Paul's Passing Thoughts

The New Man is Possible Because the Law Was Ended

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on April 25, 2017

Originally published April 25, 2016

The list of Biblical terms that Protestantism has hijacked is lengthy. I am not talking about made-up words that don’t even appear in scripture (and that list itself is lengthy). I mean words that actually appear in scripture, the definitions of which have been twisted to fit the orthodoxy. As we like to say here at Paul’s Passing Thoughts, words do mean things.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

Protestantism acknowledges this “new creature”, calling it the “new man”, while at the same time professing that the “old man” never really dies but is still present within man. This is the result of a faulty premise of total depravity (including total depravity of the believer) which in turn results in an incorrect interpretation of the struggle Paul describes in Romans 7.

“For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” ~ Romans 7:15-24

Protestantism claims that flesh is “evil”. But the Bible teaches instead that flesh is weak. It describes sin as an entity who seeks to control and master others. It tries to accomplish this by using the law to provoke the flesh to transgress.

Much as Protestantism has unwittingly altered the meaning of the New Birth, it has done the same with the idea of the “new man”. In classic dualistic philosophical fashion, Protestant Gnostic orthodoxy claims that the born again believer actually has “two natures”, the old man and the new man who constantly battle each other for control over the believer. In Protestant orthodoxy, man is nothing more than a spiritual schizophrenic. However, the new birth is a literal death and rebirth. The old man dies (“old things are passed away”, literally, “the old has come and gone”). He is crucified with Christ. This is why the law can no longer condemn him- the law cannot condemn a dead man. In his place is a new creature who is the literal offspring of God!

This same teaching is made clear in Paul’s letter to the believers at Ephesus.

“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” ~ Ephesians 2:11-22

I want to point out once again how Paul makes reference to the law being ended.

Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances…so making peace; … having slain the enmity thereby”

The word translated “enmity” is a word that has to do with hostility. What was the cause of hostility between God and man? Verse 15 tells us plainly; the law! Man was condemned by the law which was ended when Christ was crucified and raised again. The new birth reconciles God and man, putting an end to the hostility.

Not only is the hostility between God and man ended, but Paul makes mention of hostility between two other groups- the hostility between Jews (the “Circumcision”) and the Gentiles (the “Uncircumcision”). Paul also uses two other expressions to describe these two groups- those who were “far off” (Gentiles) and those who were “nigh” or “near” (the Jews).   This hostility existed again primarily because of the law and the relationship to the law. For the nation of Israel, the law was a guardian, imprisoning sin until the Promise came which would end the law. (Galatians 3:21-29)

But a wonderful thing is revealed in this Ephesians passage. When Christ died, He ended the law, He ended the hostility between God and man, and He ended the hostility between Jew and Gentile. Why? Because the New Birth brings about the death of the old man, and in his place is a new creature that is NEITHER Jew NOR Gentile. Furthermore, each born again believer is made a part of one spiritual body.

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us…for to make in himself of twain one new man… that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”

Notice that Paul refers to this one spiritual body as the “New Man”! According to the Bible, the New Man is not the individual believer, but it is the one spiritual body made up of both Jews and Gentiles, of which Christ is the Head, and of which all believers are members together. To further emphasize this idea of “oneness”, Paul uses a metaphor of a building. Christ is the cornerstone, the very first stone set by which all other stones of the building are laid. The teachings of the apostles are the foundation, and each believer is a lively stone set in this building as a spiritual house and a royal priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (Romans 12:1, 1 Peter 2:5). This one New Man is a holy temple wherein God’s Spirit now dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16).

This teaching of the New Man being the Body of Christ is consistent throughout the New Testament. It is the reason believers are given spiritual gifts, for the purpose of maturing the saints to do the work of the ministry, to edify (or build up) the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). It is the reason why believers are to assemble together for fellowship, for the purpose of mutual edification so that we can perform works pleasing to God and show love to others (Hebrews 10:24). All of this is possible because Christ ended the law on the cross.

Andy

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” ~ Galatians 3:26-28

Clay Pots Can Know Truth

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on February 21, 2017

Originally published April 11, 2016

Even though my wife and I left the institutional church for good almost 2 years ago, there are still times where I must make the obligatory visit. Going in to visit family is one of those times. I am thankful that the church in which my wife grew up is not steeped in the vileness of Calvinism. Nevertheless, Protestant orthodoxy runs far and wide. Needless to say, as a graduate of the Christian school she attended for 13 years she has nurtured many close relationships with those who were her teachers and peers. So for us the visit is merely a social call and not for purposes of “worship”. Not being a particularly “social” person myself (I am an introvert by nature, and social events suck the life force out of me) I suffer the preaching while reminding myself that it will all be over soon.

Such was the case last weekend as I found myself once again sitting in an adult Sunday School class led by a layman of the church who is without a doubt kind-hearted and well-meaning, but who knows no other way to interpret the Scriptures than what he has been taught all his life. This particular class is right now making its way through the book of 2 Corinthians. The week we were there they were up to chapter 4. Take a look particularly at verses 6 and 7.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

If we are good Protestants, we will look at these verses and see that clearly, this passage is drawing a contrast between our weakness as fragile clay pots and the power of God, right? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And if you have been a reader of PPT for any time, what should be obvious to you are the Protestant talking points and root assumptions: man has no ability, even the saints; there is nothing good in us; we are just worthless clay pots; any good we do is simply Christ doing it through us.

Now don’t get me wrong here, aside from the assumptions of total inability and the idea of the subjectivity of objective good works being performed outside of us, we can acknowledge that God does help us through His spirit. That in and of itself would not necessarily be a wrong application to make, but in the context of this passage it is a novice approach at best. The importance of understanding scripture in the correct historical context cannot be over emphasized. And these were my exact thoughts as I sat there squirming in my pew. There is so much richness to this passage that is being lost simply because people are conditioned to faulty interpretive assumptions.

With what premise then should we begin? First, let us understand that the dominant philosophy of the 1st century was a Platonic gnosticism which was nothing more than yet one more manifestation of the dualism that had dominated all philosophy in man’s attempt to explain the world since perhaps the beginning of time (I suggest you read the transcripts from John Immel’s 2013 TANC Conference sessions if you think that’s an over-generalization).

For the most part, Gnosticism can be summed up like this. Spirit is good and flesh (the physical) is evil. Objective truth can only be found in the spiritual realm. Since man is part of the physical realm, he has no access to objective truth (the “gnosis”). The only way that man can know truth is for a select few to bring it to them. These select few are the Philosopher Kings. They are the pre-ordained ones who have been given the “gnosis” by the “divines”. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that these “mediators” then are the only ones who have the right to rule the masses by virtue of the fact that they are the only ones who can know truth. This is the root system of thought behind ALL tyrannical systems, both political AND religious, for centuries!

Having this as a basis for our study, let us now consider chapter 4 of 2 Corinthians. Verses 1 through 7 present an exercise in rhetoric though a series of contrasting hypothetical assumptions for the purpose of presenting an argument. Let’s look at verses 1 and 2.

“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:1-2

This is our first clue that the apostle Paul is offering a refutation of Gnosticism. Key words include “hidden things” and “manifestation of truth”. Understand who the audience is. Paul’s letters to the assemblies were most often written in response to address some issues that had come to his attention. Remember, one tenet of Gnostic philosophy is that truth is hidden and cannot be known. It would appear as if there were false teachers who had brought this Gnostic teaching into the assemblies there in Corinth and were trying to blend it with Christianity. Notice Paul refers to the “hidden things of dishonesty”, “walking in craftiness”, and “handling the word of God dishonestly”. These are all trademarks of Gnosticism. These false teachers were twisting the word of God to fit their Gnostic orthodoxy, all the while stating that the reason it was true was because these things were “hidden” from the masses and only they were qualified to bring it to them, and they used scripture to support their views.

What is Paul’s contrasting argument?

“…commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God…”

He left truth up to their conscience. In other words, he expected his listeners to think. Paul said, I don’t want you people just to believe me because I say so. I don’t want you to believe me because I present myself as an authority. I expect you to use the faculties of reason and come to the conclusion on your own if what I preach is true or not.

 Verse 3 is a critical statement.

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:3

This is a profound statement regarding the gospel. God did not reveal himself through His word for the purpose of keeping it hidden, revealing it only to a select few. This is a direct assault on Gnosticism. Gnosticism taught that truth is hidden from the physical realm. But God said, no, I want you to know truth because you are lost and I want to you be reconciled to Me! That is the gospel- Be reconciled to God! That means that man CAN know truth and DOES have access to it. Paul said what we preach is not some hidden truth because that would be counter-productive. It would be antithetical to God’s purpose for the doctrine. That is what distinguishes what we preach from those Gnostic false teachers.

Verse 5 brings us to yet one more distinguishing characteristic of Gnosticism, and that is a narcissistic self-promotion.

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:5

Remember, only a select few were ordained to have access to the “gnosis”. As a result, these individuals felt that they were superior to the ignorant masses, perceiving themselves as having the right to rule over them. If you want to get to heaven, if you want to have salvation, then you do what I say, or else. Notice how the truth then becomes subordinated to authority. Persuasion is not necessary where power is used. The focus shifts from the message to the one delivering it. But Paul said, I don’t come to you with any desire to promote myself. You don’t get to heaven by doing what I tell you to do. You were saved because you were born again when you believed in Jesus Christ!

And that brings us back to the passage we looked at first.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

This is perhaps the most scathing rebuke of Gnosticism. The fact that believers are referred to as “earthen vessels” is a testament to the metaphysical reality of the New Birth. Now granted, the word “earthen” in the Greek does mean a piece of pottery. But that just makes the argument all that more powerful. A clay pot is made from the “earth”. It is a part of the physical realm. To say that something that is part of the physical realm can know truth is a slap in the face to Gnosticism!

And what is the result of that? Paul uses the word translated “excellency”. In the Greek it is the word υπερβολη (hoo-per-bol-lay) from which we get our English word “hyperbole”. Hyperbole is using extremely outrageous statements to make a point. Paul says that the truth of the gospel sounds outrageous, but it can be known because it is reasonable because physical, frail clay pots have the ability to know it. This serves to demonstrate that its power comes directly from God and not from those who would place themselves as mediators between God and man.

Think about that for a moment. The power of the gospel is in its ability to persuade. It isn’t some self-appointed authority who demands compliance through the use of force. It is God who persuades through the preaching of His word. That means man has the ability to reason and understand it. This can lead a man to be persuaded that God is who He says he is. He can be persuaded to choose to forego his present life and put his faith in God and become a born again new creature who is the righteous offspring of God.   For the apostle Paul to declare that our REAL, righteous new-creaturehood is contained in earthly, physical containers is the antithesis of Gnosticism!

Andy

The New Man is Possible Because the Law Was Ended

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on April 25, 2016

The list of Biblical terms that Protestantism has hijacked is lengthy. I am not talking about made-up words that don’t even appear in scripture (and that list itself is lengthy). I mean words that actually appear in scripture, the definitions of which have been twisted to fit the orthodoxy. As we like to say here at Paul’s Passing Thoughts, words do mean things.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

Protestantism acknowledges this “new creature”, calling it the “new man”, while at the same time professing that the “old man” never really dies but is still present within man. This is the result of a faulty premise of total depravity (including total depravity of the believer) which in turn results in an incorrect interpretation of the struggle Paul describes in Romans 7.

“For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” ~ Romans 7:15-24

Protestantism claims that flesh is “evil”. But the Bible teaches instead that flesh is weak. It describes sin as an entity who seeks to control and master others. It tries to accomplish this by using the law to provoke the flesh to transgress.

Much as Protestantism has unwittingly altered the meaning of the New Birth, it has done the same with the idea of the “new man”. In classic dualistic philosophical fashion, Protestant Gnostic orthodoxy claims that the born again believer actually has “two natures”, the old man and the new man who constantly battle each other for control over the believer. In Protestant orthodoxy, man is nothing more than a spiritual schizophrenic. However, the new birth is a literal death and rebirth. The old man dies (“old things are passed away”, literally, “the old has come and gone”). He is crucified with Christ. This is why the law can no longer condemn him- the law cannot condemn a dead man. In his place is a new creature who is the literal offspring of God!

This same teaching is made clear in Paul’s letter to the believers at Ephesus.

“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” ~ Ephesians 2:11-22

I want to point out once again how Paul makes reference to the law being ended.

Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances…so making peace; … having slain the enmity thereby”

The word translated “enmity” is a word that has to do with hostility. What was the cause of hostility between God and man? Verse 15 tells us plainly; the law! Man was condemned by the law which was ended when Christ was crucified and raised again. The new birth reconciles God and man, putting an end to the hostility.

Not only is the hostility between God and man ended, but Paul makes mention of hostility between two other groups- the hostility between Jews (the “Circumcision”) and the Gentiles (the “Uncircumcision”). Paul also uses two other expressions to describe these two groups- those who were “far off” (Gentiles) and those who were “nigh” or “near” (the Jews).   This hostility existed again primarily because of the law and the relationship to the law. For the nation of Israel, the law was a guardian, imprisoning sin until the Promise came which would end the law. (Galatians 3:21-29)

But a wonderful thing is revealed in this Ephesians passage. When Christ died, He ended the law, He ended the hostility between God and man, and He ended the hostility between Jew and Gentile. Why? Because the New Birth brings about the death of the old man, and in his place is a new creature that is NEITHER Jew NOR Gentile. Furthermore, each born again believer is made a part of one spiritual body.

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us…for to make in himself of twain one new man… that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”

Notice that Paul refers to this one spiritual body as the “New Man”! According to the Bible, the New Man is not the individual believer, but it is the one spiritual body made up of both Jews and Gentiles, of which Christ is the Head, and of which all believers are members together. To further emphasize this idea of “oneness”, Paul uses a metaphor of a building. Christ is the cornerstone, the very first stone set by which all other stones of the building are laid. The teachings of the apostles are the foundation, and each believer is a lively stone set in this building as a spiritual house and a royal priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (1 Peter 2:5). This one New Man is a holy temple wherein God’s Spirit now dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16).

This teaching of the New Man being the Body of Christ is consistent throughout the New Testament. It is the reason believers are given spiritual gifts, for the purpose of maturing the saints to do the work of the ministry, to edify (or build up) the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). It is the reason why believers are to assemble together for fellowship, for the purpose of mutual edification so that we can perform works pleasing to God and show love to others (Hebrews 10:24). All of this is possible because Christ ended the law on the cross.

Andy

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” ~ Galatians 3:26-28

Clay Pots Can Know Truth

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on April 11, 2016

Even though my wife and I left the institutional church for good almost 2 years ago, there are still times where I must make the obligatory visit. Going in to visit family is one of those times. I am thankful that the church in which my wife grew up is not steeped in the vileness of Calvinism. Nevertheless, Protestant orthodoxy runs far and wide. Needless to say, as a graduate of the Christian school she attended for 13 years she has nurtured many close relationships with those who were her teachers and peers. So for us the visit is merely a social call and not for purposes of “worship”. Not being a particularly “social” person myself (I am an introvert by nature, and social events suck the life force out of me) I suffer the preaching while reminding myself that it will all be over soon.

Such was the case last weekend as I found myself once again sitting in an adult Sunday School class led by a layman of the church who is without a doubt kind-hearted and well-meaning, but who knows no other way to interpret the Scriptures than what he has been taught all his life. This particular class is right now making its way through the book of 2 Corinthians. The week we were there they were up to chapter 4. Take a look particularly at verses 6 and 7.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

If we are good Protestants, we will look at these verses and see that clearly, this passage is drawing a contrast between our weakness as fragile clay pots and the power of God, right? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And if you have been a reader of PPT for any time, what should be obvious to you are the Protestant talking points and root assumptions: man has no ability, even the saints; there is nothing good in us; we are just worthless clay pots; any good we do is simply Christ doing it through us.

Now don’t get me wrong here, aside from the assumptions of total inability and the idea of the subjectivity of objective good works being performed outside of us, we can acknowledge that God does help us through His spirit. That in and of itself would not necessarily be a wrong application to make, but in the context of this passage it is a novice approach at best. The importance of understanding scripture in the correct historical context cannot be over emphasized. And these were my exact thoughts as I sat there squirming in my pew. There is so much richness to this passage that is being lost simply because people are conditioned to faulty interpretive assumptions.

With what premise then should we begin? First, let us understand that the dominant philosophy of the 1st century was a Platonic gnosticism which was nothing more than yet one more manifestation of the dualism that had dominated all philosophy in man’s attempt to explain the world since perhaps the beginning of time (I suggest you watch all 5 of John Immel’s sessions from last year’s 2015 TANC conference if you think that’s an over-generalization).

For the most part, Gnosticism can be summed up like this. Spirit is good and flesh (the physical) is evil. Objective truth can only be found in the spiritual realm. Since man is part of the physical realm, he has no access to objective truth (the “gnosis”). The only way that man can know truth is for a select few to bring it to them. These select few are the Philosopher Kings. They are the pre-ordained ones who have been given the “gnosis” by the “divines”. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that these “mediators” then are the only ones who have the right to rule the masses by virtue of the fact that they are the only ones who can know truth. This is the root system of thought behind ALL tyrannical systems, both political AND religious, for centuries!

Having this as a basis for our study, let us now consider chapter 4 of 2 Corinthians. Verses 1 through 7 present an exercise in rhetoric though a series of contrasting hypothetical assumptions for the purpose of presenting an argument. Let’s look at verses 1 and 2.

“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:1-2

This is our first clue that the apostle Paul is offering a refutation of Gnosticism. Key words include “hidden things” and “manifestation of truth”. Understand who the audience is. Paul’s letters to the assemblies were most often written in response to address some issues that had come to his attention. Remember, one tenet of Gnostic philosophy is that truth is hidden and cannot be known. It would appear as if there were false teachers who had brought this Gnostic teaching into the assemblies there in Corinth and were trying to blend it with Christianity. Notice Paul refers to the “hidden things of dishonesty”, “walking in craftiness”, and “handling the word of God dishonestly”. These are all trademarks of Gnosticism. These false teachers were twisting the word of God to fit their Gnostic orthodoxy, all the while stating that the reason it was true was because these things were “hidden” from the masses and only they were qualified to bring it to them, and they used scripture to support their views.

What is Paul’s contrasting argument?

“…commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God…”

He left truth up to their conscience. In other words, he expected his listeners to think. Paul said, I don’t want you people just to believe me because I say so. I don’t want you to believe me because I present myself as an authority. I expect you to use the faculties of reason and come to the conclusion on your own if what I preach is true or not.

 Verse 3 is a critical statement.

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:3

This is a profound statement regarding the gospel. God did not reveal himself through His word for the purpose of keeping it hidden, revealing it only to a select few. This is a direct assault on Gnosticism. Gnosticism taught that truth is hidden from the physical realm. But God said, no, I want you to know truth because you are lost and I want to you be reconciled to Me! That is the gospel- Be reconciled to God! That means that man CAN know truth and DOES have access to it. Paul said what we preach is not some hidden truth because that would be counter-productive. It would be antithetical to God’s purpose for the doctrine. That is what distinguishes what we preach from those Gnostic false teachers.

Verse 5 brings us to yet one more distinguishing characteristic of Gnosticism, and that is a narcissistic self-promotion.

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:5

Remember, only a select few were ordained to have access to the “gnosis”. As a result, these individuals felt that they were superior to the ignorant masses, perceiving themselves as having the right to rule over them. If you want to get to heaven, if you want to have salvation, then you do what I say, or else. Notice how the truth then becomes subordinated to authority. Persuasion is not necessary where power is used. The focus shifts from the message to the one delivering it. But Paul said, I don’t come to you with any desire to promote myself. You don’t get to heaven by doing what I tell you to do. You were saved because you were born again when you believed in Jesus Christ!

And that brings us back to the passage we looked at first.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

This is perhaps the most scathing rebuke of Gnosticism. The fact that believers are referred to as “earthen vessels” is a testament to the metaphysical reality of the New Birth. Now granted, the word “earthen” in the Greek does mean a piece of pottery. But that just makes the argument all that more powerful. A clay pot is made from the “earth”. It is a part of the physical realm. To say that something that is part of the physical realm can know truth is a slap in the face to Gnosticism!

And what is the result of that? Paul uses the word translated “excellency”. In the Greek it is the word υπερβολη (hoo-per-bol-lay) from which we get our English word “hyperbole”. Hyperbole is using extremely outrageous statements to make a point. Paul says that the truth of the gospel sounds outrageous, but it can be known because it is reasonable because physical, frail clay pots have the ability to know it. This serves to demonstrate that its power comes directly from God and not from those who would place themselves as mediators between God and man.

Think about that for a moment. The power of the gospel is in its ability to persuade. It isn’t some self-appointed authority who demands compliance through the use of force. It is God who persuades through the preaching of His word. That means man has the ability to reason and understand it. This can lead a man to be persuaded that God is who He says he is. He can be persuaded to choose to forego his present life and put his faith in God and become a born again new creature who is the righteous offspring of God.   For the apostle Paul to declare that our REAL, righteous new-creaturehood is contained in earthly, physical containers is the antithesis of Gnosticism!

Andy

The Protestant Twisting of 1John: A Clarification, Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 22, 2016

Originally published March 22, 2015

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Welcome to Blogtalk Radio False Reformation this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, we are going to attack and unravel interpretive abuses of 1John, particularly 1John 1:9 and 2:1. There is only one other text twisted for ill use more than these two verses, and that would be Galatians 2:20 and 3:1-3. Later, In part 2, I will toss in an exegesis of those verses as a bonus.

There may be a lot of different religions and even more denominations, but for all practical purposes they all have one thing in common: this whole idea that salvation is a process with a beginning and an end. This makes salvation a process that includes our present life.

So, the argumentation between religions and denominations involves the correct way of getting from point A to point B. But there is no point A and point B. When you believe God unto salvation, you get the complete package and the salvation part of your life is finished. It is an instantaneous quickening of the Spirit that transports you from one kingdom to another, from one master to another, from being under law to being under grace, from the old person to the new person, and from darkness to light. You don’t become a servant of righteousness on the installment plan, and you don’t become a kingdom citizen on an installment plan.

How is 1 John used to argue for a progressive salvation, and what is John really saying in his epistle? Way back at the beginning of this ministry, I had this nailed down. If salvation is a process, and eternal life as opposed to eternal punishment is at stake, the Christian life is really a minefield. The focus isn’t being the best kingdom citizen; the focus is making sure you don’t mess up your salvation. The focus is salvation, not discipleship. The focus is fear of judgement, not love.

I realize many Christians hold to OSAS, “Once saved – always saved”, but the problem is how they are led by pastors trained in seminaries deeply grounded in Protestant tradition. That tradition looks to the institutional church as the primary way of getting God’s people from point A to point B in regard to their salvation. Whether OSAS or not, they are led to do the same things week in and week out. Be here at this time or that time; stand up; sing; sit down; listen to announcements; stand up; sing; sit down; listen to the special music presentation; put your tithe in the plate; listen to the sermon (always about the gospel just in case there are lost people present, wink, wink); stand up; sing “Just As I Am” until someone walks the isle so you can stop singing “Just As I Am”; pray; be dismissed; be cordial to people and tell them how much you love them; go home, and come back next week and do it again.

Why? Because all of that ritualism “imparts grace” and enables us to “grow in grace.” It enables us to “grow up in our salvation.” After all, discipleship is the “growing part of our salvation.” We have all said it, but salvation doesn’t grow. While believing in OSAS, most parishioners are led by pastors who believe in progressive salvation/justification which was clearly the foundational premise of Protestantism with the progression being overseen by the Protestant institutional church.

Moreover, let’s face it; while believing in OSAS, there is only one reason people put up with all of the nonsense and drama of the institutional church—OSAS means that if someone leaves the institutional church, they were never saved to begin with. Right? In other words, they function according to the idea that they are led by. It’s OSAS as long as you are “faithful” to the institution. Then each church has its own little “faithfulness” caste system. Those who show up for all of the services are the “core members” that run the church. Those “less faithful” that only come on Sunday mornings are a lower class of member in the caste system.

You have the pastors, staff and deacons, then the “faithful” that attend all of the services and tithe at least 10%, the “casual” attenders that tithe, and then the bottom of the caste strata, even lower than the serfs, the putrid “nonmembers.”

Whether Calvin or Luther, the two icons of Protestantism, these beliefs follow after the doctrine they established for the Protestant institutional church. Access to the institutional church was through water baptism, and the critical need according to the Reformers for formal church membership follows: as Christians, forgiveness for present and future sins can only be found in the institutional church, and those sins condemn us. Forgiveness for all sins does not occur at salvation, but only for past sins. Water baptism initiates us into church membership where forgiveness for present and future sins can be obtained through the sacraments; ie., “gospel preaching,” the Lord’s Table, and anything else deemed as acts of faithfulness to the institutional church not to exclude tithing by any means. Calvin states this explicitly in his institutes, 4.15.1.

All in all, you can say that in Protestantism, the status of sin does not change for the believer—it still condemns requiring perpetual resalvation for every sin committed.

Therefore, 1John 1:9 and 2:1 is interpreted in this light: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (2:1).

These verses seem to bolster the authentic Protestant position on justification. Confession of sin in our Christian lives keeps us saved. And if we confess our sins, Jesus is up in heaven as our advocate with the Father continuing His work as a propitiation for our sins.

The problem is that this interpretation stands in stark contrast to what other Scriptures state about justification. Biblically, sin has a different classification after salvation—it can’t condemn; it can bring chastisement and present consequences, but it can’t condemn—its ability to condemn has been taken away. Hence, there is no need to have some institution that prevents future condemnation.

Nevertheless, it is easy to understand why the institutional church not only gets a pass on outrageous behavior, but the money keeps pouring in. What will people pay for their salvation and décor that glorifies the institution that saves them? Apparently, no price or compromise is too large. One can also appreciate the fear of so-called excommunication because the institutional church is the only place where one can receive continued forgiveness for present and future sins.

Before I move on, I will solidify my present point. Romans 8:1 states that there is presently NO condemnation for those who are in Christ. In Contrast, Calvin stated that “even saints cannot perform one work which, if judged on its own merits, is not deserving of condemnation” (CI 3.14.9, last sentence). Obviously, the focus is going to be avoiding condemnation, not our freedom to pursue aggressive love in discipleship.

So what are these verses in 1John really saying? Let’s begin to unpack that using the historical grammatical approach to interpretation as opposed to the traditional Protestant means of interpretation, the historical redemptive method. Since Protestantism sees salvation as a process, “redemptive” means that the Bible must be approached with a redemptive prism; ie., the Bible is about salvation. Clearly, this is eisegesis; going to the Bible with a presupposition.

In regard to the history part, this is the belief that history is an unfolding drama about salvation. Hence, all of reality is interpreted through salvation. All of history and the Bible continually reveals the one two-fold redemptive truth/reality: the sinfulness of man and the holiness of God. Salvation begins when we see or understand this reality, and the experience of that reality increases until final salvation.

In contrast, the historical grammatical method uses historical facts to bring more meaning to the text, and all truth is determined by what can be concluded by the grammar—this is known as exegesis. All meaning and truth comes out of the text without anything being read into the text except conclusions from other texts.

In fact, Protestant tradition holds to the idea that a historical grammatical approach to the Scriptures invariably leads to works salvation. Protestant tradition insists that the Scriptures must be interpreted through the prism of total depravity. In this year’s TANC conference, this is what I am going to be hitting on. Christians, save a few, have no idea that Protestant pastors that are leading them view reality in a totally different way than most parishioners. And this is why church looks like it does. And there is no salvaging it—it’s a completely broken system.

So, if you interpret said verses in 1 John redemptively, it fits right into their narrative, right? You have to continue to repent for new sins in your Christian life in order to not be condemned and to keep your salvation. A good old fashioned Baptist lady who I am sure would hold OSAS stated this to my wife Susan in the grocery store a couple weeks ago. When Susan asked her why Christians need to go forward during alter calls, she answered, “they have sin that needs to be forgiven.” Well, why can’t they get that forgiveness by praying at home? You ought to see the reaction Susan and I get when we suggest her mother was saved even though not a member of a church.

Protestantism and all of its offshoots including the Baptists is nothing more or less than functioning Calvinism. Election isn’t the point, progressive salvation is the point. Protestants think salvation grows—salvation doesn’t grow—you are either forgiven once and for all time or you aren’t. Look, if you are going to stay in the institutional church, it makes absolutely no difference where you go. Please, stop driving 15 miles to the Baptist church when there is a Catholic Church right across the street—it’s a shameful waste of gas. It’s all progressive justification.

In contrast, we have to see 1 John in its exegetical historical context. It must be interpreted according to what was going on during the time that prompted this letter. And what was that?

John was pushing back against the number-one nemesis of the assemblies during that time: Gnosticism. Now, there were many, many different veins of Gnosticism during that time, but like denominationalism, there are basics that are fundamentally the same. Denominationalism quibbles about how to get from point A to point B, but it is all progressive salvation.

When you understand the basics of Gnosticism, it is easy to see that John’s first epistle is a point by point rebuttal of Gnosticism, and NOT the proffering of progressive justification. Protestants can bicker with Catholics all they want to about how to get from point A to point B, but again, it’s all progressive justification. If it’s a religious institution, it’s selling final salvation, PERIOD.

If we follow John’s arguments in this epistle, it also apes the fundamental basics of Gnosticism, and that’s what we are going to do:

1 John 1:1 – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. [KJV].

The Gnostics taught that it really wasn’t the spiritual Christ that died on the cross. Gnosticism holds to the idea that material is evil and only the invisible spiritual world is good. Gnosticism rejected the idea that the spiritual realm, or godhood can be one with the material. You must understand: the biblical concept of God-man is a direct affront to the foundation of all false religions, or the knowledge of good and evil. It is the idea that true knowledge cannot be one with the material. Knowledge is good, material is evil and is only a shadow of true knowledge. Knowledge of the material is enslaved and dependent on the five senses.

Now, stop right there. Let me simplify this for you. All false religion flows from the religion of the knowledge of good and evil presented to Eve in the garden. This is also the first sentence of the Calvin Institutes and all of the Calvin Institutes flow from the foundation of 1.1.1., first sentence, viz, ALL wisdom is the knowledge of man and the knowledge of God; man is inherently evil and God is inherently good.

Also, the first sentence of the Calvin Institutes is the primary theses of Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation which is the Magnum Opus of the Reformation. All fundamentals found in contemporary evangelicalism can be found in the Heidelberg Disputation and flow from it. Calvin’s Institutes further articulated the former. In contemporary evangelicalism, we hear constantly that true biblical knowledge is “the knowledge of our own sinfulness as set against God’s holiness.” This is also the pronounced fundamental foundation of the contemporary biblical counseling movement as constantly stated publically in no uncertain terms.

Why am I interjecting this? Because even though much of our knowledge concerning first century Gnosticism comes from the writings of the early church fathers and while they railed against Gnosticism, they themselves were also Gnostics. However, in the process of railing against Gnosticism, they confirm unequivocally that John’s letter addressed the Gnosticism of their day; it just wasn’t the Gnosticism that they preferred.

And by the way, according to some church fathers, John was addressing a Gnostic named Cerinthus who was a contemporary of John and a personal nemesis.

Cerinthus was a gnostic and to some, an early Christian, who was prominent as a heresiarch in the view of the early Church Fathers. Contrary to proto-orthodox Christianity, Cerinthus’s school followed the Jewish law, used the Gospel according to the Hebrews, denied that the Supreme God had made the physical world, and denied the divinity of Jesus. In Cerinthus’ interpretation, the Christ came to Jesus at baptism, guided him in his ministry, but left him at the crucifixion.

He taught that Jesus would establish a thousand-year reign of sensuous pleasure after the Second Coming but before the General Resurrection, a view that was declared heretical by the Council of Nicaea. Cerinthus used a version of the gospel of Matthew as scripture.

Cerinthus taught at a time when Christianity’s relation to Judaism and to Greek philosophy had not yet been clearly defined. In his association with the Jewish law and his modest assessment of Jesus, he was similar to the Ebionites and to other Jewish Christians. In defining the world’s creator as the demiurge, he emulated Platonic philosophy and anticipated the Gnostics.

Early Christian tradition describes Cerinthus as a contemporary to and opponent of John the Evangelist, who may have written the First Epistle of John and the Second Epistle of John to warn the less mature in faith and doctrine about the changes he was making to the original gospel. All that is known about Cerinthus comes from the writing of his theological opponents (Wikipedia).

At any rate, the teachings of Cerinthus follow the basic fundamentals of 1st century Gnosticism of which there were two schools of thought unchanged from the cradle of society: intuitive knowledge within versus knowledge outside of man. While both schools held to the strict dichotomy of material being evil and the invisible good, and true knowledge being beyond the five senses, they disagreed on where that knowledge is found and whether or not it is intuitive among all men, or a select few preordained by nature or some supreme being.

Cerinthus followed the philosophical school of Idealism which holds to the belief that the one cosmic mind has an intuitive connection within every individual. Finding that knowledge is often a complex mind-numbing epistemology, but curiously, Luther and Calvin had their own angle that built on the Neo-Platonic teachings of St. Augustine.

This Gnostic bent actually allowed for Christ to be human, or at least some form of humanity. Apparently, God became exasperated with man’s penchant for trying to gain knowledge through the material world, and said in essence, “Ok, since you like to think you can know something and try to gain knowledge through the things that are seen, I am going to send my Son to die on the physical cross, and now all knowledge will only be gained through suffering—there mankind, take that!” This is the essence of the Heidelberg Disputation which is a philosophical treatise, not a theological one by any stretch of the imagination. Luther states plainly in the document that ALL knowledge is hidden in the suffering of the cross. Anyone who thinks they can understand Protestantism without a good grasp of world philosophy is sadly misguided. It is one of the historical necessities of historical grammatical hermeneutics.

Hence, in the Gnostic Protestant construct, Christ and His gospel is the only true objective knowledge and is outside of man. Man is not to seek any knowledge within himself, but all knowledge must be sought outside of him in contemplation of the gospel. All of reality is interpreted by the suffering of the cross. The cross is the epistemology from the material to the invisible, or from the evil to the good.

In contrast, other schools believe the epistemology is intuitive within all men because all men have a spiritual being separate from their material being, and the spiritual part of man is nonmaterial and therefore SINLESS. The material body of man is evil because it is material, but his invisible being is good and has a connection to the cosmic spiritual world that must be cultivated by transcending the material. This was key to the drug culture of the 60’s as LSD trips enabled the individual to transcend the five senses and see into the invisible spiritual world. Supposedly.

Other schools of thought believed that even though all men have a material and spiritual aspect, the spiritual anthropology has classifications in regard to who is able to see true knowledge and who isn’t as determined by the cosmos or cosmic mind; ie., determinism. And consequently, if utopia is to ever be achieved, those with the ability to see knowledge must rule over those who have the inability to transcend the material and are enslaved to it.  How do you reason with people hopelessly enslaved to the material? They either understand that they can’t know reality and get with the program, or you kill them.

According to the Reformers, utopia is achieved by understanding that all reality is interpreted through the cross of redemption. This concept was established by Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation and is known as being a “theologian of the cross.” Theologians of the cross are able to know the “cross story,” or interpret reality through the cross, and all others are enslaved to the “glory story” or the story of man. This is the dichotomy of the knowledge of good and evil, or material versus spiritual.

Furthermore, the Reformers believed that the new birth entailed the gift of outward seeing only. All goodness remains outside of man. This is the pious distinction they claim over their fellow Gnostics. Unlike Cerinthus, who would be the modern equivalence of existentialism, no good can be in man, because that does not limit knowledge to suffering and the cross. Even though the early church fathers believed that material is evil and only the invisible is good like all ancient Gnostics, they labeled those heretics who believed that the invisible spirit within man was a connection to the good. That was heresy in their minds. And if you really understand what John Piper et al believe in our day, NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

The true Christians of that day had a different metaphysical take: the material realm is NOT evil, it’s weak. Something that is weak can still be good. The born again Christian struggles with sin because he/she is weak, not because the material realm is inherently evil. Christ really did come adorned in humanity in every since of the meaning because the material is not evil. This understanding of being fits together with the true gospel.

But what Cerinthus et al was teaching speaks directly to what John wrote in his first epistle, and we have addressed some of it in John’s introduction. John, in essence, said the following: Christ was 100% humanity and 100% God. We saw Him, we heard Him, we touched Him, we saw Him die on the cross, there isn’t two Christs, there is only one.

What Cerinthus et al taught explains everything John wrote in this epistle and why he wrote it. It not only explains why John wrote what he wrote in 1:9 and 2:1, it sheds light on why John wrote what he wrote in the rest of the book as well.

And that is what we will look at next.  We will do a point by point fly over of 1 John while interpreting it according to this historical context of Gnosticism. John will address the definition of sin in contrast, the definition of knowledge and truth in contrast, the definition of the true gospel in context, the definition of love and hate in contrast, and the definition of the new birth in contrast.

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