the flour until it is all mixed and then roll it out and bake it. That’s exactly how Israel made unleavened bread. They rolled it out flat into a pan and placed the pan over the fire or baked it in an oven. And what you have is something with the light and flaky texture of pie crust. Some people think of unleavened bread being like a pita or a tortilla, but it’s not. It’s the same texture as pie crust. In a minute I’ll get to why that is significant.

So this is the kind of bread they ate with the Passover meal. Now God told them that they were to eat this bread for seven days. This would seem to suggest that it was a command from God. But in reality, it becomes more a matter of practicality than simply a command from God. In fact, if we were to look at the account we would see that this is not so much a command as it is God simply informing them of what to expect over the next week.

The the very next day after the Passover, Pharaoh is so engraged over the death of his own son that he wants the Jews out of Israel immediately. He can’t get them out of there fast enough. This is why God told Israel that on the night of the Passover they were to have everything ready. They took baths, they got dressed, and they had their shoes on because they had to be ready to flee at a moments notice. And since they put all the leaven out of the house they didn’t have time to make any bread after they left. All they had was this unleavened bread.  They couldn’t make a week’s worth of leavened bread because God told them to put the leaven out of the house.

So along with the celebration of Passover you have this feast of unleavened bread that is incorporated with Passover, and this is all part of this celebration remembering when Israel was freed from Egypt, and they ate unleavened bread for the next six days afterwards because that’s the only kind of bread they had to eat.

Fast-forward a thousand years or more, give or take. We find Jesus in the upper room with his disciples and He passes around bread to them. Can I stress this any more? This was not a new thing to them. For one thing, even if they were eating a regular meal they would have had bread because bread with the meal was part of the culture. Since this was the Passover meal, the bread was unleavened bread.

Now go back to what I said before about the pie crust. What happens when you put your fork through pie crust? It breaks. It is the same with unleavened bread – you can’t tear it or cut it, you have to break it because that’s its texture. So when you hear this expression, “breaking bread together,” this is a reference to the breaking of unleavened bread that was part of this Passover celebration.

I think there is significance to this.  As we saw in part two, when the believers gathered for fellowship one of the functions of edifying each other is the “breaking of bread.” Could it be this is reference is more than just about sharing a meal together?  Could this be a reference to New Testament believers observing the Passover and eating unleavened bread? Certainly in Acts 2 it is since at this point in the early history all the believers are Jews. Notice that they never stopped being Jews. The ceremonial feasts had special significance to them, especially now being disciples of Christ.

Fast-forward once again to our opening text in 1 Corinthians 11. Now we don’t have Jews, we have Gentiles, and quite possibly a mix of Hellenistic Jews as well, all believers, all having fellowship together. There is a strong implication in this text that they still observe Passover. We see no evidence of Jesus ever implementing any new ceremony or tradition. The only thing He said at the last supper was to do this in remembrance of Him.

Jesus’ point was that every time you have this celebration of Passover, when you break the bread, remember my broken body. When you drink the wine, remember my shed blood. So He wasn’t telling them to do anything new. If anything it was a way of saying, remember my last day with you before my death.

And along with that last day, remember everything I taught you that night in the upper room, all 4 chapters-worth in John’s gospel.

Along with that last day, remember that I will not drink this wine with you again until we drink it together in the Kingdom!

So if we are to assume then that the believers in Corinth were in fact observing Passover and eating unleavened bread for that reason, what is the deal with Paul’s rebuke to them? What is  all this talk about damnation and being unworthy?

Again, we need to start with the correct assumption, so let us try to figure out the context.  Rather that starting at verse 23 like most churches do, in an attempt to establish context, let us backup to verse 16.

16But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the assemblies of God. 17Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. 18For first of all, when ye come together in the assembly, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. 19For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”

We need to take this apart because there are several key phrases in this passage that give us clues as to what is going on, and I’ve emphasized those phrases above.   Let us start with this word “contentious”. This is the Greek word φιλονεικος (“philoneikos”). It is a compound word. You have “philos” which means “to be fond of” or “love for” (Philadelphia – city of brotherly love. Philanthopy – love for mankind.) The second part is the word “nikos” which means “to conquer or rule over.” So you have one who is fond of ruling over others. One way of translating this is “rivalrous”.

The suggestion here seems to be a class issue where you have some who view themselves to be in a certain social strata. The idea of rivalry or having those who deem themselves better than others because of their social standing runs counter to the reality of the Body of Christ. Paul says that kind of thinking has no place here. We have no such custom. Remember what Jesus said?

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, ‘Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you…’”~ Matthew 20:25-26

So here we are now in this Gentile culture, and this is what Jesus talked about. Paul says that I know you guys have this custom where you think that if you have a certain social status that that gives you the right to rule over others and entitles you to certain privileges (and that is the key word, privilege). You do indeed have a situation in these fellowships where you have people from every social strata.  You have some who are merchants, some who would be considered aristocrats in society, and then you have a large number who are bondservants. So these people are bringing these social divisions into the assembly. But that’s not going to fly here. That’s not how we do things in the assembly. In fact Paul calls it heresy.

19For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you”

What is the heresy?  Giving preference and recognition to those with a higher social standing.  Now look at this next part. Because you want to create this hierarchy of importance…

20When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. 21For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:20-21

Paul says, you are not meeting for the right reason. Your motivations are wrong. You’re not here to fellowship with each other and celebrate Passover. You have the socialites getting to the assembly early, and because of their assumed privilege they don’t think they have to wait around for the bondservants to get there. What is supposed to be a time of fellowship and mutual edification has turned into a drunken slosh fest. And then by the time the bondservants and other latecomers get there, there is no food left and they go hungry. Now Paul gets really nasty.

22What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the assembly of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:22

Here’s the distinction – those who have houses to eat and drink in, (the privileged, the elite, the rivalrous, those who are fond of ruling over others) and those who have not. The have’s and the have not’s. This is the clear social distinction that they seek to bring into the assembly.

Now when you consider what these home fellowships had turned into, especially when it came to celebrating Passover and Paul’s scathing rebuke of them, these next verses should make abundantly more sense. We have now come back to where we started.  This is really not that difficult to understand when we start with the correct assumption. Let’s begin with verse 27. Paul has just finished reminding them that with the Passover is a remembrance of Jesus’ death. Now he says this:

“Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:27

Guilty is the key word here. When we hear guilty we immediately think condemnation. And since Protestantism has this focus on the law being the standard for righteousness there remains this notion of still being under law and being under condemnation. So then was it ever any wonder that any of us had this nagging anxiety in the pit of our stomachs every time we took communion? Wondering, “Am I guilty?”

This word translated “guilty” is the Greek word ενοχος (“enochos”). It is derived from a root word that means to hold in or to be liable for. It carries with it a sense of responsibility. It does have a legal usage. When we speak of liability we are talking about legal responsibility.  The law in every state requires drivers at minimum to carry “liability” insurance on their car.  That means that you are legally responsible (liable) for any damage done to someone else’s property in the event you cause an accident.  Liability also has an accounting usage. You have assets and liabilities. Assets are things that add value, liabilities are things that take away value.

Do you see what Paul is saying here? Are you going to take responsibility for your behavior?  When you come together for fellowship are you an asset to the fellowship or are you a liability?  If you start behaving the way these Corinthians were, especially when it comes to the Lord’s Table, you are a liability. Write that word “liability” in the margin of your Bible.

“Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be a liability of the body and blood of the Lord.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:27

You take away the value of it. Furthermore, verse 29.

“For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:29

For some reason this word is consistently translated “damnation”. The Greek word is κριμα (“kreema”) and it means judgment or the sentence rendered by a judge. It is a legal word. It carries with it no religious connotation. It is the root word in several other familiar words in the NT for example.

κρινω (kreeno) – the process of rendering judgment. Legal proceedings. (“kreema” is the derivative used above in verse 29)

διακρινω (dia-kreeno) – discernment. Judging between.

κατακρινω (kata-kreeno) – to judge against – condemn; condemnation

All of these words appear in some form in this passage in 1 Corinthians 11.

Damnation has a religious connotation and implies eternal condemnation in hell, or Sheol, or ultimately the Lake of Fire. Notice what happens when you talk about damnation in the context of this passage. When you tell people that if they take communion and they are somehow not worthy, they are in danger of damning themselves to hell. Can you see how this can be confusing? It is confusing because you are starting with the wrong assumptions, the wrong premise.

Now without straying too far off track let me put it in these terms. You have people thinking this way because Protestantism is a religion that keeps people under condemnation on purpose. You tell people they need to live by “faith alone.” You tell them Jesus keeps the law for them. You tell them any time they think they’ve done a good work that they put their justification at risk. And now you’ve got this very same kind of perpetual introspection going on during communion when they are supposed to be celebrating and remembering. And now they think, “Wow, if I am unworthy to take communion, maybe I’m not really saved. Maybe I need to ‘get right with the Lord.’ Maybe I need to respond to an alter call. I don’t want to take communion when I shouldn’t be and end up being damned.”

What’s Paul saying? Three words are in play here; judgment, discernment, and condemnation. Let us consider these verses with a better understanding of these three words in their context.

“For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation (kreema – judgment) to himself, not discerning (dia-kreeno) the Lord’s body.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:29

“For if we would judge (dia-kreeno, use discernment) ourselves, we should not be judged (kreeno, have the need to be judged, go through legal proceedings).” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:31 

“But when we are judged (kreeno, when we go through legal proceedings), we are chastened (it is for the purpose of Fatherly discipline) of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” – ~ 1 Corinthians 11:32

This is so simple. This is the difference between discipline and condemnation. This is the difference between being under law and not under law. The world is under law. When they are judged, they are condemned because they are under law. But when God “judges” us, it is for the purpose of Fatherly discipline and not condemnation. Can this be any clearer?

Let me make this as simple as possible. Use good discernment.  That is Paul’s rebuke to the Corinthians. They were not using good discernment. This drunken fest into which they turned the fellowship and the fellowship meal was not using good discernment. And in the process they became a liability to the Body of Christ. Do I need to go through all the verses about our “conversation,” our way of life, the way we conduct ourselves in this world? Do I need to go through verses about controlling our bodies, controlling ourselves, because this is part of our sanctification?

Do you see the application here? Use good discernment so that you are not a liability to the fellowship. Peter said judgment must begin at the household of God. This is what he means. Use good discernment, and if you don’t there may come a point when discipline and correction is necessary so that you do not become a liability. This is why Paul said what he said in verse 30.

“For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:30

This isn’t God striking you dead. Yes, it may be Fatherly chastisement, but this is simply God allowing the natural consequences of your behavior to take its toll. Think about it. If you have this drunken fest going on and people are eating and drinking themselves to excess, what kind of toll is that going to have on the physical body? And if you have others showing up late and there is no food for them, are they going to get nourishment and be healthy and robust? So it affect both groups of people here. It doesn’t just affect the individuals using bad judgment, it affects the whole assembly.

So what was Paul’s solution? Just wait for everyone to get there. Verse 33

“Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation (kreema –judgment). And the rest will I set in order when I come.”
~ 1 Corinthians 11:33-34

Bad word. It is not the word for condemnation. It is the word for “judgment” or “discipline.” The kind of judgment that results from using bad discernment.  Condemnation has to do with sin and eternal damnation.

To be continued…


< Part 1  •  Part 2

A Historical Survey of the First Century Christian Assembly – Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 6, 2017

The following is part two of a four-part series.
Taken from Andy Young’s second session at the 2017 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny

< Part 1  •  Part 3 >



What Did a First Century Assembly Look Like?

Can we all agree that Protestantism has no clue? The exception would be the big dogs at the top; men like Piper and Sproul and MacArthur; leaders of academic institutions and seminaries. It’s clear that the laity is confused about what they believe, but I believe that many pastors are just as confused as the laity.

Their confusion is evident any time you try to have a discussion with any of them. They don’t know how to reason. The only thing they know is how to regurgitate what they were taught in seminary. They all have the same playbook they read from, so any time you ask them a question that requires them to think or honestly evaluate their orthodox position on a matter, they simply double down on the same pat answers.  They revert immediately to some “authority.”

I remember the last conversation I had with a pastor. This would be almost 3 years ago. We left the church in Columbus in 2011 and we started going to a small country church not far from where we live. And so this would be I think January or February 2015, maybe even before that.  We had made the decision that we just needed to get out the institutional church once and for all. So my wife convinced me to talk to the pastor.

I just wanted to leave.  I told her there was no point in talking to them because it wasn’t going to do any good. But I wanted to make my wife happy, so I went. I met with the pastor and the assistant pastor one evening after dinner, and I must have sat with them for about an hour and a half. And I tried to explain what I thought was wrong with the current church model.

They just didn’t get it. They were completely sold out to the authority of the institutional church. They couldn’t fathom any other way of doing things. And the laity is the same way. We had someone comment on the blog not too long ago, “Oh I like the home fellowship idea, but how do you guard against error?” Here is part of his comment:

“You say Jesus is the authority, and He certainly is, but here is the issue: Who decides what interpretation of Jesus’ teaching is apostolic? David Koresh had a home fellowship (please know I am in NO WAY comparing him with you) and he had the same Bible and yet they were full of errors. Where is the protection of sound doctrine if every Christian were to decide to start their own ‘house’ church?”

So when I first read that my initial response was, ok David Koresh was the authority. So this guy is worried that home fellowhships might end up like the Branch Davidians without authority, but they had an authority in David Koresh and they still believed error. So his point is irrelevant because having authority is no guarantee that you are not going to have error. In fact, I would go so far to say that it is error that produces the perception for the need of authority. The authority of Protestantism and the institutional church is actually the logical conclusion of the error they perpetrate.

What has John Immel been trying to ingrain in us for the last 5 years? Assumptions drive behavior. The authority of the institutional church is the product of their assumption. I am going to channel John Immel here – Man is depraved. He is existentially evil. The nature of his existence is evil. He is fundamentally flawed so that he cannot perceive truth. Because he is fundamentally flawed, because his mere existence IS evil, he is he is disqualified from being able to take action for good. He must therefore be compelled to take action for good, and because he must be compelled the take action, that requires some authority to exercise the use of force and violence if necessary.

So you see authority is ALWAYS what you get when you start with the wrong assumption. But what if you start with a different assumption? What if you assume from the beginning that man IS competent; that man DOES have ability? Then that means authority is not necessary. The apostles did not exercise authority over the assemblies. They taught doctrine and persuaded through reason. And if people didn’t believer their arguments, they were free to go live their lives. They were the ones who had to answer to God. The apostles weren’t going to stand in judgment in their place.

Now I am going to say one more thing about authority before I get into what a 1st century home fellowship looked like. I made the case in a blog article a few years ago that elders were optional. 1 Timothy chapter 3 lists the qualifications of an elder, and

Bob the Elder: ever vigilant for false teaching on the horizon!

the word is really better translated “overseer.” The Latin form of this would be “supervisor.” First of all the function of an overseer or supervisor is not one of authority. The Greek word is επισκοπος (epi-scopos), and the etymology of the word actually describes someone who stands at the top of a fortress wall as a sentry looking outward for any signs of danger. A sentry has no authority. He has no command authority. His job is simply to send out the warning cry when danger is coming so that appropriate action can be taken.

This is the way it is with an elder (overseer) in an assembly of believers. He might be gifted to teach, but his role is that of a sentry looking out for danger and warning others to take appropriate action. (In the same sense he is a soldier; a warrior!) Note: he has no call to compel the action. He cannot force others to take action. All he does is sound the warning cry.

The other point I want to make with regard to 1 Timothy 3 is that in most of your Bibles you see the expression, “if a man desires the office of a bishop.” The Greek manuscript says nothing like that. The word “office” is not in the manuscript. In fact the word “man” isn’t even in there. The way this verse literally read in the Greek is “if any desire oversight.” Let me say this a different way so that you understand. “If any desire to be overseen.” Different wording, but it communicates the same idea. The desire to have an overseer begins with the assembly. Overseers are optional. The assembly gets to decide if it wants an overseer or not.

Paul goes on to say further that if you want an overseer, that is a good thing. It is probably a good idea to have someone on guard duty. If there is danger out there (and there is) you probably want to have someone who is adept at finding it, seeing it early, and warning others to take action (perhaps even willing and able to engage in battle). But such a person has no call to exercise authority to compel other to take action. And Paul then goes on in the rest of the chapter to list the characteristics of someone who would best be suited for this kind of job.

So what kinds of things go on in a home fellowship? What happens when believers meet together for fellowship? Perhaps the first question should be why? Why do we meet for fellowship? Are we even commanded to? How often? I believe the best example we have is found right at the very beginning.

42And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the assembly daily such as should be saved.” ~ Acts 2:42-47

This example of believers’ fellowship is repeated for us in Chapter 4:

32And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” ~ Acts 4:32-35

Actually, if we wanted to we could make the case for an even earlier example of believers’ fellowship at the very beginning of Acts. If you remember on the day of Pentecost you had 120 believers in an upper room. What do you think they were doing? Even before that, you had the Eleven with their family members, probably also in an upper room where they cast lots to decide on a replacement for Judas Iscariot. There was this period of approximately 10 days from the time Jesus ascended into heaven to the day of Pentecost. What do you suppose they were doing for those 10 days?

Just something to think about, you know, because Protestant orthodoxy tells us that the church started at Pentecost. Well, no, believers were having fellowship together before that.

“All things common”
So if we go back to Acts 2, we have this expression “all things common.” Now, everyone here associated with TANC Ministries are solid individualists. Anyone who follows TANC Ministries is most likely an individualist himself. We believe in the rights of the individual and the notion of private property. The idea of Americanism was founded on the Enlightenment ideologies of individualism. So when we come to a verse in the Bible that talks about “all things common,” I imagine that would have a tendency to make us cringe a little on the inside.

In fact many will point to passages like this in the Bible and use that to make the case for collectivism. But let us not make the mistake of taking the collectivist ideology of “common good” and conflating it with the Biblical understanding of “all things common.” They are not the same things. When Luke wrote the Book of Acts he did not have in mind the “common good”. Luke is describing the characteristics that all believers share in common with each other.

Let’s take apart this phrase “all things common”. First, the word translated “all” is the typical Greek word παντα (“panta”), but it is preceded by an α (“alpha”). Now in most Greek words, the letter “alpha” serves as a negative particle and negates the meaning of a word. For example “a-nomia.” Nomos means “law,” so “a-nomia” would mean “no law” or “lawless.” But in this case, the “alpha” has a breath mark on it, making it pronounced with an “h” sound, so this would be “ha-panta”. What this does is gives extra emphasis to the word it modifies. So when Luke says “all things” he is emphasizing “all” absolutely. It qualifies the extent of the meaning of all. It is all things absolutely.

The word translated “common” is the Greek word κοινος (“koinos”). This same word provides the root for the word κοινωνια (“koinonia”) which is often translated “fellowship”. I’ll talk more about this idea of “fellowship” in just a little bit. Common can be understood a couple of different ways. It can mean common as in shared by all. If you look at the circles to the right, you can see that one is red and one is green. I might ask you, what do these two circles have in common? They are both circle, but we could also say they are both the same size. We could get even more specific and say they have the same radius, the same diameter, the same circumference, the same area.

Question: does their sameness at all take away from their individuality? What if they were the same color? Would they cease to be individual circles? No. Notice that even though they could be the same “absolutely”, they still remain individual circles. Their individuality is preserved. Really the only way to make both these circles absolutely the same would be for them each to occupy the same time and space, and then what you really have is only one circle, and you have effective destroyed both in the process. You no longer have two distinct individuals.

This word for common has a parallel meaning in the Hebrew that is often translated as “profane.” Now we usually associate profane with profanity or foul language. But the basic meaning of profane means common. In my 2014 session we looked at holiness and we learned that the opposite of holy was profane. Throughout the OT there was often this contrast made between the holy and the profane. Profane in this sense carries with it the idea of being ordinary or regular or everyday or just like everything else; common.

This might not be the case so much these days, but when I was growing up we had a set of regular dishes for everyday use, but we had a special set of dishes that we used for company or for holiday meals. In the true sense of the words, the regular dishes were profane, and grandma’s good china was holy. There was a distinction made. Now there was nothing magical or mystical about grandma’s china.  It didn’t have bestowed upon it some dispensation of divine power or attributes.   What made it special was the fact that it was set aside for special occasions. If we used grandma’s china every day it would no longer be special.   This is the difference between holy and profane or common.

So when we say that these first believers in Jerusalem in the 1st century had all things common, we mean that they were all just like each other. They shared certain characteristics that made them just like every other believer. So what were those characteristics?

They are part of God’s family.

What does it mean to be part of God’s family?

  • Born again
  • God is their Father
  • Jesus is their Big Brother
  • They have God’s righteousness (because they are born of God)
  • They are free from condemnation
  • There is no sin
  • They are free to love through obedience to the law.
  • They are part of the Body (εκκλησια “ekklesia” – “assembly”)
  • They have spiritual gifts – edification (well talk about that in a minute)

Now let me ask you this. Does having all things absolutely in common mean that everyone was identical? No. Each person still retained their individuality. Think about their professions. You had merchants, skilled craftsmen, skilled laborers, you had those who were slaves (δουλος “doulos” – bondservants). You had each person being productive in themselves, producing those things necessary to sustain life, each in their own way. And yet they had all things in common. When a merchant was born again did he give up being a merchant? When a bondservant became a believer did he cease to be a bondservant to his master? Incidentally, you often had the situation of masters and their bondservants both in the same assembly of believers who were born again, and yet their earthly relationship to each other didn’t change.

So each person in these assemblies of believers are still productive individuals. Each is pursing a value exchange for the things that are necessary to sustain life. But then you have this line in verse 45 of Acts chapter 2.

“45and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”

The same sentiment is repeated in chapter 4:

“…neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common…34Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”

“As every man had need”
So what is going on here? Let us put this in context. Here we are in Jerusalem and the immediate area and however far out in Israel the gospel has gone thus far. We learn in a few chapters that is has gone as far north as Damascus. In fact you have this individual by the name of Saul; a devote Pharisee; well versed in the law; studied under Gamaliel. Saul has received written authorization from the Jewish leadership to go out and find believers and put them into prison (or even execute them in many cases).

Now imagine you are a business owner in Jerusalem, or you are trying to sell your product at the local market. People know that the religious leaders are looking to arrest believers. Do you risk your customers finding out that you are one of these believers? Or how is your business affected by the knowledge that you are a believer? How many customers quit on you because of hatred or fear? What if you are a worker and your employer finds out you are a believer? How many people find themselves out of work because of their faith? Try to speculate on all the various circumstances in which believers in Jerusalem immediately find themselves. This is the kind of persecution that was a reality for many believers in these assemblies.

Now despite this persecution, you still need to eat. You still need clothes. You still need a place to stay. You still have a family for which to provide. What do you do? Most people go to family. But what do you do when your family has cast you out? Remember last lesson we talked about getting thrown out of the synagogue and the stigma that goes with that? Where do you go?

And this is where this reality of the Body of Christ being a family is so vital. We are a literal family. We are all brothers and sisters. And when one of your family members is hurting, when another part of your body is hurting, there is this natural desire to care for those who are hurting. And this is what you see happening in Acts 2 and Acts 4. You have the Body of Christ recognizing a need, seeing other members of the Body suffering under persecution, and then taking action to meet that need.

What did they do? They didn’t go to the government and demand everybody pay taxes to confiscate wealth and redistribute it. This is important – of their own volition they sold their surplus and brought it to the assemblies so that it could be given to those who were in desperate need. Why was that? Because they had all things common. Yes, what they sold was the result of their own production, but they also recognized what they had in common; they were a family.

I’m going to talk some more about giving in the assemblies in another lesson, but let me make one more comment on this point. Lest any of us should think that this is an argument for a welfare state, let me remind you of this. In Paul’s 2nd letter to the Thessalonians, he said this:

“For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”
~ 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Do you remember the context of this verse? You originally had a situation where the believers there thought they had missed the rapture. And they were also concerned about what happened to their dead relatives. Would they see them again in the Kingdom? And Paul assured them that death was not the end, in fact the dead are going to be raptured first, in the First Resurrection. And he also gave them a list of things to look for that had to happen before the rapture occurred.

As a result, by the time Paul got around to his 2nd letter to them, what happened is you had a handful of people who decided that they were just going to sit and wait around for the rapture. If Christ could come at any moment, then why bother working? And then these freeloaders would come to the fellowships and mooch a free meal off of everybody.

Now it is one thing to be out of work or in need because you are under persecution. It is an entirely different matter to willingly refuse to work when you are able to do so. It is one thing to be unable to work because of immediate circumstances; it is another to choose not to work because of laziness. So if we contrast these two situations where in Acts you have persecuted believers having their needs met by others in the assembly versus in Thessalonica where you have people refusing to work, I think you can understand the difference. When we say “all things in common,” we are talking about making sure each other’s needs are met because we are a family, and a family cares for itself. But I think the implication is clear that such care is meant to be temporary, and the expectation is that the individual in need will resume providing for himself as soon as he is able.

“With one accord”
We just spent all this time looking at what it meant to have all things in common, and I think this next point relates to it. It should seem pretty obvious then what “one accord” means, but lets take a look at it just for sake of clarity.

The word in the Greek is ομοθυμαδον (homo-THOO-ma-don). It is made of the prefix “homos” meaning “at the same time or place,” and the root THOO-mos meaning “passion”. Literally it refers to heavy breathing or the kind of breathing that results from exerting effort. If you are passionate about something that means you put your all into it. You exert effort. Homothumadon suggests being together for a common purpose, and it was a purpose that these believers were passionate about. They dedicated all their efforts toward it. You can see how this is related to the idea of having all things in common. Not only did they have a common family, but they shared a common purpose.

“With singleness of heart”
There is another expression in Acts 2:46 that is worth noting. It says that when they met for fellowship they still maintained their cultural Jewish heritage by meeting regularly at the temple. But they also went from house to house and shared meals together. I’ll talk more about this in a moment, but notice that they did this with “singleness of heart”.

Now this seems to simply be another way of saying “with one accord”, but look at the word. In the Greek it is the word αφελοτησ (ah-fell-AW-tace). Literally it means “without stubbing your toe on a stone.” Now the picture here is of what in their culture they would refer to as a stumbling block. Jesus was called a “rock of offense” or a stumbling block. The idea is a road paved with flat stones, and as you walk along you don’t see that one of the stones has heaved up a little bit and you trip on it. (You take offense at it).

This word aphelotase refers to a path that is smooth and even, and you don’t trip on it. It refers to simplicity. In this context, “singleness of mind” means that you don’t have any hidden agenda. No hidden motive. You are not “double-minded.”

When the believers met for fellowship there was no false agenda. They were there for one simple purpose.  In part one we talked at length about what the purpose was not. It was not for the purpose of worship. We talked about worship and what it means to worship “in spirit and in truth.” Basically that worship does not happen at a place, so we don’t assemble for worship. Worship is what happens whenever we show love through obedience to the law. Worship is when we show love to God and to others. So we do this every day. When we behave like the children of God that we are, we are worshipping the Father in spirit and in truth because we are doing what He made us to do.

So then if the reason we assemble is not to worship, why do we assemble? The answer can be found in Ephesians.

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”
~ Ephesians 4:11-12

The entire epistle of Ephesians is a fantastic treatise on the subject of the Body of Christ. Paul develops a logical progression of thought about the “mystery” that was hid from Old Testament saints; that God would join Jews and Gentiles together into one Body that would be neither Jew nor Gentile. Paul refers to this as the New Man. In chapter 4 Paul details that the giving of spiritual gifts was for the express purpose of edifying the Body of this New Man.

At last year’s conference I talked about the exercising of spiritual gifts in love. I want you to notice how Ephesians 4 closely parallels 1 Corinthians chapter 12. The idea is that every believer has a specific gift. These gifts are analogous to physical body parts and the functions they perform. It should be clear then that the purpose of gifts is to allow the body to function as a whole; to do what it was designed to do. In this case, the Body’s purpose is to go out and spread the gospel and make disciples.

When we gather together with other believers, this affords us the opportunity to use our spiritual gifts. They don’t benefit us directly. We use our gifts to help build up other believers. Building each other up makes us stronger and it equips us to have the skills and the tools we need to go out and tell others the good news of the Kingdom. Therefore, the purpose of the assembly is not to worship, but rather to provide an opportunity for mutual edification of the Body. Let me repeat that. The purpose of assembling together is for mutual edification of the Body.

Now that mutual edification happens through four functions. And Luke lists them for us in Acts 2 verse 42.

1. Edifying the Body Through Doctrine
Not to be accused of “scripture stacking”, let me show you these to make the point about how the believers were taught from the apostles.

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” ~ Romans 16:17

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” ~ Philippians 4:9

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” ~ Colossians 2:6-7

“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;” ~ 2 Timothy 3:14

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions (“paradosis” – precepts) which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” ~ 2 Thessalonians 2:15

“Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:” ~ Titus 1:9-10

“That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:” ~ 2 Peter 3:2

Teaching is the major function of the assembly. To have teaching you have to have a teacher, and a teacher is one of the spiritual gifts. One thing about a teacher: He needs to be able to persuade. But the most important job of a teacher is to teach people HOW to think, not WHAT to think, that’s indoctrination. That’s called state sponsored education. Teaching isn’t having people remember facts and figures. Teaching involves training people how to apply abstract concepts to life in a rational manner.

So when you’ve got teaching going on in a home fellowship, a teacher should be taking the apostle’s doctrine and not saying, “Believe this or else.” It is, “Here is why this is so, and here is the best rational argument for why this is so.”


2. Edifying the Body Through Fellowship

I’ve already talked about this notion of having all things common. The word common is the word κοινος (“koinos”). The word fellowship then is derived from koinos.  It is κοινωνια (“koinonia”). It means a partnership. Of course the best partnerships are the ones where the partners have something in common. Common goals, common interests. So the purpose of believers assembling is for fellowship, to share in that commonality, to be an encouragement to each other, to love and support each other, to rejoice with each other, to weep with each other. Look at these verses and think about this notion of fellowship and what it means.

God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” ~ 1 Corinthians 1:9

And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” ~ Galatians 2:9

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:”~ Ephesians 3:9 (New man)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” ~ 1 John 1:7

And we could also add all the “one another” passages to this. Take your Bible software and look up the phrase “one another” and then apply those verses to this function of fellowship and you get the idea.

Of course there is a negative aspect of fellowship. You have verse like these:

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
~ Ephesians 5:11
 

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
~ 2 Corinthians 6:14

Do you see the logical reasoning behind this? Fellowship has to do with what you have in common. So Paul begs the question, how can you have anything in common with that which is not righteousness? How can light be a partner with darkness? The answer is, it cannot. You cannot “fellowship” with darkness and unrighteousness because you have nothing in common. The whole notion is the antithesis of what fellowship is.

This is why I find the whole notion of bringing unsaved people to church ludicrous. They have no business there. It can be of no benefit to them because they have nothing in common with believers. The strict definition of church is the assembly, the Body of Christ, for the mutual edification of the Body. How can you edify someone who is not part of the Body? You cannot.

This is why believers are ambassadors. This is why evangelism is an individual mandate. Each member of the Body needs to be equipped to go out to the lost, preach to them, and in preaching they hear, and in hearing they believe, and when they believe, NOW they are part of the Body, and they can join the assembly and be edified. That is fellowship.

3. Edifying the Body Through Breaking of Bread
I have a friend who comes from a big Italian family. His “nana” is from the “old country” as you say. And as is the custom with Italian families (and I guess this is true with any large family) it wouldn’t be a family gathering without food. That’s just the custom. You get family together, you eat. And some families can put out quite a spread!

So it should not be unusual that when the believers assembled together in the 1st century that their time of fellowship involved sharing a meal together. This expression “breaking of bread” has become a euphemism for having a meal, but it has its origins with the Lord’s Supper, or the Last Supper, or the Lord’s Table, or whatever you want to call it. So the suggestion here is that the Lord’s table was an integrated part of their fellowship meal. It wasn’t a separate ceremony or “ordinance”. It went hand in hand as part of the fellowship meal. And I am going to talk more about that in detail in part three.

4. Edifying the Body Through Prayer
This one should go without saying. I don’t think I need to mention the importance of prayer. How many references could I cite, countless, where we are instructed repeatedly to pray for each other, pray for he unsaved, pray for our political leaders, pray for peace, pray for healing, pray for safety, pray for deliverance.

I have often found it remarkable as I read through the New Testament all the people Paul mentions in his letters, and all the people for whom he prays. Can you imagine just how much time Paul must have spent in prayer; the number of people he came in contact with? I wonder how big his Facebook friend list would have been? But seriously, how much time must he have spent in prayer and still find time to write to the assemblies, and earn a living, and eat, and sleep, and travel?  I think such a realization would have to be a rebuke to all of us because I know I certainly don’t pray as much as I should.

So there must have been a lot of time dedicated to prayer in these assemblies for all the needs that there must have been. Think about what great prayer warriors these early believers must have been.

So there you have it. The four functions of the assembly, all for the central purpose of mutual edification of the Body. All so that we can go out and make disciples. I don’t think it is unrealistic to have home assemblies once again in the 21st century that function the same way. Really what you see in the home fellowship is brothers and sisters behaving like a family. It’s really that simple. We are part of God’s family. We are his born again children. And this is how He wants his children to behave: loving each other, serving each other, and building up each other.

To be continued…


< Part 1  •  Part 3 >

Hebrews: Church Advocates a False Faith and Hope in Things Presently Seen

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 6, 2017

Hebrews

In regard to TANC Ministries, the more we seek, research, and find, the more we realize the scriptures speak to the exact same issues we experience in our day. Truly, there is no new thing under the sun.

In the book of Hebrews, we find the answers to what is wrong with the institutional church, or simply, “church” period. Church is an institution, and all institutions are predicated on authority in general and top-down authority in particular.

What is the primary problem Hebrews is addressing? Specifically, Christians holding to the New Covenant in that day were being severely persecuted by those advocating salvation under the Old Covenant or “first covenant.” But remember, they were also misrepresenting the first covenant to begin with. Nevertheless, the Hebrew writer cuts to the chase and articulates the differences and purposes of the two covenants and thereby ending the argument altogether. Christians holding to the second covenant were being tempted to return to the institutional law-based religions of that day which included the mystery and knowledge cults. A “cult” is specifically defined as any religion that combines faith with authority which is predicated on law and not faith. And remember, that entails the law being interpreted by those in authority to begin with. Individual conscience is therefore made completely irrelevant.

A cardinal point: the first covenant wasn’t of faith or promise, but law, which isn’t of faith. The temple religion of that time made the law a present-day fulfillment of God’s purposes when the law was really a will that was executed by Christ containing future unseen promises. Also, very key, this authority based, law based, religion always advocates the kingdom of God being presently on earth competing against the other kingdoms of this world. Instead of “looking for a future homeland,” it is a kingdom-now mentality. You may correlate law with authority, and the notion that hope and faith cling to present-day law-based things that are seen as apposed to a future hope unseen and not yet obtained.

We see this problem throughout the scriptures; people want a kingdom-now authority that they can see, touch, and feel. “Faith” is based on something tangible that we have now, and don’t need to patiently wait for. These false faiths create doubt and fear while offering themselves as a law-based sure bet IF we do this, that, or the other.

Perhaps the best example is the Catholic Church which emphasizes splendid material criteria that woes the senses. Forget faith, trust is put in a materialistic experience and face to face interaction with intimidating religious authorities. Comfort is found in the seen, not the unseen. Furthermore, people will buy into any belief system that supplies this kingdom-now experience based on what is presently seen, felt, and experienced. Instead of patiently waiting to see faith face to face embodied in Christ, people clamor about to find hope in men who claim to be everything Christ is by proxy. Why do people like conversation about Christ making appearances at Benny Hinn conferences and other conversations of the like? They want to base their faith on what they see right now, not the future promises inherited by the New Covenant.

Funny, this circumvents a true “personal” relationship with Christ and redefines it as obeying (being persuaded) men/women we can presently see, touch, and feel, and therefore, we will believe anything they proclaim. A so-called personal relationship with Christ is really “submitting to ‘men of God.'”

God’s kingdom is supposedly on earth now, though Christ is presently not here sitting on David’s throne in Jerusalem, and the kingdom is being run by multiple priests who offer absolution through the institutional church. This is the same gargantuan lie that the Hebrew writer addressed.

Hebrews 7:23 – The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Scholars of the church like to cite Hebrews 7:25 and other versus to make their case for a perpetual forgiveness of sin found only in the church. Supposedly, faithfulness to the church reapplies Christ’s death to present sin. This equals Christ partaking in a ministry of ongoing “intercession.” This requires action by us that facilitates ongoing forgiveness of sin according to Christs continuing ministry of intercession. But the point in context is Christ’s eternal life which negates the need for multiple priests (who die and need to be replaced) and subsequent offerings for sin through some religious system that continues blood sacrifices or reapplies Christ’s original sacrifice. In other words, Christ’s life is a permanent intercession that guarantees the ending of sin. Because He lives eternally, His one-time sacrifice has eternal benefits because He is eternal. And the specific benefit is the ending of sin and its condemnation.

This is in contrast to what Catholicism and Protestantism teaches. The church, and its multiple priests, or pastors, or bishops, or whatever you want to call them, mediate an ongoing salvation from present sin through the “means of grace.” The word “grace” is church-speak for “salvation.” Hence, supposedly, Christ continues to intercede for those who place themselves under the authority of the church and its “covenants.” This is merely a variation of the law-based system that the Hebrews writer is railing against.

To further this point, Hebrews states that the sacrificial system of the first covenant was attended by Levitical priests through the law, and not God’s oath promising an eternal priest.

Hebrews 7:11 – Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. 13 For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” 18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. 20 And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 21 but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’” 22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Interestingly, Protestantism holds to the idea that Christ’s ministry and priesthood was a fulfillment of the law according to Matthew 5:17, but the law never made anything perfect, and Christ is an eternal priest according to God’s oath, not the law. More than likely, Christ is talking about the “law of the Spirit of life” (Romans 8:2) which fulfills the law by loving God and others. In other words, the use of the law in sanctification, not a righteousness or priesthood based on the “law of sin and death” which is the first covenant (2 Corinthians 3:3-11). Protestantism is clearly based on a fulfillment of the first covenant which is predicated on law and not “Promise” before the law (Galatians 3) and God’s oath after the law (Hebrews 7). The first covenant was based on a mortal priesthood, not an eternal one. Christ entered the heavenly sanctuary once and for all with His blood offering which is a once and for all eternal offering ending all sin. Consequently, there is no more offering for sin, and this would include a reapplication of the original offering.

Hebrews 10:11 – And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified [set apart]. 15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Note, how many of our sins are forgiven? If the answer is “all,” then there remains no offering for sin, not even a reapplication of Christ’s one offering. It is also interesting that He sat down on the right side of the Father which would seem to indicate a finishing of any salvific work. His next work will be to put all enemies under His feet. The problem with the idea of continuing forgiveness follows: it will lead to willful sin because if continuing sacrifices to atone for sin are needed, the inevitability of sin is assumed, and a lax attitude towards keeping the law will ensue because it will be covered by a weekly trip to the temple. Hence, while sin is proliferated, there is no sacrifice left for it.

Hebrews 10:26 – For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

This might be a good place for an aside regarding how scripture is often handled in these matters.

Hebrews 12:1 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Verses like this are used to prove a monergistic sanctification in which the “believers” only role is a perpetual revisiting to the same gospel that saved us…for “present sin.” If we do this, that, or the other, Jesus, who began our faith, will perfect it or “finish” it. But in light of Hebrews 10:14, what is this verse really saying?

“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified [set apart].”

It is saying that the perfection of our saving faith was complete at the beginning of our salvation, not at the end of a salvific process totally apart from any of our efforts.

Seemingly out of nowhere, after the Hebrew writer addresses these issues, he launches into the following: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.”

I believe the point here is what I originally stated in the introduction of this post: institutional religious authority is about the tangible here and now, and a lame man-centered authoritative kingdom. Instead of really trusting in the finished work of Christ, people are trusting in lofty rituals that atone for so-called present sin…that condemns because it is all based on the first covenant of law with the New Covenant supposedly fulfilling its “righteous demands.”

Instead of propagating the gathering together to give offerings for present sin, the Hebrew writer exhorts us to do the following:

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

“The Day” is our glorification when we are freed from our mortal bodies. And this adds another interesting note from the Hebrew writer:

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

Note that there is a salvation that has nothing to with “sin.” This is the salvation of the body, or “redemption.” Confusion over biblical words and what they mean in context plays into this whole false idea of progression justification and a future completion of salvation. If salvation is future, and in order to complete salvation “present sin” must be dealt with, a sacrifice is necessarily required. Therefore, sin is ended for the believer, but any soteriology that propagates present sin requires a multiplicity of mortal priests and denies the eternal priesthood of Christ. This is one of the cardinal points of Hebrews.

Moreover, the use of the word “sin” in context of believers must be discussed as well. Here, “sin” is not sin. When the Bible uses the word sin, is it in context of condemnation, or a failure to fulfill the law through love by the believer? In all soteriology where salvation is a “process,” there will be a single perspective on the word sin; the perspective of condemnation, or specifically, “under law.” What then, is this advocacy or intercession in regard to the “sin” of true believers? It is NOT reconciliation for present sin that condemns, but the testimony by our Eternal Priest that His one-time sacrifice ended sin forever.

Hebrews 7:15 – And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, 16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. 17 For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 18 For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. 19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. 20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: 21 (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) 22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. (KJV)

The power of His endless life is the advocacy or intercession, not a reapplication of His sacrifice; for no more sacrifice remains for sin because sin is no more because Christ lives as opposed to the priests under the first covenant.

Now we must recognize something else as well: a class of priests in any religion must correlate with the first covenant. We must know this: top-down ecclesiastical authority always beckons to the first covenant because the two are inseparable. This is because one Eternal Priest ended the former priesthood, and any priesthood associated with mortal priests who speak for God (as is their very own testimony) must be associated with the first covenant. This association is also confirmed by a multiplicity of priests as opposed to one. ALL institutions claiming authority by mortal men MUST be associated with the first covenant.

This is in contrast to how the new birth changes the priesthood. Instead of any building made with hands in which forgiveness of present sin is found, the body of every believer is now the temple of God (actually, the Holy of Holies) and every believer is the priest of their own temple charged with using their body to offer up living sacrifices to God (for anyone remotely familiar with the Bible, it is not necessary to cite the numerous verses stating this). Each priest serves according to individual gifts granted to them by the Holy Spirit; we are a holy nation of priests unified in one body by the one mind of Christ. It is a cooperation of equally important gifts, not a submission to earthly authority.

Again, all institutional authorities must be necessarily categorized under the first covenant and the ill use of it presently. The present application of it is wrong enough, but a wrong use of its original intent is also in play. The law never made anyone righteous or even declared them righteous, but was a standard for sin to which all sin is imputed. Then when Christ came to end the law, sin was ended (“taken away”) with it. Because of this, there is no sacrifice or left for sin because there is no sin. ANY notion of sacrifice or the reapplication of a sacrifice through ritual denotes an empowerment of sin rather than the power of Christ’s Eternal Priesthood:

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

But if we need a priesthood for present sin, our work for the Lord is in vain because we are unable to do any good work. Continually, we hear church scholars reminding us that “all of our works are as filthy rags.” And even if we were able to please the Lord, this would be a risky investment in time as opposed to dealing with present sin that supposedly removes us from grace. Is it any wonder that the grand focus of church is the support of its temples and Levitical priests?

In contrast, the pinnacle of Hebrews follows:

“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”

This describes the first covenant. What is more obvious to this charge than the contrary function of church with its incessant call to preach the gospel to ourselves every day, and its constant clamoring for repentance? Do people really find encouragement at church to stir up good works? Hardly, that is labeled as “a righteousness of our own.”

Let us now move forward away from the elementary principles of the first covenant, and the mutilation of its original intent to loving God and others with all of our hearts, souls, and minds. This is the focus of the second covenant, not a focus on sin that no longer enslaves us with its horde of mortal priests.

Because only truth sanctifies (John 17:17).

paul

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