The Friends of the Nazarene On-line Magazine

Volume 3 -- October 1999 (31 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 creed. 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) . 

[Mark Miller / Senior Editor (California USA); Ralph Slaney / Senior Spanish editor (Almeria, Spain); Luis Padilla / Associate Spanish Editor (Brooklyn, New York USA); Andy Weeks / Associate Editor [Webmaster] (Chicago USA); Andrew Foss / Hebrew editor (Oregon USA)]

IN THIS ISSUE ---

1. YOU ARE NOT PART OF THE WORLD

2. WHAT ARE “TEACHINGS OF DEMONS”?

3. ANNOUNCEMENTS

4. FAITH PERSPECTIVES

5. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF CHRISTIAN ELDERS

6. WHEN IS CHRISTIAN WORSHIP “WORTHLESS”?

7. FIFTEEN STEPS TO HEAVENLY GLORY

8. ARE THE “LAST DAYS” 2,000 YEARS LONG?


 

“YOU ARE NOT PART OF THE WORLD”

The Nazarene’s Teachings

Jesus Christ the Nazarene said, “I am no part of the world.” [John 17:14] Our Lord also told his private apostles, “You are no part of the world.” [John 15:19] What did Jesus mean by these statements? What, exactly, is the “world” and why were Jesus’ “friends” no part of it? [John 15:14]

What is the “World”?

The English word “world” is the general rendering of the Greek kosmos. The roots the English word “world” is drawn from “the age of man” and may refer to the earth and all of its inhabitants.

Regarding the Greek kosmos Dictionary of New Testament Theology [Volume 1, pages 521f], makes a commentary on the meaning and use of the word:

“The noun kosmos, attested from Homer onwards, denoted originally building and construction. ... But more specifically it denotes order. ... later the regulation of life in human society. ... It also often means ornament and adornment (esp. women). ... In Greek philosophy kosmos is the basic term for the world-order, the world-system, the sum total of things preserved by this ordering, the world in the spatial sense.”

In the Christian Bible the word kosmos occurs 185 times and generally follows the above meanings. This falls into several categories or nuances: 1] The “world” may be the sum-total of created things. [See notes on John 1:3 in Nazarene Commentary; Acts 17:24] 2] The sphere or place of human life. [Mark 8:36; Matthew 4:8] 3] Or, humanity, the world of humankind. [John 3:16, 19; 2 Corinthians 5:19]

The “world’s foundation” began with the birth of Abel and thus all who have been born have come into the world. [Luke 11:50, 51; see notes on MT 25:34; John 17:24; see notes on EP1:4] It is this world that God has purposed a means of salvation by means of His Son. [John 3:16]

However, who is the “ruler of the world”? Who presently exercises authority over the world? The Bible makes it clear that Satan the Devil is world ruler. We note in the temptation of Christ that, without objection from him, Satan claimed the authority of all the kingdoms of the world: “[Satan] showed Jesus all the world’s kingdoms and then told him: ‘All of this I will give you if you bow down and worship me.’” [See notes on MT 4:8, 9.] Luke 4:6 adds, “I [Satan] will give you this authority and their glory, because it has been given to me.” Jesus seems to allude to Satan when he calls him “the ruler of this world.” [John 12:31]

The apostle Paul also identifies Satan with this world when he calls him “the god of this world.” [2 Corinthians 4:4] In describing the Christian warfare Paul lists: “We are engaged in a warfare not against something human, but a fight against celestial governments, demonic authorities, dark rulers of this cosmos, spiritistic evil in celestial realms.” [See notes on EP6:12 in Nazarene Commentary.] The beloved apostle John also writes regarding the influence on this world: “We are aware that God is our Source; but the entire world lies in the grasp of the Wicked One.” [See notes on 1JN5:19 Nazarene Commentary]

As its “god” and “ruler” Satan has blinded virtually the entire inhabited earth to the Gospel of Christ. John writes of this in Revelation: “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.” [See notes on Revelation 12:9 Nazarene Commentary.] In this context Satan is described as a seven-headed Dragon. Many scholars view these seven heads as world powers around the Mediterranean Sea. This agrees with what we read earlier about Satan’s power over the world’s kingdoms. Since Revelation 12:9, 11 shows the entire world of mankind has been misled save for those Christian Saints who are alive after the Dragon is ousted from heaven, the breadth of the Devil’s domain is virtually absolute.

How, or by what means, does Satan rule this world? There seem three major instruments by which the Devil controls and influences mankind. These three are identified in Revelation.

1] First, as seen above, the Devil rules the political realm. Judging from thousands of years of human rule history confirms a Satanic influence among the governments of this world. All the major kingdoms of the world were oppressors of first the Jews and then the Christians. [See Nazarene Commentary on Revelation chapters 13 and 17.]

2] Second, it seems apparent from Revelation that Satan controls the religious empire of Babylon the Great. [See Revelation chapters 17 and 18.] Each of ancient Mediterranean powers had a state religion with their own doctrines and ceremonies. All were idolatrous and given to demonic practices. This religious “kingdom” has “made all the inhabited earth drunk” allowing the political agencies to rule and control. This drunkenness was described by Karl Marx, “Religion is the opium of the people.”

Jesus himself foretold a fermenting influence even within his own Church or Christendom. [See notes on MT 13:33 in Nazarene Commentary.] The Nazarene makes it clear that his “field” -- the “world” -- though having wheat planted by him, would become over run with “weeds” [zizania]. These he identified as “sons of the Wicked One” or the Devil who sowed them. [Matthew 13:38, 39] Later inspired disciples of Jesus Christ echoed this prophecy. Paul foretold: “After my departure rapacious wolves will come into your midst and will not handle the flock with gentleness. From among you [elders] will arise humans speaking crooked doctrines in order to led disciples after them.” [Acts 20:29, 30]

Just so Paul writes to the Corinthian church: “I fear that just as the Serpent beguiled Eve by its craftiness, your minds might also be corrupted away from the simple purity belonging to the Christ.” [2 Corinthians 11:3] How does Paul say this would be done? Note his answer in 2 Corinthians 11:12-15: “I wish to remove the claim of those [Corinthian elders] who wish to give the impression they are equal with us in the apostolic office. These [elders] are pseudo apostles, deceptive workers, changing themselves in Christ’s apostles. This should not surprise you because Satan himself continues to change himself into an angel of light. It is not difficult, then, for Satan’s ministers to continually change themselves into ministers of righteousness. However, their end will be in harmony with their deeds.”

Like Jesus, Paul foretells an apostasy from the primitive Church and the Nazarene’s teachings: “[The Return of Christ] will not come unless the apostasy arrives first and that lawless human is exposed, the son of destruction. That one is an opposer and exalts himself above every divinity or object of respect. He takes his seat in the God’s Temple [ = the Church -- 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; see notes on EP2:19-21] and displays himself as a divinity. Do you not remember that when I was among you I taught you these same things?” [2 Thessalonians 2:3-5] Paul continues to show Satan’s influence within the Temple of God: “The lawless [Apostate] presence [in the Church] is due to Satan’s manipulation, using every kind of ‘miracle’ and lying signs and omens. With every kind of unrighteous deception to those [in the Church] who are going to perish -- this in payment for their failure to love the truth unto salvation -- This is the reason The God allows this wicked deception among them [in the Church] so that they believe the Lie. So that all may be condemned who did not believe the Truth.”  [2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, see notes in Nazarene Commentary]

Other matters involved in this apostasy from the early Church and the original teachings of Christ, are further explained by Paul: “Now the Spirit expressly declares that in later days some will leave the Faith and devote their attention to subversive doctrines inspired by devils.” [1 Timothy 4:1 Modern Versions] And again in his second epistle to Timothy, he warns: “You are aware of this Timothy that in these last days ... [some humans in the Church] will have only an outward form of godliness but resist its true influence. From such [dishonorable vessels = 2 Timothy 2:20] turn away. ... For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak and silly women who feel crushed by their burden of sins. These are always curious to learn and yet never able to arrive at a heightened knowledge of the truth. ... For the time will me when they [in the Church] will no longer tolerate sound doctrine; but according to their own inclinations they will get for themselves great number of teachers to satisfy their own fancies. And they will give up listening to the Truth and will wander off after man-made fictions.”  [2 Timothy 3:1, 5-7; 4:3, 4 Modern Versions] Thus, a large portion of the apocalyptic “Babylon the Great” now involves the Satanic Zizania or weeds in the Lord’s worldly field.

3] The third major instrument used by the Devil is commercialism. The great merchants of the earth, including all the great captains of merchant ships, have supported and been supported by Babylon the Great. In chapter 18 of Revelation it is these who mourn over the burning of the Babylonish city: “For because of the wine of the anger of [Babylon’s] [1. religious] fornication all the nations have fallen [victim], and the [2. political] kings of the earth committed fornication with her, and the traveling merchants of the earth [3. commercialism] became rich due to the power of her shameless luxury." [Revelation 18:3 NW] Satan uses greed and pleasure as the engine that drives his world. As a result even some Christians have self-inflicted wounds as Paul writes: “[Those Christians] who are determined to become rich get tempted and then trapped, falling into many senseless and hurtful desires which plunge humans into destruction and ruin. Because the love of money is the source of all kinds of evil which some [Christians] reaching after have been led away from the Faith and have been self-inflicted with many sorrows.” [2 Timothy 6:9, 10 Modern Versions]

To Timothy Paul cautions: “Therefore [Timothy] endure hardships as a good solider of Jesus Christ. No person enlisted in the army gets involved in commercial enterprises for making a living so that he may satisfy the officer who enlisted him.” [2 Timothy 2:3, 4] James also warns certain Christians about commercialism: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into this city and spend a year there going into business and make money.” [James 4:14]

Thus it is through these three main agencies -- religion, politics, and commerce -- that Satan misleads earth’s inhabitants. But, what was the early Christian attitude toward the world?

How Were the Early Christians “No Part of the World”?

Jesus had described his own apostles as being “no part of the world.” How did they view the world, both in their writings as well as their history? Examine some of the conclusions of the inspired writers. The world’s wisdom off its philosophers and debates was foolishness. [1 Corinthians 1:20, 21] The world has a certain “spirit” or disposition which is not shared by Christians. [1 Corinthians 2:12, 13] The world views real Christians as fools. [1 Corinthians 4:9, 10] Indeed, true Christians are considered the world’s garbage. [1 Corinthians 4:13] Christians were not to make full use of the world. [1 Corinthians 7:31] Enslavement to worldly elements is to be avoided. [Galatians 4:3] Disobedience and fleshly desire characterize the world. [Ephesians 2:2, 3] Those in the world are really with God. [Ephesians 2:12] Worldly philosophy, elementary doctrines, and human traditions are to be avoided. [Colossians 2:8] The Christian is to remain unspotted by the world. [James 1:27] Any friend of the world is God’s enemy. [James 4:4] The world is corrupt. [2 Peter 1:4; 2:20] Christians are not to love worldly things. [1 John 2:15-17]The world has no relationship with true Christians. [1 John 3:1, 13] False prophets are of the world. [1 John 4:1-3] The world listens to those who speak worldly things. [1 John 4:5] Faith conquers the world. [1 John 5:4] The worldly do not believe Jesus Christ came in the flesh. [2 John 7] Ultimately the kingdom of the world will become that of Christ. [Revelation 11:15]  

According to historians the early Christians remained very much separate from the world. For example, Christians avoided military service. "A careful review of all the information available goes to show that, until the time of Marcus Aurelius, no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service." [The Rise of Christianity (London, 1947), E. W. Barnes, page 333] And, a Christian scholar of the second century CE wrote:

"We who were filled with war, and mutual slaughter, and every wickedness, have each through the whole earth changed our warlike weapons, our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into implements of tillage,-and we cultivate piety, righteousness, philanthropy, faith, and hope, which we have from the Father Himself through Him who was crucified." [Justin Martyr in "Dialogue With Trypho, a Jew" (2nd century CE), The Ante-Nicene Fathers (1885 Edinburgh edition), edited by A. Roberts and J. Donaldson, Volume I, page 254]

They also avoided political office as historian Edward Gibbon observed: "They refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defense of the empire. . . . it was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, of magistrates, or of princes." [History of Christianity (New York, 1891), pages 162, 163]

The Christians also avoided worldly entertainment for as late as the third century Tertullian writes:  "[Christians] have nothing to do, in speech, sight or hearing, with the madness of the circus, the shamelessness of the theatre, the savagery of the arena, the vanity of the gymnasium. ...Why should we offend you, if we assume the existence of other pleasures? . . . we reject what pleases you; what pleases us gives you no delight." [Apology, XXXVIII, 4, 5]

Consider to other references. "Early Christianity was little understood and was regarded with little favor by those who ruled the pagan world. . . . Christians refused to share certain duties of Roman citizens. . . . They would not hold political office." [On the Road to Civilization, A World History] "Origen [c270] . . . remarks that 'the Christian Church cannot engage in war against any nation. They have learned from their Leader that they are children of peace.' In that period many Christians were martyred for refusing military service." [Treasury of the Christian World]

Modern Disciples of the Nazarene

It must be admitted that early Christians living in a pagan world could draw such distinctions with greater ease than today. Though much of the world remains “pagan” a very large portion claims to be Christian, particularly America and the Western World. We have considered above that Christ’s “kingdom” or Christendom is filled with lawlessness and scandal. [See notes on MT 13:41] The Christian Church is also largely a form of apostasy away from the original doctrines and worship of the primitive Church. Christendom as we approach the year 2,000 is filled with “doctrines of devils” borrowed from the ancient pagan world. Cardinal Newman wrote in Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine: "The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, and ornamented on occasions with branches of trees; incense, lamps, and candles; . . . holydays and seasons, use of calendars, processions, blessings on the fields; sacerdotal vestments, . . . images at a later date, perhaps the ecclesiastical chant, . . . are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the church."

Review this difficulty of determining what is and what is not “Christian” was an article by Steve Wysall in the Vancouver Sun:

"Not all people wearing blue oil-stained overalls are mechanics, even if they look like mechanics, . . . even if they say 'We are mechanics. ... Often you will hear people talk about how this or that was done in the name of Christianity and what an awful thing it was to do. Well, yes, it was awful. . . . But who ever said they were Christians who did those awful things? Oh, you say, the established churches say so. Well, who ever said the established churches are Christian? So the pope blessed Mussolini, and there is evidence of other popes who have done dastardly deeds in the past. So who said they were Christians? You think because a man is the pope he must be a Christian? Just because a person says 'I am a Christian' does not mean he is one-just as a man who claims to be a mechanic may not be a mechanic. The Bible even warns Christians against people who pose as Christians . . . No Christian can war against another Christian -- it would be like a man fighting himself. True Christians are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. . . . They would never, never intentionally hurt one another."

 

How will a Christian today determine what is worldly even among professed Christian churches or organizations? Does it seem fair to state that a genuine disciple of the Nazarene might ask the following questions?

1] What is the historical source of certain religious doctrines and teachings?

2] What is the historical origin of certain religious ceremonies or holidays?

3] Is this religion or church involved in politics?

4] Is this religion or church involved in commercialism?

5] Does this religion or church support wars against fellow Christians?

6] Does this religion or church make prophecies about the future, which have failed to come true?

7] Does this religion of church teach Jesus while on earth was more than a human?

8] Does this religion teach that God torments the wicked forever?

9] Does this religion of church teach the pagan doctrine of soul immortality?

As the modern Christian approaches with expectation that day of the Lord’s coming is it not wise to make sure he or she is “no part of the world”? No part of is demon-inspire religions? No part of its corrupt politics? No part of its greedy commercialism? When the Christian is in doubt about what is “worldly” is it not the course of wisdom to let the Scripturally-trained conscience guide into godly conduct. Remember, “The world with its desires will pass away but the person who does the will of God remains forever.” [1 John 2:17]


WHAT ARE “TEACHINGS OF DEMONS”?

Corruption Foretold

Jesus foretold that his own church [Matthew 16:15] or “kingdom” [Matthew 13:41] would become corrupt. He taught the demon Satan would be responsible for this. [Matthew 13:37-39] This fermentation would continue, resulting in scandal and lawlessness, until the Harvest at Christ’s Return and the subsequent parousia-judgment. [Matthew 13:42, 43] Likewise, the inspired disciples of the Nazarene foretold the same thing -- the falling away from the doctrine, order, and worship-devotion of the primitive Church. [Read 2 Peter chapter 2 as an example.]

In this connection Paul predicts that “teachings of demons” would mark such a falling away. He does so in 1 Timothy 4:1-3, “The Pneuma expressly states that in later periods of time some will fall away from the Faith, giving heed to deceptive inspirations and demonic doctrines, and this by means of hypocritical persons who speak lies with a cauterized conscience. They will forbid marriage and command abstinence from certain foods.” In truth priesthood celibacy and refraining from meat on Fridays became part of Church teaching.

Paul identifies other teachings, which could be characterized as “teachings of demons.” For example, in 2 Timothy 2:16-18: “However, continue shunning worldly, futile phrases because such will lead on to greater depths of irreverence. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Hymenaeus and Philetus are this type. They have left the path of the truth and preach that the resurrection has already begun. They play havoc with the Faith.” [Modern Versions]

The beloved apostle John also identifies teachings which he associates with “antichrists.” Consider what he has to say as what he calls the approach of “the last hour.” [1 John 2:18-21; 4:1-3] -

“Young spiritual children, it is the final hour. As you have heard already, the antichrist is coming. Already many antichrists have materialized. It is from this we know it is the final hour. These antichrists abandoned us because there were never really part of us. If they really had been part of us they would have stayed with us. In order to manifest these antichrists and make it clear they were never part of us. All of you have an anointing from the Holy One have an intimate relationship with Him. ... My dearly beloved friends, do not put your trust in every ‘inspiration’. Rather, test out these ‘inspirations’ to know whether they originate with God. The need for this is because many false prophets have proceeded from the world. This is the way you will recognize the inspiration of God: every inspiration that confesses Jesus Christ came in the flesh has its source in God.”

 

It was within two hundred years that many Christian church fathers adopted Greek philosophies -- really older Egyptian teachings. These included doctrines on the “nature” of God, the immortality of the human soul, and, eternal torment of the damned.

How the God of this World “Blinds”

Paul describes Satan as the “god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the Gospel’s enlightenment concerning the Christ -- the image of God -- may no longer shine.” [2 Corinthians 4:4] One of Satan’s major instruments for blinding believers are those “weeds” -- or, children of the Wicked One -- right there within the Church itself. [Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Corinthians 11:14, 15] Some of these teachers would crave worldly honors, and not satisfied with the Bible’s simple answers, create doctrines which found approval among the world’s philosophical thinkers. This also served as a tool to control the Church in general: by creating doctrines that were “mysteries” these elders elevated themselves above the church membership. It was not long before the bishops of the Church claimed only they could determine doctrine and that God was using them as His channel. [2 Thessalonians 2:3-9]

Jesus described Satan as the “father of the lie.” [John 8:44] The very first lie told in Eden was, “You will not die.” [Genesis 3:4] While it was God who told disobedient Adam, “Dust you are and to dust you will return.” [Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:19-21] Th Bible does not teach that the human soul is immortal, nor that God torments the wicked in an eternal fire. Plato writes: "Do we believe that there is such a thing as death? . . . Is it not the separation of soul and body? And to be dead is the completion of this; when the soul exists in herself, and is released from the body and the body is released from the soul, what is this but death? . . . And does the soul admit of death? No. Then the soul is immortal? Yes." [Plato's "Phaedo," Secs. 64, 105, as published in Great Books of the Western World (1952), edited by R. M. Hutchins, Vol. 7, pp. 223, 245, 246]

Where did these doctrines find their origin? Since it was not with God we may judge it was from a demonic source. What to scholars and their commentaries report?

"The concept of immortality is a product of Greek thinking, whereas the hope of a resurrection belongs to Jewish thought. . . . Following Alexander's conquests Judaism gradually absorbed Greek concepts." [Dictionnaire Encyclopédique de la Bible (Valence, France; 1935), edited by Alexandre Westphal, Vol. 2, p. 557]

"Immortality of the soul is a Greek notion formed in ancient mystery cults and elaborated by the philosopher Plato." [Presbyterian Life, May 1, 1970, p. 35]

"The problem of immortality, we have seen, engaged the serious attention of the Babylonian theologians. . . . Neither the people nor the leaders of religious thought ever faced the possibility of the total annihilation of what once was called into existence. Death was a passage to another kind of life." [The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria (Boston, 1898), M. Jastrow, Jr., page 556]

Encyclopaedia Judaica reports on the source of these doctrines: "It was probably under Greek influence that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul came into Judaism. ... Basically the two beliefs of resurrection and the soul's immortality are contradictory. The one refers to a collective resurrection at the end of the days, i.e., that the dead sleeping in the earth will arise from the grave, while the other refers to the state of the soul after the death of the body. ... It was held that when the individual died his soul still lived on in another realm (this gave rise to all the beliefs regarding heaven and hell) while his body lay in the grave to await the physical resurrection of all the dead here on earth."

Regarding the doctrine of the Trinity -- described by the Catholic Church as the “central doctrine of Christianity” -- commentaries also credit pagan sources and Greek philosophy for this doctrine.

The New Catholic Encyclopedia states: "The formulation 'one God in three Persons' was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title the Trinitarian dogma. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective." [(1967), Vol. XIV, p. 299]

In The Encyclopedia Americana we read: "Christianity derived from Judaism and Judaism was strictly Unitarian [believing that God is one person]. The road which led from Jerusalem to Nicea was scarcely a straight one. Fourth century Trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was, on the contrary, a deviation from this teaching." [(1956), Vol. XXVII, p. 294L]

According to the Nouveau Dictionnaire Universel, "The Platonic trinity, itself merely a rearrangement of older trinities dating back to earlier peoples, appears to be the rational philosophic trinity of attributes that gave birth to the three hypostases or divine persons taught by the Christian churches. . . . This Greek philosopher's [Plato, fourth century BCE] conception of the divine trinity . . . can be found in all the ancient [pagan] religions." [(Paris, 1865-1870), edited by M. Lachâtre, Vol. 2, p. 1467.]

John L. McKenzie, S.J., in his Dictionary of the Bible, says: "The trinity of persons within the unity of nature is defined in terms of 'person' and 'nature' which are G[ree]k philosophical terms; actually the terms do not appear in the Bible. The Trinitarian definitions arose as the result of long controversies in which these terms and others such as 'essence' and 'substance' were erroneously applied to God by some theologians." [(New York, 1965), p. 899.]

For more details on what the Bible teaches about death and the Trinity see the online publications, Where Are the Dead? and DE TRINITATIS ERRORIBUS in Nazarene Commentary..

The Source of Inspiration

The above would strongly point to the source of inspiration for many doctrines within Christendom as being Satanic or demonic. Near the end of the year 100 CE the beloved apostle John warned the Christian Church: “Test inspirations whether they originate with God because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.” [1 John 4:1] How can we do this in this advanced age of the Church when so many “teachings of demons” prevail?

First, when we read something published or printed by Church teachers, do what John directed above: test them. Paul did not object to having his teachings examined as to their authenticity. Acts 17:2, 3, 11 records: “Paul reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and quoting passages to prove that it was a necessity for Messiah to suffer and rise from the dead. ... They accepted the message most eagerly and made a daily study of the Scriptures so see if what Paul said was true.” We may “test” what we hear, first by the Scriptures. If we find a teaching or doctrine is not found in the Bible, we may wonder where such a thing originated. Often a simple study of encyclopedias will reveal the true background of a doctrine, ceremony, or holiday.

“Doctrines of Devils”

Some may argue that such a stand -- calling certain Christian doctrines as “teachings of demons” -- is too harsh and that doctrines should not divide Christians. Well, the truth is, the Church is already divided into ten thousand sects, one often calling the other a “cult.” [1 Corinthians 1:10] We have seen that Paul already had predicted that such “teachings of demons” would arise with the falling away from the Faith. [1 Timothy 4:1-3] Paul warned that these erroneous teachings would lead others astray from the truth. [2 Timothy 2:16-18]

How can we expect the Devil to corrupt the Christian Church? Things Satanic and demonic do not always appear obvious. Paul writes in this regard to the Corinthian church: “I fear that just as the Serpent beguiled Eve by its craftiness, your minds might also be corrupted away from the simple purity belonging to the Christ. ... I wish to remove the claim of those [Corinthian elders] who wish to give the impression they are equal with us in the apostolic office. These [elders] are pseudo apostles, deceptive workers, changing themselves in Christ’s apostles. This should not surprise you because Satan himself continues to change himself into an angel of light. It is not difficult, then, for Satan’s ministers to continually change themselves into ministers of righteousness. However, their end will be in harmony with their deeds.” [2 Corinthians 11:3, 12-15]

Thus, every disciple must be on guard against the deceptive teachings and prophecies of some within the Christian Church. Jesus himself warned that it is possible that even some of the Elect could be misled. Consider his warnings in the Gospels: “Be on the watch you are never misled. Because many will come claiming my authority, preaching, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not join their ranks. ... For pseudo anointed and false prophets will rise with signs and miracles to mislead, if even possible, the Elect. You watch out. I have warned you about all this in advance.” [Luke 21:8; Mark 13:22, 23] Often these demonic teachings contain some complex time-chronology which makes little sense to most people but it nevertheless adopted in trust. The result is not only deception but also generally the loss of finances, and, in the end “great disappointment.”

Why does God permit such teachings within the Church? Paul answers this and gives us two reasons: a) to manifest the approved; and, b) to judge those who do not really love the truth. Note the former in 1 Corinthians 11:17-19: “But, in giving you these injunctions I must mention a practice which I cannot commend. It is actually worse that you even meet as a congregation. My first reason is because when you do gather in assembly I hear that schisms exist among you, and I believe there must be some truth to it. It is necessary, also, that heresies should exist among you so that those approved may become manifest among you.”

By permitting these “schisms” and “heresies” it will be revealed to God who those are who love and stick to the truth as taught by His Son and his inspired disciples. Those who fail will be judged by God because they did not love the truth. [2 Thessalonians 2:3-12]

Paul also cautions several times to avoid those who teach things contrary to that doctrine received from Christ and his apostles. Romans 16:17, 18 reads: “However, I exhort you, brothers, to watch those who cause divisions and scandals against the teaching which you learned and turn away from the. For such persons are not slaving for our Lord Christ. Rather they [slave] for their own bellies. By means of smooth speech and compliments they seduce the hearts of the innocent.” [See notes in Nazarene Commentary.] And in Titus 3:10, 11,  he commands: “Shun a heretical person after two warnings. Realize that such a person has been perverted, and in sinning, is self-condemned.” [See Nazarene Commentary.]

Does this mean there are Christian teachers and Church members that should be avoided in fellowship? Paul gives a lesson to Timothy on this very matter: “Now in a grand house there are vessels of both gold and silver as well as wood and clay. Some of these are used for honorable purposes and some for dishonorable uses. Therefore, if anyone keeps clean from these [dishonorable vessels] will be an honorable vessel, sanctified and useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. So, take your flight from youthful desires and rather pursue righteousness, conviction, loving concern, peacefulness in fellowship with those who call upon the Lord with pure hearts.” [2 Timothy 2:20-22] And a bit later, “They have an appearance of reverence but deny its power. Stay away from these people.” [2 Timothy 3:5]

Jesus once asked his disciples a thought-provoking question: “When the Son of Humankind arrives will he actually find The Faith on earth?” [Luke 18:8] It is our prayer that whenever our Lord comes he will, indeed, find the original faith he started two thousand years ago still alive and vigorous.


ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

·        MARK’S HARD DRIVE CRASH: Because of a hard drive crash Mark lost the complete issue of the October Friends online magazine. However, he had saved a portion of it with other brothers. So, October is somewhat shorter than normal. November will contain some of the articles originally prepared for October.

·        NAZARENE COMMENTARY: The growing feature of Nazarene Commentary is in the process of having some new additions: new renderings with commentary on Hebrews 1-8, James, and First Timothy. Other Bible books are also in the works.

 


 

FAITH PERSPECTIVES

[A format for contributed thoughts and expressions.]

Thank You, God

Lord, thank you for this sink of dirty dishes;
we have plenty of food to eat while many
go hungry.

Thank you for this pile of dirty laundry;
we have plenty of nice clothes to wear
while others are cold.

And I would like to thank you, Lord, for those
unmade beds; they were so warm and
comfortable last night. I know that many have
no bed.

My thanks to you, Lord, for this bathroom,
complete with all the splattered mirrors, soggy,
grimy towels and dirty lavatory; there are those
denied these things.

Thank you for this finger-smudged refrigerator
that needs defrosting so badly. It has served us
faithfully for many years. It is full of cold drinks
and enough leftovers for two or three meals.
How many others long for leftovers?

Thank you, Lord, for this oven that absolutely
must be cleaned today. It has baked so many
things over the years. Others never smell the
wonderful aroma of bread baking.

The whole family is grateful for that tall grass
that needs mowing, the lawn that needs raking;
we all enjoy the yard. There are many city
dwellers, Lord, that sees no green.

Thank you, Lord, even for that slamming screen
door. My kids are healthy and able to run and play.
Bless those whose bodies cannot move at will.

Lord, the presence of all these chores awaiting
me says You have richly blessed my family. I shall
do them cheerfully and I shall do them gratefully.
How much one bedridden would love to scrub a
floor!

Even though I clutch my blanket and growl when
the alarm rings, thank you, Lord, that I can hear.
There are those who live in silence.

Even though I keep my eyes closed against the
morning light as long as possible, thank you,
Lord, that I can see. Many live in darkness.

Even though I huddle in my bed and put off rising,
thank you, Lord, that I have the strength to rise.
There are many who cannot rise...or kneel to pray.

Even though the first hour of my day is hectic,
when socks are lost, toast is burned and tempers
are short, and my children are so loud...thank you,
Lord, for my family. There are many who are lonely.

Even though our breakfast table never looks like
the pictures in magazines and the menu is at times
not balanced, thank you, Lord, for the food we have.
So many go to bed with empty stomachs.

Even though the routine of my job is often wearying
and monotonous, thank you, Lord, for the opportunity
to work. There are many who have no job.

Even though I may at times bemoan my fate
and wish my circumstances were not so
modest, Thank you, Lord, for life and family
and Your love which is always there!


Confidence in Prayer!

When my hard drive decided to give up the ghost after two years of faithful service and processing over one millions words and unnumbered posts, I was suddenly thrown into the darkness of Cyber-Space. I lost all my addresses, files, and current work. I am a firm believer in prayer, so I prayed to our Father by His Son Jesus: “Father, if you wish me to continue in this work I leave it in your hands. If you do not I understand and will continue to serve You in a new way.” Confident in prayer I took the small lap top down to a Computer store and dropped it off for a new hard drive for the estimated cost of about $300.00. I prayed so more about the matter.

One week passed and I had not heard back from the computer store. I prayed again. THEN, not knowing my problem, my daughter suddenly sent me a birthday present of $150.00! Further, Ralph Slaney in Spain, also not knowing of my problem, sent me 100 English pounds, which converts to [!!!!!] $150.00. I called the computer store and they said the lap top was repaired and ready. I asked the amount and they said, $270.37. I asked if they could add a mouse as I had never had one. Does our Father answer prayers?

The problem was I also lost all the software programs which would have amounted to many hundreds of dollars. I had installed something very old and limited. Not long after a Friend sent me new software which was far better than what I had before – things I could never have afforded!

Does God answer our prayers of faith?

I believe He does. We only have to throw our fleece on the ground, or take that first step on water.

Warmest affections in Christ,

Mark Miller



THE RESPONSIBILITY OF CHRISTIAN ELDERS

[The following article is based on the footnote commentary on the letter to Titus in Nazarene Commentary.]

A Letter to Correct the Defective

Paul explains his purpose in writing to Titus in his assignment on the isle of Crete: “This is the reason I left you in Crete so that you should correct the defective things.” [Titus 1:5 Nazarene Commentary] Or as some other versions put it: KJV: set in order the things that are wanting; RHM: the things remaining undone; BER: straighten out unfinished business; CON: correct what is deficient; TCNT: put in order what has been left unsettled; BECK: make the improvements still need. It is seems clear that the churches on Crete needed a steady hand to bring them to maturity. Titus seems to have the authority to make these corrections. The first of which, as Paul goes on to write, was leadership.

The reason and need for proper leadership in the Church was made clear in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians: “[Christ] gave some gifts in the form of apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers. All these are for the purpose of readjusting the Saints, for the work of service to others, for the building up of Christ’s Body -- until that time we all achieve a perfect unity in the faith and in a heightened relationship with God’s Son -- to a mature person measured after Christ’s own full stature. And this so that we are no longer little children tossed by waves and carried this way and that way by every wind of teaching by tricky persons who use the crafty presentation of lies.”  [Ephesians 4:11-14; see notes in Nazarene Commentary]

Elders for the Church’s Health

Paul gives apostolic orders to Titus regarding the qualifications of elders in the various churches on Crete. [Titus 1:6] Paul lists 17 requirements before a man may have appointed hands laid upon him to make him an elder. Consider what kind of man this is judging by the following. 

1] Unaccusable. Or, KJV: blameless; ALF: under no imputation; NASB: above reproach; TCNT: irreproachable character; PME: unquestionable integrity; NOR: a reputation beyond reproach; TAY: well thought of for their good lives. In all of these qualifications compare those in 1 Timothy 3:1ff. The man who would be an elder can have no legitimate charge against his character. He is not expected to be perfect but his life must be an example for the whole church. [1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Timothy 3:10]

2] A husband of one wife. Judging from the widow who is “the wife of one husband” at 1 Timothy 5:9, the man who would be elder could not be a divorced man who has married again.

3] A man with believing children not under any accusation of debauchery or unsubmissive. In 1 Timothy 3 Paul explains the reasons for this: if a man cannot preside over his own household, how can he preside over the church. It is worthy of note that no where does it state his wife should have a certain character, though some see this in 1 Timothy 3:11 where the Greek may permit “wives.”

4] Not arrogant. Or, KJV: not self-willed; WMS: stubborn; MOF: presumptuous; NEB: overbearing; KNX: obstinate; BECK: shouldn’t do as he pleases: BAS: ready to give way to others. Obviously he does not yield to all for Paul goes on to instruct Titus to reprove and resist the disobedient. The elder must find a balance between loving humility and courageous zeal. The early apostates were characterized by a lack of respect for proper authority. [2 Peter 2:10]

5] Not quick-tempered. Or, NEB: short-tempered; KNX: quarrelsome; BAS: not quickly moved to wrath. The elders must be patient and tolerant to other opinions and not given to flashes of anger or mean-tempered. Under every circumstance he must be well balanced emotionally even when dealing with sinners. He may rebuke as did his Lord but his moderate disposition should shine with the Nazarene’s love and the Father’s mercy. [Romans 12:19; James 1:19]

6] Not given to a lot of wine. Or, WMS: not addicted to strong drink; LAM: not excessive. Views vary depending on the culture. Our Lord was a “drinker” and was thus accused wrongly of abuse, while John, who was an abstainer, was accused of demonism. A balance view can easily be understood by researching wine or strong drink in the Bible. The Mediterranean peoples tend to drink weak wine with most meals and happily so during special occasions such as weddings. Compare our Lord’s first miracle at Cana. [John 2:1ff] On the subject of wine see Proverbs 20:1; 23:20, 30-35; 31:4-7.

7] Not violent. Or, KJV: no striker; CON: given to brawls; WMS: pugnacious; LAM: too need to strike with his hand; NOR: to come to blows; RHM: ready to wound. The elder is a man under control of himself -- within the congregation and within his family. He never resorts to physical threats which would give the impression he would be willing to come to blows over a matter.

8] Not fond of dishonest gain. Or, KJV: not given to filthy lucre; ABUV: greedy of base gain; TCNT: questionable money-making; NEB: not a money-grubber; MOF: addicted to pilfering. There were those in the early Church who took advantage of their position materially, Judas being the first. In English the word “extortion” may involve those who take material advantage of their position. [1 Timothy 3:8; 1 Peter 5:2.] Read 1 Corinthians 9:4-14 where Paul refers to the Nazarene: “Those preaching the good news may live by the good news,” allowing for basic needs to be covered by the congregations. This was to be done without laying a burden, however. Read 2 Thessalonians chapter 3. In at least one situation Paul supported himself, either not to be a burden, or, because those wishing to give did so with an agenda. [Galatians 6:6]

9] Hospitable. Or, ASV: given to hospitality; BAS: opening his house freely to guests. The Greek means “fond of strangers” shown by invitations to the home for rest and food. The Middle East was famous for its hospitality and among these the Christians out-shone them all. Thus, as an example in the congregation the elder must be head and shoulders above all when it comes to hospitality. His home must be open to all. He cannot be a recluse or isolated, giving a cold shoulder to others whom may benefit from his charity and hospitality. [Deuteronomy 15:9; Romans 12:13; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9] In the Hebrew Bible compare cases of hospitality in Abraham, Lot, and Abigail.

10] A lover of goodness. Or, KJV: a lover of good men; NEB: right-minded. Goodness is moral excellence characterized in coming to the aid of others, or, beneficence. The name Agatha comes from the Greek word often translated “good.” [Galatians 5:22; 6:10; Romans 12:9; Ephesians 5:9; 1 Peter 3:13; 3 John 11]

11] Sound of mind. Or, KJV: sober; ASV: sober-minded; WMS: sensible. The Greek is SOPHRONA [Strong’s 4998] and literally means safe-mind, or, self-controlled, moderate as to opinion or passion. It is a word Paul uses also at Titus 2:2, 5, 6. [1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Peter 4:7] Healthy thinking that is balanced and controlled is the meaning. The elder cannot be given to extremes or faddish. He may have his opinions on such matters as health or recreation but he cannot use his standard as a judge of others.

12] Just. Or, WMS: upright; MOF: a just man; BECK: use good judgment; NW: righteous. If the Greek is viewed as “righteous” then it means the elder is an example of observing the Nazarene commandments. [See the publication Nazarene Commandments; see notes on 1 John 3:23; John 14:15; 15:14] If the bias be “just” then his decisions would be in harmony with what is fair and right. There are those occasions where such elders must “judge those matters inside the congregation.” [1 Corinthians 5:12, 13; 6:3-6] In this matter of judgment he must be impartial and not influenced by money or prestige. [Leviticus 19:15]

13] Holy. Or, WMS: of pure life; MOF: a religious man; BECK: live right and holy; NW: loyal. Holiness under the law involved body, mind, and worship. [Numbers 15:40; Leviticus 19:2] The English word ”holy” carries perhaps too strong a meaning for it infers almost a spiritual perfection. The Greek is HOSION [Strong’s 3741], a divine character -- sacred, saintly. Clearly the elder must be known as a “holy” man. Since all Christians should be characterized as “holy” the elder must be more so. [1 Peter 1:15, 16; 2:5, 9; 3:5]

14] Self-controlled. Or, KJV: temperate; CON: continent; MOF: abstemious; BECK: he should control himself. [2 Timothy 3:3; 1 Corinthians 7:9; 9:25; Galatians 5:23; 2 Peter 1:6] This elder has learned to control himself so that he does not act or speak hastily. He also has control of his own body and habits.

15] Holding to that teaching in harmony with [the] faithful Word. Or, KJV: holding fast the faith word as he hath been taught; MOF: holds by the sure truths of doctrine. The elder must be very familiar with the teachings of the Nazarene, able to quote and cite sizable portions. He knows where to turn in the Bible for truths on doctrine and conduct. He does not rely on his own opinion or worldly thought. He must have read the Bible several times and the Christian Bible many times. This “teaching” or doctrine, is that found in the Gospels and the writings of those inspired disciples of the Nazarene. He is not a man without an opinion, or a man who believes there is a wide range of interpretation to the “faithful word.” [1 Timothy 4:16; 6:3; James 3:1]

16] Strong enough to exhort by that healthy teaching. Or, KJV: that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort; RHM: encourage with his healthful instruction; NEB: move his hearers with wholesome teaching. When the elder teaches he must be able to accomplish two things: first, discussed here, exhortation or encouragement. Teaching is an art learned by use of the Word. [2 Timothy 1:13] The elder cannot be a weak man afraid to speak God’s truth.

17] Reprove those who are opposing. Or, KJV: to convince the gainsayers; WMS: convict those who oppose him; RSV: confute those who contradict; GDSP: show the error; BAS: overcome the arguments of the doubters. The elder is well studied in God’s Word so that he can quote chapter and verse. He also is unafraid to confront those who oppose the “faithful word.” Not only must the elder be encouraging but also he must be strong enough -- and capable enough -- to deal with the opposition. Paul was such a man. He was fearless in the face of those who contradicted the Gospel and healthful teaching. No Christian should object to “reproof” or rebuke. [Revelation 3:19; Ephesians 5:11; 1 Timothy 5:20; 2 Timothy 4:2]

On Guard Against False Teachers

Paul continues to stress in the rest of his letter to Titus how elders protect the flock from false teachers. He writes, “For, indeed, there are many opposers, idle talkers and deceivers, particularly those of the circumcision. It is necessary to stop the mouths of those who overturn entire households, teaching what they ought not for the sake of dishonest gain. ... For this reason reprove them with severity, that they may be healthy in the Faith.” [Titus 1:10-13 Nazarene Commentary]

Already, this early in the Church, there was an apostasy at work. [2 Thessalonians 2:1-3; Acts 20:29, 30] These “opposers” fell into two major groups: a) the Judaizers who wished Christianity to be an extension of Judaism and the Law of Moses (today reflected in similar groups); and,  b) the Greek influence of the Gnostics and Stoics who would bring in philosophical doctrines influenced by the much esteemed Plato and Aristotle (today reflected in Trinitarianism). Early Christianity was not a free group of independent thinkers with a variety of views on everything. Such “winds” were spoken of negatively. [Romans 1618; Ephesians 4:13-14; 1 Timothy 1:6, 7; 2 Timothy 2:18]

As in the first century the same exist by the tens of thousands among modern Christianity. These include the so-called “modernists” who have rejected Jesus as Messiah and Son of God and deny the Bible is God’s inspired Word. [2 Timothy 3:15-17] They also include those so-called “conservatives” who twist the Word to create time chronologies and preach “the time is at hand.” [Luke 21:8; Deuteronomy 18:20-22]

The early Church was not a place where just anyone’s views could be expressed. The elder must be able to resist or restrain those teachers who have departed from Christ and Paul. [2 Timothy 3:6] Mouths may be stopped by not permitting such to speak or by over-powering arguments. The fight for pure doctrine was an ongoing battle. [2 Corinthians 10:4-7]

There are two ways to identify such false teachers: material profit, or, selfish ambition. [1 Timothy 6:5; 1 Peter 5:2] Either these men want profit or they want undeserved honor. They usually teach what others want to hear in order to tickle their ears. It seems clear that Titus was not to permit the congregations to freely flow “with every wind of teaching.” [Ephesians 4:14] Some persons will only remain healthy in faith with stiff reproof. Such reproof is also a protection for the congregations themselves. [Titus 2:2]

Titus was counseled, as should modern elders, concerning how and what to speak. Paul writes: “However, you [Titus], speak those things which are appropriate and suitable with healthy teaching. ... Continue to speak and encourage all these things. Also reprove with every command. Permit no one to disregard you.” [Titus 2:1, 15 Nazarene Commentary;1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 1:13] The early Church was not a lose conglomeration of independent churches with divergent opinions. [1 Corinthians 1:9-11; Ephesians 4:13, 14]

Titus provides an example for modern elders. It is curious to examine contemporary teachers whether they teach these things. This is no shrinking violet. Even Jesus was recognized because he “taught with authority.” [Matthew 7:29.] He is not without solid opinions and convictions regarding the “doctrine.” How does one allow no one to disregard them? If Titus is treated lightly as to his authority he must demonstrate that he, in fact, has such apostolic authority. [1 Timothy 4:12] If necessary he will rebuke in public.

The elder may have strong views and opinions on Scriptural matters confirmed in the Bible. Neither Titus, nor a modern elder, can tolerate views contrary to Scripture within the fellowship. Consider how Paul writes Titus: “That statement is trustworthy. Concerning these [teachings] I counsel you [Titus] to make strong affirmations about them so that [the congregations] of those who believe God continue minding good works. These [teachings] are good and profitable to humanity. Shun a heretical person after two warnings.  Realize that such a person has been perverted, and, in sinning, is self-condemned.” [Titus 3:8, 10, 11 Nazarene Commentary]

Or as Philips Modern English version paraphrases this: “Speak with absolute certainty.” What Paul has written are no mere suggestions, they are apostolic commands. Titus is not to be hesitant or wishy-washy. He gives his reasons in the next phrases. What Paul writes to Titus is not limited to just the isle of Crete. They are applicable and beneficial to Christians of all ages. [2 Timothy 3:15-17]

The Greek for “heretical” is HAIRETICON [Strong’s 141] and the earliest meaning was a person with an opinion or choice, and thus a person who is divisive in his opinion, or schismatic. This does not mean a Christian cannot have an opinion or choice for Paul has just told Titus to make “firm assertions” about certain teachings. These “heresies” contradict “healthy teaching” which came from Jesus the Nazarene. [1 Corinthians 11:19; Galatians 1:7-9; Galatians 5:20] The sectarian person deserves two apostolic warnings from qualified elders. [Romans 16:17 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14; 2 John 10]

There is much the modern elder can learn from Paul’s letter to Titus. Any church with such elders can feel well fed spiritually as well as protected from Satanic influences. As Paul counsels, “Keep holding such men dear.” [Philippians 2:29]


WHAT MAKES WORSHIP “WORTHLESS”?

 

The very thought that worship may be in vain or worthless is not something agreeable to all people. For is not all worship acceptable to God? Could there possibly be Christians who worship God in vain?

Human Doctrines Can Make Worship Worthless

The idea that worship of God may be futile is not of our own invention. It is the prophet Isaiah who suggests such a thought. Note in Isaiah 29:13, “And YHWH has said, ‘This people draw near to Me with their mouth, and they honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. So it is worthless that they worship me, teaching the commandments and doctrines of men.” [LXX] Thus, the worship of these Israelites -- God’s chosen People -- was in vain because human doctrines had removed the hearts of the Jews away from God.

That matters had not changed over 700 years later is shown when Jesus quotes this very text of the Hebrew Bible and applies it to the Jewish hierarchy of his day. Matthew 15:6-9 records this confrontation with Jewish clergy: “And so you have invalidated God’s Word by means of your [Jewish] traditions. You hypocrites, Isaiah fittingly prophesied about you [Jews], ‘This [Israelite] people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far removed from Me. It is worthless that they continue to worship Me, because they teach human commands as doctrines.’” Thus, our Lord makes it clear that doctrines of human origin can render worship of God a useless act.

A close, related disciple of Jesus, James, also writes about formal worship that may be rendered worthless. In the process he lists three matters which could render Christian worship vain or useless. He does this in James 1:26, 27:

“If anyone considers themselves to be a formal worshipper and does not bridle his tongue -- but continues deceiving his own heart -- this person’s worship is worthless. Pure and undefiled worship before The God, even the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their oppression, [and] to keep oneself unspotted from the worldly social order.” The Greek threskos means ceremonially religious and has all the sense of a Jewish form of worship. The word is used two other times at Acts 26:5 where it is the Jewish religion and at Colossians 2:18 where it is a form of Gnosticism -- it is organized, formal and rigid in its ceremony.

1. The Tongue Can Render Worship Worthless

Here James introduces the control of the tongue as an important and vital element in “pure religion.” The word “tongue” occurs 165 times and most often in the Psalms  [38 times] and Proverbs [21 times]. This is the first occurrence out of 5 in James and is the subject he takes up with detail in the next chapter as well as infers it regarding “teachers” in chapter 3. He uses the word “mouth” once. The spirit of this theme is again from the Nazarene’s Mountain Teachings. [See notes on MT 5:21-24] For James it is impossible to divorce “pure religion” from the use of the tongue. In what manner does he mean this bridling control? Largely he has in mind that negative judgmental and critical speech -- often inflammatory and murderous -- which is slanderous. The metaphor of the horse’s bridle he takes up again in JA3:3. The bridle does not shut the mouth but directs the horse. This is speech at once controlled but also directed to that which is upbuilding and constructive. It is the Nazarene who teaches [Luke 6:45] “out of the heart's abundance his mouth speaks” and who warns, “I assure all of you that every idle work that people speak they will give an account for it on the Day of Judgment.” [See notes on MT 12:36.]

The Nazarene showed that peace with one’s brother came before worship. [see notes on MT 5:24] Most often the worshipper realizes that another worshipper has something against him, either in the form of a “debt” or something said which was either damaging, hurtful or divisive, or, in fact, true. It honorable to approach God with one’s offering in a clean conscience, having “committed no offense against God and men.” [Acts 24:16] However, worship can be “futile” or in “vain” for several reasons. In JA1:27 it is “pure religion from God’s stand point.” God, as the object of worship, has the right to determine how He is to be worshipped and what is acceptable to Him. The Nazarene speaks to the woman of Samaria, “True worship is offered in spirit and in truth for God looks for this true worship.” [John 4:22-24] In saying “true worship” he infers there is such a thing as false or erroneous worship. Again, quoting Isaiah, the Nazarene warns the religious hierarchy, “It is in vain you people worship Him because of your traditions.” [see notes on MT 15:9] Isaiah also thunders in the voice of Yahweh, “You are completely sick. Your formal ceremonies are worthless. I hate your religious festivals.” [Isaiah 1:5, 11-14] It is a fearsome prospect that all one’s worship -- with its prayers, hymns, inspirational poems, church attendance, and donations -- is completely worthless if the tongue is not controlled.

2. A Failure to Care for the Needy Can Make Worship Worthless

This is the second requirement of divinely approved worship. This charitable and humanitarian activity is classified by James as part and parcel of true religion though it is not part of what others might consider formal religious ceremony. God has fixed his vision on the orphan and widow and pays strict attention to how they are treated for he Himself shows concern for them. [Proverbs 15:25; Psalm 68:5] Job is falsely accused of ignoring widows [Job 22:9] but this is not true. [Job 29:13] The word “widow(s) occurs almost 100 times, the first in Genesis 38:11 regarding Tamar and most often in Deuteronomy, 14 time; but in the Christian Bible it occurs 7 times Luke  and 7 times 1 Timothy. The person who ignores orphans and widows wastes precious time in ceremonial worship no matter the religion. James uses the Greek episkeptesthai for visit, care for or look after. This is exactly the same word the glorified Son of Man uses at Matthew 25:36 epeskepsasthe when he tells the Sheep of their good deeds to “one of the least” of his brothers. Jesus’ use of “least” means the youngest, oldest, or sickest, particular among women. There is no political value in these non-entities of orphans and widows who are so poor they must rely on others. The Goats of this parable are cast off into “everlasting pruning” [lit Greek] for the sin of omission.

3. Worldly Stain Can Render Worship Worthless

Keep oneself unspotted from the worldly social order: Or, KJV: to keep himself unspotted from the world; NEB: untarnished by; TCNT: uncontaminated by; GDSP: unstained by; BER: free from the smut of. The Greek often rendered “world” is kosmos, which means a systematized arrangement characterizing humankind in general. This “world” has as its “god” the Devil [2 Corinthians 4:4] and it is the Wicked One who is in control of the world. [see notes on 1JN5:19 and EP6:12] The “world” [religious, political, commercial] is characterized by blindness to the truth and ignorance of godly morality. [see notes on EP4:17-19] Greed and fleshly desire drives the world.

Spotless. There is the Christian community and then there is everything “outside” in the world. In his Passover Teachings with his disciples in the upper room the Nazarene taught them: [John 15:19] “If you were part of the world the world would love you because you would belong to it But, because you are no part of the world you are hated by it.” The he prays for his disciples: [John 17:14] “These [apostles] are no part of the world just as I am no part of the world.” James expresses this thought differently: “Adulterers, are you not aware that worldly friendship makes you an enemy of God?” [see notes on JA4:4] Paul stresses separateness from worldliness: (2 Corinthians 6:17) “Get out from their midst and separate yourselves. ... Do not touch the impure thing. ... Then I will receive you.” The Greek aspilos means unspotted or without blemish and occurs only here and at 1 Timothy 6:14; 1 Peter 1:19; see notes on  2PE3:14. It is a synonym for “blameless.”  It is the state unto which a godly husbands attempts to bring his submissive wife. [see notes on EP5:27, spilon]


THE FIFTEEN STEPS TO HEAVENLY GLORY

The apostle Paul describes heaven as “home.” Echoing the promise of the Nazarene -- “In my Father’s house are many dwellings. ... I will come again and take you home to myself.” [John 14:2, 3] -- Paul writes about such a hope: “For we are well aware that if our earthen house -- this tent -- should be dissolved, we are to have a building -- not man-made, but from God -- everlasting in the heavens.” [2 Corinthians 5:1] Thus, a Christian’s “citizenship belongs to heaven from which place we eagerly await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  [Philippians 3:20] It is a joy to reflect on the steps which lead to such heavenly glory! What is involved in the final attainment of heaven where there will be an everlasting home?

There are about fifteen "steps" to heavenly glory in three phases. Revelation 17:14 mentions these three: “... also those with him -- the called, chosen, and faith.” Using this phrase we present these fifteen steps to heavenly glory.

Accepting the Invitation

Some call it a “calling” while others prefer the word “invitation.” Regardless, the Bible teaches us about a marvelous calling or invitation which is open to all who wish to respond. Compare the Nazarene’s parable in Matthew 22:1-14 where God sends out an invitation to a marriage feast. Though some decline to accept the invitation, a variety of other persons do so with joy. Concluding the point of his parable Jesus states: “For many are invited but few chosen.” [Matthew 22:14] Let us examine six steps involved in the initial or invitational part of the steps to heavenly glory.

Step 1. Knowledge

A person must first learn or hear of this invitation as it is mentioned in the Bible. This requires a degree of preliminary knowledge resulting from a study of the Bible. Compare how Jesus described this first step: “No person can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them. ... In the Prophets it is written: ‘And they will all be taught by the LORD.’ Every person who has heard the Father and learned comes to me. ... If any person wishes to do His will they will realize whether my doctrine is my own or I speak from God.” [John 6:45; 7:17] Usually this knowledge comes from reading the Bible with a discussion group or home-church.

Step 2. Faith

This knowledge of the Bible arouses faith or conviction in matters pertaining to God and His Son Jesus Christ. This conviction is manifest by accepting Jesus Christ as God’s Son. [John 1:12, 13; 3:16; Romans 10:9, 10] This faith or conviction will continue to grow stronger and become healthier the more one studies God’s purposes. [Hebrews 1:2] This faith will also be characterized by prayers and fellowship with other Christians.

Step 3. Repentance

This knowledge and faith combine to convict the person so they become aware of their sinful state before God. They realize from their Bible reading that they need to repent, or feel regret for thoughts, words, attitudes and actions in their past life. [Acts 2:38] Repentance will also be a life-long experience because sins will occur from time to time. These need to be taken to God, confessing them, as well as seeking the aid off a mature Christian.       

Step 4. Conversion

Repentance is useless if not followed by a change of conduct, desisting from the sin of which one feels regret. This calls for a conversion, or a turning around and heading in a new direction. (Acts 3:19; Romans 12:2)

Step 5. Dedication or Consecration

The above four steps will move the new disciple to the point of a serous commitment to “follow the Lamb no matter where he goes.” (Romans 6:13; Matthew 16:24; Revelation 14:4) Some call this dedication or consecration. This step usually occurs in a heartfelt and earnest prayer to do God’s will and make Him the center of life.

Step 6. Baptism

Jesus said only by water immersion could we “fulfill all that is righteous.” [Matthew 3:15] He also commissions his apostles to “Go and make disciples of people of all nations, baptizing them.” [Matthew 28:19] Baptism is necessary to have a “good conscience.” (1 Peter 3:21)

These six steps above are those taken by the one whom would be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Now, God begins to take his own steps in the “choosing” of the individual in order to finally gain heavenly glory.

God’s Steps in “Choosing”

Jesus had said, “Many are invited.” [Matthew 22:14] That included all the Jews in his own day. “But, few chosen,” the Nazarene concluded. Though multitudes were invited, only a few of that number were actually chosen. What God does in this “choosing” involves the next six steps to heavenly glory.

Step 7. Justification

Once a disciple has repented, turn around, and then immersed fully in water as an outward indication of willingness to serve God and follow the lead of His Son, God can then apply the value of “redemptive price” or “ransom” of His Son in behalf of the one invited. In the Scriptures this is called “justification.” The Greek word means to “pronounce innocent” or “declare righteous.” (Romans 5:1, 9, 18) All past sins are forgiven and such a person now stands before God as perfect as Adam was before he sinned. [Hebrews 7:19; 10:1, 14] As far as God is concerned the person is “perfect” and He is not able to declare this person a “son” or “child.”

Step 8. Spirit birth

By His spirit God confirms sonship by a divine adoption. [Romans 8:15; 8:23; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5] The new disciple becomes a member of God’s spiritual Household, His Temple. [Ephesians 2:19-22] A spirit of sonship is aroused in the heart and mind and with great joy the disciple realizes a new relationship with God. (John 3:3-5; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:3, 23) This is the first manifestation of God’s spirit and now that spirit leads. [Romans 8:14-17]

Step 9. Spirit anointing

This state of sonship allows God to anoint and commission the person to that “royal priesthood” which makes up the Body of Christ. God has already anointed the Head of the Church, its High Priest, Christ Jesus, a greater Aaron. [Isaiah 61:1; Hebrews 2:17; 3:1; 4:14, 15] (2 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Peter 2:5) This priestly commission means that each disciple must offer up spiritual sacrifices in the form of praise and charity. [Hebrews 13:15, 16] This is the second manifestation of God’s spirit and such a person is not “anointed.” [1 John 2:20, 27]

Step 10. Spirit baptism

Having been spiritually begotten and anointed the disciple now becomes a member f the Christian Church, or the Body of Christ, and is thus baptized in holy spirit to indicate such a fellowship. (Matthew 3:11;1 Corinthians 12:12, 13; Ephesians 4:5) Such a baptism includes an immersion into the leadership, or headship, of Christ. [1 Corinthians 10:2] This is the third manifestation of God’s spirit and now the individual is no longer alone but part of a communal fellowship of Christians.     

Step 11. Spirit sealing

The fourth and final manifestation of God’s spirit is a confirmation which guarantees rights of inheritance and assures the disciple is God’s own property. (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13, 14, 18; 4:30)

Step 12. Baptism into Death

God then permits another baptism to begin: an immersion into a death like that of Christ. Discipleship is described as accepting Christ’s cross while disowning self and following him daily. This is not an easy life and may involve suffering and even martyrdom. This involves an entire life of devotion to Christ. This immersion will be completed when the person is raised up to life in heaven. (Romans 6:3, 4) Now some final steps are necessary to finally experience heavenly glory.

Steps of “Faith”

Step 13. Faithful Endurance

It is not enough to just begin the course of Christian discipleship. One must endure, conquer the world, and remain faithful unto death. (Romans 5:3, 4; Luke 21:19; Revelation 13:10) There may be hills and valleys in this life-course of endurance, but no matter what befalls the disciple the final goal is kept in mind. [Philippians 3:13, 14]

Step 14. Final Seal of God

Though there has been an initial sealing there must be a final confirmation establishing God’s final and everlasting approval so that the person may now be given immortality and no longer under the authority of Second Death. This involves a resurrection and a final judgment before the Throne of Christ. (2 Timothy 4:6-8; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 John 2:28; Revelation 7:1-4) Those alive at the time of the Great Oppression will have their “seal” in the flesh and thus become the “firstfruits” of all the Church before they are raptured to heaven. One step remains.

Step 15. Glorification

Having stood before the judgment-throne with freeness of speech [1 John 2:28; 4:17] the risen Saint may now be glorified with immortal and incorruptible life. These may now be seated on their thrones and find their permanent, irremovable place in God’s celestial Temple. (1 Corinthians 15:50-52; Revelation 3:12)

What joy and privilege now lies before the entire glorified Church. As the Lamb’s Bride she will now rejoice at the celestial marriage feast. Following that joyous event the Lamb and his Bride, along with all the holy, chosen angels, will return to the earth for the final battle with the political powers of the earth and all their armies. [Revelation 17:14; 19:7-9; 11-19] Following their victory Satan and his demons will be cast in the Abyss there to wait for a Thousand Years. [Revelation 20:1-3; Matthew 25:46] Then will begin their glorious rule as kings and priests over the earth for a Thousand Years, leading to the “healing of the nations.” [Revelation 22:2] When the Thousand Years end they will “judge angels” [1 Corinthians 6:3] when Satan and his rebellious followers in “heaven and earth” [Revelation 20:7-11] are cast forever into Second Death. Then -- Rejoice! -- all the dead billions of mankind will be raised to the Last Judgment. They will be judged by Christ and the Church based on their past lives on earth. The righteous will gain the opportunity for everlasting life on a paradise earth. The habitually evil will be cast into Second Death to share the fate of Satan and his followers. “God will become everything to everyone!” [1 Corinthians 15:28 MOF]

NOW -- O everlasting Joy! -- “the day of eternity” [2 Peter 3:18] begins with unlimited opportunities and privileges before those in heaven and earth [Ephesians 1:10] -- all to the praise of God’s glory by means of Jesus Christ. Our hearts yearn for this blessed time. We remain determined to let nothing stop us in our faithful and enduring integrity until we all together attain such heavenly glory.


ARE THE “LAST DAYS” 2,000 YEARS LONG?

“Last Days” in the Christian Bible

Many are concerned about the “last days.” A large number of Christians believe we are in the “last days” now as we approach the year 2,000. There are some who believe the “last days” started almost 2,000 years ago and will end with the Return of Christ. What does the Bible teach about “last days”? When do these “last days” end?

The phrase “last days” only occurs a handful of times in the Christian Bible, the New Testament. The words are drawn from the Greek ESCHATAIS HEMERAIS and the first occurrence is found in Acts 2:17 when Peter gives his Pentecostal speech to the Jews. His language would seem to confirm that Peter believed in the year 33 CE he was in the “last days.” [Jesus never uses such a term.]

Other occurrences of the words “last days” occur in contexts, which would argue that the designation was being applied to the final period of the Jewish Temple Age. Speaking to Timothy, Paul writes, using the singular “you” -- “You know [Timothy] that in the last days difficult times will come.” [2 Timothy 3:1] These words would seem to apply to Timothy who was living before the end of the Jewish Temple Age. Paul wrote to the Hebrew Christians before he destruction of the Jewish Temple: “[God] hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.” Hebrews 1:2 KJV] This would also put the “last days” before the end of the Temple as well as indicate they began with the coming of Messiah in the year 29 CE when he began to speak to the Jews. The disciple James warns rich Jews, “It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure.” [James 5:3 NAS] These were alive before the end of he Jewish Temple Age in the year 70 CE.

Peter is to use “last days” again and likely he has the same context of his initial use in mind. 2 Peter 3:3 says, “In the last days there will come mockers with their mockery.” It seems the disciple Jude quotes this statement in his small epistle: “The apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ spoke beforehand in their message, ‘In the last days there will be mockers.’” [Jude 17, 18] Thus, both Peter and Jude confirmed they were living in the “last days” of the Jewish Temple Age. However, how long were these “last days”? When did they begin and when did they end?

How Long Were the “Last Days”?

We learned above that it seems likely these “last days” began when Messiah came preaching following his baptism in the year 29 CE. [Hebrews 1:2] Would these “last days” have a precise end? Or, would they continue on for more than two thousand years, including our own day and beyond?

It seems fair to state that by the very phrase “last days” must have a conclusion or consummation. Did the “last days” that began with the coming of Jesus Christ have such a conclusion, bring those “last days” to their end? It seems so.

When Jesus was discussing the time when the Jewish Temple would be desolated or destroyed his disciples asked him, “What will be the sign ... of the conclusion of the Age?” [Matthew 24:3] Though there are several views on the meaning of this question, may we suggest one? The disciples are found used a Greek word SYNTELEIAS which means consummation or conclusion. The context of their question was regarding the end [HO TELOS] of Jerusalem’s Temple. [Matthew 24:1, 2; for details see Nazarene Commentary] Where did the disciples get this word?

It seems possible they drew upon a prophetic context in Daniel which also foretold the SYNTELEIAS upon Jerusalem and her Temple. Consider Daniel 9:27, And on the Temple shall be the abomination of desolations; and at the end of times [SYNTELEIAS] an end [SYNTELEIA] shall be put to the desolation.” [LXX Bagster] This would seem to predict a definite conclusion to Jerusalem’s “last days” when her Temple was desolated. In answering his disciples’ question, Jesus himself draws on Daniel 9:27 at Matthew 24:15 indicating this conclusion surely deals with Jerusalem’s Temple. Thus, it would seem those “last days” ended with the desolation of the Jews in the early 70s CE.

How can we sure this is the meaning, however? We remember that Paul had used the phrase “last days” in Hebrews 1:2. Does Paul teach these “last days” would have their own conclusion during his own contemporary times? We find the answer in Hebrews 9:2, “Now [Jesus] has been made manifest once for all time at the conclusion [SYNTELEIA] of the Age [TON AIONON], putting away of the sin by the sacrifice of himself.”  The phrase “conclusion of the Age” is exactly the same used by the disciples in Matthew 24:3. [Compare also 1 Corinthians 10:11.]

Thus, those “last days” of which Peter first spoke were upon that period of time -- the Jewish Temple Age -- which began in the year 29 CE and ended -- or had their conclusion -- with the desolation of the Jews during the war with the Romans from the fall of 66 you to the spring of 73 and the conquest of Masada. [This actual period was predicted in Daniel 8:14 as 2,300 days which would bring the “time of the end” to an actually conclusion.] Does all of this mean there will be no future “last days”?

Are “Last Days” Ahead of Us?

The above would argue we are not now in the “last days” as no such phrase occurs in the Bible in relation to our own time period before the year 2,000. This does not necessarily mean we are NOT in the “last days”? Why?

The phrase “last days” does not appear in the book of Revelation. However, there is a precise period of time which is to precede the Return (or, Parousia) of Jesus Christ. It is a period lasting three and a half years [or, 42 months, 1,260 days]. This period of oppression against the Messianic Saints is described in Revelation chapters 11, 12, and 13. The prophetic idea is drawn from Daniel 7:21-25 as well as Daniel 12:1-3, 7, 11, 12. With the conclusion of this period of great oppression [Revelation 7:14; Matthew 24:21] Messiah arrives in his foretold parousia to deliver his Saints out of harm’s way -- and this by a rapturous snatching off this planet’s surface! [1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; Revelation 11:12]

No one knows the “day and hour” [Mark 13:32, 33] -- or even appointed “season” [Acts 1:7] -- of the approaching of this period. Indeed, our Savior warned about some false prophets and pseudo anointed who would false preach, “The time is at hand!” And then warned not to follow or join such persons. [Luke 21:8] Judging from all of these matters it seems that no one can state with surety we are in the “last days” now. However, once the “great oppression” with its 1,260 days becomes apparent, perhaps then, and only then, could Christian Saints look back and say, “We are in the Last Days!” They will have to yet endure the holocaust of the great oppression and await the Rapture off this earth as those “last days” continue to their finale. [Revelation chapters 17-19] It will be during that time that a voice from heaven will declare, “THE END HAS COME!” [Revelation 16:17 Phillips Modern English] Those “last days” of Satan’s disastrous rule of the world will end to be -- O Joy! -- replaced by Messiah’s Kingdom. [Revelation 11:15-17]


 

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