Local Church Membership Q&A – 2

Church on a hill 

Let’s continue considering Cody’s effort to convince me of the necessity of local church membership, with the assistance of Mark Dever from 9 Mark’s ministries.

The first point Mark brings to the table is……..

 

 


1) To be Obedient to the Scriptures

Matthew 16:13

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

Although this is the beginning point for every person in their obedience to the Lord Jesus, I do not see any connection to church membership in this passage. Please correct me if I am missing something.

This is an important point for the believers life. The authority of the Scriptures in the believers life is to be final, yet we know as believers we struggle with other authorities such as tradition, logic, emotion, fear and such. I applaud Mr Devers reference to obedience to the Scriptures, but find his application in this point to be misguided. 

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Mat 18:15 – 20

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 
16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 
17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 
18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 
19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
 
20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

In this passage, Jesus refers to discipline to be administered to an erring brother, for the sake of “gaining your brother”. Jesus guides us to keep the offense local (between brothers) until refusal to “hear” the rebuke forces the offended party to tell the church.

What I find amazing is that the pastor or elders are not referred to here in this passage. The entire church is told of the offense.  Now, if a man who has signed his name on a church roll is in sin and it comes to the knowledge of the church, could not that man simply choose to move to another church, or possibly just give up on church.

The point is that church membership, in the form which is commonly thought of within our Christian culture, has had very little effect in performing its stated goals.

On the other hand, if (and when) I have been a part of a group (dare I say a family) of believers that love and trust one another, this type of treatment is very effective.

Therefore, I do not see the use of this passage, in relation to being obedient to the scriptures, to be as effective as supposed.  As a matter of fact, this passage could be used to define the local body as being as small as “two or three” gathered in His name.  Obviously local church membership would be a redundant concept for such a small local group!

Act 5:12 -14

12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 
13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 
14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,

What a great passage showing the authority the apostles exercised during the early church. Signs and wonders by the apostles were being wrought among the people (just believers or all people?)  Believers were added to the church.

Where is the justification for church membership in this verse?  Could it be in the verb “join” in verse 13?  I suppose this is possible, but the natural reading would not make me think of local church membership, but association with the believers through exercising faith in the Son of God.

Also, the local church, at this time in the history of the church, would have been in one location (all …. in Solomons porch) within the City of Jerusalem, and therefore would fall under the definition of a church within a city, and not that of the local church as we think of today.


I will continue posting my response to each of the 6 reasons in following days. I do hope you will join me in my discussion with Cody, and supply comment or correction from the Word for our mutual edification.

If you read something in this discussion that concerns you, please take the time to send me your comments or reply within the post. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Local Church Membership Q&A -1

Church on a hill

A while back, when I was considering the biblical defense for local church membership, I happened upon a brother named Cody.  He was a young believer, at least younger than I, and was passionate for the truth of the gospel.  I enjoyed his company very much.

Eventually, he asked me about church membership and where I attended, but was surprised when I told him I was not sure of the biblical basis for local church membership.  He expressed concern for my thinking and I offered him the opportunity to defend his position biblically, and thus help me in my beliefs.

Cody sent me a pamphlet from “9Marks” ministry, detailing  the biblical teaching supporting local church membership.  What follows is our discussion.


Cody

Thanks for the document.

As I mentioned in the previous email, I would appreciate your feedback on the comments below.  Although this reply may seem lengthy, it is primarily the passages referred to by Mr Devers in the document you sent me.  I find it very helpful to consider the texts when a teacher is trying to guide me in a life decision.

As a believer,  I am sure you will agree that the Word is the final authority for the believer’s life.  As I  considered some of Mr. Dever’s arguments, (and yours by extension,  I suppose) I have found some questions about the local church membership concept being argued for.  The logic seems airtight, and yet a Biblical justification seems to be without much support.  I do hope you will agree with me that logic is not the basis of our faith, but the Word of God and the Person of the Son of God.  Of course, if you see any weakness or blind spots in my considerations, I would gladly hear them and consider your counsel from the Word of God.

As I considered the pamphlet, Mark Dever stated, “The collection of people committed to Christ in a local area constitute a church”

I think this is a generally good definition of a church within a city, as defined in the New Testament (to the Church of Colossae, the Church of Thessalonica….)

He then states three components of a true church

  • The right preaching of the Word
  • The right administration of the ordinances
  • The right administration of church discipline (He refers to Matt 18 in this item)

Where does Mr Devers find these three components for the true church defined in the Word?  Although I have no serious argument with these points, Mr Devers seems to lack justification for them.  Could there be other components of a true church?  In two of the three components he does not even refer to passages for argument.  The third is a general reference.

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Mr Dever then implys that without church membership, we can not be sure “that we are truly saved”, and supports his statement with 1 John 4:20.  (Of course I am assuming that by church membership he is referring to the local church membership concept that is the theme of his document.)

 1 John 4:20

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

Where in this verse is there any mention of church membership? If importing foreign concepts into general passage11 is allowed, then I could use this verse to justify any activity I want another believer to perform. I am not sure that is very responsible.

Mr Dever then gives 6 reasons to join a local church.  I would like to discuss the passages he refers to with you, and consider the direction the Word gives.


I will be posting my response to each of the 6 reasons in following days.  I do hope you will join me in my discussion with Cody, and supply comment or correction from the Word for our mutual edification.

If you read something in this discussion that concerns you, please take the time to send me your comments or reply within the post.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – Introduction

 Interpretation

When Jesus said to love our enemies, He probably meant not to kill them

My favorite and I were on our way to a Sunday School class when we stopped by a Starbucks to pick up some black vitamin.  As we were heading into the coffee shop, I noticed a bumper sticker that said something like…

“When Jesus said love your enemies, He probably didn’t mean to kill them”

This bumper sticker “stuck” in my mind and made a point simply and forcefully.  I also started to think of other statements of the Lord that may be misunderstood in my thinking.

Occasionally, in my reading, some of these culturally acceptable misunderstandings of what we think the Lord meant may become apparent to me and I would like to share them with you.

Hence, some future posts will be titled –

“What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean”

As you are reading your Bible, let me know of passages that seem to be at odds with the cultural conditioning we live and breathe in.

Join me as we are wrestling with the text and Considering the Bible.

 

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Jesus in Hell? Response to a Brother

brown book page

Brother

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my blog, “Did Jesus go to HELL?”  I had been looking forward to your comments since Monday.  Many of your points were well stated and caused me to look at some of the post again.

I would like to clarify a few items.  I may have said or written something that was not clear and I would like to correct that.  With that said, I have taken your comments (in blue) and inserted my thoughts for your consideration. 

With all due respect.  It is written… you have a copy of scripture. I read some of it to you when we talked. I believe in a plain normal grammatical historical plenary interpretation

  • Plain
    • When you mention plain interpretation of scripture, I assume that you are referring to a literal reading of scripture. In many portions of the Word, I would agree with you.  Some passages give me pause though.
      • When Acts 2 speaks of tongues of fire, would you understand it to be literal fire?
      • I am sure you do not consider the Messiah to be a door, or a sheep, or a light
      • I think the apostles and prophets spoke to their audience in a manner that would communicate clearly to them, in their culture, language, social structure and religion. It is our labor to try to decipher their message from that environment, and not to read the Word as if it has been written for 21st century American believers.  That just seems a bit provincial.
    • Normal
      • I looked up normal for a definition and found
        • conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural
      • I would appreciate a little clarification on what you mean when you say normal. It’s almost as if the other terms in this description is defining your “normal” reading of Scripture
    • Grammatical
      • Definition for grammatical
        • Of or relating to grammar, Conforming to the rules of grammar:
      • I assume you are describing your method of Bible interpretation/understanding as being different than my efforts. I tend to analyze a passage through word studies, the flow of the sentence structure and the context of the sentence/verse/paragraph I am studying.  I think I am on the same page as you on this.
    • Historical
      • I believe the historical context of the passage when spoken/written is critical to understanding the message. As an example, when Jesus spoke of thine eye being evil, I used to think He was referring to a wickedness of some sort.

Matt 6:23

but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

What does it mean “if your eye is bad”?  Could it refer to a murderous intent, wicked thoughts or evil schemes?  I never really understood this verse until I checked the historical background in Deuteronomy 15:9

Deuteronomy 15:9

Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin.

Deuteronomy refers to “…your eye look grudgingly”.  The most common translation of this hebrew word is “evil”.  

When I read Matthew 6:23, I assumed I understood the phrase “if your eye is bad”.  But when I studied the historical background of the phrase, and how it relates to the audience Jesus was immediately addressing, the application for my life becomes so much clearer.  So I would heartily agree that the historical interpretation of any passage is critical

  • Plenary
    • If by plenary, you mean that the canon of Scripture is complete (plenary = full), I would also agree.

If we don’t believe the scripture itself when read, how can we expound upon deeper truth?

I think we need to understand the Scripture (as much as possible) in order to believe it.  I consider belief/faith an action word Gal 5:6 – For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

and not mental consent, and therefore the day to day decisions I make, exercising my faith/belief has to come from an understanding of the message God has provided.

If Christ went to the grave and that’s it. We are still dead in trespasses and sins.

I do not recall saying that Christ went simply to the grave.  If I did, I spoke wrongly.  What I was considering in the blog post was whether the Messiah went to hell, ie the place of torment.  The few NT passages that seem to speak of the Messiah going to hell are not convincing to me in my study.

What is the point as Paul said in 1 Cor 15? The early church got it right historically as I told you Saturday. I stand with them even though the “Soli Scripta” Scripture alone speaks for itself.

Sola Scriptura is what I am trying to do as I study.  I seek to find how the Scripture interprets itself, and in the blog, I made mention of a few Old Testament passages that may supply hints as to what the apostles were pointing to.

An example was the “lowest parts of the earth” phrase that Paul used in Ephesians.   The OT supplied three possibilities for understanding what Paul meant when he wrote “the lower parts of the earth”

Regarding the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15) I feel you still consider my thoughts to be of denial of the resurrection.  I am not sure where you get that from, but let me assure you that I believe in the bodily resurrection more now than when I first believed.

What is the point of judgment if you are going to be forgiven anyways?

Judgement (krino and its compunds – anakrino, diakrino ) have many shades of meaning, from simply to “discern” all the way to “condemn.”  To judge (krites and its compounds – dikastēs, kritērion) defines the one judging.

You surely will agree that at the believer’s judgement, condemnation is not considered.  Also, we who have been forgiven, will be judged.

New Testament (Greek) for “judge”
G350ἀνακρίνωanakrinōexamine, judge, ask question, search, discern
G1252διακρίνωdiakrinōdoubt, judge, discern, contend, waver, misc
G1348δικαστήςdikastēsjudge
G2919κρίνωkrinōjudge, determine, condemn, go to law, call in question, esteem, misc
G2922κριτήριονkritērionto judge, judgment, judgment seat
G2923κριτήςkritēsjudge, Judge

New Testament (Greek) for “condemn”

G176

ἀκατάγνωστος

akatagnōstos

cannot be condemned

G178

ἀκατάκριτος

akatakritos

uncondemned

G843

αὐτοκατάκριτος

autokatakritos

condemned

G2607

καταγινώσκω

kataginōskō

condemn, blame

G2613

καταδικάζω

katadikazō

condemn

G2631

κατάκριμα

katakrima

condemnation

G2632

κατακρίνω

katakrinō

condemn, damn

G2633

κατάκρισις

katakrisis

condemnation, condemn

G2917

κρίμα

krima

judgment, damnation, condemnation, be condemned, go to law, avenge

G2919

κρίνω

krinō

judge, determine, condemn, go to law, call in question, esteem, misc

G2920

κρίσις

krisis

judgment, damnation, accusation, condemnation

G5272

ὑπόκρισις

hypokrisis

hypocrisy, dissimulation, condemnation

G6048

καταδίκη

katadikē

sentence of condemnation

Judgement has an implication of separation, or even of making a determination between right and wrong.  Katakrino is the term that strictly refers to condemnation, and at that, I am not sure if there is a time element associated with it.  By that I mean, the word itself simply means condemn, not necessarily condemn forever.  The context may supply that information, but I do not see where the word itself carried a time element.

KatakrinoAs a matter of fact, it looks like men do a lot of the condemning (ie the men of Ninevah, the Queen of the South, even ourselves (Rom 2:1, 14:23)).  Other occurrences in the New Testament speak of the Messiah receiving condemnation.  One time the Messiah spoke on condemning, but that He would not condemn the sinner.  He is something else, eh? (John 8:10-11)

The list may be found at the end of this post (if of interest).

(As I am studying this concept of judgment, I have found a much larger body of data in the New Testament than first reviewed.  In the interest of brevity, I will leave the above mini-study as is, know that it is incomplete, and I will return to it.)

So When Jesus said it was better for Judas not to have been born, (Matthew 26:24, Mark 14:21) woe doesn’t have any significance if there is no consequences for betraying the Son of the living God.?

I am going to assume the consequence you are referring to above is Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT)

Matthew 26:24

The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Mark 14:21

For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

I understand your point, but note that the Messiah said “it would have been better” for Judas to not exist than to be born, not “Judas will burn in hell forever”

“Better” is a comparative term.  If I said “I am better than Joe” this doesn’t mean I am equal to the great apostle Paul.  Better simply compares to conditions, but it does not supply the extent of the difference between the two things being compared.  In other words, Judas destiny was defined as being less than the condition of existing (ie being born). A negative condition.

So, if the Scriptures teaches ECT, Jesus may have been hinting at Judas’ destiny.  (A negative condition!)

If He meant something else, (like living and dying under the guilt of condemning a just man), that is also possible. (Also a negative condition!)

Both of these destinies (I am sure there are additional destinies that may be possible for Judas) for Judas would surely fit the description Jesus provides of  “not existing”

At this point in my studies, to demand ECT is taught in this passage would be considered eisegesis.  The verse does not clearly inform us of Judas destiny, other than being a negative condition.

Or blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

One verse in the New Testament speaks of blasphemy against the Spirit

Matthew 12:31

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.

There are multiple ways to understand this passage.  I will address this passage in a future post as a separate topic.

Or the woes of Matthew 23.

Greater condemnation, v.33-how will they escape the condemnation of Hell?

I guess you don’t believe what Jesus said in v.35 either?

No purgatory in Scripture.

No escaping the judgment of God having received the knowledge of the truth( Hebrews 10:26-31).

If you believe otherwise with all due respect I pity you.


I appreciated this brothers challenge to my thinking, and wish him the best.  Since our discussion, he has found something in me that is unacceptable to associate with.  I have reached out to him a number of times, but he is a busy family man and was not available.  I hope that in the near future, I will have the opportunity to find peace in our relationship.

If you have comments or I have missed an imprtant concept, ignored a Bible passage or represented a teaching incorrectly, let me know.  Look down a few inches and you will find a convenient contact form for you to use! 

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Passages containing the greek word “Katakrino”

Matt 12:41The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn G2632 it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
Matt 12:42The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn G2632 it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
Matt 20:18Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn G2632 him to death,
Matt 27:3Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, G2632 repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
Mark 10:33Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn G2632 him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:
Mark 14:64Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned G2632 him to be guilty of death.
Mark 16:16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. G2632
Luke 11:31The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn G2632 them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
Luke 11:32The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn G2632 it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
John 8:10When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath G2632 no man condemned G2632 thee?
John 8:11She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do G2632I condemn G2632 thee: go, and sin no more.
Rom 2:1Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest G2632 thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
Rom 8:3For 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 G2632 sin in the flesh:
Rom 8:34Who is he that condemneth? G2632 It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
Rom 14:23And he that doubteth is damned G2632 if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
1Cor 11:32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should G2632 not be condemned G2632 with the world.
Heb 11:7By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned G2632 the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
James 5:9Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: G2632 behold, the judge standeth before the door.
2Peter 2:6And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned G2632 them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;

 

Did Jesus go to Hell?

hell-awaits-fire-redDid Jesus go to Hell?

What type of question is that?

Three passages seem to tell me that, between the crucifixion and the resurrection, Jesus actually descended into hell.

The passages are as follows.

1 Peter 3:18-20

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 popular teaching goes like this – the spirits are those of Noah’s generation that are in some type of prison at the time of Peter’s writing.  The assumption is that at the time of being put to death in the flesh, Jesus preached to these spirits in prison, before the resurrection. To the disobedient, He confirmed their condemnation and to the righteous He declared His victory, and their subsequent being led out of the prison they are in. (See Eph 4:8-10 below for verses that seem to teach this scenario.)

Another interpretation is that he – Noah, during the construction of the ark, by the Spirit, preached unto the disobedient, who are now spirits in prison.

This seems to make sense to me, since:

  • Whoever “He” is in verse 19, the power of the preaching was by the “Spirit”
  • Peter refers to Noah in the very next verse.
  • Peter is referring to a specific time frame – “while the ark was a preparing”
  • Noah is described as a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5) and the souls in prison are described as disobedient.

The passage in 1 Peter in not conclusive, to say the least

Lets go on to the next passage and see if it sheds any additional light on this subject.

Acts 2:25-28

For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:

Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:

Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.

The passage of interest focuses on verse 27, where Peter quotes the 16th Psalm, declaring that the resurrection was prophesied.

A major assumption needs to be made if this verse is to teach that Jesus was in the traditional concept of hell. The term used in the Old Testament referring to this hell is Sheol, which by all accounts refers to the grave.

Even within this passage in Psalm 16 itself, with the use of Hebrew poetry (restating the same concept with different words) the psalmist describes what he means when he says “hell”. Hell seems to be synonymous, in this psalm, with corruption. It is commonly understood that Old Testament believers did not have a clear understanding of the afterlife, and Sheol simply meant the grave.

If this is true, then Peter is declaring the resurrection from the grave, not the resurrection from hell.

As an aside, a very interesting study, for those interested, is the number of times the apostles referred to hell in their preaching to the lost. It is true that Jesus preached on hell (gk term hades) very often, but why didn’t the apostles keep up the message? That particular topic is for another time!

Given the last two passages, and the possibility (probability) of alternative interpretations, is this teaching depending on assumptions instead of Bible teaching for support?

The last passage that seems to support the teaching that Jesus visited hell is the following.

Ephesians 4:8-10

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.  

(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

captivity captiveWhen Paul mentions that He descended into the lower parts of the earth, is it a safe assumption that he meant hell?  I taught that for decades and assumed it was without fault.  After all, what else could he mean?

I have a greater appreciation for the Word, now that I have finally understood that Paul, along with the rest of the New Testament authors, were preaching the risen Christ from the Old Testament. When a passage like Ephesians 4:9 is compared with the Old Testament, and found to shed light on a weak assumption, I will gladly confess my error.

Consider what I found after a simple search.

Psa 63:6-11

When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.
Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.
My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.
But those that seek my soul, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth.
They shall fall by the sword: they shall be a portion for foxes.
But the king shall rejoice in God; every one that sweareth by him shall glory: but the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.

This passage uses the very same phrase Paul uses, and seems to describe Sheol within the context. Simply defining the grave. Nothing to see here folks – lets move along!.

Isa 44:21 – 25

Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.
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.
Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that preadeth
abroad the earth by myself;
That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish;

Realizing Isaiah is using Hebrew poetry, the “lower parts of the earth” are coupled with “ye heavens”. The very next verse, Isaiah 44:24, is coupling heaven and earth, and seem to be defining the “lower parts of the earth” as simply “the earth”

At the very least, it would not prove that “the lower parts” are necessarily hell.

One other passage that I find amazing is the following.

Psa 139:12 – 16

Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

lowest parts of the earthBased on the passage in Psalm 139:15, the lowest parts of the earth, are referring to the womb. This is an incredible passage in light of Ephesians.

Granted, it is not the exact phrase that Paul used in Ephesians 4:9, but it shows the difference between my independent interpretation (lower parts of the earth = hell), compared with Scripture interpreting Scripture.

In view of the previous three Old Testament verses, Ephesians 4:9 could be referring to

  • “the grave” (Psa 63:9) – This interpretation seems to have some strength based on the passage in Acts.
  • “the earth” (Isa 44:23) – This interpretation would coincide with the incarnation of the Messiah.
  • “the womb” (Psalm 139:15) – This interpretation would also coincide with the incarnation of the Messiah.

I have also understood that Paul may be referring to the class of people Jesus came to be among, that is, the lower class. This is a possibility and a teaching that Paul has brought up in his writings before.

With all of this being said, I find there to be very little Biblical support for the popular teaching that Jesus visited our traditional concept of hell, ie. a holding place of suffering for the lost.

What think ye?

 

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Purpose of Prophecy – Mark 15:43-46

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Biblical prophecy has a purpose. Am I sure I get it?

A few days back I was listening to Mark 15 and a few verses grabbed my attention.

Mar 15:43-46

Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.

In that passage, Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus, wrapped it in fine linen and placed it in a tomb.

OK – so did he perform this action out of obedience to the Word?

Did he see an Old Testament passage and decide to take action to fulfill the prophecy? The text says that Joseph “took courage”, but does not define the motivation of the action. Was it simply to bring some honor to his Rabbi, or was it due to his seeking to obey Isaiah 53:9.

Isaiah 53:9

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

In this instance, the text seems to teach that the fulfillment of the prophecy was not Joseph’s objective.

If so, this particular prophecy in Isaiah was not given to inform prior to its fulfillment, but after its fulfillment.

Well – if that is generally true of prophecy, do we in the modern church look at Biblical prophecy correctly?

Do we try to find out the future for our own purposes? Granted, some information – the Olivet discourse comes to mind – was given to the apostles prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, that they might escape the judgement of God through the Roman armies on the nation of Israel.

Even considering the Olivet discourse though, might the higher purpose of that prophecy be somewhat different from merely saving the disciples lives? After all, most of the apostles were going to be martyred, and persecution was going to fall on the church shortly after the fall of Jerusalem.

I suppose the general thought of trying to figger out the future is very popular among western Christians of a certain stripe. I admit I used to delve heavily into future forecasting, but am now considering the wisdom of that attitude.

A year or so back, a particular passage in John got me thinking. Actually, when I read it carefully, it created more questions than answers! Jesus is talking to His disciples, telling them of a particular future event and actually lets them know WHY He tells them.

 John 13:19

I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

Did you catch it? “…that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.”

The purpose was to direct the disciples faith to the person of Christ after the fulfillment of the prediction, not to instruct them on how to save their own bacon. Not for some temporal reason, but to direct the attention to the Messiah.

Could this be the highest purpose of prophecy?

Should we consider this to be the primary focus of prophetic interpretation?

When we come to a particular prophecy in the Word, would this concept Lightning help us to know the heart of God better?

Would it help us to rest in Him instead of hurrying about protecting ourselves from what we think may happen?

Lets consider Biblical prophecy to be a gift, not to primarily inform us of future events, but direct our attention to the One who is faithful!

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Local Church Membership – Research Response

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Recently in Sunday School, I had the opportunity to chat with a fellow believer regarding his research on “Local Church Membership”  I think he was seeking some degree from a Bible School, and he was kind enough to let me ask him some difficult questions.

Eventually, in an effort to allow others to participate in the class, I suggested he send me his research to read.  He emailed it to me the next day and I took a few minutes to review it and make some comments.  I didn’t spend much time on the portion of church tradition’s as justification for church membership, since I was curious about the Biblical defence he used to justify this teaching.

What follows below are snippets of his research (in red) with my comments following.

Referring to Matthew 16:19, 18:17-18, he states

“Keys are a symbol of authority over who enters and who is excluded. Given the context of Peter’s confession of Christ in the former passage, binding and loosing here likely relates to deciding who by their confession is regenerate and therefore to be received into church membership.”

This conclusion is not required from the text.  I fear the “membership test” of determining who is regenerate and who is not, is placing a heavy responsibility on both the church leaders and the subject.

As you well know, confession is not a reliable indicator of true faith, unless by confession, you mean obedience to the faith and not just verbal assent to some teaching.  If this conclusion is warranted (that is, if a person is regenerate, he may be received into church membership), nothing in this passage describes a “local” church, and its membership.

Would the apostles have imagined a local group of believers to be required to test newcomers, instead of simply loving them and allowing them to join thier gatherings?

Would the apostles have required a believer to enter a membership agreement (other than commitment to the Lord Jesus?)

Does not the New Testament teach that to be regenerate IS to be in the Church, the Body of Christ?

Similarly given the context of the latter passage relating to church discipline (that is Mathew 18), the church is to decide who by their impenitence is unregenerate and therefore to be excluded from church membership.

Again, this is a difficult call to decide who is unregenerate.  Deciding the status of a person’s relationship with the God of Heaven is difficult to say the least.  Much time and experiences will supply some insight in the person’s status.  When I think of Peter’s 3 years of being with Jesus, I would have given him my full confidence right up to the denial.  And then I would have rejected him.  But then, I would have accepted him.   And then in Galatia, when he ate with the Jews only, I would have rejected him.  But then, sometime after that, I probablywould have accepted him. What a rollercoaster!!!

Exclusion of membership is only effective when it relates directly to relationships within the church, not a letter or form from church officials.  Many times, I have heard of those excluded from a church via a letter or form, and yet the excluded member maintains relationships within their sphere of “friends”, and simply moves on to another church, sometimes attaining the coveted membership again.  Something doesn’t seem to be working with this system, if the non-repentant can continue to be accepted in other bodies.

Just as the exchange of wedding rings symbolizes entry into the marriage covenant by the bride and groom, so baptism symbolizes entry into a new covenant by a believer with God through faith in Christ.

Are you suggesting baptism is equal to local church membership in God’s eyes?  That is, local church membership is one of the new covenant’s ordinances?

The church has a responsibility to discern the regenerate status of a candidate before administering baptism and likewise to restrict participation in the Lord’s Supper to those who are regenerate.

When the Ethiopian asked to get baptized, Phillip baptized him.  The church (Philip, in this case) simply baptized the Ethiopian. I don’t know of anywhere in the NT where a period of discernment is described or prescribed for the administration of baptism for a confessing believer.

35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

Regarding the Lord’s Supper, please direct me to where the New Testament gives the church (leaders?) the right to restrict participation in the Lord’s supper.  I have heard of this teaching before, but never been given a passage to consider it’s veracity.

One passage does describe the believer’s responsibility of judging whether he/she should eat the Lord’s Supper

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.

28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

We are told to not give up meeting together (Heb 10:25) and to use our spiritual gifts for the common good (1 Cor 12:7).

Regarding meeting together, would you restrict someone from meeting together with you and your members if he, for conscience sake, did not submit to adding his name to a roster?  As an aside , I once asked a pastor if he would rather have a faithful and active believer in his church (although not a member), or a pew sitting member in his church.  He did not respond.

Regarding 1 Corinthians 12:7, spiritual gifts for the common good need not be restricted to a membership of Christians but should be for the common good of ALL (Christian and non-Christian).

I cannot imagine how local church membership adds any value to a spiritual gift. (Other than being allowed to use it in a restricted membership environment – But if the restriction was lifted, would more blessing be available to others?)

All these (that is meeting together and spiritual gifts) imply that we can identify who are our fellow members in the body.

Christians should be able to identify their brothers and sisters by the fellowship of the Spirit and love to the Lord.  You know as well as I brother, that membership is not infallible, and that some fakers make it to a membership status.

The church publicly declares someone to be a member when it baptizes that person, and periodically reaffirms who is in its covenant membership through invitation to participate in the Lord’s Supper.

I assume you are referring to becoming a member of the local church. Is this implying that when a believer moves to a new geographical location, he has an obligation to be baptized again, in order to declare that person publicly? 

….the relation of church leader and church member must be clear for elders to be able to exercise oversight (1 Pet 5:1-5)  

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:

shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;

not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive  the unfading crown of glory.

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

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I suppose you equate submission to an elder to be within the local church I am a member of.  If so, could I submit to an elder of another local church?  Is there a restriction to my submitting to other believers (outside of my local church) who care for my soul, who may understand my circumstance better, who may have experienced like things in my life and been taught by the Word?

This passage does speak of submission to elders (but it seems to be in relation to age and not church office, since Peter directs the “younger” to be subject to the elder) Believers are rightfully to have an attitude of submission to all. (Remember that verse about “Submit to one another”?).

I do not see how this passage in 1 Peter defines local church membership for the believer, especially since the book was written for the diaspora, the dispersed believers, and not to a specific local body of Christians.

Referring to 1 Corinthians 12

The church as the body of Christ underscores the necessity of church membership (because members of the body cannot survive apart from the body)

Are you implying that Paul meant “members of a local church” when he said members?

If so, why was he not specific, and state that the members are to create a covenantal agreement to sign on to, in order to obey, and remove their immaturity and division.

I did a quick search of 1 Corinthians and did not find the term “membership” within the passage, although I found the term “members” often.  As a family man, I often think of my children as members of my family, and yet it would be an huge insult to them to ask them to formally join the family through a membership.

When believers are brought into the fold, they should clearly affirm the terms of the membership covenant they are entering, just as bride and groom must understand the terms of their marriage covenant.

The covenant a believer enters into is called the “New Covenant”, where the law is written on our heart – o heck let the apostle describe it for us

10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.

11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.

12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”

And like a marriage, the church covenant requires its participants to continually work at abiding by it, taking advantage of every opportunity to reaffirm their vows. 

The church covenant you desire to justify seems to be amongst brothers and sisters, not husbands and wives.  I suppose you are likening covenants and not the parties to it, but it seems unnecessary, and clouds the issue for me

I would suggest that the insertion of a church covenant into a group of believers creates a distraction from the New Covenant, that Jesus shed His blood to ratify for our benefit.

Consider

  • If the church covenant adds responsibilities to believers beyond the new covenant, be careful.
  • If it states the same responsibilities as the New Covenant, why introduce it?

We need to be members of His body primarily, and as we travel through this life down here, we may have the priviledge to be a part of a group of loving believers.  If signing a membership role removes restrictions to a loving group of believers, may God bless you as you journey with them.


If you read something in this discussion that concerns you, please take the time to send me your comments or reply within the post.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Promises to Israel – 4. A Conclusion

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In a previous post “Promises to Israel – Introduction” we considered a central question.

Should the nation of Israel expect realization of Old Testament promises in the future?

I suggested that God supplied three promises to the people of Israel in the Old Testament. Each of the following promises have been discussed in previous blogs.

  1. Promises to Israel – The Land
  2. Promises to Israel – The Seed
  3. Promises to Israel – The Nation

Let’s wrap up and try to provide a conclusion.

A SIMPLE CONCLUSION

The conclusion of the matter is that each of the three central promises of God to Israel (via Father Abraham) have been fulfilled physically. The people of Israel enjoyed the status of nationhood and resided in all or part of the land for centuries. Jesus the Christ is the seed upon all the faithful flock to.

Abraham’s physical offspring received the physical promises.

Joshua 23:14

14 “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things[a] that the Lord your God promised concerning you.

All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.

Although Joshua was reminding the people of his day regarding the fulfillment of the promise of the land, this sentiment is also applicable for the promise to Israel of nationhood and the seed.

Abraham’s spiritual offspring (the Body of Christ) can look to the faithfulness of God to the physical offspring of Israel and learn much.

But we have so much more in the way of promises. So much more.

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Promises to Israel – 3. The Nation

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In a previous post “Promises to Israel – Introduction” we considered a central question.

Should the nation of Israel expect realization of Old Testament promises in the future? 

I suggested that God supplied three promises to the people of Israel in the Old Testament

  1. Promises to Israel – The Land
  2. Promises to Israel – The Seed
  3. Promises to Israel – The Nation
  4. Promises to Israel – A Conclusion

This post will address the Promise of the Nation.  So, “let’s get at ‘er”

THE NATION PROMISE

The promise of a nation, I feel is an extension of the land promise in some regards. (“Promises to Israel – The Land“) First off, the Lord stated that He would make Abraham a Father of many nations. We sometimes forget that, and the promise completely came to fruition with the many (mostly extinct) nations that grew out of Abraham’s physical seed. Consider the family tree below. Patriarch+Lineage+Abraham+through+Joseph.JPG?format=original

Kingdoms included the Ishmaelites, Edomites and those of Abraham’s last wife, Keturah. Dang – for a man who had all his children so late, his posterity is huge!!!

The promise of nationhood may be found in the following verses

Genesis 12:2-3

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Genesis 17:5-6

No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham,  for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.

But what does it mean to be a nation? What was the Lord implying when He promised this?

One distinguishing feature of a nation is a governing body of authorities, a government, combined with laws and statues to frame a social order which defines the nation. A nation has to have a territory to reside in. A nation usually possesses, to varying degrees, a unifying culture, language and religion.

Abraham’s family, in Egypt possessed a unifying culture, language and religion. But without laws, statutes, and a land to reside in, they were simply a really big family, twelve tribes from the loins of Israel.

The laws and statutes came at Sinai under Moses. The land came during Joshua’s time. So could we say that between Sinai and Canaan, the Israelite’s were a nation without land?

But let us leave that for another post – The point is that the Lord fulfilled His promise in creating a nation of the family of Abraham. His word was true and faithful. He kept His word.

 Exodus 33:13

Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.

Deuteronomy 4:6-8

Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

II Samuel 7:23

And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods?

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Promises to Israel – 2. The Seed

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In a previous post “Promises to Israel – Introduction” we considered a central question.

Should the nation of Israel expect realization of Old Testament promises in the future? 

I suggested that God supplied three promises to the people of Israel in the Old Testament

  1. Promises to Israel – The Land
  2. Promises to Israel – The Seed
  3. Promises to Israel – The Nation
  4. Promises to Israel – A Conclusion

This post will address the Promise of the Seed.  So “let’s get at ‘er”

THE SEED PROMISE

Growing up with the KJV, I always read the following verses with “seed” being used instead of “offspring”. Paul makes a deal about this in Galations. I am using the ESV below (and throughout the post) for clarity sake.

This promise is murky in my mind, and I am thankful we have an Apostle defining the intent of the promise in Galations 3.

Murky, cause it seems to emphasize Abraham’s genetic offspring, that is, all of his children. This isn’t Paul’s point in the New Testament. Paul emphasizes “the seed” as referring to Christ, not “the seeds”, referring to the multitudinous children of Abraham.

The offspring in this verse are linked directly to the promise of the land. We’ve considered the land promise and if this was the only verse relating to the “seed”, we might conclude that when the land was forfeited, the offspring would be effected somehow. (After all, where would the offspring settle without the land?)

Genesis 12:7

Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

Genesis 15:5 seems to be defining the promise in relation to the volume of Abraham’s offspring. Abraham’s offspring would be innumerable!

Genesis 15:5

And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Genesis 17:7 gets hairy – What is He promising? This promise relating to Abraham’s offspring has the intended result of an everlasting covenant of God being God to the offspring.

Genesis 17:7

And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

How did this work out? Before we get to Galations, lets consider the story of Elijah.

1 Kings 19:18

Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

Abraham’s physical offspring resided in the nation of Israel at the time of Elijah, and yet God informed Elijah that a remnant existed within the nation. The apostate nation could not be considered to be included in the “everlasting covenant” since they were apostate. (God was not their God!)

But they were the physical offspring! This distinction is critical to note. Jesus made much of this concept in His teaching.

Matthew 3:9

“and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.

 Matthew 8:11

“And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 19:9

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham;

 John 8:39-40

They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. “But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.

Notice that Jesus did not associate Abraham’s children as physically related, that is by blood, but by the actions performed in their lives.

It think my point is obvious and I don’t want to get too distracted so lets move on. (How ‘bout John the Baptist talking about repentance – No – I said I would stop!)

Galations 3:16

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.

If Paul’s point is that the covenant promise was between God and His Messiah, things become somewhat clearer. The Christ is the only One who truly established an everlasting covenant for the offspring of Abraham. That is, the offspring of Abraham, those who have the faith of Abraham. Physical lineage was not crucial. Consider Ruth, Naaman, the Egyptians that joined the exodus, Rahab…. The remnant has always existed and that remnant recognized the Savior when He arrived.

OK, so we made a few minor detours going through the post. Sorry bout the remnant rant, but finding that thread of truth through the Word has helped me understand so much!

What is the conclusion of the matter? Does God have any responsibility to the people of Israel?

Oh nooo! That is another problem – Who specifically are the children of Israel today? Can a Jewish person prove his lineage back to Abraham Isaac and Jacob? I understand that it is impossible to trace lineage back to the fathers since all the records were destroyed in the temple fires during the Roman siege. But that is another rabbit trail that I may tackle at a later date.

It looks like the New Testament confirms God’s promise of the Seed to be an accomplished fact in the person of Jesus Christ.

Contact me or make comment to further our discussion in Considering the Bible.  I look forward to your thoughts.

Hope to see you in the next post.

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