Does God Repent?

The Repentance of God

“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” (Ge 6:5-6)  KJV

    God repents?  Say what?!?!  I thought that God did not change His mind – ever!  Now we read that God repents?????  

    How will we respond to this?  We can say, I guess the Bible must be full of inconsistencies.  We can also say, I’m sure there’s an answer, but I don’t know what it is.

    Better yet, we can seek an answer.  Yeah, that would honor the Scriptures, and the God who gave them to us.  Let’s see what that answer is.

    First of all let us note that there other places where God is said to have repented.

“Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,  It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments.” (1 Sam 15:10-11)  KJV

“When the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand.”  (2 Sam 24:16)  KJV

“If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you.”   (Jer 42:10)  KJV

    Next let us indeed affirm that God is immutable and that His counsel shall stand.

“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)  KJV

“But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.” (Job 23:13)  KJV

“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,  Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:  Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.”   (Is 46:9-11)  KJV

“I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”  (Mal 3:6)  KJV

    Then we must also see that God’s treatment of men is conditioned upon their response to Him.

“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,  Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.  Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.    And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.   Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,  O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.   At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;  If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.   And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;  If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.”  (Jer 18:1-10)  KJV

‘Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:  And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.  Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?”  (Joe 2:12-14)  KJV

    Having seen these things let us then come to this conclusion:

  1. This passage is speaking of God in an anthropopathic way.  That is, God is spoken of as having human attributes.  It is a representation of God in such a way that men might understand a little of the workings of God.
  2. God knows the end from the beginning.  God knows what He will do, and He knows what we will do.  God’s repentance is part of His foreknowledge and foreordained plan.
  3. God’s repentance is not a change of heart such as you and I experience.  God remains holy, pure, righteous, gracious, merciful, loving, et al.  When man turns from God and sins, God’s righteousness demands that He respond to the sin of man.  Why?  Because God’s glory has been despised in man’s sin.  Thus, God did not change, but man did.

When the wicked man repents of his sin and turns to God for grace, neither does God’s heart change then.  God’s righteousness and grace demands that God receive and forgive the one to whom He promised forgiveness if he repented.  Again, God did not change His mind and heart. Man’s heart and mind were changed.

Thus we see that God is immutable, His promise infallible, His Word unchangeable, and His ways unsearchable. At the same time we see that God’s repentance is a vital part of His character in which His outlook toward man is changed based upon man’s response to God and His Word. God’s repentance does not mean that He makes mistakes. His repentance is perfect repentance. It is the reflection of His unchanging, holy character.

The Doctrine Of Redemption Part 1

redemption

 

Redemption In The Old Testament

Any attempt to study the doctrine of redemption would fall woefully short of giving an understanding of this great truth if that study did not take into account the Old Testament data.  As a matter of fact, this doctrine has its beginning in the Old Testament and the New Testament simply fulfills the Old Testament types; without which types we could not understand fully what is meant by redemption in the New Testament.

The first time that redemption is mentioned was when Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph.  Jacob said, “ The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”  (Gen 48:16) KJV  This particular text does not give us an extremely large amount of insight into the meaning of redemption, but it does inform us that one’s redemption is usually from some unpleasant situation.  Jacob declared that he was delivered from all evil.  It is most likely that the patriarch was referring to the fact that he was delivered the various dangers and problems of life that could have destroyed him as well as his own inherent wickedness and the consequences thereof.

Many years later the children of Israel would be enslaved by the Egyptians and would need to be delivered.  It was at this time that the LORD sent Moses to bring them out of Egypt saying, “Say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:  And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.   And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord.”  (Ex 6:6-8) KJV  It is very informative to note that not only does redemption bring one (or a group) out of bondage, but it also takes them into the blessings of the promises of God.  

As Israel was given the law they were also given a civil code to direct them in their day-by-day existence as a nation.  In this civil code was a provision for those who found themselves in a difficult financial position.  That provision was that they could give their land as a payment for their debt.  As a general rule the land would return to them at the end of a specified fifty year period, but not before.  There was one way in which the land could be returned to the original owner before the fifty year period was expired.  It could return by means of redemption.  This simply means that, should the original owner or a family member of his be able to pay the debt, the land would be redeemed and the original owner could take possession of it once again.  “If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.   And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it;  Then let him count the years of the sale thereof, and restore the overplus unto the man to whom he sold it; that he may return unto his possession.”  (Lev 25:25-27) KJV  This same principle applies to one who sold himself into servitude to pay his debts.  “If a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger’s family:  After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him:  Either his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself.”  (Lev 25:47-49) KJV  One thing that is necessary to note is the fact that the redeemer must have a kinship to the one being redeemed.  This fact will be relevant later in our study.

The resurrection is spoken of as redemption, too.  Job spoke of it saying, “Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!   That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!   For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:  And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:   Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”  (Job 19:23-27) KJV  What makes this passage interesting is the fact that there are those who think there is no reference to a bodily resurrection in the Old Testament.  Job (Who is probably a grandson of Jacob Gen 46:13 cp Gen 36:1-11) was confident that, though his body would be consumed by the worms, he would see his Redeemer face to face.  Although he was in a great trial, Job was confident that he would not be caused to remain under that hardship, but would be redeemed; if not in the present, in the future when the Redeemer came to the earth.  The Psalmist also spoke of the resurrection: “God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me.”  (Ps 49:15) KJV  Hosea , too, had confidence that there was a redemption that would overcome death, and spoke in the name of the LORD saying, “ I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.”  (Hos 13:14) KJV  

The Old Testament also acknowledges that when one’s sins are forgiven they are redeemed.  Isaiah spoke in the name of the LORD saying, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.   Sing, O ye heavens; for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.”  (Isa 44:22,23) KJV  We shall find that this aspect of the doctrine will be revealed and developed much more fully in the New Testament.

Finally, the Old Testament speaks to us of God’s redeeming His people at the time of the end.  Although we have already seen the truth of the resurrection, we must also see that redemption does not simply bring us out of the grave, but also into the eternal blessings of God.  “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.   It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.   Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.   Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.   Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.   Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.   And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.   And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.   No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:  And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”  (Isa 35:1-10) KJV  This is spoken of again when Isaiah said, “The Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.  Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.”  (Isa 51:3,11) KJV  “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.   And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.   As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.”  (Isa 59:19-21) KJV  These passages demonstrate to us that the Lord shall return and deliver His people from oppression and their own sins and give them eternal joy according to His promise.  That will be a glorious redemption indeed.

Redemption In Christ

In New Testament times one of the first times that redemption was mentioned was when Zacharias’ wife Elizabeth bore him a son whom he named John.  This child John (John the Baptist) was to be the one who went before the LORD in the spirit of Elijah (See Luke 1: ).  When John was born, this knowledge caused Zacharias to rejoice saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,  And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;  As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:  That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;  To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;  The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,  That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,  In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.”  (Luke 1:68-75) KJV  Zacharias knew that Jesus would soon be born, and so he rejoiced that God was coming as our redeemer.  While (as was typical of the time) Zacharias viewed redemption in a somewhat nationalistic way (because he was expecting deliverance from their enemies and those who hated them), yet he also believed that redemption did have a spiritual element, too.  Being redeemed we shall be able to serve God without fear of man and can do so in righteousness all the days of our lives.  Thus redemption can be seen as our being delivered from bondage to be ever able to serve the Lord.  Anna, too, recognized that the child, Jesus, was our redeemer.  The Scriptures say that “She coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”  (Luke 2:38) KJV 

What is the redemption that is in Christ?  Redemption is forgiveness of sins.  “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”  (Eph 1:7) KJV  “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:14) KJV  

During His ministry Jesus stated that his life would be the redemption price for us.  “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  (Matt 20:28) KJV  For man to be set free from sin a price did indeed have to be paid.  The Scriptures set the penalty for sin: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”  (Ezek 18:4) KJV  “The wages of sin is death.”  (Rom 6:23) KJV  “Without shedding of blood is no remission.”  (Heb 9:22) KJV  That is the price that Jesus paid for us: His blood, which means that He gave His life.  

The Early Church Fathers On The Church: A Matter Of History

1&2 cen fathers universal church

The Early Church Fathers On The Church

(The First Two Centuries)

            It has been said that those of us who believe that the body of Christ is much larger than the local church, but is composed of all the redeemed, are Protestant in doctrine. It is the intention of this writer to demonstrate from a historical viewpoint that the idea of the church being having not only a local nature, but also a universal nature is a quite ancient teaching. We will study quotations from a few writers from the first and second centuries. It might be that we could study and find ourselves in disagreement with these men on various doctrinal and practical issues. That is not our aim at this time. The aim of this article is to simply consider from a historical perspective whether or not there were any people of the first and second centuries who believed that the church has an universal nature, and that the church is composed of all those who trust Jesus Christ. Again, we are not seeking to establish the doctrinal orthodoxy of those who are quoted, but are studying from an explicitly historical perspective in order to determine the age of the doctrine of the church universal.

 

Defining Terms

            Ante-Nicene- before Nicaea. In AD 325 a council was assembled at Nicaea, in Turkey. Constantine assembled it in order to address some doctrinal issues. The resources from which these quotes come are called the Ante-Nicene Fathers. These are writings that have survived over the centuries, and we are focusing especially on those writers from the first and second centuries AD.

            catholic- universal

Regarding the nature of the church and the writings of these ancient Christians, the editors of the Ante-Nicene Fathers said,  “Too long have they been allowed to speak to the popular mind as if the Fathers were their own; while, to every candid reader, it must be evident that, alike, the testimony, the arguments, and the silence of the Ante-Nicene writers confound all attempts to identify the ecclesiastical establishment of “the Holy Roman Empire,” with “the Holy Catholic Church” of the ancient creeds.[1]

In other words, we must not confuse the word “catholic” with a lower case “c” with the Roman Catholic Church. The word “catholic” simply means universal. Any time this word appears in our article, it NEVER refers to the Romans Catholic Church, but simply to the nature of the church as being universal.

 

Polycarp

Polycarp was born about AD 65, and the exact date of his death is uncertain. His death is believed to be somewhere about AD 116, or even as late as AD 155. What is important to us is his place in history.

Polycarp is said to have been one who knew several of the Apostles, studied under the Apostle John, and wrote a letter to the Philippians, which was the same church to whom Paul wrote.

With these things in mind, though we acknowledge only the authority of Scripture, we yield respect to this elder who has gone before us and was so closely related to the Apostles; and we respect the words of his contemporaries who wrote of him.

“The Church of God which sojourns at Smyrna, to the Church of God sojourning in Philomelium, and to all the congregations2 of the Holy and Catholic Church in every place: Mercy, peace, and love from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, be multiplied.[2]” This is not a direct quotation from Polycarp, but is extracted from a letter sent from Smyrna to other churches. Let it be noted that it speaks of the congregations of Holy and Catholic (universal) church in every place. Again, we must stress that this does NOT refer to the Roman Catholic Church, which at that time was not in existence at that time. This refers to the universal nature of the church. These Christian brothers, writing about the death of Polycarp, acknowledge that the church has both a local and a universal nature.

 

 

“Now, as soon as he had ceased praying, having made mention of all that had at any time come in contact with him, both small and great, illustrious and obscure, as well as the whole Catholic Church throughout the world, the time of his departure having arrived, they set him upon an ass, and conducted him into the city, the day being that of the great Sabbath.[3]” Once again we see the universal (catholic) nature of the church presented by the writers of this letter, as they declare that it is “throughout the world.”

 

“For, having through patience overcome the unjust governor, and thus acquired the crown of immortality, he now, with the apostles and all the righteous [in heaven], rejoicingly glorifies God, even the Father, and blesses our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls, the Governor of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world.[4]” We see even more clearly the universal nature of the church in the statement that Jesus is the “Shepherd of the Catholic (universal) church throughout the world.” That is, the universal church is in all of the world. It is not simply local, though the church has a local nature, but it is throughout the world.

 

 

“Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.[5]” Wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the universal (Catholic) church. This clearly sets forth the understanding that the existence of the church is both heavenly and earthly, as Jesus is omnipresent.

 

 

 

Justin Martyr 110-165

“Moreover, that the word of God speaks to those who believe in Him as being one soul, and one synagogue, and one church, as to a daughter; that it thus addresses the church which has sprung from His name and partakes of His name (for we are all called Christians), is distinctly proclaimed in like manner in the following words, which teach us also to forget [our] old ancestral customs, when they speak thus: ‘Hearken, O daughter, and behold, and incline thine ear; forget thy people and the house of thy father, and the King shall desire[6]” Note that Justin speaks of the church as being composed of those who believe, and as being one in nature. Let us recall that this was written at least one hundred years before the organization of the Roman Catholic church, and more than one thousand three hundred years before the Protestant Reformation. It is absolutely impossible to be historically accurate and claim that the teaching of the universal nature of the church is of Protestant origin.

 

 

Irenaeus 120-202

“The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father “to gather all things in one,”7 and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess” to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all; that He may send “spiritual wickednesses,”9 and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning [of their Christian course], and others from [the date of] their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory.[7]” Let us simply notice that Irenaeus stated that the church was spread throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth.

 

“And again: “God stood in the congregation of the gods, He judges among the gods.” He [here] refers to the Father and the Son, and those who have received the adoption; but these are the Church. For she is the synagogue of God, which God—that is, the Son Himself—has gathered by Himself. Of whom He again speaks: “The God of gods, the Lord hath spoken, and hath called the earth.” Who is meant by God? He of whom He has said, “God shall come openly, our God, and shall not keep silence;”4that is, the Son, who came manifested to men who said, “I have openly appeared to those who seek Me not.” But of what gods [does he speak]? [Of those] to whom He says, “I have said, Ye are gods, and all sons of the Most High.”6 To those, no doubt, who have received the grace of the “adoption, by which we cry, Abba Father.”[8]” Irenaeus stated that the church are those who have received the adoption. Adoption occurs when one trusts Jesus Christ and receives the Holy Spirit: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:9) “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15) In other words, Irenaeus believed that the church universal was composed of all believers. Again, far from being Protestant theology or ecclesiology, this teaching historically predates both the Protestant Reformation and the Roman Catholic Church.

 

 

 

“For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth. Those, therefore, who do not partake of Him, are neither nourished into life from the mother’s breasts, nor do they enjoy that most limpid fountain which issues from the body of Christ; but they dig for themselves broken cisterns out of earthly trenches, and drink putrid water out of the mire, fleeing from the faith of the Church lest they be convicted; and rejecting the Spirit, that they may not be instructed.[9]” Once again we find that Irenaeus plainly presents the church as having a universal nature when he says, “Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church.”

 

“Vain, too, is [the effort of] Marcion and his followers when they [seek to] exclude Abraham from the inheritance, to whom the Spirit through many men, and now by Paul, bears witness, that “he believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.” And the Lord [also bears witness to him,] in the first place, indeed, by raising up children to him from the stones, and making his seed as the stars of heaven, saying, “They shall come from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, and shall recline with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven;” 15 and then again by saying to the Jews, “When ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of heaven, but you yourselves cast out.” This, then, is a clear point, that those who disallow his salvation, and frame the idea of another God besides Him who made the promise to Abraham, are outside the kingdom of God, and are disinherited from [the gift of] incorruption, setting at naught and blaspheming God, who introduces, through Jesus Christ, Abraham to the kingdom of heaven, and his seed, that is, the Church, upon which also is conferred the adoption and the inheritance promised to Abraham.[10]” Here Irenaeus declares that the seed of Abraham (He is speaking of all who believe on Jesus Christ.) is the Church.

 

 

“For thus it had behoved the sons of Abraham [to be], whom God has raised up to him from the stones, and caused to take a place beside him who was made the chief and the forerunner of our faith (who did also receive the covenant of circumcision, after that justification by faith which had pertained to him, when he was yet in uncircumcision, so that in him both covenants might be prefigured, that he might be the father of all who follow the Word of God, and who sustain a life of pilgrimage in this world, that is, of those who from among the circumcision and of those from among the uncircumcision are faithful, even as also “Christ is the chief corner-stone,” sustaining all things); and He gathered into the one faith of Abraham those who, from either covenant, are eligible for God’s building. But this faith which is in uncircumcision, as connecting the end with the beginning, has been made [both] the first and the last. For, as I have shown, it existed in Abraham antecedently to circumcision, as it also did in the rest of the righteous who pleased God: and in these last times, it again sprang up among mankind through the coming of the Lord. But circumcision and the law of works occupied the intervening period[11]” Note that Irenaeus speaks of the building of God, the church, are those who are in the one faith of Abraham. In other words, he recognized that the church has a universal nature, and is composed of all those who believe on Jesus Christ.

 

“For the illustrious Church is [now] everywhere, and everywhere is the winepress digged: because those who do receive the Spirit are everywhere.[12]” Once again, more than one thousand three hundred years before the Protestant Reformation, and more than one hundred years before Roman Catholicism, Irenaeus spoke of the church as being those who receive the Spirit. Far from being a historically Protestant doctrine, the doctrine of the universal church being composed of all of the redeemed is a historically ancient doctrine. The innovation comes from those who reject this truth.

 

“If, then, God promised him the inheritance of the land, yet he did not receive it during all the time of his sojourn there, it must be, that together with his seed, that is, those who fear God and believe in Him, he shall receive it at the resurrection of the just. For his seed is the Church, which receives the adoption to God through the Lord, as John the Baptist said: “For God is able from the stones to raise up children to Abraham.” Thus also the apostle says in the Epistle to the Galatians: “But ye, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise.”10 And again, in the same Epistle, he plainly declares that they who have believed in Christ do receive Christ, the promise to Abraham thus saying, “The promises were spoken to Abraham, and to his seed. Now He does not say, And of seeds, as if [He spake] of many, but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” And again, confirming his former words, he says, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith are the children of Abraham. But the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, declared to Abraham beforehand, That in thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham.”12 Thus, then, they who are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham, and these are the children of Abraham. Now God made promise of the earth to Abraham and his seed; yet neither Abraham nor his seed, that is, those who are justified by faith, do now receive any inheritance in it; but they shall receive it at the resurrection of the just. For God is true and faithful; and on this account He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”[13]” Note that Irenaeus speaks of Abraham and says, “His seed is the Church, which receives the adoption to God through the Lord.” We cannot but accept that Irenaeus was teaching that the church has a universal aspect to her nature, and that universal church is composed of all who believe on Jesus Christ.

 

 

“Now I have shown a short time ago that the church is the seed of Abraham; and for this reason, that we may know that He who in the New Testament “raises up from the stones children unto Abraham,” is He who will gather, according to the Old Testament, those that shall be saved from all the nations, Jeremiah says: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, who led the children of Israel from the north, and from every region whither they had been driven; He will restore them to their own land which He gave to their fathers.”[14]” Again we read, “The Church is the seed of Abraham.” Could it be stated with any greater plainness that Irenaeus believed that the church is composed of the redeemed, whose faith is in Christ Jesus?

 

Clement of Alexandria 153-193-217

“Come, come, O my young people! For if you become not again as little children, and be born again, as saith the Scripture, you shall not receive the truly existent Father, nor shall you ever enter into the kingdom of heaven. For in what way is a stranger permitted to enter? Well, as I take it, then, when he is enrolled and made a citizen, and receives one to stand to him in the relation of father, then will he be occupied with the Father’s concerns, then shall he be deemed worthy to be made His heir, then will he share the kingdom of the Father with His own dear Son. For this is the first-born Church, composed of many good children; these are “the first-born enrolled in heaven, who hold high festival with so many myriads of angels.”[15]” Clement declares that the church is “composed of… ‘the first-born enrolled in heaven.’” Once again, history bears out that the belief in the church being composed of all the redeemed is of ancient origin, and did not come from Protestantism.

 

“And the Lord is called man, because He is perfect in righteousness. Directly in point is the instance of the apostle, who says, writing the Corinthians: “For I have espoused you to one man, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ,” whether as children or saints, but to the Lord alone. And writing to the Ephesians, he has unfolded in the clearest manner the point in question, speaking to the following effect: “Till we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we be no longer children, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, by the craft of men, by their cunning in stratagems of deceit; but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up to Him in all things,”9—saying these things in order to the edification of the body of Christ, who is the head and man, the only one perfect in righteousness; and we who are children guarding against the blasts of heresies, which blow to our inflation; and not putting our trust in fathers who teach us otherwise, are then made perfect when we are the church, having received Christ the head.[16]” Once again we see that Clement describes the church universal as being composed of all the redeemed, when he says, “We are the church, having received Christ the head.”

 

“Further release from evils is the beginning of salvation. We then alone, who first have touched the confines of life, are already perfect; and we already live who are separated from death. Salvation, accordingly, is the following of Christ: “For that which is in Him is life.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My words, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into condemnation, but hath passed from death to life.”2 Thus believing alone, and regeneration, is perfection in life; for God is never weak. For as His will is work, and this is named the world; so also His counsel is the salvation of men, and this has been called the church. He knows, therefore, whom He has called, and whom He has saved; and at one and the same time He called and saved them. “For ye are,” says the apostle, “taught of God.” It is not then allowable to think of what is taught by Him as imperfect; and what is learned from Him is the eternal salvation of the eternal Saviour, to whom be thanks for ever and ever. Amen. And he who is only regenerated—as the name necessarily indicates—and is enlightened, is delivered forthwith from darkness, and on the instant receives the light.[17]” Clement again says, “His counsel is the salvation of men, and this has been called the church.” Those who are saved are called the church by Clement. Once again, it must be stated that we may not agree with every doctrine taught by these men of old; but our aim is to historically establish the fact that the teaching of the universal nature of the church is much more ancient than Protestantism.

 

“And if the Word, speaking of the Lord by David, sings, “The daughters of kings made Thee glad by honour; the queen stood at Thy right hand, clad in cloth of gold, girt with golden fringes,” it is not luxurious raiment that he indicates; but he shows the immortal adornment, woven of faith, of those that have found mercy, that is, the Church; in which the guileless Jesus shines conspicuous as gold, and the elect are the golden tassels.[18]” Clement speaks of the church as those that have found mercy. What can this be but the teaching that those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ comprise the church universal?

 

“And the earthly Church is the image of the heavenly, as we pray also “that the will of God may be done upon the earth as in heaven.[19]” We once again find the universal aspect of the church’s nature when we find Clement stating that the church is both earthly and heavenly.

 

“From what has been said, then, it is my opinion that the true Church, that which is really ancient, is one, and that in it those who according to God’s purpose are just, are enrolled.[20]” This final quotation is very plain in stating that the true church is one church, and that those who are enrolled in it are those who are justified.

 

Conclusion

            Our aim having been to simply determine if any of the ancients of the early church believed that there was a universal nature to the church has presented us with proof that they did believe so. Several times these writers have stated that the church has a local nature, and that the church in her universal nature is composed of all of those who are redeemed through faith in Jesus Christ. While we may find ourselves disagreeing with these ancients on some doctrinal and practical issues, it must be remembered that our aim has been simply to determine what was historically believed among these first and second century writers. We can safely conclude that the belief in the church universal, composed of all of the redeemed is by no means a Protestant invention, nor is it of Roman Catholic origin; but it is much more ancient that either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), v.

[2] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., “The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 39.

[3] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., “The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 40.

[4] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., “The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 43.

[5] Ignatius of Antioch, “The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnæans,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 90.

[6] Justin Martyr, “Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 229.

[7] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 330–331.

[8] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 419.

[9] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 458.

[10] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 470–471.

[11] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 495–496.

[12] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 515.

[13] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 561–562.

[14] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 563–564.

[15] Clement of Alexandria, “Exhortation to the Heathen,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 195.

[16] Clement of Alexandria, “The Instructor,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 213.

[17] Clement of Alexandria, “The Instructor,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 216.

[18] Clement of Alexandria, “The Instructor,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 266.

[19] Clement of Alexandria, “The Stromata, or Miscellanies,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 421.

[20] Clement of Alexandria, “The Stromata, or Miscellanies,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 555.

Elders In The Church

Elders

Elders

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” (1 Peter 5:1–4) 

            The New Testament presents to us a system of order in the church in which elders lead. The questions that are before us are as follows: who are elders, what are their duties, what is their authority, what qualifies one to be an elder, and what relationship does the rest of the local church have to the elders?

Lessons From The Old Testament

            The first thing that needs to be recognized is that elders were nothing new in the New Testament days. Elders have been around since Old Testament times. As with many other things in the New Testament, the office of elder is based upon the pattern that was established in the Old Testament. With this in mind, we shall consider the Old Testament’s teaching regarding elders.

            In Genesis 50:1-8, the elders of Egypt were present for the burial of Jacob in the land of Canaan. While there is little specified here, it seems that the elders of Egypt were those who were under Pharaoh in authority. While age probably was a factor, eldership was about the position of leadership and authority under the supreme ruler, who was Pharaoh. The elders represented Pharaoh and the people of Egypt.

            When Moses was directed by the LORD to tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go, the elders of Israel went with Moses. First Moses spoke to the elders of the people, who obviously were the representative heads of the various tribes and families of Israel. Then the elders, representing the tribes and families, appeared before Pharaoh, demanding their release in the name of the LORD. (Exodus 3:15-19)

            When Moses would give the words of God to Israel concerning the Passover, it was physically impossible for him to assemble the large multitude of people, so he called the elders together and gave them the message to take back to the people. Upon reception of God’s Word, the people obeyed the elders and offered the Passover as they were directed. (Exodus 12:21-28)

            In the days of God giving Israel water from the rock, it was again the elders who stood with Moses as God demonstrated His glory. (Exodus 17:1-7) It was literally impossible for a couple million people to see the water immediately flow from the rock when it was struck; but it was possible for the elders to tell them of it as they saw the water flowing to them. Again, the elders stood as representatives of the people.

            Exodus 18:12-27 shows us Moses choosing men to judge the people. It seems that everyone applied to Moses for judgment in various cases, yet Moses could not bear the load. Because of this, he followed the guidance of his father-in-law and set the elders to represent him as Israel’s leader under God; and the elders were to rule over the people as the representatives of God under Moses’ leadership. (See also Numbers 11:11-17).

            In Exodus 19:1-8, Moses spoke the words of the LORD to the elders, who then carried those words to the people. Again we see that the elders were representative leaders of the people, under the authority of Moses and God’s Word. (Cf Deuteronomy 31:9-13;Joshua 8:33-35;2 Kings 23:1-3).

            Moses, in Deuteronomy 5:23-25, spoke to Israel of their assembling at Mount Sinai. There he told them that the heads of their tribes and their elders asked him to speak to them rather than their hearing the voice of God directly. When we read Exodus 19:7-8 and Exodus 20:18-20, we can see that the elders both spoke for the people and to the people. We once again see that the elders were representatives of the people.

            Notice also that the elders of Israel were those who judged, applied and enforced the laws of God in Israel. (Deuteronomy 19:11-13;21:1-9;18-21;22:13-21;25:7-10;Joshua 20:1-6;Ruth 4:1-12)

            We also see that the elders of Israel were the ones who confirmed God’s choice of David as their king. (2 Samuel 3:17-21;5:3;19:11-15)

            One thing that is of great importance is that elders are to be honored. We are told to honor the old men (Leviticus 19:32). Elders who are leaders are not always old men, yet their position is that of an old man whose character, word, and example are to be expected. Sadly Israel failed in that, and that was part of their downfall, when they went into captivity (Lamentations 4:16;5:12,14).

Elders In The Church

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

            As we study the New Testament church and its leadership, we must remember that the church did not arise as something entirely new. Jesus’ work was a work of fulfillment. Jesus came to build upon the things He had established in the Old Testament. We know that the things that happened to Israel are examples to us (1 Corinthians 10:6,11;Romans 15:4), and that Jesus did not come to destroy the Old Testament Scriptures, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17-20). We shall see, then, that the New Testament eldership has much in common with Israel’s eldership.

            As we begin, let us notice that the eldership in the New Testament is referred to in a variety of ways. The elders in the text above are to feed, or to shepherd God’s flock. In 1 Peter 5:1-4, we find that the elders are to feed, or shepherd God’s flock, and to take oversight by giving attention to them and their state of affairs. Another word for shepherd is pastor. Just as we saw that the elders of Israel heard the words of God from Moses and spoke them to the people, so the elders in the church are under the Lord Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, and must take only His Words, which are the Scriptures, and speak them to the people.  We also find the word bishop used in 1 Timothy 3, which is paralleled by the word elder in Titus 1:5-11. 

            What are bishops? A bishop is an overseer. Just as the shepherd is to take oversight of the flock, that is the very name of the office as well- overseer. Notice that Paul tells Timothy four very important things concerning pastors (1 Timothy 3:1-7):

  1. He has to be of godly character (:1-6).
  2. He has to have the reputation of a godly man (:7).
  3. He is to be able to teach (:2).
  4. He is to take care of the church of God, just as he is to rule (That is, to stand over, preside, rule, and direct.) his own house.      

Paul left Titus at Crete to set in order, or correct the things that were lacking there (Titus 1:4-11). Among those things was the fact that they needed leadership. Titus was to ordain bishops to shepherd the flock. As bishops, they needed to be of godly character, but also one who would cling to the Word of God. They needed to cling to the Word of God, because they were going to face opposition from people who would need to have their mouths closed. Titus and these bishops would have to rebuke these vain talkers (:10-14). Not only were they to rebuke, but also they were to rebuke sharply. This speaks of abruptly exposing the falsehoods, ungodly words, and ungodly deeds of those who were disrupting the flock of God. The eldership is more than simply a figurehead who is to preach, visit the sick, and go home. If that is what you desire, perhaps you might have a chaplain, a preacher, or an evangelist of sorts, you may even have a hireling; but you don’t have a biblical elder or pastor, that is for sure! Biblical elders are given the difficult task of pointing out sin, exposing the ungodly, who refuse to repent, and rebuking them.

The elders, as seen in the book of Acts, gave directions based upon God’s Word. As they did so, the churches were expected to honor this. “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” (Acts 15:1–5) “Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.” (Acts 15:22–29)Because of the truth of the Word of God, these elders had the right to speak the Word to others, with the expectation that those who heard it would accept it in humble submission.

Elders are also spoken of as ruling, or leading, as well as laboring in the Word and in doctrine, or teaching (1 Timothy 5:17-18). We are instructed to give them double honor, which not only denotes respect but, as the context shows, speaks to us of providing for his material needs. Not only so, but as an elder, Timothy had a duty to rebuke, and to rebuke publicly (1 Timothy 5:20).

The work of the pastor/elder is also seen in the command that Paul gave to Timothy: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1–5) The elder is to preach the Word of God. He is to be instant. That is, he is to be standing near and pressing in his earnestness. He is not only to be ready to do his work, but must do so with great sincerity and godly passion. And this being instant must be whether it is convenient to do so, or inconvenient. He must reprove, show sin to be sin, and to bring the convicting influence of God’s Word to bear upon the people. He is to rebuke, to censure those who refuse to repent: his words must always be charitable, but they will not always be sweet and kind, because rebuke involves stern resistance to those who reject the Word and refuse to repent. Then he is to exhort. Exhortation is coming alongside others to help them. The elder is to truly act as one who is older than those around him, lending them the wisdom that He has gained from the Word of God and from the experiences God has used to give him wisdom. All of these things must be done with much endurance, while continually teaching and applying God’s Word. 

We also find these instructions in 1 Thessalonians: “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13) Again, the elders labor, are over the flock as managers or leaders, and they have the job of admonishing, or instructing the church. Those who lead have authority, and are expected to be followed. Those whose office is to teach do so with the expectation that those who are taught are to learn, believe, and submit to the Word of God. These things are most certainly implied in the command that the church know, or be fully acquainted with those who labor among them. This implies close relationships, and is followed by the command to esteem them very highly in love, or to abundantly, exceedingly, and vehemently regard, or esteem them in love because of the work God is using them to do. 

We also find God’s Word instructing us in Hebrews: “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:7–8) “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17) The instruction to the churches is to remember, to keep in mind those who rule over them. That is, there are those whose job is to speak the Word of God, following the Lord Jesus Christ, and they are rulers, leaders, their position in the church of God is chief, being under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd. Not only so, but verse seventeen tells us that the elder rules and watches over the souls of the flock, because they must give an account to God. This entails much more than simply preaching, but keeping an eye out for the spiritual health of each sheep, and addressing those needs. Sometimes addressing the needs of the sheep means comforting them in their afflictions, but it can also mean stern correction and rebuke in order to call them back to the right way. 

John certainly was no passive elder when he said, “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.” (3 John 9–10) It was his duty to actively resist those who thought that they had the right to usurp the authority of the eldership and take charge of the church. John stated that he would most certainly deal with the matter. We must also notice that in the matter of church discipline in 1 Corinthians chapter five, it was Paul who took the lead. The apostle wrote to the church, and commanded them what to do, when to do it, and why. The modern day idea of the passive pastor who simply preaches, visits the sick, and goes home is by no means in harmony with the Biblical doctrine of the eldership.

In closing, the elder is one whose position is that of one who is mature, experienced, educated in the Word of God, and is considered chief among the flock where he is placed. He is not elder by merit of age, but by merit of position. There may be those within the flock who are older than he; but if there is a man who is eighty-six years of age, he should respect his pastor as though he were approximately one hundred-six years of age, having the wisdom and character that would come with a godly life of so many years. His duty is to patiently teach the flock the Word of God, to show them their errors and rebuke them when needed. The pastor is to use the Word of God to instruct the people in righteousness, correct their errors, and to help them in all of the things that they face in life. In all of these things, the elder is to step out in front of the people, as a shepherd does his sheep; and he is to lead the people. For too many years, and in too many places, the sheep have taken charge and led the shepherd. Is it any wonder that we have so many weak, anemic, and unholy churches these days? It is time for us to recover a Biblical understanding of the eldership. It is designed by God for the good of the churches, that we might fill our place here on Earth to spread the gospel and give God glory.

Some Thoughts On The Christian And The Law

Christianity And The Law

(Christ And The Law)

    What sort of attitude did Jesus have toward the law of God?  This is the question we must ask of ourselves as we study the law of God and its relevance to mankind today.  If Jesus disregarded God’s law, we can do the same.  If Jesus abolished God’s law, we can consider it to be irrelevant.  On the other hand, if Jesus respected, fulfilled, and established God’s law, we must honor and obey God’s law.   Let us see what the Biblical record will show us.

Christ Established The Law

    As Christ preached His Sermon on The Mount, He stated to the people, “ Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.   For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.   Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.   For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:17-20)  What did Jesus mean by this statement?  Did Jesus mean that, when He fulfilled the law, it would be forever useless and irrelevant, or did Jesus mean to say that His fulfilling of the law caused its authority to stand firmly?  First of all, we must found our understanding of this issue upon Jesus’ first phrase in this passage.  The reason we must found our understanding of this issue upon this first phrase of Jesus is because, in this passage, Jesus is plainly stating what people should not think about His attitude and actions toward the law of God.  We must not think that Jesus came to destroy, demolish, or dissolve the law of God.  He explicitly stated to us that we should not think that.  Jesus did not come for this purpose.  Anything else that is said about the validity of the law of God must be based upon this plain statement by Jesus.  This being so, we can at least see that Jesus intends for the law to stand as it did for many years before His earthly ministry.

    Jesus’ words concerning the law were very simple and very plain.  After He told us that He had no intentions of destroying the law, He stated that He had come for the purpose of fulfilling the law.  To fulfill the law meant more than simple obedience to all of God’s commands.  To fulfill means to consummate, render perfect, ratify, or carry through to completion.  This definition informs us that Jesus had a very high view of God’s law.  In fact, since in the Old Testament the moral law of God was considered to be absolute, we can safely affirm that Jesus held the same view.  If the reader will notice, however, there is one thing that Jesus stated that cannot be said by any other man.  Jesus stated that He would fulfill the law.  No other man could ever make that statement, no matter how good he might be.  Why?  Because no human has the authority to make or establish laws for all mankind for all ages.  The only one who could carry the law to its intended end, perfect and ratify it would be the one who was the lawgiver – God.   Jesus was stating that there was more work for the law to accomplish, and He would be the one to cause that work to be finished.  Christ affirmed that the law would not go away, but would be upheld and perfected by Him.

    Next Jesus affirmed the absolute authority of the law of God.  That is, the law of God will continue to be authoritative with no reduction or change to that authority until it has served its purpose.  “Verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matt 5:18)  When we read of “jots and tittles” we are being given a description of the most minute parts of the alphabetical and grammatical structure of the Hebrew language.  It would be roughly equivalent to saying that an “i” and a “.” would not pass away from the word of God.  In other words, even in the smallest of particulars, the law of God would not be dissolved.  Not one thing that would affect the meaning , understanding, and authority of God’s law would be allowed to pass away until the law was fulfilled.  It seems that Jesus believed that the law of God was fully inspired and would be preserved by God, not only in the meaning, but in the writings/manuscripts as well.  That is not to say that we have the original manuscripts with us today, but it is to say that God has preserved His word as He promised.  In fact, Jesus told us that “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.” (Luke 16:17)

    Jesus believed that the law was of absolute moral authority.  He stated, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:19)  While Jesus taught that not one of God’s moral commandments would cease to be authoritative (see also John 10:35b), He knew that there would always be those who deemed themselves of sufficient wisdom, etc. to determine that certain commands were no longer in force.  He plainly told us that those who would seek to lessen the authority of the law of God in the lives of men would be considered of very little importance in the kingdom of Heaven.  On the contrary, those who would uphold the absolute authority of God’s law for themselves and others would be counted great in the kingdom of Heaven.  Why is this so?  Simply because God honors those who honor Him, and those who despise Him will be lightly esteemed (See 1Sam 2:30).  One may ask how the honor of God is relevant to the law.  It is relevant because God is the absolute authority who authorized the law.  To obey the word of God is to obey God Himself.

Jesus Taught The Law As Being Spiritual in Nature

    While Jesus upheld the authority of the law, He also reminded men that the law is spiritual in nature.  Notice His statement concerning the Pharisees and the law: “ I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:20)  What did Jesus mean by this statement?  To understand this statement, we must know the nature of Pharisaical righteousness.  The Pharisee’s righteousness was external only.  “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.   Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.   Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.   Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.   Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.   Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matt 23:23-28)  The whole focus of Pharisaic living was to appear righteous.  So long as they had the outward form of the law upheld in their lives, they felt themselves to be very righteous.  Jesus stated, in opposition to this fallacious notion, that one’s righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.  Righteousness is much more than external forms.  In fact, while rebuking the Pharisees, Jesus told them that the weighter things of the law were things of the heart; things such as judgment, mercy, and faith.  He also told the Pharisees that they should first have the inside – their hearts – cleaned before they could truly clean up and have external righteousness.  Why is this so?  Because the law is spiritual and ministers primarily to the heart of man.

    One day a man who was very learned in the law of God asked Jesus which was the great commandment in the law.  We know that the questioning person was testing Christ and hoping to cause Him trouble.  Perhaps the scribe thought that Jesus would prefer one specific command above another and the scribe could accuse Him of either being too harsh on one issue, or being to soft on another issue.  Whatever the case may have been, Jesus upset the proverbial apple cart by saying: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.   This is the first and great commandment.   And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.   On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40)  In other words, the issue with the law was not an issue of external commands, and some being of greater importance.  The heart of the law is spiritual in that the law calls for us to love God with all that is within us and with all that we are.  We are then to spread that love for God by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Love is not a material thing.  Love is spiritual, and the law leads us to love.  To obey the law is to love God and to love our neighbor.  That is indeed spiritual.

Jesus Fulfilled The Law

    While Jesus established the law by upholding its authority, He also fulfilled the law by meeting its every righteous demand.  “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.   For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.   For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom 8:1-4)  It takes little observation to notice, however, that the law, though morally perfect, was not complete.  Something was lacking.  The law could not be God’s final word to man because the law could not save.  The law ministered condemnation to men by causing them to realize their sinful condition.  Jesus, the Word of God, however, ministered salvation to men by fulfilling the law even by suffering the judgment of the law in His own body as a substitute for us.  “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)  Jesus brought grace and truth to a world full of sinners who were condemned by the law.  It is any wonder, then, that He told the Jews, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)  The law that the Jews felt gave them life was actually testifying to them that Jesus was going to come to bring salvation, thus fulfilling the law.

Since the law could not be God’s final word to man, we must view Jesus and His Word as God’s final word to man. Why? Because the law was absolute morally. Jesus fulfills the law by saving us. What more can God say to us? We have the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (See Jude 1:3). What need have we for additional revelation? None, after all, when we consider that Jesus declared the Father to us (see John 1:18), we have the fullness of revelation. This means that Jesus’ fulfilling the law, and giving us the truth He promised (John 15:26;16:12-15) finalizes God’s Word to mankind. For this we have much to be thankful, because we know where God’s Word is found, and are stable and secure due to the knowledge that we do not have to search for God’s Words, nor keep having to learn more and more due to an influx of additional words from God.

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” (2 Cor 9:15)

Notes On Communion And Washing The Saints’ Feet

Communion

1 Corinthians 11:17-26

:17-22 The setting and context: Corinth’s divisions manifest in their common meal

Jude :12

In the pl., agápai, love feasts, public banquets of a frugal kind instituted by the early Christian church and connected with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The provisions were contributed by the more wealthy individuals and were made common to all Christians, whether rich or poor, who chose to partake. Portions were also sent to the sick and absent members. These love feasts were intended as an exhibition of that mutual love which is required by the Christian faith, but as they became subject to abuses, they were discontinued.

        These here seem to be the Agapæ, or love-feasts, of the primitive Christians; the design of which was to maintain and promote brotherly love, from whence they took their name; and to refresh the poor saints, that they might have a full and comfortable meal now and then: their manner of keeping them was this; they began and ended them with prayer and singing; and they observed them with great temperance and frugality; and they were attended with much joy and gladness, and simplicity of heart: but were quickly abused, by judaizing Christians, as observing them in imitation of the passover; and by intemperance in eating and drinking; and by excluding the poor, for whose benefit they were chiefly designed; and by setting up separate meetings for them, and by admitting unfit persons unto them; such as here are said to be spots in them, blemishes, which brought great reproach and scandal upon them, being persons of infamous characters and conversations.

 John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament <https://ref.ly/logosres/gillexpnt?ref=Bible.Jud12&off=123&ctx=a+feast+of+faith%EF%BB%BFb.+~These+here+seem+to+b>, vol. 3, The Baptist Commentary Series (London: Mathews and Leigh, 1809), 676.

The Last Supper was a full Passover meal, and the early church had continued the tradition of celebrating a meal (“the Lord’s Supper”) of which bread and wine were only a part. Communion as a full meal was also called a “love feast.”

 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament <https://ref.ly/logosres/bbackcom?ref=Bible.Jud12&off=4&ctx=wish+tradition.%0a12.+~The+Last+Supper+was+> (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Jud 12.

:23-26 The meaning of communion

cf 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 communion-sharing

Note that we have elements of cup and bread, which represent the blood and body of our Lord. They show His death.

The problem of the mass and transubstantiation. 1. John 6:51-63 Jesus was speaking in spiritual terms. He was not being literal. These words are a figure. It is not the flesh, but the spirit, that gives life. 2. The mass is re-enactment of the crucifixion in which it is believed that Jesus is crucified before the eyes of the beholder and His flesh eaten by those who partake. Thus it is that the priest holds up the chalice/cup and proclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world!” He truly believes that Jesus is present in the form of the wine and wafer. The reality is that Jesus will not be crucified a second time, nor any more than the one time which He died. Hebrews 10:7-18 That one offering is sufficient forever.

:26 The Lord’s Supper shows His death. It is a sign and a symbol that testifies to the reality that we all share through faith in Christ.

“till He come.” Luke 22:14-18 This presents to us the remembrance of Christ’s resurrection, the promise of His coming, and the glorious hope of communing with Him forever in His eternal kingdom.

Feetwashing

John 13:1-17

First of all, let us understand that footwashing is an ordinance, yet it is not a separate ordinance from the communion service. It is a part of the communion service.

Washing feet

Washing the feet of guests was the job of the lowest of servants. It seems that there was no servant at hand to wash their feet, and they did not even wash their own feet. Now Jesus washes their feet to teach them a lesson.

 Jesus taught the disciples to be servants, as He was a servant Matthew 20:28. It is quite possible that Jesus taught this because of the disciple’s arrogant squabbling Luke 22:24-30, which seems to have taken part during the Last Supper. 

Washing with water

John 13:8 If Jesus does not wash us, we have no share in Him, no communion, and no fellowship.  Cf Hebrews 12:7-8

John 13:10 He who is washed is totally clean, except for his feet. Feet walk and, in daily life, feet get dirty and need washing. This symbolizes our need for daily cleansing.

Ephesians 5:25-28

John 15:1-3 clean through the Word

Washing one another

Galatians 6:1-3 help the fallen brother

James 5:19-20 convert the erring brother

1 John 5:16-17 pray for the sinning brother

    accept washing

    Some people won’t do the literal washing of feet, not because they don’t want to wash, but because they don’t want people seeing their feet. Likewise we often fail to willingly accept the help from those who wish to help us. Hebrews 13:17,22 We must remember Galatians 6:3 and recognize that we will need to accept washing from others. To refuse is to arrogantly assume that we are something though we are nothing.

Why call this a part of the communion service?

  1. Because it is part of the symbolism of salvation. There is the broken body and shed blood of Jesus, and then there is the cleansing Jesus gives by His Word. If we have no part with Him without the cleansing, it seems it is only right that it be signified in the communion service.
  2. Because Jesus said that we ought to do it. John 13:17

What Is The Church?

What Is The Church?

            Over the years many people all around the world have asked the question, “What is the church?” It is the aim of this post to answer that question from the most relevant and authoritative of places, the Bible.

            What is the church?  That is what we must determine before we delve into the composition and manifestation of the church.  The most basic meaning of the Greek word ekklesia which is translated “church” in the New Testament is “called out.”  This was a common term for a congregation or an assembly.  It speaks of those who are called out for a specific purpose and was specifically used in this manner when Luke spoke of the Ephesian assembly (which was a tumultuous mob) in Acts 19:32&39 where it is translated “assembly.”  With this in mind we can conclude that the church is a group of people called out by God for His own purpose.  In fact, Peter presents this fact to us very plainly saying, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”  (1 Peter 2:9)  

The Old Testament Church

            Though very little is said about the nation of Israel being part of God’s church, the Bible does plainly present this fact to us.  Stephen, speaking of Moses, said, “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.”  (Acts 7:38)  Now, there are those who would wish to deny that this is indeed a reference to Israel as being a part of God’s church.  They would like to tell us that this is simply an assembly of people, and that is all that ekklesia is meant to convey to us in this context.  The fact remains, however, that the word ekklesia occurs more than 100 times in the New Testament, and only in Acts 19:32&39 is it translated “assembly.”  In every other instance it is translated “church” or “churches.”  The only time it is used to speak of an assembly other than the Lord’s church is in Acts 19:32&39.  The typical usage of ekklesia in the New Testament is in reference to a called out group of people.  That is precisely what the nation of Israel was.  “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”  (Hosea 11:1) Thus, we can be assured that, though it did not function in the same manner as a New Testament church, there was indeed a church in the Old Testament.

The New Testament Church

            What about New Testament days?  How do we see the church in the New Testament?  First of all, the local church is certainly seen in the New Testament.  The church is there with her leaders, discipline, and ordinances.  At the same time the church is also seen as a larger body that is composed of all who know Jesus.  It is this manifestation of the church that we want to consider.

            When Jesus first mentions the church, He made a special promise to the church that actually demonstrates to us that the church is more than a local body alone.  Jesus said: “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  (Mt 16:18) KJV  Why say that this applies to more than the local church?  Because many local churches have died.  This promise must pertain to some form of church other than the local church.  Local church only proponents may say that this applies to the church in general.  To do so, however, is to concede that there is some form of church beyond the local church.  There is a church that shall never die, according to the promise of Jesus.  What church is it?

            The apostle Paul was one who understood the church to be general in nature and manifesting itself in local assemblies.  It was he who told us “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)  Entrance into the body of Christ comes by the baptism with the Holy Spirit (See Galatians 3:26-29).  The question then arises, into what body is one baptized?  Historically, Baptists have required water baptism for local church membership.  I think that is the right thing to do.  If this is so, into what one body is the believer baptized into when baptized with the Holy Spirit?

            Paul’s language again shows us the general nature of the church when he said “God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28)  Having just told the Corinthian church that their local assembly was the body of Christ, he proceeds to tell them about the gifts that are given to the church.  The first gift mentioned was apostles.  Were the apostles given to the Corinthian church, or the church general which is composed of Holy Spirit baptized believers?

            There’s hardly another passage in which the church general can be seen more clearly than the following: “He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.   For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.   Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;  In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:  In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”   (Ephesians 2:14-22)  Paul states that the Jew and the Gentile have been made one.  By the cross the Jews and Gentiles are reconciled into one body.  There is no Gentile church or Jewish church.  There is only the Christian church.  There is no longer Israel as the only chosen of God.  Gentiles are fellow heirs with believing Israel.  We are of the same household as the believing Jew. Together the believing Jew and the believing Gentile are built into God’s holy temple.  By being reconciled to God, we are made into one body, this text tells us. God dwells in this church by the Holy Spirit.  One thing that local church only advocates miss is the fact that the body of Christ is present in this passage, but water baptism is not.  Neither will it serve any purpose to insist that it is implied.  What is expressly stated is that the cross is what brings people into this one body.  The body here is a body composed of the redeemed.

            The church as the body of the redeemed is seen again in Paul’s writings to the church at Ephesus.  “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.  So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.   For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:  For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.   For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.    This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.   Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”  (Ephesians 5:25-33)  How does the church become the church?  By the cross of Christ.  This same Paul said, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”  (Acts 20:28) For whom did Jesus die?  He died for the church.  Who is the church?  Those who have been redeemed: the ones purchased by the blood of Christ.  Local church only advocates must notice that water baptism, as important as it is, is never mentioned in these two texts.  What is mentioned is redemption through the cross of Christ.  The church general is composed of blood bought Christians.

            Finally, the having seen the church as the bride of Christ, we must ask the question of the composition of the bride of Christ.  Who is in the bride?            

The Bride of Christ Composed of All Saints, Both Old Testament And New Testament Saints

            First of all, we must go to the Revelation to see the bride of Christ.  “I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.   Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.   And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”  (Revelation 19:6-8) Many of those who advocate the local church only position state that  the white robes come from the righteous deeds of the saints.  In other words, the ones who are in the bride of Christ are the saints who live up to a certain standard of righteousness and holiness.  This standard has never been fully defined, to my knowledge.  It is supposed to begin with water baptism into the local church, however. 

            Does the Scripture uphold this view of the robes of righteousness being righteous works?  It is this writer’s contention that the Scriptures do not support that position.  Isaiah rejoiced in God’s grace saying, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”  (Isaiah 61:10) Isaiah ascribed the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness as being a gratuitous gift from God, not as something done by the saint[1].  Jesus alludes to this in one of His parables:  “When the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:  And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.   Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.   For many are called, but few are chosen.”  (Matthew 22:11-14) In Jesus’ day it was common for great men to invite many people to celebrate when family members were married.  We are told by some scholars that often the host would freely provide garments for his guests.  It was a great show of disrespect to one’s host to not wear the provided garments.  Jesus is telling us that we cannot partake of the joy of His kingdom if we do not accept the garments that He gives us.  What is the wedding garment, or the fine linen in which the bride shall be clothed in the day of her marriage to the Lamb?  It is the robe of righteousness.  It is the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 3:19-28;5:1-3).  Thus it is that the bride who has prepared herself and to whom it has been given to be arrayed in fine linen clean and white is none other than all those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God.  The bride of Christ is composed of those who are justified by faith in Jesus.

            We also see the bride of Christ portrayed in the book of the Revelation as the city New Jerusalem.  “There came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.   And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.”   (Revelation 21:9-10) One statement especially about this city leads this writer to believe that all of the redeemed of all ages will be a part of the bride of Christ.  That statement is as follows: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.   For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” (Revelation 22:14-15) The reader will quickly notice that the only ones who are without the city are those who are not redeemed.  By this we readily see that the city is populated with the redeemed.  That being so, and the city being the bride, the bride of Christ is composed of all of the redeemed of all ages.  In fact, we find that Abraham and other Old Testament saints anticipated entrance into the New Jerusalem.  “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.    For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.   And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.   But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”  (Hebrews 11:13-16) This writer knows of no city for which they could have been looking other than the New Jerusalem, and God has prepared this city for them.  This being so, we can safely conclude that the church is the redeemed of all the ages.

The Local Church

            While considering these things, it is imperative that we recognize that the church generally is seen and experienced as the local church. What we mean by the local church is the church as it is established and ministers in a certain area. In many places within the New Testament, the church is referred to as being within a particular location. It is for this reason that Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia, rather than to the state church of Galatia, composed of all of the Galatian churches. The New Testament knows nothing of a national or state church, but teaches us much about the local church composed of those baptized believers in a particular area. This is readily seen in the book of Acts. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:41–47) The Jerusalem church was comprised of those believers who were baptized and were joined together in teaching, worship and communion. 

            Many people contend that the belief in the general church constitutes a denial of belief in the local church. This simply is not true, and is an uncharitable statement to make. In fact, the denial of the local church does not logically follow the belief in the larger body of Christ composed of all of the redeemed. Paul told the Corinthians that we are all baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13) We know that this is true, because the Spirit that we all receive is the Spirit which was promised (See Ephesians 1:13-14 cf Isaiah 32:12-20;Joel 2:28-32;Acts 2:14-21). Every believer is baptized in/by the Spirit into the body of Christ. In the same chapter, however, Paul explicity tells the Corinthians that they, the local church, were the body of Christ: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Corinthians 12:27) It is impossible to both believe the Bible and reject the truth of the local church. In fact it is no more biblical to deny the local church than it is to deny the church general, composed of all of the redeemed. Scripture teaches us both. 

            We also read Jesus saying, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18–19) Here Jesus tells us that there is a church that is unfailing in her existence. At the same time, this church has certain functions it exercises. This church has authority to bind and loose. That is, she can either declare            something lawful or unlawful, right or wrong, as she has been entrusted with the truth of God and is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). This points further to the exercise of discipline within the body of Christ in which the church has the authority to receive people into the membership and to loose them from their membership by means of excommunication, and to receive them again by means of forgiveness (See Romans 16:17;1 Corinthians 5;2 Thessalonians 3:5-16;Titus 3:10;2 Corinthians 2:1-11). This is worked out within the local body of the church. While it is true that we see in this text the larger body of Christ composed of the redeemed, it also points us to this body being experienced and showing herself in the activities of each local church. This also leads us to understand that each local church is a distinct body, which is autonomous under Christ: no other body has authority over the local church, because Christ and His Word is the authority.

            As Paul taught Timothy concerning the ministry, he wrote to him as one who was laboring in a local church. He told him the qualifications of those who would serve the local body, and told him that he was writing for a purpose: “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14–15) Paul’s counsel for Timothy was for the purpose of instructing him in how he should conduct himself in the church where he was laboring and leading. The same could be said concerning Paul’s letter to Titus.

            When Jesus gave us instructions concerning relationships, he did so with the understanding that the local church had authority in these matters. “But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:16–20) Not only does the local church have authority in matters of relationships and discipline, but Christ Jesus dwells in the local church. This is why He said that He would be in the middle of the gathering of two or there who get together in His name. When God’s people determine to do God’s work in God’s way, Christ is present with them. Considering the fact that these things always occur in a locality, we can certainly understand that this refers to the actions of a local body.

            Finally, as we consider the gifts and ministries that are given by the Spirit of God, we find that they are found being used within the local body. Paul taught the Roman church about this (Romans 12:1-8). He also went into great detail with the Corinthians concerning this: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Corinthians 12:13–27) Though there is reference to the general body of Christ, we also find that the gifts of the Spirit have their residence and benefit within the local church. Paul informed Corinth that their local body was the very body of Christ. Each local church is a complete body of Christ, established to carry out the commandments of God in her area.


[1] It is interesting to note that clothes cover, and that the meaning of atonement is covering. There is good reason to think that the robes of righteousness represent both atonement and justification through Christ Jesus our Savior.

The Thematic Unity Of The Bible

The Unity Of The Bible: Biblical Themes

“Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25–27)

 

Among the things that show that the Bible is intended to be taken as a whole are the themes of the Bible. Far from being a book of many differing books, as the modernists and neo-evangelicals would have us believe, the Bible is united from the beginning to the end by the very themes, or motifs, that run from Genesis through the Revelation. There are five motifs that are in the first three chapters of Genesis that run throughout the whole of Scripture: this is what we shall consider in this article.

Genesis chapters one through three present to us the following themes:

Creation- Genesis 1-2, where we see that God created all things.

Sin- Genesis 3, where we see that man fell into sin.

Judgment- Genesis 3:14-24, where we see God’s pronouncement of judgment upon mankind, and the curse that also came upon the earth.

The seed- Genesis 3:15, in which we see that God promises that the seed of the woman will conquer the serpent and his seed.

Redemption-Genesis 3:15-24, wherein we see the shedding of the blood of an innocent to cover man’s shame, and to symbolically hide his sin from God’s sight.

These themes are not separated throughout the Scriptures, but are often found conjoined, as our text shows us that Jesus taught from the Old Testament Scriptures about Himself.

 

After the fall of man, the hope of the promised seed, who would redeem mankind was alive in Adam and Eve; and Eve seems to have thought that Cain was that seed, as she said, “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.” (Genesis 4:1) Later, when Noah was born, the same hope alive in his parents. “And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.” (Genesis 5:28–29) Then we find that God renews His promise to Abram: “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1–3) Not only do we see the seed theme, but also we see the theme of creation is here, as God said He would create a great nation of Abram. We shall see that this continues throughout the rest of the Scripture, with Abram’s descendants being given more and more specific promises concerning the seed, who would be redeemer and king.

The theme of the seed continues in Genesis chapter twenty-two, when the LORD told Abraham, “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:18) It is this verse that Paul quotes to tell us that He spoke of Jesus: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” (Galatians 3:16) Not only so, but we see the theme of redemption through sacrifice and bloodshed, as there was a lamb/ram offered in the place of Isaac on Mount Moriah. Later we see Jesus proclaimed to be God’s lamb: “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) In the days of the patriarchs, the theme of the promised seed continues as we see that God chooses Isaac, then Jacob, and then tells us through Jacob, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Genesis 49:10)

It seems that, for a while, the hope dimmed and almost died in Israel; but God sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt and into the land of Canaan, thus continuing to fulfill His promises to us all. It is then that Moses told Israel that the promised seed will come, and he said, “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15–19) Then there was a man whose name foreshadowed the One who was to come- Joshua. Joshua, the LORD saves, means the same as Jesus: “thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) And so we see that the theme of the redeeming seed continues.

In the days of the Judges, it looked very bleak in many ways; but the period of the Judges presents us with a continuation of the themes of sin, judgment, and redemption, as we read of the various failure of Israel, and how that God would raise up a judge to rescue them. Furthermore, it is in the days of the Judges that we read the book of Ruth and see God continuing His work of bringing the promised seed into the world. The book of Ruth is not the sweet love story that many think that it is: it is the story of God’s providential working in Israel, and in the tribe of Judah to bring the seed of the woman into the world. In the end of the book, we see that Ruth bears a son, and that son was the grandfather of David, who we shall see foreshadows the coming king and promised seed.

When God began to narrow things down from the tribe of Judah to a particular family through whom His promised seed would come, He used the times of the Judges and the sad failure of king Saul to show us that a king was needed. He told Saul, “And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.” (1 Samuel 13:13–14) Notice how Paul uses this theme in preaching, and shows that God was keeping His promises.  “And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will. Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:” (Acts 13:21–23) The theme of the seed who would be the sin-conquering king continues to be seen in the Scriptures, thus tying all of the Scriptures together in a coherent whole.

When David wanted to build a temple for the LORD, God promised to build David a house. This house was not a literal house, but a household, or a family. The promise was that there would be an eternal kingdom and king who would be of the seed of David. “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever. According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.” (2 Samuel 7:12–17) (See also Acts 15:13-18.) This promise of the seed and theme of the seed continues. The histories of Israel and Judah during the days of the divided kingdom all present to us God’s working to bring His promised seed into the world. This is why we read Isaiah saying, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:6–7) It is this theme that appears in the words of the angel to Mary, when he told her that she was going to be the mother of the Christ. “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:30–33) The theme of the king and the seed find their fulfillment in Jesus.

The New Testament writers build upon these things and show us both the fulfillment of the promises and the continuation of the Old Testament themes as they find their perfection in Christ. Paul shows us both the seed and redemption: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:4–5) We again see the seed and redemption themes fulfilled in Christ’s sufferings and resurrection: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14–15) The eternal Son of God was made flesh as the seed of the woman, and He crushed the serpent under his heel, being bruised in the process, in order to redeem His people. (See also Colossians 2:13-15.) This motif has a future fulfillment, in that “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” (Romans 16:20) We also read that He will make His enemies His footstool, and will reign over all things (1 Corinthians 15:26-28;Hebrews 10:11-14).

We see the creation theme here as well, because in Christ we are born again (John 3:1-16), and become new creatures. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) We also know that He promises to bring in a new heaven and a new earth filled with righteousness (2 Peter 3:10-14), which shows the issue of sin being dealt with and conquered, as well as redemption purchases, accomplished, and applied.

These motifs find their fulfillment in the end, as the Revelation shows us. Christ, the atoning and redeeming lamb is also the conquering lion of Judah (Revelation 5:1-14). He is the seed of the woman, as seen in Revelation chapter twelve. Then we see Him as the conquering seed: “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.” (Revelation 20:1–3) “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:7–15) Sin is conquered! The seed of the woman has crushed the serpent under His feet! And finally, we read of the great creation in which He says, “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.” (Revelation 21:5–6) Is it any wonder that the apostle would tell us that God says, “yes and amen” to His promises in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20)? He fulfills them all! The great themes of the Bible find in Him their perfection and fulfillment, as the Scriptures are given to point us to Him (John 5:39).

These are a few of the great themes of the Scripture, which show us the unity of the Bible from the beginning to the end. While skeptics scorn, modernists delete verses, and some neo-evangelicals split the Bible into varying and contradicting parts, God’s Word stands boldly declaring its unity, because it is God’s Word about His Son, and it is perfect. Let us then rest assured that our Bibles are indeed true, infallible, and inerrant: how could they not be? God created the Bible to be the message of His glory and grace in Christ; and His Word shall not return unto Him void, and the Scriptures cannot be broken (Isaiah 55:10-11;John 10:35).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unity Of The Bible 2

The Unity of The Bible pt 1

The Unity of Bible

“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.”

(Revelation 21:5–6 )

 

The above text speaks to us about the veracity of Scripture, by telling us of the One who inspired it. The words of Scripture are true and faithful. They are trustworthy. The One who commanded that the words be written is Himself the Alpha and Omega. He is both the beginning and the ending. He is eternal and unchanging: that is why the words are words that are infallible, inerrant, and unchanging. This text presents to us the most fundamental point concerning the unity of the Bible, which is the immutability[1] of God.

Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The men who wrote it were moved upon by the Holy Spirit, who directed their thoughts and words (2 Peter 1:20-21). This means that the words written, the very Scriptures we have, are the words of God. Thus the nature of Scripture is rooted within the nature of God.

God is eternal, and that nature is also the nature of Scripture. That which is eternal is also unchanging, as that which is eternal must remain the same, or it would cease to be eternal. Scripture tells us that God inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15), existed before time, being the Creator of time (Genesis 1:1), and that Creation itself testifies to His eternal nature (Romans 1:18-20). Since Scripture is God’s Word, we expect to find similar statements made concerning Scripture. Thus we read, “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89 ) Peter tells us that God’s Word is imperishable and eternal. Its essence is unchanging, does not deteriorate, and exists forever (1 Peter 1:21-25).

God is immutable. It is the nature of that which is eternal to ever remain the same, and God will never change. Scripture tells us that God will never change. Israel could be comforted in their afflictions and trials; because God said, “I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6 ) The assurance that we have in Christ is based upon the fact that God is immutable and true, and His Word is also (Hebrews 6:17-20). And then we read, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8 ) These things being so, we know that God’s Word will never change, nor will it contradict itself. Furthermore, when we view the Scripture from beginning to end, we will find that God’s unchanging character is on every page, binding and uniting each word, sentence, verse, chapter, book, and testament, no matter what the time and age may be.

God, being eternal and immutable, will also be true and faithful. This is also what we find concerning His Word. Moses stated that God is true and without sin (Deuteronomy 32:4). We find it said similarly of God’s Word: “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.” (Psalm 119:142 ) “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.” (Psalm 119:160 ) God’s Word is forever, and it is forever true. Once again, this means that the Word will never contradict itself, nor will it change. God’s Word will not give us conflicting messages, nor will it present to us that which is wrong as being right.

These things being so, we must view Scripture as a coherent book that is a unity from beginning to end. We must not approach Scripture to say, “This passage is not for us today;” but we must rather approach Scripture to submit to its teaching, asking, “How is this relevant to us today?” Scripture is not to be divided up into small segments, with each segment belonging only to a specific group of people in a certain time, because this violates the nature of the book, and presents a God who cannot make up His mind about what He wishes to say. This is not only incorrect, but it dishonors our Lord! Since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16-17), we must recognize all of Scripture as the Word of God, and of relevance to us in the present time. Too many people claim to “rightly divide” the Word of God when, in reality, they are rejecting large portions of Scripture and misrepresenting both the Bible, and God, Who gave us the Bible. The eternal, immutable, faithful, and true nature of God makes the Bible a unity to be read, believed, and embraced from beginning to end.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Immutability- unchangeableness

 

 

Baptism

On Pentecost, once the gospel message was received, the next step for the believers was baptism (Acts 2:41-47). It should be the same today.

The Significance of Baptism

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:1–12)

John’s Baptism

As John came and preached, his preaching was that of repentance. He was making ready a people for God. His message was that men should believe on Jesus, who was coming after him (Acts 19:4). He told them that they should repent, because their King was coming. As John baptized unto repentance, we must note that baptizing unto repentance did not bring about repentance. The above text shows us that John expected repentance to have occurred before baptism. Only when one repented was he baptized. This is why it is called the baptism of repentance (Mark 1:1-5;Acts 19:1-4).

What was the focus of John’s baptism, if not the relationship of the people to their King, Jesus? John, when asked why he baptized, stated that it was because the King was coming (John 1:19-28). He further stated, when many disciples left him to follow Jesus, that was how it should be (John 3:23-26). John’s full focus was on Jesus. People were to repent of their sins and be baptized unto that repentance because the Christ was coming. The emphasis was not so much on the act of baptism as it was on the need to be right with Christ.

Furthermore, God had promised that He would pour out His Spirit upon His people (Isa 32:13-18;44:1-8;Eze 36:25-26;Joel 2:28-32), and John reminded the people that this would be fulfilled in the kingdom of God by the King who was coming (Matt 3:11-12;John 1:25-28). This promised baptism of the Spirit was one of the reasons why John was baptizing: water baptism is a symbol of Baptism in the Spirit, and those being baptized in water were showing their faith in the King who would pour out His Spirit on them.

In all of these things we can see that John was pointing people to Christ, the King, who would come and change them. John was not preaching that baptism would wash away the sins of the people.

Apostolic Baptism

When the apostles baptized, they simply continued the practice of John, who had baptized them (Acts 1:15-22), and they did so under the direction of Jesus (John 3:26;4:1-3). Paul spoke to that effect when he baptized the believers at Ephesus in Acts chapter nineteen. He did not declare that John’s baptism was invalid: he declared that the Ephesians to whom he spoke had not received John’s baptism, although they thought that they had received it. These folks had heard something about John and his baptism and were baptized unto John’s baptism. Paul told them that John preached that Jesus was coming to pour out His Spirit, but they had heard nothing of that promise. They had not heard the message of John, who had preached that people should believe on Jesus. Having heard this, they believed on Jesus Christ and were baptized. It is interesting to note that neither John nor the apostles preached that baptism brought about salvation: they always emphasized that Jesus was the one who would give the Holy Spirit to those who believe Him.

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)

Acts 2:38 has often been used to declare that the apostles preached baptismal regeneration, however this is not so. Remember that the preaching of John and the apostles was built upon the promises of God in the Old Testament. God had promised that He would pour out His Spirit and make things and people new. In addition to that promise, God stated that those who received the Spirit would call themselves by the name of the God who had saved them. One thing is certain, Acts 2:38 does not contradict the plain statement “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  When Peter said that they were to be baptized in the name of Jesus,he was simply stating that men must receive Jesus as the Christ and embrace Him as the true King of Israel. Not only so, but one of the things that is characteristic of those upon whom the Spirit is come is the fact that they identify themselves with the Lord who poured out His Spirit  (See Isa 44:5).  If this is characteristic of those who have received the promise, is it any wonder that Peter would tell the Jews who rejected Christ that they must repent, accept Jesus as their Messiah, and identify their selves with Christ to be saved?  Salvation is not through the identifying, but those who deny the Lord are denied of Him (See Matt 10:32,33).  No one need think himself to be forgiven of sin if he will not confess Jesus as the Christ and as his savior. This is simply another part of Scripture being fulfilled which says “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:   And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.  One shall say, I am the LORD’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.”  (Isa 44:3-5)              

Baptized In The Name…

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” (Matthew 28:19)

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)

What does it mean to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? What does it mean to be baptized in the name of Jesus? Is this a series of words that must be said over the one being baptized, or is there another significance?

The preposition ες is often translated in, into, unto, or for and is seen in both of these texts as well as 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, where Israel is spoken of as being baptized unto Moses. “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1–4)

(It is interesting to note that there is a parallel to be seen here: Israel was redeemed by blood and then baptized in the Red Sea, and the saints are redeemed by the blood of Jesus and then baptized in water.) Notice that Israel was baptized unto Moses. Just as we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, unto repentance, and for the remission of sins, Israel was baptized unto Moses. Were they baptized in order to receive Moses into their hearts? Were they baptized to be joined unto Moses? No, they were baptized in identification with Moses. They were identified with Him as their leader as they followed the visible presence of the LORD in the fiery and cloudy pillar.

What, then, does it mean when we read of being baptized unto repentance, for the remission of sins, in the name of Jesus Christ, or in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? It simply means that we are identifying with repentance, the remission of sins, Jesus Christ, or the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As we saw earlier, baptism occurs after repentance, which brings the remission of sins (Luke 24:47;2 Corinthians 7:8-10). Baptism neither saves, nor brings the remission of sins. Neither does water baptism join us to Jesus Christ, or the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism is an outward sign that identifies us with all of these.

Thus it is that, when we are baptized, we are saying that we have repented of our sins, received the forgiveness of our sins, are joined to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and are thus identifying ourselves as such.

Baptism A Symbol

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” (1 Peter 3:18–22)

In closing this article, we need to consider the text before us. In this text we see that baptism is spoken of as a symbol, thus the language regarding baptism saving must be symbolic also.

Let us notice the following regarding this text:

  1. We are reconciled to God in Christ by the cross.:18 cf 2 Corinthians 5:17-21;Colossians 1:19-23;2:13-15
  2. Salvation by water in Noah’s day was actually symbolic. :19  Noah was justified by faith (Hebrews 11:7), thus it was neither the ark nor the water that saved him. He was saved by the grace of God (Genesis 6:8). The ark carrying him through the waters symbolized the salvation Noah possessed by grace through faith.
  3. Baptism is a figure. It does not cleanse the flesh. Sins are forgiven because of the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:1-7;Colossians 1:13-14;Hebrews 9:22-28;Revelation 1:5).
  4. Baptism saves in a figure by the resurrection of Christ. Baptism figures or symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as well as the inner death and resurrection to new life (Romans 6:1-7;Ephesians 2:1-6) of the child of God.

These things being said, let us remember the following: baptism demonstrates the inward reality of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, which is given to all who believe (Matthew 3:1-10;Romans 5:5;6:1-7;Ephesians 1:12-14). Baptism demonstrates our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Peter 3:18-22). Baptism is an outward symbol of the inward grace of the forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 3:1-6;Acts 22:16). Baptism has no spiritual power to give us any blessing, but is our profession of faith in the saving blessings given to us by Christ.