Volume 2 -- February 1999 (49 pages)
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: Nazarene Saints Publishing© is a Bible research group for a better Scriptural understanding. We are dedicated to the preservation and publishing of Christian writings which aid Friends of the Nazarene© to "follow the Lamb no matter where the Lamb goes." (John 15:14; Revelation 14:4) The Friends of the Nazarene© are a spiritual community of Messianic Christians. We are apologists dedicated to the defense of the truth that "God is One" and not three. The Bible is our credo. We view this "God-breathed" book as inspired alone, while the thoughts of men about it are not. We wish to respect the views of our multitude of Christian brethren. (1 Peter 3:15) The Friends of the Nazarene© web page is www.nazarene-friends.org .]
IN THIS ISSUE ---
1. The Biblical Woman (Part Four): "Women and the Nazarene"
2. When Is Satan Cast Out of Heaven?
4. Thoughts on the Proverbs
5. Regarding Elders and Deacons
6. Annual Observance of the Lords Supper
7. Fundamentals Before Baptism?
8. Faith Perspectives: Babylon
9. H2O -- an Atheistic Forum?
10. 1999 -- Year End Letter from Mark Miller
The Biblical Woman
"Women and the Nazarene"
There can be no question that the Nazarene loved women. Indeed, the very purpose of his first manifestation was to save also that half of humankind that is female. (John 3:16; Matthew 20:28) During his ministry on earth Jesus came into contact with many women. Women featured in his parables. Women are in the contexts of certain important portions of the Christian Scripture. Women were healed by Jesus. Women were taught by him. Women followed him. In the end, one of our Lords final thoughts was about a "woman." A review of women and the Nazarene is thrilling and enlightening.
An Overview of "Women" in the Gospels
The word group "woman/women" occurs almost 100 times in the four Gospels. Christian women may be interested in the breakdown: Matthew, 22 times; Mark, 12 times; Luke, 43 times; and, John, 22 times. Clearly, we are going to find the Gospel of Luke of much interest to women for the good doctor deals with women two times as much as any of the other Gospels. It is also of interest that two particular letters of Paul deal with women the most: 1 Corinthians 25 times and 1 Timothy 11 times. We will review this in Part Five of The Biblical Woman.
There are less than a dozen women named in the Gospels, including Elizabeth, Anna, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, Salome, Joanna, Susanna. The Nazarene addresses only two women by name: Martha the sister of Lazarus and Mary Magdalene. He addresses all other women, including his own mother, as "woman" or "daughter." Though many touched Jesus, the Nazarene is reported to only have touched one woman, Peters mother-in-law. (Matthew 8:15)
Though women are described as "following" him, no woman is ever called a "disciple." (Matthew 27:55, 56; Luke 8:2; 23:49) The first woman named a disciple was Tabitha (Dorcas) in the Book of Acts. (Acts 9:36) Jesus chose no female among his Twelve Apostles, nor among the Seventy disciples he sent out to preach. No woman is ever seen alone with Jesus and his apostles at night in the mountains or at any other time when he is privately instruction his disciples. Despite the above women figure prominently in the Gospels. Consider three acquainted with the baby Jesus.
Three godly women and the birth of Christ
ANNA THE LOYAL
There is an elderly Biblical woman mentioned only in the Gospel of Luke -- Anna. She is
among the first to greet the babe Jesus.
"Now there was Anna a prophetess, Phan'u·el's daughter, of Ash'er's tribe (this
woman was well along in years, and had lived with a husband for seven years from her
virginity, and she was a widow now eighty-four years old), who was never missing from the
temple, worshipping night and day with fastings and supplications. And in that very hour
she came near and began returning thanks to God and speaking about [the child] to all
those waiting for Jerusalem's deliverance."
"Now there was Anna a prophetess, Phan'u·el's daughter, of Ash'er's tribe (this woman was well along in years, and had lived with a husband for seven years from her virginity, and she was a widow now eighty-four years old), who was never missing from the temple, worshipping night and day with fastings and supplications. And in that very hour she came near and began returning thanks to God and speaking about [the child] to all those waiting for Jerusalem's deliverance."
It is the natural biological necessity for most women to bear children and manage a household. Most lie to see grand-children and sometimes even great-grand-children. Anna looses her husband after seven years of marriage. Evidently she choose to be close to the worship of Jehovah at the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Anna is one of the handful of women called a "prophetess." (Exodus 15:20; Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; Nehemiah 6:14; Isaiah 8:3) In this context she is described as regularly "fasting" and "praying" during the worship cycles at the Temple. Surely as an aged women with much life experience she taught the younger women as Paul later directs. (Titus 2:3-5) As a "prophetess" we find her among the first to be "speaking" about deliverance through the new-born Christ. She remains, thanks to Luke, as an outstanding example of modern godly women of age. Anna is an example for those whose youthful vigor has faded and are now limited to only prayers and fasting as part of their worship.
ELIZABETH THE MOTHER OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
Another elderly woman is to be blessed in a special way. Elizabeth, wife of a dedicated
priest, becomes pregnant. She is to give birth to the forerunner of Messiah, John the
Baptist. Some believe Elizabeth was a cousin to Mary. The kind of gentle-lady she was is
described by Luke.
"Elizabeth (was) righteous before God because of walking blamelessly in accord with all the commandments and legal requirements of the Lord (YHWH). But (she) had no child, because (she) was barren, and (she was) well along in years. ... Elizabeth became pregnant; and she kept herself secluded for five months, saying: This is the way the Lord (YHWH) has dealt with me in these days when he has given me his attention to take away my reproach among men. ... So Mary rose in these days and went into the mountainous country with haste, to a city of Judah, and she entered into the home ... and greeted Elizabeth. Well, as Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the infant in her womb leaped; and Elizabeth was filled with holy spirit, and she called out with a loud cry and said: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! So how is it that this privilege is mine, to have the mother of my Lord come to me? For, look! as the sound of your greeting fell upon my ears, the infant in my womb leaped with great gladness. Happy too is she that believed, because there will be a complete performance of those things spoken to her from the Lord (YHWH)." (Luke 1:5-7, 14-17, 24-25, 39-45)
Elizabeth, kinswoman of Mary of Nazareth, is the only named woman to be described as being "filled with the holy spirit." Under such inspiration she speaks words which have become much used by members of the Catholic Church. Elizabeth recognizes Marys child is to be her Lord. Thus she is the first to address Jesus as "Lord." There is no sense of jealousy or envy regarding her own privilege to bear Messiahs forerunner.
MARY THE MOTHER OF THE LORD
No doubt the most important woman and mother in the Bible is Mary of Nazareth. There must have been very godly and serious reasons why this particular young woman was chosen by the God of heaven to give birth to the future Messiah. She becomes the "virgin" foretold by Isaiah 7:14 (LXX).
When told by the angel Gabriel how she was to be used by God, Mary responds humbly: "Look! The Lords (YHWH) slave girl! May it take place with me according to your declaration." (Luke 1:23-38) Some months later when Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth to share her joy, the virgin is inspired to declare:
"My soul magnifies the Lord (YHWH), and my spirit cannot keep from being overjoyed at God my Savior; because he has looked upon the low position of his slave girl. For, look! from now on all generations will pronounce me blessed; because the powerful One has done great deeds for me, and holy is his name; and for generations after generations his mercy is upon those who fear him. He has performed mightily with his arm, he has scattered abroad those who are haughty in the intention of their hearts. He has brought down men of power from thrones and exalted lowly ones; he has fully satisfied hungry ones with good things and he has sent away empty those who had wealth. He has come to the aid of Israel his servant, to call to mind mercy, just as he told to our forefathers, to Abraham and to his seed, forever." (Luke 1:46-55)
Mary recognizes that future generations will pronounce her as blessed. It did not take long before even some in Israel quickly began to place undue adoration on Mary. During the Nazarenes ministry one lady in the crowd cries out: "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts that you sucked! However Jesus corrects the woman, probably to her embarrassment, saying, "No, rather, Blessed are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!" (Luke 11:27-28)
Additionally there is an episode where Mary and her other children want to meet with Jesus. The Gospel reports: "While he was yet speaking to the crowds, look! his mother and brothers took up a position outside seeking to speak to him. So someone said to him: Look! Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak to you. As an answer he said to the one telling him: Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? And extending his hand toward his disciples, he said: Look! My mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. ... My mother and my brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it." (Matthew 12:46-50; Luke 8:21) The fact Jesus points to his disciples may well indicate Mary and his brothers were not "disciples." (Mark 3:21; John 7:5)
The Biblical record indicates Mary had other children, the texts calling Jesus "firstborn." How giving birth to the greatest man who ever lived has to take its toll in one way or another of such a woman. The tendency to take oneself too seriously and in affect overshadow her son would be a terrible temptation. It appears that Mary and her other children did not demonstrate their belief in Jesus during his life. (see above)
However, his mother is on the Nazarenes mind just moments before his death. Mary is present with other women at the execution of her son. John 19:26, 27 gives the eyewitness report: "Jesus, seeing his mother and the disciple [John] whom he loved standing by, said to his mother: Woman, see! Your son! Next he said to the disciple [John]: See! Your mother! And from that hour on the disciple [John] took her to his own home." These are among the last few words of the Lord. At his death he thought of a woman, his mother. Fifty days later Mary is seen gathered in Jerusalem at Pentecost at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:14) After this Mary is never mentioned again in the Christian Bible.
The Nazarene and Women
No teacher of the ancient world did more to liberate women than the Nazarene. This manifests itself in three primary ways:
First, Jesus taught that married men who lusted after a woman other than their wives were in serious, serious danger. (Matthew 5:28) By this the Nazarene elevated women above mere sexual objects whose sole purpose was to pleasure men. The heaven of the Nazarene is quite different than the paradise of Islam. While the Koran promises a multitude of virgins to those men attaining paradise, Jesus taught in the first resurrection there is no marriage. (Luke 20:35)
Secondly, the Nazarene liberates women by giving them also the right to divorce an adulterous husband. (Mark 10:12) This is something the Law of Moses did not permit, for only men could divorce their wives.
Finally, the Galilleans treatment of women in the Gospels demonstrates their equal opportunity for salvation before God. Let us consider some of the women the Nazarene came in touch with and the lessons we learn from him and them.
THE NAZARENE REBUKES HIS MOTHER
In the Gospel record we never find Jesus addressing Mary as "mother" save indirectly at his execution. (John 19:27) Early in his ministry there is a situation in the context of his first "sign" where he is with his mother and brothers at a wedding feast. (John 2:1-12) [NOTE: Though Jesus had sisters they are not included in these verses. (Matthew 13:56; Mark 6:3)]
The wedding feast has run out of wine and evidently his mother tries to direct her son Jesus either to perform a miracle or to somehow provide more wine. His response makes many wonder. John 2:3-5 record the exchange:"When the wine ran short the mother of Jesus said to him: They have no wine. But Jesus said to her: What have I to do with you, woman? My hour has not yet come. His mother said to those ministering: Whatever he tells you, do." This phrase, "What have I to do with you, woman?" is described as "An idiom; a repellent question indicating objection." The Hebrew idiomatic question occurs about a dozen times in the Bible. Twice it is asked by demons of Jesus. (Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28)
Showing the intent or meaning is how other scholars translate the phrase. Goodspeed: "Do not try to direct me. It is not yet time for me to act"; Torrey: "Trouble me not, woman; my hour has not yet come"; Knox: "why doest thou trouble me with that"; NEB: "your concern, mother, is not mine." Some think the mother of the Lord took herself too seriously and she errs in trying to direct her adult son who is now the Messiah. Jesus rebukes her and makes it clear that he is not to be controlled by any woman, including his mother.
A WOMAN WHO BREAKS THE LAW
"And a woman, suffering subject to a flow of blood for twelve years, who had not been able to get a cure from anyone. She had been put to many pains by many physicians and had spent all her resources and had not been benefited but, rather, had got worse. She kept saying to herself: If I only touch his outer garment I shall get well. She approached from behind and touched the fringe of his outer garment, and instantly her flow of blood stopped. Jesus recognized in himself that power had gone out of him. So Jesus said: Who was it that touched me? When they were all denying it, Peter said: Instructor, the crowds are hemming you in and closely pressing you. Yet Jesus said: Someone touched me, for I perceived that power went out of me. Seeing that she had not escaped notice, the woman came trembling and fell down before him and disclosed before all the people the cause for which she touched him and how she was healed instantly. But he said to her: Take courage, daughter, your faith has made you well; go your way in peace." (Matthew 9:20; Mark 5:25; Luke 8:43-48)
Why is the woman so frightened? One reason may well be that she realizes she is violating the Law of Moses by touching someone in her condition. (Leviticus 15:26) Jesus does not condemn her for this. We learn from the woman that there are times when the "weightier matters of the law such as mercy" may take precedence. We learn of a suffering woman, now poor from paying out to doctors, who possesses both faith and courage. Often the two go hand in hand. The Nazarene addresses her as "daughter" -- his own kin in the seed of Abraham.
A GENTILE MOTHER CHANGES THE LORDS MIND
There is only one case in the Gospels where a woman tells Jesus he is wrong. We turn
our attention to this with great interest. The account reads:
"And, look! a Grecian woman, a Sy·ro·phoe·ni'cian nationally came out and cried
aloud, saying: Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David. My little daughter is badly
demonized. But he did not say a word in answer to her. So his disciples came up and
began to request him: Send her away; because she keeps crying out after us. In
answer he said: "I was not sent forth to
any but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. First let the children be
satisfied. When the woman prostrated herself at his
feet, saying: Lord, help me! In answer he said: IT IS NOT RIGHT to take the bread of the children and throw it to
little puppies. She said: Yes, Lord; but really
the little dogs underneath the table do eat of the crumbs falling from the table of their
masters. Then Jesus said in reply to her: O
woman, great is your faith; let it happen to you as you wish. Because of saying this, go;
the demon has gone out of your daughter. And her
daughter was healed from that hour on.
"And, look! a Grecian woman, a Sy·ro·phoe·ni'cian nationally came out and cried aloud, saying: Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David. My little daughter is badly demonized. But he did not say a word in answer to her. So his disciples came up and began to request him: Send her away; because she keeps crying out after us. In answer he said: "I was not sent forth to any but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. First let the children be satisfied. When the woman prostrated herself at his feet, saying: Lord, help me! In answer he said: IT IS NOT RIGHT to take the bread of the children and throw it to little puppies. She said: Yes, Lord; but really the little dogs underneath the table do eat of the crumbs falling from the table of their masters. Then Jesus said in reply to her: O woman, great is your faith; let it happen to you as you wish. Because of saying this, go; the demon has gone out of your daughter. And her daughter was healed from that hour on.
Having said it was "not right" to take the bread intended for the children of the house and give it to "little puppies" our Lord turns right around and does what he said it was not right to do! The grieving mother, thinking not of herself, but only of her little daughter, is embolden by her motherly love to make the Nazarene change his mind. She does this respectfully, addressing Jesus as "lord" the equivalent of "sir" or "senor." She prostrates herself in the dirt at his feet even as Abigail did to David in the account about Nabal. She makes her plea humbly in public despite the rebuke of the Lords disciples. In the end it is her persistence and faith which turns the Nazarenes heart to make an exception in her case -- healing a Gentile girl he has never met.
A UNIQUE WOMAN PART OF THE GOSPEL
There is only one woman whom the Lord assures will forever be connected with the Gospel. The account has much to teach us:
"While Jesus happened to be in Beth'a·ny in the house of Simon the leper, a woman with an alabaster case of costly perfumed oil approached him, and she began pouring it upon his head as he was reclining at the table. On seeing this the disciples became indignant and said: Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a years wages and been given to poor people. Aware of this, Jesus said to them: Why do you apostles try to make trouble for the woman? For she did a fine deed toward me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want to you can always do them good, but you apostles will not always have me. For when this woman put this perfumed oil upon my body, she did it for the preparation of me for burial. Truly I say to you apostles, Wherever this good news is preached in all the world, what this woman did shall also be told as a remembrance of her." (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3)
The words of the Nazarene assured that this story would be part and parcel of the Gospel message throughout the world. And, just so it is recorded in two of the Gospels. There is a marvelous lesson taught by this woman and Jesus: an expensive gift may be used according to Gods purpose. Not all potential financial benefit need go to the poor. The value of this womans gift equaled a yearly wage. What must this amount to in modern exchange? And yet, at the same time, the poor are not to be overlooked.
A LOVING WOMAN FORGIVEN MUCH
One of the loveliest stories in the Gospels is the one of the "unwanted guest." The Nazarene has been invited to a feast prepared by a religious teacher who held himself above mankind in general. The unique account in Luke 7:36-40 reads:
"Now a certain one of the Pharisees kept asking him to dine with him. Accordingly he entered into the house of the Pharisee and reclined at the table. And, look! a woman who was known in the city to be a sinner learned that he was reclining at a meal in the house of the Pharisee, and she brought an alabaster case of perfumed oil, and, taking a position behind at his feet, she wept and started to wet his feet with her tears and she would wipe them off with the hair of her head. Also, she tenderly kissed his feet and greased them with the perfumed oil. At the sight the Pharisee that invited him said within himself: This man, if he were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman it is that is touching him, that she is a sinner. But in reply Jesus said to him: Simon, I have something to say to you. He said: Teacher, say it!"
Jesus tells the parable of two debtors. For our purposes let us say one owed $5,000 and the other $500,000. Both debts were canceled by the master. The question of the Nazarene to the self-righteous rabbi is, "Which of the two will love the master more?" Luke 7:43-50 continues:
"In answer Simon said: I suppose it is the one to whom he freely forgave the more. He said to him: You judged correctly. With that he turned to the woman and said to Simon: Do you behold this woman? I entered into your house; you gave me no water for my feet. But this woman wet my feet with her tears and wiped them off with her hair. You gave me no kiss; but this woman, from the hour that I came in, did not leave off tenderly kissing my feet. You did not grease my head with oil; but this woman greased my feet with perfumed oil. By virtue of this, I tell you, her sins, many though they are, are forgiven, because she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little. Then he said to her: Your sins are forgiven. At this those reclining at the table with him started to say within themselves: Who is this man who even forgives sins? But he said to the woman: Your faith has saved you; go your way in peace."
Some understand that where Jewish rabbis met for supper any might attend to hear Gods word. The presence of a prostitute is a bit much for the clergyman. He doubts Jesus as a prophet. Yet, as the Nazarene explains to him in an indirect rebuke, the Pharisee has failed in displaying love while "this woman" possessed the humility and love necessary to make such a public display of intimacy.
A BUSY WOMAN AND A SPIRITUAL ONE
Woman often understand more than men what goes into entertaining guests. Women also can get very nervous about all the affairs of preparing for hospitality. What is one to do if the greatest man who ever lived calls at your home? Again, it is the good doctor who tell us a unique story (Luke 10:38-42):
"Now as they were going their way he entered into a certain village. Here a certain woman named Martha received him as guest into the house. This woman also had a sister called Mary, who, however, sat down at the feet of the Lord and kept listening to his word. Martha, on the other hand, was distracted with attending to many duties. So, she came near and said: Lord, does it not matter to you that my sister has left me alone to attend to things? Tell her, therefore, to join in helping me. In answer the Lord said to her: Martha, Martha, you are anxious and disturbed about many things. A few things, though, are needed, or just one. For her part, Mary chose the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her."
We have to feel for Martha for her motives were as pure as her sisters. However, Mary demonstrates the importance of spiritual matters over the material even if it means to sacrifice some amenities. The lesson is eternal and in one manner or another is repeated over and over again around the world.
One notes later, after he brother Lazarus dies, it is Martha who rushes to meet Jesus declaring her faith in the resurrection. (John 11:11-26)
A SELF-SACRIFICING WIDOW
It is the good doctor again who tells a unique story of another woman and how she gave her all. Luke recounts the episode:
"Now as Jesus looked up he saw the rich dropping their gifts into the treasury chests. Then he saw a certain needy widow drop two small coins of very little value there, and he said: I tell you truthfully, This widow, although poor, dropped in more than they all did. For all these dropped in gifts out of their surplus, but this woman out of her want dropped in all the means of living she had." (Luke 21:1-4)
The Nazarene demonstrate his keen awareness and skill at observance as he notes the exact amount of the widows donation to the Temple. The coins are smaller and thinner than the fingernail on the little finger. The little lady demonstrates to us the need to trust to God and be willing to contribute toward Gods purpose even beyond our own security. Our Lord is fully aware of our own charity.
THE SAMARITAN WOMAN AT THE WELL
The Jews were under a heavy burden of does and donts which far beyond the original 600 laws of Moses. For example, rabbis did not engage women in spiritual discourse. Additionally, Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans who were considered demonized. (John 8:48) So, it is very unusual from the perspective of his own disciples to find the Nazarene chatting with a Samaritan woman. The beloved apostle John records the meeting. (John 4:7-30, 39-42)
"A woman of Sa·mar'i·a came to draw water. Jesus said to her: Give me a drink. (For his disciples had gone off into the city to buy foodstuffs.) Therefore the Sa·mar'i·tan woman said to him: How is it that you, despite being a Jew, ask me for a drink, when I am a Sa·mar'i·tan woman? (For Jews have no dealings with Sa·mar'i·tans.) In answer Jesus said to her: If you had known the free gift of God and who it is that says to you, "Give me a drink," you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water. She said to him: Lord, you have not even a bucket for drawing water, and the well is deep. From what source, therefore, do you have this living water? You are not greater than our forefather Jacob, who gave us the well and who himself together with his sons and his cattle drank out of it, are you? In answer Jesus said to her: Everyone drinking from this water will get thirsty again. Whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty at all, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life. The woman said to him: Lord, give me this water, so that I may neither thirst nor keep coming over to this place to draw water. He said to her: Go, call your husband and come to this place. In answer the woman said: I do not have a husband. Jesus said to her: You spoke well, ... For you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. This you have said truthfully. The woman said to him: Lord, I perceive you are a prophet. Our (Samaritan) forefathers worshipped in this mountain; but you (Jewish) people say that in Jerusalem is the place where persons ought to worship. Jesus said to her: Believe me, woman, The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you (Samaritan) people worship the Father. You (Samaritans) worship what you do not know; we (Jews) worship what we know, because salvation originates with the Jews. Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those worshipping him must worship with spirit and truth. The woman said to him: I know that Mes·si'ah is coming, who is called Christ. Whenever that one arrives, he will declare all things to us openly. Jesus said to her: I who am speaking to you am he. Now at this point his disciples arrived, and they began to wonder because he was speaking with a woman. ... The woman, therefore, left her water jar and went off into the city and told the men: Come here, see a man that told me all the things I did. This is not perhaps the Christ, is it? They went out of the city and began coming to him. ... Now many of the Sa·mar'i·tans out of that city put faith in him on account of the word of the woman. ... Consequently many more believed on account of what Jesus said, and they began to say to the woman: We do not believe any longer on account of your talk; for we have heard for ourselves and we know that this man is for a certainty the savior of the world."
By this moving and famous discourse we learn our Lord did not share the prejudice of his own religion -- the Jewish hatred of the Samaritans as demonized second class citizens. Also, the Nazarene does not share the rabbinical view that speaking to women about religious matters was verboten. Jesus is not going to be influenced by social or cultural attitudes toward women as well as others of different religious backgrounds.
We cannot fail but note that the much-married lady leaves her water jar at the well -- interrupting her duties -- and immediately reports to her own people the experience she has just enjoyed. Likely, the Samaritans, like the Jews, rejected the testimony of women, and so they had to see for themselves.
The Nazarene had stated he came only to "he lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:6; 15:24) but he stated after his resurrection he would draw all kinds of people. (John 12:32) Thus, later in the Book of Acts the Samaritans receive an official apostolic mission. (Acts 1:8; 8:1-17) Possibly this was the second of three "keys of the kingdom" given to Peter. (Matthew 16:19) Thus, we may give the credit to the Samaritan woman at the well to be the first evangelizer leading to the conversion of the Samaritans.
WOMEN AT THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS
Women play a strong and courageous part in the death and resurrection of Jesus the Nazarene. Though the personal apostles of Jesus seem to tremble in fear and remain aloof from any close proximity to the Lords execution, women are there throughout the entire process.
First, note the women present at the execution of the Lord: "Moreover, many women were there viewing from a distance, who had accompanied Jesus from Gal'i·lee to minister to him; among whom was Mary Mag'da·lene, also Mary the mother of James and Jo'ses, and the mother of the sons of Zeb'e·dee. (These woman) used to minister to him when he was in Gal'i·lee, and many other women who had come up together with him to Jerusalem." (Matthew 27:55, 56; Mark 15:41) No where does the account in the Gospels record that the Nazarenes male followers were so gathered to witness his death. The exception is the beloved apostle John. All the men fled and thus fulfilled the prophecy: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered about. (Matthew 26:31; Zechariah 13:7) Here the "sheep" are largely the males among the disciples of the Nazarene.
Next, it is largely women who are brave enough to handle and prepared the lifeless body
of Jesus for burial.
It is stated that it took courage for Joseph to ask for the body of Jesus. Just so, likely it took courage on the part of the various women to declare themselves in the matter of preparing the body of Jesus for burial. In this process they become iron-clad witnesses that Jesus was in fact dead for they had handled the corpse.
Finally, for reasons we will explain, it is women who are the first witnesses of our Lords resurrection. Again, while the male disciples are basically in hiding struggling with their doubts, it is the women who go to visit the tomb Sunday morning.
"After the sabbath, when it was growing light on the first day of the week, Mary Mag'da·lene and the other Mary came to view the grave. Mary Mag'da·lene, and Mary the mother of James, and Sa·lo'me bought spices in order to come and grease him. And very early on the first day of the week they came to the memorial tomb, when the sun had risen. And they were saying one to another: Who will roll the stone away from the door of the memorial tomb for us?
And, notice! a great earthquake had taken place; for the Lords angel had descended from heaven and approached and rolled away the stone, and was sitting on it. His outward appearance was as lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. When they entered into the memorial tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side clothed in a white robe, and they were stunned. The angel respounded to the women: Why are you looking for the living One among the dead? Do not you be fearful. Do not be stunned, for I know are looking for Jesus the Nazarene who was crucified. He is not here, for he was raised up, as he said. Come, see the place where he was lying. And go quickly and tell his disciples that he was raised up from the dead, and, look! he is going ahead of you into Gal'i·lee; there you will see him. Look! I have told you. So when they came out they fled from the memorial tomb, for trembling and strong emotion were gripping them. And they told nobody anything, for they were in fear. Quickly leaving the memorial tomb, with fear and great joy, they ran to report to his disciples. [ Mary, however, kept standing outside near the memorial tomb, weeping. Then, while she was weeping, she stooped forward to look into the memorial tomb and she viewed two angels in white sitting one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her: Woman, why are you weeping? She said to them: They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have laid him. After saying these things, she turned back and viewed Jesus standing, but she did not discern it was Jesus. Jesus said to her: Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for? She, imagining it was the gardener, said to him: Lord, if you have carried him off, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus said to her: Mary! Upon turning around, she said to him, in Hebrew: Rab·bo'ni! (which means Teacher!) Jesus said to her: Stop clinging to me. For I have not yet ascended to the Father. But be on your way to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and YOUR Father and to my God and YOUR God. Mary Mag'da·lene came and brought the news to the disciples: I have seen the Lord! and that he said these things to her. And, look! Jesus met (the other women) and said: Good day! They approached and caught him by his feet and did obeisance to him. Then Jesus said to them: Have no fear! Go, report to my brothers, that they may go off into Gal'i·lee; and there they will see me. They were the Mag'da·lene Mary, and Jo·an'na, and Mary the [mother] of James. Also, the rest of the women with them were telling the apostles these things. However, these sayings appeared as nonsense to them and they would not believe the women." (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:10, 11; John 20:11-18)
It is impossible to put in words the rapturous emotions which must have been occurring at this moment. Besides this, what is most exciting from a historians viewpoint is that the testimony of women was useless in a Jewish court. The fact all the Gospels testify that women were the original witnesses proves the account is genuine. If the story was a fabrication written much later it would seem the male authors would have contrived that the first eye witnesses were males. The accounts also are candid in admitting that the male disciples were in effect hiding out of fear. The Gospels have the powerful ring of truth and the above has not escaped the notice of recognized historians.
We also note that the angel tells the ladies to report to "his disciples" limiting these to males as no woman has previously been called a disciple.
These are the last mention of women in the Gospels. Though the important event of the ascension of Christ to heaven is reported, there is no Scriptural evidence that women witnessed this event. It seems to have been limited to only the eleven apostles. (Luke 24:33, 51; Acts 1:4-11)
[NOTE: Part Five in the March issue will consider the role of women in the early Nazarene Community.]
WHEN IS SATAN CAST OUT OF HEAVEN?
Our Lord the Nazarene saw a vision near the beginning of his ministry. He related this to his disciples when he said, "At that he said to them:I began to behold Satan already fallen like lightning from heaven." (Luke 10:18) And, near the end of his ministry, he says to his apostles, "Now there is a judging of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out." ( John 12:31) When was this "casting out" of Satan -- this falling from heaven -- to occur? Or, had it already occurred? Not every student of the Bible agrees when this momentous event leading to ultimate victory occurs. Some actually place it before Genesis 1:1. Others upon the ascension of Christ to heaven. There are a few who feel Satan was cast out of heaven in 1918 following World War One. How can we know? What will happen when the Devil is cast out of heaven?
An Apocalyptic Vision
Many are familiar with the grand vision of celestial victory recorded in Revelation 12:9-12. There the apocalyptic vision describes the ouster of Satan and his demonic angels from heaven itself. The beloved apostle John records what he saw:
"The great Dragon was thrown down,
the Old Serpent,
the one called The Devil and The Satan,
the one making the whole inhabited earth err.
The Dragon and his angels
were thrown into the earth."
How can we know when this event occurs? Few would argue that the context would help to determine this. Additionally, we are interested if there are related verses elsewhere in the Bible which might confirm the exact moment when Satan is hurled from heaven to the earth.
The three chapters of Revelation -- 11, 12, 13 -- have several things in common, not the least of which are: a) an identical time period with its source in Daniel chapters 7 and 12 -- 42 months, 1,260 days, or three and a half years; and, b) an oppression against the Saints during this same period. Suppose we were to combine the three over-lapping chapters in a single compound paraphrase called a conflate? These verses would read:
"(The nations) will trample the holy city (New Jerusalem) underfoot for forty-two months. And I will cause my two witnesses to prophesy a thousand two hundred and sixty days dressed in sackcloth. ... And the dragon grew wrathful at the woman, and went off to wage war with the remaining ones of her seed, who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus. ... And a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies was given (the wild sea beast), and authority to act forty-two months was given it. And it opened its mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme his name and his residence, even those residing in heaven. And there was granted it to wage war with the holy ones and conquer them, and authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation." (Revelation 11:2-3; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 13:5-7)
The entire vision finds its source in Daniel 7:21-25 and 12:1, 7 where it is an 11th
Small Power which oppresses the Saints for three and a half years. It is at the end of
this period that the Ancient of Days (represented by the Son of Man) becomes present with
the Saints of the Most High. Compare these verses with those we have read above:
"I kept on beholding when that the (11th Small Power) made war upon the Saints,
(He will speak even words against the Most High, and he will oppress continually the
Saints themselves of the Supreme One. And the Saints will be given into his hand for three
and a half years.) [And during that time Mi'cha·el will stand up, the great prince who is
standing in behalf of the sons of your people. And there will certainly occur a time of
oppression such as has not been made to occur since there came to be a nation until that
time. And during that time your people will escape, every one who is found written down in
the book.] And (the Small Power) was prevailing against the Saints, until the Ancient of
Days arrived and became present and judgment itself was given in favor of the Saints of
the Supreme One, and the definite time arrived that the Saints took possession of the
"I kept on beholding when that the (11th Small Power) made war upon the Saints, (He will speak even words against the Most High, and he will oppress continually the Saints themselves of the Supreme One. And the Saints will be given into his hand for three and a half years.) [And during that time Mi'cha·el will stand up, the great prince who is standing in behalf of the sons of your people. And there will certainly occur a time of oppression such as has not been made to occur since there came to be a nation until that time. And during that time your people will escape, every one who is found written down in the book.] And (the Small Power) was prevailing against the Saints, until the Ancient of Days arrived and became present and judgment itself was given in favor of the Saints of the Supreme One, and the definite time arrived that the Saints took possession of the kingdom itself.
Immediately before the "great oppression"
These verses harmony perfectly with the Nazarenes own prophecy about a "great oppression" on the Elect just prior to his foretold Parousia. In Matthew 24:29-31 our Lord prophesied:
"Immediately after the (great oppression) of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity."
This heaven sent rescue or deliverance would harmonize with Daniel 7:22 and 12:1. Is it fair to conclude that this three and a half year period of "great oppression" occurs just before the Return or Parousia of our Lord?
Who causes this "great oppression" against the Saints or Elect (the remnant of the womans seed)? Daniel lays the blame on an 11th "little horn" while the Revelation describes this same one as the wild sea beast. The Nazarene taught that his visible parousia or arrival would occur after the "great oppression" of three and a half years.
Now, in harmony with this, when would the Devil be cast out of heaven? And, once cast out, what would he do, using what agency?
Let us read a portion of the account in Revelation 12:7-17:
"And war broke out in heaven: Mi'cha·el and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels battled but it did not prevail, neither was a place found for them any longer in heaven. So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. ... Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time. Now when the dragon saw that it was hurled down to the earth, it persecuted the woman (the holy city New Jerusalem of 11:2) that gave birth to the male child. But the two wings of the great eagle were given the woman, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place; there is where she is fed for a time and times and half a time away from the face of the serpent. ... And the dragon grew wrathful at the woman, and went off to wage war with the remaining ones of her seed, who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus."
Is it fair to state that Satan is cast out before the period of three and a half years? Is it fair to state that Satan begins his war against the Remnant upon his ouster from heaven? If we move backward from the Return of Christ (the beginning of the Parousia) we first encounter three and a half years of Great Oppression against the Saints as Daniel foretold. It is the Devil who starts the "war" of oppression against those Saints living just three and a half years before the Parousia. Satan clearly uses the instrument of the wild sea beast (the same as the 11th Small Power in Daniel) as the persecutor of Gods people. Revelation 13:2 says, "And the dragon gave to [the beast] its power and its throne and great authority." This must happen upon Satans ouster from heaven.
When, then, is Satan to be cast out of heaven? That time is yet future as best we can judge. When the Devil is thrown down to the earth it is then that the great oppression begins through the instrumentality of the wild sea beast. Three and a half years follow at the end of which it appears Satan and his political instrument are victorious. But, suddenly at the height of the danger, Michael "appears" (See Daniel 12:1 Jewish Publication Society, Tanakh; Matthew 24:29, 30)) and "we the living" at that moment are snatched out of harms way in what has been called the Rapture. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; Daniel 12:1, 2; Matthew 24:31; 2 Thessalonians 2:1)
This Rapture occurs right in the prophetic context of Revelation chapters 11, 12, 13 at Revelation 11:2, 7, 12, "(The nations) will trample the holy city [New Jerusalem; compare Zechariah 14:12, 16] underfoot for forty-two months. ... The wild beast that ascends out of the abyss will make war with them and conquer them and kill them. ... And they heard a loud voice out of heaven say to them: Come on up here. And they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies beheld them." This must be the same as the phrase in Daniel 7:22, "Judgment itself was given in favor of the Saints of the Supreme One, and the definite time arrived that the Saints took possession of the kingdom itself." (Compare 1 Corinthians 15:50-52)
Now the phrase that the Devil knows his time is short makes great sense, for surely he is aware only three and a half years or more remain before his own judgment. For this reason he is extremely angry and that "woe for the earth" mainly falls upon those Saints living at this precise prophetic moment. His anger is vented against the Remnant of New Jerusalem. For some Saints this will mean the "sword" of martyrdom, for others imprisonment or concentration camps. (Revelation 6:9-11; 13:10) No matter how great this final holocaust upon Gods people, we are assured of ultimate victory by reason of our faith in the blood of the Lamb and our testimony regarding Jesus. (Revelation 12:11)
Surely we draw comfort from 1 John 5:18, "For the Son of God will guard (one God-born) that the Wicked One does not get a grip him." What a joy to know that when we undergo our "change" -- either by resurrection or rapture -- we will enter a heaven cleansed of the Devil and satanic powers!
THOUGHTS ON THE PROVERBS
[Wisdom Alludes Know-It-All]
Proverbs 14:6 -- "The ridiculer has sought to find wisdom, and there is none; but to the understanding one knowledge is an easy thing."
TRANS: RSV: knowledge is easy for a man of understanding; BAS: the hater of authority, searching for wisdom, does not get it; but knowledge comes readily to the open-minded man
CROSS REF: Proverbs 18:15
NOTE: Who does this one "ridicule"? Those who possess the guidance or experience to direct him on a course of wisdom -- but he not only does not listen to them, he ridicules them and as a result remains ignorant. Knowledge is easy to one with understanding not only for the reasons listed below but also because the understanding one is willing to submissive listen to those longer on the road of life than he.
Proverbs 14:7 -- "Go away from in front of the stupid man, for you will certainly not take note of the lips of knowledge."
TRANS: BER: leave the presence of a man who is a fool, for you will not discern words of knowledge there; NEB: avoid a stupid man, you will hear not a word of sense from him
CROSS REF: Proverbs 1:29; 13:20
WORD: The word "stupid" occurs 88 times in the Bible with the first occurrence at Deuteronomy 32:6 and the most occurrences in Proverbs, 49 times; it occurs only once in the Christian Bible at Romans 10:19. The word "stupid" occurs 5 times in this chapter: 14:8, 16, 24, 33.
NOTE: There is no use at all of giving a stupid person your audience for despite ridiculous assertions you will never gain useable knowledge. This is wasted time for one to listen or read the pronouncements of an atheistic philosopher. (Psalm 14:1)
[Real Sense and Real Folly]
Proverbs 14:8 -- "The wisdom of the shrewd is to understand his way, but the foolishness of stupid ones is deception."
TRANS: BER: the folly of fools is deceit; SPRL: injurious deception
CROSS REF: Proverbs 11:18 and 14:12 = deceit
NOTE: The wise are shrewd but not deceitful. The stupid are known by their deceit. The godless may use deceit in a self-style Socratic argumentation to prove God does not exist. Paul warns of vain philosophy in Colossians 2:8, "Be careful that nobody spoils your faith through intellectualism or high-sounding nonsense. He may set forth some human tradition, or some theory about the nature of the universe, but not the teachings of Christ." (PME, NOR)
Proverbs 14:9 -- "Foolish are those who make a derision of guilt, but among the upright ones there is agreement."
TRANS: RHM: the foolish scoff at guilt; KNX: fools make light of the guilt that needs atonement and leave honest men to enjoy the Lords favour; AAT: guilt has its home among fools; good will among the upright
CROSS REF: Proverbs 10:23 and Proverbs 30:20 = unity
NOTE: The foolish deriding guilt stands in contrast to the agreement among the upright. The fool, because of his moral insensibility has no standard by which to judge guilt in himself or others, and therefore ignores -- or is critical of laws -- judicial decisions which would pronounce guilt; whereas, the righteous, by adhering to correct standards have no difficulty in agreeing on what is wrong or guilty.
The upright or righteous must agree as to what is law or rules of conduct for society. Paul puts it, The law is not formed for the law-abiding, but for the law-breaker. The righteous need never fear law and thus they agree among one another as to what is truly right and wrong.
[The Inmost Heart]
Proverbs 14:10 -- "The heart is aware of the bitterness of one's soul, and with its rejoicing no stranger will intermeddle."
TRANS: MOF: the heart knows its own bitter misery and no outsider shares its joy; JB: the heart knows its own grief best
CROSS REF: Proverbs 15:13 = sympathy
NOTE: You must walk a mile in anothers sandals before understanding someones grief or joy. 1 Corinthians 2:11 is a good commentary on this verse. Often we say to someone grieved, "I know how you feel," when this is not likely. Better to say, "I sympathize with what you must be going through."
Proverbs 14:11 -- "The house of wicked people will be annihilated, but the tent of the upright ones will flourish."
TRANS: LXX: the houses of the wicked shall vanish but the tents of the upright shall stand
CROSS REF: Proverbs 3:33; 10:2, 3; 12:7; 13:22; 21:12
NOTE: Choose between an annihilated house or a flourishing tent. A house is stationary and generally safer than a tent. People who live in tents are either nomads or poor and they enjoy the freedom of easy movement but their dwellings are liable to storm or damage. It is better to live in an upright tent than a wicked house, particularly one gained by fraud or selfishness. Compare Jesus and Paul in their "unsettled" and homeless states as examples of the above. (1 Corinthians 4:11)
Proverbs 14:12 -- "There exists a way that is upright before a man, but the ways of death are the end of it afterward."
TRANS: JB: there is a way that some men think right; AAT: seems straight; NEB: may seem straightforward
CROSS REF: Proverbs16:25 and Proverbs 30:12 = delusion
NOTE: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." Have you ever met a person without an opinion? Have you ever met such a person with an opinion who thought the opinion wrong?
Proverbs 14:13 -- "Even in laughter the heart may be in pain; and grief is what rejoicing ends up in."
TRANS: SPRL: even in laughter the heart may be sad; LB: laughter cannot mask a heavy heart -- when the laughter ends, grief remains
CROSS REF: Ecclesiastes 2:2 = insane laughter; Ecclesiastes 7:2, 4 = stupid rejoicing
NOTE: "Laughing on the outside while crying on the inside." One must be sensitive and aware to discern the broken heart behind a cheerful smile. Perhaps, after public appearances with a front of laughter, this rejoicing ultimately turns to sadness when in private. Ask a business man how business and he will laugh and assure you it is great; while privately, as soon as you have left, his truly reality settles in. There may also be a hypocrisy behind a wide smile. This false front may mask the pain of jealousy when in the presence of the envied person but returns to inward grief.
[Table for One]
Proverbs 14:14 -- "The one faithless at heart will be satisfied with the results of his own ways, but the good man with the results of his dealings."
TRANS: KJ: backslider; JPS: dissembler; JB: unstable; AAT: perverse; LAM: insolent; KNX: incorrigible
CROSS REF: Proverbs 1:31, 32 = good man
NOTE: The unfaithful are self-satisfied, deluded into thinking their unbelieving course will lead to success whereas the good man, superior to the righteous man, can always be satisfied and happy with the way he has dealt with unfortunates. The materialists real problem is lack of faith otherwise he would be content with the results of the good man; but, because he doesnt really believe in the promises of God he becomes content with his selfish and materialistic way of life.
"Backsliding begins unseen in the heart. A slipping begins secretly and imperceptibly in his heart, while appearances on the surface are kept unchanged. He ceases to watch and pray. He admits vain thoughts, and gives them encouragement to lodge within him. Having no hunger for righteousness, he neglects the bread of life. When you see a man who was once counted a Christian standing shamelessly on a mountain-top of open impiety, or lying in the miry pit of vice, you may safely assume that he has long been worming his way in secret on the spiral slimy track by which the old serpent marks and smoothes the way of death." (Arnot pp 274-5)
REGARDING "ELDERS" AND "DEACONS"
Qualifications of Elders
[Reprint from Nazarene Community©]
#288.In the primitive church or ecclesia there were elders (older men) just as there were in the Jewish congregation. The Greek word translated overseer -- (NASB, NWT), bishop (KJ, ABUV), presiding officer (TCNT), superintendent (GDSP), minister (MON), pastor (WMS), leadership (NEB) -- is epi-scopes (ove4r + see/look). The word occurs in the plural at Acts 20:28 and Philippians 1:1; in the singular at 1 Timothy 3:1, 2; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 2:25. In two cases the word is associated with the word "shepherd."
#289. Some translators include the word "office" at 1 Timothy 3:1. (KJV, NASB, ABUV, ASV, GDSP, MON, WMS) Paul uses "overseer" as a synonym for "elder" (presbyterous). (Titus 1:5, 7) The same may be inferred in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 when Paul says the "overseer" should not be a neophyte. In the Jewish congregation men had to be 30 before embarking on priestly duties, the same age of the Nazarene when he began his own work. The word for "elder(s)" occurs more often. (1 Timothy 4:14; 5:1, 17, 19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1, 5; 2 John 1; 3 John 1) The word occurs often in relation to Jewish opposers of Jesus and the disciples.
#290. Several factors seem to characterize elders and overseers: teaching, age, leadership, pastoral care (shepherd). It seems likely these were appointed by the laying on of hands by representatives of the primitive church. The history of both words also indicate organization or arrangement just as they did in Israel. However, the teachings of the Nazarene emphasize the nature of service rather than ruling or lording it over others. Note this: "But Jesus, calling them to him, said: You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them and the great men wield authority over them. This is not the way among you; but whoever wants to become great among you must be your minister, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. Just as the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many." (Matthew 20:25-28 NWT)
#291. Indeed, the opposite of godly overseers are identified by Paul: "Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which He purchased with the blood of His own [Son]. I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves." (Acts 20:27-30 NWT)
#292. Evidently this did not mean the flock were to be disrespectful or ignore those setting the example among them as elders or overseers. Paul states the spiritual authority men had and encourages submissiveness. (Titus 2:15; Hebrews 13:7, 17)
#293. In order to be appointed to the office of "overseer" (or, elder) a man had to meet a number of qualifications or characteristics first. The following is a discussion of these based on 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-8.
1 Timothy 3:1-7 QUALIFICATIONS OF AN OVERSEER
1 Timothy 3:1 -- "If any man is reaching out for an office of overseer, he is desirous of a fine work."
#294.TRANS: NASB: aspires; ABUV: longs for; RHM: if anyone for oversight is eager; TCNT: Presiding Officer; GDSP: superintendent; NEB: to aspire to leadership. The New Jerusalem Bible: "To want to be a presiding elder is to desire a noble task." "It is quite true to say that a man who sets his heart on leadership has laudable ambition." (1 Timothy 3:1, PME)
#295. MARG: see Exodus 18:21 and Acts 20:28 = overseer; 1 Timothy 5:17 = hard work.
#296. NOTE: When Paul writes "any man," what kind of man does he mean? He means a Christian man -- a man already a serious, dedicated disciple of the Nazarene who has committed himself to the principle of John 14:15, "Anyone who loves me will observe my commandments." (John 15:14) Thus, this "man" has demonstrated in his life his obedience to several key commands of the Lord. So he has been living to a reasonable degree in observance of the 60-plus commandments of the Nazarene.
1 Timothy 3:2 -- "The overseer should therefore be:
(1) IRREPREHENSIBLE ---
#297.WORD: (Grk: anepilempton blameless)
MARG: see 1Timothy 5:7; 6:14 = unaccusable; Titus 1:6 = free from accusation.
#298. TRANS: ASV: be without reproach; TCNT: of blameless character; KNX: with whom no fault can be found; AMP: no grounds for accusation; LB: a good man whose life cannot be spoken against.
#299. NOTE: The reputation of the man who would be an overseer or elder must not be someone presently accused of a genuine wrong. This does not mean he must be perfect no more than Job was. (Job 1:8, 9; 2:3) It is to be expected that he will have the same war and struggle as Paul. (Romans 7:13-25) However, generally speaking, and to a reasonable degree, this man ought to be free from legitimate accusation; that is, a man with a good reputation in Christian living after the walk of Jesus.
#300. Paul received a "bad report" on occasion (2 Corinthians 6:8) and came in for his share of criticism (2 Corinthians 10:10) so it is understandable that detractors of certain responsible men in the limelight may be accused wrongly or with ill motive -- even attacked by false brothers (Galatians 2:4) -- and, therefore it is wise to evaluate carefully the source of any apparently unjust accusations by those with hidden agendas. Jealousy or contention may often be the underlying cause for an unjust accusation. Compare the cases of Job, David and Jesus.
(2) A HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE ---
#301.TRANS: NEB: faithful to his one wife; MOF: he must be married only once.
#302. NOTE: Regarding Moffatts rendering above, see 1 Timothy 5:9 where the worthy widow is "a wife of one husband." This expression infers she has been married only once. If the opposite is applied to the qualified overseer he could not be a divorced man married to more than one woman or wife.
#303. NOTES: Jesus had directed that his disciples should hold to God's original marital arrangement, one man for one woman. (Matthew 19:5, 6) Hence, no person could be baptized as a Christian until he ceased being a polygamist. Yet it was fitting for Paul to emphasize the matter as to elders, because polygamy had been allowed among the Jews and might prevail in lands where Christianity would spread. A new person associating with the congregation should be able to see from the example of the elders that monogamy, not polygamy, was the acceptable arrangement for Christians.
#304. But the phrase "husband of one wife" could imply more. At that time the prevailing moral laxity was reflected in easy, frequent divorces and remarriages.
"In the corrupt facility of divorce allowed both by the Greek and Roman law, it was very common for man and wife to separate, and marry other parties, during the life of one another. Thus a man might have three or four living wives; or, rather, women who had all successively been his wives." (The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, by Conybeare and Howson) It was to be different for a Christian. Only if his mate committed "fornication" (gross sexual immorality) would he be free to get a divorce and marry another. (Matthew 5:32; 19:9) The qualification of "a husband of one wife" would mean that an elder would set the example in not being a man who divorced a wife without Scriptural grounds and thereafter remarried.
Some scholars have understood 1 Timothy 3:2 to mean that an elder could not at all marry a second time. However, what Jesus had said earlier and what Paul elsewhere wrote indicate that remarriage was not wrong, so it would not make a man reprehensible or disqualify him from serving as an elder in the congregation. Recall that Paul wrote that widows (and, logically, widowers) would do better to marry than to burn with passion or become unoccupied meddlers. (1 Corinthians 7:8, 9, 36-39; 1 Timothy 5:13, 14)
#305. An elder's being "a husband of one wife" would also convey the thought of his being innocent of bigamy or adultery. He was to be morally irreprehensible in his married life, loyal and true to his wife. Thus, The New English Bible renders the verse in this way, the overseer "must be above reproach, faithful to his one wife." Consequently, by saying that an overseer must be "a husband of one wife," Paul, in a few words, was stressing from various angles the high moral example to be set by a married elder. Anyone should be able to look at him and sense that he was a living example of the elevated view of marriage found in genuine Christianity.
#306. NOTE: What kind of "wife" is this? The sudden appearance of verse 11 and the word "women" -- which also may mean "wives" in Greek -- makes no sense unless it lists minimal requirements of an overseers "wife" or a deaconness. [Though the later could have been covered by the following regarding deacons.] As in the case of the "any man" of verse 1, this "woman" could be expected to live up to the principle of the spirit of 1 Corinthians 14:30-33; Ephesians 5:33; 1 Timothy 2:9-15; Titus 2:3-5; 1 Peter 3:1-6. These qualifications below require (assuming a believing Christian woman) that same state mentioned in verse 1. (Compare Titus 2:3 and counsel to "aged women.") The following would be required of an overseers wife (or a deaconess).
[To be continued March 1999.]
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ANNUAL OBSERVANCE OF THE LORDS SUPPER
How fast the years fly! Each year we live with earnest expectation of the promised Return (Parousia) of our Lord. (Luke 12:35, 36) While we await in yearning hope for the Kings triumphant Appearing to the world, we are instructed by Paul -- as part of "the Lords commandment" -- to observe the celebration of the Lords Supper:
"For as often as you eat the Loaf and drink the Cup you continue to announce the death of the Lord until which (time) he arrives." (1 Corinthians 11:26; 1 Corinthians 14:37)
Clearly, if the Lord had already arrived in his foretold Parousia Christians would no longer be commemorating the death of the Lord by eating the Loaf and drinking the Cup because they would not be present with their Lord. Though some would argue this arrival is a personal one to take each individual home when he/she dies. However, Paul never uses the Greek elthe (come, arrive) in this manner.
Few Christians would argue that the Lords Supper need not be observed today. There is a wide range of opinion or viewpoint on when the Eucharist (Blessing), or Memorial, should be observed. This ranges from the Roman Catholics who observe Mass every day. Many denominations do this every Sunday. Others once a month. Others do so annually around the Jewish Passover. Still others feel Holy Communion (sharing) may be kept at any time while sharing a regular meal.
Can we determine by the Bible when the Lords Supper should be observed? It is the conviction of Friends of the Nazarene© that "memorial" should be observed only once a year, and this on the Biblical date of Nisan 14. Nisan 14 is essentially determined by the full moon closest to the spring equinox March 21. This year that falls on March 30-April 1 after sundown. What is the basis for this determination?
Why only once a year?
First, we ask when our Lord first instituted this commemorative observance of his sacrificial death? Few would argue this was Passover night, for the Nazarene himself says,"I have desired very much to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." (Luke 22:15) The tradition of this annual observance on Nisan 14 was then fifteen hundred years old. (Exodus chapter 12)
After having eaten the traditional Passover meal, our Lord started something new:
"And when the hour arrived he reclined at the table with his apostles. ... And taking up bread he gave thanks[eucharistesas] he broke it and gave it to them, saying, For this is my body given for you. This do in my memory. And after they ate (the bread), similarly with the cup, saying, This cup is the New Covenant by my blood shed for you." (Luke 22:14, 19, 20)
As a Jew celebrating this new emblematic communion meal it would be hard to argue these disciples did not understand they were to do this annually on Nisan 14, just as their Lord had instituted it. This would have been consistent with their own traditional past in annual festivals. Thus, when Paul uses the word "often" (Greek = HOSAKIS) in 1 Corinthians 11:26 he may have well meant yearly on Nisan 14.
Interestingly, such a celebration is missing from the Acts of the Apostles though some would want to place it there. They would argue that the disciples "breaking bread" is really describing the Lords Supper. Consider Acts 2:42, "But they were persevering in the teaching of the apostles and to communal sharing, to the breaking of the bread and to prayers." Again, at Acts 2:46, "And daily they were ... breaking of bread in their own homes." And once more, at Acts 20:7, "And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them." (NAS; compare also KJV, WMS; BECK, "On Sunday.") These are taken by some to prove the Lords Supper was celebrated more often than annually.
However, is it only fair to compare the exact wording in Acts 20:7? The Greek is, EN DE TE MIA TON SABBATON which means literally, "And on one of the sabbaths ... " (See the United Bible Societies Interlinear) Thus, it would seem this gathering to share a meal was on Saturday and likely, judging from the context, began in the evening. Thus, some versions render the Greek, "On the Saturday night ... " (New English Bible) On the other hand many feel this is Sunday. This is most interesting because the context reveals that this was on the Passover. It is possible -- though not absolute -- that this was Passover which may have fallen on Sunday evening that year. It is therefore a potential idea is that this was a meeting of the Lords Supper or Memorial, indeed in the evening -- on a Sunday which was also a sabbath for any day the Passover fell was a sabbath.
Also, it is only fair to determine what KLASAI HARTON ("break bread") means. Is it limited to the Lords Supper? (compare John 6:23) It seems a great leap to assume that the mere phrase "breaking bread" is automatically referring to the Lords Supper. After all, breaking breads was only half of the celebration. Why is not the drinking of the cup also mentioned? Many translations render the expression as a "meal" not inferring at all to the Lords Supper. (Beck, NWT)
The Historical Record
The Third Century Christian historian Eusebeias records a division which developed regarding Easter: "It was at that stage (189 AD) that a controversy of great significance took place, because all the Asian dioceses thought in accordance with ancient tradition they ought to observe the fourteenth day of the lunar month (Nisan 14,the day of the Passover full moon) as the beginning of the Paschal festival -- the day on which the Jews had been commanded to sacrifice the lamb: on that day, no matter which day of the week it might be. ... All of these kept the fourteenth day of the month as the beginning of the Paschal festival, in accordance with the Gospel. ... Anicetus could not persuade Polycarp not to keep the day (Nisan 14), since he had always kept it with John (the apostle) of our Lord and the other apostles with whom he had been familiar. ... We may point out to you they keep the feast on the same day (Nisan 14) as we do, for these send letters to them and they to us, to ensure that we keep the holy in harmony and at the same time." (THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH, Eusebius, pp -229-234)
M'Clintock and Strong agree: "The churches of Asia Minor celebrated the death of the Lord on the day corresponding to the 14th of the month Nisan, on which day, according to the opinion of the whole ancient Church, the crucifixion took place."
Another historian confirms: "The Christians of Asia Minor were accustomed to celebrate this sacred feast, commemorative of the institution of the Lord's supper, and the death of Jesus Christ, at the same time when the Jews ate their Paschal lamb, namely on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month. For . . . they considered the example of Christ possessing the force of law; and, as is equally manifest, they did not conceive our Savior to have anticipated the Passover, . . . but that the Paschal lamb was eaten by him and his disciples on the same day on which the Jews . . . were accustomed to eat theirs." (J. L. von Mosheim History of Christianity, the First Three Centuries (Vol. 1, p. 529))
Therefore, the historical tradition is very strong in confirming the early Christians in the first two centuries observed the Lords Supper only once a year on the Jewish Passover date of Nisan 14 which begins at sunset and full moon-rise.
==== END ====
"God now speaks to us by a Son." (Hebrews 1:1)
Some wonder what is required of a person who wishes to become a baptized disciple of Jesus the Nazarene. How much must the person know, understand or have come to learn. Must the willing disciple only agree to such "fundamental" points as recognizing Gods existence, the place of the Son in His purpose, and, acknowledging that one is a sinner.
Some will claim there are no "fundamentals" and teach that doctrine is unimportant. While claiming that few beliefs beyond God and Jesus are non-essential they speak in abstraction about nebulous understandings as if as long as they were kind and loving it mattered little what they believed as to what Jesus and his inspired disciples taught.
John 6:45 --"Everyone that has heard from the Father and has learned comes to me."
In order to "come to the Son" one must have "heard" from the Father and then "learned." What would one have "heard" from the Father? How and where would this information be found. Is it fair to conclude that this would be in what Jesus called the "truth" when he said, "Your word is Truth." (John 17:17) Jesus himself demonstrate how one hears from the Father by quoting and alluding to a great sum of those words found in the inspired Hebrew Scriptures.
John 6:63-64 --"The sayings that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life."
The sayings of Jesus Christ are a matter of life. In the Gospel of John alone those "sayings" amount to many thousands of words and cover a wide range of subjects. If we include those sayings in the other three Gospels and their thousands of words spoken by Jesus we have certain clear subjects:
(Matthew 4:17; 5:3, 10, 19, 21; 6:10, 33; 7:21; 8:11, 12; 10:7; 11:11, 12; 13:11, 19, 24-30, 33, 36-52; 16:19, 28; 18:1-6, 23-25; 19:12, 14, 23, 24; 20:1-16; 21:31, 43; 22:2-14; 23:13; 24:14; 24:29-25:46; 26:29; Mark 1:15; 4:11-20, 26-32; 9:1; 10:14, 15, 23-27; 12:34; 14:25; Luke 4:43; 6:20; 7:28; 8:10-15; 9:27, 60, 62; 11:2; 12:31-48; 13:18-21, 28, 29; 14:15; 16:16; 17:20-37; 18:16, 24-30; 19:11-27; 21:31; 22:16-18, 29, 30; 19:11-27; 21:31; 22:16-18, 29, 30; John 3:3-5; 18:36)
(Matthew 10:15; 11:22, 24; 12:36, 41, 42; 13:36-43; 22:30; 23:33; Luke 10:14; 11:31, 32; John 3:17, 19; 5:24, 29; 12:47-50; 16:8, 11)
(Matthew 24:27, 37-25:46; Luke 17:20-37; 19:11-27)
(Matthew 22:23-32; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 14:14; 20:27-39; John 5:29; 6:39, 40, 44, 45; 1124-26)
Tribulation (Great Oppression)
(Matthew 24:21, 29; Mark 13:19, 24)
(Luke 19:9; John 4:22)
The above "sayings" deal with what our Lord calls "doctrine." (John 7:17 KJV) These involve prophecies and chronology of events. Surely one who is to embark on the course of discipleship must know what his Master teaches. The other major subject in the teachings of the Nazarene deal with what is involved in "following the Lamb no matter where he goes." (Revelation 14:4)
(Matthew 6:30; 8:10, 13, 26; 9:22, 28, 29; 14:31; 15:28; 16:8; 17:20; 18:6; 21:21, 22; Mark 4:40; 5:34, 36; 9:23; 10:52; 11:22-24; Luke 7:9, 50; 8:25, 48, 50; 12:28; 17:9, 50; 18:8, 42; 22:32; John 3:16, 18, 36; 6:29, 35, 40; 7:38, 39; 9:35; 11:25, 26; 12:36, 37, 42, 46; 14:1, 12; 17:20)
(Matthew 5:43, 44, 46; 6:24 19:19; 22:37, 39; 24:12; Mark 12:30, 31; Luke 6:27, 32, 35; 7:42; 10:27; 11:42, 43; 16:13; John 5:42; 7:42; 8:42; 13:34, 35; 14:15, 21, 23, 24, 31; 15:9, 10, 12, 13; 15:17; 17:26; 21:15, 16)
(Matthew 6:12, 14, 15; 9:2, 5, 6; 12:31, 32; 18:21, 22, 35; 26:28; Mark 2:5, 9, 10; 3:28, 29; 4:12; 11:25; Luke 5:20, 24; 7:47-49; 11:4; 12:10; 17:3, 4; 23:34; 24:47; John 20:23)
(Matthew 5:42; 7:6, 11; 10:8, 42; 17:27; 19:21; 20:28; 24:45; 25:37; Mark 8:3; 9:41; 10:21, 45; Luke 6:30, 38; 9:13; 11:13, 41; 12:33, 48; 19:26; 22:19; John 4:14; 6:32-37; 10:28; 11:22; 14:16, 27; 16:23; 17:8, 22)
(Matthew 5:6, 10, 20; 6:1, 33; John 16:8, 10)
(Luke 5:32; 15:7; 24:47)
John 7:16-17 --"What I teach is not mine, but originates with Him who sent me. If anyone desires to do His will, he will know the teaching that is from God."
If one is to do the will of God, first one must know the teachings of Christ.
John 8:31-32 --"If you remain in my word (my sayings, my teachings), you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
To be a disciple of the Nazarene one must know the truth as revealed in the "word" (sayings, teachings) of the Lord.
John 8:51 --"Most truly I say to you, If anyone observes my word, he will never see death at all."
Not only must one know the word of the Lord but it must also be "observed" or kept.
John 12:48 --"The word that I have spoken is what will judge him in the last day."
It is the "word" (sayings and teachings) that will judge the Christian on Judgment Day. If one rightly wants a favorable judgment then it follows that it is only the course of wisdom to study and know the word the Nazarene spoke.
John 14:15 --"If you love me, you will observe my commandments."
Love for our Lord is demonstrated by observance of his commandments. A consideration of the "word" of the Nazarene in the Gospels will demonstrate at least 60 such "commandments." (See the on-line booklets, Nazarene Mountain Teachings© and Nazarene Commandments©.)
John 14:23-24 -- "If anyone loves me, he will observe my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our abode with him. He that does not love me does not observe my words; and the word that you are hearing is not mine, but belongs to the Father who sent me."
If one wishes the love of Christ and his Father one must observe his "word" (sayings, commandments, teachings). Those who do not observe this "word" cannot claim to belong to Christ.
John 14:26 --"The helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you."
Additional teachings were to be revealed to the apostles and these are presented in additional portions of the New Testament.
John 15:10 --"If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have observed the commandments of the Father and remain in his love."
In order to remain in the love of Christ one must continue to observe his "commandments" which infers a knowledge of these.
John 15:14 --"You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you."
Friendship with the Lord is only maintained by obedience to the commandments of the Nazarene. These are not suggestions or mere opinions, they are the regulations of the King.
John 16:13 --"When the spirit of the truth arrives, he will guide you (apostles) into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming."
The arrival of the "spirit of the truth" will guide the apostles by inspiration into ALL THE TRUTH including certain prophetic elements regarding the future.
John 17:20-21 --"I make request, not concerning these (apostles) only, but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word so that they may all be unified."
Not only is the "word" of the Nazarene vital to life and salvation, so also is that "word" to which the spirit of truth will guide these inspired men. One cannot come to belief and conviction in Christ outside the "word" of the apostles which have now appeared in the complete New Testament.
This would surely include the beloved Johns first letter where he stresses the importance of the "doctrine of Christ." (2 John 9 KJV)
2 John 9-11 -- "Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching (doctrine) of the Christ does not have God. He that does remain in this teaching (doctrine) is the one that has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works." There is a "teaching" (or, doctrine) to "remain in." In order to do so one must know what this doctrine is. Surely it is composed of the sayings of Jesus, as well as writings of his inspired disciples moved by the promised Pneuma.
More Nazarene Teachings Revealed in Apostolic Letters
The rest of the New Testament --
Romans 6:17 -- "You became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching (form of doctrine; type of teaching) to which you were handed over." There was a certain form or type of teaching which characterized the Gospel.
Romans 16:17 -- "Keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling contrary to the teaching (doctrine) that you have learned, and avoid them." Paul does not tolerate those who would deviate from the Gospel he preached under the guidance of the pneumatic helper Jesus promised. (John 14-16)
Ephesians 4:13-14 -- "Until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ; in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error." Paul mentions this process of growth Church-wide in 1 Corinthians 13:11,
1 Timothy 6:2-4 -- "Keep on teaching these things and giving these exhortations. If any man teaches other doctrine and does not assent to healthful words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor to the teaching that accords with godly devotion, he is puffed up [with pride], not understanding anything." Paul categories two classes of teaching: that which is attributed to the Nazarene; and, that which resulted from the inspiration of his disciples. In other words, the New Testament is the basis for judging unhealthy "doctrine."
2 Timothy 3:16 -- "All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching." This "scripture" would include what Timothy was reared on, the Hebrew Bible; and, those later "Scriptures" Peter mentions, including Paul. (2 Peter 3:16) Thus Christian teaching involves "all Scripture."
Hebrews 6:1-3 -- "For this reason, now that we have left the primary doctrine about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying a foundation again, namely, repentance from dead works, and faith toward God, the teaching on baptisms and the laying on of the hands, the resurrection of the dead and everlasting judgment. And this we will do, if God indeed permits." Here Paul lists six primary doctrines beyond which the Christian is to grow to maturity:
a. Repentance from dead works -- before baptism one would need to understand repentance and likely already "produce fruits befitting repentance." (Luke 3:8)
b. Faith -- before baptism one must have declared faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God -- the "Lord" and King. (Romans 10:9, 10)
c. Baptism -- spirit and water: Jesus himself said that one must be born of water and spirit to enter the "realm of profession" under his rule as Lord.
d. Laying on of hands -- with baptism one has hands laid upon him or her. Likely prior to baptism it would be wise to understand from where this authority comes. The "laying on of hands" implies some authority, not only with regard to the baptism itself but also in matters of later appointments to positions within the Church. (Acts 6:6; 8:17, 18; 13:3; 19:6; 1 Timothy 4:14; 5:22; 2 Timothy 1:6) So there is some degree of recognition on the part of the one being baptized that there is some order and arrangement within the Church.
e. Resurrection -- The very root of the Gospel is the resurrection of Christ and all that this implies. Certainly the person reaching baptism would have come to know of Jesus resurrection and those teachings related to it.
d. Judgment day -- Surely in examining the "doctrine of Christ" one learns about Judgment Day, for our Lord taught such. One learns about the parousia-judgment of the Church upon the Return of Lord Messiah. Knowledge of judgment implies an understanding of what is needed to attain to a "resurrection to life" as opposed to a "resurrection of judgment." (John 5:29; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 John 2:28) Much of this would relate to the Christian walk in the "fruitage of the spirit" (Galatians 5:22, 23) as well as the life-long determination to "perfect holiness in the fear of God." (2 Corinthians 7:1)
As Paul wrote in Hebrews 6:1 that new Christians would continue to develop in maturity. Hebrews 5:11 - 6:1 counsels: "Concerning (Christ) we have much to say and hard to be explained, since you have become dull in your hearing. For, indeed, although you ought to be teachers in view of the time, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the primary principles of the Words of God; and you have become such as need milk, not solid food. For everyone that partakes of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong. For this reason, now that we have left the primary doctrine about the Christ, let us press on to maturity." Thus Paul identifies what he calls "the primary principles" which a new Christian ought to learn.
When occasions arouse in the early church to unify the widely scattered small home churches letters were carried by representatives of the ruling (Hebrews 13:7, 17) body of elders to be observed by all these churches. These letters were not suggestions but dogmatic and resulted in growth. (Acts 16:4, 5; compare the Greek dogmata)
WHAT PRECEDED BAPTISM IN THE EARLY CHURCH
In the several cases recording the baptisms of individuals and crowds it is noted that generally a talk preceded the immersion ceremony. Baptism was a "saving" act and deserved some thought and education. (1 Peter 3:21) On this matter consider: Acts 2:14-41; 8:26-38; 10:1-43; 16:33-35; 17:24-35.
Judging from those texts above new disciples approaching for baptism were first instructed to a degree in "the primary doctrine of Christ." For this reason the publication Nazarene Principles© was created. It is a Bible primer on the basic teachings of Jesus and their sources in the Hebrew Scriptures as well as commentaries by his inspired disciples. This small book covers the "seven principles" outlined in the Lords Prayer. In 350 footnotes and hundreds of Bible citations the central truths unique to Jesus Christ are presented in an easy to understand manner.
In addition, as a companion to this Bible study aid, the manual Nazarene Community© discusses the order of the first Church and those characteristics needed to preserve its harmony and unity. "Unity" is a familiar subject to both Jesus and Paul. The Nazarene prayed: "In order that they may be one just as we are." (John 17:11) And Paul strongly counsels the fragmented Corinthian church:
Despite this godly direction both Jesus and Paul predict a future fragmentation of the original true church. The Nazarene does this in his parable of the sower. (Matthew chapter 13) Right in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says: "For first of all, when you come together in a congregation, I hear schisms exist among you; and in some measure I believe it. For there must also be heresies among you, that the persons approved may also become manifest among you." (1 Corinthians 11:18-19)
[This is a forum for the free expression of faith and conviction no matter the view or opinion. You are welcome to submit anything in good taste, respectful, and mannerly.]
"The Greatness That Was Babylon"
Even the "Gilgasmesh" account is believed to have come from the "Atrahasis" stories, known to the Babylonians as "inuma-ilu-awilum." There are Old Babylonian and New Assyrian (dynasties) clay fragments that center around a flood story: It is in three tablets, of which the first has not been identified. This version is in some respects fuller than the flood story in "Gilgamesh", for it makes clear the motivation on the god, Enlil's decision to destroy mankind utterly. (page 187)
One may also note that their are many dissimilarities between the "flood" of the OT and the "epic". The book also states that a Prof. S.N. Kramer has demonstrated that a number of Sumerian stories underlie this "Epic".
So, just to say that we would doubt the veracity of the OT flood accounts because of earlier writings would be in error. No one knows who influenced who and one could reasonably speculate that the Semites (Hebrews) may have had oral traditions that were passed down until parchment writing began. We also know that this can be a reliable method as humans have been noted to have amazingly accurate memories in cultures that had no writing. Also, if the OT was so influenced by these previous "epics" then why aren't all of the stories therein
similar to those epics? The truth is, very little in the epics are even close to similar!
Critics of the OT have also noted the Mesopotamian influences in Nahum and the Song of
Songs (see the book, "Canticles of Tammuz"). this need not prevent a Christian
from finding a spiritual value in these Bible books. (page 486) Were the Bible writers
just "stenographers", writing word for word what God said? Might they have
written in their own words the message conveyed by divine inspiration?
It is interesting how the Hebrew's language was influenced by other cultures. For example, in Genesis 4:7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door. "Couctheth" is in Hebrew,, ro'bes, which (allowing for vowel changes) is the exact equivalent of Ra'bisu, the name of a Babylonian demon. so this passage could also read as, "the croucher-demon (sin) is lurking at the door."
Another example of this is found in Isaiah 34:14, "The night-monster shall settle there, and shall find her a place of rest." The Hebrew word for "night-monster" is "Lilit", which is remarkably like the Akkadian "Lilitu", a much-feared female demon. (page 485)
As a side note, the books tells us that Tyre fell in 571 BCE. and Egypt was also invaded and laid desolate, just as Ezekiel foretold and was later confirmed by Herodotus. (pages 143, 144)
So, in conclusion, some here have continually used "historical facts" as one basis of ridiculing Christian's faith in the Bible as the "Word of God" and thereby have called our beliefs "ridiculous", but if we take time to do a little research we will see that their claims are just as speculative as they accuse ours of being! They cannot prove us wrong in our faith but can only seek to confuse us by "splitting hairs "with words using their tenets of evolution and "alleged" logical thought.
A LOOK AT THE INTERNET:
"H2O -- ATHEISTIC AND SKEPTIC FORUM
OPPOSED TO CHRISTIANS!"
There are numerous web page forums and discussion groups aimed at Bible Students, Free Bible Students, Jehovahs Witnesses, Friends of the Nazarene, and any other group which believe in Bible Truth and God. Some are Trinity-driven and regular posters there will pounce on anyone who is not a Trinitarian. Others are Atheist/Skeptic-driven and though their professed agenda is to aid persons trapped in so-called "cults" (by their own narrow definition) their real purpose is to oppose Christianity -- and any other religious person, including Jews and Moslems who believe in one God.
Each of these forums have "regulars" -- usually only a handful of vocal and impolite self-appointed thinkers. Any honest and sincere person just posting a link or an article on God, the Bible, faith and Christianity, will be instantly pounced upon. If the poster does not agree with this attack they are then verbally lashed with "insulting language" or "insulting manners." One of these atheistic-driven forums is H2O.
Recently an xJW posted on H2O a link to an interesting web page dealing with Biblical archaeology confirming the Scriptures. This thread lead to several other postings by others providing only links to faith-building sites. No accusations or attacks were made or intended against these skeptics. This simple posting of links led to a burst of virulent bile against the Christian posters. Consider just the "insulting language" which occurred in one day:
Atheist/agnostic/skeptic "insulting language" and "insulting manners" against those who believe in God -- Christians, Jews, Moslems, and others:
"loose all thinking ability"
"the likes of you"
"amazing you can manage to think"
In the process of this debate the Christian apologists began repeating the many examples of "insulting language" and "insulting manners" (admitted by the prideful skeptics). These are some of the "insulting language" above. Then the Christian posters were attacked for this! They were accused of not being Christian. Jesus was attacked. One poster suggested the world would be a better place as an "atheistic society" and praised Marx, Stalin, and Mao more than Jesus who they blasphemed. As you can see from the list above -- occurring in one 24 hour period -- this list was added to as the attacks continued. This method of revealing real "atheistic colors" was then attacked in similar language. These insults were only because we recorded the attacks of the atheists and skeptics:
"up your ... "
"no honest answers"
In addition to the above one atheistic poster included this blasphemous song:
I'm an atheist
and I'm OK
I sleep all night
and I work all day
I cut down faith,
eat Christians for lunch,
I go to the lavat'ry
On Wednesdays I go shopping
And have bitter lies for tea
I cut down faith,
I wail and lie
I have sordid tales to tell
I put on pagan clothing
And wait around for hell
I cut down faith,
I wear shaggy beards
Suspendies and a bra
I hope I never meet with
My Heavenly Papa
One wonders why H2O does not do something about this. Why should they? Read their own rules for posting on their forum:
"The stated purpose of this site is for
positive discussion among
Jehovah's Witnesses and other interested persons. All such ones are
encouraged to express thoughts, ideas, and concerns related to any
aspect of worship of our heavenly Father, Jehovah God. As part of the
effort to create an environment that promotes a strong relationship with
Jehovah as well as a thirst for deeper, relevant understanding of his
word, the scope of topics will be limited by disallowing the following:
Posts that ridicule anyone who chooses to worship Jehovah in association
with the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society.
Posts that aggressively attempt to draw others away from serving Jehovah
by promoting trinitarian
How can H2O ever expect to help doubting Bible Students or JWs. What those in de facto control of the forum really want is a godless and irreligious world. When it was suggested which choice would be better: a world under godless communism or Christian democracy, the former was the choice.
In view of the changed agenda of H2O some of us would not recommend this forum for posters or lurkers. Perhaps the moderators and webmasters at H2O will try to regain control and return the forum to what it was formerly.
There are forums where Christians may discuss their beliefs, doubts, fears, and victories without being bombarded by the "insulting language" mentioned above. Perhaps the best of these is Free Bible Students Discussion Forum: http://www.cqlcorp.com/fbs/forums/discuss/ . The atmosphere is loving and helpful -- and though on rare occasion one may be misunderstood -- it is truly an oasis in a cyberspace desert.
Friends of the Nazarene© -- a Spiritual Community of Messianic Christians©
1998 YEAR END LETTER FROM MARK MILLER
OUR FATHERS LOVING CARE!
Years flash by fast and suddenly yesterday is 60 years long. In all these 60 years I have learned one important thing: God takes care of those who love Him. (1 Peter 5:7) Perhaps, my 60th year has become the best of them all. My own faith is stronger than ever.
The key event occurred in August when my JW sister essentially said she wanted to "get on with her life" and this did not include her "apostate" brother. I trusted completely in our Father. I knew though my sister bought out my interest in my mothers mobile home there was no way that I could care for myself without the support of family members or friends. I prayed intensely about my needs and little did I realize how the Father would move others (whether they knew this or not) to share His own help.
Help did materialize in a wondrous manner from persons largely unknown to me. As a result I was able to cover the expenses of my small travel trailer here in an RV park through August and September. This timely aid also helped cover doctor and medical expenses. A kind person loaned me the use of a car. Before that I had used only a bicycle which caused me considerable inconvenience. (Though I thank our Father for it.)
As Octobers rent grew close -- within a few days on the 15th -- I found myself fretting over this worry. I chastised myself for not trusting completely in our Father. I prayed more earnestly. Suddenly, completely out of the blue -- my oldest daughter, after five years of silence -- contacted me by email. Our messages to one another helped cure old feelings and problems. She volunteered on her own without my encouragement to send me the funds to cover the rent and utilities. On exactly the 15th the funds appeared. I had to thank God profusely and begged His forgiveness for wavering in my concerns. (Matthew 6:20-34)
Of course November rolled around and I prayed once again. The next day a good friend from the Internet posted me wanting to know exactly what my situation was. He wanted a list of my needs. Since I had prayed for His help I could not turn down help when it arrived. He lovingly let others know of my needs and thanks to about a dozen people, none of whom I have ever met, help in many forms arrived. Also, an elderly couple who had been in desperate need for winters utilities some years back, suddenly came into some money and wanted to return the favor.
Of course, here it is nearing December 15 again. I once again prayed and once again my prayers were answered almost instantly. One couple wanted to take care of my phone and Internet Provider expenses. Others, some anonymous, sent unsolicited help and now I again have the funds for this months rent and utilities. I will worry about January 15 on the 17th. (Oops, there I go again.)
There was one little story that caused me to rejoice. Again in desperate need for some medical prescriptions I prayed most earnestly. It would require about $50. The next day my daughter on Maui sent me some Christmas presents including a nice new $50 bill. I was dumbfounded but rejoicing. The next morning I had lost the money. I was panicked. I look high. I looked low. No where! How could this happen if God provided? But, then I thought perhaps I lost it and some soul more needy than I found it. I prayed to our Father and expressed this thought. I asked if it was His will that I should need and use these funds, so be it. If, on the other hand, the lost money aided another, then so be it. I prayed somehow God could help my slow brain. I searched again. Nothing. I prayed again. A friend drop by to visit and as we talked one thing kept passing through my mind: the trash dump out side. The trash dump outside. The trash bin. Finally, I interrupted my visitor and said I had an unusual request. I told him my story and asked if he would boost me up into the big Dewey bin. Turns out there were a dozen black trash bags like my own. So, I searched, opening bag after bag to find my own trash. The last black bag, I tore the plastic and find my own trash. I began removing papers and packaging material -- and -- bingo! There was a much crumpled up $50 dollar bill! My friend could not believe it. I was reminded of the Nazarenes parable. (Luke 15:8, 9)
Is not all of this truly from God who moved certain ones to such charitable kindness? (Matthew 25:40) I give all the praise and credit to our Father who by means of His Son and the holy Pneuma cares for us so richly. I am reminded of Pauls own confession in Philippians 4:10-13 --
"I do rejoice greatly in [the] Lord that now at last you have revived your thinking in my behalf, to which you were really giving thought, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I am speaking with regard to being in want, for I have learned, in whatever circumstances I am, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to be low [on provisions], I know indeed how to have an abundance. In everything and in all circumstances I have learned the secret of both how to be full and how to hunger, both how to have an abundance and how to suffer want. For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me."
The last verse is often given rather wide interpretations regarding "all things." Paul is really speaking of his ability by Gods power to be self-sufficient whether low on provisions or possessing an abundance. Paul was a "homeless" person who relied on the charity and hospitality of others to continue his commission from the Risen Lord. (1 Corinthians 4:11; 9:1-14)
There are some who have remained anonymous (Matthew 6:1-4) in their kind giving. I wish to thank these and all others for their charity which I accept as from our God and Father.
MEMORIAL MARCH 30 AND FBS WESTERN CONFERENCE
The annual observance of the Lords Supper will be celebrated in southern California on the evening of March 30. By a happy coincidence the Free Bible Students have their four-day Western Believers Conference in San Bernardino in this first week of April. Any who plan to attend this milestone Memorial please let me know by emailing me at or dropping a note to:
c/o Shawn Mark Miller
One of the highlights of the 1998 year was the creation of the online and readable publication NAZARENE APOCALYPSE©. It is a new rendering of the Book of Revelation with a running commentary and one thousand footnotes on most verses. I am grateful to those who contributed and labored so hard to convert the document to text (including the footnotes) on the Friends of the Nazarene© web page.
WEB PAGE INTEREST:
THE INTERNET AS AN EVANGELIZING TOOL
It has been a year of bounteous spiritual privileges and blessings. Each day experiences new interest and friends discovered on the Internet. Interest in Friends of the Nazarene© has been expressed in over 18 countries, including: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Finland, Germany, Hawaii, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States, Wales. Many have down-loaded -- or received hard copies by snail mail -- publications. It is estimated that Messianic Confessions© has been read by over 2,000 persons this year. Some have made copies of these publications for others. Others are using Nazarene Principles© in personal study, group Bible discussions, and Home Church meetings. There are now over 300,000 words on Biblical research at the web site.
An example of one expression of gratitude is reflected in this post on the Friends of the Nazarene Guestbook --
I have been in association with Jehovah's Witnesses for 25 years. I stopped believing
many of the doctrines five years ago. But I couldn't leave because I simply had nowhere to
go. I didn't want to join any of the Christian churches because I couldn't bring myself to
believe the doctrines of the trinity of gods, hell-fire, immortal soul, etc. I had
downloaded several thousands of pages from the Internet dealing with the errors of the
Watchtower Society. I stopped doing so not so long ago, because of too much negativism. I
needed something to believe, something with which to enrich me spiritually. And they
didn't offer much.
Early this month of December I stumbled upon your website, Nazarene Saints. I read the entire autobiography: The Messianic Confessions". I have downloaded many of the essays, and booklets. Now I am studying the Bible with a passion greater than I have ever experienced since I studied the Bible with the Jehovah's Witnesses. I am happy to have been freed from the enslavement by the Watchtower Society. I consider myself one of you, a Nazarene saint.
Thank you very much for being instrumental in my enlightenment, in my being set free and in finally knowing the truth. I know that our knowledge of the truth is still partial as the apostle indicated in 1Cor 13: 9-13. But it's encouraging to know that what counts the most are faith, hope and love, the greatest of which is love.
Other favorable (or, unfavorable) comments can be read on the Friends© questbook.
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A COPY OF Nazarene Principles© FOR $1:50!
A future project is to hard-print and publish Nazarene Principles© as a basic Bible study aid primer for use in Bible discussions and Christian meetings. It appears we could print 1,000 copies for $1.50 each and mail these for only a dollar or two more. We would not charge for these but any who wished to contribute a donation to help with costs it would be welcomed, indeed. It is amazing what has been accomplished by poor Christians already. Those who wish to share in this particular project please send your donation to "Mark Miller" with a notation
Nazarene Principles. As things have turned out an old high school friend is now a printer and has offered an inexpensive production of Nazarene Principles©. After this we would hard-publish Nazarene Community© as a manual for restoring and preserving the first century Christian example of character and order.
A new edited edition of Nazarene Principles© with readable footnotes is being prepared for the web page. Of course, anyone may have a free copy of Nazarene Principles© and reproduce it for others by downloading from the web page or emailing me for an attachment. Many hundreds have done this so this small book and others are now floating around the planet through cyberspace. We pray the God of our Lord Messiah will bless this effort.
"Many hands make the work light." Thanks to the support and participation of those below, spiritual food is being provided to those who want it. Each of these brothers has a special gift and is located in different spots in the world. Some may wish to contact them and become better acquainted. Two speak and write in Spanish and we hope to have some Spanish-language publications before the year 2,000. Most of these have been active Christians following the Lamb for two, three, and four decades.
Mark Miller (Southern California / Senior Editor)
Ralph Slaney (Associate Editor / Spain)
E-mail Address(es): (Spanish-speaking)
Andrew Foss (Associate Editor / Oregon)
Andy Weeks (Associate Editor and Webmaster / Chicago)
James SanFilippo (Northern California)
Alberto Padilla (Spanish editor)
E-mail Address(es): (Spanish-speaking)
Greg Jones (Southern California)
Ron Barker (mid West)
RW (Mid West)
1999 AND THE NEW MILLENNIUM!
In the coming year 1999 and the new millennium no doubt there are exiting things on the horizon. In is impossible to predict how we may yet be used in the Kings service. No matter the humble task we rejoice in the privilege. We all long for the Return of our Lord and we remain in constant expectation of his Parousia each day. (Luke 12:35, 36) Each day we also continue to perfect our holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Peter 1:15; 1 John 3:3)
The God of our Lord the Nazarene bless one and all as every one of us continue to grow in love, faith, and spiritual comprehension. (Colossians 1:9-12) Let us pray the new year will be a milestone on our spiritual journey on the path of love and faith, proving we are truly "like expectant slaves" awaiting the Masters Return. (Luke 12:32-48 -- a New Years reading text)
Rejoice in the new year! "Come, Lord Jesus!"
Nazarene Saints Publishing
Write us at:
c/o Shawn Mark Miller
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