False Brethren

“False brethren” are twice spoken of in the New Covenant, both times by Paul (2 Corinthians 11:26; Galatians 2:4).  Who were these “false brethren”?  What practical lessons can we glean from the mentioning in scripture of them?

A common view is that these were brethren, but they were not behaving very brotherly.  Clearly, there were brethren of disappointing behavior then, and surely there are now.  Multitudes in Asia abandoned Paul, while he was imprisoned (2 Timothy 1:15-18 cf. 4:16).  Demas was a sad disappointment (2 Timothy 4:10).  Some brethren were fickle (Galatians 1:6).  They ran well and then got tripped up by false teachers (Galatians 5:7).  Diotrophes was too desirous of preeminence to work with John (3 John 9).

Another view is that these were not brethren at all, only pretending to be.  McGarvey, “certain Jews, who were members of the church and yet not Christians at all, but had entered the church to further Jewish interests, and who were… spies of the Jews (Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, p. 257-258).  Crouch, “They were likely Jews, pretending to be Christians… they were enemies of the cross in the guise of friends… to take away our liberty from the law of Moses which we have in Christ, that they may bring us into bondage to the Jewish law (Studies in Galatians, p. 17).  Franklin Camp speculated that these were those who John would write, “They went out from us, but they were not of us” (1 John 2:19).

This second view seems to fit.  Consider these points: (1) 2 Corinthians  11:26 speaks of “false brethren.”  Yet, earlier in this same book, and even this same chapter “false prophets” are mentioned (2 Corinthians 11:13).  Clearly, these weren’t misbehaving apostles.  They were not apostles at all.  Consistency would seem to suggest the same concerning “false brethren.”  (2) Paul lists “perils among false brethren” separate from “the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:26 cf. 11:28).  (3) These “false brethren” are said to have “sneaked in” (Galatians 2:4 NASB), or “came in by stealth” (Galatians 2:4 NKJV).  They clearly were binding the Mosaical law on Gentile converts (Galatians 2:4 cf. Acts 15:1, note the distinction between “certain men” and “the brethren”).

It seems at least possible to me that the early church had to deal not only with Jewish and other opposition from without, but that they also had to deal with Jewish infiltration.  Such tactics are not unheard of even in this day.

The early church  did something that should be done more today.  They introduced faithful brethren with a letter of commendation (Acts 18:27; Romans 16:1-2; 1 Corinthians 16:10; 2 Corinthians 8:16, 23-24; Philippians 2:19-24; Philippians 2:19-24; 2 Corinthians  3:1-3).  Such letters no doubt solidified trust and confidence in the one coming into a local church and it helped the local church and her elders avoid a plague of problems.

We need to be cautious.  We should not use people in classrooms, Gospel meetings, ladies day, youth programs, to fill the pulpit, etc. without truly knowing with confidence who they are, and in what they believe and for what they stand.  If we don’t have first hand knowledge, a letter of commendation from a faithful member or church is both Biblical and beneficial.

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What Can Be Done With A Tract, C.D., or DVD?

  1.  Keep specialty tracts written on specific religious groups (Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah Witnesses, the Latter Day Saints, etc.) near the door, so that they may be shared with these groups when they come knocking (The Jehovah Witnesses usually will not take or read your material, yet they want you to take and read material from them. Tell them that you will take and read their material, if they will take and read your material. Hold them to this).
  2. Leave basic tracts on fundamental themes (Plan of Salvation, the Church, etc.) in public places such as restaurants, motels, airports, hospitals, nursing homes, etc..  You may never know whose hands they’ll find themselves in.
  3. Mail tracts in with your bills (make sure you pay them on time –  lol).  Again, you never know in whose hands the tract may find itself.
  4. If you have a non-believing spouse, you might try leaving tracts around the house in plain view.  Perhaps they’ll pick it up and read out of curiosity.
  5. Order quantities of tracts.  Get a city directory organized by street.  And then begin to mail these tracts out a little at a time to those who live in close proximity to you.  I have known several members of the church that have, by this means, a little at a time, covered an entire community and even city.
  6. Keep tracts with you, in your car, purse, etc..  If you do  this, you may be better prepared for the defense of the Gospel, when religious discussions come up at work, family reunions, etc.
  7. Order tracts in quantities, and pass them out, door by door, before Gospel meetings, (or anytime).
  8. When you sent gifts for various occasions, such a birthdays, etc., include a tract.  Let them know that you not only love them, you are concerned for their soul.
  9. Use tracts to help formulate basic outlines for family devotionals, Sunday morning Bible class, etc. Caution: while you may organize your thoughts this way,  do your own study. Too many Bible teachers and preachers borrow their lessons from others without doing much study of their own. Entire Gospel meetings have been preached this way. Little growth comes this way and such may even be dangerous.
  10. use tracts to investigate subjects on which you have questions.  Remember tracts are not inspired, but use them for their evidence. Never use a tract as a substitute for personal Bible reading and  study. Do not let the quick answers in a tract substitute for investigating the matter in scripture.
  11. Memorize the basic contents of the tract that you have just reviewed.  If you do this, you can pass it on to others who may benefit, and yet still retain information.
  12. Give tracts (and books) to new converts.  Many new converts are hungering for information and such may help them.  However, my advice is to never pass to someone else what you have not personally reviewed and verified to be good (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1). Do not blindly trust a tract just because it was written by some brother.

This is just another means by which you can help carry the Gospel into all of the world (Mark 16:16).  Brethren, let us use every legitimate means available to do so.  Let us use every opportunity we have to tell others about Christ, His church, and His plan of salvation!

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What’s Your Center?

“Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd told an interesting story concerning his first expedition to the South Pole.  He left his isolated hut one day for a brief trip of exploration, and then in a sudden blizzard he became hopelessly lost.  There was nothing to give him any sense of direction.  He had a long pole which he always carried to feel if there were any holes in the ice; so he stuck it in the snow and tied a scarf to it.  He said, ‘that was my center.  If I failed to find my hut, I could return to the center and try again.  Three times I tried and failed.  In the fourth attempt, I stumbled upon my hut.’  There must be a home port, a point of reference.  In mathematics it is found in the decimal point.  In language it is found in the basic rules of grammar.  In religion it is found in Christ.  Our standard comes from Him” (Leroy Brownlow, Sermon: The Christian Life).

Let us make Christ our center, our reference point.  Let us fix our eyes on Him (Hebrews 12:2).  Let us make Him the center of our lives (Philippians 1:21).  Let us follow Him (1 Corinthians 11:1).  If we do these things, we will never find ourselves hopelessly lost.

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In The News: Ben Carson

Presidential candidate Ben Carson has raised much controversy by telling Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet The Press: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.  I absolutely would not agree with that.”  Immediately, some have said that his statement indicates that he is unfit to serve as President.  Some have boldly declared that the Constitution says that we are not to have any religious test for our candidates (Article 6 paragraph 3).

Please understand that I am not endorsing any political candidate on this blog.  I am not an apologist for Ben Carson or anyone else.  This is not about politics.

However, there are some things which need to be said.  First, the religious test clause does not apply to voters, but to the federal government.  Christians can and should vote for what is in the best interest of Christianity.  Let us remember, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34), “When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice; But when the wicked man rules, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2).  John Jay, First Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, said, “Providence has given to our people the choice of rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians as their rulers” (Barton, Original Intent, p. 344).

Second, the religious test clause of the Constitution originally applied to the Federal government and not to states.  Eight states’ constitutions require state office holders to have a particular belief [Arkansas (Article 19, Section 1); Maryland (Article 37); Mississippi (Article 14, Section 265); North Carolina (Article 1, Section 4); Pennsylvania (Article 1 Section4); South Carolina (Article 17; Section 4); Tennessee (Article 9 Section 2); Texas (Article 1, Section 4)].  Texas requires one acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.  “At the time of the Founding, every single one of the individual states had a religious test for public office, and eight still do” (Bryan Fischer, onenewsnow.com, September 23, 2015).  The constitutionality of these tests have been defeated in recent years (The 1961 U.S. Supreme Court case Torcas0 v. Watkins; The 1997 S.C. Supreme Court case Silverman v. Campbell).

Third, “the Founding Fathers did not consider a requirement to believe in God to be a religious test” (Barton, Original Intent, p. 36).  The State of Tennessee’s Constitution forbids religious tests (Article 11, Section 4).  Yet, it also reads, “No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the Civil department of this state” (Article 9, Section 2).  The religious test clause was likely designed to prevent the government from requiring one to be a member of a certain denomination or religious group.

Regardless of the meaning of “religious test,” the constitution is limiting government and not voters.  Do not let anyone tell you that you must leave your Christian beliefs behind when you go to the polls.

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The Apocrypha

The Bible which I use contains 66 books.  These books can be divided into 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books.

The Bible that Catholics use contains 73 books.  These books can be divided into 46 Old Testament books.  [This includes the same 39 books which are in my Bible, plus 7 additional Old Testament books: Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom (of Solomon), Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) and Baruch] and 27 New Testament books (The same 27 books which are in my Bible).  Additionally, 5 books are attached to other Old Testament books (The additions to Esther are attached to Esther; The Prayer of Azariah and The Song of the Three Young Men, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon are attached to Daniel, The Letter of Jeremiah is sometimes attached to Baruch).

Collectively, these books are sometimes referred to as “the apocrypha.”  The word, “apocrypha” means “hidden” or “concealed.”  The term came to be used of books of doubtful or unknown origin, and non-canonical books.

The conscientious Bible student wants to please God.  Should he direct his steps by these books?  Do these books belong in the Bible?

First, these are not New Testament books.  If these books do belong in the Bible (which they do not!) they would be a part of the Old Testament.  Man is now dead to the law (Romans 7:4), delivered from the law (Romans 7:6) the requirements of the Old Testament have been nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14).

Second, Josephus stated that the Jewish Bible contained 22 books.  He wrote, “We have not an innumerable multitude of books among us disagreeing from and contradicting one another (as the Greeks have) but only twenty-two books… which are justly believed to be divine” (Editor Terry Hightower, A Handbook on Bible Translations, Shenandoah Lectures, p. 280, quoting Josephus, Against Apion Book 1 section 8).  Josephus indicates that 5 of these books belong to Moses, and cover the origin of man till the death of Moses (ibid).  These books no doubt are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  He indicates that 13 of these books were written by prophets after Moses’ death until Artaxerxes King of Persia (ibid).  These books are thought to have been divided as follows: Joshua, Judges/Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra/Nehemiah, Esther, Isaiah, Jeremiah/Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, The Twelve Minor Prophets, Job (biblehub.com).  He indicates that 4 books contained hymns to God and precepts for human conduct (Hightower).  These books would include: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.

Third, Josephus indicates that the prophets which followed Moses wrote from “the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes King of Persia” (Hightower).  Artaxerxes reigned from 465 B.C. – 424 B.C. (Wikipedia) The Apocrypha (or Deutrocanonical Books as the Catholics refer to them) are generally understood to be written much later than this.  Neil Lightfoot has written, “The Old Testament Apocrypha… were written mostly in the period of 200 B.C. to 200 A.D.” (Lightfoot, How We Got the Bible, p. 68).

Fourth, Josephus never quoted these books as scripture (Geisler & Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, p. 272).

Fifth, Josephus did not consider the writings after Artaxerxes of like authority with what came prior.  He wrote, “It is true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes, very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time; how firmly we have given credit to those books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them or take anything from them, or to make any changes in them; but it becomes natural to all Jews immediately from their birth, to esteem these books to contain these books to contain divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and if occasion be, willing to die for them…” (Hightower, p. 250 quoting Against Apion Book 1 Section 8).

Sixth, one apocryphal book seems to deny inspiration.  1 Maccabees was written about events in the second century B.C..  It reads, “And they cleared the holy places, and took away the stones that had been defiled into an unclean place.  And he considered about the altar of holocausts that had been preformed, what he should do with it  And a good counsel came into their minds, to pull it down: lest it should be a reproach to them because the Gentiles had defiled it; so they threw it down.  And they laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple in a convenient place, till there should come a prophet, and give answer concerning them? (1 Maccabees 4:43-46); “And there was made great tribulation in Israel, such as was not since the day, that there was no prophet seen in Israel” (1 Maccabees 9:27); “Then Simon resisted and fought for his nation, and laid out much of his money, and armed the valiant men of his nation, and gave them wages.  And he fortified the cities of Judea… And in his days things prospered in his hands, so that the heathens were taken away out of their country… And the Jews and their priests had consented that he should be their prince, and high-priest forever, till there should arise a faithful prophet” (1 Maccabees 14:32-41).  There was no faithful prophet at this time.

Seventh, Jesus nor the apostles, ever quoted from these books.  Fredric Kenyon wrote, “It is noticeable that while these are many quotations in the New Testament from each group of books in the Old [Three-fold division: Law/Prophets/Psalms (Luke 24:44; Josephus); Two-fold division: Law/Prophets (Matthew 5:17; 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Luke 16:16; 24:27; John 1:45; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 28:23; Romans 3:21)], there is not a single direct quotation from the Apocrypha” (Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts: A History of The Text and its Translation, p. 28).

Eighth, Jesus gave an outline of violence in the Old Testament in Luke 11:50-51.  He said it existed from the blood of Able (Genesis 4) to the blood of Zachariah (2 Chronicles 24).  The E.S.V. Study Bible comments, “From the beginning of the first book to the end of the last book in the Hebrew Bible.”

Ninth, while there may be historic and other value to these books, there are doctrinal errors, and historical errors,  in the apocrypha. Let’s mention just two doctrinal errors found in the apocrypha.  It teaches giving, sacrifice, and prayer for the dead [(2 Maccabees 12:43-45 cf. Luke 16:19-31; 2 Corinthians  5:10; Hebrews 9:27) It is interesting that the Catholics reject another apocrypha book 2 Esdras which is against pray for the dead(7:105)].  It commends the murder of the men of Shechem (Judith 9:2-9 cf. Genesis 34; 49:6-7).

Tenth, the Catholic Church did not officially accept these books as canonical until April 08, 1546 at the council of Trent.  Jerome wrote that in his day, “As the church reads the books of Judith and Tobit and Maccabees but does not received them among the canonical scriptures, so it reads Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus for the edification of the people, not for the authorization confirmation of doctrine” (www.jesus-is-lord.com, Jerome’s preface to the books of Solomon).

Eleventh, while it is sometimes argued that Jesus and the apostles used the Septuagint and it contained the apocrypha, in truth no one can prove that the Septuagint of their day contained the apocrypha. The earliest Greek manuscripts that include the  apocrypha date from the fourth century A.D. Even if they were included in apostolic times, Jesus and the apostles never once quote from them (Geisler & Nix, A General Introduction To The Bible, pp.267-268).

In summary: If these books were in the Bible, they would be Old Testament and not New Testament books.  There are many reasons to conclude that they are not inspired.  However, they may be helpful in understanding history.

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Grace Series: My Grace is Sufficient

Lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure” (2 Corinthians 12:7).

Paul had been blessed.  He was an inspired apostle of Christ.  Moreover, he was allowed a peek into Paradise (2 Corinthians 12:1-6 cf. Luke 23:43).

God allowed Paul to be afflicted.  The affliction in some way was from Satan.  However, God allowed the affliction to help keep Paul humble.

What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh?  We are not told, and not enough information has been provided to conclude with certainty.  However, many speculations exist: (1) Many believe that this was a physical ailment (Galatians 4:13-15; 1 Corinthians 2:3-5 cf. 2 Corinthians  10:10, notice the word “weakness” and “weak”), perhaps affecting his eyes (Galatians 4:13-15; 6:11 cf. Acts 9:8-9, 17-18).  Satan was once allowed to afflict Job’s body (Job 2:6-7).  (2) Some believe that this was some physical injury which came through persecution (Acts 14:19; Galatians 6:18; 2 Corinthians 11:22-30).  This would explain how Satan was involved.  (3) Some have suggested that it was the memory he had of the past (1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8).  (4) Some believe that it was his Jewish opponents.  “Flesh” is sometimes used of Jews and Judaism (Galatians 3:1-3; Philippians 3:3-6; 2 Corinthians 5:15-16).  The Canaanites were thorns in the side of Israel (Numbers 33:55). In my mind some of these fit better than do others. Still it is unwise to be dogmatic.

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness’ ” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).

The Lord is in control.  He chose not to remove Paul’s thorn in the flesh.  Two reasons are stated.  First, His grace is sufficient.  Second, His strength is made perfect in weakness (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

When afflicted, we should remember God’s grace.  Let us stay focused.  Paul wrote, “I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18); “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).  Jesus said, “rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12).

When afflicted, we should remember that sometimes it is through our weakness that the power of God is seen.  Paul wrote, “I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5).  Paul was not trying to attract people to Christianity by his own intellect and wisdom, oratory skills, physical persona or handsomeness.  He wanted their faith to be in God and not man.

Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake.  For when I am weak then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 11:9-10).

Paul accepted his condition, and not only accepted it, he boast in it.  He did so because such allowed the power of Christ to be manifest through him.  It also help to keep him humble. If one is not aware of limitations and weaknesses physically and intellectually, then pride can become a real problem. God knew what Paul needed, and Paul trusted Him (as should we).

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Grace Series: The True Grace of God

I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand” (1 Peter 5:12).

The implication is that some have other ideas on grace.  Jude write of those “Who turn the grace of our God into lewdness” (Jude 4).  Some, in our day, do the same.

This book of 1 Peter is about God’s true grace.  Yet, this book says, “you have purified your souls in obeying the truth” (1 Peter 1:22).  Obedience and grace are not mutually exclusive.  The fact that we are required to comply with God’s conditions of pardon does not mean that salvation is not of grace.  It is only by the grace of God that man can be saved.  This book also teaches Christians to be good citizens (1 Peter 2:13-17), good employees (1 Peter 2:18-25), and good husbands and wives (1 Peter 3:1-7).  The fact that God wants, and orders, man to live a moral life in no way means that man earns his salvation.  Salvation is possible because of God.

The word “grace” appears eight times in the book of 1 Peter (1 Peter 1:2; 1:10; 1:13; 3:7; 4:10; 5:5; 5:10; 5:12).  Grace is connected with the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 1:10-12 cf. 1:3-4; 1:18-19; 2:24) and the glories that would follow (1 Peter 1:10-12 cf. 1 Corinthians 2:7; Philippians 3:20-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Peter 3:7; 5:10).  God’s grace is conditional (1 Peter 5:5-6). This is the true grace of God.

The theme of the entire book of 1 Peter is grace, even though “grace” is not mentioned in every verse, or even every chapter.  Some seem to think that unless a sermon explicitly mentions “grace,” then grace is not being taught.  This is not true.  When a sermon teaches salvation through the death-burial-and resurrection of Jesus, grace is being taught.  When God’s plan for redemption is unfolded through the pages of the Bible, grace is being taught.  When a sermon teaches man what to do to be saved, grace is being taught.  When a sermon teaches man how to maintain a right relationship with God through the blood of Christ, and about “the second law of pardon,” grace is being taught. I think it is good to mention the word “grace” (we never want to leave the impression that man merits salvation).  However, a sermon does not necessarily have to use the word “grace,” to be teaching God’s grace.

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