Roe v. Wade Overturned, Now What?

A great legal victory occurred on June 24, 2022. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade after more than 49 years (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization).  The issue of abortion is returned to the states.  Now what? 

1.  How one votes matters.

Elections have consequences.  Key to overturning Roe v. Wade was the Supreme Court appointments of Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.  These appointments were made by Donald J. Trump. This is not a political statement. It is just the facts. These appointments made the difference (joined with Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and John Roberts). I have heard Christians through the years say things like, “I no longer vote with abortion as a major issue in my mind.  Roe v. Wade is the ruling of the Court.  It will never change.”

However, things can change.  They can change for the better or for the worse.  This ruling demonstrates such.     

May we as Christians always seek to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16).  Do not separate your Christian beliefs from how you vote.  Let us wisely seek to apply our beliefs to all of life, including how we vote. It is important to remember when voting that we are not seeking a utopian candidate. We are not seeking one without sin; there has only been one. We should ask which one of the candidates will be most likely to help create an environment friendly to Christianity and Biblical principles. Admittedly, this is sometimes difficult to discern. However, this should always be the goal.

The political/legal battle is not over.  The current decision does not outlaw abortions.  It simply makes it a state-by-state issue.  Moreover, future U.S. Supreme Courts could reverse this ruling. Court packing could occur. Congress could seek to codify the right to abortion in federal law.

2.  Hearts and minds need to change.

One can outlaw murder, rape, prostitution, abortion, suicide, and other moral issues.  Doing so may deter and reduce numbers.  However, it will not eliminate these things.  Prohibition did not eliminate alcohol consumption. 

Hearts and minds need to be won.  The brethren at Thessalonica had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).  The brethren at Corinth had once been guilty of unrighteous behavior, including such things as: fornication, idolatry adultery, homosexuality, sodomy, theft, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling, extortion (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  Paul said that he once was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” (1 Timothy 1:13).  The gospel has the power to change hearts and minds. 

3.  Salvation is more important than politics.

We should want more than political and legal victories.  What have we really accomplished in gaining political and legal victories, if we leave man in a lost condition?

We should be making effort to save souls.  Are we passionate about this, and even more so, that we are about politics?  The early Christians “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).  Do we?

A utopian America is not the goal of the Christian.  Instead, we are to seek to glorify God (1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31), magnify Christ (Philippians 1:20), and win souls for Christ (Acts 8:4; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; 2 Timothy 2:1-2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 2:9).

4.  Let us be truly pro-life and pro-family.

Let us not just be against things.  We should not just be anti-abortion, but pro-life.  We should not be just anti-same sex marriage; we should be pro-family as God designed it. (The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 26, 2015, to strike down state bans on same-sex marriage. Obergefell v. Hodges)

Let us be truly pro-life.  Let us be ready to help those who are in unexpected, unwanted pregnancy.  Let us be a neighbor towards those in need (Luke 10:25-37).  Let us do good as we have opportunity (Galatians 6:10; James 1:27).  Moreover, let us not just seek to save physical life of the fleshly body, but also the soul (Matthew 10:28).  If we want these children born, we should also want them to be saved.

Let us be truly pro-family as God designed it.  Let us do what we can to help strengthen families (Ephesians 5:22-6:4; Colossians 3:18-21; Titus 2:1-8).

5.  Let us be forgiving.

All have sinned (Romans 3:23).  This includes you.  This includes me.

It is easy for some to think that the sins of others are worse than their own.  However, the truth is that we all deserve the wrath of God (Ephesians 2:1-3).

However, God is gracious and merciful.  He does not want us to be lost (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4).  Paul said, “Christ Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).  If God can save Paul, then he can save others.  He can save those who have done every manner of sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). 

We too much learn to be forgiving of others.  We do not want to be guilty of the attitude of the elder son (Luke 15:11-32).

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The Glory of the LORD and Mount Olivet

The Bible is filled with amazing details which are sometimes missed.  This is the case in the passages which we will consider in this article.  Jesus ascended from the mount called Olivet (Acts 1:9-12 cf. Luke 24:50-53).  Is there a significance?

1.  The Book of Ezekiel

And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain, which is on the east side of the city” (Ezekiel 11:23).

The glory of the LORD is mentioned.  (1) The glory of the LORD once filled the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-35).  (2) It later departed from Israel (1 Samuel 4:21-22).  (3) The glory of the LORD once filled the Temple (1 Kings 8:11; 2 Chronicles 5:14; 7:1-3).  (4) It is now pictured as again departing.  It departs the Temple and the city of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 10:18-19; 11:22-23).  Destruction is coming (Ezekiel 12). 

The mountain which is on the east side of the city is mentioned.  This mountain to the east is the Mount of Olives or Olivet (olive garden).  Baker’s Bible Atlas says, “Paralleling the eastern elevation of Jerusalem, separated from it by the Kidron Valley, is the mile-long range of limestone hills known as the Mount of Olives or Olivet (elevation about 2,680)” (p. 142). 

2.  Jesus

Jesus was (is) the glory of the LORD.  John wrote, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  The writer of       Hebrews said of Jesus,  “Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person…” (Hebrews 1:3).  James referred to Jesus as “the Lord of glory” (James 2:1).

Jesus ascended from the mount called Olivet (Acts 1:9-12).  Baker’s Bible Atlas says, “The summit of Olivet, is often called the Mount of Ascension” (ibid).  Destruction of Jerusalem would follow (Matthew 23:37-38; 24:15-16 cf. Luke 21:20-21).  The place of His departure is significant.  It connects Jesus’ departure with the departure of the glory of the LORD in Ezekiel’s day.

3.  Us

It is important that we keep Jesus within us.  Christ dwells in our hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17).  Christ in us is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).  We are exhorted “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16).  It would indeed be sad for Him to not be in us (Romans 8:9-11; John 14:23 cf. 15:6). 

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Put On… (Colossians 3:12-15)

It is said that a tradition sprang up, in the early years of church history, concerning the garments worn following baptism.  The historian Philip Schaff wrote, “During the week following, the neophytes wore white garments as a symbol of purity” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2, p. 252).  Of course, this is not something the Bible requires.  It was a human tradition practiced by some.

However, the Bible does speak of a change of spiritual clothing that should occur.  There are things that should be put off (Colossians 3:8-9; Ephesians 4:22).  There are things that should be put on (Colossians 3:12-15; Ephesians 4:24).  We should be concerned about how we present ourselves before the world.  We should want others to see Christ in us (Colossians 3:10-11; Romans 13:14; Galatians 2:20; 4:19).  It is not enough to put off certain bad characteristics.  We are to put on Christ-like characteristics.  We are to be Christians, followers of Christ.

Remember Whose You Are

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on…” (Colossians 3:12).  Alan Adams remarked, “We are not to dress like commoners, rather as ‘God’s elect, holy and beloved’” (editor Garland Robinson, 1997, Seek The Old Paths Lectureship, The Church at Colosse, p. 149).  We are God’s special people (Colossians 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9-10 cf. Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2).

How To Dress (Notice that the first letter of each point spells out Christ)

Compassion for Others

Put on “tender mercies” (Colossians 3:12 NKJV), compassionate hearts (ESV).  We need to care about others.  Jesus did (Philippians 2:5-ff).  May we rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

 Put on “kindness” (Colossians 3:12).  The original word can refer to “kindness shown, beneficence” (Perschbacher).  Think of it as kindness in action.  Our compassion for others should be manifested in actions (Galatians 6:10; 1 John 3:17-18).  Jesus’ was (Philippians 2:5-ff; 1 John 3:16).

Humility With Others

Put on “humility” (Colossians 3:12).  We should not think of ourselves as too good to associate with others and serve others (Romans 12:16; Matthew 20:20-28).  Jesus didn’t (Philippians 2:5-ff; Matthew 20:28; John 13:14-15).  May we each be “clothed with humility” (1 Peter 5:5).

Put on “meekness” (Colossians 3:12 NKJV), “gentleness” (NASB).  The original word “described negatively… is the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest” (Vine’s).  We should be considerate of others.  Jesus was.

Resilience/Restraint in Relationship

Put on “longsuffering” (Colossians 3:12 NKJV), “patience” (NASB, ESV).  God has been “longsuffering” toward us (2 Peter 3:9).  Jesus is “longsuffering” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).  We should not be quick to give up on others or cut others out of our lives.  “Love suffers long” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Put on “bearing with one another” (Colossians 3:12 NKJV), “forbearing one another” (KJV).  A.T. Robertson rendered it “holding yourselves back from one another” (  God has been forbearing with man (Romans 3:25). 

Imitate Christ in Forgiveness

Put on “forgiving one another… even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13).  Christ forgives.  If we are Christians, He has forgiven us.  God forgives (Ephesians 4:32).  Shouldn’t we be forgiving?  We must be (Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Luke 17:3-4; Matthew 18:21-35).

Superlative of Love

“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:14 NKJV), “…the perfect bond of unity” (NASB), “…brings together perfect harmony” (ESV).  The word is agape.  Alan Adams considers the things to be put on as the following garments: (1) vest = compassion, kindness; (2) pants = humility, meekness; (3) shoes = longsuffering, forbearing, forgiving; (4) belt = love.  He said, “without this Christian ‘belt,’ one is at best unkempt and disheveled” (Robinson, p. 150).

Think of God’s love (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).  Think of Jesus’ love (John 15:13; 1 John 3:16).  We need this kind of love for others (1 John 4:11; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). 

Trust/Thanksgiving Toward God

“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15 NJKV), “… the peace of Christ” (NASB, ESV).  The word “rule” means “to be an umpire, to decide, determine; to direct, control, rule” (Thayer).  Some believe “the peace of God” refers to “the system of peace” (cf. Ephesians 6:15; Romans 10:15).  Others believe that it refers to inner peace which comes from God (cf. Philippians 4:6-7; John 14:27; 16:33).  Either way, the world needs to see that we trust Him in this life and live for Him. 

“And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).  The subject of thanks comes up often in this book (Colossians 1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:15, 17; 4:2).  We have much for which we should be thankful.  Don’t be a pessimist.  Show the world the joy of Christian living.

The book of Colossians is Christ-exalting, and our lives should be as well.  Let us put on Christ each day.  As the song says, “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me…” (Song: Let the Beauty of Jesus by Albert Osborn).

  • This article first appeared in the Christian Worker June 2022
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Three Bears

There are 8 species of bear in the world: (1) North American Black Bear; (2) Brown Bear (Grizzly); (3) Polar Bear; (4) Asiatic Black Bear; (5) Sun Bear (Honey Bear); (6) Panda Bear; (7) Sloth Bear; (8) Andean Bear.

While living in Alaska, we frequently saw Black Bear and Brown Bear.  We were cautious.  We tried to make noise when walking in the wilderness and even on walking trails in the city.  We didn’t want to surprise one.  They are big (Black Bear can be 5-6 feet in length and weigh 500-600 pounds.  Brown Bear can be over 9 feet in length and weigh up to 1,500 pounds).  They are fast (up to 30 m.p.h.). There is an old joke: “You do not need to outrun the bear, just the one (human) with you.” They can kill (In 2003, Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard were killed by Brown Bear in Katamai National Park, Alaska).  You do not want one of these bears to get you.

However, there are some bears that should get us.  Let’s notice 3 bears from the book of Galatians.

1.  The Helping Bear   “Bear one anothers burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

Christianity is not to be lived alone.  “One another” (allelon) occurs 100 times in the New Testament.  59 of these occurrences concern Christian relationships (Mark 9:50; John 13:14; John 13:34×2; John 13:35; 15:12; 15:17; Romans 12:10×2; 12:16; 13:8; 14:13; 15:7; 15:14; 16:16; 1 Corinthians 11:33; 12:25; 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; Galatians 5:13; 5:15; 5:26; 6:2; Ephesians 4:2; 4:32×2; 5:19; 5:21; Philippians 2:3; Colossians 3:9; 3:13×2; 3:16×2; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9; 4:18; 5:11×2; Hebrews 3:13; 10:24; 10:25; James 4:11; 5:9; 5:16×2; 1 Peter 3:8×2; 4:8; 4:9; 4:10; 5:5; 5:14; 1 John 3:11; 3:23; 4:7; 4:11; 4:12; 2 John 5).  We are to help one another.

In context, this passage is about helping one another overcome sin (Galatians 5:1-2).  If we are spiritual  (guided by the Spirit, Galatians 5:16, 18, 22a cf. Galatians 6:1), then we should seek to help restore a brother overtaken by sin.  This is an expression of love (Galatians 6:2 cf. 5:14). 

2.  The Responsible Bear. “For each shall bear his own load” (Galatians 6:5 NKJV) “burden” (KJV)

The wording is different.  In Galatians 6:2, the word “burden” is baros, meaning “a weight” (Vine’s).  In Galatians 6:5, the word “load” is phortion, meaning “something carried” (Vine’s).  What’s the difference?  Vine’s says, “The difference between phortion and baros is that phortion is simply “something to be borne,” without reference to its weight, but baros always suggests what is ‘heavy or burdensome.’”   Wayne Jackson comments, “Phortion is found in Acts 27:10 of the ‘cargo’ which a ship was designed to carry” (Wayne Jackson, Notes From the Margin of My Bible, Vol. 2, p. 93). 

Here is my explanation.  (1) Galatians 6:2.  In this life, we should try to help one another.  In context, we should help restore one another (Galatians 6:1-2).  (2) Galatians 6:5, ultimately we each have responsibilities before God.  We are accountable to Him (2 Corinthians 5:10).  This is true whether others help us in this life, or not.  Furthermore, in context one does not become a saint by another’s sins (Galatians 6:3-5).  Stop comparing yourself with others.  They are not the standard. 

3.  The Genuine Bear.  “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Galatians 6:17).

Slaves and soldiers were often marked.  Thayer says of the word “marks” (stigma), “A mark pricked in or branded upon the body.  According to ancient oriental usage, slaves and soldiers bore the name or stamp of their master or commander branded or pricked (cut) into their bodies to indicate what master or general they belonged to, and there were even some devotees who stamped themselves in this way with the token of their god.”    Paul was marked.  How so?  Thayer comments, “The marks of (the Lord) Jesus, which Paul in Galatians 6:17 says he bears branded on his body, are the traces left there by the perils, hardships, imprisonment, scourgings, endured by him for the cause of Christ, and which mark him as Christ’s faithful and approved votary, servant, soldier.”  Remember the hardships which Paul had endured in service to the Lord (2 Corinthians 11:22-28; Acts 13:50; 14:5-6; 14:19-20; 16:19-24; 21:30-36; 22:22-29; 2 Timothy 3:10-11, etc.).  Paul was willing to be identified with Christ and pay the price for it.      

Why does Paul mention the marks in his body?  (1) It is not that he felt that these marks merited salvation (cf. Galatians 6:14; Philippians 3:8-9).  (2) It is because his integrity had been questioned.  The book of Galatians is primarily a defense of Paul’s apostleship.  Some may have even considered him a man-pleaser (Galatians 1:10 cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23). 

Have these three bears gotten you?  (1) The Helping Bear.  Do you care enough about your brothers and sisters in Christ to seek to restore them, helping them out of sin when needed?  (2) The Responsible Bear.  Do you understand that you are ultimately responsible for yourself before God?  It does not matter what others do or do not do.  (3) The Genuine Bear.  Are you willing to pay the price for following the Lord?  Does your life bear evidence that you identify with Him, and are committed to His cause?

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Should We Keep the Sabbath? (Part 4)

In this lesson we shift from considering some common arguments for observing the Sabbath, to some arguments against binding the Sabbath on men living today.

Arguments Against

1.  Let no one judge.

Colossians 2:16-17 reads, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”

Let’s consider this passage.  It mentions: (1) Food and drink.  This refers to Israelite dietary laws (e.g. Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14; Hebrews 9:9-10 cf. Acts 10:9-16; 1 Timothy 4:4-5).  (2) Festival, new moon, and sabbaths.  This refers to set observances on the Israelite calendar.  Festival refers to a yearly event.  New Moon refers to a monthly event.  Sabbaths, I would suggest, refers to a weekly event.  Yearly, monthly, and weekly observances are frequently mentioned together in the Old Testament (e.g. 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 8:12-13; Nehemiah 10:33; Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11).  Sabbatarians commonly object that “sabbaths” does not refer to the weekly sabbath, but to other “sabbaths” under the law of Moses.  There were Sabbath days connected with the Feasts (Leviticus 23).  There were also Sabbath years (Leviticus 25).  However, the sequence sounds like a weekly Sabbath.   

Festivals refer to a yearly event.  New Moon refers to a monthly event.  Why would Sabbaths not refer to a weekly event?  Remember that yearly, monthly, and weekly events are frequently mentioned together in the Old Testament. 

Some have reasoned that since it says “sabbaths” (plural), it must not refer to the weekly sabbath days.  However, the plural language is commonly used in the New Testament for the weekly Sabbath (e.g. Matthew 12:1, 5, 10, 11, 12; 12:12; 28:1).  Marvin Vincent comments, “The weekly festivals… the plural being used for the singular.  See on Luke 4:31; Acts 20:7.  The plural is only once used in the New Testament of more than a single day (Acts 17:2)” (Vincent’s Word Studies,  Walter Martin said this, “It is significant that in 59 of 60 occurrences in the New Testament, Adventists affirm that they refer to the weekly Sabbath; but in the 60th occurrence, they maintain it does not” (Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, p. 466). 

Some object that what was take away was that which “was against us, which was contrary to us” (Colossians 2:14).  The Sabbath, they reason, was not against us (Mark 2:27).  However, this misses the point.  The Law of Moses demanded obedience (cf. Romans 3:19-20 cf. 4:4-8; Galatians 3:12-13).  Furthermore, the Law of Moses did not provide a lasting remedy for sin (Hebrews 10:1-4).  It is not that the Sabbath itself was against man.  It is that the Law of Moses was against man, because of sin. 

Here is a detail from Colossians 2:14 worth pointing out.  A.T. Robertson comments on the words, “He has taken away,” saying “The perfect tense emphasizes the permanence of the removal of the bond…” (A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures, 

2.  Dead to, Delivered From

Romans 7:4 reads, “You also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another…” Romans 7:6 reads, “But now we have been delivered from the law…”

To what law does Paul refer?  Romans 7:7 seems to answer this.  The law spoken of said, “You shall not covet” (Romans 7:7 cf. Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21).

Some have tried to make this “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2 cf. 6:22-23).  However, Romans 7:6 speaks of serving in “newness of the Spirit and not oldness of the letter.”  This language is used to contrast the New Testament and the Old Testament (2 Corinthians 3).  Moreover, the next reference to law made is to the Ten Commandments (Romans 7:7).

3.  Passing Away   

2 Corinthians 3:7-8, “But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones was glorious… which glory was passing away, how will the Spirit not be more glorious?” 2 Corinthians 3:11, “For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.” 

The contrast seems to be between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  (1) What was “written and engraved on stones” refers to the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:1, 4 29; Deuteronomy 10:3-5).  However, I would suggest that it stands, as a synecdoche, for the entire Old Testament.  The Law of Moses had its beginning on stone tablets.  It was glorious.  It was passing away.  James Burton Coffman comments, “Paul seized upon the fact of the vanishing radiance of Moses’ countenance as an allegorical promise that the entire Old Testament would, in time, be discontinued, or taken away.”  (2) “The Ministry of the Spirit” refers to the New Testament (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:6).  The New Testament system had its beginning with the Spirit being poured out on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).  It is described as more glorious.  It remains.

Some have tried to argue that this refers to something other than the Ten Commandments.  However, this appears to be the context. 

4.  New Covenant

Hebrews 8:8-12 quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 saying, “Behold the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt…”  Hebrews 8:13, “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete.  Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” 

The covenant made obsolete is the covenant made with Israel when the LORD took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt.  This sounds like the covenant written on two tablets of stone (1 Kings 8:9, 21; 2 Chronicles 5:10; 6:11).

Some claim that the Ten Commandments are not included.  However, the language used suggests otherwise. 

5.  I am Afraid For You 

Galatians 4:10-11 reads, “You observe days and months and seasons and years.  I am afraid for you, lest I have labored in vain.”

The context concerns some who were seeking to be justified by keeping the law (Galatians 2:16; 3:1-5; 4:21; 5:4, 7).  What law?  The law which was given 430 years after the Abrahamic promise (Galatians 3:15-18).  The law which was given at Sinai (Galatians 4:21-31). 

The law concerned such things as days and months and seasons and years (Galatians 4:10).  (1) Months refer to new moons (Numbers 10:10; 28:11-15; Psalm 81:3-4).  (2) Seasons (NKJV) or times (KJV) refer to annual feasts.  There were set times for Israelite males to appear before the LORD (Exodus 23:17; Deuteronomy 16:18).  Some of the feasts occurred in the spring: Passover/Unleavened Bread and First fruits/Weeks (Pentecost).  Some of the feasts occurred in the fall: Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles.  (3) Years refer to Sabbath years and Jubilee (Leviticus 25).  (4) What about days?  If months refer to a monthly event, and if seasons refer to a seasonal or annual event, and if years refer to something occurring on set years in a cycle, then what about days?  Wouldn’t they be set days in a cycle?  Wouldn’t they occur more frequently than months, seasons, and years?  Doesn’t this fit the weekly Sabbath day?


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Should We Keep the Sabbath? (Part 3)

In this lesson, we will continue to consider some common arguments for observing the Sabbath.

Arguments For

16.  He added No More.  After The Ten Commandments were set forth (Deuteronomy 5:1-21), we are told that, “He added no more” (Deuteronomy 5:22).  This, again, is thought to set The Ten Commandments apart as special.

First, what is meant?  Roy Hearn has written, “This does not mean that God did not give other laws, but He added no more in an audible voice to the assembly” (Editor Curtis Cates, The Book of Exodus, p. 125, MSOP Lectureship).  This is correct (Exodus 20:18-21; 21:1; 25:9, 40; Deuteronomy 5:22-27; Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:5, etc.). 

Second, this argument is weak.  It in no way implies that The Ten Commandments are still binding. 

17.  Moses and Rest.   In order to try to prove that the Sabbath was being kept before the Exodus, some have appealed to Exodus 5:1-5.  Pharaoh said, “Why do you take the people from their work… You make them rest from their labor!”

First, should the Sabbath-day be understood every time the word “rest” is used?  Surely not.

Second, the “rest,” in context, seems to refer to the three-day leave requested (Exodus 5:3).  There is not reason to infer the Sabbath is meant.  Third, how would this prove the Sabbath is binding on all of mankind, and binding even today?  Animal sacrifices were offered under Patriarchal times and under Mosaic times.  However, Sabbatarians do not believe that such should be offered today.  A similar point could be made about circumcision. 

18.  No Respect of Persons (Partiality).  It is reasoned that since God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; 1 Peter 1:17), then the Sabbath had to be given to all of humanity. 

I believe that this is a great misuse of the word.  God shows no partiality in judgment and salvation.  However, it is an overreach to say that God always give the same things to everyone.  Consider: (1) Circumcision (Genesis 17:12-14); (2) Law of Moses (Romans 3:1-2); (3) Miraculous gifts (1 Corinthians 12:28-30).

19.  James.   This argument comes from James 2:10-11.  In illustrating that one is not to pick and choose which commandments to follow, James quotes from The Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:14 (Deuteronomy 5:18); Exodus 20:13 (Deuteronomy 5:17)].  Some have inferred from this that The Ten Commandments are still in force. 

First, it should be pointed out that James 2:8 quotes from Leviticus 19:18.  This is from outside The Ten Commandments.  W. Curtis Porter remarked, “If mentioning two of the ten binds all ten on us, then mentioning one of the commandments of Moses would bind all of the Law of Moses on us.  There is no way to escape this conclusion (A.N. Dugger – W. Curtis Porter Debate, p. 40).

Second, each passage quoted reflects teachings which are clearly taught in the New Testament.  This is admitted by all.  However, this is not the case with the Sabbath day. 

20.  What God Does Lasts.  Various passages are used to support this position (e.g., Ecclesiastes 3:14; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).   Therefore, the sabbath must last.

Sabbatarians do not consistently believe in this argument.  They believe that Ceremonial Law has been removed (Colossians 2:16-17).

21.  Ceremonial Law/Moral Law (again).  Sabbatarians insist that a distinction should be made between Ceremonial Law and Moral Law.  (1)  Some try to distinguish between Moses’ Law and God’s Law.  (2) Some try to distinguish between covenants given under Moses. 

First, the distinction between the Law of Moses and the Law of God, or the Law of the LORD is lacking.  (1) The Law of Moses and the Law of God/LORD are sometimes used interchangeably (e.g. Nehemiah 8:1/8:8; Luke 2:22/2:23-24).  (2) God gave the Law of Moses (Ezra 7:6).  Moses gave the Law of God (Nehemiah 10:29).  (3) God gave the Book of the Law of Moses (Nehemiah 8:8).  Moses gave the Book of the Law of the LORD (2 Chronicles 34:14).  (4) Some things Sabbatarians consider Ceremonial Law is called “the Law of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 31:3), and The Ten Commandments are introduced as “For Moses said…” (Mark 7:10).    Second, the Bible speaks of only one covenant being made at Horeb, or Sinai (Deuteronomy 29:1; 1 Kings 8:9; Hebrews 9:1-4).  God made one Covenant with Israel at Horeb, which was repeated and renewed at Moab (Deuteronomy 29:1).  This covenant included the two tables of stone (1 Kings 8:9) and ordinances of divine service (Hebrews 9:1-4).  Kevin L. Cunningham comments of Hebrews 9:1-4, “This covenant contained the tables of the covenant, The Ten Commandments, and the ordinance.  No distinction is made between the covenant that had ordinances and another covenant that contained the ark of the covenant and the tables of the covenant” (Kevin L. Cunningham, The Sabbath, The Law, and The New Covenant, p. 20). 

22.  Jesus Said.  Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For assuredly I say to you till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18). 

First, it says that Jesus did not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them.  The word “destroy” (kataluo) can mean “to overthrow i.e., render vain, deprive of success, bring to naught” (Thayer). The first word “fulfill” (pleroo) means “to make full…to complete” (Thayer). The second word “fulfilled” (ginomai) can mean “bring to be” (Thayer).  Jesus did not come to deprive the Law and the Prophets of success.  Instead, He came to “fulfill” them and He did (Luke 24:25-27; 24:44-47; Acts 3:18; 8:30, 35; 17:11; 18:28; 26:22-23; 28:23).

Second, it says that not the smallest detail will pass away until all be fulfilled.  The reference is to the things concerning the Christ (cf. Luke 24:25-27; 24:44-47; John 19:28; Acts 3:18, etc.).  The word “till” tells us what will happen up to that point in time, not what happens afterwards.  Things may change afterwards (e.g. Matthew 1:25; Luke 15:4, 8; 16:16; Acts 23:12, 21); or, things may not change (e.g. Genesis 46:34; 2 Samuel 6:23; Matthew 28:15; Acts 23:1). 

Third, it says till heaven and earth pass not one jot or one tittle would pass from the law till all be fulfilled.  The reference to “heaven and earth” is an idiom of certainty.  Luke 16:17 reads, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.”  Wayne Jackson comments, “Until the time of its final goal arrived… it would be easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the Mosaic law to be abrogated” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary, p. 9).

Fourth, notice that it not only mentions the Law, but also the Prophets.  [The Hebrew Bible was sometimes divided into two major parts: the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17; 7;12; 11:13; 22:40; Luke 16:16; 16:29; 24:27; John 1:45; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 28:23; Romans 3:21).  It was sometimes divided into three major parts: the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms or Writings (Luke 24:44; Josephus Against Apion 1:38-40).  Jews today commonly call their Bible the Tanakh (T=Torah, Law; N=Nevi’im, Prophets; K=Ketuvim, Writings)].  If this passage teaches that the Law and the Prophets continue, then more is in view than The Ten Commandments.

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Should We Keep the Sabbath? (Part 2)

In this lesson, we will continue to consider some common arguments for observing the Sabbath.

Arguments For

11.  Another Rest Not Mentioned

This argument is based on Hebrews 4:8, which reads, “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.”  This is interpreted to mean, “If Jesus had given another day of rest, wouldn’t he have spoken of this day?” 

First, this is not a question.  There is no question mark.

Second, while “Jesus” is mentioned in the Greek, the reference is to Joshua.  “Jesus” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrews “Joshua” (cf. Acts 7:44-45).  Consider also, “In the book of Hebrews, the name Jesus appears 14 times.  Each time it is used with descriptive terms such as Christ, the Son of God, high priest, author and finisher of our faith, and the great Shepherd, or used in the context of shedding his blood for our sins.  Every single occurrence is accomplished by a description that removes any doubt that the Jesus being discussed is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, except Hebrews 4:8” (Kevin L. Cunningham, The Sabbath, The Law and the New Covenant, p. 51).     Third, the context should be considered.  The point that is being made is that God, through David, spoke of another day of rest (Hebrews 4:7 cf. Psalm 95:6-11).  Stan Crowley comments, “Although these verses (Psalm 95:6-11 B.H.) refer to the failure of the Israelites to enter their rest (i.e. the Promised Land), there is at the same time an admonition by the psalmist to harken to God’s voice and not harden one’s heart.  Hence, the Hebrews writer states, “after so long a time’ (the psalmist write five or six centuries after the failure of the Israelites), there is still at the time the psalmist wrote, a day of opportunity, “Today” (Psalm 95:7).  The conclusion is that the offer of rest in the land of Canaan must not have been… the ultimate rest… we see that the ultimate rest was not the Promised Land… It was a rest that was available in the days of the psalmist; it was a rest that was available in the days of the Hebrews writer… the rest spoken of is the eternal rest available to the obedient believers who are faithful to the end” (editor Devin W. Dean, Studies in Hebrews, The Gospel Journal Commentary Series, p. 101).  This is an exhortation to enter into the Promised Land of Heaven (cf. Hebrews 3:7-11; 4:1-3). 

12.  There remains a rest

This argument is based on Hebrews 4:9, which reads, “There remains a rest for the people of God.”  Some understood this to mean that the Sabbath-day is still to be observed. 

The context must be considered.  The context is the same as in the previous discussion of Hebrews 4:8.  The heavenly rest is in view, not the weekly Sabbath-day.  “Rest,” in context, refers to the Promised Land (Hebrews 3:10-11. 17-19; Psalm 95:10-11 cf. Numbers 14:29-33).

13.  Constantine

It is asserted that Constantine changed things.  Constantine changed the Sabbath-day from the seventh day of the week to the first day of the week.  Constantine made the first day of the week the day which Christians assemble to worship.

First, let me clarify that the Bible does not teach that Sunday, the first day, is a Sabbath-day or the Christian Sabbath.  Men do sometimes use such language.  The Bible does not. 

Second, the evidence indicates that Christians were assembling for worship on the first day of the week long before Constantine (Emperor of Rome from 306-337 A.D.).   Consider: (1) Justin Martyr (c. 100-165 A.D.).  He said, “And on the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who lived in a city or a rural district… we make our assembly in common on the day of the sun, since it is the first day on which God changed the darkness and matter and made the world, and Jesus Christ our Savior arose from the dead on the same day.  For they crucified Him on the day before Saturn’s day, and on the day after (which is the day of the sun) he appeared to his disciples…” (Everett Ferguson, Early Christians Speak, pp. 67-68 quoting Apology I, 67:1-3, 7). (2) Ignatius of Antioch (death c. 107-110 A.D.).  “If therefore those who lived according to the old practices came to the new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath but living according to the Lord’s Day, which also our life arose through him…” (Everett Ferguson, p. 67 quoting Magnesians 9).  (3) Tertullian (c. 150-222 A.D.) “Other… suppose that the sun is the god of the Christian, because it is well-known that… we regard Sunday as the day of joy” (Everett Ferguson, p. 68 quoting To the Nations I:13).  (4) Epistle of Barnabas (late first century or early second century A.D.).  “We keep the eighth day for joy, on which also Jesus arose from the dead…” (Everett Ferguson, p. 67 quoting the Epistle of Barnabas 15:8f).  (5) The New Testament record.  Acts 20:7, “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread…” 1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside…”  Why is the first day specified?  Why not the Sabbath?  Why do we not read, “Now on the Sabbath day, when the disciples came together…”?     Third, what did Constantine do?  I would suggest that he decreed in 321 A.D. what we might call Blue Laws.  He decreed, “On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and the people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.  In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain-growing or for vine-planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost” (Philip Schaff, History of The Christian Church, vol. 3, p. 380 quoting Cod. Justin. lib.3, tit. 12. 3).  He later exempted the liberation of slaves on Sunday (Schaff, Vol. 3, p. 105, quoting Cod. Theodos. lib. 2.  tit. 8).    

14.  Catholic Church

Some have appealed to statements made by Roman Catholics e.g. Bertrand Conway (1873- 1950) wrote in the Question Box, “What Bible authority is there for changing the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week?  Who gave the Pope the authority to change a command of God?  If the Bible is the only guide for the Christian, then the Seventh Day Adventist is right in observing the Saturday with the Jews.  But Catholics learn what to believe and do from the divine, infallible authority established by Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church, which in Apostolic times made Sunday the day of rest to honor our Lord’s resurrection on that day (Question #266, babel, 

First, there is no evidence in the Scripture that the first day was made a day of rest in Apostolic times. Constantine did this.

Second, while the New Testament does not explicitly teach that the first day is to be the day of Christian worship, it does provide us an example of the disciples coming together on the first day of the week “to break bread” (Acts 20:7 cf. Acts 2:42; Matthew 26:26). 

Third, since when do we turn to Roman Catholics to establish doctrine? 

15.  The Ten Commandments Special

It is sometimes argued that The Ten Commandments are special.  (1) The Ten Commandments were written by God (Exodus 31:18; 32:15-16; 34:1; Deuteronomy 4:13; 5:22; 9:10; 10:2-3).  The rest of the law was written in a book by Moses (Deuteronomy 31:24).  (2) The Ten Commandments were placed in the Ark (Exodus 25:16 cf. 31:18; 40:20; Deuteronomy 10:4-5).  The rest of the law was placed by the side of the Ark (Deuteronomy 31:24-26).

First, I agree The Ten Commandments were special.  The seem to be foundational principles to the Covenant (cf. Exodus 34:27). 

Second, it should be remembered to whom this was given (Exodus 20:1-2; 31:16-17; Deuteronomy 5:1-3; 12:15; Ezekiel 20:10-12; Nehemiah 9:13-14).  The Sabbath was a sign between God and Israel (Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:10-12, 20 cf. Genesis 17:10-12).  Foy E. Wallace Jr. mused, “If all nations were commanded to keep the Sabbath, how could it be a sign between God and one nation?” (Foy Wallace Jr., God’s Prophetic Word, p. 328).  Guy Caskey remarked, “A sign is something special, not general… I wear a wedding band on the third finger of my left hand.  It is a sign between me and one woman.  It is not a sign between me and every woman… so the Sabbath was given to Israel as a sign between that nation (not all nations) and God” (Guy Caskey, A Reply to an Adventist, p. 86).

Third, special does not prove that it is binding on all men, or on men today (Romans 7:4, 6-7 cf. Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21).

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Should We Keep the Sabbath? (Part 1)

What is the Sabbath?  The Hebrew word in its verbal for means “cease; desist” (BDBG).  The Israelites were instructed that they were to keep a weekly Sabbath on the seventh day of the week (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15).  No ordinary work was to be done on this day (Exodus 16:16-24; 20:8-11; 34:21; 35:1-3; Numbers 15:32-36; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Nehemiah 13:19-22; Jeremiah 17:21-22).  Basic needs could be met (cf. Exodus 12:16).  Mercy could be showed (Luke 14:1-5; Matthew 12:1-7 cf. Hosea 6:6).  However, it was not to be an ordinary day of work.

Furthermore, the word Sabbath was (is) used by Jews for the seventh day.  The rest of the days are commonly referred to by their number – first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth (sometimes called the day before Sabbath, or preparation day).  However, the seventh day was (is) commonly called Sabbath day (Jewish calendar,; Days of the Week in Hebrew,

Some, such as the Seventh-day Adventist and the Seventh-day Baptist, teach that Christians (and even all of humanity) should keep the Sabbath.  Furthermore, some teach that the Sabbath-day is the day that the church should assemble and worship. 

In this lesson, we will consider some common arguments for this position.  Let’s notice…

Arguments For

1.  Creation

It is argued that the Sabbath was set aside for humanity to keep from Creation.  Read Genesis 2:2-3.

First, let us point out that there is no indication that anyone kept the Sabbath prior to the Exodus.  There is no command to keep it.  There is no example of anyone keeping it.  There is no punishment mentioned for anyone who did not keep it. 

Second, let us ask who wrote the book of Genesis?  It is commonly understood to be Moses.  Josephus indicates that Moses wrote five of the Old Testament books, “which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death” (Against Apion 1-8).

It seems at least possible that this has reference to Israel.  Guy V. Caskey suggested, “When did God bless and hallow it?  When he gave it to Israel to observe, because in it he had rested” (G.V. Caskey, A Reply to An Adventist, p. 15).  The Sabbath was a sign between God and Israel (Exodus 31:16-17 cf. Genesis 17:10-12).  It commemorated the Exodus (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).  Their work week was to be based on God’s creation week (Exodus 20:8-11). 

Even if humanity began to keep the Sabbath in patriarchal times, this would not prove that the Sabbath is still binding on man or the day of worship for Christians.  We need New Testament evidence.

2.  Before Sinai

The children of Israel observed the Sabbath before Sinai (Exodus 16:23-30 cf. Exodus 20:8-11).  It is inferred from this that it was not revealed at Sinai for the first time.  Man must have known of it through the ages.

This is unwarranted.  There is no record of anyone keeping the Sabbath prior to Exodus 16.  Moreover, the record suggests otherwise (Deuteronomy 5:1-3, 12-15; Ezekiel 20:10-12; Nehemiah 9:13-14).

3.  Remember

It says “Remember the Sabbath” (Exodus 20:8).  It is thought that “remember” suggests that this was an ancient practice.

It does no such thing.  Read Exodus 13:3 cf. 12:51. 

4.  Perpetual/Forever

It is argued that the Sabbath is still bound because of the words “perpetual” (Exodus 31:16) and “forever” (Exodus 31:17). 

First, who is addressed?   It is the children of Israel that is being addressed (Exodus 31:16-17).

Second, the Hebrew word (olam) translated “perpetual” and “forever” is sometimes used in the dispensational sense, i.e., “age-lasting.”  It is used of many things which Sabbatarians consider no longer binding, e.g., (1) Circumcision (Genesis 17:13-14); (2) Passover (Exodus 12:14); (3) Show bread (Leviticus 24:9); (4) Aaronic Priesthood (Exodus 40:15 cf. Hebrews 7:12); (5) Trumpet blowing (Numbers 10:8).

The words “throughout your generation” (Exodus 31:13-16) is also emphasized by some.  However, this wording is also used of many things which Sabbatarians consider no longer binding, e.g., (1) Passover (Exodus 12:14); (2) Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:17); (3) Aaronic priesthood (Leviticus 7:36 cf. Hebrews 7:12); (4) Unclean laws (Leviticus 22:3); (5) Israelite garments (Numbers 15:38). 

5.  Jesus

It is argued that Jesus kept the Sabbath (Luke 4:16; 4:31; 6:5; 13:10).  I agree that He did [He also had many conflicts over human traditions concerning the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8; 12:9-14; Luke 13:10-17; 14:1-6; John 5:1-16; 9:13-34)].

Let us remember that Jesus lived under the law of Moses (Galatians 4:4).  He also kept the Passover and the Feasts (Matthew 26:18; John 2:13; 2:23; 5:1; 7:2, 10; 11:55 cf. 12:1, 12-13). 

6.  Paul

It is pointed out that Paul preached on the Sabbath (Acts 13:14-ff; 13:42-ff; 16:13-ff; 17:2-ff; 18:4).  He did so.

First, while the Synagogue is used to evangelize, the record does not say anywhere that the early church met to worship and partake of the Lord’s Supper on the Sabbath.

Second, in Corinth, there is no Sabbath after Paul turns to the gentiles (Acts 18:4-6, ff).

Third, Paul taught daily (Acts 19:9; 20:31 cf. 5:42).  This does not prove that the Lord’s Supper is to be partaken daily. 

7.  Jerusalem

It is suggested that since Jesus said “Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath” (Matthew 24:19), it must be that the Sabbath would still be kept by Christians when Jerusalem fell.

It proves no such thing.  The context does not concern worships of Christians.  It concerns the difficulties that may be involved in escaping Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was a walled city.  It was the practice of Jews to shut the gates of the city on the Sabbath (cf. Nehemiah 13:9-22).

8.  Heaven

It is asserted that the Sabbath will be kept in heaven (Isaiah 66:22-23).  

First, even if this refers to heaven, this does not prove what we are to do as Christians on earth.  Consider: Marriage (Hebrews 13:4 cf. Mark 12:18-20).

Second, this text also mentions the “New Moon.”  Are we to keep this? (Colossians 2:14).

Third, I do not believe that this refers to heaven.  It speaks of “all flesh” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50).  I believe that this is borrowed language from Judaism, language familiar to the people of Israel’s day, used to speak of all flesh (Jew and Gentile) worshipping together in the Christian age.

9.  Ceremonial Law/Moral Law

It is claimed that there is a difference between Ceremonial Law and Moral Law.  They believe that Ceremonial Law was taken away at the cross.  However, Moral Law (contained in the Ten Commandments) has not been taken away.  These are God’s eternal moral principles for man.   First, there are moral laws found outside of the Ten Commandments (e.g., Exodus 22:14; 22:21; Leviticus 19;14; 19:17; Deuteronomy 10:19).  When Jesus was asked about what the greatest commandment was, He referral to two passages outside of the Ten Commandments (Matthew 22:36-40 cf. Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18).  [Sabbatarians suggests that these words sum up the Ten Commandments.  Deuteronomy 6:5 is said to sum up the first four commandments.  Leviticus 19:18 is said to sum up the last six commandments].

Second, this distinction is not found in scripture.  Consider: Romans 7:4, 6, 7 (v.7 cf. Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21).  Consider: 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 (verse 7 cf. Exodus 31:18; 32:19; 34:1, 4, 28-29; Deuteronomy 10:4-5; 1 Kings 8:9; 2 Chronicles 5:10).

10.  Morals

It is supposed that if The Ten Commandments are not binding, then stealing and other things would not be prohibited.

First, nine of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament.  (1) No other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3 / Acts 14:15; 1 Thessalonians 1:9).  (2) No graven images for worship (Exodus 20:4-6 / Acts 15:29; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 6:9; 10:14; Colossians 3:5; 1 John 5:21).  (3) No taking of the Lord’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7 / Matthew 6:9).  (4) Keep the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11 /?).  (5) Honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12 / Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20; 1 Timothy 5:3-4, 4, 8, 16). (6) Shall not murder (Exodus 20:13 / Romans 13:8-10; 1 Peter 4:15; 1 John 3:15).  (7) Shall not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14; / Matthew 5:27-28; 19:9; Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 6:9-ff; Galatians 5:19; Hebrews 13:4).  (8) Do not steal (Exodus 20:15 / Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 6:9-ff; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Peter 4:15).  (9) No false witness (Exodus 20:16 / Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9; Revelation 21:8).  (10) Shall not covet (Exodus 20:17 / Matthew 5:27-28; Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 6:9-10; Ephesians 5:3; Hebrews 13:5).  It seems significant that the Sabbath is not repeated in the teaching of the New Testament. 

Second, consider an illustration.  Texas has been called the “Six Flags State.”  It has been under the laws of: (1) Spain (1519-1685; 1690-1821); (2) France (1685-1690); (3) Mexico (1821-1836); (4) Republic of Texas (1836-1845); The U.S.A. (1845-1861; 1865-present); (6) the Confederacy (1861-1865).  No doubt certain things such as murder, theft, rape, etc., were illegal under each of these flags.

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The Jerusalem Council

The Jerusalem council (or conference) occurred c. 50 or 51 A.D.  The reason for this meeting concerned a controversy in the church.  Did gentiles need to be circumcised and keep the law (of Moses) to be saved?  (Acts 15:1-5).  Some Judean believers of the sect of the Pharisees were teaching that they did.  Paul and Barnabas, who had recently completed what is commonly referred to as Paul’s First Missionary Journey (Acts 13-14), were in strong opposition to this.     Acts 15 mentions three speeches.  (1) Peter spoke (Acts 15:7-11).  He reminded them that God had sent him to the gentiles (Cornelius’ house cf. Acts 10-11).  Yet, he was not instructed to bind circumcision or the law of Moses on them.  (2) Barnabas and Paul (Acts 15:12).  They spoke of how God had worked miracles and wonders by them among the gentiles.  Yet, they were not instructed to bind circumcision or the law of Moses on the gentiles.  (3) James spoke (Acts 15:13-21).   He pointed out that the prophets of old spoke of gentile inclusion (e.g., Amos 9:11-12).  Yet, it was not said that they had to first become circumcised and keep the law of Moses.  However, he did point out four things that the gentiles should be taught to abstain from: (a) things polluted by idols; (b) sexual immorality; (c) things strangled; (d) blood.  These are things which have been taught in every dispensation [Patriarchal – (1) idols (Gen. 35:2); (2) fornication (Gen. 38: 24; 39: 7-9; (3) blood (Gen. 9:4).  Mosaic (1) idols (Exodus 20:3, 23); (2) fornication (Leviticus 20; Deuteronomy 22:13-ff); (3) blood (Leviticus 17:10-11; Deuteronomy 12:16, 23). Christian – (1) idols (1 Corinthians 5:11; 10:14; 1 John 5:21); (2) fornication (Galatians 5:19; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 18; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Peter 4:3); (3) blood (Acts 15:20; 21:25)].  Why these things?  James Burton Coffman comments, “These prohibitions do not imply that other sins of dishonesty and immorality were permitted.”  Instead, this probably refers “to sins ‘which were so common among the gentiles that they were not even recognized as wrong until Christian teaching denounced them’” (Coffman Acts p. 299 quoting Orin Root). 

The meeting concluded with the apostles, elders and the church united.  A letter was written showing this unity.  It was sent to the gentile brethren in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:22-29).

All of this is background to the real subject that I wish to address.  Some today use Acts 15 to justify church councils, synods, and conventions to settle disputes and to set a uniform position for all the local churches.  This is what I wish to address. 

Consider these points: (1) It should be recognized that if Paul’s authority had been properly recognized, the meeting would have been unnecessary (cf. Galatians 1:1, 11-12; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Paul’s teaching was from God.  (2) It should be recognized that while it is true that the church at Antioch wanted Paul and Barnabas to take the issue to the apostles and elders at Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-2), Paul actually went up by revelation (Galatians 2:1-2).  God revealed to him that he should go up to this meeting.  (3) The decision that was stated in the letter was made by the authority of the Holy Spirit and inspired men (Acts 15:28).  (4) The decision did not come by a vote of uninspired men.  There was unity expressed.  The Holy Spirit and inspired men provided the statement.  The record does not speak of the matter being decided by a majority vote.  In fact, it does not speak of a vote. 

Why did God instruct Paul to attend this meeting?  I believe that the meeting provided the opportunity for a show of unity.  Consider: (1) Those who taught that the gentiles must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses were claiming to be in agreement with (and authority from?) James and the apostles (Acts 15:23-24 cf. Galatians 2:11-12).  Their claim was that Paul was the one teaching false doctrine.  (2) The meeting demonstrated and declared that Paul was one with James and the apostles.  James, Cephas, and John gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship (Galatians 2:9-10 cf. Acts 15:22-29).

What about today?  There may be times when it is beneficial to meet with others and discuss doctrine.  However, here are some things that should be understood: (1) Right and wrong is not determined by a vote (e.g., Exodus 23:2).  (2) One local church has no authority over another local church (Acts 14:23 cf. 1 Peter 5:1-4).  There is no direct statement, account of action, or implication which teaches otherwise.

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John’s Baptism and New Testament Baptism

Through the years, I have been asked various questions about John’s baptism.  Here are a few: (1) What was the purpose of John’s baptism?  (2) What is the difference between John’s baptism and New Testament baptism?  (3) Did those who were baptized with John’s baptism need to be later rebaptized with New Testament baptism?

Here are my thoughts.

1.  What was the purpose of John’s baptism?   

John’s baptism was “a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3).  (1) It was a baptism of repentance.  The wording “of repentance” is in the genitive case.  It describes in some way baptism.  Daniel B. Wallace comments, “There are various possible interpretations of this phrase: ‘baptism is based on repentance’ (causal), ‘baptism that points toward/produces repentance’ (purpose or production), ‘baptism that symbolizes repentance.’  In light of such ambiguity, it may well be best to be non-committal: ‘baptism that is somehow related to repentance” (Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond The Basics, p. 80).  He is correct concerning the grammar.   However, the full context helps.  John taught, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew  3:2) and “Bear fruits worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:8).  John’s baptism was to accompanied by repentance. (2) It was a baptism for the remission of sins.  The word translated “for” (eis) also appears in Matthew 26:28 and Acts 2:38, two passages worth comparing.  The basic meaning of the word is “into,” or “in” (William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek, p. 62).  Vine’s says, “of a place entered or of entrance into a place, into… used metaphorically… (it) retains the force of entering into anything.”  Wesley J. Perschbaucher says, “into… in order to, with a view to… to become, result in” (The New Analytical Greek Lexicon).  John’s baptism was for the purpose of forgiveness of sins.

2.  What is the difference between John’s baptism and New Testament baptism?

Part of the reason that some are confused is due to the fact that they had certain things in common.  (1) Both are to be accompanied by repentance (Matthew 3:7-8/Acts 2:38).  (2) Both involve a confession (Mark 1:4-5; Matthew 3:5-6/Acts 8:36-37).  (3) Both are for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3/Acts 2:38).  (4) Both involve water (Mark 1:8-10; John 3:23/Acts 10:47-48).

However, there are also some significant differences which should not be overlooked.  (1) The view of the Messiah is different.  John’s baptism looked forward to the Messiah being fully revealed.  John taught, “that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is on Christ Jesus (Acts 19:4 cf. Mark 1:5-8; Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16; John 3:28-30).  New Testament baptism looks back to the fact that the Messiah has come and also to the abiding results of His work.  New Testament baptism symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah who came (Romans 6:1-5).  Jesus is preached before New Testament baptism (Acts 2:36-38 cf. 3:14-19; Acts 8:12; Acts 16:30-34).  New Testament is based on the acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36-38).  It is in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38), that is “on the authority of.”  (2) The confession is different.  John’s baptism involved a confession of sins (Mark 1:4-5; Matthew 3:5-6).  New Testament baptism certainly acknowledges sin (Acts 2:36-38; 3:19; 22:16).  But there is more. It includes belief in the Messiah. It includes another confession.  New Testament baptism involves belief in Jesus (Acts 2:36-38; Acts 8:12; Acts 8:35-38) and confession of this belief (Acts 8:36-38; Romans 10:9-10, 13.  See also – Matthew 16:15-18; 1 Timothy 6:12; Hebrews 10:23 cf. 1 Timothy 1:1). 

3.  Did those baptized with John’s baptism need to be later rebaptized with New Testament baptism?   

I am not convinced that they did. (1) At least some of Jesus’ disciples were first disciples of John (John 1:35-42).  Yet, I do not find clear indication that they were rebaptized. It is certainly possible that they were. However, there is no clear indication that they were. (2) In Acts 2:41, we read, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”  The words “to them” are supplied in the NKJV.    However, whether it is “to them” or “to the church” ( cf., Acts 2:47) they were added to something.  Let us remember that the church is composed of people. Guy N. Woods remarked, “One does not add something to nothing” (Guy N. Woods Question and Answers, Freed-Hardeman College Lectures Open Forum, Vol. 2, p. 135). (3) My theory is this.  Just as David gathered the materials to be used in the Temple prior to Solomon building the Temple (1 Chronicles 29), even so John also gathered materials to be used in the Temple (church) prior to Jesus actually building (erecting) it.  It seems likely to me that those who had been baptized with John’s baptism and who accepted Jesus as the Christ were a part of the church that was established on Pentecost.  This theory was first shared with me by Johnny Ramsey.  It makes sense to me.  Guy N. Woods also taught this position.  He said, “the body of disciples which became the nucleus of the New Testament church on the day of Pentecost consisted of John’s disciples, plus those garnered by the Lord and his associates prior to the day of Pentecost” (ibid). {It is worth pointing out that John and Jesus preached much the same things. Notice: (a) Both preached the coming Kingdom (Matthew 3:1-2/ Matthew 4:17). (b) Both preached the need for repentance (Matthew 3:1-2/ Matthew 4:17). (c) Both baptized (Mark 1:4/ John 4:1-2). Jesus did not personally baptize, but his disciples did [John 4:1-2 is ambiguous in English. Did Jesus baptize only His disciples or did the disciples do the baptizing? It is not ambiguous in Greek, since disciples is in the nominative case and not the accusative]}

What about those rebaptized at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7)?  In the previous chapter, Apollos was still preaching the baptism of John (Acts 18:24-26).  It was only after Aquilla and Priscilla explained things more accurately to him, that we are told that of Apollos preaching Jesus (Acts 18:26-28).  I believe that those rebaptized at Ephesus had been baptized with John’s baptism long after New Testament baptism had gone into effect.  Guy N. Woods said, “The twelve who were baptized by Paul at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-ff) were these who had submitted to John’s baptism after the day of Pentecost, after the baptism of the Great commission became effective, after the beginning of the Christian dispensation” (ibid). 

Here are a couple of other things to consider.  (1) John’s baptism was spoken of in the past tense during Jesus’ life (Matthew 21:25).  (2) There is no record of anyone being baptized in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John after John’s imprisonment.

Whether you agree with my answers or not, let us remember something.  None of us have been baptized when John’s baptism was in effect.  It does not directly affect us. 

However, there is an application to us today.  If we have been baptized in a way or with an understanding that is not consistent with the New Testament baptism, there is precedent for rebaptism.



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