Better Than Angels

The word “better” appears 13 times in the book of Hebrews (1:4; 6:9; 7:7; 7:9; 7:22; 8:6; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16; 11:35; 11:40; 12:24).  The original word (Kreitton) is defined to mean “more prominent, higher in rank, preferable, better… more useful, more advantageous, better” (BDAG).

“When He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they” (Hebrews 1:3-4). 

Jesus certainly existed in a pre-incarnate state.  It was through Him, that God made the worlds (Hebrews 1:1-2 cf. John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16).

Jesus existed in an incarnate state.  He was “made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death” (Hebrews 2:9 cf. Hebrews 2:17; John 1:1, 14).  He shared in flesh and blood, “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15). 

However, the passage under consideration (Hebrews 1:4) refers to His state following the resurrection and ascension.  He is now highly exalted.  “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:8-11). 

Let’s consider some contextual ways, from Hebrews chapter one and two, that Jesus is superior to the angels.

1.  Kingship

“For to which of the angels did He ever say: ‘You are My son, Today I have begotten you’?” (Hebrews 1:5 cf. Psalm 2:7).

It is true that angels are sometimes referred to as “sons of God” in scripture (e.g. Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7).  However, this is not the point.

The reference is to the coronation of Jesus as King (Psalm 2:6-12), which followed the resurrection and ascension (Acts 13:33 cf. Daniel 7:13-14).  The phrase “Son of God” had royal connotation for many nations of the Ancient Near East.  It was commonplace for Egyptian, Babylonian, Canaanite, and Roman rulers to be called ‘Son of God’” (Bromling, What Does it Mean to Say Jesus is “Son of God”?, apologeticspress.org).

“And again: ‘I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a son’?” Hebrews 1:5 cf. 2 Samuel 7:14).

The reference is to the kingship of Jesus through David (2 Samuel 7:14a cf. Hebrews 1:5; 2 Samuel 7:12 cf. Acts 2:29-30).  This prophecy was not fulfilled by angels. 

2.  Worship

“But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him’” (Hebrews 1:6 cf. possible reference Psalm 97:7).

Jesus is referred to as “the firstborn.”  The term “firstborn” can be used of superiority of position, or rank (e.g. Psalm 89:27; Vine’s; see Jesus: A Created Being? By B.H.).

What does “again” mean?  (1) Is the first coming of Jesus in view?  Does “again” mean “on another occasion,” or “In another passage” (v. 5b cf. v. 6)?  (2) Is the second coming of Jesus in view? 

Whichever the case, angels are instructed to worship Him.  Mere angels are not to be worshipped (Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9).  John heard angels saying, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory and blessing!”  (Revelation 5:12).  John also heard every creature saying, “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever, and ever!” (Revelation 5:18). 

3.  Comparison

“And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire’” (Hebrews 1:7 cf. Psalm 104:4).

Angels are ministers of God.  Albert Barnes comments, “They obey his will as the winds and lightenings do.  The object of the apostle is to show that the angels serve God in a ministerial capacity – as the winds do.”  They are “sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). 

“But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever’” (Hebrews 1:8-9 cf. Psalm 45:6-7).

Jesus is not just a minister (though, He is that – Mark 10:45; Acts 10:38; Philippians 2:4-8; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2).  He reigns.  His reign is forever and ever (Hebrews 1:8 cf. Daniel 7:4; Luke 1:33).  He has been anointed more than His companions (Hebrews 1:9).  Meaning?  He is King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16). 

4.  Creation

“And: ‘You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands’” (Hebrews 1:10-12 cf. Psalm 102:25-26).

The word “and” continues the testimony of God the Father of the Son.  Notice the flow of thought (v. 5a, v. 5b, v.6, v. 7-9, v. 10-12, v. 13).

Robert Milligan comments, “It seems to me, our author here applies to the Son language which, in its first intention, had reference to the entire Eloheem – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”  The LORD (Jehovah), not angels, laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4-7). 

Do not miss the fact that Jesus is being called LORD (Jehovah).  This is language used only of the one true God (See also: Isaiah 8:13 cf. 1 Peter 3:15; Isaiah 40:3 cf. Matthew 3:3; Malachi 3:21 cf. Matthew 11:10; Isaiah 45:23-24 cf. Philippians 2:10 -11; Joel 2:32 cf. Romans 10:12-13 ).

Further, consider the language. First, notice the language used to describe the LORD (Hebrews 1:11-12).  Then, notice that similar language is later used in this same book to describe Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:8).  This phenomenon is found in other passages as well (e.g. Jeremiah 11:20; 17:10; 20:12 cf. Revelation 2:23). 

5.  Footstool

“But to which of the angels has He ever said: ‘Sit at my right hand, till I will make Your enemies Your footstool’?” (Hebrews 1:13 cf. Psalm 110:1).

Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father (Hebrews 1:3; 1:13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2).  This is a position of authority (Acts 2:34-36).

One day, His enemies will be made His footstool (Psalm 110:1 cf. Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42-43; Acts 2:34-35; Hebrews 1:13; 10:12-13; 1 Corinthians 15:25-26).  This is language of subjection or defeat (cf. 1 Kings 5:3; Psalm 47:3; 1 Corinthians 15:25-26). 

6.  Subjection

“For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels” (Hebrews 2:5).

The word “for” connects these words with some previous thought.  The previous thought, in my opinion, is Hebrews 1:13-14.  Hebrews 2:1-4 may be considered a parenthetical warning (Tom Wacaster lists 5 of these parenthetical warnings in Hebrews – 2:1-4; 3:7-19; 5:11-6:20; 10:26-31; 12:25-29, Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews).

“The world to come” refers to the current reign of Christ (Hebrews 2:5 cf. 1:13-14).  Tom Wacaster comments that it refers to “the Christian dispensation” (Wacaster).  Robert Milligan comments that this refers to, “the habitable world under the reign and government of the Messiah” (Milligan).  “We see Jesus… crowned with glory and honor” (Hebrews 2:9).

What does Jesus do for man?  (1) He tasted death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9).  This includes you.  This includes me.  (2) He made it possible for the bondage and fear of death to be removed (Hebrews 2:14-15).  “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).  (3) He is a merciful and faithful High Priest, who makes propitiation for the sins of people (Hebrews 2:17).  (4) He aids those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:18). 

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3). 

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Western Religions: Scientology (Part 2)

Authority

a.   L. Ron Hubbard

The organization’s website says, “IS IT ALL BASED ON ONE MAN’S WORK? Although Dianetics and Scientology were founded by L. Ron Hubbard, and all of the scriptures are solely compromised of his writings and recorded lectures, he nevertheless wrote: ‘Acknowledgment is made to fifty thousand years of thinking man without whose speculations and observations the creation and construction of Dianetics would not have been possible.  Credit in particular is due to: Anaxagoras, Thomas Paine, Aristotle, Thomas Jefferson, Socrates, Rene Descartes, Plato, James Clark Maxwell, Euclid, Charcot, Lucretius, Herbert Spencer, Roger Bacon, Sigmund Freud, Isaac Newton, Van Leevenhoek, Cmdr. Thompson (MC) USN, Voltaire, William A. White, Will Durant, Count Alfred Korzybski and my instructors in atomic and molecular phenomenon at George Washington University and Princeton” (Scientology.org/faq).

b.  C.S.I.    Again the website says, “HOW ARE CHURCHES OF SCIENTOLOGY ADMINISTERED?  Each individual Church of Scientology is separately incorporated and governed by its own board of directors… Church of Scientology International (CSI) the mother Church of the Scientology religion, is headquartered in Los Angeles.  CSI oversees the ecclesiastical activities of all Scientology churches, organizations and groups throughout the world and see that individual churches receive guidance in their ministries.  CSI also provides the broad planning and direction needed to support the church’s international growth” (Scientology.org).

Credibility

There are accuracy problems found in L. Ron Hubbard’s writings.  One example is that he wrote of the Piltdown man, “Man’s first real manhood is found in the Piltdown, a creature not an ape, yet not entirely a man” (Scientology: A History of Man by L. Ron Hubbard, p. 25).  The problem with this is that the Piltdown Man is now known to be a hoax (Piltdown Man Hoax, 100 Years Ago by Sarah Pruitt, Dec. 18, 2012, history.com; Study Reveals Culprit Behind Piltdown Man, One of Science’s Most Famous Hoaxes by Michael Price, Aug. 9. 2016, sciencemag.org; Solving the Piltdown Man Scientific Fraud by Isabelle De Groote, Aug. 10, 2016, scientificamerican.com). 

Beliefs

1. God.  “Unlike religions with Judeo-Christian origins, the Church of Scientology has no set dogma concerning God that it imposes on its members… Scientology seeks to bring one to a new level of spiritual awareness where one can reach his own conclusions concerning the nature of God and what lies beyond this present lifetime” (Does Scientology Have a Concept of God?, scientologynews.org). 

2.  Jesus Christ.  At times, Scientology presents Moses, Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammad as wisdom-bearers (What is Scientology’s view of Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, the Buddha and Other Religious Figures of the Past? Scientologynews.org).  However, at other times, he presents a different message.  Walter Martin quotes him saying, “You will find the cross as a symbol all over the universe and the Christ LEGEND as an implant in preclears a million years ago” (Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, p. 348, quoting L. Ron Hubbard, Professional Auditor’s Bulletin #31).  Again, Walter Martin quotes him say, “Neither Lord Buddha nor Jesus Christ were OTs [operating Thetans, the highest Scientology level] according to the evidence they were just a shade above clear” (ibid, quoting L. Ron Hubbard, Certainly Magazine, Vol. 5, no. 10).  His books do not present Jesus as the Savior.

3.  Man.  “Fundamental to Scientology is the view of man as a spiritual being.  In Scientology is the spiritual being is called the thetan.  The term is taken from the Greek letter theta for ‘thought’ or ‘life’ or ‘the spirit.’  It is used to avoid confusion with previous concepts of the soul.  The thetan is immortal and has lived – and will continue to live through countless lifetimes (WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CORE TENATS OF SCIENTOLOGY? Scientology.org/faq).  “Man is an immortal spiritual being.  His experience extends well beyond a single lifetime.  His capabilities are unlimited, even if not presently realized” (WHAT IS SCIENTOLOGY, scientology.org).

4.  Sin and salvation.  “Scientology further holds man to be basically good, and that his spiritual salvation depends upon himself, his fellows and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe” (WHAT IS SCIENTOLOGY? Scientology.org/faq).  Salvation is understood differently, than it is in Christianity.  It seems to refer to freeing the thetan of engram (Scientologyreligion.org; World Religions and Cults; Scientology by David Chakranarayan, answeringgenesis.org). 

5.  Heaven and hell.  “The world that one makes today is the world one returns to tomorrow and one lives with the fruits of his labors or the results of his transgressions in lives to come” (DOES SCIENTOLOGY HAVE DOCTRINES CONCERNING HEAVEN AND HELL?, scientology.org).  Rebirth or reincarnation is a teaching of scientology. 

6.  Creed.  The church has its own creed.  It reads:

“WE OF THE CHURCH BELIEVE

That all men of whatever race, color, creed were created with equal rights.

That all men have inalienable rights to their own religions, practices and their performances.

That all men have inalienable rights to their own lives.

That all men have inalienable rights to their sanity.

That all men have inalienable rights to their own defense.

That all men have inalienable rights to conceive, choose, assist or support their own organizations, churches, governments.

That all men have inalienable rights to think freely, to talk freely, to write freely their own opinions and to counter or utter or write upon the opinions of others.

That all men have inalienable rights to the creation of their own kind. 

That the souls of men have the rights of men.

That the study of the mind and the healing of mentally caused ills should not be alienated from religious or condoned in nonreligious fields.

And that no agency less that God has the power to suspend or set aside these rights, overtly or covertly. 

AND WE OF THE CHURCH BELIEVE

That man is basically good.

That he is seeking to survive.

That his survival depends upon himself and upon his fellows and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe.

AND WE OF THE CHURCH BELIEVE THAT THE LAWS OF GOD FORBID MAN

To destroy his own kind.

To destroy the sanity of others.

To destroy or enslave another’s soul.

To destroy or reduce the survival of one’s companions or one’s group. 

AND WE OF THE CHURCH BELIEVE

That the spirit can be saved.

And that the spirit alone may save or heal the body.” 

Controversy

1.  Taxes.  “The mother church… was established by Mr. Hubbard in Los Angeles in 1954.  Three years later, it was recognized as tax exempt by the IRS.  But in 1967, the agency stripped the church of its tax exemption.  In its revocation letter, the agency said that Scientology’s activities were commercial and were being operated For the benefit of Mr. Hubbard, a view supported by the courts several times in the ensuing 25 years” (Scientology’s Puzzling Journey From Tax Rebel to Tax Exemption by Douglass Frantz, March 9, 1997, nytimes.com).  “In the late 1960’s, as the IRS was investigating him from tax evasions Hubbard fled the U.S. for the high seas… By the mid 1970’s, Hubbard’s ships were not welcomed to dock in the Mediterranean, so he snuck back ashore in Florida as not to gain the attention of the IRS.  He lived in hiding the rest of his life” (The Chilling Story of How Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard Rose to Power by Jason Guerrasio, April 1, 2015, businessinsider.com).

2.  Operation Snow White

The church decided to infiltrate the federal government and disrupt investigations.  “One operation, called ‘Snow White’ involved everything from breaking into the IRS offices to bugging the federal government to even infiltrating government staff with Scientology plants who could report back to the church.  That’s what the church did, and it landed 11 people in jail, including Hubbard’s wife” (biographic.org).  “In 1979, as the result of FBI raids, 11 senior people in the church were convicted of obstruction of justice, burglary of government offices, and theft of documents and government property” (April 1, 2015, businessinsider.com).  Mary Sue Hubbard, was sentenced in federal court to four years in prison (Scientology Founder’s Wife Gets Prison Term by Al Kamen, January 8, 1983, washingtonpost.com).

3.  Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath

Leah Remini and Mike Rinder are ex-Scientologists.  Both were members of the church for over 30 years.  Mike Rinder was a senior executive in the Church of Scientology International and the Sea Organization.  They hosted an A&E series by the above title.  It lasted 3 seasons, and 37 episodes.  Its aim was to expose abuse in the church.  It brought much negative attention to the church. 

Thoughts

Two passages come to mind.  Some people want “to tell or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21).  They want something new.  Some people are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).

Dear Christians, let us remember this: We are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10 cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17).   

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Western Religions: Scientology (Part 1)

Scientology membership numbers are disputed.  CNN reported in 2017, “The Church of Scientology says it has 10,000 churches, missions and groups operating in 167 countries, with 4.4 million more people signing up every year.  Scholars say that, despite the global proliferation of church buildings, the membership numbers are much lower than the church claims, likely in the hundreds of thousands” (Scientology: What Exactly is it? By Dan Gilgoff and Tricia Escobedo, Wed. April 19, 2017, cnn.com).  Some think the numbers are even lower.  Los Angeles Magazine printed this in 2019, “The church is struggling with a dwindling flock and an increasingly negative reputation… According to Ortega (Tony Ortega, co-author of Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s Dangerous ‘Religion’ – B.H.).  Scientology numbers peaked in the early ‘90’s with roughly 100,000 members worldwide, but membership has recently dipped to about 20,000.  (A Scientology spokesperson vigorously denies this, claiming the church has ‘millions of parishioners in 167 nations, a third of whom are in the U.S.’)” (Scientology Is Looking Abroad For New Stars and Vulnerable Recruits by Hailey Eber, May 10, 2019, lamag.com).  The numbers are disputed.  What is not in dispute is that certain high profile people are a part of this organization, including: Tom Cruise and John Travolta. 

History

1.  L(afayette) Ron(ald) Hubbard (1911-1986).

a.  Early Years

There are two versions of L. Ron Hubbard’s biography.  The first, we’ll call the known facts.  He was born in Tilden, Nebraska.  He spent much of his childhood in Helena, Montana and Bremerton, Washington.  He was an Eagle Scout (biographics.org; britannica.com; L. Ron Hubbard Dies of Stroke by Robert Linsey, Jan. 29, 1986, nytimes.com).

The second, we’ll call the Hubbard/Scientology version.  In this version he was riding broncos by the age of three.  He was a blood brother to a Blackfoot Indian Medicine man by the age of four.  He had traveled more than a quarter of a million miles and traversed much of China and India by the age of nineteen.  He had even entered the forbidden Tibetan lamaseries (Who Was L. Ron Hubbard? Scientologynews.org; The Untold Truth of L. Ron Hubbard by Nolen Moore, grunge.com; L. Ron Hubbard, gwern.net).

b.  Adulthood (pre-Dianetics)

The known facts, we’ll set forth.  He attended George Washington University in Washington D.C..  He studied civil engineering but dropped out after two years due to failing grades in 1932.  He started writing pulp fiction at this time to earn a living.  He was paid a penny per word.  Today, he holds the Guinness record for the most published works by one author (1,084).  His novel, Battlefield Earth, was made into a movie starring John Travolta (biographic.org; The Chilling Story of How Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard Rose to Power by Jason Guerrasia, April 1, 2015, businessinsider.com; Most Published Works by One Author, guinnessworldrecords.com). 

He joined the Navy Reserves in 1941.  He served until 1950, active duty until 1945.  He was a Lieutenant.  He never saw action (biographic.org; businessinsider.com; grunge.com). 

The Scientology version has L. Ron Hubbard a war hero.  He was partially blinded and made partially lame from injuries sustained in combat.  He is said to have received 21 medals for his action during the war,  including the Purple Heart.  These things are denied by the Navy (Scientologynews.org; biographic.org; The Founder of Scientology Has One of the Strangest Navy Records Ever by Amanda Macias, April 7, 2015, businessinsider.com; Ron the “War Hero” – Hubbard’s Medals, Carnegie Mellon University, cs.cmu.edu).

Following the war, L. Ron Hubbard lived in California.  He met Jack Parson, a member of Ordo Templi Orentis.  This was an occult group led by Aleister Crowley.  L.R.H. became a part of this group (biographic.org; grunge.com). 

He later claimed that he had infiltrated this group on a secret mission for the U.S. Government.  Unfortunately there is no record of this (gwern.net). 

2.  Dianetics

L. Ron Hubbard published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health in 1950.  It became a best-seller.  Dianetics literally means “through mind.”  “In Dianetics, Hubbard explained that phenomena known as ‘engrams’ (i.e. memories) were the cause of all psychological pain, which in turn harmed mental and physical health.  He went on to claim that people could become ‘clear,’ achieving an exquisite state of clarity and mental liberation, by exorcising their engrams to an ‘auditor,’ or a listener acting as a therapist” (May 9, 1950, L. Ron Hubbard publishes “Dianetics,” history.com).  [The above is a fairly good summary; however, Dianetics actually makes a distinction between “engrams” and “memories” (Dianetics © 1992 pp. 1-2, 87-88).  Engrams are “a complete recording down to the last accurate detail of every perception present in a moment of partial or full ‘unconsciousness’” (ibid).  Memories are stored in the analytical mind (p. 67).  Engrams are stored in the reactive mind (p. 87 cf. 65).  These engrams could be prenatal from things like mama sneezing or Junior bouncing on moma’s lap (pp. 187-188)].   L. Ron Hubbard suggests that 70% of man’s ailments are psychosomatic (Dianetics, p. 13, 131).  Engrams are the source of psychosomatic illness (p. 100).  Dianetics claims that it can clear you of psychosomatic illness.  Some of the claims are incredible.  Consider: “The common cold has been found to be psychosomatic.  Clears do not get colds (p. 133).  “ ‘Toothache’ is normally psychosomatic (p. 217).  “At the present time, Dianetic research is scheduled to include cancer and diabetes.  There are a number of reasons to suppose that there maybe engramic in cause, particularly malignant cancer” (p. 134). L. Ron Hubbard claimed to have cured himself of his war injuries through Dianetics (biographic.org). 

3.  Scientology

In 1954, the Church of Scientology officially launched.  Scientology is said to be “knowing how to know” (Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought, p. 9).  Dianetics had morphed into a religion.  L. Ron Hubbard’s second wife, Sarah Northrup, stated that this was for tax exemption (April 1, 2015, businessinsider.com). 

Here is a summary of what Scientology supposedly teaches about man’s situation.  Man pre-existed separate from our currently earthly bodies.  75 million years ago, there was a galactic ruler named Xenu.  He had a problem.  He ruled over 76 planets, including Earth (then known as Teegeeack).  These planets were greatly over-populated, each on average having 178 billion inhabitants (thetans).  He had a plan.  The masses were summoned for a tax audit.  When they showed up, they were drugged and frozen, placed on spaceships that looked like DC-8s but with rocket power instead of propellers, and flown to Earth.  They were deposited in and around volcanos in the Canary and Hawaii islands.  Hydrogen bombs were detonated vaporizing all.  However, Xenu had set up electronic traps which caught these souls.  They were forced to watch 3D motion pictures which reprogrammed them and created a new “reality.”  These souls clustered in groups of a few thousand and implanted in bodies to live on this earth.  Scientology suggests that we have forgotten our true identities, but that it can help free us from this bodily trap.  Once freed, we will be able to fly around at will without our earthly bodies and no longer be limited by these bodies (Demystifying Scientology’s Fundamental Reality by Bob Minton, cs. cmu.edu.  Clearing the Planet, Knowing Better, Youtube).

Reincarnation is clearly taught.  “Each life while the preclear has been ‘with body’ is lived with a different basic team: the genetic being carries on through the evolutionary line… The Theta Being comes into the line from various quarters and each time usually enters an entirely different G.E. (Genetic Entity) line (Scientology: A History of Man, p. 12).  One may have existed as a cell or part of a claim or jelly fish (pp. 20-ff).  Understand that engrams may exist from previous incarnations (e.g. chapter 4).

4.  David Miscavige (1960-present day)

L. Ron Hubbard died of a stroke in 1986.  This led to David Miscavige becoming the church leader.  Under his leadership the church received tax exemption status with the I.R.S. in 1993 (Scientology’s Puzzling Journey From Tax Rebel to Tax Exempt by Douglas Frantz, March 9, 1997, nytimes.com).

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Western Religions: Christian Science (Part 2)

Beliefs and Practices

1.  Tenets of Christian Science

Their website (christianscience.com) lists the following six “Tenets of Christian Science”:

(1) “As adherents of truth, we take the inspired word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal life.”

At times, they seem to deny inspiration.  Mary denied that the two accounts of creation could be reconciled (Science and Health, p. 522).  Britannica says, “Christian Science… accepts the authority (though not the inerrancy) of the Bible” (britannica.com). 

(2) “We acknowledge and adore one supreme and infinite God.  We acknowledge His Son, one Christ; the Holy Ghost or divine comforter; and man in God’s image and likeness.”

They do not believe in the deity of Jesus or the Holy Spirit.  The thought of the Trinity is equated with polytheism (Science and Health, p. 256).

Jesus is viewed as the perfect man.  “Jesus is the name of the man who more than all other men, has presented Christ, the true idea of God… Jesus is the human man, and Christ is the divine idea” (Science and Health, p. 473).  “A portion of God could not enter man; neither could God’s fullness be reflected by a single man” (Science and Health, p. 336). 

The Holy Spirit is divine knowledge.  “Christian Science teaches that the Holy Ghost is synonymous with divine science… It is the full revelation of truth” (The Holy Ghost and Healing, The Christian Science Journal, August 1995; See also, Science and Health, p. 331).

(3) “We acknowledge God’s forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that cast out evil as unreal.  But belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts.”

They do not believe that sin and evil are real.  They are an illusion of the mind.  “Evil has no reality.  It is neither person, place, nor thing, but is simply a belief, an illusion of material sense” (Science and Health, p. 71).  “All that we term sin… is a mortal belief” (Science and Health, p. 278).  “Evil is but an illusion, it has no real basis.  Evil is a false belief” (Science and Health, p. 480).

(4) “We acknowledge Jesus’ atonement as the evidence of divine, efficacious love, unfolding man’s unity with God through Christ Jesus the way-shower; and we acknowledge that man is saved through Christ, through Truth, Life, and Love as demonstrated by the Galilean prophet in healing the sick and overcoming sin and death.”

How did Jesus make atonement?  “If sin, sickness and death were understood as nothingness, they would disappear” (Science and Health, p., 480).  Jesus, evidently, showed man how to do this.  “Christ came to destroy the belief of sin” (Science and Health, p. 473). 

(5) “We acknowledge that the crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection served to uplift faith to understand eternal life, even the allness of soul, spirit, and nothingness of matter.”

Their position is confusing. At times, it appears that they do not believe matter to be real.  “Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones and other material elements.  The scriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God” (Science and Health, p. 475).  “Man is incapable of sin, sickness, and death” (Science and Health, p. 475).  “Death is but a mortal illusion” (Science and Health, p. 289 cf. 584).  “As a philosophy, Christian Science approximates subjective idealism in that it declares matter to be unreal… the material body and mortal mind are unreal counterfeit.  Realization of this proposition destroys disharmony, sin, sickness and death.  Men suffer because they entertain a false sense of themselves” Britannica, Vol. 4, pp. 562-563).

At other times, it appears that what they mean is that matter is not the real essence of man.  Of Jesus, it is said, “Jesus could give his temporal life into his enemies’ hands; but when his earth-mission was accomplished, his spiritual life, indestructible and eternal, was forever the same.  He knew that matter had not life and that real life is God, therefore he could no more be separated from his spiritual life than God could be extinguished.” (Science and Health, p. 51).  “I do not believe that anyone can exist in the flesh without food and raiment; but I do believe that the real man is immortal and that he lives in spirit, not matter” (Science and Health, p. 461).    Some in practice seem to deny reality.  Some Christian scientists do not rely on medical treatment.  Mary Baker Eddy taught, “Mind governs all… Frequently it requires time to overcome the patient’s faith in drugs and material hygiene; but when once convinced of the uselessness of such material methods, the gain is rapid (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 6).  “Christian Science exterminates the drug, and rests on mind alone as the curative principle, acknowledging the divine mind has all power” (Science and Health, p. 157).  “Error is a supposition that pleasure and pain… are existent in matter” (Science and Health, p. 472).   “The sick are not healed by inanimate matter or drugs, as they believe that they are.  Such seeming medical effect or action is that of so called mortal mind” (Science and Health, p. 463).  “Certain results, supposed to proceed from drugs, are really caused by faith in them” (Science and Health, p. 484).  “When the sick recover by the use of drugs, it is the law of a general belief” (Science and Health, p. 155).  “They generally do not accept medical care for themselves, and do not permit it for their children” (Suffering Children and the Christian Science Church, Caroline Fraser, theatlantic.com).

How can one deny material reality?  Doing so may provide some comfort to a troubled soul.  However, Mary Baker Eddy still ate food, even employing a cook named Minnie Weygandt (Foods Prepared and Consumed in Mary Baker Eddy’s Household, marybakereddylibrary.org.). She did not deny that she needed food (Science and Health, p.461).

They have a very unorthodox view of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  “The efficacy of the crucifixion lay in the practical affection and goodness it demonstrated for mankind… The material blood of Jesus was no more efficacious to cleanse from sin when it was shed upon ‘the accursed tree,’ than when if flowed in his veins as he went daily about his Father’s business” (Science and Health, pp. 24-25).  “His disciples believed Jesus to be dead while he was hidden in the sepulcher, whereas he was alive, demonstrating the power of spirit to overrule mortal, material sense… our Master fully and finally demonstrated divine science in his victory over death and the grave.  Jesus’ deed was for the enlightenment of men and the salvation of the whole world from sin, sickness and death… Jesus’ students… did not perform many wonderful works, until they saw him after his crucifixion and learned that he had not died” (Science and Health, pp. 44-46).  “What a breakthrough!  Until Jesus gave concrete evidence that man has eternal life in spirit, mankind could only hope that such was possible… Jesus comes with his ‘good news.’  He tells us how we can be free of the prison house of the sense and the bonds of matter… Jesus’ triumph over death and victory over the grave were to show us that there is more to us than meets the eye – that each of us does have an eternal and unbreakable relationship to Him Jesus called the Father of us all” (The Scientific Significance of the Resurrection, Christian Science Sentinel, April 13, 1987, christianscience.com). 

(6) “And we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for that mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and to be merciful, just and pure.”

This sounds good.  But, what does it mean?  Remember that they do not believe sin and evil to be real. 

2.  Worship

“Christian Science churches hold regular Sunday worship services and Wednesday testimonial meetings.  Services include Lord’s Prayer, hymns, and readings from the Bible and Science and Health” (What is Christians Science? Christianscience.com).

The readings are uniform in all churches.  “There are 26 Bible lesson subjects, each of which appears twice a year.  These lessons are used for individual study throughout the week and constitute the sermon read on Sundays in Churches of Christ, Scientist (Bible Lesson Subjects, christianscience.com).  “The readings are chose by a special committee in Boston” (Britannica, Vol. 4, p. 563). 

Communion is without the elements of bread and wine.  “In this church the material symbols of bread and wine are not used.  In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (p. 35), Mary Baker Eddy has written: ‘Our Eucharist is spiritual communion with the one God.  Our bread ‘which cometh down from heaven’ is truth.  Our cup is the cross.  Our wine is the inspiration of love’” (Christian Science and Sacraments, Christian Science Sentinel, Jan. 8, 1949, christianscience.com).

“Twice in the year the congregation kneels to commemorate, not the Last Supper, but the joyous morning meal beside the lake of Galilee, attended by the risen savior” (Britannica, Vol. 4, p. 563). 

3.  Baptism

There is no water in their baptisms.  “In her sermon ‘The People’s Idea of God’ (p. 9), Mrs. Eddy says, ‘…this baptism is the purification of the mind – not an ablution of the body, but tears of repentance, an overflowing love, washing away motives for sin; yea it is love leaving self for God’… The Christian Scientist’s baptism, or purification, like his partaking of the bread and wine of truth and love, is something which is to be prayed for daily” (Christian Science And Sacraments, Christian Science Sentinel, Jan. 8, 1949, christianscience.com).

4.  The Christian Science Monitor

It was founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1908 with the objective, “To injure no man, but to bless all mankind.”  It is owned by The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston.  It is “an independent international news organization.”  It has to date won seven Pulitzer prizes and more than a dozen overseas Press Club awards (About Us, csmonitor.com).  The Monitor is not focused on religion, but news.  It does contain one religious article in each issue.  “As of 2011 the print circulation was 75,052” (muckrack.com) 

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Western Religions: Christian Science (Part 1)

Christian Science membership is on the decline.  “Membership in the church has steadily declined since the 1930’s.  Mrs. Eddy forbade her followers from keeping an official membership tally.  The church estimates it has about 400,000 members worldwide, but independent studies puts membership around 100,000.  In the U.S., the number of churches has dwindled from about 1,500 ten years ago to 1,100 today” (Christian Science Healing, August 01, 2008, pbs.org).  “The number of Christian Scientists in the United States was 270,000 in 1936 (the last reliable public count).  Today, despite growth in the nation’s population, actual church membership in the U.S. could be down to 50,000 based on a steep drop in numbers of congregations and registered healers” (How Christian Science Became A Dying Religion by Alfred Siewers, thefederalist.com).

History

1.  Mary Baker Eddy – early and middle years.

Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) was born in Bow, New Hampshire in 1821.  Her parents were Mark and Abigail Baker.  She was the sixth child born to the family.    She was brought up in the Congregational Church.  She was troubled by Calvinism.  She wrote, “At the age of twelve, I was admitted to the Congregationalist (Trinitarian) church… When meeting was held for the examination of candidates for membership… I answered without tremor that never could I unite with the church if assent to this doctrine was essential thereto… To the astonishment of many the good clergyman… received me into their communion” (Mary Baker Eddy, Retrospection and Introspection, pp. 12-ff, archive.org).

She, for years, had a troubled existence.  (a) She was frequently seriously ill in childhood.  (b) Her favorite brother, Albert, died when she was 20 years old.  His kidneys failed.  (c) She was a widow before her 23rd birthday.  Her husband, George Washington Glover, died of yellow fever.  They had been married about a half a year.  She was pregnant.  She moved back home with her parents.  She became “an emotional and highly unstable invalid, who, throughout the remaining years of her life, relied from time to time upon the drug morphine as medication” (Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults).  (d) Her mother died when she was 28.  “The help that the young widow needed from her family in raising her child was not forthcoming after her mother’s passing in 1849, and because of Mary’s health continued to decline young George was eventually put in the hands of foster parents” (Mary Baker Eddy, werehistory.org).  (f) She had an unhappy second marriage.  She married Daniel Patterson, a dentist, in 1853, with the expectation that he would be able to provide a home for her son, but Dr. Patterson did not honor his promise to her in this regard (Mary Baker Eddy, daystarfoundation.org).  “In 1856 she was plunged into virtual invalidism after Patterson and her father conspired to separate her from her only child, a 12-year-old from her first marriage.  She would not see her son again for nearly 25 years, and they only met a few times thereafter” (Mary Baker Eddy, britannica.com).  She endured years of infidelity (daystarfoundation.org).  Patterson “abandoned her in 1866, and, after years of living apart she divorced him in 1873 on grounds of desertion” (The Life of Mary Baker Eddy, marybakereddylibrary.org). 

2.  Mary Baker Eddy – middle and later years.

Mary began a search for better health.  She experimented with homeopathy, vegetarianism, hydrotherapy, and other treatments (werehistory.org).  “Losing faith in medical systems based on materialistic premises, she hit on what some today would call the placebo effect.  Her conviction that the cause of the disease was rooted in the human mind… was confirmed by her contact from 1862 to 1865 with Phineas P. Quimby of Maine, a pioneer in what would today be called suggestive therapeutics” (britannica.com).  “Her health initially improved radically under his treatment, which included a combination of mental suggestion and what might now be called therapeutic touch, but she soon suffered relapse.  She returned to Quimby not only for treatment but also to learn more about his approach” (marybakereddy.org).

Mary slipped and fell on ice on February 01, 1866, at the corner of Oxford and Market streets in Lynn, Massachusetts.  Quimby had recently died.  She couldn’t turn to him.  “As she later told the story, doctors declared that there was no hope of recovery.  On the third day, however, she picked up her Bible, opened it to Matthew 9:2, and read the account of Jesus healing the sick.  She recovered instantly and grasp the central idea of what became a new religion: Christian Science” (werehistory.org).  She wrote of this, “The discovery came to pass in this way.  During the twenty years prior to my discovery I had been trying to trace all physical effects to a mental cause; and in the latter part of 1866 I gained the scientific certainty that all causation was mind, and every effect a mental phenomenon.  My immediate recovery from the effects of an injury cause by an accident… was the falling apple that led me to the discovery of how to be well myself, and how to make others so” (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 24, archives.org). 

Some question certain details of the accident and recovery.  (a) Dr. Alvin M. Cushing denied that she was in as serious of a condition as she later claimed (Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, p. 134).  (b) The recovery may not have occurred as quickly as later recounted.  She continued to be treated by Dr. Cushing.  She also sought treatment from Julius Dresser, a pupil of Quimby (ibid).  (c) She filed suit against the City of Lynn in the summer of 1866 claiming continued suffering as a result of the fall.  This suit was later dropped (Myths & Legends: The Fall on Ice, exchristianscience.com).

She began to study, teach, and write.  Science and Health (her major work) was published in 1875 The Church of Christ, Scientist was established in Boston in 1879 (Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 4, p. 562 © 1979).

Much of her writings may have been borrowed.  “Mrs. Eddy’s plagiarism of Quimby’s writings were well illustrated by The New York Times (June 10, 1904), which published parallel columns of Mrs. Eddy’s and Mr. Quimby’s writings” (Walter Martin, p. 128-ff).  She may have also borrowed from Lindley Murray and Francis Lieber (Walter Martin, p. 130-ff). 

She married her third husband in 1877.  His name was Asa Gilbert Eddy.  He was one of her students.     Asa died in 1882.  His death was said to be from coronary thrombosis.  Mary “contested the autopsy report and the physician she chose confirmed her conviction that Asa died of ‘arsenic poisoning mentally administered.’  Such a radical report prompted inquiry into the credentials of Mrs. Eddy’s physician Dr. C.J. Eastman… It was found that the ‘Doctor’ Eastman was running a virtual abortion mill, and had no medical credentials whatever to justify his title.  He was sentenced to ten years in prison upon his conviction” (Walter Martin, p. 127).  What is interesting about this is that she seems to discourage autopsies in Science and Health, saying, “Many a hopeless case of disease is induced by a single post mortem examination, …from the fear of the disease and from the image brought before the mind” (Science and Health, p. 196, christiansciencemedia.org).  Why have an autopsy if the material world is an illusion?

Authority

1.  The Bible

Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “The Bible has been my only authority.  I have no other guide in the ‘straight and narrow way’ of truth” (Science and Health, p. 126).

2.  Science and Health

She wrote, ‘I should blush to write of ‘Science and Health with Key to Scriptures’ as I have were it of human origin, and were I, apart from God, its author.  But, as I was only a scribe echoing the harmonies of heaven in divine metaphysics, I cannot be super-modest in my estimation of the Christian Science textbook” (The First Church of Christ Scientist and Miscellany, p. 115, googlebooks).  “A Christian Scientist requires my work Science and Health for his textbook, and so do all his students and patients.  Why?  …Because it is the voice of truth to this age” (Science and Health, p. 456).

       

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Why Be Thankful?

There are those who are unthankful to God or man.  This is true for a variety of reasons.  (1) Some are so focused on what they do not have, that they fail to appreciate and be grateful for what they do have. (2) Some recognize what they have, but believe that all was achieved by their own abilities and efforts.  They have, in their minds, no one to whom they should be thankful or express thanks.  (3) Some recognize what they have, but have a sense of entitlement.  When something is done for them they feel that they deserve it; they expect it; it was owed to them.  (4)  Some are so focused on the problems of life and the ills of society that they fail to appreciate and be grateful for the good that does exist. 

1.  God created us.  

No one can rightly say that all was achieved by his own abilities and efforts.  One would not exist without God. It is God who has given us life and whatever abilities we have. Consider the words of Psalm 100, “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves… Be thankful to Him, and bless His name” (Psalm 100:3-4).  Paul proclaimed, “He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” Notice the prepositions, “For of (ek) Him, through (dia) Him, and to (eis) Him are all things, to whom be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).

[ Sidebar: Consider the prepositions in Romans 11:36 with the prepositions in another. Colossians 1:16 reads, For by (en) Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through (dia) Him and for (eis) Him.” The first verse refers to God, the LORD (Jehovah). The second verse refers to Jesus. This has implications, I believe, concerning the Godhead.]

2.  God sustains us.

He makes life possible on this earth, and provides for our needs.  “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).  He daily loads us with benefits (Psalm 68:19).  Our food is to be received with thanksgiving, and this thanksgiving is to be expressed in prayer (1 Timothy 4:4-5). 

3.  God is good.

The Bible affirms this, repetitively.  “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.  Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.   For the LORD is good; and His truth endures to all generations” (Psalm 100:4-5).  Praise the LORD! Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!  His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 106;1 cf. Psalm 107:1; 118:1; 1 Chronicles 16:34).  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of Lights” (James 1:17). 

His goodness to us goes beyond what one would expect.  No one should feel entitled.  “For scarcely for a righteous man will once die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8).  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).  “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1-2 cf. Romans 8:17).

Furthermore, It is not only to God that we should be thankful.  When others do good to us, we should be grateful.  Consider: (1) A Samaritan leper returned to thank Jesus for healing him (Luke 17:15-16).  (2) Paul said of Priscilla and Aquilla “to whom not only I give thanks, but also the churches of the Gentiles” (Romans 16:3-4).  They had risk their necks for Paul.  We are told: “be thankful” (Colossians 3:12-15).

[Note: Many times Paul thanked God when brethren did what was right (e.g. Romans 1:8; 6:17; Philippians 1:3-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3; 2:13-14; 3:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4). Credit ultimately belongs to Him (cf. Philippians 2:13)]

4.  It is Good for Us

Having an attitude of gratitude is good for us.  (1) It is helpful in our relationships with others (Colossians 3:12-15). Christy Wright stated, “Thankfulness improves relationships. Everyone has a need to be appreciated – spouses, children, parents, friends, coworkers, even the strangers we meet in passing (Christy Wright, 10 Reasons I’m Thankful for Thankfulness, November 11, 2016, daveramsey.com). Remember, the Golden Rule, Matthew 7:12.

(2) It is helpful to our mental wellness. Ungrateful people are often miserable.  Ahab became so focused on what he did not possess (Naboth’s vineyard) that his spirit became sullen (1 Kings 21:1-6).  Jonah became angry with God when the plant shading him withered (Jonah 4:6-11).  He seems to have felt entitled (cf. Paul’s attitude Philippians 4:11-12 and Job’s attitude Job 1:21-22). 

Dennis Prager offers this bit of wisdom.  “You can’t be a happy person if you aren’t grateful, and you can’t be a good person if you aren’t grateful… Here is a rule of life: ingratitude guarantees unhappiness… Here are two rules of life.  Rule number one: The less you feel entitled to, the more gratitude you will feel for whatever you get and the happier you will be.  Rule number two: The more you feel entitled to, the less happy you will be… The more that you feel that life or society owes you, the angrier you will get, the less happy you will be… If I were granted one wish, it would be that all people be grateful.  Gratitude is the source of happiness, and the source of goodness; and the more good people and the more happy people there are walking around, the happier and better our world will be” (Dennis Prager, The Key to Unhappiness, prageru.com).   

(3) It may be beneficial to our physical health. Christy Wright stated, “When we stop focusing on what we do not have, and begin focusing on what we do have, our shoulders relax and we invite peace, patience, and health into our lives” (daveramsey.com).

(4) It definitely is needful for our spiritual well being. We are to be a thankful people. “Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

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Without

There are things that man must have for physical survival.  He cannot survive very long without them.  “How long can we survive without the basics?  Every person and situation is different, though the ‘rule of threes’ gets at the desperate nature of what our bodies need: three minutes without oxygen, three days without water, three weeks without food” (Here’s the longest people have survived without air, food, water, sunshine, or sleep by Sean Kane, June 9, 2016, businessinsider.com).  The current records for holding breath is 11 minutes and 35 seconds.  Allow a breath of pure oxygen before the holding of breath, the record is 22 minutes and 22 seconds.  The record without water is 18 days.  The longest hunger strike without food is 74 days (ibid).  There are things that are necessary, things we cannot do without.

This is also true in the spiritual realm.  The book of Hebrews sets forth three things that we cannot do without.  Let’s notice…

1.  “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

Nearly all purification under the Law of Moses required blood [Priests and Tabernacle (Leviticus 8); Women following childbirth (Leviticus 12); Leper on recovery (Leviticus 14); Leprous house follow plague (Leviticus 14)].  There were exceptions (Leviticus 15). The Law of Moses required blood sacrifice for sin (e.g. Leviticus 4:3, 13, 22, 27; 5:5-7, 11, 15, 17-19; 6:1-7).  The very poor were allowed to make a grain substitute in a sin offering (Leviticus 5:11-13). Was this an exception to the rule?  Some do not believe that it was.  Robert Milligan comments, “But that even in this case, the sin of the poor man was not forgiven without the shedding of blood, seems evident from what follows in the next verse of the same chapter, where it said, ‘And the priest shall make an atonement for him…’  This atonement, it seems could not be make without blood; for God says (Leviticus 17:11), ‘… It is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul.’  …in the Talmud it is said, ‘There is not atonement except in blood’ (Yuma 5).  It is most likely therefore that in this case, the Priest was required to make an atonement for the sin of the poor man, at the public expense” (Milligan, Hebrews, p. 334).

Christ is the ultimate sacrifice for man’s sins.  He made a better sacrifice (Hebrews 9:23; note: sacrifices is in the plural in this verse.  Robert Milligan explains, “The plural is put for the singular by synecdoche, because of the plurality of the Levitical sacrifices” p. 335).  It was a once for all sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27; 9:24-28; 10:10, 12, 14). 

The blood of Christ is something we cannot do without.  If the sinner could be made righteous by law-keeping, then “Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21 cf. Philippians 3:9).  “Without Him I could be dying \ Without Him I’d be enslaved \ Without Him life would be hopeless \ But with Jesus, Thank God I’m saved!” (Song: Without Him). 

2.  “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

God has supplied grace to man.  This grace is connected with the death of Christ.  Paul wrote, “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law (lit. law), then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21).

Man must supply faith.  We are to: (1) believe that He is, and (2) that He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).  This second point concerns a few things.  (a) It concerns trust.  We should trust in Him and in His promises (Hebrews 11:6 cf. 11:7; Psalm 9:10; 34:8-10).  (b) It concerns desire, focus, and ambition (cf. Psalm 63:1, 105:3-4; 1 Chronicles 16:11; 2 Chronicles 15:2; Jeremiah 29:13; Amos 5:4; Colossians 3:1-2; Matthew 6:33).  (c) It concerns actions (Hebrews 11:6 cf. 11:7; Psalm 119:2, 45; Isaiah 55:6-7).

Noah is mentioned as an example of the kind of faith needed (Hebrews 11:7).  Noah believed God enough to do what He said was necessary for salvation. 

Abraham is another example (Hebrews 11:8-ff).  He was willing to follow God wherever He led him.  He lived his life trusting in the promises of God.  He desired that heavenly country (Hebrews 11:9-10, 16).

Moses is yet another example (Hebrews 11:23-ff).  He chose rather to endure affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasure of sin (Heb. 11:25).  He “Looked to the reward” (Hebrews 11:26). 

3.  “Pursue peace with all people and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Man’s faith should be more than a mere mental assent.  It should affect one’s pursuits in life [The word translated “pursue” (NKJV) or “follow” (KJV) means “run after, pursue… fig. pursue, strive for, seek after, aspire to something” (BAGD)].  It should affect seek to live in relationship with man and God.

We are to seek to live at peace with our fellow man.  Paul instructed, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12;18).   If peace does not exist, it should not be because we did not desire such, or seek such.  Furthermore, be exhorted, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and things by which one may edify another” (Romans 14:19 cf. 15:2).  Our actions should be considerate of others.  We should desire to build others up in the Lord.

We should seek to live a holy life before God and man.  [The word translated “holiness” signified (a) separation to God… (b) the resultant state, the conduct befitting those so separated” (Vine’s)].  Paul wrote, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor… For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, 7).  God cares how we live.  If we want to see Him we should conscientiously pursue the lifestyle that He would have us live.  This is not sinless perfection, but a lifestyle of following His will (1 John 1:7).

These three things we cannot do without.  We cannot do without the blood of Christ.  We cannot do without faith in God and His word.  We cannot do without a lifestyle of pursuing His will.

          

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Feelings and Salvation

Let me tell you of a conversation that I once had.  I was eating with two others.  One was a member of the church.  The other was probably not.  He was questioning his baptism.  Had he been baptized for the right reasons?  Did he understand what he should have understood before baptism?  He asked me if he should be re-baptized.  Instead of giving him a “yes” or “no”, I asked him to have a Bible study with me.  I wanted him to come to his own conclusions based on scripture.  Then, he said, “I just want to feel again like I did on that day, long ago, when I was baptized.”  The church member chimed in, “You will!  God will give you that feeling again.”  I cringed.    There are a couple of things wrong with the church member’s reply.  First, if feelings are given by God when one is properly baptized, and are evidence of a relationship of fellowship with God, then the man did not need to be re-baptized.  He may have needed to confess his sins to God and to return to walking in the light (1 John 1:7-9; Acts 8:22).  However, he would not need to be re-baptized, according to the Scriptures, if he had been properly baptized.  Second, feelings can be very deceptive.  Consider: (a) The heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9).  (b) The book of Proverbs warns, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).  (c) Naaman’s thoughts were not in line with Elisha’s instructions (2 Kings 5:9-14).  (d) Saul thought that he was serving God when he persecuted the church (Acts 22:1-5 cf. 26:9-11).  (e) Imagine the feelings of one who thinks that his loved one was on a plane that crashed, which left no survivors.  Now, imagine that this same one later learns that his loved one was not on that plane, but had taken a different flight.  Feelings are not always based on reality.                                         

Do not misunderstand.  Feelings are not necessarily bad.  At times, they are appropriate.  Consider: (1) Jesus speaks of joy in finding hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44).  (2) Jesus speaks of there being joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7, 10).  (3) The Ethiopian eunuch was baptized and “went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39).  (4) The Philippian jailer was baptized, and we are told that he “rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household” (Acts 16:34).  (5) If one is in a right relationship with God, then, even when persecuted, one can rejoice and be exceeding glad for his reward in heaven (Matthew 5:12 cf. Hebrews 12:2).

Here are how things should be approached.  Feeling should follow facts.  Facts are not determined by feelings.  Faith should be based on God’s word (Romans 10:17; Luke 8:11-12; John 5:45-47; 17:20; 20:30-31; Acts 17:11-12; 18:8; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Thessalonians 1:10).  Faith should not be based on feelings.

Consider this poem:

THE WORD OF GOD

“For feelings come and feelings go,

And feelings are deceiving;

My warrant is the word of God

Nought else is worth believing.

I’ll trust in God’s unchanging word

Till soul and body sever;

For, though all things shall pass away,

His word shall stand forever.

           

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“And Rejoice in Hope” (Romans 5:2; 12:12)

What is hope?  Biblical hope is more than a mere wish or desire.  It is “favorable and confident expectation” (Vine’s).  Our hope is based on Jehovah God (Psalm 31:24; 39:7; 71:5; 1 Peter 1:21), God’s word (Psalm 119:49-50, 81-82, 114; 130:5; Romans 15:4; Titus 1:2), and Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 1:1; Titus 2:11-13; Hebrews 6:19-20; 1 Peter 1:3, 15).  Think of the words of the song we sing, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness” (Song: My Hope is Built on Nothing Less by Robert Crichley). 

How important is it to have hope?  The Bible compares it to a Roman soldier’s helmet (1 Thessalonians 5:8 cf. Ephesians 6:17).  Hope helps us keep our heads and stay alive in spiritual warfare.  The Bible also compares it to an anchor (Hebrews 6:19).  It keeps us from drifting away from where we should be (cf. Hebrews 2:1; 3:6; 3:14; 4:14; 6:19-20; 13:9 – nautical references are found throughout the book of Hebrews).  “We have an anchor that keeps the soul / Steadfast and sure while the billows roll / Fastened to the rock which cannot move / Grounded frim and deep in the Savior’s love” (Song: We Have An Anchor by Priscilla J. Owens).  Hope is essential to salvation and perseverance (Romans 8:24-25). 

Consider what some have said of hope.  “There is no medicine like hope, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow” (Orison Marden).  “A man can go on without wealth, and even without purpose for a while.  But he will not go on without hope” (C. Neil Strait).  “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope” (unknown).      

Hope provides courage and joy even in difficult circumstances.  Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2).  The apostles were able to rejoice when persecuted (Acts 5:42). Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God even after being beaten and jailed with their feet in stocks (Acts 16:22-25).  Paul wrote, “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

This optimistic outlook is taught in scripture.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Paul wrote, while in prison, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again, I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).  Let us remember that despite the hardships we may experience in this life, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).  We can “rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is (our) reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12).

Why Can We Rejoice in Hope?

1.  God is trustworthy (Titus 1:1-2; Hebrews 6:19-20).

2.  No external force can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:31-39; Matthew 5:11-12; 10:28).

3.  God is in control (Daniel 4:17) and He can use even evil to accomplish good (Genesis 50:20).

4.  When properly approached even the unpleasant trials of life can be used for spiritual growth (Romans 5:2-3; James 1:2-4).

5.  The things we endure in this life are light and momentary and not comparable to our eternal weight of glory (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18)  

Application to Our Day

These are trying times in our nation and around the world.  First, there is a pandemic.  Second, there has been a shut down by many governments of the world in response to this pandemic.  This has created economic hardship and uncertainty for many.  It has also resulted in families not being able to see one another (e.g. hospital visits being restricted or forbidden).  Third, there is social and racial unrest in our nation.  Cities are burning.  Police, in some large cities, are being defunded.  Fourth, this is a Presidential election year.  People seems more polarized than ever.  Neighbors and family, in some cases, are alienated by politics.      Here are somethings to remember.  (1) There is no reason for a Christian to be fearful of death (Matthew 10:28).  A Christian has hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  Do not misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that one should not be cautious.  However, we are all going to die someday, whether it be from Coronavirus or something else (Hebrews 9:27), unless we are alive at Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).  Let us “work the works of Him… while it is day” (John 9:4).  “Let us not grow weary in doing good for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9 cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).  Moreover, let us remember that “to depart and be with Christ… is for better” (Philippians 1:23). 

(2) There is no reason for a Christian to be fearful of a political election.  Do not misunderstand me; I do believe that elections have consequences.  I also believe that Christian light should not be hidden under a basket but should shine in this world (Matthew 5:14-16).  However, one can be a faithful Christian even in less than ideal circumstances.  The church was established and grew even during the day, of corrupt and evil Roman rules.  Our aim should be to magnify Christ in this life regardless of what men do (Philippians 1:20).  Our ultimate hope is not in political candidates but in Christ.  Our highest ambition is not to make America great, but to magnify Christ on earth.  This is a faithful saying: For if we die with Him, we shall also live with Him.  If we endure, we shall also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He will also deny us.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:11-13).  Additionally, let us remember that God is ultimately in control.  His will shall be done.  The Most High rules in the kingdom of man (Daniel 4:17; Acts 17:26).

                                     

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“They Were Good People”

I was in a conversation with a Christian, a member of the body of Christ.  The conversation turned to God’s plan of salvation.  The man said, “I do not believe that my grandparents will be lost.  They were good people.”  Note: I did not bring up his grandparents.  He did.  However, I believe that his words revealed a flaw in his thinking.

Is a person’s goodness the basis or the means of salvation?  (1) Humanity has a sin problem.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  “The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23).  (2) Salvation is by God’s grace.  It is a gift of God.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).  (3) Man does not merit salvation by his own good work.  “It is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Our salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy…” (Titus 3:5).  Paul wrote, “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law (lit. law – B.H.) then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21).  Again, he wrote, “not having my own righteousness, which is from the law (lit. law – B.H.), but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).

God has located grace “in Christ” for man living today.  Grace is found in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1).  Eternal life is found in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23; 1 John 5:11).  Every spiritual blessing, redemption, and inheritance is found in Christ (Ephesians 1:3, 7, 11).  One gets into Christ by baptism (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:26-28).  Consider Tom Wacaster’s comments on Romans 6:3, “There is a change of state, locale, or position that has taken place… If it is the case that one is baptized into Christ Jesus, what can be said of that person who has never been baptized?  Is he actually “IN” Christ…?” (Tom Wacaster, Studies in Romans, p. 226). 

It is man’s responsibility to access this grace by faith, trusting in God’s plan for righteousness.  “We have access by faith (lit. the faith – B.H.) into this grace” (Romans 5:1).  “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).  “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace” (Romans 4:16).  Tom Wacaster comments on this verse, “Had justification been based upon man’s success in keeping some law system then it could have in no way be ‘according to grace.’  In addition, if God has placed justification in the realm of law, no man could ever hope to be saved since no man has been able to keep any law (perfectly –B.H.) under which he lived.  This inability to keep the law properly drives one to find refuge in that system wherein justification is granted by grace” (Tom Wacaster, Studies in Romans, p. 167). 

Theoretically, there are two ways by which a man may be justified.  (1) He may perfectly, flawlessly keep the standards of God (law), and thereby be regarded as justified.  He would need no grace (Romans 4:4).  However, there has only been one such perfect man (Hebrews 4:15; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22).  This is not how we are justified.  “Therefore by the deeds of the law (lit. law – B.H.) no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law (lit. law – B.H.) is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).  Neither Abraham (under Patriarchal law), nor David (under Mosaic law) were justified by flawless law keeping (Romans 4:1-8).  (2) He may be justified by faith.  That is, he may be saved by accepting God’s gracious plan for man’s justification.

This requires humility.  One must be humble enough to admit that he is in need of salvation, and a Savior.  Moreover, one must be humble enough to submit to God’s conditions for the grace that is offered.  Naaman had to dip seven times in the Jordan to be cured of leprosy (2 Kings 5:10-14).  A blind man had to wash in the pool of Siloam to receive sight (John 9:1-7).  Today, man needs to accept God’s instructions for the remission of sins (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38), and continued fellowship with Him (1 John 1:7-10; Acts 8:22). 

Man will not be saved by his own goodness.  Any who are saved will be saved by the grace of God. 

God has offered His grace on conditions set forth in His word.  Let all humbly accept His conditions for pardon.  Some believe that God may extend grace to some beyond this.  However, such is not revealed in His word, and goes beyond what is written.

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