Tradition and the Calf Path

calf-path

One more time where I find a poem in my travels that teaches more than I expected.  I hope you enjoy.


by Sam Walter Foss

Tradition and the Calf Path

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail, as all calves do.

Since then three hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bellwether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bellwethers always do.

And from that day, o’er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made,
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged and turned and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because ’twas such a crooked path;
But still they followed — do not laugh —
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,
That bent, and turned, and turned again.
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet.
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare,
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed that zigzag calf about,
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They follow still his crooked way,
And lose one hundred years a day,
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move;
But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah, many things this tale might teach —
But I am not ordained to preach.

The following is the core of the matter.

A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They follow still his crooked way,
And lose one hundred years a day,
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.


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Our Modern Way of Meeting

I found this a few years ago, written by a guy named Rusty Entrekin. I think it catches some of the differences we experience in church life that the first century believer may be surprised by.

Our Modern Way Of Meeting

preacher

How is it then, brethren?

When ye come together, the pastor hath a doctrine, and the minister of music hath psalms.

Let all things be done unto worship.

If anyone besides the pastor hath a doctrine, let him not speak; let him hold his peace.

Let him sit in the pew, and face the back of the neck of the person which sitteth ahead of him.

Complete-church-midnight-mass

Let the people keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith church tradition.

But if they will learn anything, let them ask their pastor after the service, for it is a shame for a layman to speak in the church.

For the pastor, he hath a seminary degree, and the layman, he hath not so lofty a degree.

If any man desire to remain a church member in good standing, let him acknowledge that what I write to you is the command of the denominational headquarters.

But if any man ignore this, he shall be promptly escorted out the door by the ushers.

Wherefore brothers, covet not to speak in the church.

Let all things be done decently and in the order in which it hath been written in the church bulletin.


Hey – I created a poll for your opinions on this post.  Meet me over at “Our Modern Way of Meeting” Poll to let me know what you think.

 

Thanks, and hope to visit with you soon.


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Salaried Pastors? A discussion with a Pastor 3

Salary 2Quite awhile ago I sent out an email to a number of prominent pastors (8 or 9) within the area I live in.  One out of the nine responded in an effort to minister.  The following  conversation is with that one pastor who sought to help.  I appreciate his willingness to enter into a discussion with me.

This third post is simply some wanderings and considerations I have had after my discussion with the Pastor!  Give me some feed back if I’m way out of line.


Consider 1 Corinthians 9:12

Remember that the topic of this passage is support (not salary) of an apostle, a traveling minister.  These verses, IMHO, do not apply to elders and pastors of local churches, who are able to maintain outside employment to assist the local body if in need.

1 Corinthians 9:12

If others (referring to other apostles – check the context!) share this rightful claim on you, do not we (Paul and his party) even more? Nevertheless, we (Paul and his party) have not made use of this right, but we (Paul and his party) endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

salary 3Is not Paul stating that using this “right”, (that is, support from a body of believers) actually hinders (places an obstacle in the way) the gospel? This is an apostle (not an elder or pastor) teaching this truth about an apostles right to support, which Paul is refusing to exercise.

How can local pastors refer to this same passage (1 Corinthians 9) to establish this right they believe they have, and yet miss this verse?

One important item that I need to clarify, for I know what some may be thinking.  I am not advocating abandonment of the Christian minister.  Support and salary are two completely different topics, and the New Testament exhorts believers to support those who are ministering among them.

Support for a Christian minister, coming from those blessed from his ministry, is a direct relational blessing.  If believers would remove themselves from unbiblical obligations, they could freely give funds, gifts and blessings to Biblically directed recipients, such as:

  • The poor (including widows, orphans, etc)
  • Travelling missionaries (those in a similar situation as the apostle in 1 Corinthians 9)
  • Christian ministers that trust in God.

An additional verse that some may appeal to, to justify the salaried position within the family of God is Galatians 6:6.

Gal 6:6

6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.

Two things to notice

  • The context of this verse is general Christian living, not the requirements of a contractual obligation to a separate group of specialized Christians.  I once asked how this verse justifies the salary of a pastor but does not apply to a Sunday School teacher, or a “lay” Christian teaching in some manner.
  • The good things are just that – good things.  Encouraging words, financial help, a bag of groceries, an invitation to supper, a new car,  etc.

I love the opportunity to assist those I know of that are in need, or that I “sense” may need a “blessing”.  I believe the Lord is able to direct His people to assist His people.  Is that wrong?  Too simplistic?  Too ideal?

salary 1It is becoming obvious to me, that salaried positions for local elders/pastors seems to be foreign to the New Testament.

Help me find justification for the salaried position, so that I can sense that the modern church is still somewhat on track.

Although not scripture, it is interesting to review what an early church document reveals how Christians treated this topic.

Didache 2

Notice what the Didache (Also known as “The Teaching of the Twelve.”) teaches.

Chapter 11. Concerning Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets.

didache

Let every apostle that comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain except one day; but if there be need, also the next; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.

A little later in chapter 11…

But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him; but if he says to you to give for others’ sake who are in need, let no one judge him.

Wow

Story Time

This topic, since I have been considering it for a period of time, was on my mind this morning, when I was visiting with a brother.  He mentioned that the church he belongs to is putting on a Christmas pageant and that they had sold 14,000 tickets, ranging from $8 to $14 each.  I mentioned that, at an average price of $10 per ticket, that church pulled in $140,000, and that this should pay for the minister’s salary.

Oh no no, he says – Our pastor makes $200,000,  plus benefits, vacation and a yearly month-long sabbatical.  Oh and this particular church has a $20,000,000 capital budget for renovations and building projects.

Silver and gold have I none – Peter – 1st century


 

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Salaried Pastors? A discussion with a Pastor 1

Quite awhile ago I sent out an email to a number of prominent pastors (8 or 9) within the area I live in.  One out of the nine responded in an effort to minister.  The following  conversation is with that one pastor who sought to help.  I appreciate his willingness to enter into a discussion with me.

This is the initial email I sent out!  The next post will supply my response and appreciation to this pastor.  I am gonna call him Pastor X cause I think it’s cool.


Brother

I am a Christian, having been saved at the age of 21 from a life of drug abuse and alcoholism.  I have sought to walk with the Lord ever since.  If I could take a few minutes of your time, I would appreciate it.

Salary 2

My question is this.  Does the Word of God explicitly instruct any congregation to commit to a pastor a salaried position?

I have been a believer for more than half my life and have been involved (heavily) in Baptist church’s, but have been challenged lately in my studies to find clear direction for this issue.  I would appreciate your assistance with this and await your reply.

Carl


The following text came from one pastor in a local church.


Carl,

Thanks for sending us your email.  The Word of God is clear that salaried positions within the church are entirely permissible.

OLD TESTAMENT BASIS

In the Old Testament, the Levites (those who worked in the temple) received support in the form of food, money, and even lodging.  See, for example, Numbers 18:20-21 and Hebrews 7:5.

Numbers 18:20-21

20 And the LORD said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel.

21 “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting,

Hebrews 7:5

5 And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham.

THE RIGHT OF SUPPORT

salary 3In 1 Corinthians 9:3-15, Paul argued extensively that those who work hard to sow spiritual seed should be able to reap material blessing as well.  However, Paul did not use that right (notice he calls it a “right”), but rather preached free of charge so that no one could accuse him of preaching the gospel for material gain, like so many false teachers did.

3 This is my defense to those who would examine me.

4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink?

5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?

7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same?

9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned?

10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.

11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?

12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings?

14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.

DOUBLE HONOR

salary 1First Timothy 5:17-19 states that the elders who direct the affairs of the church, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching, are worthy of “double honor.”  And why is this? Because the worker is worthy of his wages, and Paul uses the Old Testament image of the ox not being muzzled when he treaded out the grain.

5:17-19

17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

Clearly, the Bible teaches that it is permissible (and even wise) for a local church to pay those who work hard at shepherding the flock, preaching, and teaching.  In some contexts (like Paul’s), it may be wise for a pastor not to accept a salary.  Bi-vocational work may advance the Gospel further in some instances.  Paying salaries to pastors allows them to concentrate all of their mental and physical energies on doing the work of shepherding, preaching, and teaching, thus allowing them to do these tasks most effectively.

I hope this helped.

Blessings,

Pastor X


Our next post will include my response and appreciation for this pastors desire to help me understand.  Hope you can visit and comment.

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Nation or Church – Jeremiah 31:35-37

 

Why are you such a heretic?heretic

A brother recently asked me what I thought of Jeremiah 31:35-37. You see, I am considered somewhat of a heretic among my fellow believers.

Well, lets consider the passage below.

I have included the full paragraph in order to follow Jeremiahs train of thought. (choo chooooo)

Jer 31:31 – 37

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—

not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Thus says the Lord,
Who gives the sun for a light by day,
The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night,
Who disturbs the sea,
And its waves roar
(The Lord of hosts is His name):

“If those ordinances depart
From before Me, says the Lord,
Then the seed of Israel shall also cease
From being a nation before Me forever.”

Thus says the Lord:
“If heaven above can be measured,
And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath,
I will also cast off all the seed of Israel
For all that they have done, says the Lord.

heresyTo give all y’all some background on this, I am presently attending a great Sunday School Class where the majority of attendees subscribe to a dispensational framework of understanding future events. I have let all know that I have left that teaching, and they have been gracious to allow me to remain in the class.

Occasionally, a question or passage comes up that makes my thinking seem so unbiblical, and this passage definitely argues for a future existence of the physical nation of Israel!

So, how can you think so wrongly Carl, when the passage above is so clear!

NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY

One item of importance to note is that Hebrews 8:8-13 gives us commentary that is pertinent to the subject of Jeremiahs prophecy. I will use the ESV to show the portion in Hebrews that is being quoted from Jeremiah 31:31-34

Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 

not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

I don’t know of any New Testament passage that supplies such a long quote of an Old Testament passage as in Hebrews 8. It is truly remarkable. The author of Hebrews must have some great message to tell his Hebrew Christian audience to take up so much room in his short letter.

Let’s read the next verse!

In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away

WHAT? Vanish away can’t mean what I think it means!!

Greek AlphabetThe Strongs concordance states “vanish away” = ἀφανισμός aphanismós, af-an-is-mos’; from G853; disappearance, i.e. (figuratively) abrogation:—vanish away.

I do admit that the verse speaks of the covenant vanishing away, and not the nation per se, but on what was the nation of Israel established upon but the old covenant? If the old covenant has vanished away (and it has), upon what is any future nation based upon?

SUN AND MOON CEASING

Lets get back to the original set of verses in Jeremiah. Jeremiah said the physical nation of Israel would continue until the sun and moon ceased to exist. If the author of Hebrews is correct, what is going on?

The prophet was careful in his word choice. Lets consider Jeremiah 31:36 one more time.

“If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lord, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.”

We have a problem here if “the seed of Israel” is synonymous for the physical lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which became the nation of Israel. The ordinances (sun and moon) are still sticking around and the nation of Israel ceased to exist in 70 AD. We got problems!

Lets consider another passage that may shed light on this issue. In John 8, Jesus tried to correct a misunderstanding in His day when he spoke of Abraham’s seed.

John 8:37-42

“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.

I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.”

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.

You do the deeds of your father.”

Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.”

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 

Jesus was trying to correct a misunderstanding about the true lineage of faith, and that it does NOT depend on physical seed, but on spiritual seed. (Abraham’s children do the works of Abraham.)

As a matter of fact, a little later in the New Testament, Paul labors to show us that the true seed of Abraham is Christ in Galations 3:16

Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 

So when Jeremiah brings up “the seed of Israel” we do not have the freedom to assume he is referring to a physical lineage. The “seed of Israel” has not ceased to exist as a nation, since true Israelite’s, such as Peter, John, Paul (and thousands more) trusted in the promised seed, the Savior.

The physical nation ceased to exist in AD 70, but I think it was on old wine sack that just couldn’t carry new wine – It just refused to accept the new wine.

But God did not let the nation cease to exist. The physical nation of Israel “vanished away”, but God’s promise did not cease to be fulfilled. Peter uses an Old Testament passage (Exodus 19:5-6) describing the newly born nation of Israel and applies it to the church.

 Exodus 19:5-6

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.

And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

So in answer to my brother, I believe Jeremiahs prophecy is holding true, and that the seed of Israel has not ceased to exist as a nation. The true nation of Israel, in God’s eyes, consists of faithful believers before and after the cross, trusting in His promises.

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